Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Miles to Go

*blows dust off*

Today my friend Heidi posted this, a beautiful, poignant piece about how she's spent the past week.  This post was especially resonant to me because I spent some hours last week in the same headspace.  I could write a whole post -- and probably will -- about fear, but instead of hijacking her Facebook comments, I actually felt an urge to write and so decided to document my experiences for myself.

About a week and a half ago, I went in for my annual breast MRI. My doctor recommends that I have a mammogram AND an MRI annually because of my family history with breast cancer.  Long story short, both my maternal grandmother and my mother have both had breast cancer.  For many years I had sort of a resigned attitude about my chances of having breast cancer -- it was more a matter of WHEN, not if.  In a way, I thought my attitude was my armor.  When it came - and it would -- I would be ready to fight.  I would be that bad-ass woman who did whatever it took to beat cancer.  I would be strong, I would be confident and most importantly, I wouldn't be afraid. 

Looking back on that, it seems almost laughable now.  And I felt a little bit ashamed of how quickly those feelings were squashed by a feeling of dread when the radiologist called to say that they saw something on my MRI and that I needed to come in for an ultrasound.  I literally felt a wave of fear wash over my body.  I felt it most in the back of my knees (my kneepits as my daughter calls them) -- that place that starts to feel kind of funny when I stand too close to a precipice. 

I don't say this lightly when I say that I thank God that I only had to wait a day and a half for my test. In that short period of time, however, fear took over.  I was ill tempered and spoke harshly to my children. Everything my husband did was on my last nerve. From the outside, it was probably obvious that my fear was making me act this way, but 40 years of squashing fear and pushing it down and pretending it's something else is a hard habit to break. Over the past year my awesome therapist has made me work hard to identify the things I fear and has helped me to be vulnerable and admit them.  (If you're looking for a good therapist, let me know and I'll hook you up -- she's amazing!)

Blessedly, what they saw turned out be nothing serious, but the experience has forced me to look at myself and how I respond to stress, fear and pressure.  I've come a long way in the last year, but I feel like I still have a ways to go.  As my friend Wendi so succinctly put it, I have "miles to go before I sleep."  And thank God for that. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You Never Know What You'll See With Night Vision Goggles

Wow.  What's up with the chick who wrote that last post? She sounds like a real downer.

So, uh, it turns out that when you turn 40, at least in my experience, no matter what kind of grand plans you have about 40 being the new 30 and kicking 40's ass, sometimes your body has other plans.  Can you say hormones gone haywire.  Good times.  Good times.

Let's cleanse the palate with funny story, shall we?  Tonight as we were watching America's Funniest Home Videos, I was reminded of the time we almost submitted a tape to the show. 

When Bubba was small, he was obsessed with trains, as many little boys are.  We fed that obsession with a steady diet of Thomas the Tank engine DVDs, The Polar Express, and his Polar Express train that he got for Christmas many years ago.

When we heard about the Polar Express train ride that you could take in the North Carolina mountains, we knew we had to do it.  You might be familiar with such things -- you go and get on the train, it goes about an hour in one direction while you have hot cocoa and listen to The Polar Express read over the intercom.  You stop in a quaint little town for about 30 minutes and then you head back down the track while Santa makes his way down the train visiting with all the kids and handing out jingle bells.  What's not to love about that?

Being relatively new parents, of course wehad  the obligatory video camera and because we had only one child we actually got it out and used it.  Poor Punkin, no video of her exists.

Anyhoo, we had a great time as we chugged down the tracks.  I taped Bubba looking out the window and drinking his hot chocolate.  There was a family across the aisle from us and while we didn't actually talk to them, we all smiled at each other in the friendly way that you do when you're sharing a pleasant experience with strangers.  Their kids were cute and we smiled at their happiness.  They returned the favor, obviously enjoying Bubba's joy at his first train ride.

As it turns out, our track went through a tunnel.  It was pitch black as we made we our way through and it was kind of cool to experience that total blackness.  On the way back down the track, Mr. Daddy had the bright idea to use the night vision lens on the video camera to video tape ourselves.

As we entered the tunnel, I flipped on the night vision switch.  Mr. Daddy and Bubba glowed back at me, both obviously blind in the complete darkeness.  I decided to pan around and see what else there was to see. 

I panned over to the family across the aisle and they WERE TOTALLY MAKING OUT!!  The dad had the daughter stiff armed away from them and the mom had her hand firmly on the little boy.  I don't know WHERE their other hands were, but they were GOING AT IT.

 I was so shocked that I quickly turned the camera off and a few seconds later we came back into daylight.  Mr. Daddy took one look at my face and my wide eyes and was like "What?"

"I'll have to tell you later," I managed to squeak out.  Needless to say, I couldn't make eye contact with the nice family across the aisle for the rest of the trip.   When we got to the car I rewound the tape and played it back for Mr. Daddy.  We both howled.

I would LOVE to have submitted that to AFV, but you have to have permission from the people in the video and there was NO way I was going to ask them that.

While it was very unexpected and gave me and Mr. Daddy a good laugh -- and still does lo these many years later -- you have to give that couple credit for finding some excitement in the most unlikely of places.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Toughest Job

Sometimes the tedium of motherhood feels like more than I can bear.  The constant hanging up of jackets and bookbags, tossed willy nilly as they come in the door.  The constant reminder to put dirty socks in the hamper, their simple refusal to rinse out the sink when they brush their teeth.  The dirty handprint on the light switch that nobody will claim as theirs, much less clean up.

I think these times are worse when I've had a weekend away.  I lived a sort of fantasy life this weekend, a life where I had a chance to be just Leandra.  Just me.  Not mom.  Not wife.  Not daughter, not sister.  Just me.   I hung out with some really cool people and I talked about books and movies and art and nature and politics and music.  As me.  Just Leandra. 

I did what I wanted to do.  I went where I wanted to go.

That's one of the things I've been struggling with since turning 40.   I've sort of forgotten what I like to do.  I've sort of forgotten how to be me.  There just doesn't feel like time to do all that the things that have to be done and all the things that I want to do.

I know it's just for a short time and the kids will be gone before I know it.  I know I need to cherish these moments.  And I do.  I know being a mom means making sacrifices.  I just didn't realize that what I would be sacrificing is me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

She's An American Girl

The other day I made a total rookie mistake.  You'd almost think I'd never done this mom thing before, that I hadn't learned anything in the last 10 years.

As we pulled into the driveway, I checked the mail.  There, amongst the grocery store circulars, was an American Girl catalog.  And without thinking, I handed it into the backseat to Punkin.  Did you hear that loud scratching sound last Wednesday?  That was the needle of realization scratching across the record of my consciousness. 

What had I done?

Sure enough, before I had even put the car in drive, "Look, Mommy!  There's a doll in here named Punkin! And she has blonde hair just like me! And a pony! And a nightgown! And a sleeping bag!"

And the coup de grace, "I want an American Girl doll, Mommy."  Cha-ching!

Oh Lord.  This, from a girl who has never once played with a doll for more than five minutes.  I don't really care that she doesn't play with dolls.  She comes by it naturally.  The running joke in my family was that within five minutes all my dolls were naked in a box under my bed.  The only time I seriously played with Barbies was when I chopped all the hair off one of them and "punked" her up by using magic markers to streak her hair and apply more makeup.

I actually kind of like the idea of American Girl dolls because of the stories that accompany them.  What I don't like is their price tag or the fact that I know that she wouldn't play with it for five minutes.  I'd rather just get her some books.

Now, where DID that American Girl catalog get to, anyway? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

May I Have This Dance

So, hey guys -- and I mean this literally when I say guys.  This is a heads up to all the fellas out there.  So, I know most of you don't really like to dance.  If pressed, you might admit to taking to the dance floor when you've had one too many, but most of you can probably count on one hand the number of times you've danced willingly, right?

But here's the thing.  Do any of you have any idea how much a woman loves a man who can dance?  I'm not talking about any of this So You Think You Can Dance business, or Dancing With the Stars (though that's closer to what I'm talking about).  There is something supremely attractive about a man who is confident enough in his masculinity to dance, who can place his hand on the small of your back and lead you around the dance floor.  Or hell, even one who just places his hand on the small of your back and shuffles in a circle but acts like he knows what he's doing.

Haven't you guys seen the movies?   Dirty Dancing?  Urban Cowboy?  Magic Mike? Okay, that last one wasn't strictly the dancing, but you get my point.  Women like the guys who have some moves and the guys who have the moves always get the girl.

So, fellas, don't leave your lady on the sidelines.  She'll just feel like a wallflower and you can bet your bottom dollar that she's wishing you'd take her for a spin, no matter how great (or not) your moves are.

Monday, October 15, 2012


So, I went for it, that opportunity in my last post.  I didn't think it was likely to work out.  I wasn't really sure I wanted it to, but I went for it.  I did it mostly to break free of the fear, but also just for the experience.

As it turns out, I didn't have enough of it -- experience, that is.  But it's funny how taking an opportunity to examine your life and what you want to do with it can help you clarify just what it is that you do want to do, or what you want to try.   I'm not making any major changes, but I'm stepping up my game just a little.  I'm tired of coasting. 

I don't know.  Maybe it's my birthday that is quickly -- so quickly -- approaching.  It's a milestone year, 40 is.  I don't have any real anxiety about turning 40.  In fact, I feel energized in some ways.  Maybe part of it is that life feels like it's going by so quickly.  Wasn't it just Monday night?  And here it is Monday night again?  I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can.  Be the best I can be.  Does that sound hokey?  Maybe it's true that we get more sentimental, cheesier as we get older.  Or maybe it's just an appreciation.

My husband threw a surprise party for me Saturday night.  I was completely taken by surprise and it was so much fun hanging out with people from so many different parts of my life.  I looked at my life and realized that you know what?  I've got it pretty good.  It's a good life.  It's going to be a good year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Am I Scared Of?

I'm not sure when the fear started.  My mother used to marvel at my ability to walk into social situations alone.  I'm still not afraid of large crowds of people I don't know.  I can make conversation with the best of them.  I'm confident that I can find common ground somewhere.

That's not the fear that I feel right now.

I am pretty sure that most of the adults in my life during my formative years had high expectations of me.  I was an achiever.  I got good grades.  I won awards.  But somehow, sometimes, I feel like I didn't live up to that potential.  Somewhere along the way, I quit striving.   I began to settle for what's easy, what's comfortable.  I began to let fear of failure hold me back.

An opportunity has presented itself to me.  An opportunity to stretch very far outside of my comfort zone.  Immediately the little voice in my head started up.  I'm not qualified.  It's too hard.  It's too far away.  They wouldn't want me. 

Is any of this really true, or is this just my way of staving off failure?  If, somehow, this opportunity came to fruition, it would be the hardest thing I've ever done.   But deep down I think I could do it.  So, what then am I afraid of?

I'm afraid of putting myself out there.

I'm afraid of letting someone that I respect see my resumé, which feels paltry.

I'm afraid of being found wanting.

I'm afraid of change.

I'm afraid of wanting it.

I'm afraid of not wanting it.

What if they don't want me?

What if they do?

But I'm also afraid of living my life never trying again.  Never striving to be better.  To be more.  To live up to my potential.

So, I'm taking that step.  What's that old saying?  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?  Nobody told me that single step would feel like stepping off a cliff.