Can We Really Do This? Pandemic Edition

Remember back when 2019 was a little intense and all of us looked forward to 2020? We had no idea what was coming, bless our little privileged hearts.

But it’s fine. Really. Everything is absolutely fine.

Remember when I almost relapsed last summer on diet pills because I was so stressed, and I swore I would never again stay home full time with the kids? I had no clue that was just a teeny, tiny preview into what was awaiting me: full time isolation with my three children, without access to the things that I grew to depend on for my sanity and well being, WITH NO END IN SIGHT.

Making the best of it!

Last summer seems like a breeze compared to this. What the hell even is this? I honestly can’t decide, because my thoughts and feelings shift minute by minute. Sometimes it feels like a gift, a blessing, something divinely orchestrated to open my eyes to the simple joys that I spent so many years drowning out before I got sober. Other times it feels like a dystopian nightmare, like we’re on the verge of societal collapse and there is no way any of us can do this if this virus doesn’t kill us first.

Can we really do this? Or are we, the American people, too soft, too spoiled rotten? Someone said that an Amazon employee tested positive for the virus, and now people are freaking out that Amazon might stop delivering things like bike helmets and creamy peanut butter to our doorsteps.

You fools took all the creamy peanut butter in my town and all that is left is extra crunchy. Peanut butter manufacturers should know by now that nobody likes that extra crunchy shit, you could just as well buy a can of peanuts and smear them on bread, because that’s exactly what it tastes like. The same people who are buying up all the good peanut butter are more than likely the ones hoarding toilet paper, because greedy people are like that. It’s cool, though, because I bought up all the fiber supplements, so the joke’s on you, motherfuckers.

No one knows when — or if — school will resume for the 2019-2020 academic year. None of us were aware, when the kids climbed into school buses or cars at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13, that they wouldn’t be returning the following Monday. We can’t tell our kids for certain when (if?) they will be able to see their friends or teachers again, let alone when libraries and parks will reopen.

I’ve started focusing on reminding them that their friends are safe in their homes — just like we are! — because my kids are only friends with people who come from intelligent homes. And what I mean by intelligent is that the adults in the household can comprehend basic instructions and aren’t out shopping together as a family and then crowding around a food truck afterwards, touching everything.

That’s just stupid.

We are all doing impossible things all day long, trudging a minimum of 6 feet away from each other up a slippery hill. And YES, it is all too much. Way, way too much. I don’t have the answers, people. I am only here to validate our immense and bottomless angst.

Via @happyasamother on Instagram!

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Removing Dip Powder Nails At Home

When the kids and I quarantined ourselves 11 days ago, my husband continued to go to work. He’s a Sales Manager at the biggest Chevy dealership in town, and for whatever reason, car dealerships are considered necessary during a pandemic.

First of all, who the hell is out buying cars right now? You do not need a new car. You need to stay at home like the rest of us who want this horrible self-isolation thing to end ASAP so we can get back to regular life. No, I’m not wallowing in self pity at all, shut up and mind your own business.

Robbie says he is thankful that he still has a job, because people are being laid off right and left. The rational side of me is thankful, too. The irrational side, which sometimes finds me eating chocolate icing directly from the container while I cry on the floor of my closet, is royally pissed.

When it sunk in that nail salons, hair salons, and other such things were closing up shop for an unknown period of time, my first thought was oh shit, my roots, immediately followed by oh shit, my nails.

If you’ve never had dip nails before, allow me to explain. I’ve been a nail and cuticle biter for as long as I can remember. Gel manicures tend to last two days at the most, and any attempt to do my own nails produces a result that looks a lot like that of my children.

My therapist was the one who told me to try dip nails. After the first time I did it last summer, I was hooked. It didn’t matter what I put my hands through, the manicure looked amazing. It’s like concrete, so there’s no way to pull it or peel it off — awesome, right? Except when there’s a pandemic. Then it isn’t awesome at all.

Reader, please join me as I embark on a journey into the unfamiliar territory of do-it-yourself tutorials. I hope you’re excited, because I can hardly contain myself.

You might be wondering why my face looks a little … off. Well friends, I realized several hours too late that I’d only filled in one of my eyebrows. If that doesn’t sum up my entire existence at the moment, I don’t know what does.

The materials I used in the removal process are as follows:

  1. 100% pure acetone
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. Heavy-duty nail file
  4. Cotton balls
  5. Glass bowl

This situation reminds me a lot of the time I decided I could give myself a bikini wax at home: arrogant and misguided.

I told myself that surely I could do the removal just like they do in the nail salon, which was a lie, of course. I’ve already explained to you that I’m not even capable of painting my nails decently, so I think we all know how this is going to end.

Here are the steps:

  1. File off the top layer of each nail
  2. Soak a cotton ball in acetone
  3. Put cotton on top of fingernail and,
  4. Wrap with aluminum foil.

My right hand was easy because I’m left handed. I really struggled to do my left hand, so my kids stepped in to help. I’ll let you guess how that went. After realizing this wasn’t quite going according to plan, I ended up taking all the foil wads off my fingers and sticking my fingers into a bowl full of acetone.

I soaked until I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers, then pulled my hands out of the bowl and used a rough paper towel to wipe off the melted dip goo.

Repeat eleventy hundred times, and you get this:

After cutting my nails and filing the remainder of the dip off (that’s a lie, I totally gave up on filing and decided to just live with it until it grows out), I found a cheerful shade of polish that adequately covered the black spots that I still have on my fingers.

So, yeah. I’m pretty anxious to be released from isolation/social distancing so I can once again let the professionals work their magic, but until then, I’ll be sharing the wonders of DOING IT YOURSELF DURING A PANDEMIC!

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A Homeschooler I Am Not

Ok, look. I’m going to level with you: the past few weeks have been harder than anything I’ve gone through in my life, and that’s saying a lot.

After writing my previous blog post, I basically had a 48-hour meltdown wherein I cried, stamped my feet, and felt sorry for myself. My body felt like it was filled with lead. I had the overwhelm, big time, and my kids were even more anxious (read: hyperactive, emotional, excitable, awful) because their mother couldn’t seem to get it together.

Eventually, I got ahold of myself. I mean, this pandemic isn’t going away. I have no control over an invisible virus. So I’m going to focus on what I can control: living through a pandemic while in recovery for alcoholism, in isolation with my three children, for an unknown period of time. Because WOW.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, slash, writer, for almost 8 years now. To go from what used to be our normal life, to 24/7 parenting without access to libraries, parks, other children, zoos, the swimming pool, or anything other than our own home and yard, is CRAZY DISORIENTING. I mean … you know. We all know. I don’t have to explain to any of you how hard all of this is, because you are already there.

Part of me feels ashamed to complain, because I’m aware that millions of people don’t have it as good as we do right now. My husband is in the car business, and right now vehicles are considered a “necessity” along with hospitals and groceries, so his work load isn’t slowing down anytime soon. And as much as I worry about him going out there into the wild where the viruses live, and as bitter as I sometimes feel because he gets to leave for work and I do not, I’m thankful that we don’t have to worry about our livelihood (at least, not yet).

For 12 hours a day, and it’s just me and the kids.

At first, I tried to homeschool them. It sounded like a good idea. Routine is always good for kids — how hard could it be to carry on what their teachers were doing with them before schools unexpectedly closed down?

WRONG.

It turns out that stressed mothers are terrible teachers. I was stressing myself out as well as my children, so we just … well, we stopped. There was no big announcement, no dramatic throwing in of the towel, I just fucking quit doing it.

And guess what? Nothing horrible happened. My kids didn’t become dumb overnight. They’re still learning, just in a different way. Today we went to a pond and threw out food for the turtles. We’re cooking, cleaning, and learning how to work together under duress. I’m trying really, really hard not to yell.

It’s a work in progress.

My greatest challenge is that I am trapped with my kids during a time that I would absolutely LOVE to numb out, maintaining my sobriety without access to the 12-step meetings that have been such an integral part of my recovery, and surrounded (virtually, not literally) by people who are conditioned to cope with Bad Things by drinking. This is Louisiana. We are famous for our ability to roll with the punches and do it with good cheer, because we’re loaded all the time.

This is what I found myself writing to a woman who is 142 days sober and struggling with the isolation/motherhood problem:

Hi! Mom of an 11 year old boy with Asperger’s and ADHD, a 8 year old boy with ADD, and a 6 year old girl here. First of all, YOU ARE DOING GREAT. None of us are doing this perfectly or even that well, but if you are sober and your kids are loved and safe, then give yourself a huge pat on the back! You are demonstrating every single day what it looks like to love yourself so that you can truly love them.

Now, isolation and motherhood are both huge triggers for me, so this is what I’ve found helpful:

1. Telehealth sessions with my therapist (if you don’t have one, this is a GREAT TIME TO GET ONE). I’m scheduling them weekly. I know cost can be a problem — look for a counselor without all the fancy letters after their name. There are plenty and trust me, they’ve got mad availability right now.

2. Reaching out to all of my friends so I don’t feel alone. I use Zoom, WhatsApp, and Marco Polo, in addition to all the regular ways of communicating.

3. HARD exercise. Wear those kids out! Wear yourself out! Get the anxiety out of your body by doing something outside in the sun or even a Zumba video inside the house. Just move your body, sweat, and get the kids to move too. I cannot stress enough how crucial physical exercise is to my sanity/sobriety/mental health. Hard exercise is the only thing I’ve found to keep my anxiety at a manageable level right now.

4. Give your entire household grace because what we are doing is BATSHIT CRAZY and HARD AS FUCK, DO YOU HEAR ME? We are doing the impossible, and doing it sober. If someone would have told me this is what I’d be doing in 2020, I never would have believed them. But I am. We are.

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The Covid Diaries

Two weekends ago, Robbie and I took the kids to “Cat Video Fest 2020” which was basically just a feature-length compilation of cat videos shown in the classy theatre downtown, and it was there that I saw my friend Gwen.

Gwen reminds me of a hummingbird. Her petite frame and wide-eyed curiosity is almost ethereal, and she always hugs me hello and asks me about my writing. I’m not sure how old she is — maybe in her 50’s or 60’s — but I know she doesn’t have children and she likes to read the newspaper every morning.

Today I’m thinking about Gwen because two weekends ago when we sat in that theatre with the very close together seats, sneezing and coughing and leaning all over each other, none of us had quarantine or lockdown or viruses on the brain. We were thinking about cats hiding in brown paper bags and kittens in mittens, blissfully unaware that our lives were about to be TURNED THE FUCK OVER.

Arrogance, and possibly denial, kept us from considering the fact that a pandemic, Covid-19, would be here. Something about the way we live our lives keeps us from believing that whatever is happening over there could ever actually happen where we live.

Before the viral panic descended upon us, I was wrapped up in the politics of our local public school system. I was busy worrying about whether or not the locker rooms at the kid’s school had appropriate window coverings. I was focused on helping our new principal get the surveillance cameras fully functioning.

I was dealing with the individual challenges of my kids, which have recently become overwhelming. I ramped up my own therapy in response, trying hard to listen to my therapist when she said “Harmony, you need help.” She said it was time to hire someone, maybe a college kid, and I started looking.

But then schools shut down.

And now I am home with my three kids, indefinitely. No playdates. No gym. No library, no seeing grandparents, no playing at the park. Robbie is still going to work. There is no toilet paper to be found. I have a dip manicure that is over two weeks old and I’m not sure when I can go have it removed. My face is breaking out. The kids are anxious. I am anxious.

I’m trying to lean in. I am sober. I can think of this time as a gift. I can try to enjoy my home and my kids and be grateful that I don’t have to go anywhere. I can make gratitude lists, and try to make the best of it, and work on my spiritual growth.

BUT Y’ALL.

I’m in recovery for alcoholism — which 100% ramped up when I became a stay at home mom, even though I wanted to be a stay at home mom. One of my biggest triggers is being stuck at home with the kids because I had no idea how awful it is to be stuck at home with the kids.

Yesterday reminded me.

It is terrible.

I miss the gym. I miss everything I used to do to make myself feel sane. I feel like a whiny bratty baby for complaining, but one glance at social media reminds me that we are likely to be on lockdown soon because all of you idiots refuse to stay home. We are all in the same boat, fellow Americans, and half of you insist on poking holes in the sides because you don’t believe in science.

And so, my friends, I leave you with this. Because Pepper is ALL OF US.

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How To Know If What You’re Doing Is Right

“It seems like motherhood is a big source of stress for you.”

My therapist shifted in her seat as she waited for me to respond, uncrossing and re-crossing her legs. I wondered if she was starting to get that tingly feeling that happens just before a limb shuts down.

“I would say so, yes,” I said quietly.

Early recovery is, hands down, the most uncomfortable experience of my life. I have a heightened awareness of the way my thighs rub together when I walk. I feel the heaviness of my breasts. I feel empathy for other people in a way I did not before I got sober, and my mental clarity allows me to comprehend situations that I would have previously written off as impossible. I can feel every creak in my left knee and I have a deep, primal need for simple carbohydrates.

I feel changes in the air, like a golden retriever with his head hanging out the passenger window of a car, except with a lot less joy. Golden retrievers probably don’t have to take stock of, and come to terms with, their emotional baggage. Dogs don’t get addicted to mood-altering substances.

My journey from co-ed Christian boarding school — where pantyhose was not a merely a suggestion, but a requirement — to a full-blown alcohol and prescription drug addiction, was slow but steady. The thing about high-functioning alcoholics and drug addicts is that they seem so pulled together. High-performing, ambitious, gregarious, successful — all of those words described me. But eventually, with all forms of addiction, cracks began to appear.

The psychological aspects of addiction often prevent the user from being aware of or even admitting that there’s a problem. I fell into this category. I’ve long prided myself on my ability to be honest; after all, the tagline on my website reads “honesty and insanity in one fell swoop.” Honesty is kind of my thing — and I was honest about everything — except for the extent of my drinking. Oh, and the pills. No one needed to know about that.

Sobriety feels like nakedness. It feels like someone stripped away my garments and left me standing on a stage in front of everyone I know and love, and people are slowly, kindly, offering me things: a scarf here, a glove there. I’m re-dressing myself, and it’s a painstaking, humbling process. Merging motherhood — a task I don’t take lightly or for granted — and recovery feels so gargantuan, so crushingly impossible, that I can’t allow myself to think past the next 24 hours. Allowing my mind to wander too far ahead leaves me breathless and panic-stricken, and so, upon the advice of others, I just don’t do it.

I used to drink to cope with the stress of parenting. Now, without alcohol, I don’t know how to exist, and I especially don’t know how to be a mom. My default coping mechanism was always wine, and if I happened to be pregnant, I had no choice but to turn to food. Now I understand why I gained over 50 pounds in each pregnancy. I’m an alcoholic; take away the alcohol, and my body craves sugar.

If my middle son fell and busted his lip open, I’d calmly take care of him while telling myself that my reward would be a few glasses of wine after I got him patched up. If my oldest son was having an epic meltdown, I’d walk away, get a glass of wine, and return to him feeling calmer and more in control. When babies were teething and crying and fussing, I held it together until my husband got home — that was my rule, another adult had to be present — and then I would start drinking. I didn’t stop until the stress went away.

Towards the end, the stress didn’t leave until I lost consciousness.

In recovery, I have to walk myself through the day like I’m a small child: What’s the next right thing to do? Take a shower. What’s the next right thing? Get dressed. And so on and so forth.

Think I’m lying? Try destroying your body for 15 years before entering a 12-step program. I literally have to retrain myself in every aspect of my life.

The big, daily question I ask myself is — how can I care for kids when I can’t even care for myself?

The answer is slowly and deliberately. Minute by minute. Thoughtfully. Carefully. I ask for help. I accept help. I breathe more deeply. I sleep better. I meditate. I laugh a lot more.

I’m LIVING.

Getting sober while parenting small children is very difficult. But you know what’s worse? Trying to parent as an active addict. As hard as this journey can be, my most challenging sober day is a hundred times happier than a typical day as an alcoholic. I know this because I’ve experienced both.

“I love being a mother,” I told my therapist. “I think I just don’t know how to do it right.”

“You’re doing it,” she said.

So it’s right.

This essay was originally posted on Babble.com before Disney shut it down. Also, if you liked this post, then you should follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

A Desire To Remember

My 40th birthday is the day after Christmas and I am in full on, midlife-is-nigh, panic mode.

None of the things I wanted to have done by now are finished. I don’t have a publishable book. I don’t have a literary agent. I didn’t get my face lasered or my boobs lifted and I didn’t lose 20 pounds — so basically, my 40 is NOT the new 30.

My 40 is forty.

Hemingway was chock full of excellent advice, it turns out.

And I thought I’d made my peace with that, honestly. I’ve read some comical pieces about midlife. I joined an enormous Facebook group dedicated to women over 40. I found a few designers who manage to make sensible shoes look not depressing. I’ve stopped shopping in the Juniors section.

I bought eye cream and I use hyaluronic acid and some kind of prescription-level stuff that I think should have erased my hyperpigmentation by now. I remain mystified as to how my forehead wrinkles could possibly be deep enough to collect dirt — and while a very big part of me wants nothing more than to get Botox, there is a still, small voice in the back of my mind that whispers it’s poison, you idiot.

But the concerns I have about my looming birthday screeched to a halt today when I had another one of those awful moments where I realize I’m missing time. There’s this movie — the latest in the the long list of them, because this seems to happen every couple of months — that I have no recollection of seeing. But I watched it, with Robbie, apparently, in our home, at the end of 2016.

Before I got sober.

I do not recall any part of this. How is that even possible? For a slightly obsessive, Type A personality, missing something — anything — is troubling. I freak out when I misplace a pair of socks or an earring; losing time and memories, or in this case, an entire movie, is … what is the word I’m looking for?

Terrifying.

How much of my life have I missed? How many moments did I drink away, and what did I do or say when I wasn’t really there? The harms I’ve done that I don’t know about are what haunt me.

I’m on the precipice of turning 40 years old and I’m grasping for the shreds of what is left. And as I’m hanging on to those pieces, they’re evaporating. This is a very melodramatic way to address a missing memory, but it’s the only way I know how to convey the fear. I’m afraid of my disease. I’m afraid that it will win. I’m afraid that I will one day stop working so hard to stay sober, and instead make the decision to blot out my life.

There is not a cure for alcoholism or drug addiction. I will never be “fixed.” All I get is a daily reprieve, 24 hours of sobriety at a time, which is contingent on my own willingness to depend on a power greater than myself. If I forget, or stop being willing to do the (uncomfortable, hard) work, or if I cease to be honest with myself, or if I simply have a real bitch of a day, it could all come crashing down. We are all one poor decision away from drinking so much that we don’t remember it.

Maybe part of becoming 40 years old will include a desire to remember.

I’ve forgotten enough of my life — I’d like to remember the next forty years with intense and utter clarity.

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The Reluctant Blogger

My therapist and husband keep reminding me to write. “You’ll feel better if you write about it,” they tell me.

Will I? Because quite honestly, the thought of sitting down and dumping my thoughts on paper sounded like much too great a task. It would be so much simpler, I rationalized for months on end, if I just continued to ignore it all.

Eventually — today — I reached a point of such substantial discomfort that I unhappily broke my laptop out of hibernation. So, hi. I’m still alive, sober, and struggling.

Life does not get easier when one stops numbing her emotions, just so you know. Life continues on just as it always has, it’s just that I’m very much aware of it.

I have a hard time during the holidays for a lot of different reasons. The worst part is the inexplicable sadness that sweeps over me, at a time when I feel like I’m supposed to be jolly. I spent many years ignoring/stuffing/numbing my feelings and blaming other people for “making” me feel this way. If only XYZ had not happened, if only I’d done ABC differently, maybe I wouldn’t struggle so hard during the time between Thanksgiving and mid-January.

Well, here’s the truth: trauma changes a person.

Forever.

No amount of time or having good things happen can completely erase the damage that’s already done. There are things that can lessen the effects, and there are plenty of coping skills that can help a damaged person live an emotionally healthy life, but at the end of the day we are all still broken inside.

Most of the women you know and love who suffer from addiction, have a history of trauma. So when people say things like “Why are you so sad? You have a great life!” my blood pressure shoots way, way up. Yes, I do have a great life. I’m incredibly grateful that I found a way out of the darkness, one day at a time. I am one of the very few, which is why it continues to be so important to me to talk about it — because if you’re still breathing, there is still hope that you can overcome whatever obstacles were dropped in your path.

But.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. None of it is easy. And while most of the time I am not bitter or angry, around this time of year I get real bitter and angry. I used to drink those feelings away, but now I simply carry them, feel them, accept them.

It is not anyone else’s problem to fix. I have zero control over the past or other people. What I DO have control over is what I choose to do with it all, and every day I get another chance to make different choices.

Today I’m choosing to air out my struggles, if for no other reason than to make someone else feel less alone in theirs.

I went to NYC to film an episode of the Mel Robbins Show, where I had the opportunity to talk about addiction and trauma. I don’t have an air date yet, but I’ll let you know when I do!

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932 Days Sober

I have been in recovery for 932 days.

They say that alcoholics are fortunate because we get to experience two lives. There is Before I Got Sober, which wasn’t exactly the lying-in-the-gutter-covered-my-own-feces kind of bad, but was quickly heading there, and then there is the second part of my life.

This summer, a whole lot of crazy opportunities started falling out of the sky. I was in The Washington Post. I was on the radio. ABC brought a crew to my house and filmed for 12 hours. I spent a lot of time talking to Deborah Roberts.

It’s generally considered positive for amazing experiences to rain down upon a person who is trying really, really hard to do the next right thing, so imagine how confusing it was for me to feel empty and paralyzed.

I wanted nothing more than to hide out in my house, speak to no one, and forget I ever loved writing. I wanted to change my mind on all the things. I wanted to take it all back, undo the improvements and hours of therapy and self healing.

And while I didn’t consciously think that drinking was a good idea, my fallback for every uncomfortable feeling is STILL, after 932 days, to numb out.

“I feel like if I walked into a greenhouse full of marijuana plants, I’d probably start grabbing fistfuls of leaves and cramming them into my mouth,” I told my therapist. “Can you get high from eating raw pot leaves?”

So here is the deal: the addict part of my brain doesn’t want me to get better. She wants to keep me sick. She doesn’t want to help other people. She knows that the more I tell on my disease, the harder it will become for her to destroy me. That part of me flares up, big time, whenever good things happen; she whispers in my ear that it’s not real, that somehow I’m fooling everyone, I’m not qualified or worthy enough to actually succeed.

Sometimes, I believe her.

But, on the day I told my therapist I wanted to cram unprocessed marijuana into my mouth just to see what happens, she pointed out to me that secrets like that one are exactly why I need to keep doing what I’m doing. Yes, it is SO UNCOMFORTABLE AND SCARY, OMG. Yes, it’s possible that I could royally fuck it up in a very public way. Telling the world about recovery means that I have to fully commit to sobriety. There is no going back. I am all in.

And that, to a person like me, is the scariest thing in the world.

Here is a link to the piece they wrote about my story on ABC.

Here is the short segment that aired on Good Morning America last week.

Tonight, the full episode will air on Nightline. I don’t feel ready. I didn’t do the things I wanted to do beforehand, like hire a web designer or finish my book proposal or … or … or. But, like my friend Audrey reminded me, I would never feel ready. So here goes.

It’s DEBORAH!

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Thank You, Jenny

Bigotry, in all of its forms, is a learned behavior.

This thought weighs heavy on my mind today in thinking about *Jenny, a person who worked with the Kid’s Orchestra program last year at the K-8 public magnet school my children attend.

Jenny looked like she may have been transitioning from male to female, and I liked her immediately. She was the one to call me one evening when my youngest, then 5 years old, got sick with a stomach virus during Orchestra practice. At first I was taken aback when I met her, mostly because this is the Deep South and the LGTBQIA (I hope I did that right … I’m awkwardly stumbling through educating myself on these issues, so that I can hopefully educate my children and show them how to be an ally) communities are seriously underrepresented in these parts.

I noticed Jenny mostly because she was different, but I didn’t say anything about her until one evening at Orchestra pick up when all three of my kids piled into the car laughing about something.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

They were laughing about Jenny. The children in their Orchestra classes couldn’t figure out what gender she was, and it sounded like they were making fun of her.

It was mid-winter, and the sun dipped below the horizon. And while the thermometer told me that it was only 57 degrees, I could feel my body heating up, smoldering with an emotion I couldn’t immediately identify. I slowed down, pulled over onto the shoulder, and rotated my entire self so that my children had a clear view of my face.

I kept my voice low and even.

I asked how they would feel if Jenny heard them talking about her right now.

I asked how they would feel if they felt different inside like Jenny, and overheard their friends referring to her or her appearance in a negative manner. What would it feel like, I wondered out loud, to know that you are different but to be told by everyone around you that “different” is bad or shameful?

My kids looked at me with wide eyes.

I wasn’t mad at them. I wasn’t mad at the other kids from school who were talking about Jenny. I was mad at the lack of education these kid’s PARENTS have experienced. Ideas about other people — color, sexual identity, religion, even political affiliation — are largely based on nothing more than asinine assumptions and a significant lack of education.

So thank you, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, for fostering a diverse learning environment for my three children.

Thank you, Target, for hiring LGBTQIA employees.

Thank you, Kid’s Orchestra of Baton Rouge, for hiring Jenny. Having her in my kid’s lives opened up an extremely valuable, powerful conversation in the car during our drive home. Because when you know better, you do better.

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* Not her real name.

We Got A Puppy

A new school year begins tomorrow, and as usual, I am ill-prepared.

My sons don’t have the new belts I promised them. My daughter has a fever and will be at the pediatrician’s office in the morning, rather than taking first day of school pictures with her brothers. Also, the bottom of her hair looks like something chewed on it but we had to cancel the appointment I’d made for her trim because of the aforementioned fever.

The state of Louisiana changed the car seat requirements and two of my children are to travel in booster seats that we do not have yet because I haven’t had time to go to the store and buy them because WE GOT A PUPPY.

A PUPPY.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m like 99% sure it was a horrible, horrible mistake, but her name is Daphne and she’s really cute. It feels like I have a lot more kids now, which isn’t really the life I was hoping for when I agreed to this. I honestly had no idea how much work a puppy would be. Holy shit. Literally.

Every summer with my kids feels like the longest stretch of time imaginable until it is over and I have time to reflect on how little time we have left before childhood ends and adolescence — the Wild West of parenthood — begins. Maybe I got a dog because I’m subconsciously not quite ready to not be needed anymore, despite what my conscious tells me every time I find a new puddle of pee.

Tomorrow I will send a 6th grader and 3rd grader off to school while I cart my 1st grader to the doctor. I am not ready. I am never ready. The difference this time is that I’m not punishing myself for it.

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