I Don’t Want To Go Back In Time

I cannot tell you how deep I had to dig to keep my emotions in check this summer and how deeply I will fall into a cocktail (or five) when school starts again.

But today, I snapped out of survival mode and realized that I made it. I MADE IT!

My oldest starts 3rd grade tomorrow. “I don’t need you to drive me to school on the first day,” he said. “I can take the bus.” He looked at me and grinned and all the sudden I could see what he’s going to look like when I send him off the college, and I felt momentarily sad.

His little brother is starting Kindergarten at the same elementary school this year, and my long time dream of putting both boys on the school bus and waving goodbye will finally be realized. Can I be honest? I’m not sad, or weepy, or wistful for when they were smaller. I’m proud. I’m elated, actually. I’m happy to have made it to this point in one piece, and I don’t want to go back in time. I want to revel in this.

No one wears diapers anymore.

Everyone talks in coherent sentences.

I’ve taught 3 human beings how to use the toilet and how to stay with me in the store; things can only continue to improve from here.

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Summer, 2016

I see photos of myself from 8 years ago when I first became a mom and I feel a little sorry for that version of me. I don’t want to go back in time and be her again. I don’t want to hold my babies or rock them or see them in their infancy or wish for time to go backwards. I MADE IT, which means I have overcome obstacles, which means I have hope to continue overcoming obstacles, which requires me to continue moving forward.

This summer, I got soaked with water by the boys, who thought it would be funny to spray me after I asked them repeatedly to turn off the water. My kids kept me so busy that I never got around to changing clothes, until hours later, I realized that they were dry again.

This summer, we were lazy. I let them have unlimited screen time and we all ate junk food and laid around the house like total couch potatoes. It was amazing. Now I understand why people make this a full-time thing.

This summer, I didn’t work out. I didn’t weigh myself. I put on the same, falling-apart, ill-fitting bathing suit day after day and got in the pool with my kids. I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was last summer, and caring a lot less about how fat my thighs look.

This summer, I really enjoyed my kids. I did. But now, I’m ready for them to go to school, because I need to shake off the experience of having people with me 24/7 for three straight months, and that can only be done by using expletives and bargain shopping alone. By myself. Without anyone hiding in the clothes racks.

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Standing In The Fire

Last night I had the most terrifying dream that I was in the kitchen cooking and a fire started, and it just kept spreading and spreading until I was entirely surrounded. I was YELLING for help, but my family didn’t hear me. They were all in the next room.

That is what grief feels like.

There have been times in my life when a friend confided something shocking to me that I didn’t know how to deal with, and I handled it poorly. When I was 15 and away at boarding school, my best friend back home got pregnant. She informed me via a handwritten letter that was delivered under my dorm room door, because it was 1995 and that’s how things were done before the internet.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do or how to process the thought of becoming a mother when we didn’t even have a license to drive. I’m pretty sure whatever my response was, it sucked. Just like when my high school friend called one day in July to tell me that he was gay. GAY?! I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I stammered and mumbled and got off the phone as fast as I could, because I didn’t know how to be with him in his fire.

I sucked.

These are the things I think of as I grapple with grief over the fact that we don’t know how much time my mother has left. It could be years. It could be days. No one can tell us for sure, because cancer is fucked up and unpredictable and incurable. And I am here, in this fire, burning. Seeing people fidget and stammer because they don’t know what to say because grief is uncomfortable. Death is uncomfortable. Dealing with loss when no one has died is a strange thing that isn’t easily explained.

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My sons, November 2014

Yesterday I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a long time. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just really love them and you don’t even know why? Well, there is a lady named Virginia that I feel that way about. I LOVE VIRGINIA.

She asked me a question — “How is your mom doing?” — and really asked it. She wanted me to tell her the truth. Most people might think they want to know the truth, until you start to tell them and they realize how horrible the truth is and they get weird and then you feel even worse because not only are you carrying around this emotional weight, but now you’ve gone and made someone else uncomfortable with it, too.

When Virginia asks a question, she expects an answer. And when I tried to glaze it over, she stopped me. She wouldn’t let me glaze it over. She stood with me, in my anger and in my grief. Do you know how rare that is, for us to stop our lives momentarily to really connect with another human, and stand with them in their mess?

I needed that.

The world needs more Virginias.

What I didn’t know in 1995, but certainly realize now, is that all people really need is for others to genuinely acknowledge their suffering … even if it’s impossible to extinguish the fire that’s causing it.

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It’s Always Something.

It’s always something.”

I remember my parents saying that a lot when I was younger. I nodded like I understood what that meant, because in my life, there was always something. I was wrapped up in getting through college. I spent hours e-mailing my friends who were scattered all over the country in faraway places like medical school. I was too busy to notice my parents, who were saddled with a failing business and struggling to care for my grandparents.

It’s always something.

I looked up from my laptop to see my mother, standing in the doorway of my bedroom. She was in her early forties. She looked tired as she leaned against the entry, telling me that my grandmother was in the hospital. My parents were supposed to take a business trip, but they were postponing it to care for my grandmother.

I blithely responded because saying nothing would be impolite. I may have even believed that I understood what she meant when she said, “It’s always something.” Life is a constant barrage of somethings. For me, it was term papers and finding a parking space at the university. A trail of failed relationships dragged behind me from one college to the next, and finally to my parents’ Louisiana home where I stayed for good, writing and mulling in my bedroom as my friends got engaged and planned their weddings.

I stood in six different weddings in 2002. I was convinced I would never meet the right man and would die alone, surrounded by cats. That would be my final something in a string of always somethings. These are the things that kept me up at night, while my mother was choking under the pressure of running a business and lining up in-home caregivers for her parents.

It’s not that I was any more self-involved than the next 22-year-old; it was that no matter what was going on, she was still my mom, available when I needed her. I went on to marry and have children, and she didn’t miss a thing.

I remember her hurrying into the delivery room with my father following behind hesitantly, likely out of fear that he would see something he could never un-see, and relief crossed her face when she saw they had made it in time. The check engine light was on in their truck, and they were worried they might break down on the highway as they raced to meet their first grandchild.

It’s always something,” I heard her say.

But my mother was always my mother despite the somethings.

Years later, the dynamic has shifted, and I find myself asking out loud to no one in particular, because there is no one around to answer: How does one person care for three children under the age of 6 while her mother’s health slips away?

I am unprepared, gasping for air. I have no headlamp, no footing, no guidance. Nothing.

My mom called one afternoon to tell me what the cardiologist said, right as my oldest got home from school. I strained to hear her through the phone as children swarmed around me. “Hold on just a minute,” I said, covering the phone with my hand. I yelled at my kids to get out of the kitchen, and cradled the phone on my shoulder as I scooped up the TV remote and turned on something—anything—that would keep them quiet for a few minutes.

I choked back the tears as I listened. She sounded tired. The kids were digging in the pantry. I pulled down a bag of Goldfish crackers, and the two older ones dove into it as the baby snacked on the pieces that fell to the floor.

I had more to say, more questions to ask, but my 3-year-old was crying.

It’s always something,” I heard myself say. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Now I understand.

Making the best of it.

Making the best of it.

© 2015 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.

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Going Nuts

Maverick is now at the age where he quietly listens to grown up conversations. He doesn’t jump up and down screaming. He doesn’t try to talk over us. He doesn’t interrupt every 5 seconds. He doesn’t pull on my leg and yell “MOMMY!” the whole time. He doesn’t throw tantrums.

He’s 7 now. I like 7.

My son is a joy.

It was hard getting to this place. It took years for me to learn how to be the mother that he needed. I didn’t understand what I was dealing with and I made a lot of mistakes, but we learned and failed and apologized — together. Because just like he needed to be taught self-control, I did too. And just like he needed to be taught to listen, so did I.

And now we’re here, just enjoying the feeling of not drowning.

Last weekend, I took Maverick with me to my parent’s house to see family that was visiting from out of town. We all talked for hours, forgetting he was there. He sat and listened intently, his big hazel eyes shining with interest. Every once in awhile I stopped and watched him, relishing how grown up he is.

My mom has cancer, and while discussing her treatment options with us she mentioned that she definitely would NOT be taking a particular kind of medication because it might make her, and I quote, “act like a squirrel.”

Me: “What do you mean, ACT LIKE A SQUIRREL?”

My mom: “It might make me think I’m a squirrel. Like I’d want to climb trees and hoard acorns.”

Me: “I … I don’t understand.”

(Pulls out phone to Google medication name + “squirrel-like behavior.”)

My mom: “I don’t understand it either, but all I know is that I will NOT be going that treatment route.”

My dad later explained that when the doctor mentioned to my mom that this treatment might make her act “squirrelly” he interpreted it to mean that it might make her crazy. The unpredictable, irreversible, no-cure-for-it kind. So maybe she might end up thinking she was a squirrel, but most likely it would either make her cancer-free, or crazy. She’s not willing to take any chances when it comes to her sanity, so she struck that option from the list.

I can’t say I blame her.

On the way home, Maverick asked a million questions from the backseat about Grandma becoming a squirrel.

Fast forward a few days and I find these sitting on the kitchen counter.

Hoarding acorns just in case.

Hoarding acorns just in case.

“I’m collecting acorns for Grandma,” Maverick said. “Just in case she goes squirrelly.”

The best thing about 7 is that this newfound grown up behavior is tempered by innocence and fun. I told him I’d start a collection bowl for the nuts he gathers during the day.

Just in case.

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Dinner And A Show.

I have a great dad. I love my dad.

He’s kind and hilarious and has a fantastic Southern accent. He calls mosquitoes “skeeters” and says things to my kids like “You look like you’ve been wallerin’ in dirt.”

He always used to tell me, if you hit right, you’ll only have to hit once. I think my dad is the reason why I grew up with such cowboy-like grit. For a girl.

He works really hard, so I don’t get to see him that often, but occasionally he will take me out to eat, just the two of us. It’s so nice to have the luxury to sit and talk without the constant interruption of children, and to have a reason to put on real clothes to go to an establishment where someone else will prepare and deliver my food without me having to exert any energy beyond deciding what items I want to order from the menu.

Tonight I met my dad for dinner at Newk’s, which is like an upscale Jason’s Deli, which is basically a glorified Subway sandwich shop. I don’t know why I suggested it — he asked me where I wanted to go, and for whatever reason I picked Newk’s. It’s in a brand new building right next to Starbucks, and since I said that’s what I wanted, that is where we went.

We sat in a booth right next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, facing the parking lot. I ate spinach-and-feta soup, he had the Chef’s salad, and we discussed heavy issues like what we are going to find out tomorrow morning when we meet with the oncologist to get the results of my mom’s PET scan.

The entire time we were eating, there was a tall, athletic-looking black guy standing right on the other side of the window talking on his cell phone. He was wearing a t-shirt, flip flops, and athletic shorts. My dad’s back was to the man, so he didn’t see him even though he was literally 2 feet away.

I have to assume that the man couldn’t see me — maybe there was a reflection on the glass — because the entire time he was on the phone, his hand was glued to his crotch … which was at eye-level.

I tried my best to ignore him, but every time I glanced over, HIS HAND WAS ON HIS GENITALS. Inside his shorts, outside his shorts … it’s like he was doing whatever men do when they’re by themselves, except that he was in public and I was trying to eat dinner and my dad was sitting across the table from me.

Let me be clear: this man wasn’t pleasuring himself. It seemed like he might be one of those nervous, penis-grabby types. You know the ones. He seemed distracted. Also, race doesn’t mean a thing to me … except in this particular situation.

You’ll find out why in a moment.

As I was talking to my dad, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and that is when I saw an enormous black penis, in person, for the first time in my entire life. I’ve seen my share of white penises, but nary a black penis. No, not one, in all of my 35 years.

I guess the guy was so involved in his conversation that he forgot where he was and just pulled that sucker free from his pants.

This is the exact look I had on my face.

This is the exact look I had on my face.

I stopped talking, stared straight at him and yelled “REALLY?! REALLY?!?!?!” through the window, waving my hands in the air with indignation. I can ignore a lot, but I draw the line at indecent exposure.

Everything moved in slow motion as he realized that people (well, just me) were trying to eat right next to his giant cock, which was out of his pants. He put it away, turned around, and casually strolled away, still talking on the phone.

My dad, who was confused and looked out the window just in time to see him walk away, looked at me questioningly. “I can’t even,” I said, and I continued talking about whatever it was that I was talking about before I saw what I saw.

Because I am a fucking LADY.

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This Holiday.

Since none of the retailers seem to be selling self-respect, sanity, or nannies who are both legal and willing work for free, I’m just going to sit this Cyber Monday out.

While the rest of you frantically put up holiday decorations over the weekend, I was trapped in an enclosed space with four other humans who can’t control their gasses. When we finally got home, I declared Thanksgiving officially over and switched out the wreaths on our front door.

10458214_10155116112855508_734467617946772132_nThis Christmas, I REFUSE to try to make everyone happy. That is an impossible task that is rarely accomplished by anyone, and even if you somehow manage to make it happen and all the people are happy … then you probably aren’t.

I don’t care to make anyone happy except for the people who live in my house. Their happiness is my top priority, and I won’t apologize for it. I hope that doesn’t hurt your feelings, but if it does, you should turn to the people in your own house for comfort.

There will be tacky decorations. There will be hot cocoa. There will be beverages containing alcohol. We will listen for reindeer. We will bake cookies. I will probably yell and then feel bad about it.

The likelihood of me sending out Christmas cards is very, very low. I probably could pull it off if I really put my mind to it and acted like a crazy person for the next few days, but it’s not worth it to me. I just spent the past week of my life acting crazy. I think it’s time to put a stop to that.

There will be no last-minute rush to the store for gifts for so-and-so because we just found out they’re coming over. Nope. No adults will get a gift from us this year, not only because we don’t have the money for it, but because I also do not have the wherewithal to Pinterest some handmade bullshit to wrap up and give away to everyone. I just don’t. I’m not sorry. If you’re expecting a gift, don’t come over.

If you do come over, here’s what you can expect: a very low-key holiday experience full of laughter and the occasional high-pitched screech. There will also be crying, because my kids are small and someone is always crying. You may also get a whiff of a poop or pee smell. I’m sorry about that. The good news is that, overall, my house will smell nice because my mother-in-law gave me some awesome Yankee candles that are “Autumn Leaf” scented and they mask the poop odor like a boss.

It will be cozy here. The floor will be strewn with toys. Something will be baking. The cups will be plastic and the plates will be paper. No one will be camera-ready except for me, because I have a deep, irrational need to look nice when people come over. It’s the one remaining thing I have control over, so don’t hate on the fact that I spent an hour on my hair. I did it because no one in my life is predictable … except for my curling iron.

We have dance parties here. You can join in if you like.

This year, I’m TAKING BACK MY JOY. Starting now. Happy December 1!

I Totally Cried.

Wow. Just … wow.

This morning I was awakened at 4:55 by Asher, who said his legs were itchy. I rubbed lotion on and got him all tucked back in, I climbed back into bed … and decided to check Facebook.

This is when I learned that WE DID IT.

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Not just you and I, but all the other “Scary Mommies” and not-so-scary mommies and businesses and kind-hearted people.

We did it. We made sure 2,152 deserving families will have food on their table on Thanksgiving Day.

TWO THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO.

That’s a lot.

Well done, you.

Just Be You.

My cousin Jackie came over the other day with her son, who is Maverick’s age. We tried unsuccessfully to hide from our children so we could have adult conversation while they beat the hell out of each other with action figures. I lost track of how many times I shouted “JUST GO PLAY!!!”

What is it that makes them want to crowd around the grownups? We have no candy. We’re talking about pulled chest muscles. Nothing fun is happening over here, and I’m sick of spelling out s-e-x.

Just. Go. Play.

Jackie — and I’m not just saying this because she’s my cousin — truly inspires me. With what she has been through in her life, she should have been a statistic. But she’s not. She’s amazing, and I AM SO STINKIN’ PROUD OF HER.

The fact that she is extremely successful in her business has nothing to do with luck; she has a deep, unstoppable drive to succeed. When the zombie apocalypse hits, I’m going to Jackie’s house. I don’t know how or why, but she could talk the zombies into leaving us alone … and I fear I do not possess that skill. Robbie does, but what if they got him first? I feel better knowing that she’s my backup plan.

I confessed to her that sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing by writing so honestly and putting everything out there. Will my kids one day grow up to read that they drove me batshit fucking crazy and get irrevocably screwed up, even though I also write about how much I love them? Because … I really do love them. But also … I really do feel batshit crazy.

The other morning I was talking to Robbie about a post I’m working on for Scary Mommy, and Maverick looked up from his breakfast — I didn’t even think he was paying attention — and very seriously said to me “Mommy, I believe in you and I think that you’re the best.” GAH. Will that same kid one day read my words and be warped by them?! These are all the questions I posed to Jackie.

She listened to everything I had to say, and shook her head before speaking. “You won’t regret any of it,” she said, “Because you’re being YOU. You’re not trying to sound a certain way or act a certain way … this is WHO YOU ARE. How can you ever regret just being yourself?! Your family loves and knows you, just how you are, and the rest of the world will love you too. Just do your thing, girl.”

I seriously almost ugly cried.

Sometimes it’s nice for a person who is close to you, who really knows you, to bring it all back into focus. I am not pretending to be a certain way. I just am. And even though I don’t personally know everyone who will read these words today, I’m still going to tell you this: JUST BE WHO YOU ARE AND DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR IT. It is truly the best way to live.

And also? If you want to wear sunglasses like these when you’re about 15 years too old for them, that’s totally fine. Rock that shit.

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This is how women in their 40’s and 50’s end up walking around in sweats with sparkly words emblazoned across the ass, isn’t it? I can see my future very clearly right now.

The One Where I Let My Family Off The Hook.

I feel like I have some explaining to do.

Recently, a new friend said to me “When I started reading your blog I thought you were going to be a certain way, but then I MET you and you are just so … poised. It surprised me.” You know what surprises me? Being called “poised.”

I have also had people expect me to be more “Tina Fey or Amy Poeler-like.” First of all, whoa. I wish I were Tina Fey or Amy Poeler-like. I am SUCH A HUGE FAN OF TINA FEY. She’s a hilarious writer (Bossypants is one of my favorite books) and entertaining to watch on television. I’m sure she is just as fun in person over coffee, not that I’m obsessing over that idea or anything. But I’m not like those ladies, I’m sorry to say. I’m not even all that funny in person. I just nod and smile a lot, and if you take that and add in the blonde hair, well … I’ve had many, many people mistake me for an idiot.

I write because my life is stressful and I struggle with it and mostly because I want other women to know it’s okay to admit that things are hard. I want to give and get solidarity.

Here is where I let my family off the hook.

I come from a very long, very southern line of conservative Christians, and none of them use the word “fuck.” Now that I’ve gone and gotten an essay published, and the title of it includes that word, I feel like I need to make sure everyone knows that I wasn’t raised to talk that way. Please don’t judge my parents or my grandparents and think someone didn’t do their job. I think they fear judgement, from you, from the church, from God … but I assure you, I have good moral character. I am grounded in how I was raised.

I write what I’m inspired to write. Some days it’s really heartfelt. Some days it’s really angry. I don’t feel like I need to make excuses for what I do, because I’m proud of it even though it makes my mother and grandmother and who knows who else cringe and wish I would just STOP TALKING ABOUT DRINKING AND STOP USING THAT LANGUAGE. Well … I could. But then I’d be lying, because while I was raised in a family who did not drink, I happen to really enjoy it.

If I were afraid of judgement, I’d use a pen name. This blog would be very motherhood is amazing and perfect, rather than my children are freaking psychotic.

Asher is three years old now. Do you know what that means? That means he loses it over everything. Do you remember what that’s like? No? You lucky bitch, you’ve blocked it out already. Well, it usually goes something like this, over and over and over throughout the day:

Me: Asher, it’s time to go! Do you want to wear your Crocs or your Pumas?

Asher: I DON’T WANT TO WEAR MY CROCS!

Me: Okay! Let’s get your Pumas.

Asher: I DO IT BY MYSELF.

Me: Okay! I’ll just help you if you ask me to.

Asher: (screaming unintelligibly)

Me: Do you want some help?

Asher: I WANT TO WEAR MY CROCS!

Me: (I get the Crocs)

Asher: I DON’T WANT TO WEAR MY CROCS! I WANT TO WEAR MY PUMAS! I DO IT BY MYSELF! I NEED HELP! DON’T TOUCH ME! HOLD ME!

Meanwhile, the “baby,” who is not a baby anymore but I still call her that, has dragged all of her clothes out of every drawer in her room and every pot and pan out onto the kitchen floor. And I can’t blame her, because the shoe drama was mind-numbing and she had to busy herself some kind of way. Good for her. All I want to do is scream “FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs.

But I don’t.

I breathe. Sometimes I lose it, but mostly I breathe. I pick up the pots and I stay calm. I check myself so I don’t hurt anyone. And then later, when no one is bothering me, I write about it and I feel cleansed. That’s why I always say that writing is my therapy. The fact that anyone would want to read it never ceases to amaze me. Maybe I need an actual therapist, yes? I may look into that.

My upbringing has nothing to do with my writing. If I wanted to write about what it’s like to be raised so conservatively and discover the joy of a latte at age 21, I could. And I may. But not today.

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