Progress Report

It probably means something that the intake form I printed and filled out in preparation for my therapy appointment has a big ol’ wine ring on it.

This was something I wrote last year, when I was floundering in depression and didn’t know how to get better. The intake paperwork sent to me from a potential therapist in town overwhelmed me, because everything overwhelmed me: the laundry, my kids, money, unforeseen circumstances, forms sent home to me in my children’s backpacks.

I found life overwhelming.

So, I tried therapy. But the thing about therapy — and self-help in general — is that if you aren’t completely honest about what’s really going on, how is anyone supposed to be able to truly help you? I sat in several different, very nice offices in town and spoke about my difficulties; those sitting across from me were kind, albeit confused, about why I was struggling so hard to cope.

No one asked me if I was an alcoholic. Why would they? I clearly have my shit together. (Sidenote: I clearly do not have my shit together.)

I kept the truth about the scale of my drinking to myself — after all, the thought of giving up alcohol was more overwhelming that anything life was throwing at me. It simply was not an option.

The biggest lesson I’m learning in recovery is that when people are in addiction of any kind, they don’t know how to stop doing that thing that they’ve been doing for so long. Asking an addict to stop drinking or using is a lot like asking someone to stop breathing or eating or sleeping. How is that done? How will we survive?

My last drink was on February 28, 2017, and I still have to talk myself through taking a shower, blow drying my hair, and putting on clothes every day. Some days are worse that others. Sometimes, I require a nap in the afternoon or a good cry mid-day. I have gained 12 pounds from eating my feelings. THERE ARE SO MANY FEELINGS.

I started exercising because I need the endorphins, and then it occurred to me that I haven’t fed myself normally, meaning in a non-disordered way, since high school. It’s time for me to re-learn how to care for myself: the care and feeding of a 37-year-old woman. It’s amazing how eating the right things at the right time can pep a person right up.

Amazing.

We — and I’m talking about myself as well as other people who struggle with substance abuse — are brain-damaged people. We’ve re-wired our brains in our addiction, and reversing brain damage is no easy task, but the miracle is that it can be done.

Today is day 138.

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This Is What Gratitude Feels Like

I am 25 days sober, and I feel amazing.

For a full 3 weeks, I felt almost debilitated. I was depressed, lethargic, and miserable. I had nausea, night sweats, and diarrhea. Some days I literally had to talk myself through putting pants on, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going.

Are you asking yourself what I mean by “talking myself through putting pants on?” Here’s an example of how I shuffled through my days:

What’s the next right thing?

Putting on pants. I have to get some pants and put them on.

My pants are on. What’s the next right thing?

I need to get my purse. Okay, I have my purse.

What’s the next right thing? I need to find my kids.

Where are my kids?

Shit.

***

That’s what happens when a person suddenly stops drinking after her body becomes accustomed to metabolizing a bottle of wine per day; the body goes into some sort of shock, and trust me, my detox process went a lot better than most. My emotions literally rocketed between intense depression and elation every 5 minutes. I’d go from feeling like sobbing from joy, to wanting to rip our neighbor’s shrubbery out of the ground with my bare hands because I WAS JUST THAT MAD. Mad at myself, mad at the world, and most of all, mad that I will never be able to drink alcohol again without an ugly relapse and even uglier recovery.

Change is scary and it’s hard, but now that I’m starting to feel better, I’m excited to get my life in order. Prior to this, getting my life in order meant going to Office Depot and finding color-coded sticky notes and file folders to keep our paperwork organized. Then I would get drunk and throw a bunch of important papers away because, well, I was drunk, and that’s just how I like to organize sometimes. Throwing everything away means that the mess is permanently filed and I won’t ever see it again.

That’s just how my mind works.

It’s ridiculous that at 37 years old, I’m going to have to re-learn how to cope with the difficulties of life — grief and pain and abandonment and loss and the everyday stress that accompanies motherhood. Maybe I never knew how to handle those things in the first place, and that’s what landed me in a 12-step program. The hows and why don’t matter. I just want to get better.

There are people in my life who don’t believe I’m an alcoholic. There are people who think I’m making it up for attention (please note: this is not the kind of attention you want). Let me share something with you guys: not one of us lives a pain-free, perfectly happy life. Not one. People often assume that because I smile a lot, I’m either stupid or don’t have anything bad going on. The truth is, no one knows anything about me that I don’t want them to know. As much as I freely share in person and online, there are many layers to my story and my days that I keep private. I think most people are like that. We only share what we feel safe sharing, and we may take the rest to our grave.

***

This morning I had coffee outside with two of my favorite people, and I noticed that 25 days into my new life as a sober person, the air feels different. Breathing feels different. It’s like I’ve been living in a musty, dark basement for years, and someone patiently helped me climb the stairs up and out of a situation that I didn’t even know was bad until I saw the sun and felt the warmth of it on my face.

That is what gratitude feels like.

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I told Robbie that if someone had to pick which of us looked like they are in a 12-step program, it would not be me. AND YET.

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I’ll Never Show My Face There Again

I respect and love my husband, which is why I would never, ever purposefully embarrass him at his place of employment.

Accidentally (like this day)? Perhaps. But definitely never on purpose. No. We need his job.

I had a good streak going for the first 13 years of our relationship; I never bothered him at work, and I never showed up looking crazy, homicidal, or inappropriately dressed. We never made out in the parking lot. We kept it professional, even when we worked together.

However, this year, things have taken somewhat of a downhill turn. 2016 has been the worst. It started with me getting a major concussion and is apparently ending with me making a complete ass of myself every time I venture out into public.

The kids are on Thanksgiving Break, which means that I have all three of them at home all day, every day, until November 28. No, I’m not counting down the days until they go back to school, why do you ask? Is it the crazy look in my eyes, or the increasingly-high pitch of my voice?

Yesterday I had to take my 5-year-old to the dentist, which required a lot of arranging and re-arranging of childcare because the first rule of motherhood is that you don’t bring more than one kid at at time to the dentist. I was rushed and short on patience and time and after we were done, I went to Robbie’s office to pick up my oldest, who was there waiting.

I decided to leave my purse in the van, because frankly, I was sick of lugging it around. I helped Asher out and locked the doors. We made the long journey inside the building — and as a side note, today was their Thanksgiving feast, so all of the employees were milling around, because OF COURSE THEY WERE — and we walked to Robbie’s office where Maverick was sitting alone, playing on his Nintendo.

“Where’s your Daddy?”

No response.

“Maverick? Where’s Daddy?”

“Oh, hi. Uhhh … I don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean?”

I looked around the office. Robbie’s sunglasses and keys were on his desk. It looked like he’d just been there, so where did he go? I stepped into the main part of the building to see if he was out talking to someone, but he was nowhere in sight. After waiting a few more minutes, I picked up the receiver of the phone on his desk and called his cell. It went to voicemail.

Briefly, I considered walking back to the van to get my phone to text him, but when I looked over at the boys — one who didn’t even notice we were there, and another who was busy stamping every single important document on the desk with a rubber signature stamp — I realized that I didn’t want to leave them together, alone, in the office. I also really didn’t want to bring them with me. After a few more moments, I decided that I didn’t have time for this shit and I asked his co-worker where he was. The co-worker, with a plateful of food in one hand and a fork in the other, shrugged.

I’d been there for 10 minutes and I was over it. I scrawled a note on an envelope telling him that I was taking Maverick and asking him to call me, and we headed out. As we walked by the men’s restroom, it dawned on me.

He was in the bathroom.

Now, I know it’s not entirely rational, but that made me irate. Who poops for 15 minutes? Who poops for 15 minutes at work? Clearly, he does this at home — but the fact that he gets to do it at work too?! THAT BULLSHIT SENT ME OVER THE EDGE.

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After he walked us out to the parking lot and helped load the kids into the car, and after I made sure the doors were closed so they couldn’t hear me, I turned to him and said the following in my big, strong, outside voice:

“What were you doing in there?”

“Pooping.”

“THAT WHOLE TIME?”

“Yes.”

“What else do you do?”

“I read and I poop.”

“That’s just not normal. Do you do that every day? If I worked with a man who disappeared into the bathroom for that long every day, I’d think he had a problem. I’D THINK HE WAS JERKING OFF OR SOMETHING. WHAT IF PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE IN THERE LOOKING AT PORN ON YOUR PHONE? WHAT IF YOUR CO-WORKERS THINK YOU’RE THE KIND OF MAN WHO WOULD JERK OFF AT WORK?”

I stopped talking when I noticed the stricken look on his face. He took a step toward me and said, very quietly, “There’s someone right behind you.”

And when I turned around, there was one of his co-workers, pretending not to hear me shouting about masturbation.

I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be showing my face there again anytime soon. I think it’s also safe to say that I won’t be invited to.

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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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When Mindfulness Sucks

My child accidentally concussed me on January 4. It’s an interesting story that I am saving for my Listen To Your Mother audition next month, so I won’t go into it here just yet.

For some reason, even though I couldn’t remember my own birthday, I totally thought I was fine. “You don’t need to take me to the hospital,” I said to my mother-in-law (who is a saint). “I’ll be …”

Then I trailed off. And I was slurring.

“Did I already tell you that you don’t need to take me to the hospital?”

She steered me into the car.

For a full two weeks after my injury, I insisted on trying to carry on with my normal activities as though nothing had happened. I remember almost none of it. It was almost exactly like that time I had about five too many mimosas at brunch and thought I was still okay to drive, and then I backed into another car trying to get out of my parking space. Everyone who was dining on the patio turned around and stared. I was mortified.

BAD, TERRIBLE, AWFUL LIFE CHOICES.

Clearly, I was not fine after suffering a head injury. I was saying things I normally would not say, and doing things I would not normally do, and after embarrassing myself all over town it eventually it sunk in that I really was not going to be able to “power through” this.

And then I got really angry.

The anger phase sucked. I couldn’t exercise, I could barely drive — I say “barely” because I could manage to putt 10 mph for two blocks to get my smaller two to preschool every day, but anything faster than that triggered my vertigo — I wasn’t supposed to look at screens. I did anyway, until I ended up in the emergency room a second time (pictured below).

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Brain injuries make you do stupid things like smile when you’re in the hospital.

I missed writing. I missed my online communities. I missed feeling connected to the world outside of my home.

I was alone, with nothing to do, a lot.

I had time to think. SO MUCH TIME TO THINK. At first I was like, maybe this is a gift. Maybe I can learn from this. Maybe I need to work on becoming more mindful.

And then I realized … mindfulness sucks. Mindfulness blows. Mindfulness is the worst possible thing when you are a writer who is unable to write. I had the most amazing, deeply profound thoughts.

And then I forgot them.

Because I had a concussion.

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Focusing On What Is Good.

I haven’t written much lately because the things I have to say aren’t fun or happy and that’s a real drag.

I don’t like to be a downer. I like to be an upper. I said this recently to a very wise woman who replied, “Well, sometimes you can’t choose.”

That’s true. Sometimes, you can’t.

If I’m being honest — and I am, because my writing is based on honesty — this has been a tough year for my family. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and then my uncle was murdered in my childhood home. If that sounds crazy, it’s because IT IS. Every dysfunctional facet of my extended family that I was dimly aware of, but mostly shielded from, rained down on me in the span of about three days. If there was ever a time that I COULD NOT EVEN, IT’S NOW.

I keep waiting for things to get less difficult, but they don’t — in fact, they continue to get harder. That doesn’t seem right. Life shouldn’t get harder the older you get, but it does.

However, as our difficulties increase we get better at navigating the bullshit. We put up boundaries and become more comfortable saying “I’m not okay with that,” or “You are not allowed to do that to me,” or “You are not welcome in my home.” As life gets harder, WE GET BETTER.

We get better.

It’s like parenting. We don’t give birth to a child in the throes of the terrible two’s — we start out with a mewling newborn and it feels like the hardest thing we have ever done. But then they start crawling and running and fighting back when you’re desperately trying to cram them into car seats and grocery carts, and again you think to yourself: this is the hardest thing I have ever done.

You find yourself thinking that every time you face down a new problem or situation that taxes your spirit. But remembering all of the other hard things you have surmounted — the colic, the endless nights, the tantrums, the failures made right — gets you through it.

That is how I am looking at my life right now. I will get through it, because I have made it through a lot of other hard things.

But it’s still really hard.

When life outside of these four walls becomes overwhelming, I turn inward and focus my attention on my people. They make me forget the bad and focus on the good.

There’s a lot of both, but I’d rather focus on the good. And there is so, so much of it.

my people

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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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I’m Medicated And It’s Fantastic.

There are a thousand different ways to say this, but I don’t feel like being fancy so I’m just going to blurt it out … just like I did yesterday while attending a family barbecue.

I was standing in the middle of the kitchen with my cousin and my aunt, and I said (out of nowhere and completely unrelated to the conversation), “I’M MEDICATED AND IT’S FANTASTIC.”

I’m no stranger to anxiety, but I have noticed an uptick in recent months. I’d mention it to my husband, but he didn’t seem concerned. I was still functioning, still doing everything I’ve always done. He didn’t know that my chest was tight from the moment I woke up in the morning, until long after the kids were in bed. He didn’t know what it was like to be me … because he isn’t me.

And if he was me, I think we all know that he would probably just sit in one spot all day long and hold my/his boobs.

Then, I was surprised with some amazing news — we’re going to New York City next month to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary! I was so excited … until the worrying began. I can pinpoint the moment that it started — we were sitting on the couch, and Robbie showed me a video of the building we’re staying in. As the camera zoooooooooooomed up, panning the structure from bottom to top, I couldn’t breathe. The irrational thoughts were cutting off my air supply.

We haven’t flown together since our honeymoon. What if the plane crashes? What if there is a fire in the building where we are staying? WE HAVE THREE KIDS NOW. What would happen to them? We have nothing to pass on, they don’t have official Godparents. We are fucking terrible at adulting! Fucking terrible! WHO LET US BECOME ADULTS? WE ARE GOING TO CELEBRATE 10 YEARS OF MARRIAGE BY DYING A FIERY DEATH. I NEED A SHOT OF WHISKEY.

I can’t breathe. I can’t look. I think I’ll just double over.

Four days after that, my mother sat me down on that same couch and told me she has cancer.

This was when I realized I had a problem.

Before now, I have never had a need for a “primary care physician,” but I procured one immediately. I needed a pill or a therapist or possibly a tranquilizer dart. I sat quietly as the nurse took my blood pressure and asked me a series of questions:

Nurse: “Are you sexually active?”

Me: “Yes.”

Nurse: “Do you use protection?”

Me: “No.”

***

Nurse: “Do you drink alcohol?”

Me: (OPEN LAUGHTER)

Nurse: “How much and what kind?”

Me: (STILL LAUGHING)

***

My new doctor came in and we shook hands. She praised my self-awareness, coping mechanisms, and overall health. She informed me that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed me a pill that will help me get through this challenging time in my life. Then I mentioned my weight, which is up. She said, “Yeah, your Body Mass Index is high … but you know what? You don’t look fat, SO WHO CARES?!”

This solidified her spot as My Most Favorite Person Ever.

I have now fully embraced my medicated state. I honestly can’t recall the last time I felt this calm and relaxed, while at the same time being sober. I’m not bothered by the little things, so I can focus on the big things with calmness and clarity.

This must be what it feels like to be my husband.

Today, instead of running around in a panic, picking up toys and cleaning already-clean surfaces, I cuddled and played with my kids.

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Photo credit: Robbie Hobbs

I don’t know what the future will bring, but between now and then, I’m going to take my medication.

I also plan to make a lot of memes like this one, because I have priorities.

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Summer Begins and To-Do Lists End.

I spent the weekend with my family and a long to-do list nagging at the back of my brain.

I’ve allowed myself to get run down in body, mind, and spirit. I’m spent. I have nothing left to give anyone, and every time I look at the mountain of laundry or face another meal time, I just want to cry.

It never ends. None of it ends. It is unending.

It’s hard for me to enjoy my family when I get like this, and I know that to prevent going into this bad place I have to take care of myself. I have to sleep enough and exercise. I have to write. But sometimes, I can’t do those things simply because I’m a mother and the thing about motherhood is that you tend to sacrifice your needs for everyone else.

I never understood it before I found myself holding a painfully full bladder while I helped my son pull his pants up and down and waited as the endless seconds ticked by until he was finished.

The End of the To-Do List (the beginning of Summer 2015.)

“Pretend you are a grown-up. What would you do for the day? First I would wake up and make coffee. I would go to work. Next I would go investigate science. I would show my family. Then I would get my pj’s on and go to sleep.”

Mothers begin a long journey in selflessness the moment they realize that their body is housing another human being, and that human being is going to have thoughts and opinions and will want to eat at inopportune times and will become very upset when you don’t serve him pancakes on the red plate.

That human being might learn how to screech “MOMMY!!!” at frightening volumes and cause you to spend the entire day in fight-or-flight mode.

She might bite.

He might have a temper.

You, the mother, will be forced to adapt. To care for and shape these humans into people of character is no small task. It’s very tiring.

I’ll say it again: IT’S VERY TIRING.

Right now my kids are small and their needs are immediate, so finding time for myself is hard. My days are a constant struggle to cope with it all, still enjoy life, and arrive at the end of the day not hating anyone … including myself.

Tonight I was staring at their uneaten bowls of dinner and thinking about the to-do list I still haven’t started when I realized that the baby was crying in her crib. It took everything in me to stand up. I didn’t want to be needed anymore. I wanted to clock out for the day. And, in yet another act of being a mother, I walked into my daughter’s room anyway.

I didn’t feel like it, but I’m still her mother.

She was relieved to see me. I took a deep breath and picked her up. As we sat in the rocking chair in her room, she laid her head right over my heart and rested against me as I badly sang — half because I really can’t sing, and half because I was trying not to cry.

I never want to forget how it feels to hold my youngest child when she wants to be held. She leans into my body, wrapping her tiny arms around me and tucking herself in. I’ve already forgotten what it felt like to hold the boys when they were this small, and it hasn’t even been that long. OMG, WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

We rocked for an unknown period, and for the umpteenth time since becoming a mother in 2008 I realized that my children give back more to me than I give to them — to-do list be damned.

Which is fitting, since I won’t get much accomplished for the next 2.5 months.

What To-Do List? (Or, the beginning of Summer 2015.)(If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!)

Where Are My Earplugs?

Yesterday, I made the grave mistake of looking at the school calendar. The realization of how quickly the school year will end and Summer Break will begin threatened to choke off my air supply.

I wish I could be one of those moms who gleefully await summertime. Those are likely the same moms who do fun activities with their (calm, obedient) children while I frantically try to keep my (energetic, experimental) kids from setting the house on fire. I wish I could be more optimistic and just have fun, but the truth is that I am always on pins and needles waiting for one of them to get seriously injured.

I love my children, but they exhaust me. Does that mean that I’m not cut out for motherhood? I chose to be a stay-at-home-mom. WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?! Am I too uptight? Am I doing it all wrong?

I’m admitting out loud, right now, that motherhood is ass hard. That does not mean it’s as hard as my ass, which isn’t hard at all. This is not a literal statement. I mean to say that IT IS SO HARD THAT THERE ISN’T AN ADEQUATE WORD, SO I ADDED “ASS” IN FRONT OF IT. If you can’t get on board with that, then I don’t know what to do with you.

I make this proclamation after a long stretch of parenting issues that individually aren’t that bad, but added all together at once are just a lot. I’m exhausted. I feel like I have nothing else to give, and yet — there it is, another snot bubble on the horizon. There’s another person who can’t figure out how to get his underwear right side in and needs help because he cannot possibly put his underwear on if they are inside out.

At night, when all of the children are tucked in bed asleep, after the middle child has been taken to the bathroom to pee so he doesn’t have an accident in his bed, and I have spent an adequate amount of time with that strange man who lives in the house with me, I insert my ear plugs and pray that whatever rest I get will be enough to get me through the next day.

Today, when I sunk to a low point and looked at the clock for the umpteenth time to see that it was still not 5 p.m., something snapped me out of it. I got a moment of beauty.

Our baby, the same one who tries to stick her head in the oven on an almost-daily basis, learned how to stack blocks.

And I was there to see it.

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So yes, I would be lying if all I did was talk about the beauty of motherhood. It’s not mostly beautiful. It’s mostly painful and frustrating and uncomfortable and scary and tiring, with moments of beauty sprinkled in — just enough to make it worth it, but not so much that it’s easy.

Nothing worth doing is easy.

The best part about being a mom is that those sprinkles are all you really need to push you to the next level. My little block-stacker spends most of her time undoing everything I’ve done: she puts important mail in the trash, pulls clothes out of baskets and contents out of cabinets, and tries to systemically empty every box and bin in the house. But damnit, SHE CAN STACK.

I’m a proud, exhausted mama. Now … where are my earplugs?