Balancing Life

21 Mar

 When my youngest is at gymnastics I sit on a cold metal folding chair and I watch her on the balance beam.  I can see the determination in her face and see her arms out as she wobbles a bit, then catches herself a step in and refocuses.  Now and then she slips.  But most of the time, she catches herself off-balance and continues on.  Her teacher follows a step behind when she is on the high beam, allowing her to find her own strength and balance, but there in case she were to freeze or fall.  

I balance all the time.  I wobble more than she does when I walk.  I haven’t worn heels since I fell in them and cracked my elbow.  I’m still not sure why it’s called the funny bone.  I balance in my running shoes now.  Between keeping my house clean and spending my much-needed free time exercising and writing.  Staying in to watch another episode of Caillou with a five year old on my lap or going to a Yelp Event with a friend.  Going out on a date with my husband, or catching up on the sleep I miss throughout the week.  Between researching more services we need and just going to Culver’s and eating ice cream.

Some days I balance better than others.  Some days I can smile, I can laugh, I can make those phone calls and doctor appointments easily.  Some days all I can picture is a potential hospital visit for a child and my “fight or flight” response kicks in.  I freeze.  I stare at the neon Post It list of “stuff” I need to accomplish and push my chair away from my desk.  I find my blue running shoes and go pound the path with the steady rythym of my steps. Or I put in headphones and go hunting for my favorite feel-good songs and crumple into the feels of those songs.  Or I open the pages of a book and immerse myself in someone else’s life for awhile.  I feel the clinking of my bracelets reminding me of everything.


But then I refocus and I make those phone calls, I schedule visits with specialists, I ask for help and spend six hours in my van to steal a night away with my husband where I can dress up and feel like the fifteen year old girl he asked out years ago.  I can wear a fiery red dress and heels and feel my legs ache from the hill I walked a few hours before.  I can fill my tub with hot water and turn on the jets, closing my eyes for a few minutes just listening to the pounding of the water.  

I might not be graceful always on my walk.  I might sometimes close my own eyes and repeat the Serenity Prayer or look at my bracelets for inspiration.  I might text someone close to me for just a single boost.  But I continue.  And I make it.  I wobble, I catch myself.  I feel my family and friends a step behind, ready to hold their arms up if I need them.  

But just like she does I continue.  Because that’s what I do.  I breathe.  And repeat.

Bring Back Mail

17 Mar

Today I returned from taking my overzealous dog to yank my arm off or choke himself on his leash to sniff and pee in spots, or a “walk” according to my FitBit to pause at the mailbox.  Typically I get a pile of the usual:  local coupons, a credit card offer or a medical bill.  Or on a really good day there’s an Amazon box on the steps.  Granted that holds diapers or Chlorox wipes, but that’s better than a bill.

 But today was magic.  I saw her handwriting first and instantly smiled.  

I knew inside was a letter.

I, like many others depend on email and social media to keep up with friends and family.  I text friends or family and even begrudgingly call now and then (because if you know me you know I don’t do idle chit-chat).

But these letters have a history.  My childhood best friend and I were instantly attached, both being shy bookworms and the only girls on the block. We shared dates with our Cabbage Patch dolls Kelly and Cassandra, we built tipsy sandcastles with rusty Tonka Trucks and plastic shovels in the sandbox .  We laughed often and we were almost always at each other’s house, unless we were spending the day fighting.  Those days we would each sit in our own back yards until dusk, sneaking glances at the other one and pouting until one of our older brothers took pity on us and ended the fued.

And then when I was in second grade I sat on the cement stairs by my front door scratching a scabby knee and cried while watching her family drive away in their wagon, waving until I could no longer see the car.  

While some friendships would end, ours just changed.  We wrote letters.  I’m talking multicolored pens and notebook paper novels about our daily life or challenges or experiments with writing.  We’d mail Christmas and birthday gifts to each other.  When she taught in Japan I would get beautiful origami paper letters sent to my college dorm room.

There was nothing better than seeing her handwriting on an envelope.  This woman has known me since she was born.  We both spoke French at one point, we both spent hours writing novels we (well, I) never finished, we took Creative Writing courses in college, and every time we meet or write we learn new pieces of each other’s lives and sometimes our own.

The letters are not penned as often now.  Sometimes it’s a Facebook post or an email, just a quick message to let the other one know we were thinking of them.  But my entire body sighs in comfort when I sit down with a fresh notebook page, choose my color of ink and write the magic words “Dear Sara.”  Or, even better, seeing my name on an envelope in the mailbox.

Mom Dresses

20 Feb

I have an occasion I need to dress up for coming up.  

I don’t dress up.  I’m a stay at home mom/writer.  My version of dressing up is a sundress in summer sunshine or a pretty tunic with my LuLaRoes.  And no, I’m not going to buy a Carly and call it good.  I’ll admit, I briefly considered a solid Nicole as formal enough, but came to my senses quickly.

My last formal dress was worn at a wedding when I was pregnant with my youngest.  I do believe I still have it, but I doubt it fits.

I have three kids.  And I never lost all the pounds I gained with my fourteen year old, so that leaves me in the challenging department called Plus Sized.  There are considerably fewer options for us larger ladies.  

I’d be set if I wanted to dress up as WonderWoman for this event.  While Store A didn’t carry the formal cosplay dress in my size Store 3 did.  Noted for when the movie comes out this summer.  I could play dress-up with my youngest.

However, while lovely, Wonder Woman’s dress isn’t suitable for a gala.  And while I’m not in my twenties anymore, I also found myself horrified to see another store claiming these are good options.


No.  Absolutely not.  Nothing with a jeweled jacket or a giant flower pattern is appropriate for my age.

I learned that in the entire mall I could not find a single thing.  The dresses felt too young for me or too old for me.  For the love of Pete where are the pretty dresses in my size?  One without a cartoon character, giant flowers or attached beaded jacket?  Where?

And I know I’m not alone.  Statistics say most women are a size 16.  SOME dresses are made in that size.  But it’s a smaller size 16 because it’s not cut for a “mom belly.”  

So off I trudge to try again or (eek) try an online dress and hope their measurements match up or pray for a good return policy.  On the brighter side my FitBit congratulated me on a job well done.  Maybe I need to find the shoes before the dress.

Or raid my kid’s closet?

Love Yourself First

14 Feb

Today is Valentine’s Day.  An expensive Hallmark holiday that requires significant others buying trivial gifts of flowers or jewelry, kids exchanging sugar and cartoon character greetings, and then you have the people who are single who are doing their best to just get through the day.

Why do we make ourselves crazy crafting the perfect gift, posting flowers (I’m so guilty of this by the way too, but flowers from my husband are few and far between.  We laughed that the last time he gave me Gerber daisies was when we found out I was pregnant with the youngest.  Thankfully, this was NOT a celebratory gift).

The most important person to love.

Is YOU.

We spend our lives trying to please others, comparing ourselves on social media and looking at our own lives thinking it’s not enough, we should do more.

Now that I agree with. Do more.  Do more self-love and self-care.  I challenge each and every single one of you to do one thing a day for you.  Not for your family, not for your coworkers or your boss, or your parents, for your partner, just for you.

It’s called self-care.  And self-care is a vital tool for creating inner peace and happiness.  For years I chased happiness too, thinking that others would make me happy, that I needed to compete with the PTO moms out there that seem to have every single thing perfect in their lives.  I sometimes feel like the only mom who forgets their kid’s shoes for school or runs out of pull-ups because I haven’t made it to the store.  Or who makes toast for breakfast because I just don’t have the energy to do something better before coffee.

But I’m learning this self-love thing. Yesterday I bought new shoes for myself to wear as the average of twenty flights of stairs a day had my feet sore and swollen by the end of the day.  So I bought new ones to support my feet better.  And slip-on, because who wants to re-lace shoes during the day?  I felt incredibly guilty spending more on my shoes than I spent on shoes and clothes for my daughters.  But my health and well-being is also important.

I went for a walk even though I didn’t want to, because exercise makes me feel good.

I added a few chocolate chips to my steel cut oats with flaxseed that I’m trying to learn to love.  Because I don’t love the oatmeal yet, but I do love chocolate.  Instead of a bag, a few works too.


Self-care for me is taking time to read my book for Book Club.  Writing this blog as well as my “work” pieces.  And remembering to write purely for fun.

So today, on this holiday of love, remember who you should love the most.  Yourself.  Give yourself a gift.  Take time for you.

Things that Make me Go “Hmmm”

13 Feb

Living with others, whether it’s a roommate, your parents, your children or spouse there are always odd little quirks about the other person or people you don’t understand.  I’m sure I have a few, considering I blew through a few roommates in the college dorms I probably had more than a few.

But in this house with my kids, husband and pets there are plenty of things I question on a daily basis.

1.  When she claims most socks hurt, but she’s worn a hole through the favorite pair and somehow the hole doesn’t hurt…

2.  How Elsa’s castle was somehow taken over by a bear and the cast of Inside Out… I call it the Bear in the High Castle.

3.  Why doesn’t dirty laundry make it in front of the washer when the washer is literally on the other side of the door that is usually open…


4.  Speaking of laundry, how are there levels of dirtiness?  And if it’s on the floor doesn’t that increase the level?


5. Why do we need to use Mom’s chapstick or lip gloss when this is your collection…


6.  When do you officially have enough beads to wear?


7.  Why is it so challenging to change the toilet paper roll?  (Guess which bathroom I don’t use)…


8.  Because I’m not innocent in this oddness thing, why do we need three pairs of shoes that are essentially the same?


(That one I can defend by saying the black pair is a quick and neutral running errands shoe, the turquoise are great for the first 30 minutes and then they get too tight, and the pair on my feet are my indoor supportive slippers. And they’re Sketchers.  They are comfortable.)

We wouldn’t be who we are without our quirks. And differences are what make us beautiful.  So I might scratch my head and wonder why when I see any of these things, but it works somehow.

Who Says I’m not Social?

8 Feb

Hi.  My name is Michelle.  And I am an Introvert.

And I’m okay with that.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like people.  I enjoy gatherings as long as they’re not insanely long.  I’d prefer it if I at least knew a person or two, but I will go to places or events alone.  And if you didn’t know me you may not suspect I am an introvert.  I have random conversations in the supermarket, such as last week when the cashier at Piggly Wiggly and I realized that she and I used to live in the same hometown many years ago.  My teenager does not appreciate it if I laugh or chat with someone in a store, and I am a magnet for babies.  I’m sorry, I’m totally the weird woman smiling at your baby, but I promise I won’t touch them or give them my germs.  I just think they’re adorable and considering they smile back, they think I am too.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom/writer means that I spend my afternoons by myself unless I go out in public. Most days I’d rather use the time to write, so I spend quality time with myself.  Sometimes I read, usually I’m typing on the laptop and my pets wander in and out.  The dog is a great writing companion as he is happy being lazy and flopping at my feet.


But even still, other than Facebook, texting with my family or friends it’s pretty quiet.  And I sometimes become that crazy cat lady.  My son’s cat rarely leaves the comfort of his room down in our basement.  It smells like him (Old Spice Swagger and dirty socks would not be my scent of choice, but it suits her) and the dog and his sisters rarely go down there.  Her food, water, and litter box is down there.  Why would she want to leave?

So I antagonize her.  Because I just needed a bit of socialization and scratch her head which makes her purr back, then meow loudly when I stop.  However, judging by her face she doesn’t appreciate the fact that I tried to snuggle in for a selfie.


I continue to slowly meet new people in town and eventually will make some friends.  I socialize with the other moms during the youngest’s gymnastics class and chat when I’m at one of the schools for one reason or another, but making friends seems more challenging as an adult than as a child.  My youngest especially will take about two minutes to size up another child and deem them friend worthy.  Then again, she is an extrovert.  She looks to others to recharge.  Usually that’s me, so I’m grateful that I have this time to myself to type on my laptop and take crazy photos with the animals.  In approximately two and a half hours life with “Why does the dog wear a collar, but the cats don’t?,” “Why does Barbie have yellow hair most of the time, but sometimes it’s pink, purple or brown?,” or “Why doesn’t Curious George have a tail?.”  In case you haven’t guessed, my youngest is in the why stage.  While it is incredibly adorable and I certainly promote curiosity, it is exhausting for us introverts.  We are specifically prepping her for the reminder that when we go to the theater to see The Lego Batman movie there will be no asking questions during the movie.

But, yes, I like snuggling with her, and I love catching up with old friends, meeting new people, but I also cannot function as well without the time in the afternoon when all I have are sleeping animals and Amazon Prime music playing the background music.

To the Mother I Met at the Mall

2 Feb

I have a distant memory of you.  I know it was a cold winter day where the temperature was too frigid to bundle up my toddler and let him play in the yard, but he needed activity to keep from running laps down the small outlets of our hallway.  Neither my carpet nor my patience could handle the jumping off furniture.

I remember standing in the middle of the mall by the play area, holding my baby girl close to as she was still so fragile, tiny and ill pre-heart surgery days only a few months old.  I can picture her on my shoulder, petite frame and giant blue eyes watching the world as I watched my son run on the gym mats and climb on foam filled play equipment.  I already had a container of disinfecting wet wipes open by the stroller, already considering how to clean his hands and mine after his sister was strapped back in her stroller.  I remember the faint rainbow pattern of the stain glassed pattern through the ceiling windows of the mall, the sound of the elevator music over the speakers and the murmur of costumers walking and running their errands.

But I don’t remember your face.  I remember you coming to me with tear filled eyes, your eyes barely moving from my daughter’s soft and beautiful face to meet mine.  I’m sure I tucked her closer then, because I always did with her.  I was always anxious and fearful of an illness that could take away my daughter before we allowed her heart to grow big enough for the surgeons to repair the hole in it.  I’m sure that I was still contemplating whether the fun of the play area was worth the exposure to those germs.

You paused before you spoke.  As a mother I could feel the heartache when you shakily told me that this was the day you had lost your daughter.  You told me her name and that she had been beautiful and loving and kind.  And you were struggling today with the pain, the heartache, the loss.  I saw you had a small support system that was quietly waiting behind you.  And as my own eyes filled with tears you shared that our daughters both had an extra chromosome.  And that you knew seeing my dark haired, blue eyed girl was your daughter telling her that she was okay.  And you smiled, even though you hurt.  You said that seeing my girl was her daughter’s way of telling her that she was okay and still watching her.

I no longer remember what I replied.  Again, I no longer remember your face.  But I remember holding your heartache in my heart as I kissed the soft hair of my baby girl.  You left then and even though I know I had been terrified to bring my daughter to that play area that day I never regretted it that day.  Because we were meant to be there.

To you, dear Mom who lost your daughter with Down Syndrome, I have never forgotten you in the last nine years.  I have never forgotten how you admired my little girl as I always view her myself—seeing and loving those extra quirks of her flatter face and small nose, her beautiful blue eyes set far apart in a head that was then too large for her body.  I think of you nearly daily. I can only imagine what your girl looked like, but I know how much you love her.  And I’m thankful that you gave me that moment to remind this young, scared mother that sometimes you just need to stop and be grateful for the moments you have.  I can only wish that time eased your pain, but a mother should never lose someone that was literally a piece of themselves at one time.