It’s so beautiful though.
The happy hour conversation was unexceptional with a few exceptions; soothing in its familiarity. We spent 30 minutes playing catchup and gossiping like little hens. This person married their neighbor. That person was snippy when they walked by at daycare. Then someone lit the match. “You guys, I’m having a serious breakdown. I look old.”
That was it. A giant finger had dropped into the room and tapped the first domino in an intricate arrangement of insecurities. The now-ignited wildfire burned for 20 minutes at least. From crow’s feet to the empty baby apartments surrounded by saggy skin to shortcomings at work to extra weight, we beat the shit out of ourselves, passing the boxing gloves around the circle like a fast-burning “cigarette”.
Remember that scene in Mean Girls, where they stand in front of the mirror and critique their reflections down to the nail beds?
“Dad, I have a lot to say, can you come back?” – Spike getting tucked in for the night.
“Look at his cute little belly button!” – Spike discovering an unfamiliar body part on her sittermate after he went potty.
“I got my badges!” – Spike after she put two Kroger smiley face stickers on her chest in two very precise places.
“Before you say anything, I just need some privacy for a moment.” – JoJo acting like a 28 year old.
“I lilerally didn’t even know what to do.” – JoJo, who now uses “lilerally” to set up every verb.
“This shrimp is bomb.” – JoJo
“Mil, I love you with my whole heart.” – Spike rebounding from a brutal timeout for being mean.
“Mama, I thought about you today. All day. About how you love me and you sing songs and you give me kisses and you have a computer.” – Spike on the drive back from the sitter.
Me: “Is this what you want to wear tomorrow?”
Spike: “Well it is something fancy, isn’t it?”
“I can’t see that, Mama, because I am blonde.” – Spike
“Wait! I’d look ridiculous with a beard!” – JoJo reconsidering a facial hair call.
“Mom you want me to watch on you? I can watch on you. It’s fine.” – Spike, genuinely concerned about me being in the tub alone.
“And they were all blah, blah, blah, you’re so fashion. I was all blah, blah, blah, I just don’t want you to say poopy.” – Spike talking to me while I take a bath.
“I told her I’m being complicated and don’t care right now.” – Spike
“Now THAT’S what I want to be!” – JoJo pointing to a flock of birds
“You know, I’m not impressed.” – Spike’s commentary on getting ready for bed.
Makes me think of baked goods. Like, I literally listen to the chorus and picture a line of dancing cookies, chocolates and caramel apples. And you know what, I believe them.
Easily me talking to a pack of Marlboros. Also, equally as likely I’d be talking to clear rum and Diet Coke. Oh, the memories.
This is me talking to my microbiome (my gut health). I need to apologize for the sugar I sent down there. I need to express my regret for the fried mushrooms and box of chocolate chip drops of heaven. It’s just so hard to get through.
Cold-weather exercise, huh? I mean, fall is finally here and as far as I’m concerned, it can go right back where it came from. It’s dark by 6 o’clock and the late-autumn breeze really bites (and blows).
Let it Go from Frozen
Me, singing to the song Let it Go.
So, last Friday a bunch of my girlfriends from my last job and I got together. The wine started flowing, the gossip was starting to run dry and the music got louder. Before we knew it the peppy little Zumba instructor among us was leading a class in the living room, with 5 little plastered monkeys doing everything she did. Quote of the night, “This is my stage, mmmmK?” Brought the sobriety up 5%.
This is me. So me. A thousand percent me. I am a complete psychopath any time we’re having people over. This one might make you tinkle a tad.
A friend who I’ve long adored and admired for her ability to maintain her sacred social life in the midst of motherhood, sent the sweetest text on my birthday:
“Happy National Holiday! I am so thankful for our friendship. U amaze me at how easy u make everything look. U are kicking ass at 33! I know this year will be even better for u!”
I put down my phone, smiled and had a little bit of a laugh. Isn’t that something … Just when you feel like you’re drowning, someone pops by to admire your breaststroke.
Of course, I didn’t respond. If I’d sent a text back, it would have been something dreadfully playful, pathetic and truthful like … “LOL, if by ‘easy’ you mean ‘chaotic like a kangaroo with her hair on fire’ you’re right on target, sister-friend!” or, “Bwahahahaha … That’s me! Mayor of crazytown, population 6.” (I always feel like I should count the dog.)
Because that is my truth. Regardless of what it looks like through the Instagram lens, honestly, do any of us ever actually feel like we’ve got this shit down? Is there ever a night when we crawl into bed, put in our bite plate (just me?), look at the clock and think, “Good heavens above, I freaking made it,” just in time to hear a knob turn and a little voice reach out of the doorway and down the hall for you?
It doesn’t matter how intentional you are the night before – go ‘head and lay out those clothes, mama … pack that lunch, girl … – those unpredictable little creatures in your house are still going to fall asleep on your brand new chair and pee like a horse hooked up to a hose. You’re still going to get asked to give a 20-minute presentation at the Monday morning staff meeting on Friday at 2 o’clock. There will still be carry-ins and all-about-me poster boards and bake sales and smelly vomit and dry cleaning you forgot to pick up.
If it ever looks easy, it’s because I am sparing you the saga of my microcosm. When we chat, I am giving you the highlight reel and leaving the messy parts on the cutting room floor. It might not earn high marks for transparency, though I’ll tell you if you ask, but it’s a helluva lot more enjoyable leaving out the tantrums and takeout than it is reliving the pandemonium play by play with someone who’s just trying to push off their own pandemonium. (At least when drinks aren’t involved. Over a couple of cocktails I’m spilling my shortcomings and preaching from the pulpit of failures and frustrations.) It’s like when you pass someone in the hall. “Hey! How are ya?” “Good! How are you?” “Good, thanks.” It’s all about sparing the messy parts. No one wants to hear, “Ah, shitty. My baby is cutting teeth and her ass is redder than a baby lobster, I’ve developed a tolerance to melatonin and I’m getting a zit that feels like a gunshot wound.” But, again, that is my truth.
And what of the text? I chalk it up to one woman telling another she’s killin’ it; even though that woman might know that the recipient of that text (me) rides the struggle bus most days. Sometimes we just need to clink our martini glasses, give each other a wink and acknowledge that the battle is real and, while we all have weak spots in our armor, at least we put up a good fight.
On Tuesday I had a birthday. It was a day that marked the passing of 364 days since the last day I reflected intensely on and took inventory of where I was at in life. Now, full disclosure, I don’t own a birthday foam finger. That is to say, I’m not a big fan of them. It’s not that I despise getting older (“It’s better than the alternative,” my dad, Big Rog, would say), it’s the expectation and, ultimately, letdown it induces.
Look no further than your facebook wall. “Happy National Holiday!” “You deserve the most special day ever!” “I hope it’s epic! Go do something amazing with your girls!” It’s the LeBron James of calendar occasions. No single day can live up to that hype. It’s just not possible to artificially impregnate a specific, designated 24 hours with all the joys and surprises and rewards you’ve been wishing for all year, or the well-meaning, completely unattainable dreams that cascade down from your social circle.
But we try, don’t we? It’s OK to admit it … I’ll go first so you don’t have to. The embarrassing truth is, as our grown-ass heads meet the pillow on our respective birthday eves, we entertain impossible possibilities that awaken a childlike exhilaration and anticipation, the likes of which rival only Christmas itself. Then we try to talk ourselves down from the high … “Oh my gosh, that’s crazy to think that my boss is going to just send me home for my special day.” “OK, Courtney, they are not going to name a burger after you at Brava’s just because you got older.” “A 20-day getaway to an all-inclusive hut with a window in the floor where you can see fish? He would never!”
For me, the downright preposterous delusions drown out practicality all the way through mid-afternoon of my actual birthday, when I realize that this year, much like last year, will be marked by thoughtful messages from friends of the past and present, a handful of funny cards about farts and drinking too much (my favorite things) and vanilla cupcakes from Kroger with the whipped cream frosting. They are humble, delightful traditions, and they are mine. The truth is, contradictory to what this post might imply, I relish every small, special nod I get on November 3. I do. They just aren’t on the My Super Sweet 16 scale that I uncontrollably harvest a desire for from some disgusting place in the depths of my selfish, greedy subconscious. It’s a gross internal battle and I blame the aforementioned MTV reality series.
Perhaps most sobering, is the acceptance that there is no magic spell that befalls my home on that day. The girls still fight. The dishwasher still needs emptied. The laundry still needs put away. The workout still needs to get done. As hard as I silently send out wishes to my fairy godmother, the chores and the sibling conflicts just keep right on coming, like punches to a piñata at my mental fiesta. Again, the rational woman in me chuckles at the notion that anything would change just because of an event that took place 33 years ago. But the 7-year-old birthday girl cries a little bit.
I have friends who are great birthday people. They organize nice evenings out in celebration of their lives, and manage to mark the occasion year after year with the perfect marriage of merriment and modesty. But I shutter at the thought of planning an event in my own honor and instead choose to sit by and let it pass, all the while secretly pining for grand gestures. It’s not in my typical nature, I swear. It’s an annual internal display of obnoxious narcissism that I’ll never understand and can’t believe I’m owning right now. It’s not pretty and it’s not cute, but all of this ugliness is why I don’t care for my birthday. But I love everyone else’s.
(Editor’s note: Thank you so much to everyone who sent me a birthday message on facebook. It’s so thoughtful and truly one of the happiest highlights of the day.)
Now that we have that rant all neatly wrapped up, I’d like to take just a few bullet points to toast the things I actually managed to accomplish in my 32nd year of life. Some big, some small, all a hash mark to verify I was striving for something.
I dropped the butts. The mere fact that my smoking habit hung on as long as it did embarrasses me, but I won’t carry it on to 33. You’re welcome, lungs. And sorry about that.
Oh, did I mention I ran 13.1 miles? I might have already talked about the fact that I completed my first half marathon. I still can’t motha cluckin’ believe dat ish. Huge bucket list bullseye there.
I talked to you folks. The reality is, it’s not easy fitting this fun little writing project of mine into the gridlocked traffic jam that is our Monday through Sunday. But it’s a release. It’s a time capsule. It’s a priority because it proves I can still find myself at the crossroads of profession and passion. And I’ve kept it going for the past year, which was something I really wanted to prove to myself. I might only post once a week, but it’s still breathing.
Aluminum-free at 33. I put some persistent paranoia to bed and finally found an effective, healthy deodorant.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. I did the ballsiest thing I can remember myself doing in years, and switched jobs back in June. It’s been a road of small victories, lots of lessons and invaluable self discovery.
I fell for Emma. After years of Hank and I talking about the kind of parents we wanted to be and the corners of the world we wanted to take our kids, we finally took a step in that direction. We’re pulling our modest little popup around and putting pins in the map. It feels so good running alongside our adventures rather than just chasing them.
“OK, I need you to talk me down off the ledge,” my friend said. “Is it crazy that I’m heartbroken about getting rid of my baby swing?”
“No, absolutely not,” I quickly answered.
“OK, I’ll let you get back to work. I’m just … emotional I guess.”
Just a month ago, I literally sprinted out to the garage, not allowing enough time for thoughts to permeate, put the bent and battered oscillating chair down by the trash bin, wiped my nose and told Hank I didn’t want to talk about it … like ever. There’s no telling when it will strike and what seemingly meaningless object will trigger the catastrophic hormonal mommy meltdown, but we’ve all sat and played the birds at some point.
1. She had 4 teeth, like, forever.
2. Sometimes we play this fun little game where she pulls on my ponytail and as soon as I say, “No!” she plops her head down like she wasn’t there and has no clue what I’m referring to. Then does it again. It really hurts, I’m not going to lie, but the fact that she plays it off makes her too cool for me to care. I can’t even be mad.
3. She picks up every bite of food with her thumb and forefinger, as if each morsel deserves her very judicious and meticulous scrutiny before being shoved into her mouth for consumption. (Even when she’s dozing off.)
4. She’s a body slammer, this kid. One of her favorite things is to start from across the room and run, arms outstretched, until she plows into you. This also ties up with the fact that she always thinks you’re chasing her. If you’re coming up within 5 feet from her back, you just opted in to her assumed game of chase. Prepare for her to trot and giggle away while peeking over her shoulder in your direction. Trust me, you’ll love it.
5. After a seemingly endless phase where everything was, “this,” she’s transformed into a petite little parrot, repeating the words that filter through her tiny ears and register enough to come tentatively from her budding voice. If we were awarding points for articulation, she’d earn the highest marks for, “Mama!” which she now shouts from her crib upon waking on Saturday mornings in a demanding, almost disgruntled tone that I just adore for some reason. (What does that say about me?)
7. She tootles around with her hands tucked behind her back. You know, like your teacher did while you were taking a test in grade school. It’s so cute, you guys, I just can’t describe it in a way that will do it justice. I also can’t seem to unholster my cell fast enough to capture it, so you’re gonna have to trust me on this one.
8. When I pull her out of the tub, I can’t get a towel around her before she dives into my lap to snuggle up, soaking wet. It always makes me feel like I peed my pants in the most endearing fashion possible.
13. I’ve never seen anyone as flexible as this baby. It’s a Cirque du Soleil every day up in this house, and it equally impresses and terrifies me.
Thank you for humoring me. Now let’s all go smell an old burp cloth soaked in Johnson’s baby wash and cry, k?