As I Mourn My Dad’s Death, I Can’t Get Rid Of The Bag Of Peas In My Freezer

Nine more days. Nine more days until my ritualistic habit of date-matching events from the previous year comes to a close. Nine days from today is the anniversary of my father’s death. Throughout the last year, I have found comfort in knowing he was still here within the past 365 days; that on some days I can say, “last year on this day we did this”; that when I find a receipt and check the date, I see that I bought the foods he liked. That last year at this time we held hands and laughed. That two days from now we had our last conversation while watching the pre-season Bears game. He had a huge meal that night and those that surrounded him were pleased that he finally ate. “You need your strength,” we’d say over and over again as we watched him whittle away, his cheeks sunken and legs like toothpicks.

The Bears lost that night and he turned off the TV in his usual frustration, citing which players were at fault. I made my bed on the couch next to him to ensure he got his medicine when he needed it. The medicine had to be given consistently or the pain would come on strong. “Breakthrough Pain” is what the hospice nurse called it; it came on quickly and intensely but the constant dosing of morphine would keep it at bay. He didn’t want to sleep on the hospital bed, that was another sick-person apparatus we had to coax him into. “You’ll be much more comfortable, Dad. It’s much easier to get in and out of than a regular bed. See?” I lied to him as if he was a toddler and moved the bed up and down with the attached remote.

He had a restful night’s sleep and the next day he was gone. Not physically. His body was there but it was on auto-pilot as he tried to perform the same daily functions that he had for 70 years. He wanted to go to the bathroom. He wanted to drink something. He wanted to take medicine. He shuffled his feet for the last time, his mind in a daze, unsure of how to act. He didn’t look at our faces, we didn’t connect. He laid on the plastic mattress covered in flannel, atop all the pillows he normally stacked and re-stacked each night until he was comfortable. He closed his eyes and I learned the true definition of a new word: unresponsive.

Courtesy of Vickie Freund

Unconscious means unaware; unresponsive means unable to react. “Be careful what you say because he can hear you,” my friend told me. Her father had similarly passed the month before, and once he was labeled “unresponsive,” he had reacted to a comment with a thumbs up sign the day before he died. Because of this, I ushered nurses out of his room when they casually spoke about how much time he had left and, “See? His skin is beginning to break down.”

I held the phone to his ear as out-of-town family told him that they loved him. I learned to internally sob so he wouldn’t hear me. I told him that we would all be okay and not to worry. He was a jokester so I tried to keep it light, “You raised an amazing daughter so I’ll take care of everything. The Vickster has it all under control.”

He used to call me the Vickster.

When my three boys came to say goodbye, they stood at his bedside unable to speak, faces soaked with tears. “Dad, the boys are here,” I said cheerfully while announcing them with the nicknames he personalized for them, “Jackson Brown, Maximillian Shmell and Brody Coyote are here and they all love you.” My dad smiled.

His breathing became slower and more rattled throughout the week. I left his room on a Friday afternoon at the advice of my family. “He might not want to let go if you are here.” The sun shone through the blinds and the transistor radio lightly played his favorite oldies station. I kissed his soft forehead and patted down his hair and told him, “Dad, I’m going to go get a good night’s sleep.” I gently put his hand in between mine and told him I would be back in the morning. When I stood up, the radio made a soft popping noise and went quiet. I froze. Crazy as it sounds, that was the sign of the final goodbye. He passed away early the next morning.

There is still half a bag of frozen peas in our freezer from well over a year ago. My dad lived in my home for the last six months of his life and he would sometimes cook for us when he had the energy. One night he cooked us his favorite meal — rigatoni with Italian sausage and peas. I haven’t touched the peas since that meal because they symbolize a memory. The plastic bag, folded over and secured with a thick rubber band sits tucked in the far corner of the freezer. When I rifle through the shelves looking for frozen waffles or ice cream, sometimes I see it and stop. And remember.

Life moves on and life moves fast. It’s hard to fathom that its almost been one year since I lost my boisterous, “life of the party” father. But the human spirit is resilient and propels you forward in order to return to normalcy. Many told me, “It will get easier, the first year is hard.” It has gotten easier. Maybe on day 366, I’ll figure out what to do with the peas.

But I still have nine more days.

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Our Secret To Surviving Marriage With Kids? Ignore Your Problems

It’s so dang hard to raise kids, be adults, and be married at the same time. My husband and I often bemoan the fact that breaks between the crazy in our lives are so itty-bitty short that we rarely ever feel dug out… more perpetually shoveling. I use windshield imagery. Think driving on the interstate in the muggy south: insects just keep splatting on the glass. Just as we may wipe a couple juicy ones away with our wipers, several more plummet forward to take their place. Makes it sorta hard, in our marriage and in our lives, to ever see the way forward with any degree of clarity.

The big troubles – reports from teachers about your 4thgrader’s dropping reading comprehension, bagging up your kid’s poop to have tested by the GI doc because of scary unresolved abdominal cramping, bickering with the insurance company about how much it’ll pay for hail storm damage, wondering based on your child’s anxiety around clowns how much you should be saving in addition to the college fund to the therapy fund – hit in such rapid succession.

You’d think that would mean that when a small trouble pops up, we would prize it as something, by comparison, easily fixable. “I may not have a bull’s eye plan for how to get my kid reading well again, but by golly I will nail changing that light bulb!” you may imagine yourself championing.

What my husband and I have found, though, is that we are so zapped from clearing off the big bugs that keep clogging up our view that we let the smaller, less cumbersome insects (think gnats) remain on the windshield… we can get by with them there.

So instead we laugh.

Because if you can’t laugh about the big troubles whose solutions aren’t immediately within your control to solve, you may as well laugh over the small ones whose solutions you simply decide to fuck off.

Courtesy of Tricia Arthur

You know the threaded black plastic piece you twist on most modern lamps to click them on/off? Scott, my husband, has been missing the one on his bedside lamp for four years. Worst case: since the little metal rod left protruding in the black knob’s absence can’t be twisted by the bare hand, Scott simply chooses to read at bedtime in the dark. Best case: With us both in bed, I untwist the black knob on my bedside lamp and pass it over to him to use to turn his on. The same process reversed happens to then turn both our lamps off.

WTF.

Or how bout this one:

Recently our marriage’s most prized possession lost its most valuable part (read: our coffee machine’s carafe fell and broke). The kicker is that I was so in-the-moment-caffeine-desperate that I actually broke the “don’t fix easy things” rule by ordering a replacement carafe on Amazon on my phone as I was still sweeping up the glass on my kitchen floor. It came two days later two sizes two small. So now every morning we tuck a knife or sometimes a wooden spoon under the too-small carafe to give it the umph it needs to put pressure on the thingy-thing that dispenses our brown magic. Our coffee machine every morning is jerry-rigged like something out of the house of the dad in “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” or, alternately, a horror film.

SERIOUSLY.

I won’t even tell you how many weeks I ninja-leapt over the laser trigger of our garage door because of the fact that my car garage door remote went defective.

You see my point: There’s comedy here, and it actually can keep things lively. Every time I insert a knife between the hot coils of my coffee maker and the glass of my dwarfed carafe, I can’t wait to tell my husband which utensil I used to pull off coffee that morning. When he and I pass over that lamp knob thingy in bed, we smirk at our ridiculousness. When I pulled an acrobatic feat to get out the garage daily for weeks… well, then I just cussed. But I still told my husband later each day what I should have been charging our neighbors to be witness to my Cirque de Sole performance.

And we giggle. We giggle and giggle and giggle over the absurdity of not fixing the easy things.

Or maybe we giggle, because we’re delirious.

Why else, in a house with small humans, would you prop up a coffee pot with a sharp knife pointing out?

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In A World Filled With Insecurities And Mom Cliques, Be An Amy

When I moved to San Antonio two years ago, I didn’t know a soul.

After nine years in Chicago raising babies, I was terrified to start all over again and leave behind an amazing mom tribe I had formed over the years.

Starting from scratch socially in a new city is very much like dating. You meet people through the PTA or the neighborhood and begin to sort through the layers of friendship like an onion, making decisions along the way as to whether someone is the right fit for your life.

During my first year in San Antonio, I met Amy at a PTA meeting.

We engaged in the typical small talk and pleasantries at school pick-ups. Our relationship was surface level, like so many female friendships in the beginning.

But that following summer, our kids were on the same swim team, and as we sat there night after night, I watched her constantly scan the pool area, making sure every mom in attendance had someone to sit and talk with.

“Barbara, what are you doing over there all by yourself, girl?” she said to a mom hanging solo toward the back of the patio. “Come join us! Everyone, this is Barbara—her son is going into second grade at our school.”

She would do this every single night, making sure every person felt welcomed and included. It was inspiring.

Amy is truly the most inclusive person I’ve ever met. She’ll start up conversations with the table next to us at a painting event. She finds friends in the bathroom at restaurants and brings them back to the table for a drink to meet us all.

Many articles about motherhood discuss inclusivity. Some women feel left out, others long to join a certain play date or be invited on a girls’ trip. In many ways, the social cues and playground politics of our childhoods never fully go away. Like so many, Amy experienced major bullying as a girl, but instead of letting her fear of rejection weaken her, she chose to better herself and the lives of others.

“Second grade was a very rough year for me,” she said. “I got held back for reading, and I fell and knocked out my front tooth. The people who were once my friends were suddenly calling me dumb and making fun of the way I looked. It was the first time I really felt like I didn’t belong.”

Her experience stayed with her for many years and presented many insecurities, but the summer before going into high school, she moved schools and decided to make a move within herself as well.

“I got a break from all those people who knew me, and I just thought, Now is my chance to rewrite my story,,” she said. “And in doing so, I’m also going to put myself out there so that others never have to feel the way I once did.”

Her inclusive spirit has continued into motherhood, and she said the key to finding your people is to try different things and find what sticks.

“When my daughter was young, we were signed up for a playgroup, dance, and swim lessons,” she said. “I tried out everything, and it turned out that the swim families were our people. Friendships should be easy, and if you have to work hard to be in a friendship, it’s not worth it.”

While Amy still has some insecurities like most women, she is always mindful that everyone else is carrying around something too. And as most of the country starts back up at school, we moms are busy teaching our kids to be kind when they meet new classmates. It’s the perfect opportunity for moms do practice what they preach.

“You know the best way to start up a new friendship? Introduce yourself with a big smile,” she said. “You have to remember that just a smile on your face can ease someone else’s anxieties about trying to put themselves out there.”

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I Have Sex On The First Date, And I’m Not Ashamed To Admit It

There is an early episode of Sex and the City, the one where Carrie goes on her first date with Mr. Big. At the end of the night, they end up having sex. I remember watching that as a 20-something and being shocked at the thought of having sex on the first date. My, how my perspective has changed. Now that I’m in my 30s, and especially since I’m a single mom, sex on the first date is a brilliant idea to me. I simply don’t have the time or patience to wait for a certain amount of dates to see if there is sexual compatibility between me and the person I’m dating.

If you’re having sex on your terms, sex on the first date is hot. There’s a certain thrill to sex with someone for the first time. It’s hot, it’s new, and there’s a sense of urgency there. Because you’ve been building up sexual tension over the course of your date, the release is so good.

Since I’m my son’s primary parent, I don’t get a lot of time to go out on dates. Usually I have to schedule them around the time he’s with his dad or at school. My dates feel like I’m on borrowed time, and I need to make every second count. As a result, having sex on the first date feels almost necessary. Because if we don’t do it then, we may not get the chance to do it for a while. And while building up anticipation is great, sometimes I simply don’t want to.

One good thing? If I’m sexually attracted to someone, I know very quickly. And if the physical chemistry is undeniable, I will act on it. Why waste the little time I have playing coy?

Being straightforward about what I want sexually is liberating. But it hasn’t been an easy road. Getting to a place where I feel comfortable enough to go after what I want has taken time. Honestly, it takes a lot of mental deprogramming. Even though sex on the first date is totally okay, for a long time I felt bad for wanting it.

Women hear things like “people won’t respect you if you have sex without commitment,” and internalize it. One-night stands are seen as “slutty” or “trashy.” Or, if you have sex on the first date, you’re some sort of sex fiend. And we’re being fed these ideas starting at a very young age. It’s one thing to teach young people about knowing their worth and demanding better treatment from whoever they’re dating. But it’s quite another to make them feel bad for enjoying sex and wanting to explore that early in a relationship.

I think having a friend in college slut shame me is the cause of my internal struggle. Hooking up with someone, however casually, would illicit comments from her about my needing to have more respect for myself. Eventually, I would hear her disapproval in my ear. Even years after the fact, it’s something I’ll never forget. And the funny thing is that no one has ever treated me any differently. (Except for her with her judgey comments, of course.)

When I was in my first serious relationship in my early 20s, I felt that having sex too soon would be a dead end. Having sex on the first date would turn him off of the idea of taking our relationship to the next level. We had very obvious physical chemistry, and we both wanted to have sex. But I could hear that voice in the back of my head saying that if we did, that was it for our relationship. So I made him wait until after we were officially a couple. We were together for six years, and I don’t think that had anything to do with waiting to have sex.

When I began dating again last year, it was a conscious effort to silence the voices in my head. Sexual chemistry is a normal part of relationships. And wanting to give in to that sexual chemistry isn’t wrong. Having sex on the first date makes me feel good, and isn’t that important? I continuously tell myself not to feel guilty if I choose to have sex on the first date.

One of the best things about dating in my 30s is the confidence in knowing what I want. So if I want to have sex on the first date, I’m going to make it happen. I know I don’t care about other people’s opinions of me in general, so why should I care what they think about my sex life? And who says I have to tell anyone? What happens in my bed only matters to me and the person I’m sharing that time with.

Some relationships are going to just be about sex. Everyone isn’t always looking for their next great love; they’re looking for their next great lay. And if that’s the case, why the heck would you wait? That’s exactly what you’re there for, so might as well go for it, right? We need to stop allowing societal norms from 50 years ago to dictate our current happiness. Having sex on the first date doesn’t make you anything other than a confident person unafraid to go after what they want.

As long as you’re both consenting adults, get naked and be happy!

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Our Love Locks On A Bridge In A Small Scottish Town Are More Than A Coincidence

Coincidences… what are they? Are they just pure randomness or is the word just used as a excuse to explain situations that are obviously predestined. I don’t believe in coincidences. I feel like some instances are just too extraordinary to be explained as just pure chance. There is so much beauty in “coincidences” to just look past them.

Musselburgh, Scotland is a small town outside of Edinburgh that not many tourists venture to out of pure desire. However, I was no longer a tourist; I was a local. As a study abroad student staying in the town of Dalkeith, I was excited to explore neighboring towns, especially those located on the coast. I was beginning to miss my college town of Corpus Christi and its sunny beaches, so one day, I hopped on a bus to the nearest beach. Musselburgh instantly reminded me so much of Corpus Christi. The skate park, the sand, and the small boats docked at the bay. I loved exploring alone, because that meant I owned the day and could make all the decisions.

As I happened to aimlessly walk across a pedestrian bridge, I immediately noticed the lovelocks sparsely placed all throughout the bridge. It wasn’t like Paris, but that’s what made it interesting. Paris is obviously the city of love, but what is Musselburgh to these people? You obviously have to have a story with the town in order to make the decision of placing a lovelock on the bridge, and that’s what made it special. I fell in love with the town and wanted to commemorate this love with a lovelock to represent me and my boyfriend. My heart was ripped in half the day I left the States. We had only begun dating a few weeks prior to my departure, and I wanted nothing more than to be back in his arms. So in order to get my mind off of the heartache of being in a long distance relationship, I would run around foreign towns looking for things to do.

Courtesy of Katarina Chapa

I was on a time crunch trying to find a lock, because the last bus going back to Dalkeith would leave in an hour. I scoured the town stopping at every grocery store looking for a lock, any lock. I finally found one in a little dollar store. I decided on a pink padlock and rushed to the school supplies aisle to find a black sharpie to “engrave” our names. I also bought scissors, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to open the plastic packaging the lock was in. I made my purchase and stopped in a local public restroom to open up the lock and write our names.

As I opened the packaging of the lock with the scissors, I was in such a hurry that I sliced my finger and got blood all over the lock. “Now that’s true love,” I thought. I had accidentally preformed a blood ritual on the lock and supposed that now our love would last forever. I hastily made my way to the pedestrian bridge and looked for the perfect spot to place the lock. I wanted to leave room next to the lock, so that one day we could place another lock on the bridge. After placing the lock, I decided on burying one of the three keys it came with near a bench. I planned on sending one key to my boyfriend and keeping the last one for myself. I quickly made my way to the bus station and hopped on the bus happily after my successful adventure.

Courtesy of Katarina Chapa

Fast forward to August 4, 2017, and my study abroad trip had finally come to an end. I made my way down the airport escalator and was warmly embraced by my boyfriend. We made a baby that night — I’m not kidding! We were excited and scared at the same time because we were both in our senior year of college, but we made ends meet.

Once February came along, I was trying hard to think of something special to gift to my now fiancé. One day, the thought popped into my head. I could get him a lovelock with our baby’s name on it. We had always talked about returning to Scotland, so I could show him all the special places I had been. I thought maybe one day, we could put this lock on the bridge together. After a quick search on Etsy, I found one and I could even put our baby’s ultrasound picture on it too. It was absolutely perfect. On Valentine’s Day, he opened his gift and loved it. Alongside a heart-shaped box of chicken nuggets, what more could he ask for?

Courtesy of Katarina Chapa

Mike was going to be the best dad, I knew it. When Maxon was finally born, he needed a few blood transfusions and had to spend sometime in the NICU. It was a difficult time for us, because we had such a traumatic birth experience. However, the NICU nurses were wonderful in assuring us that everything was going to be fine. On one occasion, we met the head nurse and her accent immediately sounded so familiar to me. I asked her where she was from, and she told me she had lived a lot of places, including Scotland. I was so excited to talk with her over the wonders of Scotland’s beauty and the discussion eventually led to me describing the lock I had given Mike. I told her how much we wanted to go back one day to place Maxon’s lock next to ours. As it would turn out, she was going to be leaving to London the following week and meeting with a friend who lives in Scotland. She graciously offered to take the lock with her and pass it on to her friend who could get it to the bridge. It all sounded to good to be true, and I was definitely hesitant. But then I thought, how could this be just a coincidence? I felt like she was meant to be a part of our story, so I decided to let her take the lock with her across the sea to be handed over to a complete stranger.

Courtesy of Katarina Chapa

A few months passed with no update on the lock. Maxon was safe at home with us doing great, when one day we received pictures confirming that our lock had made it to the Musselburgh pedestrian bridge. I had left her instructions with how to get to the bridge and where to place the lock. Our pink lock had rusted quite a bit, as expected with Scotland’s rainy weather. But just seeing our lock still there alongside our son’s lock brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful to see how the world is so interconnected and how far a complete stranger will go for someone.

And the story doesn’t end there. When we got married the year after our son was born, I purchased another lock off Etsy as my “something blue” for the wedding and wore it all day on my garter. We had found dirt cheap tickets to Scotland for our honeymoon and were excited to put our third lock on the bridge. During our stay in Scotland, we got to stay in the same palace I stayed in while I studied abroad in Dalkeith.

As fate would have it, we even got assigned the same room I stayed in while studying there. It was amazing, to say the least, to sleep in the same bed, but this time with my husband who I had missed so much while there. When the day finally came to visit Musselburgh, we were so excited and a little apprehensive on whether the locks would still be there. It had been one year since Maxon’s lock was placed on the bridge and two years since our lock had been placed there while I was studying abroad.

I had heard of lovelock bridges being cleared out before, so I was definitely nervous. We made our way down to Musselburgh on the same bus route I had taken years ago, and to our excitement, our locks were still there, perfectly in tact. Our third lock went up alongside our two other locks, and this time, we threw the key in the water. We figured our love would last a lifetime, so why keep the key? Our family story is now told on locks in the small town of Musselburgh, and as our story continues, we hope to keep adding to this beautiful, Scottish bridge.

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Raising A Teenager Is Like Having A Swarm Of Bees In Your Chest

Dear Friend (that feels right to say),

This isn’t actually a letter to my son. Why? Because teenagers don’t read heartfelt letters from their mothers, and that’s the truth. And it’s not a love letter, either. It’s a hard read, actually, and it’s for you.

My son turned 16 yesterday. And like his 5th and 10th and 13th birthdays, it felt…significant. But it was more than just the number that felt significant. I felt the day coming well in advance in myself, too.

When my son turned 13, I wrote him a letter.

It was a little bit like having a busy cloud of bees in my chest – not stinging but moving. Urgently. Fast. Initially, it felt almost like anxiety but even more so like anticipation.

As the days passed, I continued to think a lot about how I was feeling. When you have teenagers, you have a lot of time to think and not a lot of time to talk.

So I sat with the bees and observed them.

There was definitely anticipation – a dash of excitement – but also some uncertainty. Some sadness. And I didn’t – and mostly still don’t – know what any of it meant. So I just held it, held it in my chest where it seemed to want to live. Because what else can you do when you don’t know how to define a thing?

When the birthday arrived, I felt much like I did when my mother died: a mouth full of words, a deep desire to say them and  no one to hear.

Maybe it was the bees trying to get out. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) But I held them back.

I’m sorry to say my son’s 16th birthday didn’t contain much fanfare. The date fell on a school day, and he didn’t want a party with his friends. The week’s schedule didn’t allow for a family dinner, and I’m fairly certain it would have been a nightmare anyway with twin two year-olds in tow.

Isn’t 16 supposed to be a big deal? Significant – wasn’t that the description?

I got him a gym membership, so he could escape the house, and I started a retirement account for him. Logically. Then I bought him a slice of cookie cake and took him to an R-rated movie that was basically about mental illness. His request.

We sat in silence on the way to the movie. It was awkward and unnatural for me, but I was proud to practice my “don’t talk all the time, Mom” act and “just be shoulder-to-shoulder” with my son. It felt good and honoring to leave space for him to just be himself, and I felt strong and generous for being able to do it.

Then we sat in silence on the way back – except when he interrupted my weak attempt to share my thoughts about the movie. He spoke up to correct my use of a word. Commodity.

And through all of this, I held the bees.

When I got home, my husband was in bed, and the birthday boy went upstairs for a shower – school night. That was it.

I found myself standing alone in the dark, more than a little bewildered, after a disturbing movie and in the wake of a weird debate with my man-child about the meaning of a word. Just me and the bees.

And they were stirring.

This is when I knew for sure that the bees were words, and they were fighting to get out.

But I couldn’t let them…because they were sad.

Courtesy of Jennifer Bonessi

Why am I telling you all this, Friend? Goodness, why am I?

Well, first, I’m telling you this because the bees made me do it. I couldn’t keep them in any longer. What is that beautiful Maya Angelou quote – “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

It was agony to carry the bees any longer.

But really, I think someone needs to start talking about what it feels like to be in this season of motherhood.

It. Is. Hard.

Relationships with teenage sons are hard. No matter how much you love them – because there is no lack of love. I have oodles of love for this kid. I’m dripping with it.

But it does not matter if your teen is a talker or not talker. It doesn’t matter if you used to be close and connected and suddenly aren’t. It doesn’t matter if you fill them with sugar and take them to R-rated movies.

It doesn’t matter how much love you are carrying in your heart for your son, that it weighs a million pounds, that you are dying to tell him about it in a way he can actually hear you. It just doesn’t matter.

Okay, all the history of goodness and intentions of goodness, in this season, does matter. But. It doesn’t make things easier.

Friend, if you are all up in the hard stuff, and you don’t know why other parents aren’t struggling to figure out how they fit into their teenager’s lives, THEY ARE.

If you are wondering why your fellow mommas aren’t fighting to sit quietly with their teen (because talking to a teenager could be talking to your best friend or a hornets’ nest), THEY ARE.

If you are wondering how other parents seem unbothered by watching their teen struggle in this hard season of their own lives, THEY ARE BOTHERED. It’s hard to watch a human grow and learn big life lessons. SO. Hard.

If you are wondering why no one else seems to be concerned about how to bridge an ever-widening gap in their relationships with their kid, THEY ARE. Some are bewildered, Friend, and some are panicked – the rest are likely oblivious a gap has appeared.

You are not alone. It’s happening to all of us.

Also, this time will pass. Things will change. I know that.

Do you?

Thank you, thank you, Friend. I think I’m ready to write that letter to the birthday boy now. This sweet boy deserves to hear how much his momma loves him. Even if he won’t hear it, really, until (a lot) later in his life.

Stay tuned, if you’d like, for the release of the bees.

Soldier on, Fellow Mommas. You’ve got this!

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As A Teen, I Had A Traumatic Experience With Pot And I’m Still Scared Of It

For about a year in high school, I was a total stoner. I wasn’t stoned all the time, but I’d smoke weed almost every weekend with my friends and boyfriend, and there were a few times I even went to school stoned. In many ways, these were not my finest moments in life, but I was pretty responsible about the whole thing, and like any stoned teen, I had my fair share of blissed out revelations about life, the universe, and everything else.

Everything was seemingly fine with my life as a pothead…until it wasn’t.

It was my senior year of high school and I’d just gotten over bronchitis. I was on antibiotics and still coughing a bunch, so when my good friend came over to hang out and get stoned, we decided that my best course of action was to eat a little of the weed she’d brought over rather than inhale it into my lungs.

BIG. FUCKING. MISTAKE.

Most people know that eating pot has a very intense effect on you, and though I kind of knew that at the time, I pretty much had no idea how bad it could be. Plus, I don’t think I exactly regulated how much I was consuming…and who the hell knows how the weed mixed with the antibiotics I was on.

Within an hour of eating the pot, I was full on freaking out.

Basically what happened was that I felt like I was dreaming. But not in a good way. I felt like I was totally outside of my life, looking in. I was separate from my body. I was losing my sense of center, of self. Disassociating big time.

And the scariest thing was that I was convinced that I was “going crazy,” and would never feel normal again. Ever.

So mixed with the feeling of disassociation came a full blown anxiety/paranoia attack. My heart was racing. I was crying and shaking. I was bugging the fuck out.

I remember calling my boyfriend, who had just gone away to college. “I ate pot,” I said, “And something is very, very wrong.”

He laughed a little, which freaked me out more. Then he did his best to reassure me, but honestly, nothing helped. I was convinced that I had gone off the deep end, would need to be hospitalized, and would never come home.

The worst thing was that I could not shake the feeling; because I felt this sense of distance from myself, from the world around me, and from everyone I knew, I didn’t believe that I would ever feel like myself again.

As you can imagine, all of this disappeared when the effects of the weed wore off a few hours later. It was just the drug, and I was fine.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

I decided then and there that I would never, ever eat pot again, which was a wise enough decision. But I figured smoking it would still be okay.

Well, I tried smoking it a few times, and although no time was as horrible as the time I ate it, getting stoned was never quite the same. Those feelings of paranoia and disassociation were still there, and sometimes it was really bad.

It was like something had switched in my body and rather than experiencing the effects of pot as mellow, dreamy, or trippy-in-a-cool-way, it was just always a flashback to the time of my pot-eating freak-out.

Early in my college years was the last time I smoked pot. It just wasn’t for me, and although I felt a certain amount of peer pressure to try it again, it was not worth it for me to continue to “go there.” In a way, acknowledging that and taking a clear stand about it was an empowering moment in my youth.

I am definitely not knocking pot, and I don’t judge people who use it for health or mental health. I know it is invaluable to many people, and I applaud the legalization of pot as well. I also know that there are many different types of marijuana now, and it’s possible that I could find one that wouldn’t make me feel like I was losing my mind.

But I really have no interest. And I know I’m not alone.

As a mom of two boys who will likely someday dabble in pot and alcohol, I think it’s important people realize that not everyone has a positive experience with pot, and that it’s important that you take precautions when trying it.

I certainly don’t think it’s anywhere in the category of most illicit drugs, but I also think many people are quick to proclaim how great and innocuous pot is. Pot is actually known to be both an upper and a downer. It’s known to cause paranoia in some people, and although it’s not addictive in the same way alcohol or tobacco is, people most certainly can become emotionally dependent on it.

This is definitely going to be part of my conversation with my kids as they get older and we talk about drugs and alcohol and experimentation and all that. I’m not stupid; I know they will likely try these things. So I’m going to be honest with them about what to expect, and I will share my experiences with them, the good and the bad.

Basically, pot does different things to different people and different bodies, and it’s okay if you are one of those people who really can’t handle it. I know a lot of people for whom this is the case. I think we don’t really talk enough about the negative effects pot can have on people. And we should.

The post As A Teen, I Had A Traumatic Experience With Pot And I’m Still Scared Of It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

To My Friend Who Died Of Breast Cancer

October, the beginning of fall, pumpkin spice latte season, the kiddos countdown to Halloween, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The month when the stores turn pink with a million different ways you can show your support. It is a month for us to celebrate those who have fought the battle and won, support those who are currently fighting, and sometimes, to think back on those we have lost.

Although I was always aware of breast cancer and conscious of the many ways my friends and acquaintances have been affected by the disease, it wasn’t until Lauren that I felt personally touched. Since then, there have been a string of diagnoses, a bunch of surgeries, a lot of remission, and a few really tough funerals. But, those are other stories. I want to tell you about Lauren and how she continues to inspire me.

Lauren was like a Disney princess — her beautiful singing voice perfectly complemented her gentle heart that was apparent to anyone who met her. She led the weekly baby music class for a room full of sleep-deprived moms and drooling infants. It was no surprise that my son lit up whenever he saw her, regardless of how much of a jerk he was being just mere moments before. For me, maternity leave was like living through a battle, yet Miss Lauren’s weekly class was my moment of respite; a place where I could just wave around silk scarves with reckless abandon hoping to “developmentally stimulate” Huddy so he would take a nap on the way home. Her class was a place to complain to fellow moms, get advice, and tear up while singing “You Are My Sunshine.”

Shortly after getting married, Lauren’s dreams came true when she found out she was pregnant, and then, just as suddenly, her world came crashing down when she found a lump in her breast a few weeks later.

Lauren was eight weeks pregnant when she learned she had breast cancer. She was a true warrior, doing the impossible, enduring chemo while also dealing with morning sickness. Her maternity photoshoot was for the American Cancer Society. Not quite what she had planned, but she persevered with grace and dignity, sacrificing herself for the magical little baby thriving inside of her, ultimately giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

Lauren went into remission until she wasn’t. When I learned that she had passed, it didn’t seem real.  This wasn’t supposed to happen. She had a baby boy who deserved to know her.

Every time I have one of those days when I am just not feeling it, like on a rainy Sunday afternoon, trying to wrangle a manic little boy while hungover from last night’s wine, I think of Lauren. Those days when I just want to crawl under the covers and watch a Bravo marathon instead of “momming,” I think of how Lauren would have given anything to spend a rainy afternoon with her little boy. I think of how she would sing and dance and kiss his cheeks. It’s in these moments that I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I get to be here. I get to do this. I get to be a mom to this incredible (albeit slightly muddy) little human.  It doesn’t mean that a switch suddenly flips, and I morph into Supermom, ready to take Huddy’s baseball team on an ice cream run, but I do, even if it’s just for a moment or two,  honor Lauren and all the other mothers out there who would have given anything to stay here and keep hugging their babies, and I hug mine extra tight for them.

“Want to go splash in puddles, Buddy?” I asked, determined to make the best of a rainy day.

“Yes!! Clothes or no clothes?” he asks, excitement bubbling up.

Okay. Moment passed.

A few months ago, I ran into Lauren’s husband and their little boy at a museum. I recognized them from afar, and I had an overwhelming urge to go up to them and say something. I kept my eye on them, trying to muster up some courage, probably looking like a total creep. I wanted to tell her husband how much Lauren has affected me; how she continues to help me see through the fog to what’s really important.

“Hi, I recognized the little guy,” I said, waving awkwardly. “I knew Lauren from music class, and I just wanted to let you know that I think of her often.”

He smiled. “Lots of people tell me that.”

“So, does the kiddo show any musical inclinations?” I laugh as her precious little boy grabs my son by the hand and drags him over to a pile of magnetic blocks.

“Oh yeah!” Lauren’s husband chuckles. “He starts singing, and it never seems to stop!”

“That’s Lauren in him, huh?”

“Yeah, I think so.” He nods.

I knew then that her little boy does know her. How could he not? She is in his heart and in his song.

So, thank you, Lauren.  You have been my inspiration during some of my darkest mom moments. May you keep singing, and never stop.

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FYI: A Life Coach Is NOT A Therapist

Adulting is hard. Varying circumstances mean some people have it harder than others, but there is no way to get through this life without difficulty. Family members, friends, and even social media personalities can offer us guidance, comfort, and support. Sometimes just talking to another human makes the hard parts feel more manageable. Problems may not be solved, but transforming thoughts into words can make them feel less big and scary.

When I was 19, I needed someone more unbiased and better equipped than a friend to help me manage my struggles so I went to an on-campus therapist. If I would have had access back then to social media as it is now, I would have seen sponsored posts on my news feeds for a life coach. There is a good chance I would have consulted one.

I have worked with coaches and mentors my whole life, and because of the shame I felt around the need to see a therapist, I probably would have been tempted to try anything but a mental health professional. I didn’t see therapy as a healthy way to feel better so I could have stronger and more meaningful relationships. I focused instead on the fact that I thought I was broken and couldn’t fix myself. I was never actually broken, but I needed a lot of help, and I am so glad I got it from doctors.

A life coach can be beneficial, but do not confuse their position: A life coach is not a therapist.

I have been in therapy for 21 years, and nearly 15 of those years have been with the same psychotherapist. My time spent in therapy has been supported by a psychiatrist too. I have a mental health team that supports me, pushes me, and cares for me in a way that helps me reach my goals and live my best life while learning how to make my day-to-day existence make sense based on past experiences. I trust and respect my therapists, and I highly recommend everyone see a therapist at least once in their lifetime. I expect mine to help me, even cheer me on at times, but I do not consider them coaches.

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Before a therapist can be of service to a patient or client, they must complete years of education and training. They become licensed professionals with standards and a code of ethics they are required to maintain. Therapists are mental health providers who are held accountable through federal and state regulations.

Some coaches may be a part of the International Coach Federation (ICF), but a life coach does not need to meet any of the above requirements to start advertising themselves as a professional. Other than their own code of ethics, a life coach does not have to adhere to any set of rules. Nor do they have to have formal training or several degrees.

Now, I am not saying that life coaches are frauds. I don’t think they are. In fact, depending on what you need or want to achieve, a life coach can be a great fit for helping you reach your personal and professional growth goals. Some coaches, like some therapists, can help reduce stress, trouble-shoot issues in your life, and give you the confidence to make changes to be a happier and more productive person. A life coach can be therapeutic, but their services are not therapy.

A therapist digs deeper and helps you understand the reasons behind your fear, panic, depression, anxiety, and relationship problems. A life coach may be able to use different tools to ease some of the discomfort, but for intensive self-care and growth to happen, you need someone more qualified to break down the different connections being made in your brain. Therapists understand how a person’s past influences their present and future. They also know when to call a spade a spade and are able to give a proper diagnosis that could be used to prescribe psychiatric drugs—which should not be taboo either.

There is nothing wrong with you if you need help finding clarity. I have been on both sides of this. I was a high school rugby coach for several years, and while this is not the same as a life coach, I did offer life lessons to my players. I was their biggest fan. I was their teacher, disciplinarian, and their safe place. I was a mentor, friend, stand-in parent, and trusted confidant. But I never felt comfortable giving advice that was outside of my empathy wheelhouse. It wasn’t my place to act as anyone’s therapist, and it would have been irresponsible for me to attempt to do so.

A therapist, however, can also be a life coach. The relationship I have with my therapist has always been professional, but I want to make her proud too. And when she gets passionate about something I am breaking through, I feel seen and cared for. She knows the 20 years of bullshit from my childhood and early adulthood. She has the ability to not only listen, but to understand how that bullshit frames my decisions. She gives tangible and researched solutions and suggestions. She also sees through my attempts to not do the work and will adjust the game plan accordingly so I can still be successful on my journey to mental wellness.

I have no doubt that a life coach can get a person to a place of peace, organization, and focus. But there are limitations to what they can do, depending on the needs of the person who requests their services. When seeking help, the goal is to find a person you trust and feel safe to be vulnerable with.

It’s important to be honest with yourself too. A life coach may be able to improve your life, but a therapist might be what you need to save it.

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I Used To Hate Smug Moms Of Older Kids — But Now I Am One

I’d see them walking past the playground but never actually on it. They’d be out and about with their upper elementary or middle school-aged children seemingly without a care in the world. Or they’d be laughing with another SMOK friend while their children ran ahead or lagged behind.

They weren’t pushing strollers. They weren’t holding anybody’s hand crossing the street. They weren’t rooting through a diaper bag for a Band Aid or tissue. They were unencumbered, apart from maybe a stylish tote with a baguette peeking out of it. They were Smug Moms of Older Kids (SMOKs, I dubbed them) and I hated them.

If I got close enough, I could hear that they were having actual conversations with their children. These were no toddler-tantrum negotiations or numbingly boring uh-huh type exchanges, the sorts of which I was mired in; the SMOKS were talking animatedly with their articulate children about a Broadway show they’d seen or a school project a child was doing without parental assistance or even, wait for it…the news.

I’d watch them walk past while I was half-heartedly pushing a swing (“Pump your legs!”) and talking about dumb preschool drama (“I’m sure you’ll all be friends again tomorrow!) and I’d want to Go Go Squeeze my eyeballs out. Sometimes, I’d make eye contact with a SMOK. I’d try to shake the veggie sticks crumbs from my hair or sneak on some lip gloss—“I’m hideous! Look away!”—but I’d also think, “Yeah, good for you, lady. You’re children are aging. Well done.”

Can you hear my slow sarcastic clap?

Clap. Clap. Clap.

Oh, how I loathed these moms!

Oh, how I envied them!

Through no fault of their own, they were simply women who’d set out on their motherhood journey years before I had (at an “advanced maternal age”). And now these SMOKs had arrived at a destination I longed to live in—a place where they never had to share a bathroom stall again. A place where everybody knew how to blow their own nose and could get their own breakfast and snacks. A tantrum-free zone where no one had to go to bed doing basic affirmations like, “I’m still me! I’m still a person!”

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When you’re in the trenches of motherhood, it’s hard to remember that sometimes.

You are still you! Still a person!

I’m pushing 50—not strollers—now. My children are (almost) 9 and 12. And I’ve become, somewhere along the way, the very sort of SMOK I so despised all those years ago. If I see you, Mother of a Small Child (MOSC), in a public restroom changing a diaper, I’ll avert my eyes because…gross. If I see you and your snotty toddler in a coffee shop, I will choose a seat as far away from you as is humanly possible. It’s a weird sort of reversal of the ole “There but for the grace of god go I” feeling. Because I’ve been there.

Maybe you’re loving your life with small children! Maybe you look at me—and you may even see me out in the neighborhood by myself because I’ve left my children home alone!—and think how lucky you are that your offspring are precious sticky littles who require you for pretty much everything. Maybe you love cutting grapes in half and wiping butts that are not your own. Maybe you see me and think I must be lonely when my children are both off hanging out with friends (SMOKS don’t use the word “playdate” anymore) and that I probably spend a lot of time thinking about menopause…and maybe I do!

But wow do I like being able to send my 12-year-old to the store. I like not having to hire a babysitter if my husband and I want to pop out for a quick dinner, just the two of us. I like weekend afternoons where it’s possible to pick up a book and read for an hour—just me, a book of my choosing. I like never having to go to another playground again just to try to burn up a day. I love hearing about all the cool things my kids are doing in the world without me and telling them about what I’ve been up to, too.

For some moms, I think loving the phase you’re in is a coping mechanism. And if it that works, then great, but it didn’t really work for me back on the playground. And I think it’s also okay to finally admit that I’m more suited for this job than I was for that one. Maybe that’s why the SMOKs always bothered me so much. They had something I wanted. And it wasn’t the baguette.

I have a lot of SMOK friends now. On occasion, one of them catch a whiff of a baby and say something ridiculous like, “I wish we could go back.” And I’ll say, “No you don’t” and she’ll say, “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t.”

That’s what we’re laughing about when we walk past the playground.

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