To Our Friends In The Facebook Memories

It has happened several times. I’m mindlessly scrolling through Facebook (with a full sink and inbox) when I come across a girl that looks vaguely familiar. Like an actor I once saw in a movie but cannot place. Occasionally I even look at her name before I realize what I’m seeing: the Facebook memory of a mom friend – a friend I’ve only known during her momhood. And she apparently looked quite different eight years ago.

Stumbling upon these gems is the best. As mothers of young children, we are constantly meeting other mothers – all of us with bags over our shoulders and under our eyes. We swap stories of sleepless months, diaper rash, meltdowns in Target and our kids’ meltdowns in Target. Our lives are dull to anyone not with us in the trenches. And we recognize that as we text each other sleep training articles that never work. We know and accept each other as exhausted, disheveled, over-extended moms.

To The Girls In The Facebook Memories: woman and man posing for photo
Courtesy of Alicia MacNorth

And then we see her – our mom friend 10 years ago. At a college party. Red solo cup in hand. Hair freshly washed, flat ironed to oblivion with the flash from someone’s Canon Powershot reflecting off the shine. She is fun and beautiful and her only care is whether or not she’ll bother waking up for her 9am lecture the next morning. Or maybe she’s backpacking through Thailand with amazing friends. Or presenting her thesis on T cell regulation in her PhD program we didn’t even know she completed, looking polished and brilliant. Whatever she’s doing, she looks nothing like the woman with dried yogurt smeared across her fleece that we sit next to every Tuesday in story time.

To The Girls In The Facebook Memories: women posing for photo
Courtesy of Alicia MacNorth

These relics of the past are delightful and significant. Telling glimpses into the person our friend once was – and more importantly still is.  And just because that point in our lives is hard to remember and now seems inconsequential (why were we all wearing tiny vests?) – the girls in those photos are important. They are reminders that our friends are interesting humans with a lot to offer the world and so are we.

And as for the physical changes since bringing life into the world? Bring them on. It is not a tragedy that she is no longer a size 4 (or let’s be real, in my case a size 10). Women are supposed to look different. We have given ourselves over to small creatures who demand our body, brain and soul all day every day. Does that mean that occasionally our eyes, which were once vibrant and inquisitive, now look like dead shark eyes before our second cup of coffee? Maybe! Are our jaw lines a little less Ariel and a little more Ursula these days? Might be! We look different because we are different. And we owe zero apologies.

To The Girls In The Facebook Memories: women posing for photo
Courtesy of Alicia MacNorth

Back to the girl in the Facebook memories. Should she be overlooked because she’s carefree and looks good in ridiculously low cut jeans? No. The journey she’s on in those photos led her to the place she is today. Maybe back then she’d already found her future partner. Or maybe she’s having a wild time playing the field. (Tinder wasn’t on the scene yet, but we still managed.) Either way, she’s figuring out how to be loved and how to love. She is young, but she is making decisions that will shape the marriage and/or relationships her kids now depend on.

And the professional goals she was striving for all those years ago still can exist amid a sea of goldfish crackers and crayons. Maybe she actually has to leave the office at five or put her career on hold completely – either way, her ambition and knowledge are still there. Even if some days she herself can’t access it.

So do not disregard these beautiful young versions of our friends and ourselves who pop up on social media. They are amazing. Those girls rocking velour track suits and sticky lip gloss became the women we lean on and look to today. However, don’t look at them too longingly. Simply let them remind us who we were and who we still are.

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Twitter Thread Shows How We’re Eating Salads All Wrong

Let’s talk about salads. It’s hard to feel lukewarm about salads — you either love them or you hate them. But they are very universal. You can have a salad as a side or a full meal. When it comes to making one, the possibilities are endless. Few foods are quite as adaptable as the salad. In spite of this, a lot of people still find salads boring. They lack a certain something that allows them the respect they deserve. Perhaps it’s because people don’t put enough care into their salad-making process. A recent viral Twitter thread really nails the ways we can elevate our salads to the next level.

Twitter user Elan Gale gets pretty real about why people don’t like salads. It’s not because they’re inherently boring as a meal. Really, it’s because people aren’t making an effort. If you want your salad to be delicious, you have to put in the time to make it so. Just throwing some salad dressing on a bed of lettuce and adding a veggie or two does not a salad make.

Gale’s first point is a big one. Many salad ingredients don’t have a lot of flavor on their own. If you’re going to add something like tomatoes or cucumbers, you want to hit them with a little salt or pepper to enhance the flavor. An avocado, which is deliciously bland, needs some citrus. Hit it with a squeeze of lemon juice if you don’t want the flavor overpowered.

While what you put in your salad is important, so is your base. Lettuce is important, people! Iceberg lettuce is the equivalent of giving up. No one who cares about themselves uses iceberg lettuce. If you’re doing the bare minimum, go with romaine. But like Gale points out, you can mix it up. Arugula is a little lemony and peppery. Frisee is nice too. Spinach also makes a great salad base or mix.

Not everyone likes spice. Radishes are more mild than a jalapeno. They add a little peppery kick to spice up your salad. Plus a little crunch! If you’re not a fan of spice, try something pickled. The acidity and vinegar from the brine really does add a little something different to your salad. Same with herbs. You may wonder why you need additional greenery after lettuce, but seriously — try it. Parsely, cilantro, dill, and mint are great ones to start with. Basil or scallion are also excellent additions.

CHEESE. You definitely need some sort of cheese. As Gale points out, shredded mozzarella on a salad is boring and bland. He recommends Feta, which is a good option but maybe a little too salty for some people. Goat cheese would also be a delicious option. Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano add a nutty undertone. If you’re going to use a mozzarella type, use Burrata! It’s creamy and delicious and will soak up all the wonderful flavors.

Gale is right — dressing is an important factor. It’s easy to just drown everything in Ranch dressing and call it a day. But then you’re masking all the beautiful delicious salad flavors. Good olive oil, a nice vinegar (balsamic, red wine, or apple cider are great vinegar options), maybe a squeeze of a bright citrus. A little minced garlic also goes a long way. If you choose to make your own dressing, you need an emulsifier to tie it all together. He suggests horseradish, but again, spice. A nice mustard is always a more broadly appealing option.

One important thing he forgets is texture. Crunchy veggies aren’t enough. You need some good crunch, maybe a little smoothness. Croutons are a safe, albeit boring option. Try nuts like almonds and walnuts or sunflower seeds. Want to up the health factor? Flaxseeds. Add dried cranberries for a little sweetness and chewiness. Maybe use peeled orange or grapefruit segments. Don’t be afraid to add red pepper flakes for a little heat. Try olives if you want a little saltiness that won’t overwhelm flavor. Lentils, black or kidney beans add some different textures as well.

Salads don’t have to be boring. If you take the time to put a little care into them, you’ll find they’re actually quite delicious. They’re one of the few foods you can experiment with and not have it go completely wrong. It’s all about trying new things and seeing what tastes best for you.

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One Italian Town Had Wine Pouring From Its Faucets Instead Of Water

Unfortunately, it only lasted a couple of hours

Italy isn’t a country at the top of many people’s vacation lists right now, but what if we told you there was actual red wine pouring from faucets instead of water? Would that change your mind?

It’s not the work of Jesus Christ himself but a “technical malfunction” at the Setticani winery near the Castelvetro area of Modena in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region that had residents filling up their pitchers with a nice Lambrusco instead of water. The malfunction was caused by a faulty valve in the washing circuit within the bottling line which seeped through the town’s waterline.

Unfortunately, as with all good things, the wine on tap was short-lived. The glitch lasted about three hours and impacted about 20 homes, said Giorgia Mezzacqui, deputy mayor of Castelvetro. But the malfunction did mean those lucky residents got about 1,000 liters of ready-to-be-bottled wine straight from source-to-faucet. It’s like farm-to-table — but better.

 

The incident may not have lasted long, but it provided a brief respite for residents thinking non-stop about the coronavirus, which has hit northern Italy the hardest. “At a time where we have very little to smile about, I’m glad we brought some levity to others,” Mezzacqui told CNN. “Hopefully, some day, they’ll remember us and will want to come visit us.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be great if you were, say, doing a load of washing at the time, but coming out your kitchen faucet straight into a bottle, now that’s the stuff dreams are made of. One could even argue taking a shower when it happened wouldn’t be too shabby either. Sure, you wouldn’t be able to collect it (well, except for in your mouth), but it would make for the world’s most relaxing shower ever.

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The local water board sent out technicians as quickly as possible (good for the winery, bad for residents), but not before families had “bottled as much of the precious liquid as they could to enjoy later at a lunch or dinner along with other typical Modenese specialities,” according to the Gazetta di Modena.

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The coronavirus outbreak has paralyzed and disrupted economic and social life in Italy, particularly in Castelvetro, a popular destination for food and wine enthusiasts coming to visit from across the globe. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, 80 percent of tourism destinations in the region have had cancellations, Mezzacqui said. Today, Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the governing coalition’s Democratic Party announced that he had contracted the virus. “Well, it’s arrived; I also have the coronavirus,” The New York Times reported.

We could all use moments of levity like this right about now. If they could come in wine form, even better.

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It’s Important To Take The Time To Compliment People

I go to the local McDonald’s every morning to get caffeinated and start working. It gets me out of the house and helps me avoid urges to dust the overhead lights when I have a project due. I know everyone there and they know me as the “author” who sits by the window pounding away at the keyboard.

I walked in the other day and saw a woman behind the counter I’d never seen before. She was nervous and slow. It was obviously her first day —  I know this because I’m there every damn day. Also, she was doing a hell of a lot better than I ever would behind the register at a fast food joint. My head is spinning just thinking about it. 

As she handed me my cup, I noticed her nails. They were long and pink. She was killing that long, oval manicure that was adorned with gold gems; something I’d never be able to carry off, but wish I could.

“You are doing a great job,” I told her. I went on to tell her I liked her nails and then stopped myself thinking I needed to tone down my extra-ness. But as soon as someone came up behind me and starting lighting into her that they had ordered a sausage, egg, and cheese instead of the bacon and egg sandwich they had received, in a tone so rude it made the manager stop and pause to gain composure before he handled it, I blurted out, “Your nails look amazing.”

She smiled at me and I could see her start to breathe again. We then talked for a few minutes about our favorite places to get our nails done and how she was going to try leopard-painted nails next.

I try to do this as often as I can — compliment complete strangers when I see something I like. I need to do it more though. I know it can take my mood and lift it right up. I’ve seen it give people that extra pep they need to make it through the day. 

We’ve all had second thoughts about doing our hair before we leave the house because it seems like no one notices anyway. Then, when someone does say they like our hair, it’s validating and puts a smile on our face at the very least.

It’s not about being vain or caring what others think, but it does us all good to hear about the positive things others see in us. We can often have a hard time seeing to our own good qualities, and compliments from others can radiate into our own minds. 

In fact, it happened to me yesterday when I went to an appointment. I felt like I’d been looking so awful and tired lately. I gave myself a quick glance before I got out of the car and I felt self-conscious about the way I looked. 

But, as soon as I walked to and saw the beautiful (much younger) blonde greet me, she told me how great my skin looked. “Your skin tone is so even and glow-y.”

I told her she looked young, healthy, and vibrant. We both felt better after I left; I could feel it in the energy we exchanged. 

I’ve realized during my time on earth people are so quick to criticize others. They are so fast to point out our shortcomings– not just to strangers but to those they know. It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction and it’s gotten to the point where people don’t think about their delivery or how it might affect someone else if they speak to them in a way that disregards their feelings. It seems like nothing to lay on your horn to the car in front of you, or get pissed at the waitress for getting your order wrong. 

But letting someone know you like their dress? That doesn’t come as easy, does it?

We may not understand someone else’s struggles or even know about them. We may not know a lot (or a single thing) about their life. We may not know why they are rude to us for simply being in a certain place at a certain time.

But we do know this: Compliments are for everyone. They take nothing from us but a few seconds. They have the power to transform someone’s day or week. They not only make the person receiving them feel good, they can make the person giving them feel good, too.

We are all constantly listening to the negative voice that lives within our heads because, as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “The bad stuff is easier to believe.”

That’s true for all of us. Remember that when you feel too busy to tell someone you like their earrings or how they are wearing their hair. Even during the moments you think your kind words won’t matter, they will.

You could be the reason their negative voice is calmed for a bit and make their entire day.  

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Stop Sh*tting All Over Someone Else’s Joy

You’ve heard the saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, more people need to take that to heart. When sharing your opinions, specifically the ones no one is asking for, pause for a minute. Consider if voicing your opinion makes you sound like an asshole. It’s really easy to make someone feel bad with an unnecessarily judgey or mean comment. If you don’t like something, it costs nothing to just keep quiet. Don’t rain on someone else’s happiness parade.

Obviously, not everyone likes the same things. That’s great! In fact, it’s nice to have people in your life who like different things than you. What’s not nice is when someone who doesn’t like what you like has to be an asshole about it. There is never a reason to make a person feel bad about what they like because you don’t. That shit isn’t cool, nor is it necessary. If you don’t like something, there is nothing better than to just keep your mouth shut.

For much of my life, I’ve loved things that people love to make fun of. When I was younger, it bothered me that my friends would give me shit about liking things they didn’t. But as I got older, it started to affect me less. After a while you just get used to it. Doesn’t mean that I’m not bothered by it, but I’ve learned to accept it. What bothers me is that people can’t keep their mouths shut. Just because I like the musical Cats and Harry Styles, doesn’t mean you have to. All it means is you can respect that I like it. Don’t rain on my parade just because you think what I like is basic.

It doesn’t take anything to not be a jerk about what the people you know are into. Chances are they’ve already heard whatever comment you’re going to make before. Shockingly, people are not particularly original when they’re mocking what others love. But there’s only so many times you can make fun of something before you’re hurting someone’s feelings.

I don’t like Star Wars or anything relating to it. Nothing about the franchise (except for Baby Yoda) appeals to me. But a ridiculous amount of people in my life are obsessed with Star Wars. They all get so excited about every facet of that fandom. Since it’s not something I’m into, it’d be easy for me to constantly shit on their love for it. But because I’m not a total douchebag, I don’t rain on their happiness. Actually, I think it’s sweet they have something they love.

Social media has given people the belief that everyone cares what you think. Having spaces like Facebook and Twitter to voice our endless stream of opinions means people are constantly seeing them. And when you’re engaging in that manner with other people’s opinions, you place more value on your own. Especially because we live in a world where we seek validation from likes. Sometimes people forget that not everyone needs to hear their hot take. Especially if it’s only invalidating someone else’s feelings.

Don’t wreak havoc on someone else’s comment section simply because it’s not something you enjoy. If you see someone’s post about You and you think the show is trash, don’t tell them that. It may make you feel like hot shit for a few minutes, but what did it accomplish? Chances are, you leaving your trash opinion just made your friend feel bad. And even if it didn’t make them feel bad, they’re likely not happy with you. They were just looking for a space to talk about something they enjoy. Maybe they’re looking to find other friends who watch a show to talk with. So don’t bring your unsolicited opinions into their space if you don’t have anything nice to say.

Really, it doesn’t cost anything to be kind. It won’t hurt you to not share your opinions if you see something you don’t like. Who cares if Susan shares a cute video of baby raccoons and you think those loveable little trash pandas are vermin? Obviously Susan loves raccoons and doesn’t really need you to come in and talk about how they all carry rabies. Don’t rain on Susan’s joy that only watching a video of raccoons eating bananas can bring. Why would you intentionally bring down Susan’s good mood by being a judgy ass raincloud? Don’t be that asshole, seriously.

Here’s a novel concept: if you see something you don’t like, you can just keep scrolling. Yes, it feels like a ridiculous idea, but hear me out. Not everything is about you, and sometimes your thoughts are best left in your head. I don’t make the rules here, but it feels that this isn’t something that should be shocking. Keeping your opinions to yourself when they’re not being asked for isn’t hard to do. It’s only hard if you refuse to acknowledge other people’s feelings. Especially when you’re coming into their space. If you wouldn’t talk shit about that thing if you were face to face with the person you’re disparaging, don’t do it online.

It’s so easy to not be an asshole about things that aren’t directly affecting your life. Whether it be my love for Cats or Susan’s racoon videos, they’re things that spark joy. But if they don’t spark joy in you, don’t rain on our parade. You’re entitled to your wrong opinion, but keep it somewhere where I don’t have to see it. No one wants to feel attacked by their “friends” because they like something like ridiculous musicals or furry scavengers. Just let Susan enjoy her fucking trash pandas. Stop being that jerk.

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If Someone Has Something In Their Teeth, Tell Them

I was walking into my favorite restaurant last spring to meet a friend for lunch. It’s one of those places that serves everything from rabbit to brick oven pizza, and it looks like  Joanna Gaines decorated it herself. It’s my happy place and all I could think about was the taste of the balsamic, glazed chicken and a glass of wine when I walked in. I was starving and could practically taste the food as I saw my friend already seated. However, something had me seriously distracted.

I couldn’t help but notice a lady in front of me standing in the lobby, digging through her purse. I loved her jeans and, upon a second glance, I noticed an inspection sticker on her left cheek.

I had to physically stop myself from pulling it off for her. I’m a mom and that’s just what we do. But it’s also not fun to tell someone— especially a stranger— they have an inspection sticker on their butt.

I didn’t especially want to tell her she had a white circle on her patootie. I would have rather gotten the jean info and ordered that wine ASAP but, instead, I set aside the awkwardness, leaned in close and told her. Because let’s face it, if you let someone walk around with an inspection sticker on their butt — or an unblended blob of make up on their face or spinach in their teeth, for that matter — you’re kind of an asshole. You’re putting your feelings of comfort before theirs.

She was so relieved I told her. This woman, who looked fabulous by the way, was on her first blind date in decades. Decades. She was a nervous wreck and was so thankful I told her there was a white sticker with the number 125 stuck on her booty. That’s right, I’m just out here doing the Lord’s work.

It takes some effort and can be a bit uncomfortable to tell someone they have their zipper down, something in their teeth, or their skirt tucked into their hose, but for fuck’s sake, tell them!

I don’t care if you don’t know them, are never going to see them again, or they don’t look approachable. The decent thing to do is to not let them walk into any more potentially embarrassing social situations that could have been avoided.

That little twinge of putting yourself out there and bringing it to the person’s attention takes about two seconds, and you are saving them from a day’s worth of embarrassment.

If you’re keeping it to yourself that the cashier has toilet paper stuck to her nose, or your coworker appears to have only filled in one eyebrow, you should take a look at your manners.

They obviously don’t know and they are the ones who will have to wonder how long they’ve been walking around with salad stuck to their teeth, not you. 

If you’re keeping it to yourself and staring just because you don’t want to embarrass them, there’s a way to do it so no one else will hear. Pass them a note, whisper, point to your zipper, whatever. Just do something. They’ll get the point.

Maybe their cheeks will redden for a moment, but they’ll be thankful you’re looking out for them and not turning a blind eye and going about your day.

If you were walking out of the restroom with toilet paper on your shoe or your dress caught up in your spanx, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you as soon as fucking possible? Yes. Yes, you would.

Or would you rather walk around the grocery store and see silent stares that scream, “Thank god I’m not you right now”? No. No, you would not.

My point is, we’ve all been oblivious to things that are happening to our face or body. I once had a friend meet me at the park and she drove up and had a tick stuck to her forehead. A tick. It was engorged and I had to help her pull it off so, it had been there a while.

She’d just been at the store before we met and said the lady in front of her kept turning around and looking at her, but never told her. I mean, she found out as soon as I took one look at her and screamed in horror, but she could have known soon if someone let her in on it. In this case, telling her wasn’t just saving her from further embarrassment; it could have actually saved her from Lyme disease.

Come on, let’s be decent. Tell someone if they’ve got something going on you know they wouldn’t like. It’s called human decency.

But if you can’t pull yourself out if your own selfishness and let them in on it because it’ll put you out too much, remember karma works in mysterious ways. It’ll be no time before you are walking around with a clump of dryer lint in your hair, or a hanger in your nose so big people across the room can see it.

Do the right thing and take a moment to tell someone (quietly) if they’ve got something extra going on that would upset them if they were to spot it in the mirror at the end of the day.

Humans shouldn’t let humans walk around with stuff in their teeth or hanging out their nose, period.

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I Don’t Drink, But We Can Still Be Friends

I had a drinking problem. I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit it. After years of binge drinking, hangovers, and all around unattractive behavior, I gave it up. Ten years ago I took my last sip of beer and my final drag of a cigarette. Sober life suits me. I’m a mother of four and don’t really have room for alcohol in my life. But just because it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it’s not OK for you.

For some people, my sobriety makes them uncomfortable. Just because I don’t have a wine glass in my hand, they think I’m judging them. That’s simply not true. I don’t care what other people do. Alcohol is fun. Alcohol is relaxing. And some of it is downright tasty. Happy hour after a long work week is a great release. I love that release too, I just have it with a Diet Coke instead of a Chardonnay. Trust me, I can still talk and laugh and gossip with the best of them even without a cocktail.

There is another huge benefit of being friends with a non-drinker. I will quickly volunteer to be the designated driver. I’m not being pushy, or bossy, or holier-than-though, I’m just in a better position to drive. Let me! And go ahead and imbibe and have a fun night away from your troubles and relax. I’m happy to do it.

I promise, I’m not judging you. I also don’t just assume that you get wasted every day because you drink in front of me from time to time. But I will probably be the first to tell you if I think you’ve had enough. I definitely will be the one who takes your keys or calls you an Uber. I love and care about you.

I want to spend time with you. I want to be invited to girls’ night out. I’d love to come to your party and make great memories with our friends. I look forward to my family’s annual Pig Roast and opening my home to our family and friends even if I’m not tapping the keg. Don’t think that if you’re invited to my house I won’t serve you a cocktail. I promise we will have plenty of booze and delicious food and friendship. Our parties are just like everyone else’s.

I’m not better than you because I don’t drink. My laundry is piled up in the mud room just like yours and I still yell at my kids. I’m like your other friends, and I want to be accepted as so, that’s it. So let’s ditch our husbands and our kids and head to that cute new wine bar. My only request is that you let me pick you up and that they’ve got plenty of Diet Coke on hand.

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I’m Probably The Only Person Who Prefers Calls To Texts

I’m a ’90s baby, and there’s something really special about that. I grew up making mud pies in the backyard, rolling down hills despite the bumps and bruises I would definitely feel later in the day, and riding bikes in my neighborhood with kids from around the block so long as my hiney was inside before the street lights started glowing. On the other hand, and in what feels like a parallel universe, I also grew up with the sudden boom of technology — cell phones, texting, and internet being easily accessible in the palm of nearly everyone’s hands.

I guess you could say that I had the best of both worlds, but if we were to talk about the old soul that is me, I miss the simplicity of the one that came first.

Don’t get me wrong — the technological advancements of the modern world are nothing short of astounding. Technology literally saves lives. It has advanced, and continues to advance, the human race in ways we never thought possible, and it encourages a healthy connection with loved ones despite the miles that may separate us. It brings joy in the little ways, too, like finding old friends on Facebook you thought you’d lost forever, and having a portable alarm clock, calculator, radio, and GPS all rolled up into one handheld device instead of dragging along many (the good Lord knows I can’t read a map to save my life).

Still, I miss the raw connection we used to have with one another before the buzz of this digital age. My heart may not be aching to bring back the long, twisty and always-to-be-tripped-over phone cord that came with a landline, but I miss sitting at the kitchen table taking my phone calls and hearing about someone else’s day. I miss hearing that continuous ring during dinner and letting it roll over to the answering machine to pick up later. And I miss saying, “Let me call you back at nine when this phone call is free.”

Courtesy of Caila Smith

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but as of right now, I have 121 unread text messages in my phone’s inbox. Why, you might ask? Because this millennial genuinely hates texting. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to feel this way. Unlike most others in my generation, this should sort of be my “thing.” Along with the other social platforms I should have down pat like TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram… but these things just aren’t for me.

My texts pop up with a preview of the message on my phone, and I’m able to see those as long as my kids haven’t robbed me of my iPhone to watch endless hours of Blippi or monster truck YouTube clips. So it’s not like I’m out here blissfully ignoring anyone and everyone who might be trying to get ahold of me. But in my opinion, a text message just doesn’t feel personal enough. Maybe I was born in the wrong era, but I’d rather talk on the phone with one of my friends or family members than guess their tone through words on a screen.

I want to hear their voice — really hear it — so that I may discern the mood that’s set the stage for their day. Then, I want to ask them about their day… the good, the bad, and the boring, all of those miniscule details nobody takes the time to share through a text message. And above all, I don’t want my loved ones bullshitting me through a rough season by covering up their wounds with a smiley face emoji.

Texting is great for some, but it feels to me like an easy way for words to get lost in translation. A simple “OK” can sound so cold, heaven forbid you receive the seemingly passive-aggressive “k” from someone who sucks at making everyday conversation. One word can lead the anxious mind to race toward ten different paranoid thoughts.

When strife does happen and it’s presented in many paragraphs worth of words, doesn’t that feel like a lot of tension and effort for something that could be discussed over the phone in ten minutes? People have hidden their emotions behind a screen for as long as there has been a screen to hide their emotions. As a busy mother of four, that is something I refuse to partake in.

To me, it’s catty and immature. Confrontation between two people isn’t something that should be read, thought on, and tossed around back and forth until someone stops responding. It is something that should be spoken, worked out, and possibly resolved in one setting. From something that was meant to bring unity, and does for so many in a multitude of ways, a brick wall has also been built around the emotions that bring one person closer to another.

Because we are human, there will always be times when a relationship experiences conflict, but I choose to deal with it in a way where I see the most beneficial outcome. I’d rather be open, honest, vulnerable, sad, and apologetic in real-time, not at an overly filtered digital level. I don’t want my words and tone to be misinterpreted.

My relationships are worth that to me.

I’m in the thick of motherhood right now, surrounded in a habitual cycle of sickness, covered in thick layers of snot and toddler tears, and there’s a top knot on my head that I’m almost certain I heard chirps coming from this morning. I can’t tend to my friends and family in the same way I always have and still desire to do so. I can’t always be hyperaware of what’s going on in my loved one’s lives, but I can cater to my friends and family in the next best way I know how to.

Sometimes a little transparency without the filter of a screen is all a relationship needs. And please, don’t @ me if you disagree. I probably won’t get the message anyway.

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What You Don’t Know When You See My ‘Picture Perfect’ Life

My pantry is stunning. I got a set of glass storage containers from my kids for Christmas, and the very next day I went out and bought a few more. There are no bags of chips, pretzels, or boxes of cereal floating about. Everything is in a tight little container setting on freshly painted white shelves. I even painted polka dots on the walls for fuck’s sake.

On the surface, things look wonderful. The reality, however, is far more complex.

While the pictures I sent to my friends left them in awe and they replied with messages like, “How do you do it?” and “Can you come over and help me with mine?” and “You’ve have a real talent,” what they didn’t see was a mother who was missing her children so bad on a Tuesday night because they were with their dad that she spent hours organizing her damn pantry.

They didn’t see the tears and feel my emptiness I was trying so hard to fill. They have no idea how many tissues I went through or that my nose was red and dripping with snot as I scrubbed the shelves.

I like a clean and organized home as much as the next person, but since my divorce, vacuuming, organizing, and finding cute outfits on sale is something I do with a vengeance in hopes to ease the pain of not having my kids with me due to our shared custody arrangement.

Some like alcohol or sugar. Some binge watch reality shows. My buffer is the work of keeping my house and myself looking tidy and ready for a party at any given moment.

My drug of choice is staying busy so I don’t have to sit and think about the “good ol’ days” when we all would have been piled around the kitchen table or watched Wheel of Fortune in a lump on the sofa with random socks and pieces of dog food strewn about on the carpet, when the cleaning could wait until the next day. Or the next.

The strange thing is, back then my life felt clean and organized, because those were the years I didn’t feel the need to look the part of the happy single woman who was doing just fine despite having her marriage fall apart and missing her children so much she was in physical pain.

I’ve tried to fill the cracks of my divorce and the emptiness caused by shared custody with lash extensions and rearranging furniture. I’ve tried to control my tears by browsing online for the perfect pillow set. I have the bandwidth to coordinate my shoes to my cute knit hat before I walk out the door when my kids aren’t here. But I cannot, for the life of me, get rid of this sadness.

Maybe to others who are peeking into my life from the outside, through my Instagram feed, or even my front door, it seems like I have it all figured out.

I don’t.

You want to know what I have? More time without my children. That’s it.

And with that time comes feelings. With those feelings comes a natural reaction to somehow fix the fact I don’t see them everyday.

But no matter how good my outfit makes me feel, or how well put together my living room appears, or how happy a new candle makes me, the unnatural feeling of not being with them every day simply will not relent.

I may have a clean home, but that doesn’t mean I am lucky. I may take the time to get myself dressed and make my hair and nails a priority, but it all comes with a trade-off. You see, I’d take the chipped nails, the roots, the so-called “messiness” again if I could. Those days mean more to me than having gaps in my life where I feel it’s my job to feverishly fill the spaces so I don’t have to feel this angst.

My ex and I don’t miss each other, nor do we want to be married again. But I want to see my kids every single day. And because I don’t, I miss my old life deeply and grieve it every day.

Sometimes it feels like a small twitch. Like when I smell dandelions and think about how my son used to pick them for me. So, I go out and buy new flowers for the table.

Sometimes it feels like a bulldozer. Like when I’m home alone, the house is silent, and I reach for the remote and Wheel of Fortune is staring back and me and the sound of Pat Sajak’s voice hurts my ears because of the memories. So, I gut a whole closet and try to put it back together better than before, all the while telling myself this will help me feel a bit better.

When I feel this pain, I have to move, I have to change something, I have to make something better or prettier.

I know what I’m really doing though: I’m trying to control something, anything. Because I can’t control the fact my kids don’t sleep in their beds every night and I don’t make them meals everyday and I don’t get to reach over and kiss them whenever I want.

I can’t change this turn my life has taken, but I can shampoo the rug. I can paint my nails. I can redecorate the mantle. Because right now, it’s all I know how to do.

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Give Up On A Flat Stomach, Folks — Let’s Celebrate The VBO

You had a baby. Perhaps you had more than one baby. Perhaps, like me, you had several babies. Or maybe you are raising a child you didn’t biologically carry. Or you lost your baby.

Maybe when you got pregnant the first time, you had a flat stomach. Maybe it was perfect, the teenage-dream belly, a flat, perfect plane of skin that ran in one line straight from your breasts to your … you know. Maybe back then you could look straight down and see your … you know … without leaning forward a teensy bit. Maybe you mostly still can, kinda.

But you, very likely, don’t have a flat stomach. Short of surgery, you will probably never have a flat stomach again.

Give. It. Up.

As we say in the South, let go and let God.

And the Lord God, the universe, the flying spaghetti monster, or basic human evolution decided when a woman got pregnant, her stomach would stretch. After this stretching, there would be no need for her body to look the same as it did before. It didn’t need to. She was fine the way she was. So her formerly flat stomach remained somewhat stretched. No longer did she look like she used to; she looked like she’s a mom.

That’s because she is a mom.

So after you have a baby, even if you lost alllllll the baby weight, even if you fasted yourself down to the same weight you had in high school, your stomach will probably  never look the same. It will never tighten up. It will never completely flatten out. Your formerly flat stomach will pooch. It will squish, or sag, or maybe some skin will hang down in weird little wrinkly folds (I have weird little wrinkly folds).

Give it up, folks.

Yeah, you could get surgery to take care of that. And that’s okay. Your body, your choice. But many of us  don’t have the money/time/inclination/desire to do so. We look exactly the way we’re supposed to look. We look like we had a baby.

Make it normal, people. Let’s normalize a VBO. Let’s normalize a belly pooch. Let’s normalize squishy bellies. Because they are normal.

Zachary Reed/Reshot

Stop walking around acting like you’re supposed to look any goddamn different. Stop being ashamed. When you look down at your belly and think, “God, if only I looked …” just shut that shit down. Your body is beautiful and amazing.

They have built an entire industry on making you think that you should have a flat stomach. It’s called “shapewear.” It’s clingy and sweaty and sticky and sometimes makes it hard to breathe, and you tend to bulge out the edges of it. I should know. I wore The Most Popular Of Shapewear for years, come depth of winter or sweltering heat of a Southern summer. I would not allow myself to be seen in public without it. Why? Because if people saw me, they would know I didn’t have a flat stomach.

They knew I didn’t have a fucking flat stomach. I was carting three children everywhere.

Because here’s the other secret: everyone knows you do not have a flat stomach. 

If you are someone who has procreated or is raising kids, we know your stomach is (more than likely) not flat. We know it (more than likely) sags or bags or flops or pouches or pokes or shelves or does one or many of the things that the female stomach does when it’s asked to stretch big enough to accommodate an eight pound human being for a certain period of time. Y’all, think about that baby one more time. Close your eyes. From a sheer that-thing-was-in-my-body point of view, that baby was fucking enormous. It literally shifted your vital organs around for the better part of a year. The whole world knows that.

Once you take the shapewear off, you’re left with the same stomach you had before you put it on. What are you going to do, wear that shit to bed? I sure hope not. You deserve comfort.

“Lose the mummy tummy”? Shut the hell up, tabloids and the Western beauty standards driven by capitalism to make us feel bad about ourselves. Moms have tummies. Period.

A flat stomach might be nice. So would some of those really expensive, weird gadgets in the Williams-Sonoma catalog that you wonder who the hell even seriously contemplates buying. So would a unicorn. A unicorn would be cool. I could hang towels on its horn or something.

A flat stomach is about the same. Pretty to look at, but not necessary. Not necessary to be an amazing human. Not necessary to live your best life.

So, try make your peace with your belly. Look at it. Realize that it will never be the same as before, short of surgical intervention, so you might as well learn to appreciate it for what it is right now. Be less self-conscious. That doesn’t mean you have to wear a crop-top (unless you want to). But you can drop the shame. You don’t have to look like you did before.

You can look like a mom. It’s okay to be a mom. There’s nothing wrong with being a mom. Moms are awesome. So are soft bellies, round bellies, stretch-marked bellies, all the bellies.

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