On Being Mighty

Image courtesy of Nicole Howard

Image courtesy of Nicole Howard

Things have been tough lately. The short story is that I have ADHD, anxiety, and clinical depression and have been entirely unmedicated for the last year. The long story is every blog post I never published, every project that fell through my fingers because I couldn't hold tight enough, and every blank stare from me to anybody who asked why I wasn't writing the funny stuff anymore. 

You know how everybody says that there is no shame in mental illness? That we need to smash the stigma? I agree on the second point, but the first is a tricky one. The truer statement, I think, is that there should be no shame in mental illness. But there is. Hence the stigma. Which we need to smash. 

It's kind of circular, really.

Anyway, I got clearheaded enough this week to figure out that while not being medicated works for some, it does not work for me. I have an entire year of experience behind me now. It's a shitty year. The years before that when I was medicated? Pretty awesome. The years before those years when I was not? Also shitty. 

I see a pattern.

Because Monday is a holiday, I am making calls on Tuesday to try and find a doctor in northern Maine familiar with adult ADHD and comorbid conditions. For now, I want to share one wonderful thing that helped break through the fog. Well, two wonderful things, actually. 

I'm a writing coach when I'm not playing on the internet, and one of my brilliant clients deserves a major shout out. Her name is Nicole Howard and we met last year at the Be Blogalicious conference. I was speaking on an incredible panel with incredible women and Nicole happened be in the audience and liked something that I said and asked me later if I was coaching. I wasn't at the time, but I told her that I'd been thinking about it and needed to set a few things in place and would reach out when I was ready. Spoiler alert: I was not ready for six months, because I was afraid. Because really, who the hell am I to think I am qualified to coach anyone on anything when I can't even remember silly things like where I put my keys or to feed my kid until she threatens to forage for food in the forest (which is not an idle threat, seeing as how the forest is literally just outside the front door). And then I stopped being afraid when I realized that this is exactly why I am not a coach for people who lose their keys all the time or for work at home moms who never have enough time to cook Pinterest-worthy meals while trying to meet deadlines and pay bills. 

That they sometimes forget to pay. 

Yeah, I'd suck at those kinds of coaching. But I'm good at this kind of coaching. I'm good at helping writers get past that mental block telling them that the fear of judgement matters more than the need to share their stories. I am good at helping a writer brain-vomit the rough edges of the story buried within and telling them Good Job But You Can Do Better. I am good at helping smooth out the rough edges and rearranging the puzzle pieces without taking away from the writer's voice. It's their diamond. I just help it shine. 

That's what I do. But there's something my clients do for me. I learn something from each person I work with and for that, I am grateful. Nicole reminded me that my dream isn't going to make itself come true when she told me that one of her bucket list goals was to be published on The Mighty. This, my friends, was coming from a women waiting to see her first byline. I told her that we would work to make this happen. I also decided to submit to The Mighty for myself (then I promptly forgot about it, which really, is probably the best thing that can happen to a writer after hitting send). When my email inbox told me that my essay had been published, I was confused until I realized what I was looking at. The essay was one I needed to see right then, and so it became kind of a meta thing in which Not Depressed Me was reminding Depressed Me of all the good in my life (written while medicated on actual pills and not The Great Outdoors, just so we are clear). And then I was beside myself when Nicole messaged me to tell with a link to her own essay, published the very same day, on the Mighty.

I will not lie. I got teary. I did A Thing that helped another person do A Thing that they wanted to do so very badly with their entire heart. My client did A Thing that made me so very, very proud. 

But that thing that I did? The essay on The Mighty? I thank Nicole for that. That's the thing thing that she did for me. Life is too short to live afraid. 

 

Beautiful in Black & White: My Experience with the 4th Trimester Bodies Project

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

It started with a request to sign a copy of my book. She'd be in the same state, after all, and seeing as how I only live four hours north, maybe I could meet up and we could take a few selfies together to prove we'd inhabited the same physical space after years of conversations in 140 characters and status updates. 

"Of course," was my response. No matter that I would be the one driving the four hours. When you're this far north, hotel rooms and rest stops are just real life if you want to maintain contact with real life. Besides, Target and Starbucks don't exist where I live. If I want you to like me in person, I'm not about to ask you to make a first impression while navigating around Amish buggies and breaking for moose standing in the middle of the roadway. If I had stopped there, if nothing more had come out of my mouth, maybe signing a book and laughing over bad camera angles would be all that had happened. But I didn't. I kept talking. "Maybe I should get naked for you, too."

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos/ Book by Ashlee Wells Jackson.  Click here to purchase.  

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos/ Book by Ashlee Wells Jackson. Click here to purchase. 

There was a chuckle in response. Or, I think there was one. I'm a writer. I hear the rhythm of the voice writing the words that would be spoken if the conversation was a spoken one. I fill in the blanks with facial expressions, uuhhhmmm's and ahhhh's, and the blinks that take up the space around the words I hear in my mind. She chuckled when she read my sentence about getting naked; eyes twinkling, probably. She knows my sense of humor. We've known each other a few years now, at least. "Maybe not naked," she said. "Just down to your bra and panties." 

"Only if you buy me dinner first," I shot back. And she chuckled again and I laughed out loud because I actually did Laugh.Out. Loud. I detest the LOL acronym. I know for a fact my sister never LOL's even though every single text she sends indicates otherwise. When I Laugh.Out.Loud, I actually am. Otherwise, I am merely SWMWME (Smirking While Smiling with my Eyes) or LIMH (Laughing Inside My Head). LOL is like the push up bra of the Facebook world. We all know you're selling us more than you've actually got, so let's drop the act and just call it what it is, okay?

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

It was all in fun. No commitment. Just banter. But then she said "YES" and I knew the yes wasn't about the dinner joke but about the me getting down to my 'chonis thing because, it turns out, my friend, the famed Ashlee Wells Jackson of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, had an opening for her Portland, Maine, shoot, and she was sending me a contract to sign and ... and ... 

Holy...

Shit. 

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

This is what happens when you make a habit of pushing your own boundaries using thinly-veiled sarcasm. There's really no commitment because a No in response to your Maybe I could can be brushed off as a joke and no one gets their feelings hurt. A Yes still comes with an automatic Out because I was Totally Kidding and can quip about how I never let a date get to third base before the third date, at least, because I have fucking STANDARDS. There's alway a moment of pause when the Yes happens. The window of opportunity to wrap my arms around the Thing I Probably Really Want to Do But am Totally Terrified Of is small. Generally, it's understood that I am verbally agreeing, all semblance of general smartassery lost, because Shit Just Got Serious, y'all. 

I'm signing the contract before I have had a chance to process the ramifications, not because I'm an idiot, mind you, but because posing for a shoot in your well-endowed bra and Lane Bryant panties is scary shit, indeed, even for an outspoken body image activist like myself. If I even stop to think, just for a moment, I'm going to Come to my Senses and say But I was Joking and tell the Ashlee's in my life that they'd better give that  open slot to someone else cuz I'm not about to put All of THIS on the internet -- not when my every day is Spanxed and layered and carefully pieced together so as to maintain some semblance of containment and purposeful form. 

Photo credit: Laura Weetzie Wilson

Photo credit: Laura Weetzie Wilson

 

Even after signing the contract, though, I toyed with the idea of backing out. Eliana didn't know it yet, because I needed to come to terms with the Actual Doing before I got her all jazzed up about a mother/daughter photo shoot with a famous and celebrated photographer, but she would be there, with me, celebrating herself as she is next to the mama hoping she was brave enough to do the same. I wrote a book about accepting the bodies we have right here and right now, the scale and Other People's Expectations be Damned. I have a website celebrating our bodies and ourselves in every possible way (which I suck at keeping updated because the aforementioned book takes a lot of time to write and edit and promote upon publication). I am outspoken about my struggles with mental illness - anxiety, depression, ADHD - and my eating disordered past and ever-present body image issues. Once it's a part of your story, it always will be. But until now, I've been able to hide myself behind words and stories that painted pictures for readers to relate to and see themselves in. 

I’m not important enough for media coverage. No need to find the most flattering dress for my shape to talk about my work on daytime TV. No magazine spreads to hope the PhotoShop Fairy I usually hate sprinkles her fairy dust over to maybe make a few bulges here and a few inches there smooth out and disappear. 

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

This is real. Black and white. No tummy-controlling undergaments. No bullshit. 

Period. 

It’s everything I stand for and nothing I’ve been brave enough to make happen. 

Until now.

Before packing up the overnight duffle and looking for a hotel, I told The Husband about the shoot and asked him to check out the 4th Trimester Bodies Project site, and waited for his response. I wasn’t looking for permission, mind you, but maybe I’d been hoping for an excuse to say no. “My Husband is being a giant asshole about this whole thing and I’d just rather not deal with the drama” is way easier to say than “Yeah, I know this is exactly what I stand for, but let’s pass on this round because I’m scared shitless that I won’t see myself as beautiful, okay?” But he only waited for me to tell him why I had directed him to the site to begin with because he knows me and simply nodded when I told him I had been invited to participate in the project. “You know I’d never stop you from doing something like this,” is what he said. So I was left with no way out but through my fear and self-judgement, booked the hotel room, gassed up the truck, told the excited little chingona-in-training what we were doing and why, and listened to her sing Eliana Mercedes Originals all the way to Portland about celebrating our bodies and loving who we are.

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

As we stood in the dressing room at Lane Bryant (because I’m not about to drop my pants for the world unless it’s in brand new undies, my friends), Eliana joked with me about third boobs and very solemnly pointed out the styles of panties and bras she thought fit best and so those are the ones I bought. I mentally patted myself on the back for taking the emotion out of the dressing room and replacing it with logic and reason. My audience was watching my every move and I wasn’t about to taint every future dressing room experience with tears and squished face disgust at what perceived flaws. My todays are building the foundation for her tomorrows, after all, and while I may be far from perfect, I’m working with what I’ve got. 

“Mama,” she asked me while trying on her black leotard at our last stop before we checked in for the night in Portland, “What’s so hard about celebrating our bodies? All we have to do is appreciate what we have.”

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

These are the words I remembered and held onto that night, because I didn't sleep. They are the words I remembered when I stood before Ashlee in nothing but a bra and panties the next day. The words I held onto when she pointed the camera at me and asked me why I was there during the pre-shoot interview. 

“What made you want to participate in this project?” she asked me.

I looked at Eliana, waiting patiently to join me for the session. She smiled at me because she knows I am not as brave as I say I am, and that’s okay. 

 

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jacskon

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jacskon

Looking into my daughter’s eyes, I responded. “Because perfection is photo-shopped. Because self-acceptance is reserved for the finish line. Because you can’t step on the winner’s podium until after you’ve proven your worth until after you’ve stepped on the scale. Every day, I wake up ready to teach myself love the me that I see again. Because this little girl is my reset button. 

Because there was no reason that wasn’t an excuse to say no and every reason that matters to say yes.”

And then we did it. We smiled and we laughed and we posed and celebrated our way through every shot and then again while working with Ashlee to select the image used for the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. There was a headshot. There was a safe image. And then there was the one where I wasn’t shielding myself with my daughter’s body because I’m the one that’s supposed to be on the frontline helping her find her way, dammit. That’s what you see. This is who I am.

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson

We signed books for each other at the end, as planned. We hugged and smiled and selfies and hash-tagged because we don’t know when we will see each other again. I didn’t even make her buy me dinner. 

Later that night, after hours on the road in between errands on the way home, I saw the status update in my Facebook stream indicating that Ashlee had tagged me on her fan page. There were no tears. No self-deprecating tearing apart of the self I saw standing next to the future I am raising. “Look, Eliana! It’s us!”

“We’re beautiful, mama!” She squealed with pride. She beamed. She looked into my eyes, waiting for me to answer the question she would never dare to ask.

“Yes, baby,” I smiled back and met her eyes because I know this will be one of the moments she look back on as she grows and I need her to see that I believed the words I was saying are true. “Yes we are.” 

That Time I Compared Santa to Chocolate

  Photo by Pauline Campos

My sink is full of dirty dishes. The house is not Santa Spotless as is my usual. I have tons of gifts still to send out and even more missing from under my tree. I lost our magic Santa key so I told the child I texted Santa the code to the lockbox we save for dog sitter. I didn't bake one christmas cookie. I only sent out 15 christmas cards. My usual is 50. It's hard work dragging your ass out of bed when there's no other place you'd rather be, what with missing friends and autoimmune hell running the show.( I got an answer, by the way: psoriasis. The rest of that story will have to wait for another post another day.) But it's work that must be done when you're not the star of a one woman show. And my costars demand Christmas cheer and holiday magic. This is good, because I am doing Christmas even though I'd rather be binge watching bad movies and eating too much ice cream. Pretty sure that depressive, self-indulgent luxury is one every person who agrees to cohabitation loses as soon as Yours  becomes Ours. I'm even telling myself the cluttered mess of a house and the dirty dishes are progress because Instead of staying up until 4 am to scrub the house clean just so I could say I did,  I'm leaving them as they are.

Photo by Pauline Campos

My plans include wrapping a forgotten gift, writing a tiny goodbye note from her Christmas elf in sparkly gel pen in teeny tiny writing, and climbing into bed with The Husband and the child who was too excited to sleep, because Obviously Mom, Who Can Sleep On A Night Like This? She can, Obviously and Thankyouverymuch, tucked up between heartbeats that sandwich her own. Its the only sound loud enough, I think, to soothe her into an instant dream.

Photo by Pauline Campos

The dishes can wait. I've got sleepy hugs waiting. This is progress. Santa, like chocolate, understands.

Catching in the Rye (in Spanglish)

If The Catcher in the Rye had a sequel based on a Spanglish-speaking Mexican-American homeschooling, allergic to everything, eating-disordered writer mama of one, I’d be a happy girl. Because then, at least, I could just hand people a copy of the book when they ask how I’m doing.

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

“My cat just got ran over, thanks for asking,” could possibly be the truth, but when people ask other people how they are doing, no one really expects an honest answer if honesty means replying with anything other than “fine.” Except  I don’t have a cat. I do have three dogs, though. And a kid. And two websites and an agent and a manuscript sitting in a file because I don’t have a platform big enough to stand on and wonder if I ever will.

This isn’t a Poor Me post. Don’t get your violins out, folks. This is a Truth post; one in which I step out behind the bullshit and tell you that fine is a lie and that I miss my nonexistent cat because I am, in short, a fraud. Not the Push Up Bra and Spanx Coming Off On the Third Date kind of fraud, mind you, but the Holden Caulfield kind in which I find myself standing in the middle of the high school cafeteria, holding my lunch tray, not sure where to sit because I have no idea where I really belong.

I preach body pride and self-acceptance because for some of us, we can't do the work required to care for ourselves if we don't value ourselves. I encourage you to find your inner chingona, redefine your path on your own terms and to celebrate the hell out of her because no one else is going to do it for you. I say thing like Love Yourself As You Are NOW and Our Daughters are Counting on Us to Get (and Keep) Our Shit Together (And I mean them...for you). I want to mean them for me, too, and I figured that if I shouted it long enough and often enough from my soapbox that I’d start to buy my own bullshit, but that hasn’t happened yet.

That, my friends, pisses me off.

I want to connect and inspire and feel validated for what I say and what I do and what I am hoping to become and I see so many others doing exactly that while I sit back and cheer them on, not sure what I’m doing wrong to keep missing the boat or if the boat’s going to bother coming back to the dock again to give me another chance. I want to speak to women on the same journey and let them know it’s okay to be where we are right now as long as we keep trying because that’s what matters. I want to organize inspiring workshops and a regular conference for women to focus on fixing the mess inside of our own heads because our kids aren’t going to believe in their own self worth if they constantly see us tear ourselves down.

It’s the old airplane analogy: No point in passing out from oxygen deprivation while trying to get our kid’s mask on first if the cabin depressurizes. The only way we can truly be effective role models is if we fight every maternal instinct and put ourselves first for fucking once. Once our heads are clearing from the oxygen-deprived fog can we be there to ensure our children are breathing, safe, and secure in the knowledge that Mommy has her shit together. And this Mommy is busy focusing on raising a future self-respecting bitch who (I hope I hope I hope) will never second guess putting her happiness before society's complex.

Maybe, I think, the boat is on to me. The boat knows I’m a fraud and frauds are not allowed on board. Only passengers who are truly at ease in their own skin who don’t look for and rely on approval and validation outside of themselves are allowed on this boat. I’m not there yet. I used to be. I will be again. But right here, right now, I’m a self-destructive mess who’s best bet it is to just let it all hang out because it’s the truth and it needs to be said.

I don’t have The Answers. I’m not standing at the Finish Line waving the Official Flag of Self-Acceptance because I haven’t run my own race yet. What I do have is a burning desire to share the crazy idea that it’s okay to be a fucking mess. It’s okay to have bad days and worse days and throw a party on the good days because they are so very worthy of celebrating. It’s okay to not love yourself (but want to) yet and it’s okay to talk about the bad in public because if we don’t then no one else will and the world will just continue to assume that “Fine” is the only acceptable answer to be given when they ask how we’re doing and that’s really just a giant disservice for those of us who need to know it’s okay to celebrate The Journey because The Destination is just a little too far away right now.

I’m not fine. In fact, I’m a royal fucking mess. My ADHD and anxiety are triggering my seven-year-old’s anxiety into fodder for her therapy appointments which happens to fall under the Mexicans Don’t Talk About That Sort of Thing category because it’s uncomfortable and much easier to sweep under the rug with the rest of our emotional baggage (like  the whispers about how pregnant the bride really was at the last wedding we went to while we collectively pretended to believe she wasn’t because it matters even though it really shouldn’t). It’s why I told The Husband I wanted yellow gold when he asked what kind of ring I would like when he was fishing for engagement ring hints because that’s what my family wore. It took me ten years to admit I hated yellow gold and really wanted platinum because that shit doesn’t work for me anymore, either.

Away with the rug. Let the dirt fly. And when the dust settles, I’ll still be standing here holding my lunch tray because I’m not sure where to sit because no matter where I choose, I feel like everyone else will judge me for my choice even though none of that should matter. But it does.

And I hate that.

I most decidedly do NOT have my shit together. You need to know that. It’s okay to be a royal fucking mess. You need to know that, too.  I miss my imaginary cat and I have very real cellulite and I have a sweet tooth and a closet eating habit. I don't sleep enough and I am never on time unless a deadline and a paycheck is involved (or someone else is driving the bus.) My yoga mat is my zen place and I'm working my way back to being brave enough to step into the raging quiet inside my head (I'm almost there). I make sad things funny and funny things funnier because that’s how I deal.

I'm almost 37 years old and sans The Husband and the child, the words you see and the words you hear could be the same words I wrote when I was seven, 17, and 27.

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?

Old Words Made New: And Then There was One

I think it goes without saying that I'm a bit behind. Life can get in the way sometimes and when that happens, all bet are off. These are the times when the words I write for a paycheck take precedence over the ones I write in the name of building a fucking platform without a solid set of directions because subjectivity is A Thing to clear my head so I can sleep. A lot has happened since I posted last. No book deals. No agents fighting over me and my mad writing skillz. But I have launched two etsy shops, a podcast, and can now officially cross Be Mentioned in a Tweet with Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez by Rick Najera off of my bucket list. I'll fill you in on the specifics about the etsy shops and the podcast on Wednesday. For now, I'll just remind you about the Me & Robert Rodriguez in the same 140.

 

 

See? It did sound just as badass the second time around. I kinda figure it would.

For now, though, I'm going to focus on I'm concentrating on waiting out an allergic reaction and passing the time by creating a Pinterest board for my writing clips. So much as changed and so much has stayed the same. And Then There was One was written in December of 2012.

 

***

I’m selling baby clothes. I guess I didn’t think writing up ads for cloth diapers and Gymboree jumpers was going to be as depressing as it’s turning out to be, but it is. I’m not just selling clothes. I’m putting prices on memories and letting go of hope. I’m the oldest of five. The Husband is the youngest of four.

Eliana wasn’t supposed to be an only.

For Sale
* Honest baby tee 12-18 mths
* George newborn white dress worn 1x after baptism 0-3 mth, plain white diaper cover included. 
* Old navy blue striped skirt 18-24 mth 
* Gender neutral newborn sleeper (baby) 0-3 mth
* Pink striped hooded dress 18-24 mth (plain pink diaper cover incuded)
* Old navy burgundy dress pink collar 18-24 mth 
* Pink tutu up to 12 mth (used once for 6 mth photo session & Halloween) 
* Vincent size pink frog shoe sz 16 euro 
* U of m lined windbreaker 18 mths – $6
I start with the basics. Photograph each piece. List the size and write a brief description. Calculate a fair price that allows for people to talk me down a bit and feel like they got a deal. I try to ignore the images in my mind with each item I put in the box marked “baby items for sale.” I remember almost all of it. And my mind took more photos than I realized.
This sleeper she wore when I was hospitalized the third time for severe mastitis in her first six weeks. I’ve got a photo of her on my chest, head held up, nurses stunned she could already do that. I list it for $2.
* Dress my Godmother brought back from one of her trips to Puerto Escondido in Mexico. Not for sale.
 * Children’s place adjustable waist 18 mth ruffle jeans – $5
* Brown old navy winter baby boots 6-12 mths
* Matching Hawaiian  hat and onsie set (worn once for an island themed wedding right after she was born) $5
* Carter white spring sweater 9 mths (used for Easter & other special occasions, no stains) -$3
* Pink sweater, newborn, knitted for me by my grandmother who never learned to speak English & wanted my mother to name me Erika because the woman on the soap opera she couldn’t understand was glamorous & feisty, not for sale
* The yellow one she made me, not for sale
* 6-9 mth jeans with white dog embroidery. Not sure of brand. Perfect condition $2
* See Kai run black sandals sz 8-$10
* Open back summer dress top & ruffled diaper cover, white, no stains. Sz 3-6 mth (I should know when she wore this but maybe I shouldn’t. Dad died when she was 5 mths old. I’ll set this one in the maybe pile) Oh wait…never mind. We sold that one this afternoon.
* 1 Carter’s white newborn onsie. Still white. I promise this means we forgot to put this one on her and not that I bubble wrapped her through babyhood. 50 cents
* Make that 2 Carter’s unstained white newborn onsies for 50 cents each. 
* More handmade baby clothes. One for me by Guela. A few for baby by my sisters ex-mother-in-law. One outfit worn for hospital pics. None is for sale.
 * Newborn tee, super tiny, no sz, maybe hospital issued. Free with anything else you buy
* Gerber onsie, 0-3 mths, still white. I’m starting to wonder what small miracle allowed this to happen. She wore this one. I know she did. And yet I can’t keep a white t shirt stain free for longer than it takes me to cut the store tag off. I now have a complex.
* Random but not random pink flowered newborn summer romper & diaper cover. I don’t know when she wore this & that bothers me. But I need to put this one away for her with that little pile of memories to pass down one day
* 3-6 mth  cotton pants & matching hat. We’re keeping the shirt on the dog stuffed animal we made as a keepsake. Her name’s on it. I’m making myself be practical. Daffy never wore pants so I’m not allowing myself to keep those. See? Progress.
* Pink sweater for me by Guela. I see the photos of me wearing this in my mind. I see the ones of my child in the frames. Not for sale.
* 0-3 mth gender neutral sleeveless onsie. White. Stain free. I should maybe start going to church regularly again.
* 3 mth gender neutral white sleeper. I know I won’t get up in time for the Sunday morning mass. But Saturday at 5 pm is totally doable. Maybe. Fine. We all know I’m not going and spending the entire mass explaining to Buttercup that church and Easter egg hunts are not synonymous or the explicit difference between being Catholic and Mexican-Catholic…because there is.
* Gender neutral onsies of various sizing & hospital issued baby tee. All as a package. Now questioning why white is such a popular color for clothing meant for adorable little beings who live to eat, sleep, poop, & spit up.
* Pink frog face pre walkers (not in original packaging) sz 17 (euro)
* My baptismal bonnet. Wow.
* 12 mth turquoise tee. My dog Walks all over me.
You’ll buy it from us for your firstborn, still convinced your friends with older kids are all heartless bastards. *Your* dog will not get demoted. There will be 2 walks per day, trips to the dog park to socialize, & that Christmas stocking Will Get filled. The walk…right…. After you find something you can wear out of the house that doesn’t have spit up on it, the baby has woken from her nap, and you change because she spit up on you again. You give up & barely register the dog didn’t even get excited when you jingled the collar while there was still hope. But you tried. And your dog still loves you. I promise.
* Robeez pink pre walkers sz 0-6 mths. Loved this brand. You totally will too. You’re welcome.
There.
All listed and pretty on the private Facebook group saving me the headache of dealing with a garage sale.
And then The Husband comes home from work with news. We are being transferred to Maine for his job and it’s going to happen pretty quickly. It’s time to repack. And maybe I can buy enough gas to get us from Arizona to Maine after I sell the last seven bins full of the dreams.

 

The Stupid Sister

Can I call your sister stupid? No? Does that bother you? I'm not sure why, seeing as how you don't even like your her. You tell anyone who will listen and rarely go home for holidays. What? What was that? Oh, so you think your sister is stupid? So what's the problem? Why is it that, even if you agree wholeheartedly with my sentiments, that it seems somehow inappropriate for anyone other than yourself to comment on the obvious lack of intellect with which your loved ones were gifted?

You're mumbling. I didn't quite catch that? Oh, you don't know why? That's just the way it is? You don't take too kindly to others doing the name calling? She's your family, not mine? I can think it but I'd better not say it?

Okay then. I'll play nice. But turnabout is fair play, my friend. I'll respect your right and your family and keep my jokes to myself if you can stop being an idiot about a teensy weensy little issue I happen to be dealing with, myself. I have to admit that I'm even embarrassed to be bringing it up, but I guess it's better to get it all out in the open, right?

I'm not trying to be overly sensitive. But you know about the bulimia and the body image issues and the whole body image cheer-leading train I've jumped on, right? I'm not here just to blow sunshine up other people's asses, my friend. I'm here to help me by helping others because that, in that Circle of Life Kind of Way, helps me continue to help because that's usually how this shit works; Yin & Yang and all that jazz.

So when I see careless social media updates making light of eating disorders, even if they aren't meant to hurt my feelings because you'd never dream of doing that, I get a bit pissy. And then I get pissy that your words got under my skin because if I'd never stuck my fingers down my throat to let the feelings I couldn't deal with just fucking escape already, I'd probably be laughing with you and everyone else who doesn't get it. I'm jealous that you don't understand and can laugh.

I'm mad that I do and I can't.

I'm not 'bulimic'. I'm a 'conscientious recycler of edible organic material.' -- says Nobody In Particular.

I had to read that twice to make sure I understood it. Then I got mad. And even madder still when I realized I wanted to ask you if you ever actually had been bulimic because if you are or were or were planning on starting tonight, then, in a darkly comedic and self-deprecating kind of way, your joke would be funny. It would be...

...acceptable.

Can you maybe follow up with a disclaimer? No...actually it's probably better that you don't. I'm not sure how either answer would make me feel. If you made the joke because Bulimia is your stupid sister, I will smile and laugh with you.

Secret Hand Shake In The Club.

If Bulimia isn't even a distant cousin, I'm happy for you for not ever having dealt with the emotional hell that comes with internalizing everything to the point of food and self becoming the enemy. But I'm also pissed because that means you called my stupid sister stupid.

Even if she is.

 

The Writing on the Mirror

I’m the kind of person who can’t watch a scary movie without tucking the comforter under my feet when I go to sleep for fear the monsters under my bed will gnaw off my toes. Walking out of a dark room also proves itself as a form of entertainment for anyone else in attendance as I inch my way away from the bogeyman hiding in the shadows. He’s never actually reached out and dragged me back into the darkness, mind you, but that’s only because I’m so vigilant. I mean, how’s he going to surprise me if I’ve trained myself not to blink as I dart my eyes back and forth while keeping my back pressed to the wall until I’ve made it to the stairs and run like a crazy woman while everyone laughs at me?
I’m also the kind of woman who isn’t ashamed to admit I saw a ghost once or that my grandmother smiled at me when I gave her a kiss in her casket. The ghost we call Fred and my in-laws believe he came with the property. He wears a Fedora and a suit and his tie is undone and only shows up to let you know he’s still around. The smile happened when I was six and I thought my grandmother was sleeping and I didn’t understand why everyone was crying. When it was time to go, my mother lifted me up as I requested so I could kiss her and when my lips touched her cheek, she did what she usually did when I kissed her in her sleep and I left the funeral home content in the knowledge that she loved me.
The point is that I’m a believer. I’m not sure if it’s my open mind or my writer’s imagination or some combination of the two, but when the hair stands up on the back of my neck, I listen. And I can guarantee you that I would not be the chick trying to make my dramatic escape from the ax-wielding maniac while in my high heels if I was a character in a horror movie. I’m not an amateur, you know.
So when I found myself waiting for my boyfriend to come home because my key wouldn’t let me unlock the front door, my first thought (naturally) was that the house was possessed and the evil spirit residing in the home we shared with my future brother-in-law just didn’t want me there. This line of thinking was only reinforced when my boyfriend came home, laughed at me because he thought I had forgotten my house key, and quickly unlocked the door. I let it go the first time it happened, hoping it had just been a fluke, but the next day I found myself on the front porch again furiously trying to make the key work before I had to explain to anyone outside of my own head that I was afraid we were going to have to call in a priest. This time, my boyfriend’s brother rescued me as he let us both in upon his arrival from work. Obviously, the evil spirit in residence only had a problem with me. I was relieved. That meant no one else was in danger.
I was jumpy and hyper vigilant when home alone, always waiting for something to reach out in the darkness. I tried convincing myself it was just new house nervousness. I hadn’t even familiarized myself with the layout enough to not walk into a wall on the way to the bathroom at night yet, so maybe I was just over-reacting? But this theory fell by the wayside as I stood in the bathroom one night, drying off after a hot shower. At first I thought I was imagining things. I wasn’t really seeing letters forming in the steamy mirror, was I? I froze. I may have blinked a few times. And when I opened my eyes the last time, I almost screamed.
“Get Out,” was now clearly written on the mirror. I ran, naked and terrified, across the hall and into the room to wake up my sleeping boyfriend to tell him we had to move and we had to move now before anything terrible happened. I told him that something didn’t want me there and wouldn’t let my key unlock the door there was something evil here and to go look at the mirror. So he did.
And that’s when he started to laugh.
“You need to come see this,” he choked out when he could speak again. I found him in front of the mirror where the words “When you get out of the shower, please make sure to clean up after yourself,” greeted me on the mirror. It had been a household reminder from his brother, written in dry-erase marker and wiped off with a napkin. Obviously, not well enough. The residue from the marker had blocked the condensation from forming where the letters had been, allowing the words to slowly reappear as if written by invisible fingers.
“But..but…how do you explain the key? Something doesn’t want me here!” I insisted.
He didn’t answer. My boyfriend simply grabbed my hand, led me into the bedroom, and handed me the shiny new key he had left for me on the dresser that I had forgotten to put on my key ring.
***
This essay originally appeared on the awesome An army of Ermas site. Stop by for some Halloween-themed fun and keep coming back because we're funny.

Baby F(Ph)at Winner #4: Being a Mom Means Never Having to Say You're Tubby

"You're lucky," my sister-in-law said to me as we stood in the baby-to-be's room, "you won't have to get fat." I made some kind of low murmuring noise and then changed the subject. She was right. We were adopting. I wouldn't have to deal with any of the unsightly weight gain, the bloating, the stretch marks. My daughter would be home within a month and, when she was only four-days old, I would hold her in my slim arms and walk briskly around the house without waddling or feeling the ache of stitches.

Wasn't that one of the benefits of adoption? Of course, I would have love to have carried my daughter around for nine months, but wasn't I glad that I would be able to retain my naturally skinny shape? It seemed like a gift. Yet, the idea of not being able to be pregnant, to not have the ability to get fat for my child, stung so much.

It wasn't just my sister-in-law who noticed my lack of motherly figure. A month after my daughter came home, she and I went to the zoo. We met another mom and baby near the hippopotamuses and stopped to talk.

"How old is she?" the woman asked, cooing over my child's adorably chubby cheeks.

"One month."

"You gave birth a month ago?!"

"No, my daughter was adopted."

"Oh," she breathed in relief. "I really felt bad there for a second."

While I was at home for three months with my daughter, the stress of taking care of a new baby, coupled with my anxiety during the months of waiting for her to come home, kept me thin. I ate almost as little as my child, who now topped out at four ounces of formula every few hours and who was rapidly gaining weight.

When I went back to work, I got lots of compliments on my appearance.

"You look great!"

"You're so thin!"

But they all seemed so undeserved. I was just the same. I hadn't done anything. Motherhood had not changed me at all.

It was a while before I started to notice a difference. I had always loved going to vintage shops. I would usually breeze through the store, buying clothes right off the rack without ever trying them on.

"That's weird," I said to my husband as I yanked up the zipper on a hot pink pencil skirt. "This doesn't fit."

He made a low murmuring noise.

"What did you say?"

"Nothing," he replied quickly, eyeing the fabric as it strained across my hips.

I began to notice the legs of models in magazines. They're so thin, I would think, as downed the last bits of my daughter's uneaten hot dog in addition to my own dinner. One night, I tried on some sandals in front of the full-length mirror in our bedroom.

"Do I have cankles?" I asked my husband.

"Yes. No, wait. What are cankles?"

"It's a calf-ankle," I explained. "It's basically fat ankles."

"No," he replied robotically, "you do not have cankles."

Just last week, I took my daughter and my mother out to lunch at McDonald's. My daughter sat and happily munched French fries while I took hungry bites out of my Big Mac.

"God, these jeans are so tight," I moaned, feeling the waist band cut into my stomach.

"Time for a new pair," my mother replied simply.

"They must be shrinking,” I assured myself, as I usually did nowadays.

She made that low murmuring noise.

"It's that or I'm gaining weight."

"Well," she replied, looking from my daughter to me, “these things happen. You are a mother now."

I just smiled and took another bite from my sandwich.

Lisa Galek is a writer and editor for a greeting card company who also happens to be searching for a publisher for her YA novel. She's also a very lucky wife and a proud mom to a two-year-old girl through open domestic adoption. You can find out more at LisaGalek.blogspot.com.

Baby F(Ph)at Winner #3: Gettin' Your Fitness On

Robin O'Bryant is hard at work making her writing dreams come true while dealing with the realities of Motherhood and Women's Sizes. Read her Baby F(Ph)at essay and nod your head in understanding. I know I did. Trying to get back in shape after having a baby isn't near as fun as it sounds. I only like exercising once I’m leaving the gym with a smoothie in my hand. But I’d rather be somewhat thin and miserable while exercising than fat and miserable every day, so I exercise. After having Emma, my second child in twenty-two months, I put the pedal to the metal and lost my baby weight plus a little extra padding I had been carrying around since college.  I worked with a fitness instructor and kept food logs. I went to the gym five or six days a week every week. I looked good, but I felt even better. It felt so good to have to buy new clothes because even my “skinny jeans” were too large.

Right before I got pregnant with my third child, we moved from Savannah, Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina. I joined a gym the first week we were there. I didn’t want to give myself the opportunity to backslide. My self-confidence was at an all time high. I had two sweet healthy babies, my husband’s career had taken off and I was able to quit my job to stay at home with my girls, and could wear the same size clothes I wore in high school. Life was good.

I was flying high, until I walked into the gym one morning for a Body Pump class. I got all my equipment together and was admiring myself in the floor length mirrors, not too conspicuously of course, just thinking how fabulous I looked and how hard I had worked to lose almost forty pounds. When the fitness instructor sauntered up to me, leaned in and whispered with a cute little wink, “Did I see a little baby bump?”

Lord, help me. I felt all the blood rush out of my face and I stared at her in shock.

Was she raised by wolves? Did her Momma not tell her that you never ask a woman if she’s pregnant? I don’t care if the baby’s head is hanging out, you never ask a woman if she’s pregnant! Play dumb and if she screams, “I’m pregnant YOU IDIOT!!” Then and only then is it OK for you to say, “I thought I saw a baby bump.” (And quite possibly, not even then.)

I looked that skinny little tramp with her twelve-pack and toned thighs, straight in her eye and said, “NO, as a matter of fact you didn’t! But thank you SO much for asking!” She gasped and took a step back.

I ended up staying in class partly to punish the little wench and partly because just getting to the gym with two toddlers is such an inconvenience.  You have to pack everything your kids may possibly need or want for the hour you will be exercising. You also get the pleasure of discussing every grunt and/or nuance your children might have and interpret these communications to a nursery worker who can't quit texting her boyfriend long enough to pay attention anyway. On one of my first visits to the gym after our move to South Carolina, I took Emma, then around eighteen months, to the nursery. I hopped on the treadmill and started to sprint...OK, jog. I was five miles into my run…fine, one, when the nursery worker came out to tell me Emma had a dirty diaper. "Her diaper bag has her name on it," I said as I gasped for the extra oxygen I needed to keep my pace and talk. "Oh, we don't change diapers." I stopped so abruptly on the treadmill I was almost flung across the cardio-room, "I'm sorry. What?”

"We're not supposed to change diapers." I had to get off the treadmill to change my child's diaper. My child, who had just stopped crying for the first time since I had left the room. She clung to my leg and screamed as I tried unsuccessfully to extricate myself to finish my run. Wouldn’t it just have been easier on everyone for her to change the diaper? “What exactly are these people getting paid for?”  I wondered. Shouldn't they change the sign from “Childcare” to “We're Just Going to Make Sure No One Dies While You are Exercising?” This is something I would like to have known before I signed a contract that included “childcare.” Seriously, half the reason moms go to the gym is so someone else will take care of our kids for a couple of hours and we don’t end up in a padded cell or on the 11 o’clock news! For this and many other reasons, I have purchased hand weights and an exercise ball to exercise at home when it's too much trouble to leave the house. I prefer to go to the gym; I need someone yelling at me to work harder. Left to my own devices, I would stop at the first beads of sweat, pat myself on the back, say “good workout,” and head to the juice bar. I got the weights out recently, and started to workout. Aubrey, my four-year-old, and Emma, her two-year-old partner in crime, jumped right in with me. As we started doing sit-ups, Aubrey said, “Look Momma, it's easier if you do this,” and propped her elbows up on the floor underneath her.

I laughed. “Yeah, but that’s cheating. You can't use your hands.”

Aubrey glanced at me then put her hands under her head mimicking me. After about two more crunches Aubrey said, “But Momma, this HURTS my tummy. Can we stop now?”  It sounded like somebody was ready to hit the juice bar.

Robin O'Bryant is a stay-at-home-mom, humor columnist and author. She's got a hilarious blog, a twitter account you must follow, and book and an agent, so I'd suggest keeping my eye on this Southern Mama-Belle. Me thinks she's going places.