Sunday, May 10, 2015

For KJ, On Your First Mother's Day Without Your Mom

Dear KJ--
Today sucks. I searched for a more eloquent way to put that, but everything falls short of how much today, well... Sucks. I know it. You know it. Anyone who has loved and lost their mom knows it.

You have been on my mind so much lately-- a fact helped, I'm sure by all the little reminders of your mom that I see in my own life. Gentle nudges from the beyond, I'm sure. I can almost hear your mom's voice saying "reach out to KJ, she is having a hard time," the way she did when she was still here.

I have no advice that will make today, or tomorrow, or the rest of your life without your mom easier. I'm not going to tell you that your mom wouldn't want you to be sad. True, no mother wants her child to feel pain, nor would you mom want you to spend the rest of your days in perpetual grief. But, your mom also knew the crushing pain of losing a parent she loved. She knew what it felt like to have the whole world go sideways for a while. She knew what it was like to grieve when also trying to deal with physical illness and all the crap life decides to throw at you because life is a jerk and insists on continuing even when you want it to stop. She wouldn't tell you not to be sad. She would instead give you love and support and understanding and, truth be told? A couple glasses of good wine.

Sweet girl, you have had the rug pulled out from under you and the pain of hitting the ground so unexpectedly is immense. You look around and feel like not only did someone pull the rug out from under you, but they stole all the damn furniture too! And all you are left with is this big empty room. And none of your well intentioned friends and family seem to understand the pain of being in that room. Sure, all of us who loved your mom now have an empty room/library/wine cellar with your mom's name on it, but no two rooms are the same. No one knows how big or small someone's grief room is. And while we can empathize we don't fully understand.

But here is what I do know. This too will pass. Clich├ęd? Yes. True? Also yes. This does not mean that there will ever be a time you don't miss your mom so deeply that you think your heart might split in two. It means that tomorrow, you will wake up and, CONGRATULATIONS!!! You survived your first Mother's Day without your mom. And you'll survive all the other shitty milestones this year will offer. And you'll survive all the other milestones that follow the first year. And you WILL get through this.

I promise you, that even now as you feel crushed by the weight of living in this world without your mom and trying to figure  out who you are without her here, you will eventually make your way out of the empty room and into the hallway. That door will always be marked mom. Eventually, you will be able to walk down the hall, see that door and have it not knock the wind out of you (though it still will from time to time, because, as I mentioned earlier, life is a jerk). Someday in the not so distant future, you will pass the door and feel only a small fraction of the pain you feel right now. But you will always, every day, pass that door and think of your mom.

You will feel her loss, always. But oddly enough, there will also come a day when you can open that Mom door, walk into that empty room, remember what used to be there, and not altogether lose it.

But that is someday. Right now you haven't made it to the hallway yet. You are sitting there and feeling all the everything. So for now, feel all the sad and the mad. Acknowledge the empty. But don't let it blot out the joy. Or the hope. Because banking on joy and hope is what will help you inch your way to the door.

And remember that however bleak and empty the room feels, you have all these people here who love the hell out of you and will help you find your way to the hallway when you are ready. I'm one of them. I'm poking my head in the room, offering flowers, a hug, and this picture of Cam Fowler:

You will get through this. I promise.

I love you.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The World's Most Redacted Blog Post (Sort Of)

Oh what a week it has been!

It is Saturday and I feel like this is the first minute I've had to focus on anything blog related. Since Daylight Saving (Daylight's Saving? Daylight Savings? Daylight's Savings? Whatever. I just call it "Daylight Evil-Fuckwithparents"), my kids have been getting up WITH me at the ass-crack of dawn (which is when I usually get up to have my quiet time to write/work). I have discovered in my years as a parent that trying to write while small people fight with each other, or make food demands of you, or insist on sitting on you, is virtually impossible. Hence no posts.

There is a lot of other stuff going on, but the vast majority of it I can't tell you about. I am on a criminal jury for jury duty (can't tell you about it), I just read the start of what will, in my opinion, be a great book (no, I didn't write it. I'm not THAT lacking in humility), but I can't tell you about that either. I am in the process of making some professional changes... that I can't tell you about. I'm working on some tweaks and changes and additions to the blog... that I can't tell you about.

Basically, today's blog is like a redacted government document. Aren't you glad you waited on pins & needles for over a week just to read this?

Me too.

Stick around, though. Changes and new posts are coming and I hope you like them.

Now get out there and enjoy your day! I'm going to go work on... something I can't tell you about!

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Little Brony: Halloween Edition

As you know from the great "My Little Pony Underwear Debacle," Duckie loves him some MLP, so naturally, he wanted to be his "frayvrit" character for Halloween: Applejack (this after a year of telling me that he wanted to be a blue "tangaroo" and me figuring out how to modify a dinosaur tail pattern into a kangaroo tail with my limited sewing skillz).

I admit that when it comes to Halloween, I'm kind of a cheap-o. Not that I won't shell out for a rad costume, but more that I prefer that we get more day-to-day mileage out of them. Hence, the last few years, my kids' costumes have been sweatsuit based. 

When Duckie busted out his plan for Applejack, I knew I was SCREWED. I couldn't find an orange sweatsuit ANYWHERE. And he was adamant that he didn't want an MLP Equestria style costume. So what is a gal with limited sewing ability and an opinionated 3 year old to do?

Call for back-up!!

My mother-in-law is a genius when it comes to sewing. A stone, cold genius. She actually custom made Duckie's costume using nothing but photos I had printed from Craftiness is Not Optional as her guide.

We did make a few changes-- she added elastic to the waist of the jacket and I ironed the cutie marks onto the jacket. Also, instead of sewing the tail directly onto the pants, I made a belt for the tail, so that he can just wear the pants as sweatpants or the tail separately when he wants.

Little Man also got in on the MLP fun today too-- he is rockin' Rainbow Dash inspired hair for crazy hair day at school today (and will be a sweatsuit-clad Ninja Turtle tonight).

From the Cluttered House to yours, we hope you have a happy, safe, and Pony-tastic Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

They Will Soar on Wings Like Eagles

Today's post was supposed to be a review of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It is the story of Alice, a 39 year old mother of 3, who hits her head and loses the memory of the previous 10 years of her life. It was quite a good book, it made me think about the importance of our memories, and I'd recommend it as a good read.

But I have decided against posting about the book, because when I opened Facebook this morning, I learned that a college classmate of mine was dying. This classmate, Jason Manthe, had been diagnosed about a year earlier with early onset Alzheimer's. A husband and father in his mid-late 30s diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Suddenly my book review didn't seem like the appropriate thing about which to write.

I didn't know Jason well. I can't claim we were close or even friends. We knew each other in the way that people who attend tiny Christian colleges know each other-- via passing greetings and mutual friends. I never hung out with him, never had a deep conversation with him, but I knew him to be a good guy. I know the caliber of people with whom he chose to be friends and that alone says volumes about him.

This evening, his family shared that Jason had passed away.

Tonight, I pray for the family and friends left behind. His wife, his four small children, his parents, sibling, friends, co-workers. The people who truly knew and loved him. He was a man of faith and I have no doubt that while the people here on earth grieve him, he is rejoicing with the Lord.

Please consider donating to the GoFundMe campaign to help support Jason's wife and children and please hold the Manthe family in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Survive a DIY Home Renovation

When we were discussing our plan to add on to and renovate our home, I went a-Googlin' for tips to survive a home renovation-- specifically an almost wholly DIYed home renovation. There was a dearth of information out there for home renovators. LOTS of blogs on home renovation, but few about actually surviving without having a complete nervous breakdown, so I thought I'd create a list for you. This list is by no means an exhaustive list, nor have we completed our renovation by any stretch of the imagination, but to date, here is my list of tips for surviving a DIY home renovation.

1. Embrace the dirt
Drifts of it will settle on everything. Floors, shelves, windowsills, your dishes, you name it. Minutes after you vacuum or sweep, dirt will show up again. I'm not kidding. This photo was taken almost immediately after I swept and mopped our kitchen: 

And this one is of the dirt that settled overnight/during the work day when no one had been in the house (and I had vacuumed and mopped the night before);

To soothe my jangling nerves, I like to quote Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas to myself: 

"Don't think of it as dust. Think of it as maybe the soil of some great past civilization. Maybe the soil of ancient Babylon. It staggers the imagination. [It may be] soil that was trod upon by Solomon or even Nebuchadnezzar."
Perspective. So soothing. 

2. Let go of the notion of curb appeal
In the movie The Money Pit (which I find myself quoting more often than I care to admit) Walter Fielding pulls up to his destroyed home and says "Ahh. Home, Crap Home." I have a lot of these days. In fact, I once described our house to someone as the following: "just look for the house that looks like squatters have moved in and might be cooking meth in the back." 

Just roll with it. Your house won't look like shit forever, they say. It is all temporary.

Bonus? My 6 year old has pointed out we don't need to decorate for Halloween this year because our house already looks scary and spooky. 

3. Understand that accidents happen
What's that? You accidentally smashed a hole through the living room wall with a sledge hammer? The living room wall that is supposed to remain intact? No biggie. It isn't like our child was sitting on the couch underneath said hole and the photo frame that you knocked down landed on his head... 

Like I said, no bigs.

4. Invent and embrace a new style of home decor
I call ours "Rubble Chic." It involves a lot of plywood and gaping holes. Plywood is so hot right now. 

5. Learn to scream internally/throw up in your mouth when making large purchases
Generally speaking, home improvement stores don't really appreciate it when people have full-on panic attack freak-outs in their aisle. Just do your level best to swallow the terror. 

I find smiling like a deranged beauty queen helps. Sure, it unnerves the clerk a little, but it is much better than being hauled out of the Home Depot in a straight jacket. 

6. Create a Sherlockian Mind Palace
This is your happy place. The place where your house is perfect and lovely and tranquil. Mine is mostly comprised of Pinterest pins and Houzz ideabook photos. 

It is designer perfect and always smells like freshly baked brownies and sunshine. Go to your Mind Palace when you are on the verge of losing your shit. SO HELP YOU GOD. Retreat to your bathroom, lock the door, enter your mind palace.

7. When all else fails...


Friday, October 17, 2014

My Little Brony: A Tale of Heartbreak

Yesterday, the Cluttered Family took our weekly sojourn to Target (yes, weekly. I have a problem, remember?). This was supposed to be a fairly nondescript trip to the store. My list was comprised of things like toothpaste, mac & cheese, underwear for Duckie, and a shower curtain tension rod. Super exciting.

So after picking up the items I needed, Duckie, Little Man, and I made our way to the children's section to pick out new underwear. This is a fairly novel thing for me. Little Man is small for his age and, quite frankly, has only out-grown one set of underwear since he potty trained at 2 years old. Duckie is tall for his age and insists on growing. Since his 2T-3T underwear had turned into low rise plumber pants, I figured maybe, just maaaaaaybe, it was time to get some new ones. He was super amped up about getting to pick his own underwear. This is exciting stuff when you're 3.

As we rolled down the sock & underwear aisle, Duckie yelled "MAMA! STOP!!!! I thee my unners! MY WITTLE PONY UNNERS!!! I want them!!!!"

I stopped the cart, picked up the package of My Little Pony underwear and examined them. As I quickly scanned my brain for the way to navigate this one, Duckie was proclaiming "I WUV them! I WUV My Wittle Ponies." 

Before we go any further, I want the following information noted: I'm pretty gender diverse in my parenting style, opting for mantras like "we like what we like, and that is okay," and "toys/colors are for everyone" as opposed to using the hard and fast delineation "that is for boys/that is for girls." If my boys like something, I roll with it. I'm not trying to make a political statement, I'm just trying to raise kids who feel loved, supported, and confident in their own "okayness."

My trouble with the MLP panties had nothing to do with them being "girl" underwear, but everything to do with fit. Granted, I know that at this age, boys and girls' undergarments are practically the same. I have fond memories of my then two year-old niece CJ (who is also small for her age) running around my mother-in-law's house in a pair of Little Man's hand-me-down Buzz Lightyear underwear, because they were the only underwear my sister-in-law could find that were tiny enough to fit CJ at the time.  But I also know that Duckie likes his underwear fit to be more spacious. In fact, 90% of the time, he has his underwear on backwards so as to provide ample room for his boy bits. So, after mulling it over for a few moments, I broke the news.

"I'm sorry buddy, I don't think the Pony underwear will have enough space for your penis. They are made for girl bodies, and girl and boy privacy parts are different, remember?" 

Duckie's lip turned downward the way it does when his heart is about to break. "But I wuv them."

"I know baby, but I'm afraid they'll be too tight for your penis. If you really want them, we can try,  but I don't know if they will squish your penis or not."

"WHY do they make unners that will squish my penuth? Do they have My Little Pony for boys that won't squish my penuth?" asked Duckie mournfully.

"I don't know. Let's look down here at the underwear made for boy bodies and see if they have My Little Pony underwear with room for your penis."
(I think this is the most I've ever discussed penises in the aisles of Target-- or on this blog, for that matter!).

Unsurprisingly, Target doesn't stock My Little Pony briefs. All Duckie wanted was some underwear that matched with his favorite TV show, as would be the case if his favorite show was Jake & the Neverland Pirates or anything Marvel Superhero. But, it's not. Right now he's obsessed with MLP-- especially Applejack and Rainbow Dash. This is great for me in doling out warnings and consequences ("Please do xyz or you will lose Pony privileges"), but crappy when all a little boy wants are some MLP britches. 

His little heart was broken when he learned there were no MLP underwear for him. He bore the look of devastation all throughout the underwear aisle of Target.

For me, this begs the question, why DON'T they have MLP underwear for the littlest "bronies"? (For the record, I hate the word "brony," but haven't been able to come up with a better term. Suggestions are welcome). A quick search of Amazon for "My Little Pony underwear" produces a host of underwear for little girls, but also MLP boxers for men. If the underwear powers-that-be can make MLP underwear for grown men, why not for my little guy? How difficult could that possibly be? I'm guessing there is a market for them, considering how many little "bronies" there seem to be out there.

C'mon underwear companies. Get it together for my little guy. I can only take so much weeping in Target (and I reserve that for me at check-out)

Sometimes all you need is a little love from Rainbow Dash 

(FYI-- We managed to quell the sadness and repeated asking of "why they don't have My Wittle Pony unners with room for my penuth, mama? Why?" by finding Frozen underwear that did, in fact have room for his "penuth" and then visiting the MLP aisle in the toy section.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

I'm Angry

I don't normally write about celebrity news/gossip. In fact, I don't normally really think much about what celebrities are up to. But there is something I feel compelled to write about and I figured that this is as good a platform as any.

I want to talk about the recent allegations against Stephen Collins. I do not purport to be an expert in the case, not by any stretch of the imagination, but over the course of the last few days a couple things have stuck in my craw regarding the situation. No, I don't want to moan and complain about how "my childhood is ruined" by the recent revelation that Collins allegedly molested several children. I want to talk about two specific things that I find deeply upsetting in this case: the leaked tape and the timeline.

The legal intricacies of covertly recording a private therapy session are not ones that I know or understand. I don't know whether Collins' wife, Faye Grant, was in the right there. I don't really care. If Collins did, in fact, molest those children, I hope that the legal process serves him with swift and due justice. What I find most disturbing is that this tape was leaked to the press, who have then splashed the recording around as a hook to lure people onto their websites and into watching their programming. To me, this is a re-violation of the victims.

What these children have gone through is hell enough. To have the voice of the man who (allegedly) molested them played all over the news and internet, detailing what he did to them is a violation. Regardless of whether or not the names have been redacted from the public recording, these children know who they are and know what happened to them. In my estimation by listening to and sharing and re-sharing the recording, this is the general public contributing to the re-violation of these children and it isn't acceptable. It isn't okay.

I keep thinking of what Jennifer Lawrence recently said in Vanity Fair regarding the posting of her nude photos online: "Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody's mind is to make a profit from it. It's so beyond me."

Make no bones about it, celebrity "news" sites know that this recording, this bit of "gossip" will drive people to their sites, thus boosting their revenue. These kinds of things are their bread and butter. They are profiting from the sex crime that was, allegedly, committed by Collins. I understand that this is a news item. I don't think Collins should be shielded from that because up until a few days ago he was a beloved actor. Rightly so, people should know about this-- especially people whose children interacted with Collins over the years. But, to me, the recording being bandied about as a hook is just too much. I feel for the victims who have to hear it and to know that millions of Americans have now been privy to the details of their molestation. This is not okay. It is not right. This recording should never have been put out for the general public to hear. It should have gone to the hands of the authorities and left at that.

And speaking of the recording getting into the hands of the authorities, we have come to my second problem with this whole situation. The timeline of when this tape was recorded and when it was given to the proper authorities to investigate. I do not know what was Grant's motive for recording their therapy session. I am not even going to begin to speculate on that. What does seem to be apparent is that it was recorded in 2012.


Your husband, with whom you are in therapy as your marriage ends, confesses to molesting children and you record it. Then you sit on it for two years? How? Why?

From my understanding of the situation, Grant went into that therapy session planning to discuss and record Collins' confessions of child molestation. She claims to have known about his behavior prior to this therapy session, which is why her lawyer encouraged her to record the confessions. So, she got what she went in there for. A recorded confession.

Seems to me, that Collins' confession should have been handed over to the police immediately. Not two years later. Not on the eve of their divorce proceedings, but IMMEDIATELY. In the two years that passed between when the alleged confession/recording occurred and when it ended up in the hands of the authorities (and the media), Collins was able to go about his day-to-day life, which included interacting with underage actors/actresses. If Grant KNEW he was a child molester-- not just suspected, but had his confession-- why would she ever give him another 2 years where he had access to other children. Why?

This angers me to no end.

While I cannot imagine the shock and horror of learning that a person you once loved and trusted is a child molester, I'd like to think that it would take me MUCH less than two years to go to the authorities. Not because I am up so high on my moral high horse, but because I would not want another minute to pass where a child molester had access to other children. Especially not one whose career cemented him in the minds of the American public as the quintessential dad.

And that, my friends, is why I’m angry today.