All is right in the world again… thank you for sitting with me for a sad minute in my sad post about me being all sad on my sad weekend. I got my baby back and I’ve now forgotten how to be sad.
On my way to school to get her yesterday, my tire pressure light came on and my car started yelling at me. Little beads of sweat started forming on the back of my neck as I realized I wasn’t wearing a bra, I didn’t have my coat, and I pictured piggybacking a 64-pound child to the nearest autobody place which couldn’t possibly be closer than 100 miles away. Because for some reason in my mind, cell phones, insurance companies and tow trucks don’t exist in flat tire emergencies. Damn this smart car telling me that something might be wrong before something bad happens. I miss my old car where when things stopped working they just fell off.
This morning I made it to the tire shop, the same tire shop I bought all new tires from last year thanks to a nail and low tread. This morning I was told they’d have my car inspected and fixed up within the hour, but the grump on my face apparently screamed, “I love it here!” so instead they had me stay for almost 3 hours. Man, they are so sweet. While I waited, I wrote a multi-verse haiku because really, what the fuck else was I going to do?
Bored at tire shop I am going to die here waiting on my car
Want to close my eyes but what if they call my name as I am snoring?
Covid, no coffee - little gifts ruined by germs floating in the air
Staring at the wall hooray, they call out 'Jaime' - nail near the sidewall
Warranty winning from new tires one year back What joy, free rubber
Somehow in the last year I have run over two nails in the worst possible way and I’ve officially put this at the top of my list of superhero powers. It’s good to celebrate your strengths.
There’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I am regularly alone but I am rarely lonely. Rarely means there’s an exception. Rarely was this weekend.
Alone is good – when I’ve had a long week of single mommying and work-from-home working and gymnastics and parent teacher conferences and endless “brush your teeth”s and “why don’t you have socks” and “yes you have to wear a coat”s and playdates and therapy and getting steamrolled by a deep-breathing, teeth-grinding sleeping 10-year-old who insists she feels safer next to me so I let her sleep in my bed and coming up with three different healthy meals a day, multiple days in a row, because these tiny little humans insist on eating ALL of the THINGS, ALL of the TIME when, damn it, I alone am proof one could survive an entire day on two cups of coffee and a handful of stale cheerios – my time alone is necessary. When the quiet comes, it is welcomed with open arms like an embrace from a long lost friend you haven’t seen in ages.
But on these rare, long holiday weekends alone, when there’s no work to be done and no kid to be mothered and no man to be cuddled and no friends to hang out with for days and days… where I look at the clock and am shocked to find that it’s bedtime but I’m still in my pajamas from that morning because I did absolutely zero productive things for sixteen hours straight for the second day in a row, the lonely can start creeping in. And I hate it. And I don’t drink anymore so that’s not an option. I’m not sad about that (14 months woot woot!). I always have good intentions to keep myself busy during these long stretches, I really do. Busy quiets the lonely. Alone and busy on solo weekends makes me feel more human, less hermit. But these long weekends are tough, especially when people are out of town or doing their own family stuff.
My Friday: No work. Relaxed all day. In the evening I went to the library which is one of my happiest places. It’s quiet and it smells like old paper and imagination and you can totally judge a book by its cover and the librarians get to know you by name and no one bothers you and the possibilities of what story you get to absorb next are endless. My Heaven definitely has kites plus a big beautiful library. Then I went to the town’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I grabbed a hot chocolate. I stopped and admired the beautiful horses that were pulling sleighs full of people through town.
I stopped in a few boutiques and started my Christmas shopping. I tried to make my super productive outsideness last for as long as I could but when downtown in your cute little city is literally 2-blocks long, you can really only stretch it so far before people start realizing that you just passed them on the same sidewalk for the fifth time. It was definitely nice to be out and I made some good memories with myself. I like being with myself. True story, I actually just made a bet with myself that I left something I needed in my car.
I won the bet.
After downtown I went home, snuggled with my dogs and watched a movie that made me sob like a baby (Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close on Netflix) and I let it flow because why the hell not. Friday + did things = good alone.
My Saturday: I had plans, oh I had plans. Yoga. Grocery store. Shower. Maybe. I talked to my best friend for an hour while I laid in bed until 11:00am and then I went downstairs and fell deep into the black hole my phone calls TikTok and I watched six recorded episodes of the insanity they call Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, and all the while I started craving human interaction. My yoga pants, hoodie and fuzzy socks told me out loud that absolutely no face-to-face interaction was to be had unless I actually got off my couch and showered but that certainly wasn’t going to happen after 6pm. So I talked to my sister on the phone for almost two hours. That helped. I ordered Mediterranean takeout. That kind of helped. And then there was nothing. I went to bed at 1:30am. Saturday + didn’t do any of the things = bad alone.
My Sunday (today): This morning I forced myself to shower, put on some makeup and actually dress in non-elastic pants. I went to the grocery store covered in my winter coat and face mask so exactly zero people saw my made up face and the clothes I put on and I realized after I went through the self-check out that I still hadn’t talked to anyone. I got gas, self-service pump, not peopling. I went to Walgreens and finally talked to the cashier, it was a deep conversation… Him: “Do you have a rewards number?” Me: “Yes.” I went home. The end. He was literally the only human I looked in the eye and said words to in 2 days.
Stir crazy. Long alone weekends make me feel like I need to do all the things without having much motivation to actually do them. I felt this same way almost exactly 2 years ago and I actually motivated myself enough to do something bigger with my free time. I signed up to volunteer at Save-A-Pet because man I like dogs so much more than most humans and those dogs NEEDED ME. And quite honestly, I needed them. Yet when I went to the orientation with hope in my heart that I was doing something good both for the animals and for myself, it was ruined by a stupid man named Craig who took a picture of my phone number that I wrote down on the days/hours sign up sheet and he started creeper texting me the next day. I never went back.
Men, do better. Don’t be like Craig.
Tomorrow it’s back to work and I’ll get to help people and fix things and I’ll talk on the phone all day long. And in the afternoon I get to pick my girl up from school and squeeze her until her eyeballs pop out and then I’ll get to clean her lunchbox and make her dinner and have a dance party and make her lunch for the next day and we’ll finish the movie we started last week (8-Bit, HBO Max, it’s awesome if you grew up in the 80’s, freaky freezies reference for the win), and she’ll sleep next to me and steal all the blankets and roll her arm over my face and kick me in the shin while she sleeps and all will be right in the world again.
October of last year, 344 days ago, I woke up and did something I had been thinking about for a long time… I quit drinking. I decided 43 would be the best version of me and at the time, I had no idea how that one change would make that statement so much truer than I could have ever imagined.
I wouldn’t say I was a heavy drinker, just a regular drinker. I wasn’t dependent on alcohol but it was a part of my life and it had been for as long as I could remember. In my 20’s, I was single and free and danced on bars and did all the things a crazy, single girl living in the city who didn’t have to work until 1:00pm and only four days a week did. During my 30’s, wine had held my hand through my divorce and dried up my tears while I grieved the end of my marriage. It was my best friend at bars and clubs while I learned to be a single woman again. It comforted me on the nights when Summer was with her dad and I was alone in our little apartment missing her like crazy and wondering how the hell nights without my child would ever feel normal. Me and wine, we were like thisssssssssss and with it available pretty much anywhere that has an open sign and takes money, it was a readily accessible companion.
And then eventually, I wan’t coping with anything anymore and it just kind of became part of my routine. Lots of mommy-wine-time, wine-o’clock, and any other excuse to open a bottle of wine like… Mondays or… breathing. But along with all of that came the not so fun parts – next day anxiety, waking up tired, the 3am wake up call from my bladder, text conversations that I may not have otherwise had, a muted inner voice, numbed emotions, not processing past hurt. You know, all those fabulous benefits of consuming something that helps you slow it all down really quickly in a really unnatural way.
When I first quit, my main focus was just breaking the routine – not pouring a glass of wine when cooking dinner, not having a glass during my “me time” after Summer went to bed. I discovered the simple pleasure of club soda and orange juice. Within a month, my daily anxiety was completely gone which blew my mind – here I had been thinking that the wine was helping my anxiety when in reality it was causing it. Who. The. Fuck. Knew. That? Not me. And then slowly, magic started happening.
My emotions started waking up after a long hibernation. One night, I had my head on Rick’s stomach and he said something which made my head bounce which made me laugh which made him laugh which made me bounce higher which made us both laugh more and before I knew it I was laughing until I had tears streaming down my face. Another night, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and at the end they had a long scrolling list of real people who had died from Covid and I found myself sobbing in a big puddle of ploppy tears in my living room. Things were waking up inside of me that I hadn’t realized had been so dulled for so long. And for all of the negative feelings that wine had helped me ignore, I realized in those moments that you don’t get to pick and choose what it numbs. It also numbs the happy, but sometimes you’re too numb to realize it and numb becomes the norm. Nom nom.
I read Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior and it changed my life. I absorbed every talk, special and podcast I could find from Brené Brown and I found the courage to be vulnerable and stepped proudly into my arena. I joined an online community of like-minded alcohol-free people and it was, and still is, awesome. That is, if you erase the day I decided to try out one of their community zoom meetings where they said you could be completely anonymous and just listen if you wanted to. After I joined my one and only zoom, to my horror they went around the room and when they got to my little camera-off black square the host said, “Guest from Chicago (because…you know… I was super anonymous), please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you!” So I reluctantly did. And then they put us all in BREAKOUT ROOMS and the THREE OTHER VERY NON-ANONYMOUS PEOPLE I was with seemed TO KNOW EACH OTHER and EXPECTED ME TO PARTICIPATE and so I did and then I logged off and then I died.
Anonymously listen, my ass.
Sans the zooms, I’m still in the online community and I have made some great fake friends that I’ll never ever meet in real life and that’s totally ok. I read everyone’s posts and I keep a journal in there, so to my devoted readers here – I’m sorry I haven’t been here, but writing in two places at once just proved to be way too much for my now rapidly firing, feeling all the things brain and I chose to be there for a while before I could come back here and tell you all my fun stories again.
In January, I broke up with Rick. And I cried for two weeks straight and then we got back together and I stopped crying. I started therapy to try to figure out what to do with all of these emotions that I hadn’t felt in so long and my god, that was the greatest thing I’ve done since quitting drinking. My sister and I always say if we could give therapy sessions out as Christmas presents, we would because therapy is fabulous. It’s like having a new friend who is technically a stranger (but doesn’t feel like a stranger) who listens to you whine and complain and talk about things (that exactly zero other people want to hear about) and then she helps you come up with better ways to deal with them (than what you’ve been doing that totally haven’t worked ever) and she’ll tell you she’s proud of you and the only draw back is that you have to pay her. Psht, worth every penny, and thank god for insurance. In the last nine months, I have processed so many things that I had pushed aside over the last 20 years, and the biggest lesson I have learned is:
Speak your thoughts out loud regardless of the outcome.
It was the exact opposite of what my guarded inner voice had been doing while crouching behind walls that I had been building for so long. And people, it has worked wonders for me. I had had my walls up for so long and I didn’t know how to knock them down when I so badly just wanted to connect with people on a deeper level. Speak your truth regardless of the outcome. That was the key that I had been missing. I found my open, honest, vulnerable, truest voice and I use it. All the time. And I call people out on their bullshit. And I don’t put up with things that don’t feel right. And I tell people how much I love them. And I have zero regrets. And life is so much better now because of it.
Rick and I ultimately broke up almost 2 months ago and I actually processed it. I cried, I regretted, I mourned, I accepted, I moved on. I still miss him and I may always, and that’s ok. I found a book called It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken and I read it cover to cover in one night. <– game changer. I started going out for hot chocolate after work just so I could say that I talked to more people than just my dogs and yes, my dogs are people and yes, the barista totally counts. I started taking yoga, like real life yoga classes with real life people. During my second class the instructor was talking about our ideas of perfection that we put on ourselves and that we need to let those go. That we are kindness. We are love. We are enough. Just as we are. And then she told us to think about something that we had been holding onto (Rick), to take a deep breath, and to let it go. And with the air coming out of my face, I felt it all just go away and I. CRIED. AT. YOGA. Luckily everyone was on their backs staring at the ceiling so no one saw the insane girl bawling on her mat because seriously who the fuck fucking cries at yoga?!? But when I went home I literally googled “I cried at yoga” and apparently it’s really a thing. Tell. Me. Who. Knew. That? Not me. I’m like enlightened and stuff now. Yeah, enlightened.
So that’s where we’re at – three weeks away from a year of being alcohol-free. Single, again. Feeling ALL the feels. Speaking my truest thoughts out loud. Talking to baristas and crying at yoga. It’s been a crazy year.
Life had been business as usual. And honestly sometimes it’s hard to find compelling or entertaining story-type things to write about when life is happening at a regular, ordinary, wonderful pace. But with everything that has been happening for the last month I felt a pull tonight to come here. For none of us has business been usual.
For a little bit there I found myself on the internet a lot, reading more than I should have been. But my daily and unwelcomed 3:30am wake ups to a racing mind plus an iPhone telling me that my screen time was up 70% from the week before were enough to get me to shut it all off and just live. Sure, I research and I try to watch the governor’s daily speeches that tell a truth in order to stay on top of the state of the state and the country, but it’s limited. Yet lately I’ve felt myself bubbling up with tears.
But none of those tears have been caused by fear or sadness or panic.
I’ve been noticing things lately. New things happening around me.
I notice families taking walks together.
I notice kids playing basketball with their siblings in their driveways.
I’ve noticed signs made by employees of a local restaurant full of hope and thanks for the community who is keeping them afloat and giving them a purpose.
I’ve watched videos of communities gathering in parking lots of hospitals, singing and flashing their lights for the workers inside who respond with flashing lights back.
I’ve watched videos of local police car and firetruck parades for little ones with birthdays who don’t get to have their parties.
I cried big tears today when Summer’s teacher sent this link to the students, because they truly love our kids and they miss them and are doing everything they can to let them know they are still here for them. God her school is amazing and we love every single one of these people…
I’ve seen people slow down.
I’ve met neighbors that I’ve never met before.
I’ve seen my sister and nephew’s faces on FaceTime more in the last week than I had in the last 6 months.
I’ve reached out to friends to make sure they’re ok, and I’ve had friends do the same for me.
I was invited to a Facebook page that encourages people to put up hearts on their houses for others to find, and that inspired us.
I’ve taken Summer to a neighborhood no-touch scavenger hunt set up by 4 blocks of neighbors who organized it. It got us, along with hundreds of others in the community, out of the house to have some fun and feel a little normalcy again.
I’ve realized how lucky I am to have a boss who checks in daily to make sure I’m ok while I’m busy making sure everyone in my company is ok.
I’ve saved money by staying home and enjoying the things I already have.
I’ve read posts on Facebook of people living in fear looking for happy endings, posts that resulted in hundreds of people posting about how their brother, or mother-in-law or spouse was sick for a bit, recovered and is back in business.
And I know that’s not the case for everyone. But it was the case for them which doesn’t make it any less important.
I figured out how and finally painted my 2 story stairwell, just me, an 8-year-old and an extension pole, I finally hung a new chandelier, cleaned my basement, and rearranged my little one’s bedroom – all things I’d been wanting to do and I was finally granted the time to do it.
We snail-mailed a drawing to brighten someone’s day, we had a social distanced birthday party in the courtyard, we’ve ridden bikes on cold days and have officially seen how fast our little Murphy can sprint (he’s fast!) on walks that Summer would have otherwise passed on.
I’ve always searched for the good in situations, but with this I haven’t had to look far because it’s all right there. The world has been coming together and it is beautiful to watch it happen.
Our normal may never be the same that it once was but that may not be a bad thing, the new normal I’ve been watching unfold has been incredible.
It may take a month, or two, or twelve, but I promise this… it’s going to be ok.
About a month ago I was at my parents’ house and my mom had an insane zooming magnifying mirror sitting on the end table. So I picked it up and started looking at my face in it. And holy hell, do not ever, never, never ever do that, the skin under my eyes looked like elephant skin. So I did what any other sane person would have done, I threw the mirror clear across the room, reminded myself that I’m an 18 year old trapped in a 21 year old’s body and walked away. Some days I look at Summer’s skin and I just want to pet her, I’m pretty sure her skin is made of velvet. Mine, alas, is… no longer.
Mothers Day was fun this year – I got to sleep in a little, treated myself to some Dunkin’ drive thru coffee that someone else for once brewed, poured, stirred and served to me, and then I got the biggest bestest surprise of my life… omg… wait for it….
I MADE IT ON THE COVER OF PEOPLE MAGAZINE. No Photoshop, no photo filters, that is me au naturale. If you were to open this edition of People, you’d read on to learn that I was picked for this amazing tribute because I buy Summer all the things, dresses in particular, and a blue one (that ironically I picked up for $1 at a thrift store in Michigan) is her favorite. I am happy to know that her impulse shopping and my inability to say no to her sad velvety smooth little puppy dog eyes earned me such a high recognition. And also, I’d like to thank Revlon You’re-Old-And-Need-Age-Defying Foundation, for my cover photo would not have looked so good without you.
Summer and I met my sister and her fam at my parents’ last night to celebrate all things mom, and we had some fun with some new snapchat filters. I discovered that if I was a man, I’d look like my Uncle Robbie (ahem, I’m on the left in case you weren’t sure).
And if my sister was a man, she’d look like Josh Altman from Million Dollar Listing. She’s on the right.
We had ice cream cake and lots of laughs and I still can’t believe that 9 people exist in this world because my mother’s uterus grew 4 of us and we went on to make 5 more. And we all get our natural good looks from her, 5 o’clock shadow included. Thanks, man.
Outside the walls of my house lives a life-threatening, melt-your-face-off arctic tundra only seen in movies about plane crashes with one lowly survivor who has to trek thousands of miles across ice-capped mountains while her nose turns black from frostbite and the wind burns her eyes off. And then she falls into frigid water through a crack in the ice. And then she dies.
Yesterday morning, I put Hazel in jail with puppy pads in the hopes of not having to expose her whopping 9lbs to a cold she’s never felt before.
And yesterday morning I learned that my stubborn dog is too well potty trained to pee in the house. Once upon a time, a dog named Hazel and a big brown bear met in the arctic and took a little stroll…
Murphy is totally laughing at her. Or me. I can’t tell.
Tuesday night I got the call that school was canceled until Friday (thank jebus because the thought of the bus stop was terror-inducing) and all midwest offices in my company have been closed. Though when you work remotely there’s no such thing as a “closed due to weather” day so I’ve been chugging along in my 14 layers of clothing, piling doggies on top of me like electric blankets.
I made the mistake over a week ago of going to the grocery store at 3pm on a Friday when we were expected to get a foot of snow overnight. Everyone else had the same idea except the store managers who only had 3 registers open for the entire town.
So this time around I decided it best to live off of rations that have been hiding in my freezer and cabinets for some time now. You know the stuff… cup-o-noodles, packets of powdered mashed potatoes, bacon bits… 2 days of freezer-burned chicken patties dipped in soy sauce has been better than the 1 hour I waited in line with a 7 year old eating cheez-its straight from an unpaid box in the picture above.
Yesterday, my west coast work peeps told me I should throw boiling water. I wasn’t sure why I’d want to do that considering I actively try not to fling burning stuff anywhere. And then I realized they meant throw it into the polar vortex…TO TRY TO KILL IT. So I did. I tried to kill it. And instead I made snow. As you can see, we didn’t need more snow (but it was still cool).
I shared that with my work peeps in Ft. Lauderdale and according to one, the whole office said “OH MY GOD” as they sat in their “chilly” “60 degree” “winter”. Picture those quotation marks there as very dramatic air quotes coming from my very dramatic bendy fingers. Summer and I were going to try the “blow bubbles and watch them freeze in the air” trick, but…
…the vortex had already snuck into my garage and got to them first. Frozen solid. They say this death-weather-fuckery is supposed to break soon, more snow is coming because… well, why the hell not? And by Monday it’ll be a ridiculously glorious 50 degrees, the snow will melt and the flooding will begin.
I used to want an entire clan of kids. I always pictured a house full of rambunctious little ones who would play together and fight like cats and dogs and bike ride around the neighborhood and hit each other with their cabbage patch kids. You know, much like my childhood.
Us then circa 1985:
And by my mid 30’s I knew that was never going to be my reality given the fact that:
I didn’t have my first kid until 33
I was married to a man older than I who said he wouldn’t have kids past 40*
I was divorced at 36
And a few years ago that reality completely crushed me. With Summer, I absolutely loved being pregnant and I wanted to grow me some babies at least a few more times. When she was a baby, I sucked the life out of every minute of the day with her. Man those squishy thighs…
Her thighs, not mine.
And don’t even get me started on the toddler phase when they fall while standing still, walk like Frankenstein and give you vice-gripped neck hugs that make you worry your eyes will pop out of your face.
February 2014, just 3 months after moving into our apartment
Then came preschool and kindergarten, and my little baby started getting longer and leaner and turning into a legit little human noodle.
And now standing tall at 4′ and able to touch my forehead while standing on her tippy toes (psht, I never claimed to be tall) I look at her face and can picture exactly what my one and only baby will look like as a teenager. And it’s terrifyingly beautiful.
September 2018, 2nd grade
From sad-at-what-could-have-been 36 year old me to happy-courageous-strong 41 year old me, something in me has changed. I can’t pinpoint a specific moment but rather I think it was a slow ascending climb into acceptance that Summer will forever be my one and only. I have lots of moments these days that make me happy for the little one that she is but excited for what’s to come. When she’s reading a Gerald and Piggy book in her high-pitched Piggy voice I wish for her to love Gerald and Piggy books forever and to read them to me when I’m 95 and don’t get out much anymore. It’s the moments I look at her toothless grin and think, “once her adult teeth come in her face is going to look so different from how I’ve always known it.” And also, you’re welcome tooth fairy, you can now put all of your fucking kids through college.
The moments when I’m around her dad and his 2 month old son* I realize that wow, I would not want to be taking care of a baby full time right now. And even though I end up one step closer to knee replacement every time Summer falls asleep in the car and I have to piggy back her lifeless sack of potatoes body up 3 flights of stairs, I know someday I’ll look back at that second grade picture above and think, “man, she was soooooo little.” So yeah, enjoying us as a duo I’m very content with her being my one and only… enough to permanently declare it to the world.