The Pine Tree (But it’s Not About the Tree)

The neighbor’s pine tree was removed today. It stood several inches away from our property line. But it felt like my tree.

The large crew of workers cheered when the tree came crashing down but I stood and cried. Oh I had plans, all internal mind you, to talk to our neighbors about my their tree. They told my husband they were planning to remove it because it was too messy. I was going to tell them about the woodpecker that lived in the tree. I tried to imagine their faces when I told them to save the tree for the birds, and well, I kept avoiding the conversation. And now my tree was gone, rolled away in an orderly pile of mulch.

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The pine tree that is no more. It is the tree pictured behind the bird feeder. Sniff.

Why am I fretting so much about the tree? It’s not the tree. I know this even though all I want to do is rant about the tree. No, I am crying for all the damn pine trees that have fallen in my life without my permission, disrupting the peace of my birds, leaving me helpless to fix. As if there was ever any fixing to be done in the first place!

Instead I will go for a run. I will drink a cup of hot tea even though I want coffee, because goodness knows more coffee will only make my heart quicken and I don’t need that.

I will fold laundry. I will pick up messes. I will write–first a dark poem about my tree on my private blog nobody knows exists (I will spare you the poem) and then this post. I will yell at the beagles when they find half a churro in my purse, and this sentence alone will make me laugh out loud for the first time since the tree was felled. Then I will chuck the churro away in the trash when I discover it is covered in ants (alas, I do live in Florida after all). Finally, one problem I can fix.

I will put away some dishes. I will drink more tea and keep avoiding coffee. I will let myself cry at the bright sun pouring down on grass where a tree once stood even though I know it’s not about the tree.

I don’t like onions! I make them cry!

That was the three-year-old in response to stuffing being placed on her thanksgiving plate. The nerve! You don’t even want to hear what she said about the celery.

(She did however find Redi-whip to be quite to her liking. She ran around the house with it clutched in her hands and squealing. It took three of us to corner her and grab the can before total-and-utter-whipped-cream-chaos ensued.)

Never a dull moment with this kid.

Three more reasons to smile – and one reason to frown

Don’t worry – the reason to frown will also make you laugh. Stick with me.

three (more) reasons to smile:

1. the Canadians are back! the Canadians are back! Our Canadians (that’s what we call them) who live down the street have returned from Montreal. They have a huge, sweet brown dog named Buddy. They are polite and their country’s leader is Justin Trudeau. I want them to adopt me. 

2.  My daughter’s preschool had a thanksgiving lunch today (aww!) and the kids sang us songs. It was super cute. One staff member made a huge rice krispy treat dessert shaped like a turkey. It sounds weird, but It. Was. Awesome. 

3. My painted buntings are now friends with my mourning dove. IS THIS REAL LIFE?!


…and one reason to laugh/cry:

1. I discovered gray hairs in my eyebrows today. MY EYEBROWS. As the kids say, “what the actual f@”!?”

Thankfully I see my hairstylist Monday. She may or may not tint my brows which is technically not allowed in Florida (we regulate eyebrows more than gun purchases), but she takes care of me. Actually this is a reason to smile.

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Who Killed JR? His toddler who refused to sleep!

Flashback to 1983. My parents are watching Dallas in the basement with their friends. I’m at the top of the stairs, trying not to squeak the steps, hunched in a nightgown with my knees pulled tight. Of course my mom sees me and yep, she is upset. Despite her frustration she lets me sit on the floor  and join them in watching the number one show of 1983.600x600bb-85

My mom had to do this a lot–put up with a kid who was awake until all hours of the night. Usually it was just the two of us. She’d let me watch Love Boat on the tiny black and white TV in our kitchen while she made popcorn. Initially she would be exasperated (Of COURSE she was, adult Sarah gets it now!) but she always softened and lovingly let me join her in her late night routine.

Let me write it out right here in case my prayers haven’t reached my mother: MOM I AM SO SORRY FOR WHAT I PUT YOU THROUGH. MOM HOW DID YOU DO IT. MOM YOU POOR WOMAN YOU NEVER. GOT. A. BREAK!

Why the mea culpas? Because now I’m in her shoes. My almost-four-year-old is having what I jokingly refer to as the “four-year sleep regression.” She is awake approximately 99.98% of our waking hours. No break from the kid. No down time. And let me tell you, as an introvert this is so hard.

How am I responding to it all? I’m trying to model my mom’s love. (She still teaches me. When people say love never dies, that it extends forever, this is what they mean.) Lately I’m following her lead as much as I can. Like her, I’m surrendering to the fact that my kiddo won’t sleep and there isn’t much I can do about that fact. I might as well make some popcorn for her while she sits on the floor to join in watching Jane the Virgin.

I have a feeling she may someday look back fondly on these moments. I have a hunch I just might, too.


Did you interrupt your parents’ Dallas parties? Share here or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

My Kicking, Crying Child Was All of Us Today

 

My daughter had an epic tantrum at Target today, and I’m pretty sure she did it on behalf of all of us. I mean after this week, who doesn’t want to flail on the floor kicking and screaming while flinging Target Optical business cards in all directions?

We were at Target to buy a bike helmet. We found one that had cat ears and rainbows on it and that filled us both with joy. Then we wandered the Christmas section and delighted over the plush birdy ornaments and santa clauses and snow globes.It was the magical snowflake of Target trips. Until the FINAL FIVE MINUTES.

All I know is that I was in line frantically using my cartwheel app trying to scan the most expensive items for coupons, and my daughter took off. She ran to the drinking fountains. I yelled her full name get back here this minute and she came back with a little smirk. Oh yeah. This wasn’t looking good.

We finally checked out and I thought we were through the worst of it, but no. Something just snapped in my child. She wailed and screamed and at one point was lying on her back on the ground, her skirt flipped up, her face beet red, wailing. MOMMMMMY NOOOOOOO!!!!!

I tried to carry her out of the store, a colossal failure and one that I could have predicted but I tried anyway because what else could I do while pushing that ridiculous cart with the huge added on seats for children to have leg room and harnesses and whatever nonsense. God I love those carts though.

Well, the three-year-old kicked and screamed and in the process knocked over my iced coffee. I did not realize it but we were leaving a huge iced coffee trail behind us.

Insert the f. word.

It was the longest mile. I mean, seriously. How was I going to get out of this store?

Well, that’s when Jeanine came over. She was a fifty-something Target associate who was braver than the other three associates who were staring at the whole scene in disbelief. Dear sweet Jeanine put her arm on mine. She asked if there was anything she could do to help.

“There is nothing you can do” I said as I began to cry. Right there. Near checkout 10. Families silently rolled past me, their children staring.

What I wanted to say? 

“Jeanine we are all DOOMED! What the hell happened to our country! I’m so angry and frustrated and I feel so helpless. And yes I get why people want to give a middle finger to the establishment but really, electing he-who-shall-not-be-named??? It’s all too much. And why won’t my kid just sit. in. the. damn. cart?”

Of course, I didn’t say any of that. But Jeanine JUST KNEW I NEED HER TODAY. She quickly went work, fetching a a brown paper bag with little handles that she offered to my daughter.

“Would you like this special bag? Can you put your things in here and carry it all by yourself?” Then Jeanine pulled out her roll of stickers, commenting on each one as she placed them over each Target bullseye.

As if this wasn’t enough to earn her angel wings, Jeanine saw my empty coffee cup and she offered to get me a new coffee. SHE OFFERED TO GET ME A COFFEE. I told her it was ok, I hadn’t purchased at the in-store Starbucks–but I am pretty sure had I asked she would have gone and gotten a new one for me anyway.

I think we are going to need a lot of Jeanines moving forward. Neighbors, colleagues, mothers with stinker-butt children, if you are struggling, I promise to be there for you. (Assuming my child isn’t it booking down the street.)

Let us not forget, we belong to each other. Thanks for the reminder, Jeanine. 

 

 

 

Honoring My Urge to Clean

I recently took a day off of work to clean. Spontaneously, with gusto, and with more love for cleaning products (stainless steel appliance cleaners! fancy sponges!) than, well, ever before probably in the history of Sarah.

I am not a neat freak. I used to be a slob. I am a recovering slob. Let’s just say I lean toward being a tad like one of my favorite law school professors. His office had stacks and stacks of papers, so much so that he refused to move offices even when he received a promotion. He knew exactly where everything was in that chaotic mess, thank-you-very-much.

I’m not that bad, but I definitely lean in that direction.

My husband is the neat freak. He gets a little too twitchy about it sometimes for my taste. But it is ok because he balances out my lackadaisical tendencies.

So back to the day off to clean.

It was glorious.spring_clean_with_cc

Lately I had been feeling unmoored. Things in my life that should feel steady and constant hadn’t felt steady and constant.

My solution to all of this was to clean. To assert some order in the chaos. To rid the stagnant and stale energy of October and usher in the gloriousness that is this November.

This is not my usual solution. In fact, my brain was trying to talk me out of it. (“What a silly way to spend a day off” “Why is this bugging me so much, shouldn’t I be able to let it go?”)

I overrode all the negative chatter and I went to my happy place: T.J. Maxx. I slowly wandered the store with my short cart, no child in tow, no husband, just me and a coffee, sniffing candles and perusing sale racks. I realize it is consumeristic and a bit ridiculous to claim that T.J. Maxx is my happy place. And I assure you, when I was in labor with my daughter I was not envisioning the quiet, fluorescent-lit aisles as I breathed through a contraction.

But T.J. maxx and its aisles of storage bins, linen sprays, and laundry baskets was just what the doctor ordered. I got handy-dandy containers to organize my pantry. Bins that hold canned goods! A cute little container for your sponge and scrubber that suctions to the side of the sink.

And when I got home, I cranked up the NPR, put on scrubby clothes and got to work. IT FELT SO GOOD. I cleaned, I organized, I argued with political commentators on the radio.

It totally and completely renewed me.

It turns out that a day off to clean was exactly, precisely what I needed. It wasn’t my typical “self-care” regimen, for sure. I love yoga, meditation, a walk in the woods just as much as the next gal. But this time when my soul spoke, it told me it wanted to scrub dirt. And watch Strange Things on Netflix until too late into the night.

Yesterday, the day after my cleaning-day-off, I got an email from the writer/retreat leader Jennifer Loudon entitled “The Spiritual Importance of Watching TV” and gee, talk about timely. She writes:

Forget the spiritual ideal of trying to be awake and aware all the time. Or doing only “healthy” things to recharge. Let alone always pushing yourself to be “better and better.”
….
I see too many people, especially women, holding themselves to some spiritual ideal or some productivity guru’s ideal of what life should look like.

Self-improvement all the time!
Striving to be awake and aware 100% of the time.
Working 8 hours a day without a break. (You can’t do it, but you may think you should be able to – so draining.)

It all becomes another way to terrorize yourself with some impossible ideal.
….

You end up settling for crumbs, for what I call shadow comforts: things that don’t truly nourish you, but because you think giving yourself what you really want is lazy or even dangerous, you end up starving yourself of real rest and relaxation.

And then you rebel. Maybe by binge watching 10 hours of Netflix or eating food you aren’t hungry for or by giving up working on your creative dream.

By listening to my body’s weird request to clean and categorize, I found deep satisfaction. I can’t tell you how much it recharged me.

(And my husband, well I told him not to get used to this or anything. Unless it turns out I’ve been hiding an inner-neat-freak all these years!)

I leave you with this: what if you listened to your deepest desires and needs without judgment. What would that look like? And if you rebel against it, why might that be?


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The time I tried to lure my child to sleep with ambient music

Nobody is getting sleep in our house lately. The kid seems to be getting too much sleep at preschool nap time plus allergies and colds and high-spirited-child. No sleep. No time for watching Jane the Virgin before bed. (Me, not the child.)

Ok, I’m done whining.

But first, a story. A humorous story where I thought I could perhaps FIX this lack of sleep thing!

(Laughter.)

I read about some music that has been proven by science to be the most relaxing and I thought, a HA! WE WILL TRY THIS.

So while my husband was trying to get the kid to sleep I listened to it to try it out. I nearly fell asleep. Oh this was good. 

When it was (inevitably) my turn to take over trying to get this child to go the f to sleep, I brought my handy music playlist.

This is a recap of how it went down:

Me: “We are listening to nighttime music.”

(Turns on ambient-ish music on iphone.)

Child: “I WANT TO SEE! I WANT TO SEE!”

Me: “NO! There is nothing to see. You listen with your ears.”

(Places phone high, high up where child cannot reach.)

Child: bouncing on bed to music.

Me: Yelling, cajoling. Finally gets kid to lay down in sleep position.

Several minutes pass. Music is weird and includes rainstorm sounds.

Child: Sits straight up in bed. “What is that sound?? It is not raining! Why is it raining in the music!”

Me: “It is supposed to relax you! Just LISTEN! AND GO. TO. SLEEP.”

Music nears the end of six minutes. Child is twitching and falling into sleep. Omigoditisactuallyworking. 

Music ends. 

KID WAKES UP.

Child: “I want the music again!”

 

Annnnd back to square one.

(These small beings eventually grow up and actually sleep. Unassisted. Right??)

 

 

A Lesson in Lightening Up, Letting Go

Which meltdown do I begin with? Me yesterday frantically trying to find my daughter’s Halloween costume (the one I purposely bought early since I knew I would be busy traveling for work) only to lose it and despair over the fact? Or the blueberry smoothie that spilled over half the living room rug and had me yelling at nobody in particular? Or maybe it was the bathroom desperately in need of mopping before someone mistakes it for a baseball stadium restroom. (Thank the kiddo and her pee-pee accidents for that.)

Yes, yesterday was a Day. It was a day where I felt so super-charged in my responses to fairly benign stresses (or at least routine ones) that it was hard at times to remember that I shouldn’t just blindly obey the part of my brain that desires a knee-jerk reaction, and more importantly that I should not identity with those emotions and distorted thoughts that demand I feel victimized, or resentful, or defeated, or righteous. What Jen Pastiloff calls the “bullshit stories”, the false soundtrack about our life that we all create as human beings. So much easier said than done, especially when the lizard brain is clamoring to be in charge.

Yesterday, as I was frantically looking for my daughter’s costume so she could wear it to a Halloween-themed birthday party, I got teared up. It was silly and I knew that, but the emotions overcame me and I just let them. I needed the cry and I didn’t fully understand it but I tried to just be with it. My daughter saw me upset and she playfully started poking me with her broom and said “cheer up mama!” I could not help but laugh. How perfect, right? The costume that was for my daughter (not me) and yet was causing me such distress. But she wasn’t in tears! We had found a dress that looked sufficiently “witch-ish” and she had her hat and broom and what was all this fuss about exactly?

A reminder not to take ourselves so seriously.

free-flying-witch-clip-art-graphicsfairy

That as intense and strong as those emotions may be, they are not us, they are simply the wave that is surfacing and we can ride it and–yes–even laugh!

I needed that reminder from my almost-four-year-old. A young human being who knows all about intense emotions, and yet also seems to inherently know that sometimes you just pick up your broom, brush off, and keep flying.