What Did I Miss?

Hello, people! I’m BAAAAAAA-AAAAAAAAAACK!

HelloBoysImBackI typed that intro and this face was the first that popped into my mind so it’s really, truly only fitting that you guys also relive with me one of the best alien invasion movies ever: Independence Day.

(Will Smith punching an alien in the face in the middle of the desert and basically telling it today is just NOT the day? Yeah, been there.)

Anyway.

I realized that being away from the Internet, or on limited Internet usage this summer means I’ve missed a lot. (And by missed I mean the news passed me by, not that I felt any sort of sadness. I just read through this to proofread and thought, “Wow, that sounds like I’m really sad about a Kardashian…” which, no.)

For example:

I didn’t know Kim Kardashian was pregnant until two weeks after the news dropped. GASP! The second coming of KimYe could’ve passed me by entirely. I wouldn’t have had the chance to feel really, really terrible for poor Kim’s swollen cankles shoved into strappy shoes. (Dear Kim, Pregnancy means it is TOTALLY OKAY to wear flats. Just don’t pull a Brit-Brit and run into a gas station barefoot and you’re solid.)

I nearly missed the BenJen split. And now, allegedly, BenJen are reconciling maybe? Jennifer seems above the publicity fray, but are they trying to drum up support for Ben as the latest Batman? Trying to prove his virility and ability to be a hot guy in a suit where the muscles are literally not even real by spinning rumors that he boffed the nanny?

Actually, there were quite a few celeb splits this summer. I caught some of the headlines but not the details.

I missed the Real Housewives of Orange County. The entire season. Since I wasn’t writing about it, I didn’t watch. Meh. Come to think of it, I don’t really hate the fact that I missed a season. I read a lot of books and did intelligent things that didn’t involve watching grown women act like toddlers.

Thing I absolutely did not miss this summer:

Lenny Kravitz’ Little Lenny. Pretty sure nobody missed that one. (How could you miss that? Google is your friend, my friend.)

This summer’s forced hiatus gave me a lot of room and time to think about this space and what I’m doing here, ways to diversify the content while still being able to use my voice, and in that regard, I’m really excited. But it’s scary in some ways because new stuff means taking risks and sharing myself in different ways.

 

Anyway. I’m back.

Now tell me what else I missed.

 

Back to You: Kick the Day Off Right

BackToYouAh, summer. The long, lazy days filled with…well, nothing. Or mostly nothing. For us this summer consisted of swimming, visiting family, making new friends, and lots and lots of Teen Beach 2. (Don’t even pretend like you don’t want to burst into song and break out into a well-choreographed dance number after watching that movie, okay?)

In short, it was perfect.

But that sort of freedom from routine and structure can’t last forever. When school started back for Joshua, it was time for me to get myself in line so I could keep up with everything I hadn’t had to manage while we spent our days doing anything or nothing.

Enter my school-year morning routine:

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It’s a given that coffee is a must for me. Every day. It’s more than just the caffeine that jolts me awake. It’s a transition into the daily grind. (<—See what I did there?) School brought with it the new addition of spending time in my planner.

At least every other morning while I’m having my first cup of coffee, I open the calendar to the week’s activities to see what’s coming and tweak things as needed. Our bills, weekly menus, appointments, school activities, deadlines, blog post ideas, birthdays and anniversaries, all of it goes into the planner. (Check out this weekly/monthly planner to see the kind I love most.)

It’s only August but I have things written in there from now until the end of the school year. I’m chairing a PTA committee, serving as co-room parent for Joshua’s class, and the TV season is starting up soon. Life is definitely more hectic now than it was over the summer, you know?

I’m well-versed in social media and I love my iPhone like it’s a third arm, but when it comes to what’s on my docket for the day or week, I’m pretty old school. I need to write it down, erase, rewrite, and adjust. There’s something weirdly therapeutic about the scratching of a pencil across paper, the familiarity grounding me and helping me get the day started.

It’s calming, and for someone who battles anxiety, starting the day off not in a frenzy is a must.

That’s not to say there’s never any frenzy with this method. There is, after all, a 6 year old boy complaining that he doesn’t want to get dressed or brush his teeth and no-not-that-water-bottle and “can-I-please-have-Goldfish-for-second-breakfast?” and a 3 year old girl demanding snacks at 7:00 a.m. while dressing herself in a tutu and fairy wings, but my planner helps put things into perspective.

It says “here are the tasks to complete today” and checking them off brings with it a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in the midst of the chaos.

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This is a sponsored post for the Wayfair Homemakers Back to You Campaign, but this is actually how I start my day. Planners rock!

Dear Joshua, On Your First Day of First Grade

Dear Joshua,

I know “they” say I’m not supposed to shower you with praise and compliments or over inflate your ego lest you become one of the dreaded “entitled millennials” (or whatever generation you are), but I can’t really help it sometimes.

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You’re going places. I know it.

I want you to know that I’m proud of you and all the ups and downs you’ve weathered so gracefully so far in your little life. Your resilience amazes and inspires me.

It also scares me a little too.

What I want you to know this year is that it’s okay to have your feelings hurt. It’s okay to suffer disappointments and setbacks. The yucky stuff is all a part of life and I want yours to be full. Remember, good comes out of bad sometimes. (Inside Out taught us that, right?)

As life gets tougher and feelings and frustrations get bigger, I hope you always remember that I’m here. I love you no matter what. Nothing can or will ever change that.

Today you started first grade. You were so big and brave as you walked through the halls this morning, quietly repeating the directions we studied together last night.

Straight, right, left, right, and you’re there, in your new home away from home for the next 180 days. And this is it. You’re home. We’re home. Settle in. Unpack. Then stretch your wings. I’ll be busy putting down roots so you’ll always have a place to return when you need it.

I’ll be your Giving Tree. You’ll be my boy. Forever.

Absence and Hearts and Stuff

You know how people say when you love something you should let it go?

That statement does not necessarily apply to home Internet service, which I know I have complained about not having so often now people are probably on the verge of stuffing a dirty sock in my mouth just to get me to shut up about it. And yes, it’s a total First World Problem. I get it. That doesn’t make it suck any less when you’re used to streaming Netflix or using YouTube videos so you can pee in peace or just because you want to check and respond to your email on a computer instead of a cell phone, tap-tap-tapping out a message with your thumbs and hoping autocorrect doesn’t make you look like a giant buffoon.

Absence is definitely making this old heart of mine grow fonder.

Taking a break from blogging has reminded me that I am in no way ready to stop blogging any time soon. I’m not ready to stop creating and writing and sharing and sometimes oversharing and redefining boundaries. I’m not ready to quit this community, however near or far or large or small it is.

But!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned* during this largely Internet-free summer, it’s that life goes on, even without the mysterious blips and bloops of 1s and 0s that connect us happening invisibly in the air.

If a blogger isn’t able to write about something he or she did, it really did still happen. (Conversely, some bloggers write about things that didn’t really happen and that’s bad form. Don’t do that.)

In a lot of ways, this has been a great summer. An amazing summer, probably because I haven’t felt the pressure to write about every little thing and worried about content and whether or not there was anything relevant or witty to say about yet another afternoon spent swimming and snacking and laughing.

The kids and I have spent our days lounging, library-ing, and going to the pool. Wash, rinse, repeat. And we’ve all been pretty happy about it.

It’s one of the first summers in recent years that I’ve truly, completely enjoyed. There have been some long, long days and moments where I’ve nearly wanted to crawl out of my own skin, but it’s been so lazy and laid back that those days have been few.

Joshua has grown into a kid who likes to turn on his lamp and read in bed before falling asleep. Emma has learned to tread water without her floatie. They’ve both made new friends with kids in the neighborhood.

I’m ready to proclaim it the “Best Summer Ever,” to borrow from the reigning most-played album in my Google Play App. (Teen Beach 2. Check it out. Bop along in the car and enjoy yourself. Thank me later.)

But all good things, you know?

Joshua starts school next week (first grade. NEXT WEEK.) and our summer is winding down.

Our long days together are getting shorter. My heart is already missing this.

—————

*I already knew this.

 

 

There’s No Place Like Home (unless that place has WiFi)

Home. We’re home! We’re finally home! We’ve been reunited with our Annie-girl and we’re all settling into this new forever, one box at a time.For the most part, I’ve felt more peaceful and less electric than I have in months, and it’s amazing how quickly my body has adjusted to losing the feeling that every nerve is on edge and waiting to fire. It’s weird but welcome. Definitely welcome.

The only downside to being here is that we have no internet. Not like “it just hasn’t been connected yet” no internet. I mean, none of the internet providers serve our part of this neighborhood yet and none of them have any sort of timeframe for when they will. So that’s been very fun. I have all kinds of things I want to write about here but blogging from my phone is really just a stopgap and not a permanent solution. Not to mention the fact that I can’t work until I have access again.

In some ways it’s been freeing not having internet. I didn’t even know Kim Kardashian was pregnant until after the news had already stopped trending on Facebook and the kids are slowly breaking their Kinder Surprise Egg video addictions. (Seriously. Millionaires on YouTube who just…play with toys.)

Anyway. I’ve been sort of forcibly unplugged for a bit and there are perks, like being able to enjoy just being here in our home. Together. 

There’s no place else I’d rather be.

All My Children

This morning started off the same as any other. Get up, get dressed, head downstairs, start the day. Except this morning, while drinking my coffee and scrolling through Facebook, I learned that one of my former students died of a heroin overdose. It’s not the way anyone expects the day to begin, but it’s how I kicked off Monday.

My heart is so heavy right now.

The students I taught in my six years in the classroom will never stop being my children. They are ALL my children.

When I close my eyes I can see him sitting there in his desk, skinny face, close-cropped hair, manners and polite behavior for days.

I remember his smile.

It’s funny the things we remember about people after they’re gone. I can still see the handwriting of the student I lost in 2010, also in the month of May. It was so small and precise, like all the care he had in the moment went directly into making sure his pencil-to-paper routine was flawless and exacting. Kind of like the ROTC uniform of the student we lost this weekend.

I don’t know if this young man, who was by now into his 20s, was an addict who struggled or only tried heroin once or twice. I don’t know if he had trouble with other drugs or alcohol before now. I hadn’t seen him or thought of him in years prior to this morning, but the news of his death has hit me right in the heart.

He’s not the one I would’ve imagined having his life end this way. But then he probably didn’t imagine his life would end this way either.

Moments like this remind me that I will always be a teacher. I will always have the heart of a teacher. I’m not wearing that hat right now, but it hangs there in the closet waiting to be dusted off and donned once again.

Sometimes, like today, I pick it up and remember all my children, some 400 whose paths intersected with mine over works of literature.

I remember the frustration of standing in front of a room of students who just didn’t seem to grasp what I was giving them, the regrouping and trying again. I remember the moments when it seemed like the bell would never ring. I remember the excitement of a discussion going well, the joy on their faces as they finally got it.

But mostly I remember the promise in the eyes of each student who crossed my door. The hope, however distant, that flickered there. I will never be able to forget that look of life and undiscovered futures waiting just beyond the horizon of high school.

Right now, I’m remembering him. He was one of my children.

May your memory be eternal, RM, and may you find peace.

Climb Out of the Darkness 2015

Last year, on the longest day of the year, I climbed a mountain. Stone Mountain, to be exact. It wasn’t Everest, but it felt like it.

I thought about quitting half way up. I wanted to turn around and walk back down the mountain, content to have gone as far as I could, not caring that I didn’t finish. And then I heard Katherine call my name.

We finished the climb together.

In so many ways, climbing that mountain is the perfect metaphor for what it’s like to survive postpartum depression and anxiety. Any mental illness, really.

Every single day feels like climbing a mountain when you’re in the thick of anxiety or depression. Night comes and we collapse into bed, thankful to have made it to the top of the day and back down again, knowing that tomorrow the climb will happen again, only there’s hope that it will be easier and eventually we’ll reach the top and get to stay there.

I’m climbing again this year alongside Warrior moms–survivors and those currently struggling–their spouses, children, and those who love us.

We’re climbing to raise awareness of the fact that 1 in 7 mothers will be diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder. And that’s JUST the statistic on those who seek professional help from their doctors or other clinicians.

Postpartum Progress devotes its time and energy and resources to helping the moms who get help from their doctors AND the ones who don’t. This organization, one near and dear to my heart, needs our help.

Too many women begin their lives as new moms, whether it’s their first baby or their fifteenth, and experience the crippling feels of depression and anxiety. I’m climbing for those moms.

I’m climbing for me.

I have a meager first goal of raising $100 by the end of today. I’m halfway there. Halfway up the mountain last year is where I wanted to turn back, but I know that I can’t do that. After today, I have a little over a month to raise $500 for our team, and I know I can do it. But just like overcoming depression and anxiety, I can’t do it alone.

Every penny counts. Skip a latte, save a mom.

Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise

Backseat Tiger

Tuesday was a really great day. The kind of day you want to bottle up and save because it’s all sunshine and rainbows and glitter and even the rougher moments are sort of rosy. I woke up this morning with the memory of yesterday lingering in my heart. I felt light. Happy.

But then I got out of bed.

We made it out the door with no major hiccups except a toddler who wanted to sit on the counter and eat all the fruit. That wasn’t even awful, you know? I wouldn’t want to stop eating allbthe fruit either.

Something happened when we got in the car though. Almost as soon as we dropped Joshua off at school I felt tension creeping in, like a fog that just permeates everything.

I called my mom. My anxiety was growing. (Not because of my mom. She’s a bit of an anchor when I’m feeling untethered.)

Emma asked the same question and received the same answer four times in a row. 

“Where are we going?”

“To visit our new house.”

Traffic was terrible. I hated this side of town in that moment, all of its unfamiliarity and unpredictability despite nearly 8 months of living here. It’s never been the same morning twice, which sounds ridiculous, because of course it hasn’t. No two days are the same, but you know what I mean. One morning it takes me 45 minutes to go 4.5 miles and the next I’m home 10 minutes after I tell Joshua goodbye. It’s maddening. 

Taylor Swift wafted out of the speakers and suddenly it just all felt like too much. Too much confinement. Too much space. Too much traffic and people everywhere and they weren’t even really touching me but I needed them all to go. Away from me. Quickly.

I told my mom I could feel my anxiety building and I didn’t really know why but I had to hang up. I was crazy overwhelmed and nothing about this morning was any different than any other morning except we had an appointment across town and plenty of time to get there. It was so weird how suddenly my mood had shifted once we pulled out of Joshua’s school parking lot.

So I hung up the phone with my mom, turned down the radio, and then I heard Emma chattering behind me, quietly

…take a deep breath…”

So I did. 

…and count to four. 1…2…3…4!”

So I did.

And then I was better thanks to Daniel Tiger. 

And Emma. 

How Miranda Got Her Groove Back (aka A Mom 2.0 Summit Recap)

I have no pithy way to introduce this post. I’m trying and the witty, attention grabbing opener just isn’t coming. I just have things to say about attending the Mom 2.0 Summit last week/end and this is kind of my place for saying the things I have to say. So there’s your hook.

Bring on the eyerolling flack, but attending this conference fills me up and invigorates me.

Being surrounded by people who get social media is a simultaneously soothing and energizing experience for someone who spends much of her regular life surrounded by people who don’t really understand Twitter and Facebook and the connections which can be forged along those social platforms.

Finally putting faces to avatars and handles is a sort of justification that this thing we do online isn’t just blips and bloops inside a computer. The friendships made via blogging and Twitter are real, and I know that because of the way conversations flow seamlessly with those with whom we primarily interact safely tucked away behind our keyboards and screens when we’re suddenly face to face.

I’d venture to say that as many as 10 Listen To Your Mother city producers past and present were at the conference, including founder Ann Imig, and probably as many as 20 former cast members from the various cities where shows have taken place. We’ve been chatting for more than a year now about our shows, the ups and downs with planning and life, and getting to know one another.

We’ve weathered marriage, divorce, new babies, and great losses together, and for the first time, a pretty large number of us were in the same place. It felt like we were all supposed to be there. It was like we had always been together.

(FYI Ann, I’m not kidding about a retreat.)

That’s what the entire conference felt like. This year felt like an expansion of my circle and for what might be the first time in adulthood, I truly felt like I fit absolutely anywhere.

I was content to sit alone in a session or wander around by myself visiting sponsor booths because I knew that at some point, I would run into someone old or meet someone new. It was comfortable.

I felt comfortable. I felt like enough. Mostly. Except that one time I didn’t which is another post entirely.

Now that I’m home, I feel renewed. Maybe the Arizona heat just scorched my brain and I’m totally misinterpreting what I feel as the urge to write and tell stories and share and my brain is just melty. But I don’t think that’s it.

I think Mom 2.0 helped me get a little bit of my groove back. I think I’m okay with that.

A Change Will Do You Good

We’re currently in the final days of building our house. In 23 days, we’ll be homeowners again. We’ll start the process of unpacking, sorting, tossing out the old things we no longer need and want or which no longer fit our idea of what our home should look like. We’ll search for new(er) things to fill the spaces.

It feels like starting over.

As we’ve gone through the process of building a house, I started feeling some of the same emotions about Finding Walden as I did about our old home. We sold that home because we didn’t fit anymore. Or it didn’t fit us. We both needed and wanted a change, and sometimes a change will do you good. At least that’s what Sheryl Crow told me once.

So, why change the blog name? Well, why not?

That’s sort of the beauty of the Internet. When something doesn’t fit anymore, you just…do it over again. You start fresh. I felt like I needed that.

I had, I think, pigeon-holed myself into a particular style of content when what I had tried to do with Finding Walden was create a place where I could be me. Honest, messy, snarky, maybe funny, but above all, what I wanted that place to be was a place where any sort of content fit. Except it never really felt like it did.

Everything felt…cramped. That’s a weird way to think about a website feeling, but essentially this rebrand comes about because I felt like I’d outgrown Finding Walden.

Some of y’all read that and think it’s a bunch of existential hooey, but it’s not much different than changing my hair or redecorating a bedroom when the style no longer suits you. At least not in my mind.

So, why Caffeine and Cabernet? Well, why not?

I like caffeine. And I like wine. (And no, I don’t think or feel like I need either to make it through the day. Okay, except coffee. That’s non-negotiable.)

But most of all, I like that it feels open, like maybe the conversations that happen here in the future are the kind that would happen over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. A chat with friends about all sorts of things that meanders the way good conversations do where you start out talking about one thing and end up in a completely different place entirely from where you began.

Welcome to my new home.