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.

Being Enough

I found this necklace today in the bottom of a bag, all tangled up with about five other necklaces, and immediately set about extracting it from the jumble of chains and pendants. It’s one of my favorites and I thought I’d packed it away in storage with the rest of our lives.

I Am Enough

I’m headed out to the Mom 2.0 Summit tomorrow morning and I needed this little reminder that I’m enough. Just me. Just as I am.

As I started packing this afternoon, I felt myself slipping into worry and doubt, mostly about how I’ll look. It feels like something I can control, and since I always feel like the least well-traveled person in the room, no matter how inaccurate that may be, that’s where my mind goes.

Do I look good enough? Do I look like I’m pulling this all together well? Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? It’s often an exercise in faking it until I make it and quite frankly, all that worrying gets exhausting. Quickly. It robs me of the ability to pay attention to speakers and conversations and enjoy time with friends.

This will be my sixth blog conference, and the thing about all of them is that at any given moment, a majority of the people in the room don’t feel like they’re “enough.” We ALL struggle with insecurities and the person who says otherwise is lying. (No, really. They’re lying. To you or to themselves or both.)

Some of us struggle with our writing. Some of us struggle to make the right connections. Some of us struggle to know our worth. And, yes, some of us are just struggling with our Spanx.

The thing I’m trying to remember right now is that for all of my flaws, for all of my insecurities, I have strengths too. We all do. I’m tired of listening to my own brain tell me all the things I can’t do instead of the things I know I can do and do well.

Learning, being inspired, connecting, that’s why we’re there; turning ourselves into people whom we do not recognize is not.

You are enough. I am enough.

So if you see me this week at Mom 2.0 and you’re struggling with the feeling that you don’t belong, that you aren’t enough, say hi. We’ll be enough together.

It’s Showtime!

Tonight on a historic stage on the Marietta Square, 13 new voices will add theirs to a collective over 1,000 strong as they turn their invisible tassels and graduate from Listen To Your Mother cast to alumna.

I could not be more excited about the stories being shared tonight. I could not be more proud of the women (and one man!) who have trusted Jana and me and Listen To Your Mother to amplify their stories over the past two years.

Listen To Your Mother Atlanta Stage

These stories are uplifting, heartbreaking, humorous, and sometimes all three at once and then some. They are stories of courage and bravery and self-discovery and survival in the face of some of the hardest challenges life has lobbed their way.

These are stories of resilience and triumph.

I’m proud to call these women (and Benjamin) not only fellow storytellers but also friends. My life is better for having met them, my heart more full.

To our cast, past and present, thank you for trusting us with your stories. Thank you for taking a chance, a risk. Thank you for saying yes.

To Jana, thank you for being on this journey with me. There’s no one else I would rather have by my side as we bring this show to life each year.

To Ann Imig, thank you for your vision and direction. Thank you for believing in us and in Atlanta. My life is forever changed because of you.