Shamming Is Bad, Mmmkay?

Stay at home mom shamming . . . STOP IT!

Ok folks.  I’ve been inspired.  I don’t believe I am a negative person, but some may differ.  That is ok, everyone gets an opinion.  But I’ve got some things to settle with the world.  Are they important?  To me, yes; to you, maybe.  Welcome to what may become a series and will definitely become a part of the podcast that will launch this fall.

Today we are gonna talk about shamming.  While there are a lot of things we could shame folks on, I’m stuck on the trend of shamming stay at home moms.  I do recognize dads who fill the role; however I haven’t seen this particular free time hobby aimed at them.

As a disclaimer, you might just call this judging.  Feel your feels, be you.  I personally see this issue as a lack of perspective.  So, lets get to it . . .

Of course, the most frequent place I have seen this practice is on Facebook in parent groups and in general comments.  But I have seen it amongst friends, at the park, at the grocery store, on television/media outlets, etc.  For reference sake, I’ll give an example:

A recent question posted in a parent’s group:

“I’m looking for a way to stay at home with my kids.  No judgement, its just something I feel strongly about.  Can anyone offer some advice?  Ways to make a little bit of income or ways to cut back and be able to afford it?”

Responses:

“Why disrupt your life when your kids will be going to school soon?  What if you can’t get employment when you return?”

“I don’t understand this, why are mom’s (and dads) making this choice?  Wouldn’t you rather have financial stability?”

“I have friends that are stay at home parents and I honestly don’t know what they are always talking about being tired, not having enough time, etc.  I mean, they aren’t cramming an 8-10hr workday

in.”

“Do you pay childcare?  How old are the kids?  There’s always avon – I hear you qualify for government aide when one parent stays home and that makes up the difference.”

Aren’t you disgusted?  I haven’t made any of this up and I can’t believe people are so rude and dismissing.  I mean, are people really this ignorant?  I have been a stay at home mom.  I’ve also be the breadwinner while my ex-husband stayed at home with the kids. 

As a current stay at home mom I feel as though its high time this “shamming” was put to bed.  Yes, it is a choice, but damn, it’s a choice that is made after much thought and, for some, due to circumstances out of their control.

I’ve come up with some truths about being a stay at home parent:

  1. It’s not glorious all the time, for some of us, it never is.
  2. That joy you sometimes feel when you’ve finally dropped the kids off at day care and realize the car is actually silent?  Yeah . . . we may be at a home, but there are days I would kill for that second of joy.
  3. We know how fortunate we are.  We don’t miss milestones and we have amazing connections with our children.  We also have direct control of their learning and development. 
  4. While #3 is an amazing truth and honor, we also don’t always have strong and frequent friendships.  Our kids are usually with us and folks aren’t looking to go out with the entire family in tow.  Adult conversation is under appreciated by many.  We appreciate it.  I’ve had hour long conversations with the customer service rep from several providers.  It’s not about poop or popsicles, so if I need to talk about how they can serve ME better, I’m in!
  5. Yes, some of us use a babysitter.  When you are keeping kids alive, you aren’t always able to get your own errands and tasks completed.
  6. Finance talk is taboo.  Stop asking people how they afford it, please.  Beyond answering a direct question from a stay at home parent, this should never be a part of the conversation. 
  7. We won’t take our blessings for granted if you agree to recount all of yours as well.  Let’s face it, there are some days you’d like to stay home and there are lots of days I’d give my third big toe to put on a decent outfit, chat with co-workers, help a few folks, and be compensated for it. 
  8. For us, being home is what we choose.  It’s a choice, just like everyone else has made to not be at home.  It may not seem fair, it may seem one sided or ridiculous, but it is a choice.

OK!  I’m done.  Enough with the drama.  If anyone would like to experience stay at home parenting, you are more than welcome to come hangout with us any day of the week.  Come prepared.  Don’t worry about cleaning, I never get around to that anyway.  Wear clothes that can be mended, bring extra shoes, don’t worry about washing your hair (trust me), leave all valuable in the car . . . better yet, leave them at home.  I would encourage a bit of mindfulness on your commute over.  Don’t visit the gym first, you’ll get quite the workout here, that’s a promise.  If you are a guy, wear a cup.  If you are a female, well . . . you might want to wear a cup too.

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That Escalated Quickly

Let’s talk relationship advice and my current rambling thoughts.

You may be sitting there wondering why on earth I would even attempt to comment on this topic.  I mean, lets face it, I had a starter husband.  Then I got another lined up as replacement, but that didn’t work out either.  I don’t just have a dismal batting average, I’m in the dirt folks!  But, a lot can be learned from observation.  More importantly, a lot can be learned from having no scruples and giving anything and everything a shot. 

Of course, there is another reason this topic is on my mind.  Facebook.  It’s the devil . . . but I can’t look away.  Recently a woman posted anonymously (OP – Original Poster) within a local parents Facebook group that she has been cheating on her spouse with a fellow sports parent (who is also married).  Our lovely group than launched into quite the colorful conversation that has reach epic numbers of participation, gained some of the funniest meme’s I’ve ever seen, and broached the subject of compassion vs. disgust.  Obviously, I fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.  I mean, I still don’t understand why the post was made.  It was roughly 17 lines of expressing guilt, lust, shame, destiny, and embarrassment.  Nery a question was asked.

Moving on, this post got me thinking.  What is it that we all want?  I would love to stumble upon the perfect man, a dream job, a mansion, and a yacht, but I don’t see any of that happening!  I feel as though my time on match, eHarmony, plenty of fish, speed dating, tinder (I clearly misunderstood the sole purpose of that situation), newspaper personals, AOL, yahoo chats, myspace, Xanga, and the wonderful Facebook have afforded me expert status.  While that probably isn’t remotely true, we are just going to pretend it is for the next several minutes.  Deal? Great.

I can’t sit here and say, “shame on you”.  I also am not able to sit here and say “well, mistakes happen, just be careful”.  I find both of those to be the exact opposite of who I am.  What I can say is that we are surrounded by struggling, broken, and failed relationships.  I continue to be astounded at the rate and number of divorces in our current culture.  I am one of those, and I am not ashamed.  What this entire subject has done is make me contemplate how I approach relationships that are broken by infidelity.  I found it quite easy to laugh and make jokes at the above OP.  Possibly because I have no idea who it is, or even more possible because jokes and laughing are two of my favorite past times.  But at the expense of who?

A commenter made a very valid point in saying “I wonder if the OP is watching this and what they are feeling/experiencing from all the comments”.  Hmm . . . well, I doubt she’s feeling any better. 

That leads me to the overall question or quandary.  How do we respond when someone’s actions threaten a relationship?  Do we pick sides?  To the naked eye it seems there is a clear divide.  But what do we REALLY know?  Honestly, we don’t know anything.  All my experience and failed attempts haven’t taught me anything worthy of be a productive part of the conversation.  Even those who have been married for 40 years may not have the answers.   You know who does?  The 4 adults that are involved and ultimately need to make the decisions.

In the end, I don’t need to fall on either side of compassion or disgust.  Its not my business.  While it’s been fun and I certainly didn’t help the situation, it brought me to a very significant crossroads.  I love Facebook.  I love it for the connections, the ability to keep in touch with friends and family all around the world, and because I get to be me 100% of the time.  I get to be me, even when I realize after the fact that “me” is in the wrong.

I post personal struggles in part because I strive to live an authentic life.  I utilize social media to be transparent and to be held accountable.  I do not use Facebook to air dirty laundry, launch wars with others, or feed the gossip mill.  Those are never my intentions.  I understand that we all react differently, and this post certainly touched some significant parts of my purpose and reasoning within social media, relationships, and just in general, humanity.

Initially, the post that led me to this blog entry was nothing more than a joke and a few people that seriously needed to get their wits together.  Strangely, it is transformed into an introspective look at the little ways we judge others.  What are we looking for?  To not be judged.

Letting Go

I’m having a life altering moment right now. Some of you may have read a few of my posts discussing a huge yard sale we are having this week. I only do 1 Sale a decade (😆😂😆😂🤷🏼‍♀️).

As I’ve gone through my house and purged things I haven’t touched in 2 years, I came to my beloved library. I treasure books. I long for the places and the people that are crafted within the pages. But as I stood there I realized holding onto a book, or giving it up, won’t change these memories.

So, for what will be the second time in my life, I am intentionally choosing to LET GO. Yes, I’m shedding tears, but more because I sincerely hope the person that picks each book gets the same joy I did.

I kept my favorites. The books I talk about often and books that hold my dry tears, belly laughs, and transformational moments. They are a rare find in terms of who I am today and will always remain in my library, on the highest shelf, looking down on my family and reminding us all that an escape is simply a page turn away.

Oh the People We Meet

One of my favorite classes back in undergrad was my creative writing course. This is a piece that ended up as part of my final portfolio at graduation. It’s a mix of reality and creativity, but it contains the essence of every summer I spent at camp.

 My eyes are burning. Why is it so bright? What is that sound? I can’t move, everything feels different.

*****

 Growing up, I spent every summer at camp. Every day was a new adventure, and every night was a different prank. Camp was my getaway. Back home there were seven siblings, five older than me. Home was where I never wanted to be. My parents worked hard and provided for us, so life was good. We had everything we needed and wanted.  But I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes “everything” wasn’t what I wished for. I longed to be seen.

*****

 I hear something, but I can’t place it. I know it’s early, I always wake up at six in the morning. 

*****

 Back home, school starts at seven, so my body is internally set to rise on time. For some reason, today, six feels odd. There are only four more days left of camp. I can’t believe the summer went by so fast. I’ll miss Jessie the most, who’d of thought we would end up being best friends?

 The first day of camp, six years ago, I walked into my cabin and there she was. Jessie was sitting on her bed crying. Not tiny tears, the kind of crying that makes your shoulders jump up and down and your throat makes that deep sucking noise when you try to breathe. I laughed at her – really loud. After all, I had a reputation to keep. 

 Jessie became my target. If I found her hovering in a corner, I’d call her out. When she was taking a shower I made sure to flush all five toilets. Somehow, she came through it. After two weeks she stopped crying, stood up straight, and flashed a smile as my friends and I tormented her. I remember thinking, who is this girl?

*****

 I don’t feel different. But then again, I haven’t moved. If I stay still no one will wake up. Ten extra minutes of sleep are precious these days.

*****

 Family isn’t a word I use too often. I write letters to my “real” friends from the summer and talk to them on the phone each week. School is okay, I typically only have one other sibling in the same building so I can achieve separation most of the time.

 When my mom dropped me off at the bus for camp in May she said, “no trouble this year, Chenon.” I smirked and ran to the bus. Me, trouble? Well, how else am I supposed to get their attention? But I don’t get into trouble.  I just have fun. Since when did fun become a crime?

*****

 I don’t hear anyone else yet, just that sound. It is familiar, but not to the cabin, and certainly not to this time of day in the cabin. I’ll just lay here a bit longer; someone is bound to get up soon. 

 I wonder what we’ll do for evening program tonight. Last night was amazing, I’ll never forget it. Wait . . . is that water?

*****

 Last year for my speech class I did a presentation on summer camp. It was the best day of the school year because I got to talk about my favorite time of year. I also learned that Shane, the hottest guy in my class, goes to camp too. I wonder what he does at camp. He said his parents send him to Texas for five weeks each summer. 

 I remember the first time I went to camp. I was six and scared. There were so many kids, some older than me. I unpacked, made my bed, and went for a walk. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by kids introducing themselves and giving me a tour. For once, people were flocking around me. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was ready to go with it.

 That summer went on to mark fantastic beginnings. I made hundreds of friends, realized I could live without my mommy, and learned that I could be somebody. I had no idea that I’d be the somebody I am right now. Everyone knows my name, they run to my table at meals, and I’m always first picked for relay races. Maybe school could be like that this year, but I won’t hold my breath.

*****

 I don’t sleep near the bathroom, and the lake is on the other side of camp. It can’t be water. I’ve been coming to this camp for 12 years and I’m sure . . . oh wait, it could be raining. No, I checked the weather. I’m supposed to take my cabin on an all-day hike today, so I made sure we would be prepared. The radio said no chance of rain, pure sunshine. 

 I guess it’s time to get moving, the girls will be up soon. Wait, I can’t move, what is going on? Why am I outside? Oh no! They got me! But how did they get me and my bed on a floating dock? And how do I get free?

*****

 I’ve learned a lot over the years. Coming to camp helped me learn who I was and who I am capable of becoming. That summer I met Jessie was the year I figured out that being mean doesn’t make you a winner and it won’t always make your popular. Most importantly, I learned that best friends come in all shapes and sizes. Jessie turned out to be the coolest person I’ve ever known.

*****

 Help! Somebody help! 

 I have to pee. Wait, is that a box of tissues? Well, well, well. Jessie strikes again. Every time she pranks me, she leaves a box of tissues. As a reminder of what I didn’t give her on the day we met.  Here come the campers, it must be time for breakfast. I guess I’m on display. 

 Payback for years of pranks has finally come full circle. I love summer camp.

Where Do I Belong?

Going through files I came across this gem. I took a course a while ago that pushed me to explore creative writing. I loved it and this week I’m going to share some of those goodies!!

Walking through the doors on my first day of junior high I was speechless. Even though everyone around was familiar, something was different. The new building gave the impression that entrance on its own changed you from the inside out. Classmates that used to be my friends were merely acquaintances now. Apparently, growing up meant that you had to start all over. As the first days of junior high grew into weeks, something happened.  Everyone had to belong to someone else. Suddenly, we emerged from grade school with the inability to be alone. I have learned over the years that this realization became a way of life from that moment on. We all need to feel wanted and want to be needed.

 When in time did this desire to build cliques begin. Looking back through history I found instances where individuals came together in their own sects. In Biblical times the disciples were a group; the Pharisees and Sadducees were together; even the priests had their own inner circle. The United States was founded on the beliefs and dreams of an inner circle. Through these recollections it has become clear to me that as a race, we need to belong. We were born different, raised different, taught different, and matured different. But those differences bind us together in some form of social interaction.

 I find it interesting how social we are as a human race. The need to find a group feeds this longing. Even a hermit is needed by someone or something. While the majority of the world seeks out a group of likeminded and commonly grounded foes, the average hermit finds solace in four walls of shelter. After all, there is no part of history that dictates who or what we must belong to . We all scoff when reports surface of an old lady with 500 cats in her house. She longed for fur balls and the soft purr of a friend that enjoyed her company. Who are we to judge?

 This idea of finding a place to belong began way before junior high. But the lasting effects of this desire surface around the ages of eleven or twelve. Friends become more than someone you see at school or play with on the weekend. Friends become your guide and, in some cases, your moral compass. The groups formed in junior high have a fifty percent chance of surviving the social pool that is high school.

 Entering the doors of high school offers a similar experience to junior high. The difference is that we’ve had two or three years of practice. The halls are bigger, the teachers are meaner, the lines are longer, and the expectations are much higher. Suddenly we realized that finding a group needs to happen immediately, this can’t wait. All around groups are forming like a mass exodus to the only remaining ant hill in the field. Where do we belong, why must we belong? Do we stand out or fall in line?

 Even Aristotle and Plato had an inner circle. They were the brilliant minds of our past so, they must have had a heads up on this “belonging” business. Now that high school has taken over our lives the social need is greater. If we don’t belong to anyone or anything the days get longer, the tasks get harder, and the end feels like it may never have a sunrise. Once we found a place, a people that understood us, or so we thought, life became easier. These groups and cliques helped us navigate through struggles and life lessons hard fought. But were they the right guides? Did they genuinely care about us? 

 This innate desire to belong lives with us forever. We feel great relief when the diploma lands in our palm and the pomp and circumstance plays its last tune. The survival of the fittest has come to end and now, growing up wasn’t so hard to do – or so we thought. Life moved on at a quick pace, but suddenly we realized that this longing hasn’t gone away. Not only has it grown, it has become more complex. The things and people we need are more sensitive, their needs are greater, their lives are evolving, and most importantly no one stands still for long. If you take an extra minute to fix your hair in the mirror you might miss their departure.

 Now we must find a new belonging. The stakes are higher, while the formation of the school ground is in the rear-view mirror, the gathering of more sophisticated means is a figment through the windshield. But what do these groups look like? How, in a world of millions of adults, and things, do we find where we belong. Suddenly the need for guidance is lost, but the need for reassurance is much stronger. We are not growing into people any longer, we are trying to maintain what we have grown.

 This longing, this deep desire, is it required. Can we manage on our own? According to God and his followers, absolutely not. But what about those people that don’t believe in a higher power, why do they congregate? I have come to believe that no matter what or where we put our faith, the desire to share and have common ground is stronger than any self-disciplined individual. For that matter, even animals survive in groups. Walking through the zoo, nine out of ten residents have company. So, what will come of this odd inner struggle to find a place?

 Everywhere we look there are options. We can become athletes, join a book club, become communication Rembrandts, or simply fade into the collections we have created to fill the void. Whatever we chose, a selection is made. Life is about belonging. Beginning new jobs, joining new clubs, and becoming a member of a bigger family all raise that familiar feeling and universal question of “Where do I belong?”

 I have found that this simple question can be traced back to some of the memories and events of our past. Inevitably, at some point we chose the wrong group or person to belong to. Choice were made that took us down a path not so bright. I find it ironic that, while this longing is bread into us, the decisions aren’t always positive. Something we must do carries the weight of being completely wrong and life altering. Ask the guy in cell 453 at the local prison. He’ll tell you he belonged, but that belonging was built on progress not sustainability. How can such mere desire be backtracked and filled with disaster? I guess you could ask Adam and Even the same question. They are the ones that got us into this mess. They needed to belong to wisdom. Now they, nor us, know what to do with it.

 As a child we longed for the days of making our own decisions. As a teenager we would daydream of the moment our lives would become free and full of adventure. As new adults set free in a magic world, we begin to realize that not much has changed from our days on the recess yard. The view is bigger, and the needs are greater, but the outcome is still inevitable. Do we join the geek table? Or maybe the cheerleaders well accept us. Worst case scenario, the band cluster always has room for one more. The faces may change as an adult, but the need to belong will never go away. It just becomes more sophisticated. length;d

Must Have Been a Manic Monday

Our Monday Morning (actually Tuesday):

5:45 – Gotta pee, see the time and think “meh, I can get another wink in before 6am”.

6:00 – Alarm sounds … volume is down so I don’t hear it.

6:01 – 7:27am – Second alarm sounds at 6:40 and I don’t hear that either. At some point Ari crawls in my bed and starts jabbering away. I don’t EVER open my eyes and make contact during these times because eye contact means I’m awake and I don’t want to be awake.

7:28am – Ari: Maaaaaaaama, ma, ma, moom!!!!!!!

Me: WHAT!!!! (Eyes still closed)

Ari: Mr Gold Sun is UP!

Me: Pissed off and ready to slice this child, I look at my phone and it’s now 7:29am. 😳😳😳😳😳😳

7:29:53 – General household announcement that the bus is leaving in 10 minutes those not on it will suffer the wrath of Mama Known’s grueling cleaning schedule all day (uh, if you’ve been in my house you know this does not exist … EVER).

7:33 – Ari is standing on her bed, naked, clothes in hand. “I’m getting dressed mama”

Ashley is STILL in bed but swearing she is up and almost dressed.

7:37 – Ari now has pants on. Zoe has a collar and her legs are quivering from holding pee. Ash is nowhere to be seen. But send out a signal of life every 30-40 seconds.

7:40 – Ari and I dash downstairs, I make a pathetic PB sandwich and throw in a granola bar and call it a day for her lunch.

Ashley still has made no entrance.

7:45 – Ari has on her pants, socks, shoes, coat … underwear in one hand, shirt in the other. Ash has appeared in a nice dress and designer leggings. Good to know someone has the time for style today.

7:47 – (Ari should be in school now) Ari disrobes in the kitchen to put on the forgotten garments. Ash throws a breakfast sandwich in the micro, let’s Zoe out to pee and decides to change her clothes. Uhhh … NO! The second announcement is made that anyone in various states of undress will still be boarding the mama bus in 1 minute.

7:49 – Run to the truck that we left outside instead of in the heated garage. Winter has returned … nobody is dressed for the 37 degree shock.

7:49:17 – Ari doesn’t have her bag!!!! She runs to get it.

7:51 – Finally leaving for the school run.

7:53 – LATE so Ash has to walk Ari to her classroom.

8:03 – LATE so Ash has to be buzzed into to school while I call them and beg for mercy.

8:07 – PLEASE DEAR GOD DONT LET THIS MORNING BE IN VAIN … I CAN NOT MISS THE DIRECT TV AND INTERNET APPOINTMENT AT 8AM!!!! Mama Known needs her WiFi and HBO back.

Any other day and I would have declared it a no school day, handed Ari the remote, and gone back to sleep.

When the Natives Get Restless

It’s been a long winter here in Wisconsin. Kids are restless, they have lost their minds, refuse to wear appropriate clothing, and are demanding lemonade like it’s a requirement for life during what should be warmer months. What is a parent to do!?! Seriously, this may actually be my signal for help. Mom down! Sound the alarms! Woop woop!

I grew up in Northern Indiana and Central Michigan. I don’t have any clear recollection of seasons being skipped, extended, or left to be a mere figment of our grainy imaginations. I spent my summers at camp and the rest of the year in school. I guess you could say my life as a child was very similar to the Wonder Years.

Now, fast forward to today and this ridiculous cold streak that may never end. Oh, but wait … there’s hope! We’ve had 3 days above 50 degrees and might just fall near 30 at night, but not below for the first time in what seems like a century. You see, we adults can rationalize this weather system business. Kids? Not at all. At least not my kids.

My four year old firmly believes that since Mr. Sun is now waking up before 6am, not taking naps, and staying up until after 7pm that she should definitely be on the same schedule. She also spends her days finding new ways to attempt breaking in to the OUTDOOR pool because it’s summer already. When she can’t get to the pool she just strips and swims in her Sammy the Snail sand table. Oh yes, picture that … you will laugh for a bit.

My 15 year old is on a totally different spectrum. Not only is it supposed to be nice enough to wear shorts and tank tops, she believes by being strong willed the global system has no choice but to align. Yup, that’s right, apparently I’m parenting a child that has the power to persuade Mother Nature. After she’s done dressing for the beach on a brisk 35 degree day, she puts on a Xero Exposure four layer winter coat to keep the breeze from drying out her skin. Uhhh … legs aren’t important? We are just freezing them off now? I don’t think CPS is ok with you having nubbins simply because Mother Nature needs to shape up or ship out. Yeah, they would definitely frown about that.

So you see, as parents, we fight a losing battle. I wake up smart, look smart, fix and spruce up the unsmart factors, and enter the battle field. As always, I realize at the moment I hit the front lines that I’m not prepared; I’ve become a causality of disservice; and how in the hell will I escape this nightmare without 1. Causing lasting injury and 2. Maintaining even a modicum of self respect? The answer? A bunch of emoji’s that don’t quite say what I’m feeling or thinking on an individual basis, but together … they speak volumes.

😳🤨😂🤷🏼‍♀️😥😬😭🤢🤭☹️😡😬🙄🤦🏽‍♀️

To tame the wild she brought her outside slide in to practice while the snow melted.

Awe … they look so sweet and harmless. 🤯

I promise … this coat is the only smart clothing this child had on. Sometimes the battle is lost so you have energy for the wars to come.

I fought the Pot, and We Both Won

I took a step back.  I researched and studied.  And I stand (well, sit actually) here proudly and ready to share that I may have lost the battle, but the Instant Pot lost the war.   Yes, I’m dramatic, get used to it.  Just to recap, I attempted to make a pot roast in this beastly kitchen appliance a few weeks ago and was sadly disappointed.  I walked away damaged and destroyed by an electrical object.  However, my mama raised no quitter.  The internet may have a lot of fake news, but when it comes to the Instant Pot, it’s legit!

Not only did I win, but I made the best meal we have had in over a year.  I’m no Gordina Ramsey, but I’ve got chops in the kitchen.  I’ll admit, I can’t take much credit for the succulent pile of tender and juicy pot roast that was lifted out to a chorus of ooh’s and ahhh’s tonight.  Here’s the shocker . . . the roast wasn’t the star.  When preparing this most loved meal I always make mashed potatoes.  My potatoes are good, and I’ve perfected the recipe from a combination of friend’s recipes over the years.  But these potatoes?  I’d like to think they were amazing and the best I have ever had.

First of all, if you have come here for a healthy recipe, you will be disappointed.   If you have come here for a recipe in general, stay tuned, you’ll get that when I am able to recreate this genius and record it.  Let me just say, the potatoes cooked with the meat for 2hrs on high pressure.  After a natural decompression I then prepared them as if I were making mashed potatoes like any other day.  The magic was in how they were seasoned and cooked in the Instant Pot.  These potatoes tasted like GRAVY!  I’m not joking.  I didn’t even make gravy because these potatoes turned out so flavorful that we didn’t need it.  The meat was juicy, and every bite was like you didn’t deserve it for free.

I have a saying I live by: If you didn’t learn anything, go back and look again.  I truly believe this applies to every part of our lives, even in the kitchen.  After my first instant pot disaster I had to go back and figure out what went wrong and how I couldn’t get a stinkin’ kitchen appliance to comply.  It wasn’t easy and I’ll admit, there have been 2 other massive failures prior to this most excellent success.  But there is a bigger picture here, no matter what, keep going.  And yes, I just took this journey to an entirely different level.

In the kitchen, in the bedroom, heck, even in the bathroom, pretty much anywhere, if you feel like a failure, like there is no way to succeed . . . you just keep going.  I sat down to blog tonight and caught myself flipping through pictures.  Isn’t digital media amazing?  I love that I can tap something, swipe another, or just speak to Alexa and I have my past looking back at me.  This Instant Pot war reminded me of my mom.  She couldn’t cook for crap.  Seriously, the lady had eight recipes and rotated them with Chinese take-out, Little Caesars Pizza-Pizza, and Arby’s.  But this lesson goes beyond the kitchen, it reminded me of my moms’ tenacity and her incomparable desire to be the best she could be.

This woman fought a rare cancer for 16 years.  She fought for two years prior to that to even get a doctor to listen to her and believe something was wrong.  She died on April 6, 2012.  She did not die from cancer.  Cancer did not win.  She passed due to all the complications and damage that years of chemotherapy had done to her heart and her lungs.  She experienced remission three times!  Her last breath was on her own terms, with her family by her side, and with no shame.  Would she have wanted another day?  Absolutely.  But she lived her life and lived it well.  She didn’t let the little things, or the big things derail her for long.  And when she noted a derailment, she made the corrections. 

My mom (front left) with my grandma, aunts, and uncles (2009).

“We aren’t supposed to be perfect; we’re supposed to be whole”.  I heard Jane Fonda say that once.  We get whole by seeking out the lessons, learning, rebuilding, and trying again.  In the face or aftermath of disaster, we must keep going.

A picture of our meal, or even an Instant Pot seems appropriate.  But instead, I decided to throw in some pics of the reason I keep moving.  We all have them; we just need a reminder from time to time.  Sure, some of these pictures remind me of heartache, rough times, lost love, and moments I’d love to bury. I won’t bury them because they remind me what I’ve learned and where I’ve come from.

Idiocy At It’s Finest

Measurements. Fractions. MATH!!!!  I consider myself to be fairly intelligent.  After homeschooling my daughter for 5 years I think I’ve got the hang of pretty much everything but complex chemistry because its dumb and I have no use for it (though it would probably come in handy with this whole instant pot business).  However, I have come to tell you that children, especially teenagers, will turn you into the dumbest person in the neighborhood.  You doubt this statement? I have proof!

My teenager came home with an assignment to make a batch of cookies.  Great, we can do that!  She gathered the recipe and informed me that first, we must purchase cream of tartar.  Of course, my response is, “nah . . . that’s a fancy phrase for baking powder”.  Forty-five minutes later (I did a test batch to check my theory) and the nastiest snickerdoodles I’ve ever tasted, we trucked ourselves to the local Piggly Wiggly.

Safely back at home, the kid goes to work.  The first step is to take a recipe for two dozen cookies and break down the measurements to half of that.  Awesome, that’s math.  Not her favorite subject, but I hammered this stuff into her head for five years, surely, she can do this without me.  Ten minutes later in prances my child with a recipe and the conversions for ingredients.  For a moment I was certain my eyes were playing tricks on me.  They were not. 

2 ½ = 1 ½

2 ¾ = 1 ¾

Yeah . . . apparently, I must educate today.  Just so you are aware, I have an internal gauge for my blood pressure.  In times like this there is a bar in the upper right-hand corner of my vision field with 5 lights in succession from yellow to red (moving right to left).  They light up the more agitated I get.  I was already clearly at stage 1 because that first yellow light was quite blinding and the second one was starting to blink as I looked at these conversions and wondered if either of us would survive this assignment.

I took a breath (the second light went dark!!!!) and explained that ½ does not mean you just take away a whole number.  That doesn’t make any sense at all.  Let me stop here and explain a little something.  When a child, any child, is tasked with making cookies they do not give a crap about the process, they want the cookies!  I swear, this kid was already drooling just knowing what was coming in her near future.  Moving on, she huffed and puffed and marched back to the kitchen counter to re-evaluate the situation.  Stage 2 skipped the blinking period and immediately lit up in a darker stage than the first. 

From my perch in the living room I can see everything.  As I observe I notice light number 3 start a slow blink.  I’m aware that my child is standing there utterly baffled by this NASA level complication.   So, I offer verbal assistance.  “Child!  What is the denominator?  What is the numerator?  How many parts are in a whole?” Her response: “Can I use a calculator?”  You guessed it, stage three is full blown orange and no longer blinking.  This isn’t hard.  I gave direction and a hint. 

I directed this wonderful child of mine to break down the original measurements into quarters.  Her response was some form of “dollar quarters or time quarters?”  Obviously, my words came quickly, harshly, and full of a level of sarcasm that would rival many of my prior comebacks.  “Uhhh . . . how about cooking quarters?”  I could go on to explain the insanely ignorant conversation that ensued, but I’ll save you those five minutes.  I couldn’t save them for myself, but I will do that for you. 

Now that we have defined what a quarter is, we can proceed.  This child, my child, a child I know has a brain, proceeds to announce that 11 has no half.  It is a prime number, and this is the dumbest recipe ever.  I agree on the dumb part, but I will reserve to whom or what it applies.  She can’t remember to comb her hair, but she knows 11 is a prime number?  Come on!!!!

After one of the most painful 4 minutes of my life, she managed to get out the measuring cups and realize that ½ and ¼ show her how many “parts” a whole has.  Another nail on chalk board two minutes later she uses these tools to figure out that 5 ½ is the total of parts that she needs to convert.  Are you confused?  Because here is where things get ugly.

We’ve now invested well over 15 minutes into this conversion ordeal.  I’ve reached stage 4/5 in my journey to oblivion/maximum annoyance.  My child, this wonderful cherub, reached her own level 5 about 10 minutes ago.  But we press on, there are snickerdoodles on the line.  Mass confusion ensues because I’ve spent so much time explaining what the “parts” represent that I’ve managed to uneducate myself and have no idea what ½ of ¾ is. 

I’m not going to admit that to her!  So, I do math in my head.  Nope, that’s not right.  I do math out loud.  Nope, now I sound kind of dumb.  Finally, in a sudden moment of reality, I go to google.  Google responds quickly and promptly with 6 tablespoons.  Wait . . . what?!  You mean I was expected to calculate a conversion to a different type of measurement?  More importantly, why did I take on this task?  We have a smart home!  Alexa is the queen bee around here. 

And just like that my trader child grabbed the measuring spoons, shook her head and called her fairly intelligent mother an idiot.  She’s pretty lucky that stage 5 only blinked and that she has school tomorrow because survival would have been questionable if things shifted any other way.  I’d also like to add that the second idiot involved in this little situation produced some sort of ok cookies . . . but there’s no need to spill those beans.

Lessons of Laughing

Parenting. The word needs no introduction and it definitely needs no explanation.  In my world, a world full of kids with traumatic backgrounds, parenting is a dirty word.  My kids came to me with parents, what they needed was loving.  So, I practice loving.  Every breath, every step, every thought is centered (or supposed to be) around loving unconditionally and openly.

Genuine laughing heals the soul.

                Ironically, along with that loving comes an awful lot of humor.  I have a great friend and mentor that passed on some wisdom to me a few years ago.  She said, “don’t call someone stupid, that’s rude.  But, by all means, call them an idiot”.  Ironically, that is the direct opposite of the actual definitions, but I like the way it sounds, so I’m sticking to it.  With that being said, I love and raise idiots.  Even the pets, all of them, straight up idiots. 

                Why?  Well, let me lay out some examples.  One of the boys used to turn on the shower, then dance around in the bathroom until he felt he had wasted enough time.  Then come out in clean clothes and act as though he had showered.  Oh, did I forget to say he was 15 at the time?  Another prime example would be one of my daughters that decided the best way to not get caught stealing food and hiding it would be to cut a hole in her pillow and stuff the evidence there.  That’s great if you actually cleaned your room and didn’t allow the hidden treasures to get so severe that they were falling out of the pillow case. 

                Wait, I’ve got more.  How about the time one of the boys faked a football injury so he could have rub downs and private time with the hot team trainer – for the entire season!  The fakery went to the extent of x-rays and cat scans and a specialist finally saying that there was nothing wrong.  He got caught in the lie when he smelled fried chicken and came running down the stairs . . . on the “injured” leg.

A little bit of crazy and a lot of love.

                We will definitely get more in depth with the levels of idiot I experience each day, but there is also a point to you and I coming together today.  A long time ago I knew I wanted kids.  I knew they would be my world, and I knew I wouldn’t birth them.  I actually sat in my doctor’s office at the age of 15 and begged the lady to cut out my “woman parts” and get it over with.  I had and still have no use for them.  Of course, she refused sighting some “first do no harm” clause.  Anyway, fostering and adopting kids has always been a dream of mine.  There are plenty of kids that need a home and a chance, I wanted to be those things for anybody that would come. 

                So, after our first year of marriage my used-to-be husband and I got approved as foster parents and the fun began.  We were very open about only taking in teens because that was the age group that was overlooked by most foster/adoptive families in our area.  We also sought kids that had traumatic pasts, due to my own education and profession, and were very open to special needs limitations, etc.  Basically, we wanted the kids that everyone else passed on.  And we definitely had no desire to take on any child younger than 12. 

We can learn a lot from animals. These two figured out their living situations weren’t changing so they agreed to disagree.

                As the story unfolds, you’ll see a lot of ups and downs.  But in all honesty, I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything I’ve experienced.  God has blessed me with the ability to find humor and happiness in almost any situation, and practicing love with my family has been the funniest experience I’ve ever had.  Someone asked me once, “what should a reader walk away with”?  I smiled and was very clear, “I want them to laugh and be ok with it”.  Kids, family, work, life . . . it’s not meant to be easy.  It’s meant to build character and exact purpose.  If we can’t find the humor in what we live through, then we most certainly aren’t finding the lesson either.  Because, what I want to you walk away with is this: WHEN WE SEEK THE LESSONS IN LIFE, WE STUMBLE UPON THE HUMOR OF THIS THING WE CALL LIVING. 00000000