Sunday, December 29, 2013

A case for disconnecting

My husband rarely checks his phone. He is harassed often by his friends, his mother, and occasionally his wife about how long it takes to get a hold of him. Those of us who know him well know that it is not personal or purposeful. And those who know us well, know that if you need to get a hold of him right away, text or call me. Because my husband is rarely looking at his phone, while I, on the other hand, have been slowly becoming that person who rarely does not.

Back in 2009 when I first started this blog, I wrote a post bashing Facebook (and pretty much mocking the people who use it constantly). Now, I refer to FB as my rabbit hole: I open it up to post something or peruse, and I fall in...

I text. Constantly.

If my phone is on the kitchen counter and I walk past it, I will pick it up and check it even if it hasn't rung or beeped or vibrated or dinged, "just in case."

I used to get really, really, really pissed at my friends who had their phones out during dinners or when they came over to visit. Once (possibly more than once), I snatched it away from my girlfriend, hissing about how insulting it was...was my company not enough? Last month, I went away for my annual girls' getaway, and this time it was one of my girls hissing at me (albeit more gently, because, well, let's be honest, I have a reputation for being harsh): "Put. That. Away."

So a couple of weeks ago, when Hubby and I went to Disney World with the kids for four days, I declared a moratorium on all things connected. No Facebook. No texting. No "just checking" either. (Okay, disclaimer: I did post ONE picture on Facebook, but it was with Hubby's blessing and it was too good to pass up...Here it is:)
"Mr. Miyagi would be proud..."

I admit that there were a few moments I wanted to capture and text immediately to a friend with a clever comment, and there were more than a  few times I wanted to post something for the world to see, but for the most part, it was easy. There was something incredibly freeing about clicking off my phone and dropping it in the backpack...never fumbling around and checking my pockets frantically to find it...never missing a moment or a conversation because I was reading a text message. I remember the trip much more clearly, because I was actually present for all of it; I wasn't multitasking or trying to maintain ten conversation threads at once.

And I know what would have happened had I not made that promise to myself and my family at the beginning of the trip: I would have had my phone out in every line, while walking from ride to ride, while sitting on the resort bus.... And I would have been able to rationalize it by saying that I was "only doing it" when nothing else was going on. As a result, I would have missed out on all the conversations and all the comfortable silences, the spontaneous jokes and hugs, the parenting and family time, the snuggling up against my Hubby's shoulder in exhaustion while waiting in line, the great people watching that can only be seen in a place where that many people from that many places congregate.

Something else would have happened too: I've realized I get overstimulated. You know, like when you're a new mom and you're reading the baby books, and they tell you that for some babies, too much stimulation can make them overwhelmed and cranky and unbearable. Well, over the last few months, I've been working a great deal on all that "noise" I talk (and write) about that's always in my head, making me exhausted and stressed out all the time. I've realized that a lot of that comes from the external stimulation I inflict upon myself: not only the phone and the computer, but also the attempts at multitasking, the endless To-Do lists, the self-imposed demands and unrealistic expectations to keep up with it all. So I would have been just one more cranky, annoying, crying baby waiting in line for the Dumbo ride.

I came back from that trip pretty oblivious to what was going on in my social media groups and the blogs I follow. I felt disconnected enough that I neglected (purposefully and consciously) this space for a while, too. I didn't sit on the couch with the laptop open. If I absolutely needed to look something up, I used my phone so I wouldn't linger too long. When I posted something on FB, I tried to resist my Alice in Wonderland incarnation. On Christmas Day, I avoided the internet completely. Although I have to admit that some stress has come from all this (What if my followers stop reading my blog? What if I lose my niche in the little author groups I've joined? What if someone is waiting on me for a response to something?), for the most part, it's been calming. I have had more time to talk to my children. I have had more time to interact with my husband. When I've been with friends, I've been fully present. It's the same old thing we keep reading about and discussing out there regarding the society we live in and all its hyper connectedness: as amazing as it all is, to a great degree, we are missing out on the people who stand before us and the experiences we are literally having in an attempt to post, text, and "connect." 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

All I Want For Christmas...is to stop




My birthday is next week. Christmas: a mere 14 days away.
And all I want most is to slow down a little bit.
Enjoy myself.
Stop with the to-do lists and pending items and general busy-ness.
The tree has been up for nearly 2 weeks now, and I have barely enjoyed it.
I have forced myself to listen to Christmas music twice.
The second time, I turned it off in a huff because it was just adding noise in my already-noisy house and I couldn't hear the shouts of: "Mommyyyyy....how do you spell 'Grandmaaaaa'?"  "Mommmmmmyyy...how do you spell 'been'?l"
 
I don't even do that much: my kids are not currently in sports. There are few afterschool activities. I have a small social circle, and thank God, no more medical obligations with family members.
I don't do that much.
I just do Life.
 
Life with 2 small boys.
Life as a teacher whose job feels more stressful and less pure everyday.
Life as a wife of a husband who I barely spend Quality Time with Monday-Friday, in spite of the fact that we work together.
Life as a woman who likes things "just so" and puts an awful lot of demands on herself on how things "should be."
 
I can't seem to keep up with the crumpled up list of pending Christmas Responsibilities that's mocking me from the bottom of my ridiculously messy purse.
 
How come all the Christmas commercials on TV are about hot chocolate and carols and family members in ivory sweaters sitting around the tree, lights flickering, laughing? Does anyone really live like that during the month of December?
 
And then of course, there is the self-inflicted pressure (I can probably search that phrase--self-inflicted pressure--on this blog and find it...repeatedly) of knowing that Christmas is coming...it's practically here!...and I have not enjoyed it. And that, perhaps, is at the heart of the problem: I want to enjoy it...like I did when I was a little kid, in my parents' house, an entire month of doing little else but anticipate and revel.
 
So for Christmas (and my birthday) all I want is to slow down. Take a few breaths. Sit. Laugh with my husband and my boys. Take it all in. Do nothing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

That's my name...in a REAL book! Launch Day for The HerStories Project Anthology

 
The four of us were stalking the UPS truck. I was totally trying to pretend it wasn't such a big deal.
 
But then my oldest turned the corner on his bike and yelled, "Mommy! Look!" and my youngest followed him on his drifter and announced, "It's the brown truck with the golden stripes!" 
 
The book arrived and I opened it up and turned to page 17, and I couldn't pretend anymore.
 
This was a very big deal.
 
I was giddy.
 
High.
 
There was my essay: "The More The Merrier."
There was my full name: Elizabeth Suarez Aguerre.
A real byline.
 
Perhaps I was a bit biased, but I thought the book was beautiful: pink and purple, the exact shades of my teenage bedroom. The cover was simple, but appealing. Just heavy enough in my hands.
 
A real book.
 
I have been published before (nine times to be exact!). You'd think that would be more than enough. But although I am extremely proud of those projects, they do not hold my true voice. This book is the real writing Me. It is the style and genre of writing that I have dreamed about being published in for as long as I can remember.
 
My essay sits there, sharing space with 49 other amazing women writers, and I am honored. These amazing editors, Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock, found my words, my piece, and thought it was good enough to be in this anthology on women's friendships. Thank you.
 
After showing the book to my boys ("Look, that's Mommy's name!"), Hubby and I toasted with a bottle of champagne. I carried it around the rest of the afternoon, under my arm, crystal flute in hand. After this experience, after feeling this feeling, I can no longer deny that I. Want. This.
 
This byline...this book...this opportunity has lit a fire under my ass. I can no longer pretend that my writing doesn't matter.
 





That's ME!!!!
To buy the book, click HERE or on the book's Amazon link at the top right corner of the page (pretty please?).

Learn more about the book, how it all started, the editors, and the rest of the awesome women writers featured at The HerStories Project. And please help us spread the word....tell your friends and family about it. The book really is a frickin' awesome collection of essays on "the joy, pain, and power of female friendship!"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Life, in Lists: I'm thankful for...


When you ask fourth graders what they're thankful for, the answers will range from "my family" to "donuts."

Yesterday, my 44 students stood in a circle in the classroom, surrounding parents who had come to feast on pie and cupcakes and spend a few precious moments peeking into their children's school lives. And as these children shared their answers, I thought about how, if I were to be really honest, my responses would also range from the very big things to the donut-variety. Yes, health and family and shelter and enough money to pay the bills are certainly at the top of my Thanksgiving prayers this year, but then it's those little things that really make you smile and giddy in life.

I am thankful for...

1. Hubby (To quote a wise and hot man: "You will always be my 1, 2, and 3.")
4. My two little boys (because in spite of the fact that you drive me crazy and make my life that much more exhausting, it really is an honor to be your Mommy and know that you are little concoctions of Daddy and Me)
5. Healthy (and mostly kickin') parents who are still fun and kind and are practically my own personal babysitters
6. A cancer-free sister who is smiling again
7. The four-day weekend
8. The Christmas CDs are coming out
9. Red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese icing
10. My Girls (G, C, K: I love you guys)
11. Getting a copy of a book in the mail, opening it up, and seeing MY ESSAY IN IT!
12. Working with friends who always have my back and make me laugh
13. Living 20 minutes from some of the world's best beaches
14. Wine
15. Coffee
16. Beer
17. E! News
18. A nearly-healed plantar fasciitis
19. "Sex and the City" reruns
20. Really good books
21. Dave Matthews Band lyrics
22. Fresh air and sun
23. Christmas toy shopping nearly done
24. Finding a good therapist again
25. Effective migraine medication
26. Finding a boot camp class at the perfect time for my schedule that I do not have to pay extra for
27. Poetry
28. My Dearest Friend (B: I love you More Than That)
29. Fashion magazines
30. The feeling I get when I actually stop and concentrate on a deep, slow breath
31. Parents who tell me their children love to read or come to school because of me
32. Finally letting go of (most of) the angst, anger, and anxiety from my adolescence and twenties
33. The Birds of Paradise in my front yard
34. The pool in my backyard
35. Pizza
36. Everyone being healthy and here for Thanksgiving (I'll have to remember this one when some sort of inevitable dysfunctional situation occurs)
37. This blog, because it helped me remember who I was before I learned to censor myself
38. Sleep!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We need to talk



Here's the weird thing, I think, about friendships: we all want to be just like the characters of Sex and the City...all open and blunt and honest and communicative. We want to be able to talk to each other totally uncensored, unedited, with no nerves, no qualms, no reservations. But how many of us really, really do?

I talk a lot. I am super open with almost everyone. I think most of my friends would say that I am transparent. And although I know there are lots of things that I am not good at, I know I'm good at communicating. Yet, when it comes to talking to my girlfriends (and I mean my most intimate ones...The Ones Who Matter), I struggle. (Inside, at least.)

It's not the conversation part or the confrontation part. It's not that I don't know what to say or how to say it. It's all about the Should.

Should I tell her?
Should I be this upset/disturbed/bothered about it?
Should I risk disturbing the current status of this friendship about this "little thing"?

And there it is. It always manages to creep in. The self-doubt.

I doubt whether my feelings are valid enough.

The best way I can describe it is with the phrase: internally sheepish.

It's like, inside, I'm this little girl, digging the toe of her shoe into the playground dirt, tilting her head all lopsided-like to meet her shrugging shoulder, eyes averted, mumbling about hurt feelings.

On the outside, though, there's my Rational Self...the one that has had many years of therapy, lots of experiences to build herself up, and surrounds herself with wonderful people who inspire and enrich her.  Luckily, that's the version that shows up for The Big Stuff. That version ignores the sheepish little girl inside. That version knows that strong women who want strong friendships talk.

My friends--The Ones Who Matter--will surely read this sooner rather than later (they're awesome cheerleaders like that), and I wonder what they will think of this.

"Talk?" they will wonder, probably. "But we talk about everything."
"Talk?" they will wonder. "But Liz tells me what she thinks all the time." (I know...how lucky are they, huh?)

But I have no problems whatsoever talking about everything all the time: money, sex, men,
fears, goals, dreams, parenting, body issues, therapy sessions...

But talking about me being upset with them about something in particular?

I do it.
Eventually.
Inevitably.

But I hesitate.
I ponder.
I feel all uncomfortable and fidgety and internally sheepish.

I thought, initially, that this was just a Me thing...that most good female friends really hash it out on a regular basis, but then, I thought: Maybe not? Aren't we, women, known for being grudge-holders and petty? Aren't we known for keeping things in for the sake of peace? And don't most of us know of someone (or lived it ourselves) who had a female friendship that went, suddenly, wrong? I wonder how often other women get miffed at something a girlfriend did, a minor thing, perhaps, and they leave it alone...to sit there, to fester, to grow into something bigger? Something important?

So I am curious: When it comes to bringing something up that is nagging you about your female (good) friends, do you just throw it out there, no hesitation a la Samantha...No fear? No sheepishness?
Or are you more like Charlotte, and struggle sometimes, too?

P.S. And am I the only one who still really misses that show and its characters? Hopefully not, or else this post is going to seem really out-of-style.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A "Quiet" Sunday Morning



The sunlight creeps into the bedroom and I panic momentarily: did we oversleep?

But then, no, I realize, it's Sunday.

Not a workday.

Deep sigh of relief and contentment.

I settle back into sleep.

A while later, I hear the whispers that are happening clear across the house (still love the baby monitor even though there are no babies here): little brother is asking big brother if he is awake.

He is. now.

More muffled whispers about playing and breakfast and sleep and TV.

I stumble out of bed, turn the monitor down, get back under the covers, and once again, settle back into sleep.

Eventually, I am awakened again by plastic cereal bowls being placed on counter tops way too loudly....package rustling sounds followed by clinking into the plastic bowls.

They have found the Froot Loops.

The frig is opened and slammed. The silverware drawer is open and shut (loudly).

More "whispers."

I see the clock and realize the yoga class I had half-planned on taking has already started. Slight guilt and regret threaten, but they are quickly shushed with the reminder that lazy mornings rarely happen in this house. I suspect that such a morning probably has more Om value than the actual class.

I finally come out of hiding and turn on the coffee maker.

I am greeted by two moppy-headed boys in superhero underwear.

They have lost interest in the colorful circles of sugar and have moved onto guitars, of course, because it's Sunday morning.

I start to discourage, to warn them that Daddy is still in bed, the covers halfway covering his body, the pillow completely over his head. But then the littlest one actually starts to serenade me: "You are my sunshine" and "Twinkle Twinkle Star."

He wins, and instead, I send him into the bedroom to sing and play for Daddy.

Now the big one thinks it's the perfect time for a pirate sword. He jumps into our bed, straddling Daddy, sword in hand.

And this is it when you have boys: a blond little one wearing glasses and shrieking lullabies with a guitar, a brown-haired not-so-little one with round eyes threatening with foam swords.

Good morning.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I am a writer


I don't write for an audience.
I write for Me.

That's what I tell myself, anyways. And, for the most part, it's true.


I've been a writer for as long as I can remember.

That sentence, there, is hard for me to form:
I have been a writer for as long as I can remember.

Usually, it's more along the lines of:
I love to write...or...I have always loved writing...or...I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid...or, my favorite disclaimer of my artistic ability: Yes, I've had several books published, but that doesn't really count, because they were educational books, so I'm not really a writer, I just love to write.

"But ultimately, a writer is someone who writes," according to Dani Shapiro, author of Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life.

And write, I do.

All the time and everywhere and for as long as I can remember: scribbled sentences on coffee shop napkins, diaries and journals and notebooks filled to the margins, pages and pages of typed up "chapter books" on my sister's typewriter when I was eleven, love letters, hate letters, poems filled with angst and dripping in narcissism, musings and essays and blog posts...

I write.

Always have.

And for the first time in my life, I am just starting to realize that I no longer want to clean that up, or tack a disclaimer onto it, or apologize for it, or explain it. It's a very, very big part of who I am. It's the one thing I found all on my own, when I was very little, and figured out that not only could I do it pretty well, but I loved doing it, and even more consequential: I needed to do it.

It's because of this need--this internal thing--that I write for myself. I write because I have to. I write because when some thought starts pinging around inside my head, I can't get it out until I put it to paper (or, in this case, screen). So yes, I was being truthful when I said: I don't write for an audience. I write for myself.

But I never said it didn't matter if someone else reads it, or says it's good, or tells me I moved her or made her laugh or made her feel relief. I write for myself, but when someone is out there and notices it, well then...it makes the rapture of having written something all the more...rapturous.

That's why when Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock of The HerStories Project contacted me and asked if they could include one of my pieces in their upcoming anthology, it was a really, really big deal. I don't think I realized, in fact, how much I actually cared if there really was an audience out there until this happened. I keep saying how "honored" I am to be included amongst these 50 contributing writers for this project, but I feel like it sounds so cliché. Everyone says I'm honored, all the time. But I am. I am honored.

It is a honor.

...An honor that they found me, that somehow out there in the blogosphere, someone read my words and thought they were good enough and important enough and relevant enough to include in this project.

I wrote the essay that will be included in the anthology for Me. I wrote it because, at the time, I needed to. I wrote it because I'm a writer. But it sure is nice when someone else is sitting out there, in the audience, listening and applauding.

*********************************************************************************

"The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship is a collection of essays from over 50 women writers, encompassing tales from the sandbox to the inbox."
All the info on the book can be found here.  Read some of the early reviews, find out how this project got started, and of course, look for li'l ol' me on the "Contributor" tab. And then, make sure you sign up for updates...you'll receive all the information on the book's upcoming release, as well as sneak peeks and discount information.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can you really?

 
 
any break
 
from
the routine
is
welcomed
 
 
anything different
 
is a
reprieve
from what Life demands
day to day

 
I long

for some
thing
 anything
that feels
like
cheating
breaking free
rebelling
against
the
norm
 
beating the system
 
 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why they should sell booze at the Magic Kingdom


 
I was startled (we all were, really) by a woman's shrill reprimand: "You put your mouth on it! Don't tell me you didn't put your mouth on it! You did!" I turned (as did everyone else, really) to see a mother disdainfully holding a red frozen fruit bar and looking accusingly at a pre-teen-ish age girl. I didn't really understand why she was so mad, so I kept watching in hopes I'd figure it out: was the kid sick and therefore banned from sharing any of the rest of the family's popsicle snacks? Was this mother one of those germaphobes who did not like sharing food with her own children? I must not have been the only bystander trying to figure out what had caused the woman's reaction, because she looked up suddenly and noticed that everyone (and I do mean everyone) around her was staring, and she apologized (almost as loudly) a half-ass apology: "Sorry. Sorry, everyone. Sorry." As she and her apparently sneaky, popsicle-licking daughter resumed walking passed us, another woman who I assumed was the aunt came over and put her arm around the kid. The mother (now no longer shrilly shrieking, at least) silently lifted the arm off her daughter's shoulders, and spat out: "Why don't you go up there and walk with your Uncle Timmy?" To this, a man one could only assume was Uncle Timmy, turned around and came over to his niece, throwing an arm around the kid's neck and loudly proclaiming: "C'mon, kid, this is the happiest place on earth! Let's go be happy!" and he skipped away with her, chuckling.

The next morning, I was ripping sugar packets open and dumping way too many into my coffee, when I noticed (how could I not?) a toddler wearing "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" pajamas having a complete and total meltdown while his mother was trying to pull him up to standing. The kid was doing that thing toddlers do: letting his bones go all Jell-O, his face scrunched up, his eyes shut tight, wailing (even louder than the mom in paragraph one, above) incoherently. I stirred my coffee and watched as the mom attempted to shut him up and pull him up to standing. When neither of these two were accomplished, she let him go (I suspect if she could have bounced him painfully onto the ground like a basketball, she would have), tossed her arms up in the air, and stepped back over to the register a couple feet away where she had been trying to pay for her $10 Mickey-shaped waffle. The kid remained writhing and wriggling and wailing on the food court's shiny tile floor, while other guests walked around him with their coffee cups and breakfast trays. I didn't stick around long enough to see how the mother managed to drag him and her breakfast tray back over to wherever, but I did silently hope that she was washing that cute little pajama in hot water before putting it back on the kid for bed.

Then there was the dad who, in the middle of a crowded area, grabbed his son's face as if his fingers were tweezers and the kid's face was a nasty embedded splinter. He nearly put his forehead right up to his kid's, and shouted in one of those gruff, manly, camo-wearing type voices: "Get. Outta. My. Face. I've. Had. E. Nuff."

Those are some of the scenes I witnessed this weekend at Walt Disney World.

And, as a parent, I totally get it.

I'm not saying that I approve of any of these parental reactions.
I'm not saying that I would have done or said the same things with the same level of ferocity and impatience.
All I'm saying is that I might have.

There really, truly is something magical about Disney. I've said it before. As someone who has grown up four hours away, I'm one of those people who has been so many times, she's lost count. I realize that to some, this is cause for great envy, while for others, this is cause for great, wrinkly-nosed disdain. But I love Disney. I love everything about it (except the summertime and the long lines). I love the way they pay attention to every detail, how even the soaps in the hotel and the signs in the public restrooms have Mickey shapes. I love how they are constantly trying to outdo themselves. I love how everyone who works there is required to smile and be cheerful and somehow, they never seem to be faking it. I love the looks on my kids' faces when the fireworks display begins and Tinkerbell "flies" along the night sky out of Cinderella's castle window and off into wherever that nearly invisible zipline ends. I love the Caribbean pirates chanting their "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me." I love the giggles a photo op with Winnie the Pooh and Goofy elicit from my little boys. And I love, love, love the fully-grown adults who happily and casually walk around wearing Mouse ears and coordinated t-shirts. Disney, you see, is full of whimsy.

And I love me some whimsy.

But those of us who have been there with small (and even not-so-small) children know that just like Disney World can bring out the best in parents, it can inevitably bring out the worst.

We were lucky on this trip: the boys behaved--for the most part--beautifully. But there was no way we were going to walk around passing any kind of judgment on the parents described above. Cause God knows (or, in this case, should I say 'Walt knows'?) that we are always just one tantrum away from being the crazy parents screaming shrilly about a popsicle while crushing our kid's face for dramatic emphasis.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hangovers and Parenting Don't Mix: Throwback Thursday

I love Halloween. Every year, I try to party like a rock star in an outfit that is usually just my own sassy interpretation of a costume (an excuse to wear something I could never get away with in real life and probably have no business wearing at my age anyway). Perhaps this love for Halloween comes from my childhood: I was rarely allowed to go trick or treating, because, according to my parents, my neighborhood was just not kid-friendly. The one year I do remember going (I was a chubby, kindergarten-age Superwoman, complete with one of those plastic face masks with the elastic on the back of the head), my parents said it was too dangerous to go after dark, so they made my sister take me like at four in the afternoon, and every time someone opened a door, they remarked "Already?" or "Wow, you're early!" So I guess one could overanalyze that it's one of those childhood-repression-rebellion-psychology situations. But the simple truth is that for someone who can be pretty Type A, Halloween allows me the freedom to throw caution (and oftentimes, good taste) to the wind and go all out. Body glitter? Check. 50-Shades-themed handcuffs? Check. Black lipstick? Check. Halloween is just frickin' Fun. So since this is the first year in a while that Hubby and I are not doing anything sassy and scary on Halloween weekend, I thought it'd be a perfect repost for my second Throwback Thursday.
*(I'm not surprised to see how different the boys look in these pics--so tiny and adorable!--but seriously, how is it possible that a mere four years can make such a damned difference in the adults' faces?!?)

Hangovers and Parenting Don't Mix
Posted originally here on November 1, 2009 
Being hungover is bad.
Being hungover while tending to two small children is really, really bad. But as my friend (who is a bit of a smart-ass) likes to say: "You play, you pay."
 
And oh, did we play...
 
 
We played so much, in fact, that this morning while everyone was enjoying a greasy diner breakfast on South Beach, I was lying down in the booth, asleep.
 
Classy.
 
 
Now, I know it sounds like I overdid it last night. But I didn't. Really. It's true. Ask around. Even my friends and husband (who are always brutally honest) said they were surprised by how bad I felt today. In fact, my drink of choice (white wine as opposed to the oh-so-much-more-appropriate-at-a-club Grey Goose) was selected simply based on its non-hangover effects.
 
But after I had to run to the bathroom to puke my life away the moment I got home today instead of greeting my children (who, by the way, did not seem in the least bit slighted as they continued to run around with their visiting cousins), I had to admit I was hungover...bad
 
After much pondering, I came to the realization: it is not just hangovers and parenting that don't mix. It's partying and parenting.
 
You go into the party situation with a low immune system. You're tired. You're sleep-deprived. You're chronically stressed. The sad, sad truth is I just can't hang like I used to.
 
It is rare that I am able to stay up past 9:30 most nights. Last night? We left the house at 9:30, and then we still had to check into a hotel, get dressed up, and go to the club. (I admit, when we walked into the hotel room, a part of me wished we were just sleeping all night.) This was all after a day of activities: soccer game at 8:30 sharp, breakfast out with the whole family, jack-o-lantern carving, and a round of trick-or-treating...
 
 
Not to mention that this was also after a week of 2 more pediatrician visits and 2 sleepless nights filled with fever checks, coughing fits, and nebulizer treatments. (Yes people, my recent laundry list of household ailments has grown longer.) Add to this one nearly empty stomach, and it explains how a few glasses of wine and a few hours of dancing did me in.
So you see, it wasn't the alcohol that gave me the hangover.
It was the parenting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Exhaustion: How am I supposed to write when my brain is fried?

Image from James Harris Gallery

So I've decided to participate in Just Write Tuesdays, although I'm thinking I might lose my audience if I am in the same frame of mind each Tuesday that I am tonight. The concept is you Just Write (duh, right?) without trying to over-analyze or edit yourself too much. It's pretty open: I can describe what I'm experiencing around me, a recent situation, whatever...but it should be pretty fresh (or at least recent) and "free."

Considering I'm feeling pretty wiped out right now, I'm not sure this is going to go off so well.

You know those days when you just feel Done? You're like, you can't go any further. You can't clean up one more dirty dish. You can't put away one more piece of clean laundry. You can't contribute one more thing of any value to this earth in this moment? Yep, that's me. Right now.

I know...lucky you.

My day has been a whirlwind of the usual day-to-day stuff: students and children and meetings and grading and my pants don't fit and don't forget to buy bread and I don't feel like making a salad for tomorrow's lunch. And all day, I've wanted to come back Here. To write. To feel like I did Something Important. Something that makes me feel good, just because it's all mine.

But then Life happens.

Your kid develops a fever two days before you are leaving for a trip.
You have a major blow out with a major friend.
You realize that damned salad still has to be made or those damn pants will still refuse to fit.

And then you wonder: how the hell am I going to put anything Out There when you have nothing left?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When you don't want your kid to be just like you: Throwback Thursday

So I feel like I've been at this blogging thing now long enough that I've earned the right to re-post every once in a while. Recently, I was surprised when I went back through my old posts and reread some of my old stuff. Some of it is good. Good enough that it surprised me (as in: I wrote that sentence?!?). Some of it is barely okay (as in: Wow, I was really reaching with that post!). But all of it was a cool skip down memory lane...

I started this blog, initially, to talk about being a new mother. Writing has been my passion since forever. And I've always been an over-thinker. So when I was struggling (and I do mean: struggling) with new motherhood, I felt stifled in more ways than one. This blog became my outlet. It was a way to get out the words and phrases that were dancing around in my head. And it was a way to get out the frustrations and the fears that were banging up against my brain. So it's incredibly amusing (sometimes in that bittersweet way that only parents can fully appreciate) to go back and revisit some of my old crazy (and even the semi-normal) posts.

So I've decided that for a little bit, I will have my own Throwback Thursdays. (Disclaimer necessary here: I would love to say that I came up with that on my own, but Hubby has told me that I am required to give him the credit that is due. So here it is: He came up with the term and the day of the week I should use for my reposts. It was not my idea. It's not super original, I know, since I've already seen it all over the place out there in the internet world, but really, what is original these days? And in his defense, his internet time is limited to this blog, travel stuff, and probably porn so it was super original and clever for him. And honestly, I am super grateful because I probably would have wasted so many days trying to come up with The-Perfect-Catchy-But-Not-Too-Forced-Label for my reposts, that this post would still just be an idea in my head, with notations on my phone's notes app, for at least several more weeks.)

I picked today's repost as a shout-out to one of my blogging idols (she's probably gonna think I'm really weird for calling her that), Kitch Witch. I admire her so much that even Hubby knows her just by "Kitch," which is the pet name I have for her that she doesn't know about and is going to make me seem even weirder to her. Last night, I read one of her posts, and it haunted me all night long and into today. Because it was so well-written, it was so her writing style, and I could so relate to the pain she expressed as a mom about something that may seem like a minor thing to others. Her whole focus was on how she didn't want her daughter to be like her, in a very specific, particular way, and so I sorta dedicate this post to her and her Hummingbird, cause although my post is nowhere nearly as well written or as poignant as hers, it is a similar, shared fear.

"You take after your Mommy." Is this a good thing?
posted originally here on September 21, 2009
It can be heartbreaking when you realize your child takes after you...has inherited your worst traits, the ones you have to work every damn day to repress.

I think for the most part, people would describe me as bold, adventurous, a bit in-your-face. All of that is, in fact, true. But I've said it before: I'm really just a big chicken. I'm scared. A lot. Often. I get anxious about things. I worry. I fret. I over-analyze. When I want to try something new, I think about all the things that could go wrong.

And then I do it anyway.

See? There is the repression. It can be exhausting, spending so much of your time trying to go against your nature (or, possibly, nurture, since my parents spent most of my childhood trying to protect me from the world and most of my adult life trying to protect me from myself).

I don't want my child to grow up like this. I don't want him to have to live life, often, afraid or worried or anxious. I want him to be like his Dad: balls to the wall (as he'd say...sorry), no worries, just get out there and do it. All of it. Any of it.

But as Ben is growing up, I am realizing more and more that he is more and more like me. And I hate that. I hate that he thinks before he leaps (literally). I hate that he worries about being the slowest on his soccer team. I hate that he absolutely refused--the fear evident on his little face--to go down the slides at his own birthday party.

Over the last few days he has developed a new anxiety: peeing in his underwear. Mind you, this kid has been potty trained for a year or so. He has been sleeping through the night with no issues for months. Now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he is obsessing over going to the bathroom...constantly. (Yes, we took him to the doctor.) We have tried both ends of the spectrum: from paying close attention and discussing it to all-out nonchalance and ignoring. But last night, after almost an hour of constant trips to the bathroom, we had to step in. We tried to explain he was "empty." We tried to be soothing. We tried to be intimidating. In the end, we had to give him an ultimatum ("choice" as we, parents, call it): either you go to bed now as is, or you go to bed with pull-ups on. He went to bed...after several minutes of a full-blown panic attack. To see his little face so out of control, so frightened by his own anxieties...it was heartbreaking...and remarkably familiar.

"He takes after you, Liz."

I hear it often.

He is stubborn, strong-willed, verbal, and a thinker. He loves the spotlight, likes to make people laugh, and can negotiate you into thinking it was your idea. He likes order, routine, and rules. And when he has an idea he likes, good luck trying to change it.

It can be hard to see yourself in your child. It's like yet another reminder, everyday, of how important it is to be brave. Bold. Free. Because now that I'm a mom, I don't just want that for myself. I want it for him, too.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's always a bad sign when I think bangs are a good idea

Source: The Makeover Guy 

I'm very attached to my hair. I do almost nothing with it each day, but it sorta behaves, most days. Once I learned (at about 12 years old) that brushing it was a bad idea, it has given me very little drama (unlike, say, my butt and my thighs).

I own about 100 eye shadow colors. When I am getting ready for a night out on the town, I take about 30 minutes to apply my make-up and consider it a very critical element of outfit. I plan it out and think it through: do I want a smoky eye and a nude lip or a hot pink lip and a subtle eye? Or do I want a pin-up girl style eyeliner for the night, or is that too expected along with my dress? I can do just about anybody's make-up.

Hair, on the other hand? I can only do my own...just barely.

That's why I love it so much. That's why I'm so attached to it. Because it demands so little from me. It doesn't make me go to the gym every morning at 5:00 am for a boot camp class that makes me wanna throw up and then all I have to show for it is that if I flex my thigh really hard and I squint a little and I've had absolutely no sodium for the week then maybe I have a little muscle definition and almost no cellulite. My hair, with little to no effort, usually looks pretty good. To me, anyways. My hair is sorta part of My Thing (so much so that it's already been featured in this blog here and here). It's always been blond, it's always been wavy, and it's usually been long. It's more Drew Barrymore in one of those paparazzi pictures where she's in cargo pants and flip flops than it is Blake Lively. I don't like to change it very much. I'm less hesitant to go out and get a tattoo than I am to change my hairstyle.

I remember once, at a book club meeting, the topic came up about shaving our heads for a friend going through chemo. (The main character had been battling cancer in the book, and her 3 best friends surprised her with shaved heads.) Both of my book club members declared, with absolute certainty, that they would absolutely, most definitely shave their heads to show their support. I, on the other hand, declared, with absolute certainty, that I would not. They were aghast. They were shocked. They were indignant. And then I reminded one of them that she had shaved her hair once "just for fun," and reminded the other one that she could care less about her short little cropped do. Then, I asked them: "Would you gain 50 pounds in support of a friend going through an illness?" They were aghast. They were shocked. They were stumbling: Uh, well, ah, ahem, uh, no. I, on the other hand, had no problems with that. (Note: When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and learned that she'd lose her trademark mane of freakishly long Sofia Vergara-like hair, she immediately made me promise that I would not do anything crazy like shave my head for her, because really, what good would that do, and she would be really, really pissed if I did that. Thanks, Sis.)

So now, that I have been longing for bangs, maybe even considering another shorter crop, I know something's up.

I'm restless.

When I want to make a change to my hair, when I keep thinking about it, when I actually consider just going to the salon and spontaneously telling my girl to "do something," I know that it's usually a sign of Something Else.

I get like this sometimes. Always have. It's in my nature. My head is always going, and I get bored easily. I need stuff. Not stuff like buying stuff, but stuff like doing stuff. And I haven't done stuff in a long time. Life's been busy since back-to-school, and I've been doing all the things I have to do: being a good teacher, wife, and Mommy, waking up when it's still dark to go to the gym, packing healthy lunches for everyone, following our new budget, checking homework, monitoring bedtimes...

So I know, when I started thinking bangs were a good idea...bangs that would require me to blow-dry after every shower, style each day, pin back while working out, change my beachy no-fuss look...that something must be up in my head. Now I just have to figure out what it is. And really, if I don't, what's the worst thing that's gonna happen? It'll grow back, right? Right?!?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Project Underblog's 31Days31Voices: Sometimes I Don't Like My Kid


Today I am honored (once again) to be the featured blogger at Project: Underblog, in celebration of 31 Days 31 Voices. After checking my post here, snoop around and read all the other wonderful voices being featured this month.

I chose to share a post that has obviously struck a chord with many readers out there, since I am still getting comments on it even now, a couple of years later. Apparently, lots of moms out there Google the phrase: I don't like my kid. That, apparently, is how they find me.

It was a post that, back then, was difficult for me to write, because I was still sorta new to this whole motherhood thing, and I wasn't sure if my son's behavior was my own fault. And, even more worrisome, I wasn't sure if it was normal to not like my own kid.

Fast forward to today, and not only have I learned that it is absolutely completely normal to not always like your own kid (sometimes you absolutely can't stand your own kid...that's normal, too), but I've also learned that it's not my fault...that parenting is not always an if-then sort of thing.

I've had so many women contact me via email and through comments to thank me for writing that post...to tell me that, because of my honesty, they felt better, relieved, understood, and not alone.

That, for me, was the main reason I started blogging back then: I needed to express what I was going through as a mother, and I needed to be honest. I couldn't take the Motherhood-is-all-rainbows-and-teddy-bears-and-warm-fuzzies. Sometimes it is. Most of the times, it's not. And I needed to talk about it. So go check it out. Read it for the first time, or, if you've been following me for a while, read it again. And while you're doing that, I'll be playing with my oldest son, Ben, who, luckily, today I like a whole damn lot. (But tomorrow might be another story...)

Monday, October 7, 2013

A letter to my pissy self



Dear You,

What the hell is wrong with you? You do know that no one wants to be around someone like this, right? What happened to all that talk about energy and optimism and choosing to be happy? What happened to the Buddhist books you read and the inspiring quotes you put up? I mean, seriously, what the F is wrong with you today?

Many years ago, you learned the Yiddish word "farbissina." That's a sourpuss, thank you very much. A bitter, frown-y, generally pissy person.

And that has been you...all day long today.

If it had just been today, then maybe that wouldn't be enough cause for a letter to oneself. But there were all those days last week, too.

And think about it: if you don't like being around yourself, what the hell can you expect from everyone around you?

Yes, work sucks right now.
Yes, you're tired.
Yes, school-age, homework-ridden children have now brought a whole new slant into the day-to-day.
Yes, the house has been in complete disarray for weeks now.
Yes, your foot is in a boot every night (and not the sexy over-the-knee Stuart Weitzmans you covet) due to your damned plantar fasciitis.
Yes, you find it harder and harder to have quality time with Hubby.
Yes, you want to write, write, write, but you can't seem to find the energy, energy, energy.

But so fuckin' what?

Get a grip.

Cause really, life is good.

Cancer is no longer the main topic of discussion when you talk to your sister.
Your children are healthy.
Your husband actually wants to have quality time with you.
And every day when you go to work and you are generally pissed off about the state of public education, you get to vent and laugh and eat lunch with your Friends.

Remember that article you read? The one about the couple battling breast cancer and how all they wanted was to have a normal day, to make coffee in the morning, and make lunches, and go to work, and deal with the everyday nonsense of nothing? Remember how much that impacted you?

Remember it.

And stop whining about the bullshit realities of everyday.
Choose to be happy.
Dance and sing.
Smile.
And you know that little post-it note you put up on your laptop at work? The one that says: "You are responsible for the energy you bring to this place"?
Apply it.

Now have a good day.

(Really) Sincerely,
Yourself

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

When your kid flips you the bird

 
Isn't it ironic?

That's what Alanis said, right? Yeah, life's like that sometimes.

It was just last night, for example, that I reread an old blog post entitled "Sometimes I Don't Like My Kid." It's my most popular post, stats-wise. I was chuckling (out loud) about how much easier Ben has gotten since that post...about how I could barely remember that feeling of really disliking my own kid and thinking that perhaps his behavior was out of my control...that feeling of wondering to myself: Who the F is this kid and why is he pulling this kind of shit?!? (Chuckle, chuckle.) It was sooooo long ago. (Snicker.) I was such a new, inexperienced mother. (Tee-hee-hee.)  My kid has since gotten himself under control (most days). I barely remember that feeling!

Yes, that was me, last night, chuckling away. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Ha.

And I suppose it was just that sort of cocky guffawing that got the Universe a little amused with me and decided: Oh yeah?

And so today, upon picking up my younger son at school, the son who is (supposedly) the more angelic one of the two (as if!), the one who tends to hide behind my legs in new settings, the one who is always described by others as "sweet," "marshmallow-like," "quiet," and "such a good boy," I was told he punched not one, but two, of his friends. Punched! One lucky friend got it in the stomach. The other, right on the cheek.

Apparently, it pays to be known as the sweet, marshmallow-like, quiet, good boy, because neither the teacher nor the bus driver did much more than admonish.

Mommy, on the other hand, made up for both of those suckers who have been fooled by his cherub face, dimpled cheeks, and Sponge Bob eyeglasses.

Once The Talk had been had and The Consequences had been determined, we went about our afternoon of homework, homework, and more homework, with a little bit of dinner sprinkled in.

It happened somewhere in between the dinosaur chicken nuggets and the homework completion: my baby flipped me the bird.

Knowingly.

Like, for real.

Before you jump to the conclusion that Hubby and I are typical Miami drivers and flip the bird on a regular basis as part of our commute, I can honestly say that not only have I never shot a bird in front of my kids, the bird is not even my expletive of choice. For one thing, it's not an expletive at all: it's silent. And if you know me, you know I'm anything but. I'm more of a loud F-bomb kinda girl. (And before you get all excited and eager waiting for the blog post to come in which one of  my kids loudly drops an F-bomb, I'll have you know that being a teacher instills in you an almost superhuman-like ability to not curse in front of children.)

So where, then, did my five-year-old learn how to appropriately and accurately use Mr. Tall Man?

Of course...his (not much) older brother.

And where, then, did my eight-year-old learn it?

Duh. School, of course!'

So there I was again: wondering who the F is this punching, bird-flipping, bully of a kid and why is he pulling this kind of shit?!?

Of course, when I filled in my husband on the afternoon's events, he chuckled quite audibly, and immediately asked: "So there's a blog post in there somewhere, right?"

I was already typing as he asked.

*Note to self: If you happen to reread this blog post in a few years, do NOT chuckle, especially if the boys are behaving themselves.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Guest writing at Project: Underblog

"Project UnderBlog is a place where bloggers are accepted based on the power of their words and not on the reach of their numbers – where they can be heard, promoted, and celebrated no matter their size. It is about celebrating the fierceness of the 'underblog.'"

I am honored to be "heard, promoted, and celebrated" today on Project: Underblog! Please go read one of my favorite posts here and celebrate the "underblog."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Friendships: The More the Merrier

*This post originally appeared in September of 2010, but I am reposting it today as part of Project: Underblog's theme-based monthly link-up. Root for the underBLOG and check out their site. It's not just about comments and stats and social media. Sometimes, good writing is just about "small and mighty" voices.



I've been thinking a lot about friendships lately.

My dearest friend's 7-year-old granddaughter is having some issues on the playground. She can't quite understand how her best friend can be her best friend one day and completely ignore her the next.
"That's just rude, Gram. And it hurts my feelings."
It's tough being a girl. Women are difficult creatures. We desperately need each other but we push each other away, claw and snap and bitch, and talk behind each other's backs.

My friend assured her granddaughter that "one day" she'd find that one true best friend:
"Really, Gram? You promise?"
"I promise."
I told my friend that I thought that had been a terrible promise to make (we're honest like that). I'm not sure I really believe in the notion of a best friend anymore, although lately (and here's the truly ironic part) I feel I am in some of the healthiest relationships of my life. The notion of That One True Best Friend--the promise that little girl is holding out for--puts a whole lot of pressure on her and especially on the girls around her. No one person should be responsible for being every thing to anyone.

That little girl may be so busy looking for that One Girl that she may miss out on all the ones skipping happily around her on the playground.

* * *

In spite of the fact that most people would probably describe me as very outgoing, I've actually spent most of my life being somewhat anti-social. Growing up, I was never accepted into any of the Cliques Of The Moment, and more often than not, I'd find somebody who was "like me" (read: a little too loud or a little too dramatic or a little too awkward or a little too whatever I happened to be at the time) and I'd latch on. I'd found her: my friendship soulmate! And eventually, as is almost always inevitable with females, she'd screw me over. There was Marilyn in 3rd grade, who one day came back from lunch and abruptly and silently pulled her desk a few inches away from mine and refused to speak to me. I remember Lena, in middle school, who decided hanging out with "the other girls" was way cooler than hanging out with me (she was probably right). The list goes on and on. I realize there were probably many times that I, too, had disappointed them...I don't doubt that I said something completely inappropriate to Marilyn that day at lunch, but couldn't she have told me what that something was?
 
What I've come to realize over the last couple of years is that all that time I spent excluding everyone else to be with my One True Best Friend, I had missed out. A lot. On people, outings, experiences, adventures, life lessons.

I now find myself surrounded by a lot of really remarkable women...some I had pushed aside for years because I simply "didn't have the time" to spend with them. I am more open, less judgmental, and having a whole heck of a lot more fun. My "collection" of girlfriends are all incredibly different: with some I can discuss, in great details, Marc Jacobs's personal make-over...others shop "exclusively" at Walmart and Target. For some of my friends, sweating is restricted to dancing and sex...others are game for anything from a 5k to a full-out adventure race. I would not call any one of these women my Best Friend. I know who I can call in the middle of the night when my kid is running a fever of 105. I know who I can call when I'm desperate for a night of dancing and drinks. Some of these women know secrets about me that the rest of the world would be shocked to know. Others, I'm just starting to truly trust.
Today, I "asked a girl out." Well, that's what it felt like, anyway. I recently started to talk to someone at work who seems to be so amazingly interesting and intelligent and just plain "cool," that I stepped out of my old comfort zone and, after 30 minutes of chatting about designer galoshes, world-wide travel, Christian Louboutins, mamas' boys, marriage and children, I decided to make a plan to get together next week. This may seem like a totally normal thing to do. But for me, it felt foreign. This woman may become one of my girls. Or, perhaps we will get together and have absolutely nothing to talk about (although after that 30-minute-all-inclusive-chat, I doubt it!). But the point is that I have finally figured out that I don't need one Best Friend. I need lots of really fantastic friends. I am no longer disappointed, because I don't put all my eggs in one basket. I have lots of baskets, and I'm skipping happily around with them on the playground.

Monday, August 26, 2013

When your littlest goes to kindergarten


when your littlest goes to kindergarten
you can't pretend
anymore
that you are the mother
of a baby
 
there are no more preschool shows
or napping blankets to pack on Monday mornings
 
the diapers and the bottles
you barely remember
 
pacifiers
used to be such a concern:
Will he ever outgrow it?
and now
you don't remember the color
his used to be
 
now it is real kid school
 
he has to go
 
it is no longer a choice
made by parents
who need to work
who want their baby
to socialize
learn
play
get ready
for kindergarten
 
now it is for real
 
the littlest one
wears a uniform
packs a backpack
needs folders
pencils
and has real homework
 
you drop him off
and he is expected
to walk into that big school
find his classroom
sit in his line
wait for his teacher
 
he comes back to you
in a little yellow bus
 
he loves the bus
 
you love that he loves it
but
you can't even entertain the fear
that little yellow bus
stirs
 
you drop him off
and you are expected
to go to work
go about your day
and know that he is all right
 
he is learning
in the most capable hands
he is playing
with new friends
he is growing
 
and you
can not believe
that his backpack
is
almost
bigger
than
he
 
when your littlest goes to kindergarten
you are no longer
the mother
of a baby


Saturday, August 24, 2013

RV girls wear heels, too



Let it be known that I own one pair of Jimmy Choos pink stilettos (paid $533 on sale during a 30th birthday trip to New York). I own a pair of vintage Prada slip-ons (thank you, Gil). Then there are my Lanvin patent leather lace-up bootie stilettos, bought in a tiny little consignment shop in Paris that required you to ring the doorbell in order to enter. These precious possessions sit in my closet, nestled happily, organized by color and heel height, amongst many other pairs of Fabulous Shoes.

I say this all in order to point out the fact that I really am not a simple girl. I like my fancy stuff. I know my designers. I covet.

So it came as no surprise when friends and family expressed some doubts when I told them we were buying an old RV.

"You? In a mobile home? Camping?"
Uh, hello, people, I have been camping many times, thank you very much.

"You? In a mobile home? You know you have to be flexible with those kinds of things, right? You could break down in the middle of nowhere."
Uh, hello, people, cars can do that, too.

"You? In a mobile home? Don't you usually like going to big time resorts for vacations?"
Uh, hello, I can do casual, too.

"I just don't see you as an RV Girl."

Apparently no one did, because even the dealer who sold it to us gave me one look up and down (literally) and stated: "Have you ever even been in an RV?"
(The answer was yes, actually, asshole, I drove one double the length of this one for 3 days while my husband raced his bike around Central Florida during a multi-day event.)

I don't know what all the fuss was about. Most people who know me know that I own as many pairs of flip-flops as I do heels, and at the end of the day, I would rather be in a pair of torn up shorts, with salt water in my hair, and a slight sunburn than in my best outfits.

But--although I never admitted it--I was a little bit skeptical too.

I had never traveled in an RV for vacation. I wasn't big on road trips. I get car sick. I wasn't sure I'd have that much in common with the people I expected to meet in RV campgrounds.

But once Hubby told me there were beachside campgrounds and compared the costs of traveling with the boys in an RV versus an airplane, I was in. Besides, this was one of Hubby's Big Dreams. I had to give it a shot.

And all it took was one weekend.

I was hooked.

Of course, most people still thought it was the novelty of it all: that once I spent more than just a couple of days in that thing, the four of us traveling around, doing the work required to set up camp, cook, clean, maintain things, I would realize that I was, in fact, most definitely not an RV Girl.

When we packed it up to go on our first long road trip last summer (9 days), I figured that would be the ultimate litmus test: Would I be dying to get home mid-way through the trip?

Nope. In fact, on day 9, I was bummed that it was over. There was no sense of claustrophobia, exhaustion, or that feeling of I'm-so-sick-of-this-tin-can-shit.

Over the course of nearly 2 years, we went on about a dozen trips: from local little getaways in parks near home, to our 3000 mile trip this summer. I don't think I was ever happier or more peaceful than during those trips. Hubby even bought me a little mini RV keychain. He told me to put it in my pocket, because he liked the girl I was when I was in the RV even more than the regular me. There was just something about that lifestyle--the simplicity of it all--that did something to me.

I was surprised by how much I loved the RVing lifestyle. It was all very different to the kind of traveling I was used to. Usually, my trips involved a frantic pace, a long list of Must-Do's and/or Must-See's, a very rigid agenda, and an even more rigid list of expectations. With RVing, it was the exact opposite: the pace was unhurried, the itinerary was flexible, and the only Must-Do's were hiking, playing, barbecuing, and drinking wine.

The people you meet along the way are all happy and pleasant and relaxed. And although there were some highly amusing stereotypical encounters (have you ever seen the movie "RV" with Robin Williams?), for the most part, it was a great mix of people: lots of retirees, some young families, groups of friends. During one trip, we met a grandpa who lived in the swamplands of Central Florida and had taught his 8-year-old granddaughter how to shoot gator. The adorable blond, blue-eyed little girl gave us some fried gator tail to try (I passed, but Hubby and the boys all swore it tasted just like a chicken nugget). During the same trip, we met an Italian family, and my two little boys taught the 12-year-old boy from Rome how to skimboard. Another time, we showed up at a park and learned it was "Bikers' Weekend." We camped out next to a group who wore leather the entire time, had motorcycles parked next to their RV, were covered in tattoos, and smoked constantly. One of the men was about 7 feet tall and slammed a log as thick as a telephone pole into the ground in order to break it apart for firewood. On our last day there, they came over to make small talk with Hubby, telling him they couldn't believe he mountain biked because "now that is dangerous!" and revved up their motorcycles so my boys could hear the roar.

The dealer who sold us the RV told us that when you're camping, you could be parked next to a serial killer, but in the campground, he'll read his newspaper and mind his own business. It doesn't matter who or what you are in "real life." When you're sitting next to your RV, you're a camper, like everyone else, and everyone is there for the same reason: to relax and check out of life for a while.

My boys learned to climb trees and shower outdoors and play with kids who didn't speak English or with kids who ate gator tail. They learned that every family is different, and that when bad stuff happens (the RV breaks down and you're on the side of the road for 9 hours), you make the best of it. We played Frisbee barefoot. We looked for shooting stars. We threw rocks in canals. We saw raccoon eyes glow at night. We talked. We learned that a hammock can hold all four of us--but only for about 3 minutes.

We sold the RV today. There had been too many mechanical issues to keep it any longer. And although we plan on getting another one, we know we won't be able to for at least 2 or 3 years. That doesn't seem like a very long time to wait, but it means that by the time we get another one, Ben will be a pre-teen, and Kai will be 8 or 9. I can't imagine not being able to sneak away for a weekend here and there, not holing up in it and driving 10 hours to see a new place. Today when we emptied it all out before turning over the keys and the title, Kai kept asking: "But are we bringing the RV back home?" We realized that he was so little when we got it, that he doesn't even know life without an RV.

I realize this might all seem a bit melodramatic. It's just a vehicle, for pete's sake. Just go camping in a tent. What's the big deal?

It's not about the RV itself. It's about the lifestyle. We feel like we have temporarily given up our freedom. We are not simple people. I am most definitely not a simple girl. But we loved the simple life that our RV gave us. And even though, for now, I don't have one, I am still most definitely an RV Girl.