The Many Gifts Of Motherhood

With Mother’s Day being tomorrow, I felt compelled to write about the life altering, personality changing, ever-teaching, extraordinary experience it is to be a mother. We as a society celebrate Mother’s Day by thanking our caregivers, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, or special women in our lives who have made a difference or have shaped us in one way or another. I’m taking a bit of a different approach today, feeling immense gratitude toward my two sons and celebrating the many gifts and wisdom they bring to me daily as their mom.

Before diving into the wonder of momming, I want to first say that I realize there are many women out there who have tried, craved, and hoped for children, but whose bodies had other plans. While motherhood ended up not being their path biologically, something tells me their nurturing ways and calling to be a caregiver will lead them to that in one way or another, even if not in the way they had anticipated. In my experience, I’ve found the universe has ways of bringing what we crave into existence, even if not in the way we exactly envisioned. In the end, no matter how it manifests in our lives, it’s part of each of our unique human experience.

Some women are born nurturing, motherly, caring, loving, and then some. We all know women like this, they are all the things it means to be a mother. When I had my first son, impostor syndrome crept in for a little while. I wondered, like many other first-time moms do, if I was going to be capable of giving this tiny human everything I had hoped to give him. I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to try to be the best mom for him and my future children. Both the exhilaration and terror of this new responsibility felt overwhelming. I consider the amount of gray hair that sprouted in that first year of motherhood to be my body’s way of validating all that excitement and stress , almost like silver exclamation marks that erupted from my brain and out through my scalp.

The first year with my baby boy was filled with snuggles, coos, a new-found kind of love I’d never known, an overwhelming feeling of wanting to protect, co-sleeping, breast-feeding, diaper changes, and ten months of sleeplessness. It was a jumbled mess of zombified work days met with gleeful kisses at home. Juggling a rare breastfeeding condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER), overproduction, as well as four bouts of mastitis, had me feeling elated at month 6 when I would nurse him for the last time. Freedom like that never felt so good!

It was beyond that first year of difficulty and stress, where I found a certain kind of fulfillment in motherhood that connected me wholly with my toddler. The first year we are so stressed! We put one foot in front of the other, clutching our coffee like it’s pure gold. We chant: “Must-keep-this-tiny-human-alive” in our minds as we leave car doors open and pour orange juice in our cereal. Every phase after that first year has been my favorite. Actually, let’s pause on that because I have a teenager who will be turning 14 in less than two months, and there may be a shift happening in terms of how much I’m enjoying this phase.

We all hear moms hearken back fondly to a certain time with their children they treasure. Everyone has those favorite moments they cherish and they love to reminisce about.

“I loved the phase where my daughter couldn’t pronounce words correctly!”

“It was the absolute cutest when my son would climb into bed with me every morning to cuddle and I’d listen to him ponder the world!”

“Ages 7–10 are the best, they still like you, and aren’t grouchy with hormones taking over yet.”

“There’s nothing like walking in the door and having someone jumping up and down, running toward you full speed and squealing with delight for a good ten years.”

“I could never be away from my baby when she was small, I’d miss those squishy snuggles too much.”

While we all think back at the blur that is parenthood when our children are small, there are always the special moments that particularly stand out: the highs, the lows, the milestones, the unexpected, the memories. My personal favorite are the traditions created by each of us, etching our way with our own unique family habits. This is the significant imprint we leave stamped on our children’s hearts to look back fondly on when we’re no longer around.

One of our traditions was to read every single night with both of our sons starting from when they were babies. This tradition is still going strong give or take nights when they sleep over at friends and vice versa. That time has not only made a positive impact on their reading skills over the years, but it’s proven to be a time in their day to open up with questions about relationships, problems they’re facing, wins from their day, and sometimes curiosities about our youth and their relatives lives. I often wonder if this time was never set aside as a bedtime ritual, would these musings ever find their way to our ears?

Children teach us so much about not only life, but ourselves. How many of us are winging it, trying to build in a life lesson during moments when we’re not sure what the right answer is? My thirteen year old told me the way he was planning to talk to girls was online rather than in person because “it’s way easier mom”. Insert my horrified face and rebuttal of, “going up to a girl and striking up a conversation is far easier than surfing the web trying to talk to strangers! Trust me! If online, they may live out of state, be cat fishing you or much older than you, or live in another country! There are girls in your town — real people you can talk to in the flesh!”

Greeted with eye roll and exasperated exhale from teen.

While the teen years are supposed to be the most difficult, I’m trying to keep an open mind and a peaceful heart about it. This is a dawn of a new age coming out of the pandemic, not to mention social media melding their growing minds and personalities.

It’s rare I’m alone with my teen, but the other day we were in the car and had a lovely conversation. I appreciated that moment, we hadn’t had a nice long chat like that in quite sometime in spite of our now dwindling reading time at night. His life, like most teens, is made up of friends, video games, Tik Tok, and two physical activities- parkour and weightlifting. Being his mom is the best feeling in the world. He’s a serious go-getter and he’s so comfortable in his own skin. This year I received a letter from one of his teachers expressing what an exceptional human he is and I’m planning to print it out and put it in his baby book to save forever. I’m so proud of the man he’s becoming.

These are the positive life nuggets I’m trying to focus on, instead of worrying about him being corrupted by Tik Tok and that in 2 short years he’ll be driving.

My younger son, now ten years old, was the absolute opposite experience as a newborn. He was an angel with naps, eating, and sleep. He slept through the night by week 3 and was hardly fussy. His tough times as an infant revolved around driving in the car. We had a few trips where both our boys cried almost the entire drive to New Jersey, where my in-laws lived at the time. One time, we pulled over multiple times on the side of the highway, each of us trying to console with pacifiers, plushies, and fresh air. We couldn’t figure out why drives were so difficult until he began to vocalize that it made him feel sick, often vomiting on car rides. His brother struggled with this too, but not nearly as bad.

Nursing was still hell the second time around, but I held on tight for five months and then threw in the towel, ready again for that sweet freedom. But the second time around as a mom I had an “I got this” mentality and the added sleep really helped. There was a one month stint where he was colicky, and then we discovered simethicone drops, which saved the day. That month felt like a year… to all of you parents out there who dealt with colic for months, there’s a special place in heaven for you.

Once again, also with our second child, after that first year the veil of stress lifted, and I have adored every age since. Some moms will tell you they love and miss those infant years with a passion-I am not that mom! For me, the golden years of momhood have been every age over the age of one. But it sure did help when baby number two was much easier as an infant!

The mind bending thing about siblings is how different they can be. It forces you to bring your A-game to the parenting arena and keeps you on your toes. Did something work great for your first born? Great, well prepare for a curve ball from your second child. Over time, you come to parent each child differently because they are so entirely their own people.

My younger son has always been much more affectionate than his brother. And his brother is certainly affectionate, but not to this level. He still, even at ten years old, squeals when I walk in the door from work, albeit from his computer chair in his bedroom. I’m accosted with hugs from him randomly and often. He is one of the most observant kids I’ve come across and I don’t hold back in letting him know how surprised and impressed I am at the level of detail he takes in and recounts in his stories about his day, someone’s facial features, not to mention conversations he recalls from years ago.

While he expresses his love with hugs and cuddles, he does not say “I love you” often. I am one of the only people lucky enough to be on the receiving end of this phrase, possibly the only person he says it to. It’s a reminder for me every time he decides to say it that when someone says those words to us, it’s a gift. It isn’t owed us, we can’t demand someone say it, and it’s not something we can ever force someone to feel. I learn so much from my youngest son.

Just the other day, my sweet ten year old asked me earnestly, “Mom, do you think you’re fat?”

I had just been looking at a photo of myself and as per usual was ripping myself to shreds. Thankfully, I had not said anything about my weight, but I was talking more about the fine lines and wrinkles that now grace my face.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because you’re more down on yourself than I even am about myself. So I was wondering if you think you’re fat.”

Holy hell! Note to Self- the kids are always listening. And, insert dagger in the heart when he said he was down on himself!

“I have become soft, which I’m not thrilled about, but I’ll exercise and eat right and try to improve it. That’s all I can do, and I’m working not to beat myself up about it. It’s basically what happens as we age. BUT, why in the world are you saying you’re down on yourself? You are perfect in every way, I mean no one has eyes in that shade of blue like you.”

I spent the next few minutes smothering him in compliments to try to understand whatever it was that he’s been feeling insecure about with regard to his physical appearance. It turned out he was getting teased about his new hairdo, a buzz. He had grown his hair sort of long and had decided to buzz it all off. While all of us at home loved his new ‘do, some of his friends at school felt differently and were smacking him upside the head and making annoying comments.

“ I wish I never cut my hair, I have a weird forehead.”

We are never prepared for those bombshells our kids randomly drop! However, this was a connecting moment. One where he’s allowed me to see into his mind, showing me that he’s trying to understand the inner-workings of why I think the way I do about myself and also sharing something he’s going through that’s similar. By asking me that question, it says that he’s paying attention while showing empathy. I had also realized that foolishly I was criticizing myself within earshot of my kids.

This is pure education for me as his mom. I’m learning not to say bad things about myself in front of my kids, and at the same time, I’m realizing they may learn to say bad things or think poorly of their own physical appearance based on modeling my behavior.

One thing is for sure- kids and people are always going to say unkind things or express unwanted opinions. It’s so important for us not to be the ones pouring gasoline on ourselves in those situations. We should be fireproofing mentally by building ourselves up internally.

This is exactly what I mean when I say motherhood is the gift that basically keeps on giving. My kids and your kids teach us things like this all the time, spurring us on, unknowingly, to be better moms and humans overall.

In four years from now, my oldest will leave the nest to go to college or trade school, and in eight years my youngest will do the same. The years in between will bring new and precious revelations and wisdom, which will give me the opportunity to flourish and grow even more as a human and mother. And in the meantime, I will anxiously and excitedly await the next group of phases my kids will experience, when I will undoubtedly sprout new silver exclamation marks from my scalp. This will be a real life reminder of the exhilarating and wonderful feeling it is to be their mother.

Strange Happenings at Basketball Games and High School Dances

Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

There are certain situations in our lives that all have a sort of cadence to them. At a basketball game for example, when someone makes a basket, the expected sound to follow is cheering or clapping. If a traffic light turns green, and the cars don’t move, you anticipate the sound of a horn. Similarly, when the end of a play arrives, the actors are expected to do a curtain call, bowing and curtseying for the roaring crowd. If these are the norms on expected autopilot in our brains, what does it mean when we witness them changing?

The Watching Dead At Basketball Games

Last year both my boys played on basketball teams. My youngest son, then nine years old, was on the Catholic school team. His twelve year old brother was on both the school team and a recreational league . When attending both my younger son’s school games and my older son’s recreational ones, I noticed the most bizarre phenomenon: there was little to no clapping. Not only was there no clapping, scoring a basket was met with the sound of the ball hitting the court and that was about it.

Once I became aware of this strange thing, I would go out of my way to clap for every boy on the team who had a solid block or scored a basket. At one point, the gentleman sitting next to me asked if I had multiple sons on the team.

I told him no, and that I chose to cheer for every kid on both teams because someone needed to root for these kids. I expressed my shock at the constant silence from the spectating parents. He pondered what I said for a moment and after taking notice, looked at me with raised brows. From then on he and his wife sometimes clapped with me. This felt like a small victory- in the weirdest of ways. How did they not notice before? My pointing out the obvious happened to be the smelling salts they needed. Too bad everyone else never got on board.

My husband always jokes that he likes to be the first one to start the wave of clapping wherever we go: school plays, talent shows, school music concerts, etc. He brings his hands together forcefully during silent moments and as loud as possible. Everyone usually follows suit. He looks like a giddy Eddie Haskell every time he starts the chain reaction. Too bad he works on Saturdays and had to miss most of these games, the teams could have used his powerful claps.

In my determination to get the zombies out of their staring catatonic state, I tried my husband’s loud, fast clapping in hopes to start a flurry of thunderous applause for each score. This attempt was to no avail.

As for the recreational league my twelve year old was on, I’m convinced the people were cold and dead inside.

I keep asking myself what the hell would cause that across not only a school league, but also a recreational league at the same time? Were parents all in a funk from the Covid experience? Were they in a far away land mentally? What was it? I guess I’ll never know.

This year, I’ve since been to a new recreational league of games with my ten year old and am happy to report the cheering is ever present and loud. It feels like the silence from the stands last Spring and Summer was a strange dream.

The Prom Lock In & The Feelings Police

Another perplexing phenomenon is the sudden over-the-top rules inflicted upon high school dances. For years and years high school dances meant being able to arrive and depart whenever you wanted. Apparently, that’s not the case as of late.

I was told by an acquaintance that kids attending the prom at the local high school had to be locked in. The school said the purpose was to avoid the attendees leaving to do bad things in their cars i.e.; making out, drinking, or drugs.


Has my generation of parents become this overbearing, controlling group of dictators? What happen to trusting your kids until they break that trust? What happened to letting them live their lives and make mistakes? People have to fail sometimes or they cannot grow and learn. Overall, how about giving these kids some much deserved freedom after being locked down for a year and a half? It appears we’re trending in a scary direction.

There is a chance that these changes to dances are not nationwide. It could just be happening in the area I live in since the school board became obsessive on kids being allowed to have fun. As far as wanting to lock children down and mask them against Covid forever, that was our Board Of Education’s modus operandi for a year and a half. I’m so curious to know who decided it was also a good idea to literally lock the kids in the high school for prom?

Another change to the common high school experience is the removal of the prom or homecoming court. The “court” is a group of students selected by their peers who have the opportunity to be crowned class King or Queen. It’s a way to highlight those in the school who are exemplary classmates, friends, humans.

There is the opinion out there that it hurts feelings and makes kids feel less than to host such events. Many say it’s a simple popularity contest – nothing more or less.

Let me draw the comparison here between why this is the same line of thinking as everyone deserves a trophy. It doesn’t matter that Billy practiced soccer for 10 hours a weekend and 5 hours during the week to become the best and win the game. He can’t get the trophy because it would hurt Johnny’s feelings. The same Johnny who had no interest in practicing and who was playing the game for fun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no shame in doing any sport for fun. The journey and the winning and losing IS the fun! Ok maybe more winning than losing, but you catch my drift.

Bottom line is let’s not ding the kids who work so hard at their craft and eventually win as a result. They sign up for competitive sports for that reason. Let the winners get the damn trophy.

How does this apply to the school court reference from earlier? It starts with nominating then, in turn, rewarding the kids who set the example. I don’t want to teach my sons to do the bare minimum in life. Ideally, I’d like them to spend time with and look up to the kids who inspire and motivate them to be their best selves. It would also be nice for them to set their egos aside and root for another classmate whom they respect and admire. We could all use setting our egos aside from time to time to lift others up. It’s a nice life lesson.

It’s always been strange to me that movies depict the winners as assholes who are experts in the field of bullying , however, in my experience, that was not the case. I can remember some of the upperclassmen who were on the court as people I looked up to. They were my friends and showed kindness with ease, had reasonable grades, excelled in sports, theater, or belonged to several clubs. Some were shy and some were mega extroverts. One thing was for sure, it was a good mixture of decent human beings from various backgrounds; quite the opposite of just about every high school movie ever made.

So why toss the baby out with the bathwater ? My guess is this was done away with by the feelings police. They probably thought, “Well, we simply cannot have these contests anymore because someone will feel left out.

May be these decision makers were feeling protective over their kids feeling unpopular. Honestly, I believe they could be shooting themselves in the foot. If this is how you feel – give your child more credit than that. It’s a wide pool of people voting, and your child might be in the mix. Also, ask yourselves is it the end of the world for our kids to have a negative emotion about something? Check out the movie Inside Out for an excellent depiction of this.

It’s my opinion that this type of parental thinking promotes mediocrity. If kids go through life getting trophies for not winning, or are unable to be on court at school, or if there are no longer awards because it may cause hurt feelings – what does that do to our society? It makes people feel like there’s no sense in trying. If there’s no incentive for going the extra mile at school to be kind, get good grades, belong to clubs, be respectful towards adults, who’s to say it doesn’t send kids in the opposite direction? If there’s nothing to try for, what’s the point?

Think for a moment of the kids who don’t have a great home life. If there’s no one at home cheering them on and no way at school to shine in some way, what’s the easiest and quickest fix they turn to today? I’m sure you guessed it- the big, unadulterated, out of control dopamine machine called social media. A false promise that lures them in and spits them out on the daily. As we all know, social media is a fake, digital world instead of a fun, living one that requires hard work and real, tangible rewards and experiences.

Even as adults we like to have a carrot to work towards in addition to feeling a sense of accomplishment. If we work hard, we get a raise or a good bonus. If we sell enough widgets, we get that promotion. If we save up enough money with self discipline we can take that lavish vacation. If we meditate regularly, we teach ourselves how to manage stress better, if we train for a race, we can fundraise and give to a charity. The examples are endless; adults like to feel like they’re doing something good for their family, inner circle, or community as a form of personal fulfillment.

So let the kids have fun. Trust them before locking them inside of schools. Give them incentives and opportunities to win trophies or awards for being exceptional at something. Allow them to stand before their peers and wear a crown for 5 minutes in the name of being a good human. Clap for them at a basketball game! Give them real life experiences to look forward to instead of driving them further into a sub-par digital one.

An Open Letter To My 13 Year Old Self

2019 Wedding vow renewal in Vegas with our sons

Dear Young Amber,

Thirty one years from now it is the year 2023 and your heart is about to explode with all the love it carries inside. It is fat with adoration for your thirteen and ten year old sons. It is fed with endless, heaping spoonfuls of affection and deep understanding from your husband of fifteen years. You live 800 miles from where you are currently standing, but you still remain closest to the people you met in Illinois as a teenager.

This year in your life, the year of 13, you will go through more than you ever thought possible. Mom is newly single having broken off the marriage between her and your step-father. We both know this is in no way a loss to you. It feels as though life is playing out as it should, as though this was inevitable. Not having the second income to split the bills does a number on your family financially. Mom will need food stamps soon and she’ll call your aunts to ask about the potential of packing us up and moving to Michigan to live with them temporarily.

This will be the year you’re on so much shaky ground. Most kids your age will be having their confidence and self esteem defined, they’ll have a support system of adults, stability, and focus on what kids their age ought to be focused on-school, sports, friends, and having fun. This will be different from your experience. While you will have fun amid the chaos at home, you will put yourself in dangerous situations with your naiveté. Amazingly, you will always end up safe somehow, as though your guardian angels were along for the wild ride. Look back at your life up to this moment and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in the end of your childhood as you know it. It’s time to be brave, strong, and most of all-motivated.

You’re already naturally enthusiastic – this is a good thing. This enthusiasm and motivation is what will get you to where you need to be years from now. It will deliver to your doorstep beautiful, loving children, a smart and handsome husband, a cuddly blonde mixed breed, and tiny white ranch with a bright orange door- your favorite color. Tiki Torch orange to be exact.

Be steadfast in your plans for what you will do next because it will be you and only you that takes you there. No need to depend on anyone. You will fall in love for a a few years and he will bring much happiness to you during that time. A significant chunk of your life will be spent feeling the overwhelming heavy whisper of “I am alone.” You will feel this deeply. It will be a life long struggle that you will go to therapy for only to realize everyone is alone. You felt this young and grew your independence tenfold as a result. This is a super power.

On your 13th birthday you received a bar of Neutrogena soap and an Oh Henry candy bar. You were crushed inside and you began to feel and see that things were beginning to really fall apart at home. This is the moment where you began to develop a sensitivity to other people’s feelings. This also made you self aware regarding what made you different. It made you hyper aware to the relationship between your behavior and the treatment you could receive based on that behavior. You begin to realize if you behave a certain way-kind, smiling, agreeable, pleasing, that you can go through life with such ease. It feels like floating and – by golly -it works! Suddenly, the hard parts of life don’t feel as hard. It’s like rolling with the punches, in fact, that is what it is.

This agreeable behavior becomes a hard wired part of who you are. Our coping mechanisms are part of the patchwork quilt that covers us when we’re cold providing undeniable comfort. You will be able to float above the ever present tension like a professional by the time you turn fourteen.

Your friendships are your everything. They lift you, carry you, sustain you. You subconsciously seek out other soft souls who have interesting and challenging lives. These people, whether they stay or go, are your life line and are direly important in so many ways.

Put the Dimetapp and Mom’s codine pills down. You absolutely know you don’t want to harm yourself-it’s a simple cry for attention. Come on, you honestly just love the taste of the grape flavored syrup. Further, and more importantly, you need to make it to 2023 sweet child. It’s so good here. The world is an absolute shit show at this point in time, but your little bubble you’ve created- a cocoon of warmth and joy- awaits.

Something crazy and unexpected will happen with Mom and you’ll be across the street in the Barrington Lakes apartment complex with a suitcase in hand being picked up by Dad. Your sister will be along for the ride, but not for very long. Would you believe it if I told you you’ll only live together one more year? From there your paths will diverge for many years.

You’ll live with Dad and his new wife for a year. Insane things will happen in that year and you will be hurt again and again before being tossed out . This is the part I want you to know more than anything. No matter what happens between the ages of 13 to 16, which will be the toughest years of your entire life, I love you. You are so hard on yourself right now. You don’t believe yourself to be smart. You make yourself small to protect yourself from others’ feeling any negativity towards you. You go with the flow and avoid fights with family and friends at all costs because you cannot bear to squirm in discomfort at the thought of not being liked by someone. Here’s something cool I only learned recently: what people think of you is none of your business. Isn’t that great? Relieve yourself from the notion that you have to make everyone like you and that it’s a tragedy if they don’t. It’s an impossible standard to set for yourself and so many of these people would not bring any light into your life anyhow.

You still feel so much happiness in spite of the hectic aspects in your life. Continue to have fun and don’t dwell at all on what is going on in the background- you’re pretty good at seeing the positive in general! You are going to enjoy the hell out of your twenties so get excited. The affects of this odd teenage time won’t really bother you until you become a mother and see things through a different lens.

You will work hard your whole life. There will never be a time to come up for air or not have a steady job. You will start working when you are 15 and never stop. Your husband and you will have tons of debt right from the get go. Your wedding will plunge you into further debt – but damn- it’s a gorgeous event that you will look fondly on with zero regrets. Your wedding day will be heaven on earth to you. I wish there was a way for you to have known this, it would have put a stop to your worrying ways. Again, so much goodness awaits you young self. Yes, there are days you will feel emotionally and mentally over it. I am telling you it’s so worth it to keep going.

Nothing will be handed to you for the next 31 years. You and your husband will work for everything yourselves. There is a deep appreciation that comes from this young independence and hard work. Even at 13, I know you are ready to be a hard worker with all that enthusiasm coursing through those veins. You were born motivated and though your life may trip you from time to time, you need to look at it as fuel to work even harder. In your forties, something wonderful will take place as a culmination of all your efforts. I know it feels so far away, but it’s about the journey- you know this. You will get there. Stay focused.

Though there is a cornucopia of positive and negative in all of our lives, amongst the hard year of 13, I look back and think of this as the year everything changed. This year was the one that laid the foundation of who you were to become -flaws and all. They say we tend to remember the intensely good and bad moments of our lives. I remember the year of 13 most vividly of all our teen years. I daydream of sending you, my former self, hundreds of bouquets of sunshine colored daisies. I envision these gorgeous bright puffs of yellow show up at your door, on your bus ride to school, rain down upon your head whenever you feel anxious, and cover your bed as you sleep at night. You embody this color of yellow. You have a warm light that will continue to shine bright, lighting your unique path through this world. And you are going to be more than okay.

A Warm Welcome To The Stranger Called…Me

Trail at Multnomah Falls

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, many of us – both introverted and extroverted types- felt we spent way too much time alone due to the lockdowns, quarantines, and remote work situations. This meant when some sort of normalcy resumed, many of us could not wait to run from our homes to vacation or adventure somewhere outside of what was familiar. Our dream of skipping about in a new setting, preferably among other humans, was within reach, and we were more than ready.

Because I like people so much, the idea of vacationing solo never really occurred to me. However, when the opportunity presented itself, it didn’t take as long as I would have expected to make my decision. The mere idea of not being in my basement office, or surrounded by the dusty rose walls of my kitchen, where it seems I spend most of my non-working hours these days, was…motivating.

Like many Americans, we had received the stimulus from the government and I had immediate plans on how we would use it. It would involve getting out of our home as fast as possible, barreling toward a fun experience as a family. The kids had been cooped up for too long, and this was the perfect opportunity. During one of my many monologues on where our family vacation would take place, my husband quieted me with some shocking words. He suggested the family not go on a trip, and that I go by myself instead. He reminded me of the stressful year I had just endured, holding down the fort alone at home while juggling work, dealing with health issues, and other various dramas of life. My chronic worry over whether or not the kids were OK was pretty much all I talked about for the past year. It’s about time you do something only for yourself . “The Go Do You” he called it.

“Think about a place you’ve always wanted to go within the U.S. and make it happen. It won’t be as costly as a family vacation, and being in this house for the last year working and managing the kids, you deserve to go on a kid-free adventure— do it for your own sanity.”

I mulled it over. Going on a solo trip sounded strange at first simply because I had spent more time alone in the last year than I ever had in my entire life. Why would I want to go spend more time alone? Would it be miserable? Or would I surprise myself and realize it could be positively glorious? I decided that unless I made a plan to take the boys on a trip somewhere before my solo trip, the mom guilt would annihilate me.

Continue reading here.

Fruit Texture-A Tale of Embarrassing & Funny Moments

Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

A few months back, I was having writer’s block. I posted on social media to garner suggestions on topics to write about. One of the recommended topics was fruit texture. How does one tell an interesting story about the guts and skin of fruit? Well, naturally, you compare it to a few funny experiences in life. So come along with me on this fun journey about life and fruit.

My Acting Experience – A Bittersweet Grapefruit

When I was little, I absolutely loved watching music videos and pretending I was in them. I also did the same while watching certain movies, especially Goonies. Man, did I want to play the cheerleader, and love interest, of Josh Brolin’s character in that movie. Andy was this lucky lady’s character name, played by Kerri Green. She got to go on an incredibly cool and scary treasure hunt with a bunch of cute boys.

As you can imagine, after pretending at home for so long, I could not wait to try out for my first play in high school. I decided to sign up for drama club at my new high school my freshman year.

I met a super nice guy in Drama Club shortly after singing up. He had been in many plays over the years. He urged me to audition for the upcoming play, The Crucible. This was it, I told myself. I was finally going to realize my dream of becoming an actress even if only on a high school stage. I rehearsed my lines and the day came for me to try out. Anyone else who auditioned could hang out in the theater afterwards to watch others try out as well.

My palms were slick and my heart was pounding as I crossed the stage and prepared to say my lines. Just a few rows in front of me was the drama club veteran who had now become my friend and had urged me to audition.

I went for it, and thought that in the end, I did a pretty decent job. I left the stage after my audition and found a seat in the audience next to my new friend. He hi-fived me and told me I did a good job. I then watched another girl audition for the same role. With the most mortification you could possibly imagine, I realized something when she finished her try out. I had said one of the lines so incredibly wrong, that a case of nervous and hysterical laughter was bubbling up in my chest and ready to burst forth with even more embarrassing magnitude than that of my line screw up.

One of my lines had been, “Mama, I’ll fly to Mama.” There was just one eensy weensy problem. The words, she cried were listed after the line. I had interpreted them to mean say the words like the character was crying. No, wait, not crying, like actually sobbing while saying those words. What it actually meant is what you are likely thinking. The character was supposed to be crying OUT those words- as in YELLING. I had sobbed those words instead of shouting them. So there I was feeling like a grapefruit. A happy, colorful shell, feeling slightly exposed by showing the new inner skin of her acting skills, with a sweetness at first, followed by an oh-crap-that-was-a – bit- extra sour feeling immediately after the first try. To this day I cannot retell this story without cracking up while simultaneously wanting to dive in a hole of embarrassment, never to come out of that hole again.

A Job Interview- A Banana With A Few Bruises

I had a job interview about 6 or 7 years or so ago at a marketing agency. They gave me an assignment to create a campaign for a new energy drink. Part of the assignment had been to choose an ambassador for the drink who aligned with the brand’s image. The ambassador I picked was Julianne Hough. She had been fairly popular at the time, and was fit and healthy, which went along with the overall theme.

The day came and I presented my campaign ideas to the team of interviewers. It felt good to have completed the project, and I was pretty confident I had done an awesome job. Afterwards, one of the interviewers walked me out to the stairwell to say good-bye and thank me. He reiterated that this job would be a lot of travel and a lot of hours. I thanked him for letting me know and then mentioned I had two little boys at home, but I would do my best to make it work if I got the job. He cocked his head and looked at me quizzically before walking away from the stairwell where I immediately regretted what I had just said. I knew in my gut I had blown it by mentioning my kids (sad fact, I know). However, that is not the worst part of my embarrassment.

Later that week, while watching Dancing with the Stars, I heard them introducing the judge’s names and the announcer pronounced Julianne’s last name VERY differently than I had been saying her name. I had been pronouncing it “How” instead of “Huff”. The color drained from my face as I sat there, in front of my TV, and realized I must have said her name 20 times in that presentation, and every single time I’m sure they were cringing at my mispronunciation. Did they all know who she was? I remember wondering and hoping they didn’t notice. Is it as bad as someone calling Danny DeVito Danny DeVitie? Either way, that was two flubs now. So not only did I say the wrong thing while exiting the interview, but I had said my ambassador’s name wrong the entire time! Suffice it to say, I did not get that job.

This experience I liken to a banana. The peel delicately pulled away, one section at a time carefully to reveal the complete, well grown presentation inside. The first few bites sent positive vibes and tasted good, hey, this was a pretty decent, well-rounded banana! Until, three quarters of the way through, brown, bruised spots showed up and ruined the experience all together, leaving the banana to be tossed out entirely, the good parts dismissed by the imperfections at the end

My Modeling Debut and Finale-A Bumpy, Furry, Raspberry

When I was in sixth grade, one of my friend’s brothers needed a favor. It was a weekend morning, and the adult model for a Spanish car dealership newspaper had called out sick. My friend’s brother was the photographer and was frantically trying to get someone to fill in for the model. My friend called me and asked if I could sub in. Sixth grade me? What do I wear? What do I do? I was totally lost as to what I should be bringing and had no clue what my job would be. Would I pass as latina? What would be involved? He was going to pay me forty dollars, so I was basically about to be rich.

I ended up agreeing to help his brother out, because what 12 year old says no to $40 to smile for the camera? I put on one of my mom’s white halter tops with black polka dots on it and a pair of black shorts and pulled half of my hair up. I wasn’t really allowed to wear make-up yet, so I tried my best to figure it out.

I was lucky enough to get my unibrow waxed on days when I went into the salon where my mom worked. It had been quite awhile since the ol’ brows had been waxed so I hoped the camera didn’t close in on those furry friends of mine. I also tried to tell myself Brooke Shields had made thick brows cool.

Puberty was also in my favor. I had some serious brail going on underneath my thin bangs and along my temples.

We got to the dealership and my friend’s brother picked the fanciest car in the lot- a white convertible camero with red seats. I looked at him clueless and said what do I do? He pointed to the hood of the car and said just lean on the car and look over your shoulder at the camera. Seemed easy enough. So I did just that and in less than a couple of minutes we wrapped up this very glamorous modeling shoot. He paid me the forty bucks and we called it a day.

I got a copy of the Auto-trader type newspaper magazine a few weeks later and realized this would be a story for years to come. Not only was my photo on the cover, but I am hilariously referred to as “Miss Automundo”. My family howls at this ridiculous story and every now and then we dig out the old Miss Automundo magazine to take a walk down memory lane and acknowledge my brief modeling career for a Spanish Auto-trader magazine at the age of 12.

This adventure was like a raspberry. There is some furriness going on, including a bumpy brail-like exterior. It’s a tiny fruit with a sugary tartness. It’s got a whole lot of texture going on for such a little fruit!

Are The Kids Alright? A Mental Health Survey

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

It has almost been one year since the pandemic struck, bringing with it unique challenges for families in America. With the closure of school, limited face to face interaction, and the shutdown of sports activities for much of the year, the mental health impact on children begs our attention. Adults were able to pivot and work from home, along with continuing to connect with friends if desired. Children, however, had to fall in line with what their school district decided, what rules the state mandated for their particular sport, and what parents deemed an acceptable amount of in-person play with friends. I felt the children in our community, Fairfield County, Connecticut, deserved a closer look at how they are doing mentally based on all of the contributing factors above. From what is gathered here, the kids in our community need our help.

One way to gauge how kids are doing collectively, was to survey parents to glean insight into what is taking place under each individual roof. While it will give us a picture of how children are doing, parents will be left with decisions to make in terms of what they will do to help their children going forward.

To get a sense of who is being impacted and how, I surveyed 108 families here in Fairfield County. Slightly more than half of respondents live in the town of Fairfield.

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Breakdown of towns represented in Fairfield County Within This Survey

The age demographic of the children in this survey is broken out below. The largest age group represented is the 5–10 age group, of which 61% of respondents had a child in this bracket.

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Sleep Procrastination-It’s a Thing

Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay

Recently, a friend of mine jokingly mentioned she had diagnosed herself with something called revenge bedtime procrastination. The words immediately resonated. I was quite surprised to find that the internet provided several articles on the topic. Apparently a plethora of people, my friend, and myself included, push off sleep for some additional “me” time more often than not.

It’s not just, oh I’m not tired so let me just (insert activity here) before I go to bed. It’s a very deliberate evasion of sleep to give us a sense of control over a portion of our day.

A well-known United States Journalist, Daphne K. Lee, went viral over the internet on the topic: “Revenge Sleep Procrastination is a process in which people don’t control their day time routine and refuse to sleep to gain some sense of freedom during the late bedtime.” (The psychology behind ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ – BBC Worklife)

 According to Glamour, in the U.S. the pandemic has exacerbated everything that was already severed in a culture where work determines access to health care and sense of value. “The combination of a capitalist workday, mixed with work-from-home life and an ever growing attachment to our technology is the perfect storm that contributes to ‘revenge bedtime procrastination,’” says Aliza Shapiro, a clinical social worker and therapist in Manhattan. “Intuitively, we know we need to rest in order to become productive again, so when we lack the resource of relaxation during the day we try to find it in other places and times—even if it’s at the expense of our sleep.” (‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ Is Real, According to Psychologists | Glamour)

The Chinese link it to stealing back your time after having been overstretched from work. This makes absolute sense, especially as it relates to the long hours the Chinese work. According to The psychology behind ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ – BBC Worklife, “People are stuck in a Catch-22 when they don’t have time to detach from their work before they go to sleep, it is likely to negatively affect their sleep,” says Kelly. The real solution, she suggests, is to ensure that individuals are allowed time to engage in activities that provide this detachment. However, this is often not something employees can achieve by themselves. 

This extends to other circumstances as well. It doesn’t necessarily only happen for employees working long hours. It can happen to those of us working healthy, normal hours, but feeling like our time isn’t our own related to other factors. As this snippet below by Deanna Pai mentions:

“This is a trend I’ve seen for years with women who are going, going, going,” says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist and author of “The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia.” They’re taking care of kids, going to work, and returning home only to tackle dinner, handle homework, or get ready for school the next day — like a hamster wheel of responsibilities. “They feel they don’t have a moment to themselves,” she explains. “As a result, they just want some time to ‘do nothing’ and decompress.”

Sleep tends to be the easiest thing to sacrifice, says Harris, as we see it as time we could spend doing more enjoyable things.

Avoiding bedtime, is something pretty much anyone who wants to extend the day on their terms does. The pandemic, it turns out, has enflamed the urge to do so. The way I see it, this revenge we are trying to get is carving out “me” time since there are little other outlets at the moment.

Perhaps we are using the delayed bedtime to scroll, text, watch movies, read, and evade sleep because it’s taking the place of other things we aren’t getting for ourselves right now. Prior to the pandemic I would go out for dinner or drinks twice a month. I would have social connection every weekend via playdates with my sons’ friends. That isn’t happening anymore. My daily routine is exactly the same and working from home means no in person connection other than with my children and my husband. Fortunately, I have a couple of friends that will periodically hike or have a playdate. On average it’s one get together roughly once a month, which as an extrovert, simply isn’t enough.

My husband has pointed out the feeling of normalcy he gets to have. As a chiropractor, he leaves the house each day to interact with his patients just as he did prior to the pandemic. Throughout the day, he also converses with his patients, receptionist, and his good friend whom he shares an office with. He feels badly because he knows his wife is at home, having little in person interaction for 11 months now. I mention him because he never has sleep procrastination. He is a creature of routine and makes sure to carve out time for himself every single day. He also goes to bed at around the same time consistently.

He sometimes asks me why in the world I’m not coming to bed, when he sees that my eyes are fighting to stay open. “It’s like you get mad at yourself for being tired,” he often says. This is why the word revenge that has strategically been placed in the name of this phenomenon makes perfect sense to me. It feels just like that…vengeful.

We are all collectively hitting the pandemic wall so to speak. As a result, I stay up late to feel like I’ve somehow made the day count. I evade sleep to prove to myself that damnit, I CAN do what I want, this is MY time. What will be the exciting plan tonight? Will I watch 6 episodes of The Leftovers, start reading my new book, scroll through social media, write a blog post?

During the last year, did we say screw you to our sleep to elongate the day? Hell yeah we did. Because in the back of our minds, it will be groundhog day again in the morning. Maybe staying up past our bedtime is some form of excitement during a time when nothing feels exciting? I’m always searching for the next available activity for our family, it’s just gotten a lot harder. This perpetuates the mundane routine, which makes the idea of going to sleep, only to wake up, and do the same thing all over again not-so-enticing. Pushing it off to find a mindless distraction may be how we’re inadvertently feeding our souls right now.

There are recommendations on how to go about dialing sleep procrastination back. Start with carving out “me” time in the evening with a hard stop for yourself of 10 or 11 p.m. Instead of allowing the episodes on your streaming platform to run into one another, stop after one episode and plan to do something else. Take inventory of your responsibilities and rate them. Can something be pushed off to tomorrow that will give you an extra 30 minutes today? Better time management can help.

Putting off sleep to do something for ourselves feels good in the immediate, but then we obviously pay for it the next day. Perhaps watching TV into the late night to avoid the eventual arrival of tomorrow, was a thing before smart phones were invented. Smart phones obviously make it that much easier to avoid going to bed. Turning off your phone at least one hour before bed is also recommended.

We all look forward to a time when we are active, engaging, and socializing more and regularly. When we are physically moving more than just down our basement stairs to our home office. My hope is we will be more mindful of shutting our brains off for the day when our heads hit the pillow. Let’s look forward to no longer feeling FOMO towards our very own “me” time. Throw that on the list of the many things we look forward to in the months ahead.

If you’re interested in reading further, here are some very interesting articles on this phenomenon:

‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ Is Real, According to Psychologists | Glamour

The psychology behind ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ – BBC Worklife

How to Resist Revenge Bedtime Procrastination |

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Kristin Gustafson for suggesting this topic.

How Past Conflicts Help in the Happiness Department

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

All of us complain from time to time about the variety of burdensome things that can accost us at random times throughout life. You know, like that collections company that continues to send us a bill for a service we paid for over a year ago. Or maybe it was a stranger who decided it was their business to tell you what a bad job you were doing parenting your child. Perhaps it was a job layoff, a fight with a spouse, a misbehaving child etc. There are conflicts large and small and it’s our critical problem solving skills that allow us to either move on quickly, procrastinate and drag it out for a later resolution, add gasoline to the problem, or give up and leave it unsolved.

What’s key here, is having the self awareness to look back at some of life’s hurdles and appreciate that something positive came from the experience, because you learned from it. A good way to gauge if you’ve learned from it is not repeating that behavior or pattern that got you there in the first place. Could it be that this is the healthy part of having obstacles in life? Maybe we just need to be reminded to reflect on where those hurdles got us and what they taught us.

Sidenote, this article has nothing to do with COVID as an obstacle. That’s an entirely different animal in my opinion. The pandemic hurdles have much to do with stress being exacerbated due to other people making decisions on our behalf. That stress and those hurdles are a result of responsibility without control.

I recently finished reading the book, The Second Mountain, by David Brooks. The two mountains are used as an analogy for the journey of life. There are those of us who climb the first mountain of life successfully. This mountain includes what our culture endorses: career, marriage, family, making your mark in the world, and personal happiness. Some people climb this first mountain only to get there and feel unsatisfied. Those people then begin to climb a second mountain, one that is truly theirs and not what culture dictates will bring one happiness. It is that second mountain that brings them satisfaction and joy.

The other piece to this book, is that there are those of us who never had the two mountain view, there was only the one mountain. These are the people who radiate joy, are content, and have generally chosen to live an other-centered life versus a self-centered one. These folks, Brooks explains, are the ones in his research, who suffered trauma, loss, or a large setback or failure early in life. These people were the ones most fulfilled and happy with life, and did not need to climb the second mountain to experience an underlying current of happiness or satisfaction.

When reading this book, I tried to imagine myself in both scenarios, but I didn’t quite fit into either bucket per se. While I don’t necessarily agree with the two mountain analogy, it does make solid sense when thinking about looking back at life’s biggest adversaries and how those very things or people may have paved the path to fulfillment, happiness, or in certain cases, caused the greatest possible outcome.

Think About The Contrast Between Then and Now

Looking back, I had just a bit of a rocky start in life. My childhood was pretty great until I was about 7 years old. Then came my parent’s divorce, and moving 12 times thereafter. If you’ve read my backstory, you know that my teenage years went into a bit of a tailspin in terms of consistency, security, and a nurturing perspective. To save you time, here is a very boiled down version of the events. My father got custody of us when I was 14 and my sister was 12. One year later, he abandoned me in my mother’s apartment complex parking lot with a backpack to my name. A name he then asked me to change since he wasn’t truly convinced I was his. From there, Mom and I were evicted and I lived with family friends. Mom and I eventually ended up back together close to a year later. During that time, I was also separated from my sister and rarely saw her between the ages of 15-21, due to her staying with our father and later moving to Boston with her high school boyfriend when she was 18. One could argue this was not a smooth start, however, if it’s what I had to go through to be who I am as a person, filled up by the simplicities in life, maybe I’m OK with it.

If I break down the small and large difficulties that occurred within that time frame of 14 years, a line can be drawn between then and now to certain conscious decisions I’ve made and others that maybe weren’t so conscious. It may not be a straight line, but it’s there. And I say 14 years because once I graduated college, I owned my own life and decisions from there. The high drama and trauma meter in my life came to an abrupt halt after I hit 21. That IS something that gives me pause and reflection. The difference is, after 21, I was in control. It’s when we feel out of control, or when someone or something is taking the wheel, that may impact us negatively (whether they realize it or not) that problems can perpetuate, and take hold of our lives.

Appreciation Is Learned Through Experience

On that line of decisions I mention above, there are a few examples of hurdles from back then, that now bring me an elevated sense of appreciation. A large contributor to the feeling of happiness and contentment is appreciation. My mother struggled to make ends meet as a single parent. She was working on a hairdresser’s wages, and my father paid child support intermittently, if at all, for the first few years after their divorce. This meant there was no savings, of course, and money was always scarce. Money is something in life that is never guaranteed, so it must be appreciated when it’s present and providing us with both life’s necessities and extras.

Appreciation Part I

I don’t often make frivolous or luxurious purchases. It may have something to do with my upbringing or it may not. I just bought myself 6 pairs of socks after realizing all of mine had holes for crying out loud! I’m the first to admit that is ridiculous. That purchase felt damn good though …and it wasn’t luxurious.

For the first time, I bought myself a monthly massage package a few months ago. It was a gift to myself to force me out of my house where I work and dwell way too much these days. It was tough to justify, but I told myself it would provide me with a much needed relaxing physical and mental one hour break. One month later, I immediately put my account at the massage place on freeze. We had abruptly decided it was critical to put our older son in Catholic school with his brother due to the hybrid public school model not working for our son’s mental well being. So it felt strange to me to also be spending money on myself in this way.

There was of course the voice inside my head saying, “I told you so. You cannot have nice things for yourself, Amber.”

I appreciated the hell out of the two massages I got and that’s all that matters. When I feel comfortable doing something extravagant like that for myself again, I will re-engage. Socks and massages: two purchases that could not be more different- necessity vs luxury- but honestly, both brought me a great amount of joy.

Appreciation Part II

We were depending on food stamps while I was in junior high. Macaroni, pb & j, and spaghetti were on regular rotation. We almost never went out to dinner. With my first paycheck, I went to Woodfield Mall, sat myself in a Ruby Tuesday’s booth, and bought myself a delicious meal. I’ll never forget how fulfilling that was. Growing up with a thin menu in our kitchen, made me enjoy going out to dinner immensely. It made me welcome elaborate home-cooked meals, gatherings around a dinner table, and acknowledge anyone who has a clue in a kitchen. It also means I eat really fast, which is kind of embarrassing. Subconsciously, my brain may think food will not always be there. I have to remind myself while on business trips to mindfully, cut, chew, and swallow at what’s considered an acceptable pace. To this day, going out to eat feels exciting, even if it means going to the diner up the street.

Failed Relationships Give Us The Tools We Need For Better Ones Ahead

Conflict with people teaches us things too, of course. In one specific incidence, I credit a friend of mine from high school for having an enormous impact on my life. He has since passed away, but I was able to share this with his fiancee. This person was best friends with my high school boyfriend. He and I became close friends once my boyfriend, his best friend, moved away to college. We had stayed behind; I went to community college for a year, he move to the city to figure out his plan. I was enraptured and had wholly lost myself in my love for this boyfriend. There were some romance novel level surprises and he did many kind things that made it feel like the best relationship ever. I believed we would be married at some point and later even based my choice of college on the proximity it was to his. Looking back on that makes me cringe. I would have willfully continued staying with this boyfriend when, slowly but surely, many red flags began to present themselves after he went away to school.

After he put Visine in my water (and told everyone the joke but me), the writing was on the wall that it was time to break up. And yet, I’d drive 3.5 hours just about every weekend to be with him and drag on the relationship. And then, one night, in Chicago, after many beers on my friend’s studio rooftop with a few others I became enlightened. My friend told me that he could no longer be silent on some of the things my boyfriend had done. He unveiled some surprisingly dumb things my then sweetheart had weirdly chosen to lie about.

After hearing me talk about my future and potential marriage to this guy, likely ad nauseum, my friend decided he could not refrain from telling me.

After we did finally break up, he asked to reconcile, pleading to share our lives together and start over. It was what my friend shared, that made the decision to say “no” so easy.

I never looked back. I know that if he had not told me, I would have likely married this person. I am beyond grateful to this friend, since he honestly changed the trajectory of my life. A life I’m guaranteed would have left me unhappy, if not divorced, financially insecure, and very likely a single mother struggling just like my own did.

I look back and see that relationship taught me the importance of never completely losing myself in a person again. Being blindly in love isn’t good for anyone, and it was my own fault to have fallen so deeply. Our naiveté can be our own demise. But it’s important to have these experiences so we can do better next time. We can appreciate the relationship for the good it provided and what the bad parts taught us.

During those years, I could have been more focused on my education, as well as solid path for myself. However, had I not experienced that heart break, I would not have been wiser and more discerning when selecting my future partner. Better yet, since choosing the right partner has an enormous impact on the size of problems you’ll have down the road, I take this to be one of the greatest conflicts to have learned from.

The Absence Of A Toxic Person Is Not A Bad Thing

Earlier in this piece, I mention my father abandoning me when I was 15. To most, that causes a sympathetic response, but hold that thought. I am actually BETTER off in this case. The conflict that occurred back when I was with him, actually set me up to have a far better life ahead. After having witnessed other good, present, and unconditionally loving fathers, I came to realize I was lucky that mine was no longer in my life. I imagine all of life’s milestones and celebrations: showers, weddings, births, significant birthdays, etc. with him and his wife around, and I physically shudder at the thought. We are so much better off with the toxicity missing, than from it being a constant in the picture, hanging on the wall of life, veering at our very happiness.

This absence from my father and his wife, really opened up a space in me that was filled completely by my children and my love for them. There’s no missing piece here, and there is no longing for them to be in my life. I am at peace and thankful- quite frankly- to not have to deal with them.

I think where some people can go wrong here, is to let the toxicity back in time and time again. In doing so, the conflict remains. To learn from your conflict means not to repeat the same behavior or pattern when faced with a similar scenario again. This shift makes the path even brighter and more clear in our decision making as we walk on through our lives.With the toxic person absent, holidays are pleasant for the first time, celebrations are no longer dreaded, and you’re not in a constant state of walking on eggshells. It’s eye opening once they’re absent.

When tasked with thinking of a specific adversary who came around and then somehow made my life better in the long run, I could think of no one. However, when I ruminated about troubles that presented themselves off and on in my early life, it’s clear to me we can take mental notes from a young age and make a concerted effort not to repeat those troubles.

Think for a second about some of the hurdles you’ve had in your life up to this point, and how it made you appreciate one thing or another as a result. It’s a fascinating experiment.

Acknowledgements: Big thanks to Dan Lopez for suggesting this topic.

Positive Glimmerings In a Negative World

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

It would be easy to list off things going on in the world or my personal life that are complex and difficult right now. I am sure you likely feel the same. It is that thought that prompted me to write quite the opposite, and to find small experiences that have injected me warmth most recently. We could all use some internal rays of light on the inside during the days of negative news and politically charged arguments on our social media feeds. Here are a few positive short stories from my world, I hope they bring a smile to you.

The Gift Of Giving

My 7 year old’s favorite actor is Michael J. Fox. After watching all three Back To The Future movies and Teen Wolf, he was transfixed on his new favorite actor (he traded Jason Mamoa in, I guess). He told me he wanted to watch all of the movies and TV Shows Michael J. Fox was in. I explained to him that sadly, MJF didn’t get to be in many more movies or more recent shows because of his battle with Parkinson’s disease. My son of course then asked about the disease: What does it do? Will he die? Why couldn’t he act anymore?He expressed that he was sad to hear this and asked how we could help MJF. Unfortunately, there is no cure, I explained, but Michael J. Fox wisely created a foundation to raise money to put towards research for the disease in the hopes that one day, there would be a cure.

He seemed content with that response, and relieved in a way that there was a chance somewhere down the line for Michael to be fixed.

A few months later, last week, after he returned home from school, I told my son I had some good news. My day job involves working with private foundations by helping them to process their grants, provide back office support, and assist with compliance among a few other things. I shared with my son that while looking up something for one of my clients at work, I saw they had just donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research. This was a full circle moment. Not only did it click for my son what his mom actually does for work, but he was able to see that there are people in the world looking to make it a better place and whom are also passionate about the same things that he is. He beamed at the news.

Could I donate to his foundation, Mom? Like, could I use my saved up dollars and put it in the mail to him?

Yes, we could get your money to him, we wouldn’t mail the dollars, but I could write a check on your behalf. That would be really nice of you!

Cool! Let’s give him 50 of my dollars!

You can imagine how proud I was as a mama in this moment.

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Part 2: What I Found Out After My Hysterectomy

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Let me start by saying that in no way did I think there would be a part two to my original blog post about my hysterectomy. I’m putting this second piece out there as a personal wish that a physician or another person who also experienced this scenario can connect with me to discuss it. So far I’m coming up empty on my Google searches. After my follow up with my surgeon, I was left dumbfounded.

Roughly two weeks after my laparoscopic hysterectomy, I went to my follow up appointment. A PA came into the room in a strikingly good mood. I remember being surprised because her disposition was like that of someone who had one too many cups of coffee, not only was she flitting around the room energetically, she was very happy, which immediately put me at ease. She sat down and asked me some follow up questions: Did I have any pain? Not really.Was I still taking my heavy pain meds? No. Was there any bleeding? No. Anything going on I felt worth mentioning? Yes, headaches, hot flashes, and fatigue. With every answer there was a resounding “GREAT!” or “That’s normal!” to each of my responses. We’d go over those three symptoms shortly with the doctor. She pulled up my chart and told me that my uterus looked good, and there was no cancer to be concerned about which was excellent news. I stopped her there and asked her what did she mean about my uterus looking good?

“My uterus looked good you mean because there’s no cancer right? But you saw it had the adenomyosis on it, right? Was there anything else going on with it? “

“You didn’t have adenomyosis. Your uterus was perfect.” I suddenly realized it was nervous energy she was emitting.

Um. What?

With that, she said, it’s time for the surgeon to come in and chat with you, she’ll be right in.

My mind was spinning. I felt a jolt of hot anger and then panic as I realized that maybe none of my symptoms would go away following my surgery. The surgeon came in and sat down. She handed me a piece of paper and said it was my report. She said she had great news, that my uterus was healthy, no adenomyosis, no cancer, no endometriosis or anything of that nature. My cervix was enflamed, but that was really it.

“Wait. How can it be that three different tests: ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI were all wrong? Each one said something was wrong with the uterus, and the MRI confirmed adenomyosis, so how can my uterus be healthy?”

“Sometimes these things are a mystery. But either way, you won’t have to worry about having pain, severe fatigue, passing clots, all the bad things surrounding your menstrual cycles anymore, so this surgery was still a very good thing.”

She mentioned it was best I stay on the birth control pill because it actually reduces ovarian cancer by 50% in women my age. I reminded them that these awful headaches started when I went on the pill four months ago, and I would be going off of it as soon as it was possible, but thanked them for letting me know. They asked me to wait to go off the hormones since my body has just had major surgery. We agreed I’d take one more pack before quitting. I took my report, thanked them, and left.

Once I was sitting in the privacy of my car in the parking lot, I called my husband and cried like a baby. The idea of having just had this surgery only to find out all the tests were wrong, my symptoms must be coming from elsewhere, and that I still may have to deal with many of my symptoms was crushing.

I read the report over and over. I did see something that the doctors did not mention, and immediately thought it must not have been important enough to bring up. It was a paraovarian cyst on/in the fallopain tube. This can cause pain but cannot be detected when in the body. These are only found when they look at the organs after they are removed. It was tiny so who knows if this was causing any issues, and again, the doctors did not mention this to me. Honestly, I was just trying to find an answer of some kind to any of this, since it was feeling a lot like I just did all this for nothing.

The biggest shock to me through all of this-is the fact that not one, not two, but three different tests with three different doctors all said my uterus had a problem. How can this be that my uterus was in essence “perfectly fine”? If you are a physician reading this, please write me and tell me about your experiences, if any, with this. If you are a person- woman or man- who has experienced multiple tests being wrong, please write me about your experience. I have never heard of something like this.

Of course my friends have asked me if I would hurl a lawsuit at the doctor. The answer is no, absolutely not. Three doctors all from separate practices interpreted the results so it’s not like one of them lied to get the money for the surgery. The doctor that said it was adenomyosis on the MRI isn’t affiliated with the surgeon at Yale that did the surgery, and that surgeon was actually my second opinion doctor. It just makes this whole experience shocking and disappointing. In my previous article on the surgery, I implored you all to be advocates for yourselves, to get the right tests, to be thorough about your health, but what if the tests are wrong? That thought had never crossed my mind.

Also, two letters came in the mail about a week ago from my insurance company. It turns out my expedited departure from the hospital was in fact not by my doctor or nurse’s urging, it was the insurance company’s decision. They had declined an overnight stay and only gave permission for a 30 minute observation after surgery. This was also eye-opening to me. Why in the world is my insurance company approving whether or not I am allowed to stay in the hospital? And why would insurance not cover that stay? Our healthcare in this country has such a long way to go. No shocker there.

Lastly, while my recovery is going quite well 3 weeks later, I began experiencing that ever familiar fatigue again that I had prior to surgery this week. As a reminder, I’m on iron supplements, B12, and magnesium to try to get the anemia in check. So, while the recovery piece is a definite positive, the reappearance of this symptom I’ve so wanted to kick to the curb has been a bit of a downer. The real interesting part is going to be when I go off the hormones at the end of this month. Will everything come back just the way it was or will my energy and symptoms improve? Not sure, but all I can do is hope to God it’s better! I am seriously not sure what other steps there even are. My next scheduled blood work is in December with the naturopath. While there is so much in my life to be grateful for, it’s frustrating when you are a health mystery with no answers.

Quick update to this post- it has been 5 months since my surgery and my health has drastically improved. The fatigue vanished after that last time I wrote about it above. No more pain, no more heavy eyes, brain fog, etc. My anemia has greatly diminished. And amazingly, I have not had one interstitial cystitis flare since back in September. It turns out my hysterectomy was one of the best decisions in my life.

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