Posted on | April 24, 2014 | 17 Comments
By noon yesterday, I was wandering aimlessly around Target, wiping tears from my cheeks and wearing a sign as big as a house that announced “GRIEF” to any and every one who approached. I ran into two people I know and both asked, in that sideways way that people do… sort of from the corner of their mouth with a glance around to see who is listening: “are you… okay?”
My shopping cart was attracting non-essential goods like a magnet. First it was a pretty lamp shade, then two kitchen rugs that don’t match anything in my house. Inexplicably, I saw a Welcome mat there, though I have one already, and before I knew what was happening I was checking out at the register and watching the number creep steadily higher into the range of “No. No I am not okay.”
Grief is a funny thing.
On Tuesday night, my sweet boy, my darling just-shy of sixteen years old puppy, came into the kitchen where I was making dinner. He walked stilted, sort of stiff and disjointed, the arthritic walk of an old man… but I’d grown used to the sound of the click and drag of his feet. It no longer worried me. I no longer thought “Oh he’s old” when I heard him coming… I just thought “Oh. He’s AJ.”
Because he was.
He stood there looking at me in his peculiar way, head cocked sideways, ears pointing straight up at the sky as though he had a question. As though he had the biggest question. Slowly, I watched his back legs slide out from under him, something that had been happening more and more often. Though this time, all four legs slid out, and he lay there on his belly before me, splayed out and unable to move, his ears and eyes still asking me that impossible question.
I tried to help him up, tried to give him traction to brace his feet against. J helped, sliding in rugs and towels and anything we could find to put beneath his feet to help him stand. It took twenty minutes of both mother and son, both mother and puppy, working together to get him upright again and in the meantime, he had pooped himself and the floor around him.
This is not living, his eyes announced sadly, this is not living.
I didn’t want to believe him, I wanted to believe he could strengthen his old bones and try again, maybe rewind time and be the puppy who ate the drywall off the top of the stairs in our rental property… the puppy who would hide beneath my bed in such a small space that I’d believe he’d somehow gotten out and I’d run the apartment property sobbing and calling his name. I wanted him to be the young dog who would dart past me out the door and stay just ten feet away, never returning, never leaving… just staying far enough away that he couldn’t be reached. The sweet boy who held my secrets in his soft, pointy ears, and dried my tears with the warmth of his fur. I wanted him to stay.
But this is not living.
So on Wednesday morning, I called my vet and carried my sweet old man down the steps of our house for the last time. I tucked him into the floor board of the front seat and wrapped myself around him, legs and arms and heart. Ever the proud dog, he walked on his own into the office, then fell against the floor, again pooping himself with the sheer exhaustion of getting up. It was time.
I lifted his warm body up to the table and buried my face and soul in the softness of his fur. The memories of he and I… four states, two graduations, a marriage, a divorce, a baby… floated in and around my head making everything blurry and hazy. He nuzzled his nose against my chin and I sang to him, the old Irish lullaby that I used to sing him as a puppy. I wept until it felt that weeping was all there was… all there would ever be. When the song ended, he slept and I watched the rise and fall of his breathing until the last of him disappeared. I stayed until the last drop of urine fell from his body. I stayed until the weight of him not sitting up, not blinking, not licking his nose in the sweet and smacking way he had… felt too heavy. It all felt too heavy. I stayed until I couldn’t say there was any of him left to stay for, burying myself in the memory of him… not bearing the thought of walking out those doors and leaving him there. Leaving him, ever. Anywhere.
But sixteen years is a long time to be able to love someone as strong and sweet and wonderful as my AJ.
Nothing can prepare you for the grief of saying goodbye to a beloved family member… nothing. I still hear his feet on the floors of my house. I still smell his scent in his favorite corners. And unbidden, the last view of him…lying there, still and breathless on the table… explodes into my mind without any warning at all.
I can still hear the words I whispered to him as he slept, the words I’ve always whispered to him… the familiarity of it, the way he used to lick my cheek in response… the way he made no motion at all when I last whispered it to the sweetness of his pointy ears. “Batman ears” the woman at the pound had said when I adopted him, “You should call him Batman.”
Yes, my sweet boy, though I grieve you with every shaky breath, yes. That’ll do.
Posted on | April 15, 2014 | 3 Comments
Yesterday I left work to that uniquely Spring smell… the rustic, earthy, pulling of rain down from the sky. You know the smell, right? That seasonal thickness in the air so heavy that you feel like you are just swimming in the raw dirt of the earth. It’s one of my favorite smells even though it usually means heavy rains, because it is one of the few times I feel totally at peace… totally one with the planet beneath my feet.
I don’t know why Spring has always felt that way for me.
Maybe it’s just always been a time of endings and new beginnings in my life… graduations, divorces, moves to new and exciting places. Or maybe it’s just because my mind easily falls into slumber during the winter months and Spring gently rocks me awake with the promise of new life and greener pastures. Things change in the Spring… things grow and bloom and sprout and climb. New life awakens, the old is cast aside, and things just… change.
For whatever reason, Spring has always been my favorite season.
This morning, I wrangled my child through our morning routine, basking in the heavy newness of life around me. The clouds were thick with Spring rain and it tapped warmly against our backs as we ran down the front walkway to the car. We chatted back and forth along the way, he sang, I drove… just the usual banter of mother and child. Then we pulled in to the school, wipers squeaking a confused morse code against my windshield, and my son grew a little quiet.
I pulled to a stop at his classroom and switched off the ignition, turning to face him. I wiped the remains of his breakfast off his chin and shirt and he smiled at me as he unbuckled from his “big boy” booster seat. As I started to unbuckle my own seat belt to get out and walk him in, he stopped me.
“It’s raining, mom, and you don’t need to get wet,” he grabbed his lunch box and his water bottle and flashed me the smile that has grown so big over four quick years, “and I’m a big kid now. You don’t have to walk me into school.”
He flew from the car, walking tall and proud up the ramp to his classroom door and I struggled to keep a smile plastered on my face. The heavy Spring rain fell across his forehead and he brushed it away with quick hands. He has grown so tall that even the administrator walking by commented to me that he was growing up so fast. So fast. At the door, he turned and waved and I waved back, waiting to see his face appear through the classroom window before I pulled away, wiping tears or rain from my cheeks and eyes.
Spring is about growing, changing, blossoming into the beauty we’re meant to be. The beauty he is meant to be. I couldn’t shake that image of him, tall and brave, walking that walkway alone with the steps of a “big boy” even at four.
Only at four.
He is growing, changing, blossoming into the child he is meant to be, the person he is meant to be, and one day too soon… the man he is meant to be.
For whatever reason, Spring has never been my favorite season.
Posted on | April 9, 2014 | 1 Comment
If you’ve been here a while, you know I’m divorced. You also probably know I’m a lawyer. And a mom.
What you may or may not know is that my closest family is my ex-husband’s parents and they live almost two hours away. I have no live-in nanny. I have no live-in anything except two dogs who hardly qualify as childcare. If I plan things well in advance, I can usually arrange for my ex’s parents to care for J in a crunch, especially if it’s a Friday or Monday and coincides with a great weekend for them to visit with him at length, and I usually try to do that for out of town depositions or hearings or things that might not allow me to get J to school at 7:30am or pick him up by 5:30pm.
In my job, I deal with a lot of physicians. And most physicians prefer to spend their working hours actually doing what they went to school for… seeing patients, operating on patients, or prepping patients for surgery. Meeting with lawyers is a tedious undertaking that they’d rather not deal with at all, much less during “Work” hours. So when I have to take a doctor’s deposition or sit down and meet with this or that doctor on behalf of my clients, those meetings are scheduled at 7 am or 6pm. They don’t schedule during normal business hours.
They don’t schedule during normal school hours.
So what I’m left with, nine times out of ten, is a situation like this morning, a Wednesday, when I’m forced to either find a sitter who can arrive at my house by 6:30am (no one wants to do this, FYI), or take my child with me on a work-related “field trip.”
There are lawyers who could not, ever, make that work. There are strict, high-brow, no-nonsense lawyers who could never DREAM of having to juggle kid and work simultaneously. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a single momma attorney, it’s that I am not those lawyers. And if you want to be one of those lawyers, don’t try to be a single mom at the same time. It might be possible… but it would be very, very expensive. Sometimes you have to choose what’s most important… always being the aggressive professional, or always being, well… whoever you are.
The thing no one tells you in law school is this: You don’t have to be scary to be successful. You don’t have to be angry and confrontational and aggressive to be a darn good lawyer. And for me, I know that I can’t be scary (no matter what Dallas says). I am a peace-maker. I’m the lawyer who will pick up the phone and let opposing counsel know that my kid just did something awesome in school or is sick and with me. I might apologize for the inconvenience if it’s an attorney I don’t know well, but most of the time, I don’t have to. Because MOST attorneys I deal with just want to be people, too. No one wants to be an asshole all the time, at least I don’t think so. And I’m not really all that good at being an asshole. I’d rather be sweet… being mean makes me angry and when I’m angry I cry and let’s face it, no one wants a lawyer who cries.
So for me, though it feels deathly embarrassing at times, I am the lawyer who shows up to a meeting with a doctor, toting my four year old and an iPad and wearing a sheepish smile.
This is who I am, I shrug.
This is how I make my life work, and I make very few apologies for it.
And for the most part? Everyone I’ve met is down right okay about it. Some of them like me better for it.
So for those of you still wondering if you can have it all, my answer is still a resounding “YES” even after my 7am conference with a physician and my four year old. Figure out what’s important to you and whatever that is? Make it work with the other parts of your life. I’m an mother who happens to be an attorney, not the other way around. If I wanted to be a high-powered attorney who struck fear in the hearts of all others, all the time, I’d be pretty miserable with how my life is shaping up. But because I love being the one invited to opposing counsel’s wedding, the one who gets to share in another attorney’s joy at the birth of his daughter, the one who shrugs and tells the physician “I apologize, but I’m a single mom and I had no sitter this morning…”
Because I love who I am…. I love what I have. And that’s all that really matters anyway.
Posted on | April 2, 2014 | No Comments
It’s possible that my favorite part of Dirty Dancing is not that “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” but is, instead, the moment when Baby meets Johnny for the first time and happily announces “I carried a watermelon!” only to then visibly think “Dear God. Did I just say that to this hot guy?” I love it for many reasons, not the least of which is the look on her face when she realizes what just came out of her mouth. It’s both awesomely honest and awkwardly awful at the same time.
But what I really love about that moment is that no one really minds what Baby says except, you know, Baby. Because in life, there are all different types of people. There are the smoking hot dancers, the geeky cousins who everyone sends to collect the food or whatever else they need, and there are the douche bags who only want to talk about how many hotels they own. And yes, there are the tag-alongs. The ones who sit in the corner, either by choice or by design, and take it all in… helping where needed but never really getting the glory of the rest of the world. There are those, like myself, who just… carry the watermelon.
It’s taken me a long time to realize my place in the world, an even longer time to embrace it. For a long time I wanted to be the big shot… I wanted to be the one in the center of the room, dancing my legs off like Penny. I wanted to be the best looking, the smartest, the most talented in any and everything. When I became a lawyer, I had grand visions of being a partner at a big firm, bringing in the big bucks and having my name on the top of everyone’s list. I’d be first in line for judge, of course, first on the list of people to run for office, first on the list of people to invite to every party.
But lately, I’ve realized that’s not my role in this movie. I’m not Penny. I’m not Johnny. I’m not Lisa or Dr. Houseman or even a Kellerman. I don’t make things happen in a big way. I’m not the one who flashes first and burns brightest.
I am a watermelon carrier.
I am the one behind the scenes, making sure the food arrives on time, making sure there’s enough to go around. It’s not glamorous. I’m not the crafty Pinterest mom or the Junior League chair. I’m not the fancy chef or the photographic guru who wows the internet with glamorous photos. I’m not the best writer, the fanciest lawyer, the dressiest woman. I don’t make waves… not really… not the way I thought I would.
But everyone has to eat, right?
And me? I carry the watermelon. Every day. Because someone has to, you know.
And ultimately, I’ve come to embrace that there’s no shame in being the one bringing food to an awesome party (especially one where Patrick Swayze is dancing).
Posted on | April 1, 2014 | 2 Comments
This morning, I called my mother on the way to work.
While we were talking, she mentioned she’s been thinking about planning a trip and that she desperately wants to see Paris. She joked that my dad wouldn’t want to do the things she’d want to do… that he’d want to sit in a cafe and drink wine and not see the historical sites that she wants to drink in. We talked a little about travel and where we’d both like to go and who we’d like to go with. Then she said “I’ve always wanted to travel with my girls. Just once. Just the three of us. But I know y’all don’t want to go to Paris with me.”
And my heart sort of sank a little.
Because I’ve always wanted to see Paris. I thought about the way I’d see Paris if I went with Banks. I thought about it being the City of Lights, the City of Romance… the city I’ve romanticized in my head for so long that I just assumed one day I’d be there, in a beret, swinging from a light post while holding a croissant. In my imagination, there was a man behind the camera, snapping the picture of me being so joyful in the city I’d always wanted to see. I’ve just… always seen Paris through the eyes of the lover beside me. Through my eyes… through my own steps and wants and cares and loves.
But as my mother spoke, I realized that I could also see Paris through her eyes. I could see Paris through the roll of my eyes at her southern drawl speaking French, through the laughter of my sister, through the sound of our slower steps against the pavement. I could hear us pulling up chairs to a small cafe table, sipping red wine with lunch, and arguing about what was next on the agenda. And I realized that all my life, my mother has sacrificed for me. She has given up her dreams so that I can chase mine; she has done what she can to make my life better… fuller… happier.
For thirty six years.
So I stopped her when she said that we wouldn’t want to go to France with her.
I stopped her with a smile, and announced that we would.
That of course we would.
Because she is our mother.
So just as she has rearranged her dreams and life for me, I will rearrange mine for her. I will see Paris arm in arm, smile in smile, with my mother and sister. Just the three of us. The trip of a lifetime.
A trip for my mother.
And maybe, just maybe, one day when I am 64 and I turn to my own children with my own dream outstretched in my hand, they will wrap their arms around me and embrace it for their own, too.
Posted on | March 31, 2014 | 10 Comments
I don’t think I realized just how scared I actually am until we got back from Disney and I realized then and there that my heart is fully and completely wrapped up in someone else. Someone outside of my little two person family of J and I. Someone who could leave and break me beyond anything I ever thought was broken before.
We had a wedding last night and we were both tired, Banks and I. When I’m tired, I’m a disaster… you should know that about me. And when we were leaving, we got into a conversation about us and where we are and where we’re headed and I felt my heart expand and constrict until tears poured down my cheeks and I admitted, maybe for the first time, maybe for the nine billionth… that I am scared.
I’m not scared he’ll leave, not really.
I’m not scared that he will break me… not really.
I’m scared that I am already broken. That I am somehow beyond repair as a woman. That I will always be standing alongside, waiting for the proverbial other shoe to come tumbling down on top of me.
I’m scared that I am in too deep, rolling beneath this tidal wave of emotion that makes me feel as though I am firmly grounded and free-falling all at the same time. I’m scared that my heart has wrapped too tightly around him, tethering me to him no matter what. No matter what. I am scared I am lost to him.
I didn’t know I could love like this. I didn’t know anyone could love like this.
I didn’t know it was possible for me to feel this way, to find myself so inexplicably and frighteningly twisted up in the happiness … the smile and nod and presence of someone else. Didn’t know that my whole world could be rocketed into this orbit, this surge of emotion and comfort and fear and love.
I am terrified I will lose him, that I will wake one morning to find him gone … disappeared into the thinning air around my head and heart.
I am terrified because I love him.
More than I ever realized I could love, more than I ever wanted or thought I needed to love.
And I am scared.
Posted on | March 27, 2014 | 9 Comments
I hardly know where or when or how to begin to talk about our recent trip to Walt Disney World.
I could say that it was wonderful, but that wouldn’t quite be enough. I could say that we got drenched at Epcot but that isn’t everything. I could say that I fell head over heels over and over again for this little family of mine but still… it’s just not enough. But since I’ve come to this space and stared blankly at the page before me for two straight weeks, I suppose I have to start somewhere…. might as well be the beginning.
We didn’t arrive until practically midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning because Banks couldn’t get away from work. The drive down was pretty expected… J was great until he wasn’t and then cried himself to sleep about an hour and a half before we got there. Banks and I held hands and smiled at each other over the center console and picked strange fights over who should talk how to J… you know, the usual. And then we were all checked in and all tucked in to bed and before I knew it, Saturday morning had arrived.
Did I mention that this was Banks’ first trip to Disney, too? Because honestly, I’m unsure who was more excited about our opening act… Breakfast at the Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends.
I’d love to say that the day was perfect because we were together and at Disney… but let’s face it. We’ve all been on a trip where the morning starts at 8am and the night didn’t end for the 4 year old until midnight. It’s not pretty. There was whining and lagging behind. There was a lot of complaining, a lot of fidgeting, and a lot of “I WILL NOT SMILE FOR ANY PICTURE EVER.” Banks and J were at each others’ throats for a significant portion of the day. J and I were the same. Banks and I were also right there. It was a day at the Magic Kingdom but it was anything but magical. I worried the trip was going to be a bust. I worried that we just couldn’t make this work for us… ever.
I was wrong.
Day two was Animal Kingdom and day two was… amazing. The kind of amazing that you just take a step back from and think “Yes. This. Right here is where I want to stay forever.” J was mesmerized by the animals and the rides. Banks was mesmerized by the animals and the rides. I was mesmerized by Banks and J. A good portion of the day was spent with J on Banks’ shoulders, riding along above the fray so that he could stay on our pace with his four year old legs. A small portion of the day, which my GOD I wish I could share here but he’d kill me… was spent dying laughing as Banks was pulled from the crowd in Harumbe to dance with the band. The dance moves were epic, ladies, and you’d all be jealous of my man if you saw them.
Then our third and final day was at Epcot. And to say that we saved the best for last is cliche and also true. The morning was overcast and by 1pm it had started raining. The park basically cleared out by 3 and we had the place almost to ourselves. We literally walked right up to Journey Into Imagination and they turned the ride back on so we could ride it… we were the only people there. We had lunch at my favorite, Via Napoli, and did every ride we wanted to … even Soarin’ twice thanks to a sweet guy in Guest Services who decided J was in need of a pick me up. We stopped in France for dessert and the greeter shuffled Belle in through a back door right where J and I were waiting for the bathroom. My son basically fell in love at that moment, watched her walk away, turned to me and said “We’ve GOT to meet her.” So obviously we did….
Probably the most fun I had, was when we went back through Norway to see what the line was like to meet Elsa and Anna from Frozen. If you know the track record of meeting those two princesses, you know that it’s nearly impossible. The wait that morning was 3.5 hours and aint nobody got time for that at Disney. But I figured in the rain maybe it would be better.
Banks and J went to ride the Maelstrom in Norway and I stood in line, through pouring rain, for approximately 30 minutes. Then they were done with the ride, I was drenched from head to toe, and we were next in line to meet the coveted princesses from J’s newest favorite movie. He was totally starstruck guys. We’d seen Elsa when we were in the gift shop and she’d leaned in close to J and said “Well hello there, handsome,” and I’d pretty much lost him to her at that point. But up close? He was all smiles and shyness.
It was soggy and wet.
There were bouts of frustration and moments of annoyance.
There were times when I thought maybe we should just call off the trip and head home because we were just not getting along.
But at the end of the day, it was those moments and the ones of such total love and warm, fuzzy, emotion, that made me realize that we are, in fact, a family. And this was, in fact, a family vacation.
Even if we aren’t perfect. BECAUSE it wasn’t perfect.
Or maybe, because it was.
Posted on | March 14, 2014 | 3 Comments
Y’all… I am absolutely giddy with excitement.
In just a few hours, I am snapping J into his car seat and climbing into Banks’ car to head to Disney World. And yes, I’m excited to go to Disney but it’s so much more than that. I think I’m mostly excited because… well… for the first time in J’s life, I feel like we’re about to take a real “family” vacation.
When I got married, I had dreams of this moment. Packing up the car, singing songs, being a family unit on the way to somewhere amazing. I imagined how much fun we’d have, acting silly and just being together in a way that only families can be…. fighting, making up, annoying each other… the works. Then I got divorced before any of that could happen. And though J and I have gone on trips, it’s not as easy with only two. It’s hard to stop for the bathroom if he’s fallen asleep. It’s hard to entertain him while watching the road. It’s just…
Not the same.
After divorce I worried that I’d never get to that place… that I’d never find my way to a family unit. There would be laughter, there would be trips… but would it ever really feel like I’d imagined in my head? Would my child ever really have what I had… the murmur of voices from the front seat, the lull of the car, the roar of the traffic as I dozed off… knowing when I awoke, everything would be just as it always was. I wanted J to have that peace of mind, that sense that wherever we went, we were a unit. And I’m sure he would have had that with just me because I am his family.
But then who would I have?
Today, when we set off for Disney, it’s not just J and I anymore. There’s a third. There’s someone to drive most of the way, someone whose neck I may reach across the seats to rub as the night wears on. There’s someone to fight with me over the radio channels, someone to diffuse the tension that may arise between myself and J. There’s someone to glance over at me as the sun sets and smile, someone to grab my hand across the aisle between us, someone to share this moment with… these moments with… these magical moments that slip by so fast.
I am giddy to be going to Disney today with J, but it’s possible that I am more giddy that Banks is coming with us.
Because “for the first time in forever” (dare I go all Frozen on you?)
I feel like we’re a family.
Posted on | March 13, 2014 | 4 Comments
When you’re dealing with four year olds, NOTHING is what it seems.
Banks and I have secretly been planning to take J to Disney World since December. Money was scrimped and saved, hotels were booked and tickets were purchased. We whispered plans to each other out of ear shot and when J was around, we would spell out “D-I-S-N-E-Y” when discussing it so that we didn’t have to clue him in.
I’ve been so excited I could barely keep it in.
On Monday, I told J that we had a surprise for him on Friday and that if he was really good, I’d give him his surprise then. He’s been trying so hard to be good and I’ve been trying SO hard to keep it in. And it’s really hard to keep packing and leaving for Florida a secret, guys.
Last night, I asked Banks if we could just tell him already because we’re leaving in just a few days, I’m sick of holding it all in, and it was Banks’ birthday. He said yes, so we went out to celebrate the birthday and after dinner, I told Banks to let J know the secret.
I should have known better, right?
I should have just told him we were going to Milwaukee.
But being the sport he is, Banks leaned in and told J that on Friday, we were taking him to Disney.
At first we thought it didn’t sink in because there was silence. So Banks repeated himself.
Finally, J started to cry and I thought “Aw, how stinking sweet! He’s so excited he can’t stand it!”
In between his sobs, he announced in a pitiful voice:
“But… I don’t wanna miss pajama day at school!!!”
Posted on | March 12, 2014 | 2 Comments
From the moment you were born, I loved you. I loved every last part of you… even when you cried. Even when you pooped and peed everywhere. Even when you and I both went seemingly days on end without the slightest hint of sleep.
Because you were mine and you were heart-breakingly special to me.
As you got older and your personality began to shine through, I loved every last part of you. Even when you cried. Even when you threw temper tantrums and had potty training accidents…. sometimes, yes, on purpose. Even when you climbed into my bed, night after night, encroaching on solid nights of sleep for both of us. You’d look up at me with those blue-green eyes and I’d be lost to say no, lost to say anything at all. I’d just smile and throw my arms around you.
Because you were mine and I loved you to the ends of the earth and back again.
These days, you’re becoming your own person. You have these endearing little idiosyncrasies that make you totally you. You do things differently than I would, you do things differently than maybe I think you should. You don’t always listen… you don’t always think the clothes I lay out for you adequately represent the you that you want to be to your friends and your teachers. You don’t always think I adequately represent the you that you want to be. Some days we don’t see eye to eye on anything at all. You are both your father’s son and my son and you are all over the place at any given moment. Sometimes I think I’m too soft on you. Sometimes, I think I’m too hard. There are moments when you cry and my world shatters for having been the cause of it, and there are moments when I want to throw up my hands and run as far and as fast away as possible because my son, you and I just… well… we push each others buttons don’t we? There are times I want to shake you and say “No! Don’t do that… do it this way!” There are times I want to save you from the path you’re maybe inadvertently stepping out onto… times when I bite my tongue and hide my face and just let you be.
Because, sweet boy you are no longer just mine.
You are also yours.
Because no matter what I say, no matter how I react, no matter what expectations I may have in my head for the person you will be or the things you will accomplish, I need you to know one very special, one very important, one very true thing:
I will always, always, ALWAYS love you.
As long as you are you, you can always know that I am 100% behind whoever that is. No matter what silly things I say or think or do now or in the future. No matter what else… I love you.
Just as you are. Just as you will be.
Just because you are you.keep looking »