We are more adaptable than we realize. We have settled into new routines and found sparks of hope in unexpected places. T.Puzzle’s new mantra is “less school, more video games!” Silver linings are there for the taking.
Everyone has unique strengths during times of stress. While my strength lies in cultivating family bonds, I may also freak out a little more than the rest of my clan. Thankfully, I am married to a man who never freaks out. It actually kind of freaks me out that he is so calm ALL THE TIME. At this point, I am not going to change who I am, but I am forever grateful I feel safe enough to fully be myself and know without doubt, I am loved just as I am.
When this whole pandemic began to impact our lives, to help preserve my sanity, I took a major pause from social media. I simply cannot hold that many stories in my head and function well. It may appear that I am less connected to what matters, but I have found the opposite to be true. I am remembering the beauty of my own backyard.
My imagination runs wild so I have to be mindful of the T.V. shows I watch. Otherwise my sleep will be disrupted and general mind mayhem will ensue. This leaves me with limited options. I have been reduced to watching lots of reality T.V. This is fine in small doses, but recently I have noticed my propensity to want to walk around in thong bikinis, toss martinis about and speak incoherently in a British accent. Weirdly, Mad Dog has little to no objections concerning my altered behaviors. I am in no danger of being voted off the island.
In these strange, lock-down days, I have been attempting to engage my boys in meaningful dinner conversations.
It hasn’t been a good run lately.
T.Puzzle is the worst offender. You could ask him about it, but I promise you, he won’t answer you. And if he did, you wouldn’t gain any new information.
I have even tried to speak to them as adults.
This was my attempt last night:
“Please take this question seriously. I am genuinely curious as to what your answers are. What are your thoughts about what you may want to do as an occupation? I want you to dream big.”
Full Speed said, “Contact tracer.”
I just gave him that look. You know, the mom one where you telepathically communicate your inner most thoughts of frustration and/or annoyance.
“How are you going to be a contact tracer? By the time you are graduated from college, I don’t think it will be viable option. At least I hope not.”
“I could do it over the summer. They pay $25 an hour,” he said.
“But you are only fifteen!”
“Once they got to know me, they would make an exception. I’m that good.”
As you can see, my first attempt at realness failed.
I turned to T.Puzzle. After a few moments of him looking completely bewildered and/or uninterested, he said he wanted to work for Space Force.
He wasn’t being serious either. They were both chuckling and finding themselves to be utterly amusing.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. I had reached my limit.
I lifted my right arm, pointed to the stairs and ordered them to go to their room.
Protests abounded but I kept my composure and sent them on their way.
Here’s a little trick that I am happy to share with you. In these situations, never give them a time limit. Send them on their way but leave their return time open and ambiguous. This can make thirty minutes feel like thirty years. Also, in the name of brotherly unity, I thought it was good to send them together so they could bond over how impossible I was being. There is nothing that solidifies a sibling connection more than having a shared common ‘enemy’.
Mad Dog and I proceeded to clean the kitchen post-dinner at our leisure. We then went on a walk and spent some time hanging out on our back porch.
I was in no hurry to set the jailbirds free.
I asked Mad Dog if I was attempting the impossible by prompting the boys into thoughtful discussions. Am I only hurting myself? But, they are the people I encounter the most so maybe I should keep going?
He said it’s good for them so keep trying. It wouldn’t hurt to lower my expectations either.
I’m not sure exactly why my family still allows me to wield a knife.
To give some context, a few weeks prior to quarantine I decided to begin a meal kit delivery service. Lucky for us, we now have a few meals a week planned and delivered, but the dark side of this is, well, …me.
It all started innocently enough. Sure! I thought. Why not have the boys alternate nights and ‘help’ me. Our first forays into the realm of kitchen adventure were tense. I barked orders and became increasingly exasperated by each and every OBVIOUS question.
Case in point:
Full Speed (asking this while I have burners going and the oven already ablaze): “Where are the paper towels?”
You mean the paper towels that are two feet away from you sitting in the very spot they have sat for NEARLY TWO YEARS? You mean those paper towels?
“Full Speed, could you grab the pulled pork from the fridge? It’s on the third shelf from the top.”
An inordinate amount of time passed, even though I am busy with twenty other things, I pause because I didn’t ask him to go to Timbuktu to get it. Our kitchen ain’t big folks! I look up to see him squatting down absently perusing the bottom draws of our refrigerator.
“Um, Full Speed. Those are DRAWERS, I said SHELF.”
Thinking this solved the issue, I went back to work. And, still, no pulled pork arrived.
With painstaking effort to not lose my cool, I glanced up AGAIN. This time I found him looking at the inside door catchalls that hold condiments and drinks and the like but NOT THE PULLED PORK.
I said this while thrusting my finger at the pulled pork like an accusation.
The whole scenario, while only lasting a minute or two, left me feeling drained.
Fortunately, for all involved, I had finished the chopping portion of our meal prep so the knife was already put away, but other times, I won’t say the danger was imminent, but there were some dangerous moments (at least in my mind).
It’s a harrowing existence as the lone emotional being in a house of super laid-back men. I wouldn’t want it any other way, but I definitely am the most shall we say ‘expressive’ of our family. Most of my outbursts and/or meltdowns are due to the stress of our current situation. Contrary to popular opinion, I am falling within a normal category of cooped-up-and-about-to-lose-it behaviors. My favorite is when Full Speed then imitates my meltdown.
“I’m Mom and I’m mad for no apparent reason. Stop looking at me. Stop taking up space. Stop existing. Just. Stop.”
He does this while flailing his arms about while shouting hysterically.
He’s not wrong.
I commend you if you have yet to lose it. Please tell me how you have managed this feat.
And, if you have lost it, know you are not alone. Just dust yourself off and get on with your day.
I trust you know the difference between a drawer and a shelf so obviously you are already crushing your day.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Princess Kate, and Abby Wambach are a few examples. These are the women that inspire me and help me to dream bigger dreams for myself.
My current ‘best friend’ is Melinda Gates. While it is mildly possible the Gates Foundation has slightly more monetary resources than the giving fund Mad Dog and I started, Melinda’s philanthropic sensibilities are the paragon I hope to follow. She grew up in Texas and, when the world was accessible, I would drive by the high school she attended on my way to workout. This makes our ‘friendship’ seem all the more real. I live near where she grew up. I live near where she learned how to code. I live near where she became the person she is today.
See? Anything is possible.
Mad Dog recently sent me an article about books Melinda recommended. Since she is one of my very best friends, I immediately bought them. One in particular, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, has daily entries to help open your mind and heart to a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. It is awesome, but honestly, my best friend wouldn’t recommend anything subpar I can promise you that.
Since I am deep in the self-quarantining phase of life, I have several books that I am reading simultaneously (I kind of roll like that anyway in regular life, too), and found myself with this glorious recommended book in serious need of a bookmark (as all others were in use). Ever the problem solver, I marched back to the game room and announced the boys needed to make me one. Yes, there was some serious pause and a healthy dash of attitude thrown my way, but I persevered.
“I gave you life. Because of me you have life. Make. Me. A. Bookmark. Now.”
It took them a few minutes, but they did it. I also made it clear, please, take it seriously. Write something thoughtful and inspiring on it as I will be reading this book every day.
First up, I read Full Speed’s side:
He did not let me down.
Next up, T.Puzzle:
It’s super emotional so if you are the sensitive-type, gather up your courage before you look at it:
I love it so much in fact (Star Wars spoiler alert), I still held out hope Kylo Ren and Rey would get married at the end of the Rise of Skywalker.
Love shows up in all forms. That’s what makes it so incredibly awesome. Snuggling with a favorite pet, having lunch with a best friend, even sunshine breaking through the clouds on a rainy day all feel like love to me.
Whether you love Love or not, you may agree there is value in expressing how we feel to those we care about. I make it a point, and happily so, to tell my boys how much I love them on a regular basis. Being that they are teenagers, as you might imagine, this goes over like gangbusters.
“Full Speed, Full Speed, Full Speed!” I said. I love to say his name several times in a row because it bothers him. This is how I know he will pay attention to what I have to say next because, really mom … stop. Just. Stop.
“Full Speed, Full Speed, Full Speed! I love you so much! I really do! I love everything about you.”
I held my breath in anticipation for what was sure to be an articulate and wondrous response:
Well, not exactly the enthusiasm I was looking for so I move on to my next target son.
“T.Puzzle! I love you so much! You know what I love the most about you?
(wait for it … )
T.Puzzle heard me, took a moment to process and, as he backed slowly out of the room said, “Well that just warms my heart.”
Yep! That’s it. That’s all I get.
I am so ready for Google translation to figure out dogspeak.