Working Mother’s Guilt

It seems there are many articles about stay at home moms and how they are yes indeed “working” mothers and DO have jobs, (it’s called being a full-time mommy) and they get no respect, etc., etc. I don’t use the etcs., lightly to insult or lessen the role of stay at home mom. I FULLY believe they are hardworking in that role and deserve way more credit than people give. I know for a fact it isn’t sitting around eating bon bons or watching Sex in the City reruns all day. Sure there might be a little of that (I admit to watching way more SVU marathons than I intended while on maternity leave), but yes Stay at Home moms are waiting in carpool lines, cleaning up spit up, washing bottles only for it to be time to fill another one, juggling laundry in one hand and trying not to step on Lego bricks in the other. I get it. It’s hard. We need to give those moms more credit.

However, I want to also take a minute to give a shout-out to the working mom who returns to her office job. Because again, stay-at-home moms DO have a job so I don’t say they aren’t working mothers. But I want to talk about those of us who have to leave the house from 8-5 each day. You don’t hear about those moms very often because it seems that I just read about how stay-at-home mom’s don’t get much respect, but there doesn’t seem to be much commentary on the return-to-office mom role.

IT’s also hard. It’s also demanding. It’s also a lot of guilt on many layers. Many of us aren’t fortunate to quit working. I personally don’t understand how people add a new family member and subtract income. Granted, I sometimes feel like my entire paycheck goes to daycare, but I still need the income to cover health insurance, diapers, wipes, and other necessities.

As a mother who can’t afford to stay at home, I had to go back to work at 9 weeks post-partum. I had worked so hard for those 8 or 9 weeks to learn who my son was and his favorite nursing positions, how to decipher it was going to be a burp or spit up (and you learn this by trial and error my friends), which songs on the swing he liked and which of my silly faces made him giggle the most. (it’s the one where I get in his face and blow kisses). See, it took me those 9 weeks just to start to get to know him and get a routine. The first 7 were complete chaos swirled with love in a beautiful storm. Neither of us knew anyone else but each other. We were bonding to the utmost levels because I knew it couldn’t last long.

I’m now back at work. I only get to see my baby a couple hours each day at most. In fact, last night when he woke at 2 a.m to feed, I was kind of excited to just hold and see him because I’d missed him all day. While stay-at-home moms often, at least me, get tired and want to hand the baby off sometimes when they’ve had enough, return-to-office moms can’t get enough. IT’s hard on both parties.

When I’ve been at home, nursing was no problem. I never wore a bra or sometimes even a shirt at home because it seemed I was always whipping out a boob. I had to remember that the UPS driver probably didn’t want to see me topless or breastfeeding (or maybe he does, who knows) so I had to at least keep a shirt downstairs. My point though, is that breastfeeding at home seemed so easy and doable, even when it was every 2.5 hours.

I didn’t brush my hair sometimes till mid-day. I never opened my makeup bag once. I ate breakfast in-between the baby’s feedings and sometimes we just snuggled in bed and wore our pajamas all day.

Now I’m back at work. I wear matching jewelry, cute shoes and pants with no elastic waist band. I’m in my business casual attire and I’m shutting my office door, taking off my shirt, my bra and putting on the hands-free bra (it does not suffice as an all-day bra by any means, esp if you are a DD or bigger), so there is that. I can’t explain how awkward it is to be taking off your clothes in your office. For some reason, nudity and my office don’t go together. Maybe if you’re the type who likes to have in-office romances it might, but I’m not into that. So I then pump in my office. Now, thankfully I have my own office and don’t have to go to a closet or other room. I can sit and type and continue my work, which is nice, while I pump. And I have a refrigerator in my office where I can store my milk. But again, it’s the sacrifice I make to keep breastfeeding my son, or at least giving him breastmilk, and I wash out the pump parts, get re-dressed, go back to work like no big deal, and do it again a few hours later.

Today I was at a conference 2 hours away from home. I pumped right before I got on the road and then had to leave the conference at lunch to go out to my car. I sat there, using my pump, trying to hide under a cover in the back of the parking lot. There was no bonding-with-my-baby feeling, no matter how hard I looked at his sweet photo. Instead I was alone with the rhythmic sounds of the pump, myriad cords and tubes that seemed robotic, and a little freezer bag I hoped would suffice and keep the milk cool until I returned home six hours later. This is the real portrait of a return-to-office mother who misses her baby terribly.

I llove my job and love where I work. I enjoy being successful and am trying to continue my career journey. I was elected today to the VP of Communications for a professional organization. This is a great new role for me and a new notch on the resume. But when asked to speak about myself, my first thought was “I have a 10-week old baby,” and of course a 3-year-old son. In many ways I am mother first and career woman second.

It stinks that we sometimes have to pick one or the other, career or kids. I like to think I have both but there is definitely a sacrifice. I drop my kids off at school at 7:30 in the morning and don’t see them till 5 that night. The teachers keeps track of how many diaper changes, bottles and naps my son had. Things until last week I was charting with military precision. Now, I have no idea unless I read the sheet. Tonight, my husband forgot the sheet and I feel like I lost an entire day of my son’s activity. Dramatic, yes, but it gives me peace to know he’s had naps or ate all his bottle versus a few ounces. Things you realize and recognize when you are stay-at-home mom.

At work, I enjoy being successful, using a different part of my brain and having adult conversations. I know that is things stay-at-home moms miss and often crave. Adult conversation. I’m sure it’s why or how playdates were invented. God knows I’d probably have to bring my 10 week old on a playdate now and again, before he could ever “play.” But I also know that as a return-to-office mommy, we crave the kisses, the pain of stepping on Lego Bricks and the ease of breastfeeding we once had. I have a lot of guilt some days wondering if can keep breastfeeding, because to be honest, pumping at work is just an entirely different beast. I feel guilty knowing daycare sees him more than I do. But then I look at my 3 year old and know how well adjusted he is. I know it will all be okay. And I know I am doing what I have to do to provide for my family. We could not live on one income and maintain the lifestyle we want to have for our kids. We want to give them music and sports and art lessons. We want to let them live in a safe neighborhood, save for their college and take them on vacation. For us to have these things, we must both work, and we are fortunate to have jobs we enjoy even if they aren’t going to make us millionaires.

But I hope those working moms out there, whether at home or in the office, realize that we ALL feel guilty or stressed, no matter where we work. So let’s take a minute to celebrate ALL mothers, in-home or in-office, for the great job we do. For doing what it takes to get the job done. We are all awesome!

Sometimes there is no need to get out of bed as long as he is happy.

Sometimes there is no need to get out of bed as long as he is happy.

Another typical day at home. Content, well-fed baby resting with mommy.

Another typical day at home. Content, well-fed baby resting with mommy.

A typical day. minimal clothing, makeup or hygiene sometimes but lots of love between baby and mom.

A typical day. minimal clothing, makeup or hygiene sometimes but lots of love between baby and mom.

what we do at home to pass the months.

what we do at home to pass the months.

NIce to see my work missed me. They left me this tongue-in-cheek card for my return.

NIce to see my work missed me. They left me this tongue-in-cheek card for my return.

Sometimes I can never get enough of his smell.

Sometimes I can never get enough of his smell.

Pumping breastmilk in the car is the least glamorous thing in the world.

Pumping breastmilk in the car is the least glamorous thing in the world.

Camerons' first day of daycare/school pic. He looks as excited as I felt.

Camerons’ first day of daycare/school pic. He looks as excited as I felt.

Better for This

IMG_9145Having a new baby often invokes the images such as these below. With a sweet newborn sleeping soundly, the mom smiling lovingly upon her glowing child and the joy of new life permeating the halls of the home.

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This is indeed true, but not quite the accurate picture of what happens when coming home from the hospital. We don’t want to put a video on Facebook, that is, the truth. A 30-minute ride to the lactation nursing class that was spent enduring a baby whose paci I could not reach and therefore screamed the entire time. He ate during the 1.5 hours I was there so was subsequently quiet, but alas, for the remaining 30 minutes home, he screamed. This is one small example of the days that sometimes leave you wanting to pull your hair out.

To get the above-referenced photos, my friend was at my home for more than three hours. My son had to nurse several times, wouldn’t fall asleep for various reasons or wouldn’t cooperate. But we were determined to capture those few moments of bliss that I do see a few times during the day. And finally, the magic happened and he cooperated.

You see, coming home with a new baby is incredibly hard. It’s equal in some ways to the nine months of pregnancy. It is the “fourth” trimester you rarely hear about. Some days you are just trying to get over the trauma that occurred to your body and all the fun that accompanies that. And other days, your emotional well-being comes into question. Is it baby blues or post-partum depression?

I don’t mean any of this as a complaint but rather a more realistic look at the idyllic life that we often paint when coming home with a newborn. Yes you have help from friends or family, but truth be told, you’re still exhausted. I’ve never not breastfed so my second time around I’m equally as exhausted as I was with my first son. The emotional toll of knowing I’m solely responsible for his nutrition is both overwhelming and rewarding when I see he’s gained a half pound. I’m sure though, even if my husband and I were alternating those middle of the nights with formula, we’d both still be tired.

But, something seems to happen in those moments of fuzzy, question-your-sanity nights. You start to accept your new normal. You start to function a little more on less sleep. The screech of the newborn cry is noticeably less annoying or at least more bearable should you have to use the bathroom and let him cry for a minute or two. You understand that it’s okay to walk outside or to another room just for a second to catch a moment to yourself. And the minutes you do have with just you and the baby and he passes gas and accidentally smiles, are heavenly. You start to think, okay, I can handle this.

Of course, the latter is few and far between in these early days, but it’s enough to give you hope to keep going. There are the night sweats followed by freezing under the covers that make you wonder if you’ve had a baby or are going through early menopause. And there are countless other new changes occurring that are just physical. I don’t even mention all the emotional ones. And it feels like forever.

This morning I had a momentary breakdown. After my fifth or so day in a row of waking up for the day at 4 a.m., I questioned whether I could do it another day. A brief tear escaped my eyes as I was asking him who we could get to come over for help. I am so grateful to my mom, mothers in law, sister, neighbors and friends who have made the last six weeks a little easier. They’ve brought meals and sat here so I could shower or get in a 45-minute nap. It has made a big difference. Sometimes though, I feel as though I have to bear the hard times alone in order to prove I’m a good mom. But that’s so ridiculous. It takes a village to raise a child and I truly believe that.

After my husband went to wake our three-year-old this morning, we discovered he was much sicker than his sore throat the night before let on. We aren’t ones to rush to the doctor but after a few days of complaining and a cough that sounded like a barking dog, we knew we had to take him in to the doctor. My husband decided to stay home and help take care of a sick kid, a newborn and his wildcard wife. What a man. He knew today was just one of those days that I needed him. We all did quite frankly. If you are reading this and don’t have one-of-those men, then please, please, find “one of those” in your sister, mom, friend, whomever. Sometimes we all need a little extra help. A mental health day.

You see, I put the baby to bed around 8 pm, woke him to feed around 11, meanwhile pumping milk in between, then came to bed. I slept gloriously until 3 when it was time to nurse him again. That process took an hour between diaper changes (multiple. Don’t they seem to always poop the minute you get a new diaper on), burping/gas, feeding, rocking, etc. Then I slept for about 45 mins and he woke up again with gas and needed consoling. Then anhour later it was time to eat again because it’d been three hours since. And so the cycle repeated. Then my husband’s alarm goes off, my other kid wakes up, etc., etc. By 10 a.m., I’ve usually entered zombie-land.

But I do have the privilege of knowing this is all temporary. In a few months I will look back and almost laugh at how hard it was. I know I chose this life and am so grateful for two beautiful healthy kids. I honestly can’t complain, but rather, write this as just an expose to those out there looking for a realistic life at home with a newborn. And knowing this is my last child, I am already thinking nostalgically that I’ll never see an ultrasound photo again (of my own child). I’ll not get to experience that moment of seeing your new baby for the first time. There are lots of things I’m going to hang on to and savor, even if it is between blurred vision and tangled hair coated in spit-up.

One of my favorite songs by a favorite band, Acoustic Syndicate, says “Today, we’ll be better for this. Much better for this.” And I sing that to myself all the time. I’ll be better for putting in the long hours nursing and pumping breast milk. I’ll be better when I have the cry it out method because I know it leads to a kid that goes to bed with no problems. I’ll be better for having spent the 12 weeks (a luxury I know) at home with my newborn experiencing the bond and relationship that mother and child are meant to have. It does get better. It gets So So So much better and easier. The minute you have a routine, it changes. But the minute your child makes you want to pull your hair out, he smiles or rolls over or sings a song (my three-year old) at the dinner table with so much bravado and confidence that you can’t help but almost cry. .. Surely it’s the hormones again, they are to blame for everything, but it makes parenthood worth it.

But next time you see a new mom who perhaps forgot her mascara or has a cute baby photo on Facebook, know there is a lot more behind it. And she is better for it.

Moments in Time

I’ve always been interested in the subject of time travel. Not from a dissecting its possibilities for real-life, but just from the fun, Back to the Future days of reliving a day and traveling back to see how it affected things. I watched a movie this past weekend about the concept. It was about a young, inexperienced, self-conscious but good guy who was new at love and life and learned at 21, he could travel back in time. He could repeat some of his most awkward life moments (wouldn’t we all want that first kiss back or other “firsts”) and get a redo to appear more confident. He didn’t go overboard and use it to his advantage too often, as his dad had warned, but there were a few times he wanted to and learned that he was drastically rewriting fate.

As I watched the movie I couldn’t help but think what moments I might relive in life. What do-overs would I have? I try to not live with any regrets, because I like to think I learn from each of my mistakes and they somehow make me a better or more whole person. But I’m sure I wish I could take back an email or phone call or decision here and there. Much to the dismay of my parents, I would still go see all the same Phish shows I did and make the same mistakes in my salad days, because they completely taught me so much about life today.

The movie progressed and the boy saw his sister come close to death. He went back in time to save her from making a mistake and saw that when he returned, his daughter was now a son. His dad told him that he couldn’t relive the moment when sperm and egg met, so there was no way to recreate the same kid. He’d have to live with his sister’s near-death experience. And later, he learned that his father was dying of cancer. He could go back and experience moments with him but couldn’t rewrite the future without it affecting his own current happiness. His dad, also a time traveler, realized the moment when his son was looking at him for the last time, and they decided to take a trip back together to their favorite memory. It was father and son walking on the beach, skipping rocks, having a blast at a young age. It reminded me of many times my own father and I walked on the beach, pretending, talking, thinking we could save the world. To say I cried is an understatement. My dad, thankfully, is very healthy and alive, but I had to imagine that knowing I was with him for the last time, I’d probably have chosen to recreate the same exact memory.

I wonder what other people would relive? Fortunately for me, I am about to experience birthing a son for the second time, which will not be like the first time but still possess the same wonder and excitement (I hope). I’d love to relive the day my husband asked me to marry him because it was such a fun day. We toured all of lower Manhattan in NYC, just the two of us, without a care in the world. He, knowing he was proposing at any given moment, never let on that he was nervous or had any tricks up his sleeve. So one can imagine the surprise when he later pulled out a beautiful ring after almost three years of dating.

I’d also pick many moments from my youth, just to experience again, but not change. As the movie played out, the moral of the story became one that encouraged the protagonist not to go rewriting history but just to enjoy life in the here and now. If he did go back in time, it was to relive the day exactly as he’d done before and just appreciate the simple beauties. I really want to try to do this as my life moves forward. Think about the past in a positive way and accept today as it is, and try to carve out the future for how I’d like it to be. I know this is all incredibly idealistic and impossible, but I still like the idea of it.

Just off the cuff, some of the days I’d like to re-live would include (in no particular order)

The day Sean asked me to marry him
My first Phish show
Playing UNO with my paternal grandfather
Hugging my maternal grandfather or chatting with him on AOL chat and knowing he was really the only person that ever called me Jen and didn’t annoy me with it. “hi Jen” I can hear him say.
I wish I could relive meeting Sean because I don’t remember when it happened. We were just casual friends for a while and I wish I had a better memory of it.
The “hat party” night in college. All of my UT friends who were with me that night will surely remember it.
My trip to Big Cypress
Indian Princess outings with my dad
Probably my sister being born just because I’d love to see it all again through a different lens.
Anytime during Summer Camp or Montreat, especially playing guitar at Montreat in the talent show my senior year
My wedding day. So much fun!
Some of my best swim team days or playing with neighborhood friends
Not all of these are monumental achievement days but some are just really positive memories from my youth. I think sometimes we try so hard to be perfect and beat ourselves up that we forget to enjoy the imperfect that surrounds us. The UNO games, the hat party night, a lot of the memories above had no expectations but just were organic, spur-of-the-moment days that stand out in my memory. I hope that I am creating these for my son and will continue to do so for my children. Yesterday Cohen and I played in the pool and took a float and pretended it was a pirate ship. We sailed around the pool looking for pirates and crocodiles and octopus and mermaids. We had so much fun playing pretend. And later, Sean jumped in and acted like the crocodile. Cohen loved every single bit of it and gladly entertained my love for imagination and creative play. I hope I don’t give him a multiple personality complex or the teachers think he’s crazy bc he sees imaginary things a lot. But I wonder if that’s a moment he’d like to relive, because we both had so much fun.

I encourage everyone to live each day like it’s one they’ll hope to relive again some time in the future!

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early days of dating Sean

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would def love to have just a silly random night with these guys.

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Big Cypress antics!

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Always down for reliving any Phish show

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16 years of swim team memories!

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good crew for Phish!

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Would love to play UNO with my grandfather again.

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Would love to go back to the lake trips

Things I’ve noticed about being pregnant with Baby No. 2

Our soon-to-be family

Our soon-to-be family

1)   No one seems to really care. It’s kind of a been there, done that thing. No one sends cards or gifts or wants to throw you showers. They assume you have everything, especially if it’s the same gender. Your first child certainly doesn’t seem to care because he still needs all of your physical and emotional attention. Your husband doesn’t seem to care as much bc he is busy getting ready for the baby to come and therefore misses the fact that you need some downtime. And your body doesn’t seem to care. It’s completely out of whack from the first time so everything is much more painful this go-round. But I care.

2) You don’t really have the ability to rest like you did the first time around because telling your almost-three-year-old “mommy is sleepy” just doesn’t cut it. The doc even recognizes this when I list a myriad of pains in her office that I didn’t have the first time around. “You need to rest but I guess you can’t really with number two.” Yep, pretty much. My son is learning that I can’t carry him as often though or as far so we’ve gotten to be good at hand-holding.

3) You don’t keep up with it the way you did the first time around. I can’t tell you how many weeks I am or what size my baby is this week. If I had to guess from how I’m feeling I would say he is the size of a watermelon. But I know I have three more months so logic and reasoning tell me he’s probably about the size of a banana or something. I think grapefruit isn’t till the later weeks. But I just don’t have time to read my What to Expect book, (thank God for the App) and somewhat don’t care what’s happening to my body this week bc I feel it. So there’s no secret when it says “you’ll prob gain weight this week.” No shit.

4) I’m not as scared of labor. But I do know all deliveries and pregnancies are different, so I probably need to crack open the WTE book around month 8 to relearn the signs of labor and all that jazz. My son came three weeks early on his own through a slow drip of water breaking, so I wasn’t even sure I was in labor until the nurse said, “nope, you’re not going home. You’re six cm dilated.” And then the contractions hit so I couldn’t really deny it much longer. Yep, this time around I will be more prepared. I hope. But it doesn’t mean it will be easier or better. But I have heard it goes faster so who knows, I could get lucky.

5) I seem to be more relaxed though, probably because I don’t have the time to focus on it. Or I’m just exhausted and being anxious is too much emotion to couple with being tired, so tired just overtakes me, numbing other emotions or feelings.

6) People seem to think that because it’s the second or third time around, that I have this down and know what I’m doing. That I won’t need as long of a maternity leave and will not need to bond or figure things out as much. In some ways I think it will be the opposite. I know how to handle one kid but I have no idea what to do with two!

7) Money is no longer around like it once was. Not to say I was ever rich but before I had my son, I think we must have been millionaires as to how today compares. Daycare tuition is like one of those really hard-to-get-off suction cups that keeps draining my bank account. But I do relish knowing my son is safe, smart, learning valuable skills everyday and fed and all that stuff that goes along with watching him all day. I may not even be able to do all of those things if I were a stay at home mom (I highly admire stay at home moms) so I’m grateful I can pay someone to do those things for him. Thankfully, we DO have most of what we need for baby number two and I’ll have a few glorious weeks of only paying one daycare tuition so I will relish in my few hundred bucks leftover every month until time for number 2 to go to school.

8) I’m more excited though, than I was the first time. I don’t have the anxiety nor the wonder or fear of whether or not I can be a mom and keep a child alive. So far we’ve made it 35 months with my little munchkin and he’s not slowing down anytime soon. Sure there have been some parenting fails (Hey kid: remember that time I let you eat spicy salsa bc I forgot to check it and you screamed at the Mexican restaurant? Or the time I didn’t realize you could crawl and you went upstairs but thankfully our dog was protecting you one step at a time while I had to pee?) but for the most part, we’ve done a good job. So this time around I’m excited to witness so many of the things that are fun about babies.

Happy to be a big brother

Happy to be a big brother

9) I know it’s my last, so I’ll try to savor it. The first time around I was so stressed I wanted to wish away the newborn months and just get to a point where I felt like me again. I had no idea what all these weird hormones were. I thought we’d be stuck in eternity at the six-week-reflux-screaming-stage for forever. I didn’t know there was light at the end of the tunnel. I hadn’t yet experienced those baby giggles and chubby legs and kisses. I hadn’t heard my son say Mommy yet or I love you or sleep through the night. I only knew when I put him down, he screamed bloody murder because his poor chest was on fire from the reflux. His little 5.5 lb body was just trying to gain some weight and I was hoping I could remember which boob I’d fed him last from. It was all such madness that I know now really will not last long. So this time I will enjoy those coos, those gassy smiles that aren’t really smiles, the first steps and the repeating Baby Signing Time videos bc as annoying as they were, they have nothing on hearing 5 little monkeys on repeat 24/7 that my son watches, sings, listens to on every device possible. And when he is void of an electronic device, he sings it in multiple languages (thanks YouTube) and inserts it into books that have nothing to do with monkeys.

My approach to parenting

My approach to parenting

 

 

 

 

 

my fave honest pic of us laughing

my fave honest pic of us laughing

My BFF most days.

My BFF most days.

10) I feel like I have a secret. I feel like while no one else is really caring out there, I am.  I am trying to take care of my body and know that this little greatness is being created inside of me. I know through all the aches and pains and tired yawns, it will all be worth it. I created this baby with my love for my hubby and he (baby) was very intentional and wanted. It wouldn’t be fair to start off already jaded and unexcited about this baby. I will try not to compare him to my first son, will try to recognize his own unique talents and abilities and encourage his personality to shine through that of his big brother. He doesn’t know it yet but he has quite a charismatic older brother who is going to be hard to outshine. So if anything, I will try even harder to make sure he isn’t left in the shadows. He will always be my youngest, my baby, and therefore always have a special place in my heart. I cannot wait to meet him!

Why It’s Great to be a Coach

Most of our team at Yogurt Mountain

Most of our team at Yogurt Mountain

Today marked the final game of my church basketball season. Coaching 3, 4 and 5th grade girls is definitely a unique challenge in and of itself. I have no girls on the team and barely remember what it was like to be in that age group. But after deciding I wasn’t coming back this year and then being coaxed back into it, I am so glad I did.

My dad has coached our church basketball team for something like 25 years. He never ages up, always coaches the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade girls. He is beloved to say the least. People used to think he had a daughter on the team and nowadays a granddaughter, but he just does it bc he loves little girls and watching them grow as players. He’s silly and patient, but most of all, a great coach. So I was thankful to work with him for two years before they asked me to coach the next age group up.

To be a great coach like my dad, you have to be a good teacher, be fair and above all, teach girls what it means to play in a Christian atmosphere. I’m a firm believer that winning isn’t everything but I also don’t want to be that parent that never lets their child fail or succeed at something. Participation trophies are great, but I don’t think kids discover their strengths and weaknesses without a few failures here and there. One girl might not be great on the basketball court but can play an instrument or dance ballet better than the average person. Still, I try to treat each girl as though they are the best and teach the importance of team work. I don’t have a star nor reward ball hogs.

Last year, my team lost every.single.game. It was hard. I was a first-time head coach and there were some struggles on multiple levels. Winning isn’t everything but it sure would have been nice to have won a few. Still, we had fun. We dressed up in feather boas and I made valentines and Christmas cards and we learned lots of new skills. This year, I had several girls return. One wasn’t planning on playing this year until she heard I was the coach again. This girl in particular is special to me. I’ve coached her four years now and she is the smallest on the team. Anyone who says basketball is a tall man’s sport has never met this little girl. You’ve never seen her out-rebound her much taller peers when I asked her to play forward. You’ve never seen her score the first six points in a game against an entire team of taller players. And you’ve definitely never seen her play defense. Her size is an advantage as a defender bc the ball is right at her height to seize and other players can’t get as low as she when guarding her. Her size is an plus, not a challenge.

My sister coached with me this year and it was such a different experience from last year. We had a blast, planned out our practices and lineups, laughed a lot and the girls enjoyed our closeness. When she announced she was moving home from Charleston I was excited to think we could coach together. She is the much hipper, cooler sister so some of the girls loved her pretty nails, silky hair, stylish clothes and jewelry to my frizzy mom hair and yoga pants. We made a great coaching duo.

Somewhere this season, we started clicking as a team. Girls who had never played before were getting the hang of man-to-man defense. We had two French girls whose native language was not English. The first few weeks, one’s mom was translating everything. But the last few weeks, the girl would ask me if she was playing forward, what quarter she would be going in, where she would stand for jump ball and so forth and so on. She quickly caught on to not just the English words but the basketball vernacular.

We won the first few games and what a great feeling it was. Not because I want to beat another team, but because I wanted the girls to know how it feels to play well and be rewarded with a W. When they worked together, it was beautiful. We set picks, had in-bounds plays, had a three-guard offense, a half-court press, assists, steals and shots from downtown. If we ever had a ball-hog, it was when my eyes were closed. Nothing made me more excited than to see a ball exchange hands three or four times and a shot go in. Teamwork for me is just as thrilling as a win.

We won one game 3-2 and sadly, it was against our own church (we had two teams in the league). Even though it was a “w” I wasn’t very proud that game. We just didn’t gel, and the score reflected. Yet we lost a few games and I beamed with pride. There were teams with 14 girls to our 6 (two were absent those games). There were teams with tons of 5th graders to our 2. There were teams whose shortest player was bigger than our tallest. We were vertically challenged, underage and small team. We had eight but had more games than not without a full roster. Yet somehow we came out 5-3-1

Today, I almost got ejected from the game. I am a very emotional coach. I take it seriously. I fight for my girls. None are my favorite and none are less important. Today we played the team we tied previously in the season, so emotions were high. Sadly, we were missing two of our players who would have made a big difference. We only had six and the other team had 10. They had at least five players taller than our tallest player. I had to call time outs just to give the girls a breather. AT half time, we didn’t run drills or practice. We just had a pep talk and I let the girls catch their breath. They were all basically playing the entire game.

This year I’ve seen the negative side of competition and what parents do to their kids in order to win and be competitive. It’s really ugly and there are sadly coaches out there who will win at any cost. I’ve never understood letting your less experienced players play the least, because they won’t get any better. Your team won’t grow and the players won’t either if they don’t get playing time. So I’ve always tried to take turns letting different players start, bringing out my best when we have a good lead, trying to make sure at least a few different people can score or make assists in the game and so on and so forth

Today’s game was one where I had some problems. There were 10 players on the other team and I rarely saw more than 6 different girls playing. At the final prayer I swore I saw girls that I didn’t even know were on the team. Their best players were pulled for a few minutes total and they were out to win

One of my girls was repeatedly hurt and fouled by a much bigger girl. Finally, in the last moments of the game, the aforementioned bigger girl slammed her arm down over top of my girl, in what I thought was unnecessary roughness at the least. To me it seemed intentional. I erupted. I stood up and screamed. For that one hour, those are my girls and no one can hurt them. Basketball is a contact sport for sure, and I have scars and kneepads to prove how much time I spent on the ground and in contact with others. But I can’t stand by and watch players intentionally foul or use force that is just not necessary. I stood up and screamed at the ref. He replied that he called the foul and what else could he do. I wanted him to warn the coach that their girl was too rough. We’d received such warnings before and this was about the 10th time in the game I’d had to witness some excessive fouls and contact.

The ref told me to sit down and shut up and they could play the game without me. He threatened to kick me out. I said that’s fine, but I’m not going to watch my girls get hurt. In that hour, they are under my care and it’s my job to keep them safe. I can be hard on them, and yell and scream, but I won’t let others hurt them. After the game, the ref came and apologized to me. To say I was emotional was true. I wanted to win but with six girls, we came up short by one basket. My girls fought tooth and nail and played their hearts out and were just plain exhausted. They played the whole game and left everything on the court. Again, I couldn’t have been more proud.

Because the other team was foul-happy, we were in the bonus in the second half. When my best shooter went for her 1-1, the other team was chanting and making noises like you might hear at a college or high school game to throw her off. Real Christian-like I thought. She made her shots and I smiled inside.

Although we lost, I still won. After the game a man I’d never met came up and told me how much he thought of our team, my coaching style and the way we played. Then another man who was keeping score came up to tell my dad and me (not knowing we were related) how much he thought of our church and our teams and the way we played. He had known my dad for years. To say he’s kind of a celebrity in the church basketball league would not be a stretch. I’ve repeatedly seen refs and other coaches praise him, and I can only hope I’ve got an ounce of what he teaches as a coach. The gym’s scorekeeper said everyone on our team was so positive. I wondered how he could think that with my yelling and near technical foul, but I was elated to think that others could pick up on how we coach and play as a team. It was a random act of kindness, to receive a compliment from a stranger, about my volunteer job.

Afterward my sister and I treated the girls to Yogurt Mountain and they seemed completely unfazed by the loss. We took silly pictures and talked about the season and laughed at things third, fourth and fifth graders talk about. I sat back and looked at how much fun we were all having and knew that we’d had a good season. Win or lose, they all grew as players, made new friends and experienced the highs and lows of competition. I will never be like some of those coaches and win at any cost because I don’t think it helps anyone. We aren’t paid, our salaries aren’t dependent upon our wins, and God is our ultimate judge.

I am so thankful these girls wanted to play for me and gave me the chance to be their coach. I only hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Sometimes, size DOESN’T matter

Today I was in the waiting room with my 2.5 year old, unfortunately having to endure some bronchitis-like cough and ear infection. (sorry C for passing on my poor lungs to you and presdisposition to getting bronchitis). A woman with a child who was gigantic looking but probably somewhat close to my child’s age, due to his mannerisms, was next to us.

“How old is he?” she asked. A perfectly normal question and one that I’ve asked sometimes. Although I tend to now be able to tell an age more by the kids’ actions than size.

“He’ll be two and a half in January,’ I said. Her jaw dropped on the doctor’s office floor.

“Two and a HALF,” she asked?

“Uhh, yes. I think.” I had to quickly think about it; math was never my strong suit. “Yep, next month he’ll be two and a half, so whatever that is in months.”

“Oh WOW, my kid isn’t even two yet!” She exclaimed. She just kept staring at me waiting for me to say the inevitable. “Yes, he’s small for his age.”

The thing is, I don’t think about how small he is. To me, he is just this beautiful, wonderful, little boy who is smart and curious and generous with kisses and “I love yous.” He doesn’t let his size keep him from doing other things and proudly boasts, “I do it,” whenever he is trying to climb a mountain or the couch. He is becoming fiercely independent and doesn’t let his size get in the way of anything.

My son was born three weeks early. My pregnancy was totally uneventful, healthy and thankfully, very normal. They prepped me the whole time for a big baby and said he was measuring ahead. But I knew the date he was conceived so I knew the math was right (in this case my math was good!). We discussed the possibility of a C-section and I prayed that would not be the case. So when my water broke at home at 37 weeks, I was a little surprised. But I was even more surprised when they told me he weighed 6.0 pounds. Wow! So much for my big baby.

He has always been small. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about it some. Being a small girl is one thing, but a small boy opens up an entirely new set of problems. I envision him being picked on or bullied. But then I only let those visions take over for a few seconds before I am interrupted by his bright blue eyes asking for this or telling me to watch him do something or other. I am not allowed to think for too long that anyone could find him anything but wonderful, talented, hilarious and unique.

But it bugs me when people act as though their large kid equals a better kid. Or a smarter kid. Or a this or that kid. Because it’s not true. Just as the child with a mental disorder or a physical handicap is as beautiful as mine. People are so closed-minded and rude at times. The growth charts exist as parameters not measures of success. C has never been above the 10th for much. He’s in the 2nd for weight. He is 29 months and we wear 18-month pants. Sometimes 12-18 months. But it fits and that’s what works for us.

Small but my sweetheart

Small but my sweetheart

Love

Love

My handsome devil.

My handsome devil.

My personal mothering mantra has always been, “do what works for you and don’t judge others.” Just because I breastfed for six months doesn’t mean I’m better than my friends who didn’t. Because I also have friends who did for a year. And they’re no better than me. And just because my kid can spell his name, doesn’t mean he’s better than a kid who can already ride a tricycle or draw a perfect circle. It’s all just what they learn, when they learn it and what they like. And everything has its own pace.

Sometimes, size DOESN’T matter and I hope people can remember that.

 

 

 

You’re Never Too Old or Young for Live Music

Ive been a fan of music festivals for about as long as I can remember. Sadly I don’t remember my first one, but I don’t think I’ve ever NOT enjoyed one. In college, it was no big deal to hop in a car for the weekend and jet off to a festival somewhere in TN or NC. Most were 1000 or so people, lots of great bands and new bands. I logged many hours in my maroon tent and sleeping bag so big my friend named it Big Mama. When I brought it along for a camping trip one time, my friend gasped at its size and said I was going to have to pay gas for two people: me, and Big Mama. But to my parents’ defense, they weren’t real familiar with mummy bags and REI and all those high-dollar outdoor stores that sold stuff sacks and sleeping bags so small a toddler could carry one on his back.

All that aside, I love festivals. I’ve been to some of the biggest festivals in the country like Bonnaroo, Jazzfest and Phish’s Big Cypress. And I’ve been to some tiny ones with bands playing on palettes for a makeshift stage. I’ve been to festivals around mountains, lakes and by rivers and on a farm with no shade and dirt so hot my feet almost melted. I’ve camped in tents, cabins and at times, just under the stars with nothing over my head. The morning dew wet my face and I must say, it wasn’t the worst thing.

All of these musical weekends introduced me to new friends, new beers, new philosophies on life, new ways of thinking and the best, new music. I could go and be a part of like-mindedness for a few days and just soak in the fact that at a festival, I was not unique or like my mom has said, “not normal.” No, at a festival, everyone is similar and there for the same reasons. We’re all looking for some enlightenment and escape. It’s a chance to be one with nature and get away from the office, 9-5 life.

So after having a child, I knew taking him to a festival would be inevitable. I wasn’t sure at what age this might occur, but knowing my husband also loves live music and celebrating nature, it was a must-do on our list.

Enter the Lake Eden Arts Festival. I started seeing advertisements for it months ago. #1 festival for families, #1 festival for kids, it was 1.5 hours away, it had an entire kids village, family camping (aka..moms and dads who had to put their kids in the tent but wanted to sit around and swap stories and drink beer together by campfire). It had babysitting even at $5 per hour where kids could make crafts, play, watch concerts. Oh, and it had new bands, bands we’d never heard of and bands we loved. It had art and contra dancing, vendors that were selling more than hemp necklaces or five-minute massages. It had food from local growers and best of all, it benefitted a cause I highly support: keeping arts and music in the local schools. I was sold.

We packed up the night before and ascended to the mountains near Asheville, N.C. Sadly, we hit the 5 p.m. traffic and our one-and-a-half hour trip turned into a three-and-a-half one. We pulled up into LEAF in the dark. Oh.my.God. How in the world would we set up camp with a toddler in the dark at a festival we’d never been to? To say it was a stressful situation was an understatement. One of us had to drop the car off and the other had to stay with the baby and put up the tent at the same time, in the dark. Enter iPad. I was hoping to keep all electronics out of the weekend but at this time, we had to occupy our son while we set up camp.

In true festival fashion, we immediately made friends with some camping neighbors who helped my husband put up the tent and watch out for our son. They had a great roaring fire, which provided some much-needed light to help us construct our bivouac. I on the other hand had to drive for miles to park the car. I hoped the shuttle would come get me but it was full. Thankfully, I found a nice guy on a golf cart who saw me walking the seven miles in the dark and picked me up.

My son was nearing sleep when I returned and we got the campsite up and running. After 30 minutes he went down like a champ and I could hear the opening notes of my favorite band. Our new neighbor-friend told us the stage was about 15 min walk away but because of the lake, we could hear it over the water almost crystal clear. My husband decided he’d stay with the tent and our son so I could go watch the music. Thanks Sean!

That night I saw lots of friends, great music and fell asleep in nature. The next morning we woke up to a beautiful scene of mountains, kids running around and the smell of dew and campfire. I was in heaven. Adjacent to our campground was the Kids Village. I cannot say enough about this place. If you hate live music you could still go to LEAF just for this. It’s several acres of kid activities, almost all of which are free. Puppets, live bands (that are kid-friendly), circus, instrument petting zoo, trapeze, face painting, train table, live art parade, animals, etc. It was better than Toys R Us, because kids really could be kids, and no one was crying or screaming. Parents were happy to leave their kids to just being themselves and running and playing. And if you weren’t into kids, you could never even interact with this area. It was great.

We finally were too tired for the kids area and my son took a nap like better than he does at home. When we both woke up (I was tired and a bit hungover) it began to rain. The three of us hung out in the tent playing games and I began to feel like I finally got the hang of the mothering thing. I was still doing what I loved to do yet was with the one little boy that brings me so much joy I can’t contain myself.

That entire afternoon we spent seeing more live music, making new friends, trying new foods, and best of all, expanding our minds. We weren’t watching TV or doing our same old Saturday routines. We were totally in a new environment and our son was in heaven. I never heard a tear all weekend, and especially never saw a tantrum. I realized that evening that this was what having kids is all about. Teaching them new things, allowing them to explore, and supporting creativity and nature, music and life outside of electronics.

We spent the next day back at the kids’ village, dancing with some drumming kids, trying out the trapeze and playing puppets. We finally packed up and said goodbye to the lake. I could not have asked for a better weekend. Not only did we survive taking a two year old camping, but we loved it. I can’t wait to do it again and we WILL return to LEAF. Life is about so much more than mundane routines. It’s about getting out and exploring and leaving your comfort zone. Except for me, festivals are my comfort zone!

Trains!

Trains!

Scoping out the Kids' Zone

Scoping out the Kids’ Zone

Front for for some great brass!

Front for for some great brass!

Puppet time!

Puppet time!

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Getting to meet the best banjo player around

Getting to meet the best banjo player around

Checking out the Trampoline

Checking out the Trampoline

Family photo

Family photo

Live. Pray. Love

Now I lay me down to sleep …

God is good, God is great …

These prayers tend to roll off the tongue as effortlessly as “I love you” or “please and thank you.” And while the latter are intentional and honest, they also aren’t really well thought out. Are there NO BETTER WORDS to say to God than you are good and great? To watch over me while I sleep?

Today in church we had a guest preacher, a woman studying for her divinity degree (I think!). The theme of her sermon was dissecting how we pray and why it is so hard for many of us. Myself included. If you asked me to lead a prayer in front of a large group, I would probably be a bit speechless. Yet every night before I go to bed, my conversation with God is one of many words and thanks.

Today I realized that maybe I am ignorant about prayer. I definitely try to pray most days than not and I ALWAYS thank God for what I have and what He has given me. I don’t want to be that person who only prays when they need something, because I believe God expects us to recognize the gifts we have, even when or if they are small and hard to find. I believe each day of life is a gift; and after having given birth and witnessing the miracle of it, I believe this even more.

I think sometimes we are taught that we must pray like a preacher or someone on TV. Accurately quoting scripture or making sure we know the right disciple’s name. But we don’t have to speak like that. God just wants to hear our prayers, our thanks, our requests for forgiveness and our recognition of our sins. Because let’s face it, we are all sinners.

My nightly prayers typically start out like, “hey God, what’s up!” Just Kidding. I always say thank you for the beautiful day of life I’ve been given, and graciously ask for another. I think thank Him for my husband and son and the health of my family and friends. Life is really about these things to me; everything else is second. I then seem to reflect on my day or the things that are happening in my life, recognizing what part of it all God is doing intentionally or what he is wanting, asking me to figure out from it.

See, I am the perfect example of someone who for so long wanted things, and asked God for things, but didn’t understand patience or the fact that God has His own plan. When I think about it, I’ve ultimately been given everything I’ve ever truly wanted. A job I enjoy, a soul mate for the rest of my life, and a child. Hopefully God will reward me with another, but that is up to him.

But for so long when I pleaded or needed something (many of the times I’ve been laid off or broken hearted) I became almost angry that God didn’t deliver when I wanted. But I finally learned that just because I wanted Sean to propose, that didn’t mean Sean was ready. God slowed me down and told me to wait. To be patient. And although it took me a bit longer to get pregnant than many of my peers, I knew God was waiting for it to happen at the perfect moment. Perfect for me.

So now, I am much more relaxed in my prayers. I don’t really ask for things on any kind of time table. I tend to trust him more and just ask for guidance or understanding during difficult times. I try not to be selfish. I talk to God on a regular basis, thanking him for everything in my life and not just asking when things are wrong.

Today’s sermon really made me think. I once was asked to lead a friend in prayer before her wedding. She isn’t an overly religious person and I’m not even entirely sure of her beliefs to be honest. So I may be remiss for the previous statement. But she asked me to pray with her before she walked down the aisle. I was shocked. I was honored. I was…scared. What would I say? My prayers are typically between God and me. Or my son and God and me. I don’t normally pray on the behalf of others. But I got through it.

I also coached basketball this year as a head coach at my church. In the past, I was the assistant to my dad and he typically did the pre- or post-game speech. My assistant this year did not want to do it and so I did before/after each game. I said aloud, somewhat joking, “I hate praying.” I immediately wished I could swallow those words and erase them, or spit them back out. I had meant to say, “I don’t really enjoy praying aloud.” I’m surprised God didn’t strike me down with lightning for uttering such an untruth.

The fact is I DO enjoy praying. I love it actually. A sense of peace washes over me at the end of each night. I just haven’t always had the confidence to pray aloud and that was what I meant. But after many basketball games, in front of a bunch of 3-5th graders; and with my friend before her wedding, I seem to have gotten a little bit better at it.

But I’m curious about others and how they pray. I’ve wondered before if I did it “wrong.” Or if I’ve left something out. I think Catholics have specific prayers and I know in my church we recite the Lord’s Prayer. But in my personal prayers, are there any rules? What do other’s say?

Thank you Terri for helping me think about this today.  

Dear Phish, Thank You.

Dear Phish,

My mom taught me to write thank you notes whenever I was given a gift. This tedious chore became something I loathed doing until I became an adult and realized that the simple minute it takes to hand-write someone a note of gratitude, is really more fun than it is laborious.

So to echo my mother’s wishes, I feel that I must write you a thank-you note. For you have given me a gift I can never repay nor re-gift to anyone else. As a copywriter, I find it hard that I cannot even describe what your gift has meant to me in words, but rather it is more of a feeling that coexists in thousands of other happy recipients.

As a 17-year-old girl, I often found myself wondering where I fit in in high school. Music was ingrained in me from an early age as a classically-trained pianist and later a saxophonist, guitarist and banjo player. I was given a Phish tape by a good friend and all of the sudden, my ears were pried from my head and opened in a way they never had before. The classical textures became immediately apparent yet intertwined in some weird rock juxtaposition known as Divided Sky. I had a hard time understanding what I was hearing because it was everything I’d learned about music, but twisted on its side a little bit. I hit repeat many times and wondered what this music was. I felt smarter, enlightened and naturally high all at the same time. I sat on the floor in my 11th-grade bedroom, punctuated with Led Zepplins’ “IV,” some Paula Abdul cd and a myriad of mixed tapes, and turned up the radio in my JBL headphones. This was why my mom made me take piano for 12 years, I instantly thought.

The next year I felt as though I had a secret and only a few seemed to know it. I spent my senior year trading tapes with guys (where were the female phish fans?) in parking lots, very stealth-like, so that no one would be in on our clandestine efforts. It was almost as if I was doing something far more sinister or seedy, but alas, I was learning the importance of Maxell XL IIs, how to properly write a > and a new vernacular of acronyms like HYHU, MFMF, YEM and MMGAMOIO. I went to a magnet school for writing where I met other music friends with similar interests but then returned to my public school for the other half of the day, with very few who knew my secret. Music seemed so boring, so unoriginal, unless it was you or a few other bands.

I could never have enough Phish and needed my fix before, during and after school. Soon, I became prophishcient in the music and learned why Amy’s and Ian’s farm shows were so important, and why B&Ps were the best example of karma. I also learned to not speed up an audio tape when making copies, and on the few unexpected days I would receive a 1st or 2nd-gen tape, I knew to treat it like gold.

When I finally saw you in person, from high above in the balcony, I “got it.” I had already gotten it from those months of rewinding a killer Bowie and memorizing the entire intro and outro of Divided Sky on my guitar. But seeing you live touched me way down deep. More than anything else, you awakened me. It was unlike anything I’d ever encountered, heard or seen. An environment where people understood my secret and were thoroughly enjoying themselves in a way I could never do at a high-school party of my so-called friends. Conversing about new clothes or a cute guy who didn’t even know our names was not nearly as fun as listening to a 20-minute YEM.

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Finally, I went to college. For this is when I should have really thanked you. This is when our relationship blossomed and we were in sync. These are the years of 4-song second sets, the ‘97 space funk, the summer of covers (SABOTAGE!), the Velvet Underground Vegas and the ultimate memory for me, Big Cypress. These were the years I met friends who to this day are my closest because they traveled with me to far away places and crammed in tight spaces to hear you play. These friends (now many more than high school) and I all understood the unspoken language we phans speak. For they too had Maxell XL IIs; they wore shirts with parodied movies and logos that reflected your song titles; they knew when to clap in Stash.

As I went to more and more shows, I would look around and see that my group was not uncommon. Lots of Phish fans have these groups of peers that travel together, form memories together and have those few standout shows that will forever be in their memory. Mine from this era is of course Big Cypress, but the reason for my letter today is 14 years later in Chicago.

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just some of my tapes

While you disbanded for the second time (well the first was a planned hiatus so not sure it’s really counting as disbanding) you guys had to grow up, and I had to “grow up.” My dad used to ask me that all the time. He loathed the fact that I had more ticket stubs from Phish shows than I did cute outfits. He once called my ticket stub scrapbook a receipt book for all the money I wasted. To me, it was an instant photograph of memories. But during your time away, I guess I did grow up. But I did not grow out of love with Phish. I met a man I later married, who did not know of your greatness but has since been converted, and I bought a couple houses, found my dream job, had a kid and became more “normal,” I suppose. But I still have my wooden, 100-compartment tape deck, my Radio City poster, my Billy Breathes sheet music book and all the other memorabilia that makes me feel 19 again. People tell me they got rid of their tapes, their CDs even, and are now completely digital with their Phish catalog. But I cannot ever part with those tapes. All those hours of mailing B&Ps, writing out the J-cards, trading in the parking lots and getting excited to get a 1st gen tape leaves me unable to just throw them away. Like today’s newspapers, I recognize Phish tapes are a dying medium for listening to music, but I still have them and every now and again pull one out.

the pharmers almanac

the pharmers almanac

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This is your 30th Anniversary tour and I guess I can say that it is our 19th year together. Of course you do not know me really, but I like to think you think about me every now and again when you do things like reimburse your fans for a weather cancellation that wasn’t your fault, or involve me and the other thousands like me in your “gags” or audience participation-type songs. Clearly I’ve been on your mind once or twice. Or at least the idea of me. I am sometimes the fan on the front row and other times, just a face in the crowd. And we have even met face to face a few times in the past. Those are some special memories I will always hold. But as my prose grows rather lengthy, I just want to say thanks. Especially for this past weekend.

My husband and sister and I flew to Chicago to meet with others in what I can call a newer “group” of friends who are in similar or equal places in their lives. Some are newlyweds, singles, friends with kids, but we are all 30-somethings trying to hold on to our salad days when we could traipse around the country and see six shows in a week  with no serious repercussions. Tickets were $20 and motels were cheap. We spent long hours in a beat-up Buick, praying it wouldn’t overheat and would safely get us to the next show. We slept at rest stops and Knight’s Inns 8-people deep. We munched on veggie burritos, garlic grilled cheeses while washing it down with a cool, Sammy Smith Oatmeal Stout.

Today we rent suites, take limos to shows, dine at steak houses and spend $70 on tickets, $300 on airfare and sometimes just go to bed after the show. Sometimes! We may only see one or two shows a year, but man is it worth it. We know the shows we get to see are few and far between, and real life comes calling for many of us around 6 a.m. on Monday morning. Having a baby and going on tour doesn’t really mix for  some of us and I wouldn’t change it. Because I thankfully have that ticket stub book that gives me a lifetime of memories packed into 19 years.

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from the scrapbook

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Big Cypress

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a favorite memory

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They’re Back!

But back to the Windy City. I was fortunate enough to have floor tickets and grandstand tickets. I never even saw the lawn people really. But I know they had to have fun on some level as well. Somewhere during the five sets I saw I felt 21 again and back at Big Cypress. There was something special in the air. At 35 years old, I would probably not stand in the rain for hours for anything else but Phish with my friends. After the Saturday night rain, Sunday’s was almost comical. My poncho needed a poncho. There was nothing you could do but stand with a big shit-eating, Trey-like grin and dance with the thousands of other wet people. We embraced it, and Phish kept playing for us, knowing there was no way they could cancel again.

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I got to hear Harpua, finally, and some old gems that I never hear much. I got to hear an absolutely stellar Piper, a ridiculous My Friend My Friend, a silly Meatstick that reminds me of MSG and Big Cypress and is always quick to put a smile on my face. I saw my friend’s Dinner and a Movie sign finally come to fruition and reveled in his happiness of hearing his first, at 170+ shows deep! I hate to remind him that I heard it at my first show, 18 years ago.

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My favorite Phish date

Chicago was for starters, a logistical nightmare of sorts, but in the end, a magical place of stellar music, good memories, and reminders of why I’m still following these four guys (well five, can’t forget Kuroda!) around the country. Who needs Disney World! I can find happiness on Earth in the middle of the USA, soaking wet, singing about a possum. To look to your right and left and never have to speak but see people who also “get it” reminds me of being 17 and having my ears opened for the first time. You don’t get that at just any show.

So Phish, thank you. Thank you for helping me know who I am. Thank you for molding me and showing me a light, or path, to a different level of living. But thank you mostly for continuing to play, to write, to be a band and keep people like me entertained. I get so frustrated at the people who complain about flubs or misses here and there. You are all human and humans are not perfect. I’d hate for someone to scrutinize my every move and expect perfection like some fans do. You entertain me far more than you make mistakes, and again, I thank you. I may not see you again this year and I’m okay with that. So thank you for giving me a weekend unlike anything else. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

Signed,

J Bacon Clark

Nine

It is exactly nine years ago today that I was involved in a fairly simple accident that left me forever changed. I don’t dwell on the accident nor really ever think about it. Although recently my supervisor made a comment that I hadn’t ever sat in the front seat of his Honda Civic, to which I replied, “and I never will.” It was a Honda Civic that had faulty airbag design and robbed me of my vision in my right eye.

During the time of my recovery I wish I could have had this blog. Instead I could not see, watch TV, read, drive, really do much of anything. My face was badly burned and I had trouble seeing out of even both eyes at first due to the swelling and pain. My parents thankfully let me move back in with them for a few months and at times I felt 15 again. My dad was teaching me to drive (again) in the same abandoned parking lots we learned many years prior. I had to rely on them to take me places (usually just to the doctor) and it felt like summer time in high school because I was inside most of the day, not working.

I vividly remember the day I heard I wouldn’t get my vision back. It was three weeks after the accident and for some odd reason, this never crossed my mind. I knew I couldn’t see but just assumed it was from all the swelling. Eventually it would subside and I would see again. The doctor said the scar tissue was like wet tissue paper and would be impossible to repair. It would be a year before the blood would subside in my eye and we could fully see the scar it left. But it would be a lifetime (or so they told me) with no vision in the right eye. My dad wept in the doctor’s office.

Somehow I held it together. Maybe it was shock, maybe it was fear. I’m not sure. But it was almost like he was just telling me I wouldn’t be able to do something I’d once loved to do. Not quite as severe as it really was. It wasn’t until I got home hours later, alone, that the tears began to fall. I realized the weight of his words. I was blind in one eye.

For about a solid year I endured a variety of eye drops (sometimes as many as 14 per day, one for each injury I sustained inthat eye) and I became first-name friends with the doctors and nurses at Jervey Eye Group. I had a retina specialist, a glaucoma specialist (I had both reverse and severe glaucoma) and my regular opthomologist. I had a choiroidal rupture (why I am blind) but also macular scarring, edema, global scratches, cornea scratches, hyphema, a torn iris, you name it. I was on steroids, pain meds, numbing drops, dilating drops (I once dilated the wrong eye and that was interesting!), and a number of other drops. The octogenarians in the doctor’s office couldn’t understand why a 20-something girl was there all the time. Some days, neither could I.

For months I had cards and visitors and gifts and food and flowers sent to me and my parents house. It was almost like we mourned the death of my eye. But after a few months I realized I had to change my attitude. I couldn’t go on in this state. A good friend once told me after all the cards and gifts, people stop calling and you get depressed. I was determined not to. Somewhere in the middle of that I did a 180 and found my dream job, lost a bunch of weight and met my future husband. I think God might have given me the tragedy to make something beautiful from it.

Today, I try not to dwell on what I’ve lost but what I’ve gained from this. I try not to let my injury inhibit me. I know many people forget about it, and although I try to live as normally as possible, I have not forgotten. Just last night I had a dream about walking down some stairs but due to my lack of depth perception, I had a panic attack in the dream. Very odd. I also have to ask for help with stairs in low lighting or recognize my limitations with driving, night-time activities and other random things. Like, did you know how hard it is to shave your armpits or put on eye shadow with one eye shut? Try it sometime!

Thankfully I am surrounded by people who make my life a joy to live and help me when I need it, but don’t let me rest on my injury as a crutch. It’s more of a private thing I now endure and isn’t the first thing I tell someone when I meet. However, when I do meet people who are blind in one eye, I am very excited! It’s almost a secret club. I also am very sympathetic to ANYONE with an eye injury. So if the doctor tells you you have a scratched cornea and it will heal quickly, call  me to complain! I know just how painful they are and yes, they heal quickly, but man do they hurt.

It’s been nine years and next year will be 10. On the 5th anniversary I went hiking alone. I needed to reclaim my independence. It might be dumb to even acknowledge this anniversary but I’m sure when people lose something or someone significant, dates stay in their head. I don’t expect anyone to understand but it helps to write about it. Maybe for my 10th anniversary I will do something else that shows I am still independent on the inside, even if I have to ask for help sometimes! Thanks to all my family and friends who have helped me over the years.

Warning, the below photo is graphic but I want to show what airbags can do to people

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And what the power of prayer, positive thinking, loving people can also do for you!

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