Archive for February, 2014

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ever after

February 28, 2014

This piece is not about parenting. It is personal. All of you have shared so much of your personal stories with me, I wanted to honor that by sharing one of my own. It has also just been published in a magazine, and I figured if I were about to have it read by complete strangers, I would want it read by my peeps, too. The topic is painful, the result is hope. So please be mindful of any extra sets of eyes looking over your shoulder as you read. Yet if those eyes are old enough for these conversations, I absolutely invite you to share it with them as well. Maybe it about parenting after all. 

I don’t regret holding his hand.

It’s taken a long time to reach this place.  But my heart is sure.  I do not regret it.  Not a bit, not even a little.

I was 13.  He was the older brother of a friend.  I recall the feelings of a carefree afternoon.  I don’t remember which movie we saw.  By the time it was over, the summer sun had set.  As a gaggle, our group of teens and tweens emerged from the theater and meandered slowly home.  In twos and threes we splintered, but with my hand tucked in his, I stayed.  Stayed by the pool, in the plastic lounge chair.

I was naïve and full of innocent wonder. The movies-in–my-mind were Disney-esque: you fell in love, you kissed, you lived happily ever after. That was how I imagined life to be. After that night my world was different. The characters that played the roles of good and evil were no longer so clearly defined. The Prince turned out to be not so charming.

I had no name for what had happened to me. I had no words, no ideas, no understanding.

Rape is a heart-shattering event that sprays shrapnel across your life.  In my late teens I would check each room I entered for multiple exists, no matter that my assault took place outside.  In my early twenties I wore two-dozen extra pounds as misguided body armor in an attempt to protect myself.  In my thirties I wrestled with wondering how and when to tell new friends.  Because my survivorhood doesn’t define me, but it is a part of the fabric of my soul.

I was late for my curfew that night, and I was never late again.   Being on time, well let’s be honest, being early, is a personality quirk my friends love to sweetly tease me about.  It is funny.  I can’t seem to help myself.  I don’t wear a watch, yet you can set a clock by my ability to arrive five minutes ahead of promptly.  But it is rooted in the mistaken belief that if I am on time I will keep everyone safe.  The boogieman can’t reach you when you aren’t there.

I have a fabulous husband, a wonderful marriage, a lovely family.  I have a son I adore and a daughter who delights me.  I have picked up the pieces of my heart and constructed a beautiful life.  And yet.  And yet I wish it weren’t so hard some days.

For many years my head and my body were separate entities, in spatial proximity only because they were physically attached.  I lived like the magician’s lovely assistant- her body trapped in the impossibly small box, her head floating free.  I am slowly still returning.  It is an awkward dance between intimate and disgruntled partners.

Where have you been?  My body asks. Why couldn’t you stay?  I am the house for your soul.  Why didn’t you trust me?

Because hindsight can be haunting.  For so long I thought it was my fault.  That I was to blame for what happened that night, the night I was only 13.  I believed that by wanting to hold his hand I was responsible for all that followed.  And so I fled.  As far away as I could.  Into my head.

And in my head I have finally realized I would not change the moment our palms touched.  Survivorhood is about acknowledging the string of events and knowing knowing in my bones it wasn’t my fault.  What do I hope?  That his memories of the night were as painful as mine, and his remorse led to another life forever changed.  His.

I weep each time I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to my children.  My voice cracks, my tear ducts open, and small rivulets of salt water snake down my cheeks.  My kids roll their eyes, reach for the box and hand me a tissue.  I cry in recognition, for this is the story of me.  We are the charactersmy body the tree and my mind the boy.  My body is incredibly forgiving and kind.  She does so much without asking in return.  Now it is time.  Time to nurture my roots, stabilize my trunk, re-grow my branches so that I may blossom once again.

Blossom and be.  And not regret holding his hand.  Not a bit, not even a little.  No, not at all.

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It’s Lice to Meet You.

February 5, 2014

Here we are in early February and you might expect me to write about love, or hearts, or even blood. But no. Not even close.

Today, I’m here to talk to you about lice.

Ewwwwwwhhhhhh.

Why? Why would I want to do this? Stay with me.

A few months ago my mentor said to me: your credibility will go up as your kids experience more hardship. And at the time I thought: yessss….I see the connection….but, ummm, can we skip that step?

Needless to say, I now have serious street cred. Because there were the bugs.

My daughter brought them home from school. Notice, please, that I didn’t say she ‘got’ them from someone, because it wasn’t that her classmate deliberately gave them to her as a gift. In fact, I feel pretty confident in saying her classmate didn’t want them at all {and, I suspect, neither did her parents}. It’s just one of those things.

But being JustOneOfThoseThings, it grinds your life to a complete and sudden stop. One minute we were brushing her hair just as she is about to walk out the door to school, and the next, the carpool left without her.

And then it was just the two of us. And an undetermined number of bugs. And mayonnaise. Yup. Your number one weapon in the battle against lice is a jar of mayonnaise. And a shower cap.*

How do I know? Oh, I’ve done the research. I know all about their life cycle, feeding cycle, maximum survival time away from the host. I know how many nits {that would be eggs for the uninitiated} they can lay in a day and where to look for them. I know how pesticide resistant they can be and why the CDC says the chemical shampoos may not work at all. {see? I wasn’t kidding about the mayo}.

But I’ve researched lots of things and not shared the results. Why do I want to write about lice? No, let me rephrase—what is the reason I am going to write about lice? Because I’ve also been reading about vulnerability and raising resilient children.

In other words, Brené Brown made me do it.

You see, as I was slathering and shampooing and spraying, I kept thinking about Brené {in my mind we’re on a first-name-basis friendship} and her words of wisdom in Daring Greatly:

Vulnerability lies at the center of the family story. It defines our moments of greatest joy, fear, sorrow, shame, disappointment, love, belonging, gratitude, creativity and everyday wonder. Whether we’re holding our children or standing beside them or chasing them down or talking through their locked door, vulnerability is what shapes who we are and who our children are.

And it occurred to me, we can change the story. Life on the playground when I was little meant that the worst thing you could get from another kid was cooties. That doesn’t have to be true for our kids. Lice doesn’t have to be something to hide. It’s commonplace. A part of childhood.

We could even make bumper stickers: Lice Happens.

It has taken me a while to write about the Great Lice Incident of 2013 because I didn’t want to jix us. No one wants to repeat the experience. But, if I am completely honest, it is more than that. When our children are young, we are much more willing to talk about the wrongs. But as they get older, we get quieter. The social stakes feel higher for the mistakes that they make. Consider the difference between hitting another toddler and starting a fistfight. Melting down at preschool or cutting English class. Taking a toy away from a friend compared to stealing something from a store. And yet, these are all opportunities for them to learn. And grow.

And sometimes things will happen to them. Things over which they have no control, and yet society shames them for it anyway. And lice is the least of these.

But if Brené is right, and my bet is that she is, then one of our biggest roles as parents is to embrace our child’s most vulnerable moments, and hold their hearts as gently as we know how. Because love and belonging? They are the elements that transmute fear into wonder and sorrow into strength.

So at our house? We sang the l.i.c.e. song {thank you, Recess Monkey}. And we nit picked while watching a movie. And we talked about it publicly – Eleanor even proudly announced it at the top of her lungs to her beloved preschool teacher whom we bumped into at Trader Joe’s. {Although, if we’re doing the total honesty thing, I admit I winced as I smiled and wished for her story to be told in her quiet voice.}

Events truly are what we make of them.

Brené also says: if we want our child to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are.

Love. This had to do with Valentine’s Day after all. So. What are the parts of yourself you see as wrong? And how can you, on February 14th, fall a little bit in love with that part of who you are? You can tell me. I’ll hold your heart. Keep me posted.

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As for the lice? We were victorious in our eradication efforts. Until one morning when I was doing a now-routine scalp check on my son. There it was. Small and white. “Oh, yeah. I’ve been meaning to tell you about that, Mom.”

Dandruff, it turns out, is a beautiful thing.

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* treatment recipe {this recipe is a combination of advice from my dermatologist, hair dresser & my own research and paranoid overkill slightly cautious tendencies. It worked for us. Everyone on the internet has their own, conflicting story, though, so hopefully this will also work for you.}:

1 jar full-fat mayonnaise
1 shower cap
1 bottle ‘Lice Freee!’ shampoo
1 bottle ‘Lice Freee!’ spray

Apply mayonnaise liberally to entire scalp and all hair. {it suffocates the lice, so make sure the layer is nice & thick}.
Cover with shower cap.
Set your timer for 8 hours. And yes, it will smell like a forgotten sandwich by the end.
OR – if you happen to have a salon-style whole head dryer, sit under for 1 hour at the hottest setting.

Wash hair with Lice Freeee! Shampoo.
Rinse with white vinegar. {it helps the nits slide off the hair shaft more easily}
Dry hair completely with hairdryer on highest heat.
Nit pick.
Spray entire head with Lice Freee! Spray. Let air dry.

In the meantime, {8 hours is loooooonnnngg} wash all clothes, bedding and sundry items at a water temperature of 130 degrees °F. Dry for at least an hour on hottest setting.

Bag all other items that are not washable and have been in contact with your child over the past few days. Yes, this may mean your couch cushions. Heave all the bags to the garage. Experts say let sit for 2 weeks. I may have left mine out there for four.

Repeat shampoo & spray routine as often as you want / as often as child will tolerate. But the key times are 7-10 days after the initial infestation. {which is the clinical way of saying the moment you saw one and said “oh $#@*!” }

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