When Life Gives You Lemons

… slice them up and stick some in your sweet tea.

… ask for tequila and salt.

… give yourself a lemon facial.

… squirt someone in the eye.

… give them to your cat/ baby and put the video on YouTube.

… take them.  Don’t waste free food.

… wing ’em right back, and add some more lemons of your own.

images-1

Those are just a few of the gems I found when I googled the old adage.  Why was I doing that, you ask?  Well, the Swigers have had a run of bad mojo as of late, so I was technically doing some parenting research.

Kid A did not get a fancy scholarship that she was really excited about from one of her top college choices.  Kid B did not make the varsity soccer team at her high school.  Kid D only qualified for the rec baseball team, not the select one.  Kid E was dismayed that I eventually sent him back to kindergarten after a couple of days of staying home sick, watching TV, and playing Minecraft.  And Kid C is always very sad that no one else in our family busts out into dance moves when her favorite song comes on.

There has actually been quite a bit of disappointment around here, and the mood at our house hasn’t been awesome.  And I hate it when my kids are sad.  It makes my Mama Bear come out, and it makes me feel icky feelings.  I have been trying to deal with them in a healthy, productive way, but all I really want to do is punch people in the face.  Instead, I have been taking lots and lots of deep breaths.

But I guess it also gives me and Sheepdog the opportunity to teach these kids some important life lessons.  We are trying to teach them lessons about resilience, dignity in defeat, good sportsmanship, and overcoming adversity.  Don’t quit.  Work hard.  Try harder, try again, or even cultivate a different dream.  Life isn’t always fair, you are not as important as you think, and – sometimes – things work out better than you imagined they would, just not in the way you expected.

It’s like a motivational poster factory up in here.

One of my favorite pieces of advice came today from Kid B’s travel team soccer coach.  First, he told her it was okay to be disappointed.  But only for a minute.  Then, he said, “No one else will feel sorry for you in sports.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself either.”  His message was so good that it made me cry in the frozen pancake aisle at Kroger.  But I’m sensitive like that.  And it was exactly what she needed to hear.  She’ll get lots more playing time on J.V. and she will be just fine.

The other kids will be alright, too.  Kid A is in the running for another fancy scholarship at another of her top-choice colleges, and she has already been accepted at some really great schools.  Sheepdog ended up signing up as head coach of Kid D’s rec baseball team, went to the draft last Sunday, and amassed an awesome team of great kids and parents that will make for a really fun season.  Kid E went back to kindergarten on the 100th Day of School and came home with a fancy hat.  And Kid C has decided that she doesn’t have a favorite song, but she’s going to keep dancing anyway.

So, even when life gives you lemons… it’s all good.

images

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Two Girls, One Boy

Once upon a time, there were two young girls.  They were friends with one another.  They laughed together, they imagined together, they danced together.  They enjoyed their time together very much.  They became better people for having known one another.

One day, the friends discovered a boy.  He was smart and funny and kind.  One of the girls decided that she liked this boy.  Coincidentally, so did the other girl.  But when friends like the same boy, it can often lead to trouble.

The girls were aware of this, so they decided to settle their dilemma with a contest.  They would both try to learn information about the boy.  Each unique fact would be worth a point.  At the end, the girl with the most points would be the winner.

So the girls set off separately, each trying to gather as many particulars relevant to the boy as possible.  Eye color = 1 point.  First job = 1 point.  Most cherished book = 1 point.  Preferred style of music = 1 point.  Strongest subject in school = 1 point.  Most frequently quoted movie = 1 point.  On and on the girls went, gathering their data.

After a fair amount of time has passed, the girls totaled their points.  They were tied, dead even.  How ever would they determine the victor?

They decided that the girl who could be the first to learn the boy’s favorite color would be the winner.  Conveniently, the girls were both performing in a dance recital, which the boy planned to attend.

The girls were very excited about dancing on stage… the costumes, the makeup, the lights, and the applause all brought them so much joy.  Most of all, the girls loved to dance.  Dancing is freedom and precision and feelings, all rolled into one.  For these two girls, there was little else better than dancing, except dancing with a true friend.

As the girls prepared to take the stage, they remembered this.  At that moment, they decided that no boy was worth the destruction of their beautiful friendship.  They hugged right before they took their positions.

After the show, the girls saw the boy and posed for a photograph with him.  The girls stood on either side, but a boy would never come between them again.

IMG_2326

…and then there was MY kid, photobombing their beautiful moment.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Who Is In Control Here?

Tuesday ended up being one of those days.  It started off per usual (fighting with Kid E over wearing a winter coat as he headed out the door into, um… what’s that word… WINTER!) and then I did a deceptive little workout called “Isometrix” (I felt almost nothing while I was doing it.  I didn’t even break a sweat, really.  Then, throughout the day and night, I started to totally feel very painful things in places that I forgot I had…).  By midday, I had done my chores, my workout, and I even showered and ran an errand.  I was just about to wonder “What will I do,” when I got an email regarding an urgent request to completely redo the program for a ballet that Kid A and Kid C are performing in this weekend.

It was just me and another mom who make up the Program Committee, so I spent the next few hours mocking up a new one, and then I edited and sent it out for review.  It was a crazy afternoon of paying attention to small details of the program, all while fielding questions about homework, whether so-and-so could come over to play or Kid D could go to his house, responding to requests to make snacks and what was for dinner, as well as getting Kid C to focus and get ready for ballet class on time (Kid A was driving her right after she got home from her tutoring job), and then driving Kid B to her boyfriend’s basketball game before picking Kid D up from his playdate (on time, because last time I almost left him over there…seriously).  Oh, and we were out of milk and stupid Aunt Flo just knocked on my door three days early.

When Sheepdog got home that night, my head was spinning.  He could tell just by looking at me.  I was speaking at high volume and with excessive speed.  I moved about the kitchen like I had eight arms.  I was still doing too many things at one time, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to gear down.  I even predicted the full moon before the sun went down.  So Sheepdog reminded me to take some deep breaths… like a million of them.  I did, and I felt better.  The wine helped too.

screen shot

I had prepared a delicious dinner with my octopus arms and everybody who was home sat down to eat together.  During dinner I announced to everyone  – despite the craziness of the day – I felt like I passed the test.  It had been hard, and my body and mind ached all over, but I had kicked one of those days in its bootie.  Yay, me!  I won this day!  Yesterday was not so good, and who knows about tomorrow, but I felt like I won this day!  On this day, I was in control.

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling really strong after a great night’s sleep.  I got in another fantastic workout (this one was not sneaky at all… it was quite forthright in its delivery of pain and sweat), showered, and went over to my neighbor’s house to hear about her new business.  I met some interesting women over there, and I ended up having a really good time.  I came home, ate a healthy lunch, and soon the boys were bounding off of the school bus and into the house.

Kid D was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework, and Kid E was eating (something other than a peanut butter sandwich… Hallelujah! for another small victory in the food wars) when my cell phone rang.  Caller ID said it was one of my friends from the neighborhood.  Our daughters play soccer on the same team and we do a ton of carpooling and soccer travel together.

As soon as I answered I heard the fear and panic and tears in her voice.  She was driving home from work early because her house was on fire.  She had no idea what would be waiting for her when she arrived.  None of the people in her family were home at the time, but she didn’t think that they were able to get her two dogs out in time.

Oh my goodness.  What can I do?  What can I do?  What can I do?

I was scheduled to pick up the girls after high school soccer conditioning later that afternoon.  She asked me to give her some warning when we were on our way so she could prepare her teenage daughter for the devastating news.  Her boyfriend ended up coming to get her before practice ended because word of the fire had started to spread on social media and they didn’t want her to find out that way, but I, like so many people in our neighborhood and the surrounding communities, have spent the time since I heard the news praying for the family and wondering “what if…”

My head had gone right back to spinning.

Fully aware of my life-long fear about house fires, Sheepdog texted me the next morning and asked how well I had slept.

photo 1

photo 2

That Sheepdog sure is a smart one.

So I’m taking deep breaths, and praying for my friends and about my fears, and I am (trying to) let it go.  And tonight at dinner – despite the craziness of the day or not – I am going to announce to everyone at the table that I am not in control, and that’s even better than what I said before.

Our amazing neighborhood has put together several ways to help our friends in their time of need.  Please pray for them, but you can also help in other ways if you are so inclined.  Email me for further information at tihidiblog@gmail.com.  Rest in peace Layla and Bella.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Speaking of Donating Platelets…

A week ago, on New Year’s Eve, I had an appointment to donate at Atlanta Blood Services.  I have been going there every other month ever since Kid A’s boyfriend, Braden, was diagnosed with leukemia, mainly because he needed blood products (we always joked that he would know when he got mine because he would have a wine hangover afterwards), but also it gave me something to do at a time when I felt in control of nothing.  Even after he died, I keep going back to donate.

It was really hard to go back at first, especially since the infusion clinic is directly across the hall and he and his mom spent a lot of time over there during his treatment.  The very first time I returned, I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and got some treats and a jug of coffee because I wanted to give it to the staff over there.  I even planned ahead and made a little card with a picture of him that said something like “In Memory of Braden Dean Smith” so that everybody would think of him while they were eating their yummy donuts.  I intended to ask the receptionist if I could put them in the break room once I got there.  But I was so overcome with emotion and grief that I was a blubbering, snotty mess and I couldn’t even get words to come out of my mouth.  Instead, I showed the girl the picture of Braden and held up the jug of coffee, all while tears and weird noises kept pouring out of me.  I was like the deaf/ mute people who hand out cards asking for money, except I had a Box O’ Joe and two warm dozen.  She didn’t even bat an eye as she buzzed me through to the back and guided me through the labyrinth of halls to a room marked “Staff Only.”

I was eventually able to calm down and I finally went across the hall to Atlanta Blood Services to start the donation process that day.  Each time has gotten a little bit easier after that.

Until last Tuesday.

Looking back on it, it turns out that last Tuesday, the 365th day of the 2,013th trip ’round the sun, Anno Domini, was a fitting end to a quite sucky 2013.

Each time I go in to donate, I first have to do the dance for the lawyers (reading some legalese, mumbo-jumbo, CYA crap that basically says “I know I can die at any time and it’s nobody’s fault but my own”).  Then I answer a long set of questions on a computer from 1999 in a tiny, private room (questions like “Have you ever had a transplant of your dura matter?” and “Have you ever had sex with a man who has had sex with another man?”), and then they take my vitals.  Following the computer exam, I get poked for a blood sample, and they run tests to see what and how many blood products they can safely and most efficiently extract from me over the next two hours.  They always want my platelets.

Last Tuesday was no exception, as I had just shy of 400,000.  Be amazed, people, because that makes me a rock star, if only in that room.

599666_4163209759975_443936704_n

So I went into the donation room with the nice nurse (are they even nurses?… I honestly don’t even know) who had reviewed my Scantron and all of my bodily tests (she was new), and she put me in a bed which was not my regular spot.  That kind of thing doesn’t really bother me, so I didn’t say anything, but the other nurses/ people who enjoy extracting other people’s blood products without proper qualifications were all like, “Whoa, Nelly!  That’s not her bed.  She goes over there!”  The new lady and I just laughed at them and I stayed put.  Mistake #1.

The machine was on the other side of this particular bed – the right one, which meant that I would be donating from my dominant arm.  Traffic had been really easy that morning (some days it takes me 2 hours to get there, especially since they started taking down the toll on GA-400!), so I was all, “NBD and whatever!”  I climbed in and snuggled under the warm blankets (it makes the blood flow better).  Mistake #2.

While she was setting everything up, the machine started to do weird things.  It was being quirky and disagreeable.  It crossed my mind that I should suggest a move to my regular spot then, but I was doing a great job of being laid back, so I decided to commit fully.  I said nothing.  Mistake #3.

There was a man donating to my left who is also a true regular.  He comes in every two weeks and donates one or two bags of platelets, which means he donates at least 26 bags a year.  That is super impressive.  It also takes a whole lot of his time, but he teaches yoga and his schedule seemed flexible.  He also video blogs (or “vlogs”) about his donations, because he wants people to see that donating is easy and painless and everybody can (and should) do it.  He had already vlogged on YouTube about his own New Year’s Eve donation, his final one of 2013, but made a big deal about me sitting next to him (remember that I am a triple donation rock star here), so much so that he made an addendum vlog about me!

So, I had fully committed to this different spot, and I was talking to my new friend, and the new nurse finally tamed the machine and got me hooked up and started my actual donation process.  Pinch, release, then slowly and continually squeeze the stress ball to keep the blood pumping.  Eventually, I settled in and everything was A-OK.

About two bags in to my donation, I started watching The Truman Show on my laptop.  When the second bag was just about done, the nurse wanted me to eat a snack and drink something.  I asked for crackers and water.  She brought them to me and proceeded to open the water bottle (I only had one free hand… everybody knows you are not supposed to move the arm with the needle in it).

Then came the slow-motion, yet speeded-up combination of events.

The water bottle was not level on the bottom, as sometimes happens with disposable plastic water bottles (I suppose it is karmic punishment for selfishly destroying Mother Earth with those BPA-laden landfill staples).  When she put the bottle on my tray, it promptly tipped over onto the keyboard of my MacBook Pro.  She reacted and I reacted too.  She yelled something and ran to get paper towels, and I moved my dominant arm (along with my left one) to save my laptop.

Yep.  I did that.  Even though I know better, I moved my arm with the needle plunged into the vein.  It immediately hurt (I don’t know which hurt more… the needle or knowing that my laptop just took a shower), so I quickly brought it back to immobile station zero on the arm bar.  All of the nurses freaked out and checked on me, making sure I was okay, drying off my laptop, and checking on my arm and the apheresis machine.  The new nurse was so freaked out that she came over to help clean up and accidentally dropped the water bottle again, this time into my purse (fortunately, my phone was not in there).  I honestly felt so bad for her.  It was a complete and total accident.  And for whatever reason, I was (honest to goodness) not even upset about it.

The pain in my arm went away quickly.  We determined that the needle likely punctured through the vein and I would have some bruising afterwards, but it was not life-threatening.  I even finished my full donation and they collected three whole bags from me.  I’m still a rock star!

Except this past week, my arm looked like that of a rock star who shoots up (poorly), or maybe a rock star who dates Chris Brown.

“Yes, but you should see the other guy!”

It is getting better every day.  It doesn’t hurt at all.  It just looks awful.  And because Sheepdog took excellent care in drying out my laptop, even the MacBook Pro is recovering nicely.  No harm, no foul.  I plan to go back in 7 weeks or so.  I promise that donating is easy and safe and something that I hope everyone will consider doing.

Except next time, I am sitting in my regular donation bed.  And I’m bringing my own reusable water bottle.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

This is Not a Post About Resolutions

Well, with the “winter break” (Ha!  Raise your hand if you actually feel any kind of post-vacation bliss right about now.  Nobody?  Me neither.  How about if I ask who feels “winter broken?”  Yep… me too.) drawing to a close, things are starting to get back to “normal” around here.

I fully acknowledge the overuse of quotation marks in that opening statement.  Cut me some slack as I ease back into this writing thing.

Sheepdog is spending more time at the office, the teenagers are slowly backing off from sleeping during business hours more than nighttime ones, and the littles are walking around like zombies, muttering “I’m hungry” and “I’m sooooooo bored” even after they have eaten us out of house and home and played their way through every single clamshell case and blister package that found its way under our Christmas tree.

What?  Those were legitimate quotes.  Compulsory marks do not count.

So, after just ONE MORE DAY of winter break, Sheepdog will go to work and the kids will go to school and I will…  I will…

Wait.

What will I do?  What will I do?  What will I do?

What will I do?

There are no more decorations to put up or take down.  There are no more presents to buy or wrap or deliver (well, Kid A does have her 18th birthday coming up in a few days, but how do you even begin to wrap a tattoo?).  There are no more goodies to make or bake or eat.  There are no more envelopes to address and cards to mail, no more trips to pack for (or unpack from), no more holiday parties to plan or attend.  It’s like November and December are 100-mile-an-hour months in a BMW hard-top convertible (sometimes with the top down…BRRRR, Green Bay!) – fun but fast.  Then in January you can’t go over 50 m.p.h. because you are driving around in one of those exclusively electric cars, like a Nissan Leaf.

Seriously, what will I do?

SAHM-meme1

Fortunately, there is always something to do around here.  Mostly, there are chores… shopping for, preparing, and cleaning up after meals, laundry, cleaning out closets and the garage to make room for our holiday haul.  Then there’s the driving… lots and lots and lots of driving.  And sometimes I have to take care of sick kids.  And following the hustle and bustle of November and December, I now have to add “pay many, many bills,” “exercise,” and then “exercise some more because you sure didn’t ever say ‘no’ to the shrimp fondue or the wine, dummy” to my To-Do ASAP list.

All legitimate quotes, dammit.

So, I have all of the boring, repetitive stuff, but I also have some fun stuff coming up too.  I plan on being really committed to my attempts at writing a book this year.  I started in November during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which challenges people to write over 50,000 words during the month, using inspirational quotes and emails and a really unrealistic timeline.  I wrote a chapter (a good one!) during the first few days, but nobody showed up at my front door to rough me up or chase me if I didn’t keep it up, so then I did the other things first that were higher on my priority list.  Seriously, who has time to flesh out the back story of a secondary, yet pivotal, character while they are simultaneously basting a turkey and making cranberry sauce from actual cranberries and agave nectar for 30 people?

"Ain't nobody got time for that." - Sweet Brown

“Ain’t nobody got time for that.” – Sweet Brown

But I do have time to continue to keep up this blog and occasionally write chapters of a book that has been knocking around in my head for years.  Especially during January.

And then there is my workout routine, which over the years has been spotty at best, and non-existent if I’m being realistic.  I have two workout speeds… maniacal and eating raw cookie batter when nobody is watching.  Acknowledging that unhealthy discrepancy, and the fact that I have been blessed with an extremely responsive overall body type, I have decided that 2014 is going to be the year for me to stop making excuses and screwing around and I am going to get healthy.  Even if nobody chases me.

When I go to Atlanta Blood Services to donate platelets, my body can produce three bags at one time.  Every time.  No kidding.  And that is apparently not a normal thing.  I am freakishly strong.  I once moved a couch and a love seat from the living room on the main floor down to the playroom in the basement all by myself.  And then I carried two ginormous leather chairs up the stairs.  I grew five healthy babies from scratch in this body (with a little starter help from Sheepdog, of course), and helped them grow even stronger and healthier by breastfeeding them.  And a year after I had Kid E, I did P90X and I was legitimately rocking a bikini on the beach.  I just got lazy and let things slide after that.  And that’s just wasteful.

Well, no more.  No more sliding, no more excuses, no more cookie batter.  Santa brought me P90X3 and I’m going to go push play.  Right after I finish this post and fold the laundry.

I’m just keeping it “real,” folks.

OK, I’m done with the quotation marks now.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…