I’m Really Sorry For 2020

I was recently reminded by Kid C of a statement I made about a year ago at a December 2019 family birthday party for one of my youngest nieces. Until she mentioned it, I had completely forgotten that it happened. Now I feel like Lucy Ricardo and I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. But first, a flashback…

It was the fall of 1985 in southern, coastal New Jersey. I was just about to turn 15 years old and one of my birthday presents was the privilege of tagging along on a weekend sailing trip with my dad, my uncle, and each of their best friends. I was naive enough to go out on a 27′ sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean and have little to no idea of how to actually sail a boat, how to navigate, or what safety procedures to follow in a crisis. Ah, the joys of teenage invincibility. The five of us left port out of Toms River and headed out of the bay into the big, blue sea.

Except for may dad, my house at the time was occupied by all women – my mom and three little sisters, as well as my grandmother and my aunt and their female dog, so I was really excited to spend the weekend with dudes who were doing dude things… smoking cigars and drinking alcohol and then the inevitable imparting of their wisdom and life lessons. To this teenage girl who was floundering around and trying to figure things out, I could think of no better, drama-free way to spend a weekend.

I don’t recall many specifics from the bulk of the trip, but I have great memories of watching these influential men in my life sail the boat, prepare and serve meals and drinks, and interact with one another. I felt so much support from them as they gave advice on how to navigate friendships, family, boys, and life in general. On our final Sunday afternoon leg back toward the marina, I recall feeling really grounded and so very loved and protected. I was confident and ready to take on the world!

Suddenly, and practically without any warning, a huge squall popped up in the middle of the ocean. Driving rain, swirling winds, and very rough seas prevented any of us onboard from seeing beyond our own extended arms. It was all hands on deck to batten down the hatches, or whatever real sailors do to keep their passengers, crew, and boat safe in that situation. I ended up on the bow of the boat, my hands gripping the pulpit tightly as I stared this monster storm right in the face, and I smiled right at her. I didn’t have any actual sailing skills and I figured I’d just be in the way, so I went where I thought I’d be the least underfoot. It was so loud and wet and incredibly scary but also invigorating as the boat rose and then fell upon the waves over and over and over again. I felt like I was at one with the upheaval and the feeling was powerful. Those moments of pure adrenaline coursing through me while still relishing in the safety cocoon that had been established over the past few days will stick with me forever. I felt so alive!

Then, as quickly as it showed up, the storm disappeared. I found out immediately that my instinct to get out of the way was not well-received by any of the sailors. Because there was such limited visibility in the thick of it and I was not below deck, where the “normal” people apparently go in such a situation, they actually thought I was a (wo)man overboard throughout most of the chaos and they were not happy with me. They all hugged me tightly while simultaneously scolding me the rest of the trip in for being an absolute effing moron. But I was still grinning because of my life-altering experience up on that bow.

Fast forward more than three decades to 2019… I have now been married to Sheepdog for 26 years and together we have five incredible kids. My life is amazing by every standard, but I am definitely the boring one on the team. Sheepdog has jumped out of an airplane, flies downhill on a mountain bike while navigating stumps and jumps, is an actual boxer in a ring with punches to the head and body, commutes to work on a bicycle in crazy Atlanta traffic, and who knows what death-defying X-Game he’ll attempt to make part of his daily life next? This has been an integral part of his personality his entire life, so it is not my place to challenge him for behaving like that. As yin to his yang, I have a personal need to be the steady and dependable one in the duo. That, in conjunction with the reprimand for my sailboat antics, has curbed me from doing anything too dangerous over the years. Now I plan meals, make sure the kids have school supplies and toiletries, and I do laundry. That’s about it. Cue the adrenaline rush.

As our kids become more independent and head off to college and move out and get married and get older in general, my role is changing. They need me less and less (although part of me hopes they’ll always need their mama just a little bit) and I started having more time to myself, as well as the ability to branch out and do more exciting things than pick up the dry cleaning.

In the fall of 2019, Kid C left for college, so it was just me, Sheepdog, and the two boys at home. While Kid D is a high schooler and Kid E is still in middle school, they are pretty self-reliant and I started to taste the freedom. I got excited about dipping my toe back into a life that was a smidge more about me than about my husband and kids. After years of almost exclusively doing my mom job, I was ready to think about things that brought me joy and excitement… things that brought back that feeling of being in the middle of an unpredicted squall on the bow of a sailboat and make my soul feel truly alive.

So at this family birthday party at the very end of 2019, I wanted to gauge reactions of those closest to me to my plan and I started announcing that 2020 was going to be the YEAR OF ME. My 50th birthday was coming up in October and I just knew that this was the right time for a change. At some point, Sheepdog heard my declarations (in all fairness he had been encouraging me to do something along these lines for a while, but my justification for not doing anything was that someone should still be the reliable parent while the kids are young and he certainly wasn’t changing any of his behaviors). Later on during the party, I overheard Sheepdog telling another guest that 2020 was going to be OUR year of travel and time together and lots of new stuff. He was so proud and excited as he started naming exotic locations and adventures.

Right then, something inside me snapped. How dare he hone in on my year? I understand and appreciate that he loves me and wants to spend time together and wants the excitement for us both, but the plan – MY PLAN – was to be selfish and I wanted Sheepdog to be the yang to my yin and maybe sit still safely in the corner playing the role of the dependable one for a few minutes while I did my thing, whatever it may be.

So I stood up in the middle of the party and I said loudly to Sheepdog, “NO!” and then to everyone else I over-dramatically raised my hands and voice and proclaimed, “2020 is going to be the YEAR OF ME, or it will be the YEAR OF NOBODY!”

…and that is my confession and while I am humble enough to realize I can not affect an entire planet, there’s the whole thing about the power of words and what if another person said the exact same thing at the exact same time and it was like a Jinx situation? I have knocked on wood and thrown salt and thrown a ball far, far away and all of the things you’re supposed to do to undo bad fortune. I am so very truly sorry that I yelled what I yelled and 2020 has been such an upside down and sideways debacle and I’m sorry that I was being selfish and I hope that by writing this post I can undo whatever wrinkle I put out into the universe and we can all just go back to boring and regular and normal next year. The End. 

Wish me luck for tomorrow and I wish you all a healthy and happy new year and may you all make 2021 your BEST YEAR EVER!


Perfectly Imperfect

In sixth grade my locker was right next to Donna’s.  She was (and I’m sure still is) a very nice girl.  She was blond and had a good group of friends and never did anything weird or goofy that could have earned her a link to an urban myth or any unfortunate nicknames (which really is key to middle school survival).  Yet, despite her successfully unremarkable charter through the rocky tween years, I will likely never forget her.

That is because almost every single day, while I was simultaneously praying that I might finally get my boobies and remember my locker combination (36-24-36…for both), she would tell me that I was perfect.  Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.  

Gag me with a spoon.

I was defensive and I never knew how to respond  to that.  Just like everyone else, I knew I was far from perfect.  I had goofy braces and glasses and an unruly cowlick and my Jordache jeans were waaaaaay too tight (damn the thighs, even back then).  I was fighting with my mom, my little sisters were a pain in my butt, my dad was always at work, and my extended family was the stuff that they make reality shows about before they even had reality shows.  I liked a boy who didn’t like me back, and the one who did like me was called “Booger.”  I was growing too tall, too quickly and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay on the gymnastics team much longer.  Algebra was getting hard for me to follow without a lot of effort.  I certainly felt flawed.  But when I told Donna that she was wrong, she would not listen.

Fast forward thirty years.

I was at our neighborhood pool on Sunday with Kids D and E.  They were starting to drive me bonkers in the house, so I decided – for their safety and my sanity – we should get out.  It was a beautiful, hot day, but not many people were in the water.  The boys had fun swimming.  I had fun catching up with friends.  I chatted with my next-door neighbor for a bit.  A little later on, the football house mom (“If You Have to Poop, Go Home,” posted on April 27, 2011) came down with her son.  We were discussing our kids and I was complaining about mine and you can guess what she said to me.

“Hmmm.  I always thought your kids were perfect.”  Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.

Gag me with a spoon and call me Criss Angel.

I guess I am still defensive, but now I know what to say.  My kids are far from perfect.  I am far from perfect.  And my life is definitely not perfect.

Sheepdog was gone way more than he was home this summer, and single-parenting five kids is the pits.  I resented him a whole bunch this summer.  And I was passive-aggressive about it.

Kid A has apparently reached the highest level of enlightenment and is not stingy in sharing her extensive knowledge, especially with regard to mistakes I make while parenting.  She even wrote me a note about it.  I was very happy when she left for two weeks of camp.

Kid B had a texting relationship with a boy that, when subjected to an impromptu spot-check by mom, went from “OK, innocent-enough” to “Reading-this-is-gonna-make-me-blow-chunks-right-here-on-the-boardwalk.”  I have subsequently given her the title of My Kid Most Likely to Sext in hopes that it deters her.  Also, she can no longer send or receive photos on her phone (just in case).

Kid C continues to live life on a completely different planet, leaving behind a trail of glitter and other scraps from her latest craft projects.  And sometimes just one shoe.  Oh yeah, and it takes her no less than two whole hours to shave her legs in the shower; our water bill is going to be astronomical.

Kid D has now added martial arts to his sports obsessions.  Just from watching a new TV show he has decided that he can successfully karate chop a block of wood.  In fact, he can not.  He also still can not tie his sneakers.  Do they even make velcro shoes for adults?

Kid E was allowed to watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and now he walks around saying things like, “You better red-neck-ognize!” and “Mamma might eat Glitzy.  She done ett ’bout e’ery thang else!” in a perfect southern drawl.  I threatened to send him back to speech therapy if he did not stop.

As for me, I am hormonal and cynical and I have very poor fashion sense and I continue to curse way too much.  Sometimes I pee a little when I cough really hard.  I occasionally yell at my family like a complete psycho.  I get mad at Sheepdog when he is gone and then again when he comes home.  I am making up every excuse in the book as to why we can not have Kid E’s birthday at the jumping place like he really wants because I absolutely hate that place.  I alienated a carpool mom by saying she was late.  Oh, and I have on at least one occasion pretended to have my period for a few days longer that I really did so I didn’t have to have sex.  Really, I am thankful for a husband who finds me attractive, but who wants to have sex every flipping day?

It still surprises me when people call me perfect, but it no longer makes me feel weird.  It no longer makes me micro-examine my flaws or overcompensate for my imperfections.  I am comfortable in my skin and I know that I am trying my best.  I’m making it up as I go along, day by day… just like you and just like everybody else.  I try to learn new things and grow as a person and to do things better the next time around, but I realize that I will never get everything right no matter how long I may live.

No, we are not perfect.  Not me, not my husband, not my kids.  I guess we are closer to perfection than some, farther away than many others, and about the same as most.  But I like to think we are pretty happy despite all of our imperfections.

And that’s why the tagline to this blog has always been, “a front row seat to my perfectly imperfect life.”  Sorry, Donna.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…