Tag Archives: humor

Snarky texts and sassy comebacks.

img_3367

There is a reason I never wear white. And it has nothing to do with my virtue (which is obviously unassailable). It’s because I have a drink problem.

Yesterday I was on my way to an event to coordinate a lovely young couple’s wedding.  As I left the house, I congratulated myself on how chic I looked: new Christmas black cardigan, a dazzlingly white as yet unworn shirt, skinny jeans and fabbo boots.

“Wow,” I thought to myself as I glanced admiringly in the rearview mirror. “I may be wading through the proverbial, but I can still really pull it togeth– ” And that’s when it happened.  As I slugged back my last bit of coffee, it sloshed straight out the side of the mug and – in a sort of Dadaist pattern – went right down the front of my brand new white shirt. With three minutes to go before my arrival.

So goes my life.  Or, isn’t that just how life goes though?  Life in my experience is one long banana peel waiting to happen interrupted by occasional moments of brilliance.  All the more stunning for their rarity.

And isn’t the coffee spillage just the very moment when we have to style it out?  Isn’t life itself to be made all the richer, all the funnier, all the warmer because we make such a mess of it so much of the time?  When we have to pretend the coffee spill, the lipstick on the chin, the stocking split, the mortifying misunderstanding, the hopeless vulnerability trousers-down-in-public-moment is just exactly how we planned it?

I can (eventually) laugh until I cry with most examples like these.  Yet social media and its effect on society seems to have stolen from us the opportunity to flounder in our humanness.  It allows for so little camaraderie of grace.  We’re all so horrifyingly good at the snarky text and the sassy comeback.

Were you to see my teenage daughter’s Instagram stream, there no longer seems to be any room in friendship for mistakes or unknowing. Everyone knows everything about everyone all the time, and everyone’s got a really smart super quick comeback.  So nothing deeper is ever allowed to emerge and grow. Nirvana today and Outer Mongolia tomorrow.

It’s not just teenagers either, I see it throughout all media.  While technology allows us to communicate in a nano-second, we no longer seem to be allowed to take longer or to get it wrong.  To take longer in our answers, or to recover gracefully from our mistakes. Politics is savage by nature but technology has armed it with an armageddon-esque lightsaber. Who is willing to give anyone a chance anymore?

So I’m going to mount a counter attack.  Not to make fun of myself out of low self esteem, but to continue to expose and laugh at the ridiculousness of myself and my situation at my age.  I’m a divorced mother back living with her parents! I have no long term plan, I’m surviving day to day!  I haven’t got it together at all!  I can’t even wear white!  And I realise I am so willing to show that.  For my own sanity and to model it for my anxiety-ridden kids, let alone in the hopes that it may comfort anyone else equally struggling with the reality of what it means to be alive.

Yesterday, I did brazen it out.  I got lists checked, and laughed and cheered through an entire wedding faire of young couples on the brink of wedded eternal bliss.  Right as I am inwardly bleeding out from the hideousness of a shattering divorce still so fresh I can taste it. I fought back tears as I tasted cakes and desserts and drinks and the canapés got stuck in my throat.

And MY GOD I looked fabulous while I was doing it! Coffee stains and all.

img_3413

May the grace roll out before me.

jsg/feb 2017

Blind Strangling Panic.

Baby birds

There are moments, are there not.

You can be going about your day seemingly managing to cope with the washing up, laundry, bills, dogs, phone calls, work commitments, school commitments, relationships and kids when suddenly.

**** (insert imprecation of choice).

In these moments, I tend to reach for chocolate or Netflix. It used to be wine but in the past two years wine became all too attached to my rear so we’ve had to break up for a while.

I am a Christian so I expect some people will think, “PANICKING? HA! YOU SEE! FAITH MAKES NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL!” And, in some ways, they’d be right. In moments of extreme stress if you were to take my blood pressure alongside that of an atheist, I bet you I could give them a run for their money.

So, what to do in these moments?

First of all, I find it best to stop thinking. My mind cannot be trusted to say anything sensible in moments like these. I suddenly become the Sadness character in Inside Out and cover every atom of my existence with DOOM. Hopelessness. Pointlessness. An existential cry of “WHAT’S THE GOOD?” and beat my head upon the kitchen table.

So, best to leave my brain to its own devices and try to ignore it completely.

Next, I stop doing whatever I’m doing. In this instance, hanging out the washing – an activity I generally enjoy but today it felt like mediating a trade agreement between Russia and the Republic of China.

Then, I practice the breathing my children have been taught to do when suffering from stress over their parents’ divorce: “In for 4… Hold for 4… Out for 4. Aaaaand again…”

Fourthly, I reach for sustenance to prevent low-blood-sugar-induced injury. My sister was here recently so I’ve been able to grab really good BRITISH chocolate (which is obviously the equivalent – I presume – of scoring really high grade Crack).

It has helped, I won’t lie.

And now, finally, I’ve sat down to write a blog.  Because a) it feels like I’m doing something constructive and not just wasting the all-too-important-hours-sans-kids-in-which-to-get-everything-done. And b) in writing things down I find my heart is able to overrule my brain and reveal to me what is actually going on.

And I realize this. My panic today is that I won’t manage. It’s all too much. Too much responsibility, too much pressure, too little work, too many plates to spin, too many meals to cook, too many things to respond to (and well).  

And this panic has happened because instead of calmly breathing and methodically moving down my list, in a fit of petulant frustration and rage I have thrown myself punitively at the mountain of need.

And guess what? The mountain (a totally living being, natch) just laughs at me as I skid and scrape my way down the painful scree back to the bottom of my valley.

Bleeding, pain-full and sorry for myself, I recognize that chocolate won’t change this. Even wine won’t change this. I can’t just wish the mountain away and, even if I could, there would be another one hove-ing into view shortly. Because such is the stuff of life.

And AH! HERE IT IS! Here now is how I am helped by writing it down.

For I now remember that I sat with a friend who was dying a couple of weeks ago. I sat with her and prayed with her and loved her. And yesterday as I was driving down to my boot camp class I thought what a beautiful day it was then immediately thought how she will never experience a day like that again.

And I will. I am. I am breathing. The baby birds in the honeysuckled nest outside my bedroom are chirping. My three dogs are basking in the afternoon sun. I will go and pick up my healthy kids (incredible human beings) from school in an hour, and then I will bring them home. HOME. And we will finish our day together.

To start it all over again tomorrow. Because, God willing, I will be able to.  And I am grateful for that.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s method of overcoming panic. But, for me, it clearly turns out to be an issue (post-tantrum) of perspective and – again – taking the hand of the One who has laid my path over the mountains and behind whom I am to follow with measured gait.

In addition, let’s be honest. There is no question in my mind that coming to this epiphany was helped enormously by – you guessed it – chocolate.

Everything in moderation.

Dog park

 

Jsg/april 16

 

 

Because I’m Mommy.

SJ and me Xmas

“Mom, how do you DO THAT!!” Guy, my nine year old, shrieked this evening as I yanked open his pajama drawer for the thousandth time with just the right tug and lift.

“Because I’m Mommy.”  I replied.  And so it goes being a mom.

I know which compartments for cutlery in the dishwasher not to use.  How to wiggle the extension cord so the light stays on.  I am able to see absolutely everything in the fridge (which evidently no one else can).  I know the temperament of the washing machine, where the Christmas cake ornaments live, how to cord the tree lights for next year, how to get the slivers of broken glass off the bathmat and exactly the right amount of a crack left in each doorway so just enough light shines through at night.

Moms, we ROCK.  Did you survive Christmas?  If you’re reading this, we made it!  Hurrah hurrah hurrah for US!  Pshaw on a movie called Unbroken about anything else at Christmas time!  It should be about us, I tell you!  Us, us, us!!  An anthem of praise and admiration for mothers the world over.

No one understands what Christmas entails for a mother except.. another mother.  And when you become a mother, you appreciate for the first time what your own mother did for you all those Christmases growing up.  (This year for the first time I was doing it as a single mother and I had to laugh.  You know what changed?  Really absolutely nothing.)

I am someone who is un-flustered by mess so – when I let it – the crazy cacophony and chaos of Christmas and New Year can just flow right over me.  I am lying flat on the sofa with my eyes closed.  Someone is doing something somewhere with something, but what do I care?  I am lying flat on the sofa with my eyes closed.

The one thing I do for myself each Christmas (and of course much of all of it is as much for me as everyone else, but you know what I mean) is a seasonal jigsaw.  Ravensburger are the best, do not even bother with anyone else.

The Christmas jigsaw has saved my sanity – and for many years my marriage – in those blessed days between Christmas and New Year.  By that time, I’ve done it, bought it, made it, wrapped it, shipped it, cooked it and served it.  So now comes those blissful few non-days where actually nothing really has to happen before we are called upon to face a new year .

Boxing day (I’m a Brit) is the best day of all: never get out of pajamas; eat Christmas chocolate for breakfast; watch a fave movie; enjoy the kids playing with their toys; and eat more Christmas chocolate.

I have the tradition from my own childhood of opening presents over the twelve days.  If you’ve never tried it, it’s fantastic.  No feast or famine orgy of opening. No mountain of paper under which something is being broken/stepped on/lost. Fewer tears and no massive adrenaline hangover because – there are eleven more days of Christmas still to come!   (FYI it is also the most brilliant leverage as a parent:  “Tell you what, chaps.  Once you’ve tidied your rooms/written to Grandma/fed the dogs/got dressed… let’s have a PRESENT!!”  Works every time.  Trust me.)

Anywho, back to the jigsaw.  I think what I love about it is that I get to sit down, in one place, for long periods of time.  And I love activities that let me think about other things.

I love the working of a jigsaw, it brings it all back into perspective for me.  After all the crackling of Christmas, I set the corners, I locate the parameters, I see the bigger picture and I can begin piecing it together again one tiny piece at a time.

Every piece has a specific and unique place (if it’s a Ravensburger).  If even one piece is lost, the whole jigsaw is ruined.  If it doesn’t fit perfectly you can’t force it, because then something else won’t fit and the picture won’t come together.  You have to be patient, and still, and look.  You have to wait and observe and keep trying different pieces until you discover that the reason the piece of red with a stripe on it isn’t actually the bow of the second fishing boat is because it’s the panel on the front door of a fishing cottage way up the hill toward the abbey.  And you’d never seen that before.

This year I only got to my jigsaw on January 3rd. Way late for me and really at the point where I should have been turning my thoughts to getting organized.  But I was determined.  This was my one thing and it was mine and I wasn’t going to lose it.

I finished it today.  Totally tricky this year as it had horses in it about which I know nothing so couldn’t even imagine where pieces went.  But.  That moment when you put the last piece in.  When it works.  When all the pieces have found their proper home.  When the picture is complete and you can luxuriously run your palms across all 1,000 individual parts of it and feel each one perfectly interlock with its neighbors.  And it’s finished.

Well, there’s nothing like it.

Finished jigsaw

And, in my book, there really is no better way than that to start a new year.

jsg/jan15

The heart has its reasons/motherhood is madness.

Insane edited

Motherhood is love gone mad.  You know I’m right.

Who else would stay up at all hours of the night for years to cajole a tiny person to feed or sleep?

Who else would still drink the coffee with butter added by their toddler because it was the last milk they had?

Who else would scream unreasoning at a surgeon in the ICU that they had practiced on her child when she couldn’t see any change?

Who else?  Who else?  Who else?

Salinger had it right.  You actually have to be a little crazy to be a mother.  To survive motherhood.  Because the demands placed on you are, honestly, CRAZY.

I thought about this today.  I have had a stomach bug for three days and I feel ghastly.  But I promised my son that we would at last re-paint his room now it is his alone — and I cannot stand for another minute the suspended animation the rest of the house is in until I get it finished.

I am sweating profusely and feeling a little punchy.  I even quoted Shakespeare to a friend this afternoon who texted me that I was cray cray: But,” I cried,  “I am in [paint] stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er!” Need I say more?

I want to go to sleep, but I’m up on that chair precariously taping the ceiling, pouring that paint, rolling it on.  Minecraft green.

Because my son is 9.  But he could be 8, or 7, or 3, or 17 and I would want to do this for him.  Simply because I CAN.  I’m his mother.

When they were little, I used to say to their father that – for this short window of time – what a miracle it was that he and I really could be the answer to their world.  Just with a cuddle.  Or a cup of milk.  Or a bedtime story.  Even just with a mommy smile or a wink.

There will be so many times in their grown up life, I’d tell him, when I will be able to do nothing to change their pain.  When I would do anything to mend their broken heart, or make them feel included, or boost their confidence so crushed.  But there will be nothing I can do then.

Today, however, I can paint his room.  Who cares if I’m tired or sick?  I don’t.  I fear for my sanity slightly (I’d be crazy not to), but I don’t begrudge him.  Not one bit.

Guy's Room

You see, his father and I are in the process of divorce and I really would do anything to make it all right for my kids. But I can’t.

So I fall back on what I can do.  I can’t solve his world.  I can’t mend his parents’ marriage.  I can’t download long division or science or a love of language into his brain.  But I can paint his room, in a lurid color of his choosing.  And the look on his face when first seeing it does make up for something.

And here’s the truth: no matter how careful I am, I always always always leave splotches on the floor.

Splotch

I can’t seem to help it.  I lay a plastic sheet down, but you can guarantee some rebellious drip of paint will inevitably make its bid for freedom.

Fortunately, most of our floors are now hardwood.  I try harder on the carpets.  But I quite like the splotches on the hardwood, I mostly leave them.  They’re not everywhere, but to be frank there are more than a few.

I suppose I hope that when my kids see them in their rooms, they will think of me.  I hope they’ll think, “Oh, Mom! Look at that. She’s not perfect, but you know what?  She shows up and she has a go.  And I know that in all her messiness and imperfection, she loves me. Yeah, she just does.  She really loves me.”

I wash the paint from my hands and I drop into bed.  And I do so pray that they will think that.

jsg/Oct 14

How to keep your head (when all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you).

Clean House

Or, to put it a tad less poetically, a short list of Don’ts and Do’s for handling the first years of motherhood:

DON’TS

1. DON’T assume everyone’s doing life/marriage/kids better than you.  Absolutely untrue!  Think about your own life behind closed doors, then think how cute you look if you ever make it to Starbucks?  Well, everyone else is faking it too.

2. DON’T accept every piece of advice you’re given – even when it comes from a sensible source.  They’re your children, it’s your house and your marriage.  If the advice fits, terrific!  Let the rest quietly drift on by.  If motherhood teaches you nothing else, it does teach you that the entire world has an opinion about how you should raise your baby and handle your marriage.

3. DON’T buy into the cultural schtick about parenthood and babydom.  Remember we’re talking about a TRILLION DOLLAR industry here.  Their job is to make you think you need everything, and they’re fantastic at it.  As a wise counselor said when I was about to give birth to my firstborn, “Remember they used to put babies in the bottom drawer.  What a baby really needs?  You and a blanket.”

4. DON’T forget who you are.  Just read an excellent article about maternal identity theft in the Huffington Post.  If you feel like you’re drowning in diapers, keep a visual clue nearby to remind you of who you also are (not once were).  I decided to hang my Yale Graduate Degree above the washing machine. Obvious choice.

DO’S

1. DO keep perspective.  Of course it doesn’t seem like it now, but babyhood is a finite season.  The days are long but the years are short.  I look back now (my kids are 11 and 9) and all I can remember is how unbelievably cute they were.

2. DO see God in the everyday.  Breathe Him in.  Those years when you were single and enjoyed two hour quiet times?  HAHAHAHA. No. Forget it.  Time with God comes closest when you are grateful.

3. DO add grace liberally and daily.  Both to yourself and others.  If you can’t extend grace to yourself, how’s everyone else going to fare?

4. DO keep community.  Even when you don’t feel you can, get out and meet with other moms.  Who cares if you showered?  It takes a village and in these years the women in that village will be the ones who save your life and maintain your sanity.  Which leads me to…

5. DO keep a sense of humor. This is breathtakingly crucial.  It’s your friends who will enable you to see a ridiculously stretching moment as a hilarious one.  We take ourselves far too seriously when left alone.

6. DO keep the Sabbath.  There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God, so grab it! Enjoy your kids!  Eat whatever can be found!  Look above the dirt!  Wear what you like!  Do nothing! In the words of the song that rings through every household, “Let it GOOOOOO.” (And, let’s be honest, everyone does enjoy us so much more when we do?)

7. And, finally, DO give your husband/partner a break.  They can’t handle the changes in you and their lifestyle?  Send them out for a drink with a mate and let them moan there.  Remember, who is the baby anyway?

Follow all these and Kipling would be proud of you.  And what’s more?

You’ll be a Mum, my chum.

jsg/oct 14

What’s the deal with grace?

Grace

I recently spoke to a group of young moms with preschool children.  They had asked me to tell them how to balance marriage and motherhood.

Once I’d stopped laughing (which took a few minutes) I did come up with a series of do’s and don’ts which had at least helped me survive those early years of diapers and late night lunacy.

Here’s the most important thing I told them.  That if they remembered nothing else from my talk, they must remember this: there is grace.

Motherhood shows you many things about yourself.  Primarily that you’re finite, imperfect and impatient. For most of the first five years, you’re likely to be a hormotional wreck.  Yes, horm-otional.  Ask any mom to explain this mix to you.

Which is why it’s so crucial to remember grace.  If extending grace to oneself were reliant upon some self-willed self-talk, I’d never get any.  If it was based on some kind of moral courage or human “bigger-ness” to extend grace to others, I wouldn’t have any of that either.

But it’s not.  Grace comes from the One who extended it to us when we deserved none.  Who gave us love, when we were worthy of contempt.  Who looked on us with forgiveness, where there should have been judgment.  And who gives us another chance to try, over and over (and over) again.

If I am not able to receive that grace and extend it toward myself, how on earth do I ever think I would be able to extend it to anyone else?

So whether you’re a mom or not, if you want to show grace to someone else, remember that it is to you that that grace was given first.

jsg/sept 14