My Public Proclamation

What do I want to do when I grow up?

I’m 39 years old and am still asking myself this question. I once wanted to be a veterinarian. Then, a pathology assistant. I eventually landed on a degree in writing (clearly a natural transition from the aforementioned career goals) and wound up working in marketing for nearly nine years. Now I’m a stay-at-home mom. I can’t help but find myself thinking, “Okay, did that. Now what’s next?”

This might come as a surprise to many of you, but once upon a time I was in great physical shape. True, once upon a time I was also 19 years old, fit into size 3 jeans, and ate French fries and milk shakes for lunch without gaining a pound, but the point is that fitness was once a huge part of my life. I practically lived at the gym. I’d spend the first hour “warming up” by gliding through grapevines and repeater knees followed by another hour or more pumping iron and flexing at myself in mirrors. I even wore those tiny little spandex shorts without a smidgen of embarrassment.

But then: Enter. Life.

College. Food. A husband. Food. Children. Food. Twenty years. Did I mention food?

While somehow through the good grace of God I never became obese, I certainly gained a lot of weight. I mean, house a couple humans in your uterus within a two year timeframe and self-control sort of gets put up on the shelf with sexy lingerie and, well, sex. Any hint that I had ever been anything but was buried somewhere amid the droops, jiggles, and puckers. And that was okay with me.

Well. Sort of.

Okay. Not really.

But life happens. And so does weight gain. And loss of time. And a passion for chocolate cake.

Yet, now that my kids are getting older I’m finding myself pondering what my next milestone is in life. Now that I’ve gotten the biggies out of the way, it seems like the only real landmark left is to, well, die.

But it’s a little early for that. (I think. I hope!)

So why not just start over? Or rewind a bit? Start checking off items on my bucket list? I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, this would be on it: Fall in love with fitness again.

I have set a goal to be “Fit by Forty.” Now, “fit” can mean a lot of things, but for me it means physically appearing fit. Like with muscles. And a six pack. Of abs I mean.

And I have until April to make it happen.

Do you think I can do it?

Stay tuned to find out.

Still Looking For The Bonbons, But…

When I began this blog, it was with the intention of documenting my transition from being an employed career woman to full-time stay at home mom. I expected the transition to be hazardous and difficult, the kind of drama noteworthy to sustain a blog and engage my readers.

It’s been over one year since I quit my job and began the journey to domestication. I have a total of eight posts on my blog.

Eight posts.

Is that all? Where are the doubtful moments? The days of complete regret? The juicy stories of mental break down?

The truth is, the transition was much easier than I expected.

Sure, I went through moments of “was this really the best decision?” And yes, I’ve kept my therapist’s phone number on speed dial just in case.

But honestly, I love being a stay-at-home mom.

There. I said it.

I. Love. Being. A. Stay. At. Home. Mom.

For those that know me well (especially those who know my historical view of children), this is, frankly, stunning. Even to myself.

But it is the truth, and I’ve come to realize that this is why I’ve struggled to maintain this blog. Because its original purpose, to document my complete and utter failure as an employee and as a mom, has not come to pass.

So the question stands: what do I write about now?

I’ve come to the decision that I’m not going to give up on this blog endeavor. Rather, I am going to allow myself to break free of the “this must be about your stay-at-home misery,” and lay out new expectations.

Jenny’s New Expectations:

  • To allow myself to ramble. About anything. And hope that you still care to listen.
  • To not feel like I have to write an entire essay each time I post.
  • To realize that not everything I write has to be witty or totally interesting.
  • To post only when the urge arises (I’m trying not to hear my husband’s voice saying, “But your urges are so few and far between…”)

So there you have it. An outline for the future of this blog. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see what topics might be part of my general ramblings. Who knows, they might be about you.

(Not really, but maybe the threat will keep you tuned in just to make sure your name never comes up.)

There’s No Place Like Home Row

Once upon a time I was a writer who could sit at a computer and begin a symphony. There I would be, tap, tap, tapping away, hair flying to and fro as I swept my head from side to side in tune to the melodic story I was creating. I didn’t even need to look at what I was doing, that’s how amazing I was. The home row and me were like hand in glove, foot in shoe, butt in underwear.

We were simply meant to be together, me and the keyboard.

Until we broke up.

I don’t know how it happened. One minute we were harmonious, loving our time together, conspiring about what crazy thing we could do to get the world’s attention. Laughing at the antics of unwanted spam or printer jams. Standing united against slow networks and WordPress malfunctions.

And then suddenly, we had nothing to say to each other.

We’d sit and stare at one another for hours. Me, waiting for the cursor to spit out a word. The cursor blinking back at me in expectation that I had something important or witty or fascinating to say.

But nothing ever came.

And for months, we took a break. Spending time with our other friends. Google. Facebook. TMZ.

So tonight I decided it was time to reconnect. To extend my hand to the home row. See if we could find that spark again.

Because I’ve missed it.

I’ve missed you.

I hope you missed me too.

Wishes Do Come True: Part 3 – The Final Stanza

Imagine a place.

Where dinner is served in a gingerbread house.

GKTW Gingerbread House

And tables are made with peppermint candies.

GKTW Gingerbread House Inside

GKTW Breakfast II

A place with endless carousel rides.

The Carousel at GKTW

GKTW Carousel 4

Where ice cream is served for breakfast.

GKTW Ice Cream Shop II

First ice cream cone

Games are played without tokens.

Remote Control Boats GKTW

GKTW Amberville Games

And dinosaurs still exist.

GKTW Dino Putt

Imagine a place.

Where playgrounds look like board games.

SONY DSC

GKTW Playground 6

GKTW Playground

Pools look like playgrounds.

GKTW Splash Pad

GKTW Pool

And a giant bunny is in charge of it all.

SONY DSC

Pirate & Princess (61)[1]

Imagine a place.

Where there’s no other option but the front of the line.

Magic Kingdom Two

Magic Kingdom Three

Magic Kingdom Four

Universal Islands of Adventure 4

Seaworld Six

Seaworld Four

Where celebrities come to see you.

GKTW Mickey 3

GKTW Goofy III

GKTW Pluto I

And you are a unique star.

Wills Star One

That remains at this place. Forever.

GKTW Castle of Miracles I

Thanks to Make-a-Wish and Greenridge Realty for making this trip possible.

And especially to Give Kids the World.

Who not only imagined.

But made it all come true.

Wishes Do Come True: Part 2

Last Thursday, Greenridge Realty’s “Dream Team” came over to our house bearing gifts. Greenridge, as it turns out, is sponsoring our trip. Imagine the kids’ delight as the Dream Team poured into our house with gift bags in hand. As they arrived it honestly looked like a scene from a Publisher’s Clearing House commercial. Perhaps I should have run out the front door screaming, “I won! I won!” just to give the neighbors something to talk about.

Greenridge Dream Team entering houseGreenridge Realty has been supporting Make-a-Wish since 1999. My son’s will be the 89th wish they’ve granted. I can’t thank everyone over at Greenridge Realty enough. Meeting people like these restores my faith in the goodness of others. It makes me want to be a good person back.

It brings me back to the time that made this all happen in the first place.

While Nestle’s tumor was a horrible experience, something I would not want to re-live ever again, one thing I discovered back then was a tremendous outpouring of love from others. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Strangers.

It was a discovery I didn’t expect to find. One I didn’t believe was real. That experience – kindness and love from so many people – really moved me.

And through this wish, I’m experiencing it all over again.

For me, that’s the best wish I could ever hope for.

The day that Nestle was discharged from the hospital I wrote:

There is a part of me that is sad to leave the hospital, only because you can’t help but develop relationships with the nursing staff there… I’m afraid by leaving that somehow the significance of this experience will fade and I will allow myself to forget the families at the hospital. I’m afraid I will forget the fear I felt when I thought my son was going to die. I’m afraid I’ll go back to the way I was when I didn’t feel the level of compassion that I feel now. Being in the hospital forced me to face it every day. Now that I’m not there I’m afraid I will forget. And I don’t ever want to forget. Ever.

Thank you Make-a-Wish and Greenridge Realty.

With your help, I still won’t forget.

The experience.

The compassion.

The kindness.

You.

Greenridge Realty Dream Team July 2013

Greenridge Dream Team 8 Greenridge Dream Team 16 Greenridge Dream Team 14 Greenridge Dream Team 5 Greenridge Dream Team 7 Greenridge Dream Team 11 Greenridge Dream Team 13

Wishes Do Come True: Part 1

One week from today we are leaving for a trip to Orlando, Florida.

Yup, we’re taking the plunge and “going to Disney World!”

And Universal Studios. And Sea World. And the Kennedy Space Center. Maybe even visiting the ocean if we have time. We’re even staying at an all-inclusive resort that has a fantastic pool and splash pad, horseback riding, a huge playground for kids, and an ice cream shop open from 7:45am-11pm (offering free ice cream).

And we’re not paying for any of it.

Many of you may already know that a little over a year ago, my son Nestle was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was four years old at the time. Because he was normal in every possible way with the exception of headaches, we were not at all prepared when we learned that he had a mass in his cerebellum the size of a golf ball.

4cm Tumor MRI Apr 12 2012

It is difficult to convey what that experience is like – the realization that you’re going to become a mother who knows what it’s like to watch her child die. It takes your breath away, that feeling. A “this can’t be happening” numbness where you can’t seem to cry and people’s words sound like the “wah, wah, wah” from a Charlie Brown cartoon.

But Nestle didn’t die.

And God-willing, he’s not going to.

After removing the mass in Nestle’s brain it was determined that it was a low-grade astrocytoma; a benign tumor. This means that it did not spread to other parts of the brain or spinal cord and therefore removal alone was “curative.” Doctors did not feel he needed chemotherapy or radiation following surgery unless it was discovered later that the tumor was returning (which we have not seen in follow-up MRIs).

As far as brain tumors go, Nestle’s situation was the best-case scenario.

As much as I wish the ordeal could be over, it isn’t and won’t be for many years. The tumor may return, so we keep watch every four months through MRI scans and visits to the oncologist’s office. Nestle has also been in occupational therapy and physical therapy on and off since his surgery, though most would never notice impairments in his functioning.

It was during one of these visits that I was approached by our hospital social worker, telling me that Nestle qualified for a wish through Make-a-Wish Foundation.

And now here we are, ready to make my little boy’s wish come true. One week from today.
Getting him to understand what’s going on though; that’s a whole other ordeal. I really want him to understand that this trip is something not many kids get to experience. That it’s taking place because of the generosity of others. And especially, that it’s a celebration of his bravery. But I’m not sure I’m doing a great job at explaining this. Or if I am, he’s hearing the message a little differently than I intended.

Let’s just say I hope he doesn’t approach too many people and tell them, “I’m special because I didn’t die” as much as I fear. That could be a little awkward.

I’ll explain more later.

Wow. Turns Out I’m Prejudiced Against Myself.

Remember that feeling in high school when you’d see your ex with another girl?

Her: wearing his letterman’s jacket, which probably still has hints of you hiding in the pockets as there’s no way he cleaned them out in the last two days since you returned it.

Him: with his arm jackknifed around her neck in a possessive form of romance.

Them: laughing a steady stream of “ha ha ha”s and “ho ho ho”s dispatched at volumes that elicit either annoyance or envy from passerby’s.

You: pretending to be digging for something super important in the locker you share with your best friend. Wishing that the knots in your stomach would disappear because honestly you don’t care that he’s moved on. You hope they are very happy together. You are way better off now that he’s gone. Really it’s true.

Really.

Well. Maybe.

That describes how I felt when I saw the job posting for my former job recently.

Forgotten. Replaceable. Irrelevant. Jealous.

It’s not easy, making the transition from working woman to stay-at-home mom. There are so many things to miss about work: Having a reason to shower and put on presentable clothing each day. Driving the car without passengers and listening to trashy talk radio every morning. Knowing each day what I plan to do, and actually accomplishing it. Talking with friends, uninterrupted. Not having to censor myself constantly.

But do you know what I miss most?

Simply being able to say “I have a job.”

I know, it sounds trivial. Vain almost. I suppose that it is.

I realize my job is as a full-time mom, but let’s be honest here, in our society this is not really viewed as actual work. We don’t get paid. We don’t qualify for social security. We don’t get retirement benefits as a perk of our stay-at-home mom-ness. Because of our lack of wages we simply aren’t considered “working” people.

As a former working mom, and a very much career-minded woman still, this is difficult for me to accept. Out of everything – the tantrums, the boredom, the need to hit on other moms – this is by far the most difficult obstacle for me to get past on this journey. Up until this point my identity was wrapped up not only as a mother, but as a graphic designer and writer. When asked what I did for a living, I was proud to list my credentials. Because like men, many of us women equate success with the degrees we earn, the titles we hold, and the money we make.

When we don’t have that anymore, suddenly we are – quite literally – worthless. If you look exclusively at the numbers, we are just that.

And I’m having a hard time getting over it.

Listen. I went to college. I have a bachelor’s degree. I was employed for almost nine years for a large company’s marketing team. And I left it all.

Other moms left it all.

And while it’s true, I don’t make any money, I’m finding this job to be the most difficult one I’ve ever performed. I’m learning how to be an educator. An activities director. A project manager. An art teacher. A librarian. A negotiator. A mediator. A finance director. An events planner. A networker.

People might chuckle when they read that. Chuckle in a way that you would pat a kid on the head and say, “Yes, yes, that’s cute.”

And that bugs me. Because I actually feel that way about myself. I’ve been living so long as a working person that I don’t know how to redefine what success is supposed to look like. All I know is that I don’t feel like I’m achieving it anymore.

While I celebrate and pump my fists for all the bras that have been burned. The votes that have been won. The laws that have been created on the behalf of all women.

I wish one thing would have been left intact.

Respect, value, and admiration for stay-at-home moms. By men. By women. By society.

Even by me.

Ironic, isn’t it?