Crack

For one reason or another I always seem to take a hiatus from writing at this time of year. But I’m here at last to share a quick story.

Allow me to set the scene. I’m sitting on the couch, my husband is on the adjacent couch. We’re in our appropriately dark living room on an inappropriately sunny afternoon. My phone, which rarely rings, starts buzzing with an incoming call. The number is not familiar, but it is my area code, so I answer. The conversations follows:

“Hello?”
“Hi, is Kiera there?”
“No, this is her mom. Who’s this?”
“Oh, well is she there? Can I speak with her?”

I linger here a little because at this moment my phone starts chiming in my ear with a couple rapid fire texts. I glance at the screen quickly but do not recognize the number, so I return to the conversation more adamantly, albeit a bit confused.

“No, Kiera is at daycare. She’s 20 months old, I’m her mom. Who is this?”
“20 MONTHS!? It says here I should be speaking with a 20 YEAR old.”
“Well, you’re not. Kiera is my baby, who is this?”
“I’m so sorry, I must have the wrong person.”
“WHO IS THIS?”
“This is for a patient referral.”
“Oh… but the person you’re looking for is named Kiera? And is 20 years old, not 20 months old?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“That’s weird though, right? That’s not a very common name.”
“Right, I’m not sure how this happened. I’m so sorry to bother you.”

And with that I hang up the phone. I look over at my husband who had been following along. His expression, initially puzzled and confused, had now resolved into a smile with just a tinge of WTF? I shrug my shoulders, laugh, and then look at the texts I had missed. I find this:

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What in the Sam Hill?

(Which I thought was sam hell my entire life, until literally right now.)

This was the most peculiar 3 minutes of my life.

It was as if someone saw me sitting there on the couch and said “hi there, I see someone kicked you while you were down. Here’s something to laugh at; think about nearly impossible coincidences, 20 year old Kieras, and crack for the rest of the afternoon.”

Admittedly I took the needed opportunity to do just that.

And I feel better knowing that if all else fails, at least I know where I can get some crack. Phew.

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Being Santa

Bruegger’s is my favorite mommy/daughter date spot.

Our local chain is not very busy and we have a very relaxed routine when we’re there. We go in, order two breakfast sandwiches, and set up shop at a corner table for the 45 minutes it takes her to eat an entire sausage, egg, and cheese sammy.

Only once did I make the rookie mistake of ordering one sandwich for the two of us, foolishly thinking I could share with my 12 month old. She ate the whole thing and I was left with the tough outer shell of a bagel as my only sustenance. You live and you learn.

I took her there yesterday for an early lunch. We had a busy week ahead of us and I wanted to spoil her a little bit. We went about our usual routine. Ordered food, sat down, said “hi” to everyone there 6 times, and then got down to the serious business of eating.

A half hour later, when she finally looked up from her plate, she noticed that an older woman had (quite intentionally) cozied up to us at a nearby table. We all said hi to each other of course. I took the break in Kiera’s eating marathon as a sign that she might be ready for some conversation, so we talked about our day. About how Daddy was on a work trip. About how she and I would be going to Aunt Sarah’s for a Christmas party. Then we talked about Santa. As Kiera smiled and whispered “Tanta Tause” under her breath the woman next to us could no longer hold back.

“Does she know SANTA?!?”
“How old is she?”
“Oh my gosh she’s so young, that’s great!”
“She’s so big!”
“Does she like Santa?!”

The flood gates had opened. It was as if the “S” word was a secret password that gave us access to an exclusive Christmas club. A club in which an old woman, a young toddler, and a 32 year old believer were the only members. At least for the time being.

Kiera nibbled at the rest of her food while the three of us sat there and talked about Christmas. She told me about a Santa that visits a local chain every week night. I feigned interest; she tore a schedule and coupon out of her newspaper that she was reading and gave it to me.

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Just then an employee walked by and the woman abruptly stood up and said “excuse me, I have something to do”.

I watched her walk over to the employee and start doling out goodies from her bag. She had brought treats to give to the Bruegger’s employees. As they stood there discussing people’s work schedules, so that she could come back later in the week, I had a feeling of déjà vu; this has happened before.

But it hadn’t. Not to me anyway. It had happened to a friend, and she described it so well in her guest post that I was momentarily confused whether it was her memory or mine. That day, two years ago, she got to be a member of the Secret Santa club. Today, it was my turn.

I let myself think about how funny life is for a second but then quickly dialed back to present day and took this window of opportunity to start packing up our things to leave. I took Kiera out of her high chair and told her she could run around while I put the chair away. But she didn’t run around. She grabbed her coat and marched directly to the older woman, arms out asking for her coat to be “on”, before I had a chance to object. The woman happily obliged and as I hurried over to say thank you and pick up my billowy toddler, the woman whispered something to Kiera.

“I have a present for you today”.

She pulled out a baggie of M&M’s and said “I brought them for the workers who aren’t here, but you’re a good girl and I think you deserve them instead”.

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And then it dawned on me.

This woman IS Santa.

Here I am, just dipping my toes into my lifelong dream of having the official title of Santa Clause, as this woman was (presumably) long ago faced with the unfortunate milestone of retiring as Santa. But she chose not to hang up her Santa hat. She simply found somewhere else to wear it.

“Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed”
(Hip lyrics for those following along)

 

I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Since this blog is slowly developing into a personal account of things I want to remember and things I want to be, I’m letting it evolve and adding this to my list of life goals.

I will remember this as the day that I realized I will always be Santa, because I always have been Santa. And that a small piece of me is even a little excited for the opportunity to someday be this example for someone else. When there is time, and money, and sleep. I will remember this as the day I got to be a part of the Secret Santa Club, when I was simultaneously united with a stranger and reunited with an old friend across the distance of two years. And I’ll remember this as the day I let my daughter take candy from a stranger, because she wasn’t a stranger at all.

She was Santa.

Happy Holidays everyone! If you’re out there being Santa, feel free to comment and share.

Breaking Down Walls

Yesterday started out as a great day.

Before leaving for work my husband and I made the short walk down to the school. Both equally excited about having the opportunity to vote for a woman as President of the United States. We discussed how cool it was that our daughter would never know a world in which a woman, or African American, had never been president.

As we walked home we were swarmed by dozens of preschoolers and kindergarteners just starting their day. Full of cheerful energy and absolute chaos. We laughed about how this would be our life in just a few short years, and I think we both found a little bit of solace in the fact that we were doing our very small part to help our daughter get a good start.

It was the perfect start to a perfect fall day. The sun was shining brightly. Firing up the reds, yellows, and oranges in the trees, the air was crisp. It was all very picturesque. Even thinking back on it now gives me the warm fuzzies.

But then the weather changed. It got dark, and cold.
And as the rain started to fall in Western NY, hearts started to sink across the country.

I threw in the towel at around midnight because I knew it was over. When my husband came to bed a half hour later I non-verbally requested an update, and he replied that there was still the slightest outside chance that things might fall her way. I told him the only reason he believed that is because he is a Bills fan, and he’s accustomed to hoping for the impossible. We both laughed.

But to be honest, it wasn’t really funny.

I woke up at 4:30 and had to grab my phone. I read that just a little over an hour had passed since Hillary had conceded. Hillary conceded. Hillary conceded.

For the second time in a few months, albeit for very different reasons, I felt as if the world (my world) was standing still.

Once again, I had to ask myself why. I’m not a political person, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand all the nuts and bolts of our political system. But, to put it in layman terms, at its core being the president is a job. A very complicated and demanding job, but a job nonetheless. ‘Job’ is a term I can understand. I have a job; I’ve offered other people jobs. Every time I’ve done so, my decision was based heavily on the person’s qualifications.

I voted for Hillary Clinton simply because she was more qualified for the position. And in a postion as complicated as say… the President of the United States… I do believe qualifications and experience are important. Tremendously important.

As it turns out though, qualifications don’t mean a lot to a lot of people. We are all entitled to make our own decisions about who we vote for, and why we’re voting for them. I get it, and I’m fine with it. But while I’m not a political person, by choice, I am feminist (oh no, I said the F word). At the root, I do see this as a feminist issue. I’m not fine with that.

The most qualified candidate did not get the job last night. Sometimes that happens. Them’s the breaks right? Sure.

But it happens more to females.

A woman needs to be stronger, smarter, faster, and work harder than a man in the same position to get the same result. It’s not fair, but it is a fact of life that women are just expected to deal with, while smiling. I’ve seen it happen on a small scale again and again in my own life, and I’ve now watched it play out on the world’s largest stage. Even the word feminist carries negative and “bitchy” connotations. I am a woman, with a brain and opinions, who wants equality. Therefore I am a bitch?

Clearly, it’s a sore subject and I’m tired of avoiding it. If Hillary were a man she would have won. I whole heartedly believe that.

But wait, we’re not done yet. Just to twist the knife, an incredibly misogynistic, chauvinistic, and degrading man got the job. She didn’t lose to just anyone. She lost to someone who represents the exact opposite of change and progress for every minority group in this country, including women. And this is just one of the many issues with our new president-elect, and probably not even the most pressing. It just happens to be the one I’m currently riled up about.

If there is a silver lining (because I have to try to find one right?) it is that this has re-lit a fire in me. A fire that had almost gone out, maybe because I’m lazy, or maybe because I thought progress was being made. Once upon a time I was that little girl who annoyingly argued about this stuff. Now I have a little girl. I have a responsibility. I have a woman to raise. I was hoping to give her a stronger foundation for the incredibly complicated social issues that she is going to face in her life. Issues that we were just barely starting to scratch the surface of.

Mostly when I tell her that she can be anything she wants to be, I wanted it to be the truth.

And while I still will tell her this little white(male) lie, I will also try to convey to her the reality of being a women. I will tell her that in order to get where she wants to go in life she might first have to break down some walls, or glass ceilings, or whatever symbolic term you’d like to use to refer to the real boundaries that do exist.

I will tell her that she might have to be a bitch.

P.S. Since I don’t like ending a day, or a blog post, on such a sour note. I’ll get off my soap box and leave you with this.

When my husband came to bed last night I was already scrolling through some old pictures, one of the ways I (like many others) make myself happy. After my joke about the Bills, we watched this video and it helped me end the day as nicely as it had started. I hope this makes your day better too.

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At 8 months old she was already breaking down walls, and I couldn’t be more proud.

One Last Time

You woke up at 6:00 this morning, about 30 minutes earlier than normal. You were angry, scared maybe, definitely not happy. Maybe your teeth were bothering you, maybe you just wanted mommy, maybe it was nothing at all. I went into your room, hugged you as you stood in your crib, picked you up, and wiped your tears. You nuzzled in to my shoulder and immediately fell back asleep. Not wanting to wake you, I laid in the nearby chair and that’s where I stayed for the next 30 minutes. Under the ever-increasing weight of you, with your head resting heavily on my collar bone, and your fidgety feet tickling my knees.

Like clockwork at 6:30 you pop up and quietly stare through the darkness until you recognize my silhouette. You smile and say “oh hi!” As if you thought I was actually your mattress, and you think this is some happy accident. You’ve done this for three mornings in a row. And I’ve secretly loved every second of it. Should I be making a routine of this? No. Could I get you to settle down in your crib for that last 30 minutes if I really tried? Probably. Would I start every day of the rest of my life like this if I could? In a heartbeat.

It feels like stolen time. Being needed by this baby, who is just on the cusp of outgrowing her baby-ness.

You will always need me of course, in some form or another, but it won’t be like this. As a new mom I’m acutely aware that there is a last time for everything. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is a fact of life. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the should haves and could haves rob me of these moments. Moments like these are mine for the taking. I’ve learned enough by now to know that you do not get them back once they are gone.

But I also know how quickly habits form, and I do want to do right by you, so this was the last time my dear. Tomorrow when you wake up screaming at 6AM, needing more sleep but not knowing how to get it I’ll go into your room. I’ll help you lay back down without picking you up. I’ll pat your back, and gently remind you how to sooth yourself back to sleep. I’ll let you know that everything is ok and I’ll quietly leave your room to go back to mine.

Or maybe I’ll pick you up and cuddle with my baby.

One last time.

So Happy

A letter to my 18-year-old self:

You are somewhere you don’t want to be right now. What started out as a fun trip with friends to get off-campus and get some food has taken a downward spiral. There are two people arguing. Not in a mean or cold-hearted way, but in an incredibly annoying way. Like five-year olds bickering back and forth, comprehensible only to themselves and each other, but to no one else. There’s an urgency to the situation. One person is shouting directions, the other is adamantly shouting back that the direction giver, just perhaps, might not know everything there is to know about the world.

You’re in the backseat, frustrated that you’re unable to assist, car sick from the last second twists and turns. I know that at this moment you’d rather be almost anywhere else, and you definitely don’t want to be stuck in a car with these people again. You are unhappy and uncomfortable. But you do what you always do. Keep quiet and learn how to deal with situations like this, you find the best in them. You stick it out.

Thank you.

Because those two people arguing become your best friends. They will continue to bicker and argue like that for the rest of their lives, but someday, when you’ve learned to just sit back and watch the chaos unfold, these arguments make you laugh. You eventually find comfort in how predictable and familiar they become. Like nothing has, or ever will, change.

The direction shouter, the one being so demanding because he is about to poop his pants. Pay special attention to him, he will be your husband. He will always be shouting directions, to whoever happens to be listening, or to no one at all. He can’t help it.  And he will always be on the verge of pooping his pants. Again, he can’t help it.  You will reap many benefits from his gifted directional skills. He makes travelling very stress-free and the vacations you take with him will be amazing. But you will also go far out of your way to get to an approved bathroom location, and you will carry around lactaid pills for him. You choose him.

The maze of a housing development that you’re currently lost in. The one that can be blamed for your current state of extreme car sickness, and the subject of this ongoing argument. You will drive on these streets multiple times a day, as your baby girl babbles to herself in the backseat. That house you just passed on the left is where she will go to daycare. Where she will spend the majority of her time, grow up, and hopefully be loved enough to not notice you’re gone.

And the Wegmans that you just pulled into, to deal with your future husbands urgent bathroom needs, will be the Wegmans that you go to weekly. It will, for unknown reasons, become the Wegmans that time forgot and it will remain exactly as it is on this day. Someday, when you rush in to deal with your daughter’s urgent bathroom needs, you will go into this single unisex bathroom, look around, and laugh at the way life turns out.

And you will be so happy.

Happy Holidays – Guest Post

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I was sitting at Panera after a full day of shopping – a bit tired, a bit hungover still from my work holiday party – and feeling ‘eh. I started reading the paper that was filled with the negative state of our country. I no doubt flipped to the comics and horoscopes for an escape. At a nearby table, there was a group of four older ladies finishing up a meal and one walked to the register instead of leaving. She seemed to know the young workers well and handed them a ceramic star she made. It was a very cute moment and she caught my smile as she turned around to leave. I was confronted with the question, “Were you just smiling?” I had to admit that I was, indeed, eavesdropping on their conversation. She then reached into her pocket and handed me this star. She wished me a happy holiday and before I could express my full gratitude, she was off, telling the workers how fabulous they were.

The smile is still on my face as I think about how certain people just bring so much joy to this world. And also, how one little moment can change someone’s outlook. My ‘eh feeling has now been filled with inspiration.


About the Author – Blog Owner’s Note: Our featured author rarely needs a reminder to “be happy” in her day-to-day. Optimism comes naturally to her and she makes it look easy, even though we know it sometimes isn’t. She always has a smile to share and pays if forward by unselfishly bringing joy and inspiration to the lives of others. She also typically has well manicured fingernails. (And she’s single!)

Local Celebrity

Up until a few weeks ago I never thought twice about eating lunch in my car. I can’t claim I ever ate chicken wings on the go, but nearly anything else was fair game. It has never been an issue for me, I’m not exactly a messy person. Now though, with a new car, I pay too much attention. I have a bad feeling about it. I specifically try not to make a mess, which will of course inevitably result in me, making a mess. I just know it.

With the sudden decrease in temperature though also comes a decrease in my desire to actually get out of the car on these lunchtime excursions. Yesterday, for example, I was quite successful at precariously balancing a steaming hot container of Mighty cheese on my lap for 5 minutes while I ate those glorious chips.

Rectangles. So simple.

Today, I was feeling less risky and decided not to press my luck. Based on how frequently I get in trouble for eating in bed, I can only imagine that my significant other would not take kindly to nacho cheese on the driver’s seat.

So I geared up and made the short but blustery walk. Armed with a smile and a book, so as to not look like a complete loser, I moseyed my way around the celebrated prepared foods section of Wegmans. Heaven on earth for corporate America. It’s lunchtime, and it’s packed. If you’ve ever seen me try to negotiate a crowd, or cross a busy street for that matter, you know that I tend to get a little overwhelmed. There’s too much going on, too many decisions to make. I usually resort to following whoever I’m with. This was not an option today so I walked towards the sub shop, where I know myself best, and waited in line.

I noticed the man in front of me was very sharply dressed, which caused me to keep shyly trying to steal another glimpse. The more I looked though, the more I felt like I knew him, like we were old friends. Then, it hit me. Glenn Johnson. My weather man!

Minus the one year of downstate living he has been my go to source for weather news for, essentially, my entire life. There he was, standing right in front of me. Looking as unrealistic in person as he does on TV. I ordered my sub on auto pilot while trying to hide my goofy smile. Once I had that under control I started looking around to see if this local celebrity sighting was making other people as happy as it was making me. It wasn’t. Everyone, including my homeboy Glenn, was looking down at their phones. No one seemed to notice.

Think of what I would have missed today if I had decided to stay in the car. Or if I had been looking down at my phone like everyone else. It would’ve been like that time my sisters and I shared an elevator with Bruce Smith and didn’t know it until he exited. So close yet so far.

I tried to think of something to say to him, but my comfort zone refused to even entertain the idea. I’m not sure what I would’ve said anyway. I’m sure he’s sick of people talking to him about the weather. Especially this week.

Our food was ready at about the same time and I followed him at a safe non-stalker-ish distance to the checkout counter. I went through my normal routine of claiming a high-top table for myself, clearly the superior choice, and watched Glenn Johnson walk out the door.

I was still smiling, but no longer needed a book to distract myself from myself. I had just seen a local celebrity, and while it might be a little silly, I was pretty happy about it. I was happy to sit there in complete solitude, looking around for whatever might happen next, because I didn’t want to miss it.