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Chronic Illness, Guest Posts, parenting

Little Elephant

December 12, 2018
elephant

By Amy D. Lerner

You know the story of the blind men and the elephant? They’re trying to figure out what this creature is in front of them. Each of the men feels a different part of the elephant, the trunk, the foot, the tail, and describes the elephant based on only that one part. They each come up with wildly different ideas about what an elephant is, and not one of them sees the big picture, the whole elephant.

My elephant is only 3 feet tall and 35 pounds, yet this story is still true.

Like many people, I make up stories and make metaphorical leaps, from an elephant to my four-year-old daughter, without even thinking about it. My mind is a runaway steam engine—I can’t help thinking of that image—and metaphors are the coal.

“The way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor,” write George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors We Live By, the seminal book on thinking in metaphors that was published in 1980. We tend to speak and think in metaphors without being aware of it and without stopping to think about how our metaphors are guiding us, but they are, Lakoff and Johnson insist.

Studies have shown that by thinking about the story of the blind men touching the elephant, it’s as if I’m actually touching the wrinkled and rough skin of an elephant. In other words, metaphors are stored in the same part of the brain as the things they represent: the idea of kicking the habit stimulates the same motor area of the brain as kicking a ball does. Metaphors are deeply embedded in our minds, and they’re linked to the most basic human functions. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Leaning Into The Pain

June 27, 2018
nest

By Claudia Hinz

“Ooh, look at the babies!” my daughter exclaimed at dinner. I hurried around to her side of the table from which she had a clear view of the park outside. Over the years, we have all held to our assigned spots at the dinner table, although my husband has moved into my 19 year-old daughter’s chair since she left for college. The other seat, my son’s seat, has been vacant for a while, but I leave a fresh cloth napkin and a placemat for him.

The baby goslings tottered around after their mother who nosed them in the right direction of the water. The sun was low in the sky and my eyes are not what they once were, so the goslings appeared as electrified yellow balls. Cute, as my daughter pronounced, but also dangerous in their vulnerability. I knew that in mere days they would be transformed into gawky, unsteady juveniles, the cute baby stage left behind.

This morning, there is the smell of perfume in the kitchen. She has left but I still smell my daughter in here with me. It is her voice on our answering machine. A message recorded when she was probably in middle school, the voice of a young girl, my baby. She is now 18. She just voted in her first election and will be headed off to college in less than four months. Still, I can’t change the message. We never use the home phone, but I am reluctant to cancel the service because I cannot bear to lose my daughter’s voice on the machine. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Modern Motherhood: A Sisterhood of Enemies

April 24, 2018
picture

By Callie Boller

Last week I was at the pool for my boys’ swim lessons. My husband was picking up the babe from daycare so I was enjoying the quiet time, giving the boys an occasional wave and thumbs up, but mostly just zoning out. After three kids, I’ve stopped feeling guilty about ME time, and instead, try to soak up the moment. No screaming, no fighting, no whining. Amazing how 10 minutes of alone time can restore your sanity and feel like a weekend getaway to a five star resort.

Suddenly, from the other side of the pool I heard a little girl start to cry. She was sitting on the steps, surrounded by the others in her lesson – and she just started losing it. I watched as her mom (who was carrying a very small newborn) walked over to the girl and quietly whispered something into her ear. The girl started screaming louder, and I painfully watched as her mom desperately tried to calm her. It was your typical toddler meltdown, we’ve all been there. Long story short, it quickly escalated and the next thing you know the mom was trying to pick up the slippery, wet, screaming toddler – while holding her other baby – and trying not to lose her shit.

I immediately looked at the other parents that sat around her, and noticed that they were all staring in disbelief. Judging. Shaming. Some even whispering to one another. My heart broke for this fellow momma – not because I thought she was a bad mother or that her child was misbehaved. But because in a time of need, in a place we’ve ALL been, not a single person went to her rescue. I knew I had to help her. I got up from my spot on the other side of the pool, and I wish I could tell you that I swooped in and saved the day, but another mom beat me to it (bless her heart). My heart felt proud and inspired as I watched this stranger gently tap the mom on the shoulder, give her the “I’ve been there” smile, and offer to hold the baby so she could hog tie her now hysterical daughter.

As I reflect back on this, my eyes fill with tears as I think about how lonely and overwhelming motherhood often is. Having and raising little humans is something no one should face alone, we weren’t meant to – motherhood is the ultimate universal connection. We are a tribe. A sisterhood. A family. If anyone should know and understand the magic and messes that accompany raising children it’s a fellow momma. We have an unbelievably unique opportunity to support and lean on one another, but instead, we are too busy measuring one another up and tearing one another down.

Unfortunately, I feel like the new moms take the hardest hit, especially during those first few weeks postpartum. For some reason, we’ve created this ridiculous expectation that moms have to have their shit together – you know: shower daily, keep a clean house, and get their body back – all with a grateful smile on their face. Let’s be real…those first few weeks are painfully hard. Adjusting to life with a newborn, adult diapers, crotchsicle ice packs, running on little sleep, breastfeeding difficulties, recovering from BIRTHING A HUMAN BEING – the list goes on. For whatever reason, nobody talks about how DAMN HARD it is. Instead, we all just continue to post the perfect pictures and reinforce the unattainable expectations for the next generations of moms to come.

So I beg you – let’s start talking about the ugly…the shit we pretend doesn’t exist on social media. Instead of posting pictures of our super advanced children, playing nicely, while eating their all organic homemade meals…what if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and post about the tantrums, the messes, and the bag of MSG packed cheese puffs I just gave my five year old to get him to shut the hell up for two minutes so I could finish grocery shopping. Instead of shaming one another, why not support and lift one another up?

Do me a favor, next time you are about to delete that unflattering picture that shows your mom belly covered in stretch marks, or your messy house at the end of the day, post it on social media instead. Next time you see a fellow mom with a tantruming child at Target, give her a smile and let her know you’ve been there too. Talk to other mommas about the hard stuff – the days that test your patience and break your spirit, the time your child went through that nasty biting phase at preschool, or the time your 3 year old said FUCK at the dinner party. Compassion and humility go a long way. Let’s build confidence in one another by being real about what motherhood really looks like.

I will be the first to admit that my life is not perfect. Far from it actually. I’m not always a good mom or wife. I lose my temper and yell too much at my kids. Sometimes I’m so tired at the end of the day that I cruise Pinterest instead of reading my boys bedtime stories. I turn into a total raging BITCH and take everything out on my husband when I’m lacking sleep or stressed. But that’s just it. We all have our faults. There are things we fail at daily. Every single one of us has skeletons in our closets, and ultimately, these imperfections are what make us human, and most importantly – relatable. Let’s start talking about it. Let’s give ourselves and other mommas a break. Let’s stop pretending that our shit doesn’t stink – we all have baggage, let’s own it…hell, let’s celebrate it even!

Callie Boller is a wife, mom of three, and the ringleader of a traveling circus show. She swears too much, runs to stay sane, and loves hard on her little tribe (even though they leave trail of complete destruction everywhere they go).  She writes about motherhood. Writing provides Callie a space to process all the crazy that goes along with raising three children; but she also hopes to use it as a reminder not to take this motherhood gig too seriously! She can be found on Facebook, and has a blog. She is also on instagram as: mylittletravelingcircus.

 

Donate to the Aleksander Fund today. Click the photo read about Julia, who lost her baby, and what the fund is.

 

Join Jen at her On Being Human workshop in upcoming cities such as NYC, Ojai, Tampa, Ft Worth and more by clicking here.

Guest Posts, parenting

Pinned

March 16, 2018
doll

By Elizabeth Newdom

“Would you act like that if you were having dinner with the queen?” my dad asked me from across the kitchen table, his eyes framed in black rectangles, his brows two arched wings.

Behind him, I could see my reflection in the display case housing my grandmother’s gold-rimmed china plates. A rush of blood filled my cheeks. For three impossible seconds, I resembled a captured animal, stuck in the blinding light of someone’s headlamps.

My eyes fell heavily upon my place mat as I continued chewing a piece of steak, trying to work through the meat’s toughness. Had I spoken out of turn?

“Don’t touch those,” he continued, pointing at the centerpiece – a glass bowl filled with ceramic vegetables.

Had I touched them? I might have nudged the fake asparagus a little closer to the pea pod and artichoke. But I said nothing. Instead, my eyes returned to the mat, my cheek color deepening into a crimson sunset.

And were we in fact royalty? I was only seven, so naturally I was confused. Perhaps, when I turned eight, the queen was going to show up with my prince. Maybe all of the table manners and social etiquette were preparation for life in someone’s faraway castle: every linen napkin, crystal water glass, and salad fork, part of an elaborate grooming process. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting, Yoga

This Surrender

February 26, 2018
surrender

photo courtesy of Suzi Baum

By Suzi Baum

I go to a yoga class with babies.

A college student tends a cluster of children in a room behind the yoga studio while mothers, fathers, people who I don’t know well enough to know if they have kids or not and it does not matter at all, here we are with students, elders, people of all shapes and abilities-all of us stop on our mats for an hour, stop all the else we are about, and center, together.

We are marbles off track.

We run the edge of the singing bowl that is this class, spinning around the rim until the centering pull of breath and asana brings us to the center, of the bowl, of our selves, of this moment.

There is often a shout or a cry at just the perfect moment. We chuckle. We breathe. We go on.

I did not always attend yoga classes with babies. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Parent

February 2, 2018
perfect

By Sally Lehman

My Mom taught me how to fold sheets and iron pillow cases and measure flour with the dipping method, and how to pinch the edges of a pie crust to make it bake pretty, and how to hammer a nail and hang a picture and paint a wall, how to swaddle a baby and change a diaper and repress bad memories because we don’t talk about those kinds of things, and how to not cry or I’ll give you something to cry about young lady, and how to bite the webby part of my hand instead of screaming because when things are just too much and I can’t stand to live with it all anymore, no one else should find out.  She taught me to be ashamed for thinking sad thoughts and how to avoid people I dislike and how to hold a grudge for years, and how to sew and crochet and work if I have pneumonia because the phone company doesn’t give a shit that I have pneumonia.  Mom taught me how to drink a gin and tonic and how to make a decent cup of coffee, the kind that will rip a stomach apart after three cups, and how to order a glass of wine at a restaurant when I was only sixteen.  And how to pretend I was asleep when a crazy drunk person woke me up at 3 in the morning to say they are sorry for every single little thing they might have ever done ever.

My Dad taught me to shut the fuck up already.

My Mom also taught me to hold my head up, chin out, no matter how out of place and lonely I am, and how to look a person right smack in the eye when I talk to them. She taught me to look just the right way to the make children do what I tell them to do, and that I should be ashamed for taking antidepressants every day because it made her a failure as a parent. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Mommy Wars

December 18, 2017
motherhood

By Callie Boller

I’ve only been a mom for 6 years, so I am definitely still a rookie, but one thing that I’ve learned during my short time with this parenting gig is that everyone is an expert. Whether it’s the woman in line behind you at the checkout stand, or your co-worker down the hall, EVERYONE has an opinion on the right way to do motherhood – and they are willing to go to WAR over it.

I can go on social media right now and find countless mom-shamers with thousands of followers, you know…the ones who only let their children play with wooden toys, wouldn’t even speak the words “formula fed,” and have a PhD in being a perfect fucking parent. Something about the combination of a keyboard and those damn Instagram squares makes people delusionally entitled. The judgmental comments, the better than attitudes – I’m so over it.

So here it is. This is MY WAR on Mommy Wars – and here are my rules of engagement: Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Hey Parents, Chill Out

October 16, 2017
chill

By Jackie Boeheim

I was at the park the other day with a group of moms and we were discussing various topics on preschools, pacifiers and bedtime routines. I was becoming very stressed out, second guessing myself as a parent and breaking out into cold sweats. In fact, as I looked around the group, all I saw were panicked faces of worry filled moms.

The conversation prompted me to call my own mother and relay the chatter that happened at the park. “I just don’t know if I have my son in the right preschool,” I said. “The one I attend has a smaller class size, the one I toured yesterday has more complex activities…” my mother started laughing. Wait, let me correct that statement, my mother interrupted me with a bout of laughter. Does she not understand how serious this is? My mom finally told me to just chill out, have a glass of wine, paint my toenails and stop worrying so much. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

The Shoemaker

September 29, 2017
circles

By Nina Uziel-Miller

Not too long ago, I was sitting in Katherine’s chair as she told me all about cutting her son’s hair for the first time.  She said her little boy, while very cute, had been going through life practically blind, and so she knew it was finally time to do the deed. She explained that she had the “great idea” to do it in the bathtub because then he’d have nowhere to run.  Only he squirmed and splashed and shrieked like crazy. I will never understand what makes first haircuts so scary to kids, but according to Katherine, her son was in a state of abject terror. Rather than abort the mission, she forged ahead and speedily hacked away at him with her newly sharpened scissors until all that remained was a jagged, uneven fringe of barely bangs just below his hairline. That and a soaking wet bathroom.

As Katherine, who happens to be my excellent hairdresser, shared her story, she pulled strands of my own hair across my face, measuring and trimming until she was completely satisfied (no crooked cut for me) and then she pulled out the blow dryer. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

A Temporary Amnesty

September 18, 2017
amnesty

By Lisa Werhan

I wear the mottled flesh of a person too long submerged in the agitated waters of tribulation, fingertips colorless and puckered, my lips the unmistakable blue-gray of a corpse. No, no, I exaggerate. My lips are naturally pale except for my blanched-white scar, lower lip, y-shaped, the one spot that I keep biting, compulsively; this feels like the slap and sting of the surf that erodes and eats away the ash-gray sand. I can’t not nibble at it, gently, gingerly, the faint tang of blood washed away by salty saliva.

I linger over the dinner dishes a bit too long, scrubbing the tiniest bits of detritus from the supper skillet, scratching away metallic flakes with my too-short nails. Yes, yes, I obsess. I am too long at the sink, all that water having gone to my head; my brain swirls with foamy thoughts, my-child-is-suffering, that slosh haphazardly, forming angry eddies which drain away into the abyss of my broken heart. All things lead to my broken heart these days. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Airplanes

August 20, 2017
plane

By Billie Hinton

1961

I’m being held in the arms of someone while my mother and father board a plane. We’re on the tarmac and they walk away and up the steep steel stairway into what appears to be a black hole. I push away from the chest I’m held up against, straining to follow the two people I know best in this world. The stairs roll away and the black hole closes and the plane moves away, slow and then fast. The black hole opens up inside of me; everything I know slips into the distance with that plane. I stop pushing and cave in to the chest, allow myself to be held, hot tears soaking into fabric that does not smell like anything familiar.

1985

In his small office my therapist sits too close for comfort, my knees and his a few inches apart. I find solace in the large window that looks out to trees and flowering shrubs. The wash of light through blinds is an escape hatch. He asks for my earliest memory. I tell about watching my parents leave in an airplane. He asks if I felt comfort with the person I was left with and I tell him I don’t know who that person was. It seems unfathomable that my parents left me with a stranger. How did you calm yourself? he asks and I tell him, I didn’t. I still don’t.

1988

In the office of my therapist, I write the final check for the final therapy session. His office feels larger now. The check number is 2001 and he comments that it has been an odyssey. I am moving to Texas to attend graduate school in clinical social work, inconsolable at saying goodbye to a man who has sat across from me several times each week for several years, knees inches away, wearing Birkenstocks which at one point I mocked, but have come now to love. After I leave I meet friends for lunch, still bereft at the loss of my thrice-weekly sessions, tears sliding down my cheeks at random between bites of food. One gives me his wristwatch to wear while we sit in the sun with take-out containers and iced tea in plastic cups. Comfort. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, parenting

My Age of Fatherhood

June 28, 2017

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

Parenthood was the furthest thing on my mind when you were thrust upon me, but I undertook the charge, and its grown-up responsibilities, because part of me desired to be a grown up. You were fragile, vulnerable, and needed me close. Fatherhood was the first time in my life someone needed me to survive, and although often confounded by its tasks, I adapted, and was saved from reckless games my peers played. I never looked back, fixed my eyes on you, and hoped your future bright.

Divorce darkened that future for a while, but I remained a steady presence during the death of our family. Infidelity and deception devastated you, and although you had grown some, you still needed my shoulder to provide your tears a place to land. The whole affair rocked you at peak suggestibility, and although my wounds were also deep, I ignored them to ensure I tended to yours.

You had been hospitalized for a million days during which I prayed for your return. The moment you felt the victory of verdure, we imploded, and I feared you would return to where people never smiled, and medicine was measured by voltage. It was more worry than could fit in me, but mine was a malleable mind, and it expanded to the point of burst synapse. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

When Mommy Hurts

June 23, 2017
pain

By Carrie Kempisty

I sit draped in a thin, blue sheet. Waiting. Chill bumps cover my bare legs and feet dangling from the crinkle-papered exam table. The tests have been run; I’ve been poked and prodded. My brain spins in circles of anticipation, like an airplane without clearance to land. The sudden, mysterious, physical pain that has been slowly crippling my body may, after today, have a name. Up to now, I’d mentally escaped inside a self-protecting, impenetrable bubble that’s been relentlessly bombarded on all sides. Fears, potential disaster, over reaction, denial, and sadness have all threatened to burst through the protective barrier.

My two young children used to ask me if I could play. Now they ask if I hurt, which I vehemently deny. This seemingly overnight change in my physical well-being has been frightening for all of us. I am an active, fit, energetic stay-at-home mom. I don’t often skip days of going to the gym to lift weights, run, or swim laps. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed a healthy dose of competition in running, biking, and swimming events. I was a personal fitness trainer for over ten years before I became a mother. It was hard enough to admit my pain to my athletic husband. How can I admit to my children that their mother has suddenly become less than the energized, non-stop, cheer and activity leader they’ve always known? Where’s the line between protecting them from witnessing my pain and outright lying to them? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Purple Ball Day

June 16, 2017
purple

By Maureen Langloss

One April several years ago, the grocery store near my daughter’s school displayed a bouquet of plastic balls in all shapes and sizes. Spring in round, inflatable form. A particular purple ball caught my eye as I passed to pick Ainsley up from kindergarten. Purple was Ainsley’s favorite color, her only color. The ball registered that first day. Enormous and impractical and unstore-able. I desired it the second. By the third, I was imagining it in my daughter’s tiny, growing hands. On the fourth, I couldn’t sleep with worry that this ball would be gone before I got to it, purchased by someone who wanted it more. But there it was still in the store window the next afternoon, practically glowing. Screaming “AAAHHHHHHHHH.”

I zipped the ball into a giant canvas bag, much like a magician hides the egg in his mouth. Ainsley filled to the brim with curiosity when she saw me carrying it. I opened the bag slowly, with great ceremony, as she peered inside.

“It’s Purple Ball Day!” I announced.

“Purple Ball Day!” she shrieked, like she already knew what that meant. Continue Reading…