The Quiz DUFF

I’m officially boycotting Facebook quizzes.  Sure, they began innocent enough with things like “Where is your ideal dream vacation?” and “If you were wine, what type would you be?”  Then something changed.  I’m packing up my feelings and going home.  First, I took the “What is your spirit animal?” quiz.  I naively considered that I’m social like a chimpanzee, care about my communityIMG_2559 like a meerkat, and freakin’ adorable like a puppy (ahem, just let me have that one…).  I squeezed my eyes shut and made the international excited white girl noise “Squeeekers!”… only to discover that the damn result was a whale.  My spirit animal is a whale!?  Sure, I know I am plus sized and my singing is rather “whale-like” but this was NOT the spirit animal that fed my ego.  I was too busy pouting to read the description.  It may have said beautiful things about whales being intelligent, mysterious, blah, blah, blah.  As long as I’m concerned, it said “Like a whale, you are full of blubber, slow, sing horribly, and are sometimes crusty.”  I will admit that even before the quiz, I had a chip on my shoulder against whales.  Early in our marriage, Trey and I spent 6 months at Ft.Lee, Virginia while he went to Officer’s Basic Course.  We took a couple weekend excursions to Virginia Beach and spent what little money we had to go on 3 “Whale Watching Tours.”  Groups before and after our tours, boasted stories of majestic  whales breaking the surface to blow water from their blow holes and splashing water with their impressive takes.  Unfortunately the whales didn’t see fit to show up while we were on the water.  The tour guide explained “I guess they are hiding?”  Seriously!?  How the heck does a creature the size of a semi-truck hide?  (*Note: on our 10 year anniversary trip to San Juan Island, we did see several Orcas but I’ve never forgiven the snobby grey whales of Virginia.)  You know what I say to having a whale as my spirit animal!?  Kiss my blowhole!

The very next day after taking the spirit animal quiz, I noticed that several Facebook friends had taken a quiz to determine how old they actually look.  I hoped my freckles and youthful spirit would tip the scales in my favor.  Nope.  According to the Facebook bullies I look 53.  Yep, 53.

As if those weren’t enough, I then took a quiz to learn who my Disney Doppelganger might be.  Let’s review my looks.  I have shoulder length brown hair, hazel eyes, freckles, and carry extra survival weight.  The quiz identified that my doppelgänger is…Mulan!?  I am an Asian teenager?  At this point, I began to question the validity of these quizzes.  IMG_2427

The quiz that identifies the user’s “Facebook twin” told me that my twin was Conway Sanitation.  Yep, my twin is the city dump.  Figures…

i decided to take one more quiz to determine if I was being too picky or if my luck was truly jinxed.  One simple “win-win quiz.”  Something that couldn’t bring me down.  I found the perfect one!  “Are you a cat person or a dog person?”  (*Note: I’m definitely a dog person.  Cats make me itch and I don’t like their attitudes.)  I took the quiz…drumroll please…and my result was “You should not own pets.”

FINE!  I quit!  I’m not taking any more stupid quizzes.  I’m like the DUFF of quizzes!?  (*DUFF stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend and came from a book and then movie of the same name.)  My quiz results serve to make others feel good about their own results.  Seriously, I’m a 53-year-old whale that likes to hang out with the sanitation department and I am not fit to own pets or sell tickets at the box office.  My fragile ego can’t handle any more bad news.  I don’t want to learn that I ought to live in a cave away from others, that I’ll die from leprosy, my ideal season is “hurricane season”, or that I should have lived during the black plague.  These quizzes have caused me to question my self-worth and require additional emotional “strokes” from my loved ones.  “Jack, please tell mama she looks like Belle!”  “Logan, wouldn’t you agree that I’ve been very chimpanzee today?”  “Trey, will you take out the trash.  I’m trying to put distance between me and the sanitation department.”  “Mojo and Banjo, I love you and am sorry if I’ve failed you as an owner.”  I’ve decided that I am not going to take any more quizzes.  Each morning when I check Facebook, I’m going to repeat my new mantra “Lauren is more than a Facebook quiz.”  Thank goodness, I’ve never tried a “TBH”!?  I’m simply too fragile.  If only there was a medication to help me through this difficult period of self assessment and anxious reflection?  If only I could answer a few unrelated questions and receive a perfect solution.  If only… IMG_2551

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Preparation

I was never a boy scout so I’m lacking formal instruction in being prepared for whatever life brings me.  Logan is going to church camp next week for the first time.  On the way to summer daycare this morning, Logan and I reviewed what we needed to pack.  I told him what was on the official camp packing list and began listing items I needed to buy him.  Logan began asking about other items he thought he might need.  He asked about his mp3 player, kindle, and family photographs.  He agreed that none of these were necessities.  However, he insisted he would need a bear repellent bell, mosquito net, duct tape, and a fire starter.  I assume these “necessities” are based on our family addition to the TV show “Naked and Afraid,” but highly doubt any of the items are needed for a 3 day church camp.

Logan’s efforts to prepare for camp, reminds me of my preparation for camp when I was younger.  The tradition at our camp led the older boys to raid the older girls’ campsites for bras to string up the flagpole.  I was determined that none of my bras or panties would be captured so I prepared by stuffing my underwear into empty toothpaste boxes and an extra canteen.  I even stuffed some of my underwear into a sock and shoved the sock into the hole in a tree near our tent.  I went to great lengths to prevent my underwear from being on display.  Unfortunately in my thorough preparations I was so focused on securing my underwear, that I failed to pack enough socks and had completely forgotten shampoo.

Often preparation looks different based on priorities.  For example, in preparation to have a friend over for dinner last night, I clean the bathroom counter and made dinner.  Trey did do a considerable amount of cleaning but focused on straightening up his tile saw and cleaning leaves off the deck.  My mom jokes about preparing for a dinner party by cleaning while my dad prepared by alphabetizing his albums.  i remember another time when my mom was stressing about cooking for a holiday meal while my dad created photo frame collages.  Their marriage survived both situations and my marriage is intact following our dinner preparations.

While Trey and I were in agreement in preparations for the birth of Logan, we had different focuses before Jack’s arrival.  I was stressed about the logistics of pumping breast milk upon returning to work.  I proposed the idea of buying a small cooler for breast milk since I was going to have to pump in my car between school therapy clients and home visits.  Trey almost hugged me when I made that suggestion.  I was excited by his enthusiasm and thanked him for being so in sync with my desire to breast feed as long as possible.  A couple of weeks later, he came home with a “present” for me.  To aid in my breast pumping plan, Trey had purchased a giant Yeti cooler.  I looked at the broad smile on my husband’s face and promptly accused him of buying the cooler he wanted rather than the cooler I needed.  How much breast milk did he think I could produce in a work day!?  He argued that he’d bought the cooler because it would keep the breast milk cool until I got home and that the cooler was bear proof.  What a sweet man!?  Thank you, Trey, for protecting me from those darn bears that break into cars to steal breast milk.  When my milk dried up and I was no longer able to pump, I was disappointed.  Trey soothed me by thanking me for breast-feeding as long as I had and reminded me that no matter what, we still had a giant bear-proof cooler.  After all, Trey was a boy scout so he knows how to always be prepared.  Perhaps I ought to have Trey help Logan pack for camp?  Together they’d certainly be prepared to ward off any bears with the bear proof cooler and the bear repellent bell?

Homecoming

Both boys woke early this morning, eager to welcome Trey home from a weeklong mission trip.  Logan listed all of the things he wanted to tell his dad about soccer camp, spending the night with a favorite cousin, and back to school shopping.  Jack kept asking “My Daddy home?”  A week is like a lifetime to a two-year old.  Trey no longer travels often for his job so we are used to having him around.  I’m not used to sleeping alone and certainly not used to the house being so quiet, once the boys go to bed.  A little over a year ago his job required frequent travel but we were still accustomed to having him home on the weekends.  Over breakfast this morning, I reflected upon the shift in habits over the past year and laughed about how excited we all were to welcome him home after just a week away.IMG_2379

Later in the morning, I checked my “time hop” app on my phone and discovered that 7 years ago today, Logan and I welcomed Trey home from his second tour in Iraq.  I remember that day as though it were yesterday.  I hadn’t laid eyes on my husband in over a year and I woke full of anxiety.  The first deployment was difficult too but it had been shorter and I’d had more flexibility to practice self-care because we hadn’t had Logan yet.   This time I had more anxiety where the first deployment’s homecoming just brought excitement.  With the first homecoming from Iraq, all either one of us could think about was (1) Trey showering, (2) “snuggles”, and (3) Trey sleeping.  We had the same priorities this time but also added time with Logan and figuring out our future.  We both knew this was the end of deployments for our family but we didn’t know what would come next.  What if we’d grown apart?  What if we’d experienced too much life individually to continue together?  What if I’d gained too much weight and was no longer attractive to him?  How much had war changed him?  Additionally, I had anxieties about his reunion with Logan who was just 6 months old when Trey left.  Logan wasn’t used to being around many men and was very attached to me.  I had tried warning Trey over the phone that Logan may not immediately warm up to him and suggested he be patient.  We’d played recordings of Trey reading and singing to Logan every day during the deployment so I hoped that, at the very least, Logan would recognize Trey’s voice.  We had asked family to not attend the homecoming because we wanted time to reconnect as a family of 3.  Logan and I drove 45 minutes from our home in Savannah, Georgia to Ft. Stewart.  Just shy of 2 years before, Trey and I had made the same drive together to the post hospital to have Logan.  The feelings were overwhelmingly similar.  When we pulled into the parking area near the hangar hosting the homecoming, I saw families with balloons and signs.  I also saw many faces depicting similar anxieties that I was feeling.  I had dressed Logan in a t-shirt that sary=480-2id “I get my muscles from my Dad” but knew I wouldn’t be able to manage both a wiggly toddler, signs and balloons, and the heavy emotions I was feeling.  Logan was intimidated by the crowd of people inside.  We were given small flags to wave through the ceremony and I spent several minutes keeping Logan from poking me in the eye with his flag or throwing it on the floor.  We were swept into the moving crowd of family members towards bleachers and took our seat five rows up from the floor.  People around us chattered about their service members’ homecoming plans.  The woman behind me was holding a newborn that her husband had not yet met.  The family in front of me was identifying what corner they planned to move when the soldiers were released from formation so their son could easily find them.  Trey and I hadn’t made a similar plan but I wasn’t concerned.  Trey’s big noggin’ is typically identifiable across groups of people.

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Logan took a bit to warm up to this man we kept calling “Daddy.”
After eons of waiting, we were asked to stand as the soldiers marched into the room.  The excitement and tension were unbelievably strong.  People screamed, jumped, cheered, and cried while facing soldiers who stood perfectly still and silent.  Logan was terrified by the loud ceremony and gripped me for dear life.  As scared as he was, I have often wondered how intense that moment felt to the soldiers, many of whom were returning with PTSD.  I have no clear memory of what was said at the ceremony just the intensity of standing as a room divided.  Overt celebrations vs. adherence to formation.  When the soldiers were released from formation, chaos broke loose.  People stampeded down the crowded bleachers ready to embrace their soldiers.  I was pushed from behind and almost fell down holding Logan.  I sat down to keep from falling aware that by doing so I was shielding us from Trey’s line of sight.  We continued to sit on the bleacher as the crowd surged around us.  Shrieks and laughter filled the air while Logan and I clung to one another.  Once we had room to stand again, I did so tentatively.  My eyes scanned for Trey and we soon spotted one another.  He grinned broadly and started to make his way through the crowd.  For weeks I had composed various homecoming speeches or daydreamed about romantic embraces but in the actual moment all of my thoughts and emotions seemed to get stuck in my throat.  Trey seemed to anticipate Logan’s caution and gently approached the two of us.  Still unable to form words, I leaned into Trey’s chest.  Logan stared at his daddy’s face as though he was searching his files for recognition.  Trey grabbed my hand and indicated that we ought to leave.  It was surreal to walk beside Trey and feel my hand in his after so long apart.  With my lack of grace, it’s a wonder I was able to walk to the car without falling since my eyes never left his face.  Words and thoughts returned as we made our way towards home.  

Movies and tv shoes depict military homecomings as a linear process and, at least for us, it was nothing of the sort.  We had to reestablish routines, Logan and Trey had to develop a relationship, and we had to adjust to personality changes that happen during the course of war.  The easy adjustments happened quickly.  The day after Trey came home we went to a local restaurant to eat and Logan’s brain clicked.  When Trey went to refill his drink, Logan pointed and started yelling at the top of his lungs “DADDY!  DADDY!”  I’m sure most people in the restaurant wondered why Trey and I began to cry because our child was screaming in a restaurant.  

Other adjustments took longer.  I’d managed the money and the household for 15 months and had difficulty sharing the duties.  Trey knew to continue his career in the Army meant more time away from his family and that was something he wasn’t willing to sacrifice any longer.  It is hard for me to separate his homecoming from the life that followed  because I know the highs and lows that were to come.

The night of Trey's homecoming 7 years ago.  Logan was starting to figure out this was the guy I'd been telling him about!
The night of Trey’s homecoming 7 years ago. Logan was starting to figure out this was the guy I’d been telling him about!
Today’s homecoming from Ozarks Mission Project brought dirty laundry, a tired daddy, and overstimulated boys but was just as sweet as the others.  I thank God every day that I was able to welcome Trey home from Iraq twice and think often of our friends that had a different experience.  Seven years ago.  It is hard to fathom that it has been that long and yet carries such strong emotions even today.  We were both changed forever by these experiences.  I can’t allow myself to wonder “what if” things had turned out different because that isn’t productive.  What I do allow myself is the feeling of gratitude for every homecoming we continue to have.

My Collection

Not long ago I was at a restaurant waiting for Trey to meet me for lunch.  While waiting, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation happening at the booth behind me.  Two 20-something girls were talking about guys they had or were currently dating.  One of the girls said “Yeah, he’s really kinda gross but I keep him around because he’s an accountant and helps me with my taxes each year.”  As the conversation progressed, I started wondering if I have been approaching friendships wrong.  Perhaps rather than making friends based on common interests and likable personalities, I ought to begin making friends based on what they can offer.  With this in mind, I’ve developed the following “friendship wish list.”  Kindred spirits need not apply.

1.  I am searching for an architect.  Trey and I intend to add-on to our house at some point in the future but I need help putting my ideas into a real plan.  This architect needs to pretend to listen to Trey’s ideas but really incorporate my ideas instead.  Oh, and they need to work for free.

2.  I’m hoping to find a professional puppeteer.  I have my reasons.

3.  I’d like to have a friend that is a botanist that specializes in identification of invasive species common to Arkansas and how to remove these species from my back yard.

4.  I would like to recruit a rich benefactor to my friend list.  I’d prefer this person to leave cash lying around my house whenever they visits.  Perhaps this person has been eager to invest in the building of a treehouse, fire pit, and addition with no strings attached.

5.  My friend roster is badly in need of an inventor.  I have lots of ideas that I’d love to share!

6.  Mojo and Banjo would benefit from a friend that is a dog whisperer.  (but not the original dog whisperer because he had sketchy legal issues not long ago…but I’d like his roller skates)

7.  Surely there is an aspiring personal organizer that would want to be my friend and practice their skills in my home.

8.  I am also searching for an eccentric survivalist.  I would like nothing more than to look in my backyard one day and spot this friend building a lean after starting a cooking fire with a bow drill.  To be clear…I don’t want this person to be naked and afraid.

9.  Now recruiting a personal trainer to show up at the house to whip Trey and I into shape.  A chef.  I’d like a chef.

10.  The list needs a former boy band member who went on to a successful solo career and is a frequent guest on a late night talk show.  I don’t know, maybe his name is Justin?

All applicants need to assume that there will be other duties that might arise during the course of the friendship.  Current friends should not feel slighted by my adding to the collection.  I already have quite an impressive collection of friends including lawyers, teachers, therapists, an archeologist, a sociologist, professors, students, artists, moms, dads, retirees, a blogger, entrepreneurs, a tattoo artist, and many more.  I’m simply thinking about me here.  Other than meaningful relationships that keep my life fulfilled, what have they given me?  Its time to add to the list.


Music to My Ears

I have a love-hate relationship with top 40 music.  I love random car dance parties with my boys and am already ready to roll down the windows and belt out a ballad.  I do find myself arguing with the songs at times.  This is nothing new.  There have been nonsensical lyrics for ages but as I get older and the pop stars get younger, my annoyance grows.  As a reader, I value the use of a metaphor.  I live fro descriptive, flowery language.  However, I don’t like comparisons that don’t make any sense.   Below is a list of songs that tick me off.

Pharrell, what the heck does being happy have to do with a room without a roof?  I can understand how a car without a roof (aka convertible) can be associated with happiness or a home with sky lights.  BUT, how the heck can a roofless home be equated with happiness.  I think what you are referring to when you say a room without a roof, is homelessness…not happy.  And how exactly does one FEEL like a room without a roof?  Do I feel incomplete?  Does this make me happy?

John Mayer, I enjoy your blues-based music and think you are a great guitar player.  However, I don’t like your narcism and am uncomfortable with you viewing my body as a wonderland.  It is not a roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl.  There are no carnies lurking in my parts.

Nick Jonas, I appreciate that you find me “too sexy, beautiful” and am flattered that you are proud to be with me.  HOWEVER, you do not own me and it is not your “​right to be hellish” and “get jealous.”  Your assertion that you own me makes me concerned that you don’t view me as a partner but as a possession.  Nick, you are hot, but I just don’t think this is going to work.

JT, oh sweet, Justin Timberlake.  My heart beats for you.  I am concerned that you don’t recognize how special you are.  Why would you sing to someone who would not see your value?  “So don’t act like it’s a bad thing to fall in love with me, me…It’s not a bad thing to fall in love with me, me.”  Indeed, it is a good thing to fall in love with you.

While I don’t listen to contemporary country on purpose, I can’t have a list of this sort without mentioning Blake Shelton’s crap fest in which he sings “Chew Tobaccy Chew Tobaccy, Chew Tobaccy Spit.”  Really?

I recognize that my annoyance with dumb lyrics is nothing new.  Stupid song lyrics have existed as long as songs have.  It just seems like there is more lately…or perhaps I’m just progressing further into my cynical midlife stage?

I used to relish in ridiculous lyrics.  My years at summer camp have imprinted hundreds of nonsensical songs upon my soul.  One of the favorites at our camp was “An Ostrich Went Yodeling.”  We LOVED this long song with silly noises and hand movements.  Each summer, the ostrich song was sung at least 3 or 4 times a day.  It was printed in our Camp Counselor Manuals and was among the first song campers learned each session.    One summer a group of us visited another camp and sat around the camp fire sharing traditions and exchanging songs.  One of our group said “Well, surely you must sing the ostrich song!?”  The campers from the other camp looked at each other and shook their head.  When we began belting out the first line, “Ohhhhh, an ostrich went yodeling on a mountain so high…” they began to laugh hysterically.  A version of this song was sung at their camp only they had one minor difference.  “Ohhhhh, an Austrian went yodeling on a mountain so high…”  Oh.  It does make more sense for an Austrian to go yodeling on a mountain top, doesn’t it.  We were dishearten, embarrassed, and somewhat stumped at how a simple word goof could have been passed down our camp’s history.  We returned to our beloved campers with our new knowledge and led them in singing “Ohhhh, an OSTRICH went yodeling on a mountain so high…”

Perhaps the ridiculous gives us reason to smile, reason to argue, and reason to engage.  For the record…my boys LOVE singing the ostrich song.

Perfectly Content Until the Next Big Thing

I loved my kids from the moment I knew they were a consideration.  Holding each baby for the first time was indescribable.  I remember losing periods of time while studying each contour of their little faces and watching each movement and gesture.  I smelled them constantly, soaking in the sweet scent of a newborn.  I anticipated noises before they even escaped their perfect little lips.

As precious as those first days were, I can say that each stage has been better than the last.  I currently believe that the current stage is my absolute favorite, until the next.

At age 8 1/2, Logan has developed into a great kid.  We no longer have the daily power strphoto-17uggles or tantrums of his earlier days.  He continues to be curious about the world around him but is now old enough to ask questions and seek out information on his own.  He is a loyal friend and a loving son/nephew/grandson/great grandson.  Logan dotes on his younger brother like I never dreamed.  He is ambitious and competitive.  While he sometime
s has difficulty managing his anxiety and perfectionism, he is learning balance.  He has a great sense of humor and keeps us laughing with his witty comebacks.  Sure, we have our headache moments, but I love that kid with all of my heart!

Jack is his own creature.  He is affectionate, observant, and independent. I loved this stage with Logan, and am loving it with Jack.  Each day brings new discoveries and new words.  He walked into my room this morning and said “Jack eat cupcake now, Mama!”  He calls our dogs Momo (Mojo) and B-Mo (Banjo).  I love how he says “Hi, B-Mo!”  Even cuter was the week he called them “Momo” photo-16and “More Momo.”  He isn’t quite ready to potty train but is becoming more aware of his body.  He randomly grabs his crotch and hollers “Jack pee-pee!  Hooray!”  He loves to pick his nose (not my favorite) but makes it adorable when he says “Jack pick’n de nose!”

The boys are thick as thieves.  Trey and I have begun calling them “Monkey see” and “Monkey do.”  Wherever Logan goes, Jack is sure to follow!

I keep reminding myself to imprint these moments upon my mind.  I never want to forget the boys lying in the hammock together.  I never want them to stop saying “What up, Jack” “Up, brudder?”  I never want to forget Logan snuggling against me at church or Jack saying “Silly Daddy!”  I want always picture Trey and Logan chasing each other through the house playing “Gotcha!”  I want to have a sore stomach from laughing at the dinner table with my family.  Part of me wants to pause time so I can marinate in this stage forever…but then I remember how I thought the same thing a year ago.  Perhaps this is the internal struggle if any mom in love.  What a lovely space to be in; conflicted on what is sweeter, the past, the present, or the future.   When I have clients struggling with depression, I often reference the book “14,000 Things To Be Happy About” which lists exactly what the title says.  Sometimes we need reminders of where there are stars in the dark and rainbows in the rain.  (A client recently gave me this quote and I’m in love with the words!). We’ve had a difficult stretch with multiple family deaths, family illness, and changes in employment.  I’ve struggled, at times, with my “what if’s” and “woe is me’s.”  Lately, life seems to be more sunny.  The fog has lifted.  When and if it rolls back in, I will return to my memories of this stage and will be able to find my way again.  They may pretend to have other super powers but my boys have the power to give me purpose and pleasure.  For this I am eternally grateful.

Head of the Class

Today is my first class for a postgrad summer course. Since it disrupts my typical work schedule, I prepared my Thurs clients for the change and also gathered their advice for returning to “school.”  

  • Mrs Lauren, you should’ve worn a different outfit.  Something more…fly.
  • If you have to go potty, raise your hand and ask to go but don’t tell them if it’s poop because they will laugh at you.
  • You should flirt with the teacher. (Um, doubtful)
  • You should flirt with the others in the class! (Um, also doubtful!)
  • If you feel wiggly, just wiggle your toes.  You aren’t supposed to get out of your seat.
  • Make a new friend.
  • Be nice and don’t hit.
  • If someone is mean to you or you are sad because you don’t know the answer, please use your coping skills. (Hooray!  Someone has been listening!)

And the best advice came from my son…”Mama, do your best.  Be smart like me and run really fast at recess.  Oh, and don’t be embarrassing.”