For Addye: Musical Marriage Advice

This weekend my friend A’Driane is getting married. When I heard the news, I was instantly happy for her even though I’ve never met her beloved, Bert. Okay, I’ve never met her in person either. But I know her. I adore her. I admire her. I respect her. A’Driane and Bert work at their relationship. They are meaningful in their actions toward each other. They take care of each other. I predict a lifetime of love and laughter. Even though I know these two crazy kids already know a lot about love and how to stay knee-deep in it, I still want to offer some wisdom on the topic. And in my experience, the best love advice comes from country music, specifically 80’s country.

Islands In The Stream-Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

If you go by Pandora’s rotation, 80’s country begins and ends with this song. And who can argue?

“Baby when I met you there was peace unknown.

I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb.

I was soft inside; there was something going on.”

When you’ve found the right person, your soul is calm and you finely comb your hair? And your insides got something going on. Yep. That’s love baby.

When You Say Nothing At All-Keith Whitley

Not to get all mushy, but this song makes me think of my husband. Thank God he doesn’t read my blog, or he’d be embarrassed I told you that.

“The smile on your face let’s me know that you need me.

There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me.

A touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall.

Yeah, you say it best when you say nothing at all.”

Trust in what you know about your spouse and how they express their love. Also, never underestimate the power of The Look. No, not the sexy times one, the Dude, Seriously? one.

Forever And Ever, Amen-Randy Travis

Lots of love songs make promises, but this one seals it with an “Amen.” A promise that’s a prayer is what marriage means to me.

“Oh, baby! I’m gonna love you forever, forever and ever, Amen!

As long as old men sit n’ talk about the weather, as long as old women sit n’ talk about old men

If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful, I’ll be happy to tell you again.

I’m gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever, Amen!”

Now that’s a promise! Forever and ever. The end. The only problem is I can’t hear this song without picturing Randy’s mug shot.

Photo Courtesy GRAYSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Meet In the Middle-Diamond Rio

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: marriage requires compromise. When I’m feeling like I’m at an impasse with Michael over something, I ask myself, “Do you want to spend time with him being angry or being happy?” And then I answer myself because I have lots of voices in my head.

“I’d start walking your way.
You’d start walking mine.
We’d meet in the middle
‘Neath that old Georgia pine.
We’d gain a lot of ground
‘Cause we’d both give a little.
And their ain’t no road too long
When you meet in the middle.”

If all else fails, take a long walk and get your priorities in line. Make sure you have your cell phone so you can call for a ride home when you realize you’ve crossed state lines.

Close Enough To Perfect-Alabama

Bert, this song’s for you. I mean, it’s for you to live up to. This is how you should treat my girl.

“She kisses me each morning,
And smiles her sleepy smile
And she don’t have to say it;
I can see it in her eyes.
Don’t you worry about my woman
Or what you think she ought to be,
‘Cause she’s close enough to perfect for me.

Well sometimes she gets down and starts to cry,
But then again a lady has a right.
She’s everything I ever wanted; she’s all I’ll ever need.
She’s close enough to perfect for me.”

Did you know Alabama released an album every year in the 80’s? I have no idea what that has to do with marriage, but I’m sure you can think of some way to apply it.

So, turn up the volume and dance a little Texas two-step my friends! Here’s to marriage and to A’Driane and Bert!

A Better Mom

I’m not what people would call a calm person. In fact, I’ve been called a hummingbird on speed. I am in constant motion and full of a constant stream of thoughts, very few left unsaid. It sounds funny, and sometimes it is. I’m a hit at parties and a bringer of levity at meetings and conferences. But when I’m just living my daily life as a stay-at-home-mom, it’s exhausting and scary. And it is a problem that is stigmatized and misunderstood as evidenced by the reactions to this article on Parenting.com and the ensuing talk shows like Anderson Live and Katie where wine drinking and mood-stabilizing drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist are lumped in the same category.

I have generalized anxiety disorder, and after the twins were born, it became postpartum anxiety and depression. This meant that before treatment my mind was my worst enemy. My ability to imagine turned ordinary new-parent worries into disasters of epic proportions. It was imperative that I give the boys the exact same amount of formula. If I didn’t get them to take good naps now, they would never sleep well. Having pears on Monday meant not even looking at pears Tuesday so that they had a nice variety in their diet. To get to the living room from our master bedroom, you had to pass the mantle which had a corner that stuck out almost into the hall. Every time I passed that corner, I imagined accidentally knocking a baby’s head into it. I saw the blood gushing and heard the screams and cries. I never accidentally hit that corner, but it haunted me every time I passed it. When I went to take the boys to meet Michael, my husband, for lunch, I would pack three meals’ worth of formula in case there was a massive traffic jam, and I had to be with them in the car for hours. Seriously.

It only got worse when the boys got mobile, and I ventured outside to normal places like the park and the mall. My brain saw the germs on the play structures. I could imagine them jumping onto my sons and sending them to the hospital. Stairs were my mortal enemy. No matter how much the boys improved at navigating them, I still imagined them falling down them. My brain played out the whole scene. They fall screaming. I drop what’s in my arms and run to them. There is a lot of blood, and I tell the other twin to call Daddy on my phone. I grab band-aids and calmly apply pressure to the wound even as I know in my heart the injured child would need surgery and would never be the same. And it was all my fault for not holding their hand or telling them to slow down or being late and in a hurry. And the park? Play the stairs scene over for every piece of equipment. I tried to have play dates there and enjoy the company of friends and their kids, but I was always on alert and ready to run after a child heading for traffic or falling to his death from the slides. These things never happened, but I was sure they would.

The stairs at our Poland apartment had to be faced every day. And every day I imagined the boys tumbling down.

The stairs at our Poland apartment had to be faced every day. And every day I imagined the boys tumbling down.

I’m shaking, and my heart is racing right now just writing this. I can’t stop thinking of all the examples of this behavior.

The only way I’m able to get through the day and be out among the people is with therapy and medication. And even with that I still have the thoughts. They just don’t paralyze me or send me into an anxiety-induced crabby-fest. My anxiety manifests as anger; the anger is that things are out of my control. But I have coping skills, and I have support.

In other words, my medication makes me a better mom. My medication and techniques I’ve learned in therapy. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group at ppdchat. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group and my understanding, superpartner spouse.  My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group at ppdchat and my fantastic spouse and my involved parents. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group and my understanding spouse and my caring parents and exercise. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group and my understanding spouse and my involved parents and exercise and having a hobby.

My point? Yes, I’m medicated, but no, I’m not using it as a crutch. I work hard to be a good mom. It’s an obsession that can lead me down a rocky road. So I use all the tools I can find to find that balance between striving to be what my kids need and keeping my spirit intact. It’s not easy, and anyone who tells you medication is the easy way out has never been where I am-at the top of the stairs facing another day of shutting off the horror show in my brain.

I Don’t Understand (Stream of Consciousness Sunday)

I’m once again linking up to my friend Jana’s blog. Our task? Set a timer and write for five minutes without editing or censoring. Our topic? I don’t understand…

I don’t understand how I have two little boys all of a sudden. I mean, I know how I got kids. It’s a timeless tale of doctors and stirrups and no shame. But what I mean is that I don’t understand how my babies are now big kids.

This weekend they started T-ball. My sons can now hold a bat. In fact, they own bats and regulation t-balls. We spent the whole afternoon after practice getting geared up. Thank God they didn’t have to buy cups.

These boys also have super hero sheets and a real Star Wars love. They can roam the playground with me at a greater distance. I still hover, but it’s with less anxiety and stress.

Friday night we had dinner with our group of friends and their kids. We set the kids at one table, and we grown-ups took the other. We are finally getting to the point where the kids can play, and we can actually have a conversation or play cards with few interruptions.

But still, I don’t really understand how this happened. It boggles the mind.

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Honey, I’m Home

I was mesmerized by the massive gray clouds, and I realized I could see miles of them. It wasn’t just over our city like in Poland; it stretched well into the next county. And I thought it was beautiful. Seeing for miles and miles was a treat. I could see where I had been and where I was going; I felt like I had my compass reset.

Our adventure in Poland is over, and we are home in Texas. I’ve been giddy about it since we landed, and I kissed the ground at DFW.

And lo, the glory of Texas shone all around her booted toes.

And lo, the glory of Texas shone all around her booted feet.

Our first dinner in America? Sonic corn dogs and cheeseburgers. Or, as I like to call them, ‘Merica Meats. We’ve had my mother’s homemade tacos and chili con queso. We’ve had bagels and Lucky Charms. I’ve even already had my parents over for dinner in our new apartment. It’s a culinary wonder, and we are eating it all. I still need a nice steak, but I think I’ve hit most of my food cravings including 12 pounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

I’ve been running. The boys have played in numerous parks without jackets or gloves or frostbite. We’ve seen the sun pretty much every day as is needed by my soul.

Even the dentist is fun here.

Even the dentist is fun here.

And oh how I’ve been talking. My blog title has once again been proven true. I’ve talked to friends and strangers. If you speak English and are in earshot, I will speak to you. Excuse me kind Target worker, where are the Ziploc baggies? Did you know the plastic baggies in Poland are useless and come in weird sizes and aren’t always at the grocery store and that their idea of cling wrap would make my mother weep?

Of course I’ve been talking the most with my family and friends. We’ve had our first friend group gathering, and I tried my hardest to slow my motor down. Luckily, the boys needed my help dealing with a crowd of kids and grown-ups we hadn’t hung with in a while.

Friend gatherings involve food and fun.

Friend gatherings involve food and mess.

On Friday I met my friend Christine for a drink after work. (I’d worked two days. I deserved it.) Poor, poor Christine. She didn’t know it, but she was my first outlet for real gabbing and laughing without watching my kids or my foul mouth. We talked about approximately 439 topics, with most of the words coming back to how the topic affected me. I was loud and happy. I was hoarse by the time I left. She kindly said we should do it every week, but I’m sure she went home and prayed I’d be out of words next time.

My tutoring job started last week. I’m working with seventh grade students getting them ready for their state test in reading and writing. I go two days a week, doing writing one day and reading the other. I was so happy about it I actually planned my lessons before I got to school, a new personal achievement. I even packed my lunch and had my clothes ready. And boy did those girls in my first class get the best me ever. I’ve got many friends at the school, so I’m feeling right at home.

I’m also really feeling my teacher soul jump for joy. When we lived in Poland, the owner of the boys’ school and my friend Zosia both made comments about how obvious it was that I was a teacher. They felt my personality and the way I talked to my kids (in public) suggested educator. I took that as a huge compliment. Then, at our gab fest Friday, Chris and I talked about my looking for a full-time teaching job next school year. I told her I had also considered just working retail or something so I could be free of grading and school-bureaucracy nonsense. She said, “No, you love teaching. You’re good at it.” Pump my ego up a little more with props from a fellow educator.

So, my Twitter presence has diminished, and I’m behind in my computer time-wasting, but, we’re settled in our apartment and happy as pigs in Texas mud. Soon I hope to be back to writing regularly and keeping up with the people in my computer. It may be annoying because I’m so peppy, but you’ll get used to it.

And finally, I leave you with things I’m loving about America:

garbage disposal, washer and dryer with large capacity, not having to haul my toiletries all over the house for a shower nor find my clothes in the closet in the kitchen, English-written & spoken, variety at the grocery store, Target.

Lost

Hey! I’m writing again when I said I wouldn’t because I was kind of dared to do it. And because this story has been in my head for months. It’s a fiction piece for the YeahWrite Speakeasy. Enjoy!

The magic was all in the finishing touches. It wasn’t enough to circle a word or two here and there, place a checkmark in the margin. No, to make it look legitimate, the essay had to look like it had taken a long time to grade. The pages had to be creased repeatedly at the staple. It needed food stains.

Tonight she was even more rushed with the essays. It was time to write something worth selling. Her main problem had been the old adage, “Write what you know.” How could she make a novel out of her job of glorified babysitting? Ms. Cooke needed more excitement.

She chugged her second beer and turned on the computer. She headed to the personals section of Craig’s List. She had spent the last three weeks trying to find a story idea in the desperate messages there. She wanted something exciting that she herself didn’t have. But all she found were beginnings of maybes and more writing for her to edit and correct, evidence of other terrible English teachers. She decided the only way to get a story out of it was to answer an ad.

However, she only found ads that made her sad, not inclined to answer. Tonight was her last go at it. She read the first five new posts for the day and saw the usual dejected pleas. But then she opened the sixth one.

“My wife has hidden my car somewhere, and I need it for work tomorrow.”

Her nervous energy turned to adrenaline-fueled confidence. She couldn’t reply to the ad fast enough.

“How can I help?”

She hit send and tried to think of what might happen next. But either the beer or the Twilight novels had dulled her imagination. Why was this man thinking Craig’s List was his best option? Was his wife dangerous? Couldn’t he take the bus? How would she help?

In less than five minutes, the ad’s author sent her a reply. Her hand hovered over the mouse; she suddenly wasn’t sure if she should go further. Maybe she could just use that one line to get started.

“Oh, Thank God. Can you meet me in 20 mins?”

Now she was on full alert. The man would abduct her and steal her car, though probably not to go to work. Being a teacher was fine. Eventually her students would be more interesting, and she’d have literary gold.

“Are you insane? I don’t know you. I’m not meeting you anywhere.”

She stepped away from the computer and paced her living room. What was she thinking? Craig’s List for adventure? Death and dismemberment had been in play all along.

“Gah, I’m sorry. I’m desperate. I assumed anyone who answered the ad would be ready to act. It’s 8pm, and I am running out of time to get my car and what’s inside. I’m sorry to bother you.”

He wasn’t just wanting his car; he needed what was inside. Fast. That was interesting. Crap. She was getting sucked in to his trap. But, on the other hand, what kind of criminal apologized and used words like, ‘gah’?

“Okay, surely you can see why I’d be hesitant? Can you tell me what happened? Why did your wife hide your car?”

A conversation was the way to go here. Surely the other lonely losers did that before putting themselves at the mercy of a weirdo.

“It’s a long story, and, like I said, I don’t have much time. What I need is someone who can help me decipher the clue quickly. Are you smart?”

“Well, I’m answering a Craig’s List ad from a guy who lost his car; do I seem smart?”

“Look, are you going to help me or not?”

“You have to tell me what you need in the car.”

“It’s nothing illegal. It’s nothing weird. It’s just embarrassing.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s for my job, and I don’t like telling people my profession. They criticize it.”

“Do you want your stuff?”

“Yes! Listen, my wife said the car was where Jack Shepard met Kate to beg her to return to the island. There are zero words in that sentence that help me.”

Okay, this guy was a weirdo. Who didn’t recognize the characters from Lost? Ms. Cooke could practically rewrite that scene from memory.

“I know where it is. But, I still want to know what’s inside.”

“Just tell me!!”

“No, I just want to make sure I’m helping someone who deserves it.”

“Trust me. No one deserves what’s in that car. It’s awful.”

Now she had to know. It seemed like this guy was in a worse state than she was.

“I’m not trying to be mean. I’m trying to be less nervous about what I’m doing. I feel like I’m part of a crime now.”

“It’s not a crime; I promise.”

“Then tell me.”

“Fine. I’m a seventh-grade English teacher. I left my classes’ essays in my car, and grades are due in two days. I haven’t graded a single paper because I know they will be awful. My wife is sick of my whining and procrastination, so she acted out. There. Commence to telling me how pitiful my job is. Tell me that I am nothing but a glorified babysitter. Tell me, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Yes I have a novel I’d like to get published, so I can quit. But no, I guess I’m not a good writer if it’s been rejected 13 times. I’m stuck as a teacher.”

Ms. Cooke raised her shaking hand from the mouse. She reached around to the power switch and flipped it. She gathered her graded papers and shoved them in her tote bag. Then she backed into her tiny bedroom, threw the tote on the chair next to her bed, and perched on the edge. After several still moments which didn’t even rumple the plain white sheets on her twin bed, she turned off the lamp and let the dark cover her.

Joe Elliott And I Go Back A Long Way

I hadn’t planned to write this week or next. We are moving. Moving! And my brain is not to be trusted or used for anything more difficult then figuring out how to heat up frozen pizza. But last night it became clear that I need to share an important part of me. If you can’t handle it, then I guess we can’t be friends.

You see, I love Def Leppard, and I strongly believed for the longest time I would marry Joe Elliott.

It all started with being the new kid. We had just moved to Concord, California, from Carrollton, Texas, and it was a tough one. I was headed into fourth grade, which, as we all know, is the time that lifelong friendships and cool statuses are made. I spent the entire summer with my brother Robert who was 16 at the time.

What he loved, I loved. This included his taste in music and shoes (Vans) but not the smell of Polo cologne. We rocked to bands like Krokus (with their eight-year-old-girl-friendly hit, “Eat The Rich”), Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard.

When school started in the fall, I knew it was time to spread my wings and make some friends my own age. I was ready for my place at the cool table. My surefire method of showing my savvy? Wearing my Def Leppard bandana and pin every Friday. (Look, my brother had the Union Jack shorts like Rick Allen; it was the 80s, don’t judge us.)

One Friday Todd started mocking my awesome fan attire. He said, “Oh yeah, I bet you really know all about Def Leppard.” I hadn’t quite developed my smack talk yet so my response did not hit the mark. I said, “I do! I have all their albums!” To which he replied, “Yeah? All two of them?”

Crap.

Anyway, my love of Def Leppard was rock solid and could not be lessened by Todd and his back-pocket-comb. The obsession was fueled by MTV. I can pretty much give you a frame-by-frame synopsis of the “Photograph” video, and I do a fantastic impression of Joe Elliott’s snarl from “Rock of Ages.”

I could get all deep and sentimental and lay some line on you about how Def Leppard reminds me of my closeness with my brother and the struggles faced when having to move. But also? They rock. And they had great rockstar hair. I’m sorry; they have great rock star hair.

See? Rockstar hair. And an earring. And dear Lord has he gotten puffy.

We moved again just before I entered seventh grade. My brothers did not come with us, so I was left to fend for myself in the identity-creation department. I went with wearing all black and being snarky. It felt right. Then, the summer before eighth grade, Def Leppard released a new album. (And yes, their drummer was down to one arm. Ha ha. Very mature thing to laugh at.) Again, the power of MTV brought the rock gods to me every day. I was sure I would one day be discovered by Joe and asked to be in a video.

My friends were kind and bought me the VHS Historia movie. They tried not to laugh at my notebook covered in fan pics of Joe Elliott in those famous ripped jeans.

THIS. This picture was on my notebook and graced the wall in my bedroom.

Hold on. I need a moment.

Anyway, the Hysteria album cemented my love forever. Though I would go on to see them in concert three times, I seemed to stop adding their new music in the 90s. It’s possible that my brain was just too full to add any more awesome. Or maybe those early albums are just tied to memories too big to expand upon. Those hair band albums of the 80s just make me happy. I sing into my hairbrush and dance like a video queen. I have attitude and spunk. And cleaning the toilets is much cooler.

So, that’s it. Now you know. If my hair band love with heavy emphasis on Def Leppard makes you think less of me, so be it. I don’t need your approval. I just need to rock.