The Truth Shall Set You Free????

What a complete and total load of hot, steaming, stinking donkey dung that statement is.

At least that’s how I’ve been feeling of late, so imagine my surprise when I found out the origin of that statement is the book of John in the Bible. Uhhh. Sorry J.C. I guess maybe you said it, but today, in my reality, it’s crap.

And yet, I’m a fan of truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. And objective correct answers. I don’t like sugar coating (though if salt coating were a thing, I would be oh so down). I value authenticity, loathe disingenuousness. Absolutes are my jam.

It feels oppressive, not freeing.

Mostly because I feel like an anomaly in my love of truth. It seems most folks are more content with sticking their heads in the sand; and truth be told, they seem like happier, freer (freer is a word, who knew?) people than I am. By leaps and bounds. I am jealous of them. I want to stick my head in the sand, but I just can’t seem to figure out how to do it. The answer is probably yoga. Increased flexibility, quieter mind, blah, blah, blah.

This is, of course, all in the context of parenting teenagers. I’m currently very hands on, more so than I’ve ever been as a parent. To outsiders looking in, I am senselessly paranoid. And to some extent they’re probably correct, but let’s face it: my family isn’t like all the others. We’re weird. And mental. And we have some extenuating circumstances which make it logical for me to pay closer attention than perhaps most parents need to. I wish I could explain them all to you and those most critical of my parenting, but it’s simply not my story to tell on the world wide web. If you really want to know, PM me and we’ll make a coffee date. The takeaway from this paragraph, I think, is that I’ve officially become that parent.

For those of you who haven’t had the joy of being the over-involved, over meddling lunatic parent, let me share with you some adjectives of what it’s like. Frustrating, relentless, exhausting, emotional to the max, worrisome. I know things about my kid I don’t really want to know. I know things about other people’s kids I really, really don’t want to know. And sometimes, when trying to do the right thing, I share things I shouldn’t and there’s fallout for my kids; and on those occasions I would very much like drink all night and sleep all day and throw in the towel on trying to parent. Or perhaps run away from home.

Do not be alarmed. I am not taking those courses of action. But there are instances when I feel like I suck so badly at this that my kids would be better off without me. I don’t believe that in my head, but I sometimes feel it in my heart.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million times more: parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is trigonometry/analytical geometry hard when I really never quite understood anything after basic algebra. And the past week has been calculus hard, which is a class I never even took.

But, it’s a week we made it through. Another one in the books. I like to think it’s not going to get harder, but I’m sure it will. For lack of a better course of action, I shall keep slogging through and telling as much of the truth as I’m able to. All the while incessantly repeating my mantra, compliments of Saint Julian of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

I hope you’re right, Saint Julian. I hope you’re right.

Where’s the Beef?

Remember when I posted about trying to lose weight? I’m over it. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe.

I continue to exercise regularly, and have even reached the point where I can run (jog?!) a 5K without stopping, which feels like an embarrassing thing to announce when I was once upon a time a super fit marathon runner, but take a wild guess where my give-a-shit meter is? It is, on some level, a comeback, and I’m too old to pretend with you that I’m not a little bit proud at having clawed my way back to a moderate level of fitness.

My diet, though, y’all. It’s bad. And I’m not sure I have any flucks to give.

It’s May. And it’s well documented on the interwebs that May is pretty much a hell-scape for parents of school aged kids. Growing up in Kansas, though, I at least had the assurance that the school year would come to a close somewhere around the middle of the month. Not so much in Minnesota. The school calendar in our district usually varies due to construction projects at various facilities, but we are rarely done before Memorial Day. And despite having lived here for nearly 19 years, every molecule in my body is telling me it is time to bring this shit-show to a close, regardless of the calendar telling me we’ve got two and a half weeks to go.

My eighth grader had two soccer games last week that kept her out until after 10pm. One of them required a two hour drive. We picked her up from school, hit the road, and didn’t get home until 10:45. And for those of you who speak soccer, there was no AR on one side, so the lead ref took on that role as well. And, bless his heart, he was barely up for the task of even one of these roles, let alone two. Blown calls aplenty, and he ended the game 90 seconds early. We were down 2-3. Does this scenario represent hardship? Hell no. These are admittedly problems of the privileged. Was it annoying beyond belief to drive two hours on a school night and not have adequate officiating? Hell yes.

For what it’s worth (not a damn thing), I am not typically in the practice of referee bashing. My kids are now both certified soccer refs. I understand mistakes are made and it’s part of the game. So, I can live with this dude’s mistakes; but I still get to be pissed off about the club not providing an AR. And my bitching is limited to this blog. I didn’t yell at him. I would never.

Also, for what it’s worth (again, not a damn thing), we’ve got a game on Monday night, and Waze is telling me it’s going to take an hour to get there. Did I mention we have two and a half weeks of school left?

May is also the month I celebrate having become a mother in 2002. My boy turned 17 yesterday. Some of my DNA is in him, some of his DNA is in me, and I love him with every fiber of my being. But OH MY GOD. The piss poor decision making, the entitlement, his stupid-ass peers and their mother effing clueless parents are SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME. It isn’t that I don’t empathize. It was hard to be 17 in the 90’s, and I sure as well wouldn’t want to do it today. And he’s got some exacerbating factors (stupid ass parents and the aforementioned shared DNA) which quite possibly make it harder for him than most. I feel for him, I really do. But I’m weary of the worry. Because there is always worry. And even though we’re all super duper done with the school year, the prospect of summer with him is bold font all caps DAUNTING.

And so, I’m only slightly ashamed to tell you I’m using burgers as a coping mechanism. In addition to the one above, I had a quarter pounder from McDonalds later that day (on the way home from that mother trucking soccer game). And I’m sitting at soccer practice right now and just ordered a bacon cheddar burger from the snack stand. Never had a burger here before, I’m guessing it’s pretty meh. So I’m not even requiring high quality beef to fall off the healthy eating wagon. I’m simply stuffing whatever red meat I can find into my mouth.

Where’s the Beef? IN MY BELLY.

Uncharacteristically Brief, but Characteristically Underwhelming Words on Motherhood from Yours Truly

My previous post got a lot of likes and positive feedback. And, I cannot tell a lie, I like likes and positive feedback. As I sat down today to try and write something, though, I cringed a bit when I looked back at it.

Because it was pretty damn judge-y, and may perhaps have come across as me thinking I know something. And believe you me, I know nothing, and have exactly zero room to judge; especially when it comes to parenting.

Here’s one of the few things I do know, though. (I guess I know one thing.)

Motherhood is hard.

And Motherhood during the middle and high school years feels super extra in the hard category. And I really can’t imagine how hard it’s going to feel as we navigate our final two years of high school for my son, who is about to complete his sophomore year of high school.

Yes, parenting in general is hard. I mean no disrespect to dads, but it’s mother’s day.

It’s hard not to mother from a place of fear when we live in a culture of fear. It’s hard not to get sucked into competitive mothering when living in an ultra-competitive society. It’s hard not to worry about what’s going to become of our children when they repeatedly don’t make the choices we wish they would.

And so I feel the need to apologize for calling moms out for trying to do the best for their kids. Because I do believe that moms (and dads too!) really are trying to do the best for their kids, in a society where it feels incredibly challenging to know what ‘doing the best for our kids’ even means.

So, my wish for my fellow moms on this mother’s day is a bullshit free day. A day without worrying about all we’re doing wrong. A day without judgement. A day of knowing we’re enough. No matter what the world tells us. No matter what the voices in our head tell us. No matter how many stupid decisions our teenagers make in the coming week. Even if they don’t get 4’s or 5’s on their AP tests. Even if they never took an AP course. Even if they smell bad and need haircuts. We’re enough, moms; and we’re all doing the best we can. And it’s enough.

Big, Bold-Faced words Regarding My Thoughts on College Prep

Image result for felicity huffman lori loughlin
Don’t be like Lori and Felicity. CAN WE ALL JUST CHILL OUT ABOUT COLLEGE?
photo credit

I love words, and there are many words in the English language that speak to my soul. Epiphany, solitude, grace, schism, and ambivalent to name a few. My word of the moment, though, is curmudgeon: a bad tempered person, especially an old one. Somehow in the past few years, I’ve morphed into an 85 year old malcontent who walked five miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways of course.

In actuality, I walked maybe three blocks to school. There were a few years there when I had to then get on a bus and ride five minutes across town to the early elementary school. And I had a car before the end of my freshman year. Because I was spoiled (there were some other extenuating circumstances, but whatevs).

Since there weren’t any, I cannot wax nostalgic about my hardships getting to and from school; but I can grumble about my college prep experience. Though I’m not really grumbling, because it WAS ALL OK. There is of course a caveat: anything I tell you in regards to this topic is to the best of my memory (which is suspect, since this was 25ish years ago and it’s been fairly well established that I typically can’t remember what happened to me yesterday).

When I was a junior in high school, we were encouraged to take the PSAT, so I signed up. Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). I took the test. My score, as I recall, was good. Perhaps even slightly above average. I started getting flyers for college in the mail.

Early in my senior year of high school, I signed up to take the ACT. Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). I took the test. I think I got a 28. I also think I scored really well in reading and comprehension and maybe not as well in science and reasoning. For some reason, I opted to sign up and take it again. I vaguely recall some schools I was interested in offering some financial aid for scores of 29 or above, but who the hell can really remember? Upon signing up, I received an information packet and a practice test, all hard copies of course. I took the practice test. I may even have taken it twice (I was a fastidious student). Did that last sentence sound familiar? I think I got a 29.

I went to college at a small-ish liberal arts establishment, then did a clinical year in a big university hospital. I got two bachelor of science degrees in five years. I acquired some debt (admittedly nothing like what students today are facing). I was very intentional about making sure I would be employable upon completion of my education. Somewhere in there I got married. I got a job. I had kids. I quit my job. I currently live the dream with a spouse, a house, two kids and a dog.

There were some mistakes along the way. I perhaps should’ve paid more attention to the fact that I scored higher in reading and comprehension than I did science and reasoning when choosing a career path. In the interest of scrupulousness and unmitigated honesty, I should tell you I don’t remember what the test sections were actually called and I’m too lackadaisical to look up that information on the google. At any rate, I was more adept with words than equations; and some aptitude testing would’ve likely been pragmatic. BUT, I did the best I could with the information I had. And, despite some mistakes, I AM OKAY.

Here’s what I understand: My son is a high school sophomore. The next two years are going to race by. I’m going to blink twice and *hopefully* be taking photos of my boy in his cap and gown. It’s definitely time to start thinking about what life after high school is going to look for both of my children.

Here’s what I don’t understand: The frenzy going on around me. The agonizing over what AP courses to sign up for, the collective anxiety about getting into college, the Facebook inquiries about which AP test prep books are the best, which test coach (seriously! seriously?!) to hire.

Some of this is admittedly the bed I’ve made. Our family lives in a district that touts having perhaps the best schools in the state. The adult population around me is highly educated, driven, and successful in their careers. The frenzy about me is undoubtedly largely a function of the population we’ve surrounded our family with.

BUT. Shouldn’t an advantage of living in such a place be that maybe, just maybe, we could let go of some of this anxiety? Could we perhaps not stress about having the premier AP test prep book and instead put a little faith in the educators who tirelessly work to make sure these kids are ready for the exam? I have this sneaking suspicion that these course instructors ALSO want our kids to be successful, so perhaps we should simply let them do their thing, have our kids attend the outside of class prep sessions these men and women conduct on their own time, and let the chips fall where they may.

If my attitude is giving you an anxiety attack, please quit reading. This is going to get worse.

Because I’m going to take this ‘let the chips fall where they may’ idea a little farther. It’s not just the AP instructors who have an interest in our kids testing well. OTHER TEACHERS WANT OUR KIDS TO DO WELL, TOO. So, maybe, just maybe simply going to school, doing the assigned work, and taking advantage of the available resources is the test prep. I am, indeed, suggesting that perhaps simply taking the practice test for the ACT is sufficient preparation. I am, indeed, suggesting that our children might do just fine without us worrying so damn much about a test score. I am, indeed, suggesting that OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE OK.

Our kids are all going to get into college, y’all. It may not be an Ivy League institution. It might not be our first choice school for them. They might have to transfer after a year or two. We’re going to make mistakes. Our kids are going to make some too. So, how about we cool it with the stressing ourselves out, stressing our kids out, and putting ourselves in this utterly unnecessary pressure cooker? OUR KIDS ARE GOING TO BE OK. We’re going to be OK too. It’s ALL GOING TO BE OK. And all this travail is turning me into a curmudgeon.

In my day, there was no test coach. We signed up, took the practice tests, and went to college. And it was all just fine, DAMMIT.

Words Fail, But Here are 1,119 Anyway

The Civil Rights Tour. If we’re not Facebook friends (or if you’ve gifted yourself and hidden or muted me, which I’d applaud you for), it was a week long trek through the deep south visiting monuments (churches, museums, cemeteries, and institutions such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative) and listening to and talking with foot soldiers. I’ve spent the two and a half weeks since I returned ruminating, reading, honing my Civil Rights playlist, listening to podcasts, and trying to re-enter reality. And, to be honest, contemplating what ‘reality’ even means after such an experience.

I’ve also, of course, tried repeatedly to write about it. In another tab of my browser, I currently have another draft (1137 words!) where I tried to describe the trip; blathering on about why I didn’t care to use the term life-changing. In it, I had settled on the term visceral as the overall descriptor. For better or worse, I walked away from it without completing it. When I came back to it, I hated it. I’m vowing to myself to plow through this today and hit publish, even though I know from plenty of experience the same damn thing will happen. At some point (could be minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years) I’ll read this again and wonder why I EVER thought it would be a good idea to post it.

Yet, here we are.

I could share with you our entire itinerary and expound upon my reactions to all of it, but instead I’m going to try and give you a little window into what was going on in my gray matter (be afraid, be very afraid). There was a fair amount of turmoil involved, which should surprise no one.

I wanted to take dozens of photos at every stop,

so I wouldn’t forget anything. But I also wanted to drop kick my camera into oncoming traffic, so I could quit trying to preserve the moments and instead be fully present.

I wanted to photograph each man and woman we heard from,

because it felt so incredible to simply be in the same rooms, breathing the same air with them. But I often couldn’t bring myself to do it, because it felt irreverent to even attempt to capture their essences in a still photo. I did take photos of a couple of them, but am sitting here feeling a fair amount of regret for not have gotten a photo of Carolyn McKinstry, because I feel like the hour I spent listening to her was perhaps one of the most important hours of my life. But, then again, perhaps that’s because I had put the damn camera away and was fully present.

I wanted to grab my American history high school teacher by the lapels, shake him, and interrogate him

as to why there was so much of what I was learning that I didn’t already know. Seventeen year old Anne could clearly see the guy was useless and my week hammered that idea home. And yet, I felt some sympathy for him. Because he didn’t write the curriculum. And, if we’re being real, I questioned whether or not I’d have wanted to hear any of this coming from him; because there is no way he could’ve done the topic justice. And even if he’d been the best history teacher on earth, it’s entirely possible the significance would’ve been lost on a large percentage of the student body. Even me, though I fancied myself to be fairly woke at the time (long before woke carried the connotation it does today).

I was fairly obsessed with booking the same trip for my children

before I even got home, as soon as possible; primarily because so many of the foot soldiers are getting on in age. I fretted about the possibility that some of these greats could well be lost before my kids get to hear from them. But I also want to make sure my kids are ready, that they are in a place where they can appreciate the gravity of the era– what was at stake, the extraordinary people involved, the risks taken, the consequences suffered. And, there is admittedly some part of me worried about whether or not my kids could handle it. Though, ultimately, I know the outcome of insulating them from our past is decidedly not an outcome I want. Which is sadly where I differ from a very vocal minority of fellow parents within my school district. That, as I often say, is a post for another day.

Now that I’ve pounded out some words, we come to the point in my process where I question, question, question. Is my inadequacy in talking about this important, phenomenal trip doing it a disservice? Should I deep six the whole thing? Will my words be misunderstood? Should I just keep my mouth shut and continue ruminating internally?

The answer to all of those is undoubtedly a maybe. And yet, not writing about it doesn’t feel like an option.

Not the order I’d have liked for these photos, but I can’t figure out how to fix it.

Super Whey Extra

Inspired by the many posts I’ve seen encouraging reducing plastic usage during Lent, and armed with a new instant pot; I’ve decided to try my hand at yogurt making. I gotta say, the process was way easier than anticipated, and the yogurt is actually good (and, as an added and somewhat unexpected bonus: it looks, tastes, and smells like yogurt). This is groovy because it saves money AND the two plastic containers I typically put in the recycling bin each week. BUT, there’s always a but. I like thick (Greek style, I suppose you could say) yogurt and the straining yields a lot of whey. The photo below is after straining just half of my first batch.

The interwebs have all sorts of suggestions for using this byproduct. Soak your grains! Use it in pizza crust! Fix your soil’s pH! Cook your pasta in it! Use it to feed your livestock! I’ve used exclamation points because enthusiasts always seem very excited about the many uses for whey!!!!

Problem is, I don’t make pizza crust, or measure the pH of my soil, or soak grains, or own livestock; and throwing it in when I’m boiling pasta weirds me out a bit.

There are uses that seem more feasible to me: putting it in smoothies, substituting for buttermilk, using as the acid when making a vinaigrette, or mixing into pet food.

While I’m sure my pup would love a little extra zing in her kibble, these options still strike me as odd, and perhaps a little too hippy dippy for a conventional gal like myself.

So, I’m asking you wise people. Do you ever have extra whey, sitting around, looking a li’l like a urine sample in your fridge (you can take the girl outta the lab…)? Have you found a great use for it? Have you tried any of the suggested uses that you’d highly recommend? I’d seriously love to hear from you.

In the interest of posting a photo that doesn’t resemble urine, I give you yogurt, made by yours truly. Oddly cropped, because the sides of the jar are messy and I don’t give AF. #NotAFoodPhotographer

Oh, Ash Wednesday

Oh, Ash Wednesday. Like so many occasions this year, I underestimated how hard you’d be this time around. I’m certain it’s a function of ignorance, or denial, or both.

Was there any chance that hearing ‘you are dust and to dust you shall return’ in the presence of the ashes of she who imposed them upon my forehead last year would be anything less than gut wrenching?

No, of course not.

And yet, I sit here again, shocked at the depth of feeling. Surprised by how much it hurts to remember the year she stood before us, with tears streaming down her own face as she imposed ashes on all of us; because she’d just lost her father. Bewildered that, even though it does bring a smile to my face, I can’t help but tear up remembering her tell the story of one of her pastoral colleagues, who burned something she shouldn’t have when making ashes for the service (hardwood, of some sort, I think?). When mixed with water, those ashes formed lye and burned the image of the cross on parishioners’ foreheads. I can’t remember why she shared that story, or who she was sharing it with (confirmation kids, I think). Oh, how I wish I could remember every last detail. Of everything she ever said to us.

I recall being told ashes for imposition are made by burning the branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. I have no idea if that’s what happens at my church or not, but for today I’m choosing to believe it is. That the ashes currently upon my head came from palms she waved. Whether or not it’s true, I like the thought.

I’m not giving up anything for Lent, and I’m not undertaking any new disciplines for the next 40 days, but I am aspiring to be more present and in the moment when walking through my daily life, and to do so with gratitude. Such things are not inherently in my nature, so I’ll be channelling my inner-Stephanie, who was the most present person I’ve ever known. What a gift we were given.

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