Monday, December 28, 2015

I'm The Least Likely Meditater...

I never thought I would be someone who meditated.

I will admit that prior to discovering meditation, I had no real idea what it was and looked a little strangely at people who said they practiced it. It seemed a silly practice to me. A waste of good TV time. Why are you just sitting there? How on earth is that helping you do anything? I don’t get it. If you are tired, just take a nap. That seems hard. That seems pointless.

Oh how WRONG I was!

A few years ago, my path to faith led me to Buddhism. I was so enthralled, intrigued, and fascinated by everything I was reading and discovering about my new path that I devoured every article and publication that I came across. Obviously this meant I was going to need to figure out what this meditation thing was all about, and I was intimidated. Everything I was reading painted a very different picture of this practice than I had ever known about it previously. It was no longer some strange reason to sit quietly, but a new way to finding my own mind. How was this possible?

I began slow. I would find ten minutes here and ten minutes there to sit quietly and clear my mind. On my lunch breaks in my car. Before I sat down to watch tv when I got home from work. After dinner. It wasn’t easy. I was learning on my own from scratch. Add to that my very busy mind. I like to compare it to a constantly running TV with a brick on the remote control’s channel button. It’s just scrolling over and over again through all the channels. All day, all night. I did what I read and sat still, closed my eyes, and concentrated only on my breathing. The pattern of the in and out of my breath. I felt it slow down. I felt my heart beat slow down. Unbeknownst to me, my blood pressure was also slowing down.

It felt so incredibly good. My nerves would calm and that television in my head was still running, but it seemed that brick had fallen on the mute button somehow because it was much quieter now in my head. When I would close my eyes and sit still, I would feel the tension leave my neck. I would feel my usual anxiety back away. Something was welling up inside of me, starting in my chest and spreading to my brain. It seemed to be taking the path of my blood vessels. My bones. My nerves. It was peace. The feeling of peace was washing over me.

 After a couple of weeks of actively making it a part of my every day, I got hooked. To my own surprise, I also got healthier. I found that without that ever pressing tension, I felt better. I was able to move around more freely. I also found that I was sleeping better. The television in my mind had stopped scrolling through the channels. It was now back under my control. This threw me for a loop because while I was simply looking for a way to connect with myself, I was finding a way to connect with everything and it was changing me. It’s something I will never be without for the rest of my life! This is incredible!

Then I had a baby.

She is my second, but there is a ten year age gap between my two kids. My son was six years old when I started practicing meditation so finding a quiet moment was not too hard. He is a pretty independent kid, even now at 11 years old. I could sit cross legged in front of Buddha and find that solitude that I needed while he was playing by himself, at school, or at his dad’s house . I had no idea then that I would eventually remarry and have another child or how that would impact my practice.

While I was pregnant, we fell on some hard times. Health, finances, a high risk pregnancy all contributed to my excuses for my lack of meditation through that time. None of those excuses was good enough and I should have kept up that practice at a time when I probably needed it more than any! I was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety and was having a hard time finding a quiet moment so I just stopped looking for them. This was the wrong thing to do. The brick had fallen back on the remote in my mind and that television was back to its old tricks of scrolling all day and all night through all the channels. I was not sleeping well.

Then my gorgeous little girl was born! As is usually the case for new moms, the first few weeks were tough. They were wonderful and tough. The lack of sleep, physical recovery from a c-section, and caring for this new human life had my mind a tangled mess and I knew then that I needed meditation back in my life. I was also on my way back to work soon full time and I knew that would do a number on my soul being away from my little baby.

 I decided to try and find a few minutes each day to meditate. It was hard at first as the quiet moments I got were usually reserved for sleeping. I was determined though so went back to my early methods that got me started. I would look for ten minutes here and there to sit quietly and clear my mind. I would do it when baby girl was napping. I would do it after she had fallen asleep. It took me a while to get back into it, and I am still now trying to find a pattern again.

Being back at work, I am again finding those quiet moments on my lunch break or sitting at my desk when it’s slow. I am a work in progress but I can report that it is in fact working. The change in myself has been amazing, even after this short time back in the saddle. I am finding my anxiety backing away and the impact that even these small meditations have had on treating my postpartum depression has been incredible. Meditating doesn’t cure all my ills. It simply helps me better navigate them. This can do wonders for us all as new parents. (again!)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light - Coping with Postpartum Depression

I have been dealing with some form of depression and anxiety for most of my life. I am 37 years old and I honestly can barely remember a time when this was not part of me. Part of my every day. Part of who I am. Over the years I have tried a lot of methods of self help and professional help to get through the vast fields of dead flowers in my mind to try and find the sunshine and soft new blooms that I know are there. Some things work, some don't, but I had found a way to mostly manage my every day despite some slips backwards here and there.
Then I had my children and I was introduced to a whole new level of darkness called PPD. It's not more dark than what I knew of depression before. The difference is that now you are responsible for this amazing, tiny human that came from inside your body. This mass of love and being that you cannot imagine life without. You should be elated. You should be glowing with motherly wisdom and centuries of experience welling up from your soul. Instead, you feel empty. You are a hole of darkness and numbness. You can't find your balance inside anymore. It's truly terrifying.
The biggest issue I have found in dealing with postpartum depression is that no one seems to take it seriously. It is assumed by many to simply be what is known as "baby blues" and nothing more. Once you are feeling better physically, you'll get over it. When that doesn't happen, people tend to look at you like you are simply a selfish person. Someone who doesn't know lucky she is. Or you are viewed as overly dramatic. Plenty of people had babies before you. This is nothing you are unable to handle. Buck up!

Here is the truth. PPD is a jerk. It will creep in during your recovery and slowly take over your mind. I have suffered from intense bouts of anxiety. I am terrified I will hurt my baby by accident. I fear dropping her. I fear forgetting her somewhere. I fear her choking. I am so paranoid about SIDS that I will watch her breathe all night at the loss of my own sleep. I am unable to leave her alone with most people. I don't like people outside of her father and I to hold her. I absolutely hate the idea of her being in anyone else's car. I fear car accidents. I fear fires. Normal fears, but mine are intense, overwhelming, and cause me to lose sleep and concentration. It overtakes me. This is on top of already very present depression and anxiety that has me terrified that one day I will just fling myself off my balcony. Not to die. Just to make it stop for a minute. Some moments are that intense.
New Jersey where I live has a law that requires obstetricians to screen new moms for postpartum depression. Some do more than others. Mine had a one on one talk with me after I filled out a questionnaire. At the time, mine was not nearly as bad as it has gotten so me telling him I was fine despite my questionnaire results was enough. I was already on medication via my primary care physician so I guess together we figured I was ok. Things got progressively worse from there. My general practitioner advised me to seek help from a psychiatrist who could better diagnose and monitor my condition with proper medications and therapies.
Mental health care in this country at this time is just awful. I went through every name my insurance company website spit out at me, trying to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. What I found were phone numbers that rang and rang, practices where the listed doctor was no longer a part, and waiting lists to see doctors that were three and four months long. It's like every psychiatrist in New Jersey ran away. I am still trying to get in to see someone.
In the meantime, I had to find ways to help myself. Being a mom is the most important part of my life. It IS my life. My kids are my everything. I need to be there for them 100% in mind and body and that is the one thing that has helped to keep me grounded and helped me to find a few ways to keep myself in check. If you are suffering yourself or know someone that is, here are a few ideas that might help find the light switch in the darkness:

It sounds a bit hippy, but it really does work. Nothing elaborate is required. You don't need to sit cross legged. You don't need to burn incense or listen to chanting or anything of the sort. You simply need a comfortable place to sit and just ten minutes in a safe place where you can close your eyes. Find your spot, have a seat. Close your eyes and allow your mind to go completely blank. It's hard the first time you do it, especially if you are like me and have a constantly running television in your brain that doesn't shut up. The trick for me is to focus on your breathing. Think about nothing but your own breathing. Listen to the pattern. Feel the air go into your lungs and then feel the air as it comes back out. Do this over and over again and do not allow your mind to wander to anything else. Just the simple breathing. In and out. Before you know it, ten minutes will have passed and you will have had a clear mind. Believe it or not, your blood pressure just went down!
I never thought I would be someone who meditates. I don't do it around other people. If I didn't tell people I did it, no one would know. I do it before I go to sleep to help ease my insomnia and anxiety. I do it on my lunch break, sitting in my car to help combat anxiety and depression. So give it a try. While your baby is napping, put him or her in a safe spot and sit right down next to them. Use the sounds of your own breathing (or theirs, if you find it as comforting as I do) to focus and clear your mind. Do it once a day if you can. Even once a week will make a difference.

Do you write? Do you paint? Do you color in your kids coloring books? Do something creative. Anything. Doodle on post-it notes. Decorate cupcakes. Look up how to carve lemons into birds like they did in the 70's at dinner parties. Anything that gives you focus. So much of what we are dealing with is centered in our mind causing our mind to spray about like a fire hose on full blast with no one holding on. Getting our minds to center is like the incredible hulk coming along and taking hold of that hose and pointing it where it needs to be to put out the fire. This is why there is a new fad of adult coloring books happening. So many adults nowadays deal with anxiety and the simple act of coloring actually helps to lessen anxiety and add focus. You can sit there and hum or talk to yourself, whatever you need to do. Get yourself some way to focus on your hands instead of inside your head.
I write. I sing. I bake. Anything that will put my brain somewhere specific is helpful.

This is a tough one. PPD is not something taken seriously by a lot of people so we tend to find ourselves looking at an empty room a lot. We pull away from the people we know, meanwhile the people that we know have pulled away from us usually just because they have no idea what the hell to do with us. We don't know how to talk about it. They don't know what's going on and for a lot of people its just easier to walk away. There is usually a much easier friend to have somewhere that is not you. I have watched this happen my whole life. I blame myself because if I knew how to be more open with what I am dealing with, maybe people would not assume I was being aloof. Or a bitch. If you have someone to be with, take a day or night every week or so and get out of the house. Get out of your usual space. If you don't have anyone, take your baby and go to the mall. I did this with my son after my first pregnancy (and first bout of PPD) and while you would think it would be lonely, it helped me a lot.
I loved watching my baby look at the world. I enjoyed the exercise. I would get myself a treat...a milkshake or slice of pizza or even a gumball, and that would be a part of my trip. I looked forward to those walks around the mall with my baby. It was human interaction but I didn't need to feel awkward because I didn't have anything to say or was not able to form sentences properly because of a bad anxiety day. I didn't have to talk to anyone. I simply strolled along for as long as I needed to.

This is SUCH a tough one. Depression makes us tired. It makes us hole up like a hermit. Some days just getting out of bed is a challenge for us. Now we are supposed to go exert ourselves? Get the hell out of here, lady. This is my actual conversation with myself on a regular basis. I am not going to pretend that I am some sort of fitness guru. Richard Simmons would never be my friend.

I make fun of fad diets, I joke about my own jiggles, I only run when chased. However, I cannot deny that something happens to the brain when I do actually get off my tush and do something. The normally out of whack chemicals in my brain get a jolt of something and they even out a little bit. Maybe it's the oxygen that is flowing more concentrated through my blood. Maybe my heart is happy to not be clogged with Doritos dust and is instead full of rushing platelets and happy chemicals. I don't know, but it actually works.
I am the biggest cynic. I am the laziest of the lazies. But I cannot deny that getting up and moving around helps depression and anxiety. If I can't find motivation to actually do proper exercises, which is very often, the best thing I have found is dancing. Not structured real dancing, just dancing. Putting on songs you love of an upbeat tempo and moving your body around. You don't need to be by yourself. I have done this with both of my babies. They will benefit from the interaction with you and you will benefit from the movement. Just take off your shoes, find yourself a clear piece of carpet, turn up the music and move around. Sing along, make faces at your baby, just wiggle yourself around a bit and you will get your blood moving. It really, really works. Don't tell anyone I said that.

Postpartum depression is a real jerk, but you are not alone. There are a lot of us out here weathering the storm with you. You CAN get through this. Even if you, like me, are having a hard time getting the professional help you need, try a few of these ideas to help you regain your center. These are relatively simple and inexpensive ways to calm yourself and reel in a wandering, anxious mind. After a good mediation, look into the eyes of your baby. You'll see why you are here. Why you are on this big, blue planet. I hope you find peace. We are all in this together.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Positivity IS Possible

Some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.

Ever hear this phrase? It rings very true for a few reasons. Basically it's saying that some days you are the one on top. You are the one taking the dump. You fly along, doing your thing. Everything is cool. Gotta go? No worries! Let it go!


Right onto the statue. The unwavering statue. Can't move from where it sits and just has to take what happens with a straight face. The rain will come eventually and wash it away, but there will always be another bird coming.

I have always found this to be very relatable to life. It doesn't matter how much you think you have it all together. Something will come along to derail that concept eventually. For some of us in the trenches, it's a constant shift between bird and statue. Work, family, finances, life. The struggle to balance it all and keep your focus. Factor in a lifelong  battle with depression and anxiety, and the balance is more complicated to maintain. Your scale seems perpetually weighted too heavy on one side, so you are always trying to compensate for that on the other side. It's exhausting.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 16, though I felt it's creeping darkness long before that. Over the years, I have tried everything to keep that darkness at bay, or at least under some sort of control. Younger days were spent trying to pretend it wasn't there. I numbed it with alcohol. I covered it up with the attention from other people that I craved and did whatever I had to in order to get. I fought the loneliness with promiscuity. I made a lot of broken promises. My heart took the brunt of it.

Later as I moved into my thirties, I was a divorced single mom and the old methods were no longer applicable to my life. I tried various medications. Some worked, some didn't. I finally found one that did the job better than the rest and I stuck with it. I stumbled into mediation and yoga and those helped. I found Buddhism and threw myself into my studies, trying desperately to understand the world around me. About this time, I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder that affects the nerves. I was on medication though, so I was coping with it. The darkness was more of a gray than a black these days, and sometimes was even a blue or a purple. I fell back in love and got engaged. We became pregnant.

We lost the pregnancy.

My world stopped spinning for a little while. I seemed to forget all those coping mechanisms that I had used over the years and just shut down. It was a working shut down though, and I continued to function. I went to work. I planned a whole wedding. I attended several. I lost a job, got a new job, Things just kind of happened around me and I took part, but I didn't seem to feel any of it. It was like trying to talk with novacane. You can make the sounds, you can communicate, but you can't really feel it happening. You know it is because you can hear your own voice. You know you are making it happen. But that sensation of motion you would normally feel is just not there. This was me going about life.

This is how depression will happen. It will always be there, and eventually we can get a handle on it. We can find life again through those clouds and finally see the sun again. Something will happen though that will knock it all off track, plunging us back into darkness and we have to scramble to find that footing again. This is not easy. This is hard as hell.

But you CAN do it. Even through the darkness, positivity is possible.

My husband and I became pregnant again last year. The fear that filled me was incredible. I was afraid everything I did would make me lose the pregnancy again. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of the world. My depression and anxiety were incredible despite my medication. My doctor kept me on the meds throughout my pregnancy and this year I gave birth to a healthy little girl. Would I be ok with this? Would I be able to feel the love through all the darkness?

It's not easy for me. My ordinary depression and anxiety has been compounded by PPD - postpartum depression. Every single day I have to wake up with the determination to make the day a success. Depression is not a choice for me. It's a disease. I have to fight it like one. Part of that is being positive. Some days I win. I wake up and tell myself I will make this day a success, and it is. Some days I lose. I wake up and tell myself I will make this day a success, and I lose terribly to the darkness. It overtakes me. But I know I tried. I did my best. I will always do my best for my kids. I know they need a mom who is here - who is present. Who can get things done and keep the smile on her face. I won't be anything less for my kids.

So methods. How can we do it?

I have found that being kind to others is a huge motivator. Kindness is infectious like good laughter. Once you see it and you feel it around you, it's hard to resist. When everyone is being kind to one another, do you want to be the lonely jerk? No. Of course you don't. All that aside, it just feels so GOOD to be kind. Something as simple as a smile for the person you pass in the supermarket. Hold the door for the person coming in behind you. Smile and be polite and cheerful for the cashier, no matter their demeanor towards you. It becomes habit and it feels very good.

Being neat also helps me. If I keep a clean environment around me, it helps keep the environment in my head a bit cleaner as well. Simple acts like making sure the dishes are done every night makes a big impact on me. Waking up to a dirty, disorderly kitchen ruins my mental space for the day. Waking up to a clean, orderly kitchen in the morning is a breath of fresh air to start my day. I am also a big fan of occasionally moving my furniture. The change in the room seems to shift the energy in my home and things feel new and improved, even if all they are is in a different place.

Keeping lists is another big one. It seems like a small thing, but if I have a list of things I need to get, things I need to do, people I need to pay, etc, it feels like things are orderly. It feels like things are organized. It's a small thing but has a big impact.

Most than anything, it's telling myself that I am doing ok. Sitting in meditation for a few minutes to clear my head and then letting myself know I am ok. I am doing well. I can get through the task at hand. I can make it happen. Things are ok.

Some days I will still be the statue. But I am having more days where I am the bird than I used to. Here is hoping you have your feathers as well.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Unconventional, Unexpected Support System

People are always going to walk in and out of your life.

This is the truth of life. Sometimes for a while you have a full floor show cabaret dancing around you all the time. Drinks, celebrations, streamers, confetti just spewing everywhere. You always have someone in your corner. Someone is in every corner! Then sometimes you are sitting alone in the corner, nursing a drink, all by yourself. That is just how life works. Sometimes it's our fault. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's just the way the planet spins. Sometimes when you live with depression and anxiety, it happens no matter what and you don't realize it.

Your schedule will not always jive with the folks in your life. Your lives will change. Your focus will shift. That floor show will dwindle in your more complicated, confusing times, mostly because we just don't know how to talk about shit. In my case, my head and it's inner workings sent me into the corner to nurse my drink and think about things, and I sat there and got drunk for a while. I sat down there one day and didn't get up again until I got pregnant. Through my wedding. Through job changes. That is how depression works. One day, you just shut the door. Often, you don't realize you did it. Sometimes people notice, often they don't. It's usually just assumed you are being aloof or dramatic or difficult or just a plain old bitch. Often, people tell you "You've changed". If only they knew you didn't. If only you knew how to tell them. If only they knew how hard it is that you don't know how.

Like Howard Jones says, no one is to blame. Truthfully, this really is life. And it will probably happen again. That doesn't make it any easier once you realized it's happened. I have been living with this disease most of my life. I don't remember life before it came. I only know life since it came in it's many forms, both medicated and not medicated. It's hard to make people understand what it's like. I'm not sad. I have a disease.

Then you become a parent. Sometimes that is what causes things to change. Sometimes that is what tells you that you need someone to talk to. For me, it is what showed me how much I needed something. I was introduced after both of my kids' births to an asshole named PPD and things got progressively worse. After my son was born, I had it, I was medicated, and I ignored it and hoped it would go away. It never did, but I convinced myself it did.

Life continued, and almost 11 years later, I had my daughter. Here comes asshole PPD again, only this time it brought friends. I have been battling it since. I have been in a mental holding pattern it seems since my daughter's birth. It's now been four months. Unfortunately, thanks to the horrific state of mental health care in this country, it's not the easiest thing to get treatment either. I have chronicled this a bit in a previous blog. At present, I am still waiting to see a doctor. This would all be extremely difficult if not for an unexpected and unconventional support system.

My first pregnancy with my now 11 year old son was complicated. I gained a lot of weight, I had a long labor, and a difficult birth and recovery. This time around, pregnancy was scary...but after what I went through the first round, I figured I was prepared. I was wrong. I was deemed high risk. I had lots of tests. I had lots of worries. I had a more than a few scares. Two head over heels down two flights of stairs. I had a c-section after having had a vaginal birth the first time. I had a ton of questions. A ton of worries. Sometimes I wondered how crazy I was driving my husband.

I was fortunate. I stumbled upon a website that introduced me to a mom's group. The folks that would help me keep my head above the water. My unconventional, unexpected support system.

I had one during my first pregnancy and when things got complicated in my life way back when, I fell away from it. When I became pregnant again so many years later, I went looking for it again and was unable to find it. I did find another forum though and began going there with my fears, my questions, the stuff I had a hard time talking to other people about. It was support I needed. People dealing with the same things I was. At the same stage of life. What a relief! Then I lost the pregnancy.

I had to step away from the group for a while to mourn the loss. It was after this that I felt myself start to slip into a funk. We had not planned to become pregnant when we did, but when it happens and you realize that it was something you wanted all along. Then all of a sudden, it's gone. A life within your body. A light that was just suddenly turned off. It's not something I think you ever really get over. I pulled back a lot then. It is really what started the snowball rolling down the hill. There is no book on how to deal with something like this. No manual. Some websites and literature, but grieving someone I never met was not something I was at all prepared to do. I never will be. From that moment on, I was walking numbly through my life. My already present brain issues now shrouded in something I could not shake off. Again though, I just told myself I was ok.

I didn't know how much I wasn't. But, a year later, we found ourselves pregnant again. Terrified but joyful, I went back to the forum where I had found wisdom and support and this time my pregnancy stuck. Over the next few months, a group of mom's expecting at the same time as me migrated to a Facebook group to keep better connected. I will never be able to explain how important this was, and is, in my life.

Together, we got to know one another's families. One another's hopes. One another's dreams. One another's fears. All the while, there was a supportive hand on my back. In the rest of my life, I was battling myself every day. Walking through a cloud I couldn't manage to explain to anyone, no matter how hard I tried. But I always had that hand on my back. I didn't have to explain why I was not present. I didn't have to explain why I didn't call. I didn't have to do anything but be, and that was what I really needed then. We experienced tragedies and losses together. We experienced scary events in our pregnancies. Falls, accidents, early labors, early deliveries. NICU's. Confusions. Family troubles. And then we experienced joy. Births.

Amazing, wonderful, terrifying, incredible births. Including my own.

So many emotions flooding through me. I had other women struggling with PPD to talk to. I had women who had not dealt with it themselves, but were still eager to understand and offer whatever they had to give. As I was falling apart, I was being held together. There was a story in the news recently about a mom who had passed away not long after the birth of her child. Her husband was not really aware of the mom group she belonged to...until donated breast milk began to arrive. (you can read about it HERE) In our group, we shared the story and said, "This would be us..."

And it would be.

My husband didn't really understand my mom group, but he laughed with me at pictures of adorable babies, cried with me at tragedies within the group, and really understood it when one day, after things had been hard for us recently, a box of penis shaped gummy candies showed up in our mail. Followed not to long after by two huge containers of Nutella and an anonymous gift. Things we had discussed. Things we had joked about. Things that were just intended to bring a smile. Then he got it. He was my main support beam, but he knows one beam can't hold up the whole house when it's as rickety as this one tends to be. These were not just women chatting on the internet. These were women across the world who really, truly cared about one another. I will never forget these women. I pray they are always in my life.

I am still dealing with my demons. I fight them every day. It would be a lot harder though without the army behind me. My husband, my family, and my moms group. The army I didn't know I needed until I needed. If you are struggling, I pray you can find an army. An army of one, an army of many. Just that hand on your back so you know, even when things are difficult and you don't know how to proceed, someone is there to guide you through the dark.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How To Talk To Your Kids About Shitty People

The other day, I was chatting with my mom and my almost 11 year old son about current events. The light version because my son is a gentle soul who doesn't really need to hear what I really think of some people. I think this is important because as my son gets older, he becomes more aware of the world. He watches TV. He can read headlines. He has access to the Internet. He is extremely intelligent (top two in his class) and very perceptive. We talked about how people trash talk during elections because they think if they make other people not like the other candidate, they will all like that candidate more. My son more or less confirmed that this is like school in the 5th grade.

My son also told me he doesn't understand that people right now don't like Muslims because one of his best friends is a Muslim and he thinks he's a great guy. So how do I break this down as not to highlight how harsh and ignorant adults can be? (not that he doesn't need to learn that...he does, and he will) I tried to explain that there are bad people in the world and good people in the world. Sometimes when bad people do bad things, they need to make up an excuse for why they did it. Kind of like getting caught taking candy without asking and making up a lie so that it doesn't seem like you were just out for candy, but really might die without it because candy is your only medicine to prevent lack of candy sickness.

Sometimes they use their religion because it's an easy excuse with a lot of power behind it. The Muslim faith doesn't teach hate any more than the Christian faith. That doesn't mean Christians don't sometimes do terrible things and blame it on the bible. They do this every single day. In other parts of the world, Muslims have done the same. These people are not real followers of their faith. They just need an excuse. Usually these people are so lost and afraid in their own life in their part of the world that they desperately need something to belong to, and often that something is bad. Often, that is all there is. It's like growing up in a bad neighborhood and getting involved with crime. Sometimes its the strong people that resist that. The problem here is that this excuse of theirs makes everyone who follows that religion or comes from that region of the world, no matter how many generations back, look bad to people who don't know to look beyond such things. And there are a lot of those people in the world.

Enter scared people. People who have seen bad things perpetrated on TV. Their fear makes them need something to blame it on. Fear is powerful, and fear easily becomes hate if not suppressed or cured. Just like the bad people need an excuse, the people watching need one too. So they say "Well, they did that bad thing because they were BLAHBLAHBLAH (anything different from them) and that means all BLAHBLAHBLAH (anyone different from them) will do the same thing here. When you really break it down and look at it, it's pretty stupid. Do you know who will be the first to point that out to us? Our kids.

Kids are great. When raised to judge people as individuals, they don't know hate. Well, not for people. They hate things like broccoli, early bedtimes, cleaning their rooms, and in my son's case, Justin Beiber. If you put ten toddlers in a room from all different parts of the world, they won't hate one another. They might notice that they look different. More often than not, they think that's neat. People are like art. They come in so many varieties! Kids notice that stuff right away, and they are not shy about pointing it out! But to them, it's like pointing out the colors of leaves. It's just an observation and not at all important. Those kids will play together all day. They will eat together. They will nap together. They will hug one another. Dammit, why can't we be more like our kids? Why are we such slaves to fear?

I have walked many religious paths in my life. I finally found God in my 30's. As a Buddhist. I was finally able to say that I knew God was there and not because anyone told me, but because I felt God. Maybe it was meditations. Maybe it was study. Maybe it was walking a bumpy road. Maybe it was just that I finally broke down that wall that I was never able to break down before. I went to a lot of churches. I read a lot of books. I talked to a lot of people. Faith fascinates me. It always has. People fascinate me. But lately, people also scare me. Not for their religions. Not for their race. They scare me because of their HATE. Their rabid hate. They are so wrapped up in their hate, driven by their fear and hopelessness, that they have blurred the lines. They have sent this wonderful country back decades to where people of certain nationalities and religions live in fear of the hate of their neighbors. That's not ok, and that is not the world I want for my children.

I have tried to raise my son to be kind. I plan to raise my daughter the same way. Kindness cures a lot of ills in this world and if everyone was kind to one person every day, maybe the world would be a little less scary. I was delighted to hear my son speak so powerfully and so full of strength when he spoke of his confusion about people's hate for Muslims. Do you know what? My son knows more Muslims than most of the people who spit their hate at them, and he needs to remember that. His feelings come from knowing. He doesn't take people at face value. He looks deeper. He is the kid who tells me sometimes that he has friends at school that the other kids don't understand. Tears are welling up as I write this because I have so much pride in how strong and beautiful his heart is.

I won't be able to protect him all the time. That has always been one of my biggest hurdles in motherhood. I can't always be there to help him make the right decision. I can't always be there to make sure that people are not being mean to him. I have to trust that if I give him the right tools, that he will make the right decisions and take the best course of action. While I thought I was going to need to do more to explain why some people are so filled with anger and hate, he already understood. More importantly, he is not one of those people. I admire his heart and his soul so much.

My son may never join a faith or find a connection to God. He might never decide to vote the same way I do. He might not like the same cars I do or the same music I do (although so far we are doing well in that category).

But my son understands diversity. He understands kindness. He accepts people for who they are, not what they are. If he keeps that going, what more can I ask?

Parenthood in Five Lessons

Parenthood is the hardest job there ever was, and for which there is no manual. Buy all the baby books you want. Google to your heart's content. Pick up every pamphlet, leaflet, flyer, and paper scrap you find on what to do and how to be a mom...and you will be just as lost as you were the day you found out you were expecting. Everyone will have mountains of advice for you. Things they swore worked for them. Some will insist you do things their way. It's overwhelming. Now, I say parenthood rather than just motherhood because while I know there are things that the dads and spouses and significant others wont know about (childbirth), the rest of this is pretty universal to either parent.

I have two kids. My son is almost 11 years old. My daughter is almost four months old. It's a huge gap and I learned a variety of valuable things in the process. I was able to spend a lot of time with my son as an only child before I brought my daughter to the world. I would be a lying sack of monkey poo if I said that was my intention from the get go, but I think in many ways it has its benefits. I learned by trial and error with my son and waited long enough to have another child that I forgot everything I learned the first time around. Smart, right? But seriously, there are things that stick. And I am laying them out here for you.

Lesson 1.
And I cannot stress this enough. You can buy all the all-natural, dye free, gluten-free, vegan, homeopathic, no GMO shit you want. I did. Your kid will still eat dirt and lick the dog.

Lesson 2.
For the moms. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT expect to be that fit, fabulous mom right away. Your body will have been through the war. You just grew a human being, for goodness sake. YOU GREW A HUMAN! A person just came out of your body! Natural childbirth? Welcome to your new vagina. C-section? How do you like the new belly shelf?
Listen, the fact is, you are a human being. Not a walking Pinterest board. Go easy on yourself. priority number one is your baby. Keep baby healthy and happy. Bond. Love. Smile. Feel. You will never get this time back and if you spend it worrying about how you look and not watching your baby grow, you will hate yourself later. Believe me. Ignore those stupid "What's Your Excuse" posts. I found this online. I think this says everything...

Lesson 3.
Also for the moms. For God's sake, woman. REST. Baby is sleeping? REST. Someone came over to snuggle the baby? REST. Dad has the baby right now? REST. Nothing is better for your body in recovery, and nothing is better for your mind in those first months. Your brain will feel like jello some days. You will forget how to form sentences. Even if its ten minutes, the dishes can wait. Take care of yourself or you are no good to baby. This carries into later months and years. You will get your stride back. You will get the hang of things. And then teething happens. Then the first serious illness happens. When your child needs you, focus on them. As soon as you can though, REST. They need you at your best.

Lesson 4.
Parenthood will be gross. Get over it now.
When my daughter was about 6 weeks old, I was changing her poopy diaper and just as I lifted her legs to wipe her little tush, she farted a projectile poop missile at me. Straight at my chest. Landed on my shirt. She has also pooped on my hand. I have gotten poop on my hand, not noticed, and wiped it in my hair. It's not just that though. There were stretches in the early weeks when my husband was at work a lot and I was home with the baby where I didn't shower for four days at a time. Eventually, deodorant doesn't cut it anymore. When my son was about a year old, he fell asleep in his pack and play and being a believer in the REST concept, I curled up next to him on the couch for a nap. I awoke about an hour later to a smell. I figured well, someone must need a clean diaper! I sat up, turned my head, and HOLY MARY MOTHER OF CHRIST my son had not only taken a massive, smooshy poo...he removed his diaper, removed it's contents, and finger painted the entire pack and play on the inside. And his adorable face looked up and me and smiled so sweetly! So happy to see Mommy! I put him in the tub and threw out the pack and play. Fast forward to toddler and young childhood years, and you will experience floods of vomit. It smells. It goes everywhere. And they are scared and sick. You will need to comfort your kids and clean up the vomit. Simultaneously. And you can't show how you feel to a scared, sick child who thinks Mom can fix it all. How about getting to pick someone else's nose? Those aspirator things only just get the boogers in reach sometimes and you have to grab it with your fingers. Yay vomit! Yay poo! Yay boogers! This is not even mentioning childbirth...

Lesson 5.
Guilt. Mom guilt is real. Dad guilt is real. One day your toddler will be driving you mad. They have dumped their toys everywhere. You are stressed from something that happened at work and as much as you try to leave it at work, you just got an email that set it off again. Your significant other is not at home. You are trying to cook dinner. Now your toddler is going for the power outlet. You say no. They do it again. You say no again. They do it again. The pot on the stove is boiling over. The dog is asking to go out. You can't do it all at one time. They go for the outlet again. You scream at your toddler. Now they are crying. Breathe. Step back. Let yourself calm down. These moments happen. Then, later on after you have made peace with the world again, snuggled your baby close, made sure they know you love them and just don't want them electrocuting themselves, they drift off to sleep. And you sit in silence and torture yourself with guilt. You will feel like the worst person in the world. The worst mom. The worst dad. You might carry it for days. I have some I still carry, and my son is 11. Here is the thing. Someone once told me the best parents are the ones worried they will screw it all up. They are paying attention. To the obvious and the not so obvious. So go easy on yourself. None of us is perfect.

Lesson 6.
Everything will change. Your life will never be the same. This is guaranteed. What you do with that is up to you. You can't make plans on the fly any more. You can't just pick up and go unless you are taking the kids with you, and that means baby bags, kids toys, snacks, bottles, extras of everything, clothes, diapers, wipes, medicines, lotions, etc. Your social life will change. Even if your friends have children already. And that will hurt. And it will also feel warm. Real life is not TV. It's not Facebook. It's real. I rarely leave the house nowadays except to go to work, and I love it. I come home at night during the week to my kids and I cannot wait to see their faces. I can't wait to cook dinner, I can't wait to curl up and watch TV. Am I lazy now or something? No. I just can't be bothered with the world when I have those sweet faces at home who think the world of me and who make my life worth living.

I didn't know who I was or what I wanted from life before I became a mom. I was not sure on many occasions if I even belonged on the planet...and I questioned that a lot. Then I became a mom and it was like someone turned the lights on. For me, it doesn't matter how many people I don't see or shows I miss. It doesn't matter how many projectile poop missiles blast out of my daughter's butt and onto my clothes, I get to curl up with her at night and make her smile and watch her drift off to sleep. It doesn't matter what silly social thing I am not being bored and awkward at because I am at home in my pajamas watching TV with my son and laughing about something no one but us would find hilarious. That to me is life. That is what I am here for. It's all worth it. You won't be prepared, even though you think you are. You will never be prepared. It will be chaos at times.

But there is such joy in that chaos.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Day In The Life In Mom Town...

So overslept this morning.

I could not seem to get a good night's sleep. EVERYTHING woke me up. The cat scratching in the litter box out in the hall, my husband rolling into me, my own clothing just feeling too hot, etc. Naturally, I could not drag my butt out of bed this morning and hit the snooze button for about 40 minutes. Two separate alarms because one alarm can be shut off by accident but the chances of doing that twice are not as easy. My daughter is a good sleeper, bless her little heart, and she and my husband usually sleep until after I leave at 6:30am.

Thankfully, my almost 11 year old son is pretty great about getting up and getting ready for school. I just give him a shout that it's time and throw his English muffin in the toaster. Me on the other hand, that is a different story. I am tripping over the cats, stumbling into the shower where I realize I forgot to throw laundry in last night and I have no clean underwear. I wash myself up, towel off, and stumble over the cats again into the closet to dig through my drawers for the only pre-pregnancy pair of drawers that I have not burned in anger at my ass being too big to fit in them. I slap some foundation on my face and tell myself I will do the rest of my makeup in the car. Because that always yields great results.

I grab some clothes appropriate for work from the basket of clothes I meant to bring downstairs to the washer last night but didn't because I also have a teething 16 week old baby who refused to be put down. Our washer is four flights down. I had already spent my Sunday cleaning the living room moving furniture, cleaning out the fridge (there were some very furry things in there...) and cooking dinner...all mostly with one hand because teething.

I threw on shoes, grabbed some of yesterday's coffee from the percolator and rushed out the door to drop off my son before going to work. After I had dropped my son off, I happened to look down at my shirt and notice a HUGE spit up stain right on the boob area. Whoops. Mind you, I don't have much in the way of clothes that do not have spit up stains so while some folks can get more than one wear out of their clothes that need to be dry cleaned or washed a specific way, some of us with babes cannot seem to do that.

On my way in to work I happened to notice that my arm pits felt a little stickier than usual. I had showered this morning so I was not sure what the origin of this could be. Then it dawned on me. I forgot to put on deodorant. This is not something I make a habit of doing. When I was a kid in school, before doing such a thing was a daily habit, I had come down with the flu and subsequently spent most of my day in cold sweats. As a result, I was emitting a bit of an odor. It was that day I was introduced to mean upper class-men as they pointed out that I had a bit of a smell coming from my underarms. I believe there were nicknames issued. I tried to block it out. I spent the next week at home getting over a flu from hell and never again forgot to wear deodorant. Until today.

So here I am now at work with my spit up stain and pits that were getting sweatier and sweatier. Every so often I would lift one arm and take a sniff. It was somewhere around 11am when I noticed that I was starting to smell. I grabbed for some handy dandy in the purse baby wipes and wiped down my stink pits. It only worked for a little while before the stank crept back in.

Lunch time came and I dug through my purse looking for change among the gum wrappers, used up chap sticks, receipts, and broken crayons so I could head to McDonalds for their always $1 large black coffees. Bless them for that menu item. No one can compete, and they have a drive thru. I had already had my Ramen Noodle (5 for $1!) lunch for breakfast because of course I forgot to grab anything to eat this morning. Times are tough since just coming off maternity leave, so I don't have money sitting around for luxuries like store bought bagels and breakfast sandwiches. But coffee...that I cannot do without. I do bring my own in the morning, but that only lasts for, well, the morning.

I happened to open up my car's center console in my money quest and found an almost used up travel stick of deodorant. YES! I wiped the applicator all over my underarms, even though it was down to the plastic bottom. No more stink!

I ran back to work and my desk, fielding texts from my mom about picking up my daughter from my husband and my husband about my son's wrestling practice tonight. I sat back down at my desk and looked down at my lap to notice more spit up stains on my pants. Well, at least I match today.

The day is only half over. I am meal planning in my head and mapping out my drive home where I will pick up my kids from my mom, run home to grab sweats for my son, and head to wrestling practice with him. We will head home after that, I will throw a quick meal in the oven so my husband can eat when he gets home and my son can eat before bed. Feed the baby. Make sure my son is showered. Maybe even get that load of laundry in the washer so I don't have to second day these ill fitting undies.

Then settled down to bed with a baby in my arms, set my alarm, and plan to do it all again tomorrow. At least this time I will remember to wear deodorant.


History is my crack...

I joined today. This is not a sponsored post. This is me describing how I wasted an entire work day chasing leaves.

Ancestry has a 14 day free trial and after hearing a commercial this morning for their Veteran's Day special and being further reminded how much I just don't know about my own roots, I joined. If you know me, you know I love history. Anything old. Anything with a story. Anything that enables my mind to get lost in the thoughts of where people long ago walked. This is only increased even more dramatically and romantically in my head when it's my own heritage.

So I got to work and instead of signing up for my new year's benefits like I was supposed to seeing as open enrollment started today, I started a family tree. See, this is all you need to do. Just put in yourself, your parents, and your grandparents. Then fall down the rabbit hole. For the record, has no idea I am writing this and hopefully will not get mad at me. I am promoting you!

History has always been my crack. The idea of being in a place where someone was so long ago and imagining them there is to me the most fascinating thing I could be doing. When I get to bring my kids and explain (blabber on and on and on) why that particular place is so interesting, what happened there, and walk around imagining that time and place is even better.

After my son was born in 2004, I did a lot of reading into my heritage and my family. I did some digging, did some writing, and came up with a lot of dead ends. I never knew where my great grandparents were buried, just that it was somewhere probably in Boonton, NJ. So I went one day and wandered around two cemeteries. All day. I never found them. My father recently told me that my grandfather never knew where they were buried either as they passed when he was younger, and it was something that bothered my grandmother a lot.

After my daughter was born this year, I became again agitating with that fever to know more about my family. It's not so much that I want to know so that I know more about me. It's that I want to know more about them. They lived in different times. They wore different clothes and had different jobs. They worried about different things. But at the same time, we have our things that are the same, and I want to find all of those things.

I want to go to the cities and towns where they lived. I want to see the homes they lived in. I want to ride the roads the walked and touch things they touched and feel that presence. I have always felt connected to family who no longer walks this earth. Sometimes I wonder if what I feel is people I never met. Something in me just needs to know more.

I have made lists of the family names that I know. My father put a call in to his cousin who has been a keeper of records and genealogy for his side of the family. I would like to gather some of his knowledge. My family on that side is based in Boonton. Then I have my father's maternal side who is based in Carbondale, PA. But that is just a small part of the puzzle. I am also launching a look into my mother's maternal family. New Hope, PA is my launching point.

So off I go!

Friday, November 6, 2015

What the F*** am I going to make for dinner? (*Part Two - Weekend Edition)

Who likes BEEF?

That third one had nothing to do with the other two. I just really want a pina colada right now.

So it's November in New Jersey and despite the fact that it's been unseasonably warm all week, the weather man assures us that proper holiday weather is just around the corner. Cold weather and blustery, rainy (or *gasp* snowy) weekends call for big pots of stews and creamy soups to warm the body and the soul and while we are at it, feed all four of us with enough leftovers for a few lunches. I look forward to this season of cooking because it means I get to bust out my Super Beefy Stew. It's hearty, it's easy, I would imagine you could find a way to do it in a crock pot, and nothing tastes better with some buttered crusty bread on the side. I make a big pot and sniff it happily until it's done imagining the moment I get to stick it in my face hole and squeal with delight.

So here you go:


What you will need:

  • About two pounds of cubed beef
  • 48 oz box of beef stock or beef broth
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 good sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Two cans vegetable soup
  • 3 or 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 1 TBS Italian seasoning
  • 1 TBS onion powder
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stew pot, heat the olive oil
Add garlic and onions, chopped
Cook to translucent
In a separate bowl, sprinkle the flour on beef cubes and mix well
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and onion powder
Add beef cubes and flour to pot and brown.
Once browned, remove beef cubes but leave everything else.
Pour in cup of wine and scrape all that goodness off the bottom of the pot until you have a nice creamy winey' mess of wonderful.
Add your beef back in.
Add vegetable soup. Heat and stir.
Add beef stock. Heat and stir,
Add potatoes and carrots.
Add onion and garlic powder and Italian seasoning
Add bay leaves.
Add salt and pepper.

Now go get yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up, and let this goodness simmer for 2 or three hours. Let that smell fill your home.

Stir occasionally.

Check on it. Ready? Looking good? All that potato starch make it nice and thick?

Yeah baby! Get yourself a bowl.

PPD, you arrogant bastard

Post Partum Depression blows.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 15, but I recall it's symptoms many years before. It's been a bitch most of my life, but I was pretty good at keeping it under control with medication, meditation, and keeping my health in check. It's a constant battle with a real asshole of a disease, but at 37 years old I had found a way to keep it pretty much under my hat. Then I had my daughter and my whole world flipped upside down. Three little letters have crapped all over my brain. PPD.

I had mild PPD after I had my son. At the time I was not yet on medication for my depression and my doctor quickly prescribed Zoloft to get things under control. I hated the meds because they made me feel sleepy and kind of absent from reality, but it curbed a lot of the other symptoms until my body was able to regulate hormones and get back to normal. I stopped taking the medication a few months later and things were fine, I guess. It was nothing like it is now. Nothing is like this has been. This is a monster.

PPD is not the baby blues, which is really very common for new moms. It's more. It's fear that you will hurt yourself or the baby. It's mind numbing anxiety. It's not sleeping or sleeping way too much. It's a complete loss of appetite or an appetite so fierce you feel you might eat your refrigerator. It's loneliness and dread for no reason. It's insanely intense guilt. Feelings of complete isolation, lack of concentration and focus, and no desire to take care of yourself. It's gross, but while I was on maternity leave I would go days without so much as brushing my teeth. I could not put my baby down and when she slept, I curled right up and slept with her. It was my only real relief. Sleep. It still is.

I feel like I am lost in a blizzard most days. My brain feeling like a television screen of nothing but snowy fuzzy static and white noise. I am racked with anxiety that wakes me from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. Concentration on one task is impossible. My focus is simply gone and getting simple things done seems to require immense effort and often leads to frustration because I simply can't get my head around things. I often feel empty. Just a void of nothing. Even after spending most of my life battling depression I can honestly say I have never felt like this before, and it's both terrifying and incredibly frustrating.

I am most at peace with my kids. Being with my daughter and my son has been a salve for this condition, but that is hardly practical as a working mother and it has made my journey back to work all the more difficult. I can't stand to leave them. I can't stand to do anything without them. My house is a disaster and I can't find the strength to get it together. My doctor increased my present medication up to the maximum allowable dosage and it didn't even make a dent. Since I have already been on several anti-depressant medications in my life, he was hesitant to just prescribe yet another one that might not work in my severely declining condition. He suggested I see a professional to prescribe and modify the medication as needed to get this under control. He told me I need to see a psychiatrist.

Ok, easy enough. I have decent insurance. I will log onto the website, go to the handy-dandy "Find a Physician" page and start my search. Many popped up in my area and I started right away making calls. One after another. Five. Ten. Twenty calls. These doctors were either no longer with the practice listed, no longer taking new patients, or simply not practicing any more at all. This can't be happening. I called my hospital's behavioral health line for assistance thinking that they must be able to get me in with a doctor if not at my hospital, than one of the other four they partner with. No such luck. They informed me that the only facility doing any outpatient psychiatric help was my hospital, but that the staff was so stretched, they had a backlog of appointments into February. It's only November right now. I placed another call to another doctor I found and was told that most of their doctors were taking no new patients and the one that was had a backlog into January.

This can't be happening. I need help and I can't get it. All I could think was as bad as I feel, I know there are people worse off than myself in the same situation. What do we do? Sit in the dark and wait three months with a bottle of bourbon and Patsy Cline records and hope we can keep our shit together? This is not right. The funny thing was, a few weeks prior to all this I had read an article that there was a shortage of mental health professionals right now. I didn't think it could possibly have been THIS bad - but here I was, trying to find a doctor to help me and unable to find one who would even see me. I was struck by all the terrible things I read in the media and how they are always asking WHY WHY WHY? Well, here is a possible reason. People need help and can't get it.

I am still on my search today. Making another batch of phone calls. Thinking I may need to drive a lot further than I had though, but I need to find the way to get through this. I have to get a handle on things for my kids, for my husband, for my job, and for myself. This is no way to live.

No one seems to talk about this until a celebrity has it. Recently several have come out to the media to say they are or they have been battling with PPD after recent births. Most can say they overcame it though and have pictures of them smiling with happy, chubby babies. They also have a butt load of money to seek treatment and probably are not put on waiting lists until February just to get someone to properly diagnose them and prescribe needed medication. The rest of us, well this is where we are. And then we wonder why people fall apart.

In my state of New Jersey, it is now a law that doctor's assess new moms for signs of PPD. This is great and all, but once you find that we do have it...some of us get kicked into the behavioral health bracket of medicine and are left here to pretty much rot. In a nation so overcome with stress and worries, to have people put on a backlog to get help is simply unacceptable. I will update further as I navigate this mess, but I wanted to write about this as soon as possible. I want other moms out there to know you are not crazy, and you are not alone. Get help. If getting help is hard, get LOUD. I plan to be as annoying as humanly possible until someone stands up. We are better than this. We can get through this. We got this.

You are not alone.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What the F*** am I going to make for dinner? (*Part One)

"What are we doing for dinner?"

There is no more common phrase uttered between my husband and I. Working full time and being full time parents means dinner is not going to be a culinary explosion of taste and texture all the time. We have however become masters of doing a lot with a little while we learn how to live on a budget. Having two kids is not cheap. Living in New Jersey is not cheap (actually, it's ridiculously expensive). Because I know there are lots of other moms and dads out there doing the best they can with what they have and making it work, I wanted to highlight some of the meals we make in our house during the week. Some are really very simple. Almost stupidly simple. But they all taste good, they can all be modified to include what you like, and nothing here is at all complicated.

So here are the questions we ask when we meal plan:

1. Is it going to be filling?
Yes. We all work hard. Be it at work or school (or both, in my case) and the brain needs food as much as the body. I am a skimpy eater with all my other meals so by the time dinner comes, I want to eat every food everywhere.

2. Is it going to be healthy?
Well, we don't exactly keep things like kale in the house, but we do try to represent all the food groups one way or another. We have nights where we fall off the healthy train and have pizza, but we honestly would rather make our pizza anyway. Our one splurge is usually Chinese food.

3. Is it going to be cheap.
YES. I am a rabid couponer so the meals for each week are usually based in what is on sale. We eat a lot of chicken.

4. Is it going to taste good?

So where to begin???

Lets do pasta. You will see when I post recipes that clearly I am not on a diet. I hate diets. They fail. Eat to feel good. If pasta makes you feel good, eat that shit. If salad makes you feel good, eat that shit. If tofu makes you feel good, I think you might be an alien, but eat that shit!

Mom's Chunky Pasta

What you need:

  • One box of whatever pasta is on sale

(brand and shape is up to you...we like bowties best)

  • One pound of ground sweet Italian sausage
  • One jar of Garden Vegetable sauce

(brand is up to you..the chunkier, the better)

  • One clove garlic

(unless you are like me...then multiply that with however anti-vampire you choose to be the next day)

  • One yellow onion
  • Two tablespoons Olive Oil
  • One tablespoon Onion Powder
  • One tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • One teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • One quarter cup shredded Parisian or Romano cheese

(or both)

  • One half cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil.
Add chopped garlic and onion
Cook until translucent
Add ground sausage and brown DON'T DRAIN! (it's fat, but its FLAVOR!)
Add onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.
Add wine and simmer for about 10 minutes
Add jar of sauce and stir
Stir in cheese
Let simmer for 10-20 minutes
While simmering, salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as instructed or preferred.

Stir cooked pasta into chunky sauce

Serve with buttered Italian bread and shredded cheese.


They call me the working mom...

I am a mom. I am a working mom. I have a ten year old son and I just had a daughter. I have now had a baby and had to go back to work twice. The first time, almost 11 years ago, I went back to work after my six weeks of allotted maternity leave for exactly one hour, cried a lot, and promptly went into my boss's office and quit. Do you know why? Because it sucks. Going back to work after having a baby is Hell.

Well, it's hell for me. And not for the reasons that you would think. I didn't have the quitting option this time though, so here I am. Being home for 12 weeks this time around was amazing. I felt like I got crucial bonding time with my daughter without having to sprint back to work before my doctor had even cleared me for the postpartum getting it on like last time around. It surely didn't feel like enough, but it was better than what a lot of working moms get and for that I am thankful. I am gone about 11 hours a day when you take my commute into account...sometimes more if traffic is not good that day. I leave at 6:30 in the morning. I get home about 5:30 at night. I get to squeeze in as much time as I can with my kids and my husband before I pass out from exhaustion. It's rough on the body and the mind, but this is adulthood!

I had a C-section which here in New Jersey entitles me to 8 weeks on disability pay through the state. You can then add to that another 6 weeks (if your job allows) for "bonding" through the Family Leave Act. (FLA...not to be confused with FMLA) This pays out at about 63% of your salary with a maximum of $500 per week. It stinks, but it's better than the big fat nothing that a lot of other moms get for maternity leave. I was able to take 12 weeks of leave thanks to The Family Medical Leave Act (there is that FMLA) which protects my job for 12 weeks, but does not pay me. If you are confused by now, you should be. In order to get paid for maternity leave in New Jersey, you have three sets of paperwork for three different things to fill out. FMLA to protect your job, Disability to pay you for the first 6-8 weeks, and the FLA for the next six weeks. You fill out FMLA first. After you are officially not working and can be considered "disabled", you are allowed to submit your disability paperwork. After that stops paying, you then submit your FLA.

I got paid 3 weeks before I returned to work. I am still catching up on bills.

The United States' idea of maternity leave blows. I mean BLOWS. I am fortunate to belong to an incredible moms group that bonded during pregnancy from a preggo website because we were all due about the same month. This enabled me to "meet" women from other states and countries and continents who had different ways of doing everything in the mom'hood journey. It also showed me just how much our prenatal care is pretty great, but our maternity leave straight up freaking sucks. While some of my fellow forum moms are still home enjoying baby time, USA moms have almost all gone back to the grind now. I am fortunate to live in one of the two states that actually pays out some sort of maternity leave. There is not much that New Jersey does right these days, but we are at least ahead in the race in that department. The race itself however is being run in molasses wearing flippers. Google worldwide maternity leave and see just how sadly we rank. It's pathetic.

There is a huge emphasis on prenatal care in this country. Don't do this, don't do that, make sure you do this, make sure you do that. Go to the doctor! Eat right! Take vitamins! Don't lift that! Are you resting enough? As soon as you have the baby though, it's all out the window. "Get back to work, lady!" This is even more complicated for moms who are breast feeding which I am not. I will talk more about that another time. We are rushed back to normal life. Booted from the hospital in record time. Sent home to figure things out on our own. It's quite intimidating. We all find our groove and make it work, but it feels like those guiding hands in pregnancy kind of dump us on our ass as soon as we produce the baby from our bodies.

So being home for 12 weeks was wonderful. You start to feel isolated though. I had family come see me. I had a couple friends come by once or twice. For the most part though, you are on your own. This is not like the movies. There were no care packages, meal trains, or people willing to do your dishes and laundry. My husband was at work all day so it was me and lil punkin all day. I loved every single solitary second of it. I loved everything. The cuddles, the naps, the snuggles, the massive dumps, the crying, the cooing, the feedings, the everything. It is isolating though and for someone with Post Partum Depression, that only gets worse. So there was at least some small part of me that was looking forward to the normality and adult interaction that comes from getting up and going to work like a grown up every day. I would know what day it is, I would have a schedule, I would probably sleep better. I would not be able to pick up my ten year old son from the bus though. I would not be able to hang out with my baby all day though. I would not be with my kids and I had grown very used to that over those 12 weeks and that change over back to being at work is a lot on the mind.

Then there is daycare. I read recently that New Jersey leads the nation in the rising cost of daycare. We got quotes from a lot of facilities and private folks. The average price was $1200-$1400 a month. That is a mortgage payment. That is rent. I don't know how anyone can afford that. People apparently do, because there is a daycare center in every town around here and some have several. I was appalled that people doing this out of their homes (without the insurance that the bigger facilities have) were offering themselves at the same prices. Who are you kidding?! So, my husband now has a job that is mostly afternoons and evenings and my mom takes care of the kids when we are both at work. This is modern living, I suppose. This is what it is to be an adult. This is not what sitcoms in the 80's told me. Except Roseanne. I think that was the only sitcom that told me the truth. Thank you, Roseanne!

At the end of the day though, I would do it all for my family. My husband is my best friend and just as confused by the whole adulthood concept as I am sometimes. We are navigating this world together, trying to figure it all out. My kids are incredible and truly embody the concept that my heart is now split in two and walking around outside my body (well, one half is walking...the other is still squirming). We do the best we can. Sometimes we fuck up. Sometimes we have to figure out that the way we are doing things is not working. It's all trial and error. There is no manual. You just have to trust that the people you surround yourself with will be there to help if you call. That your family is strong. Life is not easy, but it's beautiful.

Well, they call me the working mom...I guess that's what I am.