This is totally not for kids. Be warned. This is a story where I finally got that being able to laugh at myself feels great.
For Christmas I had downloaded the game Cards Against Humanity and had my favorite local printer make a set for our daughter. For those that don't know, it is an adult version of Apples to Apples. Definately not for the younger set. The game has the Card Czar read a question and the other players choose a card from thier hand as the answer. The CC then decides which one is the winner and awards Awesome Points.
This, my friends, is my kind of game. I can be witty, relevant and win Awesome Points.
We were playing and laughing. Everything was going fine.
Until, you knew there was an until, my daughter played the card queef. That's right queef. Then Dad asked, what is that? She plainly explained that it was a vaginal fart. He then went on to say that was a vart.
At that exact moment I had taken a sip of spicy hot apple cider and started to combust. Cider went up my nose, I thought I was going to throw up. I was laughing so hard I choked and as I was running to the bathroom in total hysterical distress I might have peed. Just a little. The WHOLE time I was laughing... and choking.
In the other room my husband was laughing hysterically.
Oh, mom is SO funny.
But it was. It was so funny. When on earth does your grown daughter and her dad politely discuss the meaning of a vaginal fart at the dining room table? It was like they were discussing the weather.
My combusting liquid exit only tipped it over the edge.
Now, years ago I would have been uber embarrased and probably angry that they had laughed at me. Just mortified. This time though... I just laughed.
Yikes. The holidays are upon us and although I SHOULD be getting everything done - I just don't seem to be getting into gear.
Tree - up but not decorated
Presents - some purchased, but lots of little things to do
Cards - not happening
Cookies - one batch made by our daughter, but more need to be made
Not really sure what the problem is. For the last 4 years I manage a two week festival downtown and all the planning/promotion that takes. It is great fun and this year was really quite spectacular. What I think happens though is that it takes the Christmas out of me. It could also be that I don't have little kids, any holiday parties, an office, or extended family to celebrate with. NOT that I am feeling sorry for myself. I'm not. Hopefully, in the next few days I can get it zinged back into action.
The absence of blogging, well read above! Maybe that will zing back too.
When my daughter and husband asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday I thought about it for a long time. Birthdays are important to me. I've had a bowling party, complete with embroidered bowling shirt and big shin digs on my lawn. This year, though because of the really recent loss of my sister, I needed something more. Something more personal, something that meant something to me, something that celebrated what it really means to turn 43 - and that is friends.
I told my daughter and husband to go to Home Depot and purchase 10 mums. Those mums would be delivered the Sunday prior to my big day to 10 of my friends. They arrived home on Saturday with a trunk of flowers - for me and my friends. The list had been made, and although not everyone that I care about was on it (I had made the 10 people rule to make th flower buying manageable), we were off on Sunday afternoon to deliver mums and notes to 10 women I care very much for in the town that we chose to live in 9 years ago. It was as much a celebration of women and friendship as it was honing in on why I chose this path, and this very funky small town, to bring my family to live. It was a decision that needed celebration.
What I thought would take 2 hours took 6. Each friend showed me parts of their home, sent me off with small treasures they had been saving for me, shared tea, and shared some of their lives you can only say in person. I don't see enough of these women often enough - which is my fault. I get very caught up in the myth of busy. What I wanted to reconfirm in myself through this adventure celebrating friendship was that making time for it mattered. It does. A lot.
Later, when my husband was driving our daughter back to her apartment over an hour away, I was in the bath and it dawned on me that I have friends. Real friends. You may already know that you have friends, but I haven't had that feeling since high school - I haven't allowed myself to take the time to honor that feeling. I have lost friends by being a crappy one and now, at 43, I realize it takes energy, a sense of adventure and valuable time to make and keep friends.
I know that they are the greatest gift I will ever have - today on my 43rd birthday - and forever more.
Key: 1. Paige making up the 10 flowers to be delivered, 2. Dee, 3. Linda, 4. Jana, 5. Carol, 6. Kathy, 7. Kath, 8. Loretta, 9. Peggy, 10. Jean and lastly, my very best friend 11. Paige
Note: There were SO many more that I could have, wanted to bring flowers to, but I kept my number at 10. This may just become my tradition - so who knows you might get me dropping on your doorstep on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate friendship. Until then, thank you to everyone who has celebrated with me over the years - I am starting to get why it all matters.
It is no secret that I love my birthday. I do. Totally and 100%! I usually do something fun and this year I have the very best plan I have ever had. I can't tell you though. Not until Monday, on my birthday. But just know I am very excited and plan to celebrate it exactly how I want to. Squeeeee!!!!
One of the best letters a woman can get is the one that starts, "We are pleased to inform you that the results of your recent procedure done at The Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas, are normal (showed no evidence of breast cancer).
Over 40? Go get your mammogram. Can't afford it? Search online for state covered programs for low income or uninsured women. Can't find that? Call your local breast center or Planned Parenthood. I do not have health insurance (the joy of working part time as a nonprofit executive director and a marketing consultant means no health benefits) and I thought that I couldn't afford or find a program to help me afford a mammogram. With prodding from some local women I went online last year and researched programs in my area. My annual pap exam, mammogram and any care needed if I did develop cancer is covered. Really. Find the program in your area. Don't wait.
Under 40? Do self exams because cancer doesn't just happen to us old ladies.
I was driving in my car towards a fun afternoon at the #lipperfect Therapon party with the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers (#NWARK) on Saturday listening to All Songs Considered* on our local NPR affiliate station KUAF. The theme was songs from your college days, and although my husband and I were nontraditional students (you wouldn't think otherwise, would you) the song they chose from our time period was from U2's album Rattle and Hum.
Now, our song is the Thermos song from The Jerk. It should have been the ukulele song from that movie, but we resist being overly romantic in some knee jerk way. But driving in my car that my husband had cleaned, vacuumed, gotten gas, checked the fluids, washed the windows I realized our song should have been that song from U2. We LOVE U2. They are from our generation 100%. All I Want Is You is epic, beautiful and, apparently, brings instant tears to my eyes - and it came out the year that he and I met.
The next day I told him about it and I was trying to describe the song, because I couldn't remember the title. He found it on YouTube and played it... instantly turned into a puddle.
You say you'll give me Eyes in a moon of blindness A river in a time of dryness A harbor in the tempest
But all the promises we make From the cradle to the grave When all I want is you
Oof. Enought to just melt me.
Anyway it happened again when my daughter and I were watching STOMP at the Walton Arts Center. I was gifted a pair of tickets at the #lipperfect party and we were excited to go. What fun! I love Taiko drumming so this evening promised some of that amazing percussion and rhythm while being fun and, I assumed, more urban. It didn't disappoint. There was one portion where they turn down the stage lights and do this amazingly loud throbbing beat using the actual set as the percussion instruments and in that moment tears came rushing to my eyes. No real reason, except, and this is a bit heartbreaking, it is that moment when I realize I couldn't/wouldn't ever be able to share something like this with my sister.
Obviously, her sudden death has had an impact and being in the midst of whatever hormonal mix is going on isn't exactly the easiest thing either. Put the two of those things together and I just get all melty all over the place. I know, too, that my only way to really deal with the pain of the loss is to do it in small increments. It just hurts too much to have one big cry over it all. So it sneaks up on me at random moments.
So, if you see me suddenly rush towards my purse looking for my Kleenex you know what I am doing. I should have a badge that says "Warning Weepiness Could Occur" at any freaking moment, and any place. Pass the tissue!
Photo: Sitting in our seats at the WAC waiting for STOMP!
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about why I keep this personal blog up and running. Last night I was talking to my husband about the mammogram that I had earlier in the day and I said I shared I was going here and on Facebook and Twitter to normalize the experience for everyone. We all go through things that are challenging, exciting, frustrating and lovely. When we share those experiences, those stories, we allow others to see and feel that whatever they are experiencing is part of the fabric of being human. Our moments, good and bad, are woven together to make who we are.
Now, I won't be dishonest that it has gotten me into hot water. When I first started blogging I was fired from a job because they said I blogged about looking for lots of opportunities (granted, that was the excuse, but whatever), my blog was copied and pasted into email and sent to my entire church congregation with commentary from one member (humiliated to the biggest degree and one reason I don't go any more), my blog was printed verbatim in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette without acknowledgement of my identity to humiliate me and my opinions by a columnist.
So, why keep doing it? Because I believe that ultimately we are better when we share our stories with honesty and integrity. We are better when we own up to our crap. We are better when we live a life of courage and authenticity. And that means sharing.
Now, I live in a very small town, by choice. I don't blog much about where I live, the people in it or the stories I hear. I don't want to become a local gossip rag. I also don't want to misinterpret other peoples experience and, honestly, I want to protect myself from some of the mean behaviour I have seen in my 10 years here. That said, I know folks read it, and that is fine. If I wrote it out on the world wide web it really isn't a secret.
I grew up in a family that didn't have a lot of secrets from each other, but I was ashamed and afraid to tell everyone about the chaos that was happening in my home. Hell, I couldn't even process what all of that was, much less share it with anyone. So I felt, for a long time, that I couldn't tell anyone about the real stuff that was happening. I had to pretend it was all ok. Well, let me tell you, that makes you crazier because when the house come crumbling down around you and you are still trying to dust the shelves, well that's crazy. Plus, I found that my experiences weren't very different then other peoples. They had mental illness in their families, people died, people divorced, family members had addiction issues, depression runs rampant throughout most families, kids aren't perfect, jobs don't work out - whatever it is, well, we all share those moments and if someone tells you their story, wraps you in their blanket for a moment, then maybe your life isn't so bad.
So, I share. I share the mundane, the good, the bad, the silly and the sad. I live a life of open door and open hearts. That may make me open to being hurt, but I would rather live like that then bar the doors and live a scared life. I'm not perfect, but I am trying every single day to do good work. I'll be sharing it here, and I hope you share your life too.
Today I am off for my second mammogram in my life. Last year they found a small sand like pebble in one of my milk ducts, but decided it wasn't anything to worry about. Good thing because we were sweating it. With that scare I have been diligent about setting up my appointment and however inconvenient (today I need to be in two places at once, again) I am heading over to the Breast Center with my husband. Fingers crossed ladies that it is all ok with the girls.
I KNOW you don't need me to remind you, but we need to get checked after the age of 40 - especially, if like me, your mom/sister/grandmother/aunt had breast cancer before the age of 50. Before that you need to be doing self exams.
This past weekend I had the rare opportunity to join a group of blogging women from Arkansas at the 2nd Annual Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference. At first I was hesitant to go because I didn't really get it, or feel like I fit in. My world view can be a bit different than some of my states ladies. Plus, don't we all fret about fitting in?
But I went.
And lord my heart broke open in a way that I didn't think possible. I have, for years, been looking for my tribe. Women who are similar to me, who are interested in living open full lives, you are moving forward and creating community. I was jealous of the women online I follow who gather at beautiful locations to revel in each others awesomeness. I don't need to be jealous. I found that for myself at #AWBU.
I can't write about it all because it is still stirring in my heart, but I want to share some snippets of how this awareness that I had found home happened.
When I walked in I was handed an apron with my blog name embroidered on it. That level of thoughtfulness is unparalleled in conferences. They looked at my blog, they thought about the color, they did it just for me. I could have cried right on the spot.
Then, that evening, Mary, the park interperter for Ozark Folk Center, told two beautiful stories about women and herself. She is a pro, but more importantly she gathers and shares her stories and stories of other women, honoring them. It was at that moment that I realized that is why I blog in the first place - to share my story. I read your blogs because I want to know your story.
Then we heard from a panel about the heroines journey and telling your story authentically. Author, Kyran Pittman shared, "My business is putting it out there. It's not how many read it, but how it resonates and is recieved." We were given collective permission to tell our stories, told that they matter.
Finally, on the last day the workshop I attended was about what kind of blogger you might be and I realized I blog to inspire. I share to find a common voice and to lift up the human experience. That is the thread between both my personal writing here and the work I do in the world. It informs every decision I make and yet I forget often. To Inspire - that is my goal, but also to honor everyones story.
Sometimes you have to move 2000 miles away from your home to the middle of nowhere to find your tribe. I am so glad I took that leap 10 years ago and then again last weekend. It feels like home.