Real Housewives of West Virginia (RHoWV)

“life’s a bitch, but you don’t have to be!”

Dear Andy Cohen, 

 I have carefully been considering what my tagline would be if you ever wanted to do a REAL Real Housewives show. (Like really real!)

Like really real when a 60 foot gyser erupts in your front yard, your refrigerator and hot water tank die in the same week.

Like really real when you put your creditors name in the phone so you can say “hey Bob! Sorry, it is really tight this month…you are gonna have to keep calling.” Sorry man.

Like really real when you have to decide between taking a day off because you can’t get out of bed or forgoing a day’s pay. 

Like really real when you realize you left your coffee cup on the roof of your car and it made it all the way down the road, only to fall through your sun roof (cough rust roof cough cough) and douse you in sticky Carmel / hazelnut sweat to coat your day and your spirits.

Life is seriously the biggest bitch I have ever met, so be kind. Help a sister out. Let’s do a Dave Chapelle version of the Real Housewives and get really real!  

“life’s a bitch, but you don’t have to be!”

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Honesty

Today I am teaching Family Studies and students were asked to write an essay on a time  they experienced the consequences of honesty….I was reminded of that time …. we all have that time….

We all know that person that is just “too honest” but I am not talking about the “that dress makes you look fat” kind of honesty. I am talking about the kind that is good intentioned and somehow, unintentionally, bites you in the arse.

It was 8th grade and three months in, I was still known as “virgin ears.”  After spending the last eight years home-schooled, sheltered, and naive I had become the “goody-two-shoes” of the private christian school I had just begun attending.  I entered Mrs. Thompson’s history class and we had a sub.  As I entered I saw Leigh Blair go through the ceiling tile, jump across a desk, and elbow drop Jim Ashely.  I had to get help!

Running to the office, asking for a teacher, I felt so proud of my honesty and desire to do the right thing.  That night, as I recounted the event to my mom, the horror on her face was lost on me.  Weeks later, as I was getting relentlessly teased, the effects of my honesty was still lost on me.  Today, as I witness “that kid,” I cringe, finally aware of honesty’s effects.

Better late than never.

Ten ways to say I care: An open letter to those who love someone with an invisible illness. 

We all know that hypochondriac. That is not who this letter is about.   It is not easy to watch a loved one suffer, even more difficult when you just don’t understand. To often our fear and lack of understanding can build. As a woman, fortunate enough to have lived on both of sides of this, I feel I have unique perspective and advice to offer.

1. Only ask how a person is, when you truly feel like hearing how they are doing. It is exhausting to truly listen and understand about someone’s life with chronic illness. We can only begin to imagine how exhausting it is to actually live it. When you are not up to it, It is ok NOT to ask how someone is doing! Truly understanding what a life, prognosis, treatment, etc is like will often leave the listener feeling sad, confused, and wholly having no clue what to say. It is ok if you aren’t emotionally up to talking about it. Quite often the person living it is not up to talking about it either. But when you can, when you have the heart, time, and stomach to ask and listen, that asking and true listening will mean more than words can express. 

2. Instead of telling them how good they look, tell them how glad you are to see them. Invisible illness is just that. Invisible. You rarely see the scars physical, mental, or emotional. This makes it difficult for people living with these diseases. They are daily fighting for their futures, their lives and some manner of normalcy. If a person with an invisible illness is out and with you, then something else in their life has been placed in the back burner. You are a priority to them. The fact that they are with you in that moment is huge. Dinner wasn’t cooked, laundry wasn’t done, and they may pay for it for days. A simple “thank you for being here” means that you appreciate how much their effort took and what it says about their love for you! 

3. These are proud people. They don’t want you to see their scars. The saddest part of invisible illness is it seems to strike those who are passionate in their lives and careers. They are marathon runners, doctors, nurses, therapists, business developers, mountain climbers, and more. If you are seeing them, it is because they really want you to. It is a GOOD day. Which is horrifyingly strange phenomenon when a good day used to constitute kicking butt and taking names like no ones business. Everyday is like learning to live again, as the rectify the life they now have to the dreams for the one they used to live. 

4. Answers aren’t easy and cures rarely exist. Like many diseases, invisible illness ones can be convoluted, political, and are ALWAYS desperately under-researched. Without proper understanding, funding, research, and medical information a cure will never be possible. Instead of suggesting treatments, telling anecdotal stories, etc, read the research available about the illness your loved one is facing. 

5. These illnesses can be fatal. While not everyone who experiences invisible illness will die, some do. We have all know that one person who dropped dead one day looking so healthy and vibrant the day before. Silent, invisible killers like Heart, Chrone’s or Lyme disease, endometriosis, depression, PTSD and others are real and demand our attention before they take more loved ones.

Living with invisible illness leaves the sufferer as well as their support system depleted, confused, scared, and on edge. We are often left wondering what can we do? 

  1. Ask how someone is, but only when you can listen. 
  2. Offering someone with invisible illness a meal is like the biggest hug in the world and winning the lottery. It gives you time, energy, healing nutrients, and the feeling that someone gets it! Healthy food makes all the difference. Not only is this a great way to support them but also their caregivers. 
  3. Understand when they can’t follow through on plans. Invisible illness may follow a pattern but is rarely predictable.
  4. Check on their care givers! Remind them they are human to. They spend their lives steeped in medical terminology, crushing diagnosis’s, and emotional upheaval. They need a break! They need to know someone is caring for their loved one so that they CAN take a break. 
  5. Be private with the information they share with you. Do NOT share their medical issues. They are not yours to share. Most of those who suffer from this disease are proud, and while they are desperate for someone to understand what they are facing, they do not need the world to know their embarrassing, exhausting medical issues. Show your support through sending positivity and prayers, listening, providing a meal, or a laugh.
  6. If you work in a place that allows sick leave donation, and you are able to do this, this not only provides a paycheck, access to insurance, and peace of mind. I was so blessed to have weeks!!! WEEKS 😍donated to me by my fellow teachers. This was the difference between paying bills and not paying bills. Treatments for these illnesses are very expensive and rarely are covered appropriately by insurance. 
  7. Take an activity to them, if they are up to it!  Tea time conversations or a movie can be great ways to provide distraction. Just remember not to overstay your welcome.  Visiting takes healing energy as well as giving it. 

On Mothering

The last twenty some weeks of mothering have offered me joy and moments of pure  ecstasy along with the ever looming “can’t do it all” ghost, but this week is different.

Balance has always be a struggle for me. I find myself often overindulging. One is never enough.  

After 3 days teaching kindergarten, I have renewed sense of purpose in my mothering. 

Today, I make a case for mothering. 

Whether 5 or 6 or 66, we all need a mother at points throughout our years. This week, I saw young children needing mothering in a very real well. Granted, the ones that are desperate for it have non-traditionally absent parents or just absent ones altogether. The mothers who think it is a 5 year olds responsibility to remember his lunch, backpack, books, and socks are little different from the ones who cannot be bothered to get out of bed to come get their sick child so they send a relative stranger instead.

Today we suffer from both too little and too much mothering, with all the talk of millennials and helicopter parents, we know it goes both ways.  I would, however , argue that there is a huge difference between mothering and smothering which is what I would define as a parent who cannot allow their child to succeed or fail on their own or without involvement.

To me, mothering is care. Mothering is patience. Mothering is putting my damn phone down and looking my daughter in the eyes. I am not great at all of these, but they are the core of connection. Connection, attention, safety, love is what each child craves and needs in order to learn, grow, discover themselves. 

Today, we could use a little more mothering, a little more care, a little more time payed to what our thoughts and fears are. 

Yesterday a child who is often treated like an after thought, drew a picture of a rose for his momma and wrote how much he loved her. I cried. I was angry. How could she not see the perfect love this little boy had for her and return it ten fold? It didn’t matter. Regardless of her mothering, he was going to love her fully.  

I hate to judge but when I see children being hurt by blatant carelessness, I take it personally. Maybe that is why I became a teacher. Maybe that is why being a mom has been my biggest dream.  

I try not to get blinded by the love. I want to support my daughter and help her develop the skills that will take her running from me and into her future. I want to teach her to be a good person as well as a good student. I want her to question and love with out boundaries. 

She cannot do any of this with out love.

So today, I beg you, love your kids. Put your phone down when they are around. Look them in the eye. Put a damn pair of socks on them before they leave for kindergarten. Maybe then you would see the blisters on their feet, the cracked open sores, the love in their eyes when you notice them: this is the case for mothering. 

*photo by Misty Crites  

 

Working mom woes

My hat is off to you my friends, my comrades, my partners in crime, those of us who will be perpetually tired and never reach the end of our list.

We make it look easy, even when every muscle is crying for sleep, engagement, relief. 

We work. At home, in jobs, both, neither, it doesn’t matter. 

We work. We, women, win.

Tomorrow is Wednesday.

Thank the universe. 

My hat is off to each of you…Making it work, as only you can. 

Quicksand 

Worse than a kick in the stomach, worse than even my own fears is watching loved ones flounder, hurt, and experience profound suffering.

To see the earth we trust, the lives we build trap us and then slowly swollow us whole is a betrayal like none other.

The women I love more than life, my sister and best friend, are experiencing life altering health problems.

They are invisible to the world and yet their hurt and illness is so real it threatens both of their lives. 

How can there be joy, when one you love is so deeply trenched in pain?  

How can I ease their suffering without taking it on as mine? 

How do I hold out hope as I watch it flicker from their eyes? 

How do you find the strength to fight another day? 

Your beauty is alluring.

Your strength is stunning.

Your battle may be the sexiest thing about you. 

Your fight is inspiring. 
Healing, hope, hurt, despair, each a state of mind. 
Your strength, Your inspiration, Pulls me from my quicksand of despair. 
Lend me your hand, your heart, your burden.

I don’t know how, but I promise 

I will not let your suffering be in vain.

Up-cycled Leftovers: Chicken Parm Soup

I am a big fan of taking one easy recipe and making leftovers into a completely different and equally easy new dish. As a mother of a 14 week old, returning to the work force, I don’t have time for fancy and I don’t have time for gross.

Earlier this week we had roast chicken and baked potatoes which is one of the EASIEST meals on earth to make!  You need one roast pan, a chicken, some herbs, some oil,some butter and away you go.  Find the recipe I use here.

  • This week I substituted rosemary for thyme and lime for lemon because it was what I had on hand.

The Up-Cycle 

When we are done with the chicken, I always remove the extra meat and make stock out of what is left, but as I started this process yesterday, I remembered an easy recipe I had saved weeks ago for Chicken Parmesan Soup. This recipe from Delish.com is as easy as it is delicious.

  Because I was using the stock pot already, 

  • I sautéed the diced onions and garlic with olive oil in a skillet for about 8 minutes. (On medium heat)
  • I then added a can of tomato paste and a quarter cup of chicken broth and let it cook down for about 5 min, stirring occasionally.
  • While the onions were sautéing, I took the meat off the chicken frame and added it to the chicken stock.
  • I then dumped the contents of the skillet into the stockpot along with a can of diced tomatos.
  • I added 3tbs of Italian seasoning and let the broth and chicken simmer for  30 min.
  • I added some gluten free penne pasta, set the timer for 7 min, and got out the parmesean, mozzarella, and parsley.
  • When the timer went off, it was dish up and serve with some garlic toast! 

It was even better today than it was yesterday and we still have a TON of leftovers. 

    Good parent/bad parent: the modern parenting facade

    I am no angel but lately I have been asking myself a lot about the American parent dichotomy. This “perfect on the outside, shit on the inside” facade that we are all barely holding together.Where are my truthers? 

    Where are my unknown friends who have sat sobbing on the kitchen floor at midnight, with dinner burnt, your boobs hanging out, and your baby screaming? 

    Where are the women who forgot for 6 or more weeks what it was like to live with sex, sleep, and any rationale control of your hormones?

    Where are the woman who love their children fiercely, but occasionally have thought “could I give you back for an hour?”

    Where are these truthers hiding? I can’t hear you among the pleas of my peers for acceptance, approval.

    14 weeks of parenting has afforded me very little time behind this maniacal wheel, but what I do know is that “you know nothing.” 

    Jon Snow be damned, I am giving it my best shot.

    As I sit here, snowed in by Jonas, mounds of laundry piling up, struggling to breast feed and hoping the snow lasts till June so I never have to leave, I am reminded of the times I do get right. Half of them are by chance while the other half is hard work. Regardless, the triumph of these moments is all the greater because of the shitty odds of the battle going in, and the masterful f***-ups that somehow got you here.

    Truth: I feel like I do more work than my husband.

    Truth: he feels like he does more work than me.

    Truth: we both are often working to what feels like our limits and sleep is not what it used to be. 

    Truth: today I own my my duality. I am a good parent. I am a bad parent. 

    P.s. Nap-time, you are a cock tease. I am beginning to loathe you as much as those perfect princesses with their Einstein infants, Martha Stewart magic, and white girl angst.