Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Very Eclectic Most Useful and Best of the Web 2009 (with initial caps)

I see some well-known online magazine sorts of blogs/sites have put up their annual lists of best/most popular bloggers and I see it is the same old names as always, ho hum. I'm put in mind of high school where every year we held voting for Most This and Best That and Miss This and Mr That. Some of the Mosts and Bests were people I liked, and believed should get recognition, but, of course, they weren't all of it. Anyway, I've got authority issues and never take well to The Man (whoever or whatever that may be) telling me who is Most or Best. I always spy on my friends on Twitter, Facebook, or their blogs to see who they quote, link or read. That's who I figure is a good shot at being a most or best for me.

Yes, I'm that person -- the one who is influenced by her friends, versus another source.

Also, I have a broad range of online interests. Web love is a many genre'd thing.

Anyway, I decided to put out my own recs, and solicit yours, in no particular order (hence the unordered list):
  • Real Simple online. Suffice it to say, the answers to everything in life are here. If you can't find the answer you seek, they have great recipes, including for cocktails, which, I'm sure at the very least buy time to find the answer.
  • PR Squared, suggested by local buddy @briguyblock. You know those PR and social media/online marketing sites that are grasping or self-aggrandizing -- "Read ME, I'm an expert, and I can make you rich QUICK! if you follow my simple rules," -- well, this blog is not that. It's actual good, no, great, info. It's mature and a fabulous resource for anyone trying to build a brand (especially their own).
  • Communication Overtones. My friend Kami hasn't written enough there lately (no pressure) but when she does, it is oh-so-relevant and enlightening. Kami's The PR Pro, and that's not just a business name.
  • Greeblemonkey. Parenting. Photography. Technology. Music. Aimee Giese rocks. She's funny and real, takes great photos, and gives great post. I may have read her end of year iPhone app recap post, err, six times. And maybe spent money on her rec.
  • MOMocrats. Of course. Keen information about and insight into current events and politics that affect women from some of the best writers and minds. (Note no qualifier about "on the Web" because that is the least of what these women do.")
  • Everyone who knows me knows that I have a huge mom-advice crush on Devra of Parentopia and Rosalind Wiseman, both of whom continue to patiently dole out excellent advice about real, honest, successful, no-guilt, good enough parenting to help girls navigate this tough world. Recently, I added Rachel Simmons and Melissa Stanton to that list because they are fantastic. Melissa's a great lady, I like her. Check her Stay-At-Home Survival Guide and Real Life Support for Moms.
  • TheMotherhood.com and Savvy Source, both of which offer, hands-down, the best opportunity for community on the Net. They are quite, quite different, which is why I love both and find each fulfills a different need in me. Savvy is local -- my area, and has great info about schools etc. as well as wonderful local and regional talk. I've met some great Texans. TheMotherhood.com is broader geographically, but just as close as a tight-knit small town -- also, I can talk parenting, recipes, and Mad Men there. There's a lot of good people at both.
  • Speaking of Mad Men, there's my friend Becky, who talks about so much more but if my favorite fan to converse with about the show. Speaking of friends, there's my friend Kat, who may or may not blog more recently than October, but is always up for good twitversation. And my friend Yolanda, who is, thankfully, writing on her blog again -- she's lovely.
  • My friend Noelle says you better be reading Crazy Bloggin Canuck. After a peruse, I agree. On her behalf, I say read her, too. :)
  • Then there's Blog Nosh, which is awesome and so deliciously meta. I so rely on the kindness of meta these days.
  • And Deb. Who Rox. And who suggests Liza Was Here, LesbianDad, Mombian, Autostraddle, Kathryn Martini, Begayaboutgirl, Cream Puff Revolution, Seeking Simone, Lelonopo, and Dorothy Snarker of Dorothy Surrenders.
  • Speaking of rocks out loud, Maggie Dammit and her Violence Unsilenced.
  • Long-term bloggers who I still read for very good reason (and who still read me -- thank you!): Mayberry Mom who also writes Family Fitness, Mary of Them's My Sentiments, Jeanie in Paradise, Bon of Crib Chronicles, Ed of etee, Maggalicious of Magpie Musing,and last but not least Annie.
  • Oh love Mamma Loves. Slouching Past 40. Simply beautiful writing. Always. With sharp, sometimes pained, sometimes gorgeous, insights.
  • And Fem 2.0 including the women behind it and the conveners (see blog roll on sidebar).
  • Melisa is fun. Fun! And overall lovely.
  • Robin of Pensieve I met during Tide Loads of Hope, which automatically qualifies her as a great person. But it goes beyond that.
So...ADD TO THE LIST, eh!

Tell me who, what, where you like to read. Even if it's yourself.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Care package for troops -- our holiday tradition

Every year since the war began, I've sent care packages to troops. They've been getting bigger each year. Seems like the longer people are fighting, the longer they are away from their families...the more I need to do in support of them.

This year, I started thinking about a friend and how her husband was re-deployed, again. I wondered about these families that have to say hello and goodbye so often -- although she and so many others are so wonderfully eloquent and open about it that there is little actual wondering involved, other than "what would I do?"

My friend's husband got leave to come home for the holidays -- yea! -- but he left behind other members of his unit. So I said, "What can I do?"

Her husband asked his unit members, they generously shared their names and APO address, and I thought, "Who else can help?"

That's when I turned to my SeaWorld WildSide buddies. They all signed up to help without hesitation. One friend had her child's class collect and contribute for her holiday buddy. One friend shopped the stores out. Others asked about special requests. In the end, everyone sent gorgeous packages of treats. I sent a little gift bag of stationary, and silly stocking stuffer items for each person, along with a holiday card that expressed my appreciation for their service.

My kids helped. My husband helped. When I stopped to think, this is one of our holiday traditions. We've done it our kids' entire lives -- which also gives pause to wonder, "How much longer?"

If we think we have an opinion about the war/conflict/emancipation/peacekeeping mission/whatever euphemism we use now, imagine how the troops must think and feel about it. If we think it's tough to continue supporting this conflict, imagine how it feels to be the people doing it. If we think the price tag is high, imagine how much it costs those military service members. And their families.

Then think about how they do it. Every day. With pride.

That got me thinking about every day...and maybe other holidays besides Christmas and New Years.

Watch out. Soon, I might be asking people to send Valentine's cards. Peeps at Easter. Fourth of July packages. :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't look now

They say you aren't supposed to offer instructions with Don't in front. "Don't look down!" And you instantly look down because your brain is completely focused on the looking down part and the why not to do it part. They say you are supposed to say what to do instead. "Look up!" is supposed to be a lot more successful. But we keep saying "Don't look down."

Daphne du Maurier had that in mind when she wrote her creepy short story, "Don't Look Now." That story is what I call a train wreck tale: you can't look away. The movie, even more so. Does anyone remember that movie? 1973? Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a young, grief-stricken couple who encounter psychics, ghosts, and serial killers in Venice? du Maurier could do Gothic. And creepy. It's kind of everyone's worst general fears all in one tale.

Isn't the creepiest thing of all when you watch a person in an everyday thing -- something you might do? -- and you know something bad is ahead?

"Don't look now!" You know something creepy this way comes. Of course, in movies and books there is clever foreshadowing, mood music or scenery, special angles, and other warning signs. Building the tension.

I'm always listening for warning signs in life -- ominous music, coincidences, irony. Somehow, though, those warning signs don't always work in real life. It can be an ordinary thing on an ordinary day, and despite signs, you miss the warning because you’re so focused on what you expect: a normal day, the same as every other time.

That’s how it was for me, yesterday, when my dog and I left our house in the morning for our usual walk. "Just once around the block, down to the park for a quick run, and straight back!" I told him. My mother was visiting for the holidays and my sister and her family were due to arrive by lunchtime. My neighborhood park is an easy jog down my street, so he and I set off.

A man stopped us and said, "Are you heading to the park?"

He was a stranger, I didn't know him or why he was asking.

"No," I said, lying.

"Good," he said, "Don't go there. Don't look." Then he left, quickly.

How odd, I thought. Of course my brain immediately did what human brains do and fixated on going to the park and looking.

As we approached the park, a police car sped by.

How obnoxious, I thought. They ticket us all the time, they should obey the laws too.

The car went by again. And again.

Then an SUV marked CSI sped by. And again, and again.

How weird, I thought.

When we arrived at the park, I realized it had not been the same cars going by -- it had been five separate police cars, a CSI truck, and an unmarked white detectives car.

My dog started to automatically cross the street, but I paused. I looked at the police, detectives, and CSI lady. She's so tiny, I thought. How funny that she's so very petite. But maybe, I thought, she just looks super tiny next to that man. He's so tall, such a really tall, tall man. How odd, such a very tall man. I kept staring. They stood in a cluster, right across the street from me, by the playground equipment where I'd brought my children to play this same time yesterday. I hadn't brought them today. I was in a rush.

The police stood together, the detective in a button up shirt, tie and trousers, writing on a big black tablet, the police standing more to his left, in uniform, and the CSI lady by the very tall man on the right. The tall man kept looking down, never looked up.

Who is he, I wondered, and why was he so casual, no uniform, just a t-shirt, athletic bottoms, and fanny pack. Did they call him in? Why the fanny pack?

Some movement further down caught my attention, two men, one dressed like the detective, the other in dark blue uniform, walked past the boy scout hut to the water's edge.

Oh no, I thought, another alligator? Another kayaking accident? Not graffiti again, or even vandalism of the benches on the dock -- too many police for that.

None of the police moved with any urgency, though. Whatever it was, it was -- past tense. Done, finished.

The police blocked the path and anyway, it didn't seem wise, after all, to take my dog for a run in whatever it was. We curved to the left and looped through the neighborhood, instead.

Arriving home was a flurry. I pulled my husband aside and said, "We need to do a big redirect for the kids, away from the park. Let's not say no park, but just say let's stay home." I knew the kids, after their cousins arrived, would be eager for a park outing. "There's a lot of police, something going on, I don't know what," I explained. He nodded and I repeated this to my mother. Shortly after that, my sister arrived. While walking out to greet her, my neighbor passed by.

If I hadn't been so distracted, I would have caught her demeanor, but it was another clue I missed.

"Were you and your dog just at the..." I gestured. She nodded. "Did you see the..." I gestured. She nodded. "Do you know what..." I gestured. She nodded. "Can I come in a sec and..." I gestured. She nodded.

After greeting my sister and her family, I darted over to my neighbor's house. She was distraught. This is my unflappable neighbor. A local leader. A voice of reason. She saves me from snakes, lack of recycling, and too much red.

"Are you okay? What happened?" I asked. There was a tragedy, a man had hanged himself at the playground. She saw it. I mean, she saw him.

A little thought niggled the back of my mind -- but she'd gone out at least an hour after me, how had she seen him but I hadn't?

"I didn't realize," she said, "I was just going to talk to the police, I knew people would ask me, you know?" Yes, I knew. We all expect her to know, also she's in leadership position, which adds to our expectations.

"I was going to ask what happened, how long the park would need to be closed, let them know I could contact people," she explained.

There was no crime scene tape, nothing blocking her access, not even the police. They waited for her to walk up to them. They stood there, by the tree, on the path.

"That's where they were when I went by, but that was nearly two hours ago now," I exclaimed, "How very odd!"

"Well the coroner just now arrived," she told me, "Just now."

"So, the hanged man, he was there, hanging, all morning? Didn't they, you know, take him down?" I asked.

"No, he was there when I walked up. They were all standing there," she said, describing the same group exactly that I'd seen. "I just thought he was a tall man. I mean, the t-shirt and fanny pack seemed odd, but I thought he was just a tall man. Until, you know I walked up to them all and...and he wasn't tall."

"Oh, oh no," I said, reaching out to her, "Oh you saw, I am so, so sorry. Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes," she said, and her husband stood there, staring down, and I felt glad he was there. She said she'd be taking it easy that day. I expressed my sympathy again, and we shook our heads over the tragedy. A young man, she said, maybe even someone home for the holidays. So sad, so very tragic. We both felt horrible for the family, for the tragedy.

"Well," I said, wondering how to end a conversation like this. "I better get to my family, they're all here..."

"Sure," she said. And we both swore it would be a while before we'd feel okay about the park.

I started to say goodbye but instead said, "Wait, a tall man, who wasn't tall -- you said he was a man, you thought he was very tall only he wasn't tall...why wasn't he tall?"

She stared at me for a minute then said, "He wasn't tall, because he was hanging. From the tree, the big one, by the path, that the kids play on -- that tree. He was hanging, not tall."

A tall man, a very tall man, who wasn't tall. Because he was hanging. From the tree. By the path. Where the tiny CSI woman, who wasn't tiny, was standing. By the man who was hanging, not tall.

"In a white t-shirt, with a fanny pack, like he was out jogging, or walking a dog..." I said.

We stared at each other, and she confirmed it.

Don't go to the park. Don't look now.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How the holidays fill me with loads of hope

I am part of a special holiday Blog Carnival hosted on Blog Nosh Magazine and this post was sponsored by the Tide Loads of Hope program.

I was standing outside my house, directly under my children’s bedroom window, in what passes for cold in Bay Area Houston. In my hands I balanced a big boom box, Say Anything style, except it wasn’t blasting music. It was blasting the sound of reindeer hooves on a roof, including snorts, and the jingling bells of their harnesses.

That’s when I knew it.

No, not that I had lost my mind; I knew that I had finally gotten my holiday groove back.

I knew that come what storms may, we could weather them, and when you have a chance to stand outside in what passes for cold blasting sleigh bells on a boom box to bring a little magic to kids, your kids, who still believe in, well, the everything sort of possibilities…you go for it, big.

This marked a huge change.

I’ve spent my life trying to find my footing during the holidays. My family had the general traditions – ham, pie, gifts, visits to family – but nothing terribly consistent. My parents had barely settled into our immediate family’s ways when they got divorced, then we had to transition into juggling two (very competitive) Christmases. That was barely settled when each got remarried and then a whole new set of traditions and expectations came into play. By the time I left home and married my husband, I was more a little confused about the holidays. I was, in fact, completely cynical.

I remember all the craziness and competition, but I also remember being in the bell choir and making beautiful music for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. I remember the year I got to be the Angel in the Nativity scene. I remember my grandmother making chocolate silk pies with whipped cream topping, just the way I liked it – and saving the first piece for me. I remember being bored one afternoon with my friends and sister and masterminding a caroling outing. I remember the man who cried when we sang, and who could barely express how much our song had meant to him.

Our neighborhood wasn’t the nicest, not even during the holidays. Nobody put bows on street lamps, and decorations were few and far between. It wasn’t the sort of place that had carolers. But that afternoon, some little girls, eight-ish and ten-ish went around to sing because we loved Christmas. The man told us we brought him joy. And hope.

That’s the magic of kids, you know? They live in a world of magical realism, impossibility, and belief. They hope. And why not?

That’s why – despite the past and the last five years – I found myself standing outside my girls’ bedroom window adding to the myth.

The last five years have been a mess: two hurricanes, both damaging; a lost job; three pet deaths; a cross-country move; losing the vast majority of all we owned in a flood; fighting two major and serious diseases; losing several friends to cancer; and more.

It’s taken a toll on us, the adults, and by virtue of that, on our kids. My older daughter is old enough to remember Before, but this life, the one we lead now, is all my littlest one knows of our lives.

For a long time, I’ve been telling myself a lot of shoulds – how I should be, what I should do, what the kids deserved and how I should fulfill that -- all of which increase in volume and frequency this time of year. I know that when you’re tapped out on so many fronts, every little extra effort seems beyond your ability, even if it’s for good. Still, I put on a front, for the kids. Because I should.

But sometimes, that fake it until you make it has a way of working out.

Last year, we laughed with true glee as we spread reindeer feed in the front yard. We laughed even though our yard hadn’t recovered from the hurricane and we still had two holes in our roof and our budget was missing in action because the insurance settlement barely covered a third of the cost. We laughed because we had a reason to be happy – we had our home, we had what mattered. We had each other.

I stood outside with those recorded bells jangling that Christmas Eve night, and I shook not with cold but with excitement and suppressed laughter.

This year, I pulled out my holiday shirts. All of them. The St. Patrick’s one, the Easter one, the Fourth of July one, the Halloween one, and yes, even the Christmas one. This year I decked the halls for every season. This year, as soon as we put the Thanksgiving d├ęcor away, we started pulling out the Christmas things.

Our house may not have lights strung all over, but it’s got two little lighted Christmas trees in the front flower bed and a homemade by children wreath on the door. My kids may not remember the individual gifts they get, but I hope – I hope loads – that they’ll always carry memories of the special times we create every year. I hope they’ll remember the night they heard Santa’s sleigh and knew his reindeer ate their feed. I hope they remember how mom cried at their Las Posadas program and tried to tell them how much it meant to see them dressed as little angels, singing about the real reason for the season. I hope they know hope, always.

How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?

Respond here, or on your blog, but please come join the carnival of hope
!

Loads of Hope for the Holidays

Please join us at Blog Nosh Magazine as we share stories of hope this holiday season in support of the Tide Loads of Hope program, a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters.

Share your own stories of hope, along with Blog Nosh Magazine, Velveteen Mind, and a gathering of inspiring bloggers, and enter your own post link in the blog carnival below. Visit Blog Nosh Magazine to explore featured bloggers as well as three featured posts selected from carnival participants listed in the linky (that could be you!).

Lend your voices now, then participate live during a two day event in New Orleans, Sunday and Monday, December 13 and 14, as we tweet stories of resilience from laundry recipients and volunteers on the ground. Follow along on twitter via #loadsofhope and be sure to follow @TideLoadsofHope.

Learn more about how you can extend hope to families affected by disasters by visiting http://tideloadsofhope.com

Blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh Magazine, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope.




How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Someone's in the kitchen with...KIDS! And it's called Kinderkitchen by Kuhn Rikon

I am a frequent customer of my local caterer, which offers really economic home-cooked meals. You buy, bring home, and eat. Yum. And easy.

I used to like to cook, bake especially, and my true gift is as a saucier. I can also whip up amazing things with just what's in the fridge.

People used to fly up to Boston just to eat the seafood I made. Well probably also see the sights and maybe visit me, but seriously, they requested to eat in, specifically asking for my crab cakes, shrimp, and Scrod.

I can't explain how I morphed into a noncook. It's maybe the Unappreciative Audience (aka The Kids). It could also be the exhaustion. The other demands. But mostly, I think, it's the kids.

I do know that they'll eat food other people make. My kids, for example, turn their noses up at my homemade stew (and it's good, honestly, it is) but will eat it at a friend's house. They'll eschew my fish, but will chow down at Joe's Crab Shack. They'll savor the caterer's casseroles, after telling me my own is Yuck.

It's not me, honestly, it's them. Seriously. Truly.

I do also know they'll eat what they make, so I've been, especially now that they are older, involving them more and more in the cooking process.

Then my favorite local caterer started offering kids cooking classes. How cool is that! Kid-friendly recipes and lessons.

So I'm twittering this (because that's what you do -- or rather, what I do) and a local friend says, hey did you know there are kitchen tools designed for kids?

Uhh, no, because I am not that savvy or cool. LOL I make my kids suffer through using what we already own, because I am so scroogy that way and "fit them into my world" is how I roll.

Then, as if leading me to new knowledge wasn't enough, she offers to donate a gift pack of these tools. They're called KinderKitchen by Kuhn Rikon. And oh-my-stars this is like "little gingerbread playhouse in the garden" level dream-come-true cool.

I relished the idea of Fun in the Kitchen with My Kids, but knowing that these tools would be ever so much more valuable as a silent auction item in our school fundraiser, I bravely and selflessly handed them over for the greater good.

There was maybe a little weeping at my pity party.

So at the fundraiser, everyone got to see these amazing kid's kitchen tools. They are kid-sized, easy to hold with good grips, really high professional quality (maybe a little nicer than my own things, actually), and adorable with cute designs and bright colors.

Let's just say...BIDDING WAR.

There was maybe a little smugness at my school fundraising party.

But anyway I know you folks are out there gift shopping. And while I've heard people are fighting for some robotic hamster in a cage (????), I personally prefer fun yet useful will use it all year long gifts.

And really...what better than kitchen tools for kids?

Mouse measuring cups. . .so much better than robotic gerbils:












This post is uncompensated and written for no reason other than because I wanted to do it, because seriously, I think these things are wicked cool and wanted to tell you about it.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bitten tongue

I, as you may have gathered, like to use my words. I try (like hades) to use them wisely and for good. But I am a woman of opinion, prejudice, judgment, and some immaturity as we all are and so sometimes my mouth, it does run away. Less these days than in the past, I hope. Although I do seem to talk a lot, still.

However, recently I've been learning how very much I say about the things that often matter little to me.

I have always kept up an artful show, a stream of lies and excuses -- a habit, a defense I developed long ago to protect myself, which, in turn, protected others around me too, for better or worse.

One time, in middle school, I pretended I didn't know how to clean anything. More specifically, I pretended I didn't know how to sweep. This from the girl who'd been sweeping and mopping for years, among many, many other responsibilities. I'm all for chores, but there's a distinction between responsibility and burdening. But at camp that summer, I wanted to be that girl: the carefree one who had little responsibility on her shoulders. The one who was only expected to make her bed, clean her room, put away laundry -- my idea of normal. The one whose parents adored her, and maybe spoiled her little -- and not only in front of other people, when they thought they were being watched and judged. I wanted to laugh and joke and kvetch about parents in normal teen ways, such as "My mom won't let me go to the Mall!"

When I pretended to be that girl kids liked me. They thought it was funny. I played along, adding to it, pretending to be rich and indolent, hamming it up. I never told an outright lie, beyond the sweeping thing. Instead, I would tilt my head, raise my eyebrows, and be silent, letting the other kids draw their own conclusions. They were so happy to be so bright and insightful.

They let me in, they joked with me, they gave me a nickname. I was accepted.

When I pretended to be that other girl -- the one who could not sweep -- I belonged. I was no longer the girl who was afraid to walk into her own house, uncertain of what I'd find (anger? okay?). I didn't need to worry about money. I didn't have anxiety. I didn't worry whether others knew.

That girl did not live in a house of cards. She did not lose sleep at night wondering when her house would fall.

She was fun, and people liked her.

When my sister found out and outed me, she asked me why. I shrugged. I couldn't explain why to anyone, not really. Anyway, I imagine most kids would never, ever have understood why I started this pretense. I imagine most adults would not have, either.

The best I can explain it now is a girl desperate to escape. I no longer wanted to be me, in my life. Some kids might have felt suicidal. I felt like pretending.

I think, maybe, that children with safe relationships are the ones who complain out loud about their parents. I think kids who say, "Oh my GOD, I HATE my mom," are the probably often the ones with very little to no valid reason to hate a parent. I think the ones who have real reason to hate a parent are often very quiet about it.

My parents. My family. The place I come from. It is why I bite my tongue. It is why holidays stress me. It is why sometimes I feel hopeless about humanity. It is why I analyze things. It is why my posts are often about my Holiday Cocktail and ways to save and serve leftovers instead of warm and moving lovely personal familial posts.

I wanted to write a happy Thanksgiving post -- something about gratitude and good attitude, and the small joys that came. I wanted my week to be full of the silly relative stories that make us laugh, too much food that makes us all groan in sympathy, and sweet kid tales that make us all smile.

There was that.

There was also the catching up on the to-dos.

There was also the Great Battle of Sugar Ant (ongoing), my latest humorous home invasion accounting that I've been trying to write.

There was also the rest of it.

The rest of it I usually turn into shame and artfully mask with many words that don't mean as much. The rest that is pretense.

One time, a couple of years ago, some people asked me why I am such a scrooge about Christmas. A hundred replies about every Christmas of my life so far, each sounding worse than the last, pounded in my temples. The question became a challenge, and my response became a post about why I have a Blue Christmas.

The reactions humiliated me. I lengthened my perspective and I saw that what caused my humiliation was buying into the dysfunction -- believing in any way that it colored me, and was in some part, my fault (as I'd always been told).

And yet, it also freed me. So it has made me think again about revealing.

Letting it out, letting it go. Distancing myself from it.

I know well this pattern and how it plays out. I know where it goes.

That's why I was not surprised when, while holding the beautiful Kirsty book in which one of my humble blog posts was published, instead of saying anything about congratulations or pride, my father instead launched into a lengthy and loud public criticism of all of my essay's faults. That's why none of what came during this holiday surprised me. If you lived this, you too would not be surprised. That's not the same thing as being prepared, though.

This morning, the first grade teacher at our daughters' school caught me and my husband doing one last peek into our littlest one's classroom. "Don't you wish you could be a child, that age again?" she asked us.

My husband laughed. "No, not really," I said. At that age my father locked me outside one night and told me I could live with the dogs if that's the best I could behave: like an animal. My mother let him. She gestured helplessly at me, which is my best recall of her during my childhood: gesturing helplessly. At that age, I curled up next to my miniature Spitz for warmth and comfort. My dog, my best friend, my unconditional love. The teacher regarded me oddly. "I wouldn't want to relive my childhood," I said, "But it is a beautiful thing to see them live their childhoods. I just enjoy childhood through their eyes. How happy they are, how much they enjoy things." How they trust me enough to get angry at me and tell me they hate me.*

This afternoon I watched a video of a woman speaking about how the first thing she did when she got her cancer diagnosis was call her mom and dad, because she knew they'd be there like they had always been. My prospect for that is a much lower percentage. Her certainty shook me. I'd call but I'd expect little, and I might get more, or less, depending. How much I got would all depend on me, as it always has. My parents would ask me to understand, would ask me to see how much I was asking of them, and would, in some way, gesture helplessly, moving on to the more important things. This is the little message sent to me regularly: I'm not that important. I know where they come from, what they dealt with in their own childhoods, and that this is how it is.

Like I said, though, knowing this does little in the way of preparation. Infertility is better for that, actually. I know I am not alone in that I had little rituals and superstitions on important cycle dates. Building little altars everywhere -- whether literal of figurative -- is what does something in the way of preparation.

On my way over for Thanksgiving, I read Tweets from Grace about surviving the holiday and things to do to protect yourself when it suddenly struck me: I have never fully believed I deserved, was worthy, of protecting myself.

So for my Thanksgiving? I am grateful for people who help those lightbulbs go on overhead, for people who use their words and courage of sharing to facilitate this, for realizing. I am grateful for people who understand and do not diminish you.

So later that same day, after reading messages of Forgive Yourself, Stop it Before it Hits You, Never Be Afraid to Walk Out, when the shame and not good enough and no love started coming my way I did not let it enter in. My essay is not bad. I am not bad. My essay is not weak. I am not weak. My essay does not lack critical information and points. Neither do I. I have not asked for this. I do not deserve this. I am not asking too much. There is not a limit on what I am worth.

When I will stop wondering why this is the way it is will be another blog post altogether.

* Do you know? When I said I did not want to relive childhood, that teacher opened up to me, too. She shared a couple of challenges, very briefly, to let me see a new facet of her, something deeper than the expected, and more of a human, than simply a cheerful smiling face that thinks children and childhood are gorgeous in some oversimplified way. I liked her immensely, then.