Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Duffel Bag

When I was pregnant with Allison, a friend of mine gave me a Vera Bradley duffel bag as a shower gift. Although it was soft and it had a lot of pink in it, it was not the typical shower gift I got.

My friend explained that this was to be a bag for me - and when I was ready to share it, it would be a bag for my daughter.

I know I had things in my mind that I would pass on to my first born, but this was the first item that was specifically meant for that purpose. I was touched beyond words.

That bag became my "go bag". It contained clothes for me and clothes for Allie. Headbands and other assorted trinkets, too, because we were not sure what we would need for our newborn photo shoots. I also packed a nail file and other miscellaneous things that had nothing to do with giving birth or staying in a hospital, but I wanted to be prepared.

When Gary and I walked into the hospital on April 21, 2011, we had that bag slung over his shoulder. We were too soon to have our baby but we figured she was coming so we had to be ready.

When the ultrasound technician glanced at us and said there was no heartbeat, the bag sat solemnly in the corner.

When the doctor arrived and explained, with watery eyes and a look full of sorrow, that there was no heartbeat, the bag was there.

When Allison was born still on April 22, 2011, the bag sat on a chair, untouched. There was simply nothing from it that I needed.

When we came home from the hospital with much of the same items still in the bag and a memory box in our hands and not a car seat, we were numb and empty.

The bag eventually got unpacked and the contents put away. I remember throwing out the nail file and laughing at how naive I had been. The maternity clothes were no longer of use so they went into storage, along with Allison's beloved clothes and other keepsakes.

When Miranda was born, I went searching for that bag. I dusted it off, filled it up with new outfits and new items and it became hers. It went to Delaware with us to meet her. It went to her aunt and uncle's house in New Jersey for her first sleep-over. A few weeks ago, it traveled to Virginia with us when we went to spend the weekend with my college roommate. It has been to the Poconos and back. It has been to Wildwood and Ocean City and this past weekend, the Great Wolf Lodge.

The sad bag has become a happy bag. It has become what it was meant to be...something of mine that is now my daughter's. It took us a long time to get here, but get here we did.

I just unpacked the bag now and tucked it back in my daughter's closet. I am not sure when she will use it next, but I know that seeing that bag will mean an adventure is before us and that good things will be on the horizon. That bag turned out to be a pretty great shower gift after all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fat (a)shamed

The first time I remember being fat shamed was in high school. I was old enough to drive but not wealthy enough from working weekends at the local grocery store to have a car of my own. So I often borrowed my mom's.  During the summers, in particular, I would drive her to work so that I would have her car and then pick her up at the end of the day.

One hot and steamy day, I decided to go inside and let my mom know I was there as opposed to waiting for her in the car. She was a social worker at a nursing home at the time and I can still smell the antiseptic and the pudding that combined in the air to make a unique smell. To this day, I equate that smell with old people and it's not fair because that smell is really not at all what people of any age smell like.

My mom was happy to see me walk in and introduced me to some of the residents. Most smiled and nodded and some were even excited to meet me. There was one old cranky man, though, who did not share their joy. He took one look at me and asked how someone has small and petite as my mom could have such a chunky and fat daughter. I was crushed. She was mortified. I left in tears and my mom reassured me for months and years later that that man was just a miserable old human being and he lashed out at anyone and everyone and she begged me not to take his words to heart.  I do not remember his name but I bet my life that she does.

This past Friday I had dinner with someone I had not seen in a while. It was nice to catch up and relive old times. Then, as the wine was making its way through my system and I was getting a nice buzz and starting to really relax, this someone started to tell a story of his boss. His fat, mean, boss. Family Guy fat. Pretty big. Then this someone turned to me and said, "No offense." And he kept talking.

I shrugged. I was not offended. Unless...unless...oh my god...do you think I am that fat, a voice in my brain said? You think I am a gross, cartoon character of fatness?

I smiled and made it through the rest of the dinner. At one point, I excused myself to go to the restroom where I sat in the stall, lid still on the toilet, and wondered how I got here. How did I gain enough weight back that I could be viewed as fat again? How did I allow myself to be in a situation where I did not see the insult coming? What do I do now?

The first thing I had to do was pay the bill. The second thing I had to do was get home. The third thing I had to do is cry. I did not do them in that order. The tears came before I was home.

No one deserves to be fat shamed. No one deserves to be any kind of shamed. I am embarrassed but my weight and it has been my cross to bear since before high school. I struggle daily, whether people see it or not. I have an addiction to food just like some have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. I am working on getting the help I need.

I do not want to ever feel ashamed about my weight again.  More importantly, I do not want my daughter to ever live through the kind of struggles that I have had to deal with my whole life. Please, please, please...think before you speak, say what you mean but be kind and never ever think you know someone based on the face they choose to show you. 

Let's be kind to each other - if not just for us, then for our children. Then maybe some of the pain will be worth it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

And then we met...

Well, it's official! Jennifer Weiner and I are friends. 

I had the chance to meet her on Friday night. She hosted a little meet and greet at World Cafe Live for her friends and fans and I am happy to say I am now both.

We (my dear friend Kara and I) walked into the private room to the smells of pigs and blankets, pork and chicken dumplings and sliders. In other words, my foods!  There was an open bar and free copies of her new book, Hungry Heart, on a table in the back. There were also free canvas bags and some other treats.

Jen walked in and immediately said hello to everyone. She then talked a little bit off the cuff before reading an excerpt from her new book.  She was funny and engaging and relatable. I am paraphrasing, but she mentioned how important it is for women writers to tell the truth about women's issues. For women to be honest and share their lives. It gave me goosebumps. That is exactly why I do what I do.

She exited the room and invited us all to come and get our new books signed. I nervously approached her and told her my name and that I had written to her in the past. She stood up and gave me a big hug and then we made some small talk about the concert that night and she wanted to make sure I was having a good time. There was more, but I blocked it out in an attempt to not throw up on her.

After the photos, we went back in the room and proceeded to demolish what was left of the food and the drinks. I was on such a high that I do not know for sure that my feet were touching the ground.

We stayed for the Dar Williams concert. We planned to listen to a few songs and we stayed through the last encore. Jennifer introduced the show with more stories and another reading. It was magical.

I have been blessed with many great nights in my life. This one ranks up there for sure.

I am a writer. I have so many stories to tell. I know there is an audience for them and I can't wait to share my words with the world.

Jennifer is back at a local bookstore on Thursday. My mom and I are going to go this time. I do not need to get another book signed but she might. And maybe I will pop in and say hi to my old friend just because. You never know!

Here's to women empowering women, your mentors living up to your expectations and a bright and happy today and tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mom Code

There is a code that applies to all people with the name mom. Young, old, natural, adopted, step, foster...it doesn't matter. If you have ever been called mom, you know the code.

When you see another mom struggling in the parking lot, trying to unfold her bulky stroller while a baby wails in her arms, you go over to help. When you see a mom trying to walk her tray of Chick-Fil-A nuggets over to her table with a toddler in tow, you go over and offer assistance. When you hear a baby screaming in a store and see the mom look flustered and maybe even embarrassed, you look at her with compassion and not frustration.

When Miranda was teeny tiny, I remember taking her to meet Gary for lunch. It was pouring and I was soaked, trying to block the water from our infant. A mom walked by and said to me, "I remember those days all too well!" and kept walking. 

I do not know what I expected her to do, but that was not it. Sleep deprived, cold and now drenched, all I wanted to do was burst into tears. That was maybe the day I learned the code.

I would NOT be that woman. I would not let any other mom every feel that way if I could help it.

Now that my child is not longer an infant, I have less control over her when we are out. She is often testing the limits and running away or trying to jump in place or generally just being silly. It's not as easy to walk over to another mom and obey the code when my kid is already half way down the escalator and may or may not be holding on tight. But I vow that when I can, if I can, I will be the compassionate mom and not the one too busy to help other moms.

We have to stick together. For the sake of our kids and ourselves, we must!

I rely on these same moms to help me when I am struggling. Often I turn to friends or family, but sometimes I find myself talking to a complete stranger because she is there, I am there, and our kids are in the same vicinity. There is a bond in our code and I love it. 

I hope that I am not the only one that has experienced the mom code. I also hope more and more moms learn to honor and follow it! That's the beauty of the unspoken code - you can join or adhere to the code at any time and any place. #time2momup 

Adoption In My Heart

Today was the Adoptions From The Heart Annual Picnic . We love this event. It is close to our house, it is early enough in the summer that i...