Hey humans, we’re overdue for a remodel. I’ll go first.

8 Jul

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I’ve been blathering on for months, complaining about people who hate. I love love, but I hate hate, and I hate haters, a category I have recently lumped a large number of people into, taking it upon myself to determine they are terrible for hating. When I realized just how much I hated all of these haters, I knew I had a problem. And I knew I wasn’t alone.

I’m not supposed to hate, right? I’m a Christian and a pastor’s wife, but alas, I’ve fallen down on the job.

I feel it both when the police kill innocent people and when people kill the police who put their lives on the line to protect us. I find myself hating action and inaction. I hate what we’ve become, but also what we used to be. Power and the absence of power. Obsessiveness, and ignorance. Braggadocio and spinelessness. I hate racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and fear-mongering and then I find myself hating the people I have determined haven’t hated that same stuff enough. I hate reading the news, but also not reading the news. Don’t even get me started on the comments section of any article about anything – whether it’s politics or the Golden State Warriors. The comments section is where my fury gets a real workout. I hate inequality and injustice which I think we’re supposed to, but I can feel almost the same level of anger towards everyone from Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans to total strangers who disagree with me on anything, which means, I’ve covered every single one of you. Family, friends, everybody.

And that’s just the darkness contained in my heart…the heart of just one white, (almost?) middle-aged, middle-class, usually chipper Christian mom who wants peace and love and unity, and for everybody to be nice to each other. I want equality and justice, and a better world for my children and your children. But, how can a desire for all that good, thrive and produce in a heart that is taken up with so much darkness?

Which makes me the problem.

I can’t see your heart. I don’t know what’s going on in there, or what’s going on in the heart of GoneFishinPhil63 whose comments on news articles have made me think he’s the devil incarnate. Knowing is not my job and it’s not my business. All I can know is what’s happening in my own heart, and it’s not pretty, and it’s not getting me anywhere, and it sure as heck isn’t helping anybody else, so I’m going to start there. Because what I’ve been doing lately, IS NOT WORKING.

Last night, to add insult to injury, I realized I’ve been reading Martin Luther King, Jr. all wrong, all this time.

My husband, who cares deeply about social justice, and works tirelessly for it as a pastor in San Francisco, posted an MLK, Jr. quote he’s had to go back to again and again, when societal tensions seem to be rising. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Beautiful, right? I love it. But I’ve been doing it wrong. I’ve been reading it allllllll this time, and thinking, “Yeah, take that, idiots on the other side. I love love and you morons are screwing it up and securing your place on the wrong side of history. Me and Martin Luther King, Jr. are right again!” Nope, the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seems to have been talking to me.

I’m not going to stop hating, by hating some more. The darkness I feel inside isn’t going to leave so I can make room for more darkness. Nothing will change with the set-up I have right now.

So after taking a good long look at my own heart, I’ve decided to remodel. I can’t do ANYTHING, until I’ve done that. It’s not going to be easy; it’s close to a total tear-down job, and I know I’ll need the Man Upstairs who’s a specialist in this kind of work. There will be dust and noise and I won’t know where anything is for a while. However, the new place will be light and airy, and there will be tons of space for accepting and entertaining friends and strangers, but by design, no spot to sit and read the comments section.

moms: taking care of business since the beginning of time

4 May

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Me and Mary Jo, circa 1985

She was a blur of suntan nylons, pink lipstick, and curly hair tamed into a D.A. that came courtesy of a JC Penney salon stylist that knew “D.A.” stood for “duck’s @$$.”

In our small house, there was no mistaking when Mary Jo was leaving for work.  She click-clacked across our tile in her sling-back pumps; her dozens of keys jingling with a celebratory clatter announcing to the world that all was well, the keys had been located, probably in a side pocket of a 40-pound purse or under the pile of mail on the kitchen counter.

In our tight-knit neighborhood, there was no mistaking when Mary Jo was leaving for work. The echoes of her signature door slam and engine rev, pin-balled between the tract houses. If you were lucky enough to be standing in your yard when she tore out of the driveway, you were on the receiving end of an enthusiastic wave, and had a good view of her careening around the corner in our Chrysler Cordoba…a vehicle so long, my friends thought our family had a limousine.

She was not much older then, than I am now. Like me, she was a mom to two kids constructed of 80% freckles, and 20% defiance; and again like me, married to a great husband/awesome dad who adored her, but wished she could relax, just a little bit.

She made breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, breaking sometimes for Sunday outings to Sizzler or Kentucky Fried Chicken. She ironed every piece of clothing that touched my body. She reminded me often, that she’d won an ironing contest when she was in high school.

I didn’t babysit or mow the lawn. “You don’t need that,” she’d say, “You’ll have to work soon enough.”

She changed Rod Stewart’s sexy lyrics so convincingly, it was years before I realized the words weren’t “If you want my money, and you want my money.”

She let me roller skate in the house.

She fought her speeding ticket in traffic court, and won.

She was concerned, when at 14, I watched a VHS copy of “Heathers” or “Gleaming the Cube” every day after school.

Before there were rules about parents yelling from the sidelines at kids’ sporting events, she yelled from the sidelines…but only because she was my number one fan.

For a while, she told every grocery checker where her kids went to college. These days, she shows those same checkers pictures of her four grandkids, and of the roast my husband cooked on Christmas.

I was 24 when I finally apologized to her for how I acted when I was 18. I was 26, and only weeks into motherhood, when I acknowledged that being a mom was not exactly easy, and it must have been…not exactly easy for her either. I thought of her when I careened out of work to get a kid to baseball practice. And somewhere over the course of my almost 16 years of motherhood so far, there was a precise moment when I realized my children weren’t spending their every waking moment marveling at all that I get done in a day. It was that precise moment when I became Mary Jo’s number one fan.

I always knew her as a working mom. Not a high profile executive. Not a woman bent on dynamiting the glass ceiling… a suburban mom, taking care of business, so her daughter could do whatever she wanted when the time came.

Mary Jo was just a kid when she learned shorthand and bookkeeping. I remember her perched at our kitchen counter working late into the night. Her fingers, strong from years on a manual typewriter, flew over the keys of her Selectric.

She worked for the railroad, a loan company, and an elementary school. Her bosses had mustaches, cowboy boots and long cars, too.

She worked hard and cared hard and she did it all without needing to blog about it or escape into sacred girls’ nights out.

And now, at 81, she’s still a working mom. When she’s tired, I tell her she she should quit her job, and she tells me she’ll quit when she’s good and ready. She’s tougher than I am, and always will be. Chances are your mom’s tougher than you too. They were tough so we wouldn’t have to be.

Motherhood is taking care of business. It’s careening. It’s click-clacking through the house and caring what your kids watch after school. It’s bragging about them to people who don’t care. It’s making sure Taco Tuesdays happen on Tuesdays. It’s wanting to yell from the sidelines, stopping yourself, then yelling just a little bit. It’s deciding only to quit when you’re good and ready. Motherhood is being somebody’s number one fan.

This is just a snapshot of what Mother’s Day means to me…my hard working mom and hard-working mom-in-law Ruthie…two awesome broads who are taking care of business and loving their families fiercely. Mothers Day might be something else to you. A hard day. A sad day. Here’s to everybody out there who’s taking care of someone – showing compassion, working hard, putting on a bandage, listening, loving, praying, feeding, guiding, giving, hugging, bragging, and changing the lyrics when necessary.

My paradise is your prison: a trip to The Container Store

6 Feb IMG_3524

“Please don’t make us go. We’ll be so good starting right now. Please. Please. Please, don’t make us go.”

Where could I have been dragging the children, that was such a nightmare? What on earth could have evoked such desperation and sheer terror?

Not prison. Not a hard labor camp. Not the dentist. It was The Container Store.

While the children begged for clemency, I tried to contain how excited I was to have a perfectly valid, legitimate reason for going to The Container Store…not even one of my usual made-up reasons. I needed a laundry drying rack…. a big industrial-sized model, because I am never not doing laundry. I had nothing but the welfare of our family in mind. My last drying rack had just collapsed in defeat, a stack of plastic knobs and metal pipes, finally done in by the weight of yet another uniform, and another pair of jeans I was trying to preserve for their human occupant who was just going to fall in mud or grow two feet the next day, anyway.

I needed a drying rack because I still haven’t figured out all of the weird sporty, wicking fabrics the males in this house wear. The material of all that gym/basketball/baseball/running stuff feels so delicate, though I could probably dry all of it by running over it with a tractor and it would be fine. I didn’t need a dorm-sized drying rack. I needed the one that professional football teams use. I’m a professional.

They pleaded their case, but it wasn’t enough. We were going to the store whether they liked it or not, which is one of the necessary realities of childhood, and of parenthood, too.

Just that morning, they had already woken up to beautiful sunshine, had been fed pancakes AND hot chocolate, and then suffered through another store where I had unsuccessfully looked for a laundry rack, yet successfully found a new lasagna pan, a pan I would soon use to make them a lasagna. Quelle horreur!

The Container Store contains more containers than I could ever use in my lifetime. They are colorful, lovely boxes and bins and bags stacked to the sky, each representing the hope of what could be…beauty and order harnessing the chaos. I don’t think that’s what my kids see.

And I guess I see something different in the stores they prefer.

Those stores represent the hope of what could be for them…zombies to be pursued, goals to be made, races won. Two months before my drying rack quest, I went into the video game store on the release day of “Some game with Zombies,” and I vowed loudly, “never again.” I’ve waited on the sidewalk when they go in ever since. I go with John to those stores that sells TVs and phone cases and wires of every shape and size, and my eyes glaze over. If I fall behind and lose him, I wonder around, saying “John?” to all the other brown haired guys in khakis and button down shirts.

“Sorry. You’re not John.”

“Yes, I am John.”

“Not my John.”

You can’t make someone love The Container Store, and you can’t make someone love the wire store or the video game store. It turns out a 41-year-old mom is – often, not always – different than a 10-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy and a 42-year-old boy. And that’s fine, and that’s one of the reasons there are Girls Nights Out and Man Caves.

On that day in The Container Store, the boys knew what would happen, even when I didn’t. They knew I wasn’t just running in for an enormous best-drying-rack ever that would fill the car’s trunk. They knew it would be something else too. And there it was, the ultimate container…a huge plastic box designed to hold our artificial Christmas tree. The one they held on their laps without complaint as we drove the six minutes home.

 

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I’ve already vowed to hold the zombie game on my lap the next time we drive home from their store.

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reading, writing and reasonableness

18 Sep

I am pro-school.

Pro-education.

Pro-academia.

Pro-books, college-rule paper, graph paper, poster board, dictionaries, pink erasers, messy desks, atlases, recesses and fresh bottles of Elmer’s School Glue.

I love history, and hate math, like a normal person. I still grimace at the memory of the Presidential Fitness test, in which the only event I could complete with any confidence was the Shuttle Run. (Only recently did it occur to me President Reagan didn’t wake up, do his Chin-Ups, the Sit & Reach and the Shuttle Run before heading over to the Oval Office to keep “Red Dawn” from happening in real life. If he was making us do the Shuttle Run, he should have been doing it too.)

Like you, I took Home Economics, Drama, Band, Journalism, Speech & Debate, Photography and German. And, like you, it turns out I was terrible at some things and pretty good at other things, which I guess, is one of the coolest parts of our shared human experience.

But now I’m grown and don’t remember any German and as my kids will be quick to tell you, very little Home Ec. I have a high school sophomore and a fourth grader which gives us an uncomfortable front row seat to how much school has changed since the olden days, and how it has also weirdly stayed the same.

I never thought though, when I was actively hating Algebra from my graffiti-ridden classroom desk (only minimal graffiti from me) that I would one day get to re-live it through my kids, and hate it all over again, all the while wondering if I should pretend that I love it and use it all the time. “Just the other day, I was trying to figure out how much wall-to-wall shag carpet I would need, while slicing a pie ten ways, and figuring out how many rulers I can buy with 11 cents.”

Somehow, totally objective black and white math is different, having made way for creative thinking and areas of gray; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – the terminology is different, the methods are new.

Apparently my 1984 method of multiplying is the Shuttle Run of Math. I haven’t been excited to learn the new stuff, until this week. When the fourth grader unzipped his backpack, pulled out the red homework folder (the folder of doom), and a workbook sheet, simply entitled, “Reasonableness.”

Reasonableness

His assignment and lesson for the day was… Reasonableness.

Johan is selling baseball cards for $.45 apiece. He is selling 8 cards and says he’ll make $32.40

Now, is that reasonable? No, it’s not. Johan is being ridiculous.

I’ve never been more excited about new math! In fact, I think half of a school year could easily be spent on this one topic. The other half can go to state capitals and quiet reading, but September through mid-January? Reasonableness. In fact, more kids should major in Reasonableness, and shoot for the stars, break the glass ceiling and become Doctors of Reasonableness!

Why stop at Reasonableness?

“What do you have 3rd period?”

“Humility. You?”

“Oh, I have Honor.”

“Honors English?”

“No, just Honor.”

“Oh, right, I hear the teacher’s amazing.”

Generosity. Self-Control. Respect. Perseverance. Humor. Spelling for the Texting Generation. Common Sense.

I’ve started planning the curriculum.

Johan has two hours to get his homework done, do his chores, eat dinner, and enjoy some time spent talking to the family who loves him and wants to hear about his day. Knowing homework takes an hour, chores take 15 minutes, dinner usually a half hour, and that his parents love him very much, how much time should Johan budget for Snapchat? No, Johan, not two hours.

Your mom’s had a long day of… laundry? Looking at your baby pictures? Working? Coming up with stuff to bug you about? (Who knows what moms do all day, am I right?) Anyway, she looks more tired than usual. She is holding a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and a frozen bag of peas. Is it a good idea to say, “Is that what we’re having for dinner?” No, Johan, it is not.

You use the last of the paper in your shared printer. Do you a) alert somebody b) pretend you did not notice and hurry away c) walk the 10 feet to the storage closet, get a fresh ream of paper, and fill the tray? You fill the dang tray, Johan.

Here, let me give you the answers for the next ten questions.

Hold the door.

Give him his money back.

Don’t say anything to her.

Tell him, but in the kindest way possible.

Put gas in the tank.

Write a thank you note.

Manage your expectations.

Take out the garbage.

Invite her to go with you.

Leave the 20% tip.

And don’t forget about the advanced course everybody should aspire to – Reasonableness with Oneself.

It’s been the longest week ever. Your kid, Johan has been a real handful. You haven’t been to the gym, and it feels like forever since you’ve practiced a Shuttle Run. Everybody else makes it to the gym; why can’t you? Everybody else has it together. Why don’t you? Everybody else knows what they’re doing with their life, why don’t you?

Correct Answer: Nobody has it together all of the time, and don’t worry about what those other people are doing. You got a chicken and a vegetable on the table this week, and kept your cool with Johan, and that’s pretty good. Take a nap, watch some TV, and just like, make yourself a really good to-do list for next week. It’s reasonable to assume that next week, is totally your week.

Thanks for reading. If you’re not too busy trying to figure out new math, follow me on Instagram, @colleenweems

you know more than you think you do (and don’t let those kids tell you otherwise)

24 Jun

FC Note

Most of them probably know better than to say it out loud, but I’m quite certain all of our kids collectively think we are idiots. I may not know how to start, stop, or pause a movie using Playstation controllers (I mean, those things don’t make any sense at all, I don’t even feel bad) So when my 9-year-old patiently holds out his hand for me to hand him whatever it is that doesn’t seem to be working, I have to audibly remind myself, and him, that I really do know quite a lot of stuff.  I’m guessing you do too, my fellow adult. And you know what? A good chunk of the stuff we know, is stuff those kids will never know. I almost feel sorry for them.

I was chatting about this at a graduation party with some savvy, know-a-lot, grown-up-lady friends. As required by the unwritten rules of attending a graduation party, we were lamenting the passage of time, and wondering what happened to those sweet little babies who used to think we were amazing. How can it be nearing the time for us to release them into the world?

I mean, they don’t even know how to properly put on pantyhose.

It’s a lost art. An art, we agreed, that might just disappear when we do. We know to scrunch the pantyhose down, and point our toes, after making sure there is not a jagged finger or toe nail in a five-mile radius. We expertly substitute the word “nylons” whenever we feel like it. I bet those kids don’t even know they can stop a run with clear nail polish.

You know what? If our lives depended on us neatly folding a note with a convenient pull-tab, to pass to a co-worker after the staff meeting, we could do it. I could do it in about 5 seconds, and have written your name and drawn stars all over it, and passed it to you without anybody else noticing.

We can tape a song from the radio onto a cassette. We may get a little bit of the DJ talking over the beginning of the song, but we could do it. Oh you don’t have a cassette player? Allow me to burn you a mix CD.

We can roller skate…backwards… on 8 wheels. If my knees weren’t bad, I would totally show you.

We can use a card catalog. And a Spiegel’s catalog. We could order blazers right now – in crimson AND navy – without ever having to get on a computer.

We can use an encyclopedia and a telephone book and a payphone and a Thomas Guide, and a microfiche machine. I think I have as many microfiche hours under my belt as I do parenting hours.

We know how to use an answering machine, a Walkman, a Discman, a floppy disc, and a fax machine. Granted, fax machines are the worst, but I can fax the heck out of an invoice or an insurance form.

We can fold maps, and we…can…fold…NEWSPAPERS.

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Here’s my oldest kiddo, actively not knowing how to fold a newspaper.

We know how to make phone calls, and receive phone calls without being weird about it.

We know how to take care of a perm.

We know how to put a roll of film in to, and take it out of, a camera.

We knew how to find whoever was giving us a ride home from school/a concert/a movie with no phone to coordinate. It was practically like Outward Bound, or that show with Bear Grylls where you have to eat like, a pinecone in the wilderness, and look to the stars for guidance. It was almost exactly like that.

We know to program a VCR, and in a twist of fate, we know how to teach a mom how to program a VCR.

And though it’s not a skill, I’m grateful to have known the joy of a Jell-O pudding pop, how gross coffee used to be, and the satisfaction of reaching the end of a perfectly typed line on a typewriter.

And so, to the kids who think we’re idiots: don’t get too comfortable. The stuff you know today is cool, and great, and I would never wish irrelevancy on your burgeoning skills. But your day will come. And by “your day” I mean our day…the day you say, “I need to put on pantyhose/fax this form…..where’s my mom?”

how to bore yourself into having the best summer you will never forget.

12 Jun

FC REading

The Summer we…. read every day in these exact same positions

We’re all supposed to be experts. Especially if we dare write now and then, and then ask people to read it, we should have asserted our expertise in something. I have acquired mastery in a few things – obviously, cream cheese based dips, Disneyland, the long-gone TV shows Alias, and wearing t-shirts. I believe the term we are looking for to describe a person with this specific skillset and knowledge base, is lifestyle expert.

As a lifestyle expert, who, like you, is looking at weeks of summer stretching out ahead, I am anxious to get started filling those long summer days with the exact stuff that will make for great memories. I want this selfishly for me and, more selfishly, for my boys so they will someday reminisce with their own kids about how much fun they had with their amazing parents, and then for those future mystery kids to say, “Wow; Grandma and Grandpa are the best.”

“Well,” you might be saying, “tell us, Lifestyle Expert…tell us how to make a summer that we’ll never forget.”

After 40 summers of in-depth field research, the solution is clear: find something – even a tepid, mildly fun something – and then do it a lot. No! It’s not about manufacturing a new adventure every day! The key is intentionally indulgent repetition.

Look back at your own summers. No matter what cool big stuff you did, I’m guessing those long warm days blur together, and the parts of the blur you remember are: popsicles, water fights, sunburns, lounging around a pool/lake/park/beach with your friends, whatever your 4th of July tradition was, and probably a regular family trip to the mountains/lake/ocean/desert/city/backyard tent.

My kids may only have relatively few summers under their mom-made-us-wear-these belts, but they already start their reminiscing about just last summer with “We always…..” and then fill in the blanks like a couple of weathered older guys sitting on a porch, talking dreamily about their (mandatory) weekly trips to the library and subsequent reading time on the couch; and trudging through the cold San Francisco fog to the damp and dreary playground, and then to the burrito place, the market, and the pet store. Even lucky enough to take a dream vacation around the East Coast, our 9-year-old never fails to bring up how what he loved most were those nights we got back to our hotel room just in time to watch “The Tonight Show.” In 30 years, he may not really remember Paul Revere’s House, but I guarantee you, he’ll remember all of us, exhausted, sore, and punchy, lying there in the hotel air conditioning watching Jimmy Fallon.

I think of my own summers, and I instantly recall running errands with my mom every Monday. We’d zip around town in our giant Chrysler Cordoba, stopping at the bank, the post office, and finally McDonald’s, where I would think about how much paperwork is required to be an adult. It was easily 100 degrees every one of those Mondays, and my skin would sizzle against the car seats, and heaven forbid, the metal seatbelts. I’m sure I was a real peach when it was time to start our weekly Monday adventures, but, little did I know, in 30 years, I would treasure those trips as well as weeknight tennis with my dad. Not Wimbledon, or Palm Springs tennis, just regular old Tuesday night tennis on the old courts by the town’s recycling center.

Happy blurs aren’t just for childhoods. I treasure the summer I discovered the white wine spritzer, and the summer my self-tanner was full of *@&%$# glitter, and those 92 mostly-summer couch dates with my husband watching “Mad Men,” and the summer I listened to the new Franz Ferdinand album over and over, and the pre-drought summer I came home from work most nights to squirt the kids with a hose, (in a very classy sophisticated way before drinking my white wine spritzer).

Let’s look ahead to Summer 2016, and come up with some possibilities for stuff you always used to do in the Summer of 2015.

Remember last summer when we….

  • played Uno on the porch every night?
  • ate all that watermelon?
  • went to the library and checked out every one of Judy Blume’s/Beverly Cleary’s/David Sedaris’/Nora Ephron’s books? (They may not all be excellent choice’s for 9-year-olds.)
  • watched every episode of _____________. I hear they’re making a movie of it. That will be great!/terrible! (The Lifestyle Expert recommends “CHiPs.” It works well, because it is hilarious, and they are making a movie of it.)
  • Ate lunch in the park every weekend?
  • Always rode bikes to get Slurpees? But then we had to drink them in front of the store because we are not skilled enough cyclists to hold our Slurpees and steer our bikes.
  • Got really in to the Giants? (The Lifestyle Expert recommends this. The Giants are the best.)
  • Learned how to do calligraphy? And then we wrote everything with our special pens all summer long, and then school started, so we had to stop and go back to boring cursive, and now I need to re-learn calligraphy.
  • Cooked our way through So-and-So’s cookbook? (The Lifestyle Expert is not an expert in this area.)
  • It doesn’t matter. Put whatever you want here. Put in the bank, the post office, the cracked tennis courts.

Sure, plan a grand adventure here and there, and enjoy every second of it! Big adventures are good for the soul. But, expertly speaking, make a lot of room for the nothing-special stuff too. You just don’t know how special that nothing may turn out to be.

FC Cordoba

Me, my mom, and our Chrysler Cordoba, in the summer.

cups aren’t just for coffee anymore

23 Jan

It was about 36 hours into 2015, when we said our goodbyes to Idaho family and loaded our tired boys into the car so we could embark on a semi-snowy, post-holiday trek home through four states– four western states which are big… not like those mushed together northeastern states, where people commute through four states just to get to work every day.

Our first stop was six minutes later at Dutch Brothers Coffee just outside of Boise.  I’d never been there, but according to my Facebook feed, people love Dutch Brothers, and how photogenic Dutch Brothers cups are in their hands on the way to work. We were warned that the staff were aggressively nice, and would probably be enthusiastic and hell-bent on making our days great. We’re not talking kind-grandma baristas searching our faces for signs of sleep- and hug-deprivation. These were young bearded bros who walked out to the cars to take orders and in addition to being really really pumped about our coffee choices, were curious where we were off to, and where we’d been.  The long line of cars represented dozens of people waiting patiently for their daily affirmation from dudes whose “sneaker games were on point,” this according to the unnamed teen in our backseat.

When we were sent on our way with a warm, “Later!” we saw that Dutch Brothers was still invested in our emotional well-being. The plastic lids covering our drinks read “Whatever you’re gonna be, be a good one,” and “Today is yours. Own it.” (Like fortune cookies, but better, because my fortune cookies are always lame.)

FC cups

“So true!” I thought, “It’s early and I have the whole day ahead of me! I will own it!” Also, what was I gonna be that day? Whatever it was, I better be good at it. My options at that moment were slim. I was very much a passenger, set to be in the front of the seat of the car for the next bazillion hours. I looked at my husband, who that day was the long-haul driver, and just as the cup suggested, he was a good one. He was alert, and cheery, and totally owning the day. I was sitting there, sans steering wheel and pedals, with no official duties as passenger other than handing people tissues, refereeing the backseat shenanigans, and making sure that everybody got out of the car at the gas station to go to the bathroom.

I made conversation, but not too much conversation so as to be a nuisance. I may have dozed off once. I took pictures of street names like Chicken Dinner Road and Potato Road, which sadly were hundreds of miles and two states apart from each other because, if they were together, that would be a highly desirable-to-me neighborhood.

FC chicken dinner  FC potato

Because it takes me forever to drink a regular cup of coffee, I had my cup through Idaho, Oregon and all the way to Winnemucca, Nevada. By the time I replaced it with a less-motivational Taco Time Coke, (so caffeinated, and nowhere to go!) I’d already been staring at the bro’d-out version of an (albeit, disputed) Abraham Lincoln quote, and then stared out into the desert, then back again, all the time wondering what exactly I was, and whether or not I was a good one. I’d thought about this exact thing plenty as of late, but this time I had hours at my disposal, and zero cell reception.

Don’t worry, I won’t turn this into a tome of self-discovery that would be readable only to someone on a bazillion-hour road trip, with no cell service, and who doesn’t get sick while reading in the car, and who is also my mother. I did however, for a few minutes, think maybe I could solve here, what I couldn’t that day staring out into the desert.

What am I, really? Like all parents humans, I’m a lot of things all at the same time. Sure, my list doesn’t currently include a job, but even though I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to be a good stay-at-home mom, whatever that looks like, while rehabbing my brain after that bizarre brain virus, I’ve still kind of thought of myself as a working mom. I just happen to be a working mom who doesn’t have a job.

I mess up all the time; it’s true, ask my kids. I’m also not really leaning in or leaning out, and I don’t think that the debate of how women in particular should be juggling their lives and families, is one where a single viewpoint is ever going to emerge as universally correct. All of our situations are fluid, and confusing, and unique, and sometimes really, really hard. Sure, this is a dated discussion, but it’s not dated if you’re in the middle of it. And I know I can’t be the only person – man or woman, parent or non-parent – to repeatedly wonder if I’m doing the right thing, how long I should do it, and what I should do tomorrow.

Maybe in a few tomorrows, I’ll be a cup lid designer for Dutch Brothers, and my first order of business, will be to merge those lids into one far more helpful lid, “Whatever you are today, own it.”

Happy New Year! Find me on Instagram, @colleenweems.

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