From a MIL to all you DILs: Some Advice

During my child-raising years, I led a women’s weekly Bible Study. I was blessed to do so.

It was a large group of women and, as you can imagine, many came to me with prayer requests. To my astonishment, the primary request was, “Pray for my relationship with my mother-in-law.” When I inquired as to the problem, not surprisingly, the problem was always the mother-in-law. As much as I loved every woman in that group (and I did, with great devotion), I gotta say, most of the complaints were downright petty. I wondered who the problem really was.

My mil said this, she did so-n-so with the kids, I hate her food, she hates mine, the holidays, and on and on the grievances went.

As my mom used to say, “Don’t take offense where offense is not meant, and generally speaking, it is not meant.”

Touché. And love covers a multitude of sins, people.

My own mother-in-law was the epitome of the meek-and-mild-mannered sort, so if she wanted to strangle me, I never knew it. I can be blissfully clueless, which in family matters factors greatly to my advantage. As it happens I liked my mil. Beneath that quiet exterior was a funny, smart woman, so maybe I just didn’t get what the big deal was with my Bible study ladies.

Now, I have a dil of my own, and well, I haven’t exactly nailed the mil role yet, just like I didn’t nail the mother role before the car rolled away from the hospital and the baby seat was finally secured. I am learning, but what a learning curve. We’re sorting out our roles as we go. I’ve got a history with my kids that literally started in utero. I’m creating a history with my dil that started when she was 22.

I’m their mom, but I’m her mil. Heck, just the difference between a mid-Western girl and a Southern mil is well, big-hair-huge, but we’re making it. I’m proud of us.

Sadly, the only advice I was given when I became a mil was to wear beige and shut-up. Okay. Clearly, I am not so stupid as to wear white to the wedding, but here’s my response to that sage advice: Beige looks horrible on everyone, and telling someone to shut-up is the equivalent of silencing their voice in the family. Making them invisible. Translated, it means: unwanted and excluded. Try those shoes on and see how they feel. So, this is me not being invisible. Some thoughts for the dils.

  1. I went from being mom-in-charge to being mom-not-in-charge. That’s like 0-60-0. Try putting the brakes on that. It ain’t easy. And, yes, I know that letting go of my children is a process that should’be started around age 3, but it took me until age 18 to know that. Sorry. So, cut the mils some slack when they don’t shut-up, yet probably should.
  2. This one is from my dil: Let the mil spoil the grandchildren. In her words: “Kids should have happy memories with grandparents without parents butting in. We may not agree with it, but it is their time with the kids, and the kids will remember it.” (Yes, I’m allowed to spoil three adorable, little girls, and who doesn’t want to do that?)
  3. Have some empathy. When I met my dil I was going through a divorce. She met me at my worst, without knowledge of what my best looked like. While your mil may not be going through a divorce, she is quickly becoming an empty-nester, which is huge. I know you dils already know this because I know you’re amazed at how quickly the children are growing up, and you’re counting down the days until they’re gone.
  4. Your mil is going to get it wrong. Let her. Oh, give the woman a break. We all need room to mess up without fear of judgment. Don’t we? Some of what she does may be stupid, but you can choose to let it go. You haven’t met the the situation where you don’t have a choice. Choose to ignore some of her antics, be it martyrdom, passive aggressive comments, or just plain-old foot-in-the-mouth, and let the awkward go.
  5. And, yes, unfortunately, your mil wants the family at her house for Christmas. Find me a mil who doesn’t. She wants the Over-the-River-and-Through-the-Woods-to-Grandmother’s-House-We-G0 experience. For heaven’s sake, give it to her one Christmas, or two–it doesn’t have to be all of them. It will be a hassle, a long road trip with whiny kids, and you’ll want to kill yourself before its over, but your mil will be forever grateful, with a heart full of memories and gratitude that no road trip can measure.
  6. Ask her for advice. Seriously, do you think she got this far in life without gathering some wisdom along the way? You may even decide to take it.
  7. Do something with her minus the kids and husband. A little bonding never hurt.

I’ll share my heart with you here. The older I get the more invisible I feel. Recently, at work, my boss was talking to me and he said, “We’ve just aged out of the work force, we need these younger people.” I felt so defeated. I still need to work, but if my contribution isn’t needed anymore, then what? Unfortunately, being a mil, the same message is given, wear beige and shut-up. You’re no longer needed. It feels as though a giant eraser is slowly and silently removing my presence here. As I watch my children create families of their own, I am proud of them, but I wonder where I fit into that picture, or if I do. Is it really my job to wear beige and shut-up? All of this is so very new to me, and I imagine your mil too. And, it comes at a time when everything is changing, not just children marrying. Widowhood or divorced. Empty-nester. The work force slowly pushing you out. Calculating how long you can live based on how much money you have in retirement (yes, there is an actual calculation for that). Wondering what would happen if you ran out of money before years. Aging and health scares. Dying parents, dear friends or siblings. The eraser just keeps removing. In the midst of that, squeals of grandchildren happy to see you is pretty awesome. Being welcomed to their home by their mom is just as awesome.

A final thought: If Endora from Bewitched, or the chick from The Good Wife, Jackie Florrick, is your mil, then ignore all the above and plot away. But, aside from the downright crazy mils (and that is a thing), most mils actually do like their dils. My dil is a better mother than I ever was. She’s a strong, beautiful, independent woman that keeps the grandchildren connected to family, and loves my son. I am on her side. I want her marriage to succeed, and her family to prosper, no matter who cooks pot roast what way, or eats vegan. I’d bet my last dollar your mil would say the same. Maybe, she just wants to feel included and sometimes needed. Whatever the issue, consider flying the white flag of truce and letting go of projections and stereotypes. Remember karma is also a thing, and one day you’ll be her.

Okay, lecture over. Next one will be for the mils on playing nice with the dils. How’s that? Look for great thoughts from my dil to be included.

(Header picture: My favorite wedding day of picture of dil, son and granddaughter.)

Dandelion, Big People Jobs and Devils, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Big-People Jobs and Devils

I need to find a woman named Sheila and say, hey, thanks for all the truisms. She came through again this week.

I was panicking over the fact that I still have absolutely no plan for my life and should probably come up with one. (This is a regular on my panic list.) I was contemplating applying for a big-people job (regular hours, regular pay, air conditioning, french manicures, benefits, etc.) but the potential place of employment is known for its bad politics and a chick that is simultaneously powerful,  power crazy, and just plain crazy.

I’m gabbing away to my friend, Jen, about this potential big-people, albeit disastrous job, and she quotes Sheila. (Sheila is Jen’s friend. We’ve never met, but I love how women know each without knowing each other because we’re friends with each other’s friends.)

Anyway, here’s Sheila’s quote. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

My, my.

That one fits right up there with the grass being greener. Oh, the applications.

Because the devils are mine. The one I know and the one I don’t know. They’re a part of myself that is just as cra cra as the power hungry chick, and they’ve had a recent field day with me over the big-people job and my reluctance to go for it.

  • You’re afraid of that woman. Yes, I am. Everyone is. It is right to be so.
  • You’re afraid of change. You betcha. I’ve had enough change in the last decade to, well, last.
  • You’re afraid you aren’t smart enough. I am smart, but smart enough? I don’t know. 
  • You’re afraid someone will find out you aren’t who you say you are. Surely to the Lord everyone already knows that, don’t they? 

I leave my devils to their conversation. It’s not a new one, anyway.

I decide I don’t want the job because, air conditioning and all that, I’m not ready for change. It’s good to have an actual reason when not going for french manicures and health insurance because the devils can make me doubt myself, cause me to wonder if my decisions are based on how the wind blows.

I give myself permission to skip the big-people job and go home, where I’m the only crazy woman in residence. I decide that conquering my devils is befriending my devils, both those known and those unknown. It’s like the monster in the closet. When you turn the light on, you discover it’s only your shadow.

 

 

Dancing through a Mid-Life Crisis, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milenr

Dancing Through a Mid-Life Crisis

No, I’m not taking a ballroom class. I plug my earphones into my IPhone and hit play. I hit play in the parking lot, before I even get to my car. All day long I help people solve plant problems. What to plant where, what plant best matches the porch cushions (really?), what works in shade, in sun, on an embankment, and so on. I answer questions politely and hopefully, informatively, but if you could read my thoughts, I’m looking forward to the music.

So why the music and the mid-life crisis?

Because life gets hard about this time in the journey. For some, it starts out pretty darn hard. For others, hard things happen along the way. But by mid-life, the ball really gets rolling. At least, that’s what I’m finding out. My mother died so unexpectedly and suddenly last July, that I am still reeling and forever picking up the phone to call her. She missed Jordy’s birth, my 3rd granddaughter. And now, my dearest and oldest friend is facing brain cancer. Weren’t we just decorating our college dorm room? It goes fast. There is no other way to say it. A blink and it’s gone.

Here’s the weird part. Once great, grand, and parents are dead, you’re up next to bat. Yes, if family history prevails, I have 20+ years still, but the generation before me is gone. They were my buffer. Now, I’m the buffer for kids and grandkids, and well, that my friends is a sobering thought.

Add empty-nest, jokes about how long we can live based on our IRAs, grandchildren we never see, working long hours in hopes of increasing that IRA a little and then the dang downsizing. I hate the downsizing.

When did life become about downsizing instead of building? When mid-life showed up, that’s when.

You see what I mean. Full on mid-life crisis. I read some articles about it. Not much there. Did glean one gem. That my brain can’t process everything happening at this stage of life. Agreed. So, I gave up reading the self-help stuff and hit Crazy on You, or Hooked on a Feeling, or Spirit in the Sky or I Want You Back (yes, the Jackson 5), and tuned it all out. When I open my front door, I dance. I dance while preheating the oven. I dance in the shower. I dance and vacuum. I dance around my house to everything from Queen, the Eagles and yes, even PitBull.

And I remember. I remember dancing with Donna in our college dorm room, dancing with my sisters in our childhood bedrooms, dancing with my toddlers and boys and even teenage sons in our family living room, dancing with my mom and dad in our family living room. I had forgotten that my family–that I–love to dance.

The kitchen is the best place for it. The floor is slick. After dinner, I crank it up and stand Aggie up on her hind legs and dance around with her. She doesn’t like it, but she tolerates it as one would expect a good dog too. I dance until way past bedtime, and for a few hours I’m not the grandmother with grandchildren way too far away, or the divorced wife living paycheck-to-paycheck, or the 56-year-old looking straight at the fact that mid-life is really just a term for what I’m experiencing.

Because I passed mid-life a decade ago.

My oldest son says our goal is not to be successful. Our goal is to come to terms with ourselves and the choices we make, or, I would add, perhaps the choices others–or life–make for us. Mid-life has definitely been a choice-evaluating-time for me. To consider where I stepped wrong or maybe right, but mostly, I’m just dancing.

P.S. This one is for Carol. 🙂

 

The Pocketbook, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The Pocketbook

My mom, Frankie Ann, was the worst gift-giver.

I’d tell her exactly what to get–say a new book. I’d give her the title, the author, the date of publication, and I’d go by the store–the one that wasn’t “weird with no parking”–and tell the salesclerk to hold it for Mom. Her one task? To pick it up and pay for it.  Then gift day rolled around, and she’d proudly hand me some useless kitchen gadget. I don’t cook. And no, it wasn’t a hint to start cooking. She didn’t cook, either. She just tanked at giving gifts, and seriously there was no following her thinking on this, though she had a thought behind it. It was always a puzzlement to me. But, I did inherit this trait. My gifts are always last minute and so lackluster. (To all my dear friends, I apologize.)

But, Frankie Ann was stylish. One day we were having lunch at a favorite spot, having what she called, “our expensive salads,”  and she randomly pulled out a new pocketbook and said, “I can’t stand that purse you’re carrying, here I got you this one.” It rocked. A hot, little neon-blue number that I got a billion compliments on.

Thus, began the years of the purse-gift. From that day on, the only gift mom was allowed to give me was a pocketbook.

Solved her problem of tanking at gifts, and my problem of picking out ridiculous and cheap pocketbooks. (I hate dropping cash on a purse. I’ll spend whatever on shoes or a shirt, but a pocketbook? I’m always like, don’t you have one for $10? No. Of course, they don’t.)

The purse-gift became famous with my friends. When they saw the edgy-cute camo bag from Charming Charlie’s hanging over my shoulder, they said, “Frankie Ann?”  Yep.

We kept the purse-gift up for about a decade. Then she died on July 28 last year, very unexpectedly, and when fall came, I didn’t know what to do. I stood in Kohl’s just staring at the pocketbooks.

I dug out an old one and carried it–seams torn, and straps unraveling. (I’m pretty hard on a purse.)

Skip ahead to April 4, my birthday, and yet another pocketbook dilemma. My birthdays aren’t much fun anymore. One, I’m getting way too old way too fast. Two, my kids aren’t around to help celebrate. Three, mom isn’t here and, you know, when the other person who was there with you on the actual day of is gone, it’s just wrong.

But friends help, and plenty of mine showed up to wow the day. My friend Debbie and I share what I call the birthday week, meaning we can technically celebrate all week, if we want. I’m the 4th, she’s the 10th. I made the dinner reservations. She drove. The minute I got in the car, and saw the gift bag, I knew I’d been up-gifted.

She said she tried to channel Mom to give me just the right gift. You’d think I would have figured that out immediately, but I didn’t and was curious if I was going to get another useless kitchen gadget. (Channeling can go so wrong.) But Frankie Ann showed up in the channeling, and I got my birthday purse. The best, most thoughtful gift ever. Mom would’ve approved.

The Pocketbook, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Love the color. It’s smiling because it found it’s happy home.

 

I often say, because my mom’s death was so sudden, that I feel as though someone opened a door and pushed her through it. My granddaughter, who loved her Maurme (Frankie Ann), asked, “When is Maurme coming back?” Oh my. I keep asking the same thing. Will someone please open that door and push my mother back through?

But for that moment, in the gift of the pocketbook, Mom did come back. Debbie did channel mom, though maybe not as she thought, by picking out the coolest purse ever. She channeled her because she did something only moms do. She remembered.

white house, say no to the task, yes to the person, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

Say No to the Task. Say Yes to the Person.

Is no your favorite word? It has been mine. Not so much anymore, although I’m a bit late joining the yes wagon.

Why do we gravitate to no?

When my kids were little, before they even finished their sentence, I was already on NO. They tricked me a few times. “Mom, you want us to clean the bathrooms?” No. Oh, wait a minute. What did you say? Of course, I wasn’t listening, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? Something in our DNA makes us want to say no.

Or is it because we’re told no, over and over? So that, after a while, we quit asking or speaking. Got a boss that only has a no vocabulary, and so you’ve given up with the ideas? You just quit bringing new thoughts or new suggestions to the table because you already know they’ll be tabled? Or a spouse that is going to say no again to date night? Or a long-needed project? Or a walk and a conversation?

I knew this guy once whose father was a small-town, Illinois judge. His mother was a stay-at-home-mom. They lived on a quaint street where children rode their bikes to school. A white, clapboard house with lots of character, but small rooms describes their house. The story goes that the mom asked for years for a wall to be knocked down between rooms, opening up the interior space. The father repeatedly said, “No, that’s a load-bearing wall.” As it turns out, every wall in that house was evidently a load-bearing wall. He said no, and she finally quit asking. He regretted that later, before he died. Why hadn’t he done this one thing for his wife? If it meant so much to her that she asked over-and-over for years, why did he say no? And, when had finally she quit asking?

There. That’s the question to ponder. When did they (fill in the blank–your employees, the people you supervise at work, your spouse, your kids, your friends) quit asking? When did they finally become silent? Or do we silence them?

We all need to say no to more tasks. Our plates are full. I know. The trade I’m in is a feast or famine industry, and right now, everyone I work with is being pulled every which way but Sunday. So, no has its place. But my point is not that we should take on more.

My point is to say no to the task, and yes to the person.

marigold, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

How to Make Your Dreams Come True

I have a dream. And for 45 years, I’ve been waiting on that dream to show up in my life.

Yesterday, I walked to my little town’s movie theater to watch The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I’ll admit it wasn’t as good as the first, even with Richard Gere in it, but the wedding scene made it worth the cash. The wedding scene is exuberant, joyful, full of dancing, and so much dang fun. It puts a smile on your face. It was the best part of the movie because the main character, Sonny, does it again. He figures out his dilemma, gets out of his own way, and makes a pretty great comeback.

If you’ve done that in your life, please raise your hand (or comment below).

If you’re still waiting to do that, please raise your hand (or comment below).

The movie works because each character has a dream, a yearning, but while they stall, ponder, wait, agonize, and worry (you’re thinking, you’re not getting any younger here), Sonny’s passion, youth and desire is juxtaposed against these characters who have lived long enough to lose a few dreams. They know, not all dreams come true. It’s easy to understand their hesitancy to dive back in.

Where do you go when your dreams don’t come true? What’s next?

The movie ends happily, of course, with everyone getting some traction beneath them, and moving toward their new dream. Relationships, jobs, marriage, not-marriage. Death is certain, they learn, but so is life. There is no time like the Present Time.

Of course, that’s all movie-talk, and we all can’t look like Judi Dench with her super-cute haircut, silver-grey hair and blue eyes.

But, we can all dream.

I know this guy who lives with his girlfriend. They’ve lived together 20+ years. She’s always wanted to get married. He never has. When I asked him why (because truly no two people were ever more compatible), he said he was waiting on the girl of his dreams. Oh, don’t get him wrong, he likes his live-in girlfriend, she is loads of fun, and a real nice girl, but she isn’t the one. He went on to describe the one, every man’s dream–tall, blonde, buxom, and gorgeous–and said when he found her, he’d marry her. (Okay, a little silly on his part, the eye-candy-wife, and we could easily argue that he’d already found the one in his brunette, non-buxom, short girlfriend, but that’s not the point.) My conversation with him was 20+ years ago, and I asked him, “Do you think that blonde, buxom and gorgeous girl is going to come knocking on your door while you’re living with another woman?”

I can be blunt and a bit tactless.

Listen, if we skip all the he was using the girlfriend until he found the wife conversation/judgment, and just let him talk, here’s what we might hear: Maybe, he is afraid of finding the woman of his dreams. So instead, he settles for what he doesn’t care if he loses, and hides behind their apartment door. If he was more like Sonny, he’d be the one knocking on doors until he found the one. May we all be more like Sonny.

My take-away from The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: The dream may never present itself. You may need to go looking for it.

 

 

 

pints of blueberries transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Practicing Gratitude in the Rain

A friend texted me to ask how my day was.

I texted back. I began:

My ribs hurt so bad from coughing from the flu last week, and we were unloading a lot of heavy plant material today, so that only made my ribs worse, and it was raining and icky outside. I tried to run an errand at lunch but the traffic was crazy, and the pharmacy didn’t have what I needed ready. I came home, took a shower and crashed. How was your day?

But, I stopped myself before hitting send and read it. That was a pretty depressing text! So, here’s what I sent instead:

It was okay. The rain let up around 11. We had lots of heavy, plant material to get unloaded so that kept us busy. I was able to run an errand during lunch. How was your day?

Such a tiny, little shift in my brain, but it worked. It made me appreciate my day. The rain did let up, something I’d actually prayed for on my first official day back, and just recovering from the flu. We were able to stay busy all day and thankfully so. Nothing is worse than being in pain, and being bored. It just causes you to focus on the pain. I did get an errand done at lunch, but more importantly, I needed to ask how her day was. What was happening in her life? It changed my whole evening. I went from thinking the day had been pretty yuck to thinking it was a pretty good day.

When my kids were little, we did nightly devotions. We began this family time by saying one thing we each were grateful for. Then we read Scripture, discussed it and said prayers. I kept a journal of our evening devotions, and can go back now and read what each of us were thankful for on any particular day for a decade. I am grateful I did that because that journal is a treasure to me now.

Here’s a few I from the kids:

  • A cup of hot chocolate.
  • It snowed! School closed!
  • Lasagna.
  • The birds at the bird feeder.
  • My warm bed.
  • My friend Todd, whose dad is Elvis Presley. (I just wrote it down.)
  • My family.
  • Platypus (the dog).
  • That George lets me cheat off his paper. (Again, I just wrote it down.)
  • Papaw and Memaw.
  • No homework.

It was my blessed moment in a mom’s busy life, listening to her children speak what brought them joy. I’ll admit it was harder for me and my ex. The adults found it difficult to find gratitude in the midst of the adult stresses of life. But forcing myself to examine my day, and find something I was grateful for at the end of it. sent me to bed with a smile and a different perspective on life.

So, for old time’s sake, and a re-framing of mind concerning my day, these are the things I am grateful for today:

  • Ibuprofen.
  • My bed!
  • Aggie (the dog).
  • Little Kitty (the cat :).
  • Blueberries.
  • Earl Grey Tea.
  • Friends who text me to ask how my day was.
  • Late night rain but clear skies during the day.
  • Plants.
  • Fun co-workers.
  • A warm, cozy house.
  • Soft socks.
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Seeing Ellen again.
  • A washer and dryer.
  • Donna and Jennifer.
  • Hot showers.
  • Doggie day care.

I could go on, but lesson learned. Grumble and complain or rejoice and be grateful. I’ll go for the latter. And you? Would you mind leaving a comment of one thing you’re grateful for today? What brought you joy today? I’d love to hear.

Blessings,

Cinthia

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Tall, Exceedingly Tall?

True Story.

My best friend in high school was Christine. I spent many nights at her house in Woodside Hills in the downstairs den. The den had a big, soft, corduroy couch, a huge, brick fireplace (loved it), a table, and a work space behind the couch that was filled with pine cones. Her mother made pine cone wreaths, and I assume, it was a bit of an obsession as pine cones were generally everywhere. Christine’s father, a forester, I gathered, was the one responsible for the gathering. Although, I think the husband and wife team spent a lot of time gathering together. I loved the wreaths. Most of the couples I knew played bridge, or in my parent’s case, golf. So, I thought it was super sweet that he helped her gather pine cones, and assemble wreaths, and that it wasn’t bridge or golf, but something different. Something that required they spend hours in that den wrapping floral wire around pine cones–just the two of them.

Christine’s mom was a stay-at-home-mom, right around the time that was beginning to be out of fashion. I think she sold the pine cone wreaths at local art fairs, and made extra Christmas money.She was very frugal.

Her frugal ways extended to her daughter’s wardrobe. She made both her daughters’ school clothes. Each fall, she would take the girls shopping, and they’d pick out all the things they liked, and then, instead of buying it, she’d go home and make it. Her sewing skills were pretty phenomenal, and I was always surprised that their home-made clothes turned out as good as the real deal. But, here’s the deal.

The mother constantly told Christine to beware of the shoes she bought to go with the outfits. We were in high school and boys were on our minds, and Christine was very tall, exceedingly tall. So, flats were her only option if she didn’t want to look down on every guy. While I was beginning to pick out heels to go with my Sunday dresses and prom dresses, Christine was stuck with ballet flats. We both thought that was just the worst.

Skip ahead four years to college degrees and professional jobs, and Christine and i are roommates trying to build careers. She was better at focusing on her career than I was. I was better at going on dates. But finally, she met a guy she thought was worth the trouble, and the hunt for the dress for the big night began. We went to the new Asheville Mall.

The difference was that, now, I was the one reminding her that she was tall, exceedingly tall. Flats were her only option.

We found the dress. A red slip of a thing that made Christine’s naturally black, curly hair and fair skin stand out like Cinderella, Except, with flats, the dress fell flat. She really needed heels to make the perfect dress perfect.(This was before the days of Nicole Kidman towering over Tom Cruise on the red carpet.) We were in the dressing room, looking at her profile in the three-way mirror. We felt she’d never looked better. Bemoaning what to do, wondering if he’d care if she looked down on him, and basically feeling like shopping failures, I asked hopefully, “Well, how tall is he?” She thought for a second and said, “Maybe 5’10.” I muttered what a shame he wasn’t at least 6′.

Then, I asked a question I’d never asked Christine, “How tall are you?”

“5′ 4,”  she said.

I am 5′ 6 1/2″  which meant, I looked down on her! “Christine,” I said, “You’re not tall. You’re not exceedingly tall!”

Turns out Christine’s mother was barely 5′. So, to her, Christine was terribly tall.

But to the rest of the world? Christine wasn’t small, but she was not exceedingly tall. Red dress and heels went home with us, and we drank a bottle of wine to high heels, and new revelations, and I hung up my pine cone wreath. My Christmas present that year from Christine’s mom.

just myself transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

No, I’m Not Crazy; I’m Just Not You

When I was pregnant, I felt like superwoman. I thought I could conquer the world. I was creating a life. Step back. My hormones were in perfect sync. (Please don’t hate me. It’s the only time they ever were.) I am one of those women that was happier pregnant than not. I wish I could be pregnant all the time, but without the arrival a baby in 9 months. While I was pregnant, something clicked inside of me, and it was a click I’d been waiting on my whole life.

I knew my brain was short one screw (or several) toward normal. I felt I lacked clarity, sureness of self, confidence, social skills, and worst of all, decision-making abilities. Then I got pregnant. and felt like really, what’s the big deal? When my husband called me at work and asked if I’d stop by the grocery store on the way home (and it was quite literally on the way home), I didn’t want to weep. I went to the store. It was so simple.

I was able to keep this oh-so-not-a-big-deal attitude going straight through breast feeding. But then, I quit breastfeeding, and I was back to weeping at the grocery store.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about or is it just me? Why would a trip to the grocery store make a grown woman weep?

I felt the same way when I took Prozac for a day. A psychiatrist prescribed it for me and he said, “It’ll take six weeks for you to notice a difference. For it to get into your system.” Heck no. It took all of 24 hours. And again, I felt that click. Only this time, I was not pregnant, and the kids were 5 and 1.

Here’s what happened:

My then-5-year old asked if we could stop on the way home (from work and day-care), and get a video (back in the day). His brother was under 1. Which meant, you already know this, getting the baby out of the car seat, and keeping up with the 5-year-old in the video store, while jiggling the baby that wanted to go to sleep but could not, or it would mess up the night’s sleep routine. (And every mother knows, you don’t mess with the sleep routine.) And, this with dinner still to be made, baths given, and monster checks done (a billion times), and the hope (the desperate hope) that somehow I might-maybe, just might-maybe, get 5 minutes to myself after the kids were in bed.

Here’s the take-away: I said yes to the 5-year-old that wanted to stop at the video store. I felt like, I can do this. So, we got the baby out of the car seat, and got our video, and got back in the car, and then I had a 10 on a 1-10 scale anxiety attack, and had to sit there deep breathing with the car door open, and the children screaming. It seems Prozac can cause massive anxiety attacks in certain people, especially people who react to it as quickly as I did.

I handed my prescription back to the psychiatrist, and wondered, is there anything else? No more breastfeeding. No more Prozac. What was going to make my brain click and me normal?

Normal being a mom (or anybody) who could go to a grocery store and not consider it a death sentence, or pick up videos for the night and not contemplate leaving for Utah or Idaho, or wherever Sundance is, in hopes of becoming one of the privileged people who have other people buy their groceries.

Though, let’s face it. I’m not an adventurous girl. If I can’t get to the grocery store, chances are slim I’m heading out at sundown for Sundance.

But I wondered. So, what was that click?

Or, why am I not the Mom who loves being in charge of the booster club? Surely, she grew up with a clicked brain.

Then, I met a man at The Cove (the Billy Graham Training Center) this past fall. He was a Coastie like my son, and so we spoke through-out the weekend. I do not remember his name (it rhymed with crouton), but he said something wonderful. He explained that he believed communication was messed up along with creation, and mankind, and the universe when sin entered the world. “Think of it,” he said, “Communication in the garden was perfect. They weren’t comparing themselves to anyone or feeling misunderstood, because communication was such that they could completely understand each other. And, in that understanding, completely love each other.”

I wanted to kiss Mr. Crouton because my brain clicked for the third time in my adult life, and without benefit of hormones or Prozac to force it. I knew the problem. It was communication. That’s what was missing.

My ability to say, no, I can’t be you. I really can’t. But, I can be me.

Comparing myself to others had created what I thought was the missing part of my brain. The only gauge a kid has is what others are doing and how they are doing it. And, in the world I lived in, people showed confidence and go-get-em attitudes, exactly how I felt while pregnant or during the 12 hours Prozac was my friend.

Pregnancy hormones super-charged me and for 9 months I had more energy than I’ve had the other 642 months of my life. Prozac boosted me, and for 1 day I wasn’t overwhelmed by life’s overwhelming nature. The rest of the time? I was just me. And, I’m beginning to understand that me is okay. Click.

 

 

fireplace transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Introverted Snow Days

I like winter and I like snow. No, I’ve never lived in Minnesota or upstate New York, or I might be making a springtime playlist about now. But, right here, in Western North Carolina, snow means snow days. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a day off. This past February, it meant 2 weeks off. One of the best parts about living in a place with curvy, windy, mountain roads? It doesn’t matter what kind of snowplows you have, some roads will stay inaccessible. For school kids, that is happy news. I was that kid once, listening for the blessed proclamation on my transistor radio (with case), that Buncombe County Schools would be closed due to snow. And, I’m still that kid. I still love a snow day. I did when my kids were little, and snow boots and leg warmers littered my kitchen floor, and I do now when it means I’ll spend the day indoors alone, staring out the window at a world of white.

Is there anything more blessed than being stuck indoors, with a foot of snow outside, and nothing to do?

I realize that some of you might not approach a snow day as we introverts do, with utter happiness that absolutely nothing is expected of us for an entire day. It is truly a day we excel because there is no party to be the life of. As the girl at the eye doctor said when I told her I was looking forward to the upcoming snow storm, “Oh, you’re one of those.” Yep. I am.

For 365 days a year, I am forced out of my shell, and out the door (actually a place I love to be–outside–if it’s in the garden), to be around people. That was stressful for me as a third grader, and while, I’ve honed my social skills and social graces since that dreadful year (the year Adam Bengle stapled my dress to the chair, and somehow I didn’t notice until I stood up), I am still that geeky, nerdy, shy kid who finds herself wondering why in the world she said THAT. I do not mix and mingle well. Parties can still unnerve me, and schedules–that be here, now be here, sort of busyness Americans thrive on, can cause such indecisiveness in me that I’ve been known to cancel everything out of sheer confusion.

I was horribly shy in a family of extroverts, and a school full of future terrorists. A snow day meant no chores, no teachers boring me to death, and no navigating the lunchroom or playground. It meant time was all mine, that there was no one dictating where I should be when for one whole day. Snow days were not only eerily quiet all morning (until the neighborhood kids were released from their houses for sledding), which I loved, they were blessedly free of everything. Mom never insisted that chores be done. Dad went sledding with the kids, and for once, in my extroverted family, I was given permission to either join in on the bonfire and sledding, or stay in my pjs and read. I mostly read. Sometimes. I joined the sledding. But, it was seriously nice to be given a choice.

My mom, the woman who never met a stranger, once asked me if I needed “help” with my introverted ways. She was politely suggesting therapy. She’s not alone. Many an extrovert has quizzed me on my introverted self, trying to discern if I were sad or troubled because I preferred to spend the day alone rather than at say, Disney World. It was unfathomable to my mom that anyone would choose not to be the center of whatever crowd was around. Fortunately, all 3 of my other sisters fit that role beautifully, and they can navigate people like my Coastie Son can navigate a boat. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I explained to mom that there were extroverts and introverts, and it was OKAY. Introverts did not need to be fixed. (FYI: Mom loved me anyway.) Unbelievably, I recently explained the same to a friend who was convinced that as an introvert she needed to change.

Our society screws us up in more ways than fashion and body size.

But, it is nice to have a few extrovert friends thrown into the mix. If they’re good friends, they help move you through the muddy waters of a world where interacting with people is a must and locking yourself in your room would likely have you committed. But really. Why do we all want so much attention?

Perhaps one reason I work outside is that I still get snow days (and rain days!). The announcement comes via text now, not a radio, and it says “You’re flexed off,” which technically means, I’m not paid for the day. But, sometimes, a snow day is better than money.

Being a kid is just plain hard. Being a kid in school is even harder. Being a kid on a snow day is awesome. Being an adult on a snow day is still pretty amazing. It’s one day out of everyday that I am not faking it. I’m not pretending to be whatever it is people need me to be. Everything shuts down, and I am quiet. It’s the quiet that works in me. The quiet of softly fallen snow quiets the fears and worries in my brain–those fears and worries that never really seem to go away. I’m in my pjs reading a book, and all is right with the world. For one blessed day.

If you’re wondering if escape is my life’s theme, I suppose it sounds like it, but it isn’t. It’s the need to hear myself think for a day. It’s the need not to hear the world for a day. It’s the need not to rise to meet the challenges of the day. Big decisions can stay big decisions until tomorrow. If it needs to be figured out, I can figure it out tomorrow. My brain is on vacation, while I spend some quality time with my pjs and a good book. Permission is given by the sound of a radio, or the ding of a text, to take the day and let things be. Don’t misunderstand, I am happy when I conquer a challenge or rise to the occasion and make the tough decisions. All those things make me feel pretty good about myself, but every once in awhile, a girl needs a day when there’s no need for a hero. Her pjs are on. She’s under a pile of blankets, and a good book is in hand, (or a nap is taking place).

I’m told I am an INFJ on the Meyer’s Briggs. Supposedly, there are less than 1% of my personality type in the world. Maybe. Who knows? I don’t know how they measure such things. But, surely, there is more than 1% of the population that would like a day off. Surely, there is more than 1% that is rooting for a snow day. I know I am. I bought hot chocolate just in case.