Car Shopping for My Son, and Other Existential Crises

Today we will go see another car as we continue the search for an appropriate vehicle for our 17 year old son.

Allow me just a minute to deconstruct the parts of the sentence that are killing me:

  • my son is 17
  • he is getting his own car
  • MY SON IS 17 AND GETTING HIS OWN CAR

You may note some slight anxiety in my all-caps tone. If you know me well, you may even recognize that I could possibly be approaching a full scale panic.

Because it’s all happening too fast.

I already feel like I am counting days til he leaves us and my heart is breaking.

First the license. Then the college visits began. Then the SATs. Now the buying of the car, with more college visits on the horizon. National Honor Society induction. Junior year finals approaching. Senior pictures about to be taken.

This kid. This no-longer-a-boy. This young man.

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He makes me so proud every day. He annoys the crap out of me. He makes me laugh. He misses the bus sometimes and I am secretly so happy when he does because I get another chance to chat with him, one on one, as we drive the 15-20 minutes to school. We have great conversations.

Also secretly, I will miss the chance to have these conversations once he does have his own car.

And not so secretly, I will desperately miss him when he goes off to college. What will our lives be like when he is not here every day? What will it be like when I don’t have to scream his name up the stairs because he is playing video games with his noise-cancelling headphones on? What will it be like when I get home from my morning workout and he is not there in kitchen drinking a protein shake or eating a Clif bar while I drink my coffee before he goes to catch the bus?

Some of these moments are precious and some of them…uh, less so…but I will miss all of them when he goes.

And yet, he will go. And he will continue to make me proud every day. And annoy me. And make me laugh.

I will text him every day and want to know what’s going on with his life as I will no longer be privy to the day to day details. Hopefully he’ll answer often.

Hopefully he’ll come home sometimes and still sit on the couch with us and watch our favorite shows. Hopefully he’ll still want to play some Yahtzee or Scattergories with us when he is home.

I can only watch and wait and sometimes cry as I anticipate him going, hoping with futility that time will slow down during the next year-and-a-couple-of-months.

But I am confident that I’ve done my job. I’ve prepared him to go out into the world and be a good person, and his core personality of kindness, geniality, and sarcastic humor (once you know him well enough) will not change. He’ll develop some new habits and characteristics; he’ll make mistakes; he’ll try new things and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail.

And my heart will continue to break even as I cheer him on in his independence. This, for me, is the hardest part of parenting. You prepare them to say goodbye and go off on their own and you watch them go and they take a large part of your heart with them when they do.

That’s the job.

And so we car shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Comeback Kid

February sucked. First I got the flu and then pneumonia and it lasted pretty much all month. A month of misery, stuck in my house, leaving me depressed and with a serious case of cabin fever. I missed my workouts. I missed spending time with friends and doing fun stuff with my family. I missed properly celebrating my husband’s birthday. I missed my regular life.

Being sedentary and miserable for a month led me to my old habit of using food as a comfort. My nutrition was horrible, and in that month I gained 10 lbs.

When I finally returned to the gym it was not great. I was winded easily and not nearly as strong as I had been. How easy it is to lose strength and gain weight in the space of a month. And of course my unhealthy eating didn’t help.

It took me a good 2-3 weeks of training, easing back in, to even start to feel like myself again. I have been particularly disappointed with my push-ups, which I had previously prided myself on. I was *almost* to my goal of doing 30 consecutive push-ups, and when I came back I could barely do 10 with decent form.

Today was different, though. Push-ups were in the workout and even though I felt like my performance with them was weak, my coach Hillary came over and told me how awesome my push-ups had been looking. She challenged me to add a 10 lb weight on my back and I thought, “No way I can do this. I already have an extra 10 lbs on my body and now she wants to add another 10 lbs?”

But I am not one to back down to a challenge so even though I was facing self-doubt, I let her put that weight on my back.

And I did it.

They were not perfect push ups, but I did it…not just for that round, but for the rest of the workout.

I surprised myself this morning, and I am grateful to Hillary for throwing down the challenge and pushing me further than I thought I could go.

At the end of my training this morning, I decided I was going to work harder than I had been working before I got sick, and get even stronger than I had been before. I just have to dig deeper and commit. I will push myself to do more than I think I am capable of, because I can do hard things.

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I will not let this setback hold me back. I will lose that 10 lbs and meet my goals.

Look out, 30 push-ups–I’m coming for you.

Stigma

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“We regret to inform you that we are currently unable to provide additional life insurance coverage for Stephanie Nash due to the following:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • PTSD”

This is the beginning of a letter we recently received from the life insurance company that insures us through my husband’s work. We were trying to up the coverage and I had to do a health self-evaluation sheet for “evidence of insurability.”

So OBVIOUSLY I’m uninsurable because of my history of mental illness. And too bad for my husband because if he was trying to up my insurance policy so he could off me and collect some cash, the joke’s on him. Sorry, babe.

But in all seriousness…as I filled out this form, I considered not including all these items on it. Maybe I would just put depression. Maybe just anxiety. But I knew that would be dishonest and frankly, in a million years I never imagined that these three things would be a reason for denial.

I understand insurance companies have complex processes and maybe fancy algorithms for determining insurability, and my best guess is that they consider me a suicide risk. I also understand that this is completely non-personal and they are going off of a single piece of paper that doesn’t tell them who I am at all.

But…but…reading this letter really hurt me. It made me feel like I was unworthy because of the illnesses I struggle with. It made me feel rejected and ashamed. It made me feel stigmatized.

It made me feel that maybe, like Hester Prynne, I was wearing a scarlet letter on my clothes, but instead of an A for Adulteress, mine was a C for Crazy Person.

It did take me a few hours to shake off the sense of personal failure and rejection I felt reading this letter. The feeling that my depression, anxiety, and PTSD are all things I should be ashamed of, things I should sweep under the rug, things I should be able to just will away so that I didn’t have to write them down anymore as part of my medical history.

But this is bullshit. I know this is bullshit. The stigma placed on those with mental illness is real, but it is bullshit too.

Those of us who struggle with mental illness are still fully capable of living happy, productive lives. Right now, I am in the best place I’ve been mentally and physically in my entire life.

But the stigma remains, and this is not the only time I have felt it.

I could lie about all of it. I could leave it off every medical form that asks for my history. I could delete this entire blog–or at least the entries in which I’ve written about my darkest days–but I am determined to continue embracing even those dark times as part of who I am, regardless of any stigma society may attach to them.

The only way we can stop the stigmatization is to keep bringing these issues into the light, and I will continue to do so.

Welcome to the Jungle

It all started almost a year ago when my friend Karin asked me to go to Costa Rica with her. I imagined sunny beaches and swim-up bars so of course I was into it.

Turns out she had something very different in mind. She sent me links to a website for Finca Bellavista, an eco treehouse community in the jungle. I have to admit…even though I had been all in for the beach, I wasn’t sure the treehouse in the jungle was for me. Because snakes. Especially since snakes are the first three horrible creatures on this list.

But I decided, in the spirit of trying new things and being adventurous, that I would do it. I would say YES to living life to the fullest and taking advantage of new opportunities. Also, at this time, the trip was about 9 or 10 months away so I had a TON of time before it actually happened so it didn’t even seem real.

And then January was here. We had both purchased hiking boots, 40L backpacks, and small daypacks for our epic journey. I was both excited and nervous.

We arrived at the Finca, which has a base camp including an office, a community center for serving meals, and “The Rancho” where people can hang out anytime of day and, more importantly, where they held the daily happy hour. Base camp is also the only place you can access Wi-Fi for any sort of connection with the outside world.

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Ready for action (or so I thought)

Our treehouse was about a 10 minute hike out from base camp and I was excited as we started the journey. But about 1 minute into said journey we encountered a sign that said, “Once you cross this bridge, you are in the jungle…” and included some warnings about making sure your ankles were covered every time you entered the jungle. Because, like I said before, snakes.

But I was still determined to be excited. And then I actually saw the bridge.

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It’s like the Indiana Jones bridge.

Um, ok. I took one step on it and felt it start to shake under my feet, so naturally I muttered (not really under my breath), “You have GOT to be kidding me!”

Once we got past the bridge I felt better. I was looking forward to checking out our treehouse and I wasn’t disappointed. It was beautiful, and had two balconies looking out into the jungle. Amazing.

We packed up our day packs and started to explore the jungle. We hiked to a beautiful waterfall first.

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OMG! It’s a beautiful waterfall in the jungle!

We explored the Finca’s garden and, while hiking along afterward, discovered these adorable dandelion-like plants that we dubbed “kerfloofs.”

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Hey look! Vegetables!

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Because what else could this be called besides a kerfloof?

Even though these things were technically “fun,” I unfortunately found my anxiety starting to ratchet up. While I was enjoying hiking the steep, crude trails, I found myself looking down at every single step I took, certain that if I didn’t I would step on a snake. Because snakes. In the meantime, I was mostly missing the beautiful views and scenery around me.

That first night, we went down to the Rancho to join our fellow adventurers for drinks and then dinner at the Community Center. One of the women we met looked at me and very pleasantly asked, “Would you like to see a pit viper?” To which I very pleasantly replied, “No, I would not.”

As we finished dinner, I suddenly realized why we had headlamps. We had to hike back to our treehouse in the pitch black.

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Headlamps: Not just a fashion statement

What was more, the pit viper woman and her husband were determined to show everyone “their” snake. I preferred to stand alone in the dark while a group of others went to see the snake. Just, no.

Every night as we made the journey back to our treehouse in the dark, I used both my headlamp and a flashlight and spent the whole time looking down at my feet for movement. Because (do I have to say it again?) snakes.

Karin or some of our newly-made friends were looking around for cool spiders, frogs, and toads. I was happy to stop and check them out.

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I am not at all afraid of spiders so I had no problem checking out this dude.

But guys, I’m going to be honest here. For the first day and a half that we were there, I was terrified most of the time.

So terrified, in fact, that when we were at base camp the second night I frantically texted my husband, telling him that I had made a terrible mistake in taking this trip and that I wanted to come home. This trip just wasn’t me and I was so afraid of the bridge, the jungle in the dark, and the snakes. Dear God, the snakes. (For the record, I had not yet seen a single snake but I just KNEW they were out there, waiting for me…)

My husband talked me down a little. Reminded me that I was brave and strong and that I COULD DO THIS. That I was already doing it!

He also reminded me that I was, in fact, on a vacation and that I should try and find some way to enjoy it despite my fears. He wisely told me that I could find a way to be ME and still be here. In the jungle. With the snakes.

So there was also to be zip-lining, and beyond snakes, I am afraid of heights. However, I have zip-lined before and it wasn’t so much about the heights as the fact that I didn’t really enjoy it.

I decided to be ME and let Karin know that I was choosing not to do it. So off Karin went, zip-lining solo while I relaxed at the Rancho and read my book. We both had a great time.

Things got much more fun after that; after I decided to make this trip more enjoyable for myself in any way possible. I borrowed some rubber boots from the Community Center and felt a lot better because, even if I stepped on a snake, my rubber boots would protect me.

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Rubber boots! This girl’s new BFF.

I can’t say I wasn’t still afraid after getting my snake-proof (sort of…at least that’s what I told myself) rubber boots. But it was so much easier to have fun after I got them.

I can’t say I ever stopped looking down at nearly every step I took. But I loved trudging through the river in my leaky rubber boots and exploring the beautiful jungle.

I can’t say I ever really came to enjoy the night hikes. But I came to realize and love the fact that this was a truly amazing, once-in-a-lifetime adventure that I was on.

We spent more time exploring, ate meals with some really cool people, cooked a few meals at our treehouse, and played a lot of Yahtzee (which I mostly lost. Don’t ever play Yahtzee with Karin–she is a pro.)

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Actual footage of me losing a Yahtzee game.

In the end, this was a beautiful and amazing trip with a beautiful and amazing friend. Despite my fears, I wouldn’t change a thing about it (especially since I didn’t see a single snake the whole time. Winning!)

I learned so much about myself and came to realize that I AM brave, because I do believe that there can be no courage if you are not afraid. Courage, bravery, is going on despite the fear. That’s exactly what I did and I am so proud of myself. I was terrified, but I pressed on and found a way to not only come to terms with the jungle, but to love being in it.

 

 

 

Shut Up, Judgy Voice.

So I’ve had a wicked cold for coming up on a week. So many things suck about being sick, such as:

  1. I get really tired of laying around
  2. My work piles up as I am foggy-brained from taking medicine to help me feel better so I can work (irony)
  3. The breakneck pace of our weekly schedule carries on despite my being sick
  4. I can’t work out, even though it would bring me some endorphins, which might help me feel better (more irony)

Yesterday I did feel a bit better so I decided to give training a try this morning at my usual 5am class. I just felt like I needed to move my body a little, even if I wasn’t at 100%.

This could be a blog about showing up, but it’s not.

This could be a blog about doing your best, no matter what your best looks like, but it’s not.

This is a blog about the judgy, bitchy voice in my head that told me, as I decided not to do my fourth round because I was just DONE, that I had not done enough.

I hate this voice.

I made a decision this morning, as my body felt weak and shaky after my first three rounds, to cut my workout short and head home. I had done enough for the day and I was determined not to feel bad about this.

But the voice…the voice in my head told me that I had not done enough.

That voice often tells me that I don’t do enough…

That I don’t keep my house clean enough…

That I don’t keep in touch with friends enough…

That I don’t do enough for my kids or my husband…

That I don’t work hard enough at my job…

That I am not enough.

This morning, I made another decision. I decided that, even though I couldn’t completely silence the voice, I wasn’t going to listen.

I gave what I had this week–whether it was around the house, with my family or work, or at the workout this morning–and that was enough.

Sometimes, “enough” is going to look different based on the week, the day, or even the minute. Life seems to move at warp speed and we can’t always give the same amount we do on other weeks/days/minutes. And that’s ok. We give what we can, and that’s enough.

So today, I choose to tell that judgy voice to shut the hell up.

I am enough, and so are you.

Can’t…Hold…On…

The summer has slipped through my fingers, a mess of work and driving, driving, and driving some more. Driving the kids to the places. Driving the kids home from the places. Driving kids to other places, and then home again. I feel like I spent the summer in my car, and that’s a little bit sad.

But it’s not just the summer I feel slipping away from me; it’s so much more.

Emma turned twelve just over a week ago. We’ve decided that at 12 she’s allowed to wear makeup. She’s also switched from glasses to contacts recently, and a few days before her birthday, I taught her how to shave her legs.

How did we get here? How did we get from this:

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To this in, like, four seconds?

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Oh, my heart.

And don’t even get me started on this one…this no-longer-a-boy. This nearly-a-man who will be a junior in high school this year, who we are teaching to drive, and who has two college visits set up in the fall.

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I sometimes get incredibly irritated with him when he has been sitting at the computer with those infernal headphones on while playing Overwatch for, LITERALLY, hours. He “doesn’t hear me” when I ask him to help empty the dishwasher, feed the dog, or take out the trash.

But then at other times I stop and think that in two years, just two short, precious years, we’ll be sending him off to college. Watching him go and taking my heart with him.

And he is kind, and hilarious, and good-hearted, and smart, and generous, and, yes (when he “hears” me), willing to help out around the house. If the worst thing about him is that he plays video games too much, I think we’re not in too bad a spot.

And as for her, she is still the same mix of sweetness and sass that she’s always been, smart, compassionate, and by turns sensitive and tough-as-nails. But she’s looking so grown up these days. I have lots of adults tell me that she is mature beyond her years, and I do believe it’s true that my Emma is an old soul.

She still has a lot of physical growing to do, as she is still the height of about a 9 year old. I mean let’s face it, our whole family is short so it’s not like she has much of a shot at being taller than average (if that)…but I think for a while now her height has tricked me into thinking I have more time.

I don’t.

With her I have just six years left, and if the rapidity with which her brother has grown up is any indicator, that six years will slip through my fingers probably more quickly than this summer of driving them to all the places to do all the things.

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Days do feel long. With work, and making sure everyone has all their stuff, and running around doing errands, and the driving of the kids to the places, and the general doing of all the things, the days are long. (Except vacation days. Those are always super short, as we all know.)

But then suddenly I turned around and it’s more than halfway through 2018 and I realize that the long days of the doing of the things has brought me to this place where they are nearly grown. They don’t need me as much, but in some ways they need me more than ever and just don’t want to show it.

They are so big, and my heart breaks thinking of all the little ways that I am forced to let them go every day. That’s what it is, really. It’s a slow process of letting them go, and it happens so subtly sometimes that you don’t feel it untilĀ  suddenly you realize that, dear God, one is driving and the other is wearing makeup and shaving her legs and how the hell did this even happen?

I love those kids so much that it is painful sometimes. Drew and I have worked hard as parents to raise them to be good people, and I think we have done a decent job (barring the usual parenting screw-ups).

But here is what I call the Great Paradox of Parenting. We are “raising” these kids. Growing them. Putting all this work and love in so that they can become adults and leave us as they go off into their own lives. I know that’s the point of parenting but it hurts my heart so much to see it happening. To watch them slip away slowly and quickly at the same time.

I know they will never really be “gone.” They’ll always love us and we’ll always be a big part of their lives. But the day to day togetherness–no matter how much technology allows us to keep in touch via text or FaceTime–will no longer be there. They won’t be with me every day, needing to be driven to all the places for all the things.

This, this is the part that makes me feel like a super sticky bandage is being slowly and painfully ripped off.

I try to enjoy every stage of their lives and I have to say, for the most part, I am really loving this pre-teen/teen phase with both of them. But it’s so close to the end that it makes me want to hold on tight.

Of course I’ll let them go…I already am little by little. They’ll both grow into amazing adults doing good things in the world and I’ll still be so proud to call them mine.

And I’ve already told them both that they’ll have a tough time getting rid of me anyway, so there’s that.

In the meantime, I’ll try to let go gracefully, knowing they won’t always listen, that they’ll make their own mistakes and have their own victories…some of which I may never even know about. And that’s ok, because that’s all part of the rollercoaster journey of parenting.