Friday, July 25, 2008

Surprise design.

I've never really been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. I like to have a plan and know what’s going to happen next. I don't even like to put my iPod on shuffle because it makes me nervous. Jumping from Notorious B.I.G. to Frank Sinatra to a Latin dance number we downloaded for my 30th birthday fiesta just feels wrong to me. Even if I happen to love the randomly selected song, I can’t help but worry, “What if the next song is a podcast?”

You might be thinking, “Well, on the upside, you're probably very organized and productive.” Yeah, not so much. Instead of doing, I'm planning to do. And not in a, "Let's plan to do that on Tuesday," kind of way.

If I come up with an idea like, say, making my laundry room look less laundry and more room, the likelihood that I will actually begin the project hovers somewhere between "maybe if we have out-of-town guests who I really want to impress" and "not until we decide to move and sell our house". In all probability, it may never happen.

My style of planning is a little bit like this:

I will get really excited about something, talk about it a lot and come up with an absolutely flawless plan. Then, instead of starting the project like any normal human being would do, I start picking it apart. In no time at all I convince myself it will be too expensive, too labor-intensive, too hard to find the time, too you name it. Before ever getting started, I am completely over it. I mean, if it didn't work in my head, why on earth would I try it in real life?

This is not a particularly great way to live. Not only is it self-defeating and unproductive, it's also majorly lacking in excitement.

A recent podcast I was listening to (by choice, not by random selection) compared living a totally controlled life to going on an over-planned vacation. You know exactly what you'll be doing every minute of every day. You might be in an exotic location but would never know it because your four-star hotel looks just like every other hotel you've ever seen. Your tour guide speaks English and so do all the people you sit with at dinner. You never step one foot out of your comfort zone and return home exactly the same person you were when you left (well, aside from the suitcase full of tacky souvenirs).

On the other hand, a real adventure can change your life forever. The people you meet, the things you do, the ways you rise up to meet a challenge - it's these things that stretch you and make you grow into a better person.

Hearing it described like that made me wonder, am I living my life like a tourist?

I immediately became more conscious of my actions (or in-actions as it were) and expressed a desire to change. I wanted to be the kind of person who jumps in shouting "WOO HOO!" instead of "HOLY $#!T! HOW DEEP IS THAT WATER???"

This morning, I got a nudge.

Liam woke up a few minutes before the little girl I babysit for arrived. I got him dressed and situated with a peanut butter waffle and some Blue's Clues. Then I started a pot of coffee, let the dog out and opened the door to the laundry room to kill feed my meowing cats. When I opened the door, I saw this:

That huge gray and white puddle on the floor? Paint. Wet paint.


I'm not exactly sure what happened but it appears to have been a chain reaction involving cats, golf clubs, and a tower of half used paint cans. In addition to the huge puddle of paint, the cat prints are leading to another mess (I'll give you a hint - it's not the cat box...).

I stood in the doorway for a moment, frozen in a state of overwhelmed amusement. There's a puddle of paint on the floor. Paint. Ha! The knock at the door shook me out of my inactive stupor and I left the situation to greet and care for Baby Girl.

There wasn't a thought in my head while I rocked her and got her down for a nap. I would have liked to have been hatching a brilliant clean up plan but had absolutely no idea where to begin. As soon as she fell asleep, I drank a quick cup of coffee and did the next most logical thing: called my husband at work. I think this is a universal wife move. We call the one person we know can't help us at the moment and share all the details of the most recent household shocker while they try their best to remain composed and professional (The Christmas tree fell over! There's paint on the floor! I'm pregnant!). I guess we figure, if we have to deal with it, so should they. Plus, it gives us someone to pin our frustration on ("You didn't even do anything!" "I was AT WORK!").

I know I am not the only wife who does this.

With Bill up to speed on the laundry room situation, I had nothing left to do but dive in and fix it. I put on some short shorts, took a deep breath and marched into the room with an apprehensive, "Woo hoo?"

Fortunately the floors were already painted (I never thought I'd say that...) so nothing major was ruined. We had even talked about wanting to repaint the floors a lighter color but didn't know where to begin. Well, that was no longer a problem. I got everything off the floor (except for the heavy stuff) and vacuumed up the cat hair and dryer lint. Then I found a paint roller and began to mix the perfect shade of gray.

Well, sort of perfect.

I started out very nonchalant about the finished product. I knew I wasn't painting the floor so much as I was distributing a paint spill so it would eventually dry. I was rolling the half-mixed paint as evenly as possible and trying not to let the messy brown border bother me. Once I had the floor about half way done, I stood back to look at it. It already drove me crazy. Even though I knew I would eventually finish the floors, I didn't want to see a mess every time I had to do laundry in the mean time. More even mixing and a little edging couldn't be that much more difficult. I needed to try harder.

Now that half the floor was covered in a thick layer of gray and white marbled paint and the paint brushes were on the other side of the puddle, it became very clear that this project was about to become more than "hands on". I checked the baby to make sure she was still sleeping, gave Liam some chocolate milk and turned on the extra long Blue's Clues (thanks, Noggin!).


I jumped right into the puddle of paint and nearly fell over and broke my neck. Why I didn't think paint would be slippery is beyond me. "Oh! OK. OK. I can do this." I was nodding my head vigorously while maintaining a Sumo wrestler squat. My center of gravity was low to the ground, my arms were thrown out to the side for balance and as long as I didn't try to move, I was pretty steady. My legs were starting to shake and I knew the faster I finished this workout/project, the better.

I carefully skated over to the shelf and, with one arm on the washing machine for balance, squatted down to grab the paint brush. It was stiff and covered in cat hair. "OK, no problem. Nooo problem." I shuffled toward the bathroom and grabbed onto the doorknob to steady myself. The door swung open and my legs kicked out in both directions. I held onto the door for dear life and somehow managed to get my legs back under my body without falling ass first into the paint. I felt like an old woman getting out of her car and discovering a patch of black ice in the Sears' parking lot. Only, if I fell I would break my hip and be covered in paint.

I washed the paint brush in the bathroom sink and started edging. "Edging" might be too fancy a term for what I was doing. "Shoving a wet paint brush under the washing machine and dryer and painting around the cat food and tool box and whatever else I didn't bother to move while sweating and panting in a shaky Sumo stance" is a little bit more accurate.

Suddenly Liam was at the door. "Oh, Mama, are you painting?"

"Yeah, Buddy. Just stay there, OK?"

"Mama, are you painting with your feet?"

"Mmmhmm. Pant, gasp. Mama's almost finished, OK?"

"Do you know giraffes are very tall?"

"Yeah, Buddy. Pant, pant, pant. Just go watch Steve and I'll be right there."

"Oh, Mama, giraffes live in very tall houses."

I continued to paint while sweating and shaking and twisting my back in ways I didn't think possible. Finally, I was done. Well, almost done. About two feet from the doorway I realized I didn't have a way to get out of the laundry room. My hands and feet were covered in paint and unless I wanted to repaint the kitchen floor too (I did not) there was no where for me to step. I stood there for a moment, looking aimlessly at my gray feet and the space around me hoping something might spark an idea. Again, not a thought entered my head.

Finally I realized the door I was clinging to had a curtain on it. Perfect! I tore it off the window and threw it onto the kitchen floor. I stepped onto the curtain and exhaled for the first time in 40 minutes. Solid ground! I finished painting the last bit of the floor and then shuffle-hopped on the curtain over to the kitchen sink where I jumped in and cleaned myself up.

I couldn't believe it. I was finished! Not finished finished (the paint job is a base coat at best) but started finished. For me, that's the hardest part. In my head, repainting the floor was a really major project. The kind of project that would require multiple trips to Home Depot, at least two people (preferably one with some sort of expertise), and a whole day of sanding, cleaning, and painting. I never would have thought I could do it spur of the moment with two babies in the house.

Now that I can no longer talk myself out of it, I am going to re-do the laundry room for real. I can't wait. In fact, I won't wait. I will post photos of the awesome finished product SOON. I will have to paint, reorganize, sew, talk to people at Home Depot, spend money, move heavy objects, and step way out of my comfort zone.


Monday, July 21, 2008

It's a dance off.

Last week, while watching TV working out at the Y, I discovered something amazing: America's Best Dance Crew. Not only is it a kick-ass dance competition between street gangs (or something like that), it's also hosted by Saved by the Bell star A.C. Slater. I don't think it gets much cooler than that. If you haven't seen it and are a fan of awesome things, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

I couldn't get enough. I wanted to watch more dancing and I wanted to watch it NOW. I cruised by the Redbox on my way home and scanned through the DVD titles until I found exactly what I was looking for: Step Up 2 - The Streets. I hadn't seen Step Up 1 but figured I could probably piece it together. Besides, I wasn't watching for the story; I was watching for the dance.

When Bill came home after work and saw the empty DVD case, he was excited to watch a movie after Liam went to bed. When I told him I already watched it by myself, he looked a little disappointed. That is, until I told him what I rented. Having to sit through Step Up 2 after a long day at the office is even worse than coming home to a messy house, no plans for dinner and a 30 year old wife who wants to be a street dancer.

I do my best to keep things in perspective for him.

Even though I didn't make him watch the movie, he still had to hear me talk about it. A lot. "It's not that it was even a good movie, it's just that, have you ever seen people dance like that? It's awesome. I want to learn to dance like that. Do you think I could learn?"


He didn't even pretend to hesitate.

"Oh, um, do you think it's because I'm too old?"

"No. It's not because you're too old."

Ouch. I figured I should leave well enough alone. Maybe I didn't want to know what he thought about my future as a street dancer. Maybe some dreams, like watching Step Up 2 with microwave popcorn and a mini Coke, are better kept to myself.

Besides, what does he know? I could totally dance like that.

Fast forward one week.

I dropped Liam off at school and started trying to talk myself out of going to the Y. It was a true showdown of good and evil.

The little angel on my shoulder said, "Just do 30 minutes on the treadmill. You can even walk if you want to."

Then the devil interrupted, "In your mood? No way. Go home and watch TV."

Angel: "Exercise is supposed to make you feel better when you're in a bad mood. Just try it."

Devil: "Is there any place to get a donut on the way home? You deserve a treat."

Angel: "You might get to watch America's Best Dance Crew again..."

The angel must have set my car to auto-pilot or something because the next thing I knew I was at the Y. "Stupid angel," I grumbled as I dragged myself through the front door. "Stupid Y." I was already telling myself I could go home if America's Best Dance Crew wasn't on when I randomly stopped at the group fitness room to check the schedule. Just then, an adorable blond bounced through the door and said, "I'm teaching hip hop in 5 minutes. Come to my class!"

How's that for perfect timing? It was as if the universe wanted me to dance. Or at least snap out of my funky mood.

The class was awesome. We popped and locked, walked like pimps, shook our asses like rap video superstars, and danced in a circle (just like 7th grade!).

My eyes were glued to the teacher for most of the class. Because I have the ability to think that what I'm doing and what I'm seeing are the same, this worked out rather well for me. It wasn't until I accidentally caught a glimpse of my own reflection that I realized three things:

1) What the F? I don't look at all like my teacher.

2) Ohhh...that's what Bill was talking about.

3) Holy cow. Could I smile any bigger?

It turns out, hip hop makes me happy! It doesn't matter that my age is just one of the many things standing between me and winning a dance off. Dancing is fun with or without skills. (Trust me...)

Instead of thinking of dance as something I wish I could do, I am going to think of it as something I must do. Especially when I'm in a bad mood. For me, that's ten times better. I don't actually need a dance crew but a new way to shake a bad mood is something I'm always in the market for.

Next time I wake up on the wrong side of the bed I'm gonna take it to the streets!

Monday, July 14, 2008

I love my neighborhood!

On my way home from the YMCA just then, I passed my neighborhood firehouse where one of the firemen was standing on top of the truck spraying the hose about 30 feet into the air. The 4-way stop was at a standstill as everyone rubber-necked to see what the heck was going on. When it was finally my turn to go, I inched forward, squinting up at the geyser to see if I could figure out what was wrong. That's when I saw them. Dozens of kids were running around the firehouse lawn, laughing and playing in the water. How cute is that? It totally made my day. Well, that and skipping on the treadmill. It was so much more fun than running!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Everything's going swimmingly.

Since I'm sure you've all been very concerned about my lost camera and ensuing mental illness, I wanted to let you know you can stop worrying: I found it.


It was pretty touch-and-go there for a while. I knew I had to move on and live my life but I could NOT stop obsessing. Where was it? How did I lose it? Am I crazy? Did I throw it away? Am I sure I checked all the pockets in my purse? Could I have taken it somewhere I don't remember going? I even called one of the families I babysit for to check if I had absentmindedly dropped it into their diaper bag.

For a full day and night, everything I did was just a pathetic attempt to look like I wasn't obsessing over my camera.

Finally, yesterday evening, I made a decision. I knew I would never find my camera looking in the same places over and over again (I believe doing the same thing but expecting different results is called insanity) and the increasing desperation and madness were only making things worse. I had to let go.

I told Bill, "I'm not looking for my camera anymore. I am letting go so the universe can find it for me."

"Oh, um, OK." (Cue eye!)

I don't care what anyone says, the law of attraction totally works. Like attracts like. Feeling desperate and out of my mind was never going to lead me to my camera; it was only going to bring more of the same. Making a conscious decision to let go made me feel content again. After spending nearly two days on the dark side, it was nice be able to breathe again.

This morning, I was walking from the kitchen to the living room to drink my coffee and watch cartoons with Liam when I suddenly stopped, turned, looked down and saw my camera. It was wedged between the side table and the wall in a two inch gap that is typically reserved for dust bunnies and dog hair. It must have been on the ledge between the kitchen and the living room and been knocked off when I tossed the mail into the to-do pile or the cat jumped up to stretch and lick his paws. (Yes, Liam could have put it there but I really doubt it. He brought it up several times over the last couple days but I think it's just because he was feeding off my stress and incessant, "Have you seen my camera?!" Poor kid.)

I never would have looked there but I wasn't looking when I found it. The universe found it for me, just like I said it would.

I pressed against the wall and squeezed my arm just far enough into the crack to grab my camera by the wrist strap and pull it up to safety. It was in perfect condition - not cracked or broken or even all that dusty. "Woo HOO!" I danced around the kitchen, dangling it in front of Bill's face as he flipped the French toast.

He couldn't believe I found it in that little crack, especially since I was NOT looking for it. "What do you mean you just stopped and turned and there it was?"

"I mean the universe told me to look there."

"Yeah, but, how? How did the universe tell you that?"

"I guess I was just pulled to the spot."

Blank stare.

Suddenly I remembered a way I could explain it to him that wouldn't make sense to anyone else. "The fish led me to it!"

(This is why we're so good at games like Catchphrase and Cranium. We've developed our own married people language that no one else could possibly understand.)

I could see by the wheel-turning look on his face that he got it. The fish I am referring to is the one that led Bill to the condo keys that fell out of his pocket while we were snorkeling in Hawaii. Four of us searched desperately for hours and finally gave up when Bill swears a fish caught his attention and led him straight to the rocks that the keys had sunk between. He took a deep breath, dove down about 15 feet and came up with the keys in his hand. I was snorkeling next to him at the time and was amazed at how effortless it all looked. He didn't dive down and desperately look around; he literally swam straight to them.

"Everyone thought I was crazy but I swear that fish told me where to look." I thought he was crazy for sure. A fish told you where to look? Wow.

Now I get it. The fish is the same as the universe or God or our own higher consciousness or whatever we want to call it. The sooner I am able to get my Ego (the annoying voice in my head making me obsess and beat myself up and blame my child) to shut up and get out of my way, the sooner I can let the fish lead me to everything I want in life. I just have to decide, let go and follow that fish!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Losing it.

Have you ever spent an entire day obsessing over something you've lost? My mom does it all the time. At my house, it was her purse. It makes perfect sense why she carries it around all the time like a Golden Girl. The minute she sets it down, it's gone.

This is a complete mystery to me. My purse is always either on my shoulder or in the hallway next to the front door. Always. Same with my keys and sunglasses. Same spot every time. It's nearly impossible to lose things this way.

Bill has yet to catch on. Every time he drives my car, the keys disappear.

"Have you seen my keys? They're not in the key drawer."

"Oh, um...did you check the kitchen?"

"No. They're supposed to be in the key drawer."

"Well, what about my pockets? Did you check my pockets?"

"I don't know. Are your pockets in the key drawer?"

On a complete side note: There's a man going through my recycling bin right now looking for cans. This happens all the time. I never know if I should do something or not. I watch him out the window to make sure he doesn't steal our identities or anything valuable like that but as far as I can tell, it's just the cans he's after. The first time I saw him, I thought, "I wonder if he'd take our glass?" (we have to drive that to the facility ourselves). Then I contemplated separating our cans from the rest of the recycling before taking them out to the curb. It wouldn't really be that much more work for us yet he'd have a much easier time filling his cart. He'd get a little pocket change for a Big Mac or 40 oz or whatever he needed and I wouldn't have to feel so uncomfortable watching a grown man dive head first into my smelly bin. Win/win situation. Only later did I think, "I should probably tell him to get the hell off my property." So far, I haven't done a thing. I just continue to watch out the window, simultaneously feeling sorry for the guy and making sure he doesn't take my junk mail.

I realize this is very type-A and annoying of me. Not the can guy thing, the not losing my keys thing. It's not something I'm proud of, just something that saves me an enormous amount of time. Who wants to spend all day looking for their purse?

Or their camera.

This morning, Liam and I were playing dress up with some wigs, hats and costumes I found in his closet. It was so much fun watching him try on different looks and check himself out in the full length mirror. He choose a snarly long black witch wig for me and the image of the two of us rocking fake hair and cowboy hats was a photo opportunity I didn't want to miss. I left him to pick out a cape and tip-toed down the hall to retrieve my camera without waking the sleeping baby.

Hmmm, I could have sworn I left it on the kitchen island yesterday when we came in from the backyard. Yes, I'm sure that's where it was. I was filming myself trying out a new hoop trick while Liam dropped sticks into Cloey's water bowl when we heard Bill come home for lunch and came inside to greet him. I remember specifically grabbing my camera off the patio table and thinking, "That would have sucked if I left this outside." It was dangling from my wrist as I held Liam's hand up the stairs. We came inside and I dropped his notebook and the bubbles and the bug spray and the camera onto the island.

Where the heck did it go?

I checked Ted (the dresser by the front door that holds the key drawer and my purse) but all I found was the camera bag. I went through not one, not two, but three purses. And my diaper bag. Still no camera.

By this time, Liam was knocking on his bedroom door and hollering, "Yoo hoo! Mama!" I didn't want him to wake the sleeping baby so I snuck back into his room and tried to forget about the whole thing.

The trouble was, we were still wearing wigs and looking adorable and I really, really wanted to take a picture. Plus, I never lose things. Surely I must have overlooked it.

"I'll be right back, Buddy. I just have to mmrhmmnnh..."

I closed his door behind me and stood in the hall like a helpless child. I had already looked through Ted, the drawers, the purses, the diaper bag. Where else could it be. Maybe the swim bag? Uh-uh. What about behind Ted? Nope.

I sulked back to the kitchen and scoured the counter tops again. Nothing. Then my stomach dropped. I suddenly remembered that right after lunch yesterday, the cat jumped up on the table and rolled around until she had shed about half of her body weight onto my table cloth. I tossed her and the table cloth onto the ground in a huff and threw it into the wash later in the day (the table cloth, not the cat).

What if my camera was on the table? By now it would be nothing but a soaked pile of parts in the washing machine (you're fooling yourself if you think I get a load of laundry into the washing machine and dryer in the same day).

It wouldn't be the first time I washed something I wasn't supposed to. And I'm not talking "dry clean only." I had to pay the Nashville Public Library $65 for the copy of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything I put through the spin cycle with our sheets. So much for borrowing books to save cash.

With my fingers crossed I sorted through the wet laundry. I carefully pulled out the red and white checked table cloth and waited for the soft thud of my camera dropping onto the rest of the load. Nothing. Phew.

"Yoo hoo! Mama, are you there?" Knock, knock, knock. "YOOO HOOOOO!"

I ran on my tip-toes back down the hall looking left and right and left again all the way to Liam's room. (And, yes, I was still wearing the wig.) I snatched my cell phone off of Ted and quietly snuck in his door.

Urgent text to Bill: HAVE YOU SEEN THE CAMERA?

Reply: No.

Second Reply: (quoting Blue's Clues) Go back, go back, go back.

Huh. If he only knew.

By this point, I wasn't as upset that I couldn't find my camera as I was that I couldn't stop obsessing about not being able to find it. It was like I had completely lost my mind. All I could think about was Where the heck is my camera?!?

I tried to enjoy dress-up but my heart just wasn't in it. Wigs aren't as much fun without pictures to laugh at later.

Then it hit me - the office! I forgot to check the office! Of course it's in there. How obvious. I snuck out of Liam's room and stood by the office door with my hand on the knob. I hated to bust in on a sleeping baby but knew if I could just pop my head in for a second and see the camera I could get on with my day. Quietly, slowly...



"Maaaama! Yoooo hoo!"

Alright, alright. Everyone just calm down and give me a second. I need to find my camera. It has to be in here somewhere.



I took the kids into the kitchen to feed them lunch while scanning every inch of the room with my beady, blood shot eyes. I know it's a small camera but c'mon! It has to be somewhere.

Suddenly, a stroke of genius hit me. Liam! He probably grabbed it from the island and put it somewhere I would never think to look. Not like in an I'm evil and want to drive my mama crazy type of way; just like you're average I'm two and like to play with shiny things type of way.

"Hey Buddy, have you seen Mama's camera?"


"You have? You've seen Mama's camera?"

"I don't know."

Then a smile crept over his face. I couldn't tell if it was a sly, smirk-like smile or just a regular, every day smile. Is this kid yanking my chain?

"Liam, Mama can't find her camera anywhere. Do you know where it is?"

"Go back, go back, go back."

Very funny. Later, when I was putting him down for a nap, I kissed him goodnight and was about to lay him down when he said, "Oh, Mama, did you lose your camera?" I swear he was smirking at me.

I really hope to find it (my camera, not my sanity...OK, both would be good) before the weekend. More cute stuff is bound to happen and I would hate to miss out. In the meantime, I have removed the wig but the crazy look in my eyes is still making me look like a witch who eats little children. If you ask me, children who hide cameras from witches are kinda asking for it. Who's smirking now?


Edited to add:

I re-read this post after publishing and stumbled upon the most awesome line ever:

I wouldn't have to feel so uncomfortable watching a grown man dive head first into my smelly bin.

Ha! Sure, I could have edited it to sound less filthy but where's the fun in that? Enjoy! Wink, wink.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'll have the humble pie.

Liam and I just got back from the airport and I am hoping my body will soon acclimate to the gift from God known as air-conditioning. I understand that sweat is nature's way of cooling us off on a sweltering day but all it seems to do for me is make me look as bad as I feel. I think those mud-covered piglets might be onto something. I doubt they bother taking a shower or trying to look decent before sloshing into a big puddle of muck.

Then again, that could be the heat talking.

Where was I? Ah yes, my mom's visit.

The week went by surprisingly fast and overall I would say it went really well. I actually enjoyed our time together. I know! I didn't see it coming either.

We went to the park and the zoo and the pool and the library and anywhere else that Liam wanted to go. When he was sleeping (which, bless his heart, is most of the time), my mom and I played Scrabble and watched movies and spent time outside and sat and talked. To each other! We went bowling and hosted a grill out and walked to the park for fireworks. We even went shopping! I admit, making cookies from scratch may have been a little much. I mean, how many mother/daughter clich├ęs can be comfortably squeezed into one week? This wasn't supposed to be a re-make of a Lifetime Original Movie you know.

Throughout it all I never once had to send myself to my room for deep cleansing breaths or mutter calming mantras under my breath at the dinner table. I was calm and compassionate and myself.

Can you say EVOLUTION?

I didn't know I had it in me. I actually feel lighter.

A couple gals out on the town. Talk about mother's day out!

Although I'm very happy about this big step forward, I must admit I'm also a little embarrassed. See, my mom still does the things that used to drive me crazy. She's easily distracted and forgetful and says things like, "You sure?" while watching over your shoulder to see how you make a cup of coffee. If you don't forcibly tie her to a shopping cart, you will lose her in the Super WalMart. No matter if you just ate dinner or are allergic to fruit or have told her point-blank you DO NOT LIKE THEM, she will continue to offer you a smoothie every time she sees the blender. She's a little ADD and OCD (and quite possibly even M-A-D). She hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is my reaction to the things she does that used to drive me crazy. As it turns out, it wasn't her, it was me!

Her obsession with walnuts stained her palms completely brown.
We tried everything - not even gasoline would remove the stain.

My mom wasn't crazy. She was herself. (Sure, she can resemble crazy at times but that's not the point.) I was the one wishing she would be like the "perfect" mothers I had seen on TV. That's crazy. No wonder I was so disappointed and she was so uncomfortable. Changing people isn't just impossible, it's also kind of ugly.

I finally figured out that it's not the annoying habit but the reaction to it that is a problem. We all do annoying things. If Liam's chest tightened or he started to clench his teeth every time I pulled a Maggie-ism, I'd be in big trouble. Yet, that's basically what I was doing to my mom.

Taken at face value, none of the stuff she does is really that bad. It's that I had built it up in my head so much. She never listens. I hate when she does this. Here we go again. It was like everything she did was a personal attack on me.

This time, when she'd do something that used to really push my buttons, I would still recognize it but before it could take a hold of me, I'd accept it and move on. When I stopped taking things personally, I found space for compassion and unconditional love.

The best thing about this (besides the health benefits of lower blood pressure) was the effect it had on the rest of my family. Without me getting all screwed up over my mom being herself, the energy in the house remained calm and pleasant. With no negativity to feed off of, everyone was comfortable and happy. My mom wasn't as nervous as I remembered her to be and now I know it's because I was the one who made her feel that way. That's not easy to swallow.

So relaxed, so happy. Better late than never!

Finally accepting that I can't change others has taught me something unexpected: I can change others. By giving my mom a more authentic version of myself, she gave me the same. I took down a wall, she took down a wall. I accepted her, she accepted me. We train people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves and others. The better we give, the better we get. Without resistance, the whole world opens up.