Category Archives: Parenting

But mine wasn’t that bad.

MorgueFile free image.
MorgueFile free image.

A  week ago Friday, my smartphone died. Just croaked and despite many desperate attempts to revive it, including a full system restore,  time of death was called the following morning while standing at the phone kiosk in Costco. Though I initially resisted retiring my old, ever-dependable flip-phone 3 years ago I , like many people, am very attached to my smartphone. It stores all my contact information. It is the number clients use to reach me. It is my primary method of contact with my college-aged daughters. My husband and I usually text once a day to say hello, and I can’t count the number of times a day I go online to research something or reply to emails while shopping, at the coffee shop, or waiting to pick up my daughter. Suffice it to say, waiting to get a replacement was not an option, which is the only reason you’d find me at Costco on a Saturday.

Since it was pretty clear my phone had sent its last text Friday morning, I spent that evening researching new phones and double checking our plans. Despite the fact my daughter (away at school in Missouri) told me her phone threw  occasional fits,  my husband and I initially decided we would replace only mine on Saturday, not all 4 we were eligible to do.  Armed with my research and a decision in mind, we entered Costco shortly after opening with the hope we’d miss the chaos and be in and out in a hurry.  Such are the dreams of this brown-eyed girl.

We waited at the kiosk while the 2 salesmen worked with other customers. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I felt my stress level begin to rise. I took several deep breaths as I watched the aisles start to fill and tried to filter the rising noise level. “Ground yourself,” I repeated and let out a deep sigh of relief when only 20 minutes later it was our turn.  That’s when things got tough.

The gentleman who called us over offered a kind smile and, as I shared my phone dilemma and our intentions, he listened with concern. However, once he began talking, his words came too fast and soft, they mingled with the sounds of the store and I struggled to understand their meaning. I focused on his lips to help decipher the garbled messages but, the increasing number of carts moving about kept distracting me, forcing me to look away from the salesman. A heavily perfumed woman passed by, and though I tried to ignore it, the distraction was too great as I mentally worked to purge the scent from my nose. There was mention of promotions and rebates and combined offers. I fell further behind in the conversation and felt my stress level begin to rise. I squinted against the bright lights and visually busy phone screens in attempt to limit the sensory input. I tried to breathe, but it felt like I was drowning. I was supposed to make this decision. I had done my research. I managed our account. I should understand what he was saying and what password he was asking for, but none of it made sense.  I turned to my husband, desperate pleading in my eyes, tears forming in the corners, and mouthed the words, “I can’t understand him. I don’t know what he is saying.” His blank stare told me he didn’t understand me, and  I felt like I was imploding from sensory and emotional overload. Though I’m accustomed to being in control and articulate, I failed to express what I needed and I felt stupid in front of my husband and a total stranger.

My stress suddenly began to morph into agitation and, I felt the anger rising. I felt angry at the sales rep for talking too fast and too soft, despite my  pleas he slow down and speak up; angry at my husband for not understanding my dilemma; angry at the swarming shoppers; and, above all, angry at myself and my injured brain.

In about 6 weeks time, a year will have passed since I suffered my 4th concussion. In the lapsed time, I can’t count the number of times I have said, “But mine wasn’t that bad,” when discussing my brain injury. The truth is, it wasn’t, when compared to the many who suffer catastrophic brain injuries. The other truth is, it was bad enough to impact my life and the lives of my children and husband on a regular basis.  Nonetheless, the other day as I drove away after dropping my daughter off at school, I felt a sudden wave of gratitude. I was driving, something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do again following my accident. Driving offers the freedom to go shopping, to deliver my daughter safely to school,  to go to work, or meet a friend for coffee. I can enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of areas outside my yard and neighborhood. Because my brain injury wasn’t “that bad,” my children and husband regained a part of their normal lives when I regained a part of mine behind the wheel of a car, and for that I am grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

(P.S. 4 hours later, and with the help of the other salesman who wrote everything down to aid in my processing, I did eventually walk out of Costco with 4 new phones  and my sanity that day, and I’m grateful for that, too!)


A Sing-Along for This Season

Marking the seasons with music.
Reclaiming myself through music

In late July, I announced my newly renamed page, “Reclaiming Mary”, was coming soon. Like a shot, I set off to work on redesigning and redefining my page. With my daughter by my side, we discussed issues like readability, content, and site design. She wrote posts and created backup files of all my old “Transitioning Mom” posts. I ordered new business cards and created order out of chaos in my filing cabinets and my newly repurposed schoolroom. Busy work kept me busy and kept from the most important task: WRITING.

Fueled with excuses like, “I’m not done redesigning the blog” and  “I should take care of that hangnail, right now!” I absolved myself of writing. Time, when spent delaying duty, is not my friend. Enthusiasm morphs into fear when the voices of self-doubt and perfectionism (my ever faithful demons) begin to sing their familiar songs, “Oh, that page looks bad. Really bad.” “Who will want to read this?” “Do you even know what you are doing?”

Far too easily, I stepped away from the keyboard and allowed other tasks to steal my neatly carved out writing time.

Late last week, as I walked around the yard and mulled over what I needed to do to the page to make it “perfect”, I heard a (reasonable) little voice inside my head say, “There is rarely a perfect time to get married, have a baby, or go on the adventure trip of a lifetime, but the world keeps spinning and few regret the leap.” I realized then I needed to jump in the pool again.

Thankfully, before any voice of procrastination derailed  my internal pep-talk, the fabulous Ruth, of Cranium Crunches, suggested a “Sing Along” post to our blogging FB group. The directions were simple: post 4 or 5 songs (with lyrics because sing-alongs are great exercises for the brain) that reflect my life as it is, right now. Music, I believe, weaves moments of our lives together, creating a fabric of memories captured in song. More often than not, a song flashes me back to college when my best friend and I sang about “the boys of summer”, or suddenly “sitting on the dock of the bay” with my husband years ago, or dancing once again at the farmer’s market with my little “brown-eyed girl”. Music provides the song track to our mental scrapbooks, becoming another character in our life’s play. This particular prompt has challenged me to be in the moment–this moment– and capture where and who I am today, in this season of life. In music and in life, this is a good season and this prompt, I decided, created the ideal foundation for me to introduce Reclaiming Mary.

Won’t you sing along with me?

DAY 1 by Matthew West

Last December, I was in a bad car accident. Though I had no broken bones and only a few bruises, my primary injury was significant. The impact caused my airbags to deploy with a force that simultaneously saved me from further injury and gave me my 4th concussion in a decade’s time. At the hospital, I secretly reasoned with myself that I had recovered “just fine” previously, and the ER doc released me after the tests showed no bleeding in the brain and I could answer the date and name the current president (or something like that. Honestly, I don’t remember.) It took a few days before the full effects of my brain injury started to manifest. Thankfully, Ruth, who has made brain health her life’s mission after suffering her own traumatic brain injury (TBI), got online with me and started coaching me in my recovery. Little did I know things would and did get tougher before they started to get better. “Reclaiming Mary” has taken on both literal and figurative meanings as my TBI has changed my life in many ways. However, unlike my memory and sometimes my speech,  Matthew West makes my vision for this day and every day forward abundantly clear.

Landslide by Stevie Nicks

Last spring, when I graduated my second born from high school, the homeschooling job I began 18 years ago came to an end. With my older daughter back in Missouri for her senior year in college and my younger daughter blissfully happy at our local community college, their daily need for mama has waned. However, this is still a season of transition for all of us. I’m still mom, shipper of care packages, receiver of late night texts, and last minute editor of papers. And, while I am in the process of reclaiming me, this song is still one of my favorite anthems about motherhood and life’s seasons, as I wrote about here.

I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz

Including our time before marriage, my husband and I are fast approaching 3 decades together. (Yes, we started dating when I was 5.) Before children, it was easier to keep our eyes focused on each other and tend our relationship, always making time to share and listen to each other as well as carve out time for a weekend get-away, keeping the spice fresh.  Even when the children were small, we kept “us” a priority, knowing the dangers children and their uncanny ability to suck the life out of marriage can bring. As our children got older, evenings and weekends were filled with extra-curricular activities, homework, and home maintenance projects in addition to our many other “must do’s.” Like so many, our marriage has gone through more ebbs and flows while raising a family than the great Mississippi River. And, like that great river, we are still here, now flowing into new territory. Marriage in mid-life and with adult children is a new adventure with a familiar friend. With newly found time to share and listen and even enjoy a weekend get-away and more, this is our season of rediscovering and reclaiming each other.

Burning Gold by Christina Perri

The subtitle of “Reclaiming Mary” is “The Adventures of a Midlife Renewal.” I am jumping into this season with abandon. I am embracing work projects and reconnecting with friends and discovering new adventures and creative outlets. I scour my Groupon emails, Pinterest, and Meet-up groups for new things to try and am forcing myself outside my comfort zone. Though I am perhaps busier than I have been in years, I feel so very alive as I reclaim my time as mine and reconnect with old dreams while embracing new ones. These winds are most certainly carrying change.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – BJ Thomas

This was my very favorite song when I was little. Every time it came on, I turned up the volume on my small round yellow transistor radio until the speaker crackled. I didn’t care. I knew the song by heart and always sang along. In many ways, this song brings full-circle meaning to “Reclaiming Mary.”  In reclaiming myself, I am revisiting who I was, rediscovering forgotten interests and beliefs and, though I have changed in some areas, one thing has remained constant; I am an eternal optimist.

So, there is the music of my life. The songs that have been woven into the fabric of my memories, marking this season as the season I began Reclaiming Mary.

What are the songs that are marking this season in your life today?