July 2016 archive

Perfect 10

We are a mere nine days from the open­ing cer­e­monies of the Olympic Games in Rio. The sum­mer games are always my favorite. I can watch the swim­mers, divers and gym­nasts for hours and be in the purest state of awe as their bod­ies move in ways that seem almost human­ly impos­si­ble. They are tru­ly glo­ri­ous ath­letes and I will sit, in my own per­son­al glo­ry, and eat lots of snacks and drink Diet Coke while watch­ing them all go for the gold.

I nev­er had aspi­ra­tions of being an Olympiad, which I am sure comes as quite a sur­prise. I was far more con­cerned that the blue and gold rib­bons in my hair matched my uni­form to get too caught up with the actu­al sport that I was par­tic­i­pat­ing in. I attend­ed Catholic school from K-12 and in grade school, I played all of the sports, excelling in none of them. Dur­ing the sum­mer, we belonged to Macken­zie Swim Club, a fond but dis­tant mem­o­ry, and of course, I was on the swim team. There was also a div­ing team, but I was nev­er a part of that. I think the sum­mer that a mem­ber fell through the bars on the high dive, crashed to the ground and broke both of her arms (total­ly sounds like this should have been me) killed any thought my moth­er may have had of get­ting me signed up for anoth­er adven­ture.

swim

 

For as many sum­mers as I can remem­ber, we were at the pool every day. My par­ents had four kids and for a few hun­dred dol­lars a year, this kept every sin­gle one of us hap­pi­ly occu­pied for hours and hours. All of my broth­ers and I grew up to be decent swim­mers with no fear of the water. Our par­ents bought the house that they live in now when we were all young adults and lucky for us, there is an enor­mous pool in the back­yard. As we have grown up, got­ten mar­ried and had chil­dren, Mau­r­mi and Pop Pop’s house is the per­fect sum­mer spot to take our kids for hours on end.

The Hand­somes love to head over to their house when The Grillin’ Fool and I get home from work at night. I nor­mal­ly stay home with Dar­ling, our sweet baby girl, but a few nights ago, he had some evening work to do for a client, so I took the boys for an adven­ture. It’s aver­ag­ing 600 degrees here in the STL, so the water feels like a fresh­ly drawn bath, per­fect for evening swims. Mau­r­mi and I spent our night float­ing and chat­ting with fre­quent inter­rup­tions of, “Mom! Watch this!” “Mau­r­mi, look at me!” and “Hey, this is my best one yet.” Over and over they were in and out of the water doing tricks off of the div­ing board and call­ing us out instant­ly if we hap­pened to blink.

Hand­some #1 made his way over to Mau­r­mi and I in the shal­low water and start­ed doing hand­stands. He went up and down bare­ly keep­ing his skin­ny lit­tle legs togeth­er before top­pling over and splash­ing us.

Shoot! I just can’t keep me legs up,” he com­plained.

You’ll get it bud­dy, you just have to keep prac­tic­ing,” I reas­sured him.

Can you just show me?”

Oh, hon­ey, I haven’t done a hand­stand in 30 years.”

Please!”

When your child, who is so very much like you not only in his looks but in his manip­u­la­tive ways, begs you to help him, you move your aging, expand­ing and some­what sag­ging body to the deep­er water, hold your breath and give it your best shot. I went under, hoist­ed my body up on my arms, attempt­ed to put my legs togeth­er and flopped over on my back. I splashed with such gus­to that I imag­ined the water to be far below the skim­mer when I resur­faced. I was a bit embar­rassed, but fig­ured, I would give it anoth­er shot. Once again I held my breath, said a quick Hail Mary and went under. This time, I got one leg up and plunged for­ward. I came up for air feel­ing defeat­ed, a bit light head­ed and deter­mined to get both legs up and togeth­er. Third time’s a charm, right? I took a deep breath and made a final attempt, but nev­er got my legs ful­ly extend­ed. Instead, my left arm slipped and I went crash­ing down, think Shamu Show in the big tank. I came up for air and was sud­den­ly extreme­ly nau­se­at­ed.

The head rush from my failed attempts at show­ing my chil­dren that I could mas­ter some­thing as an adult that I was nev­er even kind of good at as a kid, was too much. I began gag­ging and head­ed for the steps.

Colleen, what is the mat­ter with you?” Mau­r­mi ques­tioned.

Noth­ing, gag, I am fine, gag, gag, gag.”

Mom, mom, are you OK?” Hand­some #2 yelled from the deep.

I moved from the steps to the side of the pool dry heav­ing and lay­ing my head on the salty, hot con­crete. I was posi­tioned on the ground like a beached whale, wet, flail­ing and dis­ori­ent­ed, just hop­ing that some­one would direct me back to my prop­er place. The fuzzi­ness in my brain rivaled any morn­ing after the very best nights of my life in my ear­ly 20s. I was breath­ing slow­ly in through my nose and out of my mouth. I was afraid to open my eyes, for I was cer­tain that the world was not just spin­ning, but also on fire and laugh­ing at me.

Colleen, are you alright? What in the heck is going on?”

Mom, I am fine! I just got a lit­tle dizzy, I’ll be fine.”

I can’t imag­ine how that hap­pened? Your form was just love­ly,” she smirked.

This com­ing from the wom­an who breaks into tap danc­ing at Hob­by Lob­by, but I digress. It took a cou­ple of min­utes, but I final­ly gained my com­po­sure and was able to get back in the water, my hand­stand days clear­ly over. I grabbed a noodle and float­ed effort­less­ly, not a care in the world. Then, Hand­some #2 yelled from the deep,

Hey, mom! Can you show me how to do a back flip off the board?”

8 High Hopes I Have for My Girl

Hand­some #3 stood on the deck in noth­ing but his Under­oos, his chub­by lit­tle bel­ly pro­trud­ing and a big smile on his face.

Look at him. He is so sweet and hap­py, let­ting it all hang out, not a care in the world. Can you imag­ine hav­ing that kind of self con­fi­dence?” I asked The Grillin’ Fool.

What do you mean? I do!” He said with a smirk.

He was only half jok­ing. If he didn’t think any­one would call the cops, he’d be on the deck in his under­wear too. But instead, he parades around the house in his box­er briefs and a t-shirt with his bird legs danc­ing and doesn’t think twice. I, on the oth­er hand, feel like I should have on Spanx under my night­gown just in case the door bell rings in the mid­dle of the night.

My hus­band has no shame when it comes to his body. He’s a forty-some­thing with four kids just try­ing to make it through the day like every oth­er man sup­port­ing a fam­i­ly. He pur­chas­es zero self-care items and will use any bot­tle in the show­er. He has nev­er in his life looked at a nutri­tion label for sug­ar, fat or calo­rie infor­ma­tion. As long as it doesn’t smell too bad he will wear it. He is so hap­py in his own skin, that noth­ing phas­es him.

I have birthed three sons who are exact­ly like him. Hand­some #1 is thin and lanky. He loves to brush his hair over to the side and lath­er him­self up in body wash. He doesn’t care one bit about what his clothes look like and will let me pick what­ev­er I want from his clos­et. Hand­some #2 is a bit more of a fash­ion­ista. He has a very par­tic­u­lar opin­ion about what to put on,and will fight for a win. Even if that means a sweater vest and a pair of ath­let­ic shorts. He’ll wear that com­bi­na­tion proud­ly. Hand­some #3 has more con­fi­dence in his lit­tle fin­ger than the rest of them com­bined. They are pre­cious, per­fect lit­tle boys and I want to be just like them.

For years, I wor­ried about what would hap­pen if God ever gave me a daugh­ter. How could I pos­si­bly set a good exam­ple of body image and con­fi­dence if that is the one thing that I tru­ly strug­gle with on a dai­ly basis? For my first sev­en years as a mom, I par­ent­ed my three boys know­ing that their father would have a pro­found impact on the type of men they will become, but not wor­ry­ing that my self image would affect them.

Then a sur­prise preg­nan­cy brought the biggest sur­prise of my life, a daugh­ter. I was thrilled beyond thrilled, but equal­ly ter­ri­fied that I would screw her up. I am the one who she will look to for strength and guid­ance. She will come to me for advice and help. I will be her exam­ple of self con­fi­dence and wom­an­hood. I want to do it right.

DMT

Thank­ful­ly, she is only a few months old and I have some time to get my act togeth­er. Gone are the days of look­ing in the mir­ror and list­ing all of things that I hate about my body and face. The inse­cu­ri­ties that have plagued me for years have to die before they begin to rear their ugly face in my daughter’s eyes. When I look at her, I feel inspired to be bet­ter. She is inno­cent and pure and beau­ti­ful. She is so beau­ti­ful. I nev­er want her to doubt that. I do a lot wrong, don’t we all? But, there are a few things that I have picked up along the way that I hope that she might think are worth­while nuggets of advice.

1. Laugh- Laugh Loud­ly and rau­cous­ly even if you are the only one who gets the joke. Most impor­tant­ly, laugh at your­self and know that every­one makes mis­takes. Make oth­ers laugh and know that there is no bet­ter med­i­cine. I would also be extreme­ly proud if you were the third gen­er­a­tion class clown at a cer­tain all girls Catholic high school, but I will not put unfair pres­sure on you to be any­thing that you are not.

2. Fall Hope­less­ly in Love with a Boy Band- There is noth­ing bet­ter than cov­er­ing your bed­room walls with pic­tures of the men that you are cer­tain you will mar­ry one day. I will hap­pi­ly down­load all of their music, buy crazy expen­sive tick­ets and sob with you when you see them in per­son for the first time. Trust me, you will want to keep your t-shirts, ear­rings and every over­priced acces­so­ry you can even when you think you are over that part of your life. I will glad­ly help you hoard them, and hide them from your father, so that when your favorite band goes on tour in 20 years, you can squeeze your post­par­tum body into that shirt and feel like a kid again.

3. Be a Friend- Not just to the cool kids or the pop­u­lar peo­ple, be a friend to every­one who needs it. The shy lit­tle girl in the back of the room wants to play in the game too, invite her. Always be the nice girl, not the mean girl. Years from now peo­ple will remem­ber the slight­est bit of kind­ness that you have shown them. I’m sure at some point, you will feel the wrath of a mean girl, and it will hurt, but please do your best to be kind, to watch your words and to walk away with a smile on your face, it will make you stronger.

4 . Lis­ten- This is a tough one, because you come from a long line of peo­ple who love to talk. But, trust me as much as you may want to speak, wait your turn and let oth­ers talk. It isn’t always about what you have to say, some­times it is about what you don’t say and the time that you take to hear some­one else that makes all the dif­fer­ence.

5. Pray-Every sin­gle day of your life take a moment to talk to God. Thank Him for what you have, who you are and where you are going. Ask for for­give­ness and guid­ance. Your faith will guide you in life’s most dif­fi­cult times. When all else fails, close your eyes and whis­per, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in thee. This has got­ten sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions of wom­en in our fam­i­ly through tougher times than I could ever imag­ine.

6. Wear Red Lip­stick- Wear bright lips, shab­by over­alls, plaid high heel shoes, or pink gloves. Your friends may tell you that it is too bright, or too bold, or too much, but if it makes you feel good, do it! If it makes you feel pret­ty, then wear it, use it and flaunt it often, no mat­ter what it is. You will devel­op a sig­na­ture style that screams your name, make sure to scream it back.

7. If You Can’t Do it in Front of Me, Don’t Do It- This isn’t a threat, and it isn’t meant to be scary, it is just some­thing for you to always think about. I learned this from my own moth­er many, many years ago. And to this day, it still rings true. The old­er you get, the more time you will spend on your own and you will be faced with chal­lenges and choic­es to do things that you may not feel right about. If you would be com­fort­able doing it in front of me, you are gold­en. If not, it’s prob­a­bly not the best idea.

8. Be Hap­py With the Skin You Are In- You are not fat, not today, not tomor­row, not ever! You are gor­geous and per­fect and exact­ly as you were meant to be. Don’t ever let any­one dim your sparkle, espe­cial­ly not some­one who wants you to fit in to some kind of mold. They aren’t worth your time if they think a sin­gle freck­le on your nose needs to change.

As I read over my words, it was very clear to me that this advice is just as impor­tant to my boys as my girl. All I want is to raise chil­dren who are kind, lov­ing and respect­ful mem­bers of soci­ety. Each day I try to be a good mom and I real­ize that par­ent­ing will nev­er end, it will nev­er get eas­ier, it will always change. And it is the great­est chal­lenge I have ever accept­ed as it forces me to set an exam­ple and thought­ful­ly work to be a bet­ter per­son. To my chil­dren, I am so grate­ful and I love you.

Airing Our Dirty Laundry, All Over Saint Louis Hills

 

My first reac­tion to this video was to be crit­i­cal of myself. The hor­ren­dous screen shot of a five-week post­par­tum moth­er, couldn’t they have cho­sen some­thing bet­ter? I want­ed to point out my errors, the way that I look and the way that I sound. But, I am throw­ing all of that out the win­dow. I am so incred­i­bly proud of this accom­plish­ment. I stepped com­plete­ly out of my com­fort zone, put my heart and soul on the line with an orig­i­nal piece and the audi­ence loved it. I am so incred­i­bly thank­ful for the sup­port of my fam­i­ly, my three broth­ers and my dad, who allowed me to bring a lit­tle laugh­ter into the world at all of their expense, but par­tic­u­lar­ly to my moth­er, who has always been my biggest sup­port­er. I am also grate­ful for my hus­band and chil­dren who allowed me to take this time to be com­plete­ly self­ish and to do some­thing just for me. I love each and every one of you!

The Lis­ten to Your Moth­er expe­ri­ence tru­ly was life chang­ing for me. It helped me to real­ize that God has blessed me with a tal­ent and that I need to take advan­tage of that tal­ent. I am cur­rent­ly work­ing on a col­lec­tion of essays from my child­hood, very sim­i­lar to the fol­low­ing, that I hope to pub­lish soon. I appre­ci­ate all of your kind words and your love. You will be see­ing a lot more from me soon!