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5 Things I'd Tell My High School Graduating Self

May 24, 2015

Recently, I hit a milestone. A big one.

Twenty years ago this year, I stood with 364 of my classmates on my high school’s football field and got my diploma. As I sat in that crowd on that field, under a setting sun, my white cap affixed upon my Jersey Girl Aqua Net-styled hair, we ruminated over the highs and lows of our four years in the hallowed halls of our high school. We looked forward to our futures, and swore we’d “stay the same!” and “never change!” Our futures were bright and we were excited. And our hair was huge. HUGE, I tell you.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what I would say to that naive, big-haired girl. Because there are bits of wisdom that the high school me could have reeeaally benefitted from, had I known sooner, rather than later.

5 Things I Would Tell My High School Graduating Self

  • 1. Travel Now, While Your Standards Are Still Low

One of my biggest regrets is that I did not travel overseas more when I was fresh out of high school. With the demands of college and the financial restraints, it always seemed more sensible to work All. The. Summers. I spent my summers chained to a desk doing secretarial work when I should have been backpacking throughout Europe and staying in hostels. There’s a reason they are called YOUTH hostels: they are not necessarily the hotel of choice for grown ups with more exacting tastes. A trip to Europe with the standards you have now, costs about the same as a year of college. Travel now while you don’t mind sleeping with a bunch of other smelly travelers, and while flying coach seems like a treat. Even if you have to pack up your tiny piece of shit, barely running car and make your passengers pay for gas, get in that POS and see the world as cheaply as you can.

  • 2. You Will Be Friends With Everyone Eventually… on Facebook

Let’s face it, high school can be a rough time socially. While I was never a social outcast, I wasn’t exactly Miss Popularity, either. I had my core group of friends and I remember my high school years, fondly. But I also remember feeling out of place and not cool enough. Although, come to think of it, that might have to do with the fact that when I was allowed to drive to school, I did so in a Celebrity station wagon (that, and I spent the majority of my fall afternoons spinning a flag in white spandex bedazzled with orange sequins…the height of cool, no?).

I watched The Cool Kids from the sidelines and I’m not gonna lie… I had my feelings hurt a time or two. But, a magical thing happens about 10 years after graduation… you get over the hierarchy of high school and throw the social rules out the window. You find yourself “thumbs upping” that Cool Kid’s post about being a new mommy and you will be thrilled for her. And, by 20 years out, you will invite anyone from your senior class to your house if they promise to bring wine and tell you how young you look.

  • 3. Your First Love Helps You Find Your Lasting Love

We all have one – our High School First Love. The first person you dated seriously and to whom you said, “I love you," and meant it. The person you spent every waking weekend minute with at football games, friends’ houses and local restaurants. The person who, at the tender age of 17, you were convinced you couldn’t live without and whom you locked lips with before 6th period English at your special meeting spot near the gym. The person who would either be forever known as your “High School Sweetheart” after you’d married, and/or the person who’d eventually break your love-struck, high school heart.

Turns out for me, my First Love served a second purpose beyond teaching me about heartache… he helped me recognize my true Lasting Love. My High School Sweetheart and I broke up a few years into college, and while it was sad and hurtful, we both knew it was the right decision. I loved him and he loved me but eventually, we both found partners who loved us better and who loved us the way we needed and deserved. And, now, 20 years later, we laugh about it on Facebook as we thumbs up the pictures of each other’s kids. First Loves are great… but true Lasting Love is better.

  • 4. Styles Change… For The Better.

As a graduate hailing from the AquaNet era, I and my fellow classmates fell victim to many a fashion misstep. Aside from the aforementioned white spandex and sequins, our high school class straddled the age of 80s style and the advent of Grunge. We had big hair, parachute pants, shoulder pads, as well as baby doll dresses, construction boots and flannel. Stirrup pants were a necessary part of any wardrobe, and we all ran around in sweaters that would comfortably fit Refrigerator Perry.

When I look back on my photos, I have no idea what we were thinking. I would like my high school-self to know that construction boots are not a part of my modern day wardrobe, and that today, I would never be caught dead in anything made from Cavaricci. And if I had it to do over, my prom dress would NOT have been covered in teal sequins and white taffeta (what was it with me and odd colored sequins??). I maintain, though, that Liz Claiborne made the coolest purses ever. And fist pump to being united in all the colors of Benetton.

  • 5. High School Is NOT The Best Part Of Your Life

As anyone who watched Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s Creek or Saved By The Bell will tell you, people want you to believe that High School is the pinnacle of fun you will ever have in your life. Today’s me, calls bullshit on that thankyouverymuch.

Quite the contrary, in fact.

College is way more interesting and the word “fun” doesn’t even begin to describe what life is like when you get your first job and you have money to burn. Life after college, while terrifying at times, is exciting! When you can selfishly chase the dreams you couldn’t afford in high school and college, life takes a turn for the better. And when you move on to married life and children… a different kind of fun altogether. Nonetheless, life gets sweeter and sweeter as the years go by. High school is amazing and the memories are fond, but it is by no means the end. It’s only the beginning, thank goodness…

So when it came time to RSVP to the 20 year reunion in my small town, I decided not to go, opting, instead, to pour over the pictures and comments on (you guessed it) Facebook.

I remember the teachers, the friends and the memories fondly. I smiled at the antics on fall afternoons, driving cars and chasing boys. I reminisced about proms, chemistry classes from hell, and school musicals that rivaled Broadway productions. Mostly though, I remembered myself wearing teal sequins and white taffeta hoping that the best was yet to come… and that has already come true.

I am the Keeper of The Fruit Loops, Driver of The People Mover and Manager of the Fecal Roster. In other words, I’m a mom. I’m an Erma Bombeck/ Martha Stewart combo with a Roseanne Barr twist, and I have the mouth and organized cabinets to prove it. I live in Pennsylvania with my ever budget-conscious husband, two blog inspiring Fruit Loops and my extensive collection of thrift shop finds. When I’m not writing, I’m busy running marathons, governing the PTA like nobody’s business and pinning on Pinterest like it’s my job. You can follow me on my blog, Keeper of the Fruit Loops, Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by: Radar Online

I Feel Sorry for Michelle Dugger, But Also...

May 23, 2015

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Duggar dirty laundry that’s blowing up the Internets. In a nutshell, Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the 19 Kids and Counting Duggar family has been outed as a sexual predator, admitting to molesting several young girls as a teenager.

I have always liked the Duggars in a fascinated “damn that’s a lot of kids your poor uterus Michelle” kind of way. I’ve watched the show here and there, although I’ve never been what you’d call an avid follower. I thought they seemed like nice people, and although I don’t agree with their belief system or their politics, I enjoyed tuning in from time to time. Maybe it was my fascination with the large amount of hairspray Jim Bob used or the epic size of their laundry room. Who knows?

I always rolled my eyes at the Judgy McJudgersons that liked to spout the “too many kids” litany. I think family size is a matter for, well, for the family concerned. While 19 kids would make me want to sit in a corner drinking straight vodka and shredding Kleenex, I don’t think I get to say how many is too many for another family.

There’s a lot of hate being fired at Josh Duggar on the internets. Maybe he deserves it. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he’s been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years and maybe he’s a little relieved that he doesn’t have to worry and wonder when someone is going to learn his dirty secrets.

It seems everyone has an opinion on the Duggars. TLC has cancelled the show. Josh Duggar has resigned his position with the Family Research Council and has made a public apology, admitting to “acting inexcusably.”

But… what about the girls?

Who are they? Did they get help? Do their hearts bear scars about being fondled by a teenage boy when they were as young as four-years-old?

Are there more girls that haven’t been identified or who didn’t speak up? Josh Duggar’s actions were covered up and hushed up. He might have come clean with his parents but no effort was made to get him any sort of professional help. The incidents were neatly swept under the rug, probably festering in the minds of the secret-keepers like ticking time bombs.

But, what about the girls?

Will more step forward in the coming days and say “me too?” Will the knowledge of “it’s not just me” ’cause someone else to raise their hand? Time will tell.

Someone touched me in my sleep when I was 14. I woke up when I felt unwelcome hands on my breasts through my nightgown. I rolled over and crossed my arms tightly over my chest, pretending I never woke up. Mercifully, it stopped. The hands belonged to a boy my own age; the brother of a friend.

The next morning, I told an adult, not one of my parents but an adult I trusted.

“It’s not a big deal. Just forget about it. I’m sure it was nothing and I bet it won’t happen again.”

Fourteen year-old me believed these words: it’s not a big deal.

Being touched when you don’t want to be touched is a big deal and 48 year old me knows that. I never forgot about that night and while I don’t want to minimize it, it hasn’t caused me any lingering damage. I don’t think of that night often but the Duggar’s dirty laundry has brought the memory to the surface.

And, I wonder about the girls.

That four-year-old girl that Josh Duggar molested, is now the same age that I was when someone put his hands on me in my sleep. She’s 14.

At 14, I knew that boys liked boobs. I knew enough about the birds and the bees to know what was going on and looking back, I consider myself lucky that I made it stop with the simple gesture of moving my body away.

But that nameless, faceless four-year-old who Josh Duggar put his hands, she’s now 14 with the memory of someone putting his hands on her private parts at a time when she probably didn’t have the words and wisdom to know that it was wrong. Did someone tell her it was no big deal and to forget about it? Did she forget?

I have better things to do than throw darts at Josh Duggar. If the media reports are true, he’s healed and moved on and his past isn’t a surprise to the people who really care about him.

As I said, I never was a Duggar superfan. But should TLC ever pick up their show again, I won’t watch it. As a mom to sons, I can only imagine the terrible pain I would face it one of my boys told me they’d done something to hurt an innocent young girl. It would be indescribably hard to do the right thing and speak up. But as a mom to a daughter, it would be impossible not to.

I feel sorry for Michelle. As a mom, I can’t imagine the pain this must cause.

But, I wonder about the girls.

Jill Robbins writes about adoption, motherhood and midlife on her blog, Ripped Jeans & Bifocals. She has a degree in social psychology that she uses to try and make sense out of the behavior of her husband and three children but it hasn’t really helped so far. She enjoys dry humor and has a love/hate relationship with running. Her work has been featured on Babble, Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, and Blunt Moms. You can also find her in the December print issue of Mamalode. She willingly answers any questions that end with “and would you like wine with that?” You can follow Jill on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by: Vicky Wellenberg

My Dog is a Bigger A-Hole than Your Dog

May 22, 2015

Dear Spike,

I like to think I’m a pretty forgiving person. I believe in second chances and clean slates, do overs and fresh starts. It is because of this gracious spirit, that I will not be discussing any of your past transgressions, Spike. I will not mention…

escaping out the second story window, landing on the roof, knocking over the kitchen table, destroying the pantry dry wall and door frame, cleaning up the blood spatter all over pantry after you tried to claw your way out eating 20 class Valentines (including the lollipops AND the sticks), destroying four lunch boxes, dragging the crock pot across the family room, igniting all three burners on the BBQ while we were at the movies, destroying the BBQ cover, and/or how you burned a hole in the vinyl fence…

…or any of the other crimes you have committed during your four years here in our home. I have moved on from those events, as you can see.

Despite my magnanimous grace, we seem to consistently find ourselves in the same precarious position – a Groundhog Day’esque cycle, if you will – because there seems to be one thing even greater than my abundant forgiveness… your knack for stirring shit up.

You, dear Spike, are trouble with a capital T, and no amount of grace can make up for the fact that you are, in fact, an a%#hole.

Several weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page that I thought you were depressed. What I meant, Spike, was that I am worried about you. What you heard was, Spike, I dare you.

In your ultimate act of rebellion, you executed Oilgate 2015.

In the three hours I was in a meeting you:

  • Came upon a six-quart, cast iron pot filled with canola oil that had been used to fry chicken 12 hours earlier.

  • Somehow pulled it down from the stove top, and onto the wood floors, saturating said floors and surrounding cabinets with chicken-infused canola oil.

(Behold every beach towel we own… and it still wasn’t enough to mop up all the oil on the floor.)

  • You then continued to slip & slide your way along our wood floors throughout the entire bottom floor of our house before taking your oily self upstairs to my bedroom… where you proceeded to rub your body all over the light gray fabric footbaord of my bed.

Upon realizing the floors, cabinets and bed were not the only things saturated in oil, I made an emergency trip to the Dog Groomer after the following phone conversation:

Me:“Hi, do you have any emergency appointments available for this afternoon?”

Groomer:“I’m sorry, we are all booked for the afternoon.

Me: “But it’s an emergency. My dog smells like fried chicken and has chicken bits embedded in his fur.”

Groomer: “Can you be here in 20 minutes?”

Me: “I’ll see you in 10.”

Oh, Spike! Are you all wet from you bath? No, this is canola oil. A shiny coat is important to me and who doesn’t like the smell of fried chicken?

But the fun doesn’t stop there, does it Spike?

  • After watching me spend two hours cleaning the floors and wagging your tail as I shelled-out $75 for an emergency deep clean at the groomer, you decided you weren’t as big of a fan of left over canola oil as you once thought. And so you barfed it allll up on the only carpeted area in the entire house.

And so I found myself traveling to Target. While this is typically a fun excursion involving a detailed search for the perfect throw pillows, cute underwear and scotch tape refills; this trip was a big fat DUD as I purchased $71 in cleaning supplies

Three days, approximately six hours of scrubbing, four falls for Nate as he tried to navigate our Disney On Ice-like floors, and five vanilla scented candles later… it was time to bring out the big guns.

Thank you Accurate Carpet Care for removing the stench from my carpet and for trying (unsuccessfully) to remove the oil stains from my light gray fabric footboard (and for cleaning my couch for $30 because I cried when we realized your efforts were unsuccessful).

Now that you’ve seen all the facts, Spike, what do you have to say for yourself? Do you feel guilty? Are you ashamed of your behavior? Do you see the emotional impact your poor decisions are having on our family? Are you ready to accept the help we are offering and leave right now for a canola oil rehab facility?

Spike, there are some things that will never change. Without fail, the sun will continue rise in the east and set in the west, 3.14 will always be the number for Pi, no one will ever sit in Sheldon Cooper’s spot, and you, my darling Spike, will always be an a$#hole, and I will always be the bigger a$# who forgives you.

There’s a special place in heaven just for me.

Please tell me I’m not the only one with a dog who needs therapy?

Vicky Willenberg is is a wife, mother and obsessive volunteer at her sons’ school. She works in Digital Marketing and Communications while juggling the class bake sale, folding laundry from two weeks ago and searching for the dog who escaped, yet again. You can find her chronicling the good, the bad and the hilarious on her blog, The Pursuit of Normal and on Facebook and Twitter Vicky has been featured on Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Mamapedia and BlogHer. She’s also had the privilege of being published in both HerStories Project anthologies.

Photo by: iStock

How to Be the Sexiest Mom at the Pool

May 21, 2015

I know why moms aren’t the sexiest at the pool.

We blame spreading hips, sagging boobs, and the inevitable pull of gravity. We sit around and lament about how things don’t stay in place anymore and how terrible our bodies look after sacrificing them to the demanding goddess that is pregnancy.

But that’s not the truth.

I recently spent a week at a pool, at a place that was family friendly yet also a destination for those without namesakes in tow to mingle. It was an interesting social experiment, to say the least.

sexiest one at the pool

While at the pool, sipping quietly on my Miami Vice (a strawberry daiquiri/pina colada blend for those of us who can’t make decisions), decidedly ignoring my novel, I watched. I watched all the people.

Some of the women I watched exuded sex, absolutely and in all ways. Men oogled them, bartenders made them free shots, other women avoided being near them, and even I couldn’t help but be mesmerized.

I started to sit with my stomach sucked in all the time (exhausting, and hard to enjoy your drink while doing this) and I found myself brushing my hair every 30 minutes (at the pool).

But here’s what I realized: these sexy women weren’t the youngest and they weren’t the ones with the skinniest bodies or most glistening hair.

In fact, it was quite the opposite. These sexy women had all the right curves in all the right places. Voluptuous would be the word.

So what made them so sexy?

It wasn’t the swimsuit choice, the degree of tan, the sunglasses choice.

It was the simple fact that these women didn’t worry.

These women acted like they had not a care in the entire world. When you watched them you felt like they had hours, days, to devote to doing whatever they wanted – and that just might be sex. They looked like they knew how to have fun. They seemed to promise that if they had hours to spend with you it would be relaxed, unhurried, and all about you.

They did not care about how they looked. They didn’t pick at their swimsuits, walk a certain way, or make sure they sat with their C-section scar hidden. In fact, you could see every imperfection they had. They just didn’t care.

The confidence, the time, the belief in their bodies…these were the women who took the honor of being the sexiest at the pool.

Moms! That’s not us!

We walk to pools as pack mules. We come in with enough snacks to feed an entire Scout troop, floaties, 4 bottles of sunscreen, and pool toys to stave off the ADHD progeny.

We are not careless or unhurried. We simply don’t have the luxury to be. At the pool we are a constant, watching mass of lifeguard/Big Brother/mother all wrapped in to one Athleta-clad human being. We get in the middle of wrestling matches, lord over temper tantrums, and yell all while wearing very little clothing. We jump in when someone needs us, right away, without any thought for how inelegant and ungraceful our water entry (and exit) may be.

We have cares. We have thoughts. These things are part of our jobs as mothers. Those will never leave us.

Yet we also have cares that we self-create. We have cares that we carry with us that maybe we don’t have to. We pack mule our own insecurities, too.

Want to spot a mom at the pool? Find the tankini. Find the woman constantly fidgeting with her suit. Find the person who hides in the shadows under the umbrella, self-conscious, not commanding attention mid-pool while throwing a NERF football.

I am tired of hiding under the umbrella.

My body isn’t perfect. I know it isn’t and, as I have shared before, it is something I have spent hours, and probably a lifetime agonizing over.

But, dammit, my body is as good as it is going to get. I do my share of fitness, I eat healthy enough. But I am also on the edge of 40, with 2 kids that came out of my uterus and pelvis who I breastfed. This is it, guys. Nothing is going to be lifted, get tighter, or look better without some form of invasive, expensive, unnecessary surgery.

And maybe it is time for us, for me, to be OK with that. Actually, maybe it is time to be more than OK with our bodies the way they are: it is time to be PROUD of them.

Moms, we know how to move, we know how to live. We know how to eat, cook, and watch a sunset with the right person. We know how to snuggle at night and grow the next generation. We are awesome, strong, and powerful.

And it is time we took back our rightful place as the sexiest ones at the pool.

Allison Barrett Carter is a freelance writer in North Carolina. She believes that smart parenting can change the world, one child at a time. You can follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Photo by: iStock

My Children Restore My Faith in Humanity

May 20, 2015

Growing up I was extremely sheltered. My world was homogenous. The rural town I lived in was approximately 99% white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. Apart from their red necks, of course. I had no idea how wide the world truly was.

When I was 18, my world changed. My parents divorced, which was uncommon enough in my small home town, but then my mom started dating women. My world has come a long way in just 12 years. It sounds like a trivial, almost banal revelation now, but at the time… it was Earth shattering. My family fell apart at the seams and has only begun to repair that damage. I was forced to take a long look at the narrow world I had inhabited for 18 years and make a choice. Move on, or be left behind.

So I moved. I moved away from home. Eventually, I moved out of the country. Most importantly, I opened up my mind to the possibility that the world, and all the people in it, was so much more beautiful and varied than I could have imagined. I learned to see those differences as something to be celebrated and learned from, rather than something to be nervous or uncomfortable around. I learned that, regardless of their differences, most people just want to be heard and loved for who they are.

It took me a long time to see outside the narrow point of view into which I was born. In my darkest moments I wonder how it is possible for an entire culture to change when I still sometimes have to remind myself to stop staring at person wearing a yarmulke or two men holding hands while walking down the street. Just as I’m sure there are some 80 year olds who still have to remind themselves to stop staring at those crazy Beatles fans with their long hair. How do these changes happen when we often have to fight so hard to change ourselves?

Then I had children. I wait every day for my boys to notice the differences that were so obvious to me as a child. Why is that boy’s skin a different color? Why is that girl wearing a scarf on her head? Why does Tommy have two daddies? Why do I have two grandmas? But they never ask. The reality of their little world is so much different and more diverse than mine was at their age. They don’t know any other way. My sons have never lived in a world where race and sexual orientation were something to be critical of or embarrassed about.

When my four-year-old looks at his two grandmas, he doesn’t see a political statement or a lifestyle choice. He sees two of his favorite people in the world who love him as much as anyone could love a child. He doesn’t know that one of them is related to him by blood, and the other, only by an almost-legal marriage. They are just Gramma and Gramma T. They are the same. Through the eyes of a child, I have finally seen true equality.

He doesn’t have to remind himself to look away from people’s differences. It would never occur to him. I know he will start noticing ways in which he is different from the other children around him at some point. All children do eventually. But unlike when I was a child, he has so many more opportunities to discover similarities beneath the surface as well.

His world is filled with people and experiences I’d never imagined. What was a distant rumor to me, is part of his every day life. And maybe, just maybe his generation won’t find it odd that he has two grandmas, or that people don’t worship the same gods, or that some people dress differently or look differently than they do. Maybe they won’t look away because they will look past the differences and see the wonderful variety of beautifully flawed individuals all looking back at them, searching for a connection.

True social and cultural change has already happened. We just have to pay attention and let our children restore our faith in humanity.

Mary Widdicks is a 32-year-old mom to two boys and a brand new baby girl. She started Outmanned so she’d have a place to escape the testosterone and share her hilarious life with the rest of the world. Mary’s writing has been featured on other great parenting sites such as Mamalode, In the Powder Room, Pregnant Chicken, Scary Mommy, and BLUNTmoms. She has been honored as a Voice of the Year by BlogHer in 2014 and 2015, and 2014 Badass Blogger of the Year by The Indie Chicks. Follow Mary on: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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