Wagging Goodbye

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When my husband and I started dating, I was a single mother. A Yorkshire terrier puppy named Wharton had stolen my heart just two months prior.

In the midst of graduate school and multiple jobs, I think owning a dog gave me permission to be maternal. At 22, I was nowhere near ready to have children.

But I liked to think that one day it still might happen. A dog, I believed, would give me practice.

And, it’s true, I endured all of the frustrating stages required of little creatures.

Bladder control (often in the wee hours of morning).

Destruction of property.

Boundaries.

If I’m honest, I think my dog represented something even deeper: my fear of being alone.

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The Scientist

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“I think you should consider medical school.”

I was 26 at the time and only two months from finishing my second graduate degree. But, still, my advisor’s words were tempting. And, let’s be honest, coast has never been a word in my vocabulary.

In that moment, I saw two paths my life could take. In the first, I could work hard and sacrifice for a dream job in obstetrics and gynecology. Or I could make my way back into the classroom – likely to teach language arts (the field where my initial training occurred).

For many days, life begged the question: Science or the arts?

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Love: Where Fries Overcome Fear

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When life hands you a free milkshake, you say “yes”. But, the truth is, the last thing I wanted was more food.

For several moments, a scene had been eating away at my thoughts. A homeless man – not more than 30 years of age – waited on a curb of desperation outside of our local Walmart as we drove past. To help or not to help? The restless toddlers in the backseat only encouraged the excuses my mind so effortlessly generated.

No. Not tonight.

So we stayed the course to Chick-fil-A. The kids would share a “happy” meal, I would enjoy a leafy green salad, and the sunset would end a perfect evening.

Only I ordered fries I couldn’t eat. Then my son’s order was wrong, which resulted in four free chicken nuggets. And, perhaps most surreal of all, a cashier placed a free milkshake in my hand: “We forgot the whipped cream and cherry. Here!”

As my son’s ice cream cascaded down my wrist, I pondered the sticky dilemma. Light was fading, and so too was an opportunity.

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An Opt[ional] Out[look]

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“He’s at a great age for swim lessons.”

It’s one thing to hear such a statement from a stranger, but it’s another when the voice belongs to your three-year-old son’s pediatrician.

Truthfully, I had been preparing myself for this for some time. After all, older, more experienced parents have been warning me since pregnancy: “Just wait until the activities start.”

And now, it seems, the time has come, and the question is felt from all sides.

In which activities will we enroll our children?

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The Sweet Enemy

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I am a mother. I have two young children. And every birthday party I attend feels like one giant lie.

To be honest, I am one who has always prided herself on control.

I maintained two very healthy pregnancies.

I lost the baby weight.

I prioritize exercise.

But, deep within, there is a secret: I have a toxic relationship with sugar. And – when no one is watching – I binge.

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To Climb a Mountain

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If you’re not careful, you’ll come to fear everything when you’re a mother.

I was reminded of this most recently during an active shooter training at the university where I work. It was a brilliant idea, really: listen to 90 minutes of gunshots and panic protocol two days before flying across the country with an infant and a toddler.

But the problem with ideas is that they are powerful and nearly impossible to derail. My worries about protecting two children in California only increased as our departure grew near.

Who will try to steal my kids when I am not looking?

Will I survive Bay Area traffic?

And, perhaps most outrageously, will I die in a mass shooting?

Things grew grim. And I’m not going to lie – the leash backpack was pretty tempting.

Somehow, amazingly, I mustered the strength to silence my mentally constructed catastrophes long enough to allow our family to board the plane.

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My Parent Self[ie]

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The picture was terrible. Just terrible. But, then again, selfies were likely invented by someone younger than I am.

After several chaotic hours with my children, I decided that the real cherry on top of our day should be special. Go hard or go home, right?

We ventured to the local Wildlife Center in a muggy 90 degrees for their daily show. Thirty minutes of educational entertainment for $0 sounded like the best idea I have had in weeks. My son was thrilled.

So excited, in fact, that he improvised and stuck his tongue out when my thumb finally found the capture button.

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Oh, the Decisions You’ll Make!

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Decisions can be suffocating – much like graduation robes. In May 2006, I pondered this exact thought as I walked across a very long stage. College was over, and finally my life would fall into place.

I would attend graduate school and pursue a career in education. I would marry a good Christian man who was well on his way to becoming a doctor. We would have two children, and I would perfectly balance motherhood and my career.

Little did I know that in a few short years, I would lose it all – the teaching career, the doctor, and the guarantee of motherhood. Continue reading “Oh, the Decisions You’ll Make!”