You Deserve It

I had a rare moment to myself. So I did what I usually do when that happens. Yes, you guessed it, friends: I went to my local coffee shop.

Most of the time, I’m at the coffee shop with one or both of my daughters. With my cross-body bag stuffed with coloring books and crayons, and my don’t-know-what-else-to-do-with-it hair in a ponytail, I look the part, to a T, of the cliched “mom in need of caffeine.”

That day, I had my cross-body bag once again, but this time, it contained a book I was reading, “Writing Down the Bones,” a writer’s handbook. I was yet another coffee-shop cliche that day: “hasn’t-given-up-yet writer.”

Sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that you may have become a cliche (or two). (I acknowledge this fact in my life.)

I knew the lady behind the counter. We said hello, and I asked about her son. Then I joked that I was there without my kids for once. “I even brought a book,” I said.

“Enjoy,” she said. She handed me my coffee. “You deserve it.”

You deserve it—she was kind to say that. I think she even meant it.

Sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that you may have become a cliche (or two).

I don’t live my life thinking I “deserve” things. Sometimes, this perspective is healthy, and helpful. I consider every good thing in my life a gift. There but for the grace of God—or, luck of the draw—depending on your take of the world. Whatever one’s perception, my “gift mentality” enables me to live each day, pretty much, with gratitude.

Living with gratitude is, for me, invigorating.

On the flip side of that coin… The very definition of “gift” is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” (Merriam-Webster). The matter of money enters the conversation.

That day in the coffee shop, I overheard bits and pieces of the conversation between the two older gentlemen at the table next to mine. One of them mentioned his recent Chinese takeout, and the fortune-cookie fortune that came with it. “That was a good fortune cookie,” he told his friend.

We have lots of fortune-cookie-type quotes related to money. Time is money. A penny saved is a penny earned. No such thing as a free lunch. All of these are off the top of my head—the list goes on.

Many of these adages are true. For example, time is money.

We have lots of fortune-cookie-type quotes related to money.

A while ago, I asked a high-school girl I knew to come over to our house to babysit Grace and Anna. I needed to finish a freelance project, and Stanton was working himself. She came and took care of the girls while I worked; they had fun; at the end, I handed her the cash we had agreed upon earlier.

“Oh, you don’t have to pay me,” she said. “I loved playing with your kids.”

Usually, I’m patient and easygoing. (If you ask my siblings, they’ll probably tell you differently, citing various disputes from childhood that they still remember… 😉 ) In that moment, though, I was a little impatient, a little contentious.

No, I told her. I do have to pay you. What you did—taking care of my children while I worked—was work too.

You deserve it.

She did end up accepting the cash.

The irony in this story is that what I (and my husband) paid her to babysit my (our) daughters, combined with what I (we) paid for previous child care, about amounted to my fee for my freelance project. Some folks may consider this a wash. Others may view it as an investment in the long run of a career.

It all depends on perception, right?

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It would have been easy for me to take advantage of this young woman, but I didn’t. I didn’t, partly, because I believe in what I said: Taking care of children while their parent(s) work is work too. And I didn’t take advantage of her because when I was younger, some people exploited me in that way.

In a few professional experiences I had, people in positions of leadership—power—paid me less than we all knew to be fair. Looking back on these experiences now, against the backdrop of current events such as Time’s Up and workplace equity, what is most disheartening to me is that the people who took advantage of me were women themselves.

We can’t advocate for women, publicly—equal economic opportunities, health and safety, overall common-sense fairness—and treat them unfairly, or unkindly, at the same time privately, if and when it benefits us and/or our bottom line. Whether they’re our babysitters at home, our assistants at the office…whatever they are, however they work for us. We especially can’t do this when we’re women ourselves.

I’ve been reading “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer, an author I’ve long admired, and she speaks to this pretense in her novel too.

Because you do deserve it—a moment, without feeling guilty. Payment, as agreed upon. Fair pay.

We can’t advocate for women, publicly—equal economic opportunities, health and safety, overall common-sense fairness—and treat them unfairly, or unkindly, at the same time privately, if and when it benefits us and/or our bottom line.

Yesterday, I was reading about the latest political leader to fall from grace, as reported in The New Yorker. What is so horribly ironic about Eric Schneiderman, who allegedly assaulted multiple women, is that he championed #MeToo and #TimesUp in his law-enforcement work and spoke out against sexual harassment.

Very little surprises me anymore, though. My own experiences with abuse of power, as long ago as they happened at this point, showed me that people can represent themselves one way publicly and then behave differently privately. Hypocrisy happens across various lines: political party, sex and gender, class, race, religion, etc., etc.

For example, see also former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, former Oregon Senator Jeff Kruse or any number of politicians in recent months who have resigned due to abusing the power of their office, or flat-out abusing (physically or sexually) people.

I hope, and I’m hopeful, that we’re moving forward to a more honest future.

In the meantime, this is the message I want to pass along to my daughters, to any high-school student who babysits for me again, to anyone who is still growing up: Stand up for yourself. Be a stronger person than I was. And when you earn a position of leadership, treat the people who work for you—the men and women who make you look good, at the office and in your home—treat those people with respect and appreciation.

They deserve it.

You do too.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

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What Where’s Waldo? Taught Me About Work and Life

My 3-year-old daughter was this close to nodding off for a post-preschool nap. Her head rested against my chest. I kept rocking—slowly, slowly—and reading the story I’d been reading for the past twenty-five minutes, my voice singsong like a lullaby.

I could almost taste the freedom of the upcoming nap. I’d make a fresh, hot cup of coffee (OK, two cups). The house would be quiet.

Best of all, I’d have time to work on a writing project. About two hours before we needed to walk down the block to pick up my older daughter from the bus stop.

I was so close to that happening.

Yes, cliffhanger revealed—it didn’t happen. Like many a maternally disposed freelance writer before me, I took a deep breath and resigned myself to working on my project later, much later, that day, after the kids had fallen asleep…but before one of them woke up in the middle of the night, in need of a sip of water or comfort from a bad dream or myriad other things that moms address with Sandman fresh in their eyes (while dads somehow, mysteriously, manage to sleep through all the 2 a.m.-ish drama).

Instead of napping, Anna wanted to find Waldo. She grabbed the puzzle book from the table and began looking for the bespectacled adventurer. “Where is he?” she wondered.

I peered at the page, a chaotically colorful beach scene. “Hmm.” I readjusted my gaze to the top of the page and started scrutinizing every square inch from left to right, top to bottom, as if I were reading again.

“Where is he?” Anna repeated.

My all-in strategy wasn’t working. Frustrated, I blinked. When I opened my eyes, I saw, instantly, the elusive character.

“There he is!” I pointed; Anna beamed.

I turned the page. Again, I didn’t try so hard to answer the question, “Where’s Waldo?” I simply looked at the page, as a whole, and once again, Waldo seemingly jumped out at me.

There he was, again.

My all-in strategy wasn’t working.

Some days, I struggle to find time to write. I depend on a pieced-together schedule of school, naps, babysitters and Burning the Midnight Oil to do everything I want to do, and need to do. My work/child-care puzzle resembles a page out of a “Where’s Waldo?” book.

But…it works. If I don’t let myself get bogged down by all the stuff—a displaced two hours here, not enough contract work there—then I can see that the puzzle that is my writing life as a mom works. I just need to look at the big picture, as I did with my daughter and her “Where’s Waldo?” book that afternoon.

The big picture shows me that motherhood has made me a better writer. More than anything, motherhood has taught me patience (oh, has it taught me patience). Bring on the impossible-sounding clients, tasks and deadlines—they’re nothing I haven’t already handled with my usually demanding and occasionally irrational children.

Motherhood has given me perspective. My early-20s, first-job-out-of-college self would shake her head or reach for the Tylenol Extra Strength if something didn’t go her way—if an assignment dared to unfold less than perfectly, or a chain of emails unraveled out of control, misunderstanding everywhere. The early years of parenting have clued me in to a liberating pearl of wisdom: To progress, you have to go with the flow.

And sometimes, you have to hit the pause button—not the panic one.

Perfection is an even more elusive needle in the haystack than Waldo.

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As I was proofreading an earlier version of this essay that you’re reading now, Anna climbed onto my lap, reached for the laptop keyboard and said, “I want to push buttons.”

“No, honey.” I moved her hand away.

Anna wrestled her hand back. “Yes, I do!”

I closed the laptop. “You…drive…me…”

“Crazy!” Anna laughed. I must have said it a time or two (maybe three) before, if my preschooler could finish the sentence/sentiment.

Sometimes, work and life with kids is crazy. Everyone needs to be out the door by a certain time in the morning, when someone spills their cup of milk. Then someone else accidentally walks through it. Just as another family member gets a text about an on-the-job crisis. And then inevitably, someone will say, “I can’t find the shoes I want to wear today!

“Where are my shoes?”

(Always.with.the.shoes.)

…sometimes, you have to hit the pause button—not the panic one.

I can only speak from my experience, which by nature is limited. But in my experience, what I’ve come to learn—what moments like “Where’s Waldo?” with Anna have taught me—is that motherhood has given my work heart. Maybe it’s given your work heart too.

Being a parent has opened my eyes to emotions like joy, and concerns like environmental justice. I’m not perfect—not even close—but I’m more aware than I was before. I want to make the world as good as it can be, however I can, because my children (and, maybe someday, their children) are here in it.

When I write now, as a mom, it’s with this outlook in mind. How might this story I’m working on uplift someone? What lesson might it teach?

How might this grant proposal I’m editing make a difference in someone’s life, if the nonprofit I’m collaborating with wins program funding?

In my 13 years as a writer (half of those as a mother/writer), I’ve read articles and perspectives seeking to pinpoint why women writers’ journeys can be more challenging than their male counterparts’. The answer is fairly obvious.

The novelist Kim McLarin said, at a PEN/New England discussion on the topic of “Mothers & Writing,” “Stephen King has said that to get his writing done, he has to just close the door. Easy for him to say…If I close the door, someone’s calling child services on me.”

Kids do seem to contribute to the professional differences between (many, if not most) women and (many, if not most) men—not only in writing, but also in other fields, from science to law enforcement to sports. Once a woman becomes a parent, she’s a parent in a way a man simply is not, at least for the time she takes off to recover from childbirth. A mother experiences more of a pause in her life and in her work, even if for only a few days, or weeks, or months.

(Let’s not even consider here who usually hears and responds to the kids’ crying out at 2 a.m., knows the names and contact information for everyone from pediatric dentists to best friends’ parents, and remembers to schedule the munchkins for annual well visits, after-school programs, etcetera…)

Not every family, of course, consists of a mom and a dad. And not every family welcomes their children through childbirth; physical recovery isn’t an issue in these cases.

Generally speaking, however, motherhood can sideline professional goals, for a little while or, perhaps, longer.

Sometimes you hit that pause button, right?

…motherhood has given my work heart. Maybe it’s given your work heart too.

On the other hand, motherhood can inspire even more admirable professional goals. Seven years later, I’m still a little surprised at the wild success of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I get that its early electronic versions made “Fifty Shades of Grey” easy and discreet for people to read. I understand erotica is a popular genre (it’s not my favorite genre, but I have read it). But the writing—the writing, friends.

The writing of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is bad. It is, objectively, bad. And it’s fan fiction, basically. I wrote fan fiction of my favorite TV shows when I was in high school (not something I like to brag about!)…and it was bad too.

According to Forbes, however, E. L. James has a net worth of $95 million. (My net worth? Like yours, nowhere near there.) The bottom line: The general public doesn’t care about the bad writing that is “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I care, though. I care about the work I do. I care about leaving a legacy of writing that—if they read it someday—my daughters can be proud of.

Last week, a magazine let me know they had accepted a short story I had submitted to them. The story is about a woman’s despair, and surprising endurance. I think Grace and Anna will enjoy reading it someday, and I hope it will be an inspiration for other women much sooner.

The magazine will be publishing my story in about four months. I almost couldn’t believe their email of acceptance to me—I’ve had a humbling streak of rejections with my creative writing lately.

My family knows this, and so when I shared the good news with them, they were happy for me—especially the girls.

“Yay, Mom!” Grace cheered.

“MOM!!!” Anna yelled, clapping her hands. And one second later: “I want pizza!”

Work, life and kids can be crazy. Can be a hot mess. Can be a scene straight out of “Where’s Waldo?”

Every now and then, it helps to hit pause. To take a breath. To look at the big picture.

When you look at the big picture—your big picture—what do you see, friends?

Wherever you are right now, if you’re somebody’s mom or dad, then what you’re doing, whatever it is, it’s for that little person (or little people). They love you more than anything, and they count on you for everything. Whatever kind of work you do, whatever puzzle your work/life looks like, so much of it’s for them.

They may not know that yet. Possibly they won’t know it for years, not until they have a family of their own. So let me say then, on their behalf…because it took me a long time to recognize all the love and sacrifice my own parents put into my childhood…let me tell you, on your little people’s behalf, THANK YOU.

THANK YOU for where you are right now. THANK YOU for what you’re doing, and for everything you did, and for everything you will do. THANK YOU for making our world a better place.

(And a million other things too: It’s OK you can’t chaperone the field trip. I’m sorry I was rude. I’ll listen to your advice next time. I’ll stop rolling my eyes all the time. I know you tried. You were right. You were right. You were right. I love you.)

But mostly…THANK YOU.

(P.S. Where are my shoes?)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

My First Reading

My First ReadingA few weekends ago, my church hosted its annual talent show. Beforehand, the coordinator asked if I would read one of my essays to help round out the program. I wasn’t sure if the audience would be interested in hearing anything I wrote—after all, others were scheduled to play the piano, dance and do comedy routines, all more entertaining and “talent-y,” in my opinion—but I said yes, I’d be happy to help.

That evening, I read my recent post, “The Secret Lives of Moms.” There were some chuckles from the crowd, which made me happy. I love when a story I tell evokes an emotion in the reader (or listener), especially laughter.

My friend Liz kindly took this picture of me up on stage. At a couple of points during my reading, Anna ambled up the steps to give me a hug and a kiss of encouragement. I so appreciated her sweet, 3-year-old affection.

I believe this was the first reading in my writing career. I was nervous, but I enjoyed sharing my work with the group gathered there that evening. I’m not sure when my second reading may come, but this first one will hold a special place in my heart.

Photo credit: Liz Cartagena

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

You Are Where You’re Supposed to Be

Two Sundays ago, I was sitting in a pew at the neighborhood church that Stanton, the girls and I attend. The pastor announced the next song; I flipped to it in the hymnal. “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore.”

The choir director began playing the melody of the song. In that moment, my memory flashed back about 20 years.

My very first job, at age 15, was as an organist for a small church near my Pennsylvania hometown. I probably was in a bit over my head, friends. I knew how to play the piano, not the organ…so I learned as I went. In the beginning, I played the organ like a piano—focusing on one keyboard only. As time went on, I began adding in sounds from the other keyboard, plus the pedals.

The biggest challenge, though, was trying to direct the choir. The choir consisted of four or five regular members (median age: 76), all of whom harbored strong opinions about which songs we should be singing. They didn’t mind so much that I was young and inexperienced; they just wanted to belt out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” every.single.Sunday.

At this point, you might be wondering how I got this job. (You also may be wondering if I was qualified…) Answer to the first question: My friend’s mother was the original organist at that church, and needed some help with some of the services.

I ended up playing the organ for that church all through high school. I also ended up (eventually) becoming fairly close to my septuagenarian choir members. I invited all of them to my high school graduation party, and they all came. As I’m writing this, I’m smiling at the memory. George, Annette, Eddie…they were all there.

They didn’t mind so much that I was young and inexperienced; they just wanted to belt out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” every.single.Sunday.

Back to that song, though: “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore.” At my hometown church, there was an old lady who always sat in a front pew.

If you’ve ever attended a worship service somewhat regularly, then you know that many people usually sit in the same spot week after week. Similar to having “your” seat in a college classroom, or “your” table at a coffee shop. You get comfortable; you gravitate toward the familiar.

This lady, friends—I wish I could remember her name. I can’t. But she had white hair and wrinkled skin, and she was nice. She also wore a hat, every Sunday.

One Sunday before the service, I was downstairs where the pews are. I was making my way up to the choir loft, where the organ was, along with George, Annette and the gang. I stopped to say hello to the lady. We chatted a bit, and she asked me if I wouldn’t mind playing her favorite hymn, “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore.”

There was still some time before church started, so I said sure. She squeezed my hand. I went upstairs and played that song. When I was done, she turned around in her seat and smiled her thanks.

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I like the song “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore.” It’s straightforward to play (which is helpful). The melody is pretty, the lyrics uplifting. I got into the habit of playing it every Sunday before church started, partly because I liked it but mostly because the lady did. Every time after I played that song, she turned around and smiled.

I waved back: “You’re welcome.”

Twenty years later, in a different place, in a different church, I was the one sitting in the pew, and I heard that familiar melody I once knew so well. The title of the song was slightly different—“Lakeshore” instead of “Seashore”—but it was the same song. Hearing that song took me back to 15.

I had to blink myself back to the present. I also had to blink some tears away. Because almost certainly, my old friend has passed on by now. I’m not sure where my “Battle Hymn of the Republic”-loving choir members might be either.

I do know, though, that that small church doesn’t exist anymore.

Has something like that ever happened to you too? You hear a song, or a line from a movie, or something like that…and suddenly, you’re time traveling?

Hearing that song took me back to 15.

For me, time traveling—nostalgia—isn’t constructive. I start to miss people. Places. More than anything, I feel my mortality. I look at pictures of my high school graduation party, for example; I see a younger version of myself (alongside George and Annette); I have to acknowledge, “I’m getting older.”

Sometimes I’m surprised by the people and places I miss. Maybe you are too.

As we move along in our lives, we still may carry within us pieces from our pasts, from our childhoods. Pieces stay with us…still. Because they mattered.

On Monday evening, the day after “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore,” I stopped by a yoga class at our Y. I love yoga, but don’t always make the time to practice it. At one point during the class, the instructor led us through a challenging pose.

He encouraged us not to compare ourselves—our bodies, our yoga practice—to our neighbors. Go with your own flow, he said. Appreciate what you can do. Then he said, “You are where you’re supposed to be.”

Friends, those words struck me. You are where you’re supposed to be.

The wisdom in those words, for me, is that this makes sense. This present moment means more than anything. This is right.

Be present.

Whoever you wish you could be with again—whoever you may miss, including your younger, carefree self—whatever time from years ago seems easier than the moment you find yourself in now…no. No, this is it. This is where you’re supposed to be.

(And try not to compare yourself to your neighbor. Everyone has their own journey. Everyone has their own struggle.)

When you struggle, where do you find hope? And when your heart overflows, when your cup runneth over…where do you acknowledge the goodness, the grace, the second chances?

For some of us, the answer (to both questions) may be church, or temple, or another place of worship. For others of us, the yoga mat, or another form of exercise or meditation. Nature. Lots of places.

This present moment means more than anything.

In “A Moveable Feast,” Ernest Hemingway ends his memoir with a beautiful reflection on Paris, a place that “stayed with him” throughout his life. He concludes that when he lived there, with his first wife, “we were very poor and very happy.”

My old friend in that small church can’t perfectly compare to Paris—it’s not the best parallel—but that time in my life was very “coming of age,” as Hemingway’s Paris was to him. I learned then something that has stayed with me all these years, which is work with people. Find common ground; meet in the middle. Wherever you find yourself—whatever odd set of circumstances you seem to have stumbled into—make the best of things.

Leave that place better than you found it, if you can.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense at the time, but you are where you’re supposed to be. One day, you’ll understand why.

“Be where your feet are.” (Anonymous)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

Mom, Nothing Happened How We Planned

‘Tis the season for all sorts of get-in-the-holiday-spirit celebrations, occasions and parties. I can be a bit of a Clark Griswold this time of the year. If fun things are happening, why not partake in them?

This past weekend, I was perusing the events calendar of a local website when I discovered that the annual Empire State Plaza Holiday Tree Lighting was slated for Sunday, downtown at the State Capitol. Stanton, the girls and I had gone last year and enjoyed the festivities. Why not make it a family tradition?

I ran the idea by my husband. “There’s a free kids’ concert at 3 p.m., ice skating at the plaza right after and then the tree lighting. What do you think?”

We had just returned home from a friend’s birthday party. Stanton blinked. “OK…sounds good.”

“There’s free parking too,” I added, gesturing to my laptop.

“That’s great, Mel,” Stanton said.

On Sunday afternoon, our party of four headed downtown, as planned. Our first stop was The Egg, an oval-shaped performing arts venue, to see the concert by the local Zucchini Brothers. Grace and Anna loved their fun music; Stanton and I appreciated the witty lyrics to their songs, such as “I Can’t Put This Toy Together.”

After the concert wrapped up, Grace said, “I can’t wait to go ice skating.”

“It’s going to be so much fun,” I agreed. We made our way outside to the plaza.

It was December in upstate New York, so we had bundled up with layers, hats and gloves. But walking outside, we all felt warm. This year was warmer than last year had been. Possibly because of that, the plaza also seemed busier.

Lots of people were outside, sipping hot apple cider…and ice skating. The ice skating rink was packed. We all needed to rent ice skates, and we soon found out there were no rentals left. It was 4:30 p.m.; the tree lighting was scheduled for 5:15 p.m., at which time the rink would be closed.

“Let’s go buy ice skates, and then come back,” Grace suggested.

“Just buy some,” Anna seconded.

“Buy some”—my daughters’ go-to solution for life’s inconveniences. We need to work on that.

“Honey, we don’t have enough time,” Stanton told Grace. “We can’t ice skate today. But we will another day.”

Grace frowned.

“Why don’t we get a snack?” I said. “That would be a fun thing to do before the tree lighting.”

“Not as fun as ice skating,” Grace said, but we all agreed on getting a snack.

The food truck that was serving hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts had a long, long line. So we made our way to a nearby McDonald’s for McFlurrys.

“I love McFlurrys,” Grace said, perking up.

“Me too!” cheered Anna.

I smiled at Stanton. We had salvaged the situation.

At the McDonald’s, Stanton ordered a round of McFlurrys. The lady behind the counter smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, we’re out of McFlurrys.”

Stanton and I looked at each other.

Grace’s jaw dropped.

You have got to be kidding me. McDonald’s is out of McFlurrys?

“OK, let’s get hot chocolate instead,” I said.

“Yum!” Anna said.

Grace crossed her arms. “Mom. You said I could have a McFlurry.”

“Let’s wait over here,” I said, ushering the girls to a table while Stanton shared our amended order with the lady behind the counter.

The girls and I sat down. Grace looked at me. “Mom.”

“Yes, honey.”

“Nothing happened how we planned.”

Rain Boots

For better or worse, I’m an optimist. I tried to help my daughter see the bright side. “We did see the Zucchini Brothers…”

“What I was really excited about was ice skating.”

“Now we’re enjoying being together…”

“How could McDonald’s be out of McFlurrys?”

I paused, mid pep talk. “You know, Grace, that’s an excellent question. It’s weird that McDonald’s is out of McFlurrys.”

“So weird!” exclaimed Anna, shaking her little head.

Grace laughed; I joined in. (We can always count on Anna to cheer us up.)

Stanton rejoined us, with the hot chocolate. Grace peered inside hers. “There are no marshmallows—my favorite,” she observed.

I groaned.

Mom, nothing happened how we planned.

Reflecting on the spot you find yourself in now, friends—did you plan it this way? Did your journey unfold, step by step, just as you planned? Did everything go according to plan?

Or—if you glance around—are you in the place you are now somewhat unexpectedly? Somewhat by chance…or even accidentally, perhaps? Did you just kind of get here, despite best-laid plans?

For me, I would have to pick Option No. 2 (Plan B). And that’s OK. Actually…it’s good.

I folded my hand over my daughter’s. I told her I knew she liked marshmallows. But give this hot chocolate a try, I encouraged. It had whipped cream on top; that was something different that could be something good.

“Even when things don’t happen how we planned,” I added, “we can still find good things in what is happening.”

Grace sipped her hot chocolate. “It is good,” she acquiesced.

Both my daughters have been learning so much in school this year, so many good skills and important lessons. I’m deeply thankful to their insightful, patient teachers.

I also want to instill in my girls the value of being flexible. The ability to adapt and roll with the punches when life doesn’t happen perfectly. Because based on my experience, that’s a vital, sustainable skill—being flexible and accepting that some days aren’t perfect, and then moving forward with fortitude and grace.

About two months ago, I finished writing an essay I thought would be a good fit—actually, the perfect fit—for a magazine. I sent it to the editor there, hopeful that she would like it and that my byline would appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

A week later, she emailed me back. My essay wasn’t a good fit for them at this time, she said. I was surprised, and disappointed.

Not giving up, I reworked my essay and sent it to another editor at another magazine. It’s been a month now, and I have yet to hear back from my second try. That’s usually not an encouraging sign, so I’ve begun tweaking my essay again, readying it to share with a third publication.

Life, in general, is not easy. Work, usually, is not easy either. Necessary, yes. Meaningful, yes. Fulfilling, hopefully. But work, life and work/life can be difficult, can be discouraging.

The wisdom I’d like to impart to my daughters is to keep going, even when nothing happens how we planned, or hoped for. Keep going; keep moving forward. Don’t stop.

…that was something different that could be something good.

And don’t look back. At least, don’t look back too much. Don’t regret, or wish for, roads not taken. Because this is where you are now. And you can do wonderful things here.

Is anyone among us exactly where they planned to be? Has everything been perfect, and positive, every step of the way?

I can’t imagine that’s true for anyone. And the beauty in that—the universal silver lining in everyone’s imperfection—is that every one of us has something in common with the other. Disappointment, loss, various Plan B’s.

We’re more alike than we are different. We’re not alone.

Darius Rucker—formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish fame, now a solo country artist—came out with a song in 2010 that I love to this day. It’s called “This,” and these are the lyrics that often resonate with me:

“Maybe it didn’t turn out like I planned
Maybe that’s why I’m such, such a lucky man…

Thank God for all I missed
‘Cause it led me here to
This.”

For me, “this” is my family—all of them, but especially Stanton and our two girls. If, years ago, one of my meticulously plotted plans or first-choice scenarios had actually happened, then possibly (probably) I wouldn’t have “this” now.

I also wouldn’t have all those things that only imperfect paths and Plan B’s can give you: humility, strength of character, guts, courage, gratitude.

(What is your “this,” friends?)

One of my favorite quotes is this one, from Steve Jobs: “If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” We need to keep trying, even after professional setbacks (ahem, multiple rejections to what I think is a quality piece of writing). We need to make the best of could-be-better personal disappointments.

All that being said…have you ever heard of McDonald’s being out of McFlurrys?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

How Do You Do It?

On a recent morning, I woke up to Anna kicking me in the head. (Who needs an alarm clock when you have kids?)

Some nights, Anna sleeps in her bed, contentedly, until morning. Other nights (most nights), she yells out around midnight or 3 a.m. (depending on if she napped that day), “Mom! Dad! MOMDADMOMDAD!” and it’s easier to snuggle her into bed with us rather than rock her back to sleep. (A motto for this season in my life could be, “I give up.”)

Now, Anna is a petite 2-year-old, and she weighs less than 30 pounds. However, she takes up a lot of space in our queen-sized bed. Her preferred sleeping position is smack dab in the middle, at the top, across both pillows, arms flailing and legs kicking, without rhyme or reason, throughout the night. Good night, and good luck.

She also notices if I get out of bed. Not Stanton—who often escapes to the guest bedroom or family-room couch—but myself, “Mom.” When I get up to, God forbid, use the restroom, or make coffee, I soon hear a small yet accusatory voice from atop the two pillows: “Mom? Come…back!”

Mornings can be rough, in my home and maybe in yours too. Everyone needs to get to where they have to go—clean, dressed, fed, with all their stuff…and preferably on time—in a short span of time. There is little wiggle room, and occasionally some (lots of?) stress.

On that particular morning, the one where Anna kicked me in the head, Stanton woke up with a sore throat. He had a full day of presentations ahead of him, so I rifled my Yogi Throat Comfort tea out of a kitchen cabinet. “Here, have some of this, and take extra with you,” I said.

“I don’t need it,” he replied.

“I promise it will make you feel better,” I said.

“I’ll be fine,” he promised instead.

OK.

I pointed to the guest room doorknob. “Did you see the new dress shirts I bought for you? You can wear one today.”

Stanton looked at me, bewildered. “I already have shirts.”

Current life motto? That’s right, friends: “I give up.”

Puzzle Pieces 10-4-17

Now, the subject of clothes didn’t end there—no, not that day. Because that day just so happened to be “Dress Like a Farmer Day” at Grace’s elementary school, and “Wear Red Day” at Anna’s preschool. Grace was learning about agriculture; Anna was learning colors.

The night before, I had pulled out a pair of jeans and a white top from Grace’s dresser. I had also rummaged through several boxes in the basement, in search of a pink cowgirl hat I knew was down there…somewhere…which I did eventually find. I also found, in the dining room hutch, a green gingham cloth napkin that could double as a bandana. Grace and I had agreed that these items would work as her outfit for “Dress Like a Farmer Day.”

But come morning… Grace tossed the cloth napkin on a counter. “I wish it was pink, like my hat,” she said. “Pink is prettier than green.”

Grace has got her colors down pat.

Anna, meanwhile, didn’t like her red pants. “No…have…pockets!” she shouted.

Grace prefers pink; Anna wants pockets. I sighed.

At this point, Stanton amiably waved goodbye. “See you in a couple of days, girls. Love you!”

Because that day just so happened to be ‘Dress Like a Farmer Day’ at Grace’s elementary school, and ‘Wear Red Day’ at Anna’s preschool.

It was about 7:30 a.m. I needed to take a quick shower. “Girls…you can watch TV together while I get ready,” I said. “Just one show.”

“Yay!” Grace ran to the family room.

“I love TV!” Anna shouted, running after her. Then, as an afterthought, she shouted with the same enthusiasm, “I love Walmart!”

(This is a true story.)

What would other moms think of me if they heard my preschooler’s crack-of-dawn declarations? Love for TV? Walmart? Let me just say here, in my defense, that I turned on PBS Kids for my daughters that morning. Educational TV, OK? So…there’s that.

But yes, it’s true: Under the Supermom entry in Merriam-Webster’s, you won’t find my name.

Grace’s and Anna’s schools start at the same time, which is—to say the least—logistically inconvenient. So we get Grace to school on time, and Anna is always, reliably, 20 minutes late. But as everyone from my own mom to Anna’s teachers have reassured me…it’s preschool.

Speaking of my own mom, I asked her, “How did you do it?”

My mom had four kids; I have half that. My mom worked full-time; I’m a freelance writer (which, depending on the month, is a synonym for “unemployed”). Both my dad, throughout my childhood, and my husband, now, travel(ed) for their jobs. It’s difficult (and unhelpful) to compare one family situation to another, but for sure, my mom had a lot to do.

“How,” I wondered, “did you get everything done, every Monday through Friday morning, for years?”

My mom laughed and replied, “By the time I got to work, my body felt ready for a nap.” I could believe it. Especially now that Grace has started kindergarten—real school, real accountability—along with all the usual doctor’s appointments, sports practices and games, and family commitments as before.

(Later this week, by the way, is School Picture Day/Early Dismissal.)

How do you do it, friends?

Under the Supermom entry in Merriam-Webster’s, you won’t find my name.

Let me be the first to acknowledge that I do it, but not always well. Some days are great, even the mornings. Other days, I raise my voice at my daughters…or I’m distracted when they’re trying to tell me something…or I forget to buy something for someone’s school project.

A woman I very much respect recently said something that struck me. She was telling the story of someone—a nonprofit leader, I think—who, when asked about the toil of his work, said, “It’s not something I’ve got to do; it’s something I get to do.”

Not something I’ve got to do; something I get to do. I loved that. I try to remember that every day.

One evening, I was rocking Anna to sleep. (In several hours’ time, she’d probably be kicking me in my bed, but for the moment…) She was almost asleep. Then, unprompted, she said, “I really love you, Mom,” before snuggling against my chest and nodding off at last.

Moments like that, I feel I’m the luckiest person in the world. I understand the “get to do this.” The price you pay for the privilege.

This story started with clothes, and that’s where it’s going to end too. So…School Picture Day/Early Dismissal. Grace and I were looking through her dresser, picking out contenders for her School Picture Day photo. “And remember, Mom,” Grace said, “we get out early too.”

“Yes,” I said. I had written it down on the calendar.

“If you forget to pick me up…”

“I’ll be there,” I told Grace.

She looked up at me and smiled. “I know.”

“I give up,” and “Happy.”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Read My New E-book, THIS IS JUST A STORY

This Is Just a Story Cover ImageUnrealized dreams. A family secret. The fine line between fact and fiction. “This Is Just a Story” by Melissa Leddy explores these themes in a short fiction narrative that’s part beach read and part pop-culture commentary.

Friends, I am so excited to share that my newest story is now published and available for you to enjoy!

This is the fourth e-book I’ve published through Amazon. I’ve been writing (and rewriting!) “This Is Just a Story” for about two years. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

“This Is Just a Story” takes about one hour to read—it’s the perfect companion as you’re taking a break at your favorite coffee shop, waiting for a doctor’s appointment or ending a long day with a good book and glass of wine.

Please let me know what you think! 🙂