The Rockwood Files: Emotional muscle memory

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By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mama of 3

Every year about this time, I wish there was a fast-forward button for life. I wouldn’t skip much – just a few days or so.

Like most families, mine has an anniversary we don’t celebrate – one we dread the approach of because it renews the grief we felt the day we got the news. Even though it has been 16 years since it happened, we remember with painful clarity how devastating it was when my 34-year-old, larger-than-life big brother died suddenly in his sleep on April 20th.

yellow butterfly rose235Loss imprints on people in a way that often includes the season in which it happened. Even though I love Spring’s warmer temperatures and blooms, I doubt there will ever be another April in my life that isn’t tinged with sadness. Because it was an April day when I stood at a graveside ceremony and noticed how blue the sky was and how warm the breeze was and wondered how the weather could be so perfect on the worst day of my life.

I’ve talked to others who have experienced either a loss or a traumatic experience like a diagnosis, and they say that they, too, have felt this “emotional muscle memory.” You can try willing it away, but your body stores up the tension as the anniversary approaches. Things that wouldn’t ordinarily bother you seem bigger. Your heart is dangerously close to your sleeve.

It’s almost as if you’re subconsciously bracing yourself for the impact of the trauma all over again. Even after years have passed and there have been seasons of great joy again, the days leading up to the grief anniversary have a way of taking you back to Day 1 – the sadness compounding with interest over time.

In the past few years, I’ve begun setting a reminder on my phone for six months and then a year past the date of when a friend’s loved one passes away. I do it because I know that when those emotional mile markers come, it will be easier for that friend to face them alongside people who love her – people who know this date will never again be “just another day.”

Muscle memory is defined as a type of learning formed through physical repetition – like typing or riding a bike. You do something so often that you can eventually do it without thinking about it as much. Even though emotional muscle memory can feel like a burden leading up to a grief anniversary, physical muscle memory helps you through every other day of the year.

In the days and weeks following a loss, one of the things you wrestle with is this one big question that feels impossible to answer: “How will I go on?” But then you do things. You put on your socks, you drive your car, you brush your teeth, you go to work. And the muscle memory of daily life carries you through those first few terrible months. It doesn’t happen quickly, but eventually you become a person who, like so many others, makes the most of your life, even as you carry a tremendous hurt in your heart.

For me, April’s apprehension and the familiar knot of grief in my throat eases when the sun sets on April 20th. I’m always grateful to be past it for another year. I say a prayer for the person whose “worst day” is the next day or the day after that.

Then I put on my socks, get back on my bike, type out the words and feel thankful for the memories – not only for the people I miss but also for the muscle memory that carries us forward – into another day full of potential. Into Spring.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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The Rockwood Files: Restaurant wars

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By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mama of 3

Of all the questions Americans grapple with, there’s one that pops up more frequently than the rest: “Where do you want to go eat?”

fork plateDeciding should be easy. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from. But when two or more people are involved in the restaurant-picking decision, things can easily go off the rails.

The problem has everything to do with “food moods.” Finding two people in the mood for the same food at any given time is tricky. The more people you have in the car, the harder it is.

I’ll demonstrate with the following conversation:

“Where do you want to go eat?”

“I don’t really care. What do you want?”

“I’m kind of in the mood for Italian. Maybe Olive Garden?”

soup bowl 185“Hmmm. I don’t want anything that heavy. What about that little café downtown?”

“No, they don’t have soup, and I’m in the mood for soup. I thought you said you didn’t care where we go.”

“I don’t! I just don’t want something heavy because then I’ll be sleepy all afternoon.”

“So what you’re saying is that you do care.”

“No, I just didn’t want that one particular place. Any other place is fine. How about McAlister’s? They have soup.”

“No, I didn’t like it the last time we were there.”

“That was like two years ago.”

“I know, and I didn’t like it. Is that where you want to go?”

“No, not if you don’t like it. Name some other place.”

“Okay, how about that place on 14th Street – the one with the bread we like.”

chinese takeout“Yeah, but remember how long it took to get our food last time? I’m not in the mood to wait. How about that little restaurant next to it with the fried rice? They have egg drop soup.”

“I’m not really in the mood for Chinese. We’ve passed a half a dozen restaurants already. Just pick one.”

“I told you I don’t care where we go. You’re the one that has to have soup today!”

“I didn’t say I had to have soup. I just said I was in a soup mood, and Olive Garden has that one with the sausage in it.”

“Ugh…sausage is so heavy.”

“I’m not asking you to eat sausage! They have a big menu.”

“Oh, for goodness sake. Let’s go get your soup, and I’ll eat a salad or something. But we better not have to wait forever.”

“We would’ve already been there if we hadn’t been driving around talking about it for 10 minutes.”

“How was I supposed to know you were going to be so picky?”

“Me? I’m not the picky one. You’re the picky one.”

Why does picking a restaurant feel only slightly less complicated than the tax code? When you add a few kids into the conversation, it might be easier to just stay home and eat cereal.

But now and then when the stars align, we’re all in the same food mood and we agree on a place faster than you can say breadsticks. And I say the restaurant wars are more than worth it just to avoid doing the dishes.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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Slightly Tilted: Am I a good mom?

By Jen Adair, Blogger at Slightly Tilted, Entreprenuer, Homeschool Mom to two fab kiddos

Life is full of questions.question-mark

  • How do people on HGTV flip a house in a month with a budget of $10?
  • Why have toys at a book fair? The kids will never, ever go for the books. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of…reading?
  • When does your child realize “That’s awesome!” means “I stopped listening 8 minutes ago to protect what’s left of my sanity”?
  • Do double exclamation marks mean you think you’re hysterically funny or you want me to be extremely excited?
  • Why don’t they really call Target “Tarjay”? It sounds so much classier.
  • Avocados…why are they only perfectly ripe for one hour on a day you’re not even home?
  • How do they hot wire cars so fast in the movies? I can’t even find my keys that fast.
  • Does syrup really come from trees? That seems so weird.

The most burning question of them all for me is…am I a good mom? It always seems to bother me more this time of year. Maybe it’s because of spring cleaning and all the junk I end up finding that I don’t remember buying. What else have I said or done that I don’t remember? I barely remember breakfast, much less all of my millions of failures as a parent.

Will they remember when I had really bad PMS and yelled because they whined all through my favorite song?

Will they hold it against me that I was impatient…well, almost every waking moment of the day?

Will they remember that they had cereal for dinner on multiple occasions because I had to finish work?

Will they be scarred for life that I once ran out of the bathroom naked so I could get a clean towel out of the dryer?

Or…will they just blow it off as mom being mom?

I think I’m okay with them remembering all of that. I think I am. As long as they also remember that I washed their underwear. I dealt with blood, tears, and vomit. I taught them algebra — AND we all survived.

good day cup in circleSo, am I a good mom? I guess the answer is that some days I am and some days I’m not, but I do my best everyday. Don’t we all? Some days we are all on point, i’s are all dotted and t’s all crossed, and some days we’re drinking wine through a fire hose just to make it through dinner.

Today I spilled three glasses of water, broke my phone, taught school without anyone crying, ran errands without forgetting anything, and cussed someone who almost crashed into me while the kids were in the car.

So, yeah…I hope they remember that today was a good day.

jen adair3Hey. I’m Jen Adair. I’m an entrepreneur. Homeschool mom. CEO of organized chaos. Ok – it’s really not all that organized. Some days are great, some are not, some days I feel invincible, some days I can barely get out of bed. BUT…it’s my life and I’m living it. Browse my collection of random thoughts, humor (well, I think I’m funny!), images, links, whatever…at my blog Slightly Tilted. Sharing is caring, people! :)

The Rockwood Files: Kids and parents post reviews of each other

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By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mama of 3

As most parents know, one of the requirements of the job is to drive. Especially as kids get older and have more activities, the driving demands go way up.

Often, time alone in the car with a kid can produce some of the best conversations a parent ever has. But sometimes, the miles are long and the conversations are either brutally brief or non-existent.

During one of my recent trips, I started wondering what it would be like if moms and kids could post reviews of each other – much like drivers and riders do on transportation apps like Lyft and Uber. Here are a few of the reviews I imagine you’d see from both sides of the car.

word bubbleReview of riders, posted by 44-year-old mom: Picked up a group of three riders today from three different schools. Their command of the English language seems limited. When I asked how their day at school went, all they said was “fine.” One of them just grunted in my general direction. That’s rude if you ask me. What ever happened to polite conversation?

Review of driver, posted by 3 kids: Our driver today was one of the last ones in the school pick-up line, which was annoying because we have important things to do after school, like play Xbox and eat everything in the kitchen. She was also far too chatty for our taste. What’s with all the questions, lady? If we want to give a blow-by-blow of our day to the Barbara Walters of drivers, we’ll let you know.

Review of 12-year-old rider, posted by thirsty mom: Be aware that this rider has serious boundary issues. When I picked him up, he got into the passenger seat of my car and immediately took the Chick-fil-A tea I had sitting in the cup holder and proceeded to drink it – without even asking! That’s tea theft! I mean, who raised this kid?

Review of touchy driver, posted by 12-year-old boy: Watch out for this driver because she’s way too sensitive about her beverages. She freaked out because I drank her Chick-fil-A tea after a long, hot day at school. How was I supposed to know that the drink wasn’t a complimentary beverage service for riders? After I finished the tea, she said she’d already given me a free ride around in her womb for 9 months so the least I could do was let her drink her tea in peace. She should post a sign to let riders know that those aren’t community cup holders. Poor communication skills.

car emojiReview of 15-year-old rider, posted by mom holding her nose: If you’re picking this rider up from a gym, be aware that the smell might be intense – as puberty and intense physical exertion combine to produce an odor not easily removed from a car’s interior. Even though the rider claimed to be going home, he altered the requested route and insisted I go through a drive-through so he could get a chicken sandwich and a chocolate milkshake as a “snack.” He also unplugged my smartphone so he could charge his own phone with my charging cord, claiming his battery was lower than mine. Outrageous!

Review of driver, posted by 15-year-old gym rat: This driver is nice enough, but she seems to have a “regular showers policy” for riders. I didn’t smell a thing so I’m not sure what she was talking about. I did appreciate the detour she took through the Chick-fil-A drive-through, but she’s overly protective of that charging cord. She should understand that a growing teenager needs a constant supply of two things – food and battery life. She asks a lot of questions, too, so I advise grunting a one-word reply to humor her while maintaining your shield of privacy and teenage mystique.

Happy trails, fellow parents, and Godspeed.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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The Rockwood Files: Pillow Talk

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By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mama of 3

Well, we did it. We thought about it for a long time but something always held us back – vanity, frugality, perhaps a desperate grip on the last remaining scraps of our youth. But now that we’ve done it, we love it so much we don’t even care what it says about us. We are the proud new owners of an adjustable bed.

The first time I saw a remote-control bed was during the 1980s. There was a TV commercial showing a white-haired couple lying in bed looking about 200 years old. Then with the touch of a button, their magic bed slowly raised them to an almost-sitting position so they could eat stewed prunes and watch the Lawrence Welk show on television. The concept was great, but the ad made it look like an old person’s bed.

A century ago, stationary beds probably made sense. Most people worked physically grueling jobs. At the end of the day, they fell into bed and didn’t move again until daybreak. But even though the nature of work and people’s daily routines have changed dramatically over time, the bed just kept lying there – stubbornly still and horizontal.

These days, people do so much more than sleep in their beds. We read there. We check emails. We beat Level 84 of Candy Crush while we’re there. Sometimes we even carry our slice of pizza there on a paper plate and eat while we cue up the next show on Netflix.

While sitting in bed, I fold bath towels and match up the kids’ socks. Sometimes I even write in bed simply because snuggling in with a laptop feels less “worky” than sitting at a desk.

backrest bed loungerThere are plenty of accessories to help make beds more comfy. Someone who was sick of stacking pillows invented those backrest bed loungers to make it easier to sit up. There are also bed wedges, neckrolls and lumbar support cushions. And those portable lap desks make eating cereal in bed far less risky than it used to be.

The adjustable bed might have soared in popularity years ago, if not for that ancient infomercial from the 80s. That ad made the adjustable bed look like the beginning of the end, as if the natural progression was to go from an adjustable bed to a hospital bed to a coffin. And none of us want to start that process any earlier than necessary.

But lately bed manufacturers have given adjustable beds a marketing makeover. Now we see younger, tech-savvy sleepers enjoying them in commercials. Beds are no longer just a slab of springs. Now they’re data delivery systems helping optimize our sleep patterns.

A few months ago, Tom and I found out that our neighbors, who are the same age we are, have one of these beds and love it. Later that night, we discussed it in bed while staring up at the ceiling:

“Are we actually considering getting one of these things? We’re in our 40s! This is crazy, isn’t it?”

“Or is it? Aren’t you sick of waking up with a crick in your neck because you fell asleep watching TV while you were propped up on three pillows?”

“Yes, the last time it happened I had to go to the chiropractor and admit that I hurt my neck in my sleep.”

“Last night my hand fell asleep because I was trying to read my Kindle while holding it above my face in bed. I could really use an incline button. And just think…when you start snoring, I could raise your side of the bed with the remote control instead of kicking you under the covers, hoping it’s hard enough to make you stop snoring but not hard enough to wake you up and make you mad.”

“That does sound nice. And no one has to know about it, right?”emoji sleeping

“Right. No one has to know.”

“Sweet dreams, honey.”

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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