On Following Your Motherf*cking Dreams

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This is a cardboard box. It came to my house this past Saturday around 12:30 p.m. I get all kinds of boxes delivered here. Boxes of swim equipment for my son. Boxes of pool parts for my husband. Boxes of clothes for my daughter. But I’ve never received a box like this. This 6 inch square, corrugated cardboard box held my motherf*cking dream come true.

We all grow up dreaming that we want to be one thing or do another when we’re older. Things that maybe seem impractical once the confines of reality set in – time, bills, kids. Things we decide we aren’t smart enough or skilled enough or matched properly for. And we let go of those dreams to do what sustains us. That’s life. It happens.

I realized my dream in 1993 when my brother died and my life cracked open. I was 16 and began to write to fill in that chasm of pain. I went on to college for my writing degree, concentrating in poetry, and believe it or not, I wasn’t half bad. I loved it but, you might have heard, poetry doesn’t pay the bills. After college, I began a career in the advertising arm of publishing. Got married. Had kids. Eventually, my dream of writing was left behind so that I could do what moms do – help my family follow their own motherf*cking dreams.

I became a SAHM and started a small business where I work alone. I began to feel extremely depressed – isolated and unfulfilled. All my life I’d questioned my intelligence and that insecurity had taken some major hits in the last few years. I realized I had to go back to my dream if I wanted to try to save myself to be any good for anyone else. So on October 18, 2016, I started The Mother Octopus. And let me tell you something. A lot really can happen in a year.

Last February, I began to make memes for my Instagram and Facebook accounts as part of my blog’s presence and quickly realized that I loved making them. I was good at making them. I’ve continued writing and have had some great response to my blog, including one post that went viral. I started to feel proud of myself. I started to think that maybe I could do this.

I began following a lot of other writers, mom bloggers and meme makers, I noticed many of them in Scary Mommy t-shirts. Lots of them were either staff writers or contributors at Scary Mommy. So very early on, I made becoming a Scary Mommy contributor and getting that t-shirt a goal for myself. I saw that t-shirt as a major rite of passage, validation that I could do this. And on Saturday, around 12:30 p.m., that t-shirt arrived at my house in the 6 inch square cardboard box above. I have an author page at ScaryMommy.com and I have a job making memes for them. My motherf*cking dream is now my reality.

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For many years I felt like what I had to say wasn’t important. My dreams of being a wife and mom had been realized and now my job was to keep my head above water and so that everyone else could realize their dreams. I bring my daughter to piano lessons because I believe that is what she’s meant to do. I bring my son to swim practice because I believe that is what he’s meant to do. What I’m learning is that in order to be a better mom and wife, I have to strive for what validates me. I’m no good if I’m not nurturing my own desire to succeed in what I believe I’m meant to do.

So, if you have a dream that you’ve buried in the back story of your life, under the chaos of schedules and clutter of other obligations, DIG IT OUT. You’re going to come to a point in your life when everyone else’s dream is coming true and there won’t be time left for yours. If you dream of going back to school so you can change careers, go back. If you dream of starting your own business so you have more time for your family, start it. Whatever it is, DO IT. NOW. Your 6 inch square cardboard box is out there and your motherf*cking dream is waiting inside of it.

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The Family We Make For Ourselves

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This is my daughter Olivia brushing her friend Ellie’s hair. I took this photo when my family was visiting my best friend Nichole’s family last spring. Ellie is Nichole’s daughter. The girls didn’t know it at the time, and they still don’t, but it was the weekend they became best friends.

It was Saturday morning and I’d slept in the kids’ room with all 4 kids in case mine woke up during the night. The kids got up early and headed downstairs to play. I heard some husband voices down there, so I continued to doze, a little wine soaked from the night before. A while later I woke up to the sound of the girls chatting in Nichole’s large closet, attached to the kid’s bedroom. The door was cracked enough so I could see Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair. I quickly got out of bed and crept in to snap a few pictures before they could protest.

A little background. Nichole and I come from a long line of best friends. Our grandmothers were neighbors and close friends, so our fathers had always been close. When Nichole was born 6 months after me, our best friend destiny was sealed. That was 40 years ago.

Nichole and I in 1982.

Now, the 5-hour distance between my Long Island home and Nichole’s Syracuse home makes it difficult for us to get together as much as we’d like. We had a great weekend with them and our kids cried when it was time to say goodbye. On the car ride back to Long Island, going through the photos on my phone, I came across the hair brushing pictures. All bleary-eyed and probably recovering from the night before, I’d forgotten I took those.

An Instagram fan, I quickly added a few filters to it and posted it to my FB page. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I looked at the picture again and got chills, suddenly remembering the last time Nichole had brushed my hair. The morning after my brother died. The day she became my sister.

It was July 8, 1993. She and I were 16. My brother J.P. had died suddenly the day before from cardiac arrest following a bout of heatstroke. He was 19. Nichole slept in my bed with me and woke up next to me with the confirmation that the day before hadn’t been a nightmare like I hoped. That morning I went to the funeral home with my parents, somehow thinking they could use my support. I didn’t last long and I ended up on the front steps of the funeral home in the hot summer sun waiting for my aunt to pick me up.

Getting back to the house, Nichole was still there. I played Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd on repeat because my brother used to play it. I sat on the floor dazed and she sat behind me and brushed my long brown hair while the music blared. Because the days that followed were such a blur, I hadn’t thought of that moment in 24 years. What seemed like a small gesture at the time now reveals itself to me as the moment she stepped into her rightful role as my heart’s mender and still now, my heart’s protector.

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Nichole & I in 2017.

I’m not writing this to rehash the feelings of that awful time. I’m writing this because when I looked back at the picture of Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair, it struck me that what Nichole and I share, our girls have begun to share. It was a strange and beautiful feeling. They’re 10 and 7. Their 3-year age difference was palpable until that weekend when I took this picture and they became inseparable.

I remembered Nichole’s grandmother telling me stories about my own grandmother. I wondered how many times they’d laughed together or consoled each other or stood together in front of a mirror while they prepared for a night out with our grandfathers. I wondered if they’d had any idea that something as simple as their friendship would become so much more for Nichole and I and now for our kids. I wonder how happy they’d be to see their granddaughters and their great granddaughters sharing the same bond they shared almost 80 years earlier.

This picture is the culmination of 40 years of laughter, tears, firsts, lasts, fights, failures and triumphs I shared with Nichole. I realized our daughters will have that together now. That’s the legacy we’ve passed on to them.

When I look back at the picture of Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair, I hope one day our girls will realize that they’re so much more than “fourth generation besties”. I hope they’ll understand that sometimes the best kind of family is the kind you find outside your bloodlines. It’s the family that somehow becomes your family through the opening and rending of your hearts and the experience of shared joy. It’s the family we make for ourselves.

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