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Last month, I was given the opportunity to bring a much loved blog-post-turned-movement-of-inclusion to the stage as part of the Listen To Your Mother Show, created and directed by Ann Imig and sponsored by BlogHer. I was so excited to share it with the audience at The Barrymore Theater. For those of you who may have seen the video, but are not familiar with how #MustacheLove came to be, read Mustache Love, Redux: Continued Growth. If you’d like to read the original post, click here.

Enjoy the video of Mustache Love, then come back to the LYTM YouTube Channel often to see all of these amazing writers read, writers from Madison, Austin, Spokane, Los Angeles, and Valparaiso…take a few moments and bear witness to their stories.  You’ll thank me for it.

Listen To Your Mother 2011 Madison Cast

Photo by Funky Monkey Photography

On Sunday May 8th, I will bring Mustache Love to The Barrymore Theater in Madison, Wisconsin as part of the Listen To Your Mother Show.

I wrote Mustache Love after my daughter told me about being teased for having a “little mustache” at school. Earlier this year, I auditioned for the LTYM Show with the piece, was cast in the show, and am now preparing to unleash the love upon a live audience. Reading over the piece in preparation for the show reminds me of how a little blog post, on a lesser known blog, somehow turned into a movement of inclusion and would inspire a community to come together and stand vigil over a friend in trouble.

It began with a hashtag. My homey, @TheBusBandit, retweeted my blog post and added #MustacheLove to his tweet. The response to the blog post was huge, both on Twitter, on the blog, via email, or in person. So many people showing the hairy-ass love, and sharing their own versions of #MustacheLove. The mustache was different for everyone. For some it was their weight, others, bucked teeth, acne, height, skin color, the list went on and on. Everyone had a “mustache”. Everyone.

#MustacheLove became more than just a blog post. It was a common thread, a right of passage, the act of breaking free of what is “pretty” or “normal” or “handsome” or “good”. It was acceptance. It was courage. It was reminding each other that we’re all okay, just as we are. Because as grown as we are, we still forget sometimes.

Then came the mustaches. They came from everywhere. Mustache jewelry, mustache window clings, mustache pillows, mustache photos, a group of my running buddies ran a route in the shape of a mustache just to make me smile. In 2010, I needed #MustacheLove more than ever. I had two major surgeries, needed to ask for help more than I ever had in my life, and had to come to terms with a very different kind of “normal”. The months after the first surgery brought a roller coaster of highs and lows, emotionally and physically. Three months later, I needed another surgery. I talked a good game, but I was scared, pissed, and tired. I was gaining weight, I walked with a cane due to my deteriorating gait, and I looked sickly and shitty all the time. As much as I knew how to help my daughter deal with self image issues, I started feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. And I knew better, right? Sigh.

Then something happened.

I logged into Twitter the night before my second surgery to find that hundreds of avatars had been slightly altered. There, I found the usual faces of my Twitter feed, with one addition. Each one of them was wearing a mustache. A friend had created a Twibbon that overlaid a wickedawesome mustache over all of their beautiful faces. That night, #gosarago was a trending topic in Milwaukee. It was a glorious mustache vigil that I will never forget.

On Sunday, May 8, 2011, I will read Mustache Love to an audience of hundreds. And it isn’t the same Mustache Love that I wrote almost a year and a half ago. The words are the same, with some small additions and edits, but it feels different. When I talk about the day I made the decision to let my own (impressive, btw) facial hair grow (for 6 months) to show my daughter that good people will love you no mater how hairy (or heavy, or buck toothed, or pigeon toed…) you are, I won’t just be thinking about the good people who will love you in spite of your mustache.

I’ll be thinking of all the people who will wear one for you.

My kids aren’t perfect. My kids brew beer. *drops mic*

.

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This is what I did today:

  • Spent an hour of one-on-one time with Grace while Nora was at her swim lesson
  • Spent an hour of one-on-one time with Nora while Grace was at her swim lesson
  • Helped Nora make lunch for the family
  • Helped my girls get showered and dressed for a birthday party
  • I showered without needing assistance
  • French braided Grace’s hair
  • Walked 2.5 miles, my first substantial walk since the second surgery
  • Spent some time laughing with the Team Challenge team at their rummage/fundraiser
  • Took my children grocery shopping, without needing help from my husband
  • Fixed dinner for my family
  • Snuggled with my kids to watch television
  • Helped my kids get ready for bed, tickles and snuggles and tucked them in tight
  • Enjoyed a really fantastic craft beer (HOLLA!)

If you read this and thought, what the hell? What’s so great about that? I take care of my kids like that every day…so what?

Here’s what.

I have waited months to have a day like this. My children have waited months for a day like this. A normal day. An ordinary day. A day that made me feel like the mom my kids deserve, again. There are many things that I look forward to being able to do as I become stronger and healthier, but above all, I am grateful for “ordinary” days. I realize now how lucky I am to have many more ordinary days ahead of me. What once was ordinary has become anything but.

Maybe this is part of what I’m supposed to learn through my experience with Chiari Malformation, Syringomyelia and Tethered Cord (Spina Bifida Occulta). Maybe it’s a lesson in gratitude. A reminder that every day and everyday activities are a gift. Imagine if you couldn’t walk around the block or comb your daughter’s hair. You’d give anything to have “ordinary” back. And it will never seem ordinary again.

Later Gators.

NOTE: I promised you all a pretty intense post about dealing with chronic illness. It’s coming. It’s taking a bit longer to spit it out. It’s…complicated. Anyway, I had to post this one today, because I am beyond thrilled to have had such a wonderful day. I just had to share this with you.

In short, I promise to get back to being a complete jackass as soon as possible. 😉

Moms don’t get sick. They don’t take days off. It’s just the way it is. Once you have kids, you just grit your teeth and deal with it, whatever it is, cold, flu, migraine, cramps, broken leg, whatever. Moms don’t get sick.

But what happens when they do?

For any parent facing a serious or long term illness, the worst part about it, hands down, is how it affects your kids. Since we’re moms, we can deal with everything else (pain, treatment, surgery, setbacks, anything) with a brave face and (hopefully) a positive attitude. What we have a harder time dealing with is how to protect our kids from our illness. It’s a special kind of mom guilt. It’s guilt for being sick in the first place. It’s useless and nonsensical, but there it is. We feel terribly guilty about all of it, because moms don’t get sick.

My kids have been dealing with my illness on some level since they were born. In the last two years, as my condition progressed, they have had to deal with it more often. They have spent the better part of this year dealing with it on a daily basis. They are worried. They are angry. They throw tantrums more often, and they are extremely sensitive lately. Sometimes I look at them and think they’ve finally just gone bat-shit crazy. Sooooooo, my husband and I are working with them and our pediatrician to make sure that we are doing the right things to help them cope and reassure them that we will all get through this. And we will.

In the meantime, we have made some modifications to our lifestyle and our home. We moved a card table and chairs into my bedroom so the kids can hang out with me as they color, play, read, eat, whatever. Sometimes we move Friday movie night into my bed. We have found we can do lots of stuff in mom’s bed, read, play games, cards, play video games…lots. I spend all of the time, that I’m not working, with them. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look at this time as an opportunity to teach them life-long coping skills, empathy, compassion, and that even though life isn’t perfect, it can still be great.

As it turns out, moms get sick. But if we are very lucky, we can also get better. In the meantime, life doesn’t stop. It might change a lot. It might be harder than it once was. It might not be what anyone would have chosen. But it’s still life. As long as we’re here, we have to treasure it. As moms, we have to take every opportunity we get to help our children grow physically and emotionally.

We have a choice: We can let the mom-guilt consume us, and feel sorry for our children, or we can use our circumstances to make our children stronger.

Some of the strongest people I know happen to be the ones that have faced adversity and used their experiences to build an amazing life. Many of them have faced challenges more difficult than my own. These people are my heroes. They inspire me every day to be the best mom I can be, and to guide my children through this time with love, humor, and gratitude. We’re going to have good days, and we’re going to have bad days. We have to remember to be grateful for both.

Listen up folks, because I think we’re heading down a dangerous path. Usually you hear me evangelizing new mobile media tactics, amazing designs that make our lives easier and allow us to consume information, entertainment and social media anytime, anywhere. I mean, I *am* the #mobilediva, right?

It’s time to put the phone down.

Lately I have become keenly aware of parents ignoring their children because they cannot disconnect from the mobile web. I recently saw a woman continually ignore her son in a grocery store because she was reading/responding to something on her mobile device. It was heartbreaking. I stood there in line, silently judging this idiot of a woman. I mean how could you ignore that sweet little boy? How many years do you think you have left until he doesn’t want or need your attention in this way? What the fuck are you doing?!!

Then it occurred to me. I’ve done this. I’ve done the “just a minute”, and the “hang on I just have to send this…” to my kids. I’m an idiot too. I’d be willing to bet a lot of you are guilty of this, at least to some degree. If you deny it, I call bullshit.

After thinking about it more, I came to the following conclusion:

If my child EVER thinks FOR A SINGLE MOMENT that whatever the heck is on my mobile device is more important than her, then I am a giant douche of a parent.

I don’t want to be a douche. I don’t want my kids to think that I care more about ANYTHING than them. I’m turning over a new leaf. I will not only be more mindful of my mobile device usage around them, but I will purposefully outlaw mobile usage during most daily family activities. In addition to potentially giving my kids a complex, I could miss out on the moments that I can’t ever get back. They aren’t going to want to build forts and snuggle up on movie night forever. They are absolutely ecstatic when I walk through the door each evening, how long will that last? For everything good that our interactive lives bring into the mix, if not balanced with actually living your life, it can be destructive.

Got teenagers? Take heed. It may not seem like they care or notice. They do. They just quietly resent you for not trying harder to connect with them. Believe that.

When you boil it all down, it’s like anything else. Moderation. Being connected through mobile technology can be awesome, let’s face it, it’s pretty cool. Let’s just use a little common sense. Let’s be GREAT parents first. (Then you have my permission to check The Twitter.)

So let’s *not* be douche-y together. Let’s put the phone down and be a family. Who’s with me?

I wanted to share this dailymile post from last week with folks outside the DM community. It was a bad, day, a great run, and getting a little reminder of what’s important in my life. Running does that for me. It gives me the outlet to process information and work things out in my head. It’s also where some of my best thinking (in general) and creative ideas come from. The following was one of those nights that reminded me why I run in the first place.

From dailymile.com (4.7.10):

I needed this run. By the time I got out there, it was late, cold, rainy and WINDY. I set out run off a pretty awful day. It was one of those days when you have to deal with really difficult people, make difficult and maybe frustrating choices, do what you think is right, and stand your ground. I just had a lot going on in my head. I just couldn’t let go of the frustration. And then something happened.

The following track came up on my iPod:
“Building All Is Love” by Karen O and The Kids (From the Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack)

On the last mile of this run, tears started streaming down my face. I’m talking a real UGLY cry. Because this song instantly makes me think of my daughters. I could hear them singing and dancing around the house sing-yelling this song, as we are prone to do. It all became really, really clear.

They love me and are proud of me today, but that’s easy. They are four and six. But everyday I have to live my life to earn that same love, pride, and respect when they are 24 and 26. I think I do that. I think that if sticking to my personal and professional ethics makes for a hard day, or a disappointment in the short term, that I’m okay with that for the long haul.

Because I can come home and look at my daughters and know that I am someone they can be proud of.

So that’s what I needed. I needed to get out and RUN, and think, and put it all back into perspective.

I enjoy a good mustache. I know I’m not alone in this. You all know it. A really bad ‘stache is really, really funny. If a particular mustachioed gentleman is a giant douche, I blame it on the mustache. If a circus ringmaster has no mustache, he loses all cred. A hard-ass, Harley riding, roadhouse regular m’erf’er without a mustache? Harder to spot than a purple unicorn. Femme-stache, nuff said. The mustache is more than facial hair preference. It’s a way of life. And it’s funny.

Okay, so recently, I have found myself in a mustache dilemma that isn’t so funny. For many ladies, especially us dark haired girls, taking care of our unwanted facial hair is a right of passage. At some point, usually in our teens, we realize that our eyebrows are a little unruly, or that dainty peach fuzz above our lip is looking more like a 15 year old boy’s than a 17 year old girl’s. We begin the life long ritual of waxing, plucking, or (good gawd) laser removal. It’s life, no biggie. I have two girls, I thought I’d be ready for the day that one of them came to me with concerns about their little Latina ‘staches and Brooke Shields brows. I just always figured this was a Jr. High kind of conversation.

Grace is six years old. Last week she complained that she has, “A little mustache.” She looked oh-so-forlorn and continued, “ …and I really don’t like it.” So. Yeah. Wasn’t ready for the Kindergartener to lay that one on me. (And believe me, what this kid’s got is nothing! Sheeesh!) So, where did this come from? How is she so self-aware at age 6? I was a complete idiot at 6. My mother had to remind me to comb my hair before running out the door to catch the morning bus. I couldn’t have cared less about matching clothes or wearing glasses. I was a happy 6 year old idiot, and life was good.

Now, the concerns I began having at 15 are troubling my kid at 6. What do I do? Do I let her foray into this grown up world of vanity and excessive grooming? Hell no. For a few reasons:

  1. Dealing with your own physical uniqueness is part of growing up. This is how we are made. All little 6 year old Latina beauties should have tiny baby ‘staches and wicked-awesome eyebrows. It’s beautiful.
  2. If we teach our kids at an early age that if they don’t like something about themselves they should hurry up and change it, what kind of message are we sending? (Hint: A crappy one.)
  3. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if my mother hadn’t taught me to settle for the Shopko clearance plastic glasses, (it’s what we could afford and it served it’s purpose – I could see the chalkboard), home perms at the kitchen table, and last year’s hand-me-downs. I wasn’t a cool kid. I wasn’t a pretty, best dressed, most popular kid. BUT. I was a decent kid, a good friend, and an honor student. I learned early that there is more to a person than the way they look. My best friends from age 12 are my best friends today. Score one for the mustache.
  4. Today, more than ever, I want my girls to love themselves, love the bodies God gave them, and be proud of their uniqueness. I want them to have a strong sense of self worth, a strong sense of heritage, and the confidence to become whatever the heck they want.

I’m here today say that the mustache might help my save my kids’ childhood. I’m learning new respect for the mustache. And this is my plan:

In a show of solidarity to my mamitas lindas, I am going to put my facial hair grooming regimen on an indefinite hiatus. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to take this opportunity to show my girls that you can be beautiful and different, and, well, hairy — all at the same time.

Frida KahloSo, if you run into me in the coming months and I am rockin’ a wicked peach fuzz, or you happen to notice that my unibrow seems to be creeping into my hairline…give me some props, make sure my kids hear you. Show us some hairy-ass love.

And if you think I’m nuts, and judge me for my new, au naturel look, don’t worry, I’ll chalk it up to mustache envy.

Later Gators.

I like to buy things from IKEA because their selection is typically affordable and generally fits in my smallish type of home. I hate to buy things from IKEA because I typically hate being around a thousand people that generally get on my f#%king nerves. Jennie and I did the IKEA run today and I was reminded of how much I really hate people. I just do. Don’t get me wrong, I love many people (individually), but I also hate many people (all together in a big f#%king idiot mob). Okay, sorry, I’m not myself right now. I just spent way too much time inching my way through three floors of Scandinavian particle board. Oh, and about 73 thousand other people. Alright, it’s really not “people” I hate, it’s the crowds I hate. So in all fairness, I am sorry “Mrs. Man Hands” for not helping you at the self-checkout. (okay, but with those mitts, you should have been golden.) I apologize, “Skinny Girl who bumped into my sister and didn’t say she was sorry”, for shooting you that rude glance/eye roll. (Hey, I get cranky when I haven’t eaten too – and I figure you’re probably still going on the Diet Coke and half of a crouton you decided not to purge on Thursday.) Forgive me, “Ladies with matching black velour track suits” for not answering your question about which line to stand in for the manager’s lunch special. (I realize you may have just overshot Great America and didn’t expect to be making such complex lunching decisions.) And finally, “Woman with lots of money and no brains who brought your 2 week old (if that) newborn to IKEA” – I’m actually not sorry for quietly ridiculing your poor judgment in bringing a tiny newborn to a place like IKEA, but I am sorry that your kid’s brand-spankin-new immune system had to be exposed to 73 thousand germs. I am also sorry that every time I saw you, that poor, tiny baby was crying. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I do actually hate you… I’m not usually this surly, which brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk about. After the birth of each of my girls I was (am currently being) overtaken by a severe case of “post-partum can’t f#%king stop swearing syndrome”. I can’t stop it. I manage to censor myself around Gracie, but dammit, I’m out of control. I’ve tried to substitute, but sometimes you just have to say it. Out loud. With feeling. You might even need to yell it. It just, well, fuck, you know what I mean.

© Sara 2006