The Good, The Bad, and the Perception

My Top 10 reasons I like being a single mom

10. I have saved a small fortune in toilet paper.  ??? and, Ewww!  What is up with that?  Is there some kind of study out there that can support this theory of mine that men have some kind of fiber gene that helps them out?  I mean…have you EVER seen a man on one of those Activia commercials?  Ok…enough already, but a noteworthy and strange enough phenomenon to keep on the top ten list (Honorable mention – the sinks and toilets stay much cleaner!).

9. No more waiting around on someone else’s agenda…Just like Dr. Seuss put it best in Oh the places you’ll go…the waiting place is the most dreaded places of them all.  Now instead of waiting, we are actually LIVING.   Also strangely enough, and positively, he admitted himself that he is a more present father than when we were married.

8. I know where my tools are!!!  AND I don’t have to be afraid to use them and offend or embarrass anyone. 

7. I hear that I am pretty more now than I ever did when I was married.

6. Listening to music I like.  However, I am starting to lose this battle now with my 8 year old. 

5. I don’t waste hours of my life watching TV – just to sit with someone to feel like I am close to them (Now I waste hours of my life blogging and feeling close to a few hundred someones).  Although, I do admit watching some kid shows just to snuggle and provoke interesting conversations with my girls.  My oldest recently discovered Touched by an Angel and Little House on the Prairie reruns.  They have been great chat starters and is such a refreshing step above Dora the annoya. 

4. I get ME time.  This was very hard initally, especially after not really having it before.  Now that I am over the guilt and getting the hang of it, the hardest part is figuring out HOW to spend it…oh so many ways…

3. I can be my goofy, corny self – and make up silly jokes and parodies without getting that “you are so stupid” look.  This also means I can use the dustbuster on my 2 year old without any rolling of the eyes.  On the flip side…I don’t have to listen to random lines of movies I have never seen (because I have not logged in as many pointless hours watching every film known to mankind) and feign laughter or feel stupid for not knowing what the heck the person is talking about.  

2. Rediscovering flirting!

1. The awakening, the clearing of the eyes, the stirring up of the soul.  The realization that the things you want to accomplish most in life are not going to fall out of the sky…you have to make it happen.  And most importantly – happiness is a choice.  (Yes…did you see that?  I crammed like 5 good points all in the number 1 spot).

Of course there are so many negatives to being a single mom.  I don’t want to dwell on it here, but I can highlight a few of the things that hit me hardest.  Number one and most obvious – the foundation of the family rock that has been ripped right out from under my girls’ feet.  My girls will always carry the burden and pain of having to “miss” someone…this is a pain that I knew as a child and prayed my children would never have to experience.  This part sucks the most.   

But there are some odd and minor times that it hits me too, like: Trash day – taking it out and bringing the empty bins back (why does this make me feel lonely?); Putting groceries away; Sitting in church alone and feeling like EVERYONE else in the entire congregation is apparently married;  Eating dinners alone…night after night; Changing lightbulbs way up high; Those times when everyone in the household of 2 kids 2 cats and a dog all need you at the same time; Realizing that no one really cares where you are at any given time (except my girls – which are thee most important thing to me, but admit it – it is a different feeling to know that someone out there cares for you “just because”…not out of genetical linkage); Lonely Sundays when everyone on the globe is having family time. 

Oh, for crying out loud…didn’t I just say I wasn’t going to dwell on it?  Geesh.  But you know…even these things are losing their sting (except the foundation thing).  I also realized how much I did all those things alone anyway when we WERE married.  The truth is, he was gone so much – all he did by leaving was to officially cut the cord.  He was already gone months if not years prior to him physically leaving.  And honestly, in many ways these things are actually easier being single.  Now I have no expectations, or let downs – I know that no one else is going to help and that I have to do it.   Too many times he was physically here, yet mentally or emotionally 1000 miles away.  Being lonely right beside someone is WAY worse than being lonely because you are actually alone.  Myheart aches for all the lonely wives out there.  My only suggestion to you is – don’t isolate yourself.  

Even as I look out at the sea of happily married couples, the truth it, nothing is at it seems.  We all have our issues.  There is no perfect marriage and being single is not all it’s cracked up to be…we are not perfect people.  Though I would have preferred hanging in there, fighting the good fight and being temporarily miserable with my mate now and then, I didn’t get to make that choice.  So, I can either focus on what I don’t have, or realize that this is a new beginning.  I don’t have to make exuses for him anymore.  I am released.  Though I have been known to live vicariously through some of my married friends, the funny part is…they are doing the same to me! 

So where ever you are…IT’S ALL GOOD!!!  It’s YOUR choice to be happy!  The grass is not greener anywhere else…and if it really is, it’s just more to mow.  So just be thankful and bloom where you are planted.

The Crazy Truth

Mental illness is a strange, sad and elusive phenomenon.  Thankfully we have come a long way from the days of just locking people up in chains and to chairs and beds.  I visited Colonial Williamsburg this past year and stumbled upon a “museum” of old mental institution devices and equipment.  It was horrifying.  Making matters even worse was the fact that I was there with my mom, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was very young.  It was a surreal moment.  And a bit (side step, side step)…awkward!

She has battled with the disease since she was probably in her teens in all reality.  True to a classic text book case, major symptoms didn’t start showing up until her 20’s, coincidentally shortly after she married dad.  Dad spent the next 14 years in denial about it all and trying to “fix” the situation.  He is such a sweet, caring and loyal soul and just wanted everything to be right.  To this day, sadly, he still carries around some seriously misplaced guilt and sense of failure that he didn’t succeed. 

After multiple hospitalizations, a few doses of shock treatment therapy (now there is an archaic torture method) suicide attempts and eventually mom just flat out leaving, he was left with no choice but to let go.  I hate even going into it.  But I have to face some of it again.  When her medication is right, she is fairly normal (wickedly funny and smart) and she can go for months and even years episode free…almost 5 years for her now.  But she’s going back to the hospital and she is in a different state with new doctors.  They need to know some of her medical history, and I am just the lucky girl that gets to do it.

So I am wrestling with ghosts of the past that I would rather leave behind.  That causes sleep to evade me…so why not blog it out.  This blog is slowly becoming my new BFF.  And honestly with as many readers as I am gaining at this point, I am sure at least one person may relate or benefit from it.  I’m at a place in life where I’d like to use some of the negative experiences in my life as positives by reaching out to other folks in the same boat – or at the very least, raising some awareness of this sensitive and almost taboo like condition.

I remember not telling anyone what was going on because I was embarrassed and certain I or mom would be made fun of.  I was afraid of rejection because things seemed weird…which made ME weird – or worse – maybe like her (Ironically, however, now that I am older I realize that I am both weird AND a little like her, which isn’t completely terrible on either accounts).  I was so confused, yet so desperate for some kind of help or attention that I ended up getting in trouble sometimes.  I dreamed of running away or escaping all the time.  While most kids were being grounded from TV, I would get grounded from electricity, “Because the aliens were in the walls and could enter through the outlets”. 

Once she went to my closet thinking it was hers.  She got so angry that the clothes didn’t fit her that she ripped every single item to complete shreds and threw them at me.  Granted, we were struggling financially, so she didn’t have a ton to shred, but that made it even harder because those were my favorite special dresses.  No one quite understood why I didn’t wear dresses for years after that.  To this day, in fact, wearing a dress is really big deal to me.  Some of my closest friends have rarely seen me in one.  I think I am going to make a point to by some dresses some day. 

Those are just some examples of the milder things that happened to give people insight to what other families might be dealing with.  I’m not going to get into some of the more graphic/gore things I have been through.  I’m not ready for that yet.  That is between me and her doctors for now.  But I can say that during those times she would become someone else.  Her eyes were like black holes…there was no trace of my mom.  I can totally understand where horror flicks get some of their material.  It did honestly feel like a battle between good and evil at times…as if she were possessed or something.         

Of all the diseases, this is the one that gets swept under the carpet or placed in the secret files of things we don’t talk about.  I mean, there are not a lot of prayer chains going out for “crazy people” or their family.  This kind of news usually spreads by more of a gossip trail where the typical conversation goes something like this, “Oh, did you hear about so and so…my, my, what a sad pity.  SO! Did you hear there is a sale at Kroger’s this week”?  It’s usually not an honest, heartfelt or constructive kind of thing.

Victims and their families can feel very alone.  Seriously…when is the last time you heard of some 5k race or awareness event for “Mental Illness”?  See?  All kinds of comical possible names for these events are coming to my mind too (The 2009 Bike for Nuts or the Crazy Run – and the route would be all tangled up and confusing) Yes…you HAVE to have a sense of humor about it, or you will go crazy yourself.  It isn’t well publicized because the faces of this illness are not usually really cute, or pretty and tug at your heartstrings, so it is hard for people to get behind it.  There are no meal deliveries, gift giving collections, or any of the things that families might receive from the community when someone has surgery or a well known “respectable”  illness.

Mental illness is so misunderstood and carries such a negative connotation to it…like it is something to be shameful about.  People with mental illness feel weak, and like it is somehow their fault and that they should just be able to “will” it away or something.  It’s probably the most alienating, scary medical conditions out there because there are so many undefined variables and it is not easily measured.  It’s not like Dr’s can say, “OK…you have this stage or level of the disease and here is what you can expect”.  It can keep changing.  And the treatments keep changing.  It’s all very mysterious, subjective to interpretation and exhausting.

The saddest thing to me is to watch HER struggle with it…she KNOWS she has it.  She WANTS help.  But then she fights so hard against it.  She becomes like a wounded wild animal that needs help, but when you get too close she lashes out and personally attacks you or the doctors trying to help.  Everyone is the enemy because she also has some paranoia, anxiety and other symptoms that come into play. 

Even though there is a proven chemical imbalance, a malfunction in the brain or glands supplying certain needed proteins or whatever, it is still a hard concept to fully comprehend – especially when the person suffering from these conditions can seem so normal one moment but then be hallucinating or become a completely different person the next moment. It is easy to think the person is faking to get attention or using it as an excuse to act out in a completely inappropriate way.  And it doesn’t help the cause when some people actually do fake it.  But there are so many families who are living with the real nightmare.

I have forgotten so much of my childhood.  Huge chunks are just gone.  But some things I can’t forget as much as I try.  It has taken me years to distance myself enough from the situation to analyze it for what it is, remove my personal feelings from it and be able to forgive her – and just let it go.  I also had to face the hard fact that she will never be the kind of mom/mentor/model that I wish I had in my life.  But at least I have her and that is more than some people have.  AND I have a step mom that has done a great job of filling in the gaps and becoming a beautiful mix of guardian angel/friend/mom.  

If you’re reading this, HERE is the take home point…if you or someone you know is going through something like this – be cautious and choosy of whom you confide in, but don’t isolate yourself.  My hope for you is the courage to face it and not be ashamed.  I can’t offer specific advice – I’m not an expert.  I can only speak from my perspective.  And if you have children, ironically one of the best reasons why you SHOULD seek help (the first reason is for you…the second best reason is for your children) is also the main reason people DON’T seek help – because of the fear of losing them.  And that plain sucks.  And the truth is, that may be the best thing for everyone at least temporarily if the situation is severe enough.  But in many cases when approached with honesty and integrity children can remain in the home and everyone benefits from the help being sought out.      

And if you are on the other side of the equation and know of someone or a family going through it – treat them humanely and offer the same kind of help you would anyone else going through a medical condition.  But also know this…don’t take it personally if you are not greeted or thanked properly.  And know that it can be long term chronic issue.  Family members – especially children should be given the chance to talk about it now and then.  While the person suffering from the condition is surrounded by doctors, psychiatrists and therapists, the children left at home often feel alone, confused, angry, and isolated.  We also moved a lot, which made making friends hard and only increased the loneliness. 

Sorry for the long, downer post this time – but I figured you could handle it after the Grover post.  I almost trimmed it down, but I am doing this for me and wanted to be true to myself.  It’s good to get this out though.  Now it’s time to move on, let it go and think about happy things.  Like with anything in life – don’t dwell on the past or even the present trials.  Deal with it, but don’t forget to live, laugh and find the beauty of life all around you.  I promise a funny, light hearted post next time.

Why I should have married Grover

Yes…THEE Grover…Adorable furry blue monster from Sesame Street.  It just hit me recently.  I mean – honestly…he looks GREAT for his age.  He’s gotta be, what…like 50 or something, maybe more?  He’s a world traveler and loves to experience all kinds of cultures.  He loves kids.  He’s smart – he knows ALL his ABC’s and numbers of the day.  He’s not afraid to make a fool of himself because he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  He’s compassionate, empathetic and is a great teacher.  He makes me laugh out loud.  He’s even a super hero, with a big touch of clumsy.  All that fame and he is still the same, humble, down to earth fuzzy little guy. 

Ok…it IS sad that some girls dream of princes, knights in shining armor and such and here I am dreaming of…Grover?!  Yes, I wholeheartedly admit I may have some issues.  Princes are overrated anyway.  But I do have to say that Sesame Street has done a great job of incorporating some seriously funny stuff on there that even adults have to laugh at – skits like Desperate Houseplants.  And they have cool folks on there like Heidi Klum and REM and stuff.   Like…you know you’re kind of a big deal when you get to guest star on “the Street”.  True, dat.   

So, anyways…as I am fantasizing over possible marital bliss with a fictional blue, furry Muppet…in the back of my mind I am thinking maybe I should be looking for some of the same qualities I like about Grover in a real man.  But then I also think that Mr. Clean is an ideal catch – especially after I got my hands on his Magic Eraser, and I am here to tell you…it is mind blowing.  But then he came out with Magic Eraser two – new and improved – and I am thinking…what is THIS?  Mr. Clean on Viagra?  I mean come on!  I haven’t been able to bring myself to use that one yet because it just seems like he’s trying to hard now and it’s a bit of a turn off.  I loved what we HAD…he doesn’t have to go changing and reinventing himself already.   

So…somewhere between one extreme to the other maybe I can find some actual traits that I can hang on to in a real human.  And it’s a good thing, because though I am very happy to see the strides our country is making in racial acceptance, I am not so sure the world is quite ready for interracial relationships between humans and puppet monsters (or creepy fictitious bald guys with a cleaning fetish) just yet. 

How did I get here?  Because nothing is as good as it seems in the beginning.  Marriages fail mainly because the puppy stage of love fades and the reality sets in along with all the flaws and imperfections of this incredibly irresistible person you had to have.  You are stuck with the decision of hanging on and honoring a commitment or giving up.  Giving up has become too easy and acceptable in our society.  When things get too hard or are not how we thought they would be – we wave the white flag and surrender the ship.  It really sucks when kids are on that ship.

But you know…along with that thought, things are not always quite as BAD as they seem either.  Surviving a divorce, getting older, being single mom – they aren’t as terrible or life ending as I once thought they might be.  I think I’ll coin a term here “Emotional Equilibrium”.  Though I am sure it is not a new term or thought, but here is my take on it:  

We’re like pendulums.  During great moments in our lives we swing hard to the right, caught up in emotional bliss.  Over time that bliss wears off and when reality sets in we start heading back towards the middle.  In times of crisis, we swing a hard left, bogged down in the awful details of a situation beyond our control.  Over time we eventually find ourselves recovering and getting beyond the horrific emotional state and again…heading towards the middle of our equilibrium.

The real problem is when we make decisions before the pendulum stops swinging.  Making decisions on an emotional high causes all kinds of problems down the road.  That is how you end up with tons of crumbling marriages, unwanted babies, suicides, abuse, and all those ugly things I don’t want to talk about…all actions and decisions done before we can calm down and come to our senses about the real situation.      

 Wow…this took a really deep turn.  SO!  Why is Grover REALLY the ideal mate?  No, not because he is perfect or that I actually have a thing for skinny, blue, furry guys.   Because he is a loyal, stable and consistent dude.  He would have stuck with me. When our pendulum would take a swing for the left…he would have known what to do.  He would march me over to Cookie monster and we would have cookies and milk (which helps nearly every problem).  We’d chat, have cookies, defuse, and laugh or cry and move on.  And THAT’s why I should have married Grover.

The dress of many colors

first day of school 034

 

The inevitable has come.  School starts back tomorrow.  As much as my soon-to-be 8 year old sometimes drives me crazy…she is still MY girl and I love being around her.  I tried the home school thing for Kindergarten.  I figured that was the time to try it without causing too many repercussions in case it didn’t go well.  I’m glad I did so I wouldn’t have to “wonder” or have any regrets for not trying it.  But her first grade year in public school went so well we are doing it again.  

I am not going to get into the debate of right or wrong school choices because guess what folks…we are all different.  So are our kids.  Home, private or public – I think they can all be right or they can all be wrong.  There are so many variables.  It is the same for working verses stay at home parents.  Every situation has its pros and cons.  Deal with it.  It comes down to what is right for you and your child.  I can only say this because I have been on both sides of both equations.  And the bottom line is you make the decision and then make it right.  If you see red flags…tweak your plan and try something new.  We are in a great country with lots of choices.  Take advantage of that. 

The truth is she is only in public school because I made a deal with God.  I had never done that before…it was more like one of those “Give me a sign” fluke kind of deals.   I was looking for some kind of direction.  I was aimless and unsure and resolved that if she was chosen by the lottery for a particular magnet school then that was my answer.  l had no real expectations because I don’t ever win anything by chance…never…I mean never ever.  So when her name was the FIRST called – I had a little private moment and laugh just between me and God.  Umm, yea – that would be a loud, resounding YES to public school. 10-4 God…got it.  

A few months later my husband took me to PF Chang’s for what I thought was a much needed dinner date a few months after the birth of our child.  But surprise!  It was actually where he decided to tell me that our marriage was over.  Yes…right there in public.  As you can imagine I wasn’t very hungry after that and as tears started streaming down my face he was frustrated so he commanded that I “look normal and try to eat something”.  Wow.  Really?

It took my slow processing brain a few days to fully comprehend the shock.  But the following days, weeks and months I slowly fell apart at the seams and became a sobbing, bumbling, idiot as more details came to light and I found out that a good portion of my marriage was all just a lie.  A marriage ending is bad enough.  Being replaced during a pregnancy and delivery is a whole new level of degradation and rejection that you cannot comprehend unless you have been there. 

So, to say the least homeschooling was the last thing in the world that I could have attempted in that state. It seemed that the magnet school lottery WAS a sign (IF you believe in that kind of thing…if you don’t you are thinking to yourself that it was just a random act of good fortune where numbers, math, and maybe even the string theory could have come into play).  I have thanked God over and over for that answer he gave me so loudly before I had any idea of what was to come. 

The REAL point here is that my big girl is off to school tomorrow.  She is more ready and excited than I am, of course.  We have waited until the last possible minute to get all our supplies, clothes and stuff.  Maybe we were both trying to squeeze the last possible days and hours out of summer.  But tomorrow reality begins.  Well…today.  We met the teacher, dropped off school supplies, stocked her desk and checked the room out.  It was fun and, yes…even exciting.

It was nice to feel at peace.  Though I still struggle with the public school decision it’s not because I’ve had a bad experience…it’s just plain selfishness.  Maybe some fear mixed in there too.  What she sees, hears, learns,  does, who she talks too…it is all beyond my control for 7 hours a day.  The bad part of that is obvious…we have all heard the horror stories.  But how about the good part? 

My child is exposed to so many different personality types – teachers, students, administration, janitors, etc.  She is learning so many skills beyond just reading, writing and math.  And when problem situations arise they are opportunities to work through it with her – and yes, I honestly believe that.  And I am also thankful for the many opportunities to help out and be involved in so many school and PTA activities.  It doesn’t feel so mysterious or scary to me that way.

When we finally got around to school shopping just yesterday we went to our favorite store – Once Upon A Child.  She found a dress that at first sight looked like something a vagabond would wear – or maybe something Cyndi Lauper would possibly wear on stage.  The dress is composed of a million 1 inch layers of different colors of cloth and they are all…let’s say, bright.  Very bright.  It is also long so the effect is amplified.  I held back my initial reaction when I saw that she was serious about trying it on. 

And when she put it on it couldn’t have been more her.   A bit zany, quirky and really silly…but also profound.  I said, “You know…this dress reminds me of Joseph’s coat of many colors”.  She immediately got the reference and lit up.  She knew that meant it was “special”.  More importantly she understood that I was specifically saying SHE was special.

After that pivotal dinner at PF Changs over a year ago, I had to let go of control on SOOOO many levels, by letting go of my “plans”,  naivety, personal agendas or ideas about “how life should be”, and yes, even my child’s sense of fashion to a certain degree.  And here is the really big one – the realization that I simply can’t be all things to my child all the time.  I was dumb for even thinking or feeling like I had to be.  Though it was a terribly painful process, I am enlightened…open…ready.  The serotinous seed awakes through the fire.      

ALL THAT to say this…Life is like this huge tapestry…we all have different threads and colors to weave into each other’s lives.  If you limit yourself your tapestry is going to be a bit boring.  Maybe you like it like that.  But if you step back and let go of some (not ALL) of the control and stop being so afraid of letting other people weave their colors into yours and your children’s lives…you just might get an interesting, bright, colorful tapestry…just like her funky new favorite dress. 

So, brace yourselves any of you mommies out there that might see my daughter this year.  And when you see her coming your way in her dress of many colors, just smile and think how very beautiful she looks in it.

Sibling bliss with mild scattered fussiness

 

 

I wish I could honestly say that this was the normal emotional forecast and climate of our household.  Days like that are so wonderful and lately too far and few between.  Maybe it is global warming, or cooling, El Nino, La Niña, or any other phenomenon (true or fabricated) that I can blame/apply here.   But lately a more accurate forecast for my household would be 90% chance of sibling rivalry with a mix of instigation, attitude, selfishness and frequent screaming and blaming.

As if that’s not bad enough there is no warning sirens or Doppler radar to give me a heads up.  We can be going along all happy and peachy when suddenly a loud clap of selfishness and instigation hits from out of nowhere followed up by a thunderous screaming and blaming episode.  Yes…even my dog runs for cover, as all dogs are terrified of storms of any kind.  His ears go back and he quietly tip paws out of the room as he tries to become invisible and sink into the carpet of my bedroom corner…poor, sensitive soul. 

Can I jump on the wagon and chalk it up to the terrible twos?  I could.  But that’s not true.  I love two.  Sure – there are the occasional episodes where she gets so angry that I wonder if she might levitate right off the ground and spit pea soup, but they are brief and usually laughable moments…usually (unless I am really tired and ready to levitate myself).  

The toddler stage is amazing…new words daily, and some of the funniest jibber jabber known to mankind.  The silliest spastic movements – be it dancing (Elaine style), running (or should I say tip-toe-galloping), or just sitting there…two year olds are hysterical.  Their chubby little bodies, short arms that barely even reach above their oversized heads, chunky toes and sweet breath – it’s all so irresistible.  Even their armpits are kissable at this stage!  

I call it their superhero self defense power (insert cheesy game show host voice here) the Power of…Cuteness! or the P to the C times 3.  That is how they stay alive and avoid harm when they sneak below the radar and go on their curious expeditions…their insatiable, very busy and stealthy quests for knowledge where they may be known to; (more cheesy infomercial voice over right here) color on the walls with markers, put toothbrushes in the toilets, tear books to shreds, and sneak up and pull hair…really, REally, REALLy hard.  Or when they raid the pantry or junk drawer, or find a basket of freshly folded laundry and scatter the contents all about the floor (ok…end cheesy voice already, will ya?  Geesh!).  These attacks only take seconds and are usually done very, very quietly…and effectively with a true sense of mission. 

But I love seven too.  Seven is amazing in itself in very different ways, of course.  She is witty, and starting to understand sarcasm and humor, which means she is making up jokes that are actually funny, not painful.  We have shared some of the best belly laughs I’ve ever had (little hints of “friend” moments).  She can ride her bike like the wind.  She teaches me something new at least every week (or more often) just by asking good questions, or sheer fact or discovery.  She is deep – we can talk, and reason, and chat.  And what an imagination! 

Her super hero power is…I think she said she had the magical fairy power of water plus animal transformation.  Not sure how this makes her less vulnerable to being harmed, but at this point I think the long term effects of genetic linkage comes into play (You adoptive parents are just plain saints in the first place and admirable on so many levels that I’m not even worthy to suggest any alternate ideas here – I can only speak on my own limited capacity).  So I guess sheer acceptance keeps her safe when she shines her newly acquired attitude right at me, or how she has digressed and completely forgotten all her manners, how she has developed selective hearing along with debate and justification skills, and how she can muster up tears effectively enough to earn her a soap opera drama award at choice moments like when being asked to clean her room or finish her dinner.      

So when these two worlds collide…Doppler radar would probably be useless anyway.   The nit picking, double standards, jealousy, instigating, revenge-seeking attitudes is enough to send anyone into evacuation mode (Especially grandparents and fringe friends).  Oh Calgone…wait, I’m sorry…Calgone?  No…Calgone is simply not good enough.  I have contemplated Craig’s list or eBay – “two bickering girls to the highest bidder – bids starting at…free!”  I mean this is the 2thousands for heaven’s sakes.  Grandma’s little helpers are not applicable here…we have to keep up with the times, stay ahead of the curve.       

But when the sisters are aligned and united I bask in the moment of sweet, sibling bliss.  It is sooooo sweet, peaceful and heartwarming that I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.  Like the moments when my oldest daughter and I are snuggling before bed and talking about flying off to dreamyland.  She asks, “How will I find or recognize you?” and I answer that I will be the butterfly/fairy with the purple wings.  I ask her, “And how will I recognize you”?  She answers, “I will be the one with rainbow wings holding a cocoon really, really tight because it is Evie and she can’t fly yet…she doesn’t have her wings”.  Yes…I’ll wait…get that tissue. 

Or the times when the little one finds one of “sissy’s” toys or blankets and stops to take the time to take them directly to her.  Or when it is dinner time and the little one makes sure sissy has a plate and cup handpicked by her.  Or when my big girl wants to rock little sis to bed and somehow this usually-very-busy-anti-snuggly-little two year old sits still in her big sister’s arms and they snuggle for a surprisingly and very endearingly long time.  And how when they play hide and seek and they ‘find’ each other, the squeal and roar of laughter flows intoxicatingly through the house. 

I guess those sibling rivalry moments are hard because my brother and I never had any of it.  We were kind of separated through the divorce but we were also 8 years apart.  We were surprisingly very close in mind and spirit despite any distance when we were young.  We held onto each other almost desperately.  So this rivalry thing is new, challenging, exhausting…and hurtful.  So, I do what all clueless moms do – I read.  I also spy – I mean chat with other moms, and join mommy groups to gather information and help me brace myself against future rivalry-nadoes

It’s life.  A crazy balance between mild and critical weather.  I studied meteorology for a short time in college.  I changed my mind when I realized that all the science and technology in the world still can’t accurately predict what nature has planned (that and the math that was required that I am highly allergic to…ooh – starting to itch just thinking about it).   But our world, our lives, our relationships are all intertwined like that.  Some conditions may make certain predictions more likely, but the reality – no one knows what the future holds

It comes down to this.  When the storms brew up – brace yourself, build on your past experiences, and know that it will pass…storms do not last forever.  And when you are in the midst of a beautiful day or moment…hold on to it.  Breathe it in.  Take a picture, choose to remember these times.  Because you will need those memories to get you through the next inevitable storm.  It’s this dichotomy of good and evil that somehow feeds off each other.  You need the bad to appreciate the good.  You need the good to get you through the bad (And there you have it…I’m singing the facts of life song now…must be time for bed).

If you have actually read this far you are indeed a diehard blogger friend and I love you for it.  I’d love to know your thoughts or comments on all this.  I honestly love hearing from other parents going through this stuff.  We’re brothers and sisters in arms – in the trenches together.  Hugs, tears and giggles to you and here’s to hoping for you and your household mostly sibling bliss with only a mild outside chance of scattered fussiness.

Say what cha need to say

John Mayer has a song called ‘Say what you need to say’.  My daughter has developed a little skit that she does during the song.  Everytime he says, “Say what you need to say”, she tries to ‘say what she needs to say’ (pretending like she is having a little dialogue with him) but before she can finish her thoughts of course he breaks into another line of “Say what you need to say” and sings right over her.  She acts all exasperated and dramatically tries it again and again until she just shouts out at the radio, “I’m trying to say that I need to say, but you won’t let me”!  And we both crack up…every time.

But it’s not as funny when it happens in real life.  It hit me hard when a few weeks ago she was practically in tears yelling to me the same words she screamed at Mr. Mayer.  It was heartbreaking.  Sometimes we don’t ‘listen’ to each other.  We have our own agendas or the 2 year old hobbit of the house might be a wee bit distracting at the moment we are trying to converse.  I find myself having to ‘make’ the time to have opportunities to just chat.  And it’s getting a bit trickier as she enters into the age of social awareness,  etiquette and awkwardness.  Because sometimes now…she DOESN’t say what she needs to say. 

I remember watching a movie with mom when I was young.  Some equivalent of a Lifetime Network movie nowadays.  There was a scene where a man and woman obviously loved each other but neither of them could find a way to say they were sorry and that they loved each other.  As a child I was in agony and simply couldn’t understand WHY they didn’t just come right out and say what they needed to say.  I asked mom and she said, “When you grow up you will understand”. 

I remember how her words scared me and I thought, “well that kinda sucks”.  Why is it that when we grow up things become so complicated?  Why do we make it so hard to see things simply and childlike, let go of pride, and just be?    What really stinks is that I have not only come to understand what she meant but I have actually lived it out.  During the crumbling of my marriage I can point out plenty of times when I should have said something but didn’t. 

Growing up sucks sometimes.  I guess it has it’s perks, but in many ways I am trying to hold on to a child like perspective more now than ever.  Ironically while my little girl is stretching her wings and ever striving towards maturity…I am trying to hang on to innocence and simplicity.  So our worlds collide now and then.  But I am learning to give her the space she needs to become her…and the art of letting her come to me rather than me driving or pulling something out of her. 

And when she does come to me there is a fine line between being over critical and squashing a spirit verses being too lenient and appearing uncaring.   Active listening, I think I remember that term from some college psych class.   As I get older and (hopefully) wiser I also realize that I don’t always have to be the ONE she can come to.  I try to make sure she has some other folks in her life she can trust and feel comfortable with – namely her Dad and grandparents at this point.  I even arranged for the school counselor to meet with her periodically just to chat if she felt like it.  And that circle will widen as she grows.  At least I recognize the importance of sometimes getting out of the way and not being so self centered to think I am the only person she can come to – though admittedly that was hard.         

I am striving to learn from my own mistakes and be brave enough to say what I need to say in my own life too.  Drowning friends with TMI is not good, but neglecting to tell them something important can be detrimental too.   It’s all a delicate balance and I know I will fall off the beam ungracefully plenty of times to come.  REM put it best in their ‘Losing my religion’ song.  I relate a lot to the line, “Now I’ve said too much, I haven’t said enough”.  It’s good to know that I’m not alone in feeling that way.  As a busy single mom, nowadays I may not personally get to say everything I need to say – people are busy.  So…I just blog what I need to say.  Thanks to all of you that have been reading and commenting.  It’s been amazing so far.

99 White balloons

It’s hard to even know where to begin this post.  I am overwhelmed tonight with confusion, sadness, irony and so many questions that I know may have no real answers.  Yea…look out…tonight is a deep thoughts kind of post. 

My moral compass has been so shattered this past year through the divorce that I admit I am a little confused by the once black and white standards I used to hold that have now turned to several shades of gray.  Somehow I still believe in God.  Probably more in some ways than ever before.  But what sucks is that there is a tiny part of me that actually wonders…is He real?  I am surprised and disappointed with myself for even entertaining the thought, let alone blogging it outloud.  

I guess once I became a Christian some 20 years ago, I just accepted everything blindly.  I HAD to believe.  I needed to.  Now I CHOOSE to believe.  I have moved to a different place in life where I am not threatened to at least ask the “are you real” question.  And the God I believe in can handle it.  I think he appreciates honesty.  Especially when I have news like I have had this past week.

A man died this past week.  Well, lots of people died this past week, but this man in particular was a man that overcame unbelievable obstacles.  He survived an accident that left him severely disfigured, blind and dependent on others to function in daily life.  He was the kind of person that little kids stared at in awe and wonder.  My daugther was one of them.  She was fascinated and drawn to him…luckily in a sweet, innocent, and kind manner.  She wanted to be close to this man.  Underneath his mask she could sense the sweetness of his soul.  He beat unimaginable odds by surviving the accident, endured countless surgeries and was just at a place where it seemed he was getting a bit of independence back in his life and was on the up.  Then…suddenly he died.  He left behind 5 beautiful children.  That sucks. 

Also last night a little boy was enduring his first round of chemotherapy.  As I was home in the comfort of my own cluttered surroundings with my healthy girls tucked safely in their own beds, this little guy started the fight of his life.  While I heard thunder softly rolling through and the rain on the windows, he and his parents were surrounded by nurses, beeping electronic medical devices, needles, monitors, nurses, doctors, and a host of other unfamiliar sights and sounds.  I could tip toe over and kiss each girl as they slept peacefully, smell their freshly washed hair and touch their soft cheeks.  This other family was in a room smelling of antiseptics and were probably experiencing unimaginable cries and wishing for it all to be some kind of terrible nightmare to wake up from.   Our worlds couldn’t be more different.  And just a few weeks ago…they were having the same kind of normal moments I am right now and probably taking it for granted like I have done more than I care to admit.  But not tonight.   

Tonight my heart is broken for a little boy that should be getting ready to meet new class mates and teachers this fall but instead is meeting the doctors, nurses and other patients in a pediatric cancer wing of a hospital.  God…are you there?  Why kids?  Why?  I also see 5 little faces weeping as they said goodbye to their dad for the last time today.  And again I struggle with where God might be.

Near the end of the funeral the pastor and family handed out white balloons to everyone.  He said, “When Jesus comes back he is going to give one command”.  And in the pastor’s interpretation he said he thought that one command would be, “Come”.  And when he said that he asked for all of us to let go of the balloons.  The result was a profound and beautiful image…soul-like balloons rising to the heavens…obeying the simple command…come.  Whether you believe or not – that was an awesome image, thought or wish.  To be released from any chains of inhibition, doubt, cynicism, sickness or bitterness…or even death. 

Some people think that believing in God means you are weak, stupid or juvenile because it shows that you “have to believe in something” that – in all honestly could be fiction.  Some people think it is just a list of rules and have been turned off by hypocritical Christians out there that may have meant well, but came across as narrow minded, judgemental, opinionated, brainwashed, nut cases.  I am guilty of “not helping” the Christian cause at plenty moments of my ungraceful life.  Because I very, very human.

I can’t tell you or convince you what you should believe.  I am not that girl.  Because it has occured to me lately that I just might be wrong.  I can only say what I believe, or what I want to believe, or yes perhaps – what I need to believe.  That there is something out there…something, someone bigger than me.  When I am alone, which I am a lot, I have to believe there is someone out there watching over me and my girls (no…not a stalker).  I have to believe that one day my soul/balloon will rise to the heavens…or somewhere and be released from this world riddled with pain, anguish, tears, and death. 

You can call me a fool.  You can disown me.  You can belittle me and determine that I must be a pea brain to stoop to such a level of stupidity.  You could limit your interactions with me or walk on eggshells around me and really mess up a great friendship.  But I am still the same person today as I was 8 blogs ago.  I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.  I’m just trying to figure it out too.

Maybe it IS juvenile.  But for me it beats the heck out of the alternative.  Nothing.  Just science and life cycles.  If I am wrong…so what?  I lived a life believing in a beautiful idea.  Non believers, you get the last laugh.  But if I am right?  Then…wow.  The image of those balloons today will probably stay with me for a long time.  And I almost missed it.  My daughter was the big reason we were there.  She wanted to be there to say good bye.  I am so glad.