The Immaculate Deception

Immaculate :-adjective
1. free from spot or stain; spotlessly clean: immaculate linen.
2. free from moral blemish or impurity; pure; undefiled.
3. free from fault or flaw; free from errors:

1. the act of deceiving; the state of being deceived.
2. something that deceives or is intended to deceive; fraud; artifice.

White Lies. Immaculate Deception. Polar opposites.

So the stories we tell with the purest and most noble of intentions – aren’t they really just lies? Santa, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny…all things of fiction. Many of us lead our children to believe these lies for years. We even get all nostalgic and melancholy when our kids wise up (guilty as charged).

I struggled with the whole Santa thing. I almost didn’t participate in the grand facade. But then I remembered one magical Christmas. I loved believing in Santa as a kid. In my very dysfunctional situation, Santa was one of the highlights of my whole childhood, sadly enough.

So, somewhere along the line I decided it was better to let them believe – if even for awhile than not at all. But it wasn’t an easy decision.

Some people get so hung up in this whole “truth” aspect that they take away any kind of fun and whimsy out of life altogether. Sure…being honest about Santa upfront is being “truthful and respectful”, but are we really doing any favors by robbing our kids of some amazing fairy tale like memories?

We grow up and forget all about imagination, or entertaining ideas of the impossible, of fantasy.

What about Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell? I mean…where do you draw the line? How can you entertain “some” fiction, but not all?

I have heard two major questions come up around this topic:
1. Does this kind of story telling and make believe actually promote the idea of faith (in God) and trust (in people like parents) or does it destroy and damage it?
2. Does this kind of deception increase or promote the tendency for children to think it is ok to lie?

Or neither.

My ex husband was dead set against the idea of Santa. His parents didn’t lie to him about Santa and he wasn’t going to mess up his kids by lying to them either. At first I supported his position because, after all, I was undecided about the whole topic. I was torn between being honest or entertaining the idea of fantasy for my own children.

So at first I respected his decision to be completely honest and upfront with the girls about santa because I thought it was for the right reasons. But something didn’t add up. He was a star wars fanatic. Like to the point where he collected thousands of dollars worth of stuff.

Collections in and of themselves are not bad, but at some point it gets a little strange, honestly. Especially when this same person is so adamant about NOT entertaining the idea of fantasy in the area of Santa and such.

I eventually made the hard decision that Santa and Christmas trees were welcome. Despite our pagan rituals that threaten to send us all to hell, my girls are well aware of Jesus and all the details for each holiday. Welcoming gifts from make believe entities so far has not trumped their belief in God.

As for honesty and truth? My ex husband who was so adamant about honesty and truth had an affair on me for two years of our marriage including while I was pregnant, having our baby and nursing. Somethings just don’t add up folks.

This same man who was so narrow minded and controlling about entertaining the idea of a “jolly old soul” for the sake of being “honest, respectful and just” lived the most destructive path of lies possible!

As for his “faith” in a God that he wanted to ensure had front and center of every holiday? I don’t even know what to say about that one and it really isn’t my place to worry about it anymore, but he hasn’t stepped foot in a church for years (not that you have to be in church to believe in God), and the girls and I go regularly.

I am not trying to point out how unholy he is or how great I am. Church attendance does not equate to goodness. That is not even the point – I am simply saying that there appears to be no direct negative correlation between faith in God and believing in Santa, Easter bunnies, etc. or vice versa.

All I can really say is that it appears that people who are so extremely narrow minded and opinionated are actually just insecure in their own faith and who they are. The people that I know that are so threatened and offended by my Christmas tree are the same people whose faith is stuck in a very legalistic, limited perception of how awesome and loving God really is. They are so hung up on rules, judgement and laws that they don’t seem to have any concept or connection to “love”.

Christmas trees and Easter eggs are not the root of all evil. These kinds of white lies and entertaining the idea of fantasy are not going to send you directly to hell.

Destroying peoples lives, wrecking foundations of the family home, living a double life and lying to everyone you know for years about it…now THERE is some grounds for an uncomfortable situation of accountability in the judgement seat down the road. But even then, if you believe in a loving God…there is always grace and forgiveness.

If there is grace and forgiveness for something as big as infidelity and destruction of lives…don’t you think there might be some room for grace in this area of Santa too?

But again – this is just my perspective folks…and thankfully I am not the judge, nor do I care to be. I’m just blogging out my own observations here. I’m just saying…

So my conclusion is this: Faith, truth and honesty have nothing to do with whether or not you were duped into believing in Santa and Easter bunnies.

Apparently these qualities are something you are either born with or acquire along the way. We all have our choices in life to make. We can only be held responsible and accountable for our own personal decisions and thoughts, so whatever you decide for you children as far as Santa and his posse, do it with your heart, not for fear of judgement from others.

Because no matter which side of the fence you land on – you will have some explaining to do when your kids are ready to ask those questions. Whether you are defending why you chose to make believe in Santa or if you are defending why chose to not to. As long as you can stand by your choice with no regrets, you know you made the right choice.

Hook, Line and Stinker

Hook: My 2 year old sees opportunity…she goes over and grabs my 8 year old’s favorite stuffed animal.

Line: My 8 year old starts whining dramatically and grabs it back.

Stinker: My 2 year old starts screaming and possibly even hits big sister.

All out battle commences.

Heavy sigh.

Sibling rivalry is not my forte. It is not even something I can apparently tolerate or understand…and my girls are masters at it. If there was an olympic sport for such a thing (which may only be a matter of time) I am quite certain they would win the gold.

They feed off each other. The little one, in particular, who is very “two” is quite the instigator. My older one who is a very dramatic “eight” does a phenomenal job of sinking down to the 2 year old level at the speed of light. As the barometric pressure descends at a rapid pace like this, the conditions are just right for a mommy sized thunderhead to form without a lot of warning.

Somedays I am better emotionally equipped and it may take a lot to rattle me. But some days, when I am already exhausted from working and bogged down with household chores they can strike right to my core. Without sophisticated doppler like radar, they are sitting ducks in the path of hurricane like discipline storm.

So, yes, I stoop down to the 2 year old level quite rapidly too on these ungraceful moments. OMG – who is driving this ship of fools? It is pretty obvious that it is the 2 year old of the house. She’s the captain. I go wayward of my duties of steering the ship on course and hand the wheel over to my very incapable 2 year old and 8 year old first mate.

But never for long. I come to my senses and muster up some kind of super natural strength and take the wheel. My super hero mommy powers come out and I am able to manage to reason with them, explain the consequences, and when all else fails…threaten grounding for life.

My sweet lovies are truly trying sometimes. They are a handful. They can wear you out. But they are also such amazing gifts. Each one with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. They are both so precious and beautiful, and I can hardly believe sometimes that of all the people in the world…I get to be their mommy!

They have plenty of sweet moments together too. My older one will read books to little sister. They play outside together for hours – exploring the wild, pretending to be orphans or animals, and all kinds of great make believe stuff.

And I know they love each other. They miss each other when they are apart. And sometimes when I am trying to get “tidbit” to nap, she will run to the saving arms of big sister in attempts to be “saved” as if I am some kind of dragon or or something (which is actually very funny). And sometimes they play “Boxcar Children” and act out stories…this usually involves some make shift fort like structure.

But on any given day, they nit pick at each other and I do struggle with this whole siblings at war thing. It is so painful to me because my brother and I never had any of that. I don’t even know how to approach it because it is such a foreign concept to me.

I would love to hear some suggestions or advice from you parents out there with kids. I need to know some techniques to help dissolve this whole bait and switch banter that goes on around here on any given day. I am weary and need help on how to stop the hook, the line, and the very cute little stinker.

My Tattered Blanket of Faith

Love never gives up. Santa Claus is real.

Which of the above statements are true? Either? Both?

What is a kid supposed to think? What am I supposed to think? What do I tell my kids?

One day they will soon know that I have been lying to them about Santa.

They have seen love give up through divorce. They know that some love DOES give up. But yet we read in the bible that love never gives up.

What does that look like? How do you distinguish between the love of this world, and the love of some spiritual book? How do we know this book is not just fiction anyway? The work of men just like me desperate to believe in a love much bigger and far reaching than anything we might experience in this wretched world.

Faith, love, hope. It’s a beautiful thing to want to believe. Without it…what do we really have? But are these stories any more real than Santa Clause?

At times it is so tempting to contemplate throwing away even my faith. It’s like my faith plays tricks on my mind now and then like one of those 3D pictures. I can try so hard sometimes and still not see the 3D image but then suddenly, when I finally relax – I see it! But then, just as quickly as I found it, it goes away. Leaving me to wonder if I really even saw it, or did I just “think” I saw it because I wanted to believe it was really there?

Some legalistic Christians may say I must not really have faith or really believe then if I even have these thoughts. I would answer – maybe you are not being really honest. If you have a brain – you wonder these things sometimes. It is not a sin to wonder. But when does doubt cross that line and actually become a sin?

Sometimes I find myself a rebellious child…crossed arms, piss poor attitude…tapping my foot and rolling my eyes with a huffy puff blowing my disheveled hair out of my face…thinking, “Sure God, really? You really expect me to believe in you? As if you actually are there AND care about me?”

Then I commence to carry on as if I have no idea what love really is and have a full blow pity party. I become impatient with my children, I model bad behavior, I fall down on being the steward I am supposed to be. I temporarily throw love and faith out the window and think I have to do everything “myself” and alone. I completely shut out the idea that love is patient, kind, slow to anger, and to consider my trials as pure joy…etc.

Being a single parent is the hardest job out there. Being one with little to no help is nearly unbearable. There are moments that I am quite convinced I am not capable of doing it. At these moments Love abandons me. Or more accurately, I abandon love. I deny it. Maybe it was never there to begin with…perhaps it is all a work of fiction.

But then, I find myself longing for it…the comfort of it.

My beautiful eight year old has a blanket. This blanket is 9 years old. She has had it since she was an infant. It is so faded and tattered that you can barely tell that it is light blue and you cannot see the white clouds that used to be so prevalent. Only if you knew what it looked like when it was new could you even see a hint of the clouds. You might even begin to wonder if they were every really there to begin with.

I have to be honest…this precious blanket of hers repulses me. I am glad she has a comfort thing, and I try to wash it a few times a month, but when we snuggle up close, I make a point of making sure that blanket is not near my face. It’s just kind of yucky to me.

One day I know she will have to part with her beloved blanket. She will out grow it. It will become embarrassing. It will eventually fall completely apart. One day she will probably even forget all about it. But right now, it is very real to her…very comforting…very necessary.

If one day she when she is old and grown and she does forget about it…does it mean it never existed?

I always keep coming back to it. No matter how faded or washed out it looks sometimes. I keep coming back to this idea that faith and love really exist. To me it is very real, very comforting…very necessary.

My biggest fear, I guess is that sometimes I do such a terrible job of representing love, that perhaps everything that I think I might believe in and hold dear actually becomes repulsive to others. Not that I live my life trying to convert anyone into believing what I believe, but something even bigger – that I make love and faith a confusing, twisted, unrecognizable thing.

Sometimes I misplace it. Sometimes I throw it across the room. Sometimes I hide it and pretend like I don’t have it because it might be a little embarrassing sometimes. But I always come back to this idea of faith and love that covers over me, comforts me, accompanies me where I might take it. I wonder if one day I will ever out grow it or abandon it. And even if I did – would it mean that it never existed?

All I know is that I would probably be completely hopeless without it. If fiction or real, I cling to it. Even if it is repulsive to some, I can’t seem to part with it. No matter how careless I handle it sometimes…I always somehow manage to find and hold on to my tattered blanket of faith.

The Unspeakable

Every now and then I have little windows or memories of some past life. My childhood. A very far removed and strange life time ago that seems more like a thing of fiction rather than my own real history. Different things trigger these memories. Usually horrific news stories. Today I heard about a mom that killed herself.

It reminded me of a day that my brother and I have never spoken of since it happened 30 years ago.

I was getting off the bus and as I rounded the corner I saw an ambulance at my house. I started running toward the house and saw the stretcher being wheeled out. The body on the stretcher was covered completely. My brother who was about 16 at the time walked silently behind the medics. Why were they all walking in slow motion?!

At this point my heart had dropped out of my body and I couldn’t feel my limbs as I ran toward the house screaming like a maniac. I remember thinking – I know I am screaming, but why can’t I hear myself! All I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears like bass drum…so I tried to scream louder because apparently my voice was not working.

And my legs weren’t working right – they were numb – like stumps of concrete attached to my body. I couldn’t focus…I saw my feet, the sky, the house, the stretcher, my legs, my brother… As I got closer my neighbors grabbed me and took me to their house.

They reassure me everything is going to be fine and try to distract me, but tell me NOTHING! I was like – what is this? Bizarro world? What the hell? I believe they even tried to get me to play checkers and eat spaghetti. I felt like a caged animal, but yet was too scared to do anything but sit there blankly.

I am not sure how many days it took to find out. I really don’t remember much after that. I have no idea where I even stayed that night or the night after that. But here is what had actually happened that day.

First, you should know some brief history. Mom had been severely ill. So chemically imbalanced she was functioning more like a 99 year old person on major drugs than a 38 year old. This is really weird for me – I am now 38. It is at THIS point in her life that my own mother gave up on life.

She talked with a severe slur like she had cotton in her mouth, and very delayed speech. Her speech didn’t make sense, she would repeat herself over and over and talk to things or people that weren’t there, or act like you weren’t there. She would be overly expressive with dramatic mood swings where she would be so very kind one moment and turn into a raving monster the next.

She was very, very ill. She should have been in the hospital at this point. Dad and her had already divorced, but were trying to reconcile. Or shall I say, dad wanted to reconcile. Mom was really not on board with the plan. For some reason, being around dad made her worse. But dad wanted to help. He really thought that he was doing a good thing and trying to take care of her.

But finally one day, she really couldn’t take it anymore. She had tried to overdose before on prescription pills, but those were really half assed attempts more for attention than anything.

This time was different. She proceeded to get undressed, draw a nice hot bath…and then start slitting. She slit both wrists and waited for death.

She had it calculated out just right so that by the time I got home from school I would find her quite dead. But she just didn’t count on my brother having some kind of sixth sense.

Sometime around 3:30 my brother suddenly felt the urge to leave football practice and drive home as fast as he possibly could. Something made him fly into the house and find her like that. Something made him save her just in time. Something made him be the hero that only he could have been and prevented his 8 year old sister from witnessing something that would have totally destroyed her.

Yes – my mother was not successful. Not like the mother that I heard about today.

My brother didn’t speak to anyone for about a year. He is still a man of little words, but that year was a year of silence. And 30 years later, we have still never spoke of the “event”.

Once we were at a family dinner years afterward – we were both adults. I think it was Thanksgiving or something. After the big meal we were both just relaxing and sitting on the couch while dad flipped through the channels. Mindlessly dad stopped at a graphic scene of a woman that was sitting in a chair with a slit neck, just bleeding to death. For some reason dad just stayed on that scene until I had to say, “Change the freaking channel!”

After what seemed like 5 minutes, of just sitting there staring off into space at images flipping through the stupid TV, my brother and I looked at each other with wide eyes in shock as we both realized we had clinched fists and were barely breathing and we knew exactly what the other was thinking.

Somehow we actually managed to laugh – because we both looked so ridiculous with our wide eyes, white knuckles, and shallow breathing as if we had both seen a ghost – underwater or something. Not to mention the awkward tension you could feel because dad felt like a complete jackass and was trying to pretend nothing happened, which made it oddly comical.

And THAT is the closest we have ever come to having a conversation about the unspeakable.

My brother and I used to be like that. So close that we didn’t even have to talk to know what the other was thinking. Though we were 8 years apart, we grew extraordinarily close because of the bizarre circumstances under which we lived. We were the only sane ones in the family. We were the adults and we realized we were doing a really lousy job of raising our parents!

Sadly, today, my brother and I barely speak. We are no longer the close siblings that finish each others thoughts and sentences. Honestly, we don’t even know what to say to each other. We each have our own busy lives and children to raise.

We each have thrown ourselves into parenthood with such tenacity and overzealousness that from the outside might just look like an extraordinary effort at parenting (not saying that I am an extraordinary parent – but at certain times I have been guilty of losing myself to parenthood altogether). With closer examination perhaps it’s more like an attempt to over compensate for or give our children the polar opposite of the childhood we knew.

Growing up with a parent with a severe mental illness is a very scary, confusing and lonely path. You don’t really know what is normal, so you try to make your very crazy circumstances somehow “normal” just to cope and survive. But in doing so, you warp your whole developmental ideas, foundation, and dreams of the future.

Just like a pendulum swinging wildly out of control, at some point, it has to come to a rest somewhere in the middle. That is where I am right now. Trying to find that balance in the middle.

I am finding that balance, coincidentally because I am divorced. I am forced to take a step back and some time out from parenting…if even for brief moments of time. I am forced into having some me time. My brother doesn’t have that.

Ironically my mother and I have a somewhat decent, yet superficial relationship. I have accepted long ago that even with some awesome medical breakthroughs, she will still always be limited in her capacity to love, give and be a “mom”.

More ironically, my brother and mother have a nonexistent relationship. My mom loathes the son she gave birth to that saved her life. My brother has given up trying to help or save her over and over from all kinds of other dramas of her exhausting self destructive life.

And strangely, she is probably more healthy than maybe ever before. Were we all enabling her? By trying to help her all these years, were we making her worse?

Sometimes I get so sad that I don’t feel like I have a brother anymore. I have mourned that relationship for years now. I have been angry and hurt beyond belief, but then I remember…how he was the hero that I will always be indebted to. How he witnessed and carried the burden that I was supposed to have carried. And I realize I could never stay angry at him.

Because no matter how hard I try to understand what he may have actually saw and the magnitude of what he shielded me from – I will never be capable of fully grasping – the unspeakable.

Twisted Sister

I suck at common sayings. I really don’t know why I try. Anyone that knows me fairly well knows that I get them all mixed up and twisted around.

For instance I was in a meeting with some high level executives – you know – the board room kind of atmosphere. I was trying to say something about the department that complains the loudest usually gets service faster.

I was trying to say: “The squeaky mouse gets the cheese: Or perhaps “The squeaky wheel gets the the oil” But instead – what I said was….

“The squeaky mouse gets the wheel!”

After I realized what I said by the smirks on their faces, I proceeded to laugh so hard that I believe I actually snorted. Awesome.

Here are some of my finer moments, and yes, unfortunately – I have actually said these outloud:

Wait a corn picking minute!

Poop on two stones with one bird.

On the sunny side of the fence

The early worm dodges the bird

Don’t scramble your eggs until they’re cracked

Don’t run the horse over with the cart

Can’t see the trees in the forest

Too many cooks spoil dessert

Well, I’ll keep it short today. I think I will quit while I’m not too far behind…

Removing your own internal organs

When you go through a divorce with children the cliche phrase “It feels like my heart is being ripped out”, becomes more than just a dramatic statement. It is about the only way to accurately describe the manifestation of the pain you emotionally feel…but for me – I physically felt it. My heart physically hurt…my whole body hurt.

I even starved myself for awhile and I found out somewhere along the way that it wasn’t just because I was not hungry – but it dawned on me that I actually “liked” the pain of being hungry all the time because it kind of masked the pain in my heart!

In my case it was all so shocking. I had just had our daughter when I found out about the affair my husband had been having for a year and maybe more. Though we had not had the most stellar of marriages, I honestly did not see that coming. He was traveling excessively, I was a pregnant stay at home mom – and these situations can cause some stress on any marriage. We were finally having a baby together for heaven’s sake! For some odd reason I thought we were on the same team!

So when I found out about it and the way I found out about it (phone records and hotel receipts) I was in shock. I even fought to somehow overcome it and keep the marriage together, but he didn’t want that. He had already moved on.

It was completely bizarre to me. After all the professions of his love to me – I was the golden girl that got away. His childhood dream girl that he finally got to be with. The one he had been waiting, hoping and dreaming of his whole life. No…I really didn’t think he would so easily jump on board another train at such a critical time. Blah Blah Blah…

The shock and pain of a marriage dying and crumbling was bad enough…but there were children involved.

So to say my heart felt like it was being ripped out is kind of an understatement. More accurately – it felt like I was being asked to remove my own major internal organs. Reading over all the legal documentation and trying to work out visitation schedules – this is specifically where it felt like I was reading instructions from some foreign piece of paper and trying to slit open my body and figure out which organ is the right one to take out.

First of all – I never wanted the divorce and secondly – now I am being asked – “So which major holidays would you like to willingly give up your child for?” WHAT?!?! And the questions are asked with such coldness and ease – as if this were just the most normal question in the world. While my spouse is across the table acting like this IS the most normal thing in the world. OMG! My heart is racing, I feel like passing out…where is the door, some help…something!”

It felt like I was in some science fiction movie where nothing was making sense. I am being asked to decide or do something that I really shouldn’t be asked to EVER do! And everyone is just staring with normal expressions on their face handing me the pen, asking me to sign so nonchanlantly. I want to scream “I am being asked to sign something that says I willingly agree to NOT be with my lovies on certain days!! What kind of mom does that make me?!?!?! What kind of person does that make me?”

Can you just imagine someone handing you a knife and spinning a wheel with different internal organs to see which one it lands on and then ask you to go ahead and cut yourself open and hand that one over.

Maybe I am being ridiculous, but you moms and dads of the world out there try waking up to an empty house on Easter morning and see if I am really ridiculous. It is just not normal. It feels completely foreign. I am lost. Despite the joy that I am supposed to feel on this day, I feel like I am missing all the best parts of me.

And if any of you want to throw at me – “Just focus on what Easter is really about – Jesus”…Well I would ask you to think before you talk, because the irony of your statement reaches hypocrisy at an alarming rate. Because this holiday is so important to me and because I do love God and Jesus and all that – it makes it even a bit harder because that is also part of what I want to share with my girls who are not waking up in their beds this morning with their sweet little faces and voices and snuggles.

And yes – then there is the “pagan” rituals – like Easter egg hunts and little girls in beautiful spring dresses and bonnets. And though I took my little one to an egg hunt yesterday – I am still hearing the sounds of laughter and joy from other kids right outside my window – the neighbor kids that my girls should be right there mixed in with. It is kind of sad when a childrens laughter is actually a source of sadness.

Despite how much I have worked on buliding “me” back up and working towards restoration…this is the part that will probably never be OK. Not being with my children during important holidays that mean so much to me will probably never be “comfortable”.

I think I have talked a big talk and made it sound like it does get better in time. Maybe it does…I guess even people who have had internal organs actually removed can survive sometimes depending on the criticalness of the organ itself. But that person is never really the same. They are always missing that part of themselves.

I guess if anyone out there that is still married – if you have ever considered divorce as a simple option – or even a not so simple option – I would just encourage you to think about it. Are you ready to do a self inflicted surgery on yourself?

Happy Easter.