If You Give a Mom a Moment

me and kiddos

Each summer my big girl makes a 5 or 6 week visit to her dad. On top of that, I share custody of my youngest so I get her every other week. So at times when they are both away, I am forced to take…a moment.

I know I am not alone in my situation – there are plenty of other parents that have to experience this. I used to get intensely sad and mope for days and even fall into a depression about it. But I have slowly been able to turn my perspective of void and sadness to joy and happiness.

So, what is the big turn around?

My girls and I really enjoy the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We are always making up our own goofy versions. So here’s a nod to Laura Numeroff, the author, and a feeble attempt at a parody on it to try to explain how things turned around for me.

If You Give a Mom A Moment…

At first she will be sad. Saying good bye is hard. Chances are, she will cry. She will try not to cry in front of her child, but if she does, chances are, she will realize moping around and acting like a victim or martyr, borders on emotional manipulation and only robs everyone of happiness. If she wants her children to be strong, well-adjusted people – she will want to model that.

And if she is modeling healthy role-model behavior, chances are she will eventually find humility – She will have to accept that she alone, is not enough for her children. That her kids need their dad(and step mom if there is one, and many other relatives) in their lives to keep them stable, happy and confident. It takes a village. Really.

Once she is humbled, chances are, she will just want her children to be happy. She will realize that as long as her kids want to spend time with their dad and he wants to spend time with them, it is ALWAYS a positive and wonderful thing. So she will foster that relationship like crazy (regardless of her past and personal history with her ex. Because she will realize it is not all about her).

And chances are, if she sees how happy her kids are, it will change her perspective. She will realize there are much harder things people are dealing with, and that this is a very temporary time apart.

When she realizes this time apart is only temporary, chances are she will spring into action and want to take advantage of the fleeting moment.

She will want to deep clean, and even down-size STUFF!

And since she is cleaning and decluttering, chances are, she will sift through the mountain of randomness that inevitably collects in the open real estate of unused kitchen corners and dispose, dispose, dispose…and file the 3 things she actually needs to keep.

Since she cleaned up all that clutter, chances are she will want to get organized and figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

She will probably spend some time on pinterest searching really cool ways to organize stuff.

And since she is on pinterest, chances are, she will see images of women that appear to have it altogether and are enjoying life.

When she sees images of these women being carefree, she will remember a time when she was carefree.

It might remind her that the only person holding herself back from being carefree right now is her, and she will want to claim some quiet time herself.

She will probably sit still and do nothing for awhile. She will be reminded of a time before children where there was no one constantly bumping her, stepping on her toes (literally), poking her, sitting on her, and interrupting every 5 seconds.

And when she thinks about not being interrupted, chances are, she will want to spend some time with her spouse completing full sentences and thoughts and catching up with the person she fell in love with.

When she spends time with her spouse, she will probably talk about her dreams and hobbies. She will want to work on recording music she has written, work on books that need finished and published, sift through electronic pictures and maybe get some printed out. She might even want to paint, and experiment with new art forms.

Painting will remind her of wine and canvas nights and time with her own friends. Chances are, she will make a few dates with her friends and go out and have a blast, without needing to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable, and properly hydrated (and bug sprayed, or sun screened, or have enough snacks on hand, or needs a hair tie, or has to go potty or…)

And when she spends time with her friends, they will probably end up talking about their children. She will get to vent about life and parenthood, and then brag a little about her kids. Chances are, she will compare notes, and get some great advice.

And when she gets some great advice, it will probably make her reflect on what she is doing well as a mom, what she could do better, and take some time to read up on how to influence instead of nag. How to partner, not be nosy.

And while she is reflecting, chances are, she will probably miss her kiddos. She might even shed a few tears…

But this time they are not tears of pure sadness, but of completeness. And when she realizes how far she has come…chances are, she will want to have a moment.

Childs Play

My 3 year old has a new love – board games. Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, strip poker, you know…the usual. Ok, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, right?

So anyway.

She has not yet developed that ol American competitive spirit yet. In fact, when we play chutes and ladders every time she spins the spinner…instead of continually advancing, she keeps going back to start and moves the amount of spaces for the new “spin”. So while I keep climbing up (and sliding down) she just keeps going back to start and stays within the same 1-6 spaces over and over again. This could potentially make for an eternally long game, but after awhile she miraculously wins by somehow, magically and instantaneously making it to the winning square. How does she do it?

I have stopped trying to explain the object of the game to her, because I know she knows. She just chooses to do it “her way”. I know this is just a phase and that she will grow out of it soon, so I don’t push it because at this age it is so darn cute. I know that she will soon tire of this, and she will want the challenge.

But I do wonder…is it stubborness? Is it the comfort of the familiar? Is it the fear of making progress only to fall backwards?

Maybe I am overanalyzing it, but I can’t help but see myself in the allegory of it all. I used to also be stuck in the same familiar spaces of my life…afraid of taking risks, afraid of the unknown, unsure how to even get beyond my own invisible prison walls. So I kept going back to square one instead of continually advancing. If I didn’t climb…then I couldn’t fall. If I didn’t fight for the winning position…I could never really “lose”.

But at some point I needed the challenge. At some point, the risk of falling was greater than the risk of staying put and becoming stagnant, dormant…more dead than alive. I had to break out of my little spaces that I had kept myself in for too long. I had to venture out into the unknown. I had to start living by faith. I needed to excercise real faith and attempt to make progress…reach for a goal…even if it meant falling down. Even if it meant…”losing”.

It’s a big girl decision and one that I don’t regret. Since I moved beyond my invisible prison I have climbed really high, and fallen really low. But I feel alive. I would never want to go back to my childish way of living…always playing it safe and never going beyond my comfort zone. I mean – don’t get me wrong. I am still as immature as ever, just not confined or controlled by fear.

I still have moments of second guessing myself, doubting my capabilities, decisions, self worth, etc. If I allow myself to dwell on those things too long I can still find myself in a holding pattern. I have to push myself beyond the obstacle…beyond the comfort zone…and challenge myself. At those moments I have to remind myself, it’s ok to have child like faith, but it’s not ok to get stuck in child like traps.

Which makes me think about another old favorite game…Mouse trap! Now THERE’s a cool game right there. As I digress from pure exhaustion, I realize it’s way past my bedtime and time to blog off. Gotta go brush my teefers, jump into my footed jammies and snuggle up with Mr. Fuzzy Munches. Nighty night.

Peace in the Pieces

Who could have guessed that I would be at such a peaceful place that I almost forgot the complete anguish and devastation that I had felt only 2 years ago. 2 years! And how did THAT happen? Wow.

Surrender. Acceptance. Faith. And once these are in place – real love and hope can do it’s work. Until real surrender and acceptance is gained – I really think that true love is questionable. Because without those two key things…love is more of a give to receive thing…conditional and superficial. Sadly, many people never get to the point of real surrender and acceptance and live a life of incompleteness…love based on actions or expectations.

So – in my transformation, I have gone from being a broken, devastated, shell of a person to…a strong single mommy that is able to counsel others! WOW! I am living proof that hearts CAN mend. Even a very defeated, mangled, half dead heart.

My 3 year old has recently found some fascination with the story of Humpy Dumpty. She has a lot of good questions. Like…why couldn’t he be fixed? Maybe I had never really thought about it on such a deep level before, but I had never really seen myself in that story until recently. And I had never seen how truely sad and hopeless his plight was before.

Yes, of course, Humpty is a great teaching story of why eggs shouldn’t be on walls…or little girls jump on beds for instance. Sometimes bad things happen…and sometimes they can’t be fixed.

Sometimes sweet, beautiful little children die of cancer. Sometimes a car goes left of center. Sometimes a plane falls from the sky.

Sometimes a marriage disentagrates, for instance. All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn’t put my marriage back together again. If by all the kings horses and men – I mean…me, my spouse, a marriage counselor, the children, the promises, family members, friends and pastors. It all came down to the lack of surrender and acceptance. Surrendering ourselves to each other, surrendering our stubborn wills, agendas and expectations. Accepting each other for who we are and loving each other through it. Without that solid foundation…no kings, horses, or magic wands can save any marriage. Only the two people on that precarious wall can save it.

But hearts on the other hand…individual hearts CAN be healed. It may take years and years. In my case – it has taken nearly 40. Not 40 YET!! Just…almost. Everyone has their own time table. But it can happen. Anyone that knows me, knows that it is true. A miraculous reconstruction took place.

I fell off a wall…or in my case, it might have been more like a high horse, but anyway…I was knocked down to size in a billion tiny pieces of sadness. It was years in the making. Shattered shell – all over the place. Egg on the face, a potentially irreversible mistake could have ended my story just like Humpty’s. Poor Humpty.

Abandonment, abuse, rape, molestation, secrets, lies, loneliness and eventually anger, bitterness and resentment. If I was Mrs Humpty…I would have probably been a really rotten, smelly egg. I would have knocked the kings horses and men out – they couldn’t have saved me because they would have been rendered completely useless. lol.

And – honestly – they were. No one could have saved me from that fall but the King himself. He took the broken pieces and put them back together – even better than before…cracks and all. Now I am a mosaic of pieces that make a whole picture. Where as before…I was in one piece, but didn’t see the whole picture.

But that’s just my take on things. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. You can call me a quack…or say I am all cracked up. Go ahead. I know eggzactly what you’re thinking. Gag…really? Puns now? Terrible yokes? Am I THAT tired?

Back to point. Sometimes we can’t change certain events. We can’t stop death. We can’t go back in time and change things. But we can decide how to move forward…and how we are going to live with those events in our lives. Constructively or destructively.

We can live with the broken pieces and keep waiting for someone to come along and pick the pieces up for us…or we can surrender it, accept things the way they are…and find peace – in the pieces.

The day in the life of a real live muppet

Today I rolled over my own toe with my office chair. Yes, really. Like I mangled it. And though it hurt so ridiculously bad I am laughing out loud even writing this because it was so down right hilarious. Picture this:

We have this huge open space with really smooth floors and super fast rollie chairs. We all just kind of fling ourselves over to each other’s desks when a discussion is needed. So, me and my exposed toes (as I was wearing sandals) proceed to wing myself over to a coworker, but stop short. What? What just happened?

Yes, it was at that moment that my nervous system signaled to my brain that my toe was in some serious distress. However…my brain could not fully process this news. I was in denial. Like…WHO actually runs over their own toe? Not me.

So I tried to move…but of course I could not…because my toe was stuck in the wheels!! All mangled up, I might add. I quickly realize that I couldn’t just pull my foot free…because I was still sitting in the chair – with all my weight on my throbbing toe!

So at this point – I look like a muppet character…I have to somehow get off the chair, but I am pinned down. So I start to do this hopping kind of motion – like perhaps someone that is ducktaped and held hostage in a chair – trying to hop across the room just to somehow FREE my toe!! YES – this is where you can laugh out loud. It was seriously funny.

I finally free myself, which happened in a matter of seconds, but it seemed like minutes – only to find my worst fears true. My toe is mangled and toe nail all messed up.

I still choose to ignore what just happened – again, pure denial – try to appear normal and proceed to carry out my mission of addressing the original work related issue at hand. Only to find out that I cannot actually talk normally and I was about to throw up from the level of pain.

That’s when it got real. I had to accept that it happened. It was bleeding a little bit and swelling fast. I managed to not throw up, but proceeded to do what any self respecting person would do. I went to the bathroom and had a good cry. I found myself re-inacting a Nancy Kerrigan newscast, as I said out loud between a few sobs, “Why?! Why me? How could this happen?!”. Which made my tears turn into laughter.

A dear coworker handed me a frozen water bottle in between earnest concern and what I can only explain as an Emmy award performance as she somehow managed to not inappropriately laugh at this very humorous, but potentially sensitive moment.

That’s when I took the time to actually imagine just HOW silly the whole event must have looked, I burst into laughter several times throughout the day – wishing it could have been caught on tape because it would have been hilarious to see it. A few colleagues joined in once they realized they wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

Next ridiculous event: Later in the day I was getting frustrated with my blackberry. This is the 3rd one I have had because of different defects. The touch pad was not working on this one, and was getting increasingly worse over time. I had made my mind up that 3 strikes and your out. I was going to turn it in to get something altogether new tomorrow.

Later this evening I was messing with it and noticed that there was a tiny thin film of plastic on the touch pad. I removed this little rascal and it has worked like a dream.

Of course I imagined how ridiculous I would have looked going into the Verizon store to share my dilemma…only for them to remove that little plastic liner and look at me with pity and more humor. Oh yes, that would have been fun.

Welp. Enough ridiculous fun and cold compresses for one day. Time to hobble off to bed. This gimpy muppet is exhausted. But at least I can call or text someone now…

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.

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…

Kicking the Dysfunction Addiction

If you stand under a bird’s nest, you increase your chances of getting pooped on.

I don’t think this is a real ancient Chinese proverb…but it could be…

This insightful analogy came to me on a walk around the block tonight with my adorable, stubborn, sweet and spicy 2 year old lovie hobbit. We came to a place on the sidewalk with quite a bit of bird droppings. Of course – directly above was the source…a nest. I’ll save you the suspense…we did not get pooped on.

But if we had hesitated – we probably would have gotten it – the chances were definitely high. It made me start thinking about choices…the obvious or not so obvious choices that we make in life.

Specifically – about how it seems like I had been standing under the birds’ nest of life for so many years.

Perhaps I was thinking I was standing under the strong shelter of a tree. But the real truth was that I was just standing there…getting pooped on! Now, the OBVIOUS thing would be to move on – real quick like…and get out from under that nest, right?

I was talking to a lady last night. She had heard about my story. She knew my background of physical and verbal abuse, neglect, sexual trauma, abandonment…etc. What an ugly list. She wanted to talk to me to try to understand her adopted daughter better. Yes – I am like a carnie attraction…I may start charging fees…people might come from miles around to see the incredible freak show bird poop of life survivor…

This young woman is apparently living in dysfunction and continues to make really bad choices…choices that seem so obviously wrong to “normal” folks. Well, unfortunately, if you have suffered enough dysfunction and trauma…you end up feeling comfortable in it, which means…function and healthy life choices are UN comfortable at the very least – and more accurately – completely foreign.

I know. I was drawn to dysfunction for so many years of my life and made some obvious bad choices just because I really didn’t know how to make GOOD choices. Or let me put it this way – it was so foreign and uncomfortable that I didn’t know I was even capable or worthy of good choices! Good choices and happiness were for “Other” people…not ME!

I stayed under that bird’s nest because perhaps I felt like I deserved it, perhaps it felt safe…perhaps I just didn’t realize I was FREE to walk away from it! I had placed some invisible leash around myself chaining myself to that spot. Maybe I stayed there because I thought I was supposed to. Maybe I thought I was being strong, loyal…selfless…a martyr. It was a little of all of that.

What looks so obvious and easy to everyone else, is surprisingly difficult for dysfunction addicts. It is like trying to remove a favorite pee soaked blanket from a toddler…well, perhaps, just MY toddler. She throws a major tantrum clinging to that nasty blanket as I am trying to pry it out of her hands just to wash it.

Dysfunction clings to dysfunction. What is that saying about my toddler? She is 2. When someone is 32 and still clinging to a pee soaked blanket…there is a problem.

If you have not been in a truly dysfunctional home or relationship – it looks really ridiculous when you see a woman in a situation where she is being abused, manipulated, lied to and even possibly beaten – and she chooses to STAY in it! That’s because it IS ridiculous. HOWEVER…you also don’t see the invisible chain of dysfunction around her neck holding her there. Only she has that key, but she usually doesn’t know it.

And if she does know it…she may not be brave enough to make a break for it. It takes real guts and bravery to break out of jail. It takes planning, intention, a goal, action – with the risk of consequences or repercussions.

Too many women never find that key. I am one of the really lucky ones and I know it. Honestly…I feel very much like I had an addiction to dysfunction. I had to wean myself off of it. It was a very real battle. But the first part was acknowledging it. Here are a few key steps that I think I have identified in my own experience:

1. Admit and see the truth. That means you have to let yourself SEE the ridiculousness of your situation and poor choices.

2. Believe. Want better for yourself. After you have honestly surveyed the situation THEN you have to honestly want to be free of it – and believe you are worthy of it. Happiness and freedom are free and there for the taking…this means even for you.

3. Stop being a victim. It’s ok to admit you have been wronged, but at some point you have start claiming responsibility for CONTINUING the cycle of dysfunction and see the need to stop it.

4. Surrender. This requires humility…as in COMPLETE humility. Basically your pride has to die. This is painful…very, very painful. It is like being detoxified and can make you sick at first, but then when you have completely surrendered…what peace there is!

5. ACT! Take hold of freedom. This requires you to be brave and go against all your comfort zones and rules for yourself…and break free from your chain of dysfunction. This may mean many different things to different people. It means you have to move out from under that poopy nest – either literally or figuratively (I am not suggesting rash decisions, moving out of a house or leaving family…I am really talking more in the figurative psychological realm).

6. Listen to your gut instincts in discerning right from wrong and identifying red flags. This is something really new for you so it will be some trial and error, but when you are really honest with yourself – you can start trusting yourself more and more. Make choices that are right and healthy for you…not out of obligation for others or what you “think” someone wants you to do.

7. Be realistic. Take baby steps. Literally one day and one step at a time. You are setting yourself up for failure if you expect overnight results. Serious addictions like this take weeks, months and sometimes even years to successfully overcome.

8. Celebrate little milestones! Recognize your progress.

9. Don’t go it alone. You need support – even if it just a few people you can completely honest with. At first – finding people that can mentor you or show “function/healthy” lifestyles and then eventually finding people in your same situation is what was the most helpful for me.

For me – it was just coming clean with who I am, what I have been through and also pursuing some passions/hobbies of mine like writing and music. I also started making intentionally healthy choices about employment, relationships, activities, etc. Instead of just letting life happen…I started being intentional about asking “Is this healthy? Is this constructive? Is this the right fit for me?” I never knew I even had the right to ask that before!

I also started being really choosy who I spend my time on and with. I had to realize my own worth and value and seek out people that I really enjoyed and respected and viewed as “healthy and functional” and then I pursued those kinds of folks. Not is a stalking, annoying way – I was just open and honest with them. I have the best friends I have EVER had in my life just from being completely vulnerable and finding like minded people. I no longer have time for fakes.

Keep in mind – addictions can take years to really break free from. You may have some setbacks. You have to allow yourself the freedom to make some mistakes, but don’t justify it or continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
For instance…You might wander back to the poopy nest because it is a familiar place, but don’t set up camp there. Eventually you will be able to see just how gross that place was and at some point you will not ever want to return there. It will be like a different life time ago.

That’s when you know you are in a “restored” or rehabilitated state…when you feel like dysfunction is actually foreign. That is victory!

Well. After our conversation, this lady said my comments were insightful. She had never honestly realized that it may be completely foreign to her daughter to make a “functional” healthy choice.

It is sad. It is confusing. It is downright infuriating to an outsider looking in – watching someone imprisoned by their own invisible leashes of dysfunction. But to that prisoner…it is very real, very lonely, very defeating, and seemingly impossible to break free from – that is – if they are even aware anymore.

The real problem with any addiction is that you are usually not even aware anymore of how bad of a state you are in. You have lived with it for so long, made excuses, or just plain given up on trying to be anything other than the product of your situation or circumstances.

I know I am one of the lucky few. That is why I am even writing this. That is the whole point of this blog. I don’t think I knew when I started, but I knew I had something to say. I didn’t want all my years of pain and traumatic events to be in vain anymore.

Who knows where this finds you. All I hope is that if you are standing under a birds nest getting pooped on…perhaps you may consider moving – if even just a little. Yes…that means different things to different people, but one simple truth remains…

~ Confucious say (Ok…not really – just Lee say)… If you stand under a bird’s nest, you increase your chances of getting pooped on.