To My Son On Your Wedding Day

use this tyler.jpg

Dear Son,

It’s the morning of your wedding day and I can’t sleep. So I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel and thought I would write a few things to you even though I know you won’t ever read them.

 

Tyler, you NEVER slept as a baby. The doctors told me it was a sign of intelligence.  A lot of days I would have preferred dumb and sleepy.  I would sit in your Winnie the Pooh nursery and cry with you. I must have listened to that lullaby CD a million and one times trying to get you to sleep.  Kenny Loggins and House At Pooh Corner were my companions all those months.

 

I had a difficult time trying to find a song to dance to with you today.  They were either too cheesy, too country, or too  NSync. Who knew NSync wrote a song to their mom for their wedding day?  It was pretty bad.  I am not sure how I stumbled across the song again, but it instantly took me back to the early days of being your mom.  And despite the fact that you never slept…EVER, you were a really easy kid to raise.

 

You were an easy teenager too.

 

Well, except for that run in with the police and the donuts.

 

While most kids were out drinking and smoking weed you, you rebel, were breaking curfew to go get $1.99 donuts from the gas station 1 mile away from our house.  I thought I had lost you forever.

 

And that time as a freshman in college when you stepped up and took control of the situation when that VT student was harming himself and threatening others, I knew you were well on your way to becoming a man of character and action.

 

 

I learned that Kenny Loggins wrote House At Pooh Corner when he was 17 and about to graduate from high school and enter adulthood. So I thought, considering our history, it was only appropriate that we dance to it today as you enter your next phase of adulting.

Son, I want you to know how very proud I am of the man you have become. And I am so grateful that God chose me to be your mom.

 

And to your beautiful bride, Liz, I apologize for all the things that are going to drive you crazy that I failed to parent out of him.  You have my permission to blame me for years to come.

 

So, Tyler, as the song says, there is so much more to be done…

 

And I know you and Liz are going to do them so well together.

Love,

Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I caught Powerball Fever

lotteryI have never bought a lottery ticket in my life. But today as I was laundering and scrubbing and sweeping the crud out of my house, I started to fantasize about what I would do with all that money and freedom if I was the 1 in 292 million chances to win the lottery.  Which job would I quit first? Which caribbean island would I build my dream house on?  I planned the trip I would send my sister and her husband on as a thank you for all the amazing trips they have taken  my kids on. I would buy the Lakers for my friend and maybe a jet just because, you know, 900 million dollars!  I would get Cameron a really sweet drum set to replace the incomplete set he has and Carter a jet of his own so he could come see me a lot. (I know it is not very equitable but it’s what came to my mind.  I was inhaling bleach fumes so back off) Not sure what I would get Tyler cuz every time I think of him lately I get teary eyed and nostalgic remembering him  as the chubby fat little baby he was, not the young man about to be a husband.  There would be the usual splurges for my family and friends and of course I’d start a charity, Im not a complete materialistic jerk.

 

So off I went to buy my very first lottery ticket.

 

The line wasn’t too long so I decided to get my grocery shopping done first.  As I was paying for my groceries I looked up and saw (now bear with me this is going to sound judgey and I don’t mean it to; it’s just how my moment went) a disheveled mother in her sleep pants with a fist full of lottery tickets yelling at her toddlers to stand still while she paid for some more tickets.

 

The line was getting longer and my lottery fever was waning.

 

As I stood there I thought, I get it, I really do.  There was a time, not too long ago, that I may not have outwardly looked like that disheveled mom desperately trying to win some relief, but I certainly felt like it on the inside. I was struggling to raise these boys and the hope of a huge lottery win was something that would have eliminated a lot of my struggles.  Many times I was holding an imaginary fistful of lottery tickets myself wishing and hoping for some relief from my “lot in life”  So really, there was no judgement just the realization that tonight I am not so desperate for a lottery win anymore. For a brief second I even thought that if I won I wouldn’t even quit my jobs. Emphasis on BRIEF.

So after all that lottery fever and fantasizing, I ended up not buying a lottery ticket.  To be honest, the real reason I didn’t buy a lottery ticket was that the line had gotten considerably longer  by the time I finished buying my groceries and now I had to go to the bathroom. And  we all know the chances of me wetting my pants were exponentially greater than  getting even one number right in the power ball.

So good luck to all of you who bought one and if you win I hope I fall into that friends and family category and you throw a cool mil my way. After all, I am going to start a charity. On a Caribbean island.

 

What are you going to do if you win???

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Hope

Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole – Anne Voskamp

 
cam croppedSee? See that? That is my boy smiling.  A genuine smile. There were months, maybe years if I really am honest, that I didn’t see him smile a genuine smile.  I want to freeze time because I am afraid this moment of peace will slip away from me. When you are in the dark place, the struggle, you just can’t imagine there will ever be anything different. You fear you will  always be surrounded by  the suffocating darkness; that this is what it will always be like.

But, hope.

 

Hope is what every desperate heart needs.

 

Some days I couldn’t hear the hope. I couldn’t believe it. I am thankful for the ones who spoke hope to me even when I couldn’t see it.  I want to speak that hope to you.  That you really will get to the other side and it really will be ok.

Jen Hatmaker is speaking that hope  tonight too…

“That thing when someone’s kid is pitching a 25 minute long fit in Target, and you simultaneously feel terrible for the mom and unhappy kid but also want to hit your knees in blessed thanksgiving that those days are behind you.

Young Target Mamas, THIS TOO SHALL PASS. I swear!!

I now walk around Target like the Queen of Sheba, sipping my latte and DOING WHAT I WANT. You will too. I promise. In the meantime…ain’t nothing wrong with a mama wearing earplugs on aisle 7.”

Some times you just need someone to say I know, it’s so hard. This grief, this struggle, this fear.  It’s so hard. And then you need someone to say I believe it’s going to get better. You need them to say it  because you can’t believe it for yourself. Not when you are in the middle of it.

But one day; after every day, after every minute of your struggle, you will find yourself on the other side.  And you will see your boy smile.   And you realize  hope was there all along.

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First Day Of No School

pic of me no schoolToday marks a milestone. It’s the first day of no school for me. My youngest decided to forgo his senior year and graduate early. It snuck up on me, really. No more school  shopping, no more 5:30 am wake ups, no more homework battles, no more scouring Pinterest on June 13th to find a cute teacher gift, no more PTA, no more packing lunches, no more last minute runs to Michaels for poster board, no more a lot of things. So where does one find herself on the first morning of no school? Target. Duh.

 

 

 As I was wandering through target in my target uniform; you know some combination of workout gear that has yet to experience any workout,(well there was one woman that looked like she had actually worked out thus justifying the uniform and subsequently making the rest of us look like the frauds we were)  I couldn’t help but notice the moms.

There were the exhausted moms of preschoolers patiently waiting while their sweet angel “helped” them pick items off the shelf, and the moms  of elementary kids skipping through the aisles then lingering as long as they wanted in the clothes department struggling to decide between the v neck or the crew neck Tee, and the moms of high schoolers rushing to pick out her root touch up color before racing off to work cuz dang these big kids are expensive and she can’t justify spending her days like she would want playing tennis for hours or reading on the deck with a cool beverage.


That’s when it hit me.  I’m done! I actually survived getting three kids through school.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say there was a time when I did NOT think I would cross this school finish line.  If you’re interested here was our struggle. But we have arrived, and since I have crossed the finish line I thought I would dispense a little advice to those of you embarking on, or in the midst of, the school marathon.  You can take it or leave it.

First and foremost, save the mole that you so painstakingly and meticulously make with your first born. Because the amount you will care about Mole Day by your third child is exactly zero. And when the last child remembers at 8 o’clock the night before said Mole  Day that they need felt and googly eyes for said mole you will not be facing the decision to A. Harm the child B. Let the child face the consequences of his idiocy or C. Pretend you didn’t hear him, pour another glass of wine and turn up the volume on The Office you are binge watching on Netflix.  So seriously, save the mole.

 This one I had to learn the hard way. You are probably way more enlightened than I was. But, let your chid run in his own lane. It’s hard not to heap expectations on our mini me’s. We unknowingly put pressure on our young-ins to achieve in ways they may not be designed to achieve. It is especially difficult in this ultra competitive world of parenting.

Don’t let your first born fool you either. That child that excels without even trying, that golden boy that rocks what ever he tries; he makes you look like a rock star parent. Look what I did! I created a super kid! And you did. But you may also have created a kid that doesn’t fit the I do everything great mold. Maybe you have a kid that doesn’t follow the path you envisioned for them. You may, no probably, will have a kid who disappoints you and frustrates you and puzzles you. And the sooner you realize that and accept it, the better you can love your child right where they are; with all their struggles and issues and opposing personalities and strengths you don’t yet notice or appreciate.

So let them run in their lane.

Spend your emotional energy on cheering them on in their race not trying to register them for yours. I can tell you this because I spent years trying to make my kid fit into my version of him. I regret that. Have an introverted child when you’re an extrovert? Read the book Quiet and discover all the amazing things about his quiet nature. And then don’t force him to swim in loud, crowded swim meets even when he is the fastest on the team and you want him to swim so you can be the proud mom of a fast swimmer. Not that I would know anything about that. Have a non sport playing child while you were a collegiate athlete? Let it go and help him find his passion, not yours. Have  a child that doesn’t “fit in”? Celebrate his differences and remember that how they are in 3rd grade or 8th grade or 11th grade doesn’t define who their future self will be.

Maybe all your kids have found their lane and it lines up with your expectations and dreams. I hope so. But my guess is most of us will have a child or two that will take a different path than what we envisioned for them. Love them in their lane anyway.

 I thought I had more advice.  Turns out that is all I really learned from all the hours of homework  and school projects and sports and school plays and college resumes and even recorder practice. Just let them do them. And be there to make sure they do the best version of them there is. And honestly, there is nothing sweeter than watching them find their lane! Also,who am I kidding? Recorders are worse than water boarding!

 

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Why God Hates Divorce and Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs; As It Pertains To The Single Parent

I stayed in a difficult marriage (to put it mildly) for 23 years because I knew God hated divorce. When I finally had the courage to get divorced, I interpreted that as God hated me. It kind of felt like it actually.  In my head I knew that wasn’t true; but in my wounded, weary and  beaten up heart, that is what it felt like. Thankfully my heart eventually caught up with my head and it didn’t feel like God hated me anymore. But he does still hate divorce, and probably not for the reasons you think.  The longer I am divorced the more I understand why God hates it.

God hates divorce because of Maslow’s hierarchy  of needs.  If you are not familiar with it here it is….

Diagram credit: J. Finkelstein

Divorce sends you straight to the bottom again. (Well except for the sex, even that is gone.) Trying to climb back up Maslow’s Hierarchy after divorce is a little like standing at the bottom of Mt Everest in flip flops and a tank top, carrying a vacuum cleaner and three kids.  It all just seems so insurmountable.

Divorce, regardless of the reasons, catapults you into survival mode

 Especially if you now find yourself a single parent. In the beginning, literally, all you can manage is breathing and going to the bathroom. Most days all you want to do is stay under the covers and sleep; hoping that when you wake up you really don’t have to work three jobs and someone has paid for a cleaning service for a year. Eventually you  manage to get up off the floor only to look behind you to see the indent in the carpet on your bedroom floor; like some crime scene chalk outline of someone that died while curled up in the fetal position. (Please, just grant me a little melodrama.) Somehow you find you have slowly graduated out of this stage. Usually it’s because one of your kids is banging on the bathroom door demanding  something ridiculous like food or clean clothes.  You realize no one is going to do it for you. The laundry fairy and your night in shining armor have failed to show up at the requested time. The bills and the laundry have taken over and now you will need to build a whole bill/ laundry suite addition just to contain them. You actually contemplate that as a solution for a moment before you begin to climb out of the hole of divorce despair and attempt to graduate to Maslow’s next level.

God hates divorce because it leaves you worn and weary and struggling in survival mode.

Single parents spend all of their time in the second level.  All of your energy is about keeping your kids safe, cared for, clothed, and somewhat on course. Safety and stability are your entire focus; right the ship that was wrecked, whatever it takes.  Survival mode is about finding enough employment to keep the house and shoes on your kids.  It’s about doing whatever it takes to pay the bills.   Your days are spent doing tasks that used to be shared, now it is all on you. Every grocery shop, every load of laundry, every floor mopped, every lawn mowed, every car repair, every light bulb to be changed, every home repair, every doctors appt., every school conference, every HW session, every discipline moment, every bath, bedtime, and morning meal, all you.

I know every mom makes sacrifices for their kids and deserves a standing ovation, but only single moms (and dads) know the burden, worry, and exhaustion of doing it alone and praying that what you’re doing is enough to provide for, fill the void, and set your kids up for success.

God hates divorce, because it leaves little time and energy to live with a purpose other than survival and safety.

Somehow, divorce causes your friendships to fracture too. Where once you had couple friends to socialize with and support you, now you are the odd man out.  I don’t blame them.  It’s awkward and a little uncomfortable. Nobody really knows what to do with you. It’s weird setting 11 places at a dinner party.  Besides, lets face it, those of us that have gone through the pre, during, and post divorce events aren’t the cheeriest people to be around. We can be a little draining on our relationships that are still around. It makes a lonely situation, even lonelier.  God hates divorce because it cuts a lot of chords.  Chords that were in place to encourage and support you; do life together chords. And now they are gone too.  God hates divorce because for a long time you just don’t have the time and energy to form new friendships or reestablish the old ones.

So If by some miracle you are able to climb up  from the depths of survival mode to establish some sense of security, and maybe  you even manage to develop some new relationships; you are still facing the steep accent up to regain your self esteem. On a good day it’s hard to have a healthy self esteem. After divorce, some days you need to send in the national guard followed by a counseling session with Stuart Smalley to remember that you are “Good enough, smart enough, and Doggon-it people like you”.

Divorce beats you up. It stomps on your heart and exhausts you. It makes you question your worth and  your lovability.  It feels like failure.

Most of your day is spent making sure you kids are thriving  and helping them to reach their level of a healthy self esteem. All your effort is going to  the “Good Jobs” the “You’re Greats” the “You can do anythings”  for your kids.  It’s hard to muster the strength to d

God hates that.

But I think the thing that God hates the most about divorce is that he watches those He created for a purpose and a passion lose theirs.  It sidelines people that could be and should be living out their calling.The daily struggle for survival keeps single parents from achieving their potential and purpose.

It’s hard for the single mom/dad to create a “Do Over”  when they are already the doer of everything.

It’s nearly impossible to  muster enough emotional or physical energy to reach that top level. Nearly…

It’s taken me years, but I feel like I  am finally clawing my way out of the depths of survival mode. I am beginning to dream of possibilities again; beginning to see the top of the mountain my just be in reach. If you are in the depths of survival mode, hang in there, with time and effort you will get there too. The top of the pyramid is within reach. Like anything in life, you just have to keep making forward progress. You don’t need to sprint to the top. Just take one step at a time. However long it takes, keep pushing forward. Your climb to the top is yours alone.

Don’t compare yourself to the person traveling by leaps and bounds carrying only a small back pack while you lumber one fatigued step at a time dragging all your responsibilities behind you in a duffle bag the size of a U-Haul. Climb your mountain at your pace; just keep climbing.

No one walks down the aisle thinking they will end up divorced. Life happens, addiction happens, infidelity happens.  And God hates it. But maybe not for the reasons you thought. Climb on!

o that for yourself; especially when divorce made you feel like the exact opposite. I think

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Mother’s Day, It’s all hard!

mothers day difficultEveryone needs  a little appreciation and validation. We just want to know that someone notices what we are going through; maybe even dare to step into our pain and struggles. We just want someone to say “I see you, and I know it’s hard”  So today, Im thinking about all the ways Mother’s Day can be  hard. And, I have come to the conclusion that most days it can be hard for a lot of us.

 

 

A woman who can’t bear children  looks at the pictures of moms surrounded by her babies and grieves of what will never be for her.  It’s an ache, a hole that will never be filled.

 

HARD!

 

Or how about the mom whose child is lost to addiction? Or rebellious?

 

HARD!

 

I think of a new mom in the hospital with her newborn, brought  into this world with so many difficulties and in need of so much medical care. I cannot fathom the fear and stress she is feeling this Mothers Day.

 

So HARD!

 

The pain of losing a child is something I cannot imagine; and yet for those of you that have, Mothers Day is a reminder of that grief. Like you  needed a reminder.

 

Unfathomably HARD!

 

I think of my friend who is celebrating Mother’s Day without her mom for the first time.

 

HARD!

 

And don’t get me started on single mom hard.  OK, let me get started… Single moms, It’s all on them. Every worry, every responsibility, every task. All on them. All the time.

 

HARD!

 

And here’s the thing, even if you have perfectly groomed children who tiptoe into your room and bring you flowers and breakfast in bed, and have a loving spouse to support and help you, motherhood is still hard. It’s sleepless, like running on 3 hours of interrupted sleep for years, sleepless. It’s fearful, like watching your child battle an illness, fearful. It’s maddening, like you just spent the last hour cleaning the playroom and they trash it in two seconds, maddening. It’s sad, like watching your child leave the nest 3000 miles away, sad. It’s sacrificial, like getting your kids cats when  you hate cats, sacrificial.

 

HARD!

 

But here’s what I have learned as I have watched some pretty amazing women handle their hard:

I watched my sister go through the heartache of infertility.  Here was this amazing soul, who would have made the most amazing mom, who saved the lives of the sickest babies for a living, and she wasn’t going to be able to have a child of her own. So much sadness and grief. So not fair! But today you would never know  that she endured that heartache, because she chose gratitude. She chose to keep her heart open and continue to love.   In fact when my kids knew she was their guardian should something happen to me, they regularly plotted my demise so they could go live with her. That’s how much she loves and is loved. Had she not chosen gratitude and moved through her grief, so many would have lost out. She is the most generous and loving soul I know. I know she must still be sad on Mother’s Day, but she decided that wouldn’t rob her of a full and happy life.

 

It was hard, but she was grateful.

 

When I met Sarah, I would have never guessed that she carried with her every minute of every day the grief of losing a child.  She had, and has the sweetest and kindest disposition about her. Warm and welcoming, with a beautiful smile. I read something she wrote the other day “On the first day of the hardest month, I’m trying to focus on what I have rather than what I’ve lost.” And that is why when I met her I never would have guessed she had endured so much pain.

 

She has gone through her hard, but she is grateful; and it shows.

 

From a distance, I am watching a young mom go through the most unimaginable stress of giving birth to their son with multiple birth defects and life threatening surgeries. I can only imagine how each surgery and each set back, brings new fears and worry. But miraculously they are choosing gratitude.  I am so inspired by their response to their hard. This is what her husband wrote as he gave her a beautiful necklace with uncut diamonds, “Like a rough diamond, others may not have seen the value in our little guy with all his imperfections, but he is something unique and precious created by the Lord. With each surgery and procedure, he gains another facet adding to his raw beauty.”

 

So So hard, but they are so so grateful.

 

So today, on Mother’s Day, even in the midst of your hard, I hope you  can find something to be grateful for.  I hope these women have inspired you as much as they have inspired me to be grateful. Except for cats, I will never be grateful for cats.

Cute, but still not grateful

Cute, but still not grateful

 

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Urinals And Grief

dad oldI am responsible for keeping  9 toilets and one urinal clean.  And unless you are living in a mansion overlooking the Caribbean with 9 bathrooms, that’s a number that no one wants to be responsible for.  Frankly I would be ok with the 9 toilets if I could just get rid of that damn urinal. So when I was offered help to clean them, you would think I would have broken out into my happy dance; if I actually had a happy dance. But instead I was cranky and irritated. Who gets cranky and irritated when someone is offering to clean the urinal? Grieving people, that’s who.

It happens like that every April.  It starts slowly, but by the 24th, my irritability, teariness and general bitchiness reaches critical levels. At first I can’t put my finger on it.  Then it dawns on me what day is approaching.  April 25th.  You would think that after 26 years I would handle it better.  But it has been this way ever since that spring day I got the phone call that my dad had died. Every April there are triggers.  Like the first commercial for the Masters, or the faint purple of the first azalea bloom in my front yard; two of my dad’s favorite things that just happen to occur every April. They bring to the surface all the memories of the moments that surrounded my dad’s death. All the feelings come rushing back.

It’s not like in those first days and months after my dad died when I was moving through life in a fog; a little numb to the reality that my dad was gone. In retrospect, I think the fog and numbness is a gift. If the pain and reality of death came at us all at once it would be too much. Thankfully, it comes in waves. With each crash of a new wave a little of the numbness is washed away and the pain and finality of the loss holds you under and tosses you around for a bit. I remember the 6 month mark being some of the hardest times of grief.  I was coming out of my numbness and the world had continued to move forward. Everyone seemed to just go about their normal day. But for me, everyday, the sadness and grief was still so raw. Somedays I just wanted to stop and scream, “Has everyone forgotten my dad died?” “Hey, I’m still missing everything about him!”  “Would someone stop what they are doing and sit down and grieve with me” “Would someone notice I’m still hurting?”.


The years pass and the grief changes, but it never goes away.  The triggers of the season will return every year, even when you are not thinking about it. They will sneak up on you and stir up the sadness. They will bring into focus memories that have faded into the busyness of life. Sweet memories of your loved one that is gone.  Every April I am given the gift of those triggers. At first they make me cranky, but then they bring to the surface the good memories. Like the  vivid memory I have of a day in the kitchen of my child hood home. A kitchen with it’s peach paint, brick accent wall, turquoise appliances, and plaid carpet. Seriously, who puts carpet in a kitchen, much less plaid?  It’s taken some months in therapy, but we have finally forgiven my mom for her lack of interior design skills. I mean who can blame her? She didn’t have the luxury of Pinterest or the Houzz app. But it was in that kitchen, that Pinterest fail kitchen, that I have the sweetest memory of my dad hugging me. You see, my dad was the quintessential strong and silent type. It wasn’t until he became sick that he became generous with his words and his show of affection.  But to this day, especially in April, I remember that hug and I can still feel the warmth and strength of his arms around me. And If I sit still and I really listen, I can hear him whisper in my ear that he loves me and he is proud of me.

It doesn’t matter how long we have with those we love, it’s never long enough. The finality of their death is suffocating and the stages of grief are real and take time; an eternity really. Because even though the grief changes over time, it won’t  really end until we are reunited with those we have lost. And though they sneak up on me while I am going about my business and make me crankier and teary-er than I already am, I am thankful for the triggers. They make me stop and remember and feel.  I hope in your grief you too can begin to be thankful for your triggers. And if I may give a little piece of advice. Don’t be cranky and irritated when someone offers to help you clean a urinal.  They may never offer again.

Sisters at Arlington National Cemetery 26 years later. Sorry John, looks like you were on the stool at the counter again.

Sisters at Arlington National Cemetery 26 years later. Sorry John, looks like you were on the stool at the counter again.

 

 

 

 

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