The End Becomes the Beginning


photo by noberson

My son wanted to drive so we took his fathers car. No 16 year old wants to be driving in his mothers mini van. I kept thinking, “Why the hell were we the ones going to a meeting when he was the one with the problem.” Neither of us wanted to go; him to Alateen, and me to Alanon

But when your life has been turned upside down by the disease of alcoholism, you grasp at anything; like reaching for a secure limb to grab hold of that will give you enough leverage to pull you up  and out of the dark place you have fallen into.

So we went.  I felt ok about leaving the younger two with their dad as we had his car and keys and, seriously, how would he possibly get alcohol without any transportation?

It’s a humbling experience sitting in a meeting like that.  You want to scream “I’m not like them” ” I have a masters degree, and did you know I have 3 gifted children?”  “We live in a nice house” (well, the bathrooms were stuck in the eighties, but still)  “My kids don’t have tattoos and piercing, and I’ll have you know this one here is in the Math and Science academy” I wanted to believe that all of our outward appearances of success made us different from those in the meeting that didn’t “look” like us.

But we were all the same.  Broken, scared, confused, angry; our lives careening out of control like a train that had jumped the track.

We said our steps, held back tears, and the second the meeting was done we raced out of there as fast as we could. We went through a drive thru cuz everyone knows that a milk shake will solve everything. Our life had become unmanageable. So unbelievably unmanageable. I had been desperately trying to hold it all together for years. I enabled, I prayed, I cried and pleaded. I read books, went to therapy, gave ultimatums; and toward the end actually followed through on them.  But nothing was bringing the alcoholic any closer to sobriety.

Life with an alcoholic is a little like trying to balance on a high wire.

Picture  holding the balancing pole with the children on one side and the alcoholic on the other. Everyday the drinking would cause that pole to dip, causing me to desperately find a way to get us back in balance; all the while trying to show mercy and care for the one whose disease was threatening to cause us all to plummet to the ground.  It was a balancing act I was weary of.  My arms could no longer hold that pole. So when we arrived back home from our meeting to find him drunk, it was the moment that I finally laid it down .

It wasn’t till the next morning that I realized I had the courage to do it. I had gone to work early in the morning and when I was done with work, I called the house.  “Let me speak to your dad”  “He isn’t here. He went to play ping pong at church” And that was it.  That was the moment I knew I was done.  I knew that I knew that I knew that I couldn’t hold that pole a minute longer. I knew the disease would eventually cause us all to fall, and my fear was that there would be irreparable damage–it’s what I have always feared; and frankly still do

And that was the end. And the beginning.  New Years Eve will always be a reminder of the moment I had the courage to get my kids and myself out of the destructive environment of a life with an alcoholic.

A dear friend took my kids for the day and night so I could have a proper breakdown and so the kids could have a fun memory; as they spent it with their best friends unaware of the loss that was ahead of them in the new year.

I spent the day cleaning, not just a dusting here or a vacuum there.  I scrubbed baseboards, and wiped down every inch of every venetian blind in my house. I organized closets, and took a magic easer to every fingerprint and smudge on every surface in my house. ( and remember I was raising three young boys at the time;  this alone could have taken the whole day) To this day I don’t know why that was my reaction — to clean.  I think it was less of a metaphor for getting rid of all the yuck that had been my marriage for all those years and more about control. For so many years and moments the alcoholism had stolen my sense of security and control. But on that day, for the first time in a long time, I at least had control of my environment.

Later that night, he came back to get some things. He was contrite, as he usually was  after a drunken tirade, but this time I knew in my heart that the disease had progressed far past the I’m sorrys, and it won’t happen agains, and the I’ll get helps and the just give me one more chances. I don’t know why I asked, but in hindsight I’m thankful I did.  “Not that it matters, but how did you get alcohol last night?” For the sake of privacy I won’t tell you the details, but hearing how was  confirmation that I was making the right decision. It was the assurance I needed to know that his disease was not anything I could fix and now I needed to concentrate on providing a safe and secure space for my kids.

I always wake up on New Years Eve remembering those events that led to my decision to end my marriage; but this year has a little different feel to it.  There is always sadness, like remembering the anniversary of the death of a loved one.  But this New Years Eve, instead of seeing those events as the end, I am starting  to see it was the beginning.   Though it didn’t feel like it for so long, it was the beginning of healing for the kids and me.  This past year I have been doing some hard work as I assess those years of living with an alcoholic and how they impacted my self esteem, my confidence, and even my personality. It’s not fun, but it’s so healing. This New Years Eve, as I am emerging out of years of survival mode, I am waking up with a grateful heart. I don’t know what 2017 will bring, but I can look back on all the past New Years Eves and see how far we have come. Time really is the ultimate healer.

Statistics tell us that approximately 16.3 million adults have an Alcohol use Disorder. Chances are you have been effected by the disease, just as my family was/is.  This New Years Eve I want to tell you there is hope of getting some control and peace and balance back into your life.  I don’t know what that looks like for you and your family, but I hope 2017 is the year for your beginning. If I can be a source of help and encouragement, please feel free to reach out to me.  I know how living with the disease can be a lonely, isolated place.

Happy New Year and here’s to beginnings; no matter how long they take to realize

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Something’s Missing

boysI woke up early this Christmas morning to the sound of silence.  No whispers among brothers wondering if Santa came last night.  No scrambling of little boy feet at the top of the landing; impatiently waiting  for the grown ups to drag themselves out of bed so they could race down the stairs and get to their stockings. No feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air. No Santa Magic. I wasn’t sad.  Ok, I lied.  I was. This Christmas, more than any, I have missed my little boys. It’s the first Christmas we haven’t all woken up together and frankly the changes that having adult kids brings is sometimes hard to swallow; even more so than the stale cookies  your neighbor brought you.  ( sorry if I was that neighbor)

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve experienced some not so Holly Jolly Christmases when my kids were little. Brutal 24 hour car rides with toddlers and babies before the traveling savior of DVD’s and gameboys and headphones; and the only word one could say was cracker and he said it no less than 100 times in the first hour of the drive. And did I mention this was before headphones? And the Christmas Eve one kid had a raging ear infection and screamed non stop so I found myself driving in circles around Va Beach for hours in the middle of the night because that was the only way to get him to stop screaming. It was far from a Silent Night. There’s lots more not so merry Christmas stories, but I’ll spare you the details.

And let’s face it.  Christmas is A LOT of work.  The cooking and the baking and  the shopping and the wrapping. And so many times the expectations of the holiday can wreck you.  

But the joy of little ones on Christmas morning makes it all worth it.  That’s what I miss. I miss the dressing them up in Santa suits and christmas pjs. I mean how many pairs of plaid sleep pants can you get excited about opening on Christmas Eve? I miss finding that perfect toy that you keep telling them you couldn’t find so don’t get your hopes up. (anybody score a Hatchimal?) I miss seeing their faces light up as they peel back the first corner of wrapping paper,suddenly realizing what it is, then pausing to give you that gigantic smile before ripping the rest off in a frenzy; tossing paper like confetti behind them. I miss brothers in Christmas sweaters and matching plaid shirts. And I miss sitting back with my coffee and watching them play with hopes fulfilled in a sea of torn wrapping paper.





But I think what I am missing most is my boys  all being together. I thought it was the traditions and cookies and presents and trappings of Christmas that made the day  so special all those years, but now I realize it was them. Just them.

Christmas is really all about your people.

And when they are not with you at Christmas, it’s not really Christmas.  But as sad and nostalgic as I am this morning, I am one of the lucky ones. I may not be waking up to all my people, but I will get to be with some of them later. It won’t be our usual Christmas, but at least I will get to be with  most of my people.  For many though, this Christmas will be sad and lonely all day as they miss the people they have lost this year.  I know so many that will spend this Christmas for the first time without their person. And the loss they have already been feeling is multiplied as they wake up on Christmas morning knowing they will never share another christmas with the person that made their Christmas, Christmas.

So if you are with all your people today, rejoice and savor the moments. The presents and traditions and magic of christmas are really just about being with your people. And if you are weary this Christmas morning from raising kids and from all the work that goes into making Christmas memories, pause and soak it all in. Because this is what you will miss one Christmas morning in the not so distant future!

So from  my people and me, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. And even if we are missing our people, we can still celebrate the one person who came to earth as a little baby to  show us what love is and to be the one person we will never have to miss.


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Worn Out Pair of Jeans

I was going through my archived pictures the other day. And by archived I mean 24 years of pictures stuffed in shoe boxes waiting to be put in all those Creative Memory scrapbooks I purchased. And I found these…


And I saw the progression of my motherhood right there in front of me

 Tyler sitting up straight with his hands on his lap. So serious. Sunglasses on to protect his fragile eyes from the sun because I read somewhere that I needed to do that

Carter barely sitting long enough, his hands beside him ready to bound off the step and scale the nearest tree.  To it’s highest point; to my dismay.

Cameron posing extra cute, as he had already learned to do to be noticed, with bruised shins from lack of supervision.

And the shorts; threadbare, faded, and worn.

They looked a little like my heart.

Sometimes mothering feels  a little like a worn out pair of jeans

Changed from the wear and tear. Broken in. A little more comfortable than the first day you tried them on. Softer. More forgiving as the years of wear progress. But faded, too. Different than the original.






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And Then There Were None

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As of today, March 25th, I will have raised three boys into adulthood. Well, numerically and legally anyway. I’m still doing research on my theory that all males are really just 12 year old boys in a body that continues to age physically …its just a theory. It really is a bit of a miracle I survived all those parenting years. Sure, I somehow managed to do it as a single mom  while working multiple jobs. But that’s not the real miracle.

The real miracle is that I did it in a time without drive thru Starbucks, Target leggings, or parking spaces reserved for parents with children. It’s like I parented in the Dark Ages or something.

As a mom of all boys, I have had a few challenges. Thankfully, now that they are all young adults those challenges are a distant memory.  It’s been at least 8 years since I have had to tell any of them to get their hands out of their pants.  I never thought I would see the day, but they have all managed to use the bathroom without leaving it looking like a pee spattered crime scene. Now that 2/3 of them are out of the house and the third right behind them, I no longer have to watch every testosterone laden, sci fi , super hero movie to hit the big screen.  The other day I actually got to pick whatever movie I wanted on Amazon Prime and it was calm, and thoughtful, and educational.  No one got shot and nothing blew up! I can even walk into the family room free of any first person shooter games; and frankly I couldn’t be happier about that. There are no more Nerf gun fights terrorizing my house and no more stepping on Lego. (I just realized in my first draft I wrote Legos. Shame on me.  As a boy mom, I know better. The plural of Lego is Lego. Please don’t take my boy mom card. It was an honest editing mistake)  But even though I am happy that my boy mom challenges are behind me, I find myself struggling with this transition for reasons that have caught me by surprise.

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It’s not that I am sad. I don’t think I am anyway. I love my relationships with my young men. They are funny and interesting and I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s just that it feels a little like what you must feel when you cross the finish line of a marathon you didn’t train for.  The tears come because you are  relieved that you  finished the race. It was so hard. It required so much strength and stamina.  But they also come because you can’t believe it is over; that somehow you did it. Somehow you succeeded in achieving the goal: today they  are  all technically adults.  And as my friend Chookie says, now all I have to say  is, “Just so you know, I’ll visit you. But I’m not paying your bail!”

If I am being completely honest, I wasn’t always the most gracious mom of infants and toddlers. I used to dream of the day when my boys would be independent.  I loved parenting my kids, really I did.  But, I’m an extreme introvert and sometimes those kids were in my space way too  much.  Many times I wanted to  scream to my  6month old or my two year old, “Why won’t you leave me alone?  Would it kill you to  just give me a moment to myself.” ” Stop needing to be fed and read to.” “And for goodness sakes, stop asking me to play Candy Land” (or now Scrabble at 10pm which is the same thing except I can’t stack the deck so I pick Queen Frostine and then hope for double purple for the win!).


During those early years, I didn’t really get excited about some of those first milestones. Take their first steps, nothing special.  Say their first word, big deal. But the  day they could get up, pour their own cereal, and turn the TV on by themselves was the greatest day of my parenting journey. Let’s just say I was a much better mom of independent kids.

But then they are.

And then they leave you.


And now  I feel the need to dig my claws into their ankles and hang on for dear life. Which is quite the opposite of how it used to be. I will never forget the first day of kindergarten for  one of my kids; who shall remain nameless but decided to move to the other side of the world.  I literally (no, I mean literally, this is not a metaphor)  had to peel his hands off the school bus step railing, put my hands on his behind and push him up the stairs to get on the bus. I guess this is my payback. I mean, isn’t this what all the worry, work and sleepless nights were for – to send them out of the nest to make their own way in the world?

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But instead of doing the empty nest dance I dreamed of, I am crying every time I see banana pudding.

 Banana pudding is my new trigger. It makes me misty eyed and nostalgic.  It brings to the surface all the emotions I have been stuffing since my middle one told me he was leaving. There are so many things that make me miss him, but for some reason the banana pudding makes me cry. I wouldn’t get it every time I passed it on the salad bar at the grocery store, but I thought of him every time I did. It was his favorite. Also, who decided that would be the dessert on every salad bar in every grocery store?  But on occasion, I would bring some home to him just to say, “I thought of you and I want you to feel loved”.  So why does the banana pudding make me cry?

I guess it’s a brutal reminder that I am no longer able to mother him in that “your my child” kind of way. It’s a reminder that now I have to mother him like you’re a man now and I need to get out of the way and let you become a manlier version of the boy I raised.

It’s a reminder that I won’t be able to  know how he is really doing just by seeing how he moves through the house. He used to walk the path through the kitchen, to the dining room, down the hall, and back through the family room.  The number of times and the speed at which he moved told me all I needed to know. It was a barometer for me; measuring his internal pressure and stress. It was a way for me to know if he needed time alone, or a word of encouragement, or for me to just stand back and watch him figure it out.  And now I don’t know. And seeing those layers of soggy vanilla wafers smothered in Dwight Shrute,  yellow pudding scream at me that I am no longer the one to  be sure he is alright. It’s a reminder that I am no longer the one who is responsible for his daily needs. That I no longer can parent him in the little things. I am no longer the person  to check his pulse. 

And then I saw a picture of my oldest son.

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But it wasn’t my boy.  It was a picture of a man. I don’t know why it struck me the way it did.  I’ve known for a while that he was an adult. I mean, I’ve watched him graduate college, get a job, and fall in love.  I’ve even heard that  he cleans up after himself now. So I’ve known he’s been a grown up for a while. But today, for the first time, I actually saw the man. A man that I no longer have the responsibility to mold. He’s leaved and cleaved, like he should.  But now I need to learn my new role in his life.  When to help and when to back off. When to say something or when to just be quiet.

And I am wondering why I wanted those early years of parenting to pass.

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 I still have my 18 year old here a little while longer.  And since he is in college, we are doing the  I am giving you freedom but you are still living under my roof dance.   We are walking the tight rope of go on, step out, be independent; but you better be home by midnight and I am going to read your txts because I am paying for your phone bill. I can’t control who he dates or how long his hair is; though I desperately want to.  Oh! to be back in the days of play dates that I arranged. Now I can only pray that all those years of parenting trained him up in a way that he will be ok. That they all will be OK.


I don’t know why I so desperately wanted them to be independent. I would give anything to go back to the early parenting moments.  When they didn’t make the team, at least I was the one who could hug and comfort and cheer them on.  When  life wasn’t being fair, at least I was the one who could guide and lead and go to bat for them. When they were struggling with their calculus at least…yea never mind, they were on their own in the homework department since the 4th grade. But at least I could be there to tell them great job and you can do it. Now I wish I could step on a Lego.  It was a lot less painful than not seeing your kids for months or maybe years. That pain was a lot less traumatic than watching your child struggle with real life big issues and not being able to fix them.

It’s a tough thing learning to be the parent of  adults. I think I would rather have a Nerf gun fight and be able to put them to bed; even if their  hands are down their pants.

I wish there was a way to know you are in the good ole days before you have actually left them  -Andy from the Office

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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.









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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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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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