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Monday, April 3, 2017

Survival Mode

Today, I met with my accountant to have my taxes done.  My hope was just to drop them and run, but he sat me down to get the basics of my financial situation.  As I sat there blindsidedly explaining that I have been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years, and that I am newly single after 14 years and trying to get back on my feet and care for my 4 kids, and that we were never married so basically since I gave up and walked away, I now have nothing but my 4 precious children to show for my wholeheartedly devoting every moment of my life to raising my kids.  Nothing.  

When I broke, and left, and walked away from a very comfortable but love-lacking life, it was so necessary that I didn’t even care.  The fact that I had finally come to terms with the fact that he couldn’t love me like I needed,  the idea that I might one day find that love, the fact that I had my children, the fact that I had the pleasure of being home with them for over a decade while they were young and oh so precious,  all of that was enough.  I had been very blessed in many ways and it was priceless, but costs me a lot.  

I have a new found happiness.  It is liberating to let go of something I was holding on to with every fiber of my being but still never really had.   And I try very hard to focus on that, the silver lining to some dark, dark clouds.  But every so often, I’m forced to stand right under those clouds and endure the storm for a moment, like it or not.   Recently, I went to be interviewed for a job subbing at my childrens school.  The very first thing my interviewer mentioned was that I, unfortunately, did not have much recent work experience.  I was aware I would never be welcomed into the cold corporate world with my decade plus experience in full time child-rearing and housework, but to think that my devotion to children and the fact that I have four of them which is practically a classroom full, may not qualify for so much as working in a school hit  me like a lightening bolt.  But this is my reality now.  In this society, devoting myself to being a good mother and psuedo-wife makes me incredibly blessed and fortunate and entirely unqualified for anything else.  And the fact that I was ok not being worthy of marriage all those years leaves me entriley screwed.  Lucky me.  
But I do feel lucky…and hopeful, and optimistic.  And even though I explained my bleak financial reality to my accountant in the most positive and matter-of-fact and optimistic way, the storm clouds came as he looked at me and said “My dear, my heart breaks for you.  And every inch of your body language tells me you are in survival mode.”   And the thunder rolls…

It’s important to look on the bright side.  I am a hopeless optimist.  But these reality checks are important sometimes.  They serve as those little pushes I need to pick myself up and dust myself off.  They remind me that I do not deserve to walk away from everything I put into my family and our life with nothing, and that if there is only one way to fight for what I’m really worth, I have to stop being afraid. They help me to dig deeper.  

I am indeed in survival mode.  I’m trying to dig myself out of some very deep holes I have dug for myself despite all my best intentions, and I am standing in storm after storm, but I can see the silver lining, and I will survive.   




Thursday, February 16, 2017

One year later...

One year later…

I’ve learned that failure is an option.  That my best intentions do not guarantee a perfect outcome, and loving with all my heart and soul does not promise the same.  I’ve learned that no love at all is better than unrequited love.   I’ve learned that I’m very lovable and it’s his loss.  I’m very lovable.

I’ve learned that at my weakest, with a broken heart and shattered, defeated spirit, I can charge through the darkest battles with four kids in protective tow.  I can hit rock bottom and bounce right back.  

I've learned that when I'm hurt, I can be very stubborn when I should be courageous, but I tend to come around.  

I’ve learned that fathers will never ever let their little girls down, and that the more you say “Dad, I’m fine.  Please don’t worry about me”  the more sleep Dad loses at night.  

I’ve learned that my children are resilient and strong and open minded and observant.  I couldn’t explain why I shattered our perfect family a year ago, despite my agonizing, tearful attempts.  But I think that now that I can’t be with them every moment, distracting them from some of the painfully obvious imperfections in our family, the more they understand why I walked away from the man I loved so hard for so long.  I like to think all of my praying and pleading that my children would learn that I walked away from my relationship and not our family has paid off.  They know why I’m not there.  They know I’m here.  I have always been here.  I will always be here.  I also like to think that we have all learned a few lessons in love; how to love and be loved.  Love it or lose it. 

I’ve learned that it is very difficult to get back on my feet after 12 years of raising kids and depending on a very strong, capable, hard working man.  It’s also very terrifying.  It’s also life changing and liberating.  I have the power to hold out for a most powerful and satisfying yet insatiably passionate love.  Somehow it makes me feel fearless.  

I’ve learned that I’m a lover.  It’s what I do.  I love people.  I’m passionate about it.  I pour my loving, generous soul into making my loved ones feel loved.  And I don’t really ask for much in return.  Raising kids is a thoroughly selfless and thankless job.  But if there is one thing I know for absolute certain, it’s that my babies love and adore and appreciate me more than anyone else in the whole wide world.  They can’t get enough of me.  It’s smothering and sometimes I think it might kill me, but it’s my absolute favorite thing in the world.  There is something far more tolerable and satisfying about the suffocating, ungrateful love and adoration of my children that seems more fixable than 14 years of unrequited love from the man I gave my all.  I’m too lovable for unrequited love. 
I’ve learned that I am my own worst enemy when I am heartbroken, and that even at the age of 40, I can still make some devastating, heartless mistakes and hurt people I love most in the world.  The kind of mistake that, when forgiven, reminds you that love is essential.  Love is friendship.  Love is all around.  Love is forever.  Love conquers all.  


I've learned that we are all in need of forgiveness.  To forgive, to be forgiven, to heal.  And this year, the universe, in it’s infinite wisdom, taught me a lesson about forgiveness that unleashed a ripple effect among my loved ones that tore us down just to set us up to rebuild, stronger.  i've learned to trust the universe.

I’ve learned that there are some very angry people out there.  People who will take your best intentions and weakest moment and use them to their advantage and your detrement.  Just because.  But…forgiveness. 

I’ve learned that some friendships are literally like life lines that get tattooed on our destiny for better or worse.  Eternal friendship.  

I've learned that Mr. Perfect is out there.  That mutual passion is out there.  That some men are not afraid of 4 kids.  That I'm worthy of hearing "I love you" and seeing it in his eyes.  That I'm not ready for Mr. Perfect yet. 

I've learned that the most improbable, unexpected and nonsensical events can be dead on.  

I’ve learned that some things are inevitable because the universe says so.  And that the more I tell the universe that I’m’ not going to do something, the more it reminds me not to give up on love.  The more I insist that my shattered heart is ice cold, the more the universe reminds me that I am a lover by nature.  The more I resent never having  heard “I love you” and swearing that I don’t want it anymore anyway, the more the universe hands it me and challenges me to know what to do with it now.  I am lovable.  I’m a lover.  Love is inevitable for me…

someday.  
















Friday, January 13, 2017

Lessons (and Blessings) from the Pediatric Wing

There is a lot to be learned when you spend an unanticipated 5 days in the hospital with your 7 year old son with a broken arm, a bone infection, and the patience of…a 7 year old.  It would be easy to feel sorry for ourselves.  And while one of us did understandably pity himself, I found myself humbled by just how fortunate we really are.  Even our most unfortunate circumstances can shed some positive perspective on the bigger picture.  

As I sat (and sat and sat and sat) in that hospital room with  my grumpy son, and endured his abuse as he barked orders at me and insisted I was falling short in every way and that it was all my fault that they wouldn’t let him go home, all while we both knew that there was no one else in the whole wide world he wanted by his side than his flawed and infinitley patient mommy, I was reminded, everywhere I looked, that things could be much, much worse. 

It all began when our 16 year old roomate joined us.  His father and sister dropped him off for a stomach issue.  As I sat on the other side of our curtian divider, drowning in their stench of what could only be described as a chain smoking, filthy old kitty litter box, I listened to the nurses ask their millions of questions and made a few humbling discoveries right away; He and his barely older sister live alone together, mom is barely in the picture at all, and dad couldn’t get out there fast enough, and would “come back for him when they were ready to let him out”.  Otherwise, this kid was on his own.  And for the next three days, he laid there, alone, with what I can only imagine were his only constants in life, video games, and that stench, 

Now, while a different kind of person may have thrown a fit about having to share a room with that odor and its attached sad reality, I couldn’t bear the thought of this boy being put in a room anymore empty and lonely than his life already appeared to be.  So I sucked it up (while trying not to breath unless my life depended on it.  It's as hard as it sounds).  

I had high hopes that this smelly experiece could somehow serve as a teachable moment for my son.  I knew it would be heartbreaking to watch his family NOT show up or even call day after day.  But I thought it might help my cranky, meaner than usual, impossible to please son, realize how lucky he was.  It didn’t.  He was unphased, because he’s 7 and all.  The misfortunes of our roomate did not overshadow the needles and medicines and procedures and inedible hospital food and unfortunate diagnosis that led to day after day of “sorry kid, you can’t leave yet.”  I didn’t blame him for his lack of compassion.  He was enduring a lot.  And between the curtain seperating us from each other, the body’s ability to grow accustome to fowl odor, and the heartbreaking silence of our roomate’s loneliness, I suppose it was all too easy for my son to pretend he was the only poor kid in the room.  

By the 3 or 4th day of being a dedicated, doting, loving, failure of a mother in the ungrateful eyes of my son, and listening to his pity parties every few minutes, and his harsh critiques of my every unconditional-love filled move, I started shooting him some serious glaring, warning looks.   I was hoping he would somehow hear my unspoken lecture shooting out of my eyes.  Every time he asked to go home and was told no and responded with an “I hate my life!”, my teeth would clench and my eyes would fill with words I needed him to see, because screaming “why don’t you count your blessings that you’re not the little baby next door who just had brain surgery, or the newborn baby down the hall who hasn’t even gotten to go home yet because she’s too sick, or the kids who are so sick they can’t even get out of bed, or the kids who have been here for months, or the kid who’s parents don’t even care enough to visit or call!” would  be insensitive to the children and parents who were living in that reality.  As if they needed a reminder that they were worse off than us.  

My son didn’t see a single word of my silent lecture screaming from my eyes.  And a part of me started wishing and hoping that our lonely neighbor behind the curtain was growing tired of listening to my ungrateful boy not appreciate his mother and her unyielding efforts to meet his every want and need.  I began wishifully thinking that he would suddenly snap and start spewing words of wisdom from behind that curtain like the great and powerful Wizard of the Pediatric Wing that went something like:

"hey kid, do you know how lucky you are to have two parents who have been by your side every single second doing everything and anything they can for you?! If I were you I would stop being such an ungrateful little *******!”   

But he remained as silent about my bratty kid as we did about his odor.  

Aside from my sleepless first night on a broken, non-reclining recliner, and in spite of my understandaly miserable, thankless child, I tried not to complain too much.  Because if there is one things to be learned in the pediatric wing of hospital, it is that, if you’re lucky, things could be much, much worse.  We were lucky.


We’ve got a long road ahead of us.  And I hate what my boy is going through this.   But I hope that one day, he looks back and remembers the sick kids who were stuck there through no fault of their own, (and not because they chose to jump off the top of a playground), or the kids who were not even aware that there was a world beyond those hospital doors, or the boy who’s parents didn’t care enough to be there, and maybe even his own parents, who were there every second, and who would have taken his place in that hospital bed if they could have.  I will never forget.  Blessed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dear Heartbroken Children (a therapeutic letter that I will never send)

Dear kids, (I will never share this with my children because it's far too honest for innocent victims of their parents crashing and burning.  It's really more about reminding myself (and forgiving myself) why i broke up my family.   It's just...therapy)

I’m so sorry.  I’m not sorry that my relationship failed, because I know I gave it my all.  I’m not sorry that I left, because I know I had to.  But I’m sorry that you have to endure the fallout from your parents mistakes.  I’m sorry that I had to shatter your perfect world, the very world that I created for you.   I’m sorry that I spent your entire lives striving to create an enviornment that is safe and happy and loving, only to have to make the hardest decision of my life to rattle all off that for a moment.  

I’m sorry that I’m asking you to try and understand things that there is no possible way you could understand.  I don’t even understand a lot of this right now.  I’m sorry that the best I can do right now is to ask you to trust me, all while you watch me flailing a little. 

I’m sorry that your father never wanted to marry me, and I’m sorry that I ever thought that was ok.  I’m sorry for not sharing your last name even though you are my whole life.  I’m sorry that all those years of bringing my babies into this world and devoting every waking moment to ensuring that you are thriving and happy, made me so blissfully blind to the possibility that he just didn’t love me the way I loved him.  You shouldn’t have had to overcompensate for that, but thank you.  I will forever be grateful to you for always being to key to my genuine happiness.  

I’m sorry that I hung in there for so long, trying to endure the anger and intolerance and resentment and pretending that I could tolerate it. I wanted to shield you all from that as best I could.  I took a lot of those bullets for you (and will until the day I die) and it was only a matter of time before that battle knocked me down.  I’m tired and scarred, but i’m recovering, trust me.  

I’m sorry that I took myself for granted, so much so, that I it was ok if the man I loved and cherished and nurtured never told me that he loved me.  I’m sorry for being so very patient and relentless in trying to earn that and ultimately convincing us all that I could go on doing that forever.  That was a mistake, and it will never happen again.  Trust me.  

I’m sorry for suggesting that someone’s relentless selfishness can be tolerated and forgiven with the occasional grand gesture.  It can’t, trust me.

I’m sorry for your father’s disinterest and for all of the excuses I made for it.  I’m sorry for ever going along with the idea that daddy’s work is more important than your pre-k graduations or concerts or any other brief shining moments in your childhood.  I never once believed that, I just knew I couldn’t change it.  

I’m sorry that you’re scared for me.  I’m sorry that you worry about how I will survive without daddy.  I’m sorry if I taught you that I can’t take care of myself just because I have dedicated my life to taking care of all of you.  I’m going to be just fine.  We are all going to be just fine.  Trust me.

I’m sorry that I hurt your father.  I loved him and fought for him until the bitter end.  I would have done anything for him, all while knowing I couldn’t really expect the same in return. That hurt me.  Trust me. 

I’m sorry that we are all hurting now just because my pain got too unbearable to handle anymore.  I would give anything to carry this burden on my own.  I spent more than a decade trying to ensure that my family was nothing but happy, and trying to protect all of you from pain and heartache only to make you a casualty of my own broken heart.  I never saw that coming, trust me.  


We will all be ok.  This moment is dark and uncertain and often tearfully blurry, but the future will be everything I ever dreamed of for you.  Trust me.  I will singlehandedly survive and care for myself and my children and you will be proud of me.  Your father may learn not to take loved ones or fleeting moments for granted.  I hope that you will all learn how important it is to love unabashedly and selflesly, and to never settle for less than you deserve and that it’s ok to walk away from anything less, even when it feels very, very not ok.   And I know that we will all learn how resiliant we are when we come out of all this feeling as safe and loved and happy as we ever were.  Trust me.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lock Her Up!

I have a beautiful daughter.  Like, discovered by a modeling agent while eating a muffin in a coffee shop kinda beautiful.  And whenever I share a picture of her, I hear a lot of suggestions to  “lock her up!”   Let me tell you something folks- would if i could.  WOULD IF I COULD!  

Sure it sounds a little extreme to lock up an innocent 12 year old child simply because she is dangerously beautiful, but it would certainly make for a better nights sleep.  Instead, I have many a sleepless night composing my gentle warnings about growing up gorgeous in a horny world full of pigs who will all too often believe it is their right to oink at her anytime, anywhere.  It is terrifying to watch my little girl blossom into a beautiful young woman long before either of us are ready.  

It’s not just about inspiring her to find a man worthy of her and as greatful for her kind heart as he is for her knock out looks.  While I would love to spare her the aggrivation of wasting time on all of the mr. wrongs, I wouldn’t want to cheat her out of the knowlege that grows from weeding them out.  But  more importantly (perhaps) I need her to beware of the endless supply of goons who will have the balls to say and do innappropriate things everywhere she goes.  The cat calls on the streets, the comments in the workplace, the corny lines from strangers anywhere and everywhere, the rumors from the most pathetic fellas who actually make up stories to boost their egos, her brother’s friends, her girlfriend’s boyfriends, her boyfriend’s friends, her bosses, her teachers, and (brace yourselves) her father’s friends (I know, I get the willies just typing it).  I may sound paranoid or extreme, but I too was young and hot once upon a time, and I have seen and heard it all (or at least, more than enough).  

While I would like to teach her how to take down every one of these assholes, I don’t want her going through life fighting a battle around every corner.  I want to teach her how to roll with it with enough strength and self respect to fend it off.  I want her to accept compliments with genuine graciousness and very clear disinterest.  I want her to gently tell the corny guy with the corny lines that he’s corny, kindly and for his own good.  I want her to go easy on the flirting because an accidental glance in a young boy’s direction will have him convinced that she desperatly wants him.  I want her to be vigilante and safe and aware of the dangers lurking around her and to never feel as invincible as i foolishly did once upon a time.  

And finally, I want her to recognize the difference between the guy who hit on her because he had nothing to lose, and the guy who had to muster up the courage to talk to her because he feels as though everything is riding on it.  


I want her to ooze self respect, confidence and humility in a society that is going to constantly challenge all of those things based on her looks.  I want her to learn, very quickly, that she should set her standards high and never settle.  I want her to be grateful to be cursed with physical beauty, but to continue to nurture her beautiful soul.  I want her to surprise people with how much more she has to offer.  And as much as I like to imagine effective daily lectures while she’s locked in a tower for 30 years, I know that the only way for her build that kind of character is to endure the challenges (while I lurk closely in the shadows with my mace).  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Heather Von St James

This is the story of Heather von St James; a mother, a warrior, a survivor. This is her experience. These are her words. I am in awe.  You can read more about Heather on her blog http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather

Seeing the Best in Life

It is funny how events in life can really bring home the meaning of a phrase. Such is the case for me with the saying, "It takes a village." The phrase is typically followed by, "to raise a child", but it can have many meanings. For me, it means that sometimes it takes a village to care for a child when it's parents are in need.

My first and only child, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005. The pregnancy went relatively well and she was born healthy. I was seemingly healthy too. Our families and friends arrived and immediately surrounded us with their love. Things were great until Lily was a little over three months old. I was feeling run down. I was constantly tired and breathless. I knew this was something new mothers experienced, but I just had a feeling it was something different. I went to my doctor who, after a myriad of tests, told me i had malignant pleural mesothelioma and 15 months to live, if I did not get treatment.

All I could think of was Lily and my husband. My beautiful baby without a mom and my husband struggling to raise her alone. The treatment options for mesothelioma are grueling and harsh, but I knew I needed to do it. So, I decided to undergo the most drastic one that I had--surgery to remove my left lung and all of the surrounding tissue, chemotherapy and radiation. I was not going to be able to fulfill my duties as a new mother while all of this was going on. It turned out, that would not be a problem. My family, friends and their friends built up a village around Lily. That is when the phrase "It takes a village" hit home for me.

My husband and I went to Boston so I could get treatment and surgery while our darling daughter stayed with my parents in my childhood home of South Dakota. Not only were they helping Lily, and us, but others were helping them as well. It was amazing to see so many people there in our time of need. Lily was in South Dakota learning, growing and being loved. I was in Boston, getting pictures, making friends who were struggling like myself and reminding myself that all of the struggles were for Lily. She was in a good place and I was making sure I would live to see her grow up.

Now that my surgery, recovery and subsequent months of dufficult treatment are over and many years have passed since those awful times, I can really appreciate Lily's village and enjoy life. We know that our lives are fragile and we want to make sure we make the most of every precious second.

No matter what life throws at you, take it and run with it. Even clouds can have silver linings. Cancer is odd like that. We were hit with just about the worst news we could have got in that period of our lives. However,a lot of good came out of it and I am happy for that. I have made new friends, solidified relationships, really seen the best in people I love, and most of all, I have Lily.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Triumphant Chidren and their Patient Parents

My sweet Little Leo is such a little pain in the ass lately. And it's a different pain in the ass than he was a couple of months ago. He is better behaved, but he is suddenly helpless. Every single sentence that I begin with "Leo can you please..." is answered with "can you please help me?" Somehow, my proud, independent boy suddenly decided that he cannot get himself dressed, put on his shoes, brush his teeth, or find ANYTHING himself. It breaks his little heart when I ask do something all while I am doing those very things for his little brother and sister. I must not love him anymore if I don't want to do every single thing in the whole wide world for him for the rest of his life.

But we are getting past this. I am constantly reminding him that there are still millions and millions of things that I have to do, want to do, or am legally obligated to do every single day for many, many years to come, so if he could be a big boy once or twice a day, I would consider it a favor and love him even more, and maybe even give him some candy.

One of my first born's first sentences was "I can do it myself". It made me so proud. I was raising an independent child. A girl no less; a strong, self reliant little woman. Just what the world needs more of. Four kids later, and I can say with decent certainty that this is a phase most kids inevitably go through. The key is to make it stick.

And because I have four children, I take this responsibility VERY seriously. My life depends on it. It is just not humanly possible to do EVERYTHING for EVERYONE ALL THE TIME! I CANNOT even answer to EVERY "MOMMY" that they bombard me with daily...minutely...secondly. It would destroy me. I'm only hanging on by a thread as it is. I can't imagine how insane I would be if I answered the 50%-70% (probably more) that I ignore.

So, the second that I start to see them attempting to exert some independence, I run with it. If my 13 month old reaches for the baby wipe in my hand while I'm changing her, I don't logically assume that she just wants to eat it, I'm optimistically thinking that maybe she wants to wipe her own poop off her own butt, and I'm willing to let her try. And she may try, and THEN she will attempt to eat it. And it was still worth a try.

Their early attempts at emancipation almost always end in disaster. And they will absolutely ALWAYS create more work for me. It takes a very patient parent to foster and encourage the autonomy of a toddler. Before I had kids, I was the most patient person I knew. Now I just feel a little less crazy than one or two other really crazy people I know. But I still try to let them try most of the time.

I clean up a lot of spilled juice because I have heard the question "mommy can I please have some juice" one too many times, and now, sometimes I just flat out refuse out of protest. So they have no choice but to try and get it themselves. And I'm really ok with having to clean up the mess, as long as it means I didn't have to get the damn juice!

I frequently go out in public with at least one child who has his/her shoes on the wrong feet, because at least they did it by themselves and shaved a good thirty seconds of off the 45 minutes it takes me to get us all out of the house.

I have cleaned my share of potty training incidents because, as long as it meant that we were working towards the goal of me changing a few less diapers in a day, I was perfectly willing to give them some "privacy" on the training pottty, only to come back and find a successful attempt to poop on the potty, a very proud two year old, and a celebratory smearing of the poop all over the bathroom afterwards.

I am in a constant wardrobe war with my children's clothes because I insist some of them get themselves dressed in the morning, which for some reason seems to translate to "pull out every piece of clothing that you own and throw it on your floor and then pick out the same two pieces of clothes you wear every single day". So it's ok that I'll have to re-fold all those clothes that it took me four days to get to folding in the first place. It's ok that I'll have to sniff through all of them to sort out which ones are clean and which ones smell like my funky kids. It's ok that Leo goes to preschool in ripped pants. It's not the end of the world that Madeline went to school two days in a row in the exact same pants and sweatshirt,looking like she slept in those clothes. "It's fine Mommy, I changed my under ware." And it doesn't bother me at all that they both, frequently, wear two different socks, or that my otherwise intelligent and articulate 8 year old daughter, occasionally still puts her jeans on backwards and walks out the door (yes, I know, she sounds just like her mother). The point is, it is two less people that I have to dress every day.

On the occasionally rough morning, I applaud any child that climbed up onto the kitchen counter and snuck into the cookie jar to steal a cookie, because at least they took the initiative to get themselves breakfast without pestering me before I had ample amounts of coffee.

I have eaten many a shard of egg shell because Lennox wants to help me cook, and I've sacrificed many a beautiful flower or plant in my garden because Leo wants to help me "pull the weeds". They want to HELP ME. I would be a fool not to encourage that behavior.

I suppose if I only had one or two kids, it would be fun and cute and special to dote over them and wish for them to need me for the rest of their lives. But around here, there is simply no time for that. In this house, we are all learning survival skills. If we are going to thrive as a family, we are all going to have to learn to function as individuals, and leave Mommy the hell alone sometimes!

These are the milestones that I look forward to. I still get a huge kick out of first steps and first words. But the first time one of my kids wipes their own butt really brings a proud and thankful tear to my eye. My kids will always need me, not to do things for them, but perhaps to remind them that they can do it themselves; to tell them that they are capable and wonderful, and to smother them in hugs and kisses and love whenever I please. Otherwise, they're screwed.