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Monday, December 30, 2013

Guess Not

It's funny how when we get older we are apt to share little stories about ourselves that.....at the time we were doing these things, we would rather DIE than admit what we had done.  So it is with the "Guess Jeans..." incident.  These were the "in" thing when I was in middle school and you were a complete dork if your jeans didn't come affixed with the telling little triangle that screamed "Like me, like me....I am wearing designer jeans!!"  I know, lame, but such is the way of the world in the fishbowl called middle school.  I am not sure where my family stood financially back in those days.  It was confusing.  One week we were too poor to order pizza, the next my family was headed out to eat at a restaurant. What I do know is that when clothing shopping time came around, I was carted off to the discount stores by my grandmother and her magic plastic card and although I was never given a limit of things I could buy, I was well aware not to ask for too much.  The day I found the labeled jeans in a Ross Dress for Less was magic.  I could finally be cool.  Not only would the girls accept me, the boys would like me too.  After all, I now had designer jeans.  I was IN.

Or not.  It didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things with the boys, but the girls did pay attention.  They always do to such things.  The jeans were ugly.  Too light for my taste and I felt stupid in them to be completely honest.  I mean they were just JEANS.  Baggy in the butt, loose in the thighs....but I wore them....acceptably enough to make sure everyone knew I still owned them.  The problem started when the temperatures started creeping up and those cool girl jeans made for a very hot pre-teen and not the swaggering, hair flipping kind of cool.  I was sweating my butt off.  And so I had to put the jeans away and swap out for a pair of white shorts that became my staple.  Always the creative type, one night it hit me...my white shorts could be designer too!  I mean the only different between my Walmart piece of crap pants and my ugly designer jeans was that tiny little red and white triangle asking those looking at my tush to GUESS something or another.  I'd simply take the label off the jeans and sew them on the shorts.  BRILLIANT!
It worked.  No one suspected a thing.  I did tell a friend after many months of having worn the shorts....a friend with similar financial circumstances and with a similar not so cool house....and well, in typical true girl world fashion she thought it was awesome until she got miffed over me wearing the same shirt one day (or some equally abhorrent offense) and told a bunch of girls.  Lovely.

It was an embarrassing incident, that whole label slapping thing, but as an adult, I can see where I've still been slapping labels on things not meant for them.  One recurrent theme in my life is giving the label "friend" out like candy, not realizing...it belongs on one kind of person only, not the string of people who will flow in and out of my life as I go through it.  It's a lesson I keep having to learn and one of the most painful I've experienced in my life....from way back then...to now.

Jamie is always telling me I am way, way, way too quick to trust people with my respect . I immediately "click" with someone based on some arbitrary thing like....knitting, or how many children they have...or that they like plaid curtains in red, gold and green like me...and think "This person IS AWESOME..." and then...the let down.  Then I realize this person will gossip about me, ask me to do things for them that I simply don't have time to do (knowing I don't really have time but not really taking that into consideration) and asking me to participate in the fantasy they've created for themselves about their life.  I am not talking having disagreements or even heated debates about things we find passionate (I love that)...I am talking "This is how my life is and even though I don't do any of the things I say I value....and even though everyone else says I am not doing this thing...I need you...if you are my FRIEND to validate and agree with everything I say and see that I really am awesome and if you don't....I'm going to bring YOU down until you feel so low you have no choice but to agree with me or become friendless..."  This has happened to me year after year....after year.  But then....someone else came along....and became a friend.  A real one....and things changed.

This person never once told me 'You should do this...or that....or this..." This person doesn't gossip about other people but is also not shy about making clear who they will/will not socialize with and why.  No further details...just the facts.  Open and shut.  Without all this crazy emotion girls usually have.  She told me one time how to handle something that really upset me....gave me the exact WORDS to say and she was so confident in them that I was blown away.  You mean I don't have to explain my position?  Nope.  I don't have to make the other person see it my way?  Nope.  I don't have to bend over backwards to get them to like me even if it means I don't like myself in the process.  HECK NO.

And I don't need anyone's permission to decide they are no good for me.  I don't have to be nicey nice about it but I also don't need to talk about it to those who aren't involved.  I can make that decision FOR ME.  ME.  I don't have to justify it.  I know this might be old news to other people, but it was an epiphany for me.  I always felt like if someone liked me, I had to like them back and I had to give the friendship my all.  Quite often my all was denying my beliefs about everything under the sun so as not to offend, allowing myself to be walked all over, exposing myself to all kinds of nonsense that I didn't agree with and unfortunately dragging my children into the fray with me.  This past time, my  husband also got a little piece of the action (wait, that sounded REALLY REALLY BAD LOL!!! Get your mind out of the gutter.  My husband was "tattled on" in a very juvenile way that made him look even better in the place in which he was tattled on and the tattler looking like a complete ass.  Justice has been served).  This friend has no idea that I know....but I do ;)  And that friend was very swiftly erased from all facets of my life.  Good riddance and good luck.

I'm still not sure what the label friend is going to mean for me in the future.  I have a few ideas. I'm sure they will change over time, as everything does, but there are a few things I know for sure...

1. Don't gossip about me.  I am way too open about everything for you to ever find the need to talk to someone ELSE about what you THINK is happening with me.  Ask me.  I'll tell you.  As a matter of fact, I'll tell you more than you want to know most likely.  I don't hide a whole bunch.  I keep some things private, but they are so private no one would even have enough information to gossip about it.  If you want more information about ME...ask ME.  Otherwise what you are doing is making yourself feel better by putting me down.  Definitely not a good friendship quality.

2. Don't lie. Seriously, this is one thing I will never, ever, ever be able to stand.  Lying serves zero purpose.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you have to lie about something, you shouldn't have done it.  And you don't stand behind it.  And you can't change what you need to change and neither can I.  It's stupid.

3. Don't be (too) weird.  Don't listen to a concern I have and go off into tinfoil hat land on me and expect me to agree.  Like...seriously.  I am still reeling over a situation I had with a writing client who was too pushy. They wanted a lot out of me.  When I tried to explain to someone how invasive it felt, I was told that client was probably trying to get close to me to steal my bank account information.  What?  I mean....how does your mind even go there?  Get outdoors ye weirdo and  realize the world we're living in isn't the Matrix.  Yet.

4. Don't think I think like you.  Another thing still making me go "hmmmm" was a confession that a certain person liked me at first but was afraid that my family would do a, b and c.  I spent so much time trying to convince this person we were NOT LIKE THAT....(cause we're not...don't want to get too involved here) that it never once occurred to me to ask myself "Wait, why on earth would you think we would???'  Simple answer?  Because YOU would.  And that's not okay with me.  I need to use a lot more of my brain cells when things come up like this.  My immediate reaction is to soothe the other person and assure them I won't like, steal their household goods while they use the bathroom when I visit....or turn them in for child abuse because they aren't Christian.....when I should be asking "Why on earth would they think like that in the first place..."

5. Don't treat me poorly.  I know this should be a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people who want to be labeled a friend just won't do the work required.  They want to receive the blessing of having a friend but not being one.  And honestly, I'll give until I'm so frustrated and upset that I want to hole up in my own house forever.  Thankfully, my husband has committed to helping me in this area.  After years and years of seeing me hurt, he's finally feeling like it's okay to say "Hey this person really isn't good for you..." He was hesitant in years past to do so because he doesn't want ot be that mean, controlling jerk, but...thing is.  He's the person I chose to spend my life with and knows me  better than anyone else.  It's not controlling or mean to see a pattern of behavior that just crushes me and remind me....look out.

6. Worship my ability with yarn.

7. Just kidding ;)

I have faith. A lot of it.  In people, in my ability to have good friendships...in my ability to recognize the people that ARE good for me and those we are not.  I've spent some time in recent months mourning many relationships that I wish were one thing and realizing they were not, but in that realizing the reason I could recognize it was because I was forming REAL ones.  I had to realize I don't have the relationship with some friends I wanted, but that others were there for me through something awful.....I had to mourn the relationship I do not have with  my mom or my siblings....all the while talking to the cousin who was my BEST FRIEND (seriously) until we were separated due to family drama when we were younger.  I also realized though the last few months that my husband absolutely adores me.  I mean, I always knew we clicked, but lately....through a lot of prayer and time together and counseling I have realized anew...we have something amazing.  I mean AMAZING.  I always took for granted how close we were, how connected and how well matched.  We had a dream, together and getting there was so hard we kind of forgot to look around and realize "Wait, we did it...we're here, it really happened...."  It's still happening.

The best news is, I don't give a rat's tush what my jeans say these days.  I really don't.  I think my favorite pair are the ugly elastic waist pair I can throw on no matter what the number on the scale says or what stage of baby making I'm in.  No label on the butt to be found.  So if you want to  know what brand they are...you just going to have to guess ;)  Ha!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lessons from The Cookie Girl

Man alive, what a whirlwind couple weeks!!  I have sat here contemplating this post since my first Cookie Girl inquisition and I am a little shocked by the manifestation of so many other issues that have popped up and at this point I am more amused than annoyed (which is a good thing) and even more intrigued about human nature in general.

Let me recap for you.  Many, many months ago (I'm thinking it was well over a year ago actually) Jamie brought home "cookies" (they were actually muffins) from a gal at work, that she made him as a thank you for changing her tire, which was flat.  I didn't love it then and yet, nothing really came out of it.  I laughed it off and gave them to the kids and it was done, but then...

In the past couple of weeks, as we've gone through counseling (more on that below) she was brought up again, not by me, but by Jamie.  He explained this girl had gotten increasingly more friendly as the months went on, asking personal questions and sharing her own personal details, to a point where my husband felt it was bordering on inappropriate.  This came up as we were discussing what marriage means and what boundaries were there and what we COULD "give" other people while saving our most precious selves for each other.  This was a philosophical discussion, not at all an argument, but I told him how weird it was for me that the cookie thing was unsettling for me in light of all the food that's ever been brought home from other people (there's been a lot! Jamie loves food and people love him, so we've been gifted very often with yumminess!) and how I wondered, what that intuition on my part?  I found that idea fascinating.

I've been told I'm "blowing it out of proportion" or "giving her more power" and to this I've kind of been like "What? Seriously?  Do you even understand what is happening here?" and I will say I strongly disagree with this line of thinking.  Blowing this out of proportion would mean something entirely different...like accusing my husband of doing something wrong (never happened), thinking this person was this major threat in my life (I don't....more on that below) or being so upset and worried that I couldn't see the lesson in all this (and I do...)  And giving her power?  Not really.  I wasn't concerned with how often my husband saw her on a weekly basis, or what she looked like, or really anything about her, but I will say once he had the 'These are my lines talk" and she blatantly ignored him and started sharing even MORE personal information, that is when the indignation came into play and not because she was a threat to my marriage, but because....well...as dumb as it sounds, it was rude.  And y'all...that is my MO on any and every situation I run across.  The lady yelling at me at the gas pump to buy her gas?  Same reaction.  I posted on Facebook, laughed about it, pondered what on earth made this women think she could/should do that....and any number of interactions I've had with people on this planet who seemed to have been absent in the "Normal Human Behavior 101" class :)  What blew my mind wasn't that she had "caused problems" in someone else's marriage (again, see below) it was that after the "Dude TMI..." she shared...MORE TMI.  Right now, I'm grinning ear to ear about the irony of it, but honestly....that is not giving anyone "too much power" that is just being introspective and inquisitive about human behavior and in that, I'm guilty as charged.  I could list 100 things that have happened in the last year alone that have made me...O.O.....

And as always is the case in my life, I've learned a whole lot from "Cookie Girl" and the conversations with my husband and friends surrounding her, and have a few more "life tidbits" to add to my collection that I'm quite pleased to have ;)  Things I've learned through this:

#1- There isn't a one person who is a "threat to marriage" if that marriage is good to begin with.  I am not concerned with Cookie Girl's intentions because no matter what they were....without my husband "taking the bait" it's a moot point.  She could have baked those in a silky nightie, chanting a love spell and adding some special aphrodisiac to the mix for all I know (or care)  In the end, no matter what HER intentions are, it's only my husband's that matter in the mix of our relationship.  No one else's intentions can harm US, if OUR intentions are good.  A hook can't catch ya unless you bite down on it....you know what I mean?  Which made me so happily aware of.....

#2- My husband didn't bite down ;)  He handled it well, with grace and maturity and most importantly, awareness.  Of all the times anyone has been nice and friendly with him, he was aware enough to admit this was a bit different, and even though he was 100% sure of what the other person was thinking or feeling, he knew enough about his boundaries and comfort level that he gave himself permission to admit "Something ain't right here..."

#3- Communication is KEY.  The way we discussed this situation ultimately gave us a firm foundation of where our boundaries really do lie.  I asked him certain questions (No, not about what she was weraing LOL!!) but "What questions made you uncomfortable."  He listed several and I pointed out that most of these seemed rather benign and just normal curiosity, until he got the few about ME and our marriage and we both came to an agreement that if someone of the opposite sex is flattering us, sharing personal information about their lives and THEN starts asking us if we are "happy" with each other, we are shutting them down.  Anything else, we feel like is normal human interaction.  Poking a stick into our "marital happiness" is a line we aren't going to allow anyone to cross because it's not the appropriate venue to discuss marital issues.  If we have an issue with each other, an opposite sex kindafriend isn't the right outlet to discuss these things and the bottom line for us was this.  After 16 years of marriage, this is the first time we've ever even TRIED to define this and I felt like it was this huge "wow" moment.  I feel so secure knowing that we both agree on this...and that outside that, we can share whatever we wish freely with those we like to talk to.

And so, there was a lot to be learned from something so simply and that's how I roll. My BFF laughed at me though and pointed something out yesterday, "Well Melissa, you've sort of mentioned y'all are in therapy and getting counseling...and you know...there might be people who really think this is what it's about..and that Jamie is a big fat cheater and this is what the problem is..." And I laughed.  She's right, but really..no y'all, that's not what the counseling is about and since I am an open book, and have had a couple weeks to process it all, I'll share a bit about what's going on (if you haven't fallen asleep reading this yet!!!)

So Jamie started counseling on November 1st and after that first appointment, we have gone every week since then together.  And I know most people think "Counseling??? OMG, what HAPPENED???" and that might be a bit disappointing to those who love juicy gossip because it's really not that interesting.

One word: Stress.  Like over the top, all consuming, life altering and almost shattering stress.

But let's back up a little bit.  Most people know Jamie has a job that's high stress and high stakes.  Ordinarily, he handles it well.  But if you remember all my posts about him not being able to remember how to tie his shoes and forgetting everything all the time, while in class, understand this has been building.  Also, in the mix is that Jamie has always done excellent at every single thing he has attempted and he's done this without maximum effort. He's never taken anything lightly, but when he got his almost perfect GPA in Nuclear Engineering (in a TOUGH program!) he was also a supervisor in a high stakes job, still a hands on dad and even did math in our homeschooling back then.  During those years we moved three times, went through the death our son, his grandmother and his mother, had some major family falling out, a lawsuit to content with and hey, even had three babies.  Holy schmoly...and he still did AWESOME.  Awesome grades, awards at work, no complaints from me or his children about his role and importance in our life.  He was juggling all the balls and doing it well.

With this job...he put in MAXIMUM effort, and still didn't perform the best. He made it through.  He made the right grades and got through this round of training, but he morphed before my very eyes.  At first it was just supreme forgetfulness.  Then it became him just completely going zombie.  He wasn't exercising, or playing his banjo, or really doing anything he enjoyed.  Just sort of existing and I HATED it.  I knew the clock was ticking and eventually he'd be done and we'd be fine, but it was still going downhill.

I knew it wasn't okay when he started saying things to me like "I hate it when you put me down..." when I'd say "Hey can you throw your shorts in the drawer instead of the rack?  I made a space for them..."  Normal Jamie would have said to me "I just left them out so you'd know...I wasn't wearing them....(wink, wink)  Normal Jamie made a joke, most often sexual, at pretty much everything I said and I'd give it right back to him "I just left the light switch on...so you'd know...how turned ON I am...get it? Hahahah..."  And this banter between us completely stopped.  He said I was "belittling...making me feel like a child...you really don't respect me do you?"  And as much as I wanted this to piss me off, I knew what was happening.  Although not a therapist or anything near as smart, I asked him a question one day, calmly 'You really think I am putting you down Jamie?"  He answered "Yes..." and I asked another "Do you feel like it's just me...or do you feel like that with anyone else..." and his lips, pursed together...answered "Yeah, every effing day at work I'm told I'm not good enough...nothing is ever good enough...no matter how hard I try..." And it was like yep...bingo.  I wasn't going to make an issue of it even though my heart just ached.  I missed MY Jamie.  My  happy go lucky, everything is awesome, hey wanna go upstairs....Jamie....

Finally, on Halloween, some things came to light.  He believed, with his every cell, that I was getting ready to leave him because I no longer loved him, respected him or wanted anything to do with him.  Looking back I know exactly what conversation pushed him over the edge, and ironically, this conversation was one where I said "So this one issue we are having...now that school is over...I want to work on it.  It's been holding us back for a long time and I feel so ready....to just get passed it." And he completely and totally, repeating this conversation back to me, heard NOTHING positive from that even though saying these words, my heart was light and hopeful and feeling nothing but love towards him.  He was at rock bottom.  Or so we thought....

He went to a counseling appointment on Friday and it sparked a LOT of conversation and I thought, "Dude, FINALLY!!!" and we were both so hopeful and happy.  It was (it is) time to examine who Jamie sees himself as...as opposed to what the rest of the world sees him as (an awesome dude, he really, really is...)

Then the following Sunday he had to leave on a business trip and it was absolute torture for both of us.  We just got out of this stupid ass zombie training and he had to leave us and we just wanted to BE TOGETHER.  He got home on a Friday evening and a very, very, VERY stupid argument between us (about texting and driving....dumb.  It wasn't a big issue) had us separated from each other and all he needed was for me to tell him it would be okay.  I chose not to.  I chose to pout because all the feelings for months and months and months were welling up inside of me and I was just so mad that MY JAMIE was lost for now and I wasn't even mad at him really, but I was hurt.  He said I need you...and I said I need to be alone...just for a minute.  Looking back, his tone, his demeanor, his everything was beaten and broken.  I finally got over myself and realized....he needs me.  So I went outside to talk to him and said "okay...let's just go upstairs, we'll lay down together, get some rest and start fresh tomorrow morning ok?"  Apparently, he didn't hear me (common theme here) and so he did NOT follow me upstairs.  It was only ten minutes....I came back to see what he was doing...and he had a whiskey bottle in his hand...that was full (I asked him to buy it last winter for Kyle who was coughing to the point of vomiting, so only like a splash was used..)....half empty.  In TEN MINUTES he had downed half the bottle.  He doesn't drink.....

It only took a few more minutes for the effects to start showing up and in my entire life I have never, ever been so terrified.  He wasn't making any sense, he wouldn't answer me if he was okay, he was just dazed and confused (oh yeah, brilliantly he had also refused to eat dinner....)  He stumbled around, got himself some water and then the vomiting started.  Violent....horrific....it wouldn't stop and...I panicked.  I have never, in all my 35 years ever seen a person drunk.  I had no idea what it looked like...what was too much, would he DIE?? I was crying until I couldn't breathe, beating myself up, not sure what to do....so I called 911.  I wasn't going to lose my husband and I had no idea what the consequences would be, but I knew none of them mattered....only he mattered.  (All kids but Kyle were in bed at this point...) And so the paramedics came and it was an odd mixture of relief and supreme humiliation as they checked him and kind of looked at me like "You called 911 for this??"  Turns out, he was simply drunk.  Not in danger, not going to die from alcohol poisoning...and him not being used to alcohol....and not eating, just made him sicker and sicker.  Long story short, this was his rock bottom and the next day, he was a humble mess of "what the hell" and "never again"  He was SO SICK, but he had just simply had all the shit he could take.

The next day, we were in emergency counseling and it was intense.  The long and short of it was Jamie had reached the point of not caring.  Our counselor assured me this was not some great crisis where my husband was now going to turn to alcohol, that this wasn't about that at all, that he was honestly in a very good place mentally (WHAT?) and that we were headed in the right direction...we were there...we recognized how scary it was and neither one of us was making excuses, just wanted to be okay.  So we had this intense session and I learned some things that brought tears to my eyes.  The counselor told me he had never encountered someone as honest as my husband...that it was very rare and that his love and need for me was intense....

So that's what's been going on.  We have some work to do on the stress, how to deal, how NOT to deal and how to KEEP TALKING and LOVING.  Our second appointment, our counselor said even more things that choked me up. He told us that at our last appointment, people that had seen us...at our LOWEST point were commenting on what a "sweet couple" we were.  He pointed out that this may not mean a lot to us, but as a counselor he was in awe that in our worst place, our love for each other was that visible to the outside world.  He said we were in better shape than "99%" of the couples he counsels and that we aren't in the realm of "trouble" that as a matter of fact we have one of the strongest marriages he has been witness to.  I know that might sound all fruity and flowery, but y'all, this is a professional who sees so many people and his words mean a lot to me.  To hear out loud...that we really are strongly in love and not going to lose this thing that is so precious to us means the world to me.  I was totally at a loss over the last few months thinking "Why does Jamie see me as this person I am not.." and on the flip side him thinking "She is done..she hates me....I am worth nothing..."  Our counselor is working on this with us hardcore and Jamie has thrived in hearing someone else talk to me and then say to HIM "Do you hear her words?  Jamie, seriously....there is nothing about what she is saying that says ANYTHING about ever wanting to be away from you...ever...she has ZERO intention of going anywhere...do you understand that..." Hearing that...in a non-bullshit environment, from someone who has seen marriages completely implode has given him a hope that I can't really put into words.  He finally KNOWS.  That is something he has been saying so much..."For the first time, I really see you....how much you've stood by me and how that meant LOVE...you REALLY, REALLY love me....how could I not see that before?"

So our mission in counseling is to separate work/home....for Jamie to derive his sense of self in who he TRULY is and not in these meaningless things that ultimately do nothing for him.  He has a lifelong history of being told 'Not good enough...' and that is no longer going to fly.  He has always been way more than 'good enough...' and he's going to see that.  Besides our counselor is hilarious and totally gets our sense of humor, so it's been very easy to share some personal things that I swore I would never tell ANYONE in the entire world.  I shared something kind of embarrassing last week (explaining how I uhm....helped Jamie with stress) and the dude was like "OMG....I LOVE THAT...I LOVE that you said that...that's awesome..." and it relieved a lot of embarrassment and stress for me, who cringes at sharing private stuff. The smile on his face...on Jamies (and I swear, they were trying really hard not to high five...I just FELT it...) was really...what's the word?  Lightening...it made me feel like a huge weight was lifted.  Like I can really express who I REALLY am and not be judged or even disliked (he did say he was suprised at something I said, that was mean and dirty about someone else...like he couldn't believe I had a dirty mouth...now that's out in the open and that's also a relief!)

And so yeah, that's what's up.  I think I get an award for longest blog post ever!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not gone, just buried

One statistic that is mighty depressing: Most marriages do not survive the loss of a child.  I knew this  back when it mattered, back when we could have made the decision to safe guard our marriage and do everything we could to keep communication open and feelings shared and all that good stuff.  It was highly recommended by those who loved us, but there we were...stuck. No one to watch our children (NO ONE..that's what happens when your circle shuns you for your choices...those that devastated you)....no way to get just the two of us to the place we needed to be.  Plus, we had so many other distractions.  A death in the family right after, a fall out with another, a decision to not adopt our foster children, college, work, homeschool...life....We'd be okay, right? I mean WE didn't die...just our baby.  We'd be just fine.  We'd beat those odds.

And we did.

The next baby came along and we didn't think about the last. He as a he.  She was a she.  Everything we did for her was for HER.  Every outfit, every cloth diaper, every little thing we did centered around her being a her and enjoying this precious blessing that filled empty hearts and empty arms.

After her, HE came and that hit us hard.  It may not make any sense, but when you're washing the he clothes for the first time since you lost him it's way, way different and emotions surfaced that we didn't love and didn't know what to do with.  He came, and then 6 days later Jamie was off to his job interview and our new life a million miles away....new job, new life, new house, new everything....was the center of our focus.  New beginnings, far, far away from the sadness we experienced.  No time to think about the son we lost while taking care of the one we didn't.  We were fine, really....

Then she came along and was and is the most precious, sweet, loveable baby we've ever had.  Or maybe just that much more precious because once more, we skirted tragedy and ended up with what we wanted: healthy baby, free of defect or sickness...to love again.  But this time around, my ultrasound produced a panic attack so heavy, it was hard to breathe.  I just knew they'd find something wrong.  So relieved when they didn't and so happy when she was born just as we imagined.  And we were fine.  No, really just FINE.

And now we're not and have to face the fact we never were. Because burying something that isn't ready to be buried and not properly prepared to be buried has consequences you can't see until those consequences are so huge that they can no longer be ignored.

And finally, maybe....no definitely, we really are going to be fine.  For real.  Forever.  We needed help.  We're getting it.  We have sat on a cushy couch in a pretty office and been told we have an excellent marriage.  I've been told that my husband is one of the most honest men our counselor has ever met and that he loves me more than most other husbands love their wives.  And we've been told....to beat these odds says something about the strength of our love for each other and our commitment to being us, forever.

We have so much work to do.  So many things to sort through and it should suck.  It should suck more than anything, but it doesn't.  It's real and honest and raw and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like the world isn't this place to just survive...it's a place to truly live.
 


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Surrender

So the truth is there is a lot I'd love to write about, but those experiences often include other people who have not given their express permission for me to include them in my prose.  So often, I just leave it out.... out of respect.  It's not my story to tell, and so I leave it be.  But sometimes, there's a story that I can talk about, if I do it right and today, I need to.

See...there's a person I love so very much going through a very, very hard time right now and the things they are struggling with I am not.  Namely, the baby thing.  If you've never had a baby, or wanted a baby, or pined and wished and hoped for a baby, you may not understand, but let's be clear here.  It's agony.

But what would I know about that right?  I have seven.  I've obviously never struggled with that particular thing right?  Well...actually I have, and I'll get into that in a bit, but first...let me tell you about being female...

It sucks.  Oh yes, it does.  I mean, long before you can emotionally, or financially or even logically handle becoming a mother, your body is ready.  Every. Single. Month.  There's this reminder, "Hey, you're female and guess what?  The one good thing that comes out of all this bullshit...you can't have for a long, long time, but don't worry, you should be happy you work at all..."  As time goes by and motherhood becomes more and more a real possibility, you learn to pay very close attention to the ebb and flow of suck, because eventually you get to the pause button and start working those parts that have been practicing for so long...

But what if that pause never came?  What if you spent years training for a race, only to show up and be told "Sorry, you don't qualify..."  You see, infertility is a cheat.  It's a thief that comes in and takes something you've essentially been promised for years and months of putting up with the work that should, inevitably, have some sort of tangible reward.  Worse yet, you still have to experience the work of the reward, without any say so about it.  Yeah, you could quit, rip out all the parts and say, "to hell with it..." but then you throw away hope...that hope....the hope that so many women have completely crushed month after month after month.

I can't think of anything more demoralizing than for your body to work in every other way....to be espoused to the person you want a child with, to have a reminder every single month that something's working in there, just enough to make you miserable, but not quite good enough to do the thing it's SUPPOSED to do.  And very often, there is no concrete answer.  Just "We don't know...we can't really find anything..." or even worse, "You have this thing going on that's making it impossible to get pregnant, but if you DID get pregnant, it would provide some relief."  HOLY CRAP.

Infertility is a cruel bit of lightning.  It strikes people who absolutely do not deserve it.  Loving couples with stable homes and room to spare.  It makes no sense, it really doesn't, but it's really boils down to simple biology,  Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't.

And this...

This IS something I know about.




This is Autumn.  She came to us in December 2005 and those who know me, already know the story, so I won't repeat all that, but take a look at that little face.  18 months old and a little trouble-maker, as she should be as such a curious age.  She was exposed to heroin while her little body was forming.  While every cell was coming together to form this perfect little person, my sister was injecting herself, into her VEINS....with poison.....

And this is Matthew.  His momma was drinking spinach smoothies and taking horse-sized prenatal vitamins, sipping herbal tea and seeing my midwife and doing all the "right" stuff.  And well, he didn't end up that smiling, happy toddler....

He had no lungs.  His arms and legs were tiny, his heart was HUGE, filling up his entire chest cavity  So,...you know, just a complete cluster mess of everything that can go wrong....

And why?  What the flip happened here?  How on earth is this fair?  In short, it wasn't.  I mean, there's absolutely nothing just about this.  As a matter of fact, when my mom found out about Matthew, she actually called my sister and told her that this should have happened to her.  That I didn't NOT agree with because it really shouldn't have happened to anyone.  I mean, who deserves that kind of heartbreak?  No one in my opinion...

It's just life.  I mean, really..it is....Shit really does JUST happen and there's no rhyme or reason or justification.  You can't grab some dice after a long day of serving the homeless and expect them to roll any differently than they would off the hands of a man who just beat his wife.  It's odds.  It's chance.  It's random. There is no qualification for certain life events. 

Sure we can increase our chances of success in certain areas by the choices we make, but look around....how many people do you know who are experiencing a life event that they had absolutely no control over?  Cancer?  Does anyone deserve that?  Surely it should only affect the 80 year old smoker and not the little boy who hasn't had a chance to ride a bike, let alone light up.  Or how about an auto accident that leaves a young father unable to walk or provide?  Did he make the wrong choice by getting into his car that day?   But honestly our gut reaction to any tragedy, whether personal or removed, is to figure out WHY.  Why did this happen to me?  Why did THAT happen to that person?

I mean, for a split second, I asked myself those questions.  I now make a little joke about the odds.  Matthew's defect affects 1 in 40,000 births.  That's a pretty slim chance and I often say, wow, if I was going to be that "lucky" I wish it was with a lotto ticket. Sheesh.  But then I looked at Autumn, so obviously a live and healthy and thriving and knew...

It was just meant to be.  She was meant to be.  Matthew wasn't.  I don't spend the anniversary of his birth pining for him or thinking about what he "would have been doing" at that age, because that wasn't ever on the timeline.  I wasn't robbed of 6 year old Matthew....Because he never existed.  I got to a place of total surrender with this and made a peace with the fact (and it is a fact) that our lives have a certain plan.  It's already in play right now.  For whatever reason, our experiences are carved out in eternity and we are here to live them, learn from them and love through them.  

I don't believe life is a Rubik Cube full of all these possibilities and with one shift of the blocks, we change the entire course of where our life was going to go one second before.  I believe we are here to learn and those lessons are already in place.  We might be able to pick the "curriculum" or the way we will learn those things, but ultimately, we're going to go through it, whether we want to or not.  

I've had to learn about loss.  When I was 8 and lost my dad, when I was older and lost other important people to me through other events (my cousin, my older brother and sister...all a part of my life until my family caused a drama with them that had them walking away...I still feel those losses), when I lost Matthew, when I let go of Amber and Autumn....loss after loss.  Things I was allowed to want and to have for the briefest moment that vanished.  

And it sucked.  But the thing about loss is that you learn appreciation.  You also learn to courage to let go of things that aren't valuable and aren't healthy and are helpful because you realize "Hey I've had to let go of that which I truly wanted....what's the big deal letting go of that which I don't"

I've been able to let go of expectations, of people, of physical places (I cry whenever we leave a place...I feel like I'm leaving something behind...) of ideas, of fear....

And this is surrender.  Knowing that whatever you are going through....whatever anyone else is going through, isn't necessarily about who deserves what.  Or who is better than anyone else or more qualified to receive  (or be denied) a certain something.

So when I say "I understand..." a struggle, I really do understand.  I may not be walking down the same path, or seeing the same things, or going through the same fire, but I am well-versed in looking at life and thinking "Seriously?  I mean are you SERIOUS?  Why?  Just why???? HOW IS THIS FAIR??"

And being just as clueless as anyone else . I don't have the answers, but I do have faith that everything, in it's time reveals itself and that God, whether believed in or not, has His hand on this thing.  

Something I was told all growing up...."Life isn't fair..." and oh man that  pissed me off.  Because it was said when an injustice that could have been corrected was not.  (You know...you're a parent, one child has one-upped the other, the parent is too lazy or just over it to intervene and just throws out a one-liner to shut the kid up...)

But it's got some profound truth in it.  Life isn't fair.  And the sooner you realize it, the better off you are.  Not because it's RIGHT for other people to come out on top who haven't played by the rules...not at all...not because it's okay for someone who has something you've love to shit all over that something (Yeah, I do this myself....how can that drug addict get knocked up when that other couple is trying so hard?) but because once you realize that life isn't fair, you stop trying to beat the odds. To dance with karma in such a way as to guarantee that you'll get what you want.  When you really do understand that you do not DESERVE so much of what happens to you (good or bad) you can find surrender.  You can stop blaming yourself or anyone else for these things and just surrender to the randomness that is life.  You can stop trying to own what you did to bring down this "thing" that's torturing you so and realize, "It's happening because I'm alive...no more, no less...."

And being alive...well, that's a good thing right?

Because while life isn't fair....

It's still good.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

In the blink of an eye....

16 years have passed since I said " I do.." and in those years, there have been ups and downs and sideways curve balls and all that sappy, "We made it..." memories....and it's true.  We did.  Still happy, still friends, still looking forward to each day together.  It wasn't always easy, but I can say I haven't really had a day where I didn't want to be a part of my beloved's life.  As crazy as we make each other, we fit very well.  We just do.  We're buddies.

But the thing is...I am not sure how we've done this.  The odds couldn't have been more against us.  We were young.  Very young.  Broke.  Hadn't known each other that long.  Hadn't come from happy homes.  The list goes on and on....

But something was pulling for us...and when I think back to what it could possibly be my mind goes to one thing...one person.

Ruth Coffey.

This woman, this beautiful, sweet creature left us in 2006, but the impact this one person had on me...on my marriage and my family...is eternal.  Jamie would say it was both his grandparents, but I didn't get a chance to know Grandpa well before he passed into Glory.

But grandma?  I knew her well.  We talked almost everyday when Jamie was out to sea.  She was alone, by death, me by career and we would talk for hours.  She was the highlight of all our trips back home and was always up for anything.  Fishing?  Let's go! Walmart?  Absolutely?  Meandering around town?  Sure, but can we eat while we're out....let me get  my earmuffs!  She always had earmuffs on.  The wind bothered them so and even when it wasn't cold,she had them on ;)

She loved Jamie, oh so much.  But not possessively.  Oh she did have words about him joining the Navy...but she made peace with it and something that I recall is how much she loved that *I* loved him.  She loved that he was in love....whereas his mother seemed to be bitter about our closeness and not at all happy about our relationship.  Grandma encouraged me to love him like there was no tomorrow, because even in her old-wrinkled face, in those aged eyes...you could see the almost shock that life had so quickly passed her by.  You see, with Grandpa the days flew, without him, they crawled.  She had lost her lover, her friend, her companion.....her next recliner neighbor watching the "stories on TV"...the second plate she made come dinner time.  She assured me it passes faster than I thought it was and that each moment was precious.

She shared stories with me that hinted that times weren't always happy between she and Grandpa, that "everyone fights...that's just living..." but that the Lord, as the center, was strong enough glue to heal any rift, big or small.  I recall a stormy look crossing her face when I told her about my buddies husband stepping out and her anger over "those hot ass women that think they can steal our men..."  She was feisty, yet gentle...funny..oh so funny ;)

And she was the key.  I truly believe this.

One woman.  One marriage. One example that busted through Jamie's mom's three marriages....an unknown father, my mother's three marriages, which were never quite right....my Dad's three marriages that all ended as he died alone, with perhaps the promise of a fourth love, but one that didn't get its chance...

But this one precious woman, this one Godly woman paved the way for 16 years of marital happiness...7 children that are growing up in a happy, healthy home with parents who are in love....security, comfort, adventure....

Life.  A life lived together, for each other, for all of us, and for her ;)  I can't think of a better tribute than making it another 16 years and eventually meeting her at the gates and saying "Thank you...."




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Life Too Small

Last night we had to explain to our children what 9/11 was all about. Some knew the details, some did not and honestly, there's no good way to describe what all happened....what continues to happen around the world on a daily basis.  People...young and old, pass from this window rapidly or slowly, or somewhere in between and if you think on it too much, it starts to lose it's shock value.  You really wonder what those people thought or felt during their last moments and if somewhere, deep in their soul, as they did the same old, same old that day...did they know?  Did they grunt about the toothpaste not being put back in it's proper place, or skip packing lunch thinking they'd grab a bite elsewhere?  Were they hurried as they left their house for the last time and if they had known today was THE day, would they do anything differently?

I think on these things a lot.  It's a painful existence some days because I really do think about these things as the possibility they truly are, not some distant thing that may happen to someone else somewhere else.  It's always real to me.

And my choices tend to reflect that.  Pretty much everything I do.  My hobbies tend to leave tangible evidence of who I was and what I was doing and what I valued.  My days are spent not gathering money or accolades, but being in the thick of a crazy, messy life because in the end, if I knew I was leaving this planet, this is what I'd do.  I'd spend time with these people God gave me as family.  I'd tick off each second, asking myself "Did this matter?" and hopefully I can answer yes more often than not.

The problems the people in my life face range from big to small.  From a favorite stuffed animal lost in a too messy room to fear that the job one has selected will take more than it has to give.  We have dealt with heartbreak and dish break and messy and chaotic, sadness and happiness and more than our fair share of irritation.  It's life.  It's this thing...this crazy set of repeated motions we take for granted everyday, thinking we may just get to a point where the scenery changes before realizing what we're looking at is pretty awesome.

Today is good.  Today, even though the life I strive for hasn't quite happened yet....is awesome.  Today I am grateful to be alive and humbled again that I've been trusted with all that has been placed in my care.

And today, though things can change, as I well know....

Today....

I sitting on the hidden evidence of something very precious.  I carry within me a secret that only I can tell and a blessing only God can give.  And I know...I know through superstition and worry, we tend to hold back those things we aren't quite sure will make it through the entire course...

But...

Today, for today, I am the Momma of nine children.  Seven in my home, one in God's and one who we hope will make it through the journey....into our arms...and into our lives!

And so we celebrate life....a very small one, one not yet sure of what it will be or who it will becomes...but I am going to be happy because really no life is too small to be taken for granted...no in this house anyways ;)

Friday, September 6, 2013

But Spiders Do It Gracefully

We have one...a spider, although I'm not sure if it's a he or a she, so we haven't officially called it Charlotte, yet and truth be known, I'd kind of like her...him..it...to go away.  But every  night it weaves this amazing web on the eve of our porch and catches an impressive amount of creepy crawly things, and so I have made peace with the one big "bug" taking care of so many others.

Have you ever watched a spider make it's web?  I mean really watched?  It is AMAZING.  I don't know how they can make something so perfectly, so fast, so often.  I really (although I stand back quite a bit) enjoy watching this.  It's a  beautiful thing indeed.

Not all webs are lovely, though, and this past week I've been entangled in one I never saw coming (Don't you hate that?? Walking along just fine and BAM you're stuck...EW)

So, it's pretty common knowledge that on Wednesday, Elijah's coop teacher expressed a concern over certain abilities and it really threw me for a loop because this particular thing is something I was quite certain he was absolutely fine in.  We have a conversation where I am sure I heard what was being said, but upon being confronted with the concerns I had with that conversation, the other party insists these things were not said.  Now, I can remember every single phone number from every place we've ever lived (military family to boot...be very impressed with this!!) and I have a memory that can recall very specific details about things long forgotten by most people...so that being said, I wasn't sure quite what to think when specific details I remembered were being denied.  It was extremely confusing.....

However, I do respect the intention and the position.  I did not like the way I was addressed, but in the end, let's get real...that's pride and there is no room for that in my life.  It's not a good quality to be so proud that you refuse to receive wisdom from someone who obviously cares about your child and so I did what I felt was best.  I explained my heart, a little bit about my life and I apologized for jumping the gun and over-reacting (because I do believe that I DID over-react to the INITIAL situation..but keep reading...)  It was my opinion that we obviously communicated very differently and what I heard and what she said could possibly be two different things....and what I said and SHE heard were definitely two different things, and so..in the end, let's just "bottom line it..." (as Shawndra always tells me) We are two people with the same goal and so to that end, I prefer to keep the peace.  I will learn and grow and change and be a better person, let's just all do the same.  All good, right?

Wrong.

Because if you tell me "I did NOT SAY THIS TO YOU. YOU MISUNDERSTOOD."  and then...you absolutely DID bring this information to someone else, word for word, then we have a problem.

How can two people hear something wrong, in two different locations at two different times....who did not communicate with each other before realizing something was very, very wrong.

It's not even WHAT was said that's the issue now.  Who cares?  That particular part of this is "pfft..." I'm over it now. We are already laughing about it and making jokes, so it really wasn't that horrible of a thing..

But this?

No.  I just can't.  I can't be told that I misunderstood and that nothing like what I THOUGHT I heard was said...and then find out it was shared with others.

I'm a person who values honesty and integrity above ALL ELSE.  I am talking...above friendship, association, camaraderie.  I will not lie to keep the peace...I will not pretend, even for a very DEAR friend, that a lie is the truth.  I am not person loyal, I am righteousness loyal.  My best friend of 16+ years will tell you that's how our friendship has thrived.  There is absolutely no b/s and no "backing each other up" if one of us is in the wrong.  We have a GODLY friendship.  We are each iron sharpening one another and neither one of us will tolerate the other living or breathing lies (and there have been rifts for just this reason..)  I just don't understand the need.  If you FEEL something, OWN it.  If you FEEL that a person has received that truth in the wrong way, sincerely apologize for that misunderstanding, but stick to your original thought.  If it was important enough to have it and share it, why on earth would you backtrack and deny it?  I simply can't understand this.

And I'm struggling with this.  A lot.  I have been counseled by some very wise people about how to handle this next time.  To assess the information being given to me, thank the person for the concern and move on.  That's it.  Move on.  I've been told that I really don't owe anyone outside of my family an explanation fruther than "We'll look into that..."  But herein lies the problem with me.....

I got home.  I had Eli read to me.  I had him write for me.  There was absolutely nothing amiss and I AM SO MAD at myself for giving this ONE THOUGHT because I know...and I knew, how well read his was.  He is always reading and writing (Lord, help his hand-writing...it's horrible) And that's where this should have stopped.  But in my mind, two things were coming into play #1-If I didn't say SOMETHING, and didn't call the doctor I was told to call (apparently I begged for this information.  I said "How can we fix this?  Where would we start with something like this?  I have never dealt with anything like this before"...now you tell me...if you had told a parent that you were concerned with a handwriting issue, would you give them the name of your doctor who does testing for disorders...or merely suggest a great handwriting curriculum or other muscle building skills?  I am still so lost as to how a person can stand by this story with that proof in my hand....sorry huge digression) that there would be some sort of feeling that I was "one of those parents who doesn't even think he has a problem...poor kid.  I felt like I had to say "Thank you but..." and explain my position....which in hindsight, I wish I didn't do because it accomplished about as much as taking a few good whacks at a hornet's nest....

And #2- And this is always my problem, with EVERYTHING...I will never be okay with any passivity on my part causing another person to experience that which I have just experienced.  I mean, in my mind, a line was crossed and if I didn't call attention to that line, how many more times would it continue to be crossed?  Because I do know it had been crossed before and because no one said "HEY, here's this line...be careful of it..." I had to experience it.  I just can't be that person.

And so...I'm angry.  I really am.  I am being painted (somewhat) as a parent who has blown something out of proportion (I'm okay with admitting that...but I am also not going to feel badly about that.  They are my children, I would rather over-react than under-react...)  but worse than that..

When there are two stories,...only ONE can be true.  It can't be that both are somewhat true. Not in a situation like this.  It really is black and white.  Thing is, I know it's not me because I know what I heard.  And even if I had some sort of mental lapse or delusion...it was said to someone else I trust very, very much.

And so, with every denial that this stupid thing was said, the only logical conclusion..

Is that *I* am the liar.  I made this entire thing up.  What I heard with my (fully functioning) ears was absolutely inaccurate and how dare I throw out such ridiculous accusations...

But why?  Why on Earth would I choose to tell a lie about someone I barely know?  What possible gain can come from my initiating a conflict that had me so shaken up I considered quitting something that is precious to me...and my children.  All I can assume is that the other party has their own experiences tucked away in their brain space that creates the idea that this is a real possibility.  That people would LIE about them and that this time around, it's ME.

But it's not.  I have no reason.  I have every reason to wish I handled it differently, absolutely, but I get so mad at how it tends to fall on me to be that bigger person, to admit my part and then for the other party involved in a conflict to become so self-righteous, defensive and angry that they never get to the part where they acknowledge that HAD TO HAVE HAD some part in the conflict.

And so I'm left with this feeling like a deflated balloon coming back down to solid ground, so disappointed that gravity, while thwarted for a brief moment in time, will eventually show itself.

I thought there would be this age where I'd be surrounded by people who were always on the lookout for personal growth....for spiritual growth...and these types of reality checks weren't a part of the game anymore.  I believed, that with age, finer and deeper people would come into my life and I would eventually stop being reminded that not all people value the things I value...

Some value a long friendship over standing up for the truth and what is right, for fear of losing a friendship, even though a frienship should never ask a person to lie.
Some value being right rather than admitting they could be wrong
Some value being in a position of authority, whether granted or self-inflicted and will not be okay if you question it, even when questioning it might just make them a better leaser

I'm not going to pretend I know the mind of anyone else.  I know when there is a conflict, everyone within it is affected and will act according to how much a stake they have in the outcome.

Me?  I backed up and apologized for my part, and honestly, right after becoming aware that there was some lying going on, I wanted to take it back.  To say I'm NOT SORRY....how could *I* be sorry when that apology was based on the possibility that maybe you DID NOT say this thing..and you actually DID SAY it, hand-down, no way you are going to make anyone believe you didnt...

But the truth is, in the end, I AM still sorry because even though I am really mad and I will never be okay with this...I AM sorry if I hurt, offended or angered anyone.  I AM sorry that I allowed my pride and shock to dictate my reaction.  I AM sorry that I ranted on Facebook FIRST as I was trying to decide what move to take next.  All of these things...the things I did wrong, I am absolutely sorry for.  I don't believe the lie told against me, or my anger about it, provides any justification, whatsoever, if I acted inappropriately in the situation.  Now, I've been told that my reaction was *understandable* ...that others would have reacted the same way, I still don't take comfort in that.  I should have acted differently period and I have to live with that.

And I have to live with the fact that I can't change anyone.  Anyone at all.  I can just be the best possible version of myself and mold my children, to the best of my ability, to do the same.  In the end, and there will be an end....God knows what ALL of us in this situation did or didn't do.  He isn't convinced by vague recollections of who said what to whom...He knows our hearts and our intentions, and even if we WIN here by lying, gossiping and wagging our tongues to get people over to our side, we haven't WON anything....This I DO take comfort in.   God doesn't listen to gossip, hearsay or white noise.  He simply hears and see the truth...

The truth.

Even if no one else knows it...

He does.

And that's good enough for me!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Because there is always a good reason...

Dear Son,

I have a confession.  When you were sitting next to me yesterday, struggling with letters, number and lines, I encouraged you to fight the good fight and slay those stupid alegbra problems because they were very, very important.

Thing is.

I lied.  It IS impossible.  Algebra was invented by Hilter as a form as mental and emotional torture and as you know, being a history buff and all, no good thing came from anything related to that man (don't dig too deep into your history though, as you just might find your mother severely lacking in this area as well).

And honestly....I really have nothing pleasant to say about my experiences with this horrible form of number manipulation and you're right. I don't use Algebra ever.  Like ever....

But you will.

I'm not saying you'll be immersed in mathematical equations once you fly the coop because you just won't.  It is and subject in and of itself that doesn't translate well into practical, useful knowledge.  I admit it. I concede.  It's stupid.

However....

Since we're talking about letters and numbers, let me throw a few more out there.  First, SAT.  These letters are very, very important.  You know what they mean because these words have been thrown at you for the past two years and you have a slight understanding of how this test will pretty much determine your entire future, as unfair as that is.  The numbers you get on these letters DOES matter.  And for that number to be sufficiently high enough to eschew a career as a fry cook, you need to know Algebra (and....gulp...even MORE).

So let's go back a few years.  14 to be exact, because you were one when you learned to walked.  I'm pretty sure you didn't accomplish this because you had dreams of running a 5K or jumping off scary things to do Parcour.  You just wanted to walk to Mom, or the dog food bowl...you just did it.  You did it well.  I mean look at you now.  Sometimes you even run without tripping and that's a pretty big deal considering I contributed half your DNA.

Don't ask yourself what math can do for you, ask yourself what...well...yeah, you probably should ask what math can do for you...because I'm pretty sure you aren't doing much for math since you hate it so, but seriously...it's important.

And seriously.  I feel your pain.  I sat here with you, watching videos looking at the lesson with you, with that cocky, "Well I see it, but YOU need to see it for this to matter.." when in reality, I had no darn clue what was going on. I hate math more than you, I promise.

Good news for you though. You have two parents.  One of them (not me) is good at math.  Loves it.  Lives it. Breathes it. And speaks it....so the plan for this weekend is....

You AND Mom are learning algebra.  Yup.  Me too.  I will be sitting with paper and pencil and trying to figure out (since you and I think so much the same way...) how to figure it out.  For you.  If you're going to suffer, I will too.  And then I can claim triumphantly..."I did it..you can too...."  And you'll probably get a better grade than me, because dude...you have no idea how horrible with numbers I am.

You're smarter than me.  More gifted in so many ways.  You are a better version of me and let's face it, with your father's DNA building the blocks of your brain cells (is that even right?  I'm sure you can tell me!!) you do have the home court advantage...

Will you ever use alegebra again? Past the SAT?

I say, unabashedly, YES!!!  This, I can promise you...

Because we'll be saving up all these papers...and once you graduate and no longer need to prove that you actually did your math assignments, we're going to bundle it all up and have alllllll those papers recycled.

Into toilet paper.

Can YOU think of any better way to use Algebra?

Yeah, me neither!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When I was 12.....

I made a new friend.  She was a new face at the bus stop and she seemed older, cooler than the rest of us.  While we were all crossing our books to hide chests we weren't quite comfortable with yet, she knew early to wear clothes to show off those particular assets.  When boys came up to talk to us and we would giggle nervously, not sure what to say, she'd flash a smile so bright it competed with the sun and there wasn't an awkward moment to be witnessed.   Oh, how I wanted to be like her....

I'm sure around this time, boys were still terrified of girls their age...I mean I've witnessed firsthand what a 13 year old boy acts like and it's certainly not the whole fawning over the opposite sex that I remember from my  youth.

I had so many marks against me.  I was never tiny...but not fat...just not tiny like my friends.  And while I was a bit aware of my aura every time I came to school, I was certain the gallons of perfume on my clothing masked the stench of cigarette smoke being emitted from my body.  Sleepovers were a nightmare.  My freshly cleaned pillow, which smelled wonderful and flowery in MY house, smelled like a rotten, smoldering pile of ash in the clean, smoke-free homes of my friends.  I could have been Miss America, crown and all, but that smell really was awful and I am so thankful I didn't realize how bad it was when I was growing up.  It was awful. (As a side note I missed a lot of school because of upper respiratory infections.  The doctor would say, in front of me, "J, you need to stop smoking, if not altogether, than at least go outside.  These infections are a direct result of the exposure these kids have..." and she'd sort of hmph, get the magical paper of healing, get out to the car....and light up.  Right there....)

In hindsight, I realize the boys (yes, more than one) of my dreams weren't even ready to acknowledge girls period, but my new friend had a totally different perspective.  The key, she assured me....was in my virginal status.  Because I had never had sex (come on, I was TWELVE already...way too old for such nonsense) boys would NOT like me.  And until I took care of this pesky little problem, I could forget the whole boyfriend thing.  Boys do NOT like virgins.  Don't have time for them.  I thought this was crazy, of course, but boy after boy...rejected me and went for her.  She was chubby, didn't dress well, was very poor and yet...all the boys liked HER.  What the heck?  I conceded eventually she must be right.  She HAD to be right.  She was accomplishing what I wanted and to this day if someone manages to accomplish something I want to accomplish, I will still look to see what they are doing that I'm not...

I am not sure how the rest happened.  I had my own phone number and one day this boy called, meaning to call someone else.  Noticed it was a girl on the other end...asked me some questioned.  I giggled and hung up.  I told my friends about it and when they were over, he called again.  Pretty Girl talked to him and found out he lived very, very close to our house.  She starts talking about "meeting" and I am aghast.  The only boys I have any exposure to are in school...that's it.  She convinces me and my other friend to have a sleepover...and to invite these boys to hang out in my bedroom via the window.....

Now before y'all start thinking about what a trouble-maker I was, I can assure you I was the typical "good kid"  It drove my trouble-making sister insane.  Good grades, good attitude, good everything.  I wasn't "that girl" (and I later realize, there isn't a THAT girl...she's ME...)

The night comes and I do NOT want to do this. I want to tell my mom, but my mom doesn't listen and freaks out about everything and I can't chance losing this friend.  My friends know how mean my mom is and they are my solace. I started seeking approval from peers at a very young age....and this time the stakes were high.  I adored this girl.  I truly believed she cared about me.  I remember she told me to go take a bath and she and my other friend would clean my bedroom and pick out a cute outfit for me.  All the while, I am screaming inside.  I want to just stay in my bathroom...or my living room.....But I take my bath and go back into my room where Pretty Girl is waiting with my outfit and a  pep talk.  It's not big deal she says....just some boys coming over to hang out and if I'm lucky....I won't have this pesky virgin thing hanging over my  head anymore.

I. Was. Twelve.  Do you know how YOUNG that is??? How LITTLE???  How innocent...???

The boys came.  Three of them.  Three boys, three girls. Pretty Girl turns the lights down low and immediately grabs one of the boys onto my bed and starts kissing him. Like MOVIE kissing him...I look over to see my other friend...and she's done the same thing....I freak out and run to my closet, purposed to stay there until it's all over.  The third boy...well where else could he go?  He followed me in.  I can't even remember if I was willing or said no..but at 12...I shouldn't have had to make that decision.  I should have said NO boys in my room, NO to my friend, but I didn't.  Everything happened so fast. Horrible.  HORRIBLE....innocence lost on the floor of my bedroom closest.

The next day we "walked to the store..." but really went to the boys house.  Nothing happened.  But we did another sleepover thing and my friend invited them back over, this time, against my will.  I stayed by the door and did my math homework.  No low lights, no making out...I was in a bad place.  My mother overheard a male voice and knocked on my door. I tried to convince her it was just the radio....She barges in...goes right to my closet where the boys are hiding and orders them out of her "effing house..."

Oh the  rampage.  THE RAMPAGE that followed.  Screaming, throwing things, tearing my room apart, reading in my diary, calling me a slut and a tramp and a whore, demanding I tell her what happened and if I didn't she'd take me to her female doctor and "Do you know what they'll do to you there?  You won't like it...she'll tell me if you're slutting around...."

I needed to tell her.  I wanted to tell her.  I was HURT.  Something had been taken from me and my GOD I needed to tell someone.  It was all wrong.  I needed a Mom.  I needed her years and years before...and I needed her to explain to me that this friend wasn't a friend at all...that boys that want this from a girl they don't even know are BAD BAD BAD...I needed to be protected and yes, sheltered because I wasn't ready for this...

It ended up that the friend in question was in an abusive home, being sexually abused by her step-father and I found out recently that her little brother forced sexual acts on someone else my mother could have protected...where was SHE?  How did she not know?  I'm super paranoid about who my children interact with and if I have a bad feeling ,I  go with it.  I want to know who they are with, what the family is like, and honestly, they don't do a whole lot of sleeping over or otherwise with other families, unless I KNOW it's okay.  And I do mean KNOW, as in "What are your feelings about molestation???"  And even when I've allowed a sleepover, if my feeling changes, if ANYTHING presents itself that makes me uncomfortable, I pull the plug. No apologies, no explanation.

One of my mother's proudest "moments" and one she refers to often, as if to convince herself that she was a "good mom" is how I "came to her" when I had my first serious boyfriend and told her we were thinking about becoming intimate.  She still doesn't know that we already were intimate and the only reason I told her is because my older brother had been sleeping with my friend (10 years younger) and when she broke it off, he essentially said I should stop being her friend or he'd tell my mom about my boyfriend and me.  I figured telling her myself was the better option....

And that he was far from my first....

Or my last....

I want better for my children.


When I Was 18.....

A lot of  things changed for me.

I broke up with boyfriend #1 (serious boyfriend #1) and had my second romance with a man too old for me with way too much going on.  That's when I met Jamie and we had our whirlwind romance.

When we met, I was still living at home, working during the night, attending school during the day. By this this time I was old hat at burning the candle at both ends.  For nearly two years I was working 9-5 in an office and then 12-6 am doing a paper route.  Not much time to do much but work, sleep, eat and look forward to the weekends when I only worked nights.

I was in my first week of massage school when IT happened....I moved out of my mother's house in secret.  You see, I always knew I'd never get out of there.  There was something very wrong happening in that house.  My mother never wanted anyone to leave and if they did, it wasn't this happy "go fly little bird" moment.  It was always this huge fight, blow-up, screaming and slamming, things left behind for my mother to go through for "clues" as to how much more she could hold over the person's head.  Oh I remember this well.  At this writing I've been out of the house for 16+ years and everyday since, one of my siblings has lived under that roof.  My mom loves to "help" people like that.  Anyhoo, I remember clearly having these big dreams to get out and make something of myself.  Everytime I tried, she blocked me.  I wanted to go to college.  She took me (I had no car at the time) to take the entrance exam and I got in to a community college when I was 16. Then she refused to take me to sign up for classes or help in any way whatsoever.  So I started working.  She again, drove me, but pretty much every morning threatened she wouldn't because I had done something or the other to tick her off.  One day, I simply stopped begging her to take me and walked to work.  It was a LONG, long trek. My boss was pissed until she actually saw me and found out what happened.  She  knew my mother well.  She was not a fan.  So I was working and going to school and she seemed very supportive of this (which was odd because any other attempt she completely said NO...)  I walk into my house, my arms LOADED with books around 4 pm.  I have a ton of homework to do before I can go to sleep to be ready for work at midnight.  My mother, having been home all day, was sitting at the table in her bathrobe, smoking a cigarette in our trashed kitchen and declares that I must have the kitchen cleaned right NOW, so that she could make dinner.  I knew then..I wasn't going to graduate...I wasn't going to finish school.  I apparently liked it too much...something, but I knew, as I explained how much homework I had and her reply...something about being a selfish bitch (I got told that a lot) I realized she simply didn't care.  I remember something being said that if I couldn't handle school without complaining about chores, I should maybe quit.  Oy.  (Or maybe people in that house could you know, pick up after themselves instead of trashing the kitchen in my absence...there's a thought, no?)

I called Jamie, after dutifully cleaning up the kitchen while my Mom sat and smoked...I am sure after all that she just ordered pizza...a common occurrence....crying, crushed, explaining to him how I would never, ever get out of that house. No one had for any length of time and I would never be able to finish anything.  She'd stop me....He told me "Okay...come live here..." What?? LIVE WITH YOU?  No way. You are my BOYFRIEND.  I have more class than that...He told me I worked nights...he worked nights..I went to school in the day...we'd barely see each other, but that I could stay there as long as I needed.  Once he framed it like that...like a break from my mom and not a co=habitation sort of thing, I agreed.  I snuck out of my bedroom window, pulled my SUV up to the window and started gingerly loading everything I owned into that vehicle.  In my house, you didn't leave through the front door without a lot of drama and I wanted to avoid it.  I locked my bedroom door, got all my belongings...and drove away.  My mother never knew until she had to unlock my door that night to make sure I'd go to work (for her...there was ALWAYS a job available with Captain Mom and always a threat of being fired.  Fun times)  She came up to me in a total huff.  She had been worked around and she didn't know what to think.  "You could have at least said good-bye..." is what she said.  "You wouldn't have let me leave and you know it.." was my reply.  I was strong and sassy on the outside, weak and shaky on the inside.  I half expected  her to throw me down right there, but I forgot...there were people around.  My mom around people was a much different version than my Mom alone.  Something I would have done well to utilize more often during my childhood, but never really thought about until much later.

Well, Jamie and I ended up getting married, truth be known, so we could get housing together.  The couple we shared an apartment with seemed on the verge of decline, which meant Jamie would have to move back to the barracks and I'd have to move back home.  This wasn't an option at all.  If I had moved back to that house, I wouldn't be allowed to see Jamie again and it would have been a nightmare.  I was less scared of getting married to this guy I  barely knew than going back home.  Jamie knows this.  It's not a secret at all ;)  Just glad it worked out!

About three weeks after our rushed vows, we found out that the next phase was upon us.  We were going to be parents!  Yay!!  I was SO sick....Oh man, I was SO sick. Doing papers, smelling the icky newsprint, making all those turns...I couldn't do it anymore.  I just couldn't.  I gave my mom notice.  She was PIIIIISSEEED, but even she had to admit this wasn't working.  I was spending so much time on the side of the road throwing up I couldn't make deadline.  For eight weeks, I reminded her I couldn't do this anymore. There was a lot of drama, a lot of manipulating....it was not a fun time.  Finally, she found a guy who wanted to take my route.  She got him set up and had me take him out with me (strange guy...sent out in your daughter's car into the rural parts of your town for hours...what the hell was she THINKING???) and I trained him.  I was going to be FREE.  I was SO excited.  My last day was to be Sunday morning papers.  My mother called me Saturday, shortly before I needed to be there for my LAST DAY (sooooo happy) to tell me I couldn't quit now.  New guy's car was having trouble and so I would still be doing papers indefinitely until they could figure something out.  I should have known.  I was never, ever getting out of this.  Jamie was like "So what?  We'll leave YOUR car there, he can drive it..."  Oy.  My mother was furious, which I never did understand.  She was livid, but I (through Jamie's encouragement) stuck to my guns and left my vehicle at my mom's for the new guy to use.  The next morning, I get a very nasty voicemail "I hope you're happy.  You've really F**KED me over you little B****!!!"  How???  How did I do this?  I gave EIGHT weeks notice, trained a guy and gave him a vehicle?  What she lying about this guy?  Did he never intend to take it on?  Still don't know.  Never did find this out.

Apparently something worked out because I got my car back.  I still had a payment to make on it, so the plan was to use my last paycheck (I was paid two weeks behind by my mom, like everyone else in the world) to make my insurance payment for the month and start filling out day job applications.  Then the calls started "You need to pay your insurance..."  And me saying, "Uhm you have DOUBLE the amount of that payment that you still owe me.  I am going to use my last paycheck to pay my insurance and save the other half back for the car payment."  Well, according to my mother, since I quit my job with her (with EIGHT weeks) notice, she owed me nothing.  My paycheck was HERS now.  What?? Seriously??  And yep, she kept it....I went job hunting. Got a job at Target.  The day I was supposed to start this job, I get another lovely Mom call "Well, I have cancelled the insurance....you better not be driving. I"ll call the cops..." She KNEW I need to be at work.  She HAD the money to pay and she cancelled the insurance. The kicker was, I couldn't even get new insurance without HER.  Her name was in the car (as it always is, she LOOOVES helping people get cars...guess what she does then???)  And she wasn't going to do anything about this. I was stuck with this SUV, a payment and no job because I lost it because she cancelled my car insurance...

And if that wasn't enough...she called almost daily saying if I didn't pay her for the car payment and insurance, she was coming to take my car away from me.  I was in absolute misery.  Jamie....was pissed.  Here is his new wife, stuck at home, with a car he can't afford...and no job because his mother in law is crazy.  After one such 'I'm coming to take her car" voicemail, he said "Done.  She wants it...she can have it.  I'm sick of this shit...she's insane."  I was like "NO, you cannot DO that.  Not to MY mom.  She'll kill me...she'll kill you..you don't do things like this.  She must always have the upperhand if you want to survive."  He explained it logically...she was threatening me, she had put me in a position where I couldn't support myself or do for myself and would NOT budge or help me...and that this burden had to go.  This constant threat, for my own mental health, needed to be dealt with.  And so, one night, he took the SUV, without insurance, down to my mother's house....his buddy followed him.  They parked it outside my mom's house, put the keys and the payment book in the seat and drove away.  I stayed curled up in my bed until he arrived, scared out of my mind...wondering if he'd pull it off and if he did....what the consequences would be. Didn't take too long to find out...

Lots of angry voicemails.  I was called every name in the book.  I was told to call her IMMEDIATELY.  Then...I was DEAD TO HER!!

For my 19th birthday, Jamie came home with a toaster oven, then promptly called the telephone company and got our phone number changed....and unlisted.  Did that stop her?  No.  She had Jamie's pager number.  It was a pretty fancy thing back then to have a pager with a voicemail, but he did and my mom used it.

That's when more calls came in.  Oh...that I stole all her jewelry and she was calling the cops...

And MY personal favorite....'And just so you  know Jamie...that baby probably isn't even yours...you might want to call me to find out who's it is.." (And seriously y'all...that was just STUPID.  I had a boyfriend before Jamie but he was not a contender for fatherhood and if that guy was, he wouldn't tell my MOM.  He would have run away and left me high and dry. He wasn't a stand up type of guy...)

All of this because my mother lost total control of me.  For years and years....I didn't KNOW (I do now) how completely messed up this was.  I'd tell the story thinking that person listening would tell me how horrible I was to do this...but all I've ever gotten was a silent stare or maybe a "Wow, she is INSANE."  One therapist told me that it wasn't often she recommended walking away from such an important relationship, but that until my  mother received mental help, it was in my best interest to remove her from my life.

I spend the entire pregnancy with my first child somewhat afraid....I didn't know what would happen.  I did let my sister know he was coming and while I was still being stitched up, my mother calls.  Because it's all okay now.  I refused to talk to her.  She later told me that "hurt her feelings..." Seriously???  Wow.  She ended up coming over later that week.  It was awful.  Uncomfortable, but I was young, a new mom and thought I needed MY mom to help guide me.  I was also confident she could no longer do anything to me because we would be moving out of state.  Little did I know what the next few months would bring.  Another story for another day....

I tell this story often, just to recheck myself...Was this normal behavior or is my mother mentally ill?  See, she hasn't gotten any better.  She still pulls this shit.  We had another round similar to this and yet, she's never apologized.  She acknowledged this situation just recently.  She tried to tell me I had "screwed her" (actually my older brother reminded her of this, he loves reminding her of how much better HE is) and I was like 'Oh yeah...how?"  She said "That time you left me with that Explorer..." and I finally could say "Yeah... I left it there after you cancelled the insurance, threatened to take it back daily, said I stole your jewelry and told Jamie that Kyle wasn't his baby...."  She went silent.  She whispered "I had forgotten about that.."  I said, loud and clear, "Well I haven't..."  Her reply was "I was an idiot, a total idiot..."  Ya think?

How about that apology?

Never came....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When Words Are Too Much...

I keep meaning to hop on over to my neglected blog, say a few words...at least...then realize I have too many swimming around in my head and for some reason they are stuck.  Probably one of those bottle-nose effect things.  I mean, I can write a 5,000 blabbering thing about knitting, but when something major is happening, I am just so completely stuck.

Things in my life are topsy-turvy.  But when I try to explain it comes out really whiny, scattered and crazy and I keep trying to find that place where I've talked about it enough for it to all make sense and it's just not coming easy.

Things feel very, very different.

You see, there have been several occasions in my life where my mother and I have stopped speaking.  Big blow-ups where she declares I am no longer worth the time or effort, or that I'm dead to her...and then eventually, enough time passes that she forgets what she was so angry about and I allow her right back in with the unspoken agreement that these "things" won't be mentioned again.

Because....she's my mom.

You know Facebook is notorious for making you feel guilty if you don't have these overwhelming feelings of adoration for the person that birthed you.  SHARE if you LOVE YOUR MOM!!!! And then the..."You better call your Mom because when she's gone, you'll be sorry....No matter what has happened, she is still YOUR MOM!" And whenever I've tried to explain to people that I don't share this sentiment, I get some version of "Well, you'd feel differently if she weren't here..."

People just do not get it.

You know what I get from my mom?  Honestly?  She calls me about three times a week to tell me about the weather, who has pissed her off, what Dr. So and So said on TV and to ask what my children are doing....not that she really cares (she hasn't so much as sent a birthday card for oh...ten years???) it just gives her something to tell her cronies.  A little proof that she actually knows I have children.

She has also given me a memory bank full of craziness, sadness and despondence.  The thing is, my memory is strong.  Very strong.  Hers is selective.  She fondly recalls the dresses she bought me for the school dance, or the times we sat up doing Algebra problems before a test with her friend and mine.  Yeah, when there were other people around, she played the part flawlessly.  When I was sassy...around her friends...she'd laugh  because they laughed, but should I say those same words the next day, I was met with a hand across my face and a reminder of what a "selfish little bitch" I was....just like "your father..." (who I barely remembered...)

It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that something clicked for me.  My childhood was not normal.  I know this because I would tell a few stories here and there about things my mother had done and instead of "Yeah, I know..." or any sort of recognition in the faces of my friends, they were horrified.  And as my children grew, even when I wanted to SCREAM because they were being completely and totally obnoxious, not once did I feel compelled to shove them into their bedrooms and beat them so hard with a belt that there were welts up and down their legs and not once have I ever told them what little a-holes they are or how much I hate them.  I mean...how can you do these things to a child??? To a PERSON?  TO ANYONE?

The thing is, when this is your life, all you can do is rationalize it..."it's not so bad.." I've even heard my own younger brother say these things to me.  "We're not all screwed up.." Same brother that was convinced my 15 year old son needed a truck load of condoms just to go away for a week at camp, because every 15 year old boy disrespects women in general and will just go randomly have sex with any girl willing....even when that boy has a girlfriend and wouldn't do anything to hurt her.  Big shocker there.  Integrity.  Or that he WILL do drugs because that's what EVERY kid does.  The thing is, I know a lot of teenagers.  A LOT.  And I know their parents and most of them (not all) totally expect that their children know better and want better.  They don't accept this sort of thing as the "norm."  We aren't sheltering, we are involved.  Involved enough to know what's happening most of the time and stepping in when we are needed to re-direct and guide and TALK.  Parents who don't do these things are NOT the "norm."  Parents who have no relationship with their children other than to tell them how much they are failing, how much they suck, or to direct them to do the things they should be doing are not normal and it is NOT okay.

Normal parents should not miss the births of their daughters' first babies.  They shouldn't tell their children they are dead to them. They shouldn't exclaim, with glee, that their child "looks terrified" when his mugshot hits the internet.  No normal parents should find satisfaction in harming their child or seeing any harm come to them.

And this is what I've had to accept, little by little, piece by piece.  It's been easy to just do my best to forget all this, move on, have a better life, but the thing is, it's all been replayed over and over again and I have to face it over and over again, each time with a bit more confidence that this was NOT normal.  My childhood was not anywhere close to okay.  I know this because if I treated my children that way, EVER, even ONE DAY, I would want to die.  Seriously, I couldn't imagine my children ever thinking of me...of having the memories *I* have with my mother...about me.

And so here I am.  I am at these cross-roads where I know the only right thing to do is walk away completely.  My mother is not going to change or apologize or even acknowledge this.  She wants me to come over to her side where I agree that things she has done...and things she is currently doing, are the right thing.  But, I can't.  I can't do it.  I can't be one more person in her circle that says nothing when she is harming a person she has promised to protect.

The thing I know is that by playing along, playing nice, playing this part of supportive daughter puts me in the place of every adult who waltzed through my life, too afraid or unaware to help me out of that hellacious situation.  And no matter what, I can't be one of those people for the person my Mom is hurting now.  Someone eventually has to stand up and say "No more..." Someone has to say "You are the common denominator."  And if that person has to be me...

So be it.

It sucks.

A lot.