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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.