Monthly Archives: March 2014

Getting fired from motherhood, I blame the Cold Miser.

Taking one hour to cut out ten words.

Taking one hour to cut out ten words.

If motherhood was officially a position in a company I would be so fired right now.  I blame the Cold Miser.  That mofo is blowing wind and snow dust outside of my window.  It’s at the point where I’ve baked so many snow-inspired chocolate chip cookies that Nestle wants me to start recycling their chip bags so I can save the planet.

This is no longer fun.  I didn’t sign up to live in New England.  I live in Virginia and Virginia is for lovers and not for haters.  I’m no longer feeling the love Virginia!  I’m feeling cold, lazy, lethargic and unproductive.  It is at the point where, for my own sanity, I sit at home staring at the walls and drooling ALL day so that I have enough energy to deal with the minions when they return home after school.

Yesterday my first grader took two hours to do his word study and yet I was still able to cook dinner.  KAPOW!  Take that Cold Miser!  He did most of this upside down, a sharp scissor in his hand within inches of my leather chair.  He is brave and he is fierce and so am I.  Don’t judge me people.  This next picture is Max continuing his word study….or not.  “What are you doing Max?” I said in a very calm and loving voice.    “I’m a NINJA, am I good at sneaking?”  said my young, procrastinating ninja man.

Ninja moves

Ninja moves

He did manage to sneak all the way back to his chair and we eventually finished homework and even read a book.  OK that makes me sound better than I actually am.  He read a book….on his computer program.   Then he disappeared into electronic gadget land while I whipped up some lomein from a frozen packet and made a steak salad for my husband and I.  We also opened a bottle of wine, finished it and put the children to bed past their bedtime.  Look,  It I’m at a point where if my children are still hungry I will supplement with a bowl of ice cream.   It’s not pretty.

This past weekend it was SPRING!  I called my friend and exclaimed “I AM A GOOD MOM TODAY, I SENT MY CHILDREN OUTSIDE!”  She laughed because she could relate even though she has triple the energy and drive than I.  I blame this on her tenacity at the gym.  Quick shout out to all of you gym rats and triathletes…one day I will grow up and will still want to be you.  I read an article about a woman who started running at the age of 56 so I still have time.

Of course it doesn’t help my motivation or lack thereof that I got a second dog.  I LOVE my little puppy but I didn’t realize that I would  be potty training her in the middle of the tundra.  Try to get a tiny puppy to pee every two hours in the wet cold snow and see how motivated YOU are!  To top it all off she’s allergic to her vaccinations.   This means that after a visit to the vet she stays up all night with severe diarrhea.

You know what though?  I am grateful.  I am loved, and I am blessed. I am now going to get going today, go buy some real food, walk the puppy in the snow tundra and mentally prepare for the return of my little minions.   Thank God my husband and my children don’t do performance appraisals.

Dance like no one’s watching

A preview of things to come!

A preview of things to come!

Dance like no one’s watching is a fantastic idea unless your ten-year old child is recording your every dance move with your iPhone.  Will Pharell’s new song “Happy” was playing in our kitchen and there I was, swinging my seven-year old around the room, letting the joy bubble out in the form of laughter and my mad dance moves.

Then I replayed the video…..and the smile disappeared from my face.

UGH, UGH, UGH!  I hate that I am even writing this, I resent that this is even true, but instead of seeing the joy and laughter and the moment, I saw FAT.  What the heck happened?  I thought I was a twenty year old sex-pot who just happened to have a couple of kids, who just happened to be wearing sweatpants, but NOOOOOO! THERE WAS A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN DANCING AROUND MY KITCHEN!

When did this happen?  Who let her into my house?

So we danced again.  And this time I sucked in my stomach and I tried a different move or two.  I replayed the video again.  That same woman was still there!  My children got a real kick out of my frustration and I believe we moved right from the dance to chocolate chip cookies.  Hmm….perhaps there’s a link to this mystery!

Now I’m laughing at myself so it’s all good I guess.

Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful.  My friends think I’m joking but one day I will seriously put on the purple pants and I will don a purple hat.   I will embrace my right to be even tackier than I am today and I won’t care one iota about my dance moves.  It’s slowly happening, I must warn you!   My goal is to be the happiest and healthiest purple-wearing, magenta lipstick glowing, white-haired diva you have ever seen.

That day is not today.

Although the reality is that I am closer to 50 than 40 and it is starting to show, I am finding it difficult to beat myself up over it.  I suppose that is healthy.  I would hate to be one of those women who wake up and put on all of their makeup before her husband can see her in the morning.   Actually, the truth is I just don’t have the energy.

Midlife is tough because you make friends with other moms “your age.”  Your age becomes anywhere between 30 and 50 years of age.  You may laugh maniacally when you realize you are five or ten years older than your thin friends and you realize they have no clue what is in store for them.  You may giggle like a crazy woman in the grocery store when you see new mommas with two young children and you feel insanely happy that your kids can wipe themselves.  Perhaps you are that crazy woman who then laughs out loud?

It’s all good.  You may dance around the kitchen and watch your video recording afterwards and decide to go to yoga the next day.  Perhaps you wanted to puke during that yoga class and are still recuperating three days after the fact?  Well, here’s my advice to you…..

Dance like no one’s watching and make sure your iPhone is locked.

 

Love is more powerful than hate. How remembering love for my ex helped my child shine.

Living with mom

Living with mom

One of the casualties of divorce can be the child and his or her relationship with one or both parents.  Even if you cannot bear the sight of your ex-husband or ex-wife, always remember that your child is an extension of them.  As a result, if you hate the ex you pass on that hate to the child.  There is no separation, don’ t kid yourself.  Does your son look like his momma?  Does your daughter have her father’s facial expressions?  You see the similarities, but the heart of a child not only sees those similarities, he or she “feels” them as well, deep down inside the recesses of their heart.  Don’t lie to  yourself….don’t think that the words you say about your ex doesn’t affect your child, or that they are old enough to handle it.

Every time you say something about your ex in front of your child, you are saying it to your son or daughter.  “She’s so selfish – you’re so selfish.”  “He’s so manipulative and crazy – you’re so manipulative and crazy.” A child internalizes their parent’s words and integrates those words and their meaning into the fragile makeup of their self esteem.   Sometimes this is very hard to remember, especially since divorce is usually tied up in emotional turmoil, betrayal and just simple mental exhaustion.   It takes true courage and selflessness to keep your heart guarded around your child.  It takes LOVE.

I was fortunate to have a “decent” relationship with my ex-husband.  We have a boy together, a son that shares many similarities in looks and personality to both of us.  I tried my best to shelter him from our “story,” and since he was an infant during our divorce he did not have a front row seat to our tears, pain and anger.   As he got older my ex-husband and I were very careful, eventually telling him the truth but reinforcing that it is “our” story not his, and that the love we feel for him is true and solid.

There were times when I felt that my ex-husband resented me.  I had sole custody of our son and I was fierce in the way I brought him up.  Trust me, I wasn’t always so nice to my ex-husband.  I was a momma lioness (still am) and sometimes this spilled over to the interactions between myself and my ex-husband.    I was never afraid to communicate or to apologize and sometimes things were a bit rough, but all-in-all, I believe my ex and I did a pretty good job at keeping things real.  My ex-husband loves his son and although he and I have traveled down two very different paths, there were times I wanted to say these words to him.

“There was a time when we loved each other.  During that time we had a son and rejoiced in his birth and our life together.  Although that time was fleeting and other larger problems got in the way, do not hate me.  I do not hate you.  You are human and I am human, with all of the frailties and weaknesses that come with that condition.  I am not your judge and jury and you are not mine.  What matters is our little boy.  If you love him and I know you do, reach down into your heart.  Did you find it?  Did you find that little remaining piece of pebble, that representation of what is the reminder of our long lost love?  Polish it.  Take care of it.  Remember it.  Why?  For our son.

One day your little boy came home crying after school because he was being picked on at school.  I sat down with him and hugged him, giving him guidance on how to find the resilience and strength in his heart to handle difficult situations.  Every day your son fought me on doing his homework and every day I sat down next to him giving him his pencil back (he threw it on the floor), and demanded that he finish.  You worked long hours and didn’t go to his games, but I did.  I explained to him that you worked after school and on weekends and that you could not make it.  I went to every teacher’s conference on your behalf.  He threw up on me numerous times and I have the stubborn shades of a stain on the carpets as resilient evidence.  I hope to replace those darn carpets one day!  When he became a young man he started to ask me questions about “us.”  I took out that pebble that I had carefully been polishing over the years and told him all of the wonderful things I could remember about you, giving him perspective into why you were not the baseball or soccer coach type of dad, and I made sure he knew he had full permission to love and accept you for the father you were and are.  

One day our son will be at his wedding.  I will take that pebble with me.  I will take it with me as our mixed and extended families share the room together and our son’s face beams with pride and acceptance.  Love will fill the room.   That pebble will no longer be so small.  It will have grown based on our own actions.   Our grandchildren will have the foundation needed to freely love their extended families and our son will be so much better for it all.  Thank you for helping me share this gift of love.”

When you are in the middle of the divorce tornado it is hard to see through the darkness.  I want you to know that the light is there and your will find your way out of this turmoil.  There will come a day when you will reap what you sow.  I understand that divorce hurts and I often think of Billy Joel’s song “Stranger” when I describe the insanity of it all.   Many times the person you thought you knew is actually a stranger.

Well we all fall in love, but we disregard the danger.  Though we share so many secrets, there are some we never tell.  Why were you so surprised that you never saw the stranger, did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself.

Don’t be afraid to try again.  Everyone goes south every now and then.  (Billy Joel #Stranger)

Are you getting divorced?  Are you already divorced with children?  My prayer for you is that one day you are able to find your pebble and polish it until it shines and that your ex does the same.  It is never too late to create a legacy of love that will carry through to future generations.

In the blink of an eye

Happiness is an unexpected hug

Happiness is an unexpected hug

This year I took Brene Brown’s online vulnerability class.  It was the first class provided through Oprah’s life class series.  The class required a lot of soul-searching, but one lesson struck me the hardest.  This enlightening lesson was that “happiness” is the presence of normalcy.  The people, the routines, the things we take for granted, are the ingredients for our own happiness.  It is the loss of normalcy that leads to grief.  During this lesson we had to write down and think about those normal  pieces of our lives that bring us joy and happiness.

In the blink of an eye one of those things can be taken from you.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is affecting minds and hearts around the world.  It is such a powerful story because it represents the change that can happen “in the blink of an eye.”  My husband has taken this flight numerous times in his travels to Asia.  On the morning after the disappearance he came to me, hugged me and told me he loved me, and although it seems morbid or sad, said that if anything ever happened to him he would want me to live a full happy life with our children.   It is my biggest fear that I will one day have to experience a monumental circumstance in my life such as this one.  It is my prayer that I live out my days, see my children get married, get to an old age with my husband and hold my grandchildren.   I pray for normal.

And I started thinking….life could change for anyone in the blink of an eye.

No one brings this incredible lesson home to my heart more than Ken Diviney and his family.  They are a constant reminder that we should be grateful for all of the normalcy that we have on a daily basis.   They experienced change in the blink of an eye.  Their change, their moment devastated four lives and the lives of people close to them.  Their change, their “in the blink of an eye,” lead to years of ongoing sadness and grief with no sign of stopping or slowing.

Ryan Diviney lives in our town.  He went to our schools, attended our college, knew our friends.  His mother had parent-teacher conferences with our teachers.  Ken cheered Ryan on at sporting events that we attended or attend today.  They barbecued with friends, laughed over a beer or two, spoke with pride about their children and life was normal.  Ken and Sue rejoiced in the life they built together, the pride they felt in their children and life was good, lIfe was happy.

And then, in the blink of an eye normalcy was taken away.  On November 7, 2009 Ryan Diviney was assaulted and has been in a permanent vegetative state ever since.  Ken, Sue, Ryan and Kari lost normalcy.  They lost normal and they lost happiness.

We lost his twinkling smile and ability to light up any room. His passion… gone. His light, gone. Not only my family but the world lost a great guy that night.  (http://ryansrally.org/2013/08/26/kari-reflects-i-lost-my-big-brother-that-night/)

The Divineys have been supported by their community but their burden is truly theirs to bear.  No matter what support, what friendship and what love they receive, they go to sleep alone with the loss of normalcy and wake up longing and missing their son and their normal.  I have learned a lot from this family about the resilience of the human spirit, about love, about strength and about life.  Although they may not know this, they have taught many of us a lot about ourselves and for me, an understanding that I truly need to be grateful for my normal.

When someone loses their normal there is nothing they need more than love from those around them.  They need hearts, they need minds, they need support.  I have learned one thing they do not need.  They do not need nor do they want us to put some kind of life lesson or meaning on their loss.     We cannot solve their problems nor can we carry their burden.  We can however pray for them, we can provide moments of happiness and love and we can ask them what they need.   We can also “see” them for who they really are, not allowing their tragedy to define them in our eyes, but to see that they are “us,” they have lost their normal and are trying to find their way through it.

What is your normal?  Embrace your normal, enjoy those moments, the simple pleasures, whether that is the hug of a child or the flowers in your garden.  Wake up every single day and realize that you have everything you need to be happy and truly LIVE.  Be grateful because as others can tell you, if life changes in the blink of an eye, it will be too late.

Please pray for the passengers or Flight 370, for the Divineys and those who have lost their normal.

 

All He Really Needed to Know He Didn’t Learn in Kindergarten

What do you remember about kindergarten?  I remember Meadowbrook Elementary School and my sweet gray-haired kindergarten teacher.   Kindergarten was a place of exploration, a place where I played in wooden make-believe kitchens.  I drank milk out of red and white milk cartons, painted with finger paints and put my head down on the desk for nap time.  Kindergarten was exciting!  I learned to be a big girl,  was eager to learn and I can remember being excited at the newness of it all.

When my son Ryan went to kindergarten he was told that a green fish meant he was well-behaved.  If he received a yellow fish he was on warning and a red fish was so bad that his parents would be contacted.  In October, in kindergarten, the teacher wanted me to get him a tutor.  Let me repeat that; the teacher wanted me to get Ryan a tutor for kindergarten.  Apparently he passed his PALS assessment but he did not pass with a test score his teacher had become known for.  She actually said those words to me.   Ryan and I learned the power of negative reinforcement and we learned that kindergarten was a place of restriction.  Kindergarten was a place where children were told that they were not normal unless they were perfect little angels that knew how to be perfect little test takers.

Ryan finished out the year and he and I celebrated with an amazing summer before he went on to first grade.

Two weeks into the new school year the first grade teacher requested a meeting with me.  Ryan needed a tutor.  I became highly suspicious, was there some kind of notation in my child’s file?  How could a teacher make this kind of leap again?  I had always thought that Ryan was highly intelligent and the feedback from school was challenging my own thoughts about my child.  I was confused and doubted my own insight into my son.  Being told over and over again that he was a slow learner, didn’t complete his work and was not scoring well was difficult to hear.  However, what was even more impossible was getting this feedback without any productive solutions except for red fishes and big red marks on papers.   Ryan, at eight years old, was struggling with his self-esteem and confidence.  His papers would be marked in red “INCOMPLETE” “TAKES TOO MUCH TIME,” and “NEEDS TO FOCUS.”   He was being told he was a failure and even though I was trying to do everything I could to help him, I felt like a failure as well.

I decided to have more faith in my son and my gut intuition and made a big decision.  I took him out of public school.  I knew other parents who had decided to home school their children, and others who sent their child to private schools that rivaled the cost of a college education, but I had always thought that was a bit much.  Like many parents we had previously paid thousands of dollars for daycare, and I could remember feeling so liberated when that cost was no longer in the equation.   To consciously sign up for that cost again for something that should be included in my tax dollars was a hard pill to swallow.

My husband and I pulled him out of the public school system and put him in a Montessori school.  Ryan went from reading 15 words a minute to reading 115 words a minute in only one month.  The Montessori school was the right environment for him.  It allowed him to learn at his own pace, and together with the teachers and Director, I started to rebuild my son’s confidence in himself.  In addition, I was truly supported with identifying some of Ryan’s personal challenges and was able to take the necessary steps to actually help my son.  This true acceptance and celebration of the differences in all children  was critical for Ryan’s confidence and education during those foundational years.

After third grade we left the Montessori environment and Ryan went back to the public school system.  He adjusted quickly and made the honor roll.  Next year he starts middle school and will be taking all honors classes.  Mind you, this does not mean he rocks the standardized tests.  We have learned that he does not have to measure himself against these tests, he only needs to compete against himself.  It’s a philosophy that is working well for us.

Ryan was lucky in that he was taken out of an environment that did not support his learning style at an early stage of development.   In trying to improve the educational model in the United States we have lost the hearts and minds of our children.  Teachers have such pressure to teach towards standardized tests, to such a high extent that creativity and tolerance is left by the wayside.  Why do we allow these negative reinforcement models in our schools?  Why do we allow problems but no solutions?  Being your child’s advocate is critical in this day and age.

You may be a new mother or you may have children in elementary school at this very moment.  Chances are you have had parent teacher’s conferences about your child.  Take the input, read the scores, get involved with your child’s progress and then do your best for your child.  Education is important and  so is your child’s self-esteem and confidence.

It’s dangerous when we allow ourselves or our children to be labeled.   I rejected those labels and taught Ryan to do so as well.  Be careful with the labels put on your child; troublemaker, smarty pants, inattentive, sensitive, leader, sporty, brainy, shy, the list goes on and on.  Trust your intuition and don’t let other people’s measurement sticks impede the right way for your son or daughter.

All my son really needed to know in kindergarten was that he was interesting, intelligent and funny.  All my son really needed to know in kindergarten was that learning is a true gift and can be an exciting journey.

All my son really needed to know in kindergarten, he learned from me.

 

 

Vulnerability, and honesty, and courage! OH MY!

(Source: doctormacro.com)

(Source: doctormacro.com)

My husband was my muse this morning.  He has an insight into my heart that is truly inspirational.  Over coffee we sat in our kitchen reflecting on my different friendships.    Here is the “essence” of what he said.

You build friendships on raw honesty and vulnerability.  You connect on a heart level, and in that way you are very different.  Not many people put their heart on the table.   Men don’t have friends (for the most part) that they can go to and say “how do I sort out this problem or I feel bad about myself,” because in a very simplified manner we just nod our heads to each other and say “what’s up!”  Women go deeper, they have better support networks and tend to lead with their hearts.   You have to just keep being yourself and understand that people may think you have a hard shell but you are really soft inside.  This surprises them because you also react with your heart and are very strong and immediate.  Don’t change that, just realize that your honesty and vulnerability will only be reciprocated with the right people.

His words stopped me in my tracks as I sorted this out to get perspective.   I’ve always known I’m an emotional and sensitive soul but the fact that I often take my heart out and put it on the table is a dangerous endeavor, especially since there are people in this world that like to step on hearts (and bugs).    I think that many conflicts or misunderstandings between women come from this vulnerability being restricted or hidden.  That being said, if you are going to be vulnerable you must be honest.  It is the only way.  Not sharing your feelings in an honest manner just builds and builds walls between you and the women you love.   It is my belief that honesty takes courage, lots and lots of courage.   You risk rejection, ridicule and hurt, but the friends that are truly worth it will handle you with care.  They will love you and show you their hearts too.

In a crowded room, I’m not one for small talk.  This  tripped me up during my career when I had to work a room.  I find it extremely tedious to talk about the weather or ask about what someone does for a living.  As a result I am more likely to sit alone during a party or go off to the side.  If you see these behaviors  she may not be “unfriendly,” she may be a sensitive soul.   The sensitive soul reads a book during recess, she looks at her phone in the middle of a party, she sits on a couch where no one else is sitting.   The sensitive soul may hide so no one sees her even though the sensitive soul thrives on real connection.  The key though is to be sensitive and courageous.

My husband took me to a business event.   I saw a man standing alone and he looked lonely and uncomfortable.  Another sensitive soul!   I’m going to be courageous!  I marched right up to him, thrust out my hand and started chatting away.  He told me about his family, we spoke about his country and we laughed and connected.  When I walked away I was told he was the Ambassador from Chile.   If I had known that before hand I probably would never have tried to connect, I may not have been brave.

I may not have been brave….why not?   My own insecurities would have blocked my way.  Then fear of rejection would have also stood up to stand in front of his friend insecurity.   It’s hard to win in a staring contest with these two.  These are the “real” obstacles to love, to friendship and to real connection.  In the last couple of years I have really focused on being brave and trying to see people for who they really are.  It has opened me to new experiences, new friendships and has taught me a lot about myself.  I have learned that it is our differences that teach us about ourselves.

Truth!

Truth!

In some ways this blog is about being courageous.   Will more intelligent people read these posts and instead of seeing “the message,” will they only see grammatical errors?  Perhaps!  I am making a conscious decision to write anyway and to learn from the mistakes I make.  I am trying to be sensitive and courageous.

Be real.  Be vulnerable, be honest and loving, and be courageous.  Be yourself.  It is beautiful.