A family journey…

emmxokmbsik-emma-dauI have been thinking a lot about family lately. My birth family, who i lived with until I was 12, I was the youngest, my grandmother was the woman who loved others through baking, cooking and making for them. My mother was crippled with mental illness and depression and so the most stable parent in my home was only there part time and pretty abusive, but that’s an entirely different story.

The dynamics were skewed but it’s what I knew. “family time” with my mom looked like my mother in front of the TV, smoking and moody. I could watch the westerns or old movies she watched, or I could go play in my room alone. When my step dad was around, “family time” included movie nights, (often inappropriate, but still it was something) and games. My mom really went on and on about how she hated games, but I loved those game nights the most. They were rare. Dinner when he was around was always large meals like Tbones, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and the perfect iced tea. When he wasn’t around I had frozen dinners, half-cooked, nearly thrown and me and verbal abuse about how I would eat it, not gag and not complain. There was also the months long period of time when I only ever was allowed to eat bologna sandwiches.

There was no talking, not really. No parental guidance, or heart to hearts. There were lots of rants, lots of two-faced confessions and a lot of verbal abuse. There was not a “how was school?” or “what are you interested in these days?” Birthday plans, from my mom, typically consisted of plans she made to mess with me the most. The one that sticks out the most is the year she went on and on about how she was going to do something so special and amazing for my birthday, IF I DESERVED it. When the week of my birthday came, I asked her if I’d been good enough and she told me she’d never said she was doing anything for my birthday and I didn’t deserve to even be told Happy Birthday. I was turning 10. The morning of my birthday my mother was especially mean. I walked to my grandmother’s for lunch and tried talking to her about it but she just kept saying “well, you know how your mother is. Just try to enjoy your day.” When she took me home I walked in to a surprise party and my mom crying happily because she had “pulled it off”. I just remember feeling so confused. To this day, 30 years later I still remember that lost and worthless feeling echoing What is going on???, throughout my head.

My larger family consisted of an aunt, uncle, cousins, grandparents, etc. Pretty normal. We did family holiday dinners, when my mom allowed me to participate. It was always fun and there was good food, lots of laughter, games played and I loved them. There still wasn’t talking really. It was, at least when I was around, pretty light-hearted and fun. Well, that’s not entirely true. There were often yelling matches when my mother was in a mood, which soured everything.

At 12 I went to live in a foster family filled to the brim with two biological children and 8 fosters. Family time looked like everyone piled around watching movies and drinking soda and eating homemade popcorn. On Sunday’s, after church, we sat at the table lingering after lunch and telling jokes. We baked and cooked together. Things like parental talks and advice, honest criticism, encouragement, etc were something I balked at because, lets face it, they were a foreign language to me.

I changed foster families once, about a year and a half later. There were similarities but a lot more tension and “joking around” which could have been borderline bullying…

Fast forward to a dinner when Gen was about 9. My son sat at the table and said something very sexually crude, to which my older daughter laughed and said something to follow-up. Chw and I looked at each other and realized that we were standing on a parental precipice. We decided then and there that our home would be the home were things could be talked about, and over the years they have been. If questions were asked, we answered them honestly, without candy coating anything. There were moments when he or I would question if we were doing the right thing, allowing such candidness, but with our youngest heading to college in a few months, we know we did it right.

Family time, in our family, does not happen enough. (That’s the way with older kids I guess.) When it does though, it looks like movie nights with homemade popcorn, or game nights, or family dates to dinner, etc. It looks like walks and bike rides or light hiking. Sometimes there is teenage attitude which puts a damper on it, but most of the time there is laughter, conversations ranging from politics to religion, sex to relationships, etc. There are always movie quotes and references to other times together, littered throughout.

I am not a perfect mother, thankfully I have never strived for perfection. I haven’t ever really worried about if my kids like me or not, but more on loving my kids where they are. Parenthood for anyone is speckled with disappointments and triumphs, adoptive parenting is no different. The journey is hard and our family has a lot of evidence of my shortcomings, but that is ok. This weekend everyone (but my son) was together. As open and honest conversation (about pretty much every possible thing, including an in-depth discussion on poop), laughter (sometimes at someone else’s expense, in a loving way) and at one point we just looked around and thought, this… Of all the dynamics I have known, ours is the one I love the most. It may not be your style, or her style, or that guys over there, but it IS ours. This is us, and I love us…

A house/A home…

I have the heart of a true dog lover…

When Chw and were young and a bit crazy, and two new kids living in upstate New York, we grew our little family with an adorable little roly-poly Golden Retriever puppy named Makaila. Makaila became the very best friend of our little Gen, when she came home to us.251415_10150202049326277_874492_n

250367_10150202049386277_5410559_n

When Makaila was five years old, an adorable little newborn black and barely white puppy fell into our laps. We named her Paisley, for no particular reason other than I had dreamed of getting a puppy named Paisley the night before. Paisley was tiny and dependent and bonded to me very, very deeply. As she grew, my heart wrapped so tightly around that precious little dog.

In August of Makaila’s ninth year, we learned she had bladder cancer and in a very short amount of time she made her way across that rainbow bridge. We had her cremated and her ashes were scattered at a Christmas tree farm, which I still think is the loveliest of things…

264519_10151371579531277_449435131_n

IMG_4222

A couple of months later Paisley was lonely for a canine companion and we foolishly jumped at the first puppy we found. She is called Emma and she is a character. She and Paisley never hit it out. Emma can be funny, but she is seldom sweet and often her soul is more fire than love (in a sassy and prideful way, of course). She is the most un-dog any of us have ever known, she has made home what it is and we love her quirky ways all the same.

386401_10150361005981277_1437126577_n

 

Ironic as it seems, this past August was Paisley’s 9th year and she too found her way to the Rainbow Bridge. It was sudden and gut wrenching and a piece of me went with her. I think a piece of all of us, even little Emma, went too. She was the epitome of love in a dog. The most pleasing, comforting, loving, accepting, reassuring creature I have ever known…

Emma has had a tough time recovering the loss of the other canine presence. She lost herself a bit and is finally emerging. My husband assures me there will be no future dogs for us. My heart both sighs with relief at his words, and aches to beg for another.

I love my kids and they make the two of us a family, binding us together and bringing about rhyme, reason and purpose… But our dogs, our dogs have made our houses home. They’ve breathed life when the darker times convinced us there was none. Their wet noses have whispered love into the loneliest of moments and often been the only things that dragged me from the pits of a depression hell in the dark days.

Dogs make the world a better place…

Tell me about any pets you have loved?

Thanks to the release of the new film A Dog’s Purpose (based on a WONDERFUL film, of the same name), which opens on 1/27, I am happy to give away a $25 Fandango credit to one reader! The giveaway ends at Midnight on 1/26! To enter simply comment here with your story of a dog you’ve loved.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer. And just in case you missed it, here’s a link to a post I wrote about their charity support.

What it means to be a woman…

Right now, being a woman is a very trendy thing. There are all of these social media driven explosions about how we should be proud to be a girl, etc. It has happened here or there, over the years but Hillary’s campaign really began the process of bringing it to a head. Because he was running against a girl (and I’m not sure any man would have made it through the election without being painted as a horrible person because of the “Feminist” climate of our nation, honestly) there is no way Trump could have escaped without being labelled a sexist monster who hates women… Then again, it is really Trump himself who made our president-elect such an easy target. I am not going to venture into political waters because everyone else is doing it, and that’s just not my thing. I am here to talk about how this is a really great time to be a woman. You know, #proudtobeagirl and all of that stuff. And don’t get me wrong, I am.

But why now? Why is it so incredibly, mind blowingly awesome to be a girl now? Why isn’t this sort of enthusiasm consistently offered to young girls when they get their first period? Why isn’t it intensified to such a huge degree when a woman pushes a child from her body? Why isn’t being a woman, and all of the awesomeness it entails, being celebrated when the nurturing love of a mother breaks, and breaks, and breaks the heart it beats in because motherhood is painfully hard sometimes?

Feminism is about women having a voice, having rights, being worthy. The heart of feminism is something every single one of us should stand for. TRUE Feminism is not what we are seeing these days. Is it Feminist to have a say about what goes on with our bodies? Ok. I agree, no one should be able to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. My biggest fear, as far as abortion laws are concerned, is that the government would have complete say in regards to whether a woman could keep her pregnancy. If we have strict abortion regulations, this will give them that power and that terrifies me. BUT why has abortion become this symbol of feminism? Why does abortion represent a subculture that is supposed to be about fairness and beauty? There is nothing fair or beautiful about it. Regardless of your perspective or stance, abortion is an ugly act. Metaphorically, let’s look at Breast Cancer. In a society where great tits are invaluable, imagine the woman who learns she has to have a mastectomy and will be left with a caved in chest in place of her greatest physical asset. After her scars have healed, she may feel a sense of beauty in her scar, but the very process to get from one point to the latter will be a hellish journey, paved with varied indescribable emotions. If a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, should she have the right to make the decision on how to treat it? yes. It is her body. It is her body, period, and up to her to live with the consequences of her decisions…But women should not march the streets deciding that mastectomy scars, or the right to have a mastectomy if we choose, defines us as true women. Just like an abortion. I believe that a baby is a baby from the time it is conceived. I also have a family created by the system in place to remove children from heinously abusive situations. How is abortion any worse than the situations of the 428,000 foster children in the United States. If women who were not going to want or love their babies were forced to have them, what would that number be? And it isn’t just a number, these are children. Broken, beaten, molested, bandaged, damaged, tortured and fractured (sometimes beyond repair) human beings…

Abortion is not something to be celebrated. It also isn’t some deep dark secret that women should keep buried in shame. We each have a story. Those stories are defined by choices we’ve made and choices others made for us. Let’s celebrate our individual journeys as women, and build each other up regardless of differences. Abortion should not be the focus here…

Womanhood should be, In all of its glory.

Hail the women who raise up other women to not only believe in themselves, but to empower other women. Hail to the women who do NOT belittle men as less than worthy. Two wrongs do not make a right. It was never ok for men to treat women this way and it is never going to be ok for us to do this to men. True feminism means we are equal to stand beside them. NOT the same. NOT better, but deserving of equal pay, equal rights and equal opportunity.

I love being a woman. I’d much rather have a vagina over a penis. I love scented lotions, good books, my feminine handwriting, hair products, the very special sanctity that is female friendship and great lip gloss. I love that I have nurturing relationships with my daughter, that I cry in movies and that my shoe selection is much cuter than my husband’s. I don’t want to be a man. I want to be a woman and celebrate true womanhood. True womanhood has absolutely nothing to do with abortion. True feminism, the very essence of feminism, has nothing to do (NOTHING TO DO) with abortion.

Until we can focus on the real priorities and stop getting caught up in the details that distract us along the way, we can expect for things in this country to continue to fall apart. It doesn’t matter who our president is, if we can’t get it together and stand as a diverse community who truly loves and accepts EVERYONE, we are lost. (and by everyone, I do not mean simply the homosexual and transgendered communities, but the Christian Pro-lifers too.)

A dog’s purpose…

a-dogs-purpose-one-sheet

You guys… I am so excited about this movie! I read the book, years ago, and loved it so much. As a dog lover, it is the sort of book that just stuck with me. The movie looks amazing, and emotional, and it seems like a healing balm for my sweet Paisley, whom I lost a few months ago. (She definitely served a purpose!)

I wanted to share the trailer with you, just in case you haven’t seen it, or are just wanting some Friday dog love!

Also, because this is super cool, if you click here, you can upload a photo of your dog and celebrate their purpose in your life! It is a wonderful, interactive way to brag on our furry loves a bit! In addition to bragging on our dogs, we can make a donation to Best Friends Animal society! Even better, for every donation, Universal is matching them up to $25,000! So not only is this a heart warming movie, but their using their film to make an awesome impact!

On reflections…

img_2610

October was an incredible month for me. Not only did I get to spend so much precious time with my older daughter A and her boys, but I also got the chance to spend an awesome week with my best friend Kozzette. As if those things weren’t enough, I had the privilege of spending 9 days road tripping through New England. My eyes have never drank in a more beautiful October. In that adventure my spirit reset, inspiration seeds were planted deep within my soil and an undiscovered personal dream was born. (Is it wrong that I want to do it again every October?)

I am going on six months of being back in Michigan and it has been an adventure. Ups and Downs. I have seen that persistence really can pay off, and sometimes it is better to let go. I have come to realize my position as a mother, both what that does mean and what it does not. This year has possibly been the biggest leg of my journey. The truths I knew November 1st of last year are not the truths I know now. The difference would, of course, be that last year I knew only to view things through the filter of how I felt in that moment. Today I know to look at life in the big picture and step out of how I’m feeling to look at life objectively. (I have also learned that calories, when your life is upside down, are not equal to calories when your life is getting back on track. This may seem ridiculous, but it’s true!)

I took this photo in Sandwich Massachusetts. I love it because the reflection is crisp and yet, somehow gentler and more beautiful. This struck me. I want my reflection (in all senses of the word) to be just like that. I want others to see me as an authentic reflection of who I really am. Sometimes life may ripple that, and the grace is for that to be accepted. For me to accept it, and for those who I allow in my life to as well. I do not want to fall apart emotionally when my reflection isn’t crystal perfection for others to see. The health of the pond will determine the health of my reflection. Life is that pond. Life organically works out, when we let it. Sometimes there is rain, wind, hail, fallen branches, murky water… I am just kind of rambling here, with nonsense that probably only makes sense to me and that is ok too.

Here’s the truth. I am not perfect. I am not beautiful. I am not popular. I am ok with those things. I have amazing friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world. There are people, honestly many people, who I have not kept within my circle. Either they could not be honest, or could not value me and stuck around only so I would shower them with support and love. I don’t do that, and I have never pretended otherwise. I have an amazing sense of loyalty to the people in my life, but after a time that loyalty dies if our relationship is not mutually maintained.

Here’s the truth.. I never had a child from my womb. The ugly possibility that this happened because I was not cut out to be a mother is one which will speak to me, deep within the shadows of my mind, forever. I fought hard to be a mother and fought like hell for my three kids. I have unique relationships with each of them and do fear that my relationship with my youngest will not be a life long one. There are many resentments and issues and jealousies within her heart. I used to believe their existence were evidence that I was not a great mother. While I do not recommend separating from your child, even temporarily, I can honestly say that doing so has saved my life. It happened twice and each time I learned immense lessons about my motherhood. I am far from a perfect mother, but what I am is a damn good one. There are a few who have judged decisions I have made, and believed they had the authority to do so because of their age or spiritual opinion of themselves. The one thing I am most proud of, in my motherhood, is that I have loved my kids regardless of anything and always from a place of raw honesty. The second thing is that I do not compare myself to other parents or judge what may feel like their parental failures.

Here’s the truth… I am a wife. I am probably not a great one, but I have done my very best. This I know for a fact. I have fought for my marriage harder than anything in the world and my husband has never had a single person pour more love, effort or uncondition in to him. That being said, I have hatred in my heart. Hatred for the women he has chosen over me, whether they are friendship or other. He has a group of women friends who caused significant damage in my already failing marriage and how they live with this is beyond my comprehension. I hate how he handled the situation. Whenever I see one of their names cross my social media paths, I am filled with so many negative feelings. This is my issue, and I completely get that. I know that as long as this is an issue, things will not be “ok”. I imagine these three women taking so much joy and pleasure from that. I need to be ok with that too. That is for them to answer to, I have no responsibility in their choices. Only mine. Today I hate them. I don’t want to, but I don’t know how to exist outside of the damage that was done to me personally, by all involved. It was easily the most painful experience personally and I just haven’t quite learned how to recover from it, though I try.

I am not the woman I was 12 months ago. For the most part I am healthier. I am definitely more grounded. I am also transparently journeying along. I hope one day I do not harbor hatred for anyone, regardless of what they have or have not done. I have shared here, in this space, that I lived a lifetime just aching for just one person to find me worth fighting for. Though that would still be a feeling I cannot imagine- I have come to see I have to do that for myself. I have fought relentlessly for my husband and kids because I NEVER wanted them to know that feeling of no one believing  them valuable enough. At times this may have been a mistake, and I will accept this. I have to.

New England was a bucket list adventure for me. Was it perfect? No. There is something sad about reaching a dream and realizing it is a mixed bag, just like every other aspect of life. I learned things about myself which is exactly what every journey exists for. Ultimately I learned about who I want to be, and how I want those around me to see that. I don’t want to live in a Pottery Barn looking world, while inside it’s really a thrift store shack. I want the picture above. I want to be the honest reflection.