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…

Taking care…

A few months back I sat within a circle of women, sharing my journey as a daughter. Some of you are aware that my mother is mentally ill and our years together have been rocky, at best. It has been a journey of various forms of abuse and abandonment, along with many unhealthy scales of unbalanced responsibilities, overcompensation and every other unhealthy thing one can fit in the mix. Currently, my mother lives in a home suffering with dementia. While many of her behaviors are classic to such an illness, so many of them were present, due to her damage and mental health, long before such a label. Sitting among those women and sharing was a painful leg to my journey because it had been eleven months since I had seen my mother because she had deemed me as dead to her. This had involved an ugly court experience and many, many hateful things.

Being my mother’s daughter has always left me heartbroken, in every instance. This is something I have never surrendered to, as a victim, though I can honestly say I have also never come close to perfecting my role as daughter either. I am flawed, but have at least always tried to be there for her to fall into.

Around the time, of this day mentioned above, my mother had sent word that she wanted to see me and heal our relationship. This idea was an overwhelming one, for me. My husband was adamant that he did not support this reunion and that if I chose to follow it through, he wanted no part of it. He had been there and seen the damage she had caused. No one but myself had been there to see the dark spans of time where I sat in the bathtub, razor in hand, willing me to end it all because I could no longer take that woman confirming in me the black wickedness of of the unworthy human being I was.

I expressed my heart, again, post the meeting, to my husband. He relented to go with me, uncomfortably, because he loved me. He admitted he felt hatred to her and was worried about me.

I went.

Three months later I continue to go. It is nurturing and about her, not me, as our relationship has always been. For the first time, however, that is appropriate. I love my mother and I still fall asleep, most nights, praying for her to find some peace and happiness. Since I have done this for as long as I have memories back, I am not sure if I do this because of habit or something else.

Today is National Caretake Day, and I am so utterly grateful for these people who care for my mother. Of course it is a flawed home and things happen that frustrate her, and me, but at the end of the day these are people who deal with what I could not, every single day. I can’t reward them as much as I would like to, but I can at least acknowledge their efforts and my gratitude. While I am there, today, I can hug my mom extra tight. Not because she has done just the right thing, or always been there, but because she is my mother and I am not responsible for what she has or has not ever done- I am responsible for me.

On Marching forth…

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Awhile ago I wrote about battling my own demons regarding what was happening last year, around this time, versus now. I think that maybe I had it all figured out, in my head, that by this point in my life, I would know more. (and let’s be honest, be more…) When I think of a 40 year old wife and mother, there are a series of things that I personally feel shouldn’t be in my plan. (in yours, or anyone else’s, its fine.) How after a 22 year long relationship, I we should not have separated. Sure, life would happen, and there for about a year it would happen BIG, but by that point shouldn’t we have it figured out? Or, how after losing 138 lbs, I shouldn’t gain 20. That doesn’t even make sense. What about how, after so many years, we shouldn’t be living in a tiny apartment crippled by debt.

While it would be true to say that I had other plans, the more accurate reality is that I had other expectations, for me.

Between you and I, I am trying so hard to work through those things and deal with life differently. I don’t want to live with the weight of the feelings that accompany the disappointment in my life and where it’s at. Have I made mistakes? Yes, of course I have. Have things happened which weren’t my fault? Again, of course. At the end of the day, however, it simply doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter.

I feel like my head is a little clearer, and my heart is a little less muddled and stuck in the hauntings of the past year. This is due some to praying about it, some to talking with friends and Chw about it, and due to just realizing truths about myself. This life, until the day I no longer take breath, will be a journey. There will be peaks and there will be valleys. We expect and accept this within the boundaries of the shared stories from the lives and journeys of others, but when it comes to the way we perceive our own life adventures- our expectations are tremendously different.

This month I am journeying forth a little differently. March is always BIG for me, big with the sentiment and big with the pressure. March is my birth month and my birthdays and I have always been without peace. I wanted to share with you how I plan to take control of this journey (in a healthy way) and move forward, navigating through it, to something better…

Me:

  • Do a photo of the day challenge on Instagram.
  • Do a 31 day Scripture writing challenge.
  • Read a fiction book, a memoir and a nonfiction book.
  • Be a better breakfaster
  • REALLY celebrate my birthday, how I want to celebrate it.
  • Choose books or gentle creativity on those days when life (and fibromyalgia) make major functioning too difficult, instead of turning on the tv.
  • continue striving to be intentional in the relationships I hold most dear.
  • Journal. It doesn’t matter how, just that I do.

Home:

  • keep fresh flowers home, when I am home.
  • experiment more with essential oils.
  • keep wholesome and delicious things made so that my family always has something good and desirable to eat.
  • continue the journey of minimizing and striving for less.

Family:

  • celebrate my grandson’s 6th birthday.
  • spend quality time visiting my daughter.
  • celebrate my son’s birthday, though he is far-far away.
  • celebrate my youngest daughter’s crossing into adulthood.
  • make moments momentous, without the aid of stuff.

Create:

  • experiment more with photography.
  • make significant progress on a writing project I am doing.
  • Play around with baking, here and there.
  • Do more with my hands.

Health:

  • I reiterate: be a better breakfaster.
  • try, try, try to do the ACV thing.
  • experiment with DIY tooth polish.
  • Be more active.
  • Lose 10 lbs.
  • Be more intentional and deliberate with Yoga.

Spring is such an encouraging time of year. Already I am feeling motivated by it. What about you? What are you working on or looking forward to, this spring?

Perfecting imperfection…

3ll_nlvpl08-matthew-henryI sit here, laptop flat on the deep grey quilt. To my left there is that one thread, unraveling big. To many, this would mean it is time to shop for a new one, while to me it simply makes my heart soar a little. This quilt makes up a small piece of the larger picture of home. It has wear spots and snags, like all good home things do.

Me too…

To my write sits an unfinished library book balancing a long, cold cup of coffee. My day, before it unfolds, holds hope of laundry, quiet time, a face mask, bottles of water, chapters read and a heavy word count written. So many things scribbled out on my to do list. Drink water. Record food. Take a walk. Wash the towels. Hang up the closet clothes. Wash face, and moisturize. Put dinner in the slow cooker. Address the envelopes. Make some calls. Work on that project. Write a blog post… The list of things tick out, both equal measures of daunt and comfort.

I love lists. They keep me grounded and in line, until they don’t. The don’t, these days, begins to strike about Wednesday. The rest of the week has taken up the bad habit of rebelling against everything good, healthy and necessary. I am watching and listening, careful to try and find the place the days snag.

Do I not have enough grace for myself? Am I driven by lists until I simply cannot drive any longer? It does not seem so, or feel that way, but why else?

What is it I want? Really? At the end of the lists, when the day’s sun is disappearing behind the skyline of that moment, what is my goal? To have a clean home? To feed my family clean, healthy and yet delicious food? To find joy in every experience and make joy when I don’t find it? To be a slave to nothing other than the moment and making the best of it? To be a writer/artist who creates? To further grow and nurture relationships? To read a book every week or two? To lose 50 lbs? Why can’t I do all of these things? They don’t seem too big, they do seem like every other wife and mother gets them done without much effort.

My apartment is thick with the smell of barbacoa in the slow cooker. Today’s organic grocery delivery is put away, nestled into a freshly clean refrigerator. The laundry basket is stacked high with clean and folded clothes, the dryer humming with another load shortly on it’s way to the same. Music softly plays in the back ground and I feel a slight twinge of frustration that I didn’t even manage to open my laptop until 3:30 in the afternoon, which means that not only will I not accomplish much writing today, but that I MUST prioritize and manage my time better. I must… I must. But I don’t know how. How do I do it all? I do I get it done? At what point do I decide the things which are accomplished, (and accomplished well, at that) are insignificant to the contrast of what remains incomplete or left for abandon? How fair is that to myself? I have a clean fridge, food prepped and put away (or cooking), laundry in progress… Once things are done, do they lose their importance?

I’m also, in the back of my mind, packing and preparing for the few days I am going to spend with my older daughter for her spring break. That little voice, in the back of my soul, is saying why? Why try so hard to figure out how when you are just going to be gone and ruin it all anyway?

I do not want my life to be a slave to the daunting list to check off, missing the heart in the moments written there. I do not want to live my life by check marks, missing all that might happen when I am not looking. I ache, simply, to live my life. To live it well, with intention, and still manage to get the necessary responsibilities done.

If nothing else, today, there are successes. I have managed conversations with each of my beautiful daughters, reminding me gently that I am so blessed to be their mother. I have sang along with songs that stir my inner self with so much love and goodness. I have began dinner, lived Monday with open windows and fresh air. I have washed, masked and moisturized my skin to the point of glowing-smooth (and healthy) goodness, (my absolute favorite part of Mondays.) I have prep-work done for a tasty snack for our tv-catching-up evening. My laundry isn’t done, but it is getting there. Mason’s birthday gift isn’t wrapped, but it will be before Friday so I can relax on that one.

So I don’t write today. There’s always tomorrow. If I set my alarm, I can do it. If I clear out and set myself up somewhere inspiring, a place which does not remind me of the undone list and unfinished snags of home that sit all around to call my name and distract me. I can do better, or at least, different. It can have both to-do lists and grace. It can be imperfect.

I can be imperfect…

Grace, even when perspectives don’t make sense…

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I am beginning to believe that I am just going to have to offer myself endless amounts of grace as I  navigate my way through these months ahead. It is so strange to me how I can be one hundred percent present, in a moment and what is happening, and still mentally aware (almost painfully aware) of what life looked like this time last year. This sort of thing began naturally around Thanksgiving, the time we separated, and though my eyes are firmly planted straight ahead, this time last year comes and steals my breath.

Of course, as the W2’s come rolling in, I am reminded that I was working three jobs and still only making min. credit card payments, homeless and had nothing to show for myself. Though the times are happening less and less often, there are moments when I get into my car and I am reminded of what it felt like to try to sleep there, and to only have items that fit in the back, to wear. As struggle through the financial repercussions of an unwise home purchase with broke us bare, coupled with the separation which broke us to the point of utter devastation, there are times when my lungs feel so tight and I wonder if we will ever be out from under this time last year. It is in everything…

It is in tomorrow, as I plan my Valentines Day tradition for Gen, and once again carry out what I’ve done in years past for Chw. This time last year is the giant that hovers above me as I am unable to escape its shadow. I am reminded of how I can no longer look at my daughter and say “I do this for you every year”, because I robbed her of that this time last year. Though my husband does love me and should not be required to prove it, it screams in the quiets of my memory how I poured out my love to him in a letter, last Valentines Day, and my heart for our marriage while his response was only that he did not love me, had never loved me, and I was merely an obligation and mistake. I do not hold these things against him, he was really in a bad place and honestly, the only people he would talk to were her and friends who were manipulative. He’d shut out the majority of his friends because he knew they wouldn’t support his choices, and his choices were happening because he was hurt, resentful, confused and full of fear. It happens, I hold none of it against him, but that doesn’t bear much weight when it comes to the voices deep within me which echo this time last year.

As March nears, I find myself in complete dread for mixed reasons… My beautiful, sweet little girl is turning 18. Not so little anymore… I will be celebrating my 41st birthday, which isn’t so terrible in and of itself. This time last year, however, when I should have been celebrating a milestone birthday, I was instead living the darkest and ugliest parts of my worst nightmare. As a girl who does not have a track record of great birthdays, last year was easily the very worst. Days later is our anniversary… I feel like these months are eternal. While I am so present and grateful and invested in today, and now, I am also devastatingly haunted by those things which I never thought would happen and those things which I never imagined would be said.

These scars in my soul run deep…

There are things we will never agree on too, and those things scare me. Because this time last year could easily be this time next year. Not a day goes by that I do not realize that. I can do every thing in my power to fight for my life and my marriage, but unfortunately I am reminded that my doing that tirelessly for those hellish 6 months did not make a difference. I am only responsible for me, and he is responsible for him. He loves me today, and for this I am so grateful. But, what about tomorrow?

The human body is amazing. I have been in a really low fibroymalgia phase lately. While some of this has been exasperated by the medication fiasco, I also think back to last year. I was balancing three jobs and personal education. I was eating, on average, one time or less, per day. I spent many sleepless nights in the front seat of my car. I was under tremendous emotional stress, and yet the fibro flare ups were nothing like they are today. This makes me feel like a failure. And while there is financial stress now, from our 20015/20016 journey, I have balanced and healthy meals, my own bed to sleep in, and a marriage which feels more and more restored. Why is it now that these flare ups hit, and when they hit they hit HARD?

This time last year I balanced jobs, was generous with what I did not have, was devastatingly alone and broken, I was exhausted but surviving…  Today I am nourished, healing and so haunted by then, and fighting to get out of bed for the discomfort that is now. I don’t get it… But I am giving myself grace until I do.