Beneath the view…

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Beneath this multi color sky rests a village.

Villagers close their days, in many ways. Some are laying the tableware down, while the stew is simmering. Others slap turkey and thinly sliced swiss between two slices of rough cut baguette. There are homes with shingle tile roofs, where beneath them families interact little, instead losing their best selves into their screens. Some homes have single-paned windows, no television and their dinner of lentils and tofu will be followed by board game and laughter.

One or two of these homes likely have pictures of Jesus on the wall, angry hearts seated in plaid patterned recliners, bottles of cheap bourbon stashed about the room indiscreetly.

Across town perhaps a father is sincerely praying a prayer of gratitude for the meager meal his family is about to dine on. In another home a mother is crying while her pork chops burn on the stove because her four-year old drew all over the newly painted dining room with sharpie, and she’s tired.

Beneath many of these roofs there are tired and weary souls. Tired from working, tired from living. Tired from living to work, lack of connection, poor nutrition, fitful rest, marital discord, and so on. Tired never ends…

One woman, down there, in one home hiding behind one porch light miscarried a baby today. Behind another, a spouse hides the secret of an affair. One home holds an empty bed because their teenage son ran away, choosing addiction over the tough love of a mother and father.

A fraction of the homes have held cancer, loss, bankruptcy and enraged anger.

Beneath the view, an artistic photograph with which one took pride and many admired, there is life. Life is ugly and lonely, life is messy and hard.

Though much is speculated about these nameless, faceless people below, a few things are certain…

There are hurting, aching and broken people down there, hiding behind their front doors. Neighbors don’t know. Many neighbors do not want to know. The Villagers are consumed with their own empty, lonely aches.

No one grabs the hand of the stranger next to them, no one says “We’ve got this, you and I. You are not alone.”

Wednesday morning the sun rose, and people felt crippled with fear. Not just these villagers, but most of us. Our financial system took a hit and the optimistic ones placed their hopes in a man who isn’t ready to be our everything. No man is. Until we take the faceless and broken and learn their names, learn their stories, and decide to set our aching down to help them carry theirs, we will continue to fall downward.

Today let’s go love someone. Let’s call a friend whom we know is hurting, and let’s not ask if you need anything, let me know. No, let us say “I am bringing you a well needed chocolate bar that I am instructing you not to share with a single soul!” And then do it. And when we see them, hug them with as much sincerity as our arms can contain, and let them know by our gestures that We’ve got this, together, and they are not alone.

Shame, fear and hatred bread in the dark. Let’s be the light, and shine and shine and shine, until there isn’t a square inch left untouched. Let’s make America great, finally...

On reflections…

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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.

Sea glass…

photo-1433162653888-a571db5ccccfI have something that has been weighing heavy in my thoughts, which I fully intended to write about this morning. After the unfolding of this weekend though, I find myself unable to go there quite yet… It isn’t that it was a bad weekend. It was a full weekend. A busy weekend. A surprising weekend.

My beautiful seventeen year old began her weekend single, with not only no prospects, but learning to accept herself in that place. Said seventeen year old ended her weekend snuggling on my couch with her boyfriend, whom she met 2 days before in totally cute and bookish/classic movie sort of way. I will not share the story here as it is not mine to share. The part I want to talk about is related, but more so mine.

Friday was kind of a huge day for that part of me which connects my brain and my heart. I’m sure you know the part in which I speak of… Gen and I, (in case you’re new here, I’ll take a second to point out that Gen is, in fact, said seventeen year old.) went to see the Hillsong movie on Friday afternoon. (on the chance that you are not new here, I know that this part in my chain of events will be of no surprise to you.) (sidenote: it’s incredible and you really should go see it.) There were a few things mentioned in the film which really stuck in my brain. The longer those things stayed planted in my thoughts, the more they grew and the more I simply felt WOWED by life, by divine intervention, by…

One of these thoughts was a reassurance that things are not up to us and we can’t control them. To degrees we can, sure. But there are so many things that we can’t, bigger things… Sometimes really beautiful things, like the unexpected pregnancies during the difficult and tumultuous times. Though this is not a place which I have lived in, I have seen this very thing play out in the lives of my sister, my older daughter and many, many friends. It is the sea of big scary unknowns whose waves crash into something amazingly beautiful and life affirming. These out-of-our-hands miracles which we may not have wanted, expected or believed we needed are the bits of life which reflect the brightest.

A darker reality of this same idea comes in the form of child abuse. Child abuse of any nature is unacceptable and never justifiable. Anyone who has been present in our world knows, however, that it is an epidemic reality. Child abuse victims, as they grow, become one of two people. Have you ever really noticed this? Having worked in the industry of broken children (which is, sadly, an industry here in America) for the better part of a decade and a half, I saw it unfold and cycle over and over again. Option one is the bitter, self-centered eternal victim who will always wear the blue-colored glasses aiding them to see themselves as the one wronged eternally. By friends, family, lovers, cable men, creditors, land lords, employers, their own children, etc. We all know these people, the ones with the lifetime of themes of being wronged somehow. The ones who talk on and on about it. Psychologically speaking, this is a pretty interesting way to live. Though we often get frustrated with these sorts, and due to that, they may wind up alone- they are not entirely wrong. Often they either keep themselves so down that they attract users and manipulators. In the times when they haven’t, however, I personally believe they are simply stuck in a rut. Whenever their childhood wounds happened, no one likely advocated for them. Isn’t that all they are doing those 10/20/30 years later- advocating for themselves, in their own minds anyway? The second option, however, comes less naturally. It is the option of bettering yourself, and going on to impact the world for the better, in some way, because your childhood wounds made you stronger. The two options truly are choices… And though the first part is beyond our control (and I do not believe EVER destined to happen) we can decide how we handle it, and who we choose to become.

Both my husband and I were at that crossroads, in our youth. We had to decide which route to take and upon our early days of meeting and getting to know one another, we both spoke the words aloud about how we wanted to provide a home to kids who needed it because that had been done for us. Over the 23 years which have followed, we have been foster parents, been a shelter home, housed teenage runaways, and become the parents of three of the most awesome, not-from-our-womb kids we could have imagined. Our home has also been the temporary home of quite a few young adults who became a part of our little rag-tag family. There is no way we ever could have orchestrated any of that, but we would not change a thing. The absolute ugly of our young lives was turned into the most amazing things in our grown ones. The stormy waves crash, again and again, making something beautiful. It is like the origin of sea glass, or the unearthing of shipwrecked treasures…

Sometimes we simply go to work a little lonely, on a friday night and then wrap up the weekend holding hands with a cute boy on the couch whose path yours likely crossed with many, many times before…

The better sort of list…

Everyone is all about bucket lists… I made a beautiful one last year, to complete before I was 40. Losing my family and way of life shot my list all to hell, so I thought instead I’d make a list of the 100 BEST things I’ve done in my 40 long years…

  1. skinny dipping in a natural body of water.
  2. dancing in the rain.
  3. watching fireworks, on a hilltop, set to Bach.
  4. My first time at the ocean, a glorious week on the Oregon coast.
  5. going in to NYC to see the tree at Rockafellar center.
  6. Swinging with the kids I worked with, at Hope House, on a hot summer day with the public sprinklers on.
  7. Snowcones with my kids.
  8. Working at Hope House and the amazing, life changing relationships I made there.
  9. Getting my nose pierced.
  10. the tattooes I’ve carefully chosen.
  11. I met Colin Firth.
  12. falling in love with the culture and pop culture of South Korea.
  13. Working at OBI and the dear relationships I made there.
  14. That I’ve always been one to forgive and try again. No exceptions.
  15. Seeing Starship on the Santa Cruz beach. It wasn’t Starship, but the beach, air and company.
  16. My first upside down rollercoaster, in the rain, in St. Louis.
  17. that I learned to appreciate music.
  18. adopting.
  19. The Chvrches concert. It was how concerts should feel.
  20. New Mexico sunsets.
  21. Reconnecting with my high school BFF and being one who demonstrated unconditional, sacrificial love.
  22. Being stranded in an airport and befriending a total stranger.
  23. knowing Jared Glenn.
  24. Loving with my whole heart, even if that has never really paid off.
  25. Understanding the value of true family, whether there’s blood relation there or not.
  26. catching live crabs and cooking them on the beach.
  27. the first time I held hands with a boy, no feeling compares.
  28. seeing my niece be born.
  29. the moment I met my husband and knew we would be married.
  30. My first DMB show.
  31. The secret P!ATD show in Boise, when Gen was little, complete with awesome treatment, tv interviews, etc.
  32. Attending a wedding with an MTV film crew.
  33. the first time I loped on a horse.
  34. The gift of knowing and loving my grandfather.
  35. My dog Paisley’s love for me. Life affirming.
  36. My grandmother’s chicken and dumplings.
  37. When my stomach finally eased after my first major bout with sea sickness.
  38. The week long backpacking trip I went on, when I was in 8th grade.
  39. Seeing a large meteor shower.
  40. Seeing Wicked on broadway.
  41. The time a bear went through our camp while we slept under the stars.
  42. walking at the ocean, feet in sand and sea.
  43. The first time I body surfed.
  44. Genny’s Twilight impressions, when she was younger.
  45. Learning to give facials.
  46. any inside joke, with my husband.
  47. Staying at the Regent Beverly Wiltshire.
  48. Gen’s 6th birthday, in the hotel on Easter. it was really fun and a nice connection moment for C & I, with midnight cake and snuggles.
  49. Christmas with my husband and all three of my kids.
  50. The twin foster babies we had.
  51. When my husband baked me a lemon cake for my birthday. It was one of the most beautiful, thoughtful moments I’ve had with anyone.
  52. Tummy slamming, with Melanie, when we were little.
  53. My cousin Kyle. He really changed my childhood.
  54. My pet turtle Rosie, who made the journey from my house to my grandmother’s, a few blocks away, and back.
  55. My german shepherd/husky (when I was a kid) named Betsy.
  56. White water rafting.
  57. The way autumn smells, in Idaho.
  58. That huge, terrifying storm we had in Kansas, when I was 17.
  59. Stars, porches and conversation.
  60. My California girls trip, in 2001.
  61. Alicia Michelle.
  62. Petting an Elephant at the Portland Zoo.
  63. The San Diego Valentines day getaway I had with Chw in 2002.
  64. bacon wrapped dates in Illinois. Delicious dinner and lovely evening conversation.
  65. The Blake hotel in Chicago. Stunning.
  66. The gigantic moon the Christmas of 1999 in Phoenix.
  67. My bus ride to Kentucky, from New Mexico.
  68. The summer I went in a semi to Los Angeles.
  69. The look on Chw’s face with his surprise 40th birthday. Making him happy was always my favorite thing ever, there was no one more deserving.
  70. Hours and hours of playing Killer Bunnies.
  71. Girl’s day on Make your Own Holiday day.
  72. Being published in The Pink Project.
  73. the living room conversation I had in 92. It was terrifying and safe to be known so well.
  74. saving myself from my sexually abusive step dad.
  75. the Detroit blackout in 2003.
  76. the magic of my first plane ride to Michigan, amidst the turmoil surrounding me.
  77. My grandparents shed, my safe haven.
  78. playing “Mermaids” in Monique’s pool.
  79. Seeing Chw & Gen when i got home from the LA nightmare.
  80. My first trip to NYC. Tiffany & Co, Central Park & FAO Shwartz.
  81. the first time I shot with my Canon.
  82. My one and only healthy ultrasound.
  83. Whenever I hug my son.
  84. Face to Face conversations with my daughter Amanda.
  85. Amanda’s wedding. Helping, being there for her and getting her through it, the father/daughter dance and how stunning she looked.
  86. Waking up for 6 months of beautiful mornings, in the smoky mountains.
  87. The most delightful conversation imaginable, with Emma Thompson.
  88. Witnessing both the sun rising on the US east coast and the sun setting on US west coast. Different days, but still a gift.
  89. email corresponding with my grandmother’s favorite soap opera actress, after my grandmother died.
  90. Chw and his little figurine for me after I had my first real operation in 1999. It’s never meant more for me to see anyone in all my life.
  91. hearing strange sounds and learning my cat, whom I didn’t even know was pregnant, had just delivered one single kitten, who looked nothing at all like her. It felt like a miracle.
  92. A youth that included white water rafting, snow tubing, ice blocking and casually floating the river. It was a blessed adolescence for sure.
  93. late night dance parties, being surrounded by the coolest of people you know.
  94. Eerily quiet Chinatown, in San Francisco. Exhilarating.
  95. Becoming sisters with my sister Sherri, who is my heart sister but I know there isn’t anyway we could be more genuinely real.
  96. Being Julie’s heart daughter. She’s been gone a decade, this year, and I am still in awe of her love for me.
  97. heart pounding risks…
  98. following my instinct/intuition, and learning something anyway, when it may not work out.
  99. Discovering Chinese massage. It may not be amazing everywhere, but here it is extraordinary.
  100. My relationship with God, learning to blind trust and love through it has been the biggest adventure of my life…

UFC…

photo-1450849608880-6f787542c88aIf relationships had a UFC competition, I would win every time. The premise could make for a great reality show, except for the fact that after the first couple of episodes viewers would stop tuning in… why? Because I’d lose too and the same thing would happen every single week.

This is going to come across so much more pity party than it is. The fact is, I’ve had so much alone time lately to process through things, and this is all what I’ve realized as it continues to unfold in my actual life: I fight for the people I love. I pour love and effort into those relationships. I am easy to toss away. Roll credits…

My mom was quite possibly one of THE WORST mothers on the planet. She psychologically tortured me, sold me to a man sexually for money, successful made it so that as a small girl not only did she throw me away but she put such a wedge of distance between my family and I so that I lost everything… And even though, for the longest time I saw her true colors, I still loved her and wanted to be with her. When I was an adult and I had more power, I poured love and forgiveness and effort into my mother. I honestly believed if she would just open her eyes, her quality of life would change and we could both finally be happy. This of course never happened. The majority of our relationship was thousands of miles apart and up until near the end that made it easier… It reached a point though where her mission was to emotionally break me and turn everyone I loved against me.

My father left when my mom was pregnant. I grew up with his family telling me I was a bastard, deliberately making my childhood difficult and reminding me on a regular basis that he denied I was his because he was simply so disgusted to be my father. At nearly an adult I met my father and learned he has 4 other kids who he was an amazing father to, but if a relationship were to be maintained there all of the effort would have to be mine.

Two sets of people, after I was sent to live in a group home at twelve, “wanted me”. They asked my mom and my mother responded with “I don’t want her, but I don’t want anyone else to have her either.” And that was that, on they went with their lives.

In the middle of that there were a few deeply personal friendships, some more than others, that ended when they left and I was left scarred.

I married my husband younger than I should have and we were both pretty loaded down with personal baggage. After 5 years of marriage, 7 miscarriages, a grueling illness related to them, and one crushingly failed adoption- my husband had an affair with a woman who he delightfully pointed out “can have kids so I love her”, and then tried desperately (in a near psychotic episode of trying to “give me” to another man) to end our marriage. I forgave, I fought him to save our marriage but I was disposable to him.

A couple of years later, having gone through counseling and feeling the most emotionally healthy I’d ever been, I once again resumed the fight for our marriage and we reconciled, on his terms. Fourteen years, almost to the day, later, I was out. He was done and no longer wanted me, again. It didn’t matter if it hurt our family, it didn’t matter if I’d done nothing with my life but support him in his career and raise our family, often alone. None of that mattered because he was done. I’m sure you have noticed the theme there. And it’s not that he’s a bad guy. My husband is the best man I’ve ever known. I love redemption stories and he is my favorite of them.

I have never fought for anything like I fought for motherhood and my marriage. Having my family together is seriously the happiest times in my life and the only times I’ve ever felt like everything would be ok and it was worth it. And now, just with the snap of a finger, it’s done. I had been in therapy due to my mother and the end of her issues before I severed the relationship. Through that process I was encouraged to make an exit strategy, from my marriage. I was severely depressed and a heavy emphasis was put on my marriage because I was so depressed and my husband wasn’t really present or being supportive. It was constantly stressed that my environment was not healthy, which it wasn’t. It was an environment where I was responsible for everyone’s happiness and needs being met and I was left drained and dying, empty. My exit strategy was a long time away and I was such a mess emotionally, I believed my marriage would somehow work out but I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Life as it was then was one I would have died in. That entire way of life could have changed though, if he’d felt I was worth his time or physical effort. He didn’t and in the end, he decided me leaving was best for them.

Since I’ve been gone I have realized that several key relationships in my life rely on my effort in their lives or their need for me to do something for them. Without those things, there is virtually no relationship. I’ve distanced myself from those people, which is healthy and obviously they don’t care anyway. There is no consideration for me, no follow through and no effort for our relationship outside of mine. It’s a healthy distancing and considering how gapingly wounded I am from the loss of my life, (husband and family) they don’t really feel like much of anything.

My husband has stolen the motherhood I fought so hard to have, after such years of loss and agony. The relationship I went to hell and back for, with my 16-year-old is now that of a surface level pen-pal as I’m thousands of miles away and completely broke to try to fix it. He believes this is best for her, while he lives the life I designed and I’m completely alone with nothing I gave everything for. Aside from the fact that man has no idea what it means to sacrifice something or fight for anything if it isn’t career focussed, I am the great big loser…

My hindsight advice would be that if you are stuck in a dark depression, guard your heart and find someone to talk to who isn’t focussed on an agenda. When you are sick like that, and no one does anything for you while everyone depends on you- don’t make ANY major decisions until you feel better. Try and feel better. Take a break, get away for a while. No one is more impressionable than when they are desperate.

My advice to myself is that I am worth fighting for, even if no one else has ever thought so.

My heart screams and aches to fight to mend my beyond broken family and put it back together again, but it’s been made clear to me that I’m not worth the effort. And also IF he were interested in trying, which he isn’t, it would still be on HIS terms. History is a bitch, plain and simple. It repeats itself and cycles the hell out of you, until you just give up. I give up. I’m a pen-pal, not a mother. I’m soon to be an ex-wife, again. I am disposable to anyone and everyone and I’ll live with that. People love to say “you are so strong, stronger than you think.” I think it’s often said to bring them comfort, because I can honestly say it’s pretty hurtful for me to hear. Obviously those people don’t really pay attention to my life or live in my head. I am not. I am weak and the ironies are: that I fight for people I love and am not worth fighting for; and that I am the sort of person who grows stronger and more alive by my connections with people, but I don’t really get to have those. My loyalty is both a character strength and obviously larger weakness…

If my life became a reality show about someone fighting for people, it would be an example because no one has fought harder or sacrificed more for the people in their lives than I have. It would also tank with ratings because the episodes would always end with me in the ring and the other person looking me in the eye and saying “eh. I give up…” and walking away.