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.

working the muscles…

I, like the rest of our country, could sit here and list out the hundreds of thousands of reasons why last year was a total nightmare. Of course, the reasons vary by the person penning the list. At any rate, most of us stand in agreement of one thing: 2016 was an unnaturally horrible year. By the time the last two months hit, we were all so jaded and exhausted that any effort to redeem it seemed a waste and overwhelming. Here we stand now, four days into our blank canvas year. I keep reminding myself (ever the Realist) that 2017 will also hold its share of tragedy, heartache and horror. This is how this life goes, and we really have little choice but to accept it. As such, I continue to ask myself what I can do to ensure my perspective stays secure on the gratitude and positive perspective… To answer this question, I had to go back and consider the brighter parts of last year.

My older son and daughter each give me grandchildren made the obvious high point list. Coming home to Michigan to be with my family. So much time with my older daughter and grandson. My younger daughter recovering from her overdose in May. My marriage growing and healing, bit by bit. These, naturally, are all positive things. These too are the easy things to look at and feel grateful for. What if I were to dig deeper?

Getting to spend two precious months with my beautiful dog, before she passed away. As painful as it was, it would have been incomprehensible to imagine, had she died while I was still in Idaho.

My daughter’s overdose. While she still has a long way to go, it did open her eyes to some things she needed to see and it woke my husband up. These are beautiful things for which I will still be grateful when I am old and grey.

The passing of someone who has been so very dear to me for 16 years. While her death is a terrible tragedy, I was so fortunate to know and love her. I was also fortunate to travel to her memorial service and have some healing time with others who loved her.

The thing is, life is like this too… Beauty intertwined with the horror, but we have to be willing to see it. I can honestly say that I wasn’t always, but this year I want to do better. No, I WILL do better.

The last thing I did was think smaller. Maybe not smaller as much as more shallow. What things did I find, last year, which made even a small difference in my quality of life? I have to be honest, as I started pondering, it was really difficult to think of even a few. True to expectation however, the more I tried, the easier it got. And there in lies the lesson: Gratitude is like a muscle. We must be intentional to work it, before it will become our second nature.

As for that list?

  • Clinique Matte foundation For nearly the whole of my adult life, I have had a hate/hate relationship with foundation. When I was trained as an Esthetician I felt like I really needed to make peace with this. The journey of ELEVEN foundations later, and it was a total fluke (after I’d given up) that I stumbled upon this. For me, it is PERFECT. For someone else, it may not be. Skin is like personalities, everyone is different.
  • Reusable paper towels I flirted with the idea of these for a couple of years, and bit the bullet this year. Not only do we save a lot of money and eliminate waste (*note: we still buy paper towels for grosser clean up, like dog vomit, etc.) but they are cuter too!
  • Hempz triple moisture lotion I was working at Ulta when I found this gem. It’s pretty spendy, but so worth it. I have perpetually dry skin and this lotion helps that tremendously while also smelling fresh and not overly fragrant. LOVE this lotion!
  • DoTerra essential oils This is honestly the only thing that helps my depression (yes, even seasonal), takes the extreme edge off of headaches and that is just the tip of it.
  • Deva Curl Curly haired girls will get me… It has been a seldom pleasant journey to get to the place where you find a product you are happy with. Much like my foundation quest, I had given up on this too. Then someone turned me on to Deva Curl and I’ll be honest- I did NOT believe it would work for me. It does. I LOVE these products.
  • Buxom lip gloss BEST Lip Gloss. Hand’s down. There are days I simply moisturize, throw on a bit of mascara and call it a day, but I NEVER skip this gloss.
  • Wool Dryer Balls They are kind of everywhere right now. Indie shops, farmers markets, etc. They seemed more hype than good, but honestly I’ve fallen in love with them.
  • Honey If you don’t use Honey, you should. Anytime you are shopping online, Honey will automatically scan the item(s) in your cart and tell you the best price. At Christmas, Honey was a real asset!
  • Blue Q Socks a girlfriend introduced me to these socks. Some of them are pretty crass while others are just funny. I remember when I was in driver’s ed, my teacher said “always make sure you’re wearing cute underwear. If you get in an accident you don’t want the EMT’s to judge you for your granny panties.” Looking back I’m just thinking this is ridiculous for an adult to say to teens. However, as a woman, there is something really confidence building about wearing nice undergarments. I am not kidding, the snark in these socks has that same effect. It may seem ridiculous but there have been days when my Blue Q socks, (even when I was the only one who knew they were there) kept me a little grounded in sanity.
  • Swell Bottles The knock offs aren’t the same. Honest. And yes, these bottle are spendy, but as one who HAS to have ice-cold water at hand- having my bottle stay icy through hot summer days in the car, through the long migraine riddled nights, etc. BEST WATER BOTTLE EVER…

Can you think of your best 2016 bits? Be they memories, silver linings or products you discovered, I’d love to hear them!

it is important, but not for why we think…

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We were all squished together, in a booth at Chili’s. Where as, a week or two before, such close proximity may have felt uncomfortable, on this day it did not. On this particular day we were scared. Our friends to the left had been trying to have a baby for a few months. It was there that they confessed to how glad they were that they had not conceived and quietly agreed they would never have a child now. Across the booth were friends with a newborn. A Newborn whom they loved but sobbed actual tears over the terror ridden world we now lived in. The date was September 15, 2001.

Those things, the fears and feelings, they were real. Real and relevant. Beyond us, our conversations and our choosing to feel them though, they meant nothing. It was not a fear that brought about progress or healing in communities, but rather stepping into a community with those around us. Yes, it took a long time. It has been a long journey and we aren’t there yet, but we are better than those who were so crippled with terror. It was choosing to love others, work together and be that walked us all through a horrible recession, (which many argue isn’t quite over yet.) Our friend’s baby has grown into a beautiful young woman and our childless friends did go on to have two great kids. Fears subside. At that dinner, at Chili’s, we all imagined a world more like those existing in Post Apocalyptic movies than the world we have now. This America of iPhones, an abundance of Marvel movies, TV on demand (and at our fingertips, to boot) and a black president- this America was unfathomable.

And what about our president? 8 years ago my 9-year-old was so terrified of the election results. It was not from us, but from everyone so consumed with discussing the Anti-Christ known as Obama, with his illegal birth certificate, middle eastern ties and blah, blah, blah. We were leaving a friend’s house when we heard the election results on the radio. My NINE YEAR OLD slipped into a unconsolable blob in the back seat. She wanted to be married someday, and go to high school… She wanted all things 9-year-old girls dream of and she had to face that life was over and the world had ended.

And yet… Here we are.

The world is imperfect. It is an imperfect globe filled with imperfect people. I have kids not of my womb whom I have failed hundreds upon hundreds of times. I have woken up and wondered why I was a mother at all, some days. On those days I have questioned if they would’ve been better off without me. Does that mean that I should be crucified on social media daily, with my faults spotlighted for everyone to obsess over, (you know, instead of looking inwardly at their own character)? No. Don & Hillary are both people too. They each have really wonderful things they’ve done, really terrible things they’ve done and a whole lot of both that they have lied about.

Voting is important, because if we don’t then we forfeit the right to have a voice. Tomorrow we will wake up and life will look the same. It will feel the same. And the changes we are hoping to see for our country will still be up to us more so than the elected officials. How so? We get all bent out of shape because our gun rights are at risk. Guess what? Our gun rights are at risk BECAUSE OF US. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. True. But what people kill people? People without accountability, without community and with access to an entire underground market available to anyone ethicless enough to partake in it. 40, 50, 100, 200 years ago this was not the case. We need laws because we behave like we need laws.

I am a mother. I can hand my child trust and age appropriate freedom, but when he does something that breaks the first, he jeopardizes the second and suddenly rules are a little stricter. Happens again, the results happen again too. When a leader has millions of faceless people to work for, they will end up doing their job by statistics. Recently there was a little social media thing about the worst 10 towns to live in, in Idaho. Defensiveness happened because these said “bad towns” are beloved by many. Bingo! Beloved by people who know them. The people who love them and live their lives in them. The person who made the list was just doing his job. A Leader has no choice but to work on statistics, as they cannot possibly get to know each and every one of us in a way which would enable them to do their jobs better. We, the people do have choices. Be the community. Embrace our businesses, our youth, our other citizens regardless of whether we agree or not. It doesn’t matter whether our viewpoints all mesh well or not. Views and beliefs don’t play together on the playground, WE DO. It is up to us to behave. I grow so weary of religious people characterizing others by their race, religion or sexual orientation. Guess what, NONE OF THAT IS CONTAGIOUS.

We have to stop being afraid. Selling a wedding cake to someone who is different will only make you look kind. Thinking your opinion (or the truth you feel you know) is the only relevant one will make you look cruel. It truly is that simple. No one ever hung themselves because someone was nice to them, even though they were _______. The same can not be true of the latter’s words. Loving kindness prevails, always.

The outcome of today’s election may not be what you feel is best- but it is what someone else thought. Be respectful and move on. Be authentic and love others. The other people around the world who hate America don’t hate us because of our leaders. They hate us because of Americans. We are greedy, arrogant, narrow-minded and petty. We are a joke to many other countries and it is up to us to earn a better reputation. No president in the world could ever change that, but we can. Today I elect us, Americans, to be the heart of America. To listen without interrupting, or thinking we are superior. To embrace without condition of what’s in it for us.
If Americans began behaving like we expect our leaders to, we WOULD have less violence, less addiction, less homelessness, less abuse and less need for big government. My one voice may not make a bit of difference in this election, but it makes all of the difference within my community, and that can trickle and trickle until one day we look back and say “Wow, remember that year that ________ became president and the world kept turning after we were all so sure it would stop? That’s when we decided to take responsibility for our country, our mouths and our actions and I am so glad we did.”

We can be heroes…

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I’m not sure if you’ve seen the trailer for the film Queen of Katwe, but it is one that I am super excited about. I love a great true story about amazing people who overcome large difficulties to do something inspirationally extraordinary. I was talking with a friend, a few weeks ago, about a different film that fit that mold, when she said movies like that simply weren’t her cup of tea.

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Wait, what??? I was shocked. As she and I sat, on the phone, and unpacked that newly discovered gap between us, I soon realized that this is not just a love of heart-tugging movies, for me. My personal life is chock full of people who have overcome, in amazing ways. While thinking about this, I struggled to find one person to write about. Just one? How could I choose? Who would I choose? I can honestly say that were I to sit down with a pen & notebook, and write it out, there would be no less than one hundred people who fit this and have gone on to do extraordinary things.

When it came down to it, I have to choose my kids. Each one of my three kid’s early lives broke and bruised them immeasurably. Our society knows of thousands of kid-turned adults with similar origin stories. Our prisons, street corners and addicted communities are full of those bruised and broken early on. It is so easy to be in that place and feel like you should have had better, kicking your heals back, settling down and accepting that. It takes a special sort of person to move out of there and strive for something more. After multiple abandonments and abuses, these three kids each found their own way out. They learned to work hard, find value and (the hardest part of all) honestly face their wounds. There is so much bravery and courage in the journeys they’ve walked, and will continue to. My life hasn’t been easy. Let’s be honest, no one’s has. Even with all I have walked, when I think of how hard these three people have had to fight and work to become who they are today, I am awed. There is such a sense of loyalty, compassion and generosity in each of them, which is lost on the majority of society. I do not know three better human beings, and when my life fell apart last fall these kids were my biggest advocates.

In their own ways, at different life stages, I have seen my kids open their hearts to help people when they truly had nothing to give. My youngest spends half the year planning and plotting for Christmas because giving gifts is her favorite thing. The majority of her part time job paycheck goes to buying gifts and small, thoughtful things. My older daughter has turned her life upside down, multiple times, because someone had a need. My son loves so purely, so vulnerably, and though it has led him to be hurt time and time again, he still puts all he’s got into loving the people in his life. These three incredible people would be heroes in my eyes, even if I did not know them. Lucky for me, I do, and (also lucky for me) I get to call them MY heroes…

If you, like me, love stories like this, I really encourage you to go see Queen of Katwe, which opens this Friday, September 30th.

Friday, Friday…

I mentioned sometime last week that Gen and I had gone on an excursion to IKEA so that she could work on a photography assignment, for school. The assignment was to take photos of things at interesting angles/perspectives. She decided IKEA would be a great format to play around with that, so off we went.

It took her this long to email me the photos she submitted, but since I promised you guys I’d show you, here they are. :)

Considering it was her first ever photo assignment and her only real past experience would be the insane amounts of snapchats and selfies that an average teenage girl sends, I think she did fantastic! I am so proud. Today we will be venturing out for her next assignment (contrast of color in a unique way).

On the agenda for this weekend we also have brunch with the boyfriend, family anniversary time and a little Senior Picture shoot. What’s the plan for your weekend?