Richard’s Top 40!

top-40-2

Today is Richard’s 40th birthday!   On a whim I decided that a fun way to share some tidbits about this great guy would be to create a Top 40 playlist.  In no particular order (sorry, I couldn’t even begin to attempt that or I’d have to change it to his Top 50 list) of ANY sort, here’s a Top 40 list about my Top 40 guy.

Enjoy!

Richard’s Top 40 Hits

40.  “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”The Platters

Richard’s new love for smoking meat is paying off nicely for the family.  His smoked turkey at Thanksgiving was divine.

39.  “Rocky Mountain High”-John Denver

Colorado holds a special place in his heart and he’d love for us to live there someday.

38.  “Drive My Car”-The Beatles

Richard is the one who ALWAYS drives and for that I am eternally thankful.

37.  “Mack the Knife”-Bobby Darin

He loves to cook and his knife skills in the kitchen are terrific.  I never know which one to use and he always helps me out.

36.  “Midnight Train to Georgia”-Gladys Knight and the Pipps

Richard collects trains and he inherited his love for them from his dad.

35.  “Sugar Sugar”-The Archies

He has a sweet tooth and loves Jr. Mints, Nerds, and all kinds of goodies.

34.  “Purple Haze”-Jimi Hendrix

He’s the first man I ever met whose favorite color is purple

33.  “Heartbreak Hotel”-Elvis

He’s had his share of heartbreak, but I think it’s made him a stronger, better person.

32.  “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”-The Hollies

This guy is the best brother.  He’s got 7 siblings and he loves them all.

31.  “Brand New Key”-Melanie

A guy who owns his very own roller skates is a rarity in life.  And his are quads.  No roller blades for him.

30.  “I Want to Hold Your Hand”-The Beatles

He loves to touch and holding hands is a special gift he shares with those he loves.

29.  “Gimme Shelter” -The Rolling Stones

He’s remodeling our bathroom.  ALL. BY. HIMSELF.  Enough said.

28.  “Call Me”-Blondie

An Apple guru, his iPhone collection, knowledge, usage, love, etc. is immense.

27.  “Dance With Me”-Orleans

We love to dance.  We hear music, we shake our booties and sway our hips.

26.  “What’s Going On”-Marvin Gaye

With a career focused around the news world, he’s in the know. 

25.  “Help!”-The Beatles

You couldn’t ask for a better guy to turn to when you have a crisis.  Trust me, I know.

24.  “Creep”-Radiohead

But that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.  He can be a downright jerk at times, but I still love him.

23.  “Laughter in the Rain”-Neil Sedaka

We laugh all the time.  It’s amazing.  And probably annoying to many people.  That just makes us laugh even more.

22.  “She Blinded me With Science”-Thomas Dolby

But, have no fear!  Richard’s here to help with every single science fair nightmare.  He’s the go to science guy and I love him for it.

21.  “Hey Jude”-The Beatles

He’s had his share of hard times.  He took a sad song and made it better.

20.  “Smells Like Teen Spirit”-Nirvana

It actually smells like that plus a bit more at our house.  We’ve got four boys most of the time and a college kid who comes pretty often. 

19.  “Respect”-Aretha Franklin

Teaching these boys of ours one day at a time.

18.   “Good Vibrations”-The Beach Boys

He loves a good time and loves to help others have a great time. 

17.  “Mrs. Robinson”-Simon and Garfunkel

I’m actually almost 6 years older than him.  We like to laugh about how he’d have been the 6th grader with a Senior (which is actually rather disturbing when you think of it that way). 

16.  “Smooth”-Santana

He cuts his own hair. 

15.  “Silly Love Songs”-Wings

He’s silly, I’m silly.  We’re in love.  What’s wrong with that?

14.  “Hotel California”-The Eagles

We spent our honeymoon in California and it was wonderful!

13.  “Imagine”-John Lennon

His imagination soars.  He can problem solve like no other.

12.  “Blowing in the Wind”-Bob Dylan

He’s been known to pile trash and treasures quite high in the back of his truck.  As a matter of fact, I probably should have bought him some new tie-downs as his gift.  You know the saying, “One man’s junk not properly tied down…”

11.  “Crazy”-Gnarls Barkley

‘Crazy’ doesn’t scare him.  Thank god.

10.  “Best Friend”-Queen

He’s my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him.

9.  “No Sleep til Brooklyn”-The Beastie Boys

He chose NYC as his 40th birthday trip and I feel honored I got to share that amazing experience with him.

8.  “At Last”-Etta James

We found love later in our lives, but the wait was worth it!

7.  “I Walk the Line”-Johnny Cash

He’s a good, good person.  I’ve hardly met anyone nicer.

6.   “We are Young”-Fun

Age is just a number.   Okay, actually it’s a word.  But you get the drift.

5.  “Circle of Life”-Elton John

His is full.  He’s seen life and death and he’s come out stronger on the other side.

4.   “The Mother We Share”-Chrvches

His mother was an amazing person and I’m sure she’d be so proud of her son.

3.   “In My Life”-The Beatles

I’ve loved you more.

2.  “God Only Knows”-The Beach Boys

What would I be without you?

and coming in at #1

“Happy Birthday”-Altered Images

Happy birthday!  I love you!

My Thanksgivings

    Twelve years ago life as I knew it changed forever. Twelve years ago tonight, I said my last goodbye to the woman I loved most in this world. Since then, it hasn’t been an easy ride. In all honesty, there are times I have failed miserably and shamefully.  

This Thanksgiving, Richard and I traveled to New York City to celebrate his 40th birthday. To celebrate life.  
It has been an unforgettably amazing trip. We have done and seen things I’ve always dreamed about. 
Tonight, we rode bicycles through Central Park and I was surprised by the hills, the ups and downs, the hard work I was having to exert. I was almost angry at times that I was having to push myself so hard in a moment I wanted to be perfect. And then it hit me. This bike ride through the park was my metaphor for life.  
When we decided to ride, I jumped on the bike happily and willingly. The first bits were euphoric and amazing. And then the hills came. I had to change gears and pump hard. I sweated and cursed and wanted to quit.  
But I couldn’t. Riding next to me was a person who was having a blast. The hard work wasn’t deterring him. He pedaled on. And consequently, so did I.  
As I labored through unexpected obstacles and hills I thought I’d never surmount, I looked past my irritation and saw breathtaking beauty around me. I saw leaves blazing with autumn colors, I felt wind whipping my face. I saw birds and flowers and art and architecture.
I was surrounded by people celebrating life, whether they knew it or not. I saw a man running up one of those hills with a prosthetic leg. I heard women running and singing out loud (horribly, I might add) the music that stirred their souls. I heard multiple languages…people from other places and other worlds sharing the same moment and beauty with me. And that’s when it hit me. 
This moment, so unexpected and widely surreal, was a reminder of what life is like for me and I suspect for all. It’s exciting and happy and also hard and dejecting. But in the midst of any and all of that, there was beauty every where I looked, in all directions. Despite how hard It felt, it was a magical moment. 
And so it is with my mother being gone and my life since then. It’s been hard. I have failed as much as I’ve succeeded. But, through it all, I have been surrounded with unbelievable beauty and love.  
I have been loved by men who are amazing and it seems have loved me even when I didn’t feel worthy. I have healthy children who make me proud, I have a sister who is my everything and her family is my tribe. I have a best friend who knows me better than I want to know myself. I have friends who care about me and listen more than they should. I have a husband and soul mate who gets me and still shows up every day to dance this dance (or bike this path) with me. My life is good. No, it’s great. 
And for all of this I give thanks from the bottom of this fragile, but grateful, heart.   
12 years ago, I never dreamed I could feel so thankful and full. And yet, here I am to assure you that it’s not only  possible, but perhaps almost certain. 
Thank you all. Thank you life. 

Life

IMG_4121

 

7:30 a.m, tomorrow.  My niece is being induced.  She’s having a baby!  A baby, I say.  It’s not like we didn’t know.  She’s been pregnant for a full nine months and I’ve watched her blossom and grow throughout the entire time.  But for some reason, the true and real fact that tomorrow (or the next day depending on nature’s will) she will become a mother just hasn’t sunk into the deep, or even shallow, recesses of my brain.

Here’s the low down.  Our (and by our I mean me and my sister)  only girl is about to have a baby girl.  My sister has five kids.   Three steps (Hayleigh and the twin boys) and two sons of her own.  I have five kids.  Three boys of my own, plus two stepsons.   Ten awesome kids between the two of us and only one girl.  Our ‘Sister’ girl, our Hayleigh.

I could write about our girl having a girl.   That’s pretty awesome stuff.  But that’s not what my heart is really feeling.  I am thrilled to finally have some girl in this family, but my sister and I both love our boys with a fierceness that is strong and sometimes scary.   Boys are amazing.

What I need to write about is this feeling that is rolling in like an early morning fog.  It’s seeping and creeping and winding its way around my heart.   We are about to have a baby!  Life!  And I am so excited and ready.  I am also feeling a tangled web of other things too.

Although I am an aunt, I have to confess that I have failed miserably in that department.  It just so happens that my sister’s two biological sons are the exact same ages as my younger two sons and so we sort of agreed to focus on being moms over being great aunts to each others’ kids.  Our nephews always knew they were loved by their mom’s sister, but we  weren’t  the doting aunts who spoiled the offspring that weren’t hers.  We were both too busy with our own.   It was a mutual understanding and it’s always been fine.

But there is something about this new baby that has awakened a feeling within me.  Maybe it’s a feeling of family?  A feeling of love?  A wave of nostalgia?  Perhaps a bit of each of those.

I know that it has stirred a longing for my mom.

I’ve said it before and I shall say it again.  She should be here for this.  She would want to be here.  We Want Her Here.

My mom, one of the most amazing women you’d ever hope to meet, was an incredible grandmother.  But sadly, she only got to play that role for about 6 years.   And the last of those, she was sick.

This sweet baby girl, who we haven’t even met yet, is helping me remember and relive the best parts of my mother.   My mom was one of the most ridiculously generous people you’d ever meet.  She did not know the definition of moderation or ‘less is more’.  More was always more.  And more was always better.

I’ve already bought this baby over a dozen VHS Disney movies at Goodwill as an homage to my mom.  It’s what she would have done.  Good sense and practicality be damned.  In that moment, standing in the ugly aisle of a thrift store, my heart said “Yes!” and so I did.  And I did it for her.  Both hers.   Christine (our mom) and our new baby, Lenny.

Our Grandmother, for that is what my mom was called by the grandkids, is gone, but now we have another.

We have a Mamie.   Mamie gets to be the grandmother.    Isn’t she the lucky one?

It’s mind boggling that my baby sister will be a grandmother in a matter of hours (days?).   She’s only 42.  Secretly, I have to chuckle.  But at the same time, I shall become a great aunt.  Or rather…a Great Aunt.  For I shall be great.

This new bundle of life is going to forever remind us of the bundle of life and energy and love and generosity and sass and spice that we lost all those years ago.   This new baby is going to help us remember things.  She’s going to remind us to FEEL the realness of our days, the brevity, the moments that once breathed out are not ever to be breathed in again.

Our Sister Girl’s baby girl is our chance to let our mother live again.  To love and share and spoil and teach all the lessons that should have been taught by our mother and would have been shared if time had not run out.

We now have a chance, a chance to be the Grandmother that our mother never got to be.  To be the Aunt we were too busy to become.  To be the Women we want our girls to believe in and our boys to strive to partner with.

Although life has unexpected endings, it also gives unbelievable new beginnings.   We have lived through bad, now we will live through good.  And we are grateful for it all.

I am thankful for the memories of my mother.  I am thankful that new life reminds me of loss, even when it hurts.  I am thankful to share life and love with this baby and her wonderful mother and Mamie.   I am thankful that I feel the connection between life and death and ultimately, life again.  Always.

Thankful, I am.

 

My Tribe

Maybe I’m tired.  Maybe it’s restlessness.  Maybe my blue November has creeped in early and my heart is searching for someone who’s been gone for a while.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that this drive home is harder than usual.

Richard and I decided late last week to go to my sister’s house for the weekend.  She lives in far north East Texas and it is a five hour drive from Austin no matter how hard we try  to pretend it’s not.   We left mid day Friday and arrived to her house before 5.

As we turned off the two lane highway into her winding drive, my heart beat faster with excitement.  I’ve always loved her house, but now when I see it I am reminded of my beautiful wedding we had there.  It makes a great place all the more special.

IMG_7625

We settled in and made our plans for Friday night.  It was their Homecoming and my handsome nephew was in the Homecoming court.  We decided we wanted to tag along for the ‘Friday Night Lights’ experience and then leave at halftime.  Driving back to the football stadium where I spent my awkward, dreamy, sometimes miserable, always hopeful junior high years felt both familiar and foreign.  So much the same and yet a lifetime away.  It was good to share the memories with Richard.   The game was fun, but being back at Amy’s afterwards visiting with everyone was even better.  I stayed up past 1 a.m. talking to my brother in law, Johnny.  It’s something the two of us have never done before in almost 20 years of knowing each other.  And it was great.

Saturday dawned and so did breakfast.  Breakfast is Johnny’s favorite meal to cook and it’s one of his many claim to fames.  Sizzling bacon, sausage, biscuits, homemade gravy, and eggs any way you want them are regulars in the rotation.  The coffee is piping and the conversation flows.  Everyone lingers around, some at the bar, some at the table, some manning the oven and all talk and laugh.  Kids and parents, sisters, husbands and wives, aunts and nieces and nephews…family.   Finally, we all move to Amy’s long farm table and continue on.

IMG_8734

The plan was to clean up and then head to Amy and Johnny’s house on Caddo Lake.   They call it their “river house” and they built it themselves.  It’s just about done and we wanted to spend Saturday night there.   Life got in the way and Richard had to spend several hours working at Amy’s house.  We were bummed, but Amy, my niece Hayleigh and her husband Clint headed out there to get some work done.  It was low key and we missed Johnny and Richard.   They finally arrived close to 4 in the afternoon and once everyone was back together, the mood lightened and spirits lifted.  We started cooking gumbo and having a great time.  Friends showed up and we sat by the water doing what we do best…sharing great food and drink, laughing and talking.  The sense of community and love is palpable.

Hayleigh and Clint are expecting their first baby, a little girl named Lenny Kay (our first since Hayleigh!) in a few weeks and seeing how beautiful she looks and how excited everyone is just fills my heart with love.  My sister is going to be a grandmother!  We got to talk about all things baby and set up portable cribs and oohh and aahh over little baby girl dresses and swimsuits we can’t wait for her to wear next summer.  Babies are good and we are over the moon with happiness for them.

Today was another big breakfast and more laughs and some work on the river house. My dad joined us and we got to talk to him for a few hours.   After breakfast, I plugged my phone in and Jake Bugg filled the house.  It was the perfect soundtrack for our sunny, Sunday morning and there were smiles and contentment.  Slowly, I started getting the sinking realization that it was time to start saying our goodbyes and my heart sank.

We live almost 300 miles away and sometimes it feels like half a world from each other.  Amy’s the country mouse while I’m the city mouse and yet, when I am with her, I am home.  She and Hayleigh are the only two women in the world I can 100% be myself with.  Because even if I tried not to, they would know better.  They have lived my darkest moments with me and held my hand as we stumbled towards my light.   Seeing Hayleigh, with a new life growing within her, made me feel the absence of my mom like I haven’t in such a long time.  I am missing her terribly today.  She should be here to sit on the dock, eating and laughing with us.  She should be helping us await the arrival of this new baby.  She should just be here.   Or perhaps, I should be there.

IMG_9022

 

As we drove away from the river, having said our quick goodbyes because there’s no need for long ones, the tears slid down my cheeks.  “I’m so sad” I whispered.  It is beautiful where they live and they always have each other right there.  I want to be with my people, my tribe, the sisters of my soul and heart.  I want Johnny breakfasts and dancing on the dock under the string of lights by the river.  I want new baby kisses more than twice a year and women who speak a truth to me that I will always need to hear.

IMG_9026

This five hour drive is ending and I will be back to the familiar sights and sounds of my own house.  The city one.  The one where four (sometimes five) boys live and thrive.  Life will get busy as it always does and maybe this longing in my heart will settle and sleep for a while.   But until then, I am missing my country family.  The ones I didn’t get to choose, but would pick time and time and time again.  Forever and always.

Life is Fun

 

Life IS fun!

Over the past few weeks, I haven’t felt much like writing and it was really bothering me.  Writing has always been my security blanket, my comfort zone.  It’s also been the thing I turn to in times of trouble and sadness and confusion.

And then it hit me.   I haven’t been in trouble or sad or all that confused lately.  Things have been pretty good and consequently, I haven’t sought the blank page for any answers.

It is so easy for me to slip into self pity and self centeredness that I could quickly generate a list of worries and stressors that creep into my daily life.  Davis still hates school, I am still adrift with my career goals and life vision, my fat clothes are getting tight again, and money is, well, it’s as tight as my jeans lately.

But rather than let any or all of those consume me, I am struck by how great life actually is.  And the gratitude I feel has been enough to keep those fears and worries at bay.

In the past month I have been on an adventure of a lifetime with my best friends, spent real and amazing moments with my loved ones, and started a new job that has changed me immensely.

Last week, I traveled to Denver, Colorado with two of my best friends to see Duran Duran play at Red Rocks Amphitheater.  For years I’ve wanted to see a concert at this outdoor venue and finally the dream came true!  I spent two days with two women who I love dearly.  We laughed and cried and laughed even more.  And then we stood, front row center, watching our favorite band in the world perform under a blanket of stars.  The memories we take away from that weekend will last forever and I am a blessed and happy girl to have been able to live this experience.

IMG_8769

Even though having kids is oftentimes hard, I can’t complain.  Mine spend every other week away from me now because of the divorce and I am fully aware that my time with them is all the more precious.  My new job has me gone in the evenings, so I am relishing the little things more…dropping off and picking up at school, cooking new recipes for them from scratch, watching movies and talking about what books they are reading or new video games they have played.  I am practicing mindful listening and not being the first to let go of the hug.   Weekends have become a sacred and special time for us and while I’m not perfect, I’m not as checked out as I used to be.

IMG_1089

My new job is so interesting.  I teach ESL to adults.  My specific assignment is Reading and Writing/Level 2.   For the first week, I suffered panic attacks every day as the time neared for class to begin.  I would get sick and sweaty and couldn’t breath.  I’m not sure what I was so afraid of, but even now, a month into it, I get nervous as 6 pm gets closer.   Here’s a truth though.  I think many of my students are just as or more scared than me.  And I have grown to realize how brave and amazing they are just for showing up each night.

Teaching this class has helped me rediscover myself as a teacher.  Actually, I’ve rediscovered myself as a human being.   Each night, when I’m in my classroom, I stand before people who I would have never interacted with in other circumstances.  Not necessarily because I thought I was better than them, but perhaps because our paths might not have ever crossed.  Or, when they did, our language barriers would have kept us silent.

But that’s the thing.  They don’t want to be silent.  Nor should they have to be.  I have met some of the most interesting and caring and hardworking people I’ve ever known.  They are smart and funny and full of stories and experiences that make them far more interesting and worldly than anything I’ve ever done or known.  The realization that I have been blessed with the job of helping them grow and make a true and genuine difference in their lives is staggering.  I want to help them and I think about ways to truly make an impact all the time.  I think I am and that is a wonderful feeling.

IMG_1852

While this job doesn’t do much to improve my finances and at the moment takes me away from my family, I feel it’s worth it. My students are worth it.  And the changes I am seeing in myself are worth it.

Last week, while sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, a fellow patient exclaimed “Life is really fun, if you just let it be” and I couldn’t agree more.  It’s fun, even when it’s hard.  And it’s good, even during those times when it’s not.

So while I haven’t lately filled the white pages of my blog with words, I have filled my heart with new experiences and new outlooks and perspectives.  Life is fun, indeed.

 

 

A Letter to Davis: 7 Things All Middle School Kids Will Wish They Knew

The start of  a new  school year has been hard for some of the boys in my family, in particular, my son Davis.   It breaks my heart and I haven’t been able to find the right thing to say or do.  I reached out to my oldest son to see if he could share some words of wisdom with his little brother about the middle school adjustment.  I’m not sure if Ellis ever said anything to Davis, but what he did do was mention to his friend Nicole how sad Davis has been and she was moved to write a letter to my son.

I had to share with you the beauty and wisdom in this special person’s words.  This letter to Davis is a cherished gift that we will treasure forever.   Thank you Nicole for this amazing piece of truth and for the love you share.  You are a wonderful person and we are all lucky to call you friend.

IMG_4992

Dear Davis,

Your brother told me you started Murchison this week, and I would like to say that I am somehow both very sorry and very jealous. I know that you’re probably feeling pretty stressed and confused and maybe even scared right now, because I know that I definitely was when I started middle school.

Fun fact, if you gave me a time machine right now, the first place I would go to in my life is the sixth grade. There are SO many things no one told me about when I was in middle school that I wish I had known to get me through those years. I know a lot of this might be off base, or non applicable to you, but I thought just in case I’d share them.

So here they are, seven things I wish I knew in the sixth grade.

  1. I really hope this one isn’t true

The kids when I was your age were mean. Seriously, horribly mean. I hope so much that kids have gotten better but assuming the worst, let me tell you this. The mean things people said to me in middle school tore me apart. However, they now make me laugh harder than almost anything. The things I worried about when I was twelve were absolutely ridiculous. And the things I hated about myself are now, no kidding, my FAVORITE things about myself. So do not let the little mean things get to your head.

Speaking of which

2. The mean kids, are just kids.

They are just as scared or stressed as you, if not more. They just haven’t figured out how to deal with that yet. Give them the benefit of the doubt and move away from them. Do not let their unhappiness threaten yours.

3. Be careful when choosing your friends

I was friends with the meanest girls I knew in sixth grade, solely because I was absolutely terrified of them. My friend choice is by far my biggest regret of that year, because being friends with people who make you unhappy is the absolute worst idea you can have.

Also on that

4. Try your best to stay true to yourself

I changed a lot about myself in middle school. Because I made friends with people who did not like me, I stopped being me. I changed how I dressed, acted, and even thought. Yes, you are a kid and you are in sixth grade. You are not supposed to know who you are at this point in time. You are allowed to change and grow, because you are after all, a human being. But do not sacrifice the things that make you brilliant for comfort. There are people who love exactly what you are, and you will be much happier if you stay true to what you love and what you believe.

5. It is okay to be uncomfortable, sad, and scared

Most people, kids or adults are. This is going to be hard. Whoever says it isn’t probably blocked out middle school completely. It is hard, and it is new and it is strange. You are learning who you are, all the while being under all kinds of new stress like academics and social pressures. You are going to have days where you are lost, or unhappy. They are normal. Just know that they are temporary and you are not alone. Everyone in history has had those days, it is okay to be off. It is not okay to tell yourself you are anything short of amazing and by yourself. You have an incredible amount of people that absolutely adore you.

Fun fact, I am definitely one of them. Do not tell my friends or family, but on a list of ten people I wish I could be more like, you would definitely be written down.

Oh hey look at that

6. Do not forget that you are hilarious, brilliant, and loved

This is probably going to be the hardest. I forget this most days, most people do. Which is sad, for most people. But it would be especially heartbreaking for you. I am not exaggerating when I say you are a phenomenon. Every conversation I’ve ever had about you has been constant praising. You are a fantastic gift to everyone that meets you. If some people forget to mention it, know that they think you are a great kid. And of course, that you are.

7. This year is going to feel like a lifetime, but it is not even close to forever.

I swear sometimes in those portables I would look down at my hands and expect to see wrinkles. The days at Murchison are so long, especially your worst. The days you feel lost, sad, or confused will always feel far past 24 hours.

But before you know it, you’re going to be eighteen years old, on your third day of college, sitting in a cafeteria in a city you don’t know, writing to a sweet sixth grader that it all comes and goes too fast.

You are only 12 once, and I wish so badly I could trade places with you right now. You are too young to be worried or scared. I know that will not stop you from doing those things, but please, for someone who wishes almost everyday they could go back and do it again,

smile. Laugh. and love the fact that you are a kid.

You are safe, loved, and amazing. You will get stressed and sad and scared, but know that when you look back all you’re going to think is “Why?”.

Because you never know.

This could very easily be the best year you’ve had yet.

Just remember that it all works out, and you honestly have nothing to be afraid of.

But if you are afraid, or lonely, or worried for whatever reason

You can always talk to me or your brother, or your mom, or any other person on the long list of people who care.

Even if you think it’ll sound dumb. They will listen and they will help.

Good luck you cunning, pliable, chestnut haired sunfish.

I know you are going to do great.

Love always,

Nicole

 

My Apron Strings

IMG_0986

Apron Strings

They say that ignorance is bliss and I am beginning to finally understand what they mean.   For a while now, I have been an ignorant parent and I thought it was working out just fine for me.

Which leads me to my oldest getting ready to leave home for college.

The entire process of preparing for him to leave has been hellish  And yes, I will confess right here and now that my personal hell is FAR less traumatic than most, but it is a hell nonetheless and from that standpoint we shall carry on.

In the past week, it has smacked, bruised, mangled and suffocated me that my first child is leaving home and heading off to college.

He is smart, capable, witty, resourceful, and resilient.

He is ready for the world.

Here is why I can’t accept that he’s leaving.

This child was calculated and planned.  I waited for him for years.  He was THE ONE.  The one I wanted, the one I longed for, the one I wrote poetry to and about before he arrived.  The one I journaled to daily even though we spent every single moment of our first years together.  Always.

He was my “buddy” and I never even used that quaint term of endearment.  I didn’t need a buddy.  I had a partner, an appendage, a second self that breathed in and out just as me.   He was my yang to yang and my yin to my yin.   If you aren’t catching on, we were often one and the same.

When this child was a mere babe, like less than half  a year old,  I contracted shingles.  And it HURT.  This baby would reach around me to grab on and nurse (because how could he know about the ice pick stabbing pain of shingles??) and I would cry and nurse him until he was satisfied. And that’s how things went, because I don’t really remember the pain or how it ended.  I just know that I nursed him into toddlerhood and we kept on living our happy lives.

But this child, the one I longed for for YEARS, was well prepared for and researched. I read book after book about how to be a mom and how to parent him to the best of my ability.  I continued to read books while he grew up.  I also made visits to therapists and consulted many wise sages (including my incredibly missed mom) about this kid.  I wanted him to be amazing.  And he was.  I also wanted to be amazing for him.

But no matter how much I read or how well prepared I thought I was, this kid challenged me.  He made me feel, on a regular basis, that my skills were far below his level of experience.  And by experience I mean life understanding, maturity, responsibility and all those good things.  He pushed me to be a better mother and in doing so, a better person.

Fast forward many years and the time has come for me to cut my apron strings and let him fly.   And I know he’s ready.  I know he’s smart and capable and responsible and assured.

But I can’t accept that.  The thing is, and this is the absolute truth.

I. AM.NOT.READY.  It has nothing to do with him.

Oh, I’ll wave goodbye and smile and jump up and down a bit.   But the entire time, my throat will be on fire, burning with a sadness that is bitter and sweet and choking.  I will make my baby young man feel empowered and strong and ready to face the world.

Because he is.  Absolutely.

But on the inside, I will be dying.  I will be proud and boastful, but also raw and jagged and confused and bewildered about how this time in our lives arrived so quickly.  Where did it come from? Where is my little, spunky, sweet and smart boy who made my every waking day a day of joy and challenge?  WHERE IS THAT BOY?

He’s grabbing duffel bags and plastic bins and walking out my door.

And I can’t.

I can’t.   I can’t watch and help and smile excitedly.  I can’t accept that this time has come.

Except it has and I will.   And I will breathe and smile and keep busy by shopping for the other four boys’ back to school things,  and wrinkle reducing creams, and clothes I am too fat to wear and everything will work out okay. I will also help him pack and make ridiculous, random small talk about bad movie directors and kale as a snack food.  It won’t make sense, but it will fill the horrible, painful, ridiculous gaping hole that is screaming to be filled by all those moments from his childhood that we can’t grab back.

And then all of a sudden, he will be packed and ready to cart himself off to college.  Just. Like. That.

Because as hard as things always seem to get, they always work out just as they’re supposed to.  The boy will leave.  And WE will be alright.

And for that I will be grateful.

But just not quite yet.  Give me a day or three.

The Seventh Stranger

This morning when I awoke, I did my habitual interwebs check and noticed an update from Facebook. The entity that is Facebook wanted me to know that Richard and I had been friends there for seven years.

Seven years?  Where did the time go?

It didn’t take me long to realize that today must be my Facebook anniversary, the day I decided to enter this addictive, mind numbing at times, fun and annoying world that I’ve grown to be a part of and allow to become a part of me.

Thinking back on the past seven years, I immediately felt a full spectrum of emotions.  Loneliness, disbelief, recklessness, shame, regret, remorse, resolve, hope, and happiness.  During the span of my Facebook life, I have lived a thousand lives, with what seems a plethora of people, including many versions of myself.

And here I am today, all these lives later, SEVEN years later,  steadily moving onward, ever searching and growing one step closer to the me I’ve always dreamed of and wanted to be.

In the past seven years, many things have happened TO me and BECAUSE of me that are quite profound. I am proud of some of my actions and painfully and regretfully mortified by others.

When I searched online recently for the top stressors in life, I realized that I have lived and experienced almost all of the top twenty things that cause people massive stress.  Death, infidelity, divorce, bankruptcy, job loss, troubles with the law, remarriage and step parenting, among others.   My life has been and could still be considered a huge, hot, heaping mess.

Except, it’s not.

Oh, it’s messy for sure.  It is no where near the life I anticipated or dreamed of and still, quite honestly, DREAM of.   I know there is MORE out there for me, for us, my people.

But it’s a good life.  And I would be a complete ass for proclaiming otherwise.   The people I love are healthy and for the most part, they thrive.  I am healthy.  We have good food and cute clothes and a nice roof over our heads.  We laugh heartily and love deeply and cry and yell.  We also hug and kiss and smirk and smile.  Big.

Seven years ago, I friended a guy on Facebook who has now become my husband, my best friend,  the love of my life, the person who holds me up when I let all those unbelievable and incredible life stressors start creeping into my psyche and into the dark corners of my mind where the demons whisper with their nasty and convincing voices.  When I feel the weight of my world, my potential reality, crushing down on me, I know I have him and I have myself to hold me up and help carry on.

I’m not seized in desperation…

I traded in my shelter for danger.  I changed my name just as the sun went down.

But the stranger, for me,  is fear and despair.  I can’t and won’t let that defeat me.

And Facebook, hate it or love it,  helped remind me today that I have friends to see me through.  Friends who love me hard and unconditionally and for always.

And I’m thankful for that.

 

My Pinata Party

Pinata-Ideas-Adults

 

We are sitting side by side. Each of us with our laptops open.  It’s a work day for him, and for me?  Well, lately all my days are days off.  Since June I’ve been unemployed and while I have some very part time and potentially great work lined up to begin next month, there’s nothing big on the horizon that looks like true fulfillment or even enough money to pay the bills.

I’m 45 and I honest to God have no clue what I want to be when I grow up.  Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer, but I lack focus.  And ideas.  And focus.  Oh wait.  I don’t want to give up on that dream, but I have a hard time visualizing its viability.  Sad, I know.

I love all things vintage and retro, but I feel like there are a million purveyors of the past.  Is there enough room in that boutique arena for me to squeeze in?  Most days I let fear tell me “no, no there isn’t”.

I love kids, but I am done being in the classroom day in and day out.  I love all my friends and family who teach and I love all the people who teach my kids, but those days are past for me.

So I sit and worry and wonder and try to create.   I feel like there is an idea, an answer right out of my reach, right around the corner, right about to come into sight.  And I know I can’t just stand still and wait for it to reach me.  I am walking.  But I am walking like a little girl at a birthday party with the blindfold tied around my eyes, swinging madly at a pinata full of candy and treasures that dances in the air around me.  Richard and my friends cheer me on and clap and oohh and aahh, but I swing and miss, over and over again.

Sometimes I wish I could be the kid at the party who didn’t need to swing the pinata.  You know the one.  The kid that is just happy to wait patiently until the pinata bursts.  And in the frenzied madness they just drop to their knees to gratefully grab whatever is in their reach.

But I’m not.  I’m swinging and fighting and smiling and hoping for a whomp that brings forth the goods. And y’all, it’s exhausting me.

What do I want?   I want to be my own boss.  I want to create things that are beautiful and/or make the world a better place.  I want to work alongside my best friend(s), and I want to be able to provide for my children adequately.

And then that’s as far as I get.  Oh, I have ideas.  Lots and lots of them.  Some are pretty incredible and others are a complete joke.  I’m constantly making lists and writing on napkins in restaurants and searching the internet and talking and wondering.  But I never have that This.Is.IT. moment.  I never bust the shit out of that pinata.   Boy, how I want to.

I’m not giving up or giving in.  That’s just not in my nature.  I also don’t tend to play by the rules of the Do What’s Expected Club.  I quit my job mid year without anything else lined up.  But that was for my survival and it worked.  I found a part time job that was great and gave me room to breath and think and make my lists.  Then that ended and I went on to find something else (the job that starts next month) which gives a little room to ponder and buy groceries.  But not a lot.

So here I am at my party.  Our party.  The Life Party.  Just giving it all a good go. I’m swinging and smiling and spinning and I can tell that I am about to whack that pinata and this party is about to really get started.

I just hope that pinata is stuffed with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups cause I’ll be pissed if it’s just Nerds and Smarties and generic hard candy that isn’t ever worth the effort.

 

With and Without

tumblr_nmwpubxbmb1qke7l1o1_1280-1

I woke up with a loneliness that has delicately wrapped itself around my shoulders.  I feel its presence, ever so slightly in all that I’ve done this morning.  The clouds outside seem to have done the same to the morning light.   We are wearing our grayness like a cloak, me and this new day.

Why should I feel this way?  Here is my truth.  I live a double life.  We all do, all the people in my family and sometimes it makes me sad.

Yes, I have five boys…three of my own, plus two more gifts from my marriage to Richard.   And I like to write and talk to anyone who will listen about how hard it is having all these kids.   The dishes, the laundry, the clutter, the noise, the financial strains are all sometimes more than I can handle.   Also, it hasn’t been as easy to ‘blend’ these two unique families into the new amazing one I originally idealized when I was newly in love and running on the fumes of passion and naivety.   I’ve shared that with others too.

But the truth is, I only have those five boys every other week.  Both of our custody arrangements are set for a week on/a week off schedule.   In truth, we should call it a week with and a week without.

In the beginning, it was fun.  I cannot lie.  The idea of a week without any kids in the house was exciting.  I used to look forward to that moment when everything went still in the house and the quiet danced through the rooms and seeped into my stressed out body. Richard and I would head out on our ‘date night’, exploring new places and having adventures that are so much easier for ‘free’ people to have. It has always been a special time for us and I do believe it helps us keep our marriage sparking.  But, it comes at a price.

And that price seems exorbitant at times.

It’s not normal for this Mama to be away from her children for a week at a time.  It has become our normal because when my marriage to their father ended, the most fair thing we could think of was to share our time with them in this way.   And I will say it again, my children have amazing parents and I would never want them to lose any time with either of them.  But that doesn’t make it any less hard or uncomfortable or lonely to have them be away from your child for half a month, half a year, half of the rest of their childhoods.

Last night Richard and I went on one of our dates. We had a decadent glass of red wine and then went to see Me and Earl and The Dying Girl.    We loved the film, but it is the kind of movie that decides to get up and leave with you after the credits finish rolling.  It sits in the backseat of the car on the long, quiet, ride home, stands behind you as you brush your teeth and gaze into the mirror at your puffy eyes, and even crawls into bed in between you as you pull the blankets up to cover yourself, your heart, your mind and all its worries and wonders.

It’s the kind of movie that makes you realize how fast it all (LIFE) goes by and how little the messes truly matter. It’s the kind of movie that makes you sad that your children are away half of the time, seeing new things, smiling fresh smiles, shedding salty tears that you aren’t there to see with your own two eyes.  It’s the kind of movie that makes you swear you will savor the little things, the annoyances, the joys, the moments that once ticked by can’t be snatched back.  I realize that one could argue that our  children’s lives are good because they are living more experiences, have more people to love and nurture them, and are gaining a broader perspective on how the world works.  And most days I know this to be true.

But this morning, I just feel lonely here without them.