Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Why?

I write. I write because if I don't, the words in my head that I can't find the muscles in my mouth to say out loud will jam up and spill out as tears. As awkward silence because I assume the other person can read my body language. As panicked gasps because I didn't exercise my right to say "no."

I write because one day my kids will want to know why I was like this. The internet remembers everything unfortunately.

The internet remembers the confessions made like I was madly bargaining with the universe to bring my then Husband back to me, back to his children and God. The internet remembers the excitement and overwhelming joy from each baby's "first." The internet will never ever forget the humbling acknowledgment of both Logan's heart defect and Lou's autism diagnosis.

The internet remembers my truth and sometimes it shines truth just as hard as it lies.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Stroking the ego of my inner Gypsy.

We came into the neighborhood to visit my mother and slowed down as we came up over the hill to see a white house with green trim on the corner lot, "FOR RENT BY OWNER" scrawled across a sign hanging from the garage door. I veered off the main road and down the driveway to get a better look and write down the number written beneath.

Lou was only 3 months old. His baby gear, two bigger children's worth of stuff, an 80 pound black lab, and nearly 10 years of marriage's worth of stuff were crammed into a 3 bedroom apartment on the property I work at. We were busting at the seams and I was getting more and more desperate to find somewhere, anywhere, I wouldn't be noticed while trying to drink my coffee and walk the dog in the mornings. When I received the call back from the home owner, I about lost my mind at how little he wanted for rent in comparison to what others were paying for the same layout I was living in. The home had an enclosed "bonus room" built from the skeleton of the garage, 2 1/2 baths, gas stove, formal dining room, an enormous master bedroom... I was barely able to get the approval from my then Husband before I rushed back to the property to meet with the Home Owner. We decided in seconds that this was the home we'd be raising children in. With security deposits paid and utilities transferred, we were jingling keys before the month ended.

Now... nearly 4 years later, I sent a text off to the Home Owner telling him I'd like to sign a 9 month lease renewal as opposed to the 24 month I'd been signing as I thought maybe it was time for a change. I feel the change coming and regardless of whether or not I want it mentally, it's happening. He countered with an offer of 6 months as he'd been meaning to talk to me about it going on the market next Spring. My brain went to TV static. I stared at the text for a second and reread it multiple times to see if I'd read it right. Knowing that he'd need the home accessible to make necessary repairs before placing it on the market, knowing that we would possibly need to be out before school finishes... That changes things. I went to bed a few nights ago thinking of moving boxes, purging all the rooms, removing pictures and curtains I had LITERALLY just unpacked and hung post divorce... it's overwhelming and yet my OCD cannot wait to get started.

There's something comforting in compartmentalizing the shit you've accumulated both mentally and physically over your adult life and packing it away to be opened in your "future" home. I used to "drunk file" before kids ever came into the picture. I'd sit with my margarita, licking salty condensation off my fingers while having to close one eye just to focus on the tabs of the files clicking against each other in the cabinet. The metal on metal "whoosh" of the hangers nearly as intoxicating as the alcohol itself. And yes, I've always been this domestically lame. I wouldn't know how to drunk dial if my life depended on it.

So now I'm on the prowl for a new home, our home... a home to fill with laughter and love and light and peace and honesty. I'm still not sure if I'll ever own a home, being a single mother with three kids to provide for can cause mountains of debt and right now I'm trying to manage just the foothills in the hopes I can keep the mountain range from forming when I have my back turned to it. I want to own a home, one day. But for now I'd just like to know where that home will be and if we will make some sort of crazy leap of faith that is unlike me to all that know me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Motivational Speaking for the Hard of Hearing

There was a monster inside me this morning. I woke up feeling seasonal junk creeping up coppery out of my lungs and I just wasn't in the mood to survive the day. I brewed a fresh pot of coffee, dinked around on solitaire for a bit, checked the clock every 5 minutes... 5:15... 5:20... 5:25... Loud thumping shook the ceiling above the couch I was on. Lou had woken up. He crashed around and sang a joyful noise as he does every morning he gets a solid 10 hours rest. It must be nice to sleep 10 hours and then crash again for a good 2-4 hours every afternoon. I'd gladly exchange a day at the office to have someone shuttle me around and tuck me in twice a day.

I've been "free ranging" him in the mornings he's in a good mood to keep him in good spirits until I can successfully get him on the bus. This morning went amazing until it, well, no longer did. He cooperated through changing out of his wet pants and into school clothes, he went to the kitchen and retrieved his cereal choice for the morning, and he even helped me to get his backpack together. But then he showed me he knew how to unlock the front door. I told him he couldn't go outside without socks and shoes on, and he unlocked the door again... and again... and again... Each time becoming more and more hysterical to the point we both ended up on the stairs with snot, sweat and tears smeared between the both of us, carpet burns on our arms and knees, him having a massive meltdown upside down on the bottom landing with his legs up the wall or kicking into my arms. Socks were slid on sideways while I cursed between my teeth. Shoes were consistently flung out and down the stairs by legs that were determined to avoid anything being secured to his feet. I could hear my alarm going off on top of the organ by the front door signalling for us to be OUT. THE. DOOR. I finally snapped and the monster rose up out of my belly in a growl, "DAMMIT, I NEED YOUR HELP! YOU NEED TO HELP MAMA SO SHE CAN HELP YOU! THE BUS IS COMING AND I NEED YOUR HELP!" I broke. I don't ever raise my voice to Lou unless he's putting himself or others in danger. I don't ever CURSE at Lou ever, NEVER ever. His cries went from manic and hysterical to subdued and sad. My mama heart broke.

Things calmed down some between crocodile tears and less passionate flailing of limbs. His meltdown was slowing down. I opened the front door and slung his backpack across my shoulder, sweeping my hand dramatically overhead and pointing out the door. "Time to go, kid." I could hear the bus's air brakes and back up alarm as it turned around the next street down. He walked up to me and wiped his tears; patting my stomach as a signal that he wanted me to pick him up. His hot damp face snuggled into my neck and my guilt ate me up. I shushed him and rubbed his back while I hoofed it up the driveway, all the while whispering how much I love him and how sorry I was that I had to be loud. I whispered that I knew he was upset, but sometimes mommy's get upset too... that even mommy's need help. As if he knew that he wasn't the only one who had a hard time this morning, he took the initiative once plopped on the bottom step of the bus to keep climbing the steps and walking back to his seat by himself. I shoved his backpack into the hands of the driver and bolted, feeling guilty for fussing at Lou just moments earlier and not having the ability to receive my normal bus stop cuddles due to our setback.

What awaited me on the other side of the door was yet another child eager to hear a "Motivational Speech for the Hard of Hearing." Lillie came to me complaining that none of her clothes fit/matched/were clean. She shoved a pair of pants somewhere close to my retina and told me to match something to it. I felt like I was being set up, and I was of course. Nothing I picked out made her happy, leading to a grand finale of a roar from yours truly, "YOUR DISRESPECTFUL LITTLE ATTITUDE CAN GO TAKE A HIKE IN ANYTHING BUT THE CLOTHING I'VE PROVIDED FOR YOU!" Everything she decided to put on I nixed with the explanation that because I apparently don't care or provide for her like her Grandmother's do, she can't wear anything I bought her. Needless to say, her attitude didn't change much, but she did walk out of the house in quite possibly the world's most ridiculously thrown together outfit screaming that she knows I don't love her or care about her. I yelled for her to have an amazing day and that I loved her to infinity and beyond... despite the fact I wanted to strangle her sweet little neck because my patience was beyond gone at that point.

The one bonus to all my "motivational speeches" of the morning was that child number 3, number 1?, Logan... in an effort to not get spoken to himself was up, dressed and out the door before I even had to ask. There's always the one kid that gets it and I wish I could say he got spared the impatient allergy crud monster living in my lungs, but he got an earful himself last night after calling me a liar and telling me what he was and wasn't going to do and what I wasn't and wasn't going to do as his mother. Wrong time wrong place, kiddo... he was told he'd be lucky to come home from his dad's with everything packed up with the exception of his mattress and a few outfits to get him through each week.

Y'all... I'm just so done. I'm so exhausted from having had shingles and now this junk that's attempting to invade all my breathing related organs. Yeah, BY THE WAY. I totally woke up last week and realized I wasn't getting bit by fleas courtesy of our newly treated once a fleabag kitten, but an illness that typically only plagues those double my age. Thanks to an insane amount of stress, my immune system has completely tanked. Shingles were just the white flag my body waved as an SOS/we give up method. I need a week unplugged, in the Keys, beer in my hand and no one disagreeing with me or literally kicking me with their little foot. I need 10 hour hibernation sessions with 4 hour naps. Maybe I should answer one of the Nigerian Prince's who email me 2-3 times a week. They seem to be rolling in the dough.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Words I wrote for Mammaw Summer 2009

He started off his day mowing down the garden. He just doesn't have the passion or energy anymore when it comes to growing anything. He's got a few buckets out this year of tomatoes and cucumbers, but not much more. He couldn't see me from where I was standing, but his movements were so fluid I could understand why he needed to be out there so early this morning. His arms moved like that of a swimmer lost in the moment, simply concentrating on the task at hand. We lost you six months ago today, and out of all of us who mourn your passing it's he who suffers the most. Two days ago he had to celebrate what was probably the toughest day since you left before now. Two days ago he had to celebrate not just his first father's day without the woman who gave him the gift of fatherhood, but his 56th wedding anniversary without his bride.

Today, with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat he spoke to my mother softly and slowly. He wanted one more hour, just one more hour with you to tell you he was sorry. To apologize for all the times he was mean, to tell you what you meant to him, to thank you for what you gave him... just one more hour.

Soon we will have a memorial for you... soon there will be dozens of people with your name on their lips... soon there will be talk of all you did, all those you touched, and all the good that's lived on in the generations you've helped raise and loved. While we may not get that hour back in our lives to tell you face to face what sits heavy on our hearts, I know that you will be there and whether we realize it or not, it's our chance at an hour. As I write this I'm imagining your kind face, I'm imagining you rocking my princess - your princess number 8 as my mother and I realized today. I'm remembering you holding my screaming, squirming boy and being so patient. I was obviously jealous and at a loss for words as there are mother's out there who would give up and walk out after so many hours of earsplitting screams. You never would have walked out on him and you taught me to love him more than I thought I could ever possibly love another human being, to be patient and the reward would follow in it's wake. Love is patient, love is kind, and you were the embodiment of love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 and 13


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

First loves are the hardest to recover from.

My years in High School were a funny place for me in my life. I'm sure they were for a lot of people, and I'm sure I could write dozens upon dozens of blog posts regarding the shenanigans I got into and survived.

One evening during the first week of High School I got up the nerve to talk to a boy on my bus. I had spent my summer dodging confrontation with a boy that a friend of mine had introduced me to and I did NOT want to date because we had the same last name. That same friend had taken me on a wild adventure with a boy she met online (and I've written about previously). This boy on the bus lived one neighborhood away down the street from my grandfather. He was freckle faced with dark reddish brown hair and bright blue eyes. He wore the same green Adidas sweatshirt nearly every day and he lived, breathed and obsessed about soccer. As we left the High School lot, my hands started to sweat and butterflies crept up my chest; he was seated across the aisle from me. I noticed the neon green of his cast from beneath the wrist of his sweatshirt and asked what happened. Apparently during soccer practice he had tumbled into a drainage ditch in an attempt to retrieve a ball and broken his arm. We made some small talk about freshman jitters and how he had an older sibling that was a senior that year. It was typical awkward conversation between two kids that never talked to anyone on the bus. Bumping along as we turned into the neighborhood ahead of mine, I turned to him and asked if I could sign his cast. Surprisingly he said yes and slipped a permanent marker out of the pouch of his hoodie. I scrawled my name in an arch above his thumb... and then added my phone number right above it. It was a private line that my mother had gifted me for my 15th birthday. That's how my next 7 years started.

I spent the majority of those 4 years cuddled up in that green Adidas sweatshirt or with his arm around my waist. We broke up periodically for a few weeks/months at a time, but I was always at his soccer practices and games. At one point, we were teammates on an indoor league that our friends and I had formed one winter. Nights were spent drinking (underage) and playing Grand Theft Auto in a mutual friends basement or around a bonfire in the woods of a different on again off again boyfriend's house. When they all went to College or signed up for the Air Force, I was right on their heels as always.

When the military said they wouldn't have me; he said he would. At the time he was based in Great Falls, Montana. I took off after him. We spent the week I was there researching military housing, picking out rings and partying off base... once again I found myself in his sweatshirt, in the crook of his arm, slightly inebriated and playing video games. He'd run his thumb along the silhouette of my ear and ask his buddies if they'd ever seen such tiny ears before. ((Side note, I do have some of the tiniest ears known to man, almost small enough to question whether they're deformed.)) He'd kiss my neck and pull me in closer... I was that last bit of High School he had... the last memento of home. I was comforting like his sweatshirts were to me. I can still smell him in my memory, tucked into the collar of those sweatshirts zipped up to my nose. I can still see his intensely straight hair tickling his eyelids as he would lay kicked back against my bedroom wall sketching ideas for murals. His freckled nose scrunched up, bottom lip bit between his front teeth, The Cranberries playing in the background.

It was a month or two post visit to Montana that he came home for Christmas leave. We had planned on meeting up with our guys at a chain Italian restaurant for a few drinks and to announce our engagement. The next day I was scheduled to fly out to Chicago for my first month of work as a Flight Attendant. I remember dinner was full of laughter, practical jokes, and glasses of the house red wine being slid across the table to me as my current glass would empty. It wasn't until a friend was driving us back to his parents house that I realized the dinner flew by and we had yet to announce our engagement. Actually, he'd been home for a day and a half and I hadn't yet seen the ring he said he'd picked up the week prior. I laid my head on his chest and breathed him in. Eyes closed in the backseat of our friend's car, Radiohead's Idioteque on loop and vibrating in my bones with each drop of the bass. I looped my fingers through his and my heart became overwhelmed with dread. Tears dropped down my cheeks. I refused to get out of the car when we pulled into the driveway. I looked him in the eye and asked what happened, why was he avoiding the conversation? Why was he refusing to talk about our plans to OUR friends? He asked if we could talk outside the car and I sat up against the door and refused. I was sobering up enough to realize there was a reason he pushed the wine so hard. He helped me out of the car and I could barely walk, seven years of love. Seven years bounced back and forth, I knew where the ball was going before he even kicked it. I could read his body better than the rest of our team. I knew by the way his arm guarded me and walked me into the guest bedroom this was the last time, this was it. He couldn't love me, he said. He couldn't love me in any way other than his best friend or like a family member. I placed his hands on his chest begging this to not be real, that this can't really be happening. I was choking on my sobs. Seven years. Seven years. He went to leave the room and I grabbed at his wrist, please don't do this to us. Please don't let this be how it ends. I grabbed for my keys and he swat them out of my hand. He couldn't keep me there. I wanted to come up out of my skin.

I vaguely remember quite a few of our friends trying to talk to me and console me in an effort to keep me from leaving; I was a good 40 minutes from home even with taking back roads and not even close to being sober. I am not an advocate for driving under the influence and I was very much not in my right mind on that cold December night 15 years ago. I wish someone, an adultier adult maybe, had come to me and walked me inside or taken me home. But that's not the case in this story. I drove home, hysterical, hyperventilating and sobbing uncontrollably all the way home. I don't even remember unlocking my mom's door and going inside. I remember walking around to her side of the bed and crying for my mama to hold me. I remember hearing her voice on the phone rearranging my flight into Chicago, hearing her talk to the woman who had been referring to me as her daughter in law for a few years and the anger in her voice as they threw their proverbial hands up on how this could have happened.

The ache from that night still lingers. I can still feel it squeeze my heart even now.

He showed up on my doorstep in 2007. My then Husband was at work and I could hear my grandparents greeting him out on the front porch. My blood ran cold. I wasn't prepared to see him and I was trying to feed Logan in his high chair. I saw his feet walking down the sidewalk to my entry on the side of my grandparents house followed by a knock on the door. What greeted me on the other side of the door was the hollowed reflection of a man that had been my best friend and sweetest love for seven years of my life. So much had happened in the five years since that Christmas. We caught up for a few minutes with small talk, and then he apologized. He didn't have to. At that point I thought I was happily married with a beautiful baby boy and soon to be another baby on the way. At that point, I thought my life was THE American Dream. I did not know how to respond other than to forgive him. Maybe he needed to hear he was forgiven to move on. Maybe he had shown up thinking I'd be the same me, which technically I was just with a child and a different, wiser perspective.

That was the very last time I ever saw him.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Stubborn is as Stubborn does.

I don't like change.

Change shuts me down and closes up for business.

Change, regardless of good or bad, puts my brain in survival mode auto pilot and I can't move.

Because of all of this, I am stupid stubborn. Like, even if I was wrong (and 99.9% of the time I'll admit it), I will dig my own grave swearing up and down that I'm right. I make every effort to not change if it means that there will even be the slightest chance that I'll have to meet extraordinary levels of stress along the way. I mean... C'MON... I have 3 kids; one has special needs, another has a congenital heart defect and the other has varying degrees of mental illness. I am a single mother in a single adult household AND I have my own quirks and setbacks that I forge through to overcome on a daily basis. I don't need more stress. Stress can suck it.

I was so damn determined to get my High School diploma (after I inadvertently withdrew myself by accident, whoops!) that I paid thousands of dollars for night school and summer school. Just to end up getting my GED because I was too damn busy even then to focus on classes. Looking back now, I couldn't tell you what kept me busy outside of work. But I can tell you that if something seems redundant or bores me to death, it will never hold my interest. Thousands of dollars down the drain because I was too stubborn to suck up my pride and just get my GED already.

I was so stubborn when I went into labor with Lou, that had I not already been out with my dad that night, I might not have gone to the hospital until it was too late. I walked all day in the Georgia July heat; my stomach cramping and my back KILLING me to the point it was taking my breath every few minutes. I was still determined to waddle all over the grocery store and pharmacy, clenching the door handle and "yoga" breathing every time a contraction hit sending my dad basically into hysterics. ((Side note, my mother never technically went into labor with me OR my sister as they were both scheduled medically necessary c-sections.)) My stubbornness could have easily cost the life of Lou, and I will never be able to repay my father for his determination to get me to labor and delivery regardless of how resistant I was.

When people ask for my Horoscope sign (Taurus, BTW) they breathe a sigh of relief and nod their heads in true belief because they've more than likely seen my bullheadedness in action.

Between my dislike of change and my stubbornness, I will more than likely never leave the house I'm living in now. I don't want to push change on my children. I don't want to even THINK about having to pack when I'm still mentally and physically settling into the house as just the 4 of us. The absolute only thing I could think of that could force me out is the landlord deciding to sell the house or the financial opportunity to buy my forever home. I love to hate the house I'm in. From the creaky subfloor in Logan's room (an addition to the garage done 30 years ago), to the stupid small master shower area that requires you to get INTO the shower in order to shut the door... unless you're into peeing in public or in my case, peeing with the opportunity for three children to bust into your bedroom and "HEY MOM, YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAND? WHY DON'T YOU STAND TO PEE? WHY DIDN'T YOU SHUT THE DOOR, DON'T YOU KNOW WE CAN SEE YOU??" Or in Lou's non-verbal way, he'll just storm into the shower, strip naked and help himself to some cleanliness. The house has it's quirks... and while I dream of a garden tub, a stand alone shower, a master bedroom on the main floor, gourmet kitchen and a daylight basement with an inlaw suite... my dislike of change and sheer stubbornness when it comes to taking that leap into new and uncharted territory is unwelcome here. I'll daydream all day on real estate apps and websites, but actually MOVING? I'm good.

I can see this lovely trait of mine rubbing off on my kids with Lou's issues are more genetic than environmental. Lo and Lillie test me though. Lots of questioning my reasoning, putting their OWN foot down and losing every last privilege in the process.... stubborn is as stubborn does in my household. It's not my way or the highway, it's my way or you better have a 5 paragraph essay, a power point presentation and a million dollars to change my mind.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Survivor benefits.

You did it!

You've survived yourself, your kids, every last bad day you've ever had... you've lived through it all.

Logan's teenage years, Lillie's dramatics, sweet Lou... the years pass so quickly. I know your house is empty and cleaner than it's ever been. There's no more peanut butter and jelly paste built up on Lou's side of the dinner table. You won't find socks stuffed in the couch crevices tonight when you get home from work. There will be no more FEMA sized natural (and mostly unnatural) disasters taking space in Lillie's room. There will be no one to fuss at when the dishes haven't unloaded themselves.

They won't be there, and the silence will be deafening.

Future you... I can guarantee that 10, 20, 30 years from now you won't be sticky with sweat and soap remnants, physically exhausted yet faking pure disgust as Lou sticks his feet in your face during his post bath massage. Well, I would at least hope you're not doing this still when he's 14... 24... 34... maybe he'll still be there needing your assistance while you guide his way. Maybe  you'll even need an assistant to help you monitor him. Or maybe... as your biggest challenge of cultivating independence in your children, he will be on his own. It's scary to think about now, but anything and everything is possible.

Maybe you'll have a partner to come home to at night. Maybe when you open the door, the smell of dinner will invite you inside. Perhaps you'll both plop down on the couch after a long day at work and just stare at each other while you shovel noodles in your face from whatever Chinese place is delivering these days. Future you, I pray that your life will be filled with travel and love and light. I know that you never thought it would happen, but the days of struggling to make ends meet and hustling to get ahead for yourself and them... they'll be over. You won't have to work to play the part of mom AND dad. I hope you do have a partner who lets you sit back and relax, that does their part and loves you despite your crazy Irish hair that sticks straight up and does what it wants. I hope the days of anxiety and depression are somewhere far far in the distance of your rear view mirror. I know how hard you worked to be free of that darkness and how much of it lifted when you were free of their father. I know it scared you when you went nearly a year without fear before it began to creep back. I know you scratched and clawed your way out of it's grip. I know also that you'll survive. Wherever there is light, darkness cannot hide inside of you. You are a strong warrior, mama. You're a fighter and capable of anything you put your mind to.

So... future you? Hats off to YOU. You'll read this and maybe shake your head at how silly your words from 36 year old you sound. Maybe you'll even say, "but what about the time when..." GIRL. C'mon, girl... You have survived 110% of every single bad day you've ever had. You survived and no matter what happens next? You'll plow through it headfirst knowing that even if you're feeling alone, you're not. Between all the family and friends you've had support you up until this point and God on your side, what do you have to be afraid of?

I love you, future you. I love you and I'm so proud of you. Those words are heard few and far between, but they're true. You built babies, ran marathons, pushed galley carts and climbed ALL THE STAIRS with that body. Those lips kissed babies till they were chapped. Those arms held onto parents and grandparents. You're incredible and beautiful and smart and more loved than you'll ever be willing to admit. Take time for you, future you... Take time to fall in love with yourself again and hug those babies tighter and remember the smell of their sweet baby skin while you pat yourself on the back. You did this... you got this... you're incredible.

Love,
The you of years past...