Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thank you to the Mom whose name I don't remember

Growing up I was not a scholar. I had always heard that I was not living up to my potential. My brains didn't match my 2.5 GPA. I felt inadequate and didn't understand how people could grasp a concept the first time hearing it when it took me multiple examples and a lot of trial and error. By the time the concept made sense, I was already behind on the next lesson. I tried to go to college twice in my younger years, but found that this learning problem persisted. I've been lucky enough to have office jobs which allow me to use my brain and make a decent wage for lack of a college degree. I always felt like college wasn't meant to be for me, and couldn't see spending that kind of money to fail and have no real direction as to what to major in.

A few years ago something changed. I discovered I'm not lazy or learning disabled, but have ADHD. I started taking a medication and found that the haze in my brain lifted. I was able to hone in on one task at a time and get things done for the first time in my life. There was an answer to the question I've been asking myself all of those years, "What the Hell is wrong with me? I'm better than this". Having ADHD feels like having 40 tabs open on your computer desktop and not remembering which is the important one, yet they keep randomly opening and you need to check to see if the information is still necessary with a lot of pop-up ads. Sometimes it's a cute cat video that you have to stop and watch, and before you know it you are late for something. But, you probably can't remember what it is that you are late for... all of the time.

Every August we spend a week in Eastern Washington. It's one of our favorite places to be and have experienced everything from a dust storm to an eclipse while there. I did not expect to meet someone who would change my outlook on who I am as a person through casual conversation. The family camped right next to us was from the town right next to where we live. They were very nice and had kids the same age as ours so they could play together. I cannot remember that Mom's name for the life of me but she changed my life that weekend. She reached out to me and talked about being in school for nursing. I told her I had thought about going back, but it was hard with my kid in school. She said, "I figured it is better to go while my kids are in school so they aren't graduating before me". And it hit me, I can do this. I was worried about mentioning it to William as it would just be accumulating debt for our family and I was really scared to fail. It took me three days to work up the courage to mention it. He said, "I was wondering when you would talk about going back". Because that is the kind of guy he is. He believed in me long before I believed in myself.

So thank you to the Mom who lives in the next town, who traveled 180 miles just to tell me to believe in myself. I know that wasn't what you set out to do that week, but you did and I thank you every day.

Why I do what I do:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Loving people one Saltine at a time.

Becoming a Mom was a long road for me. We tried for two years before I got pregnant with Liam. I was thinking that was the hardest part, but I was wrong. There are different levels of difficult in the world of motherhood. My pregnancy was uneventful until the end when I had pre-eclampsia and was in dangerous territory. I had 38 hours of labor which seemed like that should be the hardest part, but nothing prepares you to have a sick child. There were days that Liam and I cried together. He was in pain and I just felt like I was failing him over and over again. Through it all, I had a tribe of women that propped me up when I felt like I couldn't do it on my own. When I was on maternity leave with a screaming toddler, I had a friend who would occasionally "drop things off" because she knew I would say we didn't want visitors. She knew me well enough to see that I was struggling and wouldn't ask for help. She would stop by and rock my crying baby reassuring me that she had nowhere else to be. I have thanked her multiple times and I don't even know if she remembers doing it, but I wanted her to know that it mattered to me. 

I canceled plans all of the time because my baby was always crying and I felt like I was not a very good Mom. I had another friend who would take Liam and I out to a restaurant that was not very busy. She would smile and tell me, "Babies cry. It sounds louder to you than it does to anyone else. He'll fall asleep soon. Have lunch." And I had lunch, and he fell asleep just as she had predicted. I needed that encouragement.

Liam's first Christmas was celebrated with him getting his first round of a stomach virus. I felt trapped at home and was worried about taking him out, but had nothing but goldfish crackers. He was hungry, I could tell, but I was worried about upsetting his stomach further. My neighbor knew William was working on Christmas and went out to find the only store open to buy us Saltines. He'll never know how thankful I am for that. So I befriended his wife when he got married and try and be the best friend to her that I can be. 

When Carson was tiny and Liam was a toddler I discovered to my horror that I was down to one tampon. This is not an item that you can wait to pick up. You can't just add it to your list to buy next time. It was an emergency and my kids were melting down like nuclear reactors. Crap. I texted another neighbor to see if I could have a few to tide me over until the next day. Chernobyl had nothing on my toddler. She texted that she was already at Target and would grab me some. A half hour later there was a knock at the door and she handed me a Target bag. "You still have some things in here." I said. "Nope, that is for you." she said and bounded down the driveway. I looked inside and there was a box of tampax, Midol, a Glade candle, and chocolate. Regardless of what I do, nothing can repay her in the same way that she blessed me that night. I've always surrounded myself with good girlfriends who lift each other up. But these Mom friends showed me next level friendship. The "I can never repay you" type of friendship. 

A few nights ago I was at Target and my kids went from being saints to hangry devils (hangry = hungry and angry). I saw the transformation and realized we were at the danger zone, I needed to get them home fast. I saw a messenger message from my neighbor. "Totally random, do you have any kiddo glycerin suppositories over there?" And I saw my chance to repay the ones who came before me. I grabbed a jar of glycerin suppositories, paid for my things and got home as quickly as possible. I knocked on her door but didn't get an answer. I left them on the doorstep and messaged her that I had left them there. She messaged back, "Thank you! Thank you! You are the best." and I wrote, "There was a village of Moms that helped me and kept me sane in the early days. I'm glad I can return the favor". 

Maya Angelou said, "I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

So thank you to those who have come before me. I will continue your good deeds and keep loving other Moms one Saltine and glycerine suppository at a time. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The good teeth

I've never examined my own mortality as much as I did today. I adulted hard today and met with lawyers to have my last will and testament made. My husband makes comments occasionally that he realizes he probably has more days behind him than he has ahead of him, but I am usually more optimistic than that. I realize that it isn't the number of days that you have, but how you live them. A lot of things went through my mind though, realizing that one day I would not be here and someone else would be looking after my boys. Parenting is hard and not something to be taken lightly.

As I was leaving the meeting I took a mental break and looked on social media for a few minutes. A friend had posted a picture of a new looking car with fancy rims and tires. I commented with a picture of the boys in my backseat that it looked similar except mine had a few more juice spills and goldfish crackers inside. He commented back that those are badges of honor and that he would keep his car in the garage until spring to be safe. It made me think of a story...

My maternal grandmother worked all of her life making minimum wage. She saved a lot, yet always splurged on us grandchildren. She didn't spend much on herself. I remember being in my teens telling my grandmother that she should buy herself new dentures. All of us grind our teeth, and her dentures were starting to show wear and tear. She told me, "I have new dentures, they are for special occasions". I wouldn't think of buying new teeth as a "treat yo'self" moment, but that was just her way. Saving things for a rainy day. I don't know what sort of special occasion would warrant wearing the good teeth, but I feel like any mealtime should have sufficed. When she had a debilitating stroke, she owned three rental properties and had $70,000 in her savings account. All of that was saved from the salary of a minimum wage worker. She still wasn't wearing her good teeth. She never got to enjoy all the things that she was saving for a better time. 

Once I got home today from the lawyer appointment, I hopped back on social media. I made an addendum to my earlier comment. I said, "No, you can't put your car away like fine china. Now is the time to enjoy it".  Today made me feel mortal, like maybe we do have more days behind us than ahead of us, but maybe we don't. In Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, he talks about gravestones. That it doesn't say much about us. Usually just our name and two dates, the day we were born and the day we die. In between those dates there is a dash. The dash represents what we did in between. How do I want to live my dash? I've thought about it a lot and I am going to live my dash using the good china, ordering extra cheese on my burger, and if I ever end up wearing dentures, I'm wearing the good pair everyday. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

The best day ever

Carson started kindergarten a few weeks ago and I didn't know how it would go. With Liam there were so many concerns about allergies, medication, 504 plans, health care treatment, social anxiety, attendance limitations, and anxious parents. When we went to meet the teacher day for Carson, she sat down and asked if we had questions or concerns and I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say, "Take care of my boy. Don't let the world hurt him. When he stumbles on the playground and in his mind, please remind him he can dust himself off and start over." But I said, "No, I think we've got it." He is very shy to start and passive because he treats others how he wants to be treated. I treasure that sensitive part of him, but dread him being taken advantage of. It happens to all of us, the world hardens us a little bit at a time. Most of us keep just enough soft spots to be optimistic.

I ask him about recess when he gets home. He says he didn't play with anyone today, but sometimes some names leak out. Last night I was laying with him talking and he told me he had a friend named Dayton, but they broke up. I asked him what happened and he told me that Dayton was playing with a different friend today. I told him that it is okay to have more than one friend, and can even play with several at the same time. I listed off my friends so he picture having multiple friends. In my heart I was a little crestfallen that Dayton (whom I do not know yet) was playing with someone else and it may make Carson sad. I asked him if he was sad and he said, "Nope because tomorrow is going to be the best day ever." Wow, the best day ever? I asked if they were doing something special at school and he said, "No, I'm just going to have a great day." And that, my friends, is what I learned from a kindergartner. He could have been sad, but he chose joy. He wakes up with renewed optimism daily and in his mind life is a clean slate. A new day is really a brand new day. There are a lot of things going on in this world. The media and politicians would like to lead us down a path that makes us feel divided and hopeless. But I can wake up each morning and say, "Today is going to be the best day ever." And then I can strive to make it happen.

Perspective allows us to see things in a positive light or a negative light even if things are good or bad; our attitude about the situation shapes whether it is positive or negative. We can make a difference, just as my five year old did to me. When life gets you down think of the Coldplay song, Clocks: "Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?" Which will you choose? I know when I wake up in the morning and a tiny person tells me, "Today will be the best day ever," I need to follow his lead.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mom shoes

The summer before I got pregnant with Liam, a friend and I took a trip across the country to visit a friend. It was a girl's weekend and we did all of the things that girls do on girl's weekend. (William asked what girls do for a girl's weekend. He thought it meant we hang out and watch movies while eating cookie dough in our underwear.) So a girl's weekend was filled with scary movies, playing games on the Wii, talking outside in the 90 degree heat for hours, and SHOPPING!

We went to an outlet mall about an hour and a half away and shopped until we melted, which was a short time because it was so hot outside. Out of us three, only one had children. We were in a shoe store and I found the most comfortable chunky, elastic flip flops. They were not the most attractive shoes but I was sure that function outweighed beauty on the purchase. My friend agreed that they were very comfortable shoes but she couldn't buy them because they look like "mom shoes". "What the heck are mom shoes?" I asked. I knew what mom jeans were and steered clear of those, but mom shoes? That was new. "They are ugly, comfortable shoes that tell everyone that you are a mom." she said. I bought them anyway. I told her I have never heard such a thing and that she may be hypersensitive about the subject.

I wore those shoes all summer long. March 21st, 2009, I found out that I was pregnant. Until that day I didn’t believe that I would be a mom. I was ecstatic.

There are a lot of pleasant things that go along with being pregnant. You can rock any type of clothes that strikes your fancy. Form fitting tees, A line shirts and dresses, stretchy sweaters, bikinis and anything else that you can imagine. I loved not having to suck in my stomach. I never noticed how often I did that until it wasn’t necessary. It takes a while to get used to your transforming body. Mine started changing right away. Even my feet got bigger. I went from a size 6 1/2 to a size 7. I may have been getting larger but I have never felt more beautiful. I had been told that I had that pregnancy glow. I was using new makeup as well, but I considered that a pregnancy compliment.

At the end of the pregnancy my hands were like bear paws and I had cankles. My choice of footwear was flip flops at the end of November, because they fit. Function over fashion. I was actually wearing my elastic flip flops (mom shoes) and they accommodated my wide feet. That's what mom shoes are for.

After Carson we decided that we were done having children and I was ready to have my body back. My first day back at work we started a biggest loser competition. I was it to win it. A friend and I joined Weight Watchers and I followed the program faithfully and I was successful. I would say that I stepped up my workouts but that would mean that I used to work out. Weight Watchers and the Biggest Loser competition kept me honest. I took every piece of maternity clothes out of my fashion rotation and returned my pre-pregnancy clothes to their hangers. I had a bag full of clothes that needed to go to Goodwill, including the mom shoes. Some things you have to experience to understand.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dying to live

Summer break has arrived. I spent last quarter in a general Biology class, sandwiched between millenials to the generation which I belong. Whatever they are calling us forty-somethings these days. Gen X-ers? Post Boomers? I have no idea. Everyone is supposed to fit nice and neat into a box and that isn't really how life works.

Science fascinates me. Five quarters into school I am really starting to see carryover from one class to the next. Biology drew from both chemistry and psychology so I knew a little about a little. Apparently this class is a bit of a refresher to 10th grade Biology, but this ADHD girl remembers nothing about it. The words photosynthesis and osmosis rang a bell but that wasn't going to carry me through a whole quarter. Although I learned the subjects that I needed, such as cell theory, and how ATP is made, I saw parallels in other aspects of life.

One assignment was to grow a lima bean. I have do not have a green thumb, some would describe it as more of the brown variety. I don't massacre plants, but they do not thrive under my care. I spend most of my time trying to keep two little men alive so the needs of a plant fall by the wayside. The instructions were to wet a paper towel, roll the dried bean into it and keep it in a cup and regularly hydrate the towel. I was skeptical that this would work for me. I am the black death of horticulture. William even threw my bean away at first thinking that my red solo cup with a damp paper towel shoved in it was trash. Little did he know that I had a 10 point assignment curled in that wadded up towel. Since part of my grade depended on this bean I started paying careful attention to it. My kids got in on the action adding their own story line. It was quite obvious that this was a magic bean and it will grow into a very large beanstalk. But it's growth was slow. My bean had smooth cream colored skin and it was shaped a little like a heart. About seven days in, my bean split. There were roots threading every which way and a leaf tentatively peeked itself out to figure out if this paper towel was worth living for. Apparently it was, and we have since transplanted it outside with some like minded produce. I thought back to the early days when I would check on it every few hours and then one morning it was just two halves. My sweet little bean heart had broken, but a beautiful green leaf unfurled itself. I feel that I have had comparable situations in my life. I had a sweet innocent heart, life happened and my heart broke into pieces. While picking up the pieces I found pieces of me, like the beautiful green leaf poking out daringly, and the filaments of strong roots that were threading through the paper towel making itself at home. And such is life. Every time my heart has been broken and I felt that I had reached the end, my new leaf turned its face to the sun to see how we would carry on. And so we have. Every time there is a particularly tough day, it bears repeating that my track record is 100% of surviving even the worst of days. That's not too shabby.

Another lesson I took away from Biology class was about the tree trunk. What on earth would a tree trunk have to do with a life lesson. I learned that in certain tree species the center xylem cells die. This benefits the tree by giving those resources to other parts of the tree who need it more. Fungus hangs out with the tree and has a mutual agreement about the environment that they live in. Animals make their home in some tree trunks which is also mutually beneficial for the tree and the animal. The tree allows the center core to die and be hollowed out for a myriad of reasons. The reason that stuck out to me the most was that to die inside made the tree's trunk stronger. It became more flexible in the wind. It needed less nutrients to grow taller. It had animals living inside of it helping to pollinate and leaving fertilizer.

This will stick with me always. It was an eye opener, the tree had to let part of itself die to live better. Over the last few months Liam has requested that we not walk him to the bus stop. William waves from the porch on his days, but I am hesitant. I'm not 100% ready for him to start doing these things alone, but I am allowing that little bit to die inside to grow our relationship. Cleaving off a little bit at a time. I did let him know that next year I have to be at the bus stop again since Carson will be in Kindergarten. This is acceptable to him, he will allow this and to die just a little too. He has a longer leash now that he is getting older, but the world is still a tricky place and it only takes a minute...

I know that this was not exactly how this lesson was meant to be interpreted, but I do feel that I walked away with so much more than just basic material from this class. Critical thinking allowed me to see things deeper than the surface. I am finding that one day with kids is so very long, but the years are so very short. (Loosely quoted by Gretchen Rubin.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fix you

Dear Liam,

I have homework to do, but it's been a bit since I've written. Ultimately as you and Carson grow, this journal is for you to read or ignore as you wish. I have a story I would like to share. When I was a kid, I always knew something was a little off. I didn't have the vocabulary to describe my unease. I didn't have the experience to know why I felt different, it was just a gut feeling. Word to the wise, always trust your gut. I have told you a few of these stories because at times I felt so very alone. You see, I have ADHD; school was hard. Lessons are like building blocks and when you get a song stuck in your head, or your mind trails off on a thought and you realize that you just missed a foundational piece of the lesson your insides seize up. Panic sets in; sweating, heart beating fast, anxiety. I suffered from stomach aches almost daily. Hindsight being 20/20, this was the first signs of anxiety in my life. Even as a small child I was an insomniac. I remember being around 6 years old and asking my mom, "How do you fall asleep? I can't." And just like you, mornings are tough. It seems like that is when I am getting my best sleep. I have never been sorry that I am your mom, but I am sorry for some of the same burdens you will carry. Your ADHD and anxiety have become evident this year. I hemmed and hawed as to whether your dad and I would choose medication for you. You have had an angel of a teacher. There would not have been a better fit for you this year. She's been such a team player and taken all of my suggestions to heart. As this school year is drawing to a close I realized that not every teacher in our future will be as stellar. Not every teacher will want your mom's advice as to what your learning style is and where the best seat in the house would be for you. And one day, you won't want that either. I am just laying the groundwork and trying to set you up for success. To no fault of my parents, I did not have that. By 4th grade I was behind in homework, and by "behind" I mean I hadn't turned in any assignments. Mrs. Darling was her name and although I am not one to hold grudges, I hope that old bag got lice from a student yearly. Oops, was that my outside voice? Oh well. My mom even stormed into the principal's office more than once and was told, "She is tenured, we can't discipline her," I heard later on that she would usually choose 1-2 kids a year to make their lives miserable.

But I digress...You are a funny, street smart, kind boy. I am so lucky that you are mine. You still ask to snuggle and I know that won't last forever so I am relishing in it now. I think you have so much more to offer me than I could ever repay. I came alive when you were born and it was as if I saw my purpose for the first time.

I'm taking prerequisite classes so I may apply to a nursing program and help even more people. One day you will find something that makes you happy, and dad and I will be right here cheering you on. And we'll also be a safe place to land as well. But right now in addition to working, raising you both, holding down the fort, 15+ hours of school a week, I do my best and I hope that is what you remember. 

You began a new medication this week to help you focus in class, feel less frustrated and gain more confidence. One of the side effects is drowsiness. That is the understatement of the century. Tuesday was the second day on the medication and you were a little blank. I could get a laugh out of you, but I could also see the exhaustion. Yesterday you had to nap in the nurse's office for an hour in the afternoon, but you woke up refreshed and ready to finish out the day. You came home and slept until 7PM , woke up to eat, and then you were back asleep by 10 PM. Today you were more alert, you snuck a snooze while we were in the car but stayed awake until bedtime. I know it seems challenging now, but we are persevering because side effects are temporary and the reward will be great. Prior to this week you were bringing home math worksheets that were 3/4 done and we'd have to complete them at home. Just in 3 days these math worksheets are coming home 100% complete. I want to offer you all of the things that I didn't know to ask for, I want to introduce you to specialists that teach subjects that you are excited about, I want you to blow any self doubt out of the water because you are so smart and capable. Just realize that everything I do is out of love for you. To me - you and Carson are my happily every after. I'll walk across the Earth for you (although I really hope that you'd never ask that of me).

Fix You by Coldplay

High up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
If you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Until the sun burns out, I am here for you; I'll always be your home base. You are not alone. Whatever you feel, I can almost guarantee that I can relate.  Lights will guide you home...and I will try to fix you. Always.