Thursday, March 27, 2014

Be a Love Ninja. On Sandy Hook, The Brutal World, and Love.

SO, last night, I said good-bye to a friend who had died too young, leaving behind a young son, and then went to hear Scarlet Lewis, Mom of Sandy hook victim Jesse Lewis, give a talk at a local church. So, needless to say, it was an emotionally draining, yet renewing, night.

And Scarlet's words got me looking within, as they were intended. Part of who I am is this super-sensitive feeling person who absorbs the feelings and auras around me. Put in the right group of people, and this is a good thing. Like last night, listening to this woman, who lost the most unfathomable thing a person could, her own child, yet still be completely inspiring and love promoting, it was sad of course but it also gave my soul a serious lift.

But put me in front of the news, with it's 24-hour cycle of tragedy, evil, despair...and I absorb all that too. It presents such a conflict in me. I can't ignore the ugly side of life, that doesn't make it less real. But learning what to do with those feelings, does make them less powerful.

Take what Scarlet said about "following the angry thought". The Sandy Hook shooter, she surmised, was once just a child with an angry thought. But for whatever reasons, he was incapable of not following it. So he followed it throughout his life, this thought, whether it be loneliness, betrayal, a feeling of being a victim. If you feel like a victim for long enough, it turns to rage. And he keep following that thought until it became so big and strong that he was not in control any more. And then what happened, well, happened.

Well all have a choice to follow those angry thoughts. We can follow them, or we can choose love. We can choose to turn the angry thought to one of love. We, alone, as our own person, have that choice. Of course there are always circumstances which make that choice more or less easy. But hearing this woman explain how she did, and then again how she heard stories from Rwanda genocide victims doing the same....well, it's more possible than you think. It takes an amazing amount of strength, but it can be done.

Another thing Scarlet talked about was forgiveness. And what it looks like. Now, since Sandy Hook, I have thought, probably too much about, how one could even go on after losing a child in that horrible, senseless way. As I'm sure many of you did, I just became so ANGRY that this could happen in our World, to the most innocent of all. I still can't help crying, as I write this, thinking, My God, if that had been one of my babies? How could I not succumb to the rage of a heart broken so violently, for no reason? And this is what Scarlet said.

Forgiveness looks like cutting off the tube that attaches you to the transgression. The person, or circumstance, that wronged you, until your forgive, will always be attached to you, siphoning YOUR power, until you forgive, and cut the cord. Forgiving doesn't mean condoning, it just means taking back YOUR power, for survival. Because if you can't forgive, you will never, ever, live a life with joy.

So, as I look about the World around me, and become so immersed in the terrible things that happen...I can choose to forgive, and choose love. I can stop following the angry thoughts. That doesn't mean I'm condoning the brutal, evil things that happen. It means I choose to attack them with love.

Now, another story I just recently was reminded of is from another blogger Mom, Glennon Doyle Melton. It regards her sons fifth grade teacher, a math teacher, who found an actual mathematical formula for love. Here's the link:

Can you believe that? Can you even believe how utterly graceful, compassionate, and easy it is to foster love in this World?

So while I had prepared myself to have my soul torn down and my heart ripped out by hearing Scarlet Lewis' story, nothing could be further from the truth. Guys, we all have the power to choose love. We all have the opportunity to be "Love Ninjas". We can simply UN-follow the angry thoughts. We can seek out those who are suffering and change the course of their life.

Are you with me? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Blues

We all have them. They sneak up on you, or they crash in unexpectedly, or they come and just won't leave. I'm going to be honest, folks, my blues seem to have come to me when I was 14 and since then, they have just ebbed and flowed throughout my whole life. There was a time when I self-medicated them, but shit got real when I had my first child and I knew actual medication was needed.

Blues can take many forms, too. They can be anxiety, anger, or, as seems to be the case this winter, they can simply be the complete lack of ability to DO things. I have forgotten more important things this winter than I think I have in my entire life. I find writing about them helps, though. It's therapeutic for me to formulate a description of how I feel...sometimes when I read back, I see a solution, or remedy.

Mostly, I try to just keep going through the motions. Having 3 kids doesn't allow for a day wallowing in bed. I just robotically "do" the things which need to be done. The chores, the caring of the kids. The planning and making of dinner. Sometimes I feel real joy at a beautifully made dinner, other times I just put things together with no feeling, and it's okay. They still have food in their bellies.

It's part of my life, who I am. I need to remind myself I'm doing the best I can and that everyone has bad days. But when the days stretch into weeks or even months, I know it's something more. It's organic. And it sucks.

So, I'm thinking, here we go, another part about being a grown-up that I hate. I'm going to have to find a Primary Care doctor covered by my insurance and get a referral to an actual Psychiatrist. I've been getting my basic health care for the past 7 years from my OBGYN. But she is not a "head doctor" like I feel I need. 
I had hoped that being able to fake it until I make it was going to be able to get me through this slump, but I've reached the point where I feel bad enough that I'm going to ask for help.

So, how about you? What's your breaking point look like? Do you think you even have one? There are times where I feel this intense need to be "Super Mom" and do all the things with a happy disposition. But I can't do that when I'm immersed in the blues.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Things I never thought I'd say or do. (Today edition)

1. Yes, I'll make you a mayonnaise and cheese sandwich at 10am.
 2. Yes, you can eat it lying down on the floor.

3. Cake is okay for breakfast.
4. So is ice cream.

5. Ninja costume is okay for school.
6. Yes I'll make candy apples if it means you'll SHUT UP ALREADY.
7. No you can't bring blanky in the tub.
8. No you can't bring the cat in the tub. (or maybe you can....)
9. Fine. You can watch Power Rangers. One time can't hurt.

10. Dear God, I need to campaign Netflix to remove Power Rangers from its line up.
11. I'll buy you guys McDonald's if you're good at the dentist.

12. The lobster tank is where they put naughty boys.
13. Every restaurant has a dungeon also where they put naughty boys.

14.  "No monsters or zombies come near this house because they are afraid of Mommy."
15. Sugar makes you shrink.
16. Yes, I'll put 10 more spoonfulls of brown sugar on your oatmeal.

17. Yes, I'll be the evil Lord Garmadon while you guys are the PowerPuff girls and defeat me.

18. Fine, I'll log off my computer so you can go on
19. Yes, I'll buy you Ninjago books at the Book fair. A book is a book, right?

20. Yes, you can eat in my bed.
21. Sure, go ahead and jump on the bed, even though your brother broke his arm doing just that.

22. Yes, you can bring your candied apple into your bed for your nap.
23. How hard can candy-apple red be to wash?

24. Yes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is an excellent dinner choice.
25. Nah, you don't need a tubby tonight. I'll write a note explaining your red face tomorrow.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Facebook...Time Suck or Lifeline?

Okay, so, I've read and heard a lot of people say that Facebook is full of drama, that it's stupid, that they're barely on it (or, in some cases, they claim to be "barly" on it) that they're going to deactivate their account because it's such a time-suck, that people should keep their negativity to themselves, that they should get off Facebook and spend more time with their kids, etc etc etc....and I just want to say what Facebook means to me, as a Stay-at-Home Mom to three boys under the age of seven. But first, I want to give you a look inside my typical day.

I get up, I get kids up, I made breakfast and pack lunches. I get the kids dressed and change a diaper. I get one kid on the bus and break up a marathon long squabble between the other two. I put away dishes and start a load of laundry. I maybe remember to brush my teeth and I make a cup of coffee. If I forgot to brush my teeth, the first sip of coffee reminds me to. I take out whatever ingredients I need for dinner to thaw in the sink, and then I log into Facebook. It's true! From almost the very moment I wake up, I am on Facebook! The shame! The horror! My poor, neglected children!

I check in with my friends and family on Facebook, post some news or tidbits I find interesting, comment or "like" friends pics or posts, then I get up and go to the bathroom. While I'm there I realize I need to clean the toilet, so I do that, and while I'm doing that I figure I might as well clean the sink and counter too. One or both of the boys now declares they need more juice or a snack, so I pour or make them their requests. In between, I remind them to use their manners and break up another fight. Maybe a Time-Out happens. I finish my's cold.

As I walk back in the kitchen to make another cup of coffee (coffee and life goes hand in hand for the Stay-at-Home Mom) I see all the crap under the boys bed and holler at one of them to come clean it up. I make my coffee and realize it's probably just easier for me to do it. After that I straighten up their beds and fold blankets. I said, I FOLD MOTHER FUCKING BLANKETS, PEOPLE!! See? I DO shit.

Then I take my coffee back to my computer and see that a dear friend just lost her Mom to Cancer. My heart stops and I quickly send her a personal message telling her how much her Mom meant to me, how I had so many good memories of her, and if she could, would she let me know when the service will be, because I definitely want to be there. I finish my's cold.

I sit there slumped in my chair for a few minutes, tears stinging my eyes, stunned. I'm so sad for my friend and her family, and I start thinking back to when my own Mom died. One of the boys suddenly hurts himself and I pick him up and bring him to the bathroom where I administer the appropriate band-aid and kisses. And I'm off on another task, because man, this medicine cabinet is a disaster, and shouldn't I have already locked away all dangerous meds by now? Bad Mom!!

I switch the laundry over when I'm done with that and get the two boys to eat some lunch, anything but Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which seems to have taken over their palates as of late. I start a bread dough, and set it by the pellet stove to rise. I hop back on Facebook and express my sadness over my friend on my page. I share some memories of her, and others share theirs. It's sweet and sad, but it's genuine feelings being felt, and it's cathartic. I clean up lunch and get #2 son ready for his van to Pre-School. I realize he had an accident yesterday at school and I throw the wet clothes in the washer to wait for the next load and pack him a new dry change of clothes. He starts acting up and whining that he doesn't want to go to school, he says last minute he wants to bring a toy, his driver is already beeping in the driveway. We scramble about for a small enough toy, and I drag him out the door and buckle him in to the van. Bye, Fireball!

By now it's noon, and time for #3's nap. I get him some water in a sippy cup, grab his blankly, put him up on the top bunk, take down the ladder, turn on the sound machine, and blow him kisses as I shut the door. He either cries or he doesn't. It doesn't matter, he needs a nap.

I walk back through the laundry room and realize the dryer is done. I heave out the mammoth pile of clothes, consider just leaving them, realize how hangry I am (you know what hangry is, right? It's being suddenly irritable because you're hungry, so it makes you angry, hence, "hangry") so I go finish off the remnants of the boys sandwiches or mac n cheese from lunch. I'm preventing waste, cleaning, AND self-caring all at the same time. Talk about multitasking!

 I go back to the laundry, knowing if I leave it for later I'll just be pissed that I did, so I fold it and put it away. I go back to Facebook, read a few more articles, read a book review that makes me add another book to my Kindle, post a couple more pics or whatever, message a friend about a possible play-date later, and log out. It's my naptime too.

An hour goes by too quick and I hear Stealth Ninja calling from his room. I go get him, change his wet diaper and clothes...and blankets and sheets. I throw the added laundry in the washer and start the load. I set Ninja up with some books in the family room and do a quick toy pick-up and vacuum. Holy crap, it's only been a day, how the fuck did all this crap get on the floor? I see a sticky spill and grab some wipes and clean it up. While I have the wipes in my hands I decide I might as well dust the whole family room and give the TV a good wipe while I'm at it. I wonder how on Earth my kids got all those finger and hand prints all over it...were they playing Patty-Cake with it or something? Jeez. I finish up and sit down with Ninja. He hands me "Little Blue Truck" and I read it for the 538th time.

I look at my calender and see that I've written something down on the 26th, put a star around it, and I have NO IDEA what it says. My hurried handwriting is indecipherable. I take a pic and post it on Facebook, asking for help in reading it. Yes. It's come to that. I can't read my own handwriting because I was probably holding the baby or blocking a Nerf football or something while I wrote it. I'm slightly panicked because I know that if I put a star around it, I know it's something important, and with my Mom-Brain lately, I've been forgetting really important appointments and I feel like a fool when I do.

I go start dinner and Fireball and Lucky both get home from school at 3:30. I make them afternoon snacks and it's their allotted TV time. .............................. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Yeah RIGHT! LMAO that TV has been on CPTV all damned day long. I'm sorry. I know it's not good for them. I'm a bad Mom, remember? I'm on Facebook all day and my kids are parked in front of the TV, and if they bother me in the middle of Words With Friends I'm gonna decapitate them.

The washer beeps and I put the wet stuff in the dryer. I field a phone call from Lucky's teacher, who's calling to say Lucky won a school-wide writing award! All that TV must have really worked! I'm so proud I have a lump in my throat, but I have to keep it a secret because he'll be getting the award at the next days' assembly. I go in my bedroom, close the door, and call Klondike to let him know we're raising the next Ernest Hemingway. He's equally proud, but regrets to tell me he's working late, past the boys bedtime. I nix my previous dinner plans and decide to ask Lucky what his favorite dinner would be, just because. He asks for Chicken nuggets. I decide to make a special dessert too, so I mix up a chocolate Lava Cake in my Pampered Chef deep baker. In between all this, yes, I admit, I'm back on Facebook to brag about Lucky and gloat over my suddenly super lazy and easy dinner plans.

I check back on my calender pic and my friend realized what I wrote down was "Scarlett Lewis, 7pm". Scarlett Lewis is a Sandy Hook Mom, and she's speaking at a nearby Church on the 26th. I had written it down because even though I know it's going to be a terribly hard thing to hear, my soul tells me I have to be there. I just can't even...the thought of what happened, happening again. I have to hear from her how she continues going on. I have to know because if it ever happened to me, I don't know if I could. I knew about this event because of FACEBOOK events! Thank you Facebook!

Dinner's ready when "Wild Kratz" is over, 6pm. Yep, I schedule meals around CPTV's line up. Dinner is for once heartily enjoyed by the boys and dessert is a hit. But the chocolate is everywhere so I realize I guess it's gonna be a bath night. I go start the tubby and see the bath toys are still in the tub from a couple days ago. Because the Good Lord knows, putting them away is pointless when I know there's a much greater likelihood of the boys getting bathed than me getting showered. Sorry, is that TMI? When it comes to showering, I'm on a "only if I really really have to" basis. Because, at this point in my motherhood journey, it's more of a chore than a necessity. It is what it is. Anyway, leaving the toys in the tub is less work for me, so it's win-win!

As the tub is filling I clean up the dinner dishes and start the dishwasher. Wipe down my sink and give the boys a bath. I get them out, in their pajamas, teeth brushed. I sing the songs, I kiss the mouths and foreheads. I put on a Harry Potter book-on-tape (because it's Daddy's job to read books, and if he's not home for bedtime, sorry, this Mama's beat) and close the door. Grab the wine, get back on Facebook. Read up on some more memories of my dear friend who passed. Decide I'm going to enter a chili in her honor at this weekend's Chili Cook Off at Bethany Lutheran Church. I putter around the family room, putting more toys away, straighten the couch cushions, sit back down, share some more mindless stuff on Facebook, check my events, rsvp to a couple of friends' upcoming Stella and Dot and Lia Sophia parties, and log off.

So, that's just a typical day here. Yes, I am "on" Facebook all day. Are my kids ignored? Only so much as an army of pee-soaked, grape-jelly covered, hungry, emotional, needy, loud, interactive, wild, funny, and loved clown gorillas could be ignored. So what. I love Facebook. It keeps me connected to my life beyond this house. I get ideas for recipes, activities for my boys, invitations to things I wouldn't otherwise know about. I share and am shared with. I laugh and cry through Facebook. I find out what's going on with family and Friends. I can't for the life of me understand why some people have to begrudge me that.

"Get off Facebook and spend time with your kids". That's the comment that started this blog today. Can't they see that that's exactly what I do, all day, every day? I am home with my kids. I am playing with them, I am reading to and with them, I am feeding, cleaning, and caring for them all day, every day. And when I want to? I'm on Facebook. Because Facebook is a part of my life that I truly do cherish. Excuse me for that. Or don't. If you are "barly" on Facebook, why does it bother you if someone else is?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Irish Twins,,,Happy Birthday to my Seeester

    Two months after my Mom gave birth to my older sister Elle, she found out she was pregnant with me. We're what you call, "Irish Twins". But the truth is, that term often comes with the connotation of  a similarity of twinship which is, frankly, hard to live up to. Which, in truth, is sort of how I felt growing up in the shadow of my sister.

     As young girls, we had a fierce competition and rivalry that was common in siblings so close in age. When Elle learned to read, it was possibly the worst 2 years of my life until I caught up to her. I remember feeling as if she were sailing away on a sailboat to exotic destinations while I was stuck with my feet in the water at the end of the dock. When she and her girlfriends talked about hair and make up and fashion, I felt like the contumacious chub who would never fit in. Where Elle was fit and tan and long-limbed, I felt like the shortened stub of a pencil with chew marks all around. We fought, physically and emotionally, over everything and anything. Mealtimes were a race to see who could finish first. And, as our parents quickly learned, if we didn't have the exact same amount and type of whatever food the other had, things just escalated to epic proportions of calamity which, looking back, as I now see the same things in my own sons, I think I owe my parents a huge debt of gratitude for not selling us off to a band of gypsies for having dealt with such ridiculousness.

Speaking of Gypsies, that was one of our favorite games. That and Prairie Women. There weren't any rules, we would just be outside, and make concoctions out of pine needles, dirt, and water, and pretend we were nursing our chloranemic neighbors or children. Those are some of the fondest memories of my life. Those, and the times where we roomed together and would whisper across the space between beds until late in the night, of fairies and dragons, heroines and disasters, orphans who needed our rescue, all the animals we would grow up and save.

Our Mom was a complicated lady, and there were times where Elle and I would band together in defense against her chaos. Those times were instrumental in weaving our personalities and alliances together in ways invisible to the naked eye, but as surely as any covert training for double agency, they were bonds that would last a lifetime. I don't have to even live on the same continent to know when Elle is hurting or needs me. And she has that same psychic response to my tragedies as well. Sisters. Man, what an emotionally loaded word that is!

Elle as a younger girl was greedily smart. What I mean by that is she never shied away from being the smartest in her class because of any societal pressure for girls to be less than or quieter than their male peers. That was another gift I believe our Mom instilled in us. But where I was more socially preoccupied or sensitive, she tolerated being geeky because she knew she was smarter than average. It wasn't until 8th grade when she finally broke and decided she wanted more...she wanted to be the smartest AND the most desired. And over the course of a year, her and my relationship morphed into something else entirely, as the undercurrents of what was going on in our home with Mom was rocked with more tectonic shifts in what we thought were the limits of security and safety. Things were getting bad with my Moms drinking and mental health, and the introduction of husband number three was a harbinger of a period of time which I almost don't remember, so strong was my desire to be elsewhere.

So, in 9th grade, my sister was suddenly someone new to me. She was Marilyn where Norma Jean had just been. When I say she blossomed, it's such an understatement. She didn't just blossom, she exploded like a shower of fireworks. And as I watched from my envious and clumsy 7th grade eyes, a rift started growing where jealousy, hormones, hurt feelings, and all things tween/teen age girls are concerned only served to solidify. She was suddenly, awkwardly and lustily, admired by the boys in our school, who for the past 10 years had barely noticed her but as an academic competitor. And I can't blame her, she relished in her new position. And in a way I was super proud, but I was also super jealous and left out. That was the first year I realized she and I were very different. Where I viewed academics and popularity as a given before, not really working hard at either, I swiftly recognized both would take hard work, and I was sinking in my own beginnings of depression at home and I felt she was moving further away from me, her kid sister.

Our teen years were the years I remember mostly feeling filled with doubt and sadness. I wasn't in a good place mentally, and neither was she, frankly. But she hid it well, and remained an "it" girl throughout high school. She probably doesn't remember it that way, but from the vantage point of little sister, it was plain as day. Of course we were still "friends", but there was more a feeling of her having to let me "tag along" than there had ever been before. I think she realized I was faltering (well, it was pretty obvious, what with hospitalizations and all) but I keenly felt like I was a duty that she felt forced to administer to. Those years were like a bombardment of emotions, jealousy, secrets, lies, turncoat deceptions, false alliances and such. Which, probably any teenage girls can attest was the way it was if they had a sister so close in age.

But through it all, when I really needed her, she put aside the tenuous role of beauty queen and came back to me. The letters and things she did for me while I was away on whatever hospital stay will remain in my heart as the strongest shows of love anyone has ever given me. One time she and her boyfriend and a couple other high-school friends painted my room purple so when I came home it would really feel like "mine" and be a fresh start. She started all her letters "Amanda-Belle" because Belle meant beautiful. She wanted me to get better, and even after being released, and on my own, for many years she propped me up despite my many attempts at self-sabotage.

She took on the role of mothering me when I needed it most. Again, our relationship had shifted seismically, and taken on a new level of need and trust. I can't count all the times I ran to her in the middle of whatever catastrophe I was immersed in and she simply gave me a bed and some warm tea. By this time, she was solidly her own person, and had, with typical Elle determination and drive, begun to order her life and future into a controllable and structured goal with actions that had desirable outcomes. She was again the brainy student. She started off at Community college, working her way with scholarship and fellowships from Community College to State College to one of the finest colleges in our area, Trinity. Again, she had become someone new. She went back and embraced her old nerdy self, knowing what she wanted and needed and simply doing whatever it took to get there.  She was my stalwart champion, my rock, and even though I fought tooth and nail against what was good for me, knowing that she would always be there for me was one of the few things that I remember with joy during those dark years. It wasn't what she said or did that saved me from myself. It was simply knowing that she was there, she was safe, she was the same sister I'd gotten scrapes and bruises riding bikes with, and she was there, waiting, for whenever I needed her.

And now here we are, a lifetime later. Both mothers. Both making our own homes for our own children and probably thinking way too much about how to avoid becoming our mother. My sister has the singular capacity to shelter me even from across the Atlantic ocean. When I try to describe my sister to someone, it's so hard, because she is chameleon-like in her gift of being so many different women in one. She's safety. She's strength. She's goofy, geeky, and corny. She's so deliciously intelligent and witty it makes my heart ache that we can't just spend every night sipping wine and talking at each others kitchen table. That movie, "In her Shoes", where the Cameron Diaz character reads aloud ee cumming's "I carry your Heart" poem at her sisters wedding? Yeah, I bawl every time because that's just so much how I feel about Elle. If you don't know it, here's the poem:

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

By E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Oh God, now I'm ugly crying. Okay, so, anyway, today is my sisters Birthday. For the past 16 days we were the same age. Today she moves on again, older than me once again. But as sisters are, we are always the same age, because we have lived every experience and lifetime together. She knows everything about me, and I,  about her. I can tell you right now how she would feel if I were hugging her, what she smells like, what shade of warm brown her eyes are, how big and toothy her beautiful smile is. Elle, I carry your heart with me, always, I carry it in my heart.