Tag Archive | motherhood

I See You

A few weeks ago, I was at the beach and I saw a young woman walking with her two little boys and her husband.  Her husband was disabled, walking with a cane and appearing to have lost some muscle function in his arms and legs.  I keep thinking about the woman and what I would have said to her at the right time, in the right place.  This blog post is for that woman, and the other young people who are caring for an ill or disabled spouse, while raising a family.

To The Woman on the Beach:

I see you.

I see you enjoying a day in the sun with your family.

I see you including your husband, who is clearly finding it a challenge to walk in the sand.

I see you take his hand, silently letting him know you are there for him.

I see your little boys, enjoying the sand, seashells and surf like all little boys would at the beach, happily oblivious to what you and he are going through.

I see you trying to make life as normal as you can…for your boys and for your husband.

I see you putting on a happy face, even when you aren’t happy.

I see your concern for the man you love.

I see your heartache and your heartbreak…watching the man you love suffer, wondering what your future will be like, wondering if you will someday be alone.

I see your worry…worry for your husband and his future, worry for your boys and their future, worry for yourself and your future.

I see your exhaustion.

I see your resentment and your guilt.

I see your loyalty.

I see your commitment.

I see you lying in bed in the wee hours of the night, waiting for the darkness to pass and the light to return.

I see your sadness.

I see you taking one step after another, walking through the storm, hoping that someday there might be sun again.

I see you trying to find happiness wherever you can.

I see you being grateful for all the little things.

I see you wishing for things you may never have.

I see you laughing.

I see your tears, cried silently when you are alone.

I see your appreciation for the moments you have together.

I see you taking care of everyone’s every day needs, while putting your own aside.

I see you wishing you could have time to yourself.

I see you keep going even when you think you can’t.

I saw you on the beach that day.  I saw you, and I want you to know, I understand.

 

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For Now I Won’t Be A Loser

I recently entered a “Biggest Loser” contest at work.  The way it works is that the person who loses the highest percentage of weight by April 9th will win the title of Biggest Loser, as well as a monetary reward.  I thought this would be good motivation because not only can I use the money, but a weekly weigh-in is required and I figured that if someone will be seeing my weight every week, I am going to make damn sure it goes down consistently.  It is now 3 or 4 weeks later, and I haven’t lost a blessed pound.  The only reason for this is that I haven’t even tried to lose weight.   Well, I tried on some days and not on others.  I didn’t really try to resist the temptation to eat something I wanted, but shouldn’t have. I finally realized that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to try to diet.  It’s not that I don’t WANT to.  It’s that I just can’t do it right now.  So, I felt like kind of a jerk about it.  I let the group down, and I let myself down.  I want to be thin, and look great in my clothes, and have people look at me and see a 47 year old, thin, fit, and healthy woman.  But I’m not ready to do the work yet.  And after really thinking about it, I wondered why the hell I should be feeling guilty about it.

I am not in a place in life right now where I feel I can take on a personal goal and be successful at it.  I have more on my plate than the average person.  I have a sick husband who has failing kidneys, and is on so much medication, that he spends his days sleeping, or severely lacking the energy to do much of anything.  My weekdays start at 6 a.m. when I get up to make sure my kids are up for school, and to get myself ready to go to work.  I’m in work by 8:30 and spend my days with 5 year olds.  I am home by 4, at which time I have to make any phone calls that need to be made (if I remember to make them), run any errands, shop for and/or make dinner, help with homework, make sure there is some clean laundry for the next day, straighten up any messes (usually half assedly because I am out of energy by dinner), run any errands that didn’t get done before dinner, have at least a little conversation with my kids, and get ready for the next day.  That is all I do on a good day.

In addition to my full time job, I just took on a part time “small business” that I’m trying to get up and running so I can make some “extra” money.  So my evenings also now involve answering emails and FB messages, learning about the company and the product, and promoting my business.  Soon, there will be evenings that I will be out at parties, selling my product.  Then there are the evenings that my kids have appointments or activities that I need to get them to.  Friday nights are often spent taxiing kids to friends’ houses or to meet them at the movies or ice skating, or even at the occasional concert.

The weekends aren’t much quieter.  They are spent trying to motivate myself to get up and clean the pig sty that is my home.  After a full week of working and running around, it’s all I can do to dust, vacuum, clean the toilet, straighten the mess, and catch up on laundry.  I never catch up on laundry.  My house always feels dirty and messy, even if I clean.  I feel guilty about that, too.  I wonder what kind of wife and mother I am that I can’t keep a neat, clean home, have dinner on the table every night a la June Cleaver, and have everyone’s clothes cleaned, pressed and put away.  I try to do it all.  But my weekends are also spent carting my kids around, or out and about getting things for them for school, or things for the household for the following week.  At some point, I have to get to the godforsaken grocery store…a place I’ve come to detest.  I’m tired all the time.  This isn’t how I want to spend my weekends.

Recently, I thought about all that I do.  When I list everything like I did in this blog post, I realize I do A LOT.  And I do it pretty much on my own.  My husband and kids will help out a little, but the majority is all on me.  Why is it that I always feel like I’m not doing enough?  Why do I feel guilty that I’m not a perfect housekeeper, or a perfect cook, or a perfect wife and mother?  Why do I never feel good enough?  Why do I always feel like I should be doing more?  I compare myself to other women who have neat, clean homes, or who go to the gym and look perfect in their jeans, or who cook a hot meal every single night rather than order take out.  It’s not just me.  I think A LOT of women feel the same way.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  I don’t know the answer to that question.  But at this point, I’m allowing myself to be okay with not trying to lose weight.  I just can’t put that on myself right now.  I need to let something go for now, and so I’ve decided to let the guilt go of not trying to lose weight and being the perfect size 10.  I’m going to be okay sitting in my dusty living room, eating my chocolate chip cookies.  Just for now.

Teachable Moments

When my husband’s tumor was first discovered, our children were only ages 9, 7, and 5.  They were really too young to be kept in the loop about what was happening, and we went out of our way to hide it all.  They were too young to hear about doctors, illness, tests, and an unknown prognosis.  We spent two years not knowing anything, so it would have been  impossible to explain to them what we didn’t understand.  Once we started getting answers, the reality of what could be coming wasn’t something we felt they needed to know or worry about.  We wanted them to just be children, with no adult worries, and we wanted to keep their lives as “normal” as possible.  It worked for a while.

Now, our children are ages 16, 14 and 12.  There really is no more hiding, and it wouldn’t be fair to be less than honest with them.   They know Dad is sick.  They see it every day.  We don’t make a point of talking about his illness, but we answer honestly now, when they have questions.  That is a hard transition to make.  As parents, we want to protect our kids from the difficult parts of life.  Nobody wants their kids to grow up with a sick parent, constant financial struggle, and an inability to know what can be expected in the future.  Under the best of circumstances, none of us can predict what the future will hold.  But with an illness, it’s even harder.  Life is lived on a day to day basis.  Plans are hard to make.  Promises are almost impossible.

For a long time, I felt guilty that our kids were dealt this hand…living in a family with a chronic illness that hangs over us every single day.  I felt it was unfair to my husband, and myself, but especially to our children.  I had an amazing, happy, care free childhood, and it hurt my heart to know that my kids wouldn’t have the same experience.  I’ve always wondered how this experience would affect the rest of their lives.  Would they grow up feeling cheated, or insecure, depressed, or anxiety ridden?

As our kids grow older, I find myself looking at our situation in a different way.  I’ve accepted that this is how things are and there is nothing we can do about it.  We can fight it and wish it were different.  That doesn’t work…I’ve tried it.  We can let it consume us and ruin our lives.  For me, that has never been an option and I wouldn’t allow my kids to let it affect them that way either.  Now, I try to look at it another way…a way that will hopefully help my kids.  My kids are, and always have been, watching me and how I respond to my husband, his illness, and our life as a family.  I hope that they have learned that spouses are loyal, through sickness and health.  I hope they have seen that life can be brutally hard and not go as planned, but that you simply don’t give up.   I hope they have learned that sometimes, you just have to put your head down and plow through the tough times, and that eventually you WILL come out the other side.

Now that our kids are more aware of what is happening,  they are asking me more questions, and talking to me about their feelings…whether positive or negative.  It’s my opportunity to continue to teach.  The most common feeling they have mentioned is frustration.  They get frustrated that their Dad sleeps a lot, and spends a lot of time just sitting and watching TV, or wandering aimlessly around the house, not doing much of anything.   They get frustrated when they see that he eats and drinks unhealthy food.  They get frustrated that he is often too tired to do something with them, or drive them somewhere.  They get frustrated when he won’t wear a seatbelt.  I completely understand their frustration, but I take those conversations as the opportunity to sympathize with them and to teach them that we can only control ourselves, not other people.  My kids tell me they don’t like to talk about it (as they are talking about it), and it gives me the chance to tell them that talking about it relieves them of the burden of holding it in.  I encourage them to talk about their anger and frustration because I know it helps to let go of it and share it with someone else.  I tell them it will eat them up to hold it in if they are sad, angry, or upset about something.  They tell me they want to spend more time with their Dad, but don’t know what to do with him.  I tell them to tell him that they want to spend time with him…it will make him feel good, and they will always remember the times they spent together.   Communication is important, and they should always tell him when they want to be with him.

As life evolves, and the years go by in our household, there will always be teachable moments that I hope will help my kids throughout their lives.  I could live with a heavy heart, wishing that life for my kids was different.  Or, I can share my experience with them in the hopes that they can move forward through their lives with a little bit of wisdom, and a foundation for dealing with the hard blows life can throw at them.

Beyond The Cover

You can’t judge a book by its cover.  How many times have we heard that phrase?  We know what it means…you can’t judge something based on its appearance.  Yet, it’s human nature to do exactly that.  How many times have we seen a dirty, homeless person on the street, and thought to ourselves how lazy they are, or perhaps mentally ill, or just plain losers?  How many times have we looked at someone of a different race and made assumptions about them based on stereotypes?

A little over a year ago, we were on vacation in Sunset Beach, North Carolina.  My daughter, Hannah, was 14 at the time and had brought a friend with her for the week.  One day, they decided to walk down to a group of gift shops because her friend wanted to buy her younger siblings some souvenirs.  As they walked through the store, the owner followed them around, and then finally kicked them out and told them not to come back.  Both girls were shocked because they had been doing nothing but looking around.  They weren’t bothering anyone, or acting suspicious, or trying to steal.   What were they guilty of?

Both girls were teenagers.  Both were wearing black, perhaps one or both of them had a skull somewhere on their clothes.  Both of them had numerous piercings in their ears, and Hannah’s friend had gauges that enlarge the earlobe.  They may have been wearing black eyeliner.  Did the woman feel threatened by them because of their appearance?  Did she judge them as shoplifters because they looked different?  That’s a shame if that’s what she did.  Not only did she lose a sale that day, but she also made two nice, honest  girls feel offended by her actions.  They felt what it was like to be stereotyped and judged, based on their appearance.  Both of them were upset and didn’t understand why they were being judged when they weren’t doing anything wrong in the store.  I explained to both of them that the woman likely judged them by their appearance, and even though I know, and they know, that they are good girls, the woman saw only their style, and reacted based on that.

Hannah is now 16, and she wants to get her nose pierced…a small stud on the side of her nose.  I have always told her that I wouldn’t allow her to pierce her face, but I am allowing this small piercing.  Why?  Because I think it looks pretty.  All of her piercings have small holes so that they can be removed when she wants, and they won’t leave large holes in her body.  Hannah wants to go to nursing school, and eventually she will be going to interviews for jobs.  She has seen first-hand how appearance affects people’s opinions.  She understands that it’s okay to have your own personal style, but that there are times that you may have to tone it down in order to get to where you want to be.

There are some people that have told Hannah that it’s “wrong” to have piercings, or that the way she dresses is wrong.  She’s been told by family members that she is ruining the body that “God gave her.”  She has been made to feel bad for what she likes as her own personal style.  She has been judged based only on that style.  She has been given gift cards for her birthday in past years for places like Aeropostale, or Hollister by people who think the preppy look is the “right” look.  Isn’t that a not-so-subtle way of telling her that her appearance is wrong? I think that a lot of us look at the people close to us, and feel that their appearance reflects on us.  If she is wearing black and has her nose pierced, what does that say about me?  It says nothing.  It’s not about the rest of us.

People overlook her amazing qualities, and allow her appearance to overshadow them.  Hannah is a person who is open minded, doesn’t judge others, and is quick to speak up when she feels someone else is being judgmental.  She has no tolerance for intolerance.  She is loving, and caring, and wants to spend her life caring for the sick.  Yesterday, Hannah and two of her friends saw a large amount of garbage left in the woods near our house.  They filled three garbage bags with someone else’s trash, brought it home, and put it in our garbage pails.  Are those the actions of a person that deserves to be told she is ruining what God gave her, or to be kicked out of a gift shop for doing nothing but shopping?

Never judge a book by its cover.  Hannah’s cover is beautiful, regardless of a few holes, or the black clothing it wears.  Her cover encases a beautiful soul that shines wherever she goes.  Don’t miss the soul because of the cover.  Wherever you go, take a moment to look beyond the cover, and see the soul inside.  THAT is what counts.

38 Longs

I’ve always heard that your 40s are the best years of your life.  Supposedly, people are financially stable, have some wisdom, have learned from their mistakes, blah blah blah.  I can’t say from experience that it’s true.  One thing I’ve learned from being in my 40s is that your body turns into a hot mess, and it ain’t pretty.  It’s really a cruel trick of that fickle old bitch, Mother Nature.  I thought we women were supposed to be on the same team and build each other up.  Clearly, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.  “They” say that 50 is the new 30, which means I should be in my new 20s, but 20 sure didn’t look like this.  There is really no part of my body that hasn’t been affected by the cruel advance of time.

Let me start by saying that once you’re past the age of 18, zits should be a thing of the past.  They slyly disappeared for a couple of decades, lying in wait for their eventual reappearance. Once I hit my forties, they reared their ugly red, white blistered heads once again…and not just on my face.  Nothing says pretty like putting your gray speckled hair up in a clip only to have Mount Vesuvius staring at everyone like a third eye on the back of your neck.  What the hell is up with that?  I know I’m not the only one.  I have friends in their forties who also wonder why they suddenly have a pizza neck, or scalp, for that matter.  Don’t get me wrong, my face is not immune to such hideous eruptions.  It’s not enough that the wrinkles start making an appearance, but then to be flanked by a melon sized, oozing pustule is just beyond reasonable.  Don’t even get me started on groin zits.

Let’s move away from the face because nothing is as much a slap in the face as what happens to breasts at this glorious age.  Really.  They sag enough that they could slap me in the face if I moved at just the right angle.  They used to be so cute and perky, and almost the right size.  In my 20s they were a 34B.  Twenty years and three breast fed kids later, they are 38 longs.  When I bend over to turn on the shower faucet, they look like tube socks with a few inches of sand at the bottom.  They dip in the water at the bottom of the tub.  I could tuck them into my waist band.  They are too big and that makes it hard to find decent shirts that will contain them.  I used to wish for bigger boobs.  My wish was granted but at a time in my life that they are more of an eyesore than an asset.

Sagging in general is the suckiest thing about aging.  Apparently, someone came along one night while I was sleeping and replaced my tight little birthday suit, with one that looks a few sizes too big.  It’s also clear that it hasn’t been ironed in years and someone left it sitting in the drier for way too long.  It’s all out of shape, so apparently nobody let it dry flat either.  It also has a roadmap of veins on its legs that could lead me on a road to deep depression if it wasn’t for those lifesaving capris and long dresses that are popular now.  I have to say that as much as I love summer, I am thrilled when it’s time to get out the fall and winter clothes again.

Needless to say, this decade of my life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Things sag, erupt, crack, groan, get stiff, and make involuntary noises.  It’s not enough that I notice it, but my darling children love to point out body parts of mine that are swaying in the wind or lying flaccid next to me.  They are a charming bunch.  I happily inform them that someday they will go through the same nonsense, and that if there is any justice in the world, their kids will make them feel like crap, too.  I just hope that I will be able to witness the payback from my rocking chair as the drool slides down my cratered, pock marked, droopy face.  The least Mother Nature can do is let me get there.  We moms have to stick together.

The Noose

In November of 2007, I returned to the workforce after staying home with my three kids for ten years.  My youngest child was in Kindergarten, and I needed something beyond the mommy and household stuff.  I also wanted to start contributing financially.  We had decided to sacrifice lots of things, especially money and the “extras” it can buy, so I could be home with our kids.  It was extremely important to us.  Two weeks after I returned to work, my husband’s tumor was discovered.  In addition to the toll on my husband’s health and the incredible stress it placed on the family emotionally, it began to destroy any hopes we had of financial freedom.  Over the past almost 7 years, any hope of financial freedom is gone, and has been replaced with the dream of just being able to be comfortable every month.  By comfortable, I mean that the mortgage and monthly bills are paid, we have enough food on the table, and perhaps we can do a few fun things during the month.  Our hopes of providing college educations to our children, or going on great vacations, or giving our daughters big, beautiful weddings are gone.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to retire.

We are in survival mode and have been every single month since my husband stopped working in October of 2009.  It’s a way of life for us.  It is possibly the absolute most stressful part of my life.  It’s like constantly dangling from a noose, trying to hold yourself up so you don’t suffocate. In addition to raising three kids, managing a household, and dealing with an ill husband, I work to try to make ends meet.  Medical retirement and disability payments barely cover the mortgage and food.  There have been times we considered shopping at the food bank.  We get energy assistance so our electricity doesn’t get shut off in the winter.  Our kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.  We didn’t pay our mortgage for 6 months, and still could barely make it.  We get free stuff for our household from the dump.  When we have a little extra, we do something fun so our kids don’t have to miss out all the time.  We do our best to give them things, and as a result we sacrifice what we want, or live with that much more stress.  They only get one childhood, and I refuse to make them feel “poor,” or let them feel as if they are missing out.

My husband and I have both worked since we were about 12 years old.  We both have a good work ethic, and we do what we need to do to provide for our family.  We always paid our bills, and were responsible with our money.  Then the illness took it all away.  I have sat around dinner tables where people talked about how “irresponsible” people are who “live beyond their means” or don’t “keep up with their mortgage.”  They criticize people who need help with mortgage programs, or who “live off the government.”   Comments are made by people who have no idea what it’s like to be in that situation.  People judge with no regard to the facts.  They judge people who would do anything to be healthy and provide for their family.  Living this way isn’t laziness or irresponsibility.

We commonly hear comments from friends or family members who complain about how they struggle or how upset they are over some financial stress they are having.  These same people are hiring people to clean their houses, or are taking their kids out to eat or to some fun event several times a week.  They are planning multiple vacations every year, and buying new cars.  I even had one person tell me they were a little upset that they are now making so much money that they are in a new tax bracket and no longer qualify for the child tax credit.  Their tax refund was going to be less this year.  I sat there like an asshole and gave sympathy, when what I really wanted to say was that I would literally give one of my arms to be in the next tax bracket, rather than struggling every damn day of my life.  I had just told her that we qualified for a new child tax credit because we are low income.  These same people know how hard it is for us.  Sort of.

 

There is a shame that goes along with the way we are living.  I don’t know why.  Shame implies that we have done something wrong.  We haven’t.  We’ve tried to do everything right for ourselves and for our children.  I never, ever share our true financial story with anyone.  We pretend it isn’t as bad as it is. People have some idea, but they don’t know what it’s really like.  It’s exhausting and hopeless and depressing and frustrating.  The stress leaves me teetering at the edge sometimes.  Yet, somehow, we always make it through.  We are lucky to have some family and friends who have been Godsends at times.  There are times we wouldn’t have made it without them.  The struggle is never ending, and sometimes people get tired of helping.  We don’t know if we will ever be able to repay people for what they’ve done to help us.  There is no end in sight to the struggle.  We try to pay it forward and help other people when we can.

People talk openly about the physical, emotional and psychological effects of chronic illness on themselves and their families.  But when it comes to money, people keep it to themselves.  Yet, I suspect it’s one of the most detrimental aspects of living with chronic illness for everyone involved.  It is by far the most stressful part of my life and affects my mood, stress level, health and outlook on life every single day.  The nonchalant comments from other people make it even worse.  I don’t know what the solution is, but putting it out there without shame is a good start.

Call Me Crazy

I’m about to do the unthinkable.   I never thought this day would come, to be honest.  I had to think about it for a couple of months, weigh the pros and cons, and seriously consider the fact that I just might be certifiably insane.  What would I be missing?  Would my life be over?  What the hell will I do with myself?  How will I survive?  Then it struck me like a lightning bolt.  These thoughts are precisely why I need to do this.  I need to shut down my Facebook page.  That’s right.  I said it.  I’m shutting it down.  Not permanently…I’m not that loony.  The plan is to shut it down for the summer.

For the most part, I have enjoyed Facebook over the past few years.  I’ve gotten to know people better, and I like that I can see what’s going on, and share in people’s life events.  But over the past year or so, I’ve found myself more and more irritated with the nonsense and insignificant dreariness that people feel the need to share with the world.  I’m confident that I can make it through my day without knowing where people ate dinner the night before, what cashier is out sick at the local Walmart, and whose kid saved the world from some imminent disaster.  I can manage to drink my morning coffee without seeing someone’s 137,868th  selfie or picture taken by their bff.  Here’s a newsflash:  We all know what you look like…you haven’t changed since yesterday.   I’m also confident that I can survive, and so too will other people survive, if I don’t share the crap I share, too.  Facebook is ultimately a crapfest of who did more, who did it better, who looks better, who went more places, who has a better imaginary life, who has a smarter kid, not to mention those awesome vague posts that are simply an attention-getting tactic.  I need a break.  I spend more time being irritated than I do enjoying.

As I thought about doing this, I realized I need a plan.  I can’t just go cold turkey without figuring out a way to spend my time sans FB.  At first, I was almost in a panic and came very close to ditching the whole idea.  Then I thought, what did we all do before the internet and social media?  We all managed to have a life before Facebook was invented.  So, I made a plan.  This summer, I am going to do the many things I’ve claimed I didn’t have time for over the past several years.  I am going to read as many books as I can.  I am going to go to the gym several times a week.  My family joined the YMCA, and my kids are just as eager to go exercise as I am.  We are also doing a major nutritional overhaul in our house…no more junk food or processed food.  Well, occasional junk food.  Let’s be realistic.  I used to draw and do artistic things.  I want to start drawing again.  I find it incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.  I lose hours at a time, just by creating a drawing.  I also want to get my house in order so it’s not an embarrassment when people drop by.  I HATE cleaning, so if I get it cleared out and have a plan to keep it up, it will free up time to do the things I enjoy.  I want to get back to nature by going to the beach, going on hikes, or just sitting outside and reading.  I want to spend more time with my kids and give them my full attention.  I want to write.

I’m sharing this all through my blog for two reasons.  One, it’ll keep me honest.  If you all know I’m ditching facebook, then you will also know if I sneak back on.  I don’t have the self-control to do this on my own.  I need to be able to tell myself that I’ll look like a spineless moron if I don’t do it.  It’s the embarrassment factor, which is always a good way for me to not do something.   The second reason is that this is all part of an experiment that I will be writing a blog post on in September.  The experiment is just to see if I can do it, and what I can accomplish by getting rid of a serious time suck in my life.  If I can do it, other people can, too.  Life is too short to waste time reading about what other people are doing.  Life is about going out and doing.  If I die tomorrow, I will be much more satisfied that I spent today sitting on the beach, reading a book, talking to my kids, and enjoying all of OUR moments.