Welcome new year

I wasn’t going to write a New Year’s post, but here I am. As I discussed with a friend of mine not too long ago, I feel these last few years have ended with most people not sad to see the year end. There has been a general feeling of “glad that’s over”, but underlying those words is the feeling that maybe all that is behind us. We’ve survived. And with God’s grace we’ll keep surviving. Thriving, even. In this spirit, I’m choosing to focus on the hope that the upcoming year is bound to be better than the last.

If we don’t have hope, we’ve got nothing. There were times these past few months where I felt like I had lost touch with my old friend hope. Dark times. But tonight, by the light of my tree, with my boys sleeping peacefully I am reacquainting myself with her.

I’ve got a lot of intentions for the upcoming year. Shit, I’ve got a lot of intentions for the next few days. Mostly to get through them with a bit of humor and patience and be ready to go back to work with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today, one of my boys presented me with a family portrait he made in school. He portrayed himself and his brother very realistically. He got the cats in there, although he was pretty generous in his rendering of our enormous cat, Golden…perhaps he’s going to lose weight in the new year. Then there was Mom. And Dad.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I was, somewhat embarrassedly, like “who’s that?”

At least we were all smiling in the picture. I’m not sure what is more unrealistic at this point.

It hurt that the one thing my boy so desperately wants is the one thing I really can’t give him.

I did finally ask him what he thought the best part about living with a dad would be. He said having someone there when he got home from school. I pointed out that for the most part, even in families where there are two parents living together, it is not typical to have a parent there when a child comes home from school. At least not in this day and age. Maybe that’s just what I tell myself to make me feel better.

But it did reaffirm for me what I truly want. Especially as the boys get older and need guidance. I want to be there more. I want to be there when they get home from school. I want to help them navigate homework and sports and friends and questions and arguments and everything else. My intention is to figure out how to get there sooner rather than later.

I read something not too long ago about how it may actually be more important for there to be a parent accessible to their teenage children after school hours than for say a young elementary schooler. That there is an added benefit to having that extra supervision, extra accountability for those hours of freedom, extra help choosing how to spend that time.

If I can’t provide the smiling dad in the picture, maybe I can figure out how to be enough. How to be there more. How to be more present than I even am now.

As the boys have grown older, I’ve struggled with balance. I desperately wanted pieces of my life back. Adult pieces that have nothing to do with them. My writing, exercise, my friendships, love, my solitude…and not crammed into the hour between when they go to bed and I do. I wanted those things simultaneously. And I kept thinking– they are 9, 10 years old…they are old enough to take some responsibility for their own activities, time, entertainment. Chores, hygiene, even lunch/snack/sometimes dinner making. I want to raise independent children. They are capable. They don’t need a parent doing everything for them. I can take time for myself and they can deal.

These things are still true. They don’t need a helicopter parent. But they do need a parent who is present, and yes, sometimes present enough for two people. When I became a single parent, I gave up the luxury of being able to just “check out” and let someone else handle it for a while. Fair? Maybe no. But life ain’t fair. I fear I may have swung too far in one direction. Do I have the right to sleep in and let the boys watch TV on the weekend? Yes. But maybe not as often as I do. Maybe they still need mom to sleepily trudge out to the sofa and watch something with them. Or get them involved in something else. Maybe they need a mom who isn’t checking work emails when she gets home or who isn’t so focused on making dinner and getting them to bed so my time can begin that I miss the important stuff.

Every day I strive to be a little better than the day before. That’s all we can do really. But if I were to make a resolution (which I don’t make, but let’s just say) my intention is to let the pendulum swing a little bit back the other way. In their favor. Where my focus is more firmly on them and what they need during this critical time in their lives. God willing, I will have the energy to make the most of the time after they go to bed. If I need to sleep then, well, everything else can wait.

I need to give myself permission to be a mom first. It doesn’t mean I’m not me. I’m there. I’m going to find myself (rather quickly I’m afraid) in a position where these boys are truly going to be independent and out of my grasp. I’m going to have lots of late nights waiting up for them that I can spend as I choose. For now, I need to refocus on them–my babies. I suspect that they may need me just as much now as they did when they were babies and toddlers.

My hope for this new year is that we all feel like we are getting exactly what we need. And that our health and happiness will blossom because of it. I wish that for all of you, too.

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Triggering memories

In school, I was never great at history and remembering dates. I’ve got a couple big ones left in my head (Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492), but mostly they are all gone. I’m much better at remembering personally important dates like birthdays and anniversaries and such. Way before Facebook’s birthday reminders, I was a master at remembering birth dates of friends. I’m less masterful at getting my act together to actually send a card, but that’s a different story. Recently, I got in touch with an old friend I haven’t seen in probably 15 years and I texted her on her birthday and she couldn’t believe I remembered.

Lately, I’ve been getting a big kick out of Facebook’s app “On This Day”. Facebook will show you posts from years before on the same date so you can reminisce and re-share and reconnect with people over shared memories. There are other apps that do the same thing with pictures and such. It’s fun to see where my head was at on any given day 6 years ago or see pics of my boys as they grow.

was i describing laundry?

was i describing laundry?

2013 glasses

wordpress 2014

All cute, but none that I especially felt like re-sharing (ironic, since I’m now writing a blog post about it) and nothing that would actually lend itself to remembering this particular date in time. Since today also happens to be “Throwback Thursday”, another social media trend I enjoy following because who doesn’t love an excuse to post old pictures?, I began sorting through old pictures of the boys thinking I could find a fun one from July of another year. That’s when I realized the significance of the date.

July 9th. It’s not exactly a super important date in my personal history, but it is exactly 2 months until the boys’ 10th birthday. Here’s what they looked like 2 months before their 1st birthday:

10 months G 10 months cjm 10 months

Look at those pudgy little babies! How lucky we were (and are). This was back when I would take a photo on the day of their birth each month to see how they had grown. I even had a frame where I was going to put each of these monthly pictures for the first year. I think they are in a box somewhere, but I digress.

Here is what I looked like a year before that:

hospitalThree days from now will mark the tenth anniversary of the day I was admitted into the hospital with the possibility of having my babies 13.5 weeks before they were due. July 12th will be a date I will remember forever. Mostly because I make myself remember. I’ve made it a twisted anniversary of sorts. A day which could have been really horrible. A day my whole life could have changed. Maybe even a day where my world should have changed more than it did.

If I were trying to write a good story, I would say that July 12th was one of the scariest and most confusing days of my life. But that’s only partially true. Looking back, I can see I wasn’t nearly as scared as I should have been. Maybe it was faith. I had to believe that everything was going to be just fine. Maybe it was naiveté. I didn’t understand the seriousness of the issues I was having. Maybe it was stubbornness. I couldn’t let anyone think that I couldn’t handle what was happening. Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was denial.

I do remember that when they admitted me to the hospital, I really didn’t think I’d have to stay there–despite the doctor flat-out telling me I was going to have to stay. I do remember thinking the doctors were being overly conservative and I was sure I’d be fine. I remember worrying about work. I do not remember being truly concerned I was going to go into labor. Even when the contractions started. Even when they put me on super strong drugs to control the contractions. I was going to be JUST fine. Yes, looking back. I think July 12th was a day of denial.

It wasn’t until the following day(s) when shit got real. I became very sick from the medication. My lungs filled up with water. I was having difficulty breathing. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure everything was going to be fine. It felt more like I was going to die. At one point, it was late at night and I was being rolled down to have a CT scan to make sure I hadn’t developed an embolism. I was scared. I was crying. I didn’t want to expose my babies to radiation. I was singing “Me and my Bobby McGee” to the boys trying to make them dance in my belly so I knew they were OK. I’m sure the hospital staff was convinced I had cracked. I kept complaining about how I didn’t understand why it was necessary and wouldn’t it hurt the babies and just being a general pain in the ass until finally the frustrated technician told me it would hurt the babies a lot more if I had a pulmonary embolism and then went into labor and died.

Well, if you put it that way…

Obviously, it all turned out OK in the end. It would probably be easier for me to let my memories drift into a soft, hazy blur like so many of those first few weeks and months after the boys were born. Some memories are difficult. Some are better with the soft edges. Maybe some are even better left in the dark recesses of our minds, all but completely forgotten.

Without reminders from Facebook or birthdays or special occasions or re-reading old emails to discover what we were thinking on any given day, without a conscious effort to tell and retell stories which conjure up vivid memories of a place or time, all we are left with are the general impressions of moments in our lives; fleeting, fuzzy, and fallible.

I think it’s important to make that conscious effort to remember. To mark the passage of time with personal anniversaries and milestones. To revisit those key memories which shape who we are and reinforce them by sharing them. So, I’ll keep looking back and telling the boys stories about the days leading up to when they were born and then all the days after that I can remember. I’ll weave for them a story of their earliest moments so they will know how much I fought for them, how much I wanted to protect them, and how much I loved them.

For this memory will always be the sweetest of my life:

holding my babies for the first time

holding my babies for the first time

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

I made it. February has all but passed; the longest shortest month of the year is about to become a memory again.

My detox plan didn’t quite live up to expectations. I even got sick right there at the end. My temper is still short, I’m still exhausted at the end of the day for no good reason, and I don’t feel any discernible difference in my overall well-being. Kind of a let down, really.

Not smoking is a huge accomplishment. I won’t downplay that. I suppose when I have kept it up for a whole year I will really pat myself on the back. After all, I quit when I was pregnant and eventually went back to it. I find it is always easier to do things for the boys than it is to do for myself. But I guess quitting a habit that could ultimately kill me is a win-win for everyone.

I did have my chakras balanced and learned some things I didn’t know about Reiki and energy healing. This was probably the highlight of my February, but I clearly need more work keeping the energy flowing in all the right places. I think I am going to have my house’s energy cleared too…hopefully that will benefit all of us, including those stinky rascal cats of mine.

My big takeaway, however, was that regardless of what anyone thinks or says: Seasonal Affective Disorder is REAL. Despite my efforts to get out ahead of it, to recognize it, to name it, to give myself all sorts of distractions and health-boosting tasks to do to avoid it or off-set it, it came anyway. Next year I am definitely getting a phototherapy lamp.

I think everyone has the winter blues a bit, especially the poor people of Boston (God bless them), but for those of us who dread this time of year because of the funk it puts us in, it is even worse. Throw in a couple of rambunctious boys who are cooped up in the house too much and you’ve got a recipe for a whole lot of yuck. Even though I tell myself I need a break from the boys’ sports in the winter, next year we are doing something. If only to burn off some of this energy on a weekly basis. Maybe I will finally be able to sign up for a boxing class and do the same.

There are 20 days until Spring. I’ve got fundraising and hair-dying and charity for the church to do. And lots of work. And baseball is starting. And the sun is out today. I am going to start taking pictures of #carastree in reverse. I see the light at the end of this winter tunnel of blech and I am going to start running toward it.

I can do this

she_turned_her_cants_into_cans-387235We took down the Christmas tree this evening. Usually I dread this activity, but I was more than ready for it this year. Usually, I like to prolong the coziness and the beauty and the feeling of the season as long as possible. Maybe it was our incredibly dry tree with its drooping branches, maybe it was the extra long break we had from school and work, but whatever the cause I am not feeling the usual way about packing it all up and getting on with the new year.

I would like to think that this means I am incredibly hopeful for the new year and am ready to take whatever comes.

2014 was a year of ups and downs, as most of them are. When I began to reflect back, I was struck by how I glossed over the early part of the year which had been rather rocky in parts. In fact, I had been in a nasty depressive funk the likes of which I hadn’t known in many years. I suffered through it mostly alone, not feeling the need to burden anyone with my feelings, assuming it would eventually go away on its own. After all, I blamed myself for even feeling so low because there was no real reason for it beyond a bruised and battered heart and ego. But that’s the funny thing about depression. It doesn’t necessarily hit you when things are so bad. When you might actually be expecting it. No, it knocks on the door like an uninvited guest and tries the door if you don’t answer it, waltzing right in and pouring itself a cup of coffee intending to stay, expected or not.

It was only when faced with the sudden ill health of a friend and the death of a young family member that I was able to dump depression’s coffee down the drain and unceremoniously kick it to the curb because I simply didn’t have the time or energy to deal with all that when there were real issues at hand.

Not that it is always so easy. Not that it was easy at all. But I’ve had a bit of practice dealing with that particular unwanted guest.

The second part of the year was both harder and easier. I opened myself up to second chances and accepted that some things weren’t meant to be. I faced my 40th birthday and took a once-in-a-lifetime trip with the boys. I made memories. And mistakes. I made new friends and said goodbye to others. I made new habits and began to break old patterns.

Maybe that is why I am OK with putting this past year in the books and moving on without sadness or regret or sentimentality. I spent the better part of last year positioning myself for this one. And I don’t plan to waste the golden opportunity.

2015 is now. And now is all that matters. We’ve rebooted. What happens now is up to me.   And surprisingly I find that I can’t wait to see what will happen this year. I’m certain it will be one of the best ones yet.

One-Liner Wednesday– Happy thoughts

Let’s just think about happy thoughts and not let this spoil our day: Sunshine! Rainbows! Unikitties! You know, they are even better than unicorns…

– my son C, trying to keep us on the happy track


This brilliant insight was brought to you as part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesdays: http://lindaghill.com/2014/12/17/one-liner-wednesday-homeward-bound/