Monday, June 26, 2017

So there mean voice. Take that.

I've always had this internal struggle. Maybe not so much a "struggle" as a mean internal voice. The voice that questions everything I do, the voice that tells me I'm doing it all wrong. This same voice has, on numerous occasions, filled me with a heartbreak over the idea that I was somehow "wronging" my children. My heart bursts at the seams when I look at my children. All I ever want for them is to know they are loved, to know I've done my best and to know that their future does not have to be dictated by my past.

Then, one day, this happened.

My daughter, a junior in High School, had an assignment entitled "This I Believe". The students were instructed to write an essay about something they believe to be true, using a personal story as the example for that truth.
I don't read every essay all of our kids write. But I did happen to get to read this one.

This may not bring tears to your cheeks or fill you with hope. But it does for me. This one page of words has caused that mean voice to lose some of it's power over me. This one page of words has shown me the truth that "happiness IS a choice". Thank you sweet daughter, for being the warrior to shut down that mean voice!

Wrong Turns the Right Way

My mom and dad were twenty two and unprepared to be parents when I was born. I was six when they got divorced and seven when my mom moved my sister and I to California. Everyone around me felt sad for us and our broken family but I never understood why. My parents were happier apart than they were together, and I was happier too. No one dreams of marriages that don’t last and families separated by two states and one thousand miles, but happiness blooms in unexpected places. Hundreds of hours of princess movies told me that to live happily ever after I’d need a big house and a perfect marriage forever. Life taught me that happiness is nothing more than a positive attitude and an open mind. I believe that happiness is a choice.

The first month of living in California we spent more time lost on the highway than anything else. Our only GPS was a huge map and a compass on some string that my grandpa had sent. I’m fairly certain we ended up in Mexico while searching for an In-and-Out. On our second Saturday in San Diego my sister saw an ad for the Children’s Museum in a magazine lying open on a coffee house table. Smiling kids were gathered around a beat up old car coated thick with every color of the rainbow, holding paint brushes dripping in bright paint. We begged to visit the museum and after a few days my mom agreed. We piled into our gold BMW and headed down highway 5. We drove, and we drove, and we drove...and we kept driving until long past the marked exit that we did not see. We ended up an hour away from the paint coated rainbow car, in a town that I still can’t locate on a map. There wasn’t time to turn around and try again so we decided to explore the mystery town. That afternoon we found tidepools and starfish and seals, ate a full cup of whipped cream, and met a talking parrot. I played mermaids in the ocean with my sister, did handstands in the sand with my mom, saw the reflection of every color of the sunset painted across an old silver car. It would have been easy for us to get frustrated and write that afternoon off as a waste of time and gas, but we chose to keep a positive attitude and open mind instead. Our wrong turn became one of the happiest days of my life. I believe that things frequently do not work out the way they are planned to and circumstances will not always be ideal but a positive attitude and open mind foster happiness without fail. My broken family is anything but sad; four parents who support me, two stepsisters and a stepbrother to imagine with me, a half brother to laugh with, and one little sister to love with all my heart. Life is broken, messy, and confusing but life is always happy if you allow it to be.

So there mean voice. Take that.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A letter to your Papa


Dear Dad,

I don't know why it's taken me a full year to write this letter. Every single day, for the past 365 days, it's been on my mind. I've written some version of these words a zillion times in my head. But, somehow, the actual act of sitting down of writing them feels so concrete. It feels like an acknowledgement that you are never going to be here again. I'll never be able to SPEAK these words to you. Some part of me has been waiting and waiting for you to call or show up for dinner so I could tell you all the things I need to tell you.
So I could thank you for my son.

I remember the day I told you I was pregnant. You were laying on mattress on the floor of what was once Doug's room- and later became Ellie's room.
You were flat on your back. Mom was kneeling next to you.
It was a Thursday. You were dying.

It had been six days since we had first discovered I was pregnant. We were so happy. We had hoped and wished and prayed for this baby for so long. We had actually even begun to grieve the possible reality that there may never be a baby. Then- BAM- it felt like a huge miracle to see that positive pregnancy test...
Funny to think back on that moment, and how tiny THAT miracle was in comparison to all the miracles yet to come.

It had been two days since I had started bleeding and one day since the doctor had told us I had an internal hemorrhage and she was not optimistic that the baby would be OK.

I didn't tell you all of that on that Thursday. I only told you that I was pregnant. I didn't want you to worry. I just wanted you to be happy about another grandbaby.

You LOVED your grandchildren so much. I've never known another grown up who can PLAY and be present and make a child feel like they are the most important person in the world- like you could.

I wanted you to have a moment of joy as you lay on that bed. Slipping away. Dying before my eyes.

The days that followed were a blur of magic and pain. We sat with you as you made your way from this world to what comes next. We played old CDs of you singing- on repeat- over and over. We read books and told stories and jokes. The kids came to visit. Ellie read you the old copy of Berenstain Bears- The Spooky Old Tree...just like you used to read it to her.

We all knew you were leaving. In our own ways, each of us said good bye.
Good bye Husband
Good bye Daddy
Good bye Papa
Good bye Keely

You woke up for a brief moment sometime between Friday and Monday and kissed me on my forehead. I could hear your voice saying "I love you Munk".

You died on Tuesday.

On Wednesday we went back to the doctor.

The news she gave was not what we had expected.

The baby looks great! She said. It looks like his heart started beating within the last 24-48 hours. The bleeding has resolved and everything looks fine.

My heart stopped in that moment.

"Thank you dad" - was all I could think.

In your last moments- somehow you still managed to do one more remarkable act of love for your little girl. For me.

Until the end of time I will believe you saved my son. That somehow, at just the right time, the two of you passed each other. That you got to meet Jordan and pass on your joy and wisdom just as his heart started beating.

Jordan is one today.

He's the happiest, silliest, most loving boy. He loves music and snuggles and laughter.
He reminds me of you.

I know you watch over us. I know you protect and love us from where you are.

We miss you Papa.

Thank you for loving us all so well.

Thank you for baby j.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Embracing Another Sunset

(Disclaimer- This is NOT a post about anyone's choice to breastfeed or not other than my own. I hold no room in my life for judgement or opinions on another mommy's choices for herself and her children. If you could not or chose not to breastfeed please hear my heart here- this is not about your choice- you are an incredible mommy. Breastfeeding was my choice, and thats all this post is about)

In 17 years of parenting there is really only one action I've ever done that I know, without a doubt is perfect for my baby. The one action I've never thought- hmmmm...I wonder if I just caused my kid some sort of harm or residual issue that he'll later talk to his therapist about. That action was my choice to breastfeed.

It's a beautiful and simultaneously completely exhausting and miraculous journey. Keeping a tiny human alive and growing through some crazy concoction that I make yet cannot fully comprehend.

There is nothing like that moment when my tiny, naked, fresh to this world newborn somehow just knew what to do. When he first latches on and his little-bitty body sinks into mine and he knows he's safe and in that single moment I know...mommy-hood does not require any sort of book knowledge or prep. It really is just IN us.

Just like many mommies, my breastfeeding story has been full of a rollercoaster of emotions- not so pleasant pains and aches- unwanted leaks and stains and an unending search for clothes that "work". It's also full of precious, priceless middle of the night memories that only my baby and I know.

And so,

the weaning brings with it an equal amount of emotional upheaval.

My little guy is weaning now.

He's my last baby. There's no question about that.

This means one day soon we will have our last breastfeeding snuggle. It will be the last moment I experience the feeling of overwhelming peace and comfort that breastfeeding brings. I'll be seeing him off into the world of food. Off he will go to navigate good and bad choices, additives and colors, balance and indulgence.

The crazy thing about weaning is you never REALLY know when that last feeding is. It just gradually winds down and then, one day, in a flash- it never happens again.

I'm keenly aware of this right now. Knowing that every feeding could be the last. A painful awareness of the weight on my chest decreasing. An awareness of the need to pay closer attention to what and when he eats and drinks. And my heart aches.

Like the swelling that happened to my body as my baby grew was a sure sign I was creating life, the loss of the weight and the ensuing heartache is a sure sign my baby is growing.

I'm working on embracing this change.

Embracing, for a few more minutes or days or weeks the sweet tender memory of my baby as a tiny baby. Embracing the knowledge that this is one in a long list of special moments that will pass as my baby grows. Embracing the flood of memory I have in these final days - remembering nursing my other children- the different ways they each snuggle and sleep. Remembering the smell of the tops of their baby heads and the sounds of their baby songs.

Embracing the baby becoming a boy who, in the blink of an eye will be a man.

I'm working on embracing this change.

Embracing the joy of what's to come. The joys of wearing a normal bra! The joys of watching this tiny little boy explore new flavors and tastes and textures. The joys of celebrating new, tiny bits of independence and growth as he walks and runs and jumps his way into his own great adventure.

I love and treasure and cling tight to these precious moments - like secret little pieces of of a love story that my babies and I share. I'm grateful I was born a woman and I'm grateful I was given the gift of feeding my babies.  I will never take for granted the miraculous moments I get to hold in my heart forever because of this gift.

But, like sunsets, all of these beautiful moments are fleeting. Our challenge is to cease doing the "important" tasks in life long enough that we can truly breathe in the sunsets.

"Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting."
Richard Paul Evans

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Get Hungry" (AKA "The "mom lie" part 2)

I have a whole library of stories floating in my head that I'm hoping to, one day, get out into the written word. However, I already feel compelled to pause in my storytelling.


Because in the last few days, since I posted the story of Chloe and my uncovering of the "mom lie", so many mamas have reached out to me with the same question- formed in different ways...but the same question.

Now, just to be clear, these are moms from all over the place. Some are women I haven't seen in decades. One is actually a complete stranger- connected to me through a mutual friend. A few live down the street. This outreach has overwhelmed me for a few reasons but, the most profound has been the realization that we are all on this journey, trying to "figure stuff out" and most of us feel alone. Heartbreaking.

So, to the question:

"But, what if I don't even know what my passion is? What if I realize I WANT more and I WANT to run after the person I'm created to be....but I have no idea where to begin?"

That IS the question right? That's the big one.

I have two vivid memories:

1. We were driving to the grocery store in San Diego. The radio was playing...I don't remember what song but probably Indigo Girls or Colbie Caillat or something like that...and, I passively said:
"I always wanted to be a folk singer"

To which my 4 year old daughter responded:

"You're not dead yet"

That was it. That was the entire conversation.
That tiny conversation hit me straight in the gut. I can still feel it.
She was right.

I'm NOT dead yet.

I DO have permission to dream.

2. I was on a walk with the kids. I was openly talking to them about this wild-hair idea I had about opening a boutique (this was many years later and I had already run after many other wild-hair ideas...). All of the logical voices in my life were busy explaining to me all the reasons why opening a store was nonsense. And, there are a LOT of reasons.
And then,
my daughter said:

"If you don't do it won't you always wonder what would've happened?"

That was it.

Those two moments did something in me. They moved something. A ROCK that was blocking my heart.

They opened my heart and mind up to the possibility of wild failure and wild success and the understanding that they were the exact same thing.

I have yet to be a folk singer...that dream got muted by others that excited me even more (someday I will still learn to play that guitar though! Not dead yet!)
I did open the boutique. It was wild and it turned out to not be what I want for my life. But, does that mean it failed? NOPE- it means I was wildly successful in closing in on my real mission- my real passion.

So then, what if you have no idea? What if you feel frozen and you don't even know how to start looking for you?

Start here:

If you walk into a restaurant and you aren't hungry - if you walk in with the strong opinion resonating in your brain of "I'm not hungry"- there will be nothing there for you to eat. Nothing will sound good or right.
But, if you walk in, ready to eat- excited for the meal- you'll find EVERYTHING looks great.

Your Passion IS on the menu. Get hungry to find it.

Go out into the day with your heart wide open for experiences that fuel you...and then follow them until the lesson is discovered.

No one can tell you what your passion is or where you find it. But if you're not hungry for it- the chances of you passing it by are high.

Get HUNGRY. Let's eat.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I remember the day I discovered the lie

When I first became "mom" I thought that meant I could ONLY be mom.
In a simultaneously literal and symbolic swoop, I packed up all of my paints and brushes and sold my soul to the mommy club.

At 23 years old I was still on the hunt for who I was and what I stood for - yet, the world told me to table that search for 18 or so years (or at least that's what I heard).

So she died.
The ferocious, curious, lioness died. Laid down and died.
She was replaced by a cautious, muted, self-conscious empty shell.

I loved my baby girl completely. In ways I never knew were even possible.
I would have laid down my life at any moment for her- for any reason.

I loved watching her grow and discover and laugh and learn.
I was baffled by the fact that somehow I had created something so mysteriously perfect.

But, "I" had no identity outside of her.

And I continued like that for 6 years.

Numb to any emotion or experience outside of being the mommy of (now two) daughters.
Numb to any hint of a dream or desire for adventure that ever tried to creep up on me.

Somehow, somewhere along the way I had bought into a lie.
The lie that in order to be a good mommy I could ONLY be a mommy.
The lie that my time to dream and grow and pursue adventure had passed.

I remember the day I discovered the lie.

I had been up all night- at work.
My work was delivering babies.
But, on this night the baby I delivered did not live.

Her name was Chloe.
She died as the sun rose through the window in the East.

I drove home that morning and went straight to the basement of my house. I dug through 6 years of storage and papers, old baby supplies and clothes and found- at the very back, my paints and brushes and a big empty, unused canvas.

I spent the day painting.

I painted a giant sunflower and I named it Chloe.

On that day I woke up. The ferocious, curious, lioness woke up.

And since that day I have run fast and hard toward my dreams. I have said yes to adventure and life.

And, my children have been right there with me. Tasting ALL life has to offer. Not a muted, cautious, dull version but the full-color, full-volume version.

And- it has been perfect.


What do you think mom? Have you lost your identity too? Do you need permission to wake up?

Permission granted. Go- run- live your life fully. Your children need YOU- in full color.  Not the washed up dull, grey version you may have bought into...they need YOU.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

And, so, I will blog. And this is why....

No, really- we'll have four kids menus PLUS a highchair...yep, 5, it's not a birthday party. It's just dinner.

17 years ago, in a flash, I earned the title of mom.
Since that day, I've added "ex-wife", "wife" and "step mom" to my story. And, in a final chapter of mystery and miracles, 16 years after the first,  another little voice to call me "mom".

Almost daily I am reminded of the precious commodity called time and of my own human inability to recall all of the stories of its passing.

When you browse the parenting and family aisle of the bookstore, you may as well be browsing the archives of MY story. In the 17 years since that first tiny, slimy baby girl made her way into the deepest parts of my heart, my wild story has been woven to create a full treasury of lessons learned and taught.

I've never read a parenting book I fully understood or agreed with - and I've never read one I didn't learn something from. I've never met a mom who didn't teach me something about myself or experienced a day that didn't rock my world about some belief I though was black and white.

I am often asked for parenting or marriage advice. Not because I'm perfect- but, because I've walked a long way. 

I've spoken many times about writing a book or a blog. I say it'll be called "Diapers to Dating" because, that is the story of my day. 
- I change my son's diaper while discussing dating and sex with my daughter
- I debate and discuss sleep training and reasonable curfew times with my husband and then turn around and research "ADHD treatments" and "how to fill out the college FAFSA form if you're divorced" - all in one sitting. 
- I attempt to assemble healthy meals in the face of days that are too short and grocery stores that are too busy
- I try to obey the word of God above the latest and greatest parenting or relationship fad or trend 

and, I do it all knowing that I'll mess a lot of it up- I'll get some of it right - but, through it all I'll love my family fiercely and completely every day. 

I've decided today is the day I start my blog. Not because I hope you read it or because I think I have a great solution to any issue you may have. But, because I've said I want to and, my children are watching. 

This "parenting" blog IS, in it's very existence, a parenting move. My children are watching and what do I want them to see?

I want them to see me EXECUTING my hopes and dreams. 


Because I want to look into all five of those sets of eyes and be able to say:

"YOU, my child, can and should pursue and execute your ideas. Put pen to paper, shoe leather to pavement, wings in the sky...whatever it be in action, to live your life fully and completely- To lay down at the end of your day fully exhausted and completely excited to wake up and do more. Even if you turn around and say blah- I don't actually like's TRIED, do not wait, do not be afraid to grab your ideas and LIVE them."

That's why. 

So, I will blog. I will blog about the small and big things I know, learn, believe and experience. I will blog about being called mom, about marriage, about my body...about the human experience of being a woman in a house, doing my best to love my husband and to raise great humans.

Welcome to my blog!