10

Ten children were born, innocent and free.

Nine children remain, tainted and maimed.

Eight had the same mother, so strong and so fragile.

Seven saw their Father try to kill their brother.

Six were female, fighting to survive.

Five lived at home when he finally went to prison.

Four were white male, but without all the privilege.

Three went to college and made their life better.

Two remain married, weathering the storms.

One child is myself, and this is our story.

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Lilac Bushes

Their scent takes me to a place that few other things can.

They were fairy tales in the reality.

They were fun in the serious.

They were creativity in the boring.

They were peace in the chaos.

They were comfort in the pain.

They were strength in the hardship.

They were security in the fear.

They were quiet in the storm.

They were joy in the sadness.

They were laughter in the tears.

 

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They were my palace as a pauper.

They were my shelter from the storms.

They are the reason I am still alive.

And I will forever be grateful for the time I lived in the lilac bushes.

 

 

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National Single Parent’s Day

13909299_1271478776198375_6579377178280344128_oIt takes a lot to be a parent. It takes more to be a working parent. And it takes everything you have to be a single parent.

And today, I want to celebrate my fellow single parents.

Single parents are strong, resilient, powerful, and lets just be honest here… sometimes a little on the crazy side.

Yes, our lives are difficult, but overcoming challenges has become ingrained as part of who we are.

It doesn’t matter if you chose to be a single parent from the beginning or if life and circumstances brought you to it, I admire you. I admire the sheer courage that you have to have on a daily basis to make it through. I admire you for doing double duty. I admire you for being the sole provider, the sole source of comfort and strength for your children.

Raising a child is probably the most nerve-wracking, terrifying, difficult thing anyone can do. It is exhausting and painful and lonely and hard. And even when you give your all, you are still left with guilt that you should have/ could have done better.

And as you go through the routines, the little moments, the day-to-day aspect of living, you can only hope that what you are doing will transform this challenging, stubborn child into a good human – respectful and kind and confident and loving. And of course, you want them to be happy more than anything.

As a society, we no longer raise children in a village. In fact, it’s rare to even know your own neighbors. Family is spread all over the world and we rely heavily on technology for communication. Our kids are isolated, interacting primarily with the family that lives in the home. And that means being a single parent is far more difficult sometimes. Because you are the sole source of everything for your child. You are the one who gets to create their memories. You are the person that decides whether they will remember their childhood as full of life and adventure or stagnant and missing adult interaction. You get to choose what to teach them, who to let in their life and what kind of influences you allow in your home.  And that, my dear friends, is a great big responsibility!

On top of being the primary source to these energy-suckers, you are also very much alone in your world.

Kid’s have an early bedtime, so socializing after is difficult. Routine is key, so weeknights are dedicated to kids and alone time until you finally fall asleep. If they act up, or (God forbid) you act up, you don’t have anyone there to reassure you that it will be okay. If you are sick, it doesn’t matter. You do the tasks or they don’t get done. You have to stay strong and consistent no matter what you are going through because there is no other person to explain things to them or enforce the rules. You miss out on so much because you are the sole source of income and work takes precedence. And the guilt for missing their lives eats at you every moment of every day. When they ask why their friend’s mom’s get to have lunch with them or come pick them up at school, you have to try to explain, in child’s terms, that you have to work to survive. And they don’t understand. They never fully understand.

All they know is what you do with them, what you do to them, what they see and feel. And that brings the temptation to spoil, to “keep them happy”, to falter on the consequences. It isn’t what they need long term, but your empty heart says that this can help fill their void. So you rationalize and spoil them, only to realize that is what you have been doing a few months later and berating yourself as you try to change things up again. And you try to find the balance and you feel like there is none.

It’s hard. So incredibly hard. But it is also worth it.

When their face lights up as you walk in the door, it’s worth it. That hug and kiss, repeated until you insist they go to sleep at night, it’s worth it. Reading stories together as you run your fingers through their hair and ponder how quickly they are growing, it’s worth it. When they tell you they want to be just like you, it’s worth it. When you see them stand up for themselves the first time, it’s worth it. When they show incredible kindness or empathy for someone in the world around them, it’s worth it.

You may have to do double or triple the work as a single parent, but you also see double or triple rewards. And I promise you, those tiny wonders make it all so worth it.

 

To my child,

You came into this world a squirming, squealing bundle of cuteness.

I pray that you leave the world having been a responsible, kind, loving, fulfilled, very, very old person.

And somewhere in there lies my responsibility.

Parenting you has been the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity of my life.

Being responsible for the person you become is daunting and overwhelming and hard and beautiful and fun and amazing, all wrapped up in one big package.

But I pray that in every moment of every day, you know how much I love you. I hope that you realize that I am more proud of you than of anything else in my life. And I hope you can see that the hard things that I do right now, they are all for you.

I never thought I would be raising you alone. I never considered that you might be one of the statistics that come from a broken home.

I know it hasn’t always been easy for you. I know you miss me when you are at his house and you miss him when you are at my house. I know that two sets of rules, two different expectations, two different lifestyles can be confusing and overwhelming.

I know I get things wrong and I am awkward and I didn’t really grow up in the same world that you face now.

But I want to let you know how much you joy you have brought to my world. I want you to know that you are my reason for breathing everyday. I want you to know that you are the best thing that ever happened to me.

And even when you make poor choices, even when I am upset with you… I still love you more than anything in the world.

And as hard as it is to raise you alone, there are so many things I have learned that I never would have if I hadn’t had to go through the obstacles that brought us here today.

You taught me to live in the moment.

When we moved into the shelter, I thought my world was crumbling around me. You took it in stride, playing and creating friendships and making each moment matter. I learned at that point that no matter what happened, we could always choose where we focus.

You taught me to be resilient.

We had some tough times. You had to be in a children’s emergency shelter while Mommy healed. You had to see things not meant for anyone’s eyes, most especially a small child’s. But you came out stronger, and with a deeper, richer understanding of the world around you.

You taught me to trust myself.

No matter what happened, no matter where we were living, no matter how stressed I was, you trusted me and believed that I could take on the world. Looking into your big, blue eyes helped me realize that I could do it, that I had to do it, for you. And the longer I kept taking care of things, the more capable I became.

You empowered me to do more.

When I was married to your dad, I stayed in the shadows, putting my desires and hopes and dreams on hold so I could be the wife that he wanted and he could shine. But when I broke free of that, I realized that I wanted to teach you to pursue your dreams, I wanted you to be confident that with hard work and skill building, you could accomplish anything you set your mind to. And if I was going to teach you that, I needed to live that myself.

Yes, there are hard moments. Sometimes the lonely is overwhelming. Sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I get hungry and turn into Monster Mom and have to apologize later.

But I am so thankful for the life we share. And as long as I have you, I have everything I need.

 

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California

Dammit, I miss you!

A couple rests on a seaside promenade during a rain shower in Kochi

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“Room”

The doorknob hits my hip as I stand there, still groggy, toothbrush in hand. “Mommy, can you make room for me?”

I scoot over, pulling my robe closer around my body as she walks in and hugs my waist. “Good morning Boogie. Did you sleep okay?”

“Yeah, I slept pretty good.” Her drowsy little voice catches my attention as I realize she is really growing up. I take this morning bathroom routine for granted so often. Her big eyes staring up at me as I dry my hair or put my makeup on. Not just the mornings, but all of it. Her warm, cuddly, over-the-top, excited hugs when I come home from work. Her desire to be right next to me no matter what I am doing.

I remember when Jay was like that. When he wanted to be a part of everything I did and followed me around all day. I don’t remember that last time though. I don’t remember the day that he stopped asking me to make room for him. I don’t remember when the kisses goodbye in the morning stopped and I started getting a quick wave and a signed “I love you”.

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I know all too soon, Jaylah will follow in his footsteps and will be too old to want to do this. Sleeping in will become more important than watching me put myself together in the mornings. The excited hugs will become “Hey Mom” with a quick kiss on the cheek. Technology will take the place of her desire to follow me around.

“Mommy, can you make room for me?”

Oh, my dear children, I will always make room for you.

But how often, in everyday life, do I come through on that promise?

How often do they ask, “Mommy, can we play a game?”

“Mommy, if I tell you this, can you not get upset?”

“Mommy, can you snuggle with me?”

“Mommy, did you hear me?”

How often do I choose dishes, or laundry, or my to-do list when they want to play?

How often do I choose to make room in my heart to hear them out, even if I am upset?

How often do I say “I would love to, baby, but I have to…?” instead of a simple “yes”.

 

How often do I “listen” with distracted ears and eyes, not really paying attention to something they find so important?

Too much. Far too often.

I love to be busy, love to be productive, enjoy feeling like I am making a difference.

And sometimes that means I neglect time for play.

Sometimes my impatience overpowers my compassion.

So often, I want me-time at night and I allow that to determine how long I lay there, or how much talk time they get before bed.

Technology distracts me far more than I care to admit, pushing out room for heartfelt, genuine conversations.

*sigh*

Sometimes I look at all the missed opportunities that I will never get back and my heart breaks.

Times when I could have made him feel important, but I was on the phone.

Times I could have made her feel valued, but I was too busy.

Times I should have answered “Yes, baby, I will make room for you.”

I know that we are all busy. We live in a fast-paced world with to-do lists that are longer than our days, or sometimes even our weeks. Long days can be hard. Messes get repetitive and frustrating. Work and school and volunteering and getting everything done seems so critical. Everything seems urgent.

But one day its over. One day it is the last time they ask for a story before bed. One day is the last time they try to barge in the bathroom so they have a captive audience while I am in the shower. One day, they stop wanting a kiss goodbye or a giant hug hello. One day, games with mom aren’t cool anymore and time spent at friends’ houses looms far more important than time spent at home. One day, they know that sharpie bleeds through paper and they don’t make that mistake again. One day they just grow up.

And you never know what moment will be the last time.

I don’t want the last time they ask me for a story to be a time I turned them down. I don’t want the last Eskimo kiss to be distracted and impersonal. I don’t want them to feel like the things they share with me are less important than my phone or my show on television.

I want these to be moments where I can show a little extra compassion or a little extra love. I want to give them MORE hugs than they request, more listening than they desire.

I want to snuggle them, and hold them, and kiss them more than they could ever want.

I want them to know that they are so important, so valuable, and so loved that there is nothing more urgent,  no busywork more important than what they are going through right now.

I want them to know that I support them. I want them to know I am here for them. Fully alive. Fully present. In this very moment.

My kids are growing up. Jay said the other day that he is “halfway to being an adult.” Jaylah started school this year. It goes by faster than I ever thought possible.

It isn’t long before clubs and sports and friends and homework are the priorities… and I hope in those moments, the moments when I ask “Hey, can we talk for a sec?” that the response is “Yes Mom, I can make room for you.”

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Bookshelf

books

*Found on Facebook. Happy to give credit where due. Just thought it was beautiful.

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Inspiration

*wipes dust off blog*

Ah. I love the sound of the wheels grinding back onto the tracks after being derailed for awhile.

Sometimes we just need a little nudge, a little push or a great big wake-up call.

Sometimes all three come in the way of a coffee invitation and a warm, welcoming smile.

(After all, coffee is the only love I have ever written poetry about.)
Inspiration

You are all of the above. A breath of fresh air. Exactly what I needed.

*wipes dust off brain*

Pain. Laughter. Memories. Regrets. Openness. Authenticity. Reality. Vulnerability.

Life.

Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of all of it.

It’s been a while.

 

Reading the stories of our hearts, between the lines, deeper than comfort allows at times.

Scenes of days long gone dance through my mind, bringing cold coals back to blazing fire.

My dormant senses awake with purpose and passion once more.

Adventures await.

That was always my phrase.

Adventures await the bold, the brave, the beautiful.

And I needed to remember.

Hope.

No matter how tumultuous or tiring your journey, you carry hope with you, freely showering it on anyone who will accept your gracious gift.

Passion.

 

It blazes from you, warming those who dare to walk close enough, lighting up the dark places, and consuming those who are too frail or fragile to withstand.

Energy.

Raw. Pulsating. Vibrant.

I needed that. I needed you. You will never know how much.

Thank you.

I will keep reading.

I will keep writing.

I will keep painting.

I will keep going.

And today, it’s all thanks to you.

 

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