It Was A Matter Of Survival

For a little while now there has been a tugging at the back of my mind. It goes something like this, “I don’t think they understand. It was a choice between surviving and not.” I grew up in what basically amounts to a dysfunctional home. There wasn’t much healthy about. Even before my mother got sick and died there was anger and hate and fear. The only love I felt was from my mom, and she was broken too, but she made sure to hug us and say I love you.

I have siblings, but we aren’t the call each other on the phone everyday and text all night kind of siblings. Life in a house like that does different things to different people. We broke and built ourselves back up in different ways. Our strengths and weaknesses were magnified, it was a pressure pot, and there was no way we were going to leave unscathed. However, you don’t experience life and loss together without knowing when shit hits the fan you will be there for each other, no questions asked.

I remember being 4 and telling my dad that I knew he hated us and then running to hide from him in my mother’s arms. I remember watching Oprah after school with my mom one day and someone on the show said, “Marry someone like your dad.” My mom turned to me and said, “Don’t marry anyone like your dad.” I remember being in 5th grade and realizing that I could leave and not come back. I clung to that the rest of my youth. My remembrances could go on and on. They flicker in and out of my head. I try to turn them off, but randomly they break through.

My mom died when I was a senior in high school. Everyone made sure I went to college. I believe there must have been some group meeting. They didn’t want me to stay near my dad. They didn’t want me to become the mother to my younger siblings. They wanted to me to leave. I was moved into my aunt’s house for the summer. Maybe it started then. Maybe it was a choice and maybe it was just survival. I didn’t go back. My house was only 20 minutes away. My siblings still lived at home. I think about all the should haves, could haves, and it makes me sad. It makes me regret that I didn’t. I was older, I was the one who should have comforted them, held them, stepped in and started saying I love you and hugging them because I bet they never got another hug from a parent after my mom died. I didn’t though. I was selfish.

I went to college. When it was time for summer break my heart was racing because what would I do? I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go back. Not ever. I had already been kicked out at Thanksgiving for daring to tell my dad he was a horrible father. I had avoided as many reasons to go home as possible. Again, I felt like I was abandoning my siblings but years of pain and sadness and even hatred don’t just disappear. The day before I was to leave I was asked to stay on as a summer residence assistant. I volunteered to work every summer and break that was allowed to work after that.

Slowly and over time my hatred began to slip away. It was more just apathy. Time changes us all. Distance helps make it easier. The relationship I had with my husband when we first started dating and even into the first year of marriage wasn’t healthy. There wasn’t much of a chance that it would be. Through all the crazy and loss of a baby at 22 weeks gestation we made it out on the other side stronger. I realized I didn’t have room in my life for anger, it had been weighing me down for too long. Once I started having children we went back to visit more often than before. Once we crossed the bridge into my hometown I would always and still always feel my breath catch. I get knots in my stomach and a tightness in my manner that doesn’t leave until we do. I wonder if my siblings know that I can be silly. I can be goofy. I can be more than uptight. I can laugh.

A couple siblings stayed. A couple moved away. To the ones who stayed I wonder if they see that I had to leave in order to grow up, in order to be functional, in order have a chance at smiling. I suppose it was selfish, and I could have done it in a better way. I could have been a better big sister. I was just a kid too though, one who had been broken before my wings were even given a chance to grow.

Recently, my dad got sick. Quite sick and we all thought he would die. I went home. My feelings on this were all over the place. I understand that my father’s life wasn’t great growing up either. Adulthood wasn’t how he had planned, and we are all broken in different ways. So on one hand I feel sorry for him. On the other, we all have a chance to make a change. It can be hard, but even the slightest effort and improvement goes a long way. The concern was with him because no one should have to live in a shell of a body. The concern was mostly directed towards the siblings who stayed. The ones who would continue to stay. The ones who felt it differently. He got better. I left.

I admit that I am selfish. I also admit it probably won’t change. The scars of childhood run deep. I don’t text to check in with him. I don’t call on the phone. I don’t ask for updates. I can justify it by saying my whole life he never called me to check on me. All through college I heard from him maybe 3 times. When I got engaged I called to tell him and he asked,” Do I know him?” The list could go on. The fact that I knew at the age of 10 I needed to leave just amplifies how deep that truth runs in me. My anger has subsided, my outbursts minimized, and my self destructive thoughts lessened (with the help of medicine they are gone). My self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence will never be optimal, but I can finally walk in a room and not look at the floor, I can (usually) talk to others and not feel as though they are all better than me, and I don’t use a loud insecure voice to cover up my weaknesses. I am not strong enough to go back for long. I am not brave enough to tempt fate by stepping into the role of dutiful daughter. I worry that the apathy I have cultivated over the years will slip back into anger. There are too many people who depend on me now for me to go backwards. I have to keep looking forward. I’m sorry, but it’s a matter of survival. IMG_9804

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Childhood Lives Here

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Life Gone Crazy

childhood lives here.

runny noses
sticky fingers
wet kisses
childhood lives here

I’m bigger than you
better than you
faster than you
childhood lives here

holding hands
wiping tears
fixing fears
childhood lives here

sleepless nights
early mornings
coffee by the pot
childhood lives here

legos
barbies
matchbox cars
childhood lives here

santa claus
easter bunny
tooth fairy
childhood lives here

did you know
why is it so
are we there yet
childhood lives here

moving too fast
moving too slow
never just right
childhood lives here

I’ll love you
I’ll hold you
I’ll let you go
childhood lives here

Saturday Selfie

 

I woke up at 6:30am. The alarm didn’t go off, it wasn’t set, it was a Saturday. I didn’t get to hit snooze or roll back over and pull up the covers, I had to get up. I had to make sure the puppy got out before he peed all over the floor. I had to feed the youngest kids who are now on this school time schedule of waking at 6:30am. I had to make sure that by 7am everyone else was awake because we started travel soccer today, and we had to travel for an early morning game. Once the kids were all fed I walked the puppy. He was going to be in his crate, so I needed to make sure we got some of his crazy intense puppy energy out. I am not really sure the walk helped, but at least I felt better. Then it was time for yelling. You know basic mom stuff— Brush your teeth!!!! Find your shoes!! Where is your water bottle? I don’t care what you want you have to come to the game! Get in the car now!!! Where are your shoes? Why didn’t you look for them earlier when I first mentioned it?!

We managed to get loaded into the car. We got to the game. It was cold, windy, overcast, and not very exciting honestly. It wasn’t our only game and it isn’t our only kid in travel soccer, so we drove to another game for much of the same. I don’t hate it. I enjoy it. I like watching them play. I get antsy about how they will do, I get upset when they aren’t playing well, I get nervous when they are losing, and I love cheering them on and supporting their passion. I am your basic soccer mom. I should probably get a sweatshirt or something that says-Soccer Mom.

By the time we get home the youngest is asleep in the car, everyone else is itching for electronics, and I figure 2pm is decent beer drinking time. It dawns on me that I haven’t really showered in a couple days, so I decide this is a good time to wash my hair. Once out of the shower I just put on some comfy clothes and throw the hair in a messy bun thing. We aren’t going anywhere. I don’t need to be fancy. A little bit later my husband walks into our living room and says,”Boys come here! I need you to look at your mother.” I am just sitting on the couch. I have no makeup on, no bra on, my messy bun is full of wet hair, and I just have on a baggy t-shirt. He continues with, “ You know how you are handsome? Well, thank your mother for that because you get all of your good looks from her.” The kids just look at me and walk away. They are not even remotely interested.

I can’t help but be wide variety of embarrassed, joyful, and skeptical. I promise you I have not been taking care of myself like I used to in the exercise and diet arena. I don’t have on my eyeliner or concealer. My hair is wet and piled on top of my head. What was it in that moment that caught my husband’s eye? What was I doing, besides sitting on the couch, that made him share these feelings to our kids?

We have been a couple for 15 years. We have been pregnant 6 times and have 5 kids. We have gone through highs and lows. We have had moments of intense passion and desire and moments where it was icy and I wasn’t sure anything would melt that ice. We’ve been poor, like raising a large family on a graduate assistant’s salary poor, and not so poor. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, smiled, and experienced life and death together. Basically, we have lived life together. We took those vows and made them our reality. Who knew part of that reality would involve my husband looking at me on the couch, no filter, no make-up, and think of me as gorgeous? I don’t see myself that way. I see the flaws, the wrinkles, the lines, the fat, the plain, and the list goes on, but he sees all of me, he sees my beauty, he sees my soul, and he loves me. I love him for it.

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Drowning in the Middle

I am tired. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever just get, tired? I have had these ideas these thoughts about what I could write about, what I should write about.There have been things I have written about, at home, in a notebook, but then I have stopped, I haven’t shared. Life got in the way. It does that. Sometimes you get busy.You don’t have time to hit publish because before you do, something else happens. Some of it is super fun like a vacation where after months and months of not having your husband home that often you get to go to the beach and just chill. The kids were so good that they even received a $1 a piece from an elderly couple at a restaurant who delighted in watching the kids enjoy the food and each other. I promise this is not normal. Normally I think that people just stand up and cheer when we leave.

Then we got a puppy. An adventure. My husband and I had a puppy when we were engaged. Before kids. Now we have a puppy with 5 kids. This is insane. I have to feed everyone. Exercise everyone. Pay attention to everyone. Schedule my day around everyone. Try to save my furniture from being destroyed by everyone. Stop everyone from tackling everyone. By everyone I mean 5 kids and a puppy. It is tiring.

My dad got sick. It was unexpected. I am not close to my dad. I never was. How should I feel? What is expected of me? What should I do? He stayed when he could have left, is that enough? Does it matter now? Does this erase it all? He is my dad no matter what. My mom died when I was a teenager. He is the only parent I have left. I have headaches everyday now.

My kids are into sports. I totally support sports in their life. I love that they can get out their energy. They can learn to work with different types of people. They aren’t just staring at a screen. I don’t have to be the one coming up with ways to entertain them. Sports teach all sorts of lessons. I forgot I have to drive them everywhere. All of them. I have to drive here and there and everywhere. I forgot that even though they wanted to do the sport that doesn’t mean they are super excited to go to practices every single time. There are tears, whining, arguing, and fighting. It is exhausting.

Tonight, at midnight, I took my puppy outside to use the bathroom. He peed rather quickly, but I knew he needed to go number 2, so in the darkness and silence the pup and I paced the backyard. It took awhile, especially for being midnight, but in the end he did his deed and ran over to me. I leaned over and ruffled his ears, put my nose to his, and knew that this wild puppy would one day be my comfort when I am sick, sad, lonely, or just want someone to watch tv with me on the couch without saying anything. His crazy now will pay off in loyalty later.

Going on vacation with my family was great. It was really amazing to see the almost constant smile on the face of my oldest. Sure there were moments, but this kid who is not known for his smiles, was definitely in his happy place. I loved it.

I drove home to see my dad. I went alone because I wasn’t sure what I would see. I saw my sisters and brother worried, all of us with our own stories, and all of us represented in some way. I texted my childhood best friend. We don’t talk all the time. We ended up at different colleges and we live in different states, but I knew she would be there. She was. She drove a few hours to sit with me. We caught up. She brought snacks. The fact my childhood best friend is still willing to drop stuff to be there is an amazing blessing, and I don’t take it for granted.

4 of the kids had sports stuff today. Back to back. Getting them all out the door, finding all the equipment, and trying to do it on time was a mess. Afterwards though they didn’t stop talking about what they did, what they tried, and what they accomplished. My daughter was all tears at her first t-ball game. She didn’t even play. Today, after she hit the ball and ran the bases, she ran over to me with a huge smile and gave me the biggest hug.

I am so tired. I hope this headache goes away. I am living this middle part. This hard part. The part that is so full of life that there is no way it can always be smooth sailing. I can either live the middle and resent it, hate it, and wish it away, or I can accept that there will be days, weeks, and months where I am just barely holding on, but that doesn’t mean beautiful things can’t happen in the chaos. Walking on the beach during our family vacation I saw many shells, and some were perfect without blemish, others you could tell had been tossed about, they had weathered the storm, and those were the ones that caught my eye. Here they were in front of me so much more beautiful because they made it to the shore after being discarded.

I am weary, but that doesn’t mean I will let the weariness consume me. I am pulled in many directions and feel the need to be in so many different places at the same time, but I will not let it weigh me down. I will reach out my hand and ask for help and be so grateful when it comes in the form of family and friends. I will live this middle, I will weather these storms, and will find beauty in chaos. Life will not leave me unblemished, but oh, the stories.

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How To Grow Up

Momma, how did you do it? How did you grow up?

Darling, I fumbled, I fell, I tripped, I stumbled, I took wrong turns, and my mistakes numbered more than a few.

I prayed. I cried. I yelled. No one knew. No one understood. Growing up is hard. It is a solitary business that one must do alone.

But even at its worst, even at the lowest points I want you to know I am there. I can’t do it for you. I can’t rush to the rescue. I won’t be your knight in shining armor because you have to learn to save yourself, but I will be steadfastly by your side when you need a break, a hug, an ear, and place that feels like home. Don’t get too comfortable though. I can’t be your everything or else you will turn into nothing. I can be your safe space. You must be your own saving grace.

Growing up is something you must do alone. I cannot be there for the whole ride, you must seek out who you were meant to be, but know I love all that you are.

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To My Husband- Thank You

When you get married you never know what it is really going to be like. You dream of happily ever after but you don’t give much thought to what it takes to achieve happily ever after. You don’t factor in what effect kids and work and moving will have on your relationship. When things get tough, when days are hard, nights are short, and life isn’t everything you thought, what then? How does your marriage hold up to those stressors? Does the person you chose to spend forever with take the time and energy to make your marriage work? Do they make you and it a priority?

I didn’t have a good model of what marriage should be. I didn’t have the best example of what a husband and dad should be. Things could have turned out pretty awful in that department, but instead, I have a partner in life who will allow me to show our children what marriage looks like when both people are equally invested, and they have an amazing father who never leaves them wondering if they are loved.

He travels for work, but I don’t feel the weight of doing it alone like I could if he didn’t make family a priority. If I need to vent or send lengthy texts about life he doesn’t tell me he is too busy and he doesn’t pass it off as not important. He responds, he listens, and he validates that sometimes parenting is tough and hard and sometimes the kids are just little assholes. If the kids need help with math and he is out of town he finds the time to text or FaceTime with them so they can understand their homework. He has been in the middle of work dinners and stepped out into the lobby to help a crying child with their math. This also helps the crying mother who was never good with math. Maybe I married a Math Ph.D just for these moments.

When he is home he is all in. 3 soccer games in one day—awesome let’s do it. Take all 5 kids to the movies—no problem. Reading books in crazy voices, playing outside with the kids, and throwing the ball to the dog is just a regular weekend here. He teaches the kids to value Momma too. Stepping in to remind the kids not to be disrespectful and to help out around the house without whining. He is constantly lifting me up in front of them. Telling them how hard I work, what an amazing job I do, and how I have so many special gifts that make me the best mother for them. As a stay at home mom it could be easy for him to take it for granted and not say anything about the job I have staying at home, but he sees it for what it is and makes sure the kids see it too.

He took a week off of work and did it to be mom for a week. He made breakfast for the kids everyday, he made lunches for the kids, handled drop off and pick up from school, he did dishes and dinner, and dealt with homework. He set up a facial for me so I could just relax for an afternoon. When I would try to help out he told me to just rest or read a book. He knows I don’t always make time like that for myself so he encouraged me to make that time just for me.

So for his birthday I just wanted to tell him thank you. Thank you for showing me to trust and love unconditionally. Thank you for loving me that way in return. Thank you for being the best father I could ever imagine. Thank you for working so hard to provide for our family. Thank you for always being our biggest cheerleader, and I hope you know that we are yours. Thank you for being the one that adds laughter and ridiculousness to our world. Thank you for being the steady, the constant, and calming force in our family. Thank you for sticking with it in good times and bad. IMG_4408

The Gall of That Kid

So I am outside shoveling the 7 inches of snow that accumulated overnight, and of course, I didn’t bring my headphones, so I can hear the tap tap tap from the window. I look up and the face of my lovely 7 yo is staring at me. I smile and continue to move large mounds of snow. It also happens that this must have been a really heavy snow because there are branches down everywhere, and the tree next to my car has branches frozen and weighed down to the top of my car. This means I am also hitting trees with brooms and cutting away branches. Still, I hear this tap tap tap. Looking up I see my lovely 7 yo is staring at me. So this time I up it to a smile and a wave. I quickly get back to my work because there is a driveway full of heavy white powder before me and a car hiding underneath a small mountain of snow. It is cold. I have on a hat plus fuzzy earmuffs. I am out here alone while my kids enjoy the warmth of the house and the entertainment of the television. Still there is a tap tap tap. I decide the time has come to ignore this 7 yo. It seems he does not like this approach so he ventures out to the front porch. I look up and wait for him to tell me some deep revelation he had about religion or science or anything really. After all he has been tapping at the window for 20 minutes. No. He says, “ Have you found the charger for my Kindle yet?”

My mouth must have dropped to the floor because I had to pick it up off the ground to respond, “Does it really look like I give a flying flip about your charger? It is the last thing I care about.” He must have sensed he crossed the line into dangerous territory because he quietly backed his way into the house to tap tap tap no more.

The sheer obliviousness amazed me. The audacity to wander outside while I was battling nature simply to ask for a charger astounded me. Yet here we were. He is lucky I didn’t bury him in the snow right then. I am already plotting ahead to the next snow. I will have him shovel the drive while I tap tap tap the window and ask him if he has gotten around to making my vodka soda.

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