Posted in family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Messy

messy

On the peninsula where I live, September and October are the most beautiful months of the year. We get these gorgeous, sunny days and the evenings and mornings are crisp and cool. It’s not like autumn anywhere else that I’ve lived, but it’s lovely nonetheless. I might be imagining it, but it feels like there is a quality to the light, too…it feels more fall-like, and I just love this time of year. My body seems to sense the difference, and I become more relaxed and languid. I want to be with my family even more than usual.

It’s a good thing, too. My daughter (who will be 21 in just a couple of weeks!) and her boyfriend had to move back in unexpectedly, just temporarily (we still haven’t pinned down exactly what “temporarily” means to them, but trust me, that conversation is coming), so I have a full house right now. They brought with them their cat and dog, and the cat is currently running around behind my chair, trying to play with/provoke her own murder with my cats. My cats are mostly just ignoring her.

So, my younger daughter is sleeping with me (nothing new about that), and my older daughter is in her sister’s room, and I…well, I’m happy. I’m sorry, I know I’m just one of those moms who sleep better at night when I know where my kids are. And the thing is, I ADORE my daughters. I sit here in the morning, and I think about how crazy it is, how lucky I have been, to have gotten the kids that I have. That I grew them in my own body, that they exist at all. It blows my mind. Of all of the ways I ever imagined my life turning out, there’s no way I could have expected this feeling of love. It is truly everything.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s not always sunshine and butterflies. The older one has mood swings that are unpredictable and incredibly swift, and the little one cries about thirty times a day for almost any reason you can imagine. They are people, not just little extensions of me. Which means they have minds of their own, and reactions I don’t expect, and feelings about things that are different than my own. But this is also what makes them so wonderful. I love their differences. I love them exactly as they are. I enjoy their company. Which makes me very, very lucky and blessed. And super grateful.

I have not always been a “good mother”, whatever that might mean to you. By anyone’s definition, I would have pretty much sucked. But more and more lately, I feel like I am doing it right. At least when it comes to them, at least in that part of my life, I feel capable and competent. And that makes me feel really good. Because when it comes right down to it, what else could matter more in my life? The way I loved my children has got to be right up at the top of the list.

My life is messy. I can’t ever seem to get a handle on my home, I can’t stick to a routine to save my life. I struggle to like myself, I’m harder on me than anyone else has ever been. It’s a challenge for me to just lighten up a little bit. But you know what? That is just LIFE. This is just who I am, and I’m working on accepting myself, warts and all. (for the record, I don’t actually have any warts. That I’m aware of.)

And there are some things I’ve gotten right- these beautiful, funny, smart, big-hearted young ladies that I get to call my own? I hit it out of the park in the kid department. They are part of the mess, I suppose. Which makes the mess a lot easier to love.

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Posted in anxiety, family, kids, Life, living, love, mindfulness, motherhood, parenting, People

This Beautiful Moment

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Yesterday, against my better judgement, I went to see Christopher Robin, the new Winnie the Pooh movie that is out right now. I had scheduled a play-date for Camryn and her little friend Robine from school- she’s this adorable little girl who is here for three years with her family from the Netherlands, and she is literally my favorite of all the kids in Cam’s class, aside from Cam herself, of course. Anyway, I had wanted to see The Incredibles 2, but as usual, I missed the boat on that one. So the only thing playing was Christopher Robin, and that was that.

I have never been a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know why, I was just never into it. And honestly, the movie wasn’t all that great, but…that didn’t stop me from bawling my eyes out through half of it. Why? You want to know why? Okay, I’ll tell you: Because it reminded me of a few things- one of which is the terrible way we lose our true selves as adults, and become these tense, unimaginative people most of the time. We get our priorities so wrong, we place work and money above our families and the things we truly love. I think about this all the time, but I still catch myself doing it, no matter how bizarre and backwards it seems.

Another reason it made me so wistful was the way it portrayed the sad loss of childhood, the way we leave behind the playful, joyful little people we were. Especially right now, especially for me…dealing with all of this anxiety lately, just trying to hold it all together. It doesn’t allow me a lot of room for full-throttle happiness. I mostly feel like I am peering inside myself with a spotlight and a magnifying glass. Which is utter bullshit, because the world is far too big for me to spend all of my time gazing at myself. I need to stop it.

Which brings me to my third reason for crying- my daughter is having her childhood right this very moment. This is such an odd time for being a child, isn’t it? So different than the way it was when I was little. I played outside, unsupervised, for hours and hours at her age. I explored the woods next door to my grandparents house with a friend my age- we found a creek to jump in and a low-voltage fence to take turns touching, we explored abandoned buildings and did all sorts of stuff that was unwise and dangerous. But I never got seriously lost or gravely injured, and I grew up to be independent and mostly unafraid of the world.

With my anxiety being primarily about the safety of my children, you can imagine what the thought of that kind of free time for my seven year old does to my stomach. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my experiences as a kid for anything. What a quandary. If it is my responsibility to provide her with the most enriching and full childhood that I can, but I am scared to let her loose, what do I do? I guess I find a happy medium. Let go a little, but keep her in sight? Spend more time doing things I don’t really want to do because I’m lazy, knowing they will be the best memories for her? Yeah, I think that’s really all there is to do. Because lets be real- I’m not releasing her into the woods to explore abandoned buildings. I don’t know what the hell my family was thinking. LOL.

More succinctly, I was crying because it hit me that my littlest daughter isn’t going to be a child forever- not even for very much longer, really, and we forget, don’t we? We just live through the days as if they will stretch on forever, forgetting how fast it all goes by. The thing is, childhood is so short, but it is so beautiful and so important. I guess I just want to remember, so that I can make hers the very best I can manage. That’s what I am thinking about today.

Also, spoiler alert: Christopher Robin is a total dick to Pooh, and that also made me cry. The kids didn’t cry, but I was a mess. How embarrassing.

Posted in family, Goals, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Close, but no cigar.

Before I even get started, I have to tell you this: As soon as I wrote down the title to this post, I had to go and look up where the hell this expression even came from. Apparently, from what 30 seconds of googling could tell me, it originated during the 20th century at carnivals when they would hand out a cigar as a prize when/if you could win one of the carnival games. So there you have it.

Anyway, what I am referring to here is my attempt to make it a full 24 hours without raising my voice. I did pretty well, honestly, right up until I was getting ready for bed. Cam was out in the living room with her dad, doing homework, and I was trying to figure out why all my sheets and blankets were all over the floor…and in the hallway. This isn’t what irritated me, though. I like to make sure my bed is made properly before I get in it anyway, so I would have been fixing it no matter what. What made me forget my goal was the pile of milk-soaked cereal, not in a bowl as one would expect, but sitting ON the surface of my antique wood dresser. Just sitting there, soaking in. Ewwww…not cool at all.

So I may have raised my voice, just a bit (although, in fairness, she WAS in the other room, so I needed to be heard) to demand what the hell was happening on my dresser. A silly question, as I obviously knew what it was, but…maybe just a little clarification as to whether or not she knew it was there, and why, if so, did she simply leave it there? Her father, who reads my blog, reminded me of my goal to not yell- which I both appreciated and found very annoying, in equal measure- and I simmered down. But still! What the hell?

So, I kinda fell short. It was a brief episode, and it didn’t leave me feeling guilty and terrible, but I still fell short. I will continue today to try for 24 hours without raising my voice- same rules as before.

In other news, I know, and have known for a while now, that it is high time to get my kid into her own room. She thinks my room IS her room, and her room is just where she stores her belongings. I know lots of people have lots of opinions about this, and I am going to be very upfront here and say I HAVE HEARD ALL OF IT ALREADY. I always have allowed my kids in my room…my older daughter didn’t start sleeping in her room until she was probably 8, and honestly, I have no regrets about allowing her to sleep with me for so long. They grow up so fast, and one day they want nothing more than to hole up in their own room and have no interest in snuggling with you at all. So I created this situation, 100%.

And now I am ready to start transitioning her into her own room, and her own bed. Sleeping with Cam is like sleeping next to a very active windmill. She’s a bed hog, she’s a blanket thief, and she takes up an incredible amount of room for a child. When she spends the night away, I find that I sleep quite well and that my blankets are incredibly neat in the morning. I feel guilty for even saying this, but it’s true. So, putting her into her own bed, in her own room, will solve a couple of problems- it will alleviate the things like wet cereal on my dresser, and it will also give me a good nights sleep, without being punched in the face by anyone other than myself (I actually did this recently and gave myself a bloody nose. True story).

So, goals for today: No yelling. Get Camryn to at least lay down in her room, if not spend the entire night- I’m not stupid. I know it might not happen on the first night. Let’s see how this goes~!

Posted in family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People

Horror Story

If you were to ask me what role in life I most closely identified with, out of all of the roles I play, day in and day out, I would always say being a mother. I am not pretending that I am the best mom, or the most patient mom, or that I even do the very best I can all the time at it- hell, sometimes I’m just phoning it in, trying to make it to bed time. But I will tell you this- my love for my children is fierce. I have gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to rescue my eldest, I have witnessed her drunk and ridiculous and held my tongue until a more appropriate time, I have failed utterly as a mother in my addiction, but I always, always kept us together. With my youngest, I have sat up all night beside the bed, listening to her asthmatic breathing, waking her when it was time for another treatment. I have raised hell and hurt feelings in order to keep her safe. I would go to any lengths to keep my children out of harms way. Any lengths.

Without question, I would give my life for either of them. When I do not hear from my 20 year old for too many days, or when my youngest is not where she is supposed to be…the panic that comes over me is unbearable. And for me, those times are usually very brief, resolved within minutes or hours (with the older one, it can be hours or a day) and then I get to go back to normal, worrying about average things.

And then we have these families, fleeing the horrors of their homes south of the border, and these mothers and fathers being separated from their children indefinitely. The parents go to jail, and the children, some of them babies, go to…wherever they go. Detention centers. Military bases. Foster homes.

I don’t understand politics, and I hate writing about political things because of my ignorance. I do understand the difference between right and wrong, cruelty and kindness. I am 100% sure that there is a better solution available than this nightmare going on right now, like…I’m just spit-balling here, but how about keep the families together? For the children’s sake, maybe. I don’t know any of these unfortunate people myself, but I’m willing to bet, if given a choice, they would choose to be incarcerated together rather than ripped apart and scattered. I think this is just cruelty, plain and simple.

I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum- right, left, somewhere in the middle. Imagine for a second that you are desperate to make a better life for yourself- so desperate that you are willing to flee the only home you have ever known, to a place where you know you probably won’t be welcomed with open arms, a place where you might not even speak the same language. Imagine, then, that you are even willing to break the law for the chance to leave a place that has become too dangerous to survive. And then imagine that you arrive there, only to have your children torn away from you, to God only knows where, while you are locked up, unable to speak with them, unable to even know where they are. I want you to REALLY imagine that for a second- locked up, in a cell, in a strange country, with NO IDEA what has happened to your children. Now imagine your child, locked up in a cell (for all intents and purposes) crying until they are sick from terror and panic. YOUR CHILD, not some strange child you do not know. YOUR CHILD. How does that feel? Because it makes me lose my mind. It’s so goddamned horrific I can’t even stay with it for too long.

But it’s happening, right here, in OUR country, right now. On a grand scale. Right this minute, while you are reading this, it is happening. I don’t want to hear about “The law” because you and I both know this is unnecessarily cruel. This is cruel on purpose. This is about sending a message, and it’s wrong.

I want to hear about what we can do to make it stop. What we can do to help. I don’t want to make a sign and protest, I want to know how people can come together on a massive scale and say enough is enough. Because this is just too far, for me. This is not the way we treat innocent children. I am so disgusted by this country right now.

Posted in faith, family, friendship, Goals, inner peace, kids, Life, mindfulness, Musings, parenting, People, relationships

Remember Me

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The harbor, last night.

Two thoughts have made their way into my head lately, and they are having a kind of profound effect on me. I don’t even remember where they came from, whether I read them somewhere or they just occurred to me on their own, but I can’t seem to shake them. The first one, I’m pretty sure I read it in a blog somewhere, and essentially it is “How will people feel about you long after you are gone?” Like, what is your emotional legacy, the emotional “fingerprint” you leave on the people you love and care for? The second one, which goes hand in hand with that is really random, but…it popped into my head yesterday, and I keep going back to it, and here it is- no one really knows whether they have more of their life ahead of them than behind. Well, I guess some people do- for instance, if you are 93, you can can be pretty sure you have more of your life behind you than ahead. But for average, healthy people, the point is, you don’t really ever truly know when it’s your time, or how much more time you have.

I am not particularly afraid of dying, and that’s not really what this is about, but for me, dying is not something I get too worked up about. I am not religious, but I have a lot of faith, and some pretty comforting beliefs. What I do worry about is dying before I am ready, before my children are grown enough, and before I’ve had time to become the person I want to be remembered as. And that’s where things get troubling for me, that last part- being the person I want to be remembered as- because…well, what in the world is stopping me from being that right now? If I really don’t know (and hardly anybody does) when this whole life of mine is going to end, then why am I not just being the person I want to be right now? Because it doesn’t cost money, and there doesn’t need to be a different set of circumstances for that to happen. It’s not about any of that at all.

What it is about, and what I’m learning that everything is really about, is my own behavior, my own attitude, and my own willingness to engage in my own life and the life of the people I care about, on a deeper level. How hard is it, really, to respond more lovingly? To have a bit more patience, to answer with a nicer tone, to treat someone a little more kindly? Well, when your deeply ingrained habit is to be terse, irritated, impatient and sarcastic, it can be pretty challenging, I can vouch for that. But challenging is not the same as impossible. Do I want my children, friends, and family to look back on all their memories of me and laugh about how difficult I was? Well, I mean, that ship has kind of sailed if I die tomorrow, but…it’s not too late to temper that with better things. It’s never too late to get better. I should know! I’ve been slowly improving all the time in these past few years.

But there is always more that you can do. If you are lucky enough to live to be 100, there will always be another thing to work on, another thing you can improve. It never ends. I have been actively trying to spend more time with the people who matter to me, in ways that THEY enjoy, and as a bonus, I try not to whine about it the entire time. What I am finding out is that I can enjoy myself quite a bit when I stop listing all the reasons why everything is stupid and sucks, even if I’m only doing it internally- so if you do that, just stop it. Just relax, just go with the flow, just see what happens. Because guess what? No one ever died from doing something they find mildly unpleasant, and when you keep an open mind, you might even (gasp!) start enjoying yourself.

Recently, I cleaned off the catch-all surface of my kitchen table, and started insisting that Cam and I sit down at it at least a few nights a week to eat a meal together. At first, she was confused and upset by this-“But WHY?! And why does the TV have to be off, I’ll be BORED!”- but now that we have done it a few times, I think she kind of likes it. It’s just the two of us, sitting face to face, eating dinner and having no choice but to talk to each other about…whatever. Sadly, at first, it was a little awkward- I mean, the first five minutes, but still, it seemed longer to me. All I could think to ask was “So, how was school today?” A question that all kids in every part of the world just relish being asked, you know. But really quickly, we forgot that this was different for us, and we just started being our normal selves, and now we both really enjoy it. It was important to me to do this thing with her, this normal, family thing, and now we are doing it, and it is nice. Little changes, big rewards. This is something that she will remember.

Every morning, before she wakes up, and every day before I pick her up from school, I have a little talk with myself. I remind myself to be patient, kind, and loving, and to treat her in a way that will make her feel happy and loved. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but for me, someone who’s natural state is a little more snappy and self-absorbed, this is important, and it helps. Last night, I was craving a dark chocolate pecan turtle, and I asked her if she wanted to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and visit the candy store and maybe take a walk around after dinner. Of course, she was into it, so after we sat together and had dinner, we did just that. It was a chilly, overcast day, but we got our candy, and we wandered around in the shops, and then we took a little walk down the bike path and watched the otters play and the seals zip around in the harbor. We took lots of rests, because she is not much of a walker, but it was okay, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. And on the long walk back to the car, she held my hand and gave me a million hugs, and told me what a fun time she was having. It wasn’t a big night I had planned- it was just a dumb thing I thought of last minute, a tiny outing. But it was a happy moment, and we were happy in it together. These are the things I want more of in my life. This is the way I want to be remembered.

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Camryn, lost in thought
Posted in Addiction, family, kids, Learning, Life, love, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

The Best Thing I Ever Did

everything

I have been a mother now for almost half of my life. I have forgotten so many things- my daughter will say “Do you remember that time…” Or “Remember when we…” and I feel terrible about it, but nine times out of ten, I have no idea what she is talking about. Sometimes I secretly think she is just making stuff up to torture me. But for all the things I have forgotten, I will never, ever forget the day that I became a mother. I remember being in labor all night, by myself, timing my contractions, and sleeping between them, and writing them down on a little paper bag that had held a greeting card (I still have that bag, taped inside my daughters baby book). I remember the ride to the hospital, and the giant men’s flannel shirt that I had taken to wearing because it was pretty much all that would fit me at that point.

But more than anything, I remember the moment that my daughter arrived in this world. I remember the doctor holding her up, and the way that time stood still as my eyes beheld her for the first time, the way that something inside of me shifted, and the way my heart changed, in an instant, to something so much bigger than I had ever known it was possible to be. For the first time in my life, I loved someone else more than I loved myself. It pains me to admit how selfish I was until that moment, which is not to say that I immediately was redeemed as a human being, but from then on, I learned a lot about guilt, lets put it that way. But that moment, the moment I met her, was so pure. I remember thinking “Please don’t ever let me forget this.” And I never have.

It’s impossible for me to remember that day without thinking about all the ways it went wrong after that. I wanted so badly to do it right, to be the best mom, but I didn’t stand a chance. My addiction and my immaturity saw to that. I know there were happy times, but it’s so much easier for me to remember everything I didn’t do, and all the things I did wrong. It honestly breaks my heart. Knowing the kind of life my daughter deserved to have, and understanding what I took from her. Knowing that is one thing I can never, ever fix. You can’t give someone back the time you stole. And I know that for her, that’s just what she had, so she doesn’t look at it the way I do- she doesn’t know any different. But for me…how can I not see all that could have been, how can I ever possibly be at peace with these things? How can I ever truly forgive myself?

I still don’t have an answer for those questions. But I can tell you this: From the moment she came into my life, I never stopped wanting and trying to be better. I failed, over and over and over again, but goddammit, I wanted it so bad. And it wasn’t for me, which might have been my first mistake- no, at a certain point, I really began to despise myself for my weakness- it was always, forever, and only for her. And because I kept trying, I managed, somehow, to keep us together (although I’ve often wondered if she would have been better off with someone else), and I managed, somehow, to keep our heads above water, just barely. Sometimes things were really, really bad. I have memories that I would love to banish from my head, and yet I cling to them like a penance. How dare I try to forget?

But sometimes things were good and sweet- her tiny feet in footy pajamas. The way we would sleep curled together, two peas in a pod. Riding in the car together on a beautiful summer day, all the windows rolled down, singing along to “Cowboy Take Me Away”. The fierce love she inspired in me, the deep connection I had never felt before for another human being. She was, and is, my world. I just didn’t know how to do it right. I just couldn’t get there in time. She was all grown up by the time I finally figured out how to do this job. Talk about heartache…you have no idea.

Now she is almost 21, and she has a little sister who reaps all of the rewards of my experience. I do homework and read stories, and worry about shit like too much screen time, and processed food, and nitrates in hot dogs. I pack her lunches, and make sure her hair is brushed, and I would never send her to school with a backpack that reeks of cigarette smoke. I try hard not to say things I will regret later, and I try even harder to say things that let her know she is loved. But most of all, my youngest daughter has had the luxury of a safe life. Things are never up in the air, and we always have a home of our own, and everything is consistent and routine. She will never know what it is like to have the ground beneath her feet shifting constantly. I am so glad that this is true. But I wish I could have given this to both of my children, not just one of them.

The wonder of it all is that, despite everything, my daughter- the 20 year old- loves me more than you can even imagine. You know what she tells me? That I am the only one who was ALWAYS there for her, that she looks back at her life, and the only one that she sees in every memory is ME. She remembers the closeness. She remembers the good things. She is the one who reminds me that is wasn’t all bad, that there were plenty of happy times- Like sliding down the snowy Reno streets in our fake Ugg boots, and laughing so hard our sides ached. And sitting in our car, sharing terrible lemon chicken and chow mein on payday, even though we couldn’t afford it. To her, I am just her mom, and she just loves me.

So today, even though she will probably never even see this, I dedicate this post to my daughter, Aisley. The best thing I ever did, and the person who made me a mother. I love you so much, and I’m grateful every single day that God saw fit to give me you.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, parenting, recovery

The Best Things…

I Love You quotes for Daughter Mother daughter quotes at www.bmabh.com

It is Tuesday morning, and my house looks like a cyclone hit it. To my left, the couch is covered in jackets, napkins, pillows, a purse, and a discarded bra. Under my chair is an empty sparkling water can that I keep forgetting to pick up, and next to that is my seven year old’s backpack.

There are no dishes in the sink because we haven’t eaten a meal at home in DAYS. There is, however, a garbage can full of empty take out containers, and one half eaten box of carne asada fries on the microwave stand. The bathroom floor is covered in clothes abandoned pre-shower, and left there until someone (me) picks them up. The counters are littered with expensive make-up and hair products. The front porch? Oh lord, I was out there this morning, and there are puddles of spilled coffee all over the place, a dead giveaway that my older daughter is home. She loves coffee, but doesn’t metabolize caffeine very well in her tiny little body.

And in each of the beds in both of the bedrooms, my daughters lay sleeping. My mom always says she sleeps so much better when her kids are home, and I get it, I really do. The past three nights since my oldest has been home, I’ve slept with my bedroom door open, and slept more soundly than I have in weeks. Just knowing she is right there, in the next room, and my littlest one is sleeping beside me…it’s like heaven.

You have to understand, my daughters and I…we are the closest of the close. Aisley, my oldest, we have been through hell together- most of it my doing, of course, but she…I’ve always said, she’s the reason I am still on this earth. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if she hadn’t come along. We are more than just mother and daughter, we are each other’s core family, the nucleus, the main event. We grew up together. Which means things can get weird, and roles can be confusing- sometimes I try to be the mom, and she doesn’t want it. Sometimes I’m more like a sister, and she needs a mom. We have struggled with boundaries, and with communication, and with our expectations of each other. We’ve healed a lot since I have gotten and stayed clean. I think she finally trusts that I am serious now, that I’m not going to fuck this up. She doesn’t look at me with that suspicion on her face anymore, and I never want her to worry about that again. I don’t really ever entertain the idea of getting high anymore, but the odd time that it idly crosses my mind, I imagine what it would do to my children, and I know it’s not worth it. Not even close, not ever.

It was always Aisley and I, the two of us, and no one else. By the time Camryn was a toddler, Aisley was off living her life, in high school, running around with her friends. So I basically have two only children. Now it is Camryn and I, and Aisley has moved away. But sometimes, for brief times like this, I get to have them both, together, sleeping under the same roof, and I can breathe again. The worry I didn’t realize I was holding, I can set it down for a few days.

I am so blessed. That my life turned out the way that it has, that my children still love me, that I get to be their mother, and that I am better at it than I ever dreamed I could be. Not perfect, I’ll never be perfect. I might not ever even be great. But I’m so much better than I ever thought I was capable of. And honestly, for now, that’s all I need.