The Orange Rhino

IMG_4677-1I want to tell you about something that has been eating at me for months, that I really really dislike about myself in hopes that others out there may not feel embarrassed and may be inspired to make a change. You see, it has been digging a pit in my belly for a long time. I raise my voice at my kids far more often that I would ever want to. The story always goes the same, I ask one of my kids to do something over and over and over until finally, I scream. Ick! I hate how it makes me feel. I hate the look on their little faces and I hate the impact it may be having on them or our relationship. SO, after a lot of soul-searching {and internet searching} I came across The Orange Rhino. A loving mom who was in my same shoes that wanted to make a change and boy did she! Not only did she challenge herself to 365 days of no yelling {and still going strong}, but she has also created a movement to love more + yell less. She has allowed parents all over the world to acknowledge their deep dark little secret in a non-judgemental forum.

It started for me months ago when I had just yelled at one of my most favorite people in the whole entire world. One little person that means so much to me that I would lay down my life for them.

When I looked up and saw the open window, I thought to myself ”oh no, someone may have heard me.”

What a flippin’ backwards moment that was!! I was concerned about an audience outside my home and not the beautiful precious audience inside my home! Seriously a WTF moment for me.

I had already been a fan of The Orange Rhino by this point, but it was kinda like an addicts low point moment that ends up with them in rehab. I had been trying by myself to figure out when I felt like raising my voice the most. What was happening with me in my life, what was happening at the moment in my home and in my kids’ lives. It was definitely getting better. I had started catching myself before the tone changed, but it wasn’t enough. That’s when The Orange Rhino Challenge started, “30 days to yelling less and loving more project.” I signed my crazy loud self up immediately! If you find yourself yelling more than you’d like, check it out. Remind yourself of The Orange Rhino every time you feel that feeling inside your body, reflect on when and where you are when you feel it, and make a change.

The most important audience, is the audience of the sweet little loves in your own home. It’s that Simple.

***This blog post has been sitting ready to publish for almost 2 months. It took me that long to get the courage up to share something so incredibly private. I feel so strongly about this topic that I ultimately decided sharing my story can only help me, my family and hopefully other moms that love their kids more than all the world, but feel stuck in the raise your voice trap. Please comment with compassion.

Bio: Domonique is the voice and creative director behind A Bowl Full of Simple, a lifestyle blog.  Domonique writes about simple ways to keep life in balance with ideas on food, travel, and home with busy modern families in mind. You can learn more about Domonique on Facebook or follow along with her family and her daily inspiration on Instagram.

Why is there no line between insane and sane?

jp.jpgRecently a friend of mine was feeling off. She called her therapist and after speaking with her therapist it was decided she should go to the mental health hospital. She was not suicidal. She was sent away. She was essentially sent away because she was not suicidal so therefore fine. We were discussing how this is so vastly unfair. Further reflection led me to say, “This only goes to further feed the mental health stigma. You are either sane or not sane. There is no in between.” I know most of that boils down to funding. I am not finding fault with the mental health hospital itself. It is the system. It needs to start from the highest level. Government needs to start stating openly, mental health is just as important as physical health.

When I worked in probation I saw how broken the system was. I saw how many probationers were really mental health clients that could not receive help. Most often I heard they will give me medications but they won’t give me therapy. This in turns fuels the stigma that there is a “magic” pill that fixes the mental imbalance. While medications are part of the answer. They are not the only answer.

Mental health tends to be more like a puzzle. The problem is it is not just one puzzle. It is a puzzle based on each individual. Finding out how that person’s puzzle can be put back together , is the hard part. It also doesn’t help that you can’t glue the puzzle together so it stays together. It can and often does fall apart and has to be reconfigured. This makes it frustrating not only to the Doctor treating it but, also the person dealing with it. It is easy for the person dealing with the mental health issue to think there is nothing wrong. The system really does encourage that. I know this all too well.

I am estranged from my Mother and youngest sister. I  had already been in therapy for  four years by the time the ties were cut. When it was pointed out that I was relying on medication in order for me to deal with this situation I knew something had to be done. If nothing else this showed me how toxic it was for me. Not just emotionally, physically as well. No medication is completely side effect free.  I had chronic pain issues on top of this. My kidneys and liver were not happy.  Where as physical abuse is so much more obvious, Emotional abuse is much more subtle. Verbal abuse as well. We tend to tolerate a lot more from close friends and family than we ever would others. It came time though for me to love myself more. I am not going to get into the specifics. It is not for public consumption. The details don’t really matter to others.I often reflect on the situation. I do hear things here and there. What I hear still convinces me it was the right decision. We need to realize that emotional physical verbal and social all tie together in our health. They can not be out of balance.

Three years later and my kidneys and liver are back within normal ranges. I am on much less medication. I am aware I won’t get completely medication free. I understand it is a chemical imbalance in part. I am also completely okay with the fact that I will probably be in and out of therapy for the rest of my life. I don’t understand so much of the stigma around admitting to a mental illness. I don’t understand admitting an imbalance and working to improve that imbalance being a weakness. It is something that has to start from the top levels of our government AND from the bottom level of every day interactions with people. It is way past time for us to realize this.

I struggled with this when I was on medicaid and dependent on the system for my mental health care. Luckily I had years of private insurance therapy first. I knew what I did need and what I didn’t. Still they tried over medicating me. I won’t lie, I did go along with it for a bit. It took me a while to realize that over medicating is just as bad as under medicating. It is a balance. The problem is when you are in the middle of psychosis and are over medicated, it is really hard to realize that.  It is easy to see why people go off medication. Over medication made me feel like a zombie. It increased my brain fog. It made my mood swings even more unpredictable.  I was lucky that we were able to get back on insurance. I was lucky that I found a physician who listened to me. Who was willing to fine tune medications to the right mixture.  Having gone through the medicaid system I know how hard it is. I understand how broken the system is.  I had to go off all my medications for two months because I was not suicidal. They didn’t know how long it would take me to get through the waiting list. I was just needing maintenance.  The problem is if medication is part of your maintenance and you are denied that medication, you are no longer maintaining.

We need to fix our broken system in all the areas, not just physical health. We need to let people know there IS an in between. There is a work in progress level. That mental health is so much more than sane and not sane.

 

Bio: Life with Chronic illnesses while also being a parent and a wife and how all the little things turn into big things , so it all matters! One kid One husband , we live with my brother in law, three dogs, three cats…. Insanity.  I worked in Early childhood education, which is where my education is. I have also worked in Misdemeanor Probation as well. I have experience as a teacher and as a parent, so I get it. Working full time and keeping house and being a parent became too much about two years ago. I have been trying to find my way back to me since then. Some of that has been through writing on my blog, Chronically Sick and Sometimes Manic Mother.

Why Parenting is the Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had

It was the first day of school. We had had a long summer which included a move to a new town, my brother’s wedding and the start of my husband’s new practice. Through it all, my kids had been absolute troopers. They definitely missed their friends in our old town, but they were also excited about making friends at their new school.

So, when the first day of school finally came, they were ready. The night before, Sunshine even said, “I know that this is going to be the best school year ever.”

The morning came; I woke up the kids and had them get dressed. And as we all sat around the breakfast table, Sunshine said,” I don’t know how to tell you this, but I don’t feel good. I actually feel like I’m going to throw up. And I really don’t want to be the new kid who throws up at school.”

And Sunshine knows what it’s like to be the new kid at school. She was entering third grade and she had never gone to the same school for two consecutive years. My husband’s training had us moving a lot and Sunshine had gone to two preschools and would now be starting her fourth elementary school. She always went into the school year with a great attitude, friendly personality and optimism. But this morning, she was dry heaving in a bucket with tears running down her face. I left her at home and ran Bubba to school where he entered his classroom with a big smile and wave.

When I got home, I set Sunshine up like she had the stomach flu. She was in bed with her pajamas on and a bucket by her side. But within an hour, she was asking me for something to eat and she seemed like she was feeling fine. That’s when, as a parent I had a gut check. It didn’t feel right for me to force her to go to school, but staying home on the first day of school didn’t feel right either, unless she was truly sick.

I came into her bedroom and told her that it was time for a heart-to-heart talk. I said that I thought that nerves had gotten the best of her this morning and it had made her feel sick. But now that she was feeling better, it was apparent that she wasn’t truly ill. Then I told her that things would probably be harder for her if she missed the first day of school. I also added that if you’re not truly sick, you should always be at school. The next 20 minutes were filled with tears, fears and hugs. But then she put on a new outfit and off we went to school. Once there, she walked to her classroom, met her teacher and ran off to the playground without a glance back.

As I got back in the car after drop off, I turned to my husband and said, “This parenting thing is definitely not for the weak.” The morning had been a tough one and every step that I made had me second guessing myself and whether or not I was doing the right thing for my child.

Being a mom is the hardest thing that I have ever done. But it’s not because of the daily grind that comes with parenting and the fact that I’m “working” 24/7. It’s because I’m making decisions that could shape these little people for the rest of their lives. I really want my kids to be kind, compassionate and hard-working people. I want to instill in them morals, values and the importance of doing what’s right. And above all, I want them to be happy and confident, with an excitement for life.

So, while my former jobs in PR and marketing included lots of hard work, deadlines and crazy amounts of stress, the stakes were not as high as they personally are for me now. And there are definitely days when I feel inadequate and hope that they will excel despite my poor choice of words and unwise decisions. When it’s all said and done, I just hope that I’m doing this parenting thing right the majority of the time, and that my kiddos will be good people who look back on their childhoods with happy memories and full hearts.

Rachel Brady-Dorfman Bio
I have loved to write for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family that encouraged you to write constantly. Do you have a problem? Write it out. Did you think of a good story? Put it down on paper. Are you proud of someone? Send them a letter. I used to pride myself on my ability to write. I was a journalism major and spent many years in the marketing and PR world where I would write and edit daily. But somewhere between baby one and baby three, I stopped writing. So with this blog, I am finding my passion for writing again.

Bio: I am a mom of three wonderful, spirited children and have a sweet, overworked husband. I am fiercely dedicated to my family including my incredible father and hilarious brother. And my friendships mean everything to me. But the person who has made me who I am today is undoubtedly my mother. She was the best role model and woman, and her death right after my first child was born has left a huge hole in my heart.  I have moved 8 times in 11 years and am always doing 5 things at once. Those who know me say that I am constantly moving which prompted my blog name, Forever On The Go. Find me blogging at Forever on the Go, on Facebook, and on Instagram @foreveronthego.

The Cat Has Left The Cradle

As my parents were driving me to college so many years ago, my mom said to me “It’s not fair that just as children really get interesting, they leave.”

My mom is not a kid person.

But this was clearly her way of telling me that she loved me and would miss not having me around from day to day. At the time I was insulted, hearing the message that I had not been interesting for the prior 17 years, rather than the endorsement that she intended.
Now my daughter is home for the summer following her own first year of college. And I am forced to admit that my mother, once again, was kind of right.

While I am slightly more comfortable with children than my mom, (which is to say that I tolerate my own kids just fine, but please don’t ask me to host a play date for yours), I have always felt the work of parenting more deeply than the joy of it. It is a struggle for me to play Candyland. I really don’t care what Barbie did in her dream house today. And when my son spends 25 minutes explaining the awesome new game he made up with his friend, I nod and smile at all the right moments but would totally fail the pop quiz.

However, at 19, my daughter has transformed into this interesting human with her own unique ideas and opinions. She has knowledge in topic areas that I never learned in school, and can broaden my horizons. She is meeting interesting people from all walks of life, and I can see her world view transforming and maturing. And, best of all, she can meaningfully contribute to my pub trivia team.

But of course now that she has become this person that I consider a friend, someone I want to chat with about her views on the world, she is gone for 75% of the year. And, when she is home, she often has much better things to do with her time than to spend it with her mom.
The joy of it, and the part that my mother didn’t see, is that this child I raised will only get more interesting through her life…and she will always be there. Maybe she won’t live with me ever again. Or, in this day and age, maybe she will. But she will always be at the end of a telephone line, and as close as a text message. For the rest of my life I get to enjoy this amazing person that I helped shape.

I’ve got to say, it is a great payoff for all of those sleepless nights in the beginning. All of the diapers and the spit up. And, yes, even the Candyland.
Now just don’t tell my son that I am still waiting for him to get interesting.

Bio: Cassandra is in her mid-forties with a daughter in college (breathe, breathe…how the heck did that happen so fast?) and an 11 year old son. She has somehow found herself working as a data analyst despite her love of words and deep mistrust of all things numeric. Former delusions led her to attain a degree in Clinical Psychology, take classes in library science, start a greeting card company, and explore co-housing despite the fact that others typically irritate her and the idea that she could tolerate living in close quarters with strangers for even a minute is laughable. Find her blogging at The Next Delusion and on Twitter

Four Things Adoptive Families Might Have in Common

My brother is adopted. My nephew is adopted. Three of my cousins are adopted. It was a normal part of “how you got kids” when I was growing up. I got married at the tender age of 42 and the fertility ship had sailed. I have a biological daughter, but when the question of adding more kids to our family came up, my husband and I decided adoption was the answer. Here are four things parents who have come to parenthood through adoption might relate to:

You know you’re an adoptive parent when you have an arsenal of canned responses to any question or comment that resembles the following:

“…are they all yours are they brothers I mean real brothers what happened to their real mother how much did they cost can’t you have any of your own do they know they’re adopted are you afraid they’ll turn out to be crazy my friend’s sister adopted from Russia and that kid was cuh-ray-zee we adopted a dog so I totally get what you’re going through now that you’re adopted you’ll get pregnant they’re so lucky…”

Your mileage will vary based on your mood, time of the month, how much caffeine or chocolate you’ve consumed and your perception of the question-asker’s motives. Someone genuinely interested in adoption is probably going to get a different response than straight up nosy old biddy in the pet food aisle.

You know you’re an adoptive parent when you spend the night before Mother’s Day quietly celebrating another woman who is the reason your kids call you mommy.

You might have an open adoption. You might know nothing about the woman who chose life for your child. You spend time before church, brunch or opening presents made from pipe cleaners and elbow macaroni thinking about a woman who made sacrifices so you could be a mom. You might know her name, her face or her Twitter handle (although I think the Twitter thing would be awkward.) You might know nothing, zip, zero. Regardless, this woman holds a special place in your heart and you think about her every Mother’s Day.

You know you’re an adoptive parent if you dread school assignments that involve the “family tree”.

Adopted children may (or may not) want to include the genealogy of their birth families. If they do, they’re singled out. They might want to include this info but might not have it. This assignment may conjure up hurt or feelings of loss and spark difficult conversations at home.

My kids were adopted when they were toddlers. I don’t have baby pictures, and this makes “baby picture day” uncomfortable. I don’t know how old they were when they took their first steps or said their first words. When the time comes to plot these kinds of milestones as a lesson on how to chart and graph, I’m not sure what we’ll do. We’ll figure that out as we go along, I guess.

You know you’re an adoptive parent when quotes like this make you tear up:

“You may not have my eyes or my smile but from the very beginning, you had my heart”;

“Not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own, never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart, BUT IN IT.”

And if that doesn’t give you at least a little tear, you must be a card-carrying member of the Tin Woodsman “I don’t have a heart” club.

 

Why It Matters

IMG_8571When Patrick was in kindergarten we needed some sort of incentive that he was willing to work for.

We needed a pay out.

Since I didn’t want an obese child, the pay out couldn’t be candy.
Who am I kidding, Patrick is not candy focused, he’s all about the carb.
He, for sure, would have worked for a fresh baguette every day but I just couldn’t do that.

So we brainstormed and perseverated and finally landed on the library.
Patrick and I could go to the library every day after school if he had a happy face day.
Oh, those happy face days!
That meant that Patrick had listened, worked hard and kept it together.
It also meant that he came in from recess on his own — a true trial for Patrick —
since he couldn’t distinguish when his time was up.
If he saw anyone on the playground, he thought it was his time to play too.

At first, going to the library was a big deal.
We celebrated!
We cheered.
We did the happy dance.
And then we waltzed right in and Patrick spent a delicious amount of time
l-i-n-g-e-r-i-n-g
over the videos and DVD’s,
like a guy named Patrick at a bakery filled with croissants and baguettes and other sourdough options.

He relished the moment.
He perused and paused and savored so many choices.
The library was his spot.

Like all favorite memories, the library still makes him happy but it’s no longer something he works for.
His happy face days are the norm now.
The library is just a pit stop on our way to the park…or a place to go to directly if there’s research for a school project involved.

And so yesterday I casually suggested that we go to the library while Caroline had basketball practice.
Since he is still known for his slow pace of perusal, I was a bit worried we might be cutting it too close.
But we gave it a try.

Like a salmon finding its place to spawn, without thought, he honed himself straight into the kids’ section and started the monumental task of choosing a video.
It only took about 5 minutes and we were done.
He had nothing.

“So, what do you think?” I asked.
“I need the computer.” he replied.
so causal…so big

He gets on the computer and types in his item: Macbeth.

He finds all sorts of options but zeroes in on a Macbeth video in the adult section…we repeat the call numbers to ourselves over and over as we cross through the library.
We find the Shakespeare section and attempt to locate the video.
Nothing.
My mind: tick tock, tick tock
I suggest that we can put in a request for it and he agrees.
We walk right up and talk to the librarian who happens to be a young guy —
note to self: when did that happen??

He says it should be on the shelf…he meanders over to the section with us, finds it for us
(library newbs) and Patrick is smiling…fired up…for Macbeth???

We don’t have time that night to watch the show.

So I wake up to my husband leaving for work and telling me,
“Yeah, Patrick is fully dressed and watching Macbeth.”
Weird.

I come out a half hour later to check on Patrick and he’s engrossed…
full middle English +Shakespearean drama + early morning = confused momma.
I shake my head and keep my morning pace.

He comes out for breakfast asking questions.
“Who killed Macbeth?”
My mind needs simple gimme questions like, “Where’s the toast?”
I do what all motley, sleepy, busy parents do…I tell him to Google it.

He does.
Fascinated he tells me that Macduff kills Macbeth —
because Macbeth had killed Macduff’s wife and son.
I start to get interested.
I can’t help it…
this whole weirdness is also super cool.
It starts to break through my early-morning mind fog: my kid is curious about Shakespeare?!?

I tell him that Macduff got revenge on Macbeth. I ask him if he knows what that means.
He pauses and lets me continue…Macbeth gets killed because he killed other people…he had it coming.
He understands…and he reveals others that Macbeth has killed, Duncan and one other whose name I can’t understand.

But here’s what I do understand.
Talking to my 14 year old son about the plot of Macbeth in the early morning time before school was an unanticipated miracle.
My son has Down Syndrome.

The statistic most often given is that women who find out they are carrying a baby with Down Syndrome abort that baby 90% of the time.

I like to think that number is a little high…but if it’s 75% or 50% it really doesn’t matter.
Women are terminating their wanted pregnancies because of fear.
Because they don’t think they will be talking Shakespeare to that child, ever.
Because they can’t imagine someone with Down Syndrome being clever or funny or
independent
with dreams of their own.

Because all they know is mis-information.

My son is no “gifted and talented” child with Down Syndrome, trust me.
But here’s what he has had…access to the curriculum.
He’s been fully included alongside his typical peers and exposed to rich literature, big ideas like
social justice and freedom. He’s been in on class discussions and wrestled with morality.
He’s learned about the arts, history, science and math…just like any other kid at his school.

Once in awhile, his curiosity gets the better of him and he gets sucked in.
It happened when he had to do a big project about New York City in 5th grade.
It happened when he pretended to attend Apple Valley (a school set 150 years ago) in 3rd grade.
It happened with the Terra Cotta Warriors and with 6th grade science camp and music.
And now it’s happened again with Shakespeare.

The problem with limited curriculum for people with cognitive disabilities is that we limit the menu.
I don’t know if Patrick will become a vegetarian, passionate about mangoes or obsessed with granola.
Who am I to decide??
He gets introduced to new foods all the time…that’s part of living.

It’s the same in school.
People like Patrick deserve to have the same menu as anybody else.
We can’t know what will intrigue or light the fire of anyone’s mind — people like Patrick most of all.
If you would have asked me if Patrick would love Macbeth, I would have guessed no.
I would have guessed wrong.

People like Patrick love learning; they light up with excitement when they figure it out.
Just like anybody else.

People like Patrick deserve more opportunities and more depth and more enrichment in school.
Why??
Because we can never guess or know what will touch their hearts and speak to their soul.
Their individual passion and interest is unpredictable and incongruous.
Just like every human on the planet.

So, yes, it matters if people like Patrick get to learn alongside their typical classmates.
Yes, it matters if opportunities are limited.
If the curriculum is watered down and dull.

No mind should be wasted.
Nobody should be denied.

We should all get the chance to hate Shakespeare…or in Patrick’s case, love it.

It matters.

Bio Info:  Beth Foraker spends her days loving her four kids (ages 21-8 years old), hanging with her sweet husband or walking her dog. She works with beginning teachers at UC Davis, is passionate about finding a way to fully include students with disabilities into typical classrooms and finds writing a blog to be the best form of therapy — available at all hours. She finds hashtags to be hilarious and overuses them frequently. #itstheenglishmajorinher. Find her blogging at Grace in the Ordinary and on Facebook

20 Year High School Reunions and Tree Frogs (Yes, They’re Related)

toilet-mugI was going to write about my 20th high school reunion being tomorrow and the fact that I was a complete loser in high school who was bullied a lot, which made me feel even more like a loser until I discovered anti-depressants, retail therapy, alcohol, men (eventually James) and Miracle bras.

I’m not going to the reunion because I’m afraid those who do attend will be all like…. “What’s SHE doing here? Nobody liked her!” And I’ll wind up sitting at a table alone like in the school lunchroom. And then to compensate, I’ll drink too much and get really sloppy wasted and belligerent and try to start a fight with the guy who used to imitate my lisp and knock my books off my desk. But I’ll be too drunk to fight and wind up falling backward into a ficus tree where I’ll vomit and eventually pass out….

Yeah, I was going to write about that, but my shattered childhood self-image seems too light and trivial of a topic. So, I’ll tackle a much tougher issue with lasting political and social impact.

I really, really need to cook dinner right about now, but I can’t. I mean physically I can. It’s not like my legs are broken. But there’s one of those little, green tree frogs lurking in my kitchen and I’m terrified of them.

Give me a black widow spider any day and we’ll happily don aprons and whip up Thanksgiving dinner together. But a tree frog! They’re darty and shifty and can jump on your head and urinate and give you warts and tuberculosis! (That’s not scientifically proven, but no one has ever ruled out a link between tree frogs and TB either…., maybe even Ebola!)

I’m not sure how he got in, but he’s there! And just as sure as I let my guard down and start browning ground beef, he’ll hop onto the counter in front of me causing me to jerk the pan, spilling hot grease everywhere, which will result in a kitchen fire, third degree burns on my hands and arms and a terrible hassle with our homeowner’s insurance claims people.

It’s clearly not safe in there.

I don’t recall ever seeing a tree frog when we lived in California. I wonder if they’re a uniquely Southern thing. Let’s consult Mr. Google. Shall we?….

This excerpt from Melissa Kaplan’s “Herp Care Collection” clears it up.

The green tree frog is native to the south-eastern parts of the United States. They are commonly seen in Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, and southern Georgia in the local shrubbery of the neighborhoods. They can be heard calling at night in the spring and early summer along side lagoons and ponds. They are a simple yet attractive frog that can make an interesting and neat but easy to care for pet.

I love how she describes them as “simple, yet attractive,” like a Pottery Barn lamp.

When I was a kid, having a tree frog in the house was a weekly experience. I’d probably consider them harmless if it weren’t for my mother screaming for minutes on end when she’d encounter one. Thanks to her histrionics, I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs, shrieking and running out of the room at first ribbit.

*** Those who have known my mom for any length of time know that her general reaction to any stimulus is to scream in a tone piercing enough to shatter stemware…which is probably why she doesn’t drink wine.

She did once bake a particularly unfortunate tree frog when I was about 13. I remember it vividly. My mom had opened the doors and windows to welcome the autumn afternoon breeze. She’d also opened the oven door. Strangely, I don’t remember her ever actually cleaning the oven and I certainly hope she didn’t think that it was a window (although she is a natural blond).

Spying the open patio door, a tree frog with a stronger sense of adventure than safety decided to pay a visit. Eventually he hopped up into the oven where he went unnoticed until the chicken pie Mom had been whipping up was ready to come OUT of the oven. Along with our dinner, she found Mr. Frog, who’d gone from supple green to looking like a French fried onion. Poor guy.

If that happened to me today, I’d totally keep the little baked critter. I can think of so many uses for him. A random dinner garnish when company is over, a surprise in Andrew’s lunch at school. (I’ll think of more). It could be one of those family heirlooms that’s passed down among generations. I guess my family just wasn’t sentimental enough to see the value…..which is probably why I turned out to be a loser in high school.

See, it’s all connected.

Bio: Angela Weight is an award-winning humor writer, wife, mom of two boys and rescuer of a motley collection of animals. Her family recently moved from rural Georgia to the burbs of Richmond, Virginia.  You can find her neurotic, ADD-laden musings at Angela Weight, Facebook, and Twitter

The Thich Nhat Hahn Quote that Led to Babies

ScannedImage-193My husband is driving back from a day with Thich Nhat Hahn (Tic- not- hon) today. We’ve been big fans of his teaching on peace and mindfulness for years. In honor of his trip, I thought I’d share my favorite Thich Nhat Hahn quote with you all.

I came upon it during a long and restless plane ride to Greece during which I was listening to No Fear No Death on tape to keep me calm(er). We had been going through a particularly difficult time coming to terms with our probable infertility and were trying to figure out where to go from there. Should we adopt? Do invitro? Give up on parenthood all together? It was in the midst of this grief and confusion that I heard Thich Nhat Hahn speak these words into my fearful ears:

When the Conditions are Right, Things Manifest.

I felt my soul shift inside of me up at 30,000 feet. I pretty much ran those words around my head for the next few hours while I, along with an elderly Greek man paced awake on that sleepy flight. If I’d been conversant in Greek or he in English, maybe I’d have told him about how I’d been working way too many hours at my job and was courting exhaustion. Maybe I’d have described to him our house which we rested in so little that we had never taken the time to fully settle in, much less thought about which room would be the nursery. Maybe he would have lent me his worry beads to roll in my hands as I came to the conclusion that the conditions in my life were barely right for me to survive, much less for me to support and sustain another human being.

On the flight back to the US from Greece, my husband and I began to talk of the moves we would make. We would make the move to pursue international adoption though we were not yet sure from where. I would make a move to another church job that was less stressful and demanding.

That move would lead to us to a new home. One where we marked out the nursery room the day we moved in.

It took a while for all the changes to play out, but eventually the condition of my life looked quite different. I had some free time, which was good because the road to adoption is long and busy. We made efforts to actually live in our home. And a couple of years after that plane ride our once stressed and sad life looked like this:

If I look a little rough its because having two under two yrs is as traumatic as it is wondeful!

Yes, when life manifested for us it came as a combo deal. We were one of the 20% of couples that got pregnant after pursuing adoption. I will never know why we were so lucky to receive these two gifts in the beautiful manner that each came to us. And I’m sure the release of the block that prevented us from having children involved much more than changing jobs and setting up a nursery. The business of life coming is intricate and mysterious no matter how it happens. And God knows there were still a hundred changes we had to make in our lives in order to sustain two children under two years once they arrived in our home.

But I’ll never forget this quote by Thic Nhat Hahn, for I think in hearing it I understood for the first time that I would be a mother. I would just have to start the process of becoming one before my children actually arrived into my life.

Bio: Read more about finding grace and balance in the midst of life by visiting Dena’s blog, Centering Down.  You can also find Dena on Facebook and Twitter

If I Had One More Day..

BrodyIf I had one more day, I would tell you a million times how much I love you.

If I had one more day, I would hold you for the whole 24 hours.

If I had one more day, I would tell you I am sorry. Sorry for all the times I was mad, for all the times I was frustrated and maybe not so nice. I would tell you that you are the most special person in the whole world, and hold you to your promise to never grow too big for me to cuddle.

I would let you play in the rain. I would roll around in mud puddles with you, and smear ketchup all over our faces. I would have a food fight, and leave the mess until the morning so we could watch a Star Wars. I would give you ice cream for breakfast (more than just once), and let you eat cake for lunch – with vegetables for dessert. I would play dress up and Lord of the Rings and have sword fights. I would build bed-sheet forts in the backyard, with the good sheets, and tear them to pieces in an instant if we needed costumes.

If I had one more day, I would try to tell you all the wonderful things about the world, and but not about how dark they went when you left it. I would carry you around all day, and not care how heavy you were. I would spend (more) time making silly faces and drawing on the walls.

I would show you all the things, 873 times over if you wanted, and answer every single question with a real answer. We would eat  popcorn in bed, and go to the park whenever you wanted.

Because of you, we do those things, your dad and me, with your baby sister. We know the value of an hour, a minute, a second. I wish we never had to learn the value so acutely, but we did. You are there, with us, in her eyes and her giggles and squeals, and the ridiculous way she holds her spoon. You two would have had so much fun driving me crazy. The holes in our hearts will never heal, but are held together by our memories and the love for you that will never, EVER, die.

If only we could have just one more day…just one.

Bio: I am a 38-year-old working mother of one 16-month-old daughter, from Toronto. My blog, www.mommiesdrink.com, contains my commentary on everything from serious events to the ridicluousness of parenting, life, family, and a little entertainment. I can be found on Twitter (@MommiesDrink) and on Facebook.

Hard things

My single mama self tends to write about the fun stuff. I tend to talk about the fun stuff too. What I like to call my adventures. Maybe with men. Or the times when I connect with people, either on a quick five minute car ride in Atlanta or when I end up having dinner with a 80+ year old member of Mensa at a bar in Houston. Or when I meet a friend for dinner and then the night takes some fun turn and I roll home after midnight after making a bunch of new friends.

This is primarily because in my life, I do focus on the positive. I don’t see any point in giving the harder, more negative things too much attention. Why would I? What does that accomplish? Why feed the negative?

But that said, there are hard things, of course there are.

I spent some time with one of my Hard Things last night. This Hard Thing is no stranger to me. As a matter of fact, we’ve kind of become friends, since we’ve been together for over 15 years. I’ve learned to live with it, and let it hurt when it needs to hurt, and then let it be. Last night was a night to let it hurt.

I am so loving going to my daughter Sarah’s high school football games on Friday nights and watching her dance at halftime with the drill team I cannot even tell you. It’s a combination of things. Mostly, it’s getting to watch her have this experience. The production of a high school football game in Texas. The drums. The uniforms. The lights. The game. I just die every time I see her in her drill team regalia. And then? I remember my own experience. And how much I loved it. Being drum major my senior year. It was cool. It really was. Not cool in the social sense maybe but cool in a much more important way. I know how much I loved it and it thrills me that she is having her own experience. That she will remember when she is my age and doing this with her own children, if that’s the path she takes.

But? I go to the games, alone. Alone. And last night it was all I could do not to burst into tears about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I always talk to people. I know many of the other parents and I feel comfortable with them. Last night before the game I ended up eating dinner kind of randomly with some football parents I had never met before. Tony and Sarah, if you will. I am a social creature; I don’t sit in a corner by myself. Yet? I am still there, alone.

But it’s not even that I physically go to the games by myself, although I would be happy if I had someone with me. But having a friend or a date or even a love go with me wouldn’t actually solve this Hard Thing. This is a thing of divorce. This is knowing there is no one else on this planet with whom I can really and truly share this love and pride I feel for my daughter. And that feels so lonely. It comes packaged up in the divorce decree. It’s there, in the fine print, but you don’t realize it’s impact right away.

I say I’ve lived with this Hard Thing over 15 years because I’ve never really felt like her dad got it. And maybe that’s just all dads, I really don’t know, I only have a bit of experience with one of them. A time I remember vividly was the day we found out if we were having a boy or girl. This was a big deal to me. This was huge. Who is this baby growing inside of me? And we fought terribly that day because he wasn’t really there. He was completely distracted by other things. And I could not get my head around the fact that there were things to him, in that one hour at the doctor, that were more important than what was going on with that ultrasound. I was alone then too, just not physically. So, I suppose for me this thing was here before divorce. Maybe this Hard Thing actually comes with a bad marriage. Again, I don’t really know.

I just know that last night, I wanted to cry buckets of tears sitting there in the bleachers in the perfect night air. I just did. For what I don’t have, and what I won’t ever have. I am perfectly certain that I will find a great love in my life when the time is right. But this, this I will never have. No, it’s just me and this Hard Thing that go to dance competitions and football games and school events. The Hard Thing piles into the car with me. Sits next to me in the cold dark auditoriums for performances. Sits with me in the bleachers at the football games. It’s standing there when I am holding her hand through a particularly rough patch. It’s peering over my shoulder curiously, seeing what I’ll do when I don’t know what to do.

This Hard Thing though? Has made me stronger. Has made me a better parent than maybe I would have been without it as my companion. It has shown me that I can do this. I will always mourn what wasn’t. I mourn it for myself, and I mourn it for Sarah. I will probably want to cry buckets of tears many more times before my work is done. But me and this Hard Thing, together, have been there for that kid every step of the way, and that? Fills up my heart and pushes those tears off to the side. At least for awhile.

Bio: Clare is a single working mom who blogs to maintain her sanity. Irreverent, funny and up for anything, Clare lives life with passion. She loves deeply, laughs often, and is a devoted single mama to her beautiful daughter. Read more at Be Your Own Badass Self

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