Connections: Farewell: Part II

httpwww.interhomeopathy.orgneodymium-sulphuricum-in-10-casesThere is a basic assumption that grieving and loss is only problematic when it comes to loosing people…

The truth is, loss is loss. When we lose something we value, we grieve. The root of the problem is most of us don’t know how to grieve. As a result, often times we find unhealthy ways of coping. Unhealthy ways of coping ranging from drugs and alcohol to self destructive behaviors cause us to “stuff” our grief instead of process it. This can leave us stuck.

At this point in my personal revelation I had pulled over to the side of the road…really hard to drive without windshield wipers for my eyes. I started thinking about what it really meant to me that the last time I saw my grandfather I was with my abuser. I was so exhausted by the 10hr drive to see him that all I could do was sleep on his sofa, while grandpa slept in his chair.

Making up for lost time with family and friends...

Making up for lost time with family and friends…

My abuser and I had been on a 3 day marathon of California to see my family. From my perspective I saw this as a time of connection. In my previous relationships there had been little to no interest in meeting my family let alone interacting with them. This time, I was with someone who was taking a pro-active interest in them. I had finally picked a winner. In retrospect, I understand that yes, he was interested, but not for the reasons I believed him to be interested. It was not to be connected at all. Quite the opposite actually. He was sizing up the people in my life that I cared about the most. His goal was to “learn” them and figure out how to factor them out of my life. Motivation is everything.

As a consequence, I lost all of the potential memories between the time I saw my grandfather last until the time that he died. Giving my children the opportunity to get to know this wonderful man, who had a lifetime of stories to impart, was no longer an option. So it wasn’t just his death I was mourning…it was the death of an opportunity, of time I will never get back, and memories that won’t be made. It hit me over the head like an anvil.

20130414_150901_edit020130414_150826_edit0When the ringing in my ears stopped my brain was off and running recalling everything I had missed out on during the time I was with my abuser. I had missed out on both of my sisters giving birth to my only nephews. In fact, one was 5 by the time I saw him for the first time. I missed out on my 17yr old daughters life marker moments. She is still so devastated by it that she can’t talk to me yet…so there will be more missed. I missed out on my 19yr old son’s entire high school experience. That includes graduation. My youngest three have missed out on 6yrs of bonding with their siblings. It is a struggle for them to reconnect.

My point in all of this is, I thought I had grieved all of this while I was in my rehabilitation program. For the most part I did. I went through all of those fun stages of anger, bargaining, anger, more grief, and finally acceptance. However, an event like my grandfather passing, a more tangible form of death, really brought it home for me, how far I have come, and how far I have to go…

Cheers to the weekend! Go have fun and enjoy living.

Connections: Farewell: Part I

No cool thoughts here!

No cool thoughts here!

To say last week was challenging is like trying to think cool thoughts when it is 118 degrees outside and the air conditioning is on vacation.

At the same time I was having a personal victory in court, my grandfather was passing away of aggressive brain cancer. An irony to be sure. Perhaps it was just life finding balance. Where I was gaining forward momentum, I was also about to have to deal with personal loss. After riding high on victory most of the morning, I received a call from my father in the early afternoon to let me know that grandfather went quickly and there was little to no suffering.

I hadn’t seen my grandfather in years, at least six. In fact, the last time I saw him I was with my abuser. Upon this realization, my brain was a flurry of snapshots, flipping faster than my awareness could keep up with. Before I could process what happened, I was sitting on my sofa in tears. What just happened?

Cost. Grieving. Grieving loss. It can be such an arduous process. The more traumatic thegrief loss, the more formidable the circumstances pertaining to that loss, the longer it takes to heal. As I sat there on the sofa, not really caring that the tears were making their way down to my jawline to dangle a moment, I tried desperately to comprehend why I was having such a strong reaction. I know the obvious answer would be that someone I care about just died. But the truth is, his quality of life was terrible.

My grandfather, this noble and genteel man, could little more than sleep and shuffle to bathroom with help. The cancer had caused his speech to slur, hearing loss, loss of appetite, and lack of energy. He could no longer tend to his beautiful garden let alone any guests. So, for him to pass, was certainly more of a release than anything else. I completely understood this and with all of my heart wished him well on his next journey. Yet, there I sat, a wreck.

grief1By the next day I was sure I had slept off the unreasonable effects of my grandfather’s death and was on my way to an important interview. I was only a few blocks away when I could feel the tears forcing their way to the surface. Are you kidding?! Could this possibly come at a worse time?! I was vocally yelling unkindly at myself, trying to get a grip on my emotions as I drove up to the interview.

I held myself together for the duration of the interview giving no thought to my personal life other than what was being directly asked by the potential employer. After an hour and two managers, I got the heck out of the area and went straight to my car. I was supposed to meet a friend in thirty minutes for lunch. All the while I felt like I was slowly breaking up with myself. Just when I thought perhaps I had to be the most ridiculous person I knew, I realized what was at heart of the matter. It was what I expected the least, yet made the most sense.

To be continued…..

Random Happiness: Samsung, Saving Relationships One Search At A Time

fatherhood_custom-9074686ba9d8f478e4ad3f58b9adf3aafe44561d-s6-c30Dear technological Gods, save me from commercials…

Except that once in a while, some Ad agent either takes a fantastic shower or has a great trip to the bathroom producing an ad that simultaneously makes me laugh and gives me hope. Thank you Samsung.

I didn’t realize how big I was smiling at this ad until my cheeks hurt after 60sec. So sweet and cute watching a new dad struggle with swaddling. I loved the independence it showed when dad didn’t require mom to come to his rescue…just You Tube. He’s got this! This nod to father independence comes complete with a fart joke that even a mother can appreciate.

Click on image to link to YouTube

Click on image to link to YouTube

How awesome is it that father’s no longer have to feel lost? One of their greatest obsessions, technology, has brought all of the answers they need to their finger tips and made them ridiculously accessible. The best part, I know dads are using it. There is a new love_and_trust__father_tosses_his_confident_daughter_into_to_air_accompanied_by_screams_of_delight-300x300wave of parenting crashing up on our shore and it’s awesome.

Thank you to all of you wonderful and progressive dads out there sharing the work load in this changing society. Thank you for helping to redefine what it means to be a dad, a father. Thank you for being part of the domestic support system. Most of all, Thank You for setting a wonderful example for our sons.

I am overwhelmed by the participation in parenting these days by men. In fact, I have noticed they are rolling up their sleeves, donning a smile, and getting in the game while their children are still infants. I see them strolling, marsupial packing, feeding, and generally loving their babies. We haven’t reached the point in our evolution where we are expecting you to carry 100-1000 little wee ones like the male seahorse, but as mothers we do appreciate all of the co-parenting that seems to be going on.

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Happy Father’s Day this weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all of the single parents who are waving both flags. Enjoy the weekend like a BOSS!!!

Connections: Chocolate Fondu and Mrs. Doubtfire

IMG_20130612_131445Life can feel like one big long adjustment from beginning to end…

Finally, summer is here and the kids are excited. For the last three weeks they have been checking and rechecking with me to make sure that I am not taking summer school. “We just want to spend time with you mom…”

Time to have a little fun. I decided to expose them to the world of chocolate fondu. We got together in the kitchen and cut up bananas, strawberries, Angel Food cake, and un-bagged pretzels and giant marshmallows. Heaven. We put it together on the table and enjoyed. It was a quick little something we could all participate in. After indulging in dark IMG_20130612_140414chocolate decadence it was movie time.

Summer time in my household is reserved for action movies and nostalgia. We went with slight nostalgia, Mrs. Doubtfire. Lately, our family theme has been adjustments, change, and how to cope with it. My 11yr old ask me a couple of days ago, “Why can’t things just stay the same? Just when I get used to one way…it changes!” Boy, that’s the truth. It can be just as frustrating for adults as it is for children. “Sweetheart…” I looked her in the face sympathetically, “The one thing you can count on is nothing will stay the same. Life is always changing. It has to. Life is a living thing, either evolving or deteriorating. People and relationships are the same way. The best thing I can tell you is to learn how to be flexible and accept change, accept that 51HPX1AAVKLlife will not always appear to be what you expect.”

With that we walked into the kids room, piled into their bed, and let Robin Williams tell us a funny story about adjusting to change.  We laughed and cuddled watching the antics of a single father try to figure out how to be a part of his kids lives.

Out of nowhere my 9yr old turns to me and says, “I am glad your not with Alver anymore. I like it when your happy.” I was certain that Mrs. Doubtfire would bring up questions about their father and I. I was not prepared for questions or comments about the abusive relationship I left a couple of years ago. Holly’s comment came after Miranda explains to Mrs. Doubtfire (her ex-husband in disguise) that she didn’t like who she was when she was with her husband. On more than one occasion my children have expressed that they love who I am better as single parent than in an angry relationship.

I think that is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. As tough as it can be as a single parent, in the long run, it is so much healthier than staying in an unhealthy relationship, especially an abusive or violent one. Part of the reason I stayed in mine so long was because I felt my children needed that family unit in order to have all of the components necessary for developing into complete adults. I felt if I didn’t, they would somehow be emotionally vitamin deficient and have to struggle harder to make up for what I couldn’t provide. But the truth is, I was hurting them more by keeping them in an atmosphere of violence and fear. So here is to the never ending cycle of change…cheers.

Happy on life and full of chocolate dipped delectables we laughed and shared stories into the afternoon. Our little evolved family now happy and thriving.

Connections: What Is Your Butterfly Effect?

butterfly_on_finger_with_boy_in_backgroundWhat will the effects of your choices today have on tomorrow?

This is addressed to both survivors and victims. We never know the effects we have on others living in Domestic Violence and Abuse until we have the courage to get out. Then, in hind sight, we are better able to get an idea. For survivors, my heart and prayers go out to you for having the courage to face all of your barriers, bust through, and make a difference in not only your own life…but in the lives of others. You are a wonderful example for those still trapped behind the walls of illusion.

I heard this song the other day and it made me think of all the lives we touch just living our own life. Often times we feel that perhaps we aren’t much of an example for anyone as we try to muddle through our own lives. What an awesome responsibility it is when we realize that by simply living our lives with courage we can touch so many others. The truth is, we can never really know who’s life we are touching and how they then pay it forward.

Take a minute and watch the official video for Jake Miller’s A Million Lives.

So many of us want to make a positive difference in this lifetime. We want to know that we contributed. How do we do that? We struggle with overcommitted schedules, self-esteem, and just not knowing where we are needed most. Profoundly, making a difference doesn’t require scheduling anything in or knowing where we are needed most. All that is needed is our commintment to do the best that we can with each day that we are given.

There have been quite a few times during this process of healing and learning to live again that I have felt overwhelmed. I have felt like I have no idea what I am doing other than I don’t ever want to hurt the way did in an unhealthy relationship. I don’t want to be a bad example for my children. I try to make choices everyday that help me achieve those goals. Some days that is the best that I can do. Right about the time that I am not sure if I am making a difference in my own life, I come across a victim who has been following my journey and tells me that my struggle gives her hope. That hope is that someday she will have the courage to make similar choices for herself and children. Wow.

Nothing like the reality check of  someone showing gratitude to remind me to be grateful for how far I have come. I am making a positive difference by example. Reciprocity. We save each other and give each other fortitude at some of our weakest moments. Jake did a great job of illustrating this concept as a punctuation to his song.

If you have a dream…follow it. If you feel the urge to commit an act of kindness…do it. If you are ready to make a positive change in your life…manifest it. You never know who is watching. You never know what your actions are going to mean to them. By being positive, you spread positive. By being brave, you give strength. By showing backbone in the face of insecurity and doubt…you inspire courage.

You are the difference you want to see. You are the change you wish to make.

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Now live it!

Connections: The Power of U2

IMG_20130530_194514U2…Still Touching Lives through L.A. Vation

“We’re going to go see who?”

“Basically, U2 honey.”

“Who are they?”

On that note I made all three of my children sit on the sofa while we went through a quick history of about 5 songs by U2. I considered them familiarized with the Irish band. Then it was a flurry of backpacks and shoes. Bam! Out the door to school.

IMG_20130530_193151By the time late afternoon/early evening set in errands were threatening our attendance at the concert. The oldest offered to divide and conquer. “Leave Ferdi with me, you and Holly go finish up and I will do the dishes.” I almost cried tears of joy and disbelief. Is it possible after all of these years U2 is STILL bring peace, love, joy, and dish doing to the masses? I can attest to you they touched our home. Errands put me behind for making dinner but it was no matter, the kids were on it. We were really pushing getting out of the door early enough to catch the first song but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. There is no greater joy for this parent than to see my children excited and working together to clean-up and get out the door. It is a rare and beautiful thing, especially when there is a friend thrown into the mix. Zoom zoom. We were off.

20130530_203020_edit0_edit0A quick stop at Circle K for slushies and we were bound for the park. Again, with great efficiency, the kids worked together to pop out of the car, grab the blanket, and set out to find the perfect vantage point. By the time I had crested the stadium composed knoll I could see the kids collaborating in the front row to smooth their seat. All the while Ferdi was running donuts in the spacious green grass, happy as a 3yr old can be. Bliss for this single mom.

Then it started. The crowd went crazy as “Bono” stepped out on stage and LA Vation, a U2 tribute band from Los Angeles, took the audience through a couple of decades of great music and memories.

“Mom! I totally told my friends about this!” Kait’s face was full of triumph and enthusiasm.

“About the concert?”

“About U2. Like, NOBODY knew who they were at school. I told them about what some of the songs were about and they were like ‘cool!’. This is so much fun. Can I Instagram after?”

20130530_205827_edit0Sometimes I get frustrated with technology and long for the days that forced us to slow down for lack of ability to speed up. On nights like this, when we were able to take pictures, post as we go, share with family and friends in real time, and connect instantly I am okay with our modern conveniences. A collision of the past and present, the heart felt expression of the human condition coupled with modern technology, created an evening of magic. Is there anything more powerful than sharing moments with my children that create a common interest? That we are both equally as enthusiastic about? That we will be able to reminisce over for years to come? I think NOT!

Thank you L.A. Vation for bringing my family closer in just a few hours. Thank you for giving us the beautiful memory of a night singing and dancing to replace memories of hiding in fear and being disconnected from each other. You rocked our world!

Connections: Snoop Lion?

Some of the most interesting people are having a personal evolution these days. When a Dogg evolves it apparently turns into a Lion. Well, thank goodness for that. We could use a few lions.

For the last couple of weeks No Guns Allowed has been playing in a loop on our computer. The song speaks to my girls as much as it speaks to me . For their  part it goes along with much of the anti bullying campaigns supported by their schools. I can get behind that. After all, that is the root. Take all of the window dressing away and Domestic Abuse/Violence is the endgame of the schoolyard bully.

What caught my attention were a couple of lines by Drake:

“Dedicate this to Shyanne and Josh
And pour sumthin’ out for the lives that they stole…”

I know that may enrage people. Why should these children receive any prayers or nods after such a heinous crime? The key word in this question is children. What is going on with our children that they feel so helpless and hurt that they can’t constructively cope? Why are they hurting so deeply they feel the need to lash out to get justice.

Rewind. Please take a moment to consider Snoops opening words:

Money makes a man and that’s a crime
If we all were rich, we’d spend more time
With our daughters and sons, they’re losing their minds

I am going to error on the side of optimism and say that is a true statement. If so many parents weren’t busy running around trying to survive, get from A to B, pay the rent, and keep food on the table, would we be spending more time with our children? Would they feel more love and security? Would they feel that they had an audible voice? Would they be better able to ask for what the need instead of take it? Would they learn to cry, rage, and scream constructively instead of with weapons?

I would like to think so.

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As a single parent I am faced with the dilemma of how to take care of my responsibilities and still spend time with my children. Giving them the attention the ask for requires creative solutions and the ability to see opportunities as they present themselves. 20130420_122410_edit0

This weekend was jammed full of deadlines. We had a bit of a family emergency this weekend that needed attending to. In that deviation from what was previously planned sprung opportunity. We were in LA and I decided to take the scenic route home. We cranked open the sun roof, turned up the music, and coasted on the PCH. I was so impressed with the quality of my 11 year old’s music program. She has made marked improvement in her vocal skills since September. We sang loud. I was able to witness the 9 year old’s sense of humor in full expression. I also learned that the 3 year old has a new favorite food, French Fries.

20130420_130244_edit0We hit the beach for about an hour. We rinsed off. Then packed up a new set of memories and headed home. Parents, lets show our children how to live. Show them how to enjoy life when money is short. Take time to connect. I defer to the words of the lion:

Me don’t want to see no more innocent blood she’d
Me don’t want to see no more youth dead
Come hear me now

Take time where you can, even if your in the middle of attending life’s little mishaps. Opportunities are everywhere. If we can do that, just a little at a time, perhaps when our children cry out it won’t be with guns, it will be with their voices. It shouldn’t take a bullet to crack off to get our attention. We can take back our jungles one lion at a time.

Connections: Family Photos

2013-04-16_22_37_15-1You Know What They Say About A Picture?

Cause and effect. Because I made poor relationship choices, it effected my daughters school report. Almost two years after the “fire” we are still feeling the heat of the repercussions.

When I say I had to let my life “burn”, I mean straight down to the foundation. My 11 year old ask me for pictures documenting the generations on my side of the family. I had nothing, just a weak smile. “Remember that fire a couple of years ago?” I looked into her eyes for acknowledgment. What I saw was disappointment.

“Mom?! How am I going to finish my report?!”2013-04-16_22_15_59-1-1

I couldn’t be upset at the melodramatics because she had a point. She had such a good point I felt it was my obligation to hunt down some photographic history for her. Where to begin? Who would have anything? Anna is just about as rock bottom as I am. So I turned to the least likely source, Dani. She is the one sister I am still getting to know better as an adult.

I am enjoying getting to know her, probably for the first time. The last characteristic I can really remember about her was her less than nurturing attitudes. She never struck me as particularly nostalgic or even romanticized being pregnant past taking the test. Yet, of the four of us, she is the one with the cache of pictures and memorabilia (including grandma’s furniture) from growing up. Crazy.

Before my six year stent of being MIA I was the one who hosted holiday dinners, hung the family pictures, and was a general hub of family ties. My home was a veritable trip down memory lane. Pick a wall, any wall. While I don’t miss the lifestyle, I do miss the familiar faces. Earlier than I was likely aware of, my abuser decided I didn’t need the reminder of my family of  origin. If I was to cut ties it was to be permanently. He took it upon himself to help me out with that by freeing me of any physical reminders that I had any history at all. As far as I was concerned I may as well have been born of a pee-tree dish. Was I supposed to now tell my daughter that she had sprung from a lab? Awesome.

I put the word out and hoped for the best. Less than 24hr before the report is due and my phone started chirping and tweeting worse than an aviary full of parakeets. To my delight pictures that I had NEVER owned started popping up on my conversation thread. Pictures of my mother I had never seen. Pictures of my brother and i from when we were young enough to beat up on Anna. Seeing that little face of hers reminded me of the days when she tattled about everything. Town crier was her nic name. Blazer and I HATED her. The images sparked stories I had long forgotten but were now rolling off my tongue like they just happened earlier that day. Kait, Holly, and 3yr old Alver were enraptured with a night of story telling. Excited demands of “I want to see! I want to see!”, “This is grandpa?”, “Oh my gosh mom! You look the SAME!!!”, and “Look at grandma in her Navy uniform…WoW!”2013-04-16_22_22_04 jammed up against bedtime.

I have always been fantastic at collecting pictures but terrible about taking them. For the first time in my life I get it. I have always hated having my picture taken. Most of the time I feel geeky and awkward, a bit like a dodo bird. But, I can’t believe how thrilled I am to see pictures of my mother and grandmother at different times in their lives. What stunning and beautiful women they are. So much of the different aspects of their personalities captured to ruminate over generation to generation. 2013-04-16_22_16_10-1

I have decided to take as many pictures as it takes to get over my “camera shy” attitude. I don’t know what the future holds for my children. There are five of them. I figure, if I take enough pictures of my family and just get them out there to as many of us as we can, I have increased our sources of retrieval. In the event that one of my kids or grandchildren literally have their house burn down with all of their nostalgic and historical belongings, somebody will have enough history in a shoe box to help them rebuild or write a report.

Thank you Dani.

Connections: The Integratron

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“It’s not for everyone you know…”

20130331_122044My dear friend is giving me a sort of heads up before we start our adventure. We stand squinting in the late morning sun staring at a huge white dome, bold against a brilliant blue desert sky. I don’t know what to expect. In light of that feeling, I attempt to let go of expectation and simply enjoy the moment of not knowing. I find that approach tends to leave me more receptive to the experience. Besides, I am about to take a bath. Awesome.

I have some time before tones familiar to my soul will wash over me, soaking my senses. I figure I should take this time to prepare. Time to relax. The hammock garden is coaxing me over with its canvas multi-color striped bananas suspended for my delight. There is an unwritten freedom about a hammock. With no sturdy foundation or solid ceiling fastened rod, the light suspension allows for a womb like experience of buoyancy. Yup. This will do nicely.

If I never make it into the upper level of the dome, where the acoustics are so perfect that I can confuse my internal voice from that of the man’s across the room, I will have achieved something. Already, I can feel the calming nature of the location working its healing magic. Slowly I let the idea of probability float away on cactus breezes. In return I am filled with the possibilities of the childlike perspectives from my youth. Ah, to freely dream again, unencumbered by the adult worries of cause and effect. Expansion.

Perhaps that is what this whole undertaking is about. At first I was full of thoughts. It could have been creosote currents that carried them away, or I could have just been too tired to continue thinking. Desert vegetation or sheer exhaustion aside, my mind was resting. I was only aware of the warmth of the sun, the desert whispering in my ear, and the weight of my body cradled above the ground. I had no desire to want to stay in the moment. It hadn’t occurred to me. I was IN the moment. That was all that mattered.

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With no sense of urgency I noticed people making their way towards the bath. I suppose it is time to roll out of my sanctuary. I am usually awkward but not this morning. As I join my friend I become aware that I have been smiling. Is this what it means to smile from one’s liver? To be so content with one’s existence that smiling is as consistent as breathing? Just before I reach the entrance to my purpose for being here, I become aware of something else. I am six again. Maybe it is eight.

I am trying to place the age until I understand that the exact age is irrelevant. What is important is being aware of how I see my environment around me. I see it through the eyes of a very young me. I feel it. I feel the moment with all of the magic and wonder of a child. I am receptive to my thoughts in a way that I had long since forgotten. My life didn’t feel like a challenge to be plodded through. Life is an adventure to be embraced with the joy of discovery. All of this abundance of positive emotion without having my body washed over with the perfect tones emanating from quartz bowls. It will keep.

This isn’t for everyone you know but, it is for me. I wish everyone to find their Integratron, a place that puts them in positive tune with their heart.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Deb with all of my love and gratitude.