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Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year Resolution!

One of my new year resolutions for 2015 is to start blogging again.

In May 2013 I lost my stepdad.  His life came to a sudden end at the hand of insidious violence.  A collective sense of shock and disbelief silenced our lives and the subsequent chaos as other individuals in the family reacted to the death pushed me to an end - of sorts - as my world turned inside out and slowly restarted, one cylinder at a time. 

In the last year and a half I moved my family South by a few cities, and then moved a second time to a nicer home.  I started a new relationship.  I left a support network that had sustained me for a solid year through weekly meetings.  I joined a new Church.  I started a new job.  I took a family vacation to Sun Mountain Lodge.  I started writing a book.  I found a live-in nanny, had to fire her, and recruited an awesome new one.  Many things have changed, a lot of dust has settled and I am eager to embrace the new year, and the new experiences it will bring! 

My other two resolutions are to live on a written budget and hit the gym (or its equivalent) no less than 3 times a week.

And laugh!  I want to harvest moments of joy and fun as much as I can J

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why I Walked Away from Work

It seemed like the only logical thing to do.  I couldn't have done any better: I had a good attitude, I showed up every day, I was prioritizing and planning my work, I had great working relationships with many people at the company.  But not with all people.

The truth is that I recognized the pattern - the repetitive ups and downs - of an abusive relationship with one person who had authority over my position.  Abuse is about enforcing power and control.  In this case, the working relationship was assumed to require that type of assertion over me because of organization structure (i.e. reporting structure).  In other words, I didn't qualify to be seen as a peer.

I had seen red flags throughout my tenure.  I thought the intention was simply professionalism but the result was attrition.  The relationship left me feeling stressed, shamed, upset, overworked, and unsupported.

I didn't care to repeat the cycle of periodic conversations of why despite my best efforts I may never attain long-term success in the role I held with the company.  Conversations in which one or two tactics to improve communication and performance would be identified.  I would implement them only to have another error crop up down the road.  Some might call it human error.  A business analyst, however, might identify the cause of my errors to be the outdated infrastructure and insanely high quantity of work.

Some might say I was weak, or I was wrong, or I was lazy.  But the truth is I believe I was doing a fantastic job.

Yet, I recognized that I wasn't doing a fantastic job at home.  I was hardly there.  I went to work early and came home late.  I was working on weekends.  When I was home I wanted my kids to go to sleep early so I could work at night.  My daughter started telling me, "Mom, it feels like you don't live with us anymore."

For a single parent family, what kind of life is that?  Kids don't see mom and mom doesn't see kids.  This equation cancels out family.

Family is the principle that allowed my kids and I to survive the hardest times we faced.  It is the guiding light for every step we have to take forward.  There's a proverb I will paraphrase: "You may travel fast alone, but you will travel far together".  I know who the most important people are in my life.

I know that I am a pretty awesome person as an individual and in the various roles I play.  I don't need a work related conversation about the odds of finding success to make me believe I can be successful.  Because, the truth is, I do my best, I have a good attitude, I make the most of every day, and I am able to recognize when I need to get my priorities straight.

It was a tough choice to walk away from a high paying job but it was the only logical thing to do.  It is impossible to rationalize with people who assert power and control over me.  It is even more impossible that I will stay in any relationship like that again.

And, the truth is, the most important work I will ever do is Parenting.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Indian Spices

My baby smelled like Indian Spices every evening I picked him up from daycare.  The smell was never as intense as it was the first time I visited to get a sense of the owner and facilities; I wafted around in a cloud of curry and cardamon for at least two hours after that initial visit.  I miss seeing Raj and her beautiful family.  I didn't know at the time that last Friday was the last day she would be Van's childcare provider.  She has a kind husband, two sweet and talented young boys, and an ethereal mother who walks with a cane, has blue-gray eyes, and a giddy smile.  Returning a bottle is my first excuse I have to drop by her home for a quick visit.


I get a Sugar fix every Saturday.  Sugar is the name of the horse I ride at my weekly lesson; this is an important commitment I've made to myself.  It is a time for me to be away from my kids and job, explore a personal interest I've had since I was a little girl, get some fresh air and exercise, and involve myself with a community of savvy, hardworking people.  It is meditative because it requires one hundred percent of my focus and it is therapeutic, physically and emotionally. I enjoy being in the role of a "student."  It is a break from being Mommy and Legal Assistant, both of which catapult me automatically into the status of Master of all associated responsibilities.  At my riding lessons I have help readily available, I get kudos for a job well done and I can ask my trainer an unlimited number of questions as I learn the nuances of horseback riding at my own pace.

I’m turning 34 years old in a couple of weeks, nevertheless I feel like a 4 year old when I initially tell people I take riding lessons.  Horses have been a curious obsession of mine since my 4th birthday when I was given armfuls of horsey toys at that particular party.  I read every horse-related youth novel and series I could come across.  To this day, I still doodle horses in various poses, some with wings and a single horn.  By signing up for lessons,  I was consciously indulging my inner 4 year old child and “the foolish imaginings of (my) heart.”  Yet, as I’ve learned, the reality of horse handling is far from fanciful.

I started riding Sugar around the end of March 2013, and before I had even lifted the brush to groom her I had been introduced to an important concept: where there is a romanticized ideal there is also an irritating, potentially dangerous reality.  Sugar's owner, Maggie, told me that although she doesn’t ride her any more, Sugar maintains "a very special place in (her) heart."  As a teenager, Maggie rode Sugar in competitions until the ball joint above her left rear hoof inexplicably fractured.  The fracture healed and she has been semi-retired and is used for walk/trot lessons only.  In the picture Maggie painted for me, Sugar sounded as sweet as her name.  However, as I led Sugar from her stall into the arena for my first lesson with her my trainer said, "We call her Sugar-Bugar." The latter is a truer reflection of Sugar's personality and she was quick to demonstrate the validity of the not-so-diminutive nickname, Bugar; she snapped at the curry comb as I held it toward her nose for her to smell.

I imagine I might be bothered by a hairy brush being pushed towards my nose, too!  But the trainers are keen on incorporating safety awareness as students gain confidence in groundwork skills like grooming and tacking up the horses. Horses are big animals and while there is no guarantee that students won’t get stepped on or kicked, there are definitive actions students can take to minimize the level potential injury and pain.  For example, I’ve learned it is better to stay close to a horse’s tail as you walk behind them because if they do kick you, the kick will have less force than if the distance allowed for greater extension of their hind leg(s).  As soon as I completed my groundwork training and got in the saddle, I had to learn how to do an "emergency dismount."  I thought the instructor was joking - she wasn't  - and I learned step by step what my body has to do in order to leap off of a moving horse!

In a sense, horses are as romanticized by some as marriage is by many, and how I wish I'd been instructed to quickly remove myself from a partner at early signs he was steering our marriage toward disaster.  Where can one go to learn the groundwork - the safety tips - about relationships?  I recall taking 4 years of sex-ed in middle school and high school, but there was rare mention of the warning signs of rape or domestic violence, and nothing said of red flags, codependency and personality disorders.  Girls in are society are subject instead to princesses and fashion magazines; there is a socially condoned Cinderella-syndrome.  Even I - who frankly wasn't very good at being a girl thanks to frizzy hair, braces, glasses and an acutely introverted personality - took it to heart.  I fell head-over-heels-in-love with my guy and found immeasurable value in the opportunity to wear a white dress, walk down the aisle, and say "I do."

The truth is, I always will find value in that opportunity and I do not regret my marriage - only that I waited until its circumstances were becoming dangerous before I chose divorce - or any part of the present responsibility of parenting the young human beings in my care (but I still look forward to my Sugar-fix!).  The responsibility of caring for my own horse one day will be a walk in the park with all of the hands-on training I am getting as a single mom.  I also am grateful that I stopped denying a deeply rooted passion I've had for horses since I was a child, and my husband - even with all the red flags I can see more clearly in hindsight - supported me when I started leaning in that direction.  My kids once told me in some act of appeal, "You're a Mommy who buys us things!" I want them to see that I'm a lot more than that: I'm a Mommy who loves them, who employs humility and kindness to nurture a culture of family between their father's home and my own - with careful and educated navigation of our idiosyncrasies - and also, that I'm a resilient woman, well aware of certain realities of the society we live in.  Through their younger years, however, it will suffice for my kids to know I have a horseback riding lesson on Saturday.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mommy Machine

Single mother circumstances can change more quickly than technology can advance, and I have found myself surveying the results (some might say wreckage) of the whirlwind of the last several months.  I walked into my apartment on Sunday evening, with only my oldest child by by side since my three youngest are now being cared for Monday through Friday by their Nana, and I looked at an evergreen towel laying on my living room floor.  "I can pick that up" was my overwhelming thought; my multi-child storm had ceased.
Nevertheless, I endured the next 24 hours with an antagonizing sense that part of myself had been painfully detached.  Perhaps this was based on instinct, a longing for my cluster of little ones to flock around my feet like they normally do.  Perhaps this was guilt, as the new childcare arrangements have lifted huge burdens and I - as a individual human being - welcomed the reprieve; the stress of morning and evening childcare, fulltime work, and a budget with a bottom line that was sinking lower and lower into the red due to extraordinary daycare costs was all taking a toll on me, mentally, physically and emotionally.  The financial aspect was the instigator of this vast change, however, and I miss the hugs, cuddles and activity of my three boys. 
With their absence, and the quiet stillness that now fills my home, I have caught myself operating on the old default towards my daughter.  Words escape my lips in questions that ask, "Do you need_____?" It's symptomatic of a fullhouse lifestyle; I have been amped up to take care of my four little people like a Mommy Machine.
I now have an opportunity to power down and re-adapt to the other responsibilities in front of me.  For example, I will be preparing for a move this Summer to be closer to Nana so my boys can sleep in their own beds every night.  I have boxes that have yet to be unpacked and sorted through from my move last year, when I emptied the 5 bedroom house that could have been the Home where my kids were raised.  I have a six year old daughter living with me who has been through as much transition and upheaval as I have who will benefit from stability, functionality and positive interaction with her Mother, me.  This is a huge change.  Rewiring has begun!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Policing my Peace

Ever since my early school days I've not been one who asks many questions, yet I have grown adept at answering many.  I have a very good friend who has often asked me - always framing and rephrasing in a diplomatic, honest and curious way - "Aren't you angry?" And I have consistently answered, no.  Another standout question in recent months, although asked only once is, "Can you say, 'He left us'?"

Juxtaposed in the same paragraph these two questions together summon one answer: sadness.  Sadness of the sort that steals my breath away but at the same time makes me think of how it feels when my bare feet sink into the sand while wading in the ocean surf.

It's hard to wrap my mind around why my husband would walk away from me, his three young children and the youngest on his way.  But the question of "Why" isn't really mine to answer.  My choice was whether or not I would let him go.  I mean this figuratively since (yes, I learned the hard way) literally holding on violates the law.  The Dixie Chicks say it best, "It took me a while to understand the beauty in letting go." The beauty is still unfurling.

First, I get to hold my kids; I have a front row seat to their milestones and meltdowns.  I admire all my children for their growing minds and bodies, incredible energy, strength of spirit, laughter, joy and many manifestations of its opposite.  Secondly, I appreciate that I am free to drink a bottle of water and turn on the radio in my car while I drive myself around town.  Last but not least, I have been able to break a nasty habit of Codependence.  I feel like I can breathe deeper and rest easier, as if I am walking on sunnier shores.

To me, this is a good thing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How do you do it?

How do you do it?  This common question I hear is ripe with connotation and ambiguity.

How.  Think of a job and here's my brief performance review.  I am resourceful.  I am hopeful.  I am maintain a positive outlook.  I accept contributions from others.  I give 110% 100% of the time.  If I have a bad day, I try to learn from it, leave it behind and move ahead.  I don't expend energy on needless drama and politics.  I problem-solve, triage and think on my feet 18 hours a day.

Do You Do.  These words illustrate a pattern; things happen all around me.   I get overwhelmed sometimes and hold my head in my hands.  And quickly thereafter I think of something I can do to get out of feeling cornered.  And I get to it as quickly as possible even if it's merely with the help of dear ol' Google.  Then I acknowledge that I am, in fact, confident and capable of working through seemingly insurmountable issues - one after another.  Also, please add HAVE FAITH to the paragraph above.

It.  Most people - I presume - understandably don't understand what it is like to take care of 4 small children, and they - I believe - focus on the children as the crux of my situation.  I do not.  I grapple mostly with logistics; how to fit together the time, energy and coordination required for managing laundry, grocery shopping, childcare arrangements, dishes, cleaning, bathing, changing diapers (of course), phone and email communication, medical appointments, visits with friends, school schedules, job expectations, financial obligations and maintaining my emotional awareness through it all.  It's an ever-evolving puzzle, and this past year it included a move from a 5 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom apartment, a new job, and a divorce (actually still pending - sigh).

My children are not the challenge.  It is important to me that they enjoy their childhood (after all, they only get one).  My children are at the heart of the issue because they ARE my heart, and I will do whatever is necessary to keep and protect them.  Anne Geddes has quoted Katherine Hadley in one of her adorable baby photography books, Little Thoughts of Love.  "The decision to have a child is to accept that your heart will forever walk about outside of your body."

Whenever people ask me "How do you do it?" what comes to me - to my mind, to my body, to my spirit which is all of me - is the energy within that drives me to prove that I CAN do it.