Perspectacles

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I’m hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic. When a mistake is made by me, no matter how small, my negativity is all over it in a heartbeat. When I can’t accomplish something, my pessimistic, doomsaying spirit reinforces what a failure I am. It’s a horrible way to speak to myself, a caustic and damaging way to see myself.  When I realize it’s happening sometimes I can talk myself away from the harsh perspective I have of myself.

I spent the week deep cleaning our house. Atticus and the boys did the heavy lifting, but I took on the scrubbing, sweeping, and mopping during the quiet mornings when the kids were at school and Atticus was still sleeping. I accomplished much in short amounts of time with no interference — no one needing something from me.

Then I paid the price for the physical exertion in the form of extreme pain, chasing it, of course,with a destructive criticism cocktail. How could I think I was going to be able to keep taking care of my family when just doing basic cleaning was debilitating? I might as well just quit. They’d be better off without me and my limitations dragging them down.

My greatest investment of late has been a wonderful pair of perspectacles. They help me see through my damaging perspective. Once I remembered to put on my perspectacles I was able to see how much more I am to my family than just the cook or cleaning lady.

Yesterday a nurse from Sprout’s school called and said he was ill. When I spoke to him he said he was too sick to remain and finish out the day, so we went to the school and picked him up. When we returned home I suggested that he lie on the couch, watch cartoons, drink some juice, just rest and be still. He didn’t seem sick to me, but I know sometimes we don’t look the way we feel. Sprout quickly got bored with resting and wanted to run around and play. All afternoon Atticus and the teens warned Sprout that he was supposed to be resting. By dinner it was obvious that he wasn’t really sick.

I spent the evening in bed, resting and reading, and trying to reduce my pain. Sprout came to me and started telling me about a boy in his class who is very mean. Apparently this boy was making some threats yesterday that scared Sprout enough to make him want to come home. If I wasn’t waiting at home, where would Sprout have felt safe? To whom could he have turned to feel protected?

Mommy is more than clean house and food. Mommy is safety, security, stability. Mommy is boundaries and accountability. Mommy is hugs and kisses and love. Mommy is an empathetic ear during hurtful times, cheerleader during triumphs, coach in learning experiences, sounding board during decision-making.

Mommy is valued.

Having difficulty seeing yourself with gentleness and grace?

Invest in a proper pair of perspectacles.

Perspectacles

Perspectacles

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One

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There’s something we all need to understand about domestic violence. We can see that a relationship is abusive but we can’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, your spouse is abusing you.”

Victims usually don’t recognize the abuse because their abuser has manipulated them into believing that whatever consequences they are suffering through are rightfully their fault.

It’s a difficult thing to comprehend when you haven’t lived it, I know, but if you talk with a former victim, we’ll all tell you the same thing: we were faulted for perceived wrong-doings and we shouldered the blame. We believed if we could just reach the standard that our abuser set forth, everything would be okay…we just needed to be better and do better.

After my seven hearts and I were free from the person who abused us, I heard so often from people that they knew something wasn’t right, or that he was abusive, but they couldn’t do anything.

There was one person who understood that although she couldn’t physically intercede on our behalf, she could plant a seed for the time that I was able to see the truth. So she did — in the form of a personal account of helping someone she loved leave a violent partner. As Cecelia told me the harrowing tale I did not see any correlation between the woman in her story and myself. I just felt heartbroken for the victim.

Much time passed between that day and the afternoon I was hit by the sudden, full-on reality of what was happening to my children and me. It was my Melody who helped me to see the light of day.

In the terrifying days that followed our escape, I felt as if I could trust no one but my children, but as we settled into a domestic violence shelter, Cecelia’s story played through my mind over and over and over. I knew then that she had been planting a seed — letting me know that she knew and that if ever I needed her, she’d be there.

People have come and gone in the five years since we left. We’ve reunited with family, made new friends, lost people who just couldn’t understand domestic violence and all that it entails.

But Cecelia? She has been firmly by our side every step of the way. I am glad to know she’s a constant in the tide of ever-changing people ebbing and flowing through my life.

Do you know someone living in an abusive situation? Do you feel helpless knowing there’s nothing you can do?

Plant a seed.

Be the one.

Now and Then

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My Jem turned 6 today. What a huge moment for a little guy! He’s been counting the days because for the last week he’s been the same age as his little sister, Scout, and he really wanted to move on from there.

When one of my kids has a birthday I like to change my Facebook profile picture to one of their newborn pictures. I have only one ‘newbornish’ photo of Jem in my possession because when my children and I fled our abuser we left everything behind in exchange for our lives. My ex destroyed everything of sentimental value that we owned, including all of my photos. It hurt when we discovered so many of our treasures, all of them irreplaceable, were gone forever.

Now and then I get angry at my ex for all that he shattered, for all the pain and loss, for the incredibly difficult struggle we face as the survivors of his atrocities, to move on, heal, embrace life and live. I still feel hurt by how we were disregarded by him — how he didn’t see us for the beautiful, loving, fragile people that we are. I get angry, too, when I think of the sentimental items we left behind that he decimated just because he knew it would hurt us. It distresses me that my Melody no longer has the sweater I gave her that belonged to her deceased father.

My heart breaks when I think of our loyal dog, Boo, and what her final moments must have been like. I mourn her still, and so does Artie. It’s a loss I don’t think we’ll ever be able to completely bear because her last days aren’t known to us — in my panicked frenzy to save the lives of my children I failed to realize our abuser would be only too happy to deliver his wrath upon our faithful companion. I will always believe that I failed her.

This morning as I was lamenting the fact that I have not one single photo of Jem on the day of his birth, I found solace in my understanding that today that doesn’t have to hurt me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have photographs.

I have something better.

I have Jem.

 

Sprout holding new baby brother Jem

Sprout holding new baby brother Jem

Happy birthday, son!

 

 

 

Thank you for joining me today for the A – Z September challenge! Please take a moment to read some of our other entries:

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Mom

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It’s hard being a mom.

I’ve been a widowed mom, an abused mom, a survivor mom, a warrior mom, a single mom, a happily married mom, and a step-mom. There is not a stage of being a mom that is easy or uncomplicated. We don’t receive a guide when we deliver our firstborn, although I do tell my kids all about the rules in the Mommy Handbook that came with each one of them before we left the hospital. When they are young they believe in such a book and are more willing to follow the rules because they purportedly come from a book of life skills.

I’m always a bit sad when they come to the realization that there’s no Mommy Handbook. I wonder what they think — what assumptions they make, what conclusions they draw. Do they realize Mom is just winging it? That I’m just living day-to-day garnering wisdom as I walk this life? Do they understand that the reason I fail at making certain decisions is because I’m just as human, as incomplete, as fallible as they? Are they able to comprehend that much of what I do, what I teach them, and where I lead them is based off of gut feelings? Still, they trust me to keep leading them despite my shortcomings and downright failures.

Nothing I’ve ever gone through in my life was as challenging or difficult — or rewarding — as being a mom, but in writing this I’ve realized I survived it all because I was a mom — for the sake of the hearts who depended solely on me.

What great and boundless love we have for the children we call our own, whether they were delivered from our own bodies, or entered our hearts in other ways. What wouldn’t we do for them?

What, indeed.

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

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Judgement

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Judgement.

It’s an ugly word. Either we’re dishing it out in unwanted bushels or we’re on the very uncomfortable receiving end. No matter where we are standing it isn’t a good place.

It is so easy to believe we know what is happening in a certain situation and therefore we have the right to comment or offer unsolicited advice.

You know what I mean. We’ve all heard someone criticize that woman in the grocery line who is holding a smart phone yet using food stamps — if she can afford a phone like that, she shouldn’t be leeching off of the government. Or the mom with ‘too many’ kids who should be ‘smart enough’ to understand how to use birth control — and how many daddies are there, anyway? What about the man at the church food bank who took his food and loaded it into the back of a shiny new Lincoln Navigator? As easy as it may be to cast aspersions in these situations, we know nothing about what brought any of these people to where they currently find themselves.

After church today we needed to do some shopping and return some items to the library, so Atticus suggested that I do the shopping with help from my teens while he took the borrowed DVDs back to the library. Upon entering the store and heading for a cart I realized I was very unstable on my feet. I was teetering precariously until I could hold onto the cart to stabilize myself. I saw that there were several motorized carts available and wondered if I should use one instead of walking. Artie said it was a good idea because falling would mean broken bones and a possible fracture or break in my neck. I considered it briefly, the decided against it.

You already know why.

Judgement.

Today I wasn’t willing to put up with the arched brows and the critical stares from people who don’t see an obvious disability. So I risked my safety for the peace of mind I had blending in with everyone else. My boys weren’t very happy with my choice, but they accepted it because I told them why I chose to walk. They know too well how it feels to be on the receiving end of unmerited criticism, so they quit giving me grief and let me do things my way.

Having a disability that is currently not visible has helped me have much more empathy for others. We need to remember to stay quiet until we’ve walked that mile in someone else’s shoes…and even then we need to open our mouths with only support and encouragement.

In Tune

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In my Giving Up post I shared some wisdom from my daughter regarding my need to take some time to pursue personal interests and friendships outside my home and family. It didn’t take long to search the activities of our local libraries to find a writer’s group to join. I’m very excited to participate and have the opportunity to work and talk with local writers.

After my talk with Melody I asked God to help me find some activities in which to involve myself. I suppose I asked Him in a roundabout way to help me make friends here, although I wasn’t specific because I have that whole lack-of-trust thing. I never really hold my breath that I’ll make any close friends because I don’t think many people ‘get’ me. Atticus is my closest friend and I know he doesn’t understand certain things, although he tries, yet he always accepts me even when he doesn’t fathom certain idiosyncrasies of mine. I treasure this about him — it helps me feel safe and loved, but I know people such as he are rare.

I used to be very independent and self-sufficient. I was always proud of that. After Atticus and I married, there wasn’t a need to do so much of those things and very quickly he and I were doing everything together. We never spend time apart. It isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but we rely only on each other, which can lead to bad things…we can’t always depend on each other being there. As my disease advances I count on him more and more to help me walk a semi-straight line from point A to point B, and recently I realized I need to reclaim all the autonomy I can while I can still have it. I need to learn what my limitations are and I really can’t do that when I’m always depending on Atticus.

I’ve begun doing more on my own and at the outset I felt scared and unsure — even just to drive myself — but it turns out I can do plenty and get around fine with a little bit of ingenuity.

Earlier in the week, on Scout’s birthday, she and I went grocery shopping — just the two of us. It was very early morning and not many people were out yet. When we arrived at Aldi there were just a handful of cars in the parking lot and I was so grateful because I knew it would mean a basically empty store and few people to have to navigate around. When we entered the store I could see a few retired couples and two women with two small children. Scout and I made our way up and down the aisles, filling our cart as we went,  and she waved and giggled with the two other children. As I was finishing up the shopping Scout started singing that it was her birthday and one of the two women asked me if is was really her birthday, then wished her a happy day and asked her some questions. She was so kind to my daughter and I was so pleased that Scout had someone else wish her a lovely birthday. As I turned to keep walking, I felt God nudge me and tell me to talk to the woman.

“Uh, no way, God. I’m not talking to a stranger at Aldi,” I replied and walked on.

“You asked for help and I’m giving it,” He continued.

“I’m not doing it.” I think I heard him tsk, tsk, tsk, but maybe that was just the guilt I felt over arguing with Him. It took a while to unload our overflowing cart, but just as the cashier was finishing up our purchases, the mom and her kids entered the line right behind us.

“You need to talk to this woman,” He nudged once more.

“No possible way and I talking to a stranger at Aldi.”

I pushed my cart to a counter and began putting my groceries in bags. The mom paid quickly, but seemed to linger behind me. I kept packing up frozen peas. All the while, God kept insisting that I speak to her and I kept saying no, no way, not gonna happen.

I watched them head toward the exit and then blurted out, “Are you homeschoolers?” The mom turned and came back and we started talking. It was weird — it felt like an instantaneous connection. We chit-chatted back and forth about homeschool, kids, church, etc. I told her I have ten kids, she said she had nine. The woman she was with came up to us.

“She won’t tell you this, but she lost her husband recently.” I was floored and instantly heartbroken for this mother of nine — now a widow trying to make a life for herself and nine children. I told her how sorry I was, and that I, too, had been a widow and understood what losing a spouse truly meant. We exchanged names and phone numbers and her little daughter asked us to come to homeschool co-op that afternoon. What a love!

I did actually call Maria the next day and she was so glad and relieved that I phoned her. We talked — she asked questions about grief, loss, healing, parenting without a husband — so many things. She asked about me and my life so I gave her the brief outline – widowed with a newborn, 16 years in an abusive marriage, the fight for our lives and freedom, the gift of meeting my Atticus. We’re going to make plans to get our families together for a game night soon.

Maria knew, as I did, that our meeting was a God thing. My heart is so burdened for her and her children as they try to face each new day in a situation they didn’t ask for and do not want. The really cool thing is that I don’t feel like I was put there to just help herInstead I feel that it’s a mutual thing — you know, a friendship.

I’m glad I was eventually in tune with what God was saying and I’m thankful He doesn’t give up on stubborn me.

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Hello, Goodbye

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I was working on a different word for h but sometimes things happen and we need some flexibility, right?

During dinner last night a text from my brother Tate rang through. It read, “Do you remember Rick Furman?” I did, actually. He had been a good friend of my brother’s from high school on into adulthood. 

I worry when, at my age, someone asks me out-of-the-blue if I remember someone. I always expect the next thing I read or hear is that the person has died. Sadly, that was the case here. When I asked him what had happened, the phone began ringing and I knew I’d hear my little brother’s voice on the other end. 

Before I go any further, I just want to say I’ve changed the name of my brother’s friend for privacy’s sake. Knowing any details are of no benefit here.

Last week Tate’s good friend died by his own hand, but not before calling my brother to ask him a few parting favors and to tell him what a good friend he’d been. I can’t imagine how difficult that was. Of course my brother tried to talk Rick out of his decision, but in the end there was nothing he could do. Geographically speaking, Tate was too far away to reach his friend in time, but he also didn’t know Rick’s exact location. 

I wept with my brother last night as I listened to him tell this heartbreaking account of the last moments with his life-long buddy. There were really no words I could offer to make anything better, but I wanted Tate to know that Rick called him out of all the people he knew because he knew he could count on my brother. There was a solid history there, years of trust and camaraderie mixed in with the girls, mud, cars and fun. 

Tate was asked to eulogize Rick at his funeral this week. Who better for that than the man Rick chose to spend his final moments with? I could hear the pride in his voice as he told me how he’d chosen to honor his friend’s life. 

We never fully understand how we impact the lives of others. We don’t know how our friends and loved ones truly see us. Most times we never know, but once in a great while someone shows us what we’ve meant to them. Tragically, it seems that so many of us wait — we wait until it’s almost too late to tell people how treasured they’ve been. For many people, by the time they realize they need to say something, it’s already too late and the time has passed. 

What are we waiting for? The people we love, treasure, respect, and look up to aren’t always gong to be here. Let’s let them know what their lives have meant to us now while we all have time to enjoy what is so meaningful, yet so very, very ephemeral.