Grieving the Parents I Never Had

I have this picture in my mind of what parents are supposed to look like. Yes, it is a little bit Norman Rockwellian, but that’s how I see it. There is a dad who works and supports the family. There is a mom who maybe works or maybe stays home full-time to take care of the house and family. As a kid, this was the stereotype I looked up to and wished I had, but as luck would have it, I was born into a dysfunctional family with a single mom and an absent father.

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I am not responsible for what happened to me as a child, but I am 100% responsible for what I do about it as an adult. So, here I am dealing with it as an adult.

My parents divorced when I was a baby, after my mom found out my dad was cheating on her while she was pregnant. After six months of age, I never really had a father.

My dad died in 1997, just a few weeks after I saw him for the last time at my brother’s wedding. He was absent most of my life, but we danced and talked that night at the wedding and had a great time together. The next morning I woke up and he was already gone, true to his style. I never saw him again. I think I only saw him a handful of times in my life before that.

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Here is the last family picture taken. 1997.

My mom is still alive, but she is essentially not in my life because of mental illness. I am grieving a living loss because she is still alive, but it is impossible to have a relationship with her. I want one, and she wants one too, but we are down to weekly emails and even those don’t go so smoothly most of the time. Talking on the phone is very stressful, and visiting in person takes a lot of work on both sides.

I have this picture in my head of what married parents are supposed to look like yet, it’s not what I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps that is why my life is the way it is. My husband works, I work part-time at home tutoring math, and I care for our kids and our house full-time. I am trying to create something I never had, yet want more than anything else. It is fulfilling and rewarding just as much as it is stressful and trying, but it is what I think a household should be like. Maybe I create my life the way I think it SHOULD be instead of based on my experiences.

My mom is so difficult to deal with. She has been diagnosed with depression, OCD, and borderline personality disorder. Look all of them up, and you will see that this combination presents a major challenge to all those who love her and care about her. Her illness is like an elephant in the room, but if we talk about the elephant everything goes bad. And when things go bad, we don’t talk, so we don’t talk, and then the elephant becomes something that we talk AROUND and never address. So, the problem itself never gets solved or dealt with. It’s just a game of “I have my cards and you have your cards.” And that’s it, deal with it.

I don’t like the cards I was dealt. I don’t know how to deal with it. It hurts me to my core that I don’t have parents I can to talk to, lean on, etc.

I do what I can to meet my own needs. I write my mom weekly emails and do my best to let her know what is going in our lives without engaging in her problems with her. It is difficult, but it is all I can do to keep a ‘relationship’ going.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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Beach Week 2013

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This is the view from our condo in Destin, Florida this summer. It’s the fourth time we’ve rented at the same place (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013). Every room has an ocean view; usually we stay up higher on the tenth floor, but this year we got a better rate on the third floor. We were right above the pool and bar this time. The pool connects to a skywalk that leads to the beach. It’s so nice to step out on the balcony, see the sea, and breathe in the ocean air.

20130719-095630.jpgMy first day on the beach was quite exciting.  I was standing in these shallow waters above and playing frisbee with my husband and son.  They were in foot deep water, and I was up to my waist.  My husband started yelling, “Susanne, shark!” and pointing at a shadow under the water coming right at me.  Sure enough it was a shark. It looked like a juvenile, possibly a bull shark about five feet long and kind of skinny swimming back and forth sideways as it came over to investigate me.  A million thoughts raced through my mind in that instant, and I intuitively knew I had no chance of getting out of the water faster than it would reach me.  So, I froze and stood still.  I raised my hands out of instinct as if to say “I surrender” and just stood still while it came right up to me.  All I could say was, “what do I do?”    It came right up to me and then turned and proceeded down the shore.  That’s when I got out of the water and people were chasing it down the beach, myself included, yelling “shark!” alerting other people to get out of the water.  Luckily, it wasn’t hungry for humans that day.

The experience reminded me that I’d previously dreamed about a shadow under the water that turned into a shark.  In my dream, it came right at me and was so close I could see its face and teeth.  Just like in real life, in my dream it swam up to me and then went around me and kept swimming.  I wonder if that was a coincidence or a premonition?

Later that week, we heard from other tourists that people saw a hammerhead shark in the waves too.  We talked to some locals about the shark sightings, and they said because it was raining for about ten days before we got there, the water was murkier.  Sharks have bad eyesight, so when that happens, they are forced to come closer to shore to look for food.  They thought the shark coming up to people and then swimming away was its way of saying, “get out of here!”  I know that every time we get in the ocean, we are entering their habitat, so we can’t really complain about seeing them. Although, I am not used to seeing them at all much less in such shallow water.  It was scary but exciting, and thankfully nothing happened.  We’ve only seen them once before when we were in South Padre Island in Texas.  The lifeguards there said they are very common to see there.

20130721-193625.jpgThis is a panoramic view of the oceanfront in front of our condo.  I’m in love with the sugary, white sands and the turquoise waters.  As soon as my feet hit the hot sand, my breath slows and my worries start to fade away.  I love sitting in the beach chair in the sun and shade and just listening to the sound of the ocean and feeling the salty breeze.  It’s so peaceful and soothing to my soul.

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20130721-193850.jpgThis is a picture of the bridge leading to Destin Harbor from Okaloosa Island, taken from Harry T’s restaurant on the harbor.  We go there every year and visit with my friend who lives nearby.  We are friends from Virginia.  I live in Texas now, and she lives in Florida now, so we only get to see each other during beach vacations.

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20130721-194038.jpgWe took a seashelling cruise and got to see some dolphins in the water near Destin Harbor.  I’ve seen them before, but I never tire of it.  They are so beautiful and playful in the water.  It’s amazing to come so close to wild animals in their natural habitats.  I’m happy my kids have been able to see them a few times already in their lives.

20130721-194104.jpgIt rained one day while we were there.  Of course it was disappointing because we lost a day on the beach.  But, all was not lost as we did go down to the pool and hot tub.  Even in the rain, it felt wonderfully refreshing, and it still felt like vacation.  I tried to think of the last time I sat in an outdoor hot tub.  I think it was all the way back to 1989 when I was in Aspen, Colorado.  That time, it was snowing outside as I enjoyed the hot tub!  The beach was still quite beautiful in the rain, just a different kind of beauty.

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20130721-194231.jpgThis is a picture of me and my husband taken on the seashelling boat.  I think this is the third year we’ve done this activity, and we really enjoy it. It’s a short boat ride over to another smaller island where they anchor the boat and then people wade through the shallow waters collecting seashells.  The water was murky this year because of the rain, but we still found many beautiful shells.  And I’ve noticed the shells change from year to year!  I use them to decorate my house and have also made picture frames with them.  It’s a very family friendly activity and it’s not very expensive either.

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20130721-194330.jpgThe sunset was gorgeous the night we were on the boat.  First the sky filled with pastel hues reflected in the water. As the sun went down the sky turned more red and pink, and the reflection in the water was so picturesque!  These kinds of scenes inspire me to paint.

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20130721-194415.jpgThese are some of the shells we collected this year.  The big brown spiral one is my favorite.  In fact, I love all the spiral shaped ones the best, but they are all so different and complex it’s hard to pick favorites.  My son asked how seashells are made, and I thought that was an excellent question.  I looked it up and read a bunch about exoskeletons and such.  Being a math person, I also find it amazing that the spiral shape is so commonly found in most of these designs.  It’s just another example of form and pattern in nature.  Spirals represent the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio and are found all over the natural world including pineapples, pine cones, sunflowers etc.

20130721-194441.jpgMy husband and kids took a private fishing trip too.  I’m not into fishing, so I didn’t go with them.  I used the time to have lunch with my girlfriend again and lounged on the beach all day!  I included this picture because it reminds me of a line from one of my favorite songs, “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty.  “You belong among the wildflowers. You belong in a boat out at sea. Sail away, kill off all the hours. You belong somewhere you feel free.”  I feel free and inspired when I’m in nature, whether it’s on the water or in the mountains.  I would have loved to have gone on the boat with them if they didn’t have to do all the killing of the fish parts!

20130721-194504.jpgOn our last night there, my daughter and I took some fun pictures on the beach.  She did a bunch of dance moves, and I did some yoga moves.  This one is called ‘tree’ and it was difficult to balance with my foot in the sand like that.  I love doing yoga because while it’s challenging it’s also gentle on my body.  I’ve had five surgeries on my right knee and two on my right ankle, so I don’t do many of the physical activities I used to enjoy.  Doing yoga helps me stretch, strengthen, balance, and center.  I feel calm and positive after I do yoga.  One day, I would love to take my yoga mat down to the beach and practice there!  I did bring my yoga mat on vacation and rolled it out in our master bedroom.  It was a smart idea, because without it I would have done far less of it.

20130721-194520.jpgThis was the last picture I took right before we got in the car to drive back to Texas.  I said ‘thank you’ to the sea for all the gifts we received that week and spent several minutes with my eyes closed cherishing the feeling of being there.  The ocean is my happy place, and I try to keep that centered feeling throughout the rest of the year.  It’s too bad beach week only comes once a year, but we do have to work to make a living.  Traveling to other places is so refreshing though.  When we get home to our lovely home, it’s like having a whole different perspective after being in a different place for a while.  One day, I hope to be able to retire close to the ocean so I can grow old in a place I love!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 26 Home

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This is a picture of my house and home. We moved to Texas from Virginia seven summers ago to take advantage of the housing market. We were able to buy more than twice the house for less money than in the DC area. Although I miss my hometown in Virginia and being in the DC area, I’ve always wanted a nice big house where I can raise my kids and then they can return when they are home from college. Now that my oldest is finished with her sophomore year of college, that dream has already come true. She says she appreciates that she can come home and have her old bedroom. Moving into this house literally changed our lives overnight. We were all able to spread out; each kid got their own room and walk-in closet. We went from one living room to four living rooms. I love coming home to our house and hope to be there for a long, long time!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 16 Family

This is the last time my family was all together, so even though it’s not a picture I took today, I didn’t want to post my family incomplete. My husband and I have two kids together (8 and 13), and we each had kids from previous relationships (they are both 20). His son is in the army, and my daughter is in college right now, so we just have the two smaller kids at home with us day to day. We both love each other’s kids like they were our own and believe firmly in the idea of “Ohana (which means family and family means nobody gets left behind).

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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31 Day Music Challenge: Day 5 A Song that Reminds You of Someone

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-vZlrBYLSU

“Every long lost dream led me to where you are.

Others who broke my heart,

they are like northern stars

pointing me on my way

into your loving arms.

This much I know is true,

that god blessed the broken road

that led me straight to you.” 

Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts reminds me of my husband.  Love these lyrics about the long and winding road of life and love.  Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing because everything I did led me exactly to where I am now.  Even at the time if I thought it was a tough experience or the end of a road or relationship, I didn’t know where I would be now. Sometimes it’s true that when one door closes another one opens.

We met in 1998 after both having failed first marriages. I had just moved to Reno, NV (long story). I was thirty years old, a new teacher with my master’s degree, a single mom with a five-year old daughter.  He was a  25-year-old college student (started college at 24 years old) working at the gym.  We were in different places in our lives, but we met at the gym, and we fell in love.  We got married a year later and had two children together.  He finished his education and became a lawyer.  I’m so thankful that our paths crossed and hopeful for our future together.

The Broken Road

The Broken Road (Photo credit: aaronmcintyre)

See the whole music challenge list at DeBie Hive.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

ZTA Mom’s weekend

I flew to see my oldest daughter at her college on Friday. It was mom’s weekend with her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. She’s a sophomore, and I haven’t visited her on campus since we moved her into her freshman dorm. She is in a student apartment this year. It was awesome to see how she lives and to meet her friends.

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on the way to the airport

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My lovely hotel room for the weekend

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cool artwork in my hotel room

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her apartment building – gated for extra security

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loved seeing her building – nice and new and gated

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nice pool, jacuzzi and all!

On flying:
Why do people dress up to fly? I felt totally under-dressed in the airport, but I didn’t really care because comfort on the flight is my first priority. Maybe it’s because I have chronic pain. I wore sweats, brought my “forever comfy” pillow to sit on, and I was still feeling achy on the plane. I took a Southwest flight for the first time and was surprised at how they do things differently. First of all they don’t assign seats on the plane. It’s basically first come first serve, sit anywhere you want. Boarding toward the end of the line, I laughed inside thinking about what an interesting social experiment it was. Most of the aisle and window seats were already taken, so I walked down the aisle mentally sizing up people and deciding which middle seat to take. My primary concern was how the people next to me would smell! I’m allergic to fragrance, so if I picked a seat next to a lady with perfume or a man with cologne, the entire flight would have been torture. Once seated, how could I get up, change my seat, and nicely say I changed my mind? I sat in between a lady and a man. Neither of them were fat (didn’t want to be crowded), and thank god neither of them smelled like anything. The flight attendant started explaining emergency procedures to the people seated in the exit row two rows ahead of me. She told them to read the instructions carefully because in the case of an emergency, she wouldn’t be there to help! I wondered where would she be? It was a 2:30 pm flight, and people were already drinking. the lady next to me got a cranberry vodka, and the flight attendant had a tray full of other cocktails. On the return flight, I got a window seat and took a nap (7:45 flight). We didn’t get any refreshments because there was too much turbulence. Less than an hour later, the flight was over. It was better than driving almost six hours!

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hibachi dinner with her roomies and their moms

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me and my girl

On college life:

My husband and I both took non-traditional paths through college, but we both encouraged our kids to have the college experience because it is a phase of life like no other. I attended three different schools, took two years off (to do a NOLS course and live in Telluride, CO), and graduated at the age of twenty-five with a week-old daughter. My husband started college at the age of twenty-four after working as a draftsman since graduating high school. My daughter started right after high school and is on track for a four-year degree and has plans for graduate school (I have my master’s degree and my husband got a law degree, so we have also encouraged her to pursue graduate work). I got my first peek into her life there, and of course I couldn’t help but compare and contrast it to my experiences. During those four years of undergraduate school, young people have life structured for them. They have academic expectations to meet and comfortable living arrangements. They have independence for the first time in their lives. No parents around to make them clean their rooms, eat right, or go to bed at a decent time. They learn how to be self-motivated, and at the same time they have the freedom to explore and experiment with all the fun life has to offer. No demands of the adult working world and families to provide for. It’s all about them, as it should be.

Sororities and fraternities provide social networks and activities. They offer a secondary structure, scheduling events, requiring adequate grades, and a group identity to fit different personalities and backgrounds. While I was never in a sorority, I think it’s a positive experience for my daughter. She loves her sisters, and I was very impressed with her sorority house as well as the rest of Greek circle. In my day, fraternity houses were old and smelled bad, something like the movie Animal House. I never went to a school with a sorority so I didn’t know what to expect, but their house was beautiful! It seemed new and clean and was beautifully decorated with plenty of space. It was fun to see where they meet weekly and meeting many of her sisters and their moms. We had brunch at the house and then had a two-hour painting class where we made paintings of crowns (her sorority symbol).

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our photo booth picture at the ZTA house

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in front of the ZTA house

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in front of the ZTA house

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Painting with a Twist

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our paintings

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we love each other

I love going to Painting with a Twist. We have one near our house, and I’ve been three times already. Everybody makes a different version of the same painting. The instructors walk you through it step by step, so it really doesn’t take talent. I won the ‘who has the weirdest thing in their purse’ contest. I keep a small bottle of olive oil in my purse instead of hand lotion because I have extensive chemical allergies, and it’s the best thing for me to use. Apparently, that’s weird! I’m not complaining though. I was happy to take home a new T-shirt from Painting with a Twist.

After painting, she took me to my first darty. What’s a darty? It’s a day party. Duh. I got to meet more of her friends, two of whom were celebrating birthdays. Then, we had dinner and prepared to go out.

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pre-party fun with my girl and her roomies

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Sierra driving her roomie’s Hummer

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with Sierra’s Zisters

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pre-party fun

Then, we went out to a place called “Conference.” It’s an 18 and up bar. People who are 18-21 get an X on their hands (and get charged a higher cover charge because they aren’t drinking). Many of her guy-friends were there, and we had a ball getting to know each other. I don’t get out too often, so it was really fun for me. I loved getting to know her friends and dancing in the crowd.

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hot, sweaty, and having fun

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getting my dance on with Sierra’s friend

As you can tell, for some reason, I like taking hats off boys and putting them on my head. It was really hot in there, and I was all sweaty, but it was a really fun time. This is my daughter’s ex, and it was nice to see him again. He danced with us and kept all the other guys away from us!

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dancing with some of my daughter’s friends

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with my girl and one of her friends

Then it was time for the after-party. That’s right, first a darty, then a pre-party, then the party, then an after-party. We stayed up a long time. I got to hang out with a bunch of her friends in a fraternity and felt like one of the gang, sort of. Besides the fact that I’m twice their age of course.

The next day, there were no scheduled events, so we slept late and then went shopping before I had to get to the airport for my flight back home. We had lunch at Olive Garden. I got her some clothes, some groceries, and hung curtains in her room for her. What a great weekend. Man, I love college.

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last pic together, missing her already!

Do you love or hate college?

I LOVE COLLEGE

I HATE COLLEGE

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Friday Fiction #8: Home = Our Beliefs about Love

femmesfatales

It’s Fiction Friday and the last week of romance month.  Every Friday, the Fiction Friday Femmes Fatales post different fictional stories based on the same prompt (see below).  This is episode eight. If you missed the first seven episodes, the links are below.

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Amanda sat down in a chair in her front yard with her laptop and her assignment. Just thinking about her childhood made her both angry and sad, but her counselor gave her online homework. If I want to start feeling better, I need to do this.. She told herself, even though she didn’t want to do it.

“Think about what it was like growing up. Are there specific feelings or situations that come to mind? Write them down and use a word to describe the feeling or situation (ex: mom was always angry: anxious).

Raised by a single mom.  I remember a lot of fighting, frustration, and angst.   Frustration.

Questions to ask yourself:
 Was there lots of affection in your home or was affection withheld?

There was affection from my mom.

Were you frequently criticized?

Yes I was. I felt like I was never doing well enough at anything. My father was Korean and preferred by brother, my mom told me, because of cultural reasons.  He didn’t want me because I’m a girl. And I never lived up to either parents‘ expectations-spiritually or academically.

Were your parents available to take care of you? Were your needs met?

My mom was for the most part, but she was very busy working three jobs to support us. My dad was not available. My physical needs were met, but not my emotional or spiritual needs.

How was anger expressed – or not?

Yelling, throwing things, fighting, crying, threats of suicide from my mom.

Were there addictions?

 Sugar-mom
Smoking-dad

What was your parent’s relationship like?

Non existent. Dad sent a monthly check and visited maybe once a year. They never talked as far as I knew.

Was love freely exchanged?

Same answer as above. We were told we were loved by my mom. Not between me and brother.

Did you feel a sense of stability?

No. I didn’t understand why my dad wasn’t around and other kids had dads. I didn’t understand it when my mom got so mad and sad that she would threaten suicide. I wondered if I would find her dead several times and that it would be my fault because we fought.

Did your family communicate about feelings?

Not very well. My dad was absent. My mom did the best job she could. She would try to reassure me when I was sad about not having my dad. She explained that Koreans favor the first-born son. She tried to love me enough for both of them, but it didn’t work. She didn’t really listen to me about anything I wanted to do when I became a teenager. She said no to everything so I just started lying and doing whatever I wanted anyway.

Did family members support one another?

My mom supported me to be a good student, to keep my eyes Asian and not have plastic surgery. She supported me through college. She supported me financially. Brother never supported me. Not sure that I supported him either.

How about fidelity?

My mom was single so I never had an example of faithful parents. I learned that my dad was cheating on my mom when she was pregnant with me. My mom said not to have sex until marriage because of the bible. But I didn’t listen to her. I cheated on all my boyfriends.

Did you feel “safe” or anxious in your home?

Anxious. I wanted out. I didn’t know why I was born into my family.

Key Words About Home
Write down 6 keywords about your home life growing up.

Chaotic, volatile, critical, rebellious, abandonment, rigid

Positive examples might be:

safe
secure
loving
open
caring
fun
joy-filled
comfortable
inspiring
supportive
Negative examples:

scary
chaotic
critical
dishonest
not available
disregarding
shut down
betrayal
abandonment
violent
Take the six keywords you wrote about home:

Home = Chaotic, volatile, critical, rebellious, abandonment, rigid

Now substitute the word home with LOVE = Chaotic, volatile, critical, rebellious, abandonment, rigid

This may help you understand how you have formed your beliefs about love and relationship. It may also shed light on past or current partners you have chosen as we tend to repeat the familiar until we learn new patterns of relating.” – read more and take the online quiz by clicking here

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These were probing questions. The more she thought about it, the more upset she became until for some reason tears started erupting. She never realized how much of an effect her parents’ relationship had on her overall outlook on love. No wonder she had problems inside her own marriage. She didn’t trust the forever part of marriage even though that’s what she wanted more than anything in the whole world.

Her dad taught her to run from her problems, to abandon your children, and that because she was a girl, she was actually worth less than a boy. She spent her adolescence seeking male approval and the intimacy she lacked with her father. She blamed herself unconsciously, blaming herself just for being born. She didn’t know what to do or how to behave to gain his love.

Her mom taught her to be easily overwhelmed, to act out in times of stress. She taught her to be rigid and unreasonable. Amanda constantly fought off critical thoughts about how she didn’t measure up to expectations. Her mom was desperately depressed before Amanda was even born, yet when they fought, she would threaten suicide because Amanda was so cruel and hurtful. Amanda grew up with the irrational belief that she had power over someone else’s will to live. She wondered if she would find her mother dead from suicide and if it would be her fault because they had bad fights.

As a teenager, she started lying to her mother because she said no to everything. There was never an intelligent, rational discussion about life and how to live it. There were just angry lectures full of ‘shoulds’ and the only time she felt free was when she was away from her family.

She didn’t have a good example of marriage, love, or fidelity. To her, it was all pie in the sky. Yet she based her whole life on creating what she never had.

Amanda decided to write them a letter to let it go once and for all.  Perhaps letting it out would be beneficial to her progress.

Dear mom and dad,
Thank you for bringing me into this world. Thank you for my life. I now know why I am alive, and I am changing things in my life from this day forward. Say goodbye to the old Amanda. She’s dead.

I forgive you for abandoning me dad. I accept that your life, your culture, your personality made you behave the way you did, I believe that you loved me even though you didn’t know how to show it. I forgive you for cheating on mom. I forgive you for leaving us. I forgive you for setting me up to believe that all men will act like you did.

Mom, I forgive you for your angry past. I know you’ve had a rough life and have done the best job you could have given the circumstances. I forgive you for criticizing me and for being so angry you threatened to kill yourself. I know it wasn’t my fault that you got so angry. Know that the guilty feeling you gave me still lives inside of me. Two of my kids died because of decisions I made. I really was my fault. It’s ironic that our fighting never resulted in your suicide, but that a momentary lapse in judgement killed my two kids. I can never fix that. And I can never go back in time to fix what you said to me when I was a kid. All I can do now is forgive you and myself for everything that has happened.

Richard loves me. Steven, Brad, and Robert love me.  Richard weathers the storms with me. Richard and I have a life together despite all our ups and downs. We lost two kids, but we still have three who need us to be happy people and parents. I release you into the universe so I can live my life without a heavy cloud from the past hanging over my head. You tried the best you could, and you both really messed up. I refuse to let the past define me. And I refuse to use the past as an excuse not to fully appreciate and trust the relationship I do have.  I believe in love and fidelity, and intend to live my life accordingly.  From this day forward, I am vowing to life my life in a way that when my kids grow up and take this quiz or one like it, they will have different results and healthier beliefs about love.

Love,
Amanda

______________________________

Here is the prompt:  Your character has a certain deep-held belief about love and fidelity. This belief may be based on religion, on something s/he learned from her/his parents, or on her/his own experience. Decide what this belief is and where it came from. In your story, something happens to the character that seems incompatible with this belief. How does your character react? Write the story.

Visit the other  blogs to read what they wrote based on the same prompts:

http://www.clearlykristal.com/
http://www.worldsworstmoms.com/
http://www.bulamamani.com/
http://www.itsadomelife.com/
http://www.debiehive.blogspot.com/
http://www.mollyfield.com/
http://neargenius1.blogspot.com/
http://the-suds-box.blogspot.ca/
http://www.quirkychrissy.com/

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Life as a Married Mom

Two movies in two days, both with the same lead actress and plots about being married parents. In This is 40, a couple faces middle age, parenthood, and marriage. In the Change Up, a single slacker and a married lawyer switch lives by accident after wishing for each other’s lives. In both movies, the characters learn to appreciate what they have and how to fix problems common in every family.

Let’s face it. Life is hard. Being single is hard. Being married is hard. Having children is hard. Being childless is hard. It’s hard to be a kid. It’s hard to be a student. It’s hard to have a job. It’s hard to be the parent of adult children.

It’s tough having quality time together as a couple and/or family, and its tough finding time to be alone. Meeting our own needs as individuals is difficult, much less meeting the needs of spouses, children, and parents.

Our jobs as parents require us to have all our shit together enough to provide for, care, guide, and nurture the little people we created. We shape and mold them emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, and psychologically. If we are too busy or unhappy with own own lives, they pick up on it. It affects their sense of self. It affects family dynamics.

As with everything in life, it seems that the answer is always balance. As adults, we need to take care of ourselves first or we are no good to our children. Do we sacrifice for them? Of course we do. But if we don’t take the time to meet our needs first, we won’t be able to give to our children in a quality way. And we won’t be able to be happily married while we raise them.

Both moms and dads work hard to provide financially for families. We have different needs, but it’s important we allow ourselves some down time when we are not working to pursue our interests, socialize, and exercise. It’s important we care about what we eat and how much we sleep so we can feel our best day to day. We need quiet time to reflect and develop ourselves spiritually. We need friends and fun. We also need alone time, both as individuals and alone time as parents.

Holidays together exaggerate family dynamics and intensify expectations and tempers. A college aged kid wants to come home for the comforts but doesn’t want to be treated like a kid. Little kids misbehave when they eat too much sugar, stay up too late, and are bored because adults are talking. We try to give them what they want, yet we try to teach them that Christmas is for giving, not getting. We try to make things special for them, but we also need to be consistent with expectations and consequences.

We have to remember we made these little people and act accordingly. We need to remember that life is precious and we create our realities. A yoga teacher once told me,a “where the feet go, so do the hips.” It’s the same with the mind. The way we think is reflected in the world around all of us. It’s up to us to be strong, balanced, and loving. It’s up to us to communicate. It’s up to us whether our kids have happy memories from childhood. Nobody is perfect, but finding the fine line of balance can make life feel perfect.

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Life is Short

Love Love Love

Love Love Love (Photo credit: Gregory Jordan)

This post is really hard to write. I’ve been trying for a while. More and more tragedies keep taking place. I don’t want to rush to writing. I want to make an informed entry. I want to take my time. As the days go by, I feel more and more pressure to post something. So, here is my disclaimer: I don’t know all the facts. I don’t know if I’m right. I just want to write what I feel right now. I started this entry earlier and thought I’d saved it, but apparently it didn’t save right, so I’m starting over again.

“I hope there’s nobody here to shoot people” my son (8) said on Saturday as we parked the car and started walking into the mall to watch my daughter (12) perform with her dance studio.

“I hope so too buddy.” I said confidently as I held his hand and guided him through the maze of cars to the mall entrance. All the while, I held his hand and looked both ways and did everything I could not to get killed on the way into the mall. And then inside the mall, I kept thinking about how crazy that would be if somebody opened fire in that public place.  I took deep steady breaths and decided not to worry and to enjoy my time watching my daughter perform without letting fear of a crazy shooter take that away from me (and all of us).

Thankfully we made it out of there alive.

When I get cranky about doing housework, one way I try to cheer myself up is to start singing (a silly song).  I had some great conversations with other moms about the drudgery of housework and have decided to take a positive attitude towards it (and motherhood in general – don’t get me started on how annoying it is when other moms complain about their kids).

A good friend of mine in Virginia once told me when you’re a stay-home-mom, a good idea is to get up in the morning, shower, put on makeup and nice clothes just like you’re going to “work.”  Because after all, being a mom is work.  It’s my job.  She said it helps to feel better about yourself.  I shared that idea with another mommy-friend who also shares my love-hate relationship with staying home and doing chores.   She wrote a really funny blog piece about the idea of fighting with yourself over such things – making the house look nice, making yourself look nice, having everything ‘just perfect’ as a mom (and she said, “If you’re going to get in a fight with yourself, you might as well look good doing it.”

Since I love singing and I want to bring levity to my daily chores, I’ve started singing a silly song when I do laundry. It goes something like this:  “I love doing laundry. It means I have a family to take care of.  I love washing, drying, and folding clothes for my boys because is means I have a husband and a son.”  My oldest daughter (19) is off at college, so I don’t do her laundry. And my twelve year old daughter does her own laundry. So, when I do laundry, it’s for me, my husband, and my son.

Tonight, as I was folding clothes at the dining room table and singing my song, my son said, “Mommy, you know what makes me sad?  All those mommies of all those kids who died are probably doing their last loads of laundry tonight. And they won’t get to do any more loads for their kids. They won’t have families to take care of.”

If that didn’t hit me right in the heart, I don’t know what would.  It hit me to my core.  He is so right. They probably are doing their kids’ last loads of laundry. They probably are wishing they had their kids back so they could make a mess in the house and dirty up some more dishes and laundry. My heart breaks for them.  I can’t imagine their pain.

The school shootings in Connecticut have rocked me to my  core.  In my forty-four years of life, I’ve experienced way too much loss.  My personal losses deserve a separate entry of their own (another incredibly hard post to write that I’ve started but never finished).

I understand there is good and there is evil in the world. I understand that people act out when they are upset.  But I just cannot understand WHY someone, anyone, would harm innocent children.  They didn’t do anything to anybody.

What was his point?  What was he trying to accomplish?

I’m one of those people who seeks answers and wants to know details of how the tragedy unfolded. I don’t know why, but I do want to know.  Knowing the details can help us piece together the puzzle of what went wrong and how to avoid it again in the future.  There is too much heartache in the world. There are too may killings.  There is too much hate.  Some of it is aimed at children in our country and abroad, and some if it is aimed at other adults.  Either way, enough is enough!!

Death is one reason I don’t understand or agree with religions.  I think we as a human race made up religion to try to answer unanswerable questions like….

Why am I here?

Where did I come from?

Where will I go after I die?

To me, the answer to all of those questions is, “I don’t know” and “You don’t know either.”  And you don’t. You might think you do, but you don’t.  All I know is in the face of evil and hatred, my answer is love and kindness.

We need to love each other and be kind to each other. We need to spread kindness around the world, not hate.

Look around you and see where you can show happiness and bring kindness to someone else’s life.  If someone doesn’t have a smile, give them one of yours.  Let’s replace hatred with love.

I have so much more to say on this topic, but my time is limited.

Daily Prompt: Time Capsule 2012

“The year is drawing to a close. What would you put in a 2012 time capsule?”

1.  A dance bag with ballet, jazz and hip hop shoes and gear. This is the year my daughter (12) became super serious about dance, and our lives now revolve around her practice schedule.

2.  An iphone.  Four out of five of us in the family have iphones. They are definitely a sign of the times.  They have itunes libraries reflecting today’s music too.

3.  My Obama victory magnet.  It’s on the back of my car. I’m happy that he won reelection this year!

5.  Camoflauge pants and combat boots to represent my stepson (20) who is now in the army, stationed at Ft. Drum NY.  He is an infantry man. We are super proud of him for his sacrifice and service.

6.  A Texas Tech flag and a Zeta Tau Alpha sign to represent our daughter (19) who is a ZTA at Texas Tech. She loves going to school there!

7.  My son’s (8) last baby tooth in the front that finally fell out (the yellow one).  It was yellow because when he was a toddler he fell down the stairs and whacked his face and mouth on the tile floor. It cut off blood supply to his tooth, so it turned yellow.

8.  My husband’s business card. This is the year he made partner at his law firm.  He also turned 40 this year (officially over the hill).

9.  An Algebra 2 book because I’ve been studying it a lot this year.  I’m a private math tutor, and I have kids everywhere from Pre-Algebra to Algebra 2 and in between.  This year, I have lots of kids in Algebra 2 and have been enjoying working with them.

10.  An electric guitar because this is the year I’ve been taking lessons consistently and finally learning more about music theory and writing solos.