Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ripping Bandaids


I've had some heartbreaks in my life.  I say this not to be dramatic, or for sympathy.  It's just fact.  Now, these heartbreaks, in some ways, define who I am as an individual.  They help develop the capacity for love and loss in my heart.  While many times, I wish that they had never happened, I know that they are my testimony.

This weekend is another milestone or anniversary-filled weekend.  I look back, and five years ago, I was losing my second baby, early on in pregnancy.  Two years ago, I was a bit terrified, knowing my then-husband was driving to my hometown to bring my children and I back to our current town, after I had fled for a few days in fear and confusion, spending them largely trying to decode mysteries and lies in our lives.  

The memories of these dates came rushing back to me this evening, as I made the drive home from taking my children to see their grandparents.

This weekend, this year, was filled with my former husband's family.  It nearly completes the first visits with each of his siblings or parents in over year (or more in some cases).  

A month and a half ago, I spent a few hours at his mother's house.  His mom has been a second mom to me for about 15 years now, but I hadn't been to her house since before he disappeared from our lives.  I hadn't been to the house I spent countless hours, days, weekends, and weeks at in over two years.  Her house was where he first told me that he wanted me to be his wife some day, that he wanted to have children with me, grow old together, and hopefully die together at the same time in a poetic Romeo & Juliet-esque finale (meaning simply at the same time or minutes apart).  We spent many holidays there together.  The house itself is jam-packed with memories that shaped who I was individually, but also who we were as a couple.  

As I drove there that day, I prayed repeatedly that God would give me strength, peace, and grace, and that I wouldn't be reduced to a blubbering ball of tears.  He answered my prayers and I didn't cry at all until the drive home.

Fast forward to this weekend, where his youngest brother, who I met when he wasn't even a teenager, who became one of my dearest friends very early on, his wife, and their infant son came to visit.  I hadn't seen them in over a year at all, since a family gathering I felt completely out of place at the summer before.  I was excited and anxious at the prospect of the three of them here, in our new home, for the first time.  I didn't want it to be awkward or silent or feel like there was a giant chasm in our relationship.  

We had a good time over lunch, watching our children laugh and play, and reminiscing some and talking about life now.  We exchanged multiple hugs, and when they left, I didn't cry at all.  I felt at peace, and I was so relieved.  

His twin brother is married to one of my dearest friends, and they live nearby.  (He was at our place also when the youngest brother was here.)  They've been around before, during, and after my life crumbled, and they've never wavered.  We see them regularly and my children adore them, as do I.  We were blessed to be able to have an afternoon adventure with them at the science center, which the children talked about the rest of the evening.  The science center and their baby cousin.  It was a good day.

Today, the children and I were journeying to my former-husband's father and step-mother's house about an hour away.  Up until today, I hadn't been there in nearly two years.  The last time we went was Thanksgiving in 2014.  He had shown up late, angry, and bitter, and the drive there was wretched, as was the drive home.  Knowing this and feeling some of the residual emotions still lingering, the prospect of going back there today, without him, was uneasy.  But, in my heart, I felt I needed to.

As I was preparing myself for the adventure today, I told a friend that it's sort of like ripping another band-aid off my heart.

The wounds that were left when our marriage crumbled were deep, intense, gaping holes.  I remembered him vividly telling me that no matter what happened, I would always be a part of his family, not only because of the kids, but because they loved me.  I tried to believe him, but always was weary of the truth, because so many of the things that he had told me in that period were blatant lies.    

While I have been in contact with the majority of his family this entire time, I hadn't gone back to his parents homes, and I hadn't seen most of them much at all, because, for all of us, it was painful.  We may not have spoken it, but it was true.  He ripped all our hearts up a bit, and seeing each other was a vivid reminder of that- the life and lives he helped create and then abandoned.  There are always questions, but most of the time they are unspoken, because we know we do not understand or have the answers.  

I have ripped nearly all of the band-aids off, in regard to his family, the other half of my family.  

Some of it remained constant, and some things have changed.

I think the changed have helped me, honestly.

There were slight differences at his mom's house.  New photos of my kids on the fridge, the basement looking completely different from it was the years I spent hanging out in it.

His youngest brother and his wife have a son.  They visited us here, our new apartment where he has never set foot.

His dad and step-mom have new furniture.  I know that sounds trivial and silly, but it wasn't like walking into a big time machine, and the newness of it helped me ease back into the walls.

I mustered up the courage to see these people all again, without him, in new circumstances, a year or more later from the times that were very meaningful in this journey.  I am so glad I did.

Because I realized, for once, he was right.  He didn't lie when he said his family would embrace me as their own, and that they wouldn't shut me out.  I haven't been replaced, and my children and I are loved and welcomed.  They still hug me and tell me they love me, and of course they do the same for my children.  Yes, there's still pain and awkward pauses, but they don't sever us like they could.  Yes, we still wonder, and yes, I still cry.  I may cry each and every time.  I don't know that it will ever be a completely pain-free experience, though I pray that it will.

 I cried today when I left his dad's house.  I realized in the moment they were hugging me that he was right about his family.  

I ripped the band-aids, and the wounds have healed.  Yes, they've scarred over some, but they're no longer gaping.   Things are definitely not the same, but they're not terrible.  In the pain we all feel, we still feel joy and blessings.  Each of the times I ripped the band-aid off, I have been told that his family hopes to see us again soon, and that they are proud of me and my children.  

I think... I think I am proud of us, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

And there he goes...

Today arrived too quickly.  I willed time to slow down, but as always, it pressed on.

And as it goes, so did my first baby... Right through the doors of the elementary school and into kindergarten.

For the past couple weeks, he has been fluctuating between extremely excited and quite terrified.  He was very nervous at the meet and greet and wouldn't even talk to his teacher.  Yesterday, we talked about what today would be like, and after, he didn't want much to do with me until bedtime prayer.

We prayed over today, asking for bravery, peace, and excitement.  We prayed for him, his siblings, his momma, his teacher, and his friends.

This morning, he woke up peacefully.  I let him choose which shirt he wanted to wear for his first day of Kindergarten.  He had breakfast quietly while telling me he wasn't sure he wanted to go after all.  I reminded him that if he needed it, I would "share my brave," though quite honestly, I was feeling a lack of bravery myself and spent the morning trying to quell any emotions except excitement because I didn't want to trigger any negative emotions within him.



I asked if we could take pictures of him with his backpack.  He asked why, and I said "because this is an important day that we will want to remember forever, the day you were very brave, and started your new journey at school."  He agreed to do it, and started getting super excited.  I could hardly keep him still or focused while we stood out front of our apartments taking photos.

He began chattering about his new backpack from his Grandma and how he couldn't wait to show his teacher.  He told me he would give her a hug when he got to school.

We loaded the van up and dropped his back-pack clothed siblings off at daycare.  His sister went on like nothing was unusual, but his brother refused to leave the van.  He had a very tearfilled drop off, knowing he was going to be in a new room at daycare and his big brother wasn't going to be there at all.

Then, together, my first baby, the boy who made me mommy, my blue-eyed son and I went to elementary school.  While I thought that the excessive amount of other children and parents and commotion would make him anxious and scared, it didn't.  He got sad when we had to drive by the school and park a few blocks away, thinking we wouldn't get there in time.

We walked, hand in hand, to the school.  He had a moment where he was nervous, and he said, "Mom, will you tell me a joke?"  I gave him a quick interrupting cow, and he laughed hysterically, and all was well.  We took a photo together to commemorate this walk together, just us, on our first day of school.

When we arrived at the school, he remembered exactly where the blue door was, and he took the lead to walking us there, still holding hands.  We found his line, and he saw his teacher.  He shrieked her name, went running, and did what he said he would- he gave her a huge hug.  Then he showed her his backpack and his new school shoes and told her he was really happy to see her.  She hugged him back and beamed a huge smile at me as we remembered the scared little boy from just a over a week ago.

One of his friends from daycare showed up right behind us, and he hugged her and he shared his brave with her, as she was nervous too.  I couldn't help but just smile and hug him over and over and tell him how proud I was of him.

He kept asking why he was going to kindergarten.  I would tell him "because you're so smart, you've graduated preschool, and since you're five, you start the new school adventure."  Each time, he would just grin at me.


We stood there talking a while longer, before the bell rang.  I hugged him close, kissed him, and he said he loved me.  I told him I loved him so much and was so very proud of him.  We took one last photo together before he went in, and he walked bouncily in line to the doors, turning around every couple steps to look back, wave, at me, and smile.


And then the was gone.

I miss him so much already.  It's funny, because I've spent countless days without him. Although, this is the first time I've really left him with people I don't really know, who aren't my coworkers, friends, or family.  It's a scary new world out there for a momma trying to let go and let her baby boy grow up.

I didn't cry at all until now.  Now, I sit here, huge tears rolling down my face and splattering my shirt.

God answered our prayers, and he was strong, excited, and brave. I am so very thankful.

But my heart aches anyway.

I'm a little angry, too, that his dad is missing out on it all, by his own choice.  I'm sad for my kindergartner who misses his dad, and his dad who doesn't really embrace what he's missing. His lack of interest and absence is always felt, but days like today it stings a little sharper and cuts a little deeper.  It makes us stronger and braver though, I suppose.

But it's going to be okay.  God's got this.  Just like always.

I can't wait until 2:45 when I see him leaving the blue doors, running toward me, for another hug. I cannot wait to hear about his day and all of the things they did at school.  I can't wait to see his grin, and have him with me again.  And then, tomorrow, we start it all over.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

To Ollie Bear for his 4th birthday


Dear Ollie Bear, 

Tonight, as I chase you back into your room for the third time, you are a bubbling ball of three-year-old energy.

In the morning, you'll be a groggy, pint-sized four-year-old.

I know I say it all too often, but I can hardly believe it is happening.  How did I blink so many times that another year has gone by?  It hurts my heart to see the days passing so quickly, knowing that I haven't savored enough moments to last my lifetime, and taking those that have gone by for granted more often than I dare to admit.

I am sorry, Ollie Bear, for letting time pass us by so quickly.   I wish I could pause it and we could stay here just a little longer.

Dear boy, you are such a complex combination of gentle spirit, fire-cracker temper, detail oriented dirt magnet of a lad.  You are intense, but soft.  You are quiet, and so boisterous.  You are calm, and you are ferocious.  You have so many facets, and I know we haven't discovered most of them yet.

You have a vivid imagination that never ceases to surprise and amuse me.  Just the other night, you told me that your shirt transformed into a new shirt, when I asked what happened to the clothes you were wearing.  I laughed so hard.

You know so many things, and you try so hard to understand what you don't know.  I love the intrigue in your spirit and the thirst in your mind.

I love your laughter, and I hope that I will never forget what it sounded like in these early years.  I can hear it so clearly in my mind now that it causes tears to trickle, because it causes my heart to swell with so much joy.

Another thing I really love about you, is that even when you're mad at someone, me included, you almost always will big bear hugs, and you don't stay mad when you are squeezed super tight. I hope you never lose that.

You're at that awkward stage where you're "little-big," wanting so badly to be a big boy, but still so very small.  I pray you'll stay small a little longer in some ways, like how you're usually up for a cuddle, no matter when or where, but progress to big in others (I wouldn't mind you being out of diapers every moment of the day, but I promise I will try to change them at night without frustration knowing full-well someday I'll miss that side of little, too).

Buddy, I promise that I will continue to work on my patience and grace, and trying to spend time with just you, even if it's in minute fragments here and there.  I never want you to feel forgotten or overlooked "in the middle" of your siblings and in the chaos of our lives.  

I pray you will always feel loved, and you'll never feel alone. I pray you know your worth, not only to me and those who love you, but to God.  I pray that you'll never feel unworthy of anyone's affection, knowing that in the years to come, you may struggle due to the events in your toddler-hood.  I pray that you always love learning, creating, laughing, hugging, reading, and dancing.  I pray you give yourself grace and moments to breathe because of your intense spirit.

I pray you know how much your siblings love you, and how you are best friend to both of them, even when you're not getting along.  

As much as I wish you could stay little for a while longer, I am so excited to see what great things God has in store for you.  He has a plan for you, and while I don't know what it is, it excites me to my core.

Collin Liam, you're a treasure.  You are mine, and I'm so blessed that I am yours.

All my Love,
Momma Bear

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sometimes, I'm the baby.

My children... They're little. They're not tiny. They're not babies. But they're not big.



Sometimes, though, they seem so big.

With fall rolling around, we have so many milestones coming up. I'll soon have a kindergartener, and also a 4 year-old, a 6 year-old, and a 2.5 year-old.

We have lived in our apartment for over a year, making it the longest home my daughter has ever had.

I've been listening to my children talk and play a lot more lately. I've slowed myself down and just observed. They're all so intelligent and so hilarious. They're polite and kind. They're loving. They're naughty. They're kids.

Today, I laid in my bed watching the younger two play. For no reason that I could immediately pinpoint, I was suddenly in tears. 

They fell and they fell, leaving river trails down my face onto my pillow.

The years have been so hard. They've been insanely exhausting. They've been incredibly overwhelming and exceedingly trying. They've been a whirlwind that seemed to last forever in some moments.

But they passed so quickly at the same time.

My first baby, the one who turned my world upside down in great ways and made me momma... His years at home with me during the week day are done. They have been for almost two years of course, but somehow knowing he's going from daycare to school... It is the end of his baby, toddler, and preschool days. He's a "big kid," now. I don't know how he got so big so fast. 

I called him into my room to hug me. He asked why, and all I could say is "because I love you and want to hold you." He obliged but looked at me like he thought I was crazy.

I just want to hold him on my lap and rock him a while.

My heart can't handle it.

The second child, the fierce one... He's so little but so big. He will be four in days. He is still pint-sized, which makes him seem younger sometimes. But I watch him play, color, write, and listen to him talk, and it's clear he's not a baby, and he's not a toddler anymore. All of his baby and toddler pudge and rolls are gone. Soon he likely won't wear diapers to bed anymore. He could start school next year.

My heart can't handle it.

Then there's the youngest. She is so self-sufficient. She spins and dances and asks me to watch her and I can't stop watching her golden curls twirl around her face as she giggles incessantly. I watch her cuddle her kitty (our cat) in the morning and take care of her babies. When I listen, I hear her teaching them things. She loves to draw circles and she can draw her own bath, too. She wands to choose her own outfits. But, thankfully for my heart, she still is part baby, though mostly toddler. She still asks me to hold or carry her sometimes. I don't always want to, but sometimes I need to, because all too soon she won't want me to. Her baby days are numbered and her toddler days are flying by.

My heart can't handle it.

So, I become overwhelmed with tears. I gather them all on the couch to watch a movie so they don't notice the tears still trickling.

Their little days are numbered. This makes me the baby now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I am (not) Clara.

A little over a week ago, one of my very besties had her first published novel released to the world.

THE GIRL BEFORE, by Rena Olsen, is an amazing piece of literature for many reasons.




This post contains slight spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet and are wanting to, I suggest you head to Amazon, Target (or Target.com), or Barnes & Noble (or bn.com) and get your own copy. I believe you can read it safely without it giving away too much of the book.

This book is poignant and it deals with a hard, but extremely important topic that affects nearly every country in the world today, millions of people, including those in the United States. Years back, I blogged about the topic because it's so striking and important.

From the first page, each time I read it, I was hooked into the story. 

But one thing, above all, really resonates with me, especially this most recent time I read it.

Clara.

Clara is the leading lady in the book. It's her story. While I read, I found myself drawn deeply to her, becoming attached, empathizing with her so strongly that I could feel it in my core.  

A few days past my most recent read through the book, a friend told me that I reminded her of Clara.  Something struck me there, and it's been on my mind since.

I am not Clara, but yet, I am.

As many know, I've been through the control, manipulation, mind games, deceit, betrayal, neglect, and abandonment of a former husband who disappeared over a year ago from mine and my childrens' lives.

As I trudged through the loss, the further down the road I traveled, the more lies I uncovered, the more crazy plot twists and details I unveiled, the more widespread effects of his choices I understood, and the more overwhelmed and confused I became.

But I never gave up hope. I never stopped believing in the good. I never stopped holding onto faith. I never gave up on love.

I saw how naive I was at times for believing in him so deeply, and for allowing myself to be convinced he was a good person making bad decisions "to benefit his family" as he claimed. I forgave him multiple times and took him back. I allowed myself to take a stand for him, beside him, helping him fight his battles and clean up his messes when he lead me to believe it was necessary because he couldn't do it himself. I allowed myself to believe in his web of lies so strongly that I would stand up for him and fight for others to believe, too.

I trusted. I believed it was okay. I believed I was doing the right thing.

But then my world shattered and he was gone and I began to see the truth, and see the world so much more clearly.

I began to understand that I loved him deeply, but I didn't love the things he did or who he became. I understood I could love and let him go. 

I began to see my own strength. I began to relax and worry less. I began to gain control.

And then, I did what I never thought I would do. I stood up against him, fighting for myself and my children. I fought for him to be held responsible, all on his own, for the things that he did.

Because it wasn't me.  I may have been there, but it wasn't me and they weren't my messes.

I stopped fighting so hard to hold him close and fought to let him go. 

So much of what I believed to be true and real wasn't. I could be cynical and jaded. I could be bitter and spiteful. I could have given up on hope and what's good.  

But I didn't.

Good things can come from the bad things of the past. 

Today, I'm a new woman. I'm the lone parent and provider of my household. God is the foundation of our home and I'm the pillar of our family. I walk with my head held high, with joy in my heart, hope in my soul, even on the saddest or loneliest days. 



Because I am Clara, even if I'm not.


When I briefly discussed this with my friend, the author, she said this.

"I hope a lot of women in those sorts of relationships (like mine) will find a way to relate to Clara."

I think that's largely the beauty of the book. She's taken a serious subject (that you should read the book to learn more about, as I am not telling you exactly what the subject is here), pulled at your heart and caused your mind to think about it. It should anger you and stir within you the desire for action, really.  It should make you uncomfortable and passionate.

But, she also introduces you to this beautiful brown haired, green eyed, hopeful, confused, strong, brave woman that I believe so many can relate to. While their stories are likely to be quite different, there's going to be countless women who see themselves in th pages. Perhaps they'll only be at the beginning of her story, or perhaps they'll be more toward the last chapters or somewhere in between. If they're only at the beginning, I hope at the end of the book they see hope and the promise of better tomorrows. And, if they're where I am, more toward the last chapter of the harrowing story, they'll be able to look back and see just how far they, and Clara, have come.


While my friend has no idea I wrote this (or at least doesn't know I am writing it but will soon), I urge you to check out her site: http://www.renaolsen.com for more info and links to be in touch with her.