Tomorrow begins the 14 days of love challenge. For the next 14 days I will leave a note (we’ll now I create images and text them!) for each of my kids with “I love you because…” with a different reason each day. It gets more difficult as the days progress as I try to find reasons I love them that they don’t think I see. Try it with the people you love. Challenge yourself.
All I have ever wanted in life is to be a mom. I played with baby dolls as a toddler and, as I grew, I moved to Barbies. I played out scenarios in which the main character was always a mom. I babysat, was a camp counselor, taught swim lessons, and took care of kids as my primary source of income for the bulk of my teen years. In my 20’s, I was known as the mom in my group of friends, always taking care of others. I could not wait to have my own children and be a mom for ‘real’! I was married less than a year before I was pregnant. I celebrated my first wedding anniversary with my infant daughter on my lap at the same restaurant where I was engaged. I was happier than ever because I was finally a mom. Years passed and I gave birth to 3 more children. I was also gifted with a bonus daughter, making me the mom of 5 children! Heaven right?! Not really. Being a mom is hard work. I gave my kids all parts of me. I was no longer me. I was someone’s mom. I lost myself in being a mom. Each one of my kids will tell you that as their mom, I have made mistakes and had some colossal failures. I always did what I thought was best but some of those choices were made from poor advice and trauma. I never really trusted myself as a mom….because no one else trusted or supported me as a mom. I was flying blind. The years following my divorce lead to some disasters as a mom but also led me to trust myself more than ever. It took almost losing my kids for me to learn how to trust myself and my choices as a mother. My decisions are not always popular with my kids and they let me know it! However, my job is to be their parent first. They have plenty of friends. As my kids and I have gotten older, I think I have gotten a little better at the mom thing. I listen more and talk less. I support more and direct less. I love more and smother less. From the beginning of my divorce process, my children were assigned a CA (Court Advocate) by the judge (but that is another story for another day!). The first time I met the CA was on the sidewalk in front of my home. I stood there and told her, “No matter what happens to my children or what the court decides, I want my kids to remain together and get counseling. I want them mentally healthy….” I had prepared myself for the worst….my kids being taken from me. And because of that I made mistakes. I fought to PROVE I was a good mom and in doing so, did not listen to my heart. I lived from a place a fear and listened to others. It took plenty of my own therapy to realize I needed to trust myself …. no matter how unsure I felt or how hard it was. Being a mom is not easy….no matter how old your kids are. What makes it better? Admitting my faults and making changes. Having boundaries and communicating those boundaries to my kids. Loving my kids for exactly who they are and not who I want them to be. Fast forward to our most recent family event. I stood for a long time on the fringes, close enough to where I could hear my kids but far enough away so that I was unnoticed. What I witnessed was my dreams come true. All I have ever wanted is for my kids to be friends, to rely on each other. Someday I will no longer be here and I want to be remembered as someone who made mistakes, made apologies, learned from those mistakes, grew as a person, and left a legacy of love. Knowing that my kids not only love each other but they LIKE each other and like being together….that is the greatest legacy. That is a legacy of love. Peace #tutulady #forwardisapace
I was out for a walk today….but chose a different direction. That made all the difference. Spring has sprung! The sights, smells and colors are a feast for the senses. I love lilies of the valley, viburnum and lilacs. The scent takes my right back to my childhood. Today I stopped near an alley at a large lavender lilac bush taller than me by at last 4 feet. As I closed my eyes to inhale the sweet aroma, I was startled by an older woman on the other side of the fence. I took a step back as I had no mask on. “Its fine, honey…..I got my shots!” the woman said. I laughed and said, “Me too! Your lilacs are so beautiful!” “Thank you. I didn’t think they would ever grow. My children would always pick bunches for their teachers every spring.” “And wrap them in wet paper towels and tin foil?” This time it was the lady that laughed…. “Yes! How did you know?!” “I did the same thing! I love lilacs and loved giving them to my teachers too! I am a teacher now and sometimes students give them to me! Do your kids live close by?” “Oh no. They are long gone…..” She trailed off… “Oh…..well do they visit often?” “No sweetie….they are gone. I had 2 children and they both have passed away…..” I felt like such an asshole in that moment. Talk about putting my foot in my mouth. “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean….” She stopped me….”Sweetie…I could not help them. I did my best. I was on my own….. and drugs were stronger than my love. Are you a mom?” “Yes….I have 5 kids and am on my own too……” There was an awkward silence as we just stood there looking at my panting dog beside me. “Well, I should be going. My dog needs a drink! It was so nice to talk to you. Thank you for sharing your flowers!” “Wait…..please pick some of the lilacs for yourself. A big bunch! Thank for stopping and talking to me. We mommas have to stick together! Hug your kids for me……you are so blessed and a blessing to me. Thank you.” So I picked a bunch of lilacs, waved goodby to her and headed home. The whole way I home I thought about what she said…..My kids make me crazy, giving me grey hair while they test my sanity but they are here. They are each a phone call away. I am blessed. I never did ask her for her name but will now make it a point to walk past her house more often. We mommas have to stick together. Peace. #tutulady #forwardisapace
Holiday hints from Krissy Claus. First the easy stuff….Do not count calories. Do not wear a watch. Try doing what other people feel like doing rather than being compelled to always make the plan. Stay in pj’s as long as possible each day. Getting coffee, bagels, donuts or tacos in pajamas is not only socially acceptable, it’s encouraged. Get down and look at your children when they talk to you. Or if they are getting taller than you these days, look up. Make eye contact. Cook someone’s favorite meal. Or cook your favorite and deliver to some friends. Sit by the fire and leave your cell phone in another room. Let the kids frost the cookies, trash the kitchen and get high on icing. Watch Christmas Vacation. Make pancakes with holiday M&M’s in them. If it’s not a hassle to make a fire in the fireplace, it’s an invitation. Pet your dog, especially right behind the ears the way they like it. When you grab your last minute stocking stuffers from the drugstore (admit it, I’ll see you there), pick up a couple scarves, socks, or fleece blankets to hand out to homeless people when you drive by – you can even let your kids do the honors and feel warm inside. Now these are a bit more challenging but Krissy has faith in you! Put away your politics for a while and just love on people. Be kind …..especially to those “sandpaper people” in your life. The people who bug you are in your life for a reason, you may as well love them because they have something to teach you (as my friend says on the subject of judgment, “You spot it, you got it.” THAT makes you think twice). Don’t assume people know you love them, be clear. Ask questions and LISTEN to the responses. Active listening is a form of love. Accept people where THEY are right now…not where you want them to be or where you are in your comfort zone….you don’t have to step all the way out of your box but perhaps take down part of a wall. Think of someone you know (maybe not even very well) who has had a tough year this year and pick up the phone or put pen to paper and wish them a happier new year. Go for an evening walk and take in all the lights. Turn off all the lights in the house except the tree and sit there, at least once, late at night and recall what you are grateful for. Try to make peace with (instead of sense of) the things you don’t feel as grateful for. You are not too old or jaded to believe in magic. Everything you need is right here – every day, and especially at the holidays. Peace. #tutulady #forwardisapace
Advice. We give it and we get a LOT of it…especially when it comes to parenting. Moms get so much advice from the moment they disclose they are in the process of becoming a parent. No matter how a women chooses to become a mother, there is plenty of advice(and criticism) to be given. As children grow, so does the amount or advice…and criticism. Over 5 years ago, I chose to leave a toxic, abusive marriage. It was a horrible process during which I lost my way many times and almost lost my kids. I was grasping at straws, fighting tooth and nail to hold on to my sanity as well as my kids. In the midst of it all, I received one of the wisest pieces of advice, one I will live by for the rest of my life, from the most unlikely source….the court appointed child representative for my kids, Beth McCormack. “Just be their mom……” she said and continued, “They know you love them but they are hurting too…..just be their mom and keep loving them…..” She repeated, “Just be their mom…” many times through the course of my very messy divorce. At first it frustrated me when she would say it because I was so angry and confused. I thought I was being their mom. I thought I was loving them. And I was….but I could not see it. I wanted her to tell me exactly what to do…..and she was. But I did not realize it. “Just be their mom……” I may not have always been the best mom, the mom my kids wanted or the mom my kids needed but I have, and will always, love them. What I needed was help to refocus and trust myself. “Just be their mom……” As moms we really do know our children best. I have often spoken to women over the years about trusting the “mom gut.” Trusting that intuition takes strength and support. Moms are often overwhelmed and afraid. We worry about the criticism and judgment of others when what we need to focus on is our children. “Just be their mom……” When we mother, and not smother, we love our kids. When we mother, creating reasonable boundaries, we love our kids. When we mother, setting individual expectations, we love our kids. When we mother, creating opportunities for failures, consequences, successes and celebrations, we love our kids. When we mother, accepting each as a unique human, we love our kids. When we mother, trusting our own intuition and gut, we love our kids. “Just be their mom……” Now, more than ever, women need each other. We are all struggling in one way or another. Women, in general, have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Moms are making choices that are right their family and already doubt themselves enough. We need to lift each other up, help and support one another rather than criticize each other for the difficult choices we are having to make. So when another mom asks you what to do, respond with the best advice ever…… “Just be their mom……” Peace, #tutulady #forwardisapace