Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: March, 2016

Taking my own advice…

Arm chair parenting.  Doling out parenting advice seems so helpful at the time.  Even the simplest comment or suggestion can do more harm than good.

We forget what it felt like to be that parent of a young child/children.  As with many things, our memory is a beautiful shade of pale pink.  Our mind has whitewashed our memory and diluted those horrible moments when we weren’t at our best, when we were just trying to figure things out, when we were going “hit or miss” with our efforts to get our wild children under control.

I apologize for spouting off and sounding as though I had all the answers, as if I did any better when I was in those days. I didn’t — I know I didn’t.

My best advice, which I will take to heart myself, for the grandparent or other relative, friends, neighbors, teachers – before you speak, take a breath and hold it in. Quiet that inner voice. Then, instead of speaking with authority and judgment, put your hand on that parents’ shoulder – and say – “You’re doing okay.”


The nice divorce and other fables….

Let’s talk about divorce. It isn’t an easy thing – for anyone. I recently spent some time with my ex-husband – which is why divorce is on my mind. If you have ever been through a divorce, you know of the difficulties. Making that decision is one thing, seeing it through with all of the complexities and variables is another. If you have children, struggles are compounded and you have to be prepared for a lifetime of adapting.

In a divorce, the children suffer the most no matter how hard you try to protect them. Even in the most ideal situation where both adult parties are congenial, in their lifetime the kids will have two “homes” and often two step-parents. Unfortunately, in most divorce situations – the adult parties are not congenial. My ex-husband and I were not.

Despite all of my efforts to keep the kids out of the middle, they suffered. They learned at an early age to be mediators – not to say or do things to upset either parent. Now, more than ever, I know how hard it was for them and I can see their scars more clearly. I am sorry for my role in their misery, fears and apprehension. I wish things could have been different. Despite everything, they survived and are amazing, strong adults with families of their own.

Recently, my daughter and I talked about divorce as we walked in the warm sun. She posed a question, “When is the best time to divorce, when there are children involved? When they are really young? Pre-teen? Teenagers?” She named several examples of each and, in all cases, the scenarios for the children were the same – painful, difficult, complicated. The reality is — it isn’t about the “time”, it is about the individuals. If there is a divorce – they have to choose to make it as simple as possible for the kids. There are divorced couples who communicate with each other about the needs of the children, who truly “share” custody. Though it is an adjustment for the children to have to go back and forth between households – the exchanges are not filled with tension and distress. They see two people who no longer love each other but still love the children/child and work together for the sake of the children/child.

My ex-husband and I were the perfect example for how this did not happen. In truth, there was just too much bitterness. Every effort made to keep things on an even keel was met with anger and defiance. But then, that is why we divorced…we were too different. Our parenting styles were worlds apart and our core values were too diverse. Even though we had talked about how important it was to maintain a relationship for the sake of the kids – everything fell apart. Those disparities came full circle and every issue involving the children became a conflict. No wonder they have scars.

The nice divorce is a bit of a fairytale. I don’t personally know very many divorced people who did conduct themselves to the benefit of the children. The biggest reason most women (and some men) stay in miserable marriages is because they KNOW it won’t be the fairytale divorce. The children will become pawns. So many variables would come into play – separate homes and visitation means the possibility of placing their children in an unsafe or unfavorable environment beyond their influence. They suck it up and continue living in an adverse situation because at least in that situation they can control the adversity to some degree.

Not every marriage is made in heaven. In my case, I realized early in the relationship that we were souls apart. At first, I believed I could change to make things work. I could suck it up – make concessions. Let him run the show. For a time, I even believed that he was right – I wasn’t capable of making my own decisions – we had to be a cohesive unit, one that he ruled. I lasted four and a half years thinking in those terms. Then, one day, I realized that I was actually a single mother of two small children, and one very large and demanding child. I decided I would find a way out of a situation that I KNEW I couldn’t survive. I chose to divorce when my children were young because I did NOT want them to see our relationship as an example of how they should live. I did NOT want them to live in a household where their mother was unhappy and unauthentic. I could NOT live my life in fear, sadness, anger and resentment. I loved my children. I loved my job. I disliked my husband very much. It wasn’t enough to have two-thirds of a life anymore. If my only source of unhappiness and misery was him – then it was time for him to go.

It was a very tough decision. It was a very tough time in my life. I was working full-time, with a 3 year old and a 6 month old. I had a house payment and a car payment and all of the other incidentals of life. But honestly, it was easier doing it on my own that having him in the mix. My parents, sisters and friends helped me through the worst of it. I met my current husband during all of this turmoil and he was a ray of light and hope. It was also during this time that I found the most important person in my life. Me.


It is dark. From my perch at my desk I can see the skyline of pale blue over black mountain tops as the sun begins its ascent into a new day. How lucky am I? First, to be able to see it. Second, to live in such a place.

I’ve been visiting with my cousin/friend/purveyor of light. We’ve talked about many topics but we talked a lot about what it means to live in this valley. We grew up here – we’ve called it “home” even when we’ve lived elsewhere. Both of our families of origin have scattered to the wind. After a certain point in your life, home can no longer be defined by where your parents are – does that mean we no longer have a “home”?

I moved back to this valley 19 years ago. I immediately felt comfortable and secure – I knew these roads, some of these people – I was a small part of the history of the valley, if only because I bore witness. I’ve always felt like this is the one place I belong.

In the 19 years that we’ve lived here, my kids have grown up – my father passed away and my mother has been moved to a memory care facility in a neighboring city. My siblings live in this valley, though I don’t see them very often. My father’s remaining siblings live here too. Is that what makes it home? Is it the people or the land?

People are friendly, neighborly. They laugh freely. The scenery is breathtaking. It is quiet and peaceful. When my Grandfather came to this valley for the first time, he decided this was to be “home”. I understand.

Growth over perfection

When we choose growth over perfection, we immediately increase our shame resilience. Improvement is a far more realistic goal than perfection. Merely letting go of unattainable goals makes us less susceptible to shame. When we believe “we must be this” we ignore who or what we actually are, our capacity and our limitations. We start from the image of perfection, and of course, from perfection there is nowhere to go but down. I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) Brene Brown

I am on day two of my new mantra. I have to repeat it throughout the day. My most difficult endeavor is overcoming the poor body image. But I’ve been coping with those demons since I was about 14 years old. Long lived pattern there. Anytime there is an inner conflict – the long nails and hateful remarks come out – directed at little old me, by me! How self-defeating is that? Crazy.

As a young girl I was very sickly. Photos show a thin and pale girl, with knobby knees and large brown eyes. I was never referred to as cute or dainty – just skinny and bony. I was late in developing – didn’t really need a bra with an actual “cup” until I was a freshman in high school. I went through a chubby phase as I entered puberty (don’t we all?). I eventually slimmed down again, but the dye had been cast – I had no confidence, very low self-esteem and a loathsome fear of being unattractive and alone for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to the 57 year old you see before you. After many years of sorting through those fears (the shame of it all!), they remain the core belief. It is very difficult to overcome. I am a grown woman with a wonderful family, a good marriage, a lovely home. I am strong, smart, kind, capable. Will I ever be able to get beyond that core belief?

“You is kind, You is Smart, You is Important” – Where was Abileen when I needed her?

SO – growth over perfection. I am a grown woman. I am MORE than my appearance. I will accept my aging body. These sagging breasts fed four little babies. This gel-like stomach housed those infants, grew them from a small seed. These fleshy legs and arms helped carry them, chase them, rode bikes with them. These chubby cheeks helped supply many smiles and plenty of laughter. In this body resides a strong mind, a quick wit and a gentle nature. What could be more perfect?

Help yourself

The record keeps skipping. Time to put on a new one. (Gee, I hope there are those who know what type of “record” I am referring to…)

If every morning you wake up and follow the same path and feel the same sadness or isolation – shouldn’t you change the path? Most of us need the stability of a routine – it can be calming and deliver serenity. However, if every day you end up in the same rut and begin to feel lethargy, at what point do you revamp your routine?

How many self-help books does it take to change the sunset? Good question. Do you get it? The books change nothing – we do…or we don’t. We just keep buying more self-help books.

I’ve talked about that particular topic before and I’ve actually tried to restrict myself from buying new books because I have a huge library of self-help books already. In truth, we all need refreshers, on occasion, and you never know when a new author or a new idea/remedy may strike you and renew your vigor for enrichment. That being said, I also have a cache of self-help books that I will review in times when I realize I have fallen back into the well. (Where is Lassie when you need her?)

My most recent find is the book about shame (I’ve mentioned it before – “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)” by Brene Brown). I have had the book for a while – and have been doing a lot of processing. As with all of my books, I will have “aha” moments and feel revived and then some time later, fall back into the same old patterns.  Perhaps I need to find a book called, “Realizing The Cure and Sustaining It For More Than A Week”.  Of course, I am being facetious (it usually lasts longer than a week).  After years of therapy and years and YEARS of self-evaluation and self-therapy, I do know that there is no overnight fix, it takes a lifetime.

So. Always needing to have a plan, here’s mine:  Each morning for two weeks – no matter what I have planned for the day – I will review the following “mantra” in preparation for my day:

Today, I shall choose growth over perfection. I shall choose compassion and self-acceptance.  I will make a connection.  I will not hide inside my own head.

I’ll let you know how the plan works.  Maybe the two weeks will develop into four and the pattern will change!?  Then,  I’ll write a self-help book….


When in doubt…

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Yes, self-doubt is the enemy. My writing life seems to resemble five o’clock traffic. I will roll along for miles, changing lanes at high speed and writing in free flow — then, traffic jam. Inch along, making no forward progress — trapped among all the other vehicles — seeking the nearest exit. Eventually, traffic resumes speed and I cautiously re-enter the fray. I begin to overthink my driving, to question my lane choice, to compare myself to the other drivers, to doubt my driving skills. Where is that exit?

And thus begins another writing drought.

I took a writing class in November. It was a relatively good experience – but it brought my own self-doubt into full view. Over the years, I’ve realized that my writing persona is a wee bit fragile. Even mildly constructive criticism can cause a reversion to my 12 year-old being – the one who is fearful and reticent – full of doubt and self-loathing (like most 12 year olds). Hibernation is my next shift, creativity slows to a thick Karo syrup pace.

Logically, I KNOW that I need to overcome this impediment. I usually can feel the self-doubt rising, like boiling water.  When a pan is ready to boil over, you can put a wooden spoon in the water as a preventive measure. If you don’t have a spoon, you can slowly blow over the top of the bubbling liquid and it will recede. It is the coolness of the air and spoon that reduce the temperature just enough to prevent overflow. When I’m writing, I fear being judged unworthy of my keyboard. When that fear overflows – I am stuck.  I need to blow on the water before it gets to that point.

It is a small comfort to know that many writers feel the same angst. I found numerous quotes about self-doubt and the anguish often associated with writing. I don’t know where my writing will take me, I don’t really have a plan. I enjoy writing and about every fifth essay seems like a “keeper”. I just know that I love it when the words come together in a pretty little fashion. I will climb over this hump of self-doubt and fear. I will keep writing and I’ll pretend no one is reading, that’s the easiest way to avoid wondering who will judge my soul.

“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

[Thoughts from Places: The Tour, Nerdfighteria Wiki, January 17, 2012]”
John Green

(I love this quote.)

Spring is coming

I’ve just returned from a vacation to the southwest. The weather was clear and warm and it was a perfect winter getaway. Temperatures were in the 80’s in Arizona and in the 60’s in Utah. Hard to believe it was the end of February!

March is my least favorite winter month. It is cold with alternating bouts of snow and ice, then sun and mud. There is a promise of spring and then the shock of a full-blown winter storm — all in a days weather structure. The grass is yellow/gray, the trees are leafless and skeletal. If ever there was a scene written for depression and lethargy, this would be it.

You have to seek the silver lining. In the yellow/gray field, are newborn baby calves running and playing. Just above the mountains and below the gray clouds is a sliver of clear blue — the sun is powering its way through the seam. There will be sunshine, at least for awhile. Everything sleeps a little longer – gathering energy to burst on the scene in a few short weeks. The birds will return. Dandelions will arrive in full force and multiply in plain sight. There will be fawns and chicks hiding in the new green grass.

If you can just hold out a little longer – all will be fresh and clean again.