My Inspiration

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Mother, My Self

I've always backed away when it comes to discussing my upbringing even at the behest of my many counselors who, over the years, felt I needed to purge things from my soul. But I think I've come to the point in my life when I have to make peace with myself and my life. This in no way covers my entire life but is a brief overview highlighting the things that resonate within me when I think about my relationship with my mother. This is for me because it will make me a better person if I'm not dragging around all this baggage whether my family agrees or not.

My first real memory of my mother is when I was 3 or 4 years old. She was making her bed and I was under it. At one point she stopped at which time I slid across the floor, came between her legs and looked up at her. She snatched me from under the bed and slapped me in my face and yelled at me. She thought I was trying to look up her housecoat. Never mind the fact that I'm a little girl, curious and inquisitive or the fact that I was just playing a game. That was irrelevant. The slap would remain ingrained in me for the remainder of my life and tell the tale of our journey. She has slapped me in my face time and time again since that first memory both literally and figuratively. Sometimes her words to me have hurt and lingered far longer than any slap could deliver physically and I can relay every single one of them to you. They resonate in my mind over and over again and even when they are not in the forefront, they are continuously playing in my subconscious like a broken record. Our relationship has been a tug of war. Me trying to be who I was created to be and her fighting me tooth and nail every step of the way. Stories from family members reaffirm to me that this fight of two wills transcended from my birth when she would spank me several times a night before I would succumb to her command to go to sleep.

As I got older and my needs increased I went through great lengths to get her attention but always seemed to fail unless it was to be disciplined. I was always getting into trouble even if I didn't do it. It seemed that she was destined to believe whatever was said about me because she didn't believe that I could be anything less than a thorn in her side.

I know that one could look at my life and say that it couldn't have been that way, that I imagined it. But no matter how much I pushed aside those feelings of inadequacy and inability to have my mother's love too often it was pointed out to me by others as someone else would try to compensate for the shortcomings they saw me get at my mother's hand. It was not a family secret, it was a family shame that people often tried to overlook or smooth over.

Please don't misunderstand me. My mother is a loving person. She loves my siblings, has great respect for them and has always treated them well. After all, they have lived up to her expectations and never walked against the grain. She is a good friend, a great wife to her husband and does great work for her community and church family but little of that love has trickled down to me.

I understand she had a hard life growing up and felt she missed out on a lot of things and spent a great deal of her life trying to obtain those things often at great sacrifice to others. I pray they have brought her happiness but in the process there was a lot of grief. I don't pretend to know all the details or have all the answers but I have my perspective. I have my memories, and I have my truth. The things that I saw happen for others but not for me.

I pretty much supported myself from the time I was 12. With my babysitting money I brought my clothes, school supplies, etc. I ran away from home figuratively every chance I got through babysitting for anyone and everyone that would have me. At 13 and 14 I was watching kids over night. I brought my own prom dress, my class ring, my senior pictures, invitations, cap and gown, etc., you get the picture. She was a very hands off parent when it came to me. My dad came down from NY to see me go to my prom while my mom went away with her boyfriend for the weekend.

She never even had the talk about sex with me. I found that to be very ignorant in light of the fact that my older sister got pregnant at the age of 15 and they didn't even know until she was 8 months. Suffice it to say, that I was very ignorant when it came to boys and pregnancy and found myself pregnant just before my 19th birthday. The really crazy thing is that I found out in the emergency room with my mother who took me there because I had been really sick for several days. At her command I had an abortion, after all she was my mother and I was in no position to argue with her. I had never disobeyed a direct request from her. I felt it was wrong and unfair because my sister didn't have to have one - again ignorant to the facts that given how far along she was it was impossible. What was really degrading and humiliating was she made me pay for it myself and refused to discuss or acknowledge what had transpired. Even though she dropped me off and picked me up. That was the beginning of a downward spiral into hell over the loss of my child, the disappointment I caused my mother (and don't think she didn't tell me about it) and the guilt of the act itself. Never before did I feel so worthless, unloved and alone. I went through a period of self-loathing that took me to the dark side of life. I went out trying to find love in all kinds of people and places. Participating in things that could have cost me my life on several different fronts trying to stop the hemorrhaging in my mind and soul over what had taken place.

The last physical beating came at age 18 when she took a branch from a tree in the front yard and beat me with it after I yelled at her for going back on her word about the car. She said I could use it and then decided that my brother could have it instead. Slighted again, I gave her an earful of what I thought. Never cursing her but certainly expressing my displeasure at being pushed aside yet again. I didn't even defend myself. I stood there and let her hit me with it until it broke to the point that she couldn't use it anymore. I had welts and cuts all over me but I refused to cry. When she was done my only comment to her was "Are you done?" and then I went upstairs and took a shower. I would not give her the satisfaction of shedding a tear. Shortly thereafter I moved out.

I gave her a great deal of disappointment in her life by choosing to walk to beat of a different drum. I could have been anything I wanted but the one thing I wanted was the last thing she wanted for her child. She felt it was a waste of my God-given talents. What she didn't realize is that because of our relationship that "thing" grew stronger and stronger in me until it was an obsession. All I wanted to be was a mother. The best mother in the world. I wanted to be better to my kids than she was to me. I wanted to be sure that they knew they were loved. I would be there in the afternoons when they came home from school. I would help them with their homework and share in their hopes, dreams and desires. I would not force my dreams on them. All I would want for my kids is for them to love God, respect me as their parent, get an education and make a positive contribution to society in whatever capacity that they wanted.

She on the other hand wanted us to be what she could not because she had children. She wanted me to be a big shot in corporate America. Travel the world and have all the things she did not. I didn't want that but as fate would have it I have had a pretty good career that has allowed me to support my family and travel all across the US and Europe. At times it even allowed me to be there for them in ways she was not. But the desire to be a mother has always overridden anything that would stand in my way to doing that including moving further up the corporate ladder.

She first disowned me when I was 21 and pregnant again. She wanted me to have another abortion. This time I chose life. She did not come to the hospital when he was born. In fact she didn't even acknowledge him. I would walk down the street to her house everyday and sit in the kitchen with him and she would ignore him. He was almost 2 months old before she would speak to him. Eventually she came around to accept him but not like her other grandchildren. When I needed to find a less expensive place to live she did allow me to move home for 30 days with the baby to save up enough money for a deposit on someplace. Eventually life caught up with me and I found myself living in the ghetto with a baby, no car, no savings, living pillar to post, starving and paranoid. I was robbed three times, worked two jobs, was raped twice and consequently I had a nervous breakdown, spent 30 days in rehab learning to accept my fate in life and my relationship with my mother. She never visited me in the ghetto and I lived there for three years nor did she visit me in rehab although I called and asked.

The second time she disowned me was 7 years later when I was pregnant with my second child. Again, this was a great disappointment to her especially since I was yet again a single parent. What would her friends think??? Who cares, it's my life, not yours. I did not come to her for assistance. Nor had I in the a long time. I had long ago figured out she would not help me. Heck, I had made it out of the ghetto without her assistance, was renting my own home and had a great job. I didn't come to her for anything at all but her love and acceptance but it was not there to be given. We went several months without talking but again she eventually came around. She did come to the hospital to see this grandchild after she was born. Maybe, just maybe, things would get better. They did not. We just learned to tolerate each other. Me lapping up every crumb of attention or kindness that came in my direction from her.

By the time my third child came I didn't tell her until I was 6 months pregnant, living in Virginia Beach and not in need of her approval, love or support. I was still in mourning because I had lost my best friend - my dad, and was resentful that she still lived. She was my only living parent so I had tried to move beyond our past relationship and make headway into a new beginning. She didn't say anything, finally accepting that it was my life and she couldn't change it. I figured that as she got older she was mellowing out. Wishful thinking on my part but nevertheless she was my mother and I accepted her no matter what.

Over the years we tolerated each other. She often found a way to make her opinions known and I learned to buffer myself so that they could not penetrate my heart. When I got married and took in the last three kids we were at an impasse. I was the faithful lapdog in the family. Always going to the meetings, extending the olive branch, putting me and my family out there, forcing a relationship with them, sometimes shamelessly. I felt like I was hooking myself for my family's acceptance. Even in the midst of my own personal hell I kept up the charade only to find myself hung out to dry when my world crumbled all around me to the echo of "I told you so's." "We knew something wasn't right." "You need to leave him." What I didn't expect was total abandonment, which is exactly what I got. At a time when I needed my family, namely my mom, I had no one. No one to hold me while I cried, help me through my pyschotic breakdown, depression, financial devastation once again or support me as I went through the court process, and the rebuilding of my life, except for God and a few very special people He strategically placed in my life at the right time.

Flash forward three years and here we are. Still at it, except we have come to the end of the road. I have to admit there is a mixed sense of relief underneath the unbelievable shock of her words. It is a blessed relief to know that all was not imagined. I am free. Free from longing, panting and constantly setting myself up for another smack down.

I love my mother, I love my siblings but I have never quite clicked with them and I'm finally ok with that. My dad and I, well that's how a parent/child relationship should be - unconditional love. My children and I, that's also what a true relationship should be. I err on the side of being too involved, loving them too much and wanting the best for them. I err on unconditional love. I love them because they are mine, all of them. Blessings from God sent to me for a short while to love, teach and inspire to be the best they can be. I don't always like them, what they do and how they do it but they have always had and will always have my love and support. They are not perfect. They have made a lot of mistakes and have regrets about choices they have made but through it all they have had me by their side every step of the way. I have not bailed them out but I have given them a hand up when needed. I've been their cheerleader, spiritual advisor, best friend and chief judge/jury and executioner if they did something I disagreed with or that went against my moral/spiritual standards but again they have never had to question my love or commitment to them or their lives. Mistakes? Sure, I've made a few but I've admitted them, apologized for them and learned from them as I'm sure I'll continue to.

I look forward to being a grandparent. I will be there for my grandchildren. I will love them just as I've loved their parents. I'll remember their birthdays, let them spend the night and take an interest in their lives. All of them, no matter what the circumstances of their birth may be. After all, who am I to judge?

My maternal extended family is a very spiritual family held together by the love of God and all things good and godly. My grandfather was the best, a baptist minister with a great love of God. He raised his children under that mantle and us as well. We have stuck together in thick and thin. I never imagined this would happen. I trust God works all things out for good but right now I feel that this division is necessary. I will be bowing out of our family functions for a while. It will give my mind and soul a chance to really heal. I will allow God to work on all of us.

What will be the outcome? I don't know and right now I'm not all that worried. I stand on the promises in God's word that "this too shall pass." My inspiration will come from the hymn that has always been dear to my heart, "It is Well With My Soul" because truly for the first time in a long time, It Is Well! Freedom does that.

I Am a Motherless Child

All my life I have felt like this - a Motherless Child. I have spent countless hours in therapy and thousands of dollars trying to come to grips with this. Over the past few years, I even reconciled myself to this and accepted my mother for who she was instead of who I thought she should be to me. I had found peace through my relationship with God and friends who supported me through things in my life when I should have had the love and support of my mother but it was not to be found.

I even tried to convince myself that my thoughts about my life were wrong. That all those feelings of not ever being good enough, years of being considered the "black sheep" and all those sarcastic barbs and put downs were just my imagination. The notes over the years ignoring the real issues in my life but reassuring me that she was praying for me, when I didn't need prayers but love and financial assistance, would have been better served as kindling for my fireplace but kept them because it was a connection to her. I have every card, note, letter and newspaper clipping she sent me. I gloss right over the frilly Hallmark cards filled with words expressing love and caring because I never believed them and zero in on the ones telling me she could care less what is happening in my home because it's between God and I, but she is praying for me. The last one coming at a time when I didn't have a pot to piss in, was a broken down wreck because my ex-husband had physically, mentally and verbally abused me and our 10 children but she couldn't be bothered with the details of that. It would have meant getting involved, showing she cared and well I now know she didn't not then and especially not now.

Yesterday my greatest fear was exposed to me in such a way that there is nothing that can convince me that everything I felt my entire life wasn't the truth. Yesterday my mother disowned me in such a way that there is nothing she can say that will ever erase the words from my mind or make me believe anything other than my truth.

"You are the lowest of the low. If this is how you treat FAMILY then I want nothing to do with you. We have decided to change our will. We will split everything between your siblings and leave you $1.00. No one asked you to take those children. You should have let them go into foster care, gotten them to support those kids and so on."

Those words and the rest of what she said to me will forever be etched in my brain. I spent the entire day yesterday in a fog. My head throbbed, my stomach knotted and rolled. I didn't eat. I was a zombie. I talked to friends, I talked to God. I ranted and raved to my husband, who heard the entire conversation. I awoke this morning pretty much feeling the same way and then I went to church and cried my eyes out to God. The one who has been with me through everything and has kept me from going over the edge time and time again.

What did I do to cause her to react like this ? Nothing. That is nothing to her. Nothing that she should have even had a say in but then my mother is her own woman and she picks and chooses when to be involved in her children's, grandchildren's and great grandchildren's lives.

My nephew and his wife had three children in three years. I am raising all three of those children. I have custody of the oldest but adopted the other two after they came to me and asked me if I wanted them because they were going to give them away. No one else in the family stepped up or even offered assistance but I took them because they are my FAMILY. All three children have issues of some sort due to the fact that their parents abused drugs, alcohol and each other during each of the pregnancies and that behavior still continues. I have not received any support for the children from them. As I adopted the two younger ones that was not an expectation regarding them. But the first child, the one I have custody of, is a whole other story. He constantly reminds me that she is their child, loudly, verbally, with great force and unkind words. Yet he has done nothing to support her because he's in and out of rehab and jail. She has been diagnosed with separation anxiety and adolescent bipolar disorder. A hell of a combination. We have been in therapy and we have a lot on our plates in handling her but we have not complained or asked ANYONE including my MOTHER for assistance. She prefers not to be involved remember... We max out of the insurance coverage for her treatment which is out of network and 40% out of our pocket after we meet the family deductible of $2,000.00. She can get Medicaid to cover her treatment once we max out if we apply but one of our requirements was to apply for child support from her parents before Medicaid would consider her case. So I filed the paperwork and they were notified. With all that said, it wasn't about the money and I seriously doubt we will see it but it was a step I had to take to get our child, that I have had and raised since she was six weeks old (when they called me and asked me to come and get her from a hotel room they were living in), the help she needs without going bankrupt in the process. Apparently he has split once again from his wife and he ran crying to his mother (my sister) who in turn ran back to my mother with his story of the blues. No one called or asked me anything but obviously assumed what he said was the gospel truth and I'm sticking it to him as a money hungry person.

So you see, the kids that no one asked me to take - they are her great grandchildren whom she says should have gone into the foster care system so that the state could pay for them. They are her FAMILY that she referring to. When is it the state's responsibility to take care of family? Part of her words in her rant was that "family takes care of family and doesn't try to tear each other down." I guess there is a double standard there that doesn't include me and my FAMILY. We have always been treated differently and torn down by her and her actions toward us. I guess she just hasn't noticed or doesn't care. And if you don't believe me then keep reading.

My children have never spent a night with my mother. They have never spent a day with her when I haven't been around. She has never interacted with them just because they are her grandchildren and she wants to have a relationship with them. She doesn't send them birthday cards or birthday presents consistently I can count the number of times she's done so on one hand. She did do Christmas for them but last year decided that since my 16 year old hadn't bothered to call her that she didn't deserve a Christmas present. My mother comes to Richmond at least once a week, passes by my street and never stops by and never calls. I have been in my house for 6 years, she has been here 5 or 6 times which is about the number of times, if not more, that she's been to my sister's house but she's only lived there a year. My nephew's oldest child lives down by my mother. She spends the night, stays for weeks at a time, travels with my parents and gets the treatment from her grandparents that every child wishes for. My sister (the kids grandmother, my nephew's mother) lives 3 miles away from me. We might see her once a month, if we are lucky, but she goes to my mom's to see or get her other grandchild (mentioned above) and lets her spend the night, takes her to the beach, etc. all the time... My mother goes up to Maryland (4 hours away) to see my other sister on a regular basis. Spends time with the new grandchild and does everything a grandmother should do but what she NEVER did with my children. They even drive out to Michigan to spend time with my brother's kids but remember my kids live 45 minutes away. I don't suppose I'm imagining the slight, do you???

The sad thing is that my kids have always felt the slight and I have tried to buffer them from it. Over the years they constantly commented on how Nana treated everyone else different from them and how she treats me different from my siblings and I've always made excuses and tried to deflect them from that thinking and reassuring them of her love. How dumb is that? What a joke. What a lie. What a life. For what? To let it all end like this?

Yesterday I became a motherless child. Something I will make sure my children never experience whether I live to see them grown or not, they will know that I was and I will be with them (through memories and in their hearts) loving them and supporting them forever.

Friday, February 26, 2010

99 Things I Ought To Have Done

This was too cute not to do. It was a great way to see that I've done a lot more with my life than I originally thought.

Instructions: Copy the list, bold the ones you've done (with explanations if needed), share with friends.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (I drove up to the gates and took picture for my kids when I went to FL for business :-) Seriously, I have a great fear of going there. All those kids...
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a thunder and lightning storm (the first 21 years of my life I hid under my bed or in a closet, when I became a parent I "got over" my fear)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (I will run my first marathon on March 27, 2010)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (does pig-Latin count???)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (car accident 2007)
47. Had your portrait painted (if those caricatures count)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (my big toes will never be the same)
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle (I used to consider this better than sex then I met my husband...)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
(does it count if you were the one doing the killing but changed your mind???)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club

93. Got a tattoo
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Book Review: Mom's Bible - God's Wisdom for Mothers

The Mom’s Bible – God’s Wisdom for Mothers with Notes by Bobbie Wolgemuth is a must have for every mom. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or what version of the bible you prefer to read, this bible is the perfect companion to any scriptural library. It is published in the NCV format which is easy comprehension for anyone at any level. I’ve used it as a daily devotional, a study bible for passages needing clarity and a reference for help with situations arising with my children. I have been reassured of my worth as a mother in God’s eyes and given a guide to how to answer some of the tough questions my children ask regarding Jesus, God, the scriptures and how we are to apply the bible to our lives today.

The bible itself is hard back, which took a little getting used to, but very light and easy to carry. The pages are beautifully designed but a little thin so be careful when highlighting. I chose to underline instead so as not to have the bleed through. This bible offers something for all us mothers out there, whether it is from the introductions at the beginning of each chapter, to the Insights, the Walking in…, the Godly Character, Passing It On, Moms in the Bible, Wonderful Counselor, Questions Kids Ask, the Topical Index or the First Touch verses, there is much food for the weary, wounded and hungry soul of a mother. You can make it a daily devotional just by picking one of those topics and studying them along with your reading. I look forward to using this bible over and over throughout the years and recommend this to any “new” mom or “mom to be” who is looking for a firm foundation on which to build her family.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Happiness Project - Remember Love Pt. 2

Wow, it's been two weeks since the last time I posted. I don't have a good excuse other than life. Things have been crazy. Not necessarily in our life although I'm sure others would think so but all around us. Actually at times it's been a bit scary. I know that one of the reasons I haven't posted is because I've been trying to digest some of the craziness and see if I could make sense of it all. Unfortunately I haven't been able to the way that I would like so I've resigned myself to not having to make sense out of everything but to just watch and wait and maybe find the answers in that.

In the pursuit of happiness quest for this month we were to focus on our relationships and I was all set for that but got sidetracked when a good friend announced that her husband had decided that their marriage wasn't working for him anymore. That stopped me in my tracks; made my head spin, my stomach knot up and my blood run cold in my veins. I just couldn't fathom this couple splitting up. They were so suited for one another. Had battled their share of disappointments, hardships and setbacks but seemed to bounce back stronger than before. At least this was what I thought, from the outside looking in. I thought they had finally reached their sweet spot in life with each other and that despite the financial millstone around their neck they were doing well.

Obviously I was wrong and that bothered me. A lot more than I would have imagined. After all, what did that have to do with me and my relationship? Everything! It was a pulse check. I had to do my own internal assessment of where my husband and I are. Where I am. Was I truly happy and content with what was taking place in my marriage? Was I giving it my best? And what about my husband? That was the biggest question. How was he feeling? What was he thinking? Yes, I know we've only be married for 9 months and together for 22 but there is no set rule as to when you should start thinking about these things that I could find. I don't want to be so caught up in living our life and the day to day minutia that I don't take time and make sure we're alright. I don't want to find out that it's too much for him or that I'm not doing enough, giving, listening or spending the right amount of time with him and end up in the same spot like my friend. I don't want to be blindsided and left wondering where things went wrong.

I'm not saying that's what happened with them because I really don't know; but I do realize this second time around that my priorities have to change. I have to take the lessons learned the first time and apply them to this one. I don't want to be yet another statistic. I love my husband and I know that he loves me but truth be told our lives are full. We have six kids constantly needing or wanting something (time, attention, money, clothes, stuff for school, etc.), a house in constant need of upkeep, two jobs with opposing schedules sometimes, church responsibilities, family, friends and neighbors we try to keep up with and it gets to be a bit much. And I didn't mention working out, volunteering, or traveling for work.

So you see, with all that going on it is easy to push things aside in an effort to keep everything else going and that something usually is a someone - your spouse. I'm speaking from personal experience. Some days I want to come home, do what I have to with the kids, eat, take a shower and go to bed. Talking to my husband is optional after all we sleep in the same bed right? Wrong!! That's how I used to feel but I've learned that he needs his time to. Even if it's just to discuss the latest trade in the NBA or what's going on in his family or an idea he has about something around the house or the family vacation. It's during those moments that we are able to reconnect and get back on the same page. Although I might fall asleep during these moments, the fact that I took the time to have it wins me big points where otherwise I'd have a big fat zero. The reconnecting piece is particularly hard to do on the evenings that he works and doesn't get home until 10:30 at night because if I've crawled in the bed after putting the kids down for the night and the day has been particularly grueling I'll be asleep by 9:30. It's hard to wake up and give him my undivided attention when he gets home because I just want to go back to sleep but I try because it's important to our relationship.

I, for one, connect with him throughout the day. Thanks to modern technology he gets a stream of emails from me on his blackberry updating him on how my day is going, to what trips I've got coming up for work, who's got a doctor or dentist appointment and what groceries need to be gotten. I applaud him for being so patient with my litany of messages and the fact that he usually takes time to respond to them too. It might sound crazy to some but I feel it is important for him to know what is going on with me especially if it affects my emotions and attitude. He knows long before I pull into the driveway if I need some down time before handling the girls or if I need a little extra time to decompress before coming home. It makes the way our evenings flow much better and it keeps me honest. It's hard to fake the funk when your partner holds you accountable not just to him but to yourself.

Great, we communicate but it doesn't stop there. What about the dating, making time for each other, romance and sex. Where does that fit into this madness? If we didn't make a concerted effort it wouldn't. As part of my recovery from my past I've been in counseling for several years and during the time when we decided to get married he came to a few sessions so she could let him know what to expect from me (although he already had a pretty good idea) with regards to my PTSD and the triggers. She also counseled us to get away for at least one night every 6 weeks, if possible, to reconnect with each other physically and intimately. It was the best advice we could have been given. Our schedules don't allow a date night every week and our finances haven't always let us have a night away every 6 weeks, but whenever we have found the time and money we have made it happen and I can truly tell you that it's one of the best things we could do for our relationship. We are investing in ourselves and that makes all the difference in the world. In between those times my husband has been very creative at finding ways to make moments for ourselves. We celebrated Valentines Day on Saturday evening after the kids went to bed complete with candlelight dinner, music, flowers and dessert right in our own home. It was one of the best times I've had. We go window shopping at the malls and plan our future, to Barnes & Noble to share a treat, read and just enjoy each other. We watch movies together in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend when the kids are off doing their thing or make the sacrifice to stay up late because we know it's important to have that time. I send him cards in the mail to let him know how much I appreciate him and all that he does to make our life the best it can be and he puts notes in my lunch. Nothing breaks up a rough day at work than a love note from your spouse in your lunch box!! Call it silly, sentimental or crazy if you want but it keeps us focused on each other, our relationship and making it the best it can be.

Intimacy is a bit trickier but we keep that flame lit too. Honestly, it is a roaring fire. I'm enjoying where we are... where I am. I have found great pleasure in the romance department for the first time in my life. A lot can be said about hitting your prime in your 40's!! I have come to accept myself and my body for who I am and how it looks. I'm comfortable in my own skin and I know that my husband appreciates me for who I am. I've learned that Victoria's Secret is a cool store and opened myself up to listen and learn about what he likes and needs and do what I feel comfortable with in satisfying those likes and needs. It's been an interesting journey that I wouldn't have thought myself capable of taking, given my past, but have found that joy comes from a multitude of things including intimacy with the right person in the right way.

Now ladies, don't get me wrong, there are times when I don't feel like it for whatever reason - I'm tired, sore, stressed or just not in the mood but I know that this is an intricate part of our relationship, not to be put on shelf and taken out once or twice a month. The reality of the situation is that men have needs and the world is constantly bombarding them with images to excite those needs 24/7 therefore I have to be willing to forgo a few extra minutes of sleep, set aside my moodiness or discomfort, etc. to make sure that he is taken care of to combat those things that the enemy tries to use to make him look elsewhere to satisfy something that is as natural to him as breathing.

Disagreements, we have had a few. What married couple doesn't? I think we have a healthy perspective on how to deal with them. Especially him. Because I have issues - PTSD, there are triggers we have to be aware of and so we are careful not to get caught up in the heat of the situation but to give each other space, time and distance before regrouping and resuming our conversation. We don't believe in forcing the issue and agree to disagree on some things but not on our common beliefs and what is best for our family. We let our petty differences be just that, petty differences and move on. Life is too short to hold a grudge or have the last word. With that said and because I know he will read this let me clarify...I don't have to have the last word; I just have to have my say. It could be first, in the middle or at the end, doesn't matter - just let me have my say and all is well in our world! Bottom line, I just need to be heard. Another issue from my past, but he respects that, laughs about it and rolls with it. On the other hand, I'm probably not at accepting but I am improving. I am learning to not lump him in with my past relationships and treat him as well as he treats me. Easier said than done but it's all about doing the right thing and so that is my goal.

In the end my assessment of where we are, where I am and looking at what we are doing to maintain and strengthen our marriage was a good thing for me. I've decided that it is something I should do every six months or so because it doesn't take long for the enemy to spot a crack and make it into a great divide. I am committed to this relationship and therefore will do whatever is necessary to keep it flowing the way it should. Marriage is work. Hard work. But, the payoffs are beyond anything else that I am striving for in this day to day life I call mine besides preparing for when my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returns. I am willing to make the sacrifices and reap the rewards here and beyond.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comparison is the thief of joy

Comparison is the thief of joy, comparison is the thief of joy, comparison is the thief of joy. Come on, say it with me. Comparison is the thief of joy. Now ponder those six words. Let them resonate in your soul. What an epiphany. Really, it is. We don’t stop and wonder why we feel bad about our life and what is going on, only that we feel that way and wish that we didn’t. But what triggered the thought? What brought you to the place that made you feel like you were missing something?

When I read Tracey’s post it clicked, almost audibly, that I was a victim of comparison. As long as I went about my life living it to its fullest, I was fine but when I started comparing my circumstances to the people around me I noticed a change. I was unhappy, bitter, angry and even resentful sometime of what others had that I didn’t. It didn’t matter that I didn’t need it or even want it. The issue was that they had and I did not. It made me feel inferior and out of my league when in reality I’m right where I need to be. I mean seriously, how could I not be? How many people can say that they are doing what they enjoy doing and get paid a pretty decent salary to boot. I’m living my dream and although it isn’t what other people had for me it’s what I wanted. Maybe not 100% how I imagined it would be, but pretty dead on. Are there things I would change? Absolutely but not at the expense of losing what I have, who I am or walking outside of what God has for me vs. what I “think” I should have because someone else has it.

I’d love a bigger house with a bigger bedroom and a bathtub/shower combo in my bathroom, a mini cooper, new furniture, a tank full of heating oil, a pantry overflowing and money to spare but what would I have to sacrifice in order to have it? Working two jobs, 60+ hours a week, less time with my husband and kids, less time to volunteer at church or at the Y? No thanks. I’ll survive. We always have and in the end that’s what matters. I imagine that one day there will be a time when some of those things will come about a lot easier than they do now and I will cherish that time but in the meantime I won’t keep wishing for, snipping about and salivating over the new stuff that Mr. & Mrs. Jones got because I’m not sure I want to have to go through what they went through to get what they have. Besides, who’s to say that they are any happier than I am because they have all of that stuff?

In the long run, if I lost everything that I have but still had my husband and kids to love that’s all I’d need. We’d pick up the pieces and start all over again.

So I’m going to make a concerted effort to not let myself get caught up in the comparison game. I don’t want to lose the joy I do have about my life for the stuff that I don’t have.

How about you? Is your joy being stolen like a thief?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Book Review: Scared by Tom Davis

I got sucked in from the first page and could not put it down. It was fast- paced, thrilling, scary, graphic and harsh. Definitely not for the faint of heart. It was eye opening and life changing. Tom takes us to a place only heard about on the news, Swaziland, the home of Adanna, Precious and Abu. Three children who will find their way into your heart and never let you forget the poverty, abuse and pain that they suffer is real but also who will show you through their resilience and faith that there is hope.

Removed by distance, time and ignorance we have been sheltered from the stark reality that these people face day after day from AIDS/HIV through no fault of their own. I was stung and pricked to my core by the raw emotions I felt while reading this book. There was shock, anger, rage and frustration and then along came joy, peace, hope and understanding; followed by a desire to reach out and do something. No longer can you sit back and be distanced if you are a believer of the scriptures, that Jesus is the Christ and that his words are true. You can’t turn your back on your brothers and sisters in crisis. There are great rewards to those that assist those in need and there is an even greater price to pay for passivity as laid out in Matthew 25:34-46 …”Assuredly, I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me…”

It is our duty to carry out the great commission that Christ gave to his disciples in John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love on another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

You cannot have love for one another if you don't do what you can for those who cannot. This book is a call to awareness and out of that awareness comes action.

Although it is a work of fiction it is based on true facts and Tom offers you many resourceful ways to take action and become Christ’s disciples to our needy brothers and sisters suffering all over the world.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Happiness Project - Remember Love

January goals: Go to bed earlier, start exercising again and organize my home office

This month's focus is on love and marriage. Rubin notes that, "working on my marriage was an obvious goal for my happiness project, because a good marriage is one of the factors most strongly associated with happiness...the atmosphere of my marriage set the weather for my whole life" (39). Scientific study, anecdotal evidence and my own personal observation certainly confirm that, arguably the most primary relationship in an adult's life, the marital relationship has a strong impact on happiness.

Today is about reflecting on where you are, and brainstorming where you want to be.

Minivan mom’s post set me to thinking and feeling a bit melancholy because her words pierced a place in me that I thought was healed, but I obviously still have issues with. My first marriage While I agree that it is best to stay married, even in an unhappy marriage, for the sake of the children, I couldn’t. Not only was it unhappy but it was abusive on several fronts. I stuck with it for the sake of our kids – all 10 of them, for as long as I could but when it got to the point that it was just as detrimental for them as it was for me; and when I knew it was a choice between which one of us lived and which one of us died, then I knew it had to end. And in theory so did I. I fell to pieces literally. I was mentally void of any kind of rational thought, action or emotion. I functioned on auto-pilot, anti-depressants and Valium. I was Humpty Dumpty and during that awful time of my life I never thought I could/would be whole again.

The depth of my bitterness, resentment, hatred and anger could not be measured and the idea of another man entering my life was as likely as a snowball surviving a minute in hell. For two years, I worked hard at restoring my children and myself. I lost a few battles and won a few along the way trying to fight for what I thought was fair and just through our judicial system and at the hands of men found myself being victimized all over again because in the south the “good old boy” network is still alive and thriving. The healing process continued though through a group of friends that stuck closer to me than my family and continues to do so. My faith and trust in God saw me through the pit of hell and one day in my world of darkness and despair, the sun started to shine and I started to grow once again – grow confident in myself, my abilities as a woman/mother/friend and a contributing member of society. My job afforded me the opportunity to support my family and travel. Life was good and although I was alone, I was ok. More than ok. I was ecstatic because I had survived. I was tired but not weary, a little overwhelmed but not drowning. I wasn’t whole but I was no longer broken in a million little pieces. And when I least expected it my whole world got turned upside down again.

I met someone while traveling for work. I wasn’t looking, didn’t make the connection and gave little thought that this was more than a chance meeting. Little did I know that there was something much greater in the works. I met my soul mate. The person I was destined to be with. Not because he made my life wonderful and perfect because he didn’t and it’s not; but because he came into my life when I was so much less than I was when I met my first husband but he could see beyond the brokenness into what I could become and he loved me all the more because of it.

Tony’s acceptance of me, my circumstances and my baggage was more than I had ever hoped for. Trust me when I say he got the short end of the stick. I’ve never been one to deny who I am or how I am. In fact, as much as I tried not to be, I am my mother’s child. A strong, independent, I don’t need/want anybody because I can do it all by myself woman! I know what I want, how I want it and don’t think I’m going to let anyone tell me differently; especially after all that I had been through. In my first marriage I was that submissive, subservient wife. I threw away all that I was to become all that I thought he wanted on any given day to keep the peace, to make the yelling, screaming and belittling stop. Not anymore. On the inside I had become hard, determined and fiercely protective of what is mine. In spite of all of this he made his intentions known, dug his heels in and has been holding on every since.

He had one child, a son; I had 6 still at home 1 son and 5 daughters. He’s laid back, relaxed and easy going. I am type A all the way – uptight, regimented and nauseated at the idea of a vacation lasting more than 3 days (Fri, Sat & Sun). Relax was a dirty word totally foreign to me. I didn’t do much laughing, crying or having fun. I was in a groove that didn’t sway left or right but went straight down the line and it took an act of God to move me off of it but He did and I have. I zig, I zag, and I love life a whole lot more when I look at it from his perspective rather than my own. He wipes my tears, holds me in the night when the nightmares creep back in and he laughs with me and at me when I do stupid stuff for reasons unknown even to myself. He loves the salt and pepper hair – no “Nice n Easy” happening in this house and has fattened me up with his cooking and loving. Where there was once despair is now hope, where there was once ashes there are now flowers blooming – dreams on the horizon. I radiate from my head to my toes thanks to God and my husband.

These past two years have been good ones for me. I know that I could not appreciate all that Tony is if I hadn’t experienced the bad. He has taught me a lot about life, living, loving and trusting. I wouldn’t have learned the art of compromise and letting go of the small stuff or even how to laugh at myself and stop being so uptight if it weren’t for him. I can’t say that everything has changed for the better because in some ways they haven’t. We still have our struggles with the kids, finances, jobs, family – you know... life. But we’re in it together and we respect each other enough to walk away and give the other space when needed. That was essential for me because I had to learn to share my space with someone again, to trust my heart to someone again knowing full well that he could hurt me but be willing to step out on faith that even if he does that it isn’t the same and never will be. I’ve had to let go of the past hurts and prejudices and say ok, let’s give it a try and see where it leads. I’ve had to lower my expectations and free him from the incredibly high standards I had set in my mind so that he could be free to be himself and not who I would have molded him into. I had to take the lessons from the past and apply them to this relationship thus making it stronger and better than any I’ve ever had or hoped to have.

My husband challenges me to be a better person without even knowing it. The dreams he has for us stretches me in ways that want to send me running the other way but instead I move forward, taking it one day at a time, working my way through it until it feels right and I can embrace it totally. No pressure, no strings attached, no hidden agenda and no skeletons lurking in the shadows to pull me down. I am free to come into my own.

What keeps me awake at night is the feeling I have of the scales being unbalanced. For all he has given me I wonder what I give him other than a hard time. I lost so much of myself and don’t feel like I’ve gained it all back and therefore he’s missing out on those things. Like how I used to be so easy going, loving and forgiving. It was a seamless part of me and now it takes concerted effort to do all of those things. I have to choose to love, to relax, to forgive and some days to just live and not let the ghosts of the past pull me down into the darkness again.

His acceptance of me is so much more than mine of him. In my mind I replay things over and over and have to talk the walls down more often than not but he doesn’t complain, he just accepts. I throw myself out there giving and giving and often have little left to give at home but he accepts that as part of who I am and tries to protect me from myself. I’m not as understanding all the time. I can be selfish, self-centered and judgmental. He looks out for his family, always putting our needs first. He thinks the whole thing through and is willing to take a chance whereas I’d play it safe and close to my chest.

Nonetheless, it is working for us. I love him for who he is, how he is and just because he is. I love that he loves me, my children (our children) and has made our house a home. I love that he has seen me at my best and my worst and finds he is willing to accept them both. And even though he is younger than me, he is much wiser when it comes to certain things in the world that could present a clear and present danger to us.

What I hope for the future? More laughter, more love, more hope and joy. I’m slowly wrapping my brain around a trip to Disney, possibly a cruise and a vacation that is a week long. I’m looking forward to aging like fine wine with him; to watching the children grow up, welcoming grandchildren and reaching for all that is awaiting us and then some. At this point, there is a future and that is the greatest blessing of all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Book Review - How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles F. Stanley

Do you know what God has in store for you? Have you reached your maximum potential? In Dr. Stanley’s latest book he offers you 7 essentials to help you answer those questions and reach your full potential for God. It will enlighten, challenge and guide you to the deep recesses of your being and pull forth all that God has planted in you and help you develop them into their best.

It was not a quick read but a thoughtful read. I underlined, wrote notes and spent lots of time pondering and journaling as I read this book. I came away feeling like I had a road map that over time would lead me to be the best person I can be for God. It gave me a deeper understanding of who I am and what my purpose is and how to tap into the God-given gifts and potential that are stored up in me. You cannot read this book and walk away not having been touched in some way to think, do or be better than you were before you started. I highly recommend it for those who want to take their relationship with God to a whole new level.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Happiness Project - Boost Energy Pt. 2

So how did I do with my goals? Not as bad as I thought.

#1 - Of course, I bombed on getting to bed early every night but I did fall asleep before 11:00 several nights throughout the month including 2 this past week and felt much more rested the following day. I can’t say that if I kept this up on a regular basis it would make much difference because I just don’t envision that in my life but I will be more mindful of my body’s needs and when I find myself getting sleepy or nodding off I will be obedient and allow myself the luxury of giving in to that moment if there is nothing earth shattering that requires my attention.

#2 – Not only did I sign up, get weighed, measured (in front of my coworkers) and sign away my rights for the use of the gym but I also brought in my workout clothes! They are in a bag under my desk just waiting for me to drag them out, put them on and hit the treadmill or elliptical. We also had a fire drill which prompted me to have to walk down 8 flights of stairs in heels no less. I was not winded which was a good sign to me. I’ve been physically fit for most of my life even anorexic at one time I had lost so much weight due to stress and IBS but I continued working out because it has always brought me a sense of satisfaction and self pride. The past two years I let my gym membership lapse due to financial constraints and found it much harder to motivate myself without the pull of the gym. Not to mention, that my husband is a fantastic cook who is more concerned with pleasing my appetites vs. the type of foods I should be eating. I don’t think it helps that I was eating at 8:00 and 9:00P and then heading off to bed. I’m looking to drop 20lbs and/or lose about 6 inches in my waist and 2 or 3 off my thighs.

I paid the non-refundable registration fee for the marathon and signed my husband up for it as well so that I have a little competition going. So, I think it’s safe to say that progress has been made. I’ll update you on the status of this at the end of February with an update on the weight, inches, etc. and let you know how it relates to my happiness quotient.

#3 & #4 – Besides restoring and organizing my new work space, I did get off to a pretty good job of purging my home office. I had 6 bags of shredding and am no longer in possession of my bank statements from 1999 through 2008. I shredded leases, letters, cards, notes, and billing statements. I tossed magazines (all of my Oprah magazines for the past 6 years…) and pictures from the kids (shhhh). There is just no way you can keep ALL the artwork from 10 kids and have an uncluttered home so I purged through and kept a little bit of everything that pricked my heart when I came across it. I’ve laminated them to keep them fresh and everyone has a folder/crate with artwork of various sizes and shapes. I took supplies to work from my space there and hence I am ready to really get it organized. I’ve decided to put the space heater out there for a couple of hours each night I choose to spend time out there and work until it is a done deal. My goal is to have this complete by February 26. I’m thinking of taking a before and after photo just so you can see the magnitude of the job.

#5 – I’m hoping that if I can accomplish #2, #3 and #4 that I won’t have to ACT more energetic but I will BE more energetic.

Stay tuned as I continue this trek and see where I end up!

February’s focus is on love and relationships. I wonder where that will lead…