Sunday, July 3, 2016

Did You Pack Extra...

As Dotty and I got ready to head out for an overnight stay this holiday weekend we began packing the car as if we were going to be gone for well over a week. The entire back of my SUV was filled with everything I would need for any situation except a blizzard and since we are in Texas in July I felt pretty confident I was safe there. 

(On second thought I better throw in a light jacket for both of us just in case.)

While we were putting bags in the car Dotty kept asking me things like...

Did you pack extra pillows?
Did you bring extra snacks?
Did you make sure we have enough to drink?
Do we have plenty of sunscreen?
Did you pack me extra shoes in case mine get muddy?
Do I have an extra swim suit?
Do we have extra batteries and chargers?

I reassured Dotty we had plenty of everything and then some!  I learned from one of the best how to pack like a champ (aka like you are moving out of the country temporarily). 

We picked up Dotty's friend who would be joining us for the overnight trip and off we went.  As the girls watched a DVD I let my eyes enjoy the countryside I rarely saw and let my mind wander. 

It didn't take long for my mind to head down a familiar path to Worrytown.  I began to ask myself things like...

Did I pack extra patience?
Did I bring extra hugs?
Did I make sure I have enough love to go around?
Do I have plenty of grace to give?
Did I pack extra forgiveness in case my feelings get hurt?
Do I have an extra good attitude
Do I have kindness and generosity?

So often when we make special plans we make sure to bring all the right physical "stuff" but we forget to pack the really important "stuff".  I am guilty of it the past and on this most recent trip. 

A few times I lost my temper.  A few times I was short.  A few times I was tired or hot or hungry and took it out on the people I love the most.  Sadly the person who sees me at my worst is the person I love the most...Dotty. 

Dotty sees the real me...and loves me anyway...God bless her.  Luckily she is seeing a better me these days.  Six or Seven years ago I never packed any extra patience, hugs, love, grace, forgiveness, good attitude, kindness, or generosity. 

But thankfully people can change...if they want to.

Just like making a list of what to bring on a trip it is a conscious effort to try and do better.  You have to see what you are missing and write it down to know that you need to get some of it. 

For instance I can say to myself...

Hey...I was kind of hard on Dotty when she was hot and tired at the end of a long day.  Maybe I need to get more patience and kindness as well as some extra hugs before a situation like this comes up again. 

We are never going to be perfect but the point isn't to be perfect just to be better than we were before.  I want Dotty to see my flaws.  I also want her to see me apologize for my mistakes and I want her to listen to me when I tell her how I hope to do better in the future.  Then (Lord willing) she will be able to see the change the next time something similar comes up. 

Like in life I know I will almost always forget something whether it be my pillow or my patience but unlike my pillow intangible things like patience, forgiveness, and grace are easy to get once I notice I left them behind.  All I have to do is stop and look again.  In reality they are always there.  I just have to dig a little deeper. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Random Button

I remember the day I got my new Toyota Hylander. The gentleman at the car dealership was very thorough in going over every feature, every inch, every button, bell, and whistle on that vehicle. He showed me how check my tire pressure and where the jack was. (I showed him how I dial my brother to come change my tires.) He showed me how to adjust the air temperature and the heated seats (love those things). He showed me the mirrors (yes even the vanity one) and he showed me all the cool things the stereo system could do. I remember when he got to the cd portion of the lecture, he showed me the Random and Repeat buttons as well as how to use the Browse feature to search for my favorite song via the menu on the touch screen.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself how I would never push the Random Button and even the Repeat Button was a highly unlikely choice. I even remember pondering why in the world would someone want to hit the Random Button? I have never in my life bought a cd in which I liked all the songs. In fact, I like it when I get so familiar with a cd that I know the minute one song ends if I need to skip the next song or not. The whole idea of a Random Button seemed quite…well random to me.
It was less than a few weeks after I got the new car when Dotty noticed the Random and Repeat Buttons that showed up on the touch screen when a cd was popped in to play.
Dotty asked “Momma, What do those buttons do?”
I explained “The Repeat Button will just keep repeating the same song over and over again. The Random Button will play the songs in a random order. Like it might play song number two then jump to song number six then back to number three then to number nine then back to one. There is no particular order it will go in. The system will just randomly choose the next song.”
Dotty – nodding…thinking…fingers twitching in excitement.
Needless to say, a year later, Dotty now uses those buttons quite frequently.
When Dotty gets a new cd we listen to the whole thing but then she goes back to her favorite ones (usually the loudest and poppiest songs) and she will hit the Repeat Button on each one until it has played at least four or five hundred times. This process ensures she has learned all the words, come up with a dance routine to the song, and done several videos of herself on her iPod singing and performing said song.
I handle the Repeat Button fairly well…to a point. As long as I, in general, like the song and the car ride is under 15 minutes I figure I can endure anything until she gets out of the car.
However, the Random Button simply kills my inner need for order and my love of predictability.
This past weekend I was battling being ill for what seemed like forever but was at least a good five weeks. I had reached my “OTC Meds Just Aren’t Cutting It” breaking point and had been to the doctor. My mom was a saint and had kept Dotty most of the weekend so I could rest and let my body heal.
When I got Dotty on Sunday afternoon I needed to run a quick errand. As Dotty and I were driving through town Dotty popped in one of her favorite Christian music cds. I personally like almost all the songs on there but Dotty has about five on the cd she prefers to listen to and the others she prefers to skip.
She made sure to search through the Browse screen and find her all time favorite song first. We rocked out to it…singing and dancing as we drove past amused onlookers. Let it be known, Dotty and I can have quite the dance party in my car and we have perfected choreographed routines to many songs that not only prompt but entice people to stare at us…especially at stop lights.
After we had gotten our jam on Dotty hit the Random Button. The next three songs were not her faves. Dotty kept asking me to skip the songs. At one point we had “skipped” the same song five times within a 30 second period.
My Tylenol and my patience were wearing off at a rapid rate.
I aggressively pushed off the Random Button and said in my most snappy, matter of fact, mom voice “Dotty. When you push the Random Button I have no control over what song will come up next. If you will just let the cd play as normal in the proper order then I can control what number song we go to.”
Dotty sat there very quiet.
Dotty usually sits very quiet when I do that voice.
Unfortunately, Dotty has heard that voice often in her life.
After a while Dotty relaxed back into her seat, grabbed her iPod, and began to play a game. Our fun, carefree time was over. I had ended it with the push of a button. I had ended it with my no nonsense words. I had ended it. Not Dotty. Me.
As we drove in silence I began to think about how often in life I ended Dotty’s “Random Life Moments”. After all, she is only eight so being random kind of comes with the territory.
Dotty can one minute be singing and dancing and the next minute ask if we can bake a cake. She can be yawning and laying her head on my shoulder and then jump up and want to take her new puppy for a walk when it is time for bed. She can love math one minute and hate it the next. She can pick out her clothes the night before while she is getting ready for bed and come walking out of her room the next day in a totally different outfit.

Dotty likes to be a girlie girl and a tomboy.
Dotty wants to be the smartest girl in her class but she wants to need the teacher’s help too.
Dotty wants to be a teacher when she grows up, who works as a nurse at night, runs the family store on the weekend, and stars in Broadway plays in the summer.
Dotty wants to be a mom, the President of the United States, an astronaut, a paleontologist, and a farmer…and she wants to do it all before she gets old…like me.

Dotty is eight.

When you are eight the world is full of possibilities and your head is full of dreams and your heart is full of hope. When you are eight things come and things go but your world is what is happening right now…right this minute…with the people you are with at that very moment in time. When you are eight you live in the now…and the now changes. When you are eight your life is random but it doesn’t seem random to you.

However when you are thirty-six your world can seem full of uncertainties and your head can be full of doubts and your heart can sometimes be full of brokenness and pain. When you are thirty-six the things you love and feel safe with seem to go and the things that are scary and hard seem to come and seem to stay. Your world is sometimes all about what happened in the past or what might happened in the future and you forget to live in present…you don’t know how to focus on what is happening right now…this minute…with the people who are experiencing it with you. When you are thirty-six living in the now is so hard because life can be hard. When you are thirty-six you seek stability and calm and peace and you flee from things that are random because randomness is beyond your control and if your world is out of control then then all heck breaks loose.

I spend so much time thinking about what has happened or what will or might happen that I forget to just let things happen.

I have lost my ability to simply enjoy whatever comes in life. I feel the need to prepare for whatever life might throw at me and in the preparation I forget to simply live.

It isn’t that Dotty loves to listen to the songs as they play on the Random setting. The truth is she is simply okay with the setting.

Whatever song comes up next she will deal with it. If she likes it she will sing along. If she doesn’t she will hit Next. Even in hitting the Next Button she still doesn’t know what the next song will be but again that is okay. When the next song comes up that is the one playing now and that is the one she will deal with. Sing along or hit Next again.
So simply. So easy. Not really all that random at all.

Dotty doesn’t get upset if a song she doesn’t like comes on. She doesn’t even get upset if a song she doesn’t like comes on five times in a row…or ten…or twenty. She simply keeps hitting next not knowing what is coming.

When you are eight you are brave like that.

I know life is much more complicated than finding a good song on a cd but what if it isn’t all that much more complicated???

What if we simply let God pick our next song…our next life moment…our next life event? What if we simply quit trying to control our world and just live in it? What if we were okay with the Random Button in life? What if we had faith in our God and in ourselves that together we can handle anything?

I love that Dotty is okay with things being random and beyond her control. I love that Dotty can let go of the need to control something and just enjoy what comes.

I love the fact that Dotty can enjoy the moment…each moment to its fullest. She can sing her heart out to the song that is playing on the stereo as we drive home. Then when we pull up into the driveway she can enjoy the wind and sunshine on her face as she rides her bike along the sidewalk. Then she can enjoy every bite of the chicken nuggets I lovingly warmed up for her in the microwave like they are the best things she has ever eaten.

Each moment, even if it is routine and not a big deal at all, is milked for all its worth by her eight year old self.

She is living life to the fullest.

And I want to be able to do it too.

I want to wake up and enjoy the feel of the warm covers surround me instead of start to immediately worry about what I have to do that day.
I want to pour a glass of orange juice and taste its sweetness instead of absent mindedly drinking it as I check email and Facebook.
I want to bend down and look at Dotty in the face as I listen intently to her when she tells me about her dream the night before instead of nodding and uh-huhing to her as I barely listen while I gather all our stuff up.

I want to enjoy the moment. I want to enjoy my eight year old.

I don’t get either one of them back when the moment is gone and the eight year old is nine…or ten…or twenty…or thirty-six.

I want hit the Random Button on my life and let God lead the way.

I want to take my hands off the control buttons because let’s face it…I haven’t been doing that great of a job anyway.

I want to let go…and let God.

Because deep down I know if I let Him guide me, my path will never be random.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Forgivness and the Beast

Yesterday on the way to softball practice Dotty was doing some of her math homework in the car. (Side note: These days we do a lot of things in the car such as homework, eat, sleep, get dressed, do our hair, and if we are in a pinch…wet wipes substitute as a shower sometimes.) This part of Dotty’s homework was a timed assignment. She had two minutes to answer all 25 math problems. After the two minutes were up I was supposed to check them.

Sixty-five seconds into the assignment Dotty yells “DONE!”

I replied “You still have some time left…why don’t you use that time to double check your answers.”

Dotty’s head went back down. Twenty seconds later Dotty announces “I am done checking them!”

She couldn’t even wait until I could stop to look over the sheet. She started calling out the problem and her answer so I could verify she was correct.

Dotty – 4+2=6
Me – Correct
Dotty – 2+6=8
Me - Correct
Dotty – 2+8=10
Me – Correct
Dotty – 1+2=3
Me – Correct
And so on and so forth.

About halfway down I hear “6+2=7”
Me – Ummm…what?
Dotty – 6+2=7 (she repeated in her best second grade sarcastic tone)
Me – Noooooo. Actually it doesn’t.
Dotty - ……..

She then starts wailing about how she meant to put down 8 and how I just had to let her change it. I calmly said that not only did she have time to get it right the first time but she also had time to check her answers and that I was in fact going to count it wrong since it would have been wrong if her teacher would have checked it. (We have had problems with Dotty rushing through her work so I was trying to prove a point.)

Oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth was quite the show. Dotty threw her papers into the floorboard of my car…chunked her pencil at the dash…kicked the seat with her heels with such violence I thought she might hurt herself and proceeded to scream like a possessed child.

I sat across from her gripping the steering wheel like I was holding on to a rope for dear life as I dangled over the edge of cliff. Because I was in fact standing on the edge of a cliff. The cliff was Rational Mom. The valley below was Crazy Mom. Not only was I about to fall into the valley…I was almost ready to jump willingly and with gusto into the valley.

I took five calming breaths and I noticed Dotty was taking a few breaths herself (only hers sounded like growls). Through gritted teeth I said “That is quite enough Dotty. What on earth has gotten into you to act like that?”

It was a question I wasn’t expecting her to answer but she did…loudly.

“I knew the answer…I KNEW IT!!!” Dotty yelled at the window.

Just as I was about to match her volume and surpass it by about three octaves I caught her profile out of the corner of my eye.

Dotty was sitting in the seat hunched over…head down…lose hairs falling over her face…arms crossed tightly across her chest…and her lower lip stuck out about three feet.

I was shocked.

She looked just like a picture of me from when I was a little girl even younger than Dotty is now.

That is when I realized it.

Poor kid is so much like me it is scary.

I too HATE to be wrong. I too can throw some hellacious fits when I get angry and frustrated and mostly with myself. I too am a perfectionist. I too have chunked pencils across rooms as recently as last week. I too can go overboard. I too can be mad at everything and everyone in a matter of milliseconds. I too can be so mad at myself I will literally cause myself bodily harm without even caring that I hurt myself.

Dotty is just like me in so many ways…and I think…no…I know…that is why I react so strongly to her outbursts…because I don’t like it that I have them myself so I really don’t want her to have them!

I backed away from the valley of Crazy Mom and headed down the cliff to the land of Loving Mom and in a calm voice said the only thing I knew to say…

“Dotty…it is okay to make mistakes. We all do. You can’t be perfect all the time.”

I saw Dotty tuck her chin down closer to her chest, wrap her arms tighter around her and her lip went out about another foot. She was digging her heels into this fit and she was not coming out without a fight.

I knew the other thoughts I had about being easier on herself and being okay with getting wrong answers were not the way to go. I had heard the same things from my parents, teachers, coaches, friends, employers, employees, and even from a few strangers who were witnesses to my wrath of anger and none of the things they had said had helped either.

I am still a 36 year old woman who will rip about three feet of calculator tape out of an adding machine if I can’t get the same total to come up twice after about four tries. I have left a painting class that was supposed to be a fun night out with friends only to come home and with a vengeance throw my finished project into the trashcan and slam the lid so loud the neighbors three doors down thought we had experienced an earthquake.

Nope. The words that were originally on my mind were not going to help Dotty at this particular moment. Or at least they had not helped me…so I went another direction.

I softly patted Dotty’s elbow and said “I struggle with my anger and frustration daily. Every day I have to work to keep it from coming out of me like a beast that hasn’t been fed in days. I can feel it boiling up and I try to push it down again and again…but sometimes I can’t. Those are the times I yell and slam down my purse and stomp around the house. Those are the times I regret the most. Because when the beast of my anger and frustration goes back to its cave I have to deal with the wreckage it caused and sometimes that wreckage is the look I see on your face Dotty. When I see what all damage my anger caused I have to clean up my mess. Sometimes I have to physically pick up things I threw around like my purse or the bags of groceries…and sometimes I have to pick up your spirit and feelings that I crushed when I let the beast rage like it did.

I never like it when the beast comes out and I always regret it. I have to ask forgiveness from God for my actions…from you and others for my actions…and then I have to do the hardest part of all…I have to ask myself for forgiveness too.

Forgiving myself is so hard. I am my toughest critic. I can beat myself up over the smallest things. I set standards for myself that I would never hold anyone else to and when I fail I tell myself I am a failure. I call myself horrible names and I hurt my own feelings. I am my own biggest bully.

I am also working on not doing that to myself anymore. I am working on loving myself more…being more compassionate and forgiving. It isn’t easy…I still have a lot of work to do but I ask God to help me every day.

I don’t know what thoughts go through your head when you make a mistake but I can guess and I bet I would be pretty close…because I had those thoughts too…and still do. But the thoughts we think are not always the truth…and we can control our thoughts…and we can change them. We can say nicer things in our heads. We can become our own cheerleaders in our own minds.

God knows we are not perfect. He made us to be imperfect people so we would rely on Him to help us while we are here on earth. God wants us to turn to Him and ask for help. He wants to help us…with everything…including the beasts that live inside all of us.

God lives inside us too…and He is full of love, patience, kindness, mercy and grace. We just have to seek Him out when we feel the beast waking up.

I know you hate to get things wrong and I know you hate to be corrected especially by me…because you want me to see you as perfect…and I do…in so many ways. You are my perfect gift from God. He was perfectly correct when He gave me you.

I want you to know that even when your beast is raging and you are being mean to everyone including me and including yourself that is when I am going to love and support you the most. When you are tearing yourself down and become your own worst enemy I will be your biggest fan and your loudest cheerleader. When you make what you feel like is the worst mistake ever I will reassure you that everything will be okay. If the whole world turns against you and you agree with that world, then you will all have to fight me…because I will be fighting for you!”

We pulled up to practice about that time and I wasn’t sure if I was getting through to Dotty but after practice when we got back in the car she picked up her papers out of the floorboard, found her pencil, and help my hand the whole way home.

We didn’t talk much on the way home…I guess I had said a lot and she was afraid I would go for Part Two or something. I don’t know what Dotty was thinking but I was thinking about several things.

#1 I need to watch how hard I come down on Dotty when she makes mistakes in school, sports, and life because I need to remember she is coming down hard on herself already. Compounding the problem won’t make it better but could make it much, much worse.

#2 I need to take my own advice and stop feeding the beast on such a regular basis. While I know God will forgive me, I also know how hard it is to forgive myself when I get so angry and frustrated and take it out on others and myself. I need to stop before the beast takes over and ask God for His help to put the beast back in its cave.

#3 Forgiveness is so easy to give to others but so hard to give to ourselves. I still struggle with this one most of all. If I expect Dotty to be able to forgive herself I need to lead by example and be more forgiving of myself.

I love the fact that Dotty and I have the same blue eyes, the same dimple, the same love of Disney movies and tv shows, the same love to dance and get our groove on, the same love of cheesecake, and so many other things. I love how much she resembles me and my personality in a lot of ways.

But my heart breaks for the negative traits that are being passed down to her either by nature or nurture. In many ways she is a copy of me. Sometimes that scares me. I want to pass along all my good characteristics and none of my bad ones but unfortunately they are all tangled up together in the hot mess that makes me…me.

The best thing I can do I guess is show her what I am learning…how to love ourselves in spite of ourselves sometimes

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Best is good...Better is best...

I am that mom. And I hate it.

I am that mom who sees an 88 on a second grade test paper and thinks "How is she going to be valedictorian if she keeps getting 88s???"

I am that mom who has her child reading her AR book on the way to school in the morning even though we read it five times the night before, quizzes her on spelling words while she takes a bath, and tries to squeeze in vocabulary words during the nightly prayer.

I am that mom who randomly and without warning (and possibly in the middle of a sentence just to see if she is paying attention) will demand her child answer "What is 9+9?? should know this by now!"

I am that mom who watches her child miss pitch after pitch when she is at batting practice or ball after ball when she is playing first base and I think "How will she make varsity as a freshman if she can't hit or catch a stinking ball???"

I am that mom who wonders if we can squeeze in private softball lessons into the only free night we have that week?

I am that mom who heads to Academy to buy every piece of catcher's gear because they tried my kid in that position for five minutes during a practice and in my mind she might be the female version of Pudge Rodriquez someday.

I am that mom who thinks my kid should be exposed to every sport and extra curricular activity in case she is the next Serena Williams...or Dara Torres...or Dorothy Hamill...or Mia Hamm...or even the next...Taylor Swift...or Maya Angelou.

I push. I push when I tell myself I shouldn't push. I push when I tell myself she is smart enough...or talented enough...or strong enough to handle being pushed.

I push until she breaks. And then I break because I failed as a parent and hurt my kid.

My kid is only 8 years old and she already knows what it looks like to see her mom disappointed when I look into the folder of her backpack or when I watch from the sidelines. She knows. She has seen my face...she has heard me yell...she has heard my silence.

She knows.

And she is a competitive perfectionist herself which makes this situation even crazier. She hates to not be the best. She hates to mess up. She hates to get answers wrong. She REALLY hates to be corrected...ESPECIALLY by me or her dad.

So Friday night as I was driving home from a football game getting text messages about how Dotty's first slumber party was going at her dad's house I found myself not thinking about five little girls being silly, or playing dress up, or watching movies, or giggling with each other.

No...I found myself thinking how else I could get Dotty to be better. How I could get her to get 100s more often than almost always. How I could get her to be perfect.

Then it hit me...not another vehicle...although the impact of my realization did bring about physical pain.

I was that kid who strived for perfection in every area. I was that student who had stomach ulcers in high school from worrying about grades. I was that player who loved sports but never really enjoyed them because I was so worried about messing up. I was that friend who wanted everyone to like me so much I didn't like myself very much.

I was also valedictorian. I also did make the varsity basketball team as a freshman. If you look at my high school and college resume you might be very impressed. And I will say I loved being good and smart and successful. I still do. I still push to be perfect.

But I am also the adult who has spent many hours in counseling working on my addiction to perfection. I no longer get "graded" and without those grades I have lost a lot of validation that I am still "good enough". I no longer play sports in which whole towns cheer for me and my team and now it is hard to be my own cheering section.

As all this hit me so suddenly Friday night I pulled my car over. I could barely breath under all this new insight.

I sat there thinking to myself..."How much good did being valedictorian or on varsity really do me in the long run???" Yes I got scholarships that were very helpful and yes I learned how to work hard both in school and in sports and I carry that work ethic over into my every day life. But when high school and college were all said and done...what did a 4.0 GPA or a letter jacket with a bunch of patches on it really mean now at almost 36 years of age.


So I had to reevaluate what I really want Dotty to learn in school and sports and extra curricular activities and life in general.

I want her to learn how to be a good person. I want her to learn how to be kind and compassionate. I want her to learn how to help those who can't help themselves. I want her to learn what really makes her happy (not what will make her momma happy). I want her to learn how to be her own #1 fan. I want her to learn how to fail...and then try again...and then fail again...and still be okay. I want her to love herself. I want her to know that nothing...and no one is perfect. I want her to learn to do her best and then to let the rest go.

I am a big believer in the power of positive sayings and if you walk into my house you will see post-it notes all over surfaces with positive affirmations written on them. My newest favorite that I heard the other day is "Best is good...Better is best".

I have it written on several notes throughout the house and I asked Dotty if she knew what it meant.

"Nope...but I bet you are going to tell me" she said with her best second grade sarcastic voice.

I explained to her that being the best is isn't bad to be the best and in fact it is good to be...but just trying to make ourselves better is really the best way to look at life. Every day we should wake up and try to make ourselves not the best...not perfect...but simply better than we were.

My favorite Maya Angelou quote is "when you know better you do better" and I swear this is my mantra for life and especially for parenting.

I still struggle with my addiction to perfection but I am trying to get better.

As her mom I don't want to pass this addiction onto my sweet girl. I want her to be better than me. I want her to be happier and healthier and whole. I want her to work hard and try hard and do her best but I don't want her to feel like she has to be perfect to be accepted or okay or loved.

So my homework as a parent is to practice letting go of the ideas that my kid can or should be the best at anything and to simply let her be the best Dotty she can be. After all the world has lots of valedictorians and people who can hit homeruns but in this world there is only one Dotty.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dotty is Not a Consolation Prize for Divorce...

I had a very nice lady who has known me and my family for many years talk to me the other day. She was bragging on our successes in the business, how much we had accomplished over the years even with all the ups and downs of life, and so on and so forth. Then she said "You know honey...your marriage might not have worked out but you got a sweet girl out of the deal so I guess it wasn't a total loss was it?!"
I know she meant well...and trust me I have heard worse "compliments" regarding my status in life over the years but for some reason on that day, in that moment, that comment just hit me wrong.
I smiled and said "Well you know I have never considered Dotty a consolation prize for failing at marriage."
Of course this caused the well meaning lady to backtrack faster than A Rod during an interview on PEDs. I wasn't trying to make her uncomfortable or upset her because I don't think she was originally trying to do either of those things to me. We did get past that awkward moment and ended with a hug and a goodbye.
Later I got to thinking about what she had said and about my feelings about the entire situation.
Like Oprah there are a few things I know for sure...
1. Like I told the lady...I don't think God ever intended for Dotty to be mine or Tony's consolation prize for not making our marriage work. Dotty is one fantastic, amazing, off the charts personality, going to do something big someday...kind of kid. The world needed Dotty...or if nothing else...MY world needed Dotty for sure! God knew this. He knew I needed Dotty...and the only way to get Dotty was to put Tony and me together. So no...Dotty is not the consolation prize. She is not the "Let's see what is behind Door #2" in the game show of life. She is not the equivalent to a lifetime supply of Campbell's soup as a parting gift from the "Marriage Game". She is at least one of the MAIN reasons...if not THE reason God put Tony and me together. I believe this...with my whole heart I believe this.
2. Up until my marriage ended life came pretty easy to me. I had a great childhood for the most part. I did well in school and in sports. I had friends. I had family. I had a good job. Of course there were the little dips in the road here and there but nothing major. I knew other people that had REAL big issues in life...but not me. Nope. I had it made. In some ways...I was basically telling God "I got this Big G....don't you worry about me. I am good. I have my life in control. You go solve world hunger or find a cure for cancer...but don't worry about me...I am all good God! I got this. We can talk later." When I got divorced though I was definitely not "all good". In fact I was one big mess. For the most part I kept it together at work and in front of Dotty but when I was alone or with friends or sitting on my counselor's couch I was a huge mess. During the first year I talked to God more than I had talked to Him in the 30 years before that...I yelled at Him...I questioned Him...I cried to Him...I reasoned with Him...and then finally I stopped talking and I listened to Him. In the last five years I have grown closer to God than ever before. I have talked with Him not only daily but sometimes hourly. I have poured myself into a relationship with God because that was the only way I could heal. God knew He would have to break me...He would have to break my heart WIDE OPEN in order for me to make room for Him. Now don't get me wrong...I have always loved God and worshipped Him but I had never REALLY leaned on God, cried out to God, fell on my knees and talked to God with a heart and a soul so crushed that only God could find all the pieces and put it back together. I don't believe God intentionally hurts us but I do believe that He let's us get hurt so we can find an even bigger even stronger faith...and an even deeper love through Him. After all, if He would let Job go through all that he endured God would certainly let me have a few months of pain and sorrow if it meant a deeper connection with Him in the end. So my divorce brought me closer to God. Again...I don't think this was the consolation prize...I think it was part of the Plan...Big P from Big G!
3. The last thing I know for sure is we all walk different paths in two roads are the same. My marriage/divorce/coparenting situation is not like anyone else's. We all must travel the road God has for us. Before I figured this out I was very quick to make assumptions about people and their situations. Now I realize I just don't know the whole story...and I am not supposed to because it is not my story. I think I have more compassion for everyone going through the trials of life whatever they may least I hope I do. Many people see Tony and e raising Dotty in our somewhat unconventional way and they make comments both good and bad about it...but what I know for sure is this is what works for us...and most of all for Dotty. I know some of you have ex spouses that are first cousins to Satan himself and trust me my heart breaks for the situations some of you face. I thank God everyday that while Tony and I failed at our marriage (and trust me we both failed at it...we each had our issues big and small that led to the downfall) we have succeeded in raising a kid who for the most part is "okay". She is well adjusted. She is pretty normal...although some of her dance moves are a little out there...but she is pretty normal for an almost 8 year old girl. I don't know what the future holds. Twenty years from now she might be telling her counselor all her problems stem from her parents...but the one thing she can never doubt is if we screwed her up we did so out of love. It was the love Tony and I had for her...the love for her and her well being that has caused us to raise her the way we do. Tony and I still disagree sometimes. We still get on each others nerves. We still don't like the same things in each other that we didn't like five years ago (in fact I can assure you Tony will not like this post)...but we also STILL love Dotty more...more than anything else will ever matter. And Tony and I are just pieces of the path. Brittany is HUGE piece of how we walk our road with raising Dotty. In fact...sometimes she, as Dotty's step-mom, is the glue that holds the whole road together! Our parents, siblings, friends, and so many others who love Dotty more than they love picking a side in a divorce are also a part of the path. Tony and I are pretty good parents because we have a crazy awesome support system that won't let us fail. These people might not always agree with our choices...they might not understand them...but they see Dotty smile and they know that she is the only reason we do what we do.

I give a lot of "shout outs" on FB to family, friends, staff, strangers...and of course Dotty but I don't think I have ever given one to Tony. So here goes...
He is a great dad to Dotty (and Dylann, Dotty's little sister, and will be to his little boy that is on the way). He is a good person. He had his good points as a husband. He had his faults too (just like I did). And he is a good ex-husband in many ways.

God has shown me over the last five years what it takes to forgive someone and what it takes to get forgiveness in return. God has shown me that REAL forgiveness can't come with stipulations or ultimatums. Real forgiveness is freely given. Real forgiveness is a choice we offer up every day. Real forgiveness can't be forced or rushed. Real forgiveness comes from a deep place that real pain and real love also reside. Real forgiveness is what we give others and what we must give to ourselves.

God has made me better in the last five years. I am not the same person I was back in the fall of 2009. I thank the good Lord every day for that. Once again I don't think me becoming a better human being was a consolation prize...I think it was part of the PLAN. I don't know what else God has planned for me but I can guess some parts will be awesome and some parts will be awful and all parts will be for my personal greater good and for the ultimate GLORY to GOD.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2nd Grade...

Today I dropped Dotty off at school for her first day of Second Grade. In the car on the drive over I kept giving Dotty helpful hints like...

- Talk less and listen more.
- You have to be a friend to get a friend.
- Talk to the kid no one else is talking to.
- Be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.
- Wash your hands often. Then use hand sanitizer. Then use some more.
- Don't run with scissors. Actually don't run at all...except on the playground. So I guess just don't take your scissors to the playground.

You guessed the last one Dotty was looking at me like I had lost it. What she didn't know was I was trying really hard by talking non-stop to not lose it and start crying like a baby! I mean seriously...this is not our first "first day of school". We have done this three times already (Pre-K, K, and 1st) not to mention all the times I dropped her off at daycares over the years. So why is it still so hard to watch my baby cross off another milestone in life? Why does it feel like time is slipping away from me so fast and the more I try to slow it down the faster it runs through my fingers?

I did pretty good in front of Dotty at school. I kept a smile on my face. I kept it light hearted. I even helped a bit with Dylann who was having a hard time on the first day of Pre-K and Brittany was a little frazzled too. I watched a few of the other kiddos hanging on to their moms' legs as teachers slowly and sweetly pulled them away. I watched this as my own child could barely get away from me fast enough. I had to physically hold Dotty by both shoulders to get a good-bye kiss. She was in such a hurry to see her friends, to get to class...she is in such a hurry to grow up.

While I am trying to always slow her down...she is always trying to speed up. It is a constant war we wage as mother and daughter.

When I got back in the car Brittany sent me a sweet thank you text and mentioned how the day had been tough. I reminded her how good of a mom she was and what a good job she was doing.

It made me think how all moms are so hard on themselves. We want to create these pinterest perfect moments in life and when they fall short we think we have failed as moms. Let me tell you though I know Brittany is no failure. I see it every day when I see Dotty and Dylann. Brittany is one of the good ones...she loves her kids and wants only the best for all moms should.

I know how hard it is to leave a crying child. I know how hard it is to walk away and will yourself to not look back. I know how hard it is to hold back the tears until you get into the car. I know because I have been there. Dotty has had those moments. We have had those moments.

But I also know this...those days of watching a crying child reach for and cry out for their momma are just as hard on a mom as the days when the child can barely say good-bye and runs into the school building without looking back. Those are the days that a momma cries too.

On those days she cries because she is so proud of her baby...and she cries because she knows her baby is no longer a baby.

Soon friends and boyfriends (heaven help me) will be more important than Mom. Soon the homework will be too hard for Mom to help with. Soon the athletic ability will mean Mom is no longer "letting them win". Soon the only times Mom will get a really good snuggle is when there are hurt feelings or a broken heart involved.

Moms cry on these days because they can see the transition coming...and it is closer than they want it to be.

I don't miss the days that Dotty cried when I left...but I also am not looking forward to the days when Dotty won't even let me get out of the car to hug her goodbye. I want my child to be independent in a lot of ways but I also want her to always need me in some ways. I am so proud of the little girl Dotty has become but I want to keep her a little girl as long as possible. I am excited about what the future holds for Dotty but I don't want that future to come any time soon.

Basically I want what I can't have. You can't keep a little kid from growing up...we hope and pray they all get the chance to do just that.

So I do what all moms have done for years and years and will continue to do for years to come. I smile so my kid knows I am okay. I tell her what a great day she will have on this first day of second grade. I laugh at her and her friends and the things they talk about. I get one last hug and a quick kiss and I smile even bigger.

Then I hurry off to my car and I cry once the door is shut. Through my tears I post pics on Facebook and send them via email to great-grandparents. It takes me a few minutes and when the tears are all gone I look up to see I am the last parent in the parking lot. All the other parents have moved on.

And so...I do the same. I move on...I enjoy this last first...and I look forward to the next.

Conversations with my now 2nd grader...

Life with Dotty is never boring. Our conversations are pretty awesome these are just a few pieces of today's after school talk...

Me - Did you make any new friends?
Dot - Yep. Two new ones.
Me - Great! What are their names?
Dot - I have no idea. I don't do details.

Me - I don't know how I feel about having a second grader!
Dot - What about when I go to Jr. High?
Me - I might not get out of the house!
Dot - High school?
Me - I might not get out of bed!
Dot - College?
Me - I am just going to wrap my arms around you and hold on tight!!!
Dot - Well that is one way to get a kid "held back" in school.
Then she laughs so hard at her own joke I laugh even harder!

Me - I love you more than you know Dotty.
Dot - I have deep regards for you.
Me - Deep regards huh?!
Dot - It is better than having shallow regards.

Crazy kid!!! I have no idea where she gets this from!