Two Homes

They say that two is better than one.  I sometimes agree… two beers after a long day taste better than just one.  A two song encore is better than the stage going dark after only one.  A two day trip home to Ohio is better than a one-day cameo any day.xtwo-homes.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hyRxHq5oal  But in other areas, I love one.  Who wouldn’t prefer a one-hour layover over two?  I love being in a meaningful relationship with one person much more than dating two men.  And as much as I love happy hour with a couple of girlfriends, I revel in lengthy phone conversations with that one friend who is perfect for you in that moment of need.

Sometimes, there are circumstances in life where one becomes two and while you may have always known, as I did in my situation,  it was a possibility, knowledge doesn’t always appropriately prepare you for impact.  Our transition to life in CT at the end of last summer was refreshingly smooth at its onset.  Sam seemed to easily gel to life in two houses.  In the beginning only I really struggled, but my own circumstances changed in the winter and that led to me not only relaxing and easing into our separations, but (gasp!) enjoying the adult time I was growing accustomed to.  Yes, I felt guilty about this.  But the guilt didn’t come from anyone telling me I should feel guilty because I was enjoying my life, but in evidence revealing that Sam’s adjustment to two houses was going in the opposite direction.  Instead of becoming more comfortable with life lived in both Shelton and Milford, the confusion grew.  The resistance grew.  And it’s growing.  And I am clueless here.  I am heartbroken to hear a little voice that says from the backseat, “I don’t want to go to Daddy’s house anymore.  I want to be with you all the time.”  I am totally down with the fact that I’m dealing with a 3 year-old whose opinions and feelings change like the weather. Regardless, he struggles to understand that no, I’m not going to be at Daddy’s house when he gets there after school on Tuesday.  Or this coming weekend when his nana is in for a visit.  I am the biggest cheerleader I can be – I tell him how awesome it will be to spend time with his sister and his new kitty.  I remind him of the super cool swing-set waiting for him in the backyard.  And I tell him that Daddy and only Daddy can magically throw a ball on the roof and have the roof ghost throw it back to him.  It settles… for 5 minutes and then it’s repeated – “Mommy, can you come to Daddy’s house?”

There are books.  There are message boards.  There are articles and Facebook posts by others who’ve gone through similar things.  But in the end, you are trying to create a seamless transition for a person too small to understand anything more than that they are no longer with their mom every day and in those every day days that spanned his first two and a half years, Sam and Mommy went through so much together.  RSV and bronchiolitis hospitalizations and roseola outbreaks.  Milk allergies with exploding diapers.  First steps, haircuts and that time he propelled himself out of his crib but somehow landed square on his butt.  A plastic swimming pool in the little backyard for hot afternoons followed by a walk over a hill to the best playground a little boy could ask for.  Sunday drives to Papa and Bebe’s house for donuts and playtime with cousins.  Thursday night dinners and wine nights with our friends.  It was two and half years of just Sam and Mommy.  It’s quite possible that I am trying to hang onto that life more for my own sake than his because it was so good.  It was challenging but cathartic because it showed me I was capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. Making this huge move has still shown me that I have strength, but it has also shown me how little I can really control and that’s probably why I am struggling with this.  I don’t know the answers.  I don’t know how to make him feel more comfortable.  I can only promise him that we will, even in two homes, find our way, baby boy…

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

You Do What You Have To Do

I forgot to wash the dishes this morning.

As I was standing in the bathroom curling my hair and thinking about what Sam would have for lunch today, it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to wash his cups and containers and would have to do so or pull out new ones in the short time he wolfs down breakfast.   This isn’t a tragedy and if this was my greatest challenge today, it was a pretty good day.  Until I realized why I forgot to wash the dishes this morning.

Gannon wasn’t there with me.

It was our daily routine.  Gannon could sense I was waking up before I opened my eyes.  I would hear him stand up in his bed, shake himself and walk over to my side of the bed and begin his wake-up call.  I would ask for more time, but I never got it… I’d find my glasses, zip up the sweatshirt and downstairs we went.  He’d go out the back door and I’d fill his water bowl, his food bowl, pull out a treat and change the faucet from cold to hot.  I’d look over the bar and he would be sitting patiently waiting for me at the door.  I let him in, gave him his treat and begin the ritual of washing Sam’s cups, plates and school lunch containers from the previous day as Gannon lay at my feet.  And off with the rest of the morning we went… in recent months, Gannon would wait to hear if Sam was also awake and would run to Sam’s door ahead of me, wanting to greet his brother and start his day.  Which is why I’m even more troubled by the aggression and fear he showed towards Sam at other times and in other ways.  It doesn’t make sense that a dog who for four years showed me love and affection like none I had ever known could be so afraid of this little boy who just wanted to be his friend.

I had such dreams of my boys growing up together, even though Gannon was 10 and wouldn’t be around forever.  I could see Sam throwing Gannon a tennis ball, laying with him on a blanket to watch TV and feeding him his dinner.  The beginning of their brotherhood was sweet – I can still vividly recall the day my dad brought Gannon home after Sam was born.  I held my breath… would Gannon bark?  Would he be curious or frightened?  Would he fall in love?  He ran into my bedroom where I held a week-old Sam and immediately jumped on the bed, licked his brother on the cheek and laid down with us… a sigh of relief.

The following months were a mixed bag and once Sam became mobile, life became a constant state of management in our home.  Gannon cried and begged for food and sat at the foot of Sam’s highchair like a seal waiting for fish.  He began to show his teeth to Sam and growl, putting me on edge.  I read the books and listened to the experts who told me that Gannon could sense my energy and if I continued to operate from a place of fear, then Gannon’s behavior would worsen.  I tried patience.  I tried gates.  I tried rewards and encouragement, but in my worst moments, my frustration got the better of me and I became angry with Gannon in a way I didn’t know was possible.  I wanted him to love Sam.  I wanted him to snuggle with Sam.  I wanted him to kiss Sam.  All Gannon wanted was his mom back.  He didn’t want to share and didn’t know how… and in the end, the fear won out and left a little boy with a bruised face and a mother whose heart is completely broken because of the outcome.

Gannon tore his ACL in April while playing in my parents’ yard.  It took a few months, but just before his passing, he was completely healed and walking on all surfaces with all 4 legs.  On Monday, as my dad and I walked him into the vet’s office, he slipped going up the steps and tore his other ACL.  This dog, an amazing snuggler who had the ability at 35 pounds to take up 75% of a queen size bed, would never in four years sit on my lap.  I tried again and again but his growls told me it wasn’t a good idea.  On Monday after re-injuring himself, I was able to pick Gannon up and hold him like a baby for the first time since he became mine.  I sat in that waiting room, weeping openly, apologizing to him profusely, and promising this little miracle of mine that better things were ahead of him.  A heaven where he no longer would live in fear, and would never be second best.  A place where all you can eat buffets are customary and walks can be as long and pathless as you want them to be because there is no stroller in charge.   He never looked away from me and breathed slowly and peacefully in my arms until he was gone.

Gannon, I’m so sorry.  I know the pain is fresh and I know I will feel better.  I wish I could have made everything work for all 3 of us.  I wish I could have given you more years.  I wish I had been better with you the last 6 months… I love you, my sweet Gannon.  I will see you again.

 

iPhone Photos (020213) 030

Listen (Un)Like Thieves

When you’re in a deep conversation with a trusted friend or confidant, are you aching to share your story?  Are you sitting there idling like a car at the starting line of a race just waiting for them to finish their thoughts so you can tell them what you did in a similar situation, at a similar time, when something similar happened to you?

Did they ask you to share?

Did they ask for advice?

Did they tell you they wanted to know what you did and why?

I have come to realize over the last year or so that the following words can cause more harm than good when we support our friends and loved ones… “I know how you feel.”  In the game of life, we are all different people with different experiences and circumstances and the likelihood that I have gone through a scenario in the exact same way as another person is pretty close to impossible.  I have also realized that by taking the words of a friend and trying to relate their story to something in my life, I’m taking the focus off of them in their time of need.  So, I try to use these words instead:

“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling or what you’re going through, but I’m here for you.”

“You’re beautiful and wonderful and no matter what you’re going through, this will never change.”

“I am praying for you each and every day and with those prayers comes all the love in the world.”

“You’re ridiculously good-looking, hilarious and the best friend a girl could ever ask for.  I’m honored you trust me enough to share.”

At times, the greatest gift we can give is something that costs nothing and doesn’t need to be acknowledged.  It is our very presence.  An open ear, a calm heart and a warm hug.  Sometimes, being there is just enough.

I Will Not Take These Things For Granted

When I was younger, one of my favorite computer games to play in school was Oregon Trail.  You and your husband and wagon full of kids would set out for the wild, wild west where there was a promised land of gold and prosperity.  Along the way, you would try to kill animals and find food and maintain health within the wagon so that everyone survived.  This rarely happened.  Usually, by the time you arrived in Illinois, you were burying little Johnny who had died of dysentery.  Sadly, just a few miles later, it was time to dig a grave for Mary, who had just died of typhoid fever.  Very rarely would you actually make it to the land of gold bling without a tragedy – usually, you wouldn’t make it at all!

Two weekends ago, I woke in the middle of the night feeling a sense of eerie peace and calm.  I looked over at the clock and saw nothing and realized the power was out… I had no idea what time it was, but fell back asleep assuming the wind or weather was somehow responsible and that everything would be up and running when I woke up again in the daylight.  Ummm… not so much.  I heard Sam talking and felt an instant rush of cold when I got out from under the covers.  Habitually, I tried to turn on the bathroom lights and laughed as they of course didn’t turn on.  I got Sam out of his crib and wrapped him in a blanket as we ventured downstairs for breakfast.  I went to go make coffee… oops.  Guess that wasn’t happening either.  I went online (thank you 3G!) and through the infinite power of Facebook (Facebook changes lives… this is truth), found out that thousands were without power.  My parents’ house was out, but my sister’s house in Concord thankfully still had power.  Sam and I drove over (we searched for coffee first… priorities people), but gave up and ended up in her warm house shortly after 7:00AM.  We had a nice homemade breakfast and Sam had an awesome time playing with his cousins.  Upon learning my power was back on, we drove back home only to find that the power was not operating fully, which resulted in the unfortunate loss of our furnace.  Packing up again, we headed to Grandma’s where we remained for most of the day.  We checked the house late afternoon to find full power and a fully operating furnace – yes!  After dinner with my mom and grandparents, Sam and I said goodbye and I looked forward to a normal night.  After putting Sam to bed, I couldn’t help but notice that once again, the house seemed cold and the lights dim.  I looked at the thermostat which was plunging degree by degree into the low 60s.  A neighbor offered to send someone to take a look, but I bit the bullet and took a leap of faith that it just needed the overnight hours to fix itself.  Thankfully, I was right… even more thankfully, Sam was completely calm and cooperative during the many car trips, the interruptions of sleep and being transitioned to a Pack N’ Play Sunday night.

So when the morning of the following Saturday began in much the same way, it wasn’t as disruptive.  We made our way through it and thankfully, this outage didn’t have the same accompaniments of a moody furnace or romantic lighting throughout the condo.  We had plans for the day, but still spent the morning with my parents who had also lost their power, but had a fire burning and had made breakfast camp-style on the grill.

When I laid down that Saturday night, in a warm condo, reading a book on my iPad, I wondered how in the world those pioneers survived.  Even without power, I still have a car to take me to a place with power.  Even without power, I was able to use the internet because of the connection of my phone to determine what was going on.  There are things about the progression of the world I’m not crazy about – the way we’re obsessed with knowing everything instantly.  The replacement of textbooks.  The loss of anticipation in waiting for something because you ordered it on Amazon Prime and it’s at your doorstep in a day or two (what do you mean it’s going to take THREE days??)  But I’m going to be honest and say I like lights and I like heat and I like being able to make coffee when I want to have coffee.  I’ve never been great at hand-washing dishes (imagine water splashing everywhere) because I’m a fan of the dishwasher.  And if someone told me that my iPod was gone forever and there was no replacement for it, I would probably cry.  Yes, I’m just like the 14 people reading this blog post – I like my computer too.  But losing some of those comforts, even for a very brief period of time, led me to remember how lucky I am to have them and to not lose sight of the times when people didn’t (but did it matter because what you don’t know you just don’t know??) – or worse, those who don’t today because economical conditions don’t allow it.  I put on an extra sweatshirt and felt annoyed about 60 degree temps in my condo… I think now of how many people have spent this brutal winter on the streets under cover of nothing more than a cardboard box.  Perception really is reality.

It’s official… I would have likely never survived the Oregon Trail.

Eyes Of The World

I want things to be different.  I have to admit that I’m tired of the sound of my own voice as I attempt to navigate life and try to figure everything out.  Are you a black and white person, or can you comfortably reside in shades of grey?  I struggle with it terribly.  I want to know everything now.  How it’s going to work out… how I will survive if THIS happens or THAT doesn’t happen.  Instead of giving credit to God for all of the good he has already produced and created in my life, I am still worried about what tomorrow might look like and if the hopes and dreams I have will come to fruition.  If I look back, I can probably name a few scenarios where I thought I just wasn’t going to survive… and I’m here today typing this.   Not only am I here, I’m not surviving – I’m thriving.  When did I become so content to concentrate on the things that seem to be hard instead of the things that have come so easy?  Why is it that I feel I need the approval of someone to believe I am worthy of love and affection?  Why do I crave so much to be liked and why am I not okay just because someone doesn’t like me?  Why am I so afraid and when can I actually allow myself to believe that no matter WHAT happens to me, only I have control over whether or not I allow those things to break me or make me better.

My favorite phrase to describe things these days seems to be “mixed bag.”  SD’s last visit was a mixed bag of warmth and happiness (I love seeing my son with his dad regardless of how his dad and I feel about each other) and anger and frustration as it became super apparent that we are on two very different pages when it comes to the present state of our parenting relationship.  This past weekend was also a mixed bag.  It started with a wonderful dinner out with friends, which ended minutes later in a car accident for which I was responsible (no one was hurt… I reached back to hand Sam a toy and didn’t realize the car in front of me had come to a complete stop) and went into a lot of really crappy behavior from me towards my mother who is arguably the sweetest woman in the world and then catapulted into a loss of power Saturday night and a temperamental furnace.  Sam and I were back and forth all day yesterday between our house, my sister’s house and my mom’s house.  And we had a darn good time.  Julie made us coffee and breakfast and I have a priceless video of Sam laughing at Gianna who was running around her room just to make him giggle.  My mom offered us a warm place to relax and rest and we had a nice impromptu meal with my grandparents.  This morning, we came home to a fully functioning and heated home.  Through it all, Sam was a saint.  He went from points a to b to c without a fuss or struggle, even at 9:30 last night as we had to travel back to Grandma’s for a warm night’s sleep.  Last night I posted that happiness isn’t at all about what happens to you but what you make of what happens to you.

I started the Joyce Meyer 3030 Challenge(http://3030challenge.joycemeyer.org/index.php) on March 1 with the hope of deepening my relationship with God and his Word and his plans for us.  My hope is that this adventure will further shape the eyes I use to see the world and the perception I use to determine how I react to life’s twists and turns.  What great timing as we begin the season of Lent this Wednesday…  This morning’s verse stays with me:

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14.

Waiting… and waiting happily with a fresh set of eyes.

All These Things That I’ve Done

Sometimes when I scroll through Facebook, I can’t help but wonder when lists took over the world.  “25 things to do before you’re 25″… “37 things I learned before my 37th birthday”… “101 ways to be a better mom”… “10 reasons your marriage is in trouble.”  I’m not even married and I read that one to make sure I would know someday when I am married whether or not my marriage is in trouble.  In one of my January posts, I even offered up a list of my own when I mentioned ways dads could possibly improve their relationships with both their children and the mothers of their children.  But as I read through more and more of these lists and ideas and suggestions, I wonder if these musings of the typical person are preventing me in any way from coming to my own conclusions or figuring out for myself what is most important to me.

I don’t have advice about your marriage or your mothering.  I don’t know how to tell you really how to live a life you can feel amazing about.  On a typical day, my biggest accomplishment might be putting together a nice enough outfit and walking out of the house with a cup of coffee consumed and a plan for the next 8 hours.  If it’s a great day, I’ll get some things done at work and am able to take a couple of free minutes to make sure I haven’t overdrawn my checking account or check in with a friend in text or email.

While these lists can be super inspirational and give someone an awesome idea of how to approach life with excitement and a positive attitude, or maybe how to make up with someone they’re in a contentious relationship with, they shouldn’t necessarily be the benchmark of whether or not you “made it” and you should never feel like a failure if you don’t see all of those 1000 places before you die.  You should live by your own dreams and plans (but don’t forsake the plans God has for you… they’re better than yours) and hope that maybe, by the time you lay your head on the pillow at the end of the day, you accomplished something for someone else.  You told your co-worker how nice they looked with their new haircut.  You remembered to call your friend on their birthday.  You reached out to someone you haven’t heard from in months.  You donated to a charity that has made a difference in your life or in the life of someone you care for.  You took a deep breath and responded in kindness instead of in anger or sarcasm.

If I were to try to put together a list of the top 34 things I’ve learned in 34 years, I don’t think I could do it.  I’m learning daily… I’m changing like seasons… and I’m almost unrecognizable from the girl (woman – still not used to that word) I was only two years ago.   It’s truly daily work.  We have today and only today.  Be kind.  Be loving.  Be a blessing… that’s the next thing on my list.

Dads

A photo of a dad doing his daughter’s hair while carrying his second child in a baby carrier recently went, as they say, VIRAL and has garnered a lot of different responses.  Most are extremely positive and acknowledge the sweetness which obviously exists between this man and his children.  Some sadly are downright dreadful, racist and as far as I’m concerned, unacceptable in that they suggest this man must have hired these children to pose with him – or obviously doesn’t want to work for a living and is content with letting his wife be out of the home so he can be “lazy” with his kids.  I am not a stay-at-home parent.  First because I can’t be and second, I don’t want to be.  I have been working since 16 and can say that I love to work.  I don’t like my job every single day, but I love being in this environment and feel that this is what works best for both me and Sam.  I feel that working actually allows me to be a better mother to him because working offers me personal fulfillment.  In saying that, we are all different people who want different things and the truth is – none of these things are wrong.

But I digress… this is not about me being a working mom.  This is about dads.  This is about a guy who innocently sent his wife a picture while doing his daughter’s hair and saw it explode into a bunch of responses that he probably wasn’t prepared for.  It unleashed an amazing flood of feelings about how the world views fathers.

I love my dad.  He has been my hero for as long as I can remember.  I am always happy when I do something that pleases him and still at 33, cower in a corner if he seems disappointed in me in any way.  I was terrified to tell him more than anyone else that I was pregnant.  I thought he would be ashamed of me, but he was loving and even remarked that he really wasn’t all that surprised… my dad is the guy I call about my car, about sports or about money.  I call and tease him every snow day (he’s the head of a private school) and I like to hear about the next trip he has planned. He is without a doubt an amazing dad.  But there are SO many different definitions of what a good dad is and I’ve learned that more since Sam was born.  To me, this is what makes you a good dad:

  1. Show interest in your child.  Take note dads… this is easier than ever because of texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime, Skype, etc. (If you’re not physically with them daily, that is.)
  2. Express love.  With words, with smiles, with hugs, with kisses.  It is not un-sexy to express love for your children.  On the contrary, it’s plenty attractive.
  3. Support your child.  This is not about money.  Support is so much more than a payment that is sent to the mother of your child if you are not with her.  I can’t speak for all mothers in a situation like mine, but the financial support is secondary to being able to call if I have a parenting question or am concerned about something regarding our child.
  4. Respect the mother of your child.  Not “when” she’s being nice to you.  Not “if” she’s doing what you want.  If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that to GET love (respect), you have to GIVE it.
  5. Be available.  No, I don’t want you to give up on the things that interest you and make you the man you are.  But if your child needs you, try as hard as you can to be there.

Maybe my picture or view will change as Sam grows.  I hope not too much because I like where I am with this right now.  I like that I can take Sam to be with his dad this weekend for his first birthday and know that I’m not only doing this for my son and his sister, but for his dad.  And honestly, for me.  And not because I have to.  Not because the papers told me to.  But because I want to.  I want Sam to look back at pictures one day and be thrilled that this time was shared with his dad.  I know that today, I already am.