I Am Every Mama.

As seen in elephant journal: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/05/i-am-every-mama/

You don’t think I see you, Mama…

Standing at the car door, watching your baby walk into the building—venturing into preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school alone, as you get ready to go about the rest of your day, your mind whirling in thought: Did I pack a good lunch? Are those pants too short? Am I smart enough to actually understand their homework, let alone help them with it?

I see you as you pull your baseball cap down over your hair because there just wasn’t enough time for a shower. I see you write “Wash Me” onto the back window of your minivan with a smile. I see you get into your car and drive away, with the day at home or at work ahead of you.

You think you are invisible. You don’t think I see how hard it is to let them go into the day without you. You think I can’t see the break in your heart knowing that they’re getting picked up later by Daddy, and you won’t see them for 48 hours. You don’t think I notice as your brow furrows with the knowledge that you have so much left to do in your day: Clean, cook, organize, work, fill out permission slips. Oh yeah, and shower.

But I see you.

I see every single piece of you.

Because I am you.

I feel these highs and lows, the laughter that turns into tears as I pray ever-so-silently that these moments don’t go unnoticed or unremembered. This isn’t a social-media-post moment, but an imprint-on-my-heart moment.

The way my little boy smiles when he tells me that I’m the best mom ever in the history of the whole entire world. The way he cheers for my favorite baseball team like he’s their only fan. The way he sticks his finger in the muffin batter, brings it to his mouth to taste test, and then kisses me with banana lips.

I am you.

I am every mama.

I am a birth mother, an adoptive mother, a widowed mother, a stepmother.
I have one child.
I am pregnant with my fourth.
I am Catholic, Buddhist, and Agnostic.
I am a college graduate.
I am about ready to get my GED.
I can braid your hair in three minutes.
I rely on online tutorials in order to figure out how to actually create a fishtail.
I am adorned in tattoos.
I have porcelain, ink-free skin.
I have a garden full of daffodils and tulips, that we pick from lovingly.
I have a thumb as black as a permanent marker.
I make delicious, vegan meals.
I bake cakes full of butter, sugar, milk, and eggs.
I stay at home while you grow.
I leave my babies in the care of others while I work.
I put Pinterest to shame.
I can’t find time to create Halloween treats for school that go beyond a prepackaged candy bar.
I spend my mornings at the yoga studio.
I haven’t worked out in three years.
I have a standing bi-weekly manicure appointment.
I have roots that are at least an inch long.
I am the PTA President.
I couldn’t make it to the talent show because I work late to provide for our family.
I’m in a beautiful marriage.
I can’t remember the last time I was in love.
I read bedtime stories each night.
I send the kids to bed without dinner because of sassy mouths.
I watch CNN and wonder what kind of world we’re creating for the next generation.
I cut the cable cord.
I have regular nights out with my closest friends.
I moved far from home and don’t know anyone.
I take regular vacations.
I am living paycheck to paycheck.
I won’t leave the house in the morning without the beds being made.
I go to bed at night with dishes piled in the sink because I’m too tired to wash them.
I dream of retiring on the beach and waking up to the sounds of the ocean.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop working.

I look at other mothers and feel like they have it all figured out.

I feel depleted of the energy needed to take care of my family, yet somehow find the time to make sure they have everything they need.

I am so hard on myself, never feeling like I am ever going to get it right, and if I do, the feeling doesn’t seem to last very long.

I sometimes think that love and guilt have blended into one colorful emotion, leaving me hopeful and scared all at the same time.

I am doing the best that I possibly can in order to make sure my children have a happy, comfortable, and beautiful life.

I am you.

I am every mama.

Author: Jenny Roman 
Editor: Taia Butler

I’m done being a Relationship Chameleon.

As seen in elephant journal: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/04/im-done-being-a-relationship-chameleon/

I looked at my phone and read the messages full of blame thrown in my direction.

I immediately noticed that the man writing the words was demonstrating a total lack of accountability. In that moment, I knew it was over and I shouldn’t spend any time looking back.

I could no longer see him for who he once was to me—a gentle, sweet, soulful man who seemed to find such promise in my love for him. In that moment, I forgot the feeling I had only months prior when I gazed into his eyes, believing with my whole heart that he would be looking back at me for years to come as our children grew and our bodies aged.

I realized then that the fairytale never actually starts in Chapter One. Chapter One is easy. Chapter One is the start of every love story. It is the touching of fingertips across a restaurant table. It is dressing up when all you’re doing is meeting for coffee. It is nice pajamas, matching underwear and bras, and shaving your legs every day.

I yearn for the chapters beyond One.

Chapters where vulnerable moments are not met with the slamming of doors or the projection of insults or threats.

Chapters where I am met with eyes that are concerned and sincere when I talk about my fears, not those of someone with one foot out the door.

Chapters where the restaurant table becomes a bedside table where coffee is waiting while I’m in the sweatpants I still have from the eighth grade basketball team, riddled with holes.

Chapters where life is spent discussing illnesses, money problems, the death of parents, and the problematic behaviors of teenagers.

Chapters where we have small arguments over who is stopping at the grocery store for milk.

On the bookshelf of my life, there are many short stories—a few that ended before Chapter Two even began. Several that seemed to stop just when things were getting good. One where the pages were torn out because the story wasn’t worth remembering or re-reading. One a compilation of so many starts and stops that the reader is left dizzy as they try to determine where in the world the story is actually going.

These stories all star the same protagonist, but you would never really know it from the way these tales are told. I tend to disappear into the setting, hiding pieces of myself in order to fit into the plot.

I am a master of camouflage. I even pretended in one story to be okay with the lack of chemistry and physical attraction because I doubted I could do any better. I allowed myself to be repeatedly placed on hold while my co-star went off in search of a suitable replacement, only to return to me.

I always let him come back.

I’d believed the other characters’ opinions of me—nothing more than a waitress, chubby, ugly, simple, in need of a makeover, insecure, damaged, broken, overly sensitive, abnormal, a f*cking weirdo.

Each book has a different binding, a different length—but their beginnings and endings are strikingly similar. Girl meets boy, boy leaves girl.

With a simple stroke of my pen, I write “The End” on the last page of the latest volume and place it on the shelf. I turn to walk away, knowing it might be some time before another story is written. I bow my head in reflection, but suddenly stop in my tracks and turn around again.

I glance at the bindings, confused. I know I am the subject of these stories, but I notice for the first time that not once have I been the author. The names staring back at me on the bindings are the names of those I gave my heart to, not the name of the woman who was giving the love.

How in the world could I have allowed my stories to be written without using my own voice?

Where are the pages describing my love of music and literature? The number of nights spent praying? The cards sent, the letters written, the cookies and muffins baked?

Where are the starry nights at ballparks or on beaches, smelling the ocean and kicking up sand? Gone are the pages recalling sacrifices made as a mother all while maintaining a sense of humor, a blossoming career, meaningful friendships, and an enviable wardrobe.

The story about my heart, missing. The story about my bravery, missing. The story about my faith, missing. The story about my capacity to care, to remember birthdays, anniversaries. To know your love for Friday the 13th and the day you put your beloved pet to sleep, all missing.

It was then that I realized why the stories ended the way they did. Because I was only ever a character, never the author, the stories weren’t really my own to begin with. One by one, against my will, they are taken off the shelf and tossed. They are buried or burned. They are stowed away, never to be read or told again.

Not because I am ashamed of them or because they are historically inaccurate. Not because I wasn’t a willing participant in the moments shared with these characters. And definitely not because I believe I am meant to remain in quiet, unaccompanied solitude in which I never allow anyone else to grace the pages or chapters of my life.

It’s just that without being the author of our own story, chapters beyond One could never develop as they should.

We must love and honor ourselves enough to pay attention when something inside is calling to us and telling us to reclaim our power as our own storyteller. When life is chronicled from our own lovely perspective and with the true acceptance of who we are and what we have to offer, the Table of Contents is built authentically. It’s only then that Chapters Two, Three, Four and beyond can be written and evolve into stories for the ages.

We must believe we are capable of being that protagonist with the knowledge that when we are able to truly trust ourselves to write our own fairytales, it is then that the supporting character intended to walk through life with us will appear—and stay.

Knowing this, after so many failed attempts at letting others try to write my story, I pick up my pen and open to a blank page.

Author: Jenny Roman
Editor: Callie Rushton

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.


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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.