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An Open Letter to Those with Real Power

Dear Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison; Hollywood Heavyweights with back end points and a conscience; readily interviewed Sports Stars who donate money; Politicians who still believe in public service and Celebrities with hope,

I need your help. I feel as if I’m drowning in anxiety about the state of our society and I can no longer bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is fine. As a culture, an economy, even a planet we are so far from fine it’s devastating. We are in serious trouble and I’m beginning to feel hopeless about our abilities to do anything about it. I’m turning to you, those with power, with influence, with the ability to really facilitate change and I’m begging you to do something.

Let me preface by saying, although I am a worrier, I am ultimately an optimist who has never found herself strung out over conspiracy theories or spent any real time time riling against the atrocities of the world, of which there are many. I feel strongly about politics but for the most part keep my opinions to myself and send money and lend support to causes I believe in but don’t do a whole lot of preaching the word to others. I feel today, however, on World Health Day, that I must speak up about a worry that has recently left me terrified. I hope I’m wrong. I pray I’m wrong. My problem is, I don’t think I am.

Until now, I thought my biggest fear was dying of my terminal disease and leaving my child without a mother, but now I wonder if it shouldn’t be watching our beautiful world fall apart around us. I was devastated reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It was such a bleak, hopeless depiction of our future. Humanity having botched everything so terribly there was no one left to help. The only reason I finished the book was because I was waiting for the redemption that never came. I put it away in horror, but looking at the way the world is unfolding, I wonder if my child isn’t looking at a future closer to Mr. McCarthy’s than what I ever imagined. I’m petrified of the direction in which we’re heading and I’m overwhelmed and discouraged that we, as a culture, have allowed things to get this far.the-road

Perhaps history is just fated to repeat itself. I look at lost cultures like Rome, Greece and the Mayans and I think, are we next? Will anything worthwhile be able to even follow our demise or will our self-destruction, combined with our technology, be so absolute that we will, in fact, be the Omega. After reading (and confirming) the two new studies by NASA and the UN: NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It’s not Looking Good for Us and UN Scientific Panel Releases Report Sounding Alarm on Climate Change Dangers, I wonder if my current fear of being buried under a burning pile of rubble in Los Angeles’s “Big One” isn’t merely trivial selfishness in the wake of “the end of our planet as we know it”. America (and the G8) should be leading the battle to save us and yet we seem all too easily distracted by personal gain, the fight for wealth and power and various celebrity mishigas to take any – behaviorally altering – notice of the real issues at hand. While we should be fighting to preserve, protect and improve what we have, using our wealth and influence for change and salvation, we’re killing the environment, dismantling the middle class, attacking women’s rightsvilifying America’s poor while making it easier for the wealthiest Americans to take advantage of the system, and turning politics into a cesspool of stagnant infighting, potentially corrupting the democratic voice with the endless fundraising one upmanship. Frankly it’s hard to know what’s really happening anymore because we all just watch the news we agree with.

Infinite-ResourcesAnd these are just issues on the home front. I’m not even touching on world issues like North Korea, Russia and the effects of the Crimea takeover, the potential nucular fallout still looming after Japan’s earthquake, Syria and the ongoing crisis of Middle East. I know “We Didn’t Start the Fire” but we sure as hell seem to be fanning it to epic proportions.

It seems all too possible that this ongoing selfish, inward looking behavior will ultimately only bring about our downfall. Scientists are screaming it. I believe it’s time the rest of us started listening.

When did we get this insular? This clueless? Why are we not more afraid? More outraged? More informed? Where is our connection as a people? Do we truly need an alien attack, a environmental catastrophe, a unstoppable viral outbreak or a 3rd, planet devastating, world war to reconnect? How bad do things need to become before we, as a people, stop apathetically ignoring the facts.

ceasefiremagazine.co.uk

ceasefiremagazine.co.uk

The time has come to get behind a singular agenda: The Salvation of the World as we Know It.  I realize that sounds heavy handed but legitimate, respected scientists are seriously talking about a few decades left. That concept is unfathomable and yet, it remains a REAL possibility. “Decades Left” and we sit in our society of freely disseminated information choosing to talk about anything else. I understand the desire to ignore. Every day I pretend I’m not sick. I pretend I’m not dying. I believe this is something I’ve learned to do in order to survive, to not dissolve into a puddle of fear and sadness. I understand the impetus to bury your head. I just think we, as a culture, are doing it on too large a scale. We are pretending it’s all going to be okay, that we trust our leaders to not let us fall, to have confidence they have our best interests at heart. We are choosing to believe that everything will work out because the alternative is just too much to contemplate. It’s more desirable to hide in the fluff of the tabloids or in the “busy-ness” of our daily lives and focus our energy on fighting our waistline or crow’s feet rather then opening ourselves to the bigger and far more terrifying issues at hand.

It’s preferable to ignore but I believe that ignorance is going to kill us.

We need people like you to remind us of this fact.

firstcoversPlease, look into what I’m saying. Find the truth. Step up to your respective platforms and tell us what’s really going on so we can do something about it. We will listen to you. Your voices will resonate.

Major magazines and newspapers: Put a call to arms on your covers.

On-line sites, comedic news, major news stations: Come to a truthful conclusion of facts and forget the spin. Add “The Future of Humanity” to your agenda. Help us to help ourselves before there’s nothing left to discuss.

Forget your political leanings. Forget your bias. Forget your bottom line. Think of your children. Think of the future. I may not personally have one, but I sure as hell want to ensure Lochlan does.

The time has come.

Thank you.

With hope,

Leigh McGowan

smileslovesyou.tumblr

smileslovesyou.tumblr

Letting go of a Dream

There’s a letter on my dining room table. A single page form letter that has arrived in January for the past six years. It’s sitting there, innocuously tucked amoung the bills, waiting for a response. Every year I reply in the same way, with a check and a groan and a dream. This year will be different.

The letter, so innocently sitting there, is a letter from a storage facility. A Reproductive Storage Facility that holds what we one day hoped, would allow us to have another child. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. That it would require multiple medical procedures, lots of luck and plenty of money – not to mention a surrogate – but paying that bill every year allowed us to hold onto our dream. The dream of being the family we envisioned. The dream of being parents to more than one. The dream of a time when my health and our finances would be strong enough that we could create another biological child and, every year when that letter arrives we weigh our options against those dreams.

The family talent show scene from Dan in Real Life. Man, I would have loved that.

The family talent show scene from Dan in Real Life. And, if you haven’t seen that film, do yourself a favor and see it.

I always wanted a big family. Being an only child I dreamed of belonging to something more inclusive than my tiny group of three. I imagined Thanksgiving family football games, boisterous Christmas dinners and annoying, yet charming, family singsongs. I wished for confidants that were more than friends, peers with features that mirrored my own. I wanted to be part of a team. To share a legacy with others. I stared wistfully at the extended family of Steve Carell’s character in Dan in Real Life and idealized a family like the one in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. I knew it was impossible for my own childhood but I held on to the idea for the family I would create. I may not be able to have siblings or first cousins, but my children would. I would just have to recast the fantasy with myself as the matriarch.

I was told I couldn’t have more children at the same time I was told I was told I was dying. I didn’t have the opportunity to morn the lost possible future amidst the chaos of the immediate present. Because a pregnancy would almost definitely kill me, Sean – in the most final way possible – took care of our birth control issue, but not before storing what he’d lose in case what lay ahead wasn’t as dire as we were being led to believe. We prayed a future for me was possible and held on to the hope another child might be as well. We paid that storage fee every year feeding that possibility.

A letter amongst the bills.

A letter amongst the bills.

When the letter came this year it felt different to me. It no longer held the siren song of a family of four. It just looked like an incredibly expensive bill with no realistic purpose. My health is good but it fluctuates. I don’t have the strength or energy I’d like. I worry I’m not able to give enough to the child I do have, let alone to care for another. And if I’m being honest, no matter how much I’d like to, it would be impossible for me to keep up with two kids without full time help. I don’t want to take from the child I do have to give to one I think I should have. We hold our own with one. We manage. We’re happy. I’m stable. Why can’t I be satisfied with that?

There are times in life when you have to let go. Where holding too tightly to one thing makes it impossible to move on to another. Sometimes you have to close a door, no matter how much you wish it could stay open.

imagesI fixated on the idea of another child so clearly I manifested a person I felt was missing. I have a name, a face, a sense of who she’d be. I realize I could have easily had a pack of boys but, for some reason, I feel it’s a daugther that would have arrived. When I think about her my heart breaks. As if I’ve left her on a shelf somewhere. This person that belongs to me that I’ve neglected to claim. I know she’s not real but the idea of her found it’s way so deeply into my heart it got into my head. I realize now it’s unhealthy to keep holding on and the time has come to let go. Even if we could afford IVF, egg extraction, a full time night nurse/live in nanny AND keep up our current lifestyle with two children, would I even want to go back at this point? Do I want a newborn again? Could I handle six more years of diapers and potty training and mindless, random day filling? I’m just at the point where I can get excited about my career again. I want to reconnect with my ambition. I dream of a house of my own. I miss travelling. I want to show Loch the world. And, frankly, I need to be alive for all that to happen. Maybe I’ve spent too long dreaming of the “perfect” family I’ve been unable to see my family is already perfect.

IMG_2056I’ve been there, present and involved, for every aspect of of my son’s life. We’re incredibly close. What I’ve been able to do for him, the time I’m able to give him, has been a blessing to us both. I don’t want to keep thinking about what could have been, staring at my friend’s other children wistfully. I want to accept that as much as I would have loved another child, it’s not in the cards for me. My life – my current life – is amazing. It’s a wonderful, glorious gift and it’s time to embrace that and let go of the rest.

So, this year we will not be sending a check. This year we will sign the “cryopreserved disposition consent” form. I will say good bye to the chance of any more biological children, the hope of a sibling for Loch and my desire for a house filled with voices. I will accept I am an only child with an only child and relinquish my dreams of the past to better enjoy the reality of the present.

With two signatures, a notary and a stamp our tiny family will move forward.

The first thing we’ll do is start shopping for dogs.

With love,

Leigh

Mini-Goldendoodle-Photos-1300x975

Speaking Your Mind

Dear Loch,

I’m a big believer in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. I think semantics matter. I believe the words you choose are important and how you feel deserves to be heard. That being said, I am also a big believer in holding your tongue. Every thought in your head does not require a voice. You shouldn’t speak just to hear your opinions echoed back and your thoughts should not run people over. I touched on the concepts of speaking up for yourself in When Polite Becomes a Problem and, as always, I believe everything we do, including speaking our minds, should be done with Manners and civility, but I wanted to take a moment to emphasize how important I believe it is to be candid with your thoughts.

tumblr.com

tumblr.com

We have a fair number of friends and family who swallow their feelings. People who won’t acknowledge how they feel despite how obvious those feelings are to everyone around them. People who bottle their emotions and lie to themselves (and others) about what’s really going on. I’ve personally never been able to do that. That’s not to say I’m some highly evolved emotional genius who knows how things should be, but rather that I’ve always been one to wear my heart on my sleeve and my feelings on my face. Over time, I found it was just simpler to put a voice to my feelings rather than pretend otherwise. I wasn’t fooling anyone anyway.

blogher.com

blogher.com

Writing this blog, there have been times when I’ve been accused of “airing my dirty laundry”, of being “too candid”, “too honest” or voicing only MY “opinion“. I’ve had phone calls and emails from people who feel mischaracterized or uncomfortable with the truth I’ve put out in the world and I always feel terrible when this happens. I don’t believe my honesty is wrong, I’m just sorry my observation of the facts has upset anyone. As a result, I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking these situations through and, as uncomfortable as those conversations can be, I think everyone involved (myself included) comes out far better than when the issue was simply tucked away. I’m aware my thoughts and writings are my take on the world, but I try exceptionally hard to be fair and honest in my personal interactions. I do my best to avoid judgement and at the end of the day, I am most critical of myself. That being said, I believe in hitting issues straight on. I’m not one to beat around the bush. I think dirty laundry deserves to be aired. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, it just allows it to pile up and permeate your life. Taking things out and cleaning them up is the only way to stop them from festering. It might not be the most pleasant experience but it’s necessary if you want to live an unburdened life.

magerempowerment.com

magerempowerment.com

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Deny. Deny. Deny. Stiff upper lip stuff doesn’t work long term. It only serves to mask problems that end up rising up when you least expect them. I don’t advocate going through life telling everyone what you feel at every moment. That would be unnecessary social suicide and as much as I believe in owning your truth, I remain a proponent of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I do, however, feel that biting our tongue to the detriment of yourself, or someone you love, is not helpful. Keeping criticism at bay is a safe bet, but observations and honest truths, even if you know them to be subjective, are essential to our personal self worth and the integrity of our relationships.

fergusonvalues.com

fergusonvalues.com

There are ways to spare people’s feelings. To find something kind to say that is true without being insincere. But only when we acknowledge the truth of our situation can things begin to change. What’s the worst that can happen by being honest with your feelings? Someone gets upset? The situation becomes awkward? That’s tolerable. You can live through that. What’s unacceptable to me is fake, insincere relationships with people who are close to you. Working though something, no matter how uncomfortable, carries with it the possibility of resolution, growth and improvement. Holding on to resentment only breeds contempt.

Speaking your mind, standing up for yourself, telling people how you feel (in an appropriate way) is an essential life skill. The world is full of people afraid to rock the boat. You can’t solve issues that way and you’ll never be truly happy if you’re not truly yourself. Stamping down your feelings will ultimately only make you feel bitter and misunderstood. That’s no way to go through life.

wordsoverpixels.com

wordsoverpixels.com

Having the courage to tell someone you’re upset or uncomfortable should be done just as confidently as letting someone know you appreciate and respect them. We should approach the good and bad with the same level of candor. Without honesty, we’re just acting like ourselves, not being ourselves. Every painful conversation I’ve ever had – be it with my parents, your Dad, a friend, a colleague – has ultimately ended in a positive result. Even if it makes you feel twitchy or you don’t end up with the resolution you’d hoped for – you break up, end up leaving a job or losing a friend – at least you can look in the mirror and know you did everything you could to make it right. You respected yourself and your feelings enough to let them be heard. People who bottle their emotions might seem to coast along without drama, but lack of conflict doesn’t mean you’re not conflicted and being “ok” is not the same as being happy.

Speak up for yourself. Don’t let anyone take your voice from you. Be a kind but not a weak person. What you think, what you want, what you feel, matters. Choose to be an active part of your own happiness. Ask for what you want. Stand up for what you believe in. Choose your words carefully but say what you mean. It may be socially acceptable to suppress your feelings to avoid making waves, but without waves there is no movement, and I don’t want you stuck in a life going nowhere.

Get movin’!

I love you forever.

xo mom

blog.daniellesonnenberg.com

blog.daniellesonnenberg.com

The Princess Problem

I had the opportunity to catch a couple Grammy performances this year. I’m not really an awards show person but I was sitting with Sean when Kacey Musgraves performed “Follow Your Arrow” and I found myself throughly charmed. She went on to win “Best Country Album” and “Best Country Song” so apparently, I wasn’t alone in that sentiment. Now, I happen to like country music and dig the super model meets early Dolly vibe she’s got going on, but in this case I was most impressed with her simple, upbeat message. Follow Your Arrow is a song about the names we call each other and the judgements we make when people don’t behave the way we want them to. The message being: You’ll never please everyone so you may as well just be yourself.

It reminded me of a visit I recently had with an old family friend. At one point in the conversation the topic drifted to personality types and he referred to me as a princess. Technically, he was referring to his girlfriend and he said, “She’s kind of a princess…like you.” We all had a good laugh, like “Oh, I like my creature comforts…hee hee…I like $5 coffees…ha ha…I don’t want to sleep in the back of a van…ho ho ho”. It was all said in good fun but, since a fair amount of truth is spoken in jest, the conversation started me thinking. Marketing encourages little girls to look up to, and aspire to be princesses, yet the word “princess” is typically used with distain and even malice. What does it say about a culture that encourages little girls to be something then chastises them later for being so? We’ll get you the t-shirts, the costumes, the movies but if you become one, you should feel s*^#ty about yourself because it’s a terrible way to be. Why would we push a concept so hard on our children if we’re just going to use it later to insult them as adults?

We want our girls to be like this picture billigerluxus.de

We encourage girls to look up to the women in this picture.
(billigerluxus.de)

The dictionary defines a princess as “the daughter of a monarch” and obviously that applies to very few of us. Even our most famous princess, Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge only arrived there via marriage. The urban dictionary has a long drawn out list of qualities a princess should possess like poise, humility and benevolence but I’m pretty sure my friend wasn’t thinking of those adjectives when he referred to me as one. Beyond the pet term from your Daddy or boyfriend, “princess” usually refers to someone high maintenance or demanding. Someone who requires only the best and is uncomfortable with any sort of mess or hard work.

Then we vilify them into this "type of girl" from smh.com.au. "The Princess of Long Island"

Then turn the term into something hideous like the girls in this picture.
(smh.com.au. “The Princess of Long Island”)

Basically, unless your five, or being given a diamond necklace at the time, being called a princess is an insult and it speaks to the double standard our society allots to men and women. Pantene recently did a commercial highlighting this fact, and no matter how you feel about gender inequality or double standards, I think we can all agree there is no urban vernacular term equivalent to Princess for men. In general, the most derogatory terms skew female. Bitch. Whore. Slut. Even words that are used to humiliate men are typically female biased – Pussy, Wuss, Sensitive. “Can I get you a tampon with that drink?” Even put downs like High Maintenance and Bossy are reserved primarily for women. “Princess” is just one more way to tell women there’s something wrong with them and, despite the fact it was said to me with love, being called one p*^# me off.

Look, there are truly unbearable people out there. People who are clueless to the plight of others. People who send back their water because it’s not Voss or the lemon isn’t myer. People who talk down to waiters and request only green M&M’s. I’m not talking about those people. There should be a special word reserved for those people. D*^ks might fit since it implies selfish, single minded behavior, but in the wake of my princess argument being gender biased, perhaps a*#hole is better since it skews gender neutral but with less than favorable implications.

Some people legitimately deserve the criticism. divasdiningblog.com

I recognize that some people legitimately deserve the criticism. divasdiningblog.com

The question remains, is it really “high maintenance” to send something back if it’s wrong? Is it truly “demanding” to request a seat by the window rather than one by the kitchen door? Is it really such a terrible thing to know what you want and ask for it? Why should I feel ashamed if I value myself enough to not just meekly take what’s offered? Should I feel the need to apologize for preferring to sleep in a bed or use an indoor toilet? I’m Canadian. I’ve camped a lot in my life. It was fun. I’ll probably do it again. But, given the choice, I’d rather sit in a cabana at a chic hotel. That doesn’t make me a princess. It makes me different than a camper. Throwing a fit if you don’t get what you want is a problem. Taking steps to make what you want a reality, that’s just proactive. Why can’t we see that type of behavior for the positive it is? Why must we judge with such rigorous standards and, how can we possibly get it right if everyone’s standards are different? You want to backpack around the world with one pair of pants? Knock yourself out. I’d literally lose my mind doing that but, I don’t judge you for it, so don’t judge me for aspiring to a nice house or a pair of Leboutains.

We tell women this…

(pics8.this-pic.com)

(pics8.this-pic.com)

Then we treat them like this…

(quotespictures.com)

(quotespictures.com)

Something is wrong with that.

When Sean and I first started dating we talked about going to Vegas. We didn’t have a lot of money so he suggested we put down the back seats of my SUV and sleep in the car. I immediately burst into tears. I thought, “Oh my God, this guy doesn’t know me at all. How could he suggest such a thing? I would rather not go on a trip than go to a place with a million hotels and sleep in my car!” I worried that even though we were very serious about each other he didn’t truly accept me for who I was and I was devastated. For him it was merely a suggestion that could be abandoned. For me, it was a sign something was glaringly wrong. Not wrong with me (who doesn’t like hotels?) or with him (there are a lot of people who aren’t hung up on creature comforts), but with us as a couple.

I-Am-ResponsibleI was reminded of that feeling when my friend made his comment which, incidentally, I don’t think his girlfriend was too crazy about either. After he left our house, I asked Sean if he thought I was, in fact, a princess? He said no, that what “princess” implies doesn’t fit who I am and, whether he was paying me lip service or not, when it really comes down to it I think we should be able to be who we are without having to apologize for the label placed on us for being that way. I don’t advocate acting like a jerk in the name of “being true to yourself”. I just think we need to stop using labels to degrade and berate each other for behavior that’s different from our own.

If you live life with respect – for yourself and others – then any other personality quirk is just that, a quirk. One more thing that makes you, you. Your preferences and traits are not BAD or GOOD, they are mearly another layer to a fuller, more realized person. If I want to be fancy, I’ll be fancy. If you want to be spartan, you be spartan. Let’s try being ourselves without apology or judgement.

And please, let’s stop calling each other names.

Except the a#@holes. They kind of deserve it.

xo Leigh

happyisthenewwealthy.com

happyisthenewwealthy.com

Robbed!

Dear Loch,

Not so long ago you asked us the difference was between a thief and a robber. Your Dad and I both started answering before we simultaneously realized we didn’t know the answer. It’s fun when your children start teaching you things. Even if it’s by simply pointing out there’s more to learn. As it turns out, the difference is this:

Thief: one that steals especially stealthily or secretly
Robber: one who takes money or property from (a person or a place) illegally by using force, violence, or threats

So, one uses force and the other stealth. It goes without saying we’d all rather be theif-ed than robbed but honestly either kinda sucks. We discovered that recently when all our luggage was stolen out of the car we’d secretly packed to surprise you with a trip to Disneyland.*

salon.com

salon.com

When bad things happen, especially after getting sick, I often feel like…Did I break a mirror at some point and not notice? Recently it feels more like…Did I break a mirror while walking under a ladder kicking a black cat? This is ridiculous. Was I a hideous person in a past life? Am I being punished for something? As far as I know I’m good, I have no memory of being otherwise, and yet when life rises up and slaps me in the face I think, what is this all about?

Even with those kind of thoughts, which I understand are a bit ridiculous and cause your father to roll his eyes, I recognize our theft could have been much worse. We had only packed for two days (three, as I tend to overpack) and all our electronics and toiletries were still in the house along with the important un-replaceables, like your beloved bluies and stuffed animals. We lost a bunch of clothes for sure, shoes and other sundries that all can eventually be replaced, but the thought of trying to re-cobble together my makeup or face creams, your Dad’s contacts, or having to replace all of our i-everythings, would have been a complete nightmare.

I no longer own any of the clothes I'm wearing in this picture.

I no longer own any of the clothes I’m wearing in this picture.

Aside from one momentary spazz attack (5 seconds max) when I realized our stolen day bag included my driver’s license and large number of my medications, I was pretty calm about the whole thing. Now “pretty calm” may sound unimpressive, but for someone like me who’s prone to dramatic, emotional outbursts, it’s actually saying a lot. When I called to tell my parents, Granddad was astounded I wasn’t hysterical. I think he thought I’d been body snatched, but really, freaking out was a useless endeavor. Yes, being robbed is rotten. Sure, it’s inconvenient. It definitely made me wildly angry, but having a breakdown about it wasn’t going to fix anything. I needed to handle the situation and dissolving into a pile of mush wasn’t going to get my credit card cancelled or our police report filled out.

The most frustrating thing, aside from losing my beloved grey skinny jeans and favorite black boots, is how much of your time is stolen when your things are stolen. On top of taking our stuff, this unknown skeeve has taken hours, probably days, of my time sorting out his mess. It took us three hours of initial callings to police, banks, and insurance companies and two more filling out all the necessary paperwork. I still have to go to the DMV to get a new license, the bank to get a new bank card, the Ford Dealership to replace my Navigation card and to figure out how someone could have acquired access to our locked car in the first place. Letters have to be written to my health insurance company and on-line pharmacy to start the process of reissuing my medication and they’ll be a huge deductible to pay before we can even start replacing what was lost. Factor in the time I will spend on craigslist inanely trying to crack the case myself and you get the picture.

DON'T TAKE OUR STUFF!!!

DON’T TAKE OUR STUFF!!!

Having things stolen makes you angry. You feel violated. You ask yourself who would do such a thing? I didn’t freak out in the moment but, after the fact, I felt furious. Who breaks into someone’s car and takes suitcases and backpacks not even knowing what’s in them? You don’t need anything specifically, you’re just hoping there’s something in there you want. Who combs through someone’s possessions cherry picking favorites like they’re shopping in a store? Sunglasses? Check. Car seat? Nah. What kind of person feels justified emptying someone’s car into their own? Our thieves had to have brought a vehicle because there was just too much stuff to have carried away without one. An entire bag of coffee table books and novels? Really? You need that? They didn’t even have the time to use my bank card or ID between when the car was loaded at 1:30am and when we found it emptied 5 hours later. Will they try and sell our clothes? They’re not worth much used and yet they’ll cost us at least a couple thousand to replace. What’s the point of it all, other than to increase our sense of distrust and to make security companies more money? It all seems so senseless.

We still made it!

We made it!

Driving to Disney that afternoon (because we were still going damn it!) your Dad and I talked ad nausum about how livid we felt being taken advantage of that way. We discussed how we couldn’t even fathom how hysterical and vengeful we’d feel if it was a person and not stuff that had been taken or violated. In those hours following the robbery we really understood how people find themselves at a place where they feel a visceral need for retribution. A dark place of fury and vengeance. We lost jeans and boots, sweaters and jackets. How do people lose people and ever get past it? And if they do find out who it was, how do they possibly live with that? I imagined how I might behave if I was confronted with our thief and it was alarming. Your Dad wants to put trackers in all our luggage now. I want to chip the both of you for safety.

New matching suits just in time for their night swim!

New matching suits just in time for their night swim!

As horrible and heartbreaking as the whole situation was, our family will come through it virtually unscathed. Terrible things happen to people every day and, in the grand scheme of things, this theft is merely a blip. An expensive, annoying, waste of time blip, but a nothing all the same. Things can be replaced. People can not. We can choose to be mired down by the bad things that happen to us or we can choose to move on. I’m very glad we didn’t let the bad guys ruin our plans. Life goes on. Their are still lots of good people in the world and we chosen to try and focus on that. The lovely folks at Quicksilver in Downtown Disney started that ball rolling by giving Daddy and you the (completely made up) “you had your luggage stolen discount” on your new bathing suits. It was a small thing but it really made us smile. Customers for life!

S*^@ happens and you have to work to not let it change you. Don’t get me wrong, if I saw the SOB that took our stuff I’d be pretty fired up, but I’m not going to waste any more time than I already have to devoted to his actions. Karma, as they say, is a bitch and if it turns out it’s not me she’s after, I hope she takes a real crack at him.

I love you baby.

xo Mom

photo 4

* For the record this is the third time in two years our car has been broken into in our driveway.

The Spirit of the Season

After my last post I was determined to say something funny and light. I’ve become aware that when I write about not feeling well it makes people (especially those closest to me) slightly melancholy and I was hoping to give my nearest and dearest a bit of a break as the year begins anew. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, my health leading up to the holidays was a real struggle so, despite my best intentions for humor, I think the sincerest post I can commit to is what I learned over the past month while I was so sick. For those of you who find these types of posts upsetting, stick with me, I am infinitely better now and in many ways I would say my recent weakness has only changed me for the better.

———

Dear Loch,

When you were five, I planned a trip to the mountains for Thanksgiving that went completely awry. Unable to breathe on my own we spent 12 hours in our rented condo before abandoning our trip to come back down the mountain. Unfortunately, my declining health didn’t stop at sea level and for the next three weeks I struggled to breathe without the help of oxygen and complete even the most minimal of tasks on my own. Not since I was first diagnosed was my life uprooted in such a tangible way, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so afraid and angry. Your Dad did everything he could, staying home from work, shuffling me from doctor to doctor, taking care of all the things I usually handle. But, he is only one man and he can’t be everywhere at once or miss work indefinitely. We needed help.

fotoninja.nlWhen people discover I’m sick, they often say things like, “Well, if there’s every anything I can do…”. It’s a lovely sentiment and I sincerely appreciate it but my standard response is always something like, “Thank you. That’s really kind. Hopefully I’ll never need to take you up on that offer.”  If I’m being honest though, the truth of the matter is, I don’t want anyone’s help. Up until recently I found the whole idea of taking someone’s help rather distasteful. I’m a busy and efficient A-type person and I pride myself on my ability to get s*#@ done. It’s part of my self worth. To accept help would mean I needed help, which, on some level, diminishes me. It makes me feel needy and broken. Though offers came from genuine, altruistic places, the thought of taking people up on them made me feel like a failure as well as shining a big, glaring light on the one thing I was trying hardest to ignore: the fact that I was sick.

pinterest.comI don’t want to be sick so, I pretend I’m not. I realize it’s a little ostrich-y but I try incredibly hard to keep life as close to what it was before my diagnosis as possible. I fight reality tooth and nail in a wayward attempt to hold on to my pre-illness identity. It’s incredibly important to me. So, while I may smile and agree to the idea of taking help if need be, internally I feel like…Nope, I got this. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.

Up until recently only the very closest people in my life have seen the toll my illness takes on me. Not even my mother knows the extent of the strain. Your Dad is the only witness to my weakest of moments, my outbursts and rages, most of which seem to come in the middle of the night. It has always been important to me that I appear normal to the outside world. Better than normal. Great. Pulled together. Highly functioning. I don’t want to be judged or liked, written off or underestimated, based on my illness. I want people to see me, not the potential ticking clock.

We’ve had people reach out to us in the past. The kindness and generosity of some of our friends has truly humbled me. But what happened in the weeks leading up to Christmas struck me on a completely different level. I was so sick, so weak, so disturbingly incapable of taking care of myself I had to let go. I had to stop holding so tight to the wishes of my ego and take the help being offered to us with grace. I had to accept that I needed assistance on the most basic of levels – help driving my child to school and taking care of him after, help making meals, help going to the flippin’ grocery store. I couldn’t do anything on my own and for as many times as I’ve said “No Thank you” over the past years, I said “Thank you” over the past weeks, and it was a completely humbling experience.

bottomTo benevolently offer to help someone without thought for yourself and frankly, at an inconvenience to you, is practically unheard of these days. Our closest friends in Los Angeles rallied around us. They joined something called “Meal Train” which allowed them to sign up for duties on a shared calendar and communicate via email. They kindly left me out of the loop because it quickly became obvious that even the simplest of questions like, “How do you feel about chicken for Thursday night?” had me gut reacting with statements like, “Don’t worry about it. Please don’t anything. I’m ok.” So, they just stopped asking me. The whole experience was unbelievable. My friend’s cleaning lady showed up at my house. Groceries were on my back door. Meals were in my fridge. My child was happy and busy with playdates and dinners. These wonderful people took over the reigns of my life so I could rest and get better. I was beyond touched and grateful but I honestly struggled with how to properly respond. I had no point of reference for this type of support, this level of kindness.

Truthfully, I panicked. What if this was my new life? What if these amazing people, who were being so kind now, ultimately saw me as a burden? I couldn’t possibly or sufficiently thank them enough. I felt as if I would “owe” everyone for life and never be able to deliver. I worried my needs upset the balance of our relationship. I felt “less than” myself, as if I was no longer a peer or an equal but someone beneath them. A charity case rather than a friend and as I started to feel better, I wanted to jump right back into my life. I wanted to stop the help machine. I wanted to go back to normal but I was convinced not to. With all the understanding they could muster, your Dad and Granny told me slipping right back into my life full speed was going to be a mistake. That my friends were helping in good faith and I should accept it with the same respect in which it was intended. They believed the best thing I could do for everyone who was going so far out of their way to help was to get well – really,truly well. Taking care of my family on my own would come. My friends weren’t doing so much just so I could get sick again. They weren’t planning to lord their compassion over me. They weren’t looking for endless, groveling thanks. They were supporting me because they liked me and wanted to see me well. As Sean said, “If it was one of them, wouldn’t you do the same?”

thegreeeneyedladyblog.com

thegreeeneyedladyblog.com

The answer was a resounding yes. Yes, of course I would. I wouldn’t help someone to make them feel weak or small or to get kudos or presents. I would lend a hand because I could and I would do it without question. I had to learn to take help the same way.

Once I stopped fighting it was astonishing how the experience opened up my heart. It was extraordinary to be the recipient of such an outpouring of love. To accept that was ok to need people. To embrace the fact I wasn’t able to do it all and allow so many people come together to assist us. The experience humbled me in a way I could never have expected. Instead of making me feel weaker I felt stronger. I came out of the situation feeling I could (and should) do more to help others. People being kind and gracious to me inspired me to be kind and gracious to others. I suppose that’s why the concept of “paying it forward” works. If someone is good to you, it incites you to be good to others. The truth of the matter is, NONE of us can do it all on our own, and when we truly accept and embrace that, the world has the potential to become a much better place.

helenkellerquoteLook around in your life baby. Offer to help those who might need it and graciously accept relief when it’s offered to you. Help is not just for people who are sick, it’s for anyone that could use a little lift or love. It’s not lost on me that this entire experience happened at the time of year when we’re supposed to be looking out for our fellow man. The period of time when goodness and compassion come back in style. “So this is Christmas, and what have you done….”

My friends didn’t help me because they wanted to feel they’d done charity before the holidays.  They helped me because they thought I needed them, and I let them because they were right. The same circumstances could have occurred in April or July and I believe they would have done exactly the same thing. It’s just that with the overlapping of this time of year I feel just a bit more encouraged for the state of the world. That for all the selfish, me first behavior we see every day, there are still people are innately good, who look out for one another, who treat others as they would be treated, and that, my love, gives me hope.

Look out for others Loch, and let others look out for you. In a world that’s become so increasingly insular, it’s important we realize how very much we are all still connected.

From my heart to yours,

xo your mommy

earlymama.com

earlymama.com

Eye Opener

I know I’m sick. Obviously, I know.

I know I’m sick because it changed my life. Having PH stole my ability to have more children, drains my family’s finances and emotions and forces us to live under the constant stress of my potential death. That being said however, I’ve always felt lucky. I live as close to normal a life as I can possibly hope for. I’m not on daily oxygen, I don’t have a port in my heart, I eat what I like (though I should probably be more aware), and I’m able to play an active part in almost every aspect of my life.

I may get more tired than most, have a hard time with humidity and changing barometric pressure and, because I already live under a high level of stress, have a tendency to freak out more than necessary when things go awry, but I feel blessed. I could be dead by now. I was told I would be, and yet here I sit blathering on about my life in the hopes that my words will someday connect with my son and, for now, to others who may be interested.

Even knowing all this, I’ve found I can still be surprised and flattened by the reality of my situation. My illness continues to teach me something all the time.

My kid waiting to go to the mountains. Let's go people! The wait is killing me!

My kid waiting to go to the mountains. Let’s go people! The wait is killing me!

For the holidays I planned a trip to Mammoth for my family (visiting parents included). I can’t ski anymore but Sean and Loch love it so it seemed like a special way to spend Thanksgiving. I pictured my boys happily shushing down the slopes while my parents and I reconnected roaming around the village, reading by the fire, and relaxing in the sun and snow. I planned the trip six months ago. I found a lovely three bedroom cabin, booked lessons and rentals for Loch and planned out the meals with my mom. The day before Thanksgiving my whole family piled into our car, complete with new roof rack storage bag and Christmas presents, and started our drive to the mountains. As an afterthought we included an R2D2 looking oxygen concentrator just in case I had any trouble with the altitude. I wasn’t particularly concerned. We’ve been to Big Bear quite a few times and I’ve never had a problem, but since Mammoth is 2000 feet higher I thought it would be better to be safe than sorry. Little did I know….

photo 2 copyThe drive was amazing with straight, open roads and America the beautiful stretched out before us. Mountains, plains and red rocks as far as the eye could see, almost all of it uninhabited. If I didn’t know better I would have guessed we were in Montana or some other Big Sky territory. With about 45 minutes left in our trip we stopped at a fabulous bakery for sandwiches and talked about our plans for the mountains. Then, about a half way into the last leg of or trip, I started to feel off.  It felt as if I was breathing through a snorkel, labored and unnatural. When we arrived at our rental I took my blood oxygen level right away. You want your oxygen saturation levels to be in the 90′s. Preferably the very upper 90′s, around 97-100%. Exercise and exertion will drop your levels temporarily but they always bounce back. I typically fluctuate between 94-98% at rest and drop to 87-89% during “exercise” like walking  (82-85% if I’m feeling crazy and try to walk and talk at the same time) but I always snap right back to the 90′s after I stop moving. Here, in the parking lot of our rental unit I was at 83% at rest and it felt extremely uncomfortable. I sat uselessly in the cold of the outside structure waiting for my family to unload the car. When the car was empty Sean walked me upstairs and, with that minimal exertion, my levels dropped to the 70′s. My snorkel had become a straw and it was truly frightening. Sean worked fast and had me on the oxygen concentrator as soon as he could. It was all I could do to just sit down and regulate.

photoSo there I was, a blob on the couch, tethered to the wall, unable to help or contribute in any way. Conversation was beyond my capacity. Even with oxygen, my levels were still in the 80′s and I felt miserable. In the span of a half hour I became a completely different person, and that person was really sick. As I said before, I knew I was sick, I just didn’t know I was this sick and the altitude cleared that right up for me. At one point I got up to put on warmer clothes. As I walked to the bedroom my head whipped back twice as my oxygen tube got stuck  first on the fooseball table and then again on the doorknob to my room. It was infuriating and depressing. In frustration I ripped  the cannula out of my nose and changed without it, but when I started to feel lightheaded I found my oxygen levels had dropped to a dangerous 69%. I was dizzy and nauseous but mostly I was really scared.

Mind over matter right? I’d planned this trip. We’d driven seven hours to get here. I’d booked three full days of non-refundable lessons. We’d prepaid our unit. Everyone was counting on it. No matter how terrible I felt I had to man up. I just had to adjust.

photo 3But I couldn’t adjust. As the night continued I felt worse and worse. The oxygen concentrator kept my immobile body at 90-91% but it was terrible. The slightest movement dropped my levels exponentially and I felt trapped, like I was confined to a box unable to move. I tried to join everyone for dinner and catching a glimpse of myself in the dining room mirror, I saw a person I didn’t recognize. An ashen faced girl with a tube attached to her face. There was no way I could eat. At the very least, chewing limited my ability to breathe. Eventually I gave up and moved back to the sofa. I texted my doctor and his advice was clear. Leave. Go home. You shouldn’t be there. He said he would try and find someone to get me a portable oxygen concentrator but it would be difficult seeing it was a holiday. I told him even if I got one it wouldn’t be useful. The slightest movement made me light headed. Talking was a struggle. I certainly wasn’t walking around the village or going out for dinner any time soon.

I struggled with what I should do. I felt responsible for everyone’s good time. I’d planned this trip after all and we’d waste so much money if we bailed. I didn’t want to disappoint Loch or my parents and I wasn’t even sure what we’d do for five days with no plan back in LA. But when Sean asked me what I wanted to do, I couldn’t help myself, self preservation usurped socialization and I burst into tears. I told him I had to leave, I wanted to go home. That I couldn’t take it. It felt like I was dying and it was torture. I knew my choice would ruin it for everyone but as far as I could see there was no choice. I was physically forced to put my needs above everyone else’s and I couldn’t second guess it.

Cannula nosed Mommy looking at new lego castle with her very excited (and slightly nervous) little man.

Cannula nosed Mommy looking at new lego castle with her very excited (and slightly nervous) little man.

To everyone’s credit, no one made me feel bad about my decision. In full support and without a hint of complaint, everything that had been unpacked was repacked and loaded into the car. I spent the night dozing on the sofa, too afraid to lie down flat to sleep and Sean lay on the floor by my head. He could have slept on the other sofa but he said it felt too far away. He wanted to be close if I needed him. Loch was disappointed but rallied as best as a 5-year old can. Opening all his Christmas presents from my parents helped.

After breathing, Lochlan’s reaction to the situation was my biggest concern. I knew he’d get over the disappointment of not skiing, but this was the first time he’d really witnessed how sick I was and I could tell it was scaring him. At one point he came over and quietly said, “I look at you and I think you can die from this. Can you die from this?” I said, “I hope not baby.” Then he said, “If you die I’ll just cry and cry.” I said, “I’ll cry too baby.” He looked confused and responded, “How can you cry? You’ll be dead.” I said, “I’ll be crying in heaven because I’ll miss you so much.” The whole conversation took less than a minute and it almost killed me. He was so sweet and understanding but I could see the hints of confusion and fear on the periphery. I told Sean I was afraid Loch would either start to see me as a burden, someone who’s illness ruins his good time, or shut me out as a form of self protection, in hopes of making my leaving him in the future less painful. Either way it broke my heart.

Loch only got to play in the snow the first night. He made, very apprapo, an angel.

Loch only got to play in the snow the first night. He made, very appropriately, an angel.

At one point Loch woke up crying and it roused me from sleep. I went to his room but Sean, already there, silently encouraged me out of the room. Later he told me he was trying to help me, to let me know he had it under control and I shouldn’t worry, but what I felt in that moment was that Loch didn’t want me. That he was crying because I’d disappointed him and Sean was attempting to protect me from the hurtful things he was saying. Lying on the sofa listening to my child cry was devastating. His sobs made me feel helpless and crushed. I imagined this must be what it feels like to die and leave your children behind. To be an angel in the room watching someone else comforting them but unable to help because you’re gone and also the cause. I fell asleep crying for what might be.

As we drove down the mountain the next day I apologized for ruining the trip, but I wasn’t sorry we were leaving. About 2000 feet down, it was as if my power had been turned back on. The straw was gone and I could finally breath normally. The lower we travelled the better I felt and by the last 3 hours you could almost forget I’d been sick at all.

On our way back down we stopped again for sandwiches. I look a little worse for wear but it was just a relief to be able to breathe on my own.

On our way back down we stopped again for sandwiches. I look a little worse for wear but it was just a relief to be able to breathe on my own.

I thought I knew how lucky I was. I thought it was enough to conceptualize how much worse I could be. But until I felt it so clearly in my own body I didn’t truly understand. I might be looking at a future without mountains or cities at altitude, but at least I’m still able to hope for a future. The whole hideous process was a reminder of how wonderful my life is. How much I have to lose and how, despite all my awareness, I can still be reminded of how much I take for granted. It also showed me that there are times in life when we have to put ourselves first, not out of selfishness, but out of self preservation and there’s no shame in it. It’s hard to admit weakness and ask for help, but you have to respect yourself enough to protect yourself, and you don’t have to be sick to do it.

I am thankful for a lot of things: my wonderful husband who’s there to protect me even though he can’t fix me, my darling son who’s heart I will do everything in my power not to break, my parents who’s company I still crave despite the fact we’re all adults and have our own way of doing things, but most of all, I’m thankful for the fact that I’m still here, as me – not some sad, sick version of myself. My life is blessed. I’m angry and scared as hell but I’m lucky. If this weekend was a wake up call, I heard it and I’ll do my  best to appreciate it for all it’s worth.

Love and blessings to you and yours for health and happiness.

God bless,

xo leigh

zen-mama.com

zen-mama.com

Bullying

Dear Loch,

Recently the older brother of one of your friends was experiencing some bullying at school. It’s a hard thing to avoid, even in a school as small as yours, where the parents all know each other and the kids have been taught the virtues of kindness and compassion from kindergarden. Perhaps it’s just part of being a kid, something to try on and see how it fits. It made me think of comedian Louis CK’s recent point about not buying cell phones for his daughters. He felt the technology made it all too easy to disconnect from the truth of the real world. If you are cruel to someone in person, you witness first hand how they feel and, how making them feel that way effects you. For the most part it’s not a great feeling for either person. But, when you do it online, silently typing cruel things into a smart phone and pressing send, there is no such bounce back. No moment where you see how your behavior has affected another and, therefore, much less self realization for the bully. Without the emotional fallout to witness, mean for the sake of mean might feel pretty good.

feminspire.com

feminspire.com

Sidebar: Cyber bullying is a new world for me. We didn’t have smart phones and the internet when I was young and from everything from bullying to dating, I think my generation dodged a big bullet. You, on the other hand have a whole new sphere of ways to hurt one another and people are using it with gusto. You have to be hyper conscious about what you post, who you tag, what you say and what you forward. You shouldn’t share your password with anyone (except your parents) and you have to think, almost more so than you would when you speak, how something you say might be perceived. Those words are never going away. Anything you post will ALWAYS be out there.  Look, it’s easy to be mean but it’s base. It’s not clever or charming and it won’t win you friends or impress anyone worth impressing. It’s a cheap, shallow way to connect with people and you have to work every day of your life to rise above it. 

hhd.psu.edu

hhd.psu.edu

Anyway, this boy at your school was experiencing a lot of taunting. He’d even received threats of bodily harm and as a result had engaged in the occasional physical tussle. By the time I was talking with him he was understandably worn out and angry. The thing is he’s not alone. The girls in your class were recently sat down and talked to about kindness and fair behavior. It seemed there had already been some issues of bullying amongst them (sadly not surprising for girls) and the teachers were looking to nip it in the bud. I’d like to say I’m shocked. Bullying at 5 and 6?! That’s outrageous!! But I’m not. I was bullied mercilessly from age 7 through 9, again at camp from 10-12, the majority of my 8th grade year and then again in the 12th grade.

Bullying happens all the time, to all kinds of people, and it can be at any stage of your life. You can be bullied by your boss, your girlfriend, a frenemy, a colleague. Bullying is everywhere and, at some point in your life, you will have to deal with it. At the end of the day bullying is a misuse of power, a behavior that belongs in the arsenal of the weak. The bully might appear to be dominant but it’s a weak character that chooses this behavior. A truly confident person has no need to belittle or destroy. Only the small have to stand on others in order to feel big.

Bullying-LockersLooking at the size of you I don’t think people will target you for physical bullying. But, mentally, you are kind and sweet and sensitive and that’s probably going to cause you some issues. I wouldn’t want you to be different. I just think we need to be aware of what being the “good guy” sometimes entails. Your Dad was bullied for being a red head but he was also picked on for being kind to the special needs girl at his school. You can’t win, you just have to deal. Recently you were in tears when a 2nd grader, who’s half your size by the way, was mean to you. Part of me wanted to tell you to punt that twerp across the campus but, even in the heat of the moment, I knew that was terrible advice. Yes, you could exert your size for dominance but that’s no way to handle your problems and frankly, I don’t want you to think that way. I don’t want you physically, or metaphorically, throwing your weight around. I think the best way to use physicality to our advantage is by simply owning our space without apology, and I believe that’s possible whether you’re big or small. Emmenating a grounded sense of self – both physically and mentally – will make you less of a target.

I wish I could say this applied to all bullies, but it doesn’t. Self worth and confidence have a way of attracting a different type of aggressor, the kind that would rather break your confidence mentally than your bones physically. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this type of action – because you sure as hell better not be on the delivery end – all I can say is hold on. Be grounded in your sense of self and wait it out. It’s a tremendous acting exercise. You can feel devastated and destroyed inside. You can want to cry, give up or lash out, but if you want it to stop you have to appear strong in public. Come home and unload but don’t allow “them” the satisfaction of seeing you hurt. I promise the situation will eventually pass but you want to feel confident that, as far as anybody knows, you handled it with nothing but strength and pride.

damienestreich.com

damienestreich.com

I know from personal experience how hard this kind of bullying can be to handle. How painful it is. How sometimes you’d just prefer to be punched in the face then deal with one more day of someone trying to break you. I know what a toll it takes on your confidence but you have to keep reminding yourself THE BULLIES CAN’T WIN. You have to be stronger than them. No one should make choices for you. No one is allowed to tell you how to feel about yourself or dictate your actions. They can’t defeat you unless you let them, and lest you think you’re all alone you’re not. Bullies have been around forever and personally, I believe life has a way of catching up with them. Whether your bully ends up with no real friends or honest relationships, whether they’re unable to love fully or truly be happy, weak minded, small, petty people pay for it in the end. I know that’s not much to hold on to when you’re in the thick of it, but knowing that fact somewhere in the back of your head might allow you to suck it up for just one more day. There are too many kids who felt they’d rather end it than live with the pain of the bullying anymore. This. Should. Not. Be. We can’t allow ourselves to live in the world the bully creates. We must try with all we have to rise above. Life is too wonderful and precious to forfeit to exhaustion.

funylool.com

funylool.com

It’s possible as a strong willed, popular guy you’re not going to have to deal with this s*^@, but it’s unlikely. The weak are the frequent victims but the strong are repeatedly targeted for threatening the status quo. Look at Obama. That man’s been bullied for the past 6 years and he’s the leader of the free world. No one is immune and you can’t stop it. All you can do is be strong enough of character to remain the best version of yourself without apology. And if it’s not you who’s being bullied? Is it ok to turn a blind eye lest risk having the bully turn on you? No. It’s not. I lost my entire group of “friends” for standing up for someone else but, even knowing how that played out, I wouldn’t change giving a voice to someone who didn’t. The only thing I should have done differently was go to a teacher first rather than publicly engaging the tormenter head on. It wasn’t the smartest move. But, hindsight’s 20/20 right? The bottom line is you can’t call yourself a good person if you’re able to sit idly by while someone else is getting hurt. You need to know what behavior is appropriate and stick to it no matter what anyone else is doing.

I don’t envy you this stage in your life. It can be tough but, it can also be liberating. It’s the time when you start realizing what you’re made of, who you are, and building the sense of pride and self worth that can last a lifetime. You are a good person Loch. You’re kind and noble and loving. Have enough faith in yourself to rise above the noise. Don’t let anybody change the spectacular person you are becoming.

Love you forever.

xo Mom

thekostory.com

I know I’m the adult here but…really?!

Dear Loch,

You wrote a song recently. Your Dad was away for the weekend and we had his car so you were right beside me when you started singing. The song went like this:

I love my Mom. I love my Mom. I love my Mom. But I love my Dad more.

I was in the middle of saying, “Oh, honey I love this song…” when that last line came and I felt as if I’d been doused in water.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I know you love me. You need me for chats and fears and snuggles and hurts but, for the last six months I’ve played second fiddle to anything your Dad. I get it. Your Dad works a lot. He’s busy. You don’t get to spend as much time with him, so your time together is special. Combine that with the fact that he’s 100% yours when he is around – full of exciting role playing games, outdoor adventures and full fledged wrestling matches – and your Dad’s a God. He doesn’t drag you around doing errands. He defeats giant underground worms, builds forts that take up entire rooms and fashions elaborate creations out of legos. Your Dad’s the man. I’m just the Mom.

photo 2In contrast to the rare and special times the two of you spend together, you see me every single day. Intellectually I can comprehend why you’re sick of me. I’m old news. It’s natural to take the thing you’re most confident in for granted. I suppose I should take it as a sign I’ve done something right. But, it’s hard not to feel under appreciated and, if I’m being honest, hurt.

Your Dad and I have different strengths. He’s able to meet your childhood energy and I’m not. He’s available for brief stints and I’m around all the time. He does the fun stuff, I do the necessary stuff and we’re both well suited to our jobs. When it comes right down to it, he’s dessert and I’m the vegetable, and we all know how kids feel about their vegetables. You don’t care that I spent two years inundated with essays and applications to get you in to just the right school. It doesn’t register with you that I buy all the presents or ensure the house never runs out of food or toilet paper. You’re not interested in who makes your bed or buys your clothes. You’re aware that people like you but not how much of that is due to the fact that we’ve worked so hard together  on your manners and attitude. Your Daddy is the shining star and I have bad breath in the morning. You once told me, “Daddy is the King. I’m the Prince, and you’re the maid.” I asked you to leave my room.

I'm a bit of a background player in your life these days.

I’m a bit of a background player in your life these days.

Being taken for granted, marginalized or discredited hurts no matter who does it. I know I’m the adult. I realize I should have the capacity to rise above my sore feelings. For goodness sakes you’re five and I’m the one who needs to grow up! But when you tell me after a three hour playdate at a friend’s house it would’ve been more fun if I wasn’t there, or I ask if you had a good time at the Aquarium and you tell me it would have been better if I was Daddy, I want to cry. I also want to scream, “You know what kid? I had other things to do today too you know! It would have been better for me if Daddy was there too!” Of course I’m happy doing things with you. I love spending time together. I know you’re starting Kindergarden is the beginning of the end of our extended one-on-one relationship, and I’m thrilled I was able to be there for so much of it, but I was a fully realized person before you were born and as much as I’m honored to have played such a big part in your childhood, I put a lot of myself on hold to do it, and your complete dismissal of my contribution makes me sad.

photo 1 copyI’m sensitive. You say hurtful things and I get hurt. My face gets screwed up. I look at you and say, “that was mean” or “Loch, how d’you think your saying that makes me feel?” I suppose it’s better you learn from me how much words can hurt rather than discovering it after you say something thoughtless to a friend, but it doesn’t make it feel any better. You’ve actually taken to apologizing lately without any prompting. It’s as if you’ve learned to recognize from my reactive body language that you’ve done something unkind. This summer when we were walking around Disney you said,  “I like you this much (indicating a bench mark with your hand) and I like Daddy this much (indicating a higher mark). Sometimes you’re here (meeting Dad’s high level) but most of the time you’re here (back to my original lower position)”. You followed that comment directly with a quick “Sorry Mommy. Sorry, sorry. I love you both the same!” but I got your message. At this point I’ve learned to bite my tongue and say something like “I understand Loch. Your Dad is very special and you love him very much”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it with a big sigh in my heart.

photo copy 2The reality is you appreciate things more when you don’t have them all the time (that, and your Dad rocks) but it’s hard for me to think of the future without worrying if I’ll be around or not, and when you say things like you wish you wasn’t here, it breaks my heart. Sometimes all I can hear when you say that sort of things is, “Well, you might get your wish…” and that scares me. As I said when I started this whole process, I want to be around as long as I can and I hope you always feel confident enough to take my presence for granted, but it’s something I can’t guarantee. Recently I wasn’t feeling very well and you were so mean to me. I couldn’t do anything right. It was as if you were punishing me for being sick. It made you mad. I’m sure what you were really feeling was nervous, but anger was your way of processing the fear.

I understand as annoying as this behavior is, it’s also very normal. I’m a grown woman and I know my parents would still love it if I called them more. I have to remind myself constantly to make sure I actively acknowledge how much I appreciate your Dad. It’s all too easy to take those we count on most and love the deepest for granted. I don’t take care of you for credit. It just stings to be discredited. But I’ll take that feeling any day over the alternative. I’d rather you not know what you have than be aware of what you’re missing.

So go ahead. Dole it out. I can take it. I know you love me and, no matter where life takes us, I hope you always know that I love you.

xoxo Mommy

photo copy

A for Effort

Dear Lochie,

Recently we were sitting together while you made a card for your friend’s birthday. You drew a half hearted picture on the front (red stick figure Iron Man turned into Ice Man after you scribbled blue on it) and we worked together on the words inside. There’s no other way to put it, you were phoning it in. You weren’t concentrating. Every letter was a different size. You asked me to repeat myself over and over and I was doing my best to be supportive despite the fact I knew you could do better. There’s a fine line between encouraging you and discouraging you and I was trying not to cross it. So, when you made an M instead of an N in your friend’s name, I helped you fix it. I didn’t lose it. I didn’t say, “if you were paying attention…”. I stayed calm and helpful. However, 10 minutes later, when we finally got to the sign off, Your Pal, and you wrote YOUR PAE because you were completely unfocused it bothered me. There was no way for me to turn an E into an L and with one mistake already on the page the only choice was to start again. I have to admit, it made me crabby. I took away the card, folded another piece of paper and we began for the second time. However, this time when you wrote an R instead of a P in Happy and looked at me with this lazy, little “oops, oh well, who cares” face, I lost it. I picked the card up off the table and ripped it in half.

bubblews.com

bubblews.com

It wasn’t my finest moment. I find it infuriating when people do subpar work out of sheer laziness, but watching my own child do it made me doubly nuts. Look, I have no desire to be a Tiger Mom. For example, I’m perfectly happy with the fact that, despite your gender, you seem to have no interest in competitive sports. You don’t want to play soccer or baseball. You aren’t interested in riding a bike. You don’t scooter. You don’t do the monkey bars. That’s all ok with me. I get it. You haven’t found your jam. You love swimming. You like skiing. You like costumes and acting and dance. You’ll find your place. I’m not worried or pushing you to do what you’re not interested in. I want you to be you, whoever you turns out to be. But…I want you to be the best version of you, and that lazy, unfocused kid I was hanging out with was not it.

Frankly, I don’t think I was too horrendous. You hadn’t drawn the picture yet, it was just 3 letters (2 right, 1 wrong) drawn on a piece of paper in the shape of a card, but you were pretty shocked when I ripped it. I’m embarrassed to say you started to cry. It made me feel awful. Your mother shouldn’t make you cry and it was a horrible feeling for both of us. I told you if you wanted to take some time in your room you could and, a couple minutes later, I joined you for a talk.

vi.sualize.us

vi.sualize.us

You told me you were mad at me and I understood. You said, “You ripped my card” and I said, “I did. I’m sorry.” Then I asked if you understood why I’d done it, and you said, “because I made the wrong letter”. That devastated me. I don’t want you to EVER feel you can’t make a mistake around me. That I’m going to be mad or cruel if you’re anything less than perfect. That’s not how a mom should make you feel and said as much to you. I said, “Lochie, you can make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s ok. What’s not ok is being lazy. Not doing your best because you can’t be bothered. If you’re doing something, working on something, trying something, always do the best you can. There’s no other way to do things. The world is full of people who don’t try very hard, but that’s not who you are. That’s not how our family is. That’s not good enough.” Then we talked about your Dad (who you worship) and how he works a lot. I explained that when your Dad works he works at 100%. He does the very best he can and sometimes the very best takes longer, but when he’s done he knows there’s nothing else he can do to make whatever he’s working on better, and that’s the only way to approach things.

label on picYou’re going to want things in life Lochie. You’re going to dream of them, and hope for them, but you’re also going to have to work for them. It’s an aggressive, competitive world and the people who rise to the top are those who aren’t afraid of hard work, those who are willing to put in the effort for the things they want. I realize working on your friend’s birthday card and having your future career where you want it are not the same thing, but it’s my job to teach you the skills that’ll help you when you get to that level. It’s my job to push you. Not in a way that makes you unhappy ,but in a way that makes you accountable. So one day, when you’re on your own in college or the job market, and someone gives you an assignment or you want something from your life, you go after it at 100%. I want you to grow into a man who’s natural reaction is to do his best so you never have to force yourself to work harder because that’s the only way you know how to work.

keyposters.com

keyposters.com

I don’t say this to pressure you. I want you to be happy. Whatever you choose to do in this life – work, play, love – do it at the highest level. Whatever job you decide to pursue – Doctor, DJ, Actor, Politician – pursue it as hard as you can. Those kind of choices may seem far off now, but when you’re there I hope you’ll be grateful I encouraged you think like this way back when.

After our talk we went to the playroom together to do the card again. This time you did it with such focus and concentration it broke my heart. The finished product was amazing. Detailed personalized picture. Same size letters each on their own line. Plenty of color and creativity. We even added stickers. I complimented you on it and you looked so proud. Then I held up your first card beside the new one and asked how you thought they compared. You smiled and said, “This one is much better”. I agreed and asked why you thought so. You looked at me very seriously and said, “Because I tried with this one”.

Always try baby. Always do your best. In School. In Love. In Life. Doing the minimum and just skating by isn’t enough. You’ll always wonder what could have happened if you’d tried just a little harder. Don’t take that chance. If you’ve done all you can and put your best foot forward on all counts, then any dream you have will always be in reach. Isn’t that worth the energy?

As they say, make an effort, not an excuse.

I love you.

xo Mommy

fasstperformance.com

fasstperformance.com

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