Trust Me, I’m Ripped Under all this Fat…

I’m fresh from the gym and standing naked in front of the bathroom mirror.  Despite eight months of regular gym visits, my curves (that word sounds so very sexy, but trust me, my curves are not the kind advertisers rave about) hold on stubbornly in all their lumpy glory.  I keep waiting for the miracle to occur that will shave all these extra pounds from my ample body, but apparently that miracle is on back-order.

Fat has followed me around for most of my existence, generally hanging on for dear life to my thighs and butt.  I have been on every diet that exists, from the cabbage soup diet (it probably works because the fat can’t stand to live in the same house as the odor of cabbage that saturates your clothes and furniture) to Weight Watcher’s (where you get to weigh-in in front of a employee that is gung-ho because they have been successful, and also in front of the next five people in line behind you because WW’s has never heard of weighing-in in privacy).

I was around ten-years-old when my parents put me on my first diet–the Cambridge shake diet.  This was the prequel to Slimfast, a prequel that tasted a bit like chocolate and strawberry-flavored chalk.  The basis of the diet was a glass of chalk (oh, I mean shake) for breakfast and another one for lunch.  This was followed by a healthy dinner (I’m not sure my family understood healthy, a healthy breakfast in our house consisted of a slice of Wonder bread with an inch-thick slice of cheddar cheese melted on top, so a healthy dinner was probably cheesy enchiladas or something similar).

My mom would always join me on whatever diet we were on because she struggled with her weight also.  It is somewhat ironic that she grew up as a tall, slim young woman and my dad was a heavier kid.  As adults, my dad settled into a handsome man with a solid, lumberjack physique, but my mom’s sleek figure could not hold up to the onslaught of birthing four children in six years, and then popping out another one seven years later.  My father made sure to remind her that her shape was not as attractive as it once was, so she was constantly battling the desire to eat but also wanting to lose weight.

I was actually the smallest baby in our family, but again in life’s delicious surprise twists, I am now the heaviest of all of my siblings.  I managed to lose the extra pounds in my late teens and kept most of them off until my pregnancies.  I loved the power and strength of my body when I was fit.  Having spent a childhood in the super-plus sizes, I knew what it felt like to carry more weight on your body than you are supposed to.  When I was average-sized, I could cross my legs, run, and move easily.  I miss that.

The eat less, move more concept is not new to me.  I know how to lose weight in theory, but what I can’t figure out is how to get my brain on board.  My body is not screaming out for junk, my brain is.  I think the key to everything is getting my brain to agree to a diet because though exercise is great for you, it isn’t going to give you Gigi Hadid’s body.

I know this because I work hard at the gym, like I’m totally ripped under all this fat.  I make my husband feel the muscle in my arms because they are rock solid…you just have make sure you are feeling my bicep and don’t let your hand graze the underside of my arms that I think is called in scientific terms something like an arm flap (yes, I know that is not the actual scientific term).

I would just like to take a minute to praise arm flaps also known as wings.  I would never recommend obesity or morbid obesity to anyone BUT if you happen to have one of those rooms that lights up the second the sun peaks over the mountains, fat arms are da bomb.  You just rest one of those suckers over your eyes, and bam! automatic black-out curtains.  I must give credit where credit is due.

Anyway, back to talking about my fat body and how I don’t want it to be fat.  This week I added in planks to my workout to work out my core.  Planks seem like such a harmless exercise, I mean you literally start them by laying on your belly on the floor.  All you have to do is lift your entire body up into a straight line for like twenty seconds…easy, breezy–until you actually do it.  The first five seconds you are thinking that this isn’t so bad.  By about ten seconds your heart starts pounding and at fifteen seconds, there is a definite roaring in your ears and your lungs miraculously forget how to breath.  By like eighteen seconds you aren’t even sure if you are at eighteen seconds because you can’t remember how to count.  At twenty seconds you drop to the floor like a dead fish and promptly forget how hard that was…until you try it again.

So after a particularly sweaty day at the gym and knowing that I have now incorporated planks into my routine, I was positive today that six-pack abs had to be peeking through by now, but sadly no.  It was the same old two-tiered roll of belly flesh that showed up mysteriously five years ago.  Damn it!  I guess I’m going to have surf the internet and find yet another diet to try so that I can finally show off the ripped physique that is hiding under all that fat…

Oops, She Better Not Have Done it Again…

“I think I would like Britney Spears to be my hall pass,” my almost 50-year-old husband announces last night.  We are both comfortably ensconced in our loungers, he in his underwear and slippers, me in my sweat-dried gym clothes.  A hall pass for anyone that doesn’t know, is a celebrity that a married person can have sex with if the planets all aligned and a young, fit, gorgeous, famous person came into their life and agreed to it.

Being the thoughtful wife that I am, I immediately acquiesce to his request.  I mean let’s be real, he is almost fifty, watching television in his underwear and slippers.  I’m fairly sure that Britney is not going to hit that, no matter how many stars line up.  I continue to watch television…but then my overactive brain kicks in.

I, of course, immediately start imagining the scenario of Britney meeting my husband and agreeing to meet him in a hotel room (even in my imagination, I know that she is not going to want to knock boots in my bed with its twenty-year-old comforter that though clean, has stains from numerous snacks, the flu, and children’s art projects).  My imagination works overtime and I begin to picture my husband pulling out all his moves to romance her, and I start to feel my fury rise.  How can he be having sex with Britney Spears when he has me at home, doesn’t he understand this will ruin our marriage?

Then, because this is the way my brain works, I decide that he will turn Britney down because he will not want to risk his relationship with me.  But then my brain brings up the very valid point that if he can sleep with her and I never find out, there is a good chance that he would go ahead and give into his carnal desires (again, even in my imagination, I’m pretty sure Britney is not feeling quite the same carnal desire that he is…apparently I am blaming this whole imaginary sequence on him).

So now I’m pissed, like really mad.  I’m stewing in my sweat-dried, not very flattering, but oh so comfortable sweat pants.  My husband however, is still sitting happily in his underwear, watching television and has moved on from even the thought of Britney Spears.  But in my imaginary world, I’m getting revenge.  I’ve decided that I’m going to have to sleep with my hall pass (though I never officially asked, but if he gets one, I get one too).  My hall pass is going to be the always adorable Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

For some reason, my brain picks the same hotel room that Britney and my husband shared (because with all this creative fantasy going on in my head, I couldn’t come up with a different venue?).  In my revenge fantasy, Dwayne and I walk into the hotel room and he reaches for me, in all his muscled glory…and I’m out.  Even in my stupid revenge scenario, I cannot cheat on my husband.

Still mad at my husband, I change the story-line to this imaginative tale and decide I will have the affair with Dwayne, I just won’t tell my husband and will take the secret with me to my grave.  Rewind and start again…Dwayne reaches for me and this time I lean in towards him…and guilt floods through me.  My fantasy balloon has been popped.  I can’t do it, I can’t have sex with my hall pass Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson because I will be eaten alive with guilt.  Damn it!

I sit in the comfortable darkness of our living room mourning the loss of my hall pass and still furious at my husband.  How dare he have an imaginary affair with Britney Spears in my mind?  My mouth opens unbidden.

“No,” I say.

My husband looks at me inquiringly.

“What?” he asks.

“I changed my mind, you can’t have Britney Spears as a hall pass.” I tell him.  “I just can’t take the thought.”

“You are a dork,” my husband says lovingly with a smile.

“And you are crazy if you think some young, hot celebrity would want either one of you,” my youngest daughter pipes in from the kitchen.

‘She is right,’ I think.  ‘We are too old and fat for anyone to want us anymore–and that is just fine with me.’ I settle back into my chair with a contented smile.

A Work in Progress….

I awaken last night to complete darkness.  My first thought is, thank goodness it is pitch black, that means I get a bit more sleep before morning shows up.  The second thought that pops into my brain is about Meghan, my oldest daughter who is spending her second night in her new apartment in the city.  Instantly, out of nowhere my heart begins pounding, not a normal mild increase to the usual steady rhythm, but instead it becomes a drum that is loud and frenetic.  I can feel my heart ramming away at my chest cavity in such a way that I briefly wonder if I’m in the midst of a heart attack.  Fortunately, I have a disorder called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and I have experienced this level of heart palpitations one other time.  I know that it won’t kill me, but it still takes my brain to a new level of anxiety.

I force myself to breath calmly and steadily.  Slowly, the chaotic pounding drops into a more normal pattern.  I breath a sigh of relief and roll over onto my side and my heart takes this opportunity to make one last ditch effort of pounding its way out of my chest.  This episode only lasts seconds and then it is gone.  Instinctively my body draws in a long breath and slowly lets it out.

I lay in bed staring in the darkness wondering if I have just experienced my first panic attack or if the stress of my child’s move has caused a resurgence of my POTS, an annoying but mostly harmless disorder that hangs out in the background of my life.  My mind reflects on the past weekend.

We were supposed to move Meghan on Saturday, but the weather decided that a late season snow storm would make for good weekend weather.  We are all watching the weather hour by hour, watching the schizophrenic forecast change from rain to snow and back again.  Friday’s weather is a combination of rain and hour-long hail storms.  The roads are a thick mess of slush that can’t melt because just as it is on the verge of disappearing, another storm comes in and dumps several inches.  I watch the road anxiously because it is my daughter’s last day of work locally, and the closer we get to her end of the day, the thicker the hail becomes.

My heart wants to swoop in and pick her up from her work so she isn’t driving in this inclement weather, but my mind knows I need to let her figure this out.  The next time she will be driving in hail will be on a freeway as she commutes to her job from the city, so she needs the practice.  I can’t stop myself from texting her and telling her to hang out at work if the roads aren’t safe, but I do not offer to pick her up.  The entire time, I am a ball of anxiety.  When her text comes and says she is safe at home, I want to weep with relief.  But then she decides to head down to the city for an evening with her boyfriend…even though it is supposed to snow.

Again I want to overstep my bounds and demand that the child stay home where she is safe, but I must let her live her life.  I tell her to be safe and I leave it at that, even though it is killing me to think of her driving up the local hills covered in snow in the wee hours of the morning.  But yet again, she makes it safely.

I sleep lightly that night, very aware that Saturday is moving day.  My daughter texts me early in the morning complaining about how tired she is, but I ignore what I think might be her veiled request that I help her finish with the cleaning.  She is an adult, this is her responsibility.  The gods must smile upon the child because the weather, though chilly, does not snow until we are headed out of town.

We arrive at her new apartment to find that her neighborhood consists of a plethora of nationalities and walks of life.  The cars in the parking lot range from barely functional to brand new, and I try my best to ignore the man smoking weed in his car, and later, another man leaning against his car smoking weed watching us.

My daughter expresses disappointment when she sees that the apartment they toured is much nicer than the actual apartment they get.  Her apartment is tiny but functional and clean, but she was looking for swanky and spacious.  As her father, boyfriend and I unload, she stands around in confusion, trying to come to terms with the fact the next year of her life is going to be lived in this very modest abode.  Red flags start going off in my mind because she seems a bit lost.  Her focus is on the apartment’s imperfections and not on getting settled.  My husband sees my distress and has me stand down and let her experience whatever she is experiencing.

We meet the man and woman that live above her, and the woman is lovely but the man appears to have lived a life that might include gangs and prison.  I can only hope that they watch out for our daughter and don’t decide that they don’t like her.  This seems to be a man that you do not want to get on the wrong side of.  I look at my husband anxiously, and he shrugs his shoulders…there is nothing we can do.

As we unload my daughter’s car and I see that there is not one section that does not have a dent or a scratch, my anxiety builds.  I worry about the thought of her pulling out of this carport that is her parking spot, and the thought of her commuting for as many miles as she has to makes me sick to my stomach.  I am just walking dread for the remainder of the day.

That night I feel emotionless, empty.  I know that my being is filled with fear but somehow I have locked that all down just so I can exist.  Sunday morning I wake up and all those emotions that I packed away come springing forward.  I go to the restroom and suddenly I’m weeping on the toilet.  I go buy a soda at the fast food place she used to work, and I’m crying so hard I can barely order.  I can’t control the tears, they just come.

My daughter texts me later in the day Sunday.  She is happy.  She has spent the day with her boyfriend’s family for the first time.  His family is Chinese and he would not introduce her into the family until she would be a regular part of his life.  Now she has achieved this step in life that she has been waiting for.  I am happy for her.  It eases my mind.

I think of myself at her age, and I realize that all of the things I worry about now, I wouldn’t have worried about at her age.  If I had been her, I would have just lived.  I would commute to work, live in my apartment in the city, and not given a thought to any of the constant what if’s that torment my brain now that I’m a mother.  It gives me peace to think about this.  She is just happy to be where she is.

Last night I go to bed knowing that she will commute for the first time this morning, it makes it very difficult to sleep.  I take half of an Ativan to help me sleep.  I pray fervently to God, asking him to protect this child of mine.  This child that I can’t even talk to for twenty minutes without fighting, this child that doesn’t for a second think about how much her parents do for her, this is the child that I can’t stop worrying about…because I love her as only a mother can love a child.

As I pray, the most interesting thing happens.  In my mind’s eye, I see a beautiful, brilliant light blue light surround Meghan and her car.  I am not doing this visualization, it is happening by itself.  I know in my heart that it is a message from God and the angels that she is being watched over.  This image stays with me until I drop into a peaceful sleep.  So it was a surprise when I woke up and thought of her, and my heart took off on its own frantic journey.

I need to have faith that everything will be okay.  I had a very clear vision that Meghan is being protected, so now I have to get out of my own head.  I have to put the focus on me.  My child has moved on, this whole panicking situation is not just about her, it is about me too.  I’m still clinging to the relationship that was actually very difficult, instead of opening myself up to opportunities that are coming for me.  This is a very difficult lesson, one I thought would be much easier.  But as always, I am a work in progress….

I Am Not in Charge Anymore…

As a parent, how do you stand back when your child is facing a dangerous situation?  That is the question I am asking myself right now.  I’m also wondering, should I stand back?  If something happened to that kid, that beautiful, handful that I know as my oldest child, how will I exist?

Tomorrow we are moving this child of mine to a city an hour away.  Her father and I aren’t overly excited about the prospect of her living in the city, but she is a responsible adult.  She works full-time, pays almost all her own bills (we help with medical since she has so many medical issues from her past cancer and her bipolar), and has built her credit from non-existent to a solid score by paying attention to her budget.  We understand her desire to live by her boyfriend of a year, we really do.  But as parents we also worry about her driving in the city, and commuting 90 miles round-trip every day because driving is not her best quality.

When this daughter of ours turned eighteen, we gifted her our Toyota Camry.  The car was in good condition with just one side bumper that had damage (which she caused by backing into a sign).  Now the car is covered in dents and scratches, and the front fender is screwed on because she managed to pull it off by connecting with a truck in a parking lot.  She carries only liability insurance because that is all she can afford, but with her move to the city, her father and I upped her insurance to full coverage at a substantial and ulcer-inducing cost.  This was our one way of still protecting her, knowing that if she is in an accident, at least she will have some money to find a replacement vehicle.

Just this morning I read an advice column that said that if you make decisions for your adult offspring they will never learn to problem solve on their own.  While in treatment for her cancer, I often would let my daughter speak for herself.  I wanted to empower her in her medical care even though she was only ten at the time.  She continued to speak for herself with her doctors for years, until she developed anxiety in her mid-teens.  From there, I took over again and all my former empowerment training went out the window.  As I was taking over, a controlling side to me developed that I’ve just came to understand existed a few months ago.  I thought I was just being a mother, but now I see that her medical care someone morphed into me controlling her life.

With my daughter’s move to the city tomorrow, I can really feel the struggle I have with losing the control over her, even though to me I see it as just making sure she lives a safe and secure life.  If it snows, I keep my phone next to the bed so she can text me and I can drive her to work.  On potential snow days, I literally can’t sleep the night before for fear of missing her call.  If the weather is not great, I will drive by her work to make sure she got there safely.  I text her if it is hailing, listing numerous safety tips for if she has to drive.  I call her to make sure she made it home safely from visiting her boyfriend.  Our family actually jokes about my numerous lectures to her, but I’m beginning to see that it is not something to laugh at, but in fact an unhealthy connection that I’m keeping her bound up with.

All week I have been trying to make peace with my child moving, and the commute she will make five days a week in rush hour traffic.  I felt I was making progress until she texted me from work today that her tremors have gotten so out of control, that she is scared to drive.  We have been through every test there is to try to figure out why her hands and arms tremor, but have not come up with a reason.  The doctor’s best guess is that it is caused by one of her bipolar medications, most likely the depakote.  The depakote keeps her emotionally stable, so the psychiatrist feels that it is a trade-off that is worth it.  The problem is that the tremors have increased the last few weeks to the point that she is complaining about them.  This child has had tremors for probably six years, so she is used to them, but for her to bring them up, they have had to gotten bad.

When I receive the texts from my daughter stating that she is worried about driving, my husband’s and my brains immediately go into problem-solving mode.  We come up with suggestions: call your psychiatrist, call the new apartment and explain the problem and hopefully they will let you out of your lease, call your current landlord and ask if you can continue to rent from him.  There is a palpable feeling of relief between my husband and myself as we feel the universe has spoken and our child will have to stay here in our town.

I text my child the list of suggestions we have come up with, and wait for her response saying she will get right on it.  Sure, we have completely ignored everything I read this morning about adult children making adult decisions, but this is her safety and others safety we are talking about, and we see no other option but to help her stay right here in our town.

To my surprise, my daughter has a different idea.  Having lived with medical issues for years, she understands the medical process.  Yes, she calls her psychiatrist, but for a different reason.  She asks for a medication that will calm her tremors while they start the process of switching to a new bipolar medication that she has been researching.  This was an idea that had not occurred to me, and I will admit, I feel a tiny bit of relief that she came up with a working solution by herself.  It is not a solution that keeps her locked away under her parent’s protective grasp like I think I desired on some level, but a true grown-up decision.

One of my spiritual beliefs is that we come to earth to live a pre-planned life, to learn lessons through the obstacles that are presented through day to day living.  I’ve often thought that with as much as my daughter has gone through already, surely she must have planned for the rest of her life to be smooth sailing.  So I hold onto that thought to buffer me through this agonizing cutting of the cord.  I tell myself that if she is supposed to have an accident, she will have it wherever she is, I can’t control that.  And if she is to have a happy life, it can’t contain a controlling mother, but instead a supportive, loving mother that empowers her adult child.

This is a moment of letting God and letting go.  I have to trust that she will make the decision that is safe for her and those around her.  She has a good head on her shoulders, and I need to step back and let her use it.  I know she has a bevy of angels watching her every minute, even if I can’t and shouldn’t…because that is what being a parent is, letting go…

Who Am I if I am not a Mother?

For the past twenty plus years I have been a mother, but mothering was never a natural desire for me.  When I was a child, I was never one of those kids that mothered all her dolls and counted down the days until I could grow up and have my own children.  I was more worried about important things like when was my waist going to thin out like Barbie’s, or how were my tiny, floppy boobs going to turn into the majestic, perky, plastic mountains that Barbie sported?

When I was a teenager, I cooed over the adorable little tykes running around at church, but more because I wanted the religious boys to see what a good mother I would be.  I figured that if they saw me playing with the kids, they would immediately see past my seventy extra pounds and the thick mustache that no wax could tame, and see their glorious future wife that would push their offspring from her loins (I tended to use those words because of too many journeys into my mother’s romance novels where everything was heaving bosoms and throbbing members).

So in my twenties I marry a phenomenal man who really has no interest in children or pets, but because I have sex with him, he tends to go along with my ideas.  Even then I didn’t really feel the strong urge to have kids, but I needed an excuse to get out of all the socializing that comes from being an introvert married to an extrovert.  I figured a baby was the perfect excuse…probably not the best reasoning now that I think about it.

Two daughters and many years later, it turns out that sometimes I was great at the mothering thing: I made my kids laugh, I kept them entertained, I taught them to potty on a toilet and not in their pants, and before preschool both my kids knew their ABC’s and could count, and I kept a decent amount of structure and discipline in their lives.  But sometimes I sucked as a mom too: doing everything in my power to avoid chaperoning field trips (though I did get sucked into that vortex many times and have the permanent ache in my back from sleeping on the ground at the zoo to prove it), never volunteering in class unless the teacher trapped me, feeding my kids sugar and soda, yelling at my kids when my patience finally couldn’t take their back-talk anymore….trust me the list goes on and on.  If you take the bad and the good, I’m fairly sure it evens out to an adequately decent parent.

My biggest challenge by far was my oldest daughter, Meghan.  She was a mouth and an attitude from the very beginning, but what was cute at three-years-old was worrying at seven.  By the later years, her defiance of everything we asked her to do was more than a red flag that something was going on, but cancer popped into her body at ten-years-old and the focus became all about getting rid of the mutating mass in the bone of her leg.

A year of direct treatment stopped the cancer.  Most of that year was spent in a hospital room that would have been cramped with just the two of us, but was even more claustrophobic with another patient and their caretaker squeezed in also.  It was a year of vomit, pain, fear, excruciating boredom and loneliness, and a constant  worrying eye on test results that came out daily.  In that year she lost twenty pounds, a femur, part of her tibia, her hearing, a normal functioning bladder, her short term memory and the potential for children when she was older.  I lost my sense of security, my kindness, and my belief that most people were good and honest and physically clean.

Meghan enjoyed the year of cancer treatment because it meant all attention was on her.  She told me later that she would willingly put up with all the negatives that came with treatment to be the center of attention again.  I however, aged a decade in that year.  I lost a year with my youngest child.  I no longer laughed easily, though tears could spring at the slightest provocation.  I didn’t believe in people anymore, which is ironic because people stepped forward in droves to help us, but somehow in my journey I lost my link to humankind.  With all the community support and support from my husband and my friends, who were there at the slightest need, I still checked out of the circle of unity that binds people.  Somehow with all the people around us, there was really only my handful of a daughter and me, in our own tiny half of a room in a hospital.

Once cancer was over, I discovered it never ends.  The following two years were continual doctor’s appointments dealing with the after effects of the rigorous chemotherapy, and a few hospital stays for infections.  In my exhaustion, I still noticed that my always difficult child was becoming more moody, and depressed.  The fights became louder and had an edge of threatened violence to them.  Fear began to seep into our lives.  Fear that this developing teen could potentially harm herself, her sister or one of us.

We began therapy for our children about a year after treatment.  We wanted the older one to see a therapist for her explosive behavior and to deal with the trauma of having had a life-threatening illness.  We wanted our youngest to have treatment to deal with half of her family being gone for a year of her life, and for learning how to live with a sister that was always on the brink of an outburst.

A few years passed and Meghan became more unstable, ping-ponging from spittingly angry to morose, camping out in her darkened room surrounded by piles of filth.  I would take an entire day and clean her room out while she was at school, but within a week it would be back to the unsanitary conditions that kept us from ever walking barefoot into her room.  Finally, after a particularly long time spent isolated in her cave, my oldest child confided in me that she was contemplating suicide.  We were on our way to the emergency room in ten minutes.

The mental health services in our small town are lacking, as evidenced by the director that visited with my daughter for ten minutes and declared her not suicidal, but was certain she had borderline personality disorder–the top of the charts in worst mental illnesses.

I took my child home and read up on borderline personality disorder and was dismayed to find that her future possibly held jail, drugs, homelessness, or death…there would be no happy ending.  I sadly made an appointment with a psychiatrist in the nearest city to have my child officially diagnosed.

When we arrived at the psychiatrist’s office, we were at first greeted with an offensive office smell that was a mixture of mold and something undescribable.   The psychiatrist himself appeared to be in need of therapy.  His pastel polo shirt was so wrinkled that I had a suspicion that he had pulled it out of the dirty clothes basket.  His pants had the same less than fresh appearance.  I chose to ignore the weirdness of this office and doctor, and waited with bated breath as he determined my child’s mental illness by reading a checklist off his computer.  This man went to school for ten years to diagnose a person by using a computer checklist.

As he read through the questions, my daughter answered truthfully yes or no and he would click the appropriate box.  After maybe 40 questions were done, he clicked the diagnosis button and voila….she was Bipolar II, the less severe form of bipolar.  So not only was my child not the worst form of mental illness, but she was quite far down the list in severity.  I was furious at our local mental health director for putting me through so much anxiety!

We regularly saw psychiatrists for Meghan, but very quickly discovered they are eccentric creatures themselves.  We had one that would make us wait an average of two hours for every appointment, and then would spend the hour we were allotted seemingly lost in speeches he was giving for himself, as his eyes would be closed the entire time and he would not check in with us to see if we were even paying attention.  He loved his medicines though.  He would prescribe her ones to make her stable, and then more meds to counter the side effects of the previous ones, and then meds to counter the side effects of the meds she took for side effects.  I pulled the plug on this doctor after four or five visits.  Eventually we found a very kind woman that connected with my daughter, and they still see each other currently.

I spent the next years shuffling kids back and forth, trying to keep my youngest daughter safe, while fighting agonizing battles with my oldest daughter.  I was always tired, having completely lost sight of who I was.  My whole life was cleaning up after kids, and feeding them, and I counted the moments until they were gone and I could have a life again.

I never really wanted to be a mom, and when I would give birth to these babies, I didn’t feel the immediate connection that I had heard of.  I was winging it every day, and sometimes those kids were so funny, and some days they were such a pain in the ass.  As my older daughter reached her late teen years I began to worry that because of her mental illness and the after-effects of the chemo, she would never leave our home and live a normal life.  I despaired that we would be together forever, and that was a hell I didn’t know if I would survive.  But then a funny thing happened…my daughter grew up.

Meghan was just turned nineteen and living with us in her hovel of a room.  She put her resumes in all over town because she had quit her job at a fast food joint where she had worked for a year.  Every day I ranted to my husband about what a ridiculous move that had been, but then miracle of all miracles…my daughter got a new job.  Not just a job, a job in a medical office with full benefits and decent pay.  Hallelujah!  At least now she was out of the house for forty hours a week.  But then another miracle happened…she found an apartment.

The town we live in is very expensive to live in, there are almost no rentals, and the few that there are are outrageously expensive, but somehow my daughter found a very nice apartment that she could afford as long as she was careful with her money.  The day we got the news that she had been approved–with almost no credit–for the apartment, I danced like I hadn’t danced in years.  I shouted with joy and laughed an almost insane laugh of delicious abandonment…my child was leaving the nest!

I helpfully supplied that child with boxes and marked the days off on the calendar until her ass was out of my house.  Our fights got fewer and less intense because we knew our time together was coming to a close.  When moving day arrived, I moved most of her belongings myself because I felt my husband was taking too long.  I couldn’t wait for this kid to be on her own.

Another miracle occurred when my child that never left her room except to work, met a nice boy, and he really liked her.  They were new and they were tentative, but they were excited to be together on this momentous occasion as she moved away from home.  I was just thrilled that life was coming together for my kid…and it wouldn’t be at my house.

I bundled my child and her belongings together and deposited them at her new house.  I spent a solid hour lecturing her on living alone and safety, surprised at worry that was beginning to creep into my consciousness.  I would not be able to guarantee her safety anymore.  I would not know if she got home safely from work.  How would I know if she woke up on time to get to work?  The worries came flooding in.  How could I sleep at night if I didn’t know if this bratty child was okay?

I forced myself to go home, but instead of celebrating when I walked into that quiet, peaceful house, I noticed how empty it felt.  Our home was missing someone, and it didn’t feel right.

I walked into her now empty room, in need of new carpeting and fresh paint, and a solid cleaning, and I felt empty too.  This force of nature I had battled for nineteen years was gone, and had taken a piece of me that I didn’t know she possessed with her.

After dropping off my youngest child at school the next day, I found myself cruising past her work to assure myself that she was safe.  Sure enough, her car was parked and she had made it to work on time.  For the following week I drove by her work every day, and sometimes I would drive by her home, just to make sure that everything looked peaceful.

I made my peace with her departure, and those of us left at home reveled in the quiet that had become our life.  I found that the previously harsh memories of my oldest daughter softened around the edges.  Her and I had been bound together by her physical and emotional issues so closely and for so long, that there was a struggle to find my own self again.

I discovered my youngest daughter in the year that followed.  I had always been her mother, but now my focus could be on her alone, and not only on trying to protect her from her older sister.  To my delight, I found my youngest child to be funny, and incredibly intelligent, extraordinarily gifted artistically, and beautiful.  I enjoyed the easy relationship we slipped into.  But as she heads toward the end of her junior year at her early college high school, I begin to understand that my time with her is limited.  She has goals and she is driven, and living at home is not on her list of things she plans on doing.

My oldest daughter is moving an hour away to a city with her boyfriend.  She is transferring her job to a town mid-way between her new home and our town.  She will be out of my stalking zone and I won’t be able to check on her regularly.  She has become a solid adult, living a solid life and that is what I will hold onto.

So somehow, without trying or wanting to, I became a mother…a damn good mother.  It is all I know; how to take care of these two young people, how to fight for them and with them, how to love them so much that I lay awake at night worrying about them.  These two young women have consumed my soul and become a part of who I am, I am their mother.  I have done my job well because each of these beautiful young women is working towards a successful life…so now what do I do?

I was asked what my favorite color was the other day, and you know what?  I didn’t know the answer.  Who am I?  I was this young woman who had a baby so that she didn’t have to go to parties and somehow turned into a natural mother, but who will I be now?  The possibilities seem endless and yet limited at the same time.  I certainly never saw the direction the first half of my life went, so I guess I just have to hang on and see what the Universe has planned for my second half…


That What Doesn’t Kill You…

My daughter is growing up and doing her own taxes. Part of the process is listing her medical expenses because they are still a part of her life. So yesterday she pulls the file for her medical that I have kept since she was diagnosed with cancer at ten-years-old. She pulled out all the old paperwork that I was hanging onto for some reason, and set it out for recycling. I was thumbing through the pages this morning, and the memories and emotions just flooded through me.
Pediatric cancer was the craziest experience. One day you are a mommy to two little girls and the next day you are a cancer parent, and it turns your life upside down. They put you through little training sessions and tell you things like, “if you don’t clean their central line well, any germ that gets in goes straight to their heart.” Yeah, no big deal. You do it wrong and you compromise your child’s already comprised immune system and potentially harm them hugely. You learn how to hang an IV bag of fluid at home and time it so it never runs dry, because this is the only way you will get a precious day at home. You can watch your child vomit over and over, and clean it up without a thought, when the year prior, you would have been vomiting yourself. You dress wounds that seem closer to something that should be on the battlefield. Analyzing whether the graphic bloody mess might be becoming infected without reacting.
I remember sitting in a deserted hallway in the middle of the night. The hospital lined up wheelchairs there that would be used during the day. I would sit there and wonder how I could manage one more day cooped up in a tiny room with too many people crammed into it, and watch over my sick child. It was so isolating. I missed my husband and my other daughter, and my bed, and sleeping an entire night through. Sleeping on a chair that makes into a lumpy, hard bed is no picnic, and the constant people in and out of the room all night long, and beeping IV poles made living with a newborn seem like a cakewalk. There were days I couldn’t even bear to think about the next day because it would have driven me over the edge, and yet, here we are years later. My marriage survived, stronger than ever. My child survived multiple surgeries and chemotherapy and infections, and is now almost twenty, looking for her own home. My youngest goes to an early college high school and is a good solid kid.
Cancer was one of the darkest periods of my life, but yet as I sit here on this sometimes snowy, sometimes blue sky day, I can appreciate my life so much more. I would never wish cancer on anyone, but it does change you in some positive ways. I don’t take things as much for granted. When I sink into my comfy bed at night, I savor that moment. When I kiss my husband and hug my daughters (to their dismay), I am grateful.

Crazy Witchy Woman….

Growing up in a strict Jehovah’s Witness family, I was allowed to believe in four things, well five actually.  They were God, Jesus, the angels, demons, and of the course the vile Satan the Devil.  I was told everything pure and good came from God, and everything else came from the devil and his demons.  JW’s were ruled by God and “the world” aka everyone else, was ruled by Satan.  Therefore my life was very structured around God’s things: going to meetings (what they call church), proselytizing every opportunity we had, reading the bible and avoiding anything that even slightly smacked of evil such as stories about witches and ghosts and psychics, for they were all of Satan (never mind that the prophecies in the bible were seen psychically or more accurately were channeled from spirit).

Once my eyes were opened (my JW family would argue they were closed to God’s truths) to the church’s inconsistencies, I took the major step of faking a sexual interaction–well I tried to have an interaction, but thanks to my mother’s lack of teaching me about sex, it didn’t go so well–and I was kicked out of the church.  I was cut off from my family and friends and had now become a pariah.  I stumbled around in life for a bit, contemplated suicide, spent a solid 24 hours projectile vomiting, but eventually found my footing in the real world slowly but surely.  The Universe sent me a lovely man that would protect and love me to aid in building this new life.  My also disfellowshipped (the term they use for we kicked you out of our church) sister and I began a haltingly awkward relationship with fits and starts as we began to learn about each other again.

As the years went by, I still faced trauma from leaving behind the only world I ever knew but I was adapting as well as could be expected.  The one thing that stayed with me from my religious upbringing was that all religions were bad…well, except the JW’s of course, they were God’s chosen people…so I avoided religion as much as possible.  At weddings and funerals in the sometimes ornate churches and sometimes plain churches, I always found fault with the service or the materialism I saw around me.

Only one time did I find solace in a church.  I don’t remember the circumstances but knowing the young me, it was probably something to the effect of I found a Playboy of my husband’s and I just knew he didn’t love me and he just wanted one of those silicone-filled, photo-shopped models instead of his flesh and blood wife.  Those were the kind of things that tore me apart because of my own lack of self confidence, but also because I didn’t grow up in a world where you stumbled upon erotic pictures of naked women.  I had no concept of how to deal with that (later on I would just tell my husband that if he chose to have one of those magazines, I just never wanted to know it existed and I’ve never seen one since).

Anyway, the younger me was probably torn apart trying to live this “worldly” life when all I had known was a very limited world in my religious upbringing.  So I am driving down one of our historic, tiny streets and a church rose in front of me.  I’m not sure of the denomination but it was not fancy but not plain.  I found myself pulling over and getting out of my car.  Never having done this before, I wasn’t sure of the etiquette of entering a church when not in service, but I just walked up to the front door and it opened.  As the large door swung open, I saw a smallish church with white painted walls and burgundy pews facing a pulpit carpeted in burgundy also.  There was no one to be seen and the immense peace I felt in the room called to me immediately.  I moved to a back pew and sat down, not sure what to do now.  I don’t even know that I prayed that day, I think I just sat there and felt the peace for a few minutes.  Little did I know that those few minutes of peace would lead me to a journey where years later I would be burning bay leaves to try to increase my intuition, and attempting to channel angels through automatic writing.  For that day, at that moment, I began to realize in just a tiny way, that I controlled what I did and believed.

Time marched on and illnesses tested my lack of faith which led me to the great and not always accurate, Sylvia Browne, and her books.  I read her first book with fear, just knowing I was inviting in the demons and the dark forces by reading a book clearly from the devil himself…except it wasn’t, it was beautiful and loving.  She talked about a loving God with a sense of humor and people crossing over to heaven where they lived lives just like here, just more interesting and more harmonious, with so much more knowledge.  I had never considered such a thing.  JW’s had taught us that we would die and then be asleep until God killed all the non-JW’s, and then made earth a paradise.  We would then be resurrected and live happily ever after (which I remember worrying just a bit that I would get bored in happily ever after on paradise earth…if we are talking forever, well you can only see earth so many times before it gets old).  But Sylvia’s world opened me up to the thought that heaven wasn’t bouncing around on a cloud all day, it was learning constantly, coming back to earth and trying a different life, living on other planets in other solar systems, living as beings other than just humans, she opened up this whole world of possibility.

Once I had read all of Sylvia’s books, I moved on to near death experiences and then alien abductions and that lead to Big Foot sightings, and people swearing that they had seen fairies and elves.  There was so much information, and people were positive they had seen and experienced these things that I had thought were only possible in fiction.  I even read some of the darker stuff such as voodoo and black magic.  Even as I read about these, I knew these were not elements I had any interest in pursuing any further, but from what I could tell, they were real and tapped into some energy that is out in our universe.  My mind was blown and I couldn’t get enough.  I did not necessarily believe everything I read and heard, but it was my decision to make as to whether I did.

I read voraciously anything I could get my hands on and I visited psychic mediums, a few of which were quite obviously frauds…my ass you are going to charge me $200 to remove evil spirits from me…some were only mildly accurate, but their energy was so refreshing to me that I would go to them because when I left, I felt positive and ready to take on the world.  But there were a few that were incredibly accurate, one even spilling a secret that only a few family members know.  Even on my most doubtful days, I know there are things that can’t be explained and I do have accept there is more to this world that the average person realizes.

After years of reading and talking to those who have the ability to see beyond our 3-D world, I have been told we all have abilities, we just tend to close them off when we are children.  I saw this myself when my oldest daughter told me I was pregnant when she was three years old, and I hadn’t breathed a word about the possibility to anyone.  Then when she accurately predicted the gender and the appearance of her younger sister, I had to take note.  She wasn’t guessing in any of this, she spoke as if she was stating the facts.  So knowing that we all have abilities, that had to mean I did too, and I began to try to bring them out.  The problem that arose is that with an entire upbringing that denounced anything in the nature of communication with spirit, fortunetelling or dealing with magic, it created a block.

Meditating is one of the most useful tools in opening one’s chakras  to allow your natural abilities to blossom, but when I would try to sit and quiet my mind, I would end up planning dinner, debate whether the dog needed a bath or not, and curse that massive piece of cake I had eaten earlier.  I managed to process a lot of thoughts, but couldn’t find that peaceful quiet that I was looking for.  I tried meditating over and over, and each time I would find it a frustrating exercise in futility.  I couldn’t understand why people would look forward to the prison of sitting in one place and fighting with your mind to shut the hell up, but fortunately I happened upon guided meditation.  Guided meditation is a beautiful process where you put some earphones on and listen to a soothing music while someone talks you through the process gently.  Your mind follows their instructions and so you are not fighting it constantly.  I finally found the soothing that comes from meditation, but I wasn’t finding any additional abilities popping up.

Eventually I began to have little experiences here and there that let me know I was progressing.  During one session, a sparkly ball of light appeared in my inner sight, it was of every pastel color and it sparkled tremendously, and the love I felt from this was so overwhelming that I had tears pouring down my face.  There was no logical explanation for what I was seeing and how it made me feel, but it certainly gave me hope that I was tapping into something bigger than me.  This made me want to experience this even more so I began to look into what other ways I could expand my abilities, and then I discovered candles and natural herbs (no, not that herb, I know what you are thinking….I tried it once and it was a total let down, I felt pressure on my head, no high whatsoever, terrible sleep BUT I still wanted to eat, which is the last thing I need…no thank you!).

I spend my next days researching blessed candles and candle colors, and what they represent.  I etch my candles with my desires that I want to manifest…have a brief moment of worry when I start to think I’m doing magic because I recite spells at the same time, but then realize that manifesting and magic are basically the same thing, and if you are coming from a place of light, and protecting yourself with God’s holy spirit, you will get your assistance from the angels.  Light attracts light.  People that practice dark magic–which always has a price by the way–are requesting help from the lower, darker energies.  My candles burn and I can feel the positive energy that they are sending out into the Universe.

Because I can’t get enough, I then begin to look to nature for help.  Did not the Native Americans and the Indigenous people of the world find their magic in nature?  I start small by taking some mugwort and melatonin to incite prophetic dreams, but the only dream I get is that my best girlfriend’s dog is getting a monkey…I going to have to think this dream isn’t going to give me the answer to world peace.  So then I wait a few nights and try the mugwort, melatonin, and I add pure lavender essential oils to my pillowcase and bay leaves under my pillow, this is going to be a good combination, I can feel it….and I had lots of time to feel it because for some reason this combination made me so wired I couldn’t go to sleep.  When I finally did drop into a slumber, my dreams consisted of my husband murdering someone and then heading off to a strip club to feel better…um, again, this is not the world peace prophetic dreams I was looking for.  On to plan C.

So for plan C, I go a much simpler route, I burn the bay leaves before I go to bed….big mistake, huge!  The bay leaves smolder on and on, leaving our house stinking and my husband furious, and again no prophetic dreams.  So far I’m striking out on this whole herb thing, but my enthusiasm for trying new ideas just grows every day.  I love the possibilities of things that I can learn and the subjects I haven’t even discovered yet.  I love living in a world where I can have any idea or thought, and do my own experiments to see if they are valid.  I love that there could be more to this life than just getting up and going to work each day, and I intend to spend my life exploring the possibilities.