Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A Mother's Love

My routine is the same every morning. 
I wake up, check the time, take a shower, get back in bed, turn on the Today Show and check my phone to see what happened in the world of social media while I was sleeping. 

This morning, Facebook delivered another set of memories for this date. 
On this date in 2012, I posted an update on an ongoing saga that began in August of the previous year. That was when my teenage son decided that he was tired of me and my rules and thought that he would be better off living with his father.
He was 18 and I couldn't force him to stay, but I did warn him that if he left, his father would come after me for child support because for ten years, his wages had been garnished and he would take great pleasure in gaining any opportunity to have me pay him.

Some of you are probably wondering how that could be, that the ex-husband was still paying child support, but the age of emancipation in the state we lived at the time is 21 years-old. 

I was served at work. The week of Christmas. 
I went home that night and got drunk. 
Fuming with anger, I called my father, ranting, "Daddy, you know how all creatures on this planet were put here for a reason? Snakes eat mice, spiders eat flies, bees pollenate flowers, but do you know what creature serves absolutely no purpose on this planet? A cockroach! Cockroaches do nothing! They're worthless! He's a cockroach, daddy! A cockroach!" 
My father just laughed, but I was dead serious. 

I was crushed.
I saw my son leaving as a betrayal. 

Private school, summer camps, trips, vacations - all things his father refused to fund.
I was at his school advocating for him. 

I was the one at his football games, track meets, soccer matches, waiting in the parking lot after practices, as all of the other boys piled into their parent's cars and my child was always the last one out. 
I was the one that comforted him when he was sick. 
I gave him the talk and taught him how to respect and honor women. 
How could he? 
All that I had done for him, I cried to friends. Many gave me advice and words of support, but the one thing repeated more than once was, "he's going to need you before you need him." 

And that's exactly what happened. 

Ten months later, my youngest child called me.
He was hurting and in pain over the passing of one of his best friends. His friend had been fighting a serious illness, but hadn't shared with those close to him how bad it really was.
His death was unexpected and came as a serious blow to my son.
He was asked to be a pall bearer at the funeral and he didn't know if it was something he could handle emotionally.
This was the second death within a year for my son. A childhood friend was killed in a tragic car accident the winter before.
Now, he was asked to carry his friend's coffin.  I told him that being a pall bearer was a great way to honor him and it was what he would have wanted.
"Would you go with me?" He asked. His voice full of pain. 

My child needed me and I was there for him to provide him with whatever he needed during his time of grief.
Most importantly, I was there to be the strength that he needed. 

Following the service, I took him to his favorite Thai restaurant.
It was a beautiful summer afternoon and we sat outside, catching up.
He shared with me how bad things were at his father's. I listened and although I wanted SO badly to say, "I told you so," I held my tongue as my son humbled himself and opened up to me. 

I had already been to court twice, both times the case was adjourned for later dates. Once, because the ex-husband failed to appear. It should have been dismissed, but the judge granted him another court date. 
A third hearing was scheduled for the next day and my son knew this.
He asked if he could go with me and talk with the judge.
I told him that I didn't know if the judge would allow him to speak, but he could go. 

That night, my child came home with me and slept in his bed for the first time in almost a year. 

The next morning we headed to court and I warned him that his father may not be too happy seeing him there.
He wasn't. 

The case was dismissed without prejudice and my child paid the price. 

This was my Facebook post seven years ago today: 
When my 18 yr. old son left my home and moved to his dad's last year I was devastated. I saw it as a betrayal, but my door was always open. We went to church, spent holidays together and I was there whenever he needed me... His father ultimately sued me for child support and my son went to court to support me today. Now his "father" is kicking him out... I guess a mother's love is unconditional.

I watched as my son argued with his father, asking if he was just a pawn in his father's plot to get back at his mother.
It broke my heart. 
I had nothing to say to his father. Our son was grown and I was no longer receiving child support from him. There was no reason for us to communicate. 

Mother's Day of this year, I received an inbox message from the ex-husband wishing me a happy Mother's Day and thanking me for being a good mother to our boys.
I have had no correspondence with him since 2012.
The Bible says we owe forgiveness to those who don't deserve it and I have forgiven, but I haven't forgotten.
I think it was Maya Angelou who said, "when someone shows you who they are, believe them." 
I chose not to respond. 
Today's Facebook memory brought back negative feelings, but it also reminded me that God blessed me with two amazing sons.
They may not always honor their mother as I wish they would, but I will love them unconditionally until the day I leave this world. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

You Can't Eat the Elephant in One Bite

          Growing up, I wasn't always the most neat or organized young person.  When I was in school, ADD was not something that was commonly diagnosed; especially in girls. 
In first grade, I wasn't reading, but the grown-ups who were trained to know better, didn't realize that I was simply bored with Dick and Jane books.
It wasn't until I was sitting at the breakfast table while my father was reading the newspaper across from me and I read aloud, "boy, seven drowns in lake." My father lowered his paper and asked, "who said that?"
My mother, with great pleasure and excitement, told him that it was his daughter.

Throughout elementary, middle and high school, my parents were told, "she so smart, she just doesn't apply herself." My life was chaotic and disorganized. My bedroom, school folders, bookbag and locker were reflections of my impossible struggle to maintain order and structure.
Most days, you couldn't see the floor in my bedroom and my school locker became a test of skill. I learned to open and close it quickly without having an avalanche of papers, books and clothing tumble to the floor.
I would complete assignments, but managed to lose them before handing it in or completely forgot that it was due.

Once I reached the point of being overwhelmed, I would throw in the towel and just give up.
My mother, the disciplinarian, was old school and her parenting technique was punishment, instead of helping me to learn ways to manage my life. 

I went to college, but dropped out because I allowed too many distractions to keep me focused on what I was there for. 
When I finally returned to college, I was the mother of an eight-year-old boy, who had been diagnosed with ADD. It was then that I realized why my early years had been such a struggle. 
I learned ways to manage my life and maintain order, while limiting chaos as much as possible. 

I have been accused of being a perfectionist and even labeled a control freak, but just brush the insults off my shoulders.
Sometimes, if I feel like it, I'll explain
why I am the way I am, but it's on a need-to-know basis.
I like to explain to people that I am pretty damn good at juggling!
I can have five or six balls flipping and tossing in the air, but if a seventh ball unexpectedly comes into play, they will all come tumbling down.  Sometimes it's easy to pick them up and start juggling again.  Other times, I may just leave the balls right there until I'm emotionally ready to take that challenge on again. 

Right now, I've got about six balls in the air.
I just moved to a new state, started a new job and learning my way while also searching for a permanent place to live. I'm finalizing a divorce and name change and all that comes with it (new ID, social security card, passport...), digging myself out of a deep financial hole that grew deeper during months of unemployment, and today I had to send a second nastygram to the moving company demanding status on delivery of my belongings that have to go into a storage unit until I move into my new place! 

Some advice that I have given to my sons over the years when they have felt overwhelmed by life is that they can't eat the elephant in one bite.  You have to decide which part of the elephant you want to eat first and then slowly work your way through it, giving yourself time to let what you have already eaten digest.  

I met with my therapist when I went back to my old state to pack for the big move and she reminded me of the elephant. She encouraged me practice what I've been preaching and to not be overwhelmed.
"I know," I said. "But I feel like I'm trying to work my way around the elephant and all I see is its big-ole ass! I try to move to the left and his ass moves left.  I shift to the right and there's that ass again. I've got elephant ass all up in my face!"  

"Well, get a nice steak knife and start with his ass then," she suggested. "It's probably the most tender!" 
We laughed, but she was right. I had gotten so focused on the elephant blocking my view that I started to feel helpless.
"Just keep telling yourself that it won't always be this way," she said in a reassuring tone. 

I paused, and took in her words. 
I was so focused on the elephant's ass, that I couldn't see that it won't always be this way.  
I started a new job, which means steady income, which means I can slowly start paying off my debt. I found a new place to live and can move in next month. The divorce and name change have been finalized and that nastygram to the moving company landed in the right hands and my things should arrive by the end of the week. 

So, when things are coming at you from different directions, just keep telling yourself that you can't eat the elephant in one bite. 
Do you like white meat or dark meat? Grab yourself a jar of barbecue sauce or some Frank's Red Hot (we put that sh*t on everything) and work your way through that elephant.
It's not an eating competition. 
You're not Joey Chestnut and you don't have to consume a whole elephant in sixty seconds.  

Take your time. Relax. 
Don't give yourself indigestion.
Sometimes leftovers taste better the next day.  

Mixed Signals

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