Venturing Into the Caverns of “Then”

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Christmas 2019. 

I have come a long way in the six-and-a-half years since my extremely contentious divorce. I’ve done a LOT of healing (thanks, therapy). I have increased greatly in confidence as a mom. I have learned to accept my faults, and celebrate my children. I have found a healthy, supportive and respectful new marriage. I have read and read and learned techniques upon techniques on how to battle my ex-husband’s constant attempts at parental alienation.

But sometimes, I long to venture into the dark caverns of the past.

You know the ones. Those dark, sad, scary and angry times that came before; sometime between becoming a new mom of twins and daring to escape an abusive and unhealthy marriage. That time when I was a broke and terrified single mom desperately trying to find my rhythm and wondering how the heck we were going to make it work in a city with no family.

I don’t totally understand it, but I’m hoping I’m not alone. Perhaps it’s normal mourning to “go there,” every once in a while; like visiting the grave of a long-deceased loved one.

Perhaps it’s processing. I hope it’s not self-pity.

The holidays seem to bring this out more than any other time. Maybe it’s the early darkness that is already present when I leave work. Maybe it’s the cold temperatures that urge you to stay inside in a blanket. Maybe it’s the lurking holiday season ahead, 1212015 613when family dynamics seem to take center stage and joy and jubilence is an absolute requirement, especially in Christmas card photos and facebook posts.

But in spite of (or maybe because of) the turkey and tinsel, the mistletoe and snowflakes – I just want to wallow.

I want to take the long winding corridors to the dark places I haven’t visited in almost seven years. Maybe this is a positive. Maybe it’s because they’re finally not too scary to visit. Maybe I let myself wallow now because I am confident that I can pull myself out. That wasn’t always the case.

Maybe the urge to explore those places has been there all the while, masked by busyness and shopping and chaos and momming as gosh dang hard as I can. Maybe I’ve flooded those caverns with guilt and overscheduling and loving hard enough to make up for any difficulties the divorce has caused. Maybe Netflix and chardonnay have distracted me from the danger.

So why go into the depths now?

Maybe I’ve finally become brave enough to be still. Maybe the trauma has quieted. Maybe I’m finally strong enough to face them once and for all.

Regardless, I’m going. Wish me Happy Trails. I’ll surface again soon.

 

Today, I wear my Wonder Woman socks

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Today, I put on my Wonder Woman socks. Why, you ask? As though one really needs any reason, but today, it’s because the twins are turning eight.

As I was getting dressed to drive over to their dad’s house to pick them up, I fought my usual fight with the mirror, seeing only the imperfections of my belly and thinking only about putting on a swimsuit for our trip to the water park later.

And that’s when I decided to put on the socks.

Look, there is no shortage of memes, giphys and inspirational quotes out there, reminding us what our bodies have done as mothers, encouraging us not to compare, not to judge.

Let me tell you this: they don’t work.

I know I’m not alone here. We may even repeat these pearls of wisdom. We may pretend we believe them. We certainly want to.

So today, my socks are my silent protest of the self-judgment we all live with.

This body began creating two incredible lives, 8 years and 10 months ago today. This mind has spent the last 2,920 days teaching, reaching, and hoping I’m creating wonderful tiny humans. This heart has ached, laughed, and worried deeper than I thought it ever could over the last 70,080 hours.     

Yesterday, I struggled with a parenting decision I made and regretted for the whole day.  Now, it wasn’t malicious, but I felt like in that moment, I didn’t make the right choice for my kid.

I spent the whole day with that one decision.

Nevermind that the night before we’d spent an entire “date night,” together, my son and me. We played like children. We talked, we bonded. We basked in rare one-on-one time. In the morning, we snuggled on the couch watching TV. We exchanged ‘I love yous.’ After that, he went to a work event with me where he got to see me girl-bossing it up during a speech.

But you know how it is.

None of that stuck with me until this morning, when I put on the socks.

I don’t always get it right. Sometimes we eat fast food. Sometimes I have my head too deep in my phone. Sometimes they say, “look mama!” and I mutter, “oh, wow!” having not seen a thing.

But I also love them with my heart and soul. I give them my love, my time, my heart.

I try and try. I admit when I make mistakes.

And for that, I think I get to wear the socks.

Put yours on too.

A Church Brave Enough to WRITE BACK

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Well friends, after my anger mounted (especially as a comms professional), with the church for failing to address my question, imagine my (pleasant) surprise in receiving this personal correspondence from the national UMC this morning.

It’s important to note that we DID go back to church on sunday, where my pastor gave an incredible sermon that elicited tears from me and applause from my church family. The theme was that we would continue being “radically inclusive” in our church, that despite the decision made primarily by the African and Eastern Europeans (it’s probably time for factions), FUMC in Colorado Springs will continue loving and welcoming ALL people. For it’s not OUR table, it’s GOD’s table. And our God loves.

Below is the personalized email I got this morning. I want to thank Reverend Burton-Edwards from the national offices in Nashville, for the response.

 Thank you for writing.  Your message reached our offices at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee. And sorry for the inconvenience of a delayed reply. As you may imagine we have a mountain of questions related to General Conference to which we are also seeking to reply as quickly as we can at this time. Your patience is appreciated.

I hear you.
And you are right, you have a gift for words. 

I don’t have an answer for you. These are matters you must discern for yourself, with the support of others sisters and brothers in Christ. I trust you to make the best decision for yourself and your family.

And yes, this is hard. 
What I can tell you is only an explanation, and only one. 

What you saw in the vote is largely about the shifting demographics of our worldwide denomination. And the fact that the US and Western European memberships and so delegations are generally shrinking while others, especially in Africa, where homosexuality is often criminalized and almost always stigmatized, are growing.

Your local church is still your local church. They haven’t changed. The people who love you and have nurtured you there haven’t changed. Nothing in the legislation that was passed requires them to change. 

The good work your conference does in Colorado and throughout the Mountain Sky region, and the good work of The UMC worldwide, also has not changed at this point, and nothing in this legislation changes it. Anywhere.

What you rightly perceive, however, is this General Conference has signalled that change is likely to come at every level of denominational life, and it is change that will be hard for many American and Western European United Methodists to deal with.

I hope you will be in conversation with your pastor and others in your congregation about what your next steps may be as individuals and as a congregation. Perhaps this article may be helpful as you enter more deeply into this time of discernment in this Lenten season: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/general-conference-is-over-what-happens-now

I hope this is helpful.

Peace in Christ,

Rev. Taylor W. Burton-Edwards

Ask The UMC

United Methodist Information Service

infoserv@umcom.org

www.infoserv.umc.org

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When Worship and Motherhood Collide

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Yesterday at it’s annual conference, the United Methodist Church – a denomination I chose for its openness, inclusiveness and commitment to acts of service – voted to disallow gay and lesbian clergy unless they are celibate or vow to reject gay marriage.

My shock probably comes from my own failure to keep up with church issues. That’s on me. But this morning, as I process the move, I find myself in a very uncomfortable place.

Our pastor, who did not support this move, pleaded with his congregation last week to stay and seek unity, and to work together from the inside. In what I now recognize as foreshadowing, he also gave us blessed permission to leave.

I have served on the contemporary worship team for 10 years. I remember being 9 months pregnant with twins and getting up to sign Hillsong and Michael W. Smith before a small crowd of contemporary-minded Christians. When my children were born, we found fellowship, education and family in a new congregation and new band.

My kids run around the church like they own the place. When it’s children’s time on the alter, they are the first up the stairs, sitting next to the pastor like they are entitled to first class seating. They are known by name by the band and many in the church who have giggled at their antics, especially when mom is on the alter, microphone in hand, and a safe distance away from their mischief.

During those times, I have found no judgement. I have found acceptance of my little Single Mom family, my sometimes naughty children, our usually late-to-rehearsal routine, my “we’ll brush your hair when we get there” approach. I want to remain a part of that family.

If it were just me, I’d stay and seek change from the inside. But as a mom of 7-year-old twins, it’s not just me. 

Kingdom City – the loving and creative Sunday school where I send my kids for most of worship – is an integral part in their spiritual development. As a working mom, I admit my teaching on the Bible and Christianity is basically limited to insisting we pray before dinner.

So this morning I find myself wrestling with the question: “How can I send my children to learn lessons on love from a church that has chosen bigotry, judgement and exclusion?”

Do I give it a year and seek the activism I failed to find before this monumental decision came down? Do I take Pastor Kent’s advice and stay through the conflict, communing with those who hold different views (even those I viscerally reject); counsel my church on its backwards-looking, out of date view? Do I shout to the leaders that many of us left the Catholic church for exactly these reasons?

Or is it too great a risk to continue my children’s formative education in a group that has chosen this direction, if by a small margin? Do I leave the church as a statement that this family will not let hate win; that this family believes in love and inclusion and rejects wholeheartedly the false judgement of the human race?

As a woman steeped in secular moral principle, a lover of people, a fan of the open-minded and a christian who believes in the Greatest Commandment above all, I am stuck. I am hurting. Mostly, I’m saddened that this world – even those within the church family I’ve chosen – continue to choose hate over love; judgement over acceptance; righteousness over right.

I don’t have an eloquently worded conclusion for you here. Through prayer, introspection and research, I hope to have one soon.

 

 

 

Goal: One, Happy, Cohesive Unit… Reality: Not That. Blending A Family is Not for the Faint of Heart

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In the early days of my twin pregnancy I spent hours daydreaming of the life to come. A perfect little family going on ski trips, taking walks, maybe incorporating a golden retriever as we laughed through family vacations on endless beaches. When my marriage dissolved 15 months post-partem, all those dreams seemed to dissolve with it.

But little did I know, there was an Act Two coming in my life. A family 2.0, if you will; complete with all the upgrades and improved functionality and, yes, glitches … serious glitches.

Blending a family after a divorce is not for the faint of heart. When the stakes are this high- emotionally, practically, logistically and even financially, there are bound to be some challenges. These are the challenges my little family is navigating now.

Nevertheless, I find myself back in the daydreams, hoping for the same gauzy family memories, but with a new family makeup. My partner Kelly, or “Papa” as they call him, has replaced the kids’ dad in my visions (though not in their life- that’s important and I’ll address it below). I still want the same things – in fact, now that I’m in a healthy relationship, I want that ideal family life more than ever.

But I’ve found, that a family doesn’t just blend like coffee and cream. It’s more like – mixing the powdered cheese packet into the macaroni before you add the milk and butter. Right?

Despite the lumps and bumps, the end result is hard fought, and worth it. So, at the risk of overplaying the analogy, where do you find the milk and butter to create harmony in a blended family? Here are three principles we’re trying on.

  1. Create expectations on how everyone (the kids and your partner) should treat each other. Then share them.

This one might seem obvious, I mean, you expect your kids to treat others well, and you give them specific guidelines on doing so. You insist they talk to grandma on the phone; say “yes, ma’am” to their teacher and share with their friends. So why on earth do we tiptoe around the relationship that’s probably the most confusing to a kid?

I personally didn’t tell my kids that I wanted them to treat my partner kindly until we’d been living together for eight months.

It seems ridiculous, I know. I certainly wanted it to happen. In those moments where he was giving my giggling daughter a piggy back, or teaching my son how to properly throw a Frisbee, I was downright euphoric. These are the daydreams! But I never verbalized that.  I just willed it to be so.

I had this epiphany during a particularly rough weekend between my son and my fiancé. My son was defiant and disrespectful. Our family camping trip was a nightmare.

As we crawled into sleeping bags that night, my fiancé lamented that he wasn’t treated kindly or with respect by my son. And he acknowledged that this didn’t motivate him to build the relationship. It was clear that we were going down the wrong path.

So a couple days later, staring at my 6-year-old across the breakfast bar, I leveled with him.

“Hey buddy, remember when Papa used to let you sleep in and take you to daycare late?”

His eyes lit up. (My kids are very treat-motivated).

“Yes!”

“Well, if you treat him nice, he’ll probably start doing nice things for you again.”

It registered.

After months of reminders, prayers, silent directives, frustrations, all it took was a simple explanation of cause and effect; basically, how relationships work.

Moments later my partner descended the stairs. My little guy looked at him with a bright smile and said cheerily, “Good Morning, Papa!”

And then he turned to me with a coy smile.

Agree on Rules you can both live with and empower your partner to enforce those rules:

My fiancé has spent 27 years in the military. He’s raised two wonderful, intelligent and respectful children, now in their 20s. I’m a bit of a hippy mama who prioritizes creativity and talking about our feelings.

You can see how those two parenting styles might not gel.

Common theory suggests that the stepparent should NOT be put into a disciplinarian role for at least five years.

But let’s be honest. In practice, you can’t leave a responsible adult unable to enforce any boundaries and expect peace (at best) or even safety (at least) in your home.

Yes, you’re the mom (or dad). But if you’re doing this whole family 2.0 thing, you have to create an environment where everyone’s needs are respected.

As a tiny example: my fiancé can’t stand clutter. I like my kids to play at my feet and want them to feel like this new home is their home.

So – after much discussion, the rule is that the kids can have their rooms as messy as they like, but if they’re playing downstairs, it’s one toy at a time. The one toy goes up before another comes down.

This probably sounds simple, but it took a lot of effort.  First, I had to diffuse my own defenses and hear him when he expressed concerns about my rules.

Next, he had to compromise a little on his ideal environment and hear what was important to me.

We agreed on a consistent consequence if the rules weren’t followed. (The offending toy goes away for a week).

Finally, I clearly set the boundaries with the kids. I did, not him. So they’re mom’s rules, but Papa can enforce them (as can grandma, the babysitter, Auntie). And no matter who’s in charge that day, the consequence for rule breaking is the same.

What this has done is taken my partner out of the role of enforcer and diluted any perception and related animosity about him being “too strict.” It presented us as a unit. He’s not the bad guy for requiring 60 minutes of calm down time when they hit each other. He’s just enforcing the family rules laid out by mom.

One little bonus: it’s harder for my 6 year olds to stay mad at me than their stepfather-to-be. It’s one of the fleeting blessings of the tender years.

Also, establishing these rules and consequences took away the sting of surprise or the feeling of injustice. The rules are clear. The consequences consistent, regardless of the caretaker.

We screwed this up for awhile. Papa’s rules were different, so the kids were constantly getting in trouble on his watch and feeling blindsided. By having the difficult conversation with my partner, then clearly communicating the result to the kids, everyone feels a lot more certainty. Life is more predictable and there’s no “bad guy.”

Be aware of what you say (and what you don’t say) about the other biological parent:

The first thing to consider with this principle is that your child is probably 30-40% more astute and aware than you realize. They are picking up what you’re putting down, whether that’s verbal, non-verbal or simply through omission. As our family therapist says, “The walls have ears.” This is co-parenting 101 for the bio parent, but it’s just as important, if not more so for the new partner, and that’s a point often neglected.

Books on parental alienation (my favorite is Divorce Poison) harp on alienation. Here’s what it recommends for the bio parent:

  • Don’t fail to talk about the other parent
  • Don’t interrogate
  • Allow your child to talk freely about the other parent and say positive things about the other parent

The natural tendency, especially for step parents is just to avoid the topic. After all, they likely only know the other parent through your eyes, which, the situation would suggest, is not an attractive view. But refusing to talk about them can be just as damaging as making negative comments.

Kids hear what you don’t say, too.

My son struggles mightily with a loyalty conflict. No amount of talking about it has helped. My partner has expressly told my son that he’s not trying to replace his dad, and that he just wants to be buddies. But the guilt my son wrestles with is practically visible, and it’s a real obstacle in their relationship.

So my partner has started to be vocally supportive of dad. It’s not easy, knowing how dad treated me in the past, but he’s a strong person who puts on a smile and says things like, “I bet you had fun with your dad last weekend!” or “I heard your dad is really good at hockey!”

It’s a little thing, but it gives my son permission to love his dad and it makes it safe to love this man who isn’t his dad, and isn’t trying to replace his dad.

The two-minute action plan:

  1. Contemplate: What are your expectations for how your child treats your partner? Have you told them? How about for how your partner treats your child?
  2. What are your family’s boundaries and does everyone have the same understanding?
  3. How do you and your partner talk about the other biological parent around or to your kids?

 

I hope this works for your family. It’s important to remember that this journey isn’t linear. We’ve made some big progress. But in the span of typing this article I got a phone call from my partner describing my son’s temper tantrum this morning. We’re still working on it.

It’s my sincere hope that as we stick to these principles we’ll put our family squarely on the path to a peaceful, cohesive life. But we know there will be bumps along the way. Changes in age, milestones, puberty, etc. will bring their own new challenges.  Hopefully with these principles squarely in place, we’ll be able to weather the storm as the new and improved Family 2.0.

Let me know how it goes. I promise to do the same.

 

Jamie Fabos is a working mom of 6-year-old boy-girl twins who challenge, stupefy and delight on a regular basis. Navigating a second marriage, competitive career field and super momming takes up the majority of her time. Other times she can be found running off the crazy in various 5Ks or melting into the couch with a full laundry basket, Netflix and a nice Merlot. She is also the author of the blog, Bingemomming (facebook.com/bingemomming).  

 

Aw Buddy. You’re 7!

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I’m a little late on this one. The last couple days I’ve been too upset about the gender inequality in our nation to really be able to focus on the topic – and the boy- at hand.

So here’s my celebration of you, buddy. Happy Birthday!

To my son,

Never have I encountered more enthusiasm than in many, many experiences with you. You are simply unbridled in your energy, your joy, your pure exuberance. It’s contagious.

I would like to say it’s only on the positive side, but your feelings are just that big across the spectrum. I pray that some day you find a productive and meaningful outlet for that natural and abundant passion. You, son, are nothing short of extraordinary.  Hold on to that love for the world. Hold on to that passion. Grow it, don’t edit it. 

In the midst of those big, loud emotions, you have the softest heart I’ve ever known. You get such joy out of making other people happy. You embrace surprises and excitement on behalf of others as you do for yourself. Which you do in a big way, as I already addressed.

You are wild and silly. You are emotive and curious. With enough focus, you can solve almost any puzzle, deconstruct any problem. These skills will serve you well. 

Your mind is busy, so busy. I love its power, I worry that it never lets you rest.

You know how to use your words to express love. Words are your love language. Never stop offering them. They are precious to those who receive them. 

The challenge for those who are driven, like you, is that they are hard on themselves. Be as gentle and affectionate to yourself as you are to those who love you. Surround yourselves with like-souls. Those who can strive for greatness but love and respect you for who and where you are. 

For I love you so truly. I am in awe and in admiration of you. Thank you for blessing my life. May you bless the world you will inherit just as much. 

A Letter to my Daughter

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It’s one of those nights when it’s time for bed, my fiance already snoring in the king bed beside me (sorry babe – it’s cute, really). But my brain won’t shut off. It’s filled with words and themes clamoring for my attention, demanding to be transcribed before I’m permitted to slip into sleep.

Tonight I started thinking about what I want for my daughter. About things people say that don’t make sense, and about just how big my dreams for her are. About how disgusted I am at how women were treated in the past, but how certain I am that her generation of powerful girls will take over the world.

Here goes.

 

Baby Girl,

You are a wonder. You always have been. From the way you used to wake as an infant, calmly taking in the world around you, not making a sound. It was like you were at the helm even then – regal, poised, observing. As you are now. So comfortable in your own skin. So genuine. So curious. You have so much to offer this world. 

Badass Beauty were the words that first popped in my head, sparking this blog. It struck me that this would be a fantastic name for a band. But that, while tweet-worthy, it was not enough. Badass, kind, smart, inquisitive, empathetic, passionate, multi-dimensional beauty is more accurate. It wouldn’t be a great band name though.

I started to think about what “badass” means. Fearless, I suppose would be a decent synonym, but it’s a fallacy. Fear is natural. It’s healthy to an extent.  I don’t wish for you to be fearless. That’d be unwise. But I want you to be willing to face your fears undaunted.

Don’t strive for fearlessness. Rather acknowledge your fears and proceed, undaunted. 

There it is.

Be brave enough to be kind. Being mean is easy. It’s for the weak of confidence and low of self-esteem. Standing up to cruelty with bold kindess is the type of courage that this world lacks.

When the weak of character descend into cruelty, be courageously kind. 

There will be times when self-consciousness creeps in. When you feel shy or awkward. In those times, don’t dim your light. Instead know what a gift you are to this world, and shine your light, embracing your own imperfection. Don’t ever make yourself small to ease someone else’s insecurities.

Shine your light for all to see, unconcerned with blemish or error. Accept that perfection is the enemy of progress, failure the friend of growth. Don’t be afraid to be a force, for you are.  

Since you were 3, your verbal skills have been incredible. To the point that I worried about your brother’s vocabulary. Until the pediatrician scolded me for comparing you (what twin mom doesn’t?). Words are incredibly powerful. I know, because you get them from me. Use your gift to speak for those who can’t, to stand up for those who need you when others lack the courage or the gift. Know the power of a well-formed argument and when you have the opportunity to use your gift to advance a cause of righteousness, do not hesitate.

Know that words have power. Use yours to inspire, to defend and to advance a cause of righteousness. Resist the temptation to use them to belittle or condescend. 

How will you know? Because you are good. It is inside you. Trust it.

Listen to your inner compass. Don’t be knocked off course, but follow your arrow. It will not lead you astray. 

Your inner guide knows what is important. It knows right from wrong, and it knows important from unimportant. Again, you are powerful. Use it well.

Spend your time, your energy on things that matter. Don’t be distracted by the nonsense of this world. 

We live in a world of noise. Learn the difference between those who shout and those who have something to say.

 Reject intimidation. Know your worth. Live Large. 

And of course, Remember that you are loved completely and wholly. When the world gets tough, and it will, hold tight those relationships that will wrap you up and hold you close. Be a soldier in this world, never doubt your own potential. Always reach for the highest branch. Give back to those who give to you. Move on from those who would pull you down. Laugh a lot, remember not to take yourself too seriously. Talk to God. Love your family. And of course, call your mom. 

Signs he’s a Narcissist: And You are Headed to Therapy Row

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Like one out-of-tune violin in a massive symphony, I can pick out a narcissist’s words immediately; as offensive to my ears as five flats in a C major key and just as identifiable. But I have a unique ability there as a survivor of a 13 year marriage to one. It was the soundtrack to my life for over a decade.

So it confuses me, if momentarily, when women don’t immediately identify their narcissist husbands or boyfriends as just that. Then again, neither did I.

So if there’s an opportunity now to open her eyes, I think my pain, my years of therapy, and yes my progress; demand that I offer up the clues that perhaps will save a girl like me.

So here you go:

1. More than once, you’ve apologized for getting angry at him (for something you had every right to be angry about): For me, it was online sexting. How in the hell he turned that back around on me is probably a work of Narcissist art, but it happened, and I fell for it. Imagine a world where you catch him sending (ahem) pics via internet dating sites, and you apologize. Actually, if you’re reading this, it’s probably not that crazy to you.

2. He’s outright denied something that you know (or at least used to) to be true. This can take the form of denying he said something that he just fucking said – or recreating a version of events that’s completely- and I mean completely different from what just happened. Does it make you feel like you’re crazy? Yes. And that’s exactly the point. Oh wait – You thought it was just you? Well then it worked. Learn about it here.

3. The world is against him and not a damn thing is his fault. It’s his “stupid fucking boss” or the “stuck up bitch at the DMV” who kept him from finally getting his license renewed. The trend will be that all these offenders occupy a higher social/economic/power position than him. You see – Narcissists need to be the victim. It’s part of the sickness.

4. He’s self-righteous to the Nth degree. How dare you? You questioned him, or suggested something outside of his opinions. Or maybe you gave someone else attention when he wanted yours. All of these are mortal sins with the narcissist. So it’s no surprise that you are walking on eggshells. I mean, Hell (capital H-E-double hockey sticks) awaits  if you should fail.

5. You walk on eggshells: with him and everyone. Oh my god. Lindsay from HR didn’t respond to your email. Did you make her mad? Maybe she just doesn’t like you? What if that email you sent Thursday was too curt? Relax Narcissist victim. You’ve been trained. Everything is your fault. You are less-than.  In the real world, Lindsay is on vacation or in all-day meetings. You’ve simply been groomed to think everything is your failing and trust me – this one is the hardest one to cure. It’s actually not you. It’s him. narc

The Good Mom Recipe: Only 2 Mandatory Ingredients

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Earlier today a pregnant friend took to facebook to share the fact that she was utterly terrified about the impending birth of her first baby. I admired her vulnerability – so many of us put on a happy face and post pictures of pink onesies with messages like, “We can’t wait to meet Lilah  Michelle!” But my friend decided to get REAL and man, did the internet respond. She bravely posted:

“Despite being ecstatic to begin this new chapter…my fears are escalating. I am now doubting my ability to raise a kid well…”

This got my wheels turning. And sparked this blog. As I responded to her post, I felt my eyes welling up with tears of nostalgia, tears of joy, tears of empathy for her feelings today. And as I typed, I revealed a truth I may not have even told myself.

The recipe for being a great mom has only TWO ingredients.

Love

and

Grace

These two ingredients are more powerful than just about anything you can mix with them. Throw in a cup of imperfection, a dash of anxiety. Add in a hot temper and go a little too heavy on the impatience. Forget to add in a healthy cupful of enrichment? No need to stress. You’ve got love and grace to cover you.

stuffingYou may think I’m oversimplifying it, but go with me. If you love your child and show them that love in whatever way you do, doesn’t it make up for the fact that you yelled at him too much last Saturday? If you didn’t make it to clay sculping AND Phonics last week because the baby was crying and the house was a mess and you had terrible allergies – can you just let it go and give yourSELF a little grace? And what about your partner? Did he forget how to change a diaper? Did he truly not SEE the floor full of spaghetteos? What if instead of fuming inside, you recognized that this is a challenge for him too, and you let it go and familyfailresolved to make it a joke at baby’s wedding in 20 years?

Do I get it wrong sometimes? Yes. Like ALOT. But when I do, I don’t beat myself up (anymore). Instead, I say to my kids, “Hey – I didn’t handle that well. I’m sorry. Let’s do better next time.”

It’s when we accept that we’re not racing to the top of a mountain on our own – we’re starting a journey that we, baby and hubby will go through together – prevailing sometimes, stumbling sometimes, laughing a lot and crying some too.

It’s not going to be perfect, but it will be imperfectly beautiful.

All it takes is a little love and a lot of Grace.

llama

PS – A little break away from stock photos. Here’s the REAL US having a perfectly imperfect moment.

To the woman marrying my ex-husband

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Tonight I trust you are happy. You’re on the eve of your wedding day, and you’ve probably dreamed of that since you were a little girl. Tonight I bet you are also terrified. Because with plans made and money spent, tomorrow has to go right. But if you step out of line … well, you know the consequences.

You see, that’s your reality now. The man that will be your husband in a matter of hours is a narcissist. And you know the rules and the boundaries and as long as you hold your face just right, and you step in just the right pattern, everything is fine. 

But God, please don’t let him get mad tonight.

It’s painfully familiar prayer. I whispered it on the eve of holidays, promotions, summer vacations. I remember that terror as clearly as if I’d felt it this morning. Sometimes I wonder why I’d let another woman fall into that prison. But the truth is, I don’t really care about you. Other than, of course, the fact that I believe you’re good to my children. But on that topic, there is something I’d like to ask you to do. Or, more aptly, not do.

I stayed out of your life with the belief that you are good for my kids. Despite a wealth of evidence of cheating, I decided not to reveal his true character to you because I only care about my kids’ well-being. You are simply not my responsibility. You are a casualty, and one I was willing to accept. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh.

But back to you. I appreciate that you are kind to my kids. I appreciate that you do things with them. But there are a few things I need you not to do. And I know it will be hard.

1) Don’t let him treat you like shit, then cry over him: Listen, I have a beautiful daughter.  I know how he talks to you, because I was you. Please don’t let him speak to you like that in front of her. And if he does – don’t pine over him.  I’d never want her to believe that was normal. I’d also never want my son to think it’s acceptable.

2) Don’t try to “fix” him” You can’t. Trust me, honey – I was there 15 years before you. It’s nothing you did and it’s nothing you can do. Please don’t let my kids see you wage that losing war.

3) Don’t make yourself small It’s what you’ll want to do. It’s less risky. Listen, I get it. I know how resentful he gets with any step you take. I know it’s safer to stay small, and unsuccessful – or at least less successful than him – but it’s a terrible example, tragic, even.

So happy wedding day, Mrs. And despite my tough girl words, truth be told, I haven’t entirely let go of my own guilt. Guilt for not sending you the screenshots of his dating profile when he was messaging my friends throughout your engagement. Guilt for only managing expectations with my daughter, and not with you, when you told her you were planning to get pregnant with my infertile ex’s baby. And most of all – MOST of all, for not warning you that he will break your spirit. And the verbal and emotional abuse coming your way creates bruises both deeper and more invisible than any physical wrath he could unfurl.

Mazeltov, right?