Mom, I forgive you

Dear Mama,

We’ve worked a tremendous amount on our relationship over the years, and I am so proud of how far we’ve come. I used to dread Mother’s Day because it was a reminder of how awful things were between us. I’m glad it isn’t that way anymore.

While we’ve talked a lot and had many a heart-to-heart over the past year or two, and especially in the past few months, but there’s one thing I don’t think I’ve said in such plain language.

Mom, I forgive you.

I forgive you for all of the times you weren’t there. I forgive you for the birthdays passed without a call. I forgive you for the visits you missed. I forgive you for the times your actions and decisions made me feel unimportant and disposable. I forgive you for the times I needed you, but you didn’t have the slightest clue how to be there for me.

I forgive you for the times you would change your phone number and forget to tell me. I forgive you for the letters and packages that got lost in the mail. I forgive you for the hurtful things you’ve said.

I forgive you for all of the things you are still so angry about.

I know you’re still mad at yourself for a lot of things, but I need you to know that I’m not mad at you anymore. There is no anger for the way my childhood went. Yes, there were parts that were shitty. There are parts that I wish never happened. No one wants to have grown up primarily without their mother around for what (at the time) felt like her choice. I understand now a lot of the reasons that I didn’t understand before.

I know you were operating from a place of love and doing the best you had with the cards you were dealt. Maybe looking back you can see places you could have improved, but that’s just the nature of life.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

I forgive you so I need you to forgive yourself.

You are here now, and that is what is important.

Thank you for that. Thank you for turning things around. Thank you for forgiving me for my mistakes and letting me in.

Thank you for allowing me to watch the world break you. Not because I enjoyed seeing you hurt. Not in the slightest. Watching you struggle and be in pain has nearly destroyed me countless times. Thank you because watching you build yourself up into the strong, radiant, beautiful woman you are has had a profound impact on me. If you can come back from the things you have been through, then I know that I, too, will defeat the things that haunt me.

I’m proud of you.

You are an incredible example of strength. I hope to be even half as strong as you are, wonder woman.

Thank you for always being open and honest in showing me your flaws. Thank you for being quick to admit your wrong-doings –and even for occasionally admitting you’re terrible at admitting your faults because like me, you think you have to pretend you have it all figured out.

Thank you for calling me on my faults and for recognizing where they come from you.

Thank you for showing me that it is okay to screw up. The true test of character comes from how well you bring yourself back from your mistake.

Thank you for allowing me to learn from your mistakes but also understanding that I have to make my own, too.

I know all you ever wanted was for me to be better than you, and I’m sorry that in so many ways I am not. I know I’m reckless, overzealous, oversensitive and frequently very one-track-minded. You are quick to call me on that when it is getting in the way of what’s important, and I appreciate it.

But I never want to be a disappointment to you.

Thank you for knowing who I am and helping me to become the best version of myself rather than trying to make me into someone I’m not. Thank you for reading my writing and loving most of it, but also for not being afraid to tell me when it sucks. Thank you for encouraging all of my creative pursuits.

Thank you for all of the nurturing and mothering you’ve given the past few years. Thank you for being a steady presence in my life lately. It means more than any showy, over the top gesture ever could.

Thank you for being there when I took a sledgehammer to my life and sat lost among the wreckage of everything I thought I would be. Thank you for not being disappointed that I’d failed on such a grand scale. You were just there to help me see how to be rid of some pieces and fill in the gaps with new, better things.

Thank you for reminding me that I’m stronger than I think despite how broken and weak I feel.

Thank you for kicking me in the ass when I get too whiny and emotional and need to just get shit done. Even if I cry in a corner about it for a little while, I do appreciate you and your directness.

Most of all, thank you for loving Sophie. Thank you for being there for her. For doing her hair for school everyday, for making her lunches and doing crafts with her. Thank you for spending time with her in ways you didn’t, and couldn’t, with me.

I was worried it would hurt, but it has healed more than I ever thought possible.

I’m so grateful for the relationship and the love between the two of you. And for all of your help.

mama

I love you, mama. Our relationship hasn’t always been perfect, but I wouldn’t want anyone else as my mom.

Thank you for the laughs, for (sort of) dying my hair purple even when you had an allergic reaction. For car jam sessions, coffee dates and hugs. Thank you for passing down your love of music and writing. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for the qualities you’ve instilled in me: strength, creativity, enthusiasm for life and honesty. You’ve taught me to always stand on the side of the truth because the truth will set you free.

Thank you for teaching me to be self-reliant even if it has been the hardest lesson to learn.

Thank you for being a complete (adorable) dork, and for being just as cheesy and excitable as me. Thank you for giving me your smile and your big heart.

I love you much, mama. Happy mother’s day.

Love,

Sunshine

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Finding happiness in the dark

Yesterday was a magical day.

It was one of those days I never wanted to end, where you just soak up every moment. I played in the woods and enjoyed some time away from the craziness of Orlando and drank good beer with a pretty fantastic person.

You ever meet someone who just…gets you? Where it immediately feels like you’ve known them forever? It doesn’t happen often, but it’s pretty incredible when it does.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining and we walked and walked and talked and talked, and it was amazing. It was one of those days that proved this was the right move for me. I’m appreciating where I am and who is in my life and all the good things so much more now.

I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time. Remember when a few months ago I said there were good things coming, I could feel it? I was right.

But those are different stories for different times. They’re not ready to be committed to paper, I’m still enjoying having them in my brain to day dream about.

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Forests of ferns

Waking up this morning was awful.

I woke up to news of the attacks on Syria. I woke up to news of the attacks on Stockholm. I woke up to news of the shooting and murders that occurred outside of one of my favorite pubs in my hometown.

I woke up with a smile still on my face, but it quickly fell.

How can things be going so wonderful for me, yet so terribly for so many others? Why am I so lucky to be stressed about paying for summer camp for my daughter when there are people literally fleeing for their lives?

How can people be so downright shitty? There may be a more eloquent way to word that, but at this point I don’t care. Yesterday’s events are just plain shitty.

Emma put it best, I think. I hope she doesn’t mind my stealing her words, “How am I supposed to explain to my child someday that I’m scared to let her stay out late because she might get shot? How do I explain to her that people fucking bomb each other in the name of defense and loyalty to countries?”

I wanted to have all the answers. I wanted to pretend I knew exactly what to tell her, what to tell our daughters, and what to tell everyone else who is as confused as I am about why the world is the way it is.

I don’t, though.

Why am I writing this, then?

Mostly because it’s the only way I know to attempt to make sense of it. Maybe if I write enough about it, I’ll understand. Or at least come to a place where I accept that I’ll never understand.

Sophie was so excited when I came home from work today. Her face lit up, “mommy! mommy!” she yelled. “How day?”

How am I supposed to tell her anything but good? One day her questions when I come home will be much more complicated then how my day was.

One day I’ll have to tell her that people suck.

I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those parents who can just brush stuff under the rug. I’ll always want to answer her questions.

But there are some I just can’t because I don’t have the answers myself.

My heart is heavy. I feel everything too deeply, and I know that. I’m not one of those people who can separate myself from the terrors of this world. Especially when terrible things happen right in my own back yard.

I just want to always feel the way I did yesterday.

Happy. Free. Beautiful. Excited. Relaxed.

But those feelings become replaced with such anxiety, sadness, anger, hurt and confusion when things like this happen.

I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to other people? How do people feel like it is their right to just take away someone else’s life?

How is there so much anger and hatred in this world? It breaks my heart.

Maybe I’m far too idealistic in my wish for people to just get along and be happy. I always strive to see the good in people no matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been. I look for the best in everyone I meet and have a hard time accepting that some people do shitty things just because they can.

I’m naive, and there are some people who try to make me see the darker sides of things, who try to make me be “realistic.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever be a realist.

I can see the slight pity in people’s faces when I start going off on a tangent filled with child-like excitement about something going on in my life. Things don’t always work out the way I want them to, but I haven’t let any of it break me yet.

I’ve been to hell and back so many times they should give me a VIP parking spot, or at least pay my tolls. My point is that, I’ve seen some shit. I’ve been some dark and twisty places, to quote Meredith Grey. I’ve crashed, burned, fallen flat on my face and failed more times than I can count, especially over this past year or two, but none of it has broken me the way some people must be to do the horrific things they do.

None of it has made me lose hope in the world. It’s fading, sure. I’m afraid for the future. I’m afraid for my daughter. I’m afraid for the battles that are coming. I’m afraid to lose the light in my eyes because this world is just so dark.

I don’t know what to do with all of this. I have such a small place in this world, but I want to make my place count. I guess I also just have this terrible need to save everyone and take care of everyone.

I can’t, but sometimes I wish people could see things the way I do. I wish they could see that the shitty stuff isn’t forever. That yes, it’s shitty, it hurts, it sucks. I fully believe in people wallowing in their hurt and dealing with it and even letting consume them for a little while.

But don’t let your hurt cause you to treat others like they don’t matter. They do.

The consequences of your actions might not go away, but the hurt goes away.

It always goes away.

Then you have beautiful days where the sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the sky and you walk through the woods and admire the ferns and hope the rustling sound behind you wasn’t a snake with someone who makes you feel alive and beautiful and happy.

Somehow, some way, we will all be okay. All we can really do is keep trying to find happiness in even the darkest of times. What’s that Dumbledore said? We just have to remember to turn on the light.

And sometimes we have to be the light.

Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?

Shine

For years I knew I wanted to be a writer. I took all the advanced English classes I could in high school. I was rarely seen without a book or journal in my bag, frequently both. I was the girl who would get called out for reading a book not for class in the middle of class because it was just that good.

I majored in English in college and took numerous creative writing classes with some really awesome professors. I was an editor for the school news paper. My class notes were half bits of poems or stories half notes.

Somewhere between junior year and graduation, I became disenchanted. I thought “I’m not cut out for this.” The stresses of Chris’s military career getting kicked off and all of the changes our family was facing got to me and rather than write through it all, I abandoned what I had once loved so much. I lost my dedication. Somewhere in there I lost my faith in myself to be able to do anything other than to play my role of wife and mom and figure myself out later.

Later, later, later.

The past six months have been about “later.” First it was “when we get to Virginia.” Then, “Once Sophie remembers how to nap again.” Then, “Once we get settled in Germany.”

Now became changing diapers, going for walks and dreaming about this “later” that seemed would never come. This “later” that just kept getting pushed, you guessed it, later and later. Now became sad. Now became feeling like everything I did was for everyone else. It felt like any time I was given to myself was wasted because I wasn’t working toward anything. I wasn’t concerned with a career or a financial contribution, just something. Something that would make me a better person, a better mom, a better wife and make my soul shine. Something that could make me feel like I accomplished something.

Motherhood is demanding and oh so rewarding, but it’s often impossible to see the effects of your love and nurturing when your child is refusing to nap, pulling your hair and eating the dog’s food AGAIN. I can’t see how Sophie is better because I built a block tower she got to knock over or that I submitted to another hour of being the “mama gym.”

I needed something for myself that wouldn’t interfere with my important job of full time mommy. It took me a while to be okay with that. It took me a while to be okay with the fact that I’m not the type of mother who can be all diapers and bottles and sensory play activities all the time. I’m not super mom. I’m not a picture perfect stay at home mom, no matter what my social media accounts will lead you to believe.

That was never anything that I thought I expected of myself. I always said I wouldn’t be that, that I wasn’t cut out for it the way some women are. I always said that I was OK with that, but deep down I don’t think I was. I think I wanted to be the kind of mom who only needs her kids, but there’s been this energy stirring inside of me that I’ve felt like I need to get out.

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So I started writing again.

By started writing again, I mean I started a new journal on the 2nd, it is now the 13th  and that journal is almost full.

By started writing again, I mean that I put some hard revising work into some old poems to the point that I felt like they were worthy of being submitted to the Asheville Poetry Review for their William Matthews Poetry Prize. The first contest I’ve ever entered, despite the fact that I have filled many a page of an old journal with contest deadlines and goals I wanted to meet. The pages yellowed and the journals got boxed up. The deadlines came and went.

I never saw myself as worthy. I was so petrified of failing that I didn’t even try. I didn’t think I could take the inevitable rejection letter.

It’s not that I somehow think I’m such a better writer than I was a year or two ago, although I’d like to think I’ve improved with time. It’s not that I’m so sure I’m going to win that failure it isn’t even a thought that occupies any space in my mind.

I probably won’t win. I’ll probably lose, but I’m not afraid of that anymore. If I get a rejection letter or an email, I’m gonna go out and buy a frame for it. Maybe I’ll hang it on the fridge with a gold star sticker. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor because it isn’t about the poems. It isn’t about being the best or winning a contest. I still don’t know if writing is what I want to do for a career, or if I’d ever be successful enough to call myself a writer or make a career out of it.

It isn’t about any of those things.

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For me, the image of that priority envelope I carefully placed my poems in means that I tried. That I took a chance on myself. That I beat self doubt and believed in myself. That I finally see myself as worthy.

Sure, it’s just one contest of surely many more to come (I hope). But for me, it’s bigger than that. You might think me silly, but this is my first step. This is my step toward healing, toward building something for myself. To believing in my words and my craft and believing that I have something to say that someone might want to hear. That might spark something in someone the way that so many other people’s words and art have sparked something in me.

After I sent my poems off, I headed to Books a Million to pick up the new copy of Poets and Writers. They always have a great list of upcoming contest deadlines, and I wanted more options. I was honestly on some sort of euphoria, halfway between tears and grinning so hard my face could’ve split open. Anyways, I was reading the editor’s letter and he said something that I loved.

Whether thousands, hundreds or dozens of people might read what we’ve written, or even if we reach just one single soul, we are being given an opportunity to create something bright in all this darkness. Shine.

So if you are reading this, thank you. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, thank you. If you’re my grandma, thank you. You may not get your novel, but you might get a book of poems, I hope that will suffice.

I’m choosing to shine. I’m choosing to do something for myself because I finally, finally think I’m worthy.

I hope you do the same. I hope you, beautiful reader, decide to shine.

Stranger doesn’t always mean danger

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we are all interconnected in this world. That there are so many ways we are all connected but instead of allowing ourselves to feel connected we often block ourselves off from the rest of the world with phrases like, “ugh, I hate people,” or “people suck.” I find myself there, too. I’m often dismayed by things I see in the news and wonder if there is any hope for humanity left. However, I got to thinking that some of the things that make my heart soar the most to read are stories about the kindness of strangers. I often see people posting articles like this on social media with the caption, “there is hope for humanity!”

I agree, but I think people fail to realize that we can be that hope. We are strangers, and we can help and do good.

For years Chris has given me a hard time about my inability to talk to people. If I can’t find something in a store, I’ve been more likely to walk out empty handed than ask an associate for help. I hate calling places, I hate customer service and I would never, ever be the person to randomly make a friend in a bar. That’s all Chris. He’s the social one, the go-getter of our coupling while I am just along for the ride hoping none of the strangers we end up bar hopping with are putting anything in my drink. But also, I’m enjoying myself.

Over the past few months, I’ve started trying to get out of my shell more. I think moving to a new town will do that to you. We’ve started on what I like to call our “big Army adventure,” and there are plenty of moves coming up that are going to require me to actually open my mouth and hope to God words that sort of make sense come out. Maybe I’ll just tell people I’m mute and carry around a notepad. I seem to make coherent sentences better via writing than anything else.

Anyways, I think my “oh crap I have to actually talk to strangers”epiphany happened a while ago, while I was still working at Camp Bow Wow. Even though we are lucky enough there to work with dogs who are generally much kinder than people, those dogs do come with owners. Someone had to pay the bill, right? Sure, you could hide out in the yards, but you can only scoop so much poop before you end up at the front of the house with a customer who has a million and one questions. I had to answer phones and make cute small talk with people to make them feel comfortable. While petrified at first, I soon came to enjoy it.

Since then, I’ve been  finding myself making small talk with random women I meet who are also waiting for their cars to get serviced in Firestone (one even gave me a coupon! Smalltalk: 1, Social anxiety: 0). I’ve chatted with baristas, drive through attendants and most recently another mom at the playground.

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Look at her! Standing and driving the playground like she owns the place!

Seriously, if anything will force you to communicate with other strangers, it’s having a child. Everyone wants to comment how cute your baby is and ask you a million and one questions about their behavior –including why your 10 month old won’t say “hi,” to them. Because she can’t talk, that’s why. No reason to get your panties in a bunch.

Anyhow, this mom at the park. Sophie and I had been there playing with the playground to ourselves for a while when she comes up with her son who had to be about four and her four-month-old baby girl. Her son ran up first and started talking to Sophie and being an adorable four-year-old and all of that cuteness. By the time she managed to get the baby in the stroller and rolled up, her son, Sophie and I were already involved in an odd game of hide and seek that was more like him not knowing how on earth to play with a child her age.

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We take a lot of selfies at the park, it happens.

So obviously, she just immediately strikes up conversation with me. (I don’t know why that’s obvious, when I first saw them pull up my first thought was, well shit. I guess it’s their turn to play. Even though it’s an entire freaking playground. See, part of me hates socializing.) Anyways, she just starts talking to me about how her son loves to climb and is Sophie walking yet and nap schedules and her life with two kids and all of these things. Normally, I would get super offended by people prying so much into how I raise my kid because a high and mighty attitude tends to come with it, but there was none of that here. She viewed me as an equal, another mother playing with her child at the park on an unseasonably warm December day. As a young mom, I often feel like I’m not taken seriously or that I don’t know what I’m doing or I’m lesser or something.

Not with this lady. She just wanted to know how things were going. She opened up about how she took her son off his allergy meds too soon and she feels really dumb. We had an open and honest conversation, and I never even got her name. I found myself thinking, “wow, conversations like this don’t happen any more, this is nice.” Then later I realized, maybe conversations like this don’t happen anymore because we don’t let them happen. Because when someone else pulls up, we feel this desire to leave. Because we live in our own little bubbles and think that strangers should remain just that, strangers. We don’t take the opportunities we are presented with to talk to other people who could potentially be similar to us.

As I was walking back to my car, I considered going back and asking for her number, but I had no idea how to do that without being completely creepy. Instead, I’ll just be grateful for a nice memory talking to a stranger.

Sensory play: corn starch and water

My little one is now seven and a half months old. Seven and a half months. How on earth did that happen? Right around her seven month birthday, I had a little mommy freak out. She’s getting so big now, and so active. She’s in that stage where she isn’t quite a big kid anymore who can walk around and do things on her own, but she isn’t my little baby who just wants to lay around and eat and sleep anymore. It’s sad, but also exciting and you know what? Mildly terrifying.

I ended up spending about two hours on Pinterest looking up activities for seven months old and beyond. Turns out, my little one is capable of a lot more discovery than I thought. They grow so quickly my mommy mind can’t keep up! Sometimes I even think we should still be up every two hours (although I’m glad we aren’t!)

I decided we would try this cornstarch and water sensory play activity and boy oh boy was it fun (and messy!). We just mixed up some corn starch and water in a tin foil cake pan and let her have at it!

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She spent the first little bit staring at me like, mom, I’m bored. She didn’t realize the big bucket was for her to play with!

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Eventually she caught on and decided that the best thing to do with it was dump it all over herself –and the floor. It’s a good thing we didn’t decide to do this on the carpet.

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She couldn’t quite get a hold of a handful, but she did like making tiny hand prints in it, while chewing on a baby wipe of course. This activity was easy and occupied her for a good half an hour. We’ll definitely be doing it again and trying more sensory play activities in the future.

What are your favorite things to do with your little ones? I’d love to hear!

xoxo