Friday, November 19, 2010

The Rock

Someone that I know recently lumped me into a group of "unsuccessful" people.  "I am the only successful one," were the exact words used. 

I find this to be an interesting judgement.  Looking from one perspective, a sad and dark one, I guess you could say I have experienced some failures.  I had a failed marriage.  I was a stay-at-home mom (unless you count teaching ballet...doesn't really count, does it?).  I went back to work and started over in my mid-thirties. Financially it is not easy to raise three boys who are bottomless pits and have extracurricular interests, but I manage.  If these setbacks are evidence of failure, then I am a failure.  And that is fine with me.

By my definition, I am more successful than the person making this judgement will ever hope to be.  In the midst of hell, I managed to emerge from it with three well-adjusted children.  They are healthy and happy. They are smart and talented.  They are not without bumps and bruises, but I think that their trials will make them stonger, more empathetic men. 

I have a great family.  I have great friends.  I am never without someone with whom to talk or do things.  I am supported.  I have people I can and have called for help in a crisis and they are there without queston.

 I try to balance my children and my own life.  I spend time with my children and make time when I can for myself (an impossible balancing act with which every parent struggles).  I have worked hard on working my way back from a very dark time, and feel like I have found a place of happiness and fun. 

The others who were also relegated to this unfortunate group are like me...not without struggle or hardships in life, but able to make a life and be happy with what they have.  One is a working mom who, with her husband, supports her children.  She struggles with guilt over leaving them, but makes the best of it and is happy.  Another stays at home with her children but makes financial sacrifice to do so, and she is happy.  And on and on.

My definition of success is obviously very different from The Rock's (as in dumb as a...or cold as a...).  The Rock only judges success by financial achievement.  To me that is cold and heartless.  If The Rock would look a little closer, maybe the void of close relationships would be a glaring sign that that kind of success isn't really success at all. 

I don't underdsand people who chose to judge others as "less than."  That judgement in and of itself shows a lack of understanding of happiness.  The "take others down to build yourself up" mentality.  As with the ones who think I am going to hell (see previous blog post) I am in good company of others who are "unsuccessful." 

I will happily take their company and go on our merry way.  I chose not to be a rock, but a light and fluffy cloud floating happily through life.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Last night, Halloween, we went to the annual party at the Whitlocks.  They invite our Sunday School class and maybe a few others.  They make chili and everyone brings a side, and then about 45 people go trick-or-treating together.  Very fun. 

The thing that made it fun this year is that the Whitlocks are moving.  That's not the fun part...the fun part is that we are going to rent their house.  It has 4 bedrooms instead of three.  Luke thinks this is heaven.  He is the only one who has never had his own room and doesn't let me forget it.  It has a pool.  We all think that is heaven.  It is better than the house we are in now in every way.

It is a little more than we pay now, so I told the boys to be more frugal in the things that they ask for and in eating out.  We can do it, I know.  But I have noticed the the last few years of struggle, that I suddenly worry more.  It was very different having someone with whom to shoulder the burden of decision-making and worry.  Even if it was just an illusion.  And it was an illusion.  I try to remember that I was in it alone for all of those years, so now I don't have to ask an opinion, I just do it.  Still, sometimes the illusion was more comforting that nothing. 

Since I decided to make this move, I have these feelings that I don't deserve to have more and better.  I don't know why I feel that way.  Maybe it's because I have had to ask for help in the last few years.  I had to live with my parents when Joseph's seizures were still so active.  I work for my dad.  I do my job and bring in money, but I still wonder how I would do somewhere else.  I guess the bottom line is that my confidence is shaken.   It has taken time and tons of effort to get back to "normal" in the last five years.  I guess it will just take more time to feel like I really know what I am doing.

Whenever I feel like I am not where I would like to be, I apply the "Six Month Rule."  Am I better off than I was six months ago?  I think I am, and after Christmas, we can say that we are without a doubt!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am Going To Hell

I was told I was going to hell twice in the period of one week recently, maybe not in those exact words, but still, the meaning was clear. It is always funny to me when people think that they know this for a fact. I mean, if you want to tell me to "Go to hell!" because you are mad at me, then fine. But to think you have some knowledge of my ultimate destination? Huh. Well, my confidence in your influence over the Big Man is nil. Pretty sure he gets to decide that.

The first incident was over my Facebook status. I thought it was funny. I still think it was funny. Here it is: Just passed the poor guy from the Halloween store on the corner with his sign. He was being lectured by the other guy on the corner with his bible.

Most people commented about the humor of the situation, and I agree with one who thought it was a Saturday Night Live skit waiting to happen! Nothing funnier than a guy being trapped with someone telling him (I am assuming) that he is going to hell for his job or trying to save him from it.

I certainly was not trying to make any comment on religion or Halloween. There was no hidden agenda in my status. I just thought it was funny. The comment that offended, was the one girl who wrote, "Good, I hope he got saved." Oh Lord! She was in for it. Many other friends wrote comments laughing or joking. Apparently that did not go over well with her, because she made a few more comments about hoping he gets saved, the end is near, the bible is fulfilling its prophecy quicker than we think. When she wrote that we should remember that we are all influences over our children, I had to respond. I said, "I don't think that finding humor in the situation is negatively influencing my children."

At this point, I got a message to the inbox. She wound up inviting me to her church, I guess hoping to save me from my evil ways. She even mentioned something about me drinking. I guess I have a beer in some of my Facebook pictures. Uh-oh. Evidence. I wasn't even offended until the words, "I am not judging you, but...." I have a BIG problem with that particular phrase. If you have to state something followed by "but," you usually don't mean the first part of the sentence. I'm not judging you but, I love you but, I'm not mad but, you see how it goes.

Many other friends commented that they must be going to hell as well since their churches offered Trick or Trunk parties. It was pretty brutal if you were the girl rushing to judgment.

The second incident was related to online dating. I got caught. Ugh! I was actually caught by one of my dates. It was my fault, I admit. As my sister told me later, "When you are in the 'he seems normal' phase, do not tell him about the blog. Lesson learned. And learned good.

The poor guy was hurt and mad. I can't really blame him. The blog isn't really meant for the dates to read about themselves. I had a little crisis of conscience about it. But the more I thought about it, he made the effort to look it up and find his entry. There is nothing I can do about that. And the dude really needs a sense of perspective about problems in life. After all, you don't get to cry to a first date about losing the tip of your picky finger (see the blog for the full story:

At any rate, I wrote about this date and my opinion that there are a lot of problems in life, and he needed to understand that he didn't have it so bad. He responded. He responded for three pages. I kind of think he proved my point that he doesn't have a great perspective on life. In his three pages, though, he used phrases like, "You call yourself a Christian?" And said something along the lines of "What would Jesus do?"

So here is what I think some people are missing: the idea that sometimes people just say or write things to be funny. I wrote the status on Facebook for the sole purpose of humor. It turned into a big drama because someone didn't understand that there was no motive, no statement, no nothing...just a mere observation. Getting caught by a date was unfortunate, but still, I write the blog to vent some frustration about some of my wackier dates. Mostly I write it in a style intended to be funny. If I wrote a straight story about these dates, it would just be sad. I am making a statement about online dating in general, but I really am dating to meet someone at some point. In the mean time, I try to keep a sense of humor. And let me tell you, that can be hard!

Yesterday I posted a humorous political blog on Facebook written by two women, and one of my friends commented that she found it offensive. She wrote her comment with no ill will and with good humor. We and a third friend got into a comment frenzy, but it was all with humor and levity. You can disagree with someone and still not think they are going to hell. It is about being respectful of others and keeping a good sense of humor. And not taking things so personally. Sometimes things are just funny. So thanks girls, and you know who you are.

By the way, the facebook-you-are-going-to-hell girl deleted me, and the date has yet to respond to my response. I am fine with that!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last Year's Letter to School Superintendent

Just wanted to get this off of Facebook. I wrote this last year in response to the school district's decision not to show the presidential address to schools. The schools ended up making the address available to the teachers to show in the classrooms. I feel like not much had changed in the past year with regard to people listening to each other instead of attacking each other. Maybe one day...

Letter to the Malcom Thomas, Superintendent of Schools
By Elizabeth Green Denham

Dear Mr. Thomas,

I am very disappointed in your decision to disallow the showing of the Presidential address in our schools. I have three children in public school. I am a big believer in public education. Decisions like yours cause me inordinate distress because I believe that you are teaching them all of the wrong lessons.

I am raising my children to be be informed, to be open minded, to be tolerant of everyone alike or different, to question authority without disrespecting it. I am teaching them that they have the power to become informed and educated and by listening to others, make decisions on their own. Your decision goes against every single one of my goals.

Narrow mindedness is bred by ignorance. By not allowing them access to our government, you are reinforcing ignorance that limits students' abilities to form their own opinions.

Open- mindedness is taught by exposing children to different people, cultures, and viewpoints. By not allowing them access to our government, you are reinforcing the idea that it is not okay to be different from each other.

Tolerance is taught by example. By disallowing children access to our government, you are teaching them to turn their backs on those who are or believe differently, rather than encouraging open and respectful discussion.

Our country was founded by our questioning of an authority with which we disagreed. By disallowing our children access to our government, you are teaching them to disrespect authority instead of giving them the tools to question or change their futures.

Providing children information from every perspective gives them the belief and the tools to change their futures and impact the world. By disallowing them access to our government, you are teaching them that they have no power to make their own decisions or to change their futures.

I expect the public school system to have the goals that I have listed above to produce educated, informed, tolerant, open-minded and powerful students. I would like them armed with knowledge as they go through school and go out into the world.

Many presidents have made addresses to children in schools, and most of the time it has been used as a learning tool. I believe that you do not have the right to deny my children the experiencing of history.

It does not matter who you voted for or what your political affiliation is, children and the administration should respect the office of President, even if you do not respect the man or the ideology.

We live in an area with a great deal of diversity and however you believe, it is important for all children to know that anything is possible and barriers of all kinds can be conquered. Our president is an historical figure by sheer virtue of the fact that he is our first African-American president. Maybe if we all pulled together for the greater good, he could actually accomplish something.

Monday, September 20, 2010

28 Days

28 days. And counting. That will be October 18, the day Joseph turns eight. I really want that day to get here. I am not rational about it. I know it makes no sense. I know everything about him is different. It doesn't seem to matter. Hurry up so I can get rid of this stray thought in the back of my head. Just turn eight.

Two years ago my nephew did not turn eight. At the age of seven, Ben died of a seizure. I still can't believe he isn't here. Ben was my nephew by marriage, Joseph's cousin by blood. Since I have been divorced, I haven't seen any of the in-laws. This has been more than five years. It didn't make it any easier.

When it happened, I immediately researched SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). And then I re-read the book my neurologist have given me. It was not in the book. No one told me this was something to worry about. At Joseph's next appointment, I said, "This is not in the book."

It turns out that the chances of this happening are less than the chances of being struck by lightening. Ben had a more difficult time with seizures than Joseph. His medical care was different and his presentation was different. Joseph has had a relatively easy time getting controlled. This is all very comforting, on a conscious level.

On the subconscious level, I just want him to turn eight now.

His seizures are not something that limit him. He hasn't had one in 2 1/2 years. It is in the back of my mind on a regular basis. Every morning and night he takes a pill. I have to tell the parents of any new friends that he plays with or a new babysitter.

And sometimes there are things...things like the little tremors that go along with it. In kindergarten he had trouble tying his shoes. He knew how, but his hands shake more in the mornings and he was slow at it. His teacher told him that after Christmas, he couldn't get help anymore. He would have to do it himself. He panicked. A couple of weeks ago, he was taking pictures with a camera. He took forever to aim, and I said, "Hurry up! What is taking you so long!"

He said, "Well, it's hard to aim when your hands are shaking all of the time!"

Ugh. I suck.

He is a brave kid. He was brave at age two in the hospital. He is brave getting blood drawn. He is confident and funny and sweet.

Now just hurry up and turn eight.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

She Should Be Granite, Too

I went to have my hair done this morning. My friend, Lana, does my hair and she had booked a woman and me a few minutes apart to let our color sit. Lana was a bit behind, so the three of us began talking. First about nothing, really. But somehow before we knew it, we were talking about everything.

We talked about my divorce, and I don't usually get into that kind of detail with a stranger. We talked about loss and fear. We talked about worry and perspective after the struggle and we laughed about my dating life (who wouldn't?)

I think sometimes you meet people to give you perspective on your own life. If anyone should be granite, this woman should. She had four children. Her third child was killed in a car accident at 15. As a parent, no one can ever imagine how you could get through the death of a child. She began talking about how she didn't want to live. It was like she was trying to will herself to die. She couldn't get out of bed, took medication to get through the day. She didn't want to get through the next minute, much less the rest of her life.

She said her older two children were in college. They stayed home for a semester after the accident and returned to school. The youngest boy was 11. Finally, her husband came to her bed with their son. He asked her if she wanted to live and she said, no. He said that if she made that choice, she should move over, because this child could not lose his sister and his mother.

Beginning that day, she got out of bed and went through the motions. She faked it until she made it. And she survived and lived. She even went back to work. It took 4 years, but she went back to work.

I can not relate to losing a child. I can relate to the fear of losing a child. As she said you have learned fear. I have learned the reality of that fear.

The interesting thing that tied us together, I think was that we had both experienced extreme difficulties in different ways, and our perspectives had been forever changed. I asked her if she found it difficult not to say, "You need to get a bigger problem," to people who complained over trivia. She answered an emphatic, "Yes!" We have both learned to keep our mouths shut at these times. And I told her I try to think that not everyone has the same strength to get through adversity and that unhappiness is not a small thing no matter how people arrive at it.

You wouldn't think in the midst of this conversation that we would laugh, but most of the time were were laughing. The moments of silence felt profound, but in between was laughter. We laughed at a story she told of her husband's cancer (see what I mean, granite) and how he went to the ER and they got hysterical over something not funny at all, probably to keep from crying. We laughed about my date who cried in his beer over the loss of a pinky finger (get a bigger problem, right?).

We were two apparently different people. She is in her 60s. I am almost 40. Her children are grown. Mine are young. She is married. I am not. But we had worlds of experiences that brought us together and I am be glad for the 3-hour, running-behind hair appointment. I hope we do it again soon.

The Gift of the Struggle

I get the phrase. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I believe it. But I am to the point where if I get any stronger, I should be granite. Divorce, sick child, moving twice in 2 years with 3 small children, maintaining sanity post-divorce, maintaining sanity of children post-divorce... I mean, how strong does a person really need to be? Apparently I needed some work. And now, I am feeling like the lesson is learned and I'm good. So stop trying to kill me!

One thing I have learned in the last few years, is that there is a gift in the struggle. I have heard people talk about being able to appreciate the lows so that you recognize the highs and all of the other ways to say a variation of the same theme. I agree with that. At times I have felt like I have had my share of the lows, and I am ready for some highs.

But when I stop to think about it, my highs are the lessons and results that have come from the struggle. My boys are Jake, 12; Luke, 10 and Joseph, almost 8. My children and I have become closer because of our mutual struggle. No divorce is easy, but some are particularly revolting. I had a particularly revolting one. The thing I think I am good at is communicating with my boys and telling them what they need to know at each one's own level. I talk a lot. About how to look at life, personal responsibility, choices we make, etc. We are all very aware of each person's feelings and personalities. I don't know if we would have had the same need for closeness without the struggle.

My youngest has seizure disorder. We are lucky that he is well-controlled and healthy. But because of this diagnosis, my family has learned to live in fear. He can go years without an issue at all, but it is always there. You never have the same comfort level again. And it affects us all, not just me. My whole family watched him from the beginning. We are all afraid.

However, there is a lesson in this struggle. We are all able to feel empathy and stick together to keep him healthy. My older boys will come home from school if Joseph has been sick and the first thing they say is, "How's Joseph?" If they are sick, they tell him to stay away to keep him from getting it. We all get mad if someone exposes us to illness.

I used to write in a journal. Regularly. And then when my marriage fell apart, and my husband read every journal I had ever written in, I stopped. And I tore them up. Of all of the things that he had done to me, that was one of the most violating. I have tried to pick it up again in the last 6 years, but I just can't do it, so I am going to write here. Less personal, but I have things to write about that just don't fit into my dating one or my children's one. So here we go!

I will tell you next about the most interesting day today at the hair salon. You never know where you will meet someone who affects you with one conversation.