5 Things I Learned While I’ve Been Gone

It’s been a long month. I missed most of November, all of Thanksgiving, and the majority of my college kids’ visit home. But in the craziness that has become the norm for my life, I’ve learned a few things.

  • “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward. –—Steve Maraboli
  • “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.+ –Napoleon Hill
  • “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” – Mother Teresa
  • “Compassion brings us to a stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves.” — Mason Cooley
  • “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things which you think you cannot do.” –— Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m hoping to be back very soon to catch up on what’s been happening here in Blogging World.

-Kat

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From One Mama Bear to Another-

“You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.” -Elizabeth Taylor

Previously I wrote about “fierce mama bear” mode kicking into overdrive.

I’ve been running on fumes for awhile now. My thoughts are all jumbled and scattered. My sleep is not restful. When I finally quiet my mind and my heart, something sneaks in and starts it all up again.

Being the parent of adult kids is not easy! I’ve always said, “Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems” and I didn’t fully appreciate how big those problems could get when a child grew up and had adult problems.

And while I fight my own inner battle of wanting to counsel him, give him my opinion, (do something!!!!!), I am going to share some favorite quotes. I believe that there is a lesson in this experience for me and the message that keeps scrolling across the bottom of my mind is PATIENCE and LETTING GO.

  • “Anything you can’t control is teaching you to let go.” -Jackson Kiddard
  • “Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is “timing”; it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”    -Fulton J. Sheen
  • “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” -Leo Tolstoy
  • “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” -Dalai Lama
  • “Raising your child well is hard. But learning to let them go out into the world and prove that you did your job right is even tougher.”  – J. Craine

It feels like there are so many parents struggling along side their children right now. Regardless of how many parenting books, websites, videos are available, it all comes down to each of us doing the best that we can for our children. Every family, child, parent, situation and problem is unique and there is no easy button to push that will give us the proper solution. Sometimes we know instinctively what to do. Other times we are at a loss.

This post was prompted by an emotional conversation I had yesterday. Listening and hearing everything I was being told- those words that were spoken and even louder, the ones that weren’t, watching him pace back and forth with short agitated steps, the sound of his voice- so familiar to me and yet foreign with a tightness and emotion that gripped my heart, waves of stress just rolling off of him with his every movement- forced me to stop what I was planning on saying and sit down to quietly hear him out.

I realized that he did not need someone ready to jump into battle beside him or in his behalf.  And although my mind had been swirling with a million different thoughts just seconds earlier, I was surprised (and maybe just a little not surprised) at how quickly I was able to set those turbulent emotions and thoughts aside trying to figure out how to help him and how clear it was what he needed from me. He needed me to be there- calm and solid and there. And I believe that I was…. and I am.

fierce mama bear thereIf I’ve learned anything from being a mom (and I’ve learned more than just a little from this experience), it’s that there is no right and wrong- only trial and error. If, as you watch your children continue to blossom and grow, you feel a tiny bit of that change inside yourself, too, then maybe- JUST MAYBE you are on the right track…..at least for this time!

If you are one of the struggling mama bears, give your kids a hug and yourself a break!

-Kat

 

A Little Teapot

My dearest friend, Ivy, collected teapots. I didn’t know this until just about a year ago when she was preparing to pack up her house to move. The move was bittersweet because she was not only leaving the house where she had raised her child, but also her childhood home and neighborhood.

It was not her choice but she was moving into a smaller place. Therefore, she had to make the heartbreaking decision of what to keep and what to give or throw away. Her house held not only her own precious items but those of her parents, who had been gone for awhile.

Ivy was hurting, sad, in a dark, lonely place and I wanted to do everything and anything I could to help her. One thing Ivy was not- was weak. She was a fighter and she was tough and she did not ask for help. She had been this way since the first time I met her 14 years ago. And remains so today even after what has to have been one of the roughest years of her life.

Packing up a lifetime of memories and making those hard decisions that were forced on her were painful to watch. I wanted to take her pain away but I knew I couldn’t. Sometimes in life, people you love have to go through really trying times and you have to let them. It was difficult to keep it all in balance- the desire to help her with the realization that this was something she was going to have to handle on her own. Like I said, Ivy is tough, so just getting her to let me help was a major challenge. I did what I could and tried to be nearby in case she needed me. I hovered so closely that I’m sure I tried her patience.

Ivy tells me that I’m very complex and private, that there are many layers to me and I’m very particular who I let close. I think everyone is like that to some degree and at this time, Ivy, who lives out loud and whose emotions I can read a mile away, closed up shop and shut herself away. I understood.

She was at a turning point in her life. The biggest yet. And she was scared, hurt, worried, tired, angry, and more emotions than I could list. But as I watched her pack up her life and give away, donate or throw out possessions, I was concerned. She reached a point where she was getting rid of everything. I’m all for new beginnings and fresh starts but I feared she was going to regret this. I knew it. I offered to let her store things in my garage, which she turned down. Everything had to go. Even if she didn’t realize what she was doing, I did. She was punishing herself. See, Ivy blamed herself for arriving to this place. What she didn’t want to understand is that none of us lives in a vacuum and she hadn’t gotten there alone. But she was and remains very hard on herself. Ivy is the most loving, caring person I know. She would literally give a person the coat off her back, no questions asked. She is always thinking of others and she’s so outgoing that she has no problem making everyone around her feel her love with her words, looks and hugs. And she beats herself up, mercilessly at times.

And that’s when I found out that she had collected teapots. She asked me if I knew anyone who wanted them. She expressed sorrow that the collection had to go. I offered to store them until she confirmed that there was no place in her new home for them but she refused. She asked if my daughter-in-law might like them and if not, she was donating the lot to Goodwill.

I wasn’t sure how important these teapots were to her. (I had never seen her drink tea once in all the years I had known her.) But I knew that I had to take those teapots. She might want them back one day, even though she insisted she did not. (And maybe she will never want them back.) While she packed up her collection, she gifted me with her most special teapot and I placed it in my kitchen, where I think of her every time I see it. I also took possession of her collection and stored it in a safe place.

And then last week I was browsing around my local thrift store and I saw teapots on a shelf.

Ivy came to mind and I felt a familiar twinge of sadness at the sight of someone else’s teapot collection sprinkled throughout the shelves. There’s always a story behind the items on these shelves and I often wonder how they came to be there.

And then I saw it. It was hidden behind the bigger, flashier teapots. It was actually a sweet little white teapot. Not at all Ivy’s type. But then again, her favorite teapot that she gave me isn’t my type so I hope when I give it to her this Christmas that she will remember that.

She can categorize it as Christmas and pull it out once a year. She can store it in the corner of a cabinet. She can donate it. Or she can spray paint it some cool color, because I’m itching to do it myself before giving it to her. (Can you tell I discovered the many wonders of spray paint and want to paint just about everything?)

I hope she will accept this teapot for what it symbolizes. I hope she realizes how much I love her. How proud I am of her. How much I am in awe of her. I hope she knows that I wish her happiness and joy for the rest of her life and that I hope to be part of it-that I’ve hurt every step of the way along side her but there were times when she had to go it alone. I want her to know that even if it hurts, it’s okay to keep things from the past. Less is not always more. Sometimes that item represents something so much more.

She once said that if she decided to start collecting teapots again that she would start fresh. I don’t know if that is something she will ever do or if the teapots represent a part of her past, a part of who she no longer is.

I do know that life goes on and one day we will look at that teapot (or just talk about it) and remember this time when we were SO in this moment of our lives that we thought this is what it was going to be and we will realize that we had no clue. Just like we didn’t have a clue when we met all those years ago when our kids were so young.

I will do anything for Ivy and her child, and I know she will return the favor. I’m not pretty sure nor do I feel a false sense of security. We have been to hell and back together and I KNOW that we will always be friends.

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I hope she likes it!

Life is what happens…

I am trying to change the way I look at the world, my life, everything. After almost a year of having my son and his family under our roof, they have moved into their own new home. I am happy for them. And worried for them.

My life took an unexpected turn almost a year ago and I can’t help feeling like I lost something. But I received a precious gift and that was seeing the daily changes in baby Beej as he grew from infant to toddler. I will miss CJ’s endless chatter and perpetual motion that a 6 year old brings to a house. But boy will I relish the quiet!

My blog took a serious hit this past year and I felt it deeply and thought about it often. I had a difficult time completing any task, let alone a train of thought that was developing into a good post. In the silence of my house (before Andrew woke up), I’ve started this post 3 separate times.

I now have time to write…well, I have some time. That’s the thing about life.

You spend all this time- at least I feel like I did- thinking “when this happens….” or “after this…” and so much is going on while you are waiting.

As Michael moved his family and their belongings to their new house, we received news of two loved ones- one with a possible serious mental illness, the other with a cancer diagnosis. While my husband, kids and little guys are all safe and healthy, these two hits are close to home. I am sad that people we care about are suffering. I am concerned for both of them.

And I’m reminded how precious life is.

In the coming weeks I will be working on my blog and my new sanctuary. I will be spending time with the college kids before they leave. I will be re-connecting with family and friends.

I will be sure that the life I’m living while I’m “busy making other plans” is meaningful.

But boy, I’ll miss the lego guys who randomly appeared throughout my house, the hunt for the pacifier at nap/bed time and retrieving the remote from out of reach locations.

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Dear Children of Mine

You are at an age when you can be considered an adult. I remember those ages- 20-25. I remember feeling more like an impostor than anything else. I was working full-time, paying my own bills and on the verge of giving birth to my first child. All of those things could have qualified me for adult status. And yet they just didn’t. I was actually pregnant with my third child and 30 years old before I started feeling like a real grown up and not someone who was playing the part.

It’s not easy being in your 20’s. Especially when you are living with your parents, even temporarily (Michael) or seasonally (Andrew) or intermittently (Kris). You’ve all been out on your own and living your lives as independently as most of you can at this point. Then you come home and it’s like you never left.

It’s only natural for you to feel more like a child than an adult. And it’s only natural for you to blame me for it. That’s what children do. And that’s the sign that you aren’t quite an adult yet.

See, having 3 kids in 5 years meant that every time one of you was at a *certain* phase or age, we would pause……..and then the next one would enter said phase. Potty training. ABC’s. Tying your shoes. Riding a bike.

Your dad and I were new to parenting when we started this journey. I had some experience and what appeared to be some natural ability when it came to mothering. Dad was a newbie from start to finish but he is a quick learner so it was all good.

It wasn’t easy. You all had very distinct temperaments and personalities and required different handling. It was a balancing act to keep everything on an even keel while a few of you were rocking the boat. I lost my temper. A LOT. I feel really bad about the amount of yelling I did. It wasn’t fair to you and in recent years I’ve made a concentrated effort to reach out to you and talk about things, instead of reverting back to old, bad habits. Opening up is not easy for me. I’m a very private person, even with those I love.

I want you to know that I did the best that I could. I love you guys so much. I have always wanted the best for you and for you to be the best you can be. I love you as you are- imperfections and all- because in my eyes you will always be perfect. If I can only get through to you on one level- I would want it to be that I hope you know how much I love you.

Being your mother and raising you was the absolute greatest joy in my life. When asked what I’m most proud of- it’s you. It’s always you.

As you know from experience, that love comes at a price. I have always been fiercely protective of you. I will fight to the death for you. And when someone hurts you, I get crazy scary. My anger (which really can be terrifying, let’s be honest) comes from a place of such deep caring that it physically hurts me to see you in pain. I try to keep that in check, especially as you all are getting older. I truly feel that you are never too old to want your mom. And you are never too old to desperately wish someone would fight like that for you. Like it or not- I will always be that person to you.

As you have reached your 20’s, I’ve tried to back off and give you space to grow up. One day you will look at your own children and realize that it is easier said than done. When you fall these days, the cuts are much deeper and the stakes are much higher. Please know that I feel every scrape as if its my own. Your happiness means the world to me.

I am proud of the people you have become. You are loving, gentle, caring people. You are the best.

And as I come back around to the part where I tell you that I realize that living under my roof again makes you feel like a kid again….. well, in some ways you still are. The immature behavior that sparks up confirms it. I firmly believe that you are not completely an adult until you can act like one in the presence of your parents. 

Having said that, let me tell you that you are so very close. One or two of you might be closer than the other to taking that leap but you are all closer than you think. I’m watching it happen right before my eyes- my babies blossoming into adults and it’s amazing.

I am blessed to have you in my life. You bring me endless joy and happiness.

And I hope someday when you look back at your childhood, you can look past any tears or bruises and remember the love and the laughter and the joy we shared.

Love, Mom

 

 

 

 

It Isn’t Easy

When my middle child, Kris, still went by Kerri* I had a rambunctious, feisty, strong-willed little girl on my hands. I could always tell when she was preparing for a major step towards independence. She acted in a very specific way that is difficult, even to this day, for me to describe. I can only liken it to her holding onto my hand as tightly as she could, as if she was afraid if she loosened her grasp in the slightest she would lose contact with me instantaneously. Meanwhile, with her free hand she was pushing me away with all her might. 2004As a parent, it was hell to experience. I couldn’t help, I couldn’t hold on and I couldn’t let go. I had to just be there. And I always did my best to be sure that K knew that.

In 24 hours we will be taking Kris to college, setting him up in a campus apartment with a roommate he has never met.

He is 22 years old. This is the third time he is leaving us. Those two sentences should be telling me that a. he is old enough to do this and b. he has experience living without us…18 months to be exact.

Still, I’m worried. And this goes beyond your average “kid going to college” mom worry. You would think I would be used to this but I’m not. I’m not sure that I will ever stop worrying. K and mom

This first time Kris left was when he entered his freshman year of college. He had come out to us as transgender just weeks before. It was the worst nine months of our lives.

Time number two was last year when he was in the Disney College Program. Kris suffered major anxiety throughout our drive resulting in me panicking in a major way about my ability to leave him there. He landed on his feet….sort of.

And now, as the clock winds down and we find ourselves closer to that time when I will have to hug him and walk out the door, I can feel it happening yet again.

The tug on my hand, the pull on my heart. He will be okay. I know this. It doesn’t make it any easier.

January 2014

*When it comes to pronouns, it can be a tricky thing in the transgender world. Early in this journey, Kris and I discussed which pronouns he felt comfortable with us using when referring to him during his “Kerri” days. With some trial and error, we decided that using feminine pronouns when talking about Kerri felt like the best fit. Kris’s reasoning is that at the time that he was Kerri although he knew he felt more male, he was living his life as a girl.

Let Him Go and Let Him Be

As the miles melt away bringing us closer to our destination the only sounds to fill the packed SUV are the CDs chosen by Andrew. Since it is his road trip to college, it seems only fitting. Weird Al, with a Paul McCartney chaser, following Pearl Jam and the best of the Bond movie theme songs. An interesting blend but so like my youngest.

I struggle to find the right words. It seems as if I should be sharing some pearls of wisdom, tips for survival…… something….anything. And yet I can’t find anything to say. I have been peppering him with such nuggets on and off all week. I’m not sure if he’s even been listening although he does a great job of convincing me that he hears.

At dinner the night before we move him into his dorm, his father gives him “the speech” and it includes everything from “We’re proud of you” to “Don’t mess up!” Still I find myself speechless. Then he turns the tables on Andy and asks him what the best part of his life had been so far. That catches both Andrew and me off guard.

After joking around the topic, one of us mentions all the emotional trauma he suffered under our care. Once again, his father asks for examples. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Andy appears to think about it for a short time. Then he answers, “The time I was 13 and you made us watch Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Okay, I accept full responsibility for that one. It had been so many years since I had seen it. I guess I should have taken a closer look before sitting everyone down for a family movie night viewing. To this day, I’m not sure who was more traumatized- Andrew or his dad. Kris, by the way, loved it! I’m not sure if my oldest, Michael, was there.

But Andy isn’t finished. I’m almost afraid to hear how else I damaged this child but I’m also curious.

“Once when I was younger, we went to the museum and when we were looking in the gift shop I saw this small container filled with little colorful cars, trains and trucks. I think they were erasers, maybe. But you wouldn’t let me get them. I remember that we had to leave just like that and I was so mad. I really wanted them.”

I have no memory of this. “Was it me or Dad?” He didn’t remember. “How old were you?”

“Four or five.” So that was it. Andrew’s most traumatic childhood events.

After a long, sleepless night for me, it’s time to move Andy into his dorm room. Overall the day is quite uneventful. The school is beautiful. People are incredibly friendly and helpful. And being Andrew, he is stopped more than once by students who have met him at some point. He has a full week of orientation events and meetings to attend plus an unofficial midnight meeting of the trombone studio tonight.

Although it’s only 4pm, it feels like the longest day ever that just flew by in seconds. I’ve been swallowing down the panic, blinking back tears and pretty much shoving all the emotions down as deep as I can.

It’s much too soon. I haven’t gotten to tell him how much I love him. Or that I will miss him so very much. He doesn’t know how proud I am. I haven’t shared how happy I am for him. That I want him to enjoy this experience and take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow.

For days now when I look at him I, I can’t see the tall capable young man I front of me. All I see is that little boy who just wanted to be near me. These past two days I have focused on seeing the mature confident young man he has become.

So it’s time. My husband has whispered a few words of encouragement. I remember the text from Diane earlier today telling me I can do this and he will be fine. I look at John’s text, received a few minutes earlier when I texted, “I can do this, right?” And his response of “Let him go and let him be.”

I give Andrew a hug, whispering, “Love you!” When I ‘let go’ I start to walk, vowing not to look back but I can’t help myself.

When I glance over my shoulder, he’s looking at me and I see my little boy all over again. I try to smile and I think he tries to smile back.

I will be posting this now. I can’t proof it. I can’t look back at it right now. And if I don’t hit “publish” it will join the other drafts in limbo.

Nope, I’m listening to John. He is right. Just don’t tell him that. I’ll never hear the end of it!

The First of the Lasts (or Why did I think this was going to be easy?)

Andrew, my youngest son, is graduating from high school in less than three weeks. Okay, honestly, I never, not for one moment, thought this was going to be easy. I don’t adapt well to changes…..at all. An enormous part of my identity has been centered around being a mother. While I realize that I’m still a mother after graduation, so much of what I do has to do with my kids. It means I have put off figuring out who I am and what I want to do with my life for long enough. It’s also about endings. Being part of the school environment has played a major role in my life for 20 years now.

But that’s not what’s getting to me. I expected all of those little issues that I had buried deep inside me to come bubbling to the surface.

It’s Andrew. He committed to a college last night. As I’m charging the battery in preparation for tonight’s musical performance, it’s hitting me hard. I had my last booster meeting last night. This concert is one of the last times I will hear my son perform. And in less than 4 months, he will be away at school. The panic didn’t creep up on me. Nope. It came cascading like molten lava from the pit of my stomach, squeezing the air out of my lungs, not even pausing at it packs a wallop of a punch at my heart and comes to a screeching halt, arms and legs (if panic had arms and legs) flailing out of control as it tries to stop just at the back of my throat- this huge lump- a mass of hysteria threatening to spill over, tears are fighting a losing battle balanced on the rims of my eyes. My baby, complete with almost a foot of height over me, more facial hair than his brothers, a voice deeper than his brothers, is graduating.

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I love all of my children. I love them each differently because I have very different relationships with each of them. Of them all, my relationship with Andy has been the most consistent since birth. I have always had an invisible bond to him that didn’t exist with his brothers. I can still sense when Andy’s nearby in a crowd without turning. I feel his emotions as clear as if they were my own. When he’s upset, stressed, nervous, mad- I feel it. I’ve teased him for years that they never cut the cord.

Andy was the most miserable baby ever. He didn’t have colic. There was no medical reason. He was just the most extreme infant. The only cure for his unhappiness was me. Not just being near me- nope. He wanted to be held by me. At an early age he realized that I would tiptoe past him in an attempt to get something done so he kept a close eye out for movement to make sure it wasn’t me. Imagine this little guy- probably 4 months old- his head whipping this way and that at the slightest sound or movement to try to catch me. He was either extremely happy or extremely miserable or extremely mad. No middle ground.

Over time he separated from me some and he grew into a bright gifted little boy. He loved Thomas, Winnie the Pooh, Arthur, Blue’s Clues and his brothers. He displayed a talent for writing and music. I have spent the last 10 years attending his plays and concerts and I never fail to be amazed at him. He is a hard worker, a natural born comedian, a gentleman and the most loyal brother a guy could ask for. While his brothers were growing up and moving about their lives, Andy was always there. I guess I knew he would have to grow up too, but I think that somehow having him there helped me to let his brothers go.

So now I’m making sure his tux is as wrinkle free as possible and the camera is fully charged, I’m blinking back tears. When he plays tonight, it’s going to be hard to see the awesome young adult I’ve raised because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be remembering that contrary baby who wouldn’t leave my side and wondering where he went.

Life goes on. And this is a good thing. There are great things ahead for both Andy and me. I guess he won’t be the only one growing up.