Heaven holds a sense of wonder….

Thoughtful Thursdays: Gender and sibling rivalry.


{February 5, 2012}   Apples!

In our house, we have code words to remind us all to be mindful of our behavior towards one another. The kids, deciding that I have a hard time keeping my sentences short, designated mine, “Apples!” Whenever I hear this word, I am supposed to stop and think about what I really want to say, and find a more concise way to express myself.

It’s been good, really.

In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I find myself uttering the word to myself. 

Case in point: Last night, I sat down to blog about how I got here-  “here” referring to the approach I take to childhood, mothering, and teaching.  As it turned out, I realized an hour into typing I was actually writing an analysis of my imperfections.  To humble myself before you, dear readers, I set out to prove how intimidating I’m really not, and how human I really am.

An hour’s worth of typing.  Ok.  APPLES!

Here’s the short version:  I am no more perfect than anyone else out there. I could outline my myriad flaws, but I suspect they’ll make themselves evident on their own in time. Besides, it’s such a negative way to write, no matter how much of a humorous spin I put on it.  So just trust me, dear readers: I am no supermom.  I’m simply human.

My journey started when I was a kiddo myself.  For the sake of sanity, brevity, and joyful reading, I will wait until relevance renders those snippets necessary. That will shave about twenty years right there.

Honestly, to answer the question, “How did I get here,” it makes the most sense to know a little bit about my children. I could wax on about them a while, too, so they’ll each get their own blog posts soon.  To summarize, though, it became very apparent from the start that they were not little blobs of clay for me to mold.  No blank slates.  Nor could I control them.  There were too many outside factors, from health issues, to sensory concerns, to the plain and simple reality of life.  I had two choices: make it easy, or make it hard.  I chose to make it easy.

Now, don’t let me mislead you.  Getting down on the same level as a screaming, flailing child is not the easiest thing to do in that moment.  Especially not in a public place with all those eyes watching, judging. In the long run, however, everything becomes so much simpler.  The foundation for open and effective communication and trust is laid.  Power struggles dissolve.  Hard questions seem to answer themselves-  not that this makes them much easier.

People have said to me that I seem to speak the language of children, that I “get” them in ways that others don’t.   Maybe that’s true, but I don’t let it go to my head.  After all, I didn’t have a whole lot of choice.  Once I birthed my children, I realized there wasn’t room for my ego to coexist peacefully.  You know, that part of the psyche that shouts from atop the swingset, “Look at me, no, LOOK AT ME!”

To be perfectly clear-  I have not given up my sense of self.  My kids need to see me with an identity separate from their own.  I have given up the attachment to my ego, to making it about me.

Or sort of.  I am only human, after all.

But once I had children, what I wanted became less of a priority.  And even as it did, it morphed from self-centered to whole-centered.  I became more aware of the interconnectedness of all things, the inherent spirituality of life and the universe.  Mutual respect and love and peace and all manner of hippie thoughts preoccupied me now. 

It naturally followed that when my kids used whatever means they had available to communicate, I would listen, no matter how unacceptable their methods might seem.  I simply had to also teach them how to share their minds appropriately.

After all, we’re not born 30.  How could I expect them to already exhibit the skills that I’ve only just begun to master?

Oh, my.  Here I go, getting wordy again!


{December 29, 2010}   Oh, for want of a map.

I had this dream about a year ago that I was being chased by “bad guys”, and I was running all over the place with my kids in tow, trying to keep them safe. I didn’t know who the “bad guys” were or what they wanted, just that I had to keep my kids safe. Finally, I found a building made of brick, a “safe house”, and I explained to the kids that I loved them very much, and one day I would come back for them, but I didn’t know when. I told them if they stayed with me, they wouldn’t be safe. My then-4-year-old son nodded his head sagely, and escorted his sister inside, giving me one last look over his shoulder before they disappeared to the other side of that door. I sat in my car and cried.

That’s the kind of dream that stays with and haunts a mom for a lifetime.

But it’s true – if it would keep my kids safe, I would give up everything to protect them – even my children themselves. I would give them a safe place to stay and content myself with loving them from afar until the danger was over.

Their father does not see it that way.

Regardless of what jeopardy he may be placing them in, he wants a relationship with his kids no matter what, and he wants it on his terms. He wants to bike the kids a mile and a half in 25 degree weather with a 15 mph wind – and on a bike at 30mph, or even 20mph, that translates to a wind chill factor at below-zero. He’s homeless, and he wants to force me to get his consent regarding education and health for the kids. He failed to get the kids’ health insurance, and B.R. missed a week of school because his dad never scheduled that physical he was supposed to earlier this year.

I get it, people make mistakes, they get hit by hard times. But through all of this, he’s never shown that he’s thinking of the kids first. He’s thinking of himself – and his “relationship” with the kids. The relationship is secondary to the kids’ needs. It grows out of tending to their needs. Babies learn love after an association with feeding has been made. It doesn’t get any more fundamental than that!

After this week, I will have the kids in my home full-time because their dad is homeless. He would like to spend more time with them than just the one day a week I’m currently offering – but I can’t just let him take the kids anywhere, and I can’t have him in my house all the time. We need boundaries. He’s a manipulative, button-pushing guy.

I’ve tried giving him a little bit to work with. But that little inch seems to entitle him to go for a mile. I’m tired of doing all the work to see to it that the kids are well-adjusted and loved in relation to him. I want him to step up and prove himself.

Our court date is at the end of January. I had hoped to work out an arrangement with him out of court, but it seems as though that’s not going to happen – not unless I agree to his terms. He seems to think I’m asking him to give up his parental rights – all I want is for him to think of what the kids need. But he can’t even tend to his own needs, so what am I thinking?

I am so scared. Pickle and I have gotten by ok with having the kids half time, and we want to have the kids full time because it’s a better environment for them here, and hell, we love them. But it’s going to be a big change, especially for Pickle. She’s not a parent – she’s on her way to becoming a step-parent. She’s invested in these kids, but, still, they’re not hers. I can’t expect her to feel as though they are all the time.

I’m essentially going to be a single mom with a little bit of backup.

We haven’t talked about this yet, Pickle and I. We made an “appointment” to talk about it Friday after I get off work – because it needs to be discussed. I have to know where her limits are.

I’m not even thinking as I’m writing this. I’m just nervous and scared. And spitting words out that probably just barely make sense.

I feel like I’m traveling uncharted territory, here.

She’s disgusted by me.

I had sex with him. Before she ever came along, I thought so poorly of myself, I thought he was worthy of my devotion. And even after I slowly started coming to the realization that he wasn’t, I still procreated with him willingly, created offspring with him.

If you can call having to be drunk to do such a thing “willing”.

I made my choices a long time ago. I will continue to see how those choices’ effect unfolds throughout the rest of my life. I have no option but to accept that, and content myself with what is.

I thought one of those choices was my life partner. I thought that in choosing her – dedicating myself to her in tempest and tame waters – I was honoring myself. She is a goddess to me – not superior to me, but holy, sacred.

She reaches into the depths to dredge out the toxic sludge that’s been rotting away inside for years. In doing so, she enables me to feel the power of liberation – I am free to experience anger and sadness, indignance, pride. In experiencing these powerful emotions, I let them go, and when I do, the bliss settles in. The joy that I have lived, I have survived and triumphed. I have come so far.

Even when it seems I have such a long, long way to go.

She tears me down, but to give me the opportunity to build myself back up again. She guts the foundation and helps me lay the stone and cement. The materials are mine, the tools are mine, even the labor is mine – but I’m not doing it alone.

I can’t wonder if that’s what she’s doing right now.

When she says she’s thinking of walking away because she can’t deal with him anymore. Because looking at me makes her want to vomit, and no one should ever feel that way about the one they love.

Am I strong enough to build myself back up again without her? Do I have that kind of endurance? Surely, I must be. I have to be. I’m only given what I can take, right?

Oh, but I already feel I’m at the end of my rope with everything else in my life.

So does she. Money problems have been ridiculous. Problems with my ex have been outrageous. Everyone’s paying for it.

She compares it to being stuck in a Chinese finger trap. Those woven bamboo dealys that you put your fingers into, and when you try to pull them out, they tighten? But once you relax and release the pressure, your fingers just slip right out of them.

How do we release the pressure?

He’s not going anywhere, my ex. He’s a constant reminder to her of my past. When she thinks of how little regard I held myself in when I was with him, she thinks, “What’s wrong with me? How bad am I?” She questions my standards and it reflects in her self-image.

What she and I have, I’ve never had with anyone else. When we’re intimate, I’m a different person than I have ever been with anyone.

I am completely comfortable with her. I can be myself. I don’t have to fill a role, pretend to be what I’m not. I don’t have to close my eyes and “go somewhere else.” I savor every last part of the experiences I share with her, I look into her eyes – something I’ve never shared with anyone else. I feel like I’m reconnecting with myself when I connect with her.

I have patience with her that I’ve never had for anyone other than my own children. I have love for her that compares only to the love I have for my children. She is part of my family. She may not have made those babies with me, but she makes this family. She fits us all so perfectly, and we complement her. We bring out the best and the worst of each other, the light and the dark.

The words “soulmate”, “best friend,” “partner” … they’re all so vague and they miss the mark. To say she’s “my better half” or “a piece of myself” reflects images rife with codependent meaning. But I have yet to find the words to describe our relationship with one another.

She’s the person I’ve been looking for my whole life, and I found her when I least expected to.

And now, she may walk away because my ex is unbearable, selfish, ill-mannered, and smells bad? Is it bad that I’ll forgive her ten times over for leaving me for her own peace of mind, but if she does, I’ll never be able to look him in the eye again?

How can one person have so much power over me, when I’m not the one giving it to him?

Or am I?

I am invested deeply in her, in our relationship. I’m still a whole person without her, though I’ve grown quite attached to her. I gave her a certain power over me – a shared power – and my happiness. If she walks away, she takes a portion of that with her. I gave it to her because I trusted her, I do trust her.

I know she’ll do what’s right for her, and I believe what’s right for her is what’s right for us.

I just have to have faith.

I need to believe.

Pickle and I have been in a tremendously rough spot lately.

She’s been my rock throughout the hardest part of the divorce – renegotiating the terms of my interactions with my ex, my kids’ father. She’s been so supportive through it all, and she’s watched the toxic games play out.

She’s done.

She’s had more than she can take. Now it’s time for me to put on my big girl panties and get ‘er done. I can do this – I can stop playing into his manipulation, I can think first of my children, my self, and my lover. I need to.

She’s felt for some time that I give him more love than I do her. I have allowed him to take up more of my energy than is appropriate. I’ve preoccupied myself with how to make him happy in order to win his cooperation with the objective of making the kids’ lives easier, better.

I don’t need to make him happy. I don’t live with him. He can have his feelings, and I can respect those feelings, but it’s not up to me to take responsibility for those feelings.

It’s not up to me to take responsibility for her feelings, either. Don’t get me wrong. But she is the one I live with, she is the one I love, and therefore, she is the one I have chosen to be deserving of my love and attention.

I should probably show her that, eh?

We have a little bit of a co-dependent streak going on. Wasn’t always like this. But somewhere along the line, our interdependency turned into something a little less healthy.

How to fix that?

I suggested a couple of days ago both of us sitting down and writing lists of our individual hopes, dreams, expectations, boundaries. She said, “Hell, no. I’ve told you, told you, I’m done telling you!”

“Sweetie, I’m not going to force this on you. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you, we can find a different way. But I need the visual. I need to put our two lists side by side – see where we match, where we don’t, where we can meet in the middle. I want to put it somewhere where, when we lose sight of our own objectives or the other’s, we – or least I – can refer to it for a reminder.”

Two days later, after some resistance and negotiating, we finally came to an agreement. She hates writing. So I will write her list for her – on my own. And she will check the list to correct what I’ve left out, misunderstood, what have you.

Could be treacherous territory we’re treading upon. But if it works, if nothing else, she’ll have PROOF that I’ve been listening, soaking in her words. And it’ll be a foundation for us to build upon, rebuilding our trust and faith in one another and our relationship.

We fell in love for a reason. As my brother says, we need to dig down and remember that reason. It’s not hard for me.

I fell in love with her free spirit. Her devil-may-care attitude. Her Peter Pan swagger. I fell in love with her smile, which runs the gamut from cat-who-swallowed-a-canary to little-kid-seeing-something-awesome-for-the-first-time-on-Christmas. No matter what the smile, it’s contagious. I fell in love with her breathtaking blue eyes – eyes older than the hills, yet full of wonder like she was born yesterday. Ice-colored eyes to go with my fire-eyes.

I fell in love with her brashness, her audacity, her romantic spark.

She fell in love with my confidence, my girl-who-rules-the-world bravado, my Tinkerbell flittering. She fell in love with my ass (honky tonk badonkadonk), my belly – it wasn’t long before she couldn’t sleep without my belly moving with every breath on her back.

We fell in love with parts of each other that have been buried under the stressful events of the last year and a half.

We used to get each other token gifts – silly little things, but things that meant something – on the third of every month. We started dating on May 3, 2009, so it was a cute way to commemorate the day.

I think it was when we stopped that that we began to lose our focus. And we just stopped because life got busy, we got broke. Priorities shifted.

It’s time for them to shift again.

Pat Benatar sums it all up. Pickle played this song for me yesterday.

“We Belong, We Belong to the light
Many times I’ve tried to tell you, many times I’ve cried alone
Always I’m surprised how well you cut my feelings to the bone

Don’t want to leave you really
I’ve invested too much time to give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate your mind

We Belong to the light
We Belong to the thunder
We Belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We Belong, We Belong
We Belong together

Maybe it’s a sign of weakness when I don’t know what to say
Maybe I just wouldn’t know what to do with my strength anyway
Have we become a habit do we distort the facts
Now there’s no looking forward
Now there’s no turning back
When you say


Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream
Clear your mind and do your best
To try and wash the palette clean
We can’t begin to know it
How much we really care
I hear your voice inside me
I see your face everywhere
Still you say


{September 1, 2010}   Oh, for the want of a finger…

Oh, how I want to write… it’s the perfect day for it – stormy, cool, autumn-like.

Alas, it seems I may have broken my finger. Index finger at that. Slows me down some.

Pen and paper, it is then. I’ll share my chicken scratch with you when I can type adeptly again.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

{August 24, 2010}   Learning to love

“Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.

“I’m starting to. But you’re slow,” she replied.

Just call me Turtle. When things get scary, I hide in my shell. I move slowly through life, savoring the scenery, taking my time to get each step right. Sometimes, I’m so focused on taking the next step that I forget to pay attention and come dangerously close to becoming a turtle pancake in the middle of the interstate.

In two months, it’ll be a year and a half since the turtle and the pickle found one another. It’s been a long, arduous journey. And it seems like all the hard work, the head-beating-against-the-wall, is coming to mean something.

In the beginning, we had so much in common. It was what bonded us. I, 8 1/2 years younger than she, shared interests and experiences. I was born in the wrong decade. We’d while away the hours with nostalgia.

We still do, though its potency has weakened some. A few weeks ago, however, we saw a great riot grrl act that looked and sounded straight out of 1993. As I grinned wide and bopped along, Pickled whispered into my ear, “You do know this is one of the reasons why I love you, right?” That put a little extra spring in my bop.

Now, it’s not so much our similarities that hold us together, it’s recognizing our differences. It’s taken some time to even be able to see them. She does not see the world the way I do. There’s much to be said for the middle ground, and we share plenty, but we really are as different as they come.

I am by turns outspoken and reserved. It depends on my mood and the situation. When I see a conflict, I view it as, “What can I do to make the situation better?” regardless of any perceived fault. When cleaning, I’m detail-oriented to the neglect of the bigger, more readily apparent tasks, and will spend two hours scrubbing the same damn spot on the kitchen counter. I see a big mess, and I’m lost, I don’t know where to begin. I have to break jobs down into micro-components to get them done. I’m very passionate, zestful – I throw all of myself into everything I do. But sometimes, I don’t look like I’m doing much, because I’m also that passionate about relaxing. It does strike some as laziness.

Pickle is also by turns outspoken and reserved – usually the opposite of me. She sees a conflict, and she thinks, “Why does this keep happening to me? I wish they’d just knock it off already!” When cleaning, she can go through and pick up a cluttered room and vacuum and have it looking nice in 20 minutes. She sees a job and just goes for it. She’s very relaxed, laid back… also very passionate, but it manifests in a different way that I have difficulty describing.

When I’m experiencing turmoil, I need to talk it out. She, however, needs to be alone. When the turmoil is between us, this presents a difficult situation that we haven’t quite learned to navigate around.

Last night, we were playing, and I got too rough. I crossed a line, and she was angry with me – and hurt that I would cross that line when there were so many other options. I had said, “Do that again, and see what you get,” and when she did, I retaliated aggressively – she said, “When I say that, and you do it, sometimes I cuddle you or tickle you or kiss you… why do you always have to be so aggressive?” In her words and tone, I heard something akin to, “Why do you have to hurt me when I love you so much?”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

I’d honestly not even realized there was an alternative to my aggressive behavior. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but that was a real epiphany for me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know. And I’m sorry means it won’t happen again.”

“I’ll be fine,” she said, sullenly. “Just don’t give me a 20 minute explanation of ‘I’m sorry’.”

I held her hand and looked in her eyes. “No explanation. Just sorry.” I sat and waited. She got uncomfortable. I was actually giving her the silence she needed, and it was so strange, she thought I must want something from her. She started to launch into a spiel about how I don’t need to babble at her forever and quit staring at her –

“I’m not babbling. I haven’t said much.” She arched her eyebrow at me. Ok, she thinks I talk too much anyway… I smiled. “Well, not for me. I haven’t said much, for me.”

That was it. That was all it took…. she smiled, said, “I love you. Go to sleep.” And everything was peaceful.

Silence works.

I hope I remember that.

Dear Universe,

Thank you. You provided Pickle with a reliable car for the night, and she made her goal of $150. I showed her your note for me, and she agreed to think big – she set her sights on the goal, and in spite of it being a slower night than expected, and in spite of a few rude customers (including one who didn’t tip and insisted that she go out of her way to bring something he didn’t ask for) she made her goal, because she believed in it. And that one rude customer who made her go out of her way? She came back (though she didn’t have to), handed him his cheese and told him exactly what she thought of his manners. His girlfriend apologized for his behavior and tipped her. Talk about maximizing opportunities! Who knew?

Universe, today, we’d like to keep the trend going. Actually, we’d like to keep the trend going all the way through Sunday night. We’ll keep our eyes on the prize. Will you help us? Will you make sure she has a vehicle she can trust? In return, we’ll both focus on each moment as it comes, whole-heartedly whole-mindedly. I can’t speak for her, but I can say she’s in the perfect place for that. Last night affirmed everything good for her, and she came home full of energy and life.

Thank you, Universe.

P.S. After I wrote you yesterday, and you responded the way you did, I saw a personalized license plate that said “DNTGVUP”. Don’t give up… that last little bit of encouragement opened up a dialogue between Pickle and myself about the different perspectives we can choose – maybe we’re not supposed to be fighting for our lives… maybe we’re just supposed to be thinking big and keeping our eyes on the prize, and trusting that everything will fall into place. Faith… it ain’t easy. Thanks for the reminder.

Was it you?!says the Universe. We have some new “help” here, and our incoming correspondence has been kind of garbled.

Someone was thinking big, I mean really big, and now the entire Universe has been thrown into action, aligning players, circumstances, and coincidences that will miraculously fall into just the right place at just the right time. It’s changed everything, absolutely everything. The world will never be the same.

Actually, this happens with your every thought. But if it was you, did you mean joy when you said toy?

Sounded like you wanted every toy? Either way, consider it done, just let us know.

The Universe

P.s. One of your greatest challenges is realizing that the hurdles of time and space are simply reflections of imagined hurdles.

See no problems.

Dear Universe, we really need a car that works. We sank $400 into a really great car, and another almost $300, which we’re getting back (that’s the good news) because our mechanic was unable to fix the problem. He fixed a lot of other things, though, and that’s really great. But now, it’s looking like the transmission is in bad shape. Maybe there’s water in it, maybe it’s shot, we don’t know yet. He’s having a friend look at it and see what it needs. In the meantime, this is Pickle’s weekend to shine – she needs a good, reliable, fast car that she can make her deliveries in. With this car, she could bring in $200 a night. With the extra day she picked up this week, that means $800 – that would pay this month’s overdue rent AND most of next month’s rent, and the money we have currently could pay for our storage unit and insurance, and we’d be almost caught up on everything. More importantly her mental health (and mine, I’ll admit) would be so much better off. So dear Universe, won’t you please buy us a nice car? (Our friends all drive Porsches, ours doesn’t get us far, So Universe, won’t you please, buy us a good car?)

Just for fun, I flip to a random page in the book

    Notes From the Universe

      and this is what I get:

      A question from your friend the Universe:

      Just how much time do you spend thinking big? I mean really, really BIG?

      Good, very good! Because that’s exactly how much of “it” you’re going to get!

      What a coincidence!

      It’s corny, but it makes me smile.

Don’t get me wrong, roses are pretty no matter their state. We have scores of dried roses all over the house.

For the last couple of months though, we haven’t had any fresh roses. Neither one of us can afford to buy them for the other.

Oh, it’s so frustrating. I’ve got a new job, and the money’s going to help TREMENDOUSLY, but that first paycheck seems so far away. In the meantime, Pickle has missed a ton of work over the last month because her car has been in the shop – worn CV joints caused the shaft to go bad, and the clutch went out. Basically three major fixes all rolled into one.

I choose to look at the bright side – we didn’t know the clutch was going out. So when the shaft went bad, we got to fix the clutch too. Even if we didn’t have the money. And then, before he wasted his time putting the car back together completely and test driving it, we had our mechanic check the boots, and sure enough, the CV was so bad he commented, “I’ve never seen one that bad before. That’s probably what damaged the hell out of your shaft.”

Three fixes at once. $240 in parts. $180 in labor. $420 total.

I’m pretty sure my kids have sensors that enable them to tell when I’m trying to think or do things. They’ve been quietly entertaining themselves for an hour and as soon as I sit down to do this, they burst out of their room clamoring for attention.

Anyway, our mechanic is being very generous to us, not charging a whole lot, because with the heat and his work schedule, not to mention all the new discoveries, what would have been a one-week long adventure is taking a month.

I have to focus on the good things… that I have a new job and still have my old job. That our mechanic is awesome. That our landlord isn’t hounding us for money, but actually trusting us to get rent paid when we can.

If I don’t focus on those good things, then I start to slip and think about how when we finally do get rent paid, we’ll have to pay rent again. I have tuition for my daughter’s preschool that is three months late. I need new glasses and contacts, not to mention new hearing aids (that’s a long term goal). The kids need haircuts and won’t let me touch them.

Pickle needs to breathe and relax. She needs her medication that keeps her ulcer at bay.

When I start thinking about what our needs and wants are, the words of Shel Silverstein creep into mind: “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

I’m naturally a positive thinker. A hopeless optimist. What does a girl like me do when her positivity and optimism does little more than keep her head above water long enough to take a breath before she goes under again? And when her life partner is a cynic who wants to be an optimist but can’t quite figure out how?

Affirmations, man. I live by ’em. It’s corny, but Pickle likes them too. And if it comes from someone-not-Me, she’ll actually pay attention to them.

So right now… I need to affirm our ability to withstand anything, any blows that come our way. I need to affirm our ability to pull out of this financial hole we’re in. (We are $60 over budget. And we can’t cut anything.) I need to affirm the power of my friendships and support networks. I need to affirm my ability to take charge and get things done.

So I’m gonna dig real deep here, maybe get a little corny, show a little of my soft underbelly… and affirm.

I am a strong, capable, energetic woman. I have the power within me to make things happen. I set my sights on a goal, and press forward until it is realized. I close my eyes, visualize what I need to happen, and open my eyes to see results before me.

I am creative, resilient. When one “solution” does not work the way I anticipate, I find another. Negative words go in one ear and out the other – I know I have the power to make miracles, as long as I believe.

I am full of Love. In the end, Love does all the work for me. I am only the vessel through which She works. I experience Love fully, passionately, without inhibition or reservation. Regardless of any setbacks that make my journey more unexpected than I’ve planned, Love sees to it that my travels are well worthwhile.

et cetera