Pitter Patter.

It usually starts around 5:45 am.

The sun is just about ready to rise. The dog is snoring blissfully, while the cats cuddle up in the corner. The ceiling fan is spinning fast, providing the white noise that keeps me in snoozing. The rest of the world starts to wake up outside my window. Then, like clock work, the first set of tiny toes start to make their way down the hallway and up the stairs. Pitter patter, pitter patter. I change my sleeping position to make room for her in the bed.

” Mommy, can I snuggle?”

Of course.

A few minutes later we are joined by another one. ” Mommy, move over. I want to sleep with you.” I scoot over into the middle, creating a mommy sandwich with one kid on each side. My pillows have been taken from right under my head and sharing the blanket with these two isn’t an option. I take a glance at the clock and realize I have forty-five more minutes left to sleep.

Please. Dear God. Let me sleep. The day will begin soon and I have a million things to do. The girls fall right back to sleep, while I toss and turn awkwardly between them. I start to get angry, they never leave me alone. How can I take care of them if I can’t shut my brain off for a few hours a night? The anxiety starts to rise and I ask myself what the hell I was thinking when I decided to walk away from a marriage 800 miles away and become a single mom in the town I grew up in.

I watch the ceiling fan, hoping it will hypnotize me back to sleep. I close my eyes as a little hand reaches over from my left side and interlocks my fingers with hers. I turn my head to see rosy cheeks and fluttering eyes to my right. They are blissfully asleep next to mama. The last set of tiny toes comes up the stairs just as my alarm goes off. She jumps onto the bed and tells us to get up. Those little eyes open and fingers stretch as her little sister says, ” It’s good morning!” I grab a pillow and cover my face and groan.

” You guys never let me sleep. You woke me up, I didn’t get to rest at all. You have to stop doing this, I’m going to snap. Go downstairs now. I need five more minutes.”

They slide off the bed and head downstairs as I hit the snooze button. I sit up after the final alarm goes off for a final time and make my way downstairs. I thought I hid the TV remote, but they found it. They’re watching youtube videos about slime and Barbies. I ask them why they aren’t dressed and why is their homework not in their backpacks. I turn the tv off, grab some cereal, milk and bowls. ” Here. I have to go get ready.”, I say as I march back upstairs. I have to feed the cats, make my bed, get dressed and check my emails. I glance down at my phone and realize we have to hustle to the bus stop or I will be late for work. The rush begins as I yell down the stairs, ” You have two minutes to brush your teeth and grab your backpacks! HURRY UP.

If we don’t leave in the next few minutes we will miss the bus and I will have to scramble to figure out who can drive them in as I race to work. I think to myself how easy this would be with a partner, if only I could share the responsibilities with someone else, maybe I would’t be so grumpy. Maybe I would be that nice mom who sends her kids off to greet the day with happiness and rainbows instead of screaming how unmanageable the three of them are and how rude it is to not listen to me.

Why can’t they just do what I ask them to do?

As I packed their lunches the night before, I thought to myself how stupid is that these kids won’t eat the free hot lunch that’s offered at school and how teidious it is that I have to cut out freaking zoo animals in their sandwiches that they probably won’t eat anyway. I put a note in everyday with a joke or just a simple ” I love you”. As I pile them into the car I realize I left their lunch boxes in the fridge and sprint back upstairs, tripping on the damn dog and yelling out to no one, ” GOD DAMMNIT.” I fly down the road, their little bellies doing flip flops as I drive down the hill and back up again for the bus.

“I love you, have a great day.”

I go my way, they go theirs and the day takes off like it always does. I chug along until lunch time crashing from the morning caffeine and sugar rush. As I eat my lunch I reflect on the morning and beat myself up for yelling at them. A good mom would have patience. A good mom would wake up earlier and make them pancakes every morning. I remember how we used to have dance parties in the morning getting ready for the day when I was a stay at home mom with them. I smile at the memory, but the guilt quickly fills my cup and I wish that things were different…that I could be better.

I start to think about how hard this year has been for them. I can see their tears as they say goodbye to their dad after another plane ride and visit with his family. Sometimes, I doubt every move I have made since the day I signed divorce papers. I wonder if I’ve screwed them up forever. I ask myself were my best intentions really for them? Is it selfish to want to raise my daughters around the men and women who raised me? There’s a undeniable space in their daily lives from how things used to be.

Did I do that? Will they hate me someday? I see images online all day of moms who give up everthing for their kids. They all look so happy. A full family, all positions filled for an average American household.

Over here it’s just me, the dog and the two elderly cats that we can’t seem to get rid of. My eyes start to water as I think about how I would do anything for them, but maybe I haven’t done enough. I try to fill the hole in my heart with anyone I can find, and then when they leave the hole gets bigger. It doesn’t occur to me that the hole can’t be filled by another person, so I keep trying from one to the next. If I was in love, I bet I would be happier, more patient and calm with my kids. I just need to find someone to love, that will fix it.

Maybe that will fix me.

The hours go by slow and eventually we are all home again at the dinner table. One kid is feeding the dog the chicken I spent an hour cooking, while the other two are kicking each other under the table and screaming about how one or the other is lying. It’s chaos. I roll my eyes. If only these damn children would shut up and eat so we can have a nice night as a family. Instead, I slam dishes in the sink and tell them if they want to hit each other, go right ahead, just don’t come crying to me if it hurts. Later, as I rub their backs and sing them to sleep, I tell myself to remember this forever. Remember how they snuggle up to me and drift off into dreamland. Remember how they needed me and how these moments should be treasured. They grow up fast, soon this will be a memory, no longer in present tense. I think about how tomorrow I’ll do better, I”ll be a patient mom in the morning and I’ll help them start their day off right with kisses and smiles.

I pack their lunches and head off to bed myself. I try to sleep but decided to scroll on my phone and waste time instead of shutting my eyes. A few hours later the cycle starts all over again and I find myself repeating the same grumpy behavior from the previous morning. It goes on and on until I start to believe that the exhaustion will kill me.

The past few weeks I’ve woken up alone. I’ve rolled out of bed every morning well rested. I get myself ready for the day without worrying about anyone else. I can pee by myself and put my shoes on without someone asking me where their socks are and can I help them find their coat. I take my dog for long walks and sit in the sun collecting freckles while sipping on ice tea.

It’s quiet.

It’s empty.

I would give anything to be woken up by the three of them, demanding breakfast and asking if we can do a play date today. I wish I could throw them in the car and drive to the ocean for the day to see if we can find mermaids. I want to sit in a muggy field and watch half decent fireworks for the 4th of July. I wouldn’t even mind only getting four hours of sleep if it meant I could hold them in my arms before the day begins.

Mothers carry their children for much more than just those first nine months. Our children are a direct extension of ourselves. I am much more than just me. I am theirs, they are mine. I can look in their eyes and know exactly how bad the booboos hurt when there’s tears running down their cheeks. I know when they’re telling the truth. I know their favorite books, their favorite tree to climb, how much bubble bath I should put in the tub, and their favorite songs.

I know when their hearts are broken and even though I want to put them back together, I know I’m not that powerful. I know how to hold them as they learn to express their feelings, knowing that I will support them every step of the way. I don’t have a magic wand and I can’t solve every problem or understand every emotion they experience. All I can do is pray and hope that I’m teaching them to be strong girls who know their worth while surrounded by my love always.

I don’t know everything, but I know I was meant to be their mom.

Grumpy or not.

In the moment things can feel so heavy, the weight of the past is gone but the memory of it leaves a sting. For all the sleepless nights, my babies and I are surrounded with more love and support that I ever could have imagined. Moving back across the country with three kids, a dog, two cats and a hell of a lot of uncertainty has proven to be one of the most life changing experiences. Our family and friends open their doors to us, provided us with our own door and helped make this house our home. It’s hard pill to swallow on the days when they desperately miss their family that we left behind in the Midwest. I had no way of knowing that the space between could swallow you whole. I hadn’t learned that lesson before now. Eight weeks of summer without my little girl gang by my side has been a crash course into the other side of parenting from a distance.

This must be how their dad feels.

I didn’t know.

I never had to count the days until I could hug them again.

Forty-two.

I get it now.

Summer will go on. I will wake up in the silence, but that’s ok. The hardest lessons in life are always the most fruitful. Those little toes will be home soon enough and I”ll remember the mornings when they weren’t.

I might even make them pancakes once in awhile.

Because of.

Grief is not temporary.

It took me years to realize that the presence of grief is everlasting. It also took me years to realize that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Grief brings sadness, denial, anger and eventually acceptance. It isn’t a fleeting moment, it’s part of the stitching that holds us together in life. It keeps those we love and have lost alive within us. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s undeniable. Although no one can say for sure what happens to us when we die, it’s clear that death doesn’t remove the power of the presence of someone in our life.

Ten years have passed and I feel her everyday. My body remembers how it felt holding her hand in the hospital. Her skin was soft and her hand was as delicate as a newborn in my hand. I can hear the wail and shock as my family and I realized she was gone. Her body was surrounded by her children and grandchildren as we sang her off from this life to the next. I can remember my aunt stroking her head, tears running down my dads face, and the confusion in the eyes of my baby sister as we all came to realize we wouldn’t see her physically here anymore. I remember shaking my head as we walked down the aisle in the church at her funeral, in disbelief that I wouldn’t be able to call her anymore.

That’s when it hit me like ton of bricks. The grief slowly flowed inside of me and then all of a sudden it was real. It was an impossible reality to have ever thought that she would someday be gone. She was our rock. As a mother and a grandmother, she had come to terms with all of that long before we did. She set the stone for us. As the years passed, we each brought our own little pebbles to gather around hers. Eventually, the pebbles grew closer and closer, encompassing her stone, and becoming one.

No longer just her stone, but ours.

The parts of her that created the foundation fused with the parts of us that made it stronger.

This past Thanksgiving, there was an abundance of gratitude at the family table. My large Irish/Lithuanian family could finally cut the turkey together, as opposed to our Covid/Zoom Thanksgiving from the year prior. We embraced, we laughed, we celebrated, we cried, some of us yelled- but it was comforting to finally share a meal with the ones we had loved and missed. Later in the evening my Uncle was reminiscing about past Thanksgivings. My grandparents started our family traditions decades before I was ever part of them. They raised their kids with the belief Thanksgiving was the most important holiday to share together as a family. Each year they asked everyone to try to make it home to be with the family if they coupd. They then requested that their kids and their spouses find their way home for that special day too. As the years passed it was important that their kids, spouses, partners and grandchildren join the family table too. We were free to go where we wanted for Christmas, but Thanksgiving was a priority.

My aunts and uncles would drive hours or even just a few minutes down the road to my grandparents home to help cook the turkey and set the table for their loved ones. Every year trips were always planned around that week in November to ensure that no one would miss out on a Thanksgiving in Connecticut. There were years that it was almost impossible for some to attend, but they would go above and beyond to get there one way or another. Snow storms, flights cancelled, conflict with a spouses family and whatever else would get in the way. At times, it was a chore to get there, but there was a force more powerful than any conflict that could arise.

It was the smile of the face of my grandmother and grandfather as family members trailed in through the front door. My grandmother would reach up from her chair and hold you tight in a hug with a kiss on the forehead.

My grandparents were incredible people. They constantly opened their heart and home to anyone in need. They were selfless, hard working, extremely silly and loving people. Long after their deaths, their are still people who’s lives were greatly impacted by a single act of kindness from Bob and Peg Andrulis. They were pillars in their community for decades. They did so much for so many people and asked for nothing in return. That kind of generosity and compassion is a rare gift that they happily gave.

If I ever needed a hug, a nap, a prank call, or a double stuffed Oreo, I would find it at their house. They gave me the same love and comfort that they gave their children. I was the first grandchild and commonly referred to as my Grandpas favorite. They gave me unconditional love and support. If I wasn’t the first grandchild or anyones favorite, they still would have given me the exact same amount of understanding and compassion.

I could write thousands of examples. They were just the absolute best.

Showing up for them was a small request compared to the lasting effects of their devotion to each and every family member.

My Grandpa passed when I was in high school. I had never experienced grief before. I knew he had died, but it didn’t seem real. It felt like a scene in a movie. My Grandpa was different from all the other Grandpas out there- he was supposed to live forever. I couldn’t imagine a life without him in it. I couldn’t imagine a Thanksgiving without him seated at the piano playing the same three songs over and over while the food was being prepared for the table. I couldn’t process that I would never hear him sing ” Let Me Call You Sweetheart” one more time.

Months passed and eventually Thanksgiving arrived. As we stood around the table to say our family prayer, I felt the words choke in my throat. He should have been there. I felt the hot tears roll down my face and looked over at my aunts and uncles, the same tears flowed for them. Then I looked at my GG. She knew something I didn’t. She knew that the traditions would stay the same, the same prayer and song. The same place settings. The same green bean casserole and stuffing. My Grandfather remained alive in those traditions. Year after year, his presence was intertwined in all that we did on that special day. His unique imprint was permanent.

As the sadness, denial and anger of grief pulled away with the tide, the beautiful wave of acceptance came up to shore and somehow seemed to whisper, ” You’ll never walk alone. We will walk with you.”

And they have.

As my uncle moved on from the memories of Thanksgiving to present day, he said something that settled into my heart and hasn’t left since.

” You know, we used to come home for Thanksgiving for them. We did it for them. Now we do it because of them.”

They made our family traditions important and repeated year after year. By setting up the importance of family and community in each of us. Standing in my aunts kitchen making jokes about the gravy, watching my brother eat an entire turkey leg like a cave man, listening to my dad talk about our favorite memories from years ago- these simple acts keep us attached to each other. The values and beliefs about family that were so important to them are now equally as important to all of us now.

We travel from a few different states and a few different towns. We expand our family table to accommodate spouses, children and friends. We designate different cooking jobs to different people. We stand, hold hands and sway as we sing our family prayer. We stand in the kitchen, eat cheese and catch up on each others lives. We make sure everyone has had enough to eat and leave room for ” just a sliver” of pie. We sit by the fireplace and hold our annual family talent show after sing ” Over the Rainbow” together, because it reminds us of the memories and love the two founders of our family gave us and continue to give, even after death.

Ten years ago today we said ” Toodaloo” to the woman who made sure we knew her love was never ending, even in death. A few days before she passed, as she lay in her hospital bed, she looked out the window and motioned for a few of us to scoot out of her view. She saw her husband, our Grandpa, waiting for her. Their love transcended death, and because of them we now gather and let our light and love flow from one generation to the next.

We live in a crazy world full of fear and change. It seems like the rug just keeps getting pulled out from beneath us. When everything spins out of control, I know with great certainty that by continuing the legacy of my grandparents to my own children and family, I can leave that same imprint that they so gracefully left for me.

The Big D

Hidden away in a Lisa Frank neon spiral bound notebook from 1997, lies a two page letter written by a much younger version of myself to my future husband. I remember my pen gliding over the thin white sheets writing the words, ” Dear Husband…”. My heart felt like it might explode out of my chest. That word seemed like the most important thing I had ever put down on paper.

Husband.

Saying it, writing it, even thinking it- it felt like a prayer.

Who would this guy be? Would he love me as much as I already love him? I wondered if his hand would fit perfectly in mine as we sat in movie theaters, snacking on popcorn. I thought about what our first kiss might feel like and if I’d know that he was the one when it happened. I imagined him looking at me from across the library and seeing in his eyes that we were meant to be. I hoped he would want kids, a zip code close to our families and brunch every Sunday with friends. I desperately wanted him to be the kind of guy who didn’t mind my frizzy hair or my singing in the shower. Whoever he was, I knew he would be perfect.

I was eleven.

My only experience with boys was passing notes in study hall and practicing kissing my Leonardo DiCaprio Titanic poster after brushing my teeth every morning.

As time continued to pass, I became more vigilant and determined to find my guy. Walking through the mall after school, my eyes would dart back and forth the food court, hoping I’d catch his eye. Anyones eye. If someone else could see me for more than I could see myself, maybe that would quiet the voices in my head that screamed obscenities at my adolescent body. I had high expectations that my first kiss would seal the deal. He would kiss me and he would never need to kiss another girl ever again. He would be mine. That’s not exactly how it went. My first kiss happened in the middle of a late night game of man hunt in my backyard, where my crush tackled me to the ground and half kissed me, half licked my face.

He tasted like destiny.

I never saw him again. It’s probably for the best, I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my days with a man who would want to lick my face.

One day I would find Mr. Right and I would be able to give him all of me. He would know the way I like my tea, how many times I hit the snooze button in the morning, how I fold my towels and my favorite playlists from high school. He would know the good and the bad. He would know every freckle and every fear. We would build a life together and when it was our time to go, our future children would spread our ashes out into the ocean while our song played in the background. Anyone who couldn’t do these things or fit in my life the exact way I had envisioned it, they would be deemed unacceptable to me.

Onto the next.

And the next.

And so on.

Walking down the aisle with my dad by my side, my parents beaming from the front row, and the sun shining down on a beautiful lake in the middle of Connecticut- I looked into the eyes of a highly qualified candidate. The parts of him that didn’t exactly align with my vision could be changed. There was time for that. Get married. Have kids. Grow old. Become each others soulmates on the journey. The exhausting hunt of finding him had worn me down, and I figured this was the best shot for that white picket fence, two car garage and king sized bed.

Every Disney movie I spent hours watching and re-watching taught me that I had to find this Prince Charming. My unrealistic expectations for what a desirable partner should be were validated every time a helpless, beautiful woman (usually a princess) was saved by a strong, handsome man. Their entire existence seemed to revolve around being found by a savior while maintaining their beauty regime. I used to walk around Chicago trying to figure out how to look street smart and pretty. I didn’t want to come off as too bold or self-assured, I had to maintain that fine line between the girl next door and the girl who could kick your ass. I’m not either of those, but I played the part as needed.

It has been ingrained in our minds over and over that we will only have one true love. One marriage. One partnership. One person forever and ever. ‘Til death (or divorce) do you part. When that person appears in your life, you will have exactly what you’ve wanted. Your search is over. Entering a marriage young, I was clueless. I remember getting ready on my wedding day surrounded by a group of women I loved dearly. As my mom, step-mom and mother-in-law were all fussing over my train and clasping my pearls, I looked at my bridesmaids. All young, smart, beautiful and somehow tragic. I felt sorry for them. They were in their mid-20s and their search for their happy ever after wasn’t over yet. They would still have to go on first dates, awkward one night stands, the agony of breakups and the uncertainty that they would ever find someone. I was lucky. That search was over. I could at least count on that.

Until the day I filed for divorce.

I was in a marriage with someone with whom I would never fully accept. Once the diamond got dusty and the savings account drained, I started to feel the dread of, ” Oh shit. Now what?”. I thought that if he made more money, if he smoked less pot, if I quit drinking, if we moved back home, if we went to every marriage therapist in the state, that we would be able to get back on track. I promised myself that I would never split my family up, my kids would never have two homes and two sets of parents. Doing that would undoubtedly ruin their lives.

My parents divorce wasn’t something I could control. My own divorce wasn’t something that I could control. Whichever way the blame was thrown, it had to happen. There was a reason, a purpose and a lesson to be learned. One of the most profound things I have learned over the past few years in sobriety is that things don’t happen to me, things happen for me. God, the universe or whatever you want to call it- the force in my life that is greater than myself, has a plan for me that I may not understand right away. Tragedy, heartbreak, death, and loneliness are things that would have led me down a spiral of destruction in the past. When moments of clarity arrive, I’m able to recognize that emotions and events had to take place in order for my life to go in the direction it was intended to. I suck at reading maps. The direction I would like to take usually seems easier at first, but never leads me anywhere good. It’s not my job to write the map, it’s my job to ask for directions when I get lost.

It hurts, it’s painful and it routinely brings me to my knees. When I’m down there I have to ask for help, it’s not just handed to me. I have to be willing to put my pride away and sit in the vulnerability for as long as it takes. It might take a day. It might take a decade. When I let go and ask for help, I open myself to a different perspective and I am given an incredible chance of a life I never could have imagined.

Without a husband. Without my own home. Without a clue as to what tomorrow may bring. I am happy. Insanely happy. I’m also still crazy, resentful, mean, judgmental, ignorant and stubborn as hell when I want to be. I have the choice to sit in that garbage or humbly ask for guidance.

One morning a few years ago, I was brushing my teeth and looking at myself in the mirror. I wasn’t standing next to my partner getting ready for the day together anymore. I was alone. I tried to search inside myself to remember what it felt like to start the day next to him. I couldn’t. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I no longer had the satisfaction of sharing a connection that was so simple and yet so profound with another human being. I couldn’t remember what if felt like to be in love. I longed so desperately to feel something, even a slight bit of a butterfly in my stomach. I thought a person could only fall in love, not out of love. I had fallen straight off the cliff. We spent half our lives together and in that moment I came to realize we were strangers. It had become an ownership, not a marriage. I had to process that I had groomed myself into believing that I would only have that connection with my one and only. I couldn’t fathom how different I felt. It was like walking into a new house with the same furniture. You’re comforted by the familiar items, but the walls are new and strange. One day you can hardly breathe and the next you start to feel alright.

Better than alright.

I brush my teeth next to my kids. I sit in the stillness of the night next to my dog. I write down words that I’m willing to share once in awhile, because I’m not the only sober single mom going through it. I stopped planning my revenge on everyone who hurt me. I stopped wasting my time with the what-ifs and pray for the happiness of those I hurt and those I let hurt me. I don’t particularly enjoy practicing humility and understanding, but the peace the comes from it is immeasurable.

This is growing up from the mind set of that eleven year old girl who thought Mr. Right was a prize I had to win. I can love and be loved. I can be in a relationship or be single. I can share a connection, or loose a connection. I don’t deserve any more happiness than the next person. I don’t have to suffer or make anyone else suffer. I don’t have to waste time on people, places and things that I can’t change. Opening my heart and self to new experiences, new people, new perspectives and new challenges is how I want to spend my time now. None of us know how much we have left or how much has been wasted in the past, but we can sure as hell enjoy what we have right now.

Lost Love

It’s time.

You’ve been here long enough. Cut the chains and wipe off the ashes. You have to do this on your own. Take a good look around. Do you see anyone else who can take on this task? No. You’ve tried that before and when they failed, your prison walls came closer and closer. You’re lucky the claustrophobia didn’t kill you. You were so sure that it would.

Take a good look in the mirror. Notice the wrinkles that you once used lotions and potions to prevent. Notice the chicken pox scar on your forehead that a few bad bang haircuts couldn’t conceal. Notice the freckles that once gave you enough faith to let the light in, if only for a brief moment. Notice the frizz and grey hairs popping up on your head that you desperately tried to hide with conditioner and hair dye. Glance down at your arms and the extra skin that sways back and forth when you wave your kids goodbye on the bus in the morning.

This next part will be hard, but you are worth it.

Pull your shirt up and look down at that space on your body that you have wanted to cut off since you were a kid. Try to remember a time when it was smaller. Try to remember a time when it was bigger. Try to remember a time when you didn’t hate it. Think about all of the diets, cleanses, disorders, cuts, Spanx, abuse, and tummy control leggings that suffocated you. Pain is beauty, isn’t it?

Keep going.

Now, focus on your legs that couldn’t sit still. Remember how they couldn’t run fast enough to set you free. Then remember how they ran a little too fast from moments that could have lasted if only you could have stayed in the present. Look at that extra skin that looks like cottage cheese and recall all of the gels, squats and self tanner you tried to use to make the fat disappear.

Lift your head up and look straight ahead. Make eye contact with person staring back at you. Think about all the times you couldn’t face her. Your eyes were always too blurry or too tired to focus. Remember how you wore the shame, disappointment, guilt, hurt, and anger like it was a new shade of foundation from Maybelline. Maybe you were born with it. Think about how you learned to hate that face and what’s behind it Think about all the plans you had, the places you would see, the life you thought you needed. Remember how you told yourself over and over that happiness was a big house, a two car garage and unlimited funds on a credit card. Then, remember how those things brought you desperation, not happiness.

Close your eyes. Fold your shaky hands and breathe.

Take a moment.

Take another moment.

Now, open your eyes. Those wrinkles on your face are souvenirs from happiness. You laughed too loud, now you have smile lines. You looked up to the sun and crinkled your forehead to take it all in. The chicken pox scar that made you feel different from the other kids isn’t visible at all anymore, it’s just part of your face. The freckles are reminders of camping by the ocean, walking the dog, bbqs with family, sitting on the swing with your legs pumping you up to the sky. That grey hair is there for a reason, you’re growing. No one becomes a self-sufficient adult without a few grey hairs. Those flappy arms have grown strong with each child you have carried through the sunshine and the dark. Those arms are home to the ones you love with each and every bear hug.

smile lines

It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to feel fear. Just ride it through so you can feel something better. I promise, you will.

That stomach that you wanted to carve out of your body is the most miraculous part of anatomy. That space is where you get nourished to live each day. That space has been abused for so long, it’s time to have gratitude for it. Your belly holds the memories of each delicious family meal and homemade desserts. It’s an excellent communicator of your daily needs, even when you forget. It may have been the space where you grew a life inside of you. It may have grown or shrunk over the years, but it’s sacred. It is your temple. It sustains your life and holds the parts of you that create the magic and wonder of life. It’s been beaten and bruised over and over again, but it’s still there. Part of you. Big, small, full, empty, covered in stretch marks, covered in scars. You can suck it in or push it out. It doesn’t matter.

Still a part of you.

Your legs are powerful. They have carried you this far, show some respect. Have gratitude for the limbs that have kept you standing on your own two feet. They haven’t given up on you, they just keep moving you right along.

Look back at your reflection again. That is the face of resilience. You are the image of strength, intelligence, perseverance and determination. The parts of you that are on the inside are the most important of all. You’ve let the voices of others create your internal dialogue. I’m here to tell you that you are the only voice you need to hear. You can gain knowledge and inspiration from others, but your thoughts are yours alone. They aren’t your enemy anymore, they are your gift. Your worth and presence in this world isn’t defined by your fears. It’s defined by your ability to go through them and survive.

You are a survivor.

It’s time to love yourself again. Take away your filters and appreciate the person you used to be, the person you are, and the person you are becoming. You may not know when or how you lost it, but you have just created the map to lead you right back to it. It’s always been there.

Love yourself.

happier than ever

Shadowboxer

Shadowboxer:
intransitive
:
intransitive verb: to box with an imaginary opponent especially as a form of training


The greatest thing that I’ve learned thus far is that I know nothing. 

Absolutely nothing. 

I spent most of my life trying to be the ringmaster in my own personal chaotic circus. I thought I could train the people in my life to play different roles for me, to perform different tricks. I may have needed you to be the tightrope walker. Perhaps I needed you to be the knife thrower or the clueless clown. I could have asked you to be the juggler or the lion tamer. Whatever it is I needed you to be in that moment, you would have to play along or you were of no use to me. It was my own masterpiece, and I enjoyed being the puppet master. 

Until you told me that you wouldn’t be willing to fulfill that role anymore. 

Then you became useless to me and I would have to fight to find a new person to replace you in my distorted reality. I have found myself constantly fighting, Not in the sense of a verbal or physical fight at all, but in my mind I couldn’t let my guard down. I had to be prepared for everything and anything, I had to practice over and over. No one could hurt me if I was strong. If I was capable. If I was in control. I became an olympian shadowboxer. 

Training for a knock-out. 

Fists up. 

I came to win. 

Punching the air, ready to attack the enemy. 

I won’t be hurt again. 

I won’t. 

I attended twelve-step meetings and heard over and over again how I needed to rely on something bigger than myself to help me cope with life on life’s terms. I nodded my head. I said proudly that I had turned my will over to this Higher Power of mine, but in reality I was lying. Mostly to myself. 

I had no problem being transparent and honest with others, but I spent most of my time telling myself lies that I thought would help me get through the day. I thought I was doing the right thing. I told myself that the daily exhaustion and emotional blackouts were due to other factors, They had nothing to do with the constant war in my mind that told me I wasn’t good enough, no power in the world could protect me from reality and my solution was to tighten my fists and stand on guard at all times. 

My thoughts would spiral. My mind was cramped with the “what-ifs” and “ I can do this, i should be strong enough to do this.” 

I was two years sober and absolutely miserable. I felt fatigue in a way I had never known possible before. I wanted my divorce to be over. I wanted my kids to be happy and adjusted. I wanted a boyfriend to fill the hole from my empty marriage. I wanted to go above and beyond for my kids, not realizing they didn’t need a super mom. 

They just needed me. 

I laid in bed every night feeling like I had ran a marathon. Every cell in my body just wanted to rest. I couldn’t figure out how to let shit go, trust that everything was going to be ok, or actually use the tools I had been so freely given from other alcoholics. Every once in awhile I would experience a brief moment where I could let my guard down and rest. This usually happened in a room with a bunch of other drunks. I heard them talk over and over how it worked for them. Their experiences, their strength and hope. A little lightbulb would turn on in my head briefly to hear the message- if I wanted to live a life worth living I had to let go of the control.

Turn it over. 

Pray. 

Alcohol no longer controlled my thoughts or actions, but my alcoholism refused to let go completely. I thought it was my job to heal my heart alone. I thought it was my job to make sure my kids never experienced life on life’s terms. I thought my terms were a better bet. I wanted to be successful, in love, and filled with peace.

That’s the insanity.

If I just unclenched my fists and opened my heart, if I could just have faith that things didn’t have to be so hard. I didn’t have to sucker punch the shadows lurking inside in order to survive. 

I had to stop fighting and go with the flow.   

Time to rest.

Time to retire from my former job title as “ Coordinator of Chaos”.

Day by day I started to notice the changes within myself. We’ve all heard the phrase, “ You can’t control people, places, or things.” It takes up so much energy to try to change a person who isn’t you. It takes less energy to see my capability to change myself with the help from a God of my understanding. A few weeks ago, I was driving from Illinois to Connecticut with my three little girls and sister. My brain was all over the place. I was consumed with the stress of driving, stress of keeping kids entertained, and trying to make sure that my sister was ok with the three squealing children in the back seat. I put my earbud in and listened to some recovery podcasts and tried to pray. I prayed for patience and peace. At some point during the two day trip I felt a shift. I had been trying so hard to put my guard down and trust that things would be ok.

All of a sudden, I knew things were ok. I knew I would be ok. I knew my kids would be ok. I knew that the sudden peace and calm that hit me like a freight train happened in that moment for a specific reason. Moments pass, but the clarity stuck. I had been hiding behind the fear of change for over a decade. I had to walk through that fear not only for myself, but for my kids. I had to surrender and go with the damn flow.

The flow led to an opportunity to move back home after seventeen years. I made the decision. I got a job. My family opened up their homes and hearts for us. I would be naive to say this was some sort of easy process. It was excruciating and painful for everyone, especially the other side of my daughter’s family. But- I never faltered. I had been given the grace from God to know that I can get through pain. Pain is necessary sometimes for growth, and it had been a long time since I’d had a growth spurt. For the first time in a long time, I can provide for my kids, have a roof over our heads, and embrace the love and stability my family has showered us with. 

It’s crazy. 

A year ago, or even six months ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me that I’d be moving back to the area I grew up in with three daughters, a dog, two cats and a job. But- here we are. Home at last. 

This has been one of the hardest things my kids have had to experience so far in life. They are moving across the country from a family that loves them unconditionally and will miss them terribly. I knew that I would not be able to give them the kind of life and home they needed if I didn’t take this leap of faith. 

We are still a family. 

Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are here, there, and everywhere. 

I don’t have to throw punches to protect myself life. I just have to let it go and follow the flow.

Me.

Peace, she supposed, was contingent upon a certain disposition of the soul, a disposition to receive the gift that only detachment that only detachment from self made possible. – Elizabeth Goudge

Self-love, or lack thereof, has been the largest stumbling block of my life. I have constantly viewed my outside as too much and my insides as too little. If only I could shrink my physical size and grow some smarts on the inside, maybe I would like myself. Maybe you would like me too.

I need you to like me.

Please like me.

Once we’ve got that covered I’m going to need you to tell me exactly how much you like me several times a day. I’m not going to actually tell you that, I’m going to assume that you can read my mind.

Communication seems to be an on going issue as well.

Insecurity is as much of a part of my DNA as the color of my eyes. It’s been with me always, that loud voice screaming , “You will never be of any value.”

I remember as a child staring at my left arm and feeling embarrassed about the splotchy birthmark that spread out over top of my arm all the way down to my pinky finger. An older neighbor told me that it looked like a map of the world once. I wanted to cut my arm off right then and there. I didn’t want a map on my arm, I wanted a skinny arm. Thin. Long. Skinny.

I was six years old.

I remember learning about birth defects in 10th grade biology and suddenly realizing that this thing on my arm made me defective. My high school boyfriend traced the outline of it with his finger, saying he loved it. It was part of me, and he loved all of me. When he broke up with my shortly after to head to Boston for college my first thought was that he was probably the only man who would ever love me with this defective arm.

Defective and dramatic. Tragically dramatic.

Years later when I gave birth to my youngest daughter I did the same thing I did with the older two when they were born. I counted ten fingers, ten toes, and made sure I saw no birthmark. No daughter of mine would suffer the way I did. So much suffering.

For what? An arm? An arm that works perfectly well. An arm that has carried textbooks and children. An arm that hugs the people I love. What else matters?

When she was two weeks old, a red dot showed up on Lucie face. I asked asked the dr, I asked the nurse, I asked family members- Is that a birth mark?

Wait.

Is that one of those birthmarks that grows and grows and disfigures poor innocent babies all over the world?

Yup.

I watched day after day as it grew and grew. I cried at night when I was breastfeeding her, holding her hand, knowing that people would ask her, ” What’s that thing on your face?”. I imagined all the kids in school who would point fingers and laugh. I took my over dramatic personal experience with birthmarks and marked my daughter with a bleak future of isolation and insecurity.

Her birthmark stopped growing pretty fast. It was dark red and shaped just like a heart on her lower left chin. She was born on February 10th, and her sisters thought it must be shaped like a heart, because her birthday was so close to valentines day. She’s four now. Her birthmark is 99% faded, no one ever made fun of her, and when people asked what it was, it was never a big deal. She’s fine. She was fine.

I wasn’t fine. I was projecting my insecurities on a newborn. I hate that those thoughts ever crept into my mind. If her birthmark hadn’t faded, she would still be the beautiful, crazy, sweet girl that she is. Her birthmark has nothing to do with who she is or who she will become.

When I was in high school I used to spend hours on my Dell computer pretending to do homework. Instead, I was instant messaging this guy I thought was cool. He use big words. He talked about math and space. He quoted historians and famously dead musicians. He was interesting. I was boring. I would type out a message to him and before sending it, I would do spell check, use the thesaurus and double check to make sure I sounded witty enough. I signed up for dictionary.com daily emails so I could pull out a new word to spice things up if I started to sound too basic.

I’m not as smart as you. You probably think I’m dumb. Dumb and fat.

Even after treatment at fifteen for an eating disorder, even after countless appointments with therapists, all I saw was a stupid girl who still doesn’t have a thigh gap. I once dated someone who told me he liked having a little something extra to hold on to at night. I interpreted that as to mean he liked to spoon my belly rolls. Needless to say, we never snuggled again. Later in life, I spent hours on the couch of an older man talking about anything and everything. I felt understood, I felt smart, I felt appreciated and I felt worthy. I figured if this man thought I had something of worth to give to the world, I should start to feel that way too. That was all fun and dandy until he cracked a joke about me still carrying the baby weight from my last pregnancy several years before.

The hate just boiled and boiled until it became too much and the only thing I could shut it up with was a drink. Not one. Not two. No three. As the wine started to do its job, I started to feel better. I began to feel pretty and witty. I would look into the same mirror I had just been staring into crying and see a confident, beautiful, engaging woman who could do anything she wanted.

Get ready world, because here I come! Well, just wait a sec, let me finish this Pinot first.

I wanted more, more, more, more, more to feel less, less, less, and less.

Next came the tears and the blackout. The self loathing would continue to grow evry morning when I couldn’t remember what I did or said the night before. My pounding head would quickly remind me that if I pounded another drink with the sunrise, I would be able to reach that euphoric feeling of self worth, if only for a few minutes.

The same cycle over and over.

I’ve been sober for a few years. Sobriety has given me my life back. Sobriety allows me to be a present mother. Sobriety gives me a healthier perspective on how to cope with hard times. Sobriety has given me friends and love. I surround myself with other sober people and make a conscious effort to work on growth in my sobriety every day.

It’s a beautiful thing.

So, how come I still don’t feel beautiful or worthy? My entire outlook on life has changed, just like they promised it would. I have experienced happiness, tragedy, divorce, death, love and heartbreak with such a different perspective than before. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life even though some stuff really sucks some days.

When I sit down to write, I always hope that my experience may be able to help someone else. I write a lot about the positive changes I have experienced due to my sobriety. I do my best to make sure that the message I want to convey includes the miracle of sobriety.

This post is a little different. This post has been in my heart for so long, I just didn’t know how to share it. I have to be transparent and I have to be vulnerable to allow change. I know that things take time and every single moment of every single day is exactly how it should be. I know that I am not in control. I know that there’s something far larger than myself guiding me on my journey.

And yet- I still don’t know how to love myself.

I still want to apologize for being me.

Where does self love begin? How do I get there? The simple answer is prayer.

Someone out there must feel this way too. Perhaps just knowing that you’re not the only one struggling helps. By sharing this, I wanted to remove myself from the isolation in my mind that I have experienced with this.

This is me now.

I know that if I surrender, if I call myself out, if I stay honest and open- I can get through absolutely anything with a little help from a force larger than myself and the people who have always promised me that with a little work miracles do happen.

I’ve seen it in others time and time again.

I hope that I will see it in myself, with our without that mirror I stood in front of before.

Fear & Loathing

This time last year a lot of us were blissfuly unaware of what lay ahead of us after January 1st. I was adjusting to life in a new town, new state, excited to host Christmas Eve at our house for the first time. New year, new me…right? Let go of the past, march straight into the future with anticipation and hope.

I must have taken a wrong turn, because I marched straight into a tsunami. The sheer depth of the wave stunned me and as the current pulled back from the shore, I watched parts of me drift away. Lost at sea.

I lost friends.
I lost sleep.

I lost weight.

I lost my partner. I mean, he’s still kicking’, he just ain’t kickin’ it around here anymore.

I lost my serenity.

I lost my sanity.

I lost my socks. All of them.

I lost family.

I lost my voice.

I lost my light.

I lost library books.

I lost my patience.

And most recently, I lost my car keys.

Couch diving to find keys…

In the early months of 2020 I had a hard time trying to figure out if I could live through my wreckage. The voice on the other end of the phone repeated over and over that I was crazy. A sociopath. An insecure, jealous, vindictive little girl. My brain tricked me into believe these things were true. I could have let it wash right over me, but my reaction was to make those statements my truth. Night after night screaming and crying in my mind. I am the one who made myself suffer. I could have chosen to pause and breathe. Someone once told me that just because your thoughts are there doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

I didn’t listen. I started to future trip and let fear take over.

What if my kids grow up to hate me?

These people must think I’m super fat.

Only an idiot would fall in love with me.

I’m a disposable piece of trash.

My daughters would be happier without me.

I believed those things for a long time. I felt like a voodoo doll being poked for pain. I just wanted to be happy, but the negativity was smothering me. At some point I realized that there isn’t a single person or thing that can make me happy. My happiness is my issue, no one else’s. My happiness must come from me.

My happiness is right in front of me.

I let fear creep over and over. I feared what life would be like as a single mom. I feared that my ex leave me and I would never have love again, if I ever had it to begin with.

Fear spreads quickly like cancer destroying your insides before you even realize it. Fear lives in the “What if’s?”. What if I hadn’t walked out? What if I asked for help years ago? What if I raised my hand more during class? What if I hadn’t left home? What if I kept pursuing my dreams of music and theater? What if I had waited to have kids? What if I hadn’t snuck away night after night trying to fix or fill my heart with someone or something else?

What if I had surrendered and let go?

What if I held onto the comfort of late nights and cozy blankets? What if I followed my heart, my gut or whatever you want to call it?

Or- instead of running on the hamster wheel of what could have been, or who I thought I should be and decided to embrace the fear. Push through it and never look back. In the words of Robert Frost, “ The only way out is through.”.

Turn fear into motivation. Turn loathing into action and open up to a new way of life without the weight of resentments and broken expectations. Instead of counting losses, count my blessings.

So grateful for these little weirdos…

There are so many right in front of me. I don’t know what lays ahead, but I do know that it’s not my job to control it. My job is to be grateful for what I’m given, stop whining and start living. Half of the reason I write here is to remind myself of these things when the ghosts of the past show up and try to confuse me into believing I’m weak and disposable.

Children live what they learn. Watching my daughters grow and forge their own path is both inspiring and terrifying. I am inspired by their childlike wonder. They approach things with an unbiased view. Each new experience is an adventure, whether realize it or not. They learn as they go and experience bumps along the way. Bumps turn into life experiences that shape who they will become. We all make choices in our lives, but what if we based our choices without the fear that we’re used to? What if we opened up our our minds and hearts with fearless exploration? Will we still have mistakes, heartache, addictions, sadness and grief? Yes. But instead of it detouring our path, what if we accepted those things as a part of our journey thats led us to where we are now and where we will go? What if we replaced fear with gratitude?

I’d like to find out.

Grandmother

I grew up during a time when Family Video was a thriving business filled with endless amounts of VHS tapes to enjoy on a Friday night. The checkout line displayed row after row of candy. When you reached the cashier you were greeted with signs saying, “Friday Family Fun Night Snacks!” next to large tubs of popcorn with real movie theater butter. That was the shit right there.

She’d let me pick out whatever I wanted. We rented “Selena” with a side of candy lipstick (if you’re a child of the 90’s, you know what I’m talking about), a big tub of popcorn, some skittles, and a soda. If I had asked her to buy the entire place out, I’m sure she would have. I was the only grandkid for ten years and I wore that crown like a boss. She would set me up in the guest room upstairs with the big AC unit so I could watch Jennifer Lopez reenact the career and life of Selena. I learned every word to “Como La Flor” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” while dancing on the queen-sized bed, using the remote as my microphone. I remember knowing right then and there that I wanted to be a singer. The music moved me in a way I had never felt before (I mean… I was nine years old, but whatever). That movie, in that room, on that hot summer night is when my love affair with music began. As an adult working on a degree in musical theater in my 20s, I reflected on that night over and over.

I learned to swim in the pool out back. I can remember the way the pool liner felt on my feet as it dipped from the shallow end to the deep end. “Look! I can still touch here!” Flip flops off the diving board. Underwater handstands that ended with a mermaid splash. I would put my goggles and flippers on and spend hours dipping in and out of the water while getting in touch with my inner mermaid. “Count how long I can hold my breath underwater!” I would yell out as she dipped her toes on the edge, watching me try to break the Guinness World Record for youngest person in the history of time to hold my breath underwater for the longest amount of time. Or, at least that’s what it felt like. She gave me unconditional love and attention, which I’m sure was exhausting. I was kind of dramatic, if you can imagine that!

Hard to picture, right? I was an only child, the only grandchild, THE LIGHT OF EVERYONE’S LIVES until some other kids were born and blah blah blah. (Love you little cousins and siblings!). After my parents got divorced, my grandmother joined my mom and I on a trip to Disney World. It was fantastic- until we lost her. Yes, my mother and I lost her. One minute she was standing next to us, the next I started screaming about wanting my own parasol with my name written on it in cursive and I had to have it RIGHT NOW before the nighttime Disney parade started. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know that they close the park each night with a massive light spectacle and parade. When the parade starts you can’t really move. If you’re on one side of the street and your family is on the other, that’s just too bad, because Mickey is on his way and you better just stand back.

Did I know this at the time? Probably. But I needed that damn parasol. My parents just got divorced, woe is me, my childhood is ruined forever! The only way that I would ever have happiness in my life was if I had that parasol. The purple parasol with my name written in fancy cursive on top. She crossed the street at the last second. I think we thought she would probably stay there until the end of the parade, but as things came to a closing we realized she wasn’t there.

Imagine losing a family member in Downtown Disney and then having to go to the “Town Hall” where a man in a barbershop quartet is taking your information and putting out an announcement that there’s a lady missing: blonde hair, medium height, probably wearing a fanny pack. My mother was freaking out, and I realized that we may never ever find her- or my parasol.

Priorities.

A few hours later after an extensive search by people and Disney characters alike we realized we had done all we could do. There were no cell phones or GPS trackers yet. We hopped onto the trolly back to the “Mighty Ducks” parking lot trying to figure out what we were going to have to tell everyone back in CT.

“Lost? Disney? What happened?”

“Did she bibbity-boppity-boo herself right out of there?”

“Did she turn into a pumpkin at midnight?”

“Did you call the police?”

As we pulled up to our designated lot we saw a figure in the distance sitting on the hood of a car that looked vaguely familiar. There she was! Sitting there under the stars, waiting for us to finally show up, parasol in hand.

Every winter and summer we would head up to the homestead in Oxbow, Maine. It was a place of serenity and beauty. There were acres upon acres of forest covered in fresh snow and small woodland creatures. We would walk a bit down the road to fill old milk bottles with fresh spring water. If you came for a visit in the summer you would have a chance to see the beautiful gardens cared for by her loving hands and experience the thrill of being eaten alive by 50,000 black flies for weeks on end. My great-great Uncle, whom we called Gramps, warmed the cabin with a wood stove and cooked bran muffins every morning to eat on the screened-in back porch. We’d also do another very fun, exciting – thrilling, if you will- activity while out in the wilderness up there.

Moose watching.

We went moose watching.

Not once. Not twice. But dozens and dozens of times in my childhood.

We’d wait for it to get dark out, hop in the old fashioned mini van that looked like a cross between a station wagon and a box, drive out a bit, turn the lights off and wait.

And wait.

Until all of a sudden you saw something out of the corner of your eye.

“Shhhhh! Look…Katie… see? See over there?” “See what? I don’t…”

…and BOOM turn on your headlights and there’s a handful of large Moose ready to charge into your mini van from 1994. But, they didn’t. They just took a good look at us and we took a good look back, and we continued this tradition for most of my life.

“TEN! Ten moose this time! Can you believe it?”

I had more fun looking for moose with my grandmother as a kid than I’ve ever had playing candy crush on my iPhone. Those were some of the best times, and there was no social media to distract us from the wonder and beauty of life.

She has a green thumb that I envy. I couldn’t keep any plant or flower alive if my life depended on it. She has always taken great pride in her work outdoors. Her garden always flourished, and so did the poison ivy rash she would get countless amounts of times. Honestly, in my 34 years of life, not a single spring or summer has passed without that woman catching some rash from this and that in her own backyard. When I was in high school, I went away for the weekend once. She had come over to help my parents with their garden and ended up staying the night. She slept in my bed. A few days later I overheard her talking about her recent bout of poison ivy which just happened to be all over her body. I started itching before she could even finish the sentence. I somehow manifested phantom poison ivy itching because I was certain that the woman had infested my sheets with it. I was a teenager. I never changed my sheets. All of a sudden I imagined big pink and oozing poison ivy blisters all over my torso and how my boyfriend would never want to hold my hand ever again.

The closet upstairs is where she keeps most of her photos. If you opened the door to the damn thing, you’d be buried alive under all the albums that she’s shoved in there over the years. Books filled with photos from Memorial Day parades, birth announcements, birthday parties, piano recitals and more. She would pull them out for me all the time and say, “Hey Katie- look at this one. Remember that?” She would hand me a picture of the time we had a unicorn at my birthday party in her backyard. Of course I remember.

She’s always made me feel important.

Loved.

Cared for.

She and I have always had a special bond, but I didn’t realize how special it really was until recently. Our demons know each other well. When I was a child I found this all to be very confusing. What happened? What was going on? Was she okay? Where did she go?

She always came back. I didn’t ask questions, I just knew that she loved me and she was trying to love herself too. I had no idea how heavy her burden was. I didn’t know what it felt like to carry that burden alone. I had no idea that one day I would understand.

I do understand, but because of her, I have never had to carry that burden alone.

I woke up a few years ago and realized that I was missing out on life because I was too busy numbing myself from it. I couldn’t experience joy, pain, sadness or happiness. I did my very best to drown my feelings, good or bad. I thought it was normal, until it wasn’t.

I isolated myself from everyone I loved and who loved me. I was too terrified to try to cope with life, I just wanted life to shut up. It was too loud. I drank up everything I could, hoping to float. Instead, I just sunk deeper and deeper to the bottom. The deeper I went, the more the darkness grew.

I was scared. I was ashamed. I was broken. I was nothing.

I thought I was alone.

With trembling hands I reached for my phone, dialed her number and waited for her to say hello. I could hardly get the words out, tears were streaming down my face and I could hardly breathe. I called her because I knew that she knew what this felt like. I could hear her own voice trembling and could picture the tears on her cheeks too.

She said she was proud of me for asking for help. She said she loved me and she was sorry.

“Sorry for what?”, I asked.

All the times she wasn’t there. All the times she tried and failed. All the times I saw her at her worst.

I could feel her heartache in my own heart.

None of that matters, Gram.

Every obstacle we go through in life has the ability to either take us down or make us stronger. Even in defeat we have the opportunity to grow.

I sound like a cheesy self-help infomercial right now, but it’s the truth.

When I think about what she’s given me, I can hardly express my gratitude. She and I share the same disease. Without help, it’s fatal. If she wasn’t who she is and hadn’t gone through what she’s gone through, I’m not sure I would have been able to recognize it in myself and muster up enough courage to say, “My name is Kate and I’m an alcoholic,” if she hadn’t said it first.

Her journey helped me discover my own courage to accept and surrender.

She saved my life.

I love you a bushel and a peck Gram. To the moon and back and over again, endlessly.

Be here with me now.

 

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be set free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” -Chuang

 

I can’t sit still. My mind is always going at full speed into a million different directions at any given time. I could be cooking dinner for my kids and my brain will be thinking about what color backpack I should get them next year and when was the last time that the lawn was mowed.

8936BB3B-F1DE-46EE-A2C9-0667F28B3FD2My mind is loud and reckless. It’s distracted and random at best. I spent about a decade trying to quiet the damn thing down by smiling hard and guzzling wine.

Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.

Please.

I found it very easy and simple to shove it all down with one substance or another. Feelings are dumb. Don’t have the feelings. If you have too many feelings you might end up on the Dr. Phil show.

Distraction works as a defense mechanism. Instead of being present and taking life one day, one minute, one second at a time, I’m over here planning my three year old daughters wedding several decades from now instead of working through my own relationships in life.

Even without a hefty amount of toxins in my body I found the act of being present in my life was a challenge.

Here’s a quick example: I don’t have time. Time for what? Time to read the description of a television show called, “Unsolved Mysteries” on Netflix. I am a true crime junkie. I live and breathe for documentaries I can watch when the kids are asleep. I became emotionally invested in the entire first episode. On the edge of my couch, I counted the minutes. I realized that the show was more than half over and the audience was no where near knowing what happened to this poor guy. I waited and waited…

 

WHO SHOVED THIS MAN OFF A ROOF?

Did his coworker kill him? Tell me! Details! Now!

Then the screen went black and at the bottom there were a few lines saying, “If you have any information about what happened to so and so, please call this number…”.

ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

The show is called Unsolved Mysteries. UNSOLVED. I must have just skipped right over that first word before starting the series. I couldn’t even take the time to pay attention to what was playing right in front of me.

Typical.

EEE16D89-13CF-437D-BDD0-A0E5865EAB11There have been so many moments in my kids life where I couldn’t or wouldn’t be present for them. Sober or not. When I was drinking, the alcohol came before everyone and everything. When I realized what I was doing and how I was missing precious moments with my kids, I chose to drink even more to not have to feel the guilt or shame. Even in sobriety, being present for others and myself hasn’t been easy. My daughter is always asking me to play with her. Let’s play ponies! Let’s color! Let’s go outside!

 

Sure! Sure. Yes. Absolutey. I would love to do those things with you, but first just let me finish folding the laundry, chopping the veggies, sweeping the garage, feeding the cats, charging my iPad, stare blankly at the wall while I forget which task I was supposed to do next, all the while missing out on moments that would have been memories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into the mens restroom in various gas stations, because I wasn’t paying attention.

I have never once left my house with everything I was supposed to bring with me. I’ve forgotten diapers, pants (MY OWN PANTS), wallet, phone, children…you name it.

I try my best to not spend all of my days drowning my sorrows, worries, hopes, fears, dreams, reality, or broken heart in a bottle. I slow down. I pause. I pray. I talk. I listen. I make progress, not perfection.

BBD40C79-2B4B-4F74-9C7D-7462BEC5235DA few months ago my mom filled me in on a little secret. She told me that she had started meditating and it was helping her with stress. I can’t remember my exact response but I’m sure it went something along the lines of “That’s cool, but that sounds like some hippie dippie shit.”

New Age Bullshit.

Well, maybe those hippie dippie people had a point. I was introduced to meditation in a group setting. I hadn’t intended on spending my evening with a bunch of people meditating in a room together. I just walked in the room. I saw some familiar faces. I made eye contact and realized I was fucked. I had to stay. Leaving would be rude, and my mama raised me better than that.

I sat in an uncomfortable chair, listened to the instructions, sat up straight, closed my eyes and promptly heard a familiar voice in my head that has always comforted me over the years.

Britney Spears.

 

I wasn’t exactly sure where my brain was going with that, but I think we can all agree that the Queen of Pop has changed all of our lives with her #1 hits over the years. So, if my brain wanted me to hear the classic early 2000’s hit “Lucky”, I didn’t question it.

I was told to let my thoughts happen, whatever they were. Good or bad. Just let them come and go.

C1B9573C-DC7F-419B-88C1-0F625EDC29A5The waves in the ocean, crashing with impact and then pulling slowly back with the tide, making room for the next. Over and over.

Ten minutes later I felt like a completely different person. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t understand it. I just knew that something had happened. My damaged heart started to open, the light that I had been avoiding came through the cracks. My mind allowed my heart to feel gratitude in a way I had never felt before. My eyes started to water, because the peace I felt in that moment was a gift. The tiniest amount of serenity left me with an awakened heart and mind.

So, I did what anyone would do.

I walked out of the room and promptly forgot every single thing I had learned.

But I kept coming back. I keep coming back.

Meditation has allowed me to experience life differenty then before. I can breathe. After all of these years, I can breathe.

2AF2ED41-3568-48B5-B3E1-BD045F6C925ASerenity and peace don’t just fall into our laps. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Yeah. No. That’s not how it works. The only way I can stay in the light is with an open mind, open heart, willingness, honesty, prayer and fellowship with a few like minded people.

048AF1F4-7EDD-4365-AB75-C1A8A7F7218BI sat outside a few days ago surrounded by rocks, paint, glitter and my daughters. I watched them laugh and goof off with each other. I watched them share the paint brushes (for the most part). I watched them show each other each and every stone with pride. I watched them toss glitter in each others hair and dance in the afternoon sun. I sat next to them fully present and grateful that I could be there with them. Right then and there. I could be still without thinking about next weeks dinner plans, if the car had gas in it, how to get rid of cellulite and if I fed the dog yesterday.

6F301EB5-F4F4-48B2-BF8D-ADA7CD7315CDThis moment matters. This singular moment. The moments that follow will matter as well, but I don’t need to worry about that.

I just need to stay in the moment until the next one comes.

There’s a force so much larger than ourselves that keeps whispering in my ear repeating this over and over again-

Be here with me. Be here with me now.

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“Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustrations, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval. Let go of old judgements and opinions. Die to all that and fly free. Soar in the freedom of desirelessness” -Surya Das

 

 

 

 

 

A Womans Worth: A Letter to my Mama

Dear Mom,

I have been sitting on this topic for a few weeks. What worth do we as women have in this world? Do we acknowledge our worth, or do we let others diminish it?  Do we stay silent to hide our strength, because our strength is intimidating to others? A woman can’t be worthy in this world if she’s too much.

Too much or not enough.

Don’t appear too confident, too smart, too brave, too beautiful, too independent, or too successful if you really want to succeed in life and have a great husband.

0-2*Get it girl*

My dear Mama: you have raised me well. Some of the lessons I have learned from you have sat dormant in my mind for quite a while. I ran in the other direction. I made choices that kept me small. I firmly believed that a white picket fence would make me happy. It didn’t. I firmly believed that the only thing I could offer was giving birth to babies and emptying the dishwasher.

Don’t get me wrong- being a mom is the greatest honor I have ever experienced. I have the pleasure of watching these three wild, silly, strong-willed girls grow day by day and I get to be part of that. It’s amazing.

But is that the only thing I can be?

What about my dreams, my passions, my goals? It never occurred to me that I could do those things and still be the badass mom that I am today.

I let men silence me. I let society silence me. I let alcohol silence me. I let myself silence me. 

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When I think about your life Mom, I hear symphonies instead of silence. You have spent your entire life pushing yourself to be better, wiser and stronger. You worked hard for your education, your job, and your home with a grateful heart.

0-1*

I know that as you are reading this, you are going to be flooded with emotions. I mean, if we’re being honest here, you kind of always have floods of emotion! That’s good. Gotta let it out.

I know that you have spent hours replaying different memories from my life where you wish you could have done things differently or wish you had been at one thing or another. You tell me over and over how sorry you are for missing stuff. I know that your heart broke when I went into labor and you weren’t there. I know that you still carry that guilt.

Let me tell you something. If you had been around, you would have been ushered out into the waiting room as I entered the OR for that damn emergency c-section. You wouldn’t have been allowed in. You dropped a heck of a lot of money to turn around and get on the next flight back to me. Everything was such a rush. The first baby. Total beautiful chaos.

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I remember almost nothing about my c-section.

Do you know what I do remember? I remember you basically sprinting into the room several hours later. You dropped everything and made it back in record time. Maybe you don’t remember this, but by the time you arrived I was tired. More than tired. Emotionally drained and emotionally full.

 

What I’m trying to say here is that I needed a nap. I straight up just needed to sleep for a minute. You have no idea how deep the exhaustion is after birth until you’ve actually experienced it. You came in and walked right up to us. You picked up Fiona and held her to your heart. You sat down in the rocking chair and introduced yourself to her. I said something about being tired, and you told me to take a nap.

Nap.

Nap?

Moms are allowed to nap? I heard that was a myth.

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You rocked that little smooshy face for almost two hours while I zoned in and out of an unusual sleep. You never sleep the same after a human being exits you. You have to be on call 24/7. I remember the wave of calm that came over me when you walked in there and I closed my eyes. I had spent the past several hours absolutely terrified when my *natural* birth plan didn’t work out. I felt guilt, as if my body had failed her. I don’t know how, but your presence helped calm those emotions.

You’re my mom. You knew I needed to sleep. Moms know everything.

Let me repeat that: Moms know everything.

You would have missed her birth if you had been one mile away or across the country. You would have had to sit and wait outside for who knows how long. I was ok. I did it. I had a baby. I needed you, but not right there at that moment. I needed you to come in like Wonder Woman, sweeping the sleeping baby out of my arms and into yours. I felt my shoulders relax. I felt my eyes getting heavy.

You were there when I needed you. I didn’t need you in the OR, I needed you right then and there in my hospital room. That’s what I remember. Not that you left, but that you came in at just the right time. 

We joke around a lot calling you a *workaholic*. You work. You work really hard. It’s easy for me to sit here on this couch and say you do too much. But I wouldn’t have the damn couch if you hadn’t worked so hard to make sure that we all have always had everything we’ve needed.  You work your ass off even when it seems impossible.

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Being a mom is much like walking on a tightrope. It’s hard and almost impossible. People constantly ask, “How do you do it?” And the answer is simple: the love that we have for our children gives us no other choice. If we have to move a mountain, we will move a mountain. Moms are incredible.

0-5

The past year I have heard you say a lot of things about divorce. Your own and mine. At times you seem to believe that if you raised me differently, that perhaps my marriage wouldn’t have ended. You also seem to believe that you have some kind of control over this situation.

Let me tell you right now-You, your life, your family, your everything…not one single part of your past makes you responsible for what I’m going through, or what my kids are going through.

This isn’t your fault. 

You have brought me back from the ledge of the bridge too many times this past year. You have picked up every phone call. You’ve read every text. You’ve let me go on and on about superficial things while you are mourning the loss of your father. You put me first.

A few months back my marriage ended. I didn’t know what to do, who to turn to, how to make it through one more hour of the misery I was consumed with. A few days later you flew out. Dropped everything, got on a plane, and came out to give me a break. My house was flooded with sewage water. It smelled like a porta potty. You took care of everything. EVERYTHING. You changed your flight home, because you knew I needed more time with you.

You put your own exhaustion aside and sat by me when I needed you the most.

We lost Grampie. You lost your Dad. You had to be the one to call me that morning. Your voice didn’t even tremble. You knew you had to be strong for me in that moment.

I hope I can be strong for you too someday. 

Even when circumstances have been less than ideal, you still do what you need to do for us. You don’t give up. You push. You push into the right direction as much as you can.

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I have spent my entire life watching you soar. You aren’t just a mom. You aren’t just a successful business woman. You aren’t just a loving and kind Grammie. You aren’t just the shoulder your daughters cry on. You aren’t just the mom who has pulled her daughter out of financial and emotional ruin. You aren’t just a devoted daughter. You aren’t just a beloved sibling, leader of the pack. You aren’t just a woman who has a deep love of twizzlers and diet pepsi. You aren’t just the mom who has sacrificed sanity to drive across the country with my three screaming kids in the back. You aren’t just the big promotion. You aren’t just the woman who has helped your daughter stay sober. You aren’t just the woman with a new car or a new house. You aren’t just a hallmark movie watching junkie.

You are Susan. 

You don’t have to be anyone or anything else, just being who you are makes your worth in this world and in my heart immeasurable.

You are enough. You are worthy. You are loved.

 

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.

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