Brain Dump Friday – The Craziness Returns

I don’t want to say too much…but I could actually get paid to be a professional doodler. Doodling. Who would have guessed?

It was a bright revelation after the week I had. I managed to let both of my children down in the course of two days. I know it happens…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. It does. The internet at home has gone down about 10 times this morning and it’s making me want to kick something. It’s so irritating. I can only guess that the internet is as shocked and bewildered by the weather as I am. Six inches of snow at the beginning of the month, and then 95 degrees and humid enough to melt your face off 15 days later. I’m glad that modern-day Boone, Iowa isn’t like England in 1915. I don’t understand them. I’m catching up on Downton Abbey. It would be nice to have people running around cleaning and cooking, but I can dress myself, thank you very much. And I don’t need people listening to every word I say. None of it is that important, but it’s mine. By the way, every time the new maids’ name is mentioned (it’s Ethel), I think of Romeo and Ethel The Pirates’ Daughter from Shakespeare In Love. I’m not going to explain, you either know or you don’t, and if you don’t, you should. Also: Falling Skies. Oh my goodness! Scary and wonderful. Well, I’ve got things to finish up. Sorry I was gone for so long. I’m back. That is all.

Hi, my name is Vicki, and I’m undesirable…

(Everyone together: “Hi, Vicki!”)

I don’t blog when I’m down.

Ok, that’s not totally true. I’m blogging right now.

I’ve had a lot on my mind, but every time I sit down to write, I get whiney-sounding, and I don’t want to whine here, so I delete it and go about my day.

Too bad for this post…I’m breaking my rule. You can just skip to the next post if you’d like. In fact, you probably should.

You’re not going to, are you? OK…I warned you.

I’ve been looking for a job for quite some time now, and I’m not finding anything. It’s getting me down, and the more rejection I face, the more down I get, and the more down I get, the less I care about finding a job, and the less I care about finding a job, the more pressure I feel, and the more pressure I feel, the more down I get…

It’s a vicious spiral.

I can’t even get a job at Walmart. I hate Walmart, but I would work there, and I’d be a great employee. But they don’t even want me. Nobody does. Cue world’s smallest violin…

It’s just that it’s all pretty overwhelming right now, and I’m having trouble with what’s fair and what’s not fair. It just seems stupid that we can’t do something that would greatly benefit our son (and us-financially) because I can’t find a job. It’s a huge weight to bear, and I don’t like it. It makes me want to stay in bed all day. It feels like it’s all my fault. And the worst part is that it’s a tiny amount now to earn him a scholarship and save almost half of his college tuition for four years. Yeah…almost half! But it’s too much right now, and that’s just the way it is. It’s not fair.

There I go sounding whiney…time to go lay down in the dark and probably not sleep. That’s what I do.

On a brighter note, I got a new toothbrush and I really like it. New mouthwash, too.

And I get to spend the whole day tomorrow with my girl. One-on-one days with my kids are the best!

I’m going to choose to see the best, and make the best of what I can.

Oh, and…while it may suck to live on a budget, it’s sucks more to have three things pop up in one month. One month that was so perfectly planned and is now shot to **insert your own word here**. That’s why we are changing things. We get up and dust ourselves off, make the best of what we will try to save out of the mess that is May, and try again next month.

If you need me, I’ll be praying in the corner. And some crying. Hopefully, mostly praying. At least I’m not pregnant. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just thought about something worse than what I feel now, and that would be worse. So…at least that’s not a possibility.

That is all.

P.S. Can I put two “ly” words together like that? Well, I did it. Sue me. Well, don’t sue me…but if you threaten to, I can just send you the $5 I have left, and we’ll save some court fees. ;)

Also, would you pray for me…that it turns around? That I find a job I can at least stand to go to? That we stay on track? There are lots of things to pray for, but those are the big ones. For now. Thank you.

Brain Dump Friday – My Life Is Boring, But Busy Edition

It’s SHOW NIGHT!!! I went to the preview night last night to record it, and IT’S SO AMAZING! I loved it! The kids have done a great job and worked so hard! Jessup went from bit parts and big parts with no lines to the lead role, and I think he’s doing really well. I hope this is a hint of what’s to come. So many of the kids who are usually in the plays aren’t in this one. I don’t know why. It’s nice to see new kids getting the roles though, and to see new talent up there. I know this…Jessup can’t wait to get his hair cut! He’s had to let it grow out because he’s a “Greaser” and they have longer hair. Jessup gets his hair cut every five weeks, like clockwork. I wish my video-taping skills were as good as the play deserved. It takes up the whole stage, and in order to get the volume, I had to be close. It’s not terrible, but having someone there to take pics for me would have been really helpful. Trying to record AND take pics was difficult. Today is going to be such a busy day. It’s good though, because it won’t drag on. I hope. FPU (Financial Peace University) started this week as well. The class is bigger than we thought it would be. That’s a good thing. It means more people are changing their family tree. We are a busy, busy family. I feel sometimes like I brag about Jessup more than Ainsley. I hate that. Ainsley made the honor roll. It seems like she does everything he does (drama, orchestra, honor roll, etc.), so it’s hard to brag about her without him being included. I want to encourage her to do something new. Something he doesn’t do… We’ve tried, but it hasn’t worked so far. Except for sports. He did track, she did basketball. They each did only one season, and both got it out of the way in 7th grade. So, even when she’s different, she’s still similar. They even both have blue as their favorite color. sigh. I need to find someone who can make my dining room chairs not wobbly. I don’t know how to fix them, and they’re really old, so we need to do it before they break. I am making supper for Barry’s parents tonight before the play, and I’m excited about it. I’m pretty sure Ma thinks that I don’t or can’t cook, and while she’s partly right, I can cook. There’s a difference. My Brother-In-Law, Richard, is coming over as well. It isn’t the same without Becky, but she’s hopefully having such a good time in Spain that she won’t be too sad. (BECKY: It’s recorded…you can see it when you get back!) I don’t want to make her feel homesick, so I try not to tell her how much she’s missed, but there is a definite hole here without her. I had my follow up appointment with my doctor yesterday and got a clean bill of health. YAY! This isn’t very random today. Nor is it interesting. I saw an SUV with the license plate GRMSVAN the other day. It wasn’t a van. It was an SUV. I really wanted to point that out. Also, I assume the GRMS stood for Grandmas or Grams, and not for Germs, but I thought it was funnier saying Germs Van, so that’s what I choose to see. I have a personal plate all picked out for my car, and for my other car (Jessup’s car is technically mine), so when I need new stickers this year, I might get new plates as well. I’m not going to say what they are. This was an actual conversation between Jessup and me. It shows how annoying I am.

Jessup: Say there was a tough math problem…

Me: All math problems are tough.

Jessup: No, I mean a really hard one.

Me: Oh, so it has letters in it.

Jessup: Ok, yeah, whatever. Can I please finish? …

Me: o_o

I’m pretty annoying. I think math is hard. I don’t understand the point of the Harlem Shake. I think it would be fun, though, for our youth group to do it. Since it’s almost all boys, I don’t think it would get too out of hand. Then again, our youth group is almost all boys. Jessup seems to think that marriage is a one-way street. That when he gets stressed out, he will able to talk and talk and talk and then go away, and his wife will just sit there and digest all that he has said. He doesn’t realize that she’s going to have things to say back to him, and that she’s going to talk (probably) more than he does. I think it would be really fun to not tell him, and see what happens, but I should probably figure out a way to prepare him for the fact that she will not be his mother, and she will get mad when he dumps and runs. That sounds funny. I meant in a conversation, but the other will make her mad as well. That is all.

Foreshadowing

This photo was taken the morning my mom died.

The week she went into the ICU was Spring Break week for me in school, so I pretty much moved into the ICU room with my mom.

That week was also Parent-Teacher Conferences for my son, and Student-Led Conference for my daughter.

Monday I drove like a bat out of hell to Des Moines, because the nursing home called and said she was going to Mercy Hospital (again) by ambulance. She’d been having trouble breathing. I left my home, 15 miles farther than the home from the hospital, and took the fastest way to the hospital (freeway). It’s a little longer, but you can drive faster (legally). I beat her there, so I waited in the ER waiting room next to a guy who appeared to be sleeping. I say appeared to be sleeping, because he would look like he was asleep, and then he’d lean over on my shoulder and try to continue his nap-taking. I would move, and he would sit straight up and then appear to go back to sleep, and then lean over again. This happened off and on for about ten minutes, and I finally moved. He smelled like poop.

After she arrived in the ER, they led me to another room, one that was darker and poorly lit, and asked me to wait there until she was processed and hooked up to machines and such. A doctor from the ER came into the room and told me that she’d stopped breathing on the way to Des Moines, and they had to put her on a ventilator in the ambulance. The machine was now breathing for her. Barry got there, and a chaplain came in to pray with us. (This made me nervous, because when he walked in, he said that the nurse called him and told him to come see us…that we would need him)

She was assigned to room 6 in the ICU, and we had to wear the yellow gowns and gloves (which I ended up pretty much living in for the week) in order to be in the room. I stayed Monday night. Went home Tuesday afternoon, for a shower, change of clothes, and Jessup’s P-T conferences, and then drove back to Des Moines for the night. The only visitors she had were a wonderful, caring couple from our church who drove down to see her. No one else came down during that whole week, and only Barry and I were there on Friday when my mom died. I’m sure no one expected it to end the way it did, and they all have busy lives, but she was proven right when she said that people would care for me, and people would care for Barry and the kids, but it wouldn’t make a difference if she were gone.

I stayed with her until Thursday, when I had Ainsley’s conference to attend, and I really needed another shower. I stayed at home that night, and left before the sunrise on Friday morning. I needed to be at the hospital early to meet with her doctors, and talk about the next steps. I took this photo (while I was driving-shh, don’t tell) because I felt it was a fitting picture, considering what I knew was coming, and what my future felt like at that point. I was facing a decision that I never thought I’d have to make, and I was (and have been) so torn by it. Did I make the right choice? Did I do what she wanted? Did the 36-year old me make the decision, or did the teenaged me make it? All I can do now is try to find comfort in the way things are now, and try to find the strength to go on.

I’ve been here again this past week or so. I’ve been having nightmares every night about my mom. About the choice I had to make. Dreams have always come easily to me, and this last week they’ve been dark. They’ve been looming over each day like a cloud. Knowing what they have been. Knowing that they are coming again. Fearing the sleep and rest I so desperately need.

Barry has done all he could to fix my outside, but my inside is still a lonely, ugly place. Someone recently walked up to me and said that it looks like I’m fine. It looks like I don’t miss her, and I seem to have gotten over her pretty easily. Then they followed it up with, “But, of course, you didn’t want her here in the first place, so you must feel such relief.”

Is that how people see me? A cold, cruel daughter that doesn’t/didn’t care about her mom? A woman who can just get over something like that without a thought or care? Do they think that what I’m feeling is relief?

Relief is not the word for it.

Guilt.

Fear.

Pain.

Shame.

Regret.

Loneliness.

An overwhelming sadness I cannot shake.

Medicine hasn’t helped. New clothes haven’t helped. A new hairstyle…nothing is helping me to shed these feelings.

I can only hope that somehow I will find out that I’m not as alone as I feel in this. I’m wishing that a lot of things were now the way they were a few years ago. Wishing that I felt more cared for. Wishing that there were people to turn to…a pastor to look to for guidance and comfort. One who would’ve been there for me when the choices about my mom had to be made. One who would have at least visited once during that week. The chaplain at the hospital was so nice, and very caring, but it’s not easy to pour your feelings out to a man who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know what you’re feeling, and is never going to see you again. I have a lot of unfinished feelings about my childhood, and about my mom, and things she did and said to me throughout my life. None of those were a reason to let her go, but all of those factored into my decision-making. In one morning, I had to make sure that I wasn’t being cruel, I wasn’t getting back at her, and that I was truly doing what she would have wanted, and what was best for everyone. TRULY what was best. Not just what was easiest. THIS was not an easy decision.

I challenge God to show me His will through this. To make me believe that it’s really for the best. To show me that I did the right thing. That the decision made was in His prefect will, and that it isn’t my fault that she’s gone. He has not done so to this day. Maybe in the future. Maybe He never will. Maybe I will have to live with this forever, and I will never get over it. But, I will tell you this: I don’t ever want to have to bury or lose another person I love. It’s too much. I’m at the top of my family tree. I’m tired of losing people. It’s been one person every six years on average, and there are so few left to lose. Those losses would be so much more devastating. So much more painful. And they would cause so much more anger than I’ve felt before. I was so angry when my dad died. I’m angry again at the loss of my mom, when she’d finally moved her to be closer to all of us, and now she’s gone.

I wrote all of that on June 29, 2012.

It’s now January 10, 2013.

I still don’t feel peace. I still don’t know if I made the right decision. I am confident that taking her off the machines was what she would’ve wanted. She didn’t want to be attached to machines. She stopped responding two days before she died.

She. Stopped. Responding.

Monday and Tuesday she would squeeze my hand or wriggle her toes when I talked to her. Wednesday she stopped. No movement whatsoever. No way to know if she was still there.

How could I tell if she was still there? How could I know? She wasn’t brain-dead, but she wasn’t living, either.

Wednesday and Thursday, even into Friday, I begged my mom to answer me. To respond in some way. Before I had that final talk with her doctor, I begged her. I cried and begged her to let me know she was still there.

Still, I got no response.

I remember feeling so empty that day. My thoughts were unclear all morning, until I heard the phrases that I knew I needed to hear. The things I needed to know before I could let go.

1. Your mom will be on a machine for months…very likely for the rest of her life. She will always be in a bed. She will probably never walk again.

2. Your mom is not living her life anymore. This…living on a machine…this is not living. This is not the quality of life she would want.

3. Any measures taken, from now on, will be to keep her comfortable. To get her beyond this place, would take extreme measures.

I needed to hear that it was permanent, that her quality of life would never improve, and the phrase “extraordinary measures”. I knew that once I hear those terms, that I could let go.

And I did. It was like the fog lifted.

At her request I let go.

At her request I didn’t have a service.

At her request I made the decision to say goodbye.

And I’m still sorry. I still hate that I made it. I hate that I had to make it alone. I hate that I didn’t celebrate her life in some way.

I hate that the person to hold my hands while I prayed about the decision was a stranger. Someone I was unfamiliar with. The person who should have cared, didn’t. They weren’t there. They were less than an hour away and were never there.

She said no one would care if she were gone. She was wrong.

I care.

Life with her was never easy, but I wanted my kids to see a fun side to her. To see her smile and laugh. I don’t think they ever saw that side. She’d been in pain and sick from the moment she moved here. I didn’t see it often, but I knew that side of her.

I still have the dreams. I don’t sleep much. I’ll go for weeks with no dreams, and then I’ll have them for several nights in a row. I’m hoping that they stop at some point. To wake up in the morning without having cried myself back to sleep at least once during the night. I long for a full night of rest and sleep. I can’t even remember how good that feels. I only seem to know exhaustion. I’m learning to live with it.

There is no easy answer when you’re getting through grief. There’s no road map that is perfect for everyone. This landscape is far different from the one I traveled all those years ago when I lost my Dad.

So I walk. Sometimes I crawl. Alone. My heart continually aching for the parents that I no longer have.

I pray that Barry and I will be around a long time for our own children, and eventually for our grandchildren. I pray that the steps we’ve taken to get healthy will have been taken in time. That they will have been enough.

For now, here I sit, a sad, broken, lonely, little girl.

Today is March 23, 2013.

It’s been one year.

11:35 a.m., March 23, 2012.

One year since that foggy morning. One year since I held a strangers hand. The chaplain came in a few minutes after I arrived at the hospital that final morning. He held my hands as we prayed. God blessed me with the same chaplain nearly every time I called that entire week. I needed a familiar face, especially that morning. I got one. He was a very caring man. Empathetic, easy to talk to, and most of all, available. He was there. His was the face I’d seen all week. He and Nurse Abbey saw me through that week, with it’s terrifying and difficult decisions. Together and separately they offered me peace, hope, comfort, and clarity.

That week of being alone. That week of knowing, feeling, fearing what was on the horizon.

One year and 12 hours ago, I watched my mom draw her last breath. Her body struggled. It seemed to be trying, but all efforts were in vain. Her body had been breathing for 69 years, and it was habitually doing what it was designed to do. The last breath escaped. Her torn, exhausted body was, at last, still. For some time after they took the tubes out, I secretly hoped that she’d just keep going. That she just needed that final push to start breathing on her own. That somehow she would fight through it, and keep going. Finally, it was clear to me that she was gone. Her mouth was open. Her eyes empty. All that remained of her was her shell, lying on the bed, bruised, torn, scarred, and battered, but she wasn’t there anymore. After such a long time of being in pain, she was gone, and her body was at rest.

Today’s date will live in infamy…in my heart.

I still feel alone. I still feel orphaned. I know that God takes care of the orphans, but I still feel it. My people are gone. There is no one to call and brag to about my fabulous children. There is no one to call and ask advice on tough situations. There are no more Saturday calls that, while sometimes I would have rather done anything else, I looked so forward to.

I have, especially over the past year, seen a lot of my parents in my children. The quirks, and the annoyances. The humor, and the drama.

I miss my parents. I realize now how important it is for family to be together, and for us to make memories while we can. I realize that, while my childhood memories might be abnormal to many, they are mine, and they need to be remembered. Now they are all I have.

Mom, I miss you. Daddy, I miss you, too. It’s scary to be at the top of the tree. It’s lonely.

I hang on with all my strength, all the while trying to let go so I don’t suffocate what I have left.

I’ve been so busy hanging on, that I’ve forgotten how to fly. I’ve forgotten how to let the ones I love fly.

So, here’s to flying. Here’s to letting go. Here’s to not being so afraid of being at the top, that I lose my focus on the view around me.

UPDATE: I survived the day…not too much worse for the wear. In fact, it was a good day. And it ended well. And that’s always the best.

Brain Dump Friday

Yet another Carnival Cruise ship was stranded somewhere this week without hope of immediate rescue. I’m going to book a trip with them in about two years, because I figure by then…they will be paying people to give them a shot. Cheers is still really funny…after all these years (about 30). I’d really like a place like that to hang out…or even work. That would be a fun place to work. However, I’m afraid I’d be Diane… sigh. Cheers is one of the TV shows that shaped my humor…and my perspective on life. Sometimes I wonder if I got all the humor, though, and if I did, how did my parents let me watch that? I could watch whatever I wanted on TV (mostly), but I couldn’t listen to any music except for the Christian station until I was 13. Cheers probably did more damage than Journey or Kenny Rogers ever would have. Hindsight. I, on the other hand, was/am far more strict with what they watch rather than their music. I will say that neither of them likes anything too bad, music-wise, but still…I could definitely do without One Direction blaring at all hours when Ainsley is home. Jessup and I have the same taste. I love our plumber. I hope his wife doesn’t mind… Last Saturday morning the city sewer backed up into our basement and we went down there to find SIX INCHES of “poo water” in our basement. Needless to say…eeeeeeeeew! Time for a new house…this one is ruined. I am making a giant birthday card for someone today. It’s the first project that someone has called me up to ask me to do. I’m so excited! I think I’d like to start decorating the house. A little at a time. Find my style, and make this house mine. Ours. Whatever. Monday is my Anniversary. 18 years. My, has it gone by in a blink! People I love are just starting out…and I don’t feel that much older than they. (…than they are…?) Jessup brought home posters for his play…and they are SO great! I can’t wait for the play! I wish so badly that I’d been in high school plays…that I’d been allowed to even try out. That was a lifetime ago. Hopefully Jessup and Ainsley will look back on their school days with much fonder memories than I. I have great pieces of memories, but overall I’m glad it’s over, and you couldn’t pay me enough to go through most of it again. I have always thought that, if I could, I’d go back and change a couple of things, but one little change could ruin what I have now. And what I have now is pretty great. I like it. I want to keep it. It took three of us (Schulers) to figure out how old I am. Jessup finally got it. That’s really sad. He said, “But we’re all 5’s, so that means right now we’re all 7’s.” So I’m 37. Ainsley is the oddball. (All of that means that Barry, Jessup, and I were born in a year that ends in 5. Ainsley was born in a year that ended in 8, so she the only one who’s age doesn’t end in a 7). This only proves that Jessup loves being his age, Barry and I would rather forget our own ages, and at some point, Jessup became smarter than us. I think that point was several years ago, but I’m only going to count from last night. I wonder what it would feel like (or sound like) if our ears could fart. Sometimes we have ridiculous conversations in this house. It will be so quiet and sad when the kids are gone. Nothing fun will ever happen again. OK, it will…but it will be so different. Boring. Barry and I aren’t funny enough to live alone. That is all.

Stability – And All The Crap That Comes With It.

Someone told me yesterday that I have beautiful kids. Well, of course I do!

But I think it’s more than looks. It’s attitude. I think it’s that they’re happy kids. They are secure.

I believe that there’s a confidence and a joy that comes with knowing that you have a quiet, happy, love-filled place to go home to at the end of every day, and that you’re not going to walk in to World War 3…or something worse. A house that’s full of people, and completely empty at the same time. A house that silently strangles you with dread and fear every time you walk in. Like a coat of pain, that’s zipped up so tight, you can barely breathe.

There’s a simple joy in stability. I think, I hope, that you can see it every time you look at them.

I am not trying to say that I have some magic formula for happy kids, or that you shouldn’t make the changes that are best for your family. I’m just saying that my kids haven’t had to experience sadness. Not to such an extreme that it’s darkened them.

Sometimes I worry that this is bad. That when sadness comes, and it will come, they won’t know what to do. They won’t know how to deal with it. They watched me (and continue to watch me) go through losing my mom, and I fear that, because of the situation, because of my relationship with her, they haven’t witnessed a healthy grief. Whatever that looks like.

The home I walked into every day, for as long as I can remember, wasn’t happy. There was tension. There was an unspoken sadness. There was an inexplicable fear. I felt dread every time I walked into that huge, heavy, black door with the brass Dexter deadbolt. It was like walking into the unknown every single time. My dad said he would never divorce my mom, and that was it. No matter what kind of crazy stuff she did, or how she hurt him, or me, he kept his word. He quit good-paying jobs to stay home with me, and be there when she was. He took terrible jobs, with terrible hours, so he could be there for me. He did everything he could to make life bearable, and it did. Mostly. He tried to keep his promise, and keep me happy and safe at the same time.

There was an incident when I was in third grade. I only have vague recollections of it, but I remember it being bad. So bad, that he and I moved to California that Summer, and I spent the Summer in Camarillo, California with my grandparents while he found a job nearby and my mom stayed in Arizona. I was told that the only job he could find was in Ventura (12 hours from my home), so he could stay at my Uncle’s house, and I could stay with Granddad and Suze.

Of course, this was quite an adventure for me…a whole summer! Swimming, and going to the beach, and volunteering at a hospital…it was awesome! I don’t really remember missing my mom. I got to talk to her every week on the phone, while my dad was in the room, and then I would leave the room and he would talk to her alone. I had my 8th birthday that summer. I remember him asking me if I wanted to go home or stay in California when the Summer was over. I don’t remember feeling the weight of that question like I do now when I think of it. Had I been any older, I wouldn’t have chosen to go back to her. Only a couple of years later I was fully aware of what it was like to live with her, and how I hated it.

I only ever doubted the “only job I could find” thing after the last phone call I ever had with my dad. It was the day he died…only about an hour before, in fact. He said something about taking me away, but not being able to keep me away. Not being able to break his promise, and that’s why we went back. That a girl shouldn’t grow up without a mom. It was years before I put the two together.

That choice, going back, made me who I am today. Every decision he made, made me who I am today. For better or worse. And isn’t that all we can do as parents? Make the best decisions we can for our kids? Do what we hope is the very best for them, every day, and pray that they don’t get too screwed up in the process?

That’s all I’ve done. I believe that the best thing, the glorious ideal, is for every mom and dad to stay together. Barry and I have had to work very, very hard to do that. There’ve been times…for both of us…that it seemed like too much. But we tried again the next day, and the next, and eventually it all settled out again. There has been so much forgiveness, and letting go, while still holding on to each other. I have found that it’s impossible to hold on to the person and their faults at the same time. You have to let go of one. If you choose the person, you cannot hold on to all the crap that comes with them. If you choose the faults, eventually your clenched fists are holding on to their faults so tightly, that the person you love slips out of your hands. <—Read that part again. It’s the key.

I am not naive. I am completely aware that sometimes it just won’t turn around. It just cannot work out. I have so many friends who’ve given all they had, and it wasn’t enough. I have other friends who’ve stayed too long, and that did more damage than good…especially to their kids. Still others have been broken and damaged in the most painful ways, and have somehow found the courage and strength to forgive and go on. To let the “stuff” go, and hold on to the person.

So here are my questions:

How long do you stay in a situation that is worse than leaving? How long do you stay when you fear for your safety, or that of your kids? How long do you try before you realize that you are broken, and your kids are damaged, and that leaving really is the only option? How much hurt do you endure? How much can you take and still, somehow, stay and fight for the one you love?

Am I damaged? Yes. Have I been broken? Yes. Should my dad have left? I have no idea. I don’t know what it would have been like without my mom. I only know what it was like with her. I know the reality of having two parents that stayed together “for better or worse, in good times and bad, until death parts us”. And death did part them. But sometimes, I think they were parted long before that. Back when I was turning 8 without my mom. Back when I was having such a glorious adventure, and learning to swim, and getting to know my grandparents. I don’t think it was ever the same at home after that. My dad later took a job that got him out of the house regularly, but when he realized what leaving me with her for days at a time meant for me, he quit that job, and took a terrible, smelly, dirty job in town. But he was home every night, and he was the first one the school would call if they needed to.

Sometimes protection is love. Sometimes, when you’re not able to walk away, all you can do is wrap your kids up in your arms, and hold them tight through the storm. Storms still come when you stay. They come and they pound you with all they have, and you get battered and bruised, but when it ends, and the sun is shining again, you pick yourself up, dry yourself off, and go again.

Stability comes in all kinds of packages. Sometimes it comes in one parent at a time, rather than two who aren’t really there at all. Sometime it comes in Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Guardians, Foster Parents, Adoption…

I can only write from my own experience, only from my side of the story. I can honestly say, that I believe Barry is much easier to live with than I am, so, most of the time, I think he got the raw end of this deal. But he has stuck with me though it all. And I with him. We have held on to each others hands, rather than our faults.

You don’t judge me, and I will never judge you…I will celebrate you for doing what’s best for your kids…no matter what that looks like.

Here’s to real life. To not being glossy and polished, but being dirty and real. To being strong. To being faithful. To forgiveness. To letting go, and holding on tight. To being the best that you can be, for yourself and your kids. *clink*