Monday, July 25, 2016

Tiny Humans and Baby Sisters

The thing no one tells you about when you’re a single parent that dates another single parent, is that when things don’t work out, you don’t get visitation. And that is tough. I spent over a year of my life loving that little girl, helping to raise that little girl, and just like that she is out of my life.

No, she is out of our lives.

You see, I’m a grown up. With lots of experience in areas of the heart. That experience has brought lots of love and laughter, but also lots of heartache. And with each heartache, comes a void. I’ve learned as time has passed to take that void and put it in a little box. And as a coping mechanism, that little box doesn’t get opened very often. So while I still love and miss that little girl, I don’t think about it too much. It is too painful.

But my babies, the tiny humans, they aren’t grown ups. They’ve also experience a lot of love and laughter, and also a lot of heartache. But unlike me, they aren’t calloused. They wear their heartache right on their sleeve for the world to see. And like me, they lost two people during that breakup. Amelia lost the only father figure she’s ever known, and she lost her little sister.

Because you see in this relationship we weren’t just playing. We were building a family and a future together. Olivia was her little sister. We both told my kids how important it was to teach Olivia the right things because they were her big brother and big sister. And they loved her as such. And silly me, I thought both kids were ok when Olivia was gone from their lives. I thought because I put my feelings in a box, and because they didn’t sit down and cry each night, that they were ok.

But you see, they aren’t. Their lives got ripped apart. Our family went from 5 to 3 in a single day. They never even got to say goodbye to her. And unlike when a marriage ends, my kids don’t get visitation. They don’t get to see the man they considered to be a father. They don’t get to see their little sister. And at least for Amelia, it is breaking her heart.

For the past 6 weeks Amelia has asked me daily if I was ever going to get married again. My response is typically that I don’t know. She then follows up with the question of whether or not I’m going to have another baby. To which I typically and emphatically answer No. (As an amusing aside to this story, I once accidentally told her we could get a puppy instead, which she has totally run with. She now tells everyone she’s getting a puppy even though I meant to tell her we could get a fish. She’s basically laid down the ultimatum that we either get a baby sister or a puppy. She’s holding my uterus hostage!!!) And then one day I thought to ask her if she wanted me to have another baby. She said “yes, because I want to be a big sister again”. It finally dawned on me that she doesn’t really want a new baby sister. She wants her old baby sister back. These questions are her trying to understand this loss in her life. Trying to understand why they aren’t coming back. Trying to understand how a man that told her he loved her and tucked her in at night, just disappeared one day, and took her baby sister with him. 

And y’all, it’s tough to explain to your kids why relationships don’t work out. But it is even tougher to explain to them that they lost their family and probably won’t ever see them again. There is a lot of judgement going on in my head. I’m judging me because I put my kids in that situation. I told them to love her because family is forever. I judge him because now he isn’t the father he promised them he would be. But through all of that judgement, the hurt and loss that my kids feel is still there. There is no resolution because our relationship ended for a reason. But how do you tell your kids that you chose to end their relationships, too?

For now I’m dealing with their pain through trips to Space Camp and the beach, through sno cones and cheese dip, through lots of love and laughter of our own. We go on grand adventures on the weekends because we miss her less when we aren’t at home. I realize that is not an entirely healthy attitude about loss, but for now it is the only way I know how to help them. Because I can assure you that Amelia is not getting another little sister. Or a puppy. I can barely commit to a fish… I swear it’s like animals come to our house to die, and more loss is really just not in the cards right now. Did I tell you that their cat ran away the same weekend that Mike left?

Yes, life is hard some days. This is hard. And I pray daily for God to take my anger and guilt away about this. But so far peace hasn’t come. And so tonight I write. And tomorrow will be a new day. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Princess of my own castle

Breakups are hard. Period. I remember when my first boyfriend and I broke up in junior high. It seemed like the world would end. I remember crying to my mom in the gym during a basketball game and thinking that my world would never be right again. That I would never “love” anyone like I had “loved” him.

Well, 20 years later and breakups are still hard. I’m still crying to my mom, only this time it is from the driveway of my house and not a high school gym. And although it is like a gut punch, I know my world will not end. But man going through a breakup as an adult comes with so many added complications.

Like the stuff. We were, how should I say it… Shacking up…? So now there comes the dividing of the things. What is his, what is mine, what was ours and who gets it now? Now, 3 days post break up was my worst day so far. I was fine one minute and a sobbing mess on the floor the next, and it would come out of nowhere. But during one of my ok moments, I felt like that would be a good time to start the packing of the things. Man was I wrong. Yet another heaping, sobbing mess. But little by little the things are being sorted and packed.

Post breakup Day 4 was a good day. I didn’t cry once. There is always an underlying sadness, but no tears. Fast forward to post breakup Day 5 and complication number 2. The pictures. Since we had integrated our lives together in a day where not too many days go by without photos being taken, there is a ton of photographic evidence lying around. I went through my phone, and for some reason I just couldn’t erase all of the pictures. Some were easy. Delete. Gone. Like the life we had planned. But others are still there. I just can’t do it. They serve as a grim reminder of the things we did together when we were in love. And don’t get me started on the pictures in the house. Taking his picture off my office desk was almost my undoing. And it’s more than just pictures. It’s dividing a life. Things you wouldn’t think about in a million years. Like the DVR. Last night I erased all of his shows. Because last night it wasn’t hard. But I don’t want to happen upon one in 6 months when I’m having a randomly sad day and have a meltdown. So part of breaking up is going into detective mode and figuring out all the places your lives are intertwined and unraveling those strings. Ugh. Dagger to the heart. These small, inconsequential actions somehow make it all too real.

Now don’t get me wrong. This breakup was my idea. For a million reasons that I won’t name here. But it doesn’t make it any easier. I know this next statement will make zero sense to all of you people out there who live with your head leading the way, and not your heart, but sometimes you can’t help who you love. Turns out, my sixteen year old self was wrong. I would come to love someone even deeper than I had loved my first boyfriend. And this guy was the one who took the prize. We’ve spent almost 3 years of our lives together, and for those of you tracking, that’s almost 1/10th of my life. That’s insane. But for all the reasons my head told me that this guy wasn’t right for me, there were a hundred reasons that my heart told me to keep him. I have never loved anyone as truly and deeply as I loved this man, but sometimes love is just not enough. Even though we never stood up in front of God and our friends and took vows, we promised a life to each other. A life together. A life raising our children side by side. A life filled with all the reasons that I choose to wake up and love him every day. And now I don’t get to do that anymore.

Which brings in complication number 3. The kids. I told them on post breakup Day 2. Mainly because I was afraid they would see me randomly break down into tears and think I was insane. (Amusingly enough that happened Post Break Up Day 1 at a dance competition and now I’m pretty sure all of the other moms think I’m insane.) They of course, took it better than I did. Go figure. But then this morning Amelia asked if Olivia would always be her little sister? How do you answer that? Avoidance. That’s how I dealt with it this morning. But I know it will come up again, so I’m busy trying to figure out how to explain to my five year old that not only has she lost the only father figure she’s ever known, but she’s also lost her little sister. Now don’t get me totally wrong, Amelia is super stoked to have her entire room back to herself, but she is grieving, too.

Each day seems to be better, for the most part. But I think I’ve realized that a part of me is clinging to the hope that this isn’t the end. Which is totally unhealthy. Clinging to a life that only happens if someone else changes is a hopeless dream. But sometimes the reality that there will not be another ballgame, another kiss, another night be the fire is just too much to handle. So I think for now I’m clinging to this hope that it really isn’t the end.

And that is due to complication #4. As a teenager you have nothing but free time. No kids, no real responsibilities. Which leaves plenty of time for staying in bed and sobbing uncontrollably for hours at a time. Not so much as an adult. I am forcing myself to feel this only in small doses, because I can’t afford to fall apart. I have these pesky things called bills, which require payment, which requires a job, which does not allow me to stay in bed sobbing uncontrollably for days on end. And then the nerve of the kids. Expecting me to get up to take them to school and dance class and soccer…. All joking aside, being an adult is hard enough to begin with. It’s even harder when you’re sad and all you want to do is curl up and have yourself a good cry. When you’re sixteen, your friends have nothing but free time to call and console you. Not so much as an adult… Not that my friends haven’t been there for me. Because they have. But we’re squeezing in therapy time between toddlers falling off slides and work meetings. And then there are the innocent ones that casually ask “Are you doing ok?” Apparently “No” is not an acceptable answer to that question. I get lots of uncomfortable pauses and people cautiously taking steps backwards. But that is the truth. For now, I’m not ok, but I will be and some days that has to be enough.

So for this day I’ll have to give up the dreams of a life I planned. But as I have so often discovered, life often does not go according to plan. I have faith, and for now that is enough for me. Well, that and the fact that my happily ever after might just be me being the Princess of my own castle, doing things on my own, while raising my tiny minion army of 2…. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Stayed

This is a hot topic that I've seen all over the news and social media this week. It is also a topic that I have struggled with sharing to those outside of my circle of friends for close to four years now. Well, today is the day that ends. 

It is easy to sit on the other side of domestic violence and judge women for staying. It is easy to say that you'd never stay and these women need to just leave. Unfortunately abuse is not always black and white, and neither are the decisions a woman must make in those relationships.

I was emotionally abused in my marriage for 2 ½ years before the abuse finally turned violent. The first time something happened I was livid. I left the house and stayed with a friend. Braden was just over 4 months old. HE apologized. I went home. Several months went by and life was good. But then it happened again. Again I left, and again HE apologized, and again I came home. As time went the abuse became more and more frequent and I stopped staying with friends. The problem was that usually when it got to the point when I was scared enough to leave, I was also terrified that HE would find me at a friend's house and hurt them, too. So I'd lie awake, all night, listening to Braden sleep and making sure that no one was going to hurt anyone I loved. There were several nights that I did stay at our house, too exhausted to leave, but too scared to stay. So I'd lie on the couch at night to make sure that HE didn't take or hurt Braden. That would sometimes go on for 3 or 4 days in a row. I was raising a toddler, working full time, and not able to sleep or feel safe in my own home.

Eventually I just started staying at hotels. Sometimes for a night at a time. Sometimes for a week. I constantly kept a bag in my car that was packed for Braden and I. And I know that some of you are reading this, judging me, asking me why I stayed.

I rationalized that he had never hit me, so it wasn't really abuse. But over those 2 ½ years I became a shell of the women that I once was.  In the end things got really scary. My marriage ended with incredible violence. I won't go into the entire story, but Amelia and I walked away with minor bruises after things finally turned violent. Guns, a SWAT team and a knife that could have easily killed Amelia and I ended my marriage. My world changed in 4 hours on a Friday afternoon.

I stayed for several reasons. First of all, with emotional abuse, it is not always black and white when you are in the middle of it. The first time seems bad, but then after so many incidents, you begin to rationalize. You tell yourself that it's really not that bad. Before long I was isolated from my friends and family, so I had no one to really talk to about most of the things that were happening.  It wasn't until after I got out and began telling my story to friends that I realized how bad it was. And I only knew that by seeing their reactions.

I also stayed because I made a promise, and I don't do failure well. I know that sounds silly, but I stood in front of my friends and family and made a promise to God to love this man forever. It didn't matter that HE had broken his promise to me. I always felt like if I was strong enough I could fix us both.

And the statistics. As a parent you always want the best for your children. Statistics say that children raised with two parents are more likely to succeed. I wanted nothing more than to give Braden that life. And the thing is, when HE was good, he was the best father you could ever want. The problem was I never knew who I was coming home to. And when HE was bad, it was just plain scary. HE could turn from good to bad in a moment and I never knew what would set him off.

But lastly, I think I stayed because I was scared. When I woke up the day after the attack I was lost. I had suddenly gone from a two parent household with two incomes to a one parent household with one income raising two children. By myself. I just kept repeating that over and over. I'm by myself. And the thing is, I had a good job. But I still couldn't make ends meet. I had to make decisions that I didn't want to make, but decisions that were necessary for my kids and I to not only survive, but to prosper. And now we are all better for it. During the abusive period I had lost friendships and some family ties. I was terrified that leaving would leave me all alone. Of course for the most part that couldn't be further from the truth, but things aren't always clear when you're in the middle of the storm.

I guess what I am trying to say in this blog, is please don't judge a woman who has been beaten for staying. Often these women don't work outside the home and have no source of income. Their spouse may take their money. Sometimes being out of an abusive relationship is just as scary as staying in one. I know that it takes courage to leave, but sometimes it takes just as much courage to stay. And I know that no one will ever understand that last statement until you have lived the life of a woman who has been abused. I found myself and made me better despite my abuse. Not all women have the ability to do that. I had a lot of faith and a good upbringing and a place to come home to. Things haven't always been easy since we've gotten out. There are still nights when I wake up scared in the middle of the night and can't sleep. There are still nights when I sleep with chairs under the door, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I made the only decisions I knew how to make at the time, and my kids and I are happier and healthier for it. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

When Love is not Enough

The Beatles once sang "Love is all You Need", and while a beautiful sentiment, I think anyone over the age of 12 would absolutely agree that this statement is unequivocally false. While love is needed in a lasting relationship of any kind, so is compromise, and passion, and laughter, and so many other things. Unfortunately in relationships sometimes love is just not enough.

And I found myself in that place recently – the place where the love remained but not much else did. I was in a relationship with a man that I loved and adored. And then things changed. We got in a fight that we could never quite recover from so I had to make the tough decision to end things. I won't lie. It was hard. Devastatingly hard. I had shared my life with this man. My dreams, my passions, but more importantly I had shared my children with him.

He put them to bed, he dried their tears, he cuddled on the couch to watch cartoons. He taught them things and was someone that they, too, had come to love. When things ended, it did not just end for me. It also ended for them.

So while I was going through the pain of healing from a breakup, I also had to break the news to my children. We sat down and I informed them that Mike wouldn't be around anymore. Of course they asked why and I stumbled through something to the effect of 'because we had a fight and we just aren't getting along.'

It took my breath away when Amelia piped up with "Just call him and tell him you're sorry." I don't know why I hadn't expected this because at our house everything can be fixed with "I'm sorry" or a band-aid. As I choked back tears I told her that sometimes it just wasn't that easy. Then Braden jumped on the band wagon. They took turns telling me how to fix it, but how do you tell your children that sometimes sorry doesn't work? That sometimes just because you love someone doesn't mean you are meant to be with them?

The answer is you don't. One day they'll find out on their own. As much as I would love to imagine that my kids will never experience heart ache or love someone that doesn't love them back, that just isn't realistic. One day, they'll figure out that life is hard and love is harder and I'm sorry doesn't always heal all wounds. But until then, it's up to me to let them know that while other people tend to drift in and out of their lives, I will always be there. That I will always love them, and for the three of us, love really is all we need. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Don't take me out to the ballgame...

Don't take me out to the ballgame
I'm kinda over the crowds
Keep your peanuts and crackerjacks
I don't care if I ever come back
For it's Root, Root, Root for a rain out
If we don't play that's ok
For it's 1- 2- 3 games per week
And a practice on Saturday

For those of you that know me, no the apocalypse has not occurred. Hell has not frozen over. Life as you know it has not ceased to exist. However, after June of this year the Lisowe's will no longer be playing baseball. And it breaks my heart. When I found out I was having a boy the first thing that went through my mind was how awesome it was going to be to have a little boy who could grow up to pitch (both right and left handed), be a switch hitter, and grow up to play baseball at Georgia Tech. No question in my mind.

But little league coaches and parents are ruining baseball in America. This is America's past time. A game that we love, but I'm afraid that we are ruining it. Let me take a step back.

This is Braden's third year to play, but first season out of t-ball. T-ball was great. One practice per week and one game a week played on Saturday mornings. Perfect. We've now moved up to the next league. The one with a pitching machine. Last week my child played 3 games and had a practice on Saturday. Keep in mind that 1) these games are played on school nights and 2) last at least 75 minutes. Now, if we're lucky and get the 6pm game, then I have just enough time to pick my kids up from school, shove some food down their throats between 4:45 and 5:15 pm and get back to the park by 5:30 for warm ups. Those games we'll get home at 7:45 just in time for a 2 minute shower and bed.

Now the 7:30 games are the kickers. We play a minimum of 75 minutes, and so assuming that the game starts on time (which it never does), we're getting home around 9:30. My kid is 6. He goes to bed at 8pm every night. At least he used to.

And it's not like I went out and signed my kid up for some travel team club. This is city ball. The least we can do and still be on a baseball team. And I hate it. What happened to being 6 and just being a part of a team. It's like we all have to be so competitive with what is happening in the rest of the world that we're ruining the game for these boys. Let me tell you all a secret. There is a 99.9% chance that your kid will not get a college scholarship to play baseball. I know. I used to work for a company who recruited kids for college scholarships. And if he does it will probably not be a full ride. And if your kid is lucky enough to get some money to play ball in college, there is a 99.9% chance that he will never play ball in the major leagues. Yeah, he may get drafted, but guess what, most of the players that get drafted never make it to the majors. They spend 5-10 years kicking around the minor leagues making about $1500 a month (if they're lucky) until they finally either give up or get too old to be good anymore. So, obviously it is worth ruining my son's chance at learning to love and play the game of baseball for that .01% chance that your kid will get to play professional baseball one day.

I can also assure you that the days of sandlot ball and pick-up games are a thing of the past. Because guess what, anyone who knows how to play baseball is on a travel team out of town somewhere on the weekends. And they're either playing or practicing until 9:30 every night of the week. So that leaves no time for pick-up games and playing just for the love of the game. Which isn't that why we got our kids into playing to begin with?

And we've been lucky enough to have a great coach the past three years. He doesn't yell at the kids, ever. I did see him throw his hat once, but I fully supported that action based on the mutiny that was occurring with the tiny humans on the field. What about the ones that don't have great coaches? The ones where the coaches yell and scream at kids? I just can't imagine…

So I made a decision. No more baseball for us. Braden was upset, but Braden is not the only one given up 12 hours of his life each week at the ballpark and I have to make the decisions that are best for my family. And what is best for my family is actually being a family. Eating dinner together at night. Spending time with each other, and most importantly, spending time letting my kids be kids.  If we want baseball, we'll head up to Dickey Stephens and watch the Travs play. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Parenting someone else...

Being a parent is hard. I don't think that anyone on the planet will ever tell you that it isn't. But at my house, being a parent to Braden is probably the hardest thing I have ever done. And it is not that he is any worse than Amelia is. But Amelia and I are two peas in a pod. She is my mini-me. I get her. She is my loud-outgoing-stubborn-hogs the spotlight-do things her way whether you like it or not-kid. Or to sum her up, me.

On the other hand, Braden and I are as unalike as two people can get, and yet so much the same. Braden is my introvert. You may not be able to tell it because he is not one of those introverts that sits in a corner afraid to speak to anyone. But he is most comfortable when he is around people he knows in a place where he is not the spotlight. I don't get that. I am happiest in a room full of people where all of the attention is on me.  It also makes it hard at home because sometimes he just likes to be alone. So I play with Amelia. And then at the end of the day I feel bad because I spent more time with her than I did with him. It is also hard when we are in a situation that he is not necessarily comfortable with because I don't get that. I don't walk into a room and worry about meeting people. I walk into a room and take it by storm. So sometimes I get frustrated at him because he isn't that way. He'd rather hang back and do his own thing, and I sometimes mistake that behavior for rude and get frustrated at him. Which I think in turn makes him more uncomfortable in the situation.

And this morning the poor kid woke up in tears because he had to do something that he wasn't comfortable with – speak in front of the class. He had to learn a nursery rhyme and dress to match and recite it in front of the class. I had him learn a new rhyme, that up until last night he was struggling with remembering. It didn't occur to me until well after the epic morning meltdown and subsequent tearful drive to school that getting in front of the class was hard enough for him. I wanted him to challenge himself to learn something new, while not realizing that he was already tackling something really scary for him. I didn't think about it because I've never been that way. I've spoken literally in front of thousands of people before and never gotten super nervous. As a matter of fact, I thrive on those kinds of situations. When I was 16 I was the keynote speaker at a Governor's Conference and I ATE IT UP! I did get a report from the teacher that he did a great job, so we may just have to go dance in the rain this afternoon to celebrate (his rhyme was Rain, Rain Go Away so he's already dressed in the boots and raincoat).

But the biggest thing that scares me about parenting him is the way that we are alike. Braden and I are both people-pleasers (I realize this may be hard for some of you to believe about me, but just ask my mother or pretty much any teacher I ever had from K-12). And specifically that Braden would live and die to please me. And what worries me is that I love to be busy. I love to be in the mix. I love being around people and trying new things and being praised for a job well done. I love to be and do all of the things that Braden is not. My concern is that Braden wants so badly to please me that he'll do the things that he thinks I want him to do instead of doing the things in this life that will truly make him happy.

Sitting at a computer I can think about how I'll never let this happen again. That I'll never be upset because he is scared in social situations or mad because he is upset about speaking in front of a class full of people. But I know that isn't true. As much as I wish that it was, I've been me for 32 years and 11 months. I've not ever had to think about being someone else because I'm happy with who I am. But as a parent I've got to start thinking about what it means to be someone else. What it means to be a 5 year old little boy that wants nothing more than to be left alone and loved by his mother for who he is happy being. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

What are you worth?

For the past few months I've been dating someone. And then a few days before Christmas it ended. I don't want to go into the why of it all, but one of the last things that was said to me was "It’s not worth it." Since I was a part of the It he was referring to, I took that to me "You're not worth it".

As a person who has been tasked with raising two tiny humans, those four words are terrifying. What if I was the type of person that actually believed that statement when it came out of his mouth? I see it all the time? Men and women who define their self-worth by what the opposite sex thinks about them. I know I'm worth it. I'll know I'm worth it for the rest of my life. And I know I'm worth it because of the way I was raised.

On Racetrack Road, praise didn't come easily. I'm not saying it didn't come often, but it didn't come easily. My mother praised us when we worked hard and did our best. I never got paid for grades because I was expected to make all A's. My parents didn't always expect me to win, but they did expect me to do my best. I distinctly remember at a dance competition one time, I performed a solo that I didn't really like. And I did a so-so job for me. I won first place. When I came off of the awards stage my mom told me I could have done better. One of the other moms must have said something to the effect of "She won first, what is better than that?", because I remember my mom saying "She didn't do her best, so today she didn't win".

Now that being said, she was always the first one to cheer us on and tell us what a great job we had done. My parents are both proud of Ross and I and the things we have done in our lives and the people we have become.

That is why I know I'm worth it. I have never defined myself by how someone else sees me. Ok, maybe the 15 year old me might have done that a time or two, but grown up me never has. I know I'm smart, and successful, and witty, and on days when I take my sweatpants off, I can even be cute! My parents instilled that value of self-worth in me at a very young age. The how is trickier. I don’t ever want to have to look either of my children in the face and tell them I am disappointed. I selfishly want to believe that they'll never make mistakes and always try their best. Realistically I know that just isn't the case. Everyone has a day when they aren't their best, when they don't win, and some days when no matter how hard they try, they just can't win.

It is my job as their mom to be able to tell them good job when they lose and instill a love of the game that will make them want to get back out there. It is my job to be discerning enough about my own children to know when they aren't doing their best and tell them that is not ok. And it is my job to pick them up when they've given it their all and are devastated with a loss.

It's also my job to let them know that after all the games and competitions, after all the wins and losses, it is who they are that makes them worth it. That they could lose every game, or be broken up with by every guy on the face of the planet, and they would still be the same awesome, smart, funny tiny human that I know they are.

That is the terrifying part. Making sure that at the end of the day that my kids know they are worth it. Not because I think so, but because they do.