I Will Never Be The Mother I Want To Be…

I had the best childhood. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn close. My parents were together and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. We got off the bus and my friends would come over to my house to eat popcorn or cookies that my mom made before we arrived. Even during the holidays when we were in college, everyone came to my house to congregate before going out. She would always have pimento cheese and other appetizers for us to eat.

My mother was ever-present. I can’t always remember everything about my childhood, but I know my mother was always there. Even if she was giving us our space when I had friends over (which was a lot), her presence was still known. She would pop in every once in a while to see if we needed anything or to ask if we needed her to take us somewhere.

Even through boarding school and college, my mom was there for me. It was before cell phones (well, unless you call a bag phone a cell phone), so she wrote me a lot of letters and we talked a lot. I would look forward to the holidays when I would go home and we would sit around the dinner table laughing and telling stories until at least midnight!

Because of this pretty idyllic childhood, I have had expectations of the kind of mother that I wanted to be. I too wanted to be the mom who was able to be home when my kids got home, with popcorn and cookies for their friends. I had full intentions of being that same “ever-present mom” that my mother was.

Divorce robbed that from me.

I have never written about this because the emotions have been so raw, but my world turned upside down when my son casually said, “Mom, can we talk about something?” He was finishing up 8th grade and had lived primarily with me for the past ten years of his life. He said he wanted to go live with his dad for high school. I was devastated and I did not handle it with the grace and calmness that I would have liked. After visiting the school, his dad and I took him to lunch to discuss the decision with him. As I held back my tears, I told him that I would support him.

Since that time, my son has thrived in this new environment. He is a sophomore and he has a high GPA and excels in basketball. I thought I had come to terms with it all until recently when my daughter expressed her desire to also go to high school where her brother is. All of the emotions, hurt, and rejection came flooding back to me. Everything I had just tucked away so that I wouldn’t have to think about it or feel it was fresh and raw and painful.

I was devastated yet again. When asked why I was so upset about it, I said I felt rejected. I felt like my children didn’t want to be with me. I couldn’t stand the thought of another woman spending more time with my children than I would. I FELT LIKE A BAD MOTHER.

There it is. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I was losing my children. Although I would still have them one night a week and every other weekend (and can still see them at practices and games), I felt like I was a bad mom because I couldn’t be the “ever-present mother” I wanted to be. I questioned why I had worked so hard to ensure my children had a good relationship with their father, only to have him take them from me. Why had I driven an hour and a half every Wednesday night for five years for the kids to have dinner with their dad? I did what any other crazy mother would do and I started searching MLS to find a house out in the country where their dad lives.

Then one night I talked to my daughter about my feelings and she said, “Mom, you will always be my mom, no matter what!” And something clicked in me… She was right.

A few days later, Joe and I walked on the beach together and talked about everything. We were deep in conversation and walked a lot longer than we anticipated, but I needed that walk. And it was appropriate that it happened on the beach because for me the beach represents our future and hopefulness. Joe and I look forward to the day when it’s just the two of us and we can move to the beach full-time.

On the beach, Joe helped me come to the realization that I WILL NEVER BE THE MOTHER I WANT TO BE. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. Things change in divorce – custody, remarriage, and new families – but the one thing that didn’t change was my expectation of what kind of mother I wanted to be.

That expectation was killing me inside.

I realized that day that although I will never be the mother that I want to be, I can be the best mother that I can be in the situation that I am in.

I must say that since I released those expectations of what a “mother” looks like, I have been so much happier, but more importantly, I have been able to be a better mother to my kids. I have started working on me and how to be the best I can to help our kids through the circumstances they face with divorced parents. My kids aren’t CHOOSING to be away from me, they just want to be fair since they have spent so much time so far in their lives away from their dad.

I’m looking forward to the day when they come home from college and we can sit around the table and laugh until midnight, but I now recognize that it may not happen as often as I would like since we will be sharing time with another set of parents. But that’s ok… I now have realistic expectations and a confidence that I will ALWAYS be their mom. No matter what.

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‘Tis the Season

Christmas is a holiday of extremes…

It is a holiday of extreme EATING. We have what is called the “12 Days of Christmas” at our office (as pictured below) where for the twelve business days leading up to our Christmas vacation time, different people bring a meal in for everyone to enjoy. My group is preparing brunch for the office next Friday. We eat and eat and eat throughout the holiday season and then vow to do whatever we can to get the weight off by bathing suit season. Stupid bathing suits…

EVERY DAY for 12 days...

Food, food, and more food…… EVERY DAY AT WORK.

For most the holiday season is a time of extreme SPENDING. Buying gifts for family and friends can be rather costly and some people go overboard… not to mention the expense of decorating the house (which I admittedly went overboard this year and am dreading taking everything down after Christmas!) and the high cost of pretty Christmas cards. It can be rather ridiculous how much we spend and then we have to work extra hard to save money in the new year.

Emotions run high during the holidays too and so the extremes there are either true happiness or true sadness. For some, the holidays remind them of lost love or the dissolution of their marriage. As I have written before, it is very hard for some who have to spend half of the holidays without their children. I have been divorced for ten years and it doesn’t ever get easier to not have my kids with me.

This Christmas has been different for me though.  I offered to have my office’s holiday party at my house this year. Because of that commitment, I started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I put up three Christmas trees and decorated every available space as tastefully as possible. Most people said I was crazy to host 50+ people in my home less than two weeks before Christmas, but as an adult with ADD, I have THRIVED with this looming deadline!

I got to work early on decorations and even purchased as many Christmas presents as I could. Because I knew my time would be limited, I worked hard under the deadline and was SO HAPPY in the process. Rather than let it stress me out, I chose to embrace it and enjoy every second of it. The decorations bring joy to my heart as soon as I wake up in the morning until I walk around turning candles off in all the windows at night. It has caused me to be filled with the Christmas spirit, which is so easy to forget about when you are a divorced parent.

Yes, I even set up a fake little tree in my bedroom and am enjoying looking at it while sitting in bed writing this morning!

Yes, I even set up a fake little tree in my bedroom and am enjoying looking at it while sitting in bed writing this morning!

I am re-posting my Christmas Wish post from last Christmas, because it is a great reminder, but I also want to encourage you all to immerse yourself in Christmas this year. Focus on the holiday spirit and what it all means, even if it’s hard to do. It’s true that we are as happy as we make up our minds to be, so MAKE UP YOUR MIND TO BE HAPPY this Christmas!!! Wrap your kids up tonight and lay in the yard and look for shooting stars. Choose a charity to help this Christmas. The kids can learn from an early age how good it feels to give to those less fortunate. Go to a Christmas show with your kids. We have a family tradition of going to a Christmas show every year and this year we have gone to TWO!! I cheesily smile through the entire show. If you can’t afford tickets to a show, then look at all of the free Christmas activities in your area. I know around here there are places you can go look at Christmas lights and there are free festivals. Play Christmas music in the car or in your home while cooking dinner. Whatever you do, make sure you are focusing on your family and making memories for your kids. You don’t want them to suffer because you are “not feelin’ it this year.”

Here is my blog, My Christmas Wish List for Divorced Families, published on 12/22/13 by the Huffington Post.

My wish for you THIS Christmas is that you focus on the SPIRIT of Christmas and feel the JOY that goes along with that. If you aren’t feeling that joy, then try to figure out what you can do differently to try to find it. Remember the wonder you felt as a child at Christmastime? You can have that feeling again if you just BELIEVE.

Here are some pics of my house this Christmas to help get you started on this journey of extreme happiness this Christmas. ENJOY MY CHRISTMAS PICS!!!!

If You Were A GOOD Mom, You Would Be Sad…

At the beginning of every summer I feel such a loss in my heart when the “summer schedule” begins because the kids spend every other week with their dad. As you all know, I thrive on schedules and I feel comfort in predictability, so the change is tough on me. That first week (or even two) when the kids are gone, I withdraw. Everything makes me sad and I crave to talk to them nonstop. At the beginning of this summer, I was driving alone down the road listening to my Broadway Show Tunes (as “ALWAYSSSSS” the kids say) and the song “Learn To Live Without” came on. Although it is written about divorce, I fell all to pieces. Here’s the song:

Sadly, the sentiments are the same for me in the summer… I have to learn to live without.

The funny part of it is that I don’t just miss the good stuff about the kids… I also miss the not-so-great stuff. Sure, I come home to an empty house without 5 gabillion plates and cups in the sink, but it doesn’t bring happiness to see the shiny silver at the bottom of the sink (I know?!?! I didn’t know it was shiny silver either!!!!). I miss the smell of Axe body spray in an attempt to cover up that someone REALLY needs a shower. I miss the piles of dirty clothes (even the inside-out Nike Elite socks that I have to reach my hands into to turn right side out). I miss walking up the stairs and feeling a little panic at the overwhelming smell of nail polish remover.

My first few weeks of summer are spent in mourning. I don’t know why I let the change affect me like I do, but it just happens. I have no control over it and all I can say is, “BLESS JOE’S SWEET HEART” for having to deal with me.

Then something changes.

I come home one day to an empty sink and rather than feel an emptiness, I smile. Not in a “I wish life was like this every single day!” kind of way, but in a “I can handle having no real worries for short periods at a time.”  My life goes from learning to live without them to hopping in the car on a Friday and heading out of town while knowing the kids are all taken care of.

Picture me riding down the road singing this song (bizarre video, but the song is amazing):

Last week, I received an email from a reader who is also in a blended family. Her letter said:

Hey lady!!! I have a good idea for a blog…. Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this way. We have had all 5 kids for over a week together straight. Which we love every second of it! Then today when they all went to different homes, the feeling was such relief. Even though I miss them terribly it’s wonderful to sit down and eat without dealing with teenagers or take a walk, etc. Just wondered if that feeling was just me…. Am I alone with this?? Now I always miss them but….. It is a positive to having another house for your children to go to!

And she is right! There is a sense of relief when you come home to an empty, CLEAN house. There is peace in knowing that when you walk in the door from work you won’t be bombarded with questions – “Can we go to the mall?” “What time will dinner be ready?” “If I finish my homework, can I go fishing?” “Can we paint?” “I’m starving, can I have a bowl of cereal since dinner isn’t ready?” For me, I like that I don’t have to rush home from work, so I can go do things that make me happy. While the kids were gone last week, I went to dinner with my sister-in-law at my favorite restaurant, then went to the library and walked around looking at books until they closed. (I must be maturing if I am closing down a library instead of a bar!) It’s just nice to be able to do what you love without having to worry about the kids.

BUT THEN THE GUILT HITS.

My friend’s email hinted on this “Mother’s Guilt.” It is real. We have been trained (and our kids encourage this way of thinking) to think that we should be home and feel sad when our kids aren’t around. Joe and I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago without the kids and one of them said, “Why do you always go to the beach without us?” IT WAS OUR FIRST TRIP OF THE SUMMER WITHOUT THEM, but that one question made me feel guilty for going without them.

Let me say it loudly, YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR ENJOYING YOUR TIME WITHOUT THE KIDS WHEN THEY ARE WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT!!!! Being a mother is tough, so if you want to spend the entire Saturday in bed reading a book while your kids are at their dad’s house, then DO IT.  If you want to take a trip with your husband to New York, then DO IT.  I feel strongly that if you focus all of your energy on your children while they are with you, then you have earned the right to live your life to the fullest when they are not with you.

To stave off the guilt, I make sure to focus 100% on my kids when they are with me. When one of them speaks to me, I make sure to turn toward them and look them straight in the face. We wonder why kids always have their noses in their electronics… it’s because that’s what they see their parents doing! I also make sure to work extra hours when they are away so that I don’t have to work as much when they are with me. I understand mothers who feel guilt if they are always doing their own thing when the kids are gone, so then they have to work nonstop while the kids are with them. They don’t get to spend any quality time with their kids! That would make me feel horribly guilty too! If you do everything in your power so the kids know, wholeheartedly, that they are your priority, then you can feel free to enjoy a little quiet time away from them.

You don’t have to be sad to be a good mom. Don’t let that mother’s guilt fool you into thinking that way.

Plus, we all know that in another couple of days…. THINGS WILL BE RIGHT BACK TO NORMAL.

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Facebook Fatigue Syndrome

“Keeping up with the Joneses” used to be a simple idiom. People would use the phrase to refer to the desire to accumulate material possessions. Social status was measured by how much one had or collected. Inability to “Keep up with the Joneses” would cause major dissatisfaction in the lives of those striving to have more and be more than their neighbors and friends.

It was simple back in those days because we didn’t have the internet or social media. We could only see a limited amount of friends daily, so our desire to “keep up” would be based on who we encountered regularly.

My how times have changed…

We now have Facebook where people can post pictures of their gorgeous beach homes with their perfect view of the sunset from the front porch overlooking the ocean. New status updates pop up every minute with friends sharing how happy they are in their job, with their marriage, or with their best friends. Profile pictures show gloriously happy, beautiful people enjoying life.

And you aren’t……

Their kids are more successful than yours. Their Mother’s Day present was more thoughtful than yours. Their husband loves them more than yours loves you. Their clothes fit better on their perfectly sculpted (“I work out more than you”) bodies. They spend more time on vacations than you and they do AMAZING things like go cave diving and drink fruity cocktails with sweat perfectly beaded up on the glass (while you are stuck in your office with no windows).

Our focus becomes on how much better their lives are than ours, which is just another complicated example of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Depression sets in as you wonder what you are doing wrong and why you can’t have all the wonderful things that they have. I have actually been told by a friend that she had to take a break from Facebook because it was making her feel too bad about her own life.  She was suffering from what so many people suffer these days – Facebook Fatigue Syndrome.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” isn’t the same as it was many years ago… I think that now it is not a desire to have the material possessions of others as much as it is to have the same happiness that it APPEARS they have while looking through the lens of Facebook or Instagram.  Add into that Etsy & Pinterest and the envy is to possess the creativity of others.

People fail to realize that Facebook is just a simple way for someone to paint the picture of their life that they want others to see. It’s not necessarily reality. A lot of times it is obvious to me when a friend is trying too hard to stress to others how great his/her life is. Other times I may see a friend who posts an anniversary picture with her husband telling how lucky she is (when everyone knows he has been having an affair with a co-worker for the past two years and she has been fighting for her marriage). Sure, we see the big 51′ Jarrett Bay they just bought, but do we see the massive debt they accumulated just to get it or that the purchase of the boat has caused the couple to discuss divorce?  We see a friend our age who looks so amazingly beautiful in her pictures, but we don’t think about the amount of money she has spent at her plastic surgeon or what filters she used when she edited the photos.

Try to remember that you can’t take every post and picture on Facebook at face value. This realization that people view Facebook as some sort of “Stepford Wives” look at our friends has made me want to talk to my daughters about the importance of viewing themselves as individuals without comparing themselves to others. We want our children to grow up with a healthy self-esteem, but then we turn around and continually compare ourselves to others and focus on our own inadequacies.

If you have found that you suffer from Facebook Fatigue Syndrome, try to remember that someone may appear to live a life of perfection on the outside, but you don’t know anything about their internal struggles. As I have heard my entire life, if we take all of my problems and your problems and put them in a pile, I will quickly take my own back… Be thankful for what you have and focus on being the best that YOU can be.

This is my tough love for Tuesday… a little bit of positive thinking (albeit a tad harsh) to get your focus in the right place.

valerie

My Mother’s Day Wish?

Mother’s Day is only a few days away and I can’t believe that I will be saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mother for the 39th time. I would do the math and tell you how old she is, but I have learned that certain things only anger her, so why light that match? (Mom, if you are reading this, you are just as young and beautiful as I remember you from my childhood!)

Speaking of my age… I am getting ready to have my 14th Mother’s Day as a mother myself.

Wait………… WHAT? My first baby is already 14 years old? Something just doesn’t add up there. Where are the little babies who relied on me for everything? We used to worry about diapers and formula and detergent allergies, but now we are worrying about high school and peer pressure and bad attitudes.

How is it that everyone in my life seems to be getting older (except me, of course)??? Every day on Facebook lately I have noticed that another one of my friends has turned 40 years old. FORTY!

I may be holding on (not so gracefully) to 39 with every ounce of my being, but lately I have noticed a few things that may be indicators that I really am older than I think I am…

I know more about beauty/anti-aging products than I would care to admit. My conversations with my friends used to be about milestones our babies had reached, but lately I have noticed we spend more time talking about glycolic acid, retinol, fereulic acid, vitamin C serum, and tretonoin. Instead of comparing dates like we did in our twenties, we are now comparing day creams, night creams, eye creams, and fillers. Most conversations begin with, “Your skin looks so good, what do you do?”

I can’t do everything I used to do. In our youth, most of us enjoyed spending entire days out on the beach greasing up with baby oil mixed with iodine, drinking bottomless beers, and smoking cigarettes. Now we know that every ray of sunshine becomes an age spot, beer belly is a real phenomenon, and smoking makes your skin wrinkle up like used wax paper (not to mention CANCER).

The recovery time after a fun night is brutal. It’s just not worth it. I have to recover for days and often feel worse for wear on day two after a big night, then I did the day following it. The bags under my eyes are tell-tale signs that I either had too much wine, stayed up too late or ate too many salty chips with my margarita at the mexican restaurant.

Sleep is a NECESSITY now. I used to enjoy taking naps just to get a little extra energy, but now, if I don’t get a full eight hours of sleep a night then I am pretty worthless the following day. I have to take a nap or I am no good to anyone. My brain is cloudy and I spend every waking second focused on when I can go back to bed. And that is to SLEEP, not to “nap” (wink, wink). I’m so tired of being tired.

WHY IS MY BODY TURNING ON ME???? What was once enjoyable would now wreak havoc on my body.

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This would make my rings tight and my eyes puffy for DAYS…

Life goes by too fast. Maybe I am older than I’d like to admit. I do not feel old enough to say that I have been doing anything for 23 years, but I have officially been driving that long. I feel like I was just in college a few years ago, but in actuality, I graduated from college 19 years ago. I often find it hard to believe I am married, let alone married for the second time. And my little babies, whose lives revolved around me, now choose to spend their time with friends or locked in their rooms.

Things sure do change in a hurry and admittedly all of the changes are not necessarily bad ones. I feel so much wiser than I was 15 years ago. I have learned so much by becoming a mom, living through a divorce, and being a single mom for so long. I’ve grown to value the importance of a well-planned schedule and I am not late for things like I used to be. I love others more than myself now too, which wasn’t always the case before having children. I am more passionate about life, my hobbies, and my marriage than I ever was before.

However, it would be ideal to have the wisdom I have now with the skin and energy I had at 30. Yep, I think that will be my Mother’s Day wish……….

Follow Valerie DeLoach on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LifeinaBlender2

Dear Parents, Are You Tired Of Being Tired? Amen.

A slightly edited version of this blog was published today on Huffington Post Parents.

My face felt tight from a mixture of sticky old sunscreen and dried sweat.  Admittedly there was an unpleasant scent that surrounded me of which I was embarrassed.  Or at least I would have been embarrassed if I weren’t so damn tired.  I had spent most of my day outside at a school track meet which took many more hours than I had planned in my schedule.  And because of this poor planning on my part, I was also completely inappropriately dressed in a long skirt and a jeans jacket.  Sure, I could have removed the jeans jacket, but because of the Spanx tank top I was wearing under it, it would have been frowned upon by the other parents for sure.  Pasty white, untoned arms with a crazy tight tank (showing all kinds of curves and edges I don’t want anyone in public to see)? No thank you.

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It was worth it to see her run her 5:50 mile (personal best) at 11 years old.

So I did as we parents do every year at this time and I suffered through it (and, uh, sweat through my clothes in the process).  We spend hours out at the ball fields, in hot gyms, at field days, or at end of the year parties.  Those of us who work outside of the home leave the comforts of our air conditioned offices to stand out in the sun for hours before returning to work for a few more hours.  All the time feeling guilty because, after forgetting to bring a folding chair for the hundreth time, we realize just how much we would rather be anywhere but there.

It’s the time of year where parents are just exhausted.  And this week has been, well, even more exhausting-er than normal.

My normal annoyingly positive attitude is not sure how to handle the never-before-thought negative thoughts brewing inside my head this week.  My mind went into defense mechanism mode yesterday afternoon.  Seriously.  It just SHUT DOWN and I actually said to myself, “Thank God tomorrow is Friday.”  And it was only TUESDAY.  Nice coping mechanism, self, but just saying it doesn’t make it a reality.

My reality this week was spending most of the day on Monday with my kids and my ex-husband’s family at the visitation/funeral/burial of my children’s great uncle.  Divorce may be a divisive factor in our lives, but death brings us all back together.  It was a wonderful service for a man who had such a servant’s heart.  He was always there for anyone in need.  He was one of those people who just made you feel good by being around him.  As Maya Angelou said:

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#TRUTH

The funeral on Monday was emotionally exhausting and then Tuesday was physically exhausting.  I went to work for a few hours, then went to my daughter’s track meet for a few hours, then went by my attorney’s office to sign some paperwork, then went BACK to work for a few hours, then raced home to get my daughter’s basketball clothes/shoes and pick up my son, so we could race over to pick up my daughter from piano.  She changed in the car as we raced to basketball practice.  When the kids got out of the car to go into basketball practice, I realized it was the first silence I had experienced all day.  And it was after 6pm.

So what did I do with my free time?  I opened my brief case and pulled out some work.  <sigh>

Joe called to talk about dinner plans.  I guess I was a tad short with him because he said, “What’s wrong, honey?” I felt like I let all of the air out of my lungs as I said,

“I’M JUST….. SO……….. TIRED.  And I’m just so tired of being tired.”  

Catching some quick Z's after practice...

Catching some quick Z’s after practice…

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year where we all just do whatever we can to get by.  Jen Hatmaker’s blog that went viral last year, Worst End Of School Year Mom Ever, was absolutely the best verbalization of this feeling that we all feel every single year at this time.  We are just sick and tired of being sick and tired, so we just EXIST.  It’s that “existence” that is so hard for someone who takes pride in being on top of everything.  Instead of being my normal prepared self, I find myself wishing away time – praying for a little bit of something… something that I haven’t felt since last summer.  FREEDOM.

And I don’t mean freedom away from the kids, necessarily… I mean freedom to just NOT DO. 

We go, go, go, go all the days.  Our schedules are marked on and highlighted and color-coded as we race from one activity to the next or divide and conquer while kids have different activities in totally different cities.  We make it happen because like Maya Angelou said, we want our kids to remember how our dedication made them feel.

Children don’t feel love through the thousands of dollars worth of shoes you buy them or the expensive camps you send them to.  They feel love when they are out on the court and they look to the sidelines and see you give them a thumbs up.  They feel love when they fall on the field and they hear your familiar gasp from the sidelines as you say a quick prayer to God to make sure your child gets back up.  They feel love when they see you with flowers in the audience after a piano recital.  They feel love just spending time with you.  But most importantly, they will remember how your love and dedication in their lives made them feel.

It’s YOUR TIME they need the most. It’s that simple.

The best thing we can do for our kids and for ourselves is to get a quick re-charge.  Like when your AC stops blowing cold air and you need to re-charge the freon… we go so hard for so long that we just start blowing hot air all around.  And when we are blowing hot air around, we are of no use to anyone.  Especially our kids.

And right now I feel like I am blowing hot air EVERYWHERE…

This weekend we have no basketball tournaments and no plans.  I am already scheduling in my calendar (WITH A SHARPIE) the 12 hours of sleep I want to get on Friday night.  I may not even get out of my nightgown on Saturday THANK-YOU-VERY-MUCH!  Visions of kids laughing by the fire pit while watching outdoor movies are floating around incessantly in my head.  And I know that after having a restful weekend I will be back to the Val who everyone knows and loves, not the Val that everyone hides from because she may burn a hole through you with her exhausted/angry glare.  Not the mom with the ultra-short fuse.

I know that once I get my refresher weekend that I will again be the kind of person who encourages people… the kind of person who makes people smile and whose energy makes others feel good. That is the real Val.

THAT is how I want to be remembered.  

 

 

For My Teenage Sons – Lessons From Super Bowl XLVIII

Our handsome boys at our wedding...

Our handsome boys at our wedding…

Published today by the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/for-my-teenage-sons-lesso_b_4740417.html

In our home, we try to teach our children through real life examples.  Rather than just tell our teenage boys not to use drugs, we talk about Lenny Bias like he’s an old friend.  Because they both love basketball, the Lenny Bias story is a human anti-drug ad that shows our boys that it only takes one time for drugs to kill you.  Whether or not it was the only time Lenny Bias used cocaine doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that our boys learn that two days after being chosen as the second overall draft pick, before he could even sign on the dotted line for his new endorsements that would make him rich beyond belief, Bias was dead.  Through his story we have taught our boys that no one is invincible and that drugs don’t discriminate.  Drugs don’t care if you are rich or poor – they kill you just the same.

The Super Bowl and the weeks leading up to the big game gave us plenty of material to discuss with the boys.  Sure there are lessons that we can all learn from the Super Bowl – lessons about being a good sport or how practice pays off.  But there were also some players in the final game that can be used as teaching tools for our teens.

1) The Richard Sherman Lesson – People will always remember the bad you do, and the good can be quickly forgotten.

The post game rant of Richard Sherman’s following the NFC Championship game quickly became news around the world.  Most of America spent the week before the Super Bowl arguing over whether Richard Sherman is or is not a “thug,” rather than speculating about the big game.

What must be explained to those who know little about football is that Richard Sherman is actually a very well-educated man.  He graduated as the Salutatorian from his high school in Compton, California and played football at Stanford.  He started “Blanket Coverage – The Richard Sherman Foundation” to get proper school supplies and adequate clothing for families in need.

Sure he has succeeded in life, but how will people remember him for years to come?  He will be remembered as that raving lunatic who looked like he wanted to push Erin Andrews.  Through this example, we hope the boys will see that “pretty is as pretty does” (my father’s favorite saying as I was growing up) and that all of the good that you do can be wiped away by just one slip of the tongue or one mistake.  Granted Richard Sherman has had a LOT of slips of the tongue over the years, but this particular example is what will be remembered forever.

As William Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”

2) The Percy Harvin Lesson – A man isn’t judged by how many times he falls, but by how many times he gets back up.

Percy Harvin had a frustrating season in the NFL.  He began the season by having hip surgery which kept him from playing in 15 of the 16 regular season games.  He came back excited to play in the post-season and suffered from a concussion after two plays in his first game.  So again, Harvin found himself on the sidelines and was probably doubting himself as a player and worrying about his future since the Seahawks had made a major investment in him.  Finally, as the Super Bowl neared, Harvin decided he was ready to play.

And boy did he ever play!  He accounted for 137 yards in his first four touches, but he will be remembered best by the opening kick-off of the second half where he ran an 87 yard return for a touchdown to put the Seahawks ahead 28-0.

If you saw that run without knowing anything about Harvin, then you would have been impressed by his lightning fast speed, but knowing that he had just recently recovered from hip surgery and a concussion makes it even sweeter.  Sure he could have doubted himself and stayed out of the game.  He could have been self-deprecating and beaten himself up for being weak.  He could have given up instead of going through intense rehabilitation for his hip.

But he didn’t.  He got back up… and he got back up wearing a Super Bowl ring.

3) The Peyton Manning Lesson – A man’s character is defined by how he treats other people, even those who can’t do anything for him.

I read a fabulous article online titled “Peyton Manning Leaves Crushing Super Bowl Loss With Reputation Intact.”  In the article, Dan Wetzel writes about how even after their terrible loss to the Seahawks, Peyton Manning was still stopping to sign autographs and talk to fans.  As Wetzel so eloquently put it, “At some point, though, at some level, what really matters about a man is how he treats people who hold no leverage over him, let alone how he treats those people in moments of tumult when it would be quite understandable if he just ignored the request.”  SO TRUE.

We want our boys to learn that it’s not how you treat people who can offer you something in return that counts.  It’s how you treat people no matter who they may be.  My father is a well-respected former judge who was the perfect model of this.  Over the years I have heard so many people say how kind he was to them, even as they stood in front of him in court.  I have always told my children that they too need to treat everybody as if they are SOMEBODY.  Peyton is an example of this and because of it his reputation is one of class and he is viewed by most with admiration and respect.

4) The Russell Wilson Lesson – You may not be the strongest, but you can work the hardest and play the smartest.

Russell Wilson was told over and over again that he was too small to play football professionally, but last Sunday he became the shortest quarterback to ever hold up the Lombardi trophy.  That’s quite a fete for someone who was the 3rd round pick in 2012.  Elizabeth Merrill wrote a great article called “The True Measure of Russell Wilson” on ESPN.com.  In it she quoted Wilson as saying, “My faith is so strong that I believe that God made me 5’11” for a reason… For all the kids that have been told, no, that they can’t.”

He learned that attitude from his father who always encouraged him to play his hardest and to work to be the smartest player on the field.  Because my son hasn’t really started growing yet, but plays basketball with a bunch of 8th graders who look like grown men already, I constantly try to teach this lesson.  I tell my son to be the one who makes the smartest passes and to be the most prepared so if you get the chance to shoot, that you MAKE THE SHOT.  The only way you can do that is to practice/train nonstop.

For our boys, I think the Russell Wilson lesson is most definitely the most applicable right now.  He is proof that it’s not the size of the man that matters… it’s how long he practices, how hard he plays, and how smart he is about both.

Stop and Smell The Roses…

I was in the shower last night when my husband walked into the bathroom and simply said, “Steve is dead.”

My mind raced as I tried to quickly figure out who in the world he could be talking about.  Then it hit me.  He was talking about “Steve the Stink Bug” who the girls brought in as a pet about two weeks ago.  I must say that Steve lived about 10 days longer than I had originally expected (or hoped for that matter).

As I finished my shower, I thought about how although the girls only had Steve in their lives for two weeks, they enjoyed every minute of him.  They built Steve a home in a hermit crab cage with sticks and leaves and water in a bottle cap.  When my step-daughter returned from her mom’s house, the first thing she did was check on Steve.  They were so concerned about his living conditions and his health.  His life was fleeting, but they enjoyed him the short time he was around.

Children are so much better than adults at just enjoying the moment.  All you have to do is watch them running on the beach to realize that.  They are running carefree in the sand while we are sitting in the beach chair worried about sharks and jellyfish and sunburn and drowning in the undertow.  A perfect example of this juxtaposition is feeding seagulls.  I have threatened my children since they were old enough to understand that if they do not bury any leftover bread crust or Pringles on the beach, then I will be furious.  I cannot stand seagulls.  I think they are rats that fly… but the kids get so much joy out of throwing bread in the air for them to catch.

Whether it’s a jar full of fireflies, which you know will all be dead by morning, or a goldfish won at the fair who doesn’t stand a fighting chance to make it more than 48 hours.  Or a stink bug found in the backyard.  They relish in the moment.  Children know how to stop and smell the roses.

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My handsome boy smelling Dandy’s roses…

Adults have a harder time with this enjoyment of the here and now because we know what is to come.  It’s like the fleeting moments when you realize that it has been a few days since there has been any drama with your ex.  There have been no emails or phone calls or text messages to speak of.  He/she may even be pleasant in your presence.

Rather than enjoy the moment, we tend to focus on the negative and wonder what Summons we may get served next or how he/she is manipulating us in some way.  Instead, we should be celebrating the quiet time when we don’t have to have daily talks with our friends or family about any of the crazy going on.  Trust me, they probably get tired of hearing it!  When you are immersed in craziness, it is a relief to be removed from it, even for just a few days.

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Kids see Steve… Adults see a STINK BUG.

Many of my friends have expressed their concern to me when their exes all of a sudden seemed to “get over it.”  Their exes were combative and bitter and angry while trying to keep any semblance of control over them by not agreeing to anything even if it is something clearly in the best interests of the children… but one day it stopped.  And that sudden calmness made my friends anything but calm.  They confessed to losing sleep at night expecting a lawsuit or child support reduction, when all it turned out to be was their ex-husbands had started dating someone new.  Rather than enjoy that brief time of peace though, they found themselves anxious.

We need to try to be more like the children.  When things start going well with your ex, don’t just assume the worst.  Maybe he/she has met someone who can take the heat off of you for a while.  Revel in it!  Enjoy it!  Your kids will be better off with BOTH of their parents happy.  Trust me when I say that your ex finding a relationship can be the best thing for your relationship with your ex!

I’m going to try to enjoy the little things more often without worrying about what is to come.  I’m going to stop and smell the roses… and be thankful for any little bit of peace I am given.  If we are overwhelmingly grateful for the little things, then just think about how exciting the big things will be???????

I may even feed the seagulls the next time we hit the beach.  Nahhh…….

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One of my favorite paintings by Sandy Vincent – click on it to like her Facebook page

Life Got in the Way!!!

I am not one to ever wish time away.  As a matter of fact, I often have that feeling of wanting to freeze time.  I look in the mirror every morning (well, after I put on my glasses so I can SEE myself) and wonder where this 39 year woman has come from?  I feel like I was 29 just yesterday… but ten years have just FLOWN by.

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29 years young at the beach with my babies

And the kids???  How in the world have they gotten to be so OLD?  My youngest child, who I feel like was born YESTERDAY, started cotillion a couple of weeks ago and is almost as tall as I am already! I feel like the past 10 years have just been a blur, so I now find myself just staring at her (which makes her terribly uncomfortable, by the way).  I crave the moments we can spend together.  I LOVE Tuesdays because it is the one night that I can focus all of my attention on her since the other children are all with their other parent.  We can get sushi and just catch up on life…

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On her way to her first 5th grade cotillion!

My first born is a full blown teenager now.  He is growing every single day and will pass me in the next week (if he hasn’t already today).  He is filled with that teenage angst and wants to argue with every single thing I say (while showing me how cut his abs are, of course), but I am still proud of him in everything he does.  Even when he talks incessantly about things that I have absolutely no interest in!  Some days he seems to put forth effort into his schoolwork and some days he absolutely couldn’t care any less about it.  I try my best to be encouraging when he does well.

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Throughout the years of their childhood I have often wanted to just yell, “STOP GROWING, NOW!!!!!!!”  I have wanted to just freeze time so that I could enjoy that moment forever.  Admittedly though, I am ready and willing to close the book on the last month of my life.  September 23rd was my birthday, which seems to be when everything peaked.  It has been DOWNHILL ever since.

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My birthday celebration with my kids and three of my nephews… happy thoughts.

Since then, we have had strep throat, lice, unknown stomach pains (that still are not resolved), meetings about educational “issues” (results coming soon) and a spot cut from my temple (still waiting on biopsy results).   I had a friend who had to have surgery on her wrist (so I cooked dinner for her family) and my son had a friend who unexpectedly lost his father.  I ran the Bull City 5 Miler only two days after suffering a stomach virus and now two days later I am still having trouble walking (mental note: don’t run 5 miles when you haven’t even hit the pavement in a month).  I know I looked like some sort of fool trying to walk down the stairs of my parking garage coming to work this morning.  And there is no telling what kinds of germs I picked up since I had to use the nasty handrails in a stairwell that more often than not smells like the pee of the local homeless people.

Lately I have been able to relate to the new song, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.  The video is below:

The song begins with him talking about how he feels his way through the darkness.  I too feel like I am “feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart.”  The darkness is this new life as a blended family and just the fact that life is passing by so quickly.  My sweet husband is so helpful in every single way and I can see how it pains him to see me struggle with my emotions.

I love our life and I love our kids, but I find myself in a constant state of worry over all of our kids because I want everything to go well for them.  I am not the kind of person who will blindly walk through life and project my happiness on those around me.  Instead I spend my time worrying that others are NOT as happy as I.  So on top of the external pressures of the past month, I have also been putting a tremendous burden on myself to make sure everything is going well for the rest of the family.  The death of my friend’s husband has also caused me to fear the loss of Joe.  It took us 20 years to reconnect and I am counting on at least 30 more years of newlywed bliss with him.  That has been weighing heavily on my heart.

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Immediately following our 5 Mile race on Sunday… we can run together to stay healthy!!!

As with everything in life, I know that these crazy emotions will rise and fall like the tides I love so dearly at the coast.  I know that this too shall pass.

I think the problem I am having right now though is that I do want to savor and enjoy every single second of this life with my handsome husband and our amazing kids, but lately life has dealt me some pretty crappy cards.  And it upsets me tremendously when I don’t know how to handle what is put on my plate.  I remember my grandmother saying, “I know the Good Lord won’t give me more than I can handle, but I sure wish he didn’t have so much faith in me.”  Amen. And AMEN.

The song continues with, “I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.”   I know that I need to start TODAY.  I need to focus on the good and not let the insignificant, petty things in my life affect who I am and how people know me.  I am proud of the fact that I have an annoyingly positive attitude.  I love that my friends know if they are having a bad day they can call me and I will make them laugh.  I love that if either of my girls are feeling down, they know I am a few steps away with a big hug to help make things better.  We don’t know where this journey will end, but we must make the most of each and every day before it’s too late.

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25 sittin’ on 25 mil….

The next couple of stanzas of the song really make me think of my years as a single mom.  I let life with my children pass me by because I was so busy focused on making money and trying to meet someone.  Although I had friends who tried to tell me that I needed to prioritize, I thought I had all of the answers so I ignored them.  I tried to “carry the weight of the world” because I had too much pride to just ask for help.  Most importantly, I was looking so hard for something but in the meantime didn’t realize that I was lost to myself.  I needed to be happy with ME before I could be happy with anyone else.

“Wake me up when it’s all over.  When I’m wiser and I’m older.  All those times I was finding myself, I didn’t know I was lost.”  It’s unusual for me to feel this way, but I sometimes find myself at a loss – not knowing how to deal with my son or not knowing if the lice will come back or trying not to let ex-drama affect me.  Not to mention that all of this chaos in my life has prohibited me from doing the one thing that I truly love – writing.

So starting RIGHT NOW… I am going to do three things daily to get me out of this funk:

1) Smile and focus on the here and now.  I’m not going to let the actions of others bring me down.  I will see those actions for what they are – sad attempts to take away the happiness I have in my life.  I am going to spend every second I can with my kids so their memories of their childhoods are of US and not things I gave them.  I’m not going to worry about them anymore, I am merely going to do everything in my power to make sure they communicate with us if something needs to be changed.

2) Write, write and write some more (daily)!!!!  I have always been best when it comes to getting my thoughts and feelings on paper.  Sometimes I have trouble expressing myself verbally, but if I sit down at my laptop then I can write for days on end.

3) Take care of ME.  I need to exercise daily, take my vitamins and drink lots of water.  It’s hard to feel down when you are at your best!!!  Plus, taking care of myself will hopefully ensure many, many more happy years with Joe and our kids (and future grandkids).

With all that being said, sorry for my little break in blogging… LIFE GOT IN THE WAY.  But I’m awake now and am thankful for every minute of every day (and have two more blogs ready to post!!!!).

Letter to My Kids Re: Divorce

To my AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL CHILDREN of whom I am so proud,

I am sorry.

I’m sorry that your father and I could not make our marriage last.  I’m sorry that nine years ago at the young ages of 18 months and 4 years old I took you to a new home in a new town so that we would have the support of my parents while I looked for a job.  My parents were kind enough to buy us a tiny house to rent from them so that we could “start new.”  I know it was hard to be away from daddy.

I’m sorry that I had to go from being a stay-at-home mom to working long hours so that I could provide for you guys.  I worked very hard so that I could buy that tiny home from Dandy & Papa Judge so that we would have it as our own. Everything I have done post-divorce has been for you.

I know you are still too young to completely get it, but I do hope that one day you see that although your father and I could not stay together, we tried to do everything in our power to make it as easy on you as it could be.  I know that sounds far-reaching, but we really did.  We both made you our #1 priority and we did everything in our power to work together to make sure you both knew that you would always be the center of each of our universes.

I hope that someday you do realize that although we moved away, I drove almost an hour one way to Wilson on Wednesday afternoons to meet your dad halfway between our homes so that you could spend a couple of hours having dinner with him.  You guys would eat and then go play at the playground until it was time to head home.  From day one, your dad was welcome in our home and I invited him to come for all important events – first day of school, birthday parties, trick-or-treating.  You may not remember, but he was there.  And if he wasn’t there, I would send him pictures.  And you spent every other weekend with him as well.

Your dad called you every single morning and every single night from the first day of our separation.  He has only missed one morning ever because he overslept on a business trip.  I called his wife and his mother because I was concerned something had happened to him!  So always remember that he has for over nine years now called you numerous times a day.  He has never wanted you to ever equate his inability to be with you daily as an indication of his level of commitment to you.

I have worked hard to communicate with your dad so that we can both stay on top of everything that goes on in your life daily.  As you know, we always have each other’s backs because as soon as I need his help with one of you guys, I know I can call your dad and he will help me.  Not because he wants to help ME… but because he wants to be the best dad he can be to YOU.  I would never take that away from him.

I don’t want you to ever feel like you have to choose between your dad and me.  Although I know those days may happen, we have always tried to encourage you to love us both.  We sit together at activities and have all eaten dinner together after basketball games – not because Joe and I are good buddies with your dad and Amy, but because we all share something very important.  Our love for you both.

For nine years now I have tried to constantly remind you that we are still a family, but we just look different now.  I have also tried to remind you that you are blessed with even more people now who love you immeasurably!  Not only do you have mom and dad and our parents.  Now you have Joe, your stepbrother and sister, and Joe’s side of the family and you have Amy and your little sister and Amy’s side of the family.  These are more people who adore you and support you and want to do whatever they can to help you grow into some amazing people.

Now that you are older, your dad and I work together for you more than you are even aware.  We email each other daily about one thing or another because your lives are getting busier and busier.  Since we live so much closer to your dad now, we added the extra night a week for you guys to stay with dad and Amy so that you can spend more time with them.  We always try to work out in our schedules anything we can for you guys – we swap and trade and add.  It’s not always easy when you have as many different moving parts as we do now, but we do whatever we can for YOU.

I know divorce is a terrible thing.  And when you were born and I cried while looking into your sweet innocent faces, this was not the future I would have ever dreamed or wished for you.  Your father and I have worked very hard, but I do know that will never be enough.  Although we tried to focus all of our energy on YOU BOTH rather than on ourselves, I am sure there were times you felt abandoned by us since we had given up on each other.  Hopefully you will recognize though that even if we gave up on each other, we NEVER GAVE UP ON YOU.

Try your best to think about the good that has come out of the divorce.  If your dad and I had not gotten divorced, then dad and Amy would not have gotten married.  And hasn’t Amy been such a blessing in your lives? And if dad and Amy had not gotten married then you would not have your little sister.  How can you question God’s plan in life when you see him make something THAT GOOD out of something bad?  You also have a new step-brother and step-sister who love you and will always have your back.  And Joe has been a blessing to us all.  You know that God knew what he was doing when he brought Joe into our lives.  Joe is such an amazing Christian leader in our home and he shows us all his love for us in every single thing he does.

We will all continue to do whatever we can to show you each and every day how much we love you.  And we will do it together.  As one big family.  I can easily see every single one of us sitting together at graduations and weddings and births.  We have already set the groundwork for that to happen.  You will always be surrounded by people who love you.  We are all in this together.

We all love you MORE….  I’m sorry we have put you through this, but we are working every single day to mitigate the effects.  Maybe God couldn’t “fix” the mess that your dad and I made by getting a divorce, but He sure has made some good work out of the ashes.

Mom