I've been a mom for twenty-six years.
I was a single mom first at the age of twenty, intent to do everything backwards, it seems. I met my husband when my daughter was five, and became a married mom, and a step-mom to a second delightful girl, two years younger to the day than my daughter. They were fast buddies, and eventually, when my husband adopted my daughter, truly became the sisters they were from the moment they first met.
My husband and I each had a child from prior relationships, so when I turned thirty we got to work *practicing* with every arrogant assumption that we would be fruitful together. Two years passed without a pregnancy, we'd moved and I became a stay-at-home mom for the first time, and I got a puppy. A furry little replacement baby until the Universe decided it was time for the human variety.
It would take six years, during which I was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis, suffered one loss, two surgeries, a multitude of disappointments, was one ovary down, and on my way to a likely hysterectomy if I didn't find an alternative to the conventional INfertility path. The path that focused on IMpossible, and UNlikely, and ADVANCED age, and FAILURE. The path that, the temperature charting and obsessing of which, caused untold stress, weight-gain and wrinkles. I hate wrinkles, dammit! And it contributed to adrenal fatigue and chronic acidosis, and babies won't grow in an acidic environment.
And so, I sought another path. A path of healing, a path of spirituality, a path of empowering myself to follow my instincts and use my intuition to take control of my wellness and my FERTILITY; a path that would lead the little spirit I wasn't ready for before, to finally come to be my amazing, bright, imaginative now ten-year-old son. I've come to understand that the Universe had known better. There had been so much more I needed to know before I was ready to mother my son. He was born when our daughters were sixteen and fourteen, and everything I thought I knew about being their mom/step-mom, I had to relearn when it came to my son.
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I lack the sufficient number of fingers and toes to count how many times I’ve heard my dad say those words: Change is Permanent. Meaning, nothing ever stays the same, so you might as well stop fighting, stop trying to control and embrace it. Neither embracing change nor giving up control, however, has EVER been easy for me.
Take moving to California, for instance. In September of 2010, we left my quaint little lakeside hometown and our home of 12 years in Michigan, still full of all our stuff, and spent two weeks camping our way across country to the destination of temporary housing and a new job for my husband, in San Diego, California. We were towing a 30 foot travel trailer; me, husband, then seven-year-old son, dog, and a lizard experiencing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride back in the trailer, his tank precariously and I’m sure mortifyingly bungeed to the dinette. Every time we stopped to make camp, the Boy and I had to rearrange his tank and refill the water that had sloshed everywhere. He was downright twitchy and clearly not a happy desert-dwelling leopard gecko.
I knew the feeling.
There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation happening in our vehicle as the more than 2000 miles rolled beneath our rig. I spent many hours on Facebook; trying desperately to maintain the connection to friends, family back home and the nearly grown daughters we were leaving behind. Our middle daughter was already living and going to school in Florida and everyone and everything I loved was growing only farther and farther away, as we moved closer and closer to the unknown bustling vastness of San Diego and the west coast. The thought of building a life so far removed from the one I’d known, grew only more daunting.
There’s a theory in psychology called tabula rasa, or blank slate. Meaning that every child is born with a clean slate and that they grow and become the people they will become because of their experiences, the environment in which they grow, how they are nurtured and, perhaps most importantly, because of the people they meet along the way. I think I was a bit of a blank slate for much of my life--floundering, questioning where my place might be in the Universe, and what my purpose could possibly be. I didn’t so much make choices and decisions for myself, as I allowed them to be made by others, or procrastinated to the point where they were made for me. In many cases, I failed to actively participate in choosing my path, and often blamed others when I didn’t like the outcome; my poor husband being the frequent place for my blame to land.
Even as I blamed others, I always felt a niggling, deep down, that I was the key; that I had the power to give my family the freedom to build our lives, thrive and contribute something truly special to wherever we chose to live, but I had no idea how to get there.
At first, San Diego was no different. After an initial period of mourning (OK, more like wallowing), and making exactly one truly wonderful friend, to whom I will be eternally grateful for recognizing how pathetic I was and reaching out to me anyway in the park, I ultimately decided that for however long we might be in California, I was going to grow and take advantage of opportunities that weren't as readily available in my small hometown. I decided.
I began to follow local San Diego authors, novelist, Margaret Dilloway, and self-help guru, Debbie Ford, and I read a debut memoir by an author from my hometown, Patricia Gibson. I liked her first book so much, How to be an American Housewife, that I e-mailed Margaret Dilloway. She kindly replied and suggested I seek out classes at UCSD Extension, join a writers group, and attend a writers’ conference. I took my first Creative Writing class in the fall of 2011, and magic began to happen. I was blessed to study under Don and Nancy Kaye Matson, and under their patient tutelage and encouragement, I have experienced a dramatic life change and have positively bloomed. Nancy Kaye has a website, Define Your Destiny, and I swear that I did just that, purely by osmosis and her proximity in class.
I remember when we first arrived, as we drove over the last big mountain in Arizona into California, I saw a rainbow. I wondered if our pot of gold could possibly be waiting at the end of it. I even posted a picture of it to Facebook, and asked that very question. Well, financially? Not yet. But personally? I’d have to say that California has taught me much about myself, and if my own pot of gold is the light inside and the confidence that I now recognize and seek to share with the world? Then yes, California has contained that pot of gold I’d hoped for.
I turned 46 years old in July. But it wasn’t until I spent my 45th year in California that I finally figured out that I want to be a writer when I grow up. Not even that I want to be, but more that I always was, and I’d suppressed it all these years. I’d always used the excuse that because I lack a college degree, no one would care what I thought or what I had to say; that my words couldn’t possibly be profound enough. Being willing to stick my neck out and try it, and realizing otherwise, I suppose, means that over these many months in California, I did actually grow up.
I did grow up and amid all the crowds and all the rush and the competition to spend more, lookmore'beautiful'earnmorehavemoredriveabettercar, I discovered something pretty amazing.
I discovered that I have the power to bring people together and to be a light, even in this huge place.
I came to this vast land that is San Diego, and I didn't disappear. I didn't crumble, though I was cracked for awhile. When I decided finally to stop wallowing and take control of my San Diego experience, I discovered I was no longer invisible, and in fact I bloomed. I became someone I could be proud of, besides just my kids' mom, which of course isn't 'just' at all. But because society seems to tell us so at every opportunity, as stay at home moms with the dreaded holes in our resumes, it’s easy to forget that what we share, manage and grow in our families, translates into an ability to share, manage and grow other things as well. Women aren't merely capable of building homes, communities, governments; we build people--little human beings, for goodness sakes. That isn’t ‘just’—we’re not ‘just’ moms.
Remember the movie, City Slickers, with Billy Chrystal and Jack Palance? Billy Chrystal plays Mitch, an angst-ridden suburban husband, and Palance won an academy award for his portrayal of a trail-hardened, Curly Washburn. Curly turns out to be more than a simple cowboy, but a wise mystic who advises Mitch to focus on the “One Thing,” that is most important in his life to solve all his problems. I didn’t really get it, and I always wondered what that “One Thing” was.
I’ve come to learn that the “One Thing,” for me, is in that sharing. The secret is in supporting one another and in our innate humanity toward one another; in caring enough to discover the beauty and special something that lives in every one of us. It’s in being willing to open up and share the pieces of ourselves that are special, even if we or our families and friends are the only ones who think so, or even if no one does…yet.
With only a genuine smile and a look in the eye, I have found the power to disarm a cranky clerk and maybe change their bad day for the better. And I now know that within each of us exists the power to make all our wishes come true; we need only to decide it, believe it, reach for it, and trust that the Universe will put us right where we need to be in order grow.
As much as I thank California and the wonderful people I’ve met here for helping make me the person I am today, and the person I will continue to grow to become, however, it is time for us to return home to Michigan and the responsibilities we left behind. My husband will go back to consulting, which is what landed him the job opportunity in the first place, and I will continue to write. And we will pool the many resources we both possess and make life work there.
We're going back, but we're not going backwards. As the lizard survives to make another terrifying trip across the country, so do I, and the person I'm bringing home with me is better than the one who left. She believes in herself. She believes she has something to offer her community; that she can make a positive impact on herself, her daughters, her nieces; her Posse on both West Coasts and all points in between and beyond, and even to her husband, father, brothers & son. She is more confident and more willing to share the lessons of life that no college could have taught her, and she is more open to the lessons others have to teach. She is an author.
I am an AUTHOR! A dream that will be realized when the book in which I will have an essay published, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics, is released in the fall, before the elections. I never would have stretched, never would have reached for such a lofty goal, had I not been so desperately lonely and sick of myself that I had no other choice than to begin writing the thoughts and the stories that had wrestled for years in my mind. I even sleep more peacefully now, and I am excited to bring the best that I have to offer back to my hometown and to have a positive impact there.
Even so, after almost two years, it turns out that saying good-bye to new friends is just as painful as saying good-bye to old ones. I dearly wish I wasn't breaking a heart in order to heal my own; to return to my hometown, our families, old friends, to help raise our nephew and to be closer to our daughters and the support system we left behind, and to my beloved lake. I am leaving California, but I thank her for all she has taught me, and for the wonderful friends here who have found a place in my own broken heart forever.
Perhaps in order to find our true selves we need to step away for a time from that which defined who we were. We must stretch our wings and venture off in order to find who we hope to become and to find the true potential we all possess and the selves we can be proud to share with the world. I’m not sure what it is that makes it so hard for some of us to love ourselves and recognize our worth as young women, but I hope that I can share the self-esteem and the light I’ve found, and teach other women and young girls to be open to the Universe, to see it in themselves, and to recognize their own power and their own true potential. To realize that change isn’t just permanent, it’s positive. If only we can recognize it and accept it for what it is and for what it might be, and for what it might possibly define in us…our destiny.
Health Guru and Publishing Magnate Robert Kennedy Dies of Cancer at 73; So Why Should You Bother with All That Health 'Nonsense'?
The list of healthy publications he’s created is long: Clean Eating (to which I’ve personally been a loyal subscriber since its introduction in 2008), Musclemag, Oxygen, Reps!, American Curves, Maximum Fitness, and The Eat-Clean Diet® series, featuring his wife, the lovely and supremely fit, Tosca Reno. Robert Kennedy has had an incredible influence on health and fitness over a career that spanned more than 50 years.
Those for whom fitness and healthy eating isn’t a priority anyway, may site Kennedy’s passing as a reason to say, “Why bother? Look at what it did for him!” Well let me tell you exactly what I believe it did for him and why we should absolutely bother. It is also why I will be stepping up my own fitness efforts, reaffirming my Clean Eating efforts, and NOT in the least pulling back.
Robert Kennedy lived a full and vibrant life up until his last six months or so. He spent every day doing exactly what he wanted to do and fulfilling all the dreams and ambitions he had from an early age. For more than 70 years of his life, he rose each morning free of pain, with boat-loads of energy; “abundant good health,” he states in his poignant and thought-provoking farewell message in the July 2012 issue of Clean Eating. Robert Kennedy exuberantly tackled each new day. He enjoyed and shared great success and great health throughout his life.
In contrast, we have come to accept daily aches and pains and multitudes of prescriptions as a rite of passage associated with aging: Sallow skin, brittle bones, diabetes, high cholesterol, robotic knees and hips, pig valves, gout, obesity, Alzheimer’s, dementia and chronic pain…these maladies and a host of others have become widely tolerated by the American public with the advent of drugs and their abundant commercials that increasingly populate the evening news (whose apparent demographic is diabetics who have to pee urgently, can’t get it up, have heart disease, high cholesterol, gastric reflux & dry eyes) as well as every other page in many magazines. And it makes me angry. Pick up a copy of Reader’s Digest and you will find umpteen advertisements for a variety of drugs directed at aging Baby Boomers, and if the ads aren’t for drugs, they’re coupons for highly processed and chemically laden foods that are directed toward those on a fixed income and busy moms. Pick up a Robert Kennedy publication, and you’ll see very much the opposite.
We are the most developed nation in the world, and yet we’ve about “developed” ourselves into oblivion. We have come to accept feeling bad as simple truths in life and as part of the aging process:
· Autoimmune diseases that assign an acronym, but we don’t know the cause or the cure; we simply manage
· Celiac Disease
· Heart Disease
· Infant mortality/ prematurity
· …unfortunately I’ve only grazed the alphabet.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We need to wake up and smell the colostomy bag, stop making excuses and MAKE BETTER CHOICES!! Demand better choices of ourselves and of our families. EVERY bite matters, and EVERY day that we fail to fit in purposeful exercise absolutely matters. As does each day spent in a dead end job or career or in a toxic relationship that does anything other than feed our souls. I don’t want to be in my 70s and wake up each morning, hobble to the bathroom, remove my soiled Depends® and sit there and wait for nothing to happen. I’d much rather my refrigerator be overflowing with a rich variety of colorful produce that I must toil over and prepare than carry around a Rubbermaid® container filled to the brim with multitudes of prescriptions, and constantly worry about how I’ll pay for those prescriptions, because without them I’ll die.
We have been brainwashed to believe that this is the only way to age and that there is no such thing as aging gracefully. Despite his unsavory ending, and I’m deeply sorry for his family that he wasn’t able to write himself a better, more deserving one, I remain convinced that Robert Kennedy not only found the way, but shared the way to live. If not always longer, he’s certainly given us every example imaginable to live a comfortable, healthy, vibrant and happy life before our bodies, as he said, “go the way of all flesh.”
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. There is no alternative to that. But how we get there is up to us, each and every day. It’s never too late to embrace Hippocrates’ philosophy, “Your food shall be your medicine and your medicine shall be your food,” infuse our lives with positivity, a multitude of friends and loving family, laugh often, figure out how to make a living doing what we love, move—as our bodies were created to do—and begin living our best possible lives today.
My girlfriend’s adorable picture on Facebook of her son’s crazy hair for school today (not my kid, so I won’t share it, but here’s a pretty crazy one of my own from a few years back), and another mom-friend talking about doing seven crazy ponytails in her daughter’s hair got me thinking; and remembering. I also had a nice telephone conversation with my oldest daughter, Sara, this morning and a blissful 70-minute one with my step-daughter, Rachel, this afternoon. I didn’t get much writing done today, but it made me so nostalgic for when we were all together under one roof, in one state. It was brief and it wasn’t always easy, but those were blissfully chaotic and wonderful years before Sara left to go off to college, and too soon after, Rachel graduated and got her own apartment.
My boy has never been one to let me do a thing to his hair, even when his sisters were around and wanted to spike it all the time. ONE time he allowed me to spike it for his school picture, but when Grandma said she didn’t like it; never again. Not once since. Not even for Crazy Hair Day. But it’s my very favorite school picture of him, ever. And his big sisters would probably agree.
I now have my boy trained to tell his dad, “Not Your Department,” whenever his mop gets too long, which I rather like, but Dad threatens to get out the clippers. This phrase came up because when Rachel was little, her dad thought she needed a haircut and thought he was just the guy to see it done. Well I was totally in the ex-wife’s corner on this one: SO Not Dad’s Department! It looked exactly like his sisters’ did, in their typical 70s Pageboys. In fact, he probably wouldn’t admit it, but I bet he took an old picture out of his wallet of one of his sisters to show the stylist at the time. I would have been furious with him if he’d done that to my girl. Of course, Rachel and her sunny smile were adorable regardless, but that phrase has lived on in our family, forever more.
The craziest hair times typically occur when girls are in their high school years. They begin experimenting, asserting their independence and, depending on what they’re into at the time, might come home with half a head shaved or a shock of hot pink running through it. My own high school photos range from a Barbra Streisand Main Event perm to Farrah Fawcett feathered bangs; not so bad, I guess.
When my girls were in high school, straightening was all the rage, or Goth, but thankfully neither of them went there, so not too much craziness to report. Except (and I’m sure at this point, she knows this is coming) when Rachel needed her hair done for Competitive Cheerleading: We had to put it up in a high pony tail, then twist and wrap little individually sectioned pieces around flaming hot rubber noodles to make a gagillion ringlet curls all through the pony tail; but not before absolutely COATING both sides of each little section of hair with AquaNet hairspray. The stench was bad enough, but my hands, forearms and even the tops of my feet would get absolutely coated in the stuff. I wouldn’t do it upstairs because of the bamboo floors, so we did it in the basement and would both be nearly asphyxiated by the time we were done. And lucky her, she’d have to sleep in it all night like that.
Even with no fingerprints left to identify my cold, dead body (which could very well be a reality when she sees this example that shows her little brother isn't the only one in the family who will put on a crazy outfit from time to time), the unpleasant AquaNet arms, crusty nose hairs and my fingers literally sticking to one another, to her hair and to the rat tail comb, I wouldn’t trade those blessed moments with my spunky, funny, smart, loving and spectacularly beautiful step-daughter for anything in this world. Especially on this long holiday weekend, far from home, I wish I could blink my eyes and spend an evening doing her hair and breathing AquaNet all over again. I’d happily do Sara’s, too. I know for sure my son will never let me do his, not even for Crazy Hair Day. But he’d put on a crazy getup, have a blast and there would be lots of laughs with his Dad, sisters and all of us together under one roof again, if only for a moment. (The things you can get away with when your daughters are an entire country away, however, can be rather fun!)
That's my new mantra.
I don't want to clean my son's bathroom (ew)...put on your Big Girl Panties, your rubber gloves and a face mask and just do it, preferably right before your shower, and maybe even naked.
I don't feel like walking today...put on your Big Girl Panties, your shoes and just do it.
I don't know what to write today...put on your Big Girl Panties, sit at your computer and just start typing.
I don't care to fight with my kid about eating his broccoli...put on your Big Girl Panties, make the damn broccoli and just set a good example and eat it yourself first.
And here's a big one:
I don't have a clue where to begin to help my kid succeed in school...put on your Big Girl Panties, talk to his teacher, and be willing to go in every day, STUDY THOSE MATH FACTS every day, and give him the opportunity to rise to the high expectations he is more than capable of meeting. In other words, make him put on his Big Girl Panties.
Self-discipline has never been something I tap into easily. But the payoffs are magical, numerous and probably limitless (I say probably because I only just started so I don't actually know for sure yet, but I have an inkling). For instance, you won't be embarrassed when the Potty Queen is over, however briefly and unexpectedly, and must use your bathroom. If you just put your shoes on first thing when you change your clothes in the morning, you'll be more likely to walk, which will feel great and your dog will love you even more and won't pester you so much when you're trying to write, which could eventually lead to something delightful and unexpected even if you didn't know in advance what you were sitting down to write that day, but that probably actually came to you while you were walking.
And best of all, the kid who cried daily about math homework and took hours to complete five problems, suddenly answers, "Actually math," was his favorite thing at school, when, "Recess," was the usual answer to the daily question. Not only that, he approaches homework enthusiastically, and completes it in a timely manner and has time to actually play after dinner on a weeknight.
So what if he still doesn't eat his broccoli with similar enthusiasm...neither do I. But this recipe from The Barefoot Contessa might actually rectify that situation in the future. And here you go, in case you need your own set of Big Girl Panties.
Author|Award-Winning Essayist|Freelance CommercialWriter|GANE
Kim was selected as a BlogHer '13 Voices of the Year Honoree in the Op Ed category for this post, an excerpt of which has been adapted for inclusion in the book, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics, to be released late 2014. Visit her Wordpress About page to see her CV.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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