Maternal In Memorium & Mother’s Day Manifesto

IshtarToday marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death.

Ours was an unusually complex relationship, with  complete estrangement over twenty years ago. Despite the common cry of making amends by well-meaning acquaintances who do not know the depth of the family’s dysfuncionality, I have no regrets when it comes to this relationship, or lack thereof.

My mother was a victim of her times and of abuse. She was the poster child of body loathing and repression.  I grew up surrounded by women’s magazines, and I confess, I still regularly take Woman’s World for their feel-good stories and their little strips of inspiration. It reminds me of a simple time when my paternal grandmother would clip the posts and pin them to the fridge, or tear out the Ziggy comics and pin them to her inspirational bulletin board in the sewing room.

My paternal grandmother was in touch with her power as a woman. She was wise, fierce, kind and strong. She lived fully and taught me what it meant to be my own person.

ziggy Times have not changed so much, and maybe even for the worse. Not only are we expected to manage our homes, but bear the burden of less feminine roles as well.  We are still surrounded by racks full of magazines, air-brushed images of the female form, with covers that imply we are flawed; how to be thinner, how to be happier, how to please our men, how to de-stress so we can be all of the above. We are ingrained in a culture who continues to devalue the natural life-affirming work of women.

You may wonder what this has to do with the anniversary of my mother’s death. Everything.

I was raised by a woman who was  estranged from her own beautiful, glorious and powerful self. I had a choice as a young woman, continue the trauma, or claim my own glorious divine feminine. I chose the latter.

So many of us hate our ankles, our bellies, our hair or our skin.  We punish our bodies and ridicule our own needs. We ignore the call of primitive intuition, and we diminish the great power of fertility and motherhood.

We live in the world of magazine promises; to create a common, submissive self that perpetuates a world where our value and spiritual gifts are damned.

As the years passed and I healed into my own femininity, into my own woman, forgiveness came. My mother was not a bad mother as such, she was  truly a victim of her times, of her inability to seize her own power, and grow into her own, always determining her own worth by the praise of abusive men.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope that all of the women in my life,  spend some quiet time, reflecting on their own beauty and how their body has served them well, their own natural, intuitive intelligence, and their own power to embrace the fullness of what it means to be a woman.

More than that, I hope that whether maiden, mother or crone,  that all of the ladies reading this live each stage of life and every transition fully.  I believe that is the secret to a well-lived life. That is the secret to having no regrets.

Sports Moms – When It’s Your Turn to Be Inspired

football benchAbout two weeks ago I was brought to my knees by sharp pain and then was overcome with panic.

I thought I had a heart attack.

A little thick around the middle, and always in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to become more active. Not running-marathons-and-and-eating-kelp-sandwiches-active, but more active.

Flashback a billion years to all of the summers, winters, springs and falls that I sat on the sidelines cheering on my athletically gifted kiddo. I drank a lot of tea from drive-thru windows and kept the company of other parents doing the very same thing.  As he ran and played, I was plopped in a lawnchair, making sure that when he looked up, Mom was there. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking at 11pm after late baseball games so he went to bed with a full tummy. So my  butt got a little chunky.

I have been all of the following; a baseball mom, a football mom, a cricket mom, a basketball mom, a curling mom, a badminton mom and  a did-you-do-your-homework-mom.

During the past two weeks, I have developed a greater appreciation of my child’s experience during his childhood of sporting.  How much did my presence feel like pushing? How much did it feel like support? I guess I’ll never really know.  What I always hoped was that he was doing something he loved, that made him feel good, and made him feel proud of himself. I wanted my boy to have confidence.

What I do know is that pushing through the discomfort of new levels of physical movement takes some grit. Trust me, I’ve had to have grit a’plenty during my lifetime, but it’s been a mental grit. A determination to get through one day at a time. Physical grit, not so much.

My body has always had a comfortable ease about it. I was built for hugging, cuddling, and lounging during long, philosophical conversations about religion, politics and gender equality issues.   Wine adores my body. So does chocolate, champagne and puff pastry.

So I’m swinging a golf club for the first time, and running my ass off, and sweating. Like a man. It’s not pretty, and parts of me actually hurt.

I can’t help but think of my son. I think of how hard he as worked to accomplish the things that he has. He’s on a national sports team, plays a bahzillion sports, and maintains his grades, and also puts up with a rather flamboyant mamma.

My old bones ache in places where I forgot it could possibly hurt in the first place, and it reminds me of how hard my son has worked and what strength and grace he’s had to develop in order to accomplish  it all.

Running at my little gym, I have an extraordinary view of a public play-space and just beyond that a beautiful lake in the middle of our bustling city. I watch parents come out and play with their kids, some of them shooting baskets, and others, likely tired single-moms like I was, sitting in a chair and keeping an eye on their kids as they play.

portable locker roomI want to go out there and tell those weary parents that it’s all worth it; that team sports and athletics are worth every early morning, every weekend taken up with tournaments, and all of the leaving early and working overtime that has to happen to make it work.  Not because it just keeps their bodies healthy, but because it develops character and forms strong bonds of friendship. I want to tell those parents that gaining an extra ten or twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Missing your kids’ childhood is.

So, this afternoon, when what I really want to do is nap with the cat. I will likely be running my little 30 minute marathon, because my son sets a damn good example and if he can push himself to do it, damn it, so can I.

When you raise an athlete, there comes a turning point where you are no longer their inspiration. Instead, they become yours. It’s a very hard feeling to describe. Pride doesn’t quite cut it, but joy comes close.

 

 

Saying Good-Bye to Christmas: A Beautiful Mess

peaceIn the quiet stillness of the-day-after, I sit alone looking at the lights on the Christmas tree.

The house is finally empty and I have my first few minutes alone.

Putting together the holiday for everyone feels like nothing short of a miracle some years, but this year was different. I was happier and more relaxed. Exhausted still, at this point, I am spent.

The evidence is all around; an errant ribbon on the table, a Shriner’s fruitcake card atop a red velvet jewellers box, gift tags that got left behind, a bottle of wine reflecting the lights on the tree. There is one gift bag left unopened, intended for someone who didn’t make it over in time for the festivities, and a piece of art behind the tree that the kiddo forgot to tuck away.

All of this beautiful mess here and there makes me happy. It is proof that family and friends were here, cozy, happy and fed well. Hopefully everyone felt connected and loved.

It’s over for another year, and perhaps, the beginning of some new traditions for everyone.

Santa & The Single Mom: Christmas Stress

unclelewis

Last night, while making a right hand turn at a busy intersection (during rush hour no less), I was so anxious having a little cry and panicking about paying the bills that I drove into a snow bank, went into auto-pilot and put the car in neutral, and then stepped on the gas (while still in neutral), and basically scared myself back to sanity. I did not shit my pants and I consider that a victory.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

Any single parent knows how difficult it is to keep the ship afloat at home.  You finally get a little savings packed away, and voila, an emergency and then POOF, it’s gone. It feels like a really blue collar Harry Potter life without the magic of cool creatures.

No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on…

I love Christmas, and I love celebrating it. The reality is a single parent home is a vortex of anxiety and stress during the holidays. The best you can do is try to breathe deeply, and most importantly, remember that you always get through it. Always.

Now, getting through it this year has been a bit easier as we’ve had some exciting and positive distraction in our home thanks to my fabulously awesome kiddo.  I’ve also had a lot of practice throughout the years, so keeping that in mind helps to relax me a bit. If you have little ones at home, trust me; it gets easier. Not that the pressure eases, no, it actually gets worse. You become more graceful about it as the years pass if you try.

…and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.

The truth is I get through the holidays with a few vices. Tipples in my morning coffee when I don’t have to go to work or be out on the roads. Knowing I can play my ukulele for distraction despite how badly I suck at it. Baking, stitching, and staying under my cozy blankets on my days off for as long as possible to meditate by counting my blessings. Oh, a fabulous drug plan, and a  good therapist go a long, long, way to always having a ho-ho-hold the stress holiday.

Mostly though, it’s counting my blessings and appreciating all of the fabulously weird, wonderful and kind people that I am proud to call friends.

And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

Solo-Parenting; What Solo Feels Like

walkingI’ve been darn lucky to raise such a really good kid.

I spent a lot of days worrying about how I would put food on the table, afford medicine when he got sick, and whether or not I was doing all I could to give him what he needed.

I stayed home for so many sick days I thought I’d lose my job. I stayed up late cooking and putting loot bags together for Hallowe’en parties and Valentine’s day parties, and Santa surprises. And I loved every single minute I’ve had with my child.

As one of my older and wiser gal-pals told me one day while I was laying like a beached whale on the sofa, pregnant and sick, “Guilt will be a constant for you once this baby is born. You’ll feel guilty about everything. You’ll always think you can do better.”

I remember thinking that I wish she would just shut up. I remember thinking that all of these little nuggets of wisdom were huge warning signs during what should be the happiest time of my life. But they were right. As a mother, you never stop worrying that your child is happy, warm, well-fed and as they get older, not being a little shithead.

Becoming a mother was the single-most amazing and terrifying thing that ever happened to me. I felt strong and  fierce and terrified and vulnerable all at the same time.

So here we are, on the cusp of having this child officially become an adult, and it’s all been worth it.

Luckily both parents get along as well as possible, and I believe we’ve provided him a good solid foundation for making decisions and embracing life.

Friends have been a wonderful support, surrounding my son and I with time, listening ears and rounds of congratulations.

But as a single parent even moments of joy and success have been bittersweet. For the most part, I attend all of his activities alone.  I feel great pride, joy and a sense of accomplishment with no one really to share it with. Information about new opportunities comes and goes, and at the end of the day, it’s on my own that I wonder about them, rationalize, hope and dream for my child. There is no partner to turn to for another perspective.

What I have learned during the past few months is that not only have I done my best as a parent, but I’ve done well in general, helping my child make decisions that will hopefully result in greater happiness and success for him.

You will walk home from first days of school with no one to reassure you that they will be ok. You will send them out on their first time away from home, watch them perform in plays, the band, sports, on their first date, taking the car for the first time, with yourself being the only cheering section.  You will do this alone, with no one to witness these passages from child to adult. Sharing great joy is what makes joy so wonderful.

If you are on your own I have two pieces of advice; don’t second guess your intuition when it comes to what’s right for your kids, and don’t settle for good-enough. It’s all worth it. Every single minute that you worry and wonder, and spend alone.

 

 

Sunday Chores: It’s All About Perspective

danceinthekitchenAbout ten years ago I was in a supervisory meeting and was asked how I was feeling about my life in general.

I was happy. Deeply happy. My son was at, what I thought then, was the perfect age (around 7 or 8 years old). My career was both paying the bills and meaningful. I was single, but content going home to my own space, and feeling safe when I closed the door. I had time to concentrate on the spiritual elements of my life, and I took the time to be creative; painting, singing, writing, playing.

It’s been a long ten years.

Shortly after that I entered into one of the most difficult and enlightening relationships of my life. It fundamentally changed my perception of the world, it challenged me to re-think what it was I really wanted and expected from relationship. Most importantly, it made me even more deeply grateful for the simple life I had as a two-person-parent-and-child household.

During the past ten years, my son remained at what I always thought was the perfect age. As his birthdays passed,  I remained in tremendous awe of watching this person unfold and grow into who he was meant to be.

My needs changed, and my career became a source of grief. I left a place that had a piece of my heart and started over. I started over again after that, and then one more time until I found what I needed.

Ten years. A decade. The wheel has turned full circle.

I’m happy.

My son, towering over me is doing all of the things that a young man his age should be doing; asking to take the car out on dates, goofing around with the guys, getting his grades in order, and excelling in a sport that has the right people watching.

How can mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning and making mothering a priority be considered cumbersome now? I just can’t see it that way.

Even though my thoughts upon waking were a list of must-do’s today; cooking so there is food in the house for my long week of shift work, cleaning so home feels like home, not a shelter,getting my taxes in order, and of course, the creative finances of a single income home.  These are all chores of a charmed life, and I am grateful.

Wishing you enough peace and joy in your heart that you can clearly see your blessings, even it they’re dressed in an apron and sweeping the floor.

 

Everyone is a Kid at Christmas

kidsThis is for teenagers, young adults, and parents.

Let me tell you a short story. Today was my day off. I work long hours, at a very (physically & psychologically) demanding job (which I love). Even so, I L-O-V-E my days off.

No-alarm-clock days are luxurious. After all darlings, I have mastered the art of living and relaxing. But today I set my alarm for 6 a.m. You see, my kiddo had to get up and out before 7 a.m., and I wanted to give him a drive.

Yes, he’s old enough to get there himself. Yes, he knows how to pack his own lunch, cook, clean and do his own laundry. Despite the kiddo’s protests,  “Mom, why do you want to drive me? I’m fine on my own. Go back to bed“, I often get up even on the days I work a late shift.

Why? Well, as any parent will tell you, they cherish those moments with their children, and those moments come fewer and more far between as our children grow up.

The Christmas season offers many opportunities to argue, fight, and to feel annoyed with one another.

When we want to be with you to decorate the tree,  have dinner with friends, and participate in family traditions, please remember that it’s not intended as a form of torture.

When we ask how your day was, we’re not so much checking up on whether you were a stand-up human being, we want to make sure you’re ok. Ok as in, we’ve been there, and we know that the world can be cruel and hard. We want to make sure you never leave for the day, or go to bed at night feeling, ‘less than’.

When we pack you a lunch, or suggest you take more food, we’re not criticizing your menu choice. We don’t want you to be hungry.

When we make sure you have a winter coat for the season, and suggest you take a hat or gloves, it’s not because we want to send you out looking like an over-grown toddler or out of style. We don’t want you to feel the cold.

When we ask you about your first crush, we don’t want to give you a moral lecture on sexual behavior. We want to know if your crush is treating your tender heart with care. We don’t want you to feel heartache.

When we ask you what you want to study or what you want to be be when you grow up, we don’t care if you have a definitive answer. We want you to go after your dreams.

We don’t want you to suffer; to feel pain, cold, hunger, loneliness or sadness.

No matter how old you are, if you are lucky, you will always be someone’s little boy or little girl. At a certain point in life, the roles reverse, and like I feel about my mumster, you’ll want to swaddle us in protective love too.

Wishing kids of all ages, a very happy holiday.