Co-Parenting: What Not To Do


Until a few years ago I didn’t know there was a name for the tactic my father employed in his campaign of hate towards my mother when they divorced.   When I was 9 he pulled me aside to ask if I knew what cocaine was and to inform me that – he believed – my mother was a coke head.  He also asked if I’d seen any cocaine at her/our house. Not only did he try to tell me my mother was a drug addict, but he hoped I would rat her out to prove his theory.

I was 9 years old.  Barely older than my daughter is now.  On what crazy-ass mental plane did he have to be to think this line of questioning, and information sharing, was appropriate?

The truth is, I don’t know if my mom used cocaine.  Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.  It was the mid-eighties, wasn’t everyone and their grandmother using cocaine? Didn’t they dispense cocaine in those gumball machines at the grocery store?

I do know this: my mom was not an addict.  However, my father was.  He was addicted to his anger, to his righteous indignation and to hating my mother.  Being angry made him feel powerful, it kept him from having to be vulnerable and it kept him from having to look at his contributions to the dissolution of their marriage.

He was fully committed to being as angry and hateful towards my mother as he could be, for as long as he could be.  They’ve been apart for 30 years.  He still hates her.  Thirty years!

But that’s not quite my point, this is:

What my father was doing is something referred to as parental alienation, also known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting.  As we become more aware of what this is, we also see the negative impact it is having on the emotional and mental well being of children whose parents engage in these behaviors.

See, when you intentionally attempt to make your ex look bad by demeaning, criticizing and saying negative things about them to your children, you are engaging in parental alienation.  And when you talk smack about your ex-partner/husband/wife within ear shot of your kids, that is parental alienation as well.

When you do either of these things, you are emotionally alienating your child from their other parent.  In essence, you are taking a sledge hammer to your children’s relationship with their other parent. And by doing so, you are making your anger, and need to have that anger validated, far more important than the well being of your children.

You hate your ex.  I get it.  It’s probably justified.  There is, after all, a reason (or two or three) that you aren’t together anymore.

But your children do not.  They love their other parent the same as they love you.  And here’s the thing:

You don’t get to decide if your kids will love or hate their other parent.

You don’t get to try to make your children side with you over the other parent or fertilize their own frustrations with that parent.

It’s manipulative and self-serving.  And it is also incredibly damaging to your children.

When your kids hear you spout hatred about their other parent, they feel their loyalty to the other parent is being tested.  You are making them choose between loving you and loving their other parent.  By outwardly bad mouthing and hating on their other parent, you turn their love for that parent into a betrayal of you.  You are exploiting their vulnerability to push your own agenda of hate and that comes at the direct expense of their mental and emotional well being.  The effects of parental alienation on the children are anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-hatred and issues with addiction.  Is that what you want for your children?

And buyer beware, you may also find that you’re destroying YOUR relationship with them in the process.  At some point, the children that you’ve been actively trying to brainwash into hating their other parent may realize that it is unsafe to have a relationship with you.  They may realize that you are angry and hate filled and, while their other parent certainly is not perfect, the way you have chosen to handle your feelings has made a difficult and painful situation worse for them.

All those times when he called my mother a slut or demeaned her in some way did not make me hate her.  And didn’t make me love him more.  His pervasive hatred and anger showed me he was not a safe person. His actions and words confused me and made me feel protective of her.  He put me in the middle and that is not where I belonged. Children belong in the forefront with their emotional safety and stability as THE priority. Children belong in a place where they are allowed to love and be loved by both parents.

It’s been two years since I talked to my father.  And this isn’t the first time we’ve been estranged.  I’m in a place of trying to heal from the damage caused by his behavior, including his parental alienation attempts, and I simply can’t have his pervasive negativity in my life while I do that.  There wasn’t an argument, fight or defining moment; I’d just had enough.

And what about my mom? While my father never wasted a chance to chastise my mother, my mother never said anything bad about him.  Ever.  There was no loss of factual negative things she could have said, but she never did.  She even went so far as to make us stop if we were badmouthing him.  She didn’t do it because she loved him, or even cared about him.  She did it because it was the right thing to do.  She did it because she loved us more than she hated him.

Do you love your children more than you hate your ex?


photo credit via photopin cc

The Break Up

A few weeks ago I decided to end a relationship. It’s funny to call it a relationship when, for the most part, I’ve been held against my will.  To some degree I’ve even developed Stockholm syndrome. But this relationship isn’t with a person or a food or an inanimate object. It’s not with anything physically tangible at all.

I’m talking about my relationship with fear.

Fear and I have been on the outs for some time. For too many years I have clearly seen the ways it has been holding me back, keeping me from doing what I love, from being who I am.  When I notice it, when I am honest with myself and really look at how trapped I am, I don’t totally ignore it.  Sometimes I even think… hey, maybe I should do something about that.

Instead I’ve just sat back, expecting that awareness would be enough, that my pathway out of fear and into light and growth would just magically become clear one day. And I’ve waited. And I’ve stayed, a hostage to fear, in a familiar place of worry and anxiety that kept me from having to take risks, to open myself up, to be vulnerable.

Prickly Landing

Over the last few months I’ve been in a position where I have to show up. There are no distractions.  I have to be present in my life and doing so has forced me to really look at what that life is. The tugs and pulls to do more, to unfold, to be authentic to myself have become strong tides. But, I’ve become so used to dragging around this ball and chain of fear.  I’ve become so complacent to it’s limitations that I usually don’t even let myself dream about what it would be like to run into the arms of the sea and swim untethered into the great ocean of opportunity.

Until now.

I had been thinking a lot about writing, which is one of the most important things in my life yet faces the most chronic neglect. In the past, blogging gave me the push to write, to create and to share. I’d been feeling the siren song to blog again. But I’d left this space and wasn’t sure coming back was the right thing.  I had to look at what I wanted to say, where I wanted to say it, and why I was afraid to use my voice.

I wanted to be here. This little corner of the internet meant so much to me in those early months of Rex’s life, when I was processing my post-partum anxiety disorder and what it meant to have a newborn and to change the constellation of my family and my partnership with the Man. The act of writing and sharing and connecting with other mothers was very healing.

Yet when someone who is no longer a part of my life, whose exodus was full of deep pain and remorse, found this space 18 months ago, I went into lock down. This was a space where I’d opened myself up wide, where I let myself be vulnerable, where I felt safe doing so out of perceived anonymity, and I barely looked back at first. But I’ve been looking back a lot lately, wondering what to do, whether or not to start over.

About a month ago, on a weekend, I was standing in my kitchen mulling my dilemma over the meditative act of making lunch for my children. Suddenly, the last tile of awareness shifted into place with an audible click and I stood there looking at a crisp, clear picture of all the ways I was not living my life because of fear.

The answers to all my questions became so obvious when I looked at them through this new lens. When I asked myself “what exactly are you afraid of?” the answers seemed so trivial.  What was I afraid of? That someone who hates me will read my words and… what?  Hate me, more? Judge me, more?  Exactly who cares?

By sitting in fear I had handed over gobs of power to someone who I wanted having no power over my life. The irony was a much needed slap in the face.

So I said “fuck it” and that sentiment cracked through my life like a bolt of lightening.  In a flash, it illuminated who I was and all of the parts of myself walled off by fear. Now that I could see, I looked at those parts of my life with reverence.  Instead of grieving lost opportunities or berating myself, I just sat with them, becoming so acutely aware of how fear permeated nearly every decision I made.

I can no longer accept a life lived through fear. I am done stifling the Realness of me because of the unknown. I’m done making choices based on how someone else might see me or how they might feel.

If I keep living with fear driving this ship: the parts of my life that make me who I am, that should be rejoiced and celebrated, will whiter up and die. And that’s just not what I want to do with this one life I’ve been given. I want to live it. I want to love with my arms outstretched. I want to love myself boldly, without a single care for what other people see because what they see doesn’t matter.

Does. Not. Matter.

For far too long I have kept myself small, quiet, and easily digestible. Who does that serve? Not me. And not my partner or my children, either. They deserve to know a partner and a mother who loves herself, who can teach by example that they are whole and perfect and worth loving just the way they are. I never want them to bear the legacy of that uncertainty I’ve felt my whole life. I never want them to be where I am today, having to re-learn the purity of love I was born with.


I am here. I am whole. I choose love, for myself, for my family, for those who love me and for those who hate me or don’t understand me.

I choose a life lived with love and not dictated by fear.

Finally, for the first time, I choose me.

photo credit via photopin cc

photo credit via photopin cc

just another Friday night

The days around here have been as long as the humidity level is high.  Friday was a particularly long day that had me holding on to the edge of my sanity by a very very worn thread.  As soon as the toddler was down for his nap, I left Pip (very responsible 11 year old) at the helm with an ear out for said toddler, snagged Hopper and ran to the store to get provisions for dinner.  Hopper and I grabbed what we needed and on the way to the register I spotted a classy display of markdown wine (classy meaning empty cart with a dozen or so bottles and hand written signage).

I stopped and eyed the wine.  Financially things have been very tight.  We don’t do extra – any extra. I rarely drink and even more rarely do I splurge on myself.  I picked up a bottle.  It said velvety, it said “sustainably harvested”.  Considering the day I’d had, the night I was likely going to have, and the inexpensive price, I was sold.

Fast forward and I’m wrapping up dinner.  The kids are stir crazy, hyper. I feel like a bloated, sweaty nanny.  I remember my wine and get really excited at the prospect of pouring a glass once they’re nestled all snug in their beds and visions of fermented grapes dance in my head.  Then it hits me.  Where is the wine?

I knew immediately.  There was no wine.  I left it at the store.  My bag had a deceptive heft and shape thanks to the dozen eggs I also bought and I thought the wine was in there.  I didn’t notice it was missing , though I had a niggling feeling I didn’t remove enough things from my bag when I got home.  Damn it to hell.

I consider my options.  It’s 7:00 pm. The man not only worked all day, he went to a class that started at 6 (which he let me know about at 4pm, ahem) so I wasn’t sure when he’d be home.  I could have him go out when he gets home, but that could be late.  I could leave Pip with the very awake and very busy Mack and take Hopper to the store with me.  Or I could haul all 3 kids out in the pouring rain for my wine.

Taking into account that Mack is too much for me most days, I chose the last.  We pile into the car and I think “I’ll just park out front, the service desk is right by the door, I’ll run in and run right back out.”  Thinking error #1.

I pull into the half full lot, rain coming down in sheets, me in flip flops.  Thinking error #2.

I park in the fire lane right near the door.  Leaving the kids in the car, I jog the few steps to the door, the service desk is empty.  The sign says “Go to the #9 checkout” (which adjoins to the service desk).  Okay fine, still fine.  No problem.  My wine will be sitting in it’s bag, waiting, maybe a little sad I forgot it earlier, but it will forgive me and we’ll be fine.  Just fine.  Thinking error #3.

The line is frustratingly long at the check out and the guys in front of me need something that takes the clerk, who I know from previous experience is slightly daft, forever to figure out. I try relaxing, but I really don’t like leaving the kids in the car this long, alone.  I can see the car, I’m sure everyone is happy happy happy in there, but it’s not ideal.

When it’s my turn, I hand the genius my receipt, tell him what happened and he looks at me like a deer in headlights.  Then he calls over a senior employee, a very helpful, bouncy older lady who I know from experience is very quick on her feet.  Relieved, I think she’s going to get it done and me and my wine and my three kids and my wet feet will be on my way.  Thinking error #4.

She beckons me to come over to the little manager kiosk up front while she figures it out.  On my way there, I overhear a round, balding fellow ask the genius cashier if he’s the manager.  He tells him no, but does he need one? Then the round balding man says:

“There’s a car parked in the fire lane with three kids inside by themselves”.

Oh fucking hell.

Instead of following the senior cashier to her kiosk, I nonchalantly beat feet out the door and jump in the car.  I throw the car in drive and zip over to the other side of the parking lot.  I briefly explain to the kids why I’m dragging them out in the pouring rain at which time, Pip tells me there was a man who looked right in the car and made a really crazy face, like this, and then he proceeded to bug out his eyes and drop his jaw so his mouth was gaping.  Great.

I’m praying that: 1. he didn’t write my license plate down because clearly he was horrified by my behavior and probably would see no problem calling the police, CPS, or both. In fact, he seemed so disturbed, I’m not sure why he didn’t just call 911 in the first place.  2. that the cashier didn’t notice I was missing. 3. that I could just get my fucking wine and go home because if I didn’t want it before, I really really wanted it now.

We slog into the store, after Hopper insists she must put on her sweatshirt so she doesn’t get wet.  I have no time or patience for almost 7-year old logic.

“Are you the wine person?” the cashier says to me as I stroll in with my three, dripping wet children.  I nod, the wine person, dear god.

She looks all through her bins, which apparently contain the detritus left by other absent minded customers like myself.  It has to be there somewhere, right?  Final Thinking Error.  It’s not there.

She leaves me standing there with my three, wiggling kids who for some reason keep wanting to talk about my social infraction of leaving them in the car without proper supervision.  I plead with them several times, in a low, hissed growl, to please please please stop talking about it, we can talk about it as much as we want when we get in the car.

I’m sure someone is going to figure out I’m “that lady” who left her kids alone in the car in the fire lane.

I’m sure that guy is going to come around the corner any time and tap me on the shoulder and give me a piece of his mind.

If I hadn’t been so wiped out, I might have told him it was my car and to mind his own business, but I just didn’t have it in me.  And I definitely didn’t have it in me to get scolded in public by a stranger.

Finally she talks to the ‘night manager’, finally she got me my wine, and finally we can go home.  However, I must first endure her letting me know, several times, that the rules about alcohol are very very strict and they are not supposed to replace alcohol but for whatever magic the Universe has bestowed upon me (perhaps the creases in my forehead and my chatty, busy children?), the ‘night manager’ has agreed to allow it. All in all I basically got put in my place for wanting something I bought earlier but simply left at the register. Thanks for making me feel like a wino.

She bagged my wine, wrote a dissertation on my receipt which I assured her I no longer needed, and we left. I was certain I was going to get jumped by the rotund, balding guy in the lot and I scanned around as we walked, convinced he was at the very least watching me.  I saw nothing but lights bouncing off the rain soaked pavement and the faces of my beautiful children as they shone in the promise of a velvety, sustainably harvested, hard won glass of wine when I got home.

photo creditvia photo pin cc


I pushed the cart through the familiar aisles. Mack was buckled in the front, happy as a clam having just sucked down a fruit filled pouch. I’m not much for packaged foods, but these I find handy for Mr. GoGoGo. The store was relatively busy, a Friday, new sales, lunch time fast approaching. I’d filled my cart with staples, things we needed, things we probably didn’t.

More than halfway through our trip, I heard a child crying. It sounded like they were in the front of the store; we were in the back. I started to worry. I could feel my mind start to rifle through its file cabinets of memory and knowledge, trying to figure out how old the child was, trying to figure out what their cries meant. The child sounded older, a toddler maybe? I formed a picture of “her” in my head, probably offended by something her mother wouldn’t get her. But that didn’t quite fit what I heard. The child sounded in pain, hungry, inconsolable.

Anxiety started to prickle up my arms, my own distress settling in the back of my neck, spreading out onto my shoulders like heavy, burning tar. I thought to myself, oh my god, I’m getting triggered. This is triggering my anxiety. I propped my elbows on the cart and blocked my ears to get a break from the screaming that permeated the entire store. I could still hear it, though muffled. A break as she or he drew in breath, and then another desperate cry, and again, and again.

I had to see the child, find out if they were okay. I made my way to the front, eyes darting around, trying to match the direction my ears heard the cries coming from. I was on high alert, wondering if anyone else was as bothered by this child’s cries as I was. And I saw him. His mother at the register, one or two other children circling around her, holding her 5 or 6 month old baby facing out, his face crimson face crumpled into screams. I knew there was nothing I could do to help her, nor could anyone else for that matter.

I wheeled my cart down the nearest aisle to get away from it again, afraid I looked as frantic as I felt, embarrassed by my reaction and afraid what was happening to me was obvious to everyone around me. Three quarters of the way to the back of the store, I allowed it to sink in, the baby was okay, he wasn’t be neglected or hurt. He was safe with his mother. And I started to cry, my face folding into its own origami pattern of sadness, I felt my shoulders heave, and a breathed, deeply. I had to shake it off, keep walking, no one could see me upset in the middle of the grocery store.

Less than a minute later the screaming stopped. The family was gone. I finished my shopping there. I went to another store. I went home.

I was upset with myself, I couldn’t believe that triggered me. I know I’m often triggered by loud noises, but this wasn’t loud, except to me. That desperate baby’s cry seemed to float on top of all the other noise in the store straight into me. I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t believe the panic I was feeling.

As I wheeled myself and Mack out of the store, I wondered why I responded that way, why today? My anxiety has been pretty well managed lately. But I’m on day two of a headache. And this morning I woke to news of the tragedy in Colorado.

I spent the whole morning thinking about the 6 year old child reported to have been killed. I thought about the 3 month old baby reported injured. I thought about the people commenting and debating on Twitter. I thought about the people judging those parents for bringing their kids to a late movie. I felt myself wondering about their choices – not judging, mind you, just not understanding them from my own parental perspective. I thought about guns and lack of guns. And bombs. And mental health. And sociopathy.

I thought about getting my conceal carry permit. I thought about what I would do as a mother in that theater. My children wouldn’t have been with me, but I imagine I would have thought about leaving them motherless as the heartless gunman opened fire on hundreds of innocent people.

I didn’t wonder about why he did it. It doesn’t matter. Nothing could logically explain such a cascade of thinking errors that would lead someone to do such a thing.

And then I heard the baby screaming; I heard it’s fear, it’s confusion, it’s desperation. And all the angst and confusion of the unknown surrounding the events in Colorado wrapped itself into that child’s real life pain and knocked me over like a huge wave.

Once the screaming stopped and my body started to relax. I had a decision to make. I could sit there, sand and freezing water swirling around me and chastise myself for letting it get me. Or I could get up.

So I got up. From a mental distance in the now quieter store, I could see where small, quiet waves collected into what would eventually take me down. It made sense, enough sense to allow me to let go of the shame, to see my humanity, to hold myself gently, to know that I am okay, that baby is okay, and some day that won’t happen to me in public. But today it did. And I’m still okay.

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Last spring I had an epiphanie.  I decided I was going to turn something I love, writing, into something that could sustain my family.  I was going to find away.  I felt like I’d discovered some kind of secret key to the Universe.  Except, I was coming at it all wrong.

Essentially, I set a goal to use my writing, a skill and passion I’ve had my whole life, to make money.  It’s not a bad goal.  It’s not even terribly lofty if you’re willing to do a lot of leg work. The problem was, I still couldn’t say “I am a writer”.

When people asked what I was ‘doing’ with my time (you know, aside from maintaining a household and caring for an infant, 6 year old and 11 year old), I got brave enough to say something like “oh, I’m doing some freelance writing” in an offhanded, almost flippant way that seemed to satisfy most people.  But it still felt like a lie because deep down, I didn’t really believe I could be successful because I didn’t really believe I was “a writer”.

There were a couple pretty big barriers to me owning the title of ‘writer’.  The first was/is my self-esteem and gaggle of inner critics who grew strong through my adolescence under my father’s careful tending.  I have long been letting them ‘rule the roost’, if you will.  I’ve held this subconcious belief that if I could get my father to understand me and to be proud of me, the inner critics would simple whither away and die, like magic.  The problems with this solution were: it’s not going to happen and, even if it did happen, my inner critics would not just vaporize.  Nice try.

For the last few months, I’ve been working hard at disconnecting from the need for his approval.  I’ve been striving to get to a place where I don’t need anyone’s approval to be who I am.  I don’t need permission to breath, why do I believe I need permission to BE?

The other barrier to me owning that title is that I don’t write.  Well, I do, write, here and there.  I throw up a blog post once in a while; I started another blog about food allergies that I regularly post on.  But the practice isn’t there.  I don’t make the time and space for writing.  I keep waiting for permission. I keep waiting for someone to make the time for me.

It’s time for me to take the time.  Even before I was a mother, I was always giving of myself.  There is nothing inherently wrong with giving, and I like being seen as generous and kind, but when giving comes at the expense of the self or with an attachment to the outcome (again, a need for approval) then it is essentially disingenuous and ultimately draining.

I owe it to myself to take the time to write.  Writing has always been so deeply important to me.  I have at times felt myself grieving over the loss of such an important part of who I am when I wasn’t writing at all. I don’t ever want to feel that again.

I have decided I will not heeding Jeff’s request to declare that I am a writer to anyone else.  I am completely eschewing the need for outside validation.  If I were to declare to an other that “I am a writer”, regardless of who it was, I would still be too attached to the outcome.  It doesn’t matter if the other person believes in me.  I need to believe in myself.  Isn’t that the secret key to the Universe?

So here you have it, I am a writer.  I believe it.  And now, I’m going to start acting like it.

15 habits of great writers

I have lots of habits, but truth be told, I need some new ones.  And I need those habits to center around my writing.  Or my lack of writing.  Or what I need to NOT be a lack of writing anymore. Round and round the mulberry bush…

Even though our expendable cash is a big fat ZERO right now, I plunked down the $2.99 for Jeff Goins’ book “You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One)” on Amazon (link is to Jeff’s site, not Amazon and is NOT an affiliate link).  I’ve been intrigued by his book since it came out and my friend gave it props on her blog.  Jeff’s session was hands down my favorite and the one I found most inspirational at Blissdom in February.

I did that because I’m throwing my pen and paper (or keyboard) in the ring for Jeff’s writing challenge…

and he says it’s the basis for the challenge. Sold and sold.

{what am I getting myself into?}

{hi everyone, I miss you, I’ve been in a bit of a slump over here. clearly, as you see from my above stated intentions, I’ll be back. tomorrow in fact.}

my puffy face moment

This post was inspired by the lovely and moving essay by Ashley Judd a few weeks ago.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  Go ahead, my post will still be here when you get back.  It took me a while to find the courage and the attention to devote to writing about my puffy face moment (one of them anyway) and my experience with The Conversation.

I must have been 12, maybe 13. My parents had been divorced for several years at that point and my step-mother had firmly taken root. She seemed nice and caring at first, but her true personality quickly shone through as time rubbed the cloying dust of newness from our relationship. Her anxiety manifested itself in rage that was usually directed at her own children, but was at times more subtly directed at my sister and I.

She and my father were a tag team of narcissism fueled by their own caustic, unrelenting insecurities. With no interest in actually making their childrens’ lives better than their own, they projected those insecurities onto us on a regular basis. One of my father’s favorite ‘concerns’ was about my weight. I was not a rotund child by any means. I ate a mostly healthy and diverse diet, didn’t gorge on candy and sugar that often, and spent an ample amount of time outdoors. Yet, he spared no opportunity to express concern about the shape and size of my body (a body that my step-mother would later point out, in stroke of insight she was disgustingly proud of, was much the same shape and ‘size’ as his).

For the most part, the comments and ‘concerns’ rolled off of me. Or at least I thought so at the time. I didn’t devote much energy at first to fretting about what my body looked like and I was blessed with a mother who, although skinny by nature, had no shame about her own body and never criticized mine. While every other weekend I was stuck under a microscope, when I was home with my mother I didn’t have to worry or think about it.

That summer day in my 12th or 13th year, my dad and step-mother were having a gathering. Several of their friends were on the back deck around the in-ground pool. The grill was going and the alcohol was flowing, standard fare. I had just put my swimsuit on and was walking through the livingroom when Bunky, the cheerful wife of one of my father’s friends, came towards me.

“Oh Eva,” she said, referring to my step-mother, “she’s not chubby, she has a nice shape.” She put a gentle hand on my suddenly-very-exposed hip and smiled at me. I looked away, nervously checking the towel that was draped over my opposite arm.

When I looked up, a couple other women who were in the room at the time had encircled me with detached curiosity. They looked uncomfortably at me for a few seconds, my step-mother speechless and slightly embarrassed. I don’t remember the conversation that followed and soon the band of women awkwardly dispersed. What stands out to this day was a knowing that my step-mother and father not only criticized me directly about my weight, they had taken to talking about me to other people. And one of those other people thought my step-mother was full of shit and was brave enough to say so, out loud, in front of me and other people. I was simultaneously horrified at The Conversation that was happening behind my back, yet quietly smug that Bunky had spoken up and said the truth.

The Truth is that I have curves, I always have. I had my first training bra in the second grade. And I needed it. Big boned, curvy, solid, stocky – whatever you insist on calling the shape of my body, the point is that it has always been a variation of normal. Everyone’s body is a variation of normal. Although my weight has fluctuated with normal life changes like going to college, having a baby, having another, it has remained fairly static regardless of what I eat (mostly healthy) and how much I exercise (not much, like, ever). I actually remember being surprised that no one made fun of me for being fat in school because my father had been so successful at convincing me I was. I was not. I’m not fat now and was not fat when I was 10 lbs skinnier (my high school weight).

And The REAL Truth is, it doesn’t matter.

The Conversation should have been about how creative and talented I was. The Conversation should have been about how smart and gifted I was in math. I should have been asked what I loved and encouraged to pursue my passions. Instead, I was always being told what I ‘should’ do with my intelligence. Instead of admiring the art work I was creating, I was being told that I ‘wouldn’t be so chubby’ if I just got outside more. I was always being told I could do or be better, but I see now that the path to perfection is a mirage. There is no perfect other than just as I am. There never was.

My heart breaks for that girl, the one encircled, her pubescent body scanned for imperfections, deemed beautiful by a stranger who knew the love and tenderness that her father and step-mother did not. I’m sad that she has carried, all these years, the idea that she was anything less than perfect just as she is. My chest feels empty and hollow when I think of all the time she has spent feeling not good enough because her body and heart didn’t fit someone else’s ideals.

And I am even sad for them, the father and step-mother. They spend so much time, still today, searching for the imperfections in everything, in everyone. They are so paralyzed by their own fears of not being enough. They can’t see daughters, grown and strong. Daughters who have become mothers, who have raised amazing, tender hearted children of their own. Daughters whose gifts are rich and varied. Daughters whose hearts wish to know love without condition. Instead they push these things aside, looking for proofs of imperfection, blind to the exquisite beauty before them. Oh, what they are missing.

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my story is mine to tell

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.
- Anne Lamott (on Twitter)

There are hundreds upon hundreds of times I have written words in my head, words that flowed so beautifully and wrapped around the image of what I wanted to convey with such perfection it made my chest feel tight. Instead of reaching for the paper, or the keyboard, I push them aside. I tell myself I can’t, or shouldn’t. I tell myself people will be hurt. People will think things about me that I don’t want them to. I’ll stop being seen as the ‘nice girl’.

That tweet from the formidable and amazing Anne Lamott skipped across my screen this morning and fell right in line with work I’ve been doing in therapy and books I’ve been reading. In particular, Brené Brown’s work has found me and resonates deeply. I’ve watched her TED talks on vulnerability and shame more than once and am part way through “The Gifts of Imperfection”. I don’t believe for a second any of this is accidental. I feel like I’m on the precipice of something big, something sort of terrifying, something life altering. Something (finally) healing.

When I was a small child, not long after my parents separated, I became entangled in a heavy shroud of shame. It changed the way I felt in my body, it changed the way I carried myself, and it changed the person I saw in the mirror. My shame became part of who I was and managed to poison many aspects of my life. Even though I am years away from the sources of pain and the many events that caused me to believe I was not worthy of love, there are thick shadows of shame that cloud my ability to accept myself as I truly am.

I’ve sat in therapy the last couple weeks, angry and in awe that things that happened so long ago could still impact me today, even after years of work around them. And not necessarily the profound, understandably traumatic things either. Offhanded remarks by my father about my weight and my abilities. The constant knowing that he was disappointed I was born a daughter instead of son. (Let us never mind that I wanted to learn all of the things he would have to teach me had I been born the opposite gender – hunting, fishing, carpentry, etc). There has always been an air of disapproval, nothing has ever been good enough. If he has ever been proud of me, I have never felt it.

My inability to ever be good enough for him translated into the belief that I was not good enough at all. Period. The tape in my head has looped my whole life: “you are not good enough, you are not good enough, why bother trying, you are not good enough, even when you’re great you’re still not good enough, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t.”  This tape taints everything with paralyzing vulnerability.  It keeps me from taking risks (and makes all.the.things feel risky), it keeps me from writing, it keeps me from fully living in my body, keeps me from being grateful for the healthy body I have been given, keeps me from sharing my gifts with the world, and keeps me from being successful. It keeps me anxious and in my ‘not good enough’ place. It keeps me from loving my self and believing that I am lovable.

Yet, over the last few weeks of exploring this in its depths, of becoming completely fed up with this way of feeling/being/thinking, there are sweet green shots poking through the hard dirt. I’m starting unfold, to feel different about myself. Different about my worthiness. Different about my story. And I’m finding truth in that story.

I was thinking about my relationship with my father and step-mother recently. When my sister told me that my dad stopped at her work to bring her to lunch, I felt that pang that he rarely does the same with me, even though he often comes to my town for work. I thought “they never reach out to have a relationship with me because I’m not approachable.” I stopped in my tracks. Back the truck up. Re-record that tape. “I am approachable. They choose not to see me as approachable.” Now, whose issue is that? It is not mine at all. I will not own their insecurities, I will not own their guilt or anxieties, I will not own their perceptions of me. I will not let them define who I am.

I felt taller. I felt more solid. I felt more REAL. A new, unfamiliar feeling of detached observance washed over me. They are who they are, I am who I am. I can’t expect them to truly know me when they don’t even bother to try. And I certainly can’t allow their narrow interpretation of me become how I see myself.

In my desperation for my father to approve of me, to love me, to know me, I’ve pushed aside my true gifts. I downplay my writing and art, I make excuses, I try to impress him with things that are not ‘me’. Those days are over. His ideal me is all the things he could never be himself. His pride and love are hinged on an unattainable goal for the both of us. I can’t stay on this road to nowhere with him anymore.  It’s time to be on my own road, to set my own pace, to live my own dreams and not let the things that have bogged him down his whole life become the things that bog me down, too.

I continue to slowly, carefully peel back these layers, dropping the shrouds of shame. Although my exposed skin feels tender and new, the lightness and freedom is the sweetest nectar my heart as ever tasted.


photo credit

Ack. Sorry for radio silence here, we’ve all been ridiculously sick.  Especially me. The amount of mucous my body has produced in the last week has been astounding.  So gross. And ONE of my sinuses got infected.  Just one.  It was weird, but obviously I’m thankful I didn’t feel like yanking out all of my back teeth, just the ones on my right side.  Bromelain to the rescue! That stuff is magic.  And Vitamin C (of the Sodium Ascorbate variety).  My wisdom tooth on that side (yes, I still have them) is still throbbing every so slightly which means I’m not quite over the hump. Le sigh.

Okay, complaining over.  I’ve also been trying to squeeze in some work on another very exciting project I’m working on that I was hoping to launch next week, but it looks like (because of all the cooties!) it’s going to get pushed back a titch.  All in good time, my pretty, all in good time.

The giveaway – I haven’t forgotten about my two lucky contestants! I feel a little bad because there are only two of you so I feel like I want to give you BOTH something, but Hallmark didn’t have any bleeding heart caveat to their contest, so I’m going to bite the bullet and just pick one of your names (and try not to feel like I’m shirking the other one of you, woe is me!).

Interesting – I was SO excited to do a giveaway and then SO surprised that more people didn’t comment!  There were plenty of visitors, but only two of you (wonderful ladies) left comments/entered.  And now, I feel bad that I don’t have something to give you both.  I suppose I should feel grateful there weren’t 20 entries or I’d really be in a pickle wouldn’t I?

Where was I? Oh yes, I’m going to pick a name.  In fact, I just put your names on paper, tossed them in my old baseball cap I wore last week to go to the Farmer’s Market (because I didn’t have time to shower first, ewww) and the winner is…

Domestic Devotion

Congratulations! I’ll be e-mailing you about the details I’ll need to get you your prize!

(Sorry for the post – clearly my head is still full of the boogs, blech!)


tell them (and a giveaway!)

photo credit

BlissDom was an overwhelming experience on so many levels.  An introvert by nature, meeting new people and putting myself out there are challenging for me.  I’m not good at being vulnerable, at exposing my heart, and at taking risks.  Meeting new people feels very risky to me – what if they don’t like me, what if my hair looks weird or they think I’m just being some annoying interloper? When I step back of course, none of that truly, deeply matters; anyone who is going to be that curt and judgmental is probably someone I don’t want in my life anyway.  When I was able to push through my fears, to be vulnerable, to risk, some amazing things happened.

My time at BlissDom spurred some movement around this important lesson.  There were some very specific interactions and experiences that allowed me to put myself out there, to risk, and to land safely.  These things might seem insignificant to an outsider, but were hugely cathartic for me.  I’m learning that in order to feel all of my heart, to live from a place of love, I need to take that risk of being vulnerable.  Like the Velveteen Rabbit, we become real by being loved.  We cannot be loved unless we open ourselves to it.  To open ourselves to love like that means also opening ourselves to pain of equal magnitude and that is what keeps people scared, closed.

It’s been work.  Being open, taking the time and risk to tell people how I feel, what’s important, and what they should know.  It’s scary.  Really scary.

Of the gajillion sponsors at the conference, Hallmark had a whole suite on the upper level.  Their suite happened to be on the way to the writing sessions (many of which I participated in) so inevitably I stopped by.  The concept of their campaign was simple – Tell Them.  Whatever it is you’re waiting to say, you’re holding back, you think is obvious… tell them.  They made this easy by offering free cards.  After we took the time to ‘tell them’ in the card, they even mailed them for us!

I’ve been blessed to have a mother who is has a very generous heart and has been my biggest supporter and fan.  While she has certainly made her mistakes, I now realize that mistakes are completely inevitable in parenting.  I am deeply grateful for her, but I never really tell her that.  I say ‘thank you’, and even ‘thank you so much!’, but I don’t take the time to tell her what her actions and our relationship means to me.  So at the Hallmark Suite one day, between the practically overlapping activities, I took the time to tell her.

My sister and I have not always been close; in fact there have been large gaps of time where we were completely at odds with one another, not even speaking.  In the last couple of years, we’ve grown closer and rebuilt trust with one another and our relationship has strengthened. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to have her and how blessed I feel to call her my friend.  She’s been struggling with some personal stuff lately and no matter what happens, I want her to know that she is loved, she is worthy of love and that she is a beautiful and amazing person.  I wandered back in the Hallmark Suite, found just the right card, poured a little of my heart onto the page and guessing at her new address, sent it off.

When I returned from BlissDom, I wrote on the Hallmark Facebook page that I vow to tell my children that they are perfect no matter where their path in life leads them.  I mean it.  I know my mother feels that way about me, but my father has never been able to accept or allow me my journey, to appreciate me for who I am.  The sadness and pain this has caused is something I never want my children to know.  I will now, and always, tell them they are loved and supported.


Now for the fun part. Hallmark is giving away a 10 pack of cards to one of my lucky readers so you, too, can Tell Them! All you need to do is leave a comment, but if you want to go to the Tell Them page and make a vow, I encourage you to.  I would love to hear your vows in the comment section if you are feeling brave enough to share.

I will accept entries until Friday night, April 6, 2012 at 10:00 PM EST. I will choose one winner at random and I will announce the winner over the weekend.


Note: check out the antennae of the snail on the left!


Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated by Hallmark for this post, other than the cards that were given out at their suite at BlissDom.  My opinions of the campaign and my experiences are my own.  


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