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Archive for September 2015

What I Gained By Losing

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The details of my divorce are neither important, nor interesting.  We grew apart. It happens to the best of us.  Some marriages last, mine fell apart. 

Once we separated, I did my best to ensure I provided for my children. I thought we could move through this new stage in a civil manner.  It didn’t seem like too much to expect, I mean, many families survive divorce with great success. 


My divorce was anything but peaceful and with my ex and me living in different states, child custody was complicated. All hopes of civility quickly went out the window. I remember a call I received from my mom after seeing my girls off for a homebound flight.  She said the kids boarded the plane upset as tears and pleads for them to stay were laid on pretty thick.  The visual that I was left with was disturbing, yet I wasn’t surprised. This was precisely the stuff I couldn’t stomach anymore and a big part of me was thankful I hadn’t seen it for myself.   

But it didn’t stop there. Tears and guilt trips quickly escalated into unthinkable conversations and inappropriate situations; which turned into a heart wrenching struggle to save my relationship with my children. There was no choice but for them to side with people who had invested so much of themselves into destroying my relationship with my children.  Their very survival depended on appeasing the people in front of them, regardless of the consequences.  I was distraught over the thought of losing my children. My worst nightmare had come alive, I found myself in the center of parental alienation.

It was a complete mess. 


But never was I as low as the day I sat in the airport waiting for my younger daughter’s flight to arrive only to receive a text message stating that she wouldn’t be getting on the plane and wasn’t coming for scheduled visitation.

I was crushed beyond belief.

The longest walk of my life was that day from airside to short term parking.  I sat in my car and cried myself through feelings of anger, sadness, embarrassment, guilt, shame and confusion.  Why did they hate me so much?  Why couldn’t they see the worth of my relationship with the children? How could they be so wrapped up in their own needs and emotions that they’d lose sight of what was good for the kids? How do you teach a child to hate a parent who loves her children so much?  I was never fully prepared to deal with this stuff.



I’m not sure how long I sat in my car, but it was then that my recovery from this horrendous nightmare began.  There were a few things that I knew for sure.  A child’s hatred for a parent isn’t a natural emotion, it’s taught.  Also, this situation was never about me or who I was, nor was it ever about what I did or didn’t do.  


It was time for me to make a decision that would take my children out of the middle.  It was a decision that wasn’t best for me, but best for the girls.  I abandoned all litigation, as it proved itself to be fruitless.  I detached from the struggle. Going forward, I had to be ok with the fact that things weren’t going smoothly.  I explained to my girls that the friction and disharmony wasn’t good for them.  I told them I had to back off so they could move forward peacefully.  I told them I was fighting a battle that no one was going to win.  I left our conversation by letting them know that the only thing I had left to offer was my unconditional love. Our home and my heart would always be opened and a safe place for them to escape to. My hope was that they understood there wasn't a thing they could say or do to make me stop loving them. It was frightening to be in such unpredictable and unstable circumstances, but I wasn’t going to internalize this and allow it to consume me.





I drew strength from my mother’s words. “You need to feel sorry for them.  They’re in a very lonely place, dear.” The moment I chose to isolate and detach from the events and circumstances of my divorce, is the moment I forgave myself and the people who threatened my core sense of self-worth.  I knew, no matter what was said, history could never be erased. From this relationship, I gave birth to two beautiful children and I was their mom.  I learned that although my relationship with my oldest, at best, was fragile, recovery is possible.  I stood proud of my youngest for not allowing our relationship to be defined by divorce. From losing myself in a sickening situation full of negative emotions, I gained back my self-esteem and a solid essence of who I was.  I came out with a deeper rooted set of values and greater integrity.  I found my dignity. I had finally gained an understanding of who I was, and I liked her. 



For more information on parental alienation or additional resources on PA, please visit PASG.  If you feel you are a victim of PA, please contact a psychologist, psychiatrist or other appropriate specialist in your area for help.    

A Not So Typical Letter To My High School Grad

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Dear Sweetheart,
I had a hard time figuring out what to say in this letter. I didn’t want it to be the typical “I love you and am very proud of you” letter most parents may write to their high school graduate. Of course, I love you and I’m proud of you. These are things that I tell you on a regular basis. I imagine many parents in my shoes would tell their child it seems like just yesterday they were little babies. I assume many might say they want to turn back the clocks to relive all those lost years. I’m sure most parents are able to list off numerous memories from their graduate’s childhood. But this isn’t the case for us.
Divorce changed many things in our life. Nothing from our past seems like just yesterday. It feels like centuries have passed since I was able to hold you or sit to watch a movie with you. It feels like a lifetime has passed since we were able to truly enjoy each other’s company. I’d prefer to look toward the future rather than turn back clocks, as our past contains some pretty painful moments, lost hopes and vanished dreams. We’ve sustained emotional scars, some of which we are still trying to heal. Frequently being away from each other has certainly changed many aspects of our relationship. Over the years, many of your needs went unmet and you lost sense of security. Your stability, at times, was replaced with the feeling of being abandoned by both of your parents. It’s been a long, hard road for you.
Obviously, being a child of divorce hasn’t been easy. However, because of your life experiences, you have character, you’re strong, and you’ve learned valuable lessons. You’ve proven yourself to be a person of integrity and have always been ready to accept the challenge of responsibility. You haven't allowed our family history to define you. You haven't allowed divorce to define our relationship.
By graduating high school with honorable grades, you’ve defeated many odds. You’ve made it to a place where you have earned your freedom. But, with freedom comes more responsibility…..a lot more responsibility. The most important part of your life is yet to come. This is a confusing time of old doors closing and new doors opening. You’ve gotten it all right so far. Since you’ve handled responsibility so gracefully, here are eight more things to be responsible for.

1. Your Success
Success isn’t measured in cars or money.  It’s most certainly not measured by what I, your father or your future spouse think of you.  Success is measured by the type of person you are and how you choose to live your life.  So be an honest person, live your life honestly and save your money.

2. Your Work Ethic
Take responsibility by ensuring that you have a good work ethic.  Always put your heart into what you set out to do.  Hold your morals high.  Spend time building trusting relationships.  Take personal responsibility for your mistakes. Finally, always arrive to your job and meetings 5 minutes early.

3. How You Treat Yourself
Treat yourself with respect. Others will follow your example. The world isn’t going to respect you unless you show them that you deserve it.

4. How You Treat Others
Ephesians 4:32 says be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as you have been forgiven.  Be a good listener. Hear what others are trying to tell you.  In conversation, hesitate to respond unless your response is kind and helpful.  Treat others with respect.

5. Never take the easy way out
Know that you will have a difficult time amounting to anything and have an even harder time making yourself proud if you look for the easy way out.  Instead take responsibility for yourself, your actions, and the energy you put out to the world. Be committed to doing your best work.  Push yourself to your limits and outside your comfort zone.  You’ll feel accomplished and be happy that you didn’t settle.

6. Your Health
Eat good food.  Drink lots of water and take your vitamins.  Commit to a daily exercise regimen for stress management. Read books; a lot of them.  Consider them healthy food for your brain. Sleep when you are tired.  Take time to connect with people.  Make a schedule so you don’t find yourself cramming for test or rushing to working. 

7. Your relationships
Be giving of yourself as God has given himself to you.  Relationships are not 50/50.  I consider this bad math.  Good, solid relationships are not built on give and take.  Relationships are about giving 100% of you (yourself) and expecting nothing in return. 

8. Don’t Take Life Too Seriously
It’s your responsibility to lighten up.  Allow yourself to laugh. Life isn’t about totally surrendering, nor is it about retaining complete control.  It’s about being in between, having a healthy balance.  Remember, especially during the tough times, that everything is temporary. Realize that emotions will come and go, acknowledge them and allow them to pass.  Allow yourself and others to just be human. Remember YOU choose your attitude to the circumstances YOU create in your life.

Be proud of yourself, not because I’m proud of you, but because you did this all on your own.  You chose to be your best.  I love you so much.

Congratulations,

Love,
                 
Mom


To The Lady Behind Me in the Airport Security Line

Friday, September 11, 2015



I smiled at you when I saw you behind me.  We stood near each other in the security line at the airport.  I had just finished loading the last of three bins onto the x-ray belt when I looked up to find you scornfully staring at my child. The blistering look that you gave me didn’t go unnoticed either.  For a second, I thought maybe you were just having a bad day, but then I overheard the comments you made to your friend. I heard you tell her that I’m a lazy parent.  I also heard you say that people, such as me, shouldn’t have children.  I heard you ramble off a list of things you would do differently. I overheard your entire conversation.

Based off of what you saw, I don’t blame you for having said what you did.  I understand where you were coming from.  It’s nice to know that you were feeling protective over my child.  After all, you saw a cute two year old brunette with big brown eyes, jumping, laughing and having fun with her tether strapped onto her back.  I agree with you, children don’t belong on leashes and I often feel as if I’m not good enough to raise such a beautiful child.   Not that you would have cared, but I wish that I could have shared with you a few things which were not so obvious at that moment.  I wish I could have talked to you about what you couldn’t see. 



The little girl you saw in the airport isn’t your typical child.  I know she looks very normal on the outside, but on the inside she’s very special.  What you didn’t see is that my child is partially blind.  As a newborn, she suffered a stroke. Her brain injury has caused her to have a very difficult time in public places.  What wasn’t apparent is that the noise in public places, such as an airport, can be very distressing and overwhelming for her, often causing her to run away.   What wasn’t so obvious is that she has difficulty seeing and listening at the same time, not because she is unruly, but because she can’t divide her attention between sight and sound.  What you didn’t see in that moment, is that she has difficulty walking, often tripping and falling down. What I wanted to tell you is that I tried your stroller idea, but she started to lose muscle tone from lack of exercise.  I really wanted to talk about the daily struggle to keep her safe, but before I could address your concerns, you walked off to catch your flight.


You see, the day I left our developmental pediatrician’s office to buy my daughter’s new accessory, I knew that you and I would meet one day.  I knew what you thought of me long before I heard your spoken words.  I knew that you would talk about me and disagree with my parenting choices.  What I didn’t know is how bad your words would hurt.  I didn’t know something as silly as an opinion would pierce through my heart every time I secured my child into her tether.




I still think about you.  But now, when I recall our encounter, I am filled with gratefulness.  Thank you for causing me to recognize how strong of a woman I am.  Thank you for shining a light on the lengths I will go to ensure my child’s safety, even if it means taking one for the team.  Thank you for helping me understanding that in moments of pain, I can find happiness in my daughter’s smile and sound of her laughter just as I did that day in the line at security.  I hope you find your happiness too.

According to the AOTA Cortical Visual Impariment (a/k/a neurological visual impairment) is the leading cause of blindness in children.  To learn more about neurological vision impairment visit Perkinselearning.org or watch Christine Roman discuss the evaluation of functional vision in children with CVI.  You can also visit American Printing House for the Blind or read any of the publications listed by American Foundation for the Blind

Great Game Time Dish

Wednesday, September 9, 2015



As summer comes to a close and fall dawns upon us, so does football season.  Since Emma was born, I haven’t had time to sit with my husband and watch a game in its entirety.  The conditions have to be just right for me to even want to sit and watch a game these days.  However, nothing can keep me out of the kitchen, and not even Emma can stop me from cooking great food. 

I love putting a different spin on the foods I prepare for my family.  While deviled eggs are always a popular item for parties, I wanted to try something a bit different. There are many different spins on this dish out there, this is mine.  I've turned my "I don't like pasta salad" kids around with this dish. If you’re a fan of deviled eggs, this recipe is sure to be a crowd pleaser at any get together. 

Deviled Egg Pasta Salad

·         1 Box of Rotini or Penne pasta
·         6 - 7 hardboiled eggs, depending on your taste
·         2 1/3 cups lite mayonnaise
·         4 tablespoons mustard
·         ½ cup sweet relish
·         1/3  cup sweet pickle juice
·         ½ red pepper diced
·         ½ green pepper diced
·         2 ribs celery diced
·         ½ small red onion diced
·         1 tablespoon chives chopped
·         Paprika, salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the pasta according to box instructions.  While preparing pasta, boil eggs for 10 minutes or until fully cooked.  Combine mayo, mustard, chives, relish, sweet pickle juice, salt, and pepper in bowl and whisk until fully mixed. Drain pasta and place into large bowl.  Set pasta aside to cool.  Chop eggs into bite size pieces in separate bowl.  Once pasta has cooled, add red pepper, green pepper, celery, and onion. Pour whisked mixture onto pasta and mix together. Fold eggs into salad and place in fridge until completely cool. Finally, top with paprika and serve as a side dish to your favorite meal.

The thing that I really like about this dish is that it isn’t “one size fits all.”  Not everyone enjoys the sweetness of traditional deviled eggs.  If this is the case, have fun with this dish, add the ingredients that you would normally put into your deviled eggs and exclude the relish and sweet pickle juice.  Either way, this pasta salad is one that everybody is sure to enjoy.