I Didn’t Marry My Dad

My earliest memory of my father is of going to Glen Oak Zoo in Peoria, IL.  I was 5 years old, and getting ready to start Kindergarten.  He spent the day with me there, and even bought me a small elephant figurine as a souvenir.

Except, not really.

When I was in my early 20s, I told my mom that was the first memory I had of him. After a long pause, and a hesitation that told me something was wrong, she broke the news.  It wasn’t my father.  It was a family friend that took me and bought me that figurine.  My mind had just filled him in as that memory.

Here I am at the age of 45, and I have 5 real memories of my dad.

One of them was over the phone.  I was 20 years old, and even though I told him who it was, it took him a while to remember me.

The other two memories included one weekend visit, when I was 12, and a two-week stay when I was 13. Both included very little time spent together. I was with his wife and step-kids all but 1 hour of that 2 week stay.

The worst memory was standing before a judge at the age of 14, hearing that judge read a letter out loud from my father.  We were in court because my father owed thousands in back support. The letter was my father’s objection to having to pay a measly $20 a week. He wrote that I was a spoiled brat. He wrote I only wanted designer things and that he didn’t want to send money for me to waste it on clothes. I cried so hard that day. The judge paused. He looked at me, asked me to stand. He addressed me seriously, telling me he could tell I wasn’t spoiled or in designer clothes. He said, and these words stuck to me, that even if I was spoiled, it was my father’s responsibility to pay support.

The last memory of my father is ongoing. It started in my mid-30s when he reached out to me to connect. I had my first baby girl by this point. I had a solid view of how I wanted to parent. It wasn’t how he parented. He sent me a message via MySpace…of all places. I had no interest in responding.

I ended up writing back, though, because I thought I could put it to bed. I politely, laced with some anger, told him that I wasn’t interested. I told him that I had moved on decades ago, and that I didn’t want him in my life.

He emailed many times. Then, his messages dwindled down to Happy Birthday emails each year. Last year, he sent it on the wrong day, but he was close.

No one I have talked to understands my decision to never have him in my life. No one, well, except my husband. Not even people whose fathers abandoned them.  They feel I need closure. They feel that in order to move on, I need to forgive him.  They have missed the fact I did forgive him.  Many years ago, I made the decision he wasn’t capable of being a good father to me. I forgave him for me.

I am not alone.  I know my life is not unique.  When I wrote about the abuses in my childhood in my “The Choice is Clear” blog, I got many responses, some from people I didn’t know, telling me they had similar stories. I was stopped in a parking lot, twice, and met with stories of others’ childhood traumas. It actually doesn’t make me feel better; it makes me sad that so many have to live through abuses as children, and even as adults.

When it comes to fatherless childhoods, there are approximately 17.4 million children who lived in fatherless homes in 2014. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015) That is 23.6% of U.S. children. Seventeen point four million in one year! More than 40% of those homes are living in poverty.

I could go into all the effects studies show about fatherless homes, but they are easy to guess. I don’t want to talk about that, because I believe that if there are enough adults who affect those children in a positive way, we can begin to see real change in those stats. I was one of the lucky ones who had more than enough people who stepped into my life and cared enough to guide me only as a father would.

I talked about making the correct choices in my blog outlining my childhood abuses.  I believe many adults made the correct choice to show me love and attention. Their choices led me to a much better destination than those stats predicted I would be.

  •  My grandpa was a sharp-tongued, old-fashioned man. He was set in his ways and you didn’t cross any lines with him.  Unless you were me. He adored me, and I adored him.   I knew he loved me, and I felt like he stepped up to be my father.  He was the most imperfect father figure, but I never doubted his love. He also believed in me.  That is a very important factor for others who look to mentor a child. Show love and a belief the child can be something great.
  • My uncles were also very strong male figures. The older was more serious in his role, while the younger treated me more like a younger sister and teased me so much, I ended up with a thick skin and decent sense of humor.
  • Many, many teachers showed me structure and that men were kind. Mr. Fuson was a huge help in me gaining trust towards men. He and others were kind and took an interest in my successes.
  • Mr. Heath was my best friend’s dad. I would love to write everything in my heart about this man, but besides me crying over the memories, you wouldn’t have time to read what all he did for me. He was such a caring husband and father, and he took me in as part of the family.  I wasn’t special, he took us all in.  He was incredible and my first real glimpse at what a father should be…at  what a man could be!
  • Les Vann was my second boss in TV. I would love to tell you all the funny anecdotes of our working relationship, but again, none of us have the time.  Outside of work, he and his wife were so kind to me.  They took interest in not only my career, but who I was going to be as a person.  They showed me what a fantastic marriage could look like. He ended up giving me away at my wedding.

See? I had more than enough father figures to fill the role. I just had to find one more. If I was ever going to be a mom, and believe me I was very hesitant to bring children into a world like mine, IF I was going to be a mom, I needed to find a really awesome dad.  So, at the age of 29, when I thought it impossible… I met Jason Morrise.

I thank God everyday, and no I am not exaggerating… everyday… that he is my husband, and the father of my girls. He is kind, gentle, smart, funny, but most important of all:  He is present.

He reads to them every night.  Right now, they are finishing up the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He tries to make it home for dinner every night. He has 6 pets in his home, and he is terribly allergic to 2 of them. That is definitely 6 more than he wants and approximately 50 less than what the girls want.  He tells the girls he loves them.  He tells them when they look pretty and congratulates them when they succeed at school.  He instills the belief they can be anything they want to be.

I did not marry my dad.  I stopped a cycle.  I made a choice. I hope that others out there, who feel unloved, can find someone, or be lucky enough to have a list like mine, and feel love. My real wish for other women, young and old, is to know they have a choice. I want them all to hear stories from all of us that survived, even thrived, without a father. I want them all to know they have value, huge value.

It’s not easy. My journey has been extremely difficult.  However….

It is possible.

jasonkimwalkblkwht

 

 

It is not a sin

 

“It”.  What is “It”? I think, given what just happened in Orlando, your mind went straight to what I am talking about here.

I have the same nerves rattling inside as I type this as I did when I revealed my childhood abuses in my blog last week.  I’m nervous, because I don’t like confrontation.  At all.  No, I mean it.  Many of you who worked with me probably don’t believe it, but I dread any confrontation.  The thing is, when it is important, I can’t walk away from it.

The recent tragedy, attack, terror, murders, whatever label you need, in Orlando sheds light on this brighter than ever before now. I have read too many Tweets and stories about the belief that this is God’s punishment for them being Gay.  Thankfully, I have read many more to the contrary, but it still makes my blood boil when I read the former. I can’t keep my mouth shut.

So, here goes.

Homosexuality is not a sin.  Is it my opinion?  Sure.  I also believe it is a fact.  When my friends sit across from me, with nothing but love, and positive intent, in their hearts, and say, “I believe homosexuality is a sin, but I am not the one that can judge.” I have to draw a breath.  It makes me pause because that sentence contradicts itself. Read it again.

Believe me, I know Christianity isn’t the only religion to teach this.  All of the religions believe homosexuality is a sin.

As some of you know, I’m on a spiritual journey right now. My oldest daughter is as well, and at first I thought I was just going along for the ride. However, I am falling in love with the church we attend, and its message.  I am at a surprising point in my journey, where I want to take a leap.  There is one huge problem.  The church, along with every other that I know, has a page on their website talking about its belief that homosexuality is a sin. They love the sinner, and man they are very accepting of gay people, but not the sin.  If someone wants to be a partner at the church, they have to denounce their homosexual acts.

And there it is.  By saying homosexuality is a sin, you are implying there is a choice. I have had the blessing of having many gay friends. I have heard their stories.  If you have never sat across from someone and heard their struggle of coming out, or still being silent, then you may not realize … it is not a choice.

Murder is a choice.  Adultery is a choice. Coveting thy neighbor is a choice. Stealing is a choice. Bearing false witness is a choice.

I find it interesting that all these choices are mentioned in the 10 Commandments.  Homosexuality is not.  In fact, the word isn’t in the Bible because it wasn’t a word back then.  I will get to the 7, yes JUST seven, passages that mention something that might mean homosexuality in a minute, but I want to finish this thought.

One of my core beliefs about God ironically solidifies my belief that homosexuality is not a sin. My belief is God created us.  He is a perfect God, no? He didn’t make a mistake. I believe He loves us all and we all have a purpose in this world.

So, here I am, struggling.  I am truly struggling. In my heart, I will never believe homosexuality is a sin, because I know it is not a choice.  In my heart, I can’t be a part of something that believes it is a sin.  I love that so many say they love the sinner, but saying it is a sin will always tell that person you don’t love them.

I have a theory, based on facts in the news, that the shooter in Orlando may have been struggling with his own sexuality and it may have led to this mass killing. I don’t know that to be fact, but if it is, can we not see how religion and the belief homosexuality is a sin is creating hate and anger?  Sometimes that hate and anger is directed at themselves because they are told they are sinning when they cannot change the desire. Again, it is not a choice.

I needed to search for clues to lead me to conclusions of what the Bible is saying.  So, back to the parts of the Bible that mention homosexuality.  You have time to look them up, because there are ONLY 7.  Compare that to 300 passages that discuss helping the poor, but I will stay focused here.

Here they are:

Genesis 19: Men from the city demand to have sex with the male guests at Lot’s house.

Leviticus 18:22: Having sexual relations with a man as he does with a woman is detestable (defined as something that is strongly disliked: not a sin)

Leviticus 20:13: Says the same as above, but that they should be put to death. Does anyone agree with that thinking today?

Romans 1:26-27: Talks about a group who exchanged their truth about God for a lie, so God gave them over to shameful lusts. They then received in themselves penalty for their error.  I’ve read this one several times, and it seems to me they were punished for giving up their truth about God, not for any homosexual acts. I am in no way a scholar, though, as we all know.

1 Corinthians 6:9: This one says that if you do a long list of things you will not inherit the kingdom of God. It depends on what version of the Bible you read to get the list, but one says sodomy. None seems to say anything specific about homosexual acts, though.

Timothy 1:9-10: This is also a passage that has a list of things you do that are against law. None of them is homosexuality, though some translations put that word in there.  The word, and the idea of homosexuality, was not known or used until the 19th century, so it is not possible it was in the Bible. Some scholars actually believe Paul was talking about male prostitutes, pedophiles, pimps, sex slaves, and masturbators. (Anyone asked for forgiveness of that last one, and stopped?)

Jude 1:7: This talks about people who go after “strange flesh” will go suffer in eternal hell. The analysis of what exactly “strange flesh” is shows many possibilities. No one can say definitively if it is about homosexuality.

So, what does Jesus say about homosexuality? Nothing.

Read Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11-12.  Then see if anyone who did this is serving as a partner at a church.

One of my favorite analysis of homosexuality in the Bible also notes that we need to understand the Biblical times. If you would like to read a better articulation of homosexuality in the Bible, please check out this article written by a Lutheran scholar in 2011 on this subject. I love his take on it all, and I love that he knows so much more than I do about the Bible.

Wait, Is this a Narcissistic Hangover?

 

The morning after I posted a blog detailing abuse in my childhood, I ran into a woman I admire tremendously.  This woman has it together.  She is very centered, is always smiling, is a soft-spoken and kind woman. I met her a little more than a year ago, and I instantly liked her.  She is one of those kind.  You can’t not like her.

We were both dropping our girls off at camp, and we walked in together.  I had known she had read the blog, and I felt like my wounds were exposed and gaping.  However, with children at our heels, we smiled and just made “getting your children out of the house in the morning” small talk.

Then, we walked back out at the same time.  This was a moment when I didn’t know if she would bring it up.  Her first question was so insightful; I actually took a breath of relief when she asked it.

“You know, there is this saying that you can get a “Vulnerability Hangover”.  Have you heard that?  Do you have that?”

YES!

The evening I posted it, my heart was racing.  Everyone is going to know. Will they pity me? Will they think I think too much of myself, and ask themselves why I would think my story is important to tell? Will they wonder why the heck I would air my dirty laundry?

The morning after, I felt exhaustion.  I felt hazy and jittery.  I had symptoms of being hung-over, but not from alcohol.  I was exposed…VULNERABLE.  She articulated so simply how I was feeling.

I had woken up that morning to many comments of support.  People from every stage of my life, kindergarten friends, high school friends, college friends, TV friends, and friends I just met last year… all of them were showing such love and support. I had strangers reaching out, thanking me for speaking their truth, for showing they aren’t alone.  I had people in Turkey, the Philippines, Italy, and the UK reading this. I was an open wound that everyone was inspecting.  The vulnerability ran deep, but I was so thankful the responses weren’t “Ew!”.  Instead, they were so loving.

I am going to veer off here, because my friend and I did that during our conversation that morning.  We veered off into the subject of our kids getting on screens all the time.  We both limit our kids more than average.  She started talking about how social media breeds narcissism, and that was her concern.  She is so correct.  I am confident she didn’t mean me…BUT… I thought, oh no! I’m on Facebook all the time.  (You don’t need to comment, I know!)  I’m now writing a blog.  So, with those two things… I began to wonder.

I researched studies on Facebook and narcissism.  I looked into people who write blogs and narcissism.  Am I narcissistic?  Do I actually have a Narcissistic Hangover instead of a Vulnerability Hangover?

Here is what I found, in case you’re asking the same questions of yourself:

A Canadian Study at York University looked at 18-25 year olds.  (That was a few years back for me.) Among other items reviewed, they evaluated the people using the “Narcissism Personality Inventory”. (I’ll get to that in a bit.) Researchers also did an inventory of their Facebook pages, looking for “self-promotion”, defined as things such as updating their status every five minutes, frequent posting of pictures of themselves, photos of celebrity look-alikes, and quotes and mottoes glorifying themselves. The study concluded the people who do this the most tend to have narcissistic and insecure traits.

Ok, I do post to Facebook every 5 minutes.  (NO I DON’T!!! If you read that and thought, “Huh, that sounds correct.” You are incorrect.  It’s more like 10 minutes.)

However, a quick non-scientific survey of my page shows that I seem to like jokes, love political stories, and have a healthy obsession with our pets. Yes, I said healthy.  It’s my blog.  Seriously, I hope you like pictures of my pets.  If you do, don’t worry, there are some at the bottom of this blog.  What I didn’t find on my Facebook page was a lot of pictures of myself (outside of profile pictures), ANY celebrity look-alikes (because…REALLY? I wish.), or any quotes or mottoes glorifying myself.  I think I can breathe a sigh of relief here.

I decided I needed a more scientific answer to make myself feel better. I took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory test referred to in the Canadian study.  You can play along as well, by clicking this link.

I got a 7.  You can get up to a 40.  The lower the number, the lower your level of narcissism is, and vice-versa.  You can easily manipulate the results by picking the answers that don’t sound so “me, me, me”.  However, I needed to know for sure, so I was as honest as I could be.  I now feel a little better.

Except, I’m not in the clear just yet.  A University of Michigan study concluded that “among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter,” whereas among middle-aged adults, narcissists posted more frequently on Facebook.”  Ay, yi, yi.  Facebook is my social media drug of choice, and I have to admit, I am, (gag, cough, sigh) “middle-aged”.

Here is my non-scientific conclusion.  Adults born pre-social media, you are either narcissistic or you are not.  Facebook isn’t going to MAKE you that way; it is only giving you a tool to BE that way.  The concern I have is raising our girls to not be narcissistic in this “instant-gratification- social/non-social media” world, and if that means limiting screen time, then, by golly, that is what we will continue to do!

Also, just one more thing… I advise teaching empathy.  I firmly believe if you teach them to always try to feel how others feel, always try to see it from their point of view, you can direct the focus off of thinking of themselves too much.

Now, to those adorable pictures I promised, all re-downloaded from my Facebook page.  #StartingNoahs2ndArk (Did I mention I LOVE hashtags?)

 

The Choice is Clear

The picture above shows how a choice two people made changed the course of a woman’s life.  My life. A life that didn’t start out so well.

I am going to dive into a pretty dark subject here… my childhood.  Members of my family don’t even know all these details.

I hesitate writing this post, but not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed.  I’m not… anymore.  I am always afraid some of the stories of my childhood will make others uncomfortable, or perhaps worse, feel sorry for me. I see people’s faces instantly change when the subject comes up. However difficult it can be to tell this part of my story, I feel it is more difficult for someone to hear it.  The thing is, I’m okay.

Before I dive in, I want you to know why I’m even going to go into the dark areas of my childhood.  Today, I feel the strong desire to talk about choices.  As I age… gracefully, of course… I realize all of us can look back on our lives and see how different choices we made led us on a definite journey. Now that we are currently seeing our pre-teen struggle with some pretty difficult choices, I realize that looking back on the choices we made might help her, and others in making their own choices.

So, let’s just try to get through my childhood as quickly as possible and see if it can help others.

When I was a baby, my mom and dad divorced. Mom moved back home and, for all of my life, she was a single parent with little to zero help from my father.  She needed others to help care for me as she worked many jobs to support us. One family she turned to was absolutely fantastic… on paper! They had children, even adopted a daughter, and were foster parents.  I mean, the state trusted them with children, so why not us?

I started going to them when I was 4 years old.

Whenever a child did something wrong, the woman who babysat me opened her drawer of wooden spoons and spanked him or her, sometimes until the spoon broke. However, if I did something wrong, she would grab one of the foster kids to spank, since she couldn’t send me home with bruises.  I did get whacked in the head one time for crying, but she probably thought a bruise wouldn’t show on my scalp.

You would think she was the worst person in the house. You would be wrong. Sometimes she had to go grocery shopping.  She would leave us with her husband. I am not going to go into details here, but their adopted daughter and I would immediately hide in hopes we would avoid his perverted desires.  For me, this went on until I was 9 years old… when something horrible happened.  I can remember much of that day, but I still have blacked out one part. I am actually okay that my brain can’t show me the memory.  I’m sure, based on the ones I can recall, that I don’t need to remember that day, in that dark room.

That was when I finally told my mom.  I made a choice to not tell her before this day out of fear. Fear is an important emotion to note.  While the fight or flight part of your brain can be helpful, fear is often the root of bad choices.

Mom confronted the family, and pulled me out immediately.

I became a latch-key kid after that, and my life improved tremendously…until I took a baby sitting gig at the age of 12.  I would ride the bus home every day with the little girl I babysat.  We were let off in front of her house, went inside, had a snack, and played until her mom came home around dinner time.  This went on for months. Then, one day, the bus stopped and we saw a man in the doorway.  “Daddy!”, the little girl screamed.  Oh, ok, he is safe.  I was wrong. The first thing I noticed was the alcohol on his breath. I knew that smell all too well. I also knew to avoid it. I got our snack and the little girl and I went to the family room to color.  The dad decided he would try his luck at lying on top of me. I, luckily, got away before anything happened and locked myself in the bathroom until the mom arrived.  Aside from a short stint of him stalking me on my paper route, purely out of fear I would call the cops, he left me alone.

Mom and I told his wife, but she begged me not to tell the cops.  He would get counseling, she said. Again, we just walked away.  At this point, I started to believe there was something wrong with me.  I started to drink with some older friends. I made choices based on my beliefs of my worth.  Those choices led me at age 13, to a 21-year-old man, who within hours of meeting me, raped me while I was too drunk to even open my eyes.

If you don’t feel a sense of self-worth, you will not take care of yourself.  If you  are insecure you often will not make the correct choices. 

So, here I am at 13, with a past like this. What is a girl like this going to end up doing with her life?  This is a pivotal moment. I could have continued the path I was on. I, thankfully, did not.

At the age of 14, as a freshman in high school, I started making choices that would aid me in finding success later on.  I no longer drank.  I hung out with kids who had fairly normal lives.  I met their parents, and other adults, who were so fantastic, they restored my hope that there were good people out there.

My perspective changed.  This is a very important tool whenever a child feels hopeless. Show them hope, and they will go after it.

I did relapse my first couple of years in college. I changed back  into the girl who grew up without a father, and who was molested and raped as a child. I made terrible choices in men who thought hitting girls was the way to show you loved them.

I’m not sure if this will give you comic relief or not, but I’m serious here… around the age of 20, Oprah changed my life.  Mark this as another key moment. I remember the first time I saw her on TV.  She was talking about her childhood. Hers was so much worse than mine. I couldn’t believe she was standing there on television, a survivor of trauma even I couldn’t imagine.  She talked about how she didn’t believe in being a victim of your past. I see that memory as a moment frozen in time. I remember hanging on to every word.  I didn’t have to be a victim.  I didn’t have to feel sorry for myself.  I could change my direction and take a different course in life.  I did not have to be that girl.

I started making the correct choices.  I worked hard in my career, always taking the next steps up the ladder.  I started collecting very strong role models. Boy, if all kids had positive role models, I do believe the world would change.

I decided to use my childhood as something that could help others by mentoring troubled middle school girls. I left my dream job because the boss was abusive and mean, and I realized I didn’t need that.  I went back to Illinois to work.  That choice, wow! It was hard. I felt like a failure. I had no idea that choice would lead me to the man of my dreams.

In 2000, at the age of 29, I met 23-almost-24-year-old Jason.  He was too young, too nice, and too dang stable. He believed that your job wasn’t your life, that having a family was the most important part of life, and that you treated women with respect and kindness.  WHAT? Who was this man? I could have run. I tried to once, but changed my mind in two days. I made a choice. I gave the relationship a shot.

16 years and 2 beautiful daughters later, let me highlight some things my choice got me:

*A man who apologizes when he’s wrong, but more importantly, accepts mine when I am wrong.

*A man who would happily live his life without any pets, especially cats, but lived with my dog and cat at the beginning, and is now living with 2 dogs, 2 cats, and now 2 chickens.

*A man, who just last week, brought home a child’s mechanical, singing and dancing Snoopy…FOR ME! I wanted one so badly, but thought it silly to spend money on a toy for me. He thought otherwise and now I get to sing and dance with Snoopy. I also let the girls play with him.  (Picture below)

*A man who knows I struggle with my weight, but will still bring me treats. He only seems to see the good stuff.

I really could go on at nauseating lengths, but the bottom line is I got one of the best. I feel lucky that we found each other, but more than that, we each made a choice to be together, to build a life together.

And this is what that choice taught me:

Your past does not have a grip on your future.  You can change the course of your life by simply making a choice to do so.  As many of you know, I love quotes. (Blog here), so here’s another one for you:

“You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.” Pat Riley

Now, smile: Snoopy’s here!

Snoopy

 

I stopped blinking!

Anyone who has grown children will tell those of us with small children, “Don’t blink! It goes by so fast.” Well, I’m here as an example of someone who, after 6 years of being a mom, made the tough decision to quit a career so I could stop blinking.

It didn’t work.

My oldest is now done with elementary school, and despite the fact that I’m now a stay-at-home, it still went by too fast.  I realized, as she walked out of the doors of her school for the last time as a student, I have absolutely no control in the passing of time. I have no say in how fast or slow it goes.

I wish we could come up with a better saying to make parents feel better about the fleeting moments before your children become adults.  I don’t believe there is any way to avoid the speed at which time moves. We have to just suck it up and know that the facts are the facts.

IF your child leaves you right when they turn 18, parents have 6570 days to spend with our child at home.  But wait!  They have school, which takes that number of days down to 4230.

Now, what about sleep?  I just made myself laugh a little. Sleep? That stops when the baby comes. However, let’s just say, over their lifetime, they get 8 hours of sleep a night.

We are down to 2040 days with our kid(s).  I went to school to be a journalist, not a mathematician, so I’m going to stop here. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m correct about these stats.  Plus, we have so many other factors, like extracurricular activities and visits to friends or family, we could use.

My point is, blinking does not take away days.  Not blinking doesn’t add days. Regardless of how hard we try to keep them young and close, they are going to grow and leave.

Unless your child ends up like a growing number of millennials who are staying at home. Then, you may get to add more days to your tally.  Check out the stats on how many are staying home here!

I always joke with my kids that they can live here forever.  They can get married, have kids, and stay in the guest room.

However, the cold hard fact is that if that happens, Jason and I haven’t done our jobs of getting them ready to leave the nest.  Don’t get me wrong, if they need a place to stay right after college, I will do the happy dance.  The truth is, though, at some point, they need to be able to fend for themselves.

I need to be able to let them go.  Full disclosure, that may be harder to do than preparing them to leave. Many of you already know that about me.

I love a challenge, though, so I’ve embraced the one where our girls will want to leave us.  They will want to earn their own way, and buy their own things.

For instance, this week, our oldest has been begging us to buy her an on-line game.  The game is more expensive than any other, but it’s not terribly expensive, and it is wicked cool. I mean, the graphics on this thing are amazing.  I think the game is one of the best I’ve seen.

We told her to earn her money by doing chores, and she can buy the game in 3-4 weeks. HUGE TEARS! She is begging, and pleading, and crying.  “Please, buy the game and I’ll pay you back in 3-4 weeks.”   In our world, that doesn’t work. We aren’t giving in. I am heartbroken for her.  I know she would pay us back. She has done it before now. She wanted to buy one of her closest friends a necklace at the zoo. She didn’t have any money, but begged me to let her pay me back.  Since it was a sweet gift for a friend, I couldn’t hold up. I let her owe me.  She paid me back pretty quickly.

However, my husband and I know that if we keep doing that, she won’t understand what it is like to earn money before spending it. So, the tears and begging continue, as the mess in our house grows.  We’ll see if she ever gets this game.  I hope so, I wouldn’t mind checking it out.

Something many of you may not know about me is, I was so bad with money when I struck out on my own, that at one point my car was repossessed. At the time, I was making beginning TV journalist wages, and believe me, they are often at the poverty line. I was renting a little one bedroom apartment, and don’t believe I was living beyond my means. However, the night they came and took my car, I realized, something needed to change.  I got help from a really great group of credit counselors, became debt free, with the exception of college loans, in 3 years, and I now have one credit card.  I won’t get more than that one. I was in a dark place for years, feeling like a failure, but I learned so much at the ripe old age of 26.  I want our girls to know how to budget and stay within their means BEFORE they leave our home.

So, back to my beginning point.  Raising kids only happens for parents during a certain amount of time.  Blinking, not blinking, it really doesn’t matter. It is long on some days, but really short overall.  We can’t stop time, and believe me, I’ve wished for that power.  Every birthday candle blown out since I’ve been a mom includes that wish.

So, they are going to grow up and leave us.  The best thing we can do is work to make the transition away from us as smooth as possible for them.

Now if there was only a way to make it smooth for me. I swear, I did stop blinking.

 

Why are you YELLING?

Sorry.  I wasn’t yelling at you.  I was yelling at myself.  I have one huge flaw that I struggle with every day.  E-VER-Y day!

I am a yeller.

If my kids don’t get ready when they need to, I yell.  If they take 40 minutes to eat breakfast, while I run around getting myself together, I yell.  When it takes them 25 minutes to take PJs off and put clothes on… well, you get the picture, I’m sure.

This past Wednesday, we were in our van, driving down the .1 mile street to the school, because the girls cannot get ready in enough time to walk or ride bikes.  I’ve just finished an EPIC yelling fest to get them out the door. My oldest, who elected this year to take over the 3rd seat, you know, the one furthest from me, is yelling at me! She is yelling AT ME! She says, with tears in her eyes, “You make it worse when I’m stressing out and you are yelling at me.” Whoa. Yep.  Right there. Now, I calmly reply, “First, you shouldn’t speak to me that way. Second, I probably am. I don’t mean to. HOWEVER, I would not yell if you two would just get ready instead of playing around.”

We are both correct.

My yelling is mostly reserved for morning getting-ready-to-go-to-school times.  I cannot understand, after all these years, why they still don’t get it that school mornings are not for reading, drawing, or playing with their toys. I really don’t get it. I can understand so many things about my kids’ behavior, and I have patience in most categories, but this not-getting-ready-in-the-morning phenomenon is taking me over the edge.

I know I am not alone in this struggle.  I have so many friends who say they yell as well. I don’t know if they are just being nice to me or if they really do.  I honestly cannot imagine a majority of them ever raising their voices to their children. Some of them, I am convinced, can’t raise their voice over a “loud talking voice”, because they are so darn sweet.  However, I’m inclined to trust them.

Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I tend to reflect a lot more on why I do what I do. While I’m a firm believer in letting go of the past and not blaming it for your current actions, I do know our pasts affect our futures.  So, what in my past could have led me to yelling at my kids, when it is truly not what I want to do?

Two things contributed to my current state of yelling.  First, my mom was a yeller. Whoa baby, could she scream at me!  I am sure, now that I’m adult looking back on it, that I deserved some of it. Really, why can’t kids just get ready?!?  I digress…

Second, I believe it’s the newsroom environment I was in for 20 years.  In those environments, you don’t stop to be polite.  Yelling, or even talking in a very curse and short manner, is a necessary evil.  Seriously, you try having 30 seconds to air, and having no video for your lead story and see how kind and gentle you speak to anyone.  In that environment, you weren’t polite, you were very direct and sometimes louder than the average person, and then after the show ended, you went out for beers together.  What a great way to be.  I’m being serious.  In those moments, we were all just ourselves.  We were a stressed, frustrated version of ourselves, but we just put it all out there, with our friendships intact. (for the most part)

Neither of those reasons should lead to me doing something that makes me… and my sweet girls… feel terrible.  I decided to do my research.  What am I doing to my kids when I yell?  The news is not good.

The University of Michigan teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh and found that yelling can be just as bad for kids as spanking or hitting.  Please know, I am not judging spanking your child, that is your business, but reading that made me pause.

I am including the link here. Read over what they found, and keep in mind a couple of things:

  1.  Less than 1000 families were involved in the study.
  2. They do not seem to distinguish between, “GIRLS! YOU ARE TAKING TOO LONG!” and “YOU ARE SO STUPID AND LAZY YOU CAN’T GET DRESSED IN UNDER 10 MINUTES!”  (Just for the record, I do the first one, not the second. I could never call my kids awful names.)

The New York Times also published an article on it, citing a study on yelling at kids as well.  One paragraph jumped out at me:

“We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.”

In that article, it cited a journal whose study showed, out of the 991 families studied, 88% admit to yelling, shouting, or screaming at least once in the past year.  I wish I could say it was only once a year… and they don’t specify how much more per year those studied actually yelled.

So, what can us yellers do?

Years ago, I told the girls that if I scream, or if I cuss (oh, didn’t I mention that some of those words slip out? UGH! Really bad mom!), that I would pay them.  Even if I was screaming because they did something wrong, they got paid a dollar. Well, I didn’t keep that up. I don’t want to lose our home.

I need to figure this out.

I tried to Google some alternatives to yelling at them.  One link that was published in 2009 is no longer in existence.  My guess is the publisher realized how impossible it was to replace yelling when you are highly stressed or frustrated.

Seriously, there are some sites with good tips:
From Parent.com
From Mighty Mommy (I like #1.)
From Aha Parenting! (It’s like they were writing #7 for me.)

So, we have one more week of school, and then a summer of no yelling, and I mean that. We won’t HAVE to be somewhere. Those are the only times I really yell… when they aren’t getting ready to go… or getting ready for bed in enough time to get up for school.  Don’t get me wrong, I get mad or frustrated over other actions, but yelling is reserved for these special times.

In the next week, I’m going to try setting the oven timer for different intervals. 15 minutes to eat. DING!  15 minutes to get dressed and do hair and brush teeth. DING! When it goes off, if the given task isn’t done, the electronics are gone for that day. No discussion. That is my new idea for solving my really bad flaw.  I don’t know if it will work.  I don’t know if I’ll remember to set the timer, or if I do, I don’t know if I’ll remember why it’s going off.

If you have other ideas, please share!

Can I Quote You?

I have a confession about something not many know about me.  I love quotes. I often Google quotes on whatever subject is tickling my fancy at that moment.

I have one that sits on my dining room table almost every day.  The picture above is a close up of the serving plate that holds a quote by a favorite source of quotes: Maya Angelou.  My other favorites are Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and of course, Dr. Seuss.  (See below) I’ll get into some great quotes from this amazing group later.

The reason I’m thinking so much about quotes right now is because Saturday morning I started a book called “On Fire” by John O’Leary.  I finished it Sunday night. I never do that.  I would have honestly finished it sooner, had I not had kids and responsibilities. From inside the pages that were full of wonderful quotes, jumped out my current favorite quote:

When you know your why, you can endure any how.

It was not written, or said by John.  He was quoting a man named Viktor Frankl.  This man was in a Concentration Camp during WWII and survived torture, starvation, and the pain of losing those he loved.  When he got out, he wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning”.  I may have to read that, or at the very least Google quotes from him.  Now, this quote has me searching for my new “why”.

I love good quotes so much, I even kept a fortune from a fortune cookie because when I read it, I had to stop and reflect.  I had not before, nor since, opened a fortune cookie to such inspiration.

Nine little words:

Find a place to stand, and move the world.

Just find your spot, and make big movements to make the world better. I taped it on the monitor of my The Weather Channel computer until I left the place.  I must have been out to lunch with friends at TWC, and decided I needed that inspiration daily.  I still have it somewhere, but the TWC boxes weren’t a priority to unpack. 

I want to share some quotes from some of the greats.  I often wonder if they knew how profound they were as speakers, or if they were just speaking from the heart and we figured it out.

First, Helen Keller, who I’ve admired since 1976.  In 1st grade, I read every book on her I could find, and in 6th grade, I dressed up as her for a project on someone I admire.  I even took the girls to see her birthplace during a road trip last summer.

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Back to her quotes, some can really stop you in your tracks when you remember she can’t see, hear, or speak in any conventional manner.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

The highest result of education is tolerance.

Oooo, that last one is one of my favorites from her.  Reread it if you must, I have read it so many times.  She took a pretty common thought and said it in a positive way!

For me, quotes, if they are great ones, inspire.

Martin Luther King, Jr. inspires me every time I find a quote from him I hadn’t seen.  I have read all the main ones, but it is those I hadn’t heard that continue to shed light on who he was.  Here is one I love:

Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.

Another favorite from him:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Listen, though, nothing, and I mean nothing, tops his “I Have a Dream” speech.  I know it’s not obscure, making me super cool and different to love it, but I don’t really think anything can top that speech.

I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

The imagery is powerful to me.

We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

President Lincoln has so many quotes, we own a book on them.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?

I’m not sure I could ever live up to that last one.

Let’s not forget the great Dr. Seuss.  There is no way I can even begin to write out all his goodies.  I’ll just post a couple of pictures from my kids’ bedroom walls.

If you have a quote you love, funny, sad, deep, strange, or even very obscure and hard to decipher…. I would LOVE to read it.  Leave it in the comments!

I will leave you with one from a former Peoria, IL, native.  Dan Fogleberg sang it.  I know, it’s a song lyric, but it is still a great quote:

Love when you can, cry when you have to, be who you must, that’s a part of the plan.

“May Day! May Day!”

Today, I spent the entire day at my girls’ school.  The school had decided to change the way they had done field day. They decided to call it “May Day”.  The school asked the parents to coordinate 9 games for their child’s grade level. We did a lot of planning, then set-up, and ultimately spent the day explaining the games and keeping the flow going.

Let me just get this out-of-the-way:  I am one of “those moms”. I am often at the school.  I love being at the school.  I have always had a love for the people who have my kids all day.  The picture above here shows a happy teacher, my 5th grader’s happy teacher.  A face like that is what I want to see always. I want to support them any way I can.  I haven’t always been able to do it, but I’ll get to that.

Today, many moms made kind comments to me about how much I’m at the school. However, some made snide ones, and let me know they couldn’t do as much because they “worked” or some put it simply: “I have a job.”.  Ouch.  But I get it.  I was them at one time.  They just don’t know it.

Not many in our new hometown know the “old” Kim.  We moved here a year and a half ago, and before the move, I was doing three jobs: business owner, Director of Admissions at a private school, and substitute teaching at my kids’ school when I could.  As you already know, before that I worked at The Weather Channel.  For 10 years as a mom, I had other responsibilities outside of the home.  Then we moved for my husband’s job. Now, for 1 ½ years, I’ve been a stay-at-home. I feel like the scale is still tipped on the “working mom” side.

My point, and yes I do have one, is in the words of Joni Mitchell, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now.”  Wow!  Each side has distinct differences.  Heck, even within the “stay-at-home” community, it is very different.  I may shock some out there, but I don’t think my responsibilities now are very hard. I would need to admit here, that I keep the house at a comfortable level of “not-too-messy”.  “Clean” is not how I would describe it. I can also say it’s not very hard because my kids are older and can feed and clothe themselves. I have the freedom to be at school because they are both there as well.    A stay-at-home with younger kids does not have that freedom.  The role of parent is so different for so many people.

With one exception….

As I saw today, many are often explaining themselves.  At work, staying at home, either way, I am still constantly ready with an excuse or explanation.  While I stood in the hot sun today, sweating like … well like me… and listening to a mix of compliments and defensive jabs, I wondered:  Do people ever really feel completely confident that what they are doing is enough or that it is meaningful? While I was working, I put the kids 2nd, as I oversaw the production of hours of hurricane coverage.

Now I get to put my girls 1st, and I wonder if I should be working.  I feel myself explaining that I used to work. I feel awful during those types of conversations.  Why can’t I ever feel like what I am doing is ok?

I want so badly for those who feel they don’t do enough as a working parent to know what they do is enough.  I want the moms who work in the home to know what they do is enough.  Every choice made in the interest of children, whether it be to work and provide more, or stay-at-home and blow up balloons for the balloon pop race at “May Day!” is a good choice.

If only “old” Kim and “current” Kim could hold on to my own advice.

Why I Won’t Judge

DSC03064 (2)A mother in Mississippi is dealing with the devastating loss of her 2-year-old tonight. She forgot her child in her car and went to work. So many may say, “How could she do that?” So many may feel compelled to judge.  All I could do was feel sadness as tears welled up in my eyes.  I just want to hug her.  I came so very close to being her.

You can read the story here.

As for my story:  It was one of the first warm days of the year in Atlanta.  The summer heat was still a month or two away, but the winter cold was definitely behind us. I was working a demanding job at The Weather Channel.  I had an infant and a 2 year old.  My baby girls each went to different pre-schools because the one we wanted to ultimately have them attend only accepted children starting at 2 years old.  My morning routine consisted of getting two small children ready for a day away from me, dropping the first at one place, and the second at a school several miles away.  The upside was the second drop off was right across the street from TWC.

On this morning, I was completely distracted by work. I had so much to do.  I dropped my first baby girl at school, with kisses and hugs, and the normal amount of anxiety on both our parts. The women at the front were busy cooing over my youngest baby as the goodbye between us took place.  Wrapping that up, I grabbed my baby’s car seat, said goodbye to everyone and off I went to the second drop-off.  Only this time, I missed that drop-off.  I drove straight to work.  I started to gather my things when I noticed the diaper bag on the front seat.  I couldn’t believe I forgot to give it to my baby’s teachers.  That is when I realized, I hadn’t given my baby to them either!

I turned to see my sweet baby sleeping away in her seat.  I started to shake, thinking how close I had come to the worst moment of my life.  I sat there and cried, while sending a text to my boss that I was going to be late. I couldn’t stop sobbing, and I hadn’t even really left her in the car.  I took her to her destination, and the women inside hugged and consoled me.  They told me it was ok, that I wasn’t a bad mom, that everything worked out.  They promised that if I didn’t show up ever, they would call to make sure no mistakes had happened.  However, we all knew I wouldn’t ever face this again, because the trauma of ALMOST was enough for me to be diligent in the future. I was thankful I had left the diaper bag on the front seat, and did that every day we still had that diaper bag in use.

I share this story because this moment in my life made me realize how easy it is to make mistakes.  My mistake just led to tears on my part, and a lifetime of guilt, but nothing tragic.  Other people’s mistakes lead to tragedy. Like the story above here, or the school teacher whose husband thought she was taking the baby to school, but she thought he was.  He put the sleeping baby in her van, but she didn’t know.  Their child died that day.  My heart still breaks for them.

My mistake led me to an understanding toward other parents.  We don’t all do it the same way, have the same rules, or believe in the same methods, but many, no most, of us are trying our best to do the correct thing.  We want healthy, strong, independent people to go out into the world after we are done.  We want them to know they are loved and always have a place, and people, to turn to when in need.

I’ve taken judgment out of the equation when hearing about other parents’ rules or beliefs. I’ve taken judgment off the table when I see a child without shoes on, especially after meeting one who will throw shoes in the garbage to avoid wearing them. I have learned that in my imperfections, and boy do I have many, I should always accept others’.

There is one exception, of course, and that is when it comes to intent.  Several years ago, in the Atlanta area, a dad left his boy in the car all day while he was at work.  The little boy usually went to a daycare at Dad’s work, but this day his Dad “forgot” him in the car.  I stood up fiercely for that dad.  I told anyone who would listen the story I told you here.  I waited for all the facts.  Then, I got them all.  The dad had done it on purpose.  I will never understand that, and will not be able to ever find understanding for that man or others like him.  Harm a child on purpose, and I’m sorry to say, my judgment returns.

However, the rest of you… you are doing just fine.

Finding Faith

Most people I know have memories of getting up early on Sunday morning, getting dressed for church, and heading off for service or Sunday School.  My memories of Sunday morning are slightly different.  My mom worked 3 jobs most of my childhood.  Therefore, I went to church with whatever babysitter had me that weekend. If I was home, I got on a small blue bus and went to Sunday School on my own.

I was exposed to religions all along the Christianity spectrum.  From Episcopalian to Methodist and everywhere in between, I learned that many people had different ideas on how to honor God and Christ.  However, the underlying story was pretty consistent.  God created us all, and gave us his Son to die for our sins.  I always had the idea that Heaven and Hell existed.  I knew the Bible and I even own one that my mom gave me when I graduated college.  It is a Precious Moments Bible….please don’t be jealous.  My Bible is very, very precious.

When I left home for college, I began to meet so many different people who walked in different faiths.  Jews, Muslims, Agnostics… you name it.  I, of course, also met those who didn’t…you know…Atheists.  I must say, whoever put these people in my path knew what He or She was doing.  I love so many people who do not agree one bit with all the different churches I attended.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I met many more Christians, but I got really curious.

I even took a religious studies class, and my world opened like a big part in the sea.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  I learned about Eastern religions as well, and my mind was blown.  How is it that billions of people, who are smart and so very kind, all believe different things?

Then, my Grandpa died.  I’m hoping you have never experienced that type of loss, but if you have you know, my world fell apart for a while.  When I found out he had cancer and had just days to live, I lost my way. I was just starting my senior year of college. He ended up living for 9 more months, thankfully.  I treasured every minute I could.  I wanted to take a year off college, but that stubborn old man wouldn’t let me.  “I’ll be there for your graduation, so you need to graduate.” He started a downward spiral my second semester and I was so scared.  I almost flunked out of college.  I’m not sure if my family knew that.  I did not care. What was more important than being with him? Did no one understand that going to class felt artificial?

I spent my senior year Spring Break at the hospital with him.  To this day, Florida beaches and drinking sound ridiculous compared to those hours.  I mean, I loved him so much.  How could he go? He looked bad that week.  He was weak.  The last day, he told me he was going to be at my graduation, so I better graduate.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him I probably wouldn’t.  I went back to school, and a week later he died.

I couldn’t do it, guys. I was devastated.  I actually think I was irritatingly loud, sobbing at his memorial service.  I have a memory of my family losing patience with me, but I couldn’t control myself.

The man who stepped up and fathered me, showed me there was nothing more important than a Chicago Cubs or Bears game, depending on the time of year, and told me to make a life for myself before making one with someone else… that man was gone. He was never going to walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t going to meet my children.

I was driving back to school when I got this overwhelming feeling of complete disappointment.  I felt it so strong.  I was going to fail college, and he was going to know.  He would haunt me, y’all, I swear it.  If you knew him, you wouldn’t even question that statement.  He would start rattling stuff until it fell and scared the bejeebus out of me.

I made a decision on that ride home.  I was going to meet with each of my professors and see what it would take to ensure I graduated.  I was pretty sure I would be able to pull most grades up, but there was one… well, I had no hope.

I walked into that professor’s office that week, and I was still very raw.  I took a deep breath and asked what I could do to pass his class.  He asked why I thought he should give me a shot.  I started to cry, and promised him that I did not expect the tears to change his mind, but I couldn’t help it.  I told him that my Grandfather had just died, and he had made me promise I would graduate on time.  I told this professor that I would take every test over and write as many reports as I needed to, just to prove I was serious.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of not at least trying to live up to my Grandpa’s expectations of me.  If I failed, then fine, but I had to try.  This kind professor stopped me.  He told me he just lost his wife.  He said he knew loss.  He was going to give me a shot. This moment in time was one that solidified there was a bigger plan for me. How was it this professor and I both knew loss in the same moment I needed him to understand my failures?

That shot, by the way, was not easy.  Just because he lost his wife, he wasn’t going to let me off that easily.  I had so much work to do, but to this day I am thankful.  I don’t look back and think…I got a free ride.  He expected more of me than anyone.  I had more work than anyone.  I deserved all of it.  I also passed.  I only got a C, but I passed.

On my graduation day, I felt a wave go through me, as I noticed a beam of sunlight come in through a window high in the auditorium.  I can tell you to this day, I don’t know with absolute certainty what that was, but I would like to believe it was Grandpa. I would like to believe he WAS there to watch me graduate.

That is where I found my Faith.  I still do not know who is correct in organized religion.  I can’t pretend to know it all.  If I have to put a label on my beliefs, I guess I would say I’m Agnostic. However, like billions of others, I have Faith.  While I do talk to a God every day, my Grandpa is the one I talk to the most.  I so badly hope he can hear me.  I hope I’ll see him again, in Heaven.  Though if there is one, I’m not sure they let him in yet.  I may need to do the talking.