Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures of a soccer mom: Travel (looooong) day ahoy!

*yawn*

It's 5:30 am EST.  I might have sleep about 4.5 hours.  But I am packed.  :-)

It's 26 degrees and dawn is breaking and it's quite beautiful.  The birds are starting to sing.  I am sleepy.

On the bright side, it's 12:30 in Barcelona and 64 degrees!  Wa-hooo!  The weather looks to be low to mid 60's for the time we are there and night time temps in the 50's.  Partly cloudy with a slight chance of rain, although that could change.  Sounds delightful for soccer and sightseeing.

In other news, guess who started complaining of a sore throat and a cough last night.  Yep.  The boy.   Chances are high he has the viral bug his older brother and I had last week.  The good news is, one only feels 'meh' for a day or two.  The bad news, we are spending the bulk of today hanging around airports or on planes and it's likely the day he will feel the worst.

Oh, and our clothes dryer stopped drying last night.  *sigh*

Since I gave the boys their Easter goodies yesterday, and he ate too much chocolate too late in the day, and thus, he, too, was awake until after 11 pm.  I'm going to wake him up at 6.  That will be a challenge.  Might as well get him closer to Barcelona time and hope he'll sleep on the plane tonight.

I'm impressed with my packing!  Small boy's bag has a lot of snack foods in it!  It has primarily soccer shorts, shirts and socks, casual clothes and is toiletries. His carry on bag consists of his soccer backpack with complete 'kit' (too fearful of it being lost for it to be packed in a checked bag so all the soccer essentials are hand carried, in jumbo ziplock bags not only for organization, but to mute the shin guard/shoe sweaty boy stench for our fellow passengers!) and a string backpack that consists of his travel pillow and blanket, entertainment system (iPod touch), headphones, glasses, his composition notebook/adventure journal and pen and a whole bunch of snacks!  Oh, and his epi-pens, inhalers, and just added, Advil and Ricola cough drops!

My checked bag is larger.  I just couldn't fit everything into the smaller suitcase for 10 days.  I shall carry on my purse and a backpack.  I also have ample snacks.  :-)

I'm checking my list(s) to be sure I've not forgotten anything of import.  I'm enjoying the peace of the early morning.  The next 10 days are going to be a whirlwind!

For those playing along at home, and my mom, whose job it is to be anxious when her (44 year old) baby travels, our travel adventure begins in about 3 hours and will take us the bulk of the day and into the wee hours of tomorrow morning EST.  We are leaving for the airport around 9 am, budgeting for traffic.  That should be about an hour's drive, but how long it actually takes is anybody's guess.  The airport will be nuts, as it's April Vacation week and a big travel day.  We meet our group at 11 am to check in. I'm told if we arrive early, we're getting a donut!


Our first flight departs Logan about 1:30 and gets us to Philly for 3:11 pm, where we have a layover until 6:45 pm.  It will be a fueling stop for growing tweens!  My son has already scoped out the terminal food establishments and is concerned about in-flight options!  We fly 'over the pond' to Barcelona 'over night'.  About an 8 hour journey.  We arrive 8:35 am local time, that would be 2:35 am to us.  I'm hopeful for a solid 3-4 hours of sleep on the plane, more would be fantastic!

From there, a loooong and exciting day shall commence.  I'll tell you all about it!  Who knows, there may be a travel day update from the airport, too!

See you 'in' Spain!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Adventures of a soccer mom. Barcelona! - T-24 hours. The back-story.

T-1 day and counting. Trying not to panic.  I have SO freaking much to do.  I leave for Barcelona tomorrow morning!

Why am I going to Barcelona?  Why to watch my 12 year old son play soccer.  Crazy, I know!

This trip was not on my radar until November.  The concept of the possibility of one of my boys being invited to play soccer anywhere but Massachusetts was never on my radar, let alone another country! Yet now it is.

How did I get here?  Glad you asked.  I wondered the same thing!

The back story:

When my boys were 5 and wanted to play town soccer, I thought it was cute.  There was something adorable about seeing these little guys in their too big soccer T-shirts all chasing a ball around like it was a magnet.  They'd run as fast as they could, kick it, if they were lucky, sometimes several at once, and sometimes, it went into a net.  It might have been the net 3 'fields' down, but it was a net.  They'd get all excited and jump around.  Except for the one who was staring at the sky or twirling or running the wrong way.  The games were short and the season was measured in weeks.  It was a mere $50 and I could buy cleats at Target for $20.

Then, they really liked it.  They started to get very competitive about it.  They wanted to play more than town soccer.  I was clueless.  I didn't even know something called 'club' soccer really existed!  A fellow mom whose son also played and loved the game, invited my youngest, then 9, to try out for a new club team called F.C. Celtic.  They were adorable, talented, local boys.  They had a coach who had a lovely British accent and a great sense of humor.  He engaged the boys and taught them football. European style football, not American soccer.  Turns out, there is a difference.  A big one.

This adorable group of young boys were also the sweetest, kindest, gentlest kids you'd probably ever assemble.  They are innately skilled and athletic, sponges for knowledge, and have a lot to teach the rest of the world about sportsmanship and the importance of team.  They had the good fortune of a coach who taught them to win with skill, not 'dirty' play.  It's almost a 'kill them with kindness' (and amazing foot skills) mentality.  And it works!

These boys have grown tremendously in all areas.  Not only are they taller, more savvy to the strategy of the game and becoming young men, they are advancing in skill rapidly.  Those with the fire and the passion live, eat and breathe soccer.  The core of that original team is still intact today, 3 years later. They are the best of friends and their care and concern and support of each other is inspiring and heart warming.  Newer team members have come and gone.  They are now the Central Mass Bolts Boys U-12 team.  They are still the sweetest boys you'll ever meet.  They just happen to have a tremendous team bond, great friendships, and they play kick-ass soccer.  The best part?  They have fun doing it!

They have worked hard and played hard.  Soccer is now a year-round sport.  I spend thousands (tens of thousands over the years) of dollars on equipment (those $20 cleats are now $100 and last 3 months if I'm lucky, and keeper gloves... yikes!) club and tournament fees, uniforms, and gas to drive all over creation to games and tournaments.  Someone has soccer just about every night of the week and every weekend day.  Most of our weekends in the fall and spring and most holidays are lost to soccer.  I have paid a gazillion dollars and spent countless hours driving to/from games and sitting in all kinds of weather year-round to help him accomplish his soccer goals and dreams.  The things I've given up so my boys can play soccer is... well, this is not about me.

Parents, when you have those babies, these are the things you don't realize.  Self-sacrificing for your kids, to give them the best you can, never ends! I sure as hell hope they thank me someday and maybe get a scholarship to college out of it!

Now, he and his team have the tremendous opportunity to travel to Barcelona, Spain, representing their club, to play football against the Spanish kids.  They will train 5 days and play 4 games.  They will get to visit and train at Camp Nou, the amazing stadium where FC Barcelona plays.  They will even get to see FC Barcelona play on Easter night.  To say they are over the top excited would be the understatement of the year!  It's like they are going to soccer mecca!

The boys really don't quite grasp what this means.  How far Spain is.  How different the culture is. How good these Spanish kids are going to be at the game! What a tremendous opportunity this is for them, both for their soccer 'careers', but also the chance to go to Spain and experience all that Barcelona has to offer.

"Manimal" as his coach affectionately calls him, is very excited.  Not only about the travel to Barcelona and the soccer he will play and watch, but mostly about spending a week with his best buddies.  He's almost giddy.  It's so wonderful to see him so happy.  He's worked hard for this.  I'm so glad I will get to share it with him. He's still a mama's boy.  :-)

Of course I have a gazillion things to do before we leave.  I am sad, because it's just he and I going. The trip is crazy expensive and was unexpected and not budgeted for, therefore I am unable to bring the entire family. I just couldn't afford it.  I really can't afford it for me!  I just couldn't deny my son the opportunity.

My older son, who is also a soccer player and fantastic goal keeper, is not able to come with us.  Nor is my husband.  I feel so horrible as a mother that I can't share this experience with both of my boys and my husband.  We will 'make up' for it in another way when another opportunity presents itself, but it's not the same.

So check back here as I plan to chronicle our adventures!

Excuse me while I go to work.  I'll be the one up most of the night trying to get everything done.  I guess that means I'll be on Barcelona time real quick!  ;-)




Safe travels to my fellow soccer moms and dads, some of whom are leaving today.  See you Saturday!






Sunday, April 13, 2014

Playing nice when breaking up. With friends or with lovers. A how-to guide.

It's no secret I am divorced.  It's really no secret, at least to those who knew me 'in that life', that it was a messy, contentious, and difficult divorce.  It took waaaay longer than it should have and cost waaaay more than it should have, because my ex-husband refused to come to the table and 'play nice'. Eventually, that led to me having difficulty playing nice.

Where there was once love and compassion, there became anger, resentment and a very broken relationship.  The reality was it was broken from the beginning and poor communication and all that goes with it set us up for failure. It takes two people to make a relationship work.  Both of us were responsible for it's ultimate failure.  Blaming serves no one. Least of all the children or other important people in our lives.  We are both to blame for it's demise.

Despite that, we could, and should, have gone about ending our relationship differently.  More kindly. I tried.  But it takes two to end it amicably, too.  Therein lies the challenge for most couples.  We could have ended it in a much kinder way to both of us.

The details of the failure of our marriage are not important for you to know.  The lessons learned, however, are.

This is not about him.  Or me. Or our divorce. Or even about collateral losses as a result of or related to the central one.  It's about YOU and YOUR relationship(s).  It's a bit of insight into what I learned along the way that I hope others will benefit from on their journey.  Whether you are party to a divorce or break up now, have been in the past, or may be someday in the future, this is for you. Maybe it's a romantic relationship that has ended.  Maybe it's a long term friendship.  It doesn't matter. A break up is a break up and someone hurts.  Often, everyone hurts.  Yep, that's pretty much anyone who has a heart.  No one is immune.

Why am I writing this now?  It's been on my 'things to write about' list for years.  I have several friends in various stages of relationship crisis right now.  Some in messy divorces.  Some in amicable break ups and divorces.  Some who are married and working really hard on resolving their issues and learning to communicate better.  Some who are married and outright lying to their spouses about really important stuff. Some who are trying to repair damage done in the past when they didn't know what they do now.  Quite simply, it is time.  So if you are reading this, it's for you.

That, and I actually have time to write it today!

Some people are in unhappy relationships.  They have fallen out of love.  They don't want to be with the other person anymore but they choose not to tell them.  Or maybe they do tell them, but they agree not to divorce if married.  They may no longer wish to live together, some don't.  Despite that, they decide to stay in those relationships.  Some because they are in abusive relationships and are afraid to leave and afraid to ask for help in doing so.  Some choose to stay because they are afraid of the repercussions or the financial strain separating or divorcing will impose. Some stay 'for the kids'. Some stay because it's just easier to lie to themselves or their spouse than it is to speak, honor and live their truth.  This often leads to extramarital affairs or 'secret' behaviors because of the discord and unhappiness in the relationship and an unwillingness to talk about it with your significant other/spouse, which can lead to the aforementioned messy and contentious divorce or separation.

There are also people I know who are in strong, healthy relationships.  They seem few and far between, but they are out there.  Some are fully committed to each other and only each other.  Some are actually in open relationships (they are married or in a committed primary relationship, but have their spouse's/S.O.'s blessing to date other people).

They are the ones that realize a relationship is work. It takes two.  It takes honesty.  It takes being 100% transparent and truthful, even if it's not what the other person wants to hear and even if it's difficult for you to be so vulnerable and reveal your 'weaknesses'.  It takes open, honest, communication. It takes respect and honor. It takes an open mind and a compassionate heart.  It requires the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes to see the other side of an issue.  It means you come to the table when things are not right, not run away or blame.  You are a team.  A partnership.  You are equals.  You got into it together.  You get through it, together.  You learn the fine art of compromise.

They have learned to play nice.  No, they don't walk around blissed out all the time.  They argue.  They fight.  They talk it out.  But they listen and say they are sorry.  They respect.  They forgive.  They work hard to grow and change together. They support each other.  They get it.  For better or for worse.

The Beginning
When love is new, it is intoxicating.  It's easy to spot someone in the throws of a new romantic relationship. There is romance.  There is an endorphin high.  There is something wonderful about being courted and wanted and having your feelings returned by someone you are attracted to.  You do new things together. You go places.  You show each other off.  You are always 'on'.  Looking and acting your best.  It's nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime.  Therein lies the flaw of being human. Emotions and feelings.  Eventually, our feelings get hurt.  Especially if we don't learn the art of effective communication.

As relationships grow, they change.  At times they plateau or stabilize.  This is a natural thing.  With familiarity, comes routine.  Eventually, our 'real' selves start to show.  That constant state of being our best selves is nearly impossible to sustain long term.  We are human after all.  You know, the one where we don't dress to the nines to impress our significant other, where we begin to take compliments and day to day things for granted and love is implied, not said or even shown much.  The world where our partner sees our 'bed head' and still loves us.

Sex that may have been fantastic and frequent in the beginning of your relationship may become routine and less frequent.  Physical affection may dwindle.  The hand holding and cuddling that was so sweet in the beginning slowly dwindles.  Not necessarily because the love is not there, but because life happens.  We work, we have kids, we get busy, we get tired.  And we drift apart.  If we don't make the effort to connect, it becomes harder and harder for us to.

Do we 'settle'?
I've had many a conversation with many a person about how when we are young (or not so young), we 'settle' because we feel this person is 'good enough' or because we fear we will never find someone 'better'.  It may be because they fit the concept of our 'ideal' mate in looks, job status, personality or some other traits we thought we wanted in a partner.  Maybe it's because our biological clocks are ticking and we were looking for a spouse and a baby making partner more than a true life partner.

Some people choose to marry or enter a committed relationship with someone they know deep inside of them is not the 'right' fit.  They hope they will change or be good enough.  They hope that the differences they might have, the ones that irk them, will somehow magically disappear or become less bothersome.  That rarely happens in 'real' life.

All too often, we realize at some later point in our relationship we are unhappy.  Some people choose to go with the flow.  Some seek a relationship that they feel gives them what they are missing.  Some will choose to end their relationship.

In the end, it doesn't matter if we settle or not.  What matters is that we talk to our partner when we are unhappy and attempt to find happy again. What that is will depend on how those conversations go.

Kids stress a relationship.  Big time. 
Ah, kids.  They complicate things.  They are expensive.  They are demanding.  They 'ruin' the life you knew as a single person or a childless couple.  The vast majority of people who have children planned on having them.  They consciously set out to have babies. Yes, they were created and born of your love.  They are YOURS. How quickly we forget that when we become stressed and overwhelmed by the demands of parenting.

If your relationship was not strong and stable with open and honest communication before kids, it means more work to maintain your relationship after you do have them. All too often this comes as a complete shock to a couple when they have their first child.  The more children, the more stress that seems to come along for some.

Some people can't handle the stress children bring to a relationship.  They start to work later or spend more time with friends.  They travel more.  They avoid the kids and/or their partner rather than communicating.  Eventually, the relationship will break down.

Even if you have had kids for years, talk about how parenting has changed you or potentially will change your relationship and why.

Communication.  Communication.  Communication.
Communication often breaks down as relationships stabilize because the reality is it was never that good, honest, or frequent and 'real' in the first place.  Very few people are 100% honest and truthful with themselves, let alone with their significant others.  How many white lies have you told your S.O.? How many things do you hide from them?  Communication with ex's?  A porn habit?  A shopping habit or 'secret' credit card or bank account?  Debt? A history of illicit drug use, addiction, or a run in with the law?  An affair?

Over time, communication breakdown breeds resentment.  Resentments cause further breakdown and can build and before we know it, we think the other person has changed.  The truth is, so have we.  Or maybe the other person has not changed at all and we have.

Instead of trying to talk about the issues, we place blame on the other person.  We may begin to seek what we are missing in our relationship with them elsewhere.  With friends.  With ex's.  With alcohol and drugs. By working later or traveling more.  Instead of confronting the issues, we end up creating more.

All relationships need good quality communication to work.  Teacher and parent.  Parent and child. Boss and employee.  Friend to friend.  Husband and wife.  We, as humans are generally pretty bad at communication.  Words.  Body Language.  Tone.  They all convey different aspects of communication.  The advent of social media and electronic mail has only further complicated communication, reducing it to an impersonal level where it's hard to understand tone and impossible to see body language.

Talk.  You must learn to talk.  To each other.  Openly.  Honestly.  Daily.

The Blame Game
The crux of it is, all relationships take two people to work.  The truth is if your relationship is broken, it took both of you to break it.  Sure, one person may have more of the 'responsibility' say, if they went off and had an affair or drained the savings account without your knowledge, but something that was fundamentally broken in your relationship with each other led to it.

Blaming the other person or placing all the blame on yourself is unfair and highly likely to be an avoidance of conflict.  An avoidance of confronting the reality of who you are and an inability to face the consequences of the choices you have made and the responsibility you hold in it.  Because you are responsible, at least in part.

No one 'does' anything to anyone else.  No one 'makes' you say, feel, or do anything.  Only you are responsible for your actions (or inaction) or feelings.  No one else holds any special power over you. Unless you allow them to.  That, too, is all you.  Not them.

We all make choices.  Some good.  Some not so good.  They all have consequences.  Also some good and some not so good.  Some are really, really, hurtful and bad.  We make the choices we do from only two places.  We either choose from a place of fear or from a place of love and compassion.  It's important to realize why you are making the choices you are as it relates to YOU.  Not to the other person.  Because you are the only person who controls what you say, think, feel, or do.  Yep,  You own it.  Not them. You.

So re-frame how you view the other person in the context of yourself.  Make it about you.  Because it is. Nothing happens in isolation.  All of your choices impact someone else when you are in a relationship.

Be truthful.  Always.  
Chances are, eventually the truth will come out and it will be far better if it comes from you in the beginning. So, if you had an affair.  Fess up.  You don't like such and such about your partner.  Tell them.  Nicely. Overwhelmed and feeling unloved?  Tell them.  Racking up debt?  Tell them and get help. Maybe you are chatting on line with someone the other person doesn't know about and wouldn't approve of. Tell them.  Be honest.  Own it. Explain why you feel what you feel or why you did what you did.  It's not because 'they' did or didn't do such and such. It's about why YOU did or said what YOU did.  They should do the same.

Does this mean you have to change?  Not necessarily.  It does mean you have to understand, speak, live and be willing to stand in your truth.  You need to own your behavior, your choices, your actions. If you can't, then why are you doing what you are doing because it's hurting someone you once loved?

Try to do this calmly.  Sure, there may be a heated argument.  But stay present.  Count to 10.  Breathe. Write it down first if you have to and exchange letters than discuss it.  Seek the assistance of a counselor or good friend who can be impartial.  Talk in a neutral or public place where you are more likely to stay calm and present emotionally.

Please, talk to each other.  Be honest.  Be kind.

See their side of the story.  Put yourself in their shoes.
There are always two sides to every story.  Make an effort to see the other side.  To understand their argument, even if you don't agree with it.  Don't judge.  Just listen.  To each other. Even in the middle of a bad break up, you need to see both sides to fully understand why you are in the situation you are both currently in and so you don't repeat your mistakes in the future.  You need to be aware of how your choices impact others, not just yourself.  It's about being a good and mature human.

Everyone brings 'baggage' to a relationship.  Hopefully there was full disclosure at the beginning of your relationship about what this baggage is.  Maybe there was not.  Maybe you thought there was, but other things emerged over time neither of you realized or could have anticipated. Chronic or mental illness, a medical crisis like battling cancer, financial crisis, job loss, the demands of parenting or pregnancy loss/infertility struggles, or a profound loss like the loss of a close loved one all strain relationships.  They change us.  They challenge us.

Realize there is a reason for the choices we make.  Find it.  Share it.

No matter how hurt and angry you are, play nice.

One word.  Karma.  It's a bitch.  It really is.  So no matter how angry, bitter, hurt, betrayed, or devastated you are, be kind to each other.  In words and in deed.

Don't spread rumors.  Don't lie.  Don't embellish.  Don't exaggerate.  Don't taunt.  Don't name call. Don't say things that are not truth and fact (check them, first).  Don't blame.  Don't steal.  Don't damage their stuff or their reputation.  (They will do just fine on their own damaging their reputation, don't worry.)  Don't say or do things just to piss off the other person.  Don't allow yourself to stoop to their level if the other person is doing these things in an attempt to hurt you.

Remember, only you control what and how you feel and how you act.  It's no one else's 'fault'.  It's all you. How they react to it is their choice.  How you act, is yours.



In this age of social media, keep in mind what you post is out there forever and can and will come back to potentially haunt YOU.  Chances are high your family, friends, kids and co-workers past, present and future will see it.  While no one should, people judge.  Think of the repercussions before you go down that road. For all of you.

Don't say or do anything when you are angry.  Chances are you will regret it.

Basically, follow the Golden Rule.  Do unto others...

In other words, don't be an ass.  No matter how angry or hurt you are.  It serves no one but the lawyers whose pockets you are padding.

When and how to tell the kids

Parenting is a team sport. If your relationship with your significant other is failing, don't fail your kids. Keep your feelings for the other parent out of your conversations and interactions with the kids. To the kids you must present a united front.  You must say and show them that you both love them and care for them.  That you will be a part of their lives (if you truthfully will be and want to be).  Tell them your relationship is ending but not your relationship with them.

Make absolutely, 100% sure you never, ever, blame the kids for the failure of your relationship with the other parent.  It is NEVER the fault of the children.  They will think it is.  You must be sure they know they did nothing wrong.  You made them together.  You parent them together.  United in what is best for them.  Always.

Do not use them as pawns.  They are not 'weapons' against your now estranged partner.  They are YOUR CHILDREN.  Do not try to take them away from the other parent unless their lives are truly in danger.

Don't push the kids to do something they don't want to.  If they want to live with only one of you or the shared parenting schedule is upsetting them, talk to them and try to honor their wishes and needs. Doing so from the beginning will help them to better cope and have a stronger relationship with you as they grow.  Try not to force them to do something they do not want to do unless the court orders it.

Be mindful of your children and THEIR needs and wants introducing someone 'new'

Kids are wicked smart.  Even babies and toddlers *get* emotion.  They notice everything.  They absorb that energy.  They learn by watching you.  They will behave the way they see you behave.

Kids are definitely affected by the relationship their parents have.  Affectionate children come from affectionate families.  If kids see you name call and fight and yell as your primary mode of communication, don't be surprised when they do the same.  Not only to you, but to their own children and spouses someday.  Do you really want them to have the same relationship struggles you did? Think about that.

Before you introduce someone new and 'special' to your kids, make sure it is going to stick.  Far too often, parents who break up have a 'rebound' relationship.  Maybe it began before the parental relationship ended, maybe it was the reason the parental relationship ended or maybe it is simply the thrill of someone new who seems to understand and care and think you're all that and a bag of chips. You fall for them.  You think it's 'right' or they are the real 'one'.  Before you go any further, stop.  You once felt that about the person you are breaking up with/divorcing too.  Don't lose sight of that!

When and if you introduce the idea of someone new in your life depends on the age and maturity of your children and how they are coping with the separation of you as their parents.  Their relationship with you should take priority.  Broach the subject in a conversation first.  Ask them how they feel. Don't put words in their mouths.  Don't be surprised if they are upset or never want to meet that person or meet them but never like them.  Listen to what your kids are saying and why.  Honor their wishes.  Chances are they think you are replacing their mom or dad.  Of course they are going to be upset about that.

Never force them to meet, spend time with or 'like' the 'new' significant other.  Give them time to adjust.  Help them connect with a counselor if they are struggling with your break up or someone new in your life.

I dated Joe for nearly 3 years before I introduced my boys to him as my boyfriend.  They had met him in group settings as a 'friend' about a year earlier.  It was only after they met, spent quite a bit of time together and it was clear they liked him and he understood what parenting meant and was willing to be a father figure for them (and an amazing one he is) that I agreed to marry him.  If my kids did not like him or if he were not able to 'handle' the demands of parenting them and what I was like as a mom (as opposed to just a girlfriend) I would not have married him.  We may have continued our relationship, but living in separate homes and without an integration or marriage.  My kids are just that important.

The bottom line
We are human.  We all make mistakes.

We also all deserve to love and be loved for who we are.  Unconditionally.  To that end, we all deserve respect, trust and truth from those around us. Especially those we choose to partner with in some way.
Communication makes the world go round.  Mis-communication makes misery go round.  Talk to each other.  Get help if you need it.

Relationships are fluid and dynamic.  They change.  Because people change.  Sometimes, we grow closer.  Sometimes we grow apart.  It's because we are growing.

No matter what the state of any given relationship is, it deserves to be treated with love, compassion, respect, honesty and grace.

Be kind to one another.  Choose from a place of love and respect, even if it's in ending a relationship.

Forgive.  Yourself and the other person.  You loved them once upon a time.  Chances are you still do, it's just in a different way.

Go in peace.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Writing, wine, and chocolate!

It's 7 pm.  My day of solitude is drawing to a close.  It was delightful!

The weather was gorgeous.  A beautiful spring day.  I felt so spoiled by Mother Nature and I am very grateful to her for the gift of today she gave.  I opened all the windows and welcomed in the fresh, spring air, full of the promise of birth and new beginnings.  I delighted in watching the comings and goings of the birds, as did my cats!  I smudged the entire house!  My crystals had a sun bath both yesterday and today.

I lay on the deck in the sun on my yoga mat and had a little savasana nap in the sun.  It felt so indulgent and wonderful.  Nothing but the sounds of the birds, the wind gently ringing the chimes, and the rustling of the branches. I feel as if my batteries were charged.  Yes, I'm solar powered!

I spent most of the day writing.  Often with a cat in my lap.  Part of it was devoted to developing the curriculum and slides for a class I'm teaching on space clearing in a few weeks.  Part of it was devoted to editing the book.  That is a slow process, albeit a necessary one.

Writing this book is, of course, stirring up emotions.  It's not the ones directly related to Meghan's death that are the ones that are challenging though.  It's the ones related to the collateral losses and unresolved 'issues' like changed or estranged relationships that were part of the fallout but definitely influenced by grief.  Some of these have never really had resolution.  As I write about the process of grieving and how to support those that are grieving, I in part, take from what I learned along the way. All relationships take two people to work.

In writing, I am recalling those who were there in those first days, weeks, and months after Meghan died.  I am looking back and realizing the depth of pain, depression, and general impaired mental capacity I was going through life with.  Somewhat surprised by how long that lasted and ebbed and flowed.  Honestly, it still does.  How deep and profound my losses really were for within 18 months, I lost my daughter, my marriage and my best friends all for very different but somewhat related reasons.  I've thought about how impacted some of them were by those very same things, but in a different way. I am seeing through different eyes why I made the choices I did and why others made the choices they did at the time, because now I have the gift of 9 years of healing, processing, and the fog and depression I was operating under then, has lifted.

Of course I wish I could repair some of the damage.  I can't do it alone.  If others are not willing to come to the floor and dance with their demons with me, to do the work to understand, heal, and resolve our wounds, then the wounds go on unhealed.  A band-aid fix perhaps, but not fully healed.  That makes me sad.

I've had the good fortune to be able to talk to some of those people about it in depth.  Those who were there then and are willing to look back on it with me now.  Those willing to dance with me. To try to make sense of it.  To go back and look at where we were and understand why we made the choices we made. To understand their experience and they, mine.  Some of whom were those who were collateral losses either as a result of Meghan's death, my divorce or both.  Relationships that ended up changed, distant or broken. Relationships we are working on mending and understanding.  I guess in a way, I have social media to thank for some of that.

We are able to see it with more objective eyes now, yet honestly.  To speak of our mistakes, shortcomings, and regrets.  Then and now.  To see the lessons in it for us to learn and how it's helped us to grow, change and become who we are today. To see the role Meghan played in all of it. She's like the gift that keeps giving.  :-)

Huh.  I just realized the kitty jacket she is pictured in here is the one I buried her in.  Interesting choice since I didn't realize it until just now, this picture just 'spoke' to me.  In it she's offering her pink kitty she painted for show.

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, right?

For those I am unable to talk to, I've begun to write letters.  It is allowing me to express what my experience was then and my understanding of it now as it relates to them individually.  Sure, it's a one sided conversation that way, but at least I have a place to put my thoughts and feelings for now. They may or may not ever get sent.  I suspect they will. Someday. When the time is right.

Not that I would necessarily have changed anything per se.  For to do so would change who and where I am now.  I have learned some amazingly powerful life lessons from it all.  I kinda wish I (and they) had this book, then. Then again, that's what's inspired me to write it in the first place.

Emotional grief work is exhausting.  It makes me all that much more grateful I have the solitude and silence of the evening before me.  This book is cathartic and healing for me.  I so hope it is helpful to others in their journey through grief.

So there is the bit about love.  The laughter is in Meggie's picture.  I can hear her giggle!  The light is in my heart along with some love, hoping everyone finds healing and happiness.

The chocolate?  So glad you asked!  I am going to enjoy a glass of red wine and some chocolate right now! I think I will indulge in a bubble bath and a guided meditation, too.

Namaste.


Do you hear that?

Do you?  Do you hear it?

No?

That's because it's QUIET!  Blissfully, peacefully, quiet.

Can you feel it?  Close your eyes.  Tune in.  Do you feel it?

It's happiness.  Peacefulness.  Gratitude.  The things I hold in my heart today.

Why?

For a multitude of reasons.  Mostly, because I have been given a gift.  The gift of 3 days of solitude.  I can't remember the last time I had 24 hours totally alone, let alone an entire weekend.  I'm almost giddy.  My kids are with their dad for the weekend.  My husband has gone to the 'Mother Ship'.  He is at PAX East, which is a huge gaming convention.  He is geeking out with friends old and new.

I am home.  Alone.  An entire day of hours with which to do whatever *I* want.  No one to cook for, clean up after, shuttle to soccer or even have to have a conversation with.  It's all about me.  How selfish and indulgent of me!  *squee*

It began last evening.  I bought myself some tulips.  I lit a candle in my selenite tea light holder.  I had a glass of wine. I'm a damn romantic date for myself!

Then, I read a few chapters of a book.  For pleasure!  I listened to a guided meditation as I fell asleep early.  I slept for eight hours.  In a row!  Getting more than 5 hours of sleep feels pretty damn good, I must say!  I lingered in bed for a bit this morning before getting up. I had no one else to nag!  I felt a wee bit guilty being so lazy but hell, I deserve it.  The cats snuggled, bewildered as to why I was still in bed with the sun up, I'm sure.

I came downstairs a full 2 hours later than I usually do and sat with a cup of tea, gazing out the window.  To add to my bliss, it's going to be a gorgeous spring day.  The grass is getting green, the birds are singing, the wind chime is playing outside my window, and the sun is shining brightly.  I discovered two bluebirds have chosen my nesting box this year!  I love the birds and I haven't had bluebirds in residence for several years. Bonus glee!

Although tempted to do things like errands or getting together with friends I usually cannot connect with due to my schedule and that of my kids, I am not.  I intend to stay home all day and all evening.  No, I won't be lazing around, although that would be lovely, it's not practical for this Virgo with a long to do list and would be better accomplished at a beach or destination far from home.  Instead, I will be productive.  In fact, I hope to spend much of the day writing/editing my book.  I may even take the laptop outside on the deck for some vitamin D while I write this afternoon.  I love to write and I miss it.  I've been remiss in blogging simply because I haven't had the time!  My goal was to have the book done a month ago!  I've got work to do!

Other items on my to do list for this weekend include opening all the windows and doing some space clearing, organizing and general spring cleaning.  I will also go for a run as I continue to rehab from my stress fracture.  The fresh and warmer air along with the sunshine on my face is the best medicine for shaking the winter blues and it was a long, cold, frustrating winter for sure!

Oh, look!  A parade of turkeys going by my window!  I'm a nature lover and an animal lover.  One of my favorite things about the spring is all the creatures that are as happy as I am the snow is gone and the sun is shining!  Plus, they provide entertainment!

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this opportunity.  Now excuse me while I go do a bit of self-nurturing.
I do home you get a chance to get out and enjoy a bit of nature this weekend, too.

Namaste.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Wishful dreaming?

They say our dreams are where we 'work out' our real life issues or even past life issues.  It's where our brain processes what it cannot when we are conscious.  Our 'thinking' brain is turned off when we sleep. our subconscious takes over.  When we remember our dreams, they can give us clues or even solutions to our day to day problems and questions.

Ever have really vivid dreams that you could swear were real?  Until you wake up and realize that they were not?  There is a message in those dreams for you.  About you.  Your beliefs.  Your life's purpose.  The things you need to 'work out' in your life.  It's a clue to help us heal and grow as humans.

Ever have those life-like dreams about the same people or certain people?  Ever wish they were real, because they seem very real and the story that plays out is one of an outcome you'd like to achieve in 'real life'?

I do.  Not all the time, at least that I can remember, but it fascinates me when they tend to occur.  Last nite being no exception.  Yet it was completely unexpected.  At least in my conscious mind.

Almost 8 years ago, my best friend of more than 20 years and I had a very traumatic break up.   We were both in crisis for different reasons and had been drifting apart.  We were both lost in our own pain and emotional turmoil and, for different reasons, unable to see the forest through the trees. It tore at our relationship. We made choices that made sense at the time.  One of them was to end our relationship on a physical level. We agreed to walk away from each other and from our friendship.  It was not with love though.  It ended badly and with open wounds, misinformation, incorrect assumptions, and misguided judgment.  Negative energy hung between us. We failed to recognize WHY we were where we were in our lives and in our relationship with each other.  We assigned a human label and 'reason' for it because it was easy. It was too painful and overwhelming to go deeper and do the 'work', so we just walked away.  Issues unresolved.  We both had 'work' to do to heal ourselves and our situations.  In doing so (or choosing not to do so), we are where we are.  Neither of us really knowing what or where that is for the other person.  I think we both thought we'd find that healing and find our way back to friendship but maybe that was just me...

We do run in similar circles.  So there is a nebulous awareness of how the other is doing.

The thing is, our spirits seem to be not willing or able to let it go.  Our spiritual bodies know our work together is not yet done, but our physical and mental bodies are not there yet.  Maybe they never will be in this lifetime, but that's something only time will tell.  Our physical bodies and our emotional bodies need to come back to the table.  The energy begs of it.

How do I know this?  Because I have these recurring dreams.  About us.  Not often, maybe once or twice a year.  I had one last night.  Quite unexpectedly.  I did not go to bed thinking of her.  In fact, she was not on my mind at all.  That's one of the interesting things.

They all have the same theme.  It's like watching a movie.  The setting may vary, but the characters are always the same.  The premise is always the same.  The 'remote viewing' is always the same.  It's as if our spiritual bodies are floating together, above our physical bodies, watching, talking, communicating, encouraging our physical bodies to do the same.

Our physical bodies are just that.  In a 'real' world setting. Often, it's an outdoor venue like a park. Last night, it was a store.  It was late, we were both shopping and bumped into each other in the same aisle. Some friends who were with us were encouraging us to speak to each other after just happening to be in the same place at the same time unexpectedly, and others encouraging us to just walk away, feeding into the old, incorrect information and stagnant negative energy.

The prevailing energy I sensed was that we wanted to be friendly, reach out to each other, to talk, but were resistant.  Maybe because we were not alone.  Maybe because we were afraid.  Maybe because it would be hard and we didn't have the time.  I didn't want to pursue it first.  I had been asked not to all those years ago, and I was trying to respect that, yet I desperately wanted to.  She wanted to reach out, but was afraid. All the while, our spiritual selves were having the healing conversation we have long needed to have.  At least, we began to.


Then, I woke up.  I had a smile on my face.  I thought, for a moment, it was real.  I thought I was there, we were there. That we were talking.  We were healing. We were having the much needed conversation the Universe is waiting for us to finish.  Except it wasn't real. I was in bed. We were not in a store.  We were not anywhere near each other.  It was a dream.

Or was it?


I wonder what her dreams were of last night.  I wonder if she, too, has ever had a similar dream.  I wonder if our spirits really do sometimes get together while we sleep and try to work out our 'issues'.  I wonder if her awareness is peaked the same time mine is.

I wondered why this happened last night of all nights.  Then, I looked at the calendar.  Today is her birthday. A day I celebrated with her and for her most of my adult life.  We always had such silly good fun. I hope she gets her favorite cake and feels loved and appreciated.  I can still send love and light and healing, even if she has blocked my energy.

Intention creates your reality.

I don't know if we'll ever get the chance to finish our work together on earth in this lifetime.  I don't know if we'll ever talk and start to heal our relationship, dispel the myths and incorrect beliefs and if not re-establish our friendship, or at least be able to heal the past, separately and together, so as not to carry the energetic burden of it any longer.  I am ready, willing, and able.  I am just waiting. Patiently.

I miss her.

Maybe that's why I had that wishful dream.  Or, maybe, it wasn't a dream after all...


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Which direction is your life compass pointing? Does it spin uncontrollably?

I am exhausted.

No, it's not from a lack of sleep.  I've actually 'caught up' and slept longer and more soundly than usual this weekend. It's emotional exhaustion. It's from a crazy busy few days where the direction I thought I was going got completely spun around in an instant.  A few days where what I thought I was going to accomplish 'important' work was unexpected replaced by my accomplishing 'vitally important work'.  Ever have that happen to you?

Have you ever thought you knew which way your life was going?  You know, you were on the right track. All your ducks were falling into place nicely.  You were ticking life's milestones off your list.  Graduate from college.  Get married.  Have kids.  Establish yourself in your chosen field of work and in your community. The kids grow and go off to school, get involved in activities and you get settled into a comfortable routine of family life.  You were finally where you thought you should be.  A comfortable life.  Good friends.  Good family.  Good fun.

And then, in an instant, your world comes crashing down on you.  Your life is turned upside down and inside out.  Your heart is ripped from your chest and your spirit crushed.  You just learned your child (or someone else important in your life) has unexpectedly died.  Just like that.  You expected them to come home when you sent them off in the morning and you never see them alive again.  Can you even imagine what that's like?
I sure as hell hope you never have to.

Yes, this has happened to me.  That's not what this blog post is about.  It happened to another local family on Thursday.  A precious 8 year-old boy, Colby, lost his life to a fallen TV and AV cart at his school.  In front of his friends and teacher.  I learned of the tragedy late on Thursday evening, after an evening of ballroom dance lessons with my husband.  First from a friend, then on the news.

I was simultaneously slammed with two emotions.  Profound sadness and empathy for the family because I know what they are going through and it is hell. I wanted desperately to reach out to them.  To offer them support.  A hug.  To help them through what I know the next few days, weeks, months and years will bring their family.

I was also pissed off.  Royally.  Why is this still happening?  Why is the message not being heard?  Why the hell are schools still using AV carts with old CRT TV's on top of them?  Why do they not know the dangers of TV and furniture tip-over? It's been all over the news, especially TV tip-over.  Can people not connect the dots?  I know school budgets are what they are but flat screens are cheap and cost way less than a child's life.  THIS.  HAS.  TO. STOP.

OK.  Rant over.  Sort of.  Being that it was late Thursday night, I went to bed, knowing full well if I began to do what I wanted and needed to, I'd not have slept at all.  But not until after sending some Reiki love and light to Colby and his family and asking Meg to 'show him around' in the next place.

When I woke up Friday morning, I had planned to complete my documentation for work from Thursday. First, I posted the story on Meghan's Hope Facebook page.  Then, I contacted the journalist who wrote about the accident in the local paper, suggesting a follow up story on prevention of tip-over accidents.  I also sent emails to all the local TV stations suggesting the same.  I searched for information on safety of TV/AV carts in schools on the Web and sent emails to others who might know that information.  This led to another idea.  I wanted to reach out to the superintendents of our local schools to offer educational seminars to parents on preventing tip over in the home and safety in the schools.  I enlisted the help of my Facebook friends to get the names and contact info for their schools/districts.

Then, it was time to focus on family. I got the kids off to school and myself off to a few appointments I had scheduled.  I had originally planned to spend the rest of the day working on the curriculum and slides for a class I am currently teaching.  Oh, and I had a run planned.  None of that ended up happening.

By the time I finished with my dentist appointment, the direction of my day was completely turned around.  I had a reply from the newspaper requesting an interview.  I had phone messages from two TV stations also requesting interviews.  I ran around like a crazy woman tidying up the house for on camera interviews.  I had a gazillion email and Facebook messages to read and respond to.  I still had those letters to write!

The rest of the day was a whirlwind.  TV interview.  Telephone interview.  Write a letter to our local school principal and the superintendent of the school where the accident happened.  Eat 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, with a spoon.  Kids come home. I  explain what happened, and what was happening with me as a result. We talked about how Meggie saves lives. They thought it was cool 'she' was going to be on TV.  Her twin felt sad for Colby and his family.  My older son, while also sad, went to hide, along with the cats.  He didn't want to be 'caught' on camera.  Feed kids. Clean up after them.  Answer some email/messages. Photographer for newspaper interview arrived.  He left. Had chocolate (it was an emergency!)  Another newspaper telephone interview.  Quickly followed by another on-camera TV interview.  I was starting to fade.  It was 6 pm.  I'd been at it non-stop all day, for over 12 hours, with the exception of the hour at the dentist.

I sat down at the computer to email a friend.  I was hungry.  I was exhausted.  I was overwhelmed with all I wanted to do to get the word out.  I started to cry.  Out of the blue.  Didn't think I was there.  It hit me. Like a ton of bricks. The emotional toll of the day.  The re-living of the media blitz after Meghan had died.  The fact that it took the death of another child to bring the attention back to prevention.  My heart was simultaneously shattered all over again for Colby and his family, for Meggie and our family, and for all the children who have lost their lives to this preventable tragedy and the pain their families endure every day.  My heart was also grateful for the media who chose to take this tragedy and follow it up with a story of prevention to save lives. The emotional roller coaster that I am all too used to, and can never get off of, had taken me for a particularly wild ride this day.

Thankfully, my husband showed up with dinner!  Other than the snacks I noted, I had not had time to eat all day!  We ate quickly and were off as we were late for a dance event.  I wanted to keep on working, but I knew I needed a break and to dance out some of that energy. I responded to a few more Facebook messages and emails in car on the way to our dance studio for a party/practice session. My heart was not into dancing.  I tried.  I was just so drained.  We left the dance early. I passed out in the car on the way home from sheer exhaustion.

Saturday was also a bit of a crazy day.  My compass still pointing me in a direction different than I thought I would be going.  It began by posting the link to one of the TV interviews and responding to messages and emails related to Colby and tip-over prevention.  The other one has not yet aired. Maybe it won't.  Then I took my youngest to his soccer practice.  While there, I finally finished my documentation from THURSDAY's clients.  Thankfully, my boss totally understands and supports my work with Meghan's Hope.  I also intended to work on those slides but instead, ended up having a lovely conversation with a fellow soccer dad and enjoyed watching my son play.  They were having a blast and he was on fire scoring goals.  It made me smile.  It made me grateful.  It made me sad his twin sister was missing this same fun.

I took my son out for lunch.  We had a nice date.  Then we went grocery shopping together.  This kid loves to shop for food!  Yes, I had a gazillion other things to do, but right then, he was most important job. Then we stopped and picked up the local paper.  Our story was teased on the front page.  It was well-written. He read it in the car, he didn't want to wait the 3 minutes to get home.  He gets it.

Once home I did a few hours of follow up and catch up.  We had a family dinner out to eat.  We watched Big Bang Theory together.  I fell asleep on the couch.  :-)

Here it is Sunday morning.  I still have all those letters to write.  I am still trying to connect with Colby's family to get some resources to them and will send a card today.  I still have those slides to do (they need to be finished by tomorrow night). I need to run.  I have to do all my usual Sunday chores.  That laundry fairy I asked for has not yet appeared. Bills don't pay themselves.  Life goes on.  The kids are asking for food again!

My compass is still spinning and pointing me in different directions all at the same time but at least it's not spinning like an F5 tornado anymore.  Sadly, the media interest is gone.  The moment was seized but it is fleeting. They are on to the next tragic story. It won't stop me.  9 years and I haven't stopped.  I won't . Until people get it.  Until everyone secures their furniture and TV's.  Until kids stop dying from these preventable tragedies. Meggie wants people to listen.  I am her voice.  You are her voice.

Sometimes life has a way of interfering with your plans.  Or maybe you interfere with your own inner guidance. Your inner compass points you in the right direction. It may not be the direction you want to go or thought you would go, but it will show you the direction you should go.

You know what message I'm getting loud and clear?  FINISH THE BOOK!

Universe, show me the way.  Give me the time.  Let's do this.