It’s been a whirlwind year. I find it hard to believe it’s almost Thanksgiving again. Mike turned 40… in true Mike fashion, quite uneventfully. Griff turned 13… in true little Mike fashion, equally easily. Eliza turned eight, and it was a big, fat deal. Mike has presented at two conferences (we’re quite proud, if a little jealous of his travels), and I was promoted at work (and given the way things have gone thus far, quite convinced I made the wrong choice in moving up). My brother got divorced and remarried this year (he’ll always be able to refer to 2011 as his ultimate comeback year.
As always, I’m ready to get along to the Christmas season. I’ve finished most of my shopping, and I’m ready to start wrapping so I have things to put under my tree when we put in up in a week.
But this year, I find myself thinking a lot about my parents. It’s been 15 months since, on my 16th anniversary, they sent me a letter telling me how my marriage was in danger. It’s been a year since they chose not to come visit us any longer because they cannot abide by the one request I made and set up as our ‘house rule.’ The House Rule is to keep whatever they think we’re doing wrong with our lives to themselves while they are with us. I don’t care who they tell when they leave us… tell my brother, my grandparents, their friends, church family, associates, people in the check-out line at the Piggly Wiggly. Just don’t tell me about how they feel I’m sinning by this or that. Don’t tell me how I’m a bad wife or mom because I do or don’t do this or that. I’m 41 years old, and I’ve been married 17 years now, and whether I’m a good or bad wife is between me and Mike. If I’m a good or bad mom is, unfortunately, yet to be determined. And it will be determined by my children.
But my parents weren’t able to agree to that. And so they haven’t been here to see us in 18 months. And it saddens me on multiple levels. I hate that they are missing out on these lovely little people living in my house. And it saddens me that they chose having the opportunity to be right over, well, me. I tell my kids all the time that there’s nothing they could ever do that would stop me from loving them, that would make me not want to see them.
A dear friend of mine was telling me about a bit of drama in his family’s life and about how upset he was with his parents for their interactions with his brother with whom he is upset because of his brother’s inappropriate behavior. He asked me, as a parent, how I would act. And I told him that I’d probably tell his brother, as his parents have done, that I didn’t approve of his behavior but that I would then do exactly as his parents had done… I’d bring him lovingly into my home and continue to be what I had always been. I reminded him that if his parents are doing this for his brother, they’ll be this way for him if he ever needs them.
I cannot imagine what would drive a child from my life. And I look at my life and I wonder, I seek to understand what makes them feel that we … I … am so unacceptable that they cannot spend time with us without the option of telling us what sins they see in my life.
That said, that heartbreak and little girl uncertainty admitted, the truth of the matter is that outside of the aforementioned sadness, the last year has been so much easier for us as a family. The visits from my parents were not easy for us. The tension caused arguments between me and Mike (arguments which Griff would say are very rare, indeed). Mike didn’t enjoy dealing with me and the unhappy anticipation of what they would be saying to me… because it was never a question of ‘will they say something’ but ‘when and what will they say?’ Griff hated their visits because he and Eliza would be left alone with them during the day while Mike and I would be at work, and my dad was always critical of Griff, whether of his physical stature or of his choice of hobbies or whatnot.
I admit, our last Thanksgiving, shared with people who love us for who we are, not for who we should be, was delightful. Frankly, it was the best we’ve had in years. And my kids are well-loved even without my parents. Graciously, my parents have proven to be supportive and encouraging to my brother during this last year, and they have been becoming the kind of grandparents to his daughter that they haven’t been lately to my children, and I am grateful. Maybe they, too, have learned from this experience.
One of the things I’ve been passionate about through the years is that we choose our family as we get older and as we move and don’t live close to family (because Mike and I have never lived in town with family). And we have always been blessed to have various people who were close to us and who were loved like family (a friend at work said to me the other day that I was family… nearly brought me to tears). Family is what we make of it.
And what I am trying to teach my children is that love is important and timeless and precious. And for now, for me, that is enough.Filed under Most Everything | Permalink | Comments (3)
Tagged with: Family • Thanksgiving
Hello, my love.
Each year, I write another letter to you, and I am always sorely tempted to go back and read the last letter. But I resist. I want each letter to be based upon what is happening in our lives - your’s and mine - right this moment and not about all of the prior years. Now, after I finish, sure, I’ll go read. Maybe when you’re older and read all of these, you’ll read them all at once, over and again, too. Maybe not. But you’re a lot like me, so I suspect you will read them many, many times.
That brings up an interesting question. You’re reading quite well now. I wonder when I should begin giving you these letters to read. I suppose I’d just always imagined giving them to you when you’re older. I think I’ll save that as a question for another day.
You are reading well, and you seem to enjoy it, but you enjoy all of school. Some days, I crawl into bed with you in the mornings and ask if you’d like to play hookey, just stay home and play instead of going to school. I only ask because I know, without a doubt, that your answer will be, as your roll your eyes at me, “no, mama, I have to go to school and learn.”I never, ever ask Griff if he wants to play hookey. He wouldn’t answer the same way you do.
Your teacher this year says you’re really, really good at math. Clearly, your daddy’s genes run deep in you. She was telling us at our conference last week that you like to go to the board and show her different ways of answering the problems. I’m quite impressed with you.
Everyone talks about how sweet you are, how kind and generous. You have the gentlest spirit about you. You always want to help and do things for those around you. Now, everyone also talks about how quiet you are. On that, I’m pretty sure you’ve got folks snowed. But whatev. (’Whatev.’ You taught me that word. Told me the ‘er’ wasn’t necessary.)
You still think Griff’s the best thing ever, but you’ve also discovered that, at 13, he’s more than a little annoying. You’ve got plans for what we’re going to do for his room when he goes to college. One day, it’s going to be a spa bathroom. The next, a craft room. The next, knock out the wall between the two rooms and make a giant room for yourself. As long as you share with me, I’m ok with it. I love that you still say you’re going to live close by me forever. I’d love for you to live close by me forever. (Griff, too, but he’s against that idea these days. Let’s move to the beach somewhere & make him jealous he made a bad choice. Whatcha say?)
You’re clever and funny, and you make us laugh. You think that any event is reason to get dressed up ‘fancy.’ And you think we should all join you in the fancy. You think your daddy is the best man ever (and I happen to agree). You’re a very girlie girl, but you very much don’t want anyone to tell you that you can’t do something, and I respect that.
You’ve discovered in the last year that you enjoy shopping, and you’ve become my best shopping buddy. You haven’t opened your presents yet, so you don’t know it, but you’re getting new clothes and gift cards as presents, and I can hardly wait to go shopping with you. You get so excited. Your Aunt Stacy and I took you and Hannah to the spa a few weeks ago as an early present, and you were so sweet and thankful. I appreciate that you make a point of being appreciative (one of your spelling words this week).
So here you are… eight. And I’ve said it before, and I hope you never get tired of hearing me say it because I’ll say it forever. For a lot of years, there were three of us. And we had no idea that our family was lacking. But God knew that our family needed an Eliza. And I thank God every day for you because He knew best, and you bless us every day in countless ways.
I love you Eliza Lillie.
MamaFaith, Most Everything | Permalink | Comment (0)
Tagged with: Eliza's birthday
To end our annual beach weekend with family this year, we took all of the kids to the Dali Museum in St Pete. It was lovely.
I have a house rule regarding the art in our home… it comes either from people I know personally or from artists who sell at fairs or exhibits or such. I want local art, local artists. With one special exception, there aren’t any prints, no mass produced pieces, nothing bought at a big box store. I understand the value of buying art from artists because I know and love actual artists an I am blessed because of those associations. I’m also grateful for the patience and guidance of those artists who taught me that your art doesn’t have to match your sofa (God bless you, Teddy B).
As I spent years writing news releases about upcoming art exhibits, art professors walked me through those exhibits and taught me things. A gifted arts reporter loved me and taught me all about the arts, showed me that live theatre is important, and reminded me that art is different things to different people. She wrote about art in ways that made it accessible to everyone.
Griff did a report on Dali years ago and has been aching to see the museum ever since, and when he got the chance, he wasn’t going to let anyone rush him. And so, he and I ambled slowly through the exhibit. And in more than an hour, we only made it through half of the collection. We would stand in front of each piece, and he would tell me what he thought was going on in the piece. And I was caught off guard more than once by his introspection and his ability to see things within the paintings.
One day this school year, during a school holiday, I’m going to take a vaca day & take Griff back to the Dali alone. We’re going to spend the entire day and see the whole exhibit this time. And I’m going to enjoy a bit of time with him while he still wants to hang out with me. I suspect these days are limited.Filed under Most Everything | Permalink | Comment (1)
“Right now, this is a job. If I get another promotion, this would be a career. And if this was my career, I’d have to stand in traffic.” Jim, The Office
For the entire first two years of my tenure with my current company, I had a greeting card on my desk with that saying on it. It made me laugh. It reminded me that I was just doing this to pay the mortgage and to provide health insurance for the kids. And then, I got promoted. And I took down the card. Not because I felt like this was my career, but because I just felt hypocritical. I’ve spent the last two years, to the month, doing that job.
And today, I got the news that I’ve been promoted again. I’m still not convinced that this is the forever career for me. I still miss writing. I still love it when the magazine I used to write and edit comes in the mail because I get to hack at it with a red pen. But this promotion means I’m good at what I’m doing now. And I have no formal training at this. I have no reason to be good at this, but I am. And I’m proud of that.
And so I’m going to take July and enjoy it with Mike and the kids because once August comes and I begin training, things are going to get stressful, probably for quite some time. I’m aware that I’m going to think that I made a mistake. And I’m aware that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. But I’m still proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I’m confident I can do this work.Filed under Most Everything | Permalink | Comment (1)
Tagged with: Work
Today, my baby turns 13. He’s thrilled. I’m not so much. Frankly, him turning 13 makes me feel older than me turning 40. But whatcha gonna do?
I’m so crazy proud of how well this kid is turning out that I don’t know what to do. He seems to be holding his own despite the fact that I am completely winging this mama thing with him. I’m just making this up as I go… grateful all the way that God seems to be giving me what I need as I go. I’m a better person now than I was 13 years ago because of the experiences I’ve had as Griff’s mother. I’m more compassionate, more aware of the needs of other people, more hopeful.
I can hardly wait to see where the next 13 years take us. My prayer is that in 13 years, and 13 after that, and 13 after that… that he will still want to hang with me periodically, that he will still call his mama, will still enjoy me. Because I cannot imagine a moment when I will not love him with an unbridled ferocity.
Happy 13th Birthday to the child who made me a mother.Filed under Most Everything | Permalink | Comment (1)
Tagged with: Birthdays • Griff