Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thing's I've Learned as the Mom of a Teenager

I have been in complete denial about this for quite some time, but I woke up this morning and just like that there's a teenager living in my house.

I don't know what I was expecting, exactly, but I do know that from the first moment a new mom looks at her precious new baby, there is always someone (usually it's that crabby nurse) saying, "Sure, he's cute now, but wait until he becomes a TEENAGER!"

Let's stop and have a quick talk about those people, shall we? Here's the deal, the brand new mother does not need to hear about all the difficulties of raising teenagers any more than the pregnant woman needs to hear about your cousin's best friend's aunt's co-worker having the MOST HORRIFIC THING happen during childbirth.  The new mother is already freaked out enough that these hospital people are planning to make her leave with this brand new human. She can barely even hold the thing correctly, let alone grasp the idea that society dictates she take it home and care for it for the rest of her ever-loving LIFE!  So let's all make a deal to not freak out any more new mothers, mmmkay? 

Now that we have that settled, let's talk about TEENAGERS  Since I have now been the mother of a teenager for approximately 10 hours, I am obviously an expert. Teenagers are so easy! They just wake up, take a shower, and go to school.  Now I haven't had experience with a teen in the afternoon yet, so you might want to check in with me this evening to find out what that's like. But raising a teenager is a complete joy so far.

In closing, I would like to state that having a teenager is about a gazillion times easier than having a newborn.  (case in point: I had a full night of sleep last night).  Also, we need to start a movement to keep people from freaking out mothers who have new babies.  And finally, if all of the teenager-raising I have ahead of me could be as easy as the time I have made it through so far, I'd sure be grateful.


Friday, September 19, 2014

The Weight of it all

The weight of you not here nearly broke my back -- Kid Rock, When it Rains

Here's how it all went down:  I lost my sister.  I couldn't breathe.  Every waking moment, I was in pain. Except that the pain felt a tiny bit less raw when I ate a doughnut.  Or drank a coffee drink with extra sugar and cream. I didn't care what I looked like, I didn't care that I was gaining weight, all I cared about was making it through each day, and I wasn't completely sure that I could.

When I made it through a day, or an hour, or a minute, it was sometimes so hard that I felt like I should be rewarded.  I rewarded myself with food, or with the indulgence of not giving a damn about my health.  I didn't exercise.  In fact, many days it took all I had just to get out of bed and take care of the kids.  I had no emotional reserves.  I was constantly exhausted.

Without really noticing or caring, I gained 20 pounds in 8 months.  I was overweight before this, too.

Violet is way more enthusiastic about running than I am, she LOVES it.
This summer I started to come out of the fog.  I stopped constantly rewarding myself with food.  I stopped gaining weight.  But, I didn't lose any weight either, and I still wasn't exercising.

In August I spent an evening with a good friend. As is usual when she comes to town, we had deep conversations about life and what we love about it, and what we want out of it.  I had been keeping an idea to myself that came out during that talk.

"I want to be able to run 3 miles by the time I turn 40." I told her.

"You can do that." she told me.  I was skeptical (This friend happens to run marathons, I'm so proud of her, she is a rock star. I obviously don't run marathons, and I wasn't sure if she remembered what it was like to be someone who was out of shape.)

"I need to be held accountable or I won't do it."  I told her.

"Then text me at the end of each workout. I will be waiting for your texts."

We left it at that. When I got home I downloaded an "album" onto my ipod called "Personal Running Trainer's 8 weeks to 5K".

That first Monday, I got up and did the first workout.  I texted my friend.  She was so encouraging.

Well I can do this week, I thought, but I probably won't be able to do all the workouts next week. But I did.  Another friend decided to start doing it too. I also text her at the end of each run, and she texts me when she runs.  I didn't think I could sustain it but I did, and I am.  I keep doing the next week, and the next, and the next, and the next.

This morning I completed week 7.

You guys, I can't believe I'm actually doing this.

I still don't care so much about my weight.  It takes me a long time to lose weight.  It is going down, but very slowly.  But now I do care about taking care of myself.  I care about feeling good, physically and mentally. I'm finding that it is helping me so much with stress, anxiety, and even grief.

I don't have everything figured out, not by a long-shot. I still have days when I turn to food for comfort. I'm working on that. But I do know that this running program is getting me just a tiny bit closer to becoming the person I want to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Still Working On It

I started back into grief counseling yesterday after having taken the summer off. I almost didn't go because I've been doing pretty well and why would I want to talk about my grief when I can just not think about it?  Within the first five minutes I realized that I absolutely needed to be there.  As much as I want to be completely fine, I'm not. I am still struggling. I might still be struggling for a long time.

The act of starting over with a new counselor caused the need for me to tell my story from the beginning.  It feels like it's a movie I've seen, or that I'm describing something I witnessed happening to somebody else. I was surprised at how much I cried.

But as I walked the now familiar path back to my car after the appointment, I realized that I am no longer rushing so nobody sees me break down.  Instead I walked slowly, looked at the sky, counted the stairs as I walked down, found myself humming my newest favorite song.

I'm getting there. I can see actual progress in myself. I will never again be the person I was before Sue died.  I'm working on becoming somebody even better.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Milestones and Bravery

We have made it through a lot of milestones in the past week. It's been so much at once that my mind is kind of swimming.  It has been a week of letting go, trying new things, and being BRAVE!

Let's go through it point by point:

1.  Benny turned 5:


2.  He got a lot of the items on his wish-list:

You can't tell, but he's also chewing gum in this photo

3.  Then school started:

Kindergarten (climbing up into that big bus for the first time = brave) and 3rd Grade (starting with a new teacher and best friend is in the class next door = brave)

8th Grade and 6th Grade, both starting at new schools = brave

4.  And, finally, I had my salad:

Confronting something that was so important to me, but without Sue to share it with = brave
Notice that I am eating the salad with two forks.  This is because the day after Sue's funeral, her youngest said, "So my mom never got her salad?  Well when you go get the salad, will you eat it with two forks, one for you and one for my mom, and take a picture of it for me?"

Of course I will, Sweetie.  And I did.

It is difficult for me to put into words how hard and emotional it was to eat the salad. The situation wasn't how it was supposed to be, and I am definitely mourning that. But I also felt like I had really reached an important milestone, and like it took a lot for me to face the salad day head-on. I feel like I've accomplished something big just by making it through.

I'm proud of myself and I will keep being brave. If my kids can get up each day and face their school fears, then I can certainly face my life-without-Sue fears.

Next up this month: becoming the mom to a teenager in just 16 more days (I'll need to face this one bravely as well!  Eeek!)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Most Important Salad, Ever.

***The following is an excerpt from the eulogy I delivered at Sue's funeral, in October of 2013***

Sue and I, between the two of us, had 8 kids in 12 years. We were in the mothering trenches together and would talk on the phone pretty much daily, as we tried to figure out how to stay sane with all these kids. We would have long talks about how it was going to get easier, this baby or that baby would eventually stop crying so much, that toddler would get potty trained. Someday we would be able to use the bathroom in peace! We would make it!

One day she called me and said that her mother-in-law had told her a story about when her kids were little. She told me, “Every year on the first day of school she would go to Hudson’s and get herself a Maurice Salad to celebrate.”

The Maurice Salad became a symbol for us of the glorious day when our kids were older, were independent, and would go off to school for the whole day. We started making plans for our “Maurice Salad” days. One day she called me, all excited, because she found out that a local restaurant sold Maurice Salads. We cemented our plans. I would go out to lunch with her on the day her youngest started Kindergarten and she would go with me on the day Ben started. 

When the kids were in school we would then be what we called “living the dream”. We would have a quiet house for a few hours and would be so much more patient and happy to be with our kids at the end of the day when they all came home.

I can’t count the number of times I would be having a really hard day, with crying kids, or feeling like I was failing as a mom, or I was just plain exhausted and she would say, Just think, only a few more years until we are going to get you that Maurice Salad and we will be living the dream! She encouraged me countless times at some of my hardest moments.

Well, the day her youngest started Kindergarten, Sue’s Maurice Salad day, our dad was very sick. We had no time for going out to lunch, I think she spent that day at the hospital with him, and she didn’t get to have her salad.

The day Ben starts Kindergarten will be in early September of 2014. When I go to have my Maurice Salad she will not be with me like we planned. We will not get to “live the dream” together like we always planned.

But, I am going to march into that restaurant that day in September, and I am going to get that Maurice Salad that we have been talking about for 12 years. (I might need some of you there for moral support) I am going to have that very important salad for both of us. Because I know she would be so proud of me for making it to Maurice Salad Day. And I will live the dream, but just in a different way. And I think she would be proud of that too. And I will look up to heaven that day and hope and pray that she is having her Maurice Salad too, and that she is living the dream too, just in a different way.

I will miss her always, I will love her always, and I will live my life in a way that would make her proud. I will torture her kids for her, and love them with all my heart, I will laugh as much as humanly possible, and know that there will never be another person like her in my life.