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Old 04-19-2010, 12:29 PM
 
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Breaking Up

He simply never called back and I never spoke to him again. What? My friends would shout in astonishment. Yeah, he just never called back and we never spoke again. And no he didn’t get kidnapped or killed, he just bowed out and I knew it.

We had been together for about 10 years and were just stuck on each other. That magnetism that you don’t experience very often. I don’t even know looking back if it was a healthy relationship or not. We just couldn’t part. From the moment we met we were just stuck together, couldn’t stop it. We talked on the phone every day for 10 years. He really was my other half. He always wanted to talk to me and I always wanted to talk to him. When we lived apart we emailed every chance we could. Every time he was out of class he’d email me and vice versa. I don’t think I ever went to the computer lab and not find an email from him. I never came home and didn’t have a message. This was long before I had a cell phone. We were addicted to each other. We visited each other every chance we could and just absolutely adored each other. We fought, yes, but it didn’t seem to matter, nothing really ruptured the bond that we had. There were other people from time to time in our 10 years. We broke up all the time, but everyone knew, including us that we would get back together. And then one day we just didn’t.

We were at that point where we were about to move to one another and get engaged. WE talked about it all of the time. Months before he had planned to move to where I was so that we could start a life together in the same town. We had lots of plans, but none of them included not being in each other’s lives.

He decided to hike the Continental Divide trail and off he went. I sent packages to his stops and he called every chance he could. He wrote me the sweetest letters and I went to visit him on the trail. We’d lie together in that tent and just never want to let go. We giggled and held hands and felt so comfortable together; we were each other. We were so much alike it was strange. They stopped in Colorado for the winter and I went out to visit and something in me knew before I even got there that things were different. He was different. He was no longer planning on moving to me and he was a bit vacant. He didn’t try that hard to get off of work and just avoided conversations. He was elsewhere.

On valentine’s day he called and said, ‘I was just sitting here in this coffee shop and figured I should call my girlfriend on valentine’s day’ he just wasn’t the same. And for the first time in over ten years I didn’t talk to him on my birthday. After that talking every day became every 3 and then a week went by and I was just dismayed. He called me and said “what happened to us?’ and I said, “I don’t know.” I should have said more, but I knew he was already gone and I was done wanting him to stay.

We had a deep conversation one night and he said, ‘ well I’ve got a lot to think about’ I’ll call you tomorrow and I said ok I love you. He said I love you too. And then I never spoke to him again.
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Old 04-19-2010, 01:30 PM
 
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In 1982 I was the age my daughter is now. My family was three back then as it still is--only the three has shifted from my parents and me to my husband, our toddler, and myself. I'm not sure where we lived in '82. It could have been Wyoming or Kentucky. Possibly Indiana. We moved a lot back then.

Perhaps my mother was looking for stability when she found religion. As my she tells it, once my brother was born and I was old enough to start asking questions, she felt she had to decide what she was going to teach us. She always said this with such pride and satisfaction. I'm sure she never imagined that neither of her children would choose her very particular brand of faith as adults.

If it was stability she wanted, she likely found it. We moved several more times before settling down, and we always found our local congregation first thing. It was our community, and it was everywhere.

My mother had no answers and latched on to the first answers she found. But for me, it was different. I was raised with answers that I never questioned. Not until my daughter. It started when my husband would read from a book of children's Bible stories to my baby bump. He skipped around for stories he was comfortable reading, but I didn't worry too much about it. We chose the stories of Jesus' life and teachings, and that was fine until the day he told me he no longer believed. He couldn't just ignore the stories he had been skipping. It wouldn't be long before our new baby would be old enough to ask about those stories. What would we say to her then?

I stood firm in my faith until there was nothing left for me to hold onto. Now I am exploring ideas that I haven't had the freedom to explore since I was a child. It is beautiful and lonely. I miss my mom. I miss my community. Sometimes I even miss having answers.

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Old 04-19-2010, 01:30 PM
 
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How do I raise my daughter without religion?

My favorite childhood memories are of religious conventions, religious volunteer work, and Bible study. I was raised the sort of Christian that other Christians don't think are Christian. We knocked on your door on Saturday mornings to save your soul, and I really believed it. I believed it for years. I might still believe it if it hadn't been for the birth of our daughter that caused first my husband and then me to question what we were teaching her.

Here we are: a little secular family, kinda crunchy, kinda artsy, kinda rock and roll. It's wonderful. But occasionally I feel daydream about my own childhood, and I wonder about the ways that it will be different from my daughter's. I sat in the library during school holiday celebrations, but my daughter will be joining in with her classmates. Children were expected to sit quietly in the auditorium at our church growing up, but my daughter went to the playroom at the UU service we attended yesterday for Earth Day. There were congregation picnics and talents shows. My mother and I attended a quilting group with some other ladies from our congregation when I was a young teen. Where will we find these things for my daughter?

Rationally, I know that there are other places to find community. We have built up a small (growing) group of friends in the two years we have been out. We are happy and comfortable in our new direction. It's only occasionally that I get nostalgic for the good parts of what I had that I no longer have access to now that we have been shunned. Maybe the real question is how do I raise my daughter to respect her grandma's religion? The religion that discourages college education, encourages shunning of nonbelievers (even family), and holds to other very fundamentalist values that I very strongly disagree with. Maybe the real question is how do I tell my daughter that grandma's religion violates our family's ethics without straining my daughter's relationship with her grandma? Maybe I'm not yet sure what the question is. Maybe we'll deal with these issues as they come.

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Old 04-19-2010, 02:14 PM
 
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How can I understand God better in my own life?

I picked up a copy of The Purpose Driven Life at the airport this week. It’s a few years after all the fuss about the book, and I was always intrigued by it, and lately I’ve had a longing for a deeper, more spiritual outlook. I’ve always been a surface person. Not exactly shallow, but if I had a mantra it would be something like “it is what it is” or “play the cards you’re dealt”—I don’t really believe in complaining and when I do allow myself to vent or really focus on my petty problems—I usually just feel worse and that I just wasted my time on self-pity. I used to be a big crier when I was little, through college, and then around 25 I made some changes and finally grew into my “big girl pants” and just started doing and not moping so much. The positive side is that I tend to accept people and circumstances for what they are, and not thrash about too much thinking about how things should be. The negative side, is that only by thinking about how things SHOULD be do you ever get to a better place. I’m generally cheerful, not complacent, but I can definitely see how skating along in life without ever going deep leaves you with a shaky foundation.

I can’t really say why I want to be more spiritual at this point, or even what that means to me. I’m Episcopal and my daughter and I go to a little church down the street from our house and I find myself loving it every time. Two years ago, my husband was laid off during a huge reorganization at his company and the stress of that combined with my own work just about brought me to my knees. I took a tremendous amount of solace from church, being in a beautiful serene place for at least one hour once a week and feeling like a part of my community were all good things. I live in a Wall Street feeder ‘burb so things like 9/11 and the ’07 economic collapse are felt directly here. So, I loved the community, I loved the slightly higher tone, I like the questions and opportunities our church brings up, and I feel like it’s a great place for my daughter to learn compassion and that she too has moral responsibilities to care for others who need help. And having a little person definitely makes you see the wonders of the world and want to believe in God.

But I have big questions too. One of the very first things in the book is this very basic statement that I should believe that God created me for God. First, intellectually, I’m not sure God created me. That’s a big statement. I don’t even know how to get comfortable with a statement that big. And it’s dropped in the book with such a tone of assurance. God created you FOR GOD. So, not only did He create me, I am His. That’s a lot for me to accept. It also sounds kind of sexy in a weird way to me.

I do accept the argument that this world is so complex, there must be a higher being, and some kind of design or plan, that it can’t all be happenstance that this incredibly intricate world exists so (for the most part) perfectly. It’s just as hard for me to believe that the world and myself just happened randomly as it is to believe that I am created by God. So is it just the word God that I balk at? The term “energy” is a lot friendlier to me. Or even higher power. But that’s just semantics, right? Am I so overintellectualized that I can’t just plain believe in God?

Something comforted me two years ago. Something has definitely been guiding me for the several years, since I left my job in Manhattan. I’ve had a series of random, wonderful coincidences happen that I know are partly attributable to hard work that I did for years giving me a good reputation. But the timing was so perfect, that it tempted me to thank God several times, and to feel that, indeed, someone or something bigger than myself was at work.

What would have to happen for me to accept the thought that I was created by God? Maybe I need a greater understanding of the bible or organized religion? I’m a pretty casual churchgoer. My daughter and I actually attend a children’s service that is aimed at the under 10 set. I find it perfect for me. Should I talk to the rector and ask him how you make that fundamental switch from questioning everything and being a skeptic to believing? I believe in something, I just don’t know what. But…at this point in my life, I want to know.

The second part of the statement—that I was created For God. Well, I kind of don’t even know what that means, even within the accompanying text. In the book, the thought is that we’re all so busy seeking what fulfills us, when it’s really simple in that we’re created by God for God so stop thinking about what we want and start thinking about what God wants. But I don’t know God. Can I make up my own God?

My own God would be very kind, and would want me to practice kindness and work on not being so selfish and materialistic. My God would want me to slow down, enjoy life, and make sure my daughter turns out to be a kind person as well. He would want me to be joyful and help other people be joyful, because my gift is that I am actually very, very funny and find it easy to make people laugh. And he might want me to sing more.

My god is apparently as easy-going as I am. I don’t hear him asking me to go on a mission and work anywhere with bugs as big as my arm. Or to take on the issue of my adopted step-brother, who I think needs more help than I can give him. (He has emotional issues, plus a drug dependency, and an attachment disorder. My parents adopted him and have gone through hell the last 10 years with him. I live in another state and have tried not to get too involved. Probably selfishly.)

But are those things what God wants? Really, they’re what I want. These are the kind of big questions that I wrestle with on my own and I’m not sure I get anywhere with—because then I get distracted with ten thousand things to do and not enough time. Talking to the rector sounds concrete, and a little scary, even though he’s my age with kids just like mine and a pretty accessible guy. It sounds like a big thing to put out there. “I’d like to know God better, what do you suggest?” But, on the other hand, he’d probably be happy to talk about it with me. That’s the answer that keeps coming to me, so I guess that’s the answer for now, no matter how shy I feel about asking I am going to have to screw up my courage and just do it.
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Old 04-19-2010, 04:02 PM
 
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Transformation is such a dramatic word. It calls forth images of butterflies emerging from cocoons, curvy bombshells from frumpy housewives, and blooming gargens from dirt lots. Transformation is the word we use to describe the amazing end product of quietly done hard work. It’s not a word I identify with.

When I look back over my life I can see how I’ve grown and changed, but I cannot see a transformation. I am a work in progress, and I spend so much time quietly toiling to be the person- mother, wife, individual- I want to be that it never occurred to me there could be a pivotal, transforming moment. A moment where the butterfly suddenly replaces the drab and somewhat ugly caterpillar. Does that mean there is no magical transformation for me or does it mean I just don’t recognize it?

Evolution is a much more appropriate word for how I see myself. Slow and often painful evolution is how I have become who I am today. Through hard experience I have learned that I will either evolve and adapt to thrive or I will die. Evolving is so much less dramatic than transforming. There is no glamour or fanfare involved in slowly evolving, but that’s fine by me. While transformation sounds dramatic and yields amazing results, the transformed must learn how to live in their new incarnation. The butterfly has to learn how to flutter, the frumpy housewife has to learn how to maintain her image, and the parched earth has to learn how to sustain life again. But with slow and steady evolution, learning is part of the process. Everything I know, everything I am and ever will become is the current result of personal evolution. And I will continue to evolve and learn. Evolution is not the final, amazing result of quiet toiling, it is an ongoing process that will continue until I die. It is not as dramatic, but there is always room for change, and I like that. It makes me feel safe.

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Old 04-19-2010, 06:14 PM
 
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I know I want to have another baby but I don't know how to get over the fear of what comes after the birth and what comes before it.

The morning sickness makes me worthless for months, miserable from the moment I wake to the moment I sleep and there is so much guilt that I can't or don't eat well. There is guilt when I can't choke down the vitamins. I guess I can hope for the best? I thought of seeing a nutritionist. Could they help me to feel somewhat normal and not so miserably sick? Doesn't matter since I can't afford it. What if I could find vitamins that are smaller, easier to get down?

Then there's afterward, the fear of my in-laws, the tearing the blood loss. The midwives have agreed to take me on again after some discussion among themselves. Maybe the things they said we would do proactively really would help. And I am definitely doing the perineal massage this time.

The thing I most fear is being alone again. I wasn't really alone. I lived with my parents. They did everything for me. But they couldn't be my husband for me. He promises he'll be there for me, physically and emotionally this time but in the end I just have to trust that he will and if he's not I can do it again.

As for my in-laws, there is no talking to them. That has been tried. But maybe this time I will just put my foot down, not let her guilt me, manipulate me. It is so hard when you are at your most vulnerable though. They just want me in a hospital with Dr.'s and drugs and that will not happen. They need to accept that. Maybe it will be different this time but maybe it won't. I guess if I write it out, tell them what to expect, would that make it better? Probably not and my husband wouldn't like that idea one bit. I tried suggesting they come at 6 weeks but that was vetoed. I just feel like they ruined my first day of life with my daughter and then again when they came to stay for a week was a nightmare.
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Old 04-19-2010, 06:23 PM
 
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While pregnant, I gained 20 lbs. I felt enormous at the end but I know I really wasn't. I always tell people when they comment that I didn't gain much that I did lost 9 lbs at the beginning and gained it back but everyone says that doesn't count. I started to get annoyed at all the comments on how small I was but I know people meant it as a compliment. The midwives said I was fine. I was consistently measuring 2 weeks behind.

Then came the most awful week of my life. I was 8 months pregnant. I lost a lot of weight that week. The midwife was not happy about that but I gained it back the next week.

After my daughter was born, I watched the weight melt away. By 4 weeks I was putting on my old clothes. My breasts were the problem. I went from an A to a DD so my extra small tops were straining at the bust line.

I don't remember when but within the first 3 months I actually weighed less than I did before I got pregnant. I feel guilty when I talk to other moms who had babies around the same time as me. I remain silent as they complain about their pre-pregnancy clothes not fitting. I have this problem, too but it is because they are too big. I don't dare tell any of them this.

When asked or when people comment on how "skinny" I am, I just say it's the breastfeeding, that extra 500 calories a day I burn. I was asked more than once if the baby was mine when they size me up and then hear her age. For some reason it doesn't sound like praise when they look at me in disbelief and say "Well, you certainly don't look like you just had a baby."

I feel like something is wrong with me, shame. But I shouldn't. That's crazy. I dare not complain that I have no muscle tone in my stomach now. It's flat but not toned and it looks like I gained 10 lbs. after I eat. I dare not say that though. Maybe I imagine the death glares I get when I mention I need to exercise, to tone up my stomach muscles. I'm probably just being sensitive.

I feel guilty that I have no stretch marks on my stomach but also very relieved. I was so afraid of those so I slathered expensive cream all over my ballooning belly every morning and figured being sticky all day was a small price to pay.
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:32 PM
 
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How can I really believe that Ethan’s not better off without me?

Sometimes I feel so completely inadequate as a mother that I start to believe Ethan would be better off with no mother than me for a mom. Sometimes he can be so explosive and he pushes me to my limit and then 10 feet beyond. I feel so helpless and useless. When he explodes I do my best to keep calm, but I have a hard time figuring out what is normal kid brattiness from what is excessive meanness. Mostly I do a good job and manage not to yell at him, but sometimes I’m not the mother he deserves and I scream at him.

I’m so scared. Somewhere inside me is my mother. When he is having a rough time I can feel her in there, pacing back and forth like a lion in a too small cage. I can feel her reacting to him. She wants to teach him a lesson, show him who’s boss, give him something to cry about. I know what she wants me to do. I know she needs me to continue the cycle and I can almost listen to her. I’ve never hurt him. I’ve never pulled his hart or smacked him, but god, I can imagine it because it’s what happened to me. And what the hell kind of mother can imagine doing that kind of thing to her child?

That’s why I sometimes think if I died in an accident he’d be better off. No matter how hard I try to be a good, loving, unconditional parent, I will always be the fucked up abused daughter of my mother. And sometimes it seems like the best way to break the cycle is to remove myself from it. I feel like no matter how good I am, I can’t help but do more harm than good in his life.

Damn it! I thought this wisdom writing thing is supposed to give me answers if I go deep enough. Where is the answer? I’m over my head in snot, tears and uninterrupted, unedited writing and I don’t see an answer. How? How can I really believe that I am a force of good in his life? How can I know that I didn’t cause him to be so mean and hurtful? What if he grows up and treats women the way he treats me? What if he has kids and abuses them because somehow I’m so broken that just giving birth to him was enough to carry on the cycle?

I’m a good mother. I know I ham. I am a good listener, I have a ton of patience and I can usually deal with his anger and frustrations with calm. I know on some level that all of my fears and pain is just the tape my mother played to keep me submissive. Those things are not me. On some level I know that. I just need to figure out how to remember it in the heat of the moment.

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Old 04-20-2010, 02:33 PM
 
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Why do I feel it is important to write my story?

Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid to really put effort into. When I was about 12 I wrote long hand “books” that were quite long, and I suppose they were good enough for a pre-teen. But the older I got, the more crazed and jealous my mother would get. And since I just couldn’t do anything to purposely upset her I stopped writing. But that need never went away.

For a couple of years I’ve been mulling around the ideal of writing my memoir. I don’t expect to ever sell it or for it to ever get noticed, but I want to write it anyway. It’s very important to me to be able to write my truth and get it outside of my head. Being the daughter of quasi-nomadic addict parents isn’t exactly original, but it’s a story worth telling. Because I have spent so many years pretending things weren’t so bad or that I’m over them. It’s important for me to write my story because I need to remember t hat having a shitty childhood doesn’t mean I’m destined to give my son a shitty childhood too. It’s important to me to remember that humor and tears are companions and that sadness and joy often work together to bring about miracles.

I need to write my story so that my son can read it someday, maybe when he has kids of his own. And hopefully he’ll understand that though some days were epic failures in parenting, I did the best I could and tried every single day to be the mother he deserves.

I need to write my story because I’m sick of keeping the secret. I’m sick of pretending everything is fine and that I was raised by eccentric but well meaning parents. I’m sick of being ignored by family members for having cut her out of my life, and I’m sick of the insane denial that burns like a fire in her family. I need to write my story, my side, my truth because I feel that writing it is the only way I can ever break the cycle.

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Old 04-20-2010, 02:46 PM
 
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The wedding
My wife and I have been married twice so far....and a third wedding may be in our future. Our first wedding was 10 years ago this July, in sandals, in the summer sun, surrounded by flowers in my father’s backyard. We were so young and very much in love, even though the wedding part was more my idea than hers. I love big parties, always have, and enjoyed most of the stressful minutes of organizing this big party...even if I was also nauseous with terror at actually committing my life to someone else and at the enormous step towards adulthood that I was taking. My family was there...my dad looking proud and sweet, hosting the party, saying all the right things, my stepmom lovingly supportive, my sister a bit sad and apprehensive about losing her big sister to marriage, but also loving and supportive. My mom was barely there..she was there in body, doing her best to be supportive, and do the right thing. But she had made her dislike of my future spouse and her doubts about us getting married very clear, and had been cut out of most plans & preparations as a result. But she was there, she smiled and did the right things and was in the pictures...all very much appreciated. My in-laws were there, but so miserable that they cast a cloud over the whole proceedings. My brother-in-law, who I have a difficult relationship with even now, kept my dear wife guessing the whole time as to whether or not he would show up. He and his wife came, talked to almost no one and left as soon as possible. My mother in law came, after threatening to derail the whole event by reporting one of our officiants to his supervisor for participating in a same-sex marriage. She came and cried the whole time, accompanied by one of our friends who we had assigned to try and cheer her up. She came and left early to go to another wedding, the child of a friend of hers who was having a a ‘nice, normal’ wedding in a nearby community on the same day. Thankfully we had many loving and supportive friends in attendance, and some lovely pictures and memories of the day. I don’t regret my marriage for a second, but I do sometimes regret getting married when we did, when my in-laws were not really able to be there to celebrate.
Our 2nd wedding was an even more impulsive affair...the Ontario Court of Appeal had just struck down a law banning same-sex marriage, and had ordered the province to start marrying same-sex couples immediately. This was in 2003, three years after our first wedding, and a dear friend and equal marriage activist called me to see if we wanted to join them in being one of the first same-sex couples in our city to get married, legally! What a wonderful whirlwind..we felt as if the whole city was celebrating with us...we went from a press conference (which sparked global news coverage)...to a free wedding ceremony hosted by a local minister who had been waiting his whole life to perform a same-sex marriage, to a quiet dinner hosted by our church couples group with a beautiful cake to celebrate. We were high for weeks, and revelled in all the positive attention we attracted from friends and family near & far. Though my mother in law didn’t speak to us at first, she soon realized we had helped her by announcing our news to all her far-flung relatives and relieving her of the burden of carrying what she felt to be a dirty little secret.
So that was wedding number 2. Ever since then, our religious community has been asking us to get married officially by them, mostly because they are longing to have a same-sex marriage to celebrate. We’ve held off for 7 years...but maybe we’ll do it sometime soon!
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:55 PM
 
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How can I love myself more?
Eat better, take more time to myself, sleep more, watch less tv, spend less time on Facebook, cultivate more friendships, start running again, start writing again....stop making lists of things I should do?? This is such a loaded question for me because for 8.5 years now I have been in a job that I really dislike that is sucking away more & more of my energy & joie de vivre. It has been helpful for me to identify that it is my job that is the problem. Before I realized that so clearly, or at least allowed myself to voice it so clearly, I was trapped in depression that I thought was physical, mental, spiritual—profound. All pervasive. But now I realize that it is just the job situation that is dragging me down, down, down , down...working for people I despise, serving values I disagree with, doing work that I think does very little good and often does harm, work that is not respected by people I respect....
And yet as the main breadwinner for my family, as someone who feels the heavy burden of responsibility weighing down on her, I don’t really know what to do, where to go. How do I continue to support my family, my SAHM & fabulous homeschooling partner, my two precious little girls while working 40 hours a week at something that is destroying my soul. I try to cope, take lunch breaks, get outside in the sunshine for walks, do yoga. I keep asking for &getting internal transfers to slightly less distasteful positions. But it is so much playing around the edge of what is making me sad....I want to quit. I want to send in a letter saying that’s it I’m done, with no clear sense of where I am going next. But I am too afraid. It really is fear, terror of not having enough money, fear of not knowing what I would do not next, fear of failing as a mother and a spouse, fear of letting down my parents, society etc. So much fear holding me back.
So how do I love myself more? By not being so afraid I suppose...or at least by being more compassionate with myself and facing my fears....
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Old 04-20-2010, 06:56 PM
 
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We've had 3 tables in our 8 years of marriage (as of today, actually). We started out with a very cheap table for 2 bought at K-mart. It fit our criteria of being small and affordable. It met our needs that first year of living in that tiny apartment. Eventually the chairs broke and the table was given away (or sold, can't remember which) to a friend.

After that we received a table as a Christmas gift from my parents. They bought it from some friends for $100. It was white tile with dark green edges with green chairs. It served us well in our second bigger (but still only one bedroom) apartment and eventually when we moved into our first home. I remember putting runners on it for the different seasons, proudly serving Christmas Eve dinner on it, our lobster Valentine's lunch since my husband worked nights and the almost nightly dinners we shared together there once my husband had a day job.

Somewhere in that time we acquired my parent's old table. They bought it when I was around 8 years old. It's old, warped in the middle, scratched and the chairs come apart if you bump them wrong or pick them up in just the wrong way.

We had to sell the white tile table. We were moving, or so we thought. Turns out my husband moved and I never got to follow. It was a bad time to try to sell a home and a bad time to find a new job, especially when you're pregnant. So we sold that table and kept the other.

I kind of feel like our marriage is like the beat up old table we have now. It's a functional table; it could be fixed up and be a lot nicer really. It was once a small round table, two pieces, but we added the leaves to it so now it is bigger, oblong. I usually keep a tablecloth on it to hide it's shabbiness but there's no disguising the beat up chairs. We still eat dinner on it every night together as a family, but I miss the white tile one, newer, nicer, a reminder of happier times. It was down to three chairs though and we had thought we would only have room for one table in our new home after the move.

One day, if we can ever afford it, I'm sure we'll replace this old table, but for now it's what we've got. At least we have a place to eat.
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Old 04-20-2010, 07:06 PM
 
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If you would have asked me in my teen years if I thought I'd have children, I might have said no. In fact, while I was engaged to my husband I told him it was very possible I would never want children and not to marry me if this was going to be a problem. His response? "You'll change your mind." Guess he was right.

I was just not maternal in any way. I never saw a baby and had a desire to hold it, much less to proclaim it's cuteness and want to kiss it's feet.

I was also terrified of childbirth. I once said, "Why can't they just knock me out and take out the baby?" How I got from there to here took many years but started with the pill. I always knew I didn't want to take the pill but was never really sure that I had an alternative. I remember thinking that there had to be a natural way to prevent pregnancy but all I had ever heard of was the rhythm method and I knew that didn't work. So I starting taking that awful pill in the month's before my marriage. Long story short, that only lasted a couple months into my marriage. It changed my personality and completely killed my sex drive, along with making sex painful. Just what every newlywed dreams of, right? My gynecologist was less than helpful. She said I was already on the lowest dose possible and my only option was condoms but "You'll get pregnant if you do that." We decided to go that route even with her less than enthusiastic recommendation.

Through some research I discovered the Fertility Awareness Method and finally found what in my heart I knew existed. I found a group of women online who charted using this method and formed friendships I still have to this day. It was through these women I discovered a different approach and attitude to birth and was led to Henci Goer's "A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth."

I was still on the fence about not birthing in a hospital but this book pushed me over the edge. I still remember sitting in my in-laws car that Christmas season reading this book. My husband had found it at the Barnes and Noble in my in-laws city and got it for me since it was on my Christmas list. He couldn't find it where we lived. Right then my mind was made up and thank God it was. Years later I would birth my baby in water at a birth center.
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Old 04-20-2010, 08:22 PM
 
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2006 was the year that my life changed forever – the year that I became a mother and lost my mother, all within a few month's time. My dreams changed, my plans changed, and my world changed within the blink of an eye.

I was due in October of that year, and I remember being amazed at how nicely my mother treated me. We'd always been far from close – she spent her life trying to control me, and I spent mine being uncontrollable. I know she felt like she was losing me, but the truth was she'd lost me years before.

At 17, I'd decided I'd wasted enough time trying to rebuild a broken relationship and moved out on my own. I'd been cursed at for the last time, hit for the last time, and put down for the last time. I went away to college and didn't come back; after I moved out, I made a concerted effort to avoid being home for more than a week or so at a time. It was easier that way. Years of therapy later, it was 2006 and I was pregnant with my own child, desperately afraid that I'd carry on the legacy of short tempered emotional violence.

That July was one of the hottest on record. We spent July 4th weekend at my grandparents' house, as we did every July 4th, the summer laziness lulling my pregnant self into a sense of security. I walked the gravel road, ate watermelon, and wondered what my child would look like. Then, one night, my mother caught me by surprise. She pulled me aside to talk; she was crying. I don't remember seeing my mother cry often, and I remember wondering who had died.

We began to walk, and the first words she said were, “I'm sorry I was a horrible mother.” I remember wondering what to say – what do you say to an awful statement like that, that deep down inside, you know is true? We went on to talk about her unplanned pregnancy, how she'd given up a chance at college and a career, and how trapped she had felt, living in an RV camper with an infant, wondering how the family was going to make it. We discussed how she'd never known “what to do” with me, how my bipolar disorder affected her life when I was a teen.....things I thought we'd never talk about, we did. There was a desperate need for catharsis in her voice – she needed me to know that she'd tried her best, but still felt like she'd failed.

I walked away from that conversation with the knowledge that my mother, no matter how imperfectly, had loved me. For the first time, I saw her not as someone who was screwing up my life, but as someone who had made mistakes in her own and didn't know how to undo the damage. We started really talking after that day, and became closer than I'd ever expected or imagined.

Zoe was born in September. She was slightly premature, but my mother was there. She sang songs to her, rocked her, and loved her more than I've ever seen someone love another human being. We have videos of them cooing and laughing together – caught up in their own little world. I was hormonal, weepy, and recovering from a C-section, and having my parents there to help me recover was such a blessing. I remember thinking that I'd been given another chance at a normal relationship with my mother.

In December, we still weren't feeling up to traveling. We made plans for my parents to see us December 31st that year – we'd celebrate Christmas and New Years' all at once, and they'd get to see how much Zoe'd grown. My mother never made it there. On December 24th, she was killed suddenly in a car crash. I remember calling my grandmother's house to see if they'd arrived, only to hear a strange voice answer the phone – my great uncle. I told him it was me, wished him a happy holiday, and asked if my parents were there yet. He began to sob, and said “You don't know.”. The rest is a blur – I remember screaming at him to tell me what was wrong, forcing the information out of him, and collapsing in a heap on the floor. My husband found me that way, picked up the pieces, and I began making plans – funeral plans, plans for time off work, plans for being an adult. Somehow, I managed to hold it together. Somehow, I managed to read a poem at my mother's funeral while breastfeeding an infant in a sling. Somehow, I knew that that in depth July apology had been part of a bigger plan.

Sandi - Work at home writer mama to Zoe the monkey girl 9/06 and Luna the zen baby 8/08
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Old 04-20-2010, 09:39 PM
 
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My mother's divorce was finalized on September 11, 2001. I flew back to Illinois with my partner to be there for the occasion. It was sweltering, even in September. The Illinois air was thick and soupy with mosquitos and unfallen rain.

That day, I wore this pair of Mary Janes with the biggest, stompiest heel I could find. I did it on purpose to emphasize my height; even flat-footed I was taller than my stepfather, but why not make him look up to me some more? It was about time. I remember crossing paths with him in the corridor of the courthouse and feeling all the bones slide out of my appendages, yet somehow I kept walking, head way up.

It's a small town. My paternal grandfather was the bailiff. This is before the Alzheimer's caused him to get fired. My maternal grandparents were there and my stepfather, still really just Not Getting It, tried to shake his father-in-law's hand. He stood there forever, his small hand outstretched, before finally dropping it.

We managed to get to the social security office in the nearest biggest town before the rain and the news hit. My mother was the last person served, so grateful to be changing her last name back. We listened to the radio news all the way home and then silently went in the house to watch the gruesome scenes replayed over and over. Meanwhile, my stepfather called several times and then camped out on the front porch of my mother's apartment with a 12-pack of beer.

He was such an awful little man, though he loomed large when I was a child. The disgusting touches, the yelling, windmill arms, beer and more beer, buying my foster brother an 8-Ball for his birthday, smoking joints with the neighbor kid. I spent so many years waiting at the top of the stairs, peeing between the slats and listening for when I should go downstairs and insert myself between him and my mother to protect her with my body. I felt so big, but I was a slip of a teenager yet. I didn't know.

Even on 9/11, that year and for many after, I still was that girl. Feeling so big and small, celebrating my mother's liberation as much as I mourned with the rest of my country. Then, I still brushed off my mother's neuroses, manipulations, and guilt trips as eccentricities. I was still the Protector, the one who did the parenting.

Years later when I was pregnant with my first child, I began to see things differently. Suddenly, everything was about her. My entire pregnancy was fraught with our fights and her epic emails... long blocks of text full of accusations and insane revisionist history, telling me all I owed her.

I stopped being angry at my father for not rescuing me and started being angry at my mother: for not sending me to live with my father, yes, sure; but also for her more subtle form of abuse. I can't describe it in 15 minutes or fewer, but I feel sure this is a topic I'll revisit throughout the class.

My pregnancy was the time when I emancipated myself from my mother. I had to peel her off of me bit by bit, like a ship riddled with barnacles, or an old building choked by ivy. Underneath was my other mother self. The one that would nurture in all the right ways. Not the daughter forced to mother, no; a real mother. I am still becoming that person, even now, heavily pregnant with my second son.

Things will be different. They have to be. Right?

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Old 04-20-2010, 09:51 PM
 
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I don't know. I wish I did.

I think it's hard for women--especially mothers--to love themselves, anyway. Having all this other crap sucking you down into the morass of self-hatred and/or martyrdom doesn't help.

I wonder how old I was when I started hating my body, starving it and punishing it. I'm sure it was a reaction to my chaotic home life, a way to control something. But a person can hardly hate her body and love the rest of herself. I wonder which came first.

I think I could make a long list of little things I could do to love myself more. But that wouldn't really address the core problem, which is that I cannot seem to give myself permission to love myself. It's so simple! I really don't know what the problem is, or what's holding me back.

But I do know I really want it to happen. I have sons now. I don't want them to grow up with a mama who models this kind of relationship with herself. Because it's not just an isolated thing; it bleeds into every other relationship I have, whether I invite it to or not.

So I have no wisdom in this wisdom writing, only more questions and a nagging feeling that there's something wrong with me if I can't do this simplest of tasks. I try to push forward, through. But it reminds me of pushing too soon while birthing my son. No good. But it's overdue, isn't it?

Crap. Round and round we go.

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Old 04-21-2010, 12:08 AM
 
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Abe was born in our bed. I thought he might be born while I squatted on a birthing stool but instead he chose to arrive in our bed. Since we didn't originally anticipate having a home birth it was interesting that in the end he arrived in the same place in which he'd been conceived. I must have subconsciously anticipated that he'd make his entrance in our bedroom 'cause I made it so incredibly tidy & cozy in those last few weeks. I was delighted especially with the appearance of our bed. My husband had recently constructed a headboard from the old closet door of our bedroom. We'd frantically remodeled the only bedroom in our 1915 home after I became pregnant. We retained the beautiful, old closet door & converted it into a headboard. I love it!

Our bed was oh-so-comfy on the day of Abe's birth. We had the new, clean birthing sheets on it & umpteen pillows ~ my collection from the increasing burden of trying to get comfortable at night. After trying several pushing positions, I found myself half-seated in the bed, clutching my husband's arm on one side & my sister's on the other. Each time I pushed with a contraction I fiercely held onto my "birth attendants" as they helped pull me forward to push. Originally Matt planned to catch our baby but there was no way he was leaving my side now. When my midwife told me to stop pushing, I was certain I couldn't. She kept repeating, "don't push, don't push, breath through the contraction!" My sister fearing something was wrong, got right up in my face & with wild eyes yelled, "Amy, stop pushing!!!" Well, that's what did it. I was crushed between my sister's roaring face & the piles of pillows on our bed. I was crushed into this small mental space where I knew how to not push. The next think I knew, he'd arrived! He was screaming & everyone, including myself, was babbling, "it's a baby!" Like most laboring women, I'd clearly forgotten why I'd been working so hard all day long! :-)

I rested my head on a pillow & began cooing to our new baby. His umbilical cord was short, so he only reached to just below my breast. I comforted him from that position until it came time to cut his cord. Seventeen minutes after his birth he was voraciously nursing at my breast & I was euphoric! I had just birthing our first child in our home in our bed! It was surreal! We'd originally planned on birthing at the birth center but it had closed before our child's birth. So instead I found myself relaxing in our bed, not a birth center bed, not a cold, sterile hospital bed. There was our new family ~ mom, dad & baby ~ blissfully curled up TOGETHER in OUR bed.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:11 AM
 
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I have a lovely, bright yellow, cheery, formica kitchen table. It is one of my favorite pieces of furniture. When it's clear of clutter, it looks like sunshine illuminating my tiny "dining room". I acquired it from an acquaintance eons ago when she was moving from one rental to another & no longer wanted or needed it. She had no idea how much I love formica tables. I fell in love with them at my Granny's house. She had a grey one with matching chairs. It was too tiny to serve as her dining room table but it lived in the kitchen & boy, did it live! Granny pretty much used it as a chopping block, the place where she kneaded her delicious homemade bread,, the place where her & papa had breakfast & mumbled to one another in German over a cup of coffee. I just thought it was the neatest table when I was a child & she must have known. When she had to move into assisted living her furniture was distributed among the kids & grand kids. On a piece of masking tape stuck to the underside of it was written my name. Ah, it was now MY table!

I already had my sunshine yellow table by then & was delighted to not only have Granny's but also to know that I was becoming a "collector" of formica tables. When I received her table, I realized what a fool I'd been with my pretty yellow one. I'd been protecting mine from any & all knicks & scratches. Granny's, on the other hand, clearly showed signs of use. The marbled appearance was completely worn away on one side where she'd obviously kneaded her bread countless times The entire table was covered with countless cut marks ~ her table the chopping block. Her table read like her life. Always working, always doing something involving food & always making food so she could welcome friends & family into her home. She was the matriarch of the family & loved to welcome them into her home.

Lately, I've been worrying again about how my yellow table is constantly the host of piles of papers & other misc. crap. I worry about how it should be cleared of clutter & only have a lovely vase of flowers on it. Really though, it's not a dining room table that's rarely used & on display, it's a kitchen table where my son gobbles up new foods, learns to eat with a spoon & generally loves to smear his food however far his little arms can reach across that table. This is the table where friends sit around shooting the bull, debating & getting to know one another better. I need to just let it be a reflection of our lives just as I need to stop worrying about how to display my life & just live!
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:16 AM
 
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This is such a tender subject for me right now. My husband & I adopted our dog, Fossil (or Fossie for short), from an animal shelter one week after our wedding. She's crazy in her own dog way but also one of the sweetest souls you'll ever meet. When my husband decided to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry we knew our living arrangement would be challenging. Not only would we be selling our house & moving, we would also be back in the position of renting AND finding a rental that allowed pets. No small task! At the time of our move, our son was only 2 months old. I'd been home with him the entire time & even though Matt's school stipend would be very small, we both agreed it'd be best for our family if I could continue being home with our baby. We found our income cut by more than half & our monthly rent only slightly less than our prior mortgage! The rents in the town we were moving to were expensive, especially if we wanted to keep our dear dog. After much searching, I found a barely affordable place that allowed a small dog. At 30 lbs., I figured I could convince the property managers that Fossie met the requirements. . .I had to!

We got the place & made the move. That was last May. Last month we came to the difficult conclusion that our budget could no longer afford the duplex. We'd never liked the location, including the fact that Matt was too far from campus. He was putting in long hours as it was & the commute between school & our place was getting to be too much. We finally gave in & decided to look at Family & Graduate Housing. The catch, which we'd known from the beginning, was: NO PETS ALLOWED! No ifs, ands, buts about it! But Matt was hardly getting to spend time with his family & our pocket book was becoming ever more strained. We made the hard, hard, hard decision of accepting an apartment with family housing. I cried every day for a month. Every time I saw how much our son LOVES that dog my heart would break. Abe loves to walk to up to Fossie, wrap his little, chubby arms around her neck & bury his head in her fur. His face lights up with joy when he sees her. Yes, he also unknowingly terrorizes her at times but overall she has patiently bore the wild abandonment of his love for his dog.

My dad has 20 acres out in the country & Fossie has always loved to visit him. She tears after jackrabbits, deer & wild turkeys. She spends her visits sniffing anything & everything that moves & doesn't move. We knew, if he was willing, that my dad's place would be the best place for her. He acted a little hesitant at first but his frequent updates on her well-being lead me to believe he's happy to have a dog again. I've told myself it's temporary but I know full well that by the time Matt obtains his PhD, Fossie will be too old & settled in her home to move again. My dad lives just a few hours away but it'll never be the same. I've made Dad promise that Abe can always call her "my dog" but it still hurts. It hurts to lose something you love, something that brings your son so much joy, something you can never have again. I knew our new life would have sacrifices, but sometimes I just plain HATE making them.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:29 AM
 
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Argh! I can hardly make the pen move. Normally I scramble to sribble my thoughts during the free writes but God, I don't even know how or want to begin! I know I should. I'm so angry with my mom! I've been angry with her for so very long. . .years.

She has mistreated & abused our relationship for far too long. She makes me feel like I'm the mom & her the child. Now her prior mental instabilitites seem to be escalating. We can hardly talk & I'm afraid I'll have to cut her out of my life entirely. I know I need to have the touch conversation of telling her my true thoughts but I'm afraid to do so. I'm tired of her anxiety & depression. I want to say, "It's time for you to not just seek couseling but to get medicated! I'm not a proponent of meds in most cases but if you don't get on something you risk losing our relationship all together!" How can I say that to her, really? How can I confront the elephant in the room and have her hear me. She never listens. All she can hear is her own worry about the past & the future. What about the present?!

Her mental illness, whether it can ever be given a true name, is spiralling out of control. "Mom, you're damaging yourself & your whole family, just like you always have. I'm a mother now & I'm no longer going to tolerate it! I hate you for what you've done to my siblings & me and what you're now trying to do to my family - my husband & my son!" But I can't say "I hate you" to her nor can things go on the way they are. I feel so weary. Things can't go on like this, yet I dread the conversation I know must be had.
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Old 04-21-2010, 06:08 AM
 
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I started various topics of “wisdom writing” already. After having wiped out several of them, this is now the topic I have come to. I cannot and do not want to write about my mother. Perhaps it is the family constellations therapy I participated in this weekend. Believe it or not, I actually feel at peace with my mother. I accept that she loves me but has funny ways of showing it sometimes. I cannot forgive her for not protecting me when her boyfriend was sexually abusing me as a young teen, but I do accept that it is too late to do anything about that now. My mother does love me, and she does love her grandchildren. That is enough. It was not enough when I was growing up, but it is enough now.

I sometimes wonder if bringing my children into a foreign country with patriarchal values is damaging them, considering my unorthodox ways of doing everything in life. But I also know that in their young years, I am providing the very best I can for them. My small, but growing, circle of yoga-practicing, vegetarian, freebirthing, extended breastfeeding, attachment parenting folk gives us all a lot of comfort. It isn’t the country you live in that really matters, it is the people you surround yourself with. If only public school wasn’t absolutely – no exceptions – compulsory here, I think all would be well here.

But I remember my own school days with such horror, and I don’t want to force that on my children, who are already showing they are just as stubborn as me. Being accused of being lazy and even stupid is no fun for a kid. If only I had known earlier that I tested as gifted, and not lazy and stupid, everything would have been so much easier. I can’t help myself now, but I am responsible for making sure that my children do not have the same public school experience I did. I want their education to be tailored to their needs, I want them to not lose their love or learning. I want them to be able to follow their hearts, like any parent does. I simply don’t think that post-communist public schools can provide that for them, even if they’d only go for three hours a day in the early grades.

Education is so important, isn’t it? Early on in life, school can do the most wonderful things for a person and instil a life-long love of books and learning, and exploring. Or it can do the opposite. It can make you feel excluded, and weird, and bored, and yes, even lazy and stupid. The years are flying by so fast, and before I know it, my sweet Kaya will reach that age where she needs to be enrolled in school. I don’t want that. It gives me all the same feelings I had when I was in school myself. But then, maybe she’ll love it. Maybe I am worrying about nothing. Maybe she will have the time of her life.

Should I give public school a try? Will it be easy to pull her out later, if we move to another country? Am I projecting my own experiences and fears onto my daughter? Is that even fair? Above all, I want her to stay who she is and to never feel inadequate, different (in a bad way), or miserable. My gut is telling me that Serbian public school is a bad, bad idea for her.

I'm Olivia. I blog about physiological childbirth, homebirth, and unassisted homebirth!
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Old 04-22-2010, 08:56 PM
 
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My body has been home to a most wonderful creature, a being so delightful, so filled with sunshine that she carries it with her and shares it with anyone who sees her face. Being pregnant with my daughter felt like coming home to me. I finally had a distinct purpose, and a motivation to feel all the happiness that I could. I've never laughed so much in my life. It was a newly born laugh, a woman's laugh and no longer a girl's; deeper and more rounded of tone, harmonious. I was proud of it, and enjoyed the blessing whenever it arrived. I loved seeing my body change, growing beautiful and round and full as it created life. Since high school I had been drawn to doodle this image of a full breasted round bellied super hero woman with wings. I drew her everywhere, it was kind of like my tag, my calling card. I finally understood why I was so captivated by her, and as my likeness became hers, I came into my super powers too. I was filled with more patience than usual, on most days. I felt this strong desire to harmonize with my partner, to grow past the tensions we'd accumulated over the last 7 years together. I wanted to speak only gentle words, feel love and share this with the one growing inside my belly. I understood my body as a temple of living cells, multiplying with tremendous intelligence. It was amazing to me that such marvelous work could be done under such a quiet surface. As i lay there resting, reading, or walking, talking, washing dishes, folding laundry, organs were being formed, swiftly, with perfect order and grace and with an endless diligence and directness of purpose. The greatest miracle to me, is the fact that in this span of time, I grew inside of me, a human brain. An organ of such magnitude, that we are only beginning to touch the surface of understanding of its capabilities, its daily functioning so astounding in scope and depth, it's presence so absolutely essential to human experience. And I grew one, from scratch! A hand, a foot, a leg, these are all miracles, but the brain, to me, is the crown jewel, the divine connection to cosmic intelligence, the very thing that may most exemplify and mirror that limitless potential and intelligence that we glimpse when we imagine the grandness of the cosmos or it's creation. Knowing that on some level I am capable of such a feat fills me with awe and I wonder how I could ever dislike my body, how I could ever be anything less than tremendously grateful for it's gifts. The greatest of which, is the lovely being I am privileged to share my days with now.

Mama to 2: 2twins.gif 12/7 and 9/10
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Old 04-22-2010, 10:20 PM
 
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The taboo is pole dancing. So many pre-conceived notions and beliefs that its sole purpose is giving pleasure to men in strip clubs. Wrong. I have a pole, I’ve never been a stripper, and I dance for me. My pole is my partner. I love the feel of the cool metal spinning under my grip as I lift and fly. Poling is ethereal, it takes me another, deeper place. A place where I leave my ‘normal’ role as mother, wife, cook, cleaner, this, that—and I get to access my deeper self. I move my body in luscious ways unapologetically, with big hip circles and outstretched legs. I feel powerful. I know that I am powerful. I am reinventing myself, conquering tricks, flowing in the dance, becoming more of me. Or, maybe, making myself who I want to be. I carry that out into the world with me. Most people don’t know I have a pole. I wish I wasn’t afraid to hide it. But there’s that old taboo thing again. I don’t want my sacred space to be marred with ignorant comments. So I keep it to myself for now. Ideally I wouldn’t care.

Krista, crafty blogging mama to four
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Old 04-22-2010, 10:21 PM
 
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The year 1982 I’m upstairs in my room with yellow carpet, stretched out on my twin bed with the Holly Hobbie sheets, reading. The line dried sheets smell crisp and clean and like sunshine. The dual window fan whirs and blows over my hot legs. It’s summer and we have no A/C. I’m in second grade, well, just finished second, and the summer stretches out before me. Third grade feels far away. The first sew days of summer I played ‘school’ with my sister, but she was only two so it didn’t last long. Soon I go will stay with my great aunt, who lives in the country. She has a big garden and we eat from it. She takes me to the library and at night we go upstairs to her room. I crawl in beside her in her double bed, propped up with a reading pillow, and she reads picture books to me. ‘What are you going to do tomorrow?’ she asks. ‘Ride Speedy’ I say. Speedy is my purple bike that takes me where I want to go. It’s a boys bike, but I don’t care. My parents thought I wouldn’t want it, since we couldn’t’ find a purple girls bike. It didn’t matter. It was purple and that’s what I wanted.
At my aunt’s I can ride up and down her country road. It’s much different than the busy highway I live on. I have to ride in the grass at my house. I feel free and powerful. Brave and courageous, too. I try to let that feeling sink into my bones. I feel far removed from the timid, shy child I have been labeled. People seem to think that just because I’m quiet, I must not be that interesting. Well! If they could see me now, riding down to the river and concocting stories in my head. I try to imagine what it was like when the Indians lived here. I look around at the sandy hills where my aunt has found arrowheads. I wonder when they had to move. I get off my bike and walk to the rail on the bridge. Scrape, scrape. I kick pebbles into the water. Scrape….and there goes one of my flip flops (we called them ‘thongs’, but that word has a different meaning, now). I watch the brown and red flip flop glide off the bridge and into the water. I have a fleeting thought to try and get it, but I know it’s gone forever. What will happen to it? I climb back on my bike and ride up the hill to my aunt’s house, the spiky pedal clawing my bare foot.

Krista, crafty blogging mama to four
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