Happy Birthday, Baby

Five years ago tonight I was sitting in a hospital room, alone, watching the Vanderbeck girls on Expedition Impossible.  My water hadn’t broken yet, but I was hooked up to the fetal monitor and I knew that my life was going to change.  

I didn’t know how much my life would change.  It was drastic.  

In the morning my baby will be five years old, and tonight I am essentially *nothing* like that pregnant girl who sat in the hospital all alone five years ago.  

Violet was born a tiny little healthy perfectly beautiful bright eyed bundle of the very reason I was put on this earth.  That little girl and I, we are a team.  She is an old soul, and she saw me straight through every single life changing moment of the past five years.  

Because of Violet, I care about things I never cared about before

Because of Violet, I don’t care about things I always cared about.

Because of Violet, I respect myself–so as to teach her that she should respect herself.

Because of Violet, I’ll only settle for what I deserve.

Because of Violet, I always strive to be better.  To do things a better way.  To never stop growing.

Because of Violet, I am at peace.

Because of Violet, my religion is love.

I am so thankful to experience this part of life.  I’m thankful for the pain and the tears and the time I spent as a single mom.  I think those experiences are the driving force behind how I evolved to discover who I am now.  I’m thankful for the little girl who made me extra cautious about who to trust with my heart.  I’m thankful for all of the times she keeps me honest, because really:  that kid will call you out when you need her to.  She really is just the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me.

Five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to dream what my life would become.  When Violet turned one our Suzy said, “So much can happen in one year”.  How incredibly true.  So so so so so much has happened in five years.  

I’m sitting here with my swollen ankles up, feeling Violet’s brother dance a jig on my cervix.  Violet danced a lot of jigs, too.  *that part really is the best*

I don’t like to say that I am blessed.  I don’t believe that I deserve all of the peace and happiness that I’ve found over anyone who hasn’t found theirs yet.  I don’t think that God loves me more than some other girl, so he blessed me with food and shelter, healthy kids and love.  But I do want to appreciate all that I have, because I didn’t always have it.  

Violet, thanks for picking me to be your momma.  You changed my life forever, and I love every second of this.  I always knew you were meant to be a big sister, and you are going to be the best big sister there ever was.  Our family isn’t anything like what I thought it would be, but we have so much love.  And really….all you need is love.  You may be small and mighty but you’ve grown so much from the little five pound baby born on June 24, 2011.  I love you BIG. bigger than the whole universe and then some.  Happy Birthday you beautiful amazing little girl.   

 

So Much To Say

So, it’s been awhile.  It’s not for lack of things to share: I have plenty to share.  It’s an issue with not knowing where to start.  

Christmas Eve Eve.  I’m divorced and I have a child.  

When my ex told me that he was choosing other options I took the news with grace, and class (IMHO).  I didnt loose my temper, I didn’t display irrational emotion.  I calmly told him that I would cooperate with the proceedings, but I asked that he leave Violet with me on Christmas Morning.  He agreed that he wouldn’t mess with Christmas.  

Maybe he really meant it at the time. 

This truth is incredibly difficult for me to swallow.  For the first time since I’ve become a mother I’ll wake up on Christmas morning without my girl.  I’m thankful for a legal custody agreement that affords me peace of mind.  But my idea of fair, in this case, doesn’t match the judge’s idea of fair. 

Sometimes I wonder why I chose the graceful response.  Why didn’t I ever destroy his property?  Why didn’t I confront “the other woman”?  Why am I nice to him, and why do I compromise? 

Most days I can answer that with an easy “it’s better for my daughter” or “it’s not in my nature to act like a fool”.  But my daughter will wake up on Christmas morning with the woman who started a relationship my husband while I was pregnant with her.  That’s the kind of situational smut you can find on daytime talk shows and it is *really* hard for me to see how this is good for her.  

I can’t control this.  But I CAN control how I handle this.  (Since my blog is all about my healing and honesty and all of that happy horseshit….  This sucks.  It’s super hard.  I don’t like it.  But I will prevail, because I always do).  

I gave Violet her traditional Christmas pajamas tonight… On Christmas Eve Eve.  

 
She is clearly the cutest.  In case anyone wonders, my Christmas will begin at two on Friday. Until then I’ll be surround by people who love me.  Maybe I’ll get use to this: but I’ll *never* like it.  

Race: a message of peace

On Sunday I picked Violet up at an inner-city softball field after her weekend with her dad.  One of the things I love about my kid is her ability to fit right in with whatever children are around.  

Her brother carried her over to me and she said:  “Mom!  Where did that white girl go?”

I just about died, as naturally I thought she was referring to skin color.  I answered “Violet, you ARE a white girl.”  

“No, mommy… I’m the PINK girl!” She said as she pointed to her pink shirt.  I immediately thought of the adage:  Humans are not born racist.  It’s taught.  

There is a lot of violence, anger and unrest in our nation…specifically in Baltimore.  Freddie Gray lost his life and as I’m not here to discuss the specifics of the events that led up to these riots, I do feel that there needs to be a dialog. All lives matter.  Black lives. Hispanic lives. Homosexual lives.  First responder’s lives. 

 

I grew up in a small town with very little diversity.  Even though I had classmates and friends who looked different than I did (not many), race wasn’t a topic.  It wasn’t an issue. We didn’t have racial tension or fighting and I thought that the answer was to “not see color”.  I respect life.  And as the golden rule states, life respected me back…. Until it didn’t.  

Going to college was eye opening to say the least.  The level of diversity increased by 200% and I had *no idea* what any of the history said.  

If we don’t remember our history we are doomed to repeat it.  I wasn’t alive when this country had Jim Crow laws.  My family was never rich enough to own slaves.  I couldn’t understand why someone would have animosity towards me because of things of the past.  I had so much to learn.  I still do.  

  
I love black culture.  The style, rhythm, sense of family, tradition.  All things I learned about from some influential and strong women that I met during my time in school (Queen Drakes that’s you 😉).  Up until I became a divorced single mom with a C-section scar I had *No Idea* what it was like to be a part of a marginalized group of people.  

The answer isn’t to not see color.  It’s to teach our kids the history.  To teach them why it was wrong.  To show them the stunning beauty of each culture and how that is what makes the world an amazing place.  

My little lady is only 3 (almost 4).  I am still trying to figure out what to teach her and when.  How specific do I get?  At what point does she retain the knowledge?   My beautiful friend Rose gave Violet a book written by a friend of hers.  Find it here:  White Water.  It has been a prefect introduction to the topic.  A message of peace to our children won’t stop the riots.  It won’t stop killing in the name of religion.  It won’t stop the horrors of the world, but it can certainly make a difference.  It’s absolutely a step in the right direction.  

And to any of my like-minded *white girls* (or guys).  We can do something super easy to help.  When you hear the racism rhetoric being spread… Don’t join in.  Shut down the ignorance.  Let the people around you know that you aren’t okay with it.  Again:  this doesn’t end all injustice…. But it doesn’t support it either.   

 

And to my friends in Balitmore and the surrounding areas:  I’m sending love and light your way.  I’m praying for peace. 

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

I often find myself apologizing to my mother for my childhood. It’s not that I was a horrible child….it’s more that I realize now that there are things that I could have never understood until I became a mother myself.

I’m sorry that I sang the music from “The Little Mermaid” until you were crazy, and then some.

I’m sorry I laughed at your funny jokes at home, but not in front of my friends.

I’m sorry I didn’t understand why I couldn’t hang out at the mall.

I’m sorry for the eye rolls.

I’m sorry that it was soooooooooo annoying the way you cried all the time. Like….All. The. Time.

I get it now.

Today after picking Violet up from her father’s house we decided to go to the movies. Violet’s very first movie in the theater. It seemed fitting that she wear her Cinderella dress to go see the live action Cinderella movie. We were a little bit late, but made it *just in time* for the Frozen short in the beginning. Violet sat on the very edge of her seat utterly amazed by her favorite animated friends doing something new.

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I cried.

I was just so happy that she was so happy. And I was so happy that we were having special girl time together because I miss her terribly when we are apart. I pulled myself together…and the show went on.

In the movie, Ella’s mother told her to have courage, and to be kind, and to believe in magic. Then she asked for Ella to forgive her for getting sick. I cried again. My goodness the feels….

When Ella lost her father…tears again. It’s a whimsical family movie for God’s sake! What is wrong with me?

Violet watched in amazement as the fairy godmother appeared. She hid her eyes when the pumpkin turned into the coach and then clapped her hands when she saw the result. She gasped at the beautiful dress that sparkled and then twirled around in her own blue sparkle dress. As Ella and the prince danced at the ball, Violet danced too….in the aisle. When the movie ended with its magical happy ending Violet didn’t want to leave until the music ended, because we had to dance.

As the lights came on I quickly wiped the tears away, as to not look ridiculous for crying at the happy ending that my happy princess thoroughly enjoyed. This little impromptu date ended up being a special memory that I will always keep. At the end of the movie Violet turned to me and said, “Mom! This is great!”

Today I remembered why it’s important to let our kids enjoy wonder and fantasy. It’s important that they enjoy dreaming of the happy ending and feeling beautiful like the mystery princess at the ball. And while they play and imagine they build courage and kindness and learn to believe in a little bit of magic. Hopefully the courage, kindness and magic will be enough to carry them through all of the dark times that we cannot see them through.
One thing that I know for sure: I will always let her dance.

And hopefully Violet will forgive me for all of the crying.

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It’s a sandwhichy kind of life.

My door swung open at 3:00 AM. The light in the hallway was as intense like the sun was burning through my doorway. In my sleepy bewilderment I realized that it was my dad who had opened the door.

Only two hours before I had picked him up off of the floor, and he asked my mom, “Now, who was that?”. I shrugged the question off because the room was dark and maybe he thought I was some sort of angelic hero who had swooped in to save the day….that would make sense, right?

“Daddy, can I help you with something?”

“Yeah……Where is my room?”

“It’s behind you.”

“Oh! Okay! Thanks!”

He struggled for about 30 seconds to close the door and shuffled away. I thought about the chance of him falling, the chance of him thinking he was in his bathroom and peeing on the floor, about how I should probably get up and make sure he made it back to the couch okay. Then I heard him swear (he swears a lot). I got up and found his room dark so I headed down the hall. He was almost to the garage door.

“Daddy, do you need help?” I whisper-yelled. He didn’t have his hearing aid in…. he only has one. About 6 months ago we splurged on some hearing aids and teeth– two things that he desperately needed. Only one hearing aid remains. They aren’t even paid for, but one has already bit the dust. *The dog ate it*. I have no evidence, but I’d venture to guess that the dog is innocent in this incident. Anyway…the whisper-yell was my feeble attempt to let everyone else in the house sleep through the night.

“Yeah…” He shuffled over to me. He was smiling and quite amused with himself. “Who’s house are we in?”

“Ours.”

“Well…. Where is my room?”

“It’s down the hall, Daddy. But you and Mommy are sleeping in the living room tonight. You’re getting a new bed tomorrow.”

“Oh. Where is the living room?”

“Right this way, Daddy”

We walked together to the living room. He got settled in on the couch. “Where is Violet?” At least he remembered Violet.

“She’s in bed, Daddy. It’s the middle of the night”.

“Oh, okay. Good! I saw that red- headed girl in there. You know, the one with the mermaid tail.” He chuckled to himself as I made my way back down the hall to my room.

I laid in bed for the rest of the night listening for him to get up again. It reminded me of the first few months of Violets life when I laid awake watching her sleep…to make sure she was still breathing. This would be what they mean when they say “Sandwich Generation”.

I have started to write several posts in the past few months. Each and every one of them turned into an angry rant. “Peace” is in the title of my Blog….so I didn’t want to post a conflicting idea. How can *peace* and *anger* co-exist? A friend recently reminded me that anger is real, and as such it is a real struggle for everyone. Perhaps it’s more important for me to be real, than to always try to portray a peaceful front even when I’m not feeling it. Of course peace is always my goal. Right now I’m angry, sad, unsettled…even a little depressed.

I never wanted to do this alone. I dreamed of getting married and having kids and growing old with the father of my children for my whole life. I tried my absolute best. I didn’t deserve to be lied to and cheated on. I didn’t deserve the emotional and verbal abuse that haunts me to this day. I don’t give a shit that my ex-husbands girlfriend isn’t comfortable around me to the point where she can’t even freaking look me in the eye. I wouldn’t be able to look me in the eye either if I were her, but I’ll never be her because I have at least an ounce of decency and would never do the things that those two have done together. I can’t stand the fact that some of his family would rather I stay away so that they can avoid facing the reality of the way in which my whole life, family and existence was torn to shreds. For so much of this time I’ve been focusing on why my life is better now, that I didn’t let myself go through this stage. Inevitably now, I’m there. I’m angry. It’s extremely annoying, mostly because I feel like I took five steps forward and fifteen steps back.

I started this post with the story about my aging father. I’ve always known that a time like this would come. I always knew it wouldn’t be easy. I always thought I’d have a partner to support me through it. I don’t, it turns out my partner was crap.

Yes: I know that I have a support system (an amazing one, at that)

Yes: My mom is here with me (let’s not forget that this is a struggle of a whole different kind for her. She needs my support, more that I need hers)

Yes: I have a healthy, happy, gloriously amazing daughter. I am eternally thankful for her and will always put on a happy face for her (which includes not allowing her to witness my anger towards her father)

Yes: I have a whole lot going for me

No: I do not plan on dwelling on these emotions. I will overcome this. I am strong and deserving of a real relationship with a man who deserves my best.

If this post serves any purpose it would be to offer advice for anyone helping a friend or loved one through a time like this. Pointing out why I shouldn’t be sad is going to do the opposite of help.

“But Tori, you have a lot of people who love you, you have a lot going for you. You aren’t in an abusive situation anymore”. Great, now I feel guilty that I feel sad and angry on top of feeling sad and angry. That’s helpful.

Validate. Agree. Empathize. Offer to go punch a heavy bag with me and we can pretend it’s a few choice people because that’s the closest I’ll ever get to being violent. But please, for the love of God, don’t tell me that I shouldn’t feel this way because I absolutely should.

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Oh, and one last thing: it’s not often that Vi will sit on Pop-Pop’s lap…but I got a split second out of her…and the pure joy on Pop-Pop’s face is enough to warm anyone’s heart.

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I’m exhausted…

It took a fantastically long time for my divorce to be final. I really thought that I would know how to feel about all of this, I did have a lot of time to process things. Truth is…..I don’t know how to feel.

I learned to never plan my life. When the plans that I made for myself didn’t work out it was devastating. It still is.

I don’t know how to feel about “romantical” love. By nature I want to trust, and share my life. The thought of that is now so terrifying, I’m not even sure that it is worth it. But sometimes I am so lonely.

I *really* want more kids…..or at least another. Violet bring me so much joy. I have so much love to give her, I know there is room for another little soul for me to mother.

It’s hard to feel two opposite feelings at once.
The complete sadness that I failed at being married. I never ever wanted my baby to have split holidays, I want to see her every single day. To have promised my life to someone for better or worse, and to not have a partner to celebrate my promotion with me, or to watch with wonder as our child grows up. The extreme pain and hard work it takes to heal and grow from the damage of emotional abuse.
To have those hard, sad and yucky feelings, and at the same time feel relief that I am free. I am happy, and I know that I deserve respect. Even though it scares me, it’s certainly possible for me to find a partner to be happy and healthy with. To appreciate and enjoy every second I have with my beautiful baby girl.

Sad and Happy at the same time. Disappointed and Excited all at once. Depressed and Hopeful simultaneously.

And then there is society. The same society that tells all young people that they NEED to be married isolates divorced women with stereotypes and prejudice. Other moms in my community are super sweet, until they find out I’m divorced. Then I’m public enemy #1. “Lock up your husbands ladies, this bitch is *for sure* going to wreck our homes.” Yeah, no thanks. I’m not interested. What I would LOVE, is for some of you to realize that my marrying the wrong person does not define me. The fact that I’m single doesn’t mean I’m after all of the unavailable men. I’d love to not be put into a category of the huge stigma that exists for single moms.

The other day I ran into the mother of a girl I graduated with. She was so excited to see me and happy to hear of my healthy little girl. “What does your husband do?” she asked…

“Oh, I recently went through a divorce.”

You would have thought I told her that I murdered him. She literally walked away from me without another word. Wow. This life is isolating…to say the least.

It’s still better than before.

I am loved. I am blessed. I am full.

I am loved by my parents, who have always loved me. They are proud of my accomplishments, they are my biggest fans. I thank God every day that I still have them and that I can be with them and that Violet knows them. I am loved by my friends, my friends are amazing. All of them. I am loved by my daughter. The most amazing love of all.

I am blessed to have a job that I really enjoy. To have been able to learn more each day, and to move upward and onward with a company that I like working for. I am blessed that I can make ends meet, and I can figure out how to do things for my daughter that cost money, and fix things in my home that improve the quality of life that my parents have. I am blessed to lead a healthy and overall happy life. I am blessed to have gained certain extended family that I will never loose no matter who I am or am not married to. (You all know who you are…..and I love you ❤️).

I am full of hope. I am full of the empowering feeling that came when I finally stood up for myself. I am full of peace and thankfulness that I can choose to not live in turmoil.

But my marriage is over…for real and I don’t know how to feel.

As we very quickly enter into “the holidays” I remember that these are the hardest days. The memories of family gatherings when I was still part of a family that gathered. The time I must spend away from Violet while everyone is supposed to be with the ones they love the most. The uncertainty that I’ll ever feel safe and loved and welcomed into new holiday traditions…. is it summer yet?

There isn’t a single person on earth who has gone through life without being criticized. That’s comforting. So much of the population has and will criticize me for being a divorced woman. *I didn’t reach my goal.*. *I must have not taken it seriously.* *Young people these days just don’t take anything seriously.*

I take my happiness seriously. I take respect seriously. I take the well being of my child very seriously.

I share my story because if I can help just one person get through a dark part of their life, then my struggle is worth it. I write my thoughts out because I need to, even if I didn’t have a single reader. I’m confident that I’ll figure out how to move on from here. I just wish I could speed the process up a tad. I don’t know when I’ll stop feeling the affect of my failed marriage, but I do know that I’m thankful to not be at the beginning of my struggle.

I’m trying *very hard* to just focus on the multitude of wonderful in my life. Still, I just can’t help but to feel sad each time I see one of Violet’s friends will be a big brother or sister. I planned that for my life too and for Violets life. It’s just not my reality. For that, I feel sad. (And at the same time I’m elated for the friends who are having babies! If you are reading this and you are one of them, I will snuggle your babies up. I love babies!).

Here we go again, deflated and soooooo excited in the same emotion. It’s exhausting.

When I show excitement for being a single woman, that sensation is real. What I’m not showing (except for like….right now), is that I’m also sad.

I’m working on it.

So in conclusion: here is something that makes me happy. Being happy is my favorite.

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Summertime with my girl ❤️

Sir Hershal of Caernarvon

Hershal came to live with us when I was a sophomore in college. He was a rollie pollie little brown fuzzy furball. I remember sitting down with the whole litter of lab puppies and he came right on over to chew my shoelace. Isn’t that usually how it is? We don’t pick them….they pick us. I knew we had to have this dog and I had talked to my mom about bringing him home to keep my dad company. He had recently retired and we felt that he needed a companion while he was home alone for long days while my mom was at work and I was away at school.

When my mom found out how much he would be, she immediately changed her mind and told me that we would not be getting a dog. I cried. I broke down and had a serious cry, because way back then I was just as sure as I am now that this little brown puppy dog was a member of my family.

Obviously we got the dog.

I didn’t name him because I wanted my dad to have the opportunity. My parents were out of town when I brought him home, so for the whole first weekend I just called him “baby dog”. He got into everything. On Sunday morning when my dad walked in he was surprised by the total cuteness overload and said, ” Huh! Hershal!!” And so, that is how Hershal got his name. He will always be my “baby dog”.

Right now I feel so sad. I’m not even sure that I can come up with all of the wonderful memories I have of Hershal. I do know that he was the most kind and gentle of any dog I have ever met.

My mom would joke that if a bad guy ever broke into our house, Hershal would just wag his tail and lick the robber to death.

He would always find a place to sit….directly on your feet. If he couldn’t sit on your feet, he would lay down smack dab in the middle of your direct path. It was all about being close to us. He wanted to be where we were and it would upset him if he had some of his people in one room and some of his people in another room.

When I introduced him to Lexi (my tiny dog), he loved her immediately. They made the best team. My family will save hundreds of dollars on bread in the next year. Hershal and Lexi were expert level bread stealers. Hershal was, of course, the muscle and size behind all of their criminal activity.

When I introduced him to Violet (my tiny baby), he loved her immediately too. She was instantly on his list of people to always be really really close to. Like, as close as possible. Now she is three….and that doesn’t exactly mesh well. What’s important is that I know that he was coming from a place of love and protection.

I’ll always remember that one of the first things Violet learned how to say…..I mean…yell….was “Hershal!!!!! OUTBACK!!!!!!!!!”. Every time she saw him she would tell him to go outback. If he was outside, he would listen. If he was inside, he would look confused.

Hershal saw me through some of the most sad times and some of the happiest times of my whole life. His toothy grin and tail wagging were a constant.

When my sister stole my identity….he was there.
When we lost Chris…he was there
When I graduated from college…he was there
When I started summer camp…he was there
When I got my big girl job…he was there
When Lexi picked me….he was there
When I got married….he was there
When I became a momma….he was there
When my life fell apart….he was there
When I built a better life….he was there

I know that I’ll miss him so much because he was a member of our family. I’ll also miss him so much because when life is such a roller coaster ride, we sometimes find the most comfort in what always stays constant. Dogs are “man’s best friend” for a reason. No matter what, he was always there, always wanting to show us love, always so happy to be a part of our family. He simply wanted to love us, and he did. During sad and trying times, our puppy was just as happy and loving as he was during the times of joy. That is something very powerful.

Violet fell asleep on the way home. Tomorrow I will have to tell her that Hershal isn’t here any more. This is one of those things about parenthood that nobody prepares you for. I have absolutely no idea what to say, or how to deal with what she might say . I’m sure I’ll figure it out….but it doesn’t make it any less sad, or scary for either of us.

To my Hershal: You were always “only just little”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the best companion to my Daddy that ever existed. You filled his days with smiles and discovery. You provided many stories both true and fiction. You will always be our Doggy Boy and we love you forever.

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