My Dad ❤️

These are the words that I spoke at my dad’s memorial service.  Tomorrow, we will be surrounded by people we love, being thankful for all we have.  It will be a little sad…because the most important chair will be empty.  Dad’s chair.  I miss him so much.  But I am thankful.  Thankful for him, and for the way he raised me.  
My dad lived for 50 years before he had an awesome daughter named Victoria. As he tells it: he named me Victoria after some falls in Africa. Lynn–after Victoria. And Edwards after everybody else. The dad jokes have always been plentiful.  


I’ve heard stories from his first 50 years. About summers in New Jersey. About his band, The Davenport 5. And how he loved to teach and play his guitar in school…but also throw erasers at the students who couldn’t stay awake. The eraser thing is crazy to me…I’ve never seen my father hurt a fly…but I have several first hand accounts from former students that this was a real thing. I’ve heard stories about working at Penhurst and stories from the day I was born. Mom knew he was beside himself because he had the camera around his neck–but took no pictures.  

As for the man that my father was for my lifetime. I don’t even think the right words exist. I’m having trouble deciding on which words are the best words to share and that is wild because words are my thing.  

So I’ll start with Musical. Music was my dad. He shared his eclectic taste in music with me–and with generations of others along the way. Gospel, Rock, Country, Blue Grass, Jazz, Classical. From Frank Sinatra to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. From the Eagles to Tchaikovsky. And now: just about anything I hear reminds me of him. The music of my dad is the gift that keeps on giving.  


Humor. If you are familiar with any of the Edwards family I’m sure you’re familiar with the humor. It’s dry, sometimes unexpected. It’s driving with dad through farm town USA when he stops and points and says: “Those cows. Are OUTSTANDING in their field.” Or The constant choice of his middle finger for blood sugar testing when mom would say “Donald, I need a finger.”


Storytelling. You’ve probably heard the story of the time my dad met Dick Clark. Or about the time my high school marching band played at the Vet for a Phillies game. According to my dad–I was the only one up on the big screen that day. And now when I start to tell a story that I’ve told many times before, I smile because I know I get that from my dad. Remind me to tell you about that one time I met Jimmy Rollins in an airplane. It’s a good one.  


Pride. My dad was a proud man—but proud in that he was always so proud of his loved ones. He talked about me as if I graduated from Harvard instead of Kutztown. I was the star of the field hockey team–even though I never played varsity. I was the prima ballerina–even though I’m pigeon toed and sometimes don’t know my left from my right. Violet is the smartest most beautiful little girl there ever was. As a matter of fact, she is so smart that it’s almost like she’s not a child at all: she’s “a midget”. Ok–so I actually feel the same way about my kids. He was right about Violet.  


Compassionate. The only person I know who has as much compassion as my dad is my mom. And also probably Mother Theresa. Over the course of my entire life….and even before there was a me…my dad has been so giving of himself. He would give rides, give money, buy food and even just lend an ear if that is what you needed. I don’t even know how many different families and people have lived in my basement because they had nowhere else to go. He always saw the good in people. Sometimes he only saw the good even when it was surrounded by, and over taken by the bad. If there’s going to be only one lesson to teach your kids: it should be that one. To always find the good.  

Smart. He was the smartest man I know.  


Safe. He made me feel so safe each and every time I needed to. On Sept. 11th 2001 after I watched a plan fly into a skyscraper on live television–I called my dad. He couldn’t save anyone, he didn’t know anything more than what I knew…but I called him and I felt safer because of it.  

Unconditional love. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my father loved me unconditionally. My earliest memories are of him asking me: “who loves you, baby?” And I would jump on him and yell “you do!”. They say, that if you want your daughter to end up with a man who will treat her right, love her mother that same way. My dad did that flawlessly. He loved my mom every day. All day. So deep down inside, even if I lost my way here and there… I’ve always known my worth.  

So, I’ll miss you daddy every day. Thank you. For teaching me how to be like you. For being the best dad in the universe. I love you.   

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And Baby Makes…A Really Full House

You guys:  I’m having a baby soon.  

If you know me, you know that I have always wanted this for my life.  You would also know that my life took a bit of a detour to get to this point

I’ve shared a lot on my blog, a lot of very personal struggles and challenges of the past three years or so: and there is a lot that I have not shared.  

Somewhere in the midst of my ever-present healing process, and life packed full of Violet, work, aging parents and standing in my own way–I found love.  I certainly didn’t make it easy for myself, and it’s not as easy to tell this story, because this story isn’t just my own.  

Joe and I have been through a lot both before being together…and since.  Heartbreak that requires healing, hard times that force growth.  One thing about love after abuse and unhealthy relationships:  you never settle for less than what you deserve (and if you do:  you haven’t healed enough).  

Joe and I both feel that relationships aren’t meant to be broadcast over social media, we’ve had many conversations about the nature of only including the good stuff, and how unrealistic that is.  We’ve had just as many conversations of the opposite:  the posts of complaints and the “airing of dirty laundry” that is just as maddening.  Our happy medium is the occasional picture posted of something fun we did, or one of our kids being cute.  

My BFF got married this year (it was lovely and perfect).  She found a pretty perfect description of the kind of love she shares with her husband…it just happens to be pretty perfect for Joe and I, too.  (BFF and I have like, EVERYTHING in common) 

“I didn’t *fall* into love with you.

I walked into love with you, with my eyes wide open, choosing to take every step along the way.

I do believe in fate and destiny, but I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway.

And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality,

I’d find you, and I’d choose you.”

You see, Joe is gentle, patient, and doesn’t have an angry bone in his body.  He’s the same guy no matter who he is around. I can feel his empathy, as it often matches mine: and he has the same desire to always grow.  When I find myself on a ledge, he has this remarkable talent to talk me down–and I have the same talent when he finds himself on his own ledges.      There are ups and downs because this is real life.  But this partner that I’ve found in Joe,  he makes this pregnancy a whole new world for me.  

Our family is not traditional.  It’s not a perfect nuclear package tied with a pretty bow.  The plans that I made for my life went nothing like this, but ultimately, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Violets’s older brother made me a mother.  I didn’t carry him, his birth story is not my own, but I love him just the same.  Violet gave me the joy of carrying life, and saw me through so much of my story.  My “Momma’s heart” has so much room, and the addition of two more bonus kids just means that my “full house” and desire for a big family is the stuff of reality:  I just got here in a rather unconventional way.  

So here is some of the beautiful happiness that’s been my life for the past 9 months, experiencing pregnancy with my Joey. 

I had someone to take my picture every week.




I’ve been supported to have my best friend around as much as possible.


He showed up for the maternity pictures.


Any day now, my life will change again.  I’ll nurse, and cloth diaper.  I’ll co-sleep and cherish this little meatball.  And when I’m tired I won’t hear, “you wanted this” as my partner leaves me to struggle through.  I’ll hear, “let me help” or “take a nap” or even, “yeah, this is hard, we’re in this together.”  

Pregnancy can be amazing for many reasons, and in my case this has been a healing experience–and very difficult at times.  I didn’t know that I didn’t face the wide open wounds of the betrayal that happened throughout my first pregnancy and into those fragile months of early motherhood.  Joe didn’t save me, he’s not a knight in shining armor.  Every day I wake up with the intent to learn something new,heal, or at least make it a good day.  Some days I fail miserably.  And Joe, he’s there.  He proved me wrong about love.  He helped me to see that while nobody is perfect, there *are* good guys out there.  I let my jaded self believe that fairy tales don’t come true, and that was a misstep.  This fairy tale is mine.  It’s messy and blended, and it’s mine.  I have my partner beside me, and it’s great.

“Are you scared?”  He just asked.

“No, but I am nervous.  Are you scared?”

“Nervous.”

“I think we might be too old for this” (newborn stuff)

He laughs.  “It’s too late now!”

Bring it on, Baby C.  We’ve got this.  

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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