Friday, March 16, 2018

The Challenge

I tend to do my best writing early in the morning (or when I am supposed to be cleaning the kitchen). Truth be told, I would prefer to be sleeping, but I can't sleep. I know that I will be tired tomorrow and my daughter will be full of energy. But I've been wanting to write about this all week. So, I might as well get it done when I don't have any interruptions. Such as a toddler wanting to watch Daniel Tiger on my computer. . . . It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .

I was talking with my mom on Sunday night and she said something that made me stop and think. Why do adults think that it is okay to express their emotions (anger, frustration, irritation, etc.) in front of their children? Most of us wouldn't consider that appropriate behavior to act in such a fashion in front of our husbands or wives—so why do we consider it to be okay for our children to experience it? 

I don't really know the real answer to that, but I suppose it is because we assume that they don't understand it. After all, it is just us releasing built up steam. A survival mechanism, right? Most of us know that isn't true—our children understand way more about feelings and other emotions than we give them credit for. But taming the tongue is difficult and more so when out of practice. We will usually use anything as an excuse for our bad behavior—but then frown upon such an act when our children try it out. Where did they learn that from?

From us, of course. That is a tough pill to swallow. My daughter is 2.5 years old and I can already tell when she tries out one of mommy's not so amazing moments and throws a fit over something trivial. Oh no. And so I was pondering about that in my prayer journal on Monday morning. Which is when I decided that things in my life needed to change. I needed to be more observant to the emotional needs of my daughter. As well as keeping mine in check. We are in the clingy mommy must be within two steps from me at all times stage again and it is incredibly easy to just tune out her insistent wants. It is also easy to allow the exhaustion of being needed 24/7 to rule my emotions. And that is never a good combination. On tough days, I still fail to notice the small things—like the reason my daughter doesn't need to use the potty before we leave for town is because she just did 2 minutes ago. Just because she didn't insist I come and read "Cricket's Big Wait" to her for the 15th billionth time, doesn't mean that she didn't use the potty. But now there is a power struggle going on with me insisting that she use the potty and her declaring that she doesn't need to. Time is wasted, tempers flare, we are both in tears and nothing is accomplished. Mommy, listen.

And that's when I realized that this was not something I was going to be able to change by myself. This is an area that I am not the best at. Keeping my feelings in check and under control does not come easily. I tend to feel everything. I can't keep them stored up inside or I explode. But keeping a prayer journal is wonderful. Because I am able to pour my heart and emotions into the pages. Knowing that God understands all of my frustrations and is willing to help—if I would just stop and ask Him to.

But understanding that for myself led to another thought. What I am learning now applies to how we as a nation are treating the President of the United States. Personally, I do not care for Donald Trump. I do not care for his character or how he treats people. I'm not even sure he knows how to be a public servant. But I still pray for him. Because he needs our prayers. He is the President of our country and that in itself is a huge responsibility. Especially when you are in over your head. And he is. I know what some of you might be thinking, how can you possibly pray for such a man? It is not something that I want to do. It is something that I need to do. Because I can't hold onto that kind of anger. Jesus told us to pray for those who persecute us. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, . . ." Matthew 5:43-44.

That is a pretty tough command. But I believe that our happiness depends on praying for those who mistreat us. It is time for us to acknowledge that our country has an anger problem. That we have an anger problem. And that our anger is fueled by hate.

And it isn't just the President we hate. We hate those who belong to different political parties. We hate people from different countries. We hate people of color. We hate white people. We hate people who belong to the LGBT communities. We scorn those who don't accept LGBT people. We hate people who are Pro Life. We hate people who are Pro Choice. We hate gun owners and the NRA—And we spew that hatred on the internet and in front of our children. And then we wonder why our kids act the way they do. They act that way because we taught them to hate through our words and actions.

And that should chill you to the bone.

That is why I pray for President Donald Trump. Because I know what that kind of hatred will do. It will destroy you. Just as it will ultimately destroy him if he continues in the path he is in. But God is in the business of changing people. And He has his own way for getting their attention. And if I can set my ego aside long enough to pray for a man like Donald Trump, then I can pray for other people who fall into the category of awful sinners. Including those I don't agree with.

So my advice? Take your anger to the Lord. And when you have drained yourself of your initial anger and desire to seek revenge, look back at that tweet or article that was so important moments before and decide for yourself if it is worth wallowing in the pig sty of verbal filth. Our words hold just as much power as our actions. Our children learn to bully by watching their parents.

Last night my nephew, James, read a poem he wrote. He asked a very important question. It was something his mom had taught him. And I think it is very appropriate. Everyday we have the choice to be either a buoy or a bully. Which do you want to be?

Personally, I want to be a buoy. One that is secured by strong anchors. A buoy that isn't properly anchored is just a boat, tossed by the waves and wind. Lost at sea—full of negativity and discouragement. But a buoy that is properly anchored has the strength given to it from the anchors. And is able to help people as they navigate through the choppy waters of life.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Quiet Loss

Hazel has grown so much in the past seven months. She is officially 2.5 and her name is Hazel Annabelle—which is what she will usually say when you ask how old she is. Sometimes she will blurt out that she is three, just like her cousin Ava. Soon little sweet pea, soon you will be three. This is such a sweet and innocent age. I wish that it could last forever. We have so much fun. 

But there is another part of me that wishes that our January had turned out differently. We should have been doing the final touches on the nursery. Raspberry wall color for Hazel’s side, sky blue for Owen’s. Hazel would have been running around the house pretending to be Curious George and Ernie—all the while showing Oscar the Penguin (who lives in a mailbox) all the new things in their room. There should be a crib in the corner, across from Hazel’s big girl bed. But there isn’t. 
 That dream was shattered on April 27, 2017—when I woke up bleeding. The nausea, weight gain and three positive pregnancy tests were replaced with heart wrenching sobs. I struggled through the remainder of the week and sobbed my way through the weekend. 

I dealt with the pain of our loss, by not dealing with it. I planned Hazel’s birthday party. And we tried. We went on vacation. And we tried. We moved. We tried. I repainted the house. We tried. We settled into our new space. We tried. We waited. And we tried. We traveled. We tried. And the months got harder. Finally, out of desperation, I scheduled an appointment with my midwife. Something had to be wrong. And of course, she pointed out the obvious—honey, have you allowed yourself to grieve? 

Of course I've grieved! What a silly question! I cried for a month! But I knew, deep down inside, that she was right. I hadn't really grieved. And I honestly didn't know how to start. It was such a quiet loss. So I scheduled an appointment with Sandra. She is the best counselor and as usual, her homework assignment was one that I didn't want to do. I resisted it, like a cat being stuffed into a cat carrier. Name the baby. Pick the gender. Pick the due date/birthday. Write a letter.broke down and cried on the way home. I didn't want to name the baby. I didn't want to choose a due date. Because then it would be real. The loss would be real and it hurt too much. But of course, I did it.

I named him Owen Carlton Sanford Bowen and his due date is January 28, 2018. And this is the letter. I share it, because it helps heal the broken pieces of my heart.

October 19, 2017 
Dear Owen,
I love you—I never got to hear your heartbeat. You died before my first doctor's appointment. But I still loved you. I loved you with every wave of nausea and as I thought about you while playing with your big sister. Hazel would have adored you. I bought her a pink shirt with "Big Sister" written on it—we only had you for 4.5 weeks—it wasn't enough time. I wanted more time. I wanted to hear your heartbeat and watch you kick and dance during the ultrasounds. I wanted to feel the flutter of your kicks and watch your elbow move across my stomach. I wanted to pick out the theme for your nursery (translation: your corner of Hazel's room)—I wanted to make you your first snuggly blanket and spend the night wrapped up in it while feeling you move. Hazel was always super active at around 10pm. 
My dear sweet little Owen, I'm sorry that my body failed you. I'm sorry that I won't be able to hold you. Or be there for you while you wait for Jesus to return. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to be your mommy—but I will. One day, I'll be given you. I'll be able to look at you, count your toes and hold your hand. And we will have eternity together. And I'll be able to hold you—forever.  
I miss you. Everyday I miss you. I've kept myself busy (too busy) these last 5.5 months. I've held the grief of your loss tight in my heart. Not daring to let go—because I've been afraid to let you go. I don't want to forget you. My dear little Owen, I have to let you go. I'll remember you and will cherish my memories of you—you would have looked just like your Papa. Strong and brave—and likely into everything. But I will remember you every year.  
You would have been born in January. You would have shared your birthday month with your Auntie Felicia. Your Birthday would have been January 28—the day before Auntie's. And I'll remember, every year I'll remember. I lost you, my sweet boy, on April 26, 2017.  
I'll always love you—And I'll miss what would have been. We will see you in heaven, our sweet little love. In mommy's heart, you'll always be. 
Love,
Mommy

I miss him. I'll always miss him. But especially right now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Terrible Two's

I have time to blog. That is unheard of. I could talk about anything, anything at all. Hmmm....

Hazel turned 2 last month. When people hear how old she is, they immediately inform me that I have reached "the terrible two's"—then they go about their day with a sense of purpose. As if they have told me something that I didn't already know.

The two's aren't terrible, not anymore terrible than the stretch between 18-23 months. The tantrums aren't more pronounced, the meltdowns aren't happening more often, the world hasn't ended yet. That isn't to say that there aren't days where terrible would be used to describe them. Those days do happen. But I don't look at the age of 2 as being terrible. It is just different.

They are different because now you have a fearless 2 year-old trying to do lots of things they couldn't do before. There are going to be more bumps, bruises, scraps, scratches, and kisses on boo-boos. Learning will be happening every step of the way and their willingness to help shouldn't be ignored. These are exhausting days.

The ugly head of the terrible two's usually comes to play when we parents forget that we are raising a toddler.  When we treat them like they are still 6 months old and can be hauled about without much resistance, than that is when things tend to get ugly. If I forget to tell Hazel why we are getting in the car, where we are headed, what we will be doing next, etc—there will be a tantrum. And it will happen at every stop and in every store until I remember that she deserves to know what we are doing and not just expected her to deal with it.

To counter that, I try to talk to Hazel every morning about the fun things we are going to do. Last week we were going to go to Greenbrier State Park to play. When I told Hazel, she didn't want to go. She wanted to paint. Hazel loves playing in the water and adores sand. But on this particular day, she didn't want to go to the lake. She wanted to paint. And so we painted and then spent the early afternoon with Poppy (my dad). They had a blast! It was a great day. It could have been a terrible day if I had forced Hazel to do an activity she didn't want to do. We ended up going to Greenbrier the next day and Hazel loved her time playing in the water.

In my opinion, if random strangers want to tell me what it is like to raise a 2 year old, I would prefer that they stick with the topic of potty training—because that is terrible! And bribery is really the only option.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Emotion

I feel like my emotions are trapped. I am a mother, why can't I openly grieve for the loss? I stood there and watched another mother accept the hugs and words of condolence from members of our community for over 2 hours. Those around me were crying, but not me. I felt heartless, but my heart ached. I wanted to rush forward and wrap the mother in my arms. But I couldn't. My daughter needed me. She needed my full attention. I signed the guest book and went back to the mother's room. Maybe after the service I could hug the mother. Maybe after the service I could mourn with her. 

Three hours later, my daughter and I left. The service wasn't over, but my daughter was tired and hungry. Maybe at home, I thought, maybe there I will be able to cry

The tears still haven't flowed. Maybe tomorrow I will cry. Maybe tomorrow the emotion that I feel trapped inside me will be released. Maybe then the healing can begin. 


Friday, September 23, 2016

Devalued

Devalued.
A powerful word.

What if . . .
the silenced could speak?
What if . . .
our nation valued the life of all, including the unborn?

You weren't expecting that, were you? We are interesting people. Fed up with police brutality, while turning a blind eye to tragedy happening within clinics across the nation. I'm not writing this to start a debate on pro-life or pro-choice. In my opinion, abortions should be legal, but they should be few and far between. Abortions are not a convenience, you aren't dumping unwanted food into a garbage disposal. Did you know that there are approximately 42 million babies aborted worldwide per year.* 42 million future musicians, doctors, nurses, ambassadors, politicians, artists, activists, teachers, social workers, plumbers, presidents, scientists, etc.—snuffed out because their beginnings were inconvenient to their mothers.  

What if . . .
we allowed their hearts to beat?

What if . . . 
we valued all life. Beginning with that first heart beat.


*http://www.abortionno.org/abortion-facts/

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mittens and Me

When your cat has been missing for over 72 hours, there comes a point when you have to admit to yourself that she isn't coming back. My husband and I are 90% sure that the cat seen dead along halfway blvd early Tuesday morning was in fact Mittens. There is, of course, no way to know for sure since the dead cat disappeared by midmorning. It is heartbreaking to not know for sure. It all comes down to which neighbor we want to believe. One is sure she saw Mittens alive, waiting at our door in the early morning light. The other is positive that the cat on the road was Mittens. And sadly, they both could be right.

I have 20 Lost Cat posters that I could put up in our neighborhood. But I am not sure I want to. I have known since Wednesday morning that there was a strong possibility that the dead cat seen on the road early Tuesday morning was Mittens. I'm just not sure that I want to hold out hope for something that isn't likely to happen. It isn't likely that Mittens will ever come home again. The last 3 days have been difficult—every shadow on the window, every slight cat like noise, every kitty item in the house—are all reminders of a precious cat who made life so much more interesting. And that knowledge hurts. It's an everyday battle. Do I dwell on the hurt or do I push past it?

Personally, I want to push past it. I want to clear away the kitty items. I want to vacuum the house—chasing down every last bit of cat hair. I want to erase all evidence of my kitty. The idea of doing so hurts so much that I haven't had the courage to start. But it is Friday. It is time to clean and I will just have to buckle down and do it. The trash can will be full of tissues by the time the house is clean, but at least the healing can start.

Why do I want to erase all trace of my beloved kitty—you may ask? Because I have a beautiful baby girl to take care of, to nurture and to grow. I am finding that I can't grieve the loss of Mittens and stay in the present. It is a type of multi-tasking that I just can't do. Yes, I am well aware that it was just a cat, but that cat was part of our family. She was my companion during the pregnancy. My snuggle buddy after hard days at work. My walking buddy on country roads. The kitty who brought me her "beloved" presents of rodents and bunnies. The kitty who disliked TLC, even though he loved her dearly. And she was the kitty who for the last 4 months has circled up close doing those early morning feedings.

I will always remember Mittens, just like I remember Keiko and Copper. For the time being, little TLC will be living with my parents in the country. It is safer out there for a cat you likes to wander. Besides, Oscar needs to loose weight.

Mittens made her mark in our hearts. She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed. Just a few pictures that made up her 3 years of life.



 Seriously mommy, why did you wait so long to get me my own bed?


 If a dog can wear a harness and take walks, so can I. (But I'll do it with more class)

  
 Perfect place for a catnap....zzzzzzzzz


 Seriously Oscar, that dog was SO annoying—you can have her back. Please never share her again.


 "I wuv you Mittens" says TLC....purrrrrrr!


These toys are mine, all mine. What??


Bath time. Worst part of the month. 


Let me in—its cold outside. Look at my face, do you think I am joking? 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Big Changes





It was my last day.
Boxes were packed, desk was cleared, book shelf bare and my filing cabinet had been emptied. Paintings were stacked nearby and as I looked about my old office, I began to wonder why it was that I had been looking forward to this day.

Rain pattered against my windows and my walls were bare—all except for that ugly "fabric" wallpaper, so 1980s—eww.

I wasn't going to miss the stress, the unrealistic workload, the attitudes, politics, the leaky ceilings, the geese, or even my office with the ugly orange carpet.

The day just felt melancholy. Life was changing, again.

Interestingly enough, life is like that. Just when you think you've got a handle on things—life sends you another curve ball. Or in my case, three extra ones for good measure.

And now ten months later, life is different. Priorities are different.

This is my new normal. I'm no longer just a wife—I'm also a mother. And I wouldn't change that for the world. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite content with my career change.


[Meeting our daughter for the first time]