a guiding light

Lighthouses stand stalwart and true where land meets the sea.
An important navigational aid to guide ships into port, That light was the only thing standing between a ship and disaster.

The legend of Nags Head in the Outer Banks of North Carolina tells of land pirates hanging a lantern around the neck of a horse and walking her along the huge dunes at Jockey’s Ridge. This was to trick ship captains into running aground on the shoals so the ship could then be looted.

My mom loved lighthouses. She collected little lighthouse tchotchkes, anything from pictures to candles to actual replicas of lighthouses.
YBW loves lighthouses too. He also has a (much smaller than Mommie’s) collection of lighthouse tchotchkes.
I asked him what he loved so much about lighthouses and this is what he told me:
Lighthouses represent adventure. They make me feel like being on vacation.

Now, this fascinated me! He loves lighthouses because to him, the represent the freedom to travel.
This quick conversation lead me to consider what a lighthouse might mean to me, and here’s what I came up with:
A lighthouse is a beacon, a guiding light to keep you safe.

I see how differently my husband and I view lighthouses. To him it’s adventure and travel. To me a haven. These views are absolutely influenced by the way we grew up. He grew up sheltered in a safe and idyllic family, I grew up abandoned by one parent and discarded by the other.
But together he and I create the complete lighthouse concept. At the edge of land, at once sending you off on adventures and welcoming you home again.

I would love to know why my mom loved them…I wonder why it never occurred to me to ask her that question?

Lighthouses continue to stand long after outliving usefulness.
We explored such a lighthouse on our honeymoon.

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Harrison Point Lighthouse
St Lucy, Barbados.

This lighthouse was built of concrete in 1925.
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It was deactivated in (approximately) 2007 and has been abandoned since (approximately) 2011. We visited the lighthouse in 2015 and this is what we found.
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The red steel door torn from the hinge.

P1090161 Ruined motor and electrical panel. P1090165

Starting up the steps.
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Curling up higher and higher.
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No more concrete.
Rusted metal steps to the service room.
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At the door to the service room.
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The floor here is beginning to rust straight through. We tread with great care.

This panel is worse off than the one downstairs.
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I crawled with hands and feet up these rusty ladder stairs to the lantern room.
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A look back at the lantern room door.
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The lens was long gone. Most of the lantern room glass too. We found the broken bits on the ground at the base of the lighthouse. Some huge chunks of Fresnel lens mixed in with so much window glass. (YBW brought some home and keeps them on his desk at work and here at home.)

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It was breathtakingly beautiful.

The door to the outer ring around the lantern room was open and as I leaned the top of my body out, YBW urged me to stay put. He saw the rusty railings, knows I’m a bit klutzy, put two and two together and said: If you fall, you will die, I can’t be a widower when we’ve been married less than a week. Please don’t.

He was scared for my safety. The more I looked out at the very thin railing rusting at all the important joints, I was compelled to stay where I was. The warm afternoon light gave me the gooseflesh.
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I wrote about lighthouses because I read a post early this morning about praying at the edge of the sea.
I was moved by the visual created by those words. The sea carrying a prayer to the far reaches of the world then returning it magnified.

What if that’s what lighthouses really are?
What if they continually send and receive prayers?
What if they are the “guiding light” of all the seaside prayers? Or love? Or adventures? Or safe havens?
And even after they no longer light the sky they never stop sending and receiving those all-important intangibles?

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

chaos and big love

Oh God! Will it ever stop raining? ~ The Saw Doctors

Chaos rained down in big fat drops!

My birthday was actually quite lovely. YBW surprised me by staying home and greeting me with kisses and pressies as I woke up. Then took me to my favorite “dump” for breakfast! Heading into work late, he dropped me off with Sundance. She and I went to see her folks and had a little lunch with her mom.

Graduation was long, but not at all boring. And though he’s not “really” my kid, I was filled with love and pride as Thing C crossed the stage in his green cap and gown.
The added surprise of seeing a girl who was absolute best friends with my own Thing 1 from the time they were four cross the stage brought me so much joy!

I woke Friday morning (Friday the 13th even…my favorite!!!) to the news that my darling friend and mentor’s beloved died the night before.
Yes, he had been ill. But after the news of “four to six months” his illness took his life in one short week.
I started my drive to Charleston at four o’clock Sunday morning and spent the next three days loving my friend through her initial grief. There was much wine and laughter and some sadness as we celebrated the life of this man we all loved.
She kept thanking me for being there. Truthfully, there was nowhere else I would have been. My place in the world in those days was with her. There was no question. I was where I belonged.

I was able to squeeze in time with my sister-in-law. (I got to keep her in the divorce, the love we share made us sisters in our own right, it just so happens she was the former husbands sister first.) Got to spend time with my nephew and niece. That little girl is a bundle of kookiness if I ever saw one! She so reminds me of Thing 2 when she was that age. All “chatty Cathy” and bouncy arms and legs, trying so hard to be grown and still so little. She’ll be ten next week. I can’t believe how quickly the time passed!

I came home in time to celebrate Thing G’s birthday on Wednesday. Celebrating sixteen is so different for boys than for girls. It isn’t quite as big of a deal. Thing 1 had a huge “Punked Out Wonderland” party for her “sweet sixteen”. Thing 2 and I spent the day at the spa…facials, manis and pedis and lunch. She didn’t want a big party. That’s her personality though…

Last night my Arizona friend and her two daughters arrived! So much Robynbird joy!! They’re here for the weekend and then just as they leave, her eldest son rolls into town. Getting to love two thirds of their family is nothing to sneeze at!
She and I will go to the ballet this evening while the girls go visit old friends.
The oldest sister, my Goddaughter, just woke up and now we’re going to have tea and visit before everyone else gets out of bed.

Yesterday afternoon, YBW and I were up the street at our neighbors for cocktails. I remarked that I felt like I hadn’t seen him in a month!
It feels like I got on a hamster wheel on my birthday and just yesterday finally got off. The last ten days were fast, furious, and chaotic, but filled with great big love.
It’s time for me to keep the love but say “Bye Felicia” to the chaos…I need the rest.

Categories: death, love, me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My birthday is sacred, does that mean I’m selfish?

Tomorrow is my birthday!
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The forty fifth anniversary of the day I was born.
It is sacred.
But honestly, I think it’s only sacred to me.
The woman who taught me it was sacred is no longer here to celebrate.
The man who loved to join me in my countdown towards it is no longer here to celebrate.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 understand the sacredness of their own birthdays because I showed them how. But do they appreciate the sacredness of mine?
I guess if you break it down logically, they wouldn’t have birthdays to be sacred if I was never born…so they must somehow appreciate my birthday as sacred…?

YBW doesn’t feel as strongly about birthdays as I do.
And the fact that his firstborn son graduates from college tomorrow impacts what’s sacred about May 12, 2016. As it should! Thing C has worked hard to graduate with a double major. This is a “life token” event of high importance! I’m so proud of and for him and he’s not even mine.

Sundance and I talked about spending the day together tomorrow…but I’m not sure I’m actually feeling it. I guess we’ll see when I wake up tomorrow.

I did throw a party last weekend to celebrate both YBW’s and my birthday. We were absolutely celebrated by our friends and had a wonderful time!

But it’s the actual day that matters.
The actual day that one enters this world is what’s sacred.
I won’t be actively celebrated tomorrow. That feels strange to me. Partly because I don’t feel like I can actively celebrate myself.
I feel strongly about celebrating Thing C! He deserves to be loved and celebrated for his accomplishment. It’s not his fault the University decided to host the school of Humanities’ convocation on the day of my birthday.
I hate that I feel conflicted about it. I have the suspicion that it seems as though I’m begrudgingly choosing to attend his convocation. That is absolutely not the case! I want to celebrate this young man. I love him very much and have been through the ups and downs of life with him for the last six and a half years.

What it comes down to is sacrifice. Parents make sacrifices every single day for their kids. Some are teeny and can be made without thought, others are big and take a great deal of maturity to make.
I’m not his mom, but I am a mom. I can put my sacred day on the back burner to celebrate his achievement. I do it with honest intent, not because I “have to”.
I have never considered missing Thing C’s college graduation. I will be there no matter what. Because that’s what you do. That’s how you’re supposed to behave.
But that doesn’t mean I like the way it feels.

That’s been the tricky part.
Feeling like it’s OK to be conflicted. I don’t feel like I can talk about it too much because I don’t want to be hurtful. I would never ever hurt Thing C’s feelings!

Perhaps I place entirely too much importance on birthdays. Especially when I’ve had so many. Am I just that selfish? I’m not above considering that. Am I selfish that I want tomorrow to be all about me? Is that a bad thing? Even though I want it to be all about me, I’m celebrating graduation. Does that mean I’m not selfish?
I guess it doesn’t really matter.
I’ll be forty five tomorrow.
Thing C will graduate from college tomorrow.
I’ll end up being happy about and celebrating both.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I tried to be good but I got bored.

bored

This is so me.
When I get “bored” watch out! All bets are off. There’s no telling what I’ll do. Good or bad.
Bored isn’t quite the word I’d use though. I’d more likely use indifferent or apathetic.

When I’m in that state of ennui, feeling blasé, I tend to search for something to pique my interest. Oftentimes this is the end of me being “good” because what piques my interest might not necessarily be what’s best for me. I’ve gotten into more than one regrettable situation because…
so bored I could scream

Being “good” all the time is really hard work. (Could you hear me whining a bit right then?)

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anywhere but here

You ever have one of those moments when you’re just feeling that sense of “I can’t even”?
Nothing’s wrong really. Life is shiny. But you’re restless and hankering for a change of scenery.
When that happens to me, (and dear, sweet baby Jesus, does it happen) I like to play a little game called Anywhere But Here.
Now I can’t take credit for this particular game, I stole it from Joss Whedon’s writers room. Buffy and Willow play this game in season 2 Episode 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Here’s their Anywhere But Here (please take into account this episode aired November 10, 1997):

Buffy: I’m on a beach, but not one of those American beaches, one of those island beaches where the water’s way too blue, and I’m laying on my towel, and it’s just before sunset, and Gavin Rossdale’s massaging my feet!
Willow: Oh, that’s good! Uh, I’m in Florence, Italy, I’ve rented a scooter that’s parked outside, and I’m in a little restaurant eating ziti, and there are no more tables left, so they have to seat this guy with me, and it’s John Cusack!
Buffy: Ooo! Very impressive. You have such an eye for detail.
Willow: ‘Cause with the ziti!
Xander: What are you two up to?
Buffy: Just having a quick game of ‘Anywhere But Here’.
Xander: Ooohhh. Amy Yip at the waterslide park.
Willow: You never come up with anything new.
Xander: I’m just not fickle like you two, okay? I’m constant in my affections. Amy Yip at the waterslide park!

My ‘Anywhere But Here’ oftentimes involves a cottage in a tiny cove with white sand and clear blue water. It’s tiny but perfect with a large sleeping porch facing the water. I created this cottage out of thin air for a different original purpose but fell so deeply in love with it that any lingering association flew quickly by the wayside.
Occasionally my “Anywhere But Here’ is something more involved like the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul or whimsical like going to “Harry Potter Land”.

I’m curious if any of y’all ever feel restless like that, and if so, where is your ‘Anywhere But Here’?

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mother’s day

I struggle with Mother’s Day.
My birthday is always the week of Mother’s Day. Sometimes even falls on that particular Sunday. I don’t remember it bothering me until I became a mom. First one precious little girl and later, two precious little girls called me their mommy. They were SO focused and excited about Mother’s Day that my birthday often fell by the wayside.
When they got old enough to understand, I explained how much I loved their beautiful appreciation of me. I explained that I was their mommy every day. That it was the most special thing EVERY DAY. But that my birthday was only one day and it was special. It took a bit for them to get it, but they knew how important I made their birthdays and they began to come around. So while Mother’s Day remained special, “birthday birthday” became the focus that second week of May.

Mother’s Day is painful for me because I don’t have my mom anymore. However complicated our relationship was, she was my mother and I loved her.
I took Thing C and Thing G to get cards for their mom. I went with YBW to get a card for his mom. I spent the day with YBW and his mom.
It was agony.
I no longer have a mom. It hurts more than I can even communicate.
Thing 1 called to tell me Happy Mother’s Day. She thanked me for being her mom. She talked about the life she’s building. She talked about going back to school. She told me she sent a little gift, but it was going to be late. She told me how much she loved me.
My heart sang with joy!
Thing 2 did nothing. (I don’t know if she was being purposefully hurtful or not…I honestly don’t think it matters. It was hurtful enough.) People that I did not actually give birth to called and texted to wish me Happy Mother’s Day. I’m just sayin’.

When my girls were little and I was teaching preschool, I was blessed to be surrounded by some of the most truly awe inspiring women I’ve ever known.
We were a family. If something happened to one of us, joy or sorrow, it happened to all of us. These women helped me realize who I could be. They let me help them see things from my unique and sometimes brash perspective. (I may or may not have publicly accused the director of being on crack at a faculty meeting…in my defense, it opened a new way of talking about a serious topic.)

When I started this blog I promised my family and friends anonymity. That’s why I never use anyone’s real name…apart from my own. My girls and Sundance have expressed their ambivalence regarding this promise. I keep it because YBW is especially protective of his identity, and the identity of his sons. I respect that. Nobody “signed up” to be part of my public words regarding my private life. I want to keep those who need to feel safe feeling safe.
That said, I’m going to use the names of the women from that perfect moment in time when we lived and loved and worked in the safest and most creative environment.

It kind of started this way:
On Sunday, Nicole posted in our private group chat:
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!! I would not have survived young motherhood without you all!!

I was thinking something along those lines when I was washing my hair that morning. I was thinking about some of the women that influenced my life. What I learned from each of them and how I incorporated that into my parenting style, and into my own personal development.

I learned from my mom that always having to be in control will wear you the eff out. That it breaks you and makes you miserable. My mom taught me the value of creativity and expressing opinions because she squashed those out of us as children. She taught me that love is conditional, you must be exactly what someone wants or they can’t love you.
She taught me that you just have to keep fighting for what you believe in. She taught me what true sacrifice looks like. She taught me that a color book and box of crayons eases heartache. She taught me that birthdays are the most important celebration, because the day you came into the world is sacred. She taught me to love books. She taught me Elvis is the King. She taught me that being redhaird is the most precious gift, and that only a few of us ever have the luxury to receive it.
Some of the things she taught me made me a better mom because I did the exact opposite of what she did. Love is unconditional. Creativity and expressing yourself are the most important life stills to possess.
Some of what she taught me formed my most basic ideology. Birthdays are sacred. New crayons are priceless. Books are uniquely portable magic.

Nicole taught me that organized chaos is a great way to raise children. She taught me that love is fierce. She showed me how to see things through the eyes of a child. She taught me the value of true and long lasting friendship.

Jessica taught me that I was more capable than I ever realized. She taught me to listen differently so I could truly hear. She taught me to ask the most important question: What’s best for children? She taught me the value of my own mothering. She taught me when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. She helped me believe in myself at the lowest point in my life. She showed me the fire in my belly still had embers to nurture. She loved me when I couldn’t love myself.

Becca encouraged me to trust my gut, because she never seemed to be able to do that for herself. She taught me to appreciate every contribution. She brought out even more nurturing in me, she needed and still occasionally needs to be taught self-love. She taught me how innocent kindness can change lives. She taught me that my tough as nails hide could benefit from softening up a bit.

Terri taught me to see my firstborn in a new and different light. She provided much comfort and support when I was struggling with learning how to mom a three year old and a new and extremely sick baby. She was an example of love and tenacity through her own terrible illness. She taught me how to approach the enigma that is the three year old with the perfect mix of fear and appreciation.

Nancy taught me that I must embrace and celebrate my gifts. She is the first person who said out loud that I am a writer. That moment caused a change in my life that I will be forever grateful for. She supported me with love and hope when I didn’t know who or what I really was. She taught me that life is so much more than simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Marianne taught me that letting go is so much better than holding on too tightly. She taught me the importance of repetition. She helped me realize that a classroom was one of the most loving environments in the world.

Cory taught me that I matter. She helped me understand how to be a mom and a real person too. She accepted me for who I am. She guided my learning of that most important skill. I’m not great at it, but I am working at it every single day…even all these years later.

Julia encouraged me to take risks. She helped me realize that fear is a part of life, but if I didn’t try new things I might miss out on something extraordinary. She taught me a new kind of patience.

Sara gave me the courage to breathe when I needed to take a step back. She showed me the importance of kindness when Thing 2 and I experienced serious separation anxiety.

Like Nicole, I would never have gotten through young motherhood without these women. The gifts they gave me have gotten me through the last twenty two years.
It takes a village to raise children.
It takes a village to raise parents too.

I’m so blessed to know and love these women. I would not be the woman I am without experiencing their love and support.
I saw Becca this weekend, we talked about how those years were a sacred moment in time. We will never be able to recreate that, but we’re lucky enough to forever be better mothers and better women because of it.

Categories: education, love, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

controversial weather

Starting at 9:00 this morning sleet began falling from the sky. About half an hour later there was lightning and thunder then the sleet changed to snow.

This is what our back porch looked like right after the switch.
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There is such controversy regarding “climate change”, but this little redhaired girl has to wonder what record cold temps and sleet and snow on April 9 has to say about that controversy.

Happy Spring, y’all!
(I’m just glad I don’t have tickets for the Nats game today. I love baseball, but not enough to sit out in this ridiculousness.)

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Home Opener!

Baseball season is here, y’all!
Nats are at home today! I’m so FREAKING excited I can hardly stand myself!
They won both games in Atlanta. Let’s see what they can do at home!

Here’s the line up against Miami.
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I’ve got the pregame playing on TV. The daddy of one of my preschool students is the home field announcer, I hear his voice introducing our own “Boys of Summer”!

Girlie Thing and Thing 2 “reppin” their boys!
Girlie Thing and Thing 2

Ain’t baseball great!?!

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

it’s all about your point of view

I’m eavesdropping on a conversation between Thing G and his mother. Apparently something happened at school today and she called to talk with him about it.
She got an email and has one version of the story and asked him to her his version.
He immediately gets defensive and says: I can’t really explain it.
She reads the email verbatim. (I know this because I can hear her clearly.)
He says: That’s not what happened.
She asks to be told what happened.
He repeats that he can’t really explain it.
She explains if he can’t explain his version how will she understand.
He gives a HUGE exasperated sigh.
She asks him not to get mad at her for trying to help him.
He says: I’m not mad. I’m just frustrated. You go on and on.
She pauses. (I can hear her pause.) Then she explains she’s trying to help him by understanding his point of view, how he was feeling at the time.
He sighs again.
She tells him she loves him.
He tells her he loves her too.
The call ends.
He returns to watching videos on his phone.

This exchange fascinated me. She’s a tough mom. She takes no prisoners. She calls him on his BS straight away. BUT she’s the first one making sure he’s getting everything he needs when it comes to his education. She needs his input to know how to respond to the teacher. She needs his input to make sure his particular educational needs are being met as laid out by his IEP.

YBW will come home and ask about this incident. He’ll say I got an email. He’ll say I know Mom already talked to you. He’ll clarify he just wants to hear what Thing G has to say.
Thing G will present with the same defensive attitude.

We’ve been working on trying to help him see what it is he presents to the world. His perception of his behavior is vastly different than how it’s viewed from the outside. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all like that. But in the case of this particular individual, he cannot seem to take the outside perception into account.
We’ve been talking to him about how his actions look. We’ve been trying to explain to him what is expected behavior of a fifteen year old boy. (Honestly, he behaves like my three and four year old preschoolers a great deal of the time.)
He’s too smart for his own good. He’s been accommodated in life and in school since he can remember. He manipulates it to his advantage.
He has so many excellent qualities and I absolutely adore him.
Sometimes it’s hard to get past the roadblocks. Some of these roadblocks are naturally occurring based on his diagnosis of ADHD and Aspergers, but some of these roadblocks he creates. He is literally his own worst enemy.

YBW and I were talking with him the last time he was at this house about how what he does and says looks to other people. He simply can’t see it. Whether he chooses not to see it or really can’t, is the question and none of us have the answer.
I found what I considered a perfect example on the fb page of a local community theater. We were at one of the performances and they shot a preshow photo of the audience. In the photo you can clearly see Thing C, me, Thing G, and YBW in the second row. YBW and I were reading the playbill, Thing C was smiling because he noticed the photo being taken. But Thing G, who had complained about going to the show since he got in the car was bent over at the waist with his head in his lap.
So I asked him what did he notice when he looked at that photo.
He told me he thought that guy looked tired.
I agreed and told him that he knew he was tired. (An excuse, because the moment the play started he was COMPLETELY engaged.) But then I pushed further, I asked him about the other audience members. I asked him to pretend he didn’t know that guy with his head in his lap. I asked him what he thought then. He repeated that he thought he looked tired.

I don’t know how to help him realize how he looks to the rest of the world.
I don’t believe he has to care all that much. He’s his own person, etc. BUT by behaving the way he behaves, he’s not presenting the complete picture of who he is.
Most of us strive to put our “best face forward”, it’s like he’s working hard to put his “worst face forward”. I understand not caring what the world thinks of you…to an extent.

He has been accommodated for so long that he utterly lacks skills to cope when things don’t go his way.
I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m stating fact.
He’s great as long as things bend to his will, but the moment he has to make accommodations…well, all bets are off. But that’s the way of the world. We all spend our days accommodating and being accommodated. It’s a delicate give and take.

I want the absolute best for this kid.
Helping raise other people’s kids is so much harder than raising your own. I can pinpoint each thing I did or did not do that buggered my girls. Where I failed, where I was successful. So it’s not that I think I’m the perfect mom and should be able to raise this kid who isn’t really mine.
It’s tricky. I love him. He is part of my brood. But I don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to him.

It’s hard to help someone that simply isn’t interested in being helped.
I experience it with him fairly regularly, but witnessing it today while he was on the phone with his mom was an entirely new way of seeing.

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

LuLaRobynbird

Well, my LuLaRoe obsession is ever growing! I’ve got more dresses and now I’m falling in love with the “Randy”. (a baseball tee)
I’m awaiting two packages in the mail as I write this.
If it’ll ever warm up, I could wear my adorable dresses…

This is the one I’ve decided to wear to Thing 1’s wedding later this month.
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It’s a Julia. I can’t decide which necklace I’m going to wear…thoughts?

I’ve sent in my paperwork and I’m currently waiting in the queue to be “onboarded” I’m getting prepped here at home for the boxes of clothes to come.
It’s a fairly long wait, but I’m neither losing my patience nor my enthusiasm. I’m just as excited now as I was the moment I decided this was the path I wanted to take.

Sundance was here Saturday providing feedback about my ideas of how to utilze the space I’ve set aside to run my business.
She’s also going to be my social media guru. Because she rocks!

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this excited about a “project” and this one’s going to be a doozy!

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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