How to Spot a Parent

I was leaving the Barnes and Noble by my job a few weeks ago and I spotted a Dad.  He didn’t have a diaper bag or a t-shirt that identified anything other than the job he was working.  There wasn’t a stroller around him or a child he was looking after. There wasn’t a mom around, looking to him for support and he didn’t have a baby strapped to his chest in a carrier or sling. I could see his fatherhood in his stance because he wasn’t standing still.

Parents with infants learn a hip swaying motion that is most soothing to little ones.  I would say it’s instinctive but it’s really a learned ability. Babies like the rocking and swaying.  They like the smooth flow in a side to side direction. It soothes them and soothing a crying infant can soothe a tired and stressed parent.

If you look around, you might see parents without kids doing the hip sway without kids around.  I do it when stressed or tired and it soothes me.  I don’t do it on purpose.  It’s become part of who I am.  I felt such a strong connection to this man in the simple body language learned through many sleepless nights that I felt the pull of his fatherhood in a way that brought me comfort.  I asked if he was a Dad and he was surprised when I shared my observation, but it was a connection that pulled me out of my thoughts and gave him something to chuckle over, breaking up the monotony of his day. He recognized the sway once I pointed it out.

I think of this so often lately.  Who we become as parents is a transformed person.  My reality before kids will never be a reality for me again.  It’s impossible to go through so much and become that selfish child I was.  I will never be able to cook a meal for myself and not worry that my kids might not eat if I’m not the one to feed them.  It’s impossible to think only of myself without wondering how my actions will affect my kids.  In dating, I had to learn that some choices need to be made for my sake, as my children need to learn to adapt.  They need to learn that I matter and I need to show them this by proving that I am capable of loving myself too by not sacrificing everything I am for who I want them to become.

I’ve been pregnant.  I’ve given birth.  I’ve lost children.  I’ve stayed up all night with sick children, catching projectile vomit in my bare hands.  I’ve kissed feverish foreheads and smelled the sickened breath on parched lips. I’ve sat in a cool bath, trying to break a fever with a limp child.  I’ve woken throughout the night to comfort and care for my child, only for him to wake and feel well enough to not allow me to take a nap, even if he was keeping me up all night.

In spotting a parent, it’s the subtle things.  It’s not flinching in a store when you hear a crying baby.  Or seeing a mom grab her breasts, as this sound so often made my breasts tingle and my milk would “let down.” It’s the sway that becomes it’s own source of comfort even when there are no babies around.  It’s over explaining because you’re used to the many questions that come from the curiosity of a child.  It’s being able to be aware of details without giving your full attention because you have the peripheral vision of parenthood that often feels like eyes in the back of your head.

It’s being who our children make us and knowing we’ll never be done, so long as we live, because we never stop being parents, even when our kids are no longer in our arms, or even our homes.

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FB Live – Set Your Intentions or Pray for Miracles, Signs and Wonders

Imagine being able to manifest the life you want by focusing on the outcome you want.  That would be uniquely amazing, right? Maybe a little crazy.  But is it crazy? There’s the book and movie called “The Secret.”  I don’t remember if I read the book but I watched the movie.  I thought there would be a plot but watched several people talking about manifesting the desires of their heart by focusing on them like they’ve already become part of their lives.

I grew up in a Christian home.  We didn’t set our intentions or manifest things.  We prayed.  With just a little faith, we believed our prayers would be answered. With the authority of a son and the acknowledgement of his blood sacrifice, we believed that we could “speak what is not as though it were.” If I grew up Pagan, I would have called that blood magic and necromancy.  It’s syncretism.

Transitions Will Force Change.

A couple of years ago I was a stay at home mom.  I didn’t work for 15 years and for the most part my ex supported us.  I got scholarships and carried babies as a surrogate, but I really didn’t work as a gainfully employed contributing member of society.  Towards the end of the marriage, I was only working part time.  And then he left.  He promised to never support me again, and he’s been good to his word.  I support the kids on my own when I have them just as he supports them on his own when he has them. We’re single parents.

The shock of the transition means I had a lot to figure out very quickly. I was in prayer nonstop at first.  Not so much lately, but the consistent thoughts running through my head are the same.  Call it a prayer, mantra or belief, but I was determined that I would always have just what I need and we would be okay.  We have been. Following are some examples of ways when things worked out so I had exactly what I needed as I told myself we would have enough.

The Car

There were a few times when my car issues were shining examples of having just enough and being carried through on just what I needed.

We were often buying used cars in terrible shape.  We would drive them until we couldn’t anymore and every year we bought another used car that was nearly dead.  Just before Christmas right after the split, I was driving to my sister’s house, about 20 miles away from home.  It wasn’t until I got off the freeway that I noticed my car didn’t sound right.  It was as I was getting closer to her house and turning the corner to find a parking spot that my power steering went out.  I figured I was out of fluids and when I was leaving her house, drove to the nearest gas station, two blocks away.  I got my car parked, and bought fluids only to find my car just wouldn’t start.

My sister met me at the gas station and we walked to the two blocks to her house.  She had a new set of pajamas I could wear.  She found a new toothbrush for me as well.  Her husband wore contacts and I was able to borrow a case and use his solution.  At the time, a friend of her husband’s had been staying in their extra bedroom but was gone for the weekend.  I was so cared for in a comfortable bed that night, when I could have been stranded anywhere else.  I could have been stuck on the freeway well after everyone else I knew was asleep.  It could have happened when I had a car full of kids. The next morning my Dad came out to help me get it towed to my Mom’s house where it got fixed by my cousin.  It was the gears supporting the serpentine belt.

A few weeks later, I was picking up my nephew’s girlfriend for some hang out time.  I was planning to teach her how to make baklava.  I heard the sounds, and dropped her off so I could head to my mom’s house again for my cousin to fix it.  I got her home, then got just far enough to not walk to her house.  I coasted to a stop on the side of the road in a safe spot just in time for the car to die again.  I was able to get my car towed to my mom’s house, for free with my insurance.  When I got to my mom’s house, I learned that her car had been in an accident and it was getting repaired.  Normally my mom would bail me out and let me borrow her car. I had just been at my first temping job for about 3 weeks.  The hours were full time but it was in no way permanent.  I needed to get to work and I had very few options.

My niece drove me to the dealership where I walked in and said I had no down payment and couldn’t afford more than $300 a month.  They let me drive off with payments of $300.03 and a year later the payments became $299 and change.  I love my little car.  It’s not fancy, but it reminds me that I had exactly what I needed. It was a situation where I was safe, but nudged far enough into a new car.  Even the push that got me to the dealership.

Shoes

As a mom – a single mom, it’s so easy to put your family ahead of yourself.  I love retail therapy and one night I didn’t have my kids, but I was shoe shopping.  My shoes weren’t falling apart but I wanted to replace them.  Responsibility won and I walked out of that store without the shoes.

Call it intuition, or if you’re a person of faith, you can call it the Holy Spirit.  Later that week or month, my mom told me she bought a pair of shoes from Big 5 and wanted to know if they would fit.  They were a perfect fit.  I’m a nearly 40 year old woman.  My mom doesn’t usually buy me clothes or shoes anymore.  She hasn’t in about 20 years. The shoes fit me perfectly in a size 10, when my mom wears a size 7.  There was no way she bought them for her and somehow she knew exactly what I needed.  A short while later, my cousin came back from Australia, and brought my sister a pair of Ugg boots.  They were too big for her but fit me perfectly.  I had just what I needed. Twice.

Clothes

I’ve learned that break up depression means I lose quite a bit of weight.  In the first couple of months, I lost about 30 pounds without trying.  My clothes wouldn’t fit at all.  My mom had a friend that was cleaning out her closet.  My Dad had a cousin I saw once and she was cleaning out her closet.  I was so supported in that time, and gifted from both directions to the point that I had so much more than I needed.  Everything fit perfectly and there was so much that I could be picky and pass on a few things.

Words

During that time with my Dad’s cousin, I was given the words I needed to hear.  She saw my posture.  I was still pretty devastated and broken from my husband leaving me.  I was still wearing the weight of the things his girlfriend said to me through his phone.  I was probably still in that space where my oldest had to remind me to take care of them and make dinner because I was too upset to focus on their care.  She was the first person to really ask me if I knew who I was.

She reminded me that her blood ran through my veins.  She reminded me that we come from strong women and generations of tough circumstances.  Prevailing is my birthright . . . it’s in my blood.

There were times when I had just the right words at the right time.  Sometimes it was just the soft breathing of my sister as I wailed and cried on the phone with her. (She knew divorce and what I needed to hear.  She didn’t know miscarriage and she was very present for both.)

In the beginning, when I really wanted to hold onto my marriage, I heard story after story of couples that broke up, had full relationships and were able to reconcile.  I wanted that so desperately and I had story after story of people I knew that did exactly that.

A short while ago I was able to offer that same moment to a stranger.

It was exactly what was needed at the perfect time and it doesn’t always have to be about me.

Money

There were times when I didn’t know how I would feed my kids.  When my ex first got his apartment is when he stopped supporting me entirely.  I went from scraping by and barely having enough, to having nothing at all.

I’ve had several temporary jobs that ended before we got comfortable. My mom helped where she could and I was able to get assistance from the county, but it wasn’t enough.

There were times when I was shocked at the kindness I was offered.  I had people that knew me but weren’t part of my everyday life reach out to support me.  I was offered gas money and groceries, and money to “buy my kids something frivolous for Christmas.” I was visiting with a friend and I assumed her mom didn’t speak English because the whole time she sat quietly as we pieced a puzzle.  She first told me about her reconciliation, then offered me money out of the blue.   I felt so much gratitude for those moments and remembered my prayers . . . chanting . . . mantra, that I would have enough.

There was one day of returns to make and household shopping. I put the cash in my wallet from returns and used my debit card for purchases.  When I was ready to go home, I balanced my checkbook. With my shopping, I ended up overdrawing my account by the exact amount I had from making returns. I was able to make a deposit before heading home. I had just enough.

Grace

I consider grace to be unmerited favor.  I have felt this repeatedly though out the last two years.

Most recently, I had a miscarriage in April.  I was 12 weeks along with twins and very excited to have them.  It was rough at first because it wasn’t a surprise I wanted, but at this point I was bonding with them and excited about the babies.  When we lost them, I expected that the hospital would just do what is normal for “medical waste” and I had no options to say goodbye.  It was surgery.  It was clinical.  It was black and white and there was no space for the loss I couldn’t stop feeling.

My boyfriend had a conversation with his big brother that prompted us to get their remains released to us.  That was a turning moment where we had just what we needed to have.

The next moment came as I was reaching out to the pathology department.  I told the doctor and nurses that I wanted their remains before the procedure, but no one told pathology and they were nearly disposed of.  As I made calls to get them cremated, I was looking at paying several hundred if not thousand dollars to have my babies cremated.  I happened to call the right person in pathology to know I needed to talk to Decedent Affairs.  The person in Decedent Affairs knew who to get me connected to and Natural Grace Funerals took care of my babies, with us only needing to pay for the crematory fees.

Through the right conversations and support along the way, we had our babies cremated and returned to us.  It’s still an impossible situation.  I’d be lying if I said we got through it and we’re not still mourning.  But we had the support we needed to do what we needed to do.  I’m still dreaming about them.  My boyfriend is still feeling the things you are supposed to feel.  But sometimes that’s how we need to address the miracle and the loss.  I’ve been able to get through it with just enough compassion and warmth from my support team.

Sometimes the reason or the “enough” isn’t easy to see until I’m using hindsight.  I still expect to see it.

Even this morning I was in a minor car accident.  I’m okay, but I’m looking for the why of it and the reasons it will be enough of what I need, exactly when I need it.

Set your intention and watch support for that to show up.

The point is we decide what we can expect, and once you choose, you’ll see things fall in place that support your belief.

When I go to the Farmer’s Market or Grocery Store, I just pick up what I want.  For the most part, I don’t need to debate things. Regardless of the cost, if I need eggs, I’m going to buy them.  I made the choice.  I was intentional with putting the eggs in my cart when I put them on my list. Following through is easy after that.

There have been a few times in my current relationship when I was on the fence.  Do we go forward.  Do we walk away? What do I want? Is our status quo serving me more than the cost? I know I want to be with him, but there have been times when I wasn’t choosing.  I was sitting on a fence and being uncomfortable about it.  (Fences aren’t made for sitting on.) Most recently I had a conversation with my ex, and another one with my sister.  It was in those moments when they didn’t argue either case  but gave the perspective they had that I could witness their perspective against my own, and I could see what I wanted.

It’s like a coin toss.  It’s not whether the coin lands on heads or tails, but the result you are hoping for when it’s in the air.  Decide what you want and the support you need shows up because you know to look for it.

What you secretly hope for is what you are choosing.  Stop acting passive about the life you get to live, and choose to live boldly.

For so long I decided I would need just enough.  Now I’m deciding I need so much more.  Dream.  Dream big.  No matter the size of your dream, it’s not here until you make it happen.

The Extreme Value of In-Laws

I had a set of in-laws when I married.  Some made me feel loved.  Others made me feel tolerated.  I don’t plan to focus on them.  The idea of this post is more about the family of the men I’m into.

Learning How to Cook New Foods

When I was younger, my boyfriend’s moms always invited me into their kitchens.  This is how I learned to make tamales. There’s something about a girl willing to cook for a son that makes a mom want to give you affection.  The first instinctive act as a mom is to feed her child, and here is someone else willing to do so.  It was a time for me to learn, but a time for them to learn about me.  Do I mind getting my hands dirty? Will I clean up after myself? Will I jump at his every whim and how else will I undo all that she taught him.  Will I treat him poorly?

Someone That Understands and Still Loves Him

My favorite in-law bonus was the built in fan club.  I have a gift for finding men that are more selfish than selfless.  They tend to be stubborn and not easily coached into a shifted perspective. They tend to be dominant and aggressive. Of all the men I dated, not one escaped a moment of me thinking, “seriously? Is this what I want in my life?” At these times, I always knew that their family would get it. No one else would see selfishness or poor hygiene and still love the man I’m into like I would.  Except maybe his mom.

Deeper Understanding of His Past

No one can bring out both the best and the worst in a boyfriend like his family.  Typically, he’s going to behave in a way that usually makes me feel like he wants to keep me.  When his family is around, he’s likely to be at his friendliest and happiest and in the very next phrase uttered from a sibling, turn into an angry person you’ve never seen.

There’s a gift to being the new person in the history of a family dynamic.  I can step in without the past clouding my judgement of the present.  I can see the most benign comments as innocent where my boyfriend would see something said by a sibling or parent as instigating and malicious.  I don’t have history to mar the future like a sibling that has seen you with pimples would.

You Get to Glimpse into the Future

There’s also a bit of fortune telling involved.  You see their kid pictures, but you get a real life experience of nieces and nephews.  You see how their siblings raise their kids and you can see echoes of what your boyfriend was raised like.  Parents learn from their parents, or work really hard to unlearn what their parents taught and it’s so clear when you watch your significant other with their siblings, nieces and nephews.

Will he have a receding hairline? Will he repeat the same jokes? How does he act around his family? Does he treat his mom well? Is he respectful to his Dad? How does he describe his family to you? Is it an accurate description or does he see things entirely differently from the rest of the world and is this a good thing?

Where Do Loyalties Lie?

How honest are they? Will they tell you when you’re too good for the sibling they know, or cover every sin and fault he is capable of.

Looking in the mirror, I can’t deny the ways in which I favor my Dad and my sisters.  I never felt my emotional needs were met, and I’m almost paralyzed as a parent, trying to meet that need for my children.  So much of who we are is reflected in the relationships we have, and the family we’re given is so much more telling than the families we choose.

FB Live – Let Me Encourage You

I just want to encourage you.

I’m doing collections at work.  It’s a very first world problem and that makes it somewhat superficial.  This day was special.  There was a customer that was in a situation and she needed support.  What we provide supports her business which supports her family. But it’s basically a website and not necessary to run her business.

My gift to her and now to you: You are not your debt.  Who you are is what matters.

No one will rescue you, but you can get up and do it yourself.  You can ask for support, but no one will live this life for you.

There’s a cost to the life we get to live.

When I am low, I have to slow down.  When I can’t slow down, I shift my focus.  Will this matter in 5 hours? Will this matter in 5 years?

Shake it off.  Laugh it off.  Sing it off.

If what is making you happy is making you numb, it’s not the best option. That escape will leave the issue waiting for you to deal with when there is no escape and it will be harder. For me, it’s reading.  For others, it’s drug abuse or a sexual escape.

Having depression is not a life sentence unless you choose for it to be. Get help.  Always get help.

You are not a situation or an action that you have done.  I’m not a suicide attempt or the mom that had the baby blues.  The lesson is as painful and hard as it is, you get help.  You take medication.  You ask for help. You talk to people that want to help you and you accept support.  Don’t face depression alone.

FB Live – You Are Where You Are Meant to Be

I was getting my hair done when a woman walked in and she needed support. She reminded me that we are exactly where we need to be, exactly when we need to be there.

She was facing what most people do when their life is shifted by divorce.

She had to find a job.  She wanted to figure out dating. She was still attacked for moving on by her ex (so very familiar). She had bad credit and needed to find a place to live and she was on the verge of breakdown.

I was in the shop with a man that had the same upheaval I did. We were both able to be present for her.  We were both able to encourage her.  The three of us planned a forever with the people we married and that life was taken from us and it wasn’t a choice we made.  (It’s funny that it takes two to get together, but one can end it.)  We were able to support and encourage her.  It wasn’t about him or me.  It was a moment where we could be there for her.

The way things worked out, it was perfect timing.  We were there for a reason.  We had been through a situation that so carefully followed her own.  She will one day offer that support to someone else in a giving back when someone else needs her the most.

Everything is significant and carries value.  You just get to decide what that value is. That value isn’t always for you.

FB Live – You Can’t Control Anything But Your Reaction

This facebook live was done during the short 12 weeks when I found out I was pregnant with the twins I miscarried in April. I was having a conversation about my surrogate pregnancies because I was talking with a health care provider about all of my pregnancies as part of my medical history being taken.

The last surrogacy one was a set of twin girls that were delivered at 29 weeks after a month-long hospitalization and a week upside down in the Trendelenburg position. As I was explaining my history I was facing my fears of being a single mom with twins. The last pregnancy was unplanned with my current boyfriend that I had only been seeing for 6 weeks when we got pregnant.  Telling her about it all, I was smiling and laughing because my reaction to what life delivers is the only thing in life I can control. We can’t control what happens to our bodies.

Funny thing, you can’t even control your body.  I didn’t plan the pregnancy and I remembered how much I wanted to get pregnant with my ex before we had Kid3.  There was a 9 month stretch of trying before Kid1.  I wanted them.  Then I didn’t want to get pregnant, but was very much acting like an irresponsible teen (says my 15-year-old) when I got pregnant with twins of my own.  While I couldn’t control what my body was doing, I could control my reaction.

When you have an upset stomach, you can’t control your body.  Whether you have diarrhea or need to vomit, your body will force whatever is inside of it, out as quickly as possible.  You can’t time these things.

The next time you have a bender and get so drunk you vomit, you will experience this lack of control.  I remember one night with a bottle of beer and Corralejo tequila in a glass.  I thought I could handle it if I sipped slowly.  That night it all came up.  No matter how determined I was to drink it and sit up with the bartender sharing a drink with me, I couldn’t keep it in me.  What you intentionally put inside of you is forced out by your body.  You have no control.

But you can control your reaction.

Sometimes a situation has to take its course but you get to decide if you want to be happy about it or sad.  You decide if you want to let it stop you or empower you to move forward. You decide what you give power to.

You are not what happened to you.  You are not what you’ve done.  You are not a failed relationship.  You are not a job that fell through.  You are not an irresponsible choice you’ve made.

You can decide how you look at your past and your life.  It’s a choice.  You can let it hold you down or you can let it empower you.

FB Live – The Life You Get to Live Is Created for You

I was pregnant with what I thought was one child at the time and hospitalized with gallstones.  It ended up being an emergency surgery to have my gallbladder removed.  I was on really strong drugs at the time of the video.

When you’re facing something difficult, complicated and scary, you can look back to a time in your life that was similar and kinda guided you to where you are. All we go through is foreshadowed in other experiences.

After having my kids, I was a surrogate mother.  I’ve done seven IVF cycles.  It was an amazing experience, but I had to shoot myself with hormones, for longer than a trimester for each of those pregnancies that succeeded.

When I had pulmonary embolisms in 2014, I had to shoot myself with blood thinners.  I was already familiar with prepping the needles and had already faced injections.

You never know what you’re going to face until you get through it.  But you will. You never know the lesson you need to learn until you’ve finished the trial.  In the end, you’re prepared for the next thing.  You are absolutely designed for your existence.

You can take your life and try to align it with someone else’s but it won’t match.  They were created for their life just as you were created for yours. Your situation will be something that only you can fully relate to.  Your road to your destiny is unique to you.

Whatever it is you are facing was designed for you to grow.  You’ve been prepared for this.  It gives you strength, perspective and a launch pad.

It doesn’t have to be scary.  It can be.  It can be a stretch. For me, it started with Facebook Live.  My stretch was to be in front of the camera.  This video was done at a time when I was not looking my best.  In sharing who I am, I hope to offer support and show that you are more resilient than you think you are.  At the end of the day you get to live your life and be your own cheering section.  Everyone else is busy living their lives.

At the end of the video I gave a lecture on love.  I challenge you to not be narrow minded and bigoted.  The world is at our fingertips.  Love it.  Be kind and compassionate.

I also talked about the fact that we are not bigger than our destinies.  You can’t screw up the plan of your life.  You are not that powerful.  Don’t let a setback set you back when you are bigger than a situation if you choose to be as amazing as you were created to be.