A Little Perspective

My life was put in to perspective this spring. As most of you know, my son was diagnosed with LCH, a very rare and serious disease. He had biopsy of his hip and a bone graph. He was in a wheelchair for nearly three months, used a walker for several weeks and then crutches. He had nerve damage, was admitted to the hospital, was in excruciating pain screaming out every few minutes even on Morphine and Neurontin, went through acupuncture, and missed the last two months of fourth grade and much more.

Prior to this, I stressed over every little thing. I got worked up over little things at work, gossip, things friends were doing, small things at the house, dumb things the kids did, family drama, what to wear, etc. That all changed around April 23, the day we received Joey’s diagnosis.

For weeks all I could think about is Joey and getting him better. I barely answered my phone because I didn’t care what was going on in the world outside of the issues my immediate family was dealing with. I actually avoided going to Kroger, Target and other public places. My BFF and mom would do my shopping. I didn’t want to run into anyone because I didn’t want to have to talk about what was going on with Joey and I didn’t want to hear about anything else in the world. If someone would bring up anything, outside of Joey’s condition, that would stress me out, I would immediately change the subject, leave the room or hang up the phone. I worried about Joey’s health and how my daughter Andi was going to handle it all non-stop. I must have said the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference” at least 100 times a day for at least two months. I’m not exaggerating. That prayer and deep breaths is how I got through each day.

I don’t think a day will ever go by again that Andi, Joey and I don’t think about LCHand how it has changed our lives forever but it has made us all worry less about other things. It really has put things in perspective for me. I find myself laughing at things I would once get upset about. I didn’t freak out when my daughter came home with a red streak in her hair that her grandmother had done without talking to me. I don’t get all worked up when someone sends an inappropriate email – I might make fun of it, but I don’t get upset. I don’t care if I hear gossip about myself. Even when talking politics, which has always been a hot spot for me, I find myself getting less worked up. I don’t care when that passive-aggressive acquaintance (we all have them in our lives) makes an indirect shot at me. I kind of find it funny and will probably call them out on it. In fact, this has made me even more out spoken than I once was but in a humorous way. Someone recently told me I was stuffy because I named my dog after I book. I laughed so hard – right there in front of the person. I just thought it was humorous and in no way felt any need to defend myself.

I also find myself to be a little funnier than I was and joking around about most aspects of my life. I’m able to let go of stuff and I definitely don’t let material things worry me. I also don’t find myself complaining about life. Life is too valuable to complain.

My son was diagnosed with a very serious disease. He couldn’t even get in and out of our house for a while. He will have scans for the rest of his life as we hope and pray the disease does not reactivate. Hug your children, laugh with them, don’t put too much pressure on them, don’t let silly work gossip or an insecure friend take up your time and pull you away from your kids, enjoy your family, dance around the room with them like no one is watching, have dinner together (even if it’s a PB&J on the way out the door), don’t put importance on material things, be silly and only worry about the things that actually matter in life – your family.

My brothers, parents, nieces, nephews, sister-in-laws and my children.

Taking a Break from the Worry

As parents I think we forget to take time for ourselves. My family has been a lot over the last six months (See Catching Up).There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t worry that the LCH is going to reactivate in my son Joey. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t worry how both kids are adjusting to our “new normal,” how Joey’s recovery is going or the endless amount of medical bills that have come along with this disease. In addition to that, I worry about the normal things like the mortgage, my job, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, carpools, my friends’ kids (especially one particular one right now – See Pray For Clay), if the kids are eating healthy enough, etc. It seems to be an endless amount of worry.

My worry was so intense two weeks ago that I literally had a migraine for six days. I would wake up and go to bed with it.  Nothing seemed to help. I tried pain relievers, lots of sleep, prescription medicine, acupuncture, massage and chiropractor. Everything would help or dull it briefly but nothing took it away entirely. I know it was a result of grinding and clinching my teeth, which was a direct result of worry.

I try to do little things for myself like get a pedicure every three to four weeks, hang out with friends or have a glass or three of wine. But I never do much more than that. Honestly, I’m very anal and like to have everything in my life planned. Yes, I’m one of those… a PLANNER. It even drives me crazy. I take months and months to plan vacations. I will review hotels for weeks before making a decision. My planning addiction is what makes me volunteer for everything – Girl Scout Leader, Soccer PA, Fundraisers, etc… I am in control if I’m the one planning it. If I plan it, I know what to expect. Yeah, I have issues.

Last Saturday I woke up with a dull headache but had to do a live interview for my employer. So I dragged myself out of bed, got ready and headed to the studio. I had plans to meet my friends Amy and Christine for a pedicure after. On our way to the salon, Christine mentioned there was going to be a meteor shower that night and how she would love to see it. She also mentioned that she had never been to Red River Gorge. Next thing I know, we are heading home from our pedis to pack our bags, grab our puppies and head to the Gorge. I maybe spent 10 minutes packing. I didn’t even take a flashlight.

We loaded the car and were on our way. Once we got to the area, we started making calls and found a cabin. We went on a hike that evening and the next morning. We spent the evening watching the Meteor Shower and seeing at least two dozen stars shoot across the sky. It was amazing. We also enjoyed a soak in the hot tub and just relaxing on the deck of our cabin while our puppies played. Although my children and everything else was in the back of my head, it was so incredibly relaxing.

I felt completely reenergized after that 30-hour trip. My migraine was finally gone and I even felt like a better mom. This little trip reminded me how important it is for parents to take time for themselves. We need to get away from the stress, take a break from the kids and recharge. I am going to try to make a point to do something for myself every couple months. It might not be an overnight trip every time but it will be more than a pedicure. What have you done lately to recharge?

Dating With Tweens Can Be Rough

It’s so easy to talk about my kids and the silly things they do. It’s easy to write about crazy things other parents do or the stuff my ex-husband does without asking me. It’s not nearly as easy to write about myself or what is going on in my personal life as a single mom. So I’m going to take a stab at it….

I was engaged last year to a guy with kids and was scheduled to get married in July. I met B by chance while out with mutual friends. In fact, earlier that night, I had been on a disappointing blind date. B was pretty over the top romantic from the beginning. He would feed me mushy lines, want to talk on the phone for hours, and after only two weeks told me that he knew we were going to fall in love and get married. He managed to drop the L word after only six weeks and honestly it scared me a little. He would tell me how I was his perfect girl and that he knew we were meant to be together all the time. In fact, being so open with his feelings pushed me away some in the beginning. My best friends will tell you they didn’t think the relationship would make it three months because I was the girl who typically ran. I thought either fairytales really do happen, or he’s a stalker and they are going to find me in a basement someday. Haha.

I was extremely careful when it came to my kids. They originally met him as my friend. We took all the kids out as a chance for them to meet and get to know each other. I didn’t allow B to stay the night while my kids were home until probably 8 months into the relationship. I didn’t want to send them the wrong message or allow them to get too attached.

After about a year, we started discussing merging our families, living together and getting married. All of the kids had mixed feelings about this but we both said we would make it work. Although B constantly ensured me he couldn’t wait to merge our homes, he was a little sad about selling the house he worked so hard for. We worked diligently on the house for months preparing it for sale. Once listed, no one was interested. B paid way too much for the house with 40 steps to the front and severely slanted floors. This caused so much stress in our relationship. Our wedding date was quickly approaching and we hadn’t sold the house. To top it off, B was working ALL the time and I constantly had the kids by myself. B’s oldest was becoming very resentful. He wanted his time with his dad and wasn’t too crazy about me in the first place. When I didn’t have the kids, I was attending events with B for his job. I also had a busy life between my work, soccer with A and my son’s activities.

In addition to stress caused by four kids who weren’t siblings, B never seemed satisfied with the amount of time I was able to give him. There were times when I felt it probably wasn’t going to work but then he would do something over the top romantic like write me a song or give me a love note and I’d be sucked back in.

B had borrowed money from me often (I KNOW – big red flag) but I had no idea how bad things really were. A few weeks before breaking up, I found a notice from the Sherriff’s office. Although B wasn’t ready to be honest, within a few days I discovered his house was about to be foreclosed on. I knew that I was the only one who could qualify for the loan (other red flag) but I was okay with that because he was supposed to provide the down payment.  (Note: he did save the house, which I’m glad he was able to do for the sake of his kids.)

Communicating became very difficult. I knew that it was time to end things but all I could think about is how not having him as a part of my life would impact my children and how much I would miss his children. I also kept holding on to the person he was in the beginning. After a few weeks of arguments, avoiding each other, etc… we finally broke up. It was extremely difficult. I was a mess for a while. Although I knew that he was not a good man to have in my life (I do realize I was not perfect), my life was changing. Some for the good; No more work events on evenings and weekends, no more loaning out money, no more stressing over how the kids will get along… No more dealing with someone who is so unorganized that they can barely make it to work on time or take care of simple household necessities. My kids were devastated. I felt like a horrible mother.

Two months later my kids were finally starting to feel normal again. We went to a huge festival that my family organizes. My entire family attends every year and we are treated as VIPs. Not being considerate of mine or my kids’ feelings, B, who has no association with the festival, showed up with a date. My children were angry and I was shocked since he knew we would be there.

Because we live in such a small town, we hear everything. He and the girl from the festival moved in together only a few months later and got engaged over Christmas. As one of my closest friends said: “Some people like to come home and drink a six pack each night, some like to tailgate in the fast lane and others like to get engaged a couple times a year.”  You have to love friends!

I told my kids about the engagement so they wouldn’t hear from someone else. You could tell they were surprised but they both asked if I was okay (I was) and made a few jokes about him being engaged again so soon and dropped it.

The hardest part of all of this was being there for my crushed kids, while I was also hurting. I will always bounce back but seeing my kids hurt was crushing. I haven’t dated much since the breakup. Not because I’m not over it – I am – but because I can’t imagine putting my kids through something like this again. A friend recently told me that dating with kids isn’t hard if it’s the right person but you know, it takes a while to figure out if they are or not. This friend also has two children and remarried. However, she married someone without kids. I think that makes a difference.

I know it has taken me a lot of words to get to the point here but hey all you single parents: how do you date and protect your kids? Do you bother dating? Do you think it’s easier for those with kids to date someone without kids?  I’m sure married people have some great advice too. Give it to me!

P.S. Please do not say “it sounds like you are better off” or “you dodged a bullet” or anything else like that. I am aware of that! J This is not to focus on him but more to tell my experience with relationships. I want to talk about how to have a successful dating life with kids. 🙂

P.S.S. This is really hard for me to actually post. I’m putting a lot of my inner thoughts and emotions on the table. However, I am always open to feedback and look forward to receiving constructive input.

Image