The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no place like home.” -Dorothy

I’m home from my adventure with Lissa Rankin!  It was great, I’ll tell you more about it throughout the week.  Most of all though, I realized how much I love being with my family…they are truly my HOME.  Wherever Mark, Bella, and Callee are is where I want to be.

Also today is mine and Mark’s 12 year anniversary!  Happy anniversary to the best husband in the world!!!

Snow Flower

*This is the post I wrote that led me to stop blogging.  In the moment, I just wasn’t happy with it, got frustrated and wrote and published the goodbye post instead.  Reading it now, I’m not sure what the problem was, so I’m going to share it.

Today I started reading this wonderfully gripping book called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  I began reading the second chapter with my hand over my mouth and tears forming in my eyes.  Further into the chapter something happened that has never happened to me while reading before.  I started getting light headed and had to put the book down for fear that I would pass out in the middle of the pediatric dentist’s waiting room.  To give you a clue as to why, chapter two in the book is titled “Foot Binding.”

The book is set in China and is written in first person.  You see the world through the eyes of a young girl who is the 3rd child,  2nd daughter in her somewhat poor family.    So far the book is just this vast reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of women’s rights and equality.  And of course I am really only aware of my culture and society, so I realize this change of beliefs is not necessarily true in other places.  I know in China it is still most desirable to have a son and the orphanages are filled with girls.  One would believe it impossible for a mother to give up a child just because it was not born a boy but if even a little bit of the attitude in this book prevailed daughters do not receive what we think of as mother’s love.  There is one event in this book that, as a mother, surely would have sent me to the loony bin but was barely a blip on this fictional mother’s radar (or at least thus far, I’m only on page 59).

It just saddens me the way ignorant, prejudice, and twisted ideas can take flight.  How entire societies and cultures can be built upon traditions of torture and slavery.  The only freedom these women experienced was prior to the age of 6.  At 6-years-old the foot binding begins.  And the reason for the foot binding was so that they could get a husband.  And for the families with daughters, the livelihood depended on them being married off.  So at the age of 6 little girl’s feet were broken and twisted up by their own mothers.  They spent weeks or months in agony learning to walk on broken stumps (more or less).  I know I could easily research it, but I just wonder how this came to be?  Who decided that was attractive?  Who set that as a standard for making a woman marriage material?  What kind of person makes that decision and why in the Hell does anyone listen to them?

I know there are things in our society that are comparable.  Women go under the knife for all sorts of reasons.  But at least we have a choice in the matter.  At least those of us that aren’t willing to make any drastic changes to our bodies will still be able to find husbands (or wives-if we continue on the evolution to equality).

I am only a little ways into this book, but since it was recommended to me and it has truly sucked me in, I would definitely recommend it to you.  I also invite you to go back and read Karen’s Click which is about her grandmother’s tiny feet.

Jane R’s Click

I received a click story in my inbox the other day and at first felt terrible that I had not found it sooner, but as I read it I realized the timing was just right.  I wrote about marriage on Monday and when I published that post I wondered about any readers who might be thinking that they’d been looking at the big picture and were tired of living in a black cloud and desperately seeking that silver lining.  I know there are people who put all they can into their marriages and still find that the only way to achieve joy is to leave it behind.  So this amazing post about the end of a marriage and the awakening of a creative, thriving, beautiful woman is for you. You can read Jane’s blog here.

One of my biggest personal changes happened when I got divorced from my ex-husband.  We had been living in a renovated carriage house on his parent’s property for 10 years.  His parents were adamant that the kids and I should stay and he should move out.  I had my chance to get that UHaul and move but I passed on it due to my own fear and self imposed limitations.  I simply didn’t believe that I could ever make it on my own out there with two children.  On July 1, 2004 my husband moved out.  As the kids ran to the window and watched the moving van pull out of the driveway, I sat there in a half empty dismantled home feeling envious that he got off that property instead of me.  He had the freedom while I put down the scissors after clipping my own wings.  It would be four more years of living next door to the main house and a soured relationship with my ex-in laws before the tides changed and I got that UHaul.  But in the mean time, those four years were the biggest gift from God that I ever got.  In that period of time I unearthed so many wonderful things about myself that I thought were long dead.

In the beginning of our divorce there were some adjustments to be made.  If you’re a woman who’s been through a divorce you know that no matter how happy you are to be free of a bad marriage there is a period of grieving that goes with it too.  For so long I was tied in to the identity of being someone’s wife.  Even though I was in a bad marriage, it still gave me a sense of feeling complete just knowing that I had a husband.  With the new title of “single mother” I really started looking closer at what it meant to be a woman.  Sometimes as a single mother I felt like I had scarlet letter on my forehead.  Other times women would approach me privately and tell me that they envied the freedom I had gotten because they had been in horrible marriages for years but were too afraid to leave for financial reasons.  It was then that I realized I would rather be single and struggling a bit than to stay in a loveless marriage for the next twenty years just so that I could hold on to the big house and tennis lessons.

It didn’t take too long after my ex husband moved out to realize that a huge mountain of weight had been lifted.  Granted, I was still living on his parent’s property and terrified about how I would make it as a single woman with no real career but I was still amazed at the sense of freedom for just having that weight taken off me.  I suddenly had a sense that if I could feel so much lighter despite those restrictions, imagine the real sense of freedom once I cut my ties to my in-law’s property entirely.

The greatest thing about my new found freedom was watching all the goodness in me resurface again.  The creativity that had no pulse was suddenly bursting out of me.   I replaced every piece of store bought art with my own original work.  My house was like a little art gallery.  I replaced white walls with vibrant yellows and reds.  I took up kayaking and entered in to the MS 150 bike ride from City to Shore.  For a woman who was constantly criticized for her bad cooking, I was suddenly finding myself devoting Saturday mornings to making Linzer Torte and homemade spinach pasta.  No longer fearful of being condemned for a messy house, I was elated to put my infamous little stacks of books and papers wherever I wanted.  I was creating a space and life that was uniquely mine and for the first time in my life I didn’t mind being without a partner.  During my first marriage I rarely went anywhere.  I isolated myself in our bedroom for hours.  Now I was taking every chance I had to go out and throw myself in to social situations that would allow me to talk and connect to everyone.  It was marvelous.  It truly was.  But the turning point that started me on a long path of self-discovery happened when a co-worker challenged me to pick up my camera and get involved in a Flickr project which involved taking and posting one self-portrait a day for a year.  The first time I picked up the camera and turned it on myself I cried.  It was actually joyous because what I saw staring back at me was a beautiful woman who had locked herself away for years.  It’s true that the eyes are the window to our souls.  Once I took that first snap shot I was hooked and it wasn’t because of some vain ego thing at all; it was because each photo revealed more of who I was on the inside.  I needed to take those pictures to continue to evolve.  Of course the posting on line lead to connecting with other people globally.  Now a whole new world of endless possibilities to connect was at my finger tips.  I started a blog and realized that I could actually write.  Five years later, I’m still blogging and continuing to build and connect in ways I never could have imagined if you asked me six years ago.  I’ve since remarried to an amazing man and life is so good.  I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at living.  I’ve been rebuilding my life slowly.  Writing, I’ve discovered, has a voice inside of me that needs to come out and share itself with others on their journeys.

Thoughts on Marriage

This weekend we are going to a wedding.  It has me thinking about marriage.  Two nights ago we watched Revolutionary Road which was really a movie about marriage.  It was a very depressing movie about marriage actually.  The very last scene of the movie summed up the dark view perfectly.  In that scene an older couple is sitting in their living room.  The wife is talking away and the husband with the most miserable look on his face covertly turns off his hearing aid so he can’t hear a word she is saying.  The movie was set in the 50’s (I think) and the couples all just seem to have settled into lives without joy.  And the main characters certainly seem to blame each other for killing dreams and leading one another to a dull existence.  For a brief moment you think they are going to come together and turn things around, but in the end only one of them is willing to change and that change is actually quite tragic.

So that led me to even further think of marriage.  Of course I have come to believe that everything in your life is a reflection of your deepest beliefs about yourself and desires for your life.  Your ultimate partnership might be the biggest reflection of this.  Perhaps we truly chose people who “complete us,” people who have qualities that we would like to strengthen within ourselves or provide us with opportunities to fulfill roles we desire at a deep level.  I know that for me when I was younger I was very impulsive and struggled with this.  I often made decisions without thinking through the consequences.  I wanted to move past this.  It does not surprise me that in Mark I found one of the most thoughtful, careful people I’d ever met.   Over the years we have truly balanced one another out and I don’t even want to know where I’d be without him.

Marriage takes work and care though.  Sometimes, when challenges arise, we get so stubborn that we forget (or possibly aren’t even aware) it was us, ourselves that attracted these “teachers” into our lives.  In those moments we have a decision to make, we either become teachable or we remain “right.”  And that doesn’t even mean that we let our spouse give us a lecture or teach us a lesson, it means that we ask ourselves what we need to learn from the situation.  It may be that we need to learn to let go of the small things or love ourselves in the way we long to be loved by others.

I have a friend who says that there are three stages of marriage.  You may experience them with 3 different people, or they may all be with one.  However it looks, you get to phases in your life where you grow and change.  At that point you make a decision to grow together or apart.  I believe your attitude has more to do with this than anything.  I think stepping back and viewing the partnership through a wider lens can help.  From that viewpoint you can see the positives instead of honing in on the challenges.  You can also begin to question yourself about what you need to learn in order to be joy-filled!

My wish for my friends is that as they embark on this journey and experience the ebb and flow of their lives together that they will not lose sight of the big picture.  I hope they always see the silver lining in every challenge and the best in one another.  I hope they will choose happiness over being right and try to maintain an attitude of gratitude.

Mandy’s Click

Over the past few months I’ve trimmed my online time.  I don’t read as many blogs as I used to.  I do manage to read Musings of a Madman most days of the week.  I was introduced to Mandy through her insightful comments on that blog.  After reading some of her blog, I asked her to write a click story.  She agreed and during the waiting period (the time it takes someone to come up with an idea, write it, and send it to me) she posted the following entry on her own blog.  When I read it, I was very moved and wondered if she’d allow me to put it here as a click story.  After a week or two, I decided to write her and ask.  She immediately agreed, and still agreed to write another click story just for my blog at a later date.  Thank you, Mandy, for sharing your story here.  You can read Mandy’s blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Endings and New Beginnings

A little over a week ago my husband and I hired a babysitter, got in the car and rode off to a quiet parking lot, got out of our car and had a very serious discussion. After almost 9 years of marriage and over 11 years together we both realized we are very different people.  We both knew this was coming. Mercifully we also both knew that we no longer made each other happy.

We decided it was time to end our marriage. Divorce. I never thought it would happen to me. Ed and I have had a happy marriage. We have supported each other, brought three amazing kids into this world and built a life that from the outside looked pretty damn picture perfect. Ed has stayed home with our children since Molly was a few months old. I leave each morning, go to work, and return each evening allowing Ed to go work, he also works on the weekends. Sure, we’ve struggled financially in the past couple of years, hell, who hasn’t? But we’ve managed.

Slowly however, you could almost see the distance between us expanding, as a river erodes away the land, time had begun to erode away our marriage. It was a gradual process, yet, Ed even says he wonders what we really had in common in the first place.  We began to have separate friends, watch TV in separate rooms, take separate trips, alternate “babysitting” so the other could go out, really began living separate lives while under the same roof. We didn’t fight much, an occasional disagreement, but not many real fights. We just found we had very separate interests.

I believe it is in the past year and a half as I watched my step dad succumb to brain cancer that I truly began to feel my marriage was not forever. Watching someone you love die is life changing. Watching my parents love story come to such a tragic end is heartbreaking. The pain in my Mom’s and Dad’s eyes as they knew their life together was coming to an end broke my heart, honestly, it still does. As I watched this process over the 18 months that it took from him to go from healthy and full of life to taking his last breath, I realized bit by bit, day by day, that I did not have this type of love. This love was rare.  However, I also didn’t want to live a life that didn’t include the possibility of this kind of love.

Am I romanticizing things a bit? Only in that I mention their love as it was at its best. They had struggles, they had fights, they had times it seemed they were polar opposites. The difference however is you could look at them, even in the throes of an argument, and you just knew this was a love affair of a lifetime.  You could feel their love for each other.

I think it is truly during this time when I decided I did not have that kind of love in my marriage. It took some time to let those feelings, those doubts, creep to the surface. I had buried them very deeply, as had Ed, and they had begun to fester. I began 2010 in what I feel was the beginning of a depression. I didn’t want to leave the house and when I was home I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to sleep. I was tired all the time. I was empty. I cried as I watched my kids play and I didn’t have the energy to do anything with them. I went to my doctor so sure something was medically wrong. She ran test after test only to discover there was not anything physically wrong with me.

I left her office and sat in my van and cried. How could there not be anything wrong with me? I didn’t want to admit, even though I could hear a little voice in my head trying to tell me, that what was wrong was emotional. Gradually over the first couple of months of the year I began to let myself admit that perhaps my issues were with my marriage. That my issues were with this man I had built a life with, this man who was kind, loving, and an amazing Dad, this man that I committed my life to. I could see the love he had for me in his eyes, how do I break his heart and tell him, that while I love him I was not IN love with him anymore? That any dreams we had of raising these precious children under the same roof were over? How do you do that to someone?

It began to get more and more difficult to carry on the charade of happy wife and happy life. Finally Ed told me we needed to talk. I was floored. Could he be finally feeling the same thing? Could he have realized we weren’t in love anymore? Could he possibly have decided HE deserved better? I was in knots as I awaited that conversation.

The aforementioned car ride was horrible. It was quiet, uncomfortable and frightening. Were we really going to be on the same page? Is this an attempt by him to make things work or are we going to agree to dissolve this union?  When we started talking and we realized we had both come the same conclusion you could see the relief wash over both of us. Don’t misunderstand, I cried, we hugged, kissed for the last time and decided no matter what that our children are our top priority.

We are adults. We both know we aren’t meant for each other. I want Ed to find someone that will make him happy beyond measure. He is an amazing man, he is an incredible father and he is a good husband. He is loving, dedicated, hard working and deeply caring. He and I are just not meant for each other. I am sure some woman will come along and think I am crazy for letting him slip through my fingers. I hope that happens. I wish nothing more for him than the happiness I was not able to give him.

It is hard, however, I couldn’t imagine things being more smooth as far as divorce is concerned. We agree on every point, separation of assets, custody, everything. He is in the process of moving out and we will begin this new chapter in our lives. I will support him and we will raise our children together.

I am big on symbolism. It was interesting to me that this decision was made the day before Spring began, on the last day of Winter. I think and pray that it is a sign of a new birth for us. That as the flowers began to bloom, we will also find ourselves blooming and thriving in our new lives.

One last thought, please don’t feel sorry for us, yes, it is sad, and it is painful, but at this point we are better friends than we have been in a long time. We know there will be struggles ahead, but we are taking things one day at a time, respectfully beginning to unbind the ties that have bound us for all this time. We will support each other and be the best parents possible. We are both happy and excited about what lies ahead.

Georgia’s Click

I went to school with Georgia from 7th through 12th grades.  We recently reconnected on Facebook and I was amazed to discover what she had overcome this past year.  It was much more than a “click moment” and I couldn’t resist asking her to share her story on the blog.  I am so honored that she agreed.  Now, I’ll let her tell you the story….

I have a new anniversary to celebrate…April 8th.
A day that I can celebrate as a day of survival.

It’s true what people say- tragedy often comes with no warning, no notice, no symptoms…it just hits and within seconds, a life changes. I know people are curious as to what happened, so I will tell my story.

I was on Spring Break from school last year and expecting a move, I got up early to start packing. As I bent down to feed my cat, I started to have a headache. The headache was so awful I called my husband to tell him. After about 30 seconds of explaining how I felt- I hung up and dialed 911.  Waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I tried to stay conscious. Little did I know, what I was experiencing was a hemorrhagic stroke.

In the emergency room I was given an MRI, which revealed a ruptured AVM (artreveinous malformation) in my cerebellum. I had no symptoms nor had I even heard of an AVM! The doctor preformed emergency surgery to dispose of the brain tissue that had been “bled on” as a result of the rupture. I was in a drug induced coma for over a week and hospitalized for almost two months.

Because the AVM destroyed much of the brain tissue related to my gross motor skills, I had to spend nearly two weeks in an in-house rehabilitation center just to learn how to stand up and walk across a room(among other things).

In June, I had brain surgery to successfully removed the AVM from my cerebellum (called a craniotomy). He later described the AVM as the size of a bouncy ball.

The most important lesson learned from my experience is not what occurred, but the spiritual message I learned about life as a result, and the person I hope to become.

My family, friends, doctor -practically everyone- told me that I was at deaths door . . . maybe I died and came back to life . . . I don’t know- all I know is that not even a year into marriage and Chris was almost a widower. The thought breaks my heart.

Chris was with me no matter what the results and I love him dearly for that. Now, more than ever, the bond between us has become stronger . . . not necessarily as husband and wife, but between our spirits. I think this situation has only confirmed our belief that we married for the right reasons.

I do not let little things bog me down as much. Sometimes my egotistical-self will start to hark on minute problems, but my husband is always there to remind me “life is too short”. . . I figure he would know.

I have read a lot of books about my condition and it seems to be very rare. Knowing this makes me feel that all of this was so purposeful it’s scary. I have to say, the familiar clichéd quotes helped me to see this situation for what it truly was-not a tragedy but an enormous blessing. I believe that I have not yet fulfilled my spiritual destiny and it’s up to me to move forward and seek out my future with Chris.

I see this incident as an obstacle in my life that I have almost physically overcome, but the learning experiences gained from this event will guide me forever.

Quotes to Consider:

-If God brings you to it he will bring you through it
-God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight
-God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way.

Sex…

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to write about sex.  The tricky thing is trying to write about the topic without giving away too much information about my private life.  I mean there are some people reading that I’m sure just don’t want to know…

Last week we watched the movie Watchmen.  I’m almost ashamed to admit I liked the movie, but I did.  It was well done and interesting.  It was the violence that got to me (thus the shame).  It was horrific.  You couldn’t tell the bad guys from the good guys, they were all bad…and good.  Women were beat up, a pregnant lady shot, and one guy got a hatchet through his skull.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such extreme violence.  There was, however, a love story within the movie and they did include one sex scene.  After over an hour of blood and guts, guns and blades we were subjected to 15 seconds of nudity and simulated sex.  They were so very careful not to assault the audiences’ sensibilities with any dirty sex.  It was quite beautiful and sexy.  I could have watched that for a couple of hours without feeling like I needed to take a shower and ask God’s forgiveness.

So this brings me to the question.  Why do we embrace violence and demonize sex?  Why are we more inclined to change the channel if a show has sexual content then violent content?  And how does this attitude affect our intimate lives when we are adults?

I read this article months ago on Owning Pink and I was surprised to find out that more than half of married couples have sex a few times a month or less.  When we’re dating someone, sex is a big issue.  If you’re not doing it, you wish you were.  If you choose to abstain than you at least have the desire to fuel the romance and passion.  If you’re doing it than you’ve got the doing it to fuel the romance and passion.  So what happens after we get married?  Routine, I guess.  Our minds are in a thousand other places and well sex is dirty anyway(this may not be at the forefront of our minds but I’d be willing to bet it’s in there somewhere), so let’s just put it off.

My attitude towards sex, like many other things, has certainly not stayed consistent.  It has ebbed and flowed depending on my life experiences.  It’s affected by how I feel about myself, which role I identify with the most, the long list of goals and to-dos waiting to be accomplished, and most certainly those “messages” from society that have bombarded me since childhood.   But despite all of that, I also (now) embrace that sex is good for me and it’s good for my marriage.    When Mark and I were engaged I read the “Love Languages” book and realized pretty quickly that my language is touch.   It’s not surprising then that when I began to make sex a priority, all of my marital pet peeves disappeared.

I understand that a lot of people have real biological problems with sex drive and of course to that I can’t speak.  But I know there are also a lot of people who are just too busy to be interested.  If this works for you and your relationship then great, keep on chugging along.  But if you wish things could change in that department then I challenge you to change your attitude.  Take the time to connect with your partner and be mindful of the experience.  Focus your complete attention on every touch and kiss.  Treat it like a spiritual experience, empty your mind of all the junk and open your heart.   And for those of you reading this who are single…I still say sex is good for you, even if you’re “flying solo.”