It’s Time To Change The American Dream

When my kids grow up, I want their hearts to be free, their souls to be nourished, and their burdens to be few.  

Part III: It’s time to change the American Dream

College grads with more debt than job opportunity.  Jobs that take us away from our families while barely paying us enough to make repairs on our home.  Happy marriages that are statistically more likely to end in divorce.  Entitled kids that can’t see beyond their tiny phone screen.  16 million people suffering from depression in America.  Food that is literally killing us.  These are all things that are “normal” in American society.  All things that are part of the American Dream, we are unconsciously living.

This version of the American Dream is soul crushing and has to be changed.  Recently, my husband and I tried to make some drastic changes to our American Dream.

We put our 2000 square foot home on the market to live in a 700 square foot camper for one year.  We were only going to keep the essentials (clothes, sentimental items, etc), pack them into the truck and travel with our 3 girls across the country (and back).  I had a writing gig for money and of course, we would have some money from the sale of our home.  We were going to document our travels and share with the world our new version of the American Dream.

More importantly, we were going to fulfill our dream of spending a year together as a family, seeing things none of us had ever seen before.  As a teacher, I could teach the kids their online school work to ensure they met the “standards” but in traveling, they would be learning through experience, and there’s no greater lesson than that.  Exploring caverns, and writing about adventures.  Meeting Native Americans and learning about their sacred land. Camping under the stars and learning about science in our true environment.  These lessons would be truly unforgettable.

However, this didn’t happen.  We expected to sell our house in days, it sat on the market for weeks.  We started to get pressure from family regarding our parenting and whether we were thinking of our own children in all this.  It turned nasty, because some were too stuck in their selfish feelings that they were not able to see the amazing experience this would have been.

What I’ve learned is that the majority of people are afraid of change.  They’ll work a dead end job where they spend more time at work than with their family, because they’re afraid to take a risk to try something different.  They’ll listen to their kids complain about countless tests and an epidemic of bullying, because they don’t understand the endless school options now available.

I’ve also learned that many of the people who judge us, are the same people who discriminate against others.  Their fear of the unknown motivates them to have a very closed-minded, one-sided view of the world, and they’re not afraid to give their very judgmental, biased opinion.

While these people are driven by fear, my husband and I are driven by purpose.  Our purpose is to expose our girls to things in life beyond their current understanding.  To bring experience and passion into their lives so when it’s time, they will make decisions based on experience, rather than someone else’s belief.  They will be strengthened through our ability to take a risk without fear of failure and given the confidence to follow through on their dreams.  Most importantly, we’ll give them the freedom to choose because we realize the importance of never telling someone who or what they can be.

Our dream is on hold right now, but it’s not dead.  This year holds a lot of changes and we are very excited to embrace them and share them with all of you.

To be continued…

Want to see how these views were shaped?  See About a Boy and About a Girl.

About a Boy: The American Dream

I have one simple wish for when my children grow up; I want their hearts to be free, their souls to be nourished, and their burdens to be few. 

Part I:  About a boy

It was Senior year, he had taken all the classes his parents told him to take and ended up with a very high GPA as well as a partial scholarship.  When asked what college he was going to, he answered with the same college his mother went to.  When asked what he wanted to major in, he answered with the program his dad guided him toward.

He chose finance because, well, money makes the world go ‘round.  His parents assured him he would have no trouble finding a job after college and that his salary would be along the lines of what he had been raised on.  His parents had money, and their spending whether it be on the design of their beautiful home, or extravagant trips, was never a secret.    

He graduated with a Business Degree in Finance and got a job with a local branch of a Wall Street giant.  Less than a year later, when the greed and corruption of floating money hit the fan, he was let go.  He moved to Tampa to follow his fiancé, and has been crunching numbers with the same company for over 10 years.

He eventually married his high school sweetheart, bought a nice house in the suburbs, and had a couple of kids, but he wasn’t happy.  Why wasn’t all of it enough?

It wasn’t enough because he was living someone else’s dream.

He sacrificed his love of art, and his dreams of living in a big city.  He never took his musical talent seriously, even though music is what nourishes his soul.  He liked the attention of exotic girls, and imaged himself dancing with them until the wee hours of the night at an underground nightclub in London.  The image of himself in his heart and in his soul, were unrealistic compared to who he had to be in the eyes of others, so he killed them.

He stopped dancing.  He stopped making art.  He stopped making music.  He hated his job.  He got divorced.  He felt like he sacrificed it all, for what?

His soul was lost in an American Dream he didn’t create.  It’s like a version of the Truman Show where everyone is controlling your life without you realizing it.  One day you wake up, and go “who’s life I this?  Who am I?”

He lives without true freedom, without a happy soul, and with more burdens than he can carry. 

Want to read more?

Read Part II Here

Read Part III Here

Fathers-day-loss

To My Husband Who Might Be Suffering on Father’s Day

I wonder if Father’s Day is hard for you.  You count your blessings and remain strong for me, but I wonder if you secretly mourn the babies we lost.  I do.

Society tells you to be strong.  They tell you to “man up” and not show your feelings, so you rarely do, but on days like this, I wonder if your insides burn with what never came to be.

Mine do…

I can’t help but imagine how you would look holding your own baby. His or her tiny body in your giant arms.  The look every dad has in his eyes when he stares at a reflection of himself in amazement.  I’m angry that you have been deprived of seeing the miracle of life, a part of you being brought into this world.

I wonder…

Would he have had your beautiful blue eyes, your tall, strong build, your massive calves?  Would he have your amazing athletic talent, and your annoying competitive nature?  Would she have your ability to turn sun kissed skin into a beautiful bronze tan?  Would she have had your smile that immediately makes everyone happy?


It seems the questions never end.  Even after nearly 3 years of marriage and no baby, people still ask the inevitable question, “when are you having a baby?”  Does your mind scream like mine does?  I want to tell them that we wanted a baby, what we went through to try, the losses we suffered and how hard it was to finally give in to God’s plan.

We now know that there are some things in life you just have to let go of, and have faith that this is part of the journey.

When we met, you weren’t sure if you wanted to date a girl with three kids,

                              5 years later, those blue eyes sparkle when you talk about “our” daughters.

dad-life

Your arms hold them tight when they need a hug or lock them down when they try to get away.   They may not have your bronze skin, but they smile just as big as you when you leap over waves together or build sandcastles in the sun.  They may not look like you, but they’re starting to act like you and will carry the lessons you are teaching them throughout life.

On our wedding day you said, “I believe God put me in your path for more than just one reason, I believe it was for 4 reasons.”  We didn’t know then, that we’d struggle so much trying to grow our family, but I always knew you were meant to be a dad.  

I hope today, and everyday, your heart doesn’t hurt for what never was, but rejoices in what is.

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To The Man Who Served My Husband Sympathy For Having 3 Girls

To the man who served my husband sympathy,

You may not remember us, but we were the table of 5 that sat in your section on Tuesday night.  You greeted us with coasters, gave us your name and addressed my husband,

“3 girls?  I’m sorry, dude.

Yeah, you sorry alright.  

You’re a sorry excuse to try and bond with my daughter’s proud father by apologizing to him (in front of our girls) for their gender.  As if he is cursed, or less fortunate that God didn’t bless him with a boy.

My husband wanted to put your gangly neck in his 20” bicep while I force fed you the horse shit that just flew out of your mouth, but that would just be uncivilized.  Instead, my husband responded as he usually does when misguided people make comments like this about, and in front of, our daughters,

He simply said, “don’t be. I’m extremely blessed,” and then smiled across the table at our girls.

Once you left, our girls asked, “why did he apologize for us being girls?”  My response to them will come later, but as for you Mr. Waiter…

I don’t believe you’re a bad person.  I won’t even label you a sexist or a misogynist.  I think you are a representation of society’s view of women and your unconscious comment was something you’ve heard and maybe repeated numerous times before.

I mean, who doesn’t already know that girls are way too emotional, and 3 of them?  Forget about it!  My poor husband is going to be a prisoner in his own home with 3 bossy, PMSing girls who make it their mission to bring their cursed misery down upon their old dad.

Those bitches are going to drive him crazy with their non stop talking and drama.  Can a guy just come home to a warm, home cooked meal and a cold beer without their women getting their panties all in a bunch over nothing?

Oh, and just wait until they’re teenagers!  Those curves are just “asking for it” and boys will soon be breaking down dad’s door in hopes his precious little girls will be ready and willing.  You’ll be on 24 hour pussy patrol, and that no longer is a good thing, dude.

You’re screwed either way, Dad.  Bring them up to be ladies who don’t raise their voices, and they could be whores, easy, or loose.  Then again, raise them to be strong women who speak up for themselves, and rejected boys will just call them those names anyway.  

From a reputation standpoint, all a boy has to worry about is throwing a ball without getting called a pussy, or reading a book without getting called a little bitch, or… wait, those are just more labels used against boys that actually insult women.  

Maybe it wasn’t a playful joke and you were sincerely apologizing for the worry Dad will endure by having 3 girls.  Maybe you’re aware that 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age 18 or that young girls are 4 times more likely to be a victim of rape than adult women.  Maybe you were making a joke at the expense of the 20 million women who have been raped at some point in their lives.  I don’t think you’re a bad person, so I’m going to assume this was not your intent.

I believe you meant no harm, it was just a little statement.  I should probably quit being a snowflake and “man up,” but here’s the thing, I have daughters to raise.

sympathy-3-girls

After you left, I told my daughters that girls like them are changing the world.  That once upon a time, girls couldn’t vote but now we represent the majority of voters.  

I told them that once upon a time women couldn’t work, but now the amount of women becoming doctors, lawyers, and accountants has tripled since the 1970’s (maybe later I’ll show them pictures of those bra burning, man-hating feminists).  

I told them they can be heroes, serving as police officers or as one of the 1.6 million women in our US military.  

I told them women represent the largest population in America and that strong, smart girls like them can be intimidating to some boys.  

Then I gave them a wink, and hoped my words answered the question posed by our server, and filled their hearts with courage as they face all the obstacles ahead of them.

When you came back, they smiled like they knew something you didn’t, and they did.

be-the-change

My daughters didn’t deserve to feel bad about being born girls.  While they are not entitled to much, they are entitled to self worth.  You didn’t give them their first lesson in gender bias and it won’t be their last.  They will deal with discrimination from good intentioned, misguided people throughout their lives.  I just hope that this letter, and the faces of my 3 girls, will make you think a little more about who’s sitting at your table.

Sincerely,

Mom to the Smart, Powerful Bosses at Table 23

 

coparenting holidays

How To Co-Parent During The Holidays

If you’ve been through divorce, you remember the day that changed your life forever.  For me, it was Easter.  My husband had made some extremely selfish choices and I was left to protect our girls, 5, 3, and 11 months old who no matter what came my way, managed to keep me going.  

This was me walking to my first Easter celebration alone.  I had 3 babies and a dog as I walked up to greet my entire family who were full of questions I didn’t have the answer to.

That Easter the girls had no idea what their dad and I were going through.  They were so happy to find their Easter baskets and they picked through each egg one-by-one.  They held up their Easter goodies and snuck sweets well before their traditional bunny pancake breakfast.  I made sure to keep their normal traditions and routines alive, while their dad spiraled out of control.

A lot has happened over the last 7 years.  Holidays have come and gone with or without their dad.  He missed his daughter’s first steps, first birthday, first Easter, and continues to choose which life events are worthy of his time.  Through it all, I have been their constant. 

Except this Easter.

  • This Easter he decided that it was on his weekend so I did not get to spend Easter with them.
  • This Easter he decided that the Easter bunny wasn’t coming, even though 2 of 3 kids still believe. 
  • This Easter, the girls didn’t wake up before the sun to scurry find their Easter baskets, instead they were ignored in their room until 11:00
  • This Easter they didn’t get to eat my famous bunny pancakes
  • This Easter he decided church wasn’t important.  

How many more years do they have before they stop believing?  Before they don’t wake us up early and find pure joy in the surprises those baskets hold.  How many more years do we have before they don’t care about bunny pancakes?  When will they stop having faith because of the inconsistencies in their parents?

This Easter, I cried all morning long.  I couldn’t even look at Facebook because all I saw were happy Easter pictures.  All I could think about were my kids ignored in their rooms on a day that is usually filled with so much love and magic.  

I texted Madie to make sure they knew the Easter Bunny didn’t forget about them:  

“Did the Easter bunny come?”

“NO.”

“Well, he came here!”

“He did!”

“Yep!”

“What did he do?”

“Well, I went to do laundry and found a basket in the washer machine!”

“OMG!!”

I called to talk to Makenna and her little face was pouty as she stared at her iPad.  I told her the silly Easter bunny messed up and came to our house instead.  She said she wanted to come home and I told her she’d be home soon and I’d leave everything the bunny brought for her to find when she gets here.  

I underestimate their intelligence since even when we were camping last year, the Easter bunny managed to find our tent, but they went along with it and I sent my Easter love before hanging up and bursting into tears, again.

Why do I always find myself making up for his mistakes?  It’s an easy answer… While it’s not fair to me, it’s what a good parent does.  A good parent is consistent and always makes sure that their kids feel safe and loved. A good parent is selfless when it comes to their child’s needs.

This is not the first, and it is definitely not the last holiday celebration he will ruin.  One year, he returned all of the kid’s Christmas gifts, because he said I was ungrateful.  I went to the store and purchased them again.  

A few months ago he told them to bring a lost tooth home because the tooth fairy didn’t come to his house.   On Halloween, he posted pictures of them in their homemade costumes and said he was getting ready to take them trick-or-treating.  Meanwhile, he had chosen to not see them in over a month.  He doesn’t seem to care about actually spending holidays with them, as long as it can look like he did.

So, why keep them from me this Easter?  It has always been my holiday.  He is not religious, he’s never done Easter bunny duties, he doesn’t find joy in waking them up to spend Easter morning with them.  Another answer I can’t swallow; even after 7 years and all I’ve done to raise our kids with consistency and love, he still uses them to hurt me.

I have learned that the secret to coparenting, is to rise above.  

Easter holds some bad memories for me and this year just adds to it, but I will rise up.  I will celebrate Easter because it’s a day of rebirth.  It was the day my daughters and I rose from the ashes and started a new journey together.  This year, I realized that he isn’t capable of hurting me, because through his actions, I have only become a stronger woman and a better mom.

coparenting

The Greatest Lesson In Co-Parenting

There is no secret to co parenting. Some people may have a great relationship with their ex, and make it look easy. Others may never get along and the kid’s suffer. I am somewhere in between. I’ve been separated from my ex since April 2010. The catalyst may have been his 8 month affair, but the separation triggered a year and a half of hospitalizations that left me alone to care for our girls.

Now, he claims to be in a good place. He’s married to a women with 3 kids, all of whom were involved in his wedding. Our girls were not invited. When his kids come to visit they sleep on a pull out sofa and an air mattress in a living room they converted into a media/guest room. They fall asleep to pictures of their dad’s memorabilia, mainly special edition horror DVD’s.

It could be worse that’s for sure, but for 40 days a year, that’s their life. They sit far away from friends and social life. Far away from their bedrooms decorated by and for them. Far away from their home with 2 loving parents who help with homework, volunteer at their school, pack nutritious lunches, make them go to bed at a reasonable hour and tuck them in every night with cuddles and love, and maybe even a booty shake out the door.

I can’t protect them when they aren’t with me. That is the hardest part about co parenting. 

Give them confidence when they question his love

The only thing I can do is to try to make them strong and happy the 324 days a year they are with me. When they are exposed to one of his episodes, I do damage control. I say things like,

Your dad loves you, he just shows you love in a different way that we do.
Your dad doesn’t always make the best choices, but he always loves you.
Your dad doesn’t get to see you a lot so he probably doesn’t know ______.

Encourage them to share their feelings

My girls aren’t actually themselves when they talk to their dad.  With me, they have no problem expressing themselves, but with him, they act the way they think he wants them to act.  I encourage them to share their feelings because I can’t always fight their battles. Depending on his mood, I’m either a controlling bitch or great mom who they girls are lucky to have. Of course, what he thinks of me doesn’t matter, my priority is making sure the girls feel safe and loved.

Remember it’s not about you

I have spent the last 7 years protecting our children from his inconsistent, selfish behavior. I have shown them happiness when everything was literally falling apart around us. Some days have been hard, and I wish he would fall completely out of their lives for good, but then I remember, it’s not about me.

I can only hope that after my daughter’s experiences with their dad, they will not feel unworthy of his love, or rejected and damaged. Instead, I hope they will learn the true lesson of unconditional love.

To My Husband on our 2nd Anniversary

My husband and I got married two years ago. He was the cute guy standing across the restaurant and I was the girl on the rebound after a 12 year relationship. Mutual friends introduced us and after nearly a year, we started dating exclusively. There are a lot of missing pieces that I look forward to writing about soon, but today I just wanted to introduce my husband with this video.

The Worst Way to Celebrate Women’s Day

I woke up to a sink full of dishes and piles of clean, unfolded laundry the dogs were chewing their bones on.  I got my three daughters up for school, laid out their clothes, only to hear one complain her skirt was too long and the the other complain hers was too short.  I made three lunches to nourish their bodies while they are away from me, and made sure their homework was placed in their signed binders.  I drove my middle schooler to the bus stop and as she exited my car I said, “today is International Women’s Day, do something beautiful.”  She quickly responded, “Mom, yesterday was National Touch a Tit Day.”  

My heart burned as I asked whether she was touched. She rolled her eyes and shut the door.

I’ve seen many posts about International Women’s Day online.  Women laugh and poke fun at the stupidity of losing a day’s pay or letting their kids starve. Men make “locker room jokes” about “getting back in the kitchen” or wishing they had told their wife to do their laundry earlier.  I’ve seen the organizer of today’s strike get called a terrorist because she is a Muslim and the protestors equated to a cult.  

I myself, struggled with finding meaning in the strike. The world needs women.  

The world needs her giving heart and creative mind.  The world needs her to make the boo boo’s go away with a single, soft kiss.  The world needs her to squeeze out the day’s hate with a warm embrace.  The world needs her reassurance and her encouragement; that no matter what we face, we will persevere.  The world needs her to prove there is no better reward than that which comes from pain.  The world needs her to fight, because we know that nobody offers more protection than an angry mama bear.  

Women must be more active in society, but more importantly in their own home.  If your husband, brother, uncle, or friend makes a crude, gender specific joke, call him on it.  That doesn’t make you a feminist – that makes you a hero to any little girl who you saved from hearing it at school.  

If your husband, brother, uncle, or friend talks about doing things to women without their consent, call them on it.  Little boys will take those “jokes” to school and enact them on little girls, for example touching her breasts due to “National Touch a Tit Day.”

If you find out that your daughter was harassed at school, call the mother f* school.  There are things the school can do, the most immediate being an announcement about respect.  

Don’t like how the school handled it?  Take action in your community.  Build awareness on gender specific issues- Make a PSA and post it online (ours will be on youtube soon), pass out flyers you created, attend town hall meetings and make sure there are laws that protect gender equality.  

Whatever you do, don’t be silent.  If we accept harassment and groping in middle school, what is to be accepted or ignored later?  One in three girls are raped before the age of 18.  We must use our voices and teach our daughters to do the same.  

It’s ironic that I struggled with how to celebrate International Women’s Day and then was smacked in the face by my daughter’s revelation of National Touch a Tit Day.  

I will celebrate by continuing to raise three amazing little women.  One day I hope they will take the torch and bring new light to the world.  As a woman, I know that in our society, her torch will be put out by many people in her lifetime, especially men.  I know that this is not the first time she will be harassed at school or work.  I know that I cannot protect her from all the gender specific “jokes” in her lifetime.  As her mother, I will teach her about sticks and stones, but as a woman I know that she will sometimes feel like they are boulders holding her down.  In the end, I hope her torch is still lit and that enough action in her lifetime keeps her world, and the world of those around her turning.

And now, on International Women’s Day in 2017, I will fight the fight by writing an email to my daughter’s middle school about tits.

The Domestic Struggle is Real

 

Have you ever had a week where you feel like your flaws consume you?  I’ve been so down on myself this week and while I think it’s hormone related, I can’t seem to pull myself out of it.  I feel unmotivated and avoid everything from taking the dogs out to complex things fixing my daughter’s bed so she can actually sleep in it.  I’m being hard on myself for the condition of my house right now, instead of getting up and cleaning it.  I have only been to the gym once this week and my skin feels awful.  I haven’t wanted to shave, put makeup on, and avoid mirrors.  I feel physically and emotionally blah!

My schedule is out of whack.  For the last two weeks I’ve been trying to get my mom and kids to come with me in the evening and somehow convinced myself I didn’t have to go in the morning.  Also, since all of my laundry was dirty, I had further reason to skip the gym.  I even told myself, wash them today and go to the gym tonight, and then didn’t even take the time to swap the wet stuff.  In fact, I had to wash it twice before swapping it to the dryer days later.  It will probably stink when I do wear it to the gym… If I ever go back.

I feel like I clean constantly and my house always looks like shit.  I can’t count how many times I’ve cleaned up dog pee and poop this week.  I think there’s still some under the coffee table because every once in awhile I smell it.  Of course, it could be on the pile of laundry that still hasn’t gotten done.  Eight loads this week, and after camping there are at least eight more to go.  I clean my kid’s room constantly.  So much so, I don’t even clean my own room, but I did this week.  On Monday, the kids had off school so I made them clean their rooms while I cleaned mine.  I got about halfway through my room due to all the interruptions.  The result in the kid’s rooms, a broken bed and a pile of garbage, clothes, and toys I pulled out from underneath.  The eight loads of laundry I did were mostly theirs, but they haven’t bothered to put them away.  Probably doesn’t help that the broken bed is now propped against their closet door.  How does their room get so messy, so fast?  I seem to be donating or throwing away shit every couple weeks.  

Homework has been an afterthought this week and I’m not sure why.  My older two are getting better at doing it themselves, but my youngest probably hasn’t read for a month – so much for my English teacher roots.  Kaitlyn is developing the typical teenage “I hate everything” attitude.  At night I hope it’s nothing more and pray that my kids are happy.  Madie and Brent got into it last night and I always seem to be in the middle.  They’re best buds most of the time, but by 8pm I have 4 very tired and cranky individuals in my house.  All a mama wants is peace at that hour.  They all fall asleep around 9:00 I’m alone again with my guilt.

I try to give myself the freedom to not feel guilt about EVERYTHING.

  • The house is always a mess – You have 3 kids and 3 animals, of course it is!
  • You can never seem to complete a job – Nobody with all these responsibilities could.
  • You didn’t eat well this week – So what? Eat better next week.
  • You didn’t go to the gym enough – Double up next week.
  • You look like hell – Shave and go put make-up on.

But my surroundings are still the same.  I have piles of laundry waiting to be folded while another week’s worth lies in the bathroom floor.  My kids still have a broken bed and my dogs still haven’t been walked.  I have a garage sale tomorrow and the last thing I want to do, is enter that garage and prepare for that!  

But I will…

         I always do.  

Now, it’s your turn.  Comment below and tell me about your struggles.  What you do to get yourself out of a funk?  Why are some weeks worse than others?

There Goes My Baby

My youngest daughter, got on a bike at 5.  After a couple pushes, she coasted off into the sunset, only to fall seconds later.  She insisted we put the training wheels back on and for years we let her hobble along.

Fast forward two years (and many camping trips later), Santa brought a brand new bike for our growing girl.  Last weekend, during our annual Valentine’s Day camping trip she got tired of watching her sisters ride off without her and begged us to help her.  The road was rocky but she was persistent.  On her second try, I told her to look at the road ahead and it will help her stay balanced.  Off she went!

As I watched her ride off down the windy road, I got teary.  There goes my baby…  From walking to running and swimming to riding her bike, the milestones keep ticking away like the hands of a clock.  I can’t seem to stop time although I’ve done my best to delay it.  I hope the lesson I taught her, to focus on the road ahead, no matter the bumps in the road, will continue to guide her, even when I’m not holding on to the back of her seat.

Do I really have to let go?