Saturday, October 25, 2014

Memories of My Mom

Today I stood in the middle of 15,000 people and cried like a baby because I missed my mom.

Mom has been gone for a little more than three years now and I'm still not used to it. I think of her all the time and wish she were here to go to my girls dance recitals, my boys high school graduations or just to talk to about the boring day-to-day stuff like we used to.

Lately there have been quite a few reminders of my mom.  Last year I planted a crepe myrtle tree in
honor of my mom and grandfather. I thought it might not have survived the winter but instead it blossomed beautifully. In my front garden, the morning glories climbed up the trellis, through the garden and down the sidewalk.

Kid 2 was going through some books recently and he found an old boarding pass I had used as a book mark. It  was the boarding pass I used to fly home on Christmas Eve 2010. Me and 6 kids rushed to board a flight, knowing it was my moms last Christmas, but not knowing if we'd get to her before an approaching blizzard. It was a blizzard that ended up shutting down most of the Northeast United States. We landed in Philadelphia just as the snow was starting to accumulate. It was the best/worst/craziest/happiest/saddest most memorable Christmas ever.

That old boarding pass is still sitting on my dresser. For some reason I just haven't thrown it away yet.

Today the kids and I participated in the Susan G Komen Race For The Cure. We've wanted to do the race for a few years now but we always had other commitments. Race For The Cure raises money
and awareness for breast cancer. Since my mom had liver, lung and brain cancer, but not breast cancer, I didn't write down that I was running in memory of my mom.

But then a weird and unexpected thing happened.

As we were standing in the warm up area before the race, I started noticing all the names on other peoples shirts that they were running for. Almost everyone was running either in celebration of, or in memory of, their mother, their sister, their wife or a friend. Some had actual names written on their shirt. Many just said "In memory of my mom".

Standing there in that sea of pink t-shirts, I became totally overwhelmed with emotion and started crying. More like bawling. As music played on the stage and people danced and cheered around me, I just stood there and cried. It was Kid 5 that was the first to notice something was wrong.

I told him I was OK, I just missed my mom. He put his arms around me and said "I miss Mimi too."

I pulled myself together and set out on the 3.2 mile course. I've often said that you meet the nicest people at races, and today was no exception. I talked to a man whose wife had just had a baby last night, but she insisted he be at the race today with their other children to run in honor of their aunt. A woman, not all that much older than me, was racing in memory of her daughter. Not in celebration of, in memory of, her daughter. I can't even imagine. Many women were running for their sisters. And I was surprised and happy to see so many men running in celebration of their wives. It's probably the only place I've ever seen so many men proudly wearing pink.

Tonight my mom, the kids Mimi, was on all our minds. They asked if next year I will put my moms name on my t-shirt even though it wasn't breast cancer that took her. Yes, I told them, I will. Cancer is cancer and cancer took my mom from me.

Next year my t-shirt will say "I run in memory of my mom. And I miss her every day."


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Family Time on a Mountain: Way Better Than Minecraft!

I've always said I'd rather give my kids experiences than things.

To be honest,  they have most of the "things" they've asked for. But when I consider gifts or vacations I try and look at what can we do and not what can we buy?

When my sister and I were kids my parents took us on vacation to a different state each summer. I still remember sitting along Mirror Lake New Hampshire listening to the Loons as they swam on the lake. We toured the Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate New York with my dad. We even camped along the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. But I don't remember a single souvenir or thing that I bought any of those summers.

Being a military family for twenty years meant we moved every few years. But it also gave my kids the opportunity to see new places and experience new adventures. The travel bug seems to have caught each of the kids as well. Both kids 2 and 4 have worked extra hard these past two years to pay their way through non-family trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, California and Colorado. Kid 3 is campaigning hard to get permission to travel to ComicCon next year (he's closer to having my permission than he knows) and the other kids have their own dreams and plans as well.

Now that I'm a single mom vacations aren't as financially feasible. But this weekend we took our first
official family vacation since before the divorce. Unfortunately, Kid 1 had to stay home and work. So me and the other five kids packed up the car and headed off for a long weekend trip to Pinnacle Mountain Arkansas. We rode horses, hiked, went to the State Fair, and explored a World War II submarine.

There was lots of laughter and few squabbles. I knew my "experiences not things" motto was working when one of the kids momentarily stopped scrambling up the mountain, turned around and said "this is even better than Minecraft!"

It makes this momma's heart happy to see how when the kids are removed from their daily routine they connect and really seem to enjoy being together.  Kids 2 and 4 - the two who normally argue over who is right - paired off on the hike up and down the mountain.  Kid 3, the most quiet of my crew, and kid 5, the most sensitive of the family, also paired off. More than once on the 5 mile hike up, down and around the mountain those two ventured off on their own to sit and take in the view.

Later that evening we all reached the over-tired laughter on the verge of tears point and I had to remind them that we were in a hotel and the people in the next room might not enjoy hearing the hysterics coming from our room.

Although, even if we did get a little too loud, I hope it's a memory the kids will always smile and remember.

We made it to the top!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Girl Stuff: My Boys Just Don't Get It

"Every day I wake up thankful to be born with a penis." 
-- Kid 2 after a weekend spent listening 
to girl drama

My BFF Kerri is also my hair stylist. Because we are both so busy working and taking care of our families, we rarely have time to see each other anymore. So, problem solved, we schedule my hair appointments for Friday nights after her shop is closed and the kids are taken care of. It's our social time.

We pick up some sushi, turn the iPod on, mix the color and start talking. This week I told her I wanted my red hair to be more red. Like Julianne Moore deep, vibrant red. Kerri is the expert so while I opened up the sushi she mixed the color.

I trust her completely. I trust her so much when I said "hey this is really red" and she said don't worry that I didn't worry.

But it was really red. Like, Bozo red. So.... I laughed and took some pictures while Kerri remixed more color. Five hours later when I finally returned home  - looking absolutely fabulous with my new auburn do - the kids said I was gone "forever".  So each kid one at a time had to hear the story of my hair drama that evening.

The next day we set off for the mall to find a dress for Kid 4 to wear to her Honor Society banquet this week. Kid 4 is the 13-year-old girl and acts, well, like a 13-year-old girl.

Three hours, two boutiques, Macy's and JC Penney's later and we still hadn't found anything for her to wear. To be fair, our school has a pretty strict dress code. Because Kid 4 is tall like me, it can be tough finding a dress that is the required length.

She was frustrated. I was annoyed. Kid 2 thought it was "ridiculous" and Kid 5 was "bored." Why kids two and five, both boys, wanted to even come on this trip I don't know.

To make the day even more fun, we also were finally let in on the girl drama between Kid 4 and her BFF, who just happens to be the daughter of my BFF Kerri. We heard all about the nonsense that often happens between 13-year-old girls when a boy enters the picture.

At this point Kid 5, my 11-year-old boy, had officially lost his patience. He wanted out of the mall and he wanted out now.

I tried to explain to him that this is just life with girls. Whether it's his mom, his sisters or his future girlfriends he will have to sit and wait outside a fitting room. He will have to listen to girl drama and boy troubles. He will have to talk about hair color and be asked repeatedly if he likes a new haircut. Does it look good? Does 'it looks fine' mean it doesn't look good?

The struggle is real to be a girl. It's his lot in life to be a boy and have to listen to the struggle.

Watching and listening to all this, Kid 5 looked over and casually said "Every day I wake up thankful to be born with a penis."

I can't argue with that logic.

Finally Kid 4 decided she would just wear something she already has in her closet at home. As the younger brother Kid 5 realized this whole trip was for nothing, I thought he was going to really lose it. But, instead, he looked at me and said "I'm never coming to the mall with you again. Girl stuff is boring."

He's a boy. He doesn't get it.

Boys 4 (1 not pictured) Girls 2
Yet, girl drama reigns
in the Fields home

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blog Hop 2014

Last week I opened an email from my good friend and fellow blogger Natalie over at May the Schwartz Be With You. Now I love Natalie dearly, however, her email made me groan and want to throw things at her.

Natalie sent me what was basically a chain letter (they still exist?) inviting me to participate in a "Blog Hop." A blog hop is where one blogger nominates other bloggers to answer a few basic questions.

Ugh. But Natalie is smart and she knows me well enough to know exactly what to say to get me to agree:
"The point is, I really like you and would like to see your answers to these questions. Mainly because I know you need to write more.  It's cathartic and therapeutic."

Double Ugh. But when I saw Natalie at dance that week I agreed to write the post. So here we go.

Why do I keep a blog?

Well, my even beginning to blog is because of Natalie as well! She was blogging and I enjoyed reading her posts. I had told her that in my pre-mom days I was a writer and I missed writing. But that blogging was kind of dumb and narcissistic. I don't care what celebrity bloggers have to say and who would care what I have to say?

But she convinced me to at least give it a try. My first post was August 25, 2012. I wrote about my experience with Bikram Yoga, titled Yoga, Tuna & Heat. It's still one of my most favorite posts and, interestingly, still frequently pops up on my stats board as being recently being read. 

With that first blog I was bitten. The urge to write was reawakened within me. I didn't know what to expect and I honestly figured no one would read it anyway.  I had no idea where the blog would lead. The nights I'd write with tears falling on the keyboard during my mom's death from cancer.  The times I'd ache to write but couldn't get the words out during the unexpected ending of my 23 year marriage in a divorce.  And even the times I was so excited I was writing the posts in my head before I could get home to my Mac. 

This blog led to another interesting place too. It turns out a few people did actually read my blog. The right people liked what I wrote and invited me to write for Elephant Journal. Those posts led to being invited into a writers group. And finally it led to me writing my own book

(Shameless plug: Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom available for purchase - well someday. )

So I guess I really owe Natalie for helping me fulfill a life-long dream and writing a book. I hope she will accept payment in ever-lasting love and gratitude.

What motivates me to teach yoga?

This sounds all new agey and woo woo, but I feel called to teach yoga. When I'm teaching is one of the rare times I feel content and confident. Similar to blogging, I kind of fell into teaching yoga. I was
Legs Up The Wall with
my class for savassana one night
a high impact cardio girl that just happened to also teach Pilate's. One day the yoga teacher didn't show up and so my boss asked me to fill in. I had no idea what I was doing. But I figured OK I'll get some training and see where this goes. By my second training weekend I knew this yoga thing was for me. A year or so later I made my first trip to Los Angeles to train and after that week everything changed both for me and within me.

I was a yoga teacher. This feeling, this activity, this "thing" is what I had been searching for. I have said before and I will say it again, yoga saved my life. Although I was all smiles at the gym, I was in a bad place in my private life. I truly believe if I hadn't found yoga when I did that I would not be sitting here right now the (mostly) sane, (mostly) confident, (mostly) put together woman I am.

What is/are my greatest strengths?

I never know how to answer this question. People tell me all the time how strong I am being a single mom of six kids.  How brave I am for fighting for what is right.  How proud they are of me. 

I don't see it. I see only that I've done what I needed to do to keep my family healthy, safe and happy. I've held my kids as they cried and turned into psycho mom defending them when someone tried to hurt them. I've done what all good moms are supposed to do. I hope.

Being organized, sometimes to a fault, is one of my strengths. It has to be with a large family. I've been told many times I'm "controlling." Well yeah, of course I am. How could I not be controlling with six kids and an alcoholic husband. It was the only way to tame the chaos. 

I am very guarded but also very loyal. Once I allow you into my inner circle you are in and I will fight for you till the end. I've stayed loyal to the wrong people for too long in the past, but I believe I now have a better sense of who to trust and who is worthy of trust.

What is my proudest moment?

Well, I'm pretty proud of my six kids. They are smart, funny and kind. Like all siblings do, they fight over everything. And I mean everything. But they will also turn and defend their siblings in a heartbeat. In fact we have the story of a broken hand earned in a fight by Kid 2 defending his younger girl cousin. And many stories of the brothers coming to the aid of their siblings during times of distress. 

I'm proud that I finally wrote my book. I can remember from the time I was very young saying I'm going to write a book. It took a long time, a really long time. But I did it.

Look closely at the kids hands. They each chose a word
to describe our family. 
I'm proud of the life I've built for my kids post divorce. My home is a happier place to be now. My kids now know that home is a place you should never feel afraid. Everyone in my house, and in my life, gets told regularly that I love them. And that's not a phrase I use lightly. If I tell you I love than it's real. I love you.  

If forced to pick just one, I'd say my proudest moment is when all six kids, and maybe some assorted
friends, are all in my house and I hear their laughter. Yes, that's definitely it. My proudest moment is happy, healthy kids.

Geez that was more work than I thought it was going to be! But now to nominate two bloggers I'd like to introduce you to.

First is Anita at Moon Fairy Life and Dreams. Anita is a fellow yoga teacher and soul sister. We both have a large family and full time jobs so we don't see each other nearly as often as we'd like. And, because it's true, I'm going to steal Natalie's line here: I'd really like to read more from her and because I know she needs to write more. It's cathartic and therapeutic.

Second is Rick Watson at Life 101.  Rick and his wife Jilda are both writers, singers and songwriters. Rick also often posts amazing pictures he takes with his iPhone of rural Alabama where he lives.

Natalie thought she would get an award for procrastinating because she didn't post until one hour before her Blog Hop was due. Well, my dear friend,  I did what you asked. And I did it with a full ten minutes to spare before it's due date!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Picture Makes Me Happier Than The Story Behind The Picture

It's a pretty normal, almost boring, picture. Kid 4 and Kid 5 in the backseat of my car reading. But this picture just makes my heart swell with happiness.

You see a couple years ago I did this little thing and I committed to writing a book. Then the divorce drama happened and I shelved the book. Well to be honest I didn't shelf it. I actually picked it up, walked to the trash can and threw it away.

Not my smartest decision I know. But fortunately I wasn't thinking clearly enough at the time to delete it off my hard drive as well so I did still have a copy.

Last year I decided to take a look and see how bad it was. To my surprise there really wasn't much I felt I needed to change. And then, once again, life drama got in the way and I shoved the project aside.

Earlier this year I decided this was it. Pull the darn thing out and just get it finished! It felt like the time was meant to be when a wonderful woman, and a legitimate professional editor, entered my life and offered to take a look at it for me. Like, she's a real editor. For real authors. And she not only was looking at my book but she liked my book!

Since she is a professional editor she works much faster and more efficiently than I do. She sent her edits within a month. Everything she suggested was completely spot on. I went through and made the changes she suggested and...

The shit hit the fan again.

This was a tough summer for my family. As tough, if not more so, than the summer my ex-husband walked out on us. I haven't written about it and I'm not sure I will. I had a major kid crisis and my kids are off limits. So that story will have to wait a little bit.

But, it leads back to the picture above. As I lay awake on yet another sleepless night, not even thinking about the book, it popped into my head what I needed to write. What I needed to write about the kid crisis and what I needed to write to complete the book.

Just a couple short weeks later I was standing in the printers office waiting my turn to pick up a package. The kids were bugging me asking why we were there and what was so important. As the clerk handed me the package, the kids looked at what I was holding. Their eyes got big, their smiles got bigger and they practically shouted "You got your book!"

Yes, the book is complete. I have two galley copies of Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom

As we walked to the car Kid 4 got a gleam in her eye and offered to carry the galleys for me. I knew right away what she was up to.

As she got in the car she handed the second copy to her brother and they both immediately started reading. They don't care so much about the content of the book, they were just reading to find their names. They were very excited when they found them.

What you can just barely see in the picture is Kid 6 in the back seat trying to find out if her name is in the book too. It is.

There are still a few edits to be done. And I need to find someone to help me format it properly for publishing. But, the writing is complete.

One galley copy is in the hands of a trusted friend/professional to read and hopefully write a good review for the back cover. The second copy is sitting on my dresser. Each day I see it and I smile.

Who knows how long it will be until, if ever, it's actually in print and available for purchase. I'm almost OK if it stays for my eyes only and never gets out there to the publishing world. Almost.

I set out to write a book. And I did.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm On Fire. Until I'm Not.

Day 6: on fire
What are the signs that you are on fire?
What I mean to say is: I mean to say, how does it feel in your body when something really gets you going?

Day 7: roadblocks or just detours?
What tends to trip you up?
What is your kryptonite? Ask yourself in the most compassionate of ways.

Times I feel on fire are often the times I'm pursuing my passions; writing, exercise and being creative.   Some nights I can't not write. A good sweaty gym session makes me feel strong.  When I'm on fire I feel healthy. I feel happy. And I do the types of self-care things necessary to keep that momentum going - eating healthy, getting enough sleep, quiet time and exercise. 

I am well aware that when I allow myself to take care of myself, not only does my creativity flourish but I am better able to handle the big and small crisis that life throws at me. 

When I'm on fire I feel confident. 

Yet, it's my own self doubt that too often wipes out that confidence. My kryptonite is me.

I'm not really sure why I allow self doubt to be such big part of my life. I know that the voices in my head are liars. I know that it's vital to my physical, mental and emotional health that I keep those negative voices silenced. 

The way to keep the voices away is by taking care of myself: eating healthy, exercise and rest. I know this. I have studied this. I teach this.

Yet I constantly struggle with it.

The voices tell me I'm not a size 2 and never will be so just eat the ice cream because no one likes me if I'm not that size 2. It doesn't matter that size 2 isn't even realistic for my 5' 9" frame.  Everyone probably thinks I'm fat.

The voices tell me that my writing is stupid and self indulgent. No one wants to read what I write. A real writer would have published her book. A real writer spends her days drinking tea, reading, writing and sitting in the sun. A wanna-be spends her days working two jobs, taking care of kids and feeling guilty for not taking more time to write.

I am my own worst critic. There's no need for anyone else to put me down, I can do a pretty good job of that on my own.

I'm aware of my triggers. I'm usually aware when I'm spiraling down to a bad place again. Although I still struggle with the contentment and depression cycle, I do believe the cycles are getting shorter. 

I am more determined, dare I say confident, to stop the low points immediately and to continue on with the self care I know to be necessary to handle the struggles of being a controlling person in a very out of control life.

This post is part of #AugustMoon, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Perfect Work & A Perfect Reminder

Day 5: Perfect Work

What would your perfect work day be like?

My perfect work day would be a day where I don't feel like I didn't get enough done and I didn't let anyone down. The perfect work day is where when I'm at work I am fully present at work. When I leave work I actually come home to spend quality time with my family, rather than rush off to job number two. And when I'm at home, I am fully present and in the moment at home.

As I read today's #AugustMoon14 writing prompt I thought yeah right, I haven't had a perfect day in what feels like forever. So I figured why even bother trying to write tonight.

As I perused through Facebook I had a notification from an app called God Wants You To Know. Now I could, and should, write a post just about this app and how I have no idea how it got on my Facebook and some of the notifications I've had from it. But tonight, this is what it said:

Today, Jennifer, we believe God wants you to know that ...
you can give yourself more credit.
Are you juggling too much? Sometimes you don't give yourself enough credit for what you do get done in a day. Today, celebrate your accomplishments.

Well that's just apropos for tonight isn't it?

And I actually did have a couple work accomplishments this week. Also,it's the first full week back to school and back to a four night per week dance schedule and so far the kids have had lunches packed and up for school and out the door without any issues. That's a win. I've managed to keep up my personal workouts this week. And I made three blog entries! 

So as I spend the end of my night preparing for tomorrow, I think for tonight I will cut myself some slack and acknowledge that although today wasn't perfect, it wasn't a fail.

This post is part of #AugustMoon, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul.