A Week of Lessons Learned (and it’s Only Wednesday)

I called my daughter last night to say goodnight. She’s on spring break, and we aren’t, so she’s spending a few days at Grandma’s house.

This morning at Grandma's.

This morning at Grandma’s.

Me: “I know it’s early, but I’m really tired so I’m going to bed and wanted to say goodnight.” [Note that this was 8:30 and I had already fallen asleep reading. The only reason I was awake to make the phone call was the dogs woke me to go outside.]

Sarah: Oh . . . I’m . . . um . . . I’m scared.

Me: What? Why are you scared?

Sarah: Never mind, good night.

Me: No, Sarah. Tell me why you’re scared.

Sarah: Because of the bombs.

I wish I could say that I stepped up and had a brilliant moment of parenting at that time, but that would be a lie. As my heart broke and my arms yearned to take her in a never-ending hug, I tried my best to say the right things; to tell her I understood her fear, but that she was safe and that they would catch whoever had done this.

I tried to say the right things, but the words tasted like dust in my mouth, because in some ways they are lies. I cannot promise to protect her from every evil out there, just as mothers all over the world cannot protect their children from the bombs and bullets that plague them. I cannot protect her from every individual who somehow values his/her personal beliefs over the lives of others.

I cannot protect her from it all, unless I lock her in a cave and never let her out.

Last week I wrote a post called “‘Crood’ Lessons” , where I discuss some of the positives and negatives of the movie. Who would have thought that the lessons from that movie would carry over into this week?

You see, the father, Grug, tries to keep his family safe by keeping them in a cave. He only lets them leave for food. Yet, even the safety of that cave isn’t perfect. When he and his family have to move on in search of something else (in his mind another cave) he learns that its more important to live life than to hide in safety and never do anything.

“Never be afraid . . . follow the light.”

I called Sarah this morning just after I discovered this connection by writing in my Morning Pages. I finally had a metaphor to use to help her. I told her fear was okay, as long as we didn’t let it stop us from living. We talked about the movie. I think she understood.

“What are you all doing today,” I asked.

“Making fairy houses,” Sarah said.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

Life moves on.

As it should.

This week is full of the lessons that we must learn; about resilience and life, about caring for each other, about never giving up, about kindness and strength. This morning I saw this  post on my Facebook feed, posted by a girl named Laura Wellington who was 1/2 mile from the finish when the bombs exploded. The words underneath are hers:

Please help me by sharing this! As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears. Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

This post–along with  so many others that tell of kindness in the face of cruelty–reinforces the idea that we cannot hide in a cave and hope the bad things don’t touch us. No . . . we must face the sun, move bravely through life, and battle the evil with our hearts open.

Even if that battle simply comes in the form of building fairy houses.

Today I have this message and wish for you, my readers, my friends, my loved ones. I hope that you live each and  every day with love and joy. I hope that you raise your voices in kindness and together we can combat any darkness that comes our way.

Let’s all stay out of the caves and follow the light.


Learning to Love Yourself

I just found out that someone here really does not like me, and has warned her daughter to stay away from me.

I’ve never had this happen before. I mean, I’m sure people have not liked me, but I’ve never had children warned away from me.


I think it comes from a moment last summer when I was walking the dogs with Sarah and this girl. They asked if they could hold the leashes and I let them. Then someone stopped to discuss something with me, and the girls got too far ahead. Some smaller dogs came out, my dogs got away, and chaos ensued.

So now, it seems, my dogs have been labeled as bad dogs and I am a bad, untrustworthy parent.

I know I made a mistake, but it was an accident. Or am I supposed to be perfect all the time?

Anyone who meets my dogs would know that they are sweet, gentle souls. They just have power and like chasing little critters. In other words, they are dogs.

Smiling puppies.

But this isn’t about my dogs. It’s about me.

I don’t like being disliked. It leads me down a dark path. I start searching for what I did wrong. I start blaming myself. I start disliking myself, because of course it must be my fault.

Even though I know that sometimes people simply do not connect, for reasons beyond understanding. In the same way, I know that sometimes the opposite can happen, when you meet someone and feel an instant connection with that person. Friendship forms in a few moments of time.

That just happened this past weekend too.

Kimberly, Harper and Sarah. New friendships formed in the car and in the pool.

Why can’t I focus on that rather than on the negative relationships? I think it stems from the insecurity I’ve faced all my life, when I’ve always felt like I was on the fringe of groups, never truly belonging. It stems from my struggle to not worry about how others view me. It stems from my inability to truly love myself.

I recognize that as a problem that I am slowly changing. It is not easy, but I will succeed.

Call me corny but today I need a little positive message from Whitney Houston (RIP).

Imaginary Monsters (100 WCGU)

This weeks challenge by Julia is a huge one. In her words:

Your mission, should you wish to take it up, is a BIG one. We are going to celebrate the Bard by writing sonnets! I can see some frowns! Don’t worry it will stretch your creativity.

  1. You MUST write 14 lines (this is the minimum)
  2. You can use 10 syllables per line (choice)
  3. You could use the following rythmn – a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. (choice)

So, the least you have to do is write 14 lines. Limit is around 100 words. You may need to go over slightly if you choose to do 2 and 3. The topic is of your choice but of course if you fancy including George and that dragon he is supposed to have slayed then feel free!”

In typical Lisa fashion, I could not simply take the easy way out and write fourteen lines. I had to incorporate all aspects of the challenge, while also adding in some of the muddle that is in my head. These past few days (if you haven’t noticed) have been challenging ones for me as a parent, with no simple solutions in sight. One thing that we discovered yesterday is that the constant talk of Stranger Danger that is enforced on a regular basis has created a young girl who is afraid to interact with the world. That makes me sad. So, all of that combined resulted in my entry for this weeks 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups.

“Here there be dragons” as some adults say
Seeking, with monsters, to grow childhood fears
Hoping to control their instinct to play
Creating a world where joy leads to tears.
“I’ll fight them!” calls George, “I won’t let them win.
If dragons mean we can never have fun.”
“I want to too,” Sarah’s voice sounded thin,
“Fear of the dragon’s means that they have won.”
Did they find dragons?  Why yes, in a way.
A young little dragon hiding in fear
“Why don’t you big bullies just go away?”
There are no monsters that will hurt you here.

Children and dragon slayed “monsters” that day
by learning to conquer fears in their way.

Uh, never wake a sleeping dragon. (Another Sawdust Festival purchase)

The True Secret to Successful Parenting (aka What Not to Do)

Am I supposed to listen when you talk?

“I surrender!” I say to my young little sprite
who has decided her bedtime should be at midnight!

“I quit!” I say to that saucy little doe
who chooses to ignore everything I know.

“Do what you want,” I exclaim to the stubborn little lass
while hiding in my bedroom away from her sass.

I can’t win this battle
I can’t win this fight
My Mom voice doesn’t matter
as I  do nothing right.

 So today I have decided to admit my defeat
and let her rule the roost while I eat something sweet.

What To Do When You Are (Not) Snowed In

It was supposed to snow today, and I was kind of looking forward to it. I mean, I wasn’t looking forward to driving in it to run the errands Sarah and I had planned (shopping for a birthday present for Nathan, Valentine making supplies, and goody bag supplies for Sarah’s birthday party). So the light dusting on the ground this morning was fine, since we could go and get that down without any snowy adventure. But, then I was hoping it would come down a little, creating a quiet cocoon and an excuse to stay home, read books, watch movies and nap.

Sleep has not been my friend lately, and I really needed a nap.

The snow didn’t come, but my need to just do very little stayed with me.

Nathan is working a 9 to 5 day today, which leaves me on parenting duty. Did I mention I need a nap?

I managed to distract Sarah for a while, as she worked on making Valentine’s for each of her classmates, and I lay in my bed to read. But, every 15 minutes or so Sarah came into the room for something. “Mommy, can you help me make valentines?” She asked.

“They are your friends,” was my answer.

She asked again a short time later. She really didn’t need my help making the Valentines. No, what she wanted was me to be with her, on duty, not lying down and being lazy.

I grumpily complied.  Well, at least I came and sat in the same room as Sarah, while she finished her Valentines and then stuffed goody bags for her party (which isn’t until next week).

I know she wanted more from me, but the problem is I don’t have much to give. However, feeling like the world’s worst mom, and seeing the mess that Sarah left in the living room from card making, I decided we would create art together. Here are the results:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So now I have a little over an hour to fill before Nathan gets home. What’ s next for our un-snow, snow day?

Donut Delights, A poem by Lisa and Sarah

Donut Art by Sarah KramerLee

Eating Dunkin’ Donuts saying silly stuff.
Chugging minty chocolate, living life with love.

Gooey chocolate goodness, gives us great big grins.
A chicken salad sandwich fills us up within.

Dreaming of snowflakes makes us sigh,
for magic little pieces from the sky.

Cocoa warms us up, steaming in the cup.

Hearing Christmas carols rhyme,
makes us have a real  good time.

Mommy/daughter silliness sits upon the page,
maybe we should take our act and share it on the stage.

Reflections on Occupy Thanksgiving, Joy Tinged with Sadness

Starting to load up the table

Insomnia struck at 3:30 am after a fitful sleep before that.

Simply a result of overindulgence?

It would have been convenient if I was one of the crazy thrifty multitudes who choose to line up outside stores for the early openings and buying frenzy known as Black Friday, but I’m not.

Instead it was a reflection of something more. When denied sleep I buried myself in the beauty of tragic love past, reading Jane Eyre for the first time in many years and relishing every dramatic throb of love torn asunder. Finally, I thought I could go back to sleep only to find myself crying convulsively, waking Nathan with wracking sobs.

Why would a day filled with laughter, smiles and thanks bring on this insuppressible sadness?

Because amidst the celebration I saw my mother’s eyes tear up when Sarah interviewed her and asked two important questions:

  1. “What are you thankful for?” Answer: “That all my loved one’s are here together.”
  2. “If you could have one wish, what would it be?” Answer: “That Papa would get better.”

You see, in the cacophony of voices, telling jokes, sharing stories, there was one gaping hole of silence sitting to my left. My Dad, who used to be the life of the party, now caught in the trap of Alzheimer’s would only interject in discomfort or annoyance if we pushed him too hard to eat.

Note my tongue sticking out, a habit I got from my Dad

The silence is heartbreaking.

The day, overall was joyous. Sarah’s excitement and enthusiasm for interviewing everybody was contagious. The food delicious. The laughter and conversation scintillating.

It’s been a long time since my family sat down together for a meal, followed by playing games together.

Love this image with Mom joining in the fun.

All in all a wonderful day that I will always be thankful for, and that I believe Sarah will hold in her memory.

Sarah got the big end of the wishbone. I hope all her wishes come true.

Still, for me, a joyous day tinged with a little sadness.

Most photo's taken by Steve, also known as Taochild

“Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First”

 The logic of this advice given by most airlines makes sense. You cannot help your child get her oxygen mask on if you are gasping for breath yourself.

Yet how often do we ignore this idea in our own lives? I am guilty. I have spent many years giving everyone else the oxygen they need, little recognizing my own blueness of face and gasps for air.

Yesterday, as Nathan and I took a walk in nature lit by moonlight, we talked about the future and what this upcoming move meant for us as a family and for me as an individual. We had just finished watching Crazy, Stupid, Love which, while fun and funny, also hit a few nerves in some ways. The fact that this couple going through a mid-life crisis of sorts were supposedly only a year older than I am, shook me up in many ways.

After all, I’ve sort of been going through my own  crisis for a while now.

As we walked, I realized that my choice to continually give my family oxygen first has ultimately served no purpose. It has been a crutch of sorts. My responsibilities to family are a convenient excuse for not taking chances or opportunities that come my way. If I start putting myself and my needs first, one of a few things might happen:

  • Option 1: I could take chances and then fail in a blazing crash of destruction, without anybody to hide behind or anyone to blame but myself.
  • Option 2: I could succeed and become completely engrossed in my own world to the neglect everyone else.
  • Option 3: I could take chances, find balance, and show my daughter that a woman can follow her dreams and still be there for the people she loves.

I’m choosing Option 3. By not giving myself oxygen first, I haven’t been doing what is best for all of us. I’m not saying every choice I have made is wrong, but I have not been living to my full potential–and ultimately that isn’t good for anybody.

Yesterday, Sarah told me over ice cream that she wants to spend the whole summer at this “summer home” next year. She and I came up about 6 weeks after Nathan this time, partially so she could be in a show and partially because I had several projects that I was working on (some actually paid).

“It’s more fun if we come for the whole time,” she said.

“Well,” I answered “It depends on if I have work or not. I have the right to work too. But you could always come up with Daddy first, and then I will join you later.”

She looked sad for a moment and then said, “I understand. But what if you get hired here?”

I smiled, “Then that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?”

I’m interested in seeing where my new take on oxygen leads me. Perhaps it will simply lead me to some new, fresh air. I just have to remember to breathe.


Today’s Quote

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”
Wayne Dyer

A Stomach Rumbling Battle of Wills

Whack! Smack! Kick!

Part of my recent sleep troubles of the past week can be attributed to the fact that Nathan is of in the wilds of Iowa, leaving Sarah and I to fend for ourselves. Somewhere along the way we had gotten into this habit that when Daddy was away, Sarah would sleep in our bed. I tried to talk her out of it this time, with very little success. So, I built the barrier of pillows down the middle of my bed and hoped that I would get some sleep at some point.

A friend of mine, who has been a lifesaver helping me deal with single parenting, noticed that I seem to be walking in a state of permanent zombie-hood and unable to focus, helped me pressure Sarah into agreeing to sleep in her own bed last night.

Of course, gaining agreement and actually succeeding required a battle of epic proportions including torture:

8:30 pm:

Me:  Sarah, tomorrow I need to get some blood taken, so you need to help me out. I can’t eat until after the blood is drawn, so you need to move quickly in the morning.

Sarah: Does that mean you are going to wake me up really early?

Me: No, but I don’t want you to sleep in too late, okay?

Sarah: Okay.

9:15 pm: Me:  Sarah get into bed. (A little late, but it is summer).

She slowly and hesitantly gets into bed and says: “What if I get scared?”

Me: Why should you be more scared here than in my bed? There is no difference, and I’ll be right across the hall.

I get her settled into bed and then go into my own bed to read for a while. Both bedroom doors are open.

9:30 pm: Mumbling and talking from Sarah’s Room. 

Me: Go to sleep!

Sarah: Mommy, I love you! I hear her stand up, and she stumbles into my room. I love you.

Me: I love you too, but go back to bed.

She looks at me like I crushed her, and then goes back to bed.

9:30-10:15 or so: Occasional mumblings and talking and other attempts to get my attention and make me believe she must be in my bed.b

10:30: All seems quiet. I decide I need to sleep. I turn of my light.

Sarah: I can’t sleep if you turn your light off!

Frustrated, I turn the light back on, but I will not give in completely: Go to sleep! You are not getting in my bed!

10:45: All is silent. Lights out, I start to fall asleep.

11:?? Sarah stumbles into the bathroom. I hold my breath hoping she will not try another technique. She finally goes back to bed.

I slept better last night, but of course Sarah needed to sleep in. So, now I am hungry and grumpy and need to have my blood sucked.

But at least she slept in her own bed.

Sarah sort of sleeping


I Didn’t Think This Would Happen So Soon

Maybe I should have seen it coming. Even when she was an infant, the bond with her wasn’t instantaneous like some mothers claim. Of course I thought she was beautiful and precious, but I didn’t fall in instant love. To be honest, with this little bundle of  squirms brought with her joy, terror, and a form of torture I could never have imagined. Seriously, if  the government wants to pry secrets out of someone they should just have them spend time raising a newborn with all the sleep deprivation and exhaustion attached.

The first person she fell in love with was her Daddy.  She came out of the womb, she heard his voice, and she smiled. She is still Daddy’s Little Girl.

Tiny Sarah

She needed me though. For the milk. For comfort. During the day, she wouldn’t nap unless she fell asleep on top of me. It made for some difficult times, but at the same time it was wonderful.

Only eight years have passed and she has already decided that she doesn’t need me. She wants to spend time with anyone but me. I don’t know where I went wrong, but it seems that I never offer enough fun or stimulation or frivolity to satisfy her. Despite the fact that she does fun things with me all the time, I’m never enough.

And now I am alone with her for the next six weeks. I was hoping it would bring us closer, but it seems like my 8-year-old is going on 18 right before my eyes.

I didn’t think this would happen so soon.

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