Fertility Windows & the Existential Crises

I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual checkup. My doctor has a 5 month old baby, her first. Last time I saw her she was very pregnant. She’s doing well, looked tired, has half the workload she did before baby. The woman I saw a year ago had perfect clothes and makeup, put together in “all the ways”. Today her hair was in a pony tail, no makeup and her shirt looked laundered but that’s about it.

I did not fully understand her before, but this woman, I know.

In the course of many, many questions she asks, “Are you going to have any more children?” “NO!” I snapped back with a look of horror and disgust, as if that was the most unnatural thing in the world to ask. (Getting to this “no” was never easy and yes, does have a tiny hint of sadness there, “in theory” but in reality- NO!)

She was completely taken aback, especially after I had just nodded my head through her telling me about her birth and a quick synopsis of feeding and sleeping schedules. Why would I want to do that again? Pssht.

Rewind a half hour earlier when I had been opening the door to her office. It’s an office with many kinds of doctors. Specialty medicine, general practitioners, OBGYN and psychiatrist/therapists. I was looking at one of the psychiatrist’s names and had a two sentence conversation in my head, it went like this:

“I think I’m having an existential crisis…”

“What else is new?”

As the day went on I was completely worn down, tired, thirsty, moody. I came home and laid in bed. I realized that I had an emotionally exhausting dream the night before that left me pondering the questions, “To whom do I belong? Who really am I, if it’s just me?”

I took my daughter to softball practice. I brought my camping chair and went a reasonable distance away from the other parents that said, yeah, I’m good over here all alone, but not too far away so as to say, I’m a bad parent. Anyway, one mother (imagine a petite WASP with brown hair) “Did you hear Prince Died today? So sad.”

Roots.jpgI looked up at her from my phone in which I had been posting Prince articles onto Facebook. “Yeah…” I said in the please don’t talk to me kind of way. Then I realized I was wearing my “The Roots” t-shirt. And I’m not talking about some subtle obscure concert T where you don’t know if it’s for a band or coffee or what. I mean it says “THE ROOTS” in 5″ letters across the top. I wanted to yell at her, “Umm… excuse me, in what world does a woman wear a Roots t-shirt and NOT know Prince died!”

Yeah, it was dusk and I was in full on bitch mode, then I came home and accused my boyfriend of being annoyingly literal when he corrected something I said (which he was being). I was waiting to eat dinner and getting more and more annoyed. Then I looked…

I use an app on my phone called “Clue” to keep tract of my “womanly days”. Like most woman I’m not as predictable as the phases of the moon. Originally I turned off all the other functions except for when I would start my period. I mean, I don’t want to have any more kids (did you read the beginning of this post?) And therefore don’t need to know when my “fertility window” is, but I have since turned it back on because I found myself “hormonal” (a way overused word) on those days.

Until I had a thought, my whole day started to come together (sometimes I’m a little slow)… The dream and question “To whom do I belong?”, “Are you having more kids?”, The death of one of my all time favorite musicians, not fitting in to the normal parent “mold” and just overall fitfulness of the day, I opened the app.

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It’s the first full day of my “Fertility Window”. F*ing hormones… 

And yet… It would all make sense wouldn’t it? That Every month I have an existential crisis at the very same time my body is reacting hormonally by releasing an egg to to be fertilized and playing a real life Russian Roulette.

Once a month I have restless leg syndrome for the soul. It’s an illease that sits in my chest and whispers “do more, be more, go deeper, make smarter decisions” and do all of this while meditating like Don Draper during the final scene of Mad Men. 

Huh… More to ponder, I shall experiment with this over the next few months. Thoughts?

Part Time Mother

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.        ~ Romans 8:38-39

For the last year I have shared custody with my ex-husband. We have 50/50 custody, we live about a mile apart, we are (for the most part) amicable in this arrangement. I am lucky. There has not been any scaring or damaging court battle. We do not pin our children against each other. We have our complaints, but overall, we co-parent as well as two people ever could. We do not speak ill of each other or put our children in the middle of our own disagreements in front of our children. We make every decision together. This is the way it has always been since we became parents, this is the way, we both pray, it will always be.

When we first separated I read a lot of articles like this one and this one about brave women being honest about how they enjoyed their time away from their children and how they are better moms for it. I admit, I thought this would be me, and some days, it is. Some days are hard and I’m glad I don’t “have my children” those days. I have the flexibility to schedule meetings without the “guilt” of not being home for dinner. I can go to yoga without having to worry about what time the kids need to be picked up. Last night I didn’t eat dinner until 9pm and no one complained but me.

Truth is though, I had that before too.

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I was never intended to be a “mother” the way my foremothers were (BTW- spellcheck wants to change that to “forefathers” or “housemothers” I kid you not). I didn’t seek, nor ever intended to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I really wish I had it in me, I feel like a lesser mother because I don’t. (guilt for women if you do, guilt if you don’t…) But alas, I am a career mom (and proud for many reasons of it).

The agreement with having children in the first place was we had to be equal partner in it all. I was not cut out to do it alone. My ex-husband stayed home for 6 months at a time with each of our children when they were babies, I went back to work 8 weeks after giving birth both times, and was ready to do so. Yes, I took care of them as I worked from home many days a week, parenting was never one sided, it was always together. Seriously, he and I could write a book on model co-parenting. (PS- It’s consistency. Particularly with communication and scheduling).

In fact, I didn’t notice the problems in our marriage for so long because we were such great co-parents. We had great communication. We rarely had issues where the kids were concerned. We covered with and for each other, we were in agreement with the daily decisions and the big ones, we worked together. We do still, but it is very different.

I have no idea what they’re doing when they are not with me. We have issues with little things like not brushing my daughter’s hair or using the right shampoo (with my kids, hair is a big problem), did they get their allergy medicine? All the shoes and coats got left at his house and change of weather clothing is a demon in and of itself!

When I first separated people were trying, and trying hard to help me see a bright side. “I would kill for a weekend alone!” Guess what, those weekends alone? I don’t know what to do with myself! When I have my kids it’s exhausting and overwhelming, when I don’t, I get depressed. It’s all or nothing, no moderation. But it’s actually not “nothing.”

Because I may only have my kids part of the time, but that does not make me a part time mother. 

YES- I like going out without paying a babysitter. YES- I like having a Saturday without catering to every whim. YES- I like eating cookies and ice cream for dinner without explaining myself. YES- I love sleeping in.

But that does not mean on those days I stop being a mother. That I don’t think about, make decisions for, or feel guilt about not being with them.

In Romans, Paul lends beautiful pros to how God loves us. There is nothing we can do or not do to separate the love. If we reject God, God does not reject us. There is no way for God to STOP being God.

I am doing the best I can. Truth is, I have the “ideal” setup for divorced parents and it sucks. I want my kids all the time AND I want to share the responsibility of parenting, we just can’t be married or live together anymore. Do I stop being a mother when my kids are at school, or when they’re on a play date? No. You cannot separate me from my motherhood. Not having my kids all the time does not make me a part time mother. There is no such thing as being a part time mother. Period.

I am a mom. I am divorced. I share custody of my children. On the days I do not see my kids, I am still a mom.

By the way, If you sang Steve Wonder when reading this title, we are bonded forever as friends.

Raising HPSTRS (because they’re too cool for vowels)

List your accomplishments: No.

I look good on paper, to the world I am a definition of success. People like to hear about a smart, strong, successful woman. To the world I am the product of successful public school systems, a state university, and a private seminary. I am a young, up-and-coming doctoral student, pastor, president of a non-profit, and valued member of society. When in reality, the “product” that I am, has to do with a handful of teachers that knew how to teach a creative brain. They were my lifeline.

The summer after I graduated college I was at lunch with my mother and my sister. My sister was a band director teaching in a Middle School. I was heading to seminary.

My mother was proud of us both, but wondered, “Why is it the one that hated school (read: sucked at it) is going back and the one that loved (read: straight A student) school is out of it?” My answer was simple, “Because it’s only now starting to get interesting.”

People are always shocked when they learn that I actually didn’t learn to read until I was in the 4th grade. Or at least that’s when the teacher noticed. I got a tutor, I learned eventually. I’m still a slow reader. My freshman year of high school was the first time I read a book, like a real book, it was Shane, then I read the Count of Monte Cristo, and I fell in love.

This astonishes people “HOW?!?” they ask. I just paid a lot of attention. We had reading groups I would listen to them read like they were stories. In comprehensive questions I would find similar words from story to question. I could remember almost verbatim what the teachers said when they taught. My sister would read things for me. I am a visual and audible learner. It was easy, but concentration was hard. I was bored out of my mind.

Yesterday I had a parent/teacher conference at my son’s preschool. They want him accessed for fine motor skills and speech, but there was more to the conversation. At 4 years old, he is a creative brain. My son, lives in his own world, because the world in his imagination, is SO much more interesting than the world he lives in. I like that about him.

I can imagine this is frustrating as a teacher, and I understand that you cannot change a whole classroom for my child, and that there’s no way to assess him when he doesn’t articulate the answer to the question you just asked him, but ask him to tell you about his day? Ask him to tell you what he’s thinking about? And O the places he goes!

We value creativity, not creatives.

After the meeting I went home and looked up books on parenting creative minds. I came up short. There were hundreds on books on Amazon explaining how to raise your child to BE creative. There are also many books on raising autistic or ADHD children. But what about us caught in the middle?

“If the parent find wonder in everyday as will the children, if the parents are creative the kids will mimic.”

There was no way my children were not going to be creative in some way. Just as if either of them had straight hair I would have returned them to the hospital because it could not be my child, they were destined to be creative. I am a creative brain. There is absolutely no question, my stream of consciousness is unreal. It amazes me, and I really have no idea what’s going on up there.

The first time I ever concentrated on anything was music related, it connected me to something larger than myself, something I now see and understand to be God. I’m a photographer, a very amateur one, but one nonetheless. It’s my media, how I express myself, I am also an orator. Poetry, sermons, blogs- writing is fine- but speech and presentation… storytelling is my gift.

My ex-husband’s creative drug of choice is the pencil or stylus. He is a cartoonist, a sketcher, animator, and writer. Graphics of all kinds.  He lives in his brain, and not just in the “I’m an introvert” kind of way (although yes, HUGE introvert), but he could draw you a picture before he would tell you his thoughts.

I do not see any of this as bad. This is who we are. My 7 year old daughter is an introvert, she is also a writer and painter. Last year she had her art chosen for 2 different showcases. She would rather write me a note and draw me a picture than talk to me. I respect that. She is in bed by 9pm and up by 7am, clockwork. Also, the outfits! Whew, that girl and her color pallet!

My son, who is 4, is a flaming extrovert. He lives in the world he created in his mind. He does not like to draw or write, he does love to dance, sing, and play in the sand, he likes to build things out of nothingness. The more activity around him, the more stimulated he gets, he is awake most nights in his room until 11-12pm. On Saturday’s when I don’t force him out of bed, I gently wake him after 11am. He was born a hipster. He matches pitch perfectly, he has natural rhythm, even when banging on the drums or piano.

I will spend the rest of my life fighting for his rights in school. I will be an attentive parent, I will do what needs to be done, but I pray that this society that claims to value creatives will not beat it out of them. She will survive, as she has the ability to sit and concentrate, articulate her thoughts, people-please. He, on the other hand, he might have already flunked out before he began.

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Bloom: End of Year Review

On January 1, 2014 I published this post: Bloom. As I explain it was not a New Years Resolution but an embrace of the year. Well, the year is not quite over, but with two weeks left I feel I can safely write a year in review.

Used With Permission

Used With Permission

Bloom, it was such an optimistic word. I talked about the layers of complexity, I touched on the fact that the bloom was still fragile, for me I had no idea how fragile this year would make me. My marriage ended, my home has been split apart, I am navigating as a single parent and a single woman. All the while pastoring a church full of complexity, as any institution. I’ve lost a staff member and creative partner to relapse. I’ve lost friends, not just in divorce, but through death. I’ve been heartbroken by the news and the state of the world over and over again.

I’ve struggled more days than not this year to get out of bed. I’ve revisited more issues and had more triggers come up in this year than any other. I doubled my therapy sessions. I’ve cried almost everyday. I’m exhausted all the time. Every time I’ve turned a corner or another week there’s been “one more thing” that’s happened.

This year has been the shittiest year of my life. By far the most painful.

I think about the word bloom, I thought the word was picked because I was blossoming, opening, spreading my wings to fly. But in all reality, the year taught me how fragile life is. Which brings me back to the bloom of a flower. It is the most fragile part of the plant. The roots, the stalk, the leaves all sturdy, but the bloom needs to be protected. There are countless elements that can harm the bloom. Too hot/cold, too much/little water, it rains too hard, the wind blows too hard, animals eat them. Even if the bloom survives all these elements it still only lasts a few days before death. It is the definition of fragile.

One of the things I admire most about blooms is their ability to protect themselves. During the day they open wide and bask in sunlight, at night, they close in and protect themselves. I will shine because of this year, and am many ways I am. I have grown in confidence in myself and my abilities more than ever before. There has been a renewal of self-respect and allowing myself grace. I have also discovered the beauty of allowing others to help me, that’s the thing about your world being completely different than it was a year ago, I’m too tired to hold up that heavy wall I’ve been using to keep people out.

Last year I struggled to find a word to define my year. Even when I picked “Bloom” I was in a lot of denial about my life and the circumstances of what was happening around me. However, it has not been an inappropriate word, just turned out a little differently than expected.

2015’s word, however, has come freely and easily. It’s coming soon, wait for it…

Prophet

This is a very stressful time of year for most of us. For a pastor, in addition to presents, wrapping, baking, holiday parties, family, etc. we also have bulletins, sermons, and pastoral crises. It’s okay, it’s part of our vocation. But it’s stressful.

I have been continuously sick for about two months now. Allergies, turned into sinus infection, then my daughter passed on her strep bacteria, and then a cold. I am not complaining, I annoyed. My family has been passing around germs and they have been passing them to me. At one of the busiest times of year, I have been running to schools to pick up kids, running to doctors, working from home. This week I was going to get everything done, I had just enough time… Except… My son got sick.

Double ear infections.

He’s 3. He’s struggling in life anyway (you know, cause he’s 3) he’s excited about Christmas, his routine has been changed because of everything going on the past two weeks, he’s pumped up on sugar… And this morning, he lost it.

For a half hour he cried, sobbed, at the moment of this picture he was crying because he didn’t want to put on the pants HE picked out. He also has wild hair because I will not fight him to cut it. So as I witnessed this breakdown, I heard the words of Isaiah and those quoted about John the Baptist.

A prophet cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of The Lord, the mountains will be made low and the low places a plain, the path will be made straight.

In other words, through God, things will be made easier, better. I don’t know what that means necessarily or what that looks like. But I know this- when things are hard, when fits are thrown, when it seems like it will never be okay- a voice cries in the wilderness, prepare the way. Prepare the way. God is soothing, loving, and cradling us, but we must prepare for the coming of Christ, and the voice that does that, even my screaming child, is a prophet.

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Time-out

Here was our lunchtime conversation.

Lil Pie: I am a robot (in robot voice)
Dear Husband: I remember the day we brought you home from the robot factory
LP: no! I’m not a real robot, I am a little girl, I’m just pretending!
DH: that’s what your programming designed you to think.
LP: no, I was born from mommy’s tummy! (Getting a little upset)
Me: I think Daddy’s going to have to go to time out for lying.
DH: really? Can I? I have to sit on the stairs and no one can talk to me, and then after mommy has to tell me she loves me? This is a win/win!
Me: and if you’re really bad you have to go to your room by yourself and stay there until you are ready to talk about it…

All the good parenting books tell us to walk away when we get overwhelmed. Awesome, they’re right. But I haven’t gone to the bathroom alone in 5 years in what world do I get to say to my child, “I’m going to take a time out” and they NOT follow me to my room?

Time outs for adults, greatest. idea. ever.

A Prayer for the Little Things

After all day of watching the news and thinking about the Newtown Shooting I walked into my 5 year old daughter’s bedroom, I say all her barbies and fairies, her tree house tent, her baptismal gown and her butterfly mobile, the first thing we bought when we found out I was pregnant, hanging above her bed.  I tucked her in and thanked God she was there.

I walked out of the room and into my bedroom, laid on the bed and sobbed.
That’s all I could do… last night my prayer was tears, that’s all I could manage.

Today the idea of losing so many children my daughter’s age is haunting, and all I can think about is the little things, the little things these children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and neighbors will miss out on, so here is a prayer for the little things:

I pray for the empty classroom, with crayons but no one to color with them.

For the teachers with no one to teach.

For the elves on a shelf with no owners, for the presents that will never be opened.

For the dreams of future veterinarians, fire fighters, ballerinas, and superheros that will never be realized.

For the crotchy old men who will have no one to yell “get off my lawn” to

For the grandmothers with no one to bake cookies with.

For the fathers with no one to play catch with.

For the empty rooms filled with Barbies, and Lighting McQueens.

For the Mothers that will never hear “mommy, look a butterfly”

For the parents that will never have to endure the first band concert or push their kids to become the basketball player they never could.

For all the “Mommy, I love you” “Daddy, my tummy hurts” or “Lizzy’s parents are letting her go” that will never be heard.

For all the “take out the trash” and “clean your room”‘s that will never be yelled.

I pray for the doors that will never have the opportunity to be slammed after a fight.

For the predictable phone bills that will never change because there is no one to text too much.

For the parents that will get too much sleep because there is no child to stay our past curfew.

For the graduation gowns that will never be worn, or the florist that will have no wedding to get flowers to.

For the hospitals with no babies to be born, in Newtown Connecticut, because the children will not grow up to have them.