A Journey Back To Whole

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bows and Arrows

I will just leave a quote here today. You can ponder it awhile until tomorrow morning when I will relate it to to my here and now.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. They are with you though, they belong not to you. You may house their bodies, but not their souls. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might, that His arrows might go swift and far. Let your bending in the archers hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies; so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

A friend sent it to me earlier today. Gibran has always been an inspiration to me. Enjoy! Until tomorrow, which is actually today. I must go to sleep.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thank You for the Views...But PLEASE Make Some Comments

I am thankful to each and everyone of you who has read my blog so far. The views have given me the confidence to continue my chronicle. This all sounds very dramatic, but my life is at the point of no going back. I am at a precipice. I will continue on this journey, regardless of my fear or doubt of what might come. I will muster the strength to continue on my journey back to whole.

You might wonder why I am writing this. I can't begin to tell the day I have had. Many a truth was revealed. I am still processing how it fits into my present situation.  I will write about it after I have had a day to mull it over. You will all be apprised. I promise. For now, I leave you with a plea for comments. Presently, writing this blog is both comfort and release. I welcome your feedback to help guide in this venture.

Write to me! Share. I need it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Movin' too Fast

I broke a promise yesterday. I did not post. No excuses!  Kids were off school. We had 14 inches of snow. When I  finally sat down to write, my brain was a jumbled mess. My head was pounding. I felt a cold coming on.  I tried my damndest  to describe baking biscuits, but face it, reading about it is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  After all this blog is not really  about about my biscuits anyway. It is a  diary of my everyday life. The trials and tribulations of being a newly single mom with 3 kids, a dog, a 100 year old house and a red minivan, who greets each day with the best of intentions and occassionally loses her way.

 The dog barks. Three kids vie for my attention . My untidy house screams out, clean me, clean me and a  keyboard awaits my not so gentle touch. All the while I know I should be working on the Grrchews launch.  I  officially enter "OVERWHELM". Welcome to the chaos that is my world.

Overwhelm is my point of no return. Patience walks out my front door. Life as I know it deteriorates into pure mayhem.  I put a lot of pressure on myself in my ridiculous strive for perfection. I want to do so many things. Super mom, I assume I can do it all. I bark my orders. I expect my kids to do things exactly like I do. I hover over them to make sure they are doing their designated tasks correctly. They complain. I get frustrated, let them off the hook, figure it is less hassle to do it myself, and in so doing, I reinforce their false belief that I am their full time, live in maid. It is a no win situation.

Yesterday I set out  to clean our house. I enlisted the help of my children. I watched them as they worked. They were arguing with one another and literally getting nothing done. The dog started to bark and FRUSTRATED ME went into overwhelm. I ranted and belittled them for their lack of progress. The situation was about to fall apart at the seams when my son said, "Mom, I just want you to leave! You have made it impossible for me to get anything done now." This morning his words still ring in my ears. Whoa Nellie!  I can feel the insight a comin' at last!

 My son was right! If I take away any possibilty for success, I deny them opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. When I hover over my kids and expect them to do things only my way or the highway, they will not learn how to do it themselves.  Regardless of the fact that I consider myself an expert housecleaner, my way  is not the only way. After all, who died and made me Betty Crocker?

How important are a few stray dust bunnies, when there is a biscuit to be baked, a snowman waiting to be born and children to be listened to and truly understood? I need to pay better attention. I need to slow down. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, I sign off.

Slow down you move too fast now
Got to make the morning last now
Kickin down the cobble stones
Lookin for fun
Feelin groovy

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tiger Mom for Better or Worse? Part 2

I wrote my last post from  a purely emotional point of view. It sprung from the fiercely protective part of " Mom me" that would like nothing better than to see my kids sail into adulthood unscathed by adversity, untouched by harm and full of self esteem. But alas this is not possible.

The world is not a perfect place in which to raise our kids and  although I adamantly oppose many of Amy Chua's parenting methods, I concur with her major issue, we in America overparent our kids. We save them when they can learn from their mistakes, hide many of life's truths in order to protect what we perceive to be, their fragile psyches and often allow them to drop pursuits they find the least bit challenging. This does not allow children opportunity to grow. It robs them of  true feelings of mastery and pride in their accomplishments.

 It is not always easy to get children to do what we would like them to, for instance comply to rules,  finish their homework, or practice the violin. But in today's tough, competitive and lets face it, rather cruel world it is imperative that we foster in  them the  lost arts of resilience and perseverance. If we can reach these goals as parents, our children can and will grow into strong and capable adults who are able to handle any stress that will no doubt come their way.

There is no perfect parenting method.  Each way has positive and negative attributes.  We need to pay mindful attention rather than passive. We have to choose when to be firm rather than fair. We might opt to talk or take time out to listen.  At times we need to reevaluate our own personal perceptions so we can clearly see the reality of a  tough situation. It all comes down to finding a balance , consistency in our approach as well as consideration for the qualities, strengths and weaknesses of each child.

Being both a mother for life and a chef by trade, I can boil this debate down to very simple terms. To raise kids with only self esteem and no motivation or determination is to bake bread with water and no yeast or salt. Just as the bread cannot rise minus yeast, our children cannot rise to meet life's inevitable challenges without some very integral ingredients. It is up to us, parents to fill their larders.

Tiger Mom for Better or Worse?

I picked up the January 31st issue of  Time magazine today in my doctor's waiting room. The cover featured a story about a recently released memoir called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Before it was published the Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt from it online. That post has been read by more than 1 million readers and garnered over 7000 comments. The book hit the stands on January 11th and is now # 5 on the New York times Bestseller List. In It, author, Amy Chua describes raising her 2 daughters within the strict confines of "Chinese Parenting". Some readers praise her for her parenting prowess and others call her a monster of sorts.

Her girls, now teenagers, were not permitted to watch television, have play time with friends nor free time to explore the world in their own way. Instead she scheduled each hour with violin, piano and reading lessons and from what it sounds like, very little else. Amy, herself grew up in a home where any grade less than  A was unacceptable. Regardless of her American upbringing, she was required to speak Chinese in their home at all times. She received a chopstick whack for each English word she might mistakenly utter.  I can only imagine how she must have felt after being shamed by her father when she came in second place at a school assembly.  His words "Never,ever disgrace me like that again!" no doubt must have stung.

I understand having high expectations for our children. Most parents do. But what I cannot stomach  is Chua's glaring  inability to realize that our children are not mini clones of ourselves. Regardless of our shared gene pools, each and every child is born an individual, unique in form from any other. We bring kids into the world not to control the outcome of their lives, but to guide them in a compassionate caring and patient manner, along a path that ends in independence and discovery to who they really are.

Chua states that her children's happiness is her primary goal and that her intense focus on achievement is simply, "the vehicle" to help them find genuine fulfillment in a life's work, just as she has. But has she given them any say in the matter along the way. If they were given the freedom to take part in the process would they make any of the same choices she has made for them.

A large part of growing up involves "finding our inner voice". A voice that guides us when no one else is looking. When Chua's daughters finally break free of their mother's control, my question is whether or not they will be able to hear or even recognize their own inner voices. Where does that leave them?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jack Jansen

Telling the Truth

It is Tuesday  morning. After taking time to reflect on my blog dilemma I have decided to continue this endeavour. I will not shy away from the truth. I will tell my story here as honestly  and openly as I can. If there are readers here who cannot understand, so be it. I believe there are just as many, if not more who can and will relate to what I write about. I believe my story, with all its ups and downs, is a timely one. We all face our own share of adversity. It is the actions we take to solve these problems that matters most. 

The world is a rather crazy place. I am merely trying to make sense of my life within it and to forge a path to a better place for my family.  I admit I have self doubts, but I also have a whole lot of faith . Tenacity is my forte. I certainly will not give up now. I found a quote from Steve Jobs awhile back that relates well to my train of thought.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other people's opinions drown out your inner voice and most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become."

I will continue to write for these reasons. This is not a self indulgent activity but one of reaching out to the people around me. Who knows?  It might even create opportunity for  healthy dialogue and humanize what is surely not a unique life situation. I am, after all, not the only one to have ever gone through a divorce or had a child who is having rough times. Now is the time for me to reach out, to seek help and not shy away even if my words might strike some uncomfortable chords. Seize the day. 

So I begin this week renewed in spirit, grateful for my children, thankful for my life and the freedom to grow in a new direction.  As I rebuild I will loosen my grip on situations over which I have no control and tighten my hold in the areas where I can make a difference. Like getting on with my biscuit baking for instance!  In doing so I will discover a balance.

Making Biscuits

Ready to bake...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In The Face of Adversity

It is now 2:00 am on Saturday, I have not posted since Wednesday. It seems I have ruffled a few feathers and caused quite a stir among my family and friends. I set out to be open and honest and in doing so I have upset some people. What to do?

I spoke on the phone with a close friend who read my last two posts. He was comfortable with the depth of the first. but the second one hit a chord, that made him feel uneasy. He does not understand why I feel a need to share such intensely personal issues with the world at large. He told me he had heard from a few other mutual friends who also questioned my motivation.

My estranged husband called me as well. He was livid. He demanded that I take down this blog immediately. He went so far as to call his lawyer this morning, who in turn called my lawyer, who then called me to discuss this blog drama. After a few minutes of explanation, I asked that she please   read it and call me back with her thoughts. Her advice was to do one of three things.

The first is to change nothing, to keep writing just the way I am. I asked what might happen if I choose to do this. Her answer baffled me quite frankly. I could open myself up to litigation from my husband for slander. If he decides to try for custody this blog could be used to portray me as an unfit mother. I feel like I am in the twilight zone.

The second is to write it under a fake name.

The third is to get off the internet completely, in other words stop blogging. 

None of these options seem fair or viable at this moment. I do not want to offend or hurt anyone. My intent in starting up this blog again is twofold. Writing for me is a very therapeutic, cleansing process. It helps me to sort through my feelings and in turn  make sense of them. Secondly I want to write about my struggle to find balance in my life.

I am conflicted by this.  So I opt to take another day or two away  in order to make this tough decision. Do I continue writing and risk losing custody of my children or being sued for slander? Do I shelf it until things settle down and risk losing momentum in both my writing and my soon to be new career?

I will get back to this blog either way, so as not to leave you all hanging. I will end with a thought ever present in my mind that so happens to be one of my core beliefs.

Courage is the strength to stand tall in the face of adversity.

Bon Nuit.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One Day at a Time

I awoke this morning, ready to bake Grrrchews. We overslept , so I had to  drive the kids to school. I returned home, made my coffee and began to assemble my ingredients. Not 20 minutes later, my phone rang. It was a health teacher this time. Now what? I thought.

 It was his health teacher. He is failing. He is missing 12 homework assignments. Two of the items are open book, take home tests. Sounds fairly easy to me. In fact I would not even consider that "work". I always thought health was an easy A. Health is not the only sore point. He is failing 3 out of his 5 classes right now, one week away from end of marking period.

What a roller coaster I am on, and to think yesterday I considered stepping back from this. I have been on the phone all day gathering information and weighing available options. I have narrowed them down to 2, intensive treatment at a wilderness program or a therapeutic boarding school. I do not want to make this choice but have run out of options that fall within a normal range. I must opt for one or the other.

Where have I been, asleep, delusional, or just plain in denial about the depth of my son's issues. I  realize that regardless of how well I think I know him or how much help I give him, I just don't have the proper tools to deal with his problems. Intensive professional help is his only option. I feel the guilt well up, along with the tears in my eyes.

About 2 weeks ago I sat in my therapist's office. She asked me to define the word guilt. I do not remember my definition but I do recall hers. She defined it as "fear under a blanket of disguise". Today I understand what that means.

 I grew up in a home where parental involvement in my life was minimal . I felt more like a fixture sometimes than a daughter. It was a tough. I felt alone and learned to rely solely on myself. The fear of asking for help was instilled in me from a very young age. I learned not to trust. The guilt I feel in this moment is that fear in disguise. I had a tight grip on a false belief, that I could handle this on my own.

So! I feel the guilt. I recognize my fear. I see its truth. I got on the phone. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist to help narrow down our choices. I will get help from  professionals who have proper tools and are much better equipped to help him get back on track. I can't do it all. I actually feel great relief from this admission. I faced this harsh truth today. I was able to deal with it in a calm and rational way. I believe my therapist would call this a therapeutic moment. Asking for help makes me stronger. Regardless of this setback  I begin to feel my soul heal.

 A few hours have passed. I am breathing calmly again. My hands have stopped trembling. I began this day in the same way I will end it, baking my biscuits. One day at a time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back on the Biscuit Train

This morning I sit here at my table, sip my coffee and wonder how almost a year has past since I made a post on this blog. But more importantly I ponder how this project got pushed to the back burner of my life.
February 22, 2010 is the date. If I recall correctly it was about 2 weeks after my son  was asked to "withdraw" from the prep school he attended since 3rd grade. He was caught with 2 other boys smoking pot.
"Where were they smoking?", I asked the head of school when he called.
"In the back seats of the hockey bus.", he answered.

I enrolled him in our local public school and placed him in an afternoon treatment program. That was his first time. He has since gone through an intensive outpatient program. Ding, ding, ding round two. He smoked pot the same Friday he was released the first time. The second we were granted a month reprieve from the behavior and acting out. He is presently failing 2 of his best subjects, not because he is not capable, he used to be an A-B student. He chooses not to do his homework.

Who's to blame? What's to blame? Can blame even be found? Questions I have asked myself repeatedly for over a year now. I am getting over that phase of it. The blame game. My son's favorite game at present. Convincing him that he needs to take responsibility for his actions falls on deaf ears. He is blind to this fact. Reality tells me that he has to learn this on his own. Painful admission at best. The Mom in me desperately longs to fix it. Common sense tells me this is a valuable lesson. He can learn through his experience. A truth, a bit more painful to accept.

My son is sixteen. He teeters on the edge of adulthood. Ready or not here it comes. He has said that he can handle this on his own. I have done a lot for him. He says he is not smoking anymore. I have a tutor in place.My son doesn't like him. Counselor at the ready. He won't open up. Regardless of anything, still wonder if I need to do more. Is it out of my hands? is this a phase? As my grandma used to say, "Let go and let God." Can I let this go? Will I lose him in the process? I am torn. I sit in my own truth.

I am in the middle of a divorce, struggling to find my way through to singleness, after 21 years. I know I have made a sound decision. I am reminded by the discord that looms between this stranger, who is myself and a soon to be ex. Would the situation be different for him if our history were different? I am unsure. We all hold some responsibility. But that does not exonerate my son. He needs to be held accountable for his actions.

I have never been Mom of the year. I drive a red minivan but that doesn't mean I am a soccer Mom. I do not always control my temper or speak in a soft voice, and patience is not my strong point. No excuses, just truths. I am far from perfect. I try my damndest regardless of circumstance. In other words I am doing as best I can.

So I believe this is the point at which I need to take a leap of faith. To muster up enough strength to trust my soon to be adult. To give him some breathing room, space between Mother and Son. Lay off him awhile and see if he steps up. I need some room to grow now and time to breath again, almost as much as him. It is in the letting go that we gain freedom and perspective to move forward.

When my eldest child was little and got discouraged or frustrated I used to sing him a song that I made up after reading "The Little Engine that Could". I am not sure he even remembers it. But it is high time I sing it to myself as I step into a new phase of my life.

"If you say you can you can
If you say you can't you can't
I think I can
I think I can
I can, I can, I can"