Tag Archives: children

Letter to an Ex X

Dear X,

If I had known what I know now, we wouldn’t have gotten married. We wouldn’t have had an amazing child together. I wouldn’t have stopped trusting so openly and without cause. I wouldn’t have been carrying around baggage. I wouldn’t question myself on every single decision. It’s likely that I wouldn’t have sold the family business. I wouldn’t question my mind.

But it happened. You conned me. You fooled me, my mom, my family, and your step-son. When it comes down to it, you felt unworthy. You started using more routinely. Because, I believe you were already using. You decided that you couldn’t do it without superhuman characteristics. So you sold your soul, and your wife, your ‘sons’, your dreams, for something that made you feel so good at the time.

I have a hard time understanding, because I haven’t been there. I won’t even take antibiotics. But I have been addicted to things. I ‘needed’ cigarettes for many years, and diet coke, and sugar. So that makes me just as ‘bad’, even though I manage to hold a job, pay my bills, pay for our child’s holidays, birthdays, school functions, soccer, karate, church functions, and playdates.

I have accepted that you will never be a part of anything financial in our child’s life. That you will forever disappoint him because you cannot test clean. I’ve watched every episode of Intervention. So has my boyfriend. We have talked in great length and depth about how we will never unburden ourselves or Ethan from this massive web of destruction you have casted upon our lives. I have had nightmares about what you are doing to destroy your life, and how that affects our son. He loves you, but he accepts that you are not here. You cannot be there for yourself, let alone him.

You talk as though everything wrong you have ever done is in the past, yet you have zero proof that you are any closer to that next milestone of where you ‘should’ be. You have clued me into how you cheated on your lab tests. How you used until 3 days prior, and then switched to suboxone – the very drug that now, people are getting hooked on. The very drug that could kill someone like me. I didn’t deserve this, but no one that lives through the cleaning up of an addict does. Why should I be immune?

I shouldn’t. That’s the truth. It was God’s plan for me, and God will continue to see me through. Losing our home, my car, your job, your income, your support, is not the worst of it. In truth, the worst of all of this rests in something much deeper.

Our child has learned that he can only depend upon one of us. Now, he is happy to lean on anyone else. This creates the gang-mentality that I will likely have to always combat. I always dreamed of having the family I didn’t have. That will likley never happen because of the environment your addiction has created within our lives. But as a Christian, I am supposed to forgive you, accept you, and turn the other cheek. And this is the worst part. I hate myself for not being able to do any of that.

You have ruined my life. You have ruined our child’s life. Instead of starting from the bottom and working our way up, I am forced to start in the trenches. Our son is 8. Your addiction, you say, began when I was 5 months pregnant. You are repeating what you knew. I am a workaholic, repeating what she knew.

You had a horrible childhood. Your parents both had serious issues, and were heavily medicated. They spent most of your childhood unemployed because of it. Guess who gets lost in the shuffle?

I refuse to disappoint our child. He deserves a family who shows him love, who teaches him how to love unconditionally. I may not be able to reconcile what you have done, but I can work to improve the future of our child. And while I may have spent the bulk of my life believing that I don’t deserve more, I believe that I absolutely do.

So my plea to you is this – please work on you. With everything you are, and everything you ever wanted, work on you. Make strides in that direction. Go to meetings. Make valuable friendships, based on trust and clean living. Pray. Listen to what God has to offer. Earn a living. Be a grown-up. Show our child what it’s like to be a man.

We will take your recovery seriously when you do the same. When you’re finished with the lies, the manipulation, and the fiction. Our son wants his dad back. You told him the truth. Now live the promise. I refuse to assist in the lying, in the promises, in the fairytale. The work is yours to do. Whether you do it or not, our child will feel loved, with or without you. It’s your call. I cannot do it for you, and I cannot help you anymore.

If anyone out there is contemplating destroying their lives, consider this. When you were a child, you had those lucid, beautiful moments. You will continue to experience those, but not if you are leaning on substances. Those are lies. BE YOU. Naked. Truthful. Genuine. And vulnerable. Beauty is found in solace and serenity. Not in substance.


All About Stars

Last night, my son and I read ‘How to Catch a Star’. A wonderful children’s book all about trying to attain something too far away, something impossible, that at first seemed quite possible. The main character attempts many times to reach and capture the star using various methods, and at the end, finally captures not a celestial body but rather a star fish – just sitting there for the taking.

Tonight, both of my sons and I watched ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, an adaptation of the John Greene novel bearing the same name, about two Cancer ridden teens who fall madly and deeply in love. Again, something that seems so possible – falling in love – becomes something that seems completely impossible, living out that love. What we took away from this gruelingly sad story however, was that the ‘stars’ we were looking for were not the stars we captured, and (as it turns out) maybe it truly is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

Having experienced so many losses in a small period of time, I think we all understood the message of this plot in its entirety. The story initiated a conversation between my boys and I about the shortness of life, about the sense of urgency that exists and results from an understanding that living is only a moment, and we are fortunate enough to have the ability to choose in this moment how we wish to spend it, how we wish to live this life. And if we are blessed enough to have our health within this moment, we should live it to the fullest, reaching for every star along the way – be they reachable or completely impossible.

I have been struggling with impossibilities lately myself. Whether or not I can continue breathing life into a company I didn’t create, whether or not I will be completely accepted by those I love, baggage and all. But what the combination of these two starry nights have revealed to me is that it’s all about perspective. Whether or not we choose to believe we can reach those stars, those wants & dreams, we have that choice, and that in itself is a miracle. We may not get what we’re reaching for in the way we imagined, but if we believe we can lasso a star, we will do just that – even if only for a moment. And it’s in those moments of living life that purpose is revealed, love is captured, and our stars become aligned for the taking.

From the Ashes



The most beautiful thing about life is that we always have opportunities to change its path. In the past three years, I have learned this well. Meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends today for lunch granted me the opportunity to hear her story, and learn her version of this truth in a way that left me literally in tears. For the sake of anonymity, we will call her ‘Jill’.

Jill and I met when I was only 8 and she was 6. We roller skated together, and quickly hit it off with our quirky personalities. Jill’s parents were going through a violent and malicious separation, and Jill herself had been witness to some pretty terrible physical fights, yelling matches, and emotional manipulation. So much so that she learned how to lie with the worst of them. Deception became a way of life for Jill, and a means for survival in such a deplorable environment. Her father was an alcoholic, and had taken to stalking and bullying she and her mom on a daily basis until he finally moved out of state and left them to clean up the many messes he had strewn across their lives. They lost their home, lost their support, and eventually lost friends who had continuously tried helping them.

Throughout the years that followed, Jill became more and more distant with me because she had started exploring the world of drugs and alcohol, which led to more lies and deception. Our friendship suffered, no matter how much I tried reaching out to her, because she was ashamed. She knew better. I never fully confronted her, nor did I burn that bridge, out of a hope that someday this ‘little sister’ would find her way and return. I decided at around 18 that I had no other choice than to love her from a distance. She had closed me out, locking the door firmly…. but not permanently.

Nineteen years and thousands of tears later, she let me back in. Only this time, she stands on solid ground with a good 6 years of sobriety under her belt. She spends her days and nights helping rescue others from the path that almost took her life. By the end of our lunch today, we were both sharing tears of gratitude. I am so proud of her, of what she has been through, and risen from, but more than that, I am proud of her for telling her story and changing her path.

Although our paths have been very different, we both have ended up finding the same answers. We have both struggled with such issues as abandonment, self-destruction, and co-dependency. But we have both come to the conclusion that none of these problems should ever define us, excuse us, or end our journeys. There is something to be said for rising from the ashes. We all must learn how to spread our own wings, make our own way. No one can do that for us. We all have different ashes from which to rise, and we all must find a way to unburden our wings. When we do this, and fully commit to flying as far from the ashes as gravity allows, we learn that we were actually meant to soar.

What’s Under Where?

Six year olds. They’re funny little creatures, constantly dabbling in the humor pool even though they can’t yet swim in the deep. Mine came home with a real side-splitter today. He said, ‘Mom what’s under there?’. I mindlessly answered, ‘What’s under where?’, to which he could barely articulate his punch line through the belly laughs… ‘UNDERWEAR!!!’.

Of course, I responded in the typical parental way. I mustered a chuckle & rolled my eyes unenthusiastically. It may have been humorous had I not been (at the same exact time of his telling) running a chicken race, from stove & oven, to grill, to dryer, to pulling the dog out of the trash again & cleaning up wrapper trails strategically strewn through the house. Ahhhh. At least we all ate a good well balanced dinner; all three people and one victorious Hayley dog with an olive oil glued green bean beard. Hey, all girls need accessories!

This is a typical day, with typical humor, typical dog behavior, and typical mommy eye rolls. Yesterday was not. Yesterday was one of those grumpy days that we all have, but no one wants to admit to having, especially when we’re on a pursuit of happiness. Whether we admit to them or not, however, they’re bound to happen. I’ve posted before about changing our thoughts, or the wording of our thoughts, so that we feel the hopefulness instead of the hopelessness of a situation. Today, I’m back to agreeing with that strategy. Yesterday, there was absolutely no jumping over the hurdle of negativity to get there. It was simply too high, and only one thing can explain such insurmount-ability; the wrong side of the bed.

That’s what’s under there. Under where? Under the bed. That’s where my thankfuls landed yesterday. I write five of them before touching the first foot to the ground each day. Usually, I carry them with me along with all the other baggage. Yesterday, I must have dropped them.

At least I remembered my underwear. For that I am both thankful and humored, which is where my six year old finally rolls his eyes.





Snowy downfall

If you’ve ever been stranded by snow, you know. I’m blessed enough to have been prepared with all the sundries; bread, milk, chili, soup, water, eggs, and enough bacon to build my own pig. But what I wasn’t blessed with was the calm to enjoy the calm. Learning how to simply ‘be’ in the midst of an East Tennessee ‘snowstorm’ has been a challenge for this only.

Of course, I haven’t been an only, or a lonely for that matter, because I have two growing boys to feed, to mother, to entertain. So the kitchen has become my office, and my real ‘office’ has become no more than a distant memory.

The first day, which was only half-a-day, was the first hurdle. I rounded up the few employees I had left out in the field, then set off to play super-hero mom to my boys and rescue them from their frantically crowded schools. We landed at home, full of excitement and wonderment. What were we to do with this spontaneous bit of time? I mean, there’s only so much homework, eating and tv watching a family can do, right? As an avid anti-tv watcher, I was a little taken aback by the dilemma.  We did all that though, and after staying up late singing Karaoke on the xbox, we retired to our cozy beds.

But this mom could not rest without fully planning the next day without school that sat there all hidden in the bushes like some sniper in my mind. What would we do with all this time?

I did what any mom does. I planned. I listed, prioritized, and strategized how every hour would be spent in that long day ahead. And I awakened with a mission. Structure would ensue. We had an hour of snow play, followed by an hour of ‘unplugged’ quiet productivity that would include schoolwork, reading, and practice. That was followed by the lunch hour, that was followed by the ‘active’ hour, where sitting was not an option, but anything that required movement and loud music was welcome. It was then time for art, which included painting and drawing. The day was beautifully and dutifully filled, but – and here’s the kicker – I’m exhausted.

And what have I learned from this snow-capade? That I am grateful to be a working mother. I am blessed with a life where I can send my kids off on their learning journeys, and pick them up in time to play and entertain; to focus on the loving and nurturing side of motherhood, and leave the rigidity of monotony to the experts. Those experts are, I’m sure, much more creative and pragmatic than me. And for that, I am thankful.

When all is said and done, we all say that the one thing we would like more of is time, but the irony is that the more we have of it, the more we waste of it. While today wasn’t necessarily a waste, and it was welcome in its own right, simply because of its novelty, it was a waste of possibility; the possibility of calm. I take each evening to stop and think, write, create, learn, but never to relax.

And while I’m certain that a psychologist could have a field day with that, I have come to accept that relaxation just isn’t in my cards as a single mom of two boys. The way I see it, I will have plenty of time to learn how to relax after I’m done teaching them not to. My mother taught me the same thing. But balance is beauty. If there is even 30 minutes of calm in my day to ponder where I’ve been, where I am and where I would like to ‘be’, I am a happy mom, and the least lonely only in my family of three.

Momentum Monotony


Chills in the air that only hot showers, long treadmill runs, and coffee can defrost, are more than I care to experience this winter. Of course, I shouldn’t complain. I live in East Tennessee, and our cold seasons would be considered balmy tropical fronts compared to Northern climates. Still, the older I get, and the more crotchety my bones grow, the less tolerance I muster in the season of bluster.

After 12 hours of Christmas shopping over the past weekend, and 200 Christmas cards mailed in the last few days, I am feeling a little more Grinch and a little less Tiny Tim than normal. I’ve almost given up my spirit of giving. My patience has become impatient, and Ethan’s elf-on-the-shelf has lost her creativity. In fact, she seems to have forgotten for several nights, that she’s supposed to travel up to Santa and return to our home in a new spot each morning for Ethan’s finding pleasure.

But the momentum of this Christmas adventure began with ambitious intentions. My mom and my mamaw were both Christmas nuts. I don’t mean the kind you eat or the kind found in holiday fruitcakes. They were fruitcakes, but that’s what made Christmas fun. Somehow, without both of them here to motivate me into frosty-rudolph celebration, I felt even more determined to do everything they did for the holidays; to make sure that my children had the same experiences I had as an excited and enthusiastic child. So now with 6 days left to go before Christmas, I am severely and sadly burned out. My twinkle has lots its sparkle, and my spritely spirit has lost its luster. But my favorite Christmas memory keeps me plugging along like the reindeer guiding Santa Claus’s sleigh, and I know that I can’t lose sight with that blinding glow of Rudolph’s red.

Many many years ago, my parents and I took a trip, as we traditionally did, up North to visit my grandparents. On our journey, we encountered a blizzard like I had never seen. I remember that the world was white, even though the night was dark. I couldn’t see my mittens or my boots for the creamy drifts that buried my seven-year-old self. The interstate closed, and we were forced to spend Christmas eve in a tiny little hotel room.

All I could think about was how would Santa ever find me there. My determined father hung one of his tube socks, white with two red stripes, from a shelf in our room. I left a couple of twinkies, and a cup of water, complete with a hand-written letter telling Santa exactly what I wanted. I remember lying there, waiting for sleep to carry me away, and wondering if this magical man would know that we were stranded, and that this was the best I could do.

To my surprise, when I awakened the next morning, I found every single gift I had asked for, along with a stuffed tube sock still hanging with bulging candy, oranges, and hairbows. I was ecstatic. Although we had no tree in that cold dark room, the spirit of Christmas filled the air, and overflowed into my little doubtful heart in a way that still moves me to this day. I still have no idea how they pulled it off, but it doesn’t matter. They did pull it off, and my faith in Christmas was restored.

My wish this Christmas is that my childrens’ faith is restored the same as mine was so long ago; that they understand that, while obstacles can and will try and crush our faith, miracles can and do happen. After a year of losing ‘grandma’, and missing out on summer travels and fun, their spirit of Christmas carries me through just as my parents’ spirit did on that stranded Christmas morning, and it was restored entirely in that crazy eighties tube sock.





Lost ship

It’s been one of those days. I woke up without wanting to. I crawled to the shower, scrubbed, shampooed, shaved, and dried off without singing. Singing just makes it worse sometimes. Going through the motions has to happen. There is no choice in this. I am grateful. Yes. I try that; starting my thank-you’s each day before the first foot hits the cold floor. Mostly that works. It starts the engine and the wheels of gratitude begin to turn. Then there are days when that voice inside shrinks to a whisper.

Missing mom, missing those that are no longer here, is at times unbearable.

Because I run a company that she built, drive a car that she bought, and live in a home that was once hers, means that at every turn I am faced with her memory, or rather her legacy. Today was my first huge challenge as a small business owner. My newest employee was accused of theft and I had to let her go. I wanted to find a nice cool cave somewhere. I wanted to curl up and sleep. I wanted to call mom and ask her what I needed to do. But since none of those things were real possibilities, I handled it.

That doesn’t make me superwoman, it just makes me responsible. I’m responsible for the jobs of 9 girls right now (when it should be 12 girls). I’m responsible for making sure that 130 houses get cleaned every month, and the even bigger challenge of making sure two boys are loved and guided every day. On days like this, that seems like too much.

In truth, however, it’s not too much as long as I realize that I can ask for help. Sometimes it’s enough just to know that I can vent or have a small breakdown on someone’s shoulder. And sometimes that someone is an employee. But employees are like children in the sense that they learn from you, in how you react to adversity, and how you pull yourself together and carry on instead of throwing in the towel.

So as much as I feel like a lost ship sometimes, I learned today that I may be just that. But also that I may be a lost ship with lots of rescue boats surrounding me. I just have to let them know that I’m out there and need help. This isn’t an easy task for onelies because we tend to believe we can take it all on. Pride takes over and sinks us sometimes. But humility, the sheer recognition of our limitations, can rescue us from ourselves, and guide us back to that island where no man (or woman) stands alone.1339301066156

Broken me oh broken me!

The holidays. The loneliest only time of the year. It’s that time of year that is the very white elephant that I would like to scuffle, taze, and shoot right out of my undecorated room. I’m not anti-religious. I am devoutly Catholic. I’m also not anti-animal, or anti-elephant for that matter. But it’s all of this in-your-face with the Santa hat thing that goes on in our ultra-consumeristic society. Buy me! The toy says. Buy me now or forget me tomorrow! Says the latest and greatest electronic gadget. That’s all good and fine, and yes I will take them all, but it’s not going to help. Not this year. I refuse to get filled-up with all the faux meanings of Christmas. No thank you.

Last year I was surrounded by family – my mother, my step-family, my boyfriend, my children – and half of that is gone. The two that held up the adult-end of the bargain; my mom and boyfriend – are absent. My mother because she had to go and pass away, and my boyfriend, because I realized it wasn’t working and made him go away. I didn’t shoot him either by the way. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in self-pity at this time of year. I’m completely tangled! I don’t want to put up the tree on black Friday as I’ve done every year of my adult life. I don’t want lights, decorations, wreaths, ribbons, garland…NO thank you!

But I must chug along, and I know this, because I have two boys that just expect that of mommy. Fake it until I make it? Yes. The old philosophy comes in to play again. When all else fails, and the show must go on, faking it will be the solution. My plan of action is to put up the tree as I promise myself to smile. It’s to put up the village, while imagining I am one of those happy village people (without singing YMCA). I’m going to buy presents and dream of a white Christmas, and lots of deep sleeps where dreams of lost loved ones do not hinder or interfere with good old fashion rest.

I am going to do it all because it’s what ‘they’ expect. And what ‘they’ say counts.

One day, they may too have to experience a bliss-less Christmas, and may also have to fake it. But they will now how, and if they forget, I will be right there to remind them. If they reach outside of themselves when self-pity moves in and takes up residence in their hearts, they are bound to find joy in the legacy of lost love.After-all, if it happens once, it’s bound to happen again. And if you learn from the loss, the victory will be that much sweeter.

So let us dress our sorrows in Santa hats, place the jingle bells on our doubts, and remember that joy isn’t a gift we buy but a gift we give to ourselves because we choose to do so.Image