Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love

 

Over the past 4 weeks of advent, my church has been focusing on these 4 words: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

As I think about Peace, I try to find peace in my life in where I am right now. Peace about not being in a relationship right now. Peace about being alone. Peace about the amazing people I have in my life.  Peace and appreciation for what I have and who I am right now.

Hope is more about the future. About the hope that I won’t always be alone. It is about hope for what is yet to come. If I have faith that I am in the right place right now then I hope that being in the right place, both physically and spiritually, will lead to blessings yet to come.

Joy is about celebrating the small things. Celebrating the blessing of friends and family and appreciating all of the little things in life. Celebrating my boys and watching them grow. Celebrating time together with family and friends. Sharing a simple cup of tea, or dinner out. Or simply sharing text messages from friends near and far. Celebrating the many joys I have in my life.

Love, well that is harder for me. Being divorced twice this is an area I feel fairly incompetent in. Something I struggle with constantly. I have numerous friends whom I love and adore, just can’t seem to make the whole relationship thing work.

I am trying to find an inner peace, which will give me hope for the future and a joy about love I have yet to experience.

My wish for you (and me) this holiday season and in the upcoming new year: Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love ~ blessings for all.

 

 

 

 

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Father’s Day

dad-fatherA friend of mine sent me a message this morning that said “Happy Father’s Day. You are both mother and father to your boys.”

What is the difference? Are moms the caretakers while dads are the disciplinarians? Hence the infamous line: “Wait until your father gets home!” I like to think that we have gone beyond many of the stereotypical mother/ father roles of homemaker vs. breadwinner. I think many families I know have created their own roles for mother and father.

So while celebrating father’s day, I got to thinking: what does it take to be a father? Beyond the obvious medical definition, what does it really mean to be a father? One of the definitions on dictionary.com is: “One who cares for another as a father might.”

So, what does that mean? How might a father care for a child?

Neither of my boys have their dads in their lives, but I don’t think they lack for a “father”. There are plenty of people, both men and women, who love them enough to care for them “as a father might.” Friends, uncles, cousins, grandfathers, who have played the role of father for them.

Those who have roughhoused with them, and those who have hugged them.

Those who were there when they got hurt, telling them to shake it off or helping them up.

Those who have laughed and joked with them, and those who have supported them when others laughed or joked at their expense.

Those who have given them “fatherly advice” and those who have just let them talk.

Those who take the time to tell them when they are wrong and celebrate with them when they are right.

Those who care enough to worry about them, and love them enough to make a difference in their lives.

I think a father is all this and more.

I developed a very different relationship with my father through his love for my sons. It has been an enormous blessing for us to grow in this way.

When I look at my boys on this father’s day, I hope they take the best parts of the “fathers” they have had in their lives and use the wisdom and the love they have been shown, to become the best dad’s they can be to their own children.

Happy Father’s Day to all those people who are “fathers” both biological and otherwise, in name or in heart. And especially to those who have been fathers to my boys.

Better late than never??

Watching him glance at the door between every punch during karate class.

Sensing him get increasingly anxious as the week goes on in anticipation of his dad showing up or not.

Having to join the “regular” class instead of the father / child class because his dad didn’t make it on time.

Trying to help him hope for the best but not be disappointed if it doesn’t happen is heartbreaking.
But as his mom, that’s my job.

This week at karate class my son had a father/ child karate class. Having divorced parents and not living with his dad, an activity like this brings a heightened level of stress and anticipation.

I tried to start early. I told my ex about the day. Told him that his son was looking forward to having him there. Tried to convey the importance. I told my son that we would try our best but sometimes dad was busy and might not be able to make it (still making excuses for him).

My son was anxious and irritated all week. Not sure what his dad would say. Not sure what would happen. And not sure how to say all the things he is feeling.

He said he would go.

I tried to encourage them to spend some time together before or after karate class. I tried to arrange for him to pick him up and bring him so they could go together. His dad said he couldn’t do that.

On the way to karate I get the text. “Running late”.

Class begins and they ask kids with their dads to go to one place and kids without their dad’s to go to another part of the mat.

As he begins class in the other part of the mat, he watches the door. Glancing over his shoulder between each punch, kick, move. Mouthing to me “where is he?” Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

His dad does come. 15 minutes late. But better late than never; right?

After karate he asked his dad and his girlfriend if they could do something together. They said “no”. He asked when he would see them again. They said “soon”. He thanked them for coming. They gave him some stuff they bought him. And they left, 15 short minutes after they arrived.

My son packed up his karate bag came over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, “Father / son karate was fun. But I liked mother / son karate better.”

I beamed. Me too buddy, me too.

Valentine’s Day tears

Sobbing. Bawling, Tearing up. Weeping. Welling up.

There are a lot of different ways to describe crying.

Being in my 40s I kind of through that a simple holiday like Valentine’s Day would no longer have the power to make me cry, but this year it did. Twice.

First though, it was tears of joy.tears of joy

I am the principal of a middle school and one of my sweet 8th grade girls created some Valentine’s Day fortunes for her friends. I saw one on another girl’s plate and it read:

“I’m dieting this Valentine’s Day, so I’m accepting diamonds instead of chocolate”

Very cute, very fun, and very appropriate.

So she asked me if I wanted one. I asked if they were “principal appropriate.” She smiled and said “Mostly.” I guess I could have walked away at that point, but they were cute and she really is a good kid. So I pick out a Valentine’s fortune. As I read it, the girls next to me starts reading it too and we burst out laughing.

The one I picked read:

“Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day from the bottom of my boobs. I would say my heart but my boobs are bigger.”

We were all cracking up. I’m not sure whose face was redder – hers or mine.

She tells me to pick another one. So I do. And it read:

“I’m only in this relationship for your cute butt.”

I hand it back to her. The entire table is now hysterical. Tears are rolling down my face from laughing so hard. “Those are the only 2 that were bad at all.” She promises me, but I tell her I’m all done with her Valentine’s fortunes.

She frantically finds me another one that says:

“Yay! Valentine’s Day! That means discounted chocolate the day after.” I smile wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes.

While that moment of crying was a good one. My next Valentine’s Day tears were not shed in joy. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep. That’s not usually a good sign for me. It’s when I start to think too much, and that’s exactly what happened.

I began to think about Valentine’s Day and being part of a couple, which I am not. And I started to get sad, really sad, about being alone.

And I cried. A heart wrenching, sobbing, all out bawling cry.tears

I hate being alone. I am afraid I will never have someone to share my life with, to share myself with. I am afraid I’m a burden to my friends. I’m sad that I feel so damaged that no one will love me again. So I cried.

But one thing is true about both of the cries I had on Valentine’s Day. They were both good for me, good for my soul.

The laugh until you cry cry, was great. It was fun. It made me smile. It made me feel good. And it is important to let yourself laugh and feel good.

The heart wrenching, tears pouring down my face cry, was also great. I spend so much of my time pretending that it doesn’t hurt and that I’m not sad, that it was great to just let it out and cry.

Being alone is hard. Being alone is scary. But being where I am now is better than were I was before. Sometimes it is hard for me to recognize and remember that. Giving myself permission to just cry and be sad is important. Just so long as I don’t get stuck in the sad tears and allow myself the tears of joy too.

Experiences

A recent blog post suggestion asked what would your present self tell your 10 years ago self. 10 years is an interesting timeframe for me as I am 1 year out of a 10-year long marriage. As I look back on the past 10 years, actually on the past 20 years, I would have liked to have been able to spare myself some of the heart ache and pain. I would have liked to tell myself to be smarter and not get involved with this man, or that man. But in the end, who I am today has been shaped by each choice and each decision that I have made. Who I am and where I am is because of the events that have happened in my life. Hopefully some of the wisdom I have gained from those experiences will help me to help others.

Over the past few weeks I have talking to 13-year-old girl about a horrible event that happened to her. She had a bad start to the school year and was acting in a way that I thought was out of character for her. She was being down right mean. I had a few occasions to talk to her, and one of those times she told me in detail about the horrible thing that happened to her last year. And while I thought that no 13-year-old should ever have to go through what she endured, it started to make sense to me as to why she was so angry and mean.

A few of the things we talked about really resonated with me and made me appreciate what I have been through, if only to help this girl.

One of the things we talked about was the meanness of people. She was talking about how mad she would get when people made jokes or comments about her. Many of the kids knew generic, and often incorrect, information about what happened to her, so when they made comments or did things, she overreacted to them because it was so raw and painful. She said to me, “Ms. S. you can’t tell me that when someone is talking about you, you are just going to sit there and take it. You get mad and want to get back at them.”

I told her that people could be mean at any age.

At the end of last year I told my teachers that I would be going back to using my maiden name. I wanted to be sure they knew so that they were not surprised when emails started coming from me with my new last name. Most of the teachers don’t know the details of my divorce, nor do they need to. But I happened to overhear two of them talking about me, snidely commenting on me being divorced, again. It hurt. I didn’t like what they were saying. I didn’t like the judgment they were passing on me because it was such a raw and painful experience for me.

When I told her this story she said, “You could fire them.” I laughed, not for that. But I did still have to work with these teachers professionally. So we talked about taking the high road and knowing that my real friends understood and were there to support me. I also admitted to her that it did hurt. I didn’t like people talking about me. I didn’t like people judging me. But what was more important than what they said and that they were talking about me, was my reaction to them. I couldn’t control them. I could only control me and my reaction to them.

After one of our conversations she told her mom that she told me the whole story. She told her mom that after we talked she felt “lighter.” One of the things I tried to stress to her was that she was not alone. While most other 13-year-olds would not understand or be able to relate to what she had been through, I tried to assure her that she isn’t alone.

She told me later that when I shared with her some of my experiences she felt better. She said it helped to know that someone else understood what she was feeling and that she isn’t alone. I have noticed that she does look lighter. I’ve seen her smile more. I’ve seen her be a little kid again talking about silly junior high stuff. And I’ve seen her smile at me with a warmth that comes from knowing that someone else gets it.

She has talked about moving to a different school next year and I cautioned her that running away isn’t the answer. It might seem easier at times, but this isn’t something to outrun, but rather something to outlive. I encouraged her to think about what would be best for her. And in the end, she has to make decisions for her future, not simply to escape her past.

It’s easy to run. It’s easy to get mad. It’s easy to act like you don’t care. But in the end, what happens to us shapes who we are and who we become.

I was married, and divorced, twice. I have been in abusive and controlling relationships. I have been victimized, but I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

So if everything that I have been through over the past 20 years has helped this little girl know she isn’t alone, then it is all worth it.

If I could, I would tell my younger self that you are stronger than you think and you will have to deal with a lot, but in the end you will help others.

Must have’s for a new man

I am dually terrified, and not because Halloween is coming. I’m terrified about relationships. I’m terrified about the idea of putting myself out there and getting into a relationship again. I feel like this is an area where I am not very successful. But I’m also terrified about the idea of being alone for the rest of my life.

I’m not sure which one terrifies me more. I think that fluctuates day by day. But in what can only be defined as a positive move, I began thinking about what I would want in a man if I were to ever date again. I guess it’s a good thing that I am even thinking of dating again. Maybe it means there is some healing going on. But I admit to being tentative and scared that I will fail again.

My list, of course, starts with my boys. They are the most important people in my life and if anyone wants to be in my life, they have to understand and appreciate this. I know no one will love my boys as much as I do, but they are so important to me that it is essential for someone to be in my life that they must care about my boys and figure out a way to build a relationship with them. My ex couldn’t do this. He was jealous and controlling of everyone I talked to. He could never comprehend my relationship with my older son, his stepson. He was so jealous that he became angry and resentful of my relationship with my younger son, his biological son.

Religion or more specifically spirituality is also significant to me. I have always been a deeply spiritual person. My connection to a particular organized religion has varied throughout my life. I have often gone back to Catholicism because it was what I was raised and where I thought I was comfortable. But I wasn’t. I disagree with many of the Catholic Church’s tenants and beliefs so I have spent a lot of time exploring churches. I am currently a practicing Presbyterian but bigger and more importantly than the actual religious affiliation is the fact that I now know what it is like to have a church community where I can really belong.

If I were to get involved with a man again, I would want him to have some type of religious conviction and spiritual belief. My first husband was the son of a Lutheran pastor, but he was not very spiritual. He actually resented the church and the people of the church because he felt that they took away some of his family and his father because of the demands of being a pastor’s son. My second husband went to church because I went, but he really didn’t believe and he was not invested. Spirituality is something that is very important to me and something I value in a partner.

That is the next thing. I want a partner, a companion, a friend. Someone I can count on and rely on. Someone who is there for me, as I would be there for them. Most of my previous relationships have been about me being there for and giving up myself for my partner and not the other way around. I want someone to do things with and share things with and talk about things with. I want a partner who is invested in me as I am in him.

Doing things with a partner would mean that we should have some things in common. I love football. You would think as a woman that would be an easy sell to a man, but so far, no good. I like watching football. I like going to football games. And at some point in my life, I would love to travel to different stadiums to watch football games. I would like to do that with someone who would enjoy those games with me. I’m hoping that somewhere out there is someone who can appreciate a woman who is passionate and knowledgeable about football.

As I began contemplating this list this weekend, I went to church on Sunday and saw an even better list to live by. The front of the bulletin said:

Clothe yourself with:

Compassion,

Kindness,

Humility,

Gentleness,

Patience

And above all else, Love.

What more could I ask for. As I look to find someone to share my life with, I will first try to practice the qualities I want to find in others: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience … and above all else, LOVE.

Little things

little things

A recent post from a blog I follow made me think about the little things we do for others and how big a deal those things can be.

I’m a principal of a middle school. And as much as we try to prepare the new 7th graders for middle school, it is always a challenge.

They go from an elementary school where they have two main teachers all day, are walked to all of their classes as a group, and even go to the bathroom as a class most of the time, to a middle school where they have 6 teachers throughout the course of their schedule, they have lockers (with combinations), they are responsible for walking to their classes on their own, in general they have a tremendous amount of independence that they have never had before.

Things happen and sometimes kids get lost. On the first day of school I was working with one of my 8th grade teachers to deploy iPads to students and a 7th grade student walked into his classroom by mistake.

Rather than simply tell the child they were in the wrong room and point him in the right direction, the teacher stopped what he was doing and said, “Wow, you did all the right things, and followed your schedule great. Sometimes there are mistakes and we end up in the wrong place.” Then the teacher walked with the student to the right class, never once making him feel like he had done anything wrong.

Later on, in that same teacher’s class, that same student wandered into the class asking for help. He didn’t have the teacher; he was just lost, again. Once more during the day, the student asked the same teacher for student. The student was in 7th grade and the teacher was an 8th grade teacher so the teacher never had this teacher on his schedule, yet he kept coming to this teacher for help.

During lunch on the second day of school I asked the student if he had any problems on the first day. He said he got lost a few times, but there was a history teacher who helped him.

I asked, “Was he one of your teachers?”

He replied with a grin, “No, but he was so nice to me the first time I got lost in his room, I decided that he would probably help me when I got lost again.”

And he was right. Taking the time to validate the student for trying and not making him feel bad about being lost, this teacher not only helped him find his way on the first day of school but he also helped him feel confident about asking for help.

the human touch

 I’m recently divorced, again. I have 2 amazing sons. And a great job. And a HUGE family (it seriously is huge). But sometimes I get lonely and I miss that personal touch. I miss another adult to talk to about my day. I miss someone to ask about me. And I really miss physical intimacy. Don’t worry, this post is not about to get ‘R’ rated on you, I just mean a hug, someone to hold my hand, someone to rub my back, a peck on the cheek, someone to be there … for me.

 

The affectionate gestures of the cute, little, old couples in church just about bring me to tears. It is so adorable to see them holding hands, or helping each other stand up, or just placing their hand over each other’s hand. It really is beautiful and it is something that I miss. I miss someone just touching me affectionately because they want to touch me and they want me to know they are there for me.

 

It probably sounds kind of silly in the grand scheme of things, but it’s true. Human physical contact is really important and one of the things I miss most now that I am divorced. I’m not quite ready to begin dating again, but I wouldn’t mind a nice affectionate hug every once in a while, just because.