Happy Birth Day

I recently celebrated a birthday.

I hadn’t been that excited about my birthday for the past couple years now.  It just seemed like another day on the calendar.  It’s not that I frown about my growing age number.  I’m in the 50 plus age group now.  I don’t mind my 50 plus status.  Really, I don’t.

I think it had more to do with my view of myself and the value or worth I felt.

What is a birthday?

Is it really about the gifts, the Hallmark Card (not knocking Hallmark, love their cards), the cake, the candles, or the Happy Birthday song?  Is it the Facebook post, the text or the other social media recognition we get?

Realistically, we know what a birthday is.  It is the day someone was born.  It is the day that someone, their mother, gave birth to them.  It is the day they became human and independent of their mother’s womb, nutrients.  It is a day in which we hope was a time of rejoice for our mother, father and extended loved ones as they welcomed our birth.

But I think there is more.

We know that not everyone celebrates birthdays in the same way or for that matter, celebrates them at all.  Here in America, we seem to say the words so easily as if it is an automatic response, like “God Bless You” when someone sneezes.  But do we really value the sincerity of the message we are sharing?

I shared my birthday with my great grandmother up until I was 19 years of age.  We had nearly 60 years between us.   I enjoyed sharing my birthday with my great grandmother and she seemed to enjoy sharing hers with me.

More often, it made me feel special; but every once in a while, I took a back seat to my great grandmother.  As a child, I didn’t always understand and sometimes had trouble processing it.  It felt like someone was placing value on us as one being more important than the other.

For the last three birthdays, I began to share my birthday with a coworker.  I was excited to be able to share my birthday again.  But I think my coworker, at first, felt cheated that she, a senior employee, had to now share her birthday with me.  And again I had that feeling, like we were being pitted against each other.  Who is more important.  Who is more likable.  I don’t like nor do well with these scenarios.  I usually retreat within.

When we care about someone, whether it is our child, our spouse, a sibling, a parent, a dear friend or loved one, telling them Happy Birthday is telling them that they matter, they are special to us, and we are happy they were born on this day.

Last year, I was able to celebrate the birthday of my youngest son with him for the first time since he was born.  I’ve talked to him on his birthday.  I’ve sent him birthday gifts over the years.  Our families have even visited within a week or so of his birthday while also celebrating Christmas.  But, I have not seen my son Noah, face to face, on his actual birth day since the day I gave birth to him.

It was truly something special.

To be able to light the candles on his cake, sing Happy Birthday and show him how happy I am that he was birthed on this day.  It all meant a great deal to me.

I love my sons.  I love being able to tell them and show them how happy I am that I gave birth to them.  How happy I am that they are here.  How proud I am when I look at them and see what an amazing job my body did in creating and birthing these beautiful human beings.  I think that is what a birth day signifies.

 

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Dinner for Two

My son Jaren has been gone this week on a youth trip with our church.  He has gone on this week-long spiritual vacation for the last two years.  As much as I enjoy having some “me time” I do miss my son being here at home.  I get bored and frankly, get lazy.  He keeps me on toes, running here and there, cooking, cleaning and whatever else moms do with their children.  I’ve only made one partially home cooked meal this week which is unusual for me.  Yes, I’m kind of old fashioned that way.

This is one tradition I’m glad got passed down.  My mother was a good cook and always seemed to enjoy cooking for her family.  She took pleasure in it, whether it was a simple and easy meal or a grand holiday feast.  Having dinner around the table with my parents and siblings is one of the fondest memories I have from childhood.  And with everything else that I experienced, this may have been the saving grace that helped me persevere.  The Family Dinner Project

Cooking didn’t come naturally for me at first.  I was the younger sister so I didn’t get the hands on experience that my older sister Colleen got.  I have evolved over the years.  I am an eclectic cook.  I like to make my ethnic foods, mostly Italian and German and classic American cooking.  But I also like to try new things.  My Texas friends have taught me many delectable Southern, Soul and Tex-Mex recipes, which are all my son’s favorites.  I’ve gotten pretty resourceful on a tight budget and have learned to make good use of my leftovers.

Pork Heart

A couple years ago, Jaren came home from school and told me his teacher posed a question to the class.  His teacher asked, “How many of you have dinner at the table with your family every day?”  Jaren said he was the only one to raise his hand.  He said he looked around …surprised.  He said his teacher was equally surprised.  Then the teacher asked how many of them have dinner with their family once a week…once a month.  Jaren again was the only student to raise his hand both times.  And lastly the teacher asked “once a year” and added and/or if they have dinner in the living room.  Finally a few students raised their hand.   This started a conversation among the class.

I admit, I had felt guilty and even angry at times about what was missing in my son’s life.  I had internally focused on what he didn’t have; like having only one parent (or family member) of Jaren’s (with a few exceptions) sitting in the stands at the soccer games, the basketball games, the football games, the school recitals, the choir concerts, the special performances at church, as I saw dual parents, siblings, and on occasion, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins showing up for the other kids.  I’d wonder, as my son tried to find me in the crowd and wave at me, did it matter to him or if he even noticed.  In addition, not having extended family around throughout the year or for years, some due to distance, some due to racism, and some I really don’t know why because they have had or have access to Jaren and many, many opportunities to participate throughout the year, has left me feeling concerned for my child and the impact this could have on his emotional intelligence.

So when Jaren came home and told me about the class conversation, it changed my perspective.  I could see how this conversation impacted him as he realized how different our traditions were as compared to his classmates.  This was a turning point for me and I think for both of us about how we viewed our family.  I began to see my role in Jaren’s life differently.  My focus changed.  I realized that it doesn’t matter if there are ten familiar faces in the audience or if I am the only family face in the crowd my son sees.  What really matters is that when Jaren looks out into the audience, that he sees me, his mother’s smiling face, looking up at him and seeing how proud I am to be his mom.

I began to see what Jaren has and the traditions that I have created for our family.  While we may not have spent birthdays and calendar holidays throughout the year together with our biological family, we spent it with loved ones who loved us unconditionally, who made every effort to include us in their spur of the moment cookouts or planned out traditional holiday dinners.

More importantly, I realized that it doesn’t matter if Jaren and I are eating at home or dining out at a table for two, whether our meals are three course home made meals or frozen entrees put together with can and box goods, or Friday night pizza in the living room in front of the TV, as long as we are making time to be together.  And it’s more than just about cooking my son a meal.  It’s about him knowing that he is my priority and me doing my best to make him feel protected, safe and loved.

To some, this table may look old and worn.  To me, I see little hands learning to eat, warm meals and birthday cakes, conversations and funny stories, disagreement and even tears.

Kitchen Table

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, if this is true, then a table must be worth a million or more.

Toxic Families

I recently stumbled upon an article about Toxic Families.

Looking back, I see an uncanny similarity to my childhood.  It’s funny how time can ease those bad memories, the fears, and the pain.  The wounds are still present but we forget what the discomfort felt like.  Then, when we look at the scar, we unwilling recall every detail of the past.  People will tell you, don’t look at the scar, don’t speak of the scar, forget the scar.  Some think if the scar is invisible, the circumstance is imaginary.  Nothing can be farther from the truth.

I was the youngest of three in the family with a single parent household, until my mother began dating our step father when I was a young five year old.

I was soon assessed and unequally measured up against my siblings and I didn’t fare well.  I cried too much and acted like a baby.  I sucked my thumb, wet my bed, talked too much and was too loud.  I was lazy in school, did not pay attention, did not listen nor did I perform well in school.  I was too sensitive, and too emotional.

I realize now that I was a neglected child.  I had all the classic signs that something was wrong but none of the adults would acknowledge or validate my very real and natural reactions to my circumstances.  If I were in the foster care or an adoptee, I would have been classified as a special needs child.

My needs and my disabilities were ignored, despite the absence of my father and the only child in our family who did not have a biological father to actively spend quality time with me (which I had between the ages of birth and four years old but then abruptly stopped).  Watching my two older siblings leave for the weekend with their paternal grandparents or father after us three kids were inseparable for most the time and then being told that I couldn’t go because this was “their grandparents or father” left me feeling forsaken.  Their grandparents, the Whitaker’s, did try to include me.  They started sending me $25.00 during Christmas time, the same amount as my siblings.  I would be reminded by our mother how generous it was of them to include me and how grateful I should be.  On rare occasions I eventually got to tag along with my siblings but not until I got much older.  I remember a time or two being reminded by my sister that they were “her” grandparents, not mine.  She didn’t have to tell me.  I mean they were nice to me but I was very aware that I was not their grandchild.  I felt like a guest when visiting, not family.  Even my brother and sister acted different when we were visiting with the Whitakers.  (Back then, none of us kids knew that their father is actually listed as my father on my birth certificate.)

What little scraps I got, I accepted it.  After all, I didn’t have my father or paternal grandparents picking me up or doting over me.  My paternal family didn’t have much to do with me, except for my sister Chick.  There were no letters, Christmas or birthday cards or presents, no phone calls or visits with my paternal family except on a very rare occasion.  I recall my mother taking me to a family reunion on my father’s side when I was a freshman in high school.  That was the first time we had seen each other since I was a baby.  Hardly anyone recognized me.  And I surely didn’t remember most of them.  I got to invite a friend of mine who’s Italian.  She fit right in with my Italian relatives and many thought she was family instead of me.  My paternal family didn’t know me.  My cousins, in-laws, aunts and uncles did not know me.  They knew my sister Chick, my half-sister from my dad, but they didn’t know me.  I had to keep explaining that I was Mario’s daughter.  My father, at the time, was in prison for murder.  But again, none of that mattered to my parents or family.  They didn’t feel the need to take me to a counselor or psychologist to help me cope.  My emotional or physical challenges, which began when I was a baby, were all in my head.  I was blamed for everything.

I was called,

A baby

A Bed-wetter

Squirt (Nickname), a pun on being a bed-wetter

A Crybaby

A Whiner

A Hypochondriac

An Airhead

I was accused of being too sensitive, overreacting and weak.

These labels would stick with me throughout my childhood and adulthood.

To borrow a quote from Oprah, my family didn’t see me, hear me and what I said didn’t really matter.

I will never forgot the first time I went to the state of Texas, DARS office to see if I qualified for disability assistance for my hearing impairment.  And I did.  That was first time I received validation.  It felt strange, really.  I kept waiting for someone to accuse me of faking it, since my family never acknowledged my hearing impairment or tried to provide any accommodations.  They treated me as if I was equal to my siblings (and classmates) when in fact I was not.  They all had normal hearing, I did not.

When DARS recently sent me to a new audiologist for a hearing test to reassess my hearing and to see if I qualified for new hearing aids, the doctor, who is also hearing impaired asked me when I was diagnosed.  I told him when I was in the second grade.  So his next question was assuming that I got hearing aids at the same time.  I explained to him that I did not.  He said his parents, who were both teachers discovered his hearing loss which was approximately about the same as mine as a child.  He said his speech and learning progress didn’t match up to his older sister so his parents knew something was wrong.  I told him that was funny because it was actually the teachers that discovered my hearing loss and noticed I was not speaking or learning at the same rate as my classmates.  But for whatever reason, even after I was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss (mild right ear and moderate left ear), my parents chose not to pursue hearing aids or any other type of assistance to help me with my hearing impairment.  Despite the repeated comments on my report cards that stated, “She does not listen, does not pay attention.  She day dreams a lot,” they still didn’t get it nor did they go to school to defend me or explain my situation.  The comments from my parents on the back of my report card are proof of that.  Now, I realize my parents were not rocket scientist or college educated at the time, but my goodness, the proof was very apparent and yet they ignored my diagnoses and even blamed me as the reason for my grades and behavior in school.  Not only did they ignore the diagnoses but they never took me to an audiologist for the remainder of my school years to have my hearing re-tested.  Think about that.  Can you imagine your child being diagnosed with a vision problem and not buying him glasses nor getting annual exams to see if his vision got worse.  More often than not, once you’ve been diagnosed with a vision or hearing impairment, over time, your ability level will decrease.  My mother said, “The school tested you every year.”  But sadly, it’s not the school’s responsibility to monitor our children’s health issues; it’s our parents.

In addition, schools do not always catch a child’s ability to see or hear or monitor their progress.  My co-worker told me a story about her nephew (her brother’s step son) who is in the third grade.  She said after the school suggested their son have an eye exam, his parents learned that their son has a serious visual impairment.  She said his glasses were so thick.  She commented at how he used to squint all the time (for years) and no one ever thought anything of it.  She said the first time she saw him with his glasses on; he was smiling, talking and seemed so much more confident, a big change from his previous behavior.  Imagine that.  Just obtaining glasses and being able to see better made him more confident.  His parents felt really bad for not noticing earlier and she said they kept apologizing to him over and over again and treated him extra special.  As parents, we are not perfect.  We miss things.  But when we learn that our child has special needs and there is a valid reason why our child may not be performing the way we expect (age appropriately) and we have an opportunity to help them perform better but choose to ignore it, that’s neglect.

So instead of my family validating my impairment or emotional needs, they scapegoated me.  I became an easy target and easy prey.  I was weak.  If something happened to me, they responded, “Well you should have known better,” or “you should have done this,” or “you should have learned.”  Then as I got older, the comments would continue as such, (actual comments copied from emails or facebook), “You are reading too much into this,”  “I think you’re over analyzing situations.”  “Don’t make problems where none exist.”  “Feeling sorry for yourself.”  “Don’t make a big deal about it.”  “By all means, do whatever you can to help others and yourself. Just remember, others need positives to move forward….not negatives or rehashing. It might work in a therapy session, but not here! No audience!”, and lastly,  “LOST CAUSE….LOST SOUL!!!”

I have to admit, the last one hurt real bad.  I don’t think I could ever say that to one of my children.

And if that wasn’t enough, my family would recruit other members of the family and some friends to chime in and bash Karen and then forward me their email.

This was from my uncle after reading My Storybook Father, “A lot had it worse than she did growing up.  I can recall Colleen’s pouts,” and “Surviving the Sisters of St. Joseph who must of been trained by the Nazis.  Also boo hoo…..my cousins and my two best friends moving away before I even got into high school.”

Some people will never see you or hear you or validate you.  And some will.

I had another uncle share this, “I have a better understanding of what she went through in life. My life was a walk in the park compared to what came her way. With God beside her she has done an amazing job.”

You Might Be a Single Mother…

I had worked for my employer since 1996 and I had accumulated a good retirement as well as a beneficial 401k which allowed me to take a year off from work in 2012. Since having my son, life has been a whirlwind.  Being a single mother, life was non-stop, always going somewhere, and doing something.  I didn’t realize how busy my life was until I took off that one year.  I began to think about what makes a single mother.

Taking into consideration for me and my single mother friends, here are some things that are common to single mothers or single parents.

If you are the only parent who has changed your child’s diaper, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who taught your child how to talk, walk and ride a bike, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who shows up for your child’s parent teacher conference, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only one who takes your child to the doctor, or stays home with them when they are sick, you might be a single mother.

If you’re a one income family and you’re the sole provider and protector for your household, you might be a single mother.

If your kids get new clothes (though maybe not in large quantities), while you haven’t bought anything new for yourself in many years, you might be a single mother.

If you shop at second hand stores, you might be a single mother.

If you use coupons, shop sales and sale racks, and buy marked down meats at the grocery store; you might be a single mother.

If you have ever wondered how you were going to pay the bills, you might be a single mother.

If you get paid and your paycheck is already spent on bills, daycare, groceries, lunch money, gas, and you only have $5.00 to last until your next paycheck or zero money or already have a negative balance in your account after just getting paid, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever called a utility company and asked for a payment plan, or an extension, you might be a single mother.

If your phone or your electric has ever been turned off since becoming a parent, you might be a single mother.

If your child hears the ice cream truck and ask you if she can buy an ice cream and you tell her no because you don’t even have one dollar in your purse to give, you might be a single mother.

If your child wants to rent a Redbox movie and you tell him you can’t afford it this week, you might be a single mother.

If you go to a fast food restaurant and tell your child that she can only order from the dollar menu, you might be a single mother.

If you go out with friends and you tell your child beforehand, do not order anything too expensive.  Then get to the restaurant and your child ask you if he can order a menu item that is pricier than the other menu entrees and you give him a dirty look, you might be a single mother.

If you’re going to a friend’s house for a BBQ and they ask if you can pick up some soda’s or chips or deserts and it’s during one of those times when you have spent all your money on the bills listed above but you don’t want to tell your friends that you’re broke, you might be a single mother.

If your pantry and refrigerator are bare, not because you don’t cook at home but because you don’t have enough money to buy groceries for the upcoming week, you might be a single mother.

If you have a thousand ways to use leftovers, you might be a single mother.

If your child asks you if she can eat something before getting it out, because you have told her that the food (cereal, Ramon noodles, Hot Pockets) all cheap single parent foods, needs to last until next payday, you might be a single mother.

If you drive an older car or have no car at all (use public transportation), you might be a single mother.

If you’re coworkers ask you to go out after work for happy hour and you decline because you don’t have a babysitter, nor can afford a babysitter, and you don’t have enough money to buy even one drink for happy hour, you might be a single mother.

If your child gets invited to a birthday party and you don’t have enough money to buy a birthday present, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever made a homemade Halloween costume for your child and tried to get them excited about the creative process because you couldn’t afford to buy a store bought costume, you might be a single mother.

If you’re long overdue for a haircut, not because you don’t want one, but because your child’s needs come before yours, you might be a single mother.

If you feel like you are rushing all the time; get up, get kids ready, make breakfast, drop kids off at school, drive to work, get off work, pick kids up, get home, cook dinner (some of us still do this), clean dishes, take kids to sports or other activities, help with homework, get them ready for bed, and do that for 52 weeks of the year, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever felt stressed and overwhelmed and wondered about your role as a parent, praying to God to help provide for you and your family, you might be a single mother.

If your weekends feel as stressed as your work week; catching up on cleaning, laundry, bills and paper work, and spending time with your kids, you might be a single mother.

If taking a weekend nap or getting pampered with a manicure, pedicure, or a massage is worth more than a million dollars, you might be a single mother.

When your kids go everywhere you go and there’s no such thing as, “Honey, watch the kids while I run to the store real quick,” then you most likely are a single mother.

And if your ex (husband or child’s father) has never gotten up in the middle of the night to feed, change or comfort his crying baby, nor dropped off or picked up his kid at school, nor showed up at his child’s school functions, stage performance or sports game, nor cooked his child a meal, nor helped his child with homework, nor carried his child on his insurance, nor stayed home with his sick child, nor has provided any physical or emotional support to his child or you, no Daddy weekends, monthly or bi-annual visits, and no financial child support, then you are not a single mother, you are a single parent and you ROCK!

What Some Intended for Harm, God Intended for Good, Part 2

I got pregnant with Noah eleven months after Jaren was born.  And like Jaren, this pregnancy was unexpected, certainly not planned and once again unintended.   However, this time, I was not as confident as I was when I became pregnant with Jaren.  Rather, I was somewhat fearful, uncertain and wary about my future and our future as a single parent family with the two kids.

After nine months of turmoil as whether or not to have an abortion (something that my children’s father and members of my family wanted), or adoption, or parenting, I was finally ready to give birth to Noah.

A few months earlier, I had talked with my mom and sister about coming to Texas so one of them could take care of Jaren while I was in the hospital giving birth.  Neither one of them was that thrilled about the idea.  It wasn’t so much about taking care of Jaren.  That was the least of their concerns.  Knowing the task at hand and the choice that was laying heavily on me at the time, they both pointed to the other as to say, ‘I think you should go’ or ‘you would be better at this than me’.  The question arose between my mother and sister, “what if she doesn’t want to go through with it?”  My mother was convinced that they would have to find a way to talk me into proceeding with the adoption plan.  This is the moment where coercion subliminally exposes itself.  After they deliberated awhile, my sister made some comment about not being sure she was comfortable with that and finally said, “She’s your daughter; you should be the one to be there.”

After having Jaren, I had lost some family members because of their view of what a family should look like.  Now that I was about to give birth to Jaren’s younger brother, other family members were giving me new ultimatums.  They warned, keeping my new baby may result in losing the rest of my family.  One family member even threatened that if I chose to parent my second child, that I would no longer be welcome in his home.  No mother should have to choose between her child and her family.

I’ve speculated over the years why my family was so headstrong about me not keeping Noah.  Some of my friends jokingly said they had one black child in the family, they didn’t want any more.  But seriously though!  I had been providing a good home to Jaren.  I lived more than a thousand miles away from them.  They weren’t babysitting for me.  I wasn’t asking them for anything.  Nothing!  So why were they so concerned about me parenting my second son about to be born?  It’s mind boggling.  Here I was pregnant and giving birth for the second time and my family was unwilling again to support me, accept me or my family, or my kids.  What should have been a beautiful time for me and my family turned into a dreadful, self-seeking motive for them.

For those who wonder about my adoption intention, this was something I did consider seriously.  However, I knew there was no way that I was going to make that decision while I was still pregnant.  Lots of things can change in nine months.  I understood that all too well.  The following was my statement five months before I gave birth to Noah:

“I understand the above (legal document) and will enter into this agreement only if I am absolutely sure that this is the best decision.”

After I gave birth, I had decided that I couldn’t leave my newborn in the hospital.  It just felt wrong to leave behind my baby boy in the hospital alone. Apparently, unbeknownst to me at the time, my friends and my mother were at odds.  Mom adamantly believed and voiced her opinion that I needed to “give up” this baby.  My friend Sheila (a birthmother), said that was not her place to make those demands.  So when Sheila and mom came to pick me up from the hospital and saw that I had my baby in my arms and I was bringing him home too, mom was very upset.  In fact, I hadn’t seen my mother that upset since her father died.  I could tell she had been crying.  Her face was red and her eyes were swollen.  She wouldn’t look at me.  I had made a choice that she didn’t agree with.  She was sad and mad.  She managed to put on a straight face for the hospital but once we got in the car, her eyes were heavily fighting back tears.  It was a gloomy ride home and I was torn.  I mean, who wants to see their mother crying?  And knowing that you and your choice is the reason she is sad and crying.  It’s a heavy burden to carry.

So I did proceed with relinquishing my parental rights to my new baby boy Noah when he was three days old on Christmas Eve.  On one of the most meaningful holidays of the year, while Christians and non-Christians alike around the world are gathering, eating, opening presents, singing, praying, celebrating with their loved ones, I was getting ready for a goodbye.  But God had different plans.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I’ve had many doubts about my choice to relinquish my parental rights, both before I signed the papers and after.  And the biggest factor that I had the hardest time reconciling was separating my two sons.  If you asked me if I would have gone through with the adoption had my family or mother been less enthusiastic about the adoption of Noah or more supportive of my right to choose without any pressure, I don’t know.  I wish I could have discovered that path on my own instead of feeling like I was given a detour or road block with no choice. However, the one thing I never had any doubts about was the family I had chosen to parent Noah in the chance that I could not.  I felt something special about them.  And they would hold true to that inner quality that I connected with on a piece of paper several months before I gave birth.  For one, we had a verbal open adoption agreement which included sending pictures for 18 years.  However, Noah’s family invited Jaren and me out to lunch less than two weeks after they picked up Noah.  With my family long gone, without a worry or concern how I may be emotional healing or recovering, Noah’s family thought of me.  They could have left that day and could have honored or broke their verbal agreement and no one would have thought anything of it.  I had no legal rights.  My deed was done.  But they didn’t.  They didn’t!

Something in the universe was drawling us together by an action that is normally intended to tear a family apart.

I’ve pondered many times over the years, what if Noah was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  I couldn’t imagine.  And while I have experienced one of the greatest pains a mother can endure, I believe the “not knowing” would have greatly impacted my overall healing and emotional state.

I’ve wondered why Noah’s family decided to keep, increase and cultivate our open adoption agreement.  Despite my children’s father, his family and my family’s initial questionable intentions, Noah’s family has become part of our family.  We’ve made some great memories over the years.  I couldn’t imagine my life without my son Noah or his family in it.  I think for whatever reason, Jaren and I were meant to be a part of Noah’s life in some way.  Whether I was intended to be his parenting mother or not, only God knows.  It’s like the story of Moses.  His mother made a choice in despair.  Once Moses had been found by the pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ [birth] sister petitions to have Moses’ [birth] mom be his nanny.  Now, was all that a part of the divine plan of God?  I’m sure Moses’ mother must have wondered about her choice to place her son in the river at some point in her life.

In the end, having this unique experience to grow has added another layer to my life’s lessons and has provided spiritual enlightenment.  God gave me two beautiful boys.  I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be their mother, whether I am the parenting mother or the birth mother.

What some intended for harm, God intended for good, part 1

My first born son is a high school junior this year.  It’s hard to believe.  I think back to the time when I first discovered I was pregnant with Jaren.  Yes, he was unexpected.  Yes, he was not planned and under my own limited human perception, unintended.  And even with all that, I was not afraid of my future or our future together; despite his father’s lack of enthusiasm.

Even my family was happy for me.  Until…

Yes, until.

Until about seven months into my pregnancy, they learned that my future son would be half of another race of a man that they did not know nor ever met.  Jaren’s father was mostly African American along with some American Indian.  They acted as if I had done the most horrific thing.  And although I was thirty-four years old and lived more than a thousand miles away, they began to scheme on ways to talk me into getting rid of my baby who had not even been born yet

Then the phone began to ring.  This is how coercion begins.  Mom’s sister called first.  I had not talked with my aunt or seen her in many years.  However, she is calling me not to congratulate me or support me or to ask me how I was doing; no, none of those things.  She was calling me to ask me to “give up” my future infant for adoption.  She was very persuasive in her argument.  Even though just months before she had supported my pregnancy and was a guest at a baby shower given in my honor by my family back home, race had now played a very big factor in my decision to parent my own child.  She thought it would be more difficult to raise a bi-racial son as a single mother.  Apparently raising a white infant is easier than raising a bi-racial infant, especially if the race includes African or a darker skinned race.

It’s not like I didn’t know how my family felt about race.  I remember as a teenager, my mother had a variety of cabbage patch dolls.  One of them was a black cabbage patch doll.  When my niece was a toddler, she would play with the cabbage dolls and carry them over to my step dad.  He would allow my niece to place them in his lap except for one.  Whenever she placed the black cabbage patch doll in his lap, he would throw the doll across the room and call it a derogatory name.  Not the n-word but other derogatory names.  My niece would go get the doll, give it back to him, scold him, and they would repeat this performance several times.

So I knew my family didn’t really care about my role as a single mother.  Neither was their concern that this new offspring that extended from our family tree would get adequate care under my supervision.  They were masking the truth.  They didn’t want to be the family with the daughter who got pregnant by a black man.  They wanted that branch to be removed or at the very least hidden.  If they could just talk me into getting rid of my new baby boy and hide him away through adoption, they would have succeeded; they would have won the coercion battle.

But God had different plans for my son and me.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I don’t know where I would be if I had allowed my family to convince me that parenting my child was wrong.  I’ve thought about that many times over the years.  What if Jaren was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  It’s heartbreaking to think about.  Thankfully, I was stronger and God was louder and I am so very thankful I listened

God has been my source of empowerment and has continued to support and guide me all these years.  I won’t say it’s been easy as a single mother but most things in life are not easy.  But parenting my son has been worth it.  As for the racial aspects, I don’t think it has impacted my life negatively.  I would say I have benefited from the things I have learned as a mother of a mixed-raced family.  Sure, I’ve faced race issues but nothing that I have not been able to handle.  In fact, I would say my family has caused me more hardship about race than society in general.  All of which has helped me learn more about the human race and has increased my understanding and compassion.

As for my son, he is my life.  He has brought so much joy into my world.  He has raised my soul to another level of conscious learning.  I have experienced the greatest love I have ever known.  And I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be his mother.

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Single Mother

I injured myself yesterday really bad.  We had some objects and boxes on the floor near the entry way of our apartment that my son and I had gathered the previous night to add some additional garage sale items for the next day.  Jaren’s godfather, Robert had allowed us to bring our stuff to sale in his garage sale.  Jaren had done an excellent job at cleaning out his room which is a really big deal because he likes to hold onto his things.  And I told my son that he could keep the money from my stuff that sold too.  I said, “This is your summer money so make it last.”

I got up in the morning, still sleepy with very little light in the apartment.  I had folded some blankets and walked to the coat closet to put them away.  Just before getting to the closet, I tripped over some of the garage sale items.  I went down hard along with our kitchen counter stool.  I knew I hurt something bad.  I knocked the wind out of myself and the first thing I thought was to tell my son that I was okay.  Because it was such a huge strain to be able to talk at first, it sounded as if I was crying but I wasn’t.  I almost cried though.  The pain was that bad.  I sat there on the floor for a few minutes, unable to get up at first.

When I was able to stand up, I knew I did some damage.  For one, my pinky toe that I previously broke a few years back had that same kind of pain so I was pretty sure I broke it again.  But that’s not what really concerned me.  It was my ribs on my left side that were throbbing.  I had a lot of pain.  Any movement was very difficult and painful.  At the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew my son was counting on me to help him with the garage sale.

Jaren and his godfather started selling on Friday while I was at work.  Sometime around lunch, Robert had gotten really sick.  He wasn’t sure if it was the flu, food poisoning or what.  Jaren took over selling for the rest of the day on Friday.  I picked up Jaren Friday night and helped him pack up and place all the sale items back in the garage for the next day.

With Jaren’s godfather out of commission, I knew Jaren needed my help on Saturday.  So I tried as best I could to put on my big girl face and push through the pain.   I told my son that I would help him get set up for the garage sale but that I also may need to leave at some point to go to the emergency room for x-rays.  Jaren understood.

We loaded the car and I drove us over to Robert’s house.  Robert was still very sick and bed ridden.  Luckily, Jaren’s godfather has two roommates and they were able to help Jaren carry the larger stuff (TV, etc) onto the front lawn.  I helped with the smaller boxes.  We got tables set up and organized.  I waited to see if the pain would subside or go away but it didn’t.  I was hoping it would.  We were trying to make money, not spend money.  But every time I reached down, sat down, or got up the pain would shoot into my side.  Not to mention walking around with my broken toe.

Here I had been without insurance for over a year.  During that time, I tried very hard to stay healthy and with God’s help, I was.  No illnesses, no flu, no injuries.  My insurance kicked in May 10th 2014 and a month later, bam!

I shouldn’t complain.  Thank goodness this occurred after I had insurance.

About four hours into the garage sale with my pain no less painful, I opted to go to CareNow Urgent Care.  They’re like doctors’ offices and ER’s combined.  They are open on the weekends, they have X-ray equipment, and the co-pay is much cheaper than the ER; mines was $35.00.  And the best part is you can do Web Check-ins which means you check-in online.  After you check-in, they call you to confirm your appointment and your illness/injury.  Then they ask you about how far away you are from the office.  This is so they will know when to call you to come in so that you don’t have to wait as long in the waiting room.

After reviewing the X-rays, CareNow confirmed that I had a broken toe.  They also said that I had a rib contusion.  The doctor said that a contusion is equally as painful as a fractured rib and the treatment is the same.  She gave me a wrap for my ribs and prescribed two pain meds.  The doctor said she had prescribed Ibuprofen, 800 mg and then said she also prescribed a narcotic.  I was like, “narcotic.”  I knew it was something serious for them to prescribe that kind of pain medicine.  I guess they knew something that I didn’t know at that point.  As with most injuries, breaks or bruises, if I hurt this bad on the first day, the next day would surely double my pain.  Since I was driving, I was unable to take the narcotic pain medicine so I took one Ibuprofen which did reduce some pain.  Especially, considering I had spent five to six hours moving around, lifting boxes, setting up for a garage sale, walking around, waiting on customers, any pain relief was better than no pain relief.

So I get back to the garage sale and share my diagnosis with Jaren, Robert and his roommates.  I sat down outside with Jaren as he finished up with the garage sale.  Then, just before cleaning up, we sat on the front porch for a moment, gazing at a most beautiful tree across the street. We’ve admired this tree in the past.  Jaren mentioned how healing it was to watch the tree so much so that it inspired him to write a meditation for a lesson he was doing for his Sunday school class the next day.  We both agreed that the tree seemed to be nurturing and comforting, almost mother-like.

Then it was time to close down the garage sale and we both were less than enthusiastic about packing up the remaining items and moving them into the garage.  Jaren was both hot and tired.  I was hot, tired, injured and in still in pain.  As we were packing up, I was making requests or suggestions which Jaren was not happy about.  Okay, maybe I was barking orders a little.  We both bickered at each other and I felt unappreciated.  Despite my injury, I was helping him as best I could.  Whether it was the meds, the long day, the pain, I’m not sure but I began to have an emotional  breakdown.  I reminded Jaren of my injury and that per doctors’ orders, I wasn’t supposed to be lifting anything.  Technically, I should have been sitting or laying down, healing.  I also reminded him that I was not benefitting financially from this garage sale in no way.  I was providing merchandise and free labor service.

It was not a shining moment for either of us.   In the midst of our argument, Jaren’s god father could hear us and came out to intervene.  Calmly, he mediated our conversation and diffused our anger and frustration.  Then he thanked us dearly for all we both had done.

Later that evening, Jaren humbly apologized to me.

Today, I dropped off my son to spend Father’s Day with his father.  Tomorrow is another day…