Going Solo: Single Parenthood, imagination, life lessons, parenting, Uncategorized

snow day.

My morning began with my daughter dancing on top of me at 7am to Jazmine Sullivan while wearing a princess dress. I looked out the window and honestly couldn’t understand why the school district decided to cancel today. There were some flurries, but the roads were just wet. One of the downsides to working from home is that a “snow day” just means you have to spend the day trying to get your work done while your 4-year old runs around the house like a crazy person and uses you as her personal jungle gym. Every time this happens, I end up getting irritated with my daughter and the two of us end up in a screaming battle.

From about 8-11, I tried my hardest to get as much work done as possible while the television entertained my daughter. I had her help me assemble gift bags for teachers to occupy her, but by lunch time, she was getting pretty restless. We ate lunch and I continued to try to get work done. She was literally climbing the walls by 2pm and I was wondering if day drinking was kosher in this situation. By this time, the storm was dumping snow on us at a rapid rate and it was clear that this was a justified snow day and I would have to shovel at some point. I closed my laptop, dressed us both in multiple layers, and said, “let’s go play in the snow!” Bella’s eyes glowed with excitement and we headed outside with toys, salt, and a shovel.

She  immediately started running up and down the sidewalk in the snow, eating snow off our neighbor’s motorcycle, and catching snow on her tongue. I began shoveling the heavy wet snow and commiserating with my neighbor. She looked over at Bella who was laughing and chasing snowflakes with her mouth. She looked at me and said, “You know, I can’t remember the last time I caught a snowflake on my tongue.” She put down her FullSizeRender (7)shovel, looked up at the sky, and opened her mouth. A snowflake landed on her tongue and she closed her eyes, smiled, and savored it like it was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. I stopped shoveling. I looked at my beautiful daughter running down our beautiful snow covered street. All I could hear was her laughter. I looked up to the sky and opened my mouth to catch a snowflake. A big fat wet snowflake hit my tongue and another went right in my eye, temporarily blinding me. I let out a teenage giggle and stood there, in the moment, and took in the taste, sound, and chilly air.

While my mind told me to go back inside and do more work, my heart decided that there was more fun to be had in the backyard. Bella and I finished up the shoveling, salted the sidewalk, and ran through the house to our little backyard oasis. We ate more snowflakes, built a very sad looking snowman, and laughed about the possibility that there might be yellow snow on our new snow friend’s back. Our dog barked in agreement(guilty little canine). Once the snow got so heavy that we could barely see each other, we decided to go back inside.

Inside, we assembled four puzzles, danced around the living room, played with our cat, and ate pizza and oranges. At dinner, Bella looked up at me and said, “I just love you so much.” And that was it. That is when I knew for sure that I made the right decisions today. Snow days have almost always been stressful. I always choose work over Bella and end up only getting annoyed with her. Today a switch went off in me that changed that. I put us first. I decided to live in the moment and to take in the blessing that a day together can be.

At bedtime I read her a couple books and sang the three songs we sing every night. She sat up and said, “Mommy, you left your phone downstairs!” I smiled and replied, “You know what? I don’t even care.”

Happy Snow Day! May we all have many more days like this to come.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, imagination, life lessons, Uncategorized

Slaughter Beach

This morning was a normal lazy Sunday. My daughter and I woke up, went downstairs, and made breakfast. As we ate it, we stared at the disaster that is our house. Toys on every square foot of the floor, a pile of dirty clothes and about four piles of clean ones that were folded but not put away. The dust in the house spread across the light coming in the window and my daughter pointed at it and said, “Look, Mommy! Those sparkles are dancing around in the sun rays.”

A responsible mom would have taken one look at all of this and dedicated the rest of the day to fixing it. Instead, I looked at my daughter and said, “What do you want to do today?” Her eyes grew wide and she looked up at me as if she had been waiting months for me to ask that. “I want to go play at the beach with all the pretty stones and I want to take Dane with us. He needs to go to the beach.” I looked at our poor old dog whose ears had perked up at the mention of his name. He is nearing 12, has terrible arthritis that has destroyed his hips, he is recovering from lyme disease, and he is blind. She’s right. He does need to go to the beach. Despite the fact that it is early November, it was actually a pretty warm day and kind of perfect for the beach. So, we packed up a lunch, a bucket, a towel, and puppy supplies and headed out on the road.

When we got to the beach, we walked pretty far from our car and set up a little private space on the sand. After laying everything out and getting comfy, my daughter told me that she urgently needed to pee. So, we packed everything back up, hiked back to the car by the bathhouse and regrouped. 30 minutes later, we headed back to our space and set everything up again. Bella started to play with her horses making them castles and corrals out of sand and I went right for my phone. After about 5 minutes on my phone, I put it down and looked out at my old dog and tiny daughter playing at the edge of the water. He was barking at the waves and she was laughing at him and telling him what the ocean was. The sun peaked out from the clouds and the only other sound we could hear was the lapping of the waves on the sand. The closest person to us was so far away they were only a speck and the only boats were all the way out on the horizon. I took a deep breath and just took it all in. I decided to be present for a moment and it took effort for me to do it.

I looked at my old dog and remembered the day I brought him home as a puppy and about all of the different houses and people we have lived in and with together. I remembered him putting his head on my belly as I had my first contractions. I felt that feeling of safety he gives me. He has protected me for almost 12 years and I will lose him soon. He barely gets out of the house or plays anymore, but today, he was like a pup again. He played with Bella and slept on the beach.

I looked at Bella and smiled as I thought about the fact that this amazing little person came from inside me. It’s so crazy!! I still don’t totally understand it. This little funny stubborn girl who thinks she is a horse, talks about horses, plays with horses, and wants to read horse books, started as a tiny little bean inside me. That smile that lights up a whole room is part of me. And that feeling I get when I get her something she wants, like a day at the beach, is like nothing I have ever felt before.

I looked at Slaughter Beach. This hidden place we found one day by chance. It is covered in multicolored rocks in every size that have been smoothed out by the ocean. Pieces of sea glass hide in the sand acting as great treasures to be found by little hands. Coral juts above the surface of the water collecting tiny creatures that are eaten up by the bouncing sandpipers in search for a snack. The beach is far enough in the bay that the waves are small and friendly to children and old dogs. The people are few and far between. Most are scavenging the beach for sea glass and stones or simply looking for a quiet place to relax. Everyone takes the time to stop and talk to each other as they pass. It’s as if we all share a secret because we know about this beach, so we are already old friends.  Dogs are welcome and often seen. What an incredible place. 

 

Once I forced myself to take this moment and focus on the present, I realized just how lucky I am and I was filled with gratefulness. It was a connection to the universe, a grounding, a sense of worth. I decided that except for taking photos, my phone would stay in my pocket. I chased and was chased by Bella down the beach, I went on a treasure hunt with her and helped her fill our bucket with sea glass, shells, crab parts, and various colored rocks. I splashed in the waves with her, shared a picnic lunch, and soaked up what may be the last warm sunny day of the season.

Like any day, we had our troubles throughout the day, but it was otherwise a perfect day

FullSizeRender (6)together. We came home to our filthy house and I realized that a responsible mom might clean the house on a day like today, but going to the beach, letting go a little, and just appreciating time with my daughter is just as responsible. My guess is that my daughter will remember our days at Slaughter Beach, but our messy, dirty house will probably soon be forgotten.

 

 

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Losing Dad, Uncategorized

grief is a jerk.

Today I was driving down a tree lined suburban street. The weather was perfect, the sun was out, and it was still morning. I pulled up to a stop sign and an older gentleman waved to me to indicate he was about to cross in front of me. I smiled and waved him on. I watched him as he slowly walked in front of my car. He was tall, handsome, and probably in his early 70’s. He was wearing white socks pulled halfway up his calf and white sneakers. His face was wrinkled from years of smiling. He was exactly what I imagined my dad would look like today. And grief, that sneaky little jerk, made my heart swell up and tighten my chest and made the tears burst from my face. The ugly crying began and I lost control. Just like every other time grief sneaks in, I was completely unprepared for his visit.

When you lose someone you love, people start talking to you about the stages of grief and even giving you books about the stages. They make you think that you just have to 

FullSizeRender_3work your way through each stage and then you will be good to go. I feel like the stages of grief are more like the stages of cancer. The moment my dad took his last breath I felt a dull ache in my chest. From there, things inside just started rotting little by little. It didn’t effect just one part of my life, it slowly crept into every inch of my being. We had more than three years to prepare for my father’s inevitable death, but we could have had twenty years or one day. It made no difference. Just like there is no preparation or warning to what happens to your body after childbirth, there is also no way to prepare to lose someone. Like cancer, grief is this little ass hole that just goes around hurting innocent people and flipping their lives upside down.

We are closing in on 6 years since we lost Paul Wilcox. I honestly don’t feel any better about it. You can still find me crying, “It’s not fair!,” when I look at slideshows of my dad. I still hear his voice and that contagious laughter. I still want to wake up and find out it was all a dream and see him walk through the door. FullSizeRender_1I still want to see him lift up my daughter and swing her around the room or even just read her a book. I still have moments of shock, denial, and bargaining. I still see sweet old men with their socks half way up their legs on a hot day and burst into tears. The stages of grief keep looping around. There is nothing final or linear about them.

Grief is hoping you never have a wedding because the thought of walking down the aisle without your dad is too much. Grief is buying figs at the store even though they are

FullSizeRendertoo expensive and you only kind of like them, but they remind you of your dad’s fig tree. Grief is watching your daughter blow out birthday candles for the fourth time and still wishing your dad was one of the people standing there singing to her. Grief is finding it hard to go to church because you can’t go there without thinking of your dad and all those Sunday mornings of him standing in the pulpit. Grief is wishing you had asked more questions or taken more videos or spent more time listening back when you had time. Grief is wishing you had said “I love you” just 10 more times.

The best explanation I have heard to explain this unfortunate part of life is that losing someone is like losing a leg. You do learn to walk and run and dance again, but you do everything differently now. You still feel pangs of pain from time to time and you still long for your missing limb and reminisce about the days when you felt whole.  

No matter how grief hits you or no matter how long it stays, I pray you let it do it’s thing. Even when it is painful, it reminds us that we once loved and loved deeply. We loved someone deep enough that even years after they are gone, we still remember that love and long for it.

 

dad fishing

“Down the middle drops one more
Grain of sand
They say that
New life makes losing life easier to understand
Words are kind
They help ease the mind
I’ll miss my old friend
And though you gotta go
We’ll keep a piece of your soul
One goes out
One comes in”

~Jack Johnson

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Bad Ass, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run, Uncategorized

back to life. back to reality

Five years ago, I would have been ashamed to post this photo. While 4 miles is no easy task, the time it took me to complete them tonight was about twice what it used to take me to run four miles. Tonight I had to run, jog, and walk to get there. Also, due  to toddler difficulties, I had to do it on a treadmill. Again. After 10pm. Five years ago, I ran at least 5 miles 4 times a week and 10 or more on weekend days and biked the 22 mile greenbelt around Harrisburg at least once a week. But this isn’t a story about a runner who is trying to win a race or be the fastest or show people how good I am at running. This is a story about someone coming back to life. It took me three years to slowly fade away and it will take time to come back.

After I had my daughter, I got back to running, lost more than all the baby weight, and felt absolutely amazing about life. Then, for reasons that made sense at the time, I decided to move to Philadelphia. In many ways, things have gone well for me here. I bought my first house, I found a job I love and fall in love with more as it grows and changes, I connected to a church community and a parenting community, and I began building a village for my daughter. But some of the reasons for moving here turned out to be empty promises and were emotionally difficult to deal with. In the last two years, I have almost completely stopped running, my diet has been completely out of whack, and I have let depression win on more days than I’d like to admit. I turned down social invitations choosing to stay home and secluded instead. My body and my overall health has suffered as a result. Some friendships have suffered as well. I focused so much on who I used to be that I forgot to become her again-in a new improved state. And worse, I forgot to enjoy who I was at the present, double chins and all.

About a week ago, I realized that my daughter would be four in a month. Four. She is starting to recognize my behaviors and even imitates them sometimes. She recognizes when I am sad and she asks me about it. I want her to see the best me that I can be(hokey I know, but it’s true). I don’t want her to start imitating the me who sits in front of another episode of Scandal while eating a block of cheese and drinking a bottle of wine. She deserves to know the me I was 5 years ago when I found out I was pregnant the day after I ran a half-marathon in Nashville. The excited, giggly me who did not give a fuck what anyone thought of me. The me who did my thing, painted horrible paintings, but loved them, the me who laughed obnoxiously out loud multiple times a day, and the me who ran everyday because it was the one thing that made me feel my dad’s presence. I want her to see the me who at 35 found out I was pregnant and was going to become a solo parent and just said to myself, “OK Bek, let’s do this!”

On Mother’s Day I was still up at 11pm taking care of a messy kitchen and a sink full of dishes. I caught myself smiling. I realized just how wonderful things really were. I was standing there in MY kitchen, in MY house, washing dishes from my incredible daughter. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for everything in my life. When I was running that half-marathon 5 years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be standing in a kitchen I owned washing dishes from a kid I had. The excuses I have used to avoid life have only clouded my view of the wonderful life I have been gifted.

That’s all it took to make me decide to get back to it. I promised myself that I would run, jog, or walk at least 2 miles a day for two weeks. At the end of that two weeks, I will make a new promise. On Sunday morning, I will be running my first race since that one in Nashville in September 2012. It is a 5K and I am already a little scared. The thing is, I am also excited. Bella will be with me in the jogging stroller the whole time. And soon, she will be running beside me. And even if I am the last one across the finish line, I will still celebrate and be grateful that I am able to complete 3 miles and do so with my daughter right in front of me cheering me on.

I leave you with an excerpt from Jen Sincero(an incredible author who I highly recommend) that I have been focusing on this week.

“You can’t see the silver lining through victim goggles.”

“Have faith that you and the Universe have created everything for your growth and be grateful for it. No matter what. Get practiced at making gratitude your go-to. Notice the 8 trillion things around you at all times that you can be grateful for, and feel into the grateful expectation for all the things coming your way. The good, the bad, the ugly, The salsa stain you just got on your new white shirt, become a gratitude machine for all of it.”

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Uncategorized

shame.

In the last week, I have been filling out registration forms for preschools. My daughter’s school unexpectedly closed and I have been scrambling to find her a new school. Doing this requires filling out parent information and sending in copies of her birth certificate; the birth certificate that reads, “Father: Information not recorded.” This is what a birth certificate says when a baby is born in a hospital and the father is not present and later does not claim the child when the state sends him paperwork to do so. It took six months for me to receive my daughter’s birth certificate while we waited for this process to happen. I feel shame seeing this again. A birth certificate should be a happy thing, but somehow this one makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong.

Typically, I feel like I am like any other parent for the most part. Like any parent, I work hard, try to do the best for my daughter, and have good days and bad. In school or play groups, I am usually the only solo parent, but I only think about it if I see a list of parents and students and my daughter is the only one with one parent on the list.  Aside from these tiny moments, I feel like the joys and hardships I feel and experience are the same for most parents.  But when a school application is in front of me and the whole page titled “secondary parent” is blank, I tend to be overcome with shame. It is not sadness or loss or a desire for pity. It is this deep seated belief that I have somehow wronged the world and wronged my daughter. It is a belief that there is something wrong with me and that has always been wrong with me to make me so irregular. I am somehow unable to have a normal relationship or a normal job or simply live a normal life. And, now I have brought an innocent child into this strange abnormality.

Growing up I was the third child. Somehow I was raised in the same house as my siblings, but always did things and lived my life differently. I didn’t have a relationship in high school, I went to three very different colleges to finish my undergrad degree, I moved around and traveled and basically could not sit still in life. I always admired my siblings. They seemed to have traditional college experiences and lives and got married and had children and stayed at jobs for normal amounts of time. If our lives were puzzles, theirs always seemed to be complete and mine always felt like it was forever missing pieces. There was always some messiness about my life. This carried out of my home into my friend circles as well. I always felt like my life was somehow different and weird and not “normal.” When I found out I was going to raise a child alone, I remember thinking, “God, can’t I even do parenthood normally?!” Instead of just accepting this as being who I am, or even celebrating it, I have always felt shame about it.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, became pregnant when she was 35 with the child of an old friend, who upon discovering she was pregnant, became angry,  walked away, and made it very clear he would not be in the child’s life. Her story is so parallel to my own, that literally dozens of people have suggested I read her book, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. The book is beautiful for any parent to read. I laughed and cried and was overjoyed to hear an experience so much like my own. In it, she addresses shame in the most perfect way,

“I have these secret pangs of shame about being single, like I wasn’t good enough to get a husband. Rita reminded me of something I’d told her once, about the five rules of the world as arrived at by this Catholic priest named Tom Weston. The first rule, he says, is that you must not have anything wrong with you or anything different. The second one is that if you do have something wrong with you, you must get over it as soon as possible. The third rule is that if you can’t get over it, you must pretend that you have. The fourth rule is that if you can’t even pretend that you have, you shouldn’t show up. You should stay home, because it’s hard for everyone else to have you around. And the fifth rule is that if you are going to insist on showing up, you should at least have the decency to feel ashamed.
So Rita and I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.”

Shame is not something others can make you feel. Your friends and family can possibly cause you to feel guilty about something you have done, but I believe shame is self-inflicted. It is something we believe about ourselves. It is not the feeling that we have done something wrong but that we ARE something wrong. It is debilitating and, quite frankly, a lie. If we truly believe that we are made in the Creator’s image, then shame should never even come into play. Each one of us has this piece of the higher being within us and that should be greater than any inadequacies we feel.
My struggle with shame is my own. It is one of the biggest ways I have wronged myself and those around me. Being a solo parent or having a gypsy spirit or not being able to function in a relationship may be a little different, but it is not wrong. IMG_3491As a parent, I don’t want my daughter to ever feel this shame. As weird as she is, or unconventional, or totally “normal,” I want her to just love herself and be proud of the amazing little being that she is. This desire for her makes me more aware of the fact that I need to “get over it, show up for my life, and not be ashamed.” I truly believe when any of us can be ourselves, embrace our quirks and differences, and celebrate those things that make each one of us unique, we will be able to free ourselves of shame and genuinely live our lives.

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gardening, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons

the good life

At church today, we talked about “the good life” and what that is to us. Our society defines it as more things; a bigger fancier house, an expensive car, jewelry, gadgets, more money, just more. And it’s never enough. We are told our life will be better and we will be happier if only we had….fill in the blank. It leaves most of us constantly wanting more and not noticing the abundance that already exists in our lives.

As I walked to my car holding Bella’s hand and watching her count the cracks in the side walk, with a nice breeze as the sun was setting and clouds were rolling in, I thought about what the good life means to me. I don’t have a fancy car or a big house or lots of money or a boat or, well, whatever it is that is supposedly going to make me happy. We have a small but nice house with wonderful neighbors and a back yard full of birds, butterflies, and green.  I have a good job, but it will never make me rich. It will, however, provide for me and my daughter and will allow me extra time and extra weeks off to spend with my family. It is also a job I look forward to going to everyday and is full of colorful, wonderful,kind, and supportive people. I have a daughter who came into my life unexpectedly but who fills each day with smiles and laughter and wonder. I have an incredible family and friends who are beyond what I could have ever hoped for. After not going to church for more than five years, I recently found one that feels like home and where I feel like I can just be me and it’s enough. On Friday night, Bella and I went to a thrift store and picked out dresses and old VHS tapes. We went home and put on our new dresses and twirled around the living room while watching an old Disney princess do the same. The laughter and happiness coming from my child was intoxicating. It was the best Friday night I’ve had in a very long time. It cost me $7.

IMG_3448So, though a nicer car or a bigger house would be great, I have to say that I think “the good life” is really all those little moments with the ones we love that fill up everyday and cost us nothing. It’s a roof over our heads and having enough. It’s having a job that makes us happy. It’s little fingers and little toes and big toddler smiles and belly laughs. It
is art and comedy, and dancing. It is something we already have. If we forget that or miss it while we are seeking out the material things that are supposed to make us happy, I think we’ve totally missed the whole point of what a good life really is.

–written on April 19, 2015

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, imagination, life lessons, Uncategorized

Goodness.

Tonight when I told Bella it was time for bed, she grabbed her blankie, marched upstairs, brushed her teeth, and went to the potty. She did this all on her own.

She then asked if she could play quietly for a little while and if I would sit in her room with her and read while she played. I agreed.

She got out several sets of toys: her Montessori sorting bears, her Big Hero 6 figures, her construction truck, and her safari animals. I watched her and was stressing about the mess that would need to be cleaned up.

She played quietly for about 30 min. I told her it was getting late and she needed sleep. Without help, she carefully cleaned up each set of toys and put it back in the shelf. She then gave me a hug and kiss and climbed into bed.

Everyday I thank God for letting me be this child’s mother. Everyday as a parent has been a lesson. Many days have been extremely hard. Many have made me think that I am not made to be a parent and I am convinced that, like many things in my life, I am failing horribly at this. I didn’t always want kids. I was happy working with them and I was happy being an aunt, but I thought the responsibility of actually having my own was probably more than I could handle.

I often wish there was an instruction manual that would tell me how to do this right. I screw up. A lot. I’ve made my share of mistakes as a parent. For some of the bigger decisions I’ve had to make, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t doubt whether I made the right choice.

This kid though, this beautiful vibrant miracle, she proves me wrong over and over. She defies the odds. She does the right thing. She loves and laughs and forgives constantly. She is brilliant and witty. She is creative and independent. She is so strong and brave and confident. She is growing up so quickly and does something everyday that amazes me.

Though I often doubt myself as a parent and quite frankly as a human, she is a constant reminder that I did and am doing something inherently good and right in this world. That, for me, right now, is all I need.

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