gardening, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, Uncategorized

raw and open

Eight years and a few months ago I told a friend that I couldn’t imagine being happier about life and more excited about my future. I felt amazing. I was in the first semester of Grad school, I had just moved into a new house, I had gone from being a couch potato to running races and practicing yoga regularly, I had a new job as the executive director of an organization that brought me joy, and I was in the beginning stages of a new relationship with the first man I ever loved. I felt like I was on top of the world.

Then, like a sledgehammer to the skull, we got the death sentence diagnosis for my dad. He was dying. That’s it. There was no hope given. They could help him live a couple more years, but cancer would kill him and it would kill him soon. My dad. The man who lived his life serving others and would literally talk about what he would be doing when he was 100. He enjoyed life so much that it was contagious to be around him. He had already had cancer twice before and would joke about it. “I don’t get sick, I just get cancer,” he would say with pride.

A church friend recently talked about a garden being the metaphor for our lives and God being the Master Gardener. I have taken this idea and used it to help myself work through this season of my life. As I have highs and lows with my literal garden, I see the parallels with my life. Before the diagnosis, my garden was lush and full of herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Heck, there were freaking butterflies and honeybees fluttering around. You get the picture?

My dad’s diagnosis was the first nasty weed. What followed was three years of watching my father struggle and hope and eventually die. My relationship of three years, the one that was supposed to last forever, died four months later. It was a relationship that might have lasted had it happened at a different time in my life, but sometimes grief has a way of killing things in its path. Three months after my relationship died, I  jumped into a summer fling with a man who I thought I knew and who I thought was an old friend, only to find out he was a complete stranger, was not at all who I thought he was, and I was left to face a pregnancy and eventually parenthood, alone. My lush happy garden slowly rotted and turned into a heaping compost as I blamed the Master Gardener and kicked him out.

Even moments before my daughter was born, I was sitting in the middle of my compost pile thinking the garden and life I once had would never happen again. I was admittedly, angry, hurt, defeated and hopeless. Then, the moment they put that baby girl on my chest and I saw those crystal blue eyes, a small but strong bud popped out of my heap of mush and began to bloom. Trying to keep this “bud” alive and blooming has required months of fighting a broken legal system, three years of pinching pennies and constantly worrying about money, learning how to ask and accept help, and inviting the “Master Gardener” back in.fullsizerender-3

A few days ago, in my actual garden, I spent the entire morning pulling up weeds, removing broken glass, ant hills, and dog poop, and pulling up dead tree trunks. It was the end of a weeks-long project that I was starting to think would take the rest of my life to complete. As I stood in the sun covered in sweat and dirt, I felt the most amazing satisfaction seeing the raw and open earth that I uncovered. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. Aside from a single strand of purple Morning Glories, everything that had been there was now gone. I immediately started to cry. This garden was me.

My neighbors told me that this garden was once home to beautiful grass, vibrant rose bushes, and lush green trees. After years of trials and neglect, it became the weed covered trash-ridden lot that I purchased a few months ago. It was so bad that one of my neighbors suggested it was beyond repair and I should just fill it with concrete and call it a day. What it is teaching me, however, is that nothing and no one is past redemption. Like my garden, I reached a point in my life where I had to realize that in order for that one flower to grow and flourish, I would have to rip out all that was old, dig up the soil, remove the trash, and start again with new seeds. I would need expert advice and help with the hardest parts of the job. Most importantly, I had to stop focusing on what once was and what I thought it “should” look like. I have to accept what has happened, mourn any loss, and focus on each seed as new life grows and a whole new garden appears.

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Losing Dad

bella blooms.

I’m not going to make it a habit of blogging more than once a week, but since I am determined to do this and do it right, I think I should provide a little background to the blog as reference. I started by moving my old blogs over to this site so I have everything in one place. While writing has always been my passion, I started the blogging five years ago when I found out my dad had only a few weeks left to live. It helped to talk about it even though it often exposed some pretty intimate emotions publicly. As someone who has suffered on and off with anxiety and depression, I have a strong belief that being public about emotions is healthy and much better than bottling things up until we break. Or worse, faking happiness and perfection.

The blogging continued to be helpful through my pregnancy and my favorite part of that process was my inbox full of stories from other parents.  I felt like I joined some new club and it was wonderful to find out that no one in the club was perfect and the stories people shared were mostly about times they had royally screwed up. Personally, I feel like those are the kinds of stories we should share more publicly. My social media feed is full of posts about how great and perfect everyone’s life is, but hearing the weird and unpleasant stories, especially when we can laugh about them, is richer and a little more fun.

It is what makes us human.

I’ve been on a hiatus from blogging for a variety of reasons, but I am excited to get back to it. I live alone with a 3-year old, an old grumpy dog, and a cat who was born without balance or grace. As if that isn’t enough, I am a parent and a person who constantly makes mistakes, but is able to laugh at myself daily and walk away believing I am still an ok person despite my numerous flaws. My goal for this blog is to share a little about solo parenting(both toddlers and fur babies) and a little about my attempt at bringing the country girl inside me into my very Philly back yard.

Six months ago, I bought my first house. It is what I consider the best of both worlds. It is still less than five miles from the heart of Center City and no more than a 10 minute drive. Yet, it is still far enough out of Center City that we rarely have to deal with tourists or politicians disrupting our daily lives. The house is an old Philly row home that is original on the outside and completely flipped on the inside. It feels like a brand new house, but unlike many of the new condos popping up around the city, it was built in a time when things were built to last. It has survived over one hundred years of hurricanes, blizzards, floods, and heat waves. I was looking for a classic and although I originally wanted everything on the inside to be the original work as well, I must admit I am starting to like the facelift the house had before I bought it. I’ve never lived in a house where no one else has used the appliances or bathroom, or even walked on these floors. It makes it feel even more like it’s really mine. The biggest thing that sold this house for me, however,  was what was outside: a huge fenced in backyard that is rarely found in this area. I have a raised lawn that is 30’ x 10’ surrounded by a substantial patio all shaded by a massive Magnolia Tree. It is not the acreage this Central PA girl would prefer, but it is just enough to give me a place surrounded in green.

So, the down933F7610-DD2A-4D86-B54F-AD3BF5C9190Cside to this yard is that, like the house, it was abandoned for 6 years. Squatters filled it with garbage and with each rain, more “treasures” surface. To date, I have found diapers, a beheaded statue of Mary, shattered wine glasses and China, Christmas ornaments, broken toys, the rusted contents of a tool box, nails, cigarettes, cobblestones, pieces of a railroad, casino chips, bricks, and other random trash. Now you are probably wondering why I would want a house with a yard in this condition. The fact is that when I came to see the house, I looked outside and saw the incredible potential for the space. As I sift through it one shovel at a time(using my dad’s gardening tools), I find interesting pieces of the past and the good earth that still lives below the surface. My goal with this space is to fill it with clover and surround it with a container garden and some raised beds. This project will take a long time and since I am not an experienced gardener and barely have any idea what I am doing, I expect things to get interesting and most likely frustrating.
I see the yard as a physical representation of my life. I think that’s why I love it so much. I have also gone through some rough years and have some garbage to clear out of my life as I begin growing something new. So, as I figure out how to keep a kid, two pets, and some plants alive and growing, I’ll fill you in on the fun parts. 

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, Losing Dad, Preggers

My Silver Lining Playbook

 I am not perfect. I am broken. I am a mess. I make mistakes. Sometimes I make major mistakes. I hurt people. Sometimes I am a little crazy. The thing is, so are you. So are all of us. We are all human and there isn’t one of us made without flaws and who doesn’t make mistakes. We all have ugly parts, ugly things in our past, and maybe even in our present.  The best we can each do is to try our hardest and move on when we make mistakes.

I just watched a movie with one of my best friends called The Silver Lining Playbook. I am a single pregnant woman and my friend is going through a divorce. We went to high school together where we talked about our dreams for our future. We talked about meeting Mr. Right and marrying him and having a house and kids and being happy and healthy. Neither one of us ever dreamed we would be in the position we are in right now. We both trusted men that were not Mr. Right and are hurt as a result. This movie was something we both needed. In the movie, the two main characters have had bad things happen in their lives and they both respond by being just a little crazy. Still, they also both have positive outlooks on their futures and are striving to heal themselves so they can move on in their lives. They embrace their crazy and admit and accept it as part of who they are. They are both looking at the clouds and seeing the silver lining. They see the light coming through and make a plan in their life to clear the clouds.

I am alone with a baby on the way. I don’t know exactly what my living situation will look like. I don’t know how my work schedule or social schedule will look. I don’t know what it feels like to drop a newborn baby off at a daycare center. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my baby gets sick the first time. When she takes her first step and giggles for the first time, I wonder if I will be the only one who will be there to witness such an incredible event. I wonder if my daughter will resent me for being a working mother. I wonder what I will do the first time her school holds a “daddy and daughter” event. I wonder if her father will ever come around and be in her life. I wonder and then I stop. If I don’t stop, the craziness creeps in.

We cannot live our lives worrying about the “what ifs” and thinking about all of the worst-case scenarios. We cannot be afraid of everything that “could” happen. We can’t because that is not living. For three years I went to the hospital with my dad, saw the poisonous Chemo enter and destroy his body, and listen to the doctors say there was no cure. For three years the diagnosis never changed. I was going mad trying to figure out how to make it all stop so I wouldn’t face that inevitable day, but I had to have hope. For three years, I believed some kind of miracle would happen and my dad would live. It didn’t happen and the day came when I watched him take his last breath. Had I continued to worry about that moment and dwell on the fact that I was going to lose him, it still wouldn’t have prepared me to live through that moment any easier. If anything, having a blind hope that something amazing and wonderful would happen and I would never have to watch him die helped me get through each day.

Call me crazy. Tell me I am not facing reality. Tell me that my hopes will only hurt me. I don’t care. My silver lining playbook is my hope that something amazing will happen this time. I will drop my daughter off at daycare and it will be hard, but I will get through it. My daughter will have an audience the first time she giggles and walks. She will get sick and I will have someone with me helping me when she does. She will be proud of me for being an independent working woman. And, at some point, her father will show up. I believe that in my heart and I will be ok if that is not how things work out. I will no longer feel guilty for my mistakes and beat myself up for them. I won’t let others make me feel guilty either. From this point forward, I embrace my messy, ugly, crazy past and mistakes and I accept that they are part of me. From now on, I will look for the silver lining in everything and hope for these clouds in my life and my daughter’s life to clear so that we both may bask in the sun.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose Infinite hope.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

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