Monday, September 26, 2011

Homecoming... Come Home.

Freckles texted me last night... "Do you like my homecoming dress?"  Attached was a photo of herself in a formal.

This is not how I thought this would go down.  My first daughter, her first "formal" dance, maybe her first boyfriend.  I guess... I just had different expectations.  

I don't know where she got the dress or how much it cost.  I do not know the boy's name, or age, or grade... or... anything.  I don't know where they are going for dinner.  I don't know what shoes she will be wearing or what kind of flowers she wants.  I don't know if she is going to wear her hair up or down.  I don't know if she is going to wear a necklace... earrings... or go with the classic, clean "less is more" attitude. 

I guess this is one of the many moments I have to anticipate in which I will have to let go of my expectations regarding our mother-daughter relationship.  This is a lesson in creating new expectations.

When the Other Mothers are discussing homecoming and their daughters' dresses, dates, and flowers... I will simply remain quiet with my heart aching silently.  When I see their pretty pictures on Facebook I will *like* them and then try to remind myself that in the end, I will have a real, authentic relationship with my daughter one day.  We will be two women who mutually respect and love each other, with different mother-daughter expectations than our peers have or than the generations of women before us had.  We may not be able to share many memories from this time of our lives... but one day... our hearts will be open and full and rich.

Until then I ache for her to come home.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

49% Of a Mother

Relief line in San Antonio, TX, 1939. Photographer: Russell Lee
Times are hard.  Have you heard?  Our economic climate has been compared to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Our family is beyond living paycheck to paycheck.  With S’s support and the encouragement of our peers I applied for some assistance to help us purchase food for the children and ourselves.  Food Stamps.  In Illinois this is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and otherwise more familiarly known as “The LINK Card.”

The application process alone requires a large swallowing of pride and ego not to mention a fairly high IQ score.  The application was not difficult to complete, but it was lengthy, and the process was not easy by any means… And I am a college educated woman with resources like a car, a telephone, a computer and printer, and internet service.  At one point in the application process I felt fortunate for having a home address.
"Migrant Mother" feeding herself and her children frozen vegetables and killed birds. Photographer: Dorothea Lange

Why did S and I choose to request food assistance?

We care about our health and the health of our children.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the top 3 leading causes of death in Illinois and in our nation are heart disease, cancer, and stroke (in that respective order).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these are nutrition-related chronic diseases (NCDs) along with obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dental diseases.  Eating poorly and not getting enough physical activity is killing us.

I used to think it was cheaper to buy “real food” instead of processed foods and cook at home.  I used to think if one absolutely “had to” utilize a fast food restaurant they could simply make a healthier choice in the menu items of salads and grilled items. 

I was wrong.

The grilled sandwiches and salads at fast food restaurants are more expensive and still often laden with mayo, cheese, or high fat dressings.  Sometimes it really is cheaper to order off the dollar menu, than to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the store.  Canned vegetables and fruits are less expensive and less nutritionally dense than fresh, not to mention the TASTE factor.  Often times when people tell me that they don’t like a particular vegetable, I ask how they prepare it.  If it involves a can opener or defrosting – that’s the first problem. 

An overwhelmed an overworked parent simply does not have the TIME to exercise.  I promise you.  This is not an excuse.  I have 3 jobs and I am in graduate school and I sometimes don’t feel like I have time to walk my dog.  That is my only physical activity. 

I have gone to the store with $20.  Because I only had $20.  It is a lot cheaper to buy a box dinner, a pound of ground beef, a gallon of milk, a can of peaches, a loaf of white bread, and call it DINNER.

That “dinner” that I just bought for around $20 at a Shop-n-Save is highly processed, high in saturated fats; offers little to no fiber; and is laden in things like preservatives, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, food coloring… I could go on.  It has been proven that a low fiber, high fat diet increases ones risk for all of the NCDs that I above mentioned.  The poor are dying.  

"Migrant Mother" Photographer: Dorothea Lange
This summer S and I planted a modest garden, shopped at local farmer’s markets, and went further into credit card debt to purchase health, nutritionally whole, foods for our family.  We spent time educating ourselves about what we are putting into our bodies.  We sat down with the kids at meal time and talked about food, nutrition, health.  My daughter L knows what cholesterol is and my daughter M knows about diabetes.  The kids see S and I working on our new venture,, and understand that we are trying to help others learn about eating to live (instead of living to eat) as well.

Today I had my interview with a state appointed case worker to discuss my application and I was informed that the children don’t “count” in my household because according to … according to… paperwork I guess… they reside with us 49% of the time.

I swallowed my heartache down deep to the place my pride was buried earlier this week.  I choked a little on my tears.  I forgot all of my words to the eloquent speech I had prepared in advance to defend my application.  I meekly said, “I withdraw my application.”

And I fucking thanked her.

Once again, I felt like I was told I was half a mother because I have half-time custody.  Conversely,  I argue that  if a divorced father had "as much" custody...visitation... whatever... with his children.... this would be deemed as exceptional fathering by our societal standards.  I promise you.  

I have chosen to share custody with their father for the benefit of the children so that they may have as much equal and adequate time with both of us.  Who am I kidding?  Nothing is adequate.  Nothing is equal.

As it has been pointed out to me today, by my state appointed case worker... I'm only 49% a part of their lives.  Photo credits can be found here...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As Luck Would Have It

I went to a coffee shop last evening in an attempt to study.  Our house is filled with boxes and just a general sense of disorder that comes with the process of moving.  I am a fuddy duddy who cannot study in a place of chaos.  Plus, our standard poodle gets very needy when S is on trips.  She barks at her own reflection, jumps on and off (and back onto) the couch, whines to go outside  - then immediately back in.  Basically the poor pooch doesn't know what to do with herself until S returns.

The bedlam of a coffee shop otherwise known as Starbucks was like a refuge for me; offering me a haven of order and stability.  Plus a healthy dose of caffeine.  

I got even more, unexpectedly.

After several hours and one bathroom break, I struck up a conversation with my seatmate - who up until this point was very respectfully minding his own business and quietly working on his own project.  I think it was that, his distance, that made me feel at ease to have a conversation with him.  Usually I keep very much to myself, especially if I have had a long day of talking to the public at work.  Mostly, I find myself shy.  Many people are surprised at my self-proclaimed classification as a shy girl, but I am.  It takes effort for me to be extroverted in social settings and especially situations with unfamiliar people.  When S and I were introduced to our two most beloved and adored wifey-besties (just this summer) I was emotionally and physically SPENT from a small interaction we had in a reception area of a hair salon.  For reals.  Exhausted.  

This evening I spent some time explaining to this guy why I am in school to  become a nurse practitioner and "why not just a doctor...."  And it felt good.  It felt right.  I felt ready to say, "I'm a nurse practitioner."  I listened to some of his frustrations surrounding his father's health care, and I felt encouraged and determined to be a part of the solution, to help make a difference.  God.  That looks so cheesy  I almost couldn't type it.  But I wholeheartedly feel it.

It felt good to be in that moment, on my path, just accepting my path.

Then I found out he is a writer.

And then my path got very blurred.  I felt that little twinge *right there* in that spot in my stomach.  I heard that voice that nags me and tells me to open my computer/notebook/journal/whatever and write.  Write about anything and anyone.  Just write to write and it doesn't matter what or who or why or how...

The same thing happened at work a few weeks ago when I asked a patient what he did for a living and I found out he was an English Professor.  Oh dear.  Quite embarrassing for the both of us.  I may have asked him to grade some of my writing.  Some of my non-scholarly writing.  I didn't actually request this, but it was headed down that course...

I am tired of feeling this way.  Like I only have half of the picture in front of me.  New Starbucks-writer-friend-from-L.A.- did give me a great perspective on this.  Something I've actually been working on in other areas of my life... 

Live fearless.  

I'm grateful that I've been lucky enough to make certain connections in my lifetime.  For whatever reasons, for however long the connection is there, each interaction with another living thing *counts*... matters... Each interaction has a significance, we just have to accept it's there, look for it, and give it recognition.