The Story of Boy Part 1

I have permission to tell his story. It took a year and it took us coming to the understanding that while he wants to forget it, his mom can’t. Because it isn’t just Boy’s story. It is his family’s story. A beautiful and funny family who are far from perfect and who are struggling intensely while managing to keep their heads above water …

Until they no longer could and they crashed into an abyss.

I asked the oldest sibling if he minded if I told their story because even though it is Boy’s it is also his … He appreciates I considered his feelings, since many forget it is his story too. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants to forget and move on. I get that, but sometimes the story needs to be told for everyone to be able to move on. He grudgingly understands some can’t heal until they can tell their part. I respect his side won’t be told until he is ready. We have an understanding.

So what is this story?

It is the story of a boy unlike any other. A boy who is a super hero, his greatest strength also being his greatest weakness. That is his story … His strength becoming his weakness.

Boy was born on a cold winter day and with the great capacity to feel far more deeply than most humans. This may not seem like much, but don’t underestimate the power of feelings.

Boy’s empathy is so great that even as a tiny toddler he would cry and ask his mom to save all the orphans. Heartwrenching sobs for vague humans he never even saw a picture of, but knew existed.

Boy has struggles in life; his world is black & white but the real world is full of grey. He doesn’t understand grey, but he feels it into his bones and because of that he struggles. He is a warrior and his mother is his guide.

It is this deep empathy though that also created Boy’s biggest struggle because his feelings and emotions manifested so deeply into him that he would personalize it and own it in his soul. And there began the struggle …

You cannot speak words into Boy without his heart and soul immediately claiming them as truth. This means that as a child he was funny, loving, energetic, smart, and all the beautiful words parents tell their children. This also means that as Boy got older he clutched onto the words of others including stupid, slow, annoying, trouble, liar, gay …. words that weren’t true, but he owned them as his because in his black & white world why would anyone tell him things that are untrue?

The worst were the words from trusted adults. Yes. Adults. Adults whose only job was to love him and show him Christ’s love. The task they had wasn’t hard, yet they met him with judgement, unkindness, and even disgust. They believe so deeply in the lie of complete conformity that they were unwilling to see the beauty of differences. So instead of helping him blossom they crushed him over a period of months until he exploded.

During this time Mom saw and tried to make it better. She tried to get the adults to see. She tried to create positive change. What she missed was the internal struggle in Boy was terrible, like gnashing teeth against his soul. He became irritable, irrational, and even mean.

His brain finally told him “The world is better off without you.” And in that moment he walked upstairs, closed his door, and tightened a belt around his throat and pulled until he collapsed on his floor.

His mom was sitting at her desk. Something in the air was off. She could feel it. The aura of the house was different. Her heart was pounding and she didn’t know why. She got up and walked straight into Boy’s room, hitting his head with the door as she opened it because she didn’t know he was laying there. She remembers she felt terrible for opening the door on him. “Oh my gosh, Boy! Why are you on the floor? Are you ok?” And she grabbed his shoulder and turned him over and saw the belt.

And she screamed.

She screamed and screamed and screamed and her fingers fumbled horribly with the belt until she got it off.

He had a pulse still. Faint. But it was there.

And the oldest was next to her and she was screaming and he was pushing his sisters down the stairs so they wouldn’t see.

I won’t tell anymore of his story since he wants to forget it. I respect that. But know he was there. He saw it all. It hasn’t been an easy year for him. His story is his to tell if he ever decides he needs to and not for you to ask him about, but know he was there and he saw it all.

There were so many police and she just kept apologizing. She failed. She failed at protecting her family. She failed as a mom. She kept saying “I am so sorry.” Her husband came home from work and the ambulance took him and Boy away. And she apologized. “I am sorry we inconvenienced you. Yes the rest of the kids are safe. No we have never had a problem like this before. Yes we will get help. I am so sorry.”

She made her way to the hospital. She knows the roads well enough that she can’t remember how she got there, but she did …. And she apologized to the desk worker for not knowing where her son was and to the nurses who took care of Boy and to whom ever would listen to her pleading voice asking to be forgiven for failing.

Boy survived. He got help (that continues even now) and some days are still rough, but he is a warrior.

Mom … well, some days we still wonder how her story will end …

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Fit For A Princess

2 new tiaras have made their way into my house …
One for each daughter to wear to the upcoming Daddy/Daughter Dance.

I am pretty sure these tiaras mean more to me than they do to Marco or either girl. They represent something I never truly had; an involved father.

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I love my dad more than anything. I know he tried. I know he did the best he knew how, especially with his very weird work schedule (he rotated days and nights so we rarely saw him).
My desire, even as a 40 year old married woman with 5 kids, is to please him and make him proud of me. I still feel like a little kid around him; I want him to notice me. Everything single thing I do, I do for his approval.

Despite always asking, he never did anything like this (a daddy/daughter dance) with me. He danced with me once at my wedding.

He never went to my concerts, plays, games, … I’m not saying he didn’t give me extravagant gifts or life changing opportunities. He did. I appreciate each one more than you can ever know. Sometimes, however, it is little things that make the bigger impact on a person’s soul.

I love my dad and I logically know he simply struggles with showing his love for me (and everyone else). He thinks gifts are the best way to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or whatever emotion he can’t vocalize. What I always wanted and needed was for him to dance with me, come to my concerts, cheer me on at my games …
I still desperately want him to be proud and approve, but I fall short every time.

My dad and I have a story and it is ours. Most of it is messy, but there are some really nice parts too; like the one time he acted silly and he piggy-backed my down the aisle at my rehearsal dinner. It was completely out of character for him and it is one of my favorite memories of him. I accept our story, but it doesn’t mean I want the same story for my daughters and Marco is well aware of that fact. This is why this dance is ridiculously important to me. It is the girls’ first dance ever and they get to go with the best man in the world.

I always wanted my husband to be the dad who did things with his daughters, like dress up in ties and tiaras (which happens to be the dance theme) and dance the night away. I wanted them to have the dad who went to their concerts and plays and what-not.

They have all of that and more. They get nightly piggy-back rides to bed, special songs sung to them, random dancing in the living room, and so much more. The girls love their daddy and he is amazing at making time for each child (not an easy feat with 5 kids). They want to go to the dance and so he is bringing them. I confess I get jealous at times. Not bitter. I just wish I had what they have with their daddy.

This dance is the closest I will ever get to a daddy/daughter dance, so I although neither girl expected or asked for a tiara, I bought them each one. I will dress them up and put make-up on them and do their hair fancy and make them feel like royalty. I will love and cherish each second of getting them ready. I get to live my dream out through them. I hope one day they look back and see how very lucky they are to have Marco as their daddy.

Now excuse me while I go put one of their tiaras on while I do housework.

~Andrea
#bekindalways
#youhavepurpose

*written 3/28/18*

UPDATE:

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The girls and their daddy. Be still my heart.

The 11 year old doesn’t like dresses so we shopped for a beautiful pants outfit. The top is so feminine and perfect on her!
They had an amazing time. The girls got to dance with their daddy.
The 8 year old was a social butterfly, flitting around and dancing with her friends. The 11 year old had a blast with her friends. They all did the Chicken Dance.

Me and Mark with copyright

It might not have been my dance, but I love a man in a suit and had to get a picture before the moment disappeared.

Pain Tolerance

As a parent I am guilty of blaming myself for every bad decision my children make and every negative emotion they feel. I carry the weight on my shoulders and in my heart. I think most of us are guilty of this.
I just want my kids to be happy, well liked, have good manners, be successful …

One of my kids went through something very traumatizing last summer. The trauma impacted all of us deeply and I blame myself. What could I have done to prevent this from happening? What did I do or fail to do that created this reality? The questions are constant and run through my mind on auto-play 24/7.

The event was a big enough deal I asked Marco how he felt about counseling. I wanted someone who could help us handle our emotions properly, help me develop enough peace so I could sleep at night again, and guide us on new parenting strategies since my old ones obviously weren’t good enough.

When you are dealing with the aftermath of a crisis forgiving yourself, moving forward, realizing there was nothing you could do to change what happened, accepting the choice was someone else’s and you do not control their choices, or whatever else is holding you back is a long process. There is no quick fix. There will be good days and bad days. It is hard work.

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There are sessions I felt were pointless because of my own mental blocks. And then it happened; a break through. In session I was able to realize pain tolerance goes beyond physical pain. It was all part of a longer conversation, and it was a light-bulb moment for me that helped at least a little. Everyone has an emotional pain tolerance and how they deal with it is based on how they are wired.

We do not think someone is less capable when they need pain medication for something we personally do not need medicine for. We realize not everyone can handle the same amount of pain. We accept that. So why is it hard to accept people also have different pain thresholds for their emotions?

We need to realize and accept not everyone can handle the same amount of emotional pain. Maybe you think their story is “nothing compared to…” but everyone’s story matters. We can’t know their pain tolerance so comparing it to anyone else’s is most unhelpful to them and you.

Why do I keep blaming myself for my child’s crisis? Each of my children were born wired to handle a certain amount of pain (physical, mental, and emotional). My one child hit a limit. There is nothing I can do about that now.  Now that know the limit I can try to teach them better ways to prevent hitting that limit and ways to handle it when they do.

Now to work on that forgiving myself thing ….

~Andrea
#bekindalways
#youhavepurpose

*originally written 1-10-18*

2018 Has Been A Long Year …

… and it is only February (at least it was at the time I originally wrote this. It is now April …). I really thought this long year would end when January ended, but February was January’s ornery younger sister. I was not amused.

Instead of wallowing I was doing the best I could to keep my head above the water. It has to get better, right?! I was at the point where I was able to do more than just tread water. I was slowly moving forward …

Then March came in and decided to put January and February to shame. That totally angered April, who apparently thinks she needs to show the other months how to really show the world what “craptastic” means.

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I don’t even know which way is up anymore. I think the biggest slap in the face is I no longer have a therapist/counselor/person I word vomit to. I don’t even know why. He said he was in for the long haul. It ended up being a short haul.

I suppose I could find a new one, but honestly this whole experience enforced my belief to trust no one because everyone leaves.

So now that you know why all 20 of my drafts (yes I have been writing regularly) have not been published (it has been the longest year ever).

I want to discuss some other changes; namely the name. I needed a change. It is that simple. I had a temporary name (Sunshine & Daisies) until I could come up with “the one.” It just took awhile to discover the perfect fit, but I finally did.

My Patronus Is Coffee almost sums up my life perfectly. I figured “My Patronus Is Coffee With a Side of Posh” was too long though. Maybe that can be a subtitle.

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I think I need a travel mug that says “Andrea Runs on Dunkin” 

I do not sleep. I function off my many caffeinated cups of coffee (because decaf doesn’t even deserve my side glance). Coffee keeps me awake, semi-sane, and mostly pleasant. When people visit they offer a cup of the hot elixir to appease me (OK I may be making that part up, but maybe y’all will take a hint).

So to sum up … this far 2018 sucks, I have no grounding anymore, I can’t be held responsible for things I say or do if you visit me without an offering of coffee … oh, and I changed the name of my blog.

~Andrea
#bekindalways
#youhavepurpose

PS I will get those other 19 drafts touched up and posted asap.

A Year of Change

Be Brave, have faith, and leap …

There comes a point where you just have to step out in faith or you will be forever stuck. It is scary and exhilarating at the same time. I decided I needed to do just that for 2017; step out of my box of known and face the unknown. I did it in phases which made it slightly easier, but hard nonetheless.

 

If you have been reading for a while or if you know me, then you know 3 years ago my husband lost his job and it put us in a tailspin. This is a vital part of our story. It changed everything in unimaginable ways that will forever impact us. After a year we found stability in a job that kept us firmly and significantly under the poverty level. We were lucky though. We had help. Lots of help. Randomly things we needed would appear; people and organizations would help us in every capacity. The kids knew life was rough, but they also knew we were blessed.

What they didn’t know is I skipped meals so they could have full bellies. Clothes were from clothing banks and I mended the holes so they didn’t know. Every month we had disconnect notices. A broken down car was like a jail sentence. Not being able to fix it meant if I couldn’t walk there then I wasn’t going. But we survived. We worked hard and scraped by.

And then I broke. Sometimes just surviving isn’t enough. I couldn’t handle the cycle of poverty we found ourselves in. It is suffocating and depressing and hopeless. It is almost impossible to escape from it. The terrifying thing is people live like this and do not have the help we had. How the heck do they manage? The cycle is almost 100% impossible to break from and I knew this, but I was determined because I couldn’t keep living the way we were.

So I took a leap of faith.

In January I took money I had been slowly saving and invested in an opportunity. I started to sell Perfectly Posh. 2017 was the business building year. We now have hope in my future income instead of despair at where we are at.

In the spring I stopped going to the food pantry and clothing bank. Both were huge leaps of faith since I had nothing to replace this help with. I just made a decision to stop going and instead have faith the gap would be filled.

I also started donating little bits to charity. By summer I was tithing to my church and by fall I was rounding that up so the difference could go to helping others in poverty while we ourselves still live in it. Isn’t that ironic? We still don’t make enough to be above the poverty line. However, we are more than surviving …

The biggest leap was deciding I would not get help from any organizations for Christmas. I panicked and thought it was a stupid decision, but deep down I knew I had to as part of my break away from the cycle we were in. So I took a deep breath and told God “I trust you with my business because it is all for your glory and not mine.”

That is when things got weird.

Not knowing we had a need, someone generously gave us gifts for our oldest. They just didn’t want the items anymore and so we got them. We were also given Pokemon trading cards … lots of them. My kids love Pokemon and play every Saturday at a local comic book store. This was a big deal and made for very excited children on Christmas.
My girls were blessed with a new-to-them bike to share. It didn’t stop there … It has been overwhelming. I hadn’t confided to many about my fears of no Christmas; only a select few who know our situation anyway. The people who helped have no idea the depth of their actions. They were miraculously placed in our lives at the right time. I believe in Divine Intervention.

My kids had an amazing Christmas. It wasn’t over the top and most of the gifts were second-hand, but they got things they wanted and things they never dreamed to ask for. They were thrilled. My money went further than it should have. So many stores had discounts that were allowed to be stacked, shipping was free, and then I was able to get cash back through ebates or swagbucks.

 

Is there stuff I want and even need that I didn’t get? Definitely. But I am OK with that because what we do have shouldn’t even be! This insane leap of faith paid off.

We still have so far to go. I can’t imagine the day we make a real living wage again. We still can’t afford the car we need (we do not all fit in the car we currently have). At the end of the month I still skip most meals so the food doesn’t run out on the kids. There are holes in socks and no plan on replacing them anytime soon. BUT it is so much better than it was. The circle of poverty that surrounds us is crumbling and there is now hope where there wasn’t. All because I couldn’t handle it anymore and took a chance …

~Andrea

Forgiveness

What does forgiveness mean to you? How do you define it?

My husband and I were asked this today in therapy. Now before you jump to ideas and think he and I are having martial problems that need forgiving; we aren’t. Is our marriage perfect? No. However, we don’t go to marriage counseling. We go to “life is messy and we would like a person with an outside perspective to walk with us through it” counseling. Not that there is anything wrong with marriage counseling. I think it is a great resource. I just want to be clear so you can understand us just a little.

So we were asked this question “What does forgiveness mean?” I had to think about it because I know what it means but I wasn’t sure how to best describe it.

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This is basically what I came up with … Forgiving is freeing yourself, and really the other person also. You don’t even have to tell the other person you forgive them. When you do, the atmosphere and aura change and it positively impacts both of you. Freeing yourself means letting go and moving forward. You are done. You  don’t forget, but you leave it. You are free.

Mark said something similar … you stop feeding into whatever “it” is and you let it die. You move forward. You don’t forget but you leave it in the past.

Our person reminded us it is actually a financial reference (I had totally forgotten this!). The debt is whipped clean. It is gone. You are free.

They all go together. Forgiving helps you and the person who hurt, wronged, or whatever you.

Something pretty heavy and serious happened to us this summer and the actions of one person (not Mark or I) damaged us. We were shaken and hurt to the core. We were left with an enormous gaping hole of hurt. Life is messy and this was the biggest mess yet.
We were asked what will happen if we forgive (person)? How will (person) respond? Does (person) realize forgiveness is even needed?

So we are pondering this.

We were also asked what would happen if we symbolically bury the hurt in the back yard (although I think funeral pyre is more dramatic if we are going for symbolism). If (person) is there to observe will the impact of what happened and how it affected us finally be realized (person thinks simply forgetting and moving on is easy to do, we think otherwise). Will it help with forgiveness? Will it help us be able to stop carrying baggage we don’t want but have no idea how to put down?

It will be an interesting 2 weeks as we figure this out and do an additional assignment we were challenged with. Think about this (and share with me if you want) what does forgiveness in your life look like? What does it mean? Have you ever needed to be forgiven for something serious? Have you ever needed to do the forgiving? What happened when you were forgiven or forgave? Are you free? Or are you still carrying the baggage (I promise not to judge because I still carry mine)?

~Andrea

Huge Change

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This year, quite at the last minute, Marco and I decided to place the girls into public school. This is something we talked about ever since we moved into our current school district. When we first moved here we knew the school was a great school, Dee would be going into kindergarten so it would have been great timing. This is what stopped us:

1) Dee had massive anxiety. It was so extreme I was afraid putting her into school would be more harmful than good and I wanted her to love school.

2) The year prior had been awful. Marco lost his job, we lived in different states, and we were homeless. Mark slept on the couch at a friend’s place here and I hopped from place to place. I stayed at an empty house owned by a church, my parents’ house, and hotels. I dragged the kids and dog along with me. It was stressful. The unstable life we led made me want to create a bubble of stability for my kids. I wanted them home with me.

3) Debilitating fear of what the homeschool community would think of me for sending my kids to public school, the fear of being ostracized by homeschoolers and public school mommas since I wouldn’t really fall into either category exclusively, and the fear of being a failure. I feared I had failed at homeschooling my girls. Yes, I realize now that I hadn’t failed, but my fear was real and legitimate.

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We finally came to a breaking point. I was burnt out. Dee and I would fight every time I tried to teach her reading. Math and art and every other subject as fine, but reading? Oh my word. It was awful. Math came easy to her, but reading was hard and she would rather play than read. I cried a lot. She cried a lot. It was not how homeschooling should be. One would think the kid with learning issues and special needs would be the one I struggled to teach. Nope.

To make all of this all 100% worse we were in a homeschool co-op that was the worst experience ever. I loved the other moms there, but the leaders were terrible. They believe in 100% unbending conformity (when I told my therapist this he shuddered). They were not nice people and I hated the toxic environment I was in. I knew I wasn’t going to go back there, but at the same time I knew I couldn’t be home 7 days a week with all 5 kids because I was burnt out. Working at minimum 2 jobs and at maximum 4 jobs, I needed help.

All summer long I struggled with “The Great Debate.” Public school or homeschool? Then one of the kids had a medical crisis and I had to make a decision. The day before classes started I walked into the school and signed the girls up. That was a Tuesday. School started Wednesday. The girls first day was Friday. The entire time we never said a word to anyone other than a few very close people. We did not put up first day of school pictures or discuss it at all.

We lived life and no one noticed. This is a little sad because this means no one really paid any attention to subtle things I said or did. However, I get it. I can miss subtly at times also. My homeschooling friends had no idea the girls were gone all day. I mentioned school and they simply assumed I meant homeschool.

Why didn’t I say anything? I didn’t want to deal with the unnecessary questions and remarks. Remarks that are usually untrue and only hurtful.

“Why did you put them in public school?”
“You know public is not as good as it used it be right?”
“Aren’t you scared of bullies and your kids learning immoral things and growing up too fast?”
“They never really get free time or socialization in school. They will burn out.”
“You are being selfish because you are working. Maybe you should quit your jobs” (or what ever reason they come up with)
“They are at school all day and come home to do homework all night. Do you really want that?”
“You are at the mercy of the schools.”
“Why are you still homeschooling the boys?”
“Do you favor the boys?”

Oh the list of snarky remarks and questions is endless. I didn’t want to deal with them because it is no one’s business. Period. So we didn’t say anything. Mark respected my wishes to keep it quiet. Then the girls had school pictures and I posted them…

People were shocked, but the girls are firmly established in school so no one said anything. I could tell a few people really wanted to, but they held their tongues and I am glad they did. A few people were super happy for us. They understood the turmoil I must have gone through because they messaged me to tell me they deal with the same debate. I felt less alone, less like a failure, and more empowered.

 

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My gorgeous, thriving girls. They are world changers.

The girls are thriving! Ry’s teacher refers to her as an “asset.” What an amazing word! She isn’t just a good kid or studious or smart. She is an asset. This means she is valuable to the class and they need her and greatly benefit from her! WOW! I am pretty sure no one ever referred to me as an asset. When I told Ry the compliment she was glowing. What an amazing confidence boost for a 10 year old girl who was trying to fit in to an already established class. When we went to Parent/Teacher Conference we could tell her teacher really loves her! What an amazing feeling! The confirmation we made the right decision is just what I needed.

Delaney, not surprising, is known as a sweet heart. Everyone loves her gentle and kind ways. Dee still has lots of anxiety, but she is coming out of her shell and developing her strengths. School was exactly what she needed in order to spread her wings and fly. The teacher works one-pm-one with her and the fact they all have gathered to be a foundation under her makes my heart swell. They want to see her succeed. They could easily not care, but they do. Adding these positive influences into her life has been only a blessing.

We have no regrets. This was exactly what needed to be done. The boys are thriving at home, Charlie is getting more in depth one-on-one with me; something he desperately needed. I am far more calm and far less stressed. I am able to better focus and I accomplish more.

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The days are calmer.

Every family needs to decide what is right for them and their children. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you are a failure because you didn’t do things they way they think you should. You do what you need to do and own it! Being supportive is always the better option.

~Andrea