Words: On Trump, but Mostly My Dad

Politics are not my thing, but a little nagging voice inspired me to write about Trump’s disparaging comments about women. Saturday night, with my laptop on my lap and a glass of wine (from France, of course), I sat down and let my fingers type their way through the messiness to find meaning in the words.

What Trump said out loud wasn’t shocking to me. Nor had I placed him on a pedestal high enough to induce feverish anger. To me, the news was as blasé as hot dogs for dinner.

But I was unhinged about something. The words poured out Helter Skelter crazy with no sensibility to them. The slant finally began to drift toward my father.

Ah yes, my father.

He had been in town last week. Knowledge of his proximity had rendered me into a weak-kneed, vulnerable scaredy cat. My heart raced at the first phone call. I did not answer.

My dad, father to three girls, was known for the opposite of exquisite praise. Fed up with bickering, he would say, “Good God I wish I had boys. One punch and it’s over.” Then he’d shove a triple decker of Saltines with cheese in his mouth.

His method of parenting: insult. He swallowed food. I swallowed anger. As I grew, the words inside me built from Shut up to I hate you! Of course, I never said any of these out loud. Well, maybe I did. Yes, I did. But nothing answered the eternal burn of his influence: What’s wrong with me?CircleRocks

As it is, I love my father. I recognize the gap left by unmet needs that made him violent and explosive, drunk and unpredictable. Still, in his presence I waver between the woman who deserves respect and the daughter who yearns to make her father proud.

I have no say in the latter. I never did. Growing up, my sisters and I were present and vulnerable to his needs—the needs we should never have had to shore up with our innocence. His words diced us into shards just as a fist punches. The pain wasn’t visible, but the scars will last a lifetime.

My father’s words speak of the culture that raised him. He had no say over it. It is forgivable.

But I couldn’t summon the strength to answer the phone the second time he called. I was afraid he would avoid the conversation I need with him. I was afraid I would cave in to his needs and avoid it too. My love for my father is courageous and raw, wild and stray. I no longer want to feed it, but I can let it run.

I know this hurts him. People are wild, we hurt each other. But we can stop hurting with words.

Words make all the difference.

Photo: My Beautiful Life

Photo Challenge: Connected

My daughter Sophie and I spent a summer night playing folf in the woods. Not only did we benefit from an entertaining night of terrible disc throwing, we glorified our spirits in the wisdom of the forest.

Pattee Canyon Recreation Area- Missoula, Montana

The Big ?

Those of us who have been blessed to clean a baby’s poopy bottom day after day eventually arrive at a huge question mark. It looms in our midst while we go about our daily routines as we work our way around it, sometimes pretending it isn’t there at all. Despite our efforts to continue doing what we do, the huge gets in our face until we can’t avoid it any more.

The baby bottoms grow a little. They walk around on unsteady feet. They climb and tear their way through the days until they are too tired to think. After they’ve slept for many months as a destroying machine, they start speaking recognizable words which they eventually use to construct full sentences. These sentences usually start with “I”, as in “I want xyz” (use your imagination here).

While the child is actively pronouncing their wants and needs, the parent is involved in a slur of mental activity: Does she need this or want this? Why does she want this now? How will she act if she doesn’t get it? Is it possible to give it to her? And on and on.

But the looming that trumps the others is this: “Am I doing the right thing?”

The uncertainty of parenthood relies on the fact that as the child’s needs increase, a parallel sense of doubt backs the decision of the parent. “Was it right to let her watch that TV show?” “Should I have let her go to his house with her friends?” “Is it OK if I don’t pressure her to study for the test?”

Parenting doesn’t come with a manual so we are left to our own parents’ parenting and recent knowledge to determine the best solution to do what we instinctually have no idea how to do. I often question my own judgement which is normal and expected, but I hate when I worry about the mundane details which will never affect my child’s recollection of my parenting ability: “I let her stay up late on Wednesday. I’m a crappy Mom because she has school the next day and she’ll be tired, etc., etc.”

I’m learning to forgive myself for allowing these thoughts because: 1. I am not a crappy Mom. 2. The most important result of parenting isn’t what I allow or disallow, it’s who the child feels she is: Does she feel important and unique? Does she trust Mom and Dad to provide an emotionally, physically, and spiritually nurtured environment? Does she know her limitations and articulate a call for help when she is confronted by them? And does she receive that help?

As children’s needs grow more daunting, the well of uncertainty deepens for parents. To answer the always looming ? parents must assess their own answers to these questions: Do I feel important? (Are MY needs being met?) Do I feel unique? (Am I involved with an activity I enjoy?) Am I emotionally, physically, and spiritually nurtured? (Do I spend enough quality time with my spouse or loved one? Do I exercise regularly? Do I renew and deepen my spirit on a regular basis?) Do I ask for help when I need it? (Babysitters, parenting classes, and Google articles are ALL amazing support go-tos when a parent is overwhelmed with doubt.

I’ve found that when I have put a checkmark next to all these questions my children respond to me altruistically. Children are amazingly selfless creatures despite the constant stream of “I want xyz’s” that come from their mouths. When parents exhibit a life that is self-focused enough to be healthy, children mimic this behavior.

The opposite can be found when parents use the dangerous “martyr” method. Parents who pronounce dissatisfaction or a sense of being overwhelmed and under-nurtured create an atmosphere of pity and concern. Children blame themselves for the dissatisfaction of their parents. This environment teaches children that they are responsible for “Mommy’s sadness” or “Daddy’s drinking”. When a child feels their needs are an inconvenience they take great guilt in what is technically their “God given right”.

I speak out of experience, and while I am by no means an expert on parenting, I know enough to know what is acceptable as parents. Next time you are confronted with the big ?, I hope you’ll ask yourself if you are doing what’s right for you. The chances are that is what’s right for your children too.

What is Home?

My safe place to be myself.

My space of nurture and belonging.

Home is where…

  • I am greeted as I pass through the door.
  • I trust and am trusted.
  • my emotions are true and recognized.
  • my dignity is respected.
  • I am appreciated.
  • I am encouraged and supported.
  • my opinion is valued.
  • I am not forced to hold secrets.
  • judgment is absent.
  • help is abundant.
  • people listen.
  • I receive care.
  • I give and receive unconditional love.
  • I find peace.

On the path to healing from familial emotional abuse, home has garnered a new level of importance on my ladder to well-being. Actually, home IS the ladder to well-being; it must be secure and steady to rise above the dysfunction. Each healing step relies on a sturdy structure that provides a solid foothold for me to climb.

The energy in our homes is vital to good health: emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial, relational. Just as one person’s bad day effects the atmosphere of the moment, one person’s bad life effects the atmosphere of the home. I grew up in this atmosphere, not with one ill parent, but two. Out of three daughters, I was the one who endured persecution into my adulthood.

I’ve erred to invite such illness into my adult home. Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, Sunday mornings, Thursday afternoons-family get-togethers have denied me, my husband, and my daughters to our rights listed above. In our own home. I am remorseful for this, but I didn’t know the abuse was still active. I didn’t know emotional abuse existed.

But I felt it in little ways. Two years ago, half my family missed a Christmas meal I paid for, planned, and prepared, but rather than hearing an apology, I was told, “We didn’t think about how you’d feel”, and with an angry tone, “Accidents happen”. My feelings were never validated.

Emotional abuse utilizes words that cut. They devalue my worth. They deny me my rights in my own home. It is my prerogative to create a healthy environment for my children. They will no longer watch me be cut by my family. I won’t let that happen any more.

I am climbing the ladder of emotional abuse from disbelief, anger, and fear, to a new height of empowerment. My home is my sanctuary. It nurtures me, and I belong there. My husband belongs there. Our daughters belong there. In peace.

Peaceful wishes to all of you, from my home to yours.


Ten Reasons Kid Marriage is Phony Boloney

How many of you played “Getting Married” as a kid? I did. I had two sisters, one as the bride, one as the groom, and one as the officiator. And we lived….miserably ever after?

Oh my gosh. It sounds like I beheaded one of them. I still have two sisters, just so you know.

Ten Reasons Kid Marriage is Phony Boloney (Yes, I meant to misspell that because phogna bologna doesn’t really work.) Starring my daughters as models.

  1. Marrying your sister (or dog) is never an option.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Real flowers are expensive. Even the most successful lemonade stand couldn’t pay the florist.
  3. Cooking dinner every night is not romantic.IMG_1943
  4. Your wedding dress shouldn’t reek like moth balls and old pee.
  5. You don’t play “Hide and Seek” on your wedding night. Or maybe you do.
  6. Cleaning up after your spouse isn’t fun.IMG_2552 2
  7. Wedding celebrants aren’t matted stuffed animals.
  8. Dog poop that looks like chocolate cake is not a wedding cake.
  9. “Here comes the bride, all fat and wide” would never fly.
  10. “She looks so beautiful when she’s passed out” said no one, ever.IMG_1358