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Category Archives: Mom

It starts at the Marrakech Grill…


“What DO you want to be when you grow up, Shar?” It’s the same question my husband has asked me for years. Only this time, I have an answer. I hesitate before speaking, though, and think about how to respond.20160116_121227.jpg

We are at the Marrakech Grill in Denver, and I am on the hunt for the Happy, Fat, and Full. Those are three words that have become important to me. I don’t use them to describe my belly. I use them to describe my overall well-being. The short word would be BLISS. If I am happy, fat, and full in the wallet, I can relax. If I am happy, fat, and full in my marriage, I can relax. If I am happy, fat, and full spiritually, I can relax.

The Happy, Fat, and Full means I can enjoy the moment.

I look down at my plate and start the mini ritual that makes up my meal. Thinking of the salad scene in the Barbara Streisand movie, “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, I skewer the tender bite of Shish Kebab chicken on my fork. Then I add a bit of green pepper for balance and crunch. Next, I lightly skim the bite through the tzatziki sauce. Lastly, I plop it on the mound of Saffron rice, picking up several grains, to make THE PERFECT BITE. I bring it to my lips and… MMMM… it is.

The Perfect Bite. 

Munch Munch Munch. Chew Chew Chew. My husband watches me through this ritual, like he always does, with amusement and patience. He knows I am stalling, and he knows I know he knows. Twenty-four years of partnership is a good start to getting to know each other’s habits, I guess. He takes a bite of his own food, Chicken Shawarma with Basmati Rice, and seems content to wait me out. I swallow and start talking. “I want to write on purpose. With purpose, I guess. I want to be a travel writer.” My husband swallows, takes a swig of his Coke, and says simply, “About dang time.”

And it is.

For twenty-four years he has asked me what I wanted to do, or be, when I grew up, and at first I thought he was just teasing me. I mean, what else could I be, other than a mom and a wife? I had started off early with those two things on my resume, and had become resigned. Eighteen years old early, to be exact. But even before that, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be. The closest I got was knowing I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world.

pic of grantsvilleGrowing up in a small town had given me a taste for solving the mystery of what it was like Somewhere Else. Anywhere Else, actually. My parent’s library painted pictures of rain-forests on misty mountains, and gently lapping waves on a sandy, palm tree-laden islands. I wanted to see everything in reality. Up close and personal-like, and it all started outside of my small town.

But how to start? It just seemed a bit overwhelming.

My older sister got out to see the world. She was an exchange-student in France, and then a nanny back east, and I admired that. I didn’t like her when she left. We fought a lot growing up. But when she came back, she was different. She talked differently. She walked differently. She dressed differently. She was calm, and confidant. She seemed happy and… content.

I wanted that.

So I decided to be a nanny as well. In spite of my dislike for children. Uh… yeah. I, at 18, had no desire to be around children. And may I just give a big ‘ol apology to the kids I babysat, and also to their parents? No, nothing bad happened while on my watch. No, your kids weren’t monsters. No, I didn’t neglect them. I just didn’t know what to DO with them. So they played with board games or watched TV, and I watched them play, kept ’em safe, and looked at the clock. I had no clue how to engage with them. Mediocre, for sure.

new born baby ultrasoundImagine my surprise, then, when I picked up a permanent babysitting job. My own child. Karma started early, I believed, so I cancelled the nanny job I had lined up in Washington D.C., right after graduating high school, and began the adventure of motherhood. No regrets, whatsoever, for my son. He is 23 years old now and an amazing guy. Four sons and one daughter has given me quite a journey. However, my husband would ask that question every once in a while, and it would make me wonder.

He would usually ask while I was changing a diaper or feeding someone. And I would usually return the question with a withering look or a bark of a laugh. Being a mom and a wife was my life. My journey. My adventure. It’s all I had time for.

Right?

Well, as I finished my delicious food in the beautiful atmosphere of the Marrakech Grill with the love of my life, I looked back at my adventure. I realized how much I had hidden my head in the sand when it came to his question. “What do you want to be when you grow up, Shar?” This was a question I secretly shied away from. Because deep down, I wanted nothing more than to be out exploring as much of the world as I could get to. And that did not include me being in one spot, watching everyone else experience their life while I was “The Heart Of The Home”.

I didn’t feel like the heart of a home. It seemed ludicrous for me to play that role, actually. Especially starting out at 18 years old. I was to be in charge of prepping the place for others to enjoy. I was the warden, the custodian, the support group, and the clean-up crew for the family, of which I had created and which had come out of my loins, so they could learn, be safe, and grow.

Ludicrous!

I wanted to explore the world, but did not allow myself to think about exploring, because that would be the opposite of responsible. And it became supremely important to be responsible. In fact, it became everything. All consuming. I had to show others, and myself, that I could be a grown up. So I did. I did it the best way that I could, pulling on whatever lessons and experiences I had at 18. I learned along the way.

Spoiler Alert: It Got Good.

Looking back, the journey got intense. Many times. But, along with the intensity came this: THE LOVE. THE COMPANIONSHIP. THE BONDS. I hadn’t counted on that. I don’t know why. I mean, I had heard so many times in my community that the calling of motherhood was the highest calling there was. A huge blessing. I just never believed them, while I was having back labor,  fainting with every pregnancy and earning bed rest. I didn’t recognize the blessings while cleaning up toys and books and dinner and kids faces for the umpteenth time in one day. imageI surely didn’t see any while holding a crying infant as my two-year-old screamed bloody murder at a Wal-Mart, with so many of those same community mothers looking on disapprovingly. I didn’t count on the blessings of love, because I was busy babysitting. Nevertheless, the bonds between my kids and husband grew.

That bond grew between those kids and I, in spite of the chaos that is motherhood. As they grew up, my adventure became less about being on the hunt for sleep and privacy, and more about individual memories where they would play the piano with me, or dance around with abandon while I played it. Or sharing jokes and stories while we drove around, going from scouts to camps to play dates.

Eventually, I knew what to do with these kids. I stopped babysitting, and started mothering. And it got good. Along with being responsible and in charge all the time, the good stuff canceled out the heartaches. I think it still does. So now, my journey of motherhood will not stop, if I start writing and traveling while I do it. It will just be a different role: Empowerment Coach. “Yes, it is about time, Husband.”  In the Marrakech Grill, I have found my Happy, Fat, and Full.20160116_121213.jpg

 

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There’s The Wedding, and Then There’s The Wedding…


There is going to be a wedding.

The question was asked. The answer was given. The status change happened on Social Media. It’s gonna happen. I couldn’t be happier for them. I mean, what isn’t awesome about the opportunity for a stellar day dedicated to a fantastic couple, right? The decor and food, the people and gifts, the love and the toasts and the vows and the dresses and the pictures and…and…

Wait. WHAT?

What was that one word? VOWS? Oh. That’s right. The Vows. The part of the wedding that is, after all, the point of the wedding. The MARRIAGE part of the wedding. Well. There is the wedding, and then there is The Wedding.

Look. I don’t want to get all preachy. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. I don’t want to… blah blah blah (cue all the other politically correct sayings that preclude me softening the blow of what I am going to say anyway)… but what I will say is something I wish I had listened to a long time ago. Like 24 years ago, to be exact.

It is this: The Wedding is, first and foremost, a WEDDING of two souls. A blending and a taking on of each other’s lives. So take it seriously. It is a commitment for two people who were (up until this point) just hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company, to become one team.  Like, One Team, One Dream, baby. A well-oiled machine. And that takes commitment, yo. Intention with commitment and time.

Oh.

And before you decide to bring up the “I have to be me/I need my own space” debate, let me stop you right there. It would be pointless to have a clone of yourself, or the other person. Dur. So that’s not what I mean. I am talking about stacking the deck in your favor. When people go from being single to being married, they are forming a different entity. They are merging their lives, their beliefs, their traditions, their finances, their family and friends and habits and CREATING SOMETHING NEW. Something more than they were before. Now listen up. I didn’t say something INSTEAD of what they are. I said something MORE. That means you get to be you, AND you get to have more of what you want. It is an enhancement package. You get to be a team.

That is something to celebrate, for sure.

Now being part of a team means bringing each person’s strengths to the table, so to speak. It is laying out the strengths and weaknesses honestly, and saying, “Look. We have a goal. In order to accomplish this goal, we’re going to need every idea, talent, intuition, and resource we can get, so here is what I have.”  In a marriage, by the way, the goal is to love, learn, grow, and have joy…TOGETHER. To be married because it’s a want-to, not a have-to. So get that “I need me time” crap out of your head right now, because you are automatically assuming you can’t have BOTH personal and married time, and that just sets the expectation that there is never enough. Which is crap.

Kapeesh?

If you can buy in to the wanting to be married, then buy in to the importance of making a marriage a want-to instead of a have-to or a  should. Ya know, “I HAVE-TO be getting home. I SHOULD tell him/her about this. I SHOULD see if I can help. I HAVE TO cook/clean/fix this.” Living in “Should’s and Have-To’s” sucks. Stack the deck, right up front by doing some legwork. So get all of the resources out where you can see them and use them. What do we like to do? What do we not like to do? What will we avoid at all costs? What can we do well without even thinking about it? This would take a meeting, logically. (And if anyone reading this has ever been in a meeting, I need you to quit rolling your eyes. Seriously.)

My husband and I don’t work for the same companies, but we are in meetings constantly. He works with teams a lot. So do I. We both use project-based goals. We both work from home, but work with clients, teammates, and have people we report to. We interact with people both in our home and off-site. There have been large, and I mean LAARRRGGGEE amounts of conference calls, Skype, and in-person meetings between the two of our careers. So please get where I am coming from when I say we have some experience in knowing what makes a pointless or annoying meeting, and what makes a productive, positive, even fun meeting. Basically, it goes like this: A big key to a successful meeting is communication of what roles people play. But an even bigger key is knowing what the point of the meeting is, and sticking to it.

Keeping The Thing The Thing, ya know?

Look, it doesn’t matter who caters the meeting, or where the meeting is, or who runs the meeting. I mean, it makes for a more pleasant meeting to have something to chew on while Bob or Dorkus starts a PowerPoint slide show, and I absolutely pay more attention when my tush is on a cushioned chair instead of a plank of wood or standing in a doorway. But no matter how decadent the setting, if the meeting is not relevant, then my time has been wasted, and so has everyone else’s.

So isn’t it kind of key for two people who want to align their lives, to take some time looking at what is important to each of them? Uh…YA-UHHH! Thus the meeting. The sit-down. The beginning. Anything important and lasting and good takes planning for it, right? A trip. A job. A party. A place to live.

A life.

Alrighty then. Here is where I wish I would have taken this advice. My wedding was my wedding. There were guests. There was a cake and gifts and music and awkwardness and laughter and then…. It was done. I intentionally left out all the describing words because it ended after a day. That part is irrelevant, other than as a memory. Harsh, I know, but the advice I minimized cost me YEARS of frustration, trying to figure out how I could have been taken by surprise when this particular topic came up, or when that particular situation reared its head.

I skipped the legwork.

My husband did not marry the venue. Or the cake. Or my dress. Or the music. But he did marry all of what comes with me. We chose to blend our lives, and that is the good and the bad. The positive and the negative. Which, I am telling you, came as a SHOCK down the line. Now granted, we didn’t live together first. We went from our parent’s homes to our own home, so everything from morning breath and snoring, to attitudes about keeping the house in order, was a new thing.

Those things got worked out, eventually, but there were things that really should have been talked about before we leaped into a committed life together. Things that would have made our lives, and our children’s lives, simpler. Things like…Religion. (GASP!) Life Insurance. (Hand over mouth.) Budgeting. (Ewww.) Parenting Styles. (Well, now that’s just too far.)

Suck it, Propriety.

I regret only a few, few, few things in my life because I deeply feel that the good and bad has made me who I am now, and I worked quite hard to accept and enjoy who I am, but seriously… I would be an idiot not to regret asking the hard questions when it would have made our life easier. We stacked the deck against us in so many ways because of it. I was too enthralled with having a wedding to ponder for long on what the wedding was for. The wedding could have been planned for and executed and thought of later with just as much joy and excitement as it already was, but with a more complete understanding of what to expect, if I had simply spent more time heeding advice to make The Thing the Thing.

The wedding is exciting. The wedding has a lot of magic to it, and should be remembered fondly. But The Wedding Vows… that is a FAN FRIKKIN TASTIC ride. It takes time, and heartaches, and patience and joy and love and loyalty to the team and goal to make it valuable, and it is SO WORTH IT. But for crying out loud, have a meeting first. Take notes. Get some great munchies and a soft place for your butt to go while you do it.

And then….?? Well, then, maybe you both can watch the PowerPoint slide show with the lights dimmed down…

 

The Stranger


No intro needed…

 

The Stranger.

 

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Sick Kids Rock…


Yes. I said it. I have a soft spot in my heart for the magic moment when my kids get sick. Now let me clarify… There is a difference between “Mom, I don’t feel good. Can I stay home from school?” And “barf, I just threw up!”

Here is the difference: The whining. THE WHINING!

when said child is not feeling well, all I hear is the reinforcement, in whining voice, that they are sick. In addition to the requests for water, takeout, and wanting the tv shows changed.

But when he/she is truly sick… This is where the magic happens.

My independent child goes QUIET. Quiet, do you hear?  She/he lays in bed or on the sofa and breathes in and out quietly. It becomes my job, nay, my labor of love, to change out barf bowls, bedding, and wash clothes on foreheads.

Now why on earth would this be a positive???

because my kids are teens. And young adults, that’s why. They spend their days cutting the apron strings and letting me know in no uncertain terms that they can “Do it on their own”.  This can make me proud that they do their own chores, laundry, and school work, but they also down play hugs and back rubs given by me. And they certainly stop initiating it.

So. So, I miss it. And for this reason, I selfishly love that they need me again. Gone is the need to push me away a bit. And in its place is an attitude of gratitude. They accept hugs and even kisses on the forehead. They say thank you for changing the cool wash clothes on their forehead. They are thankful for the medicine and glasses of water, or mugs of tea.

And that is what I love.

So I will take the late nights of staying up with them, and changing of barf bowls. Because what comes with it is the assurance that they still want and need their mom.

🙂

 

 

 

 

Of grieving, living, and fruit…


It’s February now. I have not been back Home to see mom since dad passed away.  I call her every few days, or at least weekly, but it is all small talk, and we never bring him up.

I cry, without fail, after I hang up with mom, but somehow never allow myself to show sadness to her directly. I usually call my youngest sister within that hour. For whatever reason, I can grieve only with her. She lives close to mom and sees her every day.

I feel jealous, or maybe envious, of her.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being alive when my loved one is gone. I mean, I know he was 73 when he went, and he had a very full life and … Blah, blah, blah…I still just wish I could see him, and talk with him again.

i guess this is grieving, right?

for a while, I didn’t let myself cry. Like it would betray his life. Or his memory, I guess. Like I am supposed to remember only the good. He passed away with family and loved ones surrounding him. He was a good man that left behind a legacy of kindness and service. He was a good chess player and advice giver. Stuff like that.

now I cry when I think of him. Or when I don’t think of him first, but then forget I should be thinking of him. I cried on his birthday, and on Christmas. I will cry on my moms birthday.   I am crying now.

it feels good. To have my eyes leak about him. I don’t fully sob, yet. Let’s be clear about that. When I say I cry, I screw up my face and let the tears come, holding in the sobs for another time. I will cry later, I say.

This is how I grieve. Amid live, I guess. I mean, life goes on.That is cruel, sometimes, that life moves and swirls around tragedy and pain. I still notice that the sun comes up. There is still beauty in the world. My kids still need me. I still eat and sleep and watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey.  And, I still smile.

many things stay the same and are all the sweeter for it. The alarm sounds at 7 a.m. On school days. My husband and I go to Pho on Mondays for lunch. My son sakes for the car, and to stay out late, like clockwork. I can count on those things.

but then there’s the fruit.

odd, but my fruit changed. All of a sudden, and for the first time in my life, our fruit bowl is not full of fresh fruit. It is not arranged with apples, oranges and bananas that get eaten for the first week, and then are left to spoil, only to be thrown out and changed all over.

something as ingrained as fresh fruit has been changed to fruit in a cup. Fruits in cups? Eh… You know what I am saying. Those single servings of mini oranges, mangos, and peaches, all diced and covered in light syrup. Or heavy syrup, if I can find it. (I haven’t found it yet, but am still on the hunt.)

so about 20 fruit cups get deposited every 2 weeks, and are completely devoured, every time.  No one says a word about the change. They just get gobbled up. Why this matters to me is that it is something I have let go of. I don’t know if this is a phase, or it is a new tradition. A tradition of having teens and adults indulge in what is traditionally a kids thing, every day, and fooling ourselves into pretending it is healthy as fresh fruit.

I guess I realize that life is too short to stand on principle alone. Think outside the box, for gosh sakes, at least for a while.  So I coddle my kids when they have food poisoning, instead of leaving them with more room to barf in peace. (They are teens now, I would have figured. They don’t want me smothering them when they are this old.) again, they don’t say a word about it. They just let me in, and coddle me back, I guess. We never speak about what the changes mean, or when they started, but we all know. We all know that when a loved one passes away, some rules just don’t matter.

some customs, and traditions shore us up, but others, like affection and fruit, can be improved upon.

 

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Day 2…

Day 2…

Yesterday I took up the challenge to do something good for someone else every day for 2 weeks and see what the change brings about in me.

I was less than thrilled.

I felt a bit put upon, actually.  I wasn’t too busy, or too shy or non-imaginative. I was just too lazy to be bothered with putting myself out there. After all, I thought, I already do nice things all the time, don’t I?  I … I … Hmmm…. I started thinking, and realized that I don’t see enough people outside my home to really make a difference, and I take advantage of those that are in my home.

This was the perfect challenge for me!

I silently thanked my challenge-er, and went about… Worrying.  About what was a worthy way to do good in someone else’s life. I worried. And worried. I thought about it and threw away idea after idea.

I started to feel dejected and then overwhelmed.  So I took a nap. And during that nap, all my worries went away, and when I woke up, I forgot I had a task to do. I just started to think about what my would make things easier for my husband that day. He was in meetings, and on conference calls all day, and I could tell that he was tense. (He works from home.)

Without thinking about it, I cleaned up our room, made our bed, organized his shoes, ties, and clothes, and then set off to do some dishes.  Now some people do this as a matter of course. I… Do not.  But here is the thing. I didn’t do it to say LOOK AT ME!  I did it with the attitude of gratitude for what he does for our family and for me. I did it with the, what would make him happy, kind of attitude, and it wasn’t a stretch at all!  Through the day, I thought about what would make his life easier, and the dishes got done, the laundry got organized, and dinner got made.

He has no idea that I did this for him. I didn’t tell him of my experiment. I just noticed that he was more relaxed. When we got in the hot tub, he was already more relaxed than earlier that day. And… I felt recharged!

today is day 2, and I am still looking forward to doing things for my husband, but I am noticing how I have served myself. I have energized and recharged, just by putting myself out there on purpose. It’s gonna be a good few weeks.

 

An Update…


Dad passed away on October 7th. Just 2 weeks ago now.
In some ways, it feels like years.
In other ways, I am still in the middle of it.

I see the sunshine seeping in my parents kitchen window. It’s about 2:00 PM, and it’s just that right temperature of warm but not too warm.  I still hear dad breathing hard in the other room, from his hospice bed. He is in the very last hours, and 2 of us kids hold his hands at all times. It’s not my turn. (When it is my turn, I look forward to touching his warm skin, and looking at his face, knowing I won’t have very long to do that.) His breathing gets easier for a bit, then stops. We all count, as we have been told that an apnea can come at this time, stopping the breathing for anywhere from 15-45 seconds. …5, …10, …15, and he takes in a deep breath. We all take a breath, too, and continue our scrabble game.

Yeah, scrabble. We were playing a game while my father was dying. We had been looking over and after him for 5 days straight, and as neighbors, friends, and relatives came to say their goodbyes,  or dropping off cards and food and hugs, well at some point we just realized that it was ok to do something other than watch the man die. It didn’t mean we loved him any less. In fact, it was probably a relief for him to hear some laughter and gossip coming from the next room, like in old times. (You should probably know that dad got 5 daughters, and would lament, only half jokingly, that he had somehow upset The Lord for Him to punish dad with so many chattering, laughing, bickering daughters…)

So we went on with our game. QAT was my word, and I got it hooked to a double word score. Woot! And I did woot, right out loud.  We all looked at each other quickly, and then at dad in the other room. And our voices raised even more. It was almost a relief to remember that we were allowed to be living, while he was dying. It was odd, but during this vigil, we still ate meals, and hugged each other, and talked normally.

At first this all felt like a betrayal. How dare I sleep when I should be watching over this dying man! Right? And I could not imagine leaving his hospital bed, whether to go to the bathroom or for food, a walk outside, or to play a game of scrabble. Why should I go do these things when he could not?  I don’t know what I expected. I guess for us to be hush hush around him so he could labor in quiet…. I guess that was it.

Well, life is not tidy.

What happened instead was 8 siblings descending upon the Thornton home, from across all sorts of states, all in various stages of grieving. The one thing that didn’t happen was quiet. I was stupefied. The house of grieving flipped like a switch. We had a room of crying and whispering. A room of food prep and eating. Then we had a room of catching up and visiting. And, because we are Thorntons, that room turned into a room of laughter and loudness. In all rooms, reverence was gone.

It was the best thing that happened, in my opinion.  Where I had been moping and obsessing before, being exhausted beyond belief, there was now a life and energy renewed.  Instead of literally watching a man die to death, we provided a father and husband with family living and celebrating his life all around him.

We played board games in the kitchen, just a few feet from where his hospice bed was set up.  We played the piano where he could hear his favorite songs. We put Pandora on the iPad and let him listen to the “Tabernacle Choir” channel because he loved the music so much. And it worked

Whatever IT was.

IT spread through the house gradually. Through each room of sadness, IT seeped in and smiled the sadness away. Oh.  The IT was… Peace.

Peace spread through the house and household. It made it ok for us to laugh or cry. It made it ok for us to sleep in, or stay up all nigh with our sweet dad. Peace made it ok for dad to rally at the end, for us.  He came out of the labored sleep he was in, and acknowledged those who were there in the house. He said he loved hearing the music. He touched our faces and let the little ones give him kisses or high fives. He loved our laughter and talking which, he said, just sounded like LOVE.

And that was when I let go of the process looking a certain way.  I was not in charge, and neither was anyone else. Dad’s death was between him and The Lord. My only responsibility was to be part of the peace and love that was family.  And so I did.

He passed away peacefully, between one breath and another, with family around him.

 
 
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