A lot of Frustration and “D’oh” Moments

Hey, how’s your Friday night going? It’s 8:30 pm and I’m in tears. If you’ve never tried planning an event in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not for the faint of heart – especially when said event is hosted by a health system. I’m not going to babble on about it, but…it’s more than enough to stress a person out. Perhaps to test my resilience, there’s plenty of other stuff going on; keep reading…

It’s been a week since I was rear-ended and the last I heard, my car was towed to the WRONG body shop. How does that even happen? How do they literally tow a car to the wrong city?!? Like, am I being bamboozled here? 

Dealing with insurance is enough to make you lose your shit. I’m convinced that the process of getting a claim representative to actually return your call and provide accurate, timely information is frustrating enough to turn the sweetest, kindest, most gentle, patient soul into a raging lunatic. I can’t do it…I can’t sit on hold for 30+ minutes, listening to a repetitive message of all agents being busy, but “my call is very important,” then being told to leave a message – only to have a recording tell me the voicemail is full and I’m abruptly disconnected. Or going online and seeing I can email instead of call (hooray!). So I do that – only to receive an automatic reply that the insurance carrier has merged with another company and my email will be forwarded. D’oh!! If you can’t even update your company website with the correct email address to contact, do you really think I trust that my email will be forwarded? Uh…no.   

Hold up a minute…I’m going back to the topic of work (even though I claimed above that I wouldn’t babble – that was false). But anyway…first, I hate math. In fact, today my Facebook memories reminded me that 7 years ago I sent a group chat to my high school cheer team asking them to solve my daughter’s SECOND GRADE math problem – that’s an embarrassingly true story that is relevant to what’s next…

Now that you know that humiliating fact…for this event I’m planning, I’ve been asked to solve one of those ridiculous types of story problems. Something that is much more complicated than this eye-roll-worthy scenario you probably remember from back in your school days – Katarina is a botanist studying the production of pears by two types of pear trees. She noticed that Type A trees produced 20% more pears than Type B trees did. Based on Katarina’s observation…blah…blah…blah. Nobody gives a shit except for Katarina. Leave her to figure it out, keep me out of it! She can count the pears, eat the pears, bake the pears, throw the pears, kick the pears, I don’t care. That shitty attitude is how I feel about this equation I’m supposed to be figuring out at work. I logged into our new financial software (which I don’t understand at all) and sat there totally frustrated because there are too many damn variables to get any kind of accurate answer AND I don’t even know how to find the answer. Delightful, huh? It’s like I’m back in middle school or high school math class, 100% clueless. 

Shortly after that, I picked up a paper from my daughter’s dermatologist. When my eyes skimmed over the list of possible side effects of the medicine she’ll soon be starting, I felt so defeated. Do you know that sickening feeling you get when you read the mile-long list of potential side effects? It’s scary and when you’ve already got a lot going on it feels overwhelming. I’ve prayed and I feel like this medicine is right for my daughter, but at that moment it was enough to cause tears. 

Tonight my daughter also mentioned that she misses Tori. She reminded me again that they had plans to move to California – where the hot guys are. Oh my goodness…my heart. Our kids sure are skilled at being innocently naïve. I hope Tori giggled at that hot guy reminder and I hope she’s shining bright in Heaven just like an angel does.  

A Tribute to Tori

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I’m sitting here at work. I’m unable to focus. I’m unable to stop my eyes from continually welling up with tears. My heart aches. My daughter lost a friend and it’s all that I can think about. I need to write to clear my head – to attempt to process my tumultuous emotions.

The first day of school was Thursday and that night Tori (my daughter’s friend) was in a terrible accident. Her cousin was driving and he hit a tree – a huge tree that was lying across the entire road. Our area was hit with multiple severe thunderstorms over the course of a few days. From what I’ve heard, this particular tree had been lying in the road for over 24 hours, maybe longer – there were no orange cones, no signage, no reflective rope, no caution tape, no closed road, no anything to indicate the tree was there. I’m assuming that it was also pitch-black. It was at night and most of our area was without power. It sounds like the driver was possibly speeding and Tori was in the backseat not wearing a seatbelt. I can’t even see my screen as I type this; my eyes are again filling up with tears just thinking about it. I might not have all of the details completely accurate (as I’m going by hearsay), but I know that this precious, young girl tragically lost her life.

When I initially heard about the accident, it sounded like Tori was in bad shape, but it also sounded like she was going to make it. I thought about her all day long and prayed so many times for her healing. Later that night, the messaging changed, or maybe the messaging was just more accurate; I’m not sure. Either way, it felt like a total shock. I was working on my laptop in the kitchen when my daughter received a message about Tori’s condition. When she read the message out loud, I felt a numbness run through my body. I spun around in my chair and disbelievingly shouted, “WHAT?!?!?” NO, NO, NO…that is not what I had previously heard, that couldn’t be true. I didn’t want to believe it; I couldn’t believe it. I immediately started scrolling social media desperately searching and hoping for a different outcome.       

My heart is shattered – for Tori, for her family, for her friends. Tori had one – only one day of high school. She had so much more life to live. She was the same age as my daughter, 15 years old. While high school has a fair share of drama and stress, it’s also supposed to be a time of growing up. It’s supposed to be a time of slowly but surely sort of figuring out who you are and what matters to you. It’s supposed to be a time of countless fun and carefree moments shared with close friends and classmates resulting in memories that last a lifetime. How many of us occasionally reminisce about our old high school days? I know I do. Tori deserved a chance to experience those fun, unforgettable high school moments and countless more moments after high school. I think that’s one of the reasons this is so hard – she was so young. 

I didn’t really know Tori myself. She and my daughter were friends at school and they hung out when they both went skating on Friday nights, but that doesn’t seem to make this any less painful. When my daughter shares stories of Tori or a quick Snapchat video of them with friends…it hurts my heart.

Just a few months ago, my daughter saw a TikTok of Tori cutting her own hair, which was a popular trend at the time. So, she Facetimed Tori to see her hair and Tori told her she should do it too (ha ha) – and she did! These two teenage girls thought it was a good idea to cut their own hair and with it being a TikTok trend, I can only imagine how many other girls spontaneously did the same exact thing. Oh, the teenage years, when it feels like the current moment is the only thing that matters – we’ve all been there.

My daughter shared with me that she and Tori walked out of school together on the first day and they talked about what a long day it was. That’s so relatable. Remember how your teachers would fill your first day with endless rules and expectations – uhhhh, boring! I wish the girls would have had hundreds of more opportunities to walk out of high school together. 

On the day that I started to write this (I’ve come back to it a few times), something so meaningful happened.  When I got in my car to leave work, the song, Breakaway, by Kelly Clarkson was on the radio. When I heard the lyrics below, I completely lost it. But..I believe it was undoubtedly a God thing. The timing was impeccable and although the words hurt so much, they gave me this little sense of peace that Tori is in the arms of Jesus. 

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly

I’ll do what it takes ’til I touch the sky

And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change

And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun

But I won’t forget all the ones that I love

I’ll take a risk, take a chance, make a change

And breakaway

I’ll spread my wings

And I’ll learn how to fly

Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye

I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change

And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun

But I won’t forget the place I come from

I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change

And breakaway

Breakaway, Breakaway

Of all the songs that could have been on, of all the words I could have heard – God knew what I needed at that very moment. It was no coincidence; it was too timely and too perfect. I pray that God will do the same for Tori’s family. I pray that He will bring them the solace they need when the grief is too much, which must be what it feels like every single moment.  

Tori’s family donated her organs. Through what must have been unfathomable and unbearable pain, they gave others the most precious gift. Imagine your entire world unexpectedly and devastatingly turned completely upside down, yet you still find the strength to do quite possibly the most altruistic, honorable, generous and impactful thing you can do – donate your beloved child’s organs. What a better place this world would be if we all showed that kind of compassion. 

Your definition of a hero might vary a little from mine, but I bet we can agree it’s intrinsically about selflessness and what you do for others. Tori’s gift of life is the biggest legacy one can leave. When some people pass, they are able to leave a hefty inheritance, but no amount of money or property or fame compares to the gift of life. If you doubt that, ask not only the recipients of Tori’s heart, lungs and liver, but also ask their loved ones. I am confident they will be forever grateful for Tori’s life-saving gift – which matters more than anything else they could have ever received.  

I learned that a local U-Pick flower field was asked to make the floral arrangements for Tori’s funeral. They are doing it at no cost. I was so touched by their generosity that I messaged them just to say that I thought it was so kind. They messaged me back and this is what they said, “…I live by the saying when you can’t find the good, BE the good. Being there for people who need some extra love helps me get through my day!!!” In my humble opinion, that’s simply amazing and what a wonderful life motto to follow. From what I’ve come to learn, it sounds like that’s a philosophy that Tori might have followed herself – BE the good.

I hope and pray that someday… somehow… someway…Tori’s family gets an opportunity to meet the fortunate individuals that were blessed with a second chance at life because of Tori’s gift. If that opportunity would help bring peace and healing to their broken hearts, then Jesus, please allow it to happen!

Miss Tori Daelyn, it is incredibly clear that you were loved by so many. I thank you for being a friend to my daughter. Thank you for being so “chill” (that’s how you were described) and from someone like me who has a tendency to be a tad uptight – I greatly admire that quality.  

Send strength from the Heavens, sweet girl. You are missed so much. 

(Note: I shared the information about Tori not wearing a seatbelt for the sole purpose of hoping that information might save another life. I think we are all guilty of hopping in the car at times and not buckling up. Please talk to your teen(s) about the importance of wearing their seatbelt.)

The Haps – Just a Little Update

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It’s been about 6 weeks since I last posted. I’m disappointed to report that the struggles with my teenager haven’t improved. While I love that girl more than life itself, I’m having a hard time parenting her. She’s changed so much and I really wish my sweet, sassy, sensitive, creative, kind, thoughtful and hard-working daughter would make a reappearance. Until she does, I’ll keep praying and I’ll keep trying – there’s no giving up on her!    

Today, I’m switching it up…I’m sharing a few exciting-ish things that have happened in the last few weeks. Sometimes a gal needs to take a break from the struggles and spend a little time reflecting on the good. Know what I mean? 

First, I’m still coaching cheer. This winter, I wrapped up my 10th year at the high school level. I’m no longer serving as a head coach, just an assistant. That was a major change and I’m not sure I’ve fully adjusted to my new role. The truth is…I like to be in charge, but right now I just don’t have it in me to be a head coach. It takes more time than I can currently dedicate. 

Anywho…I wanted to share that our competition team made it to Nationals. For those unfamiliar with cheerleading, Nationals is basically like the Super Bowl or World Series for us – we’re talking BIG time! We loaded up our team of 20 with 3 coaches and 2 moms and off we went to Orlando, Florida to compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It was a very cool and memorable experience. We stayed at a Disney Resort and had a chance to visit the parks.  Wayyyy back in the day when I was a high school cheerleader, I religiously watched the National High School Cheerleading Championship on TV. So, to finally be there in person was downright awesome! Our athletes are so fortunate to have had this experience and I bet it’ll be one of those special memories they cherish for the rest of their lives. Here’s a few pics (the FL sun is to blame for any squinty eyes)…

My next adventure occurred much closer to home, in Holland, Michigan. Over the last couple of years, my interest in nature and photography has really soared. I think through all of the chaos, I have found renewed strength, appreciation, and peace in nature. Whether it’s walking a trail, stepping on crunchy leaves, listening to the sound of waves, or seeing the simplistic beauty of a flower, nature has a majestic way of healing my soul. That on its own is fantastic, but my desire to snap countless photos of all the beauty I see is even better. I love it! Put me in nature with a charged battery and I’ll literally spend hours upon hours there. When I’m done, I’ll feel rejuvenated and my camera roll will be filled with gorgeous pictures. It makes me so happy, Someday I’m going to invest in a nice camera and really up my photo game. For now, my iphone camera just does fine.

Oh, wait…back to Holland, MI (I got distracted, ha ha). The reason I went there was to check out their annual Tulip Time Festival. I had heard about it and I really wanted to see it for myself. It did not disappoint! How could millions of tulips in bloom disappoint? It’s not possible! Here are some of my favorite photos from the day. And yes…I stressed myself out deciding which pictures to share. They’re so pretty I want you to see them all.

Okay, okay…third and final update. My goal is to someday work full-time as a writer in about any capacity – this girl just wants to write! In an effort to help foster that goal, I applied to Verblio as a freelance copywriter toward the end of 2020. I was approved and I’ve slowly started writing for them. It took 5 MONTHS (which felt like a lifetime) for my first piece to be reviewed, but once it was, it was purchased and it received a 5-star rating. I was so excited!

The process on Verblio can be slow, really slow, but…for me that’s okay (at least for now). With working full-time and coaching, I don’t have a lot of time to submit content. But, it’s great experience that will hopefully lead to more writing opportunities. Recently, I’ve sold additional content – social media posts, a couple of blog posts and website content. Because I’m so new on Verblio, I’m not raking in big money…at all, but it’s so much more than that for me. It’s about the experience and the boost of confidence – that maybe, just maybe, I really can do this.    

That’s all my friends. I’m sure I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled content – detailing all of my struggles soon enough. 

Another solo spring break; but I found my gratitude

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On April 1st, my daughter left for another spring break vacation with her dad. Watching her pack and walk out the door with her luggage still hurts my heart.  We’ve done this a handful of times before, but it still stings.  Once she leaves, I’m left feeling sad and lonely for the next couple of days.  And it is oh so easy to fall into the trap of negative thinking, such as:  It’s not fair that they are taking yet another family vacation.  It must be nice to have two full-time incomes and get to go on spring break every year.  Because of the homewrecker, my daughter never had an opportunity to experience a vacation with her mom and dad.  Ohhhhh the thoughts…they could go on and on. 

In an effort to make myself feel a little better, I came up with three positive things that happen when my daughter is on vacay.  First, there’s no eye-rolling or sighing about what’s for dinner (other than my own grumblings about not wanting to cook or nothing sounding good).  Second, there is less mess to clean up – that girl leaves everything everywhere.  Third, I get all the hot water.

In all seriousness, I’m okay and I’m feeling better. 

Over the last year or so, my interest in photography has piqued.  So when Easter Sunday presented an absolutely gorgeous day here in the Midwest, I headed to Lake Michigan ready to soak up the sun and snap some beachy pics.  It was glorious – not too many people, bright sunshine, blue skies, warm (but not hot) sand, no humidity and just the lightest little breeze.  It was perfect.  After taking pictures, I put a towel down and grabbed a journal out of my bag.  

Gratitude is often used as a tool to help turnaround negative thinking.  Although my mood was pretty positive, I had spent the last few days down in the dumps. Therefore, I decided to jot down 50 things I am grateful for…

  1. My life
  2. My health
  3. My family
  4. Being a mom
  5. My friends
  6. My job
  7. Insurance 
  8. My home
  9. My car
  10. My clothes
  11. Having food to eat
  12. My dog
  13. Animals 
  14. Spring, summer and fall
  15. Fresh, sparkly snow (just the snow, not the cold)
  16. Sunshine
  17. The beach
  18. The sound of the waves
  19. Rainbows
  20. God’s promises
  21. Fresh starts
  22. Eternal salvation
  23. Photographs
  24. Music
  25. Writing 
  26. Flowers 
  27. Laughter 
  28. Good moods
  29. Feelings of excitement and happiness
  30. Freedom
  31. Starry summer nights
  32. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
  33. Walking trails/hiking
  34. Fresh, clean bedding
  35. Good smells
  36. Campfires
  37. The ability to exercise
  38. Books
  39. Days of laziness to balance out the busyness
  40. Warm baths
  41. Soft, cozy blankets
  42. Time off work
  43. Good conversation
  44. All the things that make me smile and feel good
  45. Nature and all of its beauty 
  46. Being outside in nice weather
  47. God’s grace and forgiveness
  48. Cold drinks when thirsty 
  49. Heat and air conditioning
  50. Technology – things like Facetime that allow me to see and hear my daughter while she’s in Alabama 

It would have been easy for me to feel sad on Easter; I didn’t want to do that.  I wanted to feel good.  I wanted to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  One scroll through Facebook and I was left feeling a little brokenhearted.  I was bombarded with pictures of perfectly groomed families all dressed up, perfectly packed Easter baskets filled to the brim with the most coveted goodies and perfectly decorated homes with the latest and greatest spring decor.  Well, my friends, there’s not much of anything in my life that is perfect.  I fully admit that I struggle with a lot of different things – including my emotions that are often all over the place.  In my last few posts, I’ve also shared some of the struggles my daughter has faced and some of the challenges I’ve faced parenting her (more to come on that).  

All that to say…I’m proud of myself for not totally falling for the Facebook fallacy that everyone has a perfect life.  I could have allowed jealousy, bitterness or sadness to steal my happiness that day, but I didn’t.  I knew the beach would rejuvenate my soul and it did.  Interestingly, you don’t have to be surrounded by others to feel happy and you don’t have to be at church to feel connected to God.  

On my drive to the beach and while I was there, I felt so content; truly at peace.  And then, on my way home…my daughter called to tell me she cracked her phone screen. I had told her several times she needed a screen protector for that very reason.  Of course, she had no interest in hearing that reminder.  Ahhh well…my peace was fun while it lasted – such is life, I suppose – it’s filled with highs and lows.  

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Mental Health Check

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Written on Friday, January 29, 2021…

Thankfully we made it through another week of school and work.  The weekend is here and I couldn’t be more grateful that my daughter has a friend over and I hear girl talk and laughter coming from her room.

I don’t even know if anyone actually sees my posts these days as I definitely don’t offer much consistency as to when I write and when I post.  But…this week, Monday morning especially, was incredibly tough.  My daughter was not up for school when she should have been.  My knocking on her door awakened her and soon the yelling began as there was no way she was going to have enough time to get ready and catch the bus.  The sun wasn’t even up yet and I was at my wit’s end because this school year and (actually the last 10 months) have been so difficult and filled with so much turmoil. 

My daughter said she would just do virtual for the day.  I, of course, couldn’t just accept that and started to yell and get angry because she is supposed to be attending school in-person.  I just assumed she had stayed up all night on her phone again and didn’t have the motivation to get up after only getting a few hours of sleep.  

She stood at her bedroom door and shared that there was something more going on.  After some back and forth between the two of us, she shared information that prompted me to contact her dad and tell him we needed to take her to have a mental health check completed.   

I believe it was the grace of God that gave me the strength I needed because I was ready to crumble.  I was basically functioning on auto pilot and that’s how I was able to remain reasonable and rationale once I knew a mental health assessment was the route we needed to go. 

Due to Covid, only one parent was allowed to enter the facility and that was me.  Her dad waited in his truck.  As I sat there filling out forms, I’m not sure I can accurately describe how I was feeling – it was a combination of scared, sad, unsettled, intimidated, nervous and of course…like I was a complete failure as a mom. 

When I took the completed forms to the receptionist, she handed me a key and informed me that my purse and all electronics (my phone and my daughter’s phone) needed to be locked up.  It felt a little demoralizing, but I did what I was asked to do.   

They called my daughter back and talked to her alone for about 15 minutes.  After she returned to the waiting room, they called me back.  I was asked to share why I brought her in and what my concerns were.  I was then told they would consult the doctor and let me know how we would proceed. 

The doctor did not feel my daughter needed to be admitted so we were able to leave with a referral to keep seeing our current therapist and to follow up a psychiatrist.  The rest of the week has been better so I do think the right decision was made.  However, my heart broke when I thought about leaving her there.  I can’t even image how scary that would have been for her and I know I would come home and had a complete breakdown. 

I did share this information with the school and I finally felt like they understood.  Instead of the typical emails that I receive about my daughter’s attitude and work ethic, they showed genuine concern and empathy.  I think they finally understand that the most important thing right now is her mental health.  I am so glad they finally get it and I hope they will stop with the judgments and criticism, which was making things worse. 

My daughter’s therapy appointment on Thursday was also tough.  I sat in with her and the therapist.  My daughter was getting very frustrated and overwhelmed by the questions she was being asked and at one point she started crying and asked to go home.  It hurt my heart, but I know progress was made because she finally let her guard down just a little bit and showed vulnerability with her tears.  She’s investing a lot of energy into coming across as negative and tough when I really think that’s just a front, a means of protection, to keep her from getting hurt. 

I hope and I pray that with continued therapy we can get to the root of the issue.  It’s probably a combination of factors:

  • Feelings of abandonment from when her dad left (and started a new family).
  • Fear of her dad and his family moving to Alabama (they often talk about it).
  • Feelings of abandonment from when Matt and Todd (my previous boyfriends) were no longer in our lives.
  • A negative mindset about relationships that was likely driven by me and my failed relationships (I seem to attract men that love to be good to me in the beginning and then cheat on me.  Disclosure:  No need to lecture me for my mistakes with boyfriends, I’ve had two in 6 years and I take full responsibility).
  • Previous hurt/sensitivity from being bullied at school.
  • Her own heartache from two boys she talked to and then realized their true colors.
  • All the negativity and drama she sees on social media.

No matter what I need to do, I’ll do it to help my daughter.  I know what it feels like to be miserable and hopeless – – that’s exactly how I felt when I was in the midst of my divorce.  And that’s exactly why I know her mental health needs to be one of our top priorities.   

If you’re forgiving of others, be forgiving to yourself

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Many of us set goals to eat better and exercise at the start of a new year.  I’m guilty of doing so.  In fact, yesterday I packed vegetable soup, string cheese and a turkey stick for lunch.  By the time I got home from work and errands, I was starving.

I asked the teenager if she preferred a salad with grilled chicken or rice and beans for dinner.  Her choice was rice and beans because we make them sort of like burrito bowls – with lettuce, cheese, salsa and of course…tortilla chips.    

Brown rice takes a good 20 minutes to cook in the instant pot.  So, between the time it takes for the pot to come to pressure, the actual cook time and then the 10 minutes it had to sit before I could release the pressure – – I was like a ravenous savage in my kitchen.  

I quickly downed 3 delicious mini cupcakes (leftover from the holidays), finished off the crumbly remains of a bag of Baked Lays and popped a good 5-6 Rolos into my mouth.  I know, I know…girl – – where’s your self-control?!  Apparently, it’s non-existent when I’m hangry.

But…I ate a reasonable amount of rice and beans, worked out and didn’t have anything else for the rest of the night.  Instead of berating myself for my indulgence, when it came time to exercise, I kept going when I wanted to give up.  When I thought about all of the calories that I had haphazardly consumed, I kept pushing even when it burned.  I triumphantly completed different versions of the “banana” ab move and made it through sumo squat jumps (truth be told it was only 2 rounds lasting 30 seconds each…but still, lol).

I also set myself up for success with the workout I selected.  Instead of going for an intense HIIT workout, I opted for a 30 minute core function workout.  It was the perfect amount of intensity for a gal that hasn’t been super active for most of the pandemic.

I often beat myself up for things that I do (or even things that I don’t do), but honestly, I need to offer myself the same grace and forgiveness I would offer a friend.  If a friend tells me, she’s been indulging in sweets or hasn’t worked out in forever, I wouldn’t judge her. If she told me she’s been hitting up McDonald’s weekly (or multiple times a week) for a beloved Coke and fries (my personal weakness) or if she’s been rolling through the Taco Bell drive-thru for a Crunchwrap Supreme and Baja Blast, I would offer empathy and encouragement because I 100% understand.  I’ve been in that emotionally vulnerable place so many times that I honestly get it.

So today, I encourage you to be good to yourself and give yourself grace when needed.  You and me…we don’t need to be perfect, we simply need to make progress.  In regards to food, physical activity, housework, etc. when you stumble a little, pick yourself back up.  Don’t hate on yourself; you deserve the same compassion and understanding you’d give to a friend.

2020: We saw both the best and worst of mankind

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Fancy dresses with extremely tight corsets and lots of provocative scandal – that is Bridgerton on Netflix.  I’m on the couch with a blanket enjoying the ambiance of my Christmas tree, a candle and the fireplace.  I’m on episode 4 of Season 1 and this show brings some captivating drama and steamy heat as the wealthy and powerful Bridgerton family attempt to find love.  If they have my kind of luck, they should just give up on that.  I started and I’m ending the year single and honestly…that’s the least of my worries.  With everything that 2020 brought, another failed relationship filled with bullshit promises of love and faithfulness would have done me in.  I did not spend my year pursing a man, dating or a relationship and I’m happy about that.  While independence can be lonely, it’s also liberating.  I can do what I want, when I want and I don’t have to worry about another lying bastard breaking my heart and crushing my self-worth.           

I’m not going to pretend that spending the holidays single is super easy for me, because it’s not.  In fact, my daughter left on Christmas afternoon to spend time at her dad’s and I felt a few warm tears trickle down my face.  I don’t think it gets easier sharing a child during the holidays – at least it doesn’t for me.  Christmas is definitely the hardest and that’s because it’s my favorite.  I’m thankful that I had my sweet doggo to snuggle with as I watched Christmas movies.    

The New Year is just a couple hours away from its welcomed arrival.  I don’t need to drone on and on about what a difficult year it was – we already know.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I scrolled through social media and my mood not only fizzled, I often felt overwhelmed, sad, anxious, worried and somewhat hopeless.

This year showed us an inspiring mix of compassion, empathy, kindness, perseverance, strength, selflessness and love.  While sadly, it also showed us unbelievable ignorance, carelessness, entitlement, selfishness, intolerance, judgments and far too much loss.  We saw both the best and worst of mankind. 

I certainly had my own struggles, especially parenting my teen daughter.  However, I’d like to reflect on some things I’m grateful for in 2020:

  • The health of my family and myself
  • My home
  • That I was able to continue working even when our races were cancelled (I manage road races that are sponsored by the health system that I work for).
  • That I was approved as a freelance copywriter for Verblio – that was an exciting accomplishment for me.
  • My daughter and I both faced a couple of scary/questionable situations and I’m thankful we both stayed safe.
  • Seeing one of my best friends that lives in Florida
  • Seeing my nephew when he came home from Colorado
  • Receiving a lot of love on my birthday
  • Taking the time to pursue my interest in photography – I took some gorgeous pictures this fall (well…gorgeous to me).
  • Cotton candy sunsets, beautiful blue skies, blooming summer flowers and vibrant fall colors  
  • Spending more time reading God’s word – thank you, YouVersion Bible app.  And having two friends that I’ve been able to complete devotionals with and talk about the Bible.
  • Reading through the book of Luke in December – the timing was so perfect for celebrating Christmas.
  • Getting a new Christmas tree and putting up my beloved ornaments.
  • The excitement my daughter showed on her 14th birthday
  • Love, support, encouragement, laughter and good moments with close friends and family

I’m sure I left out other special moments, but those are what came to mind.  I won’t list my resolutions for 2021 (at least not today)…maybe I can actually start crushing some of my goals and then proudly share my successes.  Actions do speak louder than words, right?

Happy New Year and God Bless you all!

Dear Virtual Learning, you suck!

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This week starts Christmas break and Hallelujah – – a much needed reprieve from the battle that is virtual learning.  

I posted the content below on my social media last week.  If you need a little encouragement because online schooling has/had you ready to lose your freaking mind, read on.  You and your kids are not alone.

99% of the time I agree with and support teachers. I’m almost always on their side.  However, I’m over the judgmental emails/calls about virtual learning. I’m very well aware that my child is not doing well.  I’m very well aware that she has missing assignments.  I’m very well aware of her attendance as I check it every single day.

We’ve had talks, she’s been encouraged, she’s been given both incentives and consequences…it’s not working and I’m aware.  She’s struggling.  She’s not engaged.  She’s not learning.  Quite frankly, she’s miserable.

Please stop assuming that as her parent I don’t care.  I very much do!  However, when is the last time you successfully forced a teenager to do something?  When is the last time you had good luck making a teenager be motivated?

I’m trying here, teachers. I really am.  Virtual learning/grades are a daily discussion – or better yet – a daily argument in our home.  I want nothing more than my child to be at school and to be done with virtual learning.  She’s stressed out.  She cries out of sheer frustration.

Has she been lazy and slept through class?  She absolutely has.  Has she logged in but turned her camera off and tuned out?  Yes, indeed.  Does she have any interest in staring at her Chromebook for 7 hours a day?   She sure doesn’t.

The reality is…this is tough for everyone – for teachers, for parents and for students.  In fact, it seems toughest for students.  Teens are social beings. They’ve been working and learning in a group environment since preschool.  This is a total shift in what they’ve always done and what they’ve always known.  For the students that are thriving in this new normal – that’s awesome, kudos to ‘em.

However, for some, this is incredibly hard and lonely.  So many teens are literally spending hours upon hours in their bedrooms – isolated, alone.  Their mental health is suffering.  They’ve lost all motivation.  I’m not making excuses because I know these kids SHOULD be logging in.  They SHOULD be completing assignments. They SHOULD be trying.  They SHOULD care.

I don’t always show my own daughter this sort of compassion and understanding. I often yell about her missing assignments or her tardiness to online class.  And I have to say, while I sincerely appreciate the concern…a condescending email or a reprimanding phone call doesn’t magically make things better.  Scolding me about my daughter’s lack of motivation and effort, is preaching to the choir.    

I’m sure it came from a good place, but us parents need support too (just like you).  Please don’t project the vibe that we are fine with our kids sleeping through class, that we don’t care about incomplete work, or that we don’t hold them accountable. For most parents, that’s just not true.

The thought of trying to comprehend The Pythagorean Theorem, using the distance formula on a coordinate plane or balancing chemical equations (current 8th grade content) – well…that sounds challenging enough to do in-person.  Imagine being 13 or 14 alone in your bedroom trying to grasp those complicated concepts via Google Meet.  It’s got to be hard!  And most of these kids don’t have parents at home during the day to offer assistance.

For the teachers, parents and students currently struggling just know you’re not alone.  To the students, including my own, we know it’s tough.  We constantly ask about your assignments/grades/attendance because we care and we know you can do better.  We (your parents and your teachers) have never had to do this. We were never forced to try learning virtually for weeks or even months at a time.  Schoolwork, whether in-person or online, is still your responsibility but perhaps we haven’t given you the grace, understanding and support you really need.  Perhaps we haven’t fully acknowledged the toll the pandemic, virtual learning and the isolation has taken on your mental health, including your motivation.

The teenage struggle continues…

We’ve made it to November and things with my teenager continue to be tumultuous.  Most days have a mix of negative attitude, complaints, and a lack of motivation.  However, now that she’s ungrounded from her phone, there are moments of happiness, laughter, teenage commentary, selfies and Tik Tok content.

I wish I could say things are great, but they are not.  She ended the first 9 weeks with the worst grades she’s ever received.  She’s had some ugly meltdowns and I’m not proud to admit that I’ve pretty much matched her by losing my cool too.  She decided not to play Club Basketball and I’m so disappointed. She’s participated in basketball since 4th grade.  It’s not about basketball; it’s about the lack of involvement.  I think she needs the structure, responsibility, commitment, work ethic and sense of belonging that being on a team creates.  As someone who has coached at the middle school and high school level for 14 years, I’m a big believer and advocate for kids playing sports.  My daughter needs that type of accountability.  She needs something positive to do after school instead of sitting in her room, being on her phone, or napping.  I tried; I really did.  I tried talking to her.  I tried encouraging her.  I was ready to offer some type of incentive for her participation, but the bottom line is…I couldn’t force her to play basketball just like I can’t force her to have a better attitude.     

She has received some dress code warnings at school and has had a teacher or two comment on her lack of focus and her attitude.  Lately, it feels like she is purposely defiant because she doesn’t like the rules – – I can’t even with that one.  Like ‘em or not girl, rules are a part of life, even as an adult.  She’d keep herself out of trouble if she’d just learn to accept and follow the rules.

Her defiance and unrealistic desire for total independence landed her in some boiling water when it was discovered that she has snuck out of the house a couple of times.  Summed up:  Trust broken.  Freedom lost.  Consequences given.

Ever had your teen blame you for their choices?  It’s your fault because you are too strict.  It’s your fault because you never let them do anything fun.  It’s your fault because you are just so over the top as a parent.  The audacity!  At that point, I needed Jesus to take the wheel because my child’s thinking was so irrational and delusional that I just couldn’t. 

You see…my dear child was not asking to do things like go to the high school football game on Friday night, have a few friends over for a bonfire, get some cash to go spend at TJ Max. I don’t have an issue with those sorts of things – in fact, I usually encourage them.  Instead, she wasn’t asking for anything, but secretly she wanted to go hang out with other teens she only knows from Snapchat and most of those teens were boys, older boys.  I don’t know any of them.  I don’t know their parents.  They don’t go to the same school.  They are older – in high school, while she’s in middle school (helloooooo…red flags everywhere).  And she just wants to “hang out” – – she’s way too naïve to really understand my concerns.

As you can imagine, a lot of our days have been filled with frustration, disagreements, arguments, yelling, threats and tears.  I’ve called and texted her dad several times and suggested she move in with him.  Perhaps if I’m so awful, life will be better with him.    

My teen thinks I’m trying to control her – – that’s neither what I’m trying to do nor what I want to do.  I understand that she’s growing up.  I understand she’s becoming her own person with her own ideas.  For me, it is extremely hard to find a balance of being a parent that listens, understands and empathizes while still enforcing fair and reasonable rules without looking like a micro-managing, dictating, hag.  

I think (I hope and I pray) that we might have made a little progress during Halloween weekend.  After getting ungrounded and begging to have a friend spend the night, I offered my daughter another chance, a trial run, if you will.  I clearly laid out the expectations and stated the consequences that would happen if rules were broken.  The friend that spent the night is a sweet girl, but she’s also a girl that has gotten into some trouble as well – sneaking out, talking to older boys, etc. 

The friend’s mom came inside when she brought her daughter over.  We talked openly about expectations and behavior.  Our girls could hear we meant business and they kept themselves out of trouble.  They decided to dress as teen boys for Halloween – so basically they wore Nike, had baggy pants, work their hats backwards, had lanyards hanging out of their pants pockets and rocked a real bro kinda vibe.  Honestly, it was pretty funny. 

They walked around the neighborhood and returned around 8:30pm.  Shortly after they asked if they could go ding dong ditching.  When I gave them an apprehensive look, my daughter reminded me of the stories I’ve shared about my own teenage teepeeing adventures.  I said no and reminded them that doorbell cameras didn’t exist when I was a teen.  Although it is relatively harmless fun, I didn’t feel good about two girls (that have previously gotten into trouble at night) walking around unsupervised in the dark.  They accepted my no and moved on.

Then…they found out a few boys from their class were having a sleepover in the sub-division next to me.  You can guess what happened next…a request to hang out with them – – again in the dark, outside.  I didn’t feel too good about that so instead I suggested that the boys could come over/inside.  I think that sort of surprised my daughter but I have told her that I want her to be social and do things with friends.  However, those things need to be done when there is some sort of parent supervision – – not a parent trying to monitor every word that is spoken and every action that is taken, but instead…a parent just around to keep everyone safe and out of trouble.        

As if a Monday morning wasn’t bad enough…

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The six minute drive to school was unpleasant yet again. 

Here’s how it went…I was in the car, impatiently waiting for my teenager to make her appearance.  The door from the kitchen to the garage flung open and my moody fourteen year old stormed to the passenger side of the car.  She got in, tugged at her shirt and started complaining.  I suppose I inadvertently lit the match to start the conversation explosion because I said something about her shirt looking like a crop top.  From there it turned into a real shit show.   

In all honestly, I don’t recall what her first defensive words were but I know they were filled with self-hate – – something about her body, her face, her makeup, her hair.  It’s not a good way to start a day; in fact, after several weeks of similar morning drama I’ve had enough.  I’ve tried listening.  I’ve tried encouraging.  I’ve tried to reason with her.  I’ve tried turning the “cool” music on. Nothing works.

On many a morning, I’ve yelled back out of sheer frustration and today might have been the worst yet – – I went bananas.  I threatened to stop the car and make her walk to school.  I yelled.  I cussed.  At one point in the midst of her backtalk, I felt like she deserved a smack to her smart mouth.  I lost my shit and I’m not proud of it.  How come the human being that I created, that I love more than anything in this world can push my buttons like no other?  As a mature adult, why do I allow myself to lose my composure like that?  I’m the adult…why am I am not staying calm, cool and collected?  Like get it together, Courtney.  You’re setting the example.  You’re not the teenager.    

My daughter is already grounded from her phone for a month.  In my state of bananas, I informed her that I’m not taking her to school the rest of this week.  Instead, she’ll have to be ready 35 minutes earlier so she can ride the bus and if she misses the bus (because getting up is such a struggle for her) I’ll add more time to the grounding from her phone. 

A big part of the problem is that she won’t go to bed at a decent time.  Before she totally lost her phone, I implemented a new rule that her phone had to be out of her hands/room at 10:00pm each night.  I thought that might be the golden ticket to getting her to bed, but nope.  She will stay up doing her hair, her makeup, listening to music, organizing her room, etc.  I’m not the night owl that I used to be so I don’t stay up micromanaging her and then each school morning I’m the unfortunate soul that experiences her heated meltdowns.  She’s already emotional and negative – – top that with a bad hair, makeup or outfit day AND a lack of sleep…it creates the perfect storm for some fiery intense outbursts.   

What was far worse than me losing my shit was my daughter saying something so awful about herself.  I believe it was, “I’m ugly trash” or something as equally degrading and demeaning.  When she said it, it was about 7:50am and I was ready to be done for the day.  I wanted to go back to bed and cry myself to sleep.  I wanted to hide under my covers and pretend that never happened; that she never spoke such demoralizing words.  

Have you ever just wanted to shake your beloved teenager until she sees her value and her worth?  Lately, I’ve wanted to shake her for more reasons than that, but the negative self-talk is the worst.  It breaks my heart.  It makes me feel like I’ve failed her somehow.  Not to mention…it’s hard for me to focus and have a good day when our morning is so rough and I know it must affect her too.  How is she supposed to walk into class and be attentive and motivated?       

I remember being an emotional teen.  I, myself, starred in episodes of yelling, crying and dramatically throwing a hair brush across the room out of frustration and feelings of ugliness.  As a grown adult, that seems so ridiculous yet I know the feelings I experienced as a middle school and high school student felt very real.  Because of that, at least to a certain extent, I understand how my daughter feels.  Her feelings are valid – – they are NOT accurate because of course she’s NOT ugly and she’s NOT trash – – but I get it.  Sadly, I feel like some of those thoughts are normal.  What teenage girl doesn’t have moments of hating her acne prone skin, hating her frizzy hair, hating how she looks in a particular outfit, hating the size of her forehead, struggles with her weight or anything else?  While it is common, it is also heart wrenching.  As a mom, you just want your daughter to see herself as you see her – – all of her wonderful qualities, attributes, traits and talents.  I think with time my daughter will grow and get to a better emotional place; I sure hope so anyway.  If she’s anything like me, her confidence will improve with her age.  I’m no beauty queen, but I’m definitely much happier with how I look now than how I looked as a teenager.

As for turning this day around, I’m planning to lace up my shoes, pop in my earbuds and walk some miles to clear my head while also listening to the book, Boundaries with Teens.  I’m not giving up on my teen or my relationship with her.  Instead I’m going to read, write, pray, walk/run, meditate, and turn to the village that surrounds me for help.  My teen also started therapy again. I’m praying it helps with her attitude, confidence and overall happiness.  

I don’t know if it’s funny or ironic or what, but the picture posted is from 2 years ago today.  That’s my daughter at age 12 sitting in the stands during a football game.  She was reading and drawing.  Look at the chapter title of what she was reading, “Self-Love, Grounding & Being Present” – – an art book with a strong focus on self-love.  Maybe, just maybe by seeing that photo in my Facebook memories today it is the universe telling me to keep pushing, to not give up, that learning to love yourself and be confident takes time, work, patience and perseverance.