Category Archives: Parenting

Top Ten Christmas Miracles of 2011

The Holiday Season has been so good to me that I almost expect it’s up to something.  You know that feeling you get when your Significant Other unexpectedly treats you to a super special dinner and in the back of your cynical little mind you think, “Is he boinking the blonde in accounting?” Or when your boss gives you lavish praise and you wonder, “Am I on the list for lay offs?”  Yeah- Christmas has been that kind of good. Some would say it was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!

 No ghosts came to escort me through portals of time and I spent no time conversing with an angel named Clarence. They are small miracles I suppose but none the less they are mine.

Christmas miracle #1: My four-year old son bought my “Giving is Better than Receiving” shtick.

Trying to teach Leo about giving, I volunteered us to buy Christmas for two children in need. Wonderful in theory but in practical application, it can be rather difficult to talk a child into buying toys for OTHER children.

In the days leading up to the shopping trip I talked excitedly about how much fun we would have being elves. I have learned that talking about chores, vegetables and other “undesirables” with as much enthusiasm as possible can be helpful with children. It’s tricky though, kids might be all, “Brocoli, hell yeah!” However they are just as likely to look at you like you’re an idiot and refuse. In this case the tactic was working pretty well  until the morning of the shopping trip.

“Are you excited about our trip later today? We get to be elves! Giving to those kids is going to make them sooooo happy and that’s what Christmas is all about!” I squealed.

“No it’s NOT Momma. Christmas is about getting toys and trucks and, and . . . and BOUNCY BALLS!” My son hollers.

Bouncy Balls?

Who says Bouncy Balls? Did Charles Dickens make an appearance at Leo’s daycare that I was unaware of?

Perhaps he just had not had enough Cheerios or juice that morning because when the time for Target rolled around he was in a significantly brighter mood. Still, lets not kid ourselves, I was walking into a potential hellish situation.

Boy was I wrong. He was an absolute angel. He spent some time looking at toys I knew he would give his left chubby cheek for but he never once asked for a toy for himself.  His excitement grew as he helped me pick out all the gifts. He knew just what to get the little boy. He was less certain about the little girl, at one point he stopped in his tracks and loudly said, “Uh, don’t girls like THAT?” Pointing an accusing finger at a Hello Kitty toaster oven.

I was beaming with pride as we checked out and by the time I loaded up the toys in the trunk I was doing that crazy happy cry thing I do sometimes.

From the back seat Leo asks me, “Momma, why are  you all stiffly?”

“I am so proud of you Leo! You did something that many adults (myself included) have a hard time doing.”

“Oh, but why are you crying?”

“Sometimes when grown ups are very happy they cry.”

“Momma, sometimes grown ups are silly.”

  True.

Christmas miracle #2: My Baby’s Daddy and I took our son to see Santa . . . together.

That’s right. Together. Was it awkward? Only slightly. We actually got along and may, I mean may have even shared a laugh or two. I left patting myself on the back for being such a mature human being, and thinking we may have a snowball’s chance in hell at getting along. 

#3 My four-year olds wavering belief in Santa was completely restored. 

#4 Fiance became one of those slightly creepy, yet magical Elf on the Shelf parents.

#5 No one got food poisoning from the Chinese food that by all practical purposes should have landed us in the hospital.

#6 I spent an entire holiday season with out getting down in the mouth about my dysfunctional family and was not once haunted by the ghost of Christmas past.

#7  XXX’s The Most Interesting Man in the world holiday ad campaign. One word: Brilliant!

#8 I hand crafted my Christmas gifts to Fiance and they didn’t suck!!

#9 I somehow managed to never set foot into a post office or mall.

#10 On Christmas Eve my son climbs out of the bath tub and as I wrap him up in a towel he looks at me with his enormous chocolate eyes and says, “Momma, sometimes I think I have so much love in my heart that it will grow and grow, like the Grinch’s heart. Only my heart will keep growing and it will just explode love all over you.”

I can feel myself raise my eyebrows. What is he up to? Does he want something? Another cookie, more stories, to open a Christmas gift? I brush the thought away like a snowflake from my shoulder and I pull him to me tightly.

“Sometimes I think mine will too.” I tell him as one of my dumb happy tears rolls down my cheek and on to his back.    

I guess miracles are not up to anything after all.

Annnnd, because if you know me you know that I heart George Michael. It would not be Christmas with out this:

Peace out Christmas.

Awkwardly Honest

When little kids are not making up wild stories or telling bald face lies, like the time in third grade I told everybody there was a dolphin living in my pool, one of the best things about them is that they are refreshingly honest. Unlike myself, who is always wearing different “hats” and often feeling like I am presenting to people, my son is completely comfortable in his own hat at all times.  One day I was risking our lives in rush hour traffic when I lost my temper in front of Leo. “What? Where do you want me to go you dumb ASSHOLE??” I holler at the guy who is incessantly honking at me as we sit in gridlock on the highway. Leo cocks his head and says, “Momma, I don’t like the way your face looks when you are mad.” Then he thoughtfully suggests, “Maybe  that guy just needs a nap? Maybe he had a bad day?”

Regretting that my mom “hat” slipped and a bit of ugly truth slid out, I think:  God, he is completely right. Schooled by a four-year old.

Sometimes I think of my son as a little Buddha, spreading truth and wisdom. And then . . . he tries to eat one of his boogers and the whole image is blown.  Sometimes his honesty and openness is more embarrassing  than inspiring. Case in point:  I call The Ex to speak with Leo who is visiting him for the weekend.  The Ex answers using the hands free function in his car and my voice is broadcast over the speakers.  I hate being on speaker phone when The Ex is around, I can just feel him rolling his eyes at everything I say, however, he insists that cell phone radiation will warp our sons brain so I deal with it.

“Hey baby, what are you doing?” I croon to Leo.

“Oh, hi Momma! We just had Mexican food!”

“Yum Mexican!”

“Momma, my dad is on a date right now.”

“Oh!” I say, a little confused, because his dad just answered the phone.

“Yeah he is on a date with  _________n.  She’s riding in our car right now.”

“Oh! Mexican.” I have to say something!

“She is really nice to me Momma, but I think it’s because she likes my Daddy.”

“Did you have cheese dip?”   Why can’t I stop talking about Mexican food?

“Yes. But Momma, I wanna tell you something! You are more pretty than ___________!”

“Oh! Okay, well I am gonna go to the grocery store now. I’ll buy some taco shells!” What is wrong with me?

I hang up the phone, absolutely mortified. Why in the world would The Ex choose to answer my call, on speaker phone no less, if he had a date in the car?

Maybe this is The Ex’s version of being refreshingly honest and breaking ’em in quick? “Hey, I have a four-year old boy! He can’t sit still in a restaurant! He says all kinds of crazy stuff! My Baby’s Momma is always gonna be around!  She is awful in awkward situations! Can you deal? ”  And I hope she can, because dating someone with children is a huge undertaking, just ask The Fiance.

I can only hope that what ever woman gets the extreme joy of having my son in her life recognizes how wonderful he his. And . . . since we are all being so refreshingly honest, I must admit, I am wearing my shallow and petty “hat” and I am happy my son says I am prettier!

 

Because this guy is always funny: 

Dear Ms. Love n Happiness: The Case of the Pessimistic Pops

Dear Ms. Love n Happiness,

I hear that you are sort of an expert on “really ridiculously dysfunctional families” and “trying your damnedest to live a good life”. I usually rely on excessive introspection when it comes to my troubles but I could sure use some help unraveling this exasperating character that some might call my father but that I prefer to call “Eeyore”.  Allow me to make a long and unpleasant story short and unpleasant. After years of being mean, stingy, unloving, and well, an asshole my father recently had some sort of soul spasm and seems to have started having normal human feelings. While that itself is moderately irritating, I can forgive and forget for the most part. The problem lies in that he insists on acting victimized by life and demanding constant pity. No matter how many times his kids call or visit him it is never enough and he makes that known every chance he gets. While I want to tell him that he is lucky that any of his kids can stand the sound of his morose voice and the sight of his disgraceful face I find myself just avoiding his calls which leads to unpleasant indignation at the inevitable email I soon receive. (Yes, Eeyore learned how to use a computer ONLY because he craved one more avenue for spreading his misery). All I want is to live a good life and be a good person. As Pooh would say, I “think think think” but all I know is that if I avoid him it only adds to the load that my sister has to endure, if I continue a relationship with him I will have to sacrifice my precious few moments of peace, and if I kill him I will go to jail. Oh, bother. I apologize for the sullen tone of this question and I promise that next time I will lighten the mood by hashing out some of the homophobic and racist comments I had to endure at Thanksgiving dinner.

Much love and kisses,

Your biggest fan 🙂

Dear Biggest Fan,

Oh bother. I sure can relate.

I wish these “characters” in our lives would just stick to the script. I mean, your inner director is  probably saying “Look, Pops, you are the asshole father. That is your role. I have learned after many years and a shitload of tears to deal with your two speeds: angry or absent. And now you go and try to add a third?  Despondent and downtrodden? CUT! This is bullshit.”

And I am right there with you. This is bullshit and it needs to stop. The only thing, and I mean the only thing that your father has a right to complain about to you is how crummy he feels that he attempted to screw up large portions of your life.

Now, as I see it there are two possible explanations for his behavior. Note the use of the word explanation not excuse.

Explanation One:  You said that your father is  having some sort of “soul spasm,’ my guess is that this  convulsing is due to the huge gaping hole inside his soul.  Your father is trying to get you and your family to fill up the hole for him. He realizes that he can no longer use angry threats to get what he wants. That does not work with a grown-ass strong woman such as yourself, so he figured how to get you where you are weakest and he is tugging at the strings of your big ‘ol heart.  But don’t you see that what he is doing is manipulation? Sometimes manipulation comes to us wearing a pretty smile, bearing gifts or in this case brushing tears off his weather worn cheeks.

Even though your father was a total shmuck, it must feel good to know that he needs you and it is probably tempting to start trying to appease him by pouring what ever we can spare into that cavernous pit in his heart.  But the truth is even if you gave everything you had, it wouldn’t work. No one else can fill up that hole for your father, he has to do the dirty work himself.

Explanation Two:  He does not even know what he is doing, to be honest your father may not even be capable of masterminding true manipulation. Chances are Pops did not have much training on how any relationship works, let alone on how to be a father.  He feels bad about the past and his aching soul hole demands to be filled up so he grasps at straws and tries what ever might work,  and apparently the Eeyore routine works. Like a Pavlovian dog he wines and cries until you give him the little scrap of food he needed to momentarily fill himself up. This will go on and on until you run out of scraps to give, because as we discussed above, these soul holes can not be filled by others.

Regardless of the motives behind his behavior, I think we can both agree that this shit needs to stop.  You have been a big enough person to forgive this man for the pain he has caused you and let him back into your life, then the very least he can do is play life by your rules!

So here is what you do, damn it: the next woe-is-me communication you get from Pops you very simply tell him, “Dad, I’m happy to hear from you but I really have to insist that we focus our conversation on positive things.” You must use your words! Whatever words those are, use them. Do not infer this, wish this, tell your friends and family about it, or  ignore him and psychically channel the words to him. You must speak up and use your voice. Why? Because first of all it feels damn good, like you are wearing the best big girl pants ever!  And because it’s true that people will treat you the way that you demand to be treated, but first you have to give them a chance by telling them how to treat you.

When it happens again you say: “Dad, I really can’t talk to you when you are being like this.” And then, DON’T. Remember Pavlov? That lil doggie has gotta learn you mean business. And as far as you sister goes, I suggest she do the same damn thing. Gang up on his ass.

And really, what’s the worst he is gonna do? Get angry? Go away? You have seen and survived both just fine. And the best? He has a moment of blinding clarity and he never darkens your door with his morose nature again and instead become the father you always wanted. Or . . . maybe something in the middle.

Trust yourself. Use your big ‘ol heart and smarts to stand up for yourself and the life that you are creating. It’s not the same old same old. It’s new and nifty and pretty damn brilliant.

♥ & ☺,

C

p.s.

Thank you so much for all your questions. Keep ’em coming. “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” rolls around every Tuesday. I am really digging this and I hope you do too!

“Dear Ms. Love n Happness,” Like Dear Abby off her meds.

Dear Readers (all two of you),  

You lucky dog! You have experienced me bending your ear about my wack-a-do problems. Now it’s your turn.

 I thought it would be fun to experiment with a “Dear Ms. Love n Happiness” feature on my blog. Like this one: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/09/chicken-soup-for-the-soul-or-dear-ms-love-n-happiness/ and I could really, really use your help.

 Could you PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY please take a moment out of your crazy-ass life to do two things:

 1) Jot down a question about life and fire it off to me. @ ms.lovenhappiness@gmail.com

Don’t worry! You and anyone you speak about will remain completely incognito, unless of course you are glutton for glory.

Fear not! If you don’t have the time to craft a cutesy question, it could be a simple prompt. Think Mike Myers and Coffee Talk:  “I’ve been dating this guy for a few months and the first time I spent the night at his house he came to bed in pajamas and a breath right strip. WTF? This was an absolute deal breaker and now I won’t return his calls.  Am I shallow? ” I can take it from there. Of course if you fill inspired WRITE ON!

My areas of (supposed) expertise: Single parenting, parenting, dating, blending families, relationships, crazy ex’s, really, really ridiculously dysfunctional families, antics, rants, fun and trying your damnedest to live a good life. And!  Powered by the world-wide web and a library card, I will even do research if I don’t have the answer. I. Am. Not. Scared.

And, while I may be a snarky puss the majority of the time, I am capable of being rather kind: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/10/25/the-amish-instinct/ and kinda deep. Kinda. See: http://mslovenhappiness.com/2011/11/04/an-open-letter-to-my-father-the-meth-addict/

 2) Recruit a friend to do the same! Let’s face it, I am usually always stuck at a desk or chasing a toddler so getting my writing out beyond my circle has been tough. Please, let your friends, colleges and family members critic my perspective and crappy grammar! The more the merrier.

 Let’s Talk!

You are achingly beautiful and wise.

♥ & ☺,
C.
ps
This is like butta!

An Open Letter to my Father, the Meth Addict:

I’d like to take a moment to thank you for the two gifts you gave me. One: roughly fifty percent of my DNA. Two: the image that is seared in my mind, the vision I see every time I close my eyes, of you, my father, being tased by the police. You are the perfect picture of white trash mania, handcuffed, feet bound and flailing around the parking lot of a third-rate convenience store in suburban hell.  “I’m being burned alive!” you scream, as your cracked out saucer eyes roll back in your head like some kind of epileptic monster. For a moment your eyes focus and you look at the camera that is filming your thirty minutes of derelict fame, and I can see where the drug went in and spooned out heaping portions of your soul. I can see that you are a hollow shell of the man you used to be. You thrash around more, screaming obscenities and shout “Oh God, someone help me!” Help you? Didn’t we all try? And who helps us, the charred victims you left behind on your mission to burn yourself out?

I tried to help myself by staying as far away from you as possible. For the last ten or so years you’ve been either absent or an addict, and I’ve grown accustomed to cutting you out of my life. The first time hurt, a lot. While I was busy studying my face off in college, you were busy perfecting your Methamphetamine addiction. While I was working to get a job and navigate the adult world, you were busy alienating your wife and children, driving your once successful business into the ground and picking your sores because you believed bugs were crawling under your skin. But I didn’t understand what was going on. It didn’t hurt that you are a fantastic liar and that being your daughter; I am predisposed to buying into your bullshit.  I didn’t even know what meth was, until the day I heard it speak.

One Saturday morning you were expected at my house and you never showed up. Nor did you bother to answer any of my phone calls. Sunday afternoon, after still hearing nothing from you, I began to worry. I placed a call to every hospital between your house and mine. Monday afternoon I placed a final phone call with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

You answered.

But it wasn’t you. Or at least, I thought it was not you. I thought I’d misdialed and called hell, the ranting and raw voice on the other end sounded more like a demon then my dad. You did not know where you were, or who you were. From all I could gather, you were in the woods somewhere hiding from The Faceless Men who had been following you for either days or years, you were not sure which because, as you informed me, time was not what we thought it was. After you divulged all that information to me you panicked:

 “Wait?! Are you one of them? One of The Faceless?? Did The Faceless send you? They put the bugs under my skin and now they send you to trick me. They want to lock me up; they hate me because I know the truth. I know how to fly!! Who the hell are you, you slut bitch??”

“It’s me, Dad” I whimpered, “It’s your daughter.”

“HA! Daughter. I have no daughter you Faceless bitch, I come from where they fly and I have no daughter.”

And you hung up. And I did not speak to you again for seven years. During those years you made your rounds of meth dens and prison cells and occasionally you would leave me a paranoid message from a blocked number. The first few I listened to, afterward I cried uncontrollably for hours. Eventually I learned to hit “erase” the moment I heard your demon voice coming through the receiver.

My son was about a year old when you called me and this time when you spoke where I used to hear the drugs I heard pain and regret in your voice. Eventually, you convinced me to let you back in to my life. I decided to let you in my house for a few hours. You stepped off a bus carrying a backpack and I almost threw up. Your eyes were cloudy and your hands were drawn up and shaky.  You had been chewed up and spit out.  When I could bring myself to look at you, I could detect that something was missing and that it may very well never come back.

You handed my son a stuffed zebra. I made you a plate of pasta. I took you to the playground where you watched as I pushed your grandson on a swing. Afterward we sat on my patio while you chain smoked and I listened to you talk. It was your voice again, but somewhere in the distance I could still pick out the tone of the demon.

“I don’t know how to ask this,” you said, “but, do you ever think about what we are? I mean do you ever wonder what we are supposed to be doing here?”

I stared straight ahead at the candle in front of me.

“Of course I do Dad. I have wondered every day for as long as I can remember.”

“I want to believe that we are here for something. That there is something here,” you grab where your heart should be.

Your face is distorted by candle light and the shadows of the clouds passing above.

“I do believe that. I have believed that for as long as I can remember.”

I put you back on a bus because I did not trust you to sleep even one night in my house. I put a smile on my face as synthetic and engineered as your bathtub poison and I said good-bye to you. Afterward, I cried uncontrollably for hours. I knew you were not done with the drug and I vowed to cut you out of my life again. This time the decision was not as hard. I looked at my son’s big brown eyes, the same ones I inherited from you, and I knew I’d never let him see the demon that resides in your eyes now.

The years that followed brought more of the same for you, tweaking and doing time. Occasionally I’d receive a call from a number I didn’t know and my heart would race. One day, I figured, someone was going to call and tell me you were gone for good this time. I was standing in my kitchen cooking dinner when you called again.

“What are you doing?” you asked.

“Making meatloaf,” I said.

“Oh, well, I just got out of prison.”

“Oh, well, it’s nice to know you are alive. I tell you what; if you manage to stay sober for six months you can give me a call. Otherwise, stay away.  I can’t keep losing you over and over again.”

And perhaps I should have left it there.

But I didn’t. I let you back in. But not just back into my home, back into my heart.

I looked on as you spread mulch and raked leaves with my son and fiancé. I watched you slice a cucumber in my kitchen and my heart soared.

You left my house, hugged me and said, “I love you.”  I believed you.

And then like a recurring nightmare, it started again. You didn’t show up when you said you would. Weeks passed and phone calls went unanswered. Finally I mustered up the courage to confirm what I already knew.

I open my laptop and, as I have done countless times through the years, I type your name into the search engine, followed by the word: arrested.

All the breathe in my body was beat out of me. The headline reads: “Man tased after fleeing police, kicking out cop car window. Deputy says man’s behavior consistent with meth use.”  There is a laundry list of charges including: armed robbery, attempted kidnapping, fleeing and eluding, and felony obstruction. I cannot fathom what I am reading, but as fate would have it there is a link to a video, where I can watch with my own eyes as you supply some of the best footage imaginable for a scared straight film or a public service announcement.

I’d like to tell you what you have done. I’d like to explain how you have hurt so many. I’d like for you to understand the love that you shit on the last time you went out to score. I’d like to say to you that I am ashamed to have your blood in my veins.  I’d like to convey the nausea that wells up when I think of where you are now.

 Most of all,  I’d like to tell you that all my sympathy for you dried up like one of your nasty meth scabs the moment I saw you restrained like an animal and shouting to the camera, “Show my kids this video, please, show my kids this video.” I’d like to make you see all of this and more, but it’s pointless because you are gone. I cut you out again, and this time with as little hesitation as someone cuts out a cancerous growth.

So thanks again for your contribution to my life. I’ll never know why I always valued mine immensely more than you valued you own.  Watching you destroy as much life and love as possible taught me how to grow lots of both for myself. Your disregard for your spirit and your purpose here gave me an even greater reverence for my own. I suppose that inadvertently you taught me a lot.

The last text I received from you reads, “I just want you to know, I’ll never be high again. I’ll always be there for you. Sleep tight, I love you.”

And the last words you will hear from me are: “Fucking. Liar.”

Sincerely,

The Amish Instinct

“You’re just going to let me leave the hospital with this baby?” I asked cocking my head towards the bundle in my arms.

“Don’t worry Mom, you’ll do fine!” Cassie, a god send in scrubs, tells me.

“Do they teach you labor and delivery nurses to call your patients Mom? Is that some sort of Jedi mind trick you are using on me to increase my confidence?

“I have rolled some women outta here with babies in tow whose maternal instincts were questionable at best. Trust me, you got this. You got the instincts.”

“Yeah, well don’t forget the cat-like reflexes.”

“Rarrr.” I whisper into my babies tiny ear.

“Rarrr!” Cassie claws the air by my ear and parks my wheelchair on the curb. We wait in silence for my ride home.

But I didn’t completely trust Cassie’s opinion, or my maternal instincts. I always questioned my choices and at times I questioned my very sanity; especially in the very early infant days. Sleep deprived from late nights feeding and changing I would stare down at my son until he started to resemble more of a woodland creature, a Sprite or a Nome perhaps, then a human infant.  Or, I would be startled from a very shallow sleep, certain I had heard his tiny cry, and when I crept into his room he was sleeping soundly, purring like a kitten. I confessed to my very best friend, “I know this sounds weird, but I actually don’t mind the smell of Leo’s dirty diapers. In fact, they kind of smell good to me.” Ok, even I knew that sounded bat shit crazy.

I’d never doubted myself more than the first time I had to care for my sick baby. I was terrified and felt utterly incapable. “Where are my instincts now?” I whispered as I frantically googled symptoms and entered every Ask-A-Nurse hotline I could find into my speed dial.

Eventually I began to realize that every illness is not an emergency and that, to some extent, I know what to do when Leo gets sick. When he comes down with a little stomach bug, I calmly take his temperature and I only have to recheck it once or twice, you know, to account for possible thermometer malfunction. I go to the store and pick up all the staples, ginger ale, and bread to make toast, a new picture book and some Lysol wipes. I put the little one to bed and I even refrain from making a doctor’s appointment until I see how he is feeling the next day. I am satisfied, I am confident, I am using my instincts. Until I open up the ol laptop and start a search on WebMD. Now I am paranoid all over again.

Now that I am in four years deep, I no longer fear a serious malfunction of my instincts on a daily basis. I don’t worry that I will serve him rancid meet, or scald him in the bathtub or profoundly screw up his psyche every time I tell him “No.” But, I still don’t completely trust my gut level instincts as a mother; I always double-check my first reaction.

Recently my primal Mama instincts kicked me in the gut so hard that I didn’t pause to doubt, like a lioness, I just ran.

Fiancé and I were on our way to Chicago for a much-needed vacation. We exited the train and were making our way towards the mammoth escalator that leads up to the terminals when I spotted an Amish family walking carefully through the crowd. Time almost seemed to slow and the crowds parted to let them  make their way toward the train. The train doors opened and from under the wide rim of their black and grey hats I could see the looks of fright and wonder on their usually stoic faces as they boarded.

It happened so fast. The train doors started to close. “Please stand back, the doors are now closing.  Please stand back, the doors are now closing. These doors will not reopen,” said the voice of the train.  A little Amish boy, no more than six years old, had been left on the train platform. From the inside of the train his mother is desperately pounding on the doors and his father is looking around horrified as if he has seen the devil himself. The boy’s face crumples and he bursts into tears as his entire black and gray clad family is whisked away to some unknown world by a talking devil train.

“Babe!” I tapped Fiancé on the shoulder, causing him to look in the direction I was already running. I made a bee line for that little boy. Moments before I was about to scoop that rustic baby into my arms and get him some help; an older version of myself swooped in and gathered the boy into her arms.

“It’s ok, sweetheart. I’ll stay right with you until we get you back with your family.” She enveloped him in her bohemian scented, shawl wrapped, bangle decorated arms. This woman had twenty-five years on me but she still managed to beat me to the boy, and from a greater distance. Now she was whipping out a Kleenex from her gypsy sack.  A pro. A maternal powerhouse.

We sized each other up and had a brief conversation just by looking at each other.

“You got this?” My eyes asked.

“I got this.” Her eyes replied.

“Thanks.” Mine said.

“Thank you.” Hers said with a smile. I patted the boy’s head and told him with my hand, “You’ll be fine. She knows just what to do.”

I turned and walked back towards Fiancé who was waiting just outside the protective circle that passing women had made around us. We made our way to our gate and boarded our flight.

The plane took off and my heart soared. I did it! It took a dramatic Amish airport scene, like something out of a made for TV movie, but I did it. Momma instinct kicked in and I ran, no fled, to that little boy. I never stopped once to think about missing the flight, or what I would do with him once I got to him, or if he would even want my help. I just ran and God help anyone who got in my way. For once, I was on the inner circle of the mothers. I had trusted my mother’s instincts and it felt good.

“Rarrr!” I whispered, clawing the air all the way to Chicago.

An Open Love Letter . . . To Target.

Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

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My Darling Target, how I love thee.  It is true that while in your presence I’ve been known to black out. When I awake I have purchased fuzzy Christmas socks in August,  a dozen bottles of mini nail polish, jeggings and a Hello Kitty cookie jar, and somehow these items came to a total over a hundred dollars. That’s ok, because, your little red bull’s eye came to represent a beacon of hope to me. Nine months pregnant, feeling like too much of a whale to be in public and slowly going crazy back at the nest, you were where I would turn.

Of course, you are one of a kind to me, but with your many locations I could pick a store off my beaten path and shop in anonymity. At that point, acquaintances were dangerous. They would want to discuss the fact that I was going to pop any day, or they might innocently ask me how things were with my “boyfriend,” or they may even be bold enough to ask me what my “plans were for after the baby was born.” In my hormonal and slightly paranoid state, I would of course interpret this to be a comment on my marital state, or lack thereof. To be honest, Target, I was deeply ashamed to be a . . . (gasp). . .

Unwed Mother.

I really have no idea where this strange shame came from. I am about as open-minded as they come.  I was a bohemian at heart before I started grade school. I think one of my imaginary friends was a homosexual. My friend group looks like a United Colors of Benetton ad, but for some reason, when I was pregnant, I found myself hiding my ring finger. So I would slip away, as much as a woman carrying forty extra pounds and the weight of the world on her shoulders is capable of slipping, to the place I felt the most free from judgment. And in a giant twist of irony, this was a suburban Target.  I would wonder your aisles, soaking in solitude and sipping on a sinful iced late.  Oh!  My dear sweet Target– you  created my personal version of heaven and put a Starbucks right inside your door. I can shop your wares with a caffeine buzz!

Within your sanctity, I would joyfully purchase a jewel toned Mossimo Empire waist top in a size XL reasoning that $13.50 for yet another top to fit over my belly was a small price to pay for the temporary increase in self-esteem.  I could shop, with little to no judgment from the foodie/health nut types who frequent my neighborhood grocery store, for the Market Pantry brand of spaghetti sauce that I adored and ate almost exclusively for the last weeks of my pregnancy.

We had a little routine, you and I, for our meetings. Once my coffee was secured, with eyes averted, I would discreetly walk past your “Club Wed” section. I didn’t really care to be reminded of the wedding I was not planning. I would then make my way to the baby section and spend hours gawking at baby bumpers, onsies and burping cloths. I would awe at the tiny shoes you carry, knowing that very soon I would be responsible for feet that would fit into these miniature shoes. Then I would well up with tears looking at the “big boy” section, wondering at the fact that my yet to be born child would one day wear a shoe size bigger then my own.

If I was not numbed and/ or emotionally exhausted enough from all this, I would wonder over to home section and stare at random items like, weed wackers or skillet sets. These domestic items objectified my unhappiness and shed harsh light on the uncertainty of my situation.  As hard as I try, I couldn’t make myself buy a weed wacker for a home in which I didn’t feel comfortable. I reasoned that I didn’t need a whole set of skillets; I could get by with one if it was just the baby and myself. Here in front of the storage solutions and slip covers, I was safe to quietly process things I didn’t allow myself to think about anywhere else. Like, exactly what were “my plans for after the baby was born”?

And if all this retail therapy got to be too much, I could always head to your dressing rooms. There I would find a bench to sit on and the privacy to shed a few tears before I put my brave face back on, complete with my new Sonia Kashuk kiwi lip gloss, and drive home to face my boyfriend. He never noticed, Target, how much time I spent with you, or the money that went into our relationship. Truthfully, he never noticed much. Had he asked me, I would have had to confess: I was having an emotional affair with you. You offered me the solace of routine, safety and small creature comforts, usually for under $29.99. Most importantly you offered me little glimpses of the truth I could barely stand to look at by myself.  At that point, no offence Target, I would have taken those things anywhere I could get ‘em.

Now, we’ve all moved on. I still visit your red sanctuary from time to time to pick up an inexpensive pair of shoes for my little boy, or stock up on some shampoo. But, times have changed darling. When I peruse your home goods, and neglect to buy cozy blankets or welcome mats, it is only I am searching for the very best for my family and my home.  When I cruise by Club Wed, or the baby section, I only see possibilities. Were I to shed a tear within your walls, it would undoubtedly be due to seasonal allergies or one of the sappy sweet greeting cards you carry.

We’ve been through a lot, Target.  I’ll never forget what you have done for me and I will secretly miss the frequency of my caffeinated shopping dates with you.

Ever Yours,

C.

p.s.

THIS IS AMAZE: