My Own Personal B & B

Ron and I spent a few days last week at this great little Bed and Breakfast in Durham, NC. Cozy room. Turndown service with cognac and chocolate. (I don’t drink, but I liked the touch!) Wonderful breakfast in a bright sunny room with white table linens and home made scones and a equally sunny drawing room where I sat with my laptop to complete a study assignment.Image

(About that, I’m back in school, but that’s another post.) I wanted to move in. I suggested to Ron that we just stay there forever but he thought that would be problematic. So — I’ve decided to turn my home into our own personal B&B. Or at least as close as possible. I want beauty and sun and coziness and comfort…and home made scones!

This is a bit of a challenge but I’m up for it. We rent a cute little condo near Myrtle Beach. We moved in in August of last year after some time of upheaval. Our big house, our DREAM house on the Inter-coastal waterway, was caught up in the foreclosure turmoil. It was everything I’d ever wanted: dark walnut floors, sun streaming into almost every room and views of the waterway. A library. Two fireplaces. And more. I thought when we moved in that the only way I would leave was when they carried my old, dead body out the door. But we don’t always know what’s ahead. We made several moves after that. Together and apart. My husband worked 3 hours away so there was a little, dark apartment there. There was a rental house in Beaufort for a while. Then I moved from place to place. Finally to an apartment with a third floor walk up. Sara shared a place in Charleston while finishing school. Simeon moved back and forth as circumstances dictated. (Those circumstances, once again, might or might not be in another post.) 

But finally, this past August, all 4 of us moved from the places we were scattered to, to share a roof in this little condo in a largely retirement neighborhood just off Litchfield Beach. It was the first time in 5 years that we were all under the same roof again. We crammed our stuff into the tiny closets (it’s an old development) and under the stairs and lined stuff up along the walls. It didn’t feel like home. But the four of us were together again for a while. And we came to know each other in different and deeper ways — 4 adults making something new together. Some things were different. But we had to believe — I mean, HAD to believe — that things worked out like this for a reason. That there was, is, a plan. And in the 8 months since the move I’ve begun to see some of that plan unfold. I’ve seen my children’s faith grow. I’ve seen our son come into himself. I’ve seen my daughter’s strength and confidence emerging. I’ve seen our marriage grow and deepen. Good stuff.

My daughter found a job in a nearby city 2 months ago and next weekend she moves her stuff out and into her own place. My son is traveling a bit, but is a pleasure to be around when he’s here. And Ron and I, well, we’re getting ready to live in our own B&B! Which is what this post was supposed to be about anyway! I have pics and stuff of my projects. Oh well. I’ll share them next time. 

Well, here’s a few, anyhow…ImageImageImage

 

Where I Am Now

Image

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I last wrote a post. So much has happened. My baby girl graduated. We moved from 3 apartments in one month. Yes. It was just about as horrific as it sounds! I’ve left Beaufort, the town in which I became a wife, mother, performer, storyteller and artist. And we’re set on a different path. I’m not exactly sure what it will look like and I didn’t know what to say about it, so I didn’t say anything.  Lately, though, I’ve been feeling the need to share. To take others with me on the journey of our life as it is unfolding. So… I’m back at Gullahmama! I am not sure what form the posts will take, but I think I like the discovering and that edge of discomfort. I find that that edge pushes me to growth.

So — what have I been up to? This morning I took my new (to me) bike out on a trail ride. Bug spray. Helmet. ipod. Water Bottle. Tree….! Okay, too fast on that curve and, next, the sensation of flying and then of landing. Nobody around. Good. Broke the strap of my shoulder bag. But that’s okay. It was long enough to knot and wear around my neck. Scrapes and bruises but no breaks or sprains. And off I go again. I feel like a little kid who wears her bruises like badges of honor! The lesson learned: this is not a racing bike. Image

It is a go-slow bike that does not want to take curves quickly. Got that.

My Daughter

Image

My daughter cried for three days when she heard about the Trayvon incident. She called her brother and told him to be careful. She called me and asked why scary things happen. She curled up on her bed. Then she decided that sad was not enough. So she planned a rally at her college and talked about the importance of focus and balance. And she talked about all the young boys who die too young and encouraged her classmates and community members to be a positive force in the world. Anger doesn’t heal. Focus, compassion, education and passion will. I am so proud of her.

I fell in love with her at birth and, other than a few tricky years in High School when I considered trading her for a standard poodle, she has been a joy ever since.  Today I start making the dress she will wear for her graduation from college in 4 weeks.  When Ron and I were young parents lugging diaper bags and strollers and fighting just to think clearly after months and months of sleep deprivation, older parents would tell us how quickly it would all pass. We nodded and made respectful sounds, but we didn’t believe them.  There were nights that seemed to last forever. Potty training was a universe of its own. And middle school…there seemed to be no end in sight. But here I am, sitting next to a pile of white fabric and it is as though it all blew by in a wind.

Those older parents were right. And now I’m one of them, waving at other people’s babies and comforting tired looking parents with the words, “It will pass so quickly.” They nod and smile. They don’t believe me. Yet.

Tina Fey’s Prayer for Her Daughter

I just saw this and had to share it! It’s from her new book, “Bossypants.”

Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.

Source: Bossypants

 

Mommy Mugged

I was Mommy Mugged over the holidays. I didn’t really realize it until later when I was nursing the figurative lump on my head. My family and I traveled over the holidays and we spent a couple of nights with a relative. Early one morning as I was up browsing the internet on my laptop, one of my relatives decided to sit beside me and let me know of my parenting failures. “You need to establish some boundaries,” she offered. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about as we had spent no more than a few hours in her presence in the past 10 years. “Your son woke you up last night. You obviously haven’t established boundaries.”

Well, yes, he did wake me up. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I responded, “was he too loud? Did it wake you, too?”

“Oh, no, it didn’t bother me,” she replied. “I’m just concerned about you and your lack of boundaries.”

I didn’t know what to say. But I know what I felt. Shame. Oh no. I was an awful mother. If I’d been a good mother my son wouldn’t have knocked on my door so late at night. If I’d been a good mother, his waking me wouldn’t have disturbed any one else.  If I’d been a good mother my strong boundaries would have been evident. If I was a good mother I wouldn’t have had to be called on my failure. I mumbled something about his sleep habits and how I went right back to sleep, and further apologies for his disturbance. Then I went upstairs. My son was still sleeping and I had to quell the urge to go in, shake him awake, and take him to task for embarrasing me. How dare he make me look bad!  And that’s when I realized I’d been mugged.

It’s happened before, particularly when the children were little. Someone who considers themselves an authority, or a judge or jury, offers seemingly well-intended advice or observations. You know the kind: “If you don’t make her eat all the food on her plate she’ll grow up to be wasteful.” Or, “I would NEVER let MY child (fill in the blank)… Or, “It’s a shame you haven’t managed to potty-train him by now. MY son was out of diapers by two.”  Or how about this one, “You better spank that child right now or you’ll regret it later…”  At one time or another I’ve succumbed to all of the above muggings. It led me to worry about how my children’s potty training reflected on my failure as a parent. It caused me to doubt myself. And occasionally it resulted in my spanking a child I had no inclination to spank for an action I didn’t believe merited punishment. In effect, I passed the mugging on. I’m grateful that both my husband and I began to recognize these attempted muggings pretty early on. We learned to trust our own instincts with our children and to avoid muggers whenever possible.

I figured that I was Mugging safe at this point in my life. What a surprise to find that all these years later, with my children now aged 18 and 22, I still didn’t see it coming and let a Mugger slip up behind me and whack me in the head. I’m just glad I realized what had happened before I mugged my son in response.

It Takes A Village

Had my heart broken again this week. A young mother ‘lost it’ and hurt her child, finally dropping the 3-year-old girl off a 3rd floor balcony in a nearby apartment complex. The child didn’t die but was severely wounded by both the fall and what preceded the fall. She is currently in the Medical University Hospital in acute care and the mother is in jail. Merry Christmas.  There have been all kinds of reactions to this news, as there invariably are. But my first thought is, if there had been someone to help, someone to call when the mother’s tension was escalating, maybe this could have been prevented.

I know from first hand experience that children can be overwhelming. There has been more than one occasion in my life as a parent, where I was overwhelmed and lost control. Luckily for me, I had a great support system: a husband/partner, friends and relatives I could call. My stepmother laughs over the many times she helped me hold it together long distance. And my own daughter tells me I frequently threatened to flush one or both of my children down the toilet or ship them in a box to their grandparents.  Then I’d call my dad or stepmother and tell them to be on the lookout for a big box with air holes! But I didn’t do any of those things. Not because I’m such a wonderful person all by myself, but because there was a system to support me.

There needs to be a system. A few years ago another young mother in my community was giving her 1 and 3 year old a bath when the bus arrived depositing her 4 year old from preschool. She left the little ones in the tub to go out front and meet the daughter, but when she returned the 1-year-old had drowned. She was arrested. The community lambasted her. The police reported that her house was dirty, other folk said she didn’t deserve to be a parent. I don’t know this woman personally. But I can only imagine how challenging it was to have 3 children under 5. There were times my own house might have been shut down by DHEC for the piles of laundry and the other things I didn’t get to while just keeping up with two children. And I had help. I thought, “If only there had been someone she could have called to meet the baby at the bus stop.”

So this is the challenge: How can we support each other? How can we be there when a parent needs a minute to breathe, regroup, or meet the bus? There must be a way. I am committed to finding a way to help in my own community. There are so many people who retire to this community for the climate and the beauty. There must be a way that those of us who care can be available for those of us who need it. Not just at Christmas but all year long.

Our Children are Not Us

Sara and Sim

So, here’s one of my new life lessons: Our children are not us. Despite the fact that we walked the floor when they had colic, woke up at 3 am to feed them, potty trained them, held their little hands as they learned to walk, kissed their boo-boos and put Disney band-aids on them, dressed them in clean little outfits,  helped with homework, car pooled them from one place to another, disciplined and comforted, paid for medical bills, cleaned up vomit, stayed up all night with fevers and science projects, grew calluses on our rears from years watching soccer/basketball/softball games/parade presentations/dance recitals/school plays, slogged through puberty and tantrums… Not to mention worrying when they went out at night and not being able to sleep until they came in. Or spending so much time at the school volunteering or advocating or apologizing or just plain pushing that some folk thought we were employees and we should have been receiving a paycheck from the school district — ultimately our children are their own beings who will make their own choices and live their own lives.

Considering the investment, that kind of sucks.

But it’s kind of good too. When a grandparent asks me with an appalled look on her face, “How could (fill in the blank) do (fill in the blank)?” I can say, “I don’t know. Their choice.” And on the other hand, when one of my children does something really responsible I can say, “Wow! I’m so proud of how you handled that!” Okay — and occasionally I’ll take credit for having raised them well. I think I deserve that.

My son is home for the holidays and his sister will be here soon. Neither of them are fully financially independent. So despite their protestations of being “grown” there is the tendency for their father and me to believe that we still call the shots. That’s just an illusion, though. We are really on the sidelines of their lives at this point. We can help financially, and we are willing to do so, to help them achieve their goals.   We can offer advice. We can make suggestions. We can draw boundaries. It’s smart to do so. But they will become who they will become. And even though that’s a little hard for me to get my head around, that was the point of raising them, after all.

What’s Next?

It’s been a month since my nest emptied. I was expecting to feel some sadness and some elation.  I was surprised. For the first 2 weeks I felt A LOT of sadness and no elation whatsoever. It’s not that I wasn’t happy that my son was moving on. I was. And I was tremendously relieved he’d pulled it off, considering how challenging the last couple of years have been for him. (Much of that has NOT been in this blog!) It’s just that I have been Mommy for so long that I felt set adrift. A little lost. What was next? In spite of the fact that I immediately moved my sewing table and machine into his room, had the carpet shampooed and covered the sofa with a white slip cover (okay — I wasn’t HEARTBROKEN), it still took at least 10 days before I stopped checking his bed in the morning, expecting to see him sprawled across the mattress.

I wonder if I’ve taught my children everything I should have. What’s the best way to parent them now? I hope they’ve got what it takes to navigate this constantly changing world. I hope I didn’t leave them unprepared.

Many years ago I started to write a book about parenting, but I felt I hadn’t been doing it well enough or long enough to really know what I was talking about, despite how it looked on TV! I think it’s time to write it now. Because maybe there are still some things I can share with my children that they need to know. And maybe it will give me some perspective as well.  So here we go! I’ll include excerpts in this blog as I go along.

The Empty Nest

I miss my son. It’s been 4 days since we left him to start a new life in a new town. He packed up most of his stuff, carried his television down and stowed it in the back of the SUV, and the three of us (Ron and I in one car and Simeon in the other) formed a mini-caravan to his beginning. I didn’t drive. That morning, while running final errands, I’d almost run a red light and later didn’t even notice a car headed toward me in my lane. My son deemed me unfit to be behind the wheel. He may have been right. When the woman at the bank asked me if he was leaving for school I almost cried. That surprised me.

I have been looking forward to this moment for several months. I’ve pushed and cajoled my son into doing what must be done to graduate. I’ve used every moment as a teaching (he would say “nagging”) moment. I’ve talked to him about what adult responsibility looks like. I hope I’ve modeled it to some degree. I was ready!
Yeah! Freedom!

But the place feels different without him. I still automatically check his room when I wake in the morning. And. It. Is. Very. Quiet. But… I did a little furniture rearranging. The desk where I write this is now in the room across the hall and a soft lamp burns behind me. I’ve relocated my sewing table and I can feel some creative juices starting to bubble up. The gas gauge on my car is exactly where it was when I last drove it. We’re both starting the next part of our lives. And we’ll both be okay.

It’s Complicated

My daughter called me this morning to take me to task. “What’s all this about an empty nest?” she asked. “You sound way too happy about it.” She was referring to a recent Facebook post in which I celebrated my son’s graduation and also commented that he was away this week visiting friends, which allowed me and my husband to get a little taste of what an empty nest feels like. “We like it,” I had written.

“I don’t know why this bothers you so much,” I replied. “You’ve been gone for years.” “That’s not the point,” she said. “You’re still our parents. You’ll always be our parents. Stop acting like you’re trying to get rid of us.”

The fact is, I am not trying to get rid of them.  But good parenting, by definition (at least mine) means that we have equipped them to become independent, eventually self-motivating and self-supporting, and that eventually they WILL go away. And Ron and I will need to look at our own lives differently. Who will we be when our every waking moment isn’t about managing our children’s day to day activities? Now that I’m not fussing about homework and getting up in time for school, what will be the role I hold in my children’s lives? Sure — there’s still a lot ahead. (I foresee fussing about getting a summer job and getting up in time for work….) No body is completely self-sufficient yet and I don’t think a day will go by where I don’t think of, talk to, pray for or care about my children. But my role is changing. And as happy as I am that my youngest has reached and passed this milestone, I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. There’s a sense of freedom and opportunity. But also, a sense of loss. It’s complicated.