There are no bad people, not really

“Do you think my mom is a bad person?” Peanut asked, sitting at the kitchen counter, feet dangling over discarded flip-flops while eating a late breakfast.

“I don’t really know your mom,” I answered cautiously, “why?”

“cuz my last foster parent said my mom was a bad person and that’s why I can’t live with her right now.”

Glass mugs and metal pans clinked and clanked as I emptied the dishwasher, wondering how to approach this conversation. One of many challenges when fostering a school-aged child are the questions. Training had prepared me to answer most inquiries with a “maybe”, “someday” or “I don’t really know”. It had not prepared me to help define an 8-year-old’s perspective of his very foundation and core of his identity.

“You know me, ” he continued, “so you kinda know my mom.”

I stopped putting away the dishes and faced him at the counter, taking in every curve of his face and slightness of his body. I pictured him holding the door open for me when we came home and how he rushed outside to help me bring in the groceries. I thought about how thankful he is when I wash and fold his laundry, the way he makes his bed in the morning without being asked and helps clear the dinner dishes before I’ve even left the table. I could hear his sweet voice in my head, every please and thank you without hesitation, every made-up story or joke told. I could feel his warmth and affection from him resting his head against my shoulder while I read him a book. Most of all, I couldn’t ignore all the times I had already witnessed him put fear aside and try something new with optimism and eagerness, like swim lessons, making friends, tasting an unfamiliar food, or living with us.

“I believe there are no bad people, just people who sometimes make bad choices, ” I said carefully. “I also believe you are kind, thoughtful, honest and compassionate. I also believe that you are brave and loving. You are funny and easy to get along with, and most of all, you bring joy to the people you meet. And I believe that you are this amazing person because of your mom.”

Peanut smiled, his eyes slightly moist.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” he said quietly.

It is humanly impossible to avoid all opinion about a person who can not currently care for their children. But after spending time with this child, I realized “she isn’t what I thought though. I still don’t know who she is, but I do know now who she isn’t.” (Anne Lamott, bird by bird, pg. 82)

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Workshop: My house shall be a mast

Mama Kat ButtonI love when the jeweler cleans my wedding ring. Its renewed radiance resonates for days. It looks bigger and more brilliant than before and I am reminded of how it glistened in the summer sun after DW placed it on my finger over thirteen years ago. It’s easy to forget the beauty when it is dulled by the grime and dust accumulated day after day.

Recently, I have been painfully reminded how fragile relationships are, especially marriages. My daughters need to understand there are no perfect relationships. There are no knights in shining armor, no “one true loves” or perfect matches. These “fairy-tale” romances do not exist, at least not organically. After all, the word romance itself is based on feelings of exaggeration. It is associated with chivalric love and adventure. What can exist, I think, are two people who commit to loving each other and promise to spend the rest of their days actively courting and pursuing one another. One of the things I most value about my marriage is that we both choose each other. We both take care to affair-proof our relationship.

I’m not a follower of talk-shows, but I found this article by Dr. Phil to be pretty spot on. There is a lot of great advice, but here were my favorite points:

  • Don’t play games in your head. It is a short step from thought to action.
  • Don’t confuse reality with fantasy. We often forget that there’s a difference between falling in love and being in love. You can’t expect a love that grows to be like it was on the first date.
  • If you want to have a good partner, be a good partner. Put 100 percent into your marriage.
  • Work on your marriage every single day, not just during the bad times. Wake up each day and ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make my marriage better?”

There’s also a quote by Kahlil Gibran, from the book The Prophet, that found me this morning:

“Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast. It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.”  – Kahlil Gibran

I can’t help but want to substitute the word marriage for house, because, after all, my relationship with DW is my comfort and my shelter. It is what I call home.

Often people say things like, “They are my rock and my anchor” when describing their closest friends or partner. However, anchors are heavy and cumbersome, aren’t they? They are large weights tied by chains that keep us from moving. The whole purpose of an anchor is so that you can’t drift, but that also means that when you have dropped anchor, you can’t go anywhere. You are confined to the same spot, your view does not change. Opportunities for growth would be limited. I don’t want to be DW’s anchor. I would never want to be what keeps him from reaching his full potential.

The idea of our relationship, our marriage, being more like a mast is much more fulfilling. In fact, it feels almost enlightening. Together we can be tall and strong; together we can hold each other upright, letting the air fill our sails and carry us anywhere we want to go. A mast towers into the sky, a backbone like structure, rising above the deck of a ship to support the yards, booms and rigging.

I want my house to be a mast, not an anchor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Friend

5-minute-friday-1Sit in silence.

Talk for hours.

You can call me in the middle of the night.

Your children have my number on speed dial.

It’s about presence, not presents.

Presence of mind.

Presence of spirit.

It’s not neat and tidy or sweet. It’s loud and honest. It’s telling each other the truths, even the hard truths, and loving each other because of it.

It’s about sharing the obvious, sharing the secrets, sharing the joys, sharing the fears and sometimes sharing the load.

Sleeping side by side, sometimes in mind. Sometimes in body.

It’s coming together to kick off our shoes and not worry about the holes in our socks or the dishes in the sink. It’s never having to worry about a bad hair day, wearing yesterday’s clothes or the last time you took a shower. It’s about being able to pee with the door open.

It’s the ability to laugh at our flaws, and encourage our strengths.

It’s about unconditional everything.

It’s about being real in all the moments. It’s about serving each other and not wondering when it will be our time to be served.

When friendship and family become seamless and it is just assumed that life will never cease to exist without you.

* Today I’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. Each week bloggers are asked to write on a topic for five minutes. No planning. No editing. Just five minutes straight from the heart. This week’s topic is “friend.”

Five Minute Friday: Rhythm

5-minute-friday-1A strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.

Life, as a whole, repeats itself. Sometimes the pattern is familiar and strong. Sometimes it is familiar and draining. I have often hidden in the false safety of doing nothing because of the fear of change. Keep everything the same. Do what you know. Do what is comfortable. Even when it is painful, because there is comfort in knowing current disappointment rather than the unknown possibility of more pain and disappointment. Surround myself with relationships that perpetuate the same persistent rhythm. It is familiar.

Until, of course, you are forced to make a change.

Forced to change your course, creating a new rhythm.

A new pattern.

A new perspective about relationships and about myself. Finding a desire to stop wanting to be someone else, and instead just be a better version of myself.

Friendships, good friendships, the ones that draw you out of your shell can do that. The relationships that make you feel important and strong. The relationships that make you want to help others feel important and strong. Those are essential. Conversations unencumbered and genuine. There is no small talk. Everything is raw and emotion filled.

Laughter and tears.

Honest.

Transparent.

Respectful.

Words flow as easily as breathing. Bonds strengthened by life experiences both shared and created together. Like a good song that sticks in your head, randomly echoing in your ears when you least expect, you can’t get those relationships out of your heart.

You find yourself feeling encouraged even in their absence.

 

First light kisses

Mama Kat ButtonDW teases me often. It’s never hurtful or mean, only lighthearted and playful. I can especially count on him to point out the obvious when I make a dumb mistake, finding humor in everything. His jovial personality keeps me from taking things too seriously or becoming wrapped up in drama and emotion. Sometimes, he doesn’t even have to say anything. His eyes are full of laughter.

“Stop looking at me like that,” I giggle back often.

Yesterday I absently picked up our toaster by grabbing the opening where you put the bread. Apparently the metal lip folded under is not smooth or finished like the rest of the shiny body. As I placed the toaster into the cabinet, my pointer finger slid across the inner edge. Immediately I dropped the appliance with a thud, pain shooting up my finger towards my hand. My arm felt weak, blood burned quickly.

“Go get Dad,” I croaked, “and have him bring the band-aids.”

The Tortoise was also in the kitchen helping me clean up before dinner. Without hesitation she rushed upstairs while I ran my finger under cold water. My finger throbbed.

“What’d you do now?” DW bellowed down the stairs.

I braced myself for a joke or two, still holding my finger under the steady stream. But as our eyes met, he silently walked through the kitchen. DW held my finger firmly in a paper towel, my arm wrapped around him while I hid behind his back. I leaned my head against him, waiting.

“There, all better,” he said, securing a band-aid and giving me a big hug, “you okay?”

“Yeah,” I answered sheepishly, “it just startled me.”

“I bet,” he smiled, “you looked pretty freaked out.”

There was no more talk about the incident.

The alarm clock woke us up at 5:45 this morning. My finger still throbbed, probably from being tucked under my head all night. I slipped quietly out of bed to make sure The Tortoise was up and make a quick potty stop. We wake up in the dark. The first light of the day peaks out under doorways and around hall corners. It is found in tiny patches of illuminated numbers and blinking machines.

I decided to slip back into bed, snuggle under the covers between DW and Luna. The heat from DW’s body felt good against the cold. He stirred slightly and reached for my hand, placing a hot kiss on my bandaged finger, pulling me even closer to him. I don’t think any joke or sharp wit could have made me smile any bigger than that moment.

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

*This post was also inspired by today’s WordPress Daily Prompt: First Light