Retrospective is everything

“Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh” – Indigo Girls, Watershed

“Perspective is everything” – Aimee Mann, Invisible Ink

My friend Foxglove surprised me with a phone call one day. She’s a special ed teacher who deals with challenging kids all day and while going home she was thinking about how the parents of her students were going to manage over the weekend. This led to thinking about parents and parenting and how difficult it was to be “on call” 24/7, and her various friends who were now parents.

Gusto ko lang sabihing ang galing mo!” (I just wanted to let you know that you are awesome!), she had said, and when I asked where this was coming from she went into a discussion of Katie and me and all we’ve been through and just that she was happy about where we are and what we’ve become. “Biruin mo, a few years ago kung san san lang kayo nakikitira tapos ngayon.. basta ang galing mo!” (A few years ago, you lived from friend to friend and now…you’re just great!). Thanks Foxglove!

My friends have always been encouraging, and are the type to freely give a kind word. But lately, these affirmations have been resonating. It’s always pleasant to hear and gives me a certain high to be told I’m a good friend/listener/mother, and that someone believes in me especially from people who know our story. But for some reason, I feel I am really only hearing and believing this now that the shitstorm we went through is over.

The thing about difficult situations is that it is hard to find their value while you are in it. Five years ago, I didn’t think I was a good person– I was dragging my almost 2 year old from couch to couch, scrounging for food money, wallowing in debt and self pity and all I could think about was how to get to the next day and that I would have to do it all over again. I felt I was being unjustly punished. I felt bitter and that life would never be the same. I felt hopeless and that I would never be happy again. More days than not I contemplated “the end” and the relief that ceasing to exist would bring. I prayed I wouldn’t wake up. I prayed my ex would be struck by lightning. I prayed one day that God would stop hating me.

Dark days indeed.

During these days my therapist would tell me to focus on what I was doing as accomplishments. I was navigating a system foreign to me, as best as I could. That I was in an temporarily unpleasant situation but was doing extraordinary things. That I was doing the right things: getting help for depression and trying to get our life on track. That time would bring healing and that someday I would look back at all of this in awe.

Just as the newborn days are a haze of sleep deprived never ending hours where much happened and little is remembered, so are my dark days. We survived with the help of many, but also (as bestie Maya often reminds me) through my sheer determination and stubbornness. Now, 5 years later, I feel vindicated, validated and strong. Above all, I feel more human: more able to accept my mistakes and more likely to reach out to someone else who might be in the middle of their own dark days.

This is not the last shitstorm. Things won’t be smooth sailing forever. But retrospective is teaching me that life isn’t crummy all the time. And that somehow you become a better person because of what you’ve endured.

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Piano update: 8 months

Katie decided not to do dance this year so she can sleep in on Saturdays. Her remaining activities outside of school have been piano and Faith Formation.

Piano has grown on us. Katie loves going to lesson and has acquired some skill in sitting still for the 15-20 minute class. I have acquired skills of my own (aka bribery) to make sure this is the case. Regular practice is still a struggle but I have heard this is the case for many young piano students. Katie also sings in her school’s chorus and am feeling mighty pleased with all this music that is becoming part of her life.

Once Katie knows a piece well enough, she can play it in a duet with her teacher. They average 2-3 pieces learned per week which I think is excellent. She has been taking lessons for 8 months now. Yes it isn’t Mozart, but I like to see and share the progress 🙂

In the video, Katie and her teacher are playing “Lemonade Stand” in the Faber Piano Adventures: Primer Level lesson book.

Four Birthdays and a Wedding

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To say that this weekend was busy is an understatement. I will admit to some shock when I was looking at my trusty google calendar and found it a mess of color blocks. In addition to it being the last week of school with 2 early release days, we had committed to attending 4 birthday parties and a wedding.

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what a difference a schoolyear makes!

There was a time when I would not have attended any of these events. When even just being around people was unpleasant and having to interact, painfully excruciating. I see our (disclaimer: I say “our” when it is really Katie’s social life that is rockin’) busy social life as an indication of my improved mental health and a return to “normalcy”. These days, when I tell people, “I’m back!” I really mean it and I feel great!

Besides, who doesn’t love birthday parties? The kids have fun and get tired. There is cake and a chance of excellent free food. Some parties (my favorite kind) even save me from having to cook a meal. Between mom’s group/baby playgroup friends, a church community that is ever expanding, and school, there are a lot of birthdays to celebrate. I wouldn’t say I recommend being this busy every weekend but then again, the laundry can be folded some other time. After all, it has already been sitting on Katie’s bed for more than a month.

We were also privileged to be invited to my ex-brother-in-law’s very intimate, simple yet classy and heartfelt wedding. Because of the deception I underwent at the hands of my ex-husband, I felt I could not trust any of his family. Even worse, I was afraid they would try and take Katie away from me. Pat and Ally were the first ones to reach out, and kept trying to include us when I gave excuses like “too busy”, “too far”, “not a good time” or even when I simply ignored the invitation. They didn’t give up on someday having a relationship not only with Katie, but also with me. And you know what? Persistence pays off and thanks to them, Katie will know that side of her family. Which is in part why I was determined to swallow the awkwardness, embrace the weird and be part of their special day.

But of course I employed the help of my Fairy Gothmother to be extra pretty 🙂
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Doing the right thing is really really hard. I only hope one day Katie will see that I did this for her: so she won’t be wondering about the other side of her family and she can form her own opinions about and relationships with them.
When I see her face, I am glad I didn’t take away moments like this no matter what I feel.

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Birthday party at Build-a-Bear Workshop

Katie and I decided on a Build-a-Bear Workshop (BABW) party with a small number of friends instead of our usual park play date. BABW is a place where you choose and stuff an animal plushie. I booked the party at their location at Faneuil Hall, around the time the store opens (10:00am). Booking was done online, and I received a call 2 days ago confirming the number of guests and the $ budget for each child.

We were met at the door by Sean-Patrick, our engaging and delightful party host. He gave Katie a special badge, kept track of each child’s name and the name of their chosen animal, engaged the kids, stuffed their bears, and made taking turns fun. My favorite part was when he had the kids pick their plushie’s heart and an extra one for Katie’s bear so that hers had hearts from her friends!

The kids all seemed to know which friend they wanted to take home. Some even had chosen a cheaper bear so they could dress it up. Katie chose a pink and purple bear she named Elizabeth. She also brought along her old BABW friend, Hello Kitty. One of her friends chose a camouflage bear eventually named Army. Another child’s bear was simply, Bear. All her friends and Sean also signed an autograph bear which is still unnamed.

At the end of the party, the kids had a picture with their creations and each was given a cardboard “cub condo” complete with a stuffed animal birth certificate. Katie rang the store bell and everyone sang happy birthday. We then headed outside with a cooler of juice boxes, pizza from Pizzeria Regina, and more Keyks cupcakes. I even remembered to bring candles and a lighter.
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Many thanks to the parents who came and helped me by saving and setting up a place for us outside, serving the kids, taking pictures, cleaning up and being kind enough to take home presents and our cooler. You guys are so great! Everyone went home happy 🙂

Build-a-Bear Workshop
6 North Market Bldng, 6 N Market St, Boston
(617) 227-2478

Pizzeria Regina
226 Faneuil Marketplace Boston, MA
(617)742-1713

Keyks
333 Acton Rd, Chelmsford
(617) 855-5395