November 2014

The First Thanksgiving

by Priscilla on November 30, 2014

The Former Mr. TIS and I decided that this Thanksgiving he and the girls needed to  visit his family in Tennessee. His granny, still a Southern Belle at 95, is suffering from dementia, and we both wanted our daughters to make a few more memories with her before the time comes to say goodbye. (Come to find out, Granny had one more lesson to teach Twins A and B…and it was about choosing a good boyfriend. She may have had no idea who she was talking to at the time, but judging by what the girls told me, Granny still gives great advice.)

Reading books and articles on divorce, I’ve  learned to try to go easy on myself – that the first year is a roller coaster with its highs and lows, traveling through tunnels and and bursting back into the sun.  It’s all good, I remind myself. It’s my life, and it is good.  So when the Former Mr. TIS showed up last Tuesday night to take his daughters for a long weekend, I sent them off with hugs and kisses, made all of them promise to check in with me regularly since they were going to drive through the night. I didn’t cry. I didn’t whine. I didn’t worry…although maybe I should have when I got this text…at 3 a.m.

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The Former Mr. TIS still has to learn that when traveling with children, it’s best not to ask them where to stop. (He may be the West Point educated, Airborne, Air Assault, EIB, insert-Army-decoration here, but I still have the good sense to make all the command decisions while on the road with the under 12 crowd. )

This was followed up by a text from Twin B:

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Exhibit A: My kids are learning that one man’s crack house hotel is another child’s diary entry.

I fell back asleep, got up and headed to the gym.  One friend advised me that one way to work through grief is to exercise hard.  “And I’m not talking about that Pilates stuff either.”  He’s a fireman. I don’t mess with firemen so I ran until I was about to pass out, and then I entered the weight room where I promptly picked up after the 19 men in there who refused to put back their weights where they belonged even though the signs CLEARLY states, “Put back the weights after you use them.”  What is it with you men? Between all your grunting as if you are ready to push out a baby, and making a mess of the free weights area, how’s a girl supposed to get in any squats or bench presses?

I sweat out a lot of the pain and the anger…a lot of anger.

When I got home, I read and and I wrote, and then I received this text.

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I ate peppermint ice cream straight out of the box while watching Brad Pitt in Moneyball. Yu-MMY…and I’m not talking about the ice cream.

I read books on flirting. Now, before I get notes about “It’s too soon, TIS!” or “Give yourself time before getting back out there!”  Relax. That’s not why I’m readying books on flirting. My job entails a lot of marketing and fundraising.  Flirting is simply the art of making people feel good about themselves, and in return you get what you want or you need out of any situation. It’s been a while since I’ve owned a room, and I need to Own. It. Living in the South for a few years, I made quite a few friends among the Southern Belle crowd. These women have flirting down to a science, and they get things done so I figured it was time for this Yankee to educate herself.

On Thursday I drove over to my Mom’s for Thanksgiving dinner where the first scene that greeted me was my 22 year old niece making stuffing while looking at a CT Scan on her computer. She’s studying nuclear medicine, and I was looking at class assignment. What ever happened to term papers?  She explained everything that I was looking at using multi syllabic medical terms.  (Did I mention she also plays guitar and mandolin…and rugby…and that she’s the cutest little blonde thing ever? )

From there I went into the dining room to see this…

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That’s right – my mom broke out the pilgrim collars and bonnets. My brother-in-law looks particularly somber and Puritanesque.

And because with my mother, it’s not enough that we simply eat and talk like normal families. We must have a program. My nephews got roped into performing one of her Thanksgiving Day readings.

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The young man on the left just married into the family. This was his first Thanksgiving with us. I think next year he’ll insist on visiting his own family. The beautiful blonde in the corner is my sister – mother of future Whatever It Is You Do With a Nuclear Medicine Degree niece. She, like me, is a little rebel and the two of us refused to wear the pilgrim bonnets. We love our mother. We are very aware that she gave us life. She is a wonderful grandmother to our children. We. are. not. wearing. the. bonnets. I shared with the table stories of  beautiful sister  in the corner and her high school boyfriends. Her husband found these especially entertaining. The stories aren’t salacious in the least. I just like how each relationship ended. “He was really nice, but then he told me he loved me.”  Gentleman, telling a Brown girl you love her in the first three months of a relationship is the kiss of death. You’ve been warned.

All was well and good until I got in my car and drove the two miles to my brother and sister in law’s to see her family. About 20 minutes into these festivities, something deep in my soul stirred, and the tears bubbled up. I couldn’t stop them.

The Grief.

I looked around at all the smiling happy intact families. The Grief had a toe in the door, and it was coming in whether I wanted it there with me or not.

The Grief shows up uninvited and unannounced. It wrecks plans and ruins perfectly good eye make up. I whispered to my sister-in-law and both she and her lovely mother allowed me to make a quiet escape to my car where I promptly bawled the 25 minutes back to my home. My empty home.  What happened? I had been proactive. I had been positive. I had been creating new rituals.

Pardon my French, but  The Grief doesn’t give a shit about all my good intentions and new rituals. The Grief barges in whenever the hell it feels like it.

Right about then I received a text from a friend asking how I was doing. In fact, God had so many friends calling, texting and emailing me all weekend, I couldn’t help but know I was loved. I told her I felt like a freak and wondered when I was going to get a grip and stop crying at the drop of the hat.  She told me to go easy on myself…that this was a process…just like mourning death is a process, and that I didn’t need to be some kind of hero. She was right. I allowed myself 30 minutes to sit and wallow in The Grief, and then I turned up some Taylor Swift  -that’s right kids, you aren’t the only ones who can Shake Off those Blank Spaces – and then I continued writing the book that is to be Twins A and B’s Christmas present.

I read some more. I cried some more. I closed the closet door behind me, fell to my knees and cried “Help me, God!” some more…and before I knew it, The First Thanksgiving was over….I’d survived. There are more firsts coming at me all at once. First Anniversary and First Christmas both within two days of each other. First New Years. First Valentines. But I’ve got this. God and I have this. We’ll own it. The Grief will be there tapping on the window, hoping to come settle in my heart and wear on my spirit. I’ll allow The Grief in sometimes, but it will sit in the corner and observe. It will not get a seat at the head of the table. That seat is reserved for Life..and I choose to live it More Abundantly.

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Twin A is holed up in the corner of the living room hoarding all the heat as she sits directly in front of the vent. She’s gotten into the photo albums again. Twin B is reading my old copies of John McPherson comic books.  (He’s brilliant, by the way. We can’t stop giggling over his work.)

Oh, no! I hear. Not again.

Laughter.

Oh, Twin B.

Twin A is looking at photos from our trip to the Philippines in 2010. It’s their first time to meet the cousins.

Twin A is all kinds of excited in the picture….

Twin B, well…take a look for yourself…she’s easy to spot.

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(She’s sitting beside me now giving me the same look just with five more years of age on it.)

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When you’re going through hell…throw a party!

by Priscilla on November 2, 2014

In my divorce journey I’ve learned two things. The first is something so many older ladies in church come up and whisper to me when they hug me and tell me they understand…they’ve walked the path..they know the idea of raising kids alone is absolutely terrifying.  They almost all, and I mean every single one, has shared the words, Go easy on yourself.

These are a balm as my emotions, while starting to settle, still strike at the most confusing times and overwhelm me. I fight so hard not to cry or lash out, but it happens, and invariably, it’s my daughters to whom I end up apologizing. Just this last week I wrote an old friend and said, Did you ever?…. To which she replied, Yes, I did and continued on with wonderful advice only a dear friend who’s been there can advise.

The second thing I have learned is that, yes, indeed. Mom was right. My mom has repeated this truth to me over and over, It’s good to have something to look forward to.  But let’s face it, sometimes in looking back, we start to believe there’s nothing to look forward to. That’s when it’s up to us to create that something. For me that something was the Halloween party my kids have asked for, for years. It was also answering a desperate teacher’s email and saying, Yes, I can bring something to the party, and in fact, I’ll go a little crazy and throw in a craft.

Here’s what happens when you look forward. You also start looking around. In my case it was looking through magazines and Pinterest with my girls, eyeing snack ideas and decorations on the cheap. It was listening to friends who said, I tried this once, and it went over great. It was recognizing that kids don’t care or not if I can do a craft…they just want someone to show up and make things a little more fun than they are.

You stop focusing on the Why’s or the If onlies?  and start thinking about the Why nots?  You retrain your brain to recognize the possibilities not shrink back at the road blocks.

And you begin to create…

Oh, sure your craft looks like a member of the Mujahideen, but fifth graders don’t seem to care. They see a mummy/ghost…kinda.

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They like guacamole when it comes out of a puking pumpkin.

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They don’t mind Halloween snow…

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because their mother doesn’t mind passing out candy wearing a huge orange boa.

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Fifth grade  girls will invite you into the bathroom with them to murmur Bloody Mary 13 times. She doesn’t show up, but you got to make a memory with a gaggle of girls. You get to serve squash/banana pancakes and bacon with lots of maple syrup for breakfast to the same girls who stayed up too late chanting, Light as a feather;stiff as a board.  (No one levitated. Also, no one was ushered into the world of the occult as I was always taught would happen when I was a kid if one participated in such activities.)

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Winston Churchill is credited with saying, When you’re going through hell, keep going. More than one person has reminded me of this wise adage in the past few months. I amended it, however, to, When you’re going through hell, throw a party. Everyone loves a party…it gives them something to look forward to; and when you’re going through hell, look forward.

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