Cowgirls Don’t Cry

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Photo courtesy of http://blackmtnranch.com/horse-quotes/.

 

I have a lot to say, but can’t really formulate the intricacies.  So pardon me if this seems a little disconnected.

Ladies, this one’s for you.

I know that women have fought tooth and nail to gain this badge of armor we call “WOMAN”.  Sometimes we take that five letter word and feel like we have to “ROAR” because we are one.  We’ve protested, both nationally and inwardly, burned bras and divorced cheating husbands.  We’ve cowgirled up to become independent, smart, able beings who don’t need anybody to take care of us.  But on the inside we’re all the same.  You and me, we’re fragile.  Underneath our rugged exteriors, there’s a story.  There’s a 14 year old girl waiting for her Prince Charming, daydreaming about all of the things he is, and how he’s going to save me. 

At the root of every girl’s daydream about being loved and finding that amazing guy is one universal theme: loyalty.  And for me, I want fierce loyalty.  I have spent too much time in my past putting myself on the back burner, trying to save ex-boyfriends.  I have spent too much time bending and making concessions because I thought “maybe if I loosen up a bit, this could be it“.  Like any American girl, I have daydreamed of finding true love. 

I’m blessed enough to say that I’ve found it.  I couldn’t ask for a better soul to be joined to mine.  Truly.

But ladies, I need your help.  How do you relay to your One that through a shitstorm, sometimes the best (and simplest) thing he can do is have your back?  How do you express to him that even though you wear your Cowgirl persona like it’s going out of style, that you’re still vulnerable and just need a little TLC sometimes?  That no matter how petty the conversation or opposition, all you want to hear is “I love you, and you matter enough that I’m not going to allow this to deflate you”?  Or that regardless of what’s being said, he’ll take a stand and say “She may not be 100% accurate on this one, but I will not allow you to disrespect her, because she means the world to me”? 

[Nothing crazy has happened in my relationship, don’t go letting your mind race.  I’m just noticing that in general, women want these things from their mate and the guy brain says “Hey, if you’re wrong, there’s not much I can do” or even worse, “It’s not that big of a deal, I don’t know why you’re taking it so personally”.  Men and women communicate differently, and I’m using this platform simply to vent.]

I just want to be championed for.  I know it sounds frilly and old-fashioned and maybe even a little oh, why don’t I say it: dramatic.  I know.  But you know what?  At the end of the day I’m just a girl.  With a heart…  With a story…  And I just want to know that no matter how large or small of a deal it is, my back’s covered.  I want to know always that wrong or right, somebody will advocate for me when I’m too upset or appalled to speak the words myself.  I want to know that when somebody speaks crossly at me I have “You will not disrespect her in this conversation” on my side.

Maybe I’m asking too much.  Maybe I should shut the Hell up and be grateful for what I have: a home, a healthy son, a beautiful stepdaughter-in-waiting, an amazing man.  I have my education, my career, my family.  I have my health and Jesus.  I am living a dream, I am.

But I’m wracking my brain wondering why men don’t see this as a big deal?  Can anyone enlighten me?

The Story of the Day You Were Born, the Jude Michael edition

Jude’s Nanna started a tradition.  She tells her kids “the story of the day you were born”.  I’ll admit I used to think it was kind of quirky, but it’s endearing.  You can feel the love in the story when it is being told.  And now that I’ve been part of the miracle that is childbirth and motherhood, I know how it feels to want to tell the story, more than once a year.  And I do, because, well, the end result of the story is magical!

The Story of the Day I Met Jude:

I arose around 5:30 in the morning.  I got up with an imminent need to relieve my bladder (as most pregnant women do, not to mention the ones who are past their due date).  I returned to bed, flipped the pillow twice, threw my leg over the body pillow and tried to settle in.  I wanted to get some more rest before I had to get up and get ready for work.  I noticed my back was aching.  I thought nothing of it, tried to shift my position a bit and closed my eyes.  The back ache subsided.  The back ache came back.  I repositioned my body again.  This cycle repeated once more before I realized “OH GOD, I’M HAVING EARLY CONTRACTIONS IN MY BACK!”

I laid there, debating on whether or not to call or text Melissa (Jude’s nana, and my Lamaze partner aka Mama Bear).  She was about a 40 minute drive away and I didn’t want her rushing to my apartment just to sit and watch me do nothing.  With that logic, and instructions from the Lamaze instructor I decided I would get up and eat something before deciding.  I heated myself a breakfast sandwich and settled in to the recliner.  The contractions moved to my thighs and I talked myself through them.  I decided to text her at some point when my breakfast sandwich was in the microwave.  When she came in the door, I had the recliner fully extended and was grunting through a contraction.  I could hardly talk through them.  She dutifully timed them (after unloading what seemed like a truckload of miscellaneous stuff in the nursery) and then it was decided we should go to the hospital.  I remember putting up a stink about wasting gas or something because I literally lived right across the street from the hospital.  We drove.  …after I vomited my breakfast sandwich in the alley.

The next 2-2.5 hours were the fastest and most emotional ones I’d ever had.  As time wears on, the exact details fade, but I remember being surrounded by all women until the very last point, at which Dr. Dowell came to deliver Jude.  My nurses were fantastic and they medicated me just correctly so that I wasn’t drugged feeling or in intense pain.  Jay’s mom and my mom were both there, encouraging me to do my best.  I had to wear oxygen during the last part, and push only every other contraction because Jude’s heartrate was dropping during them.  Then they saw how big his head truly was and how little my body and had to assist him out.  (I’ll tell him when he’s 12 that they got the Eureka and vacuumed him. LOL)  After what seemed an eternity of them measuring, prodding, cleaning and swaddling him I got to hold him.  He was here.  He was mine, all mine, and beautiful and everything in my world changed the instant I gazed into his blue eyes.  His father called soon after he was born, and I held the phone to his ear.  Jude knew the voice, and in that moment I was at peace.  (Sitting here, typing this and listening to Jude play and interact with Kane brings me a new color of peace.)

Jude Michael, you’ve helped me become a better woman.  You’ve taught me how to love unconditionally and how to see the beauty in the world.  Through your eyes, anything is possible.  When I look at you, I know God is real and He is merciful and graceful.  I love you to the moon, Jude, and am proud you’re my son.

For the love of Jude

I don’t feel like delving into details, because they are so erroneous and far-fetched that it’s asinine, but I feared I would lose Jude this week.  It’s amazing how a person can make up a story and call an authoritative figure and launch an investigation.  It’s sickening that lies can be told because feelings have been hurt.  It’s downright scary to feel like you may be driving into your doom, envisioning being forced to hand your son over to a man in khaki chinos who works for the Department of Human Services. 

I was terrified that this would be my reality on Wednesday.  I was shaking and dizzy and crying like Jude had just died.  I was so, so scared.  And why?  I’m a fine mother who provides for her son in the best ways she knows.  I cherish my son.  Why, then, would I be so scared if I have nothing to hide?  Because the simple fact that someone can take Jude from me scares the shit out of me.  Since I was pregnant I’ve had an odd (and maybe irrational) fear that someone would try to take my son from me.  Fear can overpower any rationale.  Fear can stop time in its tracks.

But I’m not afraid anymore.  The entire time I was driving and crying I was also praying.  I was talking to Jesus, trying to make some sense of this mess.  I am not allowed to know who my accuser is, but I’m pretty good at puzzles and have settled the equation.  The individual I suspect is not a member of my family (nor Jude’s).  This person is just a sick, mentally ill individual who is lashing out and using Jude as a way to get even.  Like I said, it’s sick.  It’s wrong.  It’s horrible.  But it’s all false.

Why am I airing my dirty laundry, you may be wondering?  Well, firstly, I’m a blatantly honest person.  Secondly, it’s because I’m learning lessons in this shitstorm. 

It’s come into sharp focus how very important it is to surround Jude with people who love him.  Of course, this has always been my goal but I’ll admit, I’m kind of selfish about who I’ll let take him for a visit or when I allow this to happen.  He’s my son, after all.  But I’m not feeling that way much lately.  I’m feeling like Jude is all of ours, he “belongs” to everyone who loves and adores him.  On Wednesday every single person I looked to for soothing words and emotional support was able to give that to me.  Every person I heard made sure I knew I’m a good mom.  Every person I dialed loves Jude to the moon.  And that’s when it clicked.

Jude is the linchpin in a lot of my relationships.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now: Jude saved me.  He saves me every day.  He teaches me to appreciate the beauty in life.  He teaches me to be calm in a scary situation.  He teaches me to embrace giggling, just to hear laughter.  He teaches me that no matter what is thrown our way, we will always have each other.  He is my world.  He makes the sun to rise in the morning and hangs the moon in the sky at night.  He can quell any ache with a “kiss, all better”.  He is my heart, walking outside of my body.

I’m so thankful to Jesus that Jude has so many people in his life.  Jude’s grandparents all love him, and the bond my dad shares with my son is truly beautiful.  Jude’s aunts and uncles think he’s the best.  My friends love him like he is theirs.  Kane is filling a void that Jay and I knew would exist but never knew how it would play out.  Jesus knew what he was doing when he put each and every one of these people in Jude’s life.

I thank you all for your love of Jude.Image

Full Circle

In sociology I’m learning about all of the social aspects that make us human.  Words like “status symbol” and “master status” come up in the textbook.  I read these things and make connections to my own life.  It’s crazy to me that over the past 5 years I’ve been a traditional college student, a professional in my career field, labelled a criminal and treated as such for 6 days, a broke single mom without a clue where she was headed next, a single mom in college and returned to being a professional in my career field again.  Wow!  What a ride.  And sociological terms can paint my very adventure.  But I really don’t care to talk terminology.  I want to talk about faith.  And mercy.  Textbooks don’t teach people how to recognize those things.

In the midst of Jay’s absence, I found my faith.  Throughout the months that he’s been away it has only deepened.  I’m still a baby in my faith, with lots of experiences still to be had.  I do know for sure, though, that God leads us to where we need to be.

I took a break from nursing when I moved home in 2010.  I was searching for a job in my hometown to continue to practice, but things just weren’t adding up.  Being pregnant and living in my aunt and uncle’s guest bedroom, I became desperate for an income.  I called the Arby’s where I’d worked during high school and was basically guaranteed a job.  After Jude was born I was promoted to Assistant Manager.  Did I like that I was college prepared in the medical field and working at Arby’s?  No.  But it meant that I had a paycheck, and holidays to spend with my son in his earliest months of life.  God provided for me, even though it wasn’t what *I* had in mind.

When I started toying with the idea of returning to school, it was like the Universe picked up on it.  I was getting junk mail flyers from nursing schools in the Midwest that I’ve never heard of.  But you know what?  They kept that idea current and fresh in my brain and before I knew it, I was driving to Des Moines four days after talking with an academic advisor, interviewing to secure my spot in the ADN (RN) program at Kaplan University.  God planted a seed and sat back to watch it blossom.

Here we are now, 15 weeks into my RN program.  I’m working at a long-term care facility again, signing LPN after my name.  When I started chewing on the idea of searching for a nursing job I printed off six copies of my resume.  I had been fixated on this one facility in my mind, though, and was sure to make it my first stop.  It turned out to be my only stop.  I had an on-the-spot interview with the Director of Nursing and the next day was interviewing with she and the Administrator.  It is without doubt that I say that God directed me to that facility, that DON, that Administrator.

It was a drawn-out process to be hired.  Paperwork and checks and balances were starting to look ominous.  I was afraid I had been silly to get my hopes up and dream of being a nurse again.  I had to keep reminding myself that God put me there for a reason.  I requested prayer for my faith to stay strong.  Everyone has been so patient with me throughout this process– a true blessing.

There is beauty in struggle.  The beauty comes when you can look retrospectively and understand that you toiled for months and months so you could grow and learn and evolve into a better you.  I’m grateful for second chances and even more for God knowing just when to push me to do things.  It’s been a crazy road to get back on my feet but I made it!  With the mercy and prayers and help of some very special people, I have arrived.  I am, to date, the best version of me that I’ve ever been.  I’m grateful for the life experience it took to shape me, because, by God, it didn’t kill me– it made me stronger.

Full circle is the best term I can use to summarize my journey.  I’m continuing my education, able to work in a field about which I’m passionate, have a healthy son and am expanding my family.  I’ve met an incredible mate and my faith is solid.  Here I sit, in the middle of my full circle with a big, grateful smile on my face.  God is so, so good, all the time.

 

Jude

Jude is my son.  He was born in early September almost two years ago.  He was not planned (by me, anyways.. God knew he’d be born at that time).  Just eight months before his arrival his dad, Jay, was seized from our home.  This isn’t about Jay’s departure, though.  This is about Jude.

I keep reading snippets about Jay’s sentencing Monday and it still seems surreal.  But a flame of anger is starting to kindle in my soul.  I don’t know what, exactly, is upsetting me.  Maybe it’s that I’m misreading these concerns as code for my inability to adequately care for my son.  Maybe it’s because every time someone mentions Jude not  knowing what Jay looks like I want to say “What do you expect? He’s been absent.”  I know it sounds harsh or brash, but it’s how I feel.  Feelings aren’t wrong.  They may need sorted out sometimes, but they’re not wrong.

Jay and I didn’t know I was withchild on that bleak January night.  We wouldn’t know it for 13 more days.  But when we found out we both agreed on one thing: Jude was a gift from God.  He was sent to save us both.  [Cue The Beatles lyrics now: “…take a sad song and make it better…”]  Jay and I vowed to be the best parents to Jude possible, given our situation.  We did not know the magnitude of what lie ahead of us in those early months.  Instead, we focused on the promise of a new life and welcomed the distraction of OB appointments versus court dockets and meetings with attorneys.

Over the past two years Jay and I have both learned lifetimes of knowledge.  We have hoped and prayed, fought and laughed, dreamed and regretted.  The reality, however, remains:  Jude’s dad will be detained until he is in his 20’s.  When Jay comes home, Jude will be the age I was when Jay left.  It’s weird.  It’s awful.  And yet, it’s fact.  And as much as I try to wish away this fact, it remains.

I’m grieving, too.  I grieve for the loss of Jay’s buoyancy, and am saddened that he won’t be able to put his talents to use.  I’m sad that we didn’t have foresight.  I’m sad for a lot.  I wonder if people glimpse at me and think that I’m unaffected.  That would be a completely ignorant viewpoint.  Jude is my son, too, and to think that his future doesn’t concern me is absolutely absurd.  I vowed to be the best parent I could, under any circumstance.  And I’m trying my damnedest.

For the past two years I have been Jude’s sole physical provider.  It has been me that worries about daycare arrangements, about needing diapers, about whether or not his development is on par.  It has been me to sit in the emergency room and watch him get shoved into a plastic tube for a chest Xray when RSV was the diagnosis.  I have been Jude’s everything since the beginning.  And while it may sound like I’m gloating, I’m not.  I’m breathing a ragged sigh.  Because on Monday a judge solidified that for at least the next 21 years, it will be just me doing all of these things solo.

Yes, Jay has family.  Yes, I have family.  But at the end of the day when my face meets my pillow, Jude is mine, and the responsibility for him is mine.

Jude will have a good life, of this I’m sure.  We are in God’s hands.

Achieving Myself

It’s ironic to me that when I decided I wanted to have a blog, I didn’t really have a purpose or a goal in mind.  I just wanted to write, and to have my own space in which to do that.  I’ve always enjoyed writing; I started keeping a journal when I was 10.  It had dolphins on the front cover, and was smooth as silk.  I loved the way the pen felt beneath my fingers, and entered an entry nearly daily.  I’ve always expressed myself better in print than in speech.  I strive to be an effective communicator no matter the medium, but my words on a screen or on paper are typically my best.

When I opened www.wordpress.com and signed up for my very own blog I was prompted to choose a URL.  I sat in wonderment, asking myself ‘When I want people to seek out this space, what do I want them to read?’  In hindsight, I’m amazed that I even had enough wits about me to make the name of the website so… deep.  I was only 22 when I began this blog, which was a serious boyfriend and one baby boy ago.  At that time I only *really* had myself to be responsible for.  And yet, I knew that this space would be a documentary of events in my life.

It is a rare moment when I am left speechless.  I form opinions, sometimes too quickly, and speak them with little hesitation.  I left this blog dormant for years.  YEARS.  I’m sure I had things to say, but it just didn’t occur to me to say them here.  There was a split second when I thought I would torch this whole space.  I sat, staring at the screen, wondering if I really needed to hang on to these words.  Would I even miss them?  Not a whole lot of my posts are award-winning.  They ramble.  They have no connecting theme.  But they are mine.  My words.  My experiences.  They have compounded into helping me achieve myself.

This blog contains posts about my frustration for daily life, my unsettled feelings and wanting to just get in the car and drive.  It has been a safe space for when I’ve had my feelings hurt.  It was where I came to decompress and grieve the loss of Jay.  Most of all, it has been a haven of snippets of my life, a place I can revisit and track my growth and progress as a person.

www.achievingmyself.wordpress.com <—– There it is!  That’s me!  It’s kind of a lot to type in the address bar, I know.  It’s not witty or cute.  It’s raw.  It’s a real space with some real, deep shit on the screen.  If anything, I have always typed what I felt in that moment.  But everything I have ever posted (with the exception of this, maybe.  I was clearly bored.) has held some form of significance.  All of these words, all of these lessons have led up to who I am now.  They have all helped me achieve something new in myself.

The biggest reason I was going to delete this was because of my earth crumbling around me when Jay went away.  I didn’t think I wanted any reminders of the way we used to be.  I didn’t think I’d be able to stomach rereading old posts.  You know what?  I read them freely.  Because I believe that we all owe it to ourselves to improve our character, and I think the most important way to do that is to self-reflect.  To truly be honest with ourselves.  I think it’s the least we can do to become better people.

I sit in my uncomfortable chair, with time ticking deep into the night.  I sit willingly in front of this screen, feeling the smooth springs in the keys beneath my fingers, because I have something to say.  Not for anyone in particular, really.  I just want myself to know that this journey of documenting the candids of my life has not been fruitless.  It has been laying the foundation for becoming the woman I want to be.  I am achieving myself.  Are you?

The Heart of the Matter

As I sit, fidgety and unfocused, trying to power through homework, an almost burning desire to self-reflect washes over me.  I’ve been staring at a computer screen for almost four hours now, and you’d think I’d just be ready to close my laptop and slip into a peaceful slumber.  But I can’t.  I have too many thoughts that I want to organize and deliver, and my heart is just so at peace right now that I feel like I owe it at least this much — to do what it has been begging me to do for months now:  let it all go.

I am headstrong.  It’s part of what makes me successful and yet blurs into “character flaw” on occasion.  If you’re new here you may not know a lot of backstory (in which case I invite you to read some of the archived posts), and even if you’re not new to my life you just simply may not know what has been at the forefront for the past several months.  My son’s dad is incarcerated.  I am a single mom.  We have a very unique situation and things get messy sometimes.  Words get wielded like knives, hearts bleed for what feels like eternity, pouring out all trust and tenderness and in turn hardening like wax when it cools.

I had been struggling with a debacle with a woman I love as my own mother.  We hurt each other, and I, in my ostentacious way, wanted her to know she hurt me more.  I wanted her to feel every drop of hurt and to basically rub her nose in her own pee, like one does with a puppy.  I went for months like this, standing my ground and folding my arms over my chest.

God whispered to my heart “Let it go.  It is not the most important thing right now, and I have bigger happiness in store for you if you will forgive.”  I shook my head and furrowed my brow whenever I felt the Lord melting down the wax, making it pliable again.  I dug my heels into the ground, and still, God moved me.  He gave me the strength and humility to just let go of the anger.

This is not the same as forgiving and forgetting, mind you.  I have learned a lot about both myself and this woman who I call “Momma Bear”.  I learned that sometimes she fights ugly and I respond to that with absolutes.  Nothing in life is absolute.  I learned that I like to be right.  I learned that nobody likes to apologize.  Most of all, I learned that when young minds are being molded you have to lead your life with action, and not just endless jabber about what we “should do” because it’s “the right thing to do”.  You have to show your children how to be a good person.  And damn, is that tough.

“Let it go.”  God and I talk.  I feel like my listening skills leave a lot of room for improvement but I heard him on this one.  And I’m so, so glad I did.  Because the relief that has washed over my heart since I sent the truce message has been immeasurable.  I cannot explain it.  Months have passed.  ‘I’m fine,’ I told myself.  I didn’t realize how truly woven I am into the cloth of Jude’s paternal family.  I didn’t realize how much I missed them!

Especially Momma Bear.  We have a *ton* in common.  When I first met her she hugged me.  I immediately felt warm and welcomed.  She has held me when I’ve cried.  She has laughed with me.  She has listened to me amidst hormonal rage.  She has prayed with me.  She helped me bring Jude to us.  She has woven herself into my cloth, too, and I’m glad the road to repair is under our feet.

Peace.  Peace washes over my heart like a playful wave hitting grains of sand on a warm, sunny morning.  Other things in my life are falling into place (thank you, Jesus!) and I know this is a key component.  To have people that have traversed rough terrain with you, to have a warm and malleable heart, to have an open mind and a positive outlook — to have these things is a blessing.  They ebb and flow, like anything in life, but to keep them at the forefront of your mind is really a good thing.

I just want to be a good example for my son.  I want him to be a good, compassionate person.  I want him to forgive people when they hurt him, so he doesn’t self destruct with grudge-holding and pride.  I have to show him how, and man, I hope I’m at least doing okay at it.  Our children really are our greatest motivators, aren’t they?