My Other Ex

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Available for order now, at Amazon (book and Kindle) and Barnes & Noble.

I tend to hear about requests for submissions and decide I’m going to write something and then the date is two days away and I still think I can do it, then get angry when I can’t. Earlier this year, I pushed myself to submit to the HerStories Project’s call for essays on friendship loss. When my essay was selected for inclusion and publication, I couldn’t believe it. I liked the story I’d written, but I didn’t consider it worthy of being in a book.

And then I kicked that imposter syndrome out of my brain and declared myself talented and worthy.

And then the voice in my head who is the worst lying liar on this planet that is still a planet (I’m so sorry, Pluto, still) told me I would be laughed at. Carrie’s mother’s voice came to me: They’re all gonna laugh at you. She said I was chosen because the book needed diversity, not because I deserved it. She said I was chosen because they didn’t get enough submissions, not because I deserved it. All of these things are lies, as are the other lies she made up and spewed like undigested food confetti in my head.

I still believed her.

I don’t so much now, now that I see my name in the book, now that I have reread my essay and read the others. We are a talented group of women and I’m here to tell that liar in my head that if she doesn’t leave me alone, I’ll let the other voices in there have at her. The one in charge of my wardrobe can’t wait to tell her she’s bringing us down with that fleece.

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When I was in fourth grade, a girl I’d been friends with since kindergarten decided we were no longer friends. I wrote her a note and stuck it in her glove. I think it said something about wanting my socks back and her being disinvited to my Halloween party. I would also need my witch hat back; your witchiness won’t be so great without my hat, now will it? Nine is a hard age, y’all.

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When I was in my mid-20’s a friend decided she was no longer a part of our group of friends. We were too callous. Nothing was serious. I think we made fun of her tattoo. We weren’t callous. We also refused to take anything seriously. I haven’t spoken to her in over 12 years. I still speak to the others almost daily. I wonder how she is.

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A few years ago a friend I cherish told me I wasn’t there for her. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t a comfort, I didn’t understand, I was disengaged. It was true. When I don’t know how to help someone, I tend to listen but offer nothing further. I didn’t know what to give her anymore, and instead it turned into silence and let me wait until she finishes talking about this hard stuff she’s dealing with so I can ask her opinion on what I should make for dinner. We didn’t speak for months. I was miserable. It took a husband intervention. We’re back to talking nearly daily now.

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My Other Ex – Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends is available for order on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. In it, my essay discusses the loss of a friend (I question whether she ever was a friend) who I kind of want to see today, 13 years later. I can’t deny wanting her to see me now, see me happy, see that I have worthwhile, loving, long-enduring friendships. I want her to miss me. Why do I still want her to miss me? After what happened, I am better off without her. I have nothing to prove to or show her. I still want to prove something and show her me because I’m pretty damn wonderful.

There are so many ways discussed in this book of how we lose and leave friends, so many whys. It deserves a read, friends, if for nothing more than a vigorous head nod and exclamation of You’re better off!” For the record, you’d be saying that to me.

 

Oh, Hi

There’s been a bit of a change here. Did you notice? Do you like it?I like it. I did the banner, but I need to thank my husband for creating the header amid my bossiness tinged with indecision, and Vanita of The Strategic Mama for moving all the posts and folders and whatever else from one site to another. I plan to add a few new areas of interest here by the end of the year, including video, but we’ll see how it goes. I tend to proclaim, then pass out. I still have a few tweaks to make, a few things to add, but for the most part, this is my new space.

Welcome.

And welcome back.

us

I like potatoes.

 

Continuing – A Review of Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s #RareBird

It is August 2011 and I have become enamored with a new blog, An Inch of Gray. The blogger’s name is Anna, she is married with two children, lives not very far from me, and she’s done precisely what I want to do with our side door. I have still not done anything to our side door.

It is September 2011 and I’m reading and smiling at Anna’s newest post, the one about her kids starting seventh and fifth grades. She has an easy way of writing, of drawing you in, of saying things that make you able to visualize. I like her. Her kids are cute. I add her blog to my reader so I can know when she posts something new. Days later, I find out that her oldest child, her son, Jack, has died.

It is every parent’s nightmare: “twelve years worrying and protecting and learning about every possible harm that could come to them from asbestos to lead paint to sexual predators to tick bites to bullying to porn. Yet it hadn’t been enough!” This is what Anna writes in her book about early grief, Rare Bird.

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Have you ever played in the rain? It is exhilarating, giggle inducing, fun. It’s not supposed to be deadly. A piddly creek isn’t supposed to turn, quickly, into a raging river. Little boys playing in backyards shouldn’t be swept away when they’ve only gone out to play. And yet.

And yet.

I’m being morbid, but rest assured Rare Bird is not, even though its topic is indeed morbid and saddening and frightening and oftentimes deliriously debilitating to a parent’s already overactive imagination regarding what ifs. Anna discusses the difficulties surrounding dealing with grief, but she does so in a fashion that is not morbid. She does so in a fashion befitting a conversation on continuing life amid grieving, continuing life with one’s husband, continuing to parent, to be a friend, to show up to agreed upon responsibilities. This is learned behavior, this continuing. This is day by day purposeful behavior. It is not easy. Anna shows us that disbelief is gripping, that alternate realities are consuming. In Rare Bird, Anna shows us that grief knocks us down, shatters us, tries to keep us from repairing ourselves. But she also shows us that repairing ourselves is possible. It is a continued effort, one whose difficulty will lessen, but likely never fully resolve itself. Anna shows us hope in continuing past the unthinkable. 

Anna shows us her faith.

Oh, but she also shows us how her faith falters, how she questions God, his purpose. You will feel the tug of war between accepting God’s plan and what could God have been thinking to take a child like Jack. Why Jack? Why this family? At the water’s edge, you will run alongside Anna, hoping for Jack’s recovery, even as you know you’re reading the book in a world three years after his death. You are there with her as she doesn’t want to get out of bed, as she thinks her own death just might be better than enduring this pain, as she congratulates herself for not dying that day. You are there with her as she continues to be there for her husband, to smile at her daughter, to sometimes simply go through the motions, with breathing being the simplest yet most excruciating effort. Things that were taken for granted are now purposeful, sometimes difficult tasks when all she wants to do is wail.

Early grief makes one question everything. Anna asks about her husband, “How will he ever forgive me for this?” She talks about forgiveness from others but also from ourselves. Rare Bird shows us that beating ourselves up is a natural occurrence in grief, especially early on. Moving past it is another part of continuing to live.

Rare Bird is about early grief, yes, but it’s also a testament to parallels and contrasts, feeling bitter while also grateful for what was; feeling hopeful while also thinking nothing else will have meaning; feeling abandoned while knowing God has his hand firmly in yours. Anna aptly describes these conflicting feelings, and she does so eloquently, faith filled, relatable, even if you haven’t or aren’t suffering.

Grace. Wisdom. Love. Family. Self awareness. Grieving is a process of continuation, of strength, and “inexplicable hope.” If you are grieving or know someone who is suffering, Anna’s book will provide insight into early grief, what it looks like, feels like, does. Rare Bird will offer hope to those for whom everything, at the moment, feels hopeless.

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Image by Julianna Wesby Miner

I received an advance copy of Rare Bird.

You can preorder Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love here, and following is a book trailer that gives a glimpse into Jack’s, Anna’s, and their family’s story. “In the midst of heartbreak, hope rises.”

 

 

Let’s Play!

Earlier this month I received a backpack filled with toys from Imagine Toys. I hadn’t told the kids because my idea of fun doesn’t include being asked where is it, where is it, where is it, multiple times a day. This is why I don’t do road trips. Once someone asks if we’re there yet, I’m ready to pull over wherever we are and declare yes, this is it; we’re here, this stretch of highway was our destination all along.

The box came and there were squeals of delight. I was afraid that because the toys were basic, my kids’ excitement would wane quickly. Thankfully, I was disappointed. A Frisbee. A jump rope. A ball. Sidewalk chalk. Basic is still good and I’m grateful that my kids weren’t jerks about it. They immediately wanted to go outside. My 11-year-old was excited about the rope. The 4-year-old couldn’t contain himself over the Frisbee, except it reignited his desire for a puppy because a puppy is needed to properly catch a Frisbee. We are not getting a puppy. I’ll catch the Frisbee. No, I’m not going to bark.

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We’ve had a pretty mild summer. It’s been humid, but not too hot. Just a handful of 90 degree days, for which I’m thankful since we don’t have central air. Your condolences are appreciated. Every day since the toys arrived the kids have played with at least two, usually the ball and the Frisbee. It’s nice to see them gadgetless. Now that school has started, we have less time in the evenings to play outside, but a few days last week we were able to. There’s no screen time allowed during the week when school is in session, so this was a nice distraction. And I’m glad to be reminded that basic toys are still toys to be played with, and throwing and running for a Frisbee is exhilarating and fun (especially if you’re willing to bark like a puppy while doing it).

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Imagine Toys wants kids to go “out and play.” Everything in that backpack contributed to my kids doing just that. It reminded me that being outside can be fun in itself. Nothing has to be fancy. We can make up games to play with that ball that last hours. We can get tired from chasing a flying disc. And we can perfect our puppy sounding skills. You never know when those’ll come in handy.

More about KaBOOM!: KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to giving kids the childhood they deserve by bringing play to those who need it most. They’ve partnered with imagine toys to bring you the Go Out and Play Collection, which aims to get families outside and give kids the balance of active play that they need to thrive. Since 1996, KaBOOM! has has mapped over 100,000 places to play, built more than 2,400 playgrounds, and successfully advocated for play policies in hundreds of cities across the country. A percentage of each purchase from the Go Out and Play Collection goes back to KaBOOM! For more information, visit KaBOOM.org.

I received a KaBOOM essentials kit for review. All opinions and complaints about the Texas heat are my own.