Monday, October 6, 2014

Why My Husband Is Not My First Priority

I've seen a lot of posts lately about making your husband your first priority and how not doing so is detrimental to your marriage and the family unit as a whole. And quite honestly, I just have to vent.

I'll start with...Are your KIDDING me!

I get it. God said something about something that meant women are subservient to men and blah, blah, blah. Or, you could go with the argument that men need to feel needed and wanted and loved after the birth of a child. Or even the other argument I've heard. Kids will leave the nest.

In face, here's a little something I picked up on a quick search about the topic:

Ask Him for Input!

So, ask him if there is anything special that would really bless him. Some men have a hard time thinking of these things on the spot (or working up the courage to say them!), so I’ve included a list of ideas to get the conversation going. Show it to him and ask if any apply.
  • Making (or not making?) certain meals.
  • Giving him “downtime” for a few minutes when he gets home.
  • Packing a lunch for him the night before.
  • Making an effort to keep a particular part of the house clean (kitchen? bedroom?).
  • Taking part in his favorite hobby.
  • Taking a nap/rest when the kiddos are napping so that you’re not “too tired” in the evening. ;-)
  • Wearing (or not wearing?) certain clothes. (My hubby loves my yoga pants, which are a comfy alternative to sweatpants, ladies!!)
  • Planning fun family activities.
  • Allowing for more family “downtime”.
This is from A Biblical Marriage. There's not a single spot in that article that says anything about what a HUSBAND can do for a WIFE. It's all about making hubby happy. Seriously, I'm expected to make his lunch for him the night before because I don't have enough to do making ETHAN's lunch? I understand this women is obviously a stay-at-home mom and that's cool. I don't care. But I've read other articles that make it pretty clear women, regardless of working or no, should do make husbands their first priority. 

But here's what I want to know. Why do these articles lead your to believe that if you don't make him the priority, he's going to go hump the next girl he sees? It seems ridiculous to me. 

My kids are my priority. They have to be. They need me. And I can screw them up. It's all I can do to keep up with work and kids and meet all of those crazy expectations. I feel like this is just one more area where someone can point at me and say, "Oh no! You're screwing up. You're husband's gonna leave you if you don't get it together!" 

I've been married for 12 years. I don't have a perfect marriage. And life with little people is way more difficult than I ever anticipated. I'm exhausted 24/7. I barely make time for myself. I tell my husband daily that I love him. I give him hugs. I thank him for helping with the kids...sometimes. And I expect that same treatment. I expect him to reciprocate. But I can't make extra time to fit in something "nice" to do for him on a regular basis just to make sure his precious ego is fed sufficiently enough that he won't leave me because my world is centered around the two children we created together and hope to raise into responsible adults. 

It's not that I think women should just forget their husbands exist or show them no attention, but in a world where every parenting decision we make is equally criticized by some other mom and there are a million and ten ways we can make ourselves feel like we aren't measuring up, I think it's unfair to put undo pressure on an already pressurized situation. I'm in survival mode. But you can bet your ass that once survival mode begins to move into a more stable environment, I will be more than ready to hang out a little more with the husband and talk about....normal things. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The World According to....

I wonder sometimes how different I would be today had my childhood been different. Sometimes I look at my kids and wonder how different they would be if they were living the type of life I lived at their age. I wonder how vital environment is to our success and how I became successful despite my environment.

But then I wonder if I actually did become successful or if I was actually stunted from achieving my true potential. And I wonder how many other adults are walking around just barely a part of what they could've been. If only.....

As we move through the various motions required to ensure Ethan has the best possible chance at being successful in the public school system, I am forced to face some rather surprising and squashed memories. Nothing horrible. Just the sort of things that make me ponder the above....

I wouldn't consider myself very smart. My vocabulary is limited. I don't feel capable of "keeping up" with smart people. I never felt this more acutely than in my college major. It's a wonder I stuck with it actually. However, when asked, "Were either of you in a gifted program in school?" Well. Yes. I was. It was brief and I only remember learning about light refraction, but nonetheless, I do remember going to the house on school grounds and learning about really cool things with a small group of kids. It was fun.

And that got me thinking.

When I was sevenish, I remember my grandmother speaking to someone on the phone. She was talking about me. She said I had an extensive vocabulary and what was really neat was that I could hear a word and use it properly in a sentence immediately.

And then I thought about the fact that I read Edgar Allan Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado" when I was seven or eight. And my memory. It's not quite as a good these days, but when I was Ethan's age and older, adults constantly commented on my ability to remember the most obscure things and, well, everything. I remembered everything. I can still remember things in such vivid detail. I can find places because I can see what the scene looks like in my head. It's pretty useful. I can do the same thing with codes and numbers. Not always. It's random, but there are times when I can see a sequence of numbers and remember it forever. It's like I take a picture of it and I can physically see it. Maybe that's normal.

The point is not to point out that I'm smart. I've already said I'm not that smart. The point is to point out that maybe I was. I recently heard from a piano teacher I had way, way back when I was nine. She said, "I just remember how good you were and how intelligent you were." Me? What? I was?

I think I was. I think years of living in an overly stressful environment where everyday was a freaking crap shoot did a number on my growing brain. Damn parents. Damn environment.

Really I'm okay with it. God knows I've done enough damage to that little brain of mine in college to NOT get angry about other people's inflictions.

Maybe, though, it would've helped me now as I'm going through all the things we're going through with Ethan and likely Dylan. gets me thinking about that whole nature vs. nurture thing.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sometimes You Just Have to Hold On Tight

To say my world has been a constant state of chaos would be an understatement. I'm not sure what the universe is trying to do to us, but I'm ready for things to finally settle down. Sometimes I feel like we conquer one thing just to encounter the next. Cryptic? I'm getting there.

Last July, Ethan began getting sick. A lot. I've already been through the journey to discovering he has Celiac disease and the shift to gluten-free within our household. It hasn't been that bad. In fact, I'm currently enjoying cauliflower rice with sesame orange chicken that's gluten-free and diary free that I made myself. It's delicious. But that's not to say it's be EASY either.

Yesterday Ethan had a Celiac re-check to draw some blood to see where his levels fall. Due to the timing, he would miss school lunch. Big deal, right? Um, yes, it's a big deal because it means I have to find a place that takes gluten-free seriously and doesn't look at me like I've grown two heads when I begin asking about cross contamination. We don't eat out much these days, so I haven't learned the "safe" places yet.

Whats worse is that I recently read more than a couple articles (found in scholarly journals) that show a link between aluminum adjuvant used in vaccines and autoimmune diseases. Celiac is autoimmune. There's no proof, but there's no way I can KNOW for sure the vaccines didn't bring it out. When I get my head above water, I'll have to do a bit more investigating.

Our transition and Ethan's subsequent medical bills began to come together in January of this year. In February, I discovered something rather disturbing in my left breast. A rather large lump. In effort to make sure I wasn't crazy, I made the husband cop a feel. He made a funny face and said, "What the hell is that." I responded with, "Well, I guess that means I should get it checked out."

Two days later, I was sitting on the crinkly paper covering the make-shift exam table in my OB's office. She felt around and conferred that my husband and I were not crazy. She thought I should move forward with a mammogram just to rule anything out but felt pretty confident that all would be well. That lump was probably fibroadenoma. Benign. But let's be safe.

Two weeks later, my precious, small boob was being unceremoniously smooshed between a plastic plate and a piece of metal. In a variety of directions. As is customary, the area was also checked out via ultrasound. And I was sent back to the waiting room full of ladies with similar fates staring at TV screens, phones, or magazines.

They called me back to the tiny waiting room and I waited. I waited for the radiologist to come in and tell me everything was fine. To tell me that it was just the same spot I had biopsied in 2006. Because it was in the same exact location. Maybe it had just grown. My OB wasn't concerned. All would be well.

"I'm concerned and would like you to have a biopsy of the area." Wait. What? That can't be right. I'm going through this again?

Why? I asked. She explained that the area had changed and was bigger. It also had it's own vascular system, which concerned her. Cancer likes to develop its own little colony, blood and all. There were several things that made her feel it was suspicious. And so I left that office feeling a little numb.

And I researched everything in sight. I looked up everything I could with the knowledge I had. My BIRADS score was a 4. That was better than a 5, which was definitely cancer. It meant I had a 3% to 93% of having cancer. There was no 4a, 4b, or 4c. It was simply 4. I was beside myself with worry. I looked up sad stories and happy stories and everything in between.

Two weeks later, I was laying on an ultrasound table being poked, prodded and rubbed. My arm stretched above my head. Two screen within my view. One displaying the horrible lump that brought me here. The other blank. The women that prepared me, sterilizing everything, chatted away. They asked about my comfort. They talked about her recent trip to Puerto Rico. They waited, as I did, for the doctor. And when she came, they stuck me once, twice, three times with small needles to numb the outside and inside of my fragile breast. And then I saw her pick up the knife and felt the pressure as she sliced a tiny incision big enough for a 7-guage core needle. She took a total of four core needle samples. I watched as the blank screen came to life to help her guide the needle into the mass. I watched as the vacuum sucked out the "suspicious" tissue. And when it was all over, I was bandaged up and sent home to rest.

Four agonizing days later, my husband and I returned to the breast clinic. We were greeted within minutes of our arrival. My husband began to worry as we were escorted into a tiny room to find out my fate. I worried.

"Well, it's not cancer, but it's not benign either." Wait. What? What? Then what the hell is it?

My husband rarely asks questions, but he asked her to write down the exact name of the thing that was turning my life upside down. Radial Scar OR, when the lump is as big as mine,  Complex Sclerosing with Atypia Ductal Hyperplasia. What's that mean? It means it's a nasty piece of mass that isn't all that common. And to make matters worse, it has atypical, or abnormal, cells hanging out and propagating in mass quantities. It means it raises your risk for cancer by 4 to 5 times. It means you gotta get the damn thing out before it gets real wild and turns into CANCER.

A week and a half later, I was looking out of the window of a breast surgeon's office wondering how in the hell I ended up here. I was fortunate, I'd been told, to get in with one of the best breast surgeons in town. When he came in, he looked over my report and stated what I already knew. The radial scar could be watched if it didn't have atypia. But that was a deal breaker. It had to come out.

Three weeks later (last Thursday), I arrived at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. I was taken back and placed in my room. I was wheeled over to the breast clinic and numbed. I was fitted with a small wire that would help the surgeon find my nasty lump. It was deep and not in the usual location for this type of mass. I was wheeled back and given an IV and a sedative. My husband went to the waiting room and I waited in unanxious bliss until they came to get me.

Surgical rooms are bright. So. Very. Bright. I mean it's the brightest room I've EVER seen. So white. So clean. I felt the drugs enter my body. I remember saying, "There it is." And then I woke up. I woke up talking nonsense and remembering that I was talking nonsense. I was trying to figure out why I was fixated on the nonsense I chose to wake up spewing. It was about Doulas and Doctors. It was strange.

I was wheeled to my recovery room and honestly, it's all kinds of hazy from there. I don't remember much. I felt loopy and off kilter the rest of the day. And I've been sore. So sore. And I've felt like a wheeny for it.

But then I figured they had to go in through the side almost directly under my armpit. It's 1.5" long. It's through muscle rather than just tissue. It's sore.

Today, I received the news that the 90% chance no cancer would be found came through. There was a 10% the core needle biopsy missed something. Today I found out I DO not have cancer. Just a scar and a tiny indent to remind me why self breast exams are important. After all, I found my own lump and took a proactive approach. Had I waited even a mere 6 months, my outcome could've been significantly different. There's not a lot scarier than looking at your young children and fearing you may have cancer and that cancer may take you away from them.

I bet you think that's it, right? It's enough, but it isn't.

In March, Dylan got sick. He was having trouble breathing and we ended up with breathing treatments. He almost didn't get to come home with me that day, but my doctor knows me and knows that even if I'm all "no unnecessary meds" I'm going to listen to her when she tells me he NEEDS something. And then we talked Asthma. And the fact that he probably HAS asthma. He can't be diagnosed now, but all indications point to that direction. Family history, extreme eczema.

But I'm not done. 

Ethan's preschool gives an eye screening. We received his eye screening with areas of concern marked. So I took him to the optometrist. Low and behold the child is nearly BLIND in his left eye. He can't see the BIG letters. Better than 20/20 in his right. The doctor said, "You're just going to need to make sure nothing happens to his right eye." Oh, and he'll have to wear glasses. He apparently HATES that idea and is concerned he'll look silly. I can't fix this for him, but I can make sure he gets the BEST care possible.

Next week, on Dylan's SECOND birthday, I'll take Ethan to an ophthalmologist. We'll see what they come up with and if this thing can be corrected.

And finally....

Ethan fell 8' out of a tree. He landed on his stomach, lost his breath and had so much dirt crammed into his mouth, I was certain he'd be missing teeth. He came out fairly unscathed and learned a valuable lesson. For me, I briefly let my mind wonder to "what if" he had landed on his head or broke his arm or paralyzed himself. Briefly. He is a boy. 

Good things?

They're hard to find right now, but I'll try. We're planting our garden this weekend. I'm excited for that. We got the truck my husband wanted and we're all in love with it. We're all "healthy" for the most part and happy. I have an amazing family AND Spring is upon us. Swim lessons are starting. I truly have SO much to be thankful for, but today, this moment, I'm most thankful for being CANCER free. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Family Update

I keep telling myself I'm going to write more. I really WANT to write more, but time is an ever-growing issue that I haven't managed to solve. I could use about six more hours in my day.

Things in the Craft house are busier than ever. Between wrestling, which is now over, swim lessons, and science experiments, I barely have time to sit for just a couple minutes. I have always needed a few moments of solitude to gain back my energy in order to tackle the next thing. Apparently, even that has gone by the wayside.

Ethan has moved back into my bed. I'm not sure how these things happen. It seems to be a very fluid, very slow occurrence that happens before I realize it's happened. I find myself realizing he's sleeping with me every night again, and I'm at a loss as to how to stop it yet again.

This time, I've been letting him lay in bed with me at night while I'm reading. He quietly plays his leappad (please no comments on how awful that is) while I read. When I say lights out, he goes to sleep. He gets more sleep that way and we're all better for it. Except my husband is afraid to wake the screaming bear I become when I'm woken up shortly after I fall asleep, so he's taken up residence in Ethan's bed. I'm not sure this is healthy.

I've thought about ways we can get him back into his own room. And then I thought about how long we've been dealing with these bed time issues. Well, that's easy. The very first night he came home, he screamed bloody murder until I picked him up and brought him to bed. The rest is history. And it's hard to kick the kid out when he holds my hand and asks, "Do you know who I love more than anybody in the whole entire world and universe?" When I say, "Who?" He says, "You, Mommy. I love you that much."

Someday he won't. Someday he'll enter his teenage years and look at me like I have three heads and fangs and am dead set on ruining his life. Someday he'll fall in love with someone else. And that person will be the center of his world and he'll still be mine. I think knowing those things holds me back to forcing the bed issue now.

I suppose I'm lucky the other little munchkin in the house prefers his bed. It's amazing how different they are. Don't get me wrong, they're similar in some ways. They're both ornery boys that purposely push each other's buttons. But Dylan is much better about entertaining himself and sleeping in his own bed.

Speaking of Dylan. That child is going to be TWO in less than two months. I can't believe it. When I look at him, I have a hard time seeing him as nearly two. He still seems so small (he is). He says TONS of words but also still babbles a lot. He's beginning to recognize some letters here and there and loves to count, two, one, two, three, one, two. He's really been working on his jumping skills lately. He put two objects right in front of each foot and tried to jump on them. It's funny to watch him.

I'm beginning to think the child will never get more teeth. He only has six. Weird. He's just getting over his first real cold of the season. I've been fortunate so far not to have a lot of illness in the house. That has been nice!

Over the past weekend and week, the weather has been pretty nice. With the time change, we've been enjoying the outdoors after work. Ethan's been working on his tree-climbing skills. I love watching him climb trees. It reminds me of how many trees I scaled as a child.

Things keep moving forward. The boys definitely keep me busy, and the gluten-free shift has definitely put me in the kitchen a lot more than in years past. But we're all doing well with it and Ethan is doing so much better. Except for his Chex obsession. I refuse to buy more Chex. They're everywhere.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Making" Things & A Little Ethan

So I've really jumped into this whole DIY product stuff. When I think about how much of it I make, I'm rather amazed with myself. I've always wanted to make my own things, but never really knew how. The internet is a wonderful thing. Currently, my list includes
  • Baby wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Body wash
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Lotion bars
  • Shower cleaner
I think that covers it. It's super easy. People ask me how I have the time, but once you have the ingredients on hand, most of it takes less than five minutes to make. And I love these products way more than their expensive, chemical-laden counterparts. I know what's in these products. The added bonus is that they usually cost pennies on the dollar when compared to store brands. I WISH I would've learned these techniques ages ago.

If you've been around for any time at all, then I don't have to tell you how challenging my firstborn is. He's a handful and more. He's willful and determined and persistent and intelligent. It's a pretty exhausting combination. We struggle with him at school, and he's only in Pre-K. I fear kindergarten in so many ways. I mean truly, wholeheartedly FEAR it.  I fear his behavior and absolute resistance to conforming to the "norms" that will be expected of him. I fear his teacher's patience. I fear his adversity to change. I fear his boredom with the things he already knows.

I fear his unrelenting avoidance of the things he doesn't feel he's "good" at. I fear so much of what's to come, but most of all, I fear he'll lose his love of learning. I fear he'll be shattered by the wrong words and the encouragement to be like everyone else and focus on what everyone else is focusing on. I fear he won't engage and will learn to abhor the very institution that is tasked with preparing him for the intellectual world.

And while I know there are plenty of people at the ready to give me well-meaning advice about his behavior and parenting skills and his need to learn how to operate within social norms, those people don't know my child and they don't know the things we do at home in terms of discipline. I refuse to be made to feel I'm inadequate as a mother because I know I'm trying. So.Very. Hard. I know he has to learn those skills, but I also know he needs to be engaged and stimulated in a learning environment.

I was so fortunate to see exactly what Ethan is like when he's engaged over this past weekend. We went to a Discovering Engineering Event geared toward elementary kids about all sorts of engineering fields. For 2.5 hours, we walked around, we experimented, we talked. Ethan stayed 100% engaged the entire time. He paid attention. He asked questions. He answered questions. He learned. He engaged. He felt heard and respected. It's an amazing thing to watch your child light up when they realize like-minded people actually care about what they're saying.

I mean, I try to be all scientific with him. I research so much stuff and look at so many ways I can engage his scientific heart, but I don't speak the language as well as other scientists. When Ethan started explaining how lightning forms and was correct, I was blown away. I didn't know he knew that. I had no idea. Watching him run through logic sequences without batting an eye was amazing. Hearing him explain how Magma rocks are formed to a group of kids blew me (and the demonstrator) away. And watching him determine how to make paper stronger so it could hold a whole jar of pennies was also quite eye opening.

He was in his element. He excelled. He listened. He synthesized. He rationalized. He didn't want to leave!

I am so thankful I chose this event over the Cat in the Hat event I was going to take him to. I've never seen him so engaged. I keep saying it because it really was something to see. There were no outbursts. There were no "reminders" of behavior needed. There were no consequences reiterated. There was simply no need because my child was too interested in learning and sharing and being part of a group of like-minded people. It was FANTASTIC!

And it's even more terrifying. I know now more than ever that he's bored. I know now more than ever that the public school system is not going to be able to engage him. I foresee many bumps in our future road. I'm looking for alternatives. I'm looking for clubs. I may even start a club. He needs an outlet for his interests.

I can tell you this....nothing with that child is ever easy, but there are so many moments when I stand enthrall of who he is and what he may very well become.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Alive and well

I'm still around. Just not around here. Work has been busy. Home has been busy. But we're all still here. Updates? Sure.
  • I'm all kinds of messed up over this Hailey Owens thing. I know these things happen all over the country, but it seems to have a more bitter impact when it's in your own back yard. I'm sick over it. Just sick. 
  • This event has also made me reexamine the things I let Ethan play outside. I'm really not comfortable letting him out alone now, even though we live in the country. I also have been thinking about ways to communicate the real danger of some people without making him distrustful of everyone. I mean, this guy was a public school employee that worked with kids. They should be able to trust him. And that's the rub; as a parent, I feel I have to look upon everyone with suspicion. I can't trust anyone to be safe with my child. It's a hard road. And I'm already so distrustful of most people, which is something I don't want my children to feel, but alas, how do I teach them to trust in such a scary world when I can't do it?
  • Ethan is doing fantastic since going gluten free. He completely understands the need to avoid all gluten and is quick to ask if something contains the intestine-damaging stuff before consuming anything. It makes it much easier on Momma. I'm fortunate to have a child that just "gets it." 
  • I got his medical bills for all the blood work and procedures. Ugh. Expensive. 
  • I have to schedule an appointment for a mammogram and ultrasound on my left breast. I've had this done before in my 20s, but the lump has changed, and I rather be safe than sorry. I'm not overly concerned, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm a little nervous about it. I don't know who wouldn't be. 
  • Dylan is fantastic. He says tons of stuff now. I can't even tell you everything he says. I love hearing his little voice say "thank you." Or "bless you." Or "Okay." Or even, "live long and prosper." Really. He does. He's still the tiniest guy I know. At 21 months, he weighs a whopping 20 pounds and still wears his 12-month clothes. He's too cute for words. He loves to sing and is pretty good at keeping the rhythm and throwing the right words in here and there. And he is a die hard Thomas the Train fan. He can name MOST of the trains. His favorite, from what I can tell, is Percy. He sleeps through the night MOST nights, which is a God send. I need the sleep and have waited a long time for it. 
Ethan's preschool is having a Parent's Night Out this Friday. I'm super excited. And they take siblings. Yay!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Raising Our Children

 This is my youngest brother. I don't know how old he is in these pictures, but I can say that he still looks like he does in the second picture. This boy was a sweetheart. Rowdy? Yes. Hyperactive? Yes. Annoying to his big sister? Most definitely. But sweet nonetheless.

Today, this boy is in his twenties. He struggles to make ends meet. He's been down roads I can't even discuss here and has managed to not follow his older brother's fate by sheer luck. When I see these images, it makes me think. It makes me think about a past that is riddled with hardships and self doubt. It makes me remember how hard life was growing up. And it makes me sad for the boy smiling back from these photos.

Photos are supposed to bring a since of nostalgia. A smile to ones face. A glimpse into a childhood left behind. But I can't say there was a "childhood." Did we ride bikes? Yes. I taught this boy to ride a bike. Did we fly kites? Most definitely. Did we spend hours in the woods pretending we lived in a far away land? Many times. But we always had to go home. We always had to go back to a house filled with yelling and cussing and hitting. That little boy in these pictures saw more before he was three than most people care to imagine.

That smiling face is a facade, hiding fears and angers and heartaches that would fester into adulthood and likely beyond. That little boy lost self-esteem and confidence and was told he would amount to nothing. That he would be nothing. That he wasn't smart enough, wasn't good enough, wasn't strong enough.

I can't share the secrets of his adult life because 1) it's not my place and 2) I'm not involved enough in his life. A divide occurred between us likely when I moved to California when I was 12. Nevermind that I was gone less than a year. I left again when I was 17. I left for good and rarely came back home. Holidays. That's when I would appear and even then, I would spend hours reading in a room to my self. I spent little time with my siblings, so it's no wonder he doesn't turn to me. I wish we were closer. I wish I could help him. I wish he could share his childhood battles with me. Not because I think I could cure it all for him. He has to want that. But because I know all too well many of those feelings and have been forced to come to grips with a childhood that was less than childlike in order to move forward toward a happy adulthood.

I understand how parents can indulge their children, especially if they carry these feelings and the fear that they'll repeat these mistakes. It's likely my biggest battle. I don't want my children to ever feel unloved, abandoned, alone, fearful before there is anything to fear. That's what we felt. My brother has gone in the opposite direction. While I don't doubt his children know he loves them, I do know they are exposed to things I hope my children never experience.

Children, while resilient, are fragile. Yes, they have an uncanny ability to shake it off and come back for more. But as they grow into adults, those things don't disappear. They stay with them and haunt them as they try to navigate an already unstable world. In these cases, poverty takes another, separate toll, as climbing out of that ditch becomes a fight against all one knows and all one hopes to be. Leaving behind the people who knew you best to forge a new path isn't easy. It takes strength and conviction and willingness to say goodbye, even if you still talk on the phone or visit over the holidays. That relationship is rarely the same.

Why would he turn to me? What do I know? I can see why he would turn away. Why it would make sense that I wouldn't understand. We're in two extremely different places. The only thing that binds us is our past, and he once told me I left him. I left. And I didn't come back. I have added to the pain I know he deals with, and I hate that. I wish I would've been stronger. I wish I would've come around more often. I wish I would've put my own anger aside during that time to be there for my siblings. But I didn't, and I know I couldn't. Not then. My own emotions were eating me alive and I was in a state of self-preservation.

Parents, I think, should realize the impact they have on a child. It's not just during childhood that their actions affect their children. It imprints upon them for a lifetime. A lifetime of love and joy and self-worth. Or a lifetime of doubts, fears, abandonment, and pain. Yes, with enough counseling, one can move past many of these things, but that doesn't make the memory of them disappear. And it doesn't stop those feelings from creeping in every now and then. The experiences a parent gives a child last a lifetime. A lifetime. My memories still haunt me. The things I've lived through still haunt me. Thankfully, there were moments when I saw true love from my mother. Moments that I cherish and try to hold on to tightly when all those other moments creep in.

When I look at my children, I know how damaging my choices could be for them. And that is why I struggle so hard as a parent. The child in these pictures had potential. He had every right to be where I am. He had every right to be loved. To be told he could make it. To be encourage to overcome obstacles and succeed. But no one did that for him.
 My youngest on the right at his kindergarten graduation
 My oldest brother, who is currently serving his second term in prison