Maybe Christmas…

I remember the feeling well. It was panic, or fear, or sadness or really all of them combined. I was a mommy to a little boy who was going to wake up Christmas morning with nothing from Santa. Sure he would be spoiled by grandparents and his aunt, I was sure of that. But that did nothing to ease the pain I was feeling those weeks before Christmas that Santa was just not going to be showing up at his home. My heart broke for my little guy. I had no idea what I would do.

Christmas for me as a child was magical. My sister and I would sleep in the same room and try with everything we had to stay up and hear Santa. It never worked. Our living room was closed off by doors, so when we came bounding down the stairs in the morning, we could see nothing. We would sit and wait quite impatiently for my grandparents to come down and for the doors to be flung open and for my grandpa to say

“Looks like the old boy made it”

My mom always took great care to set up Santa gifts. If we got doll clothes, the doll was dressed in them and they were set out as if Santa had just pulled them from his sack. Santa gifts were never wrapped. You could almost smell the magic in the air. We loved it. I wanted it for my child. I wanted him to experience the magic of Christmas.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to think about your child never experiencing that. Now I get it, I know what you are all thinking and I agree to an extent. Christmas isn’t about the gifts. It’s not! I love to give and see people receive and I love spending time with my family… but there is a pain that comes with knowing your small child won’t encounter the magic of Christmas morning like you did as a child. I felt like somehow I was letting him down.

That’s the place my heart was in and no one knew it but me. That is until my boss at the time, Denisse, pulled me aside and told me she and her friends wanted to adopt a family for Christmas, and they had chosen me.

I was flabbergasted and humbled and in tears as I realized I just might be able to give my son the Christmas I had hoped for. See, I was a single mom at the time and I was making minimum wage. I could barely put food on the table, let alone spend money on Christmas. I didn’t feel like I deserved it, I felt like there were definitely other families worse off than I was. All that being said, I put my pride aside and counted it as a HUGE blessing. My son woke up to the best Christmas ever, and while I doubt he remembers a thing he received that year, it changed something inside of me.

I was chosen to receive this gift a second year as well, and that year I promised myself something.

Someday, I would find a way to repay the gift. I would find some way to do the same thing for someone else. To take the blessing that Denisse gave me and pass it on to someone else. It became a huge desire of mine. I had no idea if I would ever be able to keep my word, but I was going to try. 

This past year has been life changing for me in so many ways. I am so lucky to have a husband who supports every dream my heart has. I told him how important it was for me to give back, and he made that happen. This year, I participated in adopting a family of my very own with my team at work. We wrapped presents today and ate pizza and chatted and I barely realized the magnitude of what we had done until it was complete. I stood back and looked over all the gifts and I thought

“This is it, this is going to be magical for them. This mama doesn’t have to worry about the magic this year.”

I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to be able to do that for someone. To give a gift that was given to me years ago. Denisse changed my life that day, and her gift in turn changed someone else’s life today.

You see, it isn’t about the gifts. It’s about loving someone well. It’s about saying

“I don’t know you, but I know where you are, and I’m going to meet you there and bring the magic along.”

Thank you Denisse, and thank you to my sweet husband for allowing me to give back.

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas …perhaps… means a little bit more”

Happy Holidays everyone! May it be as magical for you as it is for me.

Bird

Fragile Flowers

I wasn’t exactly nice to my husband this morning as I sat in our driveway leaving for work. I was irritated that my window was covered in frost and I was running late and I hate mornings and I hadn’t had coffee and I am the devil in the morning and he had the nerve to come outside and rub his hand over the windshield, trying to help, but all I could think was how smudgy that would make it and I yelled at him. Did I mention I am the devil in the morning?

I immediately felt horrible and anxious and panicky, as I normally do after I’m a big jerk. I called and cried and apologized profusely and sent another sorry via text as I arrived to work. It was then that he posed a question that really got me thinking.

“You think my devotion to you is a pretty fragile flower, don’t you?”

That simple question has caused all sorts of thinking today. That simple question prompted me to write.

See, what some of you may not know about me, is that I suffer from severe abandonment issues. I think that fear of being abandoned started at a very young age and progressed from there. I am an adopted child, which by the way is a huge blessing. I love adoption and what it does for children who need a home. That being said, it personally affected me in some negative ways as well. Something about the knowledge of being given up for adoption, causes you to have this fear of abandonment as part of your makeup. 

**Please note that I am aware that not all adopted children experience this.

That fear at such a young age, caused me to poison a lot of relationships. I always just assumed that people left. Everyone leaves, no one stays. But after my husband presented that question this morning it got me thinking.

Did everyone leave, or did I push everyone away by always being paranoid that they would leave?

Thank goodness I’ve been blessed with a husband who wouldn’t ever leave over some silly mean morning in the driveway, but honestly it really got me thinking about the past. How many times did I ruin a good thing or bruise a friendship by holding on too tightly? 

How does one wake up after years of believing she’s not worthy of healthy, unconditional love, and magically realize that she deserves it as much as the next person? How does a girl who has been hurt and left behind so many times, grow to understand that real love is forever and contains no fine print. 

One of my favorite quotes is

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky

I love this quote, and yet I don’t seem to take it to heart. My whole life, not only have I been afraid of losing people, but a lot of the people I was afraid of losing were toxic people. Year after year, boyfriend after boyfriend and friend after friend. I accepted harmful and conditional love from people simply because I didn’t want to be abandoned and I didn’t think I deserved any better.

So this is the point in my blog post where I say something deep and inspirational about how I figured it all out. The thing is, I haven’t. I still cling to my husband for dear life. I still sometimes cling to friends and family for dear life. I still, sometimes, am not completely aware of what I deserve. The point is, I’m growing and I have been lucky enough to at least realize what is healthy and what is toxic.

My husband, he is good and healthy. But do I deserve him? For now… I’ll go with “some days”. It’s a start. I am daily working on treating myself better and realizing my potential and growing into my body that I’m learning to love. It’s a daily struggle, but I’m a step closer every morning. Even when it’s a devil morning and I haven’t had my coffee.

 Bird

Unfinished: A tattoo love story

The familiar smell of latex and clean, sort of like the smell you might encounter in a doctor’s office, floats in the air. I can hear music playing, usually some kind of folk rock, but it often depends on who is in charge of the genre that day. I climb into my familiar chair and wait patiently while Nick prepares for this two hour long trek.

Rob is almost always there. He takes my hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. The stress and anxiety of the day or the week or the month is heavy on my shoulders, so heavy by now that it’s hard to catch my breath. Some of it Rob is aware of it. Some of it he is not. I keep a lot of things hidden still even though I know I shouldn’t.

If you have never had a tattoo you may not be aware that there are different types of machines, but a lot of tattoo artists these days use machines that are very quiet. Rotary machines are much more fluid and silent, while coil machines (from my limited understanding) are a bit harder to use and are incredibly loud. Think, I don’t know… Dentist’s office loud.

Nick uses a coil machine. He’s incredibly skilled with it, but it is loud. There is this jolting clack it makes when he first turns it on that tells me it’s time to begin. That clack sound gives me goose bumps. Every single time.

Anyone you ask that says that tattoos don’t hurt is either a bigger badass than I’ve ever met, or he is lying. They hurt. Now some hurt worse than others, sure. But they all have some sort of pain attached to them. My most recent tattoos have been my hands and fingers, and I’m here to tell you it hurts. Badly. It’s a pain like I’ve never felt before. It burns and stings, sometimes it feels like there may be nothing left of my knuckles when he is done and there have been a couple of times I’ve looked at my husband with a panic in my eyes and given him an “I can’t take any more” look. Every time, without fail, he nods and says “You got this”.

Some of you reading this get it. Ink therapy is a very real thing.

For those of you who don’t get it, it may be hard to explain, but I will try.

Tattoos, for me, are healing in two very specific ways. I remember the moment in middle school when I realized I hated my body. I was part of the Eaglettes Dance Squad which was a huge accomplishment for me. I was by far the biggest girl on the team, but it didn’t bother me because I had passed tryouts which meant that I was worthy. I let go the fact that my cheerleading type outfit was the largest one and was still pretty snug on me. It didn’t matter because I was a good dancer and I had earned my spot. 

None of this mattered until one Friday, I was sitting in the hallway in full uniform for game day taking a makeup test. An older boy was walking down the hall, and he looked at me and stated with a smirk, “Aren’t you too big to be a cheerleader?” then laughed and proceeded down the hall. 

I understand that kids are mean, but this simple statement changed my life forever. All of a sudden I became incredibly aware of what people said and thought about me. This is definitely a topic I’ll explore at great length in another post. But just know that I spent a good portion of my life hating what I saw in the mirror.

So what does that have to do with tattoos? Every single piece of art that Nick puts on my body, changes what I see in the mirror. I see intricate details and artistic design and people stop me and ask me about them and tell me how beautiful they are. It takes the focus away from what people used to see about me, and puts the focus on something I want them to see. Now please don’t get things confused. I don’t use the tattoos to hide anything. I’m still a big girl, that can’t be hidden with ink. What it does is it changes the way I see myself, which in turn changes how others see me. I love me, and so they see a light rather than someone who is just dying inside her skin. Each tattoo represents change.

The pain, believe it or not, is the other portion of the process that heals me. It keeps my focus pinpoint. All the stress, all the anxiety goes away. I have one goal and one goal only and that is to complete the sitting time and not tap out. When it’s done, the pain is a reminder of something I did that isn’t easy. You don’t see a lot of people with solid black work tattoos on their hands for good reason. It SUCKS. Badly. In the end I’m more powerful because I did it, I accomplished it, I chose this skin and I had control over the outcome. 

Look, I get that even now some of you will still not understand. I get that some of you may not understand why I would cover scars and pain with more scars and pain. That’s ok. This isn’t some sort of pitch to sell tattoos to you, it’s merely an attempt to help you understand why I’m taking this journey. There will be many, many, more tattoos. There is a lot more growth for me that needs to happen. Ink growth, heart growth, self-love growth, anxiety free growth, personal growth, professional growth. Growth of all kinds. 

I’m not anywhere close to done. 

I’m just unfinished.

Bird