Monday, December 29, 2008

Grace for the New Year

Why is it that every year about this time I start feeling as if I failed…didn’t get enough done...didn’t help enough people…didn’t make enough money…didn’t parent my children perfectly…didn’t write enough blog entries…

As 2009 approaches I am trying to figure out what is realistic…how should I measure my success as a single mom, daughter, sister, friend, employee/business owner…what should my New Year’s resolutions be?

What’s realistic for a single mom to expect of herself? Is it enough to get up in the morning, get showered and dressed; get the kids ready for school, make their lunch, feed them breakfast, and feed the animals; take the kids to school; run home to find the forgotten homework and drop it back at school; go to work and try and get something accomplished; take one child to the doctor, one child to the orthodontist, and one dog to the vet; run to the grocery store before heading to the day’s sports events to cheer on the kids; race home to make dinner, start a load of laundry and help with the homework; tuck the kids into bed, do the dishes, take out the garbage, clean the toilet and pay the bills…

Is the everyday enough? How can we add the car maintenance, home/yard maintenance, keeping up with friends and family, volunteer work, exercise, and quiet time with God? If we take a break, who picks up the slack? How do I add another resolution to what is already a 25-hour day?

I have been doing the single mom thing for 14 years…and I still haven’t figured out how to get it all done. It is easier now that my kids are 17 and 14…but it is still tough. Time that I gained from the kids helping out around the house is now spent trying to figure them out…life has gone from a physical stretch to a mental stretch. Case in point…

My daughter’s room is a pig sty. It is horrible. We signed a contract that said if I let her get a cat she would keep her room clean. We signed the contract because I didn’t want to fight about her room. Any idea what court of law enforces the broken “clean room” contract? I am in the dog house…I told her she couldn’t go to the movies until her room was cleaned up…she missed the movie. So guess what she is doing right now? Ignoring her room and giving me the evil eye!! I am wishing I had a spouse to back me up…to be the bad guy…to lay down the law…to enforce the contract.

So here I am, pondering New Year’s resolutions when my daughter’s room is a mess, when I can’t manage to enforce “the contract”, and when I am behind on laundry, bills, housecleaning, etc. Can I really expect more of myself? Can I really make another resolution that I won’t keep?

Instead of asking more of myself…I am going to practice a little grace…I am going to give myself permission to do the best I can. My 2009 New Year’s resolution is to show myself grace when everything is piling up. I commit to blog about the little moments of grace that I find in 2009. Some may be short and sweet, and some may be longer lessons…but I promise to look for them while living the life of a single mom…want to join me?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wistmastime is Here

I always get a little wistful/weepy/whelmed at this time of year. Part of it is how I'm wired, and part of it is that it's just too much: too much to do, see, eat, buy, wrap, spend, plan. What should be repeatedly bumps up against what is. While I've made my peace with the fact that life is not like a Hallmark commercial, I do often long for the calm that is depicted (or manufactured, as the case may be)--happy kids, toasty fire, darling retriever.

Single moms can feel stretched even thinner than usual this time of year, not to mention stressed over commitments, finances, their kids' well-being, etc. For many years, I fell into a bad pattern of trying to really whip things into a froth for my daughter, so as to mitigate the fact that her parents were divorced. While I couldn't pull it off financially speaking (simply because we didn't have it), I did try really hard to "make some Christmas magic" on numerous occasions and, frankly, burned myself out: My wild activity added little to my daughter's well-being, and her lack of appreciation for my holiday gymnastics left me a tinge--how shall we say??--resentful.

I've learned to scale back--to lay out my mind's plans (usually terribly unrealistic) and cut them by about two-thirds. I push myself to call friends, especially other single moms, when I'm feeling lonely and loser-like for not pulling off the Traditional American Holidays (As Seen On TV). I ask myself regularly (like I did my daughter when she was young) Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? and then--what a concept!!--I try to take care of those basic needs. It's astounding how much more doable life becomes with a little protein and a 20-minute nap.

There's much we can do to make the season easier...the bulk of which happens inside us. How have you learned to de-stress the holidays?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sun breaks

How can I be thankful when it seems the world is crashing in?

It has been a rough two months at my house. It feels like just as I adjust to the latest crisis another one is in the wings…kind of like the rain storms that line up off the Oregon Coast to keep Portland in the dark, dreary, rain-filled days of winter. The storms come one after another, with maybe a brief sun break in between the onslaught.

My task these days is to focus on the sun breaks. It is so easy to fall into the trap of looking at the crumbling economy, newly identified health concerns, ongoing parenting challenges, and inconsistent work contracts. But instead, on the eve of Thanksgiving…I need to remember the sun…the Son. I think sometimes all we get is a sun break; a brief moment of respite, a brief moment of hope in an otherwise dreary season of life. It is the hope that is important to remember today.

Karen and I often debate how much to include God in our blog. After all, Eve’s Daughters is meant for all single moms regardless of their faith. As much as I struggle with it, I can’t take God out of it. It isn’t possible. For me, God is the reason I keep going. I am committed to helping all single moms, and the only way I know how is to share my hope. Until God came into my life, being a single mom was one storm after another…no break in the deluge. Then I started asking questions about God…and one day there was a sun break, and then another.

So in the middle of my current string of storms, I am guessing (because I can’t really see through the fog to the end of the path) that God is preparing me for helping other single moms. How else can I understand if I haven’t experienced it? Now, I must admit, I was really hoping that I had done my time. It looks like there are more lessons, more experiences, more challenges. So I must focus…focus on the sun breaks.

Today I am thankful…

for my life…I am living
for my kids…they are smiling
for my family…they are my support
for my friends…they listen
for my home…it is warm and cozy
for my God…He gives me sun breaks

Friday, November 14, 2008


My daughter is at that age where more is always better. More friends. More attention. More doodads. More colors. Choices. Options. Chocolates.


We've had many discussions, now that we've stuck a toe into The Drama Years, about how lucky we are to have one good friend--one who builds up instead of tears down, one who listens, one who's trustworthy, one who's got our back. Maybe even one more than we deserve.

My daughter listens, but I think she secretly believes that more is still better. She wants to know about this popularity thing. I need to let her figure that out while waiting patiently nearby.

Recently, when I was going through a really tough time, I asked a very wise person in my life how in the world I would make it through. He said one:

One friend.
One cheerleader.
One timely phone call.
One dose of comfort food.
One Kleenex passed.
One laugh, black or otherwise.
One walk.
One nap.

As single moms, we've got a lot going on and, usually, we ourselves fall to the bottom of the list. But the old adage is not only true but wise: If you're going to pour into someone else, best to dip from a well that actually has water in it.

So...what's your one? What's the thing or person that helps keep you going, that opens the earth so your well recharges again?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Helping the single mom

What is it to be the parent of a teenager? It is to do what you think best – when really you have no idea what is best. It is to ride out the storms and be back again the next day. It is to give love to a child who does not seem to want it, to a child who five minutes ago seemed to deserve a punch more than anything else. – Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D, “Get Out of My Life...but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?”

I remember when the kids were younger and friends and relatives told me to enjoy the early years…because it was going to get harder. It does get harder, but in a weird sort of way. It isn’t so much the physical exhaustion as it is the mental exhaustion.

I tend to second guess myself a lot, and it doesn’t help that I don’t have a spouse to help focus me and make decisions. Outside of taking the garbage out and dealing with the car maintenance, help making decisions is the biggest thing I miss about not having a loving spouse. When the kids were younger, I liked the autonomy, the decisions were easier. I felt a bit more in control, or should I say it seemed easier to gain control. Now…I am constantly asking myself if I am saying the right things, doing the right things, or making the right decisions. I need help.

I think decision making is one of the hardest parts of being a parent, let alone a single parent. When I talk to other single moms, decision making is always a big concern. “How do I make a good decision when I don’t have a partner to bounce my thoughts off of?” Ultimately, the responsibility is mine and mine alone. There is no one to pass the buck to…it is up to me. When they were younger it was easier, they weren’t as saavy and I could more easily justify my position…”Because I am the mother and I said so”. That same argument doesn’t work with a 14-year old or 17-year old.

Now that my son has turned 17 (it seems so much older than 16), I wonder if I did an okay job. Did I instill the right values? Did I focus enough on God? Did I love him enough? Did I discipline him enough? Being a single parent is a lonely job. In the workplace I know how to get feedback to determine whether or not I am successful. As a parent, I thought I would get it from my husband. Without a husband, where do I get the feedback? Family?... friends?...sometimes. But they have busy lives and are trying to answer the same questions for their own children.

Being there for other single moms as they wrestle with decision making is one of the big reasons that I think Eve’s Daughters is so important. Single moms need reinforcement, they need support, and they need to be heard. Karen and I struggle with the idea of “just being there”. Is it enough? Of course, we want to offer other services as well…spa days, parenting classes, career skills, resources when needed, connections to other single moms, and hopefully a deeper understanding of how walking a life of faith can make the entire journey better…not perfect, just better.

Single moms are parenting kids of all ages, with all kinds of challenges, and with varying levels of support. The dilemmas change depending on the day. The only given is that the journey will be bumpy. What do you need to help you along the way? We need to hear from you…let us know your thoughts. How can we support you? If you aren’t a single mom, but you walk alongside a single mom, what is her greatest challenge? How do you think we can help moms take care of themselves so they can take care of their kids? We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

He is enough...

Before I became a Christian I was pretty judgmental about the "Jesus freaks", as I used to call them. In fact, I vowed to never fall in with such a narrow-minded group of people that preached Bible verses and used big words to describe their holy walk with God. Somehow it just didn't seem real. I remember when someone in the church told me I was going through the “sanctification” process. I left thinking God was turning me into a saint! Like Mother Theresa! REALLY!

Nowadays I don’t do much better with the “jargon”, but find myself guilty of using it every now and then. It becomes habit. I am in a place some would call the “refiner’s fire”. I don’t like it (and frankly I am not overly enthused about the name “refiner’s fire” either). Just call it for what it is, a time of rotten events/crises meant to change us into better people. I want to get myself out of the fire…now! Yet, I know this is the best thing for me, right? Doesn’t God work all things for good according to His purpose?

Sometimes it is hard to have faith, hard to persevere. For me, it is hard to trust. I don’t like surprises and I prefer to have a plan to follow, in that respect I am very much like my biz partner. Let me ride shotgun high above the path in a blimp, versus down below in a beat up mini behind a giant semi.

Life is throwing me some curves. I am facing the biggest challenge I have had as a single mom and I am “forced” to turn it all over to God, forced to surrender. The crisis is too big. I am not strong enough. I don’t know when the curves will come and whether I will maneuver them well. I question if my family will end up “okay”, and I certainly don’t know if I can withstand the pain. It seems like I have been to this place before. Yes…fourteen years ago I visited this place, and many times since.

Then I didn’t have a faith, didn’t have a God. I was on my own, in control, and suicidal. It took me two years to fall on my knees in desperation, screaming for someone to save me. I didn’t know then that I was in the fire…that God was working all things for good…in order to bring me home to Him. During that time I never would admit that He had my back, heck I wouldn’t even admit He was in control. Funny, God takes you through it, even if you have no interest in experiencing it! During that time I came to Christ. Since that time I have been learning, growing, and often rebelling.

If I am truly honest, I can say that God has always been there for me. Maybe not with the answers I wanted, but he has always been there. It is during times like these that I need to remember the past, remember that I got through the trial, and remember that I am who I am because of my experiences.

This morning I was taking my son to school (he is grounded from his car) and on the way home Ginny Owens was on the radio singing “Be Still My Soul”. As I heard the lyrics, the tears began. Why is it so hard to be still? Why is it so hard to rest in God? I listened to the song and lifted my heart, and with it my problems, to God.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future, as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below

I don’t have the answers. I don’t understand the mystery. I don’t understand why this path or where this path is leading. I do know that my God will be with me every step of the way and He has a purpose in mind. On a day like today that is comforting, even if the pain remains. On a day like today…He is enough.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Realistic Hope

Then at last we see what hope is and where it comes from, hope as the driving power and outermost edge of faith. Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future.—Frederick Buechner, “A Room Called
At Eve’s Daughters, we love the phrase “realistic hope.” I know when I first divorced, I sure wished someone would wave his or her magic wand and fix everything, and most certainly I expected it from God because, you know, He just wants us to be happy… But as time went by, and I continued to experience problems and solve certain challenges and get even deeper conundrums, I felt like a kid playing that Whack-a-Gopher game: One goes down, two pop up. And I despaired. A lot.

Now, with a few more miles under my belt, I’m feeling a little more realistic about life. But realistic can be a real downer, because we know all too well how real things can really get. So where’s the balance?

I had a great opportunity today, to just sit and listen to a single mom. We were thrown together inadvertently (if you believe that such things are inadvertent) and have since become friends. The greater gift came early in the morning, while it was still so dark that you’re not sure it will ever be light again. I’d asked to be encouraging, because I often feel lame in that department. I got a Scripture reference, wrote it down on a purple Post-It and stuck it in my purse. At the end of our discussion today, I pulled it out and asked, “Does this mean anything to you?” Well. Of course. It was timely and precious and pertinent in a way I could not manufacture. I gave her a hug and told her to put it on her bathroom mirror. She laughed and said she was going to stick it to her forehead and have everyone read it back to her.

I had a great laugh today, with another single mom—a great big black laugh, one that comes in and around tears. It had to do with the aloneness of being a single parent, and how, when one is sick or injured and seemingly approaching death, it seems the entire world has forgotten you. Until the nasty decomposing vapors start to waft. Who might notice? The children? When their laundry remains undone? Or the neighbors? Whom we do not know well because we’re running all the time? It was a bad good laugh, so dark and purging that you strangely feel a little lighter afterwards.

I had a great crisis today with someone I love, because it seems the house of cards just got flicked, and something that has now been done cannot be undone.

And now, with the day not even close to done, it does kinda feel like I’m up to my knees. This day truly is very similar to my others—some good, some bad, some wrenching, some status quo. Today the heartache gopher raised its pointy little head, but, for example, the childrearing and financial drama gophers are still snug in their holes. For now. But for some reason I don’t feel as yanked around as I usually do. I feel human, to be sure, but not the need to try and be superhuman. I feel brokenhearted, but thankful. Tired, but energized. Alone, but not so. And I believe that—wading through, eyes on horizon, tiredly rejoicing—is realistic hope.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Getting Real

I have been waiting…waiting for the right time…waiting until I could be the role model I need to be…waiting until I was the perfect mom…and I am still waiting.

I have procrastinated…I have held off on launching Eve’s Daughters. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I needed to be through the ups and downs of single parenting…I needed to be in a place of relative calm so that I could help other single moms. Tonight I realize…that calm isn’t going to come. Not the calm I want…the human calm… the “all is well with the world” calm.

The last few weeks have been tough. My teenage son made a mistake. A mistake that has stopped me in my tracks and made me doubt my parenting skills, and brought me back to the same ‘ole question, “am I qualified to start a non-profit for single moms?” How can I possibly be a support to other single moms when I can’t seem to “control” what is going on in my own household, when I keep experiencing “mini” crises?

Karen and I have spent countless hours trying to “perfect” our mission statement. From the beginning we felt that Eve’s Daughters needed to be authentic, needed to reflect the realness of walking with God. So our “working” mission has been “living out the wild love of Christ by walking alongside single moms in crisis”. I have been asking God to reveal what that looks like.

Could it be that “living out the wild love of Christ” means serving single moms despite the fact that my life isn’t perfect, that my children make mistakes, that I make mistakes? Is part of God’s plan that I be vulnerable…and walk the same walk that other single moms are walking…while building my foundation on Christ? Is it as simple as being real, being imperfect, experiencing trials, and all the while loving Christ?

Christ’s love is wild. It is filled with peaks and valleys, with trials and obstacles, and with seemingly illogical paths. But at the foundation, Christ’s love is certain. He is a rock…always there…he will never leave us…no matter what we do. He loves us in spite of our warts, in spite of our inadequacies. He loves us enough to give us opportunities to grow. He loves us enough to experience storms. He loves us enough to let us fail.

The wild love of Christ doesn’t guarantee us calm, doesn’t mean a life without obstacles, and surely doesn’t mean we won’t experience pain. It does mean that when the storm is raging all around us, when we can’t see two feet in front of us, that He is there ready to be our rock, ready to be our shelter.

God wants us to get started. God wants us to step out in faith so that He can use us, in all our inadequacies as parents, to support other women as they go through the single parent journey. He wants us to be his hands and feet, his shoulder to cry on, his ear to listen.

The waiting is over…it’s time to get real

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Putting the Pieces Together

My biz partner, Cathy (below), loves doing puzzles; I am spatially stunted.
She focuses on the destination; I only see the next mile marker.
She is comfortable with the 30,000-foot view; I’m scrambling for a detailed road map.

How in the world are we going to hatch a nonprofit?

I find it interesting that we’ve been put together for this venture in that our strengths, weaknesses and hearts are in such different locales. But I’m also becoming more aware of what I’ve learned is a supernatural growth process. It truly is otherworldly—not defined by the standards we can see. It’s confusing, messy, liberating, exciting and exhausting all at once. And it’s almost always unexplainable until you get to the other side of it, until the full picture starts coming into view.

I confess that earlier in life, when I was still single and child-free, I was rather judgmental of women who complained about how hard single parenting was. It was along the lines of, “You should’ve thought of that before, hon.” And now, I find myself in a place I never wanted to be, doing what I never wanted to do, and finding my heart broken for others in similar situations.

I could not have visualized this for myself.

Of course I planned on happily-ever-after. Of course the choice to divorce created fallout, both positive and negative, that I couldn’t have foreseen. But just as in a puzzle, when you finally get some pieces to fit and say, “Oh! It’s an apple, not a fire plug,” your vision can shift toward something that didn’t exist before, making it more real than you knew.

I’ve been a single parent for seven of my daughter’s ten years. We’ve slogged through illnesses, work challenges, parenting conundrums, money shortages, legal battles, loneliness and regular, boring life stuff. At every turn, I realize now, I’ve received another piece of the puzzle: Some hard-won lessons are the equivalent of a corner piece—an anchor securely gained. Others are blurry insiders—parts that make no sense at the moment, parts that need to be put aside for a bit before they fit.

Both are needed. Both are valid. But I believe more and more that ours is a God who hides the box top. And, paradoxically, that can benefit us, stretching our sights beyond what we could imagine.

So as Cathy and I sift through the pieces, some eerily familiar to us both while others are unique, we gain a better understanding of single parenthood—the crazy challenges and the crazier rewards. And it’s our sincere hope that, in spite of our individual visions, we’ll create a full spectrum of services and tools for single moms who’d kind of like to be working alongside others at the card table—laughing together at the darker commonalities, and encouraging others to put a particularly ornery piece aside until its meaning starts coming into view.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here we go...

I don’t think of myself as a writer. My mom does. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, my mom believed in me. She is my hero. She is what I strive to be.

My mom was there when I became a single mom. She was holding my 7-month old daughter and I was holding my 3-year old son when my husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and walked out the front door. She was with me when my life changed forever.

That was 14 years ago. Today I am a single mom of an almost 17-year old and a 14-year old. I have survived the infant, toddler, elementary, and pre-adolescent years and I am holding my own through the teen years. My time as a single mom has been a journey of ups and downs, good and bad, and exhaustion and more exhaustion.
It has been kind of like a rollercoaster full of twists and turns – one minute in control, climbing the mountain, and the next careening downwards in a spiral towards the miry pit.

My journey has led me to the doorstep of Eve’s Daughters. On the good days, I like to think that Eve’s Daughters is God’s dream and that Karen (my partner) and I are lucky enough to be part of the plan. On the not so good days, I am wondering, why this road, and am I capable?

Just like in the Chronicles of Narnia… we stand at the wardrobe, waiting to take a step into a world to be explored and known. I don’t know what we are going to find or what Eve’s Daughters will become. In concept Eve’s Daughters is a non-profit created to live out the wild love of Christ while supporting single moms as they walk the sometimes lonely, demanding road of parenthood. What that path looks like and where the road takes us, is a work in progress. I try and rest in the knowledge that God knows where the road is heading…

So, here we go…we step out in faith. I hope my mom is right, and I am a writer of sorts. I hope that Eve’s Daughters becomes a place where single moms feel validated. I hope that God picked the right person and that I am ready for the journey …