Monday, November 7, 2011

Keeping it Real

I read this post about 'keepin it real' the other day. It got me thinking. I read other people's blogs and feel so inadequate. I have actually told my husband that I hate myself. I see what these other women accomplish and see all that I don't do, even if they have two or three times the amount of children as I do.

To be honest, my house isn't that messy. My husband and I are neat freaks people. We started teaching our children at a very young age to put their things away. We use different organizational tools to make life simpler and easier so that we can simply sit back and enjoy. We don't have nearly as many toys or art things as others. I hate when things aren't put back in their proper place and yes, my children will be scolded. They know where things belong. Now, you may be feeling sorry for my kids, that's ok. We like it tidy so that there is always a place on the couch to cuddle or on the floor etc. Our house isn't always perfect, but messes have a place in our house too. Unfolded clean laundry waits in an ikea bag in the corner of the living room, out of the way. Toys are cleaned up before every meal.

To keep it real though, my messes are of an interior nature. As neat as my house is, you should see inside my head. It is not the clean houses that are of deepest disturbance, but rather the family photos. I have always been envious of families. Let me explain....

My mom had me at the age of 17. She was a teen mom and that already says a lot. My dad was 18 and liked smoking pot. Needless to say, I was stoned before the age of 1! Yes, before my first birthday. My mother left my dad while pregnant with my younger brother because when she came home from work one day, she found me stoned in my crib. It took her half an hour to wake me up. I was eight months old. My mom moved all of the way across the country in order to try to have a fresh start.

At the age of three, my brother and I began living with our maternal grandparents without our mother. A year later, we moved to my grandmother's sister's place out on the farm. At the farm, I was only five when it first happened. I am a victim of incest. My second cousin was the abuser. This was the beginning of hell on earth as I knew it. I told, and I wasn't believed. My other cousins saw it happen and did nothing. When the truth came out (I told a teacher at school), I was twelve and was blamed by my family. They told me that it was my fault. I was a disgrace to the family. That's when my envy of other families really began to take hold of me. I knew that they were wrong and that I wanted a real family, a loving family.

When I was sixteen, I threatened suicide. I never wanted to commit suicide, but rather be removed from my childhood home. I began staying at my highschool chaplan's and his wife's home. They were an intact family. They loved each other, and their four children more than anything in the world. I believe that although I was a challenge, they actually liked me. During my highschool years, I had very few friends. You see, I had issues with trusting people. Most of my friends had great families. My highschool boyfriend's family was no exception. They loved me and I spent most holidays at their place.

During my highschool years, I studied hard. I was an honour-roll student, excelled at many things, including calculus! I had leading rolls in the highschool plays and was respected by a majority of the student body. I worked hard to get an education, hoping and praying that I could live a good life. I wanted to be educated, get married and have children. I got accepted into a university with a great reputation. I even won some scholarships that paid for some of the smaller things, like books. I was enrolled in the music program. I wanted to be a famous opera singer, funny eh? I had master classes with a Parisien opera star, Guy Fletcher. My piano teacher has played all over the world and has recorded a number of cd's.

So what happened, I am a stay-at-home mom, who homeschools? I dropped out after second year. I couldn't stand the cut-throat mentality, the snobbiness of wanna-be opera singers and the lifestyle they were trying to lead. So, I took a sabatical, well it was supposed to be a one year sabatical. I went to Germany to work as an au pair.

The next chapter of craziness began to unfold. Remember, I was only 20. I had no family to hold me back. I went on advice of the chaplan's wife. It was ok at first. I couldn't speak the language very well after attempting to learn it in university. I understood a lot, but didn't speak a word of German during the first three months of my stay. My au pair family spoke fluent English. I only had to take care of one little boy while mama worked from home as a head-hunter. I had the weekends off and had money from working to travel. On my first trip, I took a bus, then a tram, then a train to Bonn from a small little place near Frankfurt. It was a four hour trip to ??? I think that I must have been a little crazy, okay maybe a lot.

I went to Bonn to visit the birthhouse of Ludwig van Beethoven. Afterall, I was a music student. After sight-seeing a little in Bonn, I tried to find the youth hostel. My travel book wasn't as up-to-date as the new bus plan. Needless to say, I got lost. I found the place after taking a bus to the end of the route and wandering aimlessly in the rain for hours a long time. I booked a bed in one of the rooms (I shared with some girls from Stuttgart). I wandered the halls and went for a drink in the bistro.

Up until this point in my life, I had no direction, no plan, no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was at this moment that this guy started eyeing me up. This guy who was standing amoung his buddies and laughing over a glass of Kölsch. This guy wouldn't stop staring at me. It was a little creepy. So instead of running the other way, I go up to this guy's table and say, "Hallo, ich heisse Tina. Ich komme aus Kanada und kann ein bisschen Deutch." They all laughed and asked me to join them and to have a beer with them.

Good Catholic girls don't go up to strange guys drinking beer in a foreign country, do they? They don't just join in, do they? They don't jump on a bus headed for downtown in order to have another drink in a disco and then another bar, do they? They don't let one of the guys escort them back to the youth hostel, do they? What was I thinking? I did just that. And I made a date to spend the rest of the weekend with that one guy. And that weekend turned into every weekend that I had off. By the end of the next month, my family dismissed me as their au pair (another long story) and I moved in with my German boyfriend and his mother. I got my visa changed, worked in an au pair agency and began learning German.

I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what I wanted. I never went to church, I never prayed and I cried a lot. My family hated me (or so I thought). I wanted to belong somewhere and this new boyfriend knew that I belonged with him. He proposed and we were married just under 10 months after meeting him. I was 21 and I was married to a foreign man in a foreign country and my family was ok with that. We had our marriage blessed in Canada. Both my parents came to the ceremony. It was a small ceremony in a Catholic church on a Friday night in the middle of nowhere. We had a little reception at the local Legion Hall. We spent the first two nights of our honeymoon in a bed and breakfast and the other two with my mother-in-law and her aunt in a beautiful hotel. We all shared a room! We were poor.

This post is getting rather lengthy. I am sorry.

Six weeks after we were married, we found out that we expecting. Needless to say, I never finished my education as a musician, I tossed myself into motherhood. I struggled a lot. Nearing the end of my pregnancy I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and was hospitalized. I was induced and my little boy was born two weeks prior to his date. He was perfect. We were so happy until our baby turned out to have colic. He wouldn't breastfeed, he fussed all of the time. I thought for sure I would be just like my mother, I would give up my child and run away.

Things turned around and my baby turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. We were so happy that we wanted another baby. Finally, I would get the family that I had always dreamed of. A family with a mom, a dad, no drugs, no abuse, no name calling, just love, stability, nuturing and all of the warm fuzziness that goes with it. When our baby was six months old, I ended up in the hospital having a d&C. We lost our second baby.

Just after by baby had turned two, we welcomed our sweet little girl into our hearts. This time for sure I thought I would fail. This baby never slept. She was the sweetest happiest baby for the most part, but when she was tired she screamed. I screamed and cried, too. My life wasn't perfect. We weren't the dream family. I had thoughts of running away or even worse. I was sure that I was just like my mother. I had nightmares about leaving my little ones or worse, having them taken away. My childhood scars and wounds were open. I just wanted to die. I would rather die than fail my children like my mother failed me. I almost jumped from the third story window in our apartment. Things got better, but it wasn't until my daughter was older than my brother was at the time we were left at my grandmother's. Somehow, I knew I would make it after that milestone was reached.

This was my reality. I struggled a lot with my childhood. I controlled what I could and the rest, well was left unsettled.

At the time, I wanted more kids. I strived toward having a perfect family. For me, that meant a handful of kids who loved me. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, craft with the kids, make them things and spoil my husband with homecooked meals. My ideals were based on what I thought families should be like. I looked to parenting magazines and playgroup moms for advice. I wanted the best for my kids. I wanted them to be creative, well-rounded, emotionally balanced and good little kids. We tried for a long time to get pregnant again. I gave up all hope and finally was happy and accepting of my life when I became pregnant with my next child. Everything changed again.

I didn't want baby number three. I knew that I would never abort, but I was resentfull. We tried for over a year and I had taken on a new job. I didn't want to be pregnant anymore. It wasn't on my time. The pregnancy was terrible. I had so much pain in my legs that I could hardly walk or take care of my other two kids. I had to quit my job and stay home even though we really needed the money. (I taught English a few hours a week) I struggled with how I would handle the new baby, the one I never wanted.

When my baby was born I cried. I never cry after having a baby, but I cried that day. I cried a lot. What kind of a mother doesn't want a baby, a precious little baby? What kind of a mother felt those aweful feelings? I must be the worst mother in the world? I owe this baby so much or he will surely hate me. He loved me. It was like he didn't care what happened before he was born, he just loved me. He brought us so much joy. He slept well and wasn't fussy. To this day, he cuddles me more than any of the other children.

Life was getting difficult in Germany. The cost of everything doubled since the Euro was introduced. Sending children to school was mandatory. The list of school supplies was long and expensive. The cheapest school bag was 69 EUR at the time. My husband was uneasy about the economy, so he applied for permanent residency in Canada. Four months after applying, he not only received his permanent residence status, but had a job and a house to rent. We left Germany behind to start a life in my homeland.

Reality check - after nine years living abroad, I was moving home. Not! I was moving to a city in the west, 1600 miles away from my hometown. We knew nobody, had no family, no friends, nothing. I can't imagine what the first immigrants felt like. At least we had a place to rent. We bought a new-to-us car and tried to live in a strange place. My husband long and hard hours for less than average wages. I was living as an immigrant in my home country.

We moved in July. I had so much to do that summer. I had to find a school for the kids. Then we decided to homeschool. It was a little out of the blue, but thought it might be a good idea. I made a few phone calls and started looking for curriculum. I planned to school them at home. I checked out the internet and saw lots and lots of ideas and more importantly blogs about how other families homeschool. I read advice and tried to make it work for my family. I took other people's ideas and tried to imitate their successes. I wanted to be perfect. I also thought that we ought to go to church. I was born into Catholic family and knew that it was right to thank God for all that we had.

We kept going to Mass. I joined a choir, joined a rosary making group, went to children's adoration, joined the Catholic homeschooler's group and tried after years of failing to be a perfect Catholic. I learned things that I never knew before. I learned about the Real Presence (I went to Catholic schools all my life,btw), apostolic succession, feast days and many other things. I felt dumb. Fellow Catholic homeschooling moms were blogging about feast days that I had never heard of. They were teaching their kids about the rosary, which I never prayed properly before because I was never taught. I learned prayers and devotions that were as foreign to me as the German language once was. I still know so little about my faith.

The reality hit me hard. How could I homeschool my kids if everything that I had ever done in my life before was a failure. I was a university drop-out, Catholic church drop-out and had little contact with my family. I still felt like I wasn't loved by anyone, but my husband and my three kids. I wasn't even sure if God loved me. I perservered because this was my reality. Between swept floors and home-cooked meals, I struggled with the mess in my head.

We saw all of these happy, not to mention large Catholic families and yearned for more children. I wanted a whole house full, too. We tried and tried and tried some more. We contemplated adoption and reconsidered and tried some more to get pregnant. We finally got pregnant. Holy Thursday of 2009, I took a pregnancy test and got a big fat positive bfp! We were so happy after two years of trying, we were finally expecting. Early on Divine Mercy Sunday, things changed. I spotted blood. I prayed the rosary, my new found comfort. I prayed one rosary after another, after another. I thought because it was Divine Mercy Sunday that God would have mercy on me, a sinner, a doubter and bless us. I thought hoped that the bleeding would stop. That evening, I miscarried. My husband and I buried the remains of our baby in the backyard with some holy water.

My inner mess grew and grew. I saw other mommy bloggers have beautiful baby after beautiful baby. They were crafting, teaching their kids to read, going for nature walks, living their faith, reading aloud to their children and, and, and... I felt so inadequate. The perfect family I always wanted was only to be had by others. My friends had babies. My daughter prayed for a sister as did her best friend. In the meantime, her friend has had two baby sisters welcomed into the family.

We did have another baby, too. A boy. We love him to death. He is special. His pregancy was hard. I feared for his life. His birth was so beautiful, so peaceful. But, reality hit again. My baby failed to gain weight. He lost more and more weight. I supplemented, I took meds to help produce more milk, I went to a lactation consultant and nothing helped. It was after four months or so of struggle that a friend tipped us off to check out this website. We had to change our complete diet. NO GRAINS. It worked. Our baby began to thrive, the rest of us had fewer and fewer incidents of indigestion. It turns out that all six of us are gluten sensitive. But, instead of being thankful, I cried. Everyone else can eat whatever they want. There are so many feast days that I want to celebrate like other moms, but I can't. I can't make the recipes because they make us sick. Again, I can't be like all of the great Catholic moms who blog about their celebrations.

This is turning into pity seeking post of some sort. I don't seek pity, but want you to know that I am far from perfect. I have a hard time praying the rosary because the last time I leaned on it, I lost my baby. I don't celebrate many feast days because I can't celebrate the way other families do, with food! We have one vehicle and can't go on field trips or other homeschool outings. We don't do karate or music lessons because we can't afford it right now. Our food bills are really high because we can't eat what others eat. Our family is less than perfect. I have doubts most of the time that I am doing anything right. Since our most recent miscarriage, I hardly function. I don't sleep very well and I have terrible nightmares. I know that I should be doing more school stuff with the kids, but I don't.

The reality is that I want to be like you moms out there who although you may have messes here and there, you have lots of babies. This post is probably written from a hormonaly pms point of view. I am a terribly jealous woman. I want my kids to have cousins to play with, but they are too far away. I want them to have grandparents, but they are too far away and have their own stack of problems to be concerned with us. I wish that my life revolved around my Catholic faith, but the truth is that I struggle with that, too. I read my bible, I pray and frequent the sacraments waiting for peace. I pray for peace because I lack faith. I spend too much time dwelling on your blogs wishing that my life was more like yours.

Reality is that most of you have more than you think, even I do. My life is less than perfect. I am a sinner. Despite everything, I am still alive. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what I think anymore, it's what God thinks that matters. He knows my innermost thoughts and desires. He knows that I try. In the end, I want to please Him and not anyone else. I am jealous only because I want to be enough for Him and haven't yet figured out how to love the Him in me.

Thanks to Crunchy Catholic Momma for Keeping it Real.

3 comments:

  1. You have overcome so much Tina Marie! You have ended the cycle of abuse and neglect. You are preparing a wonderful, loving environment for your children and your children's children. You've had such a hard, hard life and have overcome it all and triumphed!! My husband and I struggled financially for the first 11 years of our marriage. I remember thinking at 10 years, wow, I thought it would be a couple years, but 10? (paycheck to paycheck) We've been there, it's hard and I know you feel like no one understands. You are my hero. You've overcome so much. My prayers are for you Tina Marie. You are loved by me and so many and especially God. We all have struggles. A priest once told me that if we even tried for one day to walk in someone else's shoes, we could not do it. We don't know what they are carrying, and could not do it. God has our lives and shoes filled with what we can do. When I get jealous, I always think about what he said to me. God bless you and thank you for keeping it real and being so raw with your feelings and life.

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  2. What a lovely blog you have here. I know it's difficult to rememebr to click back to blogs to see responses to questions and comments you've posed, so i wanted to copy what I just responded to you at TrainingHappyHearts.blogspot.com:his particular cookbook does use oatmeal, corn and rice flours. However, there are other books in the line which might help you. simply email or facebook the author, tell her your situation and ask her. She is awesome and should respond in a timely way.Blessings!

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  3. Tina Marie, thank you for sharing your struggles. God will use them. I love that your background is a quilt because your life and this post reflect that. God has taken seemingly unmatching...maybe unwanted fabrics and weaved them into something beautiful. All you needed was to take a step back and see how His plan has made it all come together. You have a beautiful family and have come so far.God bless you and strengthen you. Ask for all the graces you need. Ask often.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. May God bless you.

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