Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Power of a Name

Names are powerful.

Just ask Madonna/Esther, Stefani/Lady Gaga, Prince Michael Jackson II, known as Blanket, or the guy shown below.
(The artist formerly known as Prince, but unrelated to the Prince known as Blanket...)

One of the more eye-opening lessons I've learned in 2012 is just how powerful a name can be.

The day after we found out that Peanut was on his way, STBX and I drove to his brother's home for a family birthday party.  Since I had just received my new Mailbox magazine, I brought it for some light browsing on the 70 minute trip.  While looking at bulletin board designs I started rattling names listed on the bulletin board picture to STBX.  On a whim, I added one of my favorite names, Jonah.

He nodded, then grinned. "It reminds me of Sleepless in Seattle," he responded. "I like it." 

We had a short list of possible names for a long time, but Jonah held its place at the top.  I started identifying Peanut as Jonah when we were alone. I even talked to him using his "name" on occasion.  Even so, I didn't want to announce a baby name in case Peanut came out looking nothing like a Jonah.  

After the life shattering news of STBX's crazy "relationship" with his 16-year-old student broke, I felt lost in lots of ways while being required to make lots of important decisions alone.  The decision to name Peanut would now be solely mine, and I didn't just have to choose his first and middle name, anymore.

For 2 solid months I was regularly asked what I was going to name the baby.  Each time someone asked, my anxiety level would rise and my brain would go into overdrive.  It was a trigger question for me.  

I asked several friends for their opinions, and all of them thought that Peanut should only have my maiden name as his last name, especially since I would be returning to it after the divorce was final.  My lawyer recommended hyphenating, stating that STBX could bring this issue before a judge, and this would most likely be the judge's decision. 

I wavered for a long time, but in the end, decided to hyphenate for a few reasons.
1) STBX's dad and step-mom are incredible and have been so amazing throughout these challenges.  I wanted to honor them.
2) It was what the judge would have probably ruled.  To me this means that it is the unemotional choice. (Unemotional? Me? Genau.)
3)  If I ever get brave enough to remarry, I want Peanut to share a name with members of his biological family, like my parents.

Once his last name was chosen, it was important to start deciding his first and middle.  

I knew I wanted to name Peanut after men with integrity who possessed a close relationship with Jesus.  I started by looking through the Bible, and then on to names of family and friends.  I was telling two friends from abroad about my name dilemma and telling them some of the names in the running.  When I mentioned using the names of my grandfathers, one of them shared that she liked that idea because in her religion there is a verse about living up to the names of those before you. (Or something of that sort...)

It felt right. 

If Peanut was named after two incredible men, he would have a lot to live up to.  Both of my grandpas are/were incredibly loving, kind, funny, intelligent, hard-working, generous men who put their families second only to Christ.

E. Parker West and lots of his family on Christmas circa 1985.
(My cousin, Jamie, and I are sitting on his lap and I think he is dressed entirely in green.)

Leon Reser Jr. and his lovely Annie on Christmas morning 2009.

What an honor it will be to parent Leon Parker in a way that will help him develop his character in the same way.  


I love books. Always have.

When I was in elementary school and had to clean my room, I would always start with my bookshelves. I'd start by pulling every book off the shelves, dust the bookcase, and the books and then methodically replace the books keeping the series in number order and then focusing on height so that my books could be best displayed and I could find the correct reread simply by height and spine color.

Reading is still one of my passions, and having the opportunity to pass on my joy in it to my students and Peanut is an honor.

In order to expose my students to engaging and quality literature I am a proud member of Scholastic book clubs. Monthly, I send home flyers with students so that they can fill their lives with books, and so my classroom can be filled with new books for us to enjoy and learn from.

Remember getting these flyers and circling books like crazy?

Well, it used to be for my students.

Now, it seems to be for my Peanut.

My September book order total was $104.17. Fifty-eight dollars of that total were books I bought. My classroom got 15 new books from that total. Peanut got 22.

Each day since my order came in, I've been taking home one or two books each day. A few days ago I brought home these two.

I had never read either book, but was won over by the glowing reviews online and reasonable prices of the discount flyer. While reading these to Leo after a delicious dinner of pureed squash and rice cereal (him) and a PBB sandwich (me), I sobbed. Yes, both books made me cry.

The book, Count Your Blessings, is a 1-10 book where a baby bear counts the things he is grateful for. One, he is thankful for his home. Then, BAM, out of an illustrator's imagination comes a sucker punch. The little bear is thankful for his parents.

Yes, Peanut has two parents. Yes, they love him. Still, the picture above brought me to tears. I had a beautiful and blessed childhood where my parents loved each other. It was evident all of the time in our house. I realized when looking at this page, Peanut won't have these images in his mind. Will he ever have a picture with him and both of his parents? Perhaps not.

We didn't take one of the three of us at the hospital when Peanut was born. I felt like doing so might make me sick and thankfully no one mentioned it. How sad, though. On this beautiful day that Peanut was born, his mother felt ill at the thought of being near his father.

I've packed up the pictures of STBX and myself, including our wedding photos in a box for Peanut someday. I want him to know that there was a time when we loved one another and that he is a product of love.

Yet, children's books that show happy families all together make me sad. I wanted my baby to have that joy of a mommy and daddy who love one another. Most of the time I know P and I are better off without the tension of needing to tiptoe around a scary temper, but sometimes I remember the good times and wish that those good times could have been our family's everyday life.

The second book brought me to tears too, but for an entirely different reason. Mommy Hugs is a counting book about 10 different hugs mommy and baby share during the day. It felt so sweet to read to Peanut about wake-up hugs, going-down-the-slide hugs, and owie hugs.

This book looked like our family. Mama, Peanut, and Wolfie. (The cat is like a cousin who visits occasionally and demands to be fed.)

This family has love in abundance.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"In a word? Moisture."

People often ask me, "What's the difference between couplehood and babyhood?" 
In a word? Moisture. 
Everything in my life is now more moist. Between your spittle, your diapers, your spit-up and drool, you got your baby food, your wipes, your formula, your leaky bottles, sweaty baby backs, and numerous other untraceable sources--all creating an ever-present moistness in my life, which heretofore was mainly dry. 
- Paul Reiser

After Thomas Jefferson, Mother Theresa, Haim Ginott, Erma Bombeck, and Missy Elliott (fo' shizzle), I think Paul Reiser speaks the most truth. (No, he isn't related to me.  Yes, I know my dad told you otherwise...) Today, I had an experience that supports his honest brilliance.

It was recess.  It was rainy.  There were 36 4th graders in one room.  And, it was the first rainy recess of the 2012-2013 school year.

As any teacher will agree, this is bad news horrid a recipe for disaster not a situation to be coveted.

We discussed expectations. Recess began and(YIPPEE!) the kids were doing a great job! They were drawing! They were talking quietly!  They were playing board games with the standard rules!  They were (gasp!) doing their homework IN ADVANCE!

With everyone safe and accounted for, I took the opportunity to look over my lesson plan for the reading mini lesson immediately following recess.  As I flipped through my plan book, my eye caught the image of my adorable Peanut.  I smiled like a teenager in love.

Admit it, you smiled when you looked at him too!

And then, my body betrayed me.

Nope.  Not like this entry...

My arm felt moist. 

Now, as any parent of an infant would admit, noticing moist spots on your body is a common event.  Did baby wet through his diaper?  Spit up?  Cry?  Unfortunately, Peanut was having a good time with his (incredible) caretaker, and could not be responsible for the wet spot on my forearm.  

I think my body knew before my brain because I spun to the wall and glanced down before really knowing what I was looking for.

There it was, a wet spot worthy of La Leche League's Top 10.

La Leche League Salute

I saluted tightly and hustled to the hallway watching for my co-teacher to return from her errand. I think the look on my face was panicked because as I pulled one arm from my body and showed her the evidence she waved her hand at me, telling me that she had everything under control while pointing at the office.  

Down the hallway I hustled.  While hurtling toward the office I saw glory hanging from a coat hook.  I stepped into our guidance counselor's office and said, "I need your help!"  

She quickly turned to me and I pulled away my arm while blurting, "Can I please borrow your white shrug?"

"Of course!" she responded while handing it to me.


Lesson learned: Keep an extra top in the car because babies aren't the only ones who leak.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


(Written over the course of several days in May)


How did this happen?

How did I let this happen in my life?

One of the most challenging questions I dwell on is 'How did I let him make me believe that I was less than I am?'

Finally one night I asked the question out loud and rather than try to answer it, get upset or become angry- I was still and silent.

He was a sculptor. He took the piece, flawed, but whole, and began by sanding the edges. There were new grooves and fuzzier corners, but the piece remained easily distinguishable. Hammer to scalpel, he slowly removed splintered chinks, one by one. Where there once was a unique flaw, a void remained after his handiwork, but the actions to get there were so minute it was difficult to see the changes from day to day. After many months, the piece was small and insignificant.

I was small and insignificant.

My confidence was gone and I thought I was alone. I thought I was trapped. I feared I would live for years among the put-downs, the yelling, the silent-treatment, the raging temper, the secrecy, the isolation and the manipulations. I took my vows seriously and that I was living in the "for worse" portion of those vows. It meant "for better" was attainable. I wanted the "for better."

I thought I was dealing with someone in a valley of mental illness. I thought he was self-medicating. I thought his self-medication was interfering with a prescription. I thought he wanted to get better. To be better.

I thought wrong.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Starbucks Holiday Cups, Church Signs, and the Zingbot

I love Starbucks.

Really, I do.  I cried when I saw them building a Starbucks in Danville and knew I was moving away.  The Starbucks on the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Kochstrasse in Berlin knew my order when I walked in and would bring it to me, rather than make me wait in line with the tourists.  I've been known to leave my house 40 minutes early to drive to Marysville for a Starbucks confection and return to Bellefontaine for work before 7:30am.  I especially love the delightful fall and winter holiday drinks. (Tell me that the words "Pumpkin Spice Latte" don't cause you to salivate.  What, Pavlov's dog?  Exactly.)

What I don't love is the preachy Starbucks cup.

I just don't need my coffee with a side of "I told you so." 

Like the Starbucks cup, there is a church on my morning commute with outstanding and smart, but preachy signs. It is a church and therefore permitted to be preachy at me. 

Usually, I can chuckle at the sign or take a moment to consider the thoughtfulness of the words or the interesting plays on phrases they make.  This week, though, the sign knew.  

It knew me.

Sometimes I want so badly to call out the people who have hurt or are continuing to hurt my family and me.  I just want to fire off a list of grievances. Take that! And that! And THAT! 

I want to tell them and others all of the ways they have wronged us and I, like the Zingbot 3000, want it to be bitingly painful. I want them to feel at least half of the pain they have inflicted.  (And I hate that I want to hurt their feelings, but it is true.  Sometimes I do.)

So, I was driving down Ludlow Rd., making internal lists of things I wish everyone knew about a few, select people, when the sign reached out and punched me in the throat.

"Don't let the littleness in others
bring out the littleness in you."
-Preachy Sign 2012

I was letting it happen. I was letting their smallness bring out the evil in me. I was allowing myself to be controlled by their hate.  I was brimming with hate and vengefulness and spending my time imagining retaliation.  None of it was worth my time or energy.  None of it was worth sacrificing my character.  

So, as much as I want to write and post a blog entry about the wrongs that have been committed and the wrongs that still seem to be coming at me from a few individuals, I refuse to let hate control me. 

God is love, so I choose to be fueled by love. (With a side of fair trade coffee...)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School

I don't want to go back to school.
There. I said it.

I love my job. No, really. I LOVE IT.

It's just... I love my days with Peanut more.

Just the thought of spending my days away from him tightens my chest and encourages sneaky, lurking tears to make an appearance. I'm so jealous of mothers who can spend each day, all day raising their children. Although I love my job and having the opportunity to spend time with other incredible children, I want to be with mine. (Stomps foot.)

I've never felt bummed about the start of the school year and it weirds me out, to be honest.

Usually I'm eagerly doodling bulletin boards and researching new ways to teach inferencing by July 15th. When August first hits I've knocked off at least 6 professional books and have bought out the majority of Staples. My classroom is generally ready to go one week before school starts.

Not this year.

I'm trying to soak up everysinglesecond of Peanut time I can. I pause while walking the hallway to smell his neck, ignore phone calls to enjoy his coos, and have super simple meals to spend more time singing The Wheels on the Bus. It is amazing how my world has shifted and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'd love to say that "I have to go to work," but the truth is that I choose to go to work. I suppose I could quit my job and be at home with Peanut all day. I just don't like the consequences of that, including losing my house and being unable to support my child. (Note: August is Child Support Awareness month. As I learn the ins and outs of this system- which currently feels entirely ineffective- I hope you'll take a moment to read the stats provided here.)

When you get down to it there are SO many things I'm looking forward to this school year. I'll have a new group of students, get to implement The Leader in Me with the Western staff and be a member of the Lighthouse Team, truly co-teach with 36ish 4th graders, 2 teachers, and 1 room, continue to develop a rigorous and engaging reading/language arts curriculum with a great team, and much, much more.

It would be just peachy-perfect if I could do this while baby-wearing...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grey's Anatomy Is Good Medicine for a Pity Party (See what I did there?)

When I really get down about all of the restmΓΌll (German reference) in my life, I turn to Grey's Anatomy. No matter what else is going on, the characters at Seattle Grace can really put life into perspective. Let me tell you some of the ways their lives suck more than mine.

1) I'm not sharing a pole through my spine with another man and the only way to save him is for me to be slid off the pole and die before my fiance can get to the hospital and we can say goodbye.

2) I didn't cut the LVAD wire on my fiance's heart device in order to put him higher on the transplant list (which worked, bt-dub) but then watched him die of a stroke. To make matters worse, he was a millionaire and left 8.7 million to me and I'm paralyzed with grief and can't use it.

3) I don't have the syph via Alex Karev via a nurse.

4) I don't have a lesbian lover who got pregnant via a mutual friend while we were broken up and I was in Africa. Then, when I asked her to marry me got into a car accident and I nearly lost said baby and said fiance.

5) I'm not a world famous surgeon with a secret hand tremor.

6) I don't have my hand on an unexploded bomb inside a man's chest.

7) I wasn't in labor while my husband's brain was exposed on the operating table after he got in a car crash rushing to the hospital.

8) My mom wasn't a world class surgeon who developed Alzheimers and asked me to keep her secret. Oh, and she had an affair with my boss's boss's boss while I was growing up.

And, even though their lives clearly suck MUCH more than mine, sometimes they say things that hit home.

Addison: I never thought I'd end up alone.

Callie: You have not ended up anywhere.

Addison: Yeah, you're right. I know. It's just that... um... sometimes it feels that way. This is one of those weeks it feels that way.

Yuppers, Addison. I totally feel you, girl. And it sucks.

The other day I was having dinner with a friend and she commented, "How will you ever trust someone again?" She is absolutely right. I don't feel like I could ever let anyone else into Peanut and my life. I don't want to think about dating, much less remarriage. I've already given Peanut one crummy male role model, what if I do it again? (In the same breath, will I let STBX steal romantic love from me? Forever?  That seems, well, uncool.)

Being alone is easier than risking love again. Because, that is the truth. I absolutely, unequivocally, whole-heartedly loved my husband. I loved who I thought he was and I believed he loved me that way too. He wasn't who he portrayed himself to be, and I can't afford to be wrong twice.

Meredith Grey: At some point, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don’t keep other people out. They fence you in. Life is messy. That’s how we’re made. So, you can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them. But there are some lines… that are way too dangerous to cross.

Risking love seems too dangerous. At least, for now. 
(Though not as dangerous as having my hand inside a stranger's chest touching an unexploded bomb, so that's something.)