Happy Holidays.

In the last two weeks I had road trips with the same co-worker and he loves Christmas. He loves holiday music. Which lead me to ask “what do you love about christmas”. And I swear to you his eyes sparkled and he lit up and told me. And he asked why I didn’t love Christmas. And I wasn’t really sure.

There are certainly things about the season I enjoy.

I love decorating the tree with my kids. Even when they would fight and argue and I’d want to strangle all of them. It’s the one time I play holiday music. They take their required photos in front of the tree. They hang their ornaments. We talk about the handmade ornaments they made in school. We place the lucky spider on top of the tree. No one can remember exactly whose lucky spider it is, or what culture the tradition is from, but up it goes. I like that part.

Inevitably the tree falls over in the middle of the night and I get up in the morning and cry and clean up the mess and redecorate the whole mother fucker again. It’s tradition.

Back when my kids were little, I loved Christmas. I loved going out and buying their little kid presents. I loved buying their stocking stuffers and staying up late wrapping all their things. Steve and I would exchange our gifts on Christmas eve and drink champagne (we thought we were so grown up) and wrap the kids gifts together.  The kids would wake up early, bound into our room and we’d all go down and start Christmas together. I’d bake cinnamon rolls and the kids would open their gifts and spend the next few hours playing with them. I’m SURE it wasn’t as peaceful as it sounds now, many years down the road. But that’s how I remember it.

It was Christmas time when I first broached the idea of separating with Steve. I remember going out alone that year to get the tree. Struggling to get it into the stand. My dad stopped by and bore witness to the unbearable tension in our house. That is the only year I remember exactly what Steve got me for Christmas.  I can still see the stockings laid out in the big comfy chair. The kids on the stairs in the morning. Harrison just barely over a year, his sister helping him down the stairs in the morning. My heart breaking. My husband defeated. Happy Holidays.

Christmas as a single parent, is hard. All of those family traditions: the Festival of Trees, the botanical gardens, gingerbread festival. Those get pricey with 4 of you. Buying presents and stocking stuffers gets pricey. And I’m a conservative holiday person. Its just hard. Christmas meant spending the next 3 months catching up on whatever bills you didn’t pay in Dec. so you could afford the holiday season. Ho ho ho.

Early on in our split, Steve graciously let me have the kids Christmas Eve night and Christmas Morning. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having my babies at home. For years the three of them would sleep in the same bed on Christmas Eve. This was a HUGE treat for the boys to be able to be in their sisters room. My favorite memories are listening to them squibble and squabble as they tried to fit in one bed as they got older. Giggling. Arguing. And finally the final goodnights. I’d go downstairs, pour a glass of wine, and go about wrapping their presents and stuffing their stockings and making sure all was ready for Christmas morning.

Eventually, I had a long term relationship, and on our second christmas, we did the blended family Christmas. By this time, the kids and I had been doing our own thing for 5 Christmas seasons. Some of the blending went well. They tolerated The Festival of Trees. The lighting of Santa. They also tried to rename the tree. Our tree is Carl. Every year. Every year we go to the tree lot and we pick our tree and we name him Carl. The end. It’s tradition. We also have our way of putting ornaments on the tree. Each of my kids has their own ornaments. And then we have the “family” ornaments. You can see how this goes sideways quick with two exuberant little boys. We survived, but I do think my kids were slightly scarred. The next year Chris had his own place and  he and his boys started their own traditions. We still shared Festival of Trees. But that was about where the blending of our holidays ended. Chris and his kids always joked about the Smiths and our traditions. I can see now we might have been a bit rigid . . .

I’m sitting here tonight, on my 4th solo holiday season since Chris and I split. My 14th all together. I hung the lights on the house today. I’m getting ready to pull the decorations out of the basement. Tomorrow Taylor and Harry and I will decorate the house. In another week or so Carl the 12th (we think) will be procured. T and H will help me decorate it. This year is different. Chase and Jo won’t be home for Christmas. Taylor is going to spend her first Christmas eve with her future husband instead of in my house. And as much as these two things make me sad, they make me happy. My kids are now starting their own holiday traditions. My job is to make sure Christmas stays special for Harrison. That we start our own new holiday tradition, he and I.

And someday, maybe I’ll have a new holiday tradition. Maybe I’ll fly around and visit my kids. Or maybe I’ll spend a week on a beach somewhere. Or maybe I’ll meet someone who takes my breath away and we will form our own traditions. It’s hard to say.

I just wish the holiday came with a lot less expectation. I’ve always tried to manage those expectations, but it always leaves me feeling a little sad. Sad my kids bounce from house to house. Sad, that by 2 pm on Christmas it’s just me in my underwear drinking beer and watching football. (ok actually, I kind of like that part).

I hope that now that my children are becoming adults, they find the traditions that make them happy. That they chose to spend the time in a way that isn’t stressful. Maybe that means choosing to not come home during an expensive and stressful time of year. Who knows how this will look in another few years, for all of us.

But what I do know: my favorite part of the season has always been the traditions me and my kids developed. The four of us. And no matter how our lives twist and turn, we hold the memories of those traditions, and I fully anticipate some of them they will carry on to their families. And some they won’t. And so it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow. Mortality. And the art of staying open.

What a week. There are times my life feels a little . . normal. And there are times it feels like the universe cracks itself open just for me and goes, LOOK LOOK LOOK. Don’t you dare forget how magical this is. I don’t believe in coincidences, everything is connected by invisible threads. You can chose to see it, or not.

A few years ago, one of my friends who randomly shows up in my life from time to time reconnected with me and we had this period of time of pushing each other to the edges of our expandable consciousness. There were times it almost felt like our brains were extensions of one another. We both went through an intense timeframe of rapid personal growth and artistic expression. One thing would lead to another to another to another. And then that time was done, and he moved on, physically to another state, another life and I moved on with mine. But the world is always a little less technicolor when we aren’t interacting. But you can’t live in a kaleidoscope.

Occasionally he comes back to town and we slip right back into our weird wonder twins space, for an hour or two at a time. And when he leaves there is a bit of a void. But he always gets my brain fired up.

This week I was already in my head a lot (I’m a Pisces, when am I not?).

In the last 6 months I’ve made a new friend who is considerably younger than I am. He’s the age of one of my children. He is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met (and I know some really freaking smart people).  His energy feels so familiar. And did from the first time we talked, I can only think that he’s part of my soul circle. There are people whose frequencies I am tuned to. Its infrequent. But it happens. He’s sage and wise and also vulnerable.  I feel fiercely protective of him, and at the same time, he feels like a strong mentor. Someone who makes me think and look at things from a different perspective. I’m so glad to know him. I also know that life will at some point take us out of each other’s immediate circles.

I’ve experienced a lot of endings. Partially because I accepted beginnings even when on paper, the odds weren’t great. Partially because I think that is just how my life is devised. I’ve taken giant leaps of faith. I’ve invested in people. And sometimes they don’t pan out. But I really, don’t regret any of it. There is bravely in vulnerability. And I refuse to shut down my heart and my soul because I’ve taken risks. I’ve never been by the book. And maybe “good” isn’t how you would describe me. But I’m loyal and loving and kind. Unless you give me a real reason to not be. And even then, I’m still pretty damn forgiving.

Yesterday at the end of my workday I threw on my 2013 wrap up playlist. That was a hell of a year. Its almost the same playlist I sent the wonder twin off with when he headed out to his new life. Yesterday, I posted the song Fireshrine by Purity Ring.   I have those lyrics tattooed across my ribs. “The rungs of me be under, under you”. The catalyst for those words has moved on into a new life too. But the core  philosophy of that song, holds true for those I love. Near, and far.

Today, this morning, without much warning the wonder twin turned up for lunch. And when we walked into the restaurant, Fire Shrine was playing. This isn’t a song you are going to find on most playlists. But there it was, right as we sat down together for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t his song, but the lyrics hold true. The rungs of me be under, under you. We ended our time today in the cemetery, watching the snow fall. And we talked about the fact that at some point, our interactions will cease. Either because I move away. Or he no longer has a reason to visit NE IN. Or because one of us dies. At some point, sooner or later, our interactions stop. This is simply how life works. Sometimes people come into your world for a minute. or an hour. or maybe a year. (reason, season, lifetime). But they always end.

But for that time, with he and I and the people we let in, its pure love. Always, even when it no longer exists. The rungs of me, but under under you.

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Back in the dark ages when I had little kids, there wasn’t the internet to go to for parenting advice. You pretty much drew on your own upbringing and either emulated it, or fought against it. I did a bit of both.

By the time Steve and I parted ways in 2002, things were picking up speed as far as the internet goes, but I still found my first post divorce job via the newspaper. Parenting advice was a bit scant there for awhile.

Fast forward 14 years and there is a wealth of information out there. But google “how to parent adult children” and one of the 8 “to do’s” is talk to your children about your death plans. I’m not making this up.

You skip directly from “how to handle my child’s depression”, “how to talk to my teen daughter without it ending in tears”, and “do I ignore the crusty socks in the laundry pile?,  to “how to help your children plan for your death”. Seriously.

I’ve always felt it was important to have a life outside of my family. As a child of the 70’s it was pretty much drilled into me.   I’ve always had a social life. I’ve always had some form of work. I’ve had relationships after Steve and I split. I have hobbies and interests outside of being a mom. I always thought that meant once my children became adults, I would send them off with the big wings they grew. I’d be happy to see them sail away with their grown up selves and I’d enjoy my adult life. Right? RIGHT?

It’s just not that fucking easy.

With Tay, she’s been away at school. And there was always this deep peace in me. She’s at school. She’s going to college. Something her father and I opted out of. This huge pride and awe and frankly, this very hands off approach. Let her fly. Do her thing. She will reach out when she needs us. It was hard, but I also had two boys left at home who needed a lot of parenting.

And then Chase moved out. WAY sooner than I expected. After a really hard few years. And I was torn between being so very happy for him. And missing him being in my home.

And then he moved across the country. And I’m so damn happy for him and Jo. But my heart aches.

And my missing of Taylor intensified. And every time Harrison is at his dads, I now miss him MORE. It’s been a snowball effect. My kids are all, growing up.

I don’t want to be that mom that makes my adult children feel badly when they don’t call or text or communicate. I want them to go and do and be and live independently and enjoy it. And when they feel like talking to mom, they will reach out. That seems healthy. I think? I don’t know. The internet thinks I need to prepare them for my death instead.

Today I talked to Chase on the phone. And he sent me pictures of the painting he and Jo have been doing in their apartment. And it looks so nice.

And I got off the phone and just cried. I miss his face. I haven’t seen any of my kids in 6 days. And I miss their faces.

I kind of just want to make cookies for my kids and snuggle on the couch and watch Disney movies. And we will. Next time they are all home.

I raised smart and strong and independent children. That’s what I always wanted to do.

I just didn’t know it would be this hard, to let them go.

 

 

 

 

 

letting go.

I’ve written about this before, when Taylor went off to college. This isn’t a new subject, to anyone, myself included.

I still remember vividly, watching Taylor walk into her first dorm. The truck unloaded, the pictures taken, the hugs goodbye. Her casual walk off into her new life. My tears on the drive home. But somehow it was different. It was 4 hours. It was college. It was the standard rite of passage.

Tomorrow I fly around 24oo miles away from my child. He’s an adult. He’s married. He’s taken a different route to happiness. He has a lovely wife who is strong and smart and capable. And he is strong and smart and capable. Together they make an unstoppable team.

On our 3 day treck across the country, we got to talk about a lot of things. We talked about life and values and relationships. He’s got it down. He’s a great partner. He loves his wife fiercely. And he loves her smartly. He understand the value of communication and working as a team. He’s 1000x better prepared for this journey than I probably still am at 46. He just gets it.

I am so very happy for my son. He has not had an easy time of things. He’s lived through some dark, tough times. To an extent, we all have. My kids have had to bear witness to the rougher side of life from early ages and it affected us all differently. But he met someone who shined light on his dark and brought out his best self.

We talked about how moving and starting over can change your narrative. And I am seeing it already. He’s shedding the skin that he grew, and that was placed upon him, literally before my eyes. He, is letting go. Letting go of past perceptions. Letting go of doubt. Letting go of fear. And he is stepping into the role of husband. Independent son. Man.

But. I am his mom. And after our dinner tonight, he brought me back to my hotel room. And as we said goodbye, even tho I tried really hard to not cry, I sobbed into his shoulder. And he hugged me hard and he cried too.

This is where it’s my job to let go.

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone.

I remember back, not so many years ago. Waking up in the middle of the night with three kids piled into my bed. The four of us sleeping like puppies because of a storm. And I remember thinking, how lucky was I? To have these three beautiful children. These three beating hearts. These three incredible brains. These three smart, independent, sassy, full of life children who wore me completely thin…. tangled up in my tiny bed; snoring and talking in their sleep. My babies.

Sitting here knowing he is sleeping a 1/4 mile from me, and knowing that first thing tomorrow, I fly away from him; makes me incredibly sad.

It also reminds me of the book I read him often, when he was a toddler. The Runaway Bunny. Even as a toddler, he would tell me he would be the bunny. And that’s not selective memory. He clearly stated, he would run away. But he knew, that no matter where he went, I would be there.

No matter where my children go, part of me walks with them. My heart. 

 

 

 

 

Human. Be(ing).

Last night I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted. I had one of those days where I felt ineffectual and frustrated and all too hyper aware of every single thing in the universe. I went home and went to yoga and tried to calm my mind but it wouldn’t stop. During shavasana I couldn’t quit running “I could have been a better mom” scenarios through my head.  Those always lead to the “I could have been a better partner” scenarios. Then as I laid there waiting for sleep the mother load of scenarios “How could I have saved Casey” went through my head. And I couldn’t quit hearing Chris’s call in my head.

“He’s gone H. Casey’s gone”.

Which brought me to today. Today is the 2 year anniversary since Robin Williams checked out. No one knows exactly why. That’s how these things work. But one thing that irritated me greatly out of the media at that time, was this phrasing; “Now mental illness has a face”.

Man, that elicited a giant ‘fuck you’ out of me at the time.

Mental illness has a million faces every day. I guarantee if you are reading this, you know someone who has been affected by: depression. anxiety. bi-polar disorder. suicidal thoughts or attempts. schizophrenia. or some other disorder in a long line of disorders that affect human beings.

If you zoom that lens out even further, we get to a much more complex study in human beings in general and the concept of “normal’. This is also what makes treating mental illness so damn tricky. That “normal” line.

So one day my friend and I were talking. And her and I are pretty much polar opposites on the emotions spectrum. And she had recently gotten upset to the point of tears about something and said “I think I had my bi-yearly cry” and I laughed and said, “and I had my second cry of the day!” So which of us is “normal”? Both? Neither?

This presents a problem, when recognizing the signs of certain situations. For instance, last year I was pretty severely, probably needed treatment, depressed. My life had imploded. I lost my mom and if you read my blog you know what a shit storm of emotional baggage that is. I lost my job. My career.  Man, I took that hard. I still do. I lost one of my best friends. My son moved out. And I carried a lot of guilt about all of those things individually. I pretty much spent last summer staring at my ceiling. What had I done to have all of those things land at the same time?  Why was the universe testing every possible limit of my will to LIVE. But every day I got out of bed. And I went to my new job. And I made dinner for my son. And I told myself, “You’re depressed, but you aren’t that depressed. You still get out of bed. Keep it together Smith”. A pretty “normal” reaction to my life’s events at the time. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t off the “normal” spectrum.

I was that depressed. I should have seen a counselor. But instead I took trips I couldn’t afford and got out of this town and eventually, I could breathe again. Because I knew, from life’s experience, that it would get better. That it hurt like hell, but it would get better.

Casey didn’t have that life experience. He didn’t know that in a year his life would be different. That the things that were causing him so much pain, would be different eventually. I had JUST seen him. I had just held him in my arms, given him a big hug. I watched him walk with his dad into Best Buy a week or so after Christmas. I remember standing there in the parking lot. Tears in my eyes. Watching my former partner and my former “step son” walk into the store together. Happy tears. I missed them both so badly. But honestly felt like we were all in a good spot.  How do you know?  He was gone in less than three weeks. He would feel so badly, he would use his shotgun against his precious face and opt out.

Humans are complex beings. We don’t even arrive onto this plane of existence without baggage.  We are made up of stardust and all of the things that make up our souls. We are comprised of generations of DNA full of quirks and twists.  We are born with weak spots. We find ways to cope and adapt to live with those. Sometimes we grow up and we meet life partners and we either try to fix them, or let them fix us. Eventually someone gets exhausted and at the end of the day, we really all need to be our own caretaker. Because at the end of the day. NO ONE CAN FIX YOU. Though it is really nice when someone is around to help you cope. But anyway.

We all need to get better at talking. “I’m not sure you are ok”. And “it’s ok to not be ok. But what can we do to make it less miserable not being ok right now?”

I used to ask my kids “are you ok?” and the answer was most often “yes. i’m ok”. Sometimes they were NOT ok. Really, really not ok.

And sometimes I didn’t know they weren’t ok. Often probably.

_SIDEBAR – IT IS REALLY HARD TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TEEN WHO IS BEING A “NORMAL” TEEN AND A TEEN IN CRISIS. In fact. There is no outward difference. Yeah.

But sometimes I should have said “I’m not sure you are ok”. I feel like that might opened the door to conversation better. And there were times last year people would say to me “Are you ok?” and my response was always “Yes, I am ok”. Because of course I am ok. I am going to work. I am making dinner.

Meanwhile, 9 months of unpaid bills sat stacked in my dining room.

So back to normal.

There is no clear bar of “normal”. And there aren’t often clear signs of “not normal”.

You have someone like Robin Williams, the proclaimed “face of mental illness”, who certainly by most stretches of what we know about him,  wasn’t the most normal person. Zoom that lens back in closer and I wonder how many people realized he was in crisis.

We need to quit looking at others and at ourselves and being so hard about not being “normal”. Every person experiences life differently. Some with a lot of anxiety. Some with none. Some with a lot of baggage they are dragging around, some with a lot less. Some people find solace  through their church or belief system. Some find medication helpful. Maybe it’s a good therapist. Maybe it’s through writing and sharing. Or yoga. Or maybe all of the above. And sometimes none of those things make our normal feel normal. And sometimes that is just ok. And sometimes, it isn’t.

There aren’t clear answers. If there were, humans would be a lot less complex. Life would be a lot simpler for a lot of people and we wouldn’t be having conversations about what mental illness looks like.

But it’s rarely clearly defined. It’s not concrete. It’s an ever moving bar of assessment for each individual on a scale that only means something to them. Am I ok? Am I not ok?

Can I be? How do I get there? And when do I reach out for help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just what I needed.

Last night I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. I went out and met some new friends for drinks. I became online acquainted with a really great couple through a friend awhile back, and the four of us met up. We (the couple and I) are all beer people and the nice thing about that, is beer people can talk about beer for a really long time. We have other things in common as well and I knew it would be a good time. In the last couple of years my social anxiety has increased and I’m hyper aware that I can be spectacularly awkward. My small social circle is used to my bad jokes, my non-stop innuendos and my weird random fact burps. It’s part of my charm, but it’s a charm you have to learn to love.

So back in 1984 (we are taking the wayback machine tonight), when on vacation in Duck, North Carolina, I met a boy named David. David was exactly the type of guy I would never have had the nerve to hang out with in real life. But vacation life is different and he ended up being my vacation boyfriend for about 5 days. In retrospect, David was probably a future sociopath but at the time he was FUN. He was short and blond and muscular in the way 14 year old surfer boys seem to be. I don’t remember how he plucked me up from the hordes of girls at that campground but for a few days he picked me and plunged me head first into a new world of epic make out sessions, second base, my first hickey. Most notably; he dragged this shy, awkward girl by the hand and made her dance and play and lay down an artfully created shell and just be a silly 14 year old girl. There was a little diner down the road and our band of merry vacationers would go down and have milkshakes and burgers and cram the jukebox with coinage. David loved the Cars, and there are two songs that stuck out the most, the two he played for me. You might think. And Just what I needed. He danced me around that diner, giggling and blushing from the attention we were drawing to ourselves but to this day I remember that heady feeling. Somewhere in my house I have a picture of David and I. The night before I left he insisted we take pictures with all of my new friends. I don’t remember all of their names. The pictures are backlit and fuzzy and taken from too far away. But I love them. Melody, and the two brothers from Toronto. The rest have fallen into the background of my memory. David came to our campsite the morning of my departure. He gave me his sunglasses to take home with me, to remember him by.

I cried all the way from North Carolina to Indiana.  We wrote back and forth for a while. Melody took my place as his campground girlfriend after I left. He had a girlfriend back home as well. He hoped I understood. David, you playa you. It’s ok, You were just what I needed.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m post divorce a few years and am raw from the weight of it all. The end of the marriage, the exhaustion of trying to keep it all together, a couple misses in the dating department. And I run across the little brother of a friend of mine on MySpace. Like when I was in high-school he was in kindergarten. He’s all grown up now and he happens to be “in between living arrangements”. I happen to be heading out of town for the weekend and need a house sitter.

At this point I’ve not seen him in person since he was a kid. Because I’m me, I go pick him up at the place he’s been crashing in West Central and we grab some beers at C Street and then we grab some more and we head home. The vagabond is pretty much the opposite of David. He’s tall with long dark wavy hair and these spectacular blue eyes. He’s an artist. Because, of course. I just can’t get past the tall, dark and handsome part. He pulls out my Cars CD and puts it on, and Just What I needed comes on.

He was fun, and he drug me around town for a few months. He danced me around bars and friends apartments and I got to feel a lot younger than I was for a while. Turns out he had a binding legal agreement living in another state. But for awhile, he was just what I needed.

Another decade later, that same cars song would show up in the midst of another heady entanglement. Another set of complex circumstances led to really beautiful cerebral interaction with someone who would go on to be one of those life changing friends. He popped into my life when I was still nursing the wounds of the end of my long term partnership with Chris. He didn’t open the doors to my creativity, but he blew the doors off. He forced me to look at my narrative and to change it. He made me brave. He pushed me mentally, physically, and creatively. Together everything we touched worked. We bounced ideas and theories, concepts and creativity off of each other. Our lives took different directions, but to this day he will call me out of the blue and lay down some crazy “you wont believe this shit’ stuff and I’ll throw some back at him and we will laugh and laugh. He just celebrated his 48th birthday and the birth of his third son with a new wife in a new state with new life. It’s just what he needed.

So last night at karaoke, this kid gets up and sings “Just what I needed”. And all these memories come flooding in. David. The Vagabond. My wonder twin. I have no doubts that at some point, someone new will walk through the door that will make that song relevant in some way. It’s funny how we have these little signs and pointers that pop up around us through the years and say “hey, pay attention to this”.

And I do. Last night, going out with new people for the first time in a really long time, was just what I needed.

 

I think it was the 4th of July.

For as long as I can remember, the 4th of July has been my favorite holiday.

As a kid, there wasn’t an expectation of what to do. We didn’t have a lake place. We didn’t even know people HAD lake places.

Mom would fill up the old Coleman water jug with lemonade. She’d pack up some snacks. Pull out the big old quilt off the couch and we’d head down to watch the fireworks. Back then, they would shoot them off in Johnny Appleseed park and the best view was behind Concordia HS on the hill along the river. We would watch the police and fire boats go up and down the river. Run down to the fence by the water and back up 1700 times. Have to walk to Atz and wait in line for 7 years to use the bathroom after drinking too much lemonade. My parents would read and comment on the terrible parenting happening around us while kids ran around with sparklers.

When we got home we would take our pre-purchased fireworks up to Zimmermans Parking lot which was on the corner of our block. My best friends lived down the street and we would all gather along the parking curbs and watch the fountains and light sparklers. Sometimes other families pitched in and we had our own little fireworks show. Nothing loud. Nothing that shot up into the sky (those were illegal back then). Just a pretty light show.  Hot summer nights. Pretty lights. Fire. Pretty much my trifecta of happy.

I’ve continued this tradition with my kids. We don’t always go to the FW Fireworks but we did for many years and have only missed a handful here and there. We always buy fireworks. The scope and volume have changed over the years.

Last night the boys and I set off our bounty. For the first time I said “nice one!” more than “oh my god please be careful”. They have actually listened and absorbed things I’ve taught them. Mostly. Chase still wants to hold the bottle when setting off bottle rockets….  But. They pick up the trash as they go along. They confine our mess to our yard. They go track down the bottle rockets as best they can. (and will do more of that today). And at 11:45 we shut it down. No fuss. The are safe and in my opinion, pretty respectful while enjoying our family tradition.

More than anything, my kids know how much I love this holiday and have always made an effort to enjoy it with me. Tonight my sis and pops are coming over for dinner. Then the kids and I  are going to the FW Fireworks for the first time in quite a few years. It will probably be the last time (like so many things this year), that we will all be together for this holiday, at least for awhile. And it’s ok. They are growing up, and doing their own thing and they won’t always be here. And that’s ok. I can do other things too. I have, and will again.

I have so many pictures from the 4th over the years. But this one will probably always be my favorite. Tay has that early teen “dear god why are you taking a picture” face. Harrison is my wiggly little 6 year old, about to turn 7. Chase still has that little boy face that doesn’t have a wariness to it yet.   I’d been a single mom for 5 years, and I was about to change careers for the third time. But I had my babies with me on my favorite holiday, just like I will tonight. And that, is what makes me happy. 23865_358928154293_4185354_n