Teddy and Pete

15,705 - LJ Idol Season 10, Week 11

As I write this, I have lived through 15,705 sunrises and 15,705 sunsets.  Many of those changes from night to day have found me sleeping.  Many of the movements from day to night have found me too busy to marvel in the subtle changes in color that paint the sky.  The blue hour, as it is known, when the sky is awash in various hues of bue, often passes without remark, because I am too busy dreaming, too busy driving, too busy reading, too busy yelling, too busy cleaning, too busy loving, too busy living.  At first glance, I think of these moments as inconsequential.  After all, they are happening whether I pay attention or not.  I cannot control them.  I cannot make the sun rise or fall more quickly or slowly.  I do not choose the shades of red or orange, blue or black that color the sky.  Because I cannot effect it, it shouldn't be important.  But it is.  Because each of those 31,410 changes are another opportunity to see greatness in the every day.  Each pair is another cycle in which I am glad to be alive.  Each is a moment that, had things gone slightly differently, I would not have had the chance to miss watching because I was too busy living.

I was born with a small hole in my neck.  If I remember correctly it was a small water sac that was pushing on my spine.  At three months, I had surgery on my neck to remove it.  Had the surgery gone badly, or if I'd not been able to have the surgery at all, I could have been paralyzed.  I would have lived, but I would not have been able to spend my childhood playing in the fields around my home.  I would not have climbed the large tree in my backyard, or sit under it with a book in summer reading.  I would not have been able to break my ankle when my bag of books got caught in the spokes of my bike. I would not have been able to try to take the long, shallow steps under the esplandes at Florida Southern College in one step.  I would not have been able to live in a basement apartment of a home on Long Island, which would one day be crash space for my future husband and several friends while they were in town for a gathering of people from the message board we all frequented.  I don't know what my life would have been, but it wouldn't have been the one I have now.

On September 11, 2001, I was working in New York City.  That day, I was at my company's main office, directly across the street from the Empire State Building.  If the terrorists had decided to hit that historic building instead of the Twin Towers, I could have been caught in the debris.  Instead of being someone that cried over the fliers of the lost that papered Penn Station, my face may have decorated one of those fliers, earning the empathy of others.  I would not have been able to meet the love of my life face to face after almost a year of getting to know one another online.  I would not have had a chance to say live in Philadelphia, exploring the area around the University of Pennsyvlania.  There would have been no rainy September ceremony in which I pledged to forever love, honor and cherish the man that has honored that pledge to me.  I would not have had one last, wonderful memory with one of my best friends before she left this world almost a year later.  I would not have been able to find a home in Nashville, to find friends that I can count on, to raise my children, to learn how to fight for what I believe in, and for what my children need. There would be no child named after my father, growing into a young man that my father, my husband and myself could be proud of.  So much would have been lost.

Mother's Day, 2007, Rich and I were helping my parents by driving a trailer full of their things from Florida to Tennessee.  As Rich moved from one lane to the next, the trailer behind us fish-tailed and we lost control.  I still remember watching the world flip as the truck rolled down the interstate, things flying all around me. If we had landed just a little differently, the break in my husband's neck could have left him paralyzed rather than just having to wear a neck brace to help him heal for several months.  If the people around us hadn't been paying as much attention as they had, we could have been hit and instead of walking away with cuts, bruises and a stubborn tick, I could have been taken away covered by a sheet.  If the accident had been just a little worse, I wouldn't have brought a bright, silly, loving little boy into the world that has helped teach me to look at the world in ways I'd never expected.  There would not have been the chance for me to become even closer to my step-mother before she passed away, and my father would have been so alone here Tennessee.  I wouldn't have had the honor of being a Parents' Day Out teacher, or the joy of getting to know the little ones that have helped fill my heart and give me new stories to remember every day I'm in their presence. I wouldn't be playing Pokemon Go with my family, or learning karate with my boys, or sitting in Starbucks writing this entry.

Tomorrow I turn 43.  By this time tomorrow, I will have lived through 31, 412 blue hours.  I would like to say that I tomorrow will be a day of rising early to savor that the hour that changes night into day. I would like to say that I would commit every moment of the day as a precious memory to savor in later years, until I can sit enjoying the sky change from day into night.  But almost 43 years has taught me that won't be how the day will go.  Instead, I try to sleep in but instead rise with my husband to see him off to judge the local Destination Imagination tournament.  I will become exasperated with my children as I try to remind them that on Mommy's birthday, they should be trying to make my day go smoother rather than fight me as I try to get them to put on their gis for karate.  I will sweat and strain as I try to master the various kicks, blocks and punches alongside the boys and wonder why, just WHY, I decided to participate in a session on my birthday.  I will try rush to the library, wishing I had time to read the book that I'll be picking up while lamenting the fact that I am having to return so many unread.  There will be board games and card games, and maybe a special dinner.  I may even find a movie for us to watch as a family as the day ends.  And I will definitely lose an hour's sleep between that night and the next day, thanks to the time change.  None of this will be anything I'll remember as more than a faint whisper of how it probably was when my 44th birthday rolls around.

But if you want to know the truth, none of that bothers me.  Because if I'm trying to savor the moments, I'm not living in them.  If I try to make every minute of my birthday memorable, I won't be as focused on the now, on just being and living and loving and enjoying it for what it is.  I don't need to remember every minute.  I don't need to remember the every day as a crystal clear moment.  I just need to have the feeling of a past well lived and well loved.
Teddy and Pete

All thanks to a Phone Game - LJ Idol, Season 10, Week 10

Our family isn't the most... athletic... family in the world.  We have a tendency to spend more time indoors, playing games (board, role-playing or computer - we're equal opportunity) or reading a book.  But last summer, something happened that got us outside a lot more, got us walking and exploring more of Nashville.  Last July, we downloaded Pokemon Go to our phones.

It really is no surpise that this game appealed to us so much.  We've been a Pokemon family for about 6 years.  It started with Rich and Teddy playing computer mods of the original Game Boy games, then quickly went to the cartoons, then the card games.  We now own several copies of every game that's come out since Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, and we own more cards than I we know what to do with (in part because my husband runs one of the local Pokemon Leagues).  Both my boys own more stuffed Pokemon than I thought would fit in our home.  Pokemon is a big deal around here.

We were among the first people to pick up the game.  And we kept trying to get into the system during the first crazy days when the company realized they had far more demand than expected.  We watched the game time out as we tried to see which generation one Pokemon we could get.  Because we knew, we just we knew, that things would smooth out sooner or later.

And as they did, we found ourselves outside more and more.  Sometimes it would just be walking around our apartment complex, seeing whether we could find a bulbasaur or a pikachu rather than another stupid pidgey.  We got to know a few of our neighbors this way, people who would ask if we caught anything new lately. It was a nice way to get outside after school and work, watching the boys run ahead with Teddy's phone to see what they could find before they hit the corner.  On  the weekends, we would often go to places we were already familiar with, places that had a lot of Pokestops where we could get more pokeballs and berries that would allow us to catch more Pokemon. Walking through Centennial Park, we would cross Pokestop after Pokestop, watching Pokemon gather on our screens like my cats around an empty food bowl. Or we head to Fort Negley, walking the path around the old fort, reading the plaques of information about the historic site between looking for new Pokemon to catch.

But my favorite places to go have been Nashville's Greenways. The paths wander throughout various parts of Nashville, always in undeveloped areas where we can enjoy the foliage around us, seeing the occasional animals that some of the Pokemon have been modeled after, listening to rivers and streams burbling beside us. The kids are out there for the Pokemon, but I'm there because it connects me to my childhood in the woods of Upstate New York. During these times, I happily passed my phone along to Peter so I could enjoy walking beside Rich while my son could run forward with his brother trying to catch everything in sight. We've managed to walk part of three of the greenways so far. Eventually, I'm hoping to walk all of them.

We haven't been out as much this winter, but the weather is starting to warm even more here in Tennessee. In just a few weeks, the boys and I will be out for spring break. And Rich is taking the week off for a little stay-cation. I suspect we'll be taking quite a few hikes then, exploring more of the greenways and catching new Pokemon along the way.
Teddy and Pete

A Glimpse of Who I Am, or Why I Can't Make a Choice - LJ Idol, Season 10, Week 9

"I'm going to have to look up what this prompt means," I told my husband as soon as I read it.

"Why? What is it?"

"The Trolly Problem"

I had to admit that I'd never heard the phrase before.  And from the time he explained that it involved the difficulty of deciding the value of one life versus the lives of many, the problem has been percolating in my brain.  Because even now, several days of thought later, I have no idea how I would choose.

Part of it is my difficulty in thinking of things in generalities. A part of me is always tuning over the "What if"s... like, "What if the one person on the track was someone that I love?" or "What if one of the group on the main track is someone that I despised, or someone that has hurt so many others?"  I just can't simplify my thinking down to an either/or without the other possibilities intruding.

Another part is my honest belief that the needs of the many do NOT necessarily outweigh the needs of the one (or the few). Because everyone matters to at least one person, and that loss would be felt so deeply by those left behind, that it makes every life lost as important as any other.  The lives of complete strangers half a world away are important, but not not as important as the life of the child I've raised in this world.  I would venture that the same could be said of one person when it was a choice of the life of their child and my family.

The most important part, though, is my natural empathy. I have a tendency to put myself in in the shoes of others without meaning to. I imagine what they are feeling and having those feelings affect me deeply.  I was living in New York City in September of 2001, and those last months were the hardest I've ever lived through.  Every day, I had to walk through Penn Station, ever surface covered with posters of the missing and presumed dead.  I spent much of the time in those months trying hard not to cry as I wondered about the lives those in the pictures had lead before that day, as well as the pain that their families were going through.   I cried as much, though not for as long, as I watched Owen and Tosh die in Torchwood, or Amy and Rory disappearing into the past in Doctor Who. Fact or fiction, I have a tendency to immerse myself in the world around me, especially when the world is full of sorrow.

So if I were faced with a trolly heading toward a group too far away for me to hear, and I could divert it to hit only one person, it would probably hit the group.  Not because they are less important, but because I would be paralyzed with indecision as I try to find any way that I can save them all.
Teddy and Pete

Learning to Keep Your Mouth Shut - LJ Idol, Season 10, Week 8

Monday is the 11th anniversary of one of the best, and sometimes scarriest, days of my life.  It's the day I first became a Mom and the day I started learning things I never thought I'd need to.  Like the fact that my heart can hold more love than I ever thought possible.  Or that sometimes you say things you never expected like "Please take the turtle out of your mouth" or "No, I don't think Makuhita left all the toys all over the living room floor."  Or that sometimes you feel like you are a maid more than a member of the family.  Or that things have really changed a lot from when you were in school.  Or that having two kids isn't quite double the work of one, but it's not just the same as having one either.  But the most difficult things that I've had to learn is when to keep my mouth shut and let my kids make their own mistakes.

As a parent, there is a large part of me that wants to make life easier for my kids than they were for me.  I don't want them to have to be teased because of things beyond their control, or have them feel less about themselves because of the cruelness of kids their age.  I don't want them to feel like they can't talk to me about things going on in their world.  I don't want them to make the mistakes I made by saying things I have yet to live down, or doing things that still bring embarassment when I think about them, or burning bridges that cost relationships I wish I still had.  I want them to have a good life, a happy life, a life without worry and pain and want.  But I also know that letting them live a life without mistakes, a life without taking responsibility for their own actions, is going to do them no good whatsoever.  So even when I want to correct them and protect them, I'm learning to shut up and let them make their own misakes.  Instead, I'm trying to only put in my two cents when they ask for it.

I'm learning that it's best to stay silent when my eldest decides not to participate in his school's book challenge, even when I think it's something he may look back on missing with regret.

I'm learning that my lips should stay sealed after three reminders to my youngest that his homework needs to be done, because anything more will not teach him to take responsibility for his own actions but will instead teach him only that Mom's a nag.

I'm learning that keeping my comments to myself about my eldest's friends that are, in my mind, not a good influence, because he's got to learn to trust his own judgement.

I'm learning that even if I'm upset about something my son has done - spending all his time playing video games instead of doing his homework, or his refusing to do his chores when he's supposed to - it is not the time to let my anger fly in his direction, making him feel as bad as I do because of his thoughtlessness.

I am learning that I can still be a good mother without having to have my say on every part of either of my boys' lives.  I am learning that it's more important for me to be there when they need me, to let them learn from their own mistakes, and to let them know that, even with those mistakes, I still love them and am there for them, than to be there to fix everything that goes wrong.  And for all that I'm far from perfect in realizing which moment is which, I am learning when it is best to have no comment and just let them be who they are.
Teddy and Pete

Mountain Living

My grandfather bought the valley and much of the mountain land surrounding it back in the 1950s.  At first, the land was a summer home for my grandmother, my father, and my aunt and uncles to come to away from the NJ hustle and bustle.  My grandfather would come up on weekends, spend the time with his family, and then drive the 3 hours back before work on Monday.  When my dad, the oldest son, decided to bring his family back home, my grandfather deeded him several hundred acres up the mountain and on the other side of the county road.  This is where I grew up, and the place I always think of as home.

I didn't know a lot of the above growing up.  By that time, my grandparents had retired and were living in the valley full time.  So for me, they were just always there.  And that part of my world was unchanging.

When I was young, we would often drive to visit my grandparents.  Even though they only lived 5 minutes away, it was safer for my mom than to walk with two young girls down a country road. It was an almost magical journey.  At the top of the drive way was a wide turn around.  Two dirt tracks headed into the trees.  It was impossible to tell, if you didn't already know, which road would take you to the place you needed to be.  The road to Grandma and Grandpa's house was the one on the left.  The quarter mile of the drive, headed back in the direction we'd just come from, was canopied by trees.  In the spring and summer, I loved to watch the sunlight dappling through, making patters on the grass and dirt before us.  When I was older and would sometimes walk there, I would hop between the shadows, pretending the bits of light would burn me if I touched them.  It was magical.

Eventually, the trees would part and we would be in the valley.  Again, the road would fork.  If you continued straight - though not very far - you would come beside the old house, the one that my grandparents, Dad, aunt, and uncles lived in during their summer visits.  It was old, a little ramshackle, but still a place I loved to visit.  From the time I was five, my youngest uncle and his wife lived there.  My Aunt Laura was the crazy aunt everyone told you about.  Heck, she still is.  And I love her for it.  We would have bonfires in front of their home where I could watch the embers fly into the sky as we toasted marshmallows over the glowing coals.  I would go inside and look at her humor books, lay comfortably on her couch, and often fall asleep.  It was one of my favorite places to be.

If you made a right behind the house, then wind around just a little more, you'd come to my grandparents' home.  It was a mobile home that they'd added an addition onto.  A wooden front porch stood at the entrance, a place to stay dry while watching the rain came down or to stay in the shade during the hottest days of summer.  That porch was where I helped my grandmother shell peas - one of the few culinary tasks I still enjoy.  Right inside, in the front room, was where the Christmas tree would stand, decked out with ornaments and plenty of gifts under the tree. It was also where my cousins and I would sleep when they would come to visit.  My grandparents' house was a place I could spend time with family I didn't see as often as I'd like.  It was where I first encountered the "kids table".  It's where I had pure maple syrup made from the trees my grandfather and uncle would tap.  Even better than the syrup was the maple candy.  It was a safe, wonderful place for me.

But even better than the homes was being outside.  About 5 acres, if I had to guess, was kept mowed all year round.  A lot of it was just an area where we could run and play.  It was where my aunt and uncle got married.  It's where my cousins and I would come up with games to play.  It was from there that I would watch my grandfather's garden grow, or hear the chickens in the coop out back clucking and cawing.    And if I went past the house, and around the stand of trees, I would find the small pond, and see the dam that the beavers would make there.  Sometimes I'd go with my cousins, but my favorite times were when I'd go with my grandfather and he'd tell me about it.  He didn't talk a lot because his stutter made it difficult, but he would still make time to tell me little things about this or that with the beauty around us.  Or he'd teach me songs like "Marsie Doates".

I was going to write about my home town, and what life was like there.  But I realized that for me, where I come from will always be more that mountain where I would play and grow and learn than the town close by.  
Teddy and Pete

More than Self Defense

"You have to turn on your heel before you kick."

I looked up to see the boys' Sensei, Max Scruggs, head toward Teddy as my eldest practiced his back kicks, hook kicks and spinning kicks against the bag.  I could see the frustration on Teddy's face as Sensei corrected his stance and moved his back foot into the proper position, but he said not a word.  And under Sensei's watchful eye, I watched as he tried again. And again.  And again.  Not once, even after Sensei continued to correct him, did he let his frustration get out of control.

This wouldn't have been the case three years ago when he started karate under Max.  Three years ago, Teddy could barely control his anger and frustration, instead stomping his feet, yelling at me, or throwing a temper tantrum when he didn't get his way.  Honestly, it was part of why I wanted him to start learning karate.  I'd heard from friends that karate was a good way to gain self-control.  I'd heard from other friends that Max's school was the one I should bring him to.  For all that I knew I wanted to bring him, it took me a few years before I actually did.

That first Saturday, I remember sitting in the church gym that houses Max's dojo, watching as Teddy took his first steps toward learning Wado Ryu Karate.  But more than watching him, I remember talking with Max.  He had (and probably still has) a two week trial period.  It's as much to make sure that his dojo is a good fit for the person coming as it is to make sure that Max feels the new student will be a good fit for his dojo.  He doesn't want kids that just want another sport, another bit of athletics to notch up.  He wants the kids that he knows are going to learn, that are going to be WILLING to learn.  And he teaches more than karate.  He teaches life.  He teaches kids to stand up for themselves.  He teaches that the best way to win a fight is to avoid one if you can. He teaches that you need to be responsible for your own decisions.  And he teaches that, if you don't give up, you can accomplish just about anything.  One of the best lessons that he taught me, though, was not to underestimate either of my boys.

That first day, he naturally assumed that Pete would be taking karate as well.  After all, his monthly fee was a family fee rather than an individual, so it wouldn't have cost anything more for him to join Teddy on the mat.  "Oh, no," I told Max with a chuckle.  "I wouldn't subject you to that!"  Pete had a difficult time staying still, a difficult time doing tasks that took concentration, and a very difficult time being told what to do.  I didn't want Sensei to waste his time with a child that I didn't think would be ready.  But Max told me not to worry about it.  That Pete would be fine.  Just to let him know that he was expected to be on the floor, and that Max would take it from there.

For the first six months, Pete was on the floor, but would spend most of the time twirling in circles on his square.  Max let him.  He would talk to Pete but he wouldn't push him.  Once Pete started to actually focus on lessons, he asked a little more of him.  And a little more.  And then even more.  It was probably a year of Pete being on the floor before he even got his white belt (which required him memorizing the student pledge).  Then Sensei started to be a little tougher on him.  While Sensei did give him a little lattitude when it came to moving around, he didn't let him fritter away the whole session.  Instead, he would send Pete off the floor if he became too disruptive.  It was another nine months, with Pete being able to focus a little more each time, before he earned his yellow belt.  Then Sensei tackled Pete's temper, sending him off the floor when Pete would stubbornly say he was doing something right when he obviously wasn't, or when his temper tantrums would start.  It only took about six months for him to earn his orange belt.  And now, he's over half way to earning his blue.  He still has his moments, times when Sensei has to lay down the law.  But he has far more moments when he beams from Sensei telling him how proud he is that he's come so far, giving him high fives, and helping him razz his big brother whenever he can.

Pete isn't the only one who has come a long way, and isn't the only one I've learned not to underestimate.  The same can be said for Teddy.  When he started karate, Teddy thought he knew everything.  He was, and still is, a smart kid.  He learned the student pledge between his first and second sessions.  Learning the vocabulary words was always the easiest stripe for him to learn.  These things, I knew, would be no problem for him.  But I worried, especially after seeing how low his initial kicks were, how winded he got after running one lap around the mat, that he wouldn't be able to be in it for the long haul.  I worried that I would have to keep forcing him to go, because once it got hard, he would want to quit.  For all that there was a little of that, the desire to stop because he was having too difficult of a time with the kicks and that he would rather spend his Saturday mornings playing video games on his DS, he's come to actually be ok with going to karate.  He's gotten to a point where not only can he run six laps around the mat without needing to stop, but he does it as soon as he bows onto the mat.  I've watched his kicks get regularly higher, his blocks get sharper, and his immediate move to his gear when Sensei says it's time to spar.  I've watched him earn each and every stripe, now well on his way to getting his purple belt.

But honestly, one incident above all others have made me proudest, and have shown me that he's learned so much more than just karatefrom Sensei.  One day last semester, Teddy told me that a kid in his improv club at school had gone a bit nuts.  The kid was throwing chairs, yelling and screaming and, if I remember correctly, starting to get violent with one of the other students.  "I thought about stepping in," he told me, "using some of the karate that Sensei has taught me.  But then I remembered what Sensei said, that the best way to win a fight was by not getting in it.  And I decided that was the best thing to do.  Besides, the teacher had it."  And that made me realize just how much he was getting.  He wanted to step in, and probably could have held his own.  But he realized that fighting wasn't the most important thing.  It was keeping himself safe.  And realizing that the teacher had it.

Both my boys still have a lot left to learn from Sensei.  Their black belts are still a few years in the future, I suspect.  But they both have learned so much.  Both literally and figuratively, they have learned (and are continuing to learn) when to turn their heel and when to kick from where they stand.
Rich and Am

Separating Fear and Love

For many, many years, fear had been an integral part of how I loved.  It wasn't fear of abuse, or fear of something horrible happening to the person I loved.  It was fear of being unlovable, of being left alone.  That fear helped shape many a bad decision, ruined friendships, and came very close to making the fear a reality.

The first person I loved, that I still love, is my father.  I'm a Daddy's girl through and through.  He is the one that taught me about computers, shared his love of books, was the one I still come to with my problems, and the one that I know will love me no matter what.  He's also the first man to, in my childish mind, have left me.  As an adult, I can look back and know that the fighting between him and my mother had nothing to do with me.  But I still remember hearing them fighting and promising them through sobs and tears that I would be a good girl, just please stop fighting.  I still remember my father moving out when I was 11, and me wondering what I'd done wrong to make him not want to live with me anymore.  I remember my worries when he moved to Florida - it was so far away from New York.  Would I ever see my Daddy again?  Fears of a child, and all of them unfounded, but the niggling worry and doubt about my worthiness to be loved remained.

The first time I really fell in love was when I was 16.  I'd met Paul not long after I moved to Florida to live with my dad.  And honestly, the first time I met him, he scared me a little.  He was a long-haired metal head who wore ball chains around his wrist like a bracelet, cammo pants and looked like no one I'd left behind me in New York. He came across him as I was walking across campus and, horror of horrors, he asked me the time.  I think I stammered that I didn't have a watch and hurried on to my destination.  It wasn't until several months later that I met him again, this time through my best friend Noelle, and learned that my first impression was so very far off.  Over the rest of that school year, we became friends.  Over the summer, we spent a lot of time on the phone together, and that was when I first realized I was falling for him.  I was afraid to tell him, in part because I was sure he had a thing for Noelle.  But I told him, and then had to deal with a few days of his fear of being in a relationship at all.  Before school started, however, we had both faced our fears and we were a couple.  For three months, it was bliss.  Every possible moment spent together, taking the physical part of our relationship slow.  He would leave flowers and stuffed animals in my locker, he would walk me to class.  He would hold me and kiss me and I thought this would be the man I'd spend my life with.  Until, of course, he made one stupid decision which caused my dad and step-mom (who didn't care too much for him at the time) to tell me that either I needed to break up with him, or they would make sure I could never see him again by taking me out of the high school where all of my friends were and making me start all over again.  I was a coward.  I chose staying with my friends.  For a little while, I tried seeing him behind my parents' back, but the fear of being caught overwhelmed my need to be with him and I broke things off.

Through high school and much of college, I jumped from relationship to relationship.  I wanted to be loved so desperately, and I didn't want to be left alone.  It wasn't long before I was dating guys that didn't really give a damn about me, they just wanted someone that was easy. Oh, they'd tell me they loved me, but they were more interested in fooling around than spending any real time with me.  And I was ok with it.  The crushes I had that would have respected me didn't feel the same way about me, so if I was going to be loved by anyone at all, I had to be willing to do whatever it took to keep them.  So I let myself be used for sex.  I let myself be used to make other girls jealous.  I let myself be used however the person that "loved" me wanted to use me.

By the time I met Tom in my second year of college, my self-esteem was practically non-existant.  I'd been dating a really great guy, but he could see that it wasn't going to work between us long term and was expecting our relationship to wither once I left to go back to school. He didn't tell me this, of course, until after I'd broken up with him, but the fear of him dumping me must have been there.  So when I met Tom and he told me how beautiful I was ("Though if I'd seen your weight on your profile before I met you, I wouldn't have been interested"), I was willing to jump to this new relationship.  Because if he could want to have sex with me, if he could love me, inspite of the numbers on my scale, then it had to be true love, right?

Instead, I spent seven years finding out just how bad my self-esteem was.  Because being with him was more important than anything, I spent the money that should have been going to pay for college to get hotel rooms when he'd come to visit, or putting gas in my car so I could go see him an hour and a half away.  When I didn't have the money to finish my degree, I moved to St Pete so I could be near him.  I became a swinger because it was the lifestylle he lived and if I wanted to be with him, that was the lifestyle I needed as well.  When we fought and he would put me down, I would beg him to come back to me, promising him I'd do anything if he wouldn't leave me.  After one particularly bad fight, we broke up and he asked the mother of his son to marry him.  Yet, I begged him not to do it, begged him to stay with me.  And he did... though he still married her anyway.  For 5 years, I allowed myself to be hidden, to be someone that was good for sex but never good enough to leave his wife for.  I beleived him when he said he wasn't making the choice between me and her, but between me and his son. For all that I so desperately wanted to be his one and only, I was convinced that he was who I deserved, so something was better than nothing.

It took those seven years, moving back in with my parents, and a lot of therapy for me to realize that he was more harmful to my psyche than he was helpful.  But the fear of being alone still wasn't completely gone.  It took dating (long distance) another man for me to be able to tell him no when he came to me with a ring and divorce papers.  I did still love him, but I knew that I couldn't trust him.  And besides, I had someone else, right?

The new relationship took me to New York City, where I found myself with someone with even worse self esteem than I had.  His mother didn't like me, thought I was after him for his money, and rather than tell her he wanted to be with me, he tried walking the tight rope between the two of us for over a year.  I wasn't used to being the stronger one in a relationship, and in him, I started to see some of the neediness that had been my own pattern for so long.  But again, it took my attraction to someone else for me to say, "I can't do this.  I'm trying to pull myself up and I can't pull you up too."  Within a couple of weeks, I was dating Rich.  Within a few months, Rich and I were engaged.  And by September 2003, Rich and I were married.

My fear didn't diminish when Rich and I got together.  It didn't matter that he gave me not only what I wanted - a person who loved me, had a sense of humor, was a geek, made me smile, made me feel special - but what I needed - someone that refused to give up on me and who wouldn't leave no matter how much I pushed.  For the first several years of our relationship, I was looking for an escape hatch. Not because I wanted out of the relationship, but because I was sure it would implode.  I told Rich that I was polyamorous and that, if he wanted to be with me, he needed to accept that.  I was convinced that would push him away, but he stayed.  I dated other men - always with his knowledge - sure that he would get tired of it.  But he stayed by my side, knowing that this was a part of me and that to love me meant loving all of me.  He let me be who I had to be until the fear diminished, because he truly did love me.  It took me years to realize that I deserved his love, and that I really didn't have anything to fear.

That doesn't mean that fear has left my love for him.  Every once in awhile, I'll be convinced that he could do better and that he'll realize it.  So I'll push and shove, trying to get him to prove my fear true.  But instead of letting me push him away, he just holds me tighter, loves me more and proves, in word and in deed, that my worries are unfounded.  And once the fear has passed, I hold him just as tight. Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have imagined this life for myself.  Twenty years ago, I still wasn't worthy of love so I had to hold on to love wherever I could find it.  Twenty years ago, I didn't have enough love for myself, let along for a good man and two wonderful (if frustrating) boys.  Twenty years ago, I didn't have hope.  I'm so glad that twenty years ago, I was wrong.
Teddy and Pete

LJ Idol - Boys' Best Friends (Season 10, Week 2)

Yeah it's silly, don't believe it
But I promise you it's true
Lots of people really love you
But your pillow loves you too*

Before Teddy was born, my step-mom took me shopping for fabric. She wanted to make some blankets and pillows for him, cute things to brighten up his crib. Along with the Loony Toons Babies and the cute bears that had been chosen, I found the softest blue fabric, dotted through with white clouds and bright yellow stars and crescent moons. The others would be nice for cute bedding, but this would be perfect for warmth. I added it to the pile. And it wasn't long before both my son and his new bedding - a blanket, a baby pillow and a small body pillow - arrived in the world. The blanket was one of the first that he was wrapped in, keeping him warm as he grew. And as he got older, switching from a crib to a toddler bed, he kept the body pillow with him. We didn't know just how important it became until one night he lay in bed, crying for "Bodie". We looked where he pointed and there lay the body pillow. As soon as we gave it to him, the tears stopped and a smile lit his face.

For years, Bodie was Teddy's constant companion. To story time, to the grocery store, to Parents' Day Out, Bodie came along. We made a mistake one time of forgetting him on a trip and not, 30 minutes into our 10 hour drive, deciding to go back to get him. Teddy got no sleep that trip. Neither did I. After that, Bodie was the first thing we made sure to have packed whenever we went anywhere.

As he got older, Bodie started to show more and more wear. Knowing that there would be a day that the patches she'd sewn into him would no longer hold up, my step-mom took the blanket and turned it into two larger pillows. (She'd wanted to turn it into another body pillow, but there just wasn't enough fabric.) As far as Teddy was concerned, though, those pillows could never be a replacement for Bodie. But that was ok, because the pillows found their own home before too long.

When Teddy was 2 1/2, his baby brother, Peter, came into the world. My step-mom never had the chance to make him his own bedding set - she'd had a double amputation thanks to diabetes, and passed away from a heart attack four months after Pete was born. But that didn't stop Peter from finding a friend filled with fluff. He soon latched on to the pillows Mom had made as replacements for Bodie, and they became his best friends.

Like Bodie and Teddy, Pete and his Plos went everywhere and did everything together. In the grocery store, one of his Plos would become a sled for him to slide on down the aisles. When we would wait for Teddy to get out of school, Plo would be his sidekick to help him fight "Invisible Man", the sometimes-villain, sometimes-hero that Pete spent his imagination time with. And when things wouldn't go the way that he wanted and he'd end up in tears, Plo would be the only thing that could help calm him to a point where we could talk. Over the years, one of the Plos has disappeared, but as long as Pete still has a Plo to keep him calm, all is right with the world.

For Teddy and Bodie, a few things have changed as the years have gone by. Once he started school, he stopped bringing Bodie everywhere. But he was still his bedtime companion, still one that he'd play with at home. He even gave Bodie a face, drawn on with red Sharpie. There is a permanent fold in Bodie's middle where Teddy will sling him over his shoulder or the crook of his arm. His stuffing is matted and his color has faded a lot. But that doesn't make him any less loved.

As for Peter and Plo, Plo still goes everywhere that Pete can take him. During the day, he waits in the car while Pete is in school, because Pete knows that a second grade classroom isn't a safe place for a Plo. But he wants to make sure that his best friend is waiting for him as soon as he walks out the door, and I make sure it happens. Like Bodie, Plo has lost a lot of his color, and his stuffing isn't as spry as it used to be. But also like Bodie, that doesn't make him any less loved.

I'm a firm believer that everyone should have that one friend that they know will keep any secret, that they have no doubts will love them no matter what. I think everyone should have a friend that they know will be with them through thick and thin, who will be there to comfort them when they are sad and share quiet joy when they are happy. I'm lucky that, in Bodie and in Plo, both my boys have this kind of friend. And that even, in the unlikely event that my boys set these friends aside as they grown into men, neither they nor I will ever forget the special bond they once shared.

One day you'll be all grown up,
I'll be nothing, skin and bones
But I helped you to get bigger
Don't forget me when you're grown*

  Pete holding Plo, and Teddy holding Bodie on our recent trip to Philadelphia's Franklin Institute

*These lyrics are from Bill Harley's "I'm Your Pillow".  It's from his albumTown Around the Bend and from the first time I heard the song, I knew that it was perfect for my boys and their best friends.

His Struggles are My Struggles

At first, I thought he was just a crazy kid. He was always jumping and climbing. He hated wearing clothes. Getting him in the tub was next to impossible. Brushing his hair... ha! I was lucky that if I could get a comb through it without screaming and tears. When he was three, three and a half, he was diagnosed with Sensory Perception Disorder. For those unfamiliar with the term (as I was when the pediatric rehab therapist told me it), SPD is a disorder often found in conjunction with autism, though it's not exclusive to it. Someone with SPD's senses don't work the same way the rest of ours do - sometimes they are more sensitive textures, sometimes they have to fight to feel anything. Even soft lights and sounds could bother someone with SPD, while another SPD person might not be bothered by noises that could hurt anyone without the disorder.

Peter is what is known as a sensory seeker. He would run full tilt into a wall because he wasn't aware of the area around his body. He hated the feeling of clothing on his body, so he would be naked as often as he could (to the point of trying to take his clothes off in the grocery store). Nothing ever tasted right to him, to the point that all he would eat were chicken nuggets, fries, and PBJs. For him, the world is a very different place than it is for me, his dad, or his brother.

Kindergarten was hard. He spent much of the year rolling around on the floor with his shoes off, his arms tucked into his shirt. He would wear shorts and a heavy winter jacket in August. For all that the teachers did what they could to help him - including keeping a basket of sensory toys that he could use at any time he needed - he still had a very difficult time because he couldn't accept responsibility for his actions. His diagnosis of ADHD helped some, letting him concentrate so he didn't feel the need to be so active all of the time. But the sensory problems weren't anything that was going to go away. So we continue to find ways to deal with them.

He's in second grade now. And he's come a long way. I no longer need to worry that he's going to get naked in public, though getting rid of his clothes is always the first thing he does when he comes in the door. He can sit at his desk and work without the need to get up and move around. Thanks to karate, he's become more aware of where his body is in space so he's not needing to run into walls to keep track of his boundries. He is more willing to try eating new things, regularly eating pepperoni pizza along with his PBJs. He'll actually enjoy baths every once in awhile.

But for all his stride, we still have struggles. If it were up to him, he'd never ever wear underwear. In fact, he goes out of his way to prove to me that he's put them on whenever he does wear them. Haircuts are still traumatic, and the only way I was able to get him to let me cut it the last time was by promising him I'd have mine cut as well. His head is so tender that he screams whenever a comb would go through a knot. But I'm ok with the struggles. Because for all that, sometimes I wish he were more compliant, that he'd listen and do what I ask more regularly, he's my son and I wouldn't want to change who he is at his core. The struggles that he faces, the struggles I face with him, are what make me know that we're family. And it's more proof than anything else that this boy is mine.