Tag Archives: Colorado

How Tragedy Crystalizes What’s Important

Photo by Chris Anastasiou

Photo by Chris Anastasiou

Three weeks ago my words were taken away. Since the Dec. 14th horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., I haven’t been able to write. I haven’t written in a journal or in this blog until now. Nothing on my previous blog schedule interested me. It felt almost treacherous to write about the mundane holiday stress story, or the single parent wishlist. I couldn’t justify the importance of such trivial, albeit timely, topics. I couldn’t find the energy. On the morning that the events unfolded, I was at home with a very sick four-year-old, and as he slept, I watched the T.V. and wept. And from that moment, nothing—no topic—felt compelling. So, the article with an expert interview on keeping traditions alive post-divorce never got posted. The reviews of the best children’s books to buy this year also fell to the wayside. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to write on these topics.

How could I? There are 26 families who would barely be able to celebrate the holidays this year. Their worlds will never be the same. What about the families in Colorado who lost loved ones this summer in the movie theater mass shooting? What about the families across America who lost babies and children after they tragically found unlocked guns at home and shot themselves accidentally? How many American children have been caught in the cross fires of drive-by shootings? (I read more than 500 people were shot in Chicago this past year!)

Seriously, how many distraught, depressed and lonely people ‘celebrated’ the holidays and rang in 2013 desperately missing family members who were killed by kids wielding guns?

Right now, the media is obsessed with the Fiscal Cliff drama. But I can’t move on from the terribly important topic of keeping our kids safe and healthy. And that INCLUDES the mentally ill kids who desperately need their medications and therapies that may be too expensive or too scarce in many communities. I know I’m not the only person in America in this debate. In fact, the gun rights debate sickens me. I’m originally from the South and am ALL too familiar with the typical NRA stance.

All I know is that right now I just can’t continue to write about typical single parent topics as the ONLY issue weighing heavily on my mind is how Americans can continue to live in a country that allows easy-access to rapid-fire guns and very little access to mental health services. I just can’t muster up the typical parenting topics right now. It just feels treacherous or wrong—like the feeling one must get when watching a magnificent sunset emerge above a battle field strewn with bloody bodies. Yes, life goes on. You and I can forget about Newtown and Boulder and Columbine. But this battlefield will keep emerging. How can it not? America can’t seem to limit its gun sales—and at the same time, doesn’t offer proper and affordable resources to assist the mentally ill. Add our culture of stress and violent video game habits and we’re brewing the right cocktail for yet another mass shooting to emerge in some picturesque town near you.

I’m fairly convinced that we are, in fact, stuck as a country. It will be a long time before I feel safe, or I feel my children are safe. Whenever they travel back to the South, I’ll worry about whether friends or family members have guns in locked safes. As someone who experienced a high school shooting, I know first hand the post-traumatic stress of finding a friend shot and nearly missing your own death at the young age of 16. What that sort of experience must do to a five, six, seven or eight-year-old is unthinkable. Right now, I just don’t think it matters what side of the gun debate you are on. The conversation about whether you think our founding fathers would want everyone (including teachers) to carry guns—or whether you’re thinking about moving to Europe in order to find a safe spot away from machine gun wielders—isn’t the conversation I want to have.

I want to know why we can’t provide better assistance to the mentally ill. I want to know why we can’t keep machine guns or rapid fire assault weapons out of our country. Why are social services departments strapped? Why is it easy for the wealthy to buy prescription drugs online to numb what doesn’t really ail them—but it’s almost impossible for the lesser thans to get medications and counseling they desperately need?

In order for me to feel inspired to write about the topics of helping children of divorce feel safe and thrive—I need to feel as if they have a fighting chance of surviving elementary school, middle school and high school first. Our children’s safety is what should connect all of us—no matter what side of the gun debate or raising taxes to provide more social services argument we may fall.

In the new year, expect to find more articles that explore the stigma of mental illness; services for the mentally ill; stress-coping skills for teens and tweens and parents; post-traumatic stress from trauma (and this includes nasty divorce trauma) and kids; and combating violence at home and at school. I’ll still have posts specifically for single moms, but I just can’t ignore what’s really important. It would be like getting diagnosed with cancer and deciding to take an Asprin and wish for the best. Here’s to a safe New Year in America and a future for our children.

Gratitude, Courage and The Single Mom

Yesterday morning I was hit with a vivid memory that soccer-punched the air out of me and left me with a longing and nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time.  I had just driven past the Madonna Del Rifugio (ancient convent near our villa dedicated to the Madonna and child) on Via dei Frati (our dirt road, translated to “The Brothers”)  in Sinalunga, Italy. I was on my way to buy pastries to take back to the villa. We were leaving for Rome (where I am today) and my man was at home packing up all the many bags and machines he needs to keep his 80-year-old father alive—who is the reason for our trip this summer, back to his grandfather’s homeland.

As I navigate through the narrow dei Frati, past olive groves down into town, the soulful tune “Oh, What a Lucky Man, He Was” starts to play on the radio.  Tears of recognition sting my eyes. The Emerson Lake and Palmer song was playing 3.5 years ago as doctors performed a C-section to deliver James. The memory came rushing back as the song played, and I could literally see the hospital room at UCLA and the doctors and nurses and my ex sitting at my head looking down at me.  I pulled up to the coffee bar, smiled at my new friend Eva serving cappuccinos, and sat listening to the words. I raised one finger and nodded, letting her know I’d be inside soon, put my sunglasses on to hide my eyes, and felt a knot form deep within.

My OBGYN, who I consider a friend, played the mix tape he had made for his wife when she was delivering their son 20+ years earlier, at my delivery. I was insanely honored. I’ve known this man for 11 years and he is the reason why we moved back from London, in order to let him over-see the birth and my bed-rest. His first name is William and his brother’s James—the names of my two children coincidentally. He saw me through the chicken pox, then the premature contractions that landed me on bedrest for two months, and then this emergency C-section. October 24, 2008 was such a special day and hearing that song slammed me back to a time when I was filled with hope.

It’s a little ironic that our street in Italy is named the brothers. Little James always refers to his big brother and his best friends as “the brothers.” He often says, “I want to stay up and play with the brothers!” when William has a friend over to spend the night. It’s adorable and always makes me think that he was in a brotherhood of some sort in another life. This month we’ve also stayed down the road from an ancient, but working, convent that celebrates the Madonna and child. Our villa is on the hill above the village of Sinalunga, which is also dedicated to the Madonna. (Probably many villages throughout Italy are!) But everywhere you look, above door ways, bars, restaurants, churches and even offices, you can find paintings or sculptures of the Madonna and child, like the one in the picture above that I took.

Everywhere I’ve looked throughout my month away, I have been reminded of how important and revered motherhood is. There is no higher calling in Italy. It’s renewed my strength and filled me with more gratitude.

Life rarely works out the way we plan, does it? Who would have thought 3.5 years ago, after I delivered an adorable baby boy with crazy, spiked red hair like a British punk rocker, that I’d be separated and raising the boys solo 8 months later. It was too painful for words, so I won’t bother. But hearing that song again yesterday haunted me and felt like a wake-up call.

I am the lucky one.

Life has crazy twists and turns and so much is out of our control. But what is in our control is the power to see what is good and what is important in our lives. Flash forward 3.5 years and who would have thunk that I’d be spending a month in Italy with a boyfriend and his 80-year-old father who I adore. I’m seeing how vulnerable and tenuous every moment is through their eyes. And although some in America may not value motherhood as much as the Italians—you and I should never take their viewpoint seriously.

No one could argue with a woman who puts her children first, while no longer being a doormat. However you need to take care of them—if you are putting their needs first—you have your head and your heart in the right place.

Keep reminding yourself that you do have a job, you are competent, and that you are important. You are more than important—you are your children’s emotional security and source of love—that provides a roadmap for them to love themselves and others as adults.

So next time you find yourself having to defend what you do, or defend the needs of your children, or stand up for yourself, do what I plan to do: take a deep breath and focus on your children’s faces. They’ll inspire you to do what you need to do. And I, for one, intend to remember to always show gratitude. If your ex is taking good care of the kids, like mine is this week, say thank you. If your ex takes pains to call the children, tell him you appreciate it. It’s a little step towards a peaceful future.