Sunday, June 17, 2012

unity - the other people behind us

The girls both left this afternoon to spend a week each with a different grandmother.  This is such a wonderful opportunity for them both, and such wonderful timing for us as I am teaching 3 university courses online until next weekend and Doug is in a wedding for a very dear friend on Saturday.  That said, the house is quiet, I'm listening to a sweet ballad, and it's Father's Day.  It makes me think about what it would be like if we hadn't decided 9 years ago to try to start a family.  This would be just another Sunday.  The house wouldn't seem abnormally quiet.  I wouldn't find myself thinking "it's too quiet, what are they into".  It would be just another day.   I wouldn't have separated abdominals or a long scar.  My understanding of pain would be limited to kidney stones (and maybe my chest wouldn't be so big?).  I would probably have a much bigger retirement account, much nicer clothes, a cleaner house, and a smaller car.  I would be caught up on the books I want to read, movies I want to watch, and maybe even laundry I need to wash.  We would probably have traveled more.  I probably wouldn't live in this house or this neighborhood, since we picked it for its schools, proximity to parks, and family orientation.  We realized while house-shopping that the houses we liked most were the "before kids" houses; the fixer-uppers with great woodwork and good "bones".  They were the houses meant for another us, the us before we became parents.  That version of us is still with us, somewhere, behind us.

(with Jason on the right, who's joining the ranks of married folks this week)
But that old version of me would only know half of Doug, because the other half - the amazing and breathtaking part that bloomed out of nowhere the instant he held Cora for the first time - would never have appeared, no matter how much we've loved our dogs and nieces/nephews.

I would never have known how comfortable I could be feeling utterly vulnerable and trusting him completely.

I would never see how painstakingly patient he could be at moments when everyone else in the room was fuming and raging.  I would never see how tender he could be to a little person with hurt feelings or how encouraging and supportive he is to a little person learning a new skill.

We wouldn't have had half of the belly-quaking laughs we have shared, nor the moments of sitting near a little person's bed listening to her breathe and feeling very much together in the dark and quiet.  We wouldn't have a sense of neighborhood and community in the same way we do now.  We would never have shared a deep loss of hope and expectation and come through it understanding that we have enough, together we are enough.  Without our children we would be a great couple, a fun couple, a perhaps more interesting couple, but only half of what we are now.

Unity:  an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting

Monday, May 14, 2012

vicissitude – a fluctuation of state or condition; AKA “ups & downs”

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we went to one of our family’s favorite places – a local park complete with majestic waterfalls. It was a gorgeous day to be outside – smelling the sweet spring air, hearing the rushing water and the passing birds, alternatively feeling the cold sandstone and a warm park bench.

Steps up the hill (with some of our favorite kids)
Five years ago, I walked the 81 steps down to the river shoreline, climbed 70 steps up the overlooking hill, down the steps/hill, and back up to the car hoping to encourage the baby who shared my body to move toward independence. Less than 24 hours later, he obliged.

Much like that the steps I took that day, parenthood has been a journey filled with both ups and downs. I’ve embraced moments when I can’t imagine life without these wonderful beings, and the curiosity and excitement that they bring to seemingly mundane tasks (we watched a spider render a web-captured centipede comatose for at least 10 minutes yesterday :)). I’ve weathered moments when I’m SO scared of the possibility of scarring them that I question how any benevolent power could’ve entrusted ME, a person who has trouble remembering if the dog’s been fed, with their survival and livelihood (fortunately, my kids have no problem reminding me if they’re hungry).

Some of my proudest parental moments (the “ups”) appear when least expected. For example, when over breakfast, Caiden spontaneously reminds me that “if Barbie were alive, she couldn’t actually stand up because her feet are too small and her chest is too big. She couldn’t be real.” Or after a family Christmas celebration, Kepler is so content and happy that he gleefully announces that “Santa doesn’t need to come, Mom. We’ve already got enough.” Situations like these remind me of the privilege we get, imparting our values on these young, spongey beings.

Climbing up in the Badlands
Subsequently, I’ve also recognized that sometimes – despite best intentions – I fail to convey the very values that I desperately want to model and share. How can I convey the importance of being present and enjoying the moment, when we’re rushing from one activity to the next? (“Get your shoes on; we NEED to GO!”) How successfully have I shared the need to demonstrate compassion for one another when my oldest is overheard telling his little brother that his feelings don’t matter (“C’mon, Kep. Stop worrying about that. Get your shoes on; we NEED to GO!”).

Despite these and many other parental “lows,” perhaps it’s useful to see these as a different form of teachable moment – one that doesn’t rely on a forced conversation about topics such as the unfair standards that media place on appearance (see above citation about Barbie… :)). Instead, these are moments to show our children the merit of being sincerely apologetic. We demonstrate that we make mistakes and go through processes to recover from them. We celebrate successes, and each other. We recognize hurt, and the importance of requesting forgiveness. Actively experiencing both highs and lows allows them to understand that change is the only consistency in life. Progressing through changes together provides a foundation to build their self-assurance so that they can navigate life’s vicissitudes with confidence.

Monday, May 7, 2012

3 Reasons to Stay in Bed and 3 Reasons to Breathe and Get Up Anyway. (In that Order)

In my web reading lately, I've been noticing how fond I am of reading lists: 5 Things Not to Say to Divorced Moms, The Ten Things You Won't Hear at Commencement, Ten Things to Cook in a Muffin Tin. I love these lists, they are so fun to read. I love finally getting to the Number One Thing not to say to a divorced mother, that I won't hear at graduation or I could cook in a muffin tin, and feel such a sense of satisfaction. In fact, I love it so much that I decided I'm going to do the same, as I do so enjoy a good list, especially now, in my most busy time of year. So. Here you go: 3 things that bug me about being a Mom and 3 things that keep me trying to be a bit better at it each day:

3. Things Only Stay Clean As Long As I Never Sit Down. Ever. Not Even to Pee.

First, I realize that my children have Youthful Tendency Disorder in ways that are noisy, loud and sticky, and have mostly made peace with it. We have messes. We clean up messes. Even when eating lettuce, we make crumbs. In light of this, we have designated eating areas so we don't attract rodents. Mostly, it works out. I remember reveling in my mess making ability as a child, and want my children to experience that same joy. If they want to make their tree house in the sappiest tree in the yard, I'll be there with the peanut butter. It they want to play in the sandbox naked, well then, I'll be there to hose them down. If the littlest wants to see if her belly button can "chew" a blueberry, I'll be there to give her a bath. After all, this is what I signed up for. It is my part of the Mama/child contract: they explore, I provide healthy snacks and a hose. Most days, we do quite well.

Really, it's the bath that gives me trouble. Sometimes, when I'm at the end of my sap un-sticking, sand-washing, blueberry belly button day, I'm ready for a bath myself. I'm tired. I walk in and I find what's pictured above. The water is cold, sandy and sappy and the bathroom smells faintly of peanut butter. Do I clean it? Do I cry? Do I take a shower upstairs and hope My Love finds this mess and takes responsibility for it as it was created by the children that we together have made? Do I go sit on the hammock with a glass of wine? (PS, I don't have a hammock and there has been no wine in the house for over a month--this is just me in my Hollywood Movie Version of my Life Moment.) The thing I know about being a parent but still don't like is that I can't have it all. I can't have a sappy, sandy, blueberry day where the kids go to bed tired, satisfied, curiosity quelled,  and still have a clean bathroom. Sadly, I still want both. I haven't made peace with this contradiction of parenting and I am just here, in the messy bathroom in my damp robe. And I'm a bit mad about it. This is one thing I had hoped I would have figured out by now, almost a decade into being a parent. It turns out, I have not.

2. Seriously, how much plastic does one American kid actually need to own?
I don't like all the plastic that has come into my life since having kids.Specifically, I don't like the little plastic toys that come at every event or meal aimed at children.  I don't like that they're cheap. I don't like that they were made a continent and an ocean away and then shipped here. Can you imagine all the energy it took to make it, box it, put it on a truck, put it in a boat, take it off the boat, put it in a truck, take it to a distribution center, put it in another truck and get it to a store so that I could tell my child "No. You can't have that"?  And still, with all of my vigilance, they somehow find their way into my house. I don't like that they clutter my house until I step on them. I don't like that after I step on them and surreptitiously throw them away, they go in the landfill. I don't like that an archeologist 200 years from now is going to piece together my life by the abundance of plastic lizards and wind-up hopping bumble bees that they found in the excavation site that was the land fill.
I feel that there must be a better way for my kids' need for fun to be met and for the planet not to choke itself off with little breakable wind up toys or plastic lizards. Since becoming a parent, I find myself daily trying to stave off the deluge of plastic matter that is trying to sneak its way into my home and frankly, I think it needs to stop. I promise that the next gift  or party favor I give your child will be a book. Or a leaf. Or a dandelion. Or a piece of origami. I promise that it won't be made in a sweatshop a continent and an ocean away. Will you promise me the same?  Please?

1. The boys' part of the toy store has the Circuit Set. The girl's side, the dolls. 
I know. Your feminist buzzer is going off. Some of you enjoy when your feminist buzzer goes off. Others of you are not so comfortable with it. All I'm going to say is this:  Let's mix it up a little. I want my Boy to be able to cook and change a diaper and I want my Girls to understand how a circuit works or how to make a potato alarm clock. Must it all be so specific?  I realize I can certainly purchase my daughters a circuit set  and my son a doll (and I have done both), but I am still troubled that all of the science toys are coded for boys and all of the cooking and care-taking toys are for girls. Some of the kindest, tenderest people I know are people who know how a circuit works and how to cook a chicken. I want more of those people in the world so that they can figure out what on earth we're going to do with all the broken wind-up toys and plastic lizards that we've brought over from China only to throw in the trash.

And now, lest you think that all I can do is complain, here are my three most favorite things about being a Mama:

3. I've learned to do an awful lot. 
Pizza Crusts
I can make homemade pizza crusts in bulk so my family will not starve should I be late. I can knit.  I'm keeping worms alive so they can eat the lettuce we don't remember to eat. I'm keeping the lawn alive while not using herbicides that my grandchildren will one day have to drink. I grew my garden from wee little seeds. When the children were smaller, I could have one in the sling and do just about anything else. Once, I climbed a tree with one in the sling, and one in the belly, to rescue the One in the Tree.
True, there are many moments when I think I'm not doing it well enough, but looking back, I've learned an awful lot from this whole mothering gig. Like, for instance, not to let your three year old climb a tree while your 18 month old is napping in your lap and you are pregnant with the third. Also, how to make pasta and tandem nurse. But really, the big lesson I'm just now learning is this: If I want to have more patience, I need to sit down more. Truly, the more I sit, rest and breathe, the nicer I am. Seriously.  Go me. 

2. Family Dinners
The Littlest, telling a story.
Need I say more?  They are lovely. Even with the spills and the "I'm not even trying that once" and the...OK, they are sometimes lovely. And those are the ones I'm choosing to remember. When I'm old, I hope I remember the carpet picnic where we watched Hello Dolly while the spring sun set making the living room golden while the birds chirped outside. I hope I remember the dinners where they told us about their lives and their thoughts and I caught a glimpse of the prism of complexity that is them, and I really saw for a moment how the world was from their particular point of view.

1. Watching these beautiful people become curious, and learn.
This is my absolute favorite thing. It is the thing that stops me and makes me try to be better at my part of this Mama/child relationship. Like a small bit of thread, each child in his or her own way finds something that interests them, stops them, makes them want to understand, and they follow it. For me, this is as magical as watching the myriad butterflies that have come to Nebraska these last weeks, except it happens daily. And for this, I am deeply grateful.
I am so grateful, in fact, that I'm more willing to clean out the slimy bathtub before I wearily climb in. However, I'll continue to keep my promise about the plastic presents...and should I ever own a toy store one day, you'll be astonished at my organizational strategy.

Safe travels, gentle people. May we find at least as much to be grateful for as we do to grumble about. And may we find little bits of magic even if it is sometimes a bit slimy.

Index - chronicle, record, catalogue

Saturday, April 28, 2012

requiescence - ebb and flow

Some days, I think I can - or should - be supermom.  Up at the crack of dawn, a flurry of laundry-washing, house-cleaning, dog-walking, kid-dressing, family-feeding, course-prepping, work-going, Halloween-costume-sewing, playdate-organizing, Daisy-leading, school-volunteering, paper-grading insanity.  If I can manage more than an amazing 4 days in a row of supermomdom, I typically fall hard into overslept, crabby, rushed, snappish, disorganized, lazy, laundry-ignoring, mess-of-a-mom for a day or two.  The anti-supermom.  It's like I'm my own nemesis.  By the by, did you know that there are 2,030,000 image results on google for "supermom"?  Did you know that "Supermom" is also a Nintendo DS game?
I'm pretty sure that part of the problem is my (almost) subconscious working mom's guilt (which is perpetually fostered and fluffed by women's magazines and websites).  I overhear other moms talking about the 10 daycamps and 4 extracurriculars they're lining up for June.  I read Family Fun in the bathroom like it's a dirty magazine, and walk out feeling inadequate yet determined to be more ... more.  Like because my daughters have less of my time than if I didn't have a career, I should Make Every Moment Count -- by DOING THINGS.  So I make grandiose plans and obligate myself into big, busy weekends that serve best to land me at Sunday night feeling headspun and winded, wondering where the relaxation went.
When I was a camp counselor the summer I turned 19, my cabin had a tradition called "low point high point".  We passed around a flashlight in our pajamas, and everyone said the best and worst parts of their day.  It was a way of reflecting on our activities and feelings, and a non-threatening way to air out some otherwise festering disappointments or resentments.  A few years ago, I started to do that with my daughters at bedtime.  They love sharing their peaks and valleys, and surprisingly love even more to hear about my own.

Most surprising, though, is what we all end up saying.  Yesterday my high point was watching 5 kids from the neighborhood in my backyard looking at bugs, dirt and leaves, while snacking from our salad garden (who wouldn't love hearing 3 4yr olds & 2 7yr olds saying, "would you like some more spinach?").  After a 7hr crazy Daisy excursion today, C's high point was cuddling and watching E.T. this evening with her sister and daddy ... "WITH POPCORN IN BED!"  My mad push of time commitment, planning, organizing, coaxing, braiding, managing ... was appreciated and fun, but didn't match up to unexpected popcorn and 80's family movies.  It's good, sometimes, to have this reminder that the ebb and flow of my supermomdom vibe isn't actually the driving force behind the low points and high points of my daughters' days.  So maybe I can start working on convincing that guilty subconscious that I can linger a bit on the ebb and that lazy at-home weekends aren't blank spots in my children's life experiences.  Someday I may even approach requiescence,  or at least a bit more balanced sense of life.  Or maybe just die trying.

requiescence - retiring into silence or naturalness and ease; ebb

Sunday, April 22, 2012

extemporaneous - use your words

For all parents there are times when our children reduce us to the worst versions of ourselves. It seems my worst self resembles Biff from Back to the Future. My only defense for calling my son a “butthead” is that it stopped me from saying something worse.

When I pondered this month’s theme, parenting highs and lows, every example that came to mind involved my use of words. I guess that’s appropriate for a lexophile—though you’d think with words as my stock in trade, I might have chosen a better retort than “butthead” to my son’s combative behavior.

The thing is, words spoken—as opposed to words written—can’t be edited. I want my children to grasp this, to consider their words before loosing their tongues. My son’s propensity for arguing is the very behavior that inspired my Biff impression. In essence, I used immature language to censure his immature use of language. Thankfully, the verbal communication menu includes an apology section, from which my kids and I select frequently.

Despite my juvenile example, both of my kids have recently caught me off guard with their conscientious use of words. In particular, they have somehow learned to ask for what they need with neither a sense of entitlement nor shame. Jack demonstrated this in the same way he does most things: visibly and memorably. In a one-on-one talk about a recurring playground conflict, Jack told me he needed help identifying appropriate ways to handle his frustration. Because his principal is a former school counselor, I suggested we meet with him to inquire about resources. I should know by now what happens when you give Jack a seed. (There’s a fairy tale about it, for goodness’ sake.) Nevertheless, I was surprised when the current school counselor called to tell me Jack had walked into the principal’s office at the start of recess and said, “Mr. C___, I need to talk to someone about my anger issues.” Thanks to his straightforward request, the counselor began offering a weekly anger management workshop, which Jack proudly attends.

I almost overlooked, or even rebuked Signe’s recent expression of her needs. We’ve been working with her to respond agreeably when it’s time to clean her room, instead of going into hysterics like a female witness on Perry Mason. Not long ago, Signe simply said “okay” when I announced clean-up time. I agree in theory that we should catch our kids “doing good,” but I failed to offer positive reinforcement and was annoyed when Signe said, “Mommy, what do you say?” “What do you mean, Signe?” I asked, though I was pretty sure I knew the answer. “What do you say to me for not whining?”

Pause with me here. You may be thinking, as I did, that asking for thanks was audacious. A child should be expected to take responsibility for her possessions—which her parents have provided—and to reply respectfully to a parent’s request. You may believe I should have told her as much, and I almost did. Gladly, in the split second before I launched into an oration, I remembered something about my daughter: She’s very much like me in her need for verbal feedback. Now I’ve read Nurture Shock and I know that praising a child can backfire, but there’s a difference between false praise and genuine appreciation, between a fragile ego and a sense of confidence in one’s growth. Signe had just made a conscious decision that required some effort. She had behaved agreeably where she’d previously melted down, and she needed me to acknowledge as much. The fact that I did so is, for me, both a high point and an occasion of grace.

extemporaneous - spoken or performed without advance preparation

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Choosing the Road Not Taken

Is it just me, or do we spend too much of our lives daydreaming?

In my youth, I was always thinking … not really pondering big questions of the meaning of life… but thinking about the next major milestone I would be achieving. Life would be better after 10 years old, when I (finally) had my ears pierced. Life would be so much better after 16, when I could drive sans parents. Life would improve dramatically after 18, when I was “on my own,” and no longer had a curfew. Life would be better after marriage... career... kids... house... and so forth.

For the record, daydreaming can be a very positive pastime. It fosters imagination, and encourages excitement. Who doesn't enjoy imagining how different life will be after an interesting, life-changing event occurs? Who doesn't derive some happiness and positive anticipation from thoughts of a new ring, salary, bundle of joy, vacation destination, etc?

However, too much daydreaming can actually backfire, and prevent true happiness from being realized – for example, when you find yourself spending too much time in absent thought about an upcoming trip to Mexico that you fail to recognize the beauty and warmth of the same Mexican sun on a wonderful spring day in Minnesota.

Now, I'm not a brain expert, but I imagine that so much time thinking about the future builds strong neural tendencies to continue this behavior – long after “traditional” milestones are behind us. As a result, we either create new ways to look forward, or find ourselves enamored with the “good ole' days,” reliving memories to try and feel better about today.

These tendencies to dwell in the past or attempt to predict the future have evoked many emotions – from angst to yearning. Not happiness. And that bothered me. I was tired of being anxious about something that happened earlier. I was bored with reliving 'shining' moments. Anticipation was great in theory, but when the anticipated moment had past, I felt incredibly deflated. Being the bookworm that I am, I started mulling over happiness as a concept, finding many interesting reads along the way – poetry by Rumi, meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh, philosophical musings by Lao Tze, more contemporary analyses by Rubin and Carter. I found myself searching for the source of this discontent.

What did I find? That daydreaming, and my tendency to be preoccupied with past events or anticipating the future were not symptoms of a larger problem. They were the problem. Thus, to achieve a sense of equilibrium and contentment, I needed to abandon the well-trodden neural paths established in my mind, and opt for a newer route, one of mindfulness. 

As a result, I've been working on thought-stopping – not allowing myself to spiral to a new place in my mind when my family is otherwise enjoying time together. I make time to work on meditation, exercise that pushes me, active engagement with my kids, and other things that help to ground me and keep me present with the situations and loved ones around me. For the record, mindfulness still doesn't come easily to me – after all, I had many decades to live my inveterate life of daydreams. It may take a few more to embrace these goals, and solidify this new path. In the meantime, I'll try to make my peace just where I am.

inveterate - stubbornly established by habit

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Write About Happiness and Not sound like a Self Help Book. Or like I'm Lying.

I really am not good at happy.  At all.  In fact, I loved living in Washington State because the weather invariably matched my mood. It was rainy and cold. Rainy and warm. Rainy and wet. Snow turned to rain.  Rain melted snow.  Clouds came. They stayed.  It was great “sit in a room and drink tea and be morose” weather. It was great weather for reading the French theorists and then arguing why they are (or are not) relevant. It made for great “If I only had x, I’d be happy” thoughts.  It was nice, because I got to put off figuring out how to be happy because it was obviously the weather. Or grad school. Or the fact that I wasn’t settled and hadn’t really started my life yet. If I had the job I really wanted and did not have to go to the Laundromat…well then, I’d be happy…

But now I’m in this part of my life. This part of my life that I always looked forward to as the part where I get to be happy because I would have these great kids who would be multi-lingual and play stringed instruments. I would have this this great job that made my life meaningful and allowed me to contribute to society. And I would have this great person to be with and we would travel to foreign countries with our well behaved multi-lingual children.  The part of my life, this part, that if I’m not enjoying it, it’s my own damn fault.  The part of life where now, sometimes, in my darker moments, I say to myself “I can totally see how people have nervous breakdowns”.

 Maybe it has always been my own fault when I wasn’t happy,  but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t blame my parents, the childhood bully or the failures of my past for my state of mind. This has been a big responsibility shift. Some people have written that they have found this realization empowering.  They are now in charge. I’ve found it difficult.  

So now I’m left with the task of being happy. Some days I’m good at it. 
I can tickle fight.
And smell flowers.
And listen to birds.
And breathe. 
And notice.
And enjoy.
I love those days--the days when my life more closely lives up to the Hollywood movie version of my life.

Lately, though, my life is more like the independent film version of my life. This is not all bad, but it does mean that there is more peeing in the bathtub (the children) and more cross words at the dinner table (me). It means there are fewer light-hearted montages (with Beatles music in the background) where we take in butterfly wings and watch sunsets. Where we snuggle on the couch and everyone fits. Where we cuddle the kids off to sleep and then sip wine under the starlight.  Instead, it is more cracked corners and out-dated decorating and flat tires than I’d like in this part of my life.

And yet, the cracks and the shag carpet and the flat tires are there. And I think “Dammit.” And “I wish it was a bit easier. I wish there were fewer stains on the carpet and fewer bug corpses in the skylight.”

I wish I could tell you that in these moments I decide to be happy, or grateful or breathe or enjoy the imperfection. 

But I don’t. Most always I don’t. I wallow. I grump. I wish. But not always.

Sometimes, for one quiet second, I can notice the rain start and the train call in the distance while the insistent cardinal continues his song, and
I do.
Sigh - breathing in and out

Thursday, March 22, 2012

locus - the art of becoming an "innie"

(This was my belly)

 When I was about 12 months pregnant (just kidding, but it felt like it) with my first child, I joked about the turkey timer of my bellybutton popping out from its usual "innie" status to becoming an "outie".  I thought it was a lovely visual analogy for my sense of focus: deeply inward during early and mid-pregnancy, moving slowly outward as it became time to prepare for birth and mothering a child.

My sense of happiness is linked inextricably to motherhood in many, many ways - both my own, and my own mother's.  As a young girl, I was steeped in my mom's favorite sayings, like these beauties:
  • if you smile enough, you'll feel happier
  • things will always look better in the morning
I watched her own struggle to apply this approach to her own life.  I saw where it bolstered her, and where it sometimes failed her and left her with nothing but her inherent strength to keep her upright.  Oh yeah, that one too:
  • keep your chin up
I also watched her struggle with the overwhelming melodrama of dealing with an almost-out-of-control early teenager.  Trying to teach me how to control my own responses to the difficulties a complicated family life and financial hardship was handing me, trying to show me the beauties that were still there.  I didn't pick that up well at all, not for quite a long time.  I put everything I was - or thought I was - into friends or boys, many of them fleeting, some of them even borderline abusive.  Then, at some point, one of mom's sayings clicked for me:
  • we make our own happiness
Being angry wasn't getting me anywhere, and there wasn't a single person I had met in my limited years who had been capable of "making me happy".  What a shocking revelation, because isn't "you make me happy"  a key part of all teenage romance stories?  (for that matter, 60% of adult romance stories too, with the remainder composed of, "change because you love me").  I eventually started to pull my sense of self away from the equally-struggling people I had entrusted with it, and remembered that I had a usable brain, a sense of humor, and a sense of ambition of my own.  I found myself gravitating
(This is NOT my belly)
toward friends who already knew or who were discovering the same things.  Somewhere further down the road I read a page in a psychology book detailing the concept of "locus of control":  your locus can either be internal (meaning the person believes that they control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their environment, some higher power, or other people control their decisions and their life).  It was around that time that I had also come to a slow and painstaking conclusion that organized religion didn't make sense to me at all, and the idea that the heartwrenching sense of being at loose ends throughout adolescence could end with me holding the reins of my own life ... nothing before or since has been so empowering.

Of course, in my early days with my husband, I probably still would have said that he made me happy.  Looking back now at our 19 years together (we're one of the weird and lucky couples who met at the end of high school and still like each other), I can say that isn't correct.  I feel good about who I am in his eyes.  His support has helped me to realize and develop my own strengths.   He says things that tickle our shared humor and I enjoy a laugh with him.  When he remembers details about my likes and needs I feel treasured.  When we had difficulty getting pregnant, I was consoled by sharing the stress and pain.  When we were successful and had our daughters, my joy was multiplied by seeing the same in his eyes.  Does he make me happy?  No.  I am happy that I am with him.  But he doesn't MAKE me anything, which has been an absolute key element of our relative success to date.

The very definition of "outie"
So often now I find myself gazing at the petulant face of a peevish 5 year old (yes, there was a birthday party at our house last week) who is screeching, "you do NOT make me happy" at her sister.  I wrack my brain to find a way to share those insights on her level.  I find myself saying, "we make our own happiness...".  I come up short, of course, every time.  She's simply developmentally not ready to be an "innie" yet.

locus:  a center or source, as of activities or power