Happy Birthday, Dad

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Today is my dad’s birthday. He turned twenty years old exactly one month before I was born. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually celebrated my dad’s birthday with him. And, I need even fewer fingers to acknowledge the number of times my father has wished me a happy birthday.

Let me be clear; I am not bitter. At times, I mourn the loss of the father that I never had, but since my dad isn’t dead, mourning is probably the wrong term. I mean, after all, how can you mourn something that you never had to begin with and it sounds even more silly to pine over a relationship with someone who wants nothing to do with you or your children.

For most of my life, my father has been MIA and when he has made brief appearances, it has never ended well. Our relationship is certainly not a conventional one and the roles have always been reversed. What I mean is that I have always taken on the parental role, while he has been comfortable in the role of a child or adolescent.

I can speculate that the reason he gravitates to the adolescent role is because he was never shown how to be a father. His dad was a “Disneyland” dad and wasn’t very involved in his upbringing. I think my dad was starved for the affection of his father and was disappointed that he never received it. To make up for his absentee father, my grandmother spoiled my dad and became very possessive of him. She remained that way until her death two years ago. He was her puppet until the very end and with her death, came his freedom.

My dad has never been there for me. And that hurts. He missed every single one of my milestones in childhood and adulthood. He wasn’t in the audience of my high school graduation, nor did he visit me in the hospital during the births of my children. He doesn’t acknowledge my birthday and he doesn’t know the dates of my childrens’ births. These are facts. I accept them. I don’t like them. But, I deal with this reality.

When my little sister died of complications due to alcoholism at the age of thirty, I hadn’t spoken to my father in over three years. I was forced to cut ties with both him and my sister due to their addictions. I could not allow them to be around my children because their behavior was nothing any child should be subjected to. It was a behavior that I had seen all through my own childhood; needles, baggies, slurred words and sporadic behavior. But it was one that I was determined to shelter my children from.

The morning of Jaimie’s death, the phone rang at 7:59 AM and I knew something was terribly wrong. The phone never rings that early on a Saturday morning unless something is wrong. My husband handed me the phone, and my father screamed, “Your sister is dead. Jaimie is dead.” I remember thinking, this has to be a joke. She’s just a baby. But, my heart began to sink because I knew that the reality of her lifestyle often times leads to death.  Still, why her? Both of my parents had spent much of their lives as addicts and they were still alive. But my sister, their daughter, wasn’t. How was that fair? It wasn’t. But choices lead to consequences and sometimes those consequences can be devastating to those left behind to pick up the pieces.

Jaimie was my dad’s favorite child. We were his only children and he had always wanted a boy and Jaimie was the closest thing to a male. She was an amazing athlete, as was my dad, so they had a lot in common. She was fit and competitive and was beautiful to watch on the soccer field. Even in the dysfunction of their enabling relationship, she remained his favorite. So when she died in his house, it devastated him. And there I was, “Mother Hen” to pick up the pieces.

Since he was incapable of doing so, I planned and organized my sister’s funeral. He was barely functioning, so my husband and I took over. The funeral was pathetically sad, but I survived. And for a while, my dad came back into our lives. I made every effort to make him feel welcomed, but it didn’t last. Another relapse and and he was again out of my life.

There was a brief reconciliation after his mother passed away, but he was now free to pursue his life without answering to her and so that was what he decided to do.  I still text him on Christmas and his birthday and on Jaimie’s birthday and death day and he still does not text back.

Sometimes, that really makes me want to scream. I have never asked him for anything and everything I have ever accomplished has been without his help. So, why then is a return text message too much to ask? I mean, I love my children unconditionally, so as a parent, I just don’t get it.

Then it happened. I sent my dad the annual text on my sister’s birthday and worded it like this, “Happy birthday to your baby girl. I bet she’s eating a ton of birthday cake.” And much to my surprise, he texted me back. “Tell her I said happy birthday.” Ummmm…what? After a few more texts, I figured out that he didn’t remember his daughter’s birthday and he thought I was talking about one of my daughters. (His granddaughters)

I feel guilty even admitting this, but I was relieved. I mean, maybe he didn’t actually hate me. And if he couldn’t remember his favorite daughter’s birthday, then I shouldn’t feel so bad that he could never remember mine, either.

I would be lying if I said that at times I don’t get mad or sad about my absentee father. I do. It would be nice to have him around to be a dad to me and a grandfather to my children. But I was reminded at Bible study last night just how much my Heavenly Father loves me and boy, is He an awesome granddad to my children.

I am hopeful that someday my biological dad will become part of our family. I think every child desires to have their parents in their life and I just don’t think that desire goes away.

But, until then, I will continue to pray for my dad everyday and send him those text messages in hopes that he will someday reply. And today, on day fifteen of my sobriety, I choose to open my heart to others and experience all that life has to offer.

“One of the most important lessons in life is learning to turn what seems like senseless pain and suffering into something meaningful for yourself and others.” Through all of this pain and confusion, I choose to love my dad. I choose to forgive my dad. Because after all, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. No, thank you. I choose forgiveness. I choose life. You should do the same.

And who knows, maybe my dad will text me back a simple, “thank you,” for wishing him a happy birthday. And if not, that’s okay. I will survive.

Be blessed, friends.

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The Girl With the Pretty Face

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Today was a good day. It was busy, but extremely productive and I got to spend most of it with my youngest daughter, Kennadee. “Keekee” and I began our day at her doctor’s office for her annual sport’s physical. Softball conditioning begins next week, and so it was imperative that this task be completed prior to returning to school on Monday.

Keekee does not like the doctor. In fact, it would not be an understatement to say that it is her least favorite destination. And, since we moved, this was her first visit to a new doctor, in a new medical office, in a new city. She was nervous. And since it is the tail end of the holiday season, she was less than pleased when the nurse announced her weight and her five pound weight gain. She was embarrassed. She was even more uncomfortable when the nurse told her she had to put on a gown, without her outer clothing. Thank goodness she was able to leave on her sports bra and undies!

I watched my daughter become more and more uncomfortable as she waited for the doctor to enter the room. I tried to reassure her that everything would be okay and that she had nothing to be embarrassed about. It was clear that Kennadee was uncomfortable in her own skin and my heart was breaking for her. I was her and she was me at that age. I weighed more than most fourteen year olds and I wanted to be anyone else but me at her age.

A flood of painful memories clouded my brain and I tried hard not to cry. It’s funny how certain places can evoke memories and suddenly I was reliving one of two doctor visits that my dad attended with me. What started as a water fight on a hot summer’s day, ended up with a trip to the emergency room and seventeen stitches in my elbow and tendons. The stitches weren’t the worst part of that visit. The most excruciating event of that day was when the ER nurse announced my weight out loud and my dad heard. Oh my gosh, I wanted to die! I remember being absolutely mortified and even more so when he launched into his speech that went something like this, “Damn, Kristen. You have such as pretty face. You would be so pretty if you just lost some of that poundage.” Is “poundage” even a word? I should google that.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard that “pep talk” and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. I can say with absolute certainty that none of his comments ever motivated me to lose weight. In fact, most of the time, they did the opposite. And on that particular day, I couldn’t wait to get home so that I could  “eat my feelings.” And I did just that to the tune of two boxes of macaroni and cheese and half a gallon of cookies n’ cream ice cream. That would show him not to mess with me again. At least that’s what I told myself. And something else I told myself was that I would NEVER “encourage” my children the way my dad “encouraged” me. Never. Ever.

Flashforward to present day. During that 10-minute wait for the doctor, Kennadee and I discussed how we had both fallen off the healthy eating wagon and how we would begin getting healthy with our eating and exercise that very afternoon. Today, not tomorrow, but today. By the time the doctor walked into that room, everything had shifted. She wasn’t happy that she was nearly naked under her gown, I mean, who enjoys that? But she was comfortable with the fact that we had both committed to getting healthy and being who God created us to be. What was even better was that my girl and I would do this together.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Keekee is an absolute baller when it comes to softball. She has the heart of a champion and up until last season, played baseball because she hates the “drama” involved in softball. She’s a lefty and she pitches, plays first base and has an amazing bat. The girl is good and I don’t want to brag and toot her horn, but “beep beep!” This momma is proud of her girl and I took the opportunity in the doctor’s office to remind her of that.

After her appointment, instead of going through a fast-food drive-thru, we headed up the hill to our house, where we made turkey sandwiches on wheat bread. We sat at the dining room table and continued to laugh and talk about life and how excited we both were for her first season of high school softball.

Yes. Today was a great day. My daughter and I are beautiful and my hope is that neither one of us will let the numbers on a scale say otherwise. As parents, we should remember that our words have power and once spoken, cannot be taken back. Today, my positive words had power. I hope that she never forgets today; I know I won’t. My cup runneth over.

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Day 14: Freedom! Stop the Maddness

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This morning I woke up with three Bottle Cap candies and several sunflower seeds on my chest. Yes! On my chest! The sunflower seeds were sans shells; God forbid that I would have had to take the time to crack them during my midnight snack fest. Sugar is not my friend and because I chose to raid my husband’s candy stash, I woke up in a tank top and no socks (I HAVE to sleep in socks) with sweaty matted hair due to my body’s intense hatred of sugar. I looked like I had run a marathon, or at the very least a 5k race. I wish I could say that this was my first offense with midnight gorging, but alas, it was not. Since vacation began a week ago, this has happened multiple times and so today, I declare that this madness has to stop. Stop the madness! I’m totally serious.

I have an addictive personality and unfortunately, I have flipped addictions several times in my 42 years on this planet. Food was my first real addiction and unfortunately, it can be my “go to” when all other addictions are dormant and under control. Since I gave up the wine fourteen days ago, the food monster has again tried to befriend me. I admit, I welcomed her in with open arms (and mouth) but I am declaring war on her today. The holiday treats are no more because this morning I soaked the remaining cookies in water and ran them through the garbage disposal. Don’t worry, there was only a total of five sugar cookies, so I wasn’t all that wasteful.

My body hurts! And yes, I have been in this predicament before, but doggone it, I really want this to be the last food coma I awaken from. I truly hope that this is the last morning that I have to do the “food walk of shame.” It’s just so embarrassing! I know that I should eat to live and not live to eat (blinged out t-shirt saying here) and so today, my journey begins. I’ve been on this road before, but never publicly, so I am hoping that the accountability will work in my favor. It may get messy, but I am hopeful that the mess will become a motivational message.

My doTerra 30-day Cleanse begins on January 5th, but I couldn’t wait to get back on track, so today it is. My body is thankful for this decision, so, no more refined carbs and I am even researching going gluten-free. Feel free to comment on that lifestyle if you have experience with it.

So there it is. Another one of my true confessions. Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to do so. I’m going to take the dogs for a walk now; they too have put on some pounds during the holidays. I will end this with one of my favorite scenes from the movie Braveheart. Remember when Mel Gibson was being disemboweled and he refused to recant his heroic decisions? I’m not any where near that hero category, but here’s to my own “Freedom!” and yours as well, should you decide to join me. Happy Sunday, friends.

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Hello my Name is Kristen & I am a Mother Hen

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Have you ever had one of those mornings when you just wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over your head? Of course you have. I mean, none of us are perfect, right?

We had one of those mornings in the Witt household today. In my family, I am the self-proclaimed “peacemaker.” By self-proclaimed I mean that without me, the fireworks and arguing would continue until there were mass casualties; be that physically, emotionally or mentally. Feelings get hurt, pride rears it’s ugly head and sometimes harsh words are spoken. Siblings fight, parents argue, even the dogs get involved on a daily basis. And so usually, “Mother Hen” (thats me) swoops in and saves the day. I know that when my husband calls me by this title, it is definitely not a term of endearment. But, guess what? I chose to make it a title of honor  and I am considering getting a blinged out shirt to wear so that anyone who needs my mother hen services will feel comfortable asking for them. I would most definitely begin every session by reminding everyone involved that words hurt and once spoken, cannot be sucked back in and swallowed. Food for thought, right?

Though it’s been a festive Christmas season, things have been a bit tense at times around the Witt homestead. My oldest son is home from college and at the ripe old age of 22, seems to think he knows everything. He’s an “adult” now and should be treated as such. The fleshy part of me wants to belly laugh and bill him for his cell phone, insurance, etc. But, alas, I will not and patiently wait for the day when he has his own 22 year old son who thinks he knows it all. Oh, won’t that be sweet revenge, um I mean reality. (Insert evil laugh here.)

After the fireworks and waterworks this morning, I retired to my room to regain my sanity and I will admit, had a brief pity party. Thankfully, I sold my shares of the winery, so I kept my wits about me. (Pun intended.) I had a cry, more like a hysterical sob and thought about who I could call in this crisis situation that would make me feel better and validate the way I was feeling. Well, no one RSVP’d to my party, so I cried out to God. “Why is this happening? How come I don’t have parents who love me to walk me through crappy situations? What have I done to deserve this? I’m sick of this, God!” A lot more was said, but you get the idea.

I think I must have just tuckered myself out with all of the crying and dialoging because I finally just laid on my bed and listened for God to answer me. “Well, God. I’m waiting.” Ya, let’s not be sassy with God. “Okay, Lord. I love you and I know that You love me. Please walk me through what to do here. I want to do it Your way because mine doesn’t work.” Instant peace. I’m not even kidding. Total peace and comfort. Hmmm…

I glanced over at my nightstand and low and behold, was my daily devotional for spiritual warfare. I turned to December 27th and read the message and the prayer. The scripture covered Isaiah 40:1-5,11 and though I read it all and every word applied to the way I was feeling, one part really saturated my heart. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength’ they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Wait. What? My pity party was unnecessary? My God will renew my strength, as long as I seek him first and not try to do everything on my own and in my own power? I already knew this, but somehow in the chaos of the morning, I shut God out and thought I could do it better on my own. Imagine how much more smoothly my household would have run and how much less exhausting my Mother Hen session would have been had I allowed God to work through me. Wow. Yes, I want to run and not grow weary; I mean after all, being married to Ken, having four kids and teaching full time has me in a constant marathon. I need my Heavenly Father and not just when I’m in full meltdown mode. It’s time to be proactive in the Word and not reactive to life. Oh, that’s good; maybe even blinged out t-shirt status good.

Good talk, Lord. Thanks. So, with a smile on my face and my Christmas pajamas and messy hair in place, I proceeded to walk down the hall and pour a cup of coffee. I was refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated. Chisholm remarked that I looked “a lot better” and I told him that Jesus and I had a meeting and it went well. He just smiled and said, “That’s good mom.” I smiled back and hugged him.

Something else that should be mentioned is that even though I thought I needed to “vent” to friends following the fireworks, no one was available to validate my craziness. And that’s good. This opened the door for some much needed dialogue with God because Lord knows, I needed to be straightened out before I could even attempt to straighten out others.

This Mother Hen has learned a valuable lesson. I definitely don’t want to put all my “eggs” in my own basket because that just leads to scrambled eggs, shells included. No, I want to “co-hen” with Jesus. I know that in the future, we are going to fix up some seriously delectable omelets; shells not included. Be blessed friends.

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Day 12: Pajamas & Crazy Hair…All Day

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Every year on Christmas Eve, we open one gift. The contents of that present will never change, no matter how many times my children whine and complain. When they were younger, they would write letters to Santa begging him to add the spice of variety to our Christmas Eve gifts. How did that work out? Well, let’s just say that the contents of these boxes remains the same: Pajamas. I know, it’s not a fancy tradition, but it’s ours.

Within that Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, or Baby Jesus wrapping paper, lies one of the only Christmas traditions that I have carried on from my own childhood. It is a cornerstone of the Witt Family Christmas and in all fairness, I think that my teenage and twenty-something children are finally beginning to understand the importance of these presents. No, it’s not money, or I-pads, or gift cards, that make these gifts so special. In fact, truth be told, it’s not even the PJs that make this ritual so important; though I do spend a ridiculous amount of time selecting them. For me, it’s about the creation of memories within our family and maybe even the hope that my children will continue with this tradition in their own families. A girl can hope, right?

This year, I even went so far as to have the girls’ bedtime attire monogrammed with our initials and they were thrilled! And perhaps even more important, I didn’t meltdown when two sets of the boys’ matching pajamas didn’t get delivered on time. I simply splashed on some doTerra Elevation  and trekked to the Walmart to purchase some substitutions. I was a warrior queen; nothing was going to rain on my pajama parade!

And so as the evening progressed, we proceeded with the opening of the gifts in the usual order, youngest to oldest. ( I won’t tell you where I fall in that pecking order.) And even though everyone knew what their box contained, there was still an atmosphere of excitement and a bit of sarcasm with, “Geez, mom. I wonder what this could be?” Ha, ha very funny. They could say what they wanted, but I knew they were excited; a mother knows these things.

After the unwrapping frenzy, everyone changed into their jammies and it was time for our annual PJ picture in front of the tree. We couldn’t help but go into hysterics when my husband entered the room. Unfortunately, his ensemble was a size too small and he looked like a disco dancer in a leisure suit, chest hair and all! And since his chest hair is gray, he is now affectionately referred to as “the silver fox.” After nearly peeing my pants, we got serious and the photo shoot began. I am happy to report that we are getting better! It only took us 20 attempts to get a few acceptable pictures! By acceptable, I mean that my oldest daughter, Shelbee, approved of a few of them.  After all, she is the self-proclaimed “selfie” queen and every photo must be perfect prior to being launched into cyber space.

After many laughs and jokes and blinding flashes from the camera, we prepared for bed and for Santa to deliver the goods. As my husband and I were headed to bed, Shelbee’s boyfriend, Karson thanked us for the evening. I smiled and told him that we were happy to have him share in our tradition. He seemed so childlike and thrilled to be pajama-clad like the rest of us. He was quick to say that this was one of the most “awesome” traditions that he had ever been a part of and would some day continue it with his own family. Gulp…a lump in my throat and the sting of tears in my eyes. I smiled, hugged him and walked down the hall to bed, leaving my husband to explain that the tears signified my happiness. Oh, after 23 years of marriage, that man knows me so well.

Ken was right. My tears did signify happiness and joy and even gratitude that I was allowing myself to be present in the awesome moments of life. I was allowing myself to participate in this beautifully blessed life that God created just for me. And if you read yesterday’s blog, you know that those parts of me had been shut down for years. How awesome that Karson loved our tradition enough to contemplate continuing it with his own family some day. How beautiful that a piece of the Witt family tradition could possibly be carried on within another family. And as simpleminded as it may sound, in that moment, I knew that my decision to limit our Christmas Eve gifts to pajamas was one that I would never regret.

Today, we are creating a new tradition. Today we celebrate our first annual Pajama and Crazy Hair Day. The rules are simple, you must wear your Christmas Eve pajamas and you are not allowed to comb your hair. Let the games begin. My cup runneth over.

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Trading My Sorrows (once & for all)…

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This Christmas vacation has been the best one I’ve had in years. For the past couple of years and for numerous reasons, I just was not in the Christmas spirit. It seemed that no matter how many pep talks I gave myself, or how many to-do lists I drafted, I just couldn’t bring myself to go gung-ho, ho, ho into the Christmas season. Much to the dismay of my family, we were lucky if I got the tree up the week before Christmas. Decorating the house was a chore and in all honesty, probably would not have gotten done had it not been for my children. I know, not fair right? Still, though I knew this, I just wasn’t in the mood, so to speak.

I would be lying if I said that my kids went without materialistically where Christmas was concerned. “Santa” was always abundantly generous with all four of them. That was never the issue. The problem was that with each passing Christmas, I became emotionally unattached and vacant. I seemed to always get sucked into a pit party for myself when it came to thinking about family during the holidays and I let the absence of my own parents handicap what I had always hoped to create for my own. Let me be clear, my parents are not dead, they simply have chosen not to be a part of my life and by osmosis, the lives of my children. This is certainly a subject we will touch on in later blog entries, but for now that’s all I will mention.

Though I have always loved the Lord, I have always had a problem with allowing Him to love me unconditionally. If my own father was unable to to this, why would my Heavenly Father want to? So ruled by this mentality, I allowed the darkness to overtake me and it seemed to intensify during the holidays. Though I always had grand plans to celebrate Christmas, clean and organize my house and even start a blog over the Christmas vacation, it seemed that none of this ever came to fruition. My days consisted of laying in bed, watching reality television and dare I say, having many afternoon Chardonnay cocktails. So, rather than seeking Jesus, I chose to drown my sorrows in the liquid depressant of alcohol. There, I said it, the cat is out of the bag. I’m not proud of it, but I’m owning it.

So, why is this Christmas different? How is this Christmas different? First and foremost, the winery is shut down. Instead of chatting with a glass of wine, I’m having constant dialogue with my Heavenly Father and I feel fantastic. I am allowing myself to experience my feelings, but I am not letting them dictate how I live. By a twist of fate, or what I like to call actual faith, I was introduced to doTerra essential oils and it has changed my life. The body has an amazing ability to “heal thyself” when given the opportunity. It is simply inspiring!

I purchased our tree in November through a school fundraiser and it was decorated the first weekend of December. Our house looks like a winter wonderland and the Christmas spirit has thrived this season. The kids and I even baked treats and delivered them to our new neighbors and community members! Yes, I made things from scratch and actually enjoyed it! Woot woot!

This morning, after stockings, of course, the kids prepared our traditional Christmas morning breakfast and actually served it to me in bed.  I was so surprised and incredibly thankful!  Tonight’s dinner will be spent in our new dining room and the twice baked potatoes being served were created by my own hands…solo. Can you believe it? In about an hour, we will open presents and I am fighting back the tears because I am so thankful to have rediscovered the joy of Christmas. God is good, all the time.

I would be lying if i said that I wasn’t super excited about finally starting a blog. I love to write and have put my creative juices on the shelf for far too long. And, even though I teach writing everyday, I buried my love of putting pen on paper, or fingers on a keyboard for many years. So today, right now, I have metaphorically blown the dust off of the typewriter and have been reborn. I am excited.

I saw a meme of Facebook last night that I believe will be the theme or motivation for this blog. It read, “One day soon these trials will be in the past & you will be telling an incredible story.” And there it is. Each of us has many incredible stories that can either stay a mess, or become our message. Tests can either drown us, or they can become our testimonies. So today, I am making the choice to open my heart and send out messages and testimonies that will hopefully help others. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Merry Christmas.

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