Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Text Changes My Life

I'm excited.

I have spent years building something one tiny step at a time. It started with my Etsy jewelry business, then this blog, then Crying Out Now, then The Bubble Hour, then Two Little Birds Studio.

So, I'm busy.

But I don't notice. I'm so passionate about all these endeavors - the art of creating is my meditation, my escape, and it fuels my soul.  Breaking down the stigma of alcoholism, particularly as it relates to women, bit by bit, gives me a sense of purposeful determination.   I do all of these things because I love them, and I have always followed the adage "do what you love and the money will follow".

There's a hitch, though. My Heart Projects are so interwoven into my life I can't imagine life without them - they are almost like children to me. They have brought so many incredible people into my life, such amazing community, that I could never put a price on what they mean to me.  I'm rich with friendship.  In the friendship category, I'm a badzillionaire, and I know how lucky I am.  But they don't make money.

My jewelry business has far surpassed anything I could have imagined, but in order to grow that business I would have to have a massive paradigm change: hire people to work for me, open a retail store, slog around to home parties - something - if that business is going to contribute meaningfully to our household income.  I like it the way it is, though.  It's mine, it's from my heart, and I don't want to change it. And I don't want to stop making jewelry.

Shining Strong - the umbrella organization for all my recovery sites - is coming along. I'm incorporating it as a non-profit, and hope to get 501(c)3 status by the end of the year.  It's my dream to have that be a self-sustaining organization, its mission is to break down the darkness and denial that surrounds addiction, and it's growing by leaps and bounds, in large part thanks to you - my readers - who help by spreading the word and donating. THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for all your tweets, posts and donations.  Because of you Shining Strong will live another six months.

But it was never supposed to make money, either.

I found myself in a quandary.  My jewelry business has peaked - I work hard at this business because I LOVE it, but it's not going to be a major financial contributor to our income unless I make major changes I'm not willing to make.  My recovery projects fuel me, give me purpose and community - but they are never going to be money makers, either.

My kids are in school full time, and my days are full.  BUT. And this is a big one - I need to earn more money. I did my taxes recently, and was so depressed to see how little I'm actually earning with the jewelry.  I work way too hard to make that little, I thought.  But it was never about money, was my next immediate thought. A pause, and then reality crashed through:  but now it needs to be. You can't continue like this. 

I was really down, because I was fearful I was going to have to give some, or all, of these projects up and get a "real" job.

I don't even know how to have a 'real' job anymore, because I've spent so much time being purpose driven.  I'm smart. I know if I applied myself I could go back to the corporate world, where I logged so many hours in my previous life. I'm good at it. I made a lot of money doing it.  I was miserable.

I was mulling all this over on my way to yoga last week, when my phone beeped with a text. It was my friend, Jen, who I was supposed to meet for coffee that morning but somehow never got into my calendar.  I drove into a Target parking lot and thought hard. I knew why she wanted to meet with me - she is an Arbonne consultant and I knew she wanted to ask me to sign on (officially - I'd been an unofficial consultant for months just to get the products at the consultant's discount) to sell Arbonne.

I stared at the text for a solid minute, and had my thumb hovering over the keys to tell her I couldn't meet her because I had yoga.  I don't have time to sell Arbonne, I thought. Even though I adore the product, I just don't have the time.  We had already rescheduled our coffee date three times, and I was starting to text sorry, can't make it, yoga ... when something stirred in my gut.

GO, that something said.

So I typed "on my way" instead, pulled out of the Target parking lot and went left to coffee instead of right to yoga.

That one little decision has already changed my life, and it was only one week ago.

I love it when the universe chucks you one, burrows down into your gut and whispers: stay open.

Over that two hour coffee date Jen explained all the reasons Arbonne does fit, for me.  It is a natural extension of what I'm already all about: self-care, building businesses, interacting with people, sharing things that have changed me for the better because I believe in them.  Not because I want to make money.

"I can't sell something just to make money," I told her. She smiled. That's okay, she said. Do as little or as much as you want. You're already telling everyone you know about Arbonne, why not make it official?

"I won't do parties," I said.

She smiled again.  That's okay, too.  Find whatever way works for you.

"I'm not sales-y," I said.   Thank goodness, was her reply.  You can't cram anything down someone's throat. Just keep doing what you're doing - tell your story, about how it's changed your skin, your health, and see what happens.

"I don't have time," I said.  Well, why not give it a try? she said. If it doesn't work out you can stay a consultant and get your favorite product at a discount. What do you have to lose? 

As I drove home from our coffee date I thought about what Jen said and the Universe's message to me:  stay open. And, while the Universe was on a roll, it said: what's wrong with making money? It will allow you to keep your Heart Projects going, and then some.

So here I am, writing about it, because since that coffee date I feel alive again. I've already earned more in this week than I usually do in a month of jewelry making, and I haven't had to sell anyone anything. Jen was right - I'm out there talking about it anyway, and people are interested in what I've learned.  I'm a story teller, not a salesperson, and that's totally okay. More than okay.

Arbonne rolls right into everything I've been building.  Cancer taught me so much about the scary chemicals we put on our faces bodies every day in make-up and skin care products.  I shudder to think of what my kids had been putting on their bodies. There are so many known carcinogens out there in everything we use, and the public doesn't hear enough about it.  In Europe the standards are MUCH more stringent. It makes me mad.

Because we're so uneducated about this stuff, we don't give these chemicals a moment's thought. I think about the gallons of lipstick (I've always been mad for lipstick) I have ingested over the years. And I ended up with cancer in my throat.  Even if they aren't causally related - I'll never know - I've changed our lifestyle - no more aluminum, no more sodium lauryl sulfate in this household (SLS is known to be one of the most dangerous chemicals in health care products and it's everywhere).  No more anything harsh or harmful.

Most importantly?  Being healthy and taking care of my skin and body makes me feel good.  I have spent years writing about how women struggle with self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love -- and how these issues feed addiction like gasoline feeds a fire.   Learning to put myself first was a years-long battle.  Arbonne fits right into that - I look better, I feel great, and I want to tell people that they deserve this.

The upside earning potential in Arbonne is mind-blowing. I don't know if I'll get that far. I'm not really thinking about it.  Just like with everything else, I'm taking it one step at a time.

And I'm writing about it. This won't become a "please buy Arbonne website".  I won't peddle product here.  But I may write about how it's changing my life, now and again.  If this much can happen in one week, it makes me very excited for the future.

And I gotta say  it - if you want to learn more?  Email me at  I won't sales you to death. I won't pressure you to do a thing.

I'll just share my story, like I always do.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I Need Your Help. Together We're Saving Lives.

It's been a while since I did a shameless begging post, but I can't continue to do this on my own, as much as I'd like to, and I need your help.

I'm in the process of incorporating a non-profit called Shining Strong - named in memory of my father, Jon Strong, who (along with my Mom, Sonja) taught me that giving back to your community is the most important thing you can do in your life.

Shining Strong will be an umbrella organization that encompasses the work I do in the recovery community, including the site Crying Out Now, the podcast/internet radio show The Bubble Hour and even One Crafty Mother.

Here is a short video that explains Shining Strong's mission:

I'm becoming a non-profit so I can, down the road, get sponsorship and/or grant funds to continue to build these projects and reach more women who are struggling with alcoholism, or who are in recovery and looking for community to help them stay that way.

The best part is that these sites are growing, bit by bit, so I know the mission is working.  The Bubble Hour has passed 30,000 downloads in a mere 16 episodes.  Crying Out Now reaches an average of 10,000 page views per month.  The responses I get from women these sites have helped blows me away.  It's not just people who are struggling, either, but their loved ones as well.

Usually I have a hard time with promotion; it feels so self-serving. I know I could be doing more to grow these sites, but fear of rejection (even though it is SO not about me) and not wanting to "bother" people holds me back.

I need to stop that.  The mission is much bigger than me, taking on a momentum of it's own, and I want to honor that by spreading the word.  I have brought fabulous sober women on board to help me run these sites: Lisa, Amanda and Michele I am indebted to your grace, creativity, intelligence and determination.  They are donating their time out of their belief in the mission and they are helping countless women.  COUNTLESS.

If you can help in any way, I would appreciate it very much. There are several ways to do this, and they don't all involve money.

Spreading the word about Shining Strong, The Bubble Hour and Crying Out Now helps a ton.  I guaranty you know someone who is silently struggling. Just by putting this post on your FB page or tweeting about it you are helping a LOT. You will almost certainly help someone you know (even if you don't know they have a problem with alcohol) and equally importantly you are helping to break down the shame and stigma that surrounds addiction.  We HAVE to keep the discourse going about this disease.

You can donate to the cause, too.  I have set up a We Pay account to receive donations, and ANY amount helps. The costs associated with running these sites is growing, and until I can get official sponsors or grants (likely not until at least a year from now) I'm relying on the support of people who support our cause or have been helped by them.  If you can spare a donation, please do. Below is a widget where you can donate directly:

If You Like Our Site, Please Consider A Contribution

You can also purchase my book, Let Me Get This Straight - all proceeds from the sale of the book go directly to funding these endeavors.  You can purchase the paperback for $29.00, or a pdf version (for PCs only!) or an eBook version (for MAC products ONLY!) for $9.99.  Please click here for a link to my bookstore. Just please be sure to purchase the correct electronic version for your device (eBooks do NOT work on PCs - you need the pdf version for that).

Click HERE for testimonies about how these sites have helped people (then click "comments" to view testimonies).  You can leave a testimony here, too, if you have been helped from our services. 

 Here's a sample testimony:

"I found out about Crying Out Now while I was still actively drinking. I read an article about it in Redbook, and went to the site. Reading the posts from other women, made me realize how bad my drinking had gotten. That I was not alone...or even unique. There were tons of other women out there suffering in shame, just like me. It took multiple attempts over a year and a half for me to finally find my road to recovery. Today I am 147 days sober :) I have my life back! When I started, I couldn't imagine going the rest of my life without seemed impossible. Now I know I can have an amazing life, AS LONG AS I DON"T DRINK. All of the problems I thought it helped me deal with, were actually being caused by the drinking. I never would have made it to this point without Crying Out Now! Thank you so much for giving me my life back!"

The bottom line, sadly, is that I am unable to support these sites on my own anymore. Donations received last year carried me this far, and so I need to ask again.  It's hard to ask. I know none of us is floating in money, and there are so many important causes out there.  If you can't donate, I understand, but will you please share this post and help spread the word?

And if you can spare any amount - either to donate or purchase the book, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Addiction lives in the dark.  Together?  Together we're bringing the light.

Thank you.

Friday, March 22, 2013

For Lisa

When someone is close to death it is easy to canonize them.

Nobody is a saint, of course. We're all flawed humans, full of fault lines.  It has always been my opinion, though, that the light shines brightest through the cracks.

She is dying.

I don't even want to type those words, still clinging to the fruitless hope that maybe it's not true.

But it is, and if there is one thing she has taught me, it's that acceptance brings peace. 

People always talk about "fighting" cancer, and I struggle with that imagery.  Cancer isn't a fight, not really.  A fight implies that there is an eventual winner. If the cancer wins in the end, does that mean the person lost?

I don't think so.

Cancer doesn't really end, ever. Even those in remission for years - decades, even - are never able to put cancer completely behind them.  Every ache, pain or twinge brings you right back to the precipice. Every doctor's appointment is a stark reminder that you are irrevocably different, now, permanently flagged as more endangered than your average patient.

The irony of being a patient doesn't escape me.  So much about cancer is about patience.  You wait for appointments. You wait for test results. Even in remission, a part of you is always waiting for the cancer to come back.

So what do you do? Fold up in fear?  Sometimes you do.  The only way through is to feel the knife blade of fear, stare it straight in the face and say: I'm moving forward anyway.

She moved forward. She did it with light, grace, humor and determination.  And acceptance. Boatloads of acceptance.

In my cancer support group we find a safe place to raise our fists to the heavens and say I'm so done with this.  We all nod in commiseration, wipe away tears of frustration, and then we move forward.  Together.

What she brought to us was a grounding grace, a notebook stuffed with information about her latest treatment as she stoically kept right on going, one foot in front of the other.  When one chemo stopped working, they tried another. And another. When it spread to her brain they did brain radiation.  When her lungs filled with fluid into the hospital she'd go for another procedure. When her heart weakened, they pulled back on treatment, only to start up again when she grew stronger.

She talked to us about all of this with peaceful determination. It took me a long time to figure out how serious her cancer is because she was so present, so calm.

I wasn't there for the early years after her diagnosis. I'm sure she fell apart at times, raised her fists to the heavens.  By the time I came into the picture, though, what I saw was acceptance. And with that acceptance came peace.

She celebrated her recent 50th birthday for an entire year. She travelled a lot, squeezing trips in between treatments. She laughed - oh, how she laughed.

She didn't teach me a thing about dying.  She taught me about living.   About moving forward no matter what, about accepting the seemingly unacceptable.

She didn't fight.  She simply kept going, no matter what, with acceptance and grace.

She is the bravest warrior I've ever met, and I will carry her light with me, always.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Sprinter and The Trudger

I blow the steam away from the surface of my coffee, anticipating its creamy roasted goodness with a smile.

It's a rare afternoon with no pressing deadlines, no plans, no structure. Sleet spits against the window, blurring the grey and white landscape outside.

I feel poised on the edge of something. I used to feel this way all the time, like a runner hunched over waiting for the gun to go off.  Lately, though, the forced lazy pace of snow days and sick days has unfurled my inner sprinter, forced her to lay low.

Today, for some reason, she's up and itchy, wanting to move forward, press on towards the Next Thing.

What is that Next Thing going to be? I think, with some trepidation.

Cancer honed my ability to live in the day, the moment, which is mostly a blessing.  Thinking about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, when you're in the throes of cancer feels wrong, like testing the fates unnecessarily.

When is it time to move on?  Is the answer never?  Is the answer now?

I had a good natured disagreement with my friend Courtney a while back, about the expression "trudging the road to happy destiny".  I told her it annoyed me, this expression, because I think of trudging as a negative - something you have to do, not something you want to do.  Trudging connoted, for me, feeling the heavy weight of each burdensome step.

She laughed and said she couldn't disagree more.  "Trudging is walking with purpose," she said.  "It's one of my favorite expressions.  When you don't know what else to do? Walk forward with purpose. It works."

She's like this, Courtney.  A casual conversation with her is peppered with all sorts of profound wisdom. She doesn't seem to notice, which makes me adore her even more.

I've been thinking about trudging differently since then.  I trudged my way though early recovery - twice. I trudged my way through the sudden death of my father and the grieving aftermath. I trudged my way through cancer.  I'm trudging my way through a winter clogged with fierce weather and stuffy noses.  Looking back on the past two years, it was trudging that got me through.  Moving through each moment with only one purpose:  keep going.

When I think of trudging, I picture my head down, keeping my view on just the few feet in front of me. This isn't a bad thing, I've come to understand.  Breaking the pace of life into individual footsteps is so contrary to how I lived my life for so long - eyes squarely fixed on the horizon and missing so much that was right under my nose.

So what's next? my inner sprinter wants to know.  Is it the completion of Shining Strong, the non-profit company I'm building?  Is it growing The Bubble Hour even more?  Is it finally writing that book?  What if my cancer comes back? Now that I know how quickly life can change on a dime, do I dare dream?

I feel the anxiety and impatience willing up inside me.  The antidote?  Trudging. Walk forward with purpose, with my eyes focused only on the next few steps.  The outcome has never been up to me, anyway, it just took the cage-rattling experiences of the past two years to make me understand this.

And so I trudge. Every now and then I indulge in a glance back over my shoulder and I think: wow - one step at a time and I've gotten farther than I thought possible. 

Evey now and then I glace up ahead, and think: I wonder what's up there?

My sprinter stamps her feet impatiently, urging me to get there - wherever there is - faster.   It's harder to trudge than to sprint, I tell her.  But it's worth it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shame On You, Katie Couric

What's the big deal about Moms who drink?

I want there to be more discussion about this, and not for the reason you may suspect.  Many people think that because I'm an alcoholic, I'm cynical about the press drinking Moms seem to be getting these days.

That's not actually true.

My friend Stefanie Wilder-Taylor was on Katie Couric's talk show recently, so of course I watched with interest.  Stefanie is a pioneer in getting the word out about women, moms and drinking, and a pro at handling media appearances (you may have seen her on Good Morning America, Larry King Live and/or 20/20, among others).  She has helped countless women with her brave, funny and approachable spirit, and I'm very grateful she is putting herself out there with such grace.

I'm especially grateful Stefanie is a seasoned media veteran, because I was taken aback by the tone of Katie Couric's interview with Stefanie and other brave Moms coming forward to have a frank discussion about motherhood, drinking and drug use.

Here is a five minute excerpt of Stefanie's portion of the show:

 "Marile Borden is a Boston mom of two who organized a Facebook page called, “Moms Who Need Wine,” which currently has more than 650,500 followers. Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is a mom from Los Angeles who used to enjoy a drink or two at play dates, but gave up alcohol after a big wake-up call."

I recently heard Katie Couric speak at a blogging conference, and I was impressed. She was savvy, down-to-earth, accessible and funny.

I'm not a fan of the talk-show-host Katie. I realize she needs ratings, but I'm chagrined (but not surprised) that to get them she is sharpening her elbows and playing dirty, trying to pit Marile and Stefanie against each other (unsuccessfully, I'm happy to say, because of both of their professionalism and poise) like some Jerry Springer knock-off.

This show was a great opportunity for informed dialogue. Instead we get Katie mimicking swigging wine from a juice-box shaped wine container and badgering BOTH guests.  Katie Couric is trying to create sides in the issue of drinking Moms, and that gets us exactly nowhere.

Despite the middle-school-playground way this show was handled by the Katie Couric show, it raises some important issues.

Is it odd to have a Facebook page called "Moms Who Need Wine" with so many followers?  Is there something wrong with this?

My answer?  Absolutely not.

I would like to believe we live in a world where grown women (and men) can make their own informed, educated decisions about how to handle alcohol responsibly. Does the entire world have to curb their own behaviors because alcoholics exist?  I don't believe so.

Perhaps a better title for "Moms Who Need Wine" would be "Moms Who Want Wine" - but then, of course, it wouldn't be as catchy (or garner as much media attention - props to Marile for the name .. and I'm not being facetious... it's marketing genius).  I have a good friend who writes for their website, and it's not all about drinking.  It's also about the demands, joys, trials and small victories of motherhood.

Other guests on the show included Moms who take Adderall (an ADHD medication), anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs, including one Mom who went from Adderall to meth.

These are ALL serious and important issues: anxiety, depression, addiction.  But what was the title of the show?

"Mommy's Little Helper", with the byline: "What Would You Do To Become A Better Mom?"

And we wonder why women are so concerned with stigma?  About any of these issues?

People say they are tired of hearing about whether or not it's okay for Moms to drink.  I'm tired of it, too.  Do we get up in arms if a man (or woman) has a glass of wine or two over a business lunch?  Sure, they may not be as productive or focused when they get back to work, but are they a danger to themselves or others?  Full time Moms (notice I didn't say stay-at-home?) are, to over-simplify a bit, at work all the time.  I don't believe having a glass of wine or two - responsibly - at home or at a play date is any different than anyone having a drink with colleagues.

Can we please stop the media hype on this issue and focus on where the line gets blurred?  When Moms (or anyone, for that matter) get dependent - emotionally or physically - on a drink or a drug to "get them through the day".  When that relaxing glass of wine (or pill) starts to erode your ability to function? Or your peace of mind?

A Mom who is drinking, or taking needed medication, is not automatically putting her kids in danger, and the media hype about this issue only drives the people with a real problem deeper into the shadows.  Katie Couric's line of questioning for each guest seemed to be: "well, couldn't your 'symptoms' just be the normal stresses of life? I feel those things and I'm not popping pills/drinking".

Can we drop the "Better Mom" wars?  Shame on Katie Couric and her producers for exacerbating this Quixotic phenomenon.  Should a Mom with post-partum depression think she should just "buck-up"?  Should a Mom with crippling anxiety feel she's weak if she needs medication to cope?  Should a Mom who likes to have a glass of wine with friends feel judged?


Not anymore than an addict or alcoholic should feel shame about the disease of addiction.  Being a "better Mom" has NOTHING to do with responsible recreational use, anymore than addiction makes someone a bad mom.  Addicts and alcoholics have a disease - we don't set out to ruin our lives or put our children in danger.

Having said that - and this is important - it IS the responsibility of an addict or alcoholic to get help and get well, once the problem is apparent. Any and all measures should be taken - as drastic as needed - to help someone stop abusing drugs and/or alcohol.  A disease does not give anyone the right to shirk getting well.

 So how do you know? How do you figure out if you're heading for trouble with drinking?  From my own experience - and the shared experiences of many other women - there are some things to look out for:

  • Drinking every day at around the same time.
  • Thinking about your nightly drink(s) earlier in the day.
  • Planning activities around drinking/avoiding friends who don't drink "enough" or activities where there won't be any drinking.
  • Sneaking sips/glasses.
  • Lying about how much you're drinking.
  • Drinking alone more than occasionally.
  • Feeling shame about your drinking.
  • Having memory lapses or "grey-outs" (where you can only remember parts of things).
  • Increased anxiety, sleeplessness or irritability when you can't (or don't drink).
  • Always finishing your drink, and noticing others' drinking - comparing your drinking to others.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a start. Even one of these symptoms could be an indication that drinking is becoming a problem. There is a school of thought that if you're an alcoholic you can't stop drinking without help, and this may be true.  But there is no harm is helping people understand early warning signs. 

Without informed, judgment-free discourse about difficult topics like depression, anxiety, alcoholism and addiction, we don't have a chance of healing. 

And, please, in the name of all that's sane, can we please leave Perfect Motherhood out of this discussion? 

While we're at it, can we leave it out of ALL discussions?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The little black cursor line blinks at me; the white page mocks me with its silence.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

I close my eyes and breathe, parsing through the past week and trying to remember one moment or other that stands out.  Nothing.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

The fire in the wood stove crackles contentedly, the belly of the stove casts a comforting orange glow.  The dog sighs.

I absentmindedly reach down and scratch her head, thinking over the vet's words on Saturday: She's an old dog. We see problems in her blood work.  Maybe there are things we can do, likely expensive things, but like I said she's an old dog.  So it's up to you.

She flicks her eyes up at me with a grateful look and I marvel for the millionth time over her long white lashes.  Twelve years old.  She's slower moving around, now, but not in pain.  I'll enjoy the time I have with her while she's here, this fluffy white companion who has been with me longer than my children.

The phone rings, and my heart sinks. I don't want to talk to anyone, but realize it might be the school calling, so I reluctantly unfold my body from the soft warmth of my writing chair and pad over to the phone.  Unknown caller.  I use the interruption to top off my coffee cup and cradle my hands around the mug as I make my way back to the chair.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

My email pings and I resist the urge to check.  Whatever it is can wait. I feel an aching in my gut, the source of which I can't quite pinpoint.

I think of the text, about a friend whose cancer has spread.  My mind wanders to my own near future, the series of check-ups I have scheduled over the coming weeks, and I feel a twinge of fear, then guilt, for converting my worries for her into unfounded worries for myself.

My phone beeps.  A text.  Perhaps I'm late for something. Maybe that's the source of the vague sense of uneasiness I feel.

I smile, remembering a phone call with a friend yesterday.  We laughed good naturedly at our futile attempts to figure out the complexities of life, choice and time.  We're either really dumb or really wise, we said.  Or maybe we're wise because we figured out that we know exactly nothing. 

The clock ticks, its steady cadence propelling me towards the next thing, whatever that will be.

The fire crackles, the dog sighs and I sit.


This post is part of Heather's free-writing link-up, Just Write.  Read the details of how to join by clicking here

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Turn The Page

When the doctor told me that we were having a boy, my heart flipped in excitement and trepidation.

A boy to balance out our little family: one of each.

Greta was five when he was born, and I naively thought I had the "girl thing" down pat. 

But a BOY?  It seemed so foreign to me even though Greta was tomboy-ish; she loved dinosaurs and reptiles and fishing and getting muddy.  She never played with dolls, preferring instead to make up elaborate imaginary games with her Littlest Pet Shops.  Eschewing Polly Pockets and Barbies, she would play vet, or draw pictures bursting with color and story.   I never ceased to wonder at the power of her imagination.

Would a boy be different?  Would we be up to our ears in Legos, trains and toy cars? Would our long afternoons coloring and reading be replaced with building robots and smashing things into bits?

It turns out Finn, just like Greta, defied stereotype.  Thank God.  He is a complex, nuanced little character, full of sharp edges and puffy-heart kindness.

We dutifully purchased a train set, and gratefully accepted armloads of hand-me-down Legos.  They sat in the play room gathering dust for years before I realized they weren't ever going to be played with.  Christmas stockings brought Matchbox cars and action figures that were half-heartedly played with for one afternoon before being discarded.

It took a while to realize the stereotypes of what girls and boys are supposed to love is grossly, even insultingly, simplified.

Finn loves science kits - the grosser the better. He wants to be an artist when he grows up, and spends hours doodling, his tongue sticking out in concentration.  He plays dress up - sometimes in Star Wars costumes, sometimes in Greta's old princess dresses. It never makes any difference to him.

He's pig-headed, as stubborn as the day is long.  Try to correct or criticize him and you're in for a dissertation about all the reasons you're wrong.  When the storm clouds part, he will curl up in your lap like he's still tiny, nuzzle his face into your neck and tell you he loves you.

He wears his heart on his sleeve, this kid. Cruelty of any kind effects him deeply.  He loves playing with girls, he says, because they don't "try to be right all the time".  I refrain from explaining the concept of irony to him.

He loves gleefully, passionately and with reckless abandon.  He's never embarrassed by grand displays of affection.  I try not to dread the day this quality disappears.  Maybe it won't, but I worry it will be pushed down under layers of teenage cool-ness or angst.

He received a little spiral bound notebook as a gift recently, and announced he was going to keep a journal.  He dutifully wrote in it the first night: "this weekend I went skiing at Loon and I had a good time".    After studying his handiwork, he ripped the page out and crinkled it up.

"I'm going to make a journal about you and Dadda," he announced to me.  "Don't look."

The next morning he came downstairs grinning from ear to ear.  "You can read my notebook if you want," he said. "Just wait until I'm at school".

So I waited, impatiently, for the yellow bus to drive away.  I came inside and found this on the cover of the notebook (started on the back, because you can't write on the plastic front):

"Love, Caring, Happy, Nice"

The first page revealed this: 

 "This is just the start turn the page"

This is the first entry:

"Today my mom and dad wher being the best mom and dad in the world"

Oh, my heart. 

Raising kids is full of endings and beginnings.  I find I mourn the endings more than I value the beginnings: when he lost his front baby teeth or when he stopped holding my hand in public, for example.  To me these seemed like innocence lost, the beginning of his pulling away from me. 

But they aren't just endings.  They are the beginnings of the next thing.

Turn the page.