Mothering On.

Mothering On.  I have to.

I have teenagers. Well, I call them both teenagers and in all reality, my oldest daughter is 22, and my youngest is 15. However just like your babies are always your “babies” until they get car keys or some other social right of passage that makes them no longer satisfied with Sophia The First, My girls will always be teenagers, until the day they are in a wedding dress, and I have no choice but to admit they are women.

So, I have teenagers. Those three words alone probably ignite some nods. Some “oh wow”’s. Perhaps a few “you poor thing”’s. Even a few “gosh you’re so lucky you don’t have to change diapers anymore”. I can in fact, from those in “the teenage know”, hear wine pop as they consider their own teens at home. They too, are probably mumbling from a distant bedroom, that they don’t “get” what life is like. Or that we parents are so mean. Or too strict. (I am right now getting texts from my true teen, telling me how unfair regulations on her wifi time is, and that NO OTHER PARENT in the realm of this universe does that.)

Sometimes, I.NEED. A. BREAK.

Here is where it would be normal, as they bicker over computer usage, brow gel and who took what out of whose room without permission, to call my mother. To get that wiser older motherly loving advice. The kind that breathes a sigh of relief all over me, as I foresee a weekend at grandma’s for them. As I sleep (catch up on laundry), have a date night (catch up on the DVR’d shows), or have some time to myself (catch up on netflix).

But, I can’t call anyone up. No one is at the end of a text. No contact in my phone is listed as “Mum”. My mum has passed on. She has been gone for a very long time. In fact, she didn’t even see ME as a teen.

So I begrudgingly reconnect the wifi and settle the naked makeup palette dispute, and assure my drama queen of a strong willed girl that there are MANY mothers out there just as mean as me, and one day she too will be shutting wifi off herself. Of course, she tells me that she will never be doing that because she knows all too well how it feels and how important it is to contact important people. Oh Caitlin, if only you knew.

My important person IS my mum. SHE would have assured me I am doing great. She would have no doubt taken her grandchildren, the oldest of whom is only 4 years younger than she was when she left this world. I know she would have. She would have done this so I could not lose my patience. So I could remember all the cute baby things. Remember the laughs and smiles and frequent hugs and kisses, and returned to my girls refreshed. Or, at least have a few piles of laundry washed and be up to date on Grey’s Anatomy. So I could MISS them.

Instead, I pour myself a glass of wine, and I miss her.

I.MOTHER.ON.  I have to.

I have NO choice. I mother alone. There IS no one but me for this. There is NO ONE to pick up the slack.

So, I.TAKE.A.BREATH

Sometimes it feels like my patience and sanity held hands, and ran away. Sometimes it gets too hard understanding teenagers. Both in a humourous way, and in a generational gap sort of way! I personally think this happened somewhere between the overplaying of “Juju on that beat”, the social trending of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters, and the delivery to my door of a package, for my daughter, that included butt enhancement cream and her first pair of spanx. *Note to self, and parents like me: Buy store specific gift cards! Do not leave your child to the wonders and splendours of online ordering with plain old Amazon or Visa cards.  

 

Parenting teens has opened my eyes to what I think I could have been like under “normal” childhood circumstances. Growing up without a mother is unlike any of the experiences that my other friends shared. I was the receiver of hand me downs from boys. The girl with the dad-given haircut. I was both under-parented and naive, and yet simultaneously mature and thoughtful for my age. I missed out on many things and grew up way too fast. I try to avoid this happening to my own children. I never wanted for them to lose this period of “freedom” they are in, where they do not feel they HAVE to take on every household chore, or be absolutely independent, and make ALL of their own decisions.  I feel this is a brilliant and selfless thing for me to do! I mean, what teen doesn’t want their mother to continue to do their laundry, and call the doctor for them, or tell them what to do and advise them in every situation? It is not only selfless of me, but I realised along the way it was dumb of me. It was a mistake in my parenting choices. I see that in hindsight, and where I, maybe, left them some of my own naivety. Especially with my oldest, whom I didn’t want to see struggle with the burdens that I had to shoulder at her age. I got better by the second child. My guess is my hypothetical 3rd, 4th and 5th children would have been utterly amazing!  Not that my two are not. I just would have been better.

Still, I have learned to rethink what I am doing. To not only consider WHAT I would like to see in my daughters, but what I  would have liked to have seen in me at that age. I think about what I feel “normal” mothers would have done, and what I missed out on. Often this leaves me having to say I’m sorry. Usually, that apology is to MYSELF. I did not get to grow up in a typical home, so I am not going to parent in a typical form. I need to accept that. I need to forgive myself. I need to keep learning. I do not want my girls to think that if you make a mistake, or choose a style of parenting/discipline/path that is not “in”, or not “normal”, that you are somehow not a vital part of this world. That you are not “normal”.  I am. They are. We are.

The best thing I have found I can do for myself is to go on, mother on. Accept the challenge that has befallen me, and rise to it. I also like to keep what little I have of my own mum, very present. Aside from her name tattooed on my wrist, and the one picture I have of her framed, my girls are both very aware of who she is to me. Of what their grandmother is to them. I keep her present. My youngest daughter has even told me she would use that name as a middle name for any future daughter she would have.

 

Someone does not need to be around, for them to be known. She, too, goes on, mother’s on. 

If you find yourself in the midst of Mothering On. In going on without your own mother around, or parenting without help, I invite you to join my new community, where we can share stories, and be compassionate towards our tribe, as we struggle through this together. Whatever your own personal story is.

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In Love | Friday Wine Night -personal

In the 41 years that I’ve been lucky enough to be around to tell my life stories, I’ve never had such a roller coaster adventure (besides parenthood!), since I first started online dating just over 4 years ago. I relived a few of these interesting life highlights in my “Getting to date 23” blog posts, but I am not sure I reiterated quite enough just how grateful I am for the 23rd date! That of course, was my husband, Aaron.

We “met” via E-Harmony in January 2012. The system that particular site uses has you screen your potential date through closed ended, then open ended questions, which leads to offering up open chats. As a mother, and a woman skeptical in general about what I was seeing online, this seemed perfectly acceptable and safe to me! I remember the first picture of Aaron to pop up in my daily feed. he had THE biggest smile ever!!!! Atop his head was a little beanie, he had this little beard, and he looked adorable! I was happy when we started communicating, though he said a couple of things I still tease him about! It seemed though that he was blowing me off! I am all for meaningful conversations and getting to know you, but relationships can’t be deepened online, we had to meet. I finally decided I’d say something about this, being the straightforward woman I am. I said he seemed far too busy and I was interested spending quality time with someone. I assumed this would chase him away for my being too bold, instead he immediately asked me out for Saturday. By this point in my social life I was down to a coffee, a glass of wine, or a hot cocoa type date. Chat, sip and run was how named them in my head. Aaron however insisted we were going ice-skating. I reluctantly agreed, fearing making a fool of myself, and the fact that I couldn’t just bolt if I wanted to!

My fears diminished when a few hours into the date and one sore fall later we were having the best time. Neither of us wanted it to end. We decided to go have some sushi. We got there, it was closed. I was going to leave, and he had to be in D.C. later that evening, but again we decided, “let’s go somewhere else”. We chased down the next nearest sushi place. Alas, closed again. Was this fate? A sign? I knew of one near my home, but out of his way, and he happily said he could go! CLOSED. by now it seemed obvious that the sushi gods were against us spending more time together. We were about to part when we looked up and laughed. Agreeing on Mexican food instead. This time, success. It was open. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed and it was the longest date of my life, in time, but the quickest in terms of the blink of an eye cliche. We had to part. Thankfully he friend requested me on Facebook and after 3 days of making him wait so I could preserve some cool points, we became Facebook friends and he posted a steam of sweet things on my timeline, and his own.

We went on a couple more dates, and talked in between those. I was searching for the “does he like me” signs: a hand hold, a hug, a flirty comment. Nothing. Hmm. I should make sure he knew I liked him, but that if he was friend zoning me, the dates had to end! On Valentines day of 2012, I was at lunch with my daughters, and a waiter wanted my number. I declined. So he kept our bill to the amusement of the girls. I had a date with Aaron later, and wanted it to take a turn towards actual dating…but hadn’t fessed up to my kids that I was seeing someone. Well, POTENTIALLY. I didn’t let them into my dating stories till that point (with one exception), but I had to break this rule when my youngest wrote down all of my personal information on a napkin (pretty much everything from height and what she thought I weighed, to email address and physical address!), so I explained about Aaron. The revelation was met with curiosity and excitement. They asked what the plans were: horror movie and dinner. They are like me, and understand that horror movie is romantic in the un-obvious ways, and would be less crowded than the latest Nicholas Sparks film also showing.

Tonight I was seeing for sure if Aaron had romantically inclinations and intent towards where we were headed. I put on nice lipstick (make him think about kissing), a nice shirt ( a date like shirt, not a church shirt ) and sprayed my GOOD perfume. I was set.

The date as usual was fun, it was playful, it was FRIENDLY. I HAD to be just a friend to him, even though it was Valentine’s day. There was still hope. The movie would surely intake some snuggles, or a hand holding opportunity. And did it? Nope. Once I THOUGH i saw him try to reach for me, and hesitate. Then reach again, only to grab popcorn. It was truly lovely popcorn but HELLO, here I was giving all of the most ladylike indications that I was dateable, kissable, and interested. My head was becoming stubborn and defiant and I was telling myself that it was ok. I could be his friend and that this was the LAST “date” he would be getting. I almost saw my own head shake back and forth and a mental finger wave like a Tyler Perry character.

Outside, ah. God painted a pretty winter and magic night. Snow was softly falling. The cinema was in a pretty lamppost and twinkle light lit patio area that looked like a scene from Bridget Jones diary. God was setting the tone for a romantic good-bye. Could Aaron be so oblivious?! (I know, Im a girl).  Well, here we were. End of the date. Its been 2 months of build up and 4 lengthy dates that had been promising, if platonic. He leans in, I pause dramatically and look up, and I am presented with a hug. And a one armed hug at that. I was dismayed. I was annoyed. I was sad. I was incredulous!

I walk away. He says good night.  I keep walking. All the while telling myself it was ok, it wasn’t me, it just wasn’t meant to be. I look back. I don’t know why I did. I am however glad I did. Because he was standing there in the snow looking at me. Whatever came over me next was what I can only describe as Kate Winslet did in The Holiday,a s gumption. I walked. No, I marched over to him, and looked at him and said “Sorry, but I have to”. And I kissed the boy. The girl went for it. I made the first move that I told myself Id never do. It was a mere half a second before his arms went around me and he kissed me back, and right then I knew there was NO way we were just friends! It was THE.Best. Kiss. Ever.

He looked so happy, that big smile shining under the lights, and he said he was glad I did it, because he had been too nervous and didn’t want to spoil it!!! I now know him well enough to know that even my most blatant statements still don’t, to him, seem as obvious as they are to me. But in that moment, it was alright. There was a connection. there was a spark with the Nicholas. There was, well, magic.

Needless to say it only got better. One year later exactly, (minus one day) 2/13/13, we were at our church having a very small intimate exchange of vows with some very important witnesses, and in October of 2013, we celebrated a wedding with family and friends. The one with cake the dress the dancing the fun. I get to celebrate BOTh days. Our anniversary, today. And our wed-iversary, in October. With a Valentine’s day thrown in there too.

And, we still kiss under that lamp every single time we pass it by.

Happy 3rd Anniversary Aaron!!!!

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Photo courtesy of Tiffany Joyce Photography

Friday Night Wine Nights: Getting to date 23

I am starting this getting to know me section so that friends, family and clients can read about my journey so far, to understand who I am, why I love what I do, why Im excited to do more, and how it feels to walk a little through the roller coaster of a life Ive led up until now. Im going to be blunt. Open. Honest. Real. DebbieLaughlinPhotography-Debbie-1

On November 1st I will be turning 40. An incredible milestone by my standard, after holding a fear for a long time that I will pass on early, like my mum sadly did.
Looking forward to what my new “era” will hold, I will be blogging new experiences Im going to try, setting little life goals and business goals, chasing a dream of book writing, and hoping to grow older more gracefully than fearfully.
Part of who I am came after my divorce, 8 years ago, when I finally finally found myself, or found MOST of myself! Realizing who I was, where I was going and what I wanted were GIANT steps to gaining the confidence to plow full steam ahead as a single mum, running a home based business. A giant part of that, was dating. I had one beautifully broken long term relationship after my marriage ended, and quite honestly, it was my first heartbreak. It took a long time to get past that, and when I did, I did what I never in my dreams imagined I would ever do.
I WENT ON 23 FIRST DATES
With different people. Most from online dating websites. I know I know… there are a lot of crazies out there. Trust me, Ive met many crazies in person too, however I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be in love. I wanted a romantic movie in my real life, and once I decided to begin, I was ready.
The hardest thing about dating was creating my profile.
Selfies were not big back then, and recent images of myself were not flattering, because when you are in a relationship, you tend to get comfortable and just forget the rest. I pulled a variety of semi decent shots from my not so smart phone, and even some from myspace, see? I told you it was BACK WHEN… None really looked like I did now, some looked like how I wished I still looked, and some looked like the me I wanted to forget.

View More: http://elizabethhensonphotos.pass.us/eastbeachbabesDeciding on a few images, I then wrote what I wanted. This part was easy. I knew what I didn’t want, and wrote that. I literally wrote I didn’t want one night stands, casual flings, young boys, non-christians and people who didn’t like children. I also stated I was open to them having children. After all, most single men my age were probably in the same stage of life I was. Right? I also said I was starting the journey to find a real relationship. On the dating website I wrote that! Why waste time? Time was precious. I didn’t want to date people interested in not being a consideration for a relationship. I was determined to say the least.
Boy did I get some responses. Both in favour of my honesty and bluntness. Some out and out calling me a bitch. Some sending lewd suggestions imagining they could sway me into one of the aforementioned casual nights. I wont go into all of the details, and I wont mention any names, since in my head, to keep a straight head on myself, I gave them names of my own.
Date 1. The “cold” date.
I love tattoos, I have 9 now, all little, but 9 none the less. SO I was thrilled when a seemingly nice young (old enough to date me!) man chatted using proper grammar and asked me to happy hour for a cocktail and a bit of a chat. I agreed. I dressed up, then thinking it was too much, dressed down. Then realizing my pi’s were not a good first impression, dressed back up a little, to a church friendly non provocative jeans and casual top ensemble that left no signs of cleavage and a pile of discarded clothing in my trail.
We met a a busy bar in a well lit area, can of spray mace in bag beside me. I was ready.
He was outside waiting, dressed in not so great a first impression “Even your mom thinks Im hot” tee-shirt. Maybe he was being funny? I let it slide. He shakes my hand then one arm awkward hugs me. The smell of fries and other food stuff tempting me to eat, when I had on purpose not eaten in an attempt to squeeze into the last years skinny jeans. Mistake on my part.
We walked in, ordered a drink. Wine, kept it simple, bought my own too. Another precaution of mine.
We actually talked about the weather, and he admitted his mother got the shirt. I laughed. I would do that to a son probably too. Well, ok, maybe not THAT tee shirt.
Then he said he had ran late because he got a new tattoo, and asked if I would like to see it. So of course, he had big arms and who wouldn’t want to see nice arms. At least, I assumed it would be his arms.
Date 1 pre-ceeded to not so casually pull out his male member and put said member on stool, and asked what I thought.
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“Are you cold?”, I asked.
He didn’t find that nearly as funny as I did.
End date.

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2/13/13| Personal

Before you tell me Im using the wrong date, Im not. Not in the sense of the way Im going to use it in this post. Im aware that today IS indeed 2/13/14.. One whole year after the date in the title, and therefore, One whole year after the REAL date of my wedding. Yes, its true, and I am sure this comes to a huge surprise to some of you, as we made the decision to NOT tell everyone. Even some of our friends and family members. We celebrated very happily a wedding celebration in October, of 2013, and my dad flew over from Scotland, and several people flew in from Aaron’s home state of Texas.  Was it shotgun? no. Was it rushed? no. Were we lying to people? No… So why? Three reasons: Lauren, Caitlin and Rory.  Blending a family comes with a new set of rules. Raising girls comes with challenges as it is. Trying to raise young women of faith makes these things even harder. We are trying to be examples. Right and wrong… I lean on a lot of my own mistakes and things Ive learned to try and make better the decisions that face my daughters. Does it always work? No. Is it my fault? No.. What I CAN continue doing is leading by examples. Good ones. And being that faith and my desire to be a better Christian woman is so important to me, when it came to dating as a single mother, I tried very hard to be open with the girls. All the while acting and conducting myself accordingly in what I thought was how I should be! I let them see my heartache, and tried through that to say to them thats its ok to hurt, and you can get through it. That we don’t always get the life we think we want in that moment. I didn’t like them seeing me eating mass quantities of ice cream and crying, but as a mother, it was very real. As was letting them see when someone treats me well, because as my engagement to Aaron proceeded, I wanted them to see how they too should hopefully be treated one day. I tried to be the fiancee that I hoped would encourage the girls in the promise of love, and so because of this, and a good deep talk from my pastor, Aaron and I decided to make the big “move” in together, and to do that “right”, we also made the decision to marry.

There was no big dress and bridesmaids, I was at my church with some people close to our hearts, though a few were missing. We told my 19 year old, who was there at the ceremony, and in telling my 12 year old, we were met with mixed emotions and confusion, BECAUSE there was no big dress or bridesmaids. She still believes that was “civil” and our REAL wedding was October 5th, with all of the trimmings.

For us, in that moment, it was what we knew in our hearts was right. It wasn’t about the guests, or the fairy tales. it was taking the commitment and the love we had for one another, and our family, seriously. It was us trying to walk the walk in front of the ladies we are trying to raise. It was for US, it was real, and it WAS 2/13/13.

I could sit here and say sorry to everyone who didn’t know, but I can’t. I believe in my heart it was right, and it was for us. And thats exactly how it was celebrated. Now, now its time to share with everyone else.

I loved the event that was our wedding day, in October. We finally go the fun and the frills and the families together. It was personal and intimate and mostly DIY so we could enjoy something tailor made to our loves and our families combining. I think we both feared people wouldn’t show up if they knew they already missed the big premier!

Marriage is hard enough, without complicating it even more. So as everyone gears up to celebrate Valentines Day tomorrow, we are sitting here reminiscing about this day one year ago. Our commitment to one other then, is as strong as it was in October, and just as dear to us today.

Happy Anniversary, Aaron. _MG_2147-3053996259-O _MG_2153-3053996846-O

Thank you to Holly at Shutterly Sweet Photography for these images!

The hard stuff, from a seasoned mother. Part 1.

When I was a child and I drew pictures with my sister depicting my future wedding, husband and children, they were picture perfect. If there was a slip of the crayon, or a smudge or smear to damage my future life, I erased the image and started over. I am a brunette, yet  I drew blondes. Except the mystery husband to be. He was tall, dark haired and oh so handsome (though slightly resembling George Michael). Fast forward 20 years, and let me just tell you straight away, besides stating the obvious that I didnt marry George, you cant just rip out a page and start over ever time life makes a smudge on your family.

I told you Id be honest in this series. Right from the get-go of parenthood for me, my proverbial crayon slipped. I gave birth younger than I “dreamed” at 20, to a very premature baby, born with gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall. The baby’s intestines stick outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button. The hole can be small or large and sometimes other organs, such as the stomach and liver, can also stick outside of the baby’s body. Immediately I aged in maturity 20 years. Having lost my mum when I was very young, I really didnt have guidelines or counsel when it came to this, so trial and many, many an error gave way to a somewhat regular pattern. Two surgeries within 18 months corrected the defect itself though Lauren doesnt have a belly button, a fact that doesnt bother her, and I feel like I got through a tough time and earned some sort of invisible kick-ass mummy award.

Crayon slippings continued throughout my new mum years, as a navy wife to my ex husband, life became tough. I was living in America, and very homesick. One baby more (blessedly healthy) and a divorce later, I found that I was in a oh-no-Im-a-single-mother-what-the-heck-will-I-do status. Except, that wasnt a social media status. I had to put that as “divorced”, but it may as well have been ostracized, because thats what I felt like at times.

To say I was on the ramen noodle diet was putting it mildly. However, I did survive. So did my girls. Who, sidenote, DID turn out to be those picture perfect blondes I was drawing about.

Life, well, it can be very hard. Big hard and little hard and all kind of hard stuff in between. You protect your children yes, naturally, as people do when they become responsible 24/7 for another human being.

So I think that the lesson Ive most learned from the hard stuff in my life, the stuff not like the pretty pictures I drew, is that Im preparing these “babies” to be strong. In hardships. To show them and explain to them that it IS hard. Its not all puppies and play dates and bubble guppies and pony tails. And as hard as it is for some new mothers to accept when they are in the beautiful bask of newborn love and adoration: one day, they WILL leave our homes. They will be out there, potentially facing life outside a perfectly coloured page. So we have to be open about hardship. Transparent about mistakes. Sincere about life and her lessons. Most importantly, encouraging them to not let these things close their little hearts off to the sunshine and flowers that come after the mistakes. To hang onto hope that these things lead to better things. Rascal Flatts say it best “God blessed the broken road..”. So I feel that its up to me to teach them how to navigate a broken path, without Dora and her map. Instead, with faith, God, and a cell phone to mum!

Exactly HOW?? Well, I will share my experience with that in part 2.

Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes

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My New Year Resolve…my new word for the year too..

Ive been trying to think of the word to be encouraged by, for the whole year. Just one word, to motivate and excite me, to overcome things with, to challenge myself with, and to hopefully all around make me a better person. After all, with each new year comes new resolutions and promises to oneself about the “New You”. I however, have spent the past 5 years learning to love the old me. And you know what, Ive decided Im not so bad afterall! I have met challenges, had my heart broken, single parented my way through a bevvy of draining and rewarding parent-trocities and really learned to trust more in myself and faith. It worked for me. I got through it. I even got a “happy ending”, by marrying someone who treats me like a princess!

So, rather than find a new me, Id like to keep bettering the REAL me. To hone my photography craft to the next level, to take my business to new markets, to be a better mother, a more patient person, a better friend, a deeper Christian and a more content Debbie. My word is Refine.

v. re·finedre·fin·ingre·fines
 verb \ri-ˈfīn\

: to remove the unwanted substances in (something)

: to improve (something) by making small changes

v.tr.

1. To reduce to a pure state; purify.
2. To remove by purifying.
3. To free from coarse, unsuitable, or immoral characteristics: refined his manners; refined her speaking style.
v.intr.

1. To become free of impurities.
2. To acquire polish or elegance.
3. To use precise distinctions and subtlety in thought or speech
This will guide me in all areas of my life. Not just personal. Not just photography. Not just in faith. Because Im not just ONE of these things. Im ALL of them.
I have grown sadly accustomed to comparing myself personally and professionally to those around me who, on facebook anyway, certainly appear to have it all together. However, I know there was life before Facebook, and while I commend these people for having such a great outlook and command over a mulitude of things, I am “old enough to know better” and see beyond a social media status to accept its not all bubbles and kittens.
I also resolve to start a blog, a series of 4 or 5, on being a seasoned mum. Baby balancing in a chaotic life is crazy enough, and focus tends to be on actual important physical needs. However, our offspring do not remain cute energetic toddlers and infants forever and I know there are mothers,, and fathers, like me out in the http://www.com universe who may learn from, or commiserate with, some of the challenges us hard working (in all senses of that word) mothers of children/teens/young adults face, that we cant get past with a visit to Toys R Us. First blog will be posted tomorrow, and I hope you come back to read, with totally honesty, how it is for this business owning mother of two, and step mother to one, deals with the challenges of blending families, juggling personalities and maintaining control of her sanity, all while being a great wife and whole person!