06/01/2011 1:56 pm
Yep, that’s me there. At 16, in all my retainer-wearing, unplucked-eyebrow glory. I dug the photo up when Suz Broughton asked me to participate in a Vloggersation about what I would say to my 16-year-old self if I had a chance.
I thought I’d share my thoughts here too. So I’m dedicating this one to THAT girl.
First of all, for the love of God enjoy the body you are in and stop worrying so much about how you look in that little cheer skirt. You look amazing. Trust me, I’d kill to have that flat stomach again.
You know that dumb boy that called you “CHUBS,” even though you were a size 7? You’ll see him at your 10 year high school reunion. And now weighs over 300 pounds. Karma is a, well, you know.
Oh yeah, and don’t spend so much time caring about what other people think. Stop trying to hide your nerdy-ness. Trust me, the “cool” kids that teased you for being smart still live at home and work at TGIFriday’s.
In general, the right thing to do is usually the hardest thing to do. Anything worthwhile takes a fair amount of work. There aren’t any shortcuts.
And when somebody shows you who they really are, believe them. You’ll learn that one the hard way.
And lastly, go thank your parents. They seem so strict now, but trust me, it really is for your own good in the long run. And someday you’ll actually be friends with them.
Good luck, kiddo, you are going to need it!
To see the whole Vloggersation, click here.
05/18/2011 12:00 pm
I had been debating it for a long time. Every single day, for years on end, I made lists, weighed the pros and cons, and thoroughly examined all of the options.
Then one day I did it. I left him.
Honestly, I thought he would be relieved that we were leaving. I thought he would help me pack and hold the door for us on the way out. It’s hardly how it went down. But that story, I suppose, will have to wait for another time.
In the beginning, it was pretty black and white. I was awarded custody. Even his initial minimal visitation seemed like a marked increase from the amount of time he spent with them when we were all living under the same roof. Dropping them off with him and driving away was guttural and painful in a way I can’t even begin to describe. Even when visitation was supervised, I was worried sick. And it broke my heart. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I was a mess.
I was reassured by EVERYONE that he wouldn’t be able to keep up it up. That by the time the divorce was final, I’d still have full custody and no more messy, emotional exchanges. No more drama. Just last month, it was settled. We were able to reach an agreement—which included a carve-out for him to have more custody. Well, earn more custody, really.
I was relieved, but exhausted. I had been in survival mode. I could stop paddling away from the sinking Titanic in my teeny tiny row boat with my teeny tiny girls. And when I stopped frantically paddling, that’s when the fog set in.
It was a deep, dark, heavy sadness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It hit me a couple weeks ago when the girls were with him. I had come home from work and walked into a completely quiet and motionless house. Silence had never been so loud. And unbearable.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to step up and be a part of their lives. It had never been that way, so I never even factored this in as a possibility. It wasn’t on my radar. It had snuck up on me.
Then another crushing blow: I realized that when I left him, part of me left them, too. As a working mom, my evenings and weekends with them are precious. And in the blink of an eye, that critical time had been taken from me. I was angry and very, very sad.
It was an unintended consequence of my decision to leave him. I had made the ultimate sacrifice without even knowing it. Time with my daughters—the loves of my life, my whole entire world.
The truth is that I am really proud of my ex and great strides he’s making toward being the dad he promised me he would be. The best thing for my girls is for him to be an active part of their life, to be a loving and caring father—to the kind of involved father that my dad was (and is still is) to me. Although it’s much too late to save the marriage, it’s not too late for him to have a meaningful, life-long relationship with the girls.
But even when they aren’t here, I’m constantly stepping over sippy cups, stuffed animals and crayons. Or I’m finding one of Ellie’s signature piles of torn-up paper in one of my shoes. I’m surrounded by painful reminders of the way it SHOULD be, but isn’t.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that there would be so many nights that I didn’t tuck them in bed. That there would be so many things they would learn how to do when I wasn’t there.
But now I’m here, alone in an empty house. In mourning. Grieving the loss of my family, of the mom I thought I’d be. Trying to ignore the deafening silence.
05/11/2011 2:44 pm
My girls love Pirate’s Booty. No, it’s not some weird inappropriate thing–it’s a cheese-flavored puffy snack. If I didn’t know better I would swear it’s dusted with crack. My kids are addicted. They shovel fistful after tiny fistful into their mouths.
They go crazy as soon as they see this bag, screaming “BOOOOOOOTY” and demand that I hand it over. It’s like Mutiny on the Bounty, toddler style.
Not for nothin’, it is really good. But I think we are going to have to scale back for a while. It was all so traumatic.
We were at the grocery store this weekend when I heard Abby’s blood-curdling scream. She had run ahead of me to the checkout stand that’s where she saw it.
Her precious Pirate’s Booty was spooked-out to promote the Disney’s new Pirate’s of the Caribbean movie. Instead of a friendly cartoon pirate, there was this, in all its hologram-iffic glory.
Her eyes welled up with tears and she clamped onto my leg.
“Noooooooo, mommy, nooooooooo, why is booty so scary? Help me!”
Everyone was looking. Staring. Judging. I pried her off my leg and set her down into the shopping-cart-turned-racecar built for crazy people with two little ones like me.
“What’s wrong with his teeth?!??!?!?!?!”
I turned the massive limocart away from the display and tried to get away from the enourmous promotional display. Then they both screamed, and this time louder.
So I turned around, desperate to hush them up, and shoved the crinkly silver bag into the cart.
“Noooooooooo! So scary! Nooooooooooo! Pud it back!”
So back onto the shelf it went.
I realized it was a lose-lose.
I bought it, but had to keep the bags face-down in the cart under the paper towels. And when we got home, I had to put it all in a storage-sized Ziploc bag and throw the bag away in front of them. Because my kids are weird like that.
That evening, or should I say very early the next morning, I woke up to the sound of Abby sobbing from her room. She was still scared of that dang pirate. Crying about his teeth. I slept in bed with her that night.
Have you seen the new packaging? Is it too much?
04/27/2011 7:00 am
I’ve recently mastered the art of the “faux-call,” in which I pretend to make a phone call that will have a direct impact on the way my kids are acting at any given moment.
For example, on Saturday night I faux-called the Easter Bunny, right in front of Abby as she wailed from her THIRD time-out of the evening. This bedtime was a battle that I was losing, and fast.
Much like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, she was systematically testing the fences for weaknesses. She had again escaped the confines of her room–only to find herself screaming in time out.
Meanwhile, Ellie was sleeping peacefully in her crib. I swear, that kid could sleep through an angry elephant stampede. And in my house, that’s a very practical skill because when Abby gets fired up, that’s exactly what she sounds like.
So I enlisted the help of Mr. Bunny himself. I calmly explained to him that Abby wasn’t listening to mommy and wouldn’t go to bed. He should hop right past our house when he is out making deliveries. He wasn’t allowed to come in and we didn’t want anything from him. No candy, no chocolate, no Easter baskets.
With eyes as big as saucers, Abby leapt from her time-out stool and dove headfirst in to her bed. She scrambled to slide under the covers, then slammed her eyes shut. I didn’t hear a peep (no pun intended) for the rest of the night. Easiest bedtime trick ever in the history of the world.
After about 10 minutes of silence, I called Mr. Bunny back from right outside her bedroom door. I let him know that because she went to bed right away, that he could come to our house after all. I could hear her giggling from under the covers.
It got me thinking, what sort of trickery do YOU employ to get your kids into bed?
Pictured above is a screenshot from an app where the E-bunny actually calls your kid. I say, why shell out money when you can pretend for free???
04/20/2011 4:47 pm
We all woke up sick and feeling lousy that day. After struggling though breakfast, I put the girls down for a midmorning nap. We were feverish and grumpy and needed the rest. It was bad.
Once they were drowsy, I climbed into my own bed, exhausted. Through the soft hum of the baby monitor I heard Ellie quietly practicing her diction as she dosed off, per the usual. Mahmee. Ab-bee. Doghee. Kit-thy. Ah-gone.
And then I heard him through the baby monitor, clear as a bell. The man in their bedroom was speaking softly and quickly in Vietnamese. And then once again I heard Ellie, enthusiastically giggling.
Before I could even process what was happening, I was out of bed. I said a rushed prayer as I darted toward their room. Who was this intruder? Why was he in my house? And, boy, would he regret messing with this momma bear. I was ready to open a can of whoop@ss.
I swung the door open and looked around, ready to fight. Both girls sprang up in their beds, rubbing their tired eyes, pink cheeks and sweaty little heads. They were as confused as I was. No kidnapper or chatty serial killer. I checked every nook and cranny, every inch of every corner. Nothing.
I looked down to realize that I was clutching the James Thurber book that had been on my night stand. I guess it grabbed it on my way out to use as a weapon. What was my plan, humor him to death?
And then I had one of those flash-forwards, where I knew I’d look back and realize THIS was the moment when I started to lose it. This was my breaking point. The voices in my head had officially taken over and made their way right into the baby monitor. I was a goner. Somebody order me a straight jacket.
I kissed the girls and put them back down, then headed back to my room. Confused, but grateful that this misunderstanding was caused by my newly self-diagnosed mental illness and not an actual intruder.
As I settled down under my cozy duvet, I heard him again through the baby monitor.
And it was only THEN that I realized the channel had been changed on the receiver and I was picking up a frequency from someone else’s house. Some other dad in some other house with some other baby.
No intruder. No mental illness. Just a sleep-deprived mom.
04/06/2011 6:00 am
Abby has been to see a lot of doctors in her short life. As a baby, she battled kidney infections on an almost monthly basis. She’s had more stitches on her little body than I can even count, a ride in an ambulance when she split her head open, and some much-needed assistance from some very handsome firemen. And less than a month ago, she had surgery.
The point of her brief medical history: she’s scared of ANYONE in white coat. And for good reason.
So I got her a pediatrician Barbie (see above). I thought that maybe playing with Dr. Barbie at home might help her get used to white coats during real office visits.
Other than the teeny tiny tongue depressors, which were OBVIOUS choking hazards, it worked like a charm. She even says now that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Nice work, Babs.
I thought I’d look for another type of “smart” Barbie for her birthday gift. Turns out Dr. Barbie is part of an “I Can Be” series. According to Mattel, the series allows little girls to “try on” fabulous careers. A quick look around and I discovered there is a wide array of inspirational occupations as part of the series. Right now, little girls everywhere are daydreaming about successful becoming a Baby Sitter, Lifeguard, Ballerina, Dolphin Trainer, Rock Star, Wedding Stylist, Pizza Chef, Snowboarder, Ballroom Dancer, Ballet Teacher, Movie Star or even a Bride!
Yes, having a career as a bride is totally the same as growing up to be a doctor.
So what did I order? This.
Computer Engineer Barbie, of course! I am from a family of geeked-out computer nerds. I read in a review that her laptop spells BARBIE in binary code. Until they come out with copyeditor Barbie, this will have to do.
03/30/2011 7:00 am
As the divorce proceedings wind down, I had to make a BIG decision—one that I had been thinking about for a long, long time. I needed to figure out who the heck I was going to be.
When I got married, I changed my last name. At that time, it was unnerving to think that Pam Brashear, newbie (but published) writer would just evaporate. The girl once that pounded the pavement and got herself a job on Capitol Hill would be gone. Forever.
I’m from a close-knit nuclear family. It made me sad to let go of my maiden name. I love my family. But he felt strongly about it, so I changed my middle name to my maiden name. Done and done.
Now that we’ve split, the answer seems simple right? Just go back to the maiden name. But nothing is ever that easy. Many things swirled through my head as I weighed the options.
For example, I have primary custody of the girls. Will it be weird for them if mommy has a different last name? Will it make us all feel like less of a family if our names are different? Will it cause confusion for them and/or school administrators/doctors/Girl Scout Troops if we aren’t all De Jongs?
Also, it’s natural for a woman to announce a name change at work when she gets married. But I can’t remember ONE woman that did a name change because of a divorce. What would I do then, announce at every meeting that I am once again a Brashear? And have to face the tilted head and unwanted pity for months? And all the related issues of people not remembering what the new name was or how to email or find me?
And what if I remarry someday? Yes, even after all this drama I’m hopeful that “the one” is out there somewhere. So what then? Someday I might change my name to match his. Especially if it’s Mrs. Bradley Cooper. But I digress. What if I keep it and he remarries and then there are two, wait, THREE Mrs. De Jongs if you count his mom? What is this? Big Love?
I was trapped. With a bad case of analysis paralysis.
I’ve worked REALLY hard at my career as Pam De Jong. For more than 10 years in heathcare communications, and as a freelance writer, and blogger here at OC Family. Several months ago, I was offered an AMAZING opportunity with OC Family. And all of the sudden it was crystal clear to me that there was only one woman for the job: Pam Brashear.
In fact, when April’s OC Family and Inland Empire Magazines hit the stands tomorrow, you’ll see what Pam Brashear had up her sleeve. She wrote the COVER STORY. For both magazines.
Pammie Sue is back, baby.
03/16/2011 11:46 am
Abby turns three today. While I realize this sort of post is way overdone on most “mommy blogs,” I’m writing this one just for her. I don’t really make babybooks, so this will have to do.
To My Sweet Abbygirl,
As a little girl, I used to dream about what my life would be like when I grew up. I dreamed about meeting Prince Charming and living happily ever after. Just like your beloved Cinderella. And as you’ll learn when you are older, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned.
This last year was hard. But as I worked to make a new life for us, you faced change with an exuberance that kept me on my toes. You grew up a lot this year. You learned to speak clearly. You learned to imagine and play dress up. You learned to form a dissenting opinion. You learned to dance. You learned to take care of your sister and to hug her gently. You learned ALL the words to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and your ABCs. You learned to sleep in a big girl bed. You learned that riding in an ambulance can be fun—if they turn on the flashing lights and you get to sit on mommy’s lap.
I have learned a lot from you too, Abby. When I was worried about custody and court proceedings, you showed me that there wasn’t anything a trip to the park couldn’t fix. You taught me how much joy can come from a simple nighttime bath, and Little Golden Books in bed. You taught me that Sleeping Beauty isn’t perfect. She doesn’t even have a job like mommy at the hop-sit-uhl, you so poignantly observed one evening. You taught me to be brave—not even looking back my way as you were taken into surgery. You taught me to be thankful for everything, no matter how small. You often reminded me to say thank you for sissy’s doggy and ice skating during our bedtime prayers.
But the best part of my fairy tale, Abbygirl, is that I did find true love—in two adorable, pint-sized packages. It’s a pure, beautiful and perfect love. You and Ellie changed my life and my heart.
And the real beauty of it all is that we do get to live happily ever after, together. Happy third birthday, my little princess.
03/09/2011 12:15 am
Hands down, the hardest thing about being a single mom is leaving my girls on a somewhat regular basis. I have to get in my car and drive away from them. With an empty heart and empty car seats in the back. It hurts. Bad. Every single time.
For a while, I tried to distract myself on the drive home. You can read about my “99 problems” theory here. It works for the most part, but it didn’t help all the time.
I would tell myself that God was there, dutifully watching over them. They are, after all, His precious daughters too. There wasn’t anything that God wasn’t in control of. That was comforting and helped. But it couldn’t quell the knot in my stomach.
Then, one afternoon, it hit me. A very tangible solution.
You see, from an early age, I was reminded regularly that Jesus was always watching me. No matter what I was doing, according to my parents and Sunday School teachers, Jesus was always there. And instead of accepting it as a loving sentiment, it just plain freaked me out. I didn’t like that at all. Just another set of eyes to stare at me while I slept, along with the puppets and dolls in my room.
My little mind deduced that this Jesus MUST be hiding in my closet; since there was nowhere else a grown man in a flowing white robe could possibly fit in my little bedroom. I’d insist that my mother close the closet door promptly upon tucking me in. That way, I could sleep in peace without those eyes ALWAYS WATCHING.
What I imagined as a child wasn’t the typical imagery of Michelangelo’s Pieta. My Cartoon Jesus was way more brawny and way less bony. He was a larger than life super hero. You didn’t mess with Cartoon Jesus. He was enormous. Draped upon his broad and sturdy shoulders was a flowing white robe—his enormous feet always sporting massive leather mandals. He was intimidating. It wasn’t until I truly believed that he was there to protect me and not get me, that I could tolerate the idea of Cartoon Jesus following me around all day. Only then did I picture his huge, capable, loving, hands and warm, friendly smile.
As I’ve grown up, my mental picture of God has shifted away from that of a cartoon super hero. It’s to be expected as I’ve learned more about faith and life and love. But I’ve realized that there is a lot to be said for the Cartoon Jesus of my youth. So maybe I’m not with my girls all the time. Whether they are at daycare or with their dad—no doubt Cartoon Jesus is there. Protecting them. Watching over them. Loving them.
And when I’m able to picture it that way, the knot in my stomach subsides. Just like that.
These days, I think of Cartoon Jesus often—like when there has been an uncomfortable exchange with you-know-who. I imagine answering the door with the 8-foot-tall, mega-savior behind me. Who’s gonna mess with me then? There’s nothing I can’t face with him in my corner. When I’m lonely or just plain sad—I imagine Him right there with me, protecting me, watching me, loving me.
Except now, at night, there is no closet door to shut and nowhere to hide. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
02/16/2011 10:18 pm
Last month, Stephanie was diagnosed with Lymphoma. As soon as I heard the news, I wanted to rush to her side. But there was a problem, we weren’t actually friends anymore.
Let me back up.
Stephanie and I were best friends in college. And roommates, too. Some of my best memories of that formidable time in my life were shared with her. It was a typical friendship falling out. She did something that, at the time, hurt me. I moved out. My breakup with Stephanie was somewhat complicated, given the fact that our lives were inextricably woven together through our friends, our sorority and our hangouts. I just wanted to avoid her. It hurt too much to see her. It was the one of the most painful breakups I had in my twenties—and we never dated! But my heart was broken, nonetheless.
Eventually I moved on. Got a new roommate, a new place, but that fracture with her was something that never fully healed. So when I heard about her cancer diagnosis on FaceBook, I immediately sent her a message offering my support and love. It was as if none of that petty nonsense from college mattered. I just wanted her to get better.
As fate would have it, my sister was her nurse for her first day of chemo. I knew she was in good hands. I went out to see Stephanie as soon as she was home from the hospital that weekend.
I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. But the second I walked into her home, all of that anxiety fell by the wayside. It was like no time had passed. I was really, really glad to see her. And yeah, it was kind of awkward at times—with the questions about who I married, my kids she’s never met, and why we split up.
As we sat and talked, Stephanie shared with me that one of the hardest parts about her life right now is how oddly behave when she tells them about the cancer. It makes them instantly uncomfortable—apologizing to her, offering unwanted (and often unintended) pity, and just acting WEIRD.
Stephanie said it was obvious that this response was caused by the person’s reaction to what was happening in his or her own life. It makes people uncomfortable because the reality is it can happen to anyone. If seeing someone as young and vibrant as Stephanie fight off cancer (like a CHAMP, by the way) doesn’t make you take a cold, hard look at your own mortality, I don’t know what will.
The other peculiar thing that I discovered is that our current situations were more similar than one would think. Obviously, I chose the path I am on. I am the one that officially filed to end the marriage. Stephanie in no way caused her cancer. But when I tell people about the split, they react in almost the exact same way. They are uncomfortable, fidgety, apologetic and look at me as if my life is over. For the same reasons Stephanie surmised, I know it makes people examine their own relationships.
Since news of the divorce went public, I have had several well-respected women, from perfect families, with amazing jobs, confide in me that they were miserable in their own marriages and wish that could muster the courage to leave. Nobody is divorce-proof. It can happen to anyone. Just like Stephanie, what I need is love and support—not pity, not sympathy, and certainly not judgement.
I’ll never understand why all of this is happening to Stephanie, but it never ceases to amaze me how perfect God’s timing is. Stephanie and I need each other right now, more than ever. I can’t imagine a better time, or a better person to have in my life. We can encourage and support each other in a way few others can.
Cancer destroys, and even the treatments wipe everything out—but in this case it’s actually healed something: a long-broken friendship. Is know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. And a little perspective goes a hell of a long way.
You can follow Stephanie at Cancer is the New Black. And join Team Steph on FaceBook to learn more about how you can help her out.
I love you Stephanie, and I know you’ll pull through this. As we say on Team Steph, FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!