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Miracles on my Journey to the World Domination Summit

Miracle #1

It's four weeks before the World Domination Summit.  I've been dreaming for a year, waiting for months, saving for the ticket to Portland, Oregon I am about to buy.  There is absolutely no practical reason I should be spending on a ticket or a trip but I try to forget practicality and groceries  and kids' shoes because I want my life to be so much bigger, I need to go further than this day to day.  I have dreams.  I have plans.

Our still-hyper two-year old puppy so wants to run into the big wide world beyond the leash, beyond the fenced-in yard.  She grew up on a farm after all.  Oh, how I understand her yearning to be free.  She gets out one day as the kids come in from school and I hear the car wheels screech on our busy street, see her tossed like some ragdoll across the road, move forward to pick her up, sick knot in my stomach.

The kids and I wait at the emergency vet hospital, nervous.  I know the plane ticket money is the only extra I have.  I am grateful I have it, even more grateful when the vet comes to tell us our beloved dog is just fine.

We call her superdog, the cat-dog with nine lives,  shed tears and swear it's a miracle.  But I know Imma need another one soon if I want to get to Portland.

Miracle #2

I give it up to the Universe, throw up both my hands, and hope I can pull off making up the savings to get the ticket.  I get another job working 2 nights a week teaching music lessons, half goes to the babysitter.  I answer an ad on Craigslist and sell buttons at political rallies, I even tell the customers that of course I support their candidate, not the other guy, throw up in my mouth a little.  I tell myself I can hustle.  I look for a third job.

I go to the food shelf because I don't have enough $ after bills for groceries this week or last week or next week.  I remember I am so grateful for a list of things that goes on forever and this too shall pass and when my son says Mommy are we poor? I say we are rich in all the ways it matters because we have so much love.  And that's the fucking truth.

WDS is now only a couple of weeks away.  My best friend calls, the only person in my life who knows how important this trip is to me because it represents freedom, adventure, service, and he says you are still going, right?  I say I don't think so.

I swallow my fear and ask for a loan from a close family member.  I cross my fingers.  He says yes, but that I won't need to pay him back.  I jump up and down and cry.  I'm gonna make it.

Miracle #3

I step on the plane in CMH en route to PDX.  Even as I am boarding I cross my fingers that nothing stops me from taking off.  I know all too well that at any time I may have to surrender to the overarching call of motherhood.

Miracle #4

Portland is a revelation.  The weather is perfect.

I'm staying at a hostel, which I haven't done since I was backpacking in Europe during college, and I am loving every second of it even though I manage to contract a nasty lung infection on my trip (and surely keep all 5 other people awake all night in my room with my snoring).  Nothing can bring me down at this point.  Every moment, every speaker inspires, motivates, and activates me.  I am surrounded by people who are saying YES to life.

It is a magnificent whirlwind and every minute worthwhile, but I can't be more surprised when we are presented with the $100 Investment.

Because I have been dreaming about how I can make a bigger contribution to the world, and how can I as a single mom with meager resources and daunting responsibilities?

But now here I am charged with this $100 bill and I know it is slated for just this purpose.  I won't touch it, not even if the dog gets hit by a car again (which, by the way would be the 3rd time).

Not until I know it will multiply 1,000-fold to bring greater freedom, adventure, and service to my family's life and the lives of many others.  And you better believe I am thinking about how I can help empower other single moms not only to get food on the table but also to believe in themselves, to remember that miracles exist everyday, and sometimes, yes, our dreams come true too.

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In the Aftermath of Divorce, an Unexpected Sisterhood

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1bcQMCZ5gU] It was a slow unraveling while inside the tapestry but in reality it was rapid, just a few short months.  Once he moved out I realized I couldn' t keep up with the chores involved in a wood-heated 5-bedroom farmhouse and maintain my full time job, mothering, and my sanity.  Not to mention the bills would be too much for me to handle now while paying child support to him.

Even though I knew it to be inevitable, it was hard to imagine downsizing.  We had dreamed of buying this gorgeous home on  20 acres, even signed a contract.  I loved the quiet of the country and the space.  We had picked up a new puppy just a week before I asked for a divorce.  I loved running each day on the back roads and watching the kids play for hours in the yard on the trampoline, skidding up and down the long country driveway.  Friends came to play and the children adored their home too.  It was idyllic.  It was part of a larger dream that had crumbled.

Eventually I realized that liberation would rise like a bird in the wake of letting go, and so downsize I did.

I moved with the kids into a small 2-bedroom ranch duplex one block from where I worked.  We were 4 blocks from the elementary school and one block from the daycare they attended afterschool.  No more stoking the woodstove at 5 am and 10 pm to stay warm and survive in the frigid Wisconsin winter, no more hauling kindling from the yard and firewood from the deck in my robe and gloves.  All I had to do was push the button on the thermostat and it was warm.  It made sense.  I could actually afford it, and the lifestyle would be much easier.  Here the kids shared a room and our furniture was sparse, and I slept on a single bed for the first time since college.

On the other side of the house was an aquaintance, a single mom whom I had met months before through work and had coffee with a couple of times while the kids and dogs played.  She was almost ten years younger yet had been raising her daughter on her own for five years already without much support to speak of.  She had fled the city after an abusive relationship, lost a job then found another, and hers was one of the most stressful jobs one could possibly have as a mother, in child protective services.  I admired her strength and tenacity, her faith in herself and her ability to keep going under more stress than I had ever known.  She had already learned how to reach out and ask for help, even from people she hardly knew like myself--it meant survival.  The night I kept her daughter after school last minute when she transported a child to detention far away I was amazed she asked and I was glad to help.  I didn't know then just how much she would eventually help me, and the many ways her friendship buoyed me in that ocean of uncertainty for months to come.

Within a short time after I moved in we were cooking meals together, having wine on our shared back patio late nights after the kids went to sleep, and I found she had a shoulder I could cry on.  The friendship we formed took the sting out of the loneliness of raising my kids on my own, and if I needed to run to the store or work late, I knew I could count on her.  We laughed until tears streamed down our faces and watched bad reality T.V. together.  We connected in a way I had never experienced before, and within the four short months we lived next to each other I swear she saved me.

Soon she would be married for the first time and so happy.  I watched her realize a dream she had had for so many years and find a man who would erase the bad memories and disappointments of her past relationships, a man whom she could finally trust.  When my kids and I moved away to Ohio we both cried, and I realized for the first time that what we had given each other was a community amongst ourselves when we needed it most .

Now she has a new baby and we talk less on the phone, I know she is enjoying her sleepless nights and her beautiful new family.  But that's okay with me.  We got through to the other side by holding hands and laughing, emerged anew as sisters who helped each other shine. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGJuMBdaqIw]

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I Wish I Could Eat a Rainbow

I wish I could eat a rainbowI wish I could eat a rainbow, Mommy.I would grab it in my fingers and slurp it like spaghetti, rainbow juices dripping down my chin.

What would it taste like?, I asked her with a smile.

It would taste like clouds and sunshine and mist and M&M's, lemonade and cherry with strawberries and whipped cream. It would taste like flowers and the green of spring-- maybe for you the purple would taste like wine, but not for me-- for me it would taste like grape popsicle. It would be very filling.  My belly would be full from eating that rainbow.

I wish I could eat a rainbow too, I said.

You can, Mommy! There's one for you, grab it quick before it flies away!

And so I closed my eyes and reached up, pulled the rainbow to my lips, and tasted a miracle.

©Heidi Howes 2012

What would your rainbow taste like?  Let me know in the comments below...

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On How I Never Wanted to Be a Mother and Why it's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

MotheringWhen I was young, I never wanted to be a mother.  As a little girl I was a tomboy, worshipping my older brother and following my dad around. I don't think I ever even owned a Barbie doll or a babydoll.  I wanted to climb trees, play baseball, wrestle, and I never wore dresses.  Dresses mortified me.

Looking back I see the complex reasons why I wanted to associate with the male persona more, reasons like freedom and    going shirtless in the summertime (though that was forbidden after I was five).  Even as a child, especially as a child, I sensed the limitations and the lack of respect towards mothers held in our society.

Most of all I didn' t want to have my own children.  No, I wanted to travel the world and follow my own dreams and the message to me in my childhood was loud and clear that children are a burden and they keep you from your dreams.  Children limit you and hold you back and make you incredibly exhausted and disappointed.  No room for dreaming once they come along.

And so I lived for myself, for my own devices, going from thing to thing until one day I was 26 and suddenly I felt THE CLOCK.  Nothing so overwhelming as the urge to have a BABY.  It was a strange occurrence I never could've seen coming, until it was there smacking me in the face.  I had found my mate and it was time.

There is so little to prepare us for the complete life-alteration that is parenting.  The journey is mind-blowing to say the least, and sometimes I think so chaotic and insane that only in retrospect can we see how amazing it is.  My children are 8 and 5 respectively now and just as everyone tells you from the minute they are born (and man is it annoying how often people say this) it goes by so quickly, so painfully and heart-wrenchingly quickly.

Because I never rehearsed as a little girl nor dreamed of the children I would one day have, perhaps I bloomed late into my embrace of mothering.  But embrace it I do.

My children are my opus, my everything.  They are my reason for waking and my reason for collapsing.  I want to hold on to every second of their lives and remember, remember, remember.  This moment, gone.  That moment, so sweet.  A series of moments tied together by this rushing river of unbounded love.

How could I know?  Was I so naive to think there was any other miracle meant for me?

So if mothering these two children is the biggest thing--the only thing--I ever do, no matter how imperfectly or awkwardly, if this is my great body of work in this world--I am 100% at peace with that.  If I never write that book or screenplay or finish the album I feel compelled to record, I will be just fine.  If I never see Africa or South America, I will be fine.

Why is it the best thing that ever happened to me?

Little hands.  Sneaking into my bed to sleep next to me.  Laughter.  Screams.  Swinging in sunshine.  Playing for hours.  Pretending.  Seeing for the first time.  I love you, Mommy.  Little feet.  Bathtime.  Learning to read.  Prayers for strangers.    Why Mommy?  When Mommy?  Where Mommy?  Candy. Treasure Hunts.  Legos.  Spontaneous dancing.  Jumping on the bed.  Skipping.  Hopscotch.  Bedtime stories.  Lullabyes.  Backrubs.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Snacks before bed.  Climbing trees.  Sleepovers.  Playdates.  Skipping rocks.  Throwing ball.  Picking up from school.  Walking to the bus.  Waving goodbye.  Running to greet me.  Kisses.  Hugs.  Good morning.  I love you, baby.

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