My sister and I went to Wasilla on Friday for her ultrasound. She didn’t have to go to Wasilla, but I told her she should. There’s an ultrasound clinic up there that’s absolutely amazing. They did my ultrasound when I was pregnant with Ava and it was a million times better than the ultrasounds they do down here on the peninsula. Here, they have you on the table for ten minutes, throw a picture or two at you and send you out the door. The clinic in Wasilla gives you a million pictures and a recorded DVD of the entire scan.

Anyway, we found out what her baby is. Well, I found out. She didn’t.

We are going to have a babyshower for her at the end of this month and at the shower, everything will be gender neutral. We are dying the inside of the cake pink or blue and when she cuts the cake, she’ll discover what her baby is and everyone will get to see her reaction.

She wants a boy, so we’ll see if her intuition is right. 😉 But I won’t tell. Not even here, because she probably reads this.

Dan and I recently discovered “How I met your mother” on netflix. We’ve been watching it for a month or two and we’re into the last season (season seven, I think?) available on netflix. I like it. It’s funny and as always, Alyson Hannigan is great… Last night, the episode we watched, “White Lies, Black Dads” sucked. It wasn’t poorly written. It was funny. It didn’t fall short of expectations by any means… but the subject matter was just a little too close to home for me.

Barney and James find a picture of themselves in an envelope addressed to Sam Gibbs. On the back of the picture, their mother had written “Your son,” but she hadn’t indicated whose father the picture was for, James’ or Barney’s. The two show up on Sam Gibb’s door step and a black man answers the door, quite obviously James’ father (since James is black too). After the door is opened, there’s a moment of silence and I could feel my heart breaking, watching Barney’s reaction. Of course, the writer’s rescued the comedy of the show… but those brief moments of silence are devastating.

Just sitting there, watching the show… Those few seconds lasted for ever and all of a sudden, I felt my heart breaking all over again, knowing exactly how it feels to be in that position. Not knowing where you come from. Desperately longing to know, to see, to learn… but despite your desperate pleas and sorry attempts at pretending you’re fine… You’re really not. Deep down it kills you in a way nothing else has and nothing else ever will. It’s a hole in your heart that can’t be filled except by knowing… and you live in fear, every day, that you will never know and that hole will always be empty. Every day is the same… and then it isn’t. One day you wake up, expecting a normal day, only to catch a glimpse of hope, thinking maybe you found him, maybe today is the day, maybe you’ll finally know… and you wait on that figuritive doorstep. You stand there with your heart in your throat for weeks, waiting for test results, hoping your journey is over, fearful that it isn’t and terrified of what will happen if this isn’t it. You try to keep yourself from being too hopeful, but it’s impossible. You can’t stop yourself and it only makes the pain that much worse when you discover you’re at the wrong door and all of this was for nothing.

The door opened for Barney, but it was the wrong door. Instead of slipping off to a valium-induced level of calm, Barney did what I have done time and time again: pretended it wasn’t true. This had to be his dad. It couldn’t be anyone else. He couldn’t keep looking, this just had to be it. He pretended he was done searching. He pretended he found his answer. Deep down, he knows he didn’t, just like I know I didn’t all of the times I pretended I didn’t know, or prayed that someone would take pity on me and forge the results of my DNA tests. Deep down he knew… but it hurts too much to admit.

At the end of the episode, the narrator said something hit me like a knife to the heart “Kids, your uncle Barney grew up without a dad and he always felt incomplete because of it.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a mother like Barney did. There is no happy ending or substitute. I’ll always be incomplete. Irreversibly and permanently.

And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Today was fun… Not really. It was long, boring and a waste of time.

Right now, we’re down to one car because Dan’s truck keeps having one problem after another. We could get it fixed. We have the money…  But at this point… We aren’t so sure the truck is even worth fixing. We also don’t know how much longer we’ll even be here if Dan’s interviews go well… So, for the time being, we’re working with just the one car. Which for me, means I have to work with Dan’s schedule. Today, it meant going to the college a couple hours early because he was helping his sister with programming homework. I really didn’t want to leave early, but at least I got some work done while we were there.

After I got home from class, we did Maddi’s hair. I have had her new hair extensions for a few days now, but she hadn’t earned them yet. She was having a hard time listening to mom and dad and keeping her room clean. But, today she really tried and I gave her some credit and we did her hair. I do have to admit, I like the quality of her new extensions better than the old ones. Maybe they’re just softer. I don’t know, but I really like them.

And of course, I tried to get a cute picture of her and all she would do is make faces and be a goof for the camera.

Miss Goofy loves her new hair

No idea what's going on here.

Oh god. The four-year-old is doing the duck face.

And, just for fun, all three of the kids.

And yes. Danny has a couple of extensions in too. The poor kid saw me doing Maddi’s extensions and wanted some too. Poor little guy doesn’t understand that it’s a girl thing… So I just let him have a couple of the ones I took out of Maddi’s hair. They just look like highlights on him. Of course, I cut them short to match his hair. He isn’t even three yet. He doesn’t understand that it’s a girly thing. Who am I to tell him no while he sits there and watches his sister get her hair done? He just felt left out.

I have been writing a lot lately.

I have been following a debt payoff plan similar to the Dave Ramsey method. The first step is done. I have $1,000 in savings. I paid off my first debt. I paid off my car. And now I’m working on debt number three out of four. I’ve made so much progress. It’s almost hard to believe that I have paid off so much in such a short period of time, but I really want to eliminate all of my credit cards and other debts. It’s a big deal to have that money freed up each month. That’s money that can be put toward other things, like savings, retirement or just fun. Hell, I’d love to go on a vacation. I’ve never been on a vacation.

That is why I have been writing so much. I made a goal to write three articles per day, every day for the month of march. I don’t have to write them every  day, but I have to have the equivalent of three every day. If I want to write six today, I can skip tomorrow. So far, I’ve done well and I’m even a day ahead on all of my articles.

I have been trying to think of it as a real job. No way do I spend eight hours a day on it, but I have been trying to treat it like a “real” job. I haveto finish my three articles every day. No excuses. It has to be done. If I want that debt to keep disappearing… I have to put in the work to make it keep disappearing. It felt so good when I finished the $1,000 savings. It felt even better when I paid off my first debt. It felt even more amazing when I paid off my car.

I have two debts left and my goal is to pay them both off by the end of summer. That is my goal. Sometimes I feel like it’s impossible and I’ll never be able to do it. Other times, I feel like it’s completely manageable and nothing can stop me from doing it. I go back and forth from motivated and determined to overwhelmed and defeated. Regardless of what state of mind I’m in… I do those three articles a day and slowly but surely it adds up. I am 12% of the way through debt #3.

I have been thinking about giving myself “treats” every $250 and $500. Smaller treats for $250 and bigger treats for $500. It might seem lame but I think the four-year-old is on to something with her reward charts! Maybe some new clothes or getting my hair dyed. I don’t know. I’m thinking a $50 treat for the $250 marks and a $100 treat when I hit the $500 mark, paid in cash of course, not credit! I am not using the credit cards as freely as I used to! Not going down that road again!

Anyway, that’s my life as of lately. Making money. Paying off debt. Playing with the kids. Having a grand old time. Never a dull moment.

My daughter cut her hair today.

It was a terrible, horrible mess.

She cried so hard. She knew she did something wrong. She knew she couldn’t fix it and she was devastated. And I knew exactly how she felt. My mom cut my hair short, like a boy’s when I was five. But I also had a group of adult stangers scream and argue in front of me about whether or not to shave my head… and one even sat on me while the other prepared to do it… And just recalling how scary that was… how panicked I felt… my hair had already been cut short… but to have it shaved off by strangers I didn’t know?  My heart jumped up in my throat when I saw my daughter crying over her hair.

So I did the only thing I could think of to fix it and stop that pain. Call it shallow. Call it vain. Call it whatever you want to. Maddi made a mistake, but it doesn’t mean she has to be punished day after day for it… Reminded every day about her short hair. No, short hair isn’t ugly, but it isn’t what she wants. She didn’t understand that cutting hair is permanent (at least until it grows out). My heart just broke for her.

Yes. I got my four-year-old hair extensions. No, I don’t think I’m being shallow or vain. The poor girl cried, sobbed and shook in a way I have never seen her do when she was faced with the possibility of her hair having to be cut short or left messed up. I felt bad for her. I took pity on her. The same way that strange woman took pity on me and told them not to shave my head.

I was a very empathetic person. I was probably too empathetic. I would become emotionally distressed, just imagining how someone else feels over something. I was constantly worried and anxious about hurting someone’s feelings, or causing them any pain. It ruled a great deal of my time and of my life. I could not stop worrying about what other people would think or feel over even the smallest of things.

I just didn’t want to hurt anyone.

When I was little, my mom went through this phase where she was trying all sorts of new recipes. My mom was pretty depressed, and even though I was still pretty young, still in grade school, I could tell. I could always tell when my mom was depressed. Her personality would completely change; so drastically, that she wasn’t even the same person. And like I said, I was a very empathetic person. It caused me severe emotional distress just imagining how terrible my mother must have felt to be acting the way she was. Anyway, she was trying all of these new dinner recipes. I’m not sure why she was experimenting so much, but she was. Maybe she needing something to occupy her thoughts or give her something to do. Maybe she just wanted to feel appreciated. I don’t know, and I probably never will.

While on her culinary experimentation spree, she made this creamy Italian pasta. I’m sure someone who likes Italian food or white sauce pasta dishes would like it, but I didn’t. She was so excited about it, and she seemed so anxious for everyone to try it and tell her what they thought, and I honestly wanted to introduce her to www.village-bakery.com so that they could learn how to make recipes. She looked like a little kid who had slaved over a gift for her parents, meticulously working on it, making it as perfect as she could, all in hopes that they’ll just love it. And there she was,  just standing there, waiting desperately, her eyes pleading for approval.

My sisters took a bite and told her it was gross. Rebekah started throwing a fit about the mushrooms in the pasta. My mother looked crushed. I took a bite, and I told her it was amazing, even though I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it all.  I didn’t like it at all, but she looked so crushed when my sisters were so mean and I felt bad for her. She had been working in the kitchen for hours, slaving over the stove, anxious for her family to try this new dish. And they criticized her. They crushed her enthusiasm and broke her heart.

So I lied.

I told her I loved it. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, just a little white lie to make her feel better. She just looked so hurt and I felt bad that my sisters had been so cruel saying the things they did about the meal. As soon as I told my mother I loved it, she perked up, looking happy and proud of herself, like a little kid, beaming about her accomplishment, too proud of herself for words.

It was just a little white lie. What could it hurt?

My mom thought I liked it, and started making it a lot, always serving me a heaping bowl of it, looking excited and happy to give it to me, sometimes she even told me she had made it just because she knew how much I loved it. I just forced a smile and made myself eat it. She was always in such a good mood whenever she made it, and I didn’t want to hurt her. For years, I just kept up with the charade, gagging down every bite of it and occasionally telling my mother, “That was good. I want more, but I am just so full, I’d explode if I took another bite.

Then, in 2004 I moved to Alaska with my grandparents.  Time went by and I forgot about the creamy Italian pasta facade. Then, in 2006, my mother moved to Alaska, near me. For my birthday, she made dinner, remembering that the creamy Italian pasta was my “favorite.” She was so excited, and frankly, I was surprised she had remembered my “favorite” food, since we hadn’t seen each other in a couple years. Thinking back to the night she first made the pasta, and how sad she was, I did what I always did; I forced a smile and pretended to love it. Then after dinner, my mother gave me a book to write all of my favorite recipes in. She had already written the recipe for the creamy Italian pasta in it.

It can be easy to overlook how someone else is feeling, but it’s important to remember that the things we do and say, even when we don’t want to, can mean the world to someone.

We have all dealt with it, whether we want to admit it or not.

“Giveaway Guilt”

You know what I’m talking about. That guilty, worried feeling you get when you’re trying to de-clutter and clean up and you debate whether or not to get rid of something that someone (doesn’t matter who) gave to you (doesn’t matter when) for whatever reason. You don’t want to seem rude or ungrateful, but you just don’t need whatever it is. Perhaps you don’t even use it. Maybe it’s been sitting on a shelf or in the back of a closet for the last six months just taking up space. Or even worse, perhaps it’s getting in the way or making things difficult for you.

You know you want to get rid of it, but you can’t help but feel guilty, after all, someone spent their time, energy and probably their money on. Even if you know you’re not using it and you know you likely won’t ever use it, you still feel guilty. And as if you didn’t feel guilty enough, this guilt is for many people, intensified by the gift-giver’s upset with your decision to get rid of something they gave you.

“You got rid of it? What?! But I gave that to you!”

We’ve all heard it, and most likely, we’ve all felt like shit for it at one point or another. Nothing makes you feel more guilty after giving something away than being accosted by the gift giver with shocked, angry and upset exclamations. If your gift-giver is especially dramatic, expect to feel ten times worse than you would have otherwise.

I used to struggle with giveaway guilt a lot. I was, in my opinion, a pretty empathetic person, sometimes too empathetic. I remember being constantly worried about what everyone else might think or feel all the time. It was consuming. I was constantly worrying about these things and the only one who suffered for it was me.

I can’t deal with clutter and junk. I begin to feel very disorganized and quite frankly, distressed, when my living area isn’t neat or organized. It has a severe emotional toll on me. I get depressed and I stop getting things done as quickly as I should. I have seen a noticeable difference in myself between an organized and a cluttered living space. Clutter and junk is stressful. Even if you aren’t tripping over it in the middle of the floor, it’s stressful and can affect your mood. For me, it has a huge influence and because of that, I don’t hold on to things for very long, including things I was given.

I appreciate the things people give me with good intentions. I really do and I would never get rid of a gift I received the next day or be blatantly obvious about it. But if I don’t use something, it’s in my way or it’s just collecting dust then I’m better off without it. If I get rid of something you gave me, it doesn’t mean I hate you or don’t appreciate you. It just means that I needed to purge my life of excess to stabilize my feelings and emotions. A gift is just a thing. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Even if I don’t keep the gift you gave me, I still remember that you thought enough of me to give it to me in the first place, and that is what should matter. Don’t take it as a personal attack or an insult. Just realize that this is what I need to do to keep my life streamlined, and stop myself from getting overwhelmed. And if someone else gets rid of a gift you gave them, their reasons are probably similar.

Imagine someone gave you a giant coat stand. You are living in a small home. Every time you go from the living room to the stairs or the bedroom, you trip over this coat rack. You try moving it, or even rearranging the other furniture around it, but still, you keep tripping over this coat rack. After a while, you begin to get irritated with this coat stand. Every time you see it, you get annoyed, and by now, you’ve tripped over it so many times that it’s scuffed up, knicked and damaged. It’s a sore sight, for sure. But still, you keep it. After all, it was a gift and you wouldn’t want to hurt the giver’s feelings; you care about them. So for months, you continue tripping over this stupid coat stand, over and over, perhaps even injuring yourself a few times. You’re stressed out about it. You hate that it’s in your living room. You hate tripping over the stupid thing, and you don’t even like the design, but still, you don’t want to hurt the giver’s feelings.

You shouldn’t punish yourself for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings.

But if the giver cared about you, which they likely do, since they cared enough to give you a gift they thought you would like, do you think they would want you to feel the way you do about the coat rack? If they care about you, they wouldn’t want you stressing out, feeling anxious, frustrated or upset, especially by a silly coat rack. If you don’t like it, don’t use it, don’t need it, or it’s in the way, get rid of it. Of course, it’s best to do so tactfully to spare feelings if you can. “Oh, the coat rack? We used it for a little bit, but a friend of mine was recently divorced and moved into an apartment with absolutely no furniture. We have the closet in the entryway, and I knew she could use it more than we could.” Of course, there might not always be a tactful way to explain something missing, but you can always be honest. If the giver is upset with you, they shouldn’t be, and if they are, that is their issue to deal with. Not yours. Don’t let your decisions and life be ruled by the fear that you may upset someone else.

It took me three months, but I finally wrote a letter to Golden Corral, the restaurant that accused me of starving and neglecting my child due to her health issues and small size. This was the first time anyone had ever humiliated and hurt me over my daughter’s special needs. Here’s a copy of the letter I sent. I feel sick even thinking about everything that happened that night. I am completely disgusted and sickened by everything that transpired that night. I hope they will take action to prevent this from happening to another poor mother and her special needs child.

I have debated contacting your company for a while regarding one of my experiences at your restaurant. I was really shaken up and upset by what happened and I feel that I need to let you know.

I visited your Anchorage location when I was on federal jury duty. I live three hours away from Anchorage, but was staying in a hotel with my friend and my nine-month-old daughter. We thought it would be fun to go out to eat, and I had always enjoyed dining there any other time I had visited Anchorage.

My daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive, along with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy in August of 2011. She was and still is, much smaller than most babies her age and has special health concerns. These issues, quite frankly, are no one’s business but mine and my family’s.

My daughter would go into frantic fits if she was in restrictive clothing such as socks or a coat. Most likely a sensory processing issue, which is common with children who have her issues. Because of this, we wrap her in blankets when we go from the car to indoors. We did the same thing that we always do while we were visiting your restaurant. We wrapped her up snugly in blankets and carried her in and took the blankets off when we got inside.

Our server asked how old my daughter was, and not even thinking about her small size, I told the woman she was nine months and she looked shocked and I instantly regretted telling her.

While I was up getting my plate at the buffet, a waitress approached my friend to talk to her about how we need to have a coat on my daughter and that she’s just trying to look out for the little babies she sees and how she hopes we aren’t offended, but she wanted to let us know that the other waitresses were talking about calling children’s services on me because we didn’t have a coat on her (we used the blankets as I described) and because of how small she was.

When I returned to the table, my friend told me what happened. When the waitress came back I asked her what was going on and she told me. I was so upset I couldn’t stop crying. This was the first time I had really gone out and done anything with my daughter and this was how I was being treated. Waitresses criticizing my parenting, threatening to call the authorities and staring my daughter and I down during our visit. I couldn’t even eat my dinner, I was so upset. I was going to ask for a refund but I was so angry and hurt that I couldn’t even speak to my friend without sobbing, let alone speak to a manager. I was so upset, I felt like I was going to get sick. We ended up leaving without eating our dinner and I cried the entire way home.

There are children in this world that have special needs that the general population may not understand. I understand that and I do my best to make my daughter’s issues known to those who they are relevant for. However, I should not have to give a medical history to my server at a restaurant. Nor should I be persecuted, gossiped about and tore down for something they obviously knew nothing about. I was appalled at how I was treated and even now, three months later, I still cannot believe that my daughter and I were treated so poorly.

Needless to say, we have not returned to your establishment, and nor will we. Our experience and the lack of understanding and compassion has left a sour taste in my mouth that I don’t know that I will ever be able to get rid of. You may consider further training for your employees in regards to how these issues should and shouldn’t be addressed. I would hate for another mother and child to experience the horrific treatment that I did while I was at your restaurant.

Samantha Van Vleet

Ava at the restaurant before anyone said anything.

 

It’s here. Finally.

I know it’s nothing spectacular, and nothing amazing, but it’s something, and something I earned. It’s the first of more to come. It’s the first big step down on a very long and trying path. I got a degree. It may not be an impressive or even specific one, but it’s a degree, and it’s the first step in the right direction.

Now, I’m faced with another decision. I was accepted into the biological sciences BS program, but I’m thinking of switching to the BA program. The BA has all of the prereqs I need for medical school, and I can do it all on the peninsula. I don’t have to move to Anchorage for a semester or worry about any of that craziness. I can do it all here, and then apply to med school in portland when I finish. There’s also the time advantage. I could likely finish the BA in three semesters if I plan it well.. The BS would take me at least five more semesters.

I’m torn. I know a BS looks better because it’s more in-depth, but unfortunately, a BS would put much more strain on me and my family, financially and geographically. Odds are, I’ll apply for the BA at the end of this semester and see where it takes me.

For now, I’m nervous. I have a degree now. The next step, is to get the bachelor’s, whether it’s a BA or BS, I just need to get it… Then, I wait. I wait to see if the medical school gods deem me as “good enough” to be admitted into their program. It makes me feel so anxious. I worry that perhaps I’m overestimating myself… Maybe I’m not as smart as I’ve been led to believe. Sometimes when I’m especially anxious, I wonder who I think I’m kidding when I say I want to be a physician.

I guess only time will tell. All I can do for now is keep chugging along.

Sometimes I wish I was stupid.

Maybe not stupid, but less smart. I always feel like I’d be happier if I wasn’t as smart as I am. If I wasn’t smart, I feel I’d be content with the status quo. I’d be happy with things the way they are and small successes along the way. Maybe I wouldn’t have such overwhelming goals; goals I always feel are caving in on me. I know I can meet them, but the process of getting there is so difficult and so long. Perhaps, if I was a little more dumb, I could hold myself to a lower standard and be content with it.

I’m not brilliant or a genius, but I’m smart enough to see my potential. I’m smart enough to recognize how my actions (or lack of)  impact that potential. I’m smart enough that I can see the difference between my life if I remain stagnant or take action. I’m smart enough that I know what needs to be done and what I have to do.

I’m smart enough to know better.

Which is why I continue on the way I do. I want to do the things I’m doing. Even if they wear me to the bone, I want to do them. I have to do them. I can’t just “take a break” or “cut myself some slack.” My brain doesn’t work that way. My world doesn’t work that way. If I take a break, I’ll give up. If I take a break, I’ll fail, and anything short of making it is unacceptable. It doesn’t work and it can’t work. If I fail, then I’m just like everyone I strive so hard to set myself apart from. If I give up, I’m just another deadbeat loser. And that, for me, would be unbearable.

I’m not just another teen mom.

I always get the question, “How do you do it all?” and honestly, I don’t know the answer. There isn’t an answer. I don’t know how I do it. I just do. I know I have to, so I do. I stress out like you wouldn’t believe, but the stress is worth the achievment. Nothing comes easy, and this life is no exception. If it wasn’t stressful, everyone would do it. If it wasn’t stressful, it wouldn’t be a big deal. If it wasn’t stressful, it wouldn’t be worth being proud of. If it wasn’t stressful, anyone could handle it.

But I’m not just anyone.

People are likely to read this and think that I ought not worry about what other people think about me or what they say about me, but this isn’t about them. I’m not worried about their standards, or what they think of me. Their opinions don’t matter to me and likely never will. These are my own standards that are locking me in. It’s harder to cut yourself slack when you’re the one holding yourself to such high standards. Even though it’s stressful, and chaotic…

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many of you know that I write freelance from home to earn a little extra money. Anyways, there’s a yearly contest to win $1500 or $1000 and I really feel like I have a shot at winning. I need people to help by nominating me. You can nominate me in less than a few minutes. All you have to do is login (or create) a yahoo account and then visit my profile here: http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/700813/samantha_van_vleet.html

Then click on “Nominate Samantha Van Vleet as Contributor of the Year” and fill out the little box saying why you think I deserve it.

You can help even more by scrolling through my articles and choosing the ones you like the best (as many as you want) and clicking the yellow button that says “Nominate this article as content of the year.”

A few of my best articles include:

Three Reasons the United States is Failing to Promote Breastfeeding

Five Toxic Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: The Dangers of a “Good” Sleeper

Bathed in Toxins: Baby Shampoos aren’t as mild as they claim

Could “crotch dangler” carriers be bad for my baby?

Buyer’s remorse: The dangers of a meth house

Inside the mind of an anorexic

An adult on ritalin: The stigma of seeking help

 

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