“You’re Just Like Your Mother”

Think about this: If someone said, “You’re just like your mother,” would you be embarrassed or delighted? Would you feel shame? Or gratitude? Or something in between? It’s all part of the journey to mother love.

Journeys To Mother Love

Mom's visit Just like my mother: a rare photo of my mother, me and my oldest son, 1996

“You’re just like your mother!” Those words and that fear have been engrained in my mind and my psyche throughout my adulthood. They were like a blemish on my face that screamed for attention every time I got a glance of myself in the mirror. Not literally, but that’s how often the message surfaced.

I didn’t want to be anything like my mother! That comparison brought too much embarrassment, too much shame. After all, she was mentally ill.

My fears started as a teen. Whether you’re an adult (who once was a teen) or the parent of a teen, you know the feelings of embarrassment that can arise. As teens start to separate from their parents, test their independence, and explore who they are, they veer away from parental input and advice. They don’t want…

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A Journey to Brother Love, Part 2

Same father, different mother, but the same physical DNA runs through me and my half-brother. Thankfully, it’s our spiritual DNA (the Holy Spirit) that gives us the Power of Healing.

Journeys To Mother Love

With my brothers in 2014 My brother and I with our half-brother (center) in 2014

In the post, A Journey to Brother Love, Part 1, I shared how as an adult I was shocked to learn I had a half-brother. I only met him once, 18 years ago. The opportunity arose to meet him again recently. I didn’t want any regrets, so I traveled to see him.

From the moment we were reunited, my brother was friendly and open, even greeting me with a hug. It felt very welcoming. He is a charming and engaging man. Yet for me, the time spent together was surreal.

What do you say? How do you communicate with a brother who was raised by maternal grandparents since he was two years old because his mother died and he was abandoned by his father (my father)?

Does he even want relationship with me (us)? After all, we were…

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A Journey to Brother Love, Part 1

Breaking the generational pattern of abandonment is not easy, but there is Light and Hope along the way. Where is your healing journey leading you?

Journeys To Mother Love

1996 Reunion With my father and brothers in 1996

Recently a new pathway of healing opened up to me: a “journey to brother love.”

My father married many times and had children from multiple wives—my siblings being the last. I grew up knowing about an older half-sister, but never met her. I didn’t know about a half-brother I had until 18 years ago when my father reunited with him after 52 years of separation.

I was in my early 30s, just starting my own family when my father called to tell me about my half-brother. It was an ‘Oprah’ type story of amazing coincidences that led to their reunion.

I felt like my world had been turned upside down.

My father invited me and another sibling to meet him. The half-brother lived across country and was making a trip to our area. I eagerly obliged, or maybe obeyed is a better word. This…

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When it’s Time to Let go of Our Children

There’s a pain in my heart—not just figuratively, but physically too.  My first-born child is moving away after he graduates from college next month.  I’ve known for a few months, but it hit me in a new way recently—something I wasn’t prepared for.

moving-outEaster Family Time

We had a wonderful time on Easter with my son home from college for the day.  We went to church together as a family.  We shared our meals together.  We talked on and off during the day about his post-graduation moving plans—buying a car, renting a moving van, and looking at apartments online.

It was all very official and business-like.  The project manager in me was running wild thinking of all the tasks to do before the official moving day.

While my husband was taking our son back to school, I tucked our other son into bed.  We reflected on his older brother’s eminent departure.  That was when it hit me—and the pain started.  It is an uneasiness that hovers over my heart and tells me to pay attention to what my body is trying to say.  It was the first signs of my need to let go.

Living in Uncharted Territory

I’ve lately felt like I am living my life in uncharted territory.  My parents both passed away in recent years, more than forty years after their divorce.  More than that though is because I didn’t get much guidance from them in my formative years.  I was never close to them and my teenage years were rather rebellious.  I never really knew what it was like to live in a normal home with two loving parents.

My alma mater

My alma mater

When I left for college at the tender age of seventeen, I didn’t give my mother’s feelings much thought.  I just wanted to be out on my own and away from my dysfunctional home environment—one that included an alcoholic stepfather and an unstable and mentally ill mother.

The only extended return home from school was for the holidays my freshman year.  There was a fire in my bedroom while I was away at college that first semester.  The belongings I left at home were ruined.  It was a startling homecoming gift.  That was the final straw for me.  Goodbye, family!

Turning the Tables

Now the tables are turned.  My son is moving away—not just to the university in the city 25 minutes away.  He is moving out of state—a short one-hour flight or eight-hour road trip by car.  We are packing up his belongings and saying goodbye.  He is starting his own life in another state—without any friends or family nearby.

I know our present home environment doesn’t compare to the chaos and emotional unrest that I experienced in my youth.  But I also know what it is like to be young and ready to leave the nest.

My son is ready.  He is mature.  He has done well in school.  We are very proud of him.

heart let goLetting Go Well

As my heart ached on that evening, I also wondered what it was like for my mother when I left home.  Did she care?  Did she yearn for me?  She wrote me lots of letters while at college.  I didn’t appreciate those either.

It is hard to look at myself with this new lens—the one who is letting go of her first-born child.  I don’t like what I see—how I treated my mother.

I want to let go well.  I don’t want to be like my mother.  I don’t want to be a clingy mom either.  Like I said, I am living in uncharted territory.  I don’t have the answers, but I do recognize the warning signs.

It is time to let go again.

This post is shared with Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays.

A Journey to Stepmother Love

Mother Love comes in many ways, shapes and sizes: birth moms, adopted moms, foster moms, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and girlfriends. For me, it unexpectedly came from a stepmother that I didn’t openly embrace from the start. Here’s a bit of that story on my publisher’s blog, journeystomotherlove.com. Happy Mother’s Day!

Journeys To Mother Love

Step-mother-love-01 I was nine years old when my parents divorced. I’ll never forget that day. After hearing the news, I ran into the woods behind our house and cried my eyes out. “Why? Why? Why?” I cried to God.

Those repressed memories surfaced a while back in a therapy session as I got in touch with the little Ardis who was hurting from the trauma of this event. I’ve processed this before, but this time I remembered something new. I remembered that I told my father I hated him. It became one of those pivotal moments in my life when I decided I had to be a BIG girl and stuff my emotions.

I surfaced from those woods, calm and collected. I WAS a big girl. But try as I might, that anger at what was going on between my parents was still there. Both of my parents soon remarried. I lived…

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You Can’t go Home Again, or Can You?

Have you ever longed to go back to your childhood home—one that your family left many, many years ago?  Did you dare drive around in the neighborhood or maybe even knock on the door in hopes of connecting with the new residents and maybe getting a chance to go inside?   Or maybe your childhood memories were too painful to even think of doing such a thing.

This kind of chance of a lifetime recently presented itself to me—and like so many of these life coincidences; I took it as a sign from God to follow where He was leading me.

Home Sweet HomeIn the Neighborhood

It was on my 54th birthday—also the day that my driver’s license was expiring.  So a trip to the Department of Licensing became a high priority on this day—not something I really had time for or wanted to do.  I made the best of it though, even deciding to wear a special outfit so my ‘mug’ shot might have a chance of being pleasantly memorable.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I took more than a mental note of where I was.  My childhood home was around the corner.  A few weeks earlier, I had pulled out my memoir, still unworked on since last year’s NaNoWriMo.  I began the painful process of re-reading it, but stopped after the first chapter, the chapter about my mother’s nervous breakdown and living in this neighborhood.  After that reading, I felt God nudge me to contact the one last neighbor who I knew still lived in the neighborhood.  But I didn’t act on it.

Or can you?

Or can you?

Although this wasn’t the home or neighborhood I was born in, I knew God was giving me another nudge, on my birthday, to pursue this last link to my childhood.  I’d been to this neighborhood before several times as an adult.  It was one of the first places I visited when my husband and I moved to the state of Washington about 25 years ago.  At that time I went so far as to meet the residents, the people who bought the home from my parents in 1966.

This day’s visit was to the neighbor’s house though.  The name on the mailbox was still the surname of a childhood friend.  Maybe, just maybe, I would get some more insight into the day my mother had her nervous breakdown and our life on that street.

I knocked on the door.  There was no answer.  I was torn.  Should I leave a note under the door?  I just couldn’t believe that God brought me to this doorstep without as much as an answer.

My Childhood Home

So I took the bold step of going next door to my former home.  An elderly woman answered the door.  I told her a bit about who I was, a writer, etc., and asked about the neighbor.  I was surprised when she invited me into the home and even offered me a seat in the living room.

Hiding behind the 50-year old landscaping lies my childhood home.

It was surreal.  I had just written a post about the events of JFK’s assassination on that day—my birthday—50 years ago.  And here I was sitting in the same room where I watched the unfolding of those horrific events in our nation’s history.  I shed a tear or two in the retelling of the significance of that home.

The couple was quite kind to me.  They gave me free reign of the house, asked me things about the property, and what it was like back in those days.  The house seemed much smaller to me than I remembered, but that isn’t unusual in light of the fact I was a mere 3-6 years old when we lived there.

Regarding the neighbor, I found out that he had sold the house and moved out a month ago.  Too bad I didn’t follow that nudge back then, I thought to myself.  But his dementia would’ve precluded his ability to help me anyway.

The street sign may have read 'dead end', but the events of the day proved otherwise.

The street sign may have read ‘DEAD END’, but the events of the day proved otherwise.

What Lies Around the Corner?

It was all so unanticipated—to stop by the neighborhood, to knock on their door, and most assuredly to be invited inside.  Their invitation and interest was a precious gift to me, one that I’m not sure they were really able to fully comprehend. Out of my gratitude for their kindness to me, I gave them a signed copy of my book.

Plan as we may, we never really know for sure what lies ahead in our lives from day to day.  What if God is calling us to something just around the corner?  Would you heed to His nudge?  Would you blindly do something that to outsiders may look foolish or presumptuous?

Some may say I have a habit of doing those things.  Others see it as obedience and trusting God when I embrace these chance encounters.  I’m just grateful that He cares enough to give me these little kisses from above, and that others may be inspired to do the same—turning their healing into hope.

In the end, I really was able to go home again.  And that really was the proverbial icing on the cake for my 54th birthday.

A Grief That Can’t be Spoken

“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.” No truer words were spoken with the loss of a child. Or sung. (Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Les Miserables).

Journeys To Mother Love

When my birthday rolled around this year on November 22, I was reminded again of the significance of that day in history. It was on my fourth birthday in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and I remember it well.

I hadn’t heard the word “assassinate” before that day. The sorrow that gripped my family also gripped the nation. I didn’t like it. I wanted it to go away. But every day the television was awash in news stories as the nation prepared to bury our president.

Four days in history. Four days in mourning. Four days that shook our nation and the world, now commemorated 50 years ago.

My birthday link to the Kennedys left me with a fascination for this public family. I collected books and commemorative magazines over the years. The grief of the nation and the grief of the Kennedy family didn’t end with…

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The Little Girl Inside

When I was a little girl, I was captivated by the movie, “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews.  Although I was only six years old at the time, I loved the music and knew all of the songs by heart.  It was one of the few movies I actually got to see in the theater.  Soon after its release, my mother had her nervous breakdown and we stopped going to the theater.

1965 movie soundtrack for "The Sound of Music"

1965 movie soundtrack for “The Sound of Music”

Our Home was Alive…with “The Sound of Music”

Pedro, our Spanish host son, played “The Sound of Music” on the piano in our home the first summer we met.  His interest in that music along with my love for the movie landed my family at an outdoor theater in the mountainous setting near Leavenworth, WA—a Bavarian themed village.  It was a gift for his 17th birthday and it was a bucket list item for me.

When Pedro played that music in our home, it awakened in me deep feelings from my childhood.  My father was a strict disciplinarian.  I grew up in fear of his anger and his belt.  He didn’t show his love or give us words of encouragement.

Watching “The Sound of Music” as an adult I can almost relate to how the Von Trapp family children were treated—standing at attention at the sound of a whistle, etc.  Captain Von Trapp, their father, treated them like they were soldiers in the military, not like his children.  When Maria, played by Julie Andrews, entered their lives, play became a normal part of their day.

Ever since my mother died almost three years ago, I have gotten in touch with the part of me that wants to come out and play—the part of me that says it’s ok to laugh, it’s ok to dance, and it’s ok to sing.  It’s a part of who I am, but for years thought it meant I was doomed to end up crazy like my mother.

The hills really were alive with the sound of music, Leavenworth, WA

The hills really were alive with the sound of music, Leavenworth, WA

Playtime in Spain

That playful and unabashed side of me turned up in Spain this past summer.  I lived it up, maybe more than I should’ve at times, but I didn’t want to have any regrets about this trip of a lifetime.

One of my most precious memories in Spain involved “The Sound of Music”.  I lived with my Spanish family in their vacation home on Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain, for ten days at the end of my trip.  I had already broken the ice and felt more comfortable with Pedro’s younger cousins by this time.  (See Mothering Inadequacies.)

Sitting on the edge of the pool one afternoon, I watched some of the children swimming and diving.  All of a sudden, a few of the girls started to sing “Do Re Mi” in English.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  These children barely knew any English yet they were singing this wonderful song from the musical.

I took that as my cue to join with the sing-a-long.  They did a double take on my cue and delighted in my participation.  Unfortunately it was the only song that we both knew in English.  Nonetheless, it turned into a fun-filled adventure with them creating a theater (teatro) production with me as their poolside audience.

The stage is set for the children's poolside theater performance.

The stage is set for the children’s poolside theater performance.

Getting in Touch with my Inner Child

In years past, I might not have even noticed the urge to sing with the children.  If I did, I would’ve definitely fought it.  I felt free in a lot of ways while I was in Spain.  Was it because of the love and generosity of this family?  Or maybe it was just out of gratitude to my heavenly Father for giving me something so special in this moment of time.

My little girl is slowly being integrated into this adult body that I have.  She is learning that it is ok to take risks, to use her voice, to love more fully, and to sing without abandon (in worship or in the privacy of my home or car).

My inner child, circa 1966

My inner child, circa 1966

I’m giving her lots of room to experience the emotions of a turbulent childhood and to grieve the loss of a mother that she never really knew.  My tears and my laughter are a beautiful gift that I am giving myself as I embrace this new season of self-discovery.

What about you?  Have you gotten in touch with your inner child lately?  Are you experiencing all that God intends for your life?  Healing is just around the corner when you invite God into the process.

Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20:5, NLT)

This post was shared on Create with Joy/Friendship Fridays.

Mothering Inadequacies

God heals us and satisfies the desires of our heart in such surprising ways. Meeting my Spanish family this past summer is confirmation of that.

Journeys To Mother Love

I was 33 years old when I had my first child. Like many women, I felt unsure of myself and ill-equipped to be a mother. Unlike many, though, I believed I had good reason for my misgivings.

My mother had a nervous breakdown when I was six. She was still able to function in her role as a housewife, but it left her emotionally unavailable to me. For whatever reason, she rarely spent time with me in the kitchen or preparing me for my role as a wife or mother.

As I grew up and went out on my own, I wondered whether I would ever be a mother or have kids of my own. I never had a strong desire to be around children. I didn’t have the longing, like I hear some women express, to have children to feel complete.

After ten years of marriage my husband and…

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  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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    © Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ardis A. Nelson and MakingMeBold with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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