Friday, August 6, 2010

I get by with a little help from my friends

So its been a while since I last posted anything. Life got in the way. But now my kids are asleep- both in my bed, and my husband is flying home overnight from Hawaii. So instead of unpacking and doing laundry from our last trip, I am blogging.

While the kids and I were recently away visiting my parents, I spent some time thinking about friends and friendship. It started as I was dragging myself on a jog around the peninsula where my parents live. I noticed that I was the only single running person. All of the other people I saw were female couples walking. I say couples because it was always 2 of them, but not because I have any idea of sexual orientation. What I saw in those women was deep friendship- friendship that was treasured and nurtured. These women were taking time out of their days to walk together and talk together.  I watched as two of the women were so deep in conversation that they had to stop walking and simply talk while standing in the middle of the road. I tried to think about the last time that had happened to me with a friend. It happens all the time with my children, usually because they choose the middle of the busiest intersection in town to stop walking and inspect the rocks in the asphalt, but that's not quite the same. I can't think of the last time I was walking with a friend and had to stop to listen to the important things she was saying. That isn't because my friends don't have important things to say, but because I rarely feel like I can give them the time to even start walking together, much less stop, listen and connect on that deep level.

Over the years I have mentioned a few times  how much I miss the college days of roommates/hallmates/dormmates whom I saw all the time. In college there was a common interest amongst us all- taking classes. Some were more interested than others, but still, one could always come up with an excuse to get together. Sometimes it was simply walking to class at the same time. Other times is was, "Let's study at the local coffee house while drinking beer and seeing what other friends might have had the same idea." The studying didn't always happen, but the social part always did.

Now that I have turned into a wife and mother who has also lived all over the country, it is so much harder to create those amazing social get-togethers. Having friends is a lot of work. It is super excellent awesome work, but it isn't something that simply happens over walk to class or a beer at the local watering hole anymore.

For one thing, my friends are scattered all over the globe. Mozambique, London, Hawaii, Chile, Ecuador, China, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New Hampshire, Colorado, Atlanta, Seattle, Vashon Island... the list goes on and on. For those far-flung friends, it takes an event for us to get together. Weddings have been the excuse for the last 10 years. But now we are almost all married, and now having kids. Those kids throw a wrench into it. I love them, but they don't make it easy to globe trot around visiting friends in far-flung places. How are we going to all get together now?

It can be tough to travel to those far-flung places to visit friends, especially if they are not on vacation too. You show up, ready for a week of seeing old friends. But they are working 50 hours that week and dragging their kids to 3 sporting practices, piano lessons and 2 birthday parties. If you can arrive between 11:27 and 12:13, you might be able to chat over stuffing mac 'n cheese into said-kids' faces before they have to run out the door again. You totally understand the craziness because your life is exactly the same at home. But you still miss the long lazy hours you two used to be able to spend together sitting in the hallway of the dorm or hiking or taking hours-long bus trips in foreign countries.

With friends who are nearby it is almost as difficult. We squeeze in conversations in the 3 minutes before the nursery school releases the kids through the gate at pick-up time. We share our lives in between reminding the kids to use their words, not their hands, offering snacks and apple juice, and in the aisles of the grocery store while trying not to yell that we are not buying that item today and would they please leave it on the shelf. Those precious moments are found on the sidelines of soccer games and while pushing someone on a swing, and they are almost always interrupted by a dear request from an insistent child. For those of my friends who do not have kids, I wonder about inflicting my kids on them. Do they really want to join us for dinner when it is such chaos? Is inviting them to meet us in the park a gift or torture? I would love to see them without my kids, but realistically, I never see anyone without my kids these days.

Some would say, take the time! Hire a babysitter for goodness sakes. Be a friend! I know that I should, but it is harder than that. Who can afford the time to arrange all that, and pay for it? There is always an excuse, and I am good at making them.

One friend said that she had had coffee with her friend that morning. Her friend lives in a different state, but she had driven to the coffee place with her cell phone and drunk her coffee while on the phone with that friend. I thought it was a really clever almost-solution. A great way to spend time with a friend who can't actually be there, but still not quite the same. Worth hiring a babysitter for? That one is a toss-up.

Sometimes I think that when my kids are just a little bit older it will be easier. I can leave them alone or they will be out doing their own things and I will have more time to spend with my friends. But that is a long long time from now. Ella is only 2. We are talking years, and friendships need more love than that. Certainly there are friendships that one can pick right back up after years of silence. It can seem like not even a day has passed since the last time you got together, but I am feeling like I don't want to wait years.

My best, although entirely non-workable solution, isn't mine alone as I have heard it put forward by others as well. Find a great city or town to live in. Invite all your friends to get together and purchase one huge piece of property. Build houses all around the edge of it, but with multiple common spaces that must be utilized regularly and by all. Ta da! Your friends not only live close by, but you will be forced to see them in the regular routine of your daily life. What could be better? What could be less likely to actually happen?

I guess what I am really trying to say to all my friends out there is, I miss you! I am sorry that we don't see each other or talk to each other as much as we once did because I value your thoughts and your great influence on my life. I feel a void because you are not a part of my regular routine. I wish that we had more time to spend together. If you have an idea on how to do it, let me know. And if you are interested in that great big piece of property, well... give me a call.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How much are you supposed to love 'em?

My family left me yesterday. Jeff took the kids to visit his family in New Hampshire. They've never left me before (although I have left them). Charlie promised vociferously and often that he wouldn't miss me at all. Ella said that I was her great mom and that she loved me and would miss me lots, but was too busy playing with her doll house to look up when she said it. Counting the hours before they left, I was in great turmoil.  Part of me couldn't wait for them all to go so I could try out solitude and freedom again. The other part of me wanted to cry because I missed them before they even walked out the door.

That has been one of the hardest things for me as a mother- to find that balance between loving my kids so much that I want to spend every minute with them and realizing that I need to have a life beyond them that is also satisfying to me. I still haven't found it yet. I know that there are things that I could do that would help, but they usually involve spending more time away from my kids. And like so many mothers, I truly believe that my children are suffering terribly every minute that they are forced to be away from me.

The thing is, I know in my brain that that is not true. My kids have told me that its not true. Last week I stopped by their day care to give them the option of going grocery shopping or staying at school while I shopped. Ella chose to stay at school. I was shocked, and thrilled, and devastated all at once. My little girl would rather stay and play with her friends at school than hang out with me at the grocery store. At 2 1/2 is she so old that friends are already better than Mom? If that is so, it really is great. My brain is happy that she has friends that she loves, and that school is a place that she wants to be, but my heart aches to be her number one choice always and forever.

When I got off of work yesterday and faced the prospect of an empty house, I chose to go swimming. Great choice. The water was cooling, I got a bit of exercise, and a chance to talk with a few friends. But the thing is, I have that choice every day of the week, and I never choose the pool. I could go straight from work to swim for 20 minutes and come out feeling refreshed, happy, and maybe with more muscle definition in my arms and shoulders, but instead I run to the day care to get my kids as fast as I can, and don't feel refreshed, happy, or have better shoulders or arms. Sometimes I am downright grumpy after a long day of work with no break between work and motherhood. Motherhood is hard. It is my hardest job. I know that I would be a better wife and mother if I just took that 20 minutes to be neither employee, wife nor mother. I need time as Liz, the woman. So why am I unable to take it?

Jeff is able to listen to his brain. He is much better than I am at taking time for himself. He swims almost every day. He goes off on the weekends for long bike rides or runs. He knows that it makes him happy, healthy, and more able to deal with the kids and me when he is around. How is it that he is free of the guilt that I feel?

Since I don't have the real answer to that question, but think it may be something related to the hormones that women produce when they give birth that makes them want to be mothers and spend time caring for their screaming, poopy, helpless offspring (did you know you actually have those hormones?), I will move on for now. Because the real question is why am I sitting here on the computer when I have real freedom for a few short days? I am off to get a pedicure, take a hike if 105 degrees isn't too hot, go to the air conditioned mall if it is, and browse the clothing racks for as long as I would like. But if you look closely, you'll notice that every now and then a look of true longing passes over my face because I just can't help but miss them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I just can't win

So lately I've been feeling like this whole parenting this is going pretty well. There have been a few bumps in the road, like Ella's screaming, kicking, yelling fit at the restaurant in Durango and Charlie's forgetfulness that jumping on people in pools, especially when they can't touch the bottom, isn't ok, but generally we have been doing well. Until recently. In the last week there have been 2 reports released that make me feel like I simply cannot win.

The first one is the report that pesticides on fruits and veggies cause ADHD. Well my kids are absolutely destined to have ADHD because I have done such a dang good job of feeding them fruits and veggies. They may fuss, whine and moan about it 95% of the time, but they do eat them, and then like them, much to their chagrin. But now I find out that by making them eat that healthy food, I am poisoning them! So you may think, well, buy organic. Now that is something that I would love to do. But I live in a town of 8,500 people in the middle of the New Mexican desert, 75 miles from the nearest city. Our 2 local grocery stores and Walmart do stock organic, occasionally, in some foods, when the moon is full and the coyotes are baying in the key of C. I have found organic spinach, cantaloupe, a pepper, and occasionally celery. Those of you who know your 'dirty dozen' list backwards and forwards should know that spinach, peppers and celery are great foods to buy organic. They are literally covered, soaked and drenched in ADHD causing pesticides, so its worth the hundreds of your hard earned pennies to buy them in the organic version. The only problem is that my kids won't eat them. Charlie will eat red and yellow peppers on occasion, but not green. Ella won't touch any of it, even if the celery is disguised as ants-on-a-log. She just licks off the raisins and peanut butter and hands back the celery. Cantaloupe is one of the safest foods to eat non-organically because neither the pests or the pesticides can penetrate that tough outer skin. So we are not ahead in that game. I have driven more than 150 miles round trip to Albuquerque to drag my dear, always-well-behaved children on shopping trips to Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Costco in search of truly healthy options, but can't do it on a bi-weekly basis. Maybe semi-monthly, if. So what is a veggie-pushing mom to do? I did take the 'dirty dozen' list to the local produce manager and ask him to try and stock an organic option of those 12 foods.  I haven't gone back yet to see if its happened. I have my hopes up, but am not holding my breath or I might just turn very blue.

So while I was fuming about not having truly healthy food to feed my children,  we went to Walmart to kill some time (local favorite time-killing haunt for all mothers in Socorro). I got sucked into buying them a brand new 8-foot wide, 36 inch deep swimming pool. This is kind of the hot-tub version of the backyard swimming pool, minus the bubbles, benches, heater, or other amenities that make real hot tubs so great. But the kids love it. Of course, being a good mother, I slather them from head to foot in sunscreen before they even approach the pool, only to find out that the sunscreens I am using are probably poisoning them too. According to a report I received, the things in the sunscreen are likely disrupting their hormones (oxybenzone) and probably giving them skin cancer (retinyl palmitate), and the reported SPF is usually wrong. I thought I was putting the sunscreen on them to KEEP them from getting skin cancer!!!
Granted, I just did some research on the report I was sent and it seems that there is some conflicting information out there, surprise surprise. Apparently, EWG, or the Environmental Working Group, who wrote the report is a consumer watchdog organization that works "to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment." They may not fall anywhere near the center of that invisible line that we use to mark right and left-leaning organizations. Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena), Schering-Plough (Coppertone) and Banana Boat all had something to say in rebuttal of the report. Something like, "Shut up you bunch of chemical fearing hippies" written in appropriate, corporate-sounding language. But I am still confused. Do I spend $15 for 1.5 oz for the sunscreen that EWG recommends and blow our entire travel budget for the summer on really super duper safe sunscreen, but have to stay home and pretend that our 8 foot pool really is as good as a hot tub? Or do I disregard the EWG, trust big business like Schering-Plough, and continue to possibly disrupt my dear children's hormones while gadding about the country in search of real hot tubs? Oh gawd. A thought just hit- is it my over-sunscreening of my son that causes him to pretend he is a female character when he plays pretend? Have his hormones been so disrupted that he prefers to be Mrs. Fox from Fantastic Mr. Fox and Dragon from Shrek instead of the tough, masculine characters?  

Oh s--t! I knew I really screwed up. To heck with it all anyways. I am just going to start them on a diet of Cheetos and Mt. Dew instead, because at least those so-called food and drinks don't even pretend to have anything less than they best chemicals in them. And the kids can stay inside and watch tv all day so we don't have to worry about sunscreen at all. Bet you can't wait for my next blog on my children's behavior on cheetos, mt dew and pure television...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Family Road Trip

So I was laying in bed a couple of nights ago, thinking about how to write this entry, and feeling pretty happy about the prospect. But then I got mad at my husband and instead of writing, I lay in bed fuming at him. It was something about me having expressed an opinion very vociferously and loudly and made my point very clear a few months ago, only to have discovered that none of it made any difference in the way that he decided to do things. I felt rather un-listened to. But now, as its not going to change this YEAR no matter how much I yell, I have decided to move on and not be angry any more and write instead about our great road trip to the north.

We packed up 2 bicycles, 2 tents, 6 (yes, 6) sleeping bags (you can never have too many sleeping bags), enough clothes for an army, and every DVD we have ever owned and headed north to Colorado for the excellent (we hoped) destination of Mesa Verde National Park. Even though it was a 6 hour ride, the children were quite excellent. Charlie never lifted his head from the DVD player, and Ella rotated between sleeping, yelling at Charlie that she couldn't see the DVD player, and telling non-sensical stories about her life as a 2 year old.

Mesa Verde is indeed excellent. We signed on for a tour despite the fact that we hate tours. It was the only way to get to the 1000 year old cliff dwellings that require a climb up a 60 foot ladder. Charlie thought that sounded like the adventure of a lifetime. With Ella firmly strapped into the backpack on Jeff's back, and me ready to grab any body part I could reach if Charlie so much as bobbled on the 60 foot ladder, we headed up, and made it. I almost felt like freaking out at about foot 57, but managed to hold it together as my 5 year old son was, and get to the top of the ladder.

The next part of the tour, where the adults stand quietly around and listen to the guide was punctuated by Ella doing her best banshee imitation - because she like the acoustics there, I think, and me whispering at the top of my lungs to Charlie to get away from the edge of the 60 foot cliff.

When camping, we have decided that using 2 tents works best for trying to get kids to sleep. However, what usually happens is that Jeff crawls in to snuggle and falls asleep at the same time as the kids, leaving me to wonder how to pass the night by myself in a dark campsite with a weak flashlight and no more firewood. I thought the tent might blow away with me and Ella in it a few times, but Jeff didn't even notice that it had been windy at all. I also discovered that despite the fact that we own 4 thermarest pads, only one of them actually stays inflated. I thought I had scored the good one, only to find at about 11 pm that I was wrong. It was a long night.

The next day the kids found a kiva. Kivas are traditional, ceremonial, round rooms dug into the floor with a ladder going down through the ceiling to the room below. My kids thought it was their own private playground. Up and down, up and down, up and down the ladder. Running around and around and around the room below. Did I mention that it had a dirt floor? The dust they stirred up was quite impressive, or oppressive, depending on which other tourists you asked. Some of them seemed to think that their attempts at artistic photography were much more important than my children's playtime, and that the dust cloud greatly decreased their chances of winning next year's National Geographic photo prize. Maybe they are right, but I do know that for sure my children had a ton of fun, while I am not sure that they would win that photography prize, dust cloud or not.

We headed next to Durango where we splurged on a hotel with a working pool, showers and real beds for everyone. Or at least shared beds for everyone. At an attempt to snuggle, Jeff and I moved Charlie into Ella's bed before we went to sleep. She awoke in the middle of the night, having peed herself. She was upset at being wet, but furious at the sleeping Charlie who had invaded her bed. The screams were even better than the banshee screams at Mesa Verde just a day or so before. At 2 am, they might have been even less welcome too.

It seems that Ella has really hit her 2 year old stride lately. Whereas I feel that I have spent the better part of the last 5 years lamenting Charlie's behavioral moments, he now takes the backseat to his noisy sister, hands down. It was in a delicious taco joint that the best display of 2 year oldedness showed itself. She decided that she wanted "Buddy" her pink blanket that travels everywhere with her, but who had been left in the car. As the car was a 10 minute walk away, we chose not to go get it. She screamed, and fussed, and moaned and cried and was taken from the restaurant where she continued to scream, fuss, moan, cry and run down the sidewalk yelling at the top of her lungs. It was one of those fits where people leaving the restaurant stopped to reassure us that it was ok, and where the guy cleaning his Harley on the side of the road said he was impressed by how we were handling a fit of such magnitude. Lovely. The biker dude cleaning his Harley is impressed by our daughter's emotional display. What happened to my sweet darling girl of only a month or so ago? I can't believe that I am now complementing Charlie on his good behavior as compared to his sister's. That is a paradigm shift in our world for sure.

We planned to go north from Durango, so while the kids tried to splash all the water out of the hotel pool, Jeff hopped on his bike for a little ride. We were going to meet him in the next town 50 miles away and find our campsite. After 28 miles I got a phone call - it was snowing and would I please come get him? In his shorts and short sleeves, he was cold. We found him on the side of the road, quickly decided that camping in the snow was not in the cards, and turned directly around to head back south.

Perusing the map, Jeff found Chaco Canyon in the general direction of home, and suggested we give it a try. After 26 miles on really crappy dirt roads that elicited countless rounds of Jeff's favorite made up song, The Bumpy Road Blues, we arrived at Chaco Canyon, and immediately fell in love. Gorgeous. Great community feel at the campsite. So great, in fact, that we lost Charlie momentarily, and found him in the neighboring campsite behind the rocks hanging out with 4 grandparent-ish folks and helping to eat their carrot sticks and chips. They reassured me he was fine, and I reassured them that they were free to return to their adults-only vacation and kick him out at any time. That evening we were sitting around the campfire when our neighbor on the other side came by for a chat. Turns out Charlie had invited him to stop by for a while, since he didn't have his own campfire. As I've heard it said, that boy has never met a stranger.

The next day Jeff took the kids on more 1000 year old ruins exploring adventures while I headed off for a bike ride. As I was pulling in to join them in the ruins after a good few miles, I somehow managed to not unhook my feet from my pedals in time, and fell over from a dead standstill in the parking lot. Gotta love the grace and skill that move showed. I scraped up my palm a bit, but was otherwise unhurt, except for a bruised biker ego. I showed the kids my "owie" and they were very impressed. Ella kept wanting to hold hands, but to make sure that she was holding my "other hand." I thought she was so sensitive and kind, not wanting to further hurt my owie. I thought my dear screaming daughter was really making strides in her social skills and empathy. Then I grabbed her Buddy with my owie hand. "No Mama! Don't touch Buddy with that owie hand!!!" The screams echoed off the bricks carved in 800 AD. "You'll get your owie all over Buddy!" Oh, I realized. It wasn't about her being worried about further hurting my hand. It was about her not wanting to touch my gross cut. Ah well...

Now we are home and life is back to normal - I can't sit on the couch because the cushions have disappeared into a large fort-building project in the other room. I can't walk across the living room because all of Ella's puzzles were somehow mysteriously dumped in the middle. I am not sure which clothes to wear, since my drawers are all empty and the myriad laundry baskets are all full, but there is no telling which ones are clean and which are dirty. The kids have been in bed for an hour and 7 minutes now, but neither are asleep. Charlie keeps walking out of his room saying that he "just can't stay in bed. He doesn't know why, but something just isn't right for staying in bed." Ella is yelling that she needs to go poop, for the 3rd try tonight. She's been on the potty multiple times tonight without result except for smiles, giggles, and the thrill of having procrastinated bedtime a little longer. And, did I mention, the enormous pile of toilet paper that is now off its roll and mounded next to the toilet? The girl can figure out how to entertain herself.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life is back to normal-ish

So Jeff is back from his week long trip to Costa Rica and I feel like the large holes that formed in my children's souls when he left closed up the second he walked through the door.

When I stop to think about it, it has been a rough time for my kids. We lost one of the 2 kittens we had had for just a month to a deadly virus a couple of weeks ago. I think for my wee ones to lose a beloved pet and have Dad go away within a few days of each other was a lot for them to process. Charlie, at 5, understands death and what it means, and could separate the two events. But for Ella, at 2, it was really tough. She cried every morning that I took her to day care while Jeff was away. I think that in her mind, Little Guy, the cat, went away, Dad went away, and now Mom is going away too. All it meant to her was that she was being left, and wasn't sure who was coming back and when.

She was like velcro with me most of the week, but now has transferred that clinginess to Dad, who is loving it. She is usually more of a Mama's girl. But since yesterday afternoon, she is sitting on Dad's lap, asking for him to be the last one to tuck her in at night, wanting him to read the books, etc. And Jeff is eating it up. This morning Charlie's nursery school took a field trip to a local farm for a hay ride tour. Jeff offered to chaperone, and take Ella along too. They came home for lunch, then were supposed to go back to day care for the afternoon. But Charlie and ELla both looked at him with their big blue puppy dog eyes and told him he was great and couldn't they skip day care just for the afternoon? And he, the huge softy, agreed, then complained all evening that he hadn't gotten any work done. How was that a surprise to him? Does he think that I actually get anything done besides playing puzzles, reading books, refereeing fights and encouraging outdoor exploration when I am home those couple of days a week?

One thing I will say in total, 100% support of my husband is that he is a super black widow spider killer. We were lying in bed and I told him all about my adventures with the black widow in the bathroom. He laughed at me, saying that spiders didn't bother him at all. So we went into the bathroom to brush our teeth, and there, not 4 inches over his lofty head was the black widow spider happily building her web.  I calmly said, Look up.  He did, and leapt about 3 feet into the air. I thought spiders didn't bother you, I asked. That one surprised me he said. But then he took his lovely tall self and used his excellent long arms and reached up with a tissue and grabbed that spider right off the ceiling. Of course, he didn't manage to squish it, and when he threw it into the toilet, it had connected itself to his hand with a web and was trying to crawl back up the web towards him. Black widow webs are notoriously strong, and he had a heck of a time shaking it off. I think that spider bothered him. I know it bothered me! And I love him for saving me from it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Black Widows in the bathroom

So I thought I was done for the night. Shut down the computer, shed my clothes, and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.


Its a big, shiny, fat, red hourglass on the belly, male eating, mama black widow spider that is trying to make itself at home in my bathroom. This is the first bathroom I have ever had that was almost exclusively mine (except for my husband), and I will not share it with a black widow spider! I turned on the fan, thinking to suck it up and out of my house, only to realize it was near the AC vent, not the fan, and would just blow down on my head if I turned it on.

I watched it in the mirror while I brushed my teeth, figuring that keeping a close eye on it was the best policy while I came up with a plan of attack. I could only think of trying to squish it with a tissue and having it drop down on my head, climb in my hair, and bite me on the neck before I could even start screaming loud enough to wake the neighbors! Before I could muster the courage to even consider trying anything, it climbed in to the AC vent, which is connected to my kids' bedrooms. AC off for the night, no matter how hot it gets. I am not blowing poisonous spiders on them in their sleep. Luckily it is not that hot yet.

Jeff comes home tomorrow. Will he be in time to rescue me? Many things I can deal with myself (I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, Africa), but black widow spiders on the ceiling of my bathroom are not one of them. I am too short to deal with spiders on the ceiling. On the floor, no problem. Low down on the wall, been there- done that- squished- even black widows, as Charlie will delightedly attest to not one, not 2, but 3 times. But not on the ceiling!

My only line of defense now is my tiny black and white kitten. If I keep her in my bed will she warn me if the spider emerges under the crack in the now closed bathroom door? I don't want her to get bitten at all, but even less I want to get bitten myself. Maybe her super kitten senses will allow her to miaow in time for me to grab my shoes and squish the beast on the floor before it gets me.

Is this somehow related to the bat that was flying around my bedroom at 4:30 am only last week????

On Domestic Violence

I attended a conference on Friday where one of the breakout sessions was on domestic violence. I joined the session looking to learn and to share the knowledge. And was disappointed.

Disappointed that there is no easy, quick fix to this problem. Disappointed that even the experts really have no better advice than listen, support, be there for her, make sure she has an exit plan, and listen some more. Not that I don't think that all of that is extremely important. Not that I thought that there was an easy, quick fix. But I was hopeful that they might share a secret that I had so far missed because of the women I know who are being belittled, controlled, disrespected, and beaten on a regular basis. It is not ok that they are forced to live their lives like this and I want a solution for them. I want them to be free.

But they don't want to be free in the way that I want them to be. One woman has been with her partner for 2 1/2 years and they have a child together. Even though I have twice seen huge bruises on her face, and she admits that he calls her whore and slut and daily goes through her phone to check who she is calling and texting, she loves him and can't decide to leave him. Another woman who I have known for a few short months has admitted that two men since I have known her have hurt her physically. Yet every time I return to her house, one of them is there in the back bedroom.

I don't understand. My heart breaks for these women, and for their children who will grow up believing that this is how men are supposed to treat women. I want to step in and yell at the batterers that enough is enough. I want to scream at them to leave these women alone. But I can't. I feel helpless. I hope beyond hope that allowing these women to talk and share their pain somehow lessens it. But the pain behind those bruises doesn't go away with words. I want the women to know that they are better than the treatment they receive at the hands of the ones who tell them they love them. I want them to know that love doesn't have to be like that. I want so much for them. But I don't know how to give it, and I don't know how to help them know that they are worth more than what they are receiving.