This House of Love


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Ten Years of Lessons (in Less Than 500 Words)

It’s been ten years since Mom died.


A little over ten years ago, I sat down to write her eulogy, which (as Mom was a long-time teacher) appropriately discussed all the things she taught me in the twenty-two years I was given with her.

And as this first decade passes, it hits me that I have lived another half of that short portion of time. A brutal realization that, when ruminated upon, has the potential to really do a number on my spirit. But, Mom was never one to ruminate. She liked to think of each experience as a chance to learn. So, in the spirit of her courage, thirst for knowledge, and decade-old eulogy, I share with you the lessons I’ve learned in her absence, albeit not without her influence.

Life rarely ends up resembling the vision we’ve created for ourselves, but what do we really know in the grand scheme of things?

You should never fear being yourself. A bigger fear should always be inauthenticity.

Above all, to achieve your dreams you must be tenacious. Statistically speaking, things are bound to work out if you keep at them.

Although dreams should be pursued, it’s often the things you don’t think you need that end up being the most conducive to growth.

Success in life should not be measured by financial freedom, or other societal parameters. It should be measured by your ability to find value in your life, especially when it seems inherently lost.


 

The grass often looks greener on the other side, but much of the time that’s just a trick of the light. In reality it’s greenest where it’s tended to best, so take care.

Sometimes the hardest conversations you can have, or the toughest actions you can take, are the only ones that’ll make anything better. 

Live in the moment as much as you possibly can. Our time is simply a long series of moments woven together. If you wait until its finished to admire its intricacies, you’ll miss out on the process and much of the details.

No matter how alone you may feel, the fact is you’re not (you know, statistics and all). Someone out there understands and will appreciate knowing that they’re not alone either.

Life will never be without loss or pain, but that should not keep you from living. In fact, heartache is what allows us to see just how sweet the good times are.


A child’s appreciation and love for their parent knows no boundaries, even after death. And, if we work to keep our loved one’s legacies alive, there’s no way for their absence to be resolute either.

 I love you more today than I ever have before, Mom. Hope you’re taking good care of Mike, and the other newer arrivals. <3

 

 

 

 


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Nine Years Later

When I was pregnant with Charlotte someone in the Starbucks line imparted a piece of wisdom to me. This is a frequent occurrence during pregnancy – advice, words of wisdom, warnings, congratulations – strangers offer them all.  Few are gems, but for some reason this woman’s words still echo through my mind to this day, four years later. Perhaps it was the fact that she was toting two little ones, her hair was askew, and her smile was both defeated and effervescent at the same time. It’s possible that I recognized a future soul sister in her. It could be that I was hungry for guidance and support. Whatever the reason, I listened. And even though I often forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, or even more frequently return from the grocery store with half the things I need and double the things I want, this phrase embedded itself in my brain. Presumably forever.

“The days are long, but the years are short,” she had said kindly yet frankly. I committed the line to memory as we continued to banter light-heartedly. As I mentioned, I will have had hundreds of run-ins with people by the end of both of my pregnancies. But, this one. This one clearly felt different.

Eventually, as those first months of sleep deprivation and hormonal rollercoaster rides melted away, and I dug myself out of the trench that is the transition from pregnancy to postpartum, life went on. At both a snail’s pace and break neck speed. My days often felt undeniably (and oddly) long AND short; I spent them mourning the loss of the family I grew up with, no matter how dysfunctional it may have been, while trying to balance the creation of a new one. I was happy and sad. And then I was pregnant again. Charlotte soon turned two. Adam arrived. My daughter started school. She was quickly out of diapers, and he was sitting up. The next thing I know my kids are three and a half and eight months, and my heart has octupled in size.

And within the proverbial blink of an eye, the tragic calendar count I have been conducting amidst all of life’s curveballs gets much closer to a decade than to any other convenient measure of time. Nine years to be exact. Nine years since Mom was killed. If you had asked me to write about my life that day in Starbucks four years ago, my reflection would have been much different. I was so fractured then. Despite having found love, buying a home, working steadily, and being pregnant, I was slogged down by sadness. I was in the deepest pit of grief still, attempting to crawl my way out. My stance was that the woman who had given me life, only to have hers selfishly taken away, was missing out on all these events that she had begun dreaming of the moment I was born. It felt so wrong to rejoice without her. So, as my life continued on an uptrend, as did the difficulty of moving on.

But now, as we approach this ninth “anniversary” of Mom’s death, it is clear to me that this extra time passed has helped to heal a good deal of my wounds, and that my frame of mind is evolving. It is true that some days I still spend a little sadder than others. I catch myself standing at the edge of the gaping hole that grief always leaves behind in its wake, teetering between the me that is present in all my current love and slipping back into the me that is rooted in my painful past. But what also remains true, and what I often remind myself of, is that I have lived nine whole years since Mom died. Within those nine years I met the love of my life. A stubborn, handsome, funny, incredibly loving, supportive, relentless, nutty man whom Mom would have loved. We moved a bunch of times, sold a home, bought one. We planned our dream wedding. We honeymooned. We made babies that we adore more than life itself. We live our lives every day, not loving every moment, but valuing each one. We have done all these things, and despite the sadness I felt amidst many of them, I often look back with so much fondness. These are the highlights of my life. They would have been the highlights of my mother’s as well. She would never want my happiest recollections to be so tainted.

Thus, if my grief, heartbreak and *parenthood* have taught me anything, it’s that every moment matters. So, as I begin this tenth year without my mom, I choose to reflect on that wise saying a nice lady in Starbucks once shared with me. “The days are long, but the years are short.” Why should I waste these precious minutes scarred and jaded, when they will so rapidly weave together to create the fabric of my whole lifetime? This annual commemoration  (also conveniently always “celebrated” around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), I vow to try my best to be content in every beautiful, poop, tear, and laughter-filled moment I’m gifted with. Because before I know it, the days of my live will morph into years. And I’m planning on filling mine with more than enough happiness for both Mom and me.

 

 


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Why I Blog

When I first entered the blogging world, my goal was to simply create an online diary. I had felt so isolated during those first few months of motherhood; the majority of my days were spent with no social interaction beyond my infant daughter and a few groups on Facebook. But I had so much to share, so many feelings and thoughts about this new, amazing, terrifying adventure. So I started a blog. I had no plan for it. I just wanted a place to vent.

As time went on and I wrote more, my emotional load became much lighter. I realized that when I share my feelings, the thoughts that normally just circulate endlessly through my head are given a different place to be: online. Which is scary. Scary as shit, if you ask me. Putting your unabashed thoughts and feelings into the hands, hearts, and minds of others is terrifying. But, the beauty (and danger) of making your feelings public is the ability to receive feedback. And I will admit not everyone always understands what I do.

But then there are those people who reach out to me to say that knowing my struggle is helping them with their own. That knowing that they’re not alone changes everything. And that’s why I blog. To share my stories (whether serious or light-hearted, silly or sad) and hope they help someone. To read other people’s stories and know that I have a community. To learn and share, to love and understand.  To be inspired…

So, with that said I’m taking my thirst for inspiration to the road (well, just a couple freeways actually) and am joining a slew of other wonderful BlogHers at #BlogHer16 ! I’ll be sharing the process on my Instagram (@house_of_love24), Twitter (@chesler_amy), and Snapchat (@thishouseoflove – wtf?! sooo many apps to keep up with!). In fact, you can even find me on the BlogHer16 app. I want to be inspired by all of you and look forward to the fun and knowledge I will leave with! Join me, won’t you?


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A Salute to Parenthood

 

Your wake-up call is before the crack of dawn,

Because your life is controlled by your cranky spawn.

You feed them, you dress them,

You just can’t impress them.

They aren’t very thankful, yet you love them the same,

Even if they always ask “Why?” and often complain.

 

You’re housekeeper and driver, tutor and cook,

You keep them in line with one smoldering look.

Tailor, Accountant, Doctor and Baker,

Even do-it-yourself Christmas wreath-maker.

  

Parenthood is a difficult, never-ending career,

Filling you halfway with love and another part fear.

But despite these complaints and your lack of rest,

Parenthood really is the best of the best.

 

No feeling can top watching your little tike grow,

Standing by his side while he learns to throw,

Or helping her up when she’s had a big fall,

Teaching them to be kind, proud, and stand tall.

 

Although Parenthood is a hearty sacrifice,

The payback truly is more than twice as nice.

Seeing the world from a child’s view is priceless,

Even if you’re constantly in diaper crisis.

 

So when Parenthood has you feeling overdrawn,

Wear a happy face and “keep on keepin’ on,”

Because today’s hurdle may be tomorrow’s success,

And the more love you have, the more you are blessed


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Worry Wart No More

Although I have several faithful people to rely on, I still prefer to do things on my own. I’ve always been this way, even if I am anxious and worrisome as a result. My mother was a strong, independent woman and I always admired her for these reasons. I try to exemplify these positive attributes of hers even if it stresses me out, and it earned me the nickname of “worry wart.” Thus, I am the woman who left the hospital two days after my c-section. I am also the one who decided it was a good idea to take my toddler and newborn to brunch just three weeks into being a parent of two. As I packed them to go the words of my girlfriend who had become a mommy twice over not long before ran thru my head incessantly, “I didn’t take them out by myself for at least a couple months.” Was it really that bad? I would soon find out; the three minute drive was over and I couldn’t turn back.  As we piled out of the car, I started to sweat.

We walked thru the parking lot and into the quaint little cafe that we frequent quite often without being hit. I call that a success. Our venture continued with us being seated. My luck continues!… And then shit hit the fan. Moments in, and by moments I mean a mere five to seven seconds into our peaceful brunch date, I poked my toddler in the eye. Doesn’t sound so bad, because let’s be real, we’ve all done it. But it actually kinda was. The poke was deep enough to lodge one of her incredibly long eyelashes into her eyeball. The little sucker slid under her lid and it took a good five minutes of crying to dislodge it. But the damage was done. She was in a pissy, whiny mood. You know the, I don’t give a shit about life because I haven’t eaten yet today, Kinda mood? But like, ten times worse because it’s not your husband – it’s your toddler. Thankfully, my only stroke of genius that day was to allow my daughter to bring with her to the restaurant only what she could carry in her tiny, little arms. So she brought a huge puzzle. Was it a logical choice? No. But she’s two. And it ended up being awesome because the very moment I pulled it out, her incessant whining ceased. However, it was then that my three week old started crying.
Enthralled in her puzzle, I was bought some time. She would be occupied for at least ten minutes. Would the food come before that? Would Adam stir in his car seat again once I rocked him back to sleep? Would I have to eat my breakfast over his head while breastfeeding, hoping not to drop runny eggs on him? Why the hell do I always order runny eggs? All of these questions flashed through my mind. As I attempted to quiet my newborn and do a Paw Patrol puzzle with my daughter, I couldn’t help but day dream of being somewhere far, far away. I closed my eyes and imagined mySelf on  a remote island, laying on a chaise lounge, sucking down an incredibly tasty but strong pina colada, listening to Bob Marley. When I gathered the courage to open my eyes again and take it all in, I couldn’t help but laugh. The scene before me was actually quite comical. My first time around I would have worried about having the cranky baby at the brunch table, but this second time at the rodeo is drastically different. I sat back with a silly grin and acted as audience member to my own sideshow. With a diff lens it was actually pretty hilarious, the disheveled woman tending to the the puzzle-doing, eye-rubbing toddler and the hysterical infant. Let me tell you, it felt a whole lot better to laugh than stress about it all.
In the end, I had to nurse my son before the food came. He was still nursing when it got there. And he was not done nursing when I wiped the runny egg off of his onesie. After my daughter got some food in her system she was no longer scary mean either. So, despite having a rough start, all’s well that ends well, I guess. That’s the key to keeping your sanity as a parent, right? Just know that Shit will hit the fan. Pretty often, most likely. But, as Bob Marley said, “everything’s gonna be alright.”


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This House of Love

Let me [re]introduce myself. I’m Amy Beth Chesler, or A.B. Chesler as the literary world may (or may not) know me. I am a lover of food, laughter, and adventure, although I hate to get dirty. I chose to title my blog “This House of Love” because Amy Beth can be translated, loosely and in a couple different languages, into that phrase. My mom assembled this name for me, with the help of my then three year old brother, because she wished for me a future occupied by a warm and loving family life.

I am a victim of domestic violence. I am also a survivor of it. My mother, however, is not. She was an incredibly strong, determined, warm, caring woman. I will love and miss her with every fiber of my being every day until I die. Thankfully, things are infinitely better now as I fulfill my own role as a wife and mother. I’ve found my niche in life; I was born to be Mommy. I knew this from the beginning.

What I didn’t know is how much poop and snot I’d have to deal with on a regular basis. Similarly, no one told me that some days I would laugh so hard I would cry, and others I would feel swallowed whole by my loneliness. Everyone neglected to tell me how terrifying, thrilling, isolating, eye-opening, and powerful parenthood is. They also didn’t mention just how awesome (in the truest sense of the word) it is to have your heart, a true piece of you, walking around outside of your body, living their very own life. How dare they.

I am also a writer, although it’s scary to say so. It’s a profession that requires you to make something from nothing, a grand story or thought-provoking poem, from just the depths of your mind. If your tales aren’t well received, your writing is not the only entity receiving rejection. But, just like my sentiments about motherhood, I knew I was meant for the writing world. As a child, reading was my escape from the harsh realities that were my life.  I wrote my own stories to enter an alternate universe, one filled with much less pain and isolation. As an adult, writing is allowing me to process my past and consequently and eventually arrive at my life’s destination: a house filled with an infinite amount of love.

Feel free to join me on this crazy journey by following my blog via the link to the left. And remember, “Let love win.”


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Seven Sure Fire Signs You Live with a Toddler

Life with a toddler is… special. So special that at times it’s absolutely necessary to stop what you’re doing  and confirm that this is, in fact, your reality. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are seven ways that your life mirrors every other poor sap who has a roommate under the age of four.

1) You’ve had the most asinine, outlandish arguments that you just can’t win, even though you are 1000% correct. For instance, you’ve had to explain to your two and a half year old at least a dozen times that no, she can’t drive to the grocery store or Grammy’s house. Appealing to logic (i.e. “It’s illegal,” “Your feet won’t reach the pedals,” “It’s MY car,” “You’re FUCKING TWO”) just won’t work. Ever.

2) You’ve made a public appearance with your very own caped crusader: Super Girl, Spider-Man, or a makeshift superhero who designed their costume out of a blanket and a robe sash. And said super hero has caused more mischief than solved any social issues. But damn, are they cute.

3) You’ve dealt with about eleven different illnesses in the matter of half that amount of weeks. A day or two after you’ve kicked your cold, croup is knocking on the door. Then a week and a half passes and you’ve been gifted with the flu. Merry bloody Christmas.

4) You have perfectly honed your role playing skills because your little one has requested you bring any and all inanimate objects in your house to life. Your rocker? The seat cushions have told the wildest bedtime stories. Your favorite blanket is actually named Bernie and has thirteen children he’s simultaneously putting through college. The spatula you cooked breakfast with danced the Macarena right after “she” flipped your eggs.

5) You’ve caught yourself saying things that you could never have imagined in a million years if it wasn’t for your toddler’s antics: “No, your poop does NOT belong in the toaster!” “Please eat your food with your fork, not your shoe!” “The cat does NOT want your Legos in her butt!” “Mickey Mouse is NOT allowed to go swimming in your pee-pee!” Or my personal favorite, “Please don’t put your finger in my nose!” Yep. This is very much your life.

6) You’ve been forced to watch the same movie, play the same game, listen to the same song, and read the same story everyday for the last month. It’s safe to say you know every line or strategy by heart. By now, you’re both thoroughly looking forward to and scared shitless of finding out what your child’s next obsessions will become.

7) Even though your days can be difficult and unnerving, your toddler manages to make everything simultaneously much more difficult and simple at the same time. And you wouldn’t have it any other way, because being around someone who is just mastering the English language is the “funnest” ever. Seriously. Who else can you spend an hour discussing poop and farts with?


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The Art of Saying ‘No’

I am inherently a people pleaser. I grew up in a home full of tumult and imbalance, so I did what I had to do to survive – I made sure everyone else was happy so my environment could remain as calm as possible.

As an adult, I’ve had to learn the incredibly difficult task of preserving my happiness instead of planning my actions around everyone else’s requests. In short, I’ve learned to say “No.” And I’m proud of it.

But now, as a new mother, I’m being told that saying “no” is a huge no-no. At a play date a while back, I caught my daughter shoving something in her mouth that didn’t belong there. I sternly said, “No.” Just before I could continue with “that doesn’t belong in your mouth. It’s dangerous,” the other mother gasped. “You tell her… No!?” Um, yeah. I tell her no. When she’s doing something that she’s not supposed to, she should learn that it’s wrong.

The play date then took a swift turn and the conversation led to all of the things that “THEY” say. Gotta love the nameless and faceless crowd that tells us all what to do. They are infinitely smart and nowadays, they’re telling us that saying the word “no” to your child is unacceptable.

Once the play date ended, I hopped right onto Google, and sure enough… Tons of websites were boasting articles telling me that we can’t tell our kids no. It stunts their vocabulary. It makes them feel belittled. That the average toddler hears “No” up to 400 times a day. Apparently, it’s just an all-around bad, no good approach to parenting. And since this play date, I’ve been told by numerous mothers that they too don’t use the word “no.”

I was stumped. They say that all children need firm boundaries. But “no,” the most common boundary-forming word, is off limits. I dug deep to understand this parenting philosophy. During my quest, I found an article that even suggested replacing “No, you can’t have candy before dinner,” with “Yes, you can have candy after dinner.”

Thats when I stopped. You know what? Screw that. No, my kid can’t have any $@?!ing candy. And I’m OK with being the bad guy if it means saving my daughter’s teeth. Of course I’ll explain the reasoning behind my reply, but that won’t make her one year old mind understand it any better.

But that’s the real trick – saying “no” properly. Because the word itself can’t be evil. How harmless could a measly N and O be? The danger behind “n-o” is not explaining your reasoning. If you end your sentence after just that one word, you’re becoming the “Because I Said So” parent. And we all know that benefits neither you nor your child. So, I propose giving them your reasoning, and ending it there (or after as many “Why?”s as you can handle)… But please, don’t feel bad for starting your sentence with “No.”

In the end, we all know that the Universe doesn’t always say yes. Sometimes opportunities are lost, windows are shut; it’s inevitable that our children will face rejection. Just think: one day our children will be adults and adult-sized temper tantrums are neither attractive nor charming. In my opinion, (and that’s all it is) children should be able to properly digest the notion of “No.” As a result they will either learn to accept the boundaries, or choose a different avenue to achieve their goal. No matter how your child reacts, they’re learning valuable lessons that few other words could teach them. So, they may say not to say “No,” but I say that perhaps it’s just about learning the art of saying it properly.