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Leslie and two of her children with Gary Sinise at LAX on their way to Orlando with actor and philanthropist, Gary Sinise.

Although every literary bone in my body may want to protest, I have to say, sometimes Hollywood gets the story right.

My life could be a movie. That’s not just me saying that. At least one of my friends agrees.

Nine years ago I sat across the table from my old high school theater friend, Scott, and told him my sorry tale in order to earn a free lunch. We’d challenged each other to our sad stories, promising that whoever had the saddest didn’t have to pay for their Cheesecake Factory.

Game on.

I hooked him coyly with my love…

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Here is the truth. Unless you have lived through something, you really don’t know anything about it.

You think you know because a friend of a friend dealt with that thing once. You don’t.

You can have compassion. You can even muster up some empathy by extracting some wisdom for a situation you might consider similar (your grandpa died and you were very close, so you can empathize with your friend when her husband dies). Empathy is not the same as knowing.

And when you’re living through the thick of your personal HARD (whatever that may be), it can be…

You would think I would remember the person who shared the wisdom with me that forever changed my life. But, somehow my memory can no longer access that fact. It is quite possible that the answer just came to me on my own, through prayer or meditation. I truly can’t remember not that it has become a truth I simply own for myself.

In whatever way it came to me, when I finally started believing this statement, it changed my life. “I am exactly the mom my kids need.” Warts and all. Imperfection, brokenness, messiness, and all. To

begin believing…

Life is full of choices.

We choose what to think, what to believe and by extension, what to feel on any give day at any given moment.

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I have been the victim of abuse.

I do not condone the actions of the abuser.

However, if I am still held back by that abuse today then that means I still have some work to do. Me. No one else.

If I have to wait for the abuser to see the errors of their ways, I’m not going anywhere for a long, long time.

But, Mama. I get to decide what being…

I was really one of the lucky ones. Before I’d even made it back home to break it to my kids that their dad had died, I got to take a six-hour road trip with a widow six years ahead of me on her loss-journey. We ate snacks. We cried. We talked. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t take notes. And, to be honest, I didn’t heed a lot of her advice. It turns out, she might have known a thing or two about what she was talking about.

Over the past eight years as a widow…

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Photo by Ned Horton"

I don’t remember where I first read it. It may have been in the child psychology class I took one semester, or in one of the dozens of parenting books I devoured in the early years of being a mother. But, somewhere early in my parenting journey, I decided it was extremely important for me to help my children name their feelings.

Even before my children could speak in words and sentences, I was naming their emotions for them.

I’d say things like:

“Oh, you’re frustrated right now. It is hard to wait for mommy to get your food ready.”

Dear All Moms and Dads Who Worry They Aren’t Homeschooling Right

I was RADICALLY unschooled 2nd — 6th grade. No worksheets. No textbooks. No assignments. No internet back then.

I learned by living my life side by side with my parents. I learned math as I needed it (I learned division with spoons on the kitchen counter because I asked a question… i went from simple division to long division in a few minutes because I kept asking questions).

We watched pbs. We read lots and lots and lots of books (together and on our own).

We listened to music.

I wrote stories and plays and hovered over our encyclopedias (I’d…

To Be Seen

Dear Widows,

I think sometimes we just want to be seen.

I think sometimes we post on social media how HARD it all is, how much being a widow sucks, and how sad we still are because we want to make sure that other people don’t forget. We are scared they forget our dead spouse, our loss, our enduring pain.

We are crying out to be understood.

I’ll share a little secret with you: “They” will never understand.

If you have not had your heart ripped out of your body, squeezed, wrenched and then pulverized before it…

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Photo Credit: Genesa Boosz

My husband was not supposed to die.

We were supposed to grow old together, love each other, irritate each other, cheer for each other and care for each other as we grew old and tired.

I’m not sure how I know that is what is supposed to have happened, but I guess I could blame Jane Austen and Disney movies. Or maybe just my mother.

When my mom was only 7 years old, her older sister died in front of her in a tragic accident at a relative’s house. When you are 7, you believe the world makes sense. You…

Sending kids off to school on the first day back after summer break is a lot of mixed emotions for most parents I know. I’ve never quite known how to feel on the first day of school — am I happy I’ll have a little more time to myself? Am I sad I won’t get as much free time with my kids? Nothing magnified this confusion quite as much for me as becoming a widow.

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Photo Credit to Allegra Boverman

My husband died by suicide in March of 2012. At the time, I had only been living in my “hometown” for a few months after…

Leslie McCaddon Mendoza

Leslie is a writer and certified life coach. She lives with her husband, four teenagers, and several pets in southern California.

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