Thursday, April 28, 2016

15 years ago...

Fifteen years ago tonight, I was packing a ridiculously overstuffed suitcase to go on my honeymoon, (that suitcase the airline left behind in Miami for an entire day and night after we got to Barbados. If one more person had said, “It’s your honeymoon, you don’t need clothes,” there would have been violence.) But I digress. That evening, I sat in my childhood bedroom floor having a long talk with my brother about marriage and our parents and life in general. As I ALWAYS do, I stayed up way too late and didn’t wake refreshed on the morning of our wedding.
But nothing could hold me back! Not exhaustion, not forgetting to unlock the church for the florist, not locking my keys in the car at the beauty salon. Nothing could break my purposeful stride toward that altar.

I remember very clearly having a headache and taking a Goody powder that I now know was the cause of my head feeling as though it would spin off my neck with anxiety -think Linda Blair minus the pea soup. I’m grateful to my brother-in-law, David Putman for making a turbo trip to the Douglas Texaco to get a Little Debbie oatmeal pie and a Dr. Pepper to settle my stomach. I also remember very clearly my mother interceding for me with God to bring me peace from the caffeine-induced anxiety occurring about 10 minutes before walking down the aisle. She’s an effective intercessor. My anxiety lifted almost immediately and my excitement returned.
My daddy, who was never much for big events, crowds and making fusses about simple things like getting married, was the sweetest, most pleasant and smiling person that day. He offered his arm, told me I was beautiful and proudly walked me in, neither of us realizing what a beloved memory he’d leave behind for me to cherish.
We took communion with watermelon Kool-Aid and bits of white sandwich-bread because I also forgot to check on the elements. But as my friend Keena sang, “How Beautiful,” we were reminded that the elements used for communion are symbols, and the body and the blood of Christ were represented. It didn’t affect the covenant. Most importantly, His Spirit was there in Bethany Baptist Church.
It was a beautiful ceremony and wonderful reception. It was everything I’d dreamed of as a little girl.
But what happened in the ensuing years is part of a beautiful tale too, albeit a realistic one. We’ve had seasons of anger, seasons of doubt, days of unforgiveness and self-pity. We’ve made mistakes and not shown grace to each other. We’ve slammed doors (well, I have) and both spoken hateful words filled with blame.
But we’ve remembered and forgiven. We’ve laughed and cried, and laughed and laughed. We’ve appreciated each other. And maybe more so in the past couple of years, we’ve truly empathized, one with the other. He’s seen the challenges I face with motherhood and a job worked from home and treated me to surprise-cooked dinners and cleaned kitchens, unexpectedly bathed children, tucked peacefully (haha) into bed. I’m thankful for a husband who doesn’t shirk his responsibilities to his job, household or his children. I hope I’ve been as understanding with his particular frustrations and taken steps to make his life a little easier and a bit more pleasant as he has for me.
We’ll still have seasons of anger, and seasons of fear, days when we’re tired and sick and aggravated with each other. It’s just being human.
We’ve created, through God’s miracle, three beautiful and exceptional children who amaze us and make us proud and send us a little closer to the edge every day. We planned to have two and God laughed. We’re so grateful for that third little baby bird, the change-in-plans named Bryce. We'll be a hundred years old when they graduate from high school. We’re hoping science creates some youth serum so we can someday appreciate grandchildren – but all in good time!
The point is, after 15 years, the raised eyebrow and the smile with the tiny space between his two front teeth can still give me butterflies. Heaven knows the butterflies are less frequent than before because we’re often both exhausted and just glad to sit near each other while we gaze, nearly comatose, at the TV, phone or laptop. In other words, we’re fairly normal. But I still think he’s absolutely the handsomest, funniest, smartest, most charming and considerate man.
My prayer for our marriage is that we always look for the strengths and not dwell on the weaknesses. I pray that we can show our children that our relationship takes precedence over every other relationship except for the one with God. I know we’ll face trials. We were promised that, but I pray that we search for answers in the right place – that as we look forward, we always look up – to the source of our lives, the source of our love, the source of our joy. My prayer is that we know whatever we must face, that with God’s resources, we can tackle it together.
We’ve got a lot of plans, some of which I can see coming to fruition, and some which may, as plans sometimes do, fly away with the wind. I pray for discernment to distinguish our selfish ones from God’s perfect ones.
I’m more grateful than I have words (all evidence to the contrary) for these 15 years. May the next 50 or so find us healthy, with my Jayboat by my side, smiling that crooked smile, holding my hand, kissing me hello and goodbye every single time.
To Jason: my friend; my love; my comedian; my hero, I promise you our little picnic on that private beach we found on the leeward side of Barbados! Thank you for our wonderful past! Here’s to our future. Happy anniversary.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

On those pesky Pixar movie songs

When Toy Story came out, I watched it and thought it was sweet and cute and filled with punny humor for grownups.  I don’t really remember sitting down and watching Toy Story 2. As is the case with lots of kid movies, I’ve seen bits and pieces.

Fast forward to the present, to me, the mother of three children.  Have y’all seen Toy Story 3?  It’s just downright mean.  Andy goes away to college, leaving his mom behind along with the cherished icons of his childhood-Woody and Buzz.  It killed me!

Even though my days are long and the arguing is maddening and the whining pushes me past my limit, when I think of my babies leaving home, I’m reduced to a puddle of hysterical tears. When they tell me they want to live with us forever, I happily (albeit completely unrealistically) agree.  I know that they will “need” me less and less, and I take immediate comfort in that because so often right now, the “needs” feel overwhelming to me.  But at the same time, each milestone, each putting-the-toothpaste-on-by-myself breaks my heart just a little.

And then…guess what Sophie’s ballet recital song was?  Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2, “When Somebody Loved Me." It's the one where she recounts how her girl, Emily, loved her as a child, then outgrew and ultimately abandoned her.  Jason makes fun of me for crying every time I hear the song, but it represents more to me than just a child leaving behind a toy.  To me it equals a child leaving childhood, growing up and not needing the security of holding on – to a stuffed giraffe or a soft blanket or my hand. 

Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy to have healthy children who are growing every day.  I pray for them to be strong and independent. But growing up means growing away and it hurts.  

So I hope this explains, to the other dance moms and a bit better to my husband, my weeping at parent’s day at Studio B, and sometimes when I was waiting outside the door there, and certainly today at the recital. For the snuffling, mascara-smeared mess I was, I say thanks to Pixar and Jessica Sheffey!  Could you please pass the tissues?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hashbrown KeepinItReal

Ok, here’s my confession:  most days, I would die an embarrassed, painful death if people I know stopped by my house.  I have to clear a spot to stage photos of the kids.  With three children under the age of seven and a job where I work from home at tasks that have no real start and stop time, I just stay overwhelmed.  The laundry is overflowing, the toys are EVERYWHERE and the kitchen table is buried under school papers and mail. 

What is the answer to all this mess?  Don’t relax for one second.  That’s the answer.  Don’t sit down with your husband, who, by the way, appreciates the struggle, but also is driven crazy by the clutter and chaos.  To be fair, it drives me crazy too (or craziER, to be precise).

I went through a no-kidding, hormone-driven nesting phase when I was pregnant with my youngest.  I cleaned out closets, deep-cleaned nooks and crannies, caught up the laundry and breathed a sigh of contented relief at night when I fell, exhausted into bed.  In the evenings after the children were asleep, I folded laundry and put it away IMMEDIATELY, made sure that the stray dish in the sink was washed, wiped down the stove top, scrubbed shower floors, and on and on.  I didn’t sit down and watch television at night.  I didn’t sit down to do anything except drag out my laptop and get some work done for the magazine. It was extremely satisfying, I have to admit.  And at the time, I thought, “This isn’t that hard.  Why have I struggled so long?” I kept it up for about 3 months after Bryce was born, when apparently, the hormones wore off and my driving force ran smooth out of gas.

The problem with the clutter is two-fold.  The first is that there isn’t a specific place for everything, so when I’m trying to figure out where to put away, say, the foam -tipped craft painters or the school papers that I don’t really have time to sort until Saturday, they get shoved in a pile that looks more and more unsightly as the week passes.

The second reason is that to do one thing requires multiple steps – most of which I don’t have time to do right then.  For example, I’d like to put away the clothes immediately after folding/hanging them, but I’d first need to sort the clothing in the crammed closets and chests of drawers to make room for the clean clothes, make a bag for charity (that would realistically sit by the door or in the back of my car for six weeks), put away the off-season stuff in bins (that have clean laundry in them because, let’s face it, the laundry baskets are already full) and put said off-season items away in the storage areas high above the closets (which can be accessed only by ladder and must literally be climbed into to reach the back).

To heap more trouble onto the pile, it’s nearly impossible to do any of the housework tasks during the day because sweet little hands are contributing ceaselessly to the mess, and sweet little voices are, all the while, asking for snacks and apple juice, for help turning on lights and wiping themselves.  Add to that the fact that my two-year-old is terrified of the vacuum cleaner and I have to hold him while I vacuum if I do so while Daddy isn’t home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly blessed to have a home to clutter, a husband to drive crazy and healthy children to wipe!  It’s just that I drive myself bananas in the process, trying, and failing, to keep up with it all.  I saw the chart below on Facebook recently. Yeah, I know, I have time for that life-sucking activity!  Ironic, isn’t it?.

It’s so true!  But the fact is my sanity suffers any way you look at it.  I can’t enjoy sitting down to play with the kids amid the disaster, and I refuse to be the drill sergeant who obsessively barks orders at them to keep things straight.  I have enough orders to bark without adding constant clean-up to the list. Orders like; "Don't hit your sister!", "Please get your feet off of him, he hates that!" and "For the love of all that's holy, don't play in the toilet!"  Midday mopping anyone? No happy medium.  Am I right?

It’d be fantastic if we could be a bit easier on ourselves, to do that which we’re advised by more mature women who implore us to enjoy this time with our children and leave the mess.  We absolutely know that all too soon, the kids we’re picking up after will be gone from under our wings and roofs and we’ll have much less mess to contend with.  But still…

Maybe there’s no sanity.  Maybe we just all band together and be real.  Maybe the only people who care so much about how cluttered the house really is, is us. Oh, and our husbands.

I’m searching for the balance between the mama who never-stops-working-at-it-for-a-second and the one who trips over the dolls in an effort to give cough medicine in the middle of the night.  But until the sippy cups sprout feet instead of fuzzy mold like the one I found under the couch last week, and walk themselves to the dishwasher, which needs emptying of the clean dishes as I write, I'm simply stumped.

Carry on, you mamas and daddies in the trenches.  And let me know if you find some housekeeping hacks for me.  In the meantime, the struggle is real over here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Careful what you wish for

At a gathering of some women friends from my church tonight, one friend told me that her husband, who normally doesn’t eat much fast food, treated himself to a Big Mac for his birthday.  Another friend mistakenly thought she said he treated himself to a nap.  I said with a laugh, that would be a treat to me, to have everyone out of the house so I could take a long nap.  

Yet another friend at the gathering is in her 50’s and was widowed not too long ago.  When I made the comment about the nap, she put her arms around my shoulders and whispered to me, “Careful what you wish for.  I can sleep as long as I like.”  She went on to point out that the things we wish for when we’re in the middle of the busyness of raising a family, like some alone-time, seem ironic when you actually get them.  

My prayer tonight is that I can stop wishing for peace and quiet and appreciate the chaos a little more, do less photographing of my life for Instagram and more LIVING in it.  I pray that the worries, stresses and the weight of my to-do’s will fade into the background during the times my babies demand my attention. That when they say, “Hold you, Mommy,” I will realize, each time, that there will be a very last time they ask, and it won't be too far down the road. I pray that I'll remember these days won’t last forever and I have to soak them up, to hold those babies, even though I’m more than half-crazy and the house is most always a disaster.  Because one day, I’ll look back from the vantage point of my neat, quiet, empty house and span of days ahead and wish for them back.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Four O'clock and all is...well.. "-My Messy Beautiful"

 This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Frustrated, aggravated, I’m struggling to accomplish something that I shouldn't bother trying to accomplish until my three are in bed for the night. I’m ignoring the pulverized Goldfish crackers on the rug under my feet, letting Bryce wander around freely with a third serving so I can try to finish an email for work. Sometimes working from home is for the birds! I check to see if it's 5:15 - time for backup to arrive - this is a two man job (at least) and Daddy seems to have fresh energy when they tackle him at the door. They’re just so glad someone’s not grouchy! I’m guilty already for not having anything at all in mind for dinner and even guiltier for the monstrous pile of laundry that seems never to shrink. The fact that the den looks like a bomb exploded, scattering toys, shoes and snacks just adds to the anxiety!

I’m trying not to yell at them, then I’m yelling at them, "HEY!! Please stop yelling!  I was ON THE PHONE!”  I know, right? Or in my angry voice with my angry face, teeth clenched, saying, "Will you please speak more KINDLY to your SISTER!"  I KNOW, right? And the not-so-magic-momma-mirror appears and I see the ugliness of my anger, and over what? Nothing, really. My own stresses that have nothing to do with them. And that little voice in my heart whispers the phrase I saw online somewhere and wrote on the notepad on the fridge, and on the post-it stuck to the computer screen, "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice."

Then the real guilt crashes in as I think of another mother some 70 miles away in a hospital room watching her just-turned-three-year-old baby fight for his very life, praying for a transplant that will save him. 

And I think of my grandmother who lost her 62-year-old son. Even though he was a grown man with his own grandchildren, he never ceased being her baby.  And I think of my mother-in-law, who lost her 18-year-old son. Many years later, she continues to laugh and cry, live a happy life, breathing in and out, but never quite outruns the sorrow.

Then the tenderness and overwhelming realness get all tangled in sadness and an aching...ache I feel looking at my own nearly three-year-old, cherub-faced daughter. 

I gather them all up in my chair, even my growny six-year-old boy who still craves my hugs and kisses

And I look at their tiny noses and their long eyelashes and the baby's full-lipped pout, and I feel a pang of regret that I don't do this more often. That I say, “Just a minute, let me finish this and then I’ll hold you.”

And I tell them, through messy, snarfled tears, with words that can't even touch being enough that I love them so, so so much.

And I know I'll be aggravated and tired and cranky/hormonal again, probably in about 10 minutes. But in this moment, I’m just so thankful I have mind enough to be thankful for this moment.