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.

Friday, March 28, 2014

No make-up selfie - the LoBoat way

I was challenged to do the “no make-up selfie” by my sweet friend Leanne McElrath today.  Well, I love the idea of raising awareness for breast cancer, but I wanted to take it a step further.

I’d like to start by saying that to me, the face of breast cancer was always a stranger’s face. That is until 2008, when the face of breast cancer for me became this face:
 and by association, these faces:

That is my sister-in-law, Jamie.  At 38, she was diagnosed.  With two little boys and a grown up one (her husband), the cancer diagnosis turned her world upside down. After a lumpectomy, she had radiation, chemo and participated in an additional chemotherapy clinical trial.  The treatments made her very ill.  Her nails turned brown and gnarly, her eyebrows and eyelashes fell out.  She temporarily lost her (great) hair, a lot of her dignity and on many days her sense of humor (also great).  What she didn’t lose was her faith.  I know she would tell you that it was the prayers of so many (and mashed potatoes) that helped her muddle through the day-to-day awfulness.

She chose to participate in the clinical trial even though she wasn’t guaranteed to actually receive the trial medication; it was possible she could receive the placebo.  Afterward she learned that she did indeed get the powerful drug, which lessens the chance for any cancer recurrence.  She's been cancer free for 6 years!

Here’s how I’d like to raise breast cancer awareness.

Step 1:  (And this is the most important step!)  Pray for someone who has breast cancer and do it daily.  Add them to your prayer journal.  If you don’t know someone personally, ask your friends.  They’ll know someone.  If they don’t, I have a friend who was just diagnosed you can pray for.  Pray for “Lori’s friend” (God will know who you’re talking about) or private message me to find out her name.  Pray for your person's family, her husband and children, her mother and her friends.

Step 2: Get involved-either with your wallet or your time or both!  Do something.  If you’re able and feel led, donate to your favorite breast cancer research organization.  Here are a couple of links.

On The Susan G. Komen website you can donate as little as $5 online.  The home page of the website has plenty of other active ways to get involved.

Want something a little closer to home?  In Marshall County, the Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers raises money throughout the year with programs like the Pink Pumpkin Run to fund mammograms for women who couldn’t otherwise afford them. Click the link to find out how to help.

If you have a friend going through this and she's having a tough time with treatment, take her a meal, pick up some dirty laundry and deliver it back washed and folded (if you’re really good friends with her, put it away).

Lastly, never discount the power of your words.  Call, message, send a note through the mail.  Encourage someone, even if it’s a someone you don’t know well, someone whose name you got from a friend.  If you want to do something, let them know you’re praying for them, that you're thinking of them, that you care.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How baby socks hurt my heart today

Day one of my Lenten project, 40 bags in 40 days, a decluttering project, began with my odd sock basket.  I don’t let my children use the word hate, so I’ll begin by saying I LOATHE socks.  If I could find a way around them at all, I would.  I had, until just now, an entire laundry basket full of odd socks sitting on top of my dryer.  I had to reach around it every time I wanted to dry clothes.  It was ridiculous.  Once in a while, I go through it and match up what I can, but as piles do, it grows again with time and the sock-eating laundry process.

Tonight my resolve was bright and shiny and new so I set about dumping out all the socks and sorting them by person.  I was doing quite well when I came upon the first of the teeny baby socks, a blue, ever-so-soft sock with bear faces.  My youngest will be two this summer, and in the past few weeks, he has grown from baby to boy, chattering non-stop and getting a more angular big-boy face.  While I spend many moments throughout the day wishing my littles were just a little bigger (!!!), I still wish I could freeze some moments - the nice ones, not the crying and gnashing of teeth ones.  The teeny baby socks put me in mind of the teeny baby feet I used to admire and snarfle and kiss.  Those little feet that fit into those tiny socks were a slice of Heaven!  So soft and sweet and nearly edible.  I know, I’m a weirdo.

Through the 2 a.m. nursing to the 4 a.m. teething awakenings, even when mouths were crying and demanding attention, those tiny feet inspired tenderness in me.  In my worst postpartum depression moments, the feet of my eldest stirred maternal feeling when nothing else seemed to make a difference.

So when I was choosing which socks wouldn’t possibly stretch over Bryce’s ever-elongating feet, it hit me that I wouldn’t be saving any for the next baby.  This was it.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dream of another baby, I just mourn the passing of my babies’ beloved teeny feet.

I held up various pairs to Jason for inspection, presenting them, and then holding them to my heart. He wasn't quite so moved as I, especially about four socks into this process. It was the pink trimmed, lettuce-edged “I Love Mommy” ones of Sophie’s that made my heart ache the most.  I can’t explain why, but those gave me more pause.  Maybe because she’s my lone daughter, or maybe because of the time frame and my state of mind, I enjoyed her babyhood with the most leisure.  Rafe was nearly four when she was born, so he was getting to be independent, plus I experienced no depression after she was born. 

Whatever the reason, I couldn’t part with those cherished socks.  They’ll go in her keepsake box.  I also chose a pair for each of the boys, to put away as mementos of a time when teeny feet inhabited my home and my heart.