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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seeing the Afternoon through my Perspectacles (can't take credit for coining that stroke of genius term - must credit Glennon Melton)

Frustrated, aggravated, struggling to accomplish something that I shouldn't bother trying to accomplish until my three are in bed. Checking the clock to see if it's nearly 5:00, time for backup to arrive - this is a two man job (at least). Guilty already for not having something in mind for supper. Trying not to yell at them, then yelling at them, "HEY!! Please stop yelling!”  I know, right?  Or in my angry voice with my angry face saying, "Will you please speak more KINDLY to your SISTER!"  I KNOW, right? And the not-so-magic-mommy-mirror appears and I see the ugliness of my anger, and over what? Nothing, really. And that little voice in my heart whispers the phrase I have written on the notepad on the fridge and on the post-it stuck to the computer screen, "The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice."

Then the guilt crashes in, wave upon wave, and I think of another mother some 70 miles away in a hospital room watching her just-turned-3-year-old baby fight for his very life, praying for the liver that WILL save him. 

And I think of my grandmother who lost her 62-year-old son, who, even though he was a grown man with his own grandchildren, never ceased being her baby.  And I think of my mother-in-law, who lost her 18-year-old son in a car accident. 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 the sadness and the aching...ache I feel looking at my own nearly three-year-old cherub-faced daughter. 

My heart breaks for them for the yelling and the angry face. 

I gather my three up in my chair, even my growny six-year-old boy who still welcomes my hugs and kisses and snuggles.

And I look at their tiny noses and their long eyelashes and my littlest baby's natural pout, and I feel so awful that I don't bundle them all with me into my chair more often. 

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 another day, but in this moment, I’m just so thankful for this moment.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hold You Me

Last night, the night before Sophie started her first day of two-year-old preschool, I was reading a book about a woman whose only child, a daughter, was moving 3000 miles away from her to begin college. 

The writer, a very good one, evoked those letting go emotions. Maybe because I only have one daughter, or maybe because she's always been more of a mama's girl than either of the boys, I felt a connection. Though I would only be leaving my baby girl at school for two hours on two mornings each week, it was still our first real time apart. Her first baby steps toward independence. 

Through the harried days of summer with all three kids home, to the tiny bit less harried days of fall with the almost three-year-old and the just turned one-year-old, I find myself putting the kids off when they ask me for most anything. "Just a minute," is my stock response. While it feels as though (and most often appears as though) I get nothing accomplished during the day, I'm still in a perpetual state of being right in the middle of something. 

The request issued most is from Sophie who says in the sweetest voice, "Mommy, I need to hold you,” which has evolved from the precious baby phrase, “Hold you me.” And it often is when I'm cooking, or I'm changing Bryce's diaper, or in the bathroom, or something equally consuming that prevents me from picking her up and holding her at that moment. But other times, it's just because I'm tired, or it's easier to let her walk (always) or I don't want to take the time to stop and pick her up.

This morning as I walked her into the building and I reached for her hand (I was carrying my littlest) and she said, "No, mommy, I’ll do it by myself," I felt a twinge of sadness that I don't always hold her when she asks.

It's so hard to balance the have to’s with the want to’s when it comes to taking care of our homes and our children. But this morning, as I envisioned my only daughter in the not-so-distant future, not needing me so desperately, not clinging to me and then not really wanting me at all (age 12? maybe sooner?), it made those precious, "Hold you me’s," a lot more like have to's than things I can put off till later.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Green Like Grandma

Green Like Grandma
Lori Boatfield

Learning Green Living From Past Generations

Key Words:  green living, recycling, reusing, conservation, lower emissions, clean air, gardening, carpool, conserving water, conserving electricity

As energy costs continue to rise, and the sources for that energy dwindle, we search for ways to conserve.  When thinking of the future, we can use the past as a guide. 
I’m 34 years old and I think my grandparents’ generation knew a thing or two about conservation.  They raised seven children, most of them born during the Great Depression.  Though my mother, the youngest, was born in 1947, when the depression had technically ended, her family never had much in terms of material possessions.  They lived “out in the country” as I still think of it.  My grandfather worked second shift at a steel manufacturing plant.  With no car, he either walked or caught a ride (carpooled) the twenty-some miles there.  During the day, he farmed: growing cotton and vegetables, and raising livestock on a small scale.  My grandmother never held a job outside the home, despite earning a teaching degree, but with a houseful of children and farm chores, she had plenty of work to do.  I like to call her the queen of conservation.  My mother fondly remembers her as a pack rat.   

Food for (Green Living) thought
Whether we call them pack rats or conservationists, we can learn green living lessons from their lifestyle.  My grandparent’s farm sustained them in most every way.  The animals provided meat, milk and lard (ugh!).  The produce was home grown and canned to last.

While it isn’t feasible for most of us to raise livestock at home, we can still apply some of the farming principles.  A small vegetable garden can be surprisingly prolific.  You may find you have a bounty for your family with some to spare and share.  With simple canning or freezing, you can enjoy the “fruits” of your labor all year long.  Even if your space is limited to exclude a vegetable garden, herbs can be grown and easily maintained in a sunny windowsill.  My friend makes pesto from her abundant basil.  You may also find these home-grown practices benefit your budget, because 1) growing your own is less expensive, and 2) home canned vegetables and fruits make wonderful gifts. 
Consider the impact of growing a garden on the environment:
            -No disposable packaging is used
            -Less fuel is used overall since there’s no need for transporting
            -Less emission/pollution from transport
            -Cleaner air due to more trees and green plants

Baby steps to get you started: 
·  Buying produce at a local farmers market cuts down on disposable packaging as well as fuel and emissions (not to mention stimulating your local economy).
·  Try planting herbs in small containers in a windowsill or sunroom.  Most herbs are fairly hardy and need little care.

Recycling Disposable goods
My brother-in-law recently visited his grandparents and inspired this piece.  He reached for the aluminum foil to wrap leftovers, and found several loose pieces rolled neatly back onto the unused roll.  The scraps had been carefully washed and dried and were ready for reuse.  While I don’t sanction this particular type of recycling because I question the bacteria factor, I find it inspires me to think of other recycling projects.

Along with foil and disposable plastic cups (which she cycled through the dishwasher), my grandmother was a wrapping paper recycler.  She could make a roll of paper and a bag of bows last for years.  We all knew not to crumple our Christmas paper at Grandma’s because she saved it.  For her, wrapping paper was a luxury to be carefully guarded and conserved.

The lesson we can learn is to be mindful of the things we toss into the trash.  Many in my generation have a throw-away mentality because there’s always more at the store.  I may be oversimplifying, but I’ve always taken for granted the disposable lifestyle:  use paper plates, don’t wash dishes!  My very favorite disposable is paper towels.

While I find it difficult to curb my paper towel use (select-a-size helps), it’s easier than ever to be wise about what we throw away.  When it comes to disposable, recycle EVERYTHING you can.  If your town doesn’t have recycling pick up, chances are a nearby city does.  So investigate their policies and receptacle locations, and drop off on your way to somewhere.

I must confess, I sometimes find myself saving wrapping paper.  If it’s a particularly pretty print, I unwrap carefully and put it aside.  I cut the still-flat part out and use it for smaller packages.  I also save gift bags and tissue paper.  Intact tissue paper can be ironed on a low setting and voila, good as new.  Maybe it’s genetic.  Grandma would be proud.

Baby steps to get you started: 
·  Cut down on the disposable items you use by using “real” plates and cups and investing in reusable grocery bags (buy one bag per shopping trip and soon you’ll have plenty).
Some reusable grocery bags can be folded into small pouches for easy carrying in your handbag or glove compartment.
·  Consider washable, reusable water/drink containers.  Your water is still convenient for on-the-go, but fewer plastic bottles wind up in landfills.
·  Reuse individual hand-soap containers and buy the large bottles of soap for refilling.
·  Use both sides of paper for notes, everyday printing projects, keeping score for Jeopardy, etc.

Conserving Water
Until the 1960’s my grandparents got their water from a spring about 100 feet away from the house.  They went down to the springhouse, which my mother tells me was fraught with spiders, and brought the water up the hill by the bucket.  Water for baths was heated on the stove (a wood-powered, pot-belly model until they bought a gas range in the 70’s).  We can’t imagine carrying water to the house from afar.  You can bet not a drop was wasted.  And flushing the toilet, forget it.  No need for flushing in the outhouse!  Even after they got indoor plumbing, the conservative mind-set was still in place.  We can learn to be mindful of our water use by imagining carrying 5 gallon buckets of water up a hill (what a work-out!) and going to the outhouse on cold winter nights. 

Baby steps to get you started: 
·  When it’s time to replace toilets, consider water conservation models. 
·  Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. 
·  Collect rain water for outdoor plant watering.  If you use a sprinkler system for grass or shrubs, make sure it’s watering what you want to water, and not the driveway or the street. Consider installing a timer for your sprinklers so that watering is done at the most beneficial time of day (or night).
·  Be vigilant about fixing household water leaks.  Long-term, they can waste a considerable amount of water.

Conserving Electricity 
For my grandparents electricity was a resource to be used carefully.  My grandfather toiled all day on the farm while my grandmother had busy days of caring for house and family.  With the exception of my grandfather, who went to his second job in the evening, the family went to bed quite early.  Some contemporaries of theirs, according to my mother, turned in as soon as darkness fell.  This was a wonderful way to conserve electricity and heat.  The lights and television were off, and the fire was stoked to burn low until morning.  We can learn to conserve from these practices in many ways.

Baby steps to get you started: 
·  Turn off the power to and unplug any household item not in use, since an electrical charge continues to be drawn even when the power is off.  To simplify unplugging, use power strips.
·  Install a programmable thermostat so energy is conserved when the house is empty or while everyone’s asleep.
·  Use ceiling fans to supplement the heating and cooling process.  They should turn counterclockwise in the summer to circulate cooler air and clockwise in the winter to drive heated air back down into the room.

I believe if my maternal grandparents were alive today, they would still be responsible citizens of the earth.  With a little ingenuity, and a lot of practice, we can all be more responsible. Now, where are those gift bags?  I have tissue paper to iron!