Feelers and Doers

November 15th, 2014

The way I’ve always seen it, the world is filled with two types of people: the feelers and the doers.  Obviously feelers do and doers feel.  The difference is more what they do in times of stress or disaster.  Some people get really focused and look for what needs to be done and they do it.  They are organized and efficient and they get things done.  Other people don’t.  They find themselves huddled in the middle of a crowd, on their knees, in tears.  Or as was the case today, it a car in a dark parking lot.

I always thought that it was a weakness that I wasn’t a doer.  They were the responsible ones, the productive ones, the leaders and the achievers.  Awhile back, someone tried to convince me that feelers are needed too.   That the world needs people who can feel their pain deeply because then they can feel other’s deeply as well and can hold space for them and their pain.

I don’t know whether this is true or not.

All I know is that it sucks to be a feeler who must be the doer.

I’m not built for it.  I’m not strong enough for it.

Over the last two days, I’ve noticed myself getting more and more numb.  This surprised me because one thing I never am is numb.  But it was happening, and I figured I would go for it.  It would get me through the next few days.  The next few days that feel insurmountable.

But then we got in the car tonight, and I just started crying.  Silently because I didn’t want the kids to hear.  They heard though.

Somehow we have kept it together.  Everyone is fed and dressed.  The dishes were done.  And for some reason I keep doing laundry.  Load upon load of laundry.  I haven’t had time to fold it and put it away , so it is sitting in a mountain in our living room.  But something about putting in a load of laundry makes me feel useful.  And productive.  And it allows me to pretend that I’m a doer.

Because even if the world benefits from people who feel just a bit too strongly, it’s not easy, and I would much rather be a stoic.

But if you need any laundry done this weekend, send it over.  I’m your person.  Just don’t expect me to iron it.

In Praise of Big Families

November 9th, 2014

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Everything was going very well up until 3:00 today.  The little two were snuggled in for nap time, Magoo and I were reading The BFG, and TJ was getting set to finish up our work on the basement so that by the end of the year our goal of having everything finally (FINALLY) organized would be met.

And then he got sick.  Like really, really sick.  I keep joking that he has the plague, but it’s not really funny.  It took him almost a month to call the doctor when he had pneumonia, and that was at my insistence, and today he had our doctor paged upon his own initiative.

I get overwhelmed when TJ gets sick.  The girls always go crazy; the little ones whine for me, but they also whine for Daddy because they don’t understand why he can’t do everything they want him to do.

And so everything in our house imploded.  My clean floors were suddenly filled with huge fort blankets.  Goosie was crying for a diaper even though she doesn’t wear them anymore.  Magoo was angry with me for a punishment she received earlier today, so she drew me a picture of a mom saying, “I’m angry and I don’t love you anymore,” and a little girl saying, “I’m sorry” and crying.  And yes it was passive aggressive, and yes it worked, and yes I feel like the world’s worst mother.

We were supposed to head to the store tonight to get groceries for the week, but TJ could neither come with nor watch them and the thought of taking the posse with me in the state they were in made me want to scream, so I did the next logical thing and ordered pizza.

I told the kids they could watch a movie while eating pizza (which we never ever do) if they just cleaned up the floor.  That was three hours ago, and the floor is messier than it was before I asked them to clean.  I had to switch our dinner to the kitchen because the pizza was a lot saucier than normal, and of course that spawned tears.  Except for not long because they each kept individually trying to sneak pizza into the living room like I am blind and can’t see this happening in front of my face.

But of course when I came out here to check on TJ, Goosie came running after me, and the dog ran into the kitchen and ate her pizza and… well you might have heard the screams from wherever you are currently sitting.

Finally in the calmest voice I could muster (which actually sounded like an extremely pissed off drill sergeant), I told them to get upstairs and get into bed.  I went in there to tuck them in and… let’s just say that TJ usually puts them to bed, and I am not, in any way under the sun considered a suitable substitute and they gladly let me know it.

Sometimes I fear there is something in our drinking water and they are dealing with ‘roid rage because those girls can get angry.

Normally nights like this bother me.  And tonight did bother me.  I can handle tears and passion, but when it’s coupled with a total lack of listening and more whines than I know what to do with, I start to melt down myself.  I am very easily overstimulated.  I try to fight it,  but it’s just how I am.

But I am proud to say that this actually bothered me a little less than it would have in the past.  And right now as I type, I look across my floor and I see a pile of dirty laundry that someone was supposed to throw in the basket, and I see a bag of socks that I never matched.  I see blankets everywhere because one of the members of our family who will remain nameless has a tendency to make too many blankets and the kids then use them to make forts and “cuddly nooks.”  And our kitchen is a disaster.  And I can’t even blame dinner prep because Papa Johns did that for me.

But I watch Parenthood.  (How’s that for a smooth transition!)  I started watching it from the beginning awhile back, and I am now totally caught up and totally hooked.  I didn’t like it at the beginning.  The characters bugged me.  Zeke’s hair grossed me out, and Adam seemed a bit too self-satisfied for my tastes.

But I continued to watch because there was something familiar about it.  It wasn’t that the characters reminded me of my family because I do believe we are all much less dramatic and a bit more sane than they are.  But the family structure, the dynamics all felt like home.  The powers that be did a very good job of showing what it means to be in a big family whose children are all grown.

There’s always someone to go to.  There’s always someone to complain to.  (As my text message log from today will show.)  There’s always someone to crack jokes with, and there are always, always memories to share.

I love this time of year — the season for families.  I love getting way too many people crammed into a room with a turkey and stuffing or a tree and presents.  I love the chaos with the littles running around.  I love that my children can’t quite understand who is a sibling and who is a cousin.  They know who they live with, but they also know the others have been a part of their lives since the very first day they opened their eyes, and as such it gets confusing.

I love that my kids sleep over at my brother’s and sisters’ houses and that I don’t feel a shred of worry or of doubt.  I love that I know they have cousins who will grow up with the same values and who will be there at the most pivotal moments of their lives.

I’ve come to realize that people in other families sometimes have a different view of family than I do.  But for me, family is and always has been the ones who show up.  The people who get pissed at you and know just how very annoying you can be and who yet continue to come and continue to love because that’s just what family does.  The people who love your children as much as you do.  The people who if, God forbid, something ever happened to TJ or I would make absolutely certain that my three little girls get exactly what they need.  The people who give me advice.  The people who I can share my neurosis with who might get a chuckle but who don’t hold it against me.  And most of all (most of all!) the people who remember when.

And it’s through thinking about all of that, that all of a sudden the chaos of all of this seems to matter a bit less.  Right now we have three kids.  We aren’t really a big family yet.  But I hope some day to add another little soul to this mixture.  And I know that will create more chaos and more confusion and more insanity.  But it will also create more memories and more love and more togetherness and more life that is being lived in this house.

I think I once believed that I could have it all.  I believed the pictures I saw on Facebook that showed calm moms calming reading to their kids with no screaming or yelling or spilled milk.  I believed the pictures in ads that showed children calmly sitting around a toy sharing.  I believed I could have a big family of little kids and still have the model house.

And let me tell you, I beat myself up for years for not having that.

But now I’m realizing that compromises need to be made.  I either need to become a different type of mom – the type who cleans constantly rather than plays, or I need to teach my kids that half of the house is off limits to them and their toys, OR I need to relax.  Honestly, it’s the last choice that is the hardest for me, but it’s also the only one that is valid.

Big families are messy.  We are annoying in restaurants.  We are loud in church.  We make a scene in stores.  And we often loose the important school forms and may need to be reminded thirty-seven times that a birth certificate is needed for all preschoolers and that Baptismal certificates and dental records are not optional.

We are all of those things.

But when you go into our house, we are also a whole lot more.  We are people who make memories.  We are people who play under those blanket forts together.  We are always playing or doing because there is always someone to play or do with.  We talk loud because it’s the way to be heard.  We have seven conversations going on at dinner at one time even though there are only five of us, and if you open a box of donuts, we all lunge because there are only so many to go around.

No, at this point, I don’t consider ours a big family, but I pray (and I ask you all to pray as well if that is your thing) that one day we will add another little birdie to our roost.  Another child will create more chaos and call for more sacrifice, but I’m ready.  Insanity and all.

I have been abundantly blessed.  And the more I remember that, the less the chewed up crayons on the floor bother me.  I just wish I knew who was doing the chewing…

Bridges

November 8th, 2014

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My Grandpa would have been 97 years old last week, but he passed away two years ago this upcoming January.  My grandma passed away five years ago.

My grandma was the first person I was ever actually really close to who passed away.  My grandpa was the second.

But I remember in those days leading up to my grandma’s death just how scared I was.  I didn’t know how it would feel.  That scared me.  But even more so, the future scared me.  What happens when people we love die?  What if we forget?  What if their voices begin to fade and the pictures we have of them in our minds get blurry?  What if the love I had for them that was so intense just faded into the background of my life and they were just forever in my past?  And more than anything, I feared that I would never experience intense joy ever again because there would always be someone missing from every important event in my life.

These were the questions that littered my mind in May of 2009.  I knew they both had met my eldest daughter, but I knew then that Grandma would never meet any of my future children.  And when January of 2013 came, I found myself filled with gratitude that my grandpa had a chance to meet Goosie, but fairly quickly it became apparent that his time on Earth would come just shy (10 days shy it turned out) of intersecting with Mae’s time here.

Those thoughts terrified me back then.  I desperately wanted them to know my daughters.  I wanted Goosie to meet the woman from whom she got her name.  I wanted to see the love and pride in my grandparent’s eyes.  I wanted to see my grandpa’s eyes twinkle when he saw them the same way he did when he saw me and my siblings and my cousins.

That used to make me really sad.  But these days it doesn’t.  At all.

Today Magoo and her scout troop sang patriotic songs for people in a local nursing home.  Honestly, I was a little bit scared to go.  Nursing homes scare me the way hospitals scare some other people.  I always find myself trying to become as invisible as possible as I pray that no one notices me and no one speaks to me.  I was going to have TJ take her, but Magoo likes when I do scout things with her, so I gathered up my courage and walked in.

So there I was, standing there in the back of the room, feeling incredibly self-conscious, feeling incredibly self-centered, trying to somehow cloak myself in invisibility when suddenly they started singing “America the Beautiful,” and my heart stopped.  I had to remind myself to breathe, and quickly I had to find a way to run into the bathroom because I could not stop the tears from flowing.  And these weren’t little, ladylike subdued trickles – these were full-blown, in danger of sobbing tears.

Because as I sat there watching them and listening to them, I saw Magoo, but I didn’t see her as my daughter.  I saw her as his great granddaughter.  And I saw the look of pride in his eyes even though he wasn’t there.  I flashed back to stories about his time in the service.  (The Navy — and never get that wrong!)  And more than anything, I was transported back to all those times in church growing up when the choir would sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and I would hear my grandfather’s voice belting it out above all the other voices around.

And I realized, yet again, that death doesn’t mean one ceases to exist, and the more I pay attention since my grandparent’s passing, the more I believe that it doesn’t even mean the departed completely cease to exist in this plane.  They don’t live here.  They don’t reside outside of the Heavens, but I do very much believe that they continue to live in the hearts of their loved ones.  They watch us.  They touch us.  We absolutely cannot get to them, and yet they aren’t really ever not here.

Sometimes my mind gets in the way of my faith.  I overthink things.  I find myself unable to just trust in God and in all of the promises we are given.  And I think I have it backwards.  I think faith in God is supposed to allow us to have hope for our deceased loves ones.  But for me sometimes it’s flip flopped.  It’s in feeling them and remembering them and feeling touched by them that I am able to believe in God and in the promises that await us after this life.

I don’t know if this is good or bad.  After all, my faith in God is probably supposed to be stronger than anything else.  But maybe it’s God who is making these bridges available, who is allowing me to feel that which has passed so that I can lead my children into a life of belief and faith and trust.

I don’t really know.  I don’t really know much of anything except that these bridges that become open to me at times give me faith that life is not finite any more than love is.

We cannot take a single possession with us when we die.  Everything on Earth that we manage to create stays here; it doesn’t come with us.  Except the love.  That is a part of us and a part of anyone we share it with.  It’s the eternal and the forever and probably the only real thing worth cultivating.

Forgiveness

November 4th, 2014

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the last few years.  Some have been amazing and some I could have done without.  But what I have learned more about than I ever realized I would (or really wished I would) has been forgiveness.

It’s a simple word, but it’s a remarkably complicated concept.  It’s a choice; sometimes it becomes a feeling; it’s often not final.  Sometimes it’s something we have to wake up day after day after day and keep on working on.

One thing I never knew was that forgiveness doesn’t take way anger, but it does require us to attempt to mitigate it.  After all, anger is fuel for an unforgiving flame.  If we let the anger burn, it’s hard to embrace the forgiveness.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

But as complicated as it is, it is also freeing.  After all, when we refuse to offer forgiveness, we remain tied to the transgressions and the transgressor and all that makes life dark and dirty and mean.

Forgiveness isn’t hard, but it’s really the only way to freedom.

I’ve learned some of these lessons from people who have hurt me and who I have had to learn to forgive.  But I learned a lot more from people who refused to forgive me.  From people who believe that anger is dignified.  Who believe pride is security.  And who believe that love is conditional.

I wish I never learned those lessons.  I wish I never had the opportunity to witness anger consume character the way cancer can consume an organ.  I wish I never saw just how deep the lines of bitterness can show on a face, hardening the edges, dulling the eyes, and callousing the soul.

It’s frustrating to live in a world with people who keep you at arms length.  People who don’t forgive you and don’t accept you but won’t reject you either.  But it’s also incredibly educational.

I didn’t learn the dangers of harboring an unforgiving soul by withholding forgiveness.  I learned the dangers by watching others withhold it.  I learned it by watching others choose pride over love and choose ego over peace.  And I learned that those choices impact every single ounce of our beings.

It can be hard to act in a loving manner.  After all, people suck sometimes.  But one day we will find ourselves sitting in a rocker after decades of living.  We will look around.  And I believe what we find will be a direct result of one choice we make day after day, year after year…

When we were trespassed against, did we forgive?

I can’t help but think that one choice will lead us to peace, love, wisdom, and open, loving arms.  And the other will leave us with a dark wall and a mirror reflecting ourselves back to ourselves.  Because if we choose our anger over our love, eventually the only one who will be willing to look at us is ourselves.

That’s cold and that’s harsh, but it’s the choice we are given.

The old saying goes, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.”  I don’t believe that.  Yes, erring is part of being human, but so is learning to forgive.  We can’t do it on our own.  We need prayer and assistance.  But it is us who must ask for it.  It is us who must continue to seek out some path to forgiveness.  It is us who must wake up day after day after day and keep on trying.

Even when I forgive, I falter.  My forgiveness doesn’t always hold.  Constantly I have to remind myself of my choice and recommit myself to my forgiveness.  I hope one day it gets easier.  I pray one day I get better at it.  But I know that as long as I walk this Earth, it is an end I will continue to seek.

Because I don’t want to be eighty years old one day, sitting in a rocker, staring at myself and the dull eyes my decisions have purchased for me.

I want to look out and see love looking back at me.

What Are the Words?

October 28th, 2014

I have been working very hard the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been making Halloween costumes.  I’ve been making a saint costume (twice) for Magoo’s All Saint’s Day Parade.  I’ve been making hats for a craft fair and hair bows.  I’ve also been helping the girls with Halloween crafts and I’ve been sewing badges on scout vests.  I’ve been making headbands the girls ask for but won’t wear.  And today I made a butterfly costume for an American Girl doll.

And I am exhausted.  Most nights my head hits the pillow and I can’t believe I made it through an entire day.

Are all of these things necessary to do?  Of course not.  But part of being a mom for me is engaging in the girls’ lives in this manner.  It’s making stuff for them.  It’s showing them what they can do with their own two hands.  It’s getting invested in their activities.  It’s important to me that when Magoo walks through the gym during the parade of saints that she knows her mom made her costume.  It won’t be as good as the others — either the store bought or the homemade ones.  Making costumes is not my speciality.  But it’s how I show love.  It’s how I show them that they are worth my time.  That they are worth my attention.  And that they are worth my creativity.

And then I found myself sobbing in the shower about an hour ago so very overwhelmed by it all.  All of this outpouring without much filling up was starting to chip away at my reserves.

And then as I was measuring Magoo for her second Mary Magdalen costume (the first couldn’t even pass for anything,) and she started saying she wanted to be Saint Michael, I almost lost it.  And then when she complained as I was trying to get the hem right, I almost lost it a bit more.

And so I went in and I took a shower, and I let myself lose it.  I let it all out.

I desperately wanted to talk to someone.  I wanted to let out my frustration.  I wanted to speak of all of the love that went into the work and all of the frustration and fatigue that was the byproduct.

But I couldn’t.

Because when you are a stay at home mom, people say you can’t complain.  They say you have to feel gratitude only for your station.  They say to vent is to spit in the face of your blessings.  And I know this because I have let out my frustrations and I have been told that I then don’t deserve what I have.

And so I’m at a loss.  How do I let people know that my frustration is encircled in gratitude?  That my exhaustion is encased in love?  That a mom can feel two conflicting emotions at one time, and that one doesn’t negate the power of the other?

I didn’t know if I should write today because I did not want people to think that I am ungrateful for what I have.  I don’t want them to think my love is lacking or my appreciation dulled.  But then I read something Momastery wrote where she said we can take our broken and make it beautiful.  We don’t have to hide from our mistakes and our shortcomings.  We can give them to God and let him create beauty out of them.

And the only way I know how to make beauty out of my weakness is by sharing it with the world.  By telling people that it exists.  That yes, love and pain can coexist.  Fatigue and joy can be neighbors.  And that there is nothing broken at all by this.

I felt so very alone crying to my bathroom walls.  And I’m sure some of you out there feel the same way.  And so I’ll take my pain, and I’ll put a pretty bow on it, and I’ll pass it along to you so that when you are choking on your exhaustion you will know that you are seen and you are heard and you are not alone.  So that you can know that your love isn’t lacking because of your pain.  So you will know that sometimes this all is just so very hard, and it’s supposed to be, and there is nothing wrong with that.  That there is nothing wrong with you for struggling.

I can’t write songs.  I can’t act.  I can’t draw.  I’m not an expert conversationalist, and I’ll never be famous.  But I can share myself.  It’s all I have to give.  And it’s the only way I know to make my broken beautiful.

Being Me

October 20th, 2014

I am me.  The only me that I have ever been and the only me that I will ever be.  Sometimes that is okay.  But sometimes that pisses me off.

Sometimes I get so sick of my struggles.  I understand that we all have them.  I understand that I am blessed.  I understand that we all have space and opportunity for improvement.  But sometimes I am just so sick and tired of fighting the same battles.

It gets redundant and old and boring and incredibly frustrating.

I read an article today where a mom discussed watching an episode of Wife Swap where one mom starts grilling the other mom’s children when they say they want to be stay at home moms when they grow up.  The first mom couldn’t understand this.  How could anyone choose that?  Surely they must be repressed.

But the kids weren’t repressed.  Most of us who choose to stay at home don’t do it because we are forced to.  We don’t do it because someone is making us.  We do it because we want to.  Because we believe the sacrifices are worth it.  Because it’s what we love to do.

This article went on to explain the satisfaction that she finds in home keeping.  She wrote about how she wants her home to be a sanctuary for those she loves.  She wants it to be warm and welcoming and a soft place to land after a hard day.

And as I read, I heard my internal voice screaming “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”  That is what I want.  But I looked around my home and I saw “No! No! No!” because my home doesn’t look like a sanctuary.  It looks like the leftovers of a hurricane that hit a toy store while the toy store was giving away Cheerios.

Some women don’t find satisfaction staying home, and I really understand that.  When I first started staying home, I struggled with my identity – trying to separate who I was from what tangible results I could produce.  But now that I have six years of experience with it, I find great fulfillment in it.  I love being with my girls.  I love that I am always here for what they need.  I’m proud to be their constant.

And I love the housework parts to.  I like making things pretty.  I thrive on organization.  I find cooking new and healthy meals to be challenging.

But I look around most days, and I can’t help but feel that I am failing at this.  I can’t clean up toys at the rate that three children can scatter them.  I can’t always find the milk filled, nasty sippy cup that I know is hiding somewhere.  I can’t keep up with the clothes that somehow (somehow that I clearly don’t understand) get thrown and stuffed in every single nook and cranny of our home.

And I wonder if it matters.

It matters to me.  Mess gives me nightmares.  Clutter makes me shake.  Dust (quite literally) makes me sneeze.  I’m not able to relax in the midst of a messy floor.  It isn’t a sanctuary to me.

But this too I know shall pass.

What I worry more about is them.  Do they care that the floor is cluttered with toys?  Will they be scarred for life because sometimes we have to do bath time in the mornings because I still cannot figure out a way to get homework done, get dinner made, read, AND do baths all before a reasonable bedtime?  Will they look back on their childhood and think, “if only things were cleaner?”

My head tells me no – this is not what they will remember.  My heart is beating in fear, however.

And so I sit here, in the middle of it all, and I get so sick of the struggle.  I wish I could be somebody else.  Someone inherently more organized.  Someone more capable.  Someone more productive.  Someone… better.

I believe raising a family is a holy endeavor.  Those of us called to it are called to a life of little sacrifices made in great love.  It’s a servant’s life.  A life given up for the wellbeing of another.  It is my greatest love and my greatest joy.

I just hope I’m not messing it all up.

The Struggles We Overcome

October 16th, 2014

It’s not often that I think about infertility these days.  With three little bodies running around and climbing and singing and talking and reading and playing, it’s hard sometimes to imagine the life before all this life was here.  It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I wasn’t a harried and happy mommy to three.

And then I went on Facebook today, and I saw HONY post this,

“We’ve been trying for a few years. We both want it very badly, but it’s probably been hardest on my wife. It’s her body and she’s been the one that’s had to go through all the treatments, so I think the failure hits her hardest….”
“Will you be OK whatever the outcome?”
“‘OK’ might be too strong a word, but we’ll definitely survive.”

And my hands started to tremble.  My heart started to pound.  And I felt that strange, strong, pulsing lump in my throat that only true stories of infertility can bring to me.  All of a sudden it wasn’t 2014.  I wasn’t in a room surrounded by my sleeping children.  It was a cold and lonely 2006, and my journey still had years to go.

I don’t go to that place often.  I don’t need to anymore.  But it is a part of me, and it is a vital part of my mothering.

It’s not always easy dealing with the remnants of infertility.  It brings a lot of guilt.  For years upon years I prayed for these blessings, and any moment I am not filled with bliss feels a bit like a betrayal of those yearnings.  Because I know just how easily all of this could not have been.

I’m almost positive it contributed to the postpartum depression I experienced years ago.  I didn’t believe I had a right to be tired.  Any time I wanted a moment to myself, I would berate myself.  After all, how dare I take a single breath of this beautiful life for granted.

And then there are the fears for the future.  We are pretty sure we would like another child one day.  Our last pregnancy came easily.  My middle one in less than a year.  But that doesn’t mean this time will.  Right now I sit here happy with my three little ladies.  It’s scary to open the can of what if.  Scary to get my hopes up.  Scary that they could be crushed.

But all of this, this whole journey, is a part of me and it is a part of our family.  Magoo knows just how long we waited for her.  She knows the story of when we found out — about how I almost fell down the stairs I was running so fast.  Of how we sat there and cried.  Of how the very memory of those tears can bring me to pieces to this day.

And these days, I’m grateful for those days.  I’m grateful for the pain and for the sorrow and for the lessons it taught me about love and longing and perseverance and hope.  Those years taught me who I was.  It taught me who we were as a family.

It wasn’t always that way.  When we were experiencing them, I would try so hard, but for the life of me, I could not imagine ever being grateful for that pain, ever embracing it, ever respecting who it helped me become.

And it’s those feelings that I think of when I think of Brittany Maynard, the woman who plans to use physician assisted suicide on November 1st because she faces a very terrifying diagnosis of terminal cancer.  Her story scared me when I first heard it.  It scared me to think of how fast realities can change.  How our lives could be gone in an instant.  How fleeting it all is.

And I totally understand her desire to avoid the pain.  Who wants pain?  Who wants their last experiences on this planet to be of unspeakable pain?  Who wants to have their loved ones watch them deteriorate and waste away?  I surely wouldn’t, and I can fully comprehend why Ms Maynard wouldn’t as well.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in euthanasia, but while reading through her story, I couldn’t quite remember why.

And then I read this story by another woman, a mother, who also faces a terminal diagnosis but who decided to fight until the end.  She knows cancer will win, but she isn’t going to give it an easy fight

I read that a few days ago, and all of these thoughts and all of these feelings have been swirling around in my mind, and the only conclusion I can come to is that the struggle matters.  The pain matters.  The heartbreak matters.  And the suffering matters.

As a culture, I think we have this idea that pain is always bad.  That suffering is to be avoided.  That there are easy ways out that won’t have an impact on our souls and our beings and our humanity.

But I’m starting to see some err in those concepts.  What if it’s the suffering that carves out our identity?  What if it’s the heartbreaks that soften us and mold us and make us more human?  What if bypassing all of that can lead to a life of ease but of shallowness?

We have so many choices and so many paths and so many opportunities to avoid suffering that we might not want to face.  And I’m not a masochist.  I’m not about to cut off my finger or go days without water.  But when the suffering is dealt to us, when it is in our cards and ours alone, maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of it.  Maybe we should dive in and embrace it, and find the rainbow through our tears.

Maybe things would look different.  Maybe as a people, we would be different.  And perhaps it just might awaken us to the suffering in those around us.

Fear, Death, Beauty, and Faith

October 8th, 2014

I once heard an acquaintance say that she had come to a new realization that she didn’t need to plan everything out.  All she needed, she said, was to follow the next step and trust that God will show her the rest of the path when the time comes.

Hmpf, I thought.  Maybe that sounds good for her, but I didn’t even know what that meant.  Not worry about the future?  Not try to micromanage everything?  Not try to guess every possibility in an effort to control every little thing that happens in life?  Yea, not for me.

I didn’t understand this concept as it was so foreign to me.  For so long, I equated control with morality.  To control everything was to be good.  To have something happen that was out of my control or that (horror of horrors) I hadn’t anticipated was a travesty.  A crime against everything good.  A crime against purity.  A crime of neglect.

And if those words sound overblown and exaggerated, trust me, they aren’t.   Those extreme ideas about control led me down many a treacherous path in my day.

The problem is that human beings can’t live like that and maintain sanity.  The world is unpredictable, and our place in it is unpredictable.

There’s been a lot in the news lately about terminal cancer because of that poor woman in Oregon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and is choosing (wrongfully in my opinion) to end her life on November 1st.

Every time I read about it or hear about it or read another opinion about it, I have to mentally block the emotional part of my brain off.  It hits too close.  It touches parts of me I don’t want touched.  It’s something I cannot control.  See, my fear is not of death.  My fear is of my children having to grow up without me.  That’s a concept and a fear too great for me to really put into words at this moment.  It is my single greatest fear.

So since this is all over the news and since it’s a huge fear of mine and since there is nothing I can do to control things and ensure that I won’t befall some horrible cancer-ridden fate, I did the only rational thing I could think of when I was no longer able to block it from my emotions.  I panicked.  My breathing got heavier, my hands started to shake, my heart started pounding more strongly against my chest as I imagined having to tell my children of a horrible fate we must all go through together.

And through one of the panic attacks brought on by these stories, Mae started to cry upstairs.  I went up into her room, and I started to rock her back to sleep.  I looked at her eyes fluttering under her eye lids.  I felt the warmth of her breath.  I felt the peace in her slumber.  And I remembered back to those words of wisdom I had heard all those years ago.

I can’t plan out every aspect of my journey.  I can’t shield us all from pain.  I can’t anticipate all of our potential heartbreaks and fend off their advances.

All I can do now is take the next step.  I can love.  I can forgive.  I can relish in gratitude.  I can make certain that if a tomorrow fails to materialize that the beauty of the yesterdays can live on eternal.  And I can trust that by one step at a time I can create a life of beauty even if it’s not one of certainty.

We aren’t promised tomorrow.  None of us are.  We aren’t promised stability.  But we are given the ability to stand strong in the middle of all doubt and uncertainty and live our life by the coinciding principles of love, faith, and beauty.

All we are promised is now.  All we must focus on is now.  And that can be incredibly liberating.

Sacrifice

September 30th, 2014

Deep down, I think I’m a fairly selfish person.  It’s something I try desperately to fight.  Perhaps sometimes too desperately.  But no amount of fighting really changes the fact that when it comes down to it, I like my time.  I like time to be me.  I like time to do what I want to do.  I like space.

This is a challenge when being a mom.  Between Magoo and Goosie’s constant questions and comments and stories and tales, my ears and my thoughts are never my own.  Every time I try to think a thought, it gets interrupted by more questions about why the sky is blue or why cars are called cars.  And between Goosie and Mae’s constant need for physical assistance — diapers for the baby, drinks, food, clothing changes, toys — my body is not my own.  I am constantly using it in an effort to assist someone else in what they desperately want or need because at that age, the line between the two is blurry at best.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I adore my children’s brains.  As constant as the chatter is, I know what a blessing it is to be the one asked all of the questions.  The confidences they share with me are some of the greatest treasures of my life.  And with the physical needs, I know that what I am building is trust.  A feeling deep within them that when they have needs, they will be met.  And it is a pleasure and an honor to be that person.

But sometimes I just get so tired.

It’s a fatigue beyond anything I have experienced before because it’s not due to physical exertion.  It’s due to the mental stamina that is required of constantly being in service of others.  It’s born of holding my breath and waiting to exhale until all the needs of my little people are met.

And that’s where the selfishness comes in.  Because this does not come easily to me.  I would love to say that I am always willing and cheerful about giving every moment of my day in service to others.  I desperately pray that one day I will find it within myself to give of myself freely and cheerfully whenever I am needed because some times these days it feels awful reluctant and often exhausting.

And that’s where I found myself this evening.  Overwhelmed and exhausted by a day of too many whines.

And I was in the car by myself (this only happens once a week) and I was listening to the rosary on Relevant Radio.  At this stage, I find myself a seeking Catholic.  I want to have full faith and full trust and full acceptance, and give myself willingly to it.  But it’s a struggle.  I envy those to whom faith seems to come easily.

But anyway, as soon as I turned the radio on, they were praying the mystery where they cast lots for Jesus’ garments.  And I sat there for a moment and thought about that.

Here Jesus was giving His everything — His life — for the sins of all of us, all of us who sin against Him and who turn away from Him, and while they were actually preparing to hang Him on the cross, they took even His clothing.  They left absolutely nothing left.  They took all He had.  And yet, He still kept on giving.

I’m not comparing motherhood to dying on a cross.  But I think the cross has more to teach us about sacrifice than I ever realized.

Giving means giving it all.  Giving and giving and then giving some more.  Even when we don’t want to.  Even when we don’t think we have any more to give.

To mother is to promise to be there for another.  Even at 3:00 in the morning.  Even when you have the stomach flu.  Even when you feel like your body might crumble from fatigue.  Mothering is about being there.

There’s a lot that I think I could have drastically improved on over the last six years.  I could have been more patient.  I could have been more Pinterest-worthy.  I could have been more inspiring.  But one thing I am enormously proud of is that I have been consistent.  To a perfectionist like me, consistency sounds rather lame, but when I think of what I have done for each of them throughout the span of their lives, I realize that the sum is much greater than the parts.

And I think perhaps that’s what we need to keep in mind when it all gets so overwhelming.  When we feel like we are failing.  When we feel selfish and inadequate and broken.  Yes, mothering is about some of the big things.  But it’s also about doing the little things over and over and over, and teaching a little soul that there is something in which to trust in this big old scary world.

The blessings found in one little chubby armed hug is worth every sacrifice I have ever made for my children.  But still, sacrifice is hard. And it’s supposed to be hard.  But it’s not in vain.  They may never thank us for or even remember us changing their diapers or cutting their grapes, but when they take those first tentative steps out into the world, and they trust that there is solid ground beneath them and loving arms to return to, we will know that it was not in vain.

Our work is hard.  It’s mostly invisible.  It’s often quite messy.  But it’s not in vain.

So this song goes out to all the mamas out there.

(If you are reading this through email or bloglovin, you might need to click through to my blog to actually view the video.)

 

Happy Girls

September 28th, 2014

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Magoo is working on earning a religious medal for the scouting program she is in.  The first portion of the medal explores how she is special to her family.  One of the requirements was to make a mobile representing four different feelings she experiences.  To be honest, I was hoping she would have chosen one of the less craft-intensive activities, but it’s her medal, so I followed her lead, and we ended up having a lot of fun doing it.

Per the requirement, she drew pictures of what she looks like when she is experiencing these emotions, and then to take it a step further and really help her grow in understanding, we made a list on the back of each picture detailing some circumstance that trigger these emotions in her.

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The four feelings we chose were happiness, sadness, anger, and fear.  She had an easy time coming up with things that make her happy.  Some were significant like family, and some were more trivial like rainbows.  The entire back of that circle was filled with things that make her happy.

She also didn’t have too much trouble coming up with things that make her fearful.  All she did was basically list every type of bug she could think up.

But when it came to anger and sadness, she had more trouble.  She ended up listing some annoyances with her sisters and time outs.  And that was about all she could come up with.

And that made me think.  She is a happy girl.  Her sisters are happy girls.  And this is amazing.

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I worry constantly about my three little ladies.  I worry that I am steering them in the right direction.  I worry that I’m intellectually stimulating them enough.  I worry about their relationships and if I’m modeling healthy relationships with oneself and others.  I could go on and on.

But through all this worry, I don’t think I take enough time to just sit back and realize just how amazing it is that my girls are happy.

I know they will go through ups and downs in life.  Things won’t always be simple or easy.  But I pray so fervently that they are able to maintain this center of joy throughout their lives.  I can’t help but think that if they do, they shouldn’t stray too far from their chosen paths.

And so perhaps Magoo learned a bit more about emotions through this project, but I think even more so, I learned more about her.  And I learned that maybe it’s okay to let go just a little bit and let them walk their course.  They are doing pretty well so far.

 


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