Brain Purge

I guess let me start off by saying that I have nothing of real value to say here.  I’m writing solely to purge my brain, and the odds that any of that is interesting to a single other soul in this world is… negligible to say the least.

The problem is that I’ve been tired.  Not the crushing, overwhelming fatigue that happens in the first trimester, but still tired nevertheless.

And I’ve been overwhelmed.  See,  I’ve been having these dreams.  Almost every night.  The dreams are slightly different every night, but the theme is usually the same.  Someone is angry with me.  I don’t know what they are angry with me for, and I’m not really sure that’s relevant.  The dreams are basically just about someone else (a different someone I know every night) thinking I’m a bad person for something I did.

And the dreams go round and round like that, just a big cesspool of judgment.

So then I wake up after having spent who knows how many cognitive hours in this pool of judgment, and I just feel wretched.  I can’t get out of bed.  I can’t summon joy.  I can’t even summon the drive to want a cup of coffee.

And sometimes that mood breaks, and sometimes it doesn’t break so easily.  And some days I’m still wading in those feelings twelve hours later.


And so I don’t really know how to stop those dreams.  And I have a really hard time purging the feelings associated with them.

But I can write things out.

For me, writing isn’t really something I do for fun, although I do enjoy it.  Writing isn’t something I do for others, although nothing gives anything more meaning than when our struggles can help another.

Me, I write solely because it’s the only way I know how to get by in this world.  It’s the only way I know of to take the billions of words and thoughts and emotions that swirl around in my twisted brain every day and make any sense out of them.  It’s a way to free those thoughts and emotions.  Before I write them out, they are tethered to me.  I can’t break free.  But once they are out and on paper, then I can choose to either remain with them or let them float away.

I write because it’s the only way I know how to survive in a world that sometimes feels scary and intimidating and that even at its best and most joyful can sometimes feel utterly overwhelming.

And so even though I’m tired and overwhelmed and have nothing of really any value to say, I’m going to have to continue writing.

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About Me and Envy

I like words.  A lot.  I like the way some roll of the tongue and bounce around in your ears awhile before lying down and resting somewhere comfortable in your brain.

I like their meanings.  I like contemplating ideas – big ideas and small ideas.  I like concepts and philosophies and ideas that remind me of our purpose and all that we share together.  I remember my AP English teacher in high school talking about the collective subconscious.  I loved this idea.  It still brings me comfort.

I like my house.  I don’t have a big or fancy house, and a decorator sure would have a lot of advice to give to me, but it’s home.  It feels secure.  There are soft lights and there is lace and there are a lot of pillows and blankets.  Magoo recently threw her arms out and said, we have such a comfortable home.  I love that my children feel nurtured and inspired within these walls.

I like music.  The music I like probably isn’t the music you like.  I say this because about the only people in this world who really share musical taste with me are my children, and that’s just because they have only been exposed to my favorites.  (This is a cool little thing moms of littles can do.)

The music I like inspires me.  It reminds me of all that is good in the world.  It reminds me of where our passions lie and the fire that fuels those passions.  I used to write down song lyrics and hang them up all over the place.  Now I just mull them over in my head and occasionally use them as a signature in my email.

I don’t need to hang up song lyrics as much because all my walls are filled with plaques and paintings of quotes and words.  Who needs to see a beautiful sunset when you can stare at beautiful words?

I have four children, three in my home and one in my belly.  My three already born children all represent to me the perfect embodiment of some trait.  Magoo’s compassion and holiness inspire me; they are untarnished, unsullied, and beautiful.  Goose’s passion is a wonder to behold.  Whether she is building with Legos or running to the car, what she does, she does with purpose.  She has a big personality, and it’s getting more and more focused the older she gets.  And my little Mae… she has so much empathy in such a little body.  She is sweet and cuddly, and centers her life around a pursuit of the snuggly.

And TJ… no one in this entire universe can get on my nerves like he can.  And that is the greatest compliment I could give anyone because despite his sometimes frustrating idiocyncracies, there is no one else on the planet I would rather go through life with.  He is home and he is comfort and he is peace and together we create home.  And beautiful children.

And there are a hundred other things I could tell you about myself.  And I say that with a slight tinge of self-congratulations because there was a time not all too many years ago that I wouldn’t have been able to make a list like this, when I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about myself because what I knew was hidden.  I hid it from anxiety, always filling my mind with the world so as to never have to fill it with myself.

But self-congratulatory as I might be right now, that’s not the reason I am sharing all of this.  The reason I am writing it is because today, like many days, I am reminded that the only way to find peace is to really look within.

After all, how much of our time is spent looking out?

Looking to see another’s judgment.

Looking to compare ourselves to another’s standards?

Looking at all the blessings of others while failing to count our own.

Envy is something that comes fairly easily to me, as I’m sure it does to most people.  It’s insidious.  It steals so much from us.  It blinds us to all we have and leaves us feeling less than when compared to others.

I struggled for many years with this with no idea of how to break free.  And then I read the words, “Envy is the art of counting other people’s blessings rather than your own,” and it all started to make sense to me.

The trick to beating envy is to look within and count all that we have.  It lies in the ability to see all that is beautiful and whole and complete in our lives and in ourselves.

The secret to beating envy is gratitude.

And so on this Monday morning when I have a basket full of laundry to put away and no idea what we are going to eat for dinner, I am happy to be able to take a moment and remember who I am and what I have, and now I will just take a moment to be grateful.

After all, what greater prayer is there than simple gratitude?

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How Do You Thank Your Children

While obviously not perfect, my three are pretty good with their manners.  They thank us every night for making dinner.  They thank us for taking them places and buying them things.  They thank us a lot.

I like it.  I think it helps them learn gratitude and appreciation.

And we thank our kids as well – we thank them when they help us with something or when they go on an errand with us.  We thank them for kindness they show to each other.  We thank them for their thankfulness.

But today I ran into a problem.  I realized that for the things I am most grateful to my children for and for the things I am most indebted to them for, there is no real way to thank them in a way that would make sense to little ears.

After all, how do I thank them for reacquainting me with deep and profound joy?

How do I thank them for showing me innocence?

How do I thank them for not only needing me but for wanting me in ways that no other human possibly could?

How do I thank them for their trust and their affection and their camaraderie?

And how do I thank them for teaching me this special love that a parent has for their child?

I remember reading a few years back that parents aren’t any happier than non parents.  I don’t really know if that is true or not.  But what I do suspect is that parents experience far more joy than they ever could have without children.

Magoo and I had a big day today.  She got her ears pierced, we went out to lunch and dinner, she bought a First Communion dress, veil, and gloves, and she had a special Scout meeting where she learned how to paper mache and do other paper crafts.  As far as little girls go, it was about as big a day as they come.

She was jumping all around all day; she kept telling me how this day couldn’t get any better and how second grade is such an awesome time.

And I find myself suspended in this other plane during these moments.  It is as if all the bells in my head are going off, and the whole world stops around us.  I am acutely aware of just how much meaning these moments have, and I am trying to suspend them and the joy contained within.  I am trying to will the universe to preserve this moment and mark it on my heart.

It was joy.

It brought me to tears.

It reminded me of just how much these three (and even already number four) bring to me and to us.  How much they bring to those around them and to the world.

The world doesn’t cater to people.  It doesn’t often see us as special or important or noteworthy.  But God does send us these little people who to us seem like all that is good and pure and holy.  They are a gift God gives to us to show us a glimpse of His love for us.  They are our tokens to joy and the memories are our souvenirs.

And I have all these thoughts going through my head, and I look down into her big bright blue eyes, and all I want to say is thank you.

But I find myself speechless.  Because how do you say thank you for all of that?

For some things there just are no words.

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There is a part of me that feels defective.  This part of me feels like there’s this separation between me and the rest of the world.  Like the world can be divided between the good and the bad, and because I generally have an open-minded and accommodating nature, I see the rest of the world on the good side and myself alone on the other.

And I wish it were true what I say — that there is a “part” of me that feels defective.  But the truth is that when you feel defective, it’s not a part.  It’s your core.

And I don’t know where this feeling started.  But I can list many circumstances in which I, possibly erroneously, thought I saw it reflected back to me in the opinions and estimations of other people.

In the curious looks.  In the harsh words.  In the judgments or the criticisms or the rejections.

It would be nice to look out at the world and see all of the people who love me.  To focus on the words of support and affirmation.  To see the traits others enjoy in me.  To feel respect.

But our perceptions are mirrors of our beliefs, and if I’m stuck in that place of defectiveness, that’s the reel that plays over in my head.

And I look out into the world, and I see the beauty in people around me.  I see the infinite worth in even those who feel the most worthless.  And I want to scream, and I want to shake these people, and I want to tell them.

You are worth it.

You are good enough.

Don’t listen to the mouths that only speak criticism.  Don’t feel the judgments of those who don’t respect you.

Say no to the people who call themselves your friend and yet tear you down at every chance.

Say no to the man or the woman who treats your body as property to be used or abused.

Turn away from those who want to define you or defile you or demean you or break you.

So many moments of so many days, I feel irrevocably defective.

But then I step back, and I remember that a) we were all created with inherent worth, and b) we are all broken because we all live in a broken world.

I can’t heal the broken hearts.  I can’t erase the bad memories or neutralize the hateful words.

I can’t fix the world.

But what we all can do is fix our own broken parts.  We can absolutely refuse to believe we are less than.  We can insist on our own dignity and worth and expect the respect that is rightfully ours.

We can treat others as they deserve to be treated and expect no less in return.

We can’t heal a broken world, but by focusing on acceptance and kindness and gentleness, in ourselves every bit as much as in others, we can start to heal a little corner of it.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and stand up to people who I used to cower from.  I wish I could insist that my dignity be respected.

But I can’t.  And I really don’t need to.

All I need to do now is show myself the respect I deserve and then rest in that respect.

Because we are all worth so much.  More than we possibly could understand.  And this world would be infinitely more gentle if we all just treated ourselves a bit more like we treat others.

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Anxiety Gets Me Lost

I think I live a fairly simple existence.  I stay at home with my kids.  I get to plan my days around their needs.  I try to surround myself with people who inspire me to be more of that which I desire to be.

This wasn’t always the case.  For a long while there things seemed complicated, and I allowed that complication to flurry.  I didn’t trust myself enough to commit to the truth.  I didn’t trust my thoughts or my opinions or my beliefs.  Everything was up for question and debate.  Everything was subject to another’s opinion.

But that’s a very confusing way to live, and it’s not one I would recommend to any adult out there.  Yes, question things.  Seek your answers.  Reject complacent certainty.

But trust yourself.  Trust where you are.  Trust who you are.

And during my calm moments, which gratefully are more and more plentiful, I am able to reside in this world of intellectual security that it took me so long to cultivate.  And from that place of security, of trust in my own intellectual abilities, I have been able to question things and requestion things and grow.  All because I had faith in my ability to discern.

But then sneak in these moments of anxiety.  They can start out small and somewhat innocuous, but if they take root, they can grow in an instant.  They can infect everything, like weeds climbing through my soul.

And one thing that I never understood was why these moments of anxiety could take my world and flip it upside down and inside out.  Why would I get so lost?  Why would an hour or three of anxiety take weeks to recover from?  Why, during that time, would it feel like everything I have created came crashing down and I would have to start fresh, from the absolute beginning?

But now I’m starting to understand.  It’s becoming clearer.

Everything tumbles around during that time because the one thing that is absolutely required for anxiety to take hold is for me to lose sight of who I am and my abilities to judge the good from the bad, the real from the pretend, the scary from the benign.

As soon as I give that agency away, as soon as I trust the opinion of another over my own, all is lost.

With all understandings such as this, this wisdom can only take me so far.  Now I need to combat it.  I need to find some assurance in myself that I am okay and that I am capable.  That I’m intelligent and discerning and thoughtful.

Insight has always come more easily to me than change.

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My children are the closest I will ever come to true purity.  They are innocence and passion and kindness.  They lack guile.  They lack cynicism.  They know no other way to act than authentically.

It’s the gift granted to us all at the moment of our birth.  Before we become tarnished by the world.

I remember the panic I felt when I first saw this purity in my daughter’s eyes.  My heart started to pound, my head started to spin.  For at that moment I knew that purity and innocence like that is a feather in the winds of this world.

How was I ever going to allow her to keep that innocence?

It wasn’t a mere task of parenting.  It was THE task of parenting.  At that moment I knew that helping that little girl stay true to herself was the most important thing I could ever do.  And to fail would be a tragedy.

It would be a tragedy to lose that for the world.

And yet I looked around and I looked at all of the obstacles and I started to see the enormity of the task ahead of me.  I doubted whether I could do it.

And so I think I convinced myself that perhaps this wasn’t my task after all.  I told myself that this world was her birthright and that she was meant to live in it.  I told myself that to shield her from that world would be to stifle her light.

And I still believe there is truth in that.

But these days I look around, and I’m starting to wonder if the only way to keep that light lit is to shield it more than I realized was necessary.

It’s easy to get caught up by what is.  It’s easy to accept culture as modernity and modernity as progress.  It’s easy to think that old-fashioned was abandoned for a reason.  It’s easy to think that values change in the directions they should.

But what if we step back?  What if we look at what our world is teaching our daughters.

That their worth is in their appearance and their appearance is judged by the amount of skin shown.

That beauty is a collection of body parts judged by their parts to equal a sum.

That it’s important to win and to be the best and the brightest and the fastest and the strongest.  And that to be less is to fail your gender and yourself.

That to nurture and to care and to support are great side gigs, but you can’t let them overshadow the self and your goals.

That productivity is second to appearance in determining worth.

That to save their bodies for marriage is an impossibility – beyond the limits of their self-control.  And that their reproductive abilities are a liability rather than an asset.  That they should make themselves like men in every way possible, including by sterilizing their bodies.  Except of course for the few months in their lives in which they wish to conceive.

That contraception trumps conception.  That their bodies are meant to be tamed and regulated.

And finally that values don’t matter any more. Because values won’t make you money.  And they surely won’t get you to the White House.  Values are ideals we teach to little kids to make our playgrounds easier to manage.  They surely aren’t road maps to how adults are to live their lives.

I think of all of this, and I flash back to that first moment when I looked into her eyes, and I realized that panic was right.  It was a guide.  It was a light.

Our children do need to be protected.  They need to be shielded from it all until they are well old and wise enough to wade through it safely.

To protect our children from modern culture isn’t sheltering them.  It isn’t naive or old fashioned.

It’s giving them the best they need to create legs strong enough to walk and wings sure enough to fly.  It’s letting purity and innocence mature and age.

It’s the only chance any of us have.

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On Being Strong

My Goosie is afraid of box elder bugs.  This is unfortunate seeing as how they live in our backyard and constantly sneak into her room.

I’ve been talking to her about bravery, and TJ has been talking to her about being strong.  But mostly we’ve been scooching over to make room for her in our bed.

Tonight, and TJ went to give her a goodnight kiss, she said to him, “Daddy, I try to be strong, but I don’t know how.  I am little, and everyone else is bigger and stronger than me.  I want to be strong, but I don’t know how to.”

Let me tell you Goose, that’s the secret.  None of us knows how to.

None of us know how to pack up our insecurities and weaknesses and store them away.

None of us know how to listen absolutely to the voices of positivity and light.

And none of us truly know how to close the door on our fears.

We’re all just doing the best we can.  And the best we can usually involves sucking it up, summoning some humility and asking others for help.

We can fake strength when we need to.  We can do it on our own if necessary.  But what we all need to be truly strong is someone beside us to lift us when we fall.

And as long as I’m around, you never need to fear a lack of strength.  If you find yours lacking, just look me to and I will give you all that I have and together we’ll make it forward.

Never will you be truly alone because always I will be beside you and beneath you and ahead of you guiding the way.

You are my heart; please let me be your strength.

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Ugly Mom

Every morning I wake up, and I pray for patience.

I make my coffee, and I pray for patience.  I kneel in church, and I pray for patience.  I make breakfast and lunch and dinner, I do nap time and showers, I read books and I play with blocks, and all the while I am praying for patience.

I read books about love and kindness and justice in the hopes that they will teach me patience.  I am knee deep in Christian philosophy somehow believing there’s the magic formula for patience in there.  I ask friends and acquaintances and practical strangers where to find the secret to patience.

And some days I can make it through the majority of the day as long as I stay calm and am constantly praying.  There are days I can maintain a relative tone of patience.  It’s a moment by moment type of thing, but I can do it.

But then it ends up being 9:15 at night and she has come down stairs for the five hundredth time for the five hundredth reason, and I can’t find it anymore.  The prayers don’t come.  The words of wisdom I have read leave me.  I find myself yelling at a little girl to just please get back into bed, and that makes her cry which makes me yell more which makes her cry more, and soon we are both a mess, and I’m the only one to blame.

She should have gone to bed.

But I should have known better.

She’s the child.  She’s allowed to create reasons not to sleep.  She’s allowed to keep wanting to see me.  She’s allowed to come to me with any of her troubles, imagined as they may be.

And I’m the one who is supposed to listen.  Who is supposed to care about the box elder bug that is nowhere near her room and that wouldn’t even be able to get in if she would just shut the door and that she wouldn’t have even known about if she would have gone to bed two hours ago like she was supposed to.

But tonight I was the one who upset her.  I’m the one who got so overwhelmed and so under water that I finally blurt out, “You are not allowed to go to preschool tomorrow unless you get into bed.”  I’m the one who finally stormed up the stairs and killed that bug with such force, I’m surprised the house didn’t fall down.

I’m the one who failed.

And tomorrow she’ll wake up and forgive me because that’s what kids do.  And tomorrow I’ll wake up feeling shitty because that’s what moms do.

Maybe tomorrow you could all say a little prayer for me and my missing patience.

I don’t want to end another day feeling like this.

She deserves so much better.

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Staying Open

I’ve been a mom for over seven years now.

There are many things I have cherished.  (A preschooler running into my arms after class, a child confidently reading to me during our nighttime snuggles, being the one to make owies go away.)

There are a few things I’ve learned.  (A good poop joke will end almost any meltdown.  Tired children are wired children.)

But I’ve also learned that there are some hard parts.  And for me, one of the hardest parts is staying open.

I’m not really one to withdraw or go inside myself.  But sometimes the quantity of questions and demands and needs can make me feel like I’m being invaded, like my sanity is being picked apart.  

There are times when I can’t find a reprieve.  When I can’t go and fill up my own bucket.  When I simply don’t have the reserves, or quite honestly, the strenght to stand up to all these needs and demands and stay emotionally open and connected.

I’ll feel myself start to disconnect, start to emotionally hide, start to shut down, and I won’t be able to stop it.

And this sickens me.  Because children need food and shelter and protection, but more than even any of that, they need love and compassion and openness.

But to give them that openness, we have to give them our vulnerability.  Just like we sacrifice sleep and comfort at times, we need to sacrifice peace and psychological safety at other times.

And try as I may, today I just don’t have it in me.

They’ll survive.  We’ll reconnect.  But in the meantime, I can’t help to feel that when I disengage, I leave them emotionally out at sea.  Struggling by themselves.

Sure, it will teach them to swim.  But they are babies, and for as long as possible, I want to be their raft.





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You Are Never Alone: A Letter to my Girls

To My Girls,

One day, you will mess up.  But you won’t be alone.  I will be here to help pick up the pieces.

One day you will wander far away and you may not be able to find your way back, but you won’t be alone.  My love can be your compass.

One day the world might convince you that you aren’t enough.  You aren’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough or… well, just enough.  But you need not believe them.  Just look to me.  I will tell you that you are all you ever need to be.

The world will tell you that you are alone and you are weak and you are vulnerable and you will start to feel all of those things.  They might weigh on your soul.  They might steal your laughter.  But look to me, and I will be your laughter and your strength and your companion for as long as you need me to be in any way that I possibly can.

Every single place you look, the world will be trying to define you.  There will be people who want to break you.  There will be people who will try to change you.  There will be standards that are so ridiculously high, no matter how far you gaze, you can’t see the top of them.

To that I say, fuck the standards.

I’ve known you since before you knew this world.  I have loved you since before you took your first breath, and I have wanted you before you were a single cell.

And you will never, ever be alone.  And you will never, ever lose my love.  And there is nothing you could ever tell me that would make me turn away.

One day, hopefully not for many, many decades, we will be parted.  You won’t be able to reach out and grab my hand, you won’t be able to hug me close to you.  But even then, I will be there, surrounding you, caressing you, leading you.  Because the grave doesn’t conquer love.  It’s still there.  All around you.  In those days, I will be as close as a thought, as near as a whisper.

So go out in this world and make it yours.  Live it and experience it and conquer it and love it.  And never fear a fall.  Because when you have love beside you, there is always someone to soften the blow.

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