I Will Not Be Hardened

Hi friends,

I’ve written about this before, and perhaps I’ll write about it again after tonight, but in the meantime, I would just like to say that I will not be hardened or toughened up or made to be less sensitive.

I’ve had my share of difficult relationships in my life.  I’ve had my share of people who just don’t fit well with my soul.  People who don’t treat me in a way I deserve to be treated.

Every now and again, I’ll be questioned about this.

Why do you let people bother you?

Why don’t you just ignore it?

Why do you let people’s feelings and actions and words make you feel bad?

And the answer is because that is who I am.  I am not a tough person who can stand heaps of criticism.  I’m not someone who can absorb abuse and move on.  I’m not someone who can be surrounded with negativity and not let it affect me.

People affect me.  The weather affects me.  Music affects me.  Words affect me.

I am open.  And I am vulnerable.  I am easily hurt.  I am easily wounded.  And I am easily moved to joy and by beauty and purity and simplicity and honesty.

We have a lot of people in this world with fences around themselves.  They are sure of themselves.  They are able to remain steady in the face of all sorts of storms.  We see them frequently – they are the leaders, the first responders, the emergency personnel, the ones we turn to when we are unsure.

They are all over, and our world is safer and more orderly and efficient because of them.  We desperately need them to survive.  They are our protectors.

But there’s also another group of people.  We aren’t necessarily out there on the front lines.  We aren’t always speaking loudly.  We are the ones who notice the little one in the corner who is too shy to speak to others.  We are the ones who see the woman in the meeting whose eyes just look off, and we are the one she confides in.  We are the ones who feel the tenderness in a moment, and we are the ones who take it in and absorb it and then we write or sing or draw or dance about it later.

The world needs people like us too.  The world needs the easily broken because we are the ones who know how to put others back together.  It needs people who have been wounded so we can share our pain with others.  It needs our tears to wipe away a world of indifference.

So many people tell me to compartmentalize myself.  They tell me to be open but not when it hurts.  They tell me it’s okay to feel but not if it makes people uncomfortable.  They tell me that sensitivity is a gift, but I should dishonor it by being around people who will use it to break me.

But I’ve learned to realize the error in that.  When I face a place or a person that is filled with darkness, that darkness enters me and it damages my soul.  And that’s not okay.  That’s not acceptable.

If I want to be a light in this world, then I need to fill myself with sunshine.

So I’m not going to apologize for being what the world calls weak.  Because I know something that the world doesn’t – people like me are needed.

We all are needed.


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So Very Near to God

At the expense of bragging, I have to say that I am almost always in awe of my eldest.  The child can remember anything she has ever read.  At seven, she already knows more about some topics than I do, and I’ll ask her how she knows such details and she’ll just tell me about a book she read it in once.  Needless to say, with a memory and comprehension like that, we are careful what we give her to read.

She is in American Heritage Girls which is a scouting program.  She is currently working on earning a religious medal.  There are about 18 different steps she has to complete in her workbook, and then she gets to earn her medal in a couple of months during a special Mass.

She has off today for Columbus Day, and since the little two are sleeping, I figured now would be a good time to get some more of the requirements completed.

One of them asked us to read John 6:1-15 which is the story of Jesus feeding the crowd with the loaves and fish.  I had heard this story multiple times, but I wasn’t aware that she had.  She heard which story it was, and she started reciting it.  She was giving me the exact number of loaves and how many people were there.  I asked her where she learned of this story, and she said she read it once in her children’s Bible.

She had actually decided she didn’t want to do this requirement and instead wanted to do another, but since I had been looking forward to this, we completed it just for fun.

After reading through it, we talked about it a bit.  We talked about why reading about miracles is beneficial for us.  We talked about how the people who were there at the time probably felt.

We ended by talking about ways we could grow in our faith as a family.  We talked about how before she was born her father and I wouldn’t always go to Mass.  (Well, really never went to Mass.)  She was surprised, but I told her that people get confused and make mistakes.  I told her we went to Confession and she obviously knows now that we always go.

I wasn’t sure if I should tell her about those years when we were lapsed.  But I kept it short and simple, and in the end, I wanted to be open with her, and I want her to know from the very beginning that when a person falls away (and I think we all do either physically or perhaps just spiritually) that we can come right back and that the door is always open.  And it’s also extremely important to me that she knows that I make mistakes frequently.

But as we were having this discussion, I couldn’t help but stand there in awe of her.  Her faith is so simple.  And with faith, simplicity is where beauty is found.

She believes in God.  She believes He loves her.  She believes He wants to help her.

We talked about making mistakes and how every single person in the world makes mistakes, but some people think they don’t or they think they can handle them on their own.  We spoke about how it’s so important that we remember that we are imperfect and the only way to be truly forgiven for our sins is through God.

And we spoke about kindness and how we really and truly try to be kind people.  But we also spoke about how all that kindness comes from God.  We spoke about how many people think they can do good things on their own, but we know that all goodness and kindness comes from God.

And she trusts in it all and believes in it all.  And I’m sitting here struggling.  Struggling for humility and faith and trust.

Children are so close to God.  I never realized just how much until I held them in my arms.

As we age, our faith matures.  There are bumps in the road.  We take two steps forward and one step back.  We overthink.  We undertrust.  We get distracted.  We get discouraged.  We get arrogant.

And it’s all inevitable.  It’s part of our nature.

But when I look at my children, I can’t help but long for their faith.

And I know that the simplicity is fleeting.  It won’t last forever.  One day they will be in the same messy boat that I am.

My hope though is always to set them off on the right track.  Protect them as much as I can from the traps of this world.  Help them stay as pure and as faith filled as they are at this moment.

This world will try to break them.  And the odds are that it will at least succeed at creating substantial cracks.

But they have their mama on their side, and as much as so many people disagree with me and this logic, I will continue to try to protect them and shield them.  They have their guardian angels, and they have God to protect them.  But God also gave them a mama, and we must be their fiercest guardians.

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You Needed Me


When Magoo was a baby, I used to rock her and sing Church songs to her because those were the only ones my jumbled head could think up.  I’ve told her this many times, and I’ve told her frequently how those are my favorite songs to hear at Church.

About a month ago, she came running out of school, and she told me that I absolutely must go to Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary because they were practicing Mary songs to sing.  And she has been reminding me constantly since.

Then last night I realized that it was close to impossible to go to Mass in the morning and still get Mae to my sister’s to watch her while I took Goose 40 minutes in the other direction for her very first ever field trip.

And so when she woke up this morning, I broke the news to Magoo, and I asked her to listen especially hard for me, so I could feel like I was there.  She looked a bit sad, but she went on to get ready.

A couple of minutes later, she walked in to my room with tears on her cheeks.  She told me she really didn’t want to go to school today because she misses me so much.  She has told me this multiple times over the past couple of weeks.

And I thought back.  The last couple of weeks have been tough.  I’ve had multiple appointments and meetings in the evening, keeping me away for a bit up to three times a week.

And I looked back down on her, and I looked in her eyes, and I promised her I would be at church this morning even if I had to leave early.  Her eyes smiled again, but she was still a bit down and lonely.

When she gets home in a little bit, I get to tell her that I have cancelled my meeting for this evening and am going to stay home and sew with her and her sister.

I’m not sure if either she or her sisters knows this little secret I keep in my heart, but basically, if there is absolutely anything I can do to make them feel loved and important, I will do it as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else or threaten to spoil or overindulge them.

Being a mom can be so absolutely overwhelming at times.  Three people are constantly talking to me and asking me things all at the same time.  They each talk more and more loudly so as to be able to talk over each other.  It’s insanity.

But buried in that insanity is the realization that I am constantly overwhelmed because I am so needed.

Anyone can get them food or read them books or take care of their physical needs.  Anybody can keep them safe and educate them and entertain them.

But only I can be mom.

Only I can be the one who represents comfort and home.  Only I can be the touch and the smell they have known since before they even entered this world.  Only I have the eyes they want to see all of their shows and games and silly little dances in the living room.

And I think that’s part of the struggle of motherhood.  We realize just how much we are needed.  And that is a mighty responsibility.  But it’s also the most sacred of blessings.

On our wedding days, we stand before God and we promise our lives to another.  It’s a holy and a sacred promise.  And then on the days we are first made aware of a new life growing inside of us, we make another, unspoken vow, and we enter into another sacred union.

And that’s the beauty of family I guess.  Through marriage and through parenthood, we give our lives to others.  We promise ourselves to those we love most deeply.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to me to think of how many blessings I have been given.  And when I look around and feel unworthy of all of those blessings, I am reminded that the best way to say thanks for all we have been given is to give it all away.

And that’s what we do as moms.  We take it all – everything we have and everything we are – and we give it away.

And in the process we gain even more back in return.

Being needed is hard.  It’s demanding.  It’s 24/7.  But it’s also pure and it’s beautiful and it’s holy.

And it’s ours to live and ours to give.

Sometimes this world is so beautiful it’s hard to see between the tears.

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Learning to Move Above the Past

Sometimes I think back on less pleasant memories from my past and I get lost.

I’ll think of old relationships that weren’t the healthiest, and I’ll remember all the negative ideas I developed about myself in those relationships, and it’s life falling into a rabbit hole.  I’ll fall back into that person I was years ago and I’ll languish in her guilt.  I’ll take on my own guilt as well as that of those who hurt me, failing to differentiate between my actions and those that were taken against me.

Sometimes these things make me feel lost.  Daily they influence my subconscious beliefs about myself.  I try to hide them.  I try to move past them, and yet it’s not always easy to do.  It’s easiest to believe the worst about ourselves, and it’s easiest to believe those who speak that worst the most loudly.

Whenever I speak of such things with my therapist, she always asks me what I have learned from these relationships or events.  And it makes me think.

Looking at it, I have learned a lot.

I have learned that friendships, no matter how old or how entrenched, aren’t worth sacrificing your self worth for.

I have learned that other’s opinions of me sometimes say just as much about them as they do about me.

I have learned that if someone treats me with disrespect that it is their fault, not mine.  (Well, I’m still working on that one.)

I am trying to learn that I am worth standing up for, that I am worth respect.

I have learned to avoid situations that make me feel uncomfortable for the wrong reasons.  I have learned to avoid such people.

I have learned that I am worth and that I deserve the company of good people.  That I belong in that company.

That last one is perhaps one of the hardest for me, but it is also the one that has changed my life the most.

I never thought that bad things really ever happened to me.  If someone disrespected me, even in quite serious and truly significant ways, I would push it to the back of my mind.

I was always too afraid to go to those places.  My mind would get lost.  I would get dizzy.  My heart would race.  Things around me would quite literally go black.  And I would be gone for days sometimes, lost in this world of self loathing.

But the more I start to brave those terrains, the more I started to realize that shit happens to us all, myself included.  And I am allowed to have those scars.  I am allowed to acknowledge them and grieve them.  They are allowed to hurt.

But I am also allowed to heal them.

I am allowed to move into the sun.  I am allowed to grow.  I am allowed to usher in a transformation that turns the ugly into something beautiful.

It’s not easy.  It’s really not easy.

But beauty can come from pain just as flowers can swell from the storms.

That’s the amazing part of life.

It’s all what we make of it.

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Here We Go Again

I was teaching at a community college when I was pregnant with my oldest.  I taught a couple of classes in the same room in the same building.  It was right on the edge of campus, and it was very bright.  It was lined with windows.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning I would go in there a few minutes before class would begin, and I would sit at my desk.  As the computer was starting up, I would look around, and I would look for an escape route.

From the moment I learned I was pregnant, I had this terrible fear that a shooter would run through campus.  He would open the door, look at me, and shoot me in my belly, taking my baby’s life and leaving my own.

I used to have nightmares about this.  I would wake up in a cold sweat.  I had figured many escape routes in those early morning hours.

And then she was born, and she began preschool four years later.  A couple of months after her first day, a shooter entered Sandy Hook elementary school.  Prior to the moment when that man entered that building, I had my heart protected by a shield of naiveté.  Surely no one would take aim at babies.  Without question, evil like that could not exist.

But it did.

And it does.

And now I, and every other parent in this broken world, spend my days in this space knowing that the most precious pieces of our world are out there living their lives occasionally away from our protective arms.  And the feeling of vulnerability that brings can be crippling.

And so when my phone keeps sending me alerts all day about another shooter, at another school, in this country…

Well it makes me angry.

It makes me angry because we shake our heads and wring our hands and say, “but what can we do?”  We argue about gun control.  (And yes I do believe that would make a difference.)  And we mutter about mental health and safety precautions.

But don’t any of us get it?

We live in a society that has no regard for youth. We have subpar childcare, subpar and overcrowded schools, kids not receiving medical care which includes mental healthcare.  We make their parents work too much, we convince everyone that money and career success are more important that nurturing, we idolize violence and desensitize children to it from their earliest days, we create movies and video games that make kids feel powerful through simulated violence, we fail to nurture children’s emotional development in schools favoring STEM over everything else…

And then we wonder how some people fall through the cracks and end up homicidal.

I was in the car driving home with my seven year old tonight.  She was telling me about school and her friends and about all she learns and all she is, and I choked up.  I was overcome with the purity and faith and innocence and earnestness seeping forth from her. And this is her gift, and it’s a gift given to children upon their entrance into this world.  But it’s a fragile gift, and it’s quiet gift, and it’s a gift that if not protected won’t ever make it to their third birthday.

Children aren’t just our future.  They are our present.  They are the good in the world and our reminder that tomorrow can be brighter and that better does exist.

But if we don’t protect it, if we don’t honor it, if we don’t afford it the dignity it deserves, then we might as well keep wringing our hands and uttering tsk tsk because events like today will just continue to happen.

Are tragedies inevitbly going to happen?  Of course.  Is the frequency with which they happen in this culture absolutely indicitive of an evil that has crept into our society.  Well, you can answer that one.

In the meantime, I will pray for our children, and I will pray for all those who we lost today and for their loved ones.  And I will try to learn how to be the kind of person who knows also how to pray for the shooter.

And I hope maybe we all can talk and lament and debate a little less and pray and nurture our kids a little bit more.  It’s the only answer I’ve got.

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My Postpartum Depression

I got depressed after one of my daughters was born.  I had been depressed before and after for spells, but nothing to this day has compared to those feelings.

It was a weird space to live in.  On the one hand, I was over the moon about my new baby girl.  She was everything I had hoped and dreamed for and more.  My world revolved around her.  Her every breath reminded me of the miracle she was.

And yet, I could barely take a breath of my own.

I remember day after endless day where everything except her seemed like darkness.  Every view I would take of the world was distorted by a black cloud that seemed to just hover.  I couldn’t see through it; I couldn’t wipe it away.  It was thick and murky and terrifying.

I would sit there and stare at her and wonder at how someone so remarkable could have come from me.  It didn’t quite make sense.

Depression had always been something confusing to me.  I never knew exactly what it felt like.  I always presumed it was an overwhelming feeling of sadness.

But for me, I can’t say I was sad.  I can’t say I was mourning.

All I felt was emptiness and nothingness.  It was like someone snuck inside of me and turned out my light.  The pain of that apathy would bring me to my knees.  It would leave me crying in the middle of the day — at home, in public.  It didn’t really matter.  No matter where I was, I would frantically search for a bathroom to sneak into to hide my tears.

It physically hurt as bad as any injury I have ever had, and yet I can’t tell you where the pain resided exactly.  It was diffuse and yet it was acute.

And I couldn’t see past this pain.  It was all around me.  I couldn’t see a future.  To be honest, I forgot that a future existed just as I had forgotten of a past.  All I felt was an eternal now.  And that now wasn’t pretty.

I don’t like sharing these stories.  I know people can judge women who have suffered through ppd.  I know a lot of people don’t understand it, and I know the media often propagates this misunderstanding.

I actually started binge watching Nashville this summer because I heard there was a ppd storyline.  I’m always been drawn to such stories because even years later, I’m still searching for someone who felt it the same way as I did.  I yearn to see myself in someone else.  But this particular representation didn’t ring true for me.  It was different than my experience.

And I get frustrated sometimes because of all the books and articles and television shows I watch, none of them ring true for me.  All the experiences are different somehow.

And then I watched this clip of Hayden Panettierre discussing her character’s ppd and her own apparent struggles with it.  And I heard the choke in her voice and I saw the tears threaten her eyes, and it suddenly hit me.  We will all experience it differently.  No one’s experience can be exactly like another’s.  But what we all have in common is that we have been there regardless of what there looked like for us.

We all know the pain.  We all know the struggle.  And we can find strength in our shared experience.  We can find camaraderie.  We can find peace and healing and redemption.

But that can only open up when we share.  When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  When we take that scary first step.

I did it.  It changed my life.

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Bad Mom

And some days I am just a bad mom.

Today at the dinner table, everyone was screaming. I have a ruptured ear drum, so all this noise was bouncing around inside my head like a ping pong ball.

Finally, I asked for everyone to be quite for two minutes, and of course that led to people dramatically pantomiming their every thought.

And maybe I could have handled all of that if they hadn’t been bouncing off the couches all day, if they hadn’t ignored ever little thing I asked them to do, if they had been respectful.

And it’s my job to teach that – respect and fine behavior. So when they lack it… Well who can I look to but myself.

And the guilt get so heavy. The guilt of failed lessons. The guilt of failed opportunities – we could have been crafting, or reading, or even watching a movie, but instead there was this battle and this chaos.

And I wonder where I go wrong. Why I constantly clean and there’s always a mess. Why I’m constantly asking and there’s never an answer. Why everything is always just so… Much.

And I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs or even drink caffeinated coffee after noon, so instead I’m sitting here in a parking lot, writing on my phone, crying into my Gatorade.

Some days this is just very hard.

And I feel guilty for that.

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On Sisterhood


Dear Girls,
We decided to go out to dinner tonight.  It was a last minute decision.  As we sat in the restaurant, I slowed down and started listening to you two talk to each other.  You (at ages 4 and 7) were trying to decide whether you should change your favorite restaurant to this Mexican place we were at.  It required discussion and a consensus.  These are important matters, of course.
And like it does quite frequently, my heart burst.
Earlier today you were both so excited telling me about how you got to play together at recess.  Then you both squealed with excitement when I found your misplaced Star Wars figurines.
You consult each other frequently.  You have no qualms stating loud and proud that you are best friends.  You sleep in the same bed when you are uncertain.  You share your clothes and costumes.  You can’t imagine a Halloween costume that hasn’t been approved by the other.  And when something big happens to one of you, the first you seek out to tell is the other.
This period is so short, my girls.  You already have outside interests and friends vying for your attention.  Your paths are already ever so slowly starting to diverge.
But you still have time to be each other’s bestest and brightest.  You still have time when your worlds are still small enough that they revolve around one another and our home.  You still have time to sit in that bubble of childhood, unaware that it will one day pop.
And I get to sit here, along for the ride, watching as your friendship grows along with your limbs.  I can rest, trusting that the one who have trusted your heart with for the moment is someone I trust your heart with as well.
You will have battles.  You will have tears.  You will struggle.  But I just hope that once these days are past, your friendship will remain like a shadow of the childhood that will forever be your remember when.
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Always Back to Broken

I’ve liked to think that I’ve made massive improvements over the last few months.  And I have.  I haven’t been spending my days depressed or anxious.  I haven’t been fearing the future or the past.  I’ve been mainly at peace.  And it has been so beautiful.

I know enough to know that a fall will come eventually.  It’s part of the beast.  There will always be setbacks.  Even people who don’t have anxiety disorders and depression sometimes fall into anxious or depressed pathways.

That’s fine with me.

But sometimes I am brought to a different place.  A place where I realize that in some ways my brain does work differently.  And that I can’t ultimately change that.  Or at least I don’t know how to change that.

And that makes me feel broken.

Recently a few things have happened that have led me to feel less secure in the world.  A few things have happened that have made me realize that what I hold sacred isn’t the same as what some others hold sacred.  And I have come to learn that a lot of what I hold to be true and good and worthy, other people see as corrupt and stained and tarnished.

That has been lingering in my mind.  It’s made me consider giving up the world of personal social media.  But more than anything, it has just made me feel less secure.

And then today something happened that took all of that — all that I hold to be sacred and untouchable – and it combined it with a situation where I felt my children were unsafe, and that demolished my little world of peace.

The situation ended up being as benign as it could have, and I am grateful for that.  But I didn’t know that all day.  All I knew was that it felt like someone had broken into an innocent world of my children and tarnished it with evil.  Most people probably didn’t take it that far, but my mind did.

And I got stuck.  Absolutely stuck.

And it made me feel so far away from people.  Because I knew most people could live a normal day, but I couldn’t.

I was back into that world of obsessions.  Where I compulsively play things over and over in my head, and I research every way that I can manage and I ultimately end up nowhere.  The world where I can’t let a thing go.  I can’t think of anything else.  I can’t consider anything else.  I can’t talk of anything else.

I find myself consumed.

And it absolutely sucks.

It’s better than years ago.  Now that I know more of what happened, I can put it behind me.  Years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

But still, it bothers me that I ended up back there.  Because I’ve been feeling pretty healthy lately.  So if the obsessive thoughts and anxiety can be triggered now, they can be triggered at any time.

But that’s my cross.  That’s my battle.  And I’m always willing to fight.

I just wish I could have stayed away from that reality a bit longer.

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The One Where I Complain About Everything and Everyone.

I think I’m usually pretty good at seeing both sides of an argument.  I usually don’t have much of a problem picking sides, but I do think I at least tend to listen to the opposition and give them their share of credit.

Not today though.  Today, everyone is pissing me off.

No one has napped, so everyone has been having meltdowns every 35 seconds.  Goosie is sick, so we have been quarantined to our house.  And I have tonsillitis, so what little energy I have, I haven’t wanted to donate it to being the better person.

So without further ado, here is my list of things that are annoying me today.

  1.  Don’t bring a box full of wires and circuits into school.  If you are 14, you can be excused because, really, how much common sense do 14 year olds have?  Even highly intelligent ones.  His parents should have known better.  The police, after finding out that it wasn’t a bomb, should have known better and acted within this kid’s rights.  The teachers made the right call.  The kid was just being a kid.  No one else has an excuse.
  2. Donald Trump should NOT be anybody’s first (or tenth) choice of candidate.  I try to respect other people’s political views, but Trump?  Seriously?  What does the man really stand for besides his own best interest?  Trump 2016?  Welcome armageddon.
  3. Politicians who cannot pass a budget should not be paid until the budget is passed.  Early Intervention in Illinois may be shutting down soon because its providers aren’t being paid by the State.  My opinion?  You don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.  Why should you get paid when therapists aren’t getting paid for their work and kids aren’t receiving their services?  Incompetence should not be rewarded.
  4. Kim Davis?  I don’t even know where to stand on this issue, but every party in this situation gives me a headache.  And I can’t deal with a headache today.
  5. Children who won’t nap.  If you aren’t going to nap when you are sick and when I am sick, you do not have a right to terrorize this house with temper tantrums.  Sleep already.  Please.  Really, I’ll pay you if you will just please take a nap.  For the sake of humanity already.  Sleep!

And that’s it.  That’s what I have to complain about today.

I try to be a source of positivity.  I try to see all sides.  But sometimes I get sick of being the bigger person, and I just want to call people idiots.  I consider my work here done.

If you live in Illinois, and you want to be better than me (and really you should) and be an agent of positive change in the world, please consider contacting your local representatives and urge them to fund early intervention.  So many deserving kids rely on it.  I will be contacting them shortly.  Hopefully I will have more patience with them.

I’ve been pretty lazy about writing lately, and I’ve been even lazier about sharing it here.  But here is what I have had to say elsewhere on the web.

Why I Bring My Young Children to Mass

The Importance of Family

Sometimes I Fail

How Gratitude Changes Everything

Re-Entering the Dark


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