Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

The Ta-Da List

17,000,000. The number of apps to manage to-do lists.

TOP priority. Get ‘er done.

The feeling of accomplishment.

Promised peace at the end of the day when it’s all crossed off.

I was trained from a bitty girl to spend time at the day’s end confessing my sins out loud and asking God for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I lied.” “I’m sorry I said mean things to my friend.”

No matter how much good I had given to the world, my final thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had MESSED UP and what I had NOT done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes). NO peace for sure.

Fast-forward to my adult years. Same. Same. Same. Just different stuff. “I’m sorry I screamed at my kids.” “I’m sorry I took a too-long lunch at work.”

One night, my little rebellious self changed it up. “What did you do right today?” I quizzed my husband as we collapsed into bed after wrangling four kids into their beds.

Crickets………………….

More crickets……………………

“I smiled at the store clerk,” he mumbled at long last.

I shook my head. I knew he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, treated everyone with dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his “to-do” list.

Lightbulb moment!

Realizing how much of our day (and night) was taken up with negative thinking, we decided to make this a best practice in the moments before we fell into slumber. “What did you do right today?”

We still began our days with a “to-do” list, but we ended them with a “ta-da” list.

It was STILL NOT the peace we were looking for, but at least a step in the right direction.

Help came in the form of what usually happened right before we crawled into bed, wiped out from the day.

Most nights, the last thing on my never-ending “to-do” list was to slip into each of my kids’ rooms and just watch them sleep (something I still do from time-to-time, even though they are giants at this point).

No matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more. I would just stand there, gazing at their cute little heads barely visible above their comforters, completely and utterly in love with them, happy.

Yes. Yes. This must be how God feels about us.

While the “to-do” lists and “ta-da” lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.

At BOTH the beginning and end of each day (regardless of either of those lists), he gently reminds us, “I will quiet you with my love. I will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah)

TRUE, UNADULTERATED PEACE.

Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

‘Twas the end of the summer, it just wasn’t right…

Twas the end of the summer,
It just wasn’t right.
Every beach chair was packed up,
And so were the kites.

Last grains of sand,
Shaken out of the flip flops.
With dim hopes that fall shoes
could be found in mall shops.

The children were crying
all mad in their beds,
With visions of homework
crammed in their heads.

And papa in his lounge pants,
And I in my shorts,
Were ready for anything,
Definitely done making “forts.”

When checking our phones,
To see what’s on our plate,
We couldn’t believe it,
It was already past 8.

Away to the kitchen,
I made a mad dash.
To see if we had snacks.
“Oh no, forgot the trash!”

The moon was all shiny,
Its man poking fun.
“Summer is over,
caput, gone, YUP, done!”

When thoughts to my wandering
mind did come clear,
The fall is upon us,
There are things we can cheer.

Like football, Like pumpkins,
Like lattes, Like scarecrows,
Like apples, Like sweatshirts,
Like cider, Like warm clothes.

To the ice cream truck songs!
To the fireworks all night!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away! That’s right!

Make room for the soup
The outdoor fireside chats.
Make room for the leaves,
Thank God, no more gnats!

As I came to my senses,
And was settling down,
A smile snuck to my lips,
No longer a frown.

I’ll be dressed in all manner of
sweatpants and hoodies,
I’ll feel so so cozy,
All ready for some goodies.

That Halloween will bring,
Thanksgiving too.
It won’t be just eats,
It’ll be lots of hugs, true.

I spoke no more words,
But went straight to my bed,
Said a prayer filled with thanks,
For what lies ahead.

And laying my head,
And closing my eyes,
My heart felt more settled,
“My goodness! Time flies!”

I rose one last time,
To check on my crew,
“Happy Fall, my sweet ones,
I’m thankful for you!”

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Roots and Wings

“I miss you, Mom.” If I see this, or hear this, I am a puddle.
I know. I know. It might mean, “I miss your meals. I miss you folding my clothes.”
What I secretly hope is that it means they miss my good mom love for them. There’s nothing like a mom’s love, right?
But what does that even mean?
Protecting them? Feeding them (way too many meals a day in my opinion)? Keeping them safe?
Granting them freedom? Freaking out inside when they hop behind the wheel of a car? Letting them make mistakes?
This mom gig is hard.
It’s a very tricky tight rope to walk. It’s more nuanced than some quick A+B=C equation. Beyond COMPLICATED!
If I protect them at all costs, I might suffocate and smother them, not allowing them to become themselves. NOT GOOD.
If I grant them unlimited freedom, they might feel uncared for and unsafe, and very unloved. ALSO NOT GOOD.
So what’s a mom to do? How do I best love them?
Maybe I don’t have to choose either or. Total SAFETY or total FREEDOM.
And maybe it’s A LOT about how I make them feel inside.
Maybe it’s about them knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt they belong to me, no matter what they do. They are grounded, or rooted, in that place, whether they are 10 feet from me in their childhood bedroom or they are 1,000 miles away in their new apartment.
AND maybe, just maybe, it’s about them also knowing they’ve got what it takes to sprout internal wings, and I’ve given them complete freedom to become all that they were designed to be (as messy as that process is).
It doesn’t seem to matter if they are 2 or 22.
It takes lots of mom time and energy (and a lot of asking God) to make all these decisions with wisdom, not to smother, but to give proper roots, AND to know when and how and why to lovingly “kick them out of the nest” to soar to heights way beyond my mom imagination.
Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Thanks

Painted KINDNESS

It happened again.

Children brought hope to my discouraged heart.

Hope in the form of painted rocks.

Painted rocks outside our local elementary school.

Messages of goodness, encouragement and kindness splattered all over simple gray stones.

In “pre-crazy times,” I would have thought, “how cute” and moved on quickly.

Not now. I stopped, savoring each one, breathing a prayer of thanks.

Thanks for each child. Thanks for the purest and simplest of words, designed to breathe life into my disheartened soul.

I needed these rocks. I needed these deliberate acts of kindness from children who decided to take a moment to paint rocks.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood

KINDNESS shows up in a firetruck

KINDNESS shows up in a firetruck.
.
Lights flash. Roto-Ray spins.
.
KINDNESS squeezes red engine into cozy firehouse space.
.
Obsessed toddler waits, wonders.
.
KINDNESS steps out of large hook and ladder.
.
Puddle-jumping little boy watches his every move.
.
“Where you been lately, my little friend?” KINDNESS asks.
.
Normally chatty two-year-old falls reverently silent..
.
KINDNESS speaks words that change the world. “Want to take a ride?”
.
Blue eyes sparkle, pint-size feet race, Mommy scoops, seatbelts clasp.
.
KINDNESS turns key and motor roars to life.
.
Lights flash again. Sirens scream. Tot revels. Mema savors.
.
Driven by KINDNESS, “Big Red” circles block, little tyke stunned.
.
Papa waves, beholding rescue vehicle-infatuated grandson’s enraptured face.
.
KINDNESS does what KINDNESS does best: makes a little someone’s world better by ONE simple act.
.
Loose-lipped toddler scampers home to tell Daddy all about it.
.
KINDNESS shows up in a firetruck.
.
Posted in Childhood, Family, Guest, Motherhood

Cognitive Dissonance and the Upcoming School Year

I was off to the races yesterday morning.
My teacher/daughter and I were chatting about the upcoming school year and ALL. THE. THINGS. surrounding it.
I had a million ideas and shared them a little too eagerly.
Here’s what you should do!
Look at this idea I found on Pinterest!
Ya-da ya-da ya-da.
“Whoa, Mom,” she gracefully, yet boldly stopped me. “I can’t do this right now. I have to take one step at a time. I need to WAIT for my district before I dive in.”
You know what I did?!?
Not my normal, “but I think you should…”
I stopped. Just like she asked me to.
Yes, often I am the teacher, the wise one, the mom giving counsel.
But motherhood is a two-way street. I am ALSO often the learner, the ignorant one, the mom receiving guidance.
We got off the phone, me feeling beyond grateful that I have a daughter who is really coming into HER OWN VOICE and here is what she wrote only an hour later.
WISDOM beyond WISDOM.
Yup. It was good for me to zip my lip and open my ears.

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 10.23.27 PM
Education is under fire right now. It’s the next big thing under scrutiny during this pandemic. School districts, administration, and educators are under a microscope as the world cries out, “What do we do next?”
As a teacher wrestling with this very question, here’s the truth: No one knows! There is no right answer.
At the same time, there are lots of other true things:
Kids are falling academically behind
Parents need to go back to work
COVID cases are rising in many states
There are high risk teachers, students and family members
Children’s mental and emotional health is important
All of these truths exist in exactly the same space.
The questions we must ask ourselves are:
Can we sit there with them?
Can we sit there as one truth butts up against another, rubs it the wrong way or opposes it completely?
Can we sit there with truths swirling around without letting go of others?”
That is HARD.
And when things get hard we want answers.
We want certainty.
We want someone to blame when things go wrong.
Instead, can we acknowledge that when things are hard, mistakes are most likely going to get made not because we are bad but because we are HUMAN?
Brene Brown (my famous life coach and secret BFF) speaks to this phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. In her words, cognitive dissonance is “the psychologically painful process of trying to hold two competing truths in a mind that was engineered to constantly reduce conflict and minimize dissension.”
In a nutshell, holding opposing truths is real soul work. It is hard but worth it.
In the sacred space of my classroom, I teach my students that mistakes make them HUMAN, not bad. Together we engage in the truly and completely vulnerable act of learning. I want them to extend grace to themselves and to others as we find that perfection does not exist, but love does.
As teachers, as parents and just simply as people, may we have the wisdom and willingness to get uncomfortable sitting with multiple truths at the same time. May we model for our students and our children, not how to make perfect decisions but how to make them in love.
So what are you, your family, your school, your district going to do this fall? Let’s aim for love, not perfection.
Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Saved?!?!

Wait!!! What?!?!

Me? Not my kids’ savior?

But I’m a mom and I want to be. So very much.

I like saving them.

From pain.
From loss.
From danger.
From rejection.
From struggle.
From failure.
From judgment.
From conflict.
From bad choices.
From all that’s wrong with the world.

It feels really good.

For the moment.

But I know it’s not good.

For their hearts.

Because when I am their savior,

I am also “saving” them…

From growing.
From confidence.
From adventure.
From learning.
From independence.
From success.
From connection.
From responsibility.
From good choices.
From all that’s right with the world.

Doesn’t sound like much saving in the end.

Then what’s the point of this motherhood gig?
If it’s not for saving?

Hang on a minute.

Wait for it.
Wait for it.

What’s that still small voice whispering inside?
What’s that “aha moment” I can’t deny?

Has motherhood saved me?
Has it?

By…

bringing me JOY that I’ve never known before
revealing PATIENCE as I stumble along in the unknown
breathing HOPE when I need it the most
reminding me of BEAUTY in the ordinary moments
granting KINDNESS when I can’t find any in myself
allowing me to experience unconditional LOVE
opening my heart to see the tenderness of good good GOD

The question persists, but the answer comes.

PERHAPS IT HAS.
PERHAPS IT REALLY HAS.

Note to self_ Motherhood is not a religion and I am not the savior of at the center.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Friendship, Motherhood, Thanks

Dear Daughters,

Spending this past week with you two beautiful women was the highlight of my 2020 so far.  (I know that’s not saying much, but bear with me…winky face!)

I couldn’t ask for better daughters than you.  I actually couldn’t ask for better people in my life than you.

You are all that I hoped you would be and so much more than I could have ever imagined.   You breathe beauty and hope and strength and faith and life into me.

You have done for this ONE mama what I long to do for everyone.  You have shown me that all it takes is ONE breath of GOODNESS at a time to infuse LIFE into another.

You breathe BEAUTY (not just the outward kind even though sometimes just glancing at you catches me off guard and I am dumbstruck).  You each see the world through eyes that find the small things glorious, like the sand between your toes or rainbow-sprinkled ice cream on your tongue.  You spend your days creating what’s lovely for my hungry eyes and ears.  THANK YOU!

You breathe HOPE.  Your zeal for making the world a place where there is “liberty and justice for ALL” (and that really means ALL) makes this mama heart do a happy dance.  You adamantly believe that it starts with you and you are more than willing to figure out how to make it happen so that it ripples out into this broken and hurting world.  WOW!

You breathe STRENGTH.  Watching the two of you discuss really hard things from political reform to gender roles to spirituality to personal responsibility made me wish I could grow up in the beautiful world you envision.  You do NOT shy away or disengage, but listen intently and respond with bold conviction.  You are strong, my daughters and I am so PROUD.

You breathe FAITH.  In a world where many of us (your mama included at times) seems to have lost its way, you continue to believe and trust.  You believe and trust your ever-evolving selves (woohoo).  You continue to see the best in others and take joy in loving them right where they are, walking alongside of them in humility and grace.   The two of you have an unwavering anchor for your souls in the good God that is at the root of all that’s right and true and wonderful.  My socks are officially KNOCKED off!

You breathe LIFE.  Life in the form of a good morning hug and quick “I love you.”  Life in the form of washing the dishes and saying “Take a break, Mom.”  Life in the form of abundant grace given when I falter and even fail.  Life in the form of laughter over game-playing competitiveness.  Life in the form of your sweaty yoga duet on the deck.  Life in the form of heart-to-heart discussions about our individual and collective fears, hopes and dreams.  Soul-filling LIFE.

So dearest ones, my beautiful girls, two of my closest friends, I salute you.  I believe in you.  I trust you.  I am thankful for you from the tippy-top of my noggin’ to the very ends of my toes to the deepest space in my heart.  I stand in awe of you.

But mostly and always, I LOVE YOU.

Your ONE Dolly Mama

P.S.  I am now over here in the most beautiful and sacred puddle of good tears.   I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

P.P.S.  You are rocking my ONE world, your world, THE world.  You go my girls!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Guest

The Top 10 Things I Learned As a Dad (from three of the best)

(I asked three of my favorite dads…including my awesome husband…what they learned from being a dad.  Here are their responses.  They are brilliant.)

  1. Not to judge other parents.  I haven’t walked in their shoes.  We all need grace.  It’s the hardest job there is.
  2. To admit my mistakes and to be the first to apologize to my kids when we conflict.
  3. To make the relationship and not the rules the priority.  To focus on their heart and not their behavior.
  4. To listen more and lecture less.
  5. That how I live counts much more than what I say.
  6. That boundaries are key and that knowing how to manage boundaries (set, maintain, relax, alter, scrap, reinforce) is ridiculously complicated and confusing.
  7. That I lack patience and am not long-suffering.
  8. That it’s really hard to keep loving your kids when they are obnoxious.
  9. The mistakes I made as a dad can be redeemed as I grow and change.
  10. What it’s like to love unconditionally.  Period.  End of story.  No matter what they did, I would love them.  It helped me understand God’s unfailing love for me.

(Credit to Glenn Murphy, Allen Goetz and Frank Ellerbusch…Happy Father’s Day to you!)

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grandparenthood, Motherhood, Thanks

I Can’t Believe This is My Life

Baby showers.  Hospital rooms.  24-hour deliveries.  No sleep.  Leaky nursing bra.  Baby giggles.  Blurry mind.  Toothless smiles.  Crawling under the crib in the middle of the night for the pacifier.  Yellow poop up the back.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Tantrums in grocery stores.  Toddler tunes enough to drive a normal person crazy.  First full sentences.  Bonked heads.  Refusals to nap.  Go Dog Go.  Happy bubble baths.  Weird obsessions.  Endless hugs.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Play dates.  Obnoxious Nick Jr.  Skinned knees.  Brown play-dough.  Playgrounds.  Accidents in pants.  Too many doctor visits.  Smooshy kisses (right on the lips)!  Melt-downs.  “Parent’s, please stay with your child” birthday parties.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Homework.  The car.  The car.  The car.  Class parties.  Sidelines and fields.  Strange sounds coming from musical instruments.   Mom school projects.  Fibs.  Surprise “I love you” notes.  Whining.  Lost jackets, mittens, and hats.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Cliques.  Hormones.  School performance pressure.  Spontaneous hugs.  Rolling eyes.  Good talks in the car, facing forward.  Did I say hormones?  Budding independence.  Dinners on the run.  Concerts.  Teams.  Plays.  Try-outs.  Rejections.  First paid gigs.

I can’t believe this is my life.

First kisses (and second and third).  Team dinners.  Slammed doors.  Missed curfews.  Drivers’ licenses.  YIKES.  Long unprompted talks.  Proms.  Less and less control.  Senior nights.  Heartbreaks.  Texts not returned for what seems like hours and hours and hours.  Real Christmas presents.  Car accidents.  College apps.  Caps flying in the air.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Dorm shopping.  Saying goodbye.  Endless mom tears.  Weeks between texts.  WORRY.  Weird campus visits.  Saying hello.  Curfews???  No.  Home-cooked food.  Yes.  Summer job???  Possibly.  Up till all weird hours.  Yes.  Dirty dishes.  Yes.  Family.  Saying goodbye again.  Less mom tears.  More mom relief.  REPEAT for four years.

I can’t believe this is my life.

First jobs.  W2s.  Uhauls.  “Adulting.”  Used car lots.  Uhauls.  Sincere and heart-felt “thank you moms.”  Heated conversations about world events.  Tearful hugs goodbye.  Zoom family game nights.  Did I mention Uhauls?  Mother’s Day flowers from afar.  Wedding planning.  Real friendship.  Grandpuppies.  Precious and fleeting moments “ALL TOGETHER.”  Yup.  Uhauls.

I can’t believe this is my life.

Baby showers.  Hospital rooms.  24-hour deliveries.  Baby giggles.  Toothless smiles.  After-bath smells.  Snuggles and kisses.  Toddler tantrums.  Excitement over Mommy’s old Fisher Price school bus.  Go Dog Go.  Sad “see you soons.”  Facetime laughter.  “I love you the most, Mema.”  Happiest hugs hello.

YUP.  I can’t believe this is my life.

BUT I COULDN’T BE MORE GRATEFUL THAT IT IS.

AND THERE IS STILL MORE TO COME.