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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Childhood, Faith, Friendship, Mental Health, Thanks

Insomnia and SELAH

Good morning SELAH,
I loved seeing you yesterday, even though it was from a distance. I loved watching you play with our dog.  I loved hearing from your mom and dad about your hike in the meadow. I loved how we talked at the end about being “awake” together during the night.
Last night, I woke up a few times and just like I told you, I thought of you and prayed for you, that you wouldn’t be afraid like you’ve been the last few weeks.
But it was more than that and I want to tell you what happened.
When I woke up, I thought about the things that God is and then I thought about you.
The first thing I thought about is that GOD IS LOVE. He loves me. He loves you. But then I thought about you, your name. SELAH. I was told when I was about your age that when I saw that word in the Psalms, it meant, “pause and reflect.” So that’s what I did in the middle of the night.
I thought about God loving me and you and then I just laid there for a minute with your name: SELAH. I laid there and thought a little longer about how much God loves me and you. Paused and reflected.
The next thing I thought about is that GOD IS GOOD. He is good to me. He is good to you. Then I thought about your name again. SELAH. I laid there just another minute, pausing and reflecting.
The very last thing I thought about is that GOD IS WITH US. He is with me. He is with you. SELAH. I don’t think it was very long at all before I drifted back off to sleep.
I woke up a couple more times during the night and thought more about these three things. And YOU. Praying that God would help us to be able to rest and sleep and remember over and over and over again that He loves us. He is good to us. He is with us always.
SELAH, you are a beautiful young lady (I can’t believe you are only nine) and I am so grateful that I know you. I am so thankful that the name your mom and dad gave you helped me so much last night.
Tonight, if and when I wake up again, I’m going to be thinking about you and God and pausing and reflecting. SELAH.
If you wake up in the middle of the night this week (and I hope you don’t), remember that you are not alone and that I am “awake” with you, and God is taking care of us both.
Love,
Miss Esther
Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grandparenthood, Marriage, Mental Health, motherhood, Thanks

I LOVE PEOPLE

I LOVE PEOPLE.
This whole pandemic has made me love them more.
My head shakes in wonder at their CREATIVITY.  Father/daughter duets from their family room.  Healing poems. Whole choirs singing via Zoom. Art classes online. Entire educational systems and their staff STILL teaching the next generation. Faith communities having services in cars, online, complete with music, prayer and words of encouragement.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My heart bursts at their KINDNESS. Masks for strangers. Pizza ordered for weary hospital staff. Phone calls to the elderly. Smiles and “thank yous” dispensed across lawns and continents. Lysol wipes distributed to friends.  Round-the-clock prayers on behalf of the suffering.  KINDNESS.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My mind boggles at their sense of HUMOR. Silly memes on social media. Comedy shows streamed free. Toilet paper jokes at family dinners. Videos that almost make me pee my pants. Hope disguised as laughter, the best medicine to cheer our hearts. HUMOR.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My ‘fraidy-cat-self marvels at their BRAVERY. Medical personnel on the front lines. Small business owners fighting for their workers. Relief workers serving the marginalized. Delivery people handling packages from who knows where. Struggling patients clinging to the hope of going home. BRAVERY.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My soul is enraptured by their GENEROSITY. Neighbors dropping hand-sanitizer in each other’s mailboxes. Donations (small and great) to food pantries. Countries sending medical supplies to each other. Firemen creating birthday parades. Moms and dads forgoing much-needed sleep for confused littles. GENEROSITY.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My “hope-to-be-like-them” is fascinated by their WISDOM. Leaders navigating the nuances between freedom and safety. Podcasts generated by grief experts. Produce stands quickly figuring out “curb-side pickup.” Online counseling sessions to work through mental health issues. Texts between friends with comforting words.  WISDOM.
I LOVE PEOPLE.
My entire being is captured by their LOVE. Creative date nights planned by spouses. Video “chats” between grandmas and toddlers. Grocery store runs for the fearful and the shut-in. Parents wrapping arms and hearts around sad school-lovers. Teenagers forgoing freedom to protect the vulnerable. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.
HAVE I SAID HOW MUCH I LOVE PEOPLE? I LOVE US.
We aren’t perfect and we are making lots of mistakes as we hobble down a path we’ve never encountered before, but I think we are doing just fine. We are learning and growing together in ways that will make us more CREATIVE, KINDER, FUNNIER, BRAVER, more GENEROUS, WISER, and better able to LOVE than ever before.
Hang in there, my friends! I’m hanging with you. We have GREAT HOPE!
Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Grandparenthood, motherhood, Thanks

Today Changed Your Life Forever

Dear Brand-Spanking-New Mama,

Today has changed your life forever. You will never be the same. Your beautiful baby girl has been born.

Feelings have bubbled to the surface that you didn’t even know existed, the very first being

LOVE unimaginable, unexplainable.

But I can promise you that won’t be the only one. You’ll be pummeled by ALL. THE. FEELINGS. every day for the rest of your life.

FEAR that your house will catch on fire or that no one will invite your new 5th grader to sit with them on the bus.

LONELINESS in the middle of a room full of other moms or in the middle of a sleepless night.

CONFUSION about how to feed your baby the right food or feed yourself the best information.

JOY over the first wobbly steps taken across the family room or the last confident steps taken across the graduation stage.

ANGER at the unfair teacher, your sassy toddler, her phone, your out-of-control self, the mean girl at lunch, every form of consuming media, the unhelpful doctor, on and on and on.

GUILT about not being enough or being too much.

SADNESS when the bus pulls away with your kindergartener or when your teen pushes you away, leaving you a heap on his bedroom floor.

THANKFUL for the smile laced across your middle-schooler’s face at the Holiday Chorus concert or the smile on your bride-daughter’s face as she dances with her groom.

28 years later, you will be in the middle of a three-way kiss between your baby and her baby, and that very first feeling,

LOVE, unimaginable, unexplainable,

will swallow up all the others, multiplying itself once again, which you never thought possible.

From my heart to yours,

Filled-to-the-brim-with-love, Old Mama

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, motherhood

Mommy has canser (#leapday2016)

“Mommy has canser.”

“I went to the Turtle Back Zoo.”

“I like ice cream.”

Leap Day 2016.

Three short thoughts written as part of a letter I had my nine-year-old niece write in a letter to her future Leap Day 2020 self.

My eight-year-old nephew wrote one too.

Four years ago, these two every-day kids came to stay with me for several weeks while their mom was undergoing intensive treatment for “canser.”

Four years ago, they didn’t know if their mom would be here for Leap Day 2020.

Four years ago, they were kids whose favorite movies were Frozen and Star Wars (like every other tween girl and boy).

It’s now Leap Day 2020.

I sent my now twelve- and thirteen-year old nephew and niece their letters 500 miles away.

Four years have passed since those words were penciled on loose-leaf paper.

Four years, where they have endured the worst: the loss of their mom.

Four years, where my brother picked up the pieces and entered in a new normal without his wife to help him navigate the journey without her.

Four years, where my then 17-year-old niece (the “older sister”) gathered her own heart together and plugged away at her future as a nurse one painful and healing day at a time.

Four years, where this little family laughed and cried, played and worked, fought and made-up, just like the rest of us.

Leap Day 2016 feels like yesterday, those two kids sitting at my kitchen counter, their future unknown, penning words to themselves.

I didn’t know if heartache or hope would come before those letters were read four years later.

Yes, heartache came in like an untamed beast, threatening to rip this family to shreds.

BUT that is not the end of the story.

Four years later, I can say HOPE reached in louder as God took extra, tender care of this little family without their wife and mom.

Four years later, there are two budding teens who are smart and kind and full of life, with friends and pets and who still secretly like Frozen and Star Wars. HOPE.

Four years later, there is a man who has fought hard to help his family take their next right steps and love each other no matter what comes their way. He rocks as a dad! HOPE.

Four years later, there is a Registered Nurse, who trusted God and got up every morning to go to school, putting one foot in front of the other. She started her first job this month. HOPE.

Leap Day 2024.

Four years from now. What will life bring?

To my brother and his family?

To me and mine?

Frozen 3? Ten more Star Wars movies?

Laughter? Tears?

Work? Play?

Fights? Forgiveness?

Heartache?

Yes.

But, that will not be the end of the story.

HOPE will reach in louder.

God will take extra, tender care of us all.

#thereisgreathope #leapday2020 #herviewfromhome #hopewriters #dollymamanj