Posted in Celebration, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

A Recycled Candle Jar

A recycled candle jar.

But not just any recycled candle jar.
 
One turned into a gift for a mom.
 
100 little notes (“+ a few bonuses”) nestled inside the glass.
 
With butterfly stickers to boot.
 
From her littlest big kid.
 
A mom who fought fiercely to love this kid.
 
All of her kids, in fact.
 
Not perfectly by any means.
 
Kind of messy.
 
Kind of mixed-up.
 
Kind of all-over-the-place.
 
But with her whole heart for sure.
 
A mom who made up family traditions as she went along.
 
Valentine’s Day indoor picnics on the floor.
 
Ice cream every night on summer vacation.
 
Money egg hunts on Easter from middle school on.
 
Traditions that were just what the mom needed maybe even more than the kids.
 
A mom who created memories from moments big and small.
 
Ones that never seem to fade a teensy iota.
 
Others that echo all the mom’s unending and tireless (and tiring) effort.
 
Even more that call timeless past treasures right into the present.
 
Memories that speak to the truth that the love of a mom does not change.
 
EVER.
 
A recycled candle jar.
 
But not just any recycled candle jar.
 
One turned into a gift for a mom.
 
All those memories…
 
All those traditions…
 
All those gifts of love…
 
Have now just returned to her ten, twenty, even hundred-fold.
 
She can assure you of this: it was all worth it and then some.
 
And then some more. And more. And more.
Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Grief, Thanks

I Can’t Stop Staring

 

I can’t stop staring at my tree.

For the first time ever in the history of my “very-organized-and-get-it-all-put-away” self, I decided NOT to take our tree down just yet.

Yes, the ornaments are all put away, labeled in their correct boxes.  But the lights are still shimmering quietly.

I wonder if it’s because it’s the last thing left from 2020, the year of all years.

That feels strange, but it’s mostly likely true.

Part of me doesn’t want to “let go” quite yet and plunge into the “back-to-normal” (if there even is such a thing) 2021 to come.

I’ve loved and hated 2020 just like the rest of you.

Hated all the division, sickness, suffering, anxiety, loss, isolation, yada yada yada.

But I’ve come to LOVE some things that I don’t want to let go of.

Like less expectations and shoulds.

More enjoying what’s right in front of me.

Less running around like a nutcase.

Embracing the simplicity and monotony of each day.

Figuring out who my people are…my real people who have stuck with me and by me through it all.

Clinging to the Source of Hope like never before.

It’s probably why I’ve kept my tree up with it’s sparkly lights.

Why I can’t stop staring at it.

It’s giving me permission to go slowly again into this year.

Not follow my usual rules.

Allow it to be different (because, let’s face it, it is different).

Let go of all that never really served me in the “before times.”

Grieve all the loss and hang on to all that I’ve found.

Continue to feed the hope that burns in my soul.

The light that cannot be snuffed out.

I can’t stop staring at my tree.

Posted in Celebration, Health, Thanks, Word of the Year

How to Choose Your Word of the Year (simple steps and helpful reminders)…Find Out Mine

A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads).  It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey.  (The Dolly Mama)

When I was a young girl, I had the New Year’s resolution every year of reading through the Bible.  On January 1, I would read 40 chapters of the book of Genesis and then by January 8, I would be on Genesis chapter 43.  I’ve made that same resolution about 20 more times at points in my life and guess what, I have never read through the whole Bible no matter what I’ve tried.  It’s been the same for me with exercise plans, diets, organizational goals, etc.

You know what I mean.

You feel the same pain.

Bottom line: resolutions rarely, if ever, work.

On the flip side, I’m all about HOPE.  I love a fresh start.  A new day.  A new week.  A new month.  And especially a NEW YEAR.  Hope “rocks my socks.”

Thank God He gives me a fresh start every morning, even every moment.  I don’t know what I would do without the place where I can begin again, take a first step toward change, growth and healing, and then come to that same redemptive position again and again.  HOPE.

HOPE, my first Word of the Year (hereafter known as WOTY) is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY.  I need HOPE. 

A word of the year encompasses HOPE.  It’s an inner, gracious guide that allows room for us to change and grow.  Resolutions are harsh external masters that heap shame on us when we “fail” to keep them.

Here’s why:

  • A resolution concentrates on “DOING.”  A WOTY values “BEING.”
  • A resolution instructs.  A WOTY inspires.
  • A resolution is mandatory (“work out three days a week”).  A WOTY allows for room to go at your own pace (taking the next baby step).
  • A resolution is limited in possibility (“lose 10 pounds”).  A WOTY is expansive and limitless.
  • A resolution can be “broken.” A WOTY cannot (it is a gentle friend).

If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun.  I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (my husband). 

It’s not a race.  It doesn’t matter when.  But it might matter IF.

It might seem overwhelming.  It’s not.  It’s just fun.  Give yourself the treat.

Helpful reminders:

  • Concentrate on who you want to BE(come) this year, not what you want to get done.
  • Cup your ear to your hopes and dreams.  Be mindful not to listen to your doubts and fears.
  • Be true to yourself.  You want your  word to represent your unique needs and desires.
  • Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t traditional goal-setting.  This is grace-filled friendship-making. There is plenty of room to change your mind.
  • It’s intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads…I call that “shoulding” all over yourself).  It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.

Simple steps:

  1.  Ask yourself a simple question:  What do you need?  Many times, we concentrate on improving ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves.  This is a huge starting place.  Don’t skip this step.  Write down all the random things that come to your mind.
  2. The next question can be (after you haven’t skipped the first one) who do you want to be(come)?  Write down a few of the most important things that jump into your head.
  3. Make a list of words that come to mind.  Write as many as you want.  It can be a noun, verb or adjective.  If you need help, click on this printable alphabetical list I put together for you for some ideas. (Word of the Year Ideas)
  4. Cross out the words that don’t work for you.  Narrow your list down to at the most 10 words.
  5. Check out the definition of each of the words, its origin, synonyms and antonyms.  You might just be surprised at what you find out!
  6. Give yourself some time to process the list.  Allow yourself to “try each one on for size.”
  7. Take a deep breath and choose your word.  Take a few minutes to write your thoughts about how you hope it might play out in different areas of your life and relationships.
  8. Write your word down on something and post it on your mirror, your car, your computer, wherever you will see it every day.  I found a picture and put it as the background of my computer (it will feel weird to change it out).  Look at it each morning and remind yourself about this friend who is with you today.
  9. Give yourself permission to change your mind.  If you want to, take the time to reflect and re-evaluate your word at any point in the year.

An Update From Yours Truly:

My WOTY for 2020 was “Hygge.”  I don’t want to give up this friend.  I love her.  She’s been a kind, yet forceful voice in my life, the best of the best.  I have a long way to go in my friendship with “Hygge.”   She is “the feeling of coziness and well-being.”

The good news is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one.  “Hygge” can come along with me into 2021 and who knows, maybe my new word will stand hand-in-hand with her.  When I think about all my WOTYs since I’ve started, it makes for one wonderful Dolly Mama posse (HOPE, BECOME, DEPTH, TEND, SHALOM and HYGGE).  That makes me super happy.

Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2021:  my Word of the Year is BREATHE!

Breathe.

After 2020, my muscles are tight, my brain is fried from all the decisions, my adrenaline is overused, my body is drained and my soul is plain-old exhausted from clinging to HOPE in the middle of all the heartache. 

Breathe.

This “just-the-friend-I-need-right-now” WOTY will give me the courage to do this…

PHYSICALLY.  Shoulders down.  Lungs open.  Slow, long and deep.  Often.

EMOTIONALLY.  Let the good in.  Get the toxic out.  Good boundaries.  Open heart.

MENTALLY.  Take one step at a time.  Like a snail.  Gracious.  Steady.  Intentional.

SPIRITUALLY.

Breathe.

INHALE the grace of God.

Breathe.

EXHALE the shame I heap on myself.

Breathe.

INHALE the peace of God.

Breathe.

EXHALE the fear that threatens to overwhelm me.

Breathe.

INHALE the love of God.

Breathe.

EXHALE all that tells me otherwise.

Breathe.

Back to You:

Consider joining me on this journey to find out what word can come along side you and be your gentle and kind friend throughout this new year that we are embarking on.  When you do, please please send me a note letting me know what your word is or post it in the comments on social media.  I love to remind you every so often throughout the year about your new-found friend.

Happy New Year from my heart to yours!

Posted in Celebration, Family, Motherhood

What Matters

I had to set my alarm for the first time in nine months.

I left my home in the cold cover of darkness to pick you up after five whole months of being apart.

I spent my whole entire day “getting your room ready” (since it had become where we “store” everything).

Our grocery bill is going to be quite a bit higher for the next three weeks.

We both had to quarantine to the best of our ability for the last bunch of days.

I had to fill my pantry with all your favorites and drove back out to the store because I forgot something.

There will be more dirty dishes and meals I haven’t made in months.

ALL of that just doesn’t matter. Seriously.

WHAT DOES MATTER IS ALL OF THIS:

I watched you embrace the dad you have had wrapped around your finger since you burst forth on the scene in that sterile hospital room.

I heard your particular footsteps scampering to the bathroom this morning.

I soaked in the smell of your perfume you’ve been wearing since you were 13.

You sat with me eating your favorite cereal and we just had time to talk face-to-face.

The puzzle board is back out with pieces scattered in very neatly arranged areas.

We are going to decorate the Christmas tree together.

I am hearing your laughter right now as you chat with your brother.

We went on a walk today in the freshly fallen snow.

You are here if I want to see your face, be in the same room with you, and hold your hand on the couch while we binge watch our favorite mom/daughter show.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THAT YOU ARE HOME.

With me.

For Christmas.

Best mom present ever.

E.V.E.R.

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Thanks

2020, Thanksgiving, AND

BUT I SHOULD be thankful because…

I have technology to communicate with my family.

none of the people I love is sick right now.

my husband just got a job.

BUT I SHOULD be thankful.

BUT.

BUT.

BUT.

 

I’ve lived for a long time in the land of the BUT.

Hoping that happiness would spill out as I pondered all the “awesome” in my life.

Hoping that even though XYZ was hard, pointing out the good would quiet down the raw grief that kept welling up inside.

Hoping beyond hope that gratitude would spring up and overflow to all those around me.

 

Dirty little secret.   It didn’t work.

I just felt guilty, like an entitled little brat who didn’t get her way when her mom told her “no more cookies.”

I stuffed down my sadness in favor of all manner of positivity, only to find it leak out in ways like resentment and unkindness.

I brought this yuck into my marriage, my parenting and my friendships, only to perpetuate this vicious cycle.

 

One little word changed all of this.

The word I’ve come to desperately NEED and LOVE, especially in 2020, the year of all years.

The word that helps me to embrace all of my humanness and yours too, giving us opportunity for true and real connection.

The word that’s holding me this week as we head into Thanksgiving, giving space for gratitude in a whole new way.

 

This word:  AND.

AND.

AND.

AND.

 

It’s goes something like this.

 

I am very sad that I can’t eat turkey and watch football with some of my kids this week

AND I am thankful because…

they are able to see each other and I have technology to communicate with them.

 

I am anxious about this dang virus and all the numbers going up

AND I am thankful because…

none of the people I love is sick right now.

 

I am angry that local businesses are shutting their doors and the holidays are kind of being ruined

AND I am thankful because…

my husband just got a new job.

 

I am having a very hard time with all that’s been ravaged, lost, ripped away from the collective “us” this year

AND I am thankful because…

God is good and near and kind and with me in the middle of all of it.

 

So on this very 2020 Thanksgiving, my friend, let’s give ourselves permission to kick the land of the BUT to the curb and pitch our tent in the terra firma of the AND.

Posted in Family, Grief, Motherhood, Thanks

TWINGE

It hits you when you least expect it.

That TWINGE of mom grief.

The lump in your throat, tear in your eye, and melancholy in your mom heart.

It might be something as simple as…
watching your 10-year-old jump in a pile of leaves knowing this might be the last time she feels carefree enough to do so because she is heading into those self-conscious middle school years.

TWINGE.

Or…
your eighth grader asking to stand back-to-back with you so he can prove he has passed you up in the mom/son height race.

TWINGE.

Maybe even…
your newly-licensed driver waving goodbye to you as she backs down your driveway headed off for the very first time EVER alone in the family car.

TWINGE.

How about…
unthinkingly grabbing your son’s favorite cereal in the grocery store a week into his college freshman year? You slowly put it back on the shelf.

TWINGE.

It happened to me today. Again. A sign on the beach I frequent often, one I had never noticed before.

A simple board with words reminding me that I am here, standing 428 feet from the Atlantic Ocean and my 21-year-old is snug as a bug 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, almost 3,000 miles away.

3,000.

TWINGE.
TWINGE.
TWINGE.

I stopped.
I stared at the sign.
I sighed.
I teared up.
I wiped my eyes with my shirt.

TWINGE.

That ever-so familiar TWINGE that…

…sparks gratitude for this mom journey I love.

…moves me THROUGH the hard of missing all the good that once was

…takes me TO the good that still lies ahead, waiting for me to enjoy it.

It won’t be long until I feel that TWINGE again.
It will hit me when I least expect it.
But I secretly don’t mind it at all.

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

613

613. Number of ancient Jewish laws.

613. Almost the number of rules in our home when the kids were little.

61. Probably the number of different “Family Laws” based on said rules along with kids’ ages and stages.

All of this an effort to keep track of what really mattered and didn’t, what should be disciplined and what should be praised.

But mostly just a desperate attempt to manage the chaos that seemed to be a natural part of raising a family.

One not-so-glorious day, having reached the end of my mom rope, I screamed these words in exasperation:

“JUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR STUFF!!!”

“PUH-LEEZE!”

If the not-so-glorious scene had been made into a comic strip for the Sunday paper, a glowing “light bulb” would have hovered just over my red face and red head.

“AHA! MAGIC!!!”

Boxes in my brain were immediately checked for compliance:

  • Brush teeth (SELF)
  • Put gas in the car (STUFF)
  • Do NOT eat 17 cookies (SELF)
  • Do homework (STUFF)
  • No wet towels on the floor (STUFF)
  • Go to bed (SELF)
  • Get a job (BOTH). – YES. Get a job!

A new “Family Law” was imposed, one that didn’t take hours of preparation, spreadsheets and doctorates. The old charts were wadded up and saved as fire starters!

“AHH. RELIEF!”

“TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR STUFF!”

****************************

Everything in our OUTER lives is managed by this sweet, simple phrase, no matter how old we are, whether we are a male or female, who we live with, what dreams we have, or what our personalities are like.

(You could play a little game and see if you can find any that don’t if you really want to. Comment if you come up with one.)

It’s the same for me and for you, our child or our parents, our spouse or our friend, our pastor or our barista at the local coffee shop.

But what about our INNER lives? What about cooperation, kindness, generosity, respect, compassion, thankfulness, forgiveness, patience, etc., the deeper issues of the heart?

Do they land in those two columns of “self” and “stuff”?

The wisest human (not me) who ever lived emphatically says, “yes.”

In fact, he reminds us that “taking care of our self and our stuff” begins with our INNER life.

Cultivating the matters of our hearts is the best care we can take of our “selves.”

Tending to our souls is the best care we can take of our “stuff.”

His words, not mine:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

P.S. I need a new toothbrush!

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Y-E-S

When your big kid texts, “Can I come home for the weekend?” you jump at the chance and say a resounding “Y-E-S.”

When your big kid pulls in the driveway, you run outside, wave frantically and give her a hug like you haven’t seen her in five years (even though it’s only been five weeks).
 
When your big kid dumps her stuff all over your kitchen counter, you hold your tongue and remember that it’s only for a couple of days, knowing secretly you miss the “mess.”
 
When your big kid asks, “Mom, do you have ___________,” you search your house until ___________ is found underneath the sink in the back corner.
 
When your big kid shows you the tomatoes and peppers she brought you from her garden, you say, “WOW! That’s amazing!” and you figure out how to use them over the next week so you can post a picture on social media and tag her.
 
When your big kid wants to take an online who-you-should-vote-for test, you spend five hours talking through all the issues, learning and listening to her perspective while speaking your own truth, both feeling more connected afterwards.
 
When your big kid rakes the leaves into a pile on your driveway, plops herself right in the middle, throwing them into the air because fall is her favorite season ever, you take a video and post it everywhere.
 
When your big kid holds her dad’s hand during your lazy, long leaf-peeping walk, you watch from behind and your heart almost bursts because you love her more today than you ever have.
 
When your big kid snuggles with you on the couch, watching football and eating popcorn, the official family snack, memories flood your mind of a little girl spinning in a circle humming while she eats the fluffy white goodness. A lump forms in your throat.
 
When your big kid gets ready to leave, you help pack her car, make sure she has air in that tire with the flashing light on, make a bag of goodies for her two-hour ride, and give her another hug like you won’t see her again for another five years (even though it will only be five weeks).
 
When your big kid pulls out of your driveway, you shout “I love you,” hands flailing in the air, as tears well in your eyes and you allow them to flow. Your heart is sad and thankful all at the same time.
 
When your big kid texts you, “I’m home,” you breathe a long, mom sigh of relief, anticipating the next time you will be given another chance to jump and say a resounding “Y-E-S!”
.
Posted in Faith, Friendship

Dear Human Race, Here’s What I Need From You Right Now

YUP.

What I need from you.

But also what I hope to give you in return.

The pretty blunt dos and don’ts.

Not flowery. You might actually like it.

  1. DO check in on me and all my feelings, even if they seem crazy.
  2. DON’T try to convince me who to vote for. I will be spending lots of time (doing research and on my knees) figuring that out for myself.
  3. DO respect my boundaries about no-right-answer decisions. DO cheer for me when I decide what I think is safe or risky. Some things might still FREAK me out and I can’t get “there” yet.
  4. DON’T have a secret agenda to change me or my mind. Just be with me in the middle of the mess.
  5. DO tell me why you are making your choices. I love knowing you, even and especially if you are completely different from me.
  6. DON’T tell me I’m nuts, even if I am that minute. Just give me a virtual hug over ZOOM.
  7. DO keep our relationship paramount. I will be here when we’ve moved beyond all of this.
  8. DON’T yell in the comment section on social media. Also, DON’T post political things. At least not in my news feed. I want to hear about your kids, your pets, your latest adventures and even cute memes that make me laugh or help me cope. I am happy to have a one-on-one conversation with you about all that’s clogging the news.
  9. DO understand that I am trying really hard to navigate the complexity of this with as much bravery and wisdom as I can muster, keeping grace for you and me at the forefront. I might screw this up some days.
  10. DON’T be afraid to tell me how much it all SUCKS right now.
  11. DO help me stay grounded (when I’m pouring over “the numbers”), but also help me gain freedom (at my turtley pace except for when I’m a hare). Holding onto and speaking HOPE works great here.
  12. DON’T be afraid to tell me how much FUN you are having right now.
  13. DO take me into consideration when you act. You know, that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.
  14. DON’T keep silent about how much you miss me. You can even cry. I might cry right back.
  15. DO be true to yourself. Let me be true to myself too.
  16. DON’T try to make me happy and put yourself in an uncomfortable position (see #13). It’s really okay to maintain your own boundaries, even if it’s super hard.
  17. DO feel free to change your mind, any time you want. The world is changing at break-neck speed. You just might have to as well. We both might.
    **17 is a weird number, so I will make it 18 (#noprimenumbers)**
  18. One final and big DO. DO pray for me. A lot. There’s this Presence with a big giant capital P “up there” who has us and knows us and holds us. Plus, it’s hard to pray for me and be against me at the same time. I like when we’re in this human race thing together, on the same side, helping each other out and all that good stuff.

YUP.

What I need from you.

But also what I hope to give you in return.

#fistbump #virtualhug #ADDYOUROWN

 

Posted in Friendship

Picking a Human

Today IS A BIG DAY. It marks the Dolly Mama “tell your friends how great they are” post. I can’t believe I haven’t done it sooner. I am a little embarrassed (and if you know me, that’s a load of hooey…I wouldn’t know embarrassment if it smacked me right in the behind).

I’m feeling a little snarky right now. Bear with me. I’m planning to be serious and sappy and smooshy and sentimental. I promise.

It is true. You really are GREAT! Like wearing a superhero cape GREAT! Like standing behind a mic and getting an award GREAT!

Some of you are GREAT because you don’t let me stay my “less than the true Esther Goetz” self. You believe in me. You encourage me. You kick me in that not-embarrassed behind when I need it. You believe in the best version of me and you build me up one brick at a time. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you are my cheerleader. You sing your praises to my words-of-affirmation-is-my-happy-place heart. You root for me and would have poms poms shouting “Esther Goetz is ‘da bomb'” if I would let you (and I might). You make me feel like a champion. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you love what I love. We can talk heady stuff like Christian doctrine or watch the NFL on a Sunday afternoon. We can eat ice cream or watch the Bachelor together (no judgment please) and laugh at the screen and ourselves (“Do we seriously watch this show?”). I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you are just “WITH ME.” You sit with me in the dark times. You laugh with me in the comedy that is my life. You stick with me when I’m screwing up. You talk me down off the ledge when I want to jump. You have no judgment for me (take note, you who judged my Bachelor watching). I tell you all my secrets. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you make me feel connected to you in every way. You wave at me across a crowded room, save a seat for me, send me a birthday card, grab my hand when we are together, and remind me that we are “two peas in a pod.” I belong to you and you belong to me. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are great because you are FUN. You make me belly laugh. You always have an adventure for us to go on! You are super okay with my snarky nature and “give it back” to me when I’m dishing it out! You’re not afraid to remind me about all that’s good! You give energy when this “Esthergizer Bunny” is about done. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you open my mind and heart to new things. You don’t let me get stuck. You ask me great questions, challenging me to rethink the way I always have and help me to change “just a little bit” at a time (even though I might fight you in the moment). You make my view of life (and many times GOD HIMSELF) bigger! I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

Some of you are GREAT because you are wise. You’re like the GPS of my life. You help me navigate all. the. things. with understanding, grace and kindness. You straight-up give me advice (even when I’m being stubborn and a know-it-all). My dreams matter to you and you help me to keeping working toward them. I LOVE YOU AND NEED YOU.

ALL OF YOU ARE GREAT because you love me. For who I am. Plain and simple. What more could I ever ask for or want from a friend? Nothing! Whether we text each other every day, talk to each other once every six months on the phone, are only able to connect on social media (like right here in this little corner of the internet), I count you forever as my GREAT friend, one that I will treasure in my heart until I take my last breath.

Okay people, my snarky voice has quieted and all is right in my very sappy world as I think of you and all that you mean to me! I love you, my GREAT friends!

From my heart to yours.

Friendship is so Weird*source for quote unknown*