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 Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

I Don’t Agree with Dr. Seuss on This One

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.  (Dr. Seuss)

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  (King Solomon)

In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates.  I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college.  They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).

The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year.  For a long time, I loved it.  It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness.  It helped people look “on the bright side” of life.  It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking.  Or so it seemed.

I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss.  Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.

“Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“And will you succeed?  Yes!  You will indeed!  98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”

Wisdom.  Hope.  Life.

So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?

I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes).  I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.”  But that pride gets me into lots of trouble.  I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in.  I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside.  I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it.  I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness.  JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).  

BUT…

(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)

I’m discovering ever so slowly that:

  • CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress.  Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
  • SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it!  What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
  • GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.

It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.

It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.

It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.

It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes.  One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm.  A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene.   What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated,  beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.

BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…

I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences.  But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day?  What then?”

I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.

I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.

I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.

I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.

All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound.  What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane.  I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.

I do love Dr. Seuss, even though the man is surrounded with controversy.  He reminds me of me, having both horrible parts and beautiful ones.  It’s his birthday today!

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel.  You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children.  For that, I am truly grateful!

BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…

I wish your quote said this instead:

“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”

King Solomon was right.

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P.S.  When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point.  I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.”  I think he’s saying remember to smile.”  So there you have it.  If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company!  Point taken.

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P.P.S.  If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question:  can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time?  What was it?

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Grandparenthood, Health

INTERRUPTED: Lessons From A Toddler

“I AM A LEARNER AND I AM A TEACHER.”  (Sarah Meassick’s Second Grade Classroom Mantra)

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Eating Dinner Out:  INTERRUPTED by one-year-old standing in high chair, demanding loudly to get down and teeter around.

Checking My Phone:  INTERRUPTED by little hands reaching for me with books in tow.

Sleeping Somewhat Peacefully:  INTERRUPTED by cries at 2 am.  Thankfully, hear doors opening and steps of mommy above with calming voice.

Making Breakfast:  INTERRUPTED by loud noise with sudden horrible smell.  Time for a change of all current clothing.  Mommy sleeps soundly.

Costco Shopping:  INTERRUPTED by constant “more,” pointing to bag of snap pea crisps.

Writing Blog Post:  INTERRUPTED by sounds indicating nap time is already over WAY TOO SOON.

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All those feelings of early mothering years flood back to me as I spend two days with my grandson.  Interruptions abound.  I didn’t like them then and I still don’t like them today!  “I can’t get what I want to do done.”  “I have lots of important stuff to take care of.”  “People are counting on a blog post tomorrow. (I know, I have delusions of grandeur.)

My thoughts are suddenly INTERRUPTED!  A new voice stops me right in my tracks and sends me in another direction as I hold my grandson cozy and close upon waking from his nap, the only time he cuddles and snuggles, the extra busy toddler he is.  “I have a lot to learn from this little boy in my arms.”  “He is a very wise teacher.”  “This is probably what really matters.”  “Forget the blog post! (HAHA.  Obviously not.)”

THIS CHILD (Unlike Me At Times):

  1. Expresses what he needs (sometimes loudly).  He doesn’t feel guilty about it.  He is highly comfortable with both negative and positive emotions, never stuffing how he really feels.
  2. Eats healthy and only enough to satisfy.  Oh how I wish!
  3. Loves unabashedly.  He doesn’t hold back showing affection and delight.  He lights up when he sees those he loves and makes it clear he is thrilled to be with them.
  4. Sings and dances freely.  He dances like “everyone is watching.”  In fact, he relishes when others not only watch, but sing and dance along with him.
  5. Rests when he’s tired.  Enough said.  (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do that … tongue-in-cheek emoji inserted here)   Maybe I will go take a nap now.
  6. Explores new things with ferocity.  “Life is a daring adventure or nothing” (Helen Keller) is the mantra of this boy.
  7. Seeks out those who love him.  This is my favorite.  He isn’t afraid to be really loved and cared for!  If only!

I am finishing up now that it’s thankfully bedtime, having been INTERRUPTED all afternoon and evening since the wake-up-from-nap-time.  Guess what?  It wasn’t so bad after all.  I actually enjoyed it.  No wonder when Jesus was INTERRUPTED by children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Where else can I get belly giggles and bear hugs, song-singing and arms reaching?  Sounds a lot like the kingdom of heaven to me!   I’m sure these aren’t the last lessons gleaned from the wisdom of this 24 pound, bundle of love, joy, and life!  Keep INTERRUPTING little one!  You’ve cracked my heart wide open!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Charity, Faith, Health, Word of the Year

Shattered Shalom (restoring it…in my home and in our world)

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

If you asked me even five months ago what I thought peace meant, I summed it up as “the absence of conflict.”  In fact, a quick search on Google backed me up on this. My husband also cheered this idea in spades.  He loves an atmosphere where everyone gets along (how one Facebook friend defined it), especially us.  It’s like heaven to him.  Having a house with four very unique and spirited children did not lend itself to this.  The constant conflict and fighting sent us to our beds exhausted many nights.  I would mutter to myself (and sometimes scream loudly to my kids which, if you take a second, is pretty ironic), “Just a few moments of peace is all I’m asking!!  Is it too much?”  I know I don’t have to talk any further without a bunch of nods of the head, muttered “mm-hmms” and loud “AMENS!”

Whether it’s the constant arguing of politicians and political analysts on “news” shows, gut-wrenching war across our world, bickering among children or family members over the latest “who-knows-what,” co-workers disagreeing over how a project needs to be done, or late-into-the-night discord (or should I say straight-up fights) among spouses, it is just plain tiring.  No wonder we want some peace.  Some quiet.  Some “everyone-just-get- along-please” moments.  We are saturated with it all day long.

YES, THAT IS MY SON AND HIS SOCCER TEAM AT HIS SENIOR PASTA PARTY!

Sorry for the diversion.  Back to the blog post.  I think you understand my point.

ALL.

DAY.

LONG.

To combat it and try to find some measure of inner calm, I find myself doing one of four things:  fighting, running, avoiding, or just standing there with a blank stare not knowing what to do next.  This is the natural response from our human bodies when we feel threatened and overwhelmed.  It’s our “lizard brain” (as I like to refer to the amygdala) doing what it can in the moment when the adrenaline rush takes over to protect us.  Psychologists refer to these responses as fight, flight, faint or freeze.

As I very feisty and passionate individual, I naturally gravitate to fighting.  As we all know, this does nothing to help.  It escalates the issue and then the whole house is in an uproar, hurt and angry.  It becomes a mess.  Allen, on the other hand, is drawn toward fleeing.  He shuts down, gets quiet and goes into another room.  Our kids vary on the spectrum, with some fighting, some getting quiet, some going to their room to watch TV or sleep, and some utterly dumb-founded, not knowing what to do.  It makes for a little bit of a “not-so-peaceful” house.

ENTER COUNSELING and the beginning of understanding that although, in the moment, those responses are normal, they don’t restore harmony.  We are working from brokenness not health.

ENTER BOOK, As We Forgive (Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda) by Catherine Clare Larson, suggested to us by our group leader before we head to this beautiful country to dig a well in September (HUGE SHOUT OUT AND MUST READ).

ENTER VACATION with family members (nine people plus baby for seven days).  Arguments and behavior patterns and all that good stuff.  (You know what I mean?!)  I figured out that nine people make up 36 different relationships.   That’s enough to start a war.

RE-ENTER BOOK.  Reminder that all of the above are really just shattered shalom (the fancy Hebrew word for peace).

I have always believed that shalom had the same meaning of peace that I had in my head.  Come to find out I am missing something.  A huge thing.  And it just might really make the difference in my own little world with my own little group of people.  But it also might make the difference in our huge world with all the groups of people (like seven billion and counting much to my son’s chagrin as he’s a little paranoid about over-population).

So what is it?  What is this shalom?

SHALOM IS NOT DEFINED BY ABSENCE.  Instead, it encompasses the PRESENCE of true human flourishing (my friend’s Word of the Year):  socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Larson reminds me that it is “ultimate harmony.”   Shalom speaks of fullness, completeness and wholeness, hardly the absence of anything, except perhaps division (as another Facebook friend reminded me).  In Ancient Israel (where the word comes from), when a crime was committed, the central point was not on the outer (the broken law and restoration of order), but rather on the inner (broken shalom and restoration of peace) for all involved:  victim, community and even offender.  It was important that ALL would flourish, all would be brought back to wholeness.

As I stated above, our human body responds to conflict in one of four ways:  fight, flight, faint or freeze.  We are naturally drawn to one of those responses when it comes to personal conflict.  However, somewhere among attacking, running away, avoiding and becoming paralyzed lies a completely different way, one that is more difficult, but offers much in the restoration of this fuller peace, or shalom.  In fact, sometimes conflict and disagreement are required to achieve it.

Really?!?

In the flight, faint or freeze responses, the focus is on “ME.”  I am looking for what’s easy, convenient and non-threatening.  Protecting myself becomes the highest priority.  However, in the fight response the focus is on “YOU,” blaming you and expecting you to solve my problem or my pain.  Again, protecting myself becomes the highest priority.  The peace-making, shalom-restoring response shifts to “US.”   The restoration of the relationship and the flourishing of ourselves and the other becomes the highest priority.  Wholeness, fullness and completeness come to the forefront.  Conflict happens and disagreements occur, but the relationship is not threatened.  In fact, clashes and variance might just provide the avenue for greater wholeness than without them.  The move from YOU vs. ME to US changes everything.

For this girl who tends to blame others and fight, this is really BIG.  A huge change of thought.  And practice.  It’s not enough for me to “not have fighting,” the absence of conflict.  I want more.  I want wholeness and healing and true flourishing.  In every area of my life.  For me and for you.  When I think about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace (guess what the Hebrew word is there),” this makes more sense now than ever.  He doesn’t just want “quiet” for me.  He wants shalom.  He wants me to flourish.  He wants the same for you.  And he wants the same for our world.   Here’s to restoring it more and more every moment and every day.  I hope to start right now.

 

Thank you again for reading all the way to the bottom.  WOW!  Please like this here and especially out on social media if you can!  Comment here or there as well.  It means the world to me!  

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health

Not the Boss of Me!

“I will not be mastered by anything.”  (The Bible)

Fitness trackers are the latest things in the exercise world.  Promises of helping you become more active, eat and sleep better and ultimately, turn you into a healthier human being abound.  I bought into this promise about two and a half years ago.

Dosed with excitement because a friend was using a FitBit, I ordered one immediately, very excited to get my 10,000 steps and track my sleep.  At first, it served me well.  I was paying attention to my activity level and exercise, walking more, going to bed earlier and becoming what I hoped was a healthier person.

Very quickly, however, this servant “became the boss of me.”  I found myself leaving family at Thanksgiving evening and going out alone at 9:00 pm in the chilly darkness to get my 10,000 steps.   At 11:50 pm one night, I began running in place just to eek out those last 300 steps, missing the mark by just a few as the clock struck midnight.  I became obsessed.

It worsened when I bought my husband one for his birthday and found there was also a “community” I could invite friends to.  Now, I had others to compete with, especially the man I shared my home with.  I spent my days keeping track of and trying to beat those who walked miles and miles a day.   I became a lunatic about “keeping up” with the person who had the most steps.

The day I realized that it was no longer serving me, but had become my master, was a light-bulb and life-giving moment.  It wasn’t just about FitBits, but about life.  I recalled a quote by John Seymour, “Emotions are excellent servants, but tyrannical masters.”  I realized it wasn’t limited to emotions.  It wasn’t limited to FitBits.  Most things in life make great servants, but terrible masters.  Here’s a taste:

(Aside: my FitBit just buzzed to remind me to get off my behind and get moving…WOW)

  • Emotions

Anger, fear, sadness and happiness are all great servants.  Anger causes us to act for justice and right the wrong in the world.  Fear prevents us from doing things that would harm us or warns of impending trouble.  Sadness helps us process through loss and heartache.  Happiness invites celebration of blessings.  However, each one is a terrible master.  Rage causes both physical and emotional harm.  Anxiety cripples.  Depression paralyzes.  The pursuit of happiness at all costs can destroy.

  • Money

Much good comes from making and using money.  We care for ourselves and our families and even provide for the poor.  However, money as a master can be all-consuming, with the result many times being workaholism and even soul-wrecking addictions.

  • Power

Many of us exercise power in our worlds.  We influence the next generation, bring people together for a cause and lead others to a better place.  However, the thirst for power produces dictators at every level, and even, at its worst, war.

These are just a glimpse.  What about food, shopping, phones, medicine, exercise, just to name a few? And in the end, something as simple as my FitBit.

I am certainly not opposed to my FitBit.  In fact, it’s one of the things I love (see What I Love and Don’t) and if you click here, you will be brought to Amazon to find out more about the one I wear.  It sits proudly on my wrist and some days I do better than others allowing it to be the boss of me.  The problem doesn’t lie in the technology.  It resides in me.

When I sense the “take over,” as I like to call it, the simple questions I ask of myself are “Who is the boss?  Is this my servant or am I the one in chains? Who is serving whom?”  The immediate answer in my heart tells me all that I need to know and I am reminded of the great and loving Master who never makes me a slave, but calls me a friend and a daughter.

Now I will ask you.  What might be something in your life that started as a really wonderful servant, but now may have become your tyrannical master?   Feel free to comment below, just hold it in your private place or maybe share with a trusted friend.  Lastly, and as always, please share and subscribe below so that you don’t miss out.