Posted in Celebration, Family, Grief, Motherhood

Mustangs and Paper Chains

Once upon a time, a mom of an 18-year-old made a paper chain.
Just like the ones her kids made in preschool, but this one tucked neatly in her head.
She almost made a real one, but thought it would cause a ruckus in her home.
Why? Why? Why the paper chain?
Because she was counting down the days until her son left for college.
It all started in the middle of the winter.
This mental paper chain. 180 days.
It wasn’t because he was horrible, disrespectful teen
OR
that she was a terrible mom, even though she felt like it often (she had a paper chain after all).
It wasn’t because he was breaking curfew every day and doing all kinds of god-knows-what
OR
maybe she was just clueless…which is more likely.
It wasn’t because she didn’t love him, because moms just can’t help themselves and she loved this kid especially
OR
that he didn’t have friends or wasn’t enjoying high school.
It wasn’t because he bought a Mustang convertible and got in an accident with his younger brother in the back seat during the aftermath of a hurricane
OR
that she had told him not to go out more than a couple of times.
Why then? Why? Why? Why the paper chain?
It was because he was fighting to be himself, a grown-up
AND
she was confused about that and didn’t quite know what to do. And she was tired of the fighting.
It was because he wanted to be with his friends more than he wanted to be home for dinner
AND
that made her pretty sad and sometimes, even angry.
It was because he wanted to explore new scary out-of-the-box adventures
AND
she was freaking out inside and maybe it would be easier for her if he was out of her sight, not so much in her face.
It was (REALLY) in the end, because he was spreading his wings to fly on his own
AND
that she knew he would soar (or maybe fall to the ground, get back up again and then stumble along until he took flight).
It wasn’t very long until those 180 “circles” of paper were ripped completely off, with none remaining.
They were scattered all over the floor of her memories.
He left. She cried. She cried some more.
She went home and made another paper chain.
This one counting the days until he came back home.
Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

3:39 pm

Nine years ago, I was a mom of a 19 year old, an 18 year old, a 15 year old and a 12 year old.

My husband commuted to a job 90 minutes away.

I was in the middle of some of the hardest and busiest times of my life.

Trapped in a mile-long to do list.

Trying to SEE God, but constantly pulled in a thousand directions, especially at 3:39 pm.

Sports.
Exhaustion.
Homework.
Mom Guilt.
Groceries.
Tuition Bills.
Church.

Anxiety.

I must have read this quote somewhere.

It struck me enough that I stopped and posted it on Facebook. At 3:39 pm.

It was probably exactly what I needed at that specific time and wanted the world (or my little Facebook Friends world) to hear it.

To soak it in.
To bask in its freeing and life-giving truth.

God SEES me.
God loves me.

Right in the middle of the mayhem.
Right where I am, not where I “should” be.
Right at 3:39 pm.

He SEES me.
He loves me.

Maybe that day, I got a little glimpse that held me up when I needed it the most.

Maybe I blasted some music on my iPod, headphones tangled around my neck.
Maybe I stopped and danced around the kitchen with dirty dishes piled high in the sink.

And maybe today at 3:39 pm, I’ll need another peek at the never-ending love of God.

Maybe I will throw on some worship music.
Maybe I will dance freely around my office.

And maybe nine years from now, this will all happen again.
At 3:39 pm.

I hope it does. I sure hope it does.

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, 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 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 Celebration, Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Bigger and Better

I had one girl and two boys. I was about to have my fourth baby. I had chosen NOT to find out the sex of the baby, but desperately wanted a sister for my oldest.
.
You see, I had been the only girl and had always wanted a sister myself. No matter how much begging I did with my mom, no more babies were to be had.
.
When the doctor said, “It’s a girl,” my heart leapt for joy and I thought my “big” dream had come true and my most earnest prayer answered.
.
Little did I know that something much “bigger” was on the horizon. The birth of this baby girl became the starting point of a now 21-year journey of healing for me.
.
Her sparkly eyes drew me close, as if she could see right into my soul.
I had never before been able to open my heart without pause.
.
She was unconditional love wrapped in a tiny bundle of flesh and bones.
I had never before been able to receive love without restriction.
.
As she grew, her child-like wisdom shocked me in the best ways.
I had never before been able to move out of formulaic thinking.
.
KNOWN.
LOVED.
WISDOM.
.
Three crucial pieces to a puzzle that had long been missing in my life.
.
As I write, this young lady stands on the precipice of her first “legal” glass of wine, a symbol of celebration for “big” things!!
.
Yes. My “big” dream did come true that September morning, the birth of a sister for my oldest, and I will lift a glass as I remember.
.
But God had a BIGGER and BETTER dream for me, an “immeasurably more” kind, one that I would have never even dared to hope for, much less even know to ask: the mending of my own precious soul.
.
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 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.