I need you to know that I love you. I want you to know exactly what those three words mean when they are coming from my heart to yours.
I have told you that I love you more times than either of us can remember. That’s a good thing. You’ve heard it from the first day I held you in my arms and you are hearing it again today. You will hear it from me tomorrow, and next week, as long as my tongue allows. My love for you is COUNTLESS.
My love for you is the reason that sometimes I stay awake and worry. Yet, the fear that I have that my heart might break someday is quieted by the fierce love I have for you and the knowledge that it’s all worth it. You are worth it. My love for you is FEARLESS.
I loved you when you were minutes old. I loved you when you were a “NO” screaming toddler. I loved you when you were fighting with your siblings in grade school. I loved you when you were a taller-than-me teenager. I loved you when you walked away from me into your college dorm room. I love you today. I will love you all the tomorrows. Nothing will change that. My love for you is AGELESS.
It’s been a lot of work to be your mom. The lack of sleep and the amount of energy I’ve poured in have left me exhausted at times. But the life and joy and beauty you have brought me is beyond what I could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My love for you is TIRELESS.
I don’t care who knows how much I love you. I would shout it from the highest mountain to any who would listen. Everyone should know how wonderful and amazing you are and why you are so worth loving. My love for you is SHAMELESS.
I never knew love like this before I met you. It reaches places in me that I didn’t know existed. It’s higher than the uphill battles we’ve climbed. It’s wider than any mistake either of us make. It’s stronger than death. It’s longer than life. My love for you is DEPTHLESS.
No matter how many times I attempt to capture it in words, I am left dumb-founded. My love for you is more sacred than speech allows. My love for you is more precious than all the books that could ever be written. It’s easy to love you. My love for you is BOUNDLESS.
My love for began the first moment I found out about you and will continue until I take my last breath. You will carry it with you long after I am gone, until the moment you enter eternity yourself. We will then be reunited in perfect love on the other side. My love for you is ENDLESS.
The next time you hear me say them, even if it’s just a quick text, remember all of this. These three words come straight from the depths of my soul and I pray that they reach yours today.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)
From my heart to yours,
P.S. One of you is having a birthday today! Happy Birthday Sarah Elizabeth Meassick! On this day 27 years ago, you made me a mom! I. CAN’T. EVEN. BELIEVE. IT. You are a mom yourself now, but no matter how many birthdays or children of your own you have, you are (and always will be) MY:
I am so excited about my guest this week, Sandi Piazza! You are in for a treat! Sandi is married to Gerry, and is currently on her third career as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to Emilio (10) and Ana (8). She is passionate, strong, wise and gentle. Her heart comes alive when fighting for equality and social justice, diving into literature of all kinds, and providing the much-needed love and care for her foster dogs. Welcome, Sandi!
A few years ago, I heard someone preach that men’s brains are like waffles (compartmentalized) and women’s brains are more like spaghetti (highly intertwined). For many in the audience, this really resonated. Not for me. I have pots in my head.
As a perfectionist. I always have a lot going on AND never really learned how to outline and organize big projects, I tend to procrastinate until I must focus fully on the task at hand and get it done. To juggle several divergent tasks, I developed a system where I envision my brain as a cooktop covered with pots during a large holiday meal. Those who know me well may have heard me say, “OK. I need to get a new pot going in my head.” (In fact, that proclamation to my curious friend Esther is the origin of this post!)
When any project comes up, I add a pot on my brain’s stovetop. I carefully consider the core (main ingredient) of that task? What else needs to be added (some side elements) in order to accomplish this? How long do I have to complete (cook) this undertaking? Each item on my “to do” list gets a dedicated pot–something akin to the discrete little compartments in waffles, but oftentimes things are related and work together and it’s not quite the jumbled mess of spaghetti. Every so often, I sit down and think, “OK, POT CHECK! Let’s give things a stir.”
This process was crucial to my success as an undergraduate student. I was pursuing a degree in English Literature, which meant multiple books and essays assigned at any given moment. I was an officer in a club. I had an almost-full-time job. I was active in a church community (and most of us know what that means for good and bad). I was fortunate enough to have scholarships covering a huge chunk of my tuition, but room and board simply weren’t in the budget for the Rodriguez family. This meant LOTS of time spent in transit on the subway, commuting from the northernmost tip of Manhattan all the way down to Greenwich Village, in the days before internet, laptops, and smartphones. What was a student to do? CHECK MY POTS!
Typical POT CHECK, sitting on the subway riding home from school:
POT ONE: Paper due later this week on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.
“I loved the book, even though it took me a while to understand the first chapter, with its stream-of-consciousness descriptions and odd details like Cassie’s white underpants as she climbs a tree. WTH is that about? Interesting that the main character of the book never actually gets to speak for herself…her brothers and the family servant do all the talking. Can I emphasize this in my paper somehow? Hmm… OK, I’ll put it aside to revisit later, but it’s due soon so best not to wait too long.”
POT TWO: Paper two comparing Coriolanus and Titus Andronicus.
“Ugh. May as well be comparing liver and okra. Blaaah. That one isn’t due for a few weeks. Back burner for sure.”
POT THREE: Leading Bible study next week.
“What’s the verse again? ‘For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses…’ OK, how can I make this super-familiar verse seem fresh? There’s the whole Iran Contra-gate thing in the news…weapons of warfare… Too much of a stretch? Should I just read it and leave it hanging there, hoping everyone can apply it to their own life? Hmm… I have some time on this. Let it simmer on low.”
POT FOUR: Choir Christmas service.
“It’s coming up soon. I have the lyrics and harmonies of the songs memorized. I have the white shirt I need and I have that black skirt I can wear. I haven’t worn it in a while. I hope it fits…I might need to add some girdle-y (is that even a word? girdle-like?) underwear to make it fit better… Stir that pot when I get home. Wait…”
WEIRD TRANSITION BACK TO POT ONE:
“Underwear, again. That’s in a couple of my pots. Back to the paper. There was that thing in where Benji notices Cassie’s underwear. Weird for a brother to notice that about his sister. Wait, now that I think of it, didn’t that happen with more than one narrator? Where’s that book?”
By the time I got home from school, I had figured out that there were three different characters in The Sound and the Fury who noticed the central character’s underpants, and that the underwear reflected what they thought of her in that. The paper practically wrote itself, which was a blessing in the pre-word-processor 1980s!
Some 30 years later, my perfectionism has waned, but I still organize my thoughts and projects in this way. The pots bubbling away in my mind these days tend to be more abstract than project-based, and currently include things like:
what walking with Jesus looks like after deconstructing some toxic doctrines from my fundamentalist upbringing
having a successful marriage, almost 14 years in, without an example in my life to emulate
parenting a child—possibly two—with autism
navigating family relationships successfully and in a healthy way when members struggle with mental illness, addiction, & codependency
building and maintaining a tribe
a room decorating project
rescue dogs, old dogs, and how to keep them both healthy/calm
You get the idea. Lysa TerKeurst says, “The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or the breaking of my identity.” That rings true. This is the stuff of my life…the things that nourish me, sustain me, and keep me going.
Doing an occasional pot check helps me to realize what I know a lot about and what I need to research further. And, much as it did when I was in college, it often allows me to draw parallels and to see how something in one pot relates to another, helping me make sense out of a vexing problem and integrate the various parts of my life.
I also cook a lot more now than I did when I was younger, and something invaluable I’ve come to know is that there is one ingredient that improves every dish I cook. GARLIC! Just kidding. It’s SALT!
Salt is amazing. It has so many uses! It preserves. It melts ice. It kills weeds, and, relevant to the topic at hand, it seasons food and enhances the flavor of almost everything.
Author and activist Mariama Bâ has said that “The flavor of life is love. The salt of life is also love.” That rings so true! Much as every dish I cook improves with a bit of salt, every pot in my head is better when I add some love.
Sound like a stretch? See for yourself!
Parenting? Add love.
Marriage? Add love.
Faith? Family? Tribe? Yes, yes, yes…more love.
Re-examining my faith? Definitely needs more love.
And so on…
However, unlike salt, I have yet to see a “pot” where too much love ruined it.
Well, if you’ll excuse me, the kids are occupied for the moment, leaving me a few moments to sit and reflect. Perfect time for a pot check. No thanks on the waffles and spaghetti, but…can you please pass the salt?
A final word from the Dolly Mama. It’s been a pleasure having Sandi come and share with us. She’s exceptional. If you’d like to see some of my favorite blog posts, take a look at these (and please follow me if you like what you read and don’t want to miss another post):
Meet Susan Bernstein! She is a wife to Eddie (married over 20 years), mom to three growing, young men (Brandon, Blake and Jordan) and a kind friend. Susan is a dog-lover, a very organized stay-at-home mom (she jokes that she spends half her life at the grocery store), an amateur photographer and an aspiring writer! Susan is loving, smart and brave. THIS WILL BE A HUGE TREAT FOR YOU PARENTS OUT THERE (no matter what your age and stage)! I hope you enjoy!
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” (Denis Waitley)
I would suspect most people don’t cry when looking through a Bed, Bath & Beyond catalogue. Last night however, I found myself doing just that. As I studied the various organizational and space-saving items they sell to help one fit their belongings into a 14 x 14 foot dorm room, the tears just started flowing. I couldn’t believe that in one short month, I’d be packing my oldest son up for college. My mothering mind wondered if he’d have everything he needed, but deep down I wasn’t too worried about shower caddies or desk lamps. My concern was more for friends, support, and wisdom…things they didn’t sell in that catalogue.
My husband noticed my tears and came over to hug me.
“You ok?” he asked me for probably the millionth time this year.
“Yeah.” I exhaled and sighed.
“It’s not that I’m upset about him leaving,” a fresh sob forming in my throat, “It’s just that he’s never coming back.” And the floodgates erupted once more.
It hits me at odd times that our family of five will never again permanently reside under the same roof. I beamed proudly during his graduation ceremony without shedding a tear. However, I had to pull myself together in the aisle of the Hallmark store as I shopped for a card and gift just days prior. I choked back the tears as I chose Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go, realizing he was about to begin a new phase of life, and it wouldn’t include us.
I knew in my heart the day would come. I mean, isn’t this what we plan for as parents all along? None of us have children and secretly hope that they’ll live with us when they are 40, right? The fact that they leave means we actually did something right as a parent! We raised a child strong and independent enough to survive on his own! Isn’t that the whole point of this parenting thing? We spent untold hours teaching them the value of hard work, integrity, and the need for sunblock. We had heart-to-hearts about taking the high road when betrayed by friends. We battled fears, real and imagined, late into the night, and steadied their shaky steps when they entered the unknown territory of a new school, team, or social circle. All the pep talks, time outs, chore charts, and consequences have paved the way to this moment. Leaving might actually be the Super Bowl event of parenthood, a time to fold our arms and smugly proclaim, “I rocked this parenting thing out of the park!”
Not exactly. Yes, he’s a capable, intelligent and (somewhat) responsible young man. He drives and makes decisions and can even vote or join the army if he wants to. But is he ready? I remember asking the same question when I left him at preschool a blink of an eye ago. He cried and cried for me, and I was sure I was doing him irreparable harm by leaving. It’s funny, because my heart hurts in the same way now. Except he isn’t crying anymore. He’s on Facebook meeting incoming classmates and looking for a roommate. So, he probably is ready. But am I?
Parenting seems to be the most selfless profession out there. After you’ve done all you can to love, nurture and raise this tiny little person, you need to let them go. As a child, my son believed everything I told him. Now, he forms his own opinions, and he is influenced by a myriad of voices over which I have no control. Our children aren’t mini-clones or younger versions of ourselves. They actually have their own unique identity. They will think and believe and do what they decide, and we are now on the sidelines, watching. We silently cheer them on and pray constantly that they will have victory. We are most definitely now on the bleachers watching their game of life, rather than next to them in the huddle.
As I prepare to release my son into the world, I will shop for all the things he needs for his new “home.” I will buy fluffy towels and warm blankets, plenty of Command hooks and microwave popcorn. He will leave packed up with all the essentials, including 18 years worth of unconditional love. I will watch with wonder, excitement, and a fair amount of sadness, as he leaves us behind and begins his life. He has a story to write, and he will write it his own way, on his own terms. I will always be a part of that story, but just one part, the one loving him from afar and praying that God protect him and put good, loving people in his life. And I suspect, for a few years at least, I’ll be the one helping to pack and organize him at Bed Bath and Beyond.
How great was that?! I just want to thank Susan for sharing her heart with each of us! If you are interested in reading other parenting blog posts by me, the Dolly Mama, click on the links below: