Category Archives: self

Over.

I just need today to be over.
It’s one of those days where I feel bad for complaining because it’s really not so bad
but SERIOUSLY with all the little things just slamming me in the shin over and over again.
And I think, “I should be able to handle this.”
But instead of rolling off my back, it puddles up at my ankles and rises slowly
until my nose is just very barely above the waterline
and if I open my mouth, it will all rush in and I don’t have time to clean up that kind of mess.

And every little thing, every.single.little.thing.
crawls under my skin and burrows there
And I try to close my eyes and take a deep breath
but even that doesn’t work today.

I just need today to be over.
After all…tomorrow is another day.
(Isn’t that what all Southerners say)?
Preferably one with lots of sunshine.
(Literal sunshine).
I think that will help.

Word of the Year {2014}

I typically choose a word of the year when the school year begins but when August rolled around, I just didn’t feel done with my word. I still haven’t conquered ‘illuminate‘ as well as I’d like and it’s completely possible that I’ll come back to it in a few years. I really love all the meanings hidden in that bright word. But my heart is yearning for a change and I’m really trying to simplify all aspects of my life, including my word of the year. So this time I chose something I know I won’t be able to do or be at all times but something I want to be reminded to do or be at all times. It’s not a big word or a fancy word. It’s not even a very pretty word in my mind. (Yes, some words are prettier than others). It’s something that even the “baby” understands the basic idea. This simple word is: kindness.
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I don’t expect living up to this word will be easy. Especially that part about wanting and liking to do good. It can be easy to fake-it-til-you-make it with one of those but not both (at least not easily).

Four and a Half Pounds

As Thanksgiving drew near, I made a conscious decision to soak in all of the holidays. I promised myself that I’d leave my head and heart open to the things around me. I wouldn’t stress about all the things I “needed” to do. And one of the biggest decisions I made was to ignore my “rules” for eating. I haven’t always been the healthiest of eaters, but in the past year or two we’ve made a decent number of changes to how we eat in our house. We still eat out too often. There are still days when we eat cereal for dinner. And I still drink too much Diet Coke. But over all, we eat a lot of fresh, non-processed food that has been simply prepared. I lost a decent amount of weight since we started eating that way and I certainly love the way my body feels when I’m eating properly. But I decided that over the holidays I wouldn’t stress over what we were eating. And you know what? I gained 4.5 pounds. But, truthfully, I don’t even mind. That’s 4.5 pounds of happy memories. It’s from making snacks with my children for others and sampling as we went. It’s from enjoying goodies gifted to us from friends. It’s from (collective) hours around the tables of friends and family where we lingered a little too long…sometimes long enough for second dinner. It’s from drinks and chocolate and laughs and (good) tears. My pants may fit a little more snugly than they did before the holidays, but my heart is also full to the point of bursting wide open with the happy.

And the most interesting part to me is that now that the holidays are over? I’m not dreading a return to our regularly scheduled diet. I’m craving fruits and veggies and whole grains. Bring it, 2014. We’re ready! Starting with this:photo (7)

Five.

Oh my sweet, big boy,

I want to say all those Mommy-things about how I can’t believe you’re already five. FIVE! And about how much you’ve grown and how big you’ve gotten. I want to go back and look at pictures of teeny tiny you and reminisce about the day you were born and the moment when your siblings first saw you and coming home from the hospital and cuddling in my chair with all three of you in my lap. Did you know that when we left the hospital, we didn’t take you straight home? We stopped at church. It was Christmas Eve and that’s one of my favorite services of the year and it was about to start, so we slipped in the back – you in your carseat and covered with a blanket. I don’t remember much about that service, honestly, but I remember staring at you and thinking of how similar me looking at you must have been to how Mary looked at Jesus. A mother’s love. Oof.

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And some how we went from that to this in 2.6 seconds. I loved that little baby, but I love this little fella even more. Because this guy? This guy is a trip! I never know exactly how to describe you. Laid-back? Friendly? Exuberant, maybe? Yes! Yes, that’s it! Exuberant – joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic. You have an energy about you that pulls people in and makes everyone feel important. You are so full of joy and light, your smile is infectious, and you’ve never met a stranger. You are tough as nails when you need to be, but you are empathetic and sensitive as well. You can be quite mischievous sometimes, but those long lashes and big ol’ eyes keep you out of trouble (probably more often than it should).

I love the things you come up with. You will do anything for a laugh, which sometimes isn’t the best of ideas, and you very often succeed. And your laugh is just the best! I love it so much that I recorded it and turned it into a ringtone for my phone.

You are starting to sound out words and can read some things. While we were wrapping Christmas gifts you sounded out “Dddddd…D. Aaah…aaah…A. Ddddd. D. Eeeee. E. Daddy is D-A-D-E!” I probably should have corrected you but you were so proud and it was so totally you and I just couldn’t. Kinda like with the word remember. One day I’ll miss you saying “binimber”.

I’ll binimber you for always, little buddy.
I love you soSOsoSOsoSO very much.
Love,
Mommy

Logic and Glory

On Tuesday morning snow came down on the Eastern Coast. Not enough to worry some, but enough to cancel school and work for many. DC was covered in a lovely blanket of white and I was slated to fly in on Tuesday afternoon. I watched the weather carefully all day Monday and Tuesday morning, simultaneously hoping that it wouldn’t snow enough that my flight plans would be disrupted but that it’d snow enough that some would still be on the ground when I got there. (We don’t see a whole lot of snow down here in Georgia). Sure enough, the weather cleared up before I arrived and there was just enough snow for me to show my kids via text and FaceTime and win cool points. Sure, it was half-melted and had gone from fluffy to crunchy but it was SNOW!

Another way I get cool points with my kids is to show them pictures from the airport and from my flight. As we were beginning our descent into DC, I noticed our shadow in the clouds – something I’d seen before but knew my kids hadn’t. I quickly opened up my camera and tried to get a shot before we came out of the cloud. It was so fast that it didn’t even really have time to focus, but as soon as I snapped the shot I realized that there wasn’t just a shadow. Around the shadow was a perfect glowing circle. This is a cropped but not edited picture of what I saw. Nothing has been added or altered in this picture. No filters, no editing, no anything.

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Logic tells me that it was probably something to do with moisture in the air and the sunlight hitting it just right and blah-blah-blah. (Side note: Glory be! I was right). But sometimes logic doesn’t satisfy the soul. I’ve shown this picture to a handful of people, all of whom have called it something different(a circle of protection, the hand of God, a guardian angel) but who meant the same thing: something or someone protecting us on that flight. And though I believed that (logically) there was a reason for it, I’d be lying if I didn’t also feel (emotionally?) that it meant something. Even though I knew darn well there had to be a good explanation, I have to say that a warmth did settle into my chest. Like that feeling you get when a piece of music stirs your heart beyond words. Or the first time your child says “I love you” and you find a little catch in your throat. Or when the sound of someone’s voice stops you in your tracks and makes you turn, with a smiling face and thumping heart. Sometimes reason rules. Sometimes you have to listen to logic. But sometimes? Sometimes you just have to zip your lips, open your mind, and let your heart feel it all.

Creative Liberties: Holiday Edition

St. Nick's Night

Have you ever heard the story of the holiday ham? A young woman is hosting the holiday dinner at her new home and she gets the turkey started in the oven and then pulls out the ham, cuts it in half, and puts both halves in the oven. Her new husband asks why she went through all that work to cut the ham in half and she looks at him as if he were a fool and says, “That’s the way you’re supposed to do it.” The young man wasn’t so sure about that answer but he was sure that he didn’t want to get her all riled up before everyone got there so he dropped it and went on his way. But his question stayed with the young woman all morning long and when the young woman’s mother arrived the daughter asked, “Mom? Why do you cut the ham in half before you cook it?” “That’s just the way you do it,” answered her mother. “It…it cooks faster that way, I think.” But the young woman’s mother wasn’t really satisfied with her own answer and thought about it off and on the whole day until her mother arrived for dinner. While Grandmother was in the kitchen looking at all the delicious food, the Mother said, “This morning Susie asked me why you have to cut the ham in half before you cook it and I realized I don’t really know why. I’ve just always done it that way.” Grandmother begins to snicker as she says, “Well, I don’t know why you do it that way, but did it that way because I didn’t have one big pan to fit the whole ham on so I put one half on each of my two smaller pans.”

How many “traditions” started just like this. (I’d venture to say more than we realize)! Someone makes a split second decision and they run with it, not imagining that it will have much consequence but someone else latches onto it and whoops…now it’s tradition. “Well, that’s just how things happened” becomes “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”

Saint Nicholas Night happened like that for us. Several years ago a friend of mine told me about the Catholic tradition of St. Nicholas Feast Day which, long story short, is a day to celebrate St. Nicholas and his generosity. To celebrate, some children leave their shoes out by the hearth and St. Nicholas drops by and leaves them small toys and/or coins tucked inside. We decided to further that idea and leave out toys for St. Nick to pick up and take to the North Pole, refurbish, and then redistribute to other children for Christmas. That’s a Win-Win-Win in my book. Clear out old toys, teach the children about giving to others, and make it not so obvious if/when Santa brings pre-loved toys on Christmas morn. So we did it one year and then, quite honestly, I forgot about it.

The next year I saw a friend post about St. Nicholas on the morning of December 6. Whoops. We missed it! So we rounded up our toys (and I made a quick run to the store for goodies) and I told the children that St. Nicholas day was indeed December 6, but he didn’t come until that night. Carter was old enough that apparently that stuck in his brain and we’ve been doing it on the night of December 6 since. Thanks, Catholicism, for letting us borrow your Saint’s feast day. We’ve taken some creative liberties with how it should be celebrated and changed it around a bit. We call it St. Nick’s Night and he brings candy instead of small toys or coins. I love how it’s teaching our kids to think of others, to clear out some space and pass along what they’re aren’t using anymore, and to be mindful that pre-loved toys are just as lovely (sometimes even more so) as brand-new-in-the-box toys. This little tradition makes me happy and I wonder how (or if) it will change over time. Most things do, I suppose. But this is one idea that I’d like to keep around for as long as we can.

Happy St. Nick’s night, y’all!

 

 

Resolve : Cracked

I’m going along and one little thing after another chinks my armor,
this steely resolution that I’ve built around my head, my heart.

Weeds of doubt slip into the cracks. Words snake their way in.
And I am frightened but I don’t move. (I can’t).

I convince myself that it’s just a little thing. I can handle with it. NBD.
But it grows and grows and grows – little thing after little thing – until it’s all I can see.
The weeds curl around my heart and squeeze.
Bits of my soul ooze out, but I don’t feel a thing.

It squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until the only things left are anger, bitterness, hurt, and yes…a little pride.
(But not enough).

Smile a While

Smile a while and give your face a rest.
Wave your hand to the one you love the best.
Then shake hands with those nearby and greet them with a smile.

If one Sunday morning you find yourself at the little country church where my Papa preaches, you’ll hear this song. The piano will twang along and the people will sing whole-heartedly, not worrying about how they sound. There’s something special in those little churches that big churches lose somewhere along the way. There’s also something special about being greeted with a smile. It not only makes an impression on people, it just makes you both feel better.

Last week I rushed into Walgreens right before they closed. I always feel bad when I walk in at the very last second because I remember being that person behind the counter who is silently cursing the person that walks in at closing time. I rushed to grab what I needed and then headed to the checkout. Scrambling for my debit card, I didn’t even look the cashier in the eye. But all of a sudden she said, ”I remember you. You’re the one who waved and smiled and said ‘Good morning’.” I looked up at her, a smile now dancing on my face. I was. I am! It was me, the one who waved and smiled and said, “Good morning.” And I’d completely forgotten about it until that moment. But she hadn’t. And that made me happy.

Earlier in the week I’d walked in while the entire Walgreens staff was huddled in the front of the store having a meeting. When I walked in I was greeted with a plethora of “Welcome to Walgreen”s – a habit for many of them, I’m sure. And, without even thinking about it, I made a huge (and I do mean huge) circular wave and almost shout-sang “Good Morning!”, hanging on to the rrrrnnnn sound much longer than I should have. I laughed at myself and my reaction. Who does that?, I thought. I’d looked like a total fool. I blushed a little, laughed and went on my merry way.

Even though it was long-gone from my memory, that cashier hadn’t forgotten. Maybe she remembered because she thought I was a fool. Maybe they all snickered about it once I walked away. But I like to think that my silliness really did brighten their day, that maybe I passed my smile around. And, I thought, I’m extra glad that she remembered me for being the smiling one instead of the grouchy one (because, unfortunately, there have been plenty of times when I could have easily been remembered as the latter).

So smile a while and give your face a rest. It’ll do us all some good.

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Gratuitous picture of my four favorite smiling faces

Breastmilk Boo(hoo)

It always catches me off-guard, that moment when the scab is ripped off. I’d completely forgotten about it and then I hear a conversation or read a post and it all comes rushing back to me. And I know that the people who share these words do it out of love. They believe whole-heartedly that breast is best and they want you to believe it, too. And here’s the thing, I agree with them. In other circumstances, I might even be one of them. I might be the one rattling off all the benefits and calling for others to try harder, go longer. But I’m not because I couldn’t be. I couldn’t nurse my babies. And I see them now and I know – I know beyond a shadow of a doubt – that my babies are growing up to be smart, productive (tiny) citizens of society. But still it haunts me, this ache that has lessened with time but never completely goes away. I wanted to breastfeed my babies and I couldn’t. I did it all, tried it all, gave it my all (and then some) and it just.didn’t.work. I don’t think I’ve ever cried more over a single thing in my life. Giving up broke my heart every single time, even after I promised myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I always found myself daydreaming of a nursing newborn and how wonderful it would be, but things rarely turn out like they do in our daydreams, I suppose.

Of all the things in my life that I wish had maybekindasorta been a little different, this is what I wish I could change the most. I bottle fed skin-to-skin. I made lots of eye contact. I did everything I could to make bottle feeding as much like breast feeding as I could and yet I still feel like I missed something. And, as illogical as I know it is, I still feel like I did something wrong. That it was my fault. That I didn’t try hard enough. That I gave up too quickly. That I didn’t try more things. Even though I know damn well that’s not what happened. The mind is a funny thing, isn’t it? 

I know this much though: my children are pretty darn smart and imaginative, even without that liquid gold. I mean, what 4 year old asks to be the man in the moon for Halloween? That’s some serious thinking outside the box.
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Gratitude (or something like it)

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Is there a word for that moment when you feel so overwhelmed with gratitude that you can’t even move? That moment that just socks you in the stomach so hard that you can’t breathe and tears roll down your eyes simply because you’re aware – so veryvery aware – of all the good, all the beautiful, all the wonderful that’s right here in your lap. Surely there is. I may even know the word but my whole body is so absorbed in living and loving this moment that there’s no brain power left to add words. Or maybe there aren’t words. Maybe it’s something that transcends language.

I start to count my blessings and I can’t finish one thought before another crashes into it. Words are too slow, too cumbersome, too human to catch up with what I think, what I feel. And I’m convinced that this is the kind of prayer that brings me closest to God. The kind of prayer that has no words.