Worn out and stretched

october-2016-076_1_1I have this sweater that hangs in the back of my closet.  To be honest it’s not very flattering these days.  But before it was worn and stretched and washed and dried incorrectly only to be washed and stretched again, it was a delightful sweater.

I bought the sweater back during my junior year of college. I had been invited to spend a weekend with a friend in Boston.  Dad and I went shopping a few weeks before my trip.  I saw the sweater and fell instantly in love.  Never having been one for style, I tended to gravitate toward comfort.  And this sweater just breathed comfort.  But unlike most of my fashion choices, this sweater was beautiful.  It was charcoal gray with flecks of color splashed about.  It zipped up and had a hood.  I grabbed it from the rack and Dad agreed that it had a Boston look to it.  Very New Englandy.

The sweater and I in Boston during my visit in October 1999.

The sweater and I in Boston during my visit in October 2000.

The sweater traveled to Boston with me that fall.  And then to New York in the winter.  Philly the following winter.  Alaska in the spring.  Raleigh the following Christmas.  The more I wore it, the more it stretched.  The more it stretched, ironically, the more I loved it.  It had character and despite its misshapen identity, it still breathed comfort.  It lost a little of its beauty on the outside, but to me it remained beautiful.  A treasure that withstood the passing of time.

I pulled it out this morning, this first morning that has had a taste of fall.  The temperature is comfortable but the breeze is giving me shivers.  I just needed a little added layer to take the chill off.  Wrapping the worn and loved sweater around me and zipping it up, I relished its comfort, its history, its trek through life with me.

This sweater and me?  We actually share more than just travel and cold days.  You see, my body isn’t so perfect anymore either.  Back before it was worn and stretched and tired, it was a delightful body.  Time and babies have taken their toll.  Bits of it have stretched beyond repair and bits of it sag thanks to the law of gravity.  But this body?  The one Daxson reaches for in the middle of the night?  The one my babies snuggle up to when they’re scared?  I’d like to think it’s still comfortable.  It’s beautiful in a way it hasn’t always been.  It has nurtured life within its womb and stretched and given way to miracles.  Tiny little miracles.  Four of them here on Earth.  Three more securely tucked away in Heaven.  It has nursed my babies into healthy toddlers.  It has lifted those children and rocked them and held them close on the nights when their dreams weren’t so sweet.  It has spoken of love and pleasure to a devoted husband.  It has been pushed to its limits with my obsession of diets and working out.  It carries on despite its lack of good sleep, a rest from stress and access to a perfect diet.  It is faithful despite my nonacceptance, my constant criticism.

This morning, I snuggle a little deeper into my sweater and I look down at the stomach that is no longer flat.  Instead of criticizing, I praise the stretch marks, the sagging skin, the abs that will never boast of themselves in a bikini and I accept it all for what it is.  A vessel for love.  And my sweater?  I praise it, too.  For teaching me the beauty of a body well used.

**This is pulled from the dusty archives (circa 2016)…kind of a second chance for old words…so if it looks familiar, it’s because it is.  Here’s hoping that it inspires you to live a little richer, breathe a little deeper, and appreciate a little more fully.**

 

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A Fraud

I don’t actually know what I’m doing.

Not in mothering.  Not in marriage.  Not in relationships, in general.

Not in educating.  Not in domestic responsibilities.  Not in business.

Certainly not in humaning.

I am not an expert.  In anything.  I hold multiple degrees.  I am well trained in various areas from accounting to herbalism.  I have taught myself how to cook and clean and do laundry.  I have learned to make medicines and file taxes and follow an educational philosophy that respects children as born persons.  I have studied and read and learned.  I have traveled and I have loved and I have birthed babies.  Yet I am not an expert at anything.

Sometimes I feel inadequate.  Like I’m a perpetual student over here, never quite achieving competency.  Other times, I’m just resigned to the idea that I am not an expert.  I think of myself more as a jack-of-all trades.

Other days I try to convince myself that surely I must be an expert at something.  I know so much about herbs and healing and alternative health care.  Until I am humbly reminded that for all I know, there’s still so much I don’t know.  I tell myself I’m an expert at educating my children.  Until I see a hole in their learning or hear a criticism that makes me rethink our methods.

Most days I go to bed reminded that I’m really not an expert at anything.

Except being broken.

I’m good at that.  Really good.  Expert level good.

Being broken doesn’t require a degree.  Or years of study.  It doesn’t require a paycheck or a certain household income.  It doesn’t matter my skin color or my weight or my religion.  All it requires is a quick look in the mirror and the humility to admit that I’m a mess.

And I promise.  I’m a mess.

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Being an expert at being broken might not be a bad thing.  It certainly makes me more compassionate.  Because I know how you’re feeling.  My road might look different than yours, but it’s all still a rubbled mess.  And I get how that mess distracts us and deters us and sometimes defines us.

Being broken leaves lots of room for growth and fixing.  And that might just be the point of this long journey we call life…a chance to change and be the better person, the kinder person, the person I’d want in my life.

The best thing about being broken might just be that it keeps me humble.  It helps me journey alongside those in my life (even my kids…no, especially, my kids).  ‘Cause I don’t really know what I’m doing either.  And sometimes having somebody that’s there in the trenches with you is way better than having someone preach from outside the arena.

So there it is.  I’m a fraud at most everything I do.  Except being broken.  And I’m okay with that.

Chihuahua Syndrome

**This is pulled from the dusty archives (circa 2017)…kind of a second chance for old words…so if it looks familiar, it’s because it is.  Here’s hoping that it inspires you to live a little richer, breathe a little deeper, and appreciate a little more fully.**

You know that whole idea that little dogs that hang out with big dogs think they’re big dogs because they look at the other dogs and just assume they’re the same size?  We call that the Chihuahua Syndrome over here.  And Katie has it.

She hangs out with the boys all week long and while (luckily!) she doesn’t think she’s a boy, she does think she’s much bigger and much more capable than she is.  Case in point:  A few months ago the boys climbed up on top of the air conditioning unit and were jumping off with wild abandon.  Katie followed, thinking she was quite capable of the same dangerous feat and ended up spraining her wrist in the process.

Sometimes it works to her benefit.  She learned to swim at two, well and without fear, because her 4, 6 and 8 year old brothers were doing it.  She “does” school and eagerly “writes” letters alongside the boys.  She’s quite capable of self-care, never realizing that she’s got a two year gap between herself and the next brother.  She demands equality, telling us that she can stay up as late as the boys, she can go on that ride at the fun park.  Doggone it, she can DO whatever the boys can do.  And it’s not about gender to her.  It’s about a fuzzy view of self.

She looks at them as if it’s a mirror that reflects her while completely avoiding the fact that she is, in essence, nothing like them.  She’s her own unique little being and she’s not meant to live her life as a reflection of someone else.

One day recently we were out bike riding and I was explaining to William about Katie and her chihuahua syndrome and, while the essence of the topic completely escaped Katie’s thoughts, it did manage to kick her imagination into gear and she said to me, “I’m the baby chihuahua and you’re the mama chihuahua.”  After which she completely dissolved in a fit of giggles and “arfs.”

But her casual thought got me thinking.  “…you’re the mama chihuahua.”

It’s true.  So true.

I look at other moms and I treat them as a reflection of me and I begin to think that I must do what they do because, after all, I need to keep up with the big dogs.  I click from Pinterest project to Pinterest project and scan beautiful blogs with beautiful stories and I actually allow myself to see me reflected in them.  I meet a mom at playgroup and I see how calm and together she is and I think that’s what I should look like.  I gather with friends and I am sure that their ideas are the answer to everything wrong in my life and I must do things just as they do.  I allow myself to actually think that I must do whatever they do because, doggone it, even if it kills me, I must keep up with them.

I see the perfect cupcakes, the clean house, the adorably dressed children, the impeccable yard and I just keep trying to keep up.

But this is wrong.  All wrong.

Because I am bound to fall and sprain my wrist if I continue to try to keep up with the big dogs.

How can I possibly read that beautiful post that reflects the journey of that family and allow myself to think that perhaps my journey is meant to look just like that?  How can I see those Pinterest projects and think that doing something like that defines me as a mom?  How can I continue to fall into the comparison trap knowing that I’ll always find myself lacking?  How can I keep trying my best to be a big dog when I’m really just a little dog with my own little puppies?

I can try and try all I want but I’m NOT that mom.  I’m me.

See my little family over here.  We’re completely different than that family over there.  Our house looks different.  Our schooling looks different.  Our meals look different.  Our conversations sound different.  Our journey is different.

I am my own unique little being and I’m not meant to live my life as a reflection of someone else.

Cardinal Days

There’s a cardinal outside my window.  I have been hearing his voice each morning for the last few days.  The incessant “pew” of his laser.  This morning I went out to spot him.  And I couldn’t.  Despite his loud red coloring, I failed to see him hidden among the leaves.

I feel like that cardinal some days.

Bright red.  Loud.  Incessantly talking.  Yet still unseen.

I always say that mothering is a hard journey.  We’re surrounded by people all day long yet we feel lonely and unseen.  But I’m beginning to think it’s more than just mothering that’s hard…it’s humaning that’s so hard.  Because despite our need to be seen and heard, we manage to hide ourselves amongst the leaves, afraid of being seen and heard.  It’s a catch 22.

And sometimes we finally summon up the courage and we put ourselves out there, with all of our vulnerability and shame as Brene Brown encourages us to do, and we’re just not noticed.  Like the female cardinal, we blend into our surroundings, overshadowed by the vibrant beings around us.

All of the business of being human and being broken is hard. The need to be seen and heard, acknowledged and loved often overpowers rational thinking.

Sometimes all we can do is get out there, sing our little hearts out and not worry so much about being noticed.

 

Puppy Love

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Sometimes we just need to feel loved.

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With a non-judgemental love.

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With a love that tickles us all the way from our hearts down to our toes.

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With a love that feels completely mutual and requited.

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With a love that accepts and understands and makes us feel like everything is just right.

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Sometimes we lose perspective and the day-to-day worries of life threaten to weigh us down.  We forget how loved we are.  We forget how important we are.  We forget we matter.

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Sometimes we have to take all that anxiety and worry and forget about it for some blissful space of time.

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Sometimes that blissful space comes in the form of romp with a furry friend.

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Or wet hands making a difference in one little friend’s world.

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Sometimes anxiety melts away when we’re free to feel loved.  Even the anxiety that weighs us down day after day.  It all just disappears.

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Because sometimes spending our precious time with someone who completely depends on us  enables us to remember that we are each important.

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Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we matter.

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Because we do.

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And sometimes it takes a tiny critter to remind us how very important we each are and how very loved we are.

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A furry little critter who adores us just because.  No actual reason.  Just because.

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We could all benefit from love like that.

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*These photos were taken while volunteering at The Puppy House, an amazing non-profit foster home tucked into a little corner of South Texas.  The Puppy House is a refuge for pregnant mama dogs and their puppies until they reach an age where they can be fostered out or adopted.  You can contact Jennifer Turner at thepuppyhouse@yahoo.com or message The Puppy House at m.me/PuppyHouseTX for more information or to donate to her very worthy cause.

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Perspective

We are all so very broken.  And our human spirits tend toward self-pity.  Sometimes what our souls crave, more than anything, is perspective.  The ability to see outside of ourselves to understand how incredible our lives actually are.

The universe has a way of bringing perspective into our lives when we need it most.

I have the most beautiful friend.  She is a light on my dark days.  She is funny and kind and thoughtful.  She adores my children, delights in my presence, and relishes our time spent together.  She has managed to capture the essence of intentional living and wholehearted living.

And now she has lung cancer.

And I’m over here being petty about how I don’t have enough time to blog.  Or that my kids use inappropriate language at the table.  Or that I wish I had a peach tree in my backyard.

Perspective is a beautiful thing.

Just like that I suddenly realize that all of my petty complaints are exactly that…petty.  And that life is fragile.  And that this moment is truly all that we have.

Sometimes we get lots of chances to mess up and try again.  Sometimes we get one chance.  It’s cliche, but life offers no guarantees.

So consider this your moment.  Your moment to love, your moment to cherish, your moment to open your eyes and truly see what’s around you, your moment to be incredibly grateful.

{A note to my dear perspective providing friend: For your friendship, for the moments we have shared, for making my mothering journey a little lighter and a lot funnier, thank you.  You are an inspiration to me.  You are strong.  You are beautiful.  My world is a brighter place thanks to your smile, your encouragement, your wholehearted spirit.  I am blessed to know you, to share in your journey, and to witness your growth.  I love you and I’m cheering you along with positive thoughts, hopeful prayers and intentional compassion.  May peace fill your heart on the road ahead and may you always know how incredibly loved you are.} 

The Year We Signed Up…For Everything

Recently I posted this quote from Sammiches & Psych Meds on my Facebook page.

Image may contain: text that says 'Other People: Just enrolled our kids in basketball, cheerleading, piano lessons, invention camp, mathletics, and French on the weekends. Me: Oh, fun. Yeah, our kids are enrolled in "Go Outside and Don't Come Back in Unless Someone's Bleeding. Meets every day. SammichespsychMeds.com'

For the first 9 years of having kids, I operated from the second perspective.  Then beginning a year and a half ago, I felt some pressure to enroll my kids in a few extra-curricular activities.  It started out innocently enough.  A ballet class over the summer for Katie to try it out.  A few piano lessons to guide the big boys in their music abilities.  A private strings lesson every now and then for Joseph and Andrew so they’d feel comfortable when orchestra started in the fall.  Everyone else was doing it.  Why not us?

Summer ended and all had gone well.  Katie loved ballet.  Joseph and William loved piano.  Strings lessons were lovely.  So now we began to add things to the schedule in true passionate style.  If we were already going to be at orchestra for strings and guitar lessons, why not enroll in choir as well?  Ballet once a week…no, let’s make it twice!  And, of course, we had our CM co-op that we had joined the previous year, with Shakespeare class first followed by all the riches (nature study, composer and artist study, folk songs).  I continued meeting with my book club and my herb group and my mom’s group, all of which met once a month.

In the fall, we piled on the Nature Challenge and couldn’t resist committing ourselves to completing as many as possible.  Then midwinter, we added in Youth Odyssey for Joseph.  Spring brought the Handicraft fair and nature study days with the CM group.

It didn’t seem like that much.  And ALL of it was good.  Maybe not great, but good.

But a funny thing happened when we committed ourselves to so many good things.  Seeing as how our time didn’t multiply, other things had to be cut.  We kissed days of lazily lounging in the sun with a good book good-bye.  Play dates (the kind where us moms sit and chat while the kids run wild and free) were cut…and I rationalized that with all the activities, they had plenty of social time.  Both of my blogs took direct hits.  Even my evenings out with other moms began to feel more like work than play.

Suddenly every.little.thing began to feel like work.  I needed downtime.  Not time in the car toting us to the next activity.  Not time shoved in a waiting room making small talk with other moms while waiting for the kids to finish up.  Not time stuck in the car trying to manage tired kids and their unruly behavior while waiting for the other siblings to finish their activity.

We all began to suffer.

Andrew was the first to descend with a downward dive.  By Christmas, his enthusiasm for orchestra waned (which was a multi-fold situation…the private lessons he took over the summer put him ahead and he found himself bored; his ADHD tendencies reared their ugly head when he was forced to sit quietly and bored through a 50 minute class every week) and he quickly lost steam.  Co-op became a method of torture for him as he had to sit quietly first through an hour of Shakespeare (in which he was too young to participate) and then another two hours of co-op time in which his little mind wandered and he obsessed about being quiet to the point that he took nothing away from the lessons except hatred, the byproduct of being forced to sit and be quiet for so long.  I suffered watching him.  The joy of nature lessons left.  The joy of playing an instrument was gone.  The joy of playing joyfully with other children was a distant memory.  In one fell swoop, I had managed to forget that he isn’t me; nor is he Joseph or William or Katie.  I had forgotten that my little ADHD introvert didn’t operate in this world the same as us.  (I did pull Andrew out of orchestra by March in an effort to not completely kill a love for music; I strongly feel that music should be an outlet for stress, not a cause for stress.)

Then William began complaining of headaches every Monday during his orchestra lessons.  Then he began complaining of headaches every time we met for co-op.  He did fine at his private lessons.  He did fine during his school lessons.  He did fine at play dates.  My only guess is that the whole group setting was causing a little stress.  The bigger the group, the more I noticed his stress level went up (I totally get him…big groups have always stressed me out, too).

But I am not one to quit.  Nor do I want to send the message to my kids that quitting is okay.  We were so close to the finish line so we dug in and plowed through.  By April, I found myself burnt out, not even responding to text messages in a timely manner.  I almost forgot what my dear mother’s voice sounded like.

At the end of the year, I looked back and I saw what our toil had reaped.  I had two boys that could play piano as well as a strings instrument.  Katie knew the proper name for many different ballet positions and danced beautifully in front of hundreds of people at her spring recital.  Joseph made friends of his own, apart from the rest of us, in Youth Odyssey and had kayaked with his group to a little island, proving to himself that he can do amazing things without me. The kids had been exposed to beautiful art and folk songs through co-op, learned a multitude of nature related things and had succeeded in falling in love with two more of Shakespeare’s plays.  Oh and all of my children had lovingly set their hearts to making beautiful handicrafts for the fair.

I, on the other hand, had spent my year talking.  Between the moms at ballet in the waiting room and the moms suffering through long hours at orchestra with me to the moms in the front yard of the piano teacher’s home, I managed to expel a lot of words out of my desperate extroverted soul.  But even I got tired of talking.  I missed reading.  I missed blogging.  I missed the sound of my kids just playing.

I collapsed into June with the promise to never make so many commitments again.  While I saw all the beauty of our commitments, I greatly grieved for the time we sacrificed to make those things happen.  I really, really missed inviting Jessica and the boys over to just play while Jessica and I chatted.  I really, really missed long afternoons in the spring sunshine clacking away at a blog while my kids ran about and discovered lovely little spring bloomings.  I really, really missed long conversations with Lori and Leslie and Mom.  I really, really missed elaborate sidewalk sketchings and walks through our neighborhood.  I really missed that Masterly Inactivity that Charlotte Mason implores each of us to offer to our children.

Of course, August soon came around and I re-evaluated.  A break from co-op was in order.  No more orchestra.  We dropped Youth Odyssey.  I let go of my book club and changed my herb meetings to quarterly (but I still clung desperately to the monthly mom’s group for the support).

The fall came and we tentatively stepped back into our routines, preserving two days a week to have free afternoons with absolutely NO COMMITMENTS.  The children still play music (all four are now in piano), Katie still takes ballet, Joseph now sings with the Youth Choir and for a brief bit of the fall, William took an adventure in baseball (that’s a whole different story that was drastically altered by heavy amounts of rain). I started a small group for PE one afternoon a week.  All of it feels good.  And fruitful.  But not too filling.

It’s hard to learn to say no to the good to make room for the great, but it must be done.  It must be done to preserve our children’s childhoods, to give them time to run and play and be bored.  It must be done to preserve our own sanity as mamas because we, too, need downtime.  It must be done because we are all only human and there is only so much time in our days…we must learn to carve a space for the great, leave time for the necessary, and relish the time in between…we don’t get a second chance at this.

 

A Joyous Cross: Remembering Not to Suffer Alone

It’s no secret around here that I want another baby and Dax does not.

In fact, he strongly opposes the idea of adding another little one to our already chaotic lives.

But see that’s why I can so easily say I want another one.  Because he is so adamantly against it.

If I’m honest with myself, while I do want another one, the fear of having another one far outweighs the joyous anticipation of actually having one.

This month I was late. The kind of late that would potentially increase our family size.

It was a roller coaster.  First it was panic.  And worry.  Then it was denial.  Then it was acceptance.  And then it was hope mixed with love.  And then it was all swept away with a stain of blood and my heart was flooded with disappointment.

But the worst part?  There was relief mixed with that disappointment.

Because I am human and broken and scared.

And that’s what makes me sad.

After Katie, I suffered.  There was postpartum depression that had me fooled into thinking I was terribly overwhelmed and inept at being a mom.  It morphed into a thyroid issue that sent all of my hormones raging out of control.  The first three years after Katie were rough.  The good days were rare.  The bad days?  Full of anxiety, panic attacks, fear.

There are no words that describe those years.  And the worst part of all of it was the feeling so alone.  I had a lot of encouragement around me.  Lots of well meaning folks encouraging me to pray and trust in the Lord.  If I would just pray more often, He’d take it all away, they promised.  I was praying and I was trusting and I felt so lonely.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

This was my hour of suffering with our Lord and yet it felt so terribly lonely.  How could I possibly use Jesus’ own words and yet feel so desperately alone?  Lack of faith?  Lack of prayer?  Lack of love?

It doesn’t work that way.  God doesn’t forsake us.  He NEVER forsakes us.  Forsaken means to be abandoned and deserted.  God is a loving Father.  He doesn’t throw us to the wolves and wait to see how we manage.  On the contrary, he begs us to lean on him, to allow Him to help us carry the cross.  But He never offers to take the cross away.  There is redemption and rejoicing in suffering and so He allows it.  He humbles us with trials that force us to our knees.  And I suffered.  But I chose to do it Alone.  I gave up on my God who had never once given up on me.  At some point, I stopped taking my suffering to the foot of the cross and I decided He had forsaken me.

I had gotten the message wrong…those well-meaning people who offered me advice didn’t get it.   Prayer wasn’t going to take my suffering away.  Prayer was going to make my suffering bearable.  It wasn’t my lack of prayer, or my lack of faith or His lack of love. It was my misunderstanding of how beautiful suffering can be.

And that’s why I hate that I felt relief today.  I hate that before the acceptance came the worry and panic.  Because where is my faith?  Where is my trust?  This isn’t a journey I’m meant to make alone…I have to share my burden with Him.  I have to trust that there’s a plan for this that I can’t see.  I’m His instrument.  He never promised it would be easy.  But it will be beautiful if I can just accept that suffering is an opportunity to grow in faith.  An opportunity to be humbled and molded and shaped into His vision.

Suffering, whatever form it may take, may be done joyously.

And with suffering, always comes hope.  And joy.  And redemption.  And we’re all pretty broken and in need of redemption.

So my prayer tonight?  My old favorite by Reinhold Niebuhr…

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

 

Journaling: Keeping the Details of Our Lives from Being Lost

In her book Leaving a Trace, Alexandra Johnson tells a story about how she was given a journal that was written by a woman who once lived in the house she now owned.  She imagines the woman walking up the same steps she walked up every day and marveled at how the writer probably thought the details of her life were unimportant.  Yet Alexandra was quickly captivated by the woman’s story, which took place in 1895, mesmerized by the smallest details, drawn in by the story.  Later the journal writer records how, in an effort to gain a little extra pocket money, she and her sister had gone to a local cemetery, which was about to be relocated, to record names and dates on tombstones.  After that her journal entries changed almost as if the time spent in the cemetery had made her realize that without a journal, no one would remember all the details of her life.

And so it goes with us.  The details of our lives are ours uniquely.  Without some type of written record our details will be lost to memory at some point. 

Sometimes I wonder. One day, when I’m old and gray, will I remember all the little details of raising my children?  Will I remember how Katie cups my face in her hands and tells me she loves me?  Will I remember Andrew’s face when he discovers the tooth fairy left him some money?  Will I remember the way William stood at the kitchen window while I washed carrots asking question after question?  Will I remember how one day my sweet Joseph declared that he no longer wanted to be called Joseph, but preferred to be called Joey instead?  Will I remember picking them up, carrying them, rocking them, singing to them?  Will I remember losing sleep as I prayed for them or praising God for all their little smiles?  Will I remember the way their downy hair smelled and their little button noses felt as they snuggled right up next to me to fall asleep?

Head over to Corpus Christi Moms Blog to finish reading about how I journal to keep all the little details in our lives fresh.

For My Mom…

There are thoughts in the heart that words cannot adequately express.  Thoughts that we hold dear but never try to put on paper for fear of doing injustice to the depth of our love.  Yet, the fear that we may never get a chance to express our feelings sometimes overrides the fear of injustice.  And with that fear in mind, I attempt to express the effect on my life of the woman who brought me into this world.november-2016-008_7_1

I don’t remember the first time I met my mother.  Of course I don’t.  None of us do, however our lives were forever intertwined at that first moment of my being.  I don’t remember the first time I heard her voice in the womb or felt her hand press on my little limbs as I stretched out inside of her.  I don’t remember the first time our eyes met or the first time she held me.  I don’t even remember the first few years.  The years that I learned to crawl and walk and talk and climb.  The years I learned that when I was hurt or sad or angry, she was the one that would always be there to comfort me.  The years I learned that she would be the one that would cheer me on through all the trials of growing up and her faith in me would lift me up on my darkest days.  I don’t remember the seed of our relationship, but its fruit is the core of my being.november-2016-029_25_1

I grew up as a happy little girl in a happy home.  I found myself doing what most little girls do.  I watched my mother and soaked up what a mom was supposed to be and do through her actions and words.  I did not yet speak the same language as her, the language of woman, wife, mother.  I spoke as only a child can.  She listened but spoke as a woman, a wife, a mother.  Yet somehow she understood me.   It takes a rare kind of person to understand so many languages.  She crossed our language barrier through late morning snuggles, kisses for bumps, and a heart full of compassion.  She loved me despite my childish ways, she loved me with uncompromising empathy.november-2016-025_21_1

As I grew, she led by example.  I learned to be patient with the impossible, trust in goodness and hope for mercy.  I learned alongside her how to bake cookies, wash dishes and sort laundry.  She showed me love despite my hormonal attitude.  She showed me forgiveness despite my sulky teenage angst.  She showed me bravery in the face of her health trials.  She showed me courage when she trusted in His will.  Yet we still spoke different languages.november-2016-015_14_1

Eventually I left behind the teenage angst, the sulky frown, the overly philosophical outlook on life and I discovered what my mother knew all along.  Our relationship was beautiful.  It just needed nurturing.  And so we nurtured it together.  By that point I had finally begun to speak one of the languages my mother spoke: the language of woman.  I understood better who she was and why she did the things she did.  She had understood me all along.  I spent my college years falling in love with a best friend I didn’t even realize I had.  We spent late nights doing puzzles, eating chocolate, giggling over funny accents we used to talk to each other.  We spent our days dashing off to the library, sharing our mutual affection for books or hours in the bookstore debating over which book we would read together next.  We stayed up late watching old reruns.  Sometimes we were just there together, me studying or scrapbooking, she reading or doing a crossword puzzle.  We spoke the language of contentment together.november-2016-012_11_1

Then I met Daxson and fell in love.  Shortly after meeting Daxson, Dad got transferred up to Newport, RI.  I chose to stay with Daxson.  And so my mother moved that fall and I’m pretty sure she took a huge chunk of me with her.  I missed her.  Sure I had moved away for summers before but this was the first time she had ever left me and I missed her dearly.  I missed having her there at the end of the day.  I missed simple chats to say nothing at all.  I missed having my friend nearby.  We learned the language of long-distance love.november-2016-010_9_1

She helped me plan my wedding from afar.  She spent her spare time sewing a beautiful white dress for me.  She stood beside me as I prepared to give my heart away permanently and she told me how beautiful I was.  And suddenly we spoke another language together…the language of being a wife.november-2016-017_16_1

Years passed by and I was blessed with the birth of my first child.  Mom came down to stay with me as I got acquainted with life with a baby.  It may be hard to imagine, but I was so filled with pride that I truly thought that surely no other woman before me had ever felt so vulnerable, so in awe of a little being she had created.  For days I imagined myself as if I were the first person to have ever given birth because surely if this is what every woman felt, the world would seem a little more magical to each of us.  But the world around me kept moving forward despite my newfound fascination of little fingers and toes.mommy-daddy-and-little-joseph-together-for-the-first-time_1_1

And then suddenly it hit me.  This is exactly what my mom felt when she gave birth to me.  And suddenly, I could speak all the languages of my mother: woman, wife, mother.  And suddenly, I felt a tug on the invisible bond we shared and I knew that I suddenly understood more than I had ever bargained for.andrews-bday-june-2014-179_1_1

The years that I turned away from her…I felt regret.  The years I was angry with her…I felt remorse.  The years I shut her out…I felt shame.  The years I thought she didn’t understand…she did.  The years I hurt her with my words and my actions when I spoke only the language of child…I could not change.november-2016-028_24_1

I can only say how very sorry I am that I could not speak her languages sooner.  I suppose there is not much to be done for that.  It is the nature of children to speak as children.  But now I come before her truly repentant, with a heart full of love and gratitude.  Gratitude that she never gave up on me.  She never gave up on us.  She nurtured our relationship from that first moment and she never lost faith in it.  She stood by me, strong and sturdy, despite the strength I often used to push her away.  She never wavered.  She loved me despite my shortcomings, despite my natural tendencies to act as a child.  She loved me with unending patience and I’d like to believe that it was that faith and trust that opened the door to the world of languages for me.  Without her, perhaps I would still be speaking as a child.  Even now at 36.  Even now as both a wife and a mother.november-2016-005_4_1

Now I have children of my own.  They speak child.  I speak woman, wife, mother.  They talk back.  They declare their hatred of me when things don’t go their way.  They brush me aside for their friends.  They take out their frustrations and disappointments on the one person they know will love them despite it all.  I remind myself, it is the language of children.  I speak the language of empathy, just like my mom did and I remember that it is my job to nurture these relationships.  I hug them.  I cuddle them.  I sing to them.  I read to them.  I play with them.  I learn alongside them.  I teach them.  I forgive them.  I guide them.  I love them with every fiber of my being.  And I rest, content with the knowledge that this is how the door is opened to a lifelong relationship.  Faith.  Courage.  Trust.november-2016-024_20_1

I am my mother.

I have learned my languages well.  I have had a guide to help me speak so fluently.  Woman, wife, mother.  My soul is intertwined forever with hers.  I speak her as I speak empathy.  I hear her voice echo in mine when I practice patience.  I see her reflection when I look into my children’s eyes and offer them sympathy, forgiveness, mercy.  I lie in bed at night, staring up at the ceiling and pray with my entire being that if she ever leaves me here, I will still feel her love run through my veins, her lessons will still echo in my heart, her soul will still be intertwined with mine.

I have faith that it will be just as I pray.

I love you Mom.IMG_5307_1

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