parenting

Well, the title might be a little lofty, but follow me anyway.

I have been dealing with some stuff. And we all deal with some stuff. Yet lately my stuff seems so heavy and prevalent that it’s hard for me to even see the world around me. And I have become a hermit. Girls, sometimes just dealing with life is just way too flipping hard.

It’s easy to do (becoming a hermit, that is). I mean, I don’t really like being around people much at times. Sometimes, I don’t like people much at all. I hate small talk. I despise insincerity, I can be way too intense, and I usually feel like an alien in a room of people who look just like me.

Stuff with the kids, legal junk, business stress, work drama, bad days, weight gain, marriage conflict, financial strain, anxiety, depression, blah-blah-blah. Toss in limited time to relax or exercise, a nacho addiction, and the lurking worry that you might be drinking too often, and then you’re like,

“Hey world, here I am: a doughy, middle aged, stressed out mom, who cusses too much, maybe drinks too much,  who is socially awkward, overly critical, with alarmingly limited conflict resolution skills and a constant feeling of being stretched too thin. Who wants to hug the cactus?”

Why would I leave the house, if I am getting on my own nerves?

So I have bammed myself in, stopped writing, taken to living off of yogurt and a healthy/not-so-healthy fend for yourself mantra, and become a spectator of the world around me.

And now I am peeling back the layers of heartache, and months of good intentions, and trying to reintegrate into a world that sometimes feels like a revolving doors with giant cheese grater panels in place of the glass.

And it’s weird.

But I made myself do it. At least a little. And I lived.

Last week I invited a friend to get pedicures. Then I drove the next day to see a friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 or so years. I went to church two days after that, and then later that day, went to a book club with more than a dozen women, some of them strangers, but none of them my best friend, or my bourbon, or my cozy couch blanket. And today, I had a newer friend over, and made her lunch and held her baby and just talked. And it felt right for the first time in a long time. I was tired, and needed a nap after, but it was still good.

I could use the “peeling off the band-aid” analogy but that’s not accurate. I don’t have a wound. I am a wound. I am a downright mess some days, but I still have love and need love, so I have to leave the house, or open my doors and let others in, at least sometimes.

Have your ever been to the “petting” area of an aquarium and petted little sharks or sting-rays? Once when I was there, a worker said that the sting-rays like to rub up against people to keep their skin smooth. While I don’t have any proof that she knew what she was talking about, I can relate to this image: I have smoother edges when I rub elbows with other humans, and months of funk start to rub off when I finally emerge from the hidden sands in the safe and shallow end of the ocean.

People need people. Even grumpy, prickly, critical, anti-social, stressed out people. I also needed the months of hiding. Heck, it’s kind of been years. But for everything there is a season, and spring is finally coming. Did anyone automatically think of this though, lol?

Image result for winter is coming meme

Winter is over and it’s feeling kind of good to move around again and plan a little life, to hug old friends, to hear new opinions, make new friends and even hold babies. I won’t lie and say it was all easy or pretend that I never felt a little out of place, but coming out of hiding will do that. The light is bright, but it’s so good for the soul.

If you are in a season of rest, just relish in it. But if your rest is becoming an addiction, a spot too comfortable and dark, maybe stick a pinky toe out from under your Cheeto covered blanket, climb out of your show hole, pop on some chap-stick, throw on some clothes with buttons and go rub some elbows, accept some hugs, or bounce a baby on your knee.

The healing is good out here. I’ll leave the light on for ya’.

Dear Hubby,

Sorry this is a few days late. This has been a janky week. Now that we got the house in order and tackled that linen closet we have been talking about for two years, I can write you a little anniversary letter:

Every year of life, and of marriage, seems jam packed. But it also seems completely mundane and the same in a way. Not in a bad way, but the busyness of life can make it feel like a blur.

And if we aren’t careful to take note of what we have been through together, we might not realize how really strong we are. Not just because we work really hard at our marriage, but because we vowed to let God be the center of it. A cord of three strands cannot be broken.

So I figured I’d take a moment to reflect on the last year and what we have conquered together.

  1. Business-In it’s very own category for its obvious stress involved, we have closed a business, opened a business and grew a home-based business, while pretty gracefully handling people in and out of our home several times a day. Phew. That is no easy way to live! But we did it.
  2. We traveled quite a bit-In the middle of being slammed with our work, we took time to travel. We went on a romantic getaway to Cancun, took the boys to DC for a real educational experience, went an a cruise through the Caribbean with friends, went on a family trip with the Knudsons to Atlanta (where Kaden drank a silo of Coke products), and took the entire family (including Ricky Bobby) across country, climbing Pikes Peak (in a car, lol), visiting the Smokies, and going to our first White Sox game. And it was all because of how hard we (especially YOU) work and how we have been blessed.
  3. We worked out-We might not be on the cover of fitness mags, but we have carved out time to be healthy, even food prepping when we were really on top of things. Working out with you is fun, but it also gets me excited about growing old with you. The more years I have with you, the better.
  4. We briefly considered adoption-Infertility really stinks. And anniversaries are a chafing reminder of many, many losses. But briefly this year, we considered adoption, as we were approached to consider it for a mom with a last minute need. We talked with her, prayed about it, tried to imagine how to make space for a child in one short week, and then the mom decided to keep the baby. While this was a brief interlude of adoption struggles, we handled it, and allowed it to help us focus on what we really want in terms of growing our family.
  5. We parented-Every year, we hustlin’. Jackson got his license and we now spend 13% of our day tracking him on multiple phone apps. Kaden outgrew Jackson and entered the 5th dimension of puberty. We taught them new things, buckled down in new ways, and let go when it was right. We have prayed, argued and wrestled with many a decision, but we did our best to do it as a team.
  6. We prayed-We did like 21 days of a 30 day marriage prayer devotional. Well, like I said, we ain’t perfect. But we haven’t thrown the books away, and regardless of the devotional, we still turn to God for answers and nothing makes me feel more cherished than when you pray for me, for our marriage, for my work, for our children, and even for all of our friends. I love you so much for that, and I always will.
  7. We got help-We went to counseling, a lot, shopping around to find the right fit for us, never using time or money as excuses to skip when both of us would really prefer to sweep stuff under the rug and just grab a bourbon. When people say “marriage is hard” this is what is should mean: putting in the dang work to truly try to understand our spouse’s feelings and needs and tend to them, NOT just saying, “Well this is hard….next.” And thanks for letting me share a little of our struggles with the world so we can help make getting help normal and not a sign of weakness. Your commitment to God and our marriage is the strongest thing about you. Thank you!

You already know I love you but it takes more than love to last. It takes commitment, work and one hell of a sense of humor. Thanks for laughing at the crappy stuff with me, however inappropriately, and thanks for occasionally throwing chocolate and Mexican food at the problems. It’s actually a solid practice endorsed by world renowned therapists (it’s not). But seriously you’re the best.

And in the deep and sentimental words of Tim McGraw (kind of), I like you, I love you, I wants some more of you.

See you at the hizzy later,

I’ll be the one with the goofy grin 🙂

 

 

I hate labeling my kid. I go out of my way NOT to do it. I want to just know KG, to be his mom, and help guide him through his childhood. And I go out of my way not use diagnosis as a crutch (for him or for me). I also try not to be defensive of him.

But for the sake of understanding, I will tell you that he has a different mindset, different behavior at times, and definitely different social norms.

My husband and I have been married for six years. We are a blended family, and that brings on challenges, especially in regards to discipline. But disciplining some kids can be a little more complex, so we need help, therefore we found a counselor who specializes in more complex situations.

Our counselor asked us how other people’s views of my kids impact us. I paused. In general, I don’t care too awfully much what people think. And I work really hard not to let what people think of my kids or my parenting to (negatively) impact how I parent. Sometimes I have to pretend like I am in a bubble and tune out the world, but I pride myself on parenting the same way whether I have witnesses or if I am at home (it’s not exactly the same but I try.)

But do I care what people think of my kid in general? Well short answer: kind of. At least enough write this overdo post.

KG did everything a little late, talked differently, bit other kids, got kicked out off daycare, and found trouble around many corners. I have spent a lot of time in meetings. I have cried and snotted in front of many a teacher. I have even made teachers cry because I was frustrated and angry and feeling awfully alone. And I regret that. I now go out of my way to stand beside each teacher and support them the very way I pray they will support me. And I have realized that it helps if people actually like me (my intentions more so than anything), and care about my son (especially since he needs their guidance too.)

My son is a unique person, and I wouldn’t change him. He is creative and non-linear. Ask him to describe something to you, and his response might dazzle you. He has an earnest interest in science and memorizes science facts and quizzes me (I almost never know the answers). Last week he broke up a girl fight at school. This week he asked me if angels poop. He was completely serious. (That was stumper. Message me if you know the answer. Or if you want to hear mine.)

The journey of my son’s life has been affected by his trials and his differences, but I really do love who he is, how he loves, and I can’t wait to see his life continue to unfold.

I don’t want to change him.

But not everyone gets him. He is easily frustrated and easily angered. He says odd stuff, curses at times, and makes jokes at the wrong times. He is way too open about private stuff. He is bad at eye contact and handshakes and sometimes, he looks upset with others when really he is disappointed in himself. He is socially awkward at times too.[ I think he gets it ALL from me, but that’s another post ;-)]

I have to really, really, really work at not running around going off on people sometimes. I want to tell them what a good kid he really is, that he is generous, not stingy with gifts, tender-hearted, interesting, good with little kids, sweet with dogs, a great dancer and better at sports than he seems (he gets nervous.)

I want to tell the world that that he will be something; that he already is something.

He is harder on himself than anyone on this planet can ever be on him. And I suspect that’s why he is the way he is sometimes. Because he just wants to be better, to act better, to achieve more. And he doesn’t always know how. And it frustrates him.

And I don’t have all the answers. And I never will.

And not everyone is going to “get” him, or like him, or understand him.

But that’s life.

And that’s why I don’t run around making excuses for him (at least I try not to), or pulling the special needs card every time he doesn’t make the team or earn a spot somewhere. I have NEVER gone ahead of him and said, “Please choose him because he needs this” even though it might have helped, or might have kept him from some rejection. I never want to send him where he is not wanted. That is not successful living to me.

But damn does my heart break sometimes.

If people knew what I knew, would they treat him better or worse? Would he be more accepted or more often rejected? Because at this point, he might just come across as a tall, pretty cute kid with kick ass hair who is a little shy or a little funny. Or he might seem like a kid full of rage, with low self-esteem and a bad attitude. Or he might seem smart, quirky, extroverted and surprisingly thoughtful. And all of those could be true depending on the day.

My son, is incredibly, beautifully, wonderfully human.

And then there are the people who see him…really see him. And they go out of their way to connect with him, to lend him a helping hand or offer him a word of encouragement. Why do they get it when so many people don’t? I am guessing something or someone in their life has given them the gift of well-developed empathy. We don’t all have that gift, but I am thankful for those in my son’s life that do.

As a mom, there is nothing more rewarding than when others see the good in your kid, and can see when he is trying, can see past a lot of the junk, and offer some good old fashioned kindness.

I could offer you up some “awareness” day info to help you understand my kid better, but here’s the reality:

He’s not going to run through life wearing a shirt that tells everyone why he is mad at himself, or cussing for no apparent reason. He is not going to take me to work with him so I can put everyone in their place when they think the worst of him. He has to LIVE in this world, truly do life in it. And he will have to make some adjustments at times, and at other times, he will have to learn to embrace what makes him different and spectacular.

But he will have to blaze his own trails.

And in the end, we all could be a little more aware of why people act the way that they do, and ask the right questions if we really care to know. We can stop jumping to conclusions. We can even offer our help and actually come along someone who is struggling, and offer a pat on the back or a word of encouragement. We can make sure that no human being lives life unseen, or completely misunderstood.

We can be kind. We can be brave, untamed and trail-blazingly kind.

Awareness of ourselves, and our capacity to love, is what we need more of. And this is what I want my kids to learn too: LOVE is successful living, to me.

It’s that time of the year: award ceremony time. Kids across the country are being honored for their achievements in academics, athletics and character.

But not all kids.

And not mine. My kid doesn’t even get to go to field day. And I have NEVER stepped foot into an awards ceremony.

I guess that makes me a bad parent, right?

It’s not a competition though right? All kids are different right?

But you know as well as I do, that is empty and meaningless rhetoric because when kids are “bad” who do we blame? The parents. Every stinking time.

“It’s the parent’s fault!” said proudly by a parent who pats themselves on the back every time their kid does right, or by the non-parent who can comfortably say, “My (imaginary) kid would never do that.”

You have said it too I bet. A kid on the bus is mean to your kid, and you immediately blame the parents. You might have even said to yourself, “I’d like to give that parent a piece of my mind” (or worse) and you felt entitled to feel that way. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right???

My goal is not to be defensive or self righteous, but if in explaining my perspective to you, I come across that way, I am sorry. But I have had enough.

Yes there are absentee parents. There are neglectful parents. There are abusive parents. And there are parents that teach their kids truly evil ways. But seeing a child who is struggling or misbehaving does not give us the right to diagnose the parenting of someone. It’s pompous, rude, and simply callous–because you have not walked a millimeter in that parent’s shoes. You have not seen their struggle. And you might not even care.

If you met my youngest child on a bad day, you might think he is raised in a barn, full of crazies. He can be rude, defiant, and even verbally abusive. He collects discipline points like baseball cards. Getting dressed in the mornings takes the patience of a saint, and doing homework at night takes 4 hours, a glass of wine, 5 Hail Marys (and I am not even Catholic), 6 moments of silence, and a cry for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I am ready for the second coming of the Lord (kidding, kind of.)

I go to so many meetings for my son as his school, monthly doctors appointments, counseling sessions (for him and for me, oh and for my marriage), we medicate, we meditate, we do yoga, we go to church, we pray for and over our children, we read the Bible, I daily communicate with his various teachers, consult with various specialists, lose a lot of sleep, and do my best to trust in God’s plan. But he still misbehaves way more than most children.

While your child might have to work to make the honor roll, my child has to work to get through the day without a write up. While you might have to gently remind your child to start his homework by a reasonable time, I have to have consequences and rewards in place for basic behavior that most parents would take for granted.

When he flips out at school and gets sent to in school suspension, rest assured, it is not because of his parenting. And when your kid gets a character award, it may or may not have anything to do with you. Kids can be great in spite of their troubled upbringing, and kids can be difficult and troubled in spite a blessed upbringing.

You see, some of these “bad” kids have real issues that you don’t know about: mental or emotional issues that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to navigate. And while my son has some “labels” that are supposed to help him, there seems to be an ocean of what we and his educators just do not understand about him. I have heard, “We have tried everything,” from dozens of teachers and specialists. I have heard, “You are doing all you can,” more times that I can count (and it is little consolation) and I have even heard, “When they find out what is wrong with him, they will name it after him,” from one of his counselors. And she might be right.

Years ago, I saw a daytime talk show discussing the heartbreak of losing a child. One couple, who I will never forget, discussed how they dealt with the enormous pain. They said that even though they only had their little baby for a few hours, they knew that was the life that God had planned for her. It was a life without prom, graduating high school, a wedding or children; but it was HER life. It was no less precious or valuable because of that.

You see, each child has a different life and a different future. I cannot expect from my child what another parent expects from their child. I would like to think we are all just doing our best. And while YOUR best parenting might lead your child into West Point or into the NFL, my best parenting might lead my child into gainful employment at a local business. But it doesn’t mean I have failed as a parent.

We would never dream of blaming a parent for their child’s serious illness or their serious health condition at birth. But there are illnesses and issues that aren’t so obvious that we are quick to blame on “crappy” parenting.

I am not sure when it became so common to be so dang judgemental and full of pride. One day an honor student can turn into a criminal. And one day, a troubled teen can turn into a hero. We do not get to write our kid’s story or take credit for all they are or who they become. It is part parenting, part personal responsible and personality of the child, and part will of God. Let’s not get carried away with assigning blame or credit where is may not deserve to land.

And unless you have been through a parenting struggle with a truly difficult child, you have NO idea how hurtful that is or how isolated in makes parents like me feel to hear these prideful statements. I am already down (but not out!). Please take off your kicking boots. And if you are feeling generous, throw a prayer or an act of kindness our way.

“Bad parents” need love too.IMG_2647

Alert! Alert!

This parent has made a breakthrough.

And it’s too good not to share!

First of all, praise God for answered prayers that come in the form of small victories throughout our lives. Secondly, thank God for counseling which helps us set a healthy(ier) tone in our home.

Ok, so back to the breakthrough.

Your kids might never be difficult or argumentative. If they aren’t then praise you noble one. You need not read on. But if they are, this article is for you!

My loins created an offspring that can argue and complain about ANYTHING. It might be genetic, but if so, I am claiming it skipped a generation. My parents would probably beg to differ.

This A&C (arguing and complaining) has become so rampant that I am constantly ready for it. I brace myself for battle every time I tell this child to do something, anything. My chest tightens, my shoulder spasms, and I already have a list of consequences locked and loaded to fire at him. A battle of the ages always occurs. The family members become irritated and tense, yelling occurs, the boys get at each other, and everyone gets in trouble.

It straight up sucks.

So today I had a calm and bright moment. I was in the shower, where all good ideas occur, and I realized something: He ALWAYS does the chores eventually (or almost always) and he usually even apologizes for acting like a mad man. But this middle step wrought with drama is unraveling our peace of mind and causing him to be on an endless roller coaster ride of losing his privileges. A classic lose-lose.

So here’s the short version of what I said:

  • Let’s talk. This is not a lecture. Your thoughts are as valuable as mine. I am here to help you.
  • I’ve noticed a pattern: I tell you that you have chores, you get angry (add in a bunch of angry steps-throwing, slamming, bad words), then you later calm down and do the chores, but you don’t get the same reward for the chores as you would have (such as an allowance, iPad time, or the freedom to choose how you spend your free time.)
  • So now we have to figure out how to skip the A&C and move towards compliance and the rewards that come with it.

He agreed. Ok, now we’re cooking.

So here’s what we decided on:

  • This is kind of like driving a golf cart and seeing a tree coming up quickly in your path but driving into the tree anyway. The tree represents the A&C and the consequences that occur.
  • We agree there are two things you (child) can do:
    • Pump the breaks
    • Steer away from the tree
  • Pump the breaks means
    • Stop-don’t respond
    • Think-Is arguing going to help?
    • Listen-Listen to mom before reacting.
  • Steer away from the tree means
    • Look for the positive in the situation verses the negative
    • Remember the reward: money and free time (being the main ones for him)

I could see it click for him. He saw the tree and the clear path and he got it. He said emphatically that he’d rather stay on the clear path because he could see something he wanted. FREEDOM.

Well, well, well. I think we are making progress.

So we started over. We pretended like he didn’t already lose his cool this morning over a few simple chores. I told him he had a few things to do. I laid out the freedom that would follow. He complied. And now I am typing.

I know, I know. This is basic parenting stuff. But I do stuff like this a lot and it doesn’t always pan out. The difference was two-fold. We decided to fix this TOGETHER and we could mutually see a solution and looked like JOY for both of us.

Our opposing values were no longer like magnets with one turned in the wrong direction, bouncing off of each other. He turned his magnet around, not because he had to (clearly HAD to wasn’t working so far) but because he WANTED to. He sees something he wants, and he is driving toward it, avoiding trees that will wreck HIS journey.

And so I finished with this:

Me-Hey bud, so you’re on your path to freedom, you have a clear path in front of you, and there are flowers along your path. What do you think those flowers represent?

Him-You?

Me-Yes, me and your family smiling at you and supporting your journey.

Guess who hugged me? Yeah. That kid 🙂

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Stress is inevitable. Throughout the day you will have many opportunities presented to you in which to enjoy stress.

Have you ever noticed that some women seem to handle it more gracefully though? While some of us are losing our cool easily, crying at the drop of a hat, and getting irritated often, some women (and men) seem to be taking it in stride.

I have no doubt that these ladies break down too. I can just picture them in their pantry, Hulk-slamming a carton of Pop-tarts and punching a bag of marshmallows. We all have our days.

As a student of the world, I have been watching these wondrous creatures to see if I could observe a pattern of what makes them different from those of us who spazz out so easily, and here’s what I have observed:

  1. These goddesses of the world eat right-They might not be “skinny” but they are healthy looking. They are taking the time to make good food choices, drink water and even take vitamins. They are not putting their nutrition on the back burner. They do not take kindly to putting junk in their systems, and their lives show the fruits of their efforts: they have the energy and overall health to work out, play with their children and enjoy life. They have invested in themselves, and it is paying off in their quality of living. They don’t eat to simply survive, they are eating to create the life that they desire.
  2. These smart cookies take time for themselves–You can find these ladies taking time to read the Bible, go for a run, take yoga, lift weights, dance, create and even vacation. They are not ashamed of taking time to nurture their mental and physical health. And they don’t feel guilt ridden when they want to take a girls weekend or time away from their children. They seem to understand that even women need time to be fully human, not just a mom or a wife, but a woman with her own spirit to feed.
  3. These wise souls don’t take on the problems of others–While they are the first to listen and even pray with you, and probably among the first to lend a hand in your time of need, they are not absorbing or owning the problems of others. Their faith allows them to pray for you and with you and to be available to you without sacrificing their own health or well-being. They are genuinely empathetic without becoming engaged in the depth of despair around them because they realize their own limits and they are okay with them.
  4. These joyful creatures actively seek contentment–While they are not always dancing with joy, they are willing to accept certain circumstances without feeling hopeless. They are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and they can almost always see it. They realize that there is a time and a season for everything, even sadness, and they accept the lows in life with faith and hope. They are not bottling up their emotions, they just aren’t worshiping them because they are too busy worshiping God.

On a very good day, I am this woman. But most days I am a work in progress. These women aren’t perfect though, they have just learned to love themselves because they know that they can be more to this world and for their family if they will take efforts to reduce their stress, take care of their bodies and take time to pursue their passions.

I can’t be all things to all people. I can’t even be all things to one or two people. But I want to be useful and joyful congruently. I want to serve a purpose and I want to be content in doing it.

Whether I am driving the kids to school, walking the dogs, making lunch for my husband, or propping my feet up, I want to enjoy this moment for what it is, neither taking on stress or creating negativity. I want to be free, truly free to live the life God designed for me.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5.1)

But some days I have to remind myself of my limits, get out of my own way and just lean into Him and enjoy the ride.

Life is short. I want to enjoy it. If not now, when?

Hi there sweet girl,

 

I have named you hundreds of times over 30 years. It started when I was 11 and I would try out names for you in the back of my diary. I can’t remember them all but I can recall Meg and Emmie were tops for me in middle school. I am now 41 and I still have a list on my iPhone. I still read the credit of every single movie and show I watch and look out for names that will perfectly capture who I imagine you would be.

 

I already have two boys. They are crazy and cool and you would rock their world. They would probably treat you like an alien for a few months, but I suspect Kaden would shower you with love and Jackson would protect you with all his heart and soul. They would make you laugh and teach you about Star Wars, basketball and video games. They would take you for walks down to the creek, through the bamboo and up to the barn. They would read to you and steal your Halloween candy. It would be perfect.

 

When I found out that my second child was a boy, I cried for a minute. I had decided to only have two children, so I began to mourn the idea of having a daughter. Eventually I had an epiphany. I realized that in my 20s I wasn’t ready for you; I wouldn’t do you justice. I was hardly a tomboy, but I was kind of a sailor: dirty jokes, potty humor and bad decisions (no offense to sailors). If you had learned how to be a woman from me, you would be a lot of fun. You would make everyone laugh. You would love bad words. You could make men blush. And that’s pretty cool for a while. But cool isn’t enough.

 

If we had met in my 30s, you might be a little different depending on which “me” you met: the broken me or the “risen” me that was born after years of abusing myself and recreated after meeting God, learning to trust Him more than myself, and finding wholeness in Him. I gave up a lot of myself to find myself and my joy. You will see what I mean when you meet Him. He is worth changing everything for. It’s beyond description really.

 

The forty-something me is the best me I have ever known. I am nicer to the world, and I am so much kinder to myself. I have decided to stop trying to change certain parts of me. I apologize for the right reasons. I believe in my own mind. I love the strength of my body; I don’t use it to please others who don’t deserve its gift or the tiniest morsel of me. I find joy in the little stuff.

 

I have met the man I want to be your dad. He is so amazing, I didn’t even know if I wanted to share him with you. I enjoy being the center of his love, below God, but above cheeseburgers, which is a pretty sweet spot if you know him. He loves the boys so much, I am afraid the love he would have for you would break him but I know it would change him in all the right ways. It would multiply our love for each other. He would spoil you and cherish you and show you a reflection of God’s love that is generous beyond measure.

 

I am ready to meet you now. I think we would be a smashing team. We could split cheesecakes like my mom and I used to, we could cook together and go on the biggest adventures. I could help you be brave when you wanted to hide or stand in the shadows. I would take you to all the libraries in the world and you could imagine that you are the hero of every story. I would tell you that you are beautiful, and smart, and witty and compassionate and courageous. And I would mean it. And you would believe me because I would bathe you in the Truth and it would keep you safe in the strongest of storms.

 

I don’t know if we will ever meet, but you would be so loved. Even though we haven’t met, I know you will change the world. I might not have been ready for a daughter for a very long time but I am there now. I will teach you how to be really fun and respect yourself all at the same time. I will help you chase your own dreams. You will have the best brothers, the gentlest father and a wonderful family. You will know God and He will shine brightly on you. You will be you. And you will be surrounded by unconditional love.

 

Even though you don’t have a name yet, do not fear, I have one or two in mind. If God introduces us, we will figure out the details. I will learn to live on less sleep. You will be instantly okay with a mom with thinning eyebrows because you won’t know any better 😉 Life won’t be perfect, but it’ll be worth it and I will help you navigate it, and try to step back when you don’t want my help, when you need to find yourself and reconnect with God.

 

If we never meet, it’s okay too. Just the thought of you has made me a better woman, and for that I thank you.

 

With all my love,

 

Mom

So I have thinking a little bit lately about what it means to be a good mom and a wife, and how my views have changed over the years.

 

My oldest is 15 and I was 25 when he was born. I had several notions of what kind of mom I would be, what kind of kid he would be, and what kind of life we would have. It looked a lot like the inside of a snow globe – perfect.

 

It’s New Year’s Eve, and even though this isn’t your typical New Year post, I am in a spirit of reflection and gratitude. This happens this time of year, especially because my birthday is 11 days away. These 11 days become introspective, and the older I get, the sweeter they are.

 

See, when I was younger, I wasn’t very kind to myself. I guess I had something to prove. I wanted to prove I was good: a good mom, a good wife, a good cook, a good housekeeper, a good decorator, and good everything. Being imperfect at anything wasn’t even an option. And sometimes what it took to be good cost me so much.

 

I went through a Martha Stewart phase. I tried to make gifts and my own wrapping paper, make baby food, breastfeed, send Christmas cards, turn the house into the mall scene from Elf, and attempt to have friends, a job, and be a good lover to my then husband.

 

But I wasn’t centered on God. I thought I was at times because I talked to him, especially when my marriage was an absolute wreck or when I wanted him to fix my life. But everything I did was centered on receiving approval from my kids, my husband, and from the world. I was window dressing, but I was failing.

 

I am not saying that if you put a lot of effort into any of these things, that you are insecure and desperate for approval. Many guys and women truly enjoy the things they do, but if you don’t, may I suggest you simply STOP?

 

For example, instead of making a fancy appetizer platter for you friend’s party you are attending tonight, run to Publix and get a pre-made party tray. You will be surprised at how no one cares. Cheese blocks cut into cubes or into roses still taste like cheese.

 

Here are a few more ways to be kind to yourself:

 

  • Teach your kids how to make their own breakfast or do their own laundry.
  • Eat out on holidays when you just want to skip the shopping, cooking and two hour clean up process, sore feet, and exhaustion.
  • Skip holiday cards. Well you are probably thinking, now you tell me? If you forgot to do them, who cares? I love getting them, but I get about three a year now because I don’t reciprocate, but weirdly I still have friends.
  • Let your house be a little messy. Ask the kids or hubby for help. Hire someone to help out once or twice a month. Stop looking at the pictures from Southern Living Magazine and trying to live up to that. They have a whole staff. You don’t.
  • Go easy on Pinterest y’all. It’s fun, but it’s like being in a library for me: it’s overwhelming because I know I can never read all those books, and I am probably never going to even complete one Pinterest project. It’s just not that important.
  • Stop comparing yourself to your friends. We are all struggling and comparison makes the crazy go ‘round. So your friend had the best maternity pics that made her look like the Virgin Mary glowing in the blue lagoon and you just keep taking pics in those same ratty sweatpants. Big deal. Rock those sweatpants.
  • Set realistic standards with your relationships. You can’t be everything to everyone so use your time in the car to check on the friends who really matter to you. Don’t over promise your time. Don’t be afraid to say NO THANK YOU to an invitation when you just aren’t up to it.
  • Stop setting so many goals. Pray about what you really need to work on for your health and spiritual wellness. Goals can seem very appealing on the front end, but you might be focusing on the wrong things with all these goals. One or two goals in a year are usually more than enough.
  • Ask yourself why? Why are you doing it? If it is out of guilt, obligation, fear of upsetting someone, desire for approval or advancement, just don’t even bother. You are wasting your precious energy. If you truly want to do it, GO FOR IT! Do it with reckless abandon, thanking God for the opportunity, but you still don’t have to be perfect. No one expects that of you, except maybe you.

 

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Nap if you need to, work out if you want to, eat chips in your closet if you feel like it. Protect your sanity and your health. It’s a must.

 

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:29)

 

This verse relates to marriage, but let’s think about it. Can you be good in any relationship if you are not good to yourself?

 

I pray for you to be kind to yourself today, and everyday in the upcoming year. Be gentle and loving. Be patient and forgiving. Offer grace and unconditional love.

 

This is how to be a good mom and wife. Be a good to you.

Dealing with an ex during any normal Wednesday can be a huge struggle, especially when the divorce or break up is somewhat recent, and there is bitterness and anger clouding everyone’s better judgment.

But even years later, holidays seem to bring out the worst in everyone. Here’s why:

  • Holidays come with their own set of expectations – Traditions built long ago are suddenly disrupted by the split of your family. And hopes always run high during the holiday season because we all tend to have Hallmark images of how we see the holidays going.
  • In-laws are still demanding or at least have their expectations ¬ You and your ex aren’t the only ones with plans. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even friends want to have time with the kids and have their own ideas of how the holidays should go.
  • Time is short ¬ There is so much more to do and so many more places to go during the holidays. There is a lot of pressure on the parents to make miracles happen – same 24 hours in a day, yet parties, gift buying, cleaning, family dinners, etc. put a lot of stress on parents.
  • Money is tight – Thought you were broke in November? Well December is really going to suck. Christmas puts a financial strain on the best of budgets. Cut that budget in half, yet keep all the same bills and responsibility and this is a recipe for anger, frustration and even fear.
  • Emotions are tried – Adults are struggling with loneliness and guilt. Kids are struggling with the same, plus feelings of anger and abandonment. As adults we shoulder the emotional burden for our kids, and end up working even harder to have the most picture perfect holiday ever.
  • We are dealing with our ex – No offense to anyone, but if getting along were easy, you would probably still be together. Take the most stressful (and often depressing) time of the year and add in the person with whom you have the most tension and voila: instant crazy town.

And in the end, we just end up angry or soaked in our own tears trying to figure out how in the world we even got here.

I have been divorced for over 10 years, and even though there are times that I want scream and yell and cry when trying to co-parent with my ex, there are strategies that really can help you have a calmer, less exhausting holiday season.

  • Stick to the plan – Hopefully you at least have a written parenting plan. I advise you stick to it. Often we begin moving things around to accommodate each other because we are having a good day with our ex. Then the other shoe drops and you are fighting again. A less mature person may take advantage of this situation and go back on the agreement. Now you are really mad! You promised the kids you would take them to see Santa, the North Pole or the White House for Christmas and your ex is taking it all back. If you stick to the plan, you are less likely to be let down, and end up in a battle royale.
  • Honor your word – This relates to the first point, but comes into play even more when a written plan is not legally in place. If you agree to a holiday schedule, you better honor it. I don’t care if your ex really yanked your chain. Do not use your child as a pawn, and do not justify doing this by telling yourself and everyone on FB what an ass your ex is. Unless the child is in danger, and you have involved the proper authorities, do what is best by your child and let them see their family. You can sulk on your own time.
  • Pair down your plans – If your time is cut in half, do not think you are going to have time to do it all. It is okay to say NO to someone and to turn down invitations. Your children will appreciate you slowing down and taking time to focus on them, versus trying to please every aunt, uncle and cousin from here to Nebraska.
  • Evaluate traditions – Not every tradition is worth holding onto with a kung fu death grip. Decide what traditions are worth keeping and consider starting a new one that honors the new dynamics of your family. Be flexible and remember the reason for the holidays.
  • Lower your expectations – Trash that perfect image you have of Christmas and replace it with simplicity and love. Remember to create time to read a Christmas book with your kids, to watch your favorite holiday movie (instead of trying to knock out ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas), or make a ginger bread house. Your kids will thank you for it.
  • Set a budget – The best Christmas I can remember was just my mom and me in 1985. It was just the two of us, and she told me that money was tight. She bought me a few inexpensive but thoughtful gifts. I was in love with the effort she took to choose gifts that reflected my personality. We had a small tree and a simple Christmas but I still felt important. My point is that just because your kids usually roll around like Scrooge McDuck on Christmas morning tossing around gold coins, does not mean that they really care as much about gifts as you think.
  • Consider serving – It is easy during the holidays to focus on everything that is going wrong and everything that life should be but isn’t. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself or your kids, consider serving alone or with them. They will enjoy feeling useful and helpful, and you will be glad you took to the chance to remember that life is still pretty dang good and worth enjoying.
  • Don’t include outsiders in your holidays – If you are dating and have a new boyfriend or girlfriend, now is not the time to play house. Focus on your kids. And be mindful of how they feel having near-strangers in their most precious family times. You will have plenty of time to hang out with your beau or love muffin when the kids go to your ex’s house. Don’t be so wrapped up in your loneliness that you make your kids uncomfortable.
  • Offer grace – Okay, this is the hard one. Anger, bitterness, sadness and frustration do not take a sabbatical during the holidays. Quite the opposite in fact. But even if your ex prefers cursing, yelling and name calling over adult conversations, you can still take a deep breath, say a prayer, remove yourself from the drama until everyone has cooled down and then start over. Don’t feed the dragon! No matter how your ex behaves this holiday season, you are still responsible for you and your behavior. You will be surprised at how far kindness and grace will go, even with difficult people.

 

Take care of yourself dear friend. Get lots of rest. Try not to eat every sugary snack you see. Go easy on the liquor. Take time to pray, and spend time with the Lord. The holidays are probably going to be hard. But they don’t have to throw you into a tantrum or full-blown depression.

Seek out healthy people who have been divorced and who are doing okay. Ask for their prayers and accountability. Give them permission to tell you when you are acting crazy. Reach out to people when you are struggling to get up in the morning. Seek counseling when too many mornings have swallowed you back into an abyss or when crying has taken over your life.

You will get through this. It will get easier. Life is hard, but it is worth it. God cares about your struggles and so do your friends. Don’t try to be a hero. Just take it one day at a time. And lastly, please forgive yourself when you screw up. You will. You are human, but you are awesome.

Keep crushing it. Santa and your kids are watching ☺

I could list a thousand things I am thankful for. I can also recall several times even recently, that I haven’t felt very thankful. It’s not that I lack a spirit of gratitude. There are just times when I crave something more, something deeper, something more connected.

The times when I feel a longing for what I desire, also allow me to reflect on the goodness of what I have. Desiring more does not mean we lack gratitude. Desiring more is part of our make up. It propels us towards goals, into prayer, and hopefully into personal and spiritual growth.

In my reflection of what I lack and still desire, I have also become aware of a few things that do not, on the surface, seem like things that I should be thankful for because they have brought me grief, heartache and even anguish.  But that does not subtract from a simple truth: I have been blessed through pain and even deep loss.

Here are 5 things that I should not be thankful for, but truly am:

  1. My youngest son’s diagnosis of autism – KG has long been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and anxiety. It seems odd that I would be thankful for him to have yet another diagnosis. However, this diagnosis has allowed him to receive more help at school, especially in the social and behavioral areas where he has struggled so much.
  2. My oldest son’s trouble adjusting to high school – JC struggled when he started middle school too. In fact, it took him 2 years to adjust to just 3 years of middle school, but he did it. And by the end of middle school, we began to truly enjoy our son again (shout AMEN if you’ve been there!) But here we are again, low grades, poor decisions and low motivation. But I have faith in him and this process. And I have no doubt that he will find his way, in his own time.
  3. Struggles in my marriage – I do not enjoy any marital stress or discontentment, but our struggles have pushed us into talking, listening and compromising in unprecedented ways. It has also led us to serve other couples in blended families by hosting a small group (church) experience just for them. Through leading this group, we have learned something so refreshing: We are normal. And we will get through this.
  4. Problems in our business – Owning a business is really really hard. And after 7 years, sometimes we feel stuck and drained. This year was especially difficult for us. We got some bad press and it hurt us financially and emotionally. However, we have learned a lot from this process (and our mistakes) and in some ways it is getting us unstuck. We are making changes and plans that we had gotten too comfortable to make long ago.
  5. Good old infertility – The gift that keeps on giving. Two months ago, we experienced our seventh miscarriage. I never thought I was strong enough to endure this much loss, but it turns out that I can (with God’s help) get through unimaginable pain.  My husband has loved me relentlessly through this, and I never doubt his commitment to me. Also, I can’t imagine how in the world I could manage a baby right now with all of the time and attention my teenage sons need. Not to mention, God has opened up a steady stream of writing opportunities that I am blessed to have the time to pursue.

Sometimes, looking at the bright side just doesn’t work. Just like you, I cry, yell, curse and hide. Sometimes life is just too hard.

But then I crawl out of bed, throw away the Kit Kat wrappers and literally say aloud to myself, “Get it together. You – are – a – woman – of – God!” I put on a Christian podcast or crank up “Oceans” by Hillsong and sing my ass off. I put one foot in front of the other, remind myself of my blessings, go to the gym and cry three times during one workout (letting strangers hug me and pray for me), then do my job of being a wife/mom/writer/business owner, then pray to God that I can do it again tomorrow.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now
[“Oceans” – Hillsong]

Why bother being thankful? Because if we don’t we will drown in an ocean of self-pity, pain, what if’s, and longing. I can’t do this life alone. I must have my community of believers, prayer ninjas, and encouragers. But ultimately, I absolutely must have my God. For He carries me through the darkest times and so often saves me from myself.

I hope you aren’t drowning, trying to do this life alone. If you are, please stop. Reach out to someone – maybe a lot of someones, and ask for help, prayer and encouragement.

And if you don’t know God, or if you just haven’t talked to Him in a long while, He is here. He is listening. And even when you are struggling, He is not failing you, and He never will.

Even in my disappointment, loss and longing, He has yet to fail me once.

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A recent sunset from my front yard, a colorful reminder of God’s constant presence.