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Monday, December 26, 2016

What's In A Name?

On the way home from church several months back, Isabelle initiated an interesting conversation with me.

Isabelle:  Do you think it’s strange when a kid calls his parent by their first name?

Me:  Kind of, yes.  I think it’s more respectful to call a parent Mom or Dad usually.  Though if I’m in a room with a bunch of women, including my mom, I’m likely to call her “Judy” to get her attention rather than “Mom” when 9 other ladies might also be moms in the room. 

Isabelle:  Do you think it’s weird that I call you Laura?

Me:  *giant pause to consider my answer to this out of nowhere question*

I went on to explain that in our situation I didn’t think it was strange at all.  Because she already has a mom, and I am her stepmom, it’s perfectly normal for her to call me by my first name.  I explained that I would never demand that she call me by any particular name and that she could pretty much call me whatever she wanted as long as it was nice. 😆

It was a relatively short conversation that took me by surprise.  I got the impression that it was something she had been stewing on for a while.  It never really occurred to me that she should or would call me by anything other than “Laura,” so I was truly caught off guard. 

Just as we were nearing the house she announced, “I think I’ll call you ‘Mom 2’”.

I’m not exactly sure what I said to that except that she was welcome to call me whatever she wanted.  I was pretty much stunned by the whole conversation.  Later when Matt and I discussed it privately we wondered if she was thinking “Mom Two” or “Mom Too”.  I didn’t really care either way, but we were curious.

She referred to me as “Mom 2” later on that day, but then I didn’t hear it again for a while.  In fact, from the beginning I sort of assumed she wouldn’t keep it going, and I wasn’t particularly concerned about it.  We have gotten to such a sweet place in our relationship that it wasn’t something that I needed, and if she forgot about it, it wasn’t a big deal.  I mean, one name is as good as another right? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, according to Juliet.

But she didn’t forget.  When my brother from Portland and his family were in town for Thanksgiving, I overheard Isabelle talking to her cousin in the other room about me.  “Her name isn’t Laura to me” she said.  “I call her Mom 2.” 

I have to admit that hearing her little declaration warmed my heart.  This is the same cousin who had teased Matt and I a couple of years ago for kissing, and when she did, Isabelle told her to leave me and her daddy alone, “they can kiss if they want to”. 

While they were in town, I ended up hearing this new name a couple of times.  Matt asked her more than once how she spelled it, and her answer wasn’t consistent.  So we still weren’t quite sure what she was thinking. 

“Mom 2” continued to come up periodically, and I began to wonder if it might stick. 

On Friday, December 2nd, the three of us went out for dinner and to look at Christmas lights.  While we waited on our order, we began a round of the Animal Guessing Game.  Matt and Isabelle have played this game forever.  They both excel at coming up with the most ridiculous and obscure animals that I can never guess. 

Isabelle was keeping score on her kid menu, but I wasn’t paying much attention to it as I was losing per usual.  It caught Matt’s eye though, and he pointed it out to me.  It seems the much debated question had finally been answered.


I got a little choked up about the whole thing.  It still didn’t matter what she called me, but I had to admit to myself, that I sort of preferred “mom also” over “mom number two”. 

I was truly touched.  And when she and Matt headed to the restroom before leaving the restaurant, I pocketed her abandoned score sheet.  It is a treasure.

Last week before we got out for the Christmas break, we had her with us for a regular Thursday night visit, and she and her daddy spent the better part of the evening being very secretive behind closed doors.  I assumed they were up to some Christmas present shenanigans. 

I found this precious card in our tree later that evening.  I’m no Grinch, but I’m fairly sure my heart grew three sizes that night.  She grinned from ear to ear as she put that card in our tree and watched me notice it.  And in the week since its arrival, it has been the one present I’ve most anticipated opening.

Matt picked Isabelle up at 10 AM this morning to begin our time with her this holiday.  After settling in with our eggnog coffee and bread pudding, we began opening gifts.  Isabelle picked and delivered our gifts to open and the order in which we went.  The very first gift delivered was my “Momtoo” card.  With the perfect gift inside.

What’s in a name?  Sometimes nothing.  But sometimes everything.

As I sit here thinking about this precious girl, I feel such gratitude to have her in my life.  Perhaps because I don’t have children of my own, this name she has started occasionally using for me feels all the more sacred. 

She asks me deep and insightful questions all the time.  We have incredible conversations.  She talks to me about her life.  Her friends.  Her parents.  Her frustrations.  Her fears.  And I listen.  I soak it all in and count my blessings that she wants to share with me.  It is a precious gift.

And I know it may not always be this way.  She will become a teenager.  Hormonal.  Influenced by friends.  An adult.  And things may change.

But they may not. 

Either way, I am going to savor every single moment of this time.  Every hug.  Every offer to be my helper.  Every request for my opinion.  Every tough question.  Every moment. 

Because life is just a series of moments. 

I often use my voice and my experiences to help people understand the difficulties of blended family life.  But I think it’s equally important to honor the beauty that can be born from the ashes of brokenness as well. 

Our journey as a blended family is frequently marked with pot holes and breakdowns, but it is also filled with adventure.  And love.  And purpose.  And hope. 

And I am so grateful for the gift of being Isabelle’s Momtoo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wishful Thinking

It may well be the most wonderful time of the year.  But in a blended family, and let’s be honest, in ANY family, it may not always feel like it.  The difficulty in a blended family stems from the pushing, pulling, tugging, guilting, and general heart aching that exists when you are living under orders written by a judge.

I’m growing accustomed to these new holiday stresses, but it often leaves me reflecting on how to make things better.  What can I do for my family to ease this strain?  And that got me thinking about walking around in someone else’s shoes.  Atticus’ challenge mirrors the golden rule.  And I’m working on all of that.  But I’ve also been doing some wishful thinking.

Wishful Thinking

I wish that you
Would share with me
Your little girl's heart.

I wish that you
Could share her with-
Out tearing her apart.

I wish that you
Knew I don't want
To take her heart away.

I wish you knew
I want her love
For you to grow each day.

I wish you knew
It hurts her when
You're ugly to her dad.

I wish you knew
That you're the one
Who ends up looking bad.

I wish you knew
That holding tight
Causes her to tug.

I wish you knew
The strangle hold
Does not feel like love.

I wish you knew
You're fear of loss
Is pushing her to us.

I wish you knew
That's not our goal.
We're not that treacherous.

I wish you knew
How hard I try to
Repair the broken pieces

I wish you knew
I pray for you
That the peace between increases.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Breaking the Jell-O Mold

Currently, I own four bathing suits. 

Six years ago, I didn’t own any, and I wouldn’t have been caught dead, let alone by a camera, in a bathing suit or any other outfit that would have shown my arms or my legs above my knees.  I carefully avoided too short sleeves or anything more revealing than capri pants.

After years of having the Jell-O theme song jokingly sung to me, “Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle,” and being physically shunned and rejected as well as being told I was no longer attractive or desirable, I fully believed and embraced the lie.  That I was competing with the unrealistic plots and images from a lifelong pornography addiction never even occurred to me at the time. 

Long after I left that emotionally abusive marriage, I’d walk past a mirror and the Jell-O song would run through my head.

In the eleven month divorce process following my departure, I’d walk 3-5 miles every day to deal with the ongoing anxiety that occasionally caused me panic attacks while grocery shopping and running errands around town.  It’s no wonder that I became a P!nk fan as I walked the path across the street from my apartment.  Some of her lyrics were pretty therapeutic.  Like this bit from “Perfect”:

          “You’re so mean, when you talk.  About yourself.  You are wrong.  Change the voices in
          your head.  Make them like you instead.” 

The counselor in me recognized the truth of the words and repeated them like a mantra, but the broken spirited me latched on to them and sang them loudly, claiming them as my new anthem.  Much healing happened walking that path.  I began to drop some weight, both pounds and baggage.

I also started spending time at the neighborhood pool with my friend Kim, who let me borrow a bathing suit.  It was scary at first.  But I kept going.

Over the years, as my self-confidence had tanked, I’d come to hate pictures and avoided being in them whenever I could.  But that year several things changed.  For one, I got an IPhone the day after I left.  It was a defiance of the strict “No texting” and “No Apple products” rules.  And I now had a camera in hand at all times. 

Second, I got stuck in the airport and had a profound conversation with a random stranger.  The gist of what I learned from her was this:  Rock what you’ve got.

Third, I began to visit my brothers and their kids more frequently.  Prior to leaving, my visits were very limited.  The emotional price I paid for those visits was extremely high, so they didn’t happen often.  But as I spent more time with my nieces and nephews, I decided that the time was too precious, too sacred, not to be documented.  I determined that regardless of how I might look or feel about myself, I would not only have lots of pictures OF my family, but I would have lots of pictures WITH my family. 

Shortly before moving to Houston, I went shopping for clothes with a very stylish friend.  I asked for her help as I transitioned from baggy, frumpy clothes to things that fit and flattered.  My self-image had begun to change.  And after I moved to Houston, I finally bought a bathing suit of my own. 

Fast forward a couple of years through further healing and forgiving of both myself and others, and I began dating.  Scary.  Dating in my twenties wasn’t nearly as daunting as dating as a 30-something divorcee. 

On July 12, 2013, I snapped a very silly selfie on my way out the door to a pool party with my counselor team.  In our selfie culture, it might not seem like a big deal, but looking at this picture, knowing what I do of my own life, it is fairly significant.  It was a supremely confident moment.  In a bathing suit.  Posted on Facebook.

It was also the same day I had my first date with Matt.  We talked for FOUR HOURS over dinner.  Talk about a good sign.  Who knew I’d marry him a year later?

My first bathing suit had become worn and too big, so as I planned and packed for our honeymoon cruise, I bought two new suits.  In fact, nearly every outfit I packed for that trip was either strapless or sleeveless.  I couldn’t wait for Matt to see them all.

I dressed with confidence.  And I never heard the Jell-O song.

Quite the opposite.  Matt was forever stopping me to take my picture.  He wanted a record of all of my firsts and big moments.  Scuba diving.  Moonlight on the deck.  He loved taking my picture.  It was a wonder to me.  And I loved it.

On our first anniversary, we went to New York City.  I knew it would be crazy hot and we would walk a million miles.  So I packed tank tops.  I didn’t even own a tank top until a couple of years ago.  I’ve never been a big fan of my arms, but somewhere in there, as I’ve become confident in my own skin, I decided being cool and comfortable was far more important than my arm insecurities.

Because of our frequent visits to the neighborhood pool and going to water aerobics with my mom, I purchased another bathing suit, one piece, much better for actual swimming.  

I went on a girl’s trip with my best friend at the end of the school year to a resort in Phoenix.  I knew we would spend much of the time poolside, so I bought another one piece suit.

With that last suit purchase, it hit me.  I now own FOUR bathing suits.  And tank tops in all of the colors of the rainbow. And shorts.  And I take pictures in them.  And post them on Facebook.  And I very seldom think about Jell-O unless I’m trying a new recipe.

I have not become a supermodel.  I have not gotten skinny.  Though I am more active and in better shape than I have probably ever been in my adult life.

But I HAVE had an extreme makeover.  In my head.  And the voices have changed. 

Life is short, wear a bathing suit.  Don’t run from the camera, stop and smile.  Don’t obsess about your imperfections, rock what you’ve got.  And don’t sing about Jell-O, eat it.  With Cool Whip on top!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Best of Both Worlds

People say the dumbest things.  I recently read a great article about all the things not to say to a stepmom, but I would add one to it.  The craziest sentiment I’ve gotten, on more than one occasion, is “You guys have the best of both worlds!”

The first time someone said this to me, I sat incredulous, with no response.  Let me tell you about our two worlds. 

In our world of time with Isabelle, the key word is “time”.  And it is very short.  We have her with us on the first, third, and fifth weekends, every Thursday night, and on the off weekends, we get her for two hours on Wednesday nights (in which time Matt is expected to feed her, get flute practice in and homework done).  That’s right.  Read back through that and see if you can wrap your brain around it.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Now, imagine trying to get all of your family time, father/daughter time, down time, homework time, flute practice time, concert time, play time, discipline and instruction time, science project time, movie time, and sleep time all in that space.  It makes for busy times.  We schedule time with our extended families around Isabelle time so that she can have the best possible opportunity to get to know her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Matt is the master at packing things in, especially fun, and we have a great time.  But it is exhausting.  Even on the slow times. 

Parenting in this world is daunting.  Our influence is primarily limited to the time when she is with us.  Though Matt and Isabelle’s mom work together relatively well, the first parenting truth you must face in the world of divorce is that you have no control over what happens in the other home.

Sort of.  Because as it turns out, you would think that in our Isabelle world, we would have complete authority over what happens.  But that is not reality.  She talks to her mom every morning and every night when she is with us.  This is an agreement the parents made together way back; and Matt has the same opportunity when Isabelle is with her mom.  But that means our day begins and ends with this outside influence that is frequently upsetting.  Sometimes that influence suggests not following our rules.  Sometimes it suggests what we are doing is wrong.  Oftentimes it tries to control our time. Sometimes it’s helpful and kind.  But often, it is not.

Isabelle time, for me, has gotten easier.  In the beginning, it was tough.  I had to step back to give Matt and Isabelle time and space alone.  And for a while, I didn’t quite feel at home in my new home.  I’ve never been a mom before.  While I’m not an overly selfish person, I was used to doing things a certain way.  That is all very different when you are suddenly living with a child.  It was a difficult time.

Not to mention the emotional struggle of the time together.  There are so many adjustments.  It would require far more than a paragraph to detail the inner conflict, guilt, and struggle of learning to love a stepdaughter.  And she is spectacular.  But I did not give birth to her.  I did not adopt her.  I fell in love with her father.  And I’ve learned to love her very much.  But I cannot overemphasize the challenge and growing pains for all of us as we become a family.

The ending of our times together is the most difficult.  Matt and Isabelle dread it.  They drag their feet in the last hours.  They push for every second.  There are tears.  There are excuses and pleas and extravagant stall tactics.  Sometimes they spend half the day grumpy knowing the time is coming to an end.  Some weekends are easier than others as we approach the goodbye.  But there is NEVER a time when this is easy for either of them.  And my heart breaks for them every time, even in the times when I’m secretly looking forward to our other world.  

In that other world, without Isabelle, she is always present.  So is her mom.  We have the two a day phone calls.  They are frequently ignored or postponed so that the return call comes just as we sit down to dinner.  Or leave for a date.  Or go to bed.  Or start a movie. 

But these calls are sacred.  I do my utmost to always be gracious about letting Matt take and make them.  Not because I enjoy the interruptions, I do not.  But because it is precious contact.  It is an opportunity to say good morning.  To hear about her day.  To say good night. 

I don’t know how long these calls will last, but if they are still happening when she is 16 years old, they will be well worth every moment of interruption.  If she is still inviting her dad in as a teenager, it was all worth it. 

Parenting doesn’t end when Isabelle isn’t with us.  It just gets harder.  Both parents have to make an effort to communicate about ongoing events and decisions.  Often on the slippery slope of texting and email.  We’ve gotten texts about all manner of nonsense at all hours of the day and night.  In fact, there was recently a boundary discussion, which seems to have helped. 

But make no mistake.  Just because Isabelle isn’t with us does not mean that we aren’t dealing with parenting and ex-spouse issues.  We are.  Every day.

And in the midst of that, Matt is missing his daughter.  Desperately.  He is missing hugs and kisses and laughter and tears and even some occasional sass.  He is missing watching his little girl grow up.  He is missing it!  That is NOT the best.  Nothing about that is the best.  It is the WORST!

Our world without Isabelle is not what some people seem to think.  It isn’t this time of frolicking about on random dates and outings and weekend getaways.  It CAN be those things.  But it is typically when we try to accomplish everything possible that needs to happen on the house, in the yard, on our cars, with work and school and overtime so that our family time with Isabelle will be less hectic.

For us, it is also our time of greatest communication, fussing, and compromising.  We spend a giant chunk of our “alone” time working through issues that come up as a result of Ex-intrusion and divorced parenting complications.  There has seldom been a week that has gone by when some wrench hasn’t been thrown in to the works.  This past week, in fact, was a doozy!

Now I get that all parents have lots of issues to work out between them in terms of marriage and parenting.  It’s a constant factor in a good relationship.  And it is not my intention to undermine that work that has to be done WHILE your kids are with you.  But divorce and remarriage and stepparents and stepkids and an ex-wife in law makes all of this even more complicated.  Like a lot.  Just…trust me on this.

So another part of our time without Isabelle is recovering from the time with her.  Matt enjoys this time, but it isn’t necessarily essential to his survival.  It is to mine.  Especially in the beginning.  Recovery happens during the whirlwind of other things we have going on, but it happens for me, in the form of down time.  Time when I’m not wracking my brain adjusting, planning, second guessing, and analyzing all the angles of being the best stepmom I can be with an eleven year old by my side.  I need this time.

So when people tell me we have “the best of both worlds,” I want to laugh.  Or cry.  Because as good as we make those two worlds, they are not the “best” for anyone.  They are the result of sin and brokenness and grief and loss.

And healing.

I think I know what the young mom who has said this to me about our “best” worlds is really saying though.  She hears me talk about a sweet date night that Matt and I had, and she is a little envious.  She is full time working and momming and fighting to have a little energy left over for her man when he looks at her with a twinkle in his eye and she is still dabbing at the smashed green beans that somehow made it in her hair while feeding her toddler.  She is exhausted too.  Just like me.

I’ve contemplated this “best of both worlds” statement off and on since we married nearly two years ago.  It isn’t entirely UNtrue either.  Our time, just the two of us, IS sweet.  But we have to choose it.  We have to choose to stop the madness and enjoy each other.  We have to choose to silence our phones and quiet our minds and just be.

To the outsiders looking in who think it’s the “best,” it often isn’t.  But we are trying (not always successfully) to choose every day to make it the best it can be.  And if your original, first marriage is whole and intact, but you are feeling a little jealous of your remarried friend who gets to have a date night…STOP the MADNESS!  Get a babysitter.  Beg a grandparent.  Call me!  I’ll help.  But make the time.  Prioritize your marriage.  Go on a date.  Go shopping without children.  Eat a meal without the sounds of siblings fighting and little boys farting.  Have wild monkey sex!  Please.  Because you don’t want this kind of “best.”

The best advice Matt and I got before marriage was from our minister, Scott Allen.  We were doing some skype counseling, and he said, “When it’s all said and done, you’ve got each other.  That’s it.  Isabelle will grow up and leave.  You have each other.”  Every single day I thank God for Matt.  And every single day he thanks God for me.  Because we’ve got each other.  And He’s got us.  THAT is the best.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Gentle Persuit

Divorce is ugly.  In the days right after I left my first husband, I experienced some of the most potent ugliness from friends at church.  I do not believe that they intended me harm.  In fact, I do believe they thought that they were being motivated by their love for me.  Unfortunately, some of the words uttered and emailed to me were sharp daggers that ripped swiftly through my spirit.  And healed with agonizing slowness.  The scabs would occasionally get ripped off, and the wounds would bleed fresh.  But eventually, they did heal.  With deliberate care and prayer and a God who is far bigger than my reluctantly forgiving self, the wounds healed.  And now the scars are fading.

When I left my husband, I also left my church home.  I knew immediately that I would move back to the Houston area to be near my family.  I’d been cut off from them in many ways for years, and I knew that I needed them.  I didn’t think it was fair for me to continue to try to worship at the same place with the man I was divorcing.  It is a good church.  With good people.  And I wanted him to have that support system.  I felt like staying there would cause people to feel like they had to choose sides.  And that wasn’t fair.  I was going home.  That was one reason I walked away.

The other reason was fear.  I was afraid of judgment.  I was afraid of people looking in with judgment on a situation they knew absolutely nothing about.  I was heartbroken and spirit broken and grieving from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, and I did not want to look into the eyes of people who were supposed to love me and see judgment.  And disappointment.  I could look into the bloodshot eyes in the mirror and see all of that I could bear and more.  Shame.

Someone actually said those words to me.  “Shame on you.”  Such a terrible thing to say.  I did feel shame.  I was a failure.  At the most important calling of my life.  And no amount of prayer and faith had healed or fixed the brokenness of my marriage.  And when I hit the breaking point, I left.  

It didn’t matter that I was leaving for good reasons.  It didn’t matter that staying would have destroyed me.  All that mattered is that I left.  And good church of Christ girls like me didn’t do that.  But I did.  Shame on me.

And then I left my church family too.  Because after the initial loving wounds inflicted, I couldn’t bear to stay for more.  More judgment.  More platitudes.  More condemnation.  So I didn’t give them the chance. 

I know now that I also didn’t give them the chance to surround me with love.  To embrace me with forgiveness and acceptance.  To sit shivah with me as I mourned the death of my marriage.  And a piece of myself. 

Later, much later, I let a few people in.  After the divorce and the move back to Houston, I’d visit my second home occasionally and eventually shared my heart with a chosen few.  After some of the initial wounds were healing.  After I began to forgive myself.  After experiencing love and support of family.  After the faithfulness of a few of my non-church friends.  Only then.  I opened up with a few and shared my heart.

And I did experience love.  And forgiveness.  And understanding.  And compassion.  And grace.  And my spirit healed a little more.

Healing is a process.  And sometimes moments of healing come in such unexpected ways.

This afternoon, I received a graduation announcement in the mail.  Such an ordinary thing. 
I didn’t recognize the Amarillo address, and the sender’s name wasn’t included, but the monogrammed sticker on the flap should have given it away. But I was stumped.

My best friend’s son is graduating, but that was the wrong school.  My other friends whose kids are graduating I’m not as close to. 

When I opened it up and looked inside, I understood.  And I cried.  This young man was my student when I was a 5th grade counselor years ago.  Seven years to be exact.  The most devastating year of my life.  And I’m not sure I’ve spoken with him in the last six years.  I’m not really sure he even remembers much about me.  He wasn’t a kid in trouble.  He wasn’t in need of counseling.  He was one of those great kids with great parents who really didn’t need me at all. 

He might have thought to send me an announcement, but I kind of doubt it.  I’m pretty sure it was his mom.

His mom is a pretty special lady.  She was not a super close friend when I lived in Amarillo, but she was a friend.  We spoke at church.  We spoke at school.  She occasionally asked my advice about her oldest son, my student, and later asked my advice on behalf of someone else.  Long after I’d moved away.

What makes her so special to me would seem rather ordinary to most.  But for me, it’s extraordinary.

During the process of my divorce, I occasionally ran into this lady at school.  She always smiled.  If I saw her around town, she said hello.  Sometimes she hugged me.  When I moved away and finally joined the world of Facebook, she sent me a friend request.  She liked my comments and occasionally responded to my pictures.  I did the same with hers.

I’ve watched her boys grow up on Facebook, and she has watched me live.  Grow.  Heal.  Transform.

She never once asked me why I left my husband.  She never looked at me with judgment.  She might have been curious.  But she didn’t ask.  She didn’t start a conversation innocuously and then maneuver it toward the big questions so many people felt compelled to ask.

She quietly, subtly loved me.  She treated me with kindness.  With respect.  With quiet tenderness.  She asked for my advice long after I walked away.  She valued me.  She accepted me.

I’m not sure why she sent me the announcement.  Possibly because her son was my student so many years ago and somehow knew that it would mean something to me.  And it does.  Because he is precious.  It was incredibly thoughtful.  But it actually meant way more than that for me. 

She didn’t strike out at me all those years ago.  She didn’t quietly carve me out of her life as some did.  She also didn’t let me just walk away.

She followed me.  She pursued me so subtly I didn’t realize she’d done it at all.  Until today.  Maybe she didn’t do it on purpose.  Maybe she is just that kind of caring and gentle and kind.  Probably.  She most likely doesn’t know at all the way she gently nurtured my healing spirit.  But she did.        

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Club Sandwich

There is a space in between
When the kids aren't grown
still needing your constant care.

And the parents aren't gone
But they're no longer young.
Crown of wisdom grey in their hair.

Kids need detangling
and reminders to brush
And grounding from 3DS.

Parents need explaining
And repeating of plans
Understanding of natural regress.

The hustle and bustle
Of concerts and Scouts
Homework and flute in between.

The listening to stories
For the umpteenth time
With a smile so as not to demean.

There's a place in between
Of worry and care
For the child, young and old.

When the "kid" in the middle
Pours out to both
Helpless to time's unfold.

Little girl's not so little
Gloss on her lips
Don't grow up too fast.

Grand getting grander
Memory eclipsed
Wanting every moment to last.

Settling in
To the space in between
One day, one struggle at a time.

Embracing the moments
Seizing the days
Girding my heart for the climb.

A few weeks back, Matt walked in to the room and said, “Do you know how old my dad is going to be on his birthday?”  I didn’t.  “Seventy-seven,” he said.  That was a light bulb moment for us.

While I know our parents are getting older, I don’t think about it too much.  We often talk about our desire to spend more time with them and our regret at missed opportunities.  We only have two parents left between us.  We, of all people, know the frailty of life.  But we still forget.

Last week I accompanied my mom to the doctor.  Don’t worry.  No big issues.  Just a desire to have a second set of ears.  But it was another moment of clarity for me.  I still think of my mom’s age of seventy as pretty young.  In fact, the older I get, the younger her age feels to me.  But there was a minute, I asked the doctor a question and he answered, when I sort of stepped outside of myself and looked at that interaction.  Me and my mom’s doctor talking about her.  With her in the room! 

Don’t get me wrong.  She was most definitely a participant in the discussion.   But something about it made me feel old, and her feel small, to me. 

And all of that has been on my mind lately.  Because I don’t like it very much.  I’m newly arrived to the parenting scene and still adjusting.  So I’m not quite ready for my mom to be getting any older!  But alas, she is.  (Don’t tell her I used the word “older” to describe her…)

We are in an “in between” time.  And I’m embracing it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I need a purge
Of my churning thoughts
Making me sick at heart.

A bitter rumble
Of anger and judgment
Ripping my brain apart.

Each dark thought
Simmering, burning
Acid in my brain

Begins to seep
Down to my lips
Raining words of pain.

I need a syrup
Of ipecac
Vomit my viral thoughts

Cleansing purge
Of bitterness
Healing brain of rot.

I went to bed frustrated on Friday night about things totally out of my control.  When I woke up Saturday, my mind continued to spiral.  Irritation and anger made me grumpy, and my joyful hope for the weekend began to wane. 

I knew that part of my problem was the very difficult two weeks of school I’d just completed.  I was emotionally exhausted and mentally drained.  Sometimes my job is so much pouring out that at the end of weeks like these, I’m running on fumes.  Eventually I come to a sputtering stop.

After a very sweet flute concert, I sent my loves off to the museum, Grandpa, Dad, and daughter.  I knew I needed the time by myself to regroup and refill.  But I could not shift the focus of my brain.  I was so annoyed and could not seem to stop fixating on the source of my ire.

I was texting with my BFF and trying to explain my need to purge my brain.  I knew that I was only making myself miserable, and that I needed to let it go.  I’m a counselor for goodness sake.  I know the toxicity of bitterness.

I’d planned to do my big Thanksgiving grocery run but had forgotten my purse at home, so I ended up back at the house.  It seemed like a good idea to put in a load of laundry while I was there.   And like the mouse and the cookie, that one load lead to dusting, another load, folding, organizing, picking up, and a third load.  Eventually, with the help of my Casting Crowns station on iHeart Radio, I had a much cleaner house, an organized grocery list, a less cluttered brain, and a spirit at peace.