It’s been raining for days. Six days, to be exact, and I’m rained out.

I know it’s necessary, and I do enjoy the occasional rainy day — even a good, cleansing storm. But six days? Please.

Misery hit it’s apex Friday evening, when our two 17-year old “man children” came home from their baseball game soaked and cold. I’d be straight-up lying if I said I was devastated to hear their double-header and our 8-year old’s flag football game were canceled Saturday. Sitting outside in 40-something degrees and rain? No thank you.

But the silver lining to living under continual rain clouds is that we’ve been forced had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together this weekend as a family. Not that we necessarily did things all together, but just having everyone home and under one roof for a while has been nice. Our usual hectic pace drew to halt. Or at the very least, a slow crawl.

This morning I’m squeezing in this writing time between school-drop off and Stella’s vet appointment. Usually I’d be running around doing who-knows-what, and already throwing weight on my own shoulders. My ability to heap pressure and expectations on myself is professional level, and the resulting stress markers (shallow breathing, tight shoulders, irritability) feel normal to me.

Until today.

Today, I begin teaching myself to throw down the worry and stress, and just enjoy everything, especially my family. A friend lost her husband yesterday quite unexpectedly, which (naturally) makes one stop and take stock of life around themselves. Something I caught on the radio this morning related to how worrying about things will never change them. I’ve heard it before, but for some reason it struck me differently this time. Maybe it’s my age catching up with me, but I’m beginning to see that taking everything in stride and really seeing the joy in every situation is so, SO what I need.

So, while the storms will continue to swirl around us, I’m going to stand in the calm.

Slow the pace.

Worry less.

Enjoy.

 

6×8

It’s 12:19am on December 31. Nineteen minutes past my 48th birthday, and I’m thrilled to say (based on my last post) that I definitely re-established my faith in the past month, as well as finding peace & joy. It didn’t happen by reading a book, making drastic changes or going on a pilgrimage — rather, I opened my eyes to the world around me, and made a conscious effort to notice that blessings come in every shape and size. I realized that my faith hadn’t been lost; it was hidden under a lot of junk. I cleared the junk, and gave my faith room to stretch out and grow. I know my path is already laid out before me; I just have to focus on enjoying the walk, rather than straying and trying to create a path on my own.

Peace & joy came one night as my family and I were all together, watching a movie. At one point, I looked away from the television and looked at the individuals around me: husband, children, friends. That snippet of time spent watching a movie brought me more peace and joy than any holiday special, Christmas music or gift I could have ever received. In the time since that night, I’ve had several occasions to repeat that exercise — stop, take note of my surroundings and be truly fulfilled. Truly happy.

So, it’s with a happy heart that I begin 2017 in about 23 and-a-half hours. I’m walking into the new year fresh off my 48th birthday. And despite that number, our youngest child declared several times today that I look far younger than that… “maybe even 39,” he said. HELLO, FAVORITE CHILD.

A long time ago, I came up with the description for this blog as, “Celebrating the overlap of chaos and hilarity.” Many things have changed in the past seven years, but those words still ring true. Our family will never be perfect, nor will my house, my marriage, or myself. We are our own best hot mess. It’s taken me the latter of the last 48 years to wrap my mind around the concept of embracing imperfection, even though moms everywhere have been staging this revolution for a few years now.

The New Year tempts many of us to create resolutions, and I’m no exception. I want to become a work-in-progress in 2017, being a person who will…

  • Be kind to others
  • Be kind to myself
  • Read/write more
  • Finally submit a 15-year-old manuscript, in hopes of finding an agent and get published
  • Hurry less; stop and appreciate more often

I’m sure there will be other goals I create as I go along, because that’s how works-in-progress do it. New Year’s Day isn’t always ground zero for self-improvement. As my niece, Shelby, said so well on a Facebook post earlier this evening, “I wonder if people understand they can stop bad trends in their lives at any point, not just January 1st…”

Happy New Year!

 

 

Juxtaposition

Thanksgiving was two days ago, and I’m sitting here on a Saturday night feeling grumpy, out of sorts and snappish. As the season of peace, love and good will kicks off, I’m feeling more inclined to stomp around and feel sorry for myself. In all honesty, stomping around would take much more energy than I even want to expend — I’d much rather sit slumped on the sofa, brooding.

The fact that almost every radio station is now playing holiday music 24/7 isn’t helping. Somehow in the past several years, I’ve become highly susceptible to blatant displays of emotion when hearing a majority of Christmas songs. Translation: I completely lose my shit and become a hot mess of tears.

Awesome.

So, yes… while everyone’s all “peace & joy,” I’m over here all “could you just not?”

The catalysts of this funk in which I find myself aren’t as important as my reactions. I can’t control the events around me, but I sure thought I had a better handle on my responses. I can talk big about having faith that things happen for a reason, when things are going my way. When it seems like the odds are stacked against me, for whatever reason, my faith crumbles. This is a problem. When you factor “wavering faith” into the other factors in this equation, it sets up a perfect storm: a + b + c = nothing good can come of this.

I decided tonight, post-pity party, that the thing I want most for Christmas (besides, maybe, a new pair of running shoes) is a restoration of faith in … well, just about everything. As I put together lists of errands and things to do for other people, I’m going to do something for myself as well:  rebuild my faith. And, if all goes as I hope, I’ll find true peace & joy. There has been so much to be unsettled about lately, I’m probably not the only one who feels like the ground is slipping out from under their feet, am I right? The best I, or anyone else, can do is just start shoring up our foundations, getting back to solid ground. I think occasionally stumbling in one’s faith offers a chance for building up and strengthening our relationship with God, so that’s what I’m going to do. After a good, solid cry to release all the pent-up stress and frustration, I’ll pick myself up and start building faith again. Maybe then I won’t feel so “out of season,” with a preference for brooding on the sofa or snapping at people.

I’m still going to cry at Christmas music though.

“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” — Ernest Hemingway

Tough Love

Tough love.

I’ve heard the term thrown around before, but never had to add it to my parenting agenda.

Until yesterday.

One of the children in our house — I’ll refrain from naming the culprit — has built a solid history of “crying wolf” when it comes to staying home from school due to illness. Whether the reason behind the charade was lack of preparation for a particular class, or sheer desire to take a “personal day,” I’ll never know for sure. What I do know for sure is that this crap isn’t going to be put up with any longer. We’re a solid six weeks into the new school year, and yesterday was the day this child decided to test the waters. Thirty-eight minutes into today’s school day, I received the following text:

“I just threw up. What do I do?”

“Go to the clinic,” I type back.

It kills me, by the way, that I had to say this.

This began — I kid you not — a three-and-a-half hour volley of texts, in which my child pleaded and begged to come home. Ordinarily, I’d have keys in hand and jump into the car in a heartbeat — if the vomiting had actually been witnessed by a credible source. Claiming to throw up in the bathroom, with no one else around, does not guarantee a ticket home. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not wishing a classroom or hallway incident upon my child, the teachers and custodians. However, just like the a tree falling in the woods when no one’s around to hear it, if a child claims to vomit at school, and no one’s there to see it, … as far as I’m concerned, it has not happened. Luckily, a quick and insightful conversation with the school nurse tipped her off to this child’s penchant for playing the vomit card. She, having raised three kids already, and being responsible for over 1,000 students in our school system, was instantly on the same page as me. Combining forces with the school nurse shouldn’t have made me as giddy as it did, but hey… on the parenting battleground, you take any ally you can get.

As messages popped up continually through the lunch hour, guilt tip-toed around my mind. The “tough mom” part of my brain was giving “guilty mom” a hard side-eye, which prompted them to spar.

“You know he can’t keep doing this.”

“I know, but…”

“Another text? Just ignore it.”

“I can’t ignore my own child — besides, what if he’s really sick”

“Please. We all know he isn’t really sick.”

“I know, but…”

“You come at me with another ‘I know, but…’ and I swear to Heaven we’re throwing down.”

To pacify Guilty Mom, I fired off quick texts to my other children at school, asking them to be my eyes and ears during lunch period. Reports came back that my allegedly sick child went to the cafeteria, did not eat, and was on the quiet side. This is not typical. At that point, Guilty Mom grew bold and began digging in her heels against Tough Mom.

“See?! He isn’t himself. He’s definitely not feeling well.”

“Simply not feeling well isn’t worthy of leaving school for the day.”

“But if he’s feeling light-headed and queasy, that’s a miserable feeling, and I’m forcing him to feel miserable at school, rather than at home where it’s comfortable.”

In the end, Tough Mom won by reassuring Guilty Mom that this was a life lesson my child had to learn, and the end justified the means. My child will (hopefully) learn the following:

1.) One cannot cry wolf repeatedly, and expect to be taken seriously.

2.) If this was a way to avoid something at school — an incomplete assignment, a test for which he hadn’t studied — he’ll learn that one must face the consequences of one’s actions.

3.) Tough Mom is the new sheriff in town, and Guilty Mom has been relieved of her duties in the parenting department.

Tough love.

Most people probably thing the “tough” part of that phrase refers to assessment by the person on the receiving end. I, however, have first-hand experience that tough love can be toughest on the parent. We are so programmed that being a good parent means being everything to our children, and doing everything in our power to make our children happy. I think back to my own childhood — which I loved, and have no complaints about whatsoever — and I’m straight up telling you that some of the shenanigans that kids pull today would have never passed with my parents, or my friend’s parents. Never. My parents never sent notes or made phone calls to a coach, just to raise hell and get me on a sports team. My parents never took time out of their work days to hand-deliver a forgotten homework assignment to me at school. If I forgot something at home, it stayed there until I remembered to bring it to school myself. All of this to say that my parents were great, and I have to admit, I think I turned out pretty well despite the fact that they didn’t cater to my every whim, or drive themselves crazy trying to pave the way for me.

In a few conversations about the situation since yesterday afternoon, my child insists, and swears that he did, in fact, get sick at school. I have a pretty good hunch that allergies may be the culprit. I had forgotten that when this particular child was little, any sort of “congestion situation” would end up in him throwing up with very little warning. (Those were fun times, when we had to stash plastic bags in coat pockets in order to consider ourselves fully prepared to deal with the problem. To this day, I still keep a few plastic grocery bags rolled up in our cars, so apparently I’d been scarred for life.)

Most times it’s easy to love our kids, despite their fits, tantrums, sass and basic ability to drive parents to the outskirts of Crazytown. But it’s those days when tough love is the only way to solve a problem that you really understand how going against the grain can be sheer torture, yet also be the best, most loving and caring thing you can do for your child.

 

We interrupt this hellstorm…

I don’t think anyone would argue that lately our country — our WORLD — seems like it’s turned into the Hell Express. Hatred, intolerance, general ugliness that fuels hate fire and all too often results in death and destruction. I’m not much of a news-watcher these days, generally keeping up on events with a quick scan of local or national news websites. Or, (and I feel superbly ashamed to admit this) many news “tips” come from scrolling Facebook, seeing someone repost or comment on something. Despite my inaction, I do, in fact, aspire to be a well-informed citizen and decided to make an effort to watch the news this morning.

First topic was Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC last night, which I completely expected. Next story was (another!) shooting — this time an African-American healthcare worker, who had been trying to assist a distressed, autistic client. I’d heard of this the other day, but as this man’s attorney and supervisor (I think… I missed his introduction) recounted and reacted to the incident, my blood began to boil. What had he done wrong? And, I have obviously missed something in the story, but why were police called to this situation to begin with? I’m guessing because the client was sitting in the middle of the street, refusing to move and causing a public disturbance. The man clearly stated who he was and what was happening, yet for some reason, an officer pulled the trigger. Now, don’t start lumping me into any specific ” — Lives Matter” category, because I’ll say right here and right now that I feel ALL lives matter. Every life. I believe people shouldn’t be assumed to be dangerous based on other incidents. I also believe that a person armed with a weapon should be able to defend himself/herself if there is a threat to his/her well-being, or those around them. Sure, there are always going to be questions — to what degree should they defend themselves? At what point? Define “threat to their well-being.” I know these are horribly tense, complicated situations that often have to be dealt with in seconds. Split-seconds. I know I couldn’t do it, and I have the utmost respect for the people who are trained and able to quickly assess dangerous situations, making those split-second decisions that have the best possible outcome for all involved. But this isn’t my point today. My point is that hearing about this latest situation gone awry pushed me over the edge. I’m on violence overload, people, and I need to take a mental break. Sensational media thrives on being just that: sensational. And I’m not talking fabulous-sensational, I’m talking about shocking-sensational — bringing viewers as much shocking, appalling, graphic information as possible. With this media hellstorm literally at our fingertips, we often have no buffer between the ugliest news of the day and our hearts. And some days, my heart hurts too much.  I need a chance to step away for a few minutes, shake off the awfulness and re-focus on the GOOD and the LOVE that surrounds us.

So, first, here’s this:

tired puppy

Sleepy puppy — giving me the evil eye because I dared sneak up on her to take a photo. Whatever. She’s sleeping off the two miles we logged this morning out and around the neighborhood. You’re welcome, Stella.

And, because puppies and kittens are ambassadors of cuteness,… may I present our cat-niece Luna:

LUNA

Speaking of nieces, our human niece Chloe celebrated her 15th birthday yesterday. Her mother — my amazing SIL Jenny — honored the occasion with a Facebook pictorial that was all kinds of awesome. While there’s one other photo that claims all-time favorite status, this one stopped me in my tracks and literally turned my day around:

CHLOE

That’s a hellalotta fabulousness to pack into three years of life!

Next, an unedited photo of sunset at the lake, July 02, 2016:

SUNSET

Gorgeous, yes?

Finally, I’ll close with a meme that jumped off the screen at me the first time I read it. Credit goes to Rachel Macy Stafford at http://www.handsfreemama.com:

CHOOSE LOVE

We aren’t here to judge.

“Why, then, do you judge your brother? Or why do you belittle your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”   Romans 14:10

We’re here to love one another.

“This is My commandment, that you love one other as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

There’s so much badness out there, but there’s also goodness.

There are puppies and kittens.

And birthdays.

And sunsets.

And love. Choose love. Choose love next. And over, and over, and over again until it’s all you do.

 

A letter to my sons

An open letter to my older sons, in light of recent current events:

Dear Tyler, Jack, Charlie and Sam–

Some of you may have heard about the Stanford rape case in the news lately. If not, here’s the overview: In January 2015, a 20-year old Stanford athlete (swimmer) met up with a young woman at a party, and at some point of the evening he decided to sexually assault her. Yes, there was alcohol involved, on both parts. She was drunk enough to pass out, and he took her outside, behind a garbage dumpster and raped her. During the act, two other students approached on bicycles, and noticed something wasn’t quite right with the situation. They confronted the young man — Brock Turner is his name — at which point he tried to run away. They tackled him and held him until the police arrived.

Last week, he was convicted of the crime, which ordinarily would warrant something like a 15-year prison sentence. Astonishingly, the judge sentenced him to just six months in prison, with the likelihood that he’ll actually serve just three of those six months.

After the sentence was handed down, Brock Turner’s father penned a letter, basically belittling the crime, referring to it as “20 minutes of action,” and how that didn’t warrant ruining Brock’s future.

Needless to say, people are shocked. Dismayed. Disappointed. Outraged.

I am among those people.

Who knows where this case will lead next,… whether or not the sentence can be changed, what sort of changes will occur in the legal system because of it. But I do know that parents everywhere are bringing this story to their children, in hopes of driving home the point that sexual assault — rape — is not something to belittle. As much as Brock Turner’s father pleaded for his son’s future which was now ruined by this paltry prison sentence, he never once mentioned or even acknowledged the young woman’s future. Her future is ruined. Her future will never be the same, significantly marred by Brock’s actions as she lay unconscious. (I have both the victim’s letter and the one written by Dan Turner for you to read, so you can read their words for yourself.)

All that said, I believe you all would conduct yourselves appropriately in social situations. Just to be clear, however, here is the step-by-step procedure I expect each of you to follow, should you ever find yourself in a situation that even remotely resembles this one.

SCENE: You are at a party and you notice a young woman, alone, who may or may not be drunk. Whether you know her personally or not, here’s what you are to do:

1.) Ask her if she is OK, if she has friends with her and where they are.

2.) Help her find her friends.

3.) If she is alone, or doesn’t know where her friends are, YOU are now her friend. Your primary responsibility at this point is making sure she either gets home safely, or stays safe until morning.

4.) If she passes out, you find a safe place for her to remain. Give her a pillow, a blanket and a trash can.

5.) You make sure she is safe and no one messes with her.

I want you all to note that none of these steps include taking advantage of this girl in any way, shape or form.

This isn’t new, undiscovered ground for me, as I can clearly remember partying in college. Surprised? Don’t be. My friends and I were social, and yes… there were times when someone needed to be taken care of because she’d had too much to drink. I even remember taking care of one of my male friends at his own fraternity house, because he started too fast out of the gate one Saturday night, and was a slurring, stumbling mess by 10pm. Granted, the chances of him being sexually assaulted in this situation were zero percent. However, we didn’t abandon him, saying, “He’s in his own house,… he’ll be fine. Probably.” Nope. We got him to his room, put him in his bed (made sure he stayed on his side so he wouldn’t choke if he vomited), and put a trash can next to him. We stayed and made sure he fell asleep/passed out before leaving, then we shut his door and continued our evening. At no point did we think it would be funny to degrade or humiliate him. Being drunk happens, but it isn’t an open invitation to strip someone of his or her dignity, or worse.

You are all intelligent, respectable young men with endless possibilities for future plans. Mistakenly thinking that you could/should take advantage of a girl simply because she’s unable to protest, will ruin lives forever. Plans that either of you had will probably never be realized.

These expectations I’ve listed apply to any situation — it applies to girls you know, and even those you do not. I don’t care if you encounter a complete stranger who’s falling down drunk… it doesn’t matter if you know her. She is a human being, and as such, we take care of one another. I expect all of you to adhere to that standard. We all need to watch out for each other, because there are people out there who feel entitled to have whatever they want, whenever they want it. Period. These are the most dangerous people, because when they are denied what they want, they can become violent and fight for what they feel they “deserve.” I’m no expert on what people deserve in this world, but I know for damn sure that in January 2015, an unconscious young woman didn’t deserve to be raped behind a garbage dumpster.

Always be gentlemen. Always.

Love, Mom

BTSO Season

We are Back to Square One again.
As I write, sunlight is flooding the kitchen, it’s nearly 60 degrees, the windows are open and Jeff is mowing the yard — which should bring on my slight grass allergy in 3… 2… 1…
But my weather report isn’t just for general knowledge. It’s impressing me because it’s one of the first true days of spring. Granted, we hit that milestone on the calendar several weeks ago, but seeing “First Day of Spring” in print is worlds apart from feeling the sun warm your shoulders, which are bared in a tank top as you do yard work. Yes, the year has returned to its own “square one” — trees are budding/blooming, many yards boast tulips and daffodils, and chicken-sized robins abound. For a long time, I hated spring. To me it was so ugly with brown, dormant grass, leafless trees, gray/rainy days and mud. MUD EVERYWHERE. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but this year has been different. Maybe it’s because we had such a mild Midwest winter and things seemed to green-up a lot quicker, but I actually found myself noticing the early-blooming flowers more and not minding the early onset April showers that debuted in March. Many people speak of spring being the season of “rebirth and renewal,” and this year I’ve actually felt those sentiments in my heart. Mental change is a mighty force, and sometimes you have to discipline yourself into it. Lately, for me, it’s just a feeling of, “Yes, a fresh start is exactly what I need.” Nothing drastic, of course. I’m not selling all my possessions and moving to a mountaintop (although, there *are* days when I’m tempted…), rather, I have become more vividly aware that some areas of my life needed tweaked. Eliminate the chaos of “busyness,” and live intentionally each day. Actually BE in the moments of my day, rather than offer my family my physical presence, but put my mind a million miles away on Facebook or Pinterest. Continue the practice of taking things calmly and in stride each day, rather than let anger and frustration twist me up into knots. (P.S. — this has been an ongoing lesson that’s taken a good year to develop into daily use.)
Through the grace of God, we return to square one every morning, with another new day. Another chance to start fresh, to try not to screw things up (at least not too badly) and get it close to being kinda sorta right. And for that, I’m truly thankful.
As a family, we’ve also returned to a “square one” of sorts with Stella.

IMG_20160325_221748

Stella is the newest addition to our asylum home. She’s a (now) 12-week old Vizsla puppy, and a crazy breath of fresh air, who keeps us on our toes each day. Some of her antics leave us just short of infuriated, but she’s SO DAMN CUTE. Her presence has given our ol’ boy Buddy a bit of a re-charge as well. Since her arrival, his patience has been tested tenfold, but his demeanor has changed to that of a dog many years younger than his 12-14. (We rescued him, so his exact age is a bit hazy.) All I know is that he’s more active, move involved and actively seeks our attention. Hoping that Stella’s exuberance adds some pep and enjoyment to his golden years.
So, today we’re planning to enjoy a 70-something degree day, opening the lake house and assessing our To Do list there. The stage is set for a beautiful and enjoyable day — wishing you the same!