Thursday, May 14, 2015

On death

My grandma died at the end of spring in 2002. It was such a nonevent. I had had experience with death prior to that... always shocking, paralyzing. We had lost my teenage cousin in an accident a few years prior. Friends had died. Several relatives. This one was slow. Hard to watch.

She was one of those cancer anomalies. I say this because she was given a gloomy prognosis, we said our goodbyes, and then it was as if she rolled her eyes at the doctor, went home and made fried chicken. Then died about 11 years later. 

It was slow and painful as a spectator. I was only 15. I remember watching as she reluctantly began to allow others to help her. Then, as she allowed hospice in to her home. Then, as she closed her eyes and took a month-long nap. Then, she was gone.

When you are 15 and observing these things and not knowing what to feel, you try and conjure up what you feel are the expected emotions. I would go by her house and tell her I loved her... which was strange since we didn't really say that to each other when she was lucid. I remember hearing someone say that the cancer had gotten into her hips and was eating away at her bones. I pictured small, clear termites slowly chewing away at her pelvis... and wondered what that must feel like.

A relative said to another that my grandmother was so afraid of dying she had tried every cancer cure imaginable, including drinking peroxide. Then, the relative's face became contorted, as if drinking peroxide was the most desperate thing someone could do. I remembered the pelvic-eating termites and figured I would probably drink peroxide, too.

Despite this death being a small affair after a decade of preparing myself to say goodbye at any moment, it impacted me significantly. I had never known anyone who knew they were going to die. And this one person was very afraid of it. So afraid she had chosen to drink peroxide which, from what I could gather, was only done as a result of being in a hopeless situation that was also impossible to deal with.

Watching someone die that is terrified to die impacts you. My grandma had a nice life... but I wouldn't call it anything extraordinary. She was a religious Catholic and regularly attended mass... yet, she did not appear to be looking forward to this forced change of address. So, I took from this experience, death is something to dread. Death is something to fear.

I hadn't thought of this fear or my grandma much in the past few years. But during my last pregnancy, I had a small scare involving a lump in my breast. The midwife referred me to a breast cancer center for testing. At this point, my grandmother was on my mind constantly. Before this scare, I had come to think that I had a realistic hold on this fear of death and that I trusted God.

I was so wrong. The thought of death terrified me. I waddled around on the verge of tears. I couldn't read a book to my son without choking back sobs. 

Fortunately, the lump was benign and just one of the many resulting joys of prenatal hormones. But I am so aware of my fear of death. I have discussed it with believing friends. I have listened to sermons on the topic. I am well aware that I am "supposed" to be looking forward to eternity in Heaven. But the fear of the unknown is so much stronger than any joy or hope in eternity.

I realize the ideal ending to this post would be how I am slowly learning to deal with this or accepting it or finding joy in accepting that I am not a citizen of this world. But none of that is true. I am still afraid. I still don't want to think about it. I don't want to talk about it. I know the correct theological answers and I don't care. I am afraid of death. And that's how this post will end.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The unmistakable non-reality of social media and the fine line between over-sharing and vulnerability.

The longest title for a blog post? Hand raised. Garis, party of one. I had a bigger party, but they all left while waiting for me to finish reading the title of this particular post. That's how long it is.

Dax enjoying a hammock


So, we did the family vacation thing this past week. And we survived. We drove two kids across several states to the beach without a DVD player in the car (this was shocking to a mom at a Chickfila in Louisiana). We gobbled up buttery oysters and flaky snapper, brought in from the boat just minutes before we ordered it. We traipsed across the white sand, carrying our babes (tired from walking), to search for shells and small crabs that scuttled away seconds after we spotted them.

Chief waiting for beignets outside Cafe du Monde in NOLA

We watched the moon's reflection over the emerald coastline as we dug our toes into the cool, packed sand. I made sand castles and tunnels that were nowhere to be found the following day... washed out to sea with the tide. My boys chased waves, dumped sand, fed seagulls, peeked in on alligators, and kept their eyes peeled for the occasional dolphin.

All along the way, I photographed. Click. Click. Click. The smiles. The food. The coastline. The sunset.



As the parents of the Penn State runner who tragically jumped to her death in January share her suicide note this week, I couldn't help but think... Am I doing a disservice to others by not also sharing the struggles? There is picture after picture of the young girl- her name is Madison- on social media. Having fun with friends, selfies, smiling, laughing. 

How do we get real? How do I share my feelings on social media? That it can be difficult as a mom of two young children, to be on the beach with 20-yr-old women with perfect figures. Or, that my husband and I always fight on vacation (it seems are personality differences are amplified when we travel). How do you post pictures of how you're feeling? 

It's true- we had a wonderful vacation. There were difficult moments... my kids didn't sleep well and were up by 5 AM every morning. Packing up for a day at the beach took awhile and then dragging everything that taking two kids to the beach requires down to the shore wasn't easy. Fighting the urge to compare my body with other women's bodies was a challenge. Staying calm with my children every time they melted down when I was feeling equally capable of a meltdown was not always something that happened.

Those are not great photo opportunities. A selfie in the middle of an argument with my husband? Am I allowed to complain or have rough moments when I am vacationing in Florida? Am I allowed to feel tired because my kids won't sleep when there are women who cannot conceive children?

We have created a mess. A mess where we aren't allowed to complain or be vulnerable because someone always has it worse. A mess where we just put our best selfie forward on social media... never truly exposing the mess we are. A mess that leads to loneliness and unfair comparison.

I am aware there is a line. We all need perspective. It is good for me to have the perspective of a woman who struggles with infertility... it helps me to be more grateful for my children. But I also need the perspective of the woman who feels like she is drowning as a mother. And if I'm not honest about my struggles and just show our perfectly filtered life on Instagram, I'm only contributing to her feelings of inadequacy. 
Walking around NOLA

So, let's be real. If you struggle, share it. Maybe it doesn't have to be your Facebook status... but reach out to someone. More than one person. Maybe the first few people won't get it. Find someone who will. Don't do it alone.

For the rest of us? Let's call social media what it is... an opportunity to display our best and our favorites. It's not an accurate depiction of anyone's life. Be honest with yourself about that when you are tempted to compare your inner turmoil to someone else's highlight reel.

And, by all means, if you feel overwhelmed or alone or like you can't do it anymore... please get help. I've had to do it. It is by no means easy. But it doesn't have to be so bad forever.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Real talk: Teething babies and disgusting floors

My home has smelled like coleslaw for the better part of a month. I couldn't quite pinpoint the stinky culprit... but it definitely STUNK. I lit candles, did my normal cleaning routine, took out the trash regularly... and yet, the scent of vinegary cabbage and mayonnaise lingered.

So, yesterday, God decided to bless me and both of my boys slept for 2+ hours. I took to the floors for the first time in months (I'm embarrassed to admit this... mostly because I used to work for Merry Maids and I know how quickly floors can become nauseatingly repulsive...). I scrubbed on my hands and knees... and the coleslaw smell is gone.

I still have no clue what was causing said smell... but I know that it is gone... and I should probably clean my floors more often.

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Also, Dax (the non-baby baby... still a baby because he isn't technically a toddler... but he is a big baby) is slowly... painstakingly slowly... getting his third tooth (yes, third. Chief had 8 by this point... 8!) So, between my coleslaw floors and my lack of sleep, I might be going a little crazy... and crazy people should not be trusted to send thoughts out into the world wide web. I would hate, hate, hate to be in the middle of an interview with Barbara Walters (she is never going to die, trust me) and have her bring up something ridiculous I wrote on the internet back in 2015 in the middle of a sleep-deprived, coleslaw-inspired tangent.

So, future Barbara Walters, with your perfect coif and ageless skin, please don't judge me for the words I am writing. We are out of coffee.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On pleasing everyone else

The summer after I graduated high school, I had just ended an unhealthy relationship and, to help with my will power in not contacting said ex, I threw myself into working and college. I took a couple of classes at a community college and worked three jobs. I waited tables during the day at a small restaurant in town that was only open during lunch, taught cheer and tumbling for a family friend at her small cheer studio, and worked to-go at Chili’s.

I was sooo busy, but it more than accomplished my goal of keeping me from making the dreaded “I changed my mind” call to my ex-boyfriend and also helped me to pay for school (I had changed my mind on where to go to college at the last minute and missed out on scholarship deadlines). It was a fun time and definitely satisfied my extrovert needs. I got to talk to people all day and make some new friends. Some of the people I worked with at Chili’s would get together after work (after work=11 pm or later) to play Texas Hold’em at one of their parents’ house in the garage.

It was eye-opening for me. I had never played poker of any kind or gambled (I picked up somewhere in my upbringing that any kind of gambling was sinful… not sure where I got that?). I had also never been around people who legitimately enjoyed spending time with parents. Everyone called the dad “Pup” and the mom “Red” (she was obviously a redhead). Red would pop in and out to play a few hands or provide snacks while she crocheted. We would stay up, late into the night, basically giving away the tips we had just earned and taking turns running to 7-11 to pick up a round of Icees for the remaining stragglers. There we sat, sucking down sugary ice and giving our money to Pup. (Note to self: teach children to play poker… sucker their friends into playing… retirement? Check.)

This was also my first experience at spending significant amounts of time with people who didn’t know me or my background. I had this idea I could recreate myself… I didn’t have to be the annoying drunk girl I was in high school. I didn’t have to be the girl with an awful overbite and frizzy hair I was in middle school through junior high. I didn’t have to be the girl who could not stop gossiping or the girl who never knew the right music or could afford the right clothing (this was when we were all expected to wear tiny Abercrombie and Fitch shirts with our ripped jeans and Old Navy flip flops with the straightest highlighted hair possible). I had goals! I had ambitions! I was going to be someone different! Clean slate.

Unfortunately, I fell right into the same pattern that made me the gossip and the annoying drunk girl (the overbite and frizzy hair were genetic and couldn’t be helped). I tried to be whatever I thought they wanted me to be. They all listened to indie bands I hadn’t heard of… which, once you start trying to stay “in the know” with indie bands, it becomes a full-time undertaking. They were from wealthier backgrounds than I was… they knew how to golf. I had never golfed in my life… so naturally I borrowed my dad’s clubs and tried to learn. I read online about how to get better at poker. They were really into baseball and I had never cared about baseball. Yet, I found myself checking scores on ESPN so I could have something to contribute to conversation.

I had not changed a single bit. Before, I had gossiped so I could be the one with the information… because in my experience I had witness those with the information being the ones people wanted to talk to. I had been the annoying drunk girl… because I thought that being the center of attention, even if it is negative attention, is still better than being the girl no one talks about. Only now, it was pretending I knew indie bands or baseball scores. I still wasn’t being who I really was. I was still trying to define myself by what I thought other people wanted me to be.

I eventually moved on from that job and met other people and continued the same pattern for most of my early 20s. I would like to say God has completely freed me from this slippery-slope… but it continues to be my default. I have to regularly check myself, “am I acting this way because I think this will make people like me? Is this who I really am?” Now that I have, by the grace of God, experienced a lot of healing in this area, it is really easy for me to spot it in other people. I want to grab them by their shoulders and say, “stop it. Just be who you are. It’s ok if you are too loud or have a dorky laugh or enjoy nerdy TV shows. It’s ok if you don’t know what people are talking about. It’s ok to be exactly who you are with your past. Because you are not defined by those things. You have inherent worth and value because you are a person. Not because of what you do. You are created in the image of God. Period. Jesus died for you, you specifically. That gives you value. Stop trying to add to it.”


So, if this is you, please hear me. Embrace your mess. Embrace who you are as you are. Whether you are too shy or laugh too loud or have a dry sense of humor. Whether you really don’t enjoy eating weird food even if all of your friends do or you are the only one who suggests ethnic food every time when everyone else wants burgers. Whether you are really outdoorsy or would rather just binge watch Netflix on the couch all day. It is ok. Stop trying to meet expectations you are putting on yourself. No one is thinking about you as much as you think they are. God’s opinion is the only one that matters. And it was satisfied on the Cross a long time ago. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tumbling

I was a cheerleader for both my freshman and sophomore years of high school. (Try not to judge me too harshly…) The eyeliner... the braces... I can't imagine why I wasn't the hottest girl in school...
     I really enjoyed going to all of the games and spending time with the girls… although the drama could get a little high when you combined 10+ prepubescent, boy-crazy girls in one bus. I loved my coach and all of the excused absences to go to wrestling tournaments didn’t hurt, either.

     But my favorite part of cheerleading was tumbling. I took a tumbling class in a town about 15 minutes from my hometown one night a week. I loved that it was difficult but that I was usually able to catch on quickly. Plus, it was very easy to measure improvement from week to week (something that I lack these days… how do you measure improvement when parenting littles?)

     When I had mastered the back handspring it was only natural that I would move on to the back tuck. I was able to get the gist of it fairly quickly but there was a problem: I was incapable of performing a back tuck without a spot. An older girl on the cheerleading squad needed to only place her hand on the small of my back and I could back tuck with ease, over and over again. If she stepped away, I would under-rotate and fall on my knees and stumble forward. Every. Single. Time. My coach and friends were amazed that I simply could NOT do the same physical mechanics if there weren’t a small hand on my back.

     I was reminded of my back tuck conundrum this past week as my one-year-old son has been slowly working his way toward walking. As long as he is holding on to one of my fingers with one of his hands, he trots around with ease. The second I pull my finger away, he sinks slowly to his knees and back to his preferred method of transportation: speed crawl.


     Why he puts so much trust in my finger is beyond me. He is fully capable of walking… his muscles know the movements. His body is physically capable. Yet, without the comfort of grasping my finger, his confidence wanes and to his knees he goes. It was the same for me in high school… without the light touch on the curve of my back, I was not able to complete a back tuck. My muscles knew what to do. I was physically capable. But mentally, I did not trust my abilities.

Psalm 20:7English Standard Version (ESV)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.


     I think part of growing up is forcing yourself to let go of the finger, take the jump back without the spotter. There have been many times in the recent years I’ve said, “I wish my parents could just do this for me.” Whether it was calling around to get insurance quotes for our cars, figuring out what to do after being in a car accident, trying to decide on schooling for our kids in the future, or remembering to pay my bills on time. In that moment, there is no finger to grasp, no spotter in case you under-rotate. You just have to trust that God has equipped you, your muscles know what to do, and you are capable. Of course you could just keep crawling or never do the back tuck and coast on without taking risks, doing what you (or those around you) have always done or told you to do. But then you’re neglecting to develop that trust muscle… the muscle that is only developed by trusting in God’s provision time and time again… taking that baby step out in faith, without a finger to hold on… trusting His Spirit is in you… and, as scary as it sounds, sometimes it’s more efficient to eventually learn to walk on your own… which leads to running and skipping and jumping… and eventually, maybe even a back tuck. 


Thursday, April 16, 2015

On bravery...

Brene Brown regularly says the being brave is being vulnerable.

I spent most of my life NOT being brave. I did what I thought others expected of me and chose things at which I knew I would succeed. Zero vulnerability. Relatively low risk of failure. Safe. So NOT brave. So fearful. So wanting to be applauded, accepted, liked, approved, affirmed (apparently I like “A” words… part of me desperately wants to remove “liked” from this list so that alliteration abounds!)

I still play it relatively safe. I only talk about Jesus if other people bring Him up… I try not to offend (and still fail…  imagine if I wasn’t trying to be safe?! Oh, the people I would offend!) I avoid hard conversations to the best of my ability (unless it’s with someone I have deemed “safe”). I try to be genuinely likable. I carefully chose my vulnerability… since being authentic and vulnerable is kind of the trend now, I have allowed myself to do it to an extent.

However, I hide this blog… I don’t publicize it. I am so afraid that people will read my words and know something about me that I don’t want them to know… or worse, they will think I am a horrible writer wasting space on the internet (totally dumb… there is really stupid stuff on the internet!) But today I have decided to let people in to this space. I know that doesn’t really seem brave… especially in light of what others do… the BIG brave things that people do… but if bravery is truly just being vulnerable, then bravery is going to look differently for everyone.

For my friend that’s a single mom, bravery is signing her child up for daycare so she can complete more of her work at home… even though sending her babies to daycare was not something she ever wanted to do.

For my other friend, bravery is wearing a tank top and showing her arms- about which she is self-conscious.

For some, bravery may be taking a trip… signing up for a gym membership… looking a stranger in the eye and saying hello… quitting a job (or staying at a job you hate!)… inviting a neighbor over to your less-than-perfect home.

Find what bravery looks like for you today… maybe it’s simply asking God what the next small step of faithfulness is and taking that step… trusting Him even though it may not look like you want it to look… even though it’s scary. As terrified as I am to let people know I (gulp) blog, I honestly feel like this is what being faithful is for me. I am to share the growth I have experienced through following Jesus… and I am to share it with others.


So, here I am. Judge away. I can take it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Three.

Chief, you made me a mom... a role I was reluctant to take. I am the least adequate person for the job.

 You are passionate. You feel with the strongest emotions imaginable. There is no question as to what is on your mind.
 You are a delight and a joy. You have stretched me in ways I never thought possible.
 When I think of you, I smile. You are funny and caring. You have such a merciful heart.
 You are curious and inquisitive. You laugh the loudest and eat the fastest. You just want to go, go, go.
 You don't want to be the center of attention. You want to observe and slowly join... once you are sure.
 You love the outdoors and especially digging. You love fire trucks, any kind of construction vehicle and (lately) snowplows.
 You are slowly figuring out what it means to be a big brother. You love Dax and want to show him everything.
 You love your daddy and ask to go visit him at work almost every day. You love to wrestle and tackle and play rough.
 You want to know everyone's names when we meet them and when they can come over for dinner. You have taught me hospitality.
 You love your grandparents and would have them over every single day.
 You like to cuddle with your mom and dad.

You love changing clothes and picking out different outfits throughout the day.
 You love cooking and baking and always ask to help with whatever I am making.
 You have taught me more about living in the moment than I could have learned anywhere else.
I love you, so so much. Happy 3rd birthday!