Living in a Story

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“It feels like we’re living in a story.” I turned to look at Grace. She was standing in her pajamas, her hair hanging in a wild mess around her face. We had just gotten home from Dairy Queen, our car ride spent rocking out to Tom Petty as I held back tears over the events of the day. She still had chocolate smeared around her mouth.

“What did you say, sweet girl?” I’d heard her perfectly well, but I wanted to make sure my own subconscious wasn’t having selective hearing.

“I said, ‘It feels like we’re living in a story,’ ” she repeated.

“What do you mean by that?” I smiled at her and held out my hand. She took it and said, “Sometimes it seems like we’re watching ourselves on a show.” Then she nestled her whole body into my arms and just stared into my eyes. “But my heart is still beating and I’m still alive.” I think she was channeling something very divine. This response still has me marveling at its profundity.

Today. One for the history books, to be sure. A mass shooting in Las Vegas. The souls of dozens of people taken from senseless violence. And this on the heels of weeks of natural disasters devastating countless lives. I haven’t found the right words to tell my kids about some of this, but I think they intuitively know. It’s not a pretty story we’re living in at the moment.

If it is possible, one thing I find even more disappointing than these events themselves, is how awful people can be toward one another in their depths of despair. The ugly, hateful words people are flinging around in an attempt to find some “reason” for any of these things happening. Evil doesn’t care what color your skin is. It doesn’t care if you voted Democrat or Republican. Evil preys on fear. Evil just wants us all to be against one another because that is the only way it can thrive.

The people of our world are tearing it apart with blame, fear, and hatred. So what can we do- what can I do– to make a change? Well, here we are still breathing. Or as my four-year-old put it, our hearts are still beating. We are still alive. There is still a purpose for us to be in this story. Will your character be a light in this darkness? Evil cannot exist where there is love. And love is the brightest light there is.

We are still here because our mission isn’t done. Our story is still unfolding. So use that breath in your lungs to breathe good into the world. FORGIVE those who have wronged you. Demonstrate COMPASSION to those who need it, not just who you feel deserves it. LOVE one another. Jesus, Buddah, Lao-tzu all talked about these principles. It doesn’t matter what religion you are. If you have a pulse, you are here to grow in understanding of these things. Sometimes it’s not easy. If it were, our journey here would be very brief.

Every thought we have, every word we speak, everything we do, has an effect on everything in this world. We are all made up of energy. Atoms vibrating so fast it becomes matter. I’m not a scientist but I have read this quite a few times from reputable sources and I have it on good authority that at our most basic level, we are made up of the same “stuff.”

**Warning: I completely geek out over these things.** Ekhart Tolle wrote about this in A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose: “Physicists have discovered that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion created by our senses. This includes the physical body which we think of as form but 99.9% is actually empty space. This is how vast the space is between the atoms compared to their size, and there is as much space again within each atom. The physical body is a misconception of who you are…So your physical body, which is form, reveals itself as essentially formless when you go deeper into deeper into it…That empty space is life in its fullness, the unmanifested Source out of which all manifestation flows. The traditional word for that Source is God.” (p. 250-251) 

We can use our energy to channel love and compassion or we can channel fear and hate. That energy is what binds our bodies, minds, and souls together and what connects us (or repels us) to each other. And unbelievably we have freedom to choose what will define what we are made of. Think about it like this, we have it in our power to change the world on a sub-molecular level just by choosing what energy we will allow to flow through us.

I love that Mother Theresa quote so much, I have it on a wall in my house, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Well to take that a step further, what if we treated the whole world like our family? Can you imagine how beautiful that story could be? That would be one I’d be proud to share with my children. 

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Hasty Good-bye (The Reason Why)

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I know what you might have been thinking. “Why is Mom in such a hurry to leave me here on my first full day of preschool?” There isn’t an easy answer for that, at least not one that won’t leave me in a puddle of tears. But I rushed home so I could try to give you some explanation for my unceremonious exit in the best way I know how; by writing it down.

You’re embarking on your adventure into the big world and unexpected things will make a forever impression on you. After orientation last week, you told me about how you used “paste.” I understand, there is really nothing very exciting about paste. But I remember hearing you say that word as you explained to me that you “pasted marshmallows onto paper leaves.” You’d never used paste before and you were so excited about the project and wanted to tell me everything. And seeing your tiny face light up just from something so simple showed me how ready you are to leave the nest, our home, and begin growing up.

My last baby is ready. You only fit in my arms when you want to and it only lasts for a few seconds at best. Now I know those days are numbered. Today marks the day when the appeal of snuggling with your mom starts waning. You will begin to see how little you need me. Ironically, I prayed for days like this when the monotony and frustrations of motherhood consumed me, but now that grandmotherly advice of, “You’ll pray for those days to come G Bdayback,” is ringing in my ears.

I know you’ll still need me for many things,  but the little things are always the first to go and happen to be my favorites. Kissing your boo-boos, singing you songs before bedtime, and having our tea parties (Please love having tea parties to an inappropriate old age)… you will eventually look at me sideways when I ask if you want to do those things.

Holding your hand to the door today, I noticed for the millionth time how your fingers feel like satiny flower petals. When you were a baby, I always marveled at how long your fingers are and I would kiss them a dozen times a day–I still don’t think I kissed them enough. And now those sweet fingers are going to hold crayons and pencils every day. Eventually they are going to write words and all of your amazing thoughts and ideas.

Today, you looked so small walking to the big double doors. Your blonde ponytail was bobbing in the sun as you bounced into school, your butterfly backpack hanging from your shoulders. unnamedWasn’t it just five minutes ago that your little blonde head peeked over the back of your baby swing, your feet barely reaching the edge of the seat? Now I’m standing here saying, “I love you. I’ll see you at 3:00.”

So that, my sweet girl, is why I walked quickly away after kissing your cheek. All of those thoughts were threatening to come raining out of my eyes and I couldn’t bear to upset you on a day that is so happy for you; the day you take your first independent steps in becoming all that you are destined to be. But please forgive me if I still sometimes see you as my baby girl because really, you will always be.

G 10 Months 2

 

 

A Tribute to Dads

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He’s the man without a plan. He’s winging it through life. He’s usually got a sunburn, covered head-to-toe with dirt but wearing a giant grin. He’s got a kid or three hanging off each limb when he’s outside playing. He’s undaunted by events that require the use of port-a-potties. His culinary specialties usually involve something from a box and a microwave. He knows how to fix anything with duct/electrical/hockey tape. He’s always got a pocket knife handy.

We see this man all the time assuming various forms but he exists for almost all of us in some way that is unique to us. I saw a few of them yesterday, splashing around a lake with children on a paddle board, a canoe, and a speed boat. I covered my eyes and prayed that the flotation devices I’d strapped around them would be enough to prevent them from meeting their likely demise or that one of the giant man-eating perch that dwell in the murky lake bottom wouldn’t unhinge its voracious jaws and swallow my babies whole. But even through my neuroses, I was unable to deny the adorable situation and had to snap a few pictures of them getting the kids to throw caution to the wind and helping them to create forever memories.

Of course I’m talking about dads. These are the guys with a devil-may-care attitude who rarely, if ever, bother with things like diaper bags, snacks, or even hand sanitizer. Those are obviously unnecessary things made popular by mothers. Dads are the spontaneous element of the best childhood memories. They might humor us moms by putting helmets or elbow pads on the kids, but they don’t really believe anyone needs that stuff (until they’re grandfathers). When Dad shows up to play, you can only expect the unexpected to happen.

My own father often came home with items that I am sure my mom would have quickly vetoed had she ever been seriously consulted. There was the go-kart that we used to perfect our 360s on the gravel at the corner of our yard and then the enormous batting cage that took up a significant part of our property, where my brothers learned to blast baseballs like cannons. But those are some priceless memories!

My own husband, usually the pragmatic voice of reason, also continues this legacy of spontaneity in surprising ways. Many times I have been told to adhere to a household budget, but there is not a price tag when it comes to an exorbitant amount of Nerf guns and foam ammunition; in these adventurous endeavors usually requiring the use of plastic goggles, money is no object.

My warnings of caution are usually brushed off when curiosity collides with inspiration and my suggestions for safety are met with such extreme disdain, that he will even go a step further to create a situation more daring than the original just to make the point that, “It’s a great idea! The kids will love it!” In his defense, sometimes I am eating my words and everyone has fun without injury. But other times, I’m applying an ice pack to a crying child within ten minutes and he’s suddenly very quiet, washing and vacuuming my car.

He’s had to learn to roll with some situations that I never thought he would. His own snot grosses him out, but I’ve watched him, countless times, hold a tissue up to our children’s faces and tell them to blow out as much nastiness as they can. He also gagged every, single time he had to change a poopy diaper; I think Grace’s last diaper change was the happiest day of his life. But watching how much love and care he has when brushing Grace’s hair or listening to him read Captain Underpants to the boys before bedtime, I can forgive all the times he refuses to reapply sunscreen or lets them eat McDonald’s fries for an afternoon snack. He is a dad, after all, the guy who keeps things real.

Sometimes he has the unenviable job having to be the “bad guy,” the disciplinarian. It can mean having to hear those fated words, “I don’t love you anymore,” but unnamedsticking to his guns no matter how much it hurts because he knows in his heart it’s the right thing to do. And at the end of the day, only his hugs can squeeze away the hurt and the disappointment, or the fear and anxiety and can make everything all right again.

It has been an incredible journey watching my husband become a father. When our son was born, I saw pure panic in his eyes in the hospital. “I have no idea what to do!” he had said. Neither of us had ever known such consuming fatigue. We didn’t know what we’d gotten ourselves into, but together, we figured it out. I remember seeing his hands cup around each of our children’s tiny newborn heads as he looked into their faces humbled with disbelief that together, we’d made these lives and were responsible for keeping them alive.

Sounds simple in theory, but in practice, it’s the hardest job there is. I get it now. I understand how my dad struggled between being a fun dad and being a real dad. I see my husband carefully balancing on the same line. My greatest hope is that someday, if we’ve done everything we could to prove to our kids that we loved them the best that we could, maybe they’ll want to be the kind of parents we were, only doing it better while understanding how tough it really is.  scott and grace unnamed

So with all of this on my mind and Father’s Day fast approaching, I’d like to take a moment to say, Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there! May there always be an abundance of duct tape, band-aids, and Nerf foam ammunition.

Wrath of the Three-nager: A Story of Redemption

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Many days lately, I have been ending by limping into the shower feeling like I’ve run ten miles or that I’m coming down with the flu. My legs ache and a tension headache brews behind my eyebrows. I am relieved to say that the cause is nothing unusual; I have a “three-nager” and she’s doing her job by testing me at mine.

Meltdowns over the smallest things have become the new norm. Frequently, she’ll ask for a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I’ll pour it, sure to include her beloved blue handled spoon. She comes to the table presumably to eat, but deems the offering unworthy by slinking under the table as if her bones have suddenly dissolved from her body. And there she lies…waiting.

I take a deep breath, while I am bracing myself to be calm and collected for the battle. And maybe this is my mistake; I’m giving her a head start because here is where she slams on the gas and begins yelling, “I DIDN’T SAY I WANTED CHEERIOS!” [Unintelligible wailing as her face becomes slick with angry tears and snot]. I sit there dumbfounded, wondering where I have been in the last thirty seconds. Surely, this isn’t a deserved reaction for making her breakfast!

Last week, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My hands shook as I tried to pull her limbs into her bathing suit before swim class. She fought me as though I were forcing her off a cliff. Finally, I realized if I forced any harder, I could hurt her. I had to close her in her bedroom and called Scott to try to describe the depth of my frustration so that if for some reason CPS was called by the neighbors who could hear her screaming as though I was beating her (when in reality I hadn’t even touched her other than to take her clothes and set them aside), it will have been somehow documented that I tried–God, did I try–not to lose my ever-loving mind; that she was not even in the same room as me while she carried on at the top of her lungs.

When did someone flip the switch on my sweet girl? We were so happy, once upon a time! We would wake up, eat our toast and yogurt as the sun streamed through the windows. We’d do her lessons together then snuggle or run to the grocery store depending on the day, and I knew without a doubt, that my daughter loved me. Now I am not so sure.

So, of course I do the self-blame thing. “Maybe she watches too much T.V… Maybe we should have enrolled her in preschool this year…I am losing steam in my mid-thirties…I am inconsistent in my discipline…I expect too much…” On and on.

But today, I saw a glimpse of my sweet girl again. She was with me smiling from the minute her blonde head peeked into my bedroom at 6:45 a.m. until I turned off the light in hers at 8:15 p.m. Today was a much-needed, hope-giving gift. I am sure that all of this wretched behavior is just a phase and will pass sooner or later.

My favorite moment today happened when I was in the kitchen making dinner. Luke was afraid to go up to his room to get a book to read after school. There was a storm rumbling outside and he is always nervous by the booms of thunder. I was in a critical point of making gravy and couldn’t step away from the stove but I had an idea. “Grace!” I called, “Can you go upstairs with Luke to go get a book?” I was expecting her to say no, that she was too tired but instead I heard her tiny voice from the next room say, “Sure!” I didn’t react. I just waited.

As she bounced past Luke, she tossed her hair over her shoulder like, it was no big deal. “Luke, I’m really brave,” she said, “because Mom gave me a piece of her heart and I keep it in my heart and I know I don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

Everything got a little soft around the edges as my eyes filled with tears. My tiny warrior accompanied her big brother upstairs to get his book and reassured him the whole way that everything would be fine.
G and Me
About a month ago. Grace was having some anxiety before bedtime. She’d hold my arm and beg me not to leave her room as I kissed her goodnight every night for about two weeks. So one night, I pretended to pull a piece of my heart from my chest and I pressed it to her heart and said, “There. Now you don’t have to be afraid. My heart is in your heart and you can always be brave because I’ll be with you.”

She seemed to like that and fell asleep shortly after. The nighttime drama also eased up from then on.

So, while the temper tantrums are at an all time high and I’m obviously not going to let her off the hook every time she pitches one, at least she believes she is brave. It has become my belief that if I can take that strong-willed nature and help her to channel it constructively, it will only serve her well later in life. Maybe the mood swings are her three-year-old way of warning the world to be prepared. In the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich , “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Gift of a Brother’s Heart

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The wonder of the school Christmas Gift Shop never ceases to bring a tear to my eye the day after my kids have gone and selected presents for our family. Who knew a bunch of tables piled deep with future garage sale fodder from Oriental Trading Company could be the source of so much happiness for a mother? But it’s true. Somehow something magic has happened two years in a row the when I’ve gone to pick up my boys from school and they’ve taken a trip to the Little Elves Gift Shop.

This year, Luke went first and came back with a light up snowman nose for Noah and a tiny, pink stuffed animal for Grace. I told him I wanted to wait to open my gift. He tucked it carefully under the tree. Noah obviously put on an act to make Luke think he was very excited about his gift. I think he learned a lesson after last year’s nearly disastrous gift exchange.

In fact, I don’t think anything will ever beat last year’s gift shop conquests. It is one of my favorite Christmas memories ever. I feel it captures the essence of Christmas so well because the true spirit of the season is in giving, not receiving. We always forget that as we race around town to find those “perfect gifts” for everyone on our list. We don’t even realize, God has already given us the best gift of all. The other things are just extra. But it still makes us feel warm and happy to watch our loved ones marvel at what we hope will be just what they wanted. Still every once in a while, the gifts don’t go over exactly as we’d hoped.

This was the scene last December after the boys had done their shopping…

A red-nosed handful of us parents stood huddled in a line along the school sidewalk and watched our breath swirl in front of our faces as we waited for our kids to come bouncing out of the building. Finally, the double doors swung open and they poured out. All were carrying a plastic bag or two in addition to their usual backpacks, their eyes were wide with excitement.

Noah’s blue coat bounced closer and he was shouting, “Mommy! I bought you your Christmas present! I need you to open it now!” And a few of the other little ones were yelping similar sentiments to their parents.

I gently held Noah’s shoulders to calm him and started for the minivan; one of about fifteen other black minivans in the same row of cars. As we walked to the van, I remembered how excited I was to go shopping at the Secret Santa Workshop when I was Noah’s age. So I knew his excitement was bordering hysteria as he skipped spastically next to me.

“Mom! Mom! I got you something that starts with ‘R’ and ends with ‘ing!’”

I helped him into the van and set his backpack down. “Well don’t tell me yet!” I laughed. “I want to have something to open on Christmas morning.”

His face fell and he started immediately to cry, “MOM! You have to open it NOW! I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL CHRISTMAS!”

I tried my best to console him, but he was devastated. My compromise was that we wait until at least Daddy got home from work so that he and I could open our gifts together. He wasn’t happy about it, but agreed it was better than waiting until December 25. We drove around to get Luke on the other side of the school. He too, was holding a bag but Luke’s style is always more subdued.

“Hey, buddy!” I smiled at him as I buckled his seat belt. “Did you do some shopping today?”

“Yeah, Mom. I got you–”

“Don’t tell me yet. I want to open it on Christmas.”

“Okay,” he smiled sweetly.

“Mom! Mom! Can I give Luke and Grace their presents now?” Noah was not giving up.

“Ugh, Noah. Can’t you just wait?”

More tears threatened the corners of his eyes and his lip quivered. I couldn’t say no. His enthusiasm to give his gifts was breaking me down.

“Fine,” I smiled. He tore into his backpack like a maniac and revealed two paper bags stapled closed. He handed one to Luke and one to Grace. I unwrapped Gracie’s and handed her a baby rattle which she gladly took and started shaking. “Say thank you to Noah.” I said stroking her cheek.
“Tanks, Whowa,” she said sticking the rattle in her mouth.

Now all eyes were on Luke. “I hope you like it,” Noah beamed proudly as Luke carefully unwrapped his gift.

Luke pulled out a plastic egg filled with purple goo and a glow in the dark alien cushioned inside. I panicked when he dropped the egg to his lap in obvious disappointment and said, “It’s a girl color.”

Immediate wailing then tears ensued from Noah as he sobbed, “It was the last one! I wanted to get you green or blue but they didn’t have anymore. I thought you would like it.” My heart broke in two. He wanted so badly for Luke to love it and be as excited for him as he was to give the thoughtful gift.

“Luke! That was not nice! You have to say thank you for a gift even if it’s not exactly what you thought it would be. Tell your brother you’re sorry!”

“Sorry,” he mumbled. I rolled my eyes and pulled out of the parking lot. Noah wasn’t giving up so easily and my heart broke even more for him. He plucked the unwanted toy out of Luke’s lap and said through his tears, “I promise, it’s a cool toy, Luke. I’ll show you when we get home! It glows in the dark!”

Luke sat quiet, wisely keeping his thoughts to himself the whole ride home as Noah tried with all the zeal he could muster to explain why Luke should be thrilled with his purple slime and glow in the dark alien.

The minute we opened the door to the house, Noah bolted for the bathroom yelling over his shoulder, “Come on, Luke! You have to see this!”

Luke was not in any sort of hurry as he trudged down the hall after Noah but knew better than to not go at all. My look of warning was probably all he needed. They closed the bathroom door, I could hear water running, objects clunking around, God only knew exactly what was happening to get that egg opened. But I didn’t care. I had to let Noah sell the wonders of this gift to Luke or he’d be scarred for life.

Finally, the bathroom door creaked open and a smiling Luke and jubilant Noah emerged. Luke was holding the now amazingly cool purple slime and the small white alien as Noah chattered on, “See? I told you it was awesome! I knew you’d like it, Luke. Luke, what do you say to me?”

“Thank you, Noah,” Luke said staring at his treasures.

“Give your brother a hug,” I said to Luke. Noah wrapped Luke in a giant hug and Luke let him. I unsuccessfully held back my own tears as I watched my little boys appreciate the best gift I could have ever given them; each other.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

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Luke and Noah, Best buds since 2010

“I’ve Got No Strings to Hold Me Down”

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This week I did my usual “mom” stuff. I made beds, worked with Grace on the letter “Ii” and the number “6.” I packed lunches, made dinners, picked up the kids from school. It seemed like an average week…Oh and the kids had the day off school on Tuesday because it was voting day. I went and voted that day. My sister and my nephew Joey came here from Jackson and we took the kids to see Trolls at the Milford Cinema. It was nostalgic; the tiny one room theater with ancient red plush seats, the ticket counter where no one is actually issued a ticket but you give the man behind the glass your head count, he tells you your total, you pay him and admit yourself through the rotating-metal-arm-thingy–It’s the same theater my brother and sister and I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in back in the 80s. The Trolls movie was cute. The message was that we are responsible for creating our own happiness. We cannot depend on others to do that for us. Hmmm…(foreshadowing?)

I woke up Wednesday at 6:30 to begin my routine of packing lunches and forcing my sons’ limbs into their uniforms. Scott came into the kitchen to announce who had won the election. I believe my response was, “Holy crap! Didn’t see that coming!” The news kind of caught me off guard, but in truth, I felt fairly indifferent. Whomever won the election wasn’t going to change my day to day “momming.” And I wasn’t a fan of either candidate. I didn’t feel compelled to vote for either one (although I did vote!)

After I got the boys out the door to school, I sat down to my slice of toast and egg, I decided to check in on Facebook, just to see how everyone spent the day off school.

This is when I felt I was looking through a window to Armageddon.

My left-wing friends, and pretty much every celebrity who had supported Clinton were losing their minds with grief, anger, and fear. College students were asking for a day to grieve the loss of what was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s election. Hateful comments and posts were being flung back and forth. I gently set my phone down and let this all wash over me. I have been letting it all sink in for a few days and I’ve been trying to find the words to articulate my thoughts on it all.

For anyone who cares (and believe me, you don’t have to), this is my take: It doesn’t matter who is in the White House. It doesn’t even matter who is sitting in Congress or the Senate. They create the guidelines for which we are meant to live our days. Government doesn’t have the power to tell you how to love your family. Government will make up laws to make sure people are being treated fairly.

Trump is not going to be the one causing an increase in the amount of bullying we have in schools. If my child said they felt encouraged to bully or discriminate against a person because of Trump being president, I’d take them to volunteer at a soup kitchen and they’d be grounded from anything even resembling a social life until they understood that in our family, only people who respect others will be allowed to interact with the rest of the world. I have that power as a mother to influence the attitude of my child; Mr. Trump does NOT. We are the ones responsible for teaching our children respect and tolerance.

Additionally, Trump is not going to be the one to affect climate change. That is on us as a world. Use a cloth rag instead of paper towel once in a while! Recycle your junk! Be aware of what you’re consuming! Have a conscience about waste! Trump is not the one putting toxic chemicals into your cart at the grocery store. If big businesses start losing out on sales because their products aren’t being bought, they will be forced to look at what they’ve created and will have to make it better.

Trump isn’t the one who allows us to make immoral decisions. It’s on us as a people to do the right thing. Government can’t fix those things. Government isn’t responsible for breaking those things either. That was us. That was our blatant disregard for humanity, our short-sighted thinking. It was us who allowed two morally corrupt politicians to be in the running for the presidential election. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

How many times has it been said, “If you want change, BE THE CHANGE.” Not even a sad election is going to decide the fate of our country. We need to stop blaming others for our problems. We were put on this green and blue marble to do something bigger than ourselves. Everyone is looking for an answer outside of themselves. Bigger government, or any government for that matter, is not the answer. Who is going to stop inner city school children from starving every day? Who is going to put an end to human trafficking? Who is going to give us a sense of self-worth? The answer is staring at you in the mirror.

It doesn’t hearten me to see so many people whining about Donald Trump being elected. He is one man. He isn’t God. If our powers are combined for good, for helping each other, for not taking advantage of a system or a person, we will do amazing things! That is divinity at work.

So everyone needs to suck it up and accept what has happened, realizing this doesn’t define us as a country. We need to do better by each other. Trump is our new president. He isn’t a puppeteer and we are not puppets. We decide our own fate and destiny. And it starts at home. Loving families create loving neighborhoods. Loving neighborhoods create loving cities. Loving cities create loving countries. You get the picture. Maybe in four years we’ll have a presidential election we can all believe in and it won’t matter if there is a (D) or an (R) after the name. But it has to start now. Everyone needs to stop wallowing and start living.

We Still Hope (Shining a Light on the Struggle of Infertility)

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I once asked Scott if he thought I was a hard-to-read person. He laughed and said he never had to try to decipher my feelings because usually if I am feeling something, I am telling him all about it in great detail. Still, most people are under the impression that you should…

…bottle it up; don’t let anyone see you hurting.
…fake it ‘til you make it.
…never talk about politics, religion, your finances or marriage with other people.
…keep it to yourself. People will judge you for your shortcomings.

I’m so tired of this nonsense. We are infinitely flawed and broken beings. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. I’ll tell you my hang ups right now if you want to know, and maybe even if you don’t. I don’t think it does any good to bottle it all up. Who do you need to impress?

We are all so afraid of showing our hand; like if we hide our fears or our imperfections, no one will notice. But we forget, THOSE are the things that bind us. You are depriving the world by pretending to be perfect! We go through this human experience for the purpose of HELPING each other. Our experiences are not only meant to help us learn, but we can help others along the way.

Years ago, someone I knew was so ashamed of a divorce she was going through. I believe her exact words were, “I feel like a walking cliche.” I told her, “Our cliches are what bind us with one another. Our cliches are what help us relate, to find common ground, to see our own beautiful imperfections reflected in another.”

We are all billions of bodies who share ONE SOUL. You might think another person’s pain isn’t your problem. Well, I hate to break it to you but it is. We are all connected.

I happen to know one very brave soul who has opened up to share her thoughts on her journey with infertility; an inexplicably taboo issue within our culture, maybe because it has to do with sex…I don’t know. While it is fortunate that so many of us can have a baby the “good old fashioned way,”for a growing number of people in our world, this isn’t a luxury anymore. Some people may think, “I had no problems conceiving, so this doesn’t apply to me.” Yes, it does. Know that your words and attitude are felt. Please don’t say insensitive things to people such as, “When are you going to try to have kids?” or “Just relax! It will happen!” You cannot know what anyone’s journey is.

I want to thank this courageous woman for speaking out about an issue that touches everyone, whether you’ve been through it or not. Wanting a child and not being able to have one or having one and losing them is a deep and devastating pain. The sorrow extends beyond couple going through it. Please read this and think twice before you dismiss the feelings of a person who is going through such a difficult experience.

October is a month I have fond memories of. I love the fall weather, the leaves changing, hot chocolate, football, sweaters, bonfires and everything that every other  Michigander loves about this beautiful season, I do too!

But it’s bittersweet for me.

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month. It is also the the month my husband and I started trying to conceive four years ago. It comes and leaves us (once again) childless. I have begun to dread this month with everything in my body. My heart aches.

I get anxious and depressed. I’d rather stay home than visit with friends. I don’t feel like doing anything that requires putting on a fake smile and being social. Without realizing it, I lash out. I argue with loved ones; my husband bears the brunt of it and I quickly forget, he’s going through it along with me. I’m not a mean person, but my heart is hurting. These emotions leave me feeling raw to everything, so I’m defensive as a way of self-preservation.

I’ve grown to understand that underneath it all, there is still love. There is no other explanation. This experience has tested my husband and me so much that I know love is the glue holding the pieces in place. I love my husband more than anything in this world. He is my back bone, my saving grace. He’s my strength, the one who keeps my spirits up and is always looking for the positive in things.

Many couples in our situation have abandoned ship. They gave up. And I can understand how it could come to that. It is a test! It’s so stressful on a marriage to struggle with infertility. It wears on your marriage. You bicker and the fights can get nasty. It seems like things will never get better. Sometimes they do, but other times they don’t. I feel we are facing this as bravely as we can. We push through it together because together we are stronger. We have made a deal. There is no backing down or giving up hope. We are both stubborn and one way or another, we will become parents.

I have faith bigger than this struggle, God has this amazing plan for us. He knows when the time will be right for us. I try to focus on the benefits of our situation, although I would gladly trade in sleeping in for life with little sleep because of a baby. Maybe this is our “alone time.” It’s time that we get to spend together just us doing whatever we want. We can be spontaneous right now and we’re taking full advantage of that because when that precious baby does come, it will be the most magical thing and that baby will know it is loved beyond words.

The passing of each year of this longing has made me stronger than I thought I could be. I’m able to reflect on this journey and can see how this has made me a better person; a more loving wife, an involved aunt, supportive sister and appreciative daughter.

I know I am allowed to have tough days. I am allowing myself to feel things. I am thankful for this experience because maybe my story will help others going through the same thing. We’re not giving up because against all odds, against all logic, we still hope.

Moving On…

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Early September arrives very quietly. It’s the cool kid, showing up to the party after summer’s brightly colored swimsuits and too much greasy sunscreen. September is sophisticated with the reintroduction of sweaters and glossy new school books, sweetened by the crispness of the apple orchards turning out racks of cinnamon doughnuts and gallons of tart cider. It’s cooking in the kitchen again, letting the grill rest and the allowing the Crockpot to bubble gently on the countertop. It’s driving past a high school on a Friday night and hearing the speakers and cheers from the football field. It’s my favorite time of year.kids-swimming

This September has been loaded with other kinds of changes for our family–happy changes, but some readjusting will be required, nonetheless. I’ve been trying to get a handle on what is about to happen, but I don’t know that I can until it’s official.

We are moving. It’s not far. In fact, it’s closer to where we’ve begun to build our lives. It’s ten minutes from the kids’ school versus the twenty we drive now. It’s less than two miles from my parents’ house; the house that I called home as a kid. It’s a beautiful house. I just don’t feel like I’m “grown up” enough to call a house like this home. But I suppose the fact that a huge selling point for me was a walk-in pantry, it would indicate that some part of me has matured in the past decade.

Scott was sure the minute we stepped foot in the new house that this was it. I was smitten with it as well, but I felt, and continue to feel, a tug to stay put. In the last five years, we have made our current house our home, I had even hoped it would be our forever home. Every room serves a purpose and is well-lived in. But even beyond that, our house holds memories that seem impossible to turn away from.

I could show you exactly where Grace took her first steps. I know after we leave, the new home owners are going to find Lego pieces in odd places. If you were to chip off the new paint in the laundry room, you’d see my kids’ height marks from the past three years drawn in pencil along the door frame. I wish I could bottle the tender tears my boys have cried when we told them at the new house, they won’t be able to share a bedroom (Noah is insisting that Luke will sleep in his bed every other night).

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This is the house we will be saying good-bye to.

My heart is in this home. It’s in the garden I finally grew this summer. It’s in the days of running I’ve done around the subdivision, wondering and worrying over countless miles about the kids and Scott, then seeing a rabbit or a deer next to a field that made me forget it all and marvel at how amazing creation is. We live in the country where there are woods and swamps, and farms with endless rows of crops all around our subdivision. But on our street live the kind of neighbors who always had the quintessential cup of sugar and a smile to spare. So, I’ve been crying a lot when I’m alone. I’ve been praying we’re making the right decision. I figured if we weren’t, God would somehow stop it from happening.

Today, I slipped out alone to the grocery store while Scott napped on the couch with Grace in his arms and the boys played a game on the iPad. I was driving through sporadic cascades of raindrops then wandering distractedly through the aisles at the store, replaying the past few weeks in my head when I looked up in the check out line. Who should be standing there but the people who are buying our house! If that’s not a God-incidence, I don’t know what is. I watched them quietly unloading their cart for a minute; they hadn’t seen me yet. I watched how loving they were with each other. And I felt it. They’re a good fit. They are the kind of people who could live here and I would be happy for them dwelling in a place that will forever hold a piece of my heart. I said her name then and she looked up and smiled in disbelief, too. It was so strange that we were together there at the same time, but I know there was a reason for it.

We made small talk for about a minute and a half and then they went on their way. But I drove home feeling a sense of peace about it all. This can happen now. We will grow our hearts in another set of walls and make even more memories there.

But, please know this: I am never moving again.

 

Beautifully Messy

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Time to tuck away another year of laminated construction paper books, Froot Loop mosaics, feathers matted down with too much glue to be considered feathers any longer, and the sweetest love notes I’ve ever received (Dere Mom, I miss you. I’ll see you after scool. Love, Noah). The keepsakes of another school year ended. Somehow, impossibly, it is here. Those challenging days that dragged on endlessly as I went through them (wasn’t it just January last week?) are nearly done.

I have circled in red the last day of school for the year and I know our summer will be filled with swimming, sand castles and visits to the zoo. I look forward to taking a hiatus from the relentless germs our children seem to collect like Lego pieces. I hug myself with Julie-Andrews-esque glee when I think about not packing lunches for three glorious months.

But I quickly forget it’s also the end of another precious year of my children’s ephemeral youth, and damn it! I’ve done it again. I’ve wished away these last few weeks rushing headlong to summer vacation. My mom is always warning me about that. “Don’t wish your life away,” she says, but I have. I forget to revel in the monotony because even that is a gift.

In my defense, we are crawling pathetically to the finish line. Both Noah and Luke have been sick this week with another nasty cold. I’ve all but marinated their bodies and painted our home in a mixture of Lysol and Thieves oil this cold and flu season. It is beyond reason that they are sick AGAIN, but here we are, two more days out of school! It’s been a rough year for the Torosian crew. Nothing more than your garden variety coughing, sneezing and G.I. illness, but still enough to leave me feeling a little frayed around the edges as we limp along. It’s easy to forget to be grateful even for the sickness as I scoop up another armful of snotty tissues or wash a set of sheets for the third time in a week.
Still, if I had to guess what God is trying to pound into my thick head, it’s not to take this beautifully messy life for granted.

Last night, Luke had gotten sick to his stomach from his incessant coughing. After I calmed him down and spread a towel out on the couch with a bowl next to his head, I asked him if he wanted me to sleep on the couch with him or would he sleep better if I went to my room. With his eyes closed and a peaceful smile on his lips, he said, “I don’t care. Your choice…Mom?”

“Yes, Luke.”

“Thanks for always taking care of me.”

And there it was. Along with an instant lump in my throat, my reminder not to rush through the grisly stuff. I’m blessed to be able to do it.

Summer vacation will be wonderful and it won’t be hard to remember to take mental pictures of the firefly nights, sticky with S’mores and scented with bonfire. But it’s just as important to tuck away these messy, less-than-ideal days. These are the ones that teach us more about ourselves and what we’re made of. They show us that despite the challenges the days can bring, our patience, our faith and our love are stronger. We’re not fair-weather-families. We are families who are close through the tough times, too. These are the lessons our kids will take with them as they grow up. Treasure it all.

I saved Noah’s charmingly imperfect booklet from his first grade poetry project and it will make me just as proud as his high school diploma. Is one more valuable than the other? To this mom, no! I love it all. We shouldn’t

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Noah showing his self-published book at the Poetry Cafe

underestimate the importance of modeling appreciation of every little thing our days bring us. Our kids are always watching us.

This is how they will persevere in life. They’ll watch us smile through the hard times and hopefully will see how we stayed positive through them. We didn’t complain or rush through the icky parts. We are grateful for it all.

Luke’s last day of kindergarten is tomorrow. Noah’s last day of first grade is next Thursday. I’m going to do my best to savor all of it until that last bell rings.

Childhood Isn’t for Kids

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Today, I took Grace out to run some errands. I try to have something fun for us to do each day. Although every day can’t be swim class or story hour, I try for something simple like buying a doughnut at the bakery or taking a few extra minutes to see the little fish swimming around their tanks at Meijer. Nothing crazy, just something different from the day before.

When we got home after three or four very uneventful stops, I was washing her hands in the bathroom and she leaned her tired head back on me and said, “Mommy, I had so much fun. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Gracie,” I said with a laugh. Seriously, kid? We went to the UPS store, the grocery store and the library. And then I had one of those moments of clarity that left me with chills. Something so simple, but when I thought of it this way, I was humbled by the truth of it. Childhood isn’t for our kids. It’s for parents. Gracie will never remember these days of being two years old and all the amazingly awesome things I have tried to pack into our days. She won’t even remember how much she loves me in just a few more years. We’ll be fighting over when she can be on social media and why she can’t go to the mall alone.

These very patience-trying years of raising small children are not our test. They are our JOY. We get to re-experience childhood by having our children. We get to understand love deeper than anything we’ve ever known before. These beautiful and sometimes boring memories we create aren’t for them; they won’t remember most of them. Think about it–do you remember being two and your parents making every day magical for you? All you probably recall from that time of your life is knowing that you were loved. God knows I don’t remember much of anything from my childhood. My memories don’t become very vivid until adolescence and by then the memories aren’t all that pretty.

So does that mean we should stop trying to do these wonderful things for our kids? I mean, what’s the point if they don’t know the difference anyway? I don’t think so. Because these are the memories we get to take with us into old age. These are the days we will cling to when we look back on all our decades before and wonder, “Was it worth it? Did I live enough? Did I love enough?” We won’t recall our childhood years, those memories will have faded. But we will remember our children’s childhood.

As I laid Gracie down for her nap, I tried to make the kiss I planted on her forehead stick a little harder. But not for her. For me.

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Grace and her Daddy going down the big slide at our parish fair this past summer. Not sure who is enjoying it more.