>Remember Where You Were?

>Today was one of those days I’ll always remember. On the ride to school this morning, I heard the radio DJ say Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals. Thinking they were joking, I turned up the radio. Turns out I had heard correctly. My 8 year old, Levi, was in the car with me. He wasn’t born at the time of the September 11th attacks, and so he’s never known the pre-9/11 world. He didn’t witness the attacks, yet he’s not old enough to be studying them in his history classes. I found it a challenge to organize my thoughts enough to explain to him the significance of what has happened. I wanted to protect my little boy from the horrors of this world.

My mind immediately flashed back to September 11, 2001. I was dropping my oldest, Mackenzie, off at daycare when I heard the news of the attacks. I remembered the gripping fear. I remembered feeling as though I shouldn’t leave her, not wanting to be separated from my little one and unable to protect her in a moment of such uncertainty.

This morning as I absorbed the news, I was again walking into a daycare, this time to drop off my littlest, Caleb. I couldn’t escape the irony of the situation. Neither could I deny the still, small voice of God assuring me that He is and has always been with me. In moments of fear, moments of celebration. When I know what to do and when I’m reeling in shock. He’s there. Loving me and all those I love, keeping us in his presence always.

It was one of those times about which they say “you’ll always remember where you were when…” Maybe you’ll always remember today, too. May those moments that are branded on our brains in their searing enormity serve as monuments to remind us of the undeniable presence of God at all times.

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>Happy Meals

>So… people are banning McDonald’s from using happy meal toys as a selling tool.

DOES ANYONE ELSE REALIZE THAT THIS IS COMMUNISM??? Has it occurred to anyone that the people who may not buy happy meals without toys will go HOME to eat processed, pre-packaged items anyway? Will the Fruit Loops box need to oust the colorful bird? As a parent who admittedly takes the fast food drive thru lane occasionally, it’s not the toys that cause me to put on the brakes. It’s the fatigue, the time crunch, or maybe I just like the taste!

I personally am insulted by the insinuation that I’m unable as a parent to make good enough choices for my children, or to handle their protests when I say “no,” therefore happy meal toys must be outlawed FOR me. This is America, people. Last I checked, we were FREE to make and sell things, and FREE to choose what to buy and eat. As far as parenting, here’s how it works:

Kid says: “Mommy, can we get a happy meal? PLLLEEEEAAASE???”

I’ve developed an INGENIOUS way to handle this situation. Mom needs only to follow my simple two-step process. I’ll let you in on it FOR FREE!

Step 1: Keep foot on the gas pedal and drive past McDonalds.

Step 2: Say “Not today, honey!”

If child protests, repeat steps 1 and 2 and add grounding from possible future trips to McDonalds due to inappropriate begging.

It’s NOT THAT HARD!! The people who spent so much cash and worked so hard to pass this ban could have purchased the above mentioned procedure from me at a reasonable cost, published in convenient pamphlet form that they could have dropped en masse over the town of concern. Yet they resort to communism instead. It’s unfortunate.

Pardon the rant. Maybe it brought you a chuckle. Trust, dear reader, that whenever I please and deem appropriate, my children and I will HAPPILY enjoy a HAPPY MEAL. May those affected by the ban do the same at their discretion, and may freedom fry the french fries.

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>Our Common Life

>“Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.” — The Book of Common Prayer

I read this quote to my husband the other night as we were ending the day. This quote sums up what I love about our marriage, and what I most want our marriage to be. A few glimpses into our “common life:”

On my birthday, I got a pedicure. My husband drove me to the spa of my choice, and walked me in. He’s not the kind of guy who has a whole lot of experience with such places. It was like taking him to another planet! We walked in the door (keep in mind this is a super-nice place) and he immediately grabs his nose and says “Oh my GOD it stinks in here!” I started cracking up. Then he says “It smells like that stuff Mackenzie uses!” (This is proof positive how badly my pedicure was needed, seeing as how he didn’t even REALIZE that I own any acetone product at all.) He sat through the toxic fumes, got me all checked in, and didn’t even freak out or run away when the spa employee came over to us and said “Two pedicures?” (We were the only two in the waiting area.) He saw me settle in the chair, kissed me goodbye and went to pick up the kids from school.

This afternoon we ran some errands. With kids in tow, our tasks involved getting everyone in and out of the car, stroller, seat belts, etc. There is no verbal exchange, just a smooth operation as if we were only one person. I lay the baby down in the back and a diaper appears in my hand. He buckles the car seat straps and I fold the stroller. I love being part of a team.

On our back patio, there is a bench swing. Dwayne bought it for me for Christmas. That swing is quickly becoming our favorite place to hash things out. Whether it’s a disagreement that we are negotiating through, or brainstorming a solution to some difficulty we are facing, or laughing over something crazy that’s happened, we can often be found on that swing talking it over.

Last week, we walked a few miles as a family. We set out from the house with the stroller and the kids. Levi scooted ahead on his scooter. Mackenzie kept her own pace as she walked and texted friends simultaneously. Dwayne fell in step beside me. There’s something about the way he stands next to me, something about having him beside me that makes everything right with my world.

The other day, he had a day off and helped me with the morning rush to get out the door. Usually he’s long gone before the kids wake up, so I do the morning routine on my own. It was nice having him there in the morning. I’m shepherding everyone out the door, making sure no one forgot a lunch or a folder, and checking to see if I have enough diapers in the diaper bag. He stands by the door with the baby in the car seat and I slip my sunglasses on as I step outside. He grins at me and tells me I look like a movie star, and in that moment, with his eyes smiling down at me, I feel like one, too.

Sometimes we argue. We’re both pretty strongwilled people and I worry that we’re loud enough to wake up the kids. However, sometimes we laugh so much I worry that we’re loud enough to wake up the kids.

We’ve made it through a long distance courtship, a surprising and very dangerous pregnancy, serious financial craziness, moving, figuring out step-parenting, figuring out how to practice our faith together, and there are plenty of other things we’re still hammering out. It’s all part of our common life… all it’s joy, it’s laughter, it’s fun, it’s sadness, it’s frustration, it’s crazy pace… is ours to share together.

“…a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.” With God’s grace we are becoming all these things to each other. There’s nothing I want more than just this common life.

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>I walked through the living room at work today. One of our residents stopped me. She’s from Cuba and sometimes has difficulty finding the English word that suits what she wants to say.

She took my hand and looked up at me. “You look so… I mean you are so… (gesturing toward my general person) You are always so… EFFECTIVE!”

I’m grinning ear to ear as I write this. Unexpected remarks such as this always make me think. I’ve been called pretty before, or kind. I get the occasional “You’re losing weight, aren’t you?” or “Love your hair!” But “You are always so EFFECTIVE.” takes the cake. Perhaps it’s what she meant, and perhaps she was reaching for something else, but I don’t care.

If there’s one thing I want to be, it’s EFFECTIVE.

This has thoroughly, completely made my day!

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>Why I Love Old Ladies

>Today, I did a talk for a small group of older women. Since it’s Mardi Gras, I thought the appropriate thing to do would be to bring a King Cake to share with the group. So I stopped at LaLouisianne, my personal fave in the King Cake department, and purchased a cream cheese filled masterpiece. This King Cake, unlike some others, has no hole in the middle. It’s chock full of gooey cream cheese filling, iced with a creamy white icing and covered in fluffy purple, green, and gold sugar.
(Yes. The sugar is fluffy. It’s amazing.)

I was about to begin my talk, and I asked “Shall we talk first and then eat, or eat first and then talk?” The immediate reply was: “Eat first, honey!” Not one to argue with that, I started cutting the cake. I cut large slices, since there were only about 13 in the group and I didn’t intend to leave with cake. The room immediately went into action. Soft, wrinkly, yet able hands passed around napkins and cake. Everyone participated in the distribution, and everyone jumped right in on eating her piece. They declared in agreement with me, that this was indeed the BEST King Cake there is.

As they buzzed around the room and exclaimed over the cake, I had an epiphany. I noticed to myself that not ONE person had anything to say about the calorie count of the cake. Nobody said “Oh, not me! I couldn’t POSSIBLY have a piece, it’s not on my diet!” Nobody said, “I’m too fat to eat that.” Nobody even said (my own pet peeve of dessert rejection phrases) “That’s TOO SWEET for me!” (preposterous!!!)

These ladies, the youngest in her mid sixties, thoroughly enjoyed the cake AND (so they said) the talk. I thoroughly enjoyed their enjoyment. No pretense. No feigning a lack of desire for the deliciousness of that King Cake. No worries about the waistline or even worse, worries about LOOKING worried about the waistline. (You ladies KNOW what I’m talking about…. and YES I said it out loud.)

This kind of abandon is rare among women my age, and sadly among believers in general. But for that shining moment, they indulged, I enjoyed… and I really believe…..

God smiled.

THAT, my friends, is why I love old ladies.

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>Hello, World

>“Sometimes I feel cold as steel
Broken like I’m never gonna heal…”
(from lyric to “Hello World” by Lady Antebellum)

I’ve promised not to hog my journey. And I meant it.

After my first husband made his exit, I saw a counselor for a while. I loved her and she helped me and the kids immenseley! One of the things she shared with me was about what she called “sneaker waves.” Another friend of mine calls them “grief bursts.” These are sudden moments of grief and pain that creep up on a person, many times at unexpected moments. I’m glad she warned me about them.

Here’s the bottom line: A girl doesn’t emerge from 13 years of repeated incidents of infidelity unscathed. That type of repeated emotional damage actually creates some deep and abiding wounds.

Most days I’m ok. Most days I’m great, actually. But every once in a while a symptom emerges that I can’t deny. There are voices in my head that tell me terrible lies. Every so often a situation will arise and I am simply unable to cope with it in a healthy way. The voices of self-derision intensify in volume and I feel an all-too-familiar pain in my chest. “You’re unwanted, unloved, unattractive. You can’t keep a man’s interest. Your first husband couldn’t be faithful to you and somehow it was your fault. You are talented and smart but that’s not enough. You are too damaged. You will not be healthy again.”

I’m cornered by the voices and I collapse.

Such a collapse occurred again a few days ago. But this time I did something different. This time I ran TO someone who loves me (two someones, actually. Namely, God and my husband) instead of away. This time I stopped denying the existence of my wounds. I showed them to God. I let my husband see too. Then I asked God to heal them somehow.

“I see a little light, a little faith unfurls….
Hello, world.”

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>Twin Skin

>I have “twin skin.” I’ve actually had it for years, even though I didn’t learn the term until last week when I ran across the site Shape of a Mother. It’s interesting to me that I’m nearly 35, and still sometimes struggling with issues pertaining to the general size and shape of my body. Although, it shouldn’t surprise me since I work daily with women over the age of 80 who still struggle with the same issues.

I’m thankful for beauty. I see it all over, in the gorgeous hydrangeas my husband bought me for valentine’s day, in the eyes of my children, the sky when its blue shouts too loudly to be ignored, in the ocean, all OVER my husband and yes… sometimes I see it in me.

I daily encounter the effects of aging on the body, and in doing so I see that a beautiful person needs much more than physical beauty to remain truly beautiful.

I must remember the fact that my body is merely a vessel. It’s a container that houses me and carries me through my time here in the world. Perhaps while I’m in this body, God will use it (and lots of other things) to create a more beautiful me. But the truth is, I’ll leave this body behind one day, and whether or not it was beautiful won’t matter at all.

In my observation, one can be very beautiful and completely untouchable. I don’t think I’d go for that. I’d rather be… ahem… fluffy, and wrinkled and stretch marked, with laugh lines and all… as long as I have people to wrap my flabby arms around! What good is a perfect face without something to smile about? What good is a flat stomach without babies to throw their arms around you?

I’ve found my body’s stretch marks are evidence that my heart can stretch too. The extra padding on my hips is evidence of chocolate fondue nights with my best girlfriends. Those occasional gray hairs that pop up are the result of sorrows and stresses that “season” me.

May my imperfections only serve to welcome someone in. May my “less beautiful” physical qualities be the very thing that draws someone to me when they need a shoulder to cry on, a good homemade molasses cookie, or a flabby-armed hug on a rough day. May the shape of this mother be something that constantly communicates love. Husband-wife love, mommy-baby love, sister-sister love, and most of all, the endless love that flows from a heart that has known the love of God Himself.

Twin skin… I’ll take it!

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>Journey Hog

>I have nowhere near enough time to say everything going on in my head. For now, however, I simply HAVE to bust out these words that have been inspiring me over the past couple of days. I read them in Hoda Kotb’s new book.

“Don’t hog your journey. It’s not just for you… You can take your business, shove it deep in your pockets, and take it to your grave. Or you can help someone. It’s your choice.”

OK, so if you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, or if you’ve known me a long time, you know that the last couple of years I’ve been a TOTAL journey hog. Perhaps out of a need for privacy, perhaps out of a need to have control over SOMETHING, ANYTHING. For whatever reason, the well of words that is my heart has been covered over and hidden.

I read these words and God said: “You HEAR THAT??? Are you listening to Me?? It’s time to stop hogging your journey.”

That’s what He said. So I don’t know how exactly, but I will loosen my grip. I will uncover the well and let whatever’s in there spill out. I’ve definitely backed away from the edge… which I suppose is ok for a time. But I can’t continue to live that way.

Here goes…

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>Bubbly Flowery Cure

>So lately I’ve been thinking about dealing with stress. Specifically my own need to strategize in that area. Last night I discovered something I already knew but had completely forgotten:

A few moments alone, spent purposely on regrouping and refocusing, are a GREAT cure for stress for me.

My awesome husband handed me the opportunity last night, in the form of a bubble bath (rose petals included) and half an hour alone. I soaked and wrote in my journal. Picking up the journaling habit again is my number one new year’s resolution. I had had a particularly stressful day, and I was surprised by how much difference it made to spend some quiet moments and purposely refocus. Of course you might think “Who wouldn’t feel better after a rose petal bubble bath?” And you’re right. However, normally I might lie there and let my mind do what my mama would call “stew” over the stressors in my life. But not last night. I grabbed my journal, and purposely spent the quiet time alone reorganizing my thoughts, reminding myself of what’s important, and recognizing my blessings.

So… I’m thinking this should be something I begin to practice daily. Perhaps not ALWAYS with the bubbles and roses, but even without those, I can still have some focused quiet. This I need. I always have, but I forgot. Do you ever do that? Somehow think you magically no longer need something even when it helps you immensely? I suppose in the busy-ness of life, we are forced to cut corners, and often the first things to go should have been saved and preserved as the last things to ever abandon.

Just some thoughts…

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>This morning as Levi was getting out of the car for school, we had this conversation:

Me: “You are the best little boy I know.”

Levi: “And you are the best BIG mom that I know.”

I chuckled a little and cringed a little at the idea of being called a BIG mom.

Levi: (Flashing his signature grin and irresistible charm) “Good thing I didn’t say ‘little mom’!”

For a boy who can’t wait to be big, calling me a little mom is something he’d never do! What sounded at first like a childish faux pas, was actually a high compliment from my Levi. I suppose it all depends upon the perspective. I’d do well to remember that in pretty much every other area of my life.

So today I’m proud to be a BIG mom, and to have once again been reminded of one of life’s important lessons by a little guy who didn’t even know he was schooling me.

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