Friday, January 15, 2016

List.

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I’m not going to lie that I stole this list from Tsh Oxenrider. I started her book on my trip, mostly because I’d downloaded it months ago and had already spent my $10 per month Kindle budget. It was just sitting on my iPad, calling my name.

She’s a smart lady, that Tsh.  A culturally aware, spiritually rooted, local-food loving mama in Central Oregon. I think we’d get along swimmingly.

It never ceases to amaze me that in my quest toward the movement for slowness, I keep finding more things to add to my list to be a simpler person living a slower life. The irony is not lost on me, folks.

Adopt a cleaning routine.
Have a weekly meeting for budget review and scheduling.
Work out three times per week, walk or get outside the other days.
Make craft activities for the kids.
Look into sign language or Spanish classes for the kids .
Keep the house clean.
Keep the car clean.
Keep your heart clean.

It seems that, in my quest to be better, I automatically equate it with the need to do more. Logic tells me that it is precisely the opposite. The journey in-between, however, is where I struggle.

She wrote this list on page 22 of her book. I wanted to mark it with a flashing beacon and paint it on my pillow. Maybe osmosis will make things happen if I’m not disciplined enough to do it on my own.

One thing was apparent: going with the flow and living like everyone else does not automatically guarentte a slower life. My nudge from God was true; living slower requires living with intention. And to live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our souls—that make sense deep in our being and ring true…

These five slices represented the major categories of our family’s daily decisions:
·      Food
·      Work
·      Education
·      Travel
·      Entertainment

I’ve adapted it for our own family. Knowing myself, I’ll probably forget I wrote it in May and rediscover it again in November, only to attempt reimplementation in 2017 (by the way, how the heck did it get to be 2016, yesterday it was 1993). But nonetheless, I’m really going to try this time. I’m feeling all sorts of giddy at the power of togetherness we will be forced to have in this new environment. The possibilities are endless and all I want this time around is limits. Intentional choices. Mindful eating. Purposeful spending. Quality time. Margin.

I know we don’t need to move to Costa Rica for that.

(First FOOD, coming soon)



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Flying toward 2016.

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I’d guess we are about 30,000 feet above the ground now. I’m here, in my pleather seat, plucking away on the laptop keys—just as I would be sitting at my dining room table at home. The fact that I was catapulted into the sky, enclosed in a metal object with wings is totally lost on me.

I’m not sure why I’m writing, actually. It used to be cathartic for me—a release of sorts. I used to find solace in the words, the familiar pecks of the keyboard, the glow of the computer screen after the house was quiet.

It has become something else though: foreign.

As much as I hate to admit it, I just don’t have the drive to write anymore. Which is honestly odd because I have sentences & paragraphs, stories to be told swirling in my head all day. But at the end of the day, when the children are nestled & the floors are wiped (or not, lets be honest) & the dinner is fixed & the lunches are packed, most of the time I feel like I don’t have much more to give—to God, to my husband, to my home, to myself.

It’s what this is, you know—the giving of myself. But it is also for myself—something I oft forget in the bustle of the day. Encapsulated in the drive to get things done is also a desperate echo to slow down. And, as I’ve keenly noticed after packing up our millions of belongings into two mobile storage containers, the drive to have more on a daily basis (I look at Pinterest too, you guys), oddly results in the desire to own less.

This crux—the junction in the road where either something has to change or something else will give—its where I’m at.

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I just finished a medical conference in Las Vegas. My brain is exploding with information. I’m still processing, still computing—still figuring out what it means for our lives. We mostly talked about nutrition—which is exactly what I was hoping it would be & nothing I was hoping they would say. Knowledge is power, so they tell us. But now because I know, I have to decide if we are going to make a change (a big change). The truth is that something has to change or something else will give. Maybe not now. Probably not tomorrow. But in 30 or 50 years, we’ll know whether or not the choice was the right one.

We moved—did you know that? We packed up our stuff & drove 130 miles south to Wine Country (in the desert). We are not completely settled (those two mobile storage containers still hold 95% of our belongings), but we are working on it. Housing is more expensive, preschools are more expensive. They say the school districts are better. My pessimism tells me that better schools doesn’t mean the kids are better or brighter or more Spiritually successful. That’s home-grown, I think. And plus, the sunsets are prettier here.

Honestly, I was a bit embarrassed about how much stuff we discovered we had when we moved. Old houses are awesome, except when the full unfinished basement acts as a storage-dumping ground. I could pretend we were put-together upstairs; but it always felt like an episode of Hoarders was fixin’ to be filmed in our basement. Somehow, the pleasure in buying kept overriding the logic that we have enough—in our home, in each other, in our faith. Funny how that happens. Its like Black Friday every day at the Dollar Tree or Target or Goodwill—wanting more & buying more & getting the deals & saving money (but not really because you are still buying)—shortly after expressing sentimental thanks for what you already have. I’m guilty, too.

I noticed an odd pattern, actually; probably akin to dropping spinning plates. Or maybe better: If you give a mouse a cookie. I would let dust bunnies accumulate & intentionally ignore the toys on the floor. It birthed a disappointment with our space, so I would feel the need to leave the house. Leaving the house took me to the coffee shop (I had coffee at home), the grocery store (we had a full fridge), a thrift store (what could I possibly need?), or the Dollar Spot (it’s only a dollar! Right!? …right?!!!????). Then, by some stupid miracle or severe lack of willpower, I would come home with another bag of stuff—snacks or pastries or stacking bins for which I had no purpose. …and having snacks around meant that I would eat them. Following, I would feel bad about eating them, then lazy…& I would let the dust bunnies accumulate & intentionally ignore the toys on the floor.

…Something has to change or something else will give.

And all this rambling finally gets me to January 1. I’ve never been one for “New Years Resolutions”. I think they are corny, actually. I mean, really, every day is a new day. But this year, with all the changes in our lives, I’m feeling a bit sentimental about 2016. It just dawned on me that had we continued our pattern of babies, I would be bursting with pregnancy right now. And for as much as I’m loving having my body back from growing & feeding those babes, I’m a little torn about what is next for us. This move was a big decision. And for the first time in years, there are no major life changes planned. Medical education is over (except for yearly CME, but that’s a treat).  Jon is done with higher education. New jobs are settling. No new family members on the immediate horizon.

Maybe this time, “just hanging in the balance”, is purposefully placed right here. Right about the time that something has to change or something else will give we are handed the golden opportunity to make that change. To re-evaulate, re-locate, re-think decisions for our family & our daily lives. And maybe most of all, in a way, to re-define ourselves. Not to abandon who we were before (in lots of ways I liked that version of us), but to recalculate the trajectory we are on, check our proverbial parachutes, & take the faith-based jump into the unknown & the uncomfortable free fall that awaits.

Actually, come to think of it, parachutes & free-falling probably aren’t the best analogies to use when I’m stuck inside a metal tube flying at 30,000 feet.

New Year, here we come.

Friday, February 06, 2015

the best option we've got

It took me 11 years and 8 months to get two extra letters after my name. That’s 4,179 days and almost $200,000 to earn the title of “doctor” and get one of those fancy pen stamps that represents the most-used tool for those of us in the order-signing practice of medicine.

I tend to be on the “granola” side of the large gray line in my profession. If we took a not-so-equal split and divided all the healthcare providers into two sides, I’d fall on the “less is more” category that favors conservatism, supplements, nutrition, and risk assessment (instead of the more statistically brained, medication- favoring other group). I tell my patients to eat grass fed beef and sip sparkling water instead of soda. Half of them don’t listen and balk at my insistence that their nourishment actually makes a difference in their health. But I tell them anyway. And I sign off on lab results that show borderline lipid levels because I know that pharmaceuticals cannot change lives and levels as much as healthy habits for most patients.

This week I spent two days with my young kids at home wiping snotty noses and changing poopy diapers. And I also spent three days in my office; I saw over 65 patients and signed my name-with-two-extra-letters more than I’d care to remember.

 A beautiful 43 year old with jet black hair and flawless skin sat in front of me with a furrowed brow and concerned look and asked me about her cholesterol. A 58 year old female with advancing osteoporosis wanted to know why she had brittle bones despite her lifetime of activity and healthy eating. I saw a 2 year old and a 92 year old, representing the range of life and lifestyle and living.  

In most respects I am a well-trained, well-read, well-educated Family Physician. I subscribe to nationally recommended guidelines in my practice. I use motivational interviewing techniques. I discuss risk assessment and polypharmacy with almost every patient. I believe in intervention when it’s needed and a hands-off approach when it’s not. I believe in the marvels of modern medicine and the old-fashioned art of patient exams. I believe in cardiac stents, laminectomies, and radical mastectomies. I believe in genetics, in research, in bettering the good that we’ve already got in Western medicine. And deep down I truly believe that, just like Loretta Lynn sang in her southern drawl, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Which is why I surprised myself when I didn’t want to vaccinate our kid.

I know about statistics. And I know about disease. And epidemiology. And modern vaccinations. I know about thimerosal (and that it is no longer in preparations). And autism (and the concern over its link to vaccination). And adverse effects. And I know what it is like to see a 4 month old with Pertussis he caught from his grandmother. And what it is like to see a 4 year old lose her ability to walk because she was one of the (very very) few with post-vaccination Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

I also know that needles hurt. And that post-vaccination fevers are no fun. I know sleep deprivation and the mind-numbing exhaustion that comes with crying babies after shots. I know the concern over injecting something irreversible into a clean, pure, breastfed kid. And I know the anxiety that comes with injecting six-somethings AT ONE TIME into an innocent little baby. I know that we live in a country where school aged children don’t die from measles, the County Fair is (usually) an okay place to take your 6 month old, and polio is a thing of the past. I know that, for me, taking the advice of a large governing body (i.e., the Center for Disease Control) is sometimes harder than listening to our own doctor. And I know that my own fears about Ebola and parasite-infested drinking water are piqued more by the pretty newscasters at night than they are from my 13-pound medical textbooks.

I know these things because I am a trained physician…and I am a mom.

My generation of physicians has been spoiled. My generation of mom’s has been spoiled. And the truth is that I have been spoiled, too. We’ve been falsely lead to believe that our own opinions about medicine trump the research, that our own fears about side effects might make them come true, and that the advice of those large governing bodies are filled with conspiracy and ill intent. We’ve been subconsciously convinced that feeding our kids the wrong type of baby food might make them fail kindergarten (it won’t), a cold lasting more than 7 days needs antibiotics (it doesn’t), and leaving your children in the car for 3 minutes while you return your shopping cart might get you arrested (who knows). I’ll readily admit that despite my training and my experience, despite those two extra letters after my name that make me authorized to give solid evidence-based advice to my patients, despite all the studying I’ve done, I still cringe when it comes to shots.

I told my patient with slightly elevated lipids to come back in a year. She doesn’t need the risk associated with medication right now. Lifestyle and nutrition changes might not make a giant dent in her lab results, but it is the best option we’ve got.  I told my patient with osteoporosis that we have medication that might help her bones. The medicine is designed to halt the progression of disease. They aren’t perfect medications and they are fraught with potential side effects, but they are the best option we’ve got.

And THIS IS THE TRUTH: When it comes to foods, garden is best, organic is good, fresh is fine. Buy the baby food that is on sale and take your kid to a juice bar with the saved money. Nourish your child

Put your phone away, get off WebMD, stop reading Jenny McCarthy’s books; engage your kid, play dress up, toot some trains around the house. Invest in your child.

And despite everything floating around the media, vaccinations are good. They are backed in research, statistical success, and positive epidemiological transformation unlike any other public health movement (aside from using toilets, but I think we are beyond that…). I won’t deny the side effects. Or the post-vaccination fever. Or the screaming that comes when your kid is poked. So protect your child

We vaccinated our kids.

The truth is that most of this argument isn’t about vaccines at all. It is about kids. And health. And very real disease (that has recently made a comeback). And it is about parents doing what they think is best for their kids.


Maybe it is time we all stand in that gray area together. The physicians losing a bit of our objectivity and looking concerned parents in the eye, recognizing that vaccines can be scary stuff. The parents giving up a bit of our subjectivity and listening to educated professionals who care about our kids, recognizing that vaccines are lifesaving miracles…sometimes with side effects. And in the best world, both sides coming together to admit that, although vaccines aren’t perfect, they are the best option we’ve got

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

joy in chaos.

I was asked by the Children's Pastor at church to reflect on JOY in Christmas. I had the opportunity to share my thoughts before our annual Children's Program, appropriately titled A Super Christmas where all the little people donned facemasks, crowns, & muscle suits (& sometimes a combination of all three) & sang about our ultimate Superhero, Jesus. 

The season seems rushed this year, doesn't it? Thanksgiving was yesterday & now this: Frenzied shoppers, thick traffic, Yuletide Greetings on recorded repeat that narrate the tree trimming & turkey basting; it feels so chaotic.

I tried to plan Christmastime activities for our two-year-old this year. His favorites are the Chocolate advent calendar & moment of wonder at the first tree-lighting. He is terrified of the Abominable Snowmonster, thinks candy canes are “disgusting”, & can suck our joy up with a straw when his famed bedtime habits have us waking & pacing at all hours of the night.

In the midst of the fruitcake & mistletoe, I feel chaotic too—the inside of me, that is. Adding the hustle to an already-bustling life certainly doesn’t feel very merry. But I call out Holiday greetings anyways, & I sing off-key Jingle Bells & enter my name in Secret Santa’s & raffle baskets,  & bring my 4 dozen cookies to a sugar-exchange because I think I need more of this in my life. And besides, COOKIES.

We flip the calendar pages, pop out new chocolate shapes each day of December, & it seems the anticipation rises with the numeric date. Like every juxtaposition in life, the Christmas we, as Americans, celebrate tends to spread on the guilt like thick peanut butter. Or maybe Trader Joes Cookie Butter, because, COOKIES. Matching the rise of anticipation is the breaking off of thrill for this thrashed season; each day that passes slicing off small pieces of my Holiday happiness until, just like the December moon, only the tiniest bit is left on December 25th when I give in & exhale my last exultation.

Isn’t it ironic that the Anniversary of anticipation for the dawn of a New Testament leaves me frantic, frenzied, & emptied?

And isn’t it ironic that the very season that feels so rushed, so hectic, & so diluted took  many slow centuries of God-making & mixing & matching & molding. The roller coaster of daily chaos aside, the history books point to a very different holiday, sans the cookies & certainly sans the hurried expectation.

You see, the tale woven throughout the shroud of history tells a tale very different from the frenzy that fills my December. The story is slow, stretches across centuries & finds itself on the fringes of foreign lands & families with Aunt Gertrude’s taste for the dramatic; it weaves a colorful tapestry of obedience & simplicity, always showing up on the edges of cultural popularity & always falling back to the promises of God.

From the heartbeat of Moses to the crown of David, straight through to humble Habakkuk & finally landing in the womb of the young blushing girl called Mary, God’s tapestry is painted heavily with slow brushstrokes & missing every hue of hurry.

Habakkuk 3: 17-18 says: Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, & the fields lie empty & barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be JOYFUL in the God of my salvation!

Your cry might be different this year. You might feel that your health is failing and there are no gifts under the tree. Maybe your scans came back positive; and the bank accounts are empty. Like Abraham’s Sarah maybe your womb is barren. You might be tired of studying & these tests cannot be over soon enough, and the heart-hearth is low & the debt is high and the smiles on our faces are fading and our stress is rising and even though it feels so chaotic, I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be JOYFUL in the God of my salvation!

You see, the golden glue in God’s history book writes love-notes of JOY. JOY in the mundane, the miniscule; in the MERRIEST of all seasons. And of course, God’s history book sings a slow song of JOY in the simple mantle & the humble Manger.

He converts our chaos, relieves our rush, & gently nudges in the expanse of stars & the expense of Starbucks that He is who He has always been: a God of reprieve who fastens miracles to dysfunctional family trees & sends smiles and salvation to YOU, His love.

The forever-song of God, the one floating through Eden and whispered to Jesus, is that of HOPE: hope that He will keep his Isaiah-promise & send a savior to bring slowness & salvation to a broken & bustling world. And it is one of JOY: that in the most unexpected way with unbridled compassion he sent Jesus to be tenderly loved as a child.

In just a moment over 75 little feet will walk out here on stage. There will be cameras & Grandmas & tears & waves and predictably, there will be chaos. But just like the rest of history, each of these little souls is part of the tapestry of Christ. The same God of rest that calls us to slowing for this season also wants to teach us to savor his Creation. Closer to the womb than the World, these little lives are going to sing forever-songs to Jesus.

And although there will be chaos, OH WILL THERE BE JOY.

So this season, one draped in commercialism & immersed in chaos, we invite you to slow for JOY. This season, which for so many is stretching & sorrowful, we invite you to the crux of the God who sends love notes to YOU. And this season, the one that is celebrated & anticipated & filled with so many cookies & the echoing songs of centuries past, we invite you to experience JOY unbridled, unkempt, & uninhibited.

Find JOY in these little voices. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bigger.

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It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. Rumors of the Blair Witch Project spread like wildfire, permeating the air of my gospel-centered mission trip with ash and brimstone. We were on a remote island in Honduras—one where Army-style-showers were required and bathing in torrential downpours were optional, where no cars drove (they weren’t allowed) and the nearest “conveniences” were conveniently 2 hours away…by boat.

Night had fallen after a busy day of laborious work laying bricks and painting the broken boards of Oceanside bungalows owned by the residents. And while the sun lit the sky, talk of spiritual warfare and ghosts and all things dark and scary lit our minds and mouths. Quite predictably I was terrified by dusk. The leaders finally noticed that things were awry after the cabins of girls clung to one another like clucking chickens in a robbed henhouse.

The panic was paired with something bigger, deeper, darker. The fear of the unknown took root.

The night ended with a mission-trip storybook ending: we talked, we prayed, we debated, and then we bounced down the stairs and slept soundly beneath our mosquito nets. It was an alarmingly innocent taste that there was something much bigger than me at work in the World. Casper the Friendly Ghost had been thrown out with the Golden Books and Cinderella-dreams.

******
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I don’t normally struggle with anxiety, probably due to some clunky combination of faith and forced training. Maybe it is because I’ve finally made 30 trips around the sun that I consider myself seasoned enough to take life as it comes. Maybe we can equate it to the innocent fears of spiders and spindles and dark hideways, or ankle-grabbers and Monsters in the closet of the bygone days of childhood—as if those unknown’s threw callouses over my fright of that- which-is-bigger.
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The truth is that I probably don’t struggle much with anxiety because I like to hermit-hole myself away in my own little world. My corner of the great USA is quite cozy, thankyouverymuch. I stopped watching the news when Jon was deployed and never started again—I find it depressing. Aside from a few distracted glances at the stories floating around social media (all laden with fact, I’m certain), I generally miss ALL THE MEMOs on all the flashy headlines.

Like ISIS. And Ebola. And genocide. And Death with Dignity. And preventable diseases in first world, educated countries.

Because instead of those sad realities that I’d rather not think about, this corner of my hermit world is filled with pumpkin scented candles and fall wreathes and baking cookies and organic apples. Here, there are toddler giggles (and tantrums) and clean rags to wipe snotty noses with. Here, the tickle monster comes to visit each night instead of the monsters of mankind and I tuck our children into cozy beds with Downy-infused fleece blankets instead of tucking them into makeshift wooden boxes laid deep beneath the ground.
 Sometimes it is easier to hole-away than let the stinging reality of LIFE burn a hole in your heart.
In the corner of my world, the heat is from our furnace, blood is patched with Mickey bandaids, and my God is one who calls me to greater things and then “blesses” me with a padded grocery budget and streak-free windows. 
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But the World is bigger than me, darker and deeper. And the reality of the depth of despair experienced by most of the world on a daily basis has taken root somewhere across the seas, spreading its seed to my corner of the world.

Their heat is from blazen rockets, ricocheting off century-old buildings and crumbling livelihoods and memories. Their blood is shed from sword, sweat, and solidarity to religion, to race, to riches. And their God is one who bridges the gap, feeds the hungry, clothes the poor and bends low to the desperate in prison, in poverty, and in perishing.

How small I consider Him. How much I have shrunk His power.

If only there were happy endings and mosquito nets for us all. If only the world’s children could be protected by prayer, innocence saved from reality, and the ledgers of the faithful transformed from meager intentions to eager realism. The truth is that my blessings are backed by privilege and geography. Because of where I was born, my life looks very different than theirs. And because of what I have been given, my faith looks very different than theirs.  
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So we go on, habits forming livelihoods and decisions pouring the foundations of our days. And life goes on, too. Sometimes gracefully. Sometimes full of deflation and despair. And sometimes we feel all the feelings—too much, too little, or maybe just enough—just in time to let the One who is Greater lead us, mold us, carry us.

And when we all disagree—among the states and the red and the blue and the Christians and the atheists—when we all feel we are more right, more sound, more knowledgeable, maybe we the Believers can consider Him. And His Cross. And his Ghost. And we can let that Jesus who lives in our hearts find a candle to light a fire there. Let a flame burn to inspire, to stretch, to take in all the World in the shadow of All His Glory. And then, maybe we too—the ones with the birth certificates that read “privileged” and the Mickey bandaids will be the careful feet and calloused hands who mend and feed and clothe and bend lower than ever before.

The world will always be bigger and darker and deeper than us.

And God will always be bigger and brighter and stronger than It. 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

catching that ball.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop for the first time in 7 months. I’m kid free, laundry-free, and appropriately care-free for the next hour. And although my mouth is most certainly silent, my mind is yelling loud. It has been this whole time, actually. Rarely does it get the chance to be heard through the drumming of keys, the black and white of paper. That’s not to say the words aren’t there.
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This transition has been better—that life-shock that rattles when a new lump-of-a-pooping-baby joins the family. Adley’s entrance was much more predictable, more mellow. In many ways, it was more surprising too. Like the 6 day hospital stay after birth while she glowed in bili lights, fighting off the knife of hemolytic anemia (hello life, surprise!). But we finally got her standardized and bundled, blessed by the signature of discharge from a trusted community pediatrician; we finally got her home.

And since then, we’ve had expected ups and downs. The transition, when all is considered, went rather smoothly. Some days it feels like we’ve blindly navigated our way through sleepless nights (both kids, thanksforasking), the woes of two-year-hood parenting, and that sticky mess that follows family change in any marriage.

But we are in a better place this time. I’m in a better place this time.
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I don’t feel like I’m sleeping better. The last two mornings I’ve woken and felt rested after six hours of broken sleep; which happens to be an improvement on the three-something hours I was raking up each night before. I thought the sleeplessness would end with residency, with a second birthday, with the two-year-molars. IT DIDN’T. I got tired of talking about it, thinking about it, living it. I got tired of people asking how we were doing because I got tired of saying that nothing had changed. In a rare “we are in the car for 4 hours so lets talk” opportunity with Jon, I finally was able to put into words that sleeplessness felt dysfunctional to me. *I* felt dysfunctional to me.

No wonder.

Perhaps it’s the magic of the second child—the bottle sterilizer is packed away, the special infant-has-sensitive-skin extra loads of clothing have been caught in the stormy sea of laundry, and the concern over choking and perfectly blended baby food has been replaced with whatever we are eating. I’ve brushed up on the Heimlich just in case.

Adley is a happy baby. After we figured out her guts didn’t like dairy, soy, or beef--and after we gave her time to heal, we’ve been amazed at how go-with-the-flow she is. A joy, really.
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I think most importantly, among the post-partum body adjustment and mental fortitude it takes to endure those first months, I’ve realized that life goes on. It goes on despite the sleepless nights. It goes on despite the 16 time-outs in one day, the 4 cookies Thatcher snuck from the counter, the mismatched too-short pants both kids are wearing. It goes on through job stress and boss struggles and disappointments that visit in the most vulnerable of places.
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It’s funny, actually. Life throws curve balls at the least convenient times. And somehow, whether it is a spouse or friend or our own last-stave effort of contortion, the balls always land in laps and hands and hearts after a wayward journey to the plate. Seemingly triumphant, we can say with confidence that we are making it, doing it, catching that ball.

I’ve put away my phone. We’ve warded off most technology--and I’ve noticed a significant difference in my parenting, my patience, and my praise of our kids. We’ve walked in the rain, splashed in some puddles, picked autumn “weaves”, and raced Little Tikes plastic cars on the sidewalk (the ride-able kind. Just imagine the Tin Man riding a matchbox car. You are welcome.). And instead of idealizing other moms who seemingly have it all together (you know them too, eh?), instead of looking to the past with fondness because I wasn’t there and didn’t know the charm of being a 1950’s housewife serving microwaved beans for dinner, instead of tearing into my own skin criticizing my faith-life because my Bible is dusty and the pages of If You Give  A Mouse  a Cookie are curled and torn from wear, instead of comparing all those things, I’m realizing that I am, in fact, catching that ball, too.

I have 7 loads of laundry waiting for me at home. I just cleaned my floors for the first time in 3 weeks (I wish I was joking). Our vacuum spits dirt everywhere, so I’ve just sworn off the task entirely, cringing at the thought of emptying our fun-account to buy a new one. I have stains on my shirt. And even bigger ones on my heart from the hugs Thatcher gave me this morning and the sideways glances Adley throws my direction in a “just making sure you are there, Mom” when nursing (ouch, by the way). Instead of rolling the other direction in bed, too tired to talk and too distracted to listen, I’ve actually found Jon’s hand a few times and held tight—praying through closed eyes and exhausted voices from discipline and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” sung 47 times that day. I’m giving my kid Mac and Cheese for dinner tonight and will probably find a package of PopTarts to call mine after the kids go to bed.

But you know what? It’s all good. We are all catching that ball—or at least making our best attempt at it. In the midst of the mommy-wars, the upward battle to the best #checkyourselfie, and the photoshop attrition invading our perception of reality, I would presume we are really all just doing our best to don a catcher’s glove and move toward the fast-pitched object flying in our direction. My “homemade dinner” is probably different than yours—as are my standards of a clean floor and an acceptable inseam for shorts and cute throw pillows and good music. We might be able to agree on a good wine, though—maybe share a glass sometime over talk of stepped-on lego’s and missing puzzle pieces and the good old days just like every matronly generation of the past has done over quilting looms and mulled cider, hook rugs and martinis, and jazzercise tapes with celery sticks.


We are all on the same team, sister. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Letter to New Mama's

Dear New Mamma,

Things are crazy right now. Trust me,  I get it. Society hides the post-partum period—probably for good reason. The waves of emotion and visitors, the endless nights and laundry piles, the shrill cry of your new little human--and sometimes even the piercing sound of your own sobs.

Don’t worry, these feelings don’t last forever.

I want you to know that you are normal. And beautiful. And brave. I want you to know that I admire your jump and that soon the world will be admiring the wings you’ve managed to find on your way down. I’ll tell you honestly that I find it ironic the Lord told us to be “fruitful and multiply” in an entirely separate Biblical passage from the one outlining that “children are a blessing from the Lord”. Probably because, if you haven’t discovered already, children and their blessing-hood don’t always flow beside one another.

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Kids are hard. Sometimes it feels like they ruin your life. And to make the emotional roller coaster worse, other times it feels like they are the ones that provide life itself. I had a rough go of it the first time around. The body-shock, sleepless nights, and defunct joy that i thought would never come left me weary and wanting. And so, I want you to try to remember these things—cling to them and to God, the same God that paints the rainbows and smiles on your baby’s face also paints the stretch marks on your stomach and tear stains on your cheeks.

Be yourself, whoever that might be at the moment. I hole-away after my kids are born. Like some sort of alternative hibernation, I tend to run from society and into my bedroom. Probably as a defense mechanism: I feel fragile, broken, and split. Split between who I once was and the new “me” I’m forced to become because of this new little Life. Split between the body I saw a year prior and the one that meets my gaze in the mirror. Split between my husband and this little creature; between explosions of love and hope for the potential this baby holds and eruptions of grief and fear for the “what ifs” and “I can’t’s”.  And so the world’s axis tips just a bit farther than normal and my emotions spill out—I isolate myself from both the joy and criticism of other passers-by. Some days I am who I once was—feeling selfish, independent, and dream-filled; others I am surprised at the way my world stops to watch the little movements and hear the little sounds of the new person in my life. And though it often feels like there should be two or ten or twenty of me to get the job done, one of me is enough. Know that, okay? One of you is enough. And that one has full liberty to be whomever she needs to be to survive the moment (no one said anything about thriving here yet).

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 Love your baby, right where she is at. I made a mistake with our first one: I paid attention to the books instead of the baby. I think our fourth trimester would have been much different had I taken a step back to realize that this baby will grow just as she should and develop, with our help, into exactly who God intended. For the little moments, forget about the nap schedules, the sleep training, and the ultra-green-ultra-healthy baby food. Forget about the organic diapers and just that one single brand of baby wash because nothing else will work. Forget about the advice you’ve been given and the gifts you’ve received. And remember your baby. Love your baby—love this one and the next one and the next one after that. And love them all differently. Learn their cries. Go with the groovy flow of their sleeping patterns (or lack thereof). And let love rule.

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Find your mantra. Days will come where you need to shout it from the rooftops or tattoo it on your forehead. The days when you hold your pee all day because no one will let you go into the bathroom alone. The days when the laundry monster overwhelms and the twentieth stain shows up from the invisible grease-elves in the washing machine. The days when dinner burns and the fridge is bare and the food budget has nothing left. The days when you have nothing left. Find your mantra—the reason you do what you do. And engrain those words, that purpose, in your heart. You’ll need to find it more often than you think.

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 Give yourself grace. I was under the impression that mothering was something I could add to my life-resume. Not for hiring purposes, of course, but mostly for the purpose of claiming those two little souls that have taken up residence on Earth in Our House. I knew our lives would change, our weekends would look different, my body would be stretched. But WOWZA. I’m learning the full expanse of grace along the way. Abandon your expectations, first impressions, and last remarks. Live day to day. Measure your efficiency by how many hugs you give instead of how much you get done. And even though you failed yesterday at being loving and patient and creative and supplying endless hours of fun for your toddler, today is a new day. And if he says “pay twains”, you play the best damn trains you ever have. (hi mom, yes I just used the word “damn”…I needed something with emphasis). And if he says he wants to hunt for bugs, don your binoculars and go on a bug-hunting safari. You (probably) have another chance, although nothing is a guarantee. So love and live. And do it well.

Give yourself time. Time to shrink back down to your pre-partum size. Time to learn the cues from your new baby. Time to make coffee in the mornings and time to brush your teeth for the first time at 4pm. Ignore the clocks. Life is not infinite—don’t pretend your days are.

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I was under the impression that I’d rock this thing called Motherhood. Like I’d be the Jennifer Lawrence of an alternate form of Hollywood—that my wit and humor and easy-going sense would glide me through life like oil on a mud puddle. Instead, I just found myself feeling like I’d tromped through a mud puddle wearing a clown costume with crazed hormones and throw-up on my shoulder.

Welcome to your new life as a mom.

The reality is that you are the one that sets your own expectations. So give yourself a break. Drink some coffee. Eat a DQ Blizzard. Unbutton your currently-too-small pants to make room for the belly your kid left you. Treat yourself to a pedicure. Kiss your husband (like, really kiss him). Look at Instagram when you need a 15 second escape from the craziness (and don’t feel guilty about it). Morselize guilt.

This is a stage. Tomorrow is a new day.

 I want you to know that you are normal. And beautiful. And brave.

Go love ‘em, Mama.


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