Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

I remember when I found out I was pregnant. I had already been diagnosed with MS and the idea of understanding how to live with the disease was still new. I was learning how to take my shots and, for the most part, was just trying to convince myself there was nothing to be scared about. A few months after my diagnosis, my husband was chatting with his brother on the phone. My brother-in-law (a physician) mentioned that age, pregnancy and MS aren’t always the best of bedfellows and if we wanted to have kids now might be a good time to address it. 

Twelve months after I was diagnosed I became a mom.

We brought my son home from the hospital and set him down in his  carrier on the kitchen table. The house was completely quiet and, might I add, completely clean and organized. (You know how they say expectant mothers like to nest…I was the Muhammad Ali of nesting. I cleaned the toilets and organized my shoes along with my underwear drawer the day I went into labor.) In that moment while my son was peacefully sleeping and we were in the safety and comfort of our own home, my husband and I looked at each other and I know exactly what he was thinking because I was thinking the same thing…”What on earth have we done?!?”

The next few weeks were spent sleepless. My husband took off one week of paternity leave and helped with late night changings and feedings. I’d had a difficult pregnancy with the holy terror ripped out of my backside. As a result my doctor gave me some strong pain meds which I hated taking because of the grogginess they left me feeling. My husband insisted I take them and one night I finally did. During the late night feeding when my son woke up, my husband handed him to me. “I’ll go downstairs and get the bottle made up, you change him,” he said. Okay, I thought, no prob. About 5 minutes later my husband came back upstairs and I was still standing in the same spot. He asked if I’d changed the baby’s diaper. “Oh man…that’s what I was supposed to be doing!” That was the last night I took those drugs. The pain in my hiney was just going to have to take a back seat (pun intended).

Nothing prepares you for motherhood; and I think that’s how it is supposed to be. There are tears and joys, laughter and sorrow, pain and comfort, sticky walls and tiny handprints, dirty floors and really dirty floors, stinky messes and messes that really stink. There are grass stains, dirt stains, chocolate and ketchup stains and stains from things where you’d rather not know where they came from. I’ve picked up enough toys to fill two dozen rooms from floor to ceiling. I’ve listened to enough made-up, knock-knock jokes to drive a wooden man crazy. I’ve corrected grammar and  explained the importance of brushing our teeth until I’m blue in the face. I’ve nearly drowned in sweat and humidity from more sporting events than I care to mention…likewise, I’ve screamed my lungs out cheering my kid’s name at more swim meets than I care to mention.  Band aids and neosporin are bought in bulk…as is anti-fungal cream. Absolutely no back talk, remember to say “please” and “thank you”and “use your words!” … Because for Heaven’s sake, mom’s ESP doesn’t work when she is tired and behaving like a grouch will get you nowhere fast.

We are a society that likes to hand out awards…the Ocsars, Emmy’s, Espy’s,  Heisman, Nobel Prize, and on and on. There is no statue to be awarded for the job mom does. The award is different. The sleepless nights, long talks, worries, tears, tireless work is worth it. Each day I watch my kid get off the school bus. He walks up to  me smiling with ridiculous neon orange bands on his braces. He hugs me and I lean over and smell his hair…the sweaty-from-the-playground smell. And there it is in a microcosm, the best part of being mom. It’s as if a mini-Oscars ceremony is taking place right when my son gets off the school bus. The award goes to me. God made me his mom and the joy is all mine.

For all the moms out there, remember…

Clean houses are overrated. Every now and then, take-out is acceptable…sometimes multiple times a week. Crying is normal …as is laughing and talking to yourself. Chocolate is medicinal. Extensions to the ‘5-second rule’ are always permissible depending upon your level of frustration at the moment. Long walks with or without strollers are encouraged and permitted…as are blowing dandelions. Flawless looking hair is for geeks. Chapstick counts as make-up. Perfection is boring and lame. You are above that because you are beautiful. You are mom.

The day I became a mom.

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Rhythm

I love the word ‘rhythm’. It’s got that awkward letter ‘y’ right in the middle and preceded by a silent ‘h’…it’s a phonetic pronunciation nightmare. All the same…it’s a great word. Good rhythm is what we all hope to have when our favorite beat drops in the grocery store, or the car, shopping at Costco and most especially when we ‘re dancing in front of our family at our cousin’s wedding. Some of us don’t have very good rhythm. I tease my husband all the time that he has terrible rhythm. He taught me how to dance the ‘water-sprinkler’ when we were in college. That’s the sum total of his rhythm. Likewise…i’m not sure that my rhythm is very good either. I firmly believe I know how to drop my beat when my favorite tune comes on…but the looks on everyone’s faces is not one of being impressed at my moves …more like they’re embarrassed for me. My son, on the other hand, he’s got it….and thank goodness for that. That kid can drop his groove anywhere, anytime; no matter what song. He even dances to Neil Diamond! It is truly impressive.

Rhythm is a wonderful thing. It’s the steady drumbeat to not only our favorite music but also to life. Our lives move and sway to a rhythm. Sometimes the movement is fast…frenetic almost. Other times, the rhythm is slow, methodical. Our life can go through a rhythm of positive and negative. Of ups and downs….side-to-side. The rhythm can abruptly change or it can go on seemingly forever. When my son was a toddler my husband traveled extensively and I found myself alone in a town where I didn’t know many people. (We had moved shortly after my son was born) That was a tough rhythm; seemed like it would never end. Countless hours of diapers, picking up, wiping tears, making meals, etc. When life’s rhythm is difficult it’s easy to be lost in the frustration and not see the joys because in addition to the diapers, meals, cleaning up, etc…there was also story time, laughter, singing together, cuddle time, etc.

It’s important not to fight the life-rhythm in which we find ourselves. If we are in a rhythm of mourning…we have to mourn. In high school my best friend was killed in a bicycle accident just before starting senior year. I continued to tell myself that we weren’t very close and that her death shouldn’t affect me. I would dream about her. In my dreams I was so angry with her. It took years to bring myself to go to her grave…i couldn’t accept the finality of the situation. It’s scary to show yourself grace when you are heartbroken. Ignoring the rhythm of mourning meant ignoring my heart-break. Instead of showing myself grace, I withheld it. Not cool.

Rhythm is very much a God-thing and He has woven it all over the place.The heart He made you with beats in a rhythm. The lives He has given us moves from the rhythm of childhood to adult to senior. Parenting is a rhythm that changes as our children get older and become more independent. There is a rhythm to learning…it’s called a learning curve. Students begin in kindergarten barely knowing their ABC’s. By 12th grade they read, write and can, hopefully, reason. This earth moves in the rhythm of spring, summer, fall and winter. There is a steady drum-beat everywhere not only in what we do but in what is going on around us.

Most importantly rhythm cannot be rushed. We can’t “push” through life rhythms. We need to walk, move. sway to the beat. Sometimes my life’s rhythm is somber and discouraging. In those moments,  the presence of my Lord gently reminds me that it won’t always be this way…it’ll change. Other times, my rhythm is exciting…pure joy. I soak it up and relish every moment.

The rhythms of our life are a gift. They are periods of time that form our character and shape our opinions. They are journeys that reveal God’s grace; moments where we have to be carried or pulled through life followed by moments where we dance to the beat.

Through it all, good or bad, rhythms bring us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. We experience rhythms of sadness and find His comfort, rhythms of hunger and He fills us, rhythms of anger and we are given His wisdom, rhythms of joy … and we are reminded of His grace.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

Peggy

You know how sometimes some folks are just “on your mind?” You keep thinking about them and can’t get them out of your thoughts. Today…been thinking about my Grandma. I can’t really pinpoint a reason why she’s been on my mind lately. She’s a fun person to think about. Full of lots of spunk, sass and very snarky. That was my favorite part about her.

Here’s something I wrote two years ago and wanted to ‘re-blog’. Her name was Peggy…

It’s late & I’m tired. This has been a long day tacked into a long week. Nothing really tasking has happened. It’s just that feeling of moving quickly through space and time …completing the checklist and feeling unhinged from the moment. That is until I received a package on my doorstep today. It’s funny, I kept racking my brain trying to remember what I or my husband had ordered. I opened the box. It was filled to the brim with white packing popcorn. The kind that generates static electricity and makes it difficult to remove the object from the box without spilling styrofoam pieces everywhere. Setting aside my anal retentiveness, I plunged my hand in and pulled out the smaller box that was inside. All the while my son is constantly chattering to me and delighted to track down all the styrofoam pieces and crunch them. I move through the motions of opening the smaller box. Upon seeing what was inside, time stopped. I was no longer unhinged from the moment and became immediately connected.

The package was from my uncle and inside was a wooden Anri figurine that belonged to my grandmother. It’s of a young girl carrying a tea set. The girl is dressed in clothes that look similar to what Laura Ingalls wore on Little House on the Prairie…only much finer. Her hair is pulled back in a bun and she has a puffy hat on her head. Her tea set is complete with teapot, sugar, creamer and two cups…all decorated with little blue flowers. Perhaps to me, the most touching part was draped around the figurine. It was a wooden beaded necklace with my name in beads. My grandmother had purchased the necklace for me and one for all my cousins, for that matter. Each necklace had our names. My necklace had been placed on this little figure over 30 years ago. My uncle included a letter describing the story behind my grandmothers love and collection for these figures. His letter describes how this one, because the necklace was on it and the little girl appears to be going to a tea party, she had intended for me.

My grandma and I used to have tea party’s, often. Our tea party’s were on toy tea sets made from real china. I didn’t really like to play dolls; although she was an avid collector. Frankly, I’ve always found dolls to be weird. I couldn’t ever get into cross stitch and she was marvelous at it. I remember several times, after having attempted to work with me on a cross stitch project or taking me to the toy store and almost begging me to buy a doll, she would shake her head and say, “I can’t believe I’m related to you.” But we did have tea party’s.

She passed away 8… Almost 9 years ago. I still have dreams about her, routinely. Sometimes in my dreams she’s ill from the Alzheimer’s she battled and, to cheer her up, I pull out pictures of her grand kids. We start to talk about all my cousins and it seems to make her smile. Other times, she’s in my dreams and completely healthy. I ask her, bluntly, “What are you doing here? I thought you died?” (remember, it’s a dream and nothing really makes sense) In her usual spunkiness she responds, slightly miffed that I even asked her, “Yes, yes, I know. ”

You know that scripture verse in Hebrews…12:1, I think. It talks about how we have “so great a cloud of witnesses….to run with endurance the race set before us.” I think my grandma is in my cloud of witnesses. I think, that as I run this race, she is cheering me. That I can’t quit the race and I’ve no choice but to run in such a way as to win.

The little “tea time” figurine was an unexpected blessing today. She is a reminder of where I come from. A reminder of my grandmother. A strong woman filled with grace who taught me that the art to having a tea party is learning how to slow down and live in the moment.

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Good Morning Sunshine :)

I was in the doctor’s office last week for an annual wellness visit. My doctor was running behind which is usually my opportunity to get caught up on all the style and gossip magazines…the ones that talk about fashion, and makeup, and clothes and all that really fun stuff. The particular magazine I picked up was about all the latest fashions and trends. Seeing as I how I don’t receive theses magazines at home, I thought it a good opportunity to bone-up on my fashion sense.

Thumbing through my magazine I happened to come upon an article chronicling the morning routines of three busy, successful females. Each of the women provided, in detail, what they did in the morning to get themselves started. One was a venture capitalist, another a global fashionista and the third an entrepreneur of a flavored-water company. All the women appeared beautiful, intelligent and accomplished in their own right. All of them got up early…between 5:15 to 7 am. (one lady gets up at 6:05 because she hates the snooze button and 6 am seems too early…ergo..6:05 am) Each of them performed some activity to wake up their brain…exercise, meditation, walking, etc. They all had very healthy breakfast habits: hot water with ginger and lemon (to detox), Greek yogurt, lattes, eggs, toast, grapefruit, or smoothie. Further still, their morning beauty habits made me jealous: vitamin E body scrub, face washes I can’t pronounce, lotion exfoliators I can’t pronounce, sun screen, age repair serums, mineral frizzy shine serums for hair, regenerating firming lift oil, plumping mascara, brilliant gloss for the lips and much, much more. In the end, between the beauty/hair treatments, morning exercise/meditation and light breakfast, each lady made it out the door between 8 and 8:50 am.

I’m quite envious of these ladies…here’s my morning routine:

7 am – Hit the snooze button. I believe in the snooze button and I believe it has a place in my life.

7:09 am – Get up. Get kiddo up. This usually requires an explanation (sometimes an argument) that contrary to his internal clock it is in fact time to get out of bed. (PS…remind kiddo that when he washes his hair in the shower he is to wash all of his hair not just the front half of his cranium)

7:11 – Turn off exterior house lights. They don’t go off automatically and those bulbs are expensive to replace.

7:11 – Start hollering for Oswald (8 year old English bulldog) that it is time to get up. He’s old and he’s a bulldog = stubborn.

7:15  – Now that Oswald is in an upright position begin wiping all his wrinkles…around nose, eyes, mouth, ears etc.  Once his face is clean, pull (and I do mean pull) dog into laundry room to begin eating his breakfast.

7:18 – Get kiddo’s bed made and holler into the bathroom to remind him that ALL his hair must be washed.

7:20 – Make kiddo’s breakfast (equates to heating up frozen pancakes), pack his lunch. Holler to hubby to see if he needs lunch today or if he wants toast for breakfast.

7:30 – Explain to my son that he better kick it into high gear because he needs to feed his cat. Then turn around and hug and kiss hubby out the door.

7:35 – Make my bed. Get out of my pajamas. Put on some walking clothes

7:40 – Let Oswald outside, fill up his water bowl and follow it up with a quick “Son, what is taking so long? You’ve still got to brush your teeth?!?”

7:45 – Let Oswald inside and perform the most loathsome task of the morning. (For any of you English bulldog owners this will come as no surprise. However if you have the pleasure of owning a pet without a corkscrew tail, this will seem a bit over the top. Rest assured it is quite necessary) After Oswald has finished his morning constitution, I pull out a hemorrhoid wipe and proceed to wipe my English bulldogs butt and tail. I am not joking. If I don’t perform this task he takes on the smell of dead, rotting fish.

7:50 – Scrub my hands. Check my hair in the reflection of the microwave. Holler to my son…”Time to go!”

We head out the door and walk to school. It’s a 1.2 mile walk. We talk about everything. Video games, his friends, what he read in his devotions that morning…nothing is off limits. I walk him up to the school… hug, kiss and watch him walk through the doors. I then walk for the next hour or so around our neighborhood; finally making it back to my house to a bowl of raisin bran, cup of coffee and then a shower.

There isn’t any lemon, ginger water to detoxify my system, although it does sound like a good idea. I’ve no fancy face scrubs. I don’t meditate to focus…but I do read my Bible to stay grounded and hopeful. I feed little mouths and wipe wrinkles…and butts. My morning is a far cry from the three ladies in the magazine, but I’m equally as successful, accomplished and as beautiful as they are. My morning is not fancy…it’s controlled chaos and it happens to be full of grace.

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Oswald…his usual pose.

The “Jumperoos”

There are two types of people…

Type 1: Athletic

Type 2: Not Really

The first category requires little explanation. These are the folks whom, upon picking up a ball, bat, racket, etc., show they possess an athletic aptitude. They are not necessarily paid athletes. In some cases they are our kids, spouses, friends, etc. Then there’s the latter category. A group of people whom, when they pick up a ball, bat, racket, skis, helmet, ice skates, baton, grapple hooks, frisbee…etc., it becomes quickly apparent to those watching that they do not possess an athletic bone in their body. These are the ‘not really’ athletic group.

I belong to the latter. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent all of my life in this group in just about every sporting category save for the second grade jump rope team, the Andover Jumperoos…

So there I was in the second grade and my PE teacher announced that try outs for the school’s jump rope team were open and she would be screening us to see who could join. Her plan was to video tape us jump roping and select kids for the team. I knew I was meant for this team…if there was anything I was good at, it was jumping rope.

I was confident I was going to make the team and went home and told my mom. She supported me and smiled…didn’t really say much. I suspect she was worried about potentially dealing with the aftermath and the emotions of her 7 year old. Either way, I knew I had this.

The day for tryouts came and I was ready. The gym teacher had a VHS recorder set up on a tripod. (The thing was the size of a small laptop and took a big stick-like handle to operate…I digress.) At any rate, she started recording and I pulled out all my moves. First started out with just regular skipping rope. Then I did speed jumping…wanted to show her I was fast. Then I did double jumps…where you jump high enough you can get two rotations with the jump rope. Lastly, I finished up with criss-cross-applesauce…crossing your arms and jumping…that was my best trick. At the end of the “try outs” I was beat and my heart was pounding, but even I was impressed with my skill.

A couple of weeks later the list came out for who made the team…I was on it. I got a team shirt, my very own red, white and blue jump rope, and I got to travel to jump meets. I honestly don’t remember the meets, but I loved the idea of being part of the team. I was the smallest person on the team, but I was scrappy. Being on the team made me feel big. I knew I could hold my own.

I was cleaning out my mom’s basement a couple of weeks ago and came across my old Jumperoos T-shirt. It remains, to this day, the only athletic team for which I’ve ever successfully tried out…granted it’s only jump roping, but still…that’s nothing to sneeze about.

It’s scary to try something new…something that you don’t know will work. Personally, my biggest fear is others seeing me fail. Not sure why that really gets to me… since the truth of the matter is that people will think what they want of you regardless of failure.

I firmly believe the Lord allows for these challenges to come to our doorstep. At some point we have to step out on faith because it is the journey that changes us. The feeling of accomplishment only comes with a job well done…one where you’ve given it everything you have, left it all on the field. Of course I want the gratification of winning or ‘making the team.’ But at the end of the day, when I came across that Tshirt, it was a reminder that I tried something I’d never done before. I was confident in my ability and gave it everything I had.

Our Lord delights in life and I believe He gives abundantly when we step out in faith and try something we’ve never done. So try something new. Find a new friend. Heck, make a new recipe…so what if it ends up tasting like crap…at least you tried. Remember, the journey is the rhythm for which we get to experience the blessing. In that moment we become sojourners in His kingdom, traveling into uncharted territories. The grace is in the journey.

My Jumperoos team shirt (circa...a really long time ago)

My Jumperoos team shirt

A Day 2 Remember 

Good grief three day weekends go by crazy-fast!!! We started out the weekend with a swim meet…which for any of you veteran swim families out there…nothing like getting up at the crack of dawn with all your gear (tent, chairs, coolers etc.) and waiting hours for your kiddo to swim all of 20 seconds. Good times. The best. 

I digress…as I was saying three day weekends really do fly by. We started off with a swim meet. Later that night we had friends over for pizza (which happen to be the same compadres that sweat it out with us at swim meets),  sleep over that night with my son’s friend. Following day did a three mile walk with hubby, fed the little squirts health food (pizza rolls, chicken nuggets and french fries …my son and his sleep-over friend loved it…I got to clean out my freezer). Managed to squeeze in a load of laundry, run to the grocery, make a dessert to take to the freakishly awesome crawfish boil we were headed to that night…and got a shower in! And that brings me to today…

…Today is Memorial Day

Some good friends of ours, the husband, is an Iraq war veteran. We, my husband, son and myself, tagged along with our friends to a veterans cemetery to pay respects to a fallen soldier, killed in battle, who served alongside our friend. There is nothing more sobering or more humbling than to see hundreds, upon hundreds, upon hundreds of rows of little American flags and to realize that each flag represents a fallen soldier. Many of these men and women were killed during war. There are also many who died from natural causes or possibly disease and chose their final resting place amongst their comrades. However their end came, all these men and women share a common bond…the bond of knowing what it means to take up a weapon and defend.

It’s pretty remarkable to live somewhere that affords us the freedom to go to church, speak our mind, go to college, live where we want, buy what we want, etc. There is a great deal of noise that tends to “muddle” that fact…politics, human rights, crime, the economy…the list is truly endless. However, today, for me and my family, the visit with our friend was a reminder. A reminder of the price that has been paid & it is a reminder for which I’m most grateful. 

For all the men and women who have served this nation; for all the parents, spouses, kids, aunts and uncles who’ve waited for their loved ones to return home; and especially for all the families who’s loved ones returned home to touch the face of God…

“May the LORD bless you and keep you; May the  LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; May the LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.” (‭Numbers‬ ‭6‬:‭24-26‬ NASB paraphrased)  

Some Good News…

There is something  unnerving about a stranger taking pictures of your brain and then sitting down methodically, without emotion, disseminating what they find. It reminds me of when I was in labor with my son. I, as  pretty much every other mother who has been in the birthing room, am in a most unfavorable position on the birthing table. I’ve been in labor for 11 hours and due to my sons heartbeat dropping and my MS complications, my doctor is beginning to get worried. So she calls in reinforcements. Neonatologist and his nurse, surgeon (I think there were two) and his nurses for a possible emergency c-section, an additional OB/GYN and her nurse….oh, and a medical student who happens to be doing his OB/GYN rotation. I am on the table in an unmodest fashion while a whole football team of physicians along with their nurses are looking at me, assessing the situation and trying to determine a medically sound way to deliver this baby. I cannot hide. Everything is on display.

I sat in my neurologists office today at a six month checkup to review new MRIs. A gentleman sitting next to me is having someone help him complete the pre office paperwork. The paperwork has  lots of questions regarding current symptoms…for example: Blurry vision? Dizzy? Headaches? Sleep problems? Mobility issues? Etc, etc. Confession: anytime I fill out that paperwork, I lie. I do, it’s true. Do I have headaches? Yep. Dizziness/vertigo….yeppers. Mobility/coordination…let’s not even go there. The problem is that my lies get me only so far because when my neurologist pulls up my MRI…it doesn’t lie and I can no longer feign ignorance. 

I received really good news today. My new scans don’t show any new lesions. My neurologist took the time to show me my existing lesions as well as the area of the brain they affect. I’ve developed two new lesions over the last year…giving me a grand total of 5…possibly six according to my neuro. We reviewed things like: slow down, don’t exercise to the point  that you’ll throw up, mindful of the heat, work both sides of the body, find ways to engage your brain (ergo blogging 😉)…& so on.

As much as I loathe getting an MRI or feel violated when 100  images of my brain are put on a computer screen to be  scientifically analyzed by a stranger…I am most grateful the MRI blows through my lies. At that point I’m completely incapable to pull the “I’ll be fine. I’ll just drink some cranberry juice” card. I’m forced to be honest. Forced to respect slowing down. Forced to breath in a different rhythm. I find myself in a rare moment of peace amidst a storm…knowing that despite the diagnosis, despite the fear of the unknown; I’m going to be OK. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ NASB)