A Broken Hallelujah…

Happy New Year! … and a belated Merry Christmas, too. I had the best of intentions to log in and provide some kind of grand blog on ending 2016 and beginning 2017. But, time, energy and “too many other things” got the better of me. That’s OK…it’s only January 2nd. Plenty more time to provide wit, wisdom and great depths of knowledge.

I had a really fun Christmas. We live in South Texas and my husband and I just completed building a pool. It was done in time for Christmas. (We thought it was going to be done back in October. If you’ve had to do any work with contractors you understand that there is no schedule that can’t be broken and no timeline that can’t be extended…frustratingly so. I digress) As I was mentioning we have a beautiful, new, blue pool.

Having lived up north for pretty much all my life, it’s a new experience to have weather warm enough in which to swim. We had lots of nights in the hot tub. My kid, I’ve learned, is part fish. He would live in the pool if he could. This unfortunately means that we experienced our first bout of swimmer’s ear. Not cool.

One thing about getting a pool that no one ever tells you about is the increased amount of laundry that comes with getting in and out of water repeatedly throughout the day. Wet beach towels are heavy and start to stink if not properly aired out. Ergo…I did close to twenty loads of laundry during the 3 or 4 days surrounding Christmas.

In this frenetic effort to keep Christmas traditions, enjoy the pool, enjoy my family and, Christmas baking done (because no perfect Christmas isn’t without gingerbread cookies) and try not to miss out on the true meaning of Christmas…I started to get a little panicky. You know when you get that feeling of frustration because you feel like you are doing ALL the work and “why in the world am I doing all this work!” and “if I have to fold another towel I swear I’ll…!” and “I’m doing all this work and missing out on Christmas and this is my one chance to enjoy it because it only comes around once a year!”…you smelling me?

At this stage of frustration the sweet, cheerful, perfect-Christmas attitude exits and the ticked-off, “Get away from me; don’t touch me” attitude joins the Christmas party. She’s a joy. Killjoy is more like it. She’s also a  tough nut to crack because she just won’t leave.

Groan.

All I want to do is celebrate the birth of my Lord. Love my husband. Enjoy my son’s delight. Instead I’m bent out of shape because things aren’t picture perfect and what the frick am I folding all these towels, for?!?

Then comes my favorite part…guilt. On top of the towels and grumpy attitude let’s spread a little guilt on this craptastic parfait. Guilt you ask? Yes. That sick, guilty feeling of , “I know it’s Christmas and I’m really trying to have that Mary not Martha attitude. But I can’t help it…I’m grumping-out big time and I know I’m missing out on this fun season because of my own crabby attitude and now I feel really guilty about it.” That guilt.

At the end of this schizophrenic tale it finally occurred to me. I celebrate Christmas everyday. The saving of Christ’s birth. The closeness of his presence. The newness of a new year. The stillness of His breath. I guess I don’t have to cram Christmas cookies, decorations, family time into one season because each day of my life is a rhythm of re-birth…a rhythm of Christmas and  New Year.

I’m sure next Christmas season I’ll try harder to slow down and soak up the joy of Christmas…but, I might fail…actually, I will fail. A broken hallelujah. That’s OK. I’m just one woman and I can only fold one towel at a time. But one thing is for sure…I’m not going to feel guilty. My Jesus has given me Christmas and New Years rolled up into one and I get to enjoy it everyday. He’s given me grace to screw up and the hope of knowing He’ll make things new. That’s a relief.

I’ve got to run…towels need to be loaded into the dryer.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

– Revelation 21:5 NIV

College…and the places you will go!

A good friend of mine, who also happens to be my neighbor, publishes a magazine called I-AM (www.i-ammagazine.com). She recently provided me with the opportunity to write an article focused on getting kids prepped and ready for college. I reached out to several universities here in my home state of Texas as well my alma mater, Miami of Ohio. (Go Redskins …*ahem*… Redhawks) Upon speaking to several Deans of Admission, I must admit, my mind began headed down memory lane to my tour of duty in college. I was a non-traditional student. Which, in hindsight, seems to be my MO as nothing I do ever  falls in the norms of tradition and instead falls within the boundaries of  non-traditional, outlier, path-less-traveled…or just plain weird.

I digress…

As mentioned, I was a non-traditional student. I started out in community college as it was all I could afford. I also maintained a part-time job and did so throughout college. I didn’t know what I wanted to be; I just thought this was the next step in my journey into becoming an independent, responsible adult. I lived at home and took classes like Comp 1 and Comp 2. I took a physical education class…admittedly, it remains the highest grade of my collegiate career. All you had to do was show up X amount of times, sign in and work out for 45 minutes on various resistance machines in the gym. 

I met my husband the first year of community college…Modern European History. The professor was a real fruitcake. He would play pieces by Mozart and, during class, would stand at the front of the class room, close his eyes and begin swaying to the music. College professors are nothing like highschool teachers. Sometimes that’s a good thing…sometimes not.

I left community college and was in the process of getting admitted to the University of Kansas (KU). My husband, then fiancée, had gone on to Kansas State. Upon learning of my going to KU, he effectively and quickly showed me the error of my ways. Wildcats are cool; Jayhawks aren’t. 

My husband graduated from K-State, we got married and  moved to Cincinnati. I applied to the University of Cincinnatti and got accepted. However, as is the case with  most transfer students, not all classes transfer. It was a nightmare. I left the college advisors office in tears, drove out to Oxford Ohio and filled out paperwork to be admitted. A few months later, I was in.

Oxford is a beautiful town; all red brick buildings, trees, very stately. I took classes like Econ 1 and 2. We counted widgets and gidgets. Wally Szczerbiak was in my Econ 2 class. He was tall. I took finance and business calculus…which was a five day class at 7-freaking-am. I’d commute every day the one-hour drive to Oxford from where I lived in Cincy. That bus-calc class nearly killed me.

Then one summer I graduated…five years after I started: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

My diploma says that the president of the university along with the trustees and approval of the faculty conferred upon me.  Upon their “conferring” they decided to give me a degree. It also says this degree comes with rights, privileges  and  honors.  They signed their names and put the seal of the University on my diploma. My husband had it framed and it hangs in my study.

I went a lot of places to achieve my degree and met lots of people; most importantly the love of my life.  The experience of college is just as important as the degree itself. You meet crazy people. Go to crazy parties. Learn what doesn’t work and learn what does. You learn how to stand up for yourself…find your voice.

As I mentioned earlier, I was not the traditional student…that’s OK…I think traditional is boring anyways. (Always choose the path less travelled.) My degree has opened up professional doors and is an accomplishment no one can take away. I love seeing my diploma hanging up. It reminds me that God gave me a brain for something more than to hang a hat on. It makes me feel smart and helps me to remember that when I set my mind to it, I can start and finish something big.  And I think that’s a big deal.

“Congratulations! Today is your day, You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” ~Dr. Seuss

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.

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)

Don’t Be Scared

Fear is  debilitating. It starts out small and then blooms into way more than it should be. One time, in the sixth grade, we were talking in class about how the human body chews, swallows and processes food. I began wondering…what if one doesn’t chew the food well enough and it gets stuck in your throat? Even as an adult I still find this to be a valid question. For example, my family and I recently visited a local restaurant and after eating our fried onions, burgers, oysters and chicken wings…we all agreed that dessert would be a good idea. (Dessert is always a good idea). The waiter brought out a creation of brownie, ice cream and chocolate sauce. All total the dessert was the size of my head. Enough to feed all of us…or one crazed chocoholic (me). We all grabbed our spoons and began processing the dessert rapidly. What started out as a tower of beautifulness ended up a sloppy, melted puddle in the dessert bowl. Collectively we’d all managed to take  who-knows-how-many-calories and disseminate them through the process of chewing, swallowing and digestion. Despite the size of the dessert compared to the size of our gullet, not one of us choked!

I’ve not always been so quick to gobble my food. As mentioned above, back in the sixth grade I became obsessed with chewing my food and making sure it was safely processed into pieces I could swallow. Eating with me became arduous. It took me forever to chew my food. One time during lunch at school, I had a near panic attack over a slice of very chewy, cheese pizza. The pizza was not easily chewable, panic set in and  I was convinced I was choking. The whole table stopped eating to watch my antics. I lived…thanks in large part to the fact that in order to choke on a piece of food one must actually attempt to swallow the food. I was too afraid to swallow. But it didn’t stop me from dramatically grabbing my throat and freaking out the lunch lady. I am now over my swallowing fear.

I have a followup MRI scheduled for next week. It’s to see if there are new spots on my brain. My last MRI showed new spots and my physician wants to check and see if the MS is still active or gone back into remission. There is no eloquent way for me to say this, but, I’m scared. For a million reasons…not the least of which is that MRI tubes are insanely claustrophobic.

But it has dawned on me…I have only two options in the matter. Surrender to fear. Surrender to grace. The first option  will debilitate me making it difficult to eat or sleep. I will miss moments of blessing as they will be consumed with minutes/hours of worry. Time will march forward. The sun will rise and set and I will miss it being consumed myopically with fear. The latter will provide breath; rhythm. My eyes will not be on myself but on Christ as grace only comes from Him. This perspective will allow me to eat and sleep. I will hear all my sons silly jokes and they will be a comfort. I will be able to live presently in the moment and fear will not to steal the gifts that are mine.

Neither of the options above change the perameters of my situation…In other words, I still  have to eat and chew the pizza. But this time, unlike my antics in the sixth grade, I can choose to not be afraid. This decision is not light hearted and likely I will have moments of jumping back into the “I’m afraid” camp. That’s ok. I’m not perfect. In that moment, in a calm voice, Christ’ll whisper, “Dont sweat it…I still got you.” Grace will flood back in & fear will dissipate.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31‬:‭6‬ MSG)

Happy Easter

My husband and I are in this tricky stage with our 10 year old son where he’s pretty sure Easter Bunny and Santa Claus don’t exist but is trying to find proof. It’s funny the questions he asks…they range from the immortality of Santa Claus to how can Easter Bunny hop all over the world and not be exhausted. His questions are grounded and seek out truth. However he’s recently stepped up his game. For Easter this year he was determined to set out a bunch of his Legos at the front door, back door and my and my husbands bedroom door to catch either Easter Bunny or his dad or I impersonating  Bunny. (Sidebar: if any of you have ever stepped on a Lego piece, you will understand my horror at his plan. Stepping on a Lego with your bare feet is tantamount to jabbing a fork in your eyeball.)  I digress….I quickly stymied his plan and he came up with an alternative. His alternative was adorable. Before going to bed he drew up a contract asking Easter Bunny to sign his name and include his paw print. So my husband the ever dutiful, consummate dad signed the contract “Easter Bunny” and drew a paw print…because what else are you going to do?

It is fun to watch my little boy and sad at the same time because he is growing older and questioning his beliefs. In truth, to me it is a relief that he questions what he believes. Asking questions drives us to find answers. I used to be afraid to ask questions…thinking that God is angry and demands my belief of Him sight unseen. There can be no bigger lie. 

Truth is, I think God loves our questions. The bigger, tougher, more controversial questions…those happen to be His favorite. He never shys away. I think God loves to show us who He is. Remember when Thomas doubted Jesus? Jesus waisted no time in showing Thomas his scarred side. Jesus was ready for the doubt; He welcomed it. Thomas’ doubt…his questions…his unbelief gave Jesus exactly what He wanted. A chance to reveal that He is the risen Lord. 

I suspect that this is the last year my hubby and I will play Easter Bunny…or Santa Claus for that matter. My 10-year old is too sharp 🙂 However, as time moves forward my 10-year old will become 15 and then will become 20. He will question and want proof of God. I am confident, relieved actually, that my son will get answers. There will be no question too big, no question too offending that God will not answer. He is a real God. Alive. Present. Here & now.

A most glorious Easter to you!

“Then He said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to Him, My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 27-28 NIV)