My Definition of Me

My husband and I got engaged over 19 years ago. I was so thankful to hear that he had asked my father for permission to marry me before popping the question, not because I was my father’s property of course, but because I respected that my father had been first in my life up until that point, and now this man would be stepping into the role of the man that I would love above all others. I remember my then baby-faced fiancé telling me that my father had told him only, “She’s fragile, you have to take good care of her.”

At the time, and even today, that sentence makes my heart squeeze. I had lived on my own for a few years by that point. I had paid my own bills, got myself from point A to point B with no assistance, and often been the person others went to for guidance. I was a helper, and hardly saw myself as helpless, let alone fragile. But there was something in those words that resonated with me, and yes, at that time, maybe that’s what I wanted, someone I could be fragile with, someone who would take care of me.

Over the years, marriage didn’t go quite as I expected. My parents have a very traditional relationship, with my mom staying home and taking care of most of the domestic things, and my dad going to work and filling the provider role. My parents are attached at the hip, and it doesn’t matter if it’s grocery shopping or a trip to the BMV, they do it together. My in-laws on the other hand, each worked outside of the household and we’re relatively independent of each other, enjoying their own circles of friends and hobbies. Unknowingly, my husband and I each brought these very different expectations of what a normal marriage looks like into our own relationship. These definitions of a “normal” husband/wife were the rules we measured one another by.

There are so many moments I remember thinking of my husband, “You were told I was fragile. You said you’d take care of me. What is happening here?” The moments when he allowed me to mow our grass…shouldn’t he come and take the handle of this mower from my hands and let me go sip some lemonade??? The moment he didn’t hold the door for me, or left me to accomplish a task on my own, or when he expected me to assemble our furniture or shelving. I felt puzzled by this, and not because I didn’t want to do these things, but because I hadn’t expected I would have to. It wasn’t the story I had told myself about marriage.

There’s something else here too that was happening in my heart and mind. All my life other people had defined me. I had been defined by those around me as smart, as funny, as pretty, I was nice, I was the baby in my family, I was fragile. There were negative stories too, the “I wasn’t”. I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t independent, I wasn’t brave…all of these definitions creeped in and made up the person I thought I had to be.

Our loved ones see a lot of who we are. They see us from a perspective that we don’t see ourselves, and often they are privy to strengths and weaknesses that we may not even be aware of. But even our mothers, fathers, siblings or spouses don’t see all of us. They view us through their own lenses, the lenses of their relationship with us, the lenses of their life experience and the lenses of their personality. There’s truly only one person on this planet that can define us, who we are, who we’re capable of being…and that’s ourselves. We decide who we will be.

34 years of life and 13 years of marriage have taught me a lot about…well, about me. While our spouses don’t define us, I truly believe God puts our partners in our lives for very particular reasons. They teach us so much about ourselves. My husband often believed I was stronger than I thought I was. He thought I was more capable than I had dreamed of. And although he was once told I was fragile, there are still times in our life together, that I wonder if he thinks I am unbreakable.

Through these circumstances, through his faith in me, his expectations of me, I have found some very powerful truths about myself. The woman I am today is very different than the girl that stood at the alter all those years ago. I may still be nice and funny and all of those things, but I am not fragile and I’m not interested in having anyone take care of me.

Through this life, through all of the hard, impossible, heartbreaking things, through all of the joyous, amazing, life changing moments, through all of the quiet, mundane, everyday happenings, I have found myself. My definition of me.

Strong. Stable. Sure. Powerful. Determined. Positive. Reserved. Loving. Kind. Happy.

I have also learned that my character summations of those around me don’t define them either. My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, my friends….they’re capable of more than I could ever dream for them. I am careful of what labels I give them, knowing that I see only a small part of them. They are more than they show the world.

What if we gave every person this freedom? The freedom to define themselves. The freedom to be just who they are made to be. What if we each gave ourselves this freedom, a life for ourselves without definition from others? What could we be capable of?

I ask my readers, what label has someone, maybe even someone who loves you and means well, what label have they given you that you will shed and leave behind today? Begin today redefining yourself and become the person you are capable of being, not the person you feel you have to be.

Heaven is a Place on Earth

It’s hard to believe that December is in full swing.  This is always a crazy busy time of year for each of us, but this year in December, I will be welcoming our third child to the world.  I am on the countdown, and with two weeks and four days left until my due date, I am ready.  Or so I thought…

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This morning in particular was pure chaos.  My older two children had their annual Christmas play at church.  With the best of intentions we called it an early night last night, knowing we would need to be up bright and early to prepare.  Five pregnant lady bathroom breaks and two and a half hours of insomnia at 2 a.m. later, it was morning, and I found myself struggling to roll my round little belly out of bed to start the day.  When I finally made it to my feet, I woke to find the mountain of dishes I had ignored the day before still waiting on me. With no clean forks to my name, I had to start my day with dishes just so I could feed my kids breakfast.  Forty minutes later I was cooking eggs over-easy, just the way the kiddos like them, and to my dismay, I broke two yolks which never happens.  Eventually breakfast was served, kids were dressed, we were ten minutes late to Sunday School but we prevailed and we made it.  I had ended up with an entire fifteen minutes to shower myself, dress, makeup, and do something with my hair before rushing out the door.

And it was then that it hit me…in two weeks, I will still have all of these things to do PLUS a newborn baby to nurse and dress and care for.  How had this not dawned on me before 37 weeks of pregnancy?  I had spent months picturing the snuggles, knowing I had sleepless nights coming, knowing having a newborn after all of this time will be an adjustment, but it hadn’t become reality until this morning.

In my anxiousness, my grouchiness, and waddling in nine-months-pregnant-glory into church, I was having the “Oh sh*t” moment of realization of what is to come.  I sat in the pew this morning, finally having delivered my children to their posts for the Christmas program, and then I began to watch them, donning white alter robes, angel wings and halos.

I watched my ten-year-old son sing each song, although at his age, he hates being on stage dressed as an angel with every fiber of his being.  My heart grew just knowing what a truly good boy my husband and I have raised.  Then I watched my six-year-old sing with all her heart, the gaps where her recently lost teeth belong, peeping out behind her sweet little lips with every note.  She had her first speaking part in which she grasped the microphone and said, “Wow, I’ll never forget this night. Heaven is a place on Earth.”  From the mouths of babes.  I knew in that moment, in this moment now, that she is right.

In the haste of the season, in all of the to-dos, it is so easy to lose our focus.  We get so caught up in the decorations, in the gifts and wrapping, in the carrying on of tradition, in the “have-to’s” and “need-to’s” that we can’t see the heaven that is right in front of us.  As much as I was cursing inside my head the entire morning as I let the hustle of the day erode my patience, I am so thankful for the gift of watching my children this morning, serving in our church in the most beautiful way, bringing to mind the purpose of the season, and reminding us all that heaven is truly a place on Earth.

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In two weeks, or two days….who knows….I will become a mother for the third time.  Things will be difficult, I will be tired beyond words, I will have less time for myself, for my husband, for my other two kids, but what I will gain is immeasurable.  And the truth is that no matter how much I “ready” myself, we are never truly ready for God’s greatest gifts in our lives…and that is what makes them so incredibly remarkable.

My hope for you this holiday season is that each of you experience the joys of this Christmas with as little stress, anxiety and worry as possible.  That in the moments of feeling overwhelmed, you are able to look for the everyday miracles that we are given…after all, heaven truly is a place on Earth.

Learning to Lean In

Six months ago, to our surprise and joy, my husband and I discovered we would be bringing our third child into this world.  I had just finished my MBA (we actually found out we were pregnant the night before I walked for graduation…talk about one door shutting and another opening!), and I was laser-focused on my next career steps.

My first instinct was to take a step back from my career, to back off from my goals, to wait until after pregnancy, until after maternity leave, until after the re-balancing of life following our newest addition.   I didn’t want to, but rather thought I had to, lean back from my career in order to be a good mom, a good wife, to take care of my family.

I was wrong.

I shared my thoughts with a good friend.  I had been vying for a promotion, and I thought I should bow out now.  I thought that I couldn’t balance both a pregnancy and growth in my career.  Thankfully my friend said, “Don’t do that…don’t leave before you leave.  Lean in.”  My friend, a career-loving parent herself, had started reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg.  I know this book impacted my friend, but the timing of her advice and the introduction of this thought into my life in that particular moment was life-changing.

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I listened to my friend.  I did not slow down.  I did not lean back.  I pressed full force on the gas pedal, and I leaned all the way in.  I was sick, physically sick from the pregnancy.  I could barely eat for the first few months due to crazy food aversions and nauseousness.  I was utterly exhausted all day every day due to anemia brought on by my pregnancy.  I was stressed out between prepping for job interviews, prepping my current role for the next person, showing up as my best self every day for my current job, caring for my two children and husband, and running my household…and dealing with pregnancy hormones (you mommas know what I’m talking about!).  And in that time, we faced a serious illness within our family.

So here I am, six months down the road.  I pushed forward when things were not ideal, and I got the promotion I have been working toward for years…I got my dream job.

The stress isn’t gone, if anything it is now crunch time.  Baby three is due in eight weeks and four days (but who’s counting???).  In those eight weeks, I will train my replacement for my current role, I have taken on a special project within my company that will take place in two weeks (another lean in moment for me), I am continuing to work to excel in my current role until I move, I am beginning to train and work in my new role…and I’m nearly eight months pregnant.  Let’s not forget that I have a family and household to care for, and we’ve tried to make the most of this fall season with Halloween fun, field trips, lots of quality time, prepping the house for baby, along with the usual homework, laundry, baths and daily routine.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m totally looking forward to my maternity leave with my new little nugget.  I’m counting the moments until my sole focus is my newborn and my other two children, until I can be just mom for a bit.  But also, and this part is so vitally important, I am already looking forward to going into my dream career when I return to work after maternity leave.  I’m so thankful that I’ve leaned in to arrive at a place that I am truly excited and ecstatic to be.  I’m so thankful that I’ll be doing work that I find meaningful, setting an example for my children that hard work pays off in the best of ways, that I’ll be providing for my family while fulfilling my own individual goals.

I thought this morning about what my life would look like right now if I had leaned back in that moment six months ago.  I enjoy my current career, and I would still be thankful to work for a company that I believe in and within a role that is challenging every day.  But I would also be watching someone else step into the promotion that I know I am made for…and it would hurt.  I would not have taken on the special project that I’ll be completing in two weeks, and I’d be watching someone else in my spot…and again, it would hurt.  It would hurt for my pride, but it would hurt more so for the opportunity lost.  When I factor in the last six months I’ve spent full-throttle careening toward my goals, the next two months executing the final steps before baby, and my upcoming maternity leave, I would have missed nearly a year out of my career progression had I not leaned in.  A year of my career would have been stopped, stalled, at a standstill.

When we look at professional women and we wonder about things like the pay gap or the glass ceiling, I am convinced it is in these make-or-break moments in life that determine if we continue to advance or stall.  These are the moments that we easily fall behind our male peers, and while it is for a wonderful and fulfilling reason, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make up for.  It would have undoubtedly been easier to stall in this year’s time; however over my lifetime, I will look back and be so thankful for the advice I was given to “lean in” when I was afraid to push myself.

I’m aware that this decision is not for everyone, and I admire and understand those whose choices are different than mine.  Every decision we make has an immediate consequence on our lives and the lives of our family.  For me, as I know it would be for many of you, leaning in was the right decision.

I encourage you to not be afraid, to give every single opportunity your absolute best.  I encourage you to stay engaged in those things you are passionate for up until the very moment that you can’t; I encourage you to not leave before you leave.  There are times that our personal lives take center stage and balance between family and career is impossible, so our focus becomes 100% our family, and that is the way it should be…that is wonderful.  But when that time passes, when it again becomes possible to have our families and continue to pursue our personal goals, it’s important that we’ve given ourselves every option possible, so that the decision to be made, the going back to work, is a happy one, because we’re returning to a career we love, a career that we’ve spent every available moment working toward, a career that we didn’t leave prematurely.

I also encourage you to be the friend in my story. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by strong, career-loving parents.  These are the women and men that help me to see all that is possible in my own life.  Be that driving force, that role model, that source of inspiration when those around you struggle with the work-life balance dilemma.  Be that kind, supportive friend that understands the struggle, but won’t allow someone to quit their dreams.  Be the person not only to say, but to show, exactly what leaning in looks like.

 

 

Real Talk

Appearance.  We all appear to be so many things depending upon who is watching. To some, you may the positive one, the one who lifts others up, the one with just the right words when someone is in need. To some, maybe you’re the super mom/dad, volunteering at your kids’ school, finding time to make healthy lunches, covering homework duty, sports and bike rides. To others, you’re a doting wife or husband, supportive and caring and so in love…even after all these years. And still to others, you’re the consummate professional, striding forward in your career, furthering your education and experience, with your eyes on the prize.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some of these things might even be true about you. You may actually hit these marks most days. My hope is that you are happy and content and thankful in life. But know, that doesn’t mean you can’t also be sad, scared to death and heartbroken at the same time. And it’s okay….in fact, it is absolutely necessary and normal.

My hope is that your are happy and content and thankful in life. But know, that doesn’t mean you can’t also be sad, scared to death and heartbroken at the same time.

I feel the need to write this because the images the world sees, our outward appearance, the FB posts, the public persona, these are the things we choose to share of ourselves.  These tiny slivers of life are never our whole entire self. Not because we try to hide the ugly parts necessarily, but because it’s impossible to be so raw and vulnerable 100% of the time.

The problem this creates is that we as human beings begin to compare our entire lives, our whole entire raw selves, against what someone else chooses to present to the world. We hold our doubt, insecurity and failure apples up against someone else’s Instagram oranges. It’s not a fair comparison. It hurts our hearts and it holds us back from happiness.

We hold our doubt, insecurity and failure apples up against someone else’s Instagram oranges.

So let me give you some real talk about a moment in my life that the world didn’t see this week. I hit a point on Tuesday evening, after work, after the kids’ homework, after supper, after the dishes…I hit a moment when the stresses that I don’t share freely, the battles to just keep this life moving forward piled up for me.  Add to that the hormones of a 7-month pregnant lady, and I hit a moment when I didn’t want to hear the word “Mom” even one more time.  I didn’t want to make anyone ice cream or bathwater…I didn’t want to do anything but sit down and cry. So I did.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Not at all glamorous. Not a proud moment. Not a strong moment. But a real moment. I stole away five minutes to cry and let myself feel exactly how I felt in the moment.

Here’s the deal. That five minutes and all of the difficult things that led me to that moment, are the things that the world doesn’t see. We all have these things, these heavy things, these hard seasons, but we seldom carry them into the light. This fact is why it’s so vital that we remember that what we see isn’t necessarily the full story. We get into dangerous territory when we begin to compare someone else’s sunshine story to our full time life. We all have troubles and difficulties…every single one of us.

Whatever you’re up against, chances are the person you admire has been there too. Take solace in knowing that there is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is an appearance, not a reality.  There is not a soul who has it all together. And let me tell you, if the queen of the PTA does in fact have it all perfectly together like she appears to, kudos to her…no need to bring her down.  However, the other 99% of the population will take comfort in the perfectly imperfect rest of us.

Perfection is an appearance, not a reality.

These hard moments build our character.  We are stronger for the battles we wage.  We are kinder for the hurt that we’ve felt.  We develop empathy and understanding and compassion.  And we learn to recognize how truly blessed we are for the good things in life.

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Let’s keep our heads up, be thankful, remind ourselves that our difficulties too shall pass, and never, ever compare ourselves to another human being. Imitation of another will rob us of our happiness. Only in embracing ourselves, our whole entire messy, ugly, crazy, perfectly designed, beautiful, awesome selves, can we find our path to fulfillment and happiness. So let’s do that…let’s get real and embrace our struggles as our path to becoming a better, stronger, more resilient person.

Clean Those Filthy Lenses, My Friend

Wow, this life is good…this feeling is hitting me especially hard today while reflecting on the week that is ending.  There are challenging days and moments in my rear view, but my heart is so full, and I’m left with a feeling of pride and hope.  I didn’t get a pay raise or promotion.  I didn’t achieve a lifelong goal.  I wasn’t given an extravagant gift or compliment.  Instead my wonderful life-view this week was the accumulation of the ordinary extraordinary moments.

I have weeks like this past week all of the time, as I’m sure you do as well.  I experience these extraordinary moments every day, but the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.  The difference is that many times my lens is out of focus….or more likely covered in dirt and fingerprints….or truly, covered in my worries, heartaches and anxieties.  Have you been there?  Are you there right now, unable to see the beauty before you because you can’t see past your challenges?

the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.

For me and my family, the hard times were there this week.  The sadness of illness, the pure exhaustion of working, keeping a household and having a million kids (okay, maybe we have two kids but it often feels like a million), and the injustices and unfair things that sneaked their way into my world daily.  What is different for me today is that when I look back on this  week, I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

So how do we get there, to the clean lens?  How do we maintain the gratitude that helps us to appreciate the good and to weather the not-so-good?  Here is a simple recipe:

  1. Ask for help when you need it.  Ask with clear, direct requests for the specific things that you need.  Don’t be a martyr or a victim of your situation.  Figure it out and be honest with those around you about how they can help.
  2. Read something that you’re interested in and invest in your own personal growth.  If you’re one that just doesn’t enjoy reading, I get it….but there’s this wonderful thing called Audible.  Download it.  Today.  Make the most of your time driving or bathing or washing the dishes…and put new and wonderful ideas into your mind and soul.
  3. Listen to music and podcasts that make your heart happy and inspired.
  4. Exercise, whatever that means to you.  It may be a five mile run, or it may be a ten minute walk, but move your body and treat it like a temple…it’s the only one you’ll ever have.
  5. Do nothing. No dishes. No laundry.  No cleaning or planning.  When your body and soul tells you that you need to do nothing, just do nothing and be okay with that.
  6. Say yes.  When your son asks you to play cars.  When your daughter asks you to go on a bike ride.  When your spouse begins a conversation, say yes and tune in.  When real joy is offered to you, say yes.
  7. Spend time physically close to your spouse…intimacy is so important and healthy for your relationship and for you as an individual.  We all need to feel physically connected to the person we love.  Hold hands.  Give hugs.  Look them in eye.  Connect.
  8. Be honest about your feelings.  When you’re disappointed, be honest about it.  When you’re struggling, be honest about it.  When you’re mad, be honest about it.  Putting all of those feelings out into the open allows you to deal with them and move on, and then, when the happiness comes, there is clear open space to let the good vibes in.
  9. Eat well.  Think about what you put into your body and treat your food as fuel most of the time…with the occasional mocha muffin splurge now and then.
  10. Don’t hold yourself to all of these things at one time.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Choose progress instead.  One step into the right direction.  One moment at a time.  Being better today than yesterday.  Living in this very moment.

For me this week, my extraordinary moments through my lens of gratitude looked like this:

  • My husband and I met with our children’s teachers for parent-teacher conferences, and got to see our children through their teachers’ eyes.
  • I spent one evening just curled up on the couch with my husband (not so easy at seven months pregnant…the two of us trying to fit on the couch together looks more like like an assault on my furniture than cuddle time, but we took time to make that happen and my soul is happier for it).
  • I saw my son set academic goals for himself and then put in the work to meet those goals.
  • I read my daughter’s latest book where she chronicled our back-to-school shopping adventure, and my heart melted in knowing that time together meant as much to her as it did to me.
  • I watched my son pitch, play first and second base, and get some good hits in at his ballgame.
  • I found my children snuggled up in my son’s bed this morning sleeping like angels, and came across one of those rare moments in between all of the sibling arguments where their love for one another shone through.
  • I went on a bike ride.
  • I had my 27 week OB appointment, heard my baby’s heartbeat again, and felt her move countless times.
  • I had lunch with a good friend, talked about hard things, and also laughed a lot.
  • I had a meal with my parents, sister, niece, nephew and my children.
  • I started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and am loving it.
  • I listened to the Rise Together Podcast by Rachel and Dave Hollis and found myself so inspired that I was in tears.

In this moment I am GRATEFUL.  Just completely grateful.

The Good

Thursday was a bad day.  The bad mojo actually started on Wednesday evening, when I made the unwise decision to binge watch Bachelor in Paradise instead of going to sleep at a decent hour.  I’m six months pregnant and sleep is my very best of friends, so I have no idea why I thought it would work out to stay up until 11:30 to see who got a rose.  Temporary insanity…wait, scratch that…Bachelor insanity.  I swear, those producers know what they are doing!

So I woke up groggy on Thursday morning, wishing I had thought more about my wellness than my reality television addiction.  And while I set with my coffee trying to readjust my attitude, my husband woke for the day, also in a very foul mood.  We’ve been married for a while now (just celebrated 12 years of marriage).  But even prior to marriage, we had discovered that morning is just not a good time for us.  I know other couples wake together, roll over and look lovingly into one another’s eyes, but that just isn’t us.  We have an understanding in the morning that we just don’t speak to each other.  He gives me my time to adjust to the world, and I give him his.  It works out perfectly for us.  This Thursday however, my husband dearest decided on his own to break our sacred agreement, and he unloaded his frustrations to me at 5:30 in the morning.  Ugh.  Not to sound like the worst wife ever, but I don’t even want to think about my own frustrations at that hour.  He realized his folly and apologized before giving me my morning kiss goodbye and heading out the door for the day.

I began the day’s routine, waking up my son.  Then off to my daughter’s room.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, I kiss her forehead and immediately feel the heat radiating from her tiny body.  Fever…there’s no mistaking it.  She wakes, telling me her throat hurts and sure enough, the thermometer confirms what my ther-MOM-meter already detected: 101.2 degrees.  What to do now?

My mom-planning starts to spin.  I begin to make phone calls and send texts.  I need to talk to my boss, arrange for someone to cover my responsibilities for the work day, find someone to stay with my daughter for an hour while I go to a scheduled OB appointment, write my son a note so that he can walk home from school instead of taking the bus to the sitters, call the school and let them know my daughter will be absent today, message my husband and ask him to request a vacation day for tomorrow just in case there isn’t a quick recovery this go-around.  These are the things that parents go through when life throws a curve ball, the thinking-on-our-feet, the quick reactions to make sure everything in life just keeps on moving along smoothly…we never miss a beat.

I saw my son off to school and snuggled my daughter, and I let the frustration of the unplanned, unscheduled day go.  I let it roll off my shoulders and I focused on my daughter…my puny, sore-throated, coughing, feverish, precious, little daughter.  That is the moment that my phone dinged.  A message, I had a message.  My husband messages me “I’m coming home at 9.  My machine is down today.  You can go to work today.  My work issue should be better tomorrow.”

What?!

Wait….what?!

To be clear, I am an administrative assistant.  I have to communicate with a minimum of five different people to be out for one day.  I had sent all of the messages.  I had made all of the calls.  I had everything lined out to be off of work on Thursday and back to work on Friday.  And now, that was all for nothing.  My mom-mind was spinning….if the husband was off today, then he couldn’t be off tomorrow, then I need to be off tomorrow, so I need to go in today, so I need to call my father-in-law and let him know I don’t need a sitter for my doctor’s appointment, I need to send five more text messages and….ugh, I need to take off my fuzzy pants and shower and brush my teeth, and make the switch yet again from mommy-mode to professional-work-Melissa-mode.  Again, my day turned upside down, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.

I sucked it up.  I showered.  I dressed.  I gave my husband a frosty welcome home.  I was sad, unhappy, frustrated.  There are other things brewing in our life as well.  And to be honest, while all of these circumstantial life events may have shaded my and my husband’s mood for this day, the real culprit…the real, gut-wrenching, terrifying, hard thing in our lives in this moment, in this season, has nothing to do with the happenings of Thursday.

My mother-in-law has been battling renal cell carcinoma for two and half years now.  She has faced brain surgeries, kidney surgeries, radiation treatments, and recently we had moved on to immunotherapy treatments.  I write “we”, but that is a lie.  She has faced these horrible things.  She has been the strong one.  She has endured.  She has survived these ugly things, and we have only been here to support, love and pray for her.  Because that is all there is that we can do.  The immunotherapy was supposed to be the saving grace, the magical medicine that would keep the cancer at bay so she can continue to enjoy this life with us.  We got the news a few days prior that the immunotherapy did not work.

I hesitate to share this at all, because this is not my story.  This is her story, but if I’m going to be completely honest with my readers, this is such a raw, close and intense part of our life, that I have to share.  I have to give you the full picture of the good and the scary parts of our lives.  We are not at the end of this story.  My mother-in-law has an appointment with MD Anderson this month.  She is strong and amazing, and all of the wonderful things that the rest of us can only hope that we have inside of ourselves.  She is truly a rock for us many times, although that is so backwards…we should be a rock for her.  But that’s not the truth.  This is our reality.  She is the strong one.

I left for my OB appointment with all of the weight of the world sitting squarely on my shoulders.  I felt heavy, sad…I felt like I was failing…at life.  My heart hurt.  My soul ached.  I sat in the waiting room.  This was my 23 week appointment.  At my 19 week appointment, we had an anatomy scan in which the doctor was able to clear everything for our little growing bud, except for her heart.  She was still just too small to get a clear picture of her heart structure.  So here I was at my 23 week appointment, heading to get another ultrasound, so that we could clear her heart, showing four beautiful chambers, working just the way they should.  I laid on the table with the lights dimmed, the tech placed the scanner on my belly, and on the screen appeared my baby, my third child, my second daughter, my beautiful blessing.  She had grown over the four weeks and her heart was bright and clear, pumping away, beating like the most beautiful drum.  And then I got to see her face, her perfect sweet little chin, her upturned nose (just like her sister’s), the sweet curve of her cheeks…and I realized, that this moment, this moment was good.

this moment was good

And isn’t that how life is?  The quote popped into my mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  There is so much that is hard in life, so much that drains us and breaks us.  There are moments we want to give up.  There are moments that we cry, and scream, and times that we hate the things we are going through.  But even on the worst days, we are given these beautiful moments.  Even on the worst days, I can look at my son, at my daughter, at my baby bump, at my silly dogs, at my sweet husband, I can look to my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, our family, the cousins.  I can pull back to the memories, the trips, the beaches, the rides in a teacup, the hugs from a princess.  We can feel the breeze on our face, the sun on our skin, the floor beneath our feet.  We can find the good in the worst of times.  That ability is what makes us as humans so very unique, so resilient, so incredible.  The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

Wherever you are today, whatever life has thrown your way, whatever difficult, unfair thing, I challenge you to find the good.  Hug the good, kiss the good, absorb it into your being, absolutely squish it into yourself until you feel it inside, and you are no longer observing it, but feeling the good.  And if you can’t seem to find the good, I challenge you to be it.  Be the good because I guarantee those around you are in need of it.  We are capable.  We are survivors.  We are strong.  We are the good.

Best Mom Ever Status????

Something has occurred in my household numerous times over the last….well, I’m not even sure how long…as long as I remember, I guess.  I’ll be snuggling my children on the couch, or at bedtime, or we’ll be sitting down to supper, or we’ll be doing nothing in particular, and my children, my son or my daughter, will look at me and declare, “You’re the best mom ever.”  The statement throws me off every single time.  I usually respond with, “Well I do love you with all of my heart.”  I don’t say thank you, I don’t own that title, I don’t feel deserving…instead, I feel a kind of guilt sweep over me, thinking “No, no I’m the not the best mom ever. I could be so much better.”

Have you ever felt that?  That feeling that you’re being credited with something that just isn’t yours to own…and by the person/people that you love more than anything else on this planet.  Those people that you owe everything to because they bring you the most happiness, the most contentment, the most joy.  A feeling of shame because you can’t or won’t do more for them.  That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

Here are the things that keep me from owning that “Best Mom” status…these are the things that make me feel guilty and less than:

  1. I don’t listen.  I don’t listen to my children.  I started a tradition a long time ago with my children for them to tell me each day about their high and low moment.  I did this out of fear that they would grow up and not talk to me about their lives, so I thought I would open the communication channels early.  Let me tell you, talking is not a problem in my house.  My children talk all the time, non-stop, every moment…about sports cars, YouTube videos, music, video games, friends, teachers, cell phones, animals…you get the idea.  And some times, more times than I care to admit, I nod my head without listening, because I can’t take it all in…knowing full and well a day will come when their chatter won’t fill every moment of my life.  Knowing I shouldn’t take this for granted, but still, I don’t listen.
  2. I feed them crap.  Not literal crap, but you know…poptarts, cereal, Beefaroni, Ramen Noodles, lunchables.  I know these are not healthy choices…far from organic or natural…definitely not fresh or nutritious.  My children deserve healthy, wholesome, nutritious food, and I try to get those things to them them regularly.  But I also just settle for feeding them the instant, easy junk because, well because…it’s instant and easy.  No other excuses.  Along these same lines, I also don’t fix my kids’ lunch for school.  No fancy, pretty bento lunches for the Hafele children.  My daughter actually asked to bring lunch to school the other day, and I just said “No” for no other reason than I don’t want to fix my kids’ school lunch every single evening…or ever.
  3. I haven’t exercised with my kids for a long time.  In the past, I have had great parenting moments where my kids and I ride bikes,go for runs, walk to the park and do all of these great active things together.  But I’ve not had one of those moments for a long time.  For a while because I was finishing my MBA, and now because I’m pregnant and out of shape, but they deserve to have a mom who gets down and plays with them on their level.  The fact that I can’t and haven’t done that, makes me feel nothing short of horrible.
  4. I love to go to work.  I love my job and my career and working.  Even if I had the option to stay home with my children financially, I don’t think that I would.  I love spending time with my children, but my career is fulfilling for me as an unique human being.  I feel challenged by and excited for my career  in a way that is 100% my own, and I’m not willing to give that up.  I grew up in a household where my mother stayed home from work to raise me, so this is a tough one for me.  Don’t my children deserve that same focus and dedication?  Does it make me a bad mom that I’m not willing to sacrifice my professional aspirations to be a full time mom?
  5. I don’t remind them to brush their teeth every single night, I forget to give my daughter her allergy medicine some mornings, I don’t always remember to clean their ears or trim their nails, my daughter’s finger nails aren’t painted, she doesn’t have ear rings in, I don’t watch my son practice ball in our yard, I don’t craft them homemade items, I don’t scrapbook for them, I never finished either of their baby books, I fail at turning in their paperwork 5/10 times, I watch movies with them that other parents would think are too mature for them, I listen to music with them that has cuss words in it, I feel irritated when I have to stop my podcast in the morning because my bathroom has been overrun by my children, sometimes I just want a break and then I miss them like crazy when they’re gone, some days I don’t want to do tuck-ins at bedtime, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and 100,000,000 other things I that do wrong or at least not perfectly.

This list could go on forever.  But the truth is that I love my children deeply and wildly.  I thank God for them every single day, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed.  And for all of my faults, I truly do the best that I can.  My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

So certainly, I am not perfect, and the older I get the less I try for perfection.  But maybe through the laughter we share, through the hugs and the kisses, through the silly faces and dances, through the homecooked meals and dinners at the table that I do get accomplished, through setting an example for them of what hard work and passion looks like, through dedication and devotion to their father, through forgiveness and understanding, through real conversations about the joyous and hard things in life, through moments in the garden, through movie nights on the couch, through family fun days…maybe through these moments, I deserve the best mom status.  Best for them, my children, my gift, my greatest accomplishment.  Maybe next time I hear those words, I can feel pride and not shame.  Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe we all can do just that…and take pride that our children see us as we actually are, not in the flawed ways that we see ourselves.