Wonder and Joy

I need to say thank you.

Thank you to the internet for inspiration. Thank you to all the people who do the holiday season up big. Thank you to the Heather Lands of the world who make me belly laugh about our silly traditions. Thank you for the conversations of dear friends as we eat delicious food, do laundry, and find humor in our family and our work. Thank you for far away friends as we compare notes and ideas to make the holidays wonderful, and commiserate with us when they go awry. Thank you, Mom, for the conversation about the wonder of Christmas, and letting kids be kids.

And a special thank you to Hannah’s teacher.

You see, her teacher shared that she had said her home elf was quite boring. Dobby only moved around but never did anything funny or amazing like the elf in the classroom. She wasn’t shaming me or ridiculing me by sharing what Hannah had said, but was simply sharing the magic of the season…she loved how her students’ faces lit up each day as the elf did some new and crazy thing – even simple things – all by themselves.

It woke me up. Big time.

In a season where perfection abounds, it’s hard when things aren’t they way we’d like them. My person is deployed. (No, they don’t get Christmas off. Or New Year’s. Or the kids’ birthdays. Or their birthday. Or any of the other holidays this year.) The kids are missing their dad. It sucks. Yes, it’s part of it, but it still sucks.

And yet….it’s Christmas.

Hannah’s teacher sharing reminded me that even though it’s not an ideal holiday, that while our hearts are hurting, they can also be filled with joy.

And wonder.

And the magic of a silly elf on the shelf.

Not only did he do all these silly antics over the past month…

…he reminded us all that wonder and joy can still be found.

Kind of what Christmas is all about anyway, right?

❤️ Wishing you joy and wonder this Christmas season ❤️❤️❤️

The Life Raft of Gratitude

Navigating this deployment with kids old enough to comprehend time and distance more than they did the last time around, I’m finding that it’s teaching me how to teach them how to navigate tough emotions. One has to have a good cry, the other wants to not talk about it, for now. “Later, mom. We’ll talk later.”

The urge to fix it is there. It’s like this gene that makes us desire to make everything all better is implanted the minute we hold our children for the first time. I resist this “fix-it gene” because in the long run, masking over feelings is not healthy. I want them to sit in the middle of the mess and know it’s going to be okay. Cry, rage, be mad, exhaust all of it. Feeling all the feelings is healthy and normal. Stuffing, ignoring, masking, and distracting pain will only prolong the inevitable. You cannot go around, over, under pain; at some point you have to go through it. It takes guts. When I don’t know what else to do, I grasp for the things that ease pain. Exercise and physical exertion are often-utilized tools in my belt. I don’t always have that in me, though. That which eases without fail: gratitude. Gratitude is the raft for traveling through the gut-wrenching sludge of pain. It’s a survival vehicle that my kiddos will know well.

For today, I’m focused on the little things; a freshly mowed lawn, dogs that seem to sense a shift and are snuggling in close as if they know we need a little more love today, the dishes that were done last night so I could just sit and be today, teaching my daughter the exquisite release that comes from laughing through tears, the automatic coffee maker for preparing a warm pot before I even slipped a foot out from under the covers, and the quiet calm of knowing that the worst part for me is over, so I can focus on what the kids will need in the coming weeks.

Figuring out one thing – even a tiny thing – that I am grateful for can create a 180-degree shift in my mood and attitude. It creates calm in the midst of chaos, fear, and uncertainty.

I used to love browsing shops and looking for sales before kids. Getting lost in a store or the shelves of a Barnes and Noble was a way to pass deployment time. I still enjoy it a little from time to time when I am afforded the opportunity to escape alone. I really don’t like shopping with other people. While I would gladly stop a bullet and step in front of a train for my kids, I loathe dragging them to the store. LOATHE.

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As a person who gets distracted easily, the concentration of remembering what I need from the list I left in the car (but am too lazy to go back and get), mentally canvassing the cupboards and refrigerator from memory, checking ingredients and prices, all while attempting to keep the kids in line, not grabbing stuff, and preventing bodily injury to themselves and unsuspecting passersby with the cart – I come home exhausted and cranky.

The big thing I’m thankful for this deployment? Amazon Prime and our local HEB Curb-to-You online service.

Seriously. LIFE. CHANGING. I know I’m late to the party, but whoa! School supply shopping? DONE. Birthday shopping for August? DONE. The next upcoming birthday and Christmas will be done and done online. I will never have to leave my house if I don’t want to! No crowds, no hassle, no problem! I got this!

Table for 3 please. We’ll take gratitude for things large and small, with a big ol’ side of humor.

 

 

Far from Perfect. Not Even Good. 

….Tra-la-la-la-la….skipping happily through summer, making delicious vegetarian meals for my family to savor as we gather around the table for dinner every evening…after playing merrily through our warm South Texas days….

Yeah. Keep dreaming. We are also smack dab in the middle of Crap Week. What’s Crap Week, you ask? Oh, let me explain. Crap Week is defined as anywhere from 1-3 weeks for a military family right before the service person departs. We are down to the last few days. It’s a flurry of last minute preparations, last one-on-one dates with the kids, family adventures and trying to inhale as much of him as we can. Meanwhile, he’s reminding me of house duties like replacing the filters, where the water shut off valve is, and mentioning oil change schedules, blah, blah, blah, I-can’t-hear-you-because-I’m-in-denial, blah, blah, blah. In the midst of this, I decide that going meatless is genius. I’ll wait while you cease snort laughing.

Here’s what actually happened last night:

As per usual, the kids decided to lose their minds right around 3:30-4pm. Convenient considering that that is when I’m deciding on and prepping for dinner, hubby coming home, etc. (And by “etc.”, I mean finishing up a video game that I was playing with my son, but I got engrossed in, far after he’d lost interest and moved on to antagonizing his sister, who is simply trying to watch Moana for the 873rd time. At full volume.) I reluctantly shut off the game, erasing the evidence that I’d crushed my high score.

I had planned to make yummy burgers, since I’m sure poor hubby has been craving them as we adventure into meatless territory. Finding a mere 1,876 recipes for black bean vegan burgers online, I picked one based on ingredients I had on hand. Toasting the buns we had leftover from another meatless miss, I pull them out of the oven to notice tiny little green spots.

Mold. I have moldy buns. My delicious made-with-only-4-ingredients-whole-wheat buns have grown green hair patches. Luckily I have 4 more buns of the preservative-laden “sit on the shelf and not mold for 6 months” variety. I quickly pop them under the broiler to toast while I whip up my “burgers”.

Taking them out of the oven, I eye them dubiously. I look at Eric, who is also surveying the mess. I think I know in my heart of hearts how this is going to end, as does he. He puts on a brave face for me, since I’ve already tossed the first round of moldy buns – he feels bad that this will likely all end up in the trash.

Parchement paper was *supposed* to ensure crisp edges. The internet lied to me.I feel so betrayed.

I even made this yummy plate of veggie toppings for what were going to be scrumptious burgers! Sadly, Hannah mistook the purple onion for some purple cabbage and couldn’t figure out why her mouth was burning! “Why would the cabbage be so spicy, Mom?”

Note to self, don’t eat raw onions. You know, unless you like them.

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My sad, disgusting meatless bean burger.

Eric took a bite and smiled at me, chewing slowly. I looked at him and asked, “How bad is it?!”

“Just try a bite,” he said, struggling to swallow.

It should be noted that when someone smells something awful, what is the first thing they do? YES! They offer it to someone else to smell the awfulness. I believe the same could be said of taste. “This is so gross! Here, you try it!”

I bit into it.

I immediately stood up, grabbed my plate, spit my bite out, dashed over to the kitchen and dumped it all into the trash. Hannah refused to try it after our reactions, and I didn’t blame her one bit. We were all laughing at the ridiculousness.

He made a box of mac and cheese for him and Hannah. Jacob (who’d already eaten his usual dinner and was unaffected by all of this nonsense) accompanied me to Freebirds where I had a decent dinner that I didn’t have to prepare.

I’ll call it far from perfect, but funny for sure!

 

Resist

I’ve been sitting here staring out the window to my backyard for about 3 minutes with my hands resting on the keyboard.

“I don’t have a clue…” I think to myself as the sun shines through the trampoline screen that is now a semi-permanent fixture right outside my bedroom window. Dog hair litters the floor, the sun highlights the fact that I haven’t had the energy or inclination to vacuum lately, among other things.

I don’t have a clue. There is so much noise right now. Many valid points, but it’s as if everyone is screaming at everyone else with their hands over their ears, no one hearing anything but the sound of their own anger.  Not my president, get over it, pro-life, pro choice, anti-this, anti-that…..I feel like the kid in the middle of a horrendous divorce. The issues are plenty and every participant wildly passionate.

I find myself pushing. Pushing away.

Resisting.

When the anxiety gets to the point of overwhelm, I have found that I have to resist.

Resist the idea that there is only a this or a that. The black and white thinking that there is only a right or a wrong, an option A. or a B. You are either pro or anti. No. Not with everything. Many things are multifaceted and require investigation into grey areas.

Resist the inclination to know everything, to be certain. I love having a plan and executing it. That’s where I’m comfortable. Whether it’s a recipe to follow, food plan and prep, an exercise regimen, a life philosophy, faith, or anything else – I am wary of people so certain that their thoughts are right and everyone else is wrong. The older I get, the more uncertain I feel about so many things I thought were long ago nailed down. To be certain feels a lot like a mind closed.

Resist the temptation to sit down, be quiet and not think critically.  Despite the appeal of sticking one’s head in the sand, that’s not a solution for anyone.

Resist responding with angerAnger is draining. I have to respond with curiosity, love and a genuine desire to learn. The alternative is to join the deafening chaos of the crowd and I won’t do that.

I look at the trampoline outside my window once more and visualize my laughing, screaming minions bouncing around, as they will no doubt do again this evening, just like they did yesterday and the day before.

Resist doing nothing because everything feels overwhelming. Glennon Doyle Melton said something that struck a chord with me. “Do not discount the work that you do at home with your children.” I may only be able to show two little people what love and kindness looks like, but eventually they will grow up to be big people and they will in turn show love and kindness in their school, in their work, and in their communities.

 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”

-Mother Theresa

 

Daily Prompt: Resist

A Peek Behind the Curtain

Not just because of an election season that has left most of us feeling like we’ve been sitting in the spin cycle of a washing machine all wrung out, and not because of another public shooting, or other tragic event.  Just the d-word in general. Depression.

I started writing about my own experiences with depression a couple of years ago and it’s been sitting off to the side ever since:

As I’ve gotten older, I have noticed seasons come and go where I was more myself, light-hearted and easy going. There were dips when I made poor choices in relationships, knowing it wasn’t going to lead anywhere good. Job changes, promotions and other events gave cause for the usual ups and downs of life. Overall, I had a hopeful outlook  – and that things would always work out even if I didn’t love the crap out of every single day.

I got married when I was 23. 8 years later I felt the weight of postpartum depression come crashing down on me in the shower as the water rushed over my now-foreign body, the sound of my hollow sobs echoing against the bathroom walls. Would he ever stop crying? Would my nipples ever stop aching? Bleeding? How was I ever going to be a functional person again? It was all so very overwhelming and completely unexpected. No one tells you about this part of bringing a baby home. No one told me there would be a “new normal”. I thought my new normal was insanity and a deep, dark hole that seemed insurmountable.

A few years and another child later, my husband left for what would be in total a 15 month deployment with a couple of weeks off during the holidays. That was a rough couple of years. We didn’t know then that our son would later be diagnosed with HFA (High Functioning Autism) or Asperger’s. We thought he was defiant and strong willed. I felt like a total failure at this parenting thing.

And now, here I sit. In the middle of it again. Our oldest is now 6 and our daughter is 4. Every day seems like such a struggle. They are bigger kids, but they aren’t quite big kids yet, so they are pushing every boundary and testing every limit. They don’t listen like we think they should. Our expectations are often more than they are capable.They fight with each other. Both my husband and I were the youngest of our own families and were much younger than our siblings – so we were basically raised as only children. It seems we don’t know what we are doing, daily. I have a book on my bedside table called Stop Arguing and Start Understanding…but it seems so exhausting to put forth the effort to read it. I’m so tired. I’ve been exercising daily, as I know that it is my tether to sanity. But I’m lonely here. I don’t have many friends yet, and I don’t have the gumption to really put myself out there to meet people. At the end of the day, I often feel like I can barely give enough to my kids and myself I just don’t have anything left over to offer in terms of friendships. I would be a taker and it just would be so much effort.

Yes, I know, I’m worth it, and I matter, and all that. My hope is that this is just a season. I really do. And I want it over. I don’t usually like to rush the time with my kids, but there are a few phases that I would love to just skip over entirely. This would definitely be one of them.

I wrote this in a draft 2 years ago. The kids are older and some things are easier with them. They are more independent and we are moving forward with evaluations for our son. I have peace about the things I was unsettled about before, but there are other things that seem so much the same. I feel it coming again. The heavy blanket that I know is not good, but feels so comforting. It’s deceptive in the way it makes me think I want it. I want the heavy blanket to wrap itself around me. “Sleep…” it whispers. “Don’t fight it…relax…” And rest is what I crave. It always knows what to say.

In my work as a trainer, I often fill the role of encourager, cheerleader, or simply the friendly instructor who is quick to smile and offer a friendly good morning. Exercise and physical activity has, and will continue to be, my method to maintaining mental health. “We leave all the stuff of life outside those doors,” I tell participants in my group classes. “Turn off the phones. Whatever is needed of us will still be there in 1 hour. Take this time – it’s yours. If you are anything like me, we need this time,” I say. Lately it’s been a struggle to be the encourager. How am I supposed to help others when some days it feels like I can’t even help myself?

Part of it is the season. Part of it is less sunlight. Part of it is – I just don’t know.

And I don’t care.

That’s what scares me.

Depression is the not caring that you don’t even care. I just want to sleep. I want to numb out. I want to drink and stay in that perfect buzzed state where you know you won’t get sick, but have enough that you just don’t give a shit or have to think to deeply about anything.

Sometimes I think those of us that feel things deeply have to go through periods where we numb out for a while to turn it all off. The feeling of everything just gets to be too much.

For me, I wait this out. It passes. I let go of what I can. I take a deep breath and try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.