Oh, Elf To The No. Confession: There is no Elf on my Shelf.

51ky-Y-kzsL._SL500_AA300_Confession: There is no Elf on my shelf. Just: dust. Well, dust with a garland of cat hair. The pics are not worth “pinning.” I’m okay with that. Don’t panic if your shelf is adorned by an elf. I’m not judging. (Unless, you buy it outfits and dress it like one of those creepy concrete geese from the ’80’s. Then: I rightfully, judge. ) I don’t have a moral aversion to Elves, or their participation in the Christmas season. I believe in equal opportunities for decor of all persuasions. Even elves. On your shelves. Your house- your rules. As far a Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas goes- I think elves would have been welcome in the manger. He hung out with taxpayers and prostitutes- I don’t think he’d be prejudiced against elves. They probably come under the “let the little ones come unto me” category. For all I know- a pair of elves may have been on the ark.  (Okay- let’s not think about where elves come from. Erase that.)

Anyway- it’s not an issue of morality for me. Greater minds than mine, can debate the theology of the elf. I’m out of that one. And since you can’t turn around in a store without bumping into a 12 ft high display of them, I can assure you it’s not because I can’t find one. It’s harder to avoid them.

I don’t need one. I don’t WANT one. *gasp* I know. I am a bad mother.

The truth is: I do not need another thing to DO during Christmas. I have a hard enough time making sure people have food, clean clothing and other important things like: toilet paper. Much more practical. Actually- I could get behind (no pun intended) TP on a shelf- a new tradition where in you hide the last roll of toilet paper somewhere in the house- and people roam around in a pseudo-panic doing the potty dance as they search for it.  I know, I know, like the cat-hair garland- just not “pin worthy.” If I posted pics on FaceBook my kids would (probably) kill me. (Once your children tower over you- you learn to be careful. Just sayin. My fear of the college boys outweighs the leverage I still have over the youngest. Make no mistake: when it comes to your kids- it’s them against you. They will choose sides, and it won’t be yours.Unless we’re talking outsider- invasion- then- they’ve got your back.)

Anyway- I have enough to do without adding an elvish excursion in competitive creativity. Like: school parties, gift shopping and countless hours spent bent in pain trying to wrap a forest’s worth of glittery paper over odd shaped items in hopes of camouflaging their contents. (And debating adding ribbon out of fear the cat may eat the ribbon AGAIN.  While I have to admit it adds a festive color scheme to the regular catpuke- it’s  not the decor theme I am going for.) Then, there is the baking of all things carb-laden. The stockings to be hung. (And socks to be sorted.)  The tree to be decorated. People to be entertained. And….and…. why am I on this computer, when I have so much to do?

Oh, right.  To rant.  About the Elf. That’s not on my shelf. Because: I’m trying to preserve the sanity of MYSELF.

Don’t get me wrong- I appreciate (read: am highly intimidated by) the creativity and dedication of my fellow elf hiding parents.  Jim Henson couldn’t think of so many ways to hide, pose or freak your kid out with a doll. I have seen Elves peeking from doorways, from bookshelves, from nooks, between the pages of books and zip lining from chandeliers. I saw Elves held hostage by lego- dudes and “fishing” in a toilet bowl complete with “goldfish crackers.” (I hope that mom didn’t have toddlers…. Goldfish crackers are the manna of toddlers-  totally irresistible- blue water sodden or not. Gross.) I even saw the little guy in compromising situations that are NSFW. (Or home, for that matter. You never know what you’ll find on Pinterest- be careful. I didn’t need to see that. Pass the brain-bleach- please.)

All of which makes me just say: Elf No. Not going there. (Especially that last part… ew.)

Maybe, it’s because I’m kind of afraid the elf would end up like the tooth fairy. (She has about a 40% chance of showing up the first night a tooth is placed under a pillow- here. However, by day 3 she’s up to 98%. So there’s that. ) Maybe, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to compete. I’m afraid my poor child would go to school and when all the other kids are reporting the mischief and foibles of their elves, and mine would be the one saying: “On the shelf again. He didn’t move. My mom said he should have gotten his flu shot.” or- “Well, he was on a different shelf, I think. My mom bought the store brand one. She’s cheap.” Worse yet- he could be the kid in tears- after finding the elf dismembered by the dog after being adorably “seated” near her food bowl. (Beagles eat EVERYthing. trust me.) Basically, I fear having to plan an elf funeral. I also fear Elf Protective Services beating their tiny fists on my wreath- bedecked front door to arrest me for elf neglect and and/or endangerment.

Or maybe, I’m afraid I’d get so caught up in the “elf movement” that I’d end up in rehab. I could become obsessed with Elf care and unable to care for myself, my kids or my home. I could end up wearing red tights and a pointy hat, mumbling: “I have to hide-I have to hide, it’s for the children!” while snorting candy cane dust to ease the pain of my failures. (It could happen. I’m about one bad day from a psych ward- especially at this time of year.)

The truth is much more boring. I just chose to opt out. It’s an option. Who knew? (Newsflash: you can’t and don;t have to DO IT ALL.)

Just say: no. Better yet- “Elf, No!” I did.

It doesn’t make me a bad mother. (Other things do that better.) It doesn’t mean I’m a judgmental killjoy. It just means: I pick and choose how and where to invest my limited time and energy and this is a place where I draw a line. I’d rather spend 10 minutes playing Apples to Apples with my youngest than hiding a doll that is a rainbow haired wig, short of being a troll around the house. I’d rather drink cocoa, cuddled on the couch reading one of his favorite books with him, than set up a marshmallow mountain ski-scene with a hot chocolate hot tub for an elf. I doubt my kid will be damaged by this choice. I doubt he’ll feel he had “less” of a Christmas because of it. (He may even enjoy it more- what with me not being in Elf jail or a psych ward. Maybe.)

So….Am I the only one? Is ours the last Elf free home? Am I the only one who’s intimidated by the whole thing? If not- let me know in the comments- and tell us why….If you are an “Elf on the Shelfer”- (New reality show to be aired right after Doomsday Preppers. Watch for it.) tell me your favorite elf stories—I can’t wait to hear!

Dear Lord- every parent has to decide how and where to creative special moments- help us to honor you in all we do- and to enjoy every busy love filled moment of this holiday that reminds us of all YOU do. I love you lord….. amen. 

Holiday repost:)

Christmas Calamity- When the dog eats baby Jesus- you may be missing the point.

“I want a hand carved Nativity.  That will be the perfect souvenir!  An heirloom!  It will be perfect.” I told my husband- long before we left for our trip to Germany. When we arrived- I scoured every shop in Bavaria searching for just the right one. Finally- in a beautiful, tiny shop that smelled of  raw wood- I found it: Our perfect nativity.

Afraid it would be damaged on the  plane ride home, I carefully wrapped it, boxed it and shipped it from the hotel. (It would have been cheaper to buy it a plane ticket. International shipping from the hotel was: pricy. I’m pretty sure the shops and hotel conspired against all tourists on that one. Everywhere we went it was: Buy it- no problem! Sure- the cuckoo clock- and maybe the grandfather clock?  The hotel will ship it for you!”)  Once home- we had to wait weeks for the package to clear customs.  I wanted it to be there before Christmas. The clock was ticking.

It made it. (For the most part even intact. One corner of the creche was broken:( )  However- it was perfect. A golden winged angel floated above the creche by hanging from a tiny nail. A green pine tree creates a pastoral feel. Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child look exactly as I’d imagined. Holy. Wonderfilled. And then there was my favorite piece- a tiny little mother- holding the hand of her son and introducing him to her Lord (Forget about the wisemen… I wanted a momma!) It was beautiful and meaningful… I wanted it to be the hearth of our holiday home..Yup, it was perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that I decided not to pack it up after the holidays.

It stays on our china cabinet in the kitchen. It’s there. Right now.

Years went by.

I had another baby.

And I got very busy. Way too busy. My to-do list items multiplied like bunnies.

I decided to bake cookies as gifts. A lot of cookies. So many cookies that it was a fulltime job for days.

A job truly, and: I didn’t have childcare. I had: ignore the child unless he’s in danger, care.

I was cranky. I groused as I baked. I rushed. I had gifts to wrap and parties to attend. Parties that involved “bringing a dish.” Which meant: more cooking. I couldn’t even hear the Christmas music playing because my brain was screaming: “I can’t do it all. No one will appreciate it anyway! What’s the point? Why does the mother have to make all the Christmas plans? I can only do so much!”

As I whipped pans in and out of the oven, yelling at the dog to stay back and threatening anyone who dared snatch a cookie before they were counted and divided into the awaiting “perfect” boxes. I heard my youngest- Noah’s tiny voice playing super heroes. “Ha! Got you- Take that! Hi-ya!” Near the china cabinet. “At least he’s busy and out of the way.” I thought. 

I moved on to truffles. As I concentrated on tempering chocolate and blending ganache… I could hear Noah…. “the dog..baby Jesus… Momma.. the dog….. baby Jesus…”  But somehow none of it registered.

After putting a bowl of perfect ganache into the fridge.. I decided to take a break. As I walked to the other side of the kitchen, I noticed funny yellow and gold bits on the floor… It was not, as I suspected at first, Cheerios. I bent to inspect the bits.

“What’s that, Noah?” (Why do we always ask?)

“Momma! The dog ate baby Jesus!” Noah announced. “I told you!” Making it very clear that this was my fault.

On further inspection, I found that she had done, just that.The dog ate baby Jesus. She’d also noshed one angel’s wing and one tiny angel hand went completely missing. (I think she had seconds.)

Apparently, the super hero play had been between the angel and Jesus…at least it had been,  until the dog attacked like a beagle-zilla. In one  cookie filled ganache covered moment- our perfect and precious nativity became empty.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I blinked. A lot. Trying not to cry.

Noah started to cry. “Are you mad momma?  I no do it!” His hands covered his little diaper padded butt… afraid a swat was imminent.

I left the room. I went where all good moms go to cry- the bathroom.

The sobs had little to do with the nativity. It was just….everything. The stress of trying to buy gifts for 32 bazillion people on a single income.  The stress of trying to create a Martha Stewart Holiday with children and pets underfoot. The stress of trying to make many people happy- including myself. And in realizing that in doing all that… I’d totally missed the point.

It wasn’t just the nativity in the china cabinet that was empty.

The dog ate  baby Jesus long before that super hero- smack-down.

… the dog’s name wasn’t Sami (our Beagle) it’s name was busy-ness and the pursuit of perfection. She’d snuck into my holiday and gobbled up the point along with the figurines.

In that moment, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to let the rest of the holiday slip by in a blur. No more cookies. No more perfect dinner. Everyone can bring a dish to pass, I can’t and don’t have to do it all. Clean enough is clean enough. It isn’t about perfect presents… and it isn’t about starving in January to pay for December feasting. I made changes. (And I may have eaten a few spoons full of ganache without bothering to roll the truffles first-I needed to take the edge off.)

Noah and I retreated to the couch. I left the dishes until later. Instead of a swat, we cuddled in front of the tree.

That was years ago.

The empty nativity still has a place of honor on our china cabinet. Nope. it’s never been replaced. Baby Jesus is still gone. The angel looks post- apocalyptic. But- it reminds me that there is more to this season than the pursuit of a perfection… There is a God who became man and brought with him the perfect gifts of grace and love…. Who came in humility from a throne to a dung-pile. (Mangers are not so nice in reality- they smell and have all the detritus, animal and other wise, that any barn would have.) It’s about a father’s love.

This year- again.. I want to remember. I’m trying. It’s hard.

I want to make sure the dog doesn’t eat baby Jesus…..(we still have that beagle… I love her. Even if she ate my savior:P)

I have to:

1) Say “No.” No, I can’t volunteer for this- I can’t give to that… I can’t be everywhere, I can’t do it all.

2) Accept enough. Maybe one batch of cookies is enough.(For that matter- buy cookie dough and pass a spoon.. that’s how we really like it anyway!) Maybe, drawing names instead of buying for everyone we’ve ever met, is enough.

3) Do the things that matter. I’m slowing down. I’m building a fire and reading the Christmas story. I’m watching Polar Express without folding laundry at the same time. (Multi-tasking= doing too much. just sayin.) Cuddling. Listening.

What about you?

What can you say “no” to? What’s good enough? What matters? What tries to snatch the baby Jesus out of your family’s nativity?

Let’s keep those dogs at bay.. together.

This is a post I put up every year- because I need the reminder- very year;) 

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Hope- Deferred and Delayed. In Which my Hope Doesn’t Ship from Amazon. Christmas- However, Might.

413BzILjYML._SX90_“We’re sorry to inform you that your shipment has been delayed.”

I HATE that. Especially at this time of year. Especially when the delayed shipment contains my hope. (necklace, at least.)

I confess- I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. For the most part love- as evidenced by the rainforest of trees pulped into cardboard boxes with “that” little Amazon smile on the side in my garage. (Not rainforest wood in this boxes, btw.) I love that Amazon delivers Christmas straight to my door when I’m too busy and too cray-cray avoidant to go to the mall.

Not so much-when I order myself a necklace that says: “Hope.” And it’s shipping is delayed:(

Which is ironic and, kind of biblical.

Scripture says: Hope delayed- sucks. (Well- not exactly. Thats’ the Tracey-version) But, pretty much. Read here.)

No. This is not (just) about a necklace I got as a daily deal while I was supposed to be Christmas shopping for OTHERS. (That’s a whole ‘nother article. I’m so much easier for me to shop for than, others. I know what I like.)

Anyway-this IS about: hope. Delayed. Deferred. Not by UPS. Or Amazon.

By: life.

  • Hope for my husband’s healing.
  • Hope for a project I long to finish.
  • Hope for my kids best.
  • Hope for a Christmas (and a life) not tainted by cancer.
  • And- yes- hope that the gifts I’ve ordered will arrive by Christmas- so I won’t be up till 2 am printing off I O U’s and wrapping pictures of the same.)

Some of these, I’ve been waiting a very long time for. Years. Decades. Months. Weeks. (Days for Amazon- which can feel like years.)  Side note: The older I get- the more Santa looks like the UPS guy. Just saying.

Some days my heart feels sickened by hope deferred.

I feel: anxious, disappointed, frustrated, afraid.

Not by UPS.

I hate to admit that.  I hate even more, that it’s true. It’s also true that I’ve been beating myself with the “have you no faith?” stick, about it.

I mean-part of being a Christian means I believe that hope and faith are connected. All good Christians know that: faith is.. “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)

Which means: If I have faith- I’ll have hope that all these things will come to pass. Then- they will. Right? It’s auto-magic. Christ-o-matic.  Something like that.

Except- that’s NOT what this verse says.

Here’s the context:

1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.

3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

4By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”a For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

7By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because sheb considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

and continues later:

39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

This morning, Hope will either arrive- or not. I have no idea. What I do know is this: God has planned something better for us- so that together with US- the great list of the faithful in the Hebrews would be made perfect- whether they received what was promised or not.

Generations later.

The truth is still the truth.

Maybe this isn’t about me my hope, (deferred or not) or my faith( – enough or not-)after all. Maybe, it’s about God. Maybe he has a bigger picture.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know WHY God allows hope to be deferred when it makes our hearts sick. Let’s face it- I don’t even know why UPS is delayed.

I do  know this: where to turn when my heart feels sick with hope deferred.

To the one who loves me and comforts me in all pain. The one who DOES have all the answers, whether He shares them or not. And- the one who knows how all these things will play out- generations from now.

That -gives me hope. Which makes NO sense at all.

Maybe that’s what heart sickness is supposed to do. Maybe that’s part of the difference between God and a heavenly Santa.

Santa pays out when we’re good enough- God loves us when we’re heart-sick and somehow- then uses it to renew the deferred  hope that made us sick in the first place. (God is a Homeopath? Maybe.)

Dear Lord- you know I’m hoping for many things….. you also know I’m tired and disappointed and frustrated and heartsick over some of them. I offer up that heartsickness. I turn to you for comfort. Renew my hope. Remind me that I’m not waiting on Amazon or UPS- but on the one who loves perfectly and who’s plan is much bigger than I can comprehend. I love you Lord- even here- when I don’t understand and my Hope if deferred. Amen.

 

 

 

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I Quit Black Friday. Happy Restful- Friday to All!

UnknownExhausted, I roll out of bed at 3:00 a.m. Left over pie is my much needed sustenance.

Along with caffeine. A lot of caffeine.

I dress in my warmest fat pants (A must on the day after Thanksgiving.) a festive-ish top and winter accoutrement comet with mittens and ear muffs.

I pack my bag like a survivalist. I tuck in my spreadsheet of gifts to buy and my game plan for hitting the best spots at the best time. (This involves much contemplation and a city map. One must not waste time driving back and forth on a day such as this.) Knitting. (Needles double as a weapon and diversion.) A snack, most often: Chocolate. I grab my iPad and stuff it into my purse for last minute ad checking and diversion while I wait in the anticipated lines.

I fill a travel mug with as many shots of espresso as I can fit in into it- (The number? Enough to make a cardiologist twitch.) and then- I head into the great dark- abyss of Black Friday.

I’m the one singing carols, smiling, helping other people find their goodies and passing out chocolate like crack.

For years, I did this. Partly for the fun of the communal holiday- kickoff and partly because I wanted to be able to buy gifts I couldn’t really afford. “If I can score it on Black Friday- I can give X- Y gift!”

I  wanted to create the perfect holiday.

Problem: Over the years it became less and less fun. It went from excited expectation to nervous anticipation.  The truth is-Black Friday created a false reality and false expectations.

I planned ahead to buy things I couldn’t afford without the deals. My holidays and I, became deal dependent.

Even worse: If I couldn’t get the deal- I usually went a head and bought the item after the sale.Whether I could afford it or not.  I felt like I’d already committed and would let  people down. Self imposed guilt, with a side of appearance management. One Black Friday’s deals- fed into the need to nab the next years- Black Friday deals. The fun dissolved into anxiety. “I have to get X at Y store so that I can give everyone gifts I can’t really afford- and they must be equally valued- so i must get ALL the deals… Or- there will be a Christmas Apocalypse!”

I’m not the only one. Every year I’ve met my compadre’s in bargains and watched all of our attitudes change…forget the holidays and giving and fun…and feeling the lottery win type of feel of scoring a must have item for a great price. It became about entitlement. (“The Ad SAID you’d have it. I’m here. YOU MUST GIVE IT TO ME.” – Funny how we all ignore the “Limited supply” small print. Or maybe we assume it means: “Limited to me- supply.”) Instead of carols and companionship – it’s become -anger and fighting and brawling over barbies.  Or whatever the “it” item of the year is.

Then- they started opening stores on Thanksgiving. The one holiday where we just gather and love each other and feed each other and focus on gratefulness without the pressure or expense of “gifting.”

Last year- i refused to shop on Thanksgiving.

This year- I watched my son go to retail work (aka: hell) right after the Thanksgiving dishes were cleared. In order to make sure he had dinner- I started that 25 lb bird at 6 am.

This morning? I quit Black Friday.

I woke up like the well trained consumer that I am. And then- I went back to bed.

I refuse to spend more than I can afford. Even if it IS a deal.

I refuse to waste part of my life standing in line- angsty and cranky and anxious and stressed- as the kick off for my holiday season. I refuse to become that person with greed and frustration written all over my face and heart- again. (Which I was last year. Not good.)

Maybe, it’s a positive side effect of living with my husband’s cancer. But- I’ve learned that life is too short and too precious to spend it on appearance management and forcing my budget to go further than it’s able.

So- I quit. People I love will receive gifts I can afford. I will spend the day taking care of my husband, maybe doing some online shopping and at the eye-doctor.

I might take some time to hit the bookstore this afternoon after all the cranky people go back to bed.

Because It’s NOT BLACK FRIDAY to me. It’s the restful day after Thanksgiving. Because really- I worked all day cooking yesterday…. and rest is what today SHOULD be about.

However- I did have pie for breakfast. Some traditions are just that important. And coffee.

And I’ll still be wearing my fat-pants.

Because: Thanksgiving.

PS: If you’re out there this morning… I wish you well. Seriously. If black friday deals help you get what you need or what your kids dream of- I get it. I’m just bowing out- because it’s not good for ME. I’m a jerk. And black friday makes me even jerkier. Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thankful in, if Not, For…Cancer.

IMG_7095It’s quiet, Like a lot of you- I’ve been up for hours. There’s a giant (As in: will this bird fit into the oven or, will I have to take a chainsaw to it? Sized) turkey in the oven. There’s an apple pie in the convection oven,(We’ll see how that goes.) and a pumpkin pie ready for whipped cream, on the stove top. (I hate pumpkin pie. But- my husband loves it and I’m a selfless giver- so I baked him a frozen one. In heaven, I get special jewels in my crown for that.) The rest of our side dishes are lined up on the counter and ready to cook.

As the turkey roasts- I can finally settled into my comfy chair with a steaming cup of peppermint mocha. (Cooking burns a LOT of calories.. right?)

Which is when the questions everyone is asking today,  finally got a chance to whisper to my soul:

“Are you Thankful? What are you thankful for?”

I’ll be honest- My first thought?

“I’m NOT thankful for cancer. I hate cancer.”

Nice. There goes the jewels in my crown. They’re rolling around on heaven’s floor like marbles in my kitchen. (Sidebar: I’m so glad we’re finally past the legos and marbles and other toys of impending foot doom, btw.)

What a jerk.  When my soul asks what I’m thankful for- I immediately answer with: what I’m not.

I took another sip of peppermint mocha.(Somedays, caffeine is the oil of joy for my soul. Deal with it.)

Let’s try this again: “Are you Thankful? What are you thankful for?”

“Well, I’m thankful I don’t have cancer… One cancer patient in the house, is enough.”

Really? Yup. Really.

Apparently, I have a one track mind and that track runs straight to cancer- regardless of where I’m trying to go. Probably because the past 6 weeks have been cancer- hell. 2 hospital admissions, 3 surgeries countless appointments, and on going care that involves a spreadsheet and is hard for both my husband, and I. Yeah.. could be why.

Here’s the thing-I’m learning that cancer can do to your heart and mind the same thing it does to bodies. It can cause one thought/feeling (type of cell) to multiply divide and take over the healthy ones. Bone cells and blood cells in my husband’s case- thankfulness in mine.

Here’s what’s interesting about cancer- from scans to blood tests- the focus becomes finding and looking for cancer. Pretty soon- that’s all you see. You totally forget the 99% of the body that’s healthy and clear of cancer. All you see and think about are those few,(Or, many but still, not  usually the majority.) eerie ominous “spots.”

Like bodies though- my heart has more to it. My heart has parts that are still healthy. Still thankful. Even here.

So- this morning I’m taking a PET scan of my life… and I’m choosing to look at all the things that I AM thankful for….
I’m looking past the diseased parts and looking at the whole picture…

I may not be thankful FOR cancer- but there is a lot to be thankful for IN it…

  • a husband who loves and trusts me with his tenders needs and care.
  • Family and friends that’s messy and real and loves and does- whatever needs doing. Whether we ask for help or not.
  • Friends who remind me and give me reminders that beauty can come from pain.
  • Friends who get our pain. Because they’ve been here.
  • Being able to be there for friends who are following in our footsteps.
  • People who love us enough to walk this pain filled path beside us. Where ever it leads and however we feel. (Permission to feel is an enormous gift that brings peace. Trying NOT to feel, -been there- tried that-is like trying NOT to think about anything. The emotional equivalent to sudden onset OCD- whatever you’re trying NOT to think about or feel- becomes all you can think about- and feel.)
  • Food to nourish us in our exhaustion and pain.(Even the stupid pumpkin pie. I’m thankful to be able to bless my husband with a small offering of yum to counter his pain.)
  • A home to shelter us.
  • Pets to comfort us ad bring us laughs. (Except when they pee -or worse-on the floor. Not so much thankful for that.)
  • Insurance that covers us. (Even though the copays mount up- I can’t imagine trying to pay out of pocket for all this care and medication.)
  • A job that provides for us and co-workers who help cover- what needs covering.
  • Heat and power and appliances- to warm us and spoil us and make life a bit easier…(The dishwasher was dead for a few days this month- A good reminder of how thankful I am for that stainless steel counter space hog.)
  • A hot cup of peppermint mocha on a cold morning.
  • A reclining chair in a hospital room- so I could stay with my beloved as he fights for his life.
  • Doctors who care and refuse to give up.
  • Nurses and PA’s and surgeons and resident’s that go the extra mile and care about the people- not just the disease.
  • Hospital housekeeping staff that bring a smile and dignity as they clean bodily fluids from more places than they belong.(I wish I had their attitude. I’m trying to learn from them.)
  • A cottage that is always ready to relax in- with a view of water and a fire pit and a jet-ski…. a dream come true.Truly an abundant and extravagant blessing in a world where so many have no home. (Still struggle with some residual guilt there…justsayin.)
  • Cars to get us to appointments, jobs and much funner places.
  • Bookstores to lose myself in.
  • An internet and phone that give me instant access to friends and family near and far. (Kind of amazing, if you think about it.)
  • Being part of something bigger than myself- and being able to make a difference in the lives of others- even when I’m struggling.
  • Yarn and sticks and the ability to turn them into something that gets done and stays done and is even-beautiful.
  • Books and people that challenge and encourage me.

I could go on… but we all have pies to get to and turkey’s to check on.

Even here- in the middle of the fight of our lives- and when cancer tries to steal our focus-

I am thankful. In it- if not for it. There always is.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I hope today- even if the pie is burnt, the bird is raw, or the numbness that accompanies grief, bad prognosis’, a relational catastrophe or  impending financial doom is wearing off and starting to cause a soul ache that steals your focus from thanksgiving to disease- you’ll sit down and join me in a life-PET scan- and find all the things you’re thankful for.

In the mess-  if not for it. Because it matters.

To your heart- and to God- because-when we look for and find those things- we really find HIM.

Matthew 7

Ask, Seek, Knock
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

I’m asking, I’m seeking- I’m finding… I hope you are too.

 

Being Me, Bravely- Brings Joy. Even when I fail.

IMG_7085Not everything I try, works.

Like the time I tried to put a wall paper boarder around the ceiling of the tiny bathroom at our first house. That involved standing on a kitchen chair in a slippery bathtub. Then, holding up the boarder and attempting to smooth it- until it adhered. It also involved: the chair slipping backwards as I was pressing forward. Not a good plan. Epic #fail.

Then, there’s the time I went through 6 gallons of milk, trying to make homemade mozzarella. I ended up with a tasteless wad of goo. And could have bought a cow for the amount of money I spent on supplies not to mention, the time wasted. #fail.

I have gone through years of arguing with my youngest about staying in his bed. I tried bribery, I tried threats. I bought him a bed a few years ago. Nothing I tried, worked. I thought he needed counseling. (Or, that I did.) I kept sending him back to his bed. I thought I was being a good- tough mom.

He kept saying it was his bed. “It’s not comfortable, I always fall out.” Last week, I finally ordered him a new one. Guess what? He’s sleeping without any problem. No more waking up in the middle of the night. He wakes up refreshed. I was WRONG.

Sometimes, I write and post things and hear crickets instead of comments, after I hit post.

Sometimes, I submit gut wrenching articles and have them not fit the publishing calendar. (FYI: new writers? Always find out what your target publication is looking for before you hit submit. If it doesn’t fit- look at other avenues, blog it or save it for a future date or opportunity.)

Occasionally, I speak to a group and it doesn’t strike a chord.  Either they don’t get- or like, my jokes.  Or, they may not  find what I have to say particularly applicable. There are usually a few people just don’t like ME, in general.

Here’s what I’m learning: It doesn’t really matter if I fail or, succeed. It’s the being brave that changes me.

When I’m brave enough to put myself out there- to  be me, bravely:

  • I find courage- because I try.
  • I find peace- because I’m not pretending.
  • I find fulfillment, because I’m being and doing what I’m called to be and do.
  • I find joy- in the being.

I’m pretty sure God does, too. He’s the one who crafted me just as I am…. It’s in the trying- that bravery and trust are grown. It’s not in the success or failures…but in doing the next thing.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Psalm 119

“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. 74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,for I have put my hope in your word. 75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.

Dear Lord- Give me courage to be me- bravely. Thank you for showing me joy in the BEING- regardless of the outcome. I love you lord. Amen.

**in the picture are 2 feathers- one black and one white. The black one came from MomProm. at #MomCon 2014. It reminds me that being brave in failure, matters. (I may or may not have had a few faux-pas during MomCon. I was beyond stressed and not at my best. But- I found out that just by BEING there- it mattered.)

Then- there’s a white feather, it’s from one of our bedroom pillows- a place that has become a daily exercise in bravery- as I take care of my husband in ways I never thought I could- and am learning that I can. #cancerstillsucks.

Being me bravely, in both failure and success- brings joy. Who knew?

Totally not me. Duh. It's the Iconic and beautiful-National Geographic Photo- click link for more

#A Mile in Her Shoes- In Which I order a Hijab and Worry about Watchlist’s…Confessions of a post 9/11 bigot.

Totally not me. Duh. It's the Iconic and beautiful-National Geographic Photo- click link for more
Totally not me. Duh. It’s the Iconic and beautiful-National Geographic Photo- click link for more

9/10/2001- Every time I saw my beautiful, veiled Muslim neighbors- Or, drove past the mosque on the corner by my house- I thought: “Exotic.  Reverent. Modest. Intrigued. Different and Beautiful.”

9/12/2001- Every time I saw one of my beautiful veiled Muslim neighbors or drove by the mosque on the corner by my house- I thought: “Terrorist? Jihadist? Neighbor? Friend? Foe?”

I hate admitting that I allowed the actions of an unknown- cray-cray few, color my view of my known, (at least) not any cray-crayer than me- neighbors.

But, I did.

I thought I was over the post 9/11 bigotry. I smile and wave at my neighbors. I rarely ever think that the mosque on the corner is a bees nest of jihadists. I almost never think the teenagers in the car in front of their house are up to no good. I did what I could to love the family, when one of my neighbor’s recently died.

So-I thought was over it. Until I placed a few orders for hijab’s and other outfitting for my work on the next chapter in my book. The chapter about what it’s like to be a veiled (Muslim) woman, in America.

First- I downloaded a great book.  That was fine. Really interesting, actually. I ordered it for Kindle. Then, audible. No problem.

Then, I started looking for an actual hijab. And honestly? When I placed the order I kind of freaked. It started with a little panic when I ordered a copy of the Q’uaran. “What will people think if they see this at my house?” And: “I hope Amazon doesn’t report unexpected purchases to the government like Visa fraud does with my bank…..”

It got considerably worse as I placed orders for actual head coverings, pins, scarves and Hijab-friendly dresses.

“If I click this button to buy,  will I end up on a government watch list?”  “Should I even be doing this?” “Isn’t this less than honest? I mean- I’m NOT Muslim.”  “Isn’t it offensive to dress as if I am? Isn’t that lying?”

It was a Starbucks like blend of emotion and fear. One pump of paranoia, one pump of what my Muslim neighbors might feel on occasion, and one pump (maybe three) of trying to talk my way out writing and even more so- of living this chapter.

Why? Well, let’s face it. This chapter is complicated. It is probably controversial. (Maybe not as controversial as the breastfeeding/ bottle feeding section but more so than the homeschool, public, school private school chapter.) I’m sure it will offend people. Islamic, Christian and “others.” (Yes, that’s a big category- but I can’t think of a better word right now- sorry:P)   I’ve prayed about this and wrestled through my motives. I’ve asked wise counsel and listened to them. (Mostly.)

My motive is the same for this chapter, as for every other chapter. To voice the bigotries I hold and have held, in hopes to hold up a mirror to yours. And to give voice to the experience of the women behind the bigotries and stereotypes. By stepping into their shoes for a short time, and more importantly- by learning the truth- from them. I am desperate to love others the way Jesus does and that’s kind of hard if you’re judging them in your brain 24/7.

I’ve learned it’s hard to hate and judge the people you know and understand and love.

So- I clicked the “buy” button. I waited for the packages to arrive. They did, while my husband and I were on a romantic extended insurance paid for vacation- in the hospital. (He’s battling ninja like- prostate cancer -the hospitalization was related. That’s a different chapter.)

My oldest son opened the packages. “Mom, I totally thought you ordered something from Hamas. Then, I realized the package said “Hana’s.”

Yeah, not the same. But you’d think it was by my reaction to those packages arriving. The truth is- wave after wave of freak out keeps hitting me..”What is the money I spent on this, really going to support? What if Secret Service shows up at my house? Is that black SUV really another parent in the after school pick up, or a surveillance vehicle?”

Some might be valid… (Except for the SUV. Duh.) But, as I opened the packages I realized the freak outs for what they really are- hidden and suppressed and contagious bigotries.

Hidden- because I really didn’t think they were present.

Suppressed- because that’s a nice way to say I’ve been denying them and acting like I’m above all that crazy.

Contagious- because I wasn’t always like this.  (Or,  saying I caught it from the media and our paranoid American culture is a nice excuse and feels better than owning my own crap.)

All of which, might be true to varying degrees.

And all of which make very clear that I need to write this chapter. If to for you- for me. Because honoring God by loving my neighbor, begins with being empathetic and caring. Not paranoid and judgmental.

I’m not quite ready to don the Hijab, just yet. I need to talk to some of my neighbors, first. That might be interesting…. here’s hoping they understand my cray-cray heart. (they’re used to me. See the above article.)

“Dear Lord- Really? A Hijab? Can’t we do this some other intellectual way? Like research and books? You want me to visit a mosque? I’m a Christian- For your sake… Have you totally lost it? I won’t be welcome there. Or, will I? Lord- you know I am conflicted about this chapter. I pray for you wisdom and direction and most importantly- that I can walk in integrity and honestly share what I learn- change my heart, lord. It needs it. I’m a jerk. Amen.”

I’ll let you know when the research ends and the experience begins. I’ll share tid-bits as I go-but the details will be saved for the chapter, of course.

If you’re Muslim, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this project. I’d also love your best resources and even more- I’d love to hear what your reality is like…. what’s it like to walk in your shoes? I can’t wear a Hijab for a week or whatever-and learn what it’s like to live as a Muslim American. I need to hear from YOU. (And I’ll be talking to my neighbors.)

Actually- I’ve read lots of rules about veiling but haven’t found many for shoes…. I MUST have proper footwear- of course. So tell me about your shoes, or, better yet- show me your #Shoefie!

If you’re a Christian, or “Other” I’d love your perspective too…. tell me what you think- do you have any questions you’ve always wanted to know about the veiled mysterious Muslim among us? Or, thoughts about me engaging in this chapter? How I should or shouldn’t?

Interested in learning a little?

Read this. Visit here. Watch some of these.

Ask and comment away! (With loving respect, of course.) And get ready for this chapter- it’s gonna be a doozy…I can’t wait. Or, can I?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_7010

Love Hurts. Love Heals.

Ephesians 5:1 Follow God’IMG_7010s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

This tattoo was started a couple of years ago, while on a trip to help a dear friend. It’s my reminder to take every step I walk- in love. That’s the original piece. The lettering and the love birds.

You’d think that my near death experience while getting that tattoo would have taught me that love hurts. And maybe, it kind of did. (FYI? try to avoid getting tattooed while wearing a neck brace. Especially if you’re already blessed with an over active vaso-vagal response. You will turn funky colors, sweat, and have the fabulous tunnel vision that comes just before passing out- or you’ll hit the floor. I didn’t. But, it came close.)

You’d think that 2 weeks ago when I had the first session of that tattoo’s makeover by the amazing Cee Jay Jones- that I’d have had a bold reminder.

And when I crouched the same foot in the hospital bed.

And when I spilled hot Starbucks over it. (This foot has been though a lot lately.

You’d also think that after 4 years of fighting cancer alongside my husband, 25 years of parenting,  26 years of marriage and 25 years in leadership….I’d know that real messy- honest love can hurt.

And I think I did. But, I know, I know it in  deeper way.

Physically and emotionally.

Over the past month I’ve learned that love both hurts with empathy for a loved one in pain. So much that you hold your breath while they wince. So much that you shake when they shake in cold- or fear.

Over the past month I’ve also learned afresh that sometimes love hurts in order to heal. My husbands current care plan involves some painful procedures that will carry on at home. Performed by me.

While I’ve often teased that I’d hurt him if he didn’t behave- the truth is- purposefully inflicting pain on him has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. I’m NOT doing this to hurt him, I’m doing it to help heal him. We both understand that, but understanding doesn’t make it less painful- just purposeful.

I also didn’t know how much physically caring for a loved one can hurt…. the caregiver. The truth is- My body is currently a mess. My neck shoulders and back hurt- from well… trying to take care of what we;’ll just call “business.” and from long night spent in a pseudo- comfortable recliner. I’m sleep deprived by one part worry, one part vigilance and one part hospital. (They like to wake you up to see if your dead. I suggest they quietly come in with a mirror and do the old time breath foggy mirror test… apparently there’s more to it tun that. I’m to complaining- I’m simply stating a fact: caregiving can be painful on many levels.

The truth is these are steps in our love life that we didn’t see coming.  Honestly, had God given me a heads up?  I’d have done anything to try to avoid it. And I would have freaked out.

Yet, here I am. On day 12. Discharge day. (YES! Finally! 12 days is way too long.) And the pain from that beautiful tattoo is in the progress of healing. Right along side my husband.

Healing- is painful. Healing is exhausting. It’s hard work physically, biologically and emotionally. So is love.

As I take the next steps in my life journey- I’ll take them with both the physical reminder to walk in love- and the deep knowing that that walk sometimes involves pain. Sometimes it’s inflicted in spite- sometimes in helping. Sometimes  through empathy.

Love is worth the pain. Always.

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

Even here. When love hurts.

Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of love. It might be the pain of empathy, the pain of loss, the pain of helplessness or, the pain of healing…..if you are- know that you’re not alone.

I get it- I care- and so does God.  He promises that someday pain will end.

4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

In the past few weeks, I can attest a new – that he is faithful to be with us in our pain. Tattoo- or otherwise.

Dear lord- I hate pain. I really hate inflicting it on someone I love. But -I thank you for being present in our pain, and for bringing healing along with it. Keep reminding me Lord, of your presence and your plan- to heal through this season of pain. I love you lord- and need you. I can’t do this on my own….thank you for being with me every pain filled step of the way. Amen.

***I promise to post a pic of the completed of beautiful rework of this tattoo. A lace background and more color for the roses is planned for once this heals up;) I love it even more- after this experience.. Cee Jay Inky Jones is creating on my foot;)

Unknown

Dear Ladies Room Users Everywhere: A PSA

UnknownIt’s day 11 of my husband’s hospital stay. Since things are settling down with him, and I’ve used more public restrooms than a truck driver, in the past month- I thought I’d take a few moments to write a PSA for Ladies room users everywhere.

Dear Ladies, Girls, Women, Chicks, Babes, Dames Insert your preferred choice of colloquialism for woman- here.

I’d like to discuss: Potty Hovering. Really. I don’t care If you hover. Good for you if you have the quads, actually. I’m impressed. what I’m not impressed with- is the disappointing surprises you sometimes leave on the seat for the rest of us.

Girls- I live in a house of men.  I expect drippage at home. It’s part of the deal. I don’t however, expect it in the sanctuary of the ladies room. really? I look FORWARD to using public ladies rooms. We chat, we travel in packs, we (usually) wipe down counters after we wash up.

Which is why the hovering leakers disappoint me, so much. What was almost a moment of quiet without dogs scratching at the door- or kids calling my name and rattling the door handle- and most importantly- without the necessity of doing the potty dance of holding -while I wipe down the toilet before I can sit down- is turned into a nightmare of dancing the dance of holding in the 12″ square of space for my feet in the stall, AND cleaning up your drippage, while I  try not to drop my cell phone in the toilet (come on- you’re all checking your email and Facebook in there- too. ) or set my purse on the nasty floor.

Really? Come on. I thought You had my back. (Side.)

Again- Hoverchicks- I don’t care if you hover. I mean it. I’m jealous of your glutes and quads.  But girls- we’re in this ladies room thing together. we need to come to a lady like compromise.  Either improve your aim, or clean up your own mess.

I’d hate to have to start a #ladiesroompottyshaming hashtag on instagram.

Besides, let’s face it. I know the truth. When you’re at home? You’re just like me. Complaining about every drip left on the seat by the boys……Let’s not be pots calling kettles black. (HA! Pots! Potty!)

Anyway-I’ll do my part as well. I will clean up after myself, and, I promise to have your back.  Yes, yours- every time you tuck your skirt into your spanx or, are dragging TP out of the stall. I’ll even warn you if the stupid toilet-cover thing you tried instead of hovering? is hanging from your backside.  I love you that much.

With love and estrogen-

The rest of us.

 

In which I learn that: I can’t, until I have to- and then: I can. Because Jesus- does.

IMG_6994“I can’t do this.”

“Ok. Maybe I can do this, but I could never do THAT.”

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said and thought those words in all their related-forms.

And yet, here I sit.  At my husband’s hospital bedside. (YES, FOR REAL. STILL.) On day 9 of a hospital stay we weren’t expecting. (This is the second hospitalization due to massive infection in the past 30 days.) For the record: Prostate cancer and it’s henchmen- chemo and radiation? REALLY SUCK.

I didn’t think I could make it through the first surgery. Or the second. Or, the third in a week. Until, I did. (He’s extra special.)

I didn’t think I could get through holding his hand during the post op wound care.  I hate seeing him in pain. Until, I did.

I didn’t think I could possibly WATCH the procedure. (We all know I’m squirmish. AKA: I have the unique super skills of having a vasovagal response at the drop of  a hat or, the glimpse of a needle.) Until, I did.

I never thought I could possibly help with THAT procedure. Until I did.

I absolutely didn’t think I could perform THAT procedure under supervision- Until, I did.

Why? Well- 1) Because, I have to.  They won’t let him go home until we can manage the wound care and pain levels in addition to his healing. 2) While there are plenty of rooms and food and bathrooms for my family to move in here. They frown upon dogs, and well- the wifi isn’t that great and, the rent is a little pricey. (Or so our insurance company says..)

Those are actually the secondary reasons why I can do this- and why he can….

The primary reason? Because: Jesus.

Yeah. It might sound ridiculous. You may not believe me. But, I know the truth. This woman who gags at picking up her own dogs poop, (and occasionally, during her own children’s diaper changes- once upon a time.) This woman who has fainted so often during ivs and blood draws that her husband knows to prepare for a catch- cannot do this. Not on her own.

There has been something supernatural here, getting us through it.

There is no other explanation. Not for the amazing people that have shown up- from surgical team to nurses and housekeeping- or the fact that I am nearly coherent enough to string words together into pseudo-sentences. Nope. That’s all beyond us.

My husband says the same. He’s been saying it all week.

This has been God.

We’ve just been doing our part. Which is: to take the next step. Do the next thing. Try. Even here. Where I never thought I’d be, and never thought I’d be able to function. Yet somehow- I can.

Again, because: Jesus. Jesus has brought peace to meet fears. Jesus has brought friends to hear our worries and hold us up in prayer when we;re to tired to even pray. Jesus has brought people of compassion to feed my kids, to call them, to care for them. (Yes, even big man children have a tough time with this kind of crap.) Jesus has sent messages of love through the words of family and friends. Jesus has brought strength to fill in our weaknesses.

Proof: I haven’t puked or passed out,  once. And at the moment- I’m pretty sure, that if that happened? Someone would scoop me up, give me a drink of water, and help me back to my feet, where I’d try to take the next step- again.

Because: Jesus, does.

I have no idea what you’re facing. I have no clue what your “I can’t” is. But, I’m here to say- that when you think you can’t—- and especially when you KNOW you can’t- ask and watch for God to show up- because then- suddenly or, not so suddenly- you CAN.

Because: Jesus- does.

Bravely. Taking the next steps-Even Here. Right along with you…. because this- is life.

Where I write about what it's like to walk a few miles in my shoes and the shoes of others….

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