Friday, May 31, 2013

Love like a Mother!

It has been a bone-crushingly disappointing week as I've been trying so hard to make decisions for our little family's future yet have encountered closed doors. I've had to let go of my plans, again. I'm getting a little tired of that, you know? If you are a pray-er, could you please pray for us as we figure out some next steps? Thank you! And if you wouldn't mind praying about my writing, that would be awesome, too!

Stopping by briefly today to share this picture of my dear mom with you. Twenty-five years ago today, my forty-six year old mom died while I held her hand. It was sudden and unexpected. For a while I was able to convince myself that 46 years was a long and full life, but as I'm almost 46 myself, I've changed my tune on that one.

If you are a mom, I want to encourage you in your mothering today. Even though I had my mother with me for only 18 years, she greatly impacted my life through the way she lived hers. You can read more about her HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. You do make a difference!

But I know summer is starting, and we may already have had some parenting lows in the .02 econds since school got out. Or, we're scrambling through all of the end-of -the-year madness and feel like we can't get it all done.

I won't discourage you by telling you about my perfect mom. Because she wasn't perfect, but she was perfect for her three kids. She cussed. She was a closet smoker. She sometimes wore wooden clogs with silk dresses. And remember the time she made me take a pineapple right off the kitchen counter and give it to my fourth grade teacher as a gift? Well, I sure do. She also thought Wrangler shorts were the same as OP. Puh-lease. We never had fancy cars or gadgets, never took a real vacation, and we endured brutal Virginia summers without central air conditioning. But what we did have was a mother's love. And her heart was big enough to include many people outside our family, which showed us love doesn't run out and need not be hoarded. She did her best and didn't let the rest get her down.

When I think of the many lessons I caught from my mom in the years we had together, I am grateful for them all.

One was to find ways to keep smiling and laughing even when life doesn't go the way you planned.

Another was to just let the tears flow.

Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Weeds

I talk to Jack while I mow the grass. I don't say a lot, mainly just, "I'm sorry, Buddy" and "I love you." Over the years we've mowed the grass ourselves, or when the mower was broken for a few years, we hired it out. I loved coming home to a freshly mowed lawn, with the leaves and helicopter seeds blown off of our driveway by an efficient team of workers. It took the pros about 14 minutes to mow the whole thing, and I'll admit I sometimes wondered if we overpaid for such an "easy" job.  I'd forgotten how challenging our yard could be.

Two summers ago we bought a new lawn mower and canceled the lawn guys, because at 12 Jack was old enough to take over the job. His weight was still hovering in the 60's the last summer of his life, finally hitting 70 lbs the week he died. He took to the job quickly, and enjoyed earning extra money to save up for Legos.

After the accident, Tim and I picked the mowing back up again. "Do you remember it being this hard?" I asked Tim. "No. The roots and the hills! Our yard is so steep. How did he do it?" Tim wonders, shaking his head. We are silent. We both feel remorse. Jack hadn't complained, so we didn't know what a challenge our yard must have been for him at his small size. I remember his asking one day if he could get the mowing over with while I was at work. "No, it's too dangerous. Stay inside and wait 'til I get home." I pictured his losing a thumb to the blade like my friend Patrick had in high school, or running over his foot.

Now Tim and I take turns. I push the mower up over high, high roots, cursing as I use all my strength. I roll past the garden bed, along a steep slope, and feel the tension as the mower tilts and threatens to tip me over, down the hill. I let out a moan of exertion as I push through the tall grass. "I miss you" I grunt, my voice drowned out by the mower.

I wonder what it was like for him, at half my size, to do this job. "I'm sorry, Buddy," I say as I criss cross the yard. "I didn't know." Jack's and my relationship was based on huge love and respect, and I have very few regrets. It's as if we knew each other from the beginning of time and trusted each other explicitly. I'd always told Jack he was the strongest person I knew, but I meant his inner, moral strength. Now I think about how he must have been physically stronger than I realized. He never got the chance to spend his mowing money, but he seemed to enjoy earning it.

Weird thoughts go through my head as I mow, like how I'm glad I didn't let him mow that day when I wasn't home because "something bad" could have happened. And then I realize how stupid it is to still really feel that relief now, when something really bad did happen just a few weeks later.

And I realize as I mow, that when I say, "I'm sorry, Buddy" and "I didn't know" that I'm probably not talking about mowing anymore.

I love you, Buddy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mother's Day

You know how painful it is for me to be around boys these days, when every cute little guy in our town seems to be getting a spring haircut, wearing a baseball uniform, or walking through the town green?

Well, there's that.
And at church on Mother's Day, when I was trying to sing and not cry, Tim whispered, "How come every family in here seems to have a little boy climbing all over the dad?" So it's hard for him, too.

After a short mental health nap, I worked on painting the kitchen then got ready for Margaret's big outing that night. And, in an unplanned stroke of genius, it turned out to be THE place to go if you are trying to avoid seeing any preteen or teenage boys-- a Taylor Swift concert!

We, along with 13,998 other screaming moms and daughters (and a few intrepid dads) had an awesome time singing along to Taylor's hits, enjoying Ed Sheeran's opening act, and counting Taylor's costume changes (13?). It was a very positive Mother's Day activity.

Here's a funny story about when we gave Margaret the concert tickets last Christmas. We did our traditional poem scavenger hunt that took her all over the house to find her last "big" present. When she found it, it was just a large Fed-Ex envelope, and her face fell. As I filmed her, she looked up, at me: "An envelope? An envelope? You guys didn't name a star after me, did you?"

No Honey, but we do love you to the moon and back!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

If You Give a Mom a Muffin...

Thank you so much for your loving and supportive comments this week. They meant so much to me! And my sister... And my brother... And... I am grateful for you.

As I write posts, I wonder how much detail to go into. How much is too much for my readers? For me? Each day has its share of good and bad,  and in that small way they remind me of the long, long days of early parenthood. A glimpse of grace here and there, likely in the form of a toothless smile or the bright sunshine. A battle of wills at naptime. Worries and weariness. Up-down. High-low.

In the most ordinary of days, there are moments of hope, delight and despair.

This is also true for grieving families, as much as any day can be considered ordinary any more.

And we come to dread holidays, like Mother's Day, knowing they'll be harder than most. Which they are.

But what of any given Friday in May? What is that like?

When little boys in baseball uniforms spring up all over town like May flowers? And it's field day at the kids' school and siblings are always on the same teams, but I put Margaret, in her yellow t-shirt, into the car alone? When I  pick her up and see Jack's friends, and get my much needed hugs from them, but I realize with shock that they are taller, their voices deeper, and 8th grade graduation is just days away. Eighth grade! When seeing their beautiful moms, my friends, should be a welcome sight, but our relationships are so tinged by loss now that my grief starts to feel like something akin to shame. And I shrink away. And back in the neighborhood, with the bright sun shining down, and the kids playing kickball in the cul de sac, the sounds of laughter bring me no joy? Or a Friday night, spent painting the kitchen, in which I remove our family motto that has guided us all these years, even though it has never been more true than it is today?

And I take down our chalkboard family schedule, preserved on the pantry door, which has been there since the worst week of our lives, a "Thursday" once cheerfully but now ominously blank?

Do I write about these things?

How I thought I was throwing away old plastic bags in the basement and realized, with a sharp intake of breath, that they were Jack's boy scout ponchos? And I marvel at their small size. And remember when rainy days meant fun and joy and celebration. Until they didn't.

And in between all of these things are Margaret's laughter that her team tied for last place. And belting out a new Miranda Lambert song together in the car. And Tim's homemade pizza. And watching "The Middle" on the DVR. And a bird at my office window saying hello.

And going to sleep to the loud booms of thunder and noting it, but not being terrified of it any longer.

If you give a mom a muffin, she can take you through the highs and lows of any "ordinary" day.

Love this video of Jack and Margaret IN the pantry! Less than a minute long, and oh so cute!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Power of Words

Last week I got three very nasty comments from an anonymous commenter who attacked my character big-time. I've taken them down because I don't want to get in a peeing match here, and because they made my sister cry. Peeing matches are never worth it. I will say the commenter called me hurtful names, by far the kindest of which was "glutton."

So last night I found myself eating an enormous bowl of ice cream and chasing it down with Oreos. I don't even really like Oreos. I had been eating non-stop all day, but when I put Margaret to bed I went back to the kitchen looking for something, anything, that would fill me up. "What's going on? Am I getting my period?" I wondered. Nope.

And then it dawned on me. The words, which I tried not to let sink in, were somehow getting inside me. I had been called a glutton, which at first seemed utterly laughable, but now I was acting like one. I think she meant it in a figurative sense, but try telling that to a stomach full of Twizzlers. And glutton was by far the most innocuous thing she had said about me. What about the others? Were those hateful words seeping into me, making me doubt my worth, as the commenter hoped?


It made me think about words.

And how when a teenage boy carelessly labels a girl a slut on Facebook or through the rumor mill, the girl starts to see "slut" when she looks at herself in the mirror. "Why not act like one," she wonders,  "if everyone already thinks I am one anyway?" What about other words?

Lazy. Stupid. Ugly. Despised. Unreliable. Incompetent. Worthless.

What about Bad Mother? (Sometimes we call ourselves names, too.)

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King, jr.

I don't have much to write today, but I want to leave you with a few words to put in your pocket and pull out when you need them:

Beloved. Beautiful. Smart. Worthy. Wonderfully Made. Cherished. Capable. Kind.