Thursday, October 19, 2017

legacy

Somehow the bigs and I started talking the other night about what the word legacy means.  W immediately jumps in with “It’s what our ancestors leave us when they die. Like Crown Jewels and stuff.”  We talk about that for awhile and then I ask them if they can think of any other things we could leave behind. Silence. I ask them the question in a different way “What would you like to be known for?” They had the typical kid answers: my awesome singing, my cool hair, my trampoline tricks. It was a fun conversation full of blurting out and laughter. 


In this time of social media, selfies, and filters it is really easy to get preoccupied with how people perceive you. It's so easy to compare and find yourself lacking, yet we often forget that it's almost effortless to create any persona you want. From posting only the positive or just the good angle to outright dishonesty and exaggeration anyone can be anyone.  But get deeper than that, go offline if you will.  Make a list of traits you'd like to pass on to your children -things you won't necessarily find in an Instagram picture. If your tribe was describing you what would you want them to say? Not just the average acquaintance, but your core group of support.  The people that help make up your moral compass.  What would you secretly hope they'd whisper about you when you weren't around? It's not easy is it? After a lot of thought I came up with my list:

I take pride in my job.  I love being a mom and truly feel it's my calling. I can't describe the rush of peace I felt when each new life was placed in my arms. Each stage has been my favorite (okay, not three year old twins) and every day brings new things to laugh about.  I am so thankful I was chosen for these specific five. I hope that they know how much joy they bring me.

I leave things better than I found them. I have a huge issue when people say "Well, that's what they get paid for!". Whether it's throwing my trash away at the movies, or straightening the display when I grab a magazine I try to make someone else's day easier.  This concept also holds true to people.  I have no desire to tear people down.  I have never understood why pointing out a person's shortcomings makes for a better self image for someone else.  This world is hard.  Doesn't it make more sense to support one another and offer a hand? As my sweet friend, Sabrina, says "It doesn't cost anything to be kind".

I make things more fun.  My friend, Tana, has the best laugh of anyone I know.  It's absolutely contagious! My face actually aches after spending time with her because I smile the entire time. Teaching with her was a joy. We worked hard, but it never felt like it because she was so much fun to be around. We still talk most days as she calls me on her way home from school.  My kids have often commented that I'm always happier when we hang up.  She is truly one of my biggest blessings and I hope that I can have the same light bringing affect on people.  

God's Love Shines Through Me When the twins were in the NICU one of  Laurel's primary nurses was Brooke.  We bonded immediately and became fast friends.  She'd pull up a rocking chair and we'd spend the quiet days whispering about our families, our dreams, and our faith. When she talks about how Jesus has changed her life her face lights up. She gets this incredible smile and her cheeks flush a beautiful pink. She knows God.  Brooke loves big as a result of this.  She has a confidence in her friendships and she isn't afraid to fight for them.  She is a fierce prayer warrior and when she speaks I listen hard for there are times I know it is God speaking through her. I love her dearly.  My wish is for my people to describe my fierce love for my family and friends in this way.

It's interesting how peaceful I feel after making this list.  I feel like this list could easily become a focus or centering for my life.  If I have another week like last week where I feel out of sorts I plan to revisit this and see if one area is out of balance: Am I not spending enough time in God's word? Am I not laughing enough? Have I been around a lot of negative people? Have I forgotten how I felt when I first saw my babies?  I'm curious to see if it helps. 

On another note, thank you so much for the amazing comments you all have been leaving on my posts.  I cannot tell you how much they have encouraged me.  I am deeply touched by how many of you reached out and I will not forget your kindness.  






Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Decision

I haven’t posted in a few days because I needed time to think about how public I wanted to be during the rest of this challenge. I wrote, but it was in my journal instead of on my blog. My posts have been very open about my past struggle with depression and anxiety. I have also been very honest that last week was hard. I could feel myself teetering on the edge of depression and I was treading water like crazy. After some strange interactions and comments (which I deleted) I was left wondering if maybe I’d been too honest. Maybe I was leaving myself open to self doubt and lots of unnecessary criticism. The last thing I wanted was to start a challenge with the intention of lifting others up only to tear myself down. 

As of this morning I had every intention of making a post stating that I’d be completing the Write31 challenge privately. Then two things happened. The first was a sweet comment made by my friend Holly. She took the time to let me know how my honesty had affected her personally and her family. Her words took my breath away. The second was a brave post made by my friend Michelle. She shared an incredibly vulnerable and beautiful part of herself. I’m not insinuating that I had anything to do with Michelle’s post. Her bravey comes from within her. What these two friends did was reignite my passion for honesty and transparency. 

 I have struggles just like everyone else and two of mine just happen to be depression and anxiety. They aren’t my fault. I didn’t choose or cause them. In the same vain I can’t completely fix them. I can control the symptoms, but there will be ebbs and flows. Last week was a valley. This week is better. I can speculate as to why, but I won’t ever really know. Honestly at this point in my journey I don’t care what the reason is. What matters is that I can recognize when I need to be gentle with myself and that I can start to see glimpses of ME soon. 

I have never hidden my struggles. Even when I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t up to getting out again. Even when I couldn’t bring myself to answer the phone or reply to the text again. Even when a friend snaps “you’re always in a funk” when I make apologies for not being able to attend another function. Even when one of the first sentences my two year old says is “Mommy’s crying again”. Even when the new antidepressants make me so anxious the only place I can stand to be is in my closet. Even when I lose 30 pounds in a month because the other new antidepressants makes me so sick I cannot fathom eating even one single bite of food. I have always owned who I am. I’m not changing that. This is me. To know me is to know ME. I don’t censor.  I don’t filter. 

I’m going to keep posting on my blog. To choose not to would be inauthentic. 

There is a special kind of freedom that comes from vulnerablity. I don’t have to keep up appearances or remember what excuses I made. That all seems so exhausting. I just have to be me, in all my imperfect, passionate, joyful, honest glory. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grateful

I woke up in a funk again today. I’m a little worried that this may be becoming a habit. I haven’t been depressed in a long time and I do not want to go back to the dark place. I have put some self care routines in place in hopes I can ward off whatever this is I feel looming. A good friend of mine recommended making a gratitude list as a way of centering myself and getting some perspective. I agreed that this was an excellent idea, so here’s my list of 7 things I’m feeling grateful for today. I’m warning you that some might seem rather trivial, but I’m a firm believer that the small things really do matter. 

1) I am so glad that I don’t have to sit in the Benold afternoon pickup line everyday.  Today was the first time I have had that experience. Holy. Moly. There is obviously some sort of “Carline Code” that I do not know because I could not figure out what was going on. Y’all, a man parked his car in the middle of the street and walked the rest of the way to the school. He just left his car sitting in the street. Is this a thing? Can we do that? I am extremely grateful that my kids happily ride the bus home. 

2) All five of my kids are happy about school. There are no tears at drop off, no drama on Sunday nights, and no kicking and screaming during the morning routine (I’m looking at you, O). It’s amazing. I’m grateful for the schools they attend and their gifted teachers. 

3) I love that F is blossoming as a father. He is finally able to spend one on one time with each child and everyone is benefiting from it. I love that he now has time to enjoy the home he works so hard for. I find him enjoying coffee by the pool, looking for plants for our yard, and changing lightbulbs without being asked. I love that he has hobbies and friends. Neither of those had been options for over 20 years prior to this new job. I am grateful for this very non traditional job that allows F to have a life and practice medicine. This is something very few physicians have the luxury of doing. 




4) Today I had the chance to visit with a friend who I don’t see often. We sat outside and watched the twins play and made snarky comments about my dogs and the cars driving by (It’s too weird to explain). As the morning progressed the conversation never waned. Every time she stood to leave one of us would mention another interesting tidbit that just had to be discussed.It was bliss. I’m grateful for my handful of friends who are more like sisters. I can fully be myself and soak in the joy and peace they provide. 

5) I love it when I’m in my backyard and I see the four big dogs come bounding out of their house into the yard next door. I know Suzi and/or Eric aren’t far behind. It’s such a comforting routine. They accept the noise my kids make with grace and love and I will forever be thankful to them for that. When F was worried about being gone for a week at a time with his job I had no qualms because I knew Suzi and Eric would be there. I am so grateful for my sweet neighbors. 

6) I had a hard time when O started kindergarten. He and I have a special bond and I really felt a loss when he was gone all week. After reading an article in the newspaper about fostering I impulsively stopped in the Georgetown shelter to get more details. I left with a pet carrier containing a tiny feral kitten. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Fostering has become a passion my entire family shares. I love having something we all enjoy that is entirely about giving and nurturing. Through the shelter I’ve made one of my dearest friends. She has seen me ugly cry more times than I can count and always trusts me when she gets the midnight “call me” texts. I am so grateful for impulsive, God led, life changing decisions. 

7) When the twins were tiny grocery shopping was a nightmare. I would wait until W and G got home from school because I needed two carts. The baby toddler arrangement went like this: I’d wear one baby, put O in the seat of the cart, and the other baby would be in their car seat in the basket of the cart. W and G’s cart was the designated food cart. It would take no less than 90 minutes, involve at least one diaper change, and I’d hear “you have your hands full” and “are they all yours?” probably 7,000 times. While I still have to make an occasional trip
to HEB the majority of my shopping happens online. I’m very grateful for amazon prime, instacart, shipt, burpy, and curbside pickup. Thank you from all mothers everywhere. 

 Ending the day thinking about all the ways I’ve been blessed has certainly improved my mood. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed and free from the dark cloud that’s been peeking at me. 





Thursday, October 12, 2017

Laughter

I woke up in a really bad mood today. There was no particular reason, but it didn’t help that I’d slept thru my snooze alarm and was running late. In hindsight chirping birds was probably not a good alarm choice.  Of all the days today was not the one I would have picked to wake up late.  I had a 9:20 appointment in Cedar Park with my endocrinologist which meant I couldn’t do school drop offs in my pj’s. I hurried everyone as best I could while throwing clothes on myself. I barely made it to my appointment. 

While we are waiting for my doctor Laurel and Rhodes start playing their newest twin game. Twin games are games that only Laurel and Rhodes understand and enjoy.  This one is particularly annoying. One of them will randomly say something gross (like “Poop is yummy” for example) and then they dissolve into laughter. When the laughter dies down the other twin takes a turn being disgusting. We’ve tried getting them to stop and explained that it’s rude to no avail. I start to remind them that this game sucks (I’m paraphrasing) when my doctor walks in. They go back to their iPads and my doctor and I begin chatting.  

I’m in the middle of asking a question when Laurel pipes up with “My mommy makes the stinkiest toots!”. The doctor and I go silent. Laurel and Rhodes turn into laughing hyenas. I want to die. I want to crawl into my purse and hide. I don’t know where to look because I cannot make eye contact with the man sitting in front of me. I’m starting to sweat and I hope that I just melt into a puddle of embarrassment. Before I finish my story I need to explain something about my doctor. He is very very smart, but he doesn’t have much of a bed side manner. He isn’t one to ask how the Holidays were or how my weekend was. He provides excellent care but I don’t expect anything warm from him. Ok, back to the awkwardness: After what feels like an hour he clears his throat and says:

“Little girl, did you just say something to me?”

Laurel looks at him with big eyes and offers up a meek “no” 

“I think I heard you say something about your mommy making stinky toots”

Laurel giggles and whispers “yes”

At this point I have my hands over my face and am mentally spending Laurel’s college fund. 

“Little girl, whoever smelt it dealt it”


At that I throw my hands down and the adults break down in hysterical laughter.  I will never look at my endocrinologist the same way and I’m sure visa versa. 

My day continued to be one big mess. After one of our errands Rhodes fell in a parking lot. He skinned his knee and demanded a bandaid. I, of course, didn’t have one. After unsuccessfully trying to talk him out of needing one I made do with what I had.  

Here is R’s giant bandaid:



He was happy and the crying stopped. We moved on with our day and forgot about our makeshift wound cover. 

I’m in HEB looking at my creamer options when I hear “young man, what’s that on your leg?”. Shit. Shit. Shit. Do I turn around or move down a refrigerator case and pretend he’s not mine? I’m not given a choice when the elderly gentleman begins questioning me: 

“Are you his mom? What is that? Is that...”

I interrupt him with “Yes! It IS a giant bandaid! He fell and hurt his knee and needed this to feel better!” 

“Oh, Ooooooh! Yes, I see! Well, that’s a fine looking bandaid. I’m glad to see that you were able to save his leg, Mom.”  

With that he saluted us and we parted ways. I grabbed my creamer and went straight to the check out line. As I’m loading bags into the car I see our new friend from the store walking up. He’s got a small bag in his hand and a big smile on his face. 

“I’m glad I found you! I bought the young man some real bandaids and put a little something in there for you too, Mom.  You’re doing good. Hang in there. Thanks for making me laugh today.” 

After loading the car I peek in the bag to find Star Wars bandaids and a Hershey bar. My eyes fill with tears and my heart with gratitude. I stop and say a prayer of thanks for the sweet man at HEB. 

Both situations could have been very different if it weren’t for the gift of laughter. Embarrassment threatened to take over one moment while judgement could have easily ruled the other.  I’m so thankful that the people I was interacting with had light hearts. They were able to see the humor in both situations and kept me from feeling the weight of my bad mood. Let people lift you up. Feed off of their positivity when you just can’t find yours. Borrow their joy. If you look, you’ll notice there’s plenty to go around. 







Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thieves

There have been times in my life where it was absolutely impossible to find joy. There was no light to be seen. The air was heavy and it hurt to move. Just get out of bed. If you see your friends you’ll feel better. A little sunshine does wonders. All hilarious statements. I would have laughed but... 
that takes energy. 

Then there were the times when my worries became bigger than I was. My thoughts would race. My heart would race. My breathing would race. All this racing but nobody’s sure who won. The best times were when my worries were about nothing. So. Much. Energy. spent on if I’d really mailed the check to the plumber.  IdreallyliketogocheckthemailboxbutthatwouldbesillyofcourseIputitintherebutwhatifIdroppeditanditsflutteringaroundinthegrassIshouldjustgocheckbutthatwouldbesilly. 

Then one day you have had enough of the darkness.  Or your family has had enough of watching you spin in circles. Or the choice isn’t yours anymore because you have little people watching you and needing you. Whatever the reason you take a step toward change. And it’s scary. And hard. And nauseating. But you know you have to keep stepping. One foot then the other. Steady. Plodding. Stepping. 

You begin to realize that it doesn’t matter whether your steps are pills or conversations or stays or books or meetings or Jesus. What matters is that you make them. What matters is that you stay honest about needing them. What matters is that you talk about taking them. 

There is no shame in this walk. 

Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day. Depression and Anxiety have stolen the joy from my life numerous times. I am not uncomfortable admitting this, but many 
people are. The stigma associated with mental illness can delay treatment and prolong suffering unnecessarily. Please speak up if you see a loved one struggling. Offer them a kind word, a sympathetic ear, a cup of coffee whatever it takes for them to know that your opinion of them hasn’t changed. Taking the first step toward treatment is hard. Help your friend or family member be brave. Help them start their walk back into the joy. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Through the eyes of a child

My perfectionist self is in a tizzy that I skipped two posts this weekend. I remembered that I was supposed to write and I chose not to. The first night I was enjoying the company of my sweet husband who is in town and couldn’t tear myself away. Evening number two was full of laughing and IMovie bloopers while G and I tried our best to learn how to edit and set his video to music. The part of me having a fit is screeching “look what you did!!!! It’s ruined! It’s write31 not write29! Might as well just stop.”  I’m not going to let myself do that. After some thinking I’ve decided that I’m going to really work on showing myself some grace. I don’t want this challenge to turn into one more thing I make an exercise in perfection and guilt. This for me is just as much about recognizing the joy among the harshness as it is stretching as a writer. Missing a day here and there does not make this endeavor a failure. Grace, grace, grace...

My kids know I’m writing about finding joy. It’s led to some interesting conversations about what exactly joy is and how important it is to make sure you look for the joy in your life.  I was curious what they had been taking away from these talks so I asked them to take a picture of something that brought them joy. My only stipulation was that it couldn’t be a video game. 

Here’s what brings W joy: 

His Bass

Here’s what brings G joy:

His guitar

Here’s what brings O joy:

When I saw this I laughed and asked “dead bugs?”. He sighed and said “No, mom! Beautiful things in nature!”.  I was properly put in my place. 

Here’s what brings L joy:

Getting the eggs with Rhodes

Here’s what brings R joy:

Ummmm... ok... well, that little face certainly brings me joy. ❤️

I have to admit I was a little nervous turning them loose with this task. Would I get back 5 pictures of items that made them happy? I was really pleased to find they had each chosen an activity they loved. Although I guess I’ll have to start addressing Rhodes’ preoccupation with himself... or teach him how to flip the camera around. 😉 







Saturday, October 7, 2017

self love

Dear Elizabeth,

The words over sensitive, cry baby, touchy, dramatic, and thin skinned are all words you're familiar with.  You've been called them you're entire life.  You know the humiliation of crying for every emotion: angry, happy, sad, excited and hate how it makes you appear weak. You've tried every trick from pinching yourself to looking up at the ceiling to try to ward off the tears, but nothing works. You've cried in professional settings when it was wildly inappropriate.  You've had a superior, who you admire, roll their eyes at you and ask "WHAT, Elizabeth?" when tears of frustration rolled down your cheeks.  You vividly recall the conversation was about a student who was having a major mental health crisis. The tears were because there was absolutely no help available to them. Your 20 something self just couldn't understand how this could be true.  Your 40 something self still doesn't understand it.  

Your heart is easily broken.  You've had a hard time lately because of this.  The hurting and loss in our world just feel too big and it's all just too much.  There's too much violence, and too much sadness, and too much taking.  Sometimes you feel like you can feel the darkness looming and you're afraid it's going to swallow you whole.  That's when you have to shut out the outside world and circle the wagons.  You call on your tribe and hug your babies.  You clench your fists and shut your eyes and pray with all your might that the cracks in your heart will heal.

You love fiercely.  Loving this way brings blessings and risks. You know the joy of true intimate friendship- sisterhood of the heart.  The kind of friendship that makes mothering and marriage doable.  When you love this way your hearts entwine and their hurts become yours.  Their fall is your fall.  There is no way around it- you can't separate the joy from the hurt.  

Elizabeth, You have wished your sensitive heart away many times. At times the hurt and embarrassment it brings just doesn't seem worth it.  The older you get though, the more you realize the blessing you have been gifted. There is a strength in your sensitivity and you are learning to embrace it and be proud of it.  So much of who you are is wrapped up in nurturing.  You love being a mother, caring for your foster kitties, and hope to someday do something with  children again. Your sensitivity helps you do all of those things. 

This world won't change without sensitivity and hope.  That threatening darkness that you sometimes feel creeping in won't be fought back if you hide. You're going to have to love fiercely, have your heart broken, cry at times, and do it all over again.  That's the only way.  You're going to have to use your gift.

Love, 
Elizabeth