Anxiety Attack Epiphany

A few days ago, first thing in the morning, I had my first ever anxiety attack.  I was sitting on the couch, eating my breakfast and watching the local news when my heart began racing. The Fitbit I was wearing on my wrist clocked that my heartrate jumped from 57 bpm to 189 in a matter of seconds. I sat there for a couple minutes debating on if I should “wait and see” or call 911. Since I was still in my sexy lingerie I’d worn to bed the night before (sweatpants and sloppy t-shirt) I opted to monitor the symptoms from home. Exactly 7 minutes later, my heart had returned to my normal resting heart rate, my hands had stopped shaking and I was relieved that the EMT’s didn’t have to see me in that ratty 2012 marathon shirt I’d stolen from my husband’s drawer.

Amanda Waggener, M.I.D. (medical internet doctor) went to work. I began my degree work about the time we went from dialup to broadband. I was top of my class thanks to my proficiency with Mayo Clinic, WebMD and Google searches. I graduated with honors. Gold star stuff. Anyway, according to everything I read, what I had suffered from that morning was a full-blown anxiety attack. Anxiety is something I know. I’ve had it since I was a teenager, but an anxiety attack is new and not cool, at all.

I prescribed myself a month-long break from the stresses of my life in effort to keep it from happening again anytime soon. Step 1 was to identify the stressors. After a brief staring off into space session, I discovered that many of the stressors I can’t ditch or social services would be at my door.  However, there was a short list of my stressors that I could eliminate, short-term at least.

So, I began making a list:

Things I Need a Break from Before I Completely Lose My Sh!t

1. Facebook
2. Instagram
3. Sunday Morning Church Services
4. Volunteer Roles
5. Counting Calories

And, then, I began making another list:

Things I Need to Focus on To Retrieve My Sh!t

1. Read
2. Write
3. Pray
4. Only communicate with people who infuse love into my life.
5. Schedule an appointment with my therapist.

I prescribed my treatment commence on August 1st.  August would be the month long Zen party that my body was physically screaming at me to attend.

I accepted the invitation to my own party.

I’m only 2 weeks in on this break, and so far, I have learned that without Facebook reminding me of everyone’s birthdays, I forget them. I remember birthdays, but I forget when the day comes without that little nudge from the Facebook. I’ve not seen engagements, weddings, gender reveals or endlessly-perfect via overly-edited selfies on Instagram lately either. I have no idea what sex your baby is nor have I read the inspirational quotes below your selfies in a few days now. But, I did schedule my appointment with the counselor. Hoping, when I get there, he doesn’t tell me I’m crazier than last time we spoke. I’ve been reading and, obviously, writing. I’ve been checking things off my lists like it’s my job.

The biggest change I’ve noticed so far is the difference an emphasis on prayer makes. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

Just sitting still. Being open. Listening. It’s like Zoloft to my heart.

Prayer not only has a calming effect on my soul, but also inspires epiphanies. Like the one I had yesterday about how a large majority of what I know about Jesus comes from men standing on a stage at a church. Here’s what I know about men (ok, I’ll concede, women too), they are flawed. The light bulb moment I had was that maybe the hang-ups I have, aren’t even the truth at all. Maybe those hangups all came from the ideas that grew in me from men who went to seminary (also mostly taught by men, all 100% flawed, again, like me). This is not a feminist epiphany. Although, being female, I am pro-female, because duh. I’m also pro-lots of things. Besides the point.

The epiphany was that I need to dig deeper to discover MY truth, from my own digging and researching; independent of other’s convictions or opinions. A truth based on the Biblical findings unearthed with my own God-given eyes by using my own God-given brain in my own time.

Week 2 Update: I’m digging. My break may need to extend beyond 4 weeks as it seems like I may need some time to investigate what people have discussed for hundreds of years. I’ll keep you posted.

Excited about week 3 and week 4.

And I’m sorry about the birthday thing. When I get back on Facebook I’ll catch up on that, but until I’m back, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Sorry for your Loss, I can’t believe your kids are already so big, Get Well Soon and Congratulations!

Outwardly Calm, Inwardly Turbulent

Outwardly calm, inwardly turbulent.  I took this pic from the window of an airplane yesterday. It was a beautiful, mild, spring day with blue skies and a spackling of fluffy white clouds. The sky looked calm and peaceful, yet the flight was riddled with turbulence. We were instructed by the pilot to stay buckled up as the plane rocked back and forth, up and down through the picture of serenity that I watched pass by through the airplane’s tiny windows.

Only a short time before the roller coaster ride of a flight began, I had been sitting at the crowded gate waiting for my turn to board. The voice from behind the ticket booth said in a muffled tone over the speaker, “1st class passengers, passengers with disabilities, those traveling with children under the age of 2 or active military are welcome to board now.” It is a great time for people watching. Since I always buy the cheapest ticket to get me from point A to point B, I’m normally in zone 4, last to board, and can be found seated no more than 4 feet from the crapper.  I sat and waited as all 120+ people boarded, one by one. I observed as some shoved their way through, as though there was a prize for being the 1st to get on the plane. I saw the ones with rambunctious kids I prayed I wouldn’t be seated near, the panicked person, the one who slows the line by oversharing with the man scanning boarding passes about when, where or why they are traveling despite his obvious disinterest of their unsolicited explanation, the vacationers in Nike shorts and the business people in suits with iPhones to their ears on conference calls. It’s a social experiment I always find entertaining.

This time, a young boy and his mother caught my attention. He was among the 1st in line. I noticed he was holding a carry-on bag and she was not. I also saw that she couldn’t quit touching him. Hug, back rub, hug, kiss on the cheek, hug. The ticket agent scanned the boy’s ticket. The teen then turned to give her one last hug and walked away.  The woman stood waving at him until he was out of her sight. She turned around, wiping tears, and walked back into the hustle-bustle of the airport. As a mom myself, my heart sank in my chest for her. I could feel her pain as she walked away without him…away from her protection…away from her reach.

As usual, I was among the last few to board the crowded plane. I walked to my seat all the way in the back, threw my laptop case into the overhead, and plopped down in my seat. I looked up and saw that the boy I had just observed at the gate was sitting next to me. He seemed uncomfortable. I make it a rule to immediately pretend to be in a coma-like state of consciousness the moment I buckle my seatbelt to help set the expectation to the traveler next to me that I’m not interested. This time, I couldn’t do that. “I saw you at the gate. Was that your mom? Are you okay?” He kept his head down, looked up at me by only moving his eyes, and shook his head yes. “You look 15. I can spot a 15-year-old because I’m a mom of a 15-year-old,” I continued. He finally lifted his head and laughed, “Yep, I’m 15.” I let him be for a while and sat quietly beside him.

We had a bumpy takeoff, which turned into a turbulent first half of the flight. I saw that he began fidgeting and rocking in his seat. “Is this your 1st time flying,” I asked him? “No, but it’s the first time I’ve flown by myself,” he replied. I started engaging him in conversation in effort to help distract him from his anxiety, much in the same way I do with my son when he’s about to get a shot at the doctor’s office. We talked about his dad that he was going to see in Michigan, what he wanted to do after high school and how his parents make him take choir at school even though he hates it. The plane finally found some smooth flying air and the knocking about stopped. Sam, I discovered was his name, seemed to relax and began playing a game on his phone for the rest of the flight. After we landed and walked off the plane, his dad was there waiting for him. Sam looked at me and said, “It was nice meeting you. Bye.” I smiled and nodded as we walked in separate directions within the airport.

Today, when I looked at this photo of the blue sky and thinking of the teenage boy with a wide smile, one wouldn’t guess the turbulence that was going on inside. The sky. Sam. His parent’s divorce.  His unhappiness at school.  Me. I think most all of us at some time or another. Sunny and warm on the outside, but deceivingly peppered with turbulence on the inside. Reminds me of how we are all not that different from each other.  Reminds me how human connection is sometimes all we need to relieve the turbulence. Reminds me to be kind. Reminds me that one day I will be in a zone 1 boarding group and those people will be turbulent too because all zones of people are.

But zone 1 still sounds nice.

No Thanks I’m Just Not Interested

No thanks. I don’t want to join your Body Pump Class. I appreciate you thinking of me though. I’m sure it’s great. You’re great. I’m just not interested. I’m cool with yoga only because, for the most part, people keep their eyes closed in a meditative state and aren’t judging me for my middle-aged-mom-of-two-lover-of-carbs body. However, if they ever dim the lights and ask everyone to close their eyes during Body Pump, just let me know, I’m in.

While I’m here, it’s also a no from me on the 5K you are doing on St Patrick’s Day. While I do agree that the green “Run-O-Luck” tee-shirt you got for signing up is cute, I’d rather celebrate the day with a green beer and not have it slosh around on my insides as I ran around downtown for no immediate reason.

I know that, in the past, I’ve always just done it. It was mostly because I liked you. However, I have a confession. Lots of my yeses were because I thought you may not like me back if I started saying “no” too often. Especially if I had said “no” without an excuse to back it up. I saved up my no for special occasions and used my no sparingly. That’s changing.

The first few times I said “no,” I was in a mood. I blamed the no on that. Then I tried it out on a safe person. One who I knew would give me some grace even if it made her mad. But it didn’t make her mad, she just said, “ok” and it was done. Mind blown. Every “no” became easier and easier until I stopped feeling a single twinge of guilt about it. In fact, saying “no” was liberating and stress lifting. Shocked the hell outta me.  I wish the 30-something me and the 20-something me and certainly the high school me could have felt at ease saying it. My goodness, the heartache it would have saved.

I’ll admit, this wasn’t my idea. I learned this from watching a lady say “no” to her husband…in front of people…without excuse…without anything…just “no.” I was sitting in a living room with a small group of people from my church. We were doing a devotional together in her beautiful home. She was an excellent hostess. She had snacks prepared when we got there. She engaged in small talk around her kitchen counter. She participated in the group discussion about the book we were reading. When her husband, who was leading the group, asked her to close us in prayer she simply shook her head and said, “no.” I laughed, thinking it was a joke, but she wasn’t joking. She meant it, in front of all of us, No. Living in the south and being church broken (a term I use to describe how I was taught to properly act at church or in the company of church people), I had never witnessed this before. It was amazing. I sat across from her and observed her face as he asked someone else to pray. I kept watching her after we got up from our seats and began mingling and eating again. I watched her as she walked us to the door and waved bye. Not a single excuse or explanation came from her mouth. She didn’t appear distressed, bothered or ill. Clutch your pearls, she just plain didn’t want to pray. After this, it happened again, on another night. I don’t even remember the question, but I remember her answer: NO.

That’s what inspired me. That and being emotionally tired of always pleasing and being pleasant and smiling and saying “yes” while hoping one of the kids would throw up and give me a good reason out of whatever I’d just said “yes” to.

40 was a rough year for me for so many reasons, but one thing that came from it was my voice. The one that wasn’t speaking for herself because she was too busy making sure everyone liked her.

No has freed up so much time to do other things. Things I enjoy. Saying “no” doesn’t make me unkind or negative or defiant. It makes me honest.  Saying “no” opens the margin for things I want to say “yes” to.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I’d recommend you give it a try. Maybe not wait until you’re 41 for maximum results.

It’s Cold In Kentucky and I’ll Be Okay

It’s cold in Kentucky. It’s cold all over this half of the country, but Kentucky is where I live and so I’m mostly pissed that it’s cold in Kentucky. Everything is frozen, even pipes.  Also, house breaking a new puppy while the ice coated grass crunches beneath my feet as I wait on this animal to poop in my yard makes me question my sanity.  I sit at my desk in my freezing office and work, wrapped in a thickly knitted turtleneck sweater that my husband describes as “not my favorite look on you.”  Every time a client says, “just email that to me,” instead of “see you in my office for that meeting tomorrow” I rejoice because it allows me a little more time to remain indoors rather than facing the artic reality of walking through a parking lot in heels.  Oh, and my children adore frost bite apparently by their aversion to wearing a coat.

“You have no choice. You are wearing a coat to school today. I swear if either of you come home without that coat on your body you will be grounded.” Things I never pictured myself needing to say to a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old on their way out the door on a 6-degree January day.

However, as much as it pains me to admit, winter is a necessary evil in nature. There is a whole lot going on under the soil, biologically. In fact, if a winter is too warm, it will negatively impact the crops and what we see at the produce stands come summer time. The deep freeze kills many insects and pathogens. For instance, there is a beetle that feeds on corn. A winter that’s not cold enough to kill them will almost certainly mean smaller harvests and frustrated farmers in the warmer months that follow. The frigid temperatures also bring a cycle of dormancy. The plants fall into a deep winter nap and reserve their energy, storing it up for new growth in the spring.

Winter is necessary for me too. It holds me indoors and forces me to focus on the people who live in my house. I cook more in the winter, which equates to more time around the table together. The entertainment options are limited to board games (which I detest, but will agree to play as long as it’s not Monopoly) and relaxing on the couch with some hot chocolate and a movie on Netflix. When we host company in our house, our friends are all together, corralled into one smallish space. Some fun times happen in those moments. I get in the mood to deep clean, which never happens on a warm June day, I can assure you. I do a giant purge that is cleaning out closets. I donate clothes to the needy. I get caught up on reading that book I got for my birthday in July, but never made time to sit still enough to finish. Winter slows me down. It slows me down physically and it slows me down emotionally. I reflect more. I sleep more. Just like the crops, the cycle of dormancy that winter brings me reserves my energy and prepares me for new growth. Also, like the crops by the end of February I’m bursting at the seams longing for the spring. My stored-up energy can only be satisfied by some warm breezes, a front porch swing and vitamin D. I confess, the last half of February is the worst part of the year. The good thing about the last part of February is that it’s the last part. Newness is coming. The sunshine is around the corner.

Winter isn’t my favorite, but it’s necessary.

However, if the air decided to turn a few ticks warmer, even if just for a day, I would not be mad about it.

Good Friday Sunsets

Predictable and stable, yet different every time. I can look at my phone and find out the exact minute it will fade into darkness. It’s never late. Never absent. Dependable and strong.

No matter where you are in this world we all look at the same sun. There is something about knowing that which knits us together as a human race. It makes me feel small like a child. The combination of the strength it embodies and the art it displays is too powerful to ignore. Watching something so big, so beautiful and not having an ounce of control over it causes me to relax a little if even for a moment.

Sunsets have always stolen my attention.

It occurs to me for the 1st time why a hot star moving in the sky every evening has such an impact on me.

It reminds me of Jesus.

Sunsets remind me of the steadiness and power of their creator, my creator.

Today, Good Friday, I sit and wonder what the sunset might have looked like from the table of that last supper? Did anyone notice it’s exquisiteness on the night before such a beastly day?

Just like the glamor of the sunset fades away after it’s time is up so was it for Jesus.

Lovely, innocent, peaceful the day before, but only for a time. Thankfully, the ugliness, unfairness, hatefulness of Good Friday also faded away after it’s time was up, in time for the beauty to be restored 3 days later.

Anticipated. Strong. In Control. Amazing.

In my city the sunset is at 7:26pm tonight. I’ll be in my spot watching. Thankful. Viewing through the lens of a new perspective.

Today truly is a Good Friday.

Sweet 16

A couple weeks ago something terrible happened to my daughter. Brace yourself. Take a moment if you need.

I don’t know how else to say it besides just coming right out with it: It was a Friday night and my teenage daughter had no plans.

It was tragic.

She had no other alternative but to hang out with her lame parents on the couch and watch the dumb movie they rented from Red Box.

She was in a dark place mentally so in anticipation of the evening she asked if she could take a quick drive around the neighborhood in the golf cart to clear her head. We agreed it was a good idea. We had to help get her through this however we could.

She was gone for all of 5 minutes when my husband’s phone rang. He sprung from the couch yelling into the phone, “Where are you? Are you okay? I’m on my way!” He ran out the front door shouting, “She wrecked, but she’s ok!”

Before I could get past our front porch she was already home, being delivered to me by her dad with a blanket around her shoulders. Crying hysterically.

After I tended to her bumps and bruises, checked her pupils, looked for broken bones…all the normal mom checklist stuff…I asked her what happened.

She told me she was driving down the street when she saw the headlights of an approaching car. She did what any clear minded person would do. She turned off the headlights from the golf cart. Duh. After they passed, she turned her headlights back on at the exact moment that she plowed into a truck parked on the side of the road.

“Why would you turn off your lights?” I asked in the calmest most chilled tone of voice I could muster.

“Because it was embarrassing for anyone to see me all alone on a Friday night, driving a golf cart around the neighborhood!” she said.

Of course! Totally logical.

Her dad comes back with the golf cart. The pieces of it, I should say. When she hit, she flew through the windshield and landed on the pavement. Hit so hard the axle snapped in half and the wheels fell off. It’s a miracle she wasn’t seriously injured.

This is not what’s bothering me really. It’s just what led me to tell you what is.

Today is her 16th birthday. I’m taking her tomorrow morning to the court house to test for her drivers permit. Instead of a golf cart she will now be driving a 2-ton car.

Hide your kids. Hide your wife.

Will she turn off her lights on a Friday night, when she’s all alone, driving 60mph on the highway, to spare herself the embarrassment of being seen?

Will she walk away unhurt if she ever gets flung through a windshield again?

As I’m driving about my day, I get a panicky feeling now when I see a moron driver because I immediately think of my baby sharing the road with him.

Will she know how to handle driving on black ice? I don’t, but I really hope she does.

Celebrating her sweet 16 today makes me thankful. It’s been an exciting 16 years watching her grow into her own independent person, but it feels like with that independence that I’m letting a piece of her go.

I’m losing some of that comforting pseudo control I think I have. It sets my anxiety into overdrive. I’m not ready. The 16 years went by too fast. AAAAHHHHHH!

“Ask and it will be given to you…” Matthew 7:7.

I’m not sure I buy it exactly. I’ve asked many times for things and was not given them. Nevertheless, I keep asking. I gather that when I ask for things that are heavenly and pure that it may be the sort of thing he’s speaking of giving to people when they ask. I bet if I prayed to hit the lottery he’d be less likely to say yes then when I pray for more faith. The whole “blessed are the poor” thing probably knocks me out of his favor with the ole lottery prayer, but I must think he wouldn’t be stingy on my request for peace and deeper faith.

It’s my only hope. Praying for faith.

Faith that he will look over my girl. His girl.

Faith that he will protect her. Faith that his control is good and sufficient.

Faith.  I’m praying for more of it.

It’s the only way to keep from suffering a nervous breakdown over this.

I’ll also try to focus on the upside.

I’ll have a runner now. Someone to make trips to the grocery for me. Someone to drop off our dry cleaning. Someone who understands the importance of headlights.

So Happy Sweet 16th birthday baby girl. Momma loves you. Call me when you get there. And when you leave. But not while you’re driving.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here praying for faith to relax and enjoy it all. That and stiff cocktail should do the trick.

For Non-Perfect Family Thanksgiving Dinners:

I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner most years, since we’ve been married, for my husband’s side of the family.

I normally begin drinking around 11am when the turkey goes in the oven.  By the time 5pm rolls around we are both baked.    (Relax mom, kidding)

I wouldn’t need to do this if they would just act like the people in the commercials do at the holidays.

All I really want is for them to show up, laughing and holding warm pies when I open the door to greet them.  I dream of everyone sitting around one big table, with matching chairs and silver serving dishes, eating and not being able to think of a single complaint to discuss.  I’d love for my dog to curl up on the rug and wag his tail at our feet while we eat.  Is it really too much to ask for my husband to gingerly slice the turkey with one of those long knifes and shiny fork looking things, into thin even slices while I gaze at him seemingly unbothered at all that he did nothing to prepare for the dinner yet is now getting the glory for the perfectly roasted turkey?  The warm and fuzzy feeling melting all over me is what I fantasize about.

But guess what?

In the many years I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve noticed a trend:  The way our family has always acted is likely exactly how they will act again this year.

There will likely be a couple people who aren’t speaking to each other.  There will be some arguing as they enter the front door.  Kids will be hyper.  Their parents will get angry when a family member tells their little snowflake to stop throwing rolls.  My dog will bark excessively and jump all over everyone.  He may even pee in the floor from the excitement.  We will use a sharpie to write our names on white styrofoam cups.  There are approximately 14 chairs in my house and will be roughly 40 people trying to snag one.  Over dinner someone will certainly bring up their firm opinions on why being on, or being off the Trump Train is what Jesus would do.  It’s guaranteed that something will spill, someone will cry and someone will leave mad.

That’s what REAL families look like.

I’m guessing there are some Thanksgiving commercial quality families out there somewhere, but I’ve never met them.  I probably would have to drink even more if I were to spend the day with them.  Not being real is exhausting after a while.

My Thanksgiving wish for you, for me, for all of us is to just embrace it.  Love the people God gave you.  Invite someone to your dinner who is lonely.  Welcome the new boyfriend/girlfriend that your cousin will bring.  Don’t use this day to try and change people.  Speak kindly to each other, even to the ones you don’t really like.  They feel just as uptight as you do, promise.  Tell funny stories of the loved ones who have passed and are no longer with us.  Let go of all the expectations and enjoy the best you can manage.

Be Thankful.

It will all be over soon.

 

Broken and Crumbly

I woke up at 2am, heart pounding, sweating.

It sounds like it could be a chapter opener from a cheap romance novel, but I am neither cheap nor romantic feeling at the moment.

It could have been the pimento cheese sandwich and big piece of chocolate cake I ate before bedtime.

Or it could have been that my bedroom felt hot, despite the reading on the thermostat and the fan blowing over my bed that I use mostly for white noise.

Maybe it was the sweet lady who helps run an orphanage in Myanmar, who prayed for me after dinner at a friend’s house.  Maybe that’s what had my heart triggered. I didn’t understand a single word she said aside from the couple times I overheard her softly say my name in an accent you don’t hear around Kentucky. For all I know she could have been passionately praying for rain, but it felt a little too personal for that.

After several failed attempts of trying to relax enough to go back to sleep, I finally succumbed to my thoughts and allowed myself to begin sorting them through.  I decided I should at least be productive if I’m going to lay here awake.

In keeping with being as real and transparent as possible with this blog (because otherwise what’s the point really?) I will risk my people pleasing, appearance keeper-upper tendency and admit to you this:

It’s been a bad year.

I have only had one or two other years in my entire life that could measure against this one. When I think of my life this year the first image that pops into my mind is a pile of rocks. Not to sound too Charlie Brownish, but “I got a rock.”

At 2am, when I’d much rather be sleeping, I was lying in bed thinking it over. Thinking of all my disappointments and wondering when and if they will end.

I thought of friendships that were tested this year.

Some of the biggest joys in my life are the people I discover on the other side of a storm. You really don’t know how good anything is, truly, until it’s been tested. Until it’s been proven. Before the test, you just have to take people at their word.  People who can walk with me in my wins, and walk with me through the losses.  The ones who know my many flaws and still love me….those are my people.  Test driven friends make everything feel better.

Some of my biggest disappointments are the friends who are only there for a season. The ones who celebrate victories, but run away during the defeats.  They are also priceless. They make us wiser and tougher. I’m grateful for them as well. They grew me even though it hurt.

I thought of how fast my kids are growing up. I thought of how much I hate hearing that cliché, but how true it is anyway.

I thought of how much I wish my Dad could see all their milestones and enjoy them with me.  I thought about how much I miss him.

I pondered of all the trials and anxieties that somehow managed to all fit inside this calendar year.

I wondered if it’s over yet. If at the end of being busted up into chunks if  I’ll turn around only to be further chopped away at until I’m reduced to being a pile of gravel sized pieces.

I have to admit this to myself and, for some reason, feel led to admit it to you.

That’s not to say that I’m not also simultaneously dripping in abundant blessings.

I don’t think life is ever all good or all bad, but right now, this year in particular, the balance is off.

I’m still me.

I carry on.  I take care of my kids.  I snuggle up with my husband at night. I work and contribute, but it’s a broken version of myself. I’ve crumbled some, but still all-in-all together in one piece.

I am being reshaped.

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, broken and weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner

So if I have to be the broken version of myself for now, I may as well be useful.

Repurposed.

Upcycled.

Reinvented.

I’m being made new!

Despite how much the hits are bruising, I’m being molded and made better than before.

And as though it is an audible signal from God, my daughter’s alarm is going off.

Time to close the laptop and get kids to school.

Time to go to work.

Time to keep living, keep moving, even while the ground shifts beneath my feet and remind myself that this is all part of a grander plan.

Tonight, though, I’ll be giving Tylenol PM a try.

Teenager Thrill Rides

Teenagers get a bad rap. It’s for good reason. I know, I have two of them.

They live in a world of polar extremes. Their ever evolving brains make them predictably unpredictable. I’ll watch my teenage son and daughter, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the couch laughing together and this mama’s heart beams with joy. Then I’ll walk over and discover they are bonding over an inappropriate video they found on YouTube.
Raising teenagers means being amazed at their wit and charm, but also means I have to say things like “why would you put me on speaker phone if people were all around?” One minute, I pat myself on the back for raising responsible, honest kids then the next minute I’m exhibiting a prowess normally reserved for the FBI as I investigate and gather information by any means necessary to find out if one of them has lied to me.

Raising teenagers is a roller coaster ride all the time. It’s a ride full of excitement, wonderful highs, scary lows, lots of loopy loops and vomit.

It’s not all bad. Actually, being the mom of teenagers is pretty awesome and here are 6 reasons why:

1. Teens are fun on vacation.

They are finally old enough to do the fun stuff. They enjoy eating at places other than McDonalds. They are tall enough to ride everything. They can go to the public restrooms without holding an adult’s hand. I don’t have to keep my eye on them every second at the pool. They can take a walk along the beach while I stay back reading a magazine on my chair. The nights don’t end early because they don’t have to go to bed early, in fact, they prefer not to. The mornings are peaceful because they don’t wake up until 11am. It’s great.

2. We enjoy the same movies.

Finally, my movie choices at the theater aren’t limited to Disney and animated flicks. They understand and laugh at the humor in comedies. They get on the edge of their seats during suspense films. I don’t have to explain what’s going on to them. Actually, if anyone is explaining a movie plot to anyone it’s more likely that my son is explaining it to me, not the other way around. They understand that mommy’s purse full of candy and snacks purchased at the gas station on the way there is not something that needs to be announced to the girl at the ticket booth.

3. My teenagers gave me back my sex life.

I’m not sure of a more delicate way of saying this, but when my precious angels were born my sex life went to crap. We had to take what we could get during their nap times. Being spontaneous was something of the past. Then they became little kids. We had to lock doors because those suckers could get out of bed on their own and would try to make surprise visits. Then they became teenagers and it only takes a comment from their father about how good I look in a dress to make them cringe. The sight of a closed bedroom door sends them running for the hills. Oh, and they are gone from the house frequently. Score.

4. Teenagers are passionate.

Emotions run very high for teens. Once they get sold on an idea though, whether it be something as meaningful as serving a meal at the Salvation Army or something less big-ish like what theme the students have for how to dress for the home football game on Friday night, the passion is felt. Get them on board with a big idea and they will run with it. Encourage what interests them and they will make an impact on people around them. Their passion is contagious and will either excite you or drive you to drinking, but either way being around a teenager who is passionate about something will make you feel awake to the world around us.

5. Teenagers keep me young.

I’m living in the phase of life where I know current rap lyrics. I get a live-in fashion consultant via my daughter, who is now very invested in making sure I look presentable in public. I hear stories of what’s going on in high school and all the drama around it. I’ve picked up some of their lingo. My son teaches me all the short cuts and special features on my iPhone. They are nuts and hilarious. They keep me on my toes. I feel young (and tired) when I’m with them.

6. Teenagers have strong opinions and can have intelligent conversation.

They haven’t yet been on the earth long enough to have a bunch of life baggage that jades them into cynics. This generation is more open minded to the diversity all around them. They have valid opinions on important subjects. They bring fresh, new perspectives that can both surprise and impress. They are able to present new ideas and opinions that we haven’t yet considered. They are smart to the ways of this world and totally naïve all in one day. They are a bright bunch.

There are so often times when being a mom is not fun. Times when I feel like a huge failure and wonder if I got it all wrong. Chances are that I likely did do something to mess them up. I mean, on the scale of perfection I rank pretty low and I’m the one, along with their dad, with the most influence over them. God help ‘em. There will be things to blame me for I’m certain, but as long as they grow up to be kind, not incarcerated and gainfully employed then I’ll mark it a success.

Raising teenagers, just like with the roller coaster, includes times of nervous anxiety, times of unimaginable exhilaration, times were everything seems all downhill and times we vomit. Once you’re on there’s no getting off.

May as well hold up your hands, scream and enjoy it while it lasts.

Sorry For What I Said When It Was Humid

Last night, as I was preparing dinner, my 15-year-old daughter walked up to me and asked, “Mom, what is wrong with you? Don’t say “nothing”, just tell me what’s wrong.”

I had to stop and take a deep breath, feeling bad that I was so irritable that my daughter was doing an emotional check-in on me. I told her she was right, I was feeling angry.

“I haven’t been sleeping well this week. I just can’t shut my mind off, like always, but this week has been especially bad. The air conditioner won’t be fixed until the part on back-order gets here.  It’s  81 degrees in here and I’m over it.  (Cooking dinner in a hot house, while fatigued is not a good equation for happiness. I wouldn’t advise anyone try it.)  I also have agreed to more meetings than is reasonable over the next few days and I am already dreading most of them.”

She tilted her head as though she felt bad for me and said, “I knew something was up with you when I told you that my shirt made me hot today at school and you told me to just shut up.”

Nothing quite makes me feel more like a loser mom than when my kid articulates a very valid point to highlight why her mother is acting a fool.

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said that to you. I am really sorry” I said to her, to which she replied, “It’s ok,” then returned to the couch with a bag of chips and her phone, seemingly satisfied with how the conversation ended.

I stood in the kitchen alone, fanning myself with the utility bill while finishing our meal.  I was feeling bad about feeling bad.

Dr. Henry Cloud, a psychologist who writes some of my favorite self-help books, once said, “Keep this question in your pocket and pull it out often: “Why am I doing this?”

Why did I leave my paycheck producing career 2 years ago to become a volunteer moderator/teacher/nurse/slave/cook/maid to the hormonal little monsters who I created and grew inside me approximately 14 and 15 years ago? This change was one that my husband dreamed of for years before I finally had the nerve to pull the trigger on it. It was discussed endlessly for months and prayed about so many times before I finally had peace enough to make the leap. It was a well thought through decision, yet now, I’m sweaty, in a hot house, mad at the world today forgetting why.

I am a person of faith and for that reason my ongoing quest to find meaning is centered around my beliefs that God has created me uniquely and with a specific purpose. I’ve read books about this. I’ve also taken spiritual gift assessments, which revealed that I’m gifted in hospitality and the opposite of gifted in administration. So basically I excel in partying and suck with anything that requires the filling out or filing of any piece of paper. Still, at times my purpose in life gets out of focus and a little foggy.

There may be days when I’m not clear on what my purpose is, but I know when I’m not living it by the discomfort that it brings.

“Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.” Lysa TerKeurst

My purpose during this current season of life is to encourage, model, instruct and provide a full life for my kids so that when they graduate from high school in only 4 short years and move out for college (did I really just say those words?) they will be ready. I want to be the safe place for them to ask hard questions and get honest answers. I want to be available to them as they have to navigate the very confusing teenage waters.  My purpose is to do my best to make sure they have strong faith and character when it’s time for them to spread their wings. THAT is my purpose.  That’s my why.  Everything else is just noise.

As I’m hot gluing cotton balls on a t-shirt for a sheep costume that I’m making my daughter for her cotillion initiation, I’m living my purpose. I’m showing her she’s important and I care about the little things she cares about.

When I sit in my car for what seems like forever on a Saturday morning waiting for my son to finish his guitar lesson, I’m living my purpose. It’s important to him. It’s important to me.

When I run them all over town to be at various youth functions, it’s again my purpose. Growing them into adults I can be proud of.

When I can’t sleep from the disappointments and frustrations of life, when I worry about things out of my control and when I commit to volunteer roles, even worthy ones, that rob too much precious time from my family then I’ve lost focus and am doing something wrong. When saying yes to everything thus effectively saying no to doing most of it with a joyful heart causes discomfort to my purpose then  I’ve allowed what is expected of me to trump what God wants for me.

When I tell my girl to shut up over a shirt she’s wearing I am not living my purpose. Something is out of order.

And it’s uncomfortable.

So I logged into my email and declined a couple meeting invites. I set up a few lunches with my friends. The ones who recharge my soul while we refill our cups. A blandness in life becomes more pronounced when I go too long without having the balance they bring. I even said no to a couple people who I had originally planned to say yes to, but my yes was going to be out of pure obligation.

I prayed that the air conditioner part will get here quick before I lose my sh@t with this August heat inside my house.

And I made some brownies for my daughter as a gesture of peace for the jerk I was yesterday.

No grit, no pearl!