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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.

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!

Little Boy, Big Ideas

A few nights ago I was on the couch channel surfing for something good to watch on TV. There really are only three channels I watch. From the stories my mom tells, three channels is all she ever had growing up. I don’t feel sorry for her. Three is all you need. I have close to one bazillion channels, but the only ones I ever use are Comedy Central, a local channel to watch The Bachelor and local news and then a channel to satisfy my addiction to documentaries.

On this particular evening I ran across a documentary about the many affairs of John F Kennedy. We have all seen the breathy birthday song Marilyn Monroe sang for him.  It’s kind of easy to guess that one, but I had no idea about how many others there were.  There were many, MANY others.  This dude was straight pimp. These weren’t just average, low profile interns in blue dresses under his desk either. His affairs were with people who not only could have caused catastrophic damage to his credibility as president, but also could have caused disaster in this country had any of the scorned women decided to share information they gained from their pillow talk.  They were women with mafia ties, German prostitutes, famous actresses, strippers and well-known socialites.  He was a busy man.

He made great strides for civil rights during his term as president, no doubt, but how did his scandals not over-shadow all of it?  Why? Because the general public had no idea.  Had they known then how carelessly he waved his freak flag things would have been different.  Camelot wouldn’t have had nearly the royal luster it did among doting Americans.

The difference is that good ole’ JFK was privileged to live in a time where people didn’t know every detail about him.  Most people decided to vote for him based on the information they gained from reading three-day-old newspaper articles.  They formed opinions from short reports  they watched on their little static television sets.  Paparazzi weren’t hiding in every corner with long range camera lenses snapping every sultry detail to share with the world.  Despite his overwhelming poor decisions and the risk he put our country in because of it, he was still America’s sweetheart. Still the popular vote.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

During this time people only really knew about the bad stuff that happened in the town where they lived. They didn’t have to process every sordid detail of every politician or celebrity around the world.

We are not made to handle all the information…in the amount of detail we get…in the volume it’s given to us. We are constantly made aware of every scary story that unfolds around the world, yet we aren’t equipped nor do we have the ability to make most any of it better.  There must be some connection to this and the increasing number of people who suffer with depression and anxiety. We cannot mentally process every bad scenario from all over the globe without it impacting us.  We aren’t wired for it.

I still still think of JFK as a good president…sucky husband, but good president. He’s far from the only politician with a shady past.  He just happens to be the example that got me thinking, thanks to that documentary I watched.

I’m wondering if the world is really that much worse off now or if it’s that we just know more about it now.

I’d love for the media to band together, requesting each presidential candidate supply them with a document which includes 2 columns. In one column, the candidate would list what they are in favor of. On the other side they list what they oppose. Maybe the last page of the document could be a list of experience and references. That’s all voters really need to know.

We don’t need to know how much Hillary paid for her suit or if Donald’s wife graduated from college or not. It’s doesn’t matter.

Since the media will likely never do this we could at least help keep ourselves sane by turning off the TV more.  Life hack, the hide feature on Facebook is a gem of a tool for frequent political ranters, bless their hearts. This feature has helped me continue to like people with loud opinions. It’s not that I don’t love them, it that I’m tired of seeing them jump up and down while driving a real, live, living person’s name and character into the dirt. I’ve not spoken to anyone yet who has read any of those posts and changed their political opinions anyway.

A friend of mine has a 5-year-old son, Asher, who has it all figured out. It’s genius really. She recently asked him if he knew what it meant when she said she was going to vote. He replied, “Sort of.” She went on to explain it to him by comparing it to how they choose which restaurant to go eat. He is number 3 out of 4 children in the family so he is used to this form of voting. He said, “Ok, I vote for Mexican (raises his hand like he’s voting). My sister will vote Chick-Fil-A. Even if I do this (jumping up and down with his hand raised) and yell “Mexican! Mexican! Mexican!” she won’t change her mind. She’s still going to vote Chick-Fil-A. So you should just raise your hand, say “Mexican” and vote.”

Yes, Asher, EXACTLY!

We are in the homestretch of this election campaign season. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but as of today we still have to get through the avalanche of election talk everywhere we turn. I wish my friend’s smarter-than-the-average-bear-cub’s epiphany could be promoted alongside all of it to serve as a reminder to all of us that jumping up and down and screaming who we are going to vote for, doesn’t change anything and only makes the person jumping exhausted.

It’s only 3 months until it will all be finally decided on and done.  We will be able to unhide our loved ones who drove us crazy on Facebook. The era of bumper stickers that say “Don’t blame me, I voted Trump” and “Don’t blame me, I voted Clinton” is just around the corner. Persevere my friends. Stay strong, we’ve almost made it through.

Let’s take a lesson from my friend’s wise little boy and vote. Nicely. Quietly and with consideration of others.

Let’s feel happy for the mack daddy, Mr. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, that he was alive during a time before the world wide web.

Unfriended

Dear Teenage Daughter Of Mine,

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided that we can’t be friends.

It’s not me. It’s you.

You help me understand why some animals eat their young.

When you were born you were exceptionally adorable, far surpassing the adorableness of the other babies born that day. I’m sure the other mothers looked at their newborns that day with great disappointment. You were such a good baby. You took long naps so that I could get a break, you slept all night in your own bed. You ate anything, which made me feel superior to the other moms complaining about their picky eaters. You were independent and had a desire to do things on your own. You took crap from no one, even as a toddler. When the sweet old man from church would touch your hand and smile at you, you would respond by pulling your hand back and throwing a ‘go to hell, go straight to hell’ look at him. You were so cute though that he would just laugh and try again next week. You were pretty perfect, actually. I had high hopes for you.

Now you are a teenager and at only 14 years old, you are equipped with a super model body and killer eye lashes. You draw attention of older boys because you don’t look a day younger than 17. This is not fair to me, being that I’m a full 7 inches shorter and 15 pounds heavier than you. You are still very strong willed, smart, creative and totally hilarious. You still will on occasion shoot a death glare at anyone talking to you whom you are not fond of (it’s something we are working on). However, none of this is why we can’t be friends.

You have turned from a sweet wide eyed little girl who loved zoo animals and American Girl dolls into a hormonal, irrational, emotional teenager. I have to strategize how I’m going to approach you about topics I fear may set you off, like trying to tell you that the wait at Olive Garden is too long and we are going to have to find a plan b restaurant to eat. When you are hungry you are especially scary. Full disclosure, you get that honestly. You may have inherited that trait. You bounce back and forth from being a child to being a fun loving, energetic teenager to being an immature adult. This is why we can’t be friends. People have warned me about this teenager thing, but I didn’t believe them….not my baby. Turns out they were on to something.

We can’t be friends because you need my help to survive your teen years and become an adult who people don’t avoid at parties.

Right now you don’t really need the other half of my BFF heart necklace. You need a mom.

When we argue because you have decided to wear your new fall outfit that includes an adorbs boho top layered with a long cardigan and skinny jeans with ankle boots on a day in early September when the weather forecast calls for a humid 92 degrees I am reminded that while you may not like me, you need me. Literally, need me to save you from heat stroke on the bus.

When you roll your eyes at me and mumble something hateful under your breath as you walk out of the room because I won’t allow you to ride in a car with the 16 year old boy you are crushing on I can see your innocence and how short sighted you are right now. You don’t see all the life altering consequences that can come from it, but I can so I’m willing to let you treat me like I’m the one being unrealistic in the matter.

When we are on a paradise beach vacation where everything seems perfect, yet when one little thing doesn’t go your way you curl up those long legs into a ball so that you can get in my lap and nuzzle into my chest to cry I’m yet again reminded that even though you are getting closer to being grown, you are still a child. You need me.

Let’s be honest. You have friends. I have friends. We don’t need to be each other’s friend right now. I make you insane with all my dumb rules and frankly you aren’t always a peach to live with either.

Never mistake my determination that we can’t be friends as a lack of love. I’ve prayed for you since the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Every day. My prayers have shifted as life has shifted. I used to pray that you would sleep well at night in your crib. I prayed that your diaper rash would clear up. I prayed that you wouldn’t get too hysterical over the shots you were going to get at the doctor’s office. I prayed for your self-esteem as you went through that awkward phase of snaggled teeth and crooked glasses. I prayed that your 1st day of high school this year would go great. Daily, I pray for your health, your safety, that you will make wise decisions and that you won’t get involved with the wrong crowd. I pray that as you edge closer to those dating years that you will know a douche bag when you see one. I pray that you will find a balance between confidence and humility.

It’s hard for you to understand and I don’t expect that you will ever fully understand until you have children of your own how deep my love is for you. You are the best part of me and your dad. You and your brother are the beat in our hearts. When you hurt, we hurt. It’s our job to raise you to be an adult who is kind, responsible, respects herself and shows respect to others. We want to send you out into the world as ready as you can be for what life will throw at you. We want you to be fierce and strong.

As it turns out, to fulfill that mission, this love I have for you is not well received all the time. It sucks and I wish it wasn’t that way, but I have hope it won’t last forever. It’s okay that you don’t always like me or think I’m cool.

So when you yell at me to come into your room to curl your hair in the mornings, complain about how it looks afterwards, ask me to iron your shirt, make you some breakfast then on the way to school remind me of a 3 page form I need to complete before I drop you off at school or you won’t be able to attend the field trip I knew nothing about, I will take a deep breath and do it.

Because I love you.

Also because I have been praying to God that you will have a daughter exactly like you one day. That, in itself, will be the reward I need to make this all worth it.

I hope you understand. Don’t take it personally.

Love,

Mom