I Worry So

2607 2607_ () 2607 2607 Henry is sitting in my bathroom on the counter. He has filled the sink with water and is using my lotion cap as a small cylindrical sailboat.

I was about to dry my hair when he climbed up next to me. So my immediate reaction is to unplug my hairdryer and moved it out of the way.

I decide to stand in my bedroom to dry my hair. That way Henry can keep playing in his ocean of adventure while I watch from a safe distance. But as I stand at my mirror I can’t shake the feeling that there is danger lurking as he sits on the counter to play.

What has become of me? Why must I turn these sweet moments of fun into moments of peril. Is danger really lurking around every corner, or is that just me?

Am I crazy, or am I just a mother?

Charlie recently burned his leg with a bowl of ramen noodles. We have since found out, after our initial trip to the emergency room and then the burn unit, that this is a common injury. I had no idea.

We’ve now had several follow-ups at the wound center and I am amazed what it takes to deal with the injuries from a bowl of microwave-heated liquid.

The scary thing is this: ramen noodles were never on my list of Things I Fear. And I think I reflect on this fact every time one of my children gets hurt.

I have my list of things I’m constantly “aware of” and so far we are running about a 4:1 ratio. For every four times we wind up in the emergency room, only one of them is for something that is actually on The List.

To review:

Henry’s broken femur and subsequent seven-week full-body cast: not on the list.

Isabel’s freakishly swollen eye and overnight hospital stay: not on the list.

Elliott’s stitches for pocket knife injury: totally on the list.

Charlie’s second and third degree burns from spilling soup on his thigh: never considered it.

So now on my running list of things to “Be Aware Of” (translated: freak out about) I’ll be thinking of hot soup and long dog leashes and walking into my daughter’s room to discover her eye has been replaced by something the size of a golf ball.

Does Motherhood Suck the Fun out of Everything?

Yes and no.

I have decided, on the heels of our most recent health adventures, that it’s time to go back to my approach of letting it all go. I tell myself that even though I know I can’t really do that — but I understand (in theory) that’s what God wants. He doesn’t want me to carry the burden of fear that something horrible might happen to one of my children.

“But I love them so much,” I tell the Lord when I’m feeling overwhelmed and scared.

“So do I,” he reminds me, “more than you can even comprehend.”

So back I go to the foot of the cross. I lay these things down — the fear of cuts and bruises, of broken bones. I put these at his feet, along with even my most unspeakable fears. I give them to him, because he wants them.

God wants freedom for us, and he wants joy. And while he understands that we are humans with human nature, he really does not want us to carry the weight of the “what if’s”. That’s not his plan for us.

The best we can do somedays is remind ourselves of this. And on the very best days we can somehow, through grace, loosen the grip we have. We don’t loosen the reign we have on our children, but we release them to God, all the while understanding that God put them in our care but that they are, ultimately, His.

“Be not afraid,” says Blessed John Paul II.

I’ll put that bumper sticker on my van as I (oh-so-carefully) drive down the highway.

This originally ran as my weekly column in The Southern Cross.
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Comparing vs. Being Inspired

2600 2600_ () 2600 2600 I have a bad tendency to compare. I used to beat myself up about this fact but the truth is, it’s my nature. It’s how I figure out where I’m at and how I’m doing, and really it just helps me make sense of the world around me.

I look at Situation A and then Situation B, similar situations that, in order for me to make sense of them I need to compare each one to something else.

This makes sense, right? It’s not a bad thing. I mean, it’s not always a good thing but it’s a processing tool that can be quite useful.

Obviously this can backfire in a number of ways. I once saved $70 on groceries and was over the moon — until I discovered a friend had saved twice that. Which meant that she saved $140 and then (kicker) actually spent less on food than she saved. Kinda made my 70 bucks fall flat.

So that’s an example of comparing not working. Or, or maybe just I take that comparing and when I’m in a good, zen-like, extreme inner peace and joy kind of state, I find out that my friend saved twice as much, spent half as much and I walk away happy for her and wanting to do better next time.

Maybe the answer is where I’m coming from.

Anyway, I was thinking about all this yesterday at the end of a long day full of tired children (many of whom no longer go to bed at 7 p.m. when they are tired). It was a day that started with us having the day off from school and me moseying out of bed and opening the blinds to discover a minivan in my driveway? Oh!! Minivan!! My friend Kelly here to get Henry, he who is still in my bed, the one I just got out of. It started like that and had some ups and downs throughout. It also involved one boy coming down the stairs dressed for a funeral in a golf shirt, khaki shorts and tennis shoes. Like, neon-colored running shoes and fancy running socks.

“This is a fyuuuu–neerrr-aaaal,” I said as pedantically as I could. Do I have to spell it out? Yes, yes I do. And that’s as it should be.

Around dinner time, I was feeling really tired and emotional. It’s just I’m in this season where no matter how hard I work to get things in order, everything falls apart around dinnertime. As in: yesterday, I had the boys make their lunches at 4:30, I made dinner early, the laundry was caught up — every other part of the afternoon was focused on making 6-8 p.m. NOT STINK and still, in spite of all those efforts, 6-8 p.m. like totally stunk.

I was standing at the kitchen sink and I sent my mom a sweet little text.

“I totally do not know how you did not drink constantly when we were growing up.”

My mother, she did not drink. Me? Some nights my glass of wine is being decanted as the five o’clock hour strikes (this is not really true, I’m joking but it feels true and maybe it has been known to be true on one or two occasions).

I realized after I sent that text (and then my mom sent me something really sweet and encouraging back and I felt better), I realized that I’ve totally fallen into this habit of comparing myself to my mom. And I’m not winning. Because I have all these memories of my mom when I was growing up and they involved: mom not drinking; mom making delicious home cooked meals; mom keeping a very clean house always; mom never yelling; mom wearing a red bandana on her head and a wrap-around jean skirt and Dr. Scholl’s; mom being all-in-all awesome.

My mother was beautiful and fashionable (for the 70s) and with it. And awesome. (She still is.)

And when I bark at the boys (IT’S. A. FUNERAL!!!!) I feel none of those things.

I am competing with selective memory of course, and I only know this because when I tell my mom about my memories, she assures me there were warts. It’s nice that she does because honestly, I just don’t remember them. And then it makes me feel bad, and I know I’m competing and not being inspired.

Must. Get. Inspired.

Earlier yesterday, I was working with Charlie on his math and one of the word problems struck me as a bit funny, in light of where his curriculum comes from, a Christian (as opposed to Catholic) company. (ASIDE: I know Catholics are Christians, but you understand I am making a distinction for the point of this story. Just want everyone to understand that Catholics ARE Christians).

So the word problem said something like “Seventeen kids went on a mission trip that cost $2,453 each…” and on it went from there.

Later on I was talking to a friend whose son is in the class, asking her if she had seen the math. That got us to talking about some mutual friends who homeschool and how everything (every. thing.) in their classroom is Catholic — the writing sentences are about a saint, the math calculates the cost of holy candles, the classroom clock chimes a hymn every hour on the hour.

While I don’t feel called to educate my children in that way — our school, while having a high percentage of Catholics in it, is not a “Catholic school” — I still think it’s pretty amazing. As my friend and I talked about our homeschooling friend, I walked away inspired, making a note to be aware of little opportunities to teach the faith — a reminder to myself to keep up the good work and get back/stay on track.

That’s being inspired. Instead of feeling inferior or like I was somehow “losing” I felt reminded to keep working hard, to keep trying to be the best mom/teacher of the faith I can be.

So anyway, at the end of this long day, with it’s ups and downs and observations of the heart, I realized a few things.

1. Comparing is not in-and-of-itself a bad thing. It can make you want to do better. I think about saving money on groceries or about how patient my mom always was — and I realize I’m thinking about those things because they are my ideals. That’s what I’m aiming for. The key is to be patient with myself when I don’t always reach them.

2. When I find myself comparing, it’s better to take it a step further and figure out how I can be inspired.

3. It’s best not to compare when I am very tired. I will never win.

4. It’s best not to compare when I am overly confident. I will always win (which means someone else will lose).

5. It’s not about winning or losing — it’s about being who you are supposed to be, about using the gifts and temperament God has given you to do what he’s asked you to do.
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A Death, a Wake and Letting Go of Fear

2594 2594_ () 2594 2594 Our friend Bob died a few days ago. He had been sick for a while, struggling with his health since discovering five years ago that he had a degenerative disease.

It has been heartbreaking to watch Bob’s health decline, but instead of focusing on that sad part of things I want to tell you something beautiful about this, something I got to witness and something that makes me grateful for my life. It makes me feel lucky.

Joe is a boy I have known forever, since I was a little girl and he chased me on the playground (that’s kind of a lie — Joe never chased me specifically but he was one of those boys that chased girls and I was a girl that got chased but you know, not by him). Anyway, this little boy Joe is now a grown man with five children and his dad is Bob.

A few months ago, Joe knew his dad was deteriorating really fast, much faster than they had anticipated. I was at a family party at New Year’s and Joe brought his dad by briefly. The entire time Bob was there, Joe stood very close to his dad and didn’t take his eyes off him. He hovered and kept an arm on him and just guarded his dad. At that point, Bob was still able to walk and talk, just barely, and Joe stayed so close to him I couldn’t help but cry. I could see so much love and it was beautiful.

For the last few years, I had been seeing Joe at his folks’ house nearly every day. He works right up the road and came over every day for lunch. He was always working on ways to help his dad stay comfortable even in his failing health. He loved extravagantly.

I saw Joe the other night and got in a conversation with him about death and dying. He had been at his parents’ house constantly and they were basically waiting for his dad to die. They didn’t know when but they knew it was soon. My friend Amy was part of the conversation and we got to talking about grace and dignity and mostly I tried to just listen to Joe. His eyes were red from lack of sleep, but he seemed so hopeful, so at peace.

His dad died a few hours later.

Today is Bob’s wake, and it’s right in our neighborhood, at his house. It’s a good old fashioned “the body is right here in the front room” wake and what is beautiful to me is that everyone from around here will simply walk over and stop in, pray with the family, hug them, be there for them. Literally be there for them.

It breaks my heart on the one hand, but it makes me so happy on the other. I can’t imagine his wife or any of his children are relieved, but that suffering. So much suffering. His mind was strong and his body so weak.

I’ve been thinking these last few days, every time I walk by Bob’s house or drive past it, how strange it is he won’t be there anymore. His family has been there forever, just like so many other families in my neighborhood.

That’s the hard part of this life — of living in this actual physical community that I’m a part of. You know people forever and at some point people are going to die. There is that rejoicing for them, but the sadness for everyone else.

The other thing I’ve been thinking is how overwhelmed I am at the goodness of this life. And how I almost never talk about it here, in this space. And I know why — I’m too scared. I don’t talk about my life because I’m afraid you will think I’m crazy. That you will think it’s all nuts. I also think about some of my friends who grew up here and really have no use for this place, and I think, well, I think too much about that too. I worry too much when I sit to write and as a result I don’t really write at all, not about this.

I also don’t want to brag. I don’t want to sound like this place is a utopia. I don’t want to act like what we’re doing here is better than what you’re doing. I think and worry and hesitate and end up not sharing about one of the most important things in my life, which is how I feel called to build the church, my family and our specific call to build the church by living this kind of community.

And then our friend Bob dies (and yes, death sure has a way of putting things into focus). And I think about how hundreds of people will be walking over to his front room tonight to say farewell. How this man invested in this life here, moved from across the country to be a part of this thing, and he will be sorely missed.

Mostly, I feel lucky. I’m so lucky that I got to witness something beautiful, and yes painful, but mostly beautiful as I watched my friend be a part of holding his dad’s hand as he moved through the end of his earthly journey. 2594″> .


Quick Takes: Gratitude and Glamour

2586 2586_ () 2586 2586 1. Y’all, thank you so, so much for how generously you have shared your prayers and money with my sister and brother-in-law. I’m blown away. The donations have poured in and it’s so much more than I had even hoped for. When my sister saw my blog a few days ago, she was so blessed (that’s the genteel way of saying she was crying her eyes out, so touched by all of your love) and I said, “Jo, those comments there? That’s only a fraction of what’s been coming in.”

I am getting the sweetest emails and notes and it means so much that you would care for someone so dear to me. Thank you ALL. xo

I will leave the paypal button up until the end of the month, and will do the drawing in a week or so. Also, my friend Lisa Hendey is throwing in two of her books, so that’s now a part of the prize list as well. Thanks, Lisa!

2. This Tuesday was the first day of school and to celebrate I grabbed lunch with a few friends.

Later that day, I picked at my leftovers while I worked on the computer and after about ten minutes I realized that I had taken a bit of tortilla and forgotten to chew.

I had to take a picture, it was so amazing.

My glamour knows no bounds.

3. Speaking of school, this week has been a butt-kicker. Sorry for the frank language, but saying it “kicked my heiny” or “was really a challenge!” Well that simply does not convey the abject struggle I’ve had in keeping up with the energy levels that my boys bring when they walk in the door.

I’ve realized that I pretty much devote my entire school day — 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to getting my ducks in a row to deal with what happens when everyone comes home and wants food, snacks, more food, homework, what’s for dinner, need to get on computer, have PE tomorrow where’s my uniform, food, more food!!!!

And that’s the first five minutes.

It’s a flurry and it’s exhausting.

I’m hoping we will all get used to it — if I remember correctly the first week of school is generally pretty exhausting always. Because, dude, I am overwhelmed.

4. Good news on Charlie and his burn: no skin grafts needed!

We had a burn recheck yesterday and the good (good, good!) doctor said the 3d degree medallions are healing nicely and we are moving off the cream and onto an ointment. Also, instead of the massive bandages we’ve been using, Charlie is switching to some stretchy pants and I won’t lie, they are not unlike these:

Except they are gold.

So it’s a win-win situation: easier, cleaner dressing changes and Naaachhooooo! Gold stretchy pants.

p.s. if you love Nacho as much as we love Nacho, go read these quotes. It’ll brighten your day.

5. Yesterday we had a hawk in our yard. We came home from a walk and there standing right in our row of holly trees was this hugemongous beast and he was having a snack.

He was munching down on a dead squirrel and it was every bit as gross as you would think. My mom was coming home from work around this time, just as we walked into the house and later on I found a frantic message from her on my phone (I didn’t get there in time because I was busying a) calming freaked out children and b) keeping them from running to get a closer look.

My mom and dad are avid birders and she knew that if we got close enough while that hawk was eating that some of us might be his part of the meal deal.

I’ll write more about this later and post one of the 1,298 pictures Ethan took. Some of those pictures are close up and involve a bloody beak and picked-over vermin and Paul and Ethan came into where I was already in bed last night (reading Amy Welborn’s amazing book) and tried to show me these pictures.

6. We are off to school this morning for the Tie Ceremony for Elliott. He who turned 13 last week and yes I’ve been crying in my beer ever since. I’m happy he’s a teenager but really? Two teenagers? Does that mean I’m getting old? Does that mean he’s not my baby anymore? I guess that explains why he’s been towering over me for the last few months?

7. Don’t answer any of those questions. Just go tell Jen I said hi. Have a fantastic weekend — and get some rest. 2586″> .