Blessings in Disguise???

Wait…what?  It’s only Tuesday???

This has already been the longest week…ever. I was coming off the high of a wonderful, fun-with-my-kiddos, relaxing, house-in-order, everything-right-with-the-world kind of weekend on Sunday evening.  It was about 10:30 (which came too soon with this wicked ‘spring forward’ time change).  I realized that my husband had never returned my keys when he had moved my car into the garage that afternoon.  Trying to be sure I would be ready for the rush to the door on Monday morning, I decided to check with him, “Where did you put my keys?”  He had thought he had set them on the kitchen counter.  He was wrong.

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An intense search ensued; we looked for my keys until midnight.  We never found them.  This shouldn’t have been a big deal, right?  I mean, I can always pull out my spare set, right?  WRONG!  My spare stopped working about six months ago (darn computerized cars) and I never got it fixed.  Ugh.  Hind sight really is 20/20.

That was Sunday and it is now Tuesday.  Still no keys.  Still no car.  My car has been towed to the  mechanic’s.  It’s been there since Monday around 3:00.  I have realized a lot of things over the last two days while not having a car.  a) It’s stressful…planning for dropping my kids at school and childcare…getting to work…coordinating car seats with those who are kindly willing to help you out.  It takes a lot of planning.  b) You never want to go anywhere until you can’t. c) I’m glad I live two blocks from my work.  d) You are really happy when it’s sunny out when you don’t have a car!

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I also woke up late on Monday (most likely due to the late night search party Sunday night and time change) and I missed my workout entirely.  Tuesday I also woke up late and only got in half of my work out.  Things are super crazy at work and I’m working as hard as I can from the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave.

These things…these little things are what have made me feel undone this week.  These are the moments I said to myself “You have got to be KIDDING me!!!”  And now I sit back and gain some perspective and I realize they are nothing.

You see, my son has to be at the hospital tomorrow at 9:30 to register for his first surgery.  He is having a tonsillectomy.  I fought having this done for a while but after six separate strep infections over the last year, I gave in to seeing an ENT.  When the specialist shared with me that the real danger of strep is that the infection can pass to a heart valve and it can then be deadly, my heart skipped a beat.  I shared with the doctor that Jace actually has a heart valve defect and he responded that Jace’s defect is all the more reason to move forward with this surgery.  So here we are, three weeks later and tomorrow is THE DAY.

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As I spent this evening with my son, I let him play a little longer outside before making him come in.  When he asked to go for a bike ride, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  I brought him to the movie store and let him pick out all of the movies and games he wanted (these should come in handy during his recovery).  I surprised him with a walk to the ice cream shop and I listened intently as he jabbered to my husband and me all the way home.  And now at this moment, up past his bedtime, he’s playing a video game and I can’t muster the courage to make him go to bed.  I know I don’t want him to lie in bed and think of tomorrow the way I will when the lights go out.  So I’ll just let the bedtime thing go for tonight.

I know Jace will be fine tomorrow.  There are risks anytime someone is put under for a surgery and I don’t take that lightly.  Jace’s heart defect and the fact that we have to have a letter from his cardiologist before the ENT will perform surgery on him, makes me uneasy.  But honestly, if Jace’s heart was perfectly formed, I would still be nervous.  No one wants to see their baby in pain.  I’m nervous and my heart hurts just thinking that he will have to endure the fear of the unknown and the pain that I know will follow (I had my tonsils removed when I was seven…I know!).

As I reflect on my stressful week, on all of the moments I wanted to pull my hair out and didn’t, as I think about all of the quirky things that have happened this week to keep me distracted, I am starting to think that this chaos was a gift.  I didn’t have time to think about Jace’s surgery, about tomorrow.  I didn’t have time to focus on my troubles.  I was kept on my toes by one twist in my week and then the next.  Have you ever thought that?  That maybe the adversity you’re facing is a blessing in disguise…that maybe without the misfortune you wouldn’t make it through something even more challenging?

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In the moment, I didn’t think that my week could get much worse.  And then, just like that, I was strolling down the sidewalk with my son, ice cream in our bellies, and my heart was so full that I couldn’t even recall what I had been stressed about before.  I’m so thankful for my son.  He is my first born.  He’s so different than I ever expected him to be when I became a mother…he’s so much better, more beautiful, more amazing.  Tomorrow we will go through another new and, most likely, unpleasant experience together.  There are no words to express how I wish I could shield him from this…but I can’t.  So instead, I will be there for him.  I will hold his hand.  I will pray for him and anxiously wait for the doctors to return him to me safe and sound.  The past two days were challenging, but none of that matters.  If you have your health and the health of your family, you have everything to be grateful for…tonight, even with no car, even with slacking on my workout routine, even with getting a little behind on my housework, I am the luckiest woman in the world because I have this sweet little boy by my side ready to watch a movie with me.  Looks like we’ll be missing bedtime by quite a bit tonight!

 

 

 

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Get it, Girl…A Guide to My Get It Done Weekend

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I’m not naturally the most tidy person.  My husband would back me up on this.  When we were first married, I would marvel at his compulsion to straighten every rug in his vicinity or to wipe out the bathroom sink each and every time he brushed his teeth.  These types of things did not even occur to me.  But as I’ve gotten older (sigh), as I expend more time and energy picking up, wiping up, and scrubbing after these tiny little human beings I call my children….as I take more pride in my home and my belongings that I work so hard for…I’m finding I have changed.  The little things bother me now and unfortunately, with working full time and having two small children, the small things tend to accumulate into big things very quickly.

I wish I could say I have it all together, that I do a load of laundry every day, that there aren’t dishes in my sink, that my tub is clean…but that would be a big FAT lie.  Although my home isn’t a pig’s sty, it also isn’t immaculate.  I visit the houses of others and find their homes spotless and smelling fresh and clean and I’m jealous…and confused.  How do they do it????

I set out with a mission this weekend to get my house in order.  This was the first weekend that wasn’t loaded down with activities and I decided I was going to make the most of it.  I’m a visual person so I worked up two visual aids to keep me accountable and on point.  First I made a time table of my day.  See below.

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Please note that I do NOT typically wake up a 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday but I had a lot of ground to cover.  A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!  When calculating my time, I tried to account for the day-to-day stuff like working out…eating…blah, blah.  It sounds ridiculous but when I get focused in a cleaning frenzy, I can go without meals.  So it’s important to plan these things into my day.  My blocks of time ranged from one to two hours and consisted of the following:

  • Start laundry and workout
  • Change laundry and make breakfast
  • Change laundry and clean dishes and kitchen
  • Change laundry and clean bathrooms
  • Change laundry, pull sheets and comforters for washing and clean bedrooms
  • Lunch time! Clean up kitchen
  • Change laundry. Jera’s nap time. Clean living room
  • Change laundry. Floors, floors, floors!
  • Shower. Live life.

Now to make sure I stayed on focus, I made a second, complimentary list that broke down the chores within each room (with a nice little check box that I could mark as I accomplished each task…see, told you I was a visual person).  See below:

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This is how it went.  My dream list.  If I could accomplish everything within the given room, this is what I would accomplish…

Kitchen

  1. Collect dishes from around the house and wash, dry AND PUT AWAY
  2. Organize the Tupperware (would it be wrong to say God-forsaken Tupperware???) cabinet.  Throw away Tupperware with no matching lids!
  3. Wipe down counter tops, table and dust the hutch
  4. Clean out the refrigerator
  5. Make shopping list
  6. Clean out closet and pantry

Bathrooms

  1. Clean bathtub, sinks, toilets and counter tops
  2. Clean mirror
  3. Review closet organization

Bedrooms

  1. Remove and replace sheet, blankets and pillowcases
  2. Put away and organize toys
  3. Polish furniture and clean TVs
  4. Organize shoes in closet (this is becoming a REAL PROBLEM AREA)

Living Room

  1. Pick up toys and misc.
  2. Dust furniture and fireplace
  3. Clean TV and other glass
  4. Clean and organize basket, trunk and closet

Floors

  1. Vacuum living room and bedrooms
  2. Sweep and mop bathrooms
  3. Sweep and mop kitchen and hallways

I made it through my day and found my lists SOOOOO helpful.  I didn’t complete every task (I got through roughly half) but I found the error of my past ways.  Being on a time schedule, I was forced to leave a room before I finished up my “task list”.  I have found that typically when I clean, I get distracted very easily.  I have good intentions of making  my way through the whole house but what happens is that I start in one room and I will come across something that is driving me nuts.  For example, I was full-force ready to dive into our closets in the kitchen and start to organize and de-clutter when I found that my hour was up and it was time to move to the bathrooms.  Without my time schedule, I would have started on my closet, which would have led to me cleaning my hutch too and I would have HAD to wipe down the cabinets.

I tend to need each room to be perfect before I move on to the next room.  And because of this…I NEVER MAKE IT TO THE NEXT ROOM!!!  This is so unbelievably true.  This is why I feel like my house is never clean.  I can never make it through the whole house.  I get one room really, sparkling, smell-good, eat off the floor clean and the rest of the house is still a mess and I’m out of time.  By the time I make it to the next room (days later), the first room is dirty again.  So this weekend, thanks to my time schedule, I got the dishes washed, dried and put away, I got the counter tops washed down and I made my shopping list.  And the rest of my kitchen (even the horror of a Tupperware cabinet) all stayed the same.

The good news, no, the great news, is that I made it through my whole house!!!  Yay!  And yes, I did celebrate with a big, delicious steak on Saturday night.  I pay myself in copious amounts of protein.

Okay, back to the matter at hand, I need to start doing something different.  I’ve been turned-on to a website called flylady.com.  It’s all about keeping your house tidy and taking care of yourself at the same time.  I’m only on day two of this big, glorious plan laid out on the website but I’m starting by believing it’s a possibility.  I’m believing that it is possible to work, to be a great wife and mom, to not be overwhelmed, to do a little every day and not allow things to pile up, to not feel like I’m constantly behind…cue the music…“Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer. Not a trace, of doubt in my mind. I’m in love, and I’m a believer. I couldn’t leave her if I tried.” (Yes, I’m bobbing my head while I type.)

I will update at a later time as I move forward on this clean house journey.  Fingers crossed.  By the way, after this weekend of cleaning and getting my right foot forward, I’m feeling great about starting this upcoming week.  I hope you are too.  Let’s have a week of getting up on time every day, being high energy, full of faith and putting positive energy into the world.  Let’s have a week that pushes us forward to the people we are made to be.  Ready,set, GO!

Chew Like Crazy

I’ve always heard people say “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” This phrase creeps into my mind on weeks like this week…weeks of pure panic and stress. I’m a young mother of two who works full time and loves to be involved…so of course my life is INSANE. I knew this month would be a rough ride and it hasn’t disappointed.

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My week thus far has gone something like this:

 


Every Day:

5:00 a.m. – Workout

6:00 – 8:00 a.m. – Shower, hair, makeup, dress the kids, morning chores, drop daughter to  the sitter, drop son to school and get to work praying not only that I’m not late, but also that I’m early enough to get a decent parking space.

8:00 a.m.- 5:20 p.m. – WORK.

5:20 – 9:00 p.m. – Dinner, Homework, Piano Homework, Bath time, Bed time stories, Laundry, Dishes….Husband

Monday

5:45 – 6:45 p.m. – Daughter to gymnastics

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Son to batting practice

Tuesday

6:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Tiger Cub Den Meeting

Wednesday

6:00 – 8:00 – Church duties for Lenten Season

Thursday

5:45 – 6:15 p.m. – Son’s piano lessons

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Scout Committee Meeting

For better or worse, this is a typical week in the Hafele House.  We live full throttle and most days I love it.  But this week has been a mess.  Last weekend was even crazier than usual, jam-packed with activities and I didn’t get to prep for the upcoming week.  My prep time is vital to surviving this modern day lifestyle.  Prep is essential to “having it all”.  So by Thursday morning when I discovered my husband was down to his last pair of underpants, my kids had no matching socks, we were out of fresh bath towels, there were dirty dishes by the sink and loads of laundry sitting in baskets staring at me…I knew that all of this chaos was a direct result of not prepping properly for my week to come.  Someday I will learn that above all other important things, I must make time to prepare myself. 

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I thought it would be fun to share a few of my pointers with my readers.  These are the little things that save me from weeks like the one I just had.

Here goes…these are my rules for biting off more than I can chew:

  • How are you spending your time?  Are your activities ones that center around your interests and those of your family/children/friends?  If you find yourself devoting a lot of time and energy toward something that just isn’t something you love, don’t feel guilty for moving on.  The fact is that we’re all busy and our time is limited, so my advice is to be selective with where you spend it.  Today I do not volunteer for any organization unless it is related directly to my family and/or my children.  It’s a win/win when I get to volunteer and spend extra time with my little loves!
  • Plan ahead.  This is one of the biggest factors for  determining the kind of week I’m going to have.  I can expect to not come directly home any night of the week.  I can expect to be spending my lunch hour running my preschooler back and forth to school or planning for our next scout den meeting or Sunday school class.  So on Sunday, I take the time to plan and prep as much as possible for the upcoming week, starting with my meals for the work week.  I have a meal plan which my husband is aware of and can step in and help out with depending on who makes it home first.  I prepare as much food as possible ahead of time to make week nights just a little easier. I also prepare and package all of my lunches for the week.  In addition to being handy, this keeps me healthy and eating right even when I’m stressed for time.
  • Plan ahead – Part Deux.  I set out my workout clothes the evening before in my bathroom.  It’s harder to skip a workout when you know your clothes will be taunting you after you’ve slept in and decided to be lazy.  I also hang my outfit for the next workday in the bathroom so it’s ready to hop into directly after my post-workout shower. And I’m less likely to crawl into my frumpy, old, go-to outfit when I plan ahead.  I mean who really feels like wearing a pencil skirt at 6:00 in the morning.  Not me!  But at 10 p.m. it always feels like a good idea for the next day.
  • Buy a planner (a paper planner) and use it.  Yes, an old fashioned, pen and paper, prehistoric, like the kind your grandma uses, type of planner and write everything down in it.  I wouldn’t know if I was coming or going (seriously) without mine.
  • Ask for help.  Yes, when I need help, I ask for it.  If that means asking my mom to watch the kids for an extra 20 minutes or asking the husband to pick up an extra chore or household duty, I ask for what I need.  I’ve found I have to be direct about what I need.  Shocker…but no one can read my mind.  It took me a while to figure that one out.
  • Sit out when you need to. Tonight was that night for me.  I had to cancel out of my Thursday night Scout Committee Meeting…I hate to not make it to a meeting, but when my household has exploded around me, I always try to remember to put first thing first.  And my family and my home always come first. Always.
  • Lastly, CHEW.  Yes, I said CHEW.  Chew like hell.  I say bite off more that you can chew, have your drink nearby just in case you need help washing it down, have a good friend on hand that knows the heimlich maneuver (you know, just in case), AND CHEW, CHEW, CHEW.  A full, busy life is a happy life for me.  Sometimes it is overwhelming but it is also rewarding.  So I choose to chew.

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So these simple things are what help me survive being a working, volunteering, crazy mom.  What are your secret weapons of survival?  Share them with the women in your life…goodness knows, we all need the  help.  You never know what will work for you, so be flexible.  I will be back on the ball this weekend, prepping and planning and hopefully having a smoother week next week.  But all’s well that ends well, and I survived!

 

 

Getting Candid on Control

Let’s talk about control today, or more so, the illusion of control and how it affects our lives. There was a time I thought I had control of my life. Unknowingly, I even believed I had control of the lives that surrounded me. You see, I was a “fixer”. I spent a great deal of time concerning myself in other people’s problems and offering them solutions (sometimes wanted and other times unsolicited). I imagine that most people go through their entire lives this way, as a fixer, and think it is an admirable quality. I know I did. I cared. I gave great advice (in my opinion – HA!). I knew the right thing to do in every scenario. If those I love would just listen to me, our lives would be so much better, calmer and more peaceful. I didn’t only bestow this fixing “privilege” unto myself. Those around me often came to me…pulling my opinion from me, my advice, my thoughts.

I don’t know how many of you reading this have played the role of the fixer, but I suspect there are some guilty parties out there. You may be the fixer at home, with your family; at work; with your friends; in your church. The opportunities to fix others are limitless. We can take up endless amounts of time and energy focused other people’s problems. But should we???

Here’s what life has taught me:

the only thing I know for sure is that I am in control of nothing, not one single thing…I know nothing with absolute certainty, not one single thing…and I’m okay with that.

Wait, scratch that, I’m actually thankful for that. So how did I lose this so-called sense of control??? How did I stop being a (eek!) “know-it-all”???? I changed quickly and slowly. Hmmm…I’m not making a lot of sense, huh?

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Let me tell you about it. I had plans. At 22, for the most part, life had gone according to my plan. I had somehow been able to run wild through my teens and still hold all appearances together. I could test the limits of my safety and well-being, and still maintain a 4.0 GPA in college and work full-time to support myself. It may be surprising to some that know me today but I had a wild streak a mile wide. I guess I share this part of my life with you because without even realizing it, I had become a master at manipulating appearances (CONTROL).  If the world saw a bright, successful, young person, and I could do whatever it was I felt like in my down time, then I was in control and doing okay. As an adult, I don’t take these experiences lightly. I don’t spend a lot of time on regrets because my choices led me to where I am today. But I can now see how lost I was then, how dangerous my decisions were. Looking back, being a parent to two young kiddos of my own, I’m scared half to death. Can I spare them the pain of these growing and learning experiences by allowing them to learn from my mistakes???? Okay, I realize the answer is NO. But I do know these life experiences will help me to empathize and understand the mistakes they might make and give me the hope that they will find their way on their own (with God’s help…not mine!).

I digress. Back to the point at hand. So this illusion of control served me well through my wild teens but when I decided I was ready to move forward with life and settle down…that was when I lost control. Ironic, huh?

I blogged about my miscarriage before but I come back to it again here because that was the first moment that I realized I wasn’t in control. I felt betrayed by my own body. I couldn’t fix my own problem and that loss shattered my sense that I could fix things. Shortly before I miscarried I also lost a dear friend to suicide. Death in general, but especially suicide, is a loss that takes the wind from your sails. How do you not see the signs? How badly did I fail my friend? How did I not have the answers?

During this time my life was changing very quickly. My path was straightening out but the paths of many around me were still twisting and turning. I was at a true turning point in my life and I took the losses I had suffered and decided I wanted more…to feel more, to be more, to give more. In losing control, in having my life turned to chaos, I was given a gift. When I realized I didn’t have the answers, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from me. When I didn’t have to navigate for myself or anyone else, I could begin making decisions based on what my higher power directed me to do and not on what expected the outcome of an action would be. When my life was in shambles, I was able to give up and rely on my higher power to lead me…and I began to feel real, genuine happiness and contentment for the first time in my life.

It didn’t happen quickly. People still came to me for answers (and some still do…I was a fixer for a long time and people around me still expect me to play this role), but today I can consider their situation, hear them out, and let them know that although I don’t have the answers, I do love and support them. In all honesty, this has made me a better friend. When I’m not busy trying to solve someone’s problem, I’m a much better listener. I’m more compassionate and understanding. And I have peace. I’m not in the middle of ten different whirlwinds that don’t belong to me. I’m spending the time I used to invest in fixing and I’m focused on me and what IS mine. My life, my children, my husband, my household, our happiness. I have grown to love being “out of control” and “unknowing”…it gives me the freedom to really live.

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Are you a fixer? Are you trying to control another person or situation? Have you given up your peace and happiness while pursuing something that is not yours to worry about in the first place? I encourage you to let it go today. Throw up your hands and give up, knowing that when you let go, you allow for God to carry you through life.  Life is joyous. Life is crushing. It’s a journey that is impossible to figure out…so don’t try. Loose control…you’ll be thankful you did.

Lenten Lessons Learned

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With Lenten season in full swing, I’m in the throes of day two of my sacrifice (giving up my snooze button on my alarm clock). Over the past few years, Lenten season has become more and more special to me. I love everything about it. I love the idea of sacrificing in order to better focus on Christ and what he did for us. In past years I gave up social media and found that it truly helped me stay focused on the important things in my life. Until you unplug entirely, it’s hard to see just how distracted we all are. Since I know I can do without social media now, this year I decided to switch gears and give up the snooze button on my alarm. While I write this I have to just stop and be thankful to live in a world where FB and snoozing are the things that mean sacrifice. It hardly seems meaningful when I think about God giving the life of his only son for me. Just another reminder of why it’s so important to slow down and concentrate on our faith. We have a mid-week evening church service throughout Lent and I love this too. There’s something about ending my day with a church service that leaves me feeling calm, clean and rejuvenated…most of the time anyway.

Thanks to my daughter, my 2016 Lenten season started off with a bang. Jera is three (by Easter she’ll be four). In past years, I let her stay at home with my husband since the evening services went beyond her bedtime. This year though, I thought it would be nice to share this experience with her. So I put on my big mommy pants, loaded up a couple of Barbies and matchbox cars and headed off for Ash Wednesday service with my three and seven-year olds. They’ve both set through plenty of church services, although on most church days Jera, my three year old, spends some portion of the service in the play room burning off that three-year-old-ants-in-my-pants energy. However, the  services she has attended are in the morning…NOT AT BEDTIME….let that sink in….NOT AT BEDTIME!

Everything started out innocently enough. Jera was full of liveliness, driving my son’s matchbox cars up and down the pews. Without a doubt, she was distracting.  But kids will be kids and I try not to get overly excited as long as she isn’t burning down the building. I began to sense trouble when Jera eyed the bread and wine for communion and started to fixate on the “body and blood” stating to me how hungry and thirsty she was. No, I’m not starving her. She did have dinner immediately before church service although you wouldn’t know it from talking to her.

We attend a church that practices open communion. I don’t believe there are any hard rules or age requirements on when a child should take communion at our church (but I’m not sure about that!!). Personally, I think a child should have an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and the symbolism of it all. Soooo….let me preface this by saying that introducing my daughter to communion at 3 was probably a mistake. As she sat with me in service last month and communion made its way around, I allowed her to partake, talking her through it step by step. She was overjoyed to share in communion and I was proud that it meant so much to her. Hmmm…hind sight really is 20/20.

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Fast forward to Ash Wednesday service…it was time for communion but it wasn’t our normal communion routine where we pass the bread and wine through the pews. No, this was a “stand in line in front of the whole church and take communion one at a time” type of communion. I immediately became nervous. No other children were taking communion….this was not good for the home team. My children and I made our way through the line and Jace and Jera arrived to our Pastor in front of me. Pastor Jane leaned down and blessed my son which he accepted sweetly. Whew, he is fine with being passed over for communion. Then the Pastor leans down to bless my daughter and again, she sweetly accepts….but then….oh no….Jera just reached up with her little bitty hand and grabbed a chunk out of the bread. My 3-year old just stole a chunk of the body of Christ! The Pastor couldn’t help but notice what the little thief had just done so she smiled kindly at Jera and said “Well there you go.” Crisis adverted.

Then we hastily moved along to the wine. I quickly grabbed my cup and moved along hoping my kids were following me. Sure enough Jace was tagging right along behind me…but not Jera. No, definitely not Jera. I turn around in time to see her staring expectantly at the gentleman passing out the blood of Christ. He is looking uncertainly at her and then to me. He motions to ask if he should give her some…to which I responded, “No, that’s okay.” Jera caught wind of this denial and immediately…loudly…began to whine, “WHAT ABOUT MY BLOOOOODD??? WHERE’S MY BLOOOODDDD???? I’M THIRSTY!!!!!”

Really? Really. If I could have hidden beneath a pew, I would have. It felt like an eternity to me that I stood there in horror…and then I did the only thing I could, I moved along with my child whimpering for “blood” and took her on a trip to the water fountain to quench her undying thirst. I tried to explain to her that communion is not snack time. I tried to explain to her that it is a sacred time. I tried to explain it all but again…she is THREE.

So, needless to say, lesson learned. Three is too young to understand the miracle of communion. Duh. I’m not sure what I was thinking but leave it to my beautiful, rambunctious, kind-hearted Jera to teach me.

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As I proceed through the rest of this season, I hope to stay focused on my faith, on what has been sacrificed for me, for all of us. I hope to continue sharing my love for this season with my children (although hopefully in a less embarrassing way!).

Have you stopped to think about what this season means to you? I’d love to hear about what you’ve decided to sacrifice this Lenten season and what Lent means to you. I hope you enjoy this Lenten season with those who mean the most to you… even if it leads to a moment of total humiliation.

My Missing Piece

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Most things I’ve written up to this point have come easily. Something in my mind/heart sparks and the words flow onto the screen before I can hesitate. But today, this topic, this is much more difficult for me. I’ve thought about writing about my miscarriage many times. I’ve spoken about it to others going through the same loss. I’ve posted on my FB wall to share that there is another child in my life that most people don’t know about. But it’s hard to commit to writing it all out. I hesitate because I question what is to be gained. When I lost my child, I was undeniably changed. Broken. What can I say about it that will benefit someone else? I could say that today I’m a happy mother of two; so there is hope but no…that doesn’t quite touch the depth of the true loss. There is no replacing a child. So what can I say?

I’ve decided to write about this because I believe that every pain in life has a purpose. I can’t say why I lost my child, other than that along the way I was able to relate to some very dear people in my life when they suffered the same loss. I was able to take my pain and work with some charities that benefit research that work to prevent miscarriage and early labor. I had some very unique life experiences in the years since my child was taken from me…and had I never miscarried, those experiences wouldn’t belong to me. So maybe that’s why, but I can’t really say I have it figured out yet. This blog may not be witty; its not funny or light-hearted; but it will be honest.

When I learned I was pregnant, I was so excited that I couldn’t even wait for my husband to get home to share the news. I called my mom first…then my sister…then made my way to the ball field where my husband was umpiring a game and proudly hung my positive test from his rear view mirror. I was overjoyed. We told EVERYONE. My husband sent out a blast text to everyone we knew. I shared with my co-workers and customers…I may have even told a stranger on the street if they had made eye contact with me. This would come back to haunt me.

I was completely unsure on what to do next so I made an appointment with my family doctor to verify the good news. It’s odd, the things you forget. I’m not even sure who went to the doctor with me or if I was alone. I remember that I was asked to take a urine test and then a blood test. Then the doctor came in and very matter-of-factly told me that either I was extremely early in my pregnancy (which didn’t make sense with my cycle) or I was miscarrying. I remember feeling shocked and confused. This is not at all what I expected. I actually remember thinking that my mom had healthy pregnancies, so I would too. That we hadn’t had any history of miscarriage in my family so why would it start with me. I had felt immune to the idea of miscarriage. To say that this news hit me like a ton of bricks, is an understatement. I left the office feeling completely lost and confused as to what to do. The doctor had advised me to wait and see…which felt completely ludicrous. Wait and see? What? Wait and see if this life inside of me fades away? How do you wait for that?

After talking with my mom, I decided to call an OBGYN. Actually I called the same OB who delivered me 22 years earlier. I had an appointment three weeks out. It felt like a lifetime. Three weeks later I walked through the door to a very different experience. The same news…but still, a different experience. My blood work wasn’t promising. I was pregnant. But my hormones weren’t quite at the levels they would be expected to be. This doctor explained to me that sometimes this can mean that you will eventually miscarry, but sometimes a woman’s body will turn around and the pregnancy would survive. Again, I was told we would have to wait. I would have to take it easy but I had an appointment to come back in a month to check my progress. This doctor had given me hope. We all know the ending to this story by this point. I never made it to that follow-up appointment. I’m sure it’s easy to wonder why I would be thankful to have been given hope about a child that would eventually die. The reason is that I carried my child for another three weeks from that point. If I had to endure my pregnancy for that period of time with no hope, I’m not sure I would have been able to do it.

I lost my child on July 2nd, 2007. I was approximately 8 weeks pregnant. Not even out of my first trimester. The weeks leading up to the miscarriage were tense at best. I truly feel for my husband. I was a mix of hopefulness and dread; of excitedness and being utterly terrified. I wanted so badly to be joyful but something inside of me said “this will not last”. It was early in the morning when I started having severe cramping in my stomach. I sat in a rocking chair in a spare bedroom of our house and held my stomach and cried. I knew. I knew what was happening and I was powerless. I’m not sure if I asked my husband to drive me to the ER or if he asked me to go but somehow we ended up there. I was examined and my husband and I sat in a cold hospital room waiting for the answer.

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One small gift from that day, one thing I will always remember, as we sat waiting, there were no words that could be said. My husband held my hand and we sat in silence. Over the radio came a song, Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time”. This has been our song since the first few weeks we had dated. The words say “If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me. Time after time. If you fall, I will catch you. I’ll be waiting. Time after time.” We smiled. In that moment of agony, God gave us a brief pause, a relief. He reminded us that we had each other.  The doctor came in soon after that and confirmed our worst fears. Our child was gone. There was nothing to be done. There was no way to change it. My child had died and passed into heaven before I knew if I had a daughter or a son. I remember walking into the ER waiting room to find my parents, my sister and brother. They saw my pain and they wrapped their arms around me and we all just stood there like that…in this big group hug. This was their loss too. I remember the receptionist coming out from behind the doors and hugging me. The moments of kindness stick in my memory almost as much as the pain. And then we went home.

The 4th of July was a couple of days later and we had planned a gathering at our house. Those days that followed my miscarriage are a little foggy. I remember feeling shocked that the sun could rise. Feeling hurt that life just keeps going. I remember the sincere concern from those around me. I remember still feeling alone in my pain.

I was pregnant for 8 weeks. I remember questioning whether I deserved to feel so much loss. I did not birth a child. I did not know if I lost a son or daughter. My child does not have a name. But I was a mother from the time of conception. I loved my child then, and I still love my child today, as much as I love my living children. Boy, that’s a hard one to explain. How do you love someone you’ve never met. I carried this child in my body. This child is a part of my soul. When my child died, a part of my soul went with them. That’s the only way I can explain it.

Life went on. I went back to work. All of the countless people I had shared my exciting news with would come into my work and check in with my pregnancy and every time I had to share with them that I had a miscarriage. I felt bad for them. I could tell they felt bad for me. It was unspeakably painful to relive this news over and over again. I would tell people “It’s God’s plan.” But I did not believe that. I thought it was the right thing to say so I said it…over and over. And then I would get in my car for the 45 minute commute home and I would cry from the time I buckled my seatbelt until the time I walked in my front door. As soon as I was back in the presence of any other person, the veil would come down and I would paste a smile on my face and I was fine. (I was anything but fine.) I went along like this for quite awhile. Smile in public. Agony on my own. Then one day, I have no idea what triggered me, but I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I walked into a back room at my work and I broke down. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop to save myself the embarrassment, I couldn’t  stop to save face, I couldn’t stop to pretend, I couldn’t hide anymore. Again, an angel entered my life at this moment. My boss at the time came in and told me to see a doctor. She told me to take some time. She told me to take care of myself. It was the right advice at the right time. This was about two months after my miscarriage. I went back to my OBGYN who determined that I had slipped into a depression due to the loss of my pregnancy. This was not me. I had never been depressed in my life. I’m an optimist. I see the sunny side of things on the darkest days. But no one is immune to heart break. And my heart did break when I lost my child. My doctor placed me on a mild antidepressant. I stayed on the medication for a month and slowly the darkness rose. I saw light return to my life. It was still hard. It is still hard today. I can’t write this without tears in my eyes. It still hurts. I think it always will.

But I have moved forward with my life. I was blessed with two children. I know how incredibly lucky I am and I am grateful. I saw the child I lost in a dream once. I’m not sure why I feel that’s so important to share but I do want you to know that. A friend of mine was holding my child in my dream (my friend had actually passed just a year earlier). My friend told me that this was his baby now. I felt better because I knew they were together. I knew they were both watching over me. I know today that they’re waiting for me and someday I’ll hold my baby in my arms…but until then, my child is being loved.

After my miscarriage, after the depression had passed, in talking with others that had the same loss, I read somewhere that our children are never really ours. Children belong to God. He puts them in our lives and they teach us and change us but they’re never really ours. He chooses when to call them to heaven. My child was with me for a very short time, but I carry my baby with me every day in my heart. I know when I go to heaven, the first face I want to see is my child’s. It gives me joy to think of what that reunion will be like. For now I’m thankful for all the blessings in my life and I will make the most of it while I can.

I write about this with the hope that someone needs to read it. Someone who is experiencing the same type of loss. Someone whose wife, sister, daughter or friend has miscarried and they’re not exactly sure how to help. Just be there; be attentive; listen to what’s not being said; pray. Let her know you understand. Let her know she will be okay… changed, transformed, and in the end, she will accept the way things are. She will be okay. I know because I’m okay.

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Stress Mess

I’m heading out of the office for the day…I must make it down two flights of stairs, through three sets of doors (one which I need to enter a passcode to open) and across the parking lot to my car all while carrying :

  1. my planner (aka “my life in a little leather book”)
  2. a few emails I have printed so I don’t forget to do task a, b and c later in the evening…or week….or month…or whenever I get to them
  3. a carton of cookies I will be delivering to my mom
  4. my lunch bag still filled with lunch (since I forgot to grab it from the fridge as I headed out of the office on break)
  5. a ziplock bag with two hard boiled eggs (don’t ask about my odd eating habits…I’m currently eating “clean” or something like that).
  6. 2 lbs of raw ground beef that I picked up from the grocery market over my lunch break (taco night…woot woot)
  7. hanging awkwardly from my shoulder is my purse… with my shaker cup hanging dangerously out of the top
  8. hoisted against my shoulder and leaning on my forearm is a box filled with summer sausage, cheese and crackers.

This is me. This mess, this crazy amount of chaos, this balancing act is me…all the time…every day. Did I mention I’m wearing 3″ heels???

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So I rush to my moms to pick up my kiddos and I’m down one box of cookies, but I’ve been raised one backpack and 3- and 7-year old bodies of pure energy. We pull in at home and it’s unloading EVERYTHING from the car, making supper, practicing piano, homework, stories, bedtime and I. AM. BEAT.

I’m thinking of my coming week and I know I have a Sunday School class to prep for, a Boy Scout meeting to plan, a holiday party, a wedding, my son’s first day of bowling…and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Sound familiar? You can relate, right?

As I was leaving work today, hands full, looking like a hot (hopefully at least halfway decent 😉) mess, a friend of mine followed me out of the building. She just eyed my struggle and smiled…she’s been there. I shared with her that I feel like I’m constantly feeling like I’m swimming in chaos. I see these other people go to and from here or there and they’re hands are empty. They look relaxed. How do they do that??? My friend looked at me and said “You wouldn’t have it any other way.” Whether I like it or not, I know she’s right.

I tend to walk a very fine line between blissfully active and anxiously overwhelmed.  At times I’ve slipped right off the edge and landed square on my rear. These are the times that I start to count my burdens, my worries, my anxieties. I start to count and recount, I begin to list, I can’t sleep and I can’t move forward and somehow I can’t seem to get a single thing accomplished. Stress is like a thick fog. If you let it surround you, you can’t move in any direction with confidence. You’re stuck. The good news is I’ve learned something along the way. I’ve learned a new way to carry my load. A way to turn bricks to feathers and it all begins with gratitude.

Today I’m overwhelmed.

So I begin to think of what I have to be thankful for. I’m so thankful to be healthy today, for the ability to move and be active, to not be limited in my energy and capabilities. Sometimes being grateful starts very simply. The more stress I feel, the simpler my gratitude list needs to start. Sometimes it’s the air in my lungs, my feet on the floor. When I start with the simplest things that I normally take for granted, I can gently roll into the bigger, more obvious things in my life. That small bit of gratitude can grow into a warm, glowing, large sense of thankfulness for my children, my husband, my family and home. The realization comes to me that all of these blessings come with responsibility. That feeling I was previously interpreting as stress, I can now see as my privilege. How fortunate am I that these are my problems?

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Gratitude is an amazing gift. Developing an attitude of gratitude is like removing a blindfold and seeing the sun for the first time. When I am focused on the stress and the to-do list, I’m wandering in the dark. But when I start to focus on gratitude, I am able to not only handle the stress…I am able to be thankful for it. Because after all, these things are not stress, they are my greatest blessings…my children and their activities, my church and my growth in and with God, my home and my household, my career and my professional goals. It is truly a matter of perspective. And I have decided I will be thankful.

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What do you have to be thankful for? Consider what is stressing you right now. Can you look at those stressors from a perspective of gratitude? Can you transform your brick into a feather? I encourage you to give it a try. Trust me when I say it takes some practice. But once you get it, the first time you remove the blindfold, you’ll gain a true understanding of the power of gratitude.