An Open Letter to my Kids 2020

Another year has passed since I last wrote my annual letter to my kiddos to capture all of the beauty that they are in this moment in time. The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 have, without a doubt, been the most difficult and strangest times in our lives, but there has also been laughter, hope, love and as with all difficult things, immeasurable growth. Over the past year, we have faced the loss of my mother-in-law after her battle with cancer. That loss was devastating to our family and as we coped, we found ourselves at ground floor, trying to figure out what this next phase of life would look like for us. We fell hard, facing trials I had never dreamed of, but we found our way and are stronger, more sincere, authentic, and humbled in this life because of the trials.

In the midst of these changes, the world changed too. Covid-19 entered our lives and changed just about everything. The kids were e-learning, I was working from home, our baby never left the house and the busyness of life came to a sudden halt. There in the silence, in the calm, in the void, I found my little family…Phil, Jace, Jera and Jema…and as different as the world was and is, we’re still the same. We share the same love, the giggles are the same, and the screaming and yelling matches between Jace and Jera…those are the same too.

When everything else in life seemed to fail us, we still had every single thing we needed in each other, and for that, I am forever grateful. So today, I sit on my front porch on a very hot and humid July day. Birds are chirping, someone is weedeating, there’s a pesky fly making his presence known. Life moves forward at a steady pace. Tomorrow is uncertain…what will school look like, what will work look like, will we get sick, will we have the groceries, the medicine, the household goods that we’re used to? These are the things that I don’t know. So I’ll write on what I do know…my three wonderful, beautiful, amazing children. Here goes my open letter 2020…

Jace –

My son, you are 11 years old today. You, my dear, are quite simply one of my favorite people in the entire world. You are my sidekick in so many things since we share many interests and often think the same way about things. Whether it’s going on a run together, challenging ourselves with a long bike ride, walking the dogs, or watching a favorite show together, time with you is easy. You are an unbelievable comfort in this life. I’m so thankful for you.

Last year you joined travel wrestling. You are a late entrant into the sport, starting for the first time in the school’s league in the fourth grade. You did well and were excited to compete at the club level. It was a tough year for you, wrestling boys who had built technique and skills over several years, but you persevered tourney after tourney, pulling out a few wins. Even in the losses, you always gave your best effort. That made me so proud of you. What your dad and I saw was growth, physical growth as the sport packed muscle on your body where there was once none, and mental strength as you learned to compete and dig deep for motivation. You faced some difficult things in your life over the past year, and what I learned about you is that you’re such a strong person, clear in your convictions, kind and forgiving, but always willing to stand up for what you believe is right. I can see already that this will be an area of great strength for you as you grow into an adult.

Some of the things that you love right now are Fort Nite, remote control cars, and working to make money. You can be stubborn and hard-headed, but you can also be thoughtful and reasonable. You love your animals (Rusty, Tony and Chip). You still love to fight and argue with your sister, Jera. I find it hard not to intervene in your play fights since I know they often end in tears, but I’ve also found that what looks like torture to mom just happens to be fun to the two of you. You love to play with your baby sister, Jema, and you’re so responsible with with her. That makes me very proud of you.

It is a great joy to be your parent. You are in fact so responsible, that I have to sometimes remind you just to be a kid, not to worry about adult things, and to enjoy this special time in your life. Thank you for always being such a cool kid, for your humor, for your deep and loving soul, for all of the wonderful things that make you Jace, my number one son.

Jera –

You are eight years old today. My child – you are still the beautiful tornado that I’ve written of in years passed. This past year has again brought so many changes from you. The little girl I saw a year ago has grown into a young lady. Sometimes you are hyper-aware of this growth, fiddling with hair and makeup perhaps a little too advanced for your age…and other times, it takes a moment for you to remember how much you’ve grown. I smile to myself when I see you holding on to little girl ways. It’s a blessing to snag those moments when I can.

You, my girl, are so silly. You still love tickle time and insist that I drop everything regardless of what I have going and tickle you until you can’t take it anymore. Your laugh and smile are contagious and even when I go into these tickle sessions tired or weighted down from life, I find myself getting lost in your joy. You bring out the kid in me and I appreciate that so much. That is a gift in my life. I’ve see a few phases pass you by this year, from Disney’s Descendants to Zombies to your latest obsession, Miraculous Lady Bug. You also love Boy Meets World and have watched all seasons from beginning to end. This year you’ve tackled gymnastics, voice lessons and piano. It’s fun to watch you challenge yourself and grow.

You are smart and quick-witted. I think you get your sense of humor from your dad, and I absolutely love that. His humor is what I’ve always loved most about him, and to see that grow in you, is a blessing in my life. You’re fast with the unexpected…I never quite fully have you figured out. I’ve found a pattern where if I say black, you say white. This part of our relationship teaches me patience and to always keep an open mind. I love the way you think about life, the things that are important to you, the parts that you share with others, and the parts that you tuck away. You are a special, joyous and free soul, and I’m thankful to walk beside you in this life…even if I often feel like I have to run to keep up with you.

You love picking on your brother, starting arguments and biting off more than you can chew. You love, absolutely love your baby sister. You are so good with her and often selfless in your relationship with her that it warms my heart. You share your most prized positions with her and you don’t think twice about it. Your generosity with others makes me so proud of you.

Thank you for keeping things interesting, for being so loving and fun, for never letting the world weigh you down. You are like a spark…bright, beautiful, fast and forever lighting up my life.

Jema –

You are a year and a half old today, and life is never boring with you around. You are still in a time of so many firsts, and each one is so amazing and exciting. You have the art of waving goodbye down, and you do it in the most special and adorable way, waving both hands around in the air, all five fingers stretched out. Oh gosh, and your hellos…your hellos are everything in the world that my heart desires. When I arrive at the end of the work day to pick you up, you’re standing in the doorway both hands raised, waving away and then you run into my arms. That moment, each and every time it happens is a God-given gift.

You love your baby dolls, which tickles me. Each one seems special to you, and you will take time to deliver every single one from place to place throughout the house. You also like cars and music. Your favorite show is Blippi, and your dad and I are amazed that you sit and watch it at full attention. You also love Mickey Mouse, Blues Clues and Bluey. Your brother, sister and I get the biggest kick out of watching you dance to the music in the car. We giggle each and every time you bounce in your seat, kicking your feet and banging your head. You’ve got moves. You can say many words…mama, dada, bubba, Jera, kitty cat…but you prefer to point and usually have an army awaiting your next request. Between your brother, sister, cousins and grandparents, I wonder if you’ll ever want for anything. I don’t think that you will.

Your dad and I often marvel over your serious nature. You have a wonderful laugh, which is usually brought on by chasing the cat or dogs around the house, but many times we find you thinking about the world around you. You can’t tell us yet, but it seems to us that you’re figuring it all out. You babble endlessly in your own language, and I know, if I could understand, you’d be telling me you have the world’s worries all figured out, or maybe you’d be telling me you just tried some dog food and it wasn’t half bad…because we’ve caught you doing just that.

I’m sure you’ll continue to find that being the baby comes with it’s perks, namely being that we don’t sweat the small stuff with you. In the summer, you seldom have shoes on, and some days we’re lucky if you’re clothed. We didn’t push learning to crawl or walk or sit around with flash cards trying to get you to speak. No, for us, we find joy in seeing you content, feeling the grass between your toes, moving through life at your own pace, and experiencing every single moment as it comes to you and no sooner. You, my Jem-the-Bem-the-Boom-Boom-Bang, have the longest nickname for one, but also have joined me in life and made my priorities very clear. Thank you for bringing into focus what a gift each moment of this life really is, helping me to see how quickly it all passes, and teaching me that joy is found in the ordinary moments.

As I reflect on my children over the past year, I can’t help but think about the year to come. What I’ve found is that there is no way we could possible know what’s in store for us. So I will be thankful for this day, for this moment, for the love and joy I can bring to the lives around me. The rest…the rest I will put in God’s hands.

Soul Mates?

My husband and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage in a few days. It’s strange that there are ways in which it feels a lot longer than that…like can I even remember what life was like without this man by my side? Then there are different ways where these 13 years feel like the blink of an eye…and I’m still 17 and just excited to be cruising gravel roads with this good-looking guy riding shotgun in my Camaro. Gosh, even that thought, that picture of us fresh-faced in my mind’s eye, makes me blush and smile. Those really were the days…

I was talking with a friend, and we were chatting about if relationships, life partners if you will, are predetermined. Do you have a soul mate or could you have ended up with someone else and still be happy in marriage? Are you happy with your partner because it was predetermined that you belong with them…or could you have made a happy life with anyone?

For my readers, I’m sure it’s not hard to guess which side I fell on. I believe we are made with a soul mate in mind for us, someone you belong with. My friend, who is also in a happy marriage, thinks that we can make a happy life with other people, as long as you and your partner would be devoted to doing just that.

Who knows which one of us may be right, but what I have found over the course of my relationship is that a happy marriage comes from the choice. Even with the right person, the wrong choices can lead you to some very difficult places. So happiness in relationship comes from the recognition that you have the choice to stay or to go…to love or leave…to encourage or to break down your partner. A happy marriage comes from choosing to show up and bring your best to your relationship every single day.

There are points in every marriage where circumstances and problems cause spouses to review their marriage. Challenges come without fail. There are tough times. We can find ourselves wondering what life would be like on our own. We may try to figure out if we could do it on our own. Could we survive…financially, emotionally? If we make that determination in the midst of a tough season in our marriage it may bring us comfort that we could do it on our own, but I think that that very thought is the crux of every downfallen relationship. Thoughts become things, so we have to guard our thoughts bravely and fiercely when it comes to our relationships.

For me as an individual and in my marriage, I know that I’m a strong person. I know I am capable of hard work and that I’m even tougher than I realize. But I also see that my life would look so drastically different on my own and without my marriage, that I never want to “make it” on my own. I never want to wake up and face this life without my husband.

Everyday is not perfect. Every moment is not easy. But every day I choose my husband all over again, and he chooses me. Part of what makes that choice easier, better and more fulfilling, even on the hard days, is that I have come to learn, believe, and know that he, just like I, wants what is best for both of us and for our family. This knowledge…the knowledge that we want what is best for one another and for our family…it allows me to always see the best in him. Paired with my ability to choose to show up in my marriage, I am left with hope, happiness and fulfillment.

These thoughts allow me to stop and recognize the beautiful quiet moments. The moments when he helps our daughter to shower and brush her hair. The moments when he picks up our son and takes him to a car show on a whim or when he dresses our little baby daughter in her pjs and gets her ready for bed. It’s in the moments when he washes the dishes, takes out the trash, picks me flowers, makes our bed, stops me in the kitchen and just gives me a hug that I see the best in my husband. I see my life’s happiness and it fills my heart to the brim…so much so, that the thought of living without all of those little, but big, things…even the thought of living without that…is too much to bear.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong about this soul mate thing. What I do know is that my heart feels so woven into who this man is, who we are together, and what we have that I never want to face this world without him. I know that if he was not by my side, I would feel as though I lost a part of myself, my heart no longer whole. As we celebrate 13 years, as we work to raise these three beautiful children together, as we continue to grow as individuals and as a couple, I will choose my husband in every single moment, to see the very best in him, and to be thankful that, predetermined or not, he is mine.

An Open Letter to my Children 2019

I’m on a flight somewhere over the great state of Kentucky, headed to sunny San Diego. We’ve not reached cruising altitude quite yet, and a few small bumps here and there keep reminding me of my fear of flying. Can this momma get a mimosa over here?

When I think of why I fear flying the truth is that I can’t imagine not making it back home to my husband and children. I left them this morning, all in some state of morning sleepiness. We gave hugs and kisses. We said “I love yous” and “I’ll see you soons”. I stole one final look at each one of them to get me through the next five days. I let their image, their sweet little squishy faces, sear into my brain, and I didn’t allow myself to think about the treasure I was leaving behind, certain that the tears would come, and I wouldn’t make it out the door.

So while I’m in the air praying not to die, missing my kiddos, I figure this is the perfect time to think back over the past year and write them the annual “Open Letter to my Children” letters. The kiddos have actually been asking me to write this blog and asking me to read the prior years’ letters to them. My heart swells knowing this has become a tradition for us and that they truly appreciate seeing themselves through my eyes. So here we go year 2019 of motherhood. It’s been a great one.

Jace –

You are ten years old. You just finished the fourth grade, which is totally bizarre for me, because I can remember when I was in the fourth grade. And yet, somehow, I now have a fifth grader on my hands. And while in some ways I wish I could say that ten is just a number and that you’re still my little baby boy, that is not the truth. I have watched you grow and mature this year into a young man that I am extremely proud of.

You learned the value of studying and preparation this year. When your science grades came in lower than what you had hoped for, you focused and put the work in every single day until you grades reflected your good study habits. You brought your study guide to me everyday and together we covered the material, even before your teacher asked you to. That made me so proud of you.

You wrestled for the first time this year, and Bud, you were a natural. You’ve always complained about being shorter or lighter than other boys your age, but in wrestling you found that your size, mixed with your strength and speed were an absolute advantage, and you excelled. In baseball, you overcame frustration with batting and have started getting hits from the live pitcher. You have a different coach from the past few years and I’ve been impressed that you’ve been able to speak up when needed and form a relationship with him on your own. You’ve learned things like the importance of carrying your own gear to and from the field and thanking us as your parents just for getting you to the game. Your coach this year has focused on teaching respect and responsibility, and I’ve seen you take pride in those lessons.

You’ve continued to be a leader among your friends, still always concerned with others choices about things like cussing and spending too much time online, but you’ve also learned that you can’t choose for others…they have to make their own choices. I’m so proud because I understand the importance of that life lesson.

You are still a total gear head, and I now see that this passion may direct your life path. You spent hours upon hours this year rehabbing old bikes, sanding them, painting them, replacing the grips and brakes, and making them your own. While I’m not loving that we have eight bikes stored in our garage, I cherish that you have found something that you love and that is uniquely yours.

You love your family and continue to enjoy spending time at home. You love spending time with Jema and making her laugh, and you love picking on Jera and making her whine (although occasionally I see you lovingly guide her as well). You are bright, caring, loving and the most considerate person I have the pleasure of knowing, and I’m beyond grateful to call you my son.

Jera –

You are seven years old. That sentence still doesn’t seem real. I look at your beautiful little face sometimes, I see your bright, lively eyes, the freckles across your nose, your sweet and mischievous smile, and I don’t know when you grew from my cherub-faced baby into the young lady you’re becoming. It seems that time just passed when I wasn’t looking, and I suddenly have a smart, feisty, determined preteen on my hands. And my sweet Jer-Bear, you are strong-willed. I love that about you, and rather than fighting to have things my way, I’ve learned to first understand what is important and what really doesn’t matter. You love to choose your own clothes, style your own hair, do things in the order you choose and in the way that you choose, and you’ve taught me so much about embracing your ability to know just who you are and what you want, even at seven years old. I can already see the strong women you will grow into, and that makes me so proud of you. This year you found your voice at school and volunteered to do morning announcements in the gym, to lead in the classroom, and to speak up on your own behalf. You like to play shy, but I see an ability in you to step outside of your comfort zone and do any job that needs to be done. I see you shine in front of a crowd, and I think you will continue to grow and find strength in that ability.

And goodness girl, are you smart. This year I was blown away, BLOWN AWAY, by your ability to write. The stories that you wrote as a first grader are far beyond the capabilities of any child I’ve ever known. Your teacher took notice of your talent for writing and asked your dad and me to continue to encourage your gift as you grow. I really thought my head would pop right off my shoulders, I felt so overcome with pride.

You also begrudgingly agreed to play your second year of softball. Begrudgingly not because you don’t like softball, but because you just like free play time better. And although your dad and I want you to do what makes you happy, we also want to give you a foundation of involvement that gives you options as you grow. So we agreed, you needed to pick one activity, any activity, but you had to be involved with something. So softball it is. Although you weren’t excited to play, you show great potential. We sit in the stands and hear the comments on your swing, your speed, your natural ability. You tickle me because you never, and I mean not once, look in our direction during the game. I’m not sure if you’re just that focused or if you just don’t need the reassurance from us, but you’re all business when your on the field. It’s been fun to watch you, and while I’m not sure if softball is something you will dive into or leave behind in the future, we are having fun watching you grow in your abilities and make new friends for now.

Your sharp sense of humor makes you so fun to be around. You enjoy time with friends and family, but also don’t mind alone time. I’ll often find you in your room with the door closed, watching television, playing, or just relaxing on your own. I appreciate those moments that you ask for together-time so much, because those moments are a little more rare with you. You are independent, and I admire that about you.

You are also a proud big sister, and are excited to to pick out Jema’s clothes every single day. You can’t stand to see her fuss, and will pick her up any time she makes a noise and deliver her to me. You love your big brother as well, and as much as he likes to pick on you, you also love to push his buttons. It’s an interesting game the two of you play, knowing you also wouldn’t know what to do without each other. My sweet daughter, you are strong, fun, imaginative, and loving. You make every single day interesting, and you add a special spark to our family that I am so thankful for.

Jema –

You are five moths old. Wow, this is hard to believe, let alone write. The last time I wrote these letters, you were tucked away safely in my womb, and I was imagining you face and personality, excited for what was to come. And now, you are here, and you are so much more, SO MUCH MORE, than I could have ever imagined or asked for. I know that I changed with the birth of each of my children, but at 34 I had thought I had most things figured out. I was wrong. You came into my life, and yet again I was transformed. You have reminded me of the importance of family, and while my family has always been important to me, you made me realize just how quickly this time in my life is passing. You came into my life, and suddenly Jace and Jera seem so much older, and I can see that the time I have with the three of you as children is limited. So thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, because I won’t take any of these moments for granted. You have taught me that being busy, worrying about the details, being concerned with others outside of our family circle…well none of that matters….not really. What matters is Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera AND Jema. Everything else is secondary. With that in mind, I’m enjoying…cherishing…all the moments. And you make enjoying it all so easy.

You are the best baby. The BEST. I feel a little ridiculous even telling others that you’ve slept through the night since five weeks, that you made it through your brother and sister’s ball seasons crying at only one game, that you’re content and happy, that you’re so beautiful, that your smile makes me melt into an ooey-gooey mommy puddle. How did I get this lucky? You are simply amazing, a gift in my life.

You love your brother and sister. You will spy them from across the room and you are immediately hooked, watching them and waiting for their attention. You are showered with love from your siblings, cousins, and your grandparents. I watch your dad with you, and I fall in love with him again and again, seeing his love for you, watching him connect with you.

You are getting extremely interested in food, watching our spoons as they come from our plates to our mouths, reaching out and trying to redirect our meals to your mouth. You are so interested in fact, that as soon as I return from this trip, food for Jema is one of the first stops on my itinerary. You are rolling over in every direction, trying hard to crawl, eating every two hours, smiling and blessing us with your laughter and holding up your head and upper body with no problem. You are growing fast. You are my precious baby, patient and calm, gentle and loving, and the perfect final piece to our family.

I’ve made it to Denver now and will soon hop a final flight to San Diego. I’m excited for the learning and growth that await me so far away from home. But I’m most excited for the gift that awaits me when I get back. I am blessed beyond measure, and oh so grateful.

An Open Letter to My Children 2018

To begin this letter, I looked back at my previous open letters in 2016, An Open Letter to my Children 2016 and 2017, An Open Letter to My Children 2017…it is breathtaking, and I am so thankful to have this forum, to remember, to focus, to explain all the things in life that make this journey so magical.  My hope is one day my children will read these letters, and they will know just how special they are, how very much they are loved, and how very much I cherish this time I’ve been given to be their mother.

To Jace:

You are nine years old.  At times you seem so much older.  You have a maturity about you that is so far beyond your nine years.  This year you finished the third grade.  Brock Moehler was your teacher and you shared a very special bond with him.  It warmed my heart that he just “got” you.  You came home from school each week with stories of the jokes and laughs you shared.  You looked forward to gym class each week, where you made sure to wear your best running shoes so you could beat all of your classmates in whatever game you were to play that day.  You played basketball, baseball, and continued as a Bear in Boy Scouts this year.  You attended Cross Country Camp for the first time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as proud as I did when I saw you running, with all of your strength and heart, striving for a good finish.  You have so much heart, it overwhelms me and I admire you for it.  You attended STEAM Camp for the first time too, and each day I heard stories of the projects you completed and how your design won each day.  You were so proud and excited, and I was so happy for you.  You’re still a total gear head and each and every day, you are telling me about one car or another….about the names, about the designs, about the prices.  You dream of getting a classic car and rebuilding it on your own.  I hope that someday you can make that dream a reality.  You have lost your zest for scary movies and prefer comedies lately.  You love to laugh.  You started your first paying job, mowing the neighbor’s yard, and you are completely motivated to earn money of your own.  You come in from mowing, dripping in sweat, red in the face, and I’m amazed by your dedication.  You want to be a surgeon or engineer, mostly I think, because you want to earn enough money to buy your dream cars.  That makes me smile.  You worry about some of your classmates who have started to cuss or bully other kids, and you try to be a good influence on your friends.  That makes me so proud of you.  You are pumped to be a big brother again, and are hoping for a boy so that you can share your room with him.  You are kind.  You have the best sense of humor.  You love and care deeply for others.  You are a good friend, and you’re a ton of fun.  I love to be around you, and I’m so proud of the young man you are growing into.  Thank you for being such a strong, loving, uplifting and understanding son.

To Jera:

You are six years old today.  You leave your dad and me speechless often.  You are witty, playful, hardheaded, and kindhearted.  You took Kindergarten by storm this year.  I was absolutely astounded when you picked up reading as though you’d been doing it since the day you were born.  You borrowed Jace’s books this year and read through them with ease.  I gave you the option to pick any fun activity to celebrate your report card this year, and you chose to go to the library.  I am so excited by your passion to grow and learn.  You enjoy the challenge of learning something new, and I know it will take you far in life.  You played softball this year.  I was amazed to see your competitive spirit.  You listened attentively to your coach and played so well, always putting forth your best effort.  You also began dance this year with a combination class of tap and ballet.  Your first recital was just a couple of weeks ago, and you literally brought tears to my eyes.  Your ballet number was set to the song Smile, and you were the most graceful and beautiful ballerina I had ever set my eyes upon.  Your tap number was set to the song Boogie Shoes, and there was a part in the beginning where you shook your hips with all of the sass that only you have.  I am so proud of your courage, and although you shared with me that being on stage scared you, you didn’t show it for a moment.  You have the best giggle.  It is the sweetest sound and it immediately brings a smile to my face every single time.  You have taken over your brother’s love for scary movies.  You can’t get enough of all things spooky.  You are completely fearless.  You are still full of kisses and hugs, which I’m still soaking in as often as possible.  You are beyond excited to be a big sister, and stop several times a day to give my tummy a kiss.  I took me two days, a week’s grounding from the XBox and iPad, and about two thousand reminders to get you to clean up your room this weekend.  We’re working on this messy thing….but we’re about progress, not perfection.  Maybe next time we’ll get it done without the two thousand reminders…but maybe not.  You are a bright, shining light in our lives.  You bring energy and excitement to all things.  You may be hard headed, but you match that hard head with an even softer heart.  You ask me to sing You are my Sunshine to you each night as you fall asleep. You like to read two books and have your back scratched at bedtime…and then somehow you still end up in my and your dad’s bed by 3:00 a.m. every night.  I love you wildly and deeply.  I see the all of the world’s potential when I look into your eyes.  Thank you for being such a wonderful, vibrant, amazing daughter.

To Baby Hafele:

You are the size of a peach this week, week thirteen.  You are so small, and yet, you have totally and completely changed my life.  Someday you may read my blog “2, 4, 6, 8…Nah 2” and I wonder what you’ll think about the fact that we thought two children were enough….and here you are, surprising and wonderful number three.  What can I say?  What words are there to explain all of the thoughts, decisions and feelings that come with bringing a child into this world.  I was scared.  I should explain that.  I wondered if I could do it, be a great parent to three children, build an amazing career, pay all the bills, clean all the house, do all the laundry, balance all the life that came with having three children.  I was also scared of having another miscarriage.  I hadn’t told anyone that.  You, Jace and Jera should have an older sibling, but that was not meant to be.  I felt blessed to have two healthy pregnancies after suffering the loss of my first child.  I worried if I tempted fate, if I tried again, I may have to go through that suffering again.  But then, you came.  You came without any stress, without any trying.  You are this wonderful gift in our lives.  And with your arrival, all of the worry left me.  I have been lifted up to a place of pure confidence, where I know I can do this, together with your dad, we can do this.  We’re so excited to meet you, to have you in our family, to get to go through this amazing experience one more time.  I’m moved beyond words in this moment.  I’m brought to tears.  You are the piece to the puzzle that we didn’t know was missing, that I know could not live without.  I thank God that he knows exactly what he is doing.  What an amazing, beautiful ride this life is.  What an unbelievable gift you are.  I am undeserving, but so thankful.

To my readers:

Make time today.  Write down the wonderful things about your children.  Tell them out loud.  They may not understand yet, but someday they will.  If life ever changes and we can’t tell them anymore all of the joy they bring to us, they’re left with the written things we leave them, with the spoken words we shared with them.  I encourage you to bare your soul when you can.  Be an open book.  Life is too short to keep all of the beautiful things hidden inside.

Full Circle

Parallel lines…two lines traveling side by side, having the same distance between them. Tonight I’m thinking of all of the parallels in my life. There are so many that I know there is more to this life than chance.

I think of the moments. The moment at 17 when I was falling madly in love with the man that I now call my husband, and we were dating only a few weeks when we realized we didn’t yet have a song. We were in his truck, a tan and brown Chevy S-10. I have no doubt that there was some type of rap playing in the background, and for no particular reason, we both decided that “Time After Time” by Cindy Lauper would be our song. I think about that conversation and that decision, what made us arrive at that song choice, a song that was every bit of 15 years old at the time. I know it’s what we wanted, for one another to be that person, to be there for one another, to pick each other up when we fall, to ground one another for a lifetime. And by some miracle of fate, that is what we got. But in that moment, there is no way we could know what that song would come to mean to us.

Some nine years later, we rushed to an emergency room. I had been carrying a high risk pregnancy, and I was miscarrying. There was no doubt. We arrived, we went through the motions, we sat in a waiting room for a doctor, and the world went silent. And then, over a small radio left playing in the room, Cindy Lauper came on the line, and she sang to us, “If you fall, I will catch you. I’ll be waiting time after time. If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time.” In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

Then there are other, lighter moments. Like the moment when my husband and I were still in the “getting to know you” stage, and again we were cruising around in my 1994, forest green Camaro (we both lived with our parents and therefore spent a tremendous amount of time in our cars!). I had Prince’s “Kiss” blasting, and was quietly amused that my sweet boyfriend wasn’t turning the song or horrified by my off-key singing. When we began to enter the city limits, he leaned ever so casually forward and very inconspicuously adjusted the volume down. I smiled to myself. I’m not sure exactly what it is about that moment that made me fall more in love with him, but it did, and that memory is still extremely vivid for me.

Today, 16 years later, as I drive my kids to school every day, my 5-year old daughter picks out a song choice and then begs me to “turn it up how she likes it!” Which I of course oblige. And then, as we make a left onto my son’s school’s road, he so quietly leans forward and adjusts the volume down. I smile to myself. I look to my passenger-side seat, and I see his father there, some 16 years ago, and I love them both, my boy and his dad, just for being who they are. It melts my heart.

There are so many parallels from the past to the present. The way my daughter consistently puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable when she speaks, and her brother can’t help but giggle and point it out (much to her astonishment, as she is certain that she is correct, and he in fact, is wrong), much the same way that I had not the slightest clue that I wasn’t saying the words Tylenol, elephant and volume wrong, until I met their father, and he couldn’t help but grin every time those words came out of my mouth.

There are so many small moments that are of little significance at the time, but then later, I find myself coming full circle. It is truly amazing. Albert Einstein’s said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Smart guy…)

I see miracles every single day. I see them in the most ordinary moments, in the moments that a stranger would be completely blind to, because I have the gift of history. I can see how every moment in my life brought me to this day, to these every day little miracles. The parallels between who I once was and who I am now, between the small moments then that are playing back into beautiful moments today, the parallels in what I once was blind to, but today have the gift of sight. I’m blessed to see so many things come full circle in this life, and it is a miracle each and every time.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

I hope you see a miracle today, in your life, in yourself, your partner, your children. I hope you can open your eyes to see that this life is a beautiful thing.

Some Days You Just Have to Say WHATEVER

Some days are better than others. Some days grind at your will to stay a sane, practical human being. Today has been a day (and by today, I mostly mean the last three hours of my life) that has made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “WHATEVER”. You know what kind of “WHATEVER” I mean…for those of us that don’t use four letter words….”WHATEVER” tends to summarize the effect that this mom is D-O-N-E.

Tonight this is what I made for supper. We have switched to a vegetarian diet (nearly vegan when possible), and I put a lot of energy into trying to feed my family something healthy, fresh and delicious. Tonight’s meal was stuffed sweet potatoes…a mix between sweet and savory. It was good, really good. I know because I ate it. My family however reacted as though I had served them poison. “Sweet potatoes?! I HATE SWEET POTATOES!” they say. Who hates sweet potatoes??? Weirdos.
6000 – 3746 ….this is the math problem that brought not only my son, who was performing the work, to tears, but this piece of arthmitic also had my daughter crying. She can’t be in the vicinity of someone having a bad day and not one-up them. I waited through two melt downs as Jace resisted listening because he just needed to play after a long day at school. I stared at my daughter as she squealed in distress because her brother touched her with his toe. 

Tonight I wanted to say “WHATEVER”….don’t eat….go hungry….don’t learn….who needs subtraction. I wanted to run away (fast!). But I didn’t. We got through every grueling bite of sweet potato. I watched as Jace held his nose, tilted his head back, swallowed hard and then chased his putrid potato with his drink. 

Now I will get up and wash the dishes and I will scrape my husband’s full dinner into the trash (he consoled me for his refusal to eat the food I cooked by apologizing to me that he didn’t like my “yam thing”). 

I can’t help to think back to Sunday morning. I sat in church and listened to my Pastor say that we’re all created in God’s own image. She told us to look at the people sitting next to us and we are actually looking at God’s creation, His creation in His own image. I looked over and saw my children. In that moment I knew without a doubt that she was totally and completely right. These crazy, whiny, emotional, picky-eating children. These loving, caring, funny, sweet, little creations of God. 

They were made by God in His own image just for me. They’re all mine. Every day. On the good days. On the not-so-good days. Every single day they are my gift. So I’ll get up and do my dishes, we’ll read bedtime stories, I’ll tuck them in and I’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful that I didn’t say “WHATEVER”. I’ll remember that they need me to guide them. They are my responsibility, but even more than that, they are my gift. I am incredibly and bountifully blessed. And instead of saying “WHATEVER”, I’ll say “Whatever He asks of me.” That’s the trade. My children are a gift and it’s not supposed to be easy. So even on the bad days, I’ll do whatever I’m called to do….because I get to be called “Mom”.

Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.

Case Closed

I finally returned to work on Wednesday morning. After my son’s tonsillectomy and finding a lump in my breast over the previous seven days, it felt like I had been gone from the office for forever. But it wasn’t forever…it was five business days. Which goes to show you just how quickly life can turn. The morning dragged on and on as I anticipated whether my results would come in from my biopsy the previous day.

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Around 10:30 that morning my phone rang and I immediately recognized the number. It was the hospital! I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my phone heading for a more private setting. I answered to a cheery voice that shared that I would be able to come in that day anytime before 2:30. I asked if noon or 1:00 would work and the voice answered, “I’ll put you in for a biopsy check at 1:00.” Anxiously I asked, “Will I get my results then too?” “Yes, you will” she answered. I had secretly hoped she would just reveal my results over the phone but I’m sure that is outside of protocol…so I silently retreated to the fact that I’d have to wait until my appointment.

While the minutes dragged by, I was surprisingly calm. I realized the woman from the hospital had not suggested that I bring someone with me. That had to be a good sign. I felt very optimistic but tried to hold back. It’s an errie feeling to be so close to the answer but still not know.

1:00 finally rolled around. My sister had planned to come with me already and I was glad to have her there. My pastor met us at the hospital as well. I entered the Women’s Center and didn’t wait more than three minutes before my name was called. The nurse asked me to have a seat in a small office. Her name was Kelly and she had a sweet, friendly demeanor that immediately put me at ease. She removed my bandaging and checked my incision. She asked if I was having pain and I answered that the pain was very mild. Nurse Kelly reported that everything looked good on my incision and I should expect the tape to start to peel away over the next five to seven days as my wound heals. She then took a step back from me and said “Oh, and your results came back fine so you’re good!”

And that was it. I was a little in shock. Thankful. But in shock. It was so simple. Nurse Kelly explained that I had a fibroadenoma (non-cancerous tumor) and it would require no further intervention. I had about a billion questions running through my mind. I asked if the tumor could continue to grow but she was unsure. She gave me an information sheet with some basic information on fibroadenomas and let me know if I had any problems going forward to contact my doctor.

I stepped out of the hospital into a beautiful March day. I was relieved. I was thankful. I was also a little numb. The influx of emotion over the last two days was catching up with me and it would take some time to fully digest that I was okay.

I shared the good news with my friends and family and I went back to work. Back to my normal life. Back to routine. Back to being a normal, regular 31-year old, healthy mom of two.

That evening I visited my uncle who is in his final stages of life. He has battled cancer for the past eight months. He is on his journey to heaven and hospice is telling us that he is down to days. I don’t know my uncle as well as I wish I would have. What I do know about him is that he is a Vietnam vet who fought for our country, he is a fisherman and he loves the outdoors, and most of all he is a kind man. He is sleeping a lot at this point but we were lucky to find him quite alert. He was however in severe pain. When I went to hug him, he winced at my touch…but he still wanted a hug. When I told him that I wished there was something I could do for him, he said I already was doing something for him by just being there. He talked about an eagle he saw from his window in the past few days, told a fisherman’s story and spoke of relatives that have passed on many, many years ago.

As we left, I was sure of one thing…God is with Charlie now as he continues to make his journey. I had told my sister earlier in the day, after we got the good news on my biopsy, that the one thing that resonates with me about the previous 48 hours…the thing that I come back to when I ask why I just went through this…I cannot shake the feeling from that first day, Day One. When I came home from the doctor who had confirmed that there was something growing inside of me that needed further testing, after I had learned that there was a chance that I could have breast cancer, I prayed to God and asked for his help to be strong and I truly felt him surround me. I felt closer to God in that moment than anytime I can remember. So that feeling, that knowledge, that God is closest to us when we need him the most…that he carries us when we’re too weak to carry ourselves…that he is standing beside and carrying the weak, the sick, the poor and broken-hearted…that’s the greatest promise I can imagine.

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I’m back to life as usual…mad-rush around in the morning, work, mad-dash for dinner and bedtime in the evening and then do it all over again the next day. I feel so blessed to be given the grace to continue on and I will try to hold on to the memory of that “Day One Prayer” but I know it will fade as I get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. But I take peace in knowing that when life throws me my next curve, there is nothing I will ever have to face on my own.

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!