Unwrapping Surprise Grief During the Holidays

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Allow yourself to feel the sadness of the holidays especially when your loved ones are in heaven.

Give yourself the safe space you need to feel the sorrow which always seems worse during the festive season. Let all the feelings come in, then pass through. This part of the calendar is tough and IT IS OKAY to feel sad for a little bit of it.

We started decorating for Christmas. A few may think it’s a bit early, but our family travels over Thanksgiving so I like for all the Christmas decorations to be done when we come home.

My daughter helped me. She put on some Christmas music, opened boxes from storage and helped transform our living room into the magical season.

A classic Christmas song started playing. I’ve heard it a thousand times - on the radio, in a store, at holiday parties...but right then, it hit me differently than it ever had before. I started crying.

Out of nowhere, tears slipped off my cheeks and my eyes burned. Just moments earlier, I was setting out Christmas decorations, my daughter was helping and we were laughing. I was overcome with emotion I wasn’t prepared for...

She stopped and looked at me but didn’t speak. I wiped my eyes and said, “I can hear my dad whistling to that song. I miss him so much.”

She nodded and understood. I knew she missed him too. I sat still, listened to the song and heard my dad whistling to it. I let the feeling come. I let it wash over me, pour into me then release through sacred tears. I allowed the sadness to be, rather than hide it, cover it up or push it down, because we know in our heart that it’ll come back until we deal with it.

When the song finished playing, I smiled at my gorgeous daughter and she smiled back at me. Then she handed me one end of the string of lights and said, “It’s like the lights.”

“What do you mean?” I replied as I reached for a tissue....

“They’re connected, just like you are to his light in heaven.”

Mother's Confession - I Still Make Their Bed Sometimes...

I have an odd ball confession....

I have this ummm, some say weird habit when my kids leave to spend the night elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if they’ll be gone one night, a weekend, or a whole week for summer sleep away camp, I still do this thing. My kids are 16 and 15 and I’ve done this strange ritual for years. Years. My daughter left for a choral retreat and she’ll be gone all weekend. So I’m doing my thing.

I rip off her sheets, wash, dry & put them away then make up her bed with fresh sheets and bedding. Like a hotel room (sort of, but cleaner.) I do the whole “hotel-y” thing....I smooth the comforter edges, I fold down the top sheet just so, I fluff up the pillows and straighten the nightstand and turn on the lamp.

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I cannot help myself. It’s a sickness.
It’s an indulgence. A weakness. A throwback to Suzy Homemaker. I don’t know. Whatever. I do it anyway.

There’s something deep inside me that wants to welcome them home in this nurturing way. I
I delight in climbing into fresh sheets on my own bed after I’ve been traveling so I figured they would too. Monkey see.

But there’s a bigger reason I do it. And I’m gonna try not to cry when I write this. Oh, who am I kidding?

Several years ago, our family attended the funeral of a woman we adored. She had two adult children but they literally were beginning their lives — just finishing college and they weren’t married. These kids were finding their way and then suddenly their beautiful mom died. It was tragic and unexpected.

At the funeral, one of the children recounted a story about her mom fussing at her to straighten her room. She told her to clean her room, empty the trash, make her bed and take drink cups back down to the kitchen. Her mom would call her by her full Christian name and say PLEASE clean your room before you leave!! And of course she never did.

But...when she came home, her bed would be fresh, the clothes would be picked up and the cups magically relocated to the dishwasher. This young woman choked up when she remembered that her bed would be turned down and her light would be on and she knew she was loved and missed whether or not she’d cleaned her room.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. Kids should clean their room. I’m not saying that mine never clean because they absolutely do. And I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t wash their own sheets and make up their own bed because they have to learn this basic life skill before they’re launched into the world ....but c’mon....welcoming them home?....a clean, fresh bed to crash into?....a comfortable place to land?....a knowing that they are loved and missed?

Sign me up. All day long.

*******

BTW... 
Initial pillow made by SassyFraz Stitches
(Not an #ad Friend of the family.)

Daring to Bloom Despite Your Conditions

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Have you had a week like mine?

I’m gonna’ be real here....This hasn’t been the best of weeks in our home. Our family unit has rallied. We’ve persevered. But along the way we’ve struggled through difficult and painful adversities.

Just like you, we are a family of *we* so when one of our family four pack crashes down, the rest of us inevitably have the gravel on our hands and the skin ripped off our knee. We all feel it.

In the same week, we’ve been isolated and passed over, then whiplashed into the glare of harsh spotlight we didn’t deserve. We’ve felt abandoned by those closest to us and struggled to make the friend connection we thought we had. We’ve been challenged by our own shaming self-talk and questioned our contributions in our tiny part of the world.

We’ve climbed over mountains of embarrassment, trudged our way through hurt feelings, fallen into various pits of despair and still managed to dig our way out of all of the mess, the hard conversations, and finding the good in the bad.

We are here even though we’ve had a few days of feeling like “would anyone care if we weren’t?” We are mending our battle scars and hoping for better. That’s all we want. Not great. Not outstanding. Just hoping for better than the last few days have been.

Today, I came home from work at lunch and spotted this Azalea bloom in our backyard. It’s been raining so you can see the raindrops on the petals. We live in the south but it’s cold and November. This bloom would not be denied its moment. It came through and bloomed on a bush...alone. Every thing in the yard is either dead, or dying or covered in leaves but this Azalea said I’m not done. I’m still here. I will bloom despite the adverse conditions.

And so will our family and yours...

We will find a way to focus on all the good instead of the bad. We are grateful for the trials because they give us strength and perspective when times are harder than this. We thank God for loving our family and we thank Him for the reminder that blooms happen in His time, not when it makes sense to us.

Your Eyes Still Get Me, But I Won't Tell You

My Love,

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The other day I didn’t tell you that your eyes snagged my heart again. I never mentioned that your eyes were the color of an ocean and the gray shirt you were wearing made them pop just a little more than usual. For only a moment, I felt like I was looking at your eyes brand new as if more than 20 years between us hadn’t existed. My heart noticed but I didn’t tell you.

I couldn’t tell you that day. I refused.

I wouldn’t tell you that the warm, morning sunlight flickered in the center of your eyes and I was struck by how stunning they were. My heart fluttered. It actually skipped a beat just like it had so many years ago. Your eyes took my breath away but I didn’t want you to know that I even noticed, or cared.

We were sitting across from one another on a weekend morning. Which day was it? I can’t remember now - Saturday or Sunday? It was Sunday because we were out of town with the kids on Saturday.

My decision not to tell you began on the drive home even though I wouldn’t realize it until the next day. The truth that your eyes still get me sometimes was removed from the list of things I would share with you. But when I sat across the kitchen table from you that Sunday morning - after spending more than two decades of our life together - I refused to tell you that your eyes were so damn pretty, because I was furious with you.

Does it even matter why we were frustrated with one another? Do the disagreements change over the years or are they the same ones for new situations? I know couples get upset. They argue. Sometimes they work together and talk it out. Other times, they choose to ignore each other until the feelings pass or they are too tired to care. I’ve always said that it’s safer when I’m irritated because it reveals I’ve got at least an ounce of the give-a-crap left in me. If I shrug and say, whatever...I’ve reached the end.

So on that Sunday morning, I hadn’t reached the end of us. I’m able to count on my right hand all the times I came to the end of us and you rescued me from drowning in my last drop of sorrow. Your relentless will to keep us together pulled me from the depth of my mourning. I had to say goodbye to my idea of our relationship that we never had. We aren’t a fairytale and marriage isn’t as easy as my parents made it look.

I wonder how often you don’t say something to me when you’re mad. Do my eyes catch your attention when they’re underneath the umbrella of my deep set frown? Was there ever a time you wanted to bust out laughing when I misspoke in an argument but held it in because you knew it wouldn’t end well?

If I would’ve told you that your eyes - got me - then I would’ve lost.
I would’ve lost my argument. My point. My side of the story. All of my validity would’ve been erased. If you had the upper hand, my credibility would’ve been shot. Your beautiful eyes would have crinkled around the edges. You would have recognized my disadvantage. You would’ve smiled that handsome, convincing look and I would’ve been lost in the sea of them.

But I was strong. I believed my argument was worth the fight. My anger was valid. My point was made. I could not give in to a moment of weakness. It was too important. Even when I saw you later when we were putting up the laundry, something tugged inside of me to tell you that your eyes make me crazy sometimes. When I passed the dinner plate, when you made our daughter laugh, when you encouraged our son after a bad day, I thought about letting you know that your eyes were so handsome that morning. When you came to bed and said, “Goodnight, I love you.” I almost said it then.

Pride and the desire to be right made me miss out on the connection with you. Vulnerability is a strength that I’m afraid to master. My heart wanted to say something about your eyes, but my mind and mouth refused.

But I’m saying it now….Your eyes get me sometimes, even when I’m mad.

Scary Stories the Other 364 Days of the Year

You know I posted this earlier today but took it down after my words sat on the page lonely and unattended for like two hours. I thought oh well, they can’t all be read...and honestly my timing was all wrong since I launched it when all you mamas were busy getting ready for trick or treaters!

But THEN I received a private message from a reader who said “Where’s the post? I can’t share it!” She went on to explain how much she related to the story. Wow. If it meant something to her ...even one person....then I’m glad I wrote it.

So here it is again....in case it means something to you or one of your friends...

✨A Scary Story That Happens the Other 364 Days of the Year✨

C'mon, go through the whole Haunted House with me....then share with a friend.

I’m curious.

On an average day, how many of you wear about 13 different masks depending on who’s around you because you're afraid of not being liked?

The mask that hides your face as you bite down on the soft, fleshy part inside your cheek when you’d much rather growl at the person talking with you.

The mask that helps you laugh it off when someone jokes about something you did for the 57th time but it embarrasses you?

The mask that covers your insecurities and doubts from whether or not the person online or at work really likes you or if they’re just tolerating you?

God, it hurts so much not to be liked. So we put on a mask and people won’t know.

We mock bravery from all the spooks and goblins tormenting our positive self-talk. Down deep inside of us, we value what we offer to the world, but we’ll show others how we can shrug it off when they don’t think that much of it. We make our faces bright and cheerful and we hope for better the next day from the next person.

Our heart believes that if we encourage and support others that encouragement and support will be returned. But it isn’t. Not all the time and life won’t always give back what you give. At least, not in the same way you think it should.

There are a few memes making the circuit on my news feed lately about frenemies.

“If your circle doesn’t cheer for you get a new circle.”

Or this one which is a little more biting,

“I tell you what. I’ll give you a call back as soon as I remember why we’re friends.”

Ouch.

Frenemies are so much harder to deal with than someone who just doesn’t like you or you don’t like them. The mental and emotional work we go through is so much more difficult when we aren’t sure. The ones that you think maybe, possibly don’t like us but then we question your instincts when they do something “nice.”

You can't be sure if they have good intentions and kindness or if they’ve got their own mask snuggly fitted and they’re growling at you behind it. Surely not, our heart reconciles. Our mind struggles to meet our heart on the same page. Okay, okay, we tell ourselves. They do care. And, on the other side of that - are we just being polite or do we really care?

It’s exhausting. So exhausting.

It’s way easier to know who we don’t like and who doesn’t like us back. Even though we’re afraid to admit that it hurts. But hurt feelings when you know what you’re dealing with is so much better than uncertain feelings you constantly work to figure it out.

The feelings you have to mentally sort. Decide whether or not they are being completely earnest in their friendship. It's why we are worn down and too tired to even try. We have trust issues with new friends and it’s easier to keep the old ones at a distance so we can keep an eye on them. Size them up. Decide if they are a good witch or a bad witch or not a witch at all. Will they really be kind and encouraging to me? Will I be for them?

I think this is why people - especially women - crave true, honest, heart-wide-open relationships but we’re terrified of all of it.

ALL OF IT.

I know that we’ve had friends who we could call on and say, "I need you. Please help me." And we’ve definitely had our share of friendships only because it’s convenient to hang out when our kids go to the same school or we’re in a group at church.

I think what happens is we open the door to the Haunted House of Friend Relationships and decide it’s too scary and we run and hide. But here’s the best part of this scary story. IF we're brave enough to go through the motions of kindness then the practice will become a habit. If we behave like a true friend and a true supporter then eventually we will feel the rewards of that for ourselves.

I think we have to make our way through the whole thing - the whole relationship - the whole haunted house to determine whether or not it is good or bad. We are letting our fears get in the way of something much stronger and truer. When we don’t go all the way through, if we only manage a couple of spooky rooms and we stop. We say this is too much and we can’t do it then we haven’t seen the relationship to the end. We haven’t given it a chance.

If we keep going, we might find the people who walked with us through the scary parts are the ones we’ll have on the other side. That’s where you’ll find your true blues. Not everyone who starts the Haunted House with you will finish but pay attention to the ones who did. What they look like after the mask comes off, may surprise you.

Uncovering Integrity in Your Teenage Son, Revealing it to Him so He Can Recognize it in Himself

I sat beside my son last night and watched as he worked through the pain. It was agonizing. He wanted to talk with mom, “just mom” he said again to Dad who was already standing up to go into another room. My son wanting to talk with only me is unusual but I wasn’t going to miss it.

He’d had an awful night at work. Everyone has bad days at work so there’s nothing special about that but when you’re 16, you haven’t had enough life experience yet to put bad days in perspective of really bad days. When you’re 16, every single thing that happens to you IS your whole world.

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We force growing up on teenagers. I think sometimes we rush it. We tell them to be responsible, get a part-time job, drive the speed limit, make good grades, get involved with school groups, volunteer and excel at all of them to the best of their ability.

But it was less than a year ago when they didn’t drive or have a job. It’s all new to them and they’re finding their way and learning that the world isn’t really interested in everything they say or do. They’re figuring it out and trying not to let anyone down. It’s a lot of pressure for anyone trying to juggle it all but it’s a harder adjustment when you don’t have anything else to base your judgement or compare it to....

I sat with him. Not to take it all away, because I couldn’t. Not to say everything is going to be okay because things won’t always work out. Not to coddle him, baby him or stroke his hair and tell him that the world doesn’t understand how special he is. I didn’t do that. I didn’t dismiss it or sweep it under the rug or say he was over-reacting.

I sat with him so he could figure out how to feel it, learn from it and grow. I sat beside him as he sorted through the events and how he replayed them again and again. He had to decide if ALL the events were bad or if some of the events had a little good in them.

In the end, I sat with him because he wanted to sit with me.

He needed to sort through his anger and his sadness and his awful feeling of disappointing people. I was there to listen and not to take away or dismiss his experience or add or pile on to justify his feelings.

He sighed a deep breath. He wiped his eyes and hung his head in exhaustion and defeat.

And then I said.

Son, you didn’t win this battle, but you finished. You had courage and dignity when you could’ve just as easily walked out and quit. You had the integrity to do the right thing when you knew you lost. There was NO way this night was going to end well for you but you finished your responsibilities and only left when your shift was over. You saw it through until the end and even though you were beat, you finished. This experience will prepare you for the next one and the one after that. There are many parts of life that are beautiful and encouraging but life will also knock you down. Again and again.

A warrior and a fighter keep on swinging but the heart of a lion knows he’s down but finishes with dignity.

Believing You Are Content with Motherhood

When my son was born, I stayed at home with him. I was a new mother, I knew zero moms with babies, we had no family in town and my husband worked so it was just me and my little boy.

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And I was fine. I really was. I enjoyed being with him, watching him grow and change every day and I considered myself fortunate to be able to stay in comfy clothes all day even if they had various baby stains on them. I loved every minute of it.

I was content. Until I wasn’t.

After several months, I started listening to everyone else - friends, family, commercials, magazine articles - whatever - that indicated that my son and I needed to get out, socialize, and have play dates.

So I looked and one of the first places I found was KinderMusic. It was a good fit for my son and my introverted self. We loved music and it was only for an hour or so once a week.

It was enough.

But then it wasn’t enough and I started listening to ALL the others again. I began questioning what was in my son’s best interest. Even though he was hitting all his development marks and the pediatrician said he was in the healthy percentile range, I thought maybe I wasn’t giving him enough.

Then there was a neighbor across the street who had daughters older than my son by a few years. I’d seen her around but never introduced myself. So one day this lady knocked on my front door. She had one daughter on her hip and the other one had her arms around her leg.

She invited my son and I to come over and have a play date and we could get to know each other. I was shy and uncomfortable and feeling weird about all of it but I thought God was answering my prayers to do the right thing and socialize my son.

A few days later, my son and I showed up at her home and I brought chocolate chip cookies because...well, kids love cookies and I’m Southern and you’re not supposed to show up empty handed.

The kids played on her living room floor, ate a few cookies and we chatted. It wasn’t completely awful and we got through it. My son seemed to interact well with the girls and I did my best to help move along the awkward get-to-know you conversation. We survived and I was grateful I had the chance to do something good for my son.

I thanked her for her hospitality and left with promises to “do it again real soon.”

The next day, she knocked on my door.

She handed me the container of uneaten cookies that I had taken as a hostess gift and snack for the kids. She said. “You left these.”

I was stunned and embarrassed and feeling so weird about having a gift returned that I didn’t say anything except “oh, okay...thank you.” She smiled and said let’s get together Saturday okay?

We didn’t get together that Saturday or any other time. My son and I found other groups and activities and he developed exactly as the Good Lord intended. It wasn’t that she returned the cookies, or that the kids didn’t play well...it just didn’t feel like a good fit.

Not every opportunity to connect is the right one and trusting your intuition about what works for you and your family is paramount. I didn’t want to feel obligated to the convenience just because it was a play date across the street.

Follow your inner voice, listen to those whispers. It may tell you to keep seeking out others and encourage you to make new friends...or sometimes mama...it may show you that you’re doing just fine because you’re content.

Who Says THAT about Teenage Boys?

Who says teenage boys are full of themselves? Who says guys in the deepest trenches of puberty are self-centered and careless with words and emotions?

Not I.

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Who says young men on the doorstep to adulthood don’t understand social issues, politics or the difference kindness can make to someone else?

Not I.

My son finished his ICE drink when he was at work. On the way to the recycling bin, he found a discarded flower near the trash can. He filled up the bottle with water and placed the dying bloom inside. After work, he brought it home to his little sister.

Who says young men don’t have the capacity to express their feelings, show compassion or offer a kind gesture?

Not I.

If we want to raise up men who are gentle and thoughtful, make sure you pay attention to the little things and tell them those things are the best things.

In The Cleft Of The Rock

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Her hand covered my eyes. I remember it now as if it hadn’t happened over 40 years ago. I could only see sunlight through the separation in her fingers. Rosy bits of light illuminating the outer edges of her skin. I was sleepy and yet I was fascinated by the way the light moved around her fingers. It was mesmerizing like watching a muted kaleidoscope.

I wondered if she could feel my eyelashes - feathering as I opened and closed my eyes against the inside of her hand. I blinked several times, creating my own sister Morse code, to see if she would react to the downy sensation.

She didn’t.

We were in the front seat of an old, green Chevy Impala. I’m not sure why I can recall what type of car it was but I was the baby in the family and Daddy’s tom-boy. I loved the time spent with him when he tinkered with our cars.

Our mother was driving but I don’t remember where we were going. My body curled on the bench seat, my toes barely touching my mother’s thigh. My head rested in my sister’s lap with her hand covering my eyes from the afternoon sun. I remember being so tired and wanting to go to sleep but uncomfortable as the sun stung my eyes. Leslie told me to put my head on her lap and she would cover my eyes. It’s one of my earliest memories of her loving me.

My sister is 8 years older than me and the middle sister in a set of three girls. We haven’t always agreed and we haven’t always gotten along but there are differences in who we are and who we’ve become that I’ve come to love. It still amazes me how siblings can be raised in the same house yet different personalities and truths emerge.

As an adult, I think of her now, this moment, today. That car ride with her hand over my eyes and the Bible verse, Exodus 33:22. (NIV) When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

Leslie loves our Lord. Today my heart goes to her across all the miles that separate us. I wish I could cover her eyes and hold her head in my lap and show her how I can love too. We can know that the light of God is too much for us but He places us in safety, passes by during the struggles and trials of our life, and allows us to glance at His Glory through the protection of His hands.

Just as the sun stings our eyes when we look directly at it, God’s presence is too much for us, but His grace allows us to know that He is there.

And He IS there. He is with you Sister.

Little did I know, that this story would begin over 4 decades ago when I pressed my head into my sister’s lap and she covered my eyes with her hands. I was meant to feel that comfort, just as she is meant to feel the protection of our Lord right now.

For my sister. 
Published with her permission.

The Last Batch She Made

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Saturdays are when I typically plan our family’s weekly meals. I don’t go ALL-OUT and plan for the month like a hair-net lunch lady because who would do that?

Confession: I would.

But my family rebelled against it when they couldn’t answer what they’d want for dinner on the fourth Thursday. So I spend my only sleep-late day, that’s not really late at all, with my cup of coffee, a grocery store flyer, my pen and legal pad and review all my coupons (paper and digital.) But this post is not about groceries, clipping coupons or crazy list making, so my opener is a little deceiving.

There are months that are harder than others to make ends meet. When it’s a struggle to pay all your bills, fill up your car with gas and still have money left for groceries. It’s like a weird tug-of-war with the hard pull of needs and the difficult review of wants. A WANT must be a legitimate WANT that lives super close to the border of NEED. Like shampoo. We don’t need shampoo, but washing our hair with bar soap gets old...and frizzy.

I’m exaggerating. A little.

So when it comes to planning a grocery trip, sometimes there are weeks when we have to be even more frugal than usual. Today was one of those days. There are ways I help curb the number of items landing in the buggy...by the way, do you call it a cart? I’m from the south, Greensboro, North Carolina to be exact and it will forever and always, amen be a buggy. Anyway. I have this thing I do which is pre-shopping in our pantry and freezer before I go to the store. I try and make as many meals as possible with what we already have. If no oddball meals can be generated then you must move to the second phase and try adding only one ingredient. It’s like a game. Say you have ground beef, sliced cheese, and condiments, but no buns or lettuce. This is a big win because a head of lettuce and pack of buns won’t be a lot of money. This method of meal planning takes a little longer, requires a bit of creativity and a lot of flexibility with what you serve your family. Because hey, we might be out of fries but enjoy a few Cheez-Its.

This post is STILL not about groceries so I need you to stay with me.

As I’m going through our current provisions, I dig deep in the freezer and find this Cool Whip Container, wrapped in a knotted Wal-Mart Plastic Bag, with a label that reads Danny’s Spaghetti Sauce. I think my God! I forgot this was in here! Danny’s mom made his favorite sauce. All I need is a box of pasta and I’ve got another meal. Mother-In-Law for the WIN!!!

Except.

It’s the last batch she made.

My mother-in-law recently moved into a skilled nursing facility and her days in the kitchen are over. My husband Danny, is her only son. She’s made his favorite spaghetti sauce a special way since he was a kid.

A couple of observations:

I never paid attention when she was making the sauce - and I should have - but then again - Danny should’ve too.

His mom is not Italian. As a matter of fact, she’s lived in the same small Appalachian mountain town her entire life. So this spaghetti sauce isn’t some generational hand-me-down sacred secret recipe but it’s what my husband grew up on and it’s a good memory.

I’m not going to use her frozen sauce hidden in a cool whip container, wrapped in a Wal-Mart bag anytime soon. I’ve tucked it deep into the freezer and we’ll save it for another day. Today’s not the day. We’ll find another way to save money and get creative with our meals.

And the next time we visit her, I think I might ask if she remembers how to make her spaghetti sauce. It’ll be good for her to try and remember and it’ll be good for my marriage if I can come close to her recipe.

What food would you love to have again? Who made it?

Breaking Your Own Promises

Quick Question.

How many promises to yourself are you going to break today?

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Think of it this way — we avoid letting other people down so we do everything we can to make sure that we appear loyal, dependable and reliable but that seriously makes us sound a little like an appliance.

YOU are waiting on YOU.
You are teaching yourself that you can wait.

But you’re tired of being let down by YOU while waiting on another promise that ends up broken. You end up at the back of the line and you’re sad about not being valued by yourself.

How would your life look if you started keeping promises to yourself? Others will notice and respect you because you respect yourself.

(And do something about that scrunchie, will ya’?)

Coming Together with Struggles and Solutions

How are you?

Tell me you’re a couple notches better than just okay. I hope you are. Geez Louise, these last few weeks have been bonkers for everyone. Go ahead and read this next sentence in an enthusiastic Oprah voice, “You get a struggle and YOU get a struggle. Struggles ALL around!”

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I hear you and I understand.

Honestly, I do. Women understand universal struggles and the problems that everybody deals with sooner or later. We just forget to lift our head up and look around at others who might just be starting what we survived.

Whether we actively support one another or not, we understand you have a lot going on in your life. You know why?? Because every single person pulling themselves out of bed eventually feels a leaded weight on their heart and hears hostile voices in their head. We all do.

We know what you’re facing because it’s in everything you post (or don’t post.) We see how consumed you are at work. We see your weary bones taking care of your little ones. We can tell how distracted you are at the grocery store. We see your worried expression in the rear view mirror in the car pick up line. We see you. We understand you because every human has a little piece of another human’s struggle. We have common ground in many things but we forget that others have problems so much like ours.

But you know what else we have?

Solutions.

Because somewhere, someone has faced what you’re facing. Right this minute thousands of others have either just completed or dragging themselves through the struggle’s finish line.

Maybe you’re facing something you’re overwhelmed by or maybe you just overcame a problem that at first you thought was insurmountable. Either way, pull up to the table and join us.

We need you. All of you. Every single one of you has survived something that someone else is paralyzed by and can’t bear to face the thousands of steps to get through it. They’re terrified of the first few steps. But you know how and you can help her. Someone else has an answer, a short cut or a tip. Someone has made the journey you’re afraid to begin.

If you’re struggling with something let’s make a connection and start the conversation in the comments. Someone will know who to call, what to read or where to start.

Let’s come together.

When we ask “how are you?” let’s really listen.

(This post was inspired by Lisa Leshaw)

An Argument, A Fainting Spell and a Journey Back to Each Other

Last night my husband and I argued. My words were unproductive and snippy, his were frustrated and a notch louder than necessary. We were the only two people in the car so I could hear him even though I was not listening. I pressed the right pedal past 80 mph hoping to drive away from this stupid conversation. We could not find common ground on anything. Not one thing.

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We gave up. We stopped talking and rode in silence for what seemed like forever. I’m uber stubborn and wasn’t about to give in and talk first. He was staring at his phone anyway and probably enjoying the quiet. I was playing a ridiculous childish game with myself— if I talk first I lose—but I think we both lost because we weren’t even trying.

We arrived at the venue and had to communicate about other things. Did you have the tickets, where should we park, do we have time to grab a bite before the event? Our conversation was practical and efficient and easier since we didn’t have to talk about our future past the next half hour.

Several of you know me personally but most of you know me based on what I post online. I try to be authentic and as close to real as possible. The next part of the story shames and embarrasses me but I’m not sure what to do about it since my brain has been wired this way since childhood. I’m not sure how to de-program what I’ve known since I was in elementary school.

The first time it happened I was watching a movie on the floor of the library with my third grade classmates. It was a story about a young girl who was thrown from a horse and her spine was damaged. The scene was a hospital room with this girl strapped to a bed, head, chin, shoulders, arms, waist, thighs, ankles anchored to the wiry, metal bed then flipped over so she was facing the floor and they could operate on her back. They never showed the surgery but the camera zoomed in on her terrified face just before the anesthesia set in.

That’s when it happened to me. I got hot so fast I started sweating. The room was spinning and I tried to stand to leave but my legs were unstable and wobbly. I collapsed but was determined to get out of the room and away from the disturbing medical sounds coming from the movie. I remember trying to crawl around the other kids, sweat dripping off my forehead and nose. I managed to stand and kept thinking I want to get out of the room and press something cold against my body. I was so hot. I remember falling outside the door of the library’s media room onto linoleum and that it was cool against my face. I woke up in the nurse’s office.

Over the years, I’ve fainted many times. My triggers are certain detailed medical situations. I’ve rallied through the birth of my children and successfully cared for my husband after his eye surgery and shoulder surgery but the less I know about specifics the better.

Back to last night.

We went to a book signing of one of my favorite authors Jodi Picoult She has a new book #aSparkofLight and it uncovers both sides of the controversial topic of abortion. You can keep reading, I’m not offering an opinion, I’m just explaining what happened.

During the course of the book’s discussion, the differences and specific explanation of what actually happens in a medical office during the procedure varied between something that looks like you blew your nose and see a little mucus and a bit of blood in your tissue to much more...

But that’s when I got hot.

I didn’t hear anymore. I was trapped in the center of the row and the exit door seemed a football field away. I fumbled in my purse for mints and rattled open the cinnamon Altoids. It didn’t help. The sweat was matting my hair to the side of my face and the lights were swaying. Danny looked at me and asked if I was okay but he knew the answer.

He cleared the aisle and started quietly whispering to our seat mates to make way. As soon as I hit the lobby I saw a sofa and fell onto it. I was hyperventilating and dizzy. My shirt was soaked. I knew I would blackout soon. The ushers came over and asked what I needed. My husband said, if you’ll get her a cup of water I’m going to wet some paper towels in the bathroom.

He looked at me and said I’ll be right back.

And that’s the point of this entire story. Danny comes back. Even when we disagree, he comes back and reminds me why I fell in love with the guy who knows me and loves me through all of my idiosyncrasies. Had I been alone or with anyone else, I would have been more anxious and distraught because I’d have to explain what was happening to me. Because he knew, I knew he was in control of my needs and I could focus on recovering quickly from my episode which lasted about 8 and half minutes.

I cooled off, drank the water, and pressed the wet paper towels to my head and neck. He sat beside me and searched my eyes for me to come back to him. And I did. And at that moment I didn’t give a damn about what we were arguing about earlier.

Love what matters.

Validation

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Val·i·da·tionˌ(valəˈdāSH(ə)n/)
...recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.

Validating another human being does not lessen or weaken your position. It gives another person - value and worth.

Isn't that a beautiful concept?

Validation acknowledges that we've heard you -- that we've seen you. We are saying aloud that your voice and opinion is worth hearing and sharing.

Who can you validate today? Who is standing in the shadows afraid to be heard? How can we celebrate and support one another without compromising our own beliefs and opinions?

Many times, we only need to listen.

Give Yourself A Day

Think of this day as a gift to yourself that you’ve been waiting and wanting for months. This last day of September, offer your soul and your battered humanness a day of rest. Just one day. You can give yourself that. Nothing more. Nothing less. You deserve the peace that comes with stillness. Where you rediscover the way the shadows and the light dance with each other. When you remember the taste of coffee and you savor it rather than using it as a way to drown out your tiredness. When you can hear the intake of your breath and feel the tension ease with every exhale. Close your eyes. What do you hear? A ticking clock in the hall? The call of crows in the yard? The dog’s sigh in his sleep?

Your heartbeat?

Your heart needs rest. Your body and mind need it too.

Your soul needs it.

Give yourself a moment. A day to remember who you are and why you are here.

When you truly love yourself, you can fully love others.

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A Love History of Guys - How Each One Helped Me Find What I Truly Wanted

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I thought I wanted the bad boy with the hot car. Or my God, the guy with the eyes – every time he looked at me my insides turned into lava. Or the smart guy who helped me pass 11th-grade Chemistry. (Side note, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the smart ones…His wife looks super happy on Facebook.) When I went to college I thought it was the good looking Italian guy from New Jersey, who charmed me and my roommates by singing outside our dorm room window. Later when I lived in Atlanta, I dated this guy who made me laugh so much I couldn’t breathe. I thought I wanted that guy - the funny guy.

But through all of my boyfriends and friends who were guys, life would offer little glimpses of what I really wanted in a guy. My heart would nudge me to pay attention to the traits that would matter in the future. The important attributes more than fast cars, dreamy eyes or the romance of a serenade.

*Like the time a guy mowed my parent’s yard because my dad hurt his back.
*Like the guy who brought magazines and egg drop soup when I had my wisdom teeth removed.
*Like the guy who drove all night to sit with me when my dad died.
*Like the guy who stopped something awful from happening to me at a party where I never should have been.
*Like the guy who bought my lunch when I was in college, working three jobs and still broke.
*Like the guy who helped me get back home after a snow storm.
*Like the guy who sat with me in the airport before my flight to L.A. when I was terrified to host my company’s presentation.
*Like the guy who came to meet me in the middle of rush hour traffic after a van hit my car.
*Like the guy who said, “You’re a writer – I believe in you.”

The things that curl your toes and turn your insides into Jell-O will not matter when life pushes you. Yesterday, my husband’s actions reminded me of why I fell in love with him. It wasn’t that it was a difficult event or that he handled some big struggle or issue, but it was a little moment in time that captured my heart again.

I had an appointment downtown that was taking longer than expected. I texted him and asked if he could feed my meter because I didn’t have any more change and I was stuck in the meeting. At the same time, unbeknownst to me, he was on the phone with our son who was having car trouble (locked steering wheel and couldn’t get the ignition to engage – rookie mistake.) He also just hung up the phone with his mother’s assisted living facility and finished a meeting and conference call that took longer than expected. He has a stream of people with varied problems in his office every single day but he handles it with a steady, calm that I respect so much.

That’s the guy I want.

The one, who patiently guides our son, loves and cares for his mother, values and respects his co-workers, and drives the four blocks to feed my meter. Danny is funny and he is cute and he does help me in tough situations. He’s honored my parents in so many ways and he’s driven miles and miles just to see me. So when life gives you glimpses of what your heart needs, pay attention – because it’s rarely what you “think” you need.

Come Home Safe

Come home safe. That’s what I find myself saying a lot these days. Come home safe. It’s my motto -- on repeat ever since I’ve been adjusting to our family’s new normal. This awkward new chapter in our life called Surviving the Terrifying Moments When Your Teenager Drives Away Until They Return -- and ways to avoid Life360 App addiction. Come home safe is the crutch phrase of our family’s new season. You use crutches when you’re hurt or weak and although it’s embarrassing to admit - my children growing older makes me anemic.

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I say come home safe every morning before school as my son grabs his car keys and my daughter opens the back door that leads to the garage. The last words I say on the phone are, come home safe when my son calls from his job and lets me know he’s on his way. I feel the concern in my voice and I know my kids hear it too when I say come home safe on a Friday night after an overtime football game. It’s a crutch, but I’m imperfect.

My son turned 16 this year and I could tell you all the things I’ve been telling myself over and over -- that he’s respectful, responsible, makes good grades, has terrific friends -- all that warm, positive vibey stuff, but he’s driving solo more often and when he says goodbye - I always say, come home safe.

Like it makes any difference at all.

As if the words, come home safe will shield him and place a cover of protection over his car. Like an imaginary bubble that prevents other cars and objects from hitting him, or worse, if he hits someone else. I’m not sure why I’ve worked up in my mind that it would be worse if he caused the wreck. Fault or no fault, our car insurance payment will balloon but honestly, it isn’t about the money. The older I get the more I realize that if it can be fixed with money it’s not a problem. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t think money can fix everything - and we certainly struggle with not having enough of it, but if the problem can be fixed with money, it’s manageable. Here’s what’s fixable -- a totaled car, a damaged church sign, an extended hospital stay or months of physical therapy. All of those inconveniences are paid with time and money even if takes until you are 127 years old. A loved one, dead on the side of the road after a car accident cannot be fixed with money.

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Come home safe.

But like a fresh breeze, all these gory images are ushered from my brain and replaced with the endless loop of my energizing, rehearsed, positive words.  My son is respectful, responsible and a good student. He has terrific friends and he’s conscientious. I added that last adjective since it has a comforting sound to it. Makes me feel better to think that he’s a conscientious driver. A person wishing to do what is right and to do it with care.

It was after a few months of him driving that I realized I was pouring a favorable outcome into him. Planting seeds of confidence in his subconscious. I say come home safe instead of don’t speed...don’t be reckless...don’t make quick turns or tailgate. I won’t parent using the negative because I chose not to parent that way when they were younger. I used words of affirmation as I spoke to him just like I’ve done his whole life, but now, in this season, my words are different. Instead of, come home safe, when they were younger I’d say, share what you have and when they did, “I’m proud of you.” As the kids grew, I’d say “care for one another or watch out for your sister.” When they entered middle school, “Be a leader” and then later, “Make good decisions" and "I believe in you.”

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Come home safe is my way of adjusting to my teenagers when they flinch (ever so slightly) when I say I love you or when they shrug me off as I pat them on the shoulder. It stings a little when I can see him recoil when I adjust his collar. Our kids know they are loved. But, I’m honest enough to admit that they’re going through the “it’s so weird stage” when your mom says love you -- all the time -- out loud -- for like the whole world to hear. So I’ve learned to replace I love you with come home safe.

And come home safe is my way of saying that home will always be their safe place to land.

A Lesson on Empathy

My daughter is an empath.

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If there's such a thing as a hard-core empath, then that would be where Sophie would live. Her home in the empath community would be in the radical, true-blue, undeniable feeling ALL the FEELS category. It’s important that you’re aware of this upfront before I go any further with this 100% true account of something that happened today. If you’re not familiar with the empath personality, here’s the first definition Google delivered.

What does it mean to be an empath?
Empaths are highly sensitive individuals, who have a keen ability to sense what people around them are thinking and feeling. Psychologists may use the term empath to describe a person that experiences a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense.

Please note the last part...often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense.

Describing my daughter this way is not an exaggeration so that I can put some sizzle in this story and make it a “bigger deal” than it is. Sophie is often incapacitated when she sees another person (or animal) suffering. Her strength is stripped from her and it takes a while for her recovery.

Now that I’ve explained my daughter’s empathy to you, you’ve probably formed one of two opinions of her personality. Either you can completely relate because you're an empath or know one, OR you’ve festered some judgment about me as a mother raising a child who is “too sensitive.”

Try and keep an open mind and read the rest of my story which is a typical day in the life of my almost 15-year-old. Below is the actual text message exchange between Sophie and me while she was at school today.

This is the worst day. I’ve been having the worst day.
I’m really, really sad.
And scared. I’m scared.

Why?

I had to watch a video in Wellness Class about a guy with a heroin addiction.

Ohhhh. That’s hard. I understand.

It’s rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t stop. I can’t. In my mind. I can’t

Yes, I know. I understand.

It made me soooo scared and afraid and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Yes, I’m sure it does make you feel that way but you know you have power over your thoughts. You are an empath. So it’s okay to feel for him, but you must tell your mind to STOP. You are in control of your thoughts.

I just can’t stop crying.

I know and I understand.

It has wrecked me. I can’t focus.

Feel it. Accept it. Then let it pass through you. Imagine the feeling coming into you then passing away through your fingertips.

Ok.

Accept the way you’re feeling. Feel it. Then let it pass through you. Allow it to move away. Let go.

Ok.

You can do this.

Ok. Thank you.

I love you.

I love you MOM.

God asked me to be Sophie’s mother. His request wasn’t a mistake. I believe deeply in my core that she was meant to be my daughter because of this moment and all the other moments we’ve shared before this one. Like Sophie, I have had a lifetime of struggle with feeling the feels deeply and if I can offer the mental and emotional tools I didn’t have when I was her age, then I have helped break the cycle and lessened the length of time she feels debilitated.

Empaths are a real thing. Don’t dismiss the power of love they carry. The empathy and compassion they have for others are beautiful gifts to the world.

Honest as a Sun Visor Mirror

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There is nothing more honest than a car's sun visor mirror.

Nothing.

I drove into the parking spot at the imaging center. It was time for my annual mammogram. My check-ups started a little earlier for me since we have a family history. *Even though this post is not about breast cancer - let it serve as a reminder and a nudge that you need to schedule yours if you've put it off.*

I pulled down the sun visor and flipped open the mirror. In an effort to be as authentic as possible - I could explain away my face's reflection and say that the noonday sunlight was harsh or that I had just left a crazy day at work and I was feeling a bit haggard, or that my salon hair color visit is in a just a few days. I could even admit that I am mid-forties and this is what I look like. But a car sun visor mirror does not lie. It reflects what it sees.

The mirror made me think about what honesty looks like -- when you face the truth of something that's unpleasant in your life. When's the last time you were as honest with yourself as that car mirror is? Level with yourself? Get real? Deal with whatever you've been avoiding or sweeping under the rug or putting off for another day?

We're supposed to be our own best friends -- our loudest cheerleader and our harshest critic -- but I'm not talking about pom-poms or fault-finding. I want you to consider if you've been honest about a toxic relationship? A doctor's appointment you NEED to make? A phone call or a visit that you've been putting off? Getting your finances in order? Saying you're sorry? Make the hard decision to let someone go? When will you be honest with yourself about whatever it is that you haven't faced until you really studied your reflection in the truthful mirror?

It made me start thinking and maybe it'll help you too.

Love,

Eleanor

(P.S. Schedule your mammogram.)

Afraid to Give What We Want

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What we hold back from others is the usually the single thing we need the most for ourselves. Have you ever thought about this? We keep what we're afraid to giveaway for fear it won't come back -- or be reciprocated. We avoid letting go of our gifts -- our human connection with others and withhold them from people in our lives. It's heartbreaking that often these offerings are kept from those closest to us.

Have you stopped encouraging your friend because she rarely celebrates your accomplishments? Do you withhold affection from your spouse since they don't seem to notice that you'd love a hug after a long day? Are you afraid to give/tithe/share/donate because your family is struggling? The reason you avoid going to a party/celebration/event is that the other attendees didn't come to yours?

We keep what we're afraid to lose as a defense mechanism for our tender heart and all the feelings that go with it. We build a fence around our brain, our vulnerability (and between our relationships) to deflect all the bad thoughts. If we don't share, or engage, or celebrate others - then we tell ourselves we won't be disappointed (as much) when they don't do the same for us.

Think about what you hold back from others...or maybe what you keep from just that one person. What do you withhold from them to shield yourself from pain, discomfort or sorrow? Would you be willing to break the cycle and dare to give it away?