Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Take A Deep Breath

It was not a loud noise, but I could hear it from across the room.
I had trained myself to listen for it.

The sound of air being slowly pulled in through the nose and held deep in the lungs.
Sometimes so very slowly it would have been noticed by no one else, sometimes held for just seconds and other times it was held for what seemed a lifetime. And then the sound of the air slowly being released. 

I heard this sound for years. I remember once wondering if she had always done this or if it was something that had developed over the years after her journey of motherhood began.

Sometimes I would hear it just before she released on me her fury of words over something stupid I had done. 

Sometimes times I would hear it as she sat down for dinner to listen to our unending stories of school, friends, and activities. To our complaints about the food we were expected to eat and the homework we were expected to do.

Sometimes it was at the grocery store as she slowly wrote the check for the groceries when we were struggling to make ends meet.

Sometimes it come from the front seat as we made the long journey to Tennessee to visit my grandparents. In back we sat complaining about the length of the ride, the cramped accommodations, the lack of stops, and the brother who wasn’t touching me but whose finger was held steadily just millimeters from my nose. My dad in the front seat slowly losing his temper all while she wondered if we truly had enough money to make the trip and would the car last. 

I remember laying on the hospital bed once about age six, heading in for some tests.
Routine they said, no big deal, but as they wheeled me away and she handed me a stuffed lamb for comfort I clearly recall her taking in that breath, holding it deep within her. I don’t remember hearing the release but I imagine it happened just moments after I passed through the double doors or maybe she held it until she was back at my side.

When at seventeen I sat across from her in tears explaining how I had driven her car into a mailbox on a road I shouldn’t have been on, she said nothing but I heard the breath.

One afternoon as we sat in the living room of our home I recall the deep breath and slow release that came right before the announcement.
She and Dad had decided they could no longer be together.
Their marriage was ending and our lives would be forever changed.

Months later as we sat across from each other sharing lunch my trained ear heard as the deep breath came again. I prepared myself, I knew this sound was never without consequence and this time was no different. This time she told me she was remarried,
moving to Germany and my younger siblings would be going with her. Now I took my own deep breath, maybe the first, I can’t be sure.
For years I associated this sound with her preparation to deal with us, her children,
the five of us, our many demands, our many needs.

But then I stood beside her one afternoon, I heard her take in the slow deep breath.
I looked at her, elegant yet exhausted, dressed all in black, she held that breath for what seemed like an eternity, and then I heard the slow steady release and at that moment I realized it had nothing to do with us

and never did. 

It had everything to do with her.
She was drawing in her strength, to bear the world for us.
She was taking a moment.
How will she handle this,
how will she sustain the life she has built,
how will she protect those she loves?

As she stood in front of the crowd with four children at her side,
behind her a memorial to the Marine,
the young man, the son,
one of her babies
……..how many words of sympathy can she handle, how many hugs can she accept, how many times can people say they were grateful for her sacrifice ……..How many before she breaks? A deep breath.

And now as I take my own slow deep breaths I hope my children know,
“it’s not about you, but about me
how strong can I be.”
And if my mother is any indication, I can bear the world on my shoulders if it means you won’t have to.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It all started with a Facebook post.....

It's almost 11:30 the night before the first day of school and I'm sitting here waiting for the banana muffins I've just popped into the oven to finish baking. I'm exhausted and ready for sleep but I can't very well go to bed now. Not only would it be irresponsible to leave something baking in the oven but I have to know that they are something my kids will eat. Now I'm sure you're wondering "what kind of kid wouldn't eat a banana muffin?" And normally it wouldn't be a question in my house because they all love them. That is , of course, when I follow the recipe. Tonight I didn't do that and now I'm wondering if that was a bad idea.

It all started when I saw this Facebook post today between two friends about a healthy chocolate zucchini bread. As I read through the recipe I thought "This would be a great healthy treat to surprise the kids with for breakfast tomorrow."

Of course to surprise one's kids, one has to be able to make it without them knowing. That was obstacle #1. I had to wait until all the kids were asleep to begin my baking. So I sat down on the couch to watch a little TV and wait. Before I knew it I was drowsy and ready to head to bed. As I drug myself up the stairs I looked into the kitchen and remembered that zucchini bread. It's about 10:15 at this point and I figured still plenty of time to whip it up real quick and get to bed before too late. So I set about the task of pulling up the recipe. Well first I had to recall which friends were posting about the bread, because it didn't occur to me at the time to bookmark it or print it (that would have been too simple). Once I finally found the post I tried to pull up the link. Well unfortunately I was trying to pull it up on my not-so-smart smart phone because my husband was on the computer. This took way longer than you would think it would. Finally the recipe.

I start pulling the ingredients out of the cabinets and fridge but as I came to the most important one  - the zucchini - I realized that the three zucchinis I had in the fridge were actually 3 yellow squash that apparently had been there a little too long. Crap! Now what???? Obstacle # 2.

Banana Bread! I would just quickly make-up a batch of banana muffins and be done with it. Or so I thought. Now I had to find my recipe, because there is only one recipe I will use. My mother's. It turns out right every time- perfectly moist. I keep this very special recipe that's carefully scribbled on a piece of scrap paper tucked inside a recipe book. The only problem is I'm never really sure which recipe book I last tucked it in.  So a new search begins. Luckily not too long as I used the recipe just last week. Voila!

It's now 10:45 and I'm finally getting started. I begin pulling ingredients again only as I'm doing this it dawns on me that this recipe is not so healthy thus defeating the purpose of a healthy treat for the first day of school. Obstacle #3. So I start thinking about changes I can make. A little protein powder for some of the flour, cut down the sugar, coconut oil for butter, add some kale, oh and since I just realized I'm out of eggs how about some greek yogurt instead? Before long I've made something healthy that aside from the bananas is nothing like my mother's recipe (making me wonder why I spent 15 min looking for her recipe but I guess you have to start somewhere).  As I finally mix all the ingredients together I'm beginning to see that this is a bit thick, not at all like a banana bread batter. So what would one do except add almond milk. No measuring, that would be silly, just a splash here and there until the consistency seems more along the right lines.  Well now there's a new problem - It's green. I don't mean a little hint of green, I mean like really green. This could be an issue with my picky eaters so I better throw in some chocolate chips. And so just at 11:30 I finally get the muffins into the oven.

And to those two friends who were posting about zucchini bread today (you know who you are) - I hold you responsible if my kids are unhappy with breakfast tomorrow. Because before that post I was just planning on pancakes......

By the way the muffins are done and they are great!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Athletically Challenged

Since the day I was born I have been athletically challenged. I can't throw a ball, definitely can't catch one, I can't shoot a basket, I can barely jump rope, and have been known to trip over the base lines. I survived gym class in middle school and high school but not by much. I was never disappointed to be picked last for a team because I secretly hoped the teacher would decide uneven teams wouldn't work and ask me just to keep score. (That never happened)

After freshman gym was over I breathed a huge sigh of relief because I would never be faced with having to play a sport again. Or so I thought. A few years later I met the man of my dreams and wouldn't you know it he was an athlete. And not just the kind that played a little basketball, or recreational softball. No this guy was the star quarterback of his high school team, an avid baseball player, and pretty much could master any sport he decided to try. Of course being young and in love I wanted desperately to enjoy the things he did. I tried a softball team once but then team asked if I would be willing to miss the next few games (I happily complied). I thought maybe golf could be my thing, but the one time Roy and I went out after the second hole he gave me a club and said "Let me know when you make it to a green and I'll bring you a putter." Luckily Roy fell in love with me anyway and was pleased to have me as his cheering section instead of a teammate. So for years we  happily went along.

Then came the kids. It didn't occur to me until the oldest were about 6 that I maybe forced to face my lack of athletic ability once again. I knew it was beginning to be an issue when they would ask me to throw the ball with them or toss a few pitches and they would critique my form or make comments like "Mom that pitch wasn't anywhere near me." I was embarrassed. Here I was at 30+ and I couldn't even pitch a ball to my kids. I didn't want them to see my weakness and my inability so I quickly learned to avoid participating in practice and play with them by needing to fix dinner, being in the middle of cleaning up something or having laundry to do (that's when you knew I was desperate as I generally avoid laundry as much as possible). And for a good many years it worked. the kids would either practice/play with each other or wait for Roy to get home. I would watch from the window and most of the time mindlessly eating as I watched my family enjoy life together. I quickly became out of shape, overweight, and to the point where even if I decided to participate I would have had to sit down after just a few minutes.

A few years ago I started strength training and running. Even though I began to succeed in those areas I still didn't invite my children/husband to be involved with me. I struggled with not wanting to be seen as weak by my family when I couldn't do a push-up or when I was already struggling at the 2 mile mark. I would participate in races with friends or by myself, I would strength train with groups but I would actively avoid having my family there because I wanted them to see me as strong and successful and I knew that I wasn't physically. Recently though I've begun to see how this method has left me disconnected with a major part of our family life. Our children love to play family games of kickball or baseball, to shoot baskets together, take bike rides, go hiking, basically anything as long as they are doing it with each other but my fear of failure has kept me from being apart of all of that and it's completely contradicting when I tell my children "It doesn't matter if you're good at it, it only matters if you try hard and have fun." For too long I watched from the sidelines. And so over the last year I have tried to remedy this. I began by asking my husband to join me in strength training, I participated in a family baseball game the other night, and my older kids and I have started signing up for 5K's together, we're going hiking, and having fun. I may still struggle, I will probably never be picked first for a team, I will always be the one who trips over the baseline, but at least I will be out there. And I realize now that this shows my children I am strong and I am successful. Because even though I don't finish first, or hit a home run, or make the winning basket - I participate, I reach the goals I set, and I always finish. And guess what my kids and husband love it!

So if you're watching from the window or sitting on the sidelines, get in the game!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Matthew 18:21- 22  
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

It's funny. I've read about forgiveness, listened to sermons on the topic, studied books about it, and had discussions about what true forgiveness is. But I still struggle. I struggle with being able to forgive. I struggle with being willing to forgive. I struggle with asking for forgiveness from others. Even over little things I sometimes find it hard to forgive and move on. I remember once listening to a lecture where the speaker said we have to teach our children the art of true forgiveness because they do not understand what it means. They say the words because they are told to, but their is no meaning behind "I'm sorry" or "I forgive". So I try to teach to my children how to forgive but the reality is I believe they actually teach me much more about it than I teach them.  I think the truth is until children reach a certain age (maybe teens, though it seems different for each child) they actually understand and practice it much better than any adult I know. Forgiveness is not always found in their words, it's found in their actions.

I watch my youngest ones as they get into their squabbles  and I am constantly amazed out how moments after a huge blow-up they can be cuddled on the couch reading to one another as if nothing happened. I watch all five of my children as they argue over who is to sit where in a car screaming and yelling as if it is a life changing moment and just seconds later they are all making up stories together. My boys will get into knock down drag out fights that not only are physical but words and names fly through the air without hesitation, only to find them suddenly creating a world series game in our back yard with the two of them playing all positions not long after.

Now I'm not saying their version of forgiveness is perfect. Some days it takes a little longer to get past the hurt. Sometimes the words are never spoken. Sometimes the words are spoken with such lack of feeling and tones of anger I wonder if this is the moment when they won't truly forgive. But what I have noticed is even in those moments the forgiveness is real and pure. They do not hold grudges, or recount how many times they have hurt each other in the past, they don't continue to bring the fight back up to prove they won or the how the other was in the wrong. When the fight is over, it's over.

I realize as adults sometimes our battle scars run deep, many of them are built up over time and that is what makes forgiving so difficult. But I also realize that in our day to day lives when arguments happen, when injustices are felt, when fall-outs occur we often say the words to one another and often with great feeling and emotion but do our actions continue to show the forgiveness we say we have offered? Sometimes it might do us good to look at how our  children behave and emulate them.When a fight is over, let it be over.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Break-up

I thought when I met the man of my dreams and agreed to marry him that would be it, I would never have to face a break-up again. But then I went into real estate......

You know it can happen, you prepare yourself for it, but in the end it still feels the same. You feel rejected, wonder where you went wrong. Was it something I said, something I did? Did I not offer enough, was I too forth coming? Was I too desperate or did I seem too confident? Just like a break-up with a boyfriend there are so many unanswered questions. My most recent rejection was like the bad break-up you hear about but think will never happen to you. The one over e-mail where no real reason is given. You know the "It's not you, it's me" bit. Here's an excerpt:

I've really enjoyed talking to you and getting your professional opinion about our experiences with the housing market.  At this time, we have decided to go with a different realtor.  It is nothing personal towards you.  You have been wonderful!  It is so hard to make decisions about these things!  Please know that if we ever consider moving again, you will be one person that we strongly consider contacting.  We will also be happy to pass your name off to other friends and family that we know who are looking for a realtor.  

Ok seriously people. Is anyone going to buy this????? At what point do you suggest a realtor that was so great you decided not to use them?

So I of course needed more. I sent a request for feedback. (Because I'm girl who can't take a hint, I need reasons!)

Thank you for considering me as the agent to list your home. I always appreciate feedback that will help me improve service to my clients. Is there anything specific I did or didn’t do that influenced your decision?

 Their response....

The agent that we went with was just someone that we had gotten to know through some other connections.  It was nothing you did or didn't do!  You were wonderful!  I actually felt really bad emailing you this morning.  I wish we could have two agents!  Thanks again for your time.

Please give me something....... I can't leave it alone

But I don't understand, I thought we had a connection. We seemed to have something. Maybe I should come over and talk. We can work things out. I can change!

 Ok so I didn't really send that. Though I thought about it. I think the next real estate help book they need to write is "That client's just not that into you!" Maybe then I would have seen it coming.....