A Father’s Daughter

10366129_10204236138808444_8543520950004898412_nI spend so much time being a momma, thinking about being a momma, writing about being a momma, and being a wife that sometimes I forget to put on one of the other important hats that I wear. The one called “daughter”. It’s an important role, too. One I need to be more conscious of and attentive to. And, this is a daughter with a regret. Well, maybe two regrets…

ONE – I think maybe I’m too hard on my father. I hold him to higher, harder to achieve standards. I don’t know why. I let my mother off easily. She’s simply right … no need to argue. But, with my dad, I can’t seem to let it be. I let things get under my skin. I say too much. Or, I say too little. With him, I know I’ve made too many mistakes. Maybe, we are too different. Probably, we are too much the same. I really, simply, don’t have answers. But, it hurts to think about.

TWO– A year or so ago, my sweet father had the opportunity to buy a classic old car. An awesome opportunity. Upon hearing this, I immediately jumped on the Con List Bandwagon. But, why? I don’t know. Today, I don’t really understand my reasons. It wasn’t practical. He wasn’t a “car guy” or a “mister fix-it”. He never “tinkered” around in the garage. He didn’t need to spend his money on something like that. He wouldn’t drive it enough. Honestly?! I don’t know what my problem was. I don’t know why I felt the need to even share my opinion at all. But, I know I was wrong. I know what I should have done, but didn’t. I didn’t talk to him directly. I received all of my news secondhand and formed my opinions without hearing his. I never spoke to HIM about it. I never listened to his reasons or … his dreams. Had I, I would have felt entirely different. It’s a regret. I was wrong. Once the opportunity had past and the car was gone, we finally got to talk about it. Oh, why didn’t we talk sooner?! Once I stopped talking and started listening, it took only mere seconds for me to see it all through his eyes. And, it was like a smack in the face. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if things are practical. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if it makes sense. Sometimes, all you need to do is follow your heart and reach for your dreams. It’s so obvious. I’m ashamed I didn’t see it sooner.

This is a man who has given me everything. He deserves more than I’ve given him. He’s worked hard my entire life so that my mother, brother and I never wanted for anything. He worked hard so that she could be home with us…his greatest gift to us, in my eyes. He worked hard so that we could simply be kids. He never asked for anything from us. This is man who loves the Lord and his family. His heart is big and wide and open. He taught me (he still does) about prayer and about believing and about what faith means. He feels things strongly and he’s passionate about life and the people he loves. I get that from him. This is a man who used to put me in his lap and let me steer the car around the block. A man who put me on his feet and danced me around the room. A man who told me ghost stories instead of bedtime stories … probably not a good move, Dad. I still remember laying awake worrying about the hitchhiker with the hook for a hand. This is a man who understood the need to let loose and let it all go from time to time. The need for fun and laughter. There was always fun and laughter in our home. This is a man that loved (loves) good music and a good book and knew what each could do for the soul. When we were young, he’d turn his music up so loud, the windows in our home would rattle. I still smile every time I think about that. This is a man who surprised me with my first car – a red Honda Civic with a giant white bow on top!  A man who made sure I had the wedding of my dreams. A man who reads every article I post and comments faithfully. A man who I know will, no matter what, love me until the end of time. And, this is a man who is hands down the most loving grandfather I could have ever hoped or imagined for my children. They get only good from him. As a father, he had to be hard as well as soft. He wasn’t perfect (but, who is, right? who wants perfect, anyways?). He had his share of flaws and there were tough times in our household, too. But, as a grandfather, he’s only soft. My children have simply melted away everything else. He’s pure love with them.

And, so, Dad, on this Father’s Day, rather than apologize for the things that I regret (you’ve already forgive me anyways), I’m simply going to thank you for the lessons that these experiences taught me. Never let your dreams die. And, I won’t either. I love you.

Letting Go – No More Sorries

I’m one of those people who says “I’m sorry” too often. I’m a chronic apologizer. I don’t why. I don’t know when it started or where it came from, but it’s annoying, I know. It’s annoying ME. I’m sorry that I say, “I’m sorry” so often. Ugh. I don’t even think I’m actually apologizing TO anyone most the time. I think it’s me apologizing to ME … for not being perfect enough. I think what I really need to start with is – “Hi. My name is Lori and I’m a perfectionist. It’s a problem. Internally.” They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem, right? So, there’s my confession. Now. I’m ready. To. Let. It. Go. But, first, a purging of the Sorries…

I’m sorry that the house isn’t clean. I’m sorry that dinner isn’t ready. I’m sorry that even though I’m organized, I’m not more organized. I’m sorry that there is clutter on my counters. I’m sorry that I didn’t call you back. I’m sorry that I hate dinner-time. I’m sorry that I don’t love to cook. I’m sorry that I don’t work-out more. I’m sorry that I didn’t take you for a walk today. I’m sorry that I don’t feel like having sex tonight. I’m sorry that I don’t want to go to the playground today. I’m sorry that we don’t go to the pool every day. I’m sorry that we don’t do more crafts/baking/playing. I’m sorry that I don’t rock you to sleep. I’m sorry that my stomach isn’t flat anymore. I’m sorry that my boobs ARE flat now. I’m sorry that I let you eat so many fruit snacks. I’m sorry that I didn’t get the vacuuming done. I’m sorry that we don’t talk as much as we used to. I’m sorry that dinner isn’t ready. I’m sorry that I don’t schedule more play-dates. Sigh. I’m sorry that I just said, “I’m sorry” again…

OH my gosh! It’s a disease. Truly. It’s attacking my brain. I’m so over it. Now, how do I stop it? I’m determined. I’m breaking free, y’all. Break free with me! That bully that lives inside of my brain, that size-4-college-body-version-of-myself-that-didn’t-have-anyone-but-her-to-take-care-of bully, she’s kinda mean. She’s mean to me. It’s so past time to ditch her. Bye-bye brain bully! I’m ready. To. Let. It. Go.

My beautiful cousin, Sharon, over at MommyVerbs, is on to something pretty great. Besides “engaging each day one action verb at a time” (check out her blog – it’s a good one), she’s also declared herself a #JustOkMom. How refreshing. How … kinda awesome. To say, hey, I’m good enough. I’m enough. I’m a Good Enough Momma. I strive to be a better version of myself and I’ll keep doing that. It’s what I do. I’ll keep trying to better myself, but I can stop trying to achieve perfection. It’s unachievable. And, that’s okay. Who wants perfect, anyways?! We can stop apologizing for it and just accept it – we are never gonna be perfect. God made us all perfectly imperfect. We can stop insulting him with all the beating up on ourselves that we’ve been doing. We are on to something here, y’all! A Good Enough movement, maybe? 🙂 Maybe we can be okay being Good Enough Mommas. Maybe we can be okay being Good Enough Wives and Good Enough Friends and Good Enough Housekeepers. The list could go on. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to let it all go. I’m not saying to be a Slacker Momma. It’s hard work and we gotta keep at it. But, we don’t have to “I’m sorry” ourselves through the day. Let’s just work hard, be the good mommas that we are, get done what we get done and save the rest for another day … without apologizing. Let’s save our Sorries for when we truly need them. As Sharon says on MommyVerbs, “Let’s all, Go. Do that.”

 

My Most Beautiful – My Mother

I wish time didn’t steal memories. I wish they weren’t so faded and worn around the edges. Sometimes, I wish I could play it back, like an old home movie, a visit back to another time. I wish I could remember my childhood more exactly. More specifically. Without the fuzziness that comes as the years pass. For me, I’d like to see what it looked like again … from this perspective … from the outside looking in. I can picture our house. I can picture us together. I know we were happy. Yet, the years run together and one gets lost inside of another. Here I am now, grown, a wife and mother, looking back today with a longing to remember us as we were back then. I want to feel it and see it. I want to smell it and hear it. I want it so badly.

I remember – I used to sit in church on Sunday mornings and touch her hands. I’d take hold of each one separately and trace them with my fingers. I’d touch them tenderly and examine her nail polish so closely. She had beautiful hands. She was always the most beautiful woman in the world. She still is.

I remember – sitting in the back of a hot car on a summer day. Making our journey across town to the swimming pool. Starring out the window and daydreaming of other places and times. My eyes and mind often looked elsewhere, but my heart was happy right where we were. In the car. Together. My legs stuck to the seat and our packed lunch between us. My mother, my brother and I. It was comfortable. I felt safe and loved. We were a team.

I remember – We spent a lot of evenings on our couch in the living room. We’d sit together and I’d put my head on her shoulder. I always teased her about how bony her shoulder was. It was, but it still felt right to me. There, we read countless books. We memorized the books of the Bible. I learned a number of Bible verses that I still carry in my heart today. We practiced our multiplication tables. We studied various subjects. We were together. Always together. There, in that very spot, I found God. And, I first heard about “the birds and the bees”. I listened to her and I poured my heart back out. We left that I house the summer before I turned 14, but when I look back, I will always see that living room. That couch. And, us. Learning and growing and reading and talking.

I remember – How we loved/love our shopping outings. Trips to the mall and out to lunch. It never really mattered what we were looking for or at. We were together. We were shopping and talking and bonding. It felt good. As I got older, it became one of my favorite things to do with her. We’d trek 3 hours to Columbus, for the “good” stores. We’d spend afternoons out and about. It was always more about being together than anything else. She is and always will be my favorite shopping partner.

I remember – My mother and father dated each other. It sounds like a funny thing to say, but they did, they dated. They were always a good example. We had regular babysitters so that they could go out. I loved to watch her get ready. I loved when she dressed up, painted her nails, and put on her jewelry. Like I said, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She still is.

I remember – She held me close when I had my first broken heart and let me cry. I curled up in bed with her just so I could be close to her, close to someone who I knew would never stop loving me. She didn’t say much. She didn’t tell me that I didn’t know I love was. She didn’t tell me that I was too young to understand. She let me feel what I was already feeling. She was there.

I remember – Holidays. They run together, of course, and I have trouble separating them. I wish I could glimpse at the individual moments. I wish. But, what’s left in my mind is good too … a blended version where the holidays melt together and I’m left with — Making cookies on Valentine’s Day. Dying eggs on Easter. Wonderfully, wonderfully happy Christmas mornings. Costumes on Halloween, usually handmade. Family photos. Sitting in church together. Giving and receiving special presents. “Stores” set up in the elementary school where my brother and I could pick out our own gifts for our parents. Songs. Laughter.

I remember – Her picking us up and dropping us off at school, with our dog, Sandy, in her lap. My brother and I took turns trading stories with her. She knew our lives. She was our life. If the little things were most important, than she was in all of the little things. The millions of little moments that eventually added up to make me who I am today.

I remember – Shopping for my wedding dress. Shopping for her mother-of-the-bride dress. Planning and dreaming about my wedding. It felt all the more magical because she had just survived a very serious illness. She was still with us. She was with me on my wedding day.

I remember – Countless, countless phone conversations, about everything under the sun. Always about everything. Lovely, beautiful talks with the most beautiful woman in the world.

I see- My mother always has enough love to give me. To give our family. She has a loving heart and a stubborn spirit. She is our glue. She can be hard at times and she isn’t always open to new things. She is quiet and strong. She isn’t always perfect, but she’s closer to it than anyone else I know. She’s my best friend. She’s my mother.

Mom, I know you worry too, that you weren’t enough. But you were. As a mother, I understand that fear. I feel it now too. Every single day. But, you were more than enough. You were wonderful and beautiful and everything we needed. You were everything we wanted. My childhood was good. It was really, really good. Don’t ever, not once, doubt that. You gave me everything. You and Dad. You gave us a beautiful life. You were my mom. You are my mom. You will always be exactly what I need. You are my fresh air. You are my rainbow after the rain. YOU were the most beautiful woman in the world. You still are.

Day In, Day Out – My Messy Beautiful

IMG_1179Day in, day out, these little piggies march on. We carry on. And, so the story goes…

When my first (my sweet Little Man) arrived, the fog that blanketed my life was thick. The first few months were a haze. I was in survival mode. I missed so much of his precious newborn stage. I was here, of course. I was present for all of it. Still, I missed so much. The anxiety that I felt, that I carried around, was nearly crippling. I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know what to do. I cried a lot. I cried because I was sad. Because I was so happy. Because I was scared. Because I felt alone. My heart felt swollen. I was raw.

I don’t think I fell in love with him instantly. I mean, in a way, yes, sure, most definitely. Yet, no, I didn’t. With N, it felt a little like dating. We took our time. We got to know each other. I learned. I learned even more. My heart and my love grew slowly and steadily each day, as I adjusted to my new role. Guiltily, I mourned my old life, I grieved it’s passing, while marveling at my new one. It was such a time of change. It didn’t all happen overnight, but as time marched on, I began to feel like a mother. Slowly, I stopped thinking about the freedom that I no longer had and started looking at all that I DID have… so much. As the fog began to fade, a new normal was born. Life evolves.

With my second (my Little Miss), the fog fell lighter. I could still see. I was still me. My life, though changed, was not unhinged by this new addition. My love came hard and fast. With her, I fell immediately. I looked at her and I already knew her. I knew what she needed. I knew what to give her. But, it was only because N had paved the way for her. He taught me, changed me, made me a mother. So, when A came along, that’s what I was – a mother. That’s what I did – I mothered. Thanks to him.

One thing that I was totally unprepared for, one thing no one told me about motherhood, was how lonely it would sometimes be. I am surrounded by love, yet at times, all alone. It’s strange. A contradiction of emotions.

I didn’t know how I’d miss my friends. I do. My friendships have evolved and shifted as we each, one by one, step into motherhood. Things change. Friendships change. They don’t know that I need them more than ever. Connection. But, I do. Yet, we are all knee deep in our own day in, day out, messy, beautiful lives.

After N was born, I went back to work. I was too busy to feel lonely. I was focused. When A arrived, I didn’t go back. I became a stay-at-home-mom (for so many different reasons). From day one, it was more than I was expecting. More than I was prepared for. More than I can even explain. It’s a blessing. The three of us – N, A and I, we get to be together – for better, for worse, we are together.  Day in, day out, I’m right in the middle of this beautiful mess that’s my life right now. It has been such a journey for me. I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know that it would be the most trying, amazing time of my life. I didn’t know that I could feel so much, so much of the time. I didn’t know how I’d be pushed to the brink of madness. I didn’t know how much I’d learn about myself. I’d never prayed about my own character before. Now, there are days when I hit my knees and pray for more patience, for more strength, for more kindness … for more of myself to give. I didn’t know that I’d be striped raw. Exposed. The good, the bad and the ugly. I didn’t know that it was possible to have so many different moments and emotions in a single day. Some days, I swear, consist of multiple lifetimes, all wrapped up in a single day. I can go from having a moving, loving moment with my boy to losing my mind in mere seconds. We can go from happy, crafting, baking, “look how together I am” moments to hiding in the bathroom so maybe I can be alone for one single friggin second … but no, here comes N and he wants to sit on my lap WHILE I PEE. Yep. It’s messy. It’s beautiful. It’s mine. We are marching on through these moments in time. Making it ours. Making it count. I’m carrying on with you, Warriors!

 

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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The Ugly Truth

Today I realized the ugly truth. I am being selfish.

I’ve been feeling a tad guilty since my last post. I was focusing on what I wanted, what I needed. I was focusing on all of the wrong things. I’ve been craving peace, quiet and order. Those wants have been clouding my judgement. A lovely little post called, “Mommy, Somebody Needs You,” on Your Best Nest brought me back to earth. Judging from the comments she received, I’m not the only one that needed her words. I landed accidentally on a blog I’d never visited before and read words that I was, without a doubt, meant to read. She says, “The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life.” How very right she is! The peace, quiet and order that I’ve been seeking. Forget it, Sister. I need to kiss those fantasies goodbye, because they are ruining my moment. Peace. Quiet. Order. It’s simply not what my life is right now. It’s not what it’s about. It isn’t going to happen … not for many, many years. Those words. They just frankly don’t exist in homes with children, especially small children (or maybe ALL children?) If I were to have those words, then what would that mean? It would mean that I wouldn’t have my children. Right?! It hit me like a hard slap. What would my home look like if it were all peace, quiet and order right now? There would be no crying, yelling, endless juice getting, butt wiping and “can I haves”. There would be no messes, no piles, no empty baby bottles scattered around. But, this isn’t a positive. Because if those things aren’t there, then neither is the laughter, dancing, squealing, playing. If my house is quiet, then all the happy noise is gone too. Would I want that? Never. No way. I have been selfish. I have been making it about me. But, it isn’t. It’s not about me right now. I’m “Momma” now. And, I love it! I love the musical sound of my Little Man’s voice as he calls for me. I love the “MumMumMum” sound that Little Miss is starting to make when she needs me. I love it even when it’s making me crazy. I want to bottle their noises and listen to it forever. I would never wish any of it away.

There is a different kind of peace. I pray for it. Not peace in quiet and order. I’m letting that go. Those wants are free to float away from me and leave me be. The peace I truly want is simply a calmness of the heart … not of the house. This peace will come from accepting what IS. What exists right now. Peace IN chaos, disorder and general craziness. Breathe in. Breathe out. I can feel it seeping into my heart. I’ll keep praying for it. The real kind of peace.

Starting today, I will try a little harder (I was already trying pretty hard, trust me) to embrace my role as Mommy and stopping pushing against it. Stop expecting it to be easy. It’s not easy. Beautiful, yes. Easy, no. And, no, there won’t be Me Time. I’ll have my Me Time another year. No, there won’t be any time off.  I’m needed. And, that’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?

A Little Bit Jealous

There are days when I’m jealous of my husband. There. I said it. I watch him, as he kisses us, wishes us a good day, and leaves. I watch him and feelings that I don’t understand swirl around inside of me. Some days I want to cling to him and beg him to stay, “Just don’t leave me alone with them!” Other days I want to throw something at the door after he’s closed it. It’s not HIM (he’s quite a lovely husband actually). It’s not his fault. It’s not even about him at all. It’s me. Now, I know. I KNOW. I don’t really want to trade places with him. I’m lucky, blessed, etc. I know. And, most days, when he leaves, nothing happens. I’m fine. We’re fine (do I sound like I’m trying to convince you … or myself?). I’m happy to be home with my babies. I genuinely wouldn’t trade it or change it or have it any other way. I’m honored to be their mother and I’m thrilled that I get to be the one raising them. But. Oh, BUT there are days. Days when I’d give anything to kiss them all and leave. To drive somewhere (anywhere) in peace. In quiet! To pick up a coffee. ALONE. With no one crying or asking for juice as I try to order. Alone. Sigh. In my mind I drive to a quiet (am I saying quiet too often? I’m sensing a trend), lovely, little office where everything is white and pretty and where nothing is sticky and where everything is organized to a point border-lying on neurotic. Where I don’t trip over things on my way to the bathroom. Oh! Yes! Where I get to go to the bathroom alone too. Where music plays softly and I focus. I zone in (or out) on something and I simply don’t think.

Now, I don’t have to see a shrink to understand what’s going on here. I know perfectly well why I’m daydreaming about far-away, highly atypical office environments. Who daydreams about going to work anyways, right?! It’s so simple. It’s so obvious. Yet, the solution continues to elude me. I just need a little space. A little left for me. Something. Anything. Work – that’s not really what it’s about at all. Most days I want to be just where I am. Where chaos collides with love. Where I’m pushed to the brink of screaming … but pulled back in with kisses and giggles. Where mess mingles with imagination. Where piles of stuffed animals and blankets = nests of snuggle-buggleing (yes, that is a word). How could I possibly want to miss any of this? Oh, but I do long for a little bit leftover just for me. Then maybe, just maybe, I’d be a little better at it all. And, maybe also a little less jealous of my husband. 🙂