MIA + Time Away

Yes, I’ve been a bit MIA. No, I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been brainstorming and list making. I haven’t even been dreaming and scheming (well, maybe just a little). I’ve just been …away. The littles and I have spent the past 2 weeks (yes, two) at my parent’s (Gram and Pops) house in WV. It’s been really, REALLY lovely. Sometimes it’s good to just let it all go for a while. To breathe deeper. To accept some help. To spend time with your family. To get back to your roots. To just … be.
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I pondered some things…

– I didn’t appreciate this view (photo taken on my parent’s deck) enough when I lived here. It’s really very lovely … especially first thing in the morning. Especially when the fog is still clinging to the air. Sweet baby A and I greeted several mornings with this beautiful sight.
– It truly does feel good to purge. There is something undeniably freeing about cleaning out, filling up trash bags and making space.
– It also feels good to find tokens from childhood that have long been forgotten.
– I think I might love being in my thirties.
– “Back where I come from” the people really are genuine. My home-state gets a bad rap, for a lot of different reasons, but the people are NICE. We encountered several super-friendly strangers who went out of their way to be kind and helpful to N, A or I. It was beyond refreshing.
– My children are in a good stage. Can we stay in this stage for a while? It’s a delight!
– I’m in a good stage too. I feel peace. I feel calm. I feel content. I feel a huge surge of happy. (I’m trying not to let that scare me.)
– I think the Lord has some awesome things in store for my family. I feel energized. I feel inspired. I feel hopeful.
– My husband is Uh-Mazingly talented, y’all. I always knew, I just didn’t KNOW. Just you wait! You are going be hearing more about R and the sweet projects he’s been working on soon. Stay tuned.
– It feels wonderful to be home (in the house I spent a good chunk of my life in) for so long.
– We (the littles and I) are beyond ready to see Daddy! We are headed back to good ‘ole NC tomorrow! (Prayers for safe travels.)
– In this quest to write from the heart; to be true to myself; to allow myself to be raw and honest with you; to be vulnerable and open — sometimes it means NOT writing. Sometimes I might step back and not write for a bit. I’m allowing myself that. With no apologies. With no worries about what it means for me, Elle Bee Lovely or you. Sometimes I might just not write. But, don’t you worry…I’ll always be back. With words and thoughts and dreams and feelings…the ones I feel AND the ones you feel too …
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Girls Weekend! Momma Needs a Time-Out

As a species we are built to need each other. We need interaction with other humans. We actually need it for our mental/emotional, and probably even physical, health. As much as my husband and I rely on each other; as much as I tell myself that it’s okay (that I’M okay) when I go 3 days without speaking to another adult; the truth is – we need friends in our lives. R needs time with the guys. He does. And, I need time with my girls. I just do. There are just times when it’s important to take a breather. To reconnect with who I am and stop focusing on what I do. To step back. To take a time out. I’m not sure there’s a better way to refresh your spirit than with a weekend with your very best girlfriends.

There are a handful of girls in this world that are my best. They’ve seen me through it all. We started out in the good ‘ole days – the fun, carefree, crazy days when life was really, simply meant for livin-it-up. We were only interested in each other back then. Well, each other and clothes and dancing and what we were doing that night and where we were going for Spring Break and Greek Week … and sometimes boys, but really, not all time. We could, and would, spend days-upon-days and hours-upon-hours together, without needing a break or growing tired of each other. In college, we’d meet around the table for lunch after class each day, then we’d meet there again late night. We’d swap stories and stromboli and fill in the blanks for each other. It was hands down the most fun I’ve ever had.

photo 1Time marched on and, at this point in our thirties, we’ve all had our share of more-serious-soul-searching-filled-days. But those girls, they’ve remained. They laughed with me through the good relationships, and the bad. Sent cards when my health wavered. Stood beside me on my wedding day. And, celebrated the arrival of both of my children. A group text with them can brighten a whole day. An afternoon, just a single afternoon with them, can fill me back up when I’m at my most empty. A whole weekend with them. Well, ya’all, a whole weekend with my very bests can get me through the whole next year. I’m not even kidding! We aren’t inseparable anymore. We no longer share bedrooms, nights out and Taco Bell. Years have passed and things have changed. Many miles separate most of us. Our nights have evolved from crazy to calm, and though some of our bachelorette parties have gone down in infamy, these days we’d much rather curl up with extra-large glasses of wine and talk our way into the night. Who needs (or wants) to go out anyways?! 😉  But, somehow, as much as things change, they also stay the same. As much as I’m not the same girl I was back then, I’m also still exactly the same. No matter how many years pass, how often we see each other, or how our families change and grow, when we find ourselves together, it’s as if no time has passed at all. To us, we are still those same girls. We’re just MORE. That feeling that we get when we are all together – I almost don’t know how to describe it. It’s like going home. It’s refreshing and freeing. It’s a blast of cool, fresh air after too much time in the heat. I know it’s cliche, but we simply don’t miss a beat. It feels the same. They still love me just the same. These girls have held my hand and walked through this life with me. I love the memories that I have with them. I cherish my friendships with each of them. I am so grateful for that. In this season of my life, when I’m focused on being a mother and a wife, when time is so limited, I hope they each know that they have my heart. They are my true sisters.photo 2

1012119_10201560666643312_1893534321_n 396503_4773032008511_348280398_n 10401116_1052088147240_8001_n(Photos from 2014, 2013, 2012 – the last 3 years of girls-weekend-trips – AND one good ole’ pic from my wedding day in 2007!!)

The Post-Baby Body — It’s Okay if You Don’t Love It

40055_1570635430598_6005989_nA few months ago I read an amazing article by We Seek Joy on how “Babies Ruin Bodies.”  I agreed with every beautiful, poetic word that she wrote. I whole heartedly agreed when she said, “My body is full of life.  My body is powerful.  My body made me a mother.” In fact, I wanted to throw a fist in the air and shout, “Yes! Just, YES.” It was just so beautiful and so true.

Yet, for weeks after reading it, an unpleasant truth continued to nag me. I did find the whole experience of pregnancy and labor to be beautiful and amazing and magical. I did. Sort-of. I also found it to be exhausting and painful and kinda awful sometimes too. My body was strong. My body carried and birthed two children. I will forever be so proud of that. Of what I was able to do. The whole experience makes God feel so much closer. It is pure proof of his majestic work. Yet, afterwards, I hated my body. Now. Don’t get all bent out of shape. I wasn’t that hard on myself. I didn’t look in the mirror and continually beat myself up. I had other things to do. Important things. I was a mother. I stopped looking in the mirror. I was proud and I was strong. But, that doesn’t mean I was okay with my body. It’s been 10+ months since A entered this world and I still don’t love my body. I don’t hate it anymore. I’m working on liking it. But, I don’t love it yet either.

And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay. It is. It’s OKAY. I don’t have to feel bad about that ugly little fact. So what? So I hated my post-baby body. So what?! The naked body in the mirror – it wasn’t mine anyways. It couldn’t be! At first, it was barely even recognizable. I wouldn’t have even been able to choose it as my own in a line-up. It wasn’t me. I felt detached from myself. The way I felt about my body was entirely separate from the way I felt about my babies. Or, even the way I felt about pregnancy and labor. Childbirth is amazing and beautiful. What a woman’s body is capable of, the fact that we carry and birth our children. It’s impressive. We deserve to walk out of that hospital with an itty-bitty baby and the body of a goddess! We do. It should all be opposite, shouldn’t it? We get through it all, give birth, and are rewarded with the best bodies of our lives. Can I get an Amen?! But, that’s not the way it works. And, I’m not one to get hung up on “oh, but that’s not fair…” It is what it is. It might feel like a punishment when you have to diet and fight to get your “old” body back. But, it is what it is. So, I’ve decided, that it’s okay not to love your post-baby body. It’s simply okay. No questions. No guilt. Don’t feel guilty because someone told you that you should be proud. You can be proud and still not love your post-baby body. You can be both. You can be a million different thoughts and emotions. Own it. And then, move on – put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve stopped trying to get my “old” body back. I’m not the same girl as I was back then, so why should I have the same body. I’m not even sure I want the same body. What I do want though, is to look in the mirror and like what I see. Recognize what I see. Feel confident in what I see. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Forward march. I’m getting closer and closer. And, it the meantime, I’m still proud.

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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