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mind-over-motherhood

Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

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A Good Girlfriend is Cheaper than Therapy

Renovating Our Own Cathedrals

I know I’ve been absent for far too long.

However, I did begin writing again earlier this week.  When I finish it, I’ll post it, but something else took precedence today.

And that’s just where I am this week. Pondering my absence.

In an attempt not to be absent in all facets of my life, I sent a text to a dear friend this morning to check in with her on a prayer request she had shared with me a few weeks ago.  Her response was a little like a mini jack-hammer to me. Not in a destructive way, but in a way that shakes you so as you can’t help but give it your full attention. She said that I had been on her mind and heart; that she had a feeling I needed to talk.

Little did I know, I really, really did need to talk.  So talk, we did. And it was Good – with a capital G.

————

I’ve talked about this before (Losing Myself in the Building of Cathedrals), but sometimes I think we get to a point in our lives where we are so busy building our little Cathedrals that we get lost in them. And well, there are times that it just has to be that way.  But there are other times, when we are busy working away on their little cathedrals, all the while thinking that our own cathedral – built long ago – is sturdy as a rock and standing the test of time – only to find out that maybe it’s not.

Usually things that were built way-back-when seem to be built better than the new stuff. It seems like older structures are more sturdy, more sound. But, guess what? Not always the case. Sometimes, the ancient things crumble. Especially if they aren’t getting the regular maintenance and attention they need.

This blog has focused on giving my cathedral the little stuff it needs so it can keep on standing firm while the building of the little cathedrals happens.

Sometimes that little stuff  means my cathedral just needs a new coat of paint.. and something like a girls trip to the beach adds enough color to your skin to take care of it. 🙂

Sometimes, our mom-cathedrals just need a little landscaping.. and a trip to the salon for a haircut – or a mani/pedi spruces things up and makes things feel tranquil again.

Sometimes it’s the simple little maintenance that holds it all together.

And then other times, a cathedral has serious foundation issues.. something for REAL that rocks it to the ground.  – People get sick. Really sick. People lose their way. They lose their partner. Or a friend. Or a parent.  — Serious foundation issues. — The ones that cause destruction, requiring total demo and huge construction crews to build it back.

Thankfully, my cathedral doesn’t have serious foundation issues right now.  But if it did, I know the construction crew that I would call in to do the job.

You know those friends. The Tried and True Friends. The friends that make you feel comfortable showing all of your cracks, at the same time making you confident in the beauty in your age.  They’re the friends that have Faith in the One Great Architect.  They’re the friends that He sent to me in my earlier building stages… and that the One Great Architect is still sending my way with each new phase of life.

——————

Today one of my most beloved and experienced construction crew told me just exactly what I needed to hear as I struggled to figure out what needed to be rearranged and renovated in my Cathedral.  It was simple really. Everything is in place;  she just reminded me that I need to clean the windows and let the light shine in on it.*  The light can’t shine in if you aren’t cleaning the windows regularly.

The important thing here is found in this quote I read today:

“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you?  A place for you to go…  a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman…  a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining and steadying you as you sought to become yourself.  A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself…  waiting to be released… A place of women.  How might your life be different?”  ~Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones

Do you have an expert construction crew? Do you consult with them often enough? And do you thank the ONE GREAT ARCHITECT for them and the gifts He Graced them with? Because, today especially, I sure do.

 

*  I need to give my faith life a little more time and attention.

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, Louisiana – photographer unknown

My Favorite 4-Letter Word

I mentioned in a earlier post that my Mom-in-love came to visit recently for Spring Break. (I call her this because mother-in-law has such a negative connotation, and she is not your typical mom-in-law.. she’s wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoy her company. She coined the term “in-loves” instead of “in-laws” a while back, and there is no better use for it than to refer to her as Mom-in-love!) Shortly after her departure my youngest little bird (who is 8) was goofing off with her wonderful-and-pretty-incredible Dad when she yelled (with great fervor) at him, “You scared the HELL out of me!” Emphasis on the word “hell”, of course. – He explained to her that terms like that are not appropriate for kids to use.. then we quietly laughed after she went upstairs.  I decided that it was far too convenient not to jokingly blame Grandma for my little Starling’s new addition to her repertoire. BUT if I’m being honest, it is more likely to have come from me.  My only shred of hope that I hadn’t taught my child to speak this way was hanging on the fact that “hell” is not usually my favorite choice of 4-letter words. I try so very hard to reign in such things around the kids (and everyone else), but honestly, when I’m tired there’s one sneaky little word that has a mind of its own. It just comes out without any cognizant decision on my part. It just happens.

And that got me thinking.

Thinking about the beginnings of my blog – one email in particular that I wrote during a really rough motherhood week a few years ago. My “there’s been some damage” girls used to get (and send) emails like this often, but their encouragement and response to this one was what would eventually help me work up the courage to start this blog.

And so, the following post IS that original email.. copied from my sent box and pasted here. With no editing or revisions.  Though that part was hard, because this was written to the kind of friends you can (and do) say anything – and everything – to. This conversation would have been edited had I been sending it to almost anyone else. That’s your warning. It’s real. And a bit raw for me. And it is likely a bit TMI at moments. BUT this is how I survived the early years of my motherhood (VENTING), and so I’m sharing it. In its entirety.  Transparency is a scary, vulnerable thing. But I’m doing it anyway.

Because after all, the whole premise of this post is that using certain words sometimes just make you feel better. Here’s my word:

From: Jenny
To: Christy; Julie
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:49:43 PM
Subject: Sh*%.

I’m tired. I’ve been cooped up in the house with sick kids for 8 days. Their fever is high enough to keep them out of school, but not out of my hair. They wake themselves coughing at all hours of the night and come get in the bed with us. I woke the other night with a knee to the rib to find two of them that didn’t belong in the bed with us and me clinging to the edge so as not to hit the floor. I’m tired.

The oldest has decided to be difficult and has developed a mental block towards having to write. All they do in Florida schools is write. Day in and day out. They write. I should have taken stock in those damn marble journals because I had to buy 16 of them at the beginning of the school year. And 14,000 pencils. Every time he has to write for homework, he throws a fit (picture an almost 10-year-old throwing a full-blown 2-year-old pounding and kicking on the floor of the grocery store style fit), fights with me and tells me “I’m not doing it and you can’t make me.” or my favorite: “I don’t care if I flunk out of school.”  His teacher goes to our church. Her daughter is in the Sunday School class next to his. We talk. She’s finding it challenging to get him to write at school, as well, though she will not give up on him and continues to challenge him in this area. He missed recess 4 days in a row week before last (he was out with a fever the entire last week) because he refused to do his classroom assigned writing. Lovely. Again today, he fought me all afternoon about writing his homework.

My husband came home at 5:30 in time to eat the dinner I cooked {have I mentioned that I hate cooking?!}  while fighting said kid over said writing homework. The husband promptly stated that the current fever-running kid was in desperate need of a bath from a parent because she doesn’t really clean herself. I say “go for it” – he says he has to go to a meeting at church. Note to self. One extra night without sex at the end of this cycle. ** {I can’t believe I am leaving this part in here . PLEASE see my footnote.}

Which by the way I just started AGAIN today on day 24 of my cycle. Again. It won’t stop. Pre-mental-pause. I typed it that way on purpose. Apparently I should have also bought stock in the Tampax company.

My nose is stopped up. My head feels swollen and is pounding. I buy vats of Ibuprofen and will probably die an early death from whatever disease I am getting from taking too much of it. If I had purchased stock in Ibuprofen, I’d be rolling in money and could pay someone else to make the boy do his writing homework. I am running the lowest grade fever ever. Just enough to make me feel exhausted, but not enough to curb the appetite I have because of said “period”  coupled with the “I’m-bored-stuck-in-the-house-and-eating-everything-in-sight” binge I’m on. And there is Valentine candy in the house that I am supposed to be putting in cute little baggies to send to school. But instead I am putting it all into my not-so-cute mouth which is currently covered in a very large and uncomfortable fever blister. Lovely. (Have we reached the point of too much info, yet?). Nope, we haven’t.

The pediatrician told me to start giving stinky kid #2 myralax twice a day to help with some issues that she is having.. that have nothing to do with the fever she is currently running. We are on day #2 of the stuff that helps her go #2.  Today it worked. Very well apparently. And apparently the low grade fever is just enough to prevent her from being able to lift her arm high enough to find the flush handle on the toilet. Every toilet I have been to in the house tonight has brown water with little floaters in it. Now you wish I had stopped at the last paragraph. But I’m about to make it worth the reading of this paragraph.

Refer back to paragraph #2 and take it into consideration as you read the following. Today was the big 4th grade “FLORIDA WRITES” day. State-wide “testing” they do in 4th grade to evaluate how effective their writing grants have been. The teachers are evaluated greatly on their class average on said writing test.

So, I get a phone call today and the caller ID showed that dreaded Name of the County School.

I answered it despite my fear.. because  this usually means one of  my kids is sick and I have to pick them up.

“Jenny, this is Shelby.” (My non-writing son’s teacher. All I can think is.. ”Oh hell”….)

“Your son gave me a heart attack today. He wouldn’t write during our testing time. He just sat there with an angry look on his face and twirling his pencil… with the veins in his neck protruding..”

Here it is ladies.. the moment that will make you so proud to be my friend….Have I ever told either of you that I curse without realizing it when I am tired?

And that [the WAPI husband] has even made jokes that he was surprised none of our kids’ first word wasn’t “shit”.. because I would say it in my sleep when they would start crying to nurse in the night.. or even still when they come in and wake me up in the middle of the night. (Ok, fine. In the morning, too.)

I like the word “shit”. Sometimes it just makes me feel better to say it. You know, just release the tension with the word “shit.”  Apparently it made {my Pelican, aka kid #2} feel better today too. Shit coming out sometimes is a good thing.

BUT — not so much in this moment.

On the phone – with my son’s teacher – I let out a loud.. all caps, bold, with exclamation point… “SHIIIIIT!”  Yep. I cursed my kid’s teacher today.

It just happened. Kind of like when I am asleep. You know.. at that point where you are too asleep to control what you are doing but awake just enough to be conscious of it? Before any conscious thought came to my head at all – like an out of body experience.. you know like you are listening to someone else say something in your head?

“SHIT.”

Blame it on the tired or the pre-MENTAL pause or the PMS.. or the combination of them all, but still it doesn’t negate the fact that I said it.

To the teacher.  On the phone. Who was calling to tell me… after my inserted “SHIT”.. that my son made her so proud, because after sitting there for 15 minutes.. almost breaking down, almost crying,  he recovered his composure (which she was surely realizing is a trait he did NOT get from his mother). And he did it!  He wrote the prompt in the given time allowed and put his pencil on this desk with a giant smile of pride on his face.

I can’t ever go to church again. I might see her and we’ll both be thinking about my big “SHIT” all the way through mass.

Sharing is good. If you can’t bring laughter through totally embarrassing moments, then you’ll just have to crawl in a hole, right? 🙂

I’m going to put these kids in bed and pour a glass of wine and dream of our girls weekend!

{End email}

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

** OK, I’m going a little outside of my comfort zone by not editing this part OUT, because yes, even I believe there is such a thing as too much information – but in the spirit of trying to be honest.. that’s what I really said in the email, so here it is. For the entire world to see.  Even though I didn’t really mean it and only said it in attempt to be able to laugh at the situation.  My WAPI husband is such a good sport – I’m thankful for that. I’m also grateful that he is comfortable with my open-book style in this blog. See? Wonderful and pretty incredible.. EVEN when I’m at the end of my rope with the little birds and take it out on him.

Losing Myself in the Building of Cathedrals

I can’t really claim this post as my own. I received what will follow my comments in an email from a dear friend today. It isn’t the first time I’ve received/read it, and it will not be the last. And yet each time I have opened an email that contained this forwarded story, it has happened to be on a day when I most desperately needed it. Sometimes in our struggle  to maintain some individual identity as M.O.M.s, we also have to figure out how to be OK with those days when it becomes impossible to achieve such a thing (and try again tomorrow.)

This post is for those days when it’s just unavoidable.. the ones where just me has no choice but to get lost in the motherhood. — And today was definitely one of those days…until I read this again. For those days, remember that it’s okay when “the building of great Cathedrals” trumps putting your name in the stones. (And by the way, I’m pretty certain that those who built the great Cathedrals also had some sort of separate life of their own when their work was done.)

As forwarded to me:

THE INVISIBLE MOM
One of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ 
    
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?? 
        
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the 
Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
        
Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock?, Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’ 

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature – but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone! 
        
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’ 

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
     
A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you 
spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ 
     
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
       
No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become. 
        
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’ 
        
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.”

* Thanks to my friend, Jenny, who sent this to me, then did the research that allows me to give due credit for this story to Nicole Johnson http://freshbrewedlife.sonacart.com/content/about-nicole – it appears that the version I have copied and pasted here has been paraphrased and edited by the hundreds of women who have forwarded it on via their email.

And just for fun — some photos of my very favorite “cathedrals” :

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