Tag Archives: life

The Light Through the Cracks

I’m not a naturally optimistic person. My natural reaction is to think about the what-ifs and the worst case scenario. It takes a lot of work for me to look on the bright side of things — and it’s taken me a lot of practice.

I actually have Penelope Joy to thank for teaching me the most important lessons about optimism. I could have been destroyed by what happened to her — by what happened to us. I could have easily said: “See? I told you something bad would happen. I knew my what-if worries were reliable.”

Instead, though, I knew her life needed to matter. I knew that living in the negative parts of her story, of our story, would let too much dark in. It could have destroyed me, it could have destroyed my marriage. And, I’ll tell you what, looking at all of the wonderful about her short little life has made all the difference. It has allowed her light to shine on — breaking through any bit of darkness that makes its way in. Even when I get sad — which happens a lot this time of year — it’s a sadness haloed with light.

Penelope Joy

And that’s what keeps me working toward seeing the light in the darkness. It typically gets easier and easier — and, most of the time, I’m able to find the positive in a situation. Sometimes, like recently, though, things start to slide back to their natural resting state.

Usually, I don’t see it happening. It just … happens. This time Mr. B pointed it out, noting that my reactions to things have been more negative than positive, that I’m just not myself. My gut reaction was to be cranky about him saying that — but I realized it wasn’t judgy or mean-spirited. It was a loving husband noticing something very important about his wife: something was wrong.

What it was, I don’t know. I’m guessing it was a combination of a lot of things: Work is crazy-busy this time of year; I miss my Up North Family; Wink has been keeping me up, and I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a few weeks; it’s an emotional time of year; I don’t have (don’t make) a lot of me time … Like I said, probably a combination of things.

So, here I sit, in the middle of a reset. Resetting my mind. Resetting my focus. And rediscovering positivity — even when the easy option is to settle in with the reactions that come more naturally to me. After all, there are countless wonderful, positive things happening in my life — and they deserve the focus light and attention. They deserve the light.

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Does this mean that everything is going to make me happy? That I won’t have cranky days or get annoyed now and again? That I won’t ever have a negative reaction to something? That I won’t just need to have a big ol’ cry some day(s)? Absolutely not. Because I am a work in progress. And, mainly, because that’s not how life is. Life is meant to be lived and experienced — to its full emotional capacity.

But, taking a positive outlook on life in general and reacting positively to the people and things around me is going to go a lot further in making my world a better, more positive place. I also believe that what I put into the universe is what’s going to come back to me. Sometimes it just takes a little reminder and a slight nudge from someone who loves me to remind me of what I already know.

Plus, I think our world can use as many positive vibes as possible right now. So that’s what I’ll be sending trying to send out into the world whenever I can. Because there is light in the darkness. Because #lovewins.

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The End of Another Chapter

I woke up the other day and realized another milestone in Dottie’s life had passed: it had been a week since she’d nursed. How did it take me a week to realize there was no more breastfeeding? It happened so suddenly — without any of the pomp and circumstance that most milestones receive. There were no balloons. There was no confetti. There were no pictures. There was no cake! If nothing else, an occasion as momentous as this one at least deserves a slice of cheesecake.

But … there it was, an early morning wake-up without Dottie nursing as she woke the rest of the way up. To be honest, for a while it had been mostly just bedtime and wake-up nursing. I so looked forward to those quiet moments when she’d snuggle up close to me and nurse while we began or finished our day.

Breastfeeding and pumping was not easy for me. But I was determined to make it to a year breastfeeding. At a year, if she decided she was done, that’s what it would be. But, she kept wanting to nurse and as soon as the pressure to pump and provide bottles for her was removed, I relaxed and was able to enjoy it — with far fewer tears than the pump brought me.

If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be nursing a 21-month-old, I never would have believed you. If you’d have told me that I’d be nursing a 21-month-old well into my second trimester of my next pregnancy, I would have told you you were crazy.

It’s worked for us, though. Most importantly, it’s worked for Dottie. I’ve always followed her lead. I nursed her when she was hungry, not on my schedule. And I promised we’d be done nursing only when she was done.

Feeding Dottie

And, so here we are again — the tears have found me once more. This time, not because breastfeeding is hard and exhausting and I don’t know if I can do it anymore. This time, it’s because I miss it. I miss that special part of my relationship with Dottie. I’m sad that that part of our story is over. Mostly, I’m sad that I don’t even remember it ending.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the bond we created while breastfeeding isn’t just going to go away because Dottie isn’t nursing anymore. And I knew, eventually, that part of our relationship had to end. It’s just another chapter in our family’s love story that will close as we move on to the next chapter.

Thankfully, Dottie is very free with her hugs and kisses, often stopping right in the middle of what she’s doing, running over to Mr. B or me and asking for “kisses, please.” Hugs are given freely, and snuggles (‘nuggles) are abundant. There is a lot of love in our little toddler. And our closeness isn’t going to end just because she’s not nursing anymore. I just wish there had been some warning. And cheesecake.

snuggles

 

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Living Life on Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about Purpose lately. I follow a lot of amazingly creative and inspirational women on various social media channels. (OK, Instagram. Mostly Instagram.) And many of them have one thing in common: they quit their day jobs to pursue their Ultimate Purpose. They threw caution to the wind, took a leap of faith and … they’re just doing it. And so many of them are killing it.

It’s not just on Instagram, though, it’s everywhere. It seems like everywhere I turn, there’s a new podcast or blog or book inspiring people to live their Purpose. To stop what they’re doing if it isn’t their True Calling, their Purpose, in order to do something that fills their soul and their whole being.

It can be contagious. Some days I listen to some of these podcasts and feel so inspired and driven to do something more — something bigger with my life.

Other days, though, it makes me feel so … inadequate. Like I’m some kind of failure because I’m not actively seeking, discovering and living my Purpose. This “push toward Purpose” makes me feel like I’m not doing enough with my life. Like I am not enough.

But, when I think about it, when I really, really think about it, I know that the life I’m living is fulfilling my Purpose. Because I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.

I don’t think Purpose is one thing; I think it is all things.

It’s not fair to expect one area of my life to provide everything my soul  needs to feel fulfilled, to live with Purpose. From my job to my family to my volunteer work — expecting one area of my life to fill my entire mind, body and soul with Purpose puts an awful lot of pressure on it.

Instead, I’m learning to think of my Purpose as my life, as a whole. It is in how I live every day. It is in what I put out into the world. It is in my work ethic, my dedication and the way I interact with others at work; it is in my passion, my open arms and my unending love at home; it is in my commitment, my time and my generosity when volunteering.

It is in finding the pieces of all areas of my life that make my soul come alive — at work, at home and everywhere I go. Because that is what the world needs: people passionately living their lives in ways that make them come alive — and sharing that spark with others. That is Purpose.

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When Nothing Goes As Planned

As our Sunday winds down, with Mr. B and me hanging out on the back porch reading and writing to the glow of citronella candles, I can’t help but feel like we just experienced a life-affirming weekend.

It didn’t start out that way. Far from it, actually. Wednesday afternoon, Dottie Lou came down with a fever — which progressively got worse, topping out about about 103.4 Wednesday evening. After a sleepless night for Dottie and Mama, Thursday morning, we took her to the doctor, though by then her fever was gone and she was acting like her normal self. The doctor couldn’t see anything really wrong with her and sent us on our way.

By Thursday afternoon/evening, the fever was back. Bringing with it screams and cries and moans. My poor baby was in horrible pain — but from what, we couldn’t tell. After dealing with just over an hour of ceaseless screams, we called the nurse line at the pediatrician’s office. They couldn’t offer much because Dorothy didn’t have any other symptoms, and the fever was controlled with Motrin.

Poor Dottie slept a total of about five minutes that night. Mama, too, as Dottie thrashed and kicked and screamed. But Friday morning, she woke up — again — fever-free and happy as her normal self. At this point, I was super confused. Until I buckled her in to her car seat. That’s when I saw a few red spots on her hands and a couple on her feet. A quick trip to the doctor’s walk-in clinic hours confirmed it: hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

No daycare. And no work for Mama. We pretty much quarantined ourselves in the house all day Friday — with me washing my hands often enough that they got pretty raw. My attitude found itself a little on the raw side, too, as I cursed hand-foot-and-mouth for taking away the wondrous weekend I had in my mind. Running errands, hanging out at the park, shopping for a few wants I had, tackling a springtime to-do list. This weekend, like a lot of others, was pretty much planned out before it even started.

But hand-foot-and-mouth wiped the slate clean, as we found ourselves pretty much stuck to our little corner of the earth — trying to keep Dottie from exposing any other kids to this nasty sickness.

And, you know what? This has been one of my most favorite weekends in recent memory.

Friday after work Mr. B and I took Dottie to a local hiking trail, where we knew we could avoid running into anyone or touching any surfaces someone else might later touch. We put Dottie on the ground and let her roam free. She made it about 50 feet before she sat down and started digging in the dirt with her hands, followed by some running through the crunchy leaves. And, she was so very happy.

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It wasn’t a long trip because Dottie tired quickly. But, it was a good bit of fresh air that she and I both needed.

And, Saturday, with nothing to do, we finally put up Dottie’s swing set and filled her sandbox. We spent much of the day alternating between the warmth and sunshine of our backyard and the cool protection of our home. We went at Dottie’s pace and just enjoyed ourselves — no agendas, no to-do lists, no plans. I couldn’t stop feeling like I was on a different planet, looking at my life from the outside. I felt my life’s purpose being refreshed before my eyes. Dottie was happy. I was happy. Life was — life is — good.

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Today was much the same. Though we had intended to go to church, I felt it was best to keep Dottie away from other kiddos still. So, we hung out, had a picnic lunch and just spent time enjoying each other’s company. Dottie learned lots of new things, like how to get on the back porch without any help, how to peek under the fence at the neighbor’s dog and how to drive Mama crazy by repeating the same phrase over and over (and over and over), knowing that Mama couldn’t figure out what she was actually saying.

We topped off the weekend by sharing with Dottie one of our favorite things about spring- and summertime in Michigan: the return of the ice cream shops.

Being without a plan and without a to-do list tends to throw my world into chaos. I like things in front of me so I can see them, anticipate them and then anticipate what I can do if something goes wrong.

Life has been really great about trying to teach me that I really don’t have any control over anything — in big ways and small ways. Thankfully, hand-foot-and-mouth — though not fun and definitely painful for Dottie Lou — is a pretty small thing in the grand scheme of life.

So, I find myself, sitting here on the back porch, watching the candles dance in the breeze, feeling really thankful for the blessing in disguise this weekend. This “quarantine” forced me to focus — really focus— on what’s really important. And I’m going into this new week feeling refreshed and renewed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have this week’s planner calling my name — those to-do lists won’t write themselves!

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Drink the Good Wine

The other day I came home after a trying day and wanted a glass of wine. In fact, I had been very much looking forward to it. Mr. B offered to pour me a glass — but not before I told him not to open “the good wine” because I was saving it for Company.

Instead, he opened a bottle of some wine we’d bought on vacation that neither one of us could remember (the wine, that is — we both remembered the vacation). He poured us both a glass. And, the wine was not good. At all. Down the drain it went.

So, he opened a second bottle that we’d purchased some time back — a wine I knew wasn’t great, but the only other red we had was our “good” stuff. And, well, still saving that good stuff for Company. (Who is this Company person who is so important, anyway? I do not know.)

The second glass of wine followed that first glass right down the drain. And the rest of the bottle followed — I didn’t even want it around to cook with. (Because, let’s be honest, when I say I cook with wine, I really mean I enjoy a glass while I’m cooking.)

The whole situation got me thinking, though. Why do I always save the good wine for Company? (A. we never have Company and B. it’s my wine — I should be able to drink a glass if I want.)

And then I thought some more: I always make sure our house is clean for Company. And I have good snacks for Company. And I light candles for Company.

Seriously?! Who is this “Company” and why does she get everything nice? I was starting to get super annoyed with myself.

Last night, though, I decided something: I’m not waiting for Company any more. I’m going to drink the good wine. And eat the good snacks. And light myself a dang candle every now and again. And I’m going to do a better job of think about picking up the house for me and my family.

Because, let’s face it,  life is short. And I’m worth it. I’m going to drink the good wine.

Mr and Mrs B wine

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Finding my ‘Fringe Hours’

I don’t really “do” resolutions. But, with a new year ahead of us — yes, I realize we’re almost a full month in — it is a good time to look back and look ahead. In looking back over the past few years, I sometimes don’t know how I made it out. In ways, I’m surprised I survived. There have been a lot of times I could have just closed my door, crawled under the covers and waved the white flag — honestly, I can’t say that anyone would have blamed me.

But if I had done that, I would have missed out on some of the most beautiful days of my life. Days when the love of friends, family and strangers warmed up the coldest parts of my heart. Days when the sun glistened just so on the snow, reminding me of the life that lives even when everything around it appears dead. Days when a little girl looked up at me with wide eyes and said “Mama, up!” and leaned her head in for a kiss — “mmmmmwah!”

 

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Even in living — and loving — those moments, I sometimes find myself living on the periphery, struggling to be present. To appreciate today without looking to tomorrow and what may be. To set aside the things that are stressing me out in the moment to sit on the floor and read a book (for the 100th, 1,000th, millionth time) with Dottie Lou. To sit quietly with Mr. B and enjoy the stillness of our house when Dottie actually (!) goes down for a nap.

It was with this in mind that I joined an online study/support/inspiration group of like-minded Christian women, seeking to live a more intentional life — to “grow what matters.”

Each month we’ll be reading a book and discussing it in an online/Facebook forum. Our first book is “The Fringe Hours” by Jessica Turner. It talks about how to make time in your schedule for yourself — to make sure your cup (your spirit) is full as you help to fill the cups of those around you.

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Boy do I struggle with this. I tend to fill all of my down time: I say “yes” more often than I should and I take on projects because I can, not because I should. I also turn down “fun” nights out with friends out of the fear (guilt?) of leaving Dottie and Mr. B alone after we’ve been apart all day long.

Mind you, this is no one’s fault but my own. Mr. B is very generous with his time and offers to make sure that I get some “me” time, even if it’s just a half hour for me to take a bubble bath. And we have plenty of offers from babysitters. My inability to set aside time for me is a problem I’ve created for myself.

 

In reading “The Fringe Hours” (during my fringe hours) I’m finding myself taking out my highlighter and pen to make notes to myself — sure am glad I opted for the hard copy rather than my Kindle on this one.

In one section, the book asks us to list the roles we have in our life: mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, volunteer, publisher.

It then goes on to list the things that excite us, that make our hearts race: being Dottie’s mom, being Mr. B’s wife, writing things people enjoy reading, helping people thrive, learning new things.

The point is not to say the roles/jobs listed in the first question don’t matter. Because they do. Rather, it is to make sure we’re also filling our lives with more of the things that make our hearts race.

So, that’s my goal for myself — not just for the new year, but for … forever: to fill my life with more things that truly excite me, to focus on those things in my life that make my heart race and to better use my “yes” and “no.” I want to spend more time being present with Dottie and Mr. B. I need to do more writing and become a better servant. I am challenging myself to take time for the things that fill my cup — I want to live a life that fulfills me. And I want to show Dottie, by my example, that she can have that, too.

If you haven’t thought about it yet, I’d encourage you to make a couple lists of your own. What are the roles you have? What are the things that make your heart race?

Brene

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Underbritches and Tears

This is a short blog post about nothing. (And also about everything.) You’ve been warned.

Today, as I was folding laundry — Mr. B’s underbritches, to be specific — I started crying. Mr. B was sitting next to me on the couch, and I turned to him:

“I never knew that I really wanted get married or have kids. But, this is exactly what I would have wanted it to be.”

And folded more underbritches. And then I cried a little more.

“I am,” I said, “so very happy.”

Laundry piled high

Crying over my piled-high laundry.

Our life is nothing special. Really: our house is a mess; our yard needs raking; our bank account never seems to have enough in it; and our days are never quite long enough to get everything done.

But it is perfect.

Like today: we’re having a family day — that started with some extra snuggles and reaaaaallllly stretching out our wake-up routine.

Dottie and Mr B snuggles

A couple of us weren’t quite ready to face the day.

From there, we made a trip to the gym and a quick stop at the store. The rest of the day we’ve been at home, just hanging out and doing home-type things. Laundry. Dishes. Picking up. Dottie Lou even gave us some mom-and-dad time while she napped in her own crib! (Time that we filled with sweat pants and couch-snuggles. Just what this rainy day called for.)

Rainy day, "thank you Dottie" snuggles with Mr. B.

Rainy day, “thank you Dottie” snuggles with Mr. B.

This definitely isn’t what I pictured for my life — and not really what I had planned.

Boy am I glad I was wrong.

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
— Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers” —

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