Posted in Friday Rambles

Hindsight’s 20/40

((Today’s “Friday Ramble” is less of a ramble, and more of a poem.  I had some metaphors and words rolling around in my head, and thought they would fit better this way.  I love the succinctness of poetry!))

 

Looking back, I see shapes

And not the little details

Overall trends, and in-the-ends

While finer lines have blurred

 

The way I was raised,

How others behaved,

Near misses and near hits.

My own mistakes, humility

Driving me to this:

 

Losing my vision, forgetting the things

That put me on my high horse

Far-sighted eyes, the gift of age

Compromise, to set the stage

For “West from East,”

Far side of the sea –

Forgiveness, they say.

The very best way.

 

A little bit blind

A lot forgetful

Far sighted, and deaf, and possibly dumb

After it all, I’m thankful

 

What about you?  As you get older, do you find yourself losing your hearing, vision, or memory – literally or metaphorically?  Is it becoming easier or harder to forgive?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

Moms are People Too!

Recently, I took a break from household and childminding duties to watch an educational video about music therapy.  It felt like a breath of fresh air.  Not because of any ground-breaking content, but because it had been so long since I was in my ‘element.’  So long since I had heard someone speaking my language – talking about the area I had studied and worked in.  I felt a scholarly and professional comradery with the video-taped members of the audience, despite my vast removal from them, as a stay-at-home-mom who no longer works in that field.

After watching the speech and taking notes on it, I felt as though something had come alive in me again.  Something I had been ignoring.  But why had I neglected that part of myself for so long?

Having unique interests, and allowing yourself time and freedom to explore them, is a part of what it means to have healthy personal boundaries.  A person with healthy boundaries will also:

  • Have their own opinions, without fearing what others will think – and will respect the rights of others to do the same.
  • Have a unique identity (sense of self) that is not consumed by any one particular role, or person.
  • Know that their value is innate, and not dictated by what they do or how other people view them.
  • See their personality as valid and overall good, rather than berating themselves (for being too shy and quiet, perhaps; or, too loud and exhuberant).  They will also enjoy and respect the personalities of other people.
  • Be aware of their own feelings, and take personal responsibility for them.  (See this post.)

In short, a person with healthy boundaries will respect him or herself, and also be respectful of others.

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Cultivating a healthy sense of personal boundaries is a skill that does not come naturally to everyone.  Perhaps you grew up in an enmeshed family, where these unique aspects of who you are were not nurtured.  Instead, you were expected to change or hide them in order to please other members of the family.

If this is the case, the same tendencies may continue into adulthood.  For moms of young children (a role that can be all-consuming), the topic of personal boundaries may be of particular importance.  I’ve heard moms say that they have forgotten who they are.  I would tend to identify with this statement.  Our responsibility to love and care for our children is essential for their well-being.  However, it is better (for ourselves and our children) that we also retain some sense of self, apart from being moms.  In this way, we will avoid using our kids to meet our own emotional needs.  We will also show them the example of a parent who enjoys her life, is able to care about others, and makes unique and positive contributions within the family and beyond.  That is an example I would like my kids to follow!

We’re allowed to have individual interests and opinions.  We’re allowed to say ‘no,’ and ‘stop.’  We can be ourselves: our personalities are valid and acceptable just as they are.  We each have failings but are not condemned by them, because we can receive forgiveness and are able to grow in character.

To develop this in my own life, I am becoming more aware of my wants, likes, and dislikes.  I even express them verbally from time to time.  I’m trying to be ok with standing in a crowd.  (Even if I feel awkward or funny looking.)  I’m researching educational and career options within the realities of my life.  I’m trying not to berate myself for the things I cannot do.  Rather, I am focusing on the things I do well.

For whatever reason, God wanted one of me.  So here I am.

What have you lost yourself in?  If you are a mom, how do you retain your sense of identity?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note:  If you are interested in learning more about personal and relational boundaries, I would recommend consulting the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  It is the source of much of what I have learned on the topic.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

Posted in Friday Rambles

Because it Hurts

The reason it’s hard to take pictures and videos of my kids, knowing the fullness of the moment could never be captured and I will miss something of it by hiding behind my camera or phone.  And, the reason it’s even harder to view them later, feeling an acute sense of loss over the passing of time.

It’s the reason that, though I want to write down every moment and record it just as it happens, I can’t bring myself to do it, knowing I will inevitably miss things or record them wrong.  And the reason that later, I avoid reading what I’ve written.

Because it hurts.  We cannot hang on to the way things were, or even the way they are right now.  I’ve heard it said that the only constant in life is change.  Perhaps I have become more aware of this since having children, because they (and thus the family’s experience) change so rapidly.  There’s no going back; every moment is a fleeting one.

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It’s also the reason, that we keep busy enough to distract ourselves from the passing of time.  A decade may be over in a blink, without much thought or reflection.  From a short-term perspective, it’s easier this way.  Eventually, though, the feelings we have ignored may catch up with us.  When the kids move out, perhaps.  When we sell the house.  Or retire.  Or when death approaches.  A large, jarring change yanks us from the steady rhythm of our lives, and suddenly, we become aware of 1000+ minor adjustments that have led to this point.  Maybe this is partly why we cry at momentous occasions, when we are forced to stop and take notice: graduations, weddings.  Births.  Funerals.

I used to work with elderly people in personal care homes.  Depression there was rampant, because time had caught up.  Things were not the way they were.

And, no, they’re not.  They never are.  They never will be again.  They are, in a way, lost.

And that, I believe, is what hurts so badly.

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But according to what the Bible teaches, God is outside of time.  He created it, and is therefore not bound by it.  He counts our hairs, and saves our tears, and writes down the times of our lives in His book – just like I try to do with my kids.

This softens the blow, when I view a photo or read something from years ago, and feel that sharp pang of loss.  It gives me the courage to continue recording, in my meager way, the history of my family.

Although the joy of our earthly moments may diminish, change, or dissipate the moment we glance away, these moments are also important to God.  And He remembers them all.

They are not lost.  They are entrusted, to the One who gave them, in the first place.

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

“Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16b

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Do you find it painful to reminisce?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

On Life as a (Severely) Introverted Mother

“On the last day of a golden summer…”

I remember with a smile those words, which began a Winnie the Pooh video (on VHS) that I used to watch as a child.

As a youngster, the end of summer was an emotionally intense time for me – fraught with both melancholy and nervous excitement.  Though summer was over, the fall would bring new experiences, responsibilities, and opportunities.

To process these feelings, I would slip away by myself.  I grew up in a house at the end of a long country road, which diminished to a set of tracks beyond our driveway turn-off.  The only ones who ever ventured down those tracks were the farmers who owned the land where they ended, the odd vehicle that had lost its way (or was up to no good), and myself.  If I were lucky, the farmer had made a few hay bales and left them laying around.  They were challenging to climb, and a conquest to sit on.  From the top, I could see across the fields.  The pasture had a few small rolling hills, which were odd and beautiful to my prairie-accustomed eyes.

There, atop the bales, beyond my parents’ property line, I felt independent and free.  Free to think, write, or imagine anything I wanted.  I loved the solitude.

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Now, at the end of my 35th summer, I wish I could go back there.  Just for an hour or two.  I miss being able to retreat to a solitary place whenever I want or need to.  As a mom of rambunctious boys, it can be hard to deal with my introverted nature.  The inescapable, dawn-to-dusk clamour of children, as wonderful as it is, has the potential of driving me to madness.

Today I have mostly sat, drunk coffee, watched my children play, broken up fights, prepared their meals, and fetched things for them.  Somewhere in between, I put in a load of dishes and helped to pick up toys in the basement.  I read a chapter of the Bible, broken up into several sections of about 5 verses each (because of constant interruptions), and journalled a short prayer.  I have not been industrious in any way.  I’ve done the minimum.

It sounds like I’m being lazy.  But in my mind, I’m just trying to stay sane.  Sometimes when I have work projects on the go, I need to stop every 2-5 minutes to tend to something with the children.  Hours or days of this will leave me feeling frazzled, at the very least.

So every once in a while, when I feel that I’m starting to get batty, I allow myself a day of only just getting by.  I complete the necessary duties, and let the others fall by the wayside.  In between the children’s events, I attempt to settle my mind, and process my emotions.  I know that at any moment, my stillness could be disturbed – and that needs to be ok.  However, each interruption will delay my ability to switch back into “work mode.”  (I suppose this is why it usually takes an entire day.)

As an adolescent, a friend once told me that I “think a lot.”  I tried to explain by likening the process to cleaning out our desk drawers at school.  After sorting them through, organizing them, and throwing out the junk, we are able to work more efficiently.

And that’s what I’ve been doing today.  Writing this post, actually, is a part of it.  As I complete these paragraphs, I experience a sense of relief.

Can anyone relate?  Are there other severely introverted moms out there?  How do you cope?

I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

The Night the Sky had Eyes

“Has eyes,” he said to me in his lispy, somewhat garbled, 2-year-old speech.  I leaned on the side of his air mattress and peered up through the screened ceiling of our tent, trying to gain his perspective.  Tree branches arched overtop, and twilit sky shone through their leaves, producing a mottled effect.  Two or three stars began to wink as the daylight faded.

“What has eyes, honey?  The sky?  The trees?  The stars?  No, they don’t have eyes.  I have eyes, see?  And you do.  But they don’t.”

“Has eyes,” he repeated in a whisper, tilting his head.

Whatever it was that ‘had eyes,’ it was sufficiently worrisome to prevent him from going to sleep.  And so it was decided, between my husband and I, to head outside and put the fly over the tent.  The air may have been perfect for a breeze, and the sky for gazing, but we would sacrifice them to avoid having to deal with a sleep-deprived toddler in the morning.

Throughout the camping trip, it was apparent that our young son had a decidedly unique way of viewing his experiences.  On the way to the campground, the old Ukrainian orthodox churches we passed, with their onion-shaped steeples, were ‘castles.’  The distant silhouette of trees against the horizon, appearing to move backwards as we drove past, was a ‘train.’

And perhaps the most surprising event came later on, at the beach.  I was pulling him to the shore after holding him up in the deeper water, when his feet brushed against the sandy bottom of the shallows.  He immediately flew into hysterics, screaming loudly and pulling his knees to his chest.  His facial expression and the calibre of his voice portrayed a terror that could not have been simulated.

“It’s okay, put your feet down!  That’s just the shore!” I called above the clamour he was making.  However, my words, to him, were empty.  The squishy, yet firm and somewhat slimy surface he had bumped into was most assuredly, in his mind, some horrific entity.  A giant fish, perhaps.  Or a sea creature.  It was going to eat him…or worse.

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We couldn’t help but laugh about our son’s reaction to something as harmless as a sandy shore.  And yet, I wonder if I am much different.

Like a scared child, I bump up against things I don’t understand.  I imagine things that aren’t there.  I over-estimate the power that they have.

Life is terrifying.  Am I the only one who thinks that?

But a voice, like a parent, calls above my chaotic thoughts.  Though I can’t always hear Him above my own screams, He holds me up when I’m too afraid to put my feet down.

I reach for this presence, when I cannot see the end of some enormous threat.  His sight is clear, and His demeanor is calm.  He doesn’t fault me for my silliness, weakness, or even my lack of trust.  He won’t drop me, just because I act like the toddler that I am.

Who or what do you reach for when you’re afraid?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

The Best of Times; The Worst of Times

This week, my son is attending overnight camp for the first time.  He packed his bag, and then I re-packed it for him (i.e. folded up the crumpled clothes that had been stuffed in).  I did a mock set-up of his camp bed with him on the basement floor, because I was worried he wouldn’t know what to do with his sleeping bag once he got there.  I reminded him about sunscreen, and to drink plenty of water.  He just finished another level of swimming lessons, so if he falls in the river by accident without a life jacket, he should know what to do.

As he boarded the bus, I wondered what had gotten into me: allowing a stranger to drive my child all that way.  Were there even seatbelts in there?

I followed him onto the bus to make sure he’d found a place and looked comfortable.  There he was, smiling and bright-eyed, sitting beside one of his cabin leaders (another stranger…he seems like a stand-up guy, but still).

Truth is, I do believe that he’ll be fine.  But there’s another question afoot, underneath all of the careful preparations, and the making-sure-he’s-ok’s: What about…me?

It has gotten me to thinking about an empty nest.  Somewhere down the road, the day is coming.  I do look forward to, hopefully, having more time for myself.  Pursuing ambitions and leisure activities.  Hanging out with my husband the way we used to (if we will still know how).  Maybe, I’ll even keep a clean house.

But, along with the sacrifices I made when I became a parent, I also received something that has been extremely fulfilling.  I became a little child’s favorite.  There’s just nothing like it!  Teachers, babysitters, and even grandparents don’t necessarily receive that distinguished place in a child’s heart.  I may not acknowledge it every day, but being a parent has given me a great sense of purpose.

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About a year ago, I remember walking back to our car after a day at the beach with my two boys.  I hung on to a circular floatation toy and fought the wind to keep it, while carrying life jackets and a bag of gear in my other hand.  My youngest, who was one, toddled away and I attempted to reign him back in.  My oldest, who was seven, cried and screamed to stay longer, and I tried to appease him by saying we could come back another time.

A middle-aged couple eyed me, chuckling, and the man commented, “Oh, I remember that.”

“Ah, yes,” I replied with a sigh, “I suppose, when it’s done, I’ll miss it.”  I was anticipating the usual “this is the best time of your life”/ “enjoy it while it lasts, they grow up so fast” commentary.  (Which is mildly guilt-provoking, no?  Because honestly, this doesn’t always feel like the best time of my life.)

To my surprise, the man shook his head and said assuredly, “No.”  And they went on to say something about their grandchildren, whom they obviously loved and enjoyed.  But there was no guilt-ridden speech.  They loved their kids, and remembered when they were little.  But on that particular day, they were quite simply enjoying the fact that they didn’t have to take care of anyone but themselves.

I found this encounter refreshing, and encouraging.  Because when I’m told that this is the best time of my life, and in the meantime I’m exhausted, frustrated, frazzled, living in a mess that doesn’t seem to stop, and can’t even remember who I was before this all started…it seems a hopeless thing to say that this is as good as it gets.

Every season, I suppose, has its joys and aggravations.  Thank God that the blessing of children is so indescribably beautiful to a human heart, because otherwise, how would we put up with the perpetual discomfort and inconvenience that they cause?  And when the season of raising them is over, we gain back some of our old freedoms and luxuries.  But we lose something, too.  Something that sparkles brighter, in our memories, than all of the things we gave up: We were their favorite.  Taking care of their needs, and sharing thousands of moments with them, infused our lives with greater meaning.

And perhaps that is why, when the season ends, empty nesters may watch frazzled young parents with a degree of envy.  And sigh, and say those ridiculous things.

Who knows?  Maybe, one day, I’ll say them too.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10

What’s your favorite thing about being a parent?  Are you an empty-nester?  (What’s that like?)  I would love to hear your perspective in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

Mom Fail Number 99

How long would it take me to reach 99 failures as a mom?  Two weeks?  One week?  A day?

Sometimes, the reality that I’ve been entrusted with two young lives seems like a wild idea.

We all got sunburn today.  All my life, people have chirped in my ear about sunburn, sunscreen, and skin cancer.  My mom used to make me wear SPF 15 on my face every day, because I was ‘fair.’  You’d think I would have gotten the idea.

I suppose it would be rare to go through life never having had a sunburn.  But when my babies’ beautiful, plump, flawless, pristine skin gets scorched – at the hands of my own neglect, no less – it really, really bugs me.

My line of reasoning went something like this:

“I’ve forgotten the sunscreen.  I should go back and get it.  But no, I don’t want to.  We don’t have time, and I’m sure we’ll be fine.  We’ll be submerged in water.  It will all wash off anyway and contaminate the pool water.  We’ll take breaks in the shade.

Besides, look how nice other people’s kids look with their brown skin.  I’ve heard sunscreen is bad for you.  We should build up our skin’s natural resistance and get a nice, gradual tan.”

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that my skin is about as pasty, white, and prone to sunburn as it will come.  And my kids aren’t much different.

Failing, I suppose, is normal.  And yet, it always seems to catch me off-guard.

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Recently I witnessed a friend of mine in the midst of one of her self-described ‘mom fails.’  A group of us moms were getting together at my house.  Half an hour after everyone else had arrived, she was nowhere to be seen.  Because she was in her car.  In my driveway.

Fighting with her kids.

Trying to convince them to come inside, when they wanted absolutely nothing to do with the whole thing.

She gave up, took them home to their dad, and showed up at my house almost an hour late.  Her eyes looked wet, and her eyelids were a little puffy, like she’d been crying.

“I can handle 28 girls,” she said (she manages a hair salon), “but I can’t handle 2 boys?”

Although I understood her sentiment (having felt similarly obtuse, on several occasions, with my boys), I could not see what she was seeing.

Because when I look at her, I see a woman who is nearly perfect.  Who handles whatever life throws at her, with grace.  Who cares about others more than I thought was humanly possible.  Who never misses a great teachable moment with her children.  Who oozes peace, strength, humility, and servanthood.

What if, instead of only counting failures, we also took some notice of the things we are doing right?

So yes, we got sunburn.  But I had raced around the grocery store that morning and done the shopping in record time, so we would have time for fun in the afternoon.  I had beamed with pride as my 8 year-old swam all the way across the pool during his swimming lesson, without touching bottom.  I had held my 2 year-old up on the public toilet seat so he could go, wiped his little bottom, and then washed his brown-streaked shorts in the sink with my bare hands.  I had overcome my body insecurities to don a swimsuit in front of God and man, stayed within an arm’s reach of my toddler at all times, and kept a watchful eye on his brother (praying for safety) as he flailed around with his friends.  The two of them went to bed tonight content, and worn out from play and learning and stimulation and fun, with full tummies and clean clothes on their backs.

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I don’t think we should ignore failures.  I think that we should take note, learn, and do differently next time.  Personally, I pray a lot: for mercy; for grace.

But, for every one failure, there may be 99 ways that you have gotten it right.  (Or, at least, had your heart in the right place.)  I would be willing to bet.

What’s your latest mom fail?  I’d love to hear about it. 😁

Warm wishes,

Lisa