What’s Saving My Life Right Now

In the tradition of the great Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy, I am making my mid-winter list of what’s saving my life. At this time of year, we all need our lives saved… Here is what’s doing it for me:

  1. Ballerina Buns and Lice Shield Shampoo. An outbreak of lice is said to be going around and yikes… I’ve been freaking out. Knock on wood, cross your fingers and toes, don’t step on any cracks, turn around three times, throw salt over your shoulder… whatever you need to do… but, we haven’t seen any signs of anything. I’m still not taking any chances! I’ve been keeping the little girls’ hair up in ballerina buns, gave H. a buzz cut and we’ve been washing with Lice Shield shampoo. It doesn’t smell *great* but it helps me sleep at night.
  2. Six Sisters Menu Plan. Meal planning is probably my least favorite thing. Seriously, I hate it. I either spend inordinate amounts of time planning meals, cutting coupons and cooking elaborate dinners, only to be crying over the sink because no one likes what I made and no one appreciates all my hard work OR we eat out constantly and I go to bed feeling like the worst mother ever because the cashiers at McDonald’s know us by name. One day, I had enough! I did a little research and found that one of my favorite recipe blogs has menu plans. Let me tell you, it’s WELL worth the $8/month. So far, we’ve enjoyed all the meals (kids included), planning is a cinch and shopping takes so much less time! I love knowing what we’re having for dinner with little effort.
  3. Journaling. I’ve always been a fan of journaling. This year, I’m keeping a gratitude journal (I write 3 things I’m grateful for each day), a guided self-awareness journal and I’ve also been journaling in my planner. (I keep appointments in the calendar portion and then jot down what happened the day before in the larger paragraph areas). I feel so much better when I journal! Recently I watched this video with some more awesome journal ideas I want to incorporate!
  4. Cozy Mysteries. Last night I finished Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. I wish I’d read it sooner after Still Life because I kept wondering… is this an allusion to something that happened in Still Life that I’ve forgotten OR is it something that happened before Still Life that we don’t know about yet? However, I love everything about this series. And, I love everything about reading this series in the winter or in rainstorms or in the bathtub.
  5. Speaking of… Bubble baths. They are ALWAYS saving my life. (See post below, for pete’s sake!) Recently, I’ve discovered the magic of the triple threat bubble bath. (This is when you have the bubble bath, candle and lotion of your favorite scent.) Bath and Body Works keeps having glorious sales, so I’ve got options upon options. Currently, my favorite is Magic in the Air. It’s light, floral and southern. I think it’ll pair perfectly with the Fannie Flagg book I have coming up in the TBR queue.

The Magic of a Bubble

bubble

I think you have bath women and shower women.

I am of the bath variety.

I love to take a hot bath at the end of the day. I love to take a hot bath when I’m sick or have a headache or need a good cry. I love to take a hot bath when I have a good book that needs reading. I love to have a hot bath when I’ve found a new scented bubble bath I love. I love to take a hot bath when I need to shave my legs, deep condition my hair or any other sort of luxury that reminds me that I’m a woman.

It’s been a habit in my marriage to sometimes take a hot bath with KJ, for no other reason than to talk and laugh with each other.

When we were house shopping several years ago, I was shocked to discover that some homes *only* have showers! (Gasp! Why?!) I quickly let my realtor know that this was a dealbreaker. All the granite in the world couldn’t make up for a bathtub!

I’m getting off on a tangent. This post really isn’t about a bathtub. It’s about a bubble.

Last night, I was taking a bath. I had washed my hair and body just prior to filling the tub up, so there were some bubbles, but not much. So, when I finally leaned back in the tub, it caught my attention to see two little bubbles floating in the air. One, in particular, caught my attention.

I watched it as it floated along. It would near the surface of something and I’d think, it’s going to pop, but just at the last minute, it would change course. It slowly and steadily rose up to the ceiling near our air vent. Again, I thought it would pop. But, it didn’t.

I kept watching, at this point mesmerized. This little bubble had my full attention.

Slowly, it descended.

And, through a meandering, unpredictable course it landed… right on my lips!

After it gently grazed my lips, the air I’d exhaled ever so slightly blew it toward the water at my side, where it settled as a perfect little sphere on the water.

The moment it touched me, I was filled with a warmth and peace that I can’t describe. It felt like magic. Something magical just happened. I didn’t know what or why, but it had.

This morning I called my mom to tell her about the bubble. I have the amazing sort of parents who don’t think anything is strange about a spiritual encounter with a bubble.

As I finished talking my mom said, “You know, my mother loved a bubble bath. She took one every night. When she was paralyzed for the year before she died, that’s what she always said was the worst part of it — that she couldn’t soak in the tub. And, she always did love to kiss on the lips!”

I remember that.

My mamaw did kiss on the lips. My pawpaw did, too.

I don’t know if that bubble was a little kiss from my mamaw. I don’t know if it was just a little divine reminder to be present and pay attention to life’s little magic tricks. I don’t know if it was just a little token of love from God.

But, there was a little piece of joy in that little bubble. And, I’m glad I caught it.

Give Away, Oh Give Away

For Christmas, my hubby gifted me an Etsy gift card. Wow, what an awesome gift! Except, it took me forever to spend it because I wanted everything and, therefore, couldn’t decide on anything. 

Finally, I bought a few small, meaningful items, like this one:

bracelet

This bracelet, stamped with a line from one of my favorite books – The Giving Tree, called to me.

I once taught a lesson about this book to a group of youth. While there are many analogies you can draw from it, I focused on how happy the tree was to serve the boy.

There is happiness in service, I taught them.

While I completely believe this to be true, I also have to be honest and say that I often feel like a Giving Tree for my kids. Oh, and… well… I’m not always happy about it.

In the mornings, it’s a rush to get my oldest dressed, fed, organized and ready for school on time.

Meanwhile, my two little ones that stay at home with me are incessant, little need-machines. They need and need and need. Meals. Milk by the gallons. {OMG, we go through SO much milk!} Snacks. More snacks. Entertainment. Discipline. Attention. Guidance. Affection. Social interaction. Help getting dressed. Help tying shoes. More help tying shoes. Help brushing teeth. Help using the bathroom. Help finding a Lego. Help putting on those rubbery Polly Pocket clothes. {Do you know how hard that is??}

And, it never ends! Their needs never fully get satisfied because in five more minutes, they’ll need something else or there will be another mess to clean up or another argument to sort out.

When my oldest comes home from school, it’s the same, but different story. She needs reassurance that she handled a tricky situation well. She needs a listening ear. She needs an ally. She needs snacks. Drinks. Stuff for a project. Help with homework. Understanding. Patience. Problem-solving. That one favorite pair of pants washed, dried and ironed for the next day.

And so it goes until they pass out in their beds.

Some days, I feel I’m getting lopped away, limb by limb, just to be the mom they need.

And, I find it very hard to feel happy about it.

Most days, I feel depleted and resentful and annoyed and overwhelmed and so, so, so tired.

Why can’t I feel as happy as that dang fictional tree?

Here’s what I think…

The tree gave what she had, even if it wasn’t exactly what the boy wanted. I’m guilty of trying to give my kids exactly what they want instead of just giving what I can. I want to solve their problems. I want to buffer negative consequences or feelings. I want them to be happy.all.the.time. So, sometimes I give what I emotionally don’t have. Or, I spread myself too thin. Or, I go too far in trying to please them because I don’t want to listen to them whine about eating another peanut butter sandwich when what they really wanted was grilled cheese. I have to learn how to be happy with what I’ve done, even if they feel disappointed. It’s okay for them to not be completely contented every minute of the day. Really.

Lastly, the tree didn’t preoccupy herself with how her gifts would limit her. If she didn’t have branches, she didn’t stew about never again  waving them in the wind.

Sometimes, I interpret my kids’ needs as something that won’t get met for me.

I hear a crash in the kitchen and think great, guess I’m not getting a shower today. One of them throws up and I think well, I can forget sleeping tonight. One of them is misbehaving at church and I think I suppose everyone knows I’m a terrible mother now.

If I live in the moment like the Giving Tree, give what I have and focus on the giving and not on what’s not personally being met for me, then I believe I can figure out how to be happy (ier).

I want this bracelet to be that reminder. I can be happy. I will be happy.

a good death

my parents had me late in life. my mom was 38. my dad was 42. (not that this is “late” by today’s standards, i know.) a late-in-life baby isn’t the worst thing in the world. it isn’t even a bad thing, except that i’ve always felt a little like i’ve missed out on all the different versions of mom and dad that my siblings got to experience.

there were the moves i never went on.

the vacations i never experienced.

the young and carefree parents, who wore stylish things and took risks that i’d never witness.

the mom and dad i inherited were steady, a little tired, a little cynical and oh so content to lead fairly quiet lives. though, i suppose that’s what i needed. what i still need.

now that my parents are getting older, health problems have been slowly creeping up. i noticed that it took them a little longer to bounce back from getting sick. they moved a little slower, had less energy. they eliminated long distance trips and all but stopped traveling to see friends and family. with each small change, we adjusted. it wasn’t so bad. we understood.

this summer, like a large wave that suddenly breaks on the shore with a loud and furious turbulence, they both became very ill, very quickly and at the same time.

my mom’s lingering coughs and low oxygen levels culminated in a collapsed lung, a prolonged hospital stay and a diagnosis of an as-yet-unidentified autoimmune disease. she is now tethered to oxygen tanks and can’t (or won’t) leave the house.

at the same time, my dad developed severe pain and urinary retention. then an infection. they thought it was a standard uti, but it got worse and worse and worse, until he also ended up in the hospital, diagnosed with a prostate infection and maybe… we’ll see… prostate cancer.

(it’s not the worst of cancers, i know. but it is still cancer.)

my dad’s hospital stay was the worst, mostly because mom couldn’t be with him. family took turns staying with him, but it made him moody. he missed her. she missed him. they both worried about each other.

and, then there is the matter of pride. my dad is full of it. he hates to be helped. he hates to be idle. he hates to be told what to do. he is the same man i’ve always loved, but with an imperfect shell casing.

last night, my brother and i sat at the hospital with him. i saw how pain had changed him. he was testy, irritable and quite, quite miserable. every now and then, he’d crack a joke and i’d see a glimmer of my old dad, but mostly he just tried to tamp down the anger and frustration roiling inside of him.

at one point, my brother left and i sat with my dad. i tried to be quiet, which is hard for me, because i thought the silence would do us good. after a few minutes of nothing, my dad looked at me with his piercing hazel eyes and said, “you’re having a hard time with this, aren’t you? you’re not ready to deal with our mortality.”

well, of course not! who wants their parents to die? i need you! my kids need you! i haven’t had enough time!

this is what i wanted to say.

but, instead my eyes filled with tears and through a swollen throat i muttered, “let’s not do this right now.”

my dad persisted.

he did what he always does when he wants to make a point.

he told a story.

he told me about his dad, who died of a massive heart attack when my dad was only 16-years-old. it happened suddenly, just took the wind out of the room. there was nothing anyone could do. my dad talked about how prideful his dad was, how he’d once checked himself out of the hospital after having his appendix out against doctor’s orders because he couldn’t stand being confined to a bed. how being sick was unacceptable to his father.

shortly after his dad’s death, my dad’s grandmother said, “he died a good death.”

this infuriated my father, who felt – justly – robbed by the death of his father.

how could it be a good death when it hurt so terribly?

my dad looked at me again and said, “i understand now. my dad died without having to lose his dignity, without having to be a burden on someone else, without having to suffer. he did die a good death. would you deny me that same privilege?”

tears coursed down my cheeks.

i said, “maybe.” and, i meant maybe. i’m not as selfless as my father and i would rather have him in a wheelchair or a hospital bed than not at all.

but, i understood what he meant. in the {hopefully} far distant future, he doesn’t want to suffer. he doesn’t want to be in a nursing home, missing my mom, separated from his family. he doesn’t want to be confined or limited. and, if given the option with God, he would want a good death.

 i’m not okay with it. none of this.

i cried on the drive home merely because i was saddened that he was thinking about death. saddened because, in my furtive moments, i’d thought about it, too. this summer has forced us all to confront realities no one wanted to consider. and, it’s been hard. very hard. and terribly unfair.

i get caught up in unfairness sometimes.

this morning, i read, do not go gentle into that good night by dylan thomas. i couldn’t remember how it ended. that seemed very important to me – how it ended.

and there it was. how i felt, written out plainly.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

here’s what you must know

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five things…

one: i am a mom. as much as i’d like to provide some highly-evolved definition of myself and my life, the truest and most succinct outline of who i am in the world is: mom. i look like a mom (see: yoga pants). i act like a mom (see: frazzled). and, i drive like a mom (see: minivan). my three lil’ nuggets are why i get out of bed in the morning, often quite earlier than i’d like – but they’re my reason. i adore every inch of who they are and marvel that these creatures are mine for ever and always.

two: i am a wife. not to sound cliche, but i actually did marry my best friend. when we got married, i thought we had everything in common. now that we’ve been married almost twelve years – gasp! – i know that we only have the most important things in common, which happens to sustain some teetering sense of balance i desperately need to function.

three: i am a writer. not just now, but for as long as i can remember. i’ll never stop pinching myself that i somehow get paid a wee little bit to do what i love the most. my soul smiles whenever my fingers are click-click-clacking on the keyboard.

four: i’m a reader. reality has always been more manageable for me when i have the respite of a book. i am never not reading something… and usually, several somethings. i love every kind of writing, so long as it’s good, makes me think and helps me disappear into a new world.

five: my life is a mess. i work from home – one job in marketing and one in freelance writing – which is simultaneously wonderful and terrible (see: thing one). i’m learning hard lessons about life that i should have figured out… oh, i don’t know… a decade ago. i struggle with debilitating anxiety and all the fun things that go along with it. and, i always feel like i’m creeping, crawling, clawing my way to some elusive destination where things are better. my intention with this blog is to focus on the good in my life – the Providence – and that, through this discovery, i will find peace, contentment and maybe share a smile with someone else who needs it. Continue reading