Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Humans love

Ugh.

Lately it feels like I need a serious pair of waders just to trudge through the bad, the very bad and the devastating. 

Suffering. Pain. Loss. Inexplicable grief. It’s everywhere.

A grown son, just starting out in life, lost in a car accident today.
A couple, carrying a baby with a devastating prognosis, still making the most of their pregnancy milestones while praying for a miracle.
A beautiful girl robbed of the future and abilities, with parents who are determined to make the most of their remaining time.

It’s everywhere. And it physically feels heavy.   

It doesn’t need to happen to you for you to feel it.  

I’m always moved by the love that immediately shows up and surrounds a family who are watching something tragic unfold in front of their eyes. Their worst nightmare coming true. It’s like I get so disenchanted with humans at times but then I see people carrying pain with their friends. Feeling it with them. They drum up support. They anticipate the needs of their loved ones and get on the ball to meet them.

We are in this life together and in times like these, we have two choices to make. We can conserve our love or we can share it. 

I have to say…I see an awful lot of sharing going on around me right now.

It’s a beautiful bright spot in the midst of overwhelming pain.

Humans don’t leave behind their weak. They pick them up and they stay strong for them. For as long as they have to, they carry burdens alongside those they love (and if you’re from the South, they bring you chicken casseroles which is pretty darn nice too). 

I’m not calling any person weak here. People going through a difficult time are most definitely not weak…but they are singularly focused.  How could you not be?  They are emotionally spent. And they are putting the needs of the family member suffering more in front of their own than they ever have in their lives.

So the point of the post – well, I wanted to write out my feelings (which always helps me sort through them) and I wanted to share an opportunity to support a family that I know going through something unbelievably hard. 

Layla is four. She was given the unbelievable blessing of being born to a wonderful loving family. Her parents adore her and she has an amazing big brother.  After spending an extended period of time trying to understand Layla’s seizures, they were punched in the gut with a diagnosis that no parent should ever ever ever have to get.

Like – excuse my bluntness – but this diagnosis can kiss it.  

Here are her parents standing in full armor ready to fight whatever battle needs to be fought to heal her – but there’s no battle. There’s no fight. The outcome is out of their hands. 

I cannot begin to comprehend that level of helplessness.

Friends. I’m asking you to help if you can.  Because the thing is…the battle now has to be this.

To make the most of the time they get.

All those outings we plan to take our kids on one day.  The Disney trip we are going to wait just a few more years for. Those plans we make for the future.

Future.

They don’t have that.

Please visit their website and if you can give, awesome. If you can’t, maybe there are prayers you can offer up.  Or maybe, you can look around at the people in your own life and community who are dealing with a monster that they are struggling to defeat…and you can share your love and strength with them. 

Take their hand and be what I know humans to be…compassionate and loving people who surround the suffering with love and support.

To this sweet family - I want you to know that I am  praying for you as often and intentionally as I can. 

To the sweet friends of this family – you guys are amazing and I am moved by your love and care.

And to that sweet little girl bravely fighting a battle very few people have ever had to face…you are a Warrior Princess and there are a lot of people who want to help you cram all the life and love possible into these precious years. You have touched so many already. Stay brave, sweet girl.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week One: Short Story September

Happy Labor Day.

And by the way, this completely feels like day one of filling out a brand new diary.  It will be interesting to look back and see if

1.) I even write four short stories.  I mean…I AM. I AM going to write four short stories (I'm using The Secret)
or if
2.) I blog about any of it.

But I swear to you, people of the blog reading world…I am totally writing.  I am NOT watching a Shark Tank marathon.

But if I WERE watching a Shark Tank marathon (hypothetically speaking) it would be because I've never had any desire to watch any episodes of this show until I sat down to write my story tonight.

Can you say, "SQUIRREL?!"

Seriously, I did do a little pre-Short Story September reconnaissance so I know the story line of what I'm going to write about and started writing on Friday so I kind of feel, as I used to say in college at midnight, the night before exams while watching The Carnie Wilson show, I'm WAY ahead of the game.

So far, my takeaway is this…

What I have noticed as I take my idea and try to put it in written form is how laborious writing can be.  It's been kind of a long time since I wrote a short story.  My ideas in my head are AMAZING.  They are fast-paced and quippy. Sometimes, thinking of a story line in my car can near bring me to tears…which really confuses the Starbucks baristas in the drive thru…but writing them down? Arranging the details on paper…crafting dialogue…all those quotation marks?  Well, I'm finding writing is less of an art and more of a test of endurance.

When I write a blog post, an article or personal essay…it's really just a quick stream of my own thoughts…there's not a whole lot of editing that goes on there. If you know me in person…you kind of know that I am the person I write about in my blog.

But this is a different animal.

It's a mental game. That's why the more I dive into this field, the more I learn and the more I pursue…well, the more forgiving I am when I finish a terrible book because I think…"but they finished it. They actually wrote things down until they were done."

Who am I to believe that my stories are any better, because, I haven't even taken the time to write them down.

I guess being a writer in your head is kind of a form of rejection avoidance.

But I challenge you…even if you don't write…even if it's something else that you want to do but don't. Go out and do it.  Don't just pursue things in your mind.  Pursue them in person.  So you may be terrible.  Almost guaranteed you'll be terrible at first. I try to teach my son that he's not going to be great at something the first time he tries it. Chances are, most things we do at first, WE WILL SUCK AT!  I tell him to keep trying.

How can I not also take that advice?

So this is week one. I am starting to draft my first short story.  I am going to try to remember this:

"I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles."  ~ Shannon Hale

I love that quote.  Take the stress out of the first draft…write it all, as it flows. Do not stop to edit, keep writing…get all the sand into the box you can…you'll be so glad you did when you go back to edit it.

I am not going to blog every day…I'm not Doogie Houser.  I'm just going to pop in from time to time, as I avoid writing, to tell you how it's going.

I have two amazing lady writers, Ann and Rachel on this journey with me…it's not too late to join us. No one is posting anything for public view unless they want to.  We don't even need to read it…just join us for moral support if you would like to.

Also, I have a pretty fun Pinterest Board dedicated to writing that you are welcome to check out.

I'm amazing at hoarding other people's advice.  I do go through my board and try to read all the articles so I can weed out the links that go no where, but I'm sure a few have slipped past me.

Happy writing,
Rachel

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hi and Short Story September

Life is in transition.  

I'm leaving a job I've had for almost 10 years and starting a brand new adventure. The kids are both in school in some form or fashion and the papers that return to my house at the end of the day are at epic levels. I am overwhelmed by appointments and such.  

Still, writing is always on my heart and on my mind. If you write, you completely understand this nagging obsession.  This love/hate relationship with yourself as a writer.  Thinking about writing all day long only to sit down at the end of the day and be too tired and too overwhelmed to start.   

I am doing a lot of reading about writing fiction and crafting stories. I read a quote the other day that stuck with me. It basically said you can learn more about story structure from writing 20 short stories than from writing one novel.  

I've thought about that for several days.  

I have a never ending list of "started stories" and the idea of committing to one is something I just avoid. It's kind of why I'm a fan of the personal essay.  I can start and finish one in about an hour on a weeknight while watching Netflix.  

So I'm issuing a challenge to myself (and to anyone else who is interested, please join me).  I am going to challenge myself to writing four short stories (1500 + words) in the month of September.  That's a story a week. 

The plan is this: Take four of my favorite ideas and develop them into a short story.  I may find ideas that I want to explore further or I may find that all of my ideas belong in the circular file.  

I may post them here…I may not. :) 

So the gauntlet has been thrown...who's in?   September 1 is our start date.  

Comment here, or email me: justpeachy1123@gmail.com

Rachel
 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What to do when water is pouring out of your ceiling.

In eleven easy steps.

You hear water.  It's 6:30 in the morning and you think to yourself, "Man, it is really coming down out there."

Step One:  Head over to the dining room window and watch as the water cascades down the window pane. Nature is amazing.  

Step Two: In horror, you realize that the water is cascading down on the same side of the window you are on.  You step back and like an offensive hip hop song you see that the water is indeed, FROM THE WINDOW TO THE WALL...everywhere.  It's like someone turned on a faucet in your ceiling and water is pouring out of the air vent.

Step Three: This is a critical step. Don't skip it.  Stand there and stare....maybe let your mouth hang open.

Step Four:  Run upstairs, turning on all the lights on the way and yell for your husband to get up.

Once the two of you are downstairs and assessing the situation, surely a plan will form.

Step Five:  Both of you stand there and stare.  Together.  Maybe hold hands.  This is a moment.

Step Six: Husband gets a few buckets while you go outside and unsuccessfully shut the water off by turning all of the power off to the house.  Consider running through the gate to freedom rather than facing family ever again.  You could make it.  They are, after all, currently in complete darkness. I'm just saying, there could be a main water shutoff "switch" instead of a "valve".

Step Seven:  Come back inside and stare at cell phone while husband continues to rotate buckets.  Realize there is no one a phone call away that can help you.  NO ONE!  YOU ARE ALL ALONE. You and your husband could be stranded for the next few days, months or years taking turns in the bucket rotation.  What can I google to solve this crisis?

Step Eight: Go out into the street and wander up and down it in your red and hot pink owl pajamas and soaked house shoes looking for someone, anyone, who will save you from this disaster.  Do the 360 degree turn thing in the middle of the street a la Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Know What you Did Last Summer and yell at the universe as you realize that, again, there is no one.  Do this with much less makeup and way less cleavage because, well...37 year old helpless mother of two in owl pajamas.

Step Nine:  Call the fire department and open your conversation with a three minute apology about the fact that what you are about to request of them, is not a real emergency and how you KNOW that you should KNOW where the valve thingies are in your house.

Step Ten: Firemen arrive and shut water off before fire engine is even cut off. Offer them one of your children in gratitude. Over thank them.  To the point where everyone is just uncomfortable.  Feel a little better when they tell you they do this a lot.

Step Eleven:  Learn where all the valve thingies are.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oversleeping

Yep, I overslept.

It’s 6:45AM and I have managed to successfully “snooze” 8 times and now, as I look at my phone, I realize that my son has approximately 6 minutes to get completely ready for school and BE at the bus stop.

Excellent.  I love starting the day with this much adrenaline.

I shoot out of bed and run to stand over him, “GET UP, WE’VE GOT TO GO, YOU NEED TO GET DRESSED…NOW.”  I am 99.9% certain that I am more annoying than any alarm clock that has ever been invented. This is confirmed when he groans and pushes my face away, clearly rejecting being awakened boot camp style.

Where is his sense of urgency?  Does he not get that I LET him sleep in by mindlessly hitting snooze all those times?  “GET UP.” I give one final nose-to-nose wake up call.

I throw clothes at his head and run downstairs to make a bottle for the baby.  I chuck a full milk bottle at the smiling, soaked-to-the-sheet-but-I-can’t-deal-with-that-right-now baby and turn on his shows.  

Wesley gets really cranky when he misses his favorite program, “Find the Acorn.”  I hover for a moment and he immediately pushes me out of the way so he can get a better view. It’s a daily nail biter…finding that acorn and I know it’s making him way smart because that’s what the commercial for the show promises to do.

Plus, anytime I can outsource parenting...I totally do.  

Satisfied that he’s getting nutrition AND increasing his IQ, I run back in to check on my other son only to find him whimpering in the middle of his room. He’s clearly not awake and his shirt is stuck. He's got arms where a head should be and he has no pants on.  I resume my drill sergeant approach and continue to bark orders at him to hurry.

I do this because I most definitely want him to grow up with anxiety. 

“Mom, I can’t do this. I need help.” 

“Sam, you are almost six…you can do this,” I absently say while holding six different socks in my hands and trying to process for a second what I’m going to do with them.  Where do the socks go?  I finally reach down and find a pair. 

Dang.  It has a hole. Of course it does.

I briefly contemplate tying off the hole and putting it on him anyway. 

Clearly I should have learned how to darn. 

I finally decide to go with the two different socks that would look the least different when a shoe is on.  I just hope it’s not “take your shoes off and ‘out’ your mom” day at school because the bottoms are two totally different colors.

I then drag Sam downstairs. 

The next 1.5 minutes is spent brushing teeth, packing a nutritionally questionable lunch and trying to find a discouraging way to ask if he wants breakfast. 

Look. Don't judge me.  

We then begin running down the street to the bus stop…this is great because I am incredibly prepared to run.

This also coincides with my daily prayer time and meditation.

Please God don’t let him miss the bus.  Please God don't let my heart explode. 

We make it to the bus stop and I am unable to return the greetings of the other parents as I'm bent over nursing my running cramp and panting.

Suddenly, my son shrieks.  “MOM…IT’S SHOW AND TELL DAY!”  

There is no more terrifying sound than a kid shrieking “mom” and then following it up with something you have 8 seconds to go find, make or buy for school. 

I look down at my pajamas in the hopes that something cool for show and tell somehow got caught on my body as I was walking out the door. 

Nope…that never happens. 

As the bus comes into view, I explain that we’ll see if we can do show and tell some other time.  Which seems to appease him.  I mean THAT or me promising to make it up to him by buying some toy he doesn’t need and with a million pieces that I’m certain will spend most of their time in the mouth of the one year old. 

Part of this promise is to make up for show and tell and part of it is hush money so he won't tell anyone how our morning went and I won't feel as guilty.  

I reflect on all the ways I have already failed as a parent before the sun has even come up when I then remember accidentally spilling wine on his reading assignment the night before. 

That’ll require an email of explanation to the teacher.  How is the best way to start a "here's why my son's reader smells like Chardonnay.." email?  

I watch my son hop on the bus saying one more prayer that the horrific case of bed head clears up before he reaches the school and I finally turn to go.

I make my way back to my house, frightening myself when passing the hall mirror and getting a good look at the beast that walked her son to the bus stop. I lean my face two inches from my Keurig and wait for the coffee to brew before heading upstairs to make sure that they did indeed find the acorn. 

Which, I’m happy to say, they did. 

So at least the day wasn’t a TOTAL failure. 

 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Man, I Had a Lot of Ideas

Before I got married, I declared that I would NEVER let the sun set on my anger with my husband.

But then 2AM came and everyone was still mad...and tired and I decided that in reality, a good nights rest can sometimes shine a more forgiving light on things in the morning.

Before I had kids, I said I would NEVER allow them to get their dinner before the rest of the table got theirs.  They can just sit patiently, with their hands folded and wait for their meal.

Then I realized what an idiot I was and began ordering my kids chicken nuggets from the parking lot of the restaurant.

I said I would never feed my kids in the grocery store.

How many times have I forgotten to tell the checkout person that the box of teddy grahams is already open? Oops.  

I pinky swore with my doctor that my kid would never know what a Dino-nugget was.

Now, there's an ark's worth of animal shaped foods lurking in my kitchen.  

My kid was never going to be the kid with bed head running into school late clinging their half eaten pop tart.

But, it seems, on days when trying to calm the hair down by licking my hand and patting down the head of a five year old full of objections doesn't do the job,  I indeed have that kid.

My baby was always going to look like he just finished posing for the Pottery Barn Kids catalog.  You know the babies, in the cute monogrammed dinosaur towels?

But he looks like that for just the 45 seconds after his bath...then, he mostly just looks like he finished posing for the Kid With Peanut Butter in His Hair magazine.

I was going to not be a mess.  I was not going to be the person that childless people pointed at when making their case for remaining childless

...but in the hustle and bustle of life,  I fear I may be that woman a lot of the times. And I'm okay with that.

At Kindergarten orientation I scoffed at the transportation form that implied I would ever let MY child ride a bus...certainly not at this age.

But then I sat in elementary school traffic and two days after school started I found myself going through the trash to find the bus riding permission slip.  And what once seemed to be the war zone that I would never let my child enter, was now a luxury chauffeur service that came to my neighborhood  and gave me 45 extra minutes in the morning to drink coffee and catch up on my Judge Judy episodes.

The truth is, I had a lot of ideas.  A lot of theories.  A LOT of judgement.

I'm so thankful that reality was nothing like the cold, rigid and uninteresting ideas milling through my head. Because it's been in the chaos and the moments when things aren't going as I expected that I've felt the deepest love and gratitude for my family.

The soaking wet, naked boys running through the upstairs after bath, dripping water everywhere.

The baby grinning ear to ear while simultaneously running his food encrusted hands through his hair.

The hallway hug you give to your sobbing child who woke up at 2AM having had a nightmare.

The 11th shirt change you have conducted in one day on the teething baby.

The times you and your husband are supposed to be on a date, but you can't help wondering what the kids are doing and find that you are spending your romantic evening discussing how much you hate silly putty.

Yep, that's the reality...and I find it to be way more fun.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Dawn of A New Schedule

I am not going to lie.

I am drained.

Plus I'm constantly sweating.

The other night I was frantically trying to finish making dinner so I could feed everyone before Wesley imploded into a puddle of exhausted tears and I found that I was just drenched in sweat.  It was meltdown o'thirty and I was willing the chicken with my mind to cook faster so it could just pass the salmonella danger zone and I could feed it to everyone and get the night moving.  It's the frantic beginning of school phase paired with the final months of a muggy summer.  It's just one frizzy hair day after another...but with permission slips and school lunches...and sweat.  
 
I am trying to get used to the demanding schedule that fall brings. You know the one that requires that we get dressed and brush our teeth?  I don't miss the constant questions and the bored faces, but I do miss how Summer requires so little of us as a family.  Summer is just like, "whenever." But then fall comes and it's all like, "NOW."  At parent orientation, I get a schedule telling me, to the minute, when everything is. Things aren't at 2:30...no...they are at 2:31.

Oh Fall, it's a good thing you have pumpkin lattes and apple spice candles and no humidity because you intimidate and overwhelm me a bit right now.    

When I pictured Sam starting kindergarten, I guess I didn't think about everything that came with it. I didn't think about how "to the minute" our schedules would be.  This year, I have a one year old.  Not a huge pregnant belly and sciatica (thank you Heavenly Father that I don't have a huge pregnant belly and sciatica...oh and Andy also says thank you...but in ALL CAPS).  A one year old.  A mobile one.  One that I'm pretty sure picked something off the bottom of the broom tonight and put it in his mouth (UGH! GROSS! BLEH!).

I don't know, everything just seems so much more hectic.  Not the whole day.  Just like the two hours prior to leaving the house in the morning and the three to four hours before I fling everyone into their respective beds and finally sit down.

Where I find that I'm still sweating.

School starting has been a lot more draining than I thought.  I have had to set an alarm clock.  I haven't set an alarm clock in years.  Since before kids. Throughout our marriage (and even before that) Andy and I have always had this Ladyhawk type schedule (It's a movie from 1985...look it up).  He works at night and I work during the day. It's the way it's always been. We are very used to it.  But it means that literally, one of us is at work and the other is with the kids.  Somedays as I'm coming and he's going, we're literally passing a baby with a full diaper and peanut butter hair to the other one with a quick, "I love you and sorry he smells like that, " before we head to our next obligation.

We are blessed, but somedays, like everyone else, we are so drained from our schedule.

And I'll admit, I'm a bit drained right now.

It's why I don't post much.

It's why I don't socialize much.

It's totally why I bought a movie last night and fell asleep during the opening credits.

But I know this exhaustion will pass.  The baby will eventually stop putting everything in his mouth.  We will acclimate to this new schedule.  And maybe...just maybe I'll even figure out how to beat Level 152 in Candy Crush.

And even until then, the boys daily, remind us why we do it.  We look at them and we thank God for their sweet faces.  We treasure the moments when Samuel cares for Wesley.  We laugh at times like when Wesley presses his face up to the pack and play screen.  We love our special movie nights with Samuel.  We love the love these brothers are already cultivating for each other.

And even in the midst of the craziness, we still find time to steal away for a few moments by ourselves and reflect on how this journey called a family even began.

And we wouldn't have it any other way.