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eleven

May6

eleven…eleven years ago my world changed forever for the better when my first baby was born. not such a baby anymore, my oldest daughter turns 11 today. I remember that first year, trying to commit every precious moment to memory. Jotting down notes and dates by which to remember those significant ‘firsts’. Although the firsts seem to have gotten fewer and further between the past several years, they’re not altogether gone. She still has her first love to look forward to, and her first heartbreak. Her first date, first Prom, first car,…and I get the privilege and pleasure of experiencing those with her. But they are hers to experience first hand..I just get to go along for the ride. And what a ride motherhood has been so far!

As reluctant as I was to take that plunge, I wonder all the time, what else would I be doing? My girls have made my life richer and fuller and I cannot imagine my world without them. I am blessed beyond belief to get to be their mother. It wasn’t anything I earned and I still fall so short of the honor most days. But nothing can touch the love I feel for them. They have made me better, stronger and given my life purpose. Being a mother defines me in a way nothing else ever has. It’s not the whole of who I am, but it’s the most important role I’ve ever had.

So as I watch this girl grow, who is so much like me and yet so much herself, I am awed by the tremendous journey she and I started out on together eleven years ago. It seems like forever ago and also just like yesterday. It used to be so much simpler to meet her needs, so cut and dried. But the joy of watching her blossom into her own person offers its own kind of beauty amid the challenges. My job isn’t to make her into a clone of myself, but to nurture and support her into becoming uniquely who she was created to be. I am so very proud of her and often unworthy of that gift and responsibility. Because anyone who has ever been a mother knows, as they change and grow, so do we.

Happy Birthday sweet Sequoia June. I love you to the moon.

Making the Trade…

March24

I am edgy and can’t sleep. Along with the lingering pain of back surgery and nerves that are still healing, I have a restless energy that is keeping me from relaxing into a mental escape. I was thinking a little about suffering and how some have to endure so much more than others. I thought of how this recent pain of mine (however slight compared to some) has consumed so much of my time and energy the past few months. And I was thinking about all we take for granted. Our health, our family and friends, that we will always be here and have them around. Life is short. This is not news to me, but some days I feel that fact more achingly than at other times. The point of life, after all, is not the pursuit of things, and not necessarily even experiences, per se, but investing in the lives of others. And yet, I can be so careless with my time, my money, and worst of all, my words. I let the curses fly, damaging those closest to me. The ones I hold most dear and whom I want most to protect. I am their worst enemy sometimes, and my own almost always.

Striking a balance seems to be the ultimate life lesson. Not taking more than we give. Working for what we need, but not at the expense of others or life itself. This is a theme I have come back to often in my life. Simplicity. And yet it is so hard to keep myself from becoming consumed by things not worthy of my time or energy. I would rather have fewer things and more time. More quality time with the people I love. I would trade just about everything I own for that. Maybe it’s time I started making that trade…

Back in the Saddle (almost)

March10

So, I am actually sitting upright, at my desk. A rare occurance over the past few weeks and months. Some days sitting at all was impossible, let alone in a chair. Now I just have to be very careful, sit well and pay close attention to my back. After Monday’s surgery, the sciatic pain I suffered with for almost 4 months is mostly gone. I still have fears of it returning, but in the meantime I am focusing on resting while my incision from my back surgery heals. I am not supposed to drive for 6 weeks, or at least that’s what they told me when I left the hospital. I am thinking that may change when I go to my first follow up appointment with my surgeon next Friday, but even 12 days is a challenge for me. I am a go-er and a do-er and I have been limited so much the past few months that another 6 weeks seems like a long time. But, it’s worth the wait to heal properly. I want to do things correctly so that my back doesn’t have issues again any time soon, preferably, EVER!

As exciting as it is to know that they most likely fixed the bulk of the problems I was having due to the herniation, it is scary to think about a life of being extra careful of my back or the risk of re-injuring it. For 40 years I took it for granted and it served me well–my back, not the taking it for granted part. Now I have to learn how to take it easy and do things right so I don’t mess it up again. Because believe me, I do NOT want to go back down that path.

I am blessed to be a pretty healthy person and I have taken that for granted. I want to learn how to eat better and lose some weight and start taking even better care of myself than I have the past several years. So maybe something good will come out of all of this pain and suffering. For now though, I’m going to finish up this blog, because my back is starting to ache a bit and I am going to listen to it! Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, love and for reading my ramblings. ♥

The consolation prize for aging…

January11

I’ve said it before and I’ll surely say it again, I don’t feel like an adult. For all intents and purposes, I am one…in fact, by legal standards I’ve been one for over 20 years. But my internal measuring stick is different. Outwardly I don’t seem to have the success or the accumulation of nice things that seem to back-up the claim of being “grown up.” I haven’t always made the best choices, I’m still learning how to manage my money well, and holding down a job? That’s never been a particular strength of mine. I have always done what I’ve had to do to get by. I think they call it an underachiever. You probably won’t ever hear the word ambitious in the same sentence as my name. But I don’t mind. I am flattered when someone says I don’t look my age, but overjoyed when they say I don’t act my age. I like being seen as carefree and fun. But despite my best efforts, I think I have started to slowly become an adult.

As I was lecturing my 10 year old the other day on the importance of responsibility, I realized, I sound just like a mother. And in most cases, mothers are adults. If there’s one thing that will force you into growing up, it’s having a child. I was a late bloomer in that department too. Almost 30 before I had my first child and still I didn’t feel ready. Now I have two children, and one of them has been around over 10 years! So I guess during that time I have been forced, unknowingly, into growing up a bit. And that’s alright. It’s not so bad.

Sure, there are days I wish I had no responsibilities. Who doesn’t? But would I trade my girls or my husband for my 20-something years? No. Ironically (or maybe not so ironically) all I wanted in my 20’s was a husband and kids. Okay, maybe I wasn’t so sure about the kids part yet, but I was boy crazy from the word go and had tricked at least two guys into thinking they wanted to marry me before the 3rd time was the charm and I actually got the official proposal. Even then my level of commitment was underwhelming. When he asked, I replied “I guess.”

But it turns out, marriage, like parenthood, is hard. It will force you into growing up too…or it will beat the child out of you at least. It will either make you or break you, and for me it’s done a little of both in the past 17 years.  But I have passed through the fire and come out a little stronger for the experience. I suppose it’s one of only two positions I have yet to resign from…the titles wife and mother seem to have stuck for some crazy reason.

I’m sure my perception of myself isn’t the same as those who know me, or even those who don’t. The kids who call me Mrs. Whitten (what a trip) or the younger generation who address me as Ma’am.  My Mom, now in her early 60’s, was telling me that she is always amused when people in stores offer her help…even though her hair is gray, she doesn’t feel any different than she did in her 20’s.  I had once asked my Grandma the same question, and she told me that ultimately, she didn’t feel any different at 70 then she had as a young woman.

It’s like the quote “We are always the same age inside.” And I think it’s true. The essence of who we are is always inherently there. And though the body we carry ourselves around in deteriorates, our minds actually become better with age–stronger, wiser, and with any luck, more compassionate. A good friend who has known me for 20 years, recently paid me a wonderful compliment. She said that I’ve “acquired a quiet grace that has added another layer to my character that makes me a wiser, more discerning and better person.” Wow! People’s perceptions of me really are different than my own. It was balm to my (old) soul to hear that, even if I do have a little trouble totally believing it.  Maybe that is one consolation of getting older, if in exchange we become better versions of ourselves. I certainly believe that’s something to shoot for.

Melancholy Memories

January9

I spent last night watching some videos of me as a 20-year old. I was loud, obnoxious and funny. In fact a couple of boys I knew made up a name for me C.O.A. (center of attention) I kind of hated it at the time, but they were right. I was so footloose and fancy free then. The world was my oyster and all that. I worked, but I lived with my Grandma rent free and I could come and go as I pleased. But I was a good kid. If I was out late it was singing worship songs or doing something with my church friends. We were all so innocent and goofy. But at the same time, trying so hard to find ourselves, to love and be loved.

Twenty years later it seems like another lifetime ago that I was that girl. The innocence has left my face. I am too world-wise now. I wanted nothing more then but to fall in love and get married. But I didn’t realize all the pain and struggle that comes with relationships. All the hard lessons that accompany learning how to be an adult. Most days I think I still haven’t learned. But I guess I have come a long way from that 20-year old, for better or worse. I am glad that I get to be a Mom. And that my marriage has survived, against the odds and many days when we didn’t think it would. I have to learn to count my blessings instead of my heartbreaks. And to find the silver lining of my 40’s. I cannot go back and I’m not even sure I would want to.

At the time it seemed so hard to be 20. Of course now I know how good I had it. But it’s all relative. If I took the knowledge of my 30’s and went back to my 20’s, would I still possess the same innocence I had? There is a reason we live life forward and not in reverse. Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but ignorance is bliss and we were all so blissfully ignorant and innocent back then. It was beautiful to watch, but bittersweet, like a great book you know has to end. You can read it again, but it will never be as good as it was when first you read it and didn’t know the outcome yet.

Now it’s my turn to live vicariously through my children. To witness their beautiful, painful growing up. To guide them as best I can and try to know when to step back and let go and let them become who they are going to be. And to try to remember how beautifully painful it was to be 20-something and finding myself. Creating my own family with my friends. And experiencing the first feelings of freedom that came with becoming an ‘adult’ without having too much of the responsibility yet.

It was a golden time, but it was fleeting. We would all like to stay gold, but we know too well that nothing gold can stay.

Amber waves good-bye…

December10

Definition of amber:

  • a deep yellow color; “an amber light illuminated the room”;

She lived up to her name.  She illuminated the room wherever she went.  She was not defined by her disabilities, but rather, defied the odds and lived her life to the fullest. She touched so many of our lives in the short time she was here–her life was extraordinary.

How can I not believe there is a place where great souls pass to, when people like you have lived among us?Already such wonderful beings, even hindered by your humanity–certainly this is not your end. I see you running, running to see your Da. I see you writing, with nothing to hinder you…not time, nor writer’s block. I see all the creative genius that you exhibited in your too-short life coming to eternal fruition. Your body may no longer be with us, but your light remains. Your words, your wonderful sense of humor and all of the people who are better for having known you.

Thank you Amber for shining your light into my life. I will miss you! ♥

Labor of Love

September5

Six years ago and 7 weeks early, I went into labor…it wasn’t Labor Day yet, but it would be by the time you finally arrived. Although you put me through the ‘pleasure’ of the labor I said I wanted to experience, you were sideways, and therefore, eventually had to be surgically extracted, just like your sister before you.  Something about my girls, they come early and upside down or sideways–I guess they wanted to be trend setters from the get-go.

I had a stomach ache all day on Sunday (or so I thought) and finally around 9 p.m., after calling a nurse help line, was told I was in labor and to go to the E.R. I was kind of annoyed because I was in the middle of packing up our house to move and this sooo wasn’t in my plans. I figured they’d give me something to stop the labor and send me home. And they did give me magnesium, TWICE! And when that didn’t work they gave me some steroids to help your little lungs develop, since it looked like you were determined to arrive. Even so, I had to wait (and labor) for a few more hours for your doctor to show up and prep for surgery. You finally made your entrance at 1:49 a.m. and I was so out of it I barely remember it, much to my regret. The cursed demerol they gave me to help ‘ease’ the contractions did little to actually help, but instead made me loopy.

They brought you to me later that morning and I wouldn’t let them take you back to the nursery at all after that. I think I was still traumatized from having been separated from your sister her first week of life, that I didn’t care if I was sleep deprived, as long as you were next to me. The next two days we spent in the hospital I jumped at your every little sound and couldn’t wait to get out of there when they finally released us. Less than a week later, we moved to the house we had signed papers on the same day you made your surprise entrance….

A lot of circumstances have changed over the past 6 years, but one thing remains the same, you are the light of my life. You have been a comedian since you arrived in our lives, always laughing and making us laugh.  You adore your big sister and try to emulate her, until she pushes you too far and you give her a piece of your mind. When you were tiny I foolishly worried that you would be lost in her shadow, but you simply made room in the spotlight for yourself and you are nobody’s shadow. You shine with a light all your own and are a wonderful part of our family. I cannot imagine my life without you and am blessed beyond belief to be your Mama. Happy 6th Birthday Mikah Jean! XO

Channeling my five-year-old OR ‘Why big girls still need their Moms’

August30

When my five-year-old gets frustrated or angry, she yells and kicks and screams–and then she usually gets sent to her room for a time out. Today I was really frustrated and I basically did the adult equivalent. I yelled and screamed (I left out the kicking, but if I could have found someone or something to kick that wouldn’t have kicked me back, I might have done that too!) And then I gave myself a time out. I left my girls with their Dad who happened to be home today, then I went to the park and sat in my car and fumed. Then I called my Mom.

Yeah, I’m almost 40, but there are still some things only my Mom can fix.  So she told me to come over and talk, and she listened, and encouraged me and gave me some homemade soup. I left happier and fuller. No, all my problems aren’t solved, and it’s probably not the last fit I’ll throw, but I’m so glad I got to have a time out.  And I’m so blessed to have a Mom who loves me enough to give me one.

Dragging my feet toward Fall….

August25

Maybe I’m in denial, but I just ain’t feelin’ the whole back to school thing this year. I mean, I got the new backpacks and outfits, I packed the first day of school lunch and I even put out the wreath I made last year, but alas, I am dragging my feet!                                                                                                                                                                                                            

For one thing it’s a bazillion degrees outside…excuse me weatherman, but could we get a little Fall weather to back up our change in routine please? It is quite hard to get excited about getting up early when it’s still light until 8 p.m. and the temp. is in the triple digits–just sayin’.  Give me a little crisp air, a light sprinkling of rain, and maybe I could get on board, but as is, I just want to go get back in my 3 foot pool and soak until mid-October. Plus, it seems cruel to send the children out into the world when it’s this hot.

It could also be that I’m bemoaning the fact that my baby is now a First Grader, which is a big deal, because she’s not nestled in the isolated safety of Kindergarten anymore…and my oldest is in 5th Grade and next year will be off to the dreaded middle school. Yes, I’m dreading it already…I’ve been dreading since her birth 10 years ago.  Jr. High was not a positive time for me, but that’s a whole other blog! Anyhoo! She loves school and can’t wait for next year.

While I try to wrap my brain around the whole thing, time just keeps marching forward and there are children to wake up at a godawful hour, lunches to pack, clothes to pick out and 6 hours of quiet, unnerving solitude every day. So yeah, I guess I’m not one of those Mom’s who relishes the start of school. As nuts as my girls drive me when they’re home, I am always sad to see them go. Because I know it’s a preview of the inevitable flying of the coup they will do far too soon for my liking. But maybe Mom just needs to take her happy pills and get a life of her own….co-dependency isn’t for the faint hearted!

Living, learning and letting it go….

February9

My lofty aspirations have waned…this seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I go to  bed vowing to become a health nut, then wake up and have another Pepsi…  Perhaps it’s a case of hair-of-the-dog. Or perhaps it’s just a flat out lack of discipline. Anyway, I have been sick for over a week, and sicker than I can remember being in a while, so dragging myself off the couch has required a lot of effort and blogging just seemed too strenuous. It’s probably just as well, I was probably getting boring.  Trying to think up interesting things to say every day ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I fear I revisit the same topics over and over and over again…kind of like the cycle of my dysfunctional life.

I remember being about 22 and having a job I didn’t want, but needed, and this really hard to work with co-worker/manager. Every day I had to work with her it was painful. Her superiority complex, etc. In fact, even as I’m typing this, she’s kind of morphed into this picture of another similar co-worker/manager I had a few years later….my point being, life seems to keep handing us the same lessons until we finally get around to learning  them. I remember at the time, I was more of a praying woman than I seem to be now, and I would pray that God would help me have a good attitude and be kind–and I even felt like He was showing me that I had to learn to persevere in spite of this person, but guess what? I ended up getting another job and quit.

Perhaps that was good, perhaps not, but cut and run was something I seemed to do a lot of in my 20’s. Only problem is, it’s 20 years later and not much seems to have changed. I guess in some ways I am less able to do that, primarily because my life is not just my own. My choices effect my kids and my husband…but there are so many days I just want to run for the hills, get the heck out of dodge and figure out my plan later.

However, my life (and the ruins of it) are a testament to how well this philosophy does NOT work. The people I know who own houses, and drive cars that aren’t 10 years old, have strong work-ethics. They stick to what they start, they made plans in their 20’s and actually saw them through. I always kept hoping things would just fall into place, but they never quite did.

So now I am the poster-girl for the reap and sow law, and I go around whining about the state of things when I have no one to blame but myself. If I had a time machine, I would go back and do some things differently. I wouldn’t change the course of my love-life, even though it’s been tumultuous. Or becoming a mom, because those are the good things in my life. But perhaps I’d start that IRA a little sooner and then actually put money in it every month. I’d take that leap at 30 when I thought buying a house for $69,000 was risky (Ha!) and maybe stick to my marriage a little better, rather than, well, cutting and running every time things didn’t go the way I wanted them to.

I guess the upside is, I have learned a few things over the past 20 years–but there is still so much to learn, so much growth that needs to happen, so much room for improvement. I have to remember not to spend all my time kicking myself, and instead focus on the here and now and try to listen to the One who is wiser than me.  Luckily, He’s never once cut and run…

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