Monday, July 14, 2014

Brown Unicorns

I have never considered myself a perfectionist. While I wasn't a "bad" girl, I was a bit sassy (ask my parents) and had a bit of a naughty streak. On occasion the fun outweighed the consequence. Throughout my school years my grades were good but I admit they might have been even better if I had put in a little extra effort or started assignments sooner. My name probably was and still is atop the list of high-ranking procrastinators.

I always thought that my procrastination came from a lack of motivation and not really caring quite enough about the outcome. But in reality, over the past few years, I've learned some things both about procrastinating and about myself. It seems that at times procrastination and perfectionism have been evil twins and teamed up on me. Perfectionism was causing my procrastination. Fear of failure or not living up to expectation has left my projects and me undone. Feeling that I am not good enough or my work is not good enough or the illusion that the end result needs to be "perfect" has resulted in many unfinished projects, paralyzed me to the point of not starting a project at all or has left me unhappy with what I do accomplish. I have and often do find myself unable to get past the "should haves" or "could haves." Perfection has been the thief of joy.

There's a particular story my family knows well.

I sat in that art room on the second story of the elementary school thirty-some years ago. The project was papier mache. As a child I HATED to touch any thing dirty or sticky, have my hands soiled, have anything on my clothes, etc. (My parents went through a lot of hand soap, laundry detergent and patience raising me.) There I was, seated at the table with my hands submerged in a slimy, sticky mixture attempting to form tattered, torn paper into something recognizable.

Fast forward a unicorn was not looking too bad. As a matter of fact, it was really starting to take shape. Maybe I could get through this assignment after all.

Then came time to paint our creations. The art teacher arranged supplies and instructed us to select our brushes and paint. My world came crashing down.

I approached the paint selection. No white paint. Everyone knows unicorns are white. (Apparently everyone except that art teacher.) Perhaps someone else had chosen it. I'd wait patiently for my turn to obtain some. I gently scanned the room. NO WHITE PAINT! Maybe the teacher had forgotten to set it out. I was now certain it was in the closet. Politely I asked. Her response, "We don't have white. How about brown? Just use brown."

My heart sank and my project was ruined. How about brown? How about brown?? A brown unicorn? This could not be happening. Unicorns are white NOT brown. But, since I wasn't completely outrageous and I tried my best to follow the rules at school, a major outburst was not the best plan. So, I plopped in my seat and began painting my unicorn - most likely mumbling and grumbling inside - BROWN.

My parents were always very supportive and loved the artwork that came home. Naturally, my mother displayed that brown unicorn on the shelf in our home for years. For all those years, I stared at that unicorn seeing nothing but the flaw and wishing it had turned out differently.

Sadly, that brown unicorn isn't the only area of my life where I have focused on the negative and missed out on opportunity to see beauty and find joy. There have been more instances than I care to recount where I have let "if only" and "not good enough" creep in and take up residence.

Just this weekend, I sat cross-legged on our living room floor as my girl gave me instruction on painting a canvas. I can't paint, I told myself, as I have many times. But I can mother.  Sometimes mothering means meeting my girl where her heart is. That evening it meant I was headed to art class with my precious daughter as the instructor. 

She's a great teacher and things were going well...until that rogue brush stroke threatened the work. If my sweet encourager had not been there, I would have set that canvas down and walked away never to touch it again. She kept me there. She offered a solution to turn the mistake into part of the piece and to embrace the beauty beyond the flaws. Most importantly...

In that moment, my wise beyond her years 13-year-old spoke the most unexpected, insightful and significant words: "Accept your brown unicorns!"

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Writer

Five Minute Friday
Linking Up with Lisa Jo Baker for today's 5 Minute Friday: "Writer" 

I always dreamed of being a writer. I could see it: my name in print. The 9 letters of my long first name gracefully sprawled across the newsprint or along a binding in the local bookstore.

Sometimes, young daydreams and wishes don't come true and the realization hits that maybe it isn't part of the greater plan. But maybe, just maybe, it isn't "NO". Perhaps it's "not now" or even "yes" but a bit different from the original vision.

In the midst of life, words, phrases, beginning and ending sentences begin to flood my mind. I find the nearest writing supplies to record them. Sometimes it's the virtual keyboard on a smartphone. Sometimes pretty ink creates the words on the lined pages of a fresh new journal. Other times it's thoughts scribbled in crayon on a scrap of paper or even a grocery receipt that's been in the bottom of a messy purse for weeks. Whatever it looks like, the words get written and I allow myself for a moment to dare to dream once again that someday I will be a writer. It's then I realize, perhaps I already am.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Raising Generations Today Recap

Although I have not had time to process all that I took in and took away from my weekend at the Raising Generations Conference, one thing is certain: I am equipped to better face the challenges that come my way.

I know that to be true since life "slapped me in the face" upon my return. What once would have stolen my joy and rendered me unable to cope is now mere trials to face and conquer. I may drift with the waves and the rough waters may toss me about, but I will not be pulled under. I will not sink beneath them.

I drove home Saturday evening excited to see my family and anticipating my warm welcome and loving embraces. I walked in the back door and dropped my bags. No welcoming committee-not even the pets. Hello!?! Did anyone know I was home? Did anyone care?

As I made my way through the house and up the creaky, old stairs, there he was. The man I love, in the middle of a work zone, strategically placing tiles on the bathroom floor. You see, he didn't greet me at the back door because he was busy doing a labor of love for me, for our family and for our little fixer-upper home. At the moment, I was frustrated. Couldn't he have taken a moment to come welcome me? And, come to think of it, it had been a while since I had encountered a ladies' room and we have this ONE bathroom in our house. Ahem. Although this project was what I had asked for, I was inconvenienced and irritated.

Reflecting on that moment, I see that it wasn't at all about the construction zone of my bathroom. It's about the construction zone of my heart. I needed to get over myself. I needed to look past the mess and see the beautiful new sink and floor tiles that my husband was working so hard to install. I needed an attitude of gratitude.

A couple hours later found me talking and giggling with that same man and our beautiful daughter over dinner at our favorite local restaurant and a great night of sleep in my own bed. (I love a getaway but there's just something about your own bed, yes?)

Then came Sunday: my day of rest-a day to catch my breath before the start of a new work week and an opportunity to put my new found "mothering knowledge" to use. But, Sunday didn't go according to MY plan either. I once again, left my husband and daughter home without me.

This time I found myself sitting in a stiff chair in a small room of the Emergency Department gazing simultaneously at the numbers on the monitor and my father lying in the bed. I won't go into great detail, but I'll leave you with this: it's just a minor setback in some ongoing health issues and he'll be alright; watching your parents age is simply no fun; enjoy them and love them while they're here.

Upon my return home, I enjoyed dinner prepared by that hard-working husband of mine, sunk into the sofa nestled under my fuzzy blanket and dozed off. A little rest would surely make everything better. Or would it? You see, upon awakening, I was overcome by a wave of nausea. Yes...I was falling victim to the dreaded stomach bug! Again, I'll spare the gruesome details.(To all the other conference moms who were affected-I feel your pain and am praying for your recoveries.)

The trials I was facing left me exhausted, but not defeated! You see, as Brooke McGlothlin & Stacey Thacker stated in their session on Saturday, hope is a choice. As I sat in the quiet of my empty house during my sick day from work on Monday, rather than cursing my illness and my troubles, I chose to hope. I chose to believe that perhaps there was a message in all of this.

That stressed-out, pre-conference girl who felt like she was at the end of her rope and that is was fraying as she tossed clothing straight from the dryer to her suitcase at the last minute and was short with her child just moments before departing...that girl who so desperately needed to escape reality...that girl who was reaching out for hope but finding it just too far away...she was being called to the stillness to rest, to be renewed and to stretch just a little more to finally grasp tight to hope.

In between the chaos of life before and after the conference, was an amazing, fun-filled getaway with some great women and without the worries of everyday life (i.e. work and home responsibilities). I wish I had more photographic documentation, but aside from a few photos and a little Facebook surfing from my hotel bed Friday night, I tried my best to "unplug and recharge" and not be as attached to my smartphone as I usually am.

Highlights of my little getaway include:

Walking into a shoe store on Market St. and finding 1 pair of perfect, tall, black MY size...ON CLEARANCE. Thus ending the 2 year search for new boots.

Spending girl time with a good friend.
 Proclaiming ourselves to be the The Best Mom(s) ever!
May I remember in the moments that I feel like a failure that I AM the best mom ever because He has chosen me to mother my precious girl and will equip me and guide me to do just that (even - and especially - through these teenage years.)

Meeting  Lisa Jo Baker and seeing September McCarthy.

Seeing old friends and meeting a few new friends...purchasing some books and winning some books...laughing, learning and SO MUCH MORE!

As the design on my conference swag bag states, "Life is a Journey."
  I can't wait to see where the rest of my journey takes me!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 12

Lesson #12: Hire a "Manny"

From the day we told him we were expecting, I knew my dad was in love with his grandchild. When it came time for her arrival I think he would have beat Ben and I to the hospital if my mom had let him!

From the first time he met her, he called her his "Lovebug" and they've shared a special bond since the beginning.

Emily is truly blessed to have both sets of her grandparents nearby and involved in her life. But I'm choosing to write about "Poppy" tonight.

We had always planned that I would be a stay at home mom, but, 6 months in, circumstances were such that I was headed back to work part time. Deep down I knew that I was doing the right thing by financially contributing to our little family and, I'll admit that adult conversation helped keep my sanity, but I was a bit devastated to be missing out on that time with my precious girl and the thought of having to entrust her care to someone else.

So, what was a mom to do? Hire a "Manny". Yes...I hired my dad, "Poppy" to care for Emily while I worked. What a blessing that was!

Every day was an adventure: they read countless books pouring over the details on each page, watched education programs (I vividly recall my lesson on nocturnal animals-taught by my toddler), played dolls and hosted tea parties. I'll never forget the day that I got a text with a photo of his turquoise finger nails he had let her paint and his neck wrapped in a pink feather boa!

I am forever grateful for the way that he cared for her in my absence and for everything that all the grandparents have done to help shape Emily into the fine young lady she has become!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thirteen to Thirteen: Day 11

Lesson #11: Be Yourself...Be "You-nique"

Having struggled most of my life with fear of fitting in and on a constant quest for approval, it brings me great joy to see Emily so sure of her self.

From the beginning, she has been a free spirit. (At times it has posed a challenge-don't ask about age 3 and her quest for independence.) She has always had her own sense of style, a mind of her own and has not buckled to the pressure to go with the crowd. I see her so comfortable with who she is, yet so humble, and it makes my heart happy.


(It's not every day you find "Cinderella" with a short messy hairstyle, a tattered hemline and muddy feet on a swingset!)