And Then I Said “Younger Self, listen to me”

Too much, women lie to each other to soften the blows of life.

We—you and I—do it. Not so much anymore, but when we were in the throes of our twenties, we did it. I get why we did it, because when our best girlfriend is a puddle of hurt and anger at our feet, we just want to make it go away.

You’re fine. It wasn’t your fault. You did your best. You’ll get over this. Something/one better is waiting.

What we–you and I–have learned is that none of those words are helpful. When someone’s life falls apart, it’s not a thing to be gotten over. We can’t just leave pain behind us, like it never happened. Neither can we pick up our brokenness and carry it with us. We have to mend.

The thing is, mending is hard work. It requires courage and strength and faith.

So we have to be careful what we say to our sister girl in the puddle of hurt and anger at our feet. It’s not our job to make it like it never happened.

Our—yours and mine—friend is having some of the worst trouble of her life. There are no easy ways through the trouble, nothing to do but walk straight through, and for a while.

At your age, we—you and me—would have saddled up the posse and rode into town to make it all right. We would have used our words of fire and anger to declare that this will not stand.

We would have slowed her healing and hurt her more than helped.

Crosses are part of life and they have to be carried. If we try to save people from their crosses, we only make the way longer and harder.

So the other day, when she said she wasn’t sure she could survive the pain in her heart, I told her the truth: You—the person you are today—are not going to survive this. But I promise that you will defeat that death and rise again wiser, stronger and more whole.

She won’t walk this alone.  I will be a witness. I will raise my hands in prayer and call down the power of Heaven. I will give her space to reflect in her darkest days. And when she rises triumphant, I’ll be there to rejoice.

I wish I could say that we–you and me–learned this from a book.

But we didn’t. We lived it. You still have those times ahead so just remember that you have chosen your sisters well.

You are all women of the Resurrection and you know the way.

We’re posting as part of Suzanne Eller’s livefreeThursday! See more posts on Twitter at #livefreethursday

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

 

Dating

When you move, there’s this: making friends.

Before we moved, I thought about it, but more like “Oh, we’ll make friends!” or “The kids will make friends!”

Not once did I remember that making friends is like dating.

I HATED dating.

We are a very social family. We say the garage door is always open because the front door is just too stuffy. Come over, come in and bring your kids, dogs, food and drink.

In California, after ten years, we had gotten to that super comfortable place where the house didn’t have to be flawlessly clean to have guests. Everyone knew their way around the bathrooms and the kitchen. The kids didn’t ask for something to drink, they just rolled into the house and got it.

Every time we have someone over now, it’s still the early stages. I feel like the house has to be spotlessly clean and the kids have to be well-behaved and I spend a lot of time pointing out the bathroom and the getting kids a cup of water.

Because we want people to come back, you know. And first impressions are important.

Usually I’m holding my breath and hoping that someone doesn’t say or do something that’s a deal breaker. Those little conversations between moms that have the potential to cause problems—“No, we don’t drink soda”. Or “Yes, I can my own jam”. Or “That’s right, the kids have their own TV downstairs”.

Tip-toeing through a minefield.

Exhausting.

So far, lots of lovely folks have come through our garage and with some of them, I’ve even started closing bedrooms doors instead of insisting every room be spic and span.

I just wish I could fast forward a year and all the awkward getting-to-know-you stuff would be over.

In other news, we have snakes.

It's true that this little guy is less than a foot long. But does that really matter?

It’s true that this little guy is less than a foot long. But does that really matter?

Something to do with living on a previously uninhibited hill with two seasonal creeks and major construction above us.

Those of you who live where snakes also live, can you shoot me some advice on how to live with the stress? Especially the kind that rattle. We have a very fearless cadre of husbands around us who dispense of snakes at the merest shriek, but still. I heard a story at bunco the other night about a snake curled up under a car in a garage.

A garage that is right down the street from me.

Saints preserve us. Why does it always have to be snakes????

#cheersfromsouthernoregon

Oregon Trail Part 1: Campgrounds and Football Games


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They said they were coming at 7 am, and the big truck rolled down the street at 6:45. Shea put flip-flops on to take the kids to school and when he came back, every single other pair of shoes was packed. I got distracted while moving the kitchen supplies into the trailer and when I went back at 9:30 am, all the pots and pans were packed.

I had a pile of laundry because I thought they weren’t unhooking the appliances until the next day. “Good news!” Dan the Moving Man told me at noon that first day. “You don’t have as much stuff as we thought! We are ahead of schedule so I am wrapping up the appliances.”

I texted JFK Amy: Can we come over tonight to say goodbye? And stay for dinner? And baths? Can I borrow some pots and pans? And can I do some laundry?

We planned to leave by 1:30 pm on Friday and by 1, there was a crowd of friends to see us off.

I will never forget that.

We drove 180 miles across LA on a Friday afternoon and made it to Bakersfield in four hours. I was feeling pretty good about that. We didn’t have to sedate the dogs. The kids were calm. And we pulled the trailer over the Grapevine with nary a shudder from the engine.

This is our sweet old girl Sugar, cuddled up with Kate in the backseat.

This is our sweet old girl Sugar, cuddled up with Kate in the backseat.

The only thing was, it was dark. And every person with an RV knows that you should never set up your brand new RV for the first time in the dark. This trailer has a side pop out. That’s new for us. We learned that you have to place the trailer carefully so the pop-out doesn’t pop into the water spicket or the power pole.

In our case, it took two tries to learn that lesson.

The next morning we were up and off pretty early. It was the Day of a Thousand Stops. In our hurry to leave Bakersfield, we forgot to send the kids to the bathroom one more time, but we did make sure they had full water bottles.

Why can’t everyone have to pee at the same time?

We were trying to get to Merced by 1 pm, since there was a very important football game that needed watching and I had picked a campground with cable hook-ups for this very reason.

There is no shame in this game. Every new trailer comes with this kind of outdoor tv hookup.

Even Lizzy likes the Tide!

It was a little slice of river heaven.

The Merced River

The Merced River

The next day was our long day, 250 miles to Redding. It was colder, and the landscape was changing from the flat farmland of California’s Central Valley to the rolling ranchland of Northern California. We started to see more water, although I can tell you that California’s drought is real. The lakes and rivers were disturbingly below their normal levels, with sometimes hundreds of feet of exposed bottom. At Lake Shasta, we drove past a houseboat marina that had dropped more than a football field below the dock, left dangling on the hillside.

Redding looks more like Southern Oregon, and it was the first time we were cold during the day. We huddled up in the trailer with the TV on and had a movie night with Maleficent.

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We arrived home the next day, ahead of the furniture. We slept on the floor in the master, all seven of us, and woke up to frosted sidewalks.

In the first week, we unpacked all the boxes that came into the house. Which doesn’t mean that we found all our things, only that we unpacked all the boxes that came into the house.

I don’t want to sugar coat something that was hard for us. The sound of Gabe wailing as we drove away from the best friends he has ever known left a wound on my heart. Sometimes when Kate feels lonely, she says “Mom, remember the day we left California and all my classmates gave me a hug and a goodbye card?” Overall, I think they were a great age to make a move like this, and they have adjusted well in Oregon. But Shea and I knew that we needed to get the trip part–in-between the old life and the new–right. It had to be a fun adventure, a special time for us to be together as a family. The kids needed to know that while lots of things were changing, this part, the family part, was not. It was still the same mom and dad, same way of doing things, same crazy dogs.

Things they can count on, things that don’t ever change.

Friday: Oregon Trail Part 2: The First Six Weeks

 

 

Women Who Come Running When

I bought these as favors for Anne's baby shower. There have never been sisters in my family before, and I wanted to let the important women in my life know that I learned about sisterhood from them.  This is who we try to be.

I bought these as favors for Anne’s baby shower. There have never been sisters in my family before, and I wanted to let the important women in my life know that I learned about sisterhood from them. This is who we try to be.

On Halloween we trick or treated with neighbor friends, because that’s how we do. Steffani and Laurie know each other through me. They both have three year old daughters, Clare and Abigail, who decided that they had to trick or treat holding hands. Since Annie refused to get out of her stroller, I kept up with the older kids as they ran from door to door. Pretty soon, Steffani and Laurie were half a block behind us.

We all caught up again at Lara’s home, where as we stood outside with the kids milling around, Laurie gave Steffani her phone number.

Suddenly I was twelve years old again.

Wait, what? Why are they exchanging phone numbers? If they become better friends, what will happen to me?

Now, I  know that this is silly.

And I further know that I am the one moving away.

But for one really solid moment, I felt alone.

I am blessed with an abundance of wonderful women friends. They live everywhere, from Maui to Canada and points in between.

But Steffani, Lara, Dana, Laurie, Amy, Jennifer, Angela. These are the women within shouting distance. They are the ones who come running when. And any woman—but especially a mama—knows that you cannot do life well unless you have a solid core of other women who come running when.

From midnight trips to the ER to parenting advice to playdates over muffins and coffee while the babies play, these are the friends who make the daily business of parenting joyful from the simple knowledge that I am not alone and there is always another way to cut the cake or skin the cat, depending.

So I’m sad.

Because these women right here, right now? They will always be my friends, but they won’t be within shouting distance, and for a while I’m going to feel like I lost my safe place to land.

They have taught me: we all need women who come running when. Women who love us and support us and answer the phone at 2 am. Women who laugh with us and at us and don’t see the dirty dishes or the pile of laundry. Women who travel with us and celebrate with us and cry with us when it all goes wrong.

They see us at our best and our worst and they still come running when. They show up for it all.

I want to say thank you to these women for making my life here so beautiful and full of love and joy. I couldn’t have done it without you and I love you.

And here’s to all the women who come running when.

May you know one and may you be one.

BOO!

Annie, ready to BOO!

Annie, ready to BOO!

Something about this time of year lends itself to skulking in the shadows and making mischief. And I come from a long line of folks who do their best work at night.

We like things that go bump in the night. We like mystery and intrigue and we like to surprise and be surprised.

So the first time we got Boo’d, I knew this was a tradition we were going to make all our own.

If your neighborhood doesn’t Boo, fear not. You can get the party started.

All you have to do is this: get a bucket (or two or three or five); fill it with candies and fun treats from the dollar section at Target or your favorite dollar store. It doesn’t have to be much. I spent $20 and did five buckets. Michael’s has plastic jack-o-lantern buckets for $1.04.

Go to this website and print out the sign and the instructions: www.boobaskets.com. Place them in the bucket. Then put on your running shoes, wait for darkness and sneak up to your friend’s and neighbor’s doors, drop the basket, ring the doorbell for all it’s worth and run for your life.

Over the last five years, we have perfected our Boo’ing. While some people ring and run, we are a ring and hide family, piled up behind bushes and cars (and Sunday night, the very skinny Edison power box in the front yard) to listen as people discover our buckets. Then we sneak back down the street or to the car, giggling with glee.

You can see why we don’t just do one. It’s too much stinking fun.

Our hope is that our Boo-ees become Boo-ers, and spread the mischievous love. Sometimes we get Boo’d back and sometimes we don’t. But I am proud to tell you that my kids don’t care. For them, the fun is in the Boo-ing!

Logistics: The instructions tell the Boo-ee that they’ve been tagged and invite them to Boo someone else. They hang the “We’ve been boo’d!” sign in their front window so they don’t get boo’d again. Then they assemble their own basket(s) and pass it on. I’ve heard of neighborhoods where this spreads like wildfire. But even if it doesn’t, I guarantee that you will bring some loving fun into the nights of your boo-ees.

PS: We were boo-ed by Amy and her girls in return. Except they came in the daylight and got caught by my girls and my dogs before they got to the front door. We all ended up laughing in the front yard while Gabe provided a quick seminar on proper boo-ing technique.

 

 

For Meg

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If you follow us on Facebook, you know we have been praying for Meg, a friend of Amy’s who was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with her second daughter. Just a few, too short weeks ago, she found out that her cancer was back, stage 4, aggressive.

Elle is 5. Baby Cora is four months. Sam is their daddy.

I don’t know Meg. But I know Amy and Amy’s heart was broken at this news. That was enough for me and Dana. We rallied the prayers for Meg. My good friend Steffani called on her homeschool prayer chain and the big guns at our church.

The disease moved quickly. Yesterday, Amy called to say the end was near.  We asked for help to pray Meg Home. Two hours later, she was gone, leaving her suffering and her fear behind her.

But also her young husband and her two little girls, one old enough to feel this pain and the other too young to remember anything.

It makes me really, really mad. It hits very close to home for me, for Dana, for Amy. It’s hard to know what to do.

We can rage at the heavens. We can curl into ourselves, or push the story away from us and those we love. We can turn from the suffering of strangers, sad but relieved that it was someone else.

Or.

We can pray. We can witness. Not in a train wreck kind of way, but we can take a moment to acknowledge the grief that Meg’s family is feeling right now.

We can donate in Meg’s name to places dedicated to conquering this bullshit disease. We can honor those we have lost and those who have survived.

We can remember that suffering is a universal condition. We can do today what we want strangers to do when it is our turn.

Tonight, I am going to lift up Meg’s family in prayers for comfort.

I’m going to lift up Amy and her sister Ashley and their family in prayers for peace.

I’m going to lift up my own anger and give it to God. He knows what to do with it.

I am going to give thanks for the women and men who showed up in prayer for a stranger.

It’s the least I can do for a sister mama gone too soon.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do ~ Dana

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A good friend of mine texted me last week to me know that her father passed away. He had been sick for a long time and over the course of his illness, she and I had many conversations about this process of losing a parent to cancer. When I told another friend the news, she said to me, “Oh, she’s lucky to have you. You must have known just what to say.” But the truth is, I didn’t. I don’t.

Having lost my father just over a year ago, I definitely know what NOT to say. I’ll give you the top three: 1. “Don’t worry. It gets better with time.” Here’s the thing: no it doesn’t. I’ll never have a daddy again. There is nothing better about that. Ever. It felt so dismissive when people told me this, as if in just 6 months I would just be over it all. 2. “I know exactly how you feel.” I understand the sentiment behind this one, but truthfully, no one knows exactly how you feel. Everyone’s relationship with their father is very different. Some people are close with their father, some aren’t. Some carry around anger and resentment. Some have tremendous guilt or regrets. I know how I feel, but that doesn’t mean that any one else feels the same way. 3. “Just be happy that you have your daughters.” This one bugs me because it ignores the gray areas in life. The happiness that I have in my daughters is unrelated to the sadness that I still feel about losing my dad. Absolute joy and gut-wrenching grief CAN actually exist together, thank goodness.

But what TO say, then? I don’t know what to say to my sweet friend because I know that there was nothing that anyone could have said to comfort me. Every sentence I thought of saying to her seemed so empty and superficial compared to the hurt that I could hear in her voice. So I hugged her, and told her how sorry I was. And I meant it.

Then I did for her what so many did for me and my family when we were in the midst of hospice and funeral planning: I brought food. During those horrible days, I cannot even remember who brought what, but our friends descended on my parents’ house, bringing homemade cookies, BBQ’ed chicken and hamburgers, chicken salad from Costco, croissants… it was a cornucopia of goodness that made our lives so much easier. There was so much to be done, especially when we brought my dad home, that we absolutely did not have time to cook, and there were only so many meals that we could stomach from the local fast food joint. I remember just crying after one of my mom’s friends from church literally brought us boxes of food. Their gifts of food nourished our bodies and our souls. It was just one less thing that we had to worry about.

The recipe I made for her is a simple, but delicious pasta dish that travels well and can just be microwaved or heated on the stove. I threw in a green salad, some Italian bread from a local bakery, and a bottle of wine, packed it all up in a Trader Joe’s bag, and sat with her in her father’s house. I’m including the recipe here. It’s a staple in our home, especially in the fall and winter. Try it for your family, and try it for a friend in need. Win-win.

Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, quartered, then halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
3 ½ cups chicken stock – 2 14 oz cans or homemade (click here for our recipe)
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 ½ tsp dried basil
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 15 oz can cannelloni beans (or white beans)
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
½ lb ditalini pasta (or elbow macaroni, cellentani, or other curved pasta)

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until translucent. Stir in garlic and cook until tender. Reduce heat, and stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, water, broth, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, beans, and Parmesan. Simmer 40 minutes.

2. Add pasta and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Serve with extra Parmesan for garnish.