The Mom Gets in the Pool*

*With a tip of the hat to Allison Tate’s “The Mom Stays in the Picture”

If you don't get in the pool, you can't hurl your one year old across the pool. But look at her face!

If you don’t get in the pool, you can’t hurl your one year old across the pool. But look at her face!

Yesterday I spent four hours at the official opening of the neighborhood pool, which we joined for the summer. There were at least 200 people at this party.

You know how many moms got in the pool over the course of four hours?

Six.

At one point I counted the number of moms wearing suits: 15. Every other mom in the joint was wearing regular clothes, huddled up with a friend or hunched over a phone while their children frolicked with dad. Or alone.

This was not a weather issue. It was gorgeous. A high of 81. I spent the whole time in the sun with SPF 50 and hardly got any color.

No, I’d bet my bathing suit top–a significant bet, trust me–that it’s more of a bathing suit problem.

And ladies, let me be clear. I HEAR that. Me and bathing suits go way back and not in a friendly way.

But that will not stop me from getting in the water, for three reasons.

1. I’m a So Cal girl and I love the water more than I don’t like the way I look in a swimsuit.

2. I gave birth to three children who are half fish.

3. Two of them are girls and I would rather poke my eyes out with my big toe than make them feel that only women who look the “right” way or wear the “right” size deserve to be seen in a swimsuit.

Sometimes, I can can rock the suit out of the gate. And other times, like today, I take a deep breath and fake it til I make it. Today that moment was when another mom leaned over and said “I am so glad that you swim. So many moms don’t swim.”

Dana pointed out a long time ago, it’s really true that nobody’s looking at us.

I mean, they may have been looking at me when I was screaming, laughing, splashing with my kids. Or doing the Chicken Dance on the pool deck—that’s because I do a mean Chicken Dance.

But they aren’t looking at us like that, like “Who does she think she is walking that fat a** all over this pool?”

Not the nice ones anyway, and who gives a flying fig what the mean ones think?

Your children will love it. When you get your hair wet, and do cannonballs and partner up for the water balloon toss. You’ll be that mom, the fun one. And if you think they won’t remember, they do. I do.

My mom got in the water with us and played hard. You ain’t seen nothing in this world until you have seen your mom come down a water slide head first and shoot through the inner tube hooked on the end.

I can’t tell you what she was wearing or how she looked in it.

But I can see the grin on her face and hear her scream as she hit the water. WHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

So what if this summer, we made a pact to do it differently? And what if I could promise you that all of the following are true:

The kids are waiting.

The suit doesn’t look as bad as you think.

Your hair will recover.

And you know you want to.

So let’s all stand up. Take off our t-shirts.

And be the moms who get in the pool.

Living in the Digital Age

These past few weeks have been filled with nostalgia and dust. Lots of dust. At the age of 93, my Grandma Betty has moved into an assisted living home. Her health is touch and go, her eyesight is bad, and sometimes, she just can’t remember to eat. For us grandkids, this is devastating. Grandma Betty has lived in the same house since the 1950s. And it was last redecorated, I think, in 1979. Translate that into this: for my whole life, nearly, that place has not changed. No new carpet. No different sofa. The lamps? Same spot. The kitchen? Can we call it “vintage chic” or perhaps just waaaayyyyy outdated?

Walking into Grandma Betty’s house is a like walking into a time capsule. It looks the same as it has for my entire life. It smells the same. My handprint that we gave to Grandma and Grandpa when I was two months old is still on the original nail from 1975. So leaving it has shaken us to the core.

For my cousins Dawn and Sarah, and me, going to Grandma’s house was like going to a safe-haven. At Grandma’s house, we played ping-pong with Grandpa Art, we dug in the sand box (remember when we would find the toys we had buried the previous summer?), and we had Coke floats, and fires in the fireplace. We would eat breakfast on the patio, wrapped in Grandma’s fluffy pink robe. We would go for bike rides or walks in the evening. We tried on her clip-on earrings and her amazing shoes. Rummy Cube, Rack-O, Clue, Uno.

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But no matter what we did, even just sitting together reading books, there was always an abundance of love. We were cherished, treasured, indulged. We were the smartest kids, or the funniest. She would say, “Why I never!” through her giggles. We were the most talented. “Where did you ever learn to do that?” And no matter what we did, it was cataloged in pictures.

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The picture albums at Grandma’s house begin in the year 1969. Everywhere she went, her camera went too. There is evidence of our Halloween costumes (in 1980 I was Chewbacca), evidence of our school performances. There are snap shots from evenings spent climbing trees or afternoons painting her white picket fence. And going through these pictures has been a blast. Dawn and I have spend more than a few hours gasping (Do you remember how high my bangs were?), groaning (I can’t believe I wore that!), giggling (We look like a couple of sunburned lobsters!), and remembering (I felt so special when Grams and I went shopping together.).

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In her closets, too, I have found some real treasures… more pictures of Grandma’s brother, Marvin who went down over the Pacific in WWII:

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Pictures of her sister Mazie, who my older daughter is named after:

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Pictures of her first (yes, first) fiancé, Warren:

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And a real gem, a picture of her mother’s mother, dated 1871:

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Finding all of these treasures has made me reflect on my own record keeping. It’s easier than ever, now, to take pictures. And don’t pretend that you’re not just like me and that you don’t whip out your camera for an especially good latte:

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We snap pictures and videos like crazy, but how many of us still get them printed out? I know that I don’t. And right now, I’m a little sad about that.

What about when Mazie and Violet’s children are packing up my house?   Will they sit in front of a computer and look at my iCloud? Will it even exist any more? Will they find their mamas’ baby pictures? See them in funny outfits?

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Will they find pictures of me and my dad, and see his nose or his smile in their own faces? And one more question… Does it really matter?  Do these events, unimportant to everyone but us, have a place in our lives?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Yes, they matter. Maybe not to the world. Maybe not to anyone but me. But they still matter. They provide a sense of belonging. In the pictures I can still feel the emotion of the moment, and I realized that Grandma and Grandpa were there, sharing them with me.  Here’s the literal moment that I caught the final out for a CIF softball title:

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Here’s where I laid my head on my dad’s shoulder on a Saturday:

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Or when I signed my national letter of intent to go to University of Virginia, at 10:55pm, in Austin, Texas, she has written:

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In the older pictures, pictures of my mother as a teenager, I see the hope and sparkle in her eyes and I realize that she was a girl before she was my mom:

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I see Nana, Betty’s mother, standing with pride on the porch of her home that had just been painted, a home that she purchased, maintained, and lived in all on her own until she was 103:

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This is where I am from. This is the very fiber of my being. These are the moments, big and small, that made up my life. And I am grateful to have seen them again.

Mean Mama Walking

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We have a sick mama among us. She’s sick in a way that she isn’t ready to face yet.

I was surprised that her secret was so open. But then I learned there’s another mama who is making sure everyone knows.

And not in a nice way. She is actively and purposefully making sure people know.

This kind of stuff takes me by surprise because no one in the important part of my life is like that. I make dang sure.

But every now and then someone on the outer edge, like this mama, makes a wave in my peaceful circle. And since I’m not looking for it, it smacks me sideways.

I called Dana to rant and rail: Is she new here? Doesn’t she know that we don’t act like that in this place? That we are space-holders and second-chance-givers and call-down-the-power-of-heaven-pray-ers?

Dana said Who is this again? One of the moms at your new school?

And I said Oh.

The new one here is me.

Making friends is hard. We just want people to know us already. We want to trust that people are who they seem to be the first time we meet them. But there are wheels within wheels in any community, from small town schools to big city corporations—unspoken rules by which everyone plays and the new folks have to figure out through trial and error.

It’s good for us to know about new places and new people, but it’s exhausting.

For months, this mean mama showed me what she wanted me to see before she showed me the truth. When I finally saw it, I turned to the other mamas, who told me that I was for sure the last to know.

I’m glad I know. I will be careful around her, but if she comes my way, I will be challenging and honest. I can ask hard questions with kindness to find the truth, because I believe we have to use our powers for good. We absolutely cannot be each other’s competition or entertainment. It’s not about shutting people out, but folding them into a network of love and support that all mamas can and should be to each other. I am not saying we walk blindly into the fire, thinking if we can just be nice enough, the fire won’t burn us; but there’s things we can do to lay the fire down so it provides warmth instead of scorching the earth.

I think that mean mamas are hiding something, creating a diversion over there, so no one will look too closely here.  They are hurting and insecure. They may never have  known true sisterhood friendship.

We have to show them what it means–and how our lives and hearts can grow–when we have truth-loving, prayer-saying, light-spreading, space-holding sister women in our corners.

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

 

 

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.

When Facebook Calls You Skim Milk

You know how something stupid can get you thinking?

Last week one of my friends posted “Which TV mom are you?” The pictures were of Claire Huxtable, Roseanne and Peg Bundy.

I am Claire, minus the law degree I thought to myself. No nonsense, fair, funny. For sure.

And then I got Cindy Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210.

Dang.

Cindy was skim milk—good for you but boring and forgettable. Minimal impact.

And stupid enough to let her sophomore daughter have a hotel room for prom.

Hello? I wrangled 200 teenagers a year for 18 years. I taught them Thoreau, for the love of God, and they liked it. People respected me, 16 year old people, and they don’t hardly respect anyone.

How on earth am I like Cindy Walsh?

Sweet goodness—have I turned into Cindy Walsh????

This could be a stay at home mom thing. Transitioning from working mom to stay at home mom is not for sissies.  I don’t want to turn this into a working vs. stay at home mom tirade because that horse has been Rode. To. Death.

(Rode. That’s right.)

I’m just saying that when a woman is kind of a big deal in her workplace, the eye of the hurricane, staying home can be like hitting a wall.

I am not complaining one bit. I am just saying that “big deal” and “hurricane” are not words I use to describe my time at home.

I used to be one bad ass teacher.

“I’m a bad ass stay at home mom!” is something no woman said ever.

Not that I want to go back, mind you. I never want to go back. And yes, I know the work I do now will resonate through the generations. Fruit of my womb. I get it. I’m thankful.

But this stupid quiz made me realize I miss being the eye of the hurricane, sometimes.

Vanessa, from Suburban Mama Goddess took the quiz and got Carol Brady. Vanessa is not Carol Brady. Maybe even more than I am not Cindy Walsh. She didn’t like it either. We had this chat:

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I would love to believe that changing my drink would solve this problem, but that’s a slippery slope. Where do you go from Kettel One and Tonic? Absinthe?

I know what I have to do.

Make peace with the fact that my Claire days are over.

Find a way to balance Cindy and Gloria while avoiding rehab for an alcohol and plastic surgery addiction.

And stop taking the stupid Facebook quizzes.

PS: Dana took the quiz and got Claire. I didn’t talk to her for two days. You can cause your own mid-life mama crisis at www.playbuzz.com.

Slowing Wonder Woman Down

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My younger self would have seen this statement as a challenge and asked with a saucy smile, “Are you sure about that?”

This older and wiser version of me knows better and actually grieves the years I spent trying to be too many things to too many people. My mantra used to be “I got this” with little thought to whether I needed to have it or not.

I have learned to say no, or say nothing, which is maybe even more powerful.

Now, Worn-out Wonder Women make me nervous. I feel like a recovering junkie: If I get too close to their whirlwind lives, they will suck me back into the vortex of Being All Things to All People. The affirmation that comes from keeping friends, colleagues, bosses, families and spouses happy can be intoxicating.

But to paraphrase Emerson, it gives no peace. Wonder Women are running from or towards something, for sure. In my own case, I was trying to find something that I already had. But I was moving too fast to know or appreciate or enjoy it. Now I try really hard to be still and present, but I can only do that if I have time.

And I can only have time if I tell others No.

No to commitments that only serve me or my ambition

No to people who do not know or care about my family.

No to people or things that do not bear fruit.

I only owe one yes in my life, and that’s to God.

Lysa TerKuerst of Proverbs 31 Ministries has a new book out called The Best Yes, which is all about curing “the disease to please” and escaping “the guilt of disappointing others” that comes from saying no. Today and tomorrow, if you order one copy, you can get a second for just $5, plus a free audio download.

Check it out at www.thebestyes.com and learn more about Lysa and Proverbs 31 Ministry at www.proverbs31.org.