Life in the mother’hood can be a real mother

Life in the mother’hood can be a real mother

Motherhood is a motherBeing a parent is a bizarre and tremendous thing. All of a sudden, you’re expected to be completely responsible for someone you’ve just met, who has all manner of needs that you’ve never supplied before, and has various personality traits and proclivities that surely don’t come from your side of the gene pool.

But necessity is a mother. I am a mother because my children were conceived. And I had to figure out how to be a mother because, all of a sudden, I was one.

It’s inconceivable how small beings so thoroughly inexperienced and utterly helpless can somehow reduce grown-ups to puddles incapable of rational thought, but they can. And do. At least, they do in my house. Regularly.

Read more here

photo credit: Jordan Whitt

 

Share
Understanding the power of ‘no’

Understanding the power of ‘no’

First fan letter!
Thanks, Diane, for reading the new column over at the Catholic Sentinel! God bless you!

People who know me well would likely agree that I’m usually not good for much more than a “yes” and a laugh.

Which is just another way of saying that I am categorically very, very, horribly bad at saying, “no.” At least, that is, until recently.

Lately, I feel like I have been saying, “no,” to just about everything. And it’s been simultaneously horrifying … and liberating.

You might wonder: why have I been giving ye old smackdown to interesting projects, exciting engagements, and other sparkly distractions these days? Because, frankly …

Saying, “yes,” isn’t making me happier or holier.

That’s it.

I have been taking a long, hard look in the mirror for a while now – in a totally healthy, non-creepy, non-narcissistic way, promise! – because things have been breaking down physically, emotionally, and with relationships for a while because of my, well, addiction of sorts to what usually happened when I said, “yes.”

The sense of productivity, needfulness, and recognition that often followed my affirmative response to whatever came my way became an idol of sorts – something to seek, something to save me from myself and my circumstances, something to depend upon.

In other words, saying, “yes,” was, however subconsciously, filling a God-shaped hole in my heart that was meant for my Savior alone.

I found that saying, “yes” to so many things really meant I was saying, “no” to more important things. And sometimes God. And especially people. My husband. My children. And maybe, more especially, myself.

I am learning that I must say, “no” if I am going to have the energy to say, “yes” to time to care for myself so I am able to care for the people closest to me. I need to be able to give them my best yes.

And I wasn’t.

And in many ways I still am not.

I’m getting better at taking care of myself and my core responsibilities, but guys – it is. so. hard. to say no. I still (whyyyyyyyy??) care a little bit too much about what people think of me, especially when I tell them I can’t/won’t/shouldn’t/mustn’t do whatever it is they ask/want/expect of me.

Well, this weekend, I’m over at the Catholic Sentinel talking about this very thing, and about harnessing the power of ‘no.’

Which, by the way, is NOT a dirty word. Although it does still make me shudder and twitch a bit still. Just a bit.

I’m working on it.

God bless y’all,

heather

 

Share
31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Love (Day 13)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Love (Day 13)

Fifteen years ago today, my life was forever changed because of … wait for it … the internet.

Ya gotta love the internet.

The year was 2000. The world was still turning after the Y2K hysteria died down. I was working a gazillion hours per week at a very high-pressure job, including most Saturdays. It was a relatively low-paying position since it was salaried, but there were occasional bonuses, other fringe (read: free food) benefits, and I loved the owner (still do), so I soldiered on.

Indeed, it was this cruh-hazy work schedule and the fact that I hadn’t been in town long that led me down a path I probably wouldn’t have trod otherwise: internet dating. My girlfriend reported meeting many “cool” guys on one particular site, and encouraged me to sign up. Since I wasn’t interested in any guys from college, and was tired of trying to keep up with the singles scene with what little free time I had, I thought, why not? An internet dating site (especially during the free introductory period) was extraordinarily cheaper and seemingly more strategic than bars, clubs, and concerts, and wouldn’t take nearly as much time.

The one stipulation I had in signing up was that I join a Catholic singles site, once I found out there was such a thing (there were several, actually). This stroke of genius was based on something my dear mother pounded into my head that actually stuck – “Whatever you do, marry a Catholic.” At the time, my faith life was less than lukewarm, at best, but it somehow made me feel safer to wade into the virtual dating waters with the word “Catholic” prominently displayed in the URL.

To spare you the boring details of my relatively brief foray into the wilds of Catholic dating sites, I met up with a couple of heretics, a future priest (still a beloved friend of my family – he baptized our first son), someone my sister was friends with, a couple of guys from California, and a very nice – but bland – suitor who wound up marrying my parents’ friends’ daughter. All this internet dating led me to an epiphany: just because a dude self-identified as quote-unquote Catholic didn’t mean he actually was a) practicing his faith or b) the right guy for me in other ways. I know what you’re thinking: “Duh, Heather.” Hey – have mercy, people! I’m a bit special!

Let’s go back to the “couple of guys from California.” I ended up having a notable crush on one and married the other.

The first guy – we’ll call him G – was pretty darn attractive (I’m pretty sure he knew he was a G, too), and owned his own business. And, he said he was “Catholic.” Well, there were some red flags, but that didn’t stop me from meeting up with him. It was the weirdest thing. G was divorced (okay, red flag) and several years older than I (perhaps another red flag), and yet I had the hardest time picturing him as a married man. He just acted like a bachelor (BIG red flag). He also ended up being one of those who liked to play head games. By that time, even I could recognize that there were too many flags on the field, so I ended it.

Not too long after, a guy we’ll call D started e-mailing me. He was funny, and interesting. I have always thought I have an, let’s say, unusual sense of humor, but I didn’t find myself having to explain what I was saying to him – D thought it was funny, too. Or, maybe he was just being nice. Whatever the case, we had many lengthy conversations on the phone (at long-distance rates, which they still had in those days – so much for internet dating being cheaper!), and more e-mails. Gosh, I wish I would have had the presence of mind to save those letters!

And, so, 15 years ago today, I met my future husband for the very first time in the local international airport. I was a few minutes early, and distinctly remember rushing to the ladies’ room and saying countless “Hail Mary’s” to calm myself down, as for some reason, I was intensely and uncharacteristically nervous.. I don’t remember EVER being so nervous as those minutes before meeting D. Out from the gate walked the tallest guy I’d seen in quite a while. He looked nice (<- what does that even mean??). And, as soon as he saw me, he was smiling at me. Gosh, I was so nervous, I hardly said a word the whole walk through the airport, while he was talking a mile a minute. D didn’t really seem, from outward appearances, anyway, to be my “type,” but I was pretty sure I didn’t like my “type” anymore anyway. I mean, where had my “type” led me in the past but to hurt, pain, and regret? D was definitely a bachelor, and had never been married, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he just seemed like a stable, solid, steady, marriage-material-type guy. Why wasn’t he married yet?!

The cutest thing happened on our drive from the airport; I stopped to get gas, and D dutifully hopped out, attempting to pump my gas; however, since we were in Oregon, he couldn’t lawfully do so. He thought it was stupid. I agreed. It was a sweet gesture. I dropped him off (still had to go back to work for the rest of the day) and couldn’t stop thinking about him. It turned out to be one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

That first night, he took me to the swank Atwaters restaurant high up in the US Bank building in downtown Portland and tried to pull a “you have something on your lips” thing before he kissed me for the first time after dessert (which, as I recall, was identified as “Looking over the edge of the chocolate abyss). Think what you like – I let him kiss me on our first date, and I kissed him back. It turns out, we were very good at kissing each other.

The next night, I cooked him dinner, which he didn’t eat much of (later I found out it was because he was too excited to eat – not that he disliked my cooking). He got some red sauce on his shirt, so we went and bought him a XLT sweater on sale at Eddie Bauer. I still love that sweater, man.

We went to meet up with friends at Paddy’s, and while he was in the other room, I (admittedly a bit tipsy from a couple of cocktails) told my friend I thought I was going to marry this guy, as crazy as that sounded.

After D left to return to California, I called my mom, crying, because I hadn’t wanted him to leave. Wouldn’t you know it? My Mom called it: “You’re in love!” She further explained that she knew I had thought I had been in love before, but that this seemed much, much different from other relationships – and she hadn’t even met the guy yet! D and I kept talking, flying to meet each other, etc., and on January 25, 2001, he proposed to me in a candlelit room strewn with red rose petals and Stevie Wonder playing in the background.

Given everything we’d been through individually until that point in our lives, and what we’ve been through together since then, it seems nothing short of unthinkable, but I can definitely say that God knew EXACTLY what He was doing when He brought the two of us together.

So, fifteen years, many more jobs, several moves (including twice cross-country), five children, three mortgages and several cars and a minivan with more miles on it than I care to mention later, I’m still thinking about him, loving him, forgiving him, and learning how to be a better Christian, Catholic, wife, and Mom because (and sometimes in spite) of him. And I feel so very, very VERY blessed that, at least for us, despite my expectations to the contrary, this internet dating thing did, indeed, catch on.

Oh! And, if you’d like to hear something about our love story in audio format, as well as how Bonnie and Rebecca met their husbands, check out Episode 8 of The Visitation Project. Until tomorrow, God bless y’all!

heather

USE THIS

Share
These children will be the death of me.

These children will be the death of me.

We’ve been having a difficult time getting going in the morning. It seems like, no matter what I do, somebody (and by somebody, I mean the 3-year-old and/or the 11-year-old) throws a wrench into the flow, everything gets all jacked up, and we’re late for school. Uh-gain.

Anyone who has tried to get more than two people ready and out the door by a certain time each morning knows just how crazy-making it can be. This particular cross is a legit reason, in and of itself, to homsechool, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, in an effort to retain what thread of sanity I have left and to hopefully improve my blood pressure, I’ve been working on streamlining our routine for the past couple of months. Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Clothes are selected, backpacks are packed, lunches are mostly made, and shoes and jackets are located THE NIGHT BEFORE.
  • Breakfast is over at 7 o’clock sharp, unless you’re age 3 and under and just woke up.
  • The three away-from-home school kids each rotate through dressing, teeth-brushing, hair-fixing, and last-minute lunch prep after breakfast. We have a rule that no two kids may be doing the same thing at the same time, because that’s just asking for trouble.
  • I help the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old get breakfast and get dressed, unless, by some miraculous occurrence, I can get one of the older kids to help.

The above plan has been working-ish, but we had a major problem this past Friday morning resulting in me falling on the garage steps and sniffling all the way to school and texting my husband that, yet againSOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!!!!!

After talking it over with my other half, the new routine was implemented today: all schoolkids must be dressed and have their lunches completely made before they eat breakfast. And Mommy is in charge of the babies, as usual. Sounds promising, right?

Except … today our schedule was hijacked because … wait for it … I had to go to the bathroom.

What was I thinking??!

Mere moments after I put the 11-year-old in charge, the 3-year-old was running full tilt up the stairs into my bathroom with her eldest sister in hot pursuit.

Man. Someday I will be able to toilet in peace.

Anyway, I will spare you the gory details, but the end result was me, blood boiling, fake-smiling my way through buckling car seats, and pretty much yelling at the older kids regarding listening and caring and helping. Yeah. I get the irony.

I think I might have asked them if they wanted me to suffer from a heart attack and die. Not my finest moment.

Once the kids were safely off to school (five minutes late, but who’s counting?), I texted my BFF and said, “I never knew how far from holiness I really was ’til I started having kids.”

There’s just nothing like having to wake up early after a restless night’s sleep to feed, clothe, corral, nurse, transport, educate, negotiate, soothe, bathe, train, love, discipline, and nurture five sweet, demanding, unbelievably loud and infinitely beautiful little souls to show you just how doggone self-centered you really still are. Especially when the kid who just had a rough time at the doctor’s office wants your snack. After he’s already eaten his.

But I digress.

Having children is like turning on a ginormous spotlight and putting a big, fat mirror in front of your face while hearing a voice sneer, “Neener-neener! You thought you were getting it all together, but this [insert crazy stressed Mom behavior] is how you really are!!”

Reflecting on the tumult of the morning and my response to it, I thought, “These children will be the death of me.”

I sat with that thought for a moment ” … the death of me …” It sounds simply horrible, doesn’t it? Perfectly wretched! But, upon further reflection, I considered what those words really meant and figured, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.

Anything within me that isn’t love needs to die: the despair; the pride; the selfishness; the anger; the need to control; the fear of failure; the ego-centrism; the entitlement; the lack of gentleness, generosity, and compassion. Just like a really good clearance sale, everything must go.

The Bible tells us that God prunes those whom He loves. And to get to the essence of who I am as His child, to be more a more perfect reflection of Him, I must be pruned. A lot. Which means He must love me an AWFUL lot. Because the pruning? It often feels terribly awful and horrifically painful. Because those who bear the pruning sheers aren’t always gentle, and I’m not always (okay – hardly ever) predisposed to receiving the trimming I need.

But my Heavenly Father knows me well enough to know, as I like to joke, that it would take these five little people to get loud and crazy me to crave silence with Him in Adoration, and to really and truly lean on Him as I’d never leaned before – almost so far that I thought I’d fall over. He knows. Because He knows me. And He loves me. And He’s patiently waiting to see the good fruits that will be borne from this time of pruning as I remain in Him.

I think it’s time to go get some gardening gloves.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in Me, and you will bear much fruit.” -John 15:5

i-am-the-vine

Share