Looking Back at 2015 and Ahead to 2016

Looking Back at 2015 and Ahead to 2016

It seems like for the past few years (four, if my memory serves me correctly), I’ve ended each year thinking, “this has been the most difficult year of my life.” Which is saying something because it means that each year got progressively harder! Death of a loved one. Huge personal changes (which I may or may not write about here someday). Broken relationships. Physical pain, injuries and illness. The list goes on…

But this year, for the first time in almost half a decade, I am not looking back and thinking, “this has been the most difficult year of my life.” Oh, it was hard. Believe me. But instead of being hard due to painful circumstances (although there were plenty of those), it was hard because I did hard things. Good things, mostly. But things that required stepping outside of my comfort zone. Things that required me to put on a brave, confident face even though inside I was shaking with fear. Things that made me choose between cowering in my fear and mustering up courage despite my fear.

I remember about two and a half years ago (so the summer of 2013), I was canoeing down the Little Miami with friends. We happened upon a tree on the shore that was used for climbing up and jumping off into the river below. We paddled our canoes over to the tree and one by one, everyone climbed up the tree and jumped into the water. Soon I was the only person left who hadn’t made the jump. I sat there in the canoe, with the two sides of my brain duking it out. To jump and risk falling, getting hurt or looking foolish? Or to stay in the canoe where it was safe and comfortable, yet miss out on the potential fun? I knew if I didn’t jump, I would regret it. And regret is one thing I don’t want to live with. So, despite the butterflies in my stomach, I got out of the canoe, climbed the tree and jumped into the river. And you know what? It was awesome.

I share that story because it’s reminiscent of what this year has been like. It has been filled with choices: stay in the proverbial boat where it’s comfortable, or get out, risk failing and jump?

For me, 2015 was awesome. It was awesome because it helped me to see that I am strong. I am capable. I can be who I want to be and create the life I want to live. I don’t have to let my fears and insecurities dictate who I am.

Making those jumps is rarely easy. But it’s almost always worth it.

So it is with a heart full of gratitude that I leave 2015 behind. This past year has taught me so much, about both myself and what is most important to me.

Not only am I grateful for all those lessons learned, but perhaps even more, I am immensely thankful for the amazing support network I have. I know I’ve said that countless times here, but truly. I am so lucky to have the family and friends that I do. They encourage me when I feel lost, overwhelmed and sad. They revel with me in my successes. They help me to be strong even when I feel broken. They are my biggest cheerleaders, my most trusted confidants, and my most ardent supporters.

And now, it is time to embark on a new year. A new year that will inevitably be filled with challenges as I go back to school, navigate the world of single parenting, send Anna to preschool (in the fall) and generally adjust to this new (and sometimes crazy) life of mine. I am nervous, yes, about being in school for the first time in eight years. I am nervous about the balancing act of being a good student while also being a good mom (not to mention friend, daughter, sister, etc.). I am nervous about all the uncertainties the future holds. But most of all, I am excited for these new adventures.

I hope that a year from now, I will look back on 2016 and be amazed at how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown and everything I’ve learned along the way. I hope that 2016 is filled with lessons learned, adventures had, memories made and life enjoyed.

Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving and Sadness 

Thanksgiving and Sadness 

It’s the night before Thanksgiving. Actually, technically it is already Thanksgiving. I should be crafting a post outlining all the things for which I’m thankful. Truthfully, there are many: wonderful, healthy children. A supportive and caring family. The most amazing network of friends I could have ever hoped to have. A warm home in which to live. A safe car to drive. Plenty of food to put on the table. The list could go on and on. 

But those aren’t the things I want to focus on right now. Not exactly, anyway. Because here’s the thing: sometimes gratitude isn’t always synonymous with joy. 

That’s the perception, right? What do you have to be sad about? Look at all the things in your life to be thankful for! Once you regain some perspective and focus on the good things, all your sadness will melt away. Will it? Should it? 

Believe me, I am a huge proponent of searching for the blessings, even, and especially, when the going gets rough. Choosing gratitude over self-pity and discontentment does help. It helps us to be more positive. It helps us to be more appreciative. And sometimes, yes, it helps us to feel happier. But not always. 

Sometimes even a grateful heart is a hurting heart. A heart that is experiencing brokenness and difficult changes. A heart that recognizes and embraces the good, all the while allowing itself to mourn the bad. 

So here I sit, on this Thanksgiving Eve, overwhelmed by all the good in my life. Because there truly are so many things for which to be grateful. But I also sit here acutely aware of the empty beds in the next room. Of the empty place that will always be at the table at our Thanksgiving dinner because she left us too soon. And of all the other painful things in my life right now. 

It is okay to be grateful, yet sad. Thankful, yet hurting. The two are not mutually exclusive. 

When You Feel Like a Failure

When You Feel Like a Failure

No matter your age, your station, your gender, your economic status, your religion. Sometimes we all feel like failures. 

I am not healthy enough. 

Kind enough. 

Disciplined enough. 

Smart enough. 

Beautiful enough.

Put-together enough. 

Patient enough. 

Strong enough.

Brave enough.

I am a bad parent. 

A bad friend.

A bad partner.

A quitter.

I failed at work.

I failed my relationships. 

I failed at being the person I want to be. 

I hurt the people I love the most. 

These defeating voices are loud. If we let them, they will become all we can hear. They will drown out the good. They will blind us to our successes. They will rob us of joy. 

Fight those voices back, friends. There is grace for our failures. Grace that allows us to recognize our mistakes rather than cover them up. Grace that helps us learn from our mistakes, move on and do better. 

So instead of telling yourself, “I’m not good enough,” instead say, “I am imperfect. I have made mistakes. But I refuse to let those mistakes define me. I refuse to give up. I am stronger than that.” Because you are. I am. 

Life is hard enough without the voices in your own head telling you that you aren’t good enough. So tell them to be quiet. 

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

 Three weeks from tomorrow, Jericho will start kindergarten.

I have been his primary caregiver nearly every day since he was born over five years ago. The days filled with the little things have often dragged by. Sometimes an individual day seemed longer than an entire year felt, looking back. I suppose that’s why everyone says “the days are long but the years are short.” Oh how true that is.

When I was a new mom (and admittedly, sometimes still), I rolled my eyes when people told me that the time would fly by. When they told me to enjoy every moment. “They must not remember what it’s like to function on little to no sleep,” I thought.

I still don’t think it’s possible to enjoy every moment. Time is fleeting, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows. There are some phases that I’m happy are gone. I like uninterrupted sleep, thank you.

Like many moms, though, I find myself wishing I had slowed down more and soaked up the sweet little things about each stage. The cozy snuggles. The way he wrapped his pudgy arms and legs around me when I carried him. The softness of his hair when I would kiss the top of his head. The feeling that sometimes, I was the only person in the entire world he wanted. The one who could feed him and comfort him and rock him off to sleep.

It was never difficult, deciding to quit my job and stay home with him. Honestly it’s what I dreamt of doing from the time I was just a child myself. I do not regret the choice I made. 

But time moves on. Children grow up. People and circumstances and relationships change. Jericho starts school this year. Anna will start preschool next year. School is on my horizon in the near future as well. Life is very different now from what it was when Jericho was born. I am very different. 

I have no desire to go backward. I am not sad that he isn’t a baby anymore. I am proud of who he has become and excited to see who he will grow to be as he journeys through school. This year is the start of a new era. It’s the start of something great.

And with beginnings, of course, inevitably come endings. My heart is so full of gratitude for these last five years. They haven’t been easy. On the contrary, they have been the most difficult five years of my life. But oh, they have been worth it. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. 

So here’s to an ending, a beginning and above all, an amazing young man who brings a smile to my face, renews my sense of wonder and curiosity with the world around me, and makes me want to be a better person simply by calling me “mama.”

I love you, buddy. I am so very glad you’re mine. 

Choosing Gratitude

Choosing Gratitude

In many ways, this summer has been amazing. I have had so much fun with the kids and with friends, and I’m happy to say that I have really been enjoying these last days and weeks before Jericho starts school.

But If I’m being honest, I must say that the past couple weeks have been a little rough. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it feels like I’m drowning. And along the way, I’ve noticed myself getting sucked back into bad habits and negative thinking that I’ve worked really hard to break over the past year or so.

One of the things I’ve found most helpful in breaking these habits is intentionally looking for the good. It’s easy to dwell on what’s wrong. It takes much more effort to focus on what’s right. No, it won’t make the hard things any easier. But it does help to provide a little dose of perspective.

So here, in no particular order, are ten things I’m thankful for right now:

1. Sunshine. The rain has seemed constant lately. Today (and yesterday) the sun is shining. How glorious.

2. The kids have been playing fairly well together lately. They especially love to play “superheroes” and it’s awesome.

3. I get a much-anticipated evening off tomorrow.

4. Card night with family is finally back this weekend after a few month hiatus. Yay for canasta and copious amounts of junk food!

5. We’re going back-to-school shopping today. I always loved this tradition as a kid, and I’m so excited to share it with Jericho now!

6. Scenic overlooks. There’s something so peaceful about looking out over the river. I’ll never tire of it. Eden Park was today’s stop.

7. I’m going camping with a friend next weekend. I haven’t been camping in many years and I can’t wait!

8. Last weekend I found the exact coffee mug at a thrift store that my mom loved and used often when I was a child. The sweetness hasn’t worn off yet. It’s as close as I can get to sharing a cup of coffee with her.

9. My family has been incredibly supportive and helpful to me lately and I’ve found myself reminded anew how lucky I am to have them.

10. Momsters. Enough said.

The Little Things

The Little Things

 Obviously I’ve known for quite a long time that Jericho is going to start kindergarten this fall. But today… Today it hit me for the first time that I only have three months left with him at home. Three. Months. 

How is that even possible? Where did the past five years go?

Actually… I know where they went. They went to hours nursing on the couch. To sleepless nights and countless diaper changes. To rocking and holding and bouncing and singing. They went to books read and meals made. To pictures colored and games played. They went to talking and listening and doling out consequences and soothing hurts. They went to enduring temper tantrums and, perhaps, to throwing a few myself. They went to feeling clueless and lost and guilty and more full of joy than words could ever express. To wondering how in the hell I’m going to do this thing called motherhood. 

And somehow, all those small, inconsequential moments, all those little things, add up to become something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Those little things fill the days, which become the weeks and months and years. Then all of the sudden, you find yourself with an almost-kindergartener. Your helpless, tiny baby becomes this big, independent kid who doesn’t need you for large portions of his day. The sweet newborn who feels to you as though he’s a piece of your own heart existing outside your body…that piece of you grows up. And walks away. 

Yes, I know that the aim of good parenting should be to raise competent, independent adults. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch as your child starts to need you less and less. 

More than anything, I am inexplicably excited for this next phase of Jericho’s life. I am thrilled and humbled to watch him grow and develop and learn. He is an amazing little boy and I cannot wait to see who he becomes over the next thirteen years. 

But first, just give me a few minutes while I sit here and cry into a strong cocktail, lamenting how quickly these five years have gone. How very fleeting life actually is…

Tick Tock: On Worlds Ending and Choosing Love

Tick Tock: On Worlds Ending and Choosing Love

One of the most vivid memories I have of the time surrounding my mom’s death is from the night before she passed. We (dad, brother & SIL, Ryan and I) were all gathered around her bed in the ICU with the doctor. He was explaining to her that she was very sick and realistically, wouldn’t have much time left. She couldn’t talk because of the CPAP machine covering her face, so she was using a notebook and pen to communicate with us and the doctor. She wasn’t afraid of where she was going, she wrote. Only afraid of getting there.

I remember staring at those words on the yellow notepad, in her beautiful handwriting that I had always envied. “This can’t be real,” I thought to myself. How could this be happening? My strong, beautiful, confident mother lay there, helpless and so very sick. If there ever was a moment in my life that epitomized the term “surreal,” that was it.

What stands out most in my memory is the sound of the clock. Its infuriating tick tock filled the silent room, a cruel reminder that time marches on. Time waits for no one. Here I was, with my very world crashing down around me. And somehow that clock continued on. How could people carry on with their lives when mine felt as though it was ending? When my mom’s was ending?

I was angry with the doctors who couldn’t save her, angry with God for allowing her to die, angry with her for leaving me. But most of all, I was angry with all the other people who carried on as if nothing had happened, as if nothing had changed. Because everything had changed. Even in that moment, I knew nothing would ever be the same.

I wish I had some positive, upbeat way to conclude this story. But the truth is that I don’t. The truth is that there’s always someone whose world is crashing down around them today, right this very moment. There will always be people whose hearts are breaking. People who will look back on today as the day when everything changed.

So choose kindness. Choose compassion. Choose empathy. Choose love.