One Corner Piece

Regret and Accountable.

These two words have been running around in my head for months. Some days they are louder than others, but their noise is an almost constant hum in the background of my life.

I didn’t behave inappropriately with someone else, I didn’t and don’t hide from all the people who might judge me or hold me accountable, and I didn’t and I won’t ever make excuses for behavior that is inexcusable.

But you know what I did do? I ignored all the signs that something was very, very wrong in my marriage. I dismissed my ex and attempts to discuss issues because I just didn’t have any more effort to give to anything. I chose to focus on other people and things as the top priorities and that, in part, resulted in my divorce.

When you have to suffer the consequences of your choices, it sucks – but as adults we do that and then pick ourselves up and move on. When you have children, and those children suffer the consequences of your actions and inactions, it’s the absolute worst feeling of failure and regret and accountability, and you just can’t shake it.

Good parents can’t prevent chaos of all kinds and protect their children from everything, but they can stop themselves from creating chaos in the lives of their children.

Regardless of how angry I have been and can still sometimes get at other people, the truth is that two people are responsible for the challenges my children have faced. Me and their Dad. Because as their parents, we are fully accountable for everything. Until they’re adults, we are the CEOs in their life. It was our job to provide for them and to protect them and to do our best in all things and to give 110% to family each day. It was our job to carefully control the influences in our lives. It was our job, and our job only, to set the example for them.

I suppose all Moms and Dads have regrets. And secrets. One of my secrets is that I don’t regret getting divorced. Is it wrong to be happy about something that caused pain for your children? Is it wrong to feel free?

I have known for a very long time, since the beginning really, that if I had to go back I wouldn’t make different choices. I would prioritize the people I prioritized. But I realized something new today. Something important. Something life-changing, really. A corner piece in this giant puzzle. One of the people I really need to forgive in this whole mess is me.

What is Winning?

You win. #winning. Win-Win.

What does it mean to win? Outside of sports, where there are clearly defined rules and generally a person or team has a better score, what does it mean to win?

Search Twitter for #winning and you’ll quickly see that winning is political and we have redefined it as proving someone else wrong, appearing to be in a better position than someone else, and general one-upmanship. Search Instagram for “winning” and you’ll find everything from people drinking beer to people liking their outfits to people asking their bird to congratulate the Raptors to people showing how they decorated something.

I’m not convinced this bird is really a Raptors fan, but he’s cute.

How they decorated something. Their body, their house, their dog or cat, their car, and even their political argument. Winning has become about decoration instead of function. It’s become about how we look to others instead of who we are.

Our outfit may have cost $500 but if it covers a body we don’t love or a heart that chooses self and hurts others, are we winning? Our house may have nice things and decorations for every season but if it’s holding bad energy from the past (and present) or we have to hide in it, are we winning? If our country has your preferred political party in power but our retired citizens and military veterans cannot access medicine they need, are we winning?

Our “winning” news and media feeds should be filled with examples of acts of love and bravery and courage and resilience. Pictures of scars that show a healing. Pictures of people helping others. Pictures of leaders trying to find compromises. Pictures of people rebuilding. Pictures of people who’ve succeeded despite something.

My girls both won awards this week – one for dedication to academics, arts and service and one for most improved student. I am so ridiculously, incredibly, smiling-from-ear-to-ear-while-crying-happy-tears proud of them and I don’t have adequate words to express it. These particular recognitions are significant because, really, they are about resilience. And while I’m over-the-moon happy they are resilient, I can’t kick the feeling that they never should have been put in a position to need to be this kind of resilient this early in their lives. The ugliness that forced their resilience is not decorate-able.

The thing of which I am most proud is how they each responded to the recognition of their achievements. In separate events where they didn’t see how the other behaved they were both happy and proud, and they were both humble and cheered on and hugged their classmates who were also recognized. It reminded me that winning is about being a good human and it’s about encouraging others.

I know very little about sports, and all I really know about the Cowboys is that they can’t be all that bad because they love navy blue and navy is my favorite color. I visited the Ford Center a while back and I learned about the Hail Mary. I’m not sure I think it’s really a way to “winning” but I like the idea of doing something while hoping and praying for the best. I was also introduced to this Jason Garrett gem: Fight. Fight to be your best. Fight for each other.

Because winning is about fighting and trying. Winning is trying, and trying, and trying again. It is fighting and fighting and fighting. It’s about continuing to fight and try even when we fail.

Winning is small steps day to day, like taking the stairs up to the office. Winning is big steps, like finishing a marathon. Winning is refusing to hide. Winning is embracing our scars that show healing. Winning is forgiving. Winning is helping others. Winning is having the courage to ask for help. Winning is collaboration. Winning is not focusing on self. Winning is not looking for winners and losers. Winning is being real with others, without hiding under any decoration. Winning is loving and being loved without any decorations.

We can’t we be strong sooner?

On my way to pick up the girls after work yesterday, twice I waited through stop light cycles as emergency vehicles went flying by. The first I ignored. The second made me pause.

Two so close together? Something is really wrong.

I was sitting at the light just next to The Farmers Market and my awareness really kicked in because the police car was in the far right lane as it was approaching the intersection. And then after a couple of moments, I breathed a sigh of relief as the police car turned left across all the lanes of full traffic. I was relieved because left was away from my daughter’s middle school, and although she shouldn’t still be there at 4:30 what if the buses were running late again?

I was relieved because the police were going away from my daughter’s school. It is unacceptable to me that I even had those thoughts and feelings. Why do we live in a world where parents can no longer send their children to school with confidence in their safety?

Actually let me correct that – why do we live in a country where parents can no longer send their children to school with confidence in their safety?

2018 School Shootings by Country

A Half-Century of School Shootings (NYT)

A little while later, the girls and I were just finding our friends at Relay for Life when a friend texted me about an active shooter at the courthouse. My first thought was that it couldn’t be that bad because there’s a police headquarters right there on the same land – officers are all over the place and would have been all over that guy in a second. Last night when I learned the magnitude of what happened I realized how fortunate our city actually is. Police were right there and reacting immediately as things happened. How many more people would we have lost if this had happened in another location?

I turned to my teenager when I read the text and she was doing something on her phone. Did she know yet? There will be no getting around talking about this a lot – it’s happening just 5 miles from us. In fact, she did already know. She knew, and had moved on to other news and social media because this kind of event is sad but not shocking or show-stopping for her. This news is a norm in the world she is growing up in.

The hashtag VirginiaBeachStrong makes me proud and it makes me angry. Why can’t we start being strong in the areas that could help prevent these things from occurring? Why can’t we be strong when we vote, supporting candidates who support mental health care and background checks and reforms? Why can’t we be strong about a commitment to finding a compromise on gun control? Why aren’t we willing to put our strength into finding a compromise that shows that our commitment to life and quality of life is more important than our commitment to allow anyone to own any kind of weapon?

Why are we just perpetually stuck in an argument about what we can and can’t have and what medical conditions we will and won’t help with, and then relying on each other to be strong when the guns we won’t give up end up in hands that kill our family members and our children and our neighbors?

Inaction has real consequences. Our inaction when people are treated unfairly brings us here. Our inaction on access to guns brings us here. Our inaction on access to mental health care brings us here. Our inaction to destigmatize mental health issues brings us here.

Our inaction and our selfishness and our obstinance brings us here. The days of waiting a respectful amount of time after these events to talk about these things are long gone. These events are happening with such frequency that if we always wait, it is literally never a respectful time.

The time to be strong is now, not just because we must because of what happened yesterday. The time to be strong is now because we must take how we feel right now and use it as fuel to do everything we can to address this problem in our individual communities and states, and in our nation.

We need to be strong sooner. Much, much sooner.

God Bless the families and loved ones directly impacted. God Bless our Responders and all the Helpers. God Bless all the people afraid to go to work today and tomorrow and Monday. God Bless all the parents talking to children about what happened. God Bless all the people impacted by events before this one that feel acute pain today. God Bless Virginia Beach.

Lessons While We Wait

I witnessed a hit and run last week.

In a span of about 40 minutes, I saw slices of the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. The worst was an angry young man, screaming and cursing at the man whose car he hit. The best was a soft spoken older man, determined to put peace out into the world instead of more anger.

After realizing he was physically OK and calling the police to come, we stood under a large shade tree and talked about humanity and peace and water and reciprocity.

If we do not focus on our peace and put peace out into the world, we cannot ever expect to be filled with peace.

Water purifies and it baptizes and it cleanses and it is a blessing.

We get back what we put into things, and our investment of time or money or peace yields greater time or money or peace in our lives.

It’s amazing how many core beliefs a Muslim man and a Christian woman have in common.

Since that encounter, I’ve been thinking about reciprocity and how what we invest is what we can expect to manifest. At times in my life I have given with the right intentions and a pure heart, and at other times I have given with the secret expectation or hope of getting something specific in return. Perhaps that’s human nature or perhaps I am selfish and superstitious. Or perhaps all of it.

When Audrey was just a few weeks old, I saw a commercial for St. Jude. I don’t remember the content exactly, but it had beautiful little faces and parents with expressions of both hope and worry. What I do remember vividly is exactly where I was standing in my bedroom when I saw that commercial, then sitting down on my bed filled with a feeling of absolute certainty that I saw it at just that moment for a specific reason. And I had a very strong desire to invest in something that helped others, specifically in an area where my child needed help.

I have no idea if that commitment had anything to do with Audrey’s outcome. Logical Beth who consumes data thinks that her doctors knew what they were doing, and giving is not related to healing. Superstitious Beth will not ever stop supporting St. Jude becomes it seems like bad juju/karma/luck. And Christian Beth really wonders sometimes if that decision was a game-changer in the spiritual realm.

I’ve thought about it over and over and over again in the last 8 years – every time I am at CHKD, every time I see a commercial for St. Jude, every time I sow a seed of any kind. Are the things we invest in little seeds we’ve planted for a big harvest later? Is it really that simple? And if it’s that simple, why doesn’t that principle override all others? Is there a seed some folks have sown or not sown that results in sickness within themselves or their families? Why are some people healed while others are not, seemingly regardless of their seeds?

I don’t have any answers. I have only questions that lead to more questions, I have a gut feeling that the seed I sowed that day made a difference somehow in the lives of others and in Audrey’s life, and I have a lingering sense of disappointment in myself for the superstitious parts of me.

Audrey’s annual oncology checkup has a number of traditions. She plays at the big wave on the second floor. She finds her favorite tile – the art project of a bravo kiddo from long ago – and she runs her fingers over the words Hope, Faith and Courage. We walk through the butterfly garden and have some quiet time. We get Starbucks when all of our checks and talks and papers are done.

Loading the pictures to complete the order for my photo album, I really noticed the other tiles in the art display. There’s A Giving Tree and there are flowers. There’s one that says God will make a way where there seems to be no way. There’s another that says Bring People Together. And those brought my mind back to my friend from the hit and run. We parted with smiles and thankfulness, grasping hands and offering blessings.

If we’re open to it, I believe we can find goodness everywhere. If we’re open to it, I believe some of life’s most important lessons come in the time of waiting. Waiting for the police to arrive. Waiting for help. Waiting for a therapy to work. Waiting for healing. Waiting for good news. Waiting for the answers to our prayers.

Or perhaps simply waiting for the seeds we’ve planted to break through the earth.

Thoughts Throughout a Day

…in no particular order, all over the place just like my brain this week.

An apology without change is just manipulation. (credit: unknown Pinterest person)

Some people are more worried about what others think of them, how they are perceived by others, than they are about what kind of people they actually are. These people will never be committed to anything or anyone more than they are committed to self and their narrative.

If you’ve built a narrative for a situation, you are the villain and not the victim.

Intimacy requires spiritual unity. I had forgotten this.

Politics and policies are argued by the privileged, who, because of their resources, largely don’t have to live with any of the consequences of their stance. They don’t worry about not having health care or what they’ll do if their daughter becomes pregnant because of a rapist – they have the ability and access to “fix” those things. The masses, who have limited or no resources, are left to live with the results of the discussions of the privileged.

The Redemption Project with Van Jones really moves me.

Click Here for a Redemption Project promo.

Some people deserve the death penalty. It is unfairly meted out in our society, and until or unless we can fix that it shouldn’t be imposed. There are more people living in suburbia who deserve the death penalty than there are sitting on death rows who will be impacted by it.

Collateral damage is the “unexpected, unintentional, and/or unavoidable losses accompanying or following an accident or failure.” In real life it is a nurse at urgent care, seemingly tending her own old wound that still needs healing, who grabs your hand and says, “People just don’t think.” In real life it is a child’s friend who is now afraid when her parents argue, and it’s also the parents of that child.

Still thinking about the validity of this thought: People who can’t really look at themselves in a mirror are the ones who most often post selfies.

Why are SO many people running for President?

Hospitals see humans at their absolute best and their absolute worst. At birth and at death, and in all the messiness in between.

There are really good people filling hospitals all around the world. People struggling for breath even though they’ve positively impacted the lives of thousands of people. At the same time, there are people who’ve hurt others that are making plans for the weekend. This life is sometimes seemingly unfair – seemingly” because people who’ve hurt others and whose lives are filled with narratives can never really rest in security. Not in this life or the next.

Healing happens in hospitals, but it also happens on country roads, when your windows are rolled down and your music is loud.

Freedom…Freedom…You got to give what you take…Freedom. Hold on to my freedom…

Writing in a gratitude journal is an important exercise because it keeps me focused on the most important things. Going back to read old entries in my gratitude journal is even more important because it brings equanimity to my thoughts in a matter of moments.

I recently found the Bible I used during my teens and twenties. It’s filled with highlighted lines and earmarked pages. The forty-five year old me scanning what’s underlined easily sees this was the resource of an anxious young woman who made many, many mistakes. I am so thankful to find a book with pieces of my story – pieces of me – that I’d forgotten. It’s documentation of my progress in some areas and my lack of progress in others.

When I’m a big girl, a real adult, I want to publish a book. I’m writing pieces now, but they need to get much, much better. The pieces are like the daily training runs in preparation for a marathon.

Should I change my kitchen cabinets from white to blue?

Fatigue caught up with me today. That always happens when danger passes.

I’m going to keep being me. She’s not perfect, but I like her.

Oh Good Lord

I sat with my Mom at lunch today and thought OH GOOD LORD over and over and over again. It’s Mother’s Day and I wanted us to have a nice lunch with good conversation and then all these things – MomLife – kept happening. The wait time was going to be 45 minutes, someone didn’t want pasta, someone wasn’t sure of the kind of cheese used to make that restaurant’s version of mac and cheese, someone wasn’t finished with their story before someone else started their story and we had to fully assess the unfair interruption, and we even had fake nails came off which required a thorough inspection of the floor under our table. OH GOOD LORD can we please just all eat and let Grammy have 5 minutes of peace?!

I spent some time today wondering at what point in MomLife things calm down. And then I started to wonder if it doesn’t really ever calm down, and maybe it just changes. Maybe MomLife really boils down to moment after moment and day after day and year after year of thinking and saying OH GOOD LORD, just in a variety of different ways.

The first OH GOOD LORD moments happen during pregnancy. My favorite is when women hover around you to relive their awful birth experiences for you. Ones where they knew better than the doctors and nurses, the epidural didn’t work, they needed 119 stitches, and they ended up not eating or drinking anything for the 3 days they were in labor. What we should do is tell those women to shut it, but instead we just internally think OH GOOD LORD.

Women also say things like get ready for sleepless nights!, breastfeeding is best, let me share my recipe for puréed organic purple carrot and guava baby food, and I wasn’t sure the dishwasher was hot enough to really get things clean.

Fact: You will suffer from lack of sleep.

Fact: Millions of babies throughout history were not breastfed and somehow magically made it to adulthood as high-functioning wonderful people.

Fact: Purple carrots are the worst. (Or, millions of babies throughout the last century have somehow made it to adulthood on food prepared by Gerber.)

Fact: I have praised God for my dishwasher.

You know what’s useful info for a pregnant woman? Prepare yourself for leaving the hospital wearing the largest underwear of your life in the most comfy sweatpants you own. Your large underpants will hold a variety of attachments including, if you’re lucky, a to-go cool pack from your favorite nurse. Additionally, your largest-ever underwear will be held in place by an outer mesh underwear because your regular underwear will need reinforcement to hold everything in place where it should be. You will not allow yourself to sneeze or cough for days for fear that the inner and outer underwear and all the attachments will fail, and at the hint of any potential cough or tickling in your nose, you will inwardly cry OH GOOD LORD. The good news here is that at no point while discussing big underwear with other Moms have I ever encountered a woman who had a breach – so sneeze carefully new Moms.

Once you’re out of the infant phase, people love to see and share pictures of little ones smashing birthday cake. Moms are prepared for those birthday cake messes, so they’re adorable. However, every other day of the year messes are unexpected and not adorable. And even with the occasional ones you find funny, you will also find yourself groaning OH GOOD LORD as you stop to consider how to get gum out of carpet, if it’s OK to put tissues back in the box if they were all pulled out but not actually used, or if the amount of lotion that got in their mouth while they were playing with your lotion is the amount that requires you call poison control.

When your kids are off to elementary school and another child hurts your child’s feelings, there are two separate OH GOOD LORD moments. The first is a prayer for help in the moment of your awareness of the incident, when you are inwardly desperately thinking about the right thing to say to make them feel better. The second is minutes or hours later, possibly even when your child is asleep or has moved on, when you have a moment to think about it and you become enraged that the offending child could possibly say/do that to your child. In that moment, you think OH GOOD LORD because you suddenly realize that you are mad enough and irrational enough to lose your cool and yell at someone else’s child (and that child’s parents and their neighbors and all their relatives) and you don’t even care if you end up with your mug shot on the nightly news.

Then your elementary child asks crazy hard questions that no book can prepare you for. If you’re a well-seasoned parent, you might be able to conceal your reaction to learning that your child put a baby doll dress on your girl cat and secretly married her to your boy cat and has been praying they will have kittens. Or you could be like me and calmly explain that the cats are fixed and can’t have babies and so this is not one of those things to pray about…and that will result in your child questioning why you did this really mean thing and prevented them from having a family and OH GOOD LORD did I mess that up.

When your kids are off to middle school you learn that teachers send parents emails when children get good grades and that teachers call parents when children pull pranks that get out of hand. In the moment you realize a teacher is not calling to say your child is the recipient of a Nobel prize, in the pause where that teacher is searching for tactful words, you will think OHHHHHH GOOOOOOD LORRRRRD this cannot be good. And then later when your child gets home from school and you say Hey, your teacher called me today and that child says something like Mommy, I really thought it would be funny and tells you their thought process, you think OH GOOD LORD this child got this love for shenanigans from me and Is it possible this is my fault? This is maybe actually kind-of my fault.

Ella’s photobomb fail!

As my girls get older I find that the vast majority of the time they are out of my sight, when they’re at school or in a friend’s yard or at a sleepover, I think about them but I don’t worry about them. But the moments when worry or panic do hit me, my emotions are overwhelming and OH GOOD LORD how often they are irrational. The possibilities in my head can go from the slightly possible to the absolutely insane in about 5 seconds once I see a news alert of a school shooting, or learn of a child who’s been abused or abducted or addicted to drugs. I struggle sometimes to rein in my thoughts about those possibilities, something I suspect will never completely go away and a part of MomLife that is really, really hard.

Without a doubt, OH GOOD LORD exasperation is the most common of all the OH GOOD LORDs. These occur when you find your child’s dirty clothes resting literally right in front of the hamper, when dirty dishes are sitting on the counter literally right above the dish washer, and when you are asked to provide your child with a reason why they must bathe. Sometimes when questioned about an empty toilet paper roll, which coincidentally is just two feet from a bin of full rolls of TP, all children in my house will claim they have not used the bathroom that day. And OH GOOD LORD, really?

But the best OH GOOD LORD exasperation occurs when your children are embarrassed by you or shocked by you. They might, for instance, indicate that your camo pants are not appropriate even for hanging out in the yard. They might call you “extra” when you open their water bottles even though they have literally never opened a water bottle for themselves. They might ask you to jump on the trampoline with them and then say things like Mommy, that’s good for 45! Or they might offer to do your make-up so you can “really look good.”

And just when you think you can’t possibly handle another OH GOOD LORD exasperation or panic or fear moment, your child will say or do something that makes your heart melt. They might bring you breakfast for dinner or make you a card that says their favorite thing about you is your kindness. And you will tear up and think OH GOOD LORD I love these kiddos so much and I am so thankful and lucky to be their Mom.

This Mother’s Day was filled with OH GOOD LORD moments, and it was a really great day. I may have caught the girls fighting about slime containers but I also caught them praying for folks who need healing and planning with friends how to raise the most money for the local children’s hospital. Such is MomLife – a mixture of fun and peace and chaos and loud and quiet and annoyance and love all in one day.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, who continually shows me how to be a Mom and who I am absolutely certain still has regular OH GOOD LORD moments because of me. Sorry I’m perpetually late to church and sneak in to the back row wearing my jeans and flip flops.

There Is Only One Me

There is only one me.

I say it all the time in my head when there’s just too much. I occasionally say it out loud when multiple people are talking to me at the same time.

There is only one me. I can only be in one meeting at a time, in one place at a time, in one conversation at a time, at one kid activity at a time.

There is only one me to process the plans and ideas and tests needed from the orthodontist and the dentists and the pediatricians and the special doctors and the guidance counselors and the therapists and the gymnastics coaches and the teachers and the tutors.

There is only one me to make sure there’s breakfast and lunch and dinner and bread and milk and granola bars and yogurt and chips and brownies.

There is only one me to monitor friends and social media usage and potential bad influences and Cadbury Egg intake and dresses that have gotten too short. Only one me to make sure the chorus outfit is clean on the right day.

There is only one me to navigate the that’s unfair and the that’s mine accusations that all siblings of all ages for all time have shouted. There is only one me to say stop touching her or you didn’t ask permission to be in her room. There is only one me to set my jaw and say do not make me pull this car over.

There is only one me to talk through bad dreams at 2 am. Only one me to provide reassurance, going to the bathroom with the door open and the light on so a kiddo having a hard day doesn’t feel like I’m too far away or not still listening to a detailed story.

There is only one me to answer hard questions in the moment.

There is only one me to pick up the pieces after the selfishness of others. Only one me to help them navigate all their emotions. Only one me to be the daily consistent force that cannot let them down. Only one me to be the one they can take everything out on, because I’m the safe one, and they can do that without fear of loss.

There is only one me to put them first, in every way and in all things.

There is only one me to kiss booboos and bandage scrapes. Only one me to hold hands while nurses do blood draws and scary new doctors do exams.

There is only one me to check that everyone made it on the right bus at the right time, and made it home at the right time, or to a program or an activity or a game at the right time.

There is only one me to make sure backpacks and binders have all the right papers signed and all the right homework in them.

There is only one me to show them how to set boundaries and that sometimes decisions come with consequences.

There is only one me to see the moments when they really need a boost of confidence and the encouragement to believe in themselves. Only one me to make sure I see it and they get it.

There is only one me to talk to them about God and take them to church and show them the benefits and difficulties of a life lived based on core principles.

There is only one me to teach them and show them that true happiness is found when we can live in such a way that we can be proud of ourselves, knowing we have integrity when no one is looking.

There is only one me who can show them that when people let us down, which is inevitable, we can still be happy and have lives that we love.

There is only one me after they go to sleep, working hard to reign in my horror and frustration that people drink, play, laugh, post selfies and talk about love and happiness while children spent the week at doctor appointments. When children see that hypocrisy and selfishness for themselves, there’s only one me to say I don’t have an explanation and it’s tone-deaf and it’s wrong.

There is only one me to teach them that forgiveness benefits us, even if others don’t deserve it and even if it benefits them and their narrative.

There is only one me responsible if I make the wrong call about everything from their health care to shirts that show midriff. Only one me to fret at the end of long days that I’m not doing a very good job at all.

There is only one me. Only one me who sometimes gets stuck in a pity party. Only one me who sometimes gets caught up in a panic about getting it all done and the weight of it all.

There is only one me who can give them a happy, healthy Momma.

There is only one me, constantly thankful for Papa Ted and Grammy and Papa. Constantly thankful for my sister. Constantly thankful for my neighbors and friends who love my girls and have hugs and encouragement for them and me at just the right time.

There is only one me thankful every day that I get to be the Mom of Ella and Audrey. Thankful even for days of extreme ups and downs with everything from doctor appointments to strawberry picking to silly shoe shopping to arguments in the car to cartwheels in Sams Club.

The truth is, there has always been only one me. There is only one me, and I am more than enough. There is only one me, and I am human and make mistakes. There is only one me, and I will apologize and fix it when I do. There is only one me, and I got this.

There is only one me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.