Enough: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Runner-Up by Michelle Frindell

Mar 31 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Honorable Mention

Enough
by Michelle Frindell

He comes by when I am vulnerable and anxious and out of control.  Hormones fling wide the door.  Sleeplessness and hunger flash beacons to him.

You are not good enough.  Not smart enough.  Not selfless enough.  Not competent enough.

Sometimes he shouts, but mostly he whispers, insidious as a serpent.  You’re wrong.  You’re foolish.  You’re unworthy.  You’re not enough.

This voice has plagued me from my earliest memories, beyond the reach of reason.

The one who reduced me to the fetal position on my bed one day in November as my three babies ate and slept and cried downstairs.  You can’t do this.  You are not strong enough; there is not enough of you to go around.

The one who hisses at me every time I lose my patience with my kids, whenever I raise my voice or toss a sarcastic remark at them as I walk away from their tears because my gentleness has maxed out.

The one who tells me it’s your fault; you should be able to fix this when one of my kids’ anxiety about making mistakes is so strong that this kid now refuses anything but a sponge bath, refuses to have a diaper off at all, and is making limited progress sitting on a potty.

The one who laughs in knowing mockery when one of my kids is still learning to handle Big Feelings.  This kid throws things or hits or runs, say, toward parking lots because the two-year-old psyche gets so overwhelmed by anger, frustration, sadness, powerlessness, that it goes Caveman.  And I know those impulses.  And I feel powerless to help.  They inherited your temper. You still lose it too, don’t you?  What kind of model are you?

I have come to realize that this voice is part of me.  I can’t outrun him.  I can’t stick my fingers in my ears and pretend he doesn’t exist.  I can’t evict him from myself.

But I don’t have to listen to him.

I say:  Enough.

I say:  Parenting is hard.  Raising triplets is hard.  I’m doing the best I can.  And that is enough.

It has taken becoming a parent to make me face exactly how imperfect I am:  how broken, how vulnerable, how human.  It has taken becoming a parent to show me that not despite my flaws, but because of them, I am enough. 

I am enough not because my counters are always spotless or my floor clear of clutter or birthday cards are mailed on time.  Not because I never yell or I shove shoes on the screaming, rigid kid because we-just-need-to-get-out-the-door-now or I need some grown-up time.

I am enough in the way I cheer for my kids when they do something well:  show kindness, try something scary, help without being asked.

I am enough for my daughter when she cries out for Mama after bedtime and, when I stand by her crib, leans against me, needing nothing more than a hug and the reassurance that I’m still there.  Night after night.  Call after call.  I always come.

I am enough because as I told my husband through gritted teeth how frustrating the potty training journey is, my son looked up from his dinner and said, “Don’t be frustrated, Mama,” then reached out his arms and called across the room, “Long-distance hug!”

I am enough for my daughter as she cares for her dolls and animals with the same compassion and often the same words that she sees me express.

I am striving to do better, always.  Reading and researching and praying and reflecting, but at my core, enough for my husband and my kids and my family and community.

If there is one thing I want my children to know, really understand with their souls of light, it is that they are enough.  Simply by being who they are, learning and becoming and growing, they are enough.

There is no lesson plan, no parenting expert, no researched strategies available that teach this. No matter which parent label I am failing at the moment–am I attached enough?  do I set enough boundaries?  do I let my kids fail enough?  do I praise them too much?–one thing I do is see my kids as they are.  Their beautiful smiles, their successes, their frustrations.  I know their favorite dinosaur is the Neovenator.  I know what songs help each one calm down.  I know their temperaments, their sleeping positions, the sound of each one’s voice over the monitor.  I know their hearts.

So they need to see me as I am.  A soul of light who makes mistakes and grows and changes and makes mistakes again, and makes amends. Enough.

0031_familyMichelle Frindell is a full-time mom to triplet toddlers, part-time high school English teacher, 3/4-time cook, half-time writer.  Her favorite place in both grandmothers’ houses was the kitchen table, where cookies were eaten, Boggle and Trouble games won and lost (not graciously), and Nana and Grandma stories were absorbed.  Her own kitchen table is likely covered in toast crumbs or play food or Duplos or all of the above, but you are welcome to pull up a chair, grab a chipped tea mug, and hang.  She is always appreciative of kindred spirits.  You can find her writing at Maple Leaf Kitchen.

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I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the honorable mention entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Michelle’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “What simple, true and powerful words; thank you for telling your story.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “I loved this! Beautifully written, poetic, something I want to save and read in those moments when I need it.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: ““So they need to see me as I am.” Hiding imperfection in public in one things; hiding imperfection from those you live with is another.” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

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And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net

On Doing It All, Not on My Own: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Winning Entry by Mandy Smith

Mar 30 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Winning Entry

On Doing It All, Not on My Own
by Mandy Smith

I’m pretty sure that when you walk into the OB’s office and tell everyone you meet as you check in, “Oh yeah, this is definitely the LAST one, because four kids under five is my limit,” you’re guaranteed to have twins. Because you didn’t already feel like you were drowning in diapers and laundry and making sure everyone got fed. 

Having twins is wonderful, and exciting and so much fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything… but those early days were hard. Waking up several times a night to nurse two babies, one of whom wasn’t gaining enough weight, and having an inability to nurse them simultaneously, hard stuff.  Mastitis – enough said. Having four, yes four – my children potty train late – kids in diapers and two in preschool (one in for speech therapy) and an almost two-year-old who liked to jump off of anything at any height, it was crazy. My “big” kids were lucky if they only ate frozen waffles for two meals in those early days.

I felt stretched so thin, but each day I held onto the whispered encouragement from my dear friend Amanda. She gathered me up in a huge hug that first week when my eyes were filling with tears and she told me to take it one day at a time.

Simple, really, but pretty much the best advice ever and exactly what I needed to hear in those days when I felt like I was falling short at every turn and there was no end in sight. When the dishes would pile in the sink and my temper was short and I begged the kids to watch one more episode of anything.  But, like I said, I wouldn’t trade it, and as the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months it got easier.

When we were closing in on the one year mark, I started to finally feel like I could handle my life again. We were down to only three in diapers, no more nursing, and I could wrangle everyone into the minivan to run errands or go to play dates. We were settling into the sweet spot.

I’m also pretty sure that when you start feeling like you’ve settled into the sweet spot you get hit by your own car. Maybe that doesn’t happen to everyone, but it did happen to me.

Four days before my twins turned one, I backed my van out of the garage, thought I put it in Park to run back into the house for one more thing, walked back out into the garage, and saw the van barreling towards me.

Because, at this point, I was convinced I was super mom – being in the sweet spot and all – I tried to stop it from hitting the house.

I was only successful in slowing it down a bit by getting pinned to the wall. 

Luckily my Mom was babysitting and was able to save me and call the cavalry and considering that I had just been hit by a car the fact that I “walked away” (pun intended) with only a broken leg was a pretty huge miracle.

In case you were wondering I broke my femur (my thigh bone) which, I am told, is the strongest bone in your body and the hardest to break. Pretty impressed with myself right there. Since I had to wait 8 hours for the surgery that fixed my bone with a rod and screws, I acquired blood clots in my lungs. I figured go big or go home, right?  Really, though, I would have rather gone home.

I have always been pregnant at the first birthday party of each of my kids. This was the first party that I wasn’t. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new chapter of our lives. The kid chapter, opposed to the baby chapter. A moving on, of sorts. I wasn’t supposed to be in the hospital on my babies’ first birthday, hooked up to oxygen and injected with blood thinners, but I was. I wasn’t supposed to be hosting their first party from a walker, but I did. 

We set our guest bed up in our living room because I couldn’t walk up the stairs to my room.

For a solid month I couldn’t tuck my children into bed at night, I couldn’t make them dinner, I couldn’t pick them up by myself. 

I should have been teaching my babies to walk, but instead they were teaching themselves on my walker. 

If ever I had felt like I was failing as a mom it was then. If my children wanted to cuddle they had to stay on my left side and be super still; and I don’t have still children. I had to rely on the help of others to take care of my children, to cook for us, to help me get dressed.

My sister, Steph, and I at our girls night in at the hospitalIt was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I can’t begin to tell you how many people helped fill the gaps and take care of my people when I couldn’t. Friends from church and MOPS signed up to bring us meals for TWO MONTHS. They took turns coming over and playing with my kids. They leant me crutches and walkers and shower chairs. My parents kept my children when I was in the hospital and when I was home so I could rest. My sister came to the hospital to keep our “girl’s night out” even when it had to be a “girl’s night in.” The encouragement and cards from friends and family was nothing short of amazing.

And, oh, how my children loved it. How they soaked in every visit from a friend and how excited they got when they could give a little thank you gift to each person who brought a meal. What I thought would be a deficit for them, ended up being a string of people pouring into their lives and making them feel more loved. 

As moms I think we all struggle with not being able to do it all, to do enough, for our kids. But I think the real struggle comes from thinking we’re supposed to be able to do it all on our own. I don’t think it was ever intended to be that way; I think we were made for community and when we rely on each other, that’s when we do our best.

When we feel encouraged, we can encourage our children. When we feel loved and supported we can love and support them. And when they see how much others care about them, they learn to care for others. And that’s what we really want in the end, isn’t it?

The Smith Family

Mandy Smith HeadshotMandy Smith is a wife, a daughter, a sister and a mom.  Her husband, Brandon, is a wonderful fellow who has put up with the craziness of being married to her for ten years now.  They have five kids, James (5-years-old), Katie (4-years-old), Shawn (2-years-old), Maggie (15-months-old) and Sarah (15-months-old).  Writing about the hilarious antics in her household has been a sanity saver for years.  She also loves reading a good book while eating cookie dough ice cream. Mandy blogs at Smith Silliness.

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I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the winning entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Mandy’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “I loved what you had to say about the real struggle being us thinking we have to do it all on our own. Thank you for writing.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “That’s an incredible story and a great message! I loved the image I got of a mama being supported by those around her during the hard times.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: “When we rely on each other, that’s when we do our best.” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

…..

And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net

This Mama in the Morning

Mar 29 2014

Here’s a quick Saturday morning story for you. Because it’s morning! Hooray!

Ready? Here we go.

Once upon a time,
my daughter took a picture of my eyes.

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So she could make me a pretty picture.

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And then she texted it to me.

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With commentary.

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To which I responded.

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Because she is RIGHT.

In conclusion, HAPPY SATURDAY MORNING, momrades!

Let’s eat some children for breakfast.

…….

P.S. You can make pretty pictures for your family, too. Abby made this one using the Zoo Eyes app. God bless her. I shall add it to Mommy’s Wall of Terror with alacrity.

On Coming Out as a Christian Who’s an LGBTQ Ally

Mar 27 2014

I was going to write a post about all the things Candy Crush and the Church have in common.

It was pithy.

It was funny.

It was full of references to the importance of friends and an engaged community.

It was lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and gently poked fun at the ways the Church and Candy Crush like to point out that we’ve failed.

The sad, disappointed look when you’ve ruined everything. Again.

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The multiple messages that make your failure very, very clear.

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“You failed!”

and

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“Level failed! You did not reach the goal!”

CC3And I was going to make sure we all noticed the undeniable fact that the guy who’s disguised as a cherubic owl with a serious anxiety problem is really THE DEVIL; he pretends to cheer for you and to want what’s best for you, but HE LIVES ON THE DARK SIDE and HE WANTS TO RUIN YOUR LIFE. –>

But none of it feels very funny anymore after watching the Church spank World Vision this week.

Now because this blog welcomes a wide array of people from all backgrounds – faith, culture, ethnicity, etc. – some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and, man, I wish I was you right this minute, because those of us who are American Christians or evangelical Christians or fundamental Christians or who’ve come from that background are tired right now. Weary to our bones. Disappointed. Hunched in on ourselves. Feeling misunderstood and trying rather desperately to drag our wounded to safety. All of us. From all the sides. This has been an easy week for no one.

Every once in a while, I speak here as a Christian about Christiany things and invite the rest of you to participate because you’re always welcome here and always encouraged to pull up a chair to this table. This is one of those times, so I’ll recap, briefly, the most recent circumstances so you’re not walking into this Family Brouhaha blind.

This week, one of the world’s largest and most well-respected Christian humanitarian aid organizations, World Vision, announced a policy change which would allow Christians in same-sex marriages to be eligible for employment. Two days later, under intense pressure from Christian detractors of that position, World Vision reversed their decision.

It’s no secret that the question of how to love our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) neighbors – Christian and otherwise – is dividing the Church, and this week was a powder-keg example.

KAPOW! 

There’s Christian shrapnel all over the internet right now, tangled remnants of an ugly war, and even those of us who were bystanders are reeling from the concussion.

As I looked around the battlefield – so many wounded – I felt helpless. Alone. Dismayed. And then I realized how much more alone my LGBTQ friends, especially those who identify as Christian and who want to participate in the life-changing work of organizations like World Vision, must feel. To be so often ostracized by their faith community. To want so desperately to belong and to worship with their family. To finally be invited, publicly, in the door and welcomed to the table. And then, in an abrupt turn of events, to be booted back out. To be told the invitation was a mistake and ill-advised. To have the welcome retracted.

Oh, dear God. This is not – this is not – the Way of Love. It’s just… not.

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We have failed. Not World Vision specifically, although they did fail by even their own account, but, more significantly, the Church as a whole. All of us. We have failed. And we are to blame.

We did not reach the goal which is always – always – to Love God and to Love Our Neighbors.

But what can I do about it, bystander that I am? I mean, really. I’m a straight, Christian woman. How in the world can I mitigate any of the pain? 

And then I realized there’s one thing I can do, even though it’s a little thing – a tiny thing, given my one life and my one voice – and that is to tell the wild truth, as best as I understand it in this moment, about Who Is Welcome at Love’s Table. Which is everyone. All the people. Welcome at Love’s Table. Despite everything, welcome. Despite the war, welcome. Despite the hurt, welcome. Although I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to come or to trust that Love even has a table.

Those of us who slowly move our perspective from our fundamental roots to become Christian allies of the LGBTQ community are, overall, a quiet bunch. For every Christian person who’s out as an LGBTQ ally, I know 20 more who are in the closet. Not because we don’t care about the plight of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Not because we don’t think things should change. Not because we’re apathetic about the truth or love as far as we understand them. But because we want to be peacemakers. We know and very deeply love our friends and family members who remain committed to a different interpretation of the Bible, and we understand many will see our affirmation of LGBTQ relationships as capitulation to culture at best, a deliberate misinterpretation with the intention of leading people astray at worst, and a betrayal either way.

We’re quiet because, well, we don’t want to rock a boat that’s already in very choppy seas.

But while we’re quiet, there are LGBTQ people who are receiving the message from the Church, loud and clear, that they must choose between Who God Created Them to Be versus Faith in God. 

Each person must decide when her silence is helpful and healthy and makes peace and creates unity, and when it has morphed into a silence that perpetuates pain and loneliness and despair and isolation. I’ve reached the point where my silence must end.

It’s time to tell you that I’m a Christian who’s also an LGBTQ ally. 

It’s time for me to stand publicly with the people who are marginalized and those who’ve been asked to leave the table. I cannot, as a follower of Jesus, whom I believe is Love Incarnate, do otherwise. This is, for me, a matter of conscience, a matter of obedience, a matter of justice, a matter of mercy, a matter of resurrection, a matter of truth, and a matter of grace.

It’s time for me to tell my fellow Christians who are quiet LGBTQ allies that I know what it’s like to come out slowly as an ally. To come out quietly. To hover over the Facebook “like” button on a positive article about my LGBTQ friends and try to decide whether to click it. To be afraid to let others see me like it. To be anxious about letting others see me go far, far past tolerating people; far, far past loving the sinner; and run, instead, headlong into support, affirmation, approval and the belief that the love of another person, regardless of gender, can be good, strong, healthy, life-giving and within God’s plan. I know it’s hard. I know. I swear I do. And it’s OK to be where you are in the process until your heart tells you it’s time to take the next step. But when it’s time, take it. Do.

And, finally, it’s time for me to apologize to and ask forgiveness from my LGBTQ friends who frequent this space. Although my friends, my family and my church – some of whom agree with my position and some of whom don’t – are well aware I’m both a committed Christian and an LGBTQ ally, I’ve skirted the issue here, making subtly supportive statements while deliberately avoiding the issue. As though you, my friends, are an issue to be avoided and not mentioned. In that way, I’ve allowed you to suffer while I benefited from my silence, and for that I’m deeply sorry.

You need to know, especially those of you who’ve been invited in and then asked to leave – welcomed and then rejected – that there’s room at Love’s table and friends who long for you to sit and eat with us. We’re still a small table, but we’re growing ever larger all the time, and there is, emphatically, a place for you here.

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For those of you who want it, here’s
More Information:

1. On My Theology

Frankly, the last thing any of us need is yet another Biblical exegesis on homosexuality, and I would be wasting my time and yours if I attempted to outline the 20 year process that’s taken me from my fundamental roots to the conviction that God blesses LGBTQ relationships.

Jen Hatmaker spoke the truth this week when she wrote, “The Christian community is not going to reach consensus on gay marriage. Every article, regardless of its position for or against, is the same. The support arguments; same. The rebuttals; same. The circular thinking; same. The responses are fully predictable, the language identical, the interpretations immovable, and after all the energy expended, we discover we are at the same impasse. This is a fact: Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions on homosexuality (and countless others). Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.” 

Nevertheless, for those of you who are curious how I can love the Bible and love Jesus and not simply tolerate but, instead, affirm, encourage and support my LGBTQ friends who are in relationships, I’ll direct you to Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee and to the Gathering Now video sermon series on The Birds, The Bees & The Bible

Some will say I’m misguided. Or deceived. Or that I’m willfully and nefariously misreading Scripture. To which I say, maturely, Nuh Uh and Am Not, times Infinity.

2. On the Very Best Resource, Bar None, for Christians (regardless of your stance on homosexuality) Who Want to Love Your LGBTQ Neighbors

The Gay Christian NetworkFounded in 2001, the Gay Christian Network (GCN) is a nonprofit Christian ministry dedicated to building bridges and offering support for those caught in the crossfire of one of today’s most divisive culture wars. Our membership includes both those on Side A (supporting same-sex marriage and relationships) and on Side B (promoting celibacy for Christians with same-sex attractions). What began as an organization to provide support to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Christians has grown into a worldwide movement for compassion with many straight members as well.

3. Other Things I’ve Written About Faith, Doubt and the Church

Here’s my story of Faith and Doubt.
Here’s What I Wish the Church Would Be.
Here’s the Real Reason I Still Go to Church.
Here’s why “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” should be abolished.
Here’s my Confession About Faith.

4. On How This Benefits Me

It doesn’t. I benefit by my silence. By not coming quite all the way out of closet as an LGBTQ ally. By having quiet conversations in private and not rocking the public boat. Churches and parachurch organizations allow me to come speak if I am silent about this issue; one of which told me so very clearly. I will miss having those opportunities, but my minor losses don’t compare to the losses endured every day by my LGBTQ friends, and I am grateful for the opportunity to stand with them.

5. On What I Think About My Friends and Family – both online and in person – Who Believe to Their Bones I’m Totally Wrong About This

I love them very much. 

I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus exhorted us to expand our definition of Neighbor. To extend the title of friend to those on the other side of our cultural fence. To hold Love God and Love One Another as our highest goal. To choose to reject the concept of sides. And so, as my heart has shifted from my conservative roots to a more wild and free and boundless Gospel of Grace, I am convicted that it’s my job to love my conservative neighbors as fully as I love my progressive, liberal and LGBTQ neighbors. To extend to them the same benefit of the doubt I hope they will extend to me: that we are each doing everything we can to reach the goal of Love, devil be damned.

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On Giving Away the Things We Don’t Need

Mar 25 2014

I have a running vest I love, partly because it’s cute, but mostly because I splurged to buy it which I rarely ever do.

Clothes aren’t my thing. 

  1. I don’t have the fashion gene, which I learned after watching my children, one of whom obviously has it and the rest of whom just as emphatically don’t.
  2. I’m truly a terrible shopper.
  3. I don’t like spending money. Except on books. I spend money on books. And cheese. Books and cheese. And beer. Books, cheese and beer. That’s all I need. Unlimited books, cheese and beer, and I’ll happily run around naked for the rest of my life.

I mean, I want to look good. Sort of. Not to the point that I’m willing to inject my face with Botox or, you know, stop eating cheese. Although I’m just fine with those of you who do those things because MORE CHEESE and WRINKLES for ME. Yippee! And, to be honest, that whole I-don’t-do-Botox thing is way, WAY more about how much it costs than about not wanting to inject poison into my face or not wanting to participate in unreasonable standards of youth in women. I wish that was why, but really I just need the money for cheese.

Do you hear what I’m saying about cheese? Praise Cheeses.

My point is, I want to look OK. Semi-fashionable. Not Awful. Sort of Target-Chic-meets-Pajamas and willing to picket on behalf of yoga pants as legitimate public daywear.

But every once in a while, I splurge on something to wear. Something that’s not from the sale section of Ross Dress for Less or 2 for $12 at Target. And when I do, the purchase must meet certain criteria lest the Guilt of Money Spent overwhelm me. It must be something I’ll wear often. It must be something “classic” with clean lines. And it must be in either a neutral color or a color I wear often so it will pair with other things I own. 

photo (85)My Nike running vest was a splurge. $100. Black. Snug and loose in all the right places. Somehow both comfortable and fitted. Ideal for running in Oregon.

And it never worked for me. Not ever. No matter how many times I tried it.

It turns out, I don’t like to be too warm when I run. I’d rather run in my crappy cotton t-shirts, which is exactly what they say not to do because cotton doesn’t wick right and it can cause chafing, and chafing, as we’ve previously discussed, is no joke.

So I did what any reasonable person would do when she finds herself saddled with something that doesn’t work: I held onto it, hoping things would magically change.

I held onto it for years, letting it collect dust in my closet and taking it out from time to time to try again, sure this time it would be fabulous and I’d be glad I wisely clung to it.

Because $100!

And because it should work. 

Like, oh, I don’t know, a rules-based faith, and picking the Right Parenting Method, and eating lots of lettuce.

Good things. Classics. Things that work really well for other people and look great. Things I keep in my repertoire because they’re comfortable, even when there’s a persistent whisper that something’s not working… and a hint that even the classics need to be evaluated from time to time… and an ongoing suspicion that I might want to consider whether I need to be brave and face some changes. That I may need to purge the things collecting dust in the closet and make room for things that will work better, that will be useable, that will be sources of Light and Life and not guilt or angst.

Pfftttt. 

It’s so much easier sometimes to just hang onto the things I don’t need, you know? And then suffocate under the pile of them.

But I’m in a process right now of purging – 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects – because I’ve grown tired of the lack of breath that comes from Too Much Stuff, and it turns out I’d rather be breathless from the effort of doing something about it. 

And so I sighed a big sigh and got rid of the Nike running vest this week.

I gave it to a friend who – get this – is USING it. For RUNNING. REGULARLY. That friend texted me to say thanks and that she loves it. Which made me really happy. And also made me feel like I should’ve unloaded this a long, LONG time ago. 

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Lent

If you’re joining us for 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects, today we’re – yep, you guessed it –
Giving Away Something We’ve Hung Onto But Don’t Need.

This one may be HARD. It may take more than 15 minutes to talk yourself through it. That’s OK. It’s a fine way to use your 15 minutes, and it’s good practice to take the time to talk ourselves through releasing the things we don’t need.

You can find the click here to find the Compiled List of all the 15 Minute Projects to Date.

 And Congrats to Alyson Engelbrecht who tackled Day 13: A Surface.
Here’s Alyson’s Before:

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And here’s Alyson’s After:

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Nice work!

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Environmental Living Tip of the Day

Since I’m patently Not Qualified to offer environmental living tips, I’ve asked my friend Leslie to join us here periodically during our 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects to offer tips, tricks and simple solutions to treat the earth better.

My Question: I’m trying to reduce food waste at our house, so I need an easy and fast way to deal with scraps. What’s the EASIEST and FASTEST way to set up a compost bin and how much time does it take to maintain?

Leslie’s Answer: Some people don’t even use a bin for compost; they just have a pile in the corner of their yard. That’s the easiest and fastest way to start. Keep a compost bucket with a lid on your counter or under your kitchen sink so you can gather scraps as you cook and eat. I like the stainless steel ones that have a filter to block the odor, which you can buy at places like Target for around $25, but you can use anything with a lid. Roughly, you want 1/3 green (grass clippings, plants), 1/3 brown (paper bags, newspaper, cardboard) and 1/3 food scraps (nothing with protein – no cheese, meat, etc.)  A compost pile takes minimal time depending on how good you want your dirt. In the summer you should “turn” the pile every few weeks. You can also purchase a compost bin for as little as $50, or, if you have a handy person in your house, it’s a pretty quick project to slap 4 pieces of wood together. 

Leslie.png
Leslie Hodgdon Murray is a Quaker pastor who is pursuing her Master’s of Divinity with an emphasis in Christian Earthkeeping. Her passion in life is helping people reduce waste, simplify life and reduce their ecological footprint. 

 

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P.S. If you’re giving something away, I would LOVE to hear what it is and why you’ve a) hung onto it, and b) decided to let it go. 

“Green Leaf Lamp” image credit Meawpong3405 via freedigitalimages.net

All I Have to Do Today: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Winning Entry by Jenny Roth

Mar 24 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Winning Entry

All I Have to Do Today
by Jenny Roth

Last April my third daughter came in to the world during an unexpected spring blizzard. I know that sounds odd, but if you live in South Dakota a “spring blizzard” is a thing sometimes. My family operates a cattle farm, and April calving season is always a busy time as they work around the clock checking pens for things like a mother cow that needs help with labor, or a newborn calf that needs to get warm in the barn. So when Mother Nature decided to dump piles of snow and freezing winds on us during this time, my family and many others in our area had to work even harder to keep their cattle, and therefore their livelihoods, alive and well. 

The timing was less than perfect, but my sweet, tiny Vayda also decided to make her entrance in to the world during this busy, stressful season. My husband, having gone down this road before with our other two daughters, knew I would need his help at home in the days following Vayda’s birth. He tried really hard the day we got home from the hospital to act like he was not at all concerned about the farm and cattle. But his jaw clenched slightly as he glanced at the whiteout conditions outside our window, and I have loved him long enough to know what he was thinking.  

 “You need to go help at the farm, don’t you?” I asked on our first morning home as a family of five. 

“I don’t want to….but..…I think I better.”

Before I had a chance to change my mind I quickly rambled “You better go, they need you there, don’t worry about me, I can make it until nap time for sure, and if things get crazy, I will just put on a Dora the Explorer TV Marathon.”

So away my husband went to work outside in the miserable cold for who knows how long, leaving me alone for the first time with our 3 ½ year old, 1 ½ year old, and 3 day old daughters. I think I had about 45 minutes of sleep the night before, and did I mention the winter we were having in April yet?  It was producing serious cabin fever, the kind that makes your kids spider man the walls. I knew I should be stressed to the max over being home alone with all three kids so soon, but strangely I only felt 30% terrified of my situation. Maybe after you have so many kids nothing scares you anymore, or maybe I was too tired to be thinking straight. But what I really think changed my heart after Vayda’s birth was a voice in my head that said “You just have to love them, that’s all you REALLY have to do today.”

I have no idea where this idea came from but I do know that it changed my life completely. Before Vayda was born I was the kind of mom that started checking items off of my to-do list the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning. Totally awesome pinteresty learning super sensory projects for my preschool and toddler completed, check! Homemade laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, sunscreen, and bug spray made, check! Shopping lists completed, meals planned, laundry started, dishes done, bathrooms cleaned, check! I ran around my life trying to stay busy in fear that if I was not busy every waking minute, then I was not successful and therefore lazy and not contributing enough to my home and family. 

Thankfully, Vayda’s birth changed me. I did not see it coming. When I read the positive pregnancy test the day before my second daughter’s 1st birthday I spent a long time crying in to my bathroom sink. 

Pregnant?

Again?

Already?

My mind raced thinking “I cannot do this, no way no way no way, this was not part of my plan. I cannot handle another baby I am swamped already.” Having another baby was not on my to-do list, and to say the least it completely freaked me out. Eight months later though, our healthy baby girl was born.  I looked at her and expected to feel anxiety, exhaustion, stress, and overwhelming fear at what lay before me, but by some miracle instead I felt a calm like I have never felt before…with all those other things too….just smaller and hiding behind the dominating calm. Then I heard it “You just have to love them, that’s all you REALLY have to do today.”

So that first day at home when my husband left to work his butt off, I took a deep breath and repeated it to myself “All I have to do today is love them” and then for the first time in a long time I gave myself permission to do just that. I quieted the nagging checklist in my brain and sat on the floor and read books with my girls instead of tackling the dishes and laundry and unpacked hospital suitcase. I allowed myself to do nothing but listen to my girls and talk with them and push the hair off their foreheads and look at their beautiful curious eyes when I answered their questions. I let myself hold and feed my baby in a rocking chair while the other two giggled beside me at their favorite cartoons.  I was tired. I was also overwhelmed and nervous about being a new mom again and adjusting our lives to a baby. On top of that, I had to constantly ignore the fear in my mind that said “Look at all these little kids; you are in charge of all of them….forever!! How are you possibly going to take care of everyone and everything?”

Even though it was hard, tuning out the to-do list and fears and changing my heart towards my children led me to see what kind of mom I really wanted to be. I realized that loving my kids and husband was what I was meant to do, and that I actually enjoyed doing it! I stared at the new black haired baby in my arms and cried because how wonderful is it to be given a gift like that? To spend months worrying the worst is before you and that surely you will fail, but to see that instead you are right in the middle of the goodstuff, and the best is just beginning, if you just let it. 

I started doing things I never would have before. After breakfast the next morning my biggest girl brought me a book and asked if I would read it to her. Before, I would have told her as soon as the breakfast dishes were done, I would read with her. And maybe she would have waited for me or maybe she would have found something else to do I don’t remember, because I was more worried about checking the dishes off my list at that moment than her. This time I read with her and really felt her cold toes on my leg and sleepy head on my shoulder. There is joy in mothering if you can look past the dishes and see it. 

I let so many things go in the first few months after Vayda’s birth. Except for the suppers generously made for us by close friends, my family ate a steady diet of macaroni and cheese, frozen pizza, cereal, and sandwiches. I had previously been cloth diapering my one year old, but after 20 minutes of trying to cloth diaper her and the baby I realized I did not have the energy for this extra chore, and I let myself let it go and switched to disposables until further notice. I did not worry about making my bed every morning, I did not care if I had my hair in a ponytail every day, and I took a nap every afternoon snuggled down with my sweet daughters around me while the lunch dishes remained on the table. 

The most amazing part of this all was that my family did not care one bit about my lack of task completing. I don’t even think they really noticed, and somehow, the things that needed to get done just eventually did. It wasn’t true that I didn’t have anything important that needed to get done, it was just that I truly put loving the people in my life first on the list, and the rest just came later. My family did not care what they had for supper, how neat the bathroom was, if their diapers were organic cotton or what have you, they just cared that I got up every day and loved them. They wanted me to be happy, because like the saying goes, the mama’s mood affects everyone. Allowing myself to be happy and enjoy the day allowed them to do the same without having to tip toe around a stressed out perfectionist mom. 

Vayda is almost one year old now, and I still often have to turn off the type-A get it done instincts that I have and remind myself that jumping on the trampoline, walking to the park, and listening to my husband tell me about his day is my job, and I love it. The chores will wait, time with my husband and daughters will not. So now when my house is covered in glitter, the laundry pile is half way up the ceiling, and I have a strong desire to scrub the play-dough off the kitchen floor just as my two year old tugs on my leg and says “mommy, can you draw me a dinosaur,” I take a deep breath and remember what I REALLY have to do today, and I hold my daughter close and as we draw together.  

picture 1

picture 2I’m Jenny Roth, a wife and stay at home mom to three young daughters.  In my previous life I loved concerts, running, camping, and reading great books, and I still tuck these things in around raising my family when I can. I have not written a thing since my college thesis and found it both therapeutic and terrifying to put my heart out there in words, so thank you for this contest and taking the time to read my story. 

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OldWoodPencil

I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the winning entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Jenny’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “Thank you for writing. I felt encouraged by your story, and have found myself repeating your mantra. It’s the reminder this list-maker needed.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “What a perfect thing to tell myself over and over on those hard days! It’s so true, but difficult to distill down the important things in the midst of all the details. Loved this message!” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: “Grace. This essay conveys such grace in the midst of chaos, a grace that I find myself wanted to live into.” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

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P.S. I neglected to include our judges’ thoughts when I shared our first two Writing Contest winning entries. So sorry! You can see them now – and read the great stories by Jen Hulfish and Lora Lyon – on their guests posts: Between Our Naked Toes and Who Are You?

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And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net

Foster Mother: A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest Winning Entry by Dawn Reed

Mar 21 2014


A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
Winning Entry

Foster Mother
by Dawn Reed

It has been four years since I witnessed the moment. Four years of considering its consequence. Four years of trying to describe the meeting with Trent’s foster mother, and the word that I keep returning to is “powerful”.

In the fall of 2009, my youngest son had expressed a desire to meet his “Korean mommy from the pictures” (his foster mother). After explaining to a six year old, how far away South Korea is from Oregon, imagine our joy when we were notified that she would be in Eugene on November 4th.

Upon arriving at the Eugene offices of Holt International Children’s Services, we seated ourselves in the lobby with other families each waiting to meet one of the two foster mothers from Korea. All of us seemed a bit uncertain, but excited. As we exchanged information, we learned that Ella was two years younger than Trent, and was also a foster child of Mrs. Lee.

Finally, the foster mothers entered the room with an interpreter. Mrs. Lee caught sight of Ella. She immediately recognized the little girl and they embraced. Through the interpreter they talked for just a couple of minutes. Our family stepped back, watching, knowing that our turn would come. After two or three minutes, the interpreter told Mrs. Lee that another child in the room was here to see her also. Mrs. Lee turned and saw Trent. In a voice that was part gasp, part sigh of relief, but completely joyous, she said, “Hyo-sung!” I think I was the only member of our family that comprehended in that moment.

She knew him.

Hyo-sung was Trent’s Korean name. This woman who had cared for 38 babies, who had only mothered my son for two-and-a-half months, recognized him six-and-a-half years later. She told us that she knew his eyes.

Trent is my affectionate little boy. He is not, however, affectionate with people he does not know well. I had worried about this for the week leading up to this moment. What if he refused to go to her? How would I communicate that this was normal? It would be heart-breaking because time was the one thing we would not have–you don’t know someone well in one day.

First Glimpse

Yet, at the moment she called his name, the name he did not recognize, he went to her and allowed himself to be hugged. He looked up at her and smiled. The hugs continued throughout the day. The bond between a mother and her child is powerful, and that was the bond I was witnessing.

The day was filled with activities. At one point during the morning, several children were playing on swings. While on a rope swing, Trent fell off, landing flat on his back. Mrs. Lee was to him as fast as I was, brushing him off, crooning words of comfort to him. She glanced at me as if to ask whether I was accepting of her doing that, which, of course, I was. Once a mother, always a mother; the bond was obvious.

When we walked into a restaurant for a Korean lunch, we were joined by several more families with their adopted children. The foster mothers again reacted with joy as they recognized each child in turn. What a delight to watch as each child was recognized, known by their foster mother.

The final event of the day was a tea in honor of the Korean guests. While waiting for the program to begin, I was able to ask Mrs. Lee about the photos she had sent to us with Trent. Through the interpreter she explained several of the pictures. She also shared memories of his infancy: little tidbits of information that we never would have known, bits of his past now able to be carried into his future. 

The programmed portion of the tea began. Holt’s Vice President read letters of thanks to each of the foster mothers. Each lady told us of her love for the children. Mrs. Lee spoke of praying for the children while they were in her care, as they transitioned to their new families, and even now. It was an emotional moment.

The tea ended and it was time for good-byes. Each family took a bit of time individually with their foster mother. Ella and Trent continued to play together happily so all of Mrs. Lee’s other families went first. At one time, as a family left, Mrs. Lee followed them out the door. Trent saw her go and joined her on the deck as she waved good-bye. It was a touching moment to watch him stand with this woman, her hand resting on his head. The two of them came back inside, him to continue playing, her to say more good-byes.

Foster Mother HugsEventually, it was our turn. Trent came over for another hug. I was so overcome with joy, gratitude, and love that I could barely speak. So many emotions, so few adequate words. I could only, through my tears, thank Mrs. Lee and tell her that we will always consider her to be a part of our family. She loved our son. She had known and cared for him before we were able to, and for that we are forever grateful. Mrs. Lee ran for a napkin on the refreshment table and used it to personally dry my tears. What tender care she showed to each one of us.

For over four years now, I have replayed these events in my mind. Of all the many memories of that day, why do I keep coming back to that initial moment? There were several other moments just as poignent, yet none quite as powerful. Here is what I think: deep down we all want to be known. Why do we form friendships? We want to be known. Why do we long to find that one true love? We want to be truly known. Family is about knowing and being known. Mrs. Lee knew my son. To her he was not just Baby #22. He was Hyo-sung, a little guy with big eyes and pale skin, a preemie who was so tiny, a “good baby” who followed her daughters’ every movement with his eyes. As the day progressed, she began to know him in a new way. He was Hyo-sung, but she also called him Trent. He was a stocky boy, strong and healthy, a boy who played & laughed wholeheartedly with another of her foster children. He had grown & changed, but he still had the same eyes. His prayers of meeting Mrs. Lee had been answered. That powerful experience of being known will forever impact his life.

DawnDawn Reed is the wife of Stuart. Mother of Shane and Trent. Teacher of 4th & 5th graders. Both of Dawn’s sons were adopted from South Korea as infants. Dawn tries to balance family and work and some days she pretends to be successful at that. Teaching is her calling, writing is the way she processes, laughing is the way she lives. 

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OldWoodPencil

I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the winning entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Dawn’s story:

Korie.Chocolate

Korie: “Thank you for sharing your story. What a gift to share that moment of recognition between your child and someone they have longed to meet. I loved what you had to say about “being known” and how we all long for that experience. From person to person this looks so different throughout a life; thank you for sharing how this looked for your son.” 

Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.

MeghanRogersCzarnecki2Meghan: “This brought me to tears! The writing was excellent and the story so moving.” 

Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart. 

AjSchwanzAj: “Dawn captured the powerful experience of being known.” 

Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. :D Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press. 

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P.S. I neglected to include our judges’ thoughts when I shared our first two Writing Contest winning entries. So sorry! You can see them now – and read the great stories by Jen Hulfish and Lora Lyon – on their guests posts: Between Our Naked Toes and Who Are You?

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And we would love to hear your thoughts, too!
One of the hardest parts of writing is wondering how our soul-baring will be received.
Your feedback and encouragement are enormous gifts.

Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via freedigitalimages.net