This isn’t a real blog post, but it appears to be real life.

I spilled cheese sauce down my front tonight, and I’m still wearing the dried, crusty remnants as I type. I should probably change, except I feel this is symbolic of my life right now, to be covered in goo and grime; also I’m tired, and I don’t want to try to find a clean shirt. We’re friends, so I already know you don’t care. Besides, I smell delicious, like the call of the wild if the wild was made of cheddar cheese.

The past couple of months have tried to kill me, friends. Not just by throwing cheese sauce at me. I’m at a loss, in fact, for adequate words to describe all that’s whirling around us. I cannot corral my thoughts well or form them into comprehensible phrases or an actual theme for a blog post, but I’ve decided, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the lack of words is a crap excuse for not writing, so I’m putting on my big girl pants today and crawling out from under my covers and thrusting a straw up from the depths of the Drowning Waters to try to suck enough oxygen to write something. Anything. Anything true anyway, which is my commitment in this space. I have no idea how this blog post is about to go, but here I am anyway, making an effort, and I’ve decided that counts so I’m giving myself credit even if this is a train wreck.

Ready? Here we go.

I am quite sure these days I am failing at All the Things, and even though I definitely, for sure, absolutely do NOT subscribe to the idea that we have to All the Things well All the Time, I do like to do Some of the Things well Some of the Time. Hell, I’ll even take doing One of the Things well On Occasion and high-five myself for it in the mirror because my standards are low, which is a darn good survival skill if I do say so myself, but right now I’m rather certain I’m doing Almost None of the Things and that the things I am managing to do, I’m doing Poorly.


I mean, I’m drinking coffee every day, so there’s that. ONE THING I’M ROCKING. Otherwise? Not so good. Like momming and wife-ing and friending and working and writing and cooking and cleaning and sleeping and waking and cleaning cheese sauce off myself? HAHAHAHAHA! All have fallen by the wayside.

IMG_0544My oldest boy child is suffering these days. Special needs + mental illness + being 16 are tough rows to hoe, man. We’re on the waiting lists and seeing the specialists and adjusting the meds and trying — trying — be kind and loving and steadfast and set up the bumpers and boundaries this kid needs to survive and thrive, but there’s always that voice in the back of my head, and sometimes the front, that says I should’ve done more, worked harder, been better prepared, more proactive; I should’ve seen the struggles coming and headed them off at the pass. I should’ve seen the invaders landing. I should’ve pulled this kid to higher ground. I should’ve been attentive and focused and not distracted. I shouldn’t be moved by the tsunami of this struggle. I should’ve done more paperwork and insisted on better interventions. I shouldn’t have spent any time — and I’ve spent loads and loads — wishing he would be magically better. I should have been tireless in my efforts to help my kid instead of what I am, which is tireful. Chock-full of tired. And sorrowful. And sometimes frozen. And although I know I would be kindness itself to another mama in my shoes and offer her only grace and a hand to hold in the dark, it’s the hardest thing of all to be kind to myself while my child hurts.

Also, I spilled a half bottle of bourbon in my car. Not because I was drinking while driving, though, so I’m counting that one as a win. I’d shoved the nearly full bottle in the back of the car, returning from a beach weekend; the cork popped, the bottle spilled, and my car smelled like a distillery for days. Wafting bourbon smell all over town like a fruitcake on parade. My shirts smell like cheese. My car smells like booze. I’d say that shows how far we’ve fallen except I’m pretty sure both are improvements over the usual smell of things around here, so maybe we’re not doing so badly, after all.

Also-also, we totaled our minivan two weeks ago. And by “we,” I mean Greg totaled the van and NOT ME. HOORAY! I asked Greg what happened but he didn’t really say. All I know is that the tree won, and the van lost, and no one got hurt, and I have learned SO MUCH about marriage during the past 20 years, y’all — SO, SO MUCH — that I didn’t ask any follow-up questions, and I’m letting it remain a mystery. Upon further consideration, I’m taking back what I said above about not wife-ing well. I’m pretty much the best wife EVER.

Also-also-also, I quit my job with Medical Teams International. I love my job because I get to work to improve the lives of mamas and daddies and their babies who don’t have the pleasure of whining about first world problems. No minivans to crash or cheese sauce to spill. No enormous pile of clothes to dig through. No access to psychiatrists for mental health. It’s a real perspective-changer, friends. I quit my job, though; it was necessary because of everything happening right now in our lives, and it’s a relief because we need me focused on us, but it breaks my heart. Blerg, friends. Blerg and grarg and I wish I could do All the Things and do them well. Reality’s a real kill-joy, you know? Reality is a party pooper.

Also-also-also-also, my 9-year-old kid got a mosquito bite on his balls and he was furious with me for refusing to apply the anti-itch cream for him.

Also-also-also-also-also, the same kid got a splinter on his tongue.

Also-also-also-also-also-also, don’t ask me how either of those things happens. I have some thoughts but dwelling on naked fence-licking feels counter-productive at this time.

Also-also-also-also-also-also-also, my oldest baby is leaving for college next week. For college. NEXT WEEK. Which is wild and weird and wonderful.

Abby is ready, and I feel strangely ready, too. Both happy and sad that the years flew so swiftly, even if there were moments I was sure would last forever.

IMG_1050She and I got matching tattoos last week. Lotus flowers — the national flower of Vietnam, the country of Abby’s birth — which grow out of muck and mud and yet, somehow, pull strength from the mire and reach for the sun, all ethereal beauty and delicate wonder.

We adopted Abby a thousand years ago, in a time I can hardly remember, and she made me a mommy. It’s impossible for me to believe I didn’t grow her inside me, and it feels both right and necessary to have her symbol etched in my very skin, like the stretch marks I wear on my belly for her brothers.

Did you know the lotus sinks below the surface of the water every night and waits in the muddled darkness for dawn to come so it can resurface and begin again, filled, as it is, with relentless hope? It does. This flower breaks from muddy mess over and over and blossoms knowing it will sink again for sure.

Beauty in the darkness. Magic in the mess. Relentless hope. Muck and mire as a place to grow things wild and wonderful. The inevitability of dawn. And abiding love embedded in it all.

I hope I’ve given her the knowledge of these things.

In truth, that’s all I have to give.

And now, not knowing whether any of this makes sense or is the jumbled mess I fear it is, I bid you adieu, with more tattoo pics below. Because what I hope for Abby as she launches, and what I hope for my man-child as we seek help and answers, and what I hope for myself as I lay down one job so I can focus on the others, is what I hope for you, too. Beauty in the darkness. Magic in the mess. Relentless hope. Muck and mire as a place to grow things wild and wonderful. The inevitability of dawn. And abiding love embedded in it all, etched in our skin and our hearts.








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40 responses to “This isn’t a real blog post, but it appears to be real life.”

  1. […] During the chaos of summer, while everything was falling fully apart, I quit my beloved job at Medic…, a humanitarian aid organization that provides medical and dental care, humanitarian aid, and holistic development programs to people in need around the world. Humanitarian aid work is my first love and where I thought I’d spend my life, so quitting the job, even for all the right reasons, including my child’s sanity and my own, as well as the plan to pursue writing “THE BOOK,” was full of grief. The right thing, for sure; also, hard. However, the CEO of Medical Teams, Martha Newsome, invited me to stay on in a temporary capacity focused on communications, and next week I’ll be traveling with her to Uganda where Medical Teams is responding to the overwhelming needs of South Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing the war in their home country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked Medical Teams International to provide medicines and doctors for new camps right now so more refugees can survive; MTI, of course, has stepped up to the task. While I typically try to separate my writing here with my work for Medical Teams, entirely because I want to protect Medical Teams’ reputation and I’m not sure my mouthy, progressive, push-the-envelope self is the very best way to deliver their message, I’ll be sharing my trip to Uganda with you because I know so many of you, like me, are eager for stories of hope and ways we can help. As I find out, so shall you; honestly, I can’t imagine going without you. […]

  2. Same what you will about failing mothering, but a teen who as her first tattoo gets a matching one with her mom… I’d say that mom probably did quite a few things right. And as a mom to special needs kids, I’m looking toward teen hood with dread. Sending strength and encouragement.

  3. Someone once told me that God has the power and the inclination to make incredibly difficult things absolutely beautiful. I try to remember that in the hard times. I may not see the purpose but there is a Purpose and a Plan and often I just have to release and go on faith that God is over all and that things will work out.

    I love this modern-day parable about how God is the Gardener.

    I think about it when life is not working out like I had planned or hoped and especially when it feels unfair. I try to remember that God sees the whole picture and we see just a very small part of it. He loves us and wants us to be happy but He will also do what is best for each of us to help us grow and develop to our potential. Having the conscious thought that whatever difficulty I am going through has a refining purpose for my character if I allow it to – that it’s not meaningless suffering – helps me dig down to find that extra bit of faith or patience or trust that I need to keep going that day. And the next day. And the next.

    Thoughts and prayers with you and your family.

  4. Oh, Beth! I have been where you are now – and I can tell you, there will be an end…but it may take a while. I love your lotus flower analogy – beauty and muck so often seem to be constant companions. When my eldest headed off to college, my second child spiraled into the scary and murky depths of anorexia, complete with depression. I vividly remember sitting in an admissions office, while my eldest was in with the admission person, and getting a tearful phone call from my second saying, “Mommy, Aunt Kathy says I’m killing myself!” Talk about feeling helpless! She went from being a vibrant 16 year old to a shadow of herself. Like you, we waited on lists, sought out the “just right” professional helps, felt helpless, uninformed, ineffectual, and full of should haves and why didn’t we. My daughter’s journey is going on 10 years now, and for the first time in those 10 years I think she may have finally arrived on the other side. In the meantime, we found excellent help in the form of a neutritionist, eating disorders doc, psychologist, and a pediatrician who walks on water, as far as I’m concerned! Take heart, my daughter’s issues were of a compounding nature – not just one thing – which is why it took a while to get where we are/she is. We mommies in the trenches of real life are plate spinners in the circus of life: we celebrate the awesomeness of a child going to college, while trying to convince ourselves and our hurting child that s/he isn’t going to die, that we are with them every step of the way, while we give time and attention to our other children who just need plain ol’ love and TLC, while we fulfill our wifely obligations, while we manage our homes, while we manage our jobs, while we support our parents, while we grieve the loss of a parent, while we add what ever “life plate” needs spinning at any given moment. Bourbon and cheese sauce aside, hang on to your lotus flower – know that it will rise up out of the muck EVERY day know that you have fellow momrads who have been in the muck and can tell you you will make it!

  5. I almost skipped this email. Providence made me open it and I now I’m sitting here crying for you and with you, I imagine. I am so, so familiar with the feelings of inadequacy at the moment (as I sit here at the computer reading things that pop into my email instead of…….all that stuff that I’m not doing adequately.) And I even feel inadequate in my inadequacies (?) because I do not have a child with special needs. God bless you, girl. But I still feel less than because the kid I do have has no motivation whatsoever for anything whatsoever. I’m hoping it’s just a puberty thing, because I see no future for someone who can not do anything. ANYTHING.
    P.S. We have a ball issue also. Swelling, ultrasounds, medicine, pain… stuff.
    love you, mama.

  6. I think I have o my responded once because although I read your blog faithfully and have for a couple years, I usually read between I-had-it-firsts and mommy-can-you-take-me-pees and a plethora of other constant needs zinging around by my three littles. I am never less than amazed and inspired by your honesty and openness and it has opened me with others and paced new roads. I would say that’s a win for the both of us? And you are doing great. You are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made! I really know how he’d it is to believe that on days and weeks (and months and years) that are tough but I cling to it when I am able. God thinks I rock and he’s never wrong. He feels the same about you. You are a life-changer in such a great way. Thank you for keeping it real here, Beth!

  7. Beautiful. Thank you. I finished reading and said “wow” out loud and my husband asked what and then came to read also. When he finished he said, “sounds familiar!”

    Xs and Os in solidarity, Momrade. My oldest is starting…kindergarten?…I dunno, they haven’t placed him yet…this week and I am super excited. He was nonverbal and pretty much nonmobile when we got him home last summer. One of my middles is the hardest because we have NO IDEA what to do…in fact right now it is way past bedtime and she is screaming bloody murder in her bedroom but neither of us will go in to her because our appearing and attempting to comfort only make it worse. Professional help is on the way…but sooo slowly…but what if I had done All The Paperwork sooner? But when? And my baby turned one today and where did the year go? Oh yeah, deep under the water and dealing with everyone else’s special needs. I’m not sure I have a full complement of functional neurotransmitters onboard, and I’ve tried to tell people this and ask for help, but it’s all “oh you’re just dealing with a lot.” Yeah, I’m rocking the coffee too because without it I cannot safely drive and supervise my children, but it doesn’t make up for my MIA executive functioning skills some days. And my neighbor asked me whether I was still working? ROFL and blank stare. Oh, you mean in cubicle-land? With other ADULTS? Hah, I quit that as soon as they got home last year. This place alone is a 24/7 job.

    So anyway, All The Rambling to say: the tattoos are brilliant. For the last ten years I’ve planned to get Psalm 30:2-3 on my right hand, but I just might have to shamelessly steal your idea. Rather similar symbolism with the lotus.

    Peace be with you!! And…just keep swimming.

    P.S. Snorted beverage at the splinter and mosquito bites. One of mine this week decided, while studying the wrapper on a bar of soap and telling which letters he knew, that the thing looked delicious and promptly chomped a big bite. Ummmm….ok? He wasn’t even hungry; we’d already had dinner!

  8. Beth, I want to the the momma that holds out a hand to you in your dark and say “you’re ok”, “you are awesome”, “you FEEL what your kids feel and you aren’t ok with it staying there when you see hope for better” “I believe in you Beth, because I believe in HE who made you… HE who strengthens you… HE who made you the perfect momma for YOUR five”. You are the real deal and I pray that your straw is long… very long… and reaches up to our God who strengthens you and will fill that straw to get thru another day with the wisdom you need for THAT DAY… and everafter. Love, Janey

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