This Thanksgiving Day

I’m wearing a cozy sweater and puffy vest right now and taking in delightfully crisp weather on this Thanksgiving Day. My view entails a multitude of fall colors in the trees and those leaves already fallen, the light reflecting off the lake with shades of moss green from the depth, along with a faint whiff of firewood burning (or maybe that’s my own clothing that’s oozing of it from the last couple days of campfire smoke). A family reunion of sorts is occurring this Thanksgiving Day and I am with some of my most favorite people in the whole wide world. Cool weather makes everything feel a little better. Cozy sweaters, wool socks, puffy vests, pumpkin pie cooling…these are indeed a few of my favorite things.

 It doesn’t mean that I feel pure joy in every moment of this season, but rather that I feel moments of immense joy that spur me on towards the next moment and the one after that. With influencers pushing the magic of the pumpkin spice that make things appear practically perfect, sometimes it can feel like we’re doing something wrong; like we should be jumping in piles of leaves without a care in the world. Life doesn’t stop for us though. Thankfully, we can practice gratitude and often be surprised by how helpful that can be to encourage us to move through the ups and downs. The author/artist Ruth Cho Simons reminded me today on Instagram of this truth. She said, “Tell your soul what to do. Rehearse what to do, not just what you feel.” This doesn’t say “slap on a fake smile” to me, but rather be gentle and simply practice (it’s become my favorite phrase in working towards health) gratitude. I shared her post to my page just in case I had friends that needed to hear it, too. You can feel both: the icky and the delightful. It’s a gift to recognize that it’s ok to do so.

My gratitude bucket overflowed this week. I certainly had grumpy, tired, dog-barfing, disposal clogging, dead dad sadness, and constipation woes, too, but the cozy moments were dabbled enough in between. I’m thankful for the family we spent time with this past week, from a camping trip to a lakeside family slumber party. I’m thankful for the bright green patches of grass poking up from under a thick layer of brown and gold crisp leaves. I’m thankful for the remains of a charcoaled fire pit that brought silly jokes, belly laughs and plans for future gatherings of cousins. I’m thankful for the boat dock that held a dozen family members snuggled and relaxing, a wirey-haired puppy dog, and chilly fingertips being periodically warmed by the sun.

I’m deeply grateful for my Auntie who speaks words of life to me. She whispers in my ear as she hugs and they are things I didn’t know I desperately needed to hear. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to finally meet a long-lost cousin and see him meld in with us almost as though we’ve always known him. I’m thankful for the hope of future reunification of family members. I’m thankful for the comfort of my mother, especially as I feel the permanency of losing my Dad, and that she lives close to me so I can regularly know that comfort. I’m thankful for my step-Dad, that has smoothly moved into the role as one of my children’s grandfathers. I’m thankful for the mix of conversation, both silly and reflective, that I have with my cousins and wish I had hours more. I’m thankful for my little brother, especially as I hear him in conversation across the room refer to me as his sister, because it makes me feel the sacredness of that title and reminds me of how glad I am that we have each other. I’m thankful for my beautiful sister-in-law and her peaceful nature that oozes out when around her.

Even though I’ve spent a great deal of time in very close quarters to my immediate people and worked through whining, dirty socks and stinky toots, I’m feeling cozy gratitude for the opportunity to love them. I’m delightfully exhausted from this weeklong trip, but also ready for the Christmas season that has now begun. I’m ready to welcome in the stressful moments, frustrating disappointments when I’ve let my expectations get the best of me, and will look for and practice carrying a spirit of joy, whether I feel like it or not. Will you join me? 

Xoxo, Emily

10 Things I Hate About You.

Hey, girl. I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings too much, but some people don’t like you (sigh. or me). I know, right? Some people get annoyed with the way we talk or dress and shonuf don’t think our jokes are funny. It sucks, I know. I’m 42 (or am I 43?) years old and I still try too hard to make them like me and care too much whether they do or not. I worry if I said the right thing or if I said the wrong thing or said too many things. Honestly, by the end of interactions like these, I feel worn out! As I reflect on this overthinking habit, sometimes I get frustrated with myself that I care so much. I’ve written about this before, so clearly it isn’t an easy habit to shake, but I’m not letting this one go. 

I’m going to take you back old school, circa 1991. I’m a 6th grade student at Lincoln Middle School with a mean permed mullet. Walking into school one day, I was confident enough to wear a rather vibrant pair of shorts. They were lively with abstract colors and design. Within a matter of a class period or two, I heard a comment from a fellow student about how ugly my shorts were. Well, that was the end of any confidence I was carrying in my Jansport. During my health class, the assignment had something to do with writing a reflection in my journal. Because I can sometimes resemble a packrat, I kept this journal and ran across it years later in an attic purge. What I was reminded of and sometimes even consider impactful in my decision to become a teacher, was the kind note scribbled at the bottom of my entry. Sadly, I don’t even recall the teacher’s name, but she validated how that must have made me feel. She encouraged me to be confident being myself and finally, jotted a “P.S. I really like your shorts!” Mind you, I doubt my 11-year-old brain truly trusted or took to heart the stylistic opinions of an “ancient” 30-something woman, but her thoughtfulness influenced me nonetheless. 

Words have power. We tend to cling to the crappy ones and they tattoo themselves to our brain, but I have a game plan. Let’s practice not caring (even though we often still will). Let’s practice wearing the piece of clothing or accessory we really like, but typically hesitate in case someone will think it looks dumb. What about sending the text about hanging out even if we worry they might be annoyed and only say yes out of obligation? Maybe even the most important thing might be the way we talk to ourselves with those worries that come after an interaction with someone. Even though it may feel uneasy or strange, we can try making space for the uncertainties of others’ opinions of us. Maybe I did blab too much about XYZ. It’s possible they think the sparkly bumble bee earrings were a bit much. They might not have invited me to that get-together because I’m loud and unpredictable, but WHATEVS. It is really tiring to get all of my ducks in a row to make sure I don’t rock the boat of their approval or upset the apple cart filled with their “Like” button. Here’s all the evidence: Life is too short! We should listen more to our favorite colors, activities, and accessories. I believe we will ATTRACT healthy relationships with others by practicing healthy relationship with ourselves. Say the thing. Stand up for something you think is good. Does your heart feel a tiny bit giddy when you see that karate cat t-shirt? Wear it, girl! Practice talking freely, sharing stories or comments that come to mind. We have to PRACTICE being us and taking the chance that it won’t win over everyone’s approval. Luckily, as I said already, we already know not everyone will anyways. Whew. What a relief. (Wink, wink. That’s me practicing.) 

We Will Never Forget

Today is September 11, 2021. It’s been 20 years since the terrorist attacks on our country. Every year when this date rolls around, I feel a tug to watch footage from that day, to remember. I don’t know why exactly, since it does nothing but bring about a heaviness in my mind and gut, but yet, here I am, pausing the television to write my story and reflect, before I again, hit play and travel back in my mind to that day in my life. As a college student finishing my last semester and internship with a group of 5th graders, I had no clue what was happening or how it would affect us. We flew by the seat of our pants in how to best address such a frightening time with the young children I was teaching. How much is too much? How must my parents have felt with me being away from home during such an uncertain time? I was barely an adult, feeling both terribly alone, yet closer than ever to my fellow American citizens, as we were dipped into a vat of common humanity like never before.

I often consider 9/11 to be similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor in the way Americans of different generations feel and respond to its anniversary. Unfortunately, because of my age, I have often dismissed Pearl Harbor as something “from the history books”. I wasn’t alive at that time, so it hasn’t had the power over me that 9/11 does and will likely continue to do. I feel disheartened by the idea that the September 11 anniversary will be skimmed over, like an advertisement post on social media, but I understand why it is so. Because of this, I see now that I feel an obligation of sorts, to pause and remember. I don’t want to forget.

What does this mean for us, as Americans? Why pull ourselves back into that pain? I firmly believe by doing so, we are honoring and showing respect to every single life lost, those impacted by loss, by trauma, and by chronic pain brought on by the rescue mission. I also feel it can help us with perspective on pain, compassion, and the honor of being an American. We were so vulnerable on that day and the many days to follow. It felt frightening to move about our everyday lives with the uncertainty of what was to come. It also brought a pride in my country and feeling of comaraderie like I have never felt before or since. Although our country is torn and heightened with fear, I want that reminder of what is possible. I want to pause and reflect on how many Americans were driven into service because of that day twenty years ago. How many families were affected both on that day, but since then as they have protected us from further terrorism? I want to pause and consider how difficult it must be to carry the task of leadership in our country, especially on an anniversary like today. Thank you, Families of Lost Ones. Thank you, Americans. I hope we will never forget.

Surrender to the Flow

You know those moments when you hear a phrase of some sort and it stops you in your tracks? It often happens to me when I’m reading and I’ll underline it. Sometimes it’ll get transferred into my notebook or journal, but over my lifetime, it’s few that lodge into my brain for future recall. I do love those (the good ones, at least), especially when they pop back to the forefront right when we need it. It’s certainly the benefit of memorization of scripture, so that we can “bind them on (our) heart always” (Prov. 7:3).

Recently, my husband was watching The River Runner documentary on Netflix which is about a group of hardcore kayakers taking on some of the most dangerous spots in the world. I only caught bits and pieces as I walked through the room, but towards the end I stopped for a watch because of the stunning beauty and sounds. The subject of the documentary, Scott Lindgren, was reflecting on his life-changing experience of having been diagnosed with a brain tumor and how it changed his perspective and the way he approached things. He said, “I tried to control everything in my life. And once I realized, with my tumor, that I had no control over that, I just surrendered to the flow of life.” Now, I know the dramatic music playing to the slow-mo wave crashing action played a part in my having the “stop me in my tracks” feeling, but I took that phrase, “surrendered to the flow of life”, and visually applied it to my own life.

One of the areas I continually try to weave into my everyday mindset is practicing being mindfully aware of the thoughts and feelings that might try and set up shop in my mind. Generally, these are the stinky or condescending ones and I’m often unaware of their impact. Sometimes though, I can notice them and try to visually let them float down the river in my mind. Yes, I’ve created a safe, cozy little creek in my mind and the thoughts or emotions can be labeled on a leaf that bobs on down at its own pace. Because of this cozy creek of mine, I can see why the powerful river analogy felt so profound.

As I’m typing, I’m reminded of my trips to Adventure Island as a girl. I absolutely love water parks, but I’ve never been keen on too high or too fast, so I was never a Tampa Typhoon type of gal. Even with the simple slides, if my bathing suit bottom picked up a notch in speed, I was pushing out my arms to slow my roll. It was an automatic response to when things felt out of control. How similar that is to moving through life! The weaving pattern of life is similar to gravity on a water slide; we can do our best to slow things down or hide away from trouble, but it’s just plain inevitable that we will keep moving. Are you even aware of how often you’re trying to push off the slippery sides of life? I found Scott’s statement so profound because it felt so freeing. In fact, just a few sentences later, he said, “I no longer try to control the outcome to anything. I just show up with my heart. And it gave me so much freedom.”

So, as usual, this post serves as nothing more than a personal reflection that I hope may help me with more awareness and maybe be encouraging to someone, somewhere, in this World Wide Web. May we both begin to practice surrendering to the (inevitable) flow of life.

Father’s Day Tribute

Tomorrow is the first Father’s Day without my Father alive. It’s strange and heavy. Just in the last 24 hours I’ve thought of handful of questions to which I know he’d have the answer or could add detail. Thoughts and emotions about him tumble in at miscellaneous times and often choke me up. I hear from others that this is quite normal and doesn’t necessarily have a time limit. 

To honor my Father today, I decided to share my words from his funeral a few months ago:

“Many of you here have experienced the loss of a parent. Depending on the circumstances, there are many emotions that can come and go. It’s strange to feel so many ways and to have emotions pop up suddenly or stirred by the most seemingly insignificant trigger. Last week as I thought ahead to this weekend, I found myself excited for a moment because one of my favorite cousins and his family along with my brother and sister-in-law would be in town, but then almost immediately I was met with tears because I could imagine just how incredibly happy the healthy version of my Dad would be to see this same group of people and all of you. I can see his grin. I could imagine the short, one-liners he’d have that often caught me off guard and made me smile because I knew he was comfortable and happy. I know many of you know that version of my Dad, too. 

With the sadness that comes with loss, there is a feeling of wrongness, one that says we shouldn’t be experiencing this pain. One of the few benefits of disappointing struggles in this life is that, not only can it humble us, but it can also bring light to an often ignored truth which is that this human life is not meant to be easy or pain-free. As a believer in something bigger and greater than myself, I decide each day to trust that there is meaning behind each disappointment. I came across two quotes this week that highlight this truth. 

C.S. Lewis, a man that found himself determined to prove that the God of the Bible did not exist, yet ended up referring to himself as the “most reluctant convert in all of England” has said, “We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.” 

Also, a former pastor that planted churches in New York City, who is currently going through treatment for cancer said about he and his wife, “To our surprise, an encouragement we have discovered is that the less we attempt to make this world into a heaven, the more we are able to enjoy it. No longer are we burdening it with demands impossible for it to fulfill.” 

When recently I wrote about the passing of my Dad, I purposely did not skim over the hard stuff; the icky and sad stuff about his struggles. Although his death was initially deemed “natural causes”, we decided to go forward with an autopsy just in case we found helpful information. Although I didn’t have great concern that his death was anything other than natural causes, the morning I received the call from the pathologist with initial findings, I felt an odd calm after learning that he passed from a heart attack from 95% blockage and a contributing bleeding ulcer. I don’t know what the afterlife is like, but I began talking to my Dad as I drove down the road. I told him how thankful I was that he didn’t commit suicide and that he had essentially chosen to “hold on” when it was especially dark for him. Although he told me once that when it came to going against God’s will, he was a coward, I know he also didn’t want us to experience the same heartache as he did with his brother’s death. It was one of, if not the, hardest experiences in his almost 70 years. 

Life is hard. It’s filled with great joys and incredible highs, but it’s hard. We each walk our own paths through this life while having different genetics, heritage, circumstances, brain chemistry and opportunities. My father may have been dealt a challenging hand, but I do know he made the best of it by pushing through and taking full advantage of opportunities. I would describe him as a classic self-made man who started in the air conditioning field and produced a very successful business, of which my husband and I are incredibly grateful to now own and grow. He was not perfect, but he was giving and compassionate and clever. As I think all parents do, he wanted his children to have a better life than he did; better opportunities to go to college and pursue dreams. I remember him telling me to find something I love doing and make that a job. 

My brother and I have begun to see some of the enriching qualities that we’ve received from my Dad. Unfortunately for my outgoing Mom at times, the three of us are very similar; introspective introverts with a splash of ADHD. We enjoy being with friends and family, but need that recovery space afterwards to decompress. Loud and crowded events are not our forte! 

Although we feel very grateful for those wonderful qualities, we also see opportunity in the ways we’d like to do things differently and I know he would agree. One area in which my father was especially weak was admitting to internal struggles and accepting help. By being a male and growing up in the generation that he did, I bet it made it especially difficult. Thankfully, the mental health stigma is slowly crumbling, but it still remains an ever-present uphill climb for most. No matter how old you are, there is hope available if you are hurting. My own experience with finally finding a correct diagnosis for my OCD shows me that there is hope, but we must look for it and hold the hand of the one offering it. If you have someone in your life that is struggling with their mental health, the #1 piece of advice I have is to never, ever give up on them. Never stop reminding them that you are there and willing to help them with finding the hope and grabbing ahold of it for dear life. 

The IF-ONLYs about the latter part of my Dad’s life are disappointing. Lately, I hear my kids crack a joke or do something that makes me want to squeeze them because I love them so much, I think that maybe my Dad is watching. Again, I don’t know how things go once the human body dies or how interactive they are with us still here on Earth, but maybe he’s giving that grin that I love so much and genuinely laughing. It meant he was in a good place in those moments. I hope he is feeling completely free of all the heaviness he carried around for so long and is enjoying watching his grandkids from there. Just last night as I was looking at the pictures we gathered of him, I felt waves of sadness because I realized that the way I feel about my children, how I tell them that being their mother is my absolute most favorite thing in the world, that is how he felt about Ty and me. I wish he were here because I know my healthy Dad would knock it out of the park as a grandfather, but that can’t be. 

This life is not all there is. I will see him again, but until then, I will continue to do my best to take care of myself so I can be the best mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend I can be. I want to continue to make him proud. 

Again, I want to thank you for being a part of my father’s life. If you feel it may have been insignificant, my faith in God tells me that no interaction is without significance, value and purpose. As funerals or memorials like these usually do, our busy lives briefly pause as we consider death and all it implies. Take advantage of the next few hours or days as you contemplate life and death. Although it’s tempting, try not to shove away that discomfort, but welcome it as an opportunity to see how it can impact your choices and interactions with others. You are loved.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you so much. 

Are You My Mother?

It’s Mother’s Day! I’m typing from my bed this morning with a cup of coffee on my bedside table. A teaspoon of guilt is here with me, but I’m nudging it aside to choose this classic Mother’s Day gift. When I had ideas stirring on writing today, they went in several different directions: the difficult and emotional side for those weighed down by loss or lack of motherhood, the delight of being a mother, and also the challenge of lousy mothers and the generational patterns that follow. Most of that doesn’t sound touchy-feely or smell like the floral bouquet of Mother’s Day, but life is rarely picture perfect. As I do with most of my writing here, I will simply ramble as the thoughts arise. This morning as I listen to the humming of my first-born as he sets the breakfast table, my thoughts begin with the gift of being a mother. 

As a girl, I don’t recall being one that dreamt of being a mother or a homemaker. I was nervous when expecting my firstborn about all of the unknowns of motherhood and dealt with unimaginable anxiety for a significant chunk of his life. For most of that time, it was survival. In many ways, I owe so much to my son because he was a major motivation for me to keep going. With time and then the addition of my second child, I began to very deeply recognize what a true honor it is to be a mother. These two humans were gifted to me and as I personally grow and learn how to better live a value-driven life, they top the list. Although I fail regularly, I want to be a mother who is present, encouraging, and safe. I’m so thankful for the opportunity because being a mother makes me a better human. 

My pastor recently told me he tries to stay away from too much of a focus on Mother’s Day because of all of the heartache that can accompany this day. In addition to the painful loss of a child or a mother, many times there are heartaches hidden deep inside the heart of women; miscarriages or abortions, for example. What if the relationship with your mother is strained or nonexistent? What if it feels impossible to buy just the right card because the dramatic written words aren’t even a little applicable to your relationship? It can be a uncomfortable holiday for many reasons and as I heard in a prayer recently, may there be grace woven into this day and what it means. May there be joy amidst the heartache and patience extended where it’s needed. 

If you have a beautiful relationship with your mother, shout it from the mountaintop! Give them praise for loving you as they do and have done. If you have a troubling relationship with your mother or child, pause for reflection on lessons learned. If you feel grief and waves of sorrow, allow slow breaths to carry you through the sadness. I’m visualizing you having a deep, warm hug right now; the kind that feels cozy and doesn’t quickly pull away.

On my mind lately has been the generational patterns that loom with our parenting. I’ve heard people express their desire to do things better than their parents did and create a healthier environment, and for good reason! I think we should certainly be striving for healthy and growth in this area of raising children. I will also say that it’s important to beware of misaligned expectations and also of the reality of redirecting patterns that have been in place for some time. A generational pattern/sin/habit, i.e. alcohol use, bitterness, pride, anger, lust, can be much harder to break than it looks like. We have all learned and were molded by our circumstances and influences, so make space for grace and patience, if you find yourself with these struggles.

Lastly, I can’t help but think of my own mother, of course.I know that both of my parents had strong intentions of creating a better life for us than they had. Isn’t that the goal of all parents? My mother is brave and carries a take-charge attitude. I struggle with an anxiety disorder. My mother is charming and outgoing in most social settings. I have often been intimidated as hell with small talk. My mother is a go-getter and accomplishes her to-do list with ferocity and little downtime. I get easily distracted by who knows what when I should be sorting laundry. I say all of this to emphasize how different we are from one another. It must not be the easiest to parent a child who doesn’t follow suit. Once we moved through the teenage clashing phase and I became an adult, we developed a different mother-daughter relationship. Although she is incredibly compassionate, when I crashed and burned from anxiety and depression, she had to learn how to have a different kind of patience and compassion for someone struggling with a mental illness. I have seen small bits of thoughtfulness in her asking to help me or researching diagnoses online to learn more. She’s my mother and she loves me. With the death of my father a couple months ago, I am even more aware of the relationship with my mother. I am very thankful for her. I am very hopeful for even more closeness as we continue to age and as I raise these beautiful children of my own. Thank you, Mom. I love you.

Aging Gracefully

I’m sitting in my car parked under a shady tree while I type this post. I have a full bladder and these days, I’m learning not to go messing around with trying to hold it for too long. If I have to sneeze, things aren’t looking too good. Woe is me, the newly 42-year-old. Aging is an interesting topic to me as I’m realizing I’ve written about it before. I’m curious about the aging process and how both beautiful and challenging it seems to be. Of course, the obvious is that I’ve observed the changes to my skin, endurance, metabolism, and foot pain, but I’m also starting to notice a slight shift in my attitude towards aging. I’ve heard it before that many women find their fifties to be one of the more freeing and confident phases of life; caring a bit less about what others think and knowing your own style and self. The inevitable pains of aging can be daunting, but expected and mostly managed (i.e. as I sit outside my doctor’s office after having blood drawn while sipping my pre/probiotic drink, hence the full bladder). It’s the internal changes that I want to highlight that may serve as a reminder of the lighter and more encouraging sides of aging.

My birthday was this past weekend. Hormones and weight gain are cramping my style right now, so I got creative with my outfit for the day as we headed to my son’s basketball tournament. I wore a pair of fancy flowy gauchos with a t-shirt that had a cat with a sweatband on it.  I threw on some of my favorite bangle bracelets and I honestly felt as cute as a button! Not that this was a wild outfit at all, but I’m often a self-conscious nut, so I still had some creeping worries of what others were thinking, but I pushed on through and lived my best basketball mom life. Several times that day I thought how much I liked that empowered feeling to dress just how I liked. I expect my confidence to sway with the wind and not always allow me to be as bold as I’d like, but I do hope it grows over the years. 

With my current therapy, I’m focusing on ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and I’m finding it lining up nicely with this attitude of aging. What is it that I value? I love my family more than it’s possible to describe and my top priority and value is loving on them. I want my home to feel cozy and safe. Combining that with aging means that I want it to represent the things I love and that bring joy and not always doing what’s on trend. I want my children, especially my daughter, to see me dressing confidently and without grumbles over my weight gain or disappointment in my body. Sure, I may feel that way internally, but voicing it out loud over and over is not productive at all and feeds the discouragement. Just a couple days ago, I wore my bathing suit in the pool with my kids and noted the tiniest shift in my attitude and confidence. It felt strangely freeing to just be what I am. I’ll note that I came across a cutie patootie young influencer on Instagram who beautifully and confidently posts her size 14 style. It’s not the norm, so it is absolutely refreshing to see! I’ve also noticed Target’s advertising being beautifully inclusive of all shapes, ages, sizes and color. 

Why do most of us spend so much time looking outward to how we “should” be? I reckon it’s a natural human response, but it sure feels tiring. With my time left, will I fret over how I look and what others think or will I look instead towards what makes me feel confident? Will I emphasize my weaknesses, continue to feed the hyper-focused view of my inadequacies or on the things I dislike about myself, or will I try to nudge that to a healthier view and attitude? Lord knows I can try and be more myself, gracefully and full of faults, but also practice that inner gentle grace. Nudge, nudge. 

In Honor of My Father

My Dad passed away a few days ago. My stomach does a bit of a churn when I write it. With only a few days past receiving the news, I feel all sorts of feelings and I can imagine those will ebb and flow with bursts of tears for some time to come. I have so much to say, but then want to say nothing at all. One thing is certain, I want so very badly to give him another hug or say goodbye. That’s the most painful part for me right now and it just makes me feel so very sad and the tears feel like they’ll never stop once they start. The finality of death is alarming once it’s here. It’s feels a little panicky. Of course, I just wish I had more time.

I know my Dad loved me so much. Because of childhood pain and trauma that I couldn’t even begin to understand, he hurt. Because of genetic susceptibility to anxiety and depression, my Dad hurt. Because of unfortunate major health problems and chronic pain, my poor Dad hurt. With all of these factors combined, along with the challenges of life in general, it’s been so very difficult for him. Because of his natural pride and feelings of defeat, he didn’t know how to accept help or engagement from the people that loved him the most. It’s been terribly painful and frustrating to see him withdrawal over the years from the potential of a fulfilling life. His friends have missed him so much. I have felt utterly heartbroken over the joy he’s missed through his grandchildren. He was absolutely crazy about them, but pain can create an unintentional mile-high wall. He expressed his emotions, thoughts and memories through email over the last few years, so it is without hesitation that I know his love for us.

To know my real, true, deep-down Dad/Tim/Timmy/Vito/TR/Grampy was to positively love him. My Dad was witty, incredibly giving and compassionate. My brother and I would agree what we may miss the most is this small part of him that would peek out at rare times over the years and make us have deep giggles. His humor was so clever. I miss it so much. He modeled hard work and because of that hard work, my husband and I were able to take over the business that he and my mom created decades ago. He was immensely proud of this and I’m so thankful for it. Just yesterday I had the honor of meeting with the women in our office and sharing with them that responsibility and honor of creating a strong future for our business with honor and character. I know it would make him very proud.

My brother and I were able to make a visit to see our Dad just a month before he passed away. Of course, we are incredibly thankful for that opportunity. We could tell that his physical health was in bad shape and declining, but not expecting his death would come so soon. It nourished his spirit to have us there and oh, how I wish we could go back and do it again and stay longer. The things I would say or not say, the last hug I would give him; to have the chance to hold on tighter or longer. As I heard myself praying aloud just a few hours after learning he passed, I asked God to hold him so tight, to let him know with everything inside that he is so loved and safe. To think that he is with his brother and mother again brings me bits of joy. I love you so much, Dad.

Dear reader, you may be wondering why I mentioned his pain rather than just honor his memory in solely a positive light. My brother and I both feel very strongly that life struggles, whether that be mental health, addiction, trauma, etc., not be masked or ignored, but rather have light shine on them so they are not as scary, intimidating, or embarrassing. Life is hard. Circumstances can feel overwhelming. No one should ever feel alone and it is never too late to accept a helping hand. There is always, always hope. To you I say: Do speak the words you want to say. Do seek forgiveness, if needed. Hold on to the hugs just a bit longer. Accept the helping hand. Look for the silver beneath the tarnish. You are loved.

Valentine Baby

On this day ten years ago I was in the hospital anticipating the arrival of my first child. My baby was already revealing his stubborn nature by staying put until I had to be induced at ten days overdue! Because we’d kept his official name secret until he was born and with a February 14th birthday, the family jokes started flowing as to whether he’d be named Valentino.

Labor was intense in the morning due to the induction process, so an epidural was ordered and administered much to my delight. Minor struggles occurred through the afternoon as they tweaked the dosage and we endured a rather intense pushing window, but by 5:15pm, my chunky 9-pound baby had arrived.

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Here was this little human being that my husband and I were now completely responsible for and although we’d taken the classes and read the books, it was a little (lot) scary. The unknown was looming. My little brain wanted so badly to be well and handle the stress of a newborn and the challenges that awaited us when we went home. Long nights and the zombie phase came and went, my anxiety disorder intensified in his first year of life and I experienced an arduous battle over the first several years of his life. But, as I look back at the last decade and see the challenges that have been allowed through the providence of God, I also see tenderness and love. This little boy carries several habits and traits of mine and that allows for locking of horns at times, but like I’ve begun to tell him so often that I get eye rolls, I LOVE being his mother. He is bright, funny,  and clever. We both love to read and often share read-aloud time at night. Like his Daddy, he is so wonderful with younger kids and often plays so well with his little sister. It brings me immense joy to think that she has him for the rest of her life; a caring, protective big brother. He has been especially brave this past year by starting a new sport and will be heading away for a real summer camp in a few months.

As an older friend of mine said, it can be sad when all of the sweet little kid seasons pass and you mourn the gentle baby you can hold in your arms, BUT what fun it is to see them grow up! There are numerous seasons to come that I get to be a part of and I’m honored. My little boy is ten years old today; my Valentine Baby. I love him and as I prayed when he was tiny, I pray that he will lead others to Christ, learn and develop a servant’s heart, and most importantly, I hope he will always know that he is loved, NO MATTER WHAT. Happy 10th Birthday, Sweet Boy! I love you!

You Down With OCD?

2018!

In my head last New Years (2017), I thought, “This is going to be a great year, I just feel it!” I was specifically expecting that my mental health would greatly improve and I’d be a new woman! Well…by mid spring, my tune was quickly changing because my anxiety started acting like a rabid dog and took a chunk out of my arm. However, through avenues that I am hoping were God-ordained (because I do try my best to believe He’s working ALL things together for a solid reason), I found Ariel’s “Whole New World” of mental health and took a detour that I think makes a big difference for my little brain.

After over a decade of traditional counseling and years of an ebb and flow pattern, I just felt deep in my gut that I shouldn’t be feeling so awful and that there’s got to be a different strategy. While casually talking to a friend (that I’d talked anxiety struggles with in the past), she mentioned that I should talk to a friend of hers. A phone call later, a tiny light was peeking through the crevice and I followed it. Over the river and through the woods, it led to an evaluation and diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

When most think OCD, we think, “OMG, I’m so OCD!” Or you imagine people washing their hands a million times a day. Although there are people struggling deeply with what is called Contamination OCD, millions of others suffer internally and silently with other themes. In my beginning research, I learned that it’s an average of 14 years before a correct diagnosis is given! That blew my mind and in a strange way, was a comfort to me. I finally knew what was wrong and why I think the way I do! I’m still in the thick of the battle, but it is such a gift to know why and what I can do.

OCD is also known as the “doubting disease” and the key is being able to practice and eventually accepting uncertainty in life; not being able to prove 100% that something may not happen or that a thought doesn’t mean something you fear it means. There are many categories and I have my own personal cocktail of several different ones.

A friend and I were discussing how often one should share personal things like this, especially on a public forum such as this blog. I hesitated, as I do very often, before posting. In the end I decided that although I would never want this to define me or be what someone thinks of immediately when I come to mind, but I do know that finding the help I did came from someone sharing that they had the same struggles. Life is short and if I can be a lifeline to someone wallowing in confusion and discouragement, then I’m willing to share. I won’t blab it to the world, have my Mom make me a personalized button, or publicly share the details of my OCD struggles, but I can