Friday, August 29, 2014

No Words, Just A Firm Squeeze

My dad died two weeks ago.  His body had been failing him for quite a while.   The one kidney he had left stopped functioning years ago and then his weakened heart finally gave out during a procedure that was necessary to keep his body going.  That's the mechanics of the story.

The intimate part of the story is that he was my father.  A daughter looks to a dad to understand her meaning in the world.  The words that were floating in my head to describe him the morning after he died were quiet and sweet presence.  It took me 46 years to get to those words.   I then read the words my sister in law wrote which were more acutely accurate: "quiet, funny, sweet, sharp, dear and kind."  I forgot the sharp and funny.   And he was both of those.

I am funny and sharp when I allow myself to be.  Somewhere along the way I became too serious and forgot how healing laughter is.

I didn't have the kind of relationship I wanted with my dad.  I was never Daddy's little girl.  He was very quiet.

I wanted more of him my whole life.

I longed for conversations with him about my life and things that I was interested in.  I longed to seem like I mattered in a way that I could recognize.   When I called my parents' home, he immediately handed the phone over to my mother.  This is normal for some people.  I think it was his generation as the provider and it was his personality.   He called me on the phone several years ago and it was the only time I ever remember him doing so and it was during a time that I was having a break of contact with my mom.  I had needed space to figure out who I was. Even though he questioned if I needed to be taken out of his will because I was not spending time with the family, I took advantage of the opportunity.  I put my heart on the line and said what I was never able to verbalize before to him.  I was vulnerable with a capital V.   (I displayed vulnerability as whole hearted people do even before I understood the concept - thank you Brene Brown!)  I said I missed him and had wanted to interact with him more growing up.  I needed his presence.  He replied that "he was who he was and was not going to change."

It was very painful to hear.

Thus began one of the biggest lessons of my life, and that is, to take people off pedestals that I place them on, of who I think they are and how I think they should be, and allow them to be who they are.  It can be a terrifically tough pill to swallow but is a necessary truth of life for me.  The journey began then to learn to give myself what I needed as a child and now as an adult.

So I grieved, a lot, over the next few years and there was much anger as well but over time slowly learned to accept who he was and what he had to give and accept who I was.  Anything I received from him at this point was bonus.  On the occasions we saw each other, and I leaned in for a goodbye hug, I noticed he squeezed me harder and held on longer than in the past.  This was his way.  No words, just a firm squeeze.

The day that he died, he never fully came out of anesthesia from his procedure.  He began moving his hands and his head though.  I watched the nurse, talk to him and ask him to squeeze her hand.  So after some movement, I walked over and took his hand and talked to him.  I told him who I was, that he was intubated and they were working to take the tube out.   I asked him to squeeze my hand. Could he squeeze my hand?  He did.  He also nodded his head a few times in response to questions.

He was a quiet man.

I learned to accept what he had to give.

My aha came that next day that I'm continuing to absorb.  As the family had gathered together in the hospital room after he died, we began talking about who he was in order to write the obituary.  He was an outdoorsman on all counts.  Everything revolved around farming, hunting, fishing, trees, etc. There was mention of his deceased sister.  I thought, wow, I really did get her genes.  She and I both moved away from the same small town, married doctors, were more liberal and loved the arts and creativity. I do love the outdoors but I am not inclined to want to trap or shoot what I find and cook it up.

My aha was that even though I never discussed life with my dad, I realized he taught me to be who I am,  no matter what the people around me think or expect.  Even if your daughter begs to get to know you better, you have to be who you are.

I have to be who I am.  It has taken a long time to realize that I can't be at peace with myself trying to be someone who I am not, trying to fit other people's molds or ideals.

I loved my dad and I know he loved me.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

It Doesn't Matter If Anyone Else Gets This, I Do

Oh my, oh my.  I wonder do other people even understand this, but in the end it doesn't matter.  I do know what it feels like and this picture, reminds me that terribly uncomfortable feelings will pass.  They are part of life. 
I also wonder when did I stop being able to feel my feelings?  When did I start to use food to escape uncomfortable feelings?   In the end, that answer doesn't matter either.  What I have learned is that for me, I have to be kind to myself, gentle and loving.  Whatever that looks like.  When I recognize that I'm having a judgmental and unkind thought pattern - whoa - I need to stop it.  Even just having the awareness that's what is going on, lessens it.
So for now- these are wonderful words of wisdom.  And I just had a massive aha. I need to let my children know that when they are feeling unsettled and having a meltdown - this too will pass.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Thank you Mallory for the word and blog title.  This is her word for the first day of school.  And mine too!

As a stay at home mom, the beginning of a school year, brings up all kind of emotions.  I spend a good portion of the summer adjusting to them being at home full-time.    Spending 24-7 is quite the challenge and we spend a lot of time together as a family, especially just the three of us during the summer.   No one goes to camp, no one goes to Grandmas.  They don't have playdates down the street.  It is the three of us, 24-7.  As sisters, they have beautiful time playing together and then the ugly time of sibling rivalry and fighting.  They are both going through new phases.  Mallory is wanting more independence and getting better at demanding more of me which I need to give to her.  Riley is knee deep in pre-teen mode, and her own independence but still demanding more of me as she has done since birth.  Both of them are tackling new challenges at school, which they are excited about.  We will take each day, one day at a time.

On this day and prior to it, I get sad, and think of the summer activities we didn't get to do and it's over.  We only went swimming twice to our club pool.  That's a travesty.  There will be no more big volunteer work for me during the summer!  Challenges are good but this summer was too busy.    I will miss the girls while they are at school, but then on the other hand am so relieved to take a deep breath and soak up the quiet of the house.   I need this quiet so much to recharge.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Holy smokes.
That really says it all doesn't it.  
Sometimes it takes a while to figure out who is setting the standard too low besides myself.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It Can't Always Be the Same: Rocking the Light AND the Dark and Birthday #46

Lauren & Mallory 2006
Feeling a little verklempt this morning and I'm learning to embrace these melancholy moments because life (the spiritual journey it is!)  is embracing the light and the dark.  You cannot have one without the other.   The dark has frightened me for years and I fought it off to no avail.  I'm learning to embrace my once sworn enemy and welcome it with curiosity and kindness.  This is no easy feat yet the dark makes the light, oh so much sweeter.

I walked the dogs in quiet this morning and in atypical fashion for late July in Louisiana, it was a cool morning.  There are several things on my mind this morning.  I saw that the moving truck that was packed yesterday with my neighbor Lauren's belongings was indeed gone.  She is headed to New Orleans for nursing school.  She babysat for me for the last 9 years!!  I was pregnant with Mallory when we moved into this house in 2005.  Lauren started off as a mother's helper and ended up driving my kids around, the ultimate in a mother's trust.  Lauren is going to rock nursing school! Look out New Orleans.

Katie and Riley 2005 - Ballon Festival

My niece, Katie, will be induced tomorrow to have her first baby.  She was one of Riley's first babysitters.  She was in the room when Riley was born.  It doesn't get much closer than that.  But there is always dark and light.  As in many families, things happen and we don't get along for a spell. Katie and I have moved through that and are on the other side.  I can't wait to meet Baby Boston.  Entering motherhood is an awesome and life changing event.  For me, it was the beginning stirrings of my consciousness journey.  Your children can evolve you like no other. (Thank you Dr. Shefali Tsabary!)  Katie will rock motherhood and be oh so fashionable while doing so!

My kids are starting back to school next week.  Riley will be entering sixth grade and Mallory, the third grade.  I dropped Riley off for her back to school party last night.  She had a purse with money and a phone in her possession!  My stomach turned as she ran off and I drove away.  Middle School.  I am learning to let Riley be who she is and navigate the highs and lows of the brutal middle years.  This is no easy task.    I have to let my own insecurities not be pushed as I'm privileged to listen to hers.  Thank you social media for adding to the drama.  Middle School and puberty were easy enough to navigate before.  Yet...Riley is going to rock Sixth Grade!

On my walk, it hit me that my forty-sixth birthday is in two days.  Birthdays can be like middle school for me, quite the booger.  In the past, reality never met my expectations and I had to learn to adjust.  (I do love birthdays on FB though - it's the bomb!)  I have learned to lower the expectations, take the day in my own hands and plan it myself.  You can't wait around for other people to do what you want to have done in your own life.  I was so caught in the muck of fear that I could not even think of alternatives much less act on them in the first half of my life.

Yet that change and adjustment in my expectation of birthdays (and life!)  has lead to gratitude for the little things:
Like a crisp morning in July! Peace and quiet and birds singing on a dog walk.  The girls sleeping in so I can write.  Annie curled up next to me snoring and making me smile.

I don't have delight every day in these things and that is okay too.  Sometimes I want to cry during my morning dog walk.  That is part of life too.  Embracing that "dark" that comes and being curious about it is making all the difference in my life.

Today, I'm especially thankful for people who have come in my life, and become such a special part of it either by birth or by luck.  I love you guys!  I'm so happy for your new adventures.

I'm grateful that life changes and evolves and I am learning to embrace it instead of being scared by it.


Katie and I on Christmas Day 1984

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Practicing Self Love One Leadership Role At A Time

I have been volunteering to lead things.

Yes, really.

This is new territory for me.

Last week,  I was the co-leader for the craft activity for 350 kids during our week long Vacation Bible School at church.  This step has been years in the making.  To others around me, I can tell, it's no big deal.  And in some ways, it really isn't.  Except this was me in a leadership capacity, I NEVER EVER saw myself doing.

Progressing in my shift from fear to love, one of the things that I have learned, is that it is a very slow journey.  And progress is seen, after the fact.  What I noticed this week, is that I rolled with things that were uncomfortable for me.  There were problems and imperfections that would have thrown me into a huge tailspin in the past.   As I wouldn't speak up in the past, acting on my intuition is new territory.   I enjoyed seeing the needs, acting on what needed to be done and watching my directive occur.

 I like working with adults more than children.  It's just a fact and my truth.  I enjoyed chatting with my adult volunteers.  The thought of going back to be a guide leading kids is not appealing at all.  And I've been in a few capacities during VBS for the last 10 years.

After I came home each day last week and the adrenalin slowed, I was utterly exhausted.   During the week,  I took to my bed as much as I could around the needs of my children.  I know that there is no doubt, I am an introvert.  I'm a friendly introvert, but social interactions, leave me drained.  I can only recharge by being alone and doing absolutely nothing.  No internet, no tv, and no talking, just solitude.  When I'm exhausted, I eat as it feels that I will never have energy again.  This particular feeling appears to be a difficult one for me to overcome.  There are so many times that I am tired.  But, this also gives me more time to practice, right?! {smile}   I use to question, why, why am I so tired?  And I would think no one else in the world is tired like you.  I judged myself unmercifully.   I have learned not to question it anymore, it just is.  And I have to not beat myself up about the overeating.  Self-love is the only way out of this and as I have read and listened to experts in the field of compulsiveness, I need to be curious about the behavior, not judgmental.

I am doing things I never thought I could do.  And it takes practice.  This is my written reminder to practice self-love.

A few weeks back, after I lead a week of Mission Day Camp with the kids, I ran into our Spiritual Formation Director and I said working with kids really wasn't my thing.  She said there was a need for adult teachers in several studies...

This seems very, very appealing.  I get excited about that.  I may be on to something.  And all of this practice in other areas that didn't necessarily excite me has been laying a groundwork to step out in areas that do follow my passion.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Baton Rouge

"Every time you substitute kindness for criticism you improve your relationship with yourself.
When you feel depressed, abandoned, anxious, or worthless that’s a big clue you are telling yourself something harsh and untrue. Challenge your beliefs vociferously in the context of unconditional self love and watch your life improve"
~♥ Nicole S. Urdang

Unconditional self-love.  I believe for the first forty years of my life, I practiced unconditional self-loathing.

I didn't even realize what I was doing.

Looking back, I lived in fear and talked to myself ALL THE TIME about how I didn't measure up to others, how I couldn't do whatever was placed before me.  So many, many moments of my life were spent worrying about the next ones (and not being present).

It is no way to live.

I wouldn't speak up.  It didn't matter the situation, or to whom I was speaking.   I would never lead ANYTHING.  It made me nervous just to participate.   There was no way I could lead, even though I could see better ways to do certain things, I would never voice the thoughts in my head.  When I had to call someone on the phone or address someone about something relatively important, it was a capital H,  Huge deal.  I would agonize over it for hours or days and procrastinate.  My husband commented to me how I freeze in my tracks and just don't move.

It seems every interaction I had with others, I felt like I would be found out.  I wasn't who I appeared to be.  I had made good grades, I was cute and had pretty hair.  I was a cheerleader for gosh sakes.  (That's another entire issue there)  I lived by all of the externals - anything that was on the outside: from what groups I associated with, to the name brands I wore, to how I looked.

It is makes me sad to think how little I thought of myself.

How do you come out of that, especially if you don't even have the awareness that it's going on?

For me it was therapy.  And like most people, usually something has to hit a breaking point for anyone to head to therapy, rehab, treatment.  I wanted to find out why I couldn't lose weight and keep it off.  I knew there was something much deeper to my relationship with food.  And that is where my journey to shift from fear to love began.  I didn't even know that's what I was doing.    What I found out was why I couldn't love myself, and the stories I told myself in my head.  I began the process of becoming who I AUTHENTICALLY am.

And the bizarre thing to me, was that my spiritual journey was one and the same as my therapy.  I unintentionally ended up at church in studies that matched exactly what I was learning on the "outside" and I didn't know those studies existed inside the church.  But it is all one and the same.

You know "God is love." {smile} {wink}

At the core of spirituality and therapy is love.  It had been lost for me for a really long time but it's coming back!  Now, when I judge myself or another person, I stop, and think, Hmmm,  oh yeah, that's fear talking.  And these days, the thoughts just flow right out again.  In the beginning of practicing mindfulness, it might take a few days when someone or something really got in my craw.  But lately, it's down to a few hours and for small issues, it takes minutes or seconds.  

It's been a slow journey and at times painful but one that I am gloriously happy to be on.