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Piece by piece

I hate to admit that I am weaker than I seem. For years I have spent seasons of my life attempting to make myself stronger, hiding my fears and concealing my sadness under the veil of strength. I have vowed not to become my circumstances, nor the person who created them.

My father.

I truly believe that if life had taken a different course, I may have become a different person. I may not have struggled for a number of years to find myself worthy, nor self-deprecate. I would not have selected romantic partners that would leave me feeling empty, creating a void of disappointment for myself as I would select a boyfriend who would make me feel ignored or unappreciated.

And yet, I regret nothing. If my life circumstances would have been different than they ultimately were, I would never have realized my strength. I would not have found the will to face some of the most challenging trials in my life. I would have never known that at my core, I am a person driven by love for my family, and that in creating a family, I could learn to love myself.

This morning I sat at my desk, checking the same social networks I frequent, when I came upon a video of a recent performance Kelly Clarkson delivered to an audience on the final season of American Idol, the show which launched her signing career in to the national spotlight. In this particular performance, Kelly sang the song, “Piece by Piece,” a song about the father who abandoned her family at the age of 6, and the man who restored her faith in love and acceptance.

I felt the familiar weight of emotion balloon in my throat as her performance continued, relating to her on a level that only those who have experienced this type of loss can understand. The warmth of tears crowded the corners of my eyes, and I did not let them fall. Not because I did not want to express the emotion behind them, but because I came to a very important realization.

Even the strongest person can be a little broken.

Broken does not imply that we are defective, or that we do not deserve to be treated in the proper way. Broken merely means that we shattered, and in the aftermath, we put our pieces together, and continued living.

So in that moment, I did not cry for the loss of a father I never truly knew. I cried, for the gain of a woman stronger than she should have had to be.

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When your heart feels overwhelmed

No one truly prepares you for the diagnosis that will change your life forever. After all, how can they? The only person who can fully understand what it is like to live the remainder of your life with a chronic illness, one whose symptoms could flare at any time, is you.

Illness is a lonely journey, one that many will encounter at one time. For many, these illnesses are temporary, mere roadblocks in the paths of our lives that we will overcome. For others, the roadblock is not a simple inconvenience. It is the ENTIRE road.

I can recall the mounting anxiety I felt after one particular bout of illness. I became sick with the flu after my kindergarten son came home ill, a victim to one of his classmates who had brought his germs in to the classroom. As I nursed my son back to health, I found myself exhibiting many of the symptoms he displayed, and immediately recognized that I too was becoming sick.  I awoke one morning shortly after, and ached. My entire body was sore and I had zero energy. I disliked going to the doctor, but knew in this case that I needed to be seen.

I wasn’t getting better.

Several weeks later, I found that I was still lacking energy and tired easily. At the time I was working a 40 hour week at a high stress position and then coming home to raise two energetic children. I attributed my overall malaise to the busy schedule I lead, and ignored my symptoms, until one day, in the middle of my office I nearly fainted. I was sitting at my desk, my headset propped on my head as I spoke with a client. I felt warmth overcome my entire body, before the overwhelming sensation of dizziness struck me and I felt as if I were going to vomit. I advised the client that I would have to disconnect the call, and placed my self in to a blocked state. As I lay my headset on my desk and stood, my balance was unsteady. I am surprised that I did not fall to my feet at this point, yet somehow I managed to traverse the rows of cubicles and arrive in the bathroom in an upright state. I phoned my mother, and told her that I needed to see the doctor. My body was sending warning signals, and it was finally time for me to listen.

I listed my symptoms. Dizziness. Nausea. Hearing loss. As if reading from a menu of possible ailments, I listed the most notable issues I was having at that point. Exams were performed, and I was asked the same series of questions. How long had I been feeling this way? Did I have a family history?

After what felt like a countless number of tests and a never ending exam sheet of questions, I was referred to a specialist. The symptoms I had exhibited had a name. There was a disease, and it had no cure.

I was devastated.

In life, we measure our journey through a series of defined moments. Life changing events take precedence, anniversaries on a scale. The day we graduate. The day we marry. The day we bring our children in to the world.  For those who suffer from a chronic illness, we measure our lives in segments. The day before diagnosis.

And the day after.

We measure our lives on a scale of the life we had before illness. The lives that did not know symptoms, or medications, nor specialists. The lives that knew health above all else.

If you find yourself recently diagnosed, or even many years in to your chronic illness journey, feeling overwhelmed by the breadth of your disease, I want to promise you this.

There will be wonderful days. Days in which you feel like you are completely healthy. Days that are not concerned with medications, nor symptoms. Days that will not be defined on a scale of how “normal” you feel.

To counter, there will also be days that will be filled with illness in every sense of the word. Symptoms will flare, and overwhelm. Bodies will be pushed to their limits, and emotions will be tested. You will likely find in these moments that the darkness creeps in, and fills your mind with self doubt. You will begin to question why you are the one to suffer from this particular condition. You will feel hopeless, and you will want to give up.

But in those moments, dear reader, know that I understand. I have been there too, and I continue to deal with this condition every day. Some days are better than others.

And friend, I want you to know, that even though it feels like you are your illness, you are so much more. You are a husband, or a wife. You are a son, a daughter, a teacher or a friend. You are a mother or a father, a person who is loved and is worthy of love in return.

You are not defined by your circumstances, or by your health. And in those moments when you want to give up, remember this.

The life you lead is so much more than medications or symptoms. 42d261208e0c50de41374f4ab37efba3

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The Checkout Lane

You judged me today.

I could feel your disdain as your gaze fell upon the items within my cart. As I loaded the first of my items on to the belt of your cashier stand, I apologized profusely, explaining that I knew I had many items, but that I lived in a house full of boys..and boys like to eat. Rather than commiserating with me, you rolled your eyes, not uttering a word as you began to swipe my packages across the scanner, loading each item in to an individual bag, your frustration evident as I continued to place my groceries on to the belt.

I wanted to chat with you. I could tell by your body language, the manner in which your eyes always fell downward, that something was bothering you. I wanted to encourage you, to let you know that your day would get better, in spite of customers like me, who probably seemed demanding.

But you weren’t interested. All you saw was the fullness of my cart, and more bags to be filled. Your perception of me was of someone whose child was listless, wandering to the aisle of trinkets near the checkout stand, ready to leave. You saw me as someone who was a mess, who had absolutely nothing together.

I suppose I judged you too. I wondered why you were so quiet, and questioned why you had engaged in conversation with the previous two customers, but when it was my turn, you remained completely silent and angry. I wondered if you were having a bad day, or if it was me. If I was your bad day. As I continued to unload my cart, another customer pulled his up behind me, and I instantly knew he was judging me too. I could feel it in the way he impatiently drummed his fingers on the handle of his cart, and I could hear it in the audible sighs he exhaled near my ear as I gathered my items from the top of my cart. I knew you were both making your own assumptions..neither of you attempted to hide it.

I’m sure that to you both, I looked like I didn’t belong there. Surely she can’t pay for all of these groceries, you were likely thinking. Though I am nearing 30 years in age, my physical appearance certainly does not match, and I knew what you were thinking, as you saw my 6 year old by my side. Probably a teen mom using government help. Just wait until she pulls out her food stamps. 

As I pulled out my debit card and quickly swiped it across the scanner, a man approached your lane. He was asking for the location of large lighters. You looked overwhelmed, and I was just trying to help. I shop here often, and know where they are located. I told him which aisle they were in, and he left, thankful..yet you were perturbed.

I’m sure there was something on your mind. I wanted to ask. I wanted to help, to provide you with words letting you know that whatever situation you were going through, I was praying for you. But I didn’t. Because my very presence seemed to bother you.

After my items were scanned and my receipt was in hand, I pulled my cart, along with my 6 year old, to an empty lane, to adjust a few items and make certain they would not fall off of the cart on the way to the car. As I bent down, just out of your sight, I heard you speaking with the male customer behind me, the man who had been drumming his fingers. You both commented on me, how I seemed to have nothing together, and how many groceries I had. Rather than judge me silently, you were both doing it out loud, just out of what you thought was my reach.

I could have gone back to you in that moment, and expressed my frustration not only with our interaction but with your behavior afterward.

But instead, I prayed for you.

I prayed that perhaps one day, when you are on the other side of that cash register, and you need grace, someone will be kind enough to show it to you.

And I prayed that your day would get better.

I hope it did.

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Your words have worth

Friend, I know you are wondering, on these days between dirty dishes and diaper changes, if your voice is being heard. Certainly, your verbal words are being understood, as you provide instructions to your children and an abridged account to your husband of how your day was; yet you wonder if the voice within you, the one that drives and motivates you, is being acknowledged.

While navigating through the path of motherhood, a journey with no manual, you often find that in the raising of your children, you are left with words you want to share, stories that you want to tell, but no audience to share them with. While your children may delight in hearing your stories, they may not understand the complexity of what you are trying to resonate with them.

So friend, I want to share with you this.

Your words have meaning.

No one has a story quite like yours, and no one views the world through the same lens that you do. You may question if your words..your story..your life have meaning to anyone else, and friend, I’m here to tell you that they do. You may find yourself questioning not only the perspective you have to provide others with, but if anyone will actually read your words..and I want you to understand this one crucial truth.

Write for yourself, not for others.

This probably seems counterproductive, doesn’t it?

But I’m here to tell you that it’s not. Because friend, I’ll be honest with you.

When I started this blog, I began writing my accounts of my life as a sort of online journal. I used my blog as a way to express my feelings, never expecting anyone to read it.

And then friend?

A really crazy thing happened.

I enabled the share feature on my blog, so that my posts would be linked directly to my Facebook wall. Each time that I would post, a new link would populate. My Facebook friends could then click on the link at their leisure and read my content.

People started reading.

I was overwhelmed and excited. People were actually reading what I wrote, and they were giving me feedback. It was wonderful, and I was so happy. My ultimate intention for my blog was to encourage and inspire others..and after receiving many messages stating that I had in fact done so, I knew that I was succeeding in achieving my goal, of empowering others.

It didn’t happen because I wrote with others in mind. I didn’t restrict myself to a particular audience, or modify my content to make what I posted more conformed. I wrote what I believed in, and people started reading.

So friend, if you are wondering if you have a voice..you do. If you are wondering if you should begin to blog, or to continue to blog though the journey at the moment appears stalled, I am here to encourage you.

I want you to know that your words have worth, and your story has meaning.

And friend?

Only you can tell it. 5ee3c273b01bf5dd9a9e5b4855ac9072

 

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I am more

I am more than the dishes mounting in my sink, remnants of dinner taking residence on plates.

I am more than the laundry piles waiting to be folded, a never ending mountain of cloth that I will attempt to tackle and never quite master.

I am more than the floors that need to be swept, the tile that needs to be mopped. I am more than the juice spills on the floor, the milk stains on the furniture.

I am more than the hovercraft buzzing overhead; ensuring their safety, patiently waiting to swoop in and devour them in hugs when they least expect it.

I am more than the messy ponytail I often find my hair in, and the sweatpants that seem to have become a permanent staple of the wardrobe I call motherhood.

I am more than the bags under my eyes, the exhaustion of parenthood painting my face like cheap dollar store makeup. I am more than the stain on my clothing, the unidentifiable mark of a long day.

I am more than the dog food scattered about the house, the dog determined to eat anywhere other than near his bowl.

I am more than the dinner prepared at the last minute, the meal that I was far too exhausted to make, but wanted to ensure you had after your long day at work.

I am more than the paycheck I bring home. I am more than the hours spent in the office, away from my children, wondering what milestones they are achieving as I miss out to ensure they have a better future.

I am more than the rushed kisses sprinkled on heads on the way out the door, to school, work, daycare. I am more than the short hours I spend with my children, in between dusk and dawn, holding those precious moments close to my heart, like unique seashells picked from the sands of their childhood.

I am more than this.

I am more than the stay at home mother. I am more than the working mother.

I am a woman, who needs to be loved.

And when I forget, will you please remind me?

I am more.

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A letter :To my mother in law

We have both loved the same man and yet, before he was mine, he was yours. You were the one whom he sought comfort from, the person who taught him how to love others. You were the hand he searched for when he longed for guidance, the person whose opinion he valued when he questioned the things that affected his perceptions of faith, life, and love.

You were his best friend, and his first female love. Though the love he has for you is different than the love he shares for me, you were the first woman in his life, and I will never be able to replace that relationship.

Then I arrived. We were both direct in our ways, and we didn’t understand where two pieces of a different puzzle fit in to the overall picture of his life. We weren’t certain on what ground we stood, and for that reason, we were cautious with our words and our actions. Circumstances propelled us in to a relationship faster than we were ready for, and at once, the entire canvas of our relationship changed, morphing in to another aspect of a complicated picture we would not understand for years to come.

I broke your son’s heart once.

I never forgave myself in the many days that we were separated, questioning what I may have done differently to preserve our relationship, wondering if I could have been a different person,  a better person for him. I felt incredible remorse for how I had treated his sensitive heart, the one you molded in the many years of raising him, teaching him to be thoughtful of other’s hearts and their emotions. I’m certain you didn’t like me then, a fact that at the time I did not understand..but as a mother of boys, I do now.

I’ve loved your son always, and I have never loved him more than when he became a father, a parent to his own children. I can see the way that you raised him in the way he raises our sons, the way that he allows them to venture off on their own, to learn from their own mistakes and actions, while gently guiding them back to him when they need a reminder of where home is. You have, and continue to do so for him. Though he may be a husband and a father now, venturing in to a life of marriage and parenthood, you hold him close within your heart, guiding him home when he needs you the most.

I think that we have struggled for so long to understand where we fit in to the lives of each other that we have not spent enough time getting to know one another. While we are the wife and the mother in law, we are also two people who are very similar. We are both women who have suffered an incredible loss that has completely transformed who we are as a person. We are both women who are the only daughter in laws in our respective in law relationships, making us unique.  We are so similar, and yet I have always looked at our differences, failing to realize just how alike we are. While I’m sure that my husband, your son, would likely balk at the statement that he married his mother, in certain ways this is true.

I have spent so much of our relationship considering you as the “mother in law” and not the person. So many years have passed, and there are certainly words we cannot retract, emotions that cannot be un-felt. But in these moments of our relationship, in this life we share with the same man in common, we have one thing in mind.

We both want him to be happy.

I hope you know, that while I have viewed you as the mother in law for so long, I finally view you as more.

The woman I can call a friend.

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Why I am destined to have boys

Before I became a mother, I was disgusted by the thought of being dirty. I hated yard work, exercising or anything else that would make me sweat or otherwise feel like I needed another shower. I was very concerned with remaining clean, even if that meant taking multiple showers a day. It was ridiculous honestly.

Now, I am a mother to not one, but two very rambunctious, very outgoing boys. My boys also happen to like one thing..getting dirty; and finding any possible source to require a trip to the tub, immersed in warm, soapy bubbles. Today, my two boys managed to use an ordinary frosted doughnut as their weapon of choice, decorating their bodies from the blond tufts of hair on their heads to their long toes with frosted delight. As I supervised their bubble induced play, I began to think to myself that these moments with these children were what I was destined for.

I remember, before motherhood, thinking to myself that I would never get married. My father had created a legacy of distrust upon which I would measure every potential romantic partner, in the process choosing the wrong men for me . I would always find myself disappointed in the relationship, longing for reassurance and affection that my partner would never be able to offer.

Yet, when involved in any type of social interaction, including befriending others, I discovered that I would gravitate towards males, as I seemed to have an easier time relating to them than to my female counterparts. The juxtaposition of these facts was baffling, and still, I found myself looking for fulfillment that males could not provide. Ultimately, I was the only one who could make myself feel worthy, who could make myself feel loved, but only with the guidance of God, a fact that I would not realize at the time nor for many years to come.

Years later, I would find the man who would not only love me for my flaws, but would accept me in spite of them. God understood that in my heart I would doubt myself, and tell myself that I was not capable nor deserving of being loved. The rhetoric had been ingrained into my being, and it was how I treated myself. He understood that I needed someone who would bring me to realize what I had to offer to a relationship, and that man later became my husband.

I truly believe that this is why God also blessed me with sons12549028_517153608463211_7505126966340841551_n

and not daughters. Certainly I longed for the ability to play dress up with a little girl, and fantasized about what the moment that I would help the daughter that would never be purchase her wedding dress. I allowed myself to be sad for the female bond that I would never experience with a daughter, before I understood the amazing blessings of raising sons.

My boys are the most sensitive children I have encountered, and their hearts amaze me every day. Their ability to love with their full hearts and understand the pain of others, seeking to provide them with comfort, are traits I not only admire but wish to emulate myself.

I know that these boys were sent to me, to mother and to love them, as a heavenly reminder that I am capable of loving another, and being loved in return.