Category Archives: mama life

Forget Next Time

Clearly, I wrote this before everything was cancelled, but still think it’s worth sharing in its original state. So here it is.

This past weekend felt decadent. I flew to NYC to spend the weekend with two of my favorite people – Marcie and Vanesa – without kids! It’s one of my very favorite places. I can never spend enough time there – I start smiling when I see the skyline and don’t stop until it is past me, waiting until I return. And I never leave without promising myself there will be a next time because the magic I feel while I’m there cannot be duplicated.

I witnessed one of the most beautiful art exhibits, Vida Americana, at the Whitney and although I was stunned by the level of artistry I was angered by the fact that the more things change in this world, the more things stay the same. The wealthy get richer off of the poorest among us. Workers can’t get a living wage. Racism remains an oppressive barrier in this country because we refuse to acknowledge it within us and commit to true change.

Calla Lilly Vendor
Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Calla Lily Vendor (Vendedora de Alcatraces), 1929
Proletarian Mother
David Alfaro Siqueiros, Proletarian Mother, 1929


On a lighter note, I channeled my inner Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2 by wearing a robe in the chicest hotel room of my life and using my friend’s per diem for fancy drinks and breakfast.

I walked with a purpose through Midtown to the main New York Public Library building where I could feel the presence of those who had loved the space before and with me.

I noticed the first signs of spring (crocuses) on the High Line.

Even being in the city during winter was wonderful (and that’s saying a lot knowing I hate the cold). The wind blew so chillingly it chapped my face as we walked but I could ignore it because I was in New York! I left my glove at the Kerr Theatre but that’s okay because I got to see Hadestown and experience its tragic beauty. I want to be like Orpheus and “make you see how the world could be, in spite of the way that it is.”

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I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Frost where he says that all wonderful things in life are fleeting at worst or ever-changing at best:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

That’s true, nothing lasts forever. Even life. Maybe even especially life. So why do I make choices like I have infinite time? Why do I agonize over what I said to who and whether people like me when they aren’t the people in my life who matter most to me?

I’m giving up on this “next time” way of thinking by attempting to switch my mindset to the now. I gave a mighty effort last year following my surgery to remove my melanoma, but have reverted back to my own circular reasoning of next time it will be better, I’ll have more time later, just wait. My time is now, not tomorrow. Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” That seems like a solid way to live.

I know this doesn’t mean that my life will be all joy and no sorrow. But it means I can take steps to work through the pain and eventually rise. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m working my way through Glennon Doyle’s new book, Untamed. She writes that returning to our dreams is the path we take to remember our reality, to discern God’s plan for our lives, family, and world. This plan will disrupt the world’s order because our being alive is something wholly new and never before seen. I’m starting the work to reimagine my soul’s dreams to live my “truest, most beautiful li[fe]” right now. “May [my] dreams become [my] plans.” I should get to writing…

And now to return to this shitty week where everything is cancelled indefinitely and routines are out of whack, I’m still singing the lyrics from Hadestown – “…here’s the thing. To know how it ends. And still begin to sing it again. As if it might turn out this time.”

It’s going to work out this time, just not as we expect. The world will be changed once this pandemic has worked its way around the planet. And I hope it brings about a new way of thinking, especially with our jobs as planet protectors. We don’t get an again. Just a now. So let’s live it up on top!

 

 

My Year in Books

“Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.” ~Erin Morgenstern in The Starless Sea

Confession – I may have read too many books this year. 70 actually, not including the majority of my 5 textbooks for the fall semester of my master’s program and any book I gave up on after the first 50 pages or so because life is too short to read terrible books or books not meant for this reader at this point in her life. I intentionally attempted to read books with perspectives unlike my own, and have discovered several treasures I intend to keep close to my heart and reread.

As for next year’s reading list, I am officially over books set during World War II. I get it that it was the war that has defined all wars before or since, but I just don’t want to read about it anymore. Not when there are an unbelievable amount of fantastic books existing in the world. I fully admit to loving historical fiction, however, so I plan to continue to read about any other time period. I also adore reading Young Adult fiction, especially in between more serious books (although young adult books are complicated and seriously messy in their own way). Next year, I hope to read more Science Fiction because that slipped through the cracks (anyone have good recommendations?) Finally, my favorite books are the ones with the truest stories. Not true in the literal sense that everything is rational and factual, but in the sense that I am emotionally transported into the lives of the characters and am along with them for their journeys. Even when they are devastating because as The Starless Sea reminds us: “Important things hurt sometimes.” 2019 was a tough year for me, but 2020 promises a renewal of hope. And I plan to live out my hope, in part, through my reading.

My Top 8 Favorite Books Published in 2019

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber

A Mostly Complete List of Books I Read in 2019, Organized by Stars via Goodreads:

5 Stars

Fiction

  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (December 1-6)
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (November 16-25)
  • The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-4) (2000) by Marjane Satrapi (October 31-December 7)
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (October 25-28)
  • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (October 14-20)
  • Neverwhere (London Below #1) (1996) by Neil Gaiman (October 2-7)
  • The Shadow of the Wind (El cemeterio de los libros olvidados #1) (2001) by Carlos Ruis Zafon (September 15-October 31)
  • The Guest Book by Sarah Blake (August 28-September 5)
  • Dragonfly by Leila Meacham (August 4-6)
  • 11/22/63 (2011) by Stephen King (July 29-31)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (June 26-27)
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) by Maria Semple (June 5-8)
  • The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (June 3-5)
  • This Is How It Always Is (2017) by Laurie Frankel (May 24-June 3)
  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (April 6-8)
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (March 28-30)

Nonfiction

  • Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan (July 19-August 25)
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, & Lead (2012) by Brene Brown (June 25-August 2)
  • State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland (2016) by Dave Barry (July 23-25)
  • Heavy: An American Memoir (2018) by Kiese Laymon (June 12-15)
  • Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World by Rozella Haydee White (May 8-19)
  • March: Book Three (2016) by John Lewis (February 8-18)
  • Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, & the Dawn of a New America (2012) by Gilbert King (January 29-February 28)
  • March: Book Two (2015) by John Lewis (February 8)
  • March: Book One (2013) by John Lewis (February 5-6)
  • Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber (January 29-February 3)
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018) (December 31, 2018-February 5)

4 Stars

Fiction

  • The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood (December 17-19)
  • Find Me (Call Me By Your Name #2) by Andre Aciman (December 13-17)
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (December 6-11)
  • The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippmann (November 11-16)
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (2017) by Erika Sanchez (October 9-14)
  • Five Dark Fates (Three Dark Crowns, #4) by Kendare Blake (September 23-October 31)
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017) by Taylor Jenkins Reid (September 21-23)
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (September 5-17)
  • The Alice Network (2017) by Kate Quinn (August 21-23)
  • The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger (August 18-21)
  • Titans (2016) by Leila Meacham (August 11-13)
  • Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) (2018) by Laura Sebastian (July 14-16)
  • The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018) by Stuart Turton (June 21-24)
  • Wicked Saints (Something Dark & Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan (May 19-22)
  • Dear Evan Hansen (2018) by Val Emmich (April 25-30)
  • American Gods (2001) by Neil Gaiman (January 22-30)

Nonfiction

  • Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (December 24-30)
  • Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living (2016) by Sandra Niequist (May 23-June 20)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) by Maya Angelou (March 19-May 9)
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (April 24-May 8)
  • The Library Book (2018) by Susan Orlean (March 21-24)
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) by Stephen King (December 12, 2018-March 24)

3 Stars

  • Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (November 18-22)
  • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (November 2-6)
  • Summer of ’69 by Erin Hilderbrand (August 27-28)
  • The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams (August 15-18)
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (August 6-11)
  • The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (August 1)
  • An American Marriage (2018) by Tayari Jones (July 21-26)
  • Lady Smoke (Ash Princess Trilogy #2) by Laura Sebastian (July 16-21)
  • The Goldfinch (2013) by Donna Tartt (June 25-July 6)
  • Lilac Girls (2016) by Martha Hall Kelly (April 25-May 19)
  • Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) by Delia Owens (April 12-16)
  • Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns #3) (2018) by Kendare Blake (April 12-13)
  • One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) (2017) by Kendare Blake (April 9-10)
  • The Malta Exchange (Cotton Malone #14) by Steve Berry (March 28-April 5)
  • Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) (2016) by Kendare Blake (March 9-14)
  • Dark Places (2010) by Gillian Flynn (March 9-12)
  • Queen of Air & Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) (2018) by Cassandra Clare (January 7-12)
  • Look Alive Twenty-Five (2018) by Janet Evanovich (January 7-11)

2 Stars

  • I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella (February 7-11)

1 Star

  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (September 25-27)
  • Once Upon a River (2018) by Diane Setterfield (June 12-19)

 

 

What We Remember (or a Story about Love)

The following was written by Donna Jean (Franks) Schmid, my grandmother. All punctuation and poetry are hers alone. I believe it was written for a Wooster Historic Society or Daughters of the American Revolution (or the like) event where she spoke; no date was listed in her handwritten notes.

“This is my favorite time of year. I am invigorated by the crispness in the air, the gorgeous colors of fall leaves. For me this is a time of renewal, I hope you too can relate to the bounteous harvest and enjoy the fruits of your gardens and trees.

While we are putting our tilled areas to rest, we can dream of next year and the reading and sifting of information during the more dormant months. This is an especially beautiful area and it is no wonder that our ancestors found it to be so. In the coming weeks we can make use of the conveniences? at our command and get to really know those who went before us. Can’t you feel their characters emerge from the thing you read about their lives? Reread portions of Wayne County history books, perhaps the Douglas book, and imagine the wayour area once was. Then place your ancestors in the scenario. Great!

I look out my dayroom window and see the dreamy lilac of the Russian Sage and I think of my grandmother’s starched cotton dress and actually remember the feel of her soft white hair as I plaited and wound it into a bun. Isn’t it odd the things we remember?

I remember the fields of glowing orange pumpkins my father raised and see him in memory with a spade over his shoulder and bending his back, clearing drainage ditches on the lowlands. I see his chambray shirt and faded jeans – you know, I really would like to ask him about the reunion of the Franks family which he attended. What was Grandpa like when he was young? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to peek in a window at evening and see the family gathered around the piano and hear the blended singing of the old songs? How about the homey smells of baking bread, frying ham and then too canning and making jam for the cold days? Do you remember the early orphaned lambs behind the old wood range? Or the bleats of sheep on the hillside? How about the ringing of the dinner bell? The smell of drying hay – the prickly stems as it was tramped into the snow? I remember. I remember and my soul yearns for the old ways.

But then I think of electricity and the inefficient kerosene lamps. I think of penicillin and I guess time and progress is not so bad – just different.”

~

After discovering the above writing in my grandmother’s Bible, I realized I never really knew who she was or how she felt about life and memory. I didn’t know that autumn was her favorite time of the year, or that she experienced intense desire to return to the old ways. I can’t describe her memories of life on the farm because I never really asked. We visited the farm almost every summer and I never thought about it being a working farm. And now the farm is for sale, and I won’t be returning to it. I’m mostly okay with that since Ohio was rarely a happy place to visit.

There was one visit though where my grandparents were at their finest. Keith and I visited them about 10 years ago for Easter, just the two of us, and they were full of such joy showing us the countryside and their community. Unfortunately, I don’t recall many details from that visit but I wish I did. I do remember my Grandma insisting on making us food to take to the airport because airport restaurants had terrible food. She rarely cooked by that point, but managed to scrounge up a thick slice of ham and fry it up for the best ham sandwich of my life.

I guess what I’m trying to write is this: I am confident that my Grandma loved me, she just didn’t usually know how to show it. But as the generations were added to the family, it seemed like she figured things out a little better with this business of love. She ALWAYS made time to love my boys and talk with them about their lives. She hung their art on her fridge. She loved them.

For my mom’s sake, I wish she could have figured out love sooner. She never really told my mom that she loved her, and that’s something my mom carries with her. Breaking a cycle is incredibly difficult, but my mom and her sisters figured it out and my cousins, brother, and I feel fiercely loved by our parents. And I know I love my two boys no matter what, and tell them as well as show them every day. So in her way, my Grandma taught me to love unlike she had loved, in an infinitely forgiving and exponential way so there can be zero doubt in it.

Thoughts in the Quiet

The last time I spent three mornings in a row solo in my house happened…well, I don’t think it’s ever happened since we moved into Little Pink in 2014.

It. Is. So. Weird.

Once the mania of making breakfasts and lunches, encouraging kids to get dressed and helping them with tricky socks and shoes, and walking Henry to his bus stop is over, and Keith takes Elliot to preschool, then it’s just me.

What am I supposed to be doing?

It’s just so quiet.

“In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet

For just a moment

A yellow sky” ~Hamilton

I feel like I’m waiting in the calm of the storm. Having never gone through the eye of a hurricane (with hope that I never will), I can only imagine what that’s like. The anticipation. It feels restless. It feels scary. It feels exhausting. It feels exhilarating. It feels good. It feels free.

I don’t start classes until the 26th so I don’t really have anything I need to be doing so I’m trying to enjoy the stillness. I’ve never been one to take a pause and just breathe. So I’m working on it.

I went to Body Flow on Wednesday and stayed for the whole meditation. I’m figuring out my triggers and how to practice being calm when my anxious fight or flight response rears its ugliness. I breathe.

And I fail. And that’s okay. There’s grace for that.

And I try again.

When I’m a Grown Up…According to Henry

Something Henry has been saying with increasing frequency lately has started: “When I’m a grown up and I’m a daddy….” He follows that up with some adorable way he’s going to act as an adult. Tonight he declared that “When I’m a grown up and I’m a daddy I’m going to cut the grass using the stick cutter like daddy uses.” He means the weed whacker, and thought that cutting the grass with a lawnmower (like I was doing tonight) was barbaric and less efficient somehow. Adorable, right?

But the words he ALWAYS includes when making these statements nearly make my cry with happiness each time he says them, “When I’m a grown up and I’m a daddy, and I’m staying at home with the kids and my wife is a pastor….”

I can’t take it sometimes and give him a hug so fierce he can’t take it (he’s not my cuddly little).

My joyful and proud mama moment is twofold.

First, he sees Keith’s job as important, but not something he’s into (thank goodness; clergy positions, even when they’re in wonderful congregations, are tough). Plus, he knows that women make excellent pastors and he’s fine if his wife is one.

Moreover, he sees what I do as a stay-at-home-mom all day, every day, and wants to have that life. So often I feel like I’m doing this whole mama thing wrong, especially when I yell, feel frustrated, and am bored with playing with toys. But he overlooks that, and sees my all-encompassing love for him and his brother, and wants that for himself when he’s a daddy. I hope he feels that kind of love someday.

Sometimes I Want To Not Care

I have a secret. Sometimes I want to not care about things happening in our world today. It would be easier. I’d have more time for fun. I could be frivolous at will. Maybe I would live in the moment more easily than I do now. Certainly, it would be a relief to live in a bubble free from deep thoughts and anything unpleasant that didn’t directly affect me. Society’s problems would not disappear, but it wouldn’t matter because as a member of the white population in the United States I’m super privileged.

But this indifference to others is not me. I hope for a more peaceful world, and understand that I need to actively participate to create change in it. I care beyond what’s happening in my immediate world.

I care so much it makes me cry tears of rage and sorrow when yet another white male perpetrates a school shooting and kids are killed in the line of fire or while protecting their classmates. The papers call the murdered ones heroes, but that’s not the right word – martyrs would be better. We don’t have to continue our complicity and keep allowing our children to be murdered in mass shootings. We can change the laws by providing better access to (and quality of) mental health care and limiting gun rights in the name of public safety. The Florida legislature’s response (besides its usual thoughts and prayers) to all this of arming teachers – it will not help. Kids deserve and need to feel safe and protected at school. If their teachers are carrying, they are inherently unsafe. Guns do not belong in classrooms with students.

Another facet of education that I wish I didn’t care about is the world of high-stakes testing. My kids aren’t old enough for the FSA, and the incredible pressure that comes along with it. I feel anxious for their future selves because I know how terrible it feels to bomb a single test that determines whether you get to move on to the next grade (or get into a top tier law school). I am a mediocre test taker when only given one shot to prove myself. I may know the material backwards and forwards, but my anxiety causes me to freeze up, misread questions, and panic. And I’m an adult. Now think about how kids feel when faced with the FSA.

We fail our students when we submit them to testing that is designed in the name of education reform but is truly created to destroy the great equalizer that is public education. Tests are rigged so a certain percentage of students fail, which allows the government to label schools as failing. Parents rightfully become upset and begin looking for a way out through vouchers and for-profit charter schools that are publicly funded with our tax dollars (siphoning off money from public school systems) but with less (or no) public oversight. I have family and friends who send their kids to these programs because they view the public schools as broken. They aren’t wrong. They want what’s best for their children. We all do. But as a collective society, if some kids are slipping through the cracks it is our duty to look out for them and lift them back up.

The current inequity in our public schools is astounding, but it can be fixed. Rozella Haydée White’s new book, Love Big: The Power or Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World, contains a roadmap for seeking peace through moving toward justice. She “define[s] justice as equitable access to resources that provide people with the ability and agency to create a life of meaning. Working toward justice requires dismantling any system, ideology, or institution that promotes inequity….Justice becomes a reality when we recognize that we need one another. When we become justice seekers and peace bearers we recognize that our lives are inextricably linked. What one person does, thinks, or even believes affects another.”

“What if we practiced the belief that we belong to one another daily?”~Rozella Haydée White

As I read her words, it clicked that I have been actively working through this philosophy of peace and justice through my membership with FAST. Over the past two years I’ve become increasingly involved with its youth suspensions and arrests committee where we have researched and learned that if restorative justice practices (RP) are properly implemented in our schools, students and teachers succeed. Behavior issues are handled with student accountability and compassion, giving kids a toolbox to deal with the big emotions they feel on the daily. This in turn allows teachers to spend more time teaching the material and keeps kids in the classroom versus being removed, suspended, or arrested for disciplinary issues. Teacher retention rates in schools using RP methods are higher (but we still need to pay them what they are worth, an entirely different battle).

Changing the culture in public education is difficult, but I truly believe RP is the real game changer into creating an inclusive culture where all students feel heard and wanted as assets in their classrooms. Because I truly believe this transformation needs to happen, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and feel uncomfortable. With FAST, I flew to Louisville to learn about RP from a school district that is effectively implementing the initiative. Earlier this year, I spoke directly to school board members not only at meetings but also in front of a crowd of 2500+. This scared me because I’m uncomfortable speaking in public…not only the everyone’s eyes on me part but also my need to deliver my message perfectly using the correct words with the proper gestures and presence. I want to convince people this matters, and I know my discomfort is nothing compared to what kids face at school. So I woman up, lean in, and demand change to make the system more equitable.

I’m not an expert in any of this. I’m a parent who believes that public schools offer the best chance for all kids to become the people they are meant to be. I care, and I want others to take responsibility in creating change, too. Don’t you?

Forget January, Bring On February!

If you haven’t seen this picture circulating around the internet yet, here it is:

At first, I laughed about it, but then the more I thought about it, the more I felt it’s totally true for me. January felt like an entire YEAR rolled into a single month. What’s up with that?!?

January was rough with waiting for my melanoma to be removed. It’s hard waiting for treatment for weeks after a cancer diagnosis knowing there’s nothing I could be doing to stop its growth. Except for surgery. Thank goodness only surgery was required to treat it, because stopping all normal activities for two weeks was definitely difficult.

Not being able to pick up and hold my 2 and a half year old, who is a supremely cuddly little, was torture for both of us. He quickly figured out I couldn’t keep up with him so he threw down some of his most epic flops and temper tantrums to date. The worst occurred at the library where he sprinted away while I was checking out books, climbed the stairs and almost made it inside an elevator to head downstairs that way. That kid is FAST! And I can usually hang but not this January.

I also couldn’t work out beyond walking at a leisurely pace. If you know me, you know that drove me bonkers! I’m at the gym 5-6 days a week normally taking various classes for my mental health. It helps decrease my anxiety and is my time to not focus on anything else in my life but myself (and mostly my breathing, because dang I take some challenging classes!) And walking at a 20-minute mike pace could not compete.

But January is over and done with, thank God!

My surgery went better than I imagined (because of course my brain occasionally went to worst possible scenario of extreme pain, permanent disfigurement, and/or death). Although exhaustion took over post-surgery thanks to the anesthesia, I never really had pain. My scar looks great so far, especially because it’s only been 3 weeks. My melanoma genetic testing came back in the lowest possible category, and my two basal cells have been removed.

I’m cancer-free! We’re settling back into our regular routines. February is looking lovely with Bad Kid Christmas only 2 weeks away!! And I’m working on my five-year plan, trying to figure out my place in this world. Everything’s coming up Sunshine, and I’m ready for it!

Merry Christmas! I’m Totally (Not Really) Fine!

Today is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. So I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post that is all over the place and full of my rambling feelings. Because nothing says Merry Christmas like being in an emotionally precarious state when you have to keep it together so your family can have the best Christmas ever! Isn’t that how parents feel about Christmas every year? Matt Damon and the cast of SNL seem to agree.

Something I didn’t include in our Christmas cards this year even though it’s pretty significant change to our lives is that just after Thanksgiving I found out I have melanoma. Merry Christmas! I have cancer! It puts a damper on people’s holiday cheer so I left it out. Even though I can’t stop thinking about it.

I have cancer.

Skin cancer. And I’m only 36.

I’m angry. And terrified. And upset. I’m short with my kids who don’t know what’s going on with me. I cry at nothing. And then pretend I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

Maybe if I say it enough times I’ll trick myself into actually being okay. Sometimes I actually feel mostly fine. And I’m not even faking.

Just kidding. I’m not fucking okay. Thanks for asking.

I’ve continued my normal routines like a boss. I’ve gone though various events and fun times this holiday season, and had fun. Really. I promise I did. I can compartmentalize and ignore the voice in my head shouting “I HAVE CANCER” without ruining everyone’s party. I’m fine. I’m drained. I feel loved.

I feel so very loved. Really, I have the best family and friends. I could go into their amazingness in excruciating detail, but it would get embarrassing…that’s how awesome my people are. I’m keeping their love and support to myself because I need it all. Sorry not sorry.

Meeting with the plastic surgeon definitely helped me feel more at ease with the situation. My melanoma was caught early and should be easily removed. It is on my hairline so it’s in the best possible spot for removal with minimal scarring. It will be like a mini-face lift on one side.

I feel extremely fortunate that my cancer can be cut out and that its removal should be the end of the cancer in my body. I won’t have to have chemo or radiation or anything like that. But part of me is terrified it will return. Because I’m more likely to have another one now that I’ve had one already.

I’m especially scared because my FIL has been dealing with melanoma for 9 years now. I’ve seen him cut up again and again, watched him deal with experimental therapies that harmed his body as much as they helped, and observed him not being himself as he received treatments.

January 10th I say peace out to my melanoma. I hope and pray it’s for good. Although if for some reason it’s not, I’m going to fight. Besides, if the Notorious RBG can come out swinging against Round 3 of cancer, I can certainly do likewise (although I can only hope to match her intense exercise regimen).

Meal Planning for My Sanity

If you follow my Instagram (@lwalbolt) or my Facebook, I’ve been posting weekly pictures of our dinner menu since just before Henry began kindergarten. It’s been helpful for me to plan out our dinners for grocery shopping purposes and to give an advance look at our evening plans that may interrupt family dinner time. I feel calmer about the whole dinner process, especially because my house becomes crazytown between 5 and 7 pm (the time when I make dinner).

If your house goes bonkers in the evening like mine does (I continuously ask myself, “Is it bedtime yet?”), maybe my process for meal planning can help you find some peace in the actual cooking of dinner.

First, I compiled a list of all our favorite recipes with accompanying website locations since I had them saved in multiple places (including the abyss that is my Pinterest account). I divided the list by meat (chicken, pork, beef) and vegetarian meals. That way I can do a variety of foods and not just eat delicious pasta every night.

Next, I look at our schedule to see when Keith and I have evening meetings, family fun times, or gym classes, and I make easy, quick meals on those nights. I know I never feel like cooking on Sundays (church drains all of us as a clergy family) so we either do leftovers or pizza (Publix has excellent dough in the bakery which makes for easy assembly). Since Monday is Keith’s day off, I produce a more elaborate meal with leftovers so he has food to take for lunch during the week. I also alternate the type of grains we eat so everyone gets their favorite. Finally, I got an Instant Pot over the summer so I’ve been making something in there once a week.

Sometimes the kids are not here for eating my new creations. “I hate broccoli,” exclaims Elliot, and “It’s too spicy” are two statements I often hear. So I always make sure there is something on their plates they love (like applesauce), and they are required to try (occasionally with tears) all parts of dinner. But there’s usually leftover macaroni and cheese in the fridge that I heat up once they try it, if they’re still so so hungry.

Most importantly, I allow myself grace when I don’t feel like making whatever dinner I have planned (no real reason required). Chicken nuggets and fries plus salad (just kidding – chicken nuggets and tots are a totally fine dinner) is something we eat on the regular, and never gets old. Assuming the ingredients haven’t gotten disgusting, I just move the meal I didn’t make to next week’s menu. So if you see a meal on my menu two weeks in a row (or more), it’s probably because we had a lazy night (or maybe we really liked it).

Currently, we are trying to eat more vegetarian meals so I’m only planning meat a couple times a week. I’ve been scouring my favorite websites (Six Sisters Stuff, Damn Delicious, Budget Bytes, and Pioneer Woman) for new recipes, because I like to do 1-2 new to us recipes each week. It keeps me from getting bored in the kitchen, and some of them turn out to be hits. Only a couple of times have we had to order pizza because dinner was inedible. So I consider myself a self-taught cooking success! Now if I could find some trained animals to do the dishes afterwards that would be ideal.

Coping with the Low Valleys of Being a Mama

Right now, I am one weary mama. My Fitbit tells me exactly how much sleep I’m not getting at night. And then it tells me I should sleep more. I want to sleep more than 6-7 hours, but my body will not let me. And I love sleep, especially naps, so this hurts me.

My allergies and asthma work together in concert to exhaust my lungs and body systems. This year’s pollen crop keeps up its attack without ceasing. My usually black car now has a yellowish-green tint to it. Going outside to play with my kids for an hour sets me back at least a day in terms of system recovery. And my boys live to play outside and run around. So we coop ourselves up in our house or indoor play areas, but they just aren’t the same as playing at a park.

My asthma got so bad this week, I breached proper theatre etiquette and walked out, mid-song, of The Color Purple, a musical I’ve been waiting all year to see. All because I couldn’t stop coughing and I knew it would be worse for those around me if I stayed. So I interrupted 16 people to escape the theatre, and didn’t go back inside due to fear of the same thing happening again.

I can’t exercise the way I want; I have to take breathing breaks because I’m sucking wind. Or I can’t even muster up the energy to take my regular classes because moving my body seems impossible.

These are all my coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and life that make me a better mama to my boys. And I can’t do them right now. So we are all suffering.

I get angry over little things (and big ones, too). The house is more of a disaster than usual because we are in it more and I can’t stop coughing enough to fully clean it. I cry easily, and feel like I’m letting everyone down. I am not at peace with myself, and am struggling.

I tell myself it’s all right; it’s going to be all right. I pray and ask God to help me feel better. But it’s so hard when I can’t even breathe. I’m being carried away and cannot ground myself.

So I ask for help. I hate it; I want to do it myself, be strong and persevere. But I can’t. My husband is pretty fantastic at supporting me when I get like this. He’s positive, and affirming, and full of hugs. It’s difficult to float away when you are receiving a hug. My boys give full-body snuggles, too. Their empathy is outstanding and a great comfort to me. I feel like I don’t deserve it, but I’m working at accepting it. I am loved, and enough.