Young Mom

 

Dear Young Mom,

I know that you are worried. I know that you are afraid. Being a mom is the biggest, most important job you will ever have, and so, it is right and it is good that you feel the weight of that responsibility on your shoulders. But, as someone who was a teen mom, I want you to know that everything will be alright, more than alright, actually. Someday you will look back, and be happy that things worked out the way that they did.

Maybe, you didn’t plan for this, or maybe you did. Maybe you are a young wife or still in highschool. Either way, you have felt the sting of judgement from your family and strangers alike. Maybe, people in your life looked down on you for your decision to keep your baby or are shocked when they learn that you planned this. It doesn’t matter.

But, it will be hard. When you are pregnant, you will feel large and ungainly around your tiny friends. They will be staying out late and you will be getting up at all hours with a newborn. They will be coming home from a night out, as you are getting up for the day with a toddler. It will be lonely and boring at times. You will tire of playing pretend, and Barbies, and cars, and you will wish for some adult company, but most of your friends are not moms yet, so your conversations will be strained and the choices limited. When you do have time to chat with your old friends, it will be hard to relate because their no-kid lives are as foreign to you, as your life is to them.  You might feel out-of-place and as if you are missing out.

Around other moms though, at school events, and practices, and games, you might feel awkward at times. You will look at the other mothers who seem so “momish” and assured. They have mom-bobs, clogs, and large SUVs with decals of stick figure families in the back window. They have giant, expensive purses and large coffees. They flock to the other “momish” moms. You will stand alone, afraid to approach the tight circle, worried that they might not accept you because your circumstances are different from theirs. You will feel out-of-place and like less of a mother at times.

Sometimes, you will feel jealous. On some days, you will wish that you were free and unencumbered, thin, and well rested like your old friends or at least financially secure with a gaggle of friends your age to commiserate with, like the SUV moms. Sometimes, You will wish that you did not have a toddler on your hip and a preschooler tugging on your stretched out t-shirt and wiping his nose on your yoga pants.Your hair will usually be in a messy bun and makeup? Ridiculous! You will long to get dressed up sometimes and have fun, then, sleep in. It’s ok though. This is normal, and someday you will do these things.

In the meantime, remember that you have this little person looking to you, adoring you and watching your every move. You have so many advantages as a young mom. You have energy and passion on your side. Play with them, be like the kid that you still are. This is what a child wants. They need structure and rules, yes. These things are so important for a child to feel secure, and to teach respect, and how to be a good person. But, they long to be with you. You can be a friend, and a parent too. Jump on the trampoline, chase them, play hide and seek, throw rocks in a puddle, play hopscotch and jump rope. Do everything with them now, and they will want to do things with you later, when they have grown. That’s what I did, and I don’t regret for a minute the parties and bars I didn’t go to. I felt like I grew up with my kids and now we are on the same level, like friends.

I recently saw a quote that said, “I wish I had met you sooner, so that I could love you longer.” Although this was probably not meant to apply to children, that’s what I thought of, and as a young mom, I am grateful to have been given the gift of extra time with my children, my children’s children, and God willing, my children’s, children’s children.

Young mom, don’t worry, everything will be fine. You are not alone, there are plenty of us out there, who for whatever reason, found ourselves there too and know how you feel. Your child will be fine, and someday, maybe you will be a young grandmother like me and you will realize that everything turned out as it should. Rocking chair and baking cookies? Sure, after I show my granddaughter how to do a cart-wheel, and race her inside. I have learned that God’s timing is perfect, hold on and someday you will know this too.

Love, (a young) Noni

The Importance of Fathers

These are pictures of my husband, his brother and his dad, circa 1969. These always make me so sad to see, but with Fathers’s Day approaching, I wanted to show how important fathers are. In these photos, my husband’s father came to visit. His parents, teenagers when the boys were born, were divorced and visits from his dad were rare. His mother was remarried and his dad may have felt that it was better not to interfere, or that because his own life was in upheaval, the boys were better off without him. He hasn’t come to take them to the zoo, or an amusement park or even out to eat. He doesn’t have the money for these things. They play in the back of his old van with balloons and eat candy.
This man is young, broke, and not well mentally (he took his own life years later), but the joy he brings to these boys with just his presence alone is evident. He is far from perfect, he made some bad choices, he has nothing to offer monetarily, but these kids don’t care. They only know that dad has come to play with them, and that he loves and misses them. They miss him terribly when he is not around, and as months go by without a call or a birthday card, they wonder what they did to keep him away. They think that they are bad boys and maybe unlovable. They do not think to themselves that their dad is unstable, that he is an alcoholic or that maybe he is staying away because he thinks that the new dad is better for them than he is.
Fathers, you need to know that you are enough. Your children need you. Whatever your situation; divorced, separated, teenage dad, addict, alcoholic doesn’t matter. Your children love you unconditionally and need to know that you love them, and think about them.  Don’t ever, ever think that they are better off without you. Don’t give up and think that their stepfather is enough. He maybe be wonderful, but he can’t take your place. And if your child has two men that love and protect them? That is even better. Don’t let fear of rejection or shame, keep you from trying. Give every ounce of energy that you can to your children, and if you can’t be there, text, call, Facetime, do anything that you can to let them know that you are thinking of them and that you love them. It is never too late. They may be angry, they may say they don’t want to see you as they get older, but don’t give up. On this Father’s Day, don’t be upset if you don’t get a call, you be the one to reach out. They need to know that they are important enough to keep fighting for, and fathers, you need to know that you are important too and no one can take your place.

Life lessons From the Softball Field

 

Some life lessons I have learned from years of being the only female on my church softball team. I’m so grateful for this game, my teammates, the camaraderie and the fun.
– If you drop the ball, don’t dwell on it, worry about it, let it keep you up all night rehashing it or look for excuses, just let it go. You’ll get the next one.

– When you catch the ball, it’s OK to gloat a little bit.

-If you strike out, good teammates will make you feel better, not worse.

-Men have a more comlicated social game than I intially gave them credit for. Bro hugs, chest bumps, handshakes, first bumps, the two finger wave? To whom and for what occasion? It’s all very complicated and not really a life lesson at all, merely an observaion that I decided to inset here. Sorry.

-Husbands and wives should always look for ways to have fun together.

– After years of cheering for our kids at various sporting events, it’s fun to have them cheer for us.

– It’s also fun to say,  “Dad and I are going to practice.”

– God wants you to have fun.

– If you have something, share it, you will get more back than you ever gave.

-No matter your station in life, everyone is equal on the ball field.

-If you don’t want to have someone elses sweat on your ears, get your own batting helmet!

– A little praise goes a long way.

– If someone or something upsets you, don’t dwell on, talk about it then forget it.

– You can lose a game and still have a great time.

– When you are doing something you love, exercise does not feel like work.

– Don’t let fear keep you on the sidelines.

– It is good to challenge yourself.

-Age is just a number.

– Family is not just who you are related to.

 

My Maine Woods

“We need the tonic of wilderness. We can never have enough of nature.”  -Henry David Thoreau

There’s just something about spending time in the woods that is healing. Studies say that it can lower your blood pressure, ease anxiety and lift depression. I’m grateful that I don’t suffer from any of these things, but I know that I have never once spent the day in the woods that I was sorry about, or felt like it was a waste of time. As a kid, I spent most of my days there, tramping around, building forts, leaping over mossy rocks, trying to catch water bugs and frogs, exploring and discovering old stone foundations and rock walls. At night, filled to the brim with fresh air and sunshine, I slept like a baby, knowing nothing until the sun peeked through my window and I jumped from my bed, eager to go back to God’s playground, a place where boredom does not exist. As an adult, my husband and I do the same things occasionally, but I appreciate the peace and sense of wonder even more. We like to go four-wheeling on trails and logging roads, zipping through cold and warm spots, cheeks pelted by an occasional June bug, cobweb or low hanging limb, feeling the thrill of speed and freedom, but more than that, we like to stop and explore, breathe in the silence and exhale the stress. This is what the Maine woods can do for a soul.

Each season in the Maine woods has its own smell, and if you spend enough time there, you know that even some months of the year have a certain aroma. My favorite, is June. It is so raw and so fresh and so distinctive to me that I could identify it with my eyes closed. For a child, it is the promise of days and days of freedom, for an adult it is the a reminder that all things can be made new again, and that growth is possible even after a long, cold winter. It is with the first inhalation of fresh balsam, pine, and cedar mixed with the sweetness of rotting leaves and the soil containing the footsteps of thousands of animals, that I feel the cares of the world falling off like an old coat.

I inhale and relax, tipping my head back with release, my eyes closed at first, then opening to reveal the canopy of leaves over me, screening the sun. Natures filter, the light in the woods is a photographers dream, no glare or hard lines. just a dreamy radiance. Green everywhere: different shades complimenting, not competing with each other with pops of color from purple and white violets, white and red trillium, buttercups, lily of the valley, clearings with lupine, and later in the season, daisies, black-eyed Susans, and queen Anne’s lace. Chipmunks dart away, birds swoop, deer freeze when spotted, moose lumber. Frogs are as still as statues, even when I toss grass on their backs or poke at them with a stick. Fish jump, creating ripples in the glass, jackrabbits play chicken with us, monarchs flit and the blackflys, surround my head. Deerflys, viscous and focused as heat seeking missals, are relentless, until, zipping away on four-wheelers, we finally leave them behind.

But, then we stop, and listen. Really listen. It takes a few moments to tune in. Maybe more for some people and quite possibly there are a few poor souls who never hear the sounds of the woods. There is nothing at first, just my own breathing. And then I hear it,  the symphony of the forest. God’s concert, the anthesis to the cacophony of the world. Tranquility, serenity, a hush falls over my mind and my spirit is lulled into peace. Birds, of course, but then I realize that they all have a different voice, some sweet, some aggressive, some plaintive. Frogs croak, dragonflys hum and the sounds of water, trickles through rocks. Of one accord; different, but complimentary, all together the feeling of harmony. No app can do it justice, no white noise as soothing and restful as the call of the wild.

The woods hold many treasures, hidden to all but the most adventurous, the ones who step away from the path, and venture away from man-made trails. In we go, no purpose other than curiosity, no agenda or expectations. Following the sound of water or the draw of the unknown, stumbling over fallen limbs and zig zagging around rocks. Until suddenly, my husband, ahead of me now, spots a hidden waterfall. It is beautiful, a hidden gem, and I wonder how many other eyes have seen it. Did someone venture this way last year, or maybe it has been a hundred years, or possibly it has never been seen by human eyes? The enormity of my untethered thoughts mix with the aesthetics of the backdrop and I am almost brought to tears with thankfulness. Thankful for the beauty, the feeling of innocent joy, contentment and stillness. A peace made all the sweeter because as an adult, I have felt the weight of the world and now I am unburdened. Tonight, I will sleep like a baby.

“Come to the woods, for here is rest,” -John Muir

Switching Roles

The following exchange happened via texts a few minutes ago between my daughter and me.

*sends a picture of an inner arm, with an insect bite or sting surrounded by quarter size pink area with a pink line creeping up the arm*  “When did this happen?” “I don’t know, I just came in from outside and noticed it.” “Where’s your (epi) pen?” “I don’t think it works, it was recalled.” “How do you feel?” Then, “Are you alone? Take Benadryl” All in quick succession. If you thought that I was the concerned one, you would be wrong. My adult daughter and I have started to switch roles, a natural progression of life.

I noticed this for the first time this winter, when I accidentally drank acetone ( I know, ridiculous but true!) and as soon as I lifted my head from the sink, where I was trying to wash my mouth out and told myself to calm down and stop hyperventilating, she was the first person I thought of to text. 1. Because she works in an ER, and knows the number to poison control off the top of her head, and 2, because she is the calmest person I know in emergencies. She has a level head, a practical mind, and the ability to assess a situation immediately. FYI, I was fine, apparently it’s not as dire as it sounds to take a swig off a bottle of acetone, although I wouldn’t recommend it as it leaves a terrible aftertaste. More recently, I wrote something that I wanted her to read. I wanted her opinion on it, but more than that, I wanted her to say she liked it. “Have you read my post yet?” I asked her twice. “No, I haven’t had a chance.” she said. She is very busy. Her weekdays are like that of any working mom, harried, busy, no breaks until her daughter is sleeping, and even then, there is still work to be done. Weekends are full of games, practices and catching up on chores. I’m happy that she is busy and enjoying her life and her family. This is what parents want for their children when they are small. I wouldn’t want her life to be any different. but I miss her.

Gone are the days when I heard her say, “Mama, watch this” a hundred times a day, while she jumped off a swing or attempted a cart-wheel. I’m glad that I tried to pay attention and respond with one of many standard mom responses, “Wow! Great job! That’s awesome! You’re amazing…..”  It’s a strange thing for a parent to ask their child for advice, for attention, and for approval if you think about it. But, I don’t usually think about it. It seems quite natural, actually. I do the same thing for my mother and someday Bean will do the same thing for hers. And now, I’m will pester my daughter to read this as soon as I post it,  I wonder what she will say.

New Every Morning

 

The weight of the previous night pins you to your bed and the thought of your actions pierce your heart. The sickness in your body competes with the sickness in your mind, because you promised yourself that you would stop, you told your loved ones that you were done, that you hated it as much as they did. Your days are long and arduous because your nights are short and carefree, and the disappointment of others is surpassed only by the hatred of yourself and what you’ve done, again. You long to be a kid again, with no desire for evil, before you knew addiction and pain. The call of freedom and the allure of joy, no matter how false, pulls you, and you come running, justifying your actions by telling yourself that you deserve a break, because it was a hard day, you’re feeling down and overwhelmed, or maybe the day is sunny, its Friday or a holiday. There is always a reason, there is always an excuse. When the thought of juggling lives and lies is too much, know this: it is a new day, with new mercies and a clean slate. You are loved and you are forgiven. Today, you are fresh and new. Get up, show up, don’t give up. Do all that you can, and know that what you can’t do, He will. His mercies are new every morning. This is a promise, claim it, it is yours.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV)

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.