Labor Day

My first child was born 30 years ago on Labor Day weekend.

How appropriate.

Actually, there was very little actual labor involved because I quickly developed a condition called abruptio placenta, which means the placenta separated from the wall of the uterus causing massive hemorrhage and distress to our baby. Thankfully we were already at the hospital when this happened so it was a nifty emergency trip to the OR where I was put to sleep to receive a hurry up C-section.

This was back in the olden days before we could find out the sex of the baby prior to birth. We just had to wait it out and be surprised.

Boy, were we.

I woke in recovery to see my hub holding the most beautiful baby, with a head full of dark hair. I was instantly in love and obsessed with this new human-I could have cared less how he made his entrance into the world. He was here and he was mine!

Let me stop right here to encourage any pregnant gal who is facing a C-section….embrace this. It is a gift. It is the easiest way in the world to deliver a baby.

Hands down.

The recovery is, of course, more involved…but you are spared hours of pain and suffering and screaming. Good trade.

I was given the option of having a VBAC (vaginal birth after CSection) with my second child. I politely declined, whipped out my Daytimer and scheduled the birthday of #2 in an organized, civilized manner. It was 2 weeks before his due date. Delivering early is the dream of every pregnant woman over 36 weeks gestation. Can I get an amen?

C- sections.

The preferred birthing method of uber control freaks, like me. It fits us to a T. As a nurse, surgical pain made sense to me, I could handle that. Today- with 3 grown kids, I have often wondered if I could have done the pain thing and the he-he-he breathing thing and not killed everyone around me.

God only knows.

One of my sisters aspired to deliver completely natural-without any pain meds. She almost made it with child #1, but with an extended delivery, gave into an epidural and felt defeated. With baby # 2, she had the help of a friend who was a birth coach, and made it all the way. No drugs at all. Her first words after it was over: “That was the stupidest thing I have EVER done.”

Truer words were never spoken. When she went in for child # 3, she told them up front: Have my epidural ready when I hit 7. Every mother knows exactly what that means.

Also…another plus of C-sections: babies with beautiful round heads- no cone heads for you, sweet sister.

My best friend’s DIL delivered her second baby a few months ago. This gal is made for birthing because 2 pushes and …”Hello, there.” I think even a control freak like me might could do that.

Maybe.

I’ve been a little nostalgic as my eldest turned 30. His birth proved to be a life- changing event in more ways than I ever dreamed on that hot, late summer weekend.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This Labor Day had us working around the farm. We finally cleaned out the root cellar (which should have been done in the spring and we paid dearly that is wasn’t), and tossed all the summer container plants to make room for mums and pumpkins.

A true Labor Day weekend!

Hope yours was great!

Blessings,

Stephanie

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What Now (Part 2)

As promised, dear friends, here is part 2 of What Now. How can we move on and upward following one of life’s hardest transitions? I will share this with you: it is of vital importance that you learn to do this part of life well, because leaving them at the dorm is the dress rehearsal for the final “good-bye”-when they get married.

I won’t even go there today.

While I’m sure there are other suggestions, from far wiser folks than me, this is what helped us those first few weeks and months:

  1. Do not, and I repeat: DO NOT waller in your misery (as we say in the south.) For all non-southerners, “waller” means “roll around” or “stay around” the feelings of loss that are so acute and raw. Don’t pull out the baby books and grieve over how fast the years went.

There is a time and place for that kind of nostalgia and this IS.NOT.IT. Which leads into #2:

2. Try to get into a “normal” daily routine of some sort. Fight the urge to call in sick to work and lay around in your PJ’s. You are not  unwell, yet-but moping will get you there quick. Get up and start moving. Let your job help your remember that you are valuable outside your role as mom/dad. If you don’t work-get your walking shoes on and hit the trail basking in the new reality of “your time is YOUR time!”

3. Plan an adventure of some type. Who wouldn’t like a trip to Scotland? But if that’s just not realistic for you-plan a day trip close to home. My hub and I love to bike and there are many rails to trails in our area. Early weekend rides with a packed lunch helped us ease into this new time of our lives.

4. Reconnect with your friends, some who might be struggling too. Misery loves company? We love having bonfires at our house, so we invited a few friends to come have dinner and sit out inthe fall night. Good times…without having to wonder where the kids were. Great times!

5. Find a place to serve. Whether at your church, at a homeless shelter, helping kids with   homework, visiting people who are not able to be out and about…or a hundred different opportunities that you couldn’t do when you had your own kids at home-now is your time to help others. And in the process..you help yourself as well.

6. Let service start at home. Channel all of the energy you gave to your children in helping them with whatever they needed-into helping your spouse. Serving your partner can go a long way to starting to restore a relationship that may have been put on the back burner during child rearing. Taking out the trash, picking up cleaning, making sure there are socks in the drawer and a thousand other small, mundane acts of service are really acts of love. These small acts help shore up the foundation where marriage is the center of the home, not the children.

ABOVE ALL: Don’t listen to the lie that the best part of your life is over. This part of life is up to you make it be great-just like the part of life you just left.

You can do this!

Blessings,

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Now? (Part 1)

Move in day is over. All the dorm stuff that had been clogging every orifice of your home is now safely ensconced at the dorm/apartment where your child resides. You lived through the final good-byes and the quiet ride home. You unlocked the door to a newly empty house.

And a newly empty spot in your life.

A spot that was once filled by an energetic/excited/overly emotional (or not nearly emotional enough!) person. For better or worse, the day you had been dreading for months or years has come and gone.

What now?

In the best of situation, you prepared for this day. Realizing that raising a child is not a lifetime event, but marriage supposedly is-you have built a life with your partner outside of your parenting that will now serve you well.

But what if that isn’t your story? What if you and your mate just held it together long enough to see this day come and go-a thin veneer of civility in relations but after many years of cohabiting and co-parenting-you look at each other and realize that you don’t know the person with whom you have shared a life.

Maybe you’re a single parent who has poured every part of yourself into your kiddo (s) alone. I have utmost respect for those who have done that hard journey well. You are now qualified to run our country.

Not kidding.

Get your flyers up.

Our national debt crisis? Fighting in the Middle East? Immigration issues? These are small things compared to what you just went though.

Kuddos.

For you, dear single parent, this can be such a hard time. Loneliness coupled with loss of purpose has the potential to be toxic. I pray you link arms with other single parents and take care of each other, especially in these first few weeks when the loss is acutely felt.

Whatever your situation, married or single, we all have the same question.

What now?

We who have perfected the helicopter parent generation have to take a good, hard look at how we spent the past 18 years. We entered into every aspect of our kids lives, many times rescuing them from peril with friends, school and life in general.

They are now on their own (in some way or another) and we can’t see or know their every move. We can no longer intervene when we deem necessary.

It’s terrifying. It’s freeing.

It’s how it’s supposed to be.

Many people struggle during this transition in life. They believe that the most important part of their life, launching their child into adulthood is over and nothing they will ever do will compare to the importance of that event. Add to that fact, that all of this usually comes at the half time of our life when we naturally become more philosophical.

Bad combo.

It’s been 6 years since this was our story. 6 years since we dropped our third son, our “baby”, off at his dorm and drove away. This part of parenting never got easier-and bonus-this time there was no one waiting at home.

With that perspective, may I offer a few suggestions of how to navigate these new waters?

Part 2 (with all the good stuff) posts tomorrow. But for today-I’m tracking with your pain. And praying for your heart.

Blessings,

Stephanie

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Meet Me on the Dance Floor

One of my best friend’s sons got married this weekend. It was a beautiful evening and the reception was a blast. One of my favorite parts of any reception is the dancing.

I love to dance at weddings. I especially love all the corny wedding dances: The Chicken Dance, The Electric Slide, The Cupid Shuffle just to name a few, and feel slighted when they are not included in the evening playlist. I have been known to ask the DJ to play them, most often, he says, “The bride explicitly said we can’t play those songs.”

OK, I will yield to the bride. But fair warning: I am trying to learn to dance to Thriller.

With complete abandon I spend most of the night out there with a group of gals my age, mixed with younger gals and sometimes my hub (on the slow ones!) dancing to almost every song. I sing with the ones I know (Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”, Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband”) and countless others that I don’t know the name of, taking countless moves of the young gals and trying them on.

Jared  Morgan Wedding Jan 5 2013 190

 It’s a spectacle I’m sure.

I know I don’t look anywhere near as cool as I think I do…being my age and all (especially the ALL!) My hub gave up a while ago glaring at me with a look that said, ”Really??” My boys do a mixture of shake their heads or join me on the dance floor. My DIL, Morgan, has been a constant dance partner for the past few weddings and I have to admit…it’s a bonding experience.

This weekend’s wedding had something that I had never seen before at a wedding, a Mother-Daughter dance. Towards the end of the dance they invited all mothers and daughters to join them on the dance floor. Now, this mother/daughter thing is an anomaly to those of us with only sons, but my heart leapt when I saw my sweet DIL walking towards my table and motioning for me to come join her on the dance floor.

She’s adorable and now I am a 100% convert to the idea!

When my #3 son got married in October, for our dance we chose, “Wagon Wheel”, the blue grass song by Darius Rucker and we did a lively dance that we had practiced on our patio for days. It was such a highlight for me as our friends and family gathered around the dance floor and sang and clapped while we danced.

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 But, aside from just plain loving to dance, I dance for another reason. I dance for my dear friends whose time here on earth was cut short by cancer and will never dance at their daughter’s weddings. I dance for my sweet sistas, Sue and Pam. It has been 2 years since they passed on and it still feels surreal. Pam was one of the wisest women I have ever known. I still hear her words in my head. I hope I always do.

Sue was a sister soul mate. She was my walking buddy, and every Saturday breakfast companion. I couldn’t go back to our walking trail for a year after she passed. She left behind 3 beautiful daughters, amazing young women who live life with the same passion and vitality that Sue embodied. My darling friend won’t be there to dance at their weddings, but I will.

And so will another friend of Sue’s…we will fight over who gets to do the mother/daughter dance. Actually, we’ll probably just do it together and it will look like a mosh pit.

Sue would be so proud!

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Hurts So Good

In the spring of last year I went out to help my hub with the massive cleanup of downed pine branches and sticks from the big ice storm we had in February. He told me to just sit on the tractor and talk to him while he worked, but I’m just not one to sit when there is work to do. So I carried my rake out the pasture with me, raking not far from where he was dealing with the “big stuff”.

While I was raking, I was chastising myself for not bringing garden gloves with me. There was quite a bit of sap on the limbs that were too big to rake and therefore I had to carry to the pile I was making.

There was also some dead debris in one of the hedgerows that I had been meaning to clean out for several years, but by the time I thought about it, it was far too late into spring. The xylem and phloem had already returned to the vines and briars, and with their new strength intact, were too hard to deal with. I vowed to get to it the next year.

 And then the next.

I was almost giddy when I realized that this was the year that I was going to get the upper hand on that ugly mess.  I reached over and started pulling the shriveled, dry vines and quickly caught the dead briars as well.

With bare hands.

Ouch.

But I kept working and within an hour the whole area was clean and looked great. It was worth the temporary pain in my hands to finally be rid of that eyesore.

It hurt so good.

If you get a rush from cleaning brush and having a well manicured yard- you get it. Once you start into a project like this (or pulling weeds, which is euphoric to me!) it’s like getting tunnel vision. There is nothing but you and the weeds and the newly cleaned area in your focus.

It borders on obsession.

It’s the stamping out of their ugliness that pushed me to keep raking and getting ready for the new life of budding trees and plants that would be there in a few weeks, able to flourish free of the briars that held them back for so many summers.

When I got back to raking, I thought about how weeding a garden or cleaning out briars and dead sticks is kind of like how we keep our inner life in good health. In order to stay mentally, emotionally and spiritually in good shape, we have to be willing to “weed the garden” of our lives.

Spring does that to me. Makes me philosophical.

In truth, “the weeds” that I have neglected have most likely become bad habits or make areas in my life that don’t necessarily look so great. They can cause an underlying current of anxiety and fear. When left unchecked, those “weeds” creep into my everyday life, preventing me from fully appreciating those I love and seeking to rob me of daily peace. In seasons when those bad things are left to run wild they choke out the woman I desire to be.

Kind. Good.

It’s hard to tend to the garden of our lives, but it is vital to good health. Mentally and emotionally, pulling up old memories, old hurts is not for the faint hearted. Words remembered spoken by us or to us can cause a myriad of emotions. Pain. Confusion. Open wounds.

Some weeding is done easily, like pulling chickweed. One slight tug and the whole mess is gone. Others are like wild violets and dandelions..the effort to dig deep to get to the invasive root system is a real workout.

Unresolved past hurts can fester in the weirdest places of our inner life and hold us back in a hundred ways. It’s easy to spot the big ones-an inability to trust people fully, requiring constant affirmation from the important people in our lives and broken relationships.

All relationships, be it marriage, family or friendships are like gardens. They need to be nourished by time, attention and love, and weeded when needed by self-examination, forgiveness and prayer. Most of all with the reality check that the only person we can control fully is ourselves.

It will hurt so good.

Happy weeding!

Blessings,

Stephanie

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On Our Own….Again

Whew, we made it.

Through the first night of real, forever, lifetime empty nesting.

After a few years of trial empty nesting (college years, #3 working in NY for part of the week, then home on weekends) and with all the post wedding hoopla- which led into holiday coming and goings, we are finally on our own.

29 years, 4 months, 6 days and 12 hours…we were just the two of us again. I made the run to BWI in the snow to deliver the last one on his way back to the place where he now lives. I’m not calling any place more than 20 miles away from me their home.

 Not ever.

 I started the brainwashing while they were in middle school. In the boys bathroom I hung a little sign (its still there) in the top right corner of the large wall mirror that says: “Home is where your mom is.” And I’m standing by that.

The house is eerily quiet…it knows too-they are not coming back this time. It is bitter cold and there are 4 inches of new fallen snow outside so all sounds are magnified everywhere I go.

 I have known from the beginning, almost 30 years ago, that life as a parent would mark us as no other life experience would. Our perspective on the world around us opened as we faced life as parents of 3 little boys-from day one. Somewhere between the diapers, cooking meals, bathing babies, trips to the doctor, the sports practices (try to imagine year round sports for 3 boys!), church events, school outings—we grew old…older. The everyday living in this old farmhouse changed us from bright eyed youngsters to seasoned veterans who learned the cardinal rule of parenting teens: “Never looked shocked by anything they tell you.” You can go to your room, shut the door and shock yourself, but keep that, “I’veseenitall, theres nothingnewunderthesun” façade in front of your teen.

 The most surprising thing to me, as I sit here on this bright snowy morning, is how fast it all went by. And I say that a little teary, but mostly with a heart of thanksgiving for the mercy that God showed us by giving us the boys he did. Our boys are like their mom and dad—far from perfect—but we have not had to deal with nightmares of drugs, accidents and illnesses that have marked many others parenting journeys.

 Life is far from over and only God knows what lies ahead—parenting is a role that you start slowly and then gain speed and momentum as your kids grow up. Right when you hit your stride, you have to apply the brakes. Just let me be on the record saying—parenting adults is no picnic. Thousands of books are written on how to be a good parent to toddlers and teens, but not so much for adult kids. Because… let me tell you, young mamas and daddys of little ones…this part has the potential to be the hardest yet. It takes a lot of self- control to hold back the words of guidance that were honed so well in the teen years, when your kids become adults. It takes REAL effort to remember not to start sentences with, “I think….” Or “You need to…..” Or “You ought to….” and a hundred other things that were so common and NEEDED with younger kids.   That makes parenting an always learning experience.

 And if you are blessed enough to have kids that grow up to be independent and able to stand on their own two feet-you will have a day like I did yesterday. Just like the day they came into your arms….they will leave on their own-with a prayer of thankfulness for God’s goodness.

 My hub walked in from work on this dark, snowy night and greeted me with, “It’s just you and me now, baby.”

 I’m so thankful that he is enough.

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Me and the hub as a snow couple (I painted this!) out on our own. In the cold. All alone.  

Blessings,

Stephanie

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Thanks-living

I just finished making my 4th “last trip” to the grocery store in preparation for the big meal on Thursday. Each “last trip” I thought I was really done.

Done.

But no. Somehow a new item mysteriously cropped up on the “still need” list. How can this be? I have cooked this same meal for almost 30 years and I still can’t get it down pat.

Determined to beat the shopping crowds….it’s only 2 days till Thanksgiving and they are calling for snow tomorrow (a recipe for disaster)-I set out in the predawn hours to make the 4th “last trip” to the grocery store.

I go to several different stores as I get ready for my favorite day of the year. Each store has items that are unique to them: honey brined turkey breasts, freshest produce, best pumpkin pies, etc.  (I can hear the condemnation now: “You don’t make your own pumpkin pies??” No, I do not. About 8 years ago #1 son released me by saying, “Mom, when these pies from ____ are so great, why would you ever want to make them?”)

I agreed and I embraced the freedom.

OK, I’m off on a tangent here. This is not about pies. Or turkey. Or anything that will happen two days from now.

It’s about what happened in the check out line on my 4th “last trip” this morning.

I was at my local grocery store, the one closest to my house, my mainstay for the past 33 years of married life. If grocery stores were like that bar in Cheers (where everyone knows your name) this would be mine. The owner passed away on Saturday and he was a character! We were telling “Ralph” stories in the OR yesterday.  I know most of the longtime cashiers (vs. the college kiddos) and my favorite one is Lillian.

Lillian works the first shift, when the store opens at 6am. Since the store is next to the surgery center where I work, I make many, many early morning stops so I can head right home and not fight the afternoon crowds. Over the years of early morning interactions, Lillian and I have gotten to know each other across the counter.

She lives in the north county (like me), has adult kids (like me), loves Jesus (like me) and sings on her worship team (not like me). She always asks about my boys, the weddings and knows about my AZ boy’s ministry. She knows the hard road we walked for a while a couple of years ago. I know the hard choice she made to leave the huge church she loved to go serve their church plant in PA.

We do more than idle conversation. We share life, in snippets. When Jesus is your common denominator stuff gets fast tracked.

This morning as I explained to Lillian that this was my 4th “last trip”, she told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was going later this morning to learn the tumor staging and plan for surgery, chemo and radiation.

Gut punch.

In the midst of my hurry scurry, came a reminder of what is truly important. Who cares if the pumpkin pies are not homemade? My friend is dealing with life and death. I walked around the counter to hug her, pray for her day and the choices she would be asked to make today. Underlining the unknown ahead of her, was a countenance of peace. The kind of peace that comes when you know the One who holds all your days.

Not just the 4th Thursday in November.

Lillian said over and over, “I’m just so thankful”…for early detection, for a wonderful doctor, for church family holding her up to the One she loves above all. She has a great list for Thanksgiving.

Thanks-living.

This is the holiday for counting blessings, counting things we are thankful for…the basis for Thanks-living. It deserves so much more than just a once a year day of Thanksgiving. That’s what my friend was doing this morning.

Thanks-living.

I am thankful to have been there this morning to see the results of such living in Lillian. And for the reminder to practice it in my own life.

Daily thanks-living.

Starting today. Not Thursday.

Happy Thanks-living, friends!

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