June 24, 2015

Made to Sing

After high school, I decided what I wanted to do most was perfect my craft and sing classically - specifically opera.  This decision came after an unforgettable experience singing with the All Region Choir my senior year of high school.  Our choral director was the most musically-passionate man I had ever met, and still to this day, have not forgotten.  His name was Charles Bruffy.  He had curly hair and dreamy blue eyes and he was incredibly charming.  His passion and zeal for music and instructing us invited me to more.

Before our big performance that night, he told us this lovely story about his gold cuff-links of all things, that had "1-2-3" imprinted on them.  How someone he knew invited him to take a risk and how all you can do in life is to say 1-2-3 and jump out into the unknown.  I remember how he asked us to be curious about our call to music. How we were all there because of our talent and hard work and maybe a life spent in music was something worth risking.  As we took the stage and our choir prepared to sing the first movement of the Chichester Psalms, he raised up his baton and quietly whispered "1-2-3" to us.  I nearly melted in the awe of that moment.  I can still remember the chills I had, and the power that music moving through my entire body gave me.  How I teared up at the end of this triumphant song (also, sung in Hebrew) by one of my favorite composers, Leonard Bernstein.  That very night, the conductor, that piece of music, those silly cuff-links - all of it planted a desire in my heart to pursue a career in singing.

At the time, I knew that I knew, I was meant to sing.

With my music major decided on, I ended up at a small university where I made several friends who shared the same dreams and aspirations as me.  We were both friends and competitors, but all of our comparison and training and performing in front of one another at various voice recitals only motivated us to do better.  I was one of the best freshman vocals that came to the university that year, and told so by my choir director.  And though it was a small school, I was oozing with a kind of confidence I never had before.

I remember that feeling of being 18 and feeling like I could really go somewhere or be somebody.  My whole life was right in front of me, the world was at my fingertips - and all those other cliche things you say when you are young and on your own and could literally pick one of a thousand different directions and they would all be the right one.

My story took a different turn though after my third semester into studying music.  I was in love, consumed by it even.  It felt so god to be loved and wanted to by a guy - the first ever who really showed any interest in me.  He made me feel beautiful and sexy and significant and valuable - all of those things that any young woman wants to feel.  And being so distracted with my boyfriend whom I was convinced I would spend the rest of my life with, I slowly gave up going to classes.  It felt better to stay in bed and be held and kissed and adored.  All of those feelings took over any kind of logic I possessed, which was probably not much to begin with if I'm honest, and completely disappeared.

If there was anything I wanted more than to sing, it was to be loved.

On top of that, I found myself reeling from a very disappointing vocal competition where the judges ripped me apart - especially on my diction and pronunciation.  I couldn't sing German to save my life - something rather important if you are studying to make a career in vocal performance.  Others, who I had deemed lesser than me, did better than I did at the same competition and I was left feeling humiliated.

But even had I kept going on to study music, life took a different turn for me.  My boyfriend was murdered at the end of the year and it undid me.  Part of my soul felt like it had died and my world that was once so full of possibility and bright futures vanished.

By January of 2001, I was working at Sonic as a carhop and "fountain engineer," which only meant I could make a mean banana split and deliver it to your car.  I was living at home with my parents, had no car, no community, a pile of debt from school and credit cards and shattered dreams.

All of that feels like a lifetime ago.  Yet, when I remember that season of my life, when loneliness reigned supreme and I had nothing to do but sit in my disappointments and failures and heartbreak, those memories feel very tangible and close.

Before I turned 21, a small business owner took a chance on me and my lack of any office experience, and hired me as his secretary.  I taught myself how to keep books and several accounting principals and from there I have built the career I have today where I make a fairly decent living.  Also, let's use the word career loosely, shall we?  However, bookkeeping is far from where I ever thought I would end up.  It wasn't in my plan, it wasn't a dream.  It's far from singing opera and all things musical or even creative.  And as an adult, it has been hard for me to dream beyond the familiar borders of where life has me now.

The last few years, I have seen my opera-singing friends travel the world and fulfill their musical dreams thanks to Facebook.  Those who I went to school with and who literally made music their life are in my face on a pretty regular basis.  I am reminded often of my past and my old dreams and how small my life feels sometimes.  I have one friend specifically who travels the world singing with various opera companies.  This summer she is in England and Italy, and when she's not traveling the globe, she directs an up and coming opera opera company in Tennessee.  Those are the moments it's hard not to feel jealous or wonder "what-if" about my own life and choices. 

All of this invites me to think that perhaps I wasn't meant to sing like I thought I was.

Just last night, I was peeling potatoes and preparing dinner while my boys played in the living room for a few quiet and conflict-free moments.  Todd was on his way home from work and we had plans to attend a new small group.  As I was putting dirty dishes in the sink, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  I lead a relatively small life where I am a part-time bookkeeper and I cook dinner for my family and we live in a humble cracker-box house in the suburbs.  I am a mother of two and a wife to one wonderful and handsome man.  Family is nearby and we have all we need or could ever ask for.  I am blessed beyond measure and have more than I could ever begin to deserve.

And I am loved.  Deeply, truly loved.

I felt thankful and content.  Happy even.  I hummed and sang as I worked, like I often do.  I am still singing.  But, it's a much different song.

Every so often, you might catch me walking around my house singing an old aria or taking an everyday tune in my best out of practice operatic voice and busting it out at the top of my lungs.  And my only audience is my children who think I am silly and make hilarious attempts at imitating me.  But a singer isn't defined by her audience or how many opera houses she has sung in or how many degrees she has in vocal performance.  She is a singer because she sings.

My story turned out differently than my 18 year old self imagined that it would.  Some days I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Sometimes I travel down the what-if road even though I know I shouldn't.  But one that remains true and always will be. 

I was most definitely made to sing.

June 17, 2015

In Summer

I believe that summer was made for adventuring.  For long walks to find treasures like dirty bottlecaps and rocks that shimmer and shine in the sun.

I believe that red popsicles and juicy watermelon are the best treats for hot days and that backyard barbecues taste better when shared with friends.

I believe the smell of sunscreen on my boys after a long day of outside play is what heaven will smell like.

I believe in sunkissed noses and sand-covered toes.  That salty, ocean air breezes are the best kind.  And day trips to the coast are best when they end with cold root-beer and freshly fried shrimp.

I believe in plastic pools and sprinklers and cheap waterguns and that getting wet in summertime should happen every day.

I believe in fireworks and cakes decorated like American flags and celebrating freedom with friends and cheeseburgers.

I believe in slow mornings and pancakes and staying in pajamas because you have no need for an agenda.

I believe in Texas sunsets, lit up all violet and fuchsia and turquoise at night.  That they are best experienced when shared on the front porch with someone you love and there is no need to speak because the sun always does all the talking for you.

I believe in staying up late to watch movies, snuggled up on sleeper-sofas, blankets and pillows piled high.  In reading books and making up stories and drawing pictures on soft construction paper, markers bleeding through.

I believe in ice cream cones, and sticky sweetness dripping on tiny fingers.

I believe in the sound of cicada bugs and boys who play basketball in the street.  In riding bikes and swim lessons and learning how to tie your shoes.

I believe in trips to the library and turning off cartoons.  In practicing math and memorizing Bible verses and sending handwritten letters to friends.

I believe that everyone should know what it's like to play in a summer rain shower.

I believe that strawberry margaritas taste better outside.  That laughter is served best with fresh salsa and crispy tortilla chips and the faces of women who get you completely.

I believe in sidewalk chalk and pictures of rainbows and stick figures and messages wrtiten about love and family.  In bubbles blown, popped, chased and caught.

I believe in summer.  In the magic of long days and laughing with your children.  Yellow butterflies and blue skies and white dandelions.  Wishes ready for the making.

June 14, 2015

Nine years and new beginnings


Todd and I celebrated nine years of marriage this last Wednesday.  We reminisced about the past and anticipated the future like we do on most anniversary dates, this year at a quaint mexican restaurant.  Afterward, we found ourselves sitting by the Guadalupe River at a nearby park and later capped off the evening by treating ourselves to new pillows.

Clearly, we know how to partay.

In many ways, these nine years have flown.  Having kids has a way of speeding things up somehow because life is always measured in milestones and themed birthday parties.  Tommy is always counting down to the next thing, the next event, the next holiday.  Our little man always has to have a plan or know what the plan is -he relies on consistency and predictability. Right now we are counting down to his sixth birthday and our promise of spending the day at Six Flags with him.  And potty training our second child is looming in our near future and just thinking about it is enough for me to wish time could stand still. 

But at the start of our ninth year of marriage together, we have found ourselves in an unwanted season of transition.  A chapter in our lives that we have loved living and doing and being a part of is at its end.  And we are heartbroken.

There's no way to poetically write it or talk around it so I will just say the things that nobody really says when these things happen:  our church is falling apart.  Or at least, that's how we see it.  People are leaving.  Dear, dear friends that we have done life with and loved on and been in ministry with are moving on.  And we are devastated.  The how's and why's and who's are irrelevant really.  The fact of the matter is, churches and pastors and leaders and members - everything and everyone of us broken.  And sometimes that brokenness causes divisions and disagreements or bad decisions or just humans being extra humanly.  In short - it sucks.  It sucks so very much.

The evening we sat by the river, there was nothing but he and I, some huge cypress trees and the sound of the water flowing past.  I took this picture as it perfectly captures us, our marriage and how we fit together.  He with his camo crocs and me with my overly girly and sparkly sandals. So incredibly opposite but somehow we were made for each other.
Life is often going to hand us unexpected realities.  Chapters and seasons will come and go and many of them, like this one, we won't even see coming.  But we're in this thing together just like we vowed nine years ago.

Right now we are grieving. We are losing our church, our community, a sense of familiarity and comfort and predictability - some of those things that must go if we to continue to grow.  We are trusting by faith that God gives and takes away, and tears things down to only build something back up in its place.  Before each new beginning, there is always an ending.

I'm simply grateful that nine years into marriage, we are living our endings and new beginnings camo croc by sparkly sandal.  Side by side.

June 4, 2015

Graduated

It's been one of those days that I'm feeling all those mothery feelings.  Where I've laughed and cried and have been humming the tune to Sunrise, Sunset, staring in wonder at the life of this boy who is mine.  This heart and mind and life I am shaping, molding, teaching and guiding.  He is growing up.

And there's nothing I can do to stop it.

He is down one tooth, and another loose.  He reads, writes, adds and subtracts.  At any given time he will give you random information about the cycles of the moon and metamorphosis and Texas history.  He prays for those at school who are mean to him or others.  He is approximately seven thousand feet tall.  He is smart and so very, very kind.

His teacher told me that he was a gift.  That she's had a difficult year personally, and Tommy's faith in God has helped her with own during a time of struggle.  She said that he is brilliant and kind and talented.  And that she thinks he's a future preacher/Christian rockstar. 

I cried and then I gushed and then cried some more.  What mom doesn't want to hear those things?  But all of that she said about Tommy - that's just him. His character, who he is even when I'm not there to guide or remind him, he is good and giving and mindful others thoughts and feelings.  That is Tommy.

Today, I watched him sing some songs with his fellow classmates.  Cleverly sung to the tune of Taylor Swift's Shake it Off, he sang a song called First Grade

Well, they say I'm growing up, up, up, up, up.  I'm ready to move on, on, on, on, on....first grade, first grade.

And then I was crying.  Because it's like I can see into the future and imagine my 18 year old son graduating from high school and all of this bringing up and raising and teaching is sort of over.  And omigosh, I only have 13 more years left before he's an adult with opinions and is out in the world making his own mistakes and paving his own way and I won't be there in the same way.

He's growing up.
He's moving on.


Kinder graduation is what you might expect.  Three hundred excited parents with balloons and camera's there to catch their child's special moment.  Everyone present thinking their child is the very best, because they are.

As I sat there today taking all of this in, I was reminded of my dad growing up.  What his face looked like any time he came to a play or a choir performance or any other thing where I was either a big or a little deal.  He always made this face where he would kind of hold his head up and to the side, clearly choking back tears and smiling at the same time.  This look of pride and adoration where he looked both happy and sad as if he were celebrating something and losing something at the same time. 

I got that today.  I totally felt it.  And I'm pretty sure I made the same face as my dad.

What struck me most though was watching all of the Kindergarten teachers engage with their class, tears filling their eyes and trying to hold themselves together much like us moms in the audience.  It means the world to me to see up close and personal how much these teachers love our children.  How invested they are and how emotional they are to watch them grow and move on.  Teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world and we have done our best to support and encourage and thank his teacher throughout the year. 


Ms. Lozano was the answer to the prayer of my heart.  I was so anxious for him to start school, fearing what he might encounter or what could happen without me being right by his side.  But his teacher gave her all to our boy and he adored her.  He was excited to go and to learn.  I tried my best through tears today to hug her tight and thank her.  I gave her a handwritten card and a basket full of fun summer goodies to express our gratitude for her impact and influence on our son though that feels so inadequate.
And now, we are on the cusp of summer.  Somehow, it's June and we have our first year of school officially under our belts. 

Tomorrow, Tommy has a half-day at school and he's done.  I plan on waking him up with silly string and taking him out for some fun to celebrate school being out and kicking off a fun summertime.  I'm not sure who is more excited - me or him.  I think maybe me.

Goodbye kinder!

Hello 1st grader!

And let's go summer!  It's on!

May 20, 2015

Seen



Maybe it's silly to have ever thought this was possible:  I thought I could be a fun enough or awesome enough or cool enough mom for my kids to never notice this.  I thought I could make up for some huge flaw of mine by being amazing and exciting and super-loving.  Yet I've learned that I couldn't.  My child still saw me.

I knew this day was going to come.  I should have expected it.  But I was caught off guard and going through my morning routine when out of the blue, those huge words were spoken and they knocked the air out of me just like I always knew they would.

We were having normal morning conversation.  Talking about school and breakfast and the silly dream I had the night before about Ironman.  Todd was putting his shoes on in the living room and I was making my salad to take for lunch at work. 

"That Ironman suit would be too skinny for you mom."

"What?" I said, not completely hearing or understanding what he said.

"That Ironman suit would be too SKINNY for you.  I mean, you still look like you're pregnant."  

And in a matter of seconds, my heart felt like it had shattered all over the floor.  I felt embarassed and angry and so hurt.  I started crying and realizing that these tears were going to be exponential, I ran to my room and sobbed everywhere.  I could hear Todd scolding Tommy for his words.  And all I could do was cry.

I remember wondering a long time ago what it might feel like to have my own child, my own flesh and blood, say something negative about my size.  I have known that if and when it ever happened, it would devastate me which is why, just as I have my whole life, have been trying to get this whole weight thing under some kind of control.  And it continues to be an exhausting battle and a thing I can't seem to get rid of.  I am beyond frustrated and angry with myself and my body and with God about all of it I could scream - and sometimes I do. 

Most of the time I feel shamed and misunderstood and judged by others.  I feel like I have let others down because I have been a disappointment - unfixable by any help they ever tried to offer.  I have changed here - so much - yet my body doesn't reflect those changes.  I have seen a doctor about it recently and the diet I tried was the WRONG one and I haven't had the guts to seek out another doctor because I've been sitting my feelings of failure here.  Just as I have every other time I have tried anything new. 

I feel so exposed to the world.  YOU can see my struggle.  YOU can see what I hold and carry.  YOU can see that I have a problem.  And because YOU can see it, you often try to fix it or help or something. And I am really only left feeling wounded by YOU.  And the One person who I have turned to again and again and AGAIN doesn't seem to hear me.  Or help me.  Or give me whatever strength it is I need to stick to a healthy way of living.  And my stupid RA has slowed me down and ravaged my body and made exercise more than difficult. 

There is so much anger here. Mostly at myself, but perhaps equally, with God.  I am pissed at Him.  For giving this thing to me.  For letting me be set up to have it in the first place.  For not helping me overcome it when His scripture tells me that I'm more than a conqueror and I'm free and all of the things that says we don't have to live stuck in a place like this.  And I'm really pissed because of His silence.  He doesn't speak to me here. 

For the last few months, I've been ignoring Him.  Being silent back.  Because I just don't know what else to do anymore, and I don't know what to do with a God that doesn't help me with something I keep bringing to Him.  I've been discouraged in my faith because I've let this shake some of the things I believe and I feel like I've failed somehow as a Christian.

On a regular basis, I talk with Tommy about how different people are.  How some people are tall or short, big or small, different colors, or in a wheelchair, or wear black lipstick.  And how we don't want to say anything negative about people's differences because really, we are all the same.  We are all human and we have hearts and we all feel and we all desperately need Jesus.  And there is no reason to be afraid or hateful or ugly about how anyone is different than we are.  We talk about the importance of being mindful with our words so we don't hurt anyone's feelings.

Even in these conversations, I know I was trying to prevent his words from ever hitting me.  Trying to make sure that he would never point out what makes me different.  What I'm teaching him is true, but I have been trying to protect myself in the midst of it.

I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that my son wasn't trying to be negative.  He is very logical and blunt and I think he was stating something that felt like a fact to him.  It wasn't until he saw my reaction and received a talking-to from Todd that he realized what he said was "bad."

And more so, he learned that there was something "bad" about my body.

Tommy came back to my room to talk to me.  He was crying too, devastated that he had hurt my feelings and not knowing that he had.  I tried my best to cover his little heart.  I tried to say all of the things that he needed to hear.  I told him it was okay.  I told him I know he didn't mean to hurt my feelings and that I know he loves me.  I told him that the size of my belly was something that made me different, and because of it's size, it's something I don't like about myself.  I told him that when he said what he did, it reminded me how much I don't like how big my belly is and that's why it hurt my feelings.  I told him I loved him and that nothing he could ever say would change how much I loved him.  And that he was a kind boy and I knew he didn't mean to hurt me.  I grasped for all of the perfect words because I didn't want him to feel like he had to carry any of my shame or struggle or feel guilty for any of it. 

He didn't say anything that wasn't true.  I would not fit in the Ironman suit.  And the size of my stomach does make me look like I'm still pregnant.  He was right.

And sitting there crying with my almost 6 year-old, I felt so incredibly exposed and vulnerable.  Having to admit to him that there was something about myself that I don't like.  And now he knows what it is.  And my head began reeling with the thoughts of what he could be gathering from all of this.

It was hard to bounce back that day.  I still haven't completely recovered from it.  If anything, I'm only angrier.  And it's clear, that anger is getting me nowhere. 

I'd like to say that this story has a happy ending.  Or hearing these words from my son was the motivation I needed to get my ass in gear and stick to a diet program.  But, it hasn't been that. 

If I have any hope (and hoping in this place feels almost ridiculous) it is that I could grow from it.  To realize that I can't really love my boys by hiding the things from them that I don't like about myself.  That I need to be more honest and transparent and real in this place to my children.  To encourage them in healthy ways of living that I wasn't pointed to.  And to take the best care of myself that I can so I can continue to be here for them. 

As for God, I want to not be angry anymore.  I want to make peace with Him here and let go of all of the things I am blaming Him for and where I hold Him responsible.  Because maybe that's the problem.  I'm holding on to so much in this place, that there is no space left to receive anything, not even a word or His voice.  I wish I could figure out how to let it all go.

May 15, 2015

Motherhood Eucharisteo

Little faces covered in fudge popsicles, all drippy and sticky.

Snuggles and singing before bedtime and "I luh-you mama" from my littlest.

Learning how to vaccum and do chores like a big person.  Glory.

Conversations about God and Jesus, and our greatest enemy: Satan.  And when I tell Tommy how the enemy does whatever he can to get us to do or say bad things, or even believe things that aren't true, his innocent reply of "Satan isn't the boss of me.  I'll never listen to him!"  Oh Jesus, let it be so.....

Lego spaceships and train engines and superheroes and stuffed monkeys.

Small toes and magical blue eyes and loud laughter.

 Tears from a boy when he knew he had hurt me deeply.  And His grace there in the moments where we both had failed.

Children's glee in spring sunset.  And His light covering them, shining over and through.



May 12, 2015

Mother's Day and all the feelings

The problem with Mother's Day is that there are so many feelings to feel.  I mean really.  So many feelings and not adequate time enough to feel them all in the span of the day.

I feel swallowed by these hurricane-like feelings, being blown over by emotions and I have no way to hold them all.  Even more so, no one else to help me hold them.  And so they leak out.  A steady drip, until the dam breaks.

During a dinner with some friends recently, I said "Mother's Day was shit," and I didn't even know that was exactly how I felt about it.  But it had to be true, because I was speaking quickly and loudly and sometimes our truest feelings come out when we are just word-vomiting all over the place.  Also, when I'm word vomiting, I say things like shit too. But I was disappointed and I felt like I disappointed others and wallowed in all of these disappointing things of the day, and then felt defeated that I let disappointment get the better of me.  Damn disappointment.

Just upon waking up on that very day, I knew it was going to be a bad.  I could feel it.  And the wisest part of my self, advised me to stay home from church.  To take the morning to feel the sad things especially so that I could feel them and let them go.  But I decided it was more selfish than self-caring and I went to church anyway.  And nothing bad happened there.  But, I was bombarded again by all of the feelings that are there to feel and realized I wanted to not be feeling them there.  I tried my best to swallow tears and choke them down until my throat hurt.  But they were leaking - just like feelings tend to do when you don't feel them.

And by lunchtime, the feelings I had somehow thought would go away by this point, weren't going anywhere and the floodgates opened.  I ugly cried and had no clue what I was even crying for. The dam broke and I was a mess.  And what's weird, is that I couldn't name anything specific.

I cried because it was Mother's Day and my mom isn't here.  And I hate how it feels extra awful to be motherless every year in May. 

I cried because this day is like this exclusive club.  Like you can only celebrate or be celebrated if you have a mom or if you are a mom and I find myself aching for all of the women who don't have either of those things and it makes me not want to be part of whatever club this is to begin with.

I cried because I have friends who hurt deeply on this day.  Because their moms have died too and I know what they're feeling.   And some because they can't get pregnant and infertility steals their joy and their hope, especially on Mother's Day.  And I want them all to know I see them and I love them and I'm hoping with them and I hate that they don't have anyone to call them mommy - because everyone who wants to be called mommy should have their baby and it breaks me because that's not how life happens.

And then I cried because I want to honor all of the mother people in my life and I feel like I do a horrible job of loving them and telling them and showing them and because I still can't stand in the Mother's Day card aisle and not want to weep.  Because the feelings.

And then I cry because of the guilt.  Because I am a mom.  I have these precious boys and being their mom is maybe my deepest joy ever.  Tommy and Jacob are living, breathing miracles and I love them so.  Yet, I don't know how to be celebrated.  I don't know how to embrace that this day could even ever be about me.

Mostly, I want to slap myself in the face and tell myself to get over all of the feelings.  To be happy and embrace joy and let myself be celebrated and find a way to choose to feel something greater than the sorrow that I feel.  But I don't know how to do that.  And perhaps someday, I will have healed beyond all of this and I can feel my feelings better, as if there is such a thing. 

All of it - the feelings, the celebrations, the memories, the longings, the guilt, the everything - it all hits and it hits hard.  And this year, it knocked me over.