Undone; Worth the Read

Undone-3D-LeftFace300

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy; my heart shouted yes before I’d even finished reading the blog post. Yes, sign me up to be on the launch team for the book: Undone, A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life. 

I’ve been following Michele Cushatt’s blog for about two years. She had me at hello because I love her writing style. Reading her blog is like meeting a friend you haven’t seen for a while and catching up on life. Michele writes straight from the heart; no pretense, no preaching, no fluff.

When I first began following her blog, she did a giveaway for a cookbook (We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook). I ended up winning and she sent me not only the book, but also batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, made from her grandmother’s secret recipe. Homemade chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t get over it; who does that?  Despite having never met her, that sealed the deal for me: we were (Internet) friends for life.

Lucky for me I was chosen to participate on the launch team and it’s been such fun so far.  In doing so I received an advanced copy of her book Undone. I’m an avid reader and knew I’d like it. What I didn’t know what just how much.

Undone tells the story of Michele’s life and how she has navigated through it with her faith. With wit and wisdom Michele recounts stories of divorce, remarriage, parenting, cancer and the adoption of three little ones later in life. I can’t write like she does, so no matter what I say here, I wouldn’t be able to convey how well written and entertaining the book is. What I can tell you is that I found myself reading it nonstop.

I read it in the carpool line, at the orthodontist’s office, while stirring the soup I was making for dinner. I read it until I was done, and now I’m hoping she’ll write a sequel.  I have to know:

Will the cancer return again, or is it finally gone for good?

How are the littles doing?  Are they finally getting settled in school?  Are the walls now marker-free?

How about the older set, what are the boys up to now?

Like I said, I feel like we are friends. I want to catch up.

As mentioned I can’t write as well as Michele, but I can share a few lines I loved from her book.

On Family: 

“Preschoolers are cute and precious and cheek-pinching adorable when they belong to someone else. They’re life-suckers when you have one foot in middle age and live with three of them.”

(on blending families):  “Some days I thought it would kill me.  Other days I’d hoped it would.”

(on being a mother):  “It’s choosing to love when you’d rather run away.  Being a mother is becoming an expert at saying, “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” and “I love you,” as many times as necessary.” 

On Faith and Hardship:

“And flimsy belief gives birth to fear, not courage…I could either hang on to fear or hold on to my faith. But I could not hang on to both.” 

“Faith is choosing the anchor of your focus.” 

“Cancer, as heinous and evil as it was, had delivered an unexpected gift. It taught us how to live…Cancer–in both its presence and absence–had taught me the immeasurable value of today.”

On Life:

“The idealistic side of me wanted to be a hero.  The realistic side of me wanted to take a nap.”

“But sometimes messy is the necessary beginning to the makings of extraordinary.” 

To think only of heaven is to miss out on the gift of life. And to dwell on this life is to miss out on the granduer-and anticipation-of what is yet to come.” 

“Just as a writer must embrace a rough draft as the necessary means to a book’s successful end, I had to learn how to embrace my life’s process.” 

“Life, in all its shocking unpredictability is to be lived up close, personal…But…it’s value can’t be measured from the same proximity…Instead, to make peace with a life, to see it as art, requires a stepping back.” 

For me, the biggest takeaway from this book is the message that life doesn’t always turn out as we expect, but we should embrace the (messy) journey. God isn’t done with us yet.  If we allow him to, if we invite him in, God can take the messy, regrettable, beautiful and  heart-wrenching moments of our lives and write a story much more delightful than we could ever imagine. Wow, just wow.

Undone is set to release on March 10th.  Get a free, beautiful print download when you order @michelecushatt ‘s book #UNDONE here http://undonebook.com/get-your-free-download/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, inspiration, kids, life lessons, parenting, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Romance: It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Cookies, Love

“4 out of 9?” said my husband, “And you posted my score on Facebook?”

I giggled sheepishly, “yes, but I also said you were a good husband…”

Okay, perhaps I hadn’t thought through my comment. I’d taken one of those quizzes on Facebook, it had something to do with how romantic or considerate your mate is. In truth, his score surprised me, because in fact he can be very romantic (and I said as much in my comment). I didn’t really consider how posting his score might make him look bad. Oops!

Our world is in love with the idea of love. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we are now being inundated with visions of romance. Hearts and flowers and chocolate, oh my! But (sorry, Forrest), life is more than a box of chocolates.  So how do we define love and romance?

Beauty, Heart, Lipstick, Love

The quiz I took focused on things like opening your car door, helping you with your jacket, and kissing your forehead. These are all very nice gestures in my opinion. But they aren’t the only things.  I believe romance is in the eye of the beholder. And for me, it changes with time.

When I was a young teen, romance meant receiving a card from the boy whom I had my eye on.

When I was an older teen, romance was found in gifts of flowers and chocolate from my boyfriend.

When I was in college and dateless, romance was found in Danielle Steele novels.

As a young bride, romance meant relishing the fact that I was a newlywed and well, let’s just say that for me that was a very fun time.

Later, love meant a nice dinner out with my husband (I still like this one!).

After kids, chocolate was still appreciated (and dinner out if we could find a decent sitter) but real romance came in the form of help: helping me with the dishes, and kids and sick duty.

As my little ones became older, love was (is) watching my husband care for and interact with his daughters.  His love for them makes me love him even more.  And the years he has given them each their own flowers for Valentine’s Day-well that about melts my mama heart.  

This leaves the present. What is romantic now? I could answer this question in so many ways, but let’s just stick with…hanging out together.

With one daughter in college, one in high school and one just coming into her own in middle school, I now know time is precious. I love when my husband and I sit down and reconnect after a long day, love taking the dog for a walk together, find joy in sitting by the fire pit on a cool crisp evening.  Romantic to me is just knowing how much I still enjoy hanging out with my husband.  I’m beyond grateful for this.

Beach, Champagne, Cheers, Clink Glasses

So what is love to you?

I urge you not to get caught up in capitalist America’s vision of romance.  Your husband/significant other may not be a flowers and chocolate kind of guy, but I’ll bet he’s a good guy.  He may not be perfect but I’ll bet he’s been there for you when you needed him.  Bet he’s even put up with you when you weren’t so fun to be around.

Most of all I hope you like hanging out with him. If so, consider yourself lucky, even if he’s never, ever kissed your forehead.

 

Posted in Faith, In the Beginning, inspiration, kids, life lessons, love, marriage, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

21 Things Learned in 21 Years of Motherhood

photo courtesy of: http://blog.debutantemedia.com/social-media-safety-tips-for-parents/

22 years ago, the doctor looked me in the eye and said, “Are we happy about this?”

I could feel the heat rise to my cheeks, “Oh yes!” I answered, “It’s just a lot to take in. I mean it’s just that having a baby…it means everything will change.”

It was the understatement of the year.

This week marks my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday.  And that means I am celebrating my 21st year of motherhood.

21 years of having my heart extended beyond my own body.

21 years of love, laughter, guilt, worry, and utter amazement.

In honor of this monumental occasion, today I’m posting 21 things I have learned along the way of motherhood.   As they say, experience is the best teacher.

1-People say the darnedest (read: rudest) things to pregnant women. I once had a person rub my belly and tell me I was so tiny, only to hear minutes later from a different person that I was huge. Who ever wants to be told they are huge?

2-Having a child is an instant icebreaker.  Go anywhere with a baby and people just start talking to you or your child. It’s kind of nice.

3-There is nothing that compares to the love a mother has for a child. Nothing. Period.

4-Motherhood requires endurance. You’ll be amazed at what you can withstand when you have to, caffeine helps.

5-Happy toddlers like messes.   They like to dump and destroy; it’s best to give in to it and not worry so much about the house. Up until the time they leave for college.

6-As your child gets older, you discover you cannot always fix the pain and hurt, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes you just need to leave it be, allowing your child to learn that this too shall pass. It’s a lesson we all need to learn.

7-No amount of excrement, vomit or mucus hurtled upon you can keep you from loving your tiny bundle.  I don’t how this is, it just is.

8-Watching your baby grow is like witnessing a miracle in action.  All those tiny little parts developing and growing. Wow, it’s just incredible, isn’t it?

9-Motherhood helps you comprehend violent crime. Watch the news and you almost feel as if you truly could commit murder against anyone who hurts an innocent child.

10-Every mother has bad days. Hard days. Days that will later become war stories. Go ahead and share them, proudly, you’ve earned the right.  Share about the good days too.

11-The days are long but the years are short. I always hated when people told me this but it is true.  Try to live in the present and enjoy what is front of you.  It will soon be gone.

12-Sometimes you just need to settle for clean, happy and fed. Or even just fed.

13-Teen rebellion, be it slight or strong, is a part of growing up and becoming independent. These years are much like the terrible twos; not always fun.

14-The rebellion does end though, and then you are left with a pretty cool, smart, funny more reasonable teenager.  Good job.

15-Character matters so much more than being a good student, a star soccer player or popular at school. Instill good values and the rest will take care of itself.

16-Kids are expensive in terms of time and money. The more you put into your investment, the better the return. And really, I’m talking time here; parents have very little money anyway.

17-It’s better not to put your kids first all the time. Take care of your and your spouse’s needs first. It’s the same concept as with the oxygen masks on the plane…

18-My kids won’t tell me everything, and that’s okay.  I probably don’t need to know everything about what’s going on in their world. My parents didn’t know the half of it!

 19-The world will not fall apart if you forget about the fall fundraiser, miss turning in that permission slip, or space a dental appointment.
God is good like that; if you are at least trying, usually things work out.

20-Everyone feels like a terrible mother at least once, if not 20 billion times throughout her life.  It doesn’t mean you are; forgive yourself.

21-Parenting is much harder than you could ever imagine. It’s also so much more rewarding. And- you never, ever, feel like you know what you’re doing, or maybe that’s just me…

 

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, humor, inspiration, kids, life lessons, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Learning As I Lose

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I was a little apprehensive walking in. After all, no one knew I was coming. I’d tried to call but the phone number, like the website, was outdated.

Perhaps, I thought, there wouldn’t even be a meeting today. Perhaps the group was defunct.

Then I spotted an older woman in the parking lot.

“Hello!” I said bravely, “I’m here for the weight loss meeting, do you know anything about that?”

“Oh yes,” she answered, “me too. Come in with me, I’ll show you to the room where we meet.”

The church was old, the parlor outdated. And as I looked around, I chuckled to myself; the ladies in this room were as dated as the furniture. I was surely the youngest person by ten if not twenty years.

My thoughts were interrupted as Nancy, the woman I’d met in the parking lot, introduced me to Lou, the leader of the group. Lou was much older, how much I didn’t know, but by looking at her, I’d have guessed her to be in her seventies (turns out she is 87).

Drawing my hands into hers, Lou looked directly into my eyes, “We are so glad you came today and we hope you’ll decide to join the group.”  Her eyes danced as she winked and added, “I think you’ll find we have a lot of fun.”

Fun? What does fun look like when you are 87? I wasn’t convinced.

As we began the meeting, Lou introduced me to everyone in the group. Shyly I smiled at the ten or so ladies. Each had a greeting for me, each extended a sincere and warm smile.   Frankly it left me in a quandary. These ladies were nice and all, but I really needed a group with women my own age.

For half my life, I’ve lost and gained the same 15 pounds at least six times. And though at times I get tired of the game, I’m not giving up. I feel better, have more energy and (bonus!) my clothes fit better when I’m at a healthy weight. But recently I’ve had trouble with motivation. I decided to join a weight loss group because I needed accountability. But was this the group for me?

10 years ago I’d have walked out before I walked in, and would’ve never looked back.

But there was just something about these ladies. There was an energy in the room that intrigued me. Surely I could sit through one meeting.

I’ve been to other weight loss groups and this one is structured much the same.  We start with a weigh-in, talk about how we did and then discuss a specific strategy for staying on track.  We ended the meeting with a chant.

A chant? This is new…

The words of the chant remind everyone why we are here, why we do this, why we want to strive to stay healthy.  I am trying to follow when the lady to my left grabs my hand; soon we are all holding hands.  As we chant, one member starts a little dance, another kicks her leg up, a la can-can style.  Another one gives a courtesy.  I find myself giggling.  Cheesy?  Yes.  But does it make me smile?  Yes.  I feel a bit like a kid.

So often in life we are drawn to those who are similar to us. People of the same age, people in our same stage, people we believe we can relate to as we journey through life. But lately, I’ve been wondering: is this limiting?

Can we not learn more from those who are different from us than we can from those who are similar?

I don’t know the answer, but I know one thing. God is directing my path, and lately I’ve been paying more attention to where that path is taking me.  So in essence, I figure if He has allowed our paths to cross, well then, maybe there’s a reason.  I am striving to keep an open mind, even when things don’t seem to make sense.

And guess what? After just a month of weekly meetings, I’ve discovered I love my older lady friends.

I love their positive spirit.

I love their welcoming and non-judgmental demeanor.

I love their smiles.  

Most of all I love how they encourage me each and every week.

Am I losing weight? Yes, the weight is (slowly) coming back off.

But in truth, I’m not sure that’s why I keep showing up every week. It’s really because when I’m with these women I lose my edge.

I bear in mind that while some days are stressful, they will indeed pass.  

I remember that life is more fun if you can laugh at yourself.

I consider that while weight comes off ever so slowly as I get older, every loss (and even every non-gain) is a victory.

I’m reminded that every day is a gift, a new day to start over again.

Or, simply a time to kick up your heels and dance, a la can-can style.

 So bring on the scale, the vegetables, the workout gear. I’m ready, willing and thankfully, able.

Posted in Faith, Goals, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Rap Music, the Baby Jesus and Christmas Traditions

 xmas lights

photo courtesy of http://www.christmasquoteswallpaper.com

“OH-and tell her to bring her sugar cookies and the cheese ball!”

My youngest daughter chimed in with her sister, “And what about the Jell-O salad? We have to have the strawberry Jell-O salad!”

I was emailing my sister-in-law, responding to her offer to help with Christmas dinner. I had to smile as my daughters weighed in on what they’d like for her to bring.

I think part of the fun of the holiday season is looking forward to the traditions that go with it. There is just something about the anticipation of what we know and love, be it favorite foods or holiday music or the stockings we hang by the chimney with care.

When my girls were young, I thought a lot about what I’d like for our family traditions to be, but I soon learned this:

Traditions are born, not created.

Oh sure, I’ve consciously created a few: every year we buy presents for a family in need, I take a picture of the kids in front of the tree, and we go to church on Christmas Eve. But the traditions my children look forward to?  Well, those just sort of came to be.

-One year I bought each child an advent calendar with chocolate.  Every morning they were dying over the calendar.  So I finally caved and allowed my ruthless, hyper-excited children to eat their chocolate at breakfast. Guess what we do every year now?

-One time we watched Christmas Vacation together as a family, now we make sure to watch it every year, along with Elf and The Nativity Story (oh and my favorite: It’s A Wonderful Life).

-One year, feeling the pull to reach one of my children, I wrapped up the baby Jesus from our nativity scene and gave it to her as a gift. I included a note to remind her of the gift Jesus is to her each and every day.   I almost forgot the next year, until another child wondered out loud who would get baby Jesus that year. Now you can find our Savior under the tree every year.

But here’s my favorite:

One year a friend told me about a house in a neighborhood near ours that was decorated to the hilt. The entire house and yard were covered with lights and the lights were synchronized to music from a local radio station.   So one night we drove around until we found the house and then adjusted our radio station accordingly. Only guess what? Pouring through the speakers of our mini-van was rap music. Rap music? Well, okay, I can be open minded…

“Well this is weird,” said my husband, “are you sure this is right?”

I looked down at the post-it note where I’d scrawled down the radio station frequency.

“Yes,” I said, “this is what she said. Why would they use rap music with Christmas lights!?”

“It goes with the lights,” said my youngest daughter.

We all sat in silence, watching the lights to see if they changed along with the beat. In truth, it was kind of hard to tell. But then we heard, well, the kind of lines you hear in rap music. Lines about …well, I can’t even write it. But you know: women, guns and what you do with the both.

“Mom,” said my oldest daughter, laughing, “this can’t be right.”

Again we studied the lights, watching them bob up and down to see if they changed along with the beat. But our silence just highlighted the horrible language I was exposing my then 13, 10 and 4 year old children to.

“Well this is entirely inappropriate!” I said.   This one statement caused a round of laughter to erupt from the backseat.

“Bwwhahaha! Inappropriate!” said someone.

My husband, always the voice of reason said, “Okay, you have this wrong. I see a sign in the yard; maybe it gives the station number. Let’s pull up and we can read it.”

And there it was, a sign inviting guests to tune into 106.9, not 105.9.   My friend had given me the wrong numbers.

We turned the dial and suddenly there it was: synchronization with good old-fashioned Christmas music.   The thought that we were trying to watch Christmas lights to the beat of rap music had us all in fits. I think we laughed forever.

And thus, another holiday tradition was born. Every year we drive to the same house, watch the same show and recount how funny it was the first year we saw it.

May your holiday be merry, your tree be bright and your music be appropriately synchronized.

 

 

 

 

Posted in christmas, Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, kids, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Chocolate in the Rain: A Life-Changing Event

Hot Chocolate in the Rain: A Life-Changing Event.

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Hot Chocolate in the Rain: A Life-Changing Event

Rain-man

It was raining and we were laughing as we began our trek to the car. I was holding my coat up high over my head with one hand while the other held a cup of hot chocolate. When the light changed I began to jog across the street. My daughter yelled to me, but I didn’t answer.  The puddles were everywhere; she’d have to wait until I made it across to get my attention.

This was my mistake.

Because the next thing I knew-thud, thud, thud, thud, thud; I was rolling across the street. Shocked and confused, minutes later I stood up and said to my daughter, “I think I just got hit my a car.” As if she didn’t know. As if she didn’t try to stop me. As if she didn’t witness the entire scene.

How does one manage to get hit by a car you ask?  Standing on the street corner, when the “Walk” sign lit up, I quickly headed across due to the weather.  The rain, my coat and being blind in my left eye surely all played a part in my not seeing this car turning right and toward me.  I don’t know why the driver did not see me.  Was she texting? Was she changing her radio station?  Was her mind a million miles away?  I’ll never know because I did not ask.  I was lucky: I had no broken bones, no concussion, just a few scrapes and scratches. The chronic hip pain came later.

Driving in the rain

I’ll never forget what when through my head after I got hit by that car. I thought:

Wow, I could have died.

Wow, everything can change in an instant.

Wow, I waste a lot of life energy on stupid stuff.

Later that night, curled up on the couch in front of the fire, I decided stupid stuff does not deserve my attention. There are really only a few things in life that matter, and much that doesn’t.

An aggravating co-worker isn’t worth getting aggravated over.

A messy house matters very, very little.  It will eventually get cleaned.

A rude store clerk or customer service rep or relative is just having a bad day; it’s really not about me anyway.

Being late to church, my daughter missing the bus, over cooking the chicken for dinner: small stuff.

All of this begs the question; what does matter?  For me, and likely for you, it’s this:

Having people to love in my life. 

Having a faith that brings me hope, joy and purpose. 

Being happy and content with what I have.

End. Of. Story.  The rest is just life: it comes, it goes, it can all be gone in an instant.  It will take care of itself, one day at a time.  So worry not, and watch where you walk in the rain.

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Have your ever had a life-changing moment?  If so, how did it affect you?

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, miracles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments