More than crumbs

On the boys’ last day of school, I posted this photo on facebook and instagram:

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100+ people liked it.

I was not one of them.

When the weekend was over and the high of the first days of summer waned, I looked at this photo. I didn’t see a happy mother whose arms are full of boys. I saw make-up that needed re-touching, crow’s feet, and gray roots. I saw all that was missing. Or, what I thought was missing.

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and the first thing I had to do was step on the scale. Blerg! The numbers staring back at me were high. Higher than they have been in a long time. I texted a friend and said “Must exercise. Now.”

All of this is happening as I prep to go back to our cottage in Pentwater (where the above photo was taken ) tomorrow and spend a kid-free week (A WHOLE FREAKING WEEK!!!!!) with some girlfriends to celebrate my 40th birthday. I am hoping for some sun and naps on the beach. That will require a bathing suit and usually involves more self-loathing.

Not one of my friends will say anything to me about my appearance in my suit. And if they did, screw them. That’s not a friend! They are coming to have fun, to also have some kid-free down time, to drink wine, and laugh. As well they should. As well I should.

Not one of my friends commented on what was “missing” from the photo above. Because, nothing is missing. I am complete and whole and worthy just as I am.

So, why am I saying these things to myself? Why am I quick to uplift friends and support them unconditionally, but just as quick to tear myself down? There is a meme that circulates that says, “How you speak to your children become their inner voice.” The same applies to me.

My goal for the rest of 40 is to really focus on being kind with, and to, myself. I am worth it. I can no longer give and give to others and leave the crumbs for me. No one made me do this. No one has guilted me into acting and feeling this way. I have done this to myself, as I know many other women (especially moms) have as well. I got myself into this and it is just as important for me to dig myself back out.

Yes, I need to exercise again. But, I need to do it for me. I need to do it because it helps me mentally. I need to do it to relieve stress and have fun. Exercise is free therapy and a great salve for depression. I know this. I need to focus on this. If weight loss happens as a result, great. Just like I would say all these encouraging things to a friend, I will start saying them to myself.

Third base side

Both our boys are playing baseball this season. Here are my observations from sitting on the sidelines, freezing my buns off (it’s Michigan), cheering them on:

  1. Thank you to the numerous women (yeah! You go ladies) and men who are coaching. It is a huge time commitment and I appreciate your efforts.
  2. There is a lot of touching involved in coaching. Moving kids around, showing them how to stand, how to hold the bat, etc. The level of trust that parents have in coaches should never be understated or underestimated.
  3. If you haven’t volunteered to coach, despite the numerous requests (who are we kidding, they beg you), then you are no longer entitled to an opinion.
  4. Your role as parent is now cheerleader. Sit there and cheer. Positively.
  5. I am very, very grateful for the people in our community. I have yet to meet a jerky sports parent.
  6. Athleticism is a gift that cannot be taught. Your child either has it or he doesn’t.
  7. As early as first grade the kids know who the athletes are. So do all the parents.
  8. Hard work and sportsmanship are better measures of character than athletic ability.
  9. As third and fourth graders, kids still root for each other. “Let’s go, John!” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.
  10. Meanness is learned behavior.
  11. It’s hard when your kid strikes out.
  12. When my boys are up to bat, they look fearless yet small and it takes my breath away.

Here’s wishing for a fun, healthy, safe, season. Play ball!

The Magic of Listen To Your Mother

A fellow childhood cancer/Shave for the Brave momma introduced me to Listen to Your Mother in 2011. She participated in a show (I think it might have even been the first one in her area) and was always posting about it. I kept seeing it in her facebook and instagram feeds so one day I asked about it. She told me what it was and knew that I was beginning to blog, so she encouraged me to submit a piece. Yeah, right!

My #oneword for 2014 was risk. I took a huge one and “auditioned” for the first-ever Listen to Your Mother show in Metro Detroit. I was accepted. I read in front of 400 strangers. For five blissful and completely uninterrupted minutes I got to share my story, Luke’s story. There was a literal and figurative spotlight on childhood cancer. And, I was held. Part of the magic of LTYM is that there’s no judgement. No judgement if you ugly cry (I did in rehearsal), no judgement if you curse, no judgement over content, delivery or tone. You get to own a stage and share your story. It is completely invigorating and uplifting. LTYM helped me heal a little and it gave me more confidence as a writer.

LTYM is also scary as hell. Although blogging is very public, our words and thoughts are very private. Sharing them with the world is risky and deep down, most writers are deeply insecure.

Yesterday was the second annual LTYM show. It.was.awesome. St. Andrew’s Hall was jumping! That place was electric. And the readers and their stories were amazing. They ranged from humorous to dark, gut-wrenching to hopeful. It is an honor to bear witness to such raw emotion. I remember how absolutely terrified I was last year. I was glad that there was a full audience to support me. I am grateful that I was able to go yesterday to support this year’s group. That’s part of the magic, too. All of a sudden you are in a vulnerability/motherhood/writing/performing group that you never knew you always wanted to be in. And it’s not like the clique of plastics in high school. It’s real people. It’s your people. And, you are a member for life.

This morning I commented on the facebook page of one of this year’s performers. I said “Your piece was raw and powerful. Thank you for sharing.” She wrote back to me that my piece from last year was the one that she kept going back to for inspiration.

Wait. What? What the heck? Holy bananas!

First, what a compliment.

Second, that is very humbling and gratifying. That is why I write (I think it’s why most people write) I hope that what I put out there resonates with others. Writing also helps me feel less alone. In LTYM-speak, it’s called the “me, too” moment. Someone shares something from deep within themselves that takes your breath away and you say, “yeah, me too.” This year’s show gave me many of those moments. Very grateful.

Third, thank you for sharing that. That is something else about LTYM. You connect with other writers, bloggers, and artists, and your shared risky experience makes you feel like you know each other and then you take care of each other. She did not have to say anything back to me. I certainly wasn’t expecting her to.

Fourth, let’s spread some of that love around! Writing is risky. Auditioning for something (whether it’s LTYM or something else) is incredibly risky. It’s putting your heart and soul out there hoping and praying that it will be cared for. If there is a writer in your life, support them. Read their stuff. Don’t be stingy with love and praise. All the feels people! ALL the feels!

There are two more weekends of LTYM performances. Do yourself a favor. See if there is one in a city near you. Then, go and listen. Be moved. Be inspired. And then, call your mother.