Sunday, January 31, 2010


1 : lacking strength: as a : deficient in physical vigor : feeble, debilitated b : not able to sustain or exert much weight, pressure, or strain c : not able to resist external force or withstand attack

My recovery has not been smooth sailing. It's not been steady or easy or consistent. The first twenty-four hours were predictably rocky, followed by three tough, but not impossible days once I got the post-op nausea under control. But then... then I hit bottom. Days 6 and 7 were honestly some of the most difficult and painful days I've ever experienced. And they caught me by surprise because I thought my recovery would follow some sort of predictable pattern. It hasn't.

This has been difficult not just physically, but emotionally. I don't know how to prepare myself for what the day will hold because I don't know what the day will hold. Circumstances have made this even more challenging. Last Thursday night we got the phone call I had been dreading: the one calling off school for Friday due to an approaching winter storm. I didn't know what to expect. The after school hours were tough for me, in part because I needed to be up and moving around when the girls were home. So what would I feel like after an entire day of the four of us home alone together? I didn't really have to find out because A went to play with a friend mid-morning and J got to come home early from work (huge blessing!), so I had help starting around noon.

Then the weekend arrived and it went pretty well. I spent part of Saturday helping B bake five tiny cakes to take to a birthday party she was attending. I was on my leg a lot and it went OK. I was tired, but not in a ton of pain, by the time we finished. I was feeling pretty good. So I thought I'd be fine to handle a trip to church this morning, followed by a visit from a friend.

Ummm, no. The car ride to church was tough. At this point, there is no comfortable way to sit in a car because my leg can't bend and just hangs there unsupported for the entire time. So a twenty minute car ride left me tired. And then I had to do it again in two hours to get home. I canceled our plans with friends in order to take a much needed nap, which I hoped would improve my mood, decrease my pain level and increase my emotional stability.

All was well until I received a call from the school system... canceling school for tomorrow. I cried. And I felt selfish for crying. I want to be happy that I get more time with my daughters, not fearful of how the day will go, anxious about my pain management and overwhelmed by the thought of ten hours alone with them while J is at work.

Let's be honest: I don't want to feel weak. Even though I am still "lacking strength," I want to be able to do more. I am tired of asking others to help me. I wrote a post for a friend's blog yesterday about perfection not being my goal as a mom. I still believe all of what I wrote yesterday. I'm not asking for perfection. I just want to be able to get myself a glass of water, make lunch for my daughters and be able to function independently again. Please?

Friday, January 29, 2010


1 : fully apprehended

My eldest daughter A read a book called Understood Betsy not long ago. I read about it over here and requested it from the library for her. When she finished it and I asked her if she liked it, she told me, "It might be my favorite book ever, Mom." This child, who reads an average of more than three books weekly, is not quick to deem a book her favorite. I mentally added it to my to-read list. And one thing that recovering from surgery affords you is time to read (once the pain medications aren't needed quite so regularly). While I loved the book, from its writing style to its characters to the character development, what I want to ponder here for a moment is the concept of being understood because I've been learning a lot about whether I really want to be "fully apprehended" or not.

I think most of us would be quick to say that we want to be understood. We want others to know us, whether they are our spouse, our friends, our children. But do we truly want to be fully known? I ask this question of you - and myself - during a time when I've been forced to be a bit more real than I've really like. Surgery will do that to you.

I want my husband to see me as beautiful, desirable, capable, loving, a good cook, funny, etc. I do not want him to see me laid up in the bed, hobbling around the house, doubled over in pain, weepy with discouragement. Ahhh, but he has witnessed all of this and more in recent days. And you know what? He loves me still. I do think he knows more about me than he did a week or ten days ago. I think he understands me better than he did before we had to walk this road. But I'd admit it wasn't fun. It wasn't fun to have a friend sweep my kitchen floor, vacuum popcorn from my rugs and venture into my basement to start a load of laundry. I don't know about you, but my basement is not a place that is visitor-ready. I wasn't thrilled to throw those masks to the ground.

In thinking about this, I realized that I live much of my life like an orphan. I carry around a backpack full of the things I can do for people to make them like or love me. And when that backpack is empty - because I am empty - I am terrified that their love for me will vanish. I am fearful that when I am fully understood, I will be fully rejected. I see my backpack full of gifts and skills as my tickets to entry, not as my inheritance from my heavenly father.

In Understood Betsy, Betsy's understanding of herself is shaped strongly by those around her. When she is surrounded by fearful, timid people, she takes on these traits. But when sent to live with a family whose members are each comfortable in their own skins, she learns to stop and listen to her own mind, to question her heart before acting.

So I'm left with questions, not answers to what it means to be understood. Am I surrounding myself with others who understand themselves? Am I working to be understood even within myself so that I offer my children support and encouragement in learning who they really are? Am I a loving mother no matter what my children do or say? Can they take their masks off with me? Am I turning often enough to the One who fully apprehends not just who I am, but who I was made to be, who I will become?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


1 a : the act of recommending

Yesterday, my sister-in-law asked me for book recommendations for a third grade girl she knows. She was asking specifically about two series (Harry Potter and Inkheart), but I had so much fun cataloging favorites from A & B that I thought I would share our family recommendations. You may have read many - or all - of these. Feel free to share your own favorites with us in the comments because we're always looking for new books that can become old favorites.

Few things give me as much joy as sharing a good book with friends, so I hope you and your family will enjoy a few of these books - and think of the Trusses as you do!

Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti - I'm not quite sure where or how we acquired this book, but our family loves it. A, B and K have each in turn asked for this book to be read to them and while it's a bit heavy handed with the equality of the parenting roles, it is great to read a book where the dad cooks the dinner, gives the bath and tucks the child in for bed. Instead of a book that makes a really big point of having the dad play an active role, this book takes it for granted that Cory's dad is an involved one.

Llama Llama Red Pajama - I absolutely love to read this book aloud. The rhythm and cadence make it easy to get into as the reader and by the time baby llama is weeping and wailing, I am too! This book was cemented as a favorite when B's theater camp performed this book a few summers ago and we got to see her joy in this fun book.

Guess How Much I Love You - When I asked J for books to add to this list, he requested this one. Someone gave it to us after A was born and it's been one of his favorites ever since. He loves that the dad is the one bantering back and forth about how much he loves his child and the illustrations and word pictures in this book are lovely and soothing, making it a perfect bedtime read.

Fox in Socks - It's hard to pick just one Dr. Seuss book, isn't it? But if you think reading about tweedle beetles isn't fun, that's only because you haven't tried it...

Harold and the Purple Crayon - This book used to be one of A's favorites. It's just the kind of book my children love because it's as imaginative as they are. I include it here for its lovely, clever language and the beautiful ending image of Harold, "drawing up the covers."

Ruby's Wish - A book that I can not read aloud without crying. This book, based on a true story, follows Ruby as she grows up in China with her numerous cousins. They all move on to other things, but Ruby loves to learn and keeps up her studies even while learning to run a household and doing domestic chores. The scene where her grandfather presents her with admission to college never fails to choke me up and make me thankful for all of the opportunities my daughters have.

Ish - A book that could almost serve as the mission statement for our family. Ramon's love of drawing, his discouragement and the eventual re-ignition of his gift is a wonderful story. I've written about this book before, but it continues to be an important one for me. I want to encourage others in their gifts, like Ramon's sister and I want to see my own work through an "ish" lens, not the lens of perfectionism.

The Time Warp Trio - B was slower to fall in love with reading than A. While A could read most anything by the time she started kindergarten, it was the summer between first and second grade when B decided that not only could she read, she wanted to read. This series is one of the first I remember her truly enjoying. We checked out one or two each time we went to the library until she had read them all. While she has moved on to bigger, better books, I think this series will always hold a special place in her heart (and in mine, for the memories it conjures).

Little House on the Prairie - A is a big fan of historical fiction, so she's read all of these books and she recently bought a used copy of a book of Wilder's letters. A says that she likes this series because "they tell you how life was back then and I like to know what my super-great grandparents went through."

Anne of Green Gables - A likes the Anne is a really spunky girl who is different than girls were expected to be back then. Anne is so different and you just can't not love her. Not long ago, I re-read the first book in this series and it was like meeting an old friend who hadn't changed a bit. Anne is, in my opinion, one of the best fictional characters ever created. I see glimmers of her in each of my daughters and I hope that never changes!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - When A brought this huge book home from the library in second grade, she assured me, "Mom, it's not as big as it looks. There are lots of pictures." She was right about that. There are lots of pictures and unlike any other book that I know of, in this book the drawings don't merely illustrate the story, they tell the story. I read this book not long after A, as did J & B. We all loved it.

Nancy Drew - According to 10 year old A, "Nancy is a really curious girl whose mother died when she was really young. Nancy started out with smaller cases and they gradually evolved into big, dangerous cases." As someone who read a fair amount of Nancy Drew books myself, it's great to see that these books are just as entertaining to my own daughters. Nancy continues to be a strong, smart influence on young girls.

A Wrinkle in Time - This classic series is about a girl named Meg and her family is as good now as it was when I read it back in middle school. It will make you think, make you feel and make you want to read the next in the series!

Happy Hollisters & Tom Swift - These are two series that J enjoyed as a child. He's shared a few of them with the girls, who have also found them good. B in particular likes the Happy Hollisters and they are good, clean books to let your children read.

The Secret Garden and The Little Princess - I still own my copies of these two books from when I was a little girl. These quintessential girl books are true classics. Encourage your daughter(s) to read them. Read them aloud. Re-read them yourself. They speak to the heart of what it means to be a girl. (And don't bother with the new movie version - it totally changed the book!)

Bridge to Terabithia - A's third grade teacher gave her entire class a copy of this book before the summer break. A says that this book really shows how much people can love one another and how friendship can change lives. I read this book for the first time in fourth grade and it was my first-ever "favorite book." The movie changed this book a bit, but stayed true to the feel and intent of the book, so it would be a great follow-up after reading the book together.

Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose - Fern can talk to plants and animals and it's cool because that talent has been in her family for years. B liked this book enough to share it with a friend (always a good sign). B is a fan of imaginative fiction, so a book with a character who has a special talent is especially intriguing to her.

The Report Card - A friend of B's told her about Andrew Clements' books and this was one of her favorites. In this book, a girl tries to act not-so-smart even though she is super-duper smart and she used her smarts to offend a friend. In telling me about this book, B wants to read it again - a pretty sure sign that it's a good book. In general, she likes that Clements' books are funny, but realistic fiction.

Peter & The Starcatchers - This series tells how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. While I went back and read the original Peter Pan before starting the series, that wouldn't be at all necessary. A & B read the series before me and enjoyed the adventures of Peter and his friends. These books aren't scary for second grade and up and they are a fun imagining of a prequel to a classic tale.

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief - J & I first read these books and shared them with A. A says that she likes this series because they talk about the Greek myths and they show the Greek gods in a modern time view. B started studying Greek mythology this month and she has been really enjoying these books as well. For my part, I love that these books taught me about the minor Greek mythology characters and that Percy and his friends feel like actual kids, not big, tough heroes.

The Sisters Grimm series - This series once got A into trouble. One day when she was in second grade, I stopped by her classroom a few minutes after school had started to bring her a sweater. As I watched from the doorway, she pulled out a book from this series and read while her teacher was instructing the class. Needless to say, this did not please me. That book went back to the library unfinished and it was several months before I allowed her to check the book out again and finish it. A likes that these books tell about fairy tales and the main characters are gradually growing up during the series.

Tales of the Frog Princess series - B likes these books because they are funny, magical and fairy tale-like. They aren't scary, but the princess gets grossed out because she has to eat flies. For a slightly sassy take on fairy tales, this series is a good choice.

Goose Girl - A loves that this book takes a fairy tale and makes it into a long story. Goose Girl is part of a trilogy of books set in fictional Bayern and each one reads like a long, modernized fairy tale. The characters have special talents and the reader gets to see the characters grapple with both the blessing and the challenge of being special.

Artemis Fowl series - B liked this series enough to name her monarch butterfly after the main character. (The butterfly tried to escape and Artemis is apparently an escape artist.) B says that she likes that these books aren't real and she thinks that boys would really like these books since they always want to be a villain or super-hero.

Danger Boy - B likes this series because the boy can go back in time with his hat. In the first book she read, he goes back to Alexandria, Egypt and it's funny because a dinosaur that can talk shows up. His dad built a time machine but he didn't know it was a time machine, so he sent his son back in time accidentally.

Gregor the Overlander series - This is another series that A read before I did. I think I may have enjoyed the series more than she did and I'll encourage her to give it another try in a few years. I loved that this series was adventurous, fast-paced and unexpected. Since it features some pretty creepy characters as central to the plot line (rats, bats, cockroaches), it might be a good choice for boys who want to avoid reading anything girly. This series is not girly at all, but is action-packed and otherworldly.

Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians - B was the first person in our family to read this book. She likes that Alcatraz got a special set of glasses that allow him to understand any language because she would like to have glasses like that.

So what are some of your favorites???

Saturday, January 23, 2010


1 : the act or state of expecting : anticipation

As I've prepared for, undergone and begun recovering from my surgery, I've thought a lot about expectations. On Tuesday, I found out that my surgery the next day had been moved from a 3 pm surgery time to an 11 am start time. This news felt like a gift for several reasons:
1) J and I were still able to take the girls to school Wednesday morning, so no extra arrangements were needed
2) I was due at the hospital at 8:30 instead of 12:30, meaning I had far less time to W A I T that morning
3) the onset of a caffeine deprivation headache was averted by pre-op IV medicines

But the real gift was that an earlier surgery time exceeded my expectations. I had prepared myself for a long morning. I was planning to take the girls to school, send J off to work, do some yoga and distract myself from food or water for the remaining three or four hours. So it was a huge boon to be able to get right to the surgery first thing in the morning.

Shortly before I got the call from the scheduler moving my surgery up, I spoke with a friend who gently cautioned me on my own post-surgical expectations. This friend has undergone surgeries more serious and extensive than mine and she's had to rely on the help of others far more than she would like to. So she cautioned me to be careful about setting my own expectations that I'll be completely recovered and ready to go two weeks after this surgery. She said that if I keep telling myself two weeks and it takes two and a half weeks or three weeks, I'll feel like a failure.

She's right. When the doctor told me that I can't drive for two to four weeks, I planned for two weeks of transportation for my girls and I somewhat grudgingly accepted two weeks worth of meals for my family. So what happens when I hit day 15 and I'm still on pain meds and can't drive yet? I'll have to swallow my pride (yet again) and ask for help for a bit longer, feeling like a failure as I do so. I have tried - and am trying - to take my friend's advice and adjust my own expectations. I hope that I can graciously accepted help offered, humbly ask for the help needed and make peace with myself when I don't meet my own expectations.

In fact, I think that failing to meet our own expectations is often our greatest hurdle. On some level, we expect others to fail us. At least, I do. I've spent a good portion of my life guarding my heart from the pain of unmet expectations. And I'm trying to tear down those guards so that I can truly live and fully experience life's good and bad moments. This causes some pain.

Other people don't love my children the way I do. They don't see my daughters as the talented, creative, expressive, exuberant people that they are. Instead, they see the surface of who they are. This saddens me because I want more for them. I want unconditional love to be what my girls know - from their parents and from others. But this expectation is unrealistic. I'll just have to love them the best I can.

And even in this, I must adjust my expectations. I expect to be able to give my children my attention, my love, my time. And I'm frustrated when I must funnel my energy and concentration to something as basic as walking down the hallway without falling down. After all, what will they think of their mother as she hobbles around? Maybe it will make them lower their expectations of me, which could be a good thing, since I will inevitably fail them.

Hopefully it will make me treasure the moments of sitting with them in their beds, reading with them in my lap or playing with them on the floor when I can do those things again. Maybe this time of failing to meet my own expectations will give me new eyes to see. And maybe those new eyes will see not only others, but myself with a wash of grace to flow over the unmet expectations.

artwork by B, age 7

Monday, January 18, 2010


: the act or process of making or carrying out plans

I've done nearly all that I can do.
Rides are mostly arranged to and from school.
The house is cleaner than I normally have it.
Every scrap of laundry is washed.
Teachers have been notified of craziness to come.
Backpacks have been loaded with lists of who to look for each day after school.
Sandwiches are made.
Meals are coming.
Girls have been prepped for the need to do more for themselves, with less complaining.

And yet.

I know I've missed some thing. Many things. Because all of the planning in the world can't take care of every circumstance our family will face in the next week or two. At some point, the planning has to intersect with faith.
Faith that our friends will fill the gaps.
Faith that work will slack off enough for J to take care of not only three daughters, but an incapacitated wife.
Faith that my body will heal quickly and I will be able to drive after two weeks, not four.
Faith that this timing, this surgery, this inconvenience will teach me something I need to learn about empathy, humility and more.
Faith that I will survive and thrive after this surgery that is, after all, the removal of a benign mass, not a malignant one.
And I do have faith in these things. I've even had signs that my faith will be rewarded via e-mails from two friends who read and enjoy this blog. The timing of receiving these message within 24 hours of each other made me feel like God knows I'm discouraged and fearful. He used these women to comfort me. And so I keep planning, but with faith that where my planning leaves off, all will still be well.

Friday, January 15, 2010


1 a : carry out, apply (practice what you preach)

I am finding out that it's much easier to write about something than to do it. I had really been pondering the importance of receiving earlier this month and now I find myself confronted with the reality of needing help.
I'm having surgery on my leg next week and it's difficult to know exactly what recovery will look like and how it will impact our family. J and I tried to decide whether we thought we should ask others for help. We were torn between wanting to do for ourselves what we can and being realistic about our limitations. In some instances, we just can't avoid asking for help: J can't drive me to the hospital, wait during my surgery and simultaneously pick up the girls from school. But could we manage cooking our own meals? Would I really not be able to stand for long enough to cook?

I still believe what I wrote two weeks ago about how selfish it can be to refuse the help of others, but I do not like to ask for help. So I called a trusted, wise friend and asked her what she thought. Did she really think I would need help with meals? Her answer was a quick and unequivocal yes. She told me that there were plenty of people who would welcome the opportunity to do this for us. When I pointed out that she's not so keen on asking for help herself, she said, "Yes, but luckily right now we're talking about you, not me!" I would generally describe this friend as one of the most encouraging women I've ever known, but she definitely took the tough love approach with me on this question.

So I sent her some names of friends who might be willing to care for our family in this way. To my amazement, the list filled up in less than 24 hours. Now that it's taken care of, I'm really thankful to not have to worry about that part of the two weeks following my surgery. Because as I truly begin to contemplate living in a home with steep basement stairs and an upstairs master bedroom while in a knee brace, it's not looking so easy. A friend suggested I can sit down on the stairs and back my way up to our bedroom, like a toddler might. But the laundry will have to wait, or be done by an already over-worked husband when he gets home in the evenings. Because I am fairly certain there will be no navigating those stairs until I get an all clear from the doctor.

Even as I sit here typing, my legs are bent. How will I sit comfortably for two weeks with a straight leg? It's a little overwhelming and I don't want to let that show because my daughters are worried enough about their mom having surgery. While I have assured them that I will be OK, they're worried about my comfort and the process. K asked me if I would have wires attached to me, she asked whether I'll have to be in a hospital bed, then asked if they will have the sides up on the bed so that I don't fall out, she asked whether they sometimes hurt you at the hospital... she asked questions and more questions. And I did all that I can to reassure her, but how can I know what it will be like?

My pride makes me want to navigate all of this with just the help of my immediate family. If I'm too tired to cook, it won't kill my children to eat cereal for a night. If it hurts too much to drive, A will survive missing a dance class or two. And I can just apologize to J for the inconvenience and extra work while he carts laundry up and down the stairs. But I know deep in my heart that this is not the best way to approach things. Because while it would be easier (in a way) on me, it would be far more disruptive for my daughters. They'd not only have a tired mom, but a grumpy one because I would have to spend my available energy on running our household, not loving them.

For the record, I am truly thankful for the many people who are willing to help us. I just wish I hadn't been given this opportunity to put my words into practice. I'll be careful what I write about from now on...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


:my top ten books of 2009, by special request of a friend

Over coffee with a friend last night, she shared that she's been waiting for me to post about the best books I read in 2009. Never one to refuse a request to chat about books, here are the ten books that touched me most with a brief explanation of why. You can click on the link of each book title to read my original Goodreads review, which will give you more detail on how I felt about these books immediately after finishing them.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - simply put, this is the best book I've read in the last five years, possibly in the last ten years. I love the characters, I love the story, but most of all I love the writing. This book, more than any other single book, has made me long to tell a story and it has given me the challenge to tell the story in any way the story demands.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - a well-written, suspenseful book. The subject matter is not for the faint of heart, but I loved the three separate story lines and their surprising endings.

The Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins - this series is more juvenile fiction than young adult fiction, so I read the entire series in less than a week, I think. But I loved the world Collins created and the way she used creatures I prefer not to contemplate (cockroaches, rats, etc.) and made me see through their exteriors to their character. These books made me long to see people differently and who wouldn't want to read books that make you feel that way?

A Breath of Snow & Ashes by Diana Gabaldon - I'm a bit surprised at myself that this book makes my top ten of 2009 because it's not brilliant, it's not heart breaking, it's not highly innovative, it doesn't inspire my writing. But it's here because long ago I fell in love with Claire and Jamie and I love them still. I do want to someday create characters who populate someone else's mind the way Claire and Jamie live in mine.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley - this is the first graphic novel I've ever read, but it makes the top ten because I loved its way of telling a coming of age story. This book did such a good job of taking me elsewhere - to Paris, to my own waning days in college and the fears I had, to where I once was.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh - this book spoke my heart more clearly than I can speak it myself. It's a book I'll read again and again. It's wise. It's insightful. It's encouraging. All without being pretentious.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery - this book is in my top ten because re-reading it reminded me that book characters are like best friends from childhood who never change. Anne was just like I remembered her and I loved her just as much as I did when I was 12. It doesn't get much better than that.

The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan - this series makes the list for two main reasons: 1) it's fun for the whole family (everyone except K has read these books) and 2) they made Greek mythology come alive for me and taught me about not only the gods, but the minor characters I'd never heard of.

The Alcatraz Series by Brandon Sanderson - I do not often read books that make me laugh. This list contains books about the holocaust, murders and atrocities. Alcatraz is none of these things. But I laughed aloud as I read it and I relished reading a book written by someone who clearly loves books as much or more (is that truly possible?) than I do.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave - I debated about whether to include this book or The Mysterious Benedict Society. I ultimately chose this one because I'd like to write like Chris Cleave does in this book. I'd like to fully inhabit a character so well that I can tell her story unflinchingly.

Notably did not make my cut:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - the happy ending just did not cut it for me - there's no way these events don't have some fallout in the lives of the main characters
Graceling by Kristen Cashore - this book and it's prequel just left me with such a distaste for Cashore's bias against marriage that it tinges my memory of the book with sadness and frustration
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - the sequel was so far below this one that it brought this book down a notch in my estimation

While I love little more than reading, talking about and writing about books, I'd love to hear what books you read and loved in 2009. Are there some I missed? Do you hate some of the books I loved? Go ahead and tell me. I can take it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


2 a : removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing

I get headaches. Painful headaches that throb beneath the surface of my skull, making every little thing difficult. When these headaches arrive, nothing seems to really help. A nap might help temporarily. A cup of hot coffee might provide a few moments relief. But these headaches scoff at painkillers. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve. Nothing makes a dent. So when a friend mentioned an acupuncturist that has really been able to help her, I thought I would give it a try. At the time, I was having a lot of pain in my wrist in addition to the chronic headaches and back pain. So I gave it a try. And it's amazing to me that needles - something we often associate with pain infliction - can provide such pain relief.

I've been going to see Dr. Ly for a few months now. We've had sessions where he worked on my wrist, my back and my headaches, sometimes focusing on one area, sometimes addressing all three. But each session provides not only pain relief, but stress relief. Unlike western medicine, where we spend a bit of time in a doctor's office and then take prescribed drugs in the midst of the hurry and haste of our daily lives, a trip to the acupuncturist is almost as relaxing as a massage, with more lasting health benefits. I think this is partly because while receiving the treatment you must lie completely still.

I was amazed during my first visit that not only do the needles not hurt, I can't even really feel them. Unless I move. If I move, it changes the angle of the needle. So I lie very still. I think. I pray. I visualize the pain flowing through my body, into the needles and leaving my body. I relax. I wait. It's as much spiritual relief as physical relief. Because I know these sessions are good for my body. I know they help ease my pain. So I'm not haranguing myself with all of the things I should be doing instead of relaxing during a treatment.

Today as I laid on the table, I thought about how many of our fears about a practice like acupuncture are the same fears we experience in our everyday lives. We avoid acupuncture out of false perceptions of the pain of needles or a lack of knowledge about it. How often do we avoid growth opportunities in our own lives for the very same reasons? I've ignored opportunities for fear of failing. I've stayed home for fear of exposure. I'm shamed to think of the experiences I have missed out on, the things I haven't learned or done, because I am afraid to try. I'm afraid that trying might hurt. And it might. No one will tell you that failure is fun, but sometimes the pain is worth it. Sometimes a needle placed in just the right spot can relieve pain that you've carried for so long you don't even notice it anymore. And sometimes a failure at just the right time can spur you on to bigger and better things - those your soul longs to do.

So I'm hoping that 2010 will bring not just relief of my pain, but relief from the pressure I put on myself to do everything right the first time. I hope 2010 will bring a willingness to take risks in the hope of learning greater things. And I hope I'll take my own path to these things, not staying on the safe sidewalks, but exploring the uncharted areas that hold pain and lessons.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


1 a: a stage in the process of growing
c : progressive development

I think I've grown as a mother while my children have grown. I'll be honest: toddlerhood was tough for me. My girls seemed to want more that I had to give - more attention, more imagination, more words, more, more, more. And I was constantly exhausted, often overwhelmed, sometimes impatient, rarely joyful. I wondered why I was a mother, if it left me feeling this way.

But I've grown. Time with my daughters often energizes me instead of depleting me. I learn from them, laugh with them, take joy in them. It's not that I'm a completely new person. I'm still an introvert. There are still only so many words I can utter in a day. I do get tired. But I know myself better than I used to. I try not to feel guilty for feeding my soul: taking quiet moments while the girls are at school, reading a book to relax, taking time to write down the thoughts circling in my mind. Because I've found if I take care of myself, I have a full tank of energy to spend on my girls and J.

I'm encouraged to see myself growing in this way. I got a glimmer of my growth over fall break, when the week was wonderful instead of torture. School breaks have always been a mixed bag for me. I enjoy getting to sleep in, bake with the girls and hang out together. But a day or two of that was about all we could handle before the kids got antsy and the mom got impatient. Fall break this year was nothing like that. Instead, it was a great time together, full of relaxation and fun outings. While I wasn't sad for them to go back to school, I wasn't ready to ship them off two days into break either.

Then Christmas Break arrived, bringing with it nearly three weeks of downtime, visiting family members and holiday craziness, all of which went far better than I could have anticipated. The girls started back to school on a Tuesday and promptly received a reprieve in the form of snow days on Thursday and Friday. In years past, this would have been a recipe for disaster. Two days back in school followed by two days off? I barely had time to squeeze in a doctor's visit and get the house clean before they were back home again! But I've loved every minute of it.

Some of this growth may be attributable to our girls growing up. They play together and apart, they self-entertain, they read and then read some more. But it's also that their mom is growing up and growing into her role. I remember when A & B were young and I was pregnant with K. A mom whose children were in college shared that she thought different moms enjoyed different phases of parenting. While she didn't love pre-school motherhood, she had loved parenting teenagers. I can remember clinging to this concept through the hard days of three toddlers' constant demands on my time and energy. I'm thankful to find I've hit my stride as a mom before the teen years are upon us and that I'm truly enjoying parenting my daughters. And as I head into a year when I want change to be my watchword, I need to encourage myself that I have already changed and that I can continue to change and grow into the person I want to be.

Friday, January 8, 2010


2 b : contented well-being (a life of ease and comfort)
3 : a satisfying or enjoyable experience

Yesterday was a great day. Unlike many Nashvillians who stocked up on eggs and milk before the blizzard that wasn't, we prepared by heading to the downtown library and loading up on books and DVDs. This served us well and kept us warm, well-read and happy. So I was planning for more of the same on Snow Day #2 (that's right, less than an inch of snow gets you two days out of school in Nashville - eat your hearts out midwesterners)... until an acquaintance on Facebook asked how so many moms were loving having their kids at home when she had used all of the tricks in her proverbial hat on Snow Day #1. Another mom suggested sledding at a golf course in our neighborhood. It got the kids out of house and made the day go smoothly. So plans were made. They e-mailed a handful of moms and encouraged us to invite anyone who might be interested to join them for sledding .

Now, I would have been far more comfortable staying home. The girls didn't fight a lot yesterday. We still had unread books. The Iliad had chapters left to go. And I would have been safely within my own emotional comfort zone by staying home. I knew a few of the moms going, but I don't know the organizers particularly well. Still, they are both women that I would love to know better. And my word for this year is supposed to be change. And I decided change isn't truly possible if I'm staying in my comfort zone. I'm going to have to step out on a limb or two if I want to change and if I want to embrace the changes coming my way.

I realize that it may not sound like a big step to some of you: I bundled up my children and took them sledding with a group. Is this really a big change? No, it's not a big change. But it is a change. I've never been sledding in my life (not a lot of snow in southern Alabama). I didn't know these women well. It was cold outside (my toes were frozen by the time we left). It would have been far easier to stay at home, in my comfort zone.

But I found along the way that sometimes a satisfying or enjoyable experience (see definition of comfort above) is found outside of your comfort zone. The girls had a great time today - each for different reasons. A and K didn't end up staying very long to sled. K had worn plenty of layers (as I was instructed by her Wisconsinite father) but she's tiny. She was also terrified of the dogs that two families had brought along, friendly though the dogs were and wasn't too keen on the thrill of jetting down a golf cart path on a cardboard box.

A went down the hill a few times with her friend, but was more than happy to head home with said friend while we continued to play. She and her friend E feasted on grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and cookies, then watched a movie. It was a very grown up snow day for my ten year old.

B, on the other hand, loved the sledding. This didn't come as a huge surprise, in spite of her initial complaints that we couldn't sled on cardboard and that she didn't want to wear more than one layer. If it's at all adrenalin inducing, B loves it. She and I have agreed to parachute together to celebrate her 21st birthday, in part because I figure this will keep her feet on the ground until then. And while A is an introvert, who was thrilled to find one good friend attending our outing, B had a half-dozen friends there and was thrilled to run up the hill and slide down again with a various assortment of girls.

So I found myself having a very satisfying and enjoyable experience out there on the hill of a golf course, in the cold. Because today reminded me that when I'm willing to step out of my comfort zone and attempt change, I get something better than mere comfort.


2 : a set of instructions for making something from various ingredients
3 : a formula or procedure for doing or attaining something

I posted yesterday on my food blog about our snow day. In case you missed it, head over there to read it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


2 a: marked by kindness and courtesy
: graceful
c: marked by tact and delicacy : urbane
3: merciful , compassionate

A's name means gracious. Given our own lack of dancing ability, J and I could not possibly have known when we named her that she would be a born dancer, whose body is graceful and who uses that gift of a graceful body to honor God through dance. I hope she will retain this gift throughout her life and that her life will also be marked by the other meanings of her name. I hope she will be kind, courteous, merciful and compassionate.

A turns 10 today. This time last year, it struck me that we were halfway through our time with her living in our home permanently. She's now a mere eight years from college, and if the last ten years are any indication, the next eight are likely to fly by. And who will A be by then? In many ways, she still has many of the traits we saw in her as a baby: she's quiet, learns quickly, is very observant, seems older than her age and loves books. But we've learned other things about A as she's grown that we didn't anticipate.

A was the one who knew she was a dancer. When she was 3, she started asking to take dance. I enrolled her in a six week program at a local YMCA and thought that would be the end of that. She seemed to enjoy it, but didn't rave about it. A few months after that ended, she started asking again to take dance. I resisted for a while, then decided a summer camp was a good way to test it out. If she still wanted to dance after 5 days of doing it everyday, then I would commit to finding an after-school class for her.

I'll admit I was hoping she would drop this idea, that dance would seem unappealing after a while. I didn't like the vibe at her summer camp. The parents and instructors weren't warm and it wasn't a place I felt welcome. I also worried (and worry) that dance and ballet can contribute to a negative body image. A did not care about any of that. As soon as the camp was over, she started asking to take more ballet.

I'm sure God led us to Rejoice because he knew I would pull A out of ballet at the slightest provocation. Instead of being a place where the parents sized up each other and mentally jockeyed their daughter for position, Rejoice discouraged parents from watching during class, making it easy for me to let A do it her way. At the recital that first year, not one child had on make-up. I'm not sure I can articulate how important this was to me. That we were there to watch our children dance, not paint them like dolls, was paramount to me embracing A's love of this art form.

I'm so grateful that my graceful, gracious daughter knew her own heart and pursued dance. I've prayed since she was young that she would know there is more to her than a quick mind. I think ballet gives her a balance in her life and encourages her to graciously embrace others' passions. J and I didn't believe in God when A was born, so it's a special blessing that God led us to give her a perfect name before we even knew him. I love you, my gracious daughter. Happy birthday.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


1 : coming into possession of : acquiring
3 a : permitting to enter : admitting b : welcoming, greeting c : reacting to in a specified manner

It's amazing how sometimes a thought will bounce around in my mind until it crystallizes into the lesson I need to learn. God clearly thinks I need to learn about receiving, because I've had more than one instance to ponder what this looks like in my life and what it means for me to receive graciously and thankfully.

I spent Tuesday of last week thinking about how nice it was to receive: my daughters and I spent the day with a friend and her children. That was a gift in and of itself, but my friend made chili for us for lunch as well. Later that evening, our family joined another family for dinner and my kind friend's husband prepared a fabulous meal for us all. Since my daughters got their own breakfast, Tuesday was a rare treat: a day where I did not prepare a single meal. Even better, I was fully aware of the gift that this was. After a holiday season spent preparing food for my family big and small, I was especially grateful to spend one day receiving food that was good for my body and my soul.

Later in the week, I hurt my back when reaching for a napkin. It wasn't a heavy napkin, I wasn't twisting my body or contorting to reach - it was a perfectly normal movement that happened to send shooting pains through my back and keep my lower back in spasms for days. I've had this type of thing happen before and it scares my daughters: they don't like seeing me hurt. Last night, I was heading to bed early, the pain management having left me exhausted even after a day of little activity. So A & K came upstairs to check on me and decided to tuck me into bed instead of me putting them to bed. They each held my hand and prayed for me, kissed me and pulled the sheets up to my chin. As J left the room, I said, "It was almost worth hurting my back to get that."

Then today at church, we were talking about what it means to really love people. What does that look like? Where does it come from within us? And someone shared that he had recently read something that talked about how the only way we can love others is by loving ourselves first. Only by meeting our own needs can we have the spiritual and emotional reserves to meet the needs of others. His statement immediately took me to my thoughts on receiving and how blessed it was to receive food from my friends and care from my family this week.

I could easily have refused these gifts. I could have insisted on bringing dessert, if not a side dish. I could have pushed through the pain to put my daughters to bed. But you know what? I needed to receive. It was better for me to accept these loving gifts that came my way. I think sometimes we are selfish in a refusal to receive the offerings of others. Because we want to make it about how strong we are, how capable we are, how self-sufficient we are. We want to be the ones to help, not be helped. We not only refuse the gifts our friends and family offer, but the gifts our God offers - of his love, his peace, his comfort.

So I love that the definition of receive is not just to acquire, but to welcome, to greet. I don't intend to turn into someone who takes, takes, takes. But I do want to receive with open arms, open heart and open mind the gifts my loving friends, family and God send my way.

Friday, January 1, 2010


1 a : to make different in some particular : alter
b : to make radically different : transform
c : to give a different position, course, or direction to

A few days ago, I read this blog post about someone who wants 2010 to be the year of Yes for her. The post itself and her reasons for making this the year of Yes are good ones. More importantly, it made me think about what I want 2010 to be for me. The word that came to my mind almost immediately was Change. I want 2010 to be the year of Change.

In many ways, it will be a year of change, whether I wish it or not: eldest daughter A will begin middle school at another public magnet school, a public neighborhood school or in our home. I've been praying for months that I would be open to whatever direction we are pointed in for A's schooling. I daydream about homeschooling her - writing alongside her, sharing my favorite subjects, investigating her many thoughtful questions, convincing her that she can handle and master even the subjects she doesn't like. But I know homeschooling would not be a dream. And I'm not sure I'm cut out for the reality of it. Change is coming. Which direction will it take us?

While a new school for A is a somewhat scary change, we also know that desirable changes await our family. In less than a week, J and I are meeting with an interior designer about ideas for a new kitchen. I love our 80 year old home with its foibles, personality and old-fashioned layout. But I don't particularly love my kitchen that has 5 doorways (yes 5!), very little counter space and a black and white kitchen floor that shows every speck of dirt. So I'm thrilled to make some changes that will alter the look, feel and functionality of our kitchen.

Spring is always a season of growth and 2010 will bring personal growth and change. In March, I'll give my final gift to our current church and speak at our women's retreat. My insides tremble with nervousness at the thought of this new direction and the vulnerability that will be required for me to do this job well. I'm hopeful that late spring will bring clarity, direction and renewed energy in our search for a new church home that meets the needs of each member of our family.

I think the most exciting thing for me as I think about the changes that I know are coming in 2010 is my heart's acceptance of and excitement for change. As an introvert, I'm slower to want big, shake-your-life up changes than my extrovert husband. But this year, I long to be "radically different," to be "transformed." I want to be stronger, bolder, more me than I have ever been before. And I know from experience that I'll have to remind myself that I'm not the scared little girl, the unlovable daughter, the failure waiting to happen that I used to be.

So here's to 2010 and the changes it will bring. What do you want your 2010 to be?

Image is White Center by Mark Rothko