Category Archives: motherhood

timshel

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Thou Mayest…

Freewill…

This brings SO many thoughts and feelings to my mind.

My tatoo

For a long time now, my youngest sons – twins, Caleb and Aaron – and I have been talking about getting coordinating tattoos. We discussed getting matching tatts, but decided it would be more meaningful to each spend some time praying about what our own personal version of that would look like. Ironically, Caleb was the first to decide – this is almost never the case. He is definitely my child. Almost every time we eat out, the rest of the group is waiting for Caleb and me to choose from the menu.   We are just not quick to make decisions when faced with more than a few choices. When you add the permanency of a tattoo to the equation, I am just about dead in my tracks. Making a decision about the placement, size and design of a tattoo on my body simply overwhelms me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when Caleb said, “Let’s go get our tattoos SOON,” I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions this was demanding from me. I did some research and began putting together what I wanted mine to look like. Caleb and Aaron decided that they wanted “timshel” in Hebrew. Caleb wanted his on his knuckles and Aaron wanted a larger font of the same on the side of his forearm. I have recently discovered I have a love for trees, and I’ve always known I have a passion for words, so I decided to combine the two and to my delight, I remembered that several of the original book covers had a tree on them.  Caleb’s color has always been blue and Aaron’s green, which is why I have the colored hearts/leaves on my tree.

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At this point you may be wondering what in the heck “timshel” even means, and moreso, why in the world would we all want permanent tattoos declaring this?!

I’d love to share the story with you because it is one of the ribbons in my life that I can trace back to my teen years in Byron, Michigan, where a teacher took the time to get to know me and recommended a novel that would have a great effect on my entire life.  Andrea Broaddus was not everyone’s favorite teacher.  She had a big personality and she called it like she saw it.  She often called me out, but because I knew she was speaking truth and wanted the best for me, I did my best, as a teenage girl with my own big personality, to take in her advice and make healthy changes.  I had just finished Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit and whined about how boring I thought it was and was just starting (and being a bit traumatized by) Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle when Mrs. B. suggested I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  She told me that there were many references to biblical characters and the story of Cain and Abel, which only dissuaded me from reading it.  I had very little biblical knowledge at that point in my life and was in no way considering becoming familiar with the Bible anytime soon.  But, as I said, I trusted her to see things in me and for me, so the next novel I read that year was East of Eden.

I was a bit of a drama queen back then.  I typically liked to play the victim and give up when it concerned me.  I would willingly fight for the people I loved, but my knee-jerk for myself was to make excuses and give up, often blaming others so that I didn’t have to admit I quit when things got too challenging.  I was more a Cain than an Abel… or so I thought.

I was completely enamored with this novel.  I couldn’t put it down and then I wept big mournful tears when I finished it.  I prayed I would have a college professor who would assign it, just so I could read it again and discuss it with more people.

It never happened…

In my early-20’s I bought a copy and read it for the third time.  I also located a copy of the original movie version with James Dean, as well as the modern version with Jane Seymour.  After initiating my husband, I told him I would like to name our son, if we ever had one, Caleb Aaron.  He agreed.

A few years later, I was pregnant and we agreed that if this baby was a boy, we would name him Caleb Aaron.  And then Hannah Elizabeth was born, much to our absolute delight!  We each had sons from our first marriages and now we had a daughter.  We felt like our family was complete.  We scheduled the vasectomy when Hannah was just 2 months old and a week later my dear friend lost her 4 month old baby girl on the night of her husband’s vasectomy from a botched prescription.  The baby passed away in the daddy’s arms.  I was a hormonal wreck after having Hannah, so I immediately canceled my husband’s appointment.  In my emotional state, I was sure something awful would happen to our family if we followed through.

A few short months later, I began to feel awful – as if my previous morning sickness from my other pregnancies all returned in triplicate, and after doing 2 home tests that showed a pink line faster than ever before, I confirmed what I was afraid to believe because I had recently started teaching at my oldest son’s school – where I taught East of Eden, btw – and things seemed just lovely just as they were.  I had been baptized while I was pregnant with Hannah and I decided to pray for patience, much to my believing friends’ dismay.  They advised me to pray for wisdom instead, but it was too late…  I soon found out that I had “two buns in the oven,” as my OBGYN told us at our first appointment where she had a feeling and did an immediate ultrasound.

My pregnancy was fraught with trauma.  My dear grandma passed away in October just after she asked me which twin I was going to give her.  She meant this as a tease because she had all girls and she knew I was overwhelmed with having  2 older boys, a one-year-old and twin boys on the way, but I was sure that God was preparing me to lose one of my babies.  A week after her passing, my OBGYN discovered I had complete placenta previa and I was placed on home bedrest for a little over a month before I began to hemorrhage late one night and had to go to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I was in that same room for 3 months, solid.  I was not even allowed to be wheeled down the hallway or stand at my window.  It was terrible because I felt fine.  It was also the most wonderful time in my life because I had SO much alone time with Jesus.  I was so confident of His leading in every step of that journey.  When I began hemorrhaging and they told me they were going to do an emergency c-section that morning, I knew He had us in His hands.  I truly believed I may lose one of my babies, and believed it would be Caleb, but I trusted Him completely and was as prepared as any mama could be to walk through this time to bring Him glory.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much faith since that morning…

As they rushed me down the hospital hallways, the people on all three of our teams (Caleb, Aaron and I each had a team of medical staff for the delivery) introduced themselves to me.  As we talked, we began to realize that they were all connected to me in one way or another.  Some of them were aunts or uncles of students of mine, some were related to people we went to church with, or knew other family members of ours, and all of them it seemed, were Jesus-followers.  So, when we arrived in the delivery room, there were prayers going up all over the place for my babies.  Bob was sent to get washed up and change into his scrubs just after they gave me that horrible shot in my back (UGH!).  I laid back and remember feeling incredibly dizzy.  I was bleeding uncontrollably and for just a minute, they lost me.  When I came to, I had NO idea what was happening.  My husband wasn’t in the room yet because they had kept him out during my little crash.  I looked around and said, “I feel kind of awful.  Can you let my husband in here?  I just know I’d feel so much better if he was with me.”

Everyone chuckled.  We were both still clueless.  Then they let my Honey come in the room and I immediately felt better.  He gave me a play-by-play, minus the blood and gore, of what was happening with our babies and my body.  Both of our sweeties were struggling some and had to be incubated immediately.  Aaron was biting at the umbilical cord and Caleb was struggling to thrive.  After they took them down, my big, strong husband passed out cold into a chair I yelled for them to bring when I saw the look on his face.  That’s when the remaining staff told me how I had flat-lined for a minute because I had lost so much blood.

Disclaimer: I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an incredible near-death experience with Jesus talking directly to me.  But I’m alive, so I’m good!

They wheeled me down to my room and would not allow me to see my babies until I could walk on my own.  Therefore they found me on my cold hospital floor 3 times before my husband insisted on a wheelchair to take me down the next morning.  They were the cutest little frog/chickens you’ve ever seen!  Caleb’s incubator had a little card on it that said, “I’m the oldest” and Aaron’s said, “I’m the biggest.”

We spent the next 8 days gavage feeding them my breast milk and trying to get Caleb to thrive.  Bob and I would sing, “Jesus Loves (Me) You” over and over in order to keep them awake to eat the 1-2 ounces they desperately needed to survive.  Aaron seemed much more healthy until they came to tell us that we could take Caleb home, but Aaron had a brain-bleed that they had to keep a constant eye on.  I remember running my thermometer under hot water to fake a temp so that they would let us all stay there together.  It melted and broke open.  So, I had to go home on the coldest day of that year with my teeny baby and leave the other one at the hospital.  It was torture…

The following day they told us we could bring Aaron home.  They said that since we had so much experience, he could go home for the weekend, but we had to bring him back on Monday to recheck and maybe be readmitted.  Our church family prayed over him and on Monday his bleed was gone.  The doctor did the test twice because he couldn’t believe his eyes.

One of my favorite memories of that time happened the day after we brought Aaron home.  Hannah looked at me with her hands up on each side and said, “Where’s the more babies, Mommy?”  She thought we were just going to bring a new one home every night, I guess!

We decided to name the boys, Caleb Robert and Aaron Patrick.  I was teased for naming them symbolic names for Cain and Abel many times, but I named them because timshel, thou mayest.  Caleb means faithful, devotion, whole-hearted, bold, brave and Aaron means lofty, exalted one, high mountain.  Caleb was one of only two people over the age of 20 to make it into the Promise Land.  Aaron was Moses’ brother, the first of the high-priests of the Israelites.

What I love about Steinbeck is that he doesn’t leave his characters one-dimensional or simply good or bad.  He shows us how God made us all with every possibility, if only we step into our freewill.  We don’t have to be victims.  We aren’t good guys or bad guys until we use our “timshel” to choose what to do and who we will be.  When I was embarking on adulthood, East of Eden was the beginning of my journey out of self-sabotage and it helped me parent just a bit better than I would’ve without it.

When my children were teenagers, I gave them each a copy of this novel.  I warned them that much of the story was harsh and even lewd, at times.  They’ve known since always that the twins’ names came from my love for this story and the effect it had on my life.  I never discussed the content of the story with them until their late teens or even recently because I wanted them to be who God made them and not be influenced by the characters in this novel.  The interesting and often disturbing thing has been how similar our Caleb and Aaron have been during various seasons of their lives to their character counterparts.  Sometimes this was so unnerving that I’d read it all over again so that the end of the story would comfort me and remind me how to encourage my children to develop all the facets of their personalities.  The beauty in all of it is that through this powerful work and the influence of God’s unconditional love throughout their lives, my little miracles have grown into confident, loving and Jesus-following men who make my heart sing (most of the time).  Of course they have struggles, as we all do.  I’m not claiming perfection, in any way, but they’ve embraced their freewill.  They are stepping into their own timshel and I am at peace knowing that because they are on this journey with Our Father, they will do amazing things in His name and for His glory.  I’ve always known He miraculously allowed me to raise them, and didn’t take them almost 23 years ago, because He has a great plan for them and my joy comes from watching them walk in His will.

SO… it was time.  We’ve been talking about getting “timshel” tatts for years, but I think we’re all finally embracing His unconditional love and trusting that we can walk in the freewill He’s graced us all with and take responsibility for our choices and our lives.

Timshel…

Caleb’s Tattoo:

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Aaron’s Tattoo:

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Leaving the Nest

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Remember the night you came home with your first, brand new little bundle of joy?  It is usually utterly terrifying – and, yet, most of us survive it, and come away with a comical story added to our repertoire.  Raising toddlers is tough, and mildly exhausting, especially if you have more than a couple of those little buggers at the same time.  Once they go to school, all kinds of new drama, etc. is added to the menu.  The teen years almost killed me, or at the very least, they made me wish I was dead a time or two.  When they become real adults, it’s such a stone soup of feelings.  It’s really wonderful and doing life with your spouse, kind of alone, is a thrilling prospect, if you’ve kept in touch with one another along the way.  It’s also the end of the most important and longest part of a mommy’s life, and that’s a little heartbreaking.  THE end.  The END.  When did this all happen?!  Am I ready for this?…

I’ve always told myself that I would culture my interests, marriage, and friendships so that when my kiddos grew up and started their own lives, I wouldn’t be left not knowing what to do with my time, with myself.  I have never wanted to be that needy mama.  I’ve seen too many women lose themselves in being wives and mamas, and I’ve never wanted to be like that.  I have many interests.  My husband is my favorite.  I have several other dear friends.  

Yet, I struggle to know what to do with myself.  I’m not sure how to not wear my mom identity like a shield.   It’s who I am at the core of my being…

Isn’t it?

I’m flailing. What I know in my head and what I feel in my heart and show in my actions are not lining up.  I’m not sure what my next step should be.  Also, I’m beginning to experience menopause, so my emotions are not always spot on… But, I’m hesitant to admit this to my family because I’m afraid they’ll use that as a scapegoat for every difference of opinion we encounter and that just makes me frustrated and defeated, as if my ideas and feelings are invalid.

I mean, having a clean house is A-mazing.  Spending 1/2 as much on food AND not hearing anyone complain that A – there is no food in the house worth eating or B – there is no food in the house, period (when I just shelled out $300 at the grocery store yesterday), is good stuff.  Having time alone with my Honey is lovely.  Having time to read, pray, lay around, make kombucha, go wherever I feel like going is something I haven’t been able to do in 4-ever.  

I know I’ll get used to this and I expect to fully enjoy it someday in the future, but right now, in this very moment I’m trying to figure out where the time went.  I’m trying to figure out how to support my kiddos’ independence and trust that they’ll choose to be in relationship with us in a way that is life-giving, not just obligatory.  And, yes, I understand I don’t really have a choice in all of that, but I’d like to do my part well, however, my insecurities, past wounds and lack of experience are not making that easy for me.

Being a mama is hard.  Not kinda hard or very hard.  It’s the hardEST, the WHOLE time.

The beauty is that it is also MUCH more wonderful and lovely and joy-filled than hard.  So, there’s that.

Here’s to flailing

and loving,

and supporting,

and becoming Tricia, again.

And to embracing the adequacy of myself – 

not because I’m a mom or a wife, but because I am me and I am His.

I can do this.

Right?…

Satisfied

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Lord,

I am so thankful to finally be out from under that mortgage and the town that brought more pain than any other in my entire life.  Thank You for bringing me out of that desert and into this blissful time in my journey.

Thank You for:

Our new home.  It is kitchie and homey.  I appreciate the weird angles, our hobbit bedroom, our 3 baths, my prayer room, and perfect backyard.  I love that we have downsized by 40% in terms of square footage and, though we need to empty more of the garage out, we are living a much more simplified life.  I am overwhelmed by the people You have brought into our home and lives since moving here.  May we always remember that our home is a gift from You and a safe haven for those You love and lead to our door.

My new Parenthood tables.  Already we’ve been surrounded by such lovely people and beautiful conversations.  Thank You for our beautiful gathering places.  May we love people well as we share food, conversation and You across these tables.

My Honey.  What would I do without him?!  He is my knight in shining armor.  Always fighting for my heart.  Always striving against his human nature to be the man You are calling him to be.  When I watch him love our babies, I just fall in love all over again.  Thank you for saving our marriage even after we messed it up seemingly beyond repair.  Because of your faithfulness, we will leave a legacy of love and commitment that only happened because of Your unconditional grace, love and faithfulness.

Our children.

-Scott and Jordan are living their lives.  Thank you for their jobs, their families and may You bless them with a deep desire to know You intimately.  May they always know how much they are loved and how unconditional our love is for them.

-Hannah is leading worship.  She has chased after You for so long since our family’s brokenness and You have loved her so perfectly.  Thank you for doing everything I could never do and honoring my heart instead of my actions and my shortcomings.  Lord, when I watch her breath YOU all over so many in corporate worship and in loving conversation with others seeking Your face, I know I am seeing You.  It’s all this mama could ever want.

-Caleb is coming full circle.  He is searching for truth, so I am sure he will find You.  He is still my Tita and there’s nothing simple about him.  You made him so wonderfully that way and so I believe You will meet him just where he is at and love him in a way I can only imagine.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You for the immeasurable talent You’ve blessed him with.  I pray he develops it and chooses to use it as You will for his life.

-Aaron is a man after Your own heart.  I love his servant heart, despite my abuse of that too many times for me to want to own up to.  I pray his heart softens as he grows in relationship with You and Your people.  Thank you for giving him talent beyond measure that he uses for Your glory.  Lord, thank You for waiting on him to come back to You. Only You know how much this mama yearned for him to love You completely.

Our church family.  We are finally HERE!  We are surrounded by family, neighbors, friends, all wrapped up in our church family.  I have longed to be here and live life with the kind of people we could only dream about for so many years.  I feel like I’m finally at the waterside, with the desolate lonely behind me.

My new car.  A Prius!!!  I just feel so good about its lack of carbon footprint and how cute it is.  It makes me feel so responsible because every little bit helps and I want to take care of this amazing world You gave us.  I’m also thankful for it’s great gas mileage and great price!

Our jobs.  Who would’ve thought we’d rather drive a tour bus, play music, doula, and nanny than almost anything else?!  I love going to work each day and my Honey still can’t believe he gets paid to drive people around while making them laugh and telling them historical facts!  We are blessed to live this life doing what we love and feeling such freedom in our “work.”

Lord, my tendency has always been to downplay the good stuff, so as not to brag, as well as to waste the times of abundance worrying about when the next desert time will come.  I won’t dishonor You with such behavior.  This is the time of plenty and joy.  I am FULL.  I am satisfied.  It is enough!  I know there will be bad junk in the days ahead, but I refuse to allow that to steal my joy in this moment.  I know You will be with me in the desert days, just as You always have been, and that is all I need to know.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for the happiness I am experiencing.  Thank You for loving my family so well, for being so faithful when we haven’t always been, for finally showing me what real love looks like.  Thank You for being the Father I have longed for all my life and revealing that I am Your beloved daughter.  It is more than enough.

 

Stop Acting Like Children

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I feel this need to clarify my stance on the latest bathroom issue that has so many of us up in arms.

I feel that there is a need to make all human beings comfortable with this most common human experience. We all have to go potty when out in public now and again, right?  No one should have to feel shunned when using a public restroom.  I do not have an issue with the LGBT community.  I am saddened that so many Christians do and have been unloving to God’s children based on their sexual orientation.

My issue is NOT with homosexual humans.  I don’t feel that they are perverts who will harm my children, nor do I feel this way about transgender humans.  My issue is with sexually ill human beings that can simply say that they identify as the opposite sex in order to gain easy access to the restrooms that have multiple swinging doors with slots on every side that anyone can see through and easily get into.

I understand that this seems a bit of a stretch, but it may not feel like that if you consider your 16 year old daughter, who is out with friends while you are home, going into the restroom and a 260 lb. man who claims to identify as a female, following her into the restroom in order to do her harm.  Yes, this can happen now, but we more readily notice it in a public place because it hasn’t been the norm, but it is becoming the norm and this concerns me.  There is an issue of safety here.

If we are accepting everyone at his/her word, then we have to acknowledge that some “perverts” are going to take advantage of this situation to satisfy their depraved needs.

My issues are both safety and compassion.  Putting a 3rd bathroom (in establishments that have these multi-stall restrooms) that accommodates the transgender community or anyone who is uncomfortable with the traditional restroom situation, seems the best option for all.  It ensures the same level of safety we’ve always had, which isn’t perfect, but is MUCH better than what I believe we are opening our doors to now.  This is what the “family restroom” option is currently, so these restrooms could just expand their population.

And this is where I’m gonna get real.  So, if you’re a bit of a prude or squeamish, you probably want to stop reading this post right now…

These are my personal feelings about this issue:

I gotta tell ya.  I just can’t imagine poppin’ a squat in a multi-door public restroom and watching a human being with a penis enter the stall next to me.  It’s just too private.  It’s a sacred place where I can ask a perfect stranger if she has a tampon or pad when I’m bleeding like a sieve because the other girls understand.  I don’t want a man walking by the stall as I’m about to “affix” my tampon or pad unless he’s my husband.  It’s private and kinda yucky.  I don’t want the added pressure of being done “affixing” before a man walks in and past my stall with inch wide slits on every side.  When it’s vaginas only, I can fix my mascara or check my panty-lines in the mirror with little to no judgement – at least from most women over the age of 27…

I’m not grossed out by using the same commode as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual human being, anymore than I am grossed out by a heterosexual human being.  I just want the vaginas in the girls’ room and the penises in the boys’ room, if they want to be.  If they don’t, then I think a 3rd restroom is the choice.  If the establishment has single bathrooms, like several in Austin do, then I’m cool with them being genderless (is that the right word?).  I don’t care who I share individual public restrooms with, as long as we aren’t sharing simultaneously.

Okay.  I’ve said my peace.  Except this:  I want to love like Jesus and I don’t want to be hateful or judgemental in His name.  We are supposed to love one another.  We are supposed to listen to each other.  I’m open to questions and comments, and I’d love to discuss this further – in a loving and respectful manner.  Let’s all stop acting like bratty children and start acting like His children.  Because we ALL are.

Love Covers

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Proverbs 10:12

 

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

I just lean into this on the regular so as not to drown in mommy-guilt.

I’ve been giving this parenting thing a bunch of thought lately.  Okay, I’ve been giving it a bunch of thought since 1985 when I became pregnant with my firstborn.  It’s SO hard.  The responsibility of raising actual human beings is more than I think I should’ve even been trusted with.  I poured myself into it like most mamas do and usually believed I did a less than adequate job most days.

It’s interesting to me that so many of us think we’re alone in this.  We think the confidence other mamas display is for real.  I always believed their kiddos were sweeter, more polite, more compliant, and felt more loved than our kiddos did because I knew what happened at home when no one was around to see or hear my authentic self.  Like the time when I had just begun homeschooling my children, who had never heard me use profanity, and Hannah was being especially whiny.  She repeatedly asked me if she could do a bit less than I was requiring for their writing assignment.  As we all sat around the kitchen table, my patience wore thin and I threw an empty plastic 2 litre soda bottle across the kitchen, into the garbage disposal side of the sink while yelling an attractive expletive at my daughter.  She was forever scarred – I can still remember the looks on their faces – and my additional punishment was that the thrown bottle hit a plastic plate, chipping a piece off that lodged in our garbage disposal blade, resulting in a broken disposal for the next year!  I decided unschooling for a few months was a better way to begin our journey after that epic fail.  One of my prouder moments as a parent.

Ten years later, we all laugh at that moment in our history together.  I like to think that we’ve learned that there can be grace in the face of losing our %@*&!  It’s okay that my children know that I am far from perfect, that I need grace.  It’s good that they know we all need forgiveness and we all fail each other on occasion.  They know that I am in this for the long haul, like most mamas.  I will always want healthy relationship with all of our children.  I’ve sown this into their hearts and they’ve sown it into mine.  It’s what I cling to in the dark days of our relationship now that they are adults, some with spouses, some with children, and all with their own beliefs founded in our home and molded by their individual experiences.

I can think of a BAJILLION times that I messed up in my journey as a mama and it’s difficult for me to remember great moments without questioning myself or minimizing the good stuff.  Why is that?  Being a mama has been my single most important contribution to this world.  It is what I worked the hardest at, got the least worldly reward for, have been beat up for the most by the world and sometimes by the people who should’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.  My very best, lovely, sweet, hilarious, embarrassing, sad, satisfying & glorious moments have been my mama moments.  I’ve laid into my babies in anger and disappointment (usually more with myself than them).  I’ve held them while they cried in bitter disappointment, anger, embarrassment, hurt, fear, and frustration.  I’ve proudly cheered them on at countless sporting events, music performances, and activities of various types.  I’ve internalized numerous emotional injuries that only my own precious offspring can hurl at their mama, just as any mama reading this can attest to.  I’ve lost weeks of sleep waiting for one of them to finally come home or call to say s/he is alright.  I’ve spent hours waiting to hear the slightest sound of a seizure in the next room so that I could run in and tell my child that he is breathing just fine and it will be over soon. I’ve become humbled as I accepted that my plan for my children is not always best and I’ve grieved what I thought was to be and been humbled again.

It really is SO hard

and so lovely

and just too many adjectives to list and yet, none of them could do justice to a relationship so deep and complex.

I’ve received more hugs and “I love you’s” than any human being has a right to.  I’ve belly-laughed more than most people have had the pleasure of laughing.  I’ve watched my children attend to their grandparents lovingly.  I’ve seen them care for homeless and needy people with genuine affection and joy.  I’ve stood by as they made sure everyone felt included whether or not they “fit in.”  I’ve witnessed them extend grace to me, one another and so many others.  I’ve experienced more encounters with people than I can count expressing their affection for my children.  A mama NEVER tires of hearing what kind, hardworking, funny children she has and if I can brag for just a moment, it happens to me A LOT!

I guess we did some things right…

I love my children more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  They are truly a part of me and they always will be.  I am blessed to have been chosen as their mama.  God must really love me.

Love covers over all wrongs.

Shew…

One for the Books

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Converse High Tops

Just like I had in high school!

Well, it’s over.  The food has been consumed.  The gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper collected, the dishes washed (for the eighth time), and the memories have been made.  This was one of the good ones.

Here’s what I LOVED about our family Christmas:

I loved that every single gift that was given was perfect for the receiver.  Now, before you perhaps misunderstand, gifts are kept to a minimum in our family and have been for many years now.  I’ve worked very hard to teach my children by example that we don’t believe that Christmas is about the insanity of greed that we believe it has become in our culture, but that it is most importantly about Jesus and spending time with the people we most love in the world.  I regress…  What was so lovely to me about this part of our holiday was that it was obvious we all chose gifts that we put a lot of thought into.  There was the joy in being truly known and loved deeply around our Christmas tree.

I felt so blessed to have 2 days full of yummy food, and that much of it was healthy and lots was not, but all of it was delicious.  We are a foodie family, which means that great food and drink are the foundation on which we build our time together.  It brings a satisfaction to everything when we are assembled.  Shrimp diablos, a lazy susan overrun with cheese of various origins, ribeyes on the grill, smoothies, shrimp cocktail, smashed redskins, broiled asparagus, lime bars, quiche, peanut butter kisses, oatmeal brulee’ with granny smith apples & cranberries, dark fudge with walnuts, Christmas sangria, veggies in every color imaginable, eggnog, guacamole, frappuccino, pico de gallo, monkey bread with fresh raspberries, blueberries, & blackberries, and of course, green bean casserole.

Opening gifts on Christmas eve, sleeping in on Christmas morning, green & red oatmeal brulee’, stockings in the morning, grazing all afternoon while watching A Christmas Story in comfy clothes and no makeup, piled all over each other, with cell phones turned off.

Listening to our children laugh uproariously late on Christmas eve because they’re making a video of one of them dancing with abandon while I lie in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks praising Him for this undeserved moment of heavenly joy.

Being reminded of days gone by when our “baby” still wakes up a little grumpy because he’s (ALWAYS) hungry, another wakes up looking, just for a moment, like the little imp you held each morning so many years ago (or was that yesterday?), and yet another practically glows because her love language is quality time and she knows she still has a full day of it with the people she loves most in this world.

There’s something about great conversation.  It feeds my soul in a way not a lot of other things do.  I find it interesting that some of my best nourishment comes from conversations with my adult children.  They are some of the rare people I’ve experienced quality exchanges with.  We have varying opinions about some topics that many people avoid – politics, religion, homosexuality, abortion, etc. – and we have this beautiful way of hearing each other.  Sometimes it gets heated and we don’t always do this perfectly, but when we have one of our really beautiful exchanges of words, it just blesses me right down to the core of my being.  There is something about acceptance and respect that is highly underrated, in my opinion.  It’s a gift to have multiple opinions vying to be heard and not have anyone feel the need to “play devil’s advocate” just to feel superior or not have anyone make up “facts” from the articles they can’t recall the name of, but they swear they’ve read to backup their argument, and it’s especially wonderful to not have anyone take cheap, disrespectful shots when they aren’t “winning” the “argument.” (All things I’ve experienced with less rare people who I’ve had not-so-quality exchanges with.)  It’s freeing when you realize that your objective isn’t to sway others to your own opinion, but to be heard and understood as well as hear and understand.  It’s also more than a little difficult when you first realize your children no longer follow your beliefs blindly, but have their own opinions and some of them may go directly against what you value deeply.  Don’t get me wrong… It’s glorious, too, witnessing your offspring come into his/her own, but dealing with this growth in your child, nudges you to (somewhat painfully) grow a bit, too.

I woke up two days ago and asked Him to help me focus on all of my blessings and to have peace about the decisions others have made that have affected me painfully.  Holidays have not typically been something I’ve looked forward to in the past.  I’ve had a bunch of those ones that people make memes about, dark comedic movies about or SNL skits about. But this year was different, because I had a really wonderful Christmas.  I received gifts from my husband and children that screamed, “You are known and loved.”  He gave me joy, peace and love in abundance.  He gave me a slew of memories that I will continue to be blessed by, day after day and year after year.  I feel like I grew a little because I am learning that holidays don’t look the same to everyone and what ruins those special days for me isn’t that the days are bad, it’s that they don’t look like my mind expects them to – and that if I allow Him to lead the way, the day looks exactly like it should and that’s much better than what my mind expected.  This Christmas was more than I could’ve hoped for and definitely much more than I deserve.

 

James Code

James is one of my very favorite books of the Bible and this was my husband’s gift to me.

 

 

 

Brainstorm

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brainstorm

 

Usually when I post on my blog it’s because He’s put something on my heart to share in hopes that others who struggle with the same junk will be encouraged, or at the very least, not feel so alone.  Today I’m just feeling like I need to push myself to write because it’s good for my soul.  I’m a little nervous about just writing and putting it out there without a well organized agenda.  I’ve written plenty of posts whose main purpose was to help me work through painful junk in my life, but I couldn’t actually post them because they may have been seen as an attack on the person who had caused me pain.  I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I wanted to lash out with my words, but (so far) I’ve behaved myself.

I’m tired.  I’m ready for some changes in my life – some big, some not so big.  I’m trying to be sure that the changes I decide to move ahead with are chosen because He’s leading me that way and not just because of my emotions about the status quo of those situations.  I’m trying to be careful because of the “Unraveling” that entering my 50’s has caused.  I don’t want to make major life decisions, and then have my family (or me) live with bad consequences because of my choices.

There’s a part of me that keeps trying to figure out what happened to the past 25 years of my life.  I mean, I remember it.  I even remembering savoring every last drop of the time I had with my children.  I remember trying to make every holiday special so that they would look back and feel treasured.  Pool parties with all of the neighborhood kids, reading book after book, cuddling, trips to museums, water parks, visiting relatives, friends – these were all part of our time together.  The funny thing is that I still wonder how it went so fast.  I question how I could’ve done it all better, made it more special, been more present, created a stronger bond…

It’s one of the most painful and truly wonderful experiences in the entire everything; being a mom.  It’s a common theme in our culture.  Mom sacrifices it all to raise her kiddos well.  She gives up her career, her interests and social life for a while, and her dignity now and again, all for the sake of investing in other human beings that will buck her authority, break multiple valuables in her home, put the kibosh on her sex life, embarrass her in public, become bipolar in their teens and cause her to lose her mind waiting for them to come home safely once they have a driver’s license.  We’re more than happy to do it because we absolutely ADORE our little monsters and no sacrifice is too great.

and then they move out and move on.  Now, if we’re played this thing out smart, we still have friendships we’ve cultivated through the years, we can return to a career we love if we choose, our marriage is still intact because we’ve nurtured our relationship through the years.  If we haven’t, we may be in for a HUGE unraveling.  I find that I’m somewhere in the middle of this whole thing.  *Disclaimer:  I believe it’s a rare woman who escapes the unraveling completely.

I have returned to my career.  My marriage is intact.  I’ve several close friends in Michigan, but very few in Texas.

Unfortunately, the unraveling can cause your feelings of dissatisfaction to grow exponentially and it’s been my experience that it’s hard to tell when the feelings are really from Him and true, or when I’m allowing emotions and worldly junk to cloud my vision.  I’m just being honest… Sometimes I panic a little and think, “Holy crap!  This is how old I am and I probably don’t have much time left.  What have I done with the time He’s given me?!” – and then I feel trapped in a house I just want to move out of, a career I feel disrespected in (mostly), a life I feel is steeped in mediocrity, and the clock just keeps on ticking.

I also have moments when I can’t believe how blessed I am, but the unraveling is almost always there now, reminding me that time is slipping away and in the big picture I am not content with where I’ve been or how far I’ve come.  None of this has to do with my gratefulness for all He has blessed me with.  It has everything to do with what I’ve done with the life He’s blessed me with.  I get stuck in between that place of not being content in where I’m at, along with feeling like I’m a bad Christian if I long for more, and being confident that He’s the one who placed the unrest in me so that I will be more in His will.  I’m just not always sure I know which path He’s leading me down, so then I stall and wait and worry that I’m wasting more precious time because I’m not even a good enough Christian to know if it’s God or me that’s nudging me to move…

I wonder if other people feel this way.  I wish I could see into the future and know what decisions I will choose to move ahead with and if I will be any more in His will than I am now.

– Who doesn’t?!

So… there’s my ramble for the day.  This is me being transparent and raw, not wanting any well-meaning Christians to throw anecdotal Christianity at my struggle.  My hope is that I will hear/see/feel clearly what He desires for me and then very obviously open the doors He wants me to walk through.  I’m a hammer on the head kinda girl…  He knows that.  He created me that way.

Rambling brainstorm over… for now.

Reality of a Girl’s Day at the Spa

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My hubby bought me a pretty pricey gift certificate for a posh Austin day spa last year for Mother’s Day.  It advertises as being unpretentious in a very “Austin” fashion.  They carry organic products to boot!  I was ALL IN!

Well, you know, until I started thinking about actually going to the spa.  Walking through the door in my clothes that make me feel chubby and not cool enough, saying something dorky, general fear of not fitting in.  Even worse… Having to remove my tacky clothes and be 1/2 (or more) naked, so that some young, beautiful girl 1/2 (or less) my age can see and FEEL how chubby I really am.  I’ve birthed a lot of babies and I DO love good food…  Also, premenopause has not been incredibly slimming.

So, I postponed as long as possible.  My Honey has been reminding me since last autumn to make my appointment before the gift certificate expired.  I just nodded and gave an appropriately enthusiastic, “Oh, yeah.  I’ll call next week.”  For months…  and then we were all out at this amazing new restaurant a month or two ago, on a SUNDAY, of all days, and the spa called me…  The woman on the other end of the phone was warm, sincere and ready to book my appointment.  She could not have been more accommodating.  Awesome…

I put on my fake happy voice and made an appointment.  She suggested I try one of their facials and since I had never experienced one, I took the bait.  We agreed I would be there the following Saturday at 11:00 a.m.

I rescheduled 3 times.  In my defense, I really have been sick with this lung junk, but if I’m completely honest, I have to admit I was relieved to have a ready-made excuse.  As I mulled over whether or not to call to cancel again this week, I decided that it was time to embrace this experience and I committed to savoring the good parts of my spa experience.

Last night I was preoccupied with getting to bed in time to have 8 hours of sleep so that I didn’t have such dark circles under my eyes – because, one good night of sleep makes ALL the difference.  I fretted that I ate a hamburger for lunch and potato skins with cheddar and bacon for dinner instead of my usual, healthy, organic fare.  UGH!  What was I thinking?!  My skin would look horrible now!  I could just see all of the gorgeous people at the spa rolling their eyes as my chubby “mommy-of-many” body in frumpy clothing, with my dark, sunken-in eyes walked through the door tomorrow…

As soon as I woke up I did my usual coconut oil pull, followed by warm lemon-honey kangan water, then a large glass of cool kangan water and I filled up two containers before I left – one with kombucha and the other with more water.  I covered my face with organic cocoa butter. My skin was going to glow,  Darn It!

My hair was uncooperative (which means it looked kinda ugly), naturally.  So, I grabbed a bandana, rolled it up and put my hair in a little makeshift headband.  I donned my Honey’s comfy black V-neck T with my denim clam-diggers and I was out the door. I arrived about 30 minutes early.  As soon as I got out of my car, I noticed there was lovely “spa” music being piped into the parking lot.  Ahhhh…  I just loved that.  There was a woman a bit older than me exiting the spa on the ramp as I walked to the front door.  She had a brace on her foot and she was squinting in the bright sun.  We exchanged pleasantries about the appearance of long-awaited sun.  She was kind, normal. It calmed me a smidge.

The girls at the front desk were anything but pretentious, offering cucumber water or tea with warm smiles and genuine tones.  I almost forgot about my lack of fashion-sense, obesity,  and overall absence of confidence.  I filled out the multiple info cards as I sipped my booch, requested only organic products be used, and slowly felt my self-doubt seeping in through the cracks in my wall of false confidence as my appointment time approached.

Once I was in the appointed room, my therapist (who was cute as a button, but not especially warm) asked me why I was there.  I replied, “I’m here for a facial.”  She smiled in that “no #*@! kinda way, and then clarified, “I mean, why are you getting a facial?”  I replied, “My husband got me a gift certificate.”  Now she was really trying to figure out if I had much of an I.Q.  “What I mean is why do you need a facial?  What issues are you having?”

I panicked!  Thinking, “Oh Great!  You’re supposed to have terrible skin to have a facial, aren’t you?!  I probably look like an idiot!”  So, naturally, I threw the girl who called me at the restaurant on that Sunday so many weeks ago right under the bus…  “Hmmmmm…. I don’t know.  Whoever called me originally, suggested I have a facial since I’d never had one before, so I thought it would be nice.  Should I….?”

“Oh, no!  That’s great!  Do you have any skin issues?                Do you want to do an extraction?            Okay, I’m going to step out, you can change into this (tiny towel wrap thingy), undressing to your comfort level, and we’ll begin when you’re ready.  Try to take several DEEP breaths as soon as you are lying down.  It will help you relax.”  – Well, if I’m undressing to my comfort level, we can get started immediately!… and oh, crap!  She noticed I’m not terribly calm…

Once I changed into the velcro washcloth she left for me to wear , I got my body under the sheets asap!  Those few minutes while I am waiting for someone to come in after I’ve undressed are among some of the most awkward moments in my life.  Thoughts that usually go through my mind:

“Oh.  Geez!  Remember when your tummy was a valley whenever you were on your back instead of an expanding little mountain range?”

“What should I do with my facial expression?”

“Do I have boogers?  Do I have anything in my teeth?  What about my breath?”

“Oh, no!  Is that gas I feel?  What do I do if it is?!”

Various thoughts while the therapy is in progress:

“Am I relaxed?  Are my butt-cheeks unclenched?”

“Oh, no!  Do I have to go to the bathroom?”

“I hope I smell okay…”

“I should’ve gotten a pedicure!”

“Oh, my word!  That feels heavenly!”

“I didn’t know they did that when you had a facial!”

“Hot towels on your face are delightful!”

“Her hands are gifted.”

“I didn’t even know my shoulders hurt that much.”

“I wish I could do this EVERY Saturday… or at least every few months…”

… it was one of the most lovely experiences in my life.  The ladies at the front desk were even more enchanting after my treatment.  I walked out of the spa feeling uber zen.  I put my Pandora on and tuned into a meditation channel.  I drove to Freebirds and picked up delicious veggie bowls to take home and eat with my Honey.  Then I went to Juice Land so I could get a Bambata smoothie.  I walked into both places with big, messy spa hair and shiny, pinkish, spa face and I couldn’t have cared less. I was one with myself – chubby, freckle-faced, no make-up, beautiful me…

My goal is to make another appointment in July and not cancel

more than once…

spa decor

Daddy’s Girl

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Tricia Baby

When I was a child, even before starting school, I can remember knowing that I wasn’t someone who people thought of as a nice, polite little girlie-girl.  My mother, on the regular, would bend down next to my ear when I was in “public”  and whisper that “nice girls don’t talk like that.”  She wasn’t referring to profanity, but I was “rough around the edges.”  I had four brothers, my dad encouraged my moxie, and if I’m completely honest, I took quite a bit of pleasure in knowing I made my mama squirm a bit.  I think I figured if she was never going to be proud of me, I might as well at least be sure she noticed me!

My father spoiled me so obnoxiously when I was very young, that I truly believed on some level that I was more important than others.  Once I started school, I was rudely awakened to the fact that I was no more or less important than the other people in this world.  It was good medicine.  I wasn’t always given the proper dosage, but it was the correct prescription.

As an adult, and especially once I became a mama myself, I came to believe I needed to follow in my mother’s footsteps and be less vocal, more contriving in order to be what the world, or at least what many of my family members wanted me to be.  I worked to be what I thought I was supposed to be as hard as I could, and for the most part, I pulled it off.  When I became a Christian, the stepford mama/wife mission went into overdrive.  I worked very hard to be the perfect wife and mama that my husband, in-laws and parents would be proud of.  If you focus on becoming something you aren’t hard enough, you barely notice your “self” dying a little bit more each day. – Just to be clear, I don’t mean the good kind of dying to self for Christ daily deal, I mean the horrible, denying who He made you to be, so you can please people who are not Him, kind of deal.

One of the problems with this kind of thinking is that I never really learned how to deal with problems, especially anger.  When I was young, I just bullied my way through other people.  My family is really good at that.  We think we’re being terribly witty and quick-minded, but really we just make others uncomfortable, dishonored and bullied.  I know because I allowed myself to be bullied by some of my family members during my stepford years and even beyond because I don’t know a good middle ground way to deal with such aggression – either I go toe-to-toe with them or I stuff it down, get super frustrated, as well as hurt (emotionally) and then begin to cry – and this, btw, is seen as an admission to lying or at the very least an admission to being wrong in my family of origin.

I have a confession to make… and this is not a proud moment for me, but I feel like if I’m trying to be truly transparent, and my goal is to help others who are dealing with similar junk, I have to put it all out there as He leads me.  During my stepford years, I didn’t always hold my tongue and make nice with everyone.  I did with my friends, my husband, neighbors, church family, etc., but I continued to bully my children, of all the precious people.  When I felt frustrated or like I was losing control, Tricia McDowell came out in full force.  She wasn’t fair.  She wasn’t kind.  She was just ugly.  I’m not proud of those moments.  They felt fairly normal to me at the time and I was great at justifying what I’d done or said, but my children just felt dishonored and bullied.

The other side of that coin is that when I stopped bullying the general public and started developing friendships, a pattern ensued.  I made friends quite easily, but when conflict came, as it almost always certainly does, I would stuff my hurt feelings down until I was ready to blow and then I would just walk away.  I was usually afraid I would go berserk on my friend (and once in a great while I did) and lose the relationship, so it seemed less messy and less painful to just walk away first. Besides, they obviously didn’t care much anyway… Ever the sacrificial victim…

ICK…

 

See, I believe that if you try to push down who you are instead of embracing her, then God’s hands are tied because he doesn’t make you a certain way already shiny and perfect.  He makes us a certain way so that we can be molded and shaped into what he desires for us to be, if we choose to be.  My big mouth needed to be tempered.  My passionate heart needed to be fed.

Are you who He desires you to be?  I don’t mean the shiny, perfect version.  Are you embracing the beautiful, trying parts of yourself that others may try to shame out of you?  Are you asking Him what He wants you to accomplish with these traits, desires, feelings?  Does it just feel easier to be what everyone else wants you to be?

That’s what I thought, until it all blew up in my face.   explosion

Now, here I am, well beyond my formative years learning how to deal with hurt and anger in a grown up, vulnerable way.  It sucks.  I’m not lying.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, accepting you are terrible at a basic life skill and that you make your immediate family a little nervous now that you aren’t quiet and always “appropriate” in public situations.  I can still hear my mother whispering in my ear, “Nice girls…”  Except now, I turn and look her in the eye and say, “I’m my Daddy’s girl.  He loves me just as I am and that is enough.”

fence boundary

I have some fences to mend.  I have some boundaries to keep.  I have some work to do and some time to catch up on.  As much as I want to keep looking back and regretting the time I’ve wasted not seeing the truth, I don’t want to dishonor the gift I’ve been given.  I have a glimpse of the me He wants me to be and I am walking in that now.  I’m walking all wobbly, like a toddler, so I’ll need grace and forgiveness during this learning process, but that’s okay.  That’s the stuff.  That’s where I’m trying to live. – And I don’t mean I have it all figured out, not even close.  I just don’t feel so lost or alone now, because I’m coming back and I have me, again.  Do you have you?  Do you know who you are and do you love your self?  I hope so, because He does and I do…

You are His and He made you uniquely you.  That’s so cool.

Walk on…

Step On Up

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baby-steps

I remember the first time I met him.  He was all of two years old and the tiniest little replica of his daddy.  It was adoration at first sight for me.  He was a bit of a show off and knew he had his daddy in the palm of his chubby little hand.  He kept asking me to watch him do this and that and I did, gladly.  I was so happy that he was such a friendly little guy.  Later, when his daddy kissed me and he leaned out of the playhouse window and said, “Hey… What’dya guys doing?,” his daddy nearly had a heart attack!

It was a rough start.  My new husband’s ex pulled out all the stops.  We were in court for everything imaginable, even before the wedding.  We naively believed that things would calm down and even improve as time passed and we all settled into our lives.  We were wrong.  It was a constant rollercoaster ride for more than a decade.  Sometimes we marvel at the fact that our marriage survived it!  We were committed to not allowing it to affect our time together as a family.  Through the years it felt like we just kept getting run over repeatedly, but we were the adults and we refused to let it hurt our kids anymore than it had to. It wasn’t always easy, but we had some great friends who let us unload our “It’s not fairs!” on them on the regular.  They prayed with us and for us.  I don’t know what we would’ve done without their support.

Being a stepdad comes with its challenges, for sure, but if you participate and are nice to your spouse’s child(ren), you are a hero to the world at large.  If you are a stepmom, it is an ALL uphill climb.  It’s typically assumed you are evil, thanks to Cinderella, Snow White, and other lovely fairytales of the day.  If you welcome your spouse’s child(ren), you are suspected of trying  to replace the bio-mom.  If you aren’t terribly affectionate or welcoming, you are accused of being a heartless witch.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as scrutinized as I felt every other weekend and the several weeks during the summers that I was actively being a stepmom.  As hard as I tried to make things “normal,” there was always the second guessing of EVERYTHING.  What was completely normal with my bio-child who was only a few months older made me a wreck with my stepson.  Between a husband who was very critical, a bio-mom who was court happy, and family members who struggled with the whole situation, I did the best I could with what I had at 24 years of age.  Doubting everything I did when it came to him was the norm.

In 96 hours each month we were to visit both sets of grandparents, make memories, teach responsibility and a million other important things, be a normal family, sleep, eat, go to church, and be sure the kids all made it to all of their weekend activities – because if they didn’t, we may end up in court, again.

I sometimes wonder if I knew what all I’d go through because I fell madly in-love with a man with a child, an ex-wife, and all that entails, if I would’ve said, “Yes” to that first date.  I know that must sound awful, but tonight I am tired and hurting and a little bit unbelieving of how long this continues to go on and how frustrating it is that the people who should be standing up and supporting the good guys are kissing up to the bad guys in selfishness.

I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I always choose what I believed was best for our sons.  ALWAYS.  I love all 5 of our children with all of my heart. I have since the moment I met each of them, whether it was in person, or it was by way of a pregnancy test.  I have lived my life with my family as my first worldly priority.

I know there are women who marry men and do their best to get their stepchildren out of their lives.  I know there are others who are genuinely unloving to them.  I know there are parents and stepparents who put their children in the middle like pawns in a chess game.  I also believe that this is horribly wrong and rare.  I know I have done none of these things.

My oldest son has a stepmom.  During his teen years they did not get along terribly well.  He was a teenager.  He and I did not get along terribly well.  She is a very nice woman.  We are not social friends, but I am so very thankful that she has been good to my son.  I can see that she genuinely loves him.  My son, his dad, his stepmom and her children are a family.  That is what I want for my son.  Isn’t that what being a parent is?…

If and when my oldest son and his wife have children we will all be grandparents together.  Our grandchild will be our priority and we will support each other and encourage relationship with our grandchild because we will all love him/her and want what is best for that precious child.  We’re the adults.

Okay… I feel better now that I have that almost 3 decade long load off of my chest.

Yep, I know this is a bit corny, but it’s mostly true, too.

 

step-mom

 

I’ve learned that a bunch of the junk that we fought for because it seemed so important in the moment, wasn’t really so important in the long run.  I’ve learned that you can’t spend your life fighting for someone who doesn’t want you in their life or who isn’t willing to fight for you because you lose precious moments with the people He put in your life to love and be loved by.  I’ve learned that being a mom and/or a stepmom is really hard and we should honor each other along the way.  I’ve learned to trust myself, to forgive myself and to let go when He shows me it’s time…

Life is too short.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until after I wasted more time than I wish I would’ve.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned that it’s not worth my time to wallow in regret.  Movin’ on…

Peace.