The Cathedral and the Kitchen Sink

A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen humming a familiar tune I hadn’t heard in a long time. Ever had that happen? And suddenly I burst into song, remembering words that had been tucked away for years. “Praise God … Continue reading

Pressing In

The mantle of struggle can get heavy. Very heavy. Last June, when I experienced my second miscarriage, a dear friend of mine responded with “Why won’t life relent?!” It had been a particularly tough year, and it didn’t stop there. But … Continue reading

Part II: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…Is Okay

Part II: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…Is Okay

About four days after my no good, very bad day last week, I was getting ready in that unceremonious way mothers do: Sweeping hair back in a hasty ponytail, washing my face with a stale washcloth, brushing my teeth for less … Continue reading

Part I: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…is Okay

Part I: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…is Okay

It’s true. Some days just suck. I know there are a lot of very optimistic people out there shaking their heads at me right now. She’s not very grateful, they’re thinking. They’re right. Today, I’m not grateful. I know I … Continue reading

Let It Go! Let it Go!!!! And Other Lies I Tell Myself

Let It Go! Let it Go!!!! And Other Lies I Tell Myself

I try. I really do. I read about it. I talk about it. I pray about it. But it’s a lot harder to DO it–to surrender every inch of your life to an invisible God. I’m not always in that … Continue reading

The Loneliness of Motherhood

Motherhood can be singularly isolating. Sure, there are play groups, play dates, church, preschool and gymnastic classes. But conversation with other mothers is so often reduced to whatever chatter prevails over the noisy din of children at play – and that ain’t much. So much of what we say or want to say gets interrupted, paused, forgotten – as we pretend to joyously partake of plastic vegetables, sip air out of cracked tea cups, facilitate snack time and encourage sharing, then stuff cranky children in car seats, exchanging hasty plans for our next get-together as we pull away. I’ve yelled more things out a car window these days than I care to admit.

Gone are the days of long, penetrating conversations while slowly sipping lattes. Gone are the questions like “What is my purpose in this world?” “What is going on in your life?” “How are you…really?” I miss it…some days I miss it desperately.

Today, much of my deeper dialogue with friends must occur over the phone, because we can clean or prep dinner while we talk. Multitasking diminishes some of the guilt brought on by trying to fill one’s own relational needs. Yet, phone conversations are still wrought with frequent interruptions as we take turns responding to needy children (made instantly needier by the mere fact we are on the phone).

I enjoy all the opportunities to mix and mingle motherhood provides. And I am thankful for this season of my life. The community of moms is vast, varied, interesting and held together by the strand of procreation and the act of raising children into responsible adults (an altogether complex undertaking made up of a million simpler, sometimes nearly mind-numbing, tasks).

There are days, in the center of some conversation about meal preparation or sleep schedules, I’ve suddenly had enough. I don’t want to discuss the best sippy cups on the market or what Johnny had for lunch that gave him loose stool. I want an uninterrupted exchange of ideas and thoughts and feelings that has absolutely NOTHING to do with breastfeeding, potty training or how to make gluten-free granola. Other days, we are stuck at home due to weather or illness. I am pouring over dishes when I’d rather be pouring my heart out over that latte…with no time limit and no other things on my to-do list. I feel lonelier than usual.

But relationships are not simply about what we get out of them. Relationships are what we give. The mommy dialogue, the one where we exchange recipes and ideas, is necessary and helpful. I would be foolish in overlooking the benefits of community with such amazing and incredibly diverse women. It’s good to talk about finger foods and pregnant celebrities. It’s also good to build and nurture relationships that feed deeper parts of ourselves that still exist, despite the repetitive nature of our present everyday lives. We honor this need by first acknowledging it and then by fostering close, authentic relationships with other women — not just with women we’ve always known, but with new friends. We cultivate these friendships by looking past the busy, self-sufficient veneer and asking the harder questions…and by setting the example through our own authenticity. I can be the first to offer the truth about myself – that I don’t have it all together, that I sometimes miss the things I used to do. Or I can share what I am passionate about beyond the four corners of my child’s universe.

Prayer helps. When we lift our hearts to God, we surrender our loneliness and embrace communion with our Creator. And we can pray for friends who will challenge us in new ways. Several times now, I’ve had a chance-meeting with another mother who I liked so much that I yearned for her friendship. But I wasn’t sure I would ever see her again. Then, within a day or two, I did see her again in the most unexpected place. Whenever this happens, God’s love for me overwhelms my heart. He knows my intense need for special friendships, because He created me. This small act of “coincidence” is His love letter to me. “Jessica, I know you. I love you. I’m on it.”

Reading His Word also helps to provide spiritual and intellectual food when we feel starved for deeper meaning. Scripture reminds me of the bigger picture and emboldens me to reach outside my comfort zone. Chances are, there are other mothers who feel like I do. Maybe I can minister to them in their loneliness. Every person we meet, after all, is an opportunity to see God at a different angle. When we begin to see everyone this way, there is no opportunity, no conversation too small. And our focus is no longer on our own loneliness anymore.

In this season of busy chaos, we will sometimes still feel alone. But God knows. He cares. And He’s on it. In the meantime, keep having interrupted conversations over the din of noisy children. Some day, we will miss that too.

“Is It Worth It?”

Another great show yesterday at the Om Pregnancy Holiday Handmade Fair! Thank you to everyone who came out, especially my J. Laurel fans, and my mother who took wonderful care of my darling boy!

Shows require tremendous preparation as well as extra support from family and friends, who cheer me on while I run my typical week-long pre-show marathon. After several late nights of last minute preparations and sewing until my brain is numb, I rise in plenty of time the morning of the show to get ready before Jude wakes.Then, I spend time with him getting breakfast or cuddling before I leave. And if Sam isn’t home that day, I have created two lists – one with final show “to do’s” and one I leave with instructions for Jude – meals, naptimes, little things I want Mimi or Grandma to know.

I  make a bank stop to get cash, then a coffee stop to make change. I arrive at my show in a whirlwind, unloading my tables and chairs and rolling suitcases…like a champ, I might add.

Set-up is brutal. I try not to break a sweat, though it is hard to remain ladylike when you are fiddling with table locks that require the weight of your entire body and at least four hands. (sigh – why God gave women two arms and Octopus eight, I will never know) Finally, I run to the bathroom (who knows when I will get the chance to go again). I do a last-minute primping session – the one where I slap on some lip gloss, smooth my hair, and check for mascara smudges, eye boogies or anything else that is distracting or just plain embarrassing. (My standards are mucBeginning Christmas and Om Show 042h lower than they used to be!)

Yesterday, as I finally sank into the chair behind my table, I breathed a sigh of relief when I overheard one of the other vendors admit she had forgotten to pack a sandwich for lunch. (So had I.) Sometimes, I don’t have time to interact with fellow vendors (or they aren’t particularly chatty). But at this show, we sat in close proximity.  Another woman said, “Yeh, I just told my husband I’m gonna’ be reeeeaally hungry when he comes to pick me up.” I like these ladies already, I thought. They’re honest.

Between customers, we discussed the challenges of generating enough inventory for each show, filling orders, filing taxes, working during nap-time and bedtime, finding time for promoting and social networking…and we shared tips and ideas. There they sat all around me, women with incredible talent and entrepreneurial spirits, who were…in one word…exhausted..and often left wondering, just like me, “Is it worth it?”

Weeks like this one have me straddled between two worlds, each so precariously reliant on the other. I am spinning the plates – my family, my work, my house, my plans, my dreams, my obligations, my unexpected disasters. I remind myself that I can’t drop the plates. Must use them to serve dinner. Then must wash them and put them away.

My work as a writer, seamstress, marketer and business owner takes a distinct backseat to my efforts as wife, mom, housekeeper, personal assistant, social coordinator, cook, nurse, resident artist and the like. It all requires time, boundless energy, valuable and invaluable resources. The business grows a little. My to-do list grows a lot. And my toddler, well, he grows far too quickly.

One time (of many) I lamented to my mother, “How did you do this, Mom? How did you raise (four!!) children and work part-time jobs at night to make ends meet?” My mother’s simple, no frills response, “You just do.” Then, I asked for advice on how to find more time for my work. Really, her answer could be summed up in two words, “Work more. Work later.”

That’s my mom – the warrior. Am I made of the same mettle?

In truth, none of us know what we are made of until we test ourselves or what we can do until we try. There is no instruction booklet. No dog-eared recipe. No mathematical equation. “You just do.” You make it work. And when you feel like giving up, you bite your lip, lean in and push through it.

I am thankful for the tough women in my life – my mother, for one. But also the women I meet at shows who, for a brief afternoon of shared experience, express and honor the same feelings, questions and challenges. Who push themselves anyway. Women who “just do.”

At the end of a show, my body aches with tiredness. “Is it worth it?”

Well, if I make a little extra money for my family, exercise a part of myself and my skill set that I don’t readily use at home and share my passion and enthusiasm with other women who can feel encouraged too – then I think it is. When I come home to a spirited toddler and hold him close and feel tremendous satisfaction that I gave of myself to him and to others to the point I might break, but I don’t – then I think it is. I want him to know his mother as a strong woman who gives her best to everything in her life and doesn’t let a little tiredness or a lot of fear get in the way of making an impact, however small.

I want to show him what it means to live a life full of passion and purpose in EVERYTHING I do. So, my answer to “Is it worth it?” – Sure, it is, Jessica. Stop doubting yourself and just do it.


					

Notes from A “Hot Mess” (Yours Truly)

Here is my confession in black and white. I am a “hot mess.” It is a term used frequently by a close friend of mine, and I love it so much I have adopted it as part of my own vernacular. Sadly, I find myself using it the most when describing, you guessed it, myself.

What exactly is a “hot mess,” you might ask? Well, the Urban Dictionary describes it first as “a person who is a handful, a piece of work, a colorful character.” My definition of the phrase is slightly different – as definitions of this kind can be manipulated to serve ones own purpose. My own definition describes my perpetual state of being as one that neither looks or feels in control…of anything…ever…and thus says and does things that others find strange, embarrassing or even irritating. Someone who doesn’t truly fit into our commercialized culture that insists on outward perfection. Someone who can’t seem to get her poo-poo together.

I realize that I am a round peg in a world (or culture) of square ones. I go punching into life with a lot of “ouches” and “ughs.” Some people find it endearing. A lot of other people find it annoying. I have tried to become more organized, punctual, eloquent and graceful – not all at the same time, of course. (Baby steps, people!) But sometimes it seems like the more I try, the more I frustrate myself with a growing list of perceived failures.

I want to be thankful for all the individuals in the universe who, at least on the surface, don’t appear to suffer from this state of being. Most of them are Type A personalities who find a way to manage their lives, so that they are not, well, messy. I wish I didn’t drive them all crazy. But sometimes, I secretly like that I do, because after a while, they really grate on me too. Why are they so much better, because they were born with the organizing gene?

Call it heredity, a mental disturbance, A.D.D. — but, my hyper-hot-messiness is not going away. Sure, I can learn skills for organizing and keeping better track of all the details. But I will never completely change. I will never THINK like “them.” It will never come second nature. And I have tried to fake it. To fake that I am that detailed person. Or that I am capable of keeping all the balls in the air. But it’s not long before the ruse is up. So here is my question – why am I always seeking to be the opposite of a “hot mess” – calm, controlled, organized, tactful…oh the list goes on. Why is it so hard for me to embrace my true self? The one that feels a little like Charlie Brown’s “Pig Pen.”

Maybe, because the world doesn’t celebrate differences like it should. And maybe our culture likes the Martha Stewart types. Everywhere I turn, a magazine, newspaper or talk show offers me new rules for living a Type A life as if we were all meant to put down roots there. The world seems full of tips for color coordinating your sock drawer, hyper-alphabetizing (I made that word up) your media collection, labeling your kitchen utensils and clutter-proofing your house. What if I believe life wasn’t meant to be as tidy as a Lysol commercial, even if it were possible?! What if that isn’t what turns me on? I know some people love doing these things. Great, clean and organize all you want, but I don’t want to adopt all your rules for living. I can’t. And if I did, I would probably break them in, like, two minutes.

This is simply the tip of the iceberg for us hot messes. There are many definitions of this state of being for which I would think every one of us could relate (even Martha Stewart). But today, I wish to celebrate all the hot messes, like me, who couldn’t lead Stepford lives if their very lives (and those of their family members) depended on it.

I would like to step out and claim my hot messiness as a gift and not as a curse. I do so via the imaginary Hot Mess Anthem (a publication that is neither bi-monthly or monthly but rather…sporadic at best). Anthem headlines boast things like “How NOT to Use Every Free Minute Cleaning While Life Literally Passes You By” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People With Your Fun Personality and Great Sense of Humor Instead of Your Manicured Hair and Perfect House.”

Here are a some hot mess rules on various topics lifted from the latest installment of the Anthem (it’s imaginary, People, roll with it). Take a walk on the wild side with me…

Tip #1: There is no reason to color coordinate anything except what you are wearing right now (and even then, some days, that is also optional).

Tip #2: If you show up late and feeling like a hurricane entering some social gathering, smile and be glad you made it at all. There are worse things in the world – like an actual hurricane.

Tip #3: In the olden’ days, most people had dirt floors. There are several morals to this story, but I will leave you with this one for now: If your tiled floor doesn’t sparkle constantly, you will somehow survive. And survive, you do.

Tip #4: When you don’t want to do a full clean, do a half clean. By this, I mean the bare minimum. That’s right, wipe it down with a Clorox wipe, and be done with it. And don’t tell me you “just can’t stop at that” – get off your high cleaning pedestal – you have been feeding yourself that lie for years until you started believing it was true. Too many Lysol commercials – I am cutting you off!

Tip #5: (And this is a good one) A little clutter makes mean people judge you and nice people relax a little. Who would you rather have visit longer?

The list continues (stay tuned for Part II), but it is past eleven o’clock and I have Zumba tomorrow morning (I wrote this last night.) I will leave you with this parting thought before I go to sleep without washing my face. I may not be able to color-coordinate and uber-organize my life like Martha Stewart. But, may I remind you of something it appears many people have forgotten…Girlfriend went to jail! And somehow I bet that, in the “Slammer,” her closet-organizing skills turned out to be completely useless. Just saying.

To be continued… 😉

Tears Make the Best Rain

This past weekend marked my first nights away from my darling boy. It is amazing how being his mother has changed me. For weeks (okay, months), I fretted about a weekend away from Jude, who had not spent one night … Continue reading

Waiting on Motherhood: Erin’s Story

I would like to introduce you to a J. Laurel heroine and close personal friend of mine. Erin is one of my inspirations for starting this blog to celebrate real, authentic women. Her story has inspired me, and I want … Continue reading