On the Me{n}U: My Horrible Mommy, Life-changing Moment

It happened. I planned for it. I practiced for it. I dreaded it. I hoped I would never have to face it. I feared every time I heard it happening to someone else.

But a horrible moment happened to me anyway.

I lost my five year old daughter at a water park!

lost

…thankfully, only for a moment.

But it is a moment that will last forever in my memory. I can close my eyes right now and relive the panic. Chest tightening as if embraced by King Kong. Pulse racing faster than an Olympic sprinter. Flashes of what if scenarios playing fast forward in my head…the worst scenarios a mother could think of. Praying like a madwoman both in my heart and on my lips to Almighty God in a way I never ever want to do again. All other faces blurred into nothingness as I searched for that one precious face that meant everything in that moment. A five minute moment felt like forever.

Have you had that moment?

A sliver of time that would change the course of your life afterwards forever. I know you have. Some are fantastic. One minute no baby, the next minute, BOOM! parenthood. One minute, high school student, next minute POW! Graduate.

Some are absolutely foul. A loss. A goodbye. A death.

image courtesy of artur84:freedigitalimages.net

image courtesy of artur84; freedigitalimages.net

Our greatest and worst moments marker our lives. They give definition and character to the story of our existence. My story, your story, is highlighted by our moments, whether we like them or not. And as much as I would love to erase the moment my daughter was lost from my memory, it is a part of me now and will be always. To someone at that water park, I am the mom who could not keep track of her daughter and irresponsibly lost her kid. (Ok, so it didn’t happen quite like that. But they don’t know that. She didn’t wander off. She just didn’t hold hands and in her following could not see us anymore. In that split second of panic, a guard asked if she was lost and took her to the security room just that fast. We were literally two feet away, but she couldn’t see us, so she was lost. And yes, I am STILL embarrassed by that fact.)

How do we embrace the moments in our lives that depict us negatively?

How do we make peace with the memories that reveal such dark times in our lives? What do we do if those memories outshine any good that we have ever encountered? I don’t profess to have the only wisdom on this matter, but I do know what helps me.

I try to remember that: moments

  1. Life is a journey. I can’t have ups without downs. And if I did, life would be dull

  2. Negative moments fuel the positive ones. If I can make it through, the joy that is to come will be that much sweeter.

  3. My worst moments connect me deeply in my relationships with others and with my Savior God. I am forced to be humble, to be vulnerable, to trust, and to receive outside of myself. What a great gift trouble can give if I can view it as such.

  4. Trials of life chip away at the rough and insensitive parts of my life and make me a better listener, more compassionate, more empathetic, and more humble. It’s a tool I can use in my life.

When I can remember these in the midst of sour moments, I can not only withstand them, I can incorporate them into memories with a deep respect.

If I can do that then you can choose to do that, too, because Me {n} U, we’re no different! We both have choices to make. Our circumstances may be different, but the power to choose is always ours.  And if we choose well, we can embrace lifetime changing moments and continue to remain

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A Resolution for You: A Revelation for Me

I was going to write about my displeasure of New Year’s resolutions. I still may. The year is young.

image courtesy of sscreations/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of sscreations/freedigitalphotos.net

Instead, this is my third attempt at sharing my New Year’s revelation. It has everything to do with you. Despite my computer’s thwarting efforts, I insist on being victorious this time around. If you are reading non-jibberish, then please raise your glass or coffee mug as I have in a rousing toast: To Beating Technology!

Ok, back to the revelation of the resolution. Have you ever had a moment when you looked around at life and just said, what in the world? Things are so bad! I just had that moment. Looking at a book marketed for teens, I was blindsided by the mature subject matter, the flippant attitude towards life, and the absurd notion that EVERYBODY lives this way so I should just get used to it. What kind of future is waiting for my kids? Then the realities of life hit. I am all too familiar with the oozing darkness that covers lives with despair.

Death. Heartbreak. Loss. Abuse. Addiction.

Jealousy. Rage. Cruelty. Loneliness. Prejudice.

Betrayal. Desperation. Entrapment. Confusion. Pain.

 Real life is NOT  a cool tv show. Real pain does not need to be poked. It hurts bad enough as it is.

This stuff just isn’t peachie. But it is happening right now.

That thought sends me to a very uneasy place. As a matter of fact, this is how I feel: Hyperventilating beginning…panic ensuing…NEED. CHOCOLATE. NOW! Sad to say though not even chocolate brings adequate aid. I usually try to avoid thinking about the horror someone is facing right in the same moment I get to sit here and write about it. I feel helpless not being able to switch out that person’s life to help them avoid such mind-blowing pain. And if i can’t help, then I would rather not think about it. I would like to start my day over, eating my banana bread and looking at dressy fashions, imaging how great I would look in them (if I were 2o pounds lighter and just a couple years younger. Just a couple I say!) But I can’t. I am forced today to deal with issues.

That’s when I had my revelation. A New Year’s Resolution for you. Ok, not for you exactly but exactly with you in mind. Though I may not be able to physically transform lives–my cash flow situation will not get you out of debt (I am struggling to get my own self out of that!), I have no task force at my disposal to run down and lock up creeps, I can’t make anyone fall in love with you, I can’t bring anyone back from the dead (I am starting to sound like Aladdin’s genie)–let me tell you what I can do.

I. CAN. PRAY. FOR. YOU.

image courtesy of tungphoto: freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of tungphoto: freedigitalphotos.net

Don’t give me that face. I am not talking about making a wish to the heavens or hoping that the luck of the universe will help someone out. I am talking about the generous opportunity I have every day to go before the God of all and ask for His help. I didn’t ask you if you think He can do it. I didn’t even say He would answer how I want Him to. What I am saying is that He can. And if He can, and I can ask Him, then there is HOPE. The smallest light still pierces the blackest dark. This HOPE is a light. This HOPE I can give.

And this HOPE you can have.

I resolve this year instead of flighting from the darkness to fight it whenever I encounter it with His light. I HOPE this changes things for ME {N} U. I know that for me, it already has.

image courtesy of ponsulak: freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of ponsulak: freedigitalphotos.net

Pass me the chocolate and with HOPE let’s stay,

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Summertime ME{N}U: Fake Corn with Real Butter

There are some words I love…

You look great, honey. And so slim!

Mom, you’re the best!

We won!

There’s chocolate for dessert.

And…MADE WITH REAL BUTTER!

Butter and a butter knife

I splurge on very few things. Ok, I tend to look for reasons to splurge on just about anything. But, there are a couple of things in this life for which I will pay top dollar. One of those things is REAL BUTTER, made with real cream. No other junk included. One of the other things is toilet paper. (I refuse to be caught with a cheap product that doesn’t go the distance if you know what I mean.)

I have my favorite brand of real butter and I stick with it whether I have a coupon or not. Why? The taste of course! Oh my goodness the taste! Real butter tastes better in almost everything.

I said almost everything.

Real and Fake Don’t Mix

Real butter does not do anything for fake corn. I know because I am a self-proclaimed popcorn expert.

courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net: digitalarts

I have learned from the best (my family). We are persnickety about our popcorn ingestion. Real butter is a no brainer. Good popcorn has to have real butter, but the butter can only go as far as the corn will take it. I have tried to cut costs supporting my real butter habit by buying the cheapie popcorn kernels with the fake brand to pop in my air popper (which pops the fluffiest corn). You usually do get what you pay for. Cheapie kernels don’t pop well, the burn easily, and just taste different. No good I say. Not even real butter can mask the nasty of a fake corn. And life is too short to eat bad popcorn.

My Popcorn = My Life

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net: aopsan

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net: aopsan

While snacking on the good stuff and thinking about my life, I see the same pattern as the popcorn. Real and fake don’t mix. With my life, I am constantly choosing whether I am going to invest in the real or try to get by with the cheapie instead. A relationship sprinkled with fake bonds will prove to be unstable and unreliable. An education that has taken shortcuts in order to receive a good grade loses the quality of learning which is the reason for the education in the first place. Parenting when it is convenient for me leaves children of low character and cheapens not only the family but our society as a whole. Keeping up appearances to impress others in my life often leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Being real with who I am, with all my imperfections, whether I impress you or not, never does. I do not want to live a fake popcorn life.

How about you?

Life involves Me & You. I want to let you know that you are better REAL.

We’re not that different and I can hear you telling me that I don’t have to be anyone else. I can be who I am. Leave all the judgers behind. I agree! And you should, too! There’s only One in my life who I care completely what He thinks of me. Only One who can forgive me 100% all the time so that I don’t have to be perfect. I can be REAL. I can be me. And you can, too.

Don’t forget this fact either: Real butter doesn’t just happen. It has to go through a process before it is ready to be used. I am still in process, too. So be patient with me and I will be patient with you. If we all did that maybe we could live a more genuine life.

So as you eat lots of popcorn with real butter remember real is good for you. Real tastes better. You deserve real. Go ahead and splurge on what matters…YOU.

Keeping it real and staying…

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Summertime ME{N}U: Farmer’s Market Delights

I do admire farmers.

They are hard-working, self-sustaining, and take-pride-in-their-trade kind of people. I don’t ever want to be one, but I will shop at their markets! I first learned of farmers markets living in the grand city of Minneapolis. The whispers of freshness in the forms of produce and plants spoke poetically to this city gal who had very little time connecting to anything not store bought. I had to check to it out.

English: Copley Square Farmer's Market

English: Copley Square Farmer’s Market 

           I was a little disappointed.

I didn’t see any farmers.

Oh they were there. I was greatly impressed with the amount of affordable market delights that brought life to the normally dead concrete slabs full of similarly deadpan business people. Here folks were smiling, eating well, and smelling flowers. But I didn’t notice any farmers. At least not any of the kind I was looking for.

Why was I looking for farmers? Because I am an avid people watcher, and I, being the city girl I am, wanted to gawk at the overalls and flannels that one would suspect farmers selling their wares in the market would wear. A piece of hay sticking out of their mouths would also add a nice touch. But everyone I saw looked average, normal. No overalls. No hey straw cigarettes. No gawking.

I wonder if the farmers were expecting to see some city girl with lots of tattoos, babies with no daddies, and gang affiliated attire. I have no tats (except the ones my children draw on me when I’m distracted), all my babies have the same daddy (and I know where he is) and I am not knowingly affiliated with any sect of any gang. I probably disappointed them, too, at first. Then I bought their stuff. A relationship bloomed instantly.

Even though my predetermined expectations were wrong, I still left the market with more than I came in to it.

Correction can surprisingly934736_620006918026593_1354997685_n lead to delightful outcomes

Presently I have moved from the city and  live in more country than I ever thought I would, and I have learned that  even farmers bring markets to themselves (I live in a town with lots of farmers). At our local market, I was again struck with a sight I was not expecting. A nice man, 6’2″ with a good sized frame, was selling his wares…a table full of homemade knitted delights. At the table next to him was another “man’s man” selling…potted flowers. I had to double take at these gentlemen. Neither one looked like they should have been matched with their wares. Did this big guy really use those bear paws to knit? Was his friend really fascinated with purple poppies? (That’s all he was selling.) I expected little grannies and green thumbed homemakers doing that. Not these guys. Upon further detection I discovered that the goods they were pushing were in fact not theirs. The knits…his mother’s doing but she could not be there. He was the loving son stepping in. The flowers guy…selling plants as a fund raiser for a local school. I stood corrected. These men were not who they seemed but refreshingly different from what I had anticipated.

Isn’t it funny how life, if you let it, can surprise, even delight you when you take the time to connect?

Our worlds in a sense run like a farmer’s market. Everyone selling something or another. This one her blog. That one his book. The other one her recipe  his brand, his ideals, her business. I can’t help but bring my own prejudged thoughts and misgivings to each encounter. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Other times extremely disappointed. But every time, at least I am connecting with someone or something that is helping me to make a better me by interacting with a never to be duplicated, given life on purpose you.

I continue to struggle with classic by the cover book judgement and uneducated expectations, but I’m learning. I’m learning to ask questions much like kids do. Two of my most engaging inquiries: Why? and How come? Greatness usually follows in some simple form like: “Because I don’t grow hay.” That’s the answer from one farmer about the hay cigarette. Ok, not really, but it could be.

Imagine how delightful these life markets would be if we stopped gawking at the farmers and kept our focus on the delights they have to share. We could end up with a lot of new and edifying relationships..and farm fresh goodness!

Simon Howden: courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Simon Howden: courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Enjoy your summer and I hope you are pleasantly delighted at the connections life brings!

You keep connecting and I’ll stay,

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This Week’s Just Desserts: Let me eat birthday cake!

Let me eat cake!

This post greets me near my next birthday and that means…BIRTHDAY CAKE!

Image curtesy of Idea go/freedigitalphotos.com

Image courtesy of Idea go/freedigitalphotos.com

My birthday is one of my favorite holidays (yes I said holiday and yes you should be able to stay home from work) because I really enjoy eating cake. As a matter of fact, when I became an official adult my rite of passage was to devour cake for breakfast. That’s right! My birthday, my rules! My birthday is the only day in the year set aside where:

  • I celebrate another milestone that is my life
  • I eat cake first at every meal
  • I become the object of celebration for anyone touched by my life

See why I enjoy them? But does anyone else see the problem here? I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with the word one.

Why do I celebrate life only ONE day?

I mean, we are alive each one of those  365 days in that year, right? I believe a quirky character with a need for good counseling and a hat fetish had it right when he partied for every happy un-birthday. Why are birthdays the only time I celebrate life when in reality each day is a gift (like the quote says, “that’s why it’s called the present”.)

Image curtesy of master isolated images/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of master isolated images/freedigitalphotos.net

At least that’s what the clingy stuck to my wall says. I wake up to that saying each morning, but I do not live like it. Do you? Aren’t you worth celebrating?  How do we stop talking about living life to the fullest and actually start living it?

I'm glad you asked!

Let’s start by eating CAKE.

C–Choose to Celebrate each day by giving thanks.

A heart full of gratitude can make even the worst day a bit better. Someone, somewhere has it far worse than you. Thankfulness doesn’t change our situations, but it doesn’t hurt either.

A–Ask yourself how you can make this day memorable.

Every birthday, my mom stayed up late or got up early to make sure our birthday banners, balloons, and posters were plastered everywhere the minute we cracked open our eyes. That memory stays with me reminding me how I was special to someone, and now I do the same for my children and my husband.

K–Keep a theme song handy.

No, I’m not kidding. Birthdays, and most celebrations if you think about it, carry a tune with them. I enjoy going to a restaurant and hearing underpaid, overworked people wearily slur, I mean, sing to me, “Happy, happy birthday from all of us to you. We wish it was our birthday, so we could party, too!”  Theme songs make everything more celebratory. You don’t have to go around singing it but having a tune in your heart helps keep you positive and on the lookout for good things to happen. And a cheerful heart does your body good. Even the most ordinary day can surprise you with an extraordinary event so be on the lookout for it. And if it doesn’t come today, then maybe…”Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow…” (I bet you finished singing that in your head didn’t you! Good theme song.)

E–EAT CAKE!

Don’t drop your diets or blame your next ten pounds on me, trust me baby #5 left enough jiggling poundage behind for ME {N} U. But take a moment in your day to treat yourself. Your “cake” may be a run in the park (which is fine, but please don’t look down on us cake eaters and we won’t trip you). Your “cake” may be..well…actual cake! Whatever it is, enjoy it and gather someone else around to enjoy it with you.

Birthday Cake was never meant to be eaten alone.

Image curtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Birthday celebrations are always better surrounded by friends and loved ones. Maybe those surrounding you are not ideal, but they are in your life, quite possibly for a good reason. Find ways to bring more CAKE into your life and find good quality people with whom you can share.

You were created on purpose, for a purpose, so celebrate today…and every day!

image curtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalimages.net

image courtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalimages.net

God made you on purpose. Your life was not a mistake and neither was mine. Every breath we take gives  us one more chance to see and do something no one else can do because there is no other you and there is no other me. We can not ever be duplicated to the exact same person. And YOU and I have something to offer this world. Our birthdays and unbirthdays are events excellent enough to celebrate so eat that cake up!  And save me a slice!

A Very Happy Unbirthday to ME {N} U,

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On this week’s ME{N}U: Toast..French or Cajun? Timing is everything

MOST THINGS IN LIFE REQUIRE GOOD TIMING

I burn everything at least once. And my kids never let me forget about it. Bread is most often the casualty. Garlic bread, biscuits, toast…especially toast…they all have been singed under my not so watchful care. You may make a great french toast. I make a mean Cajun toast–blackened that is. The difference? Timing. Timing in cooking is indeed everything. Timing in life is everything.

photobucket.com

photobucket.com

What a difference a day makes

The timing of this post lies almost one week after my daughter’s twelfth birthday. (So forgive any non-sensical wording please. One tends to rebound slowly after dealing with ten to twelve preteen girls hopped up on sugar for several hours.) I love to wake my kids at the midnight that crests their big day. One day my precious girl was eleven and the next–boom–twelve. Just in the matter of a second. How many things in life hinge on one second? Babies are born. Lives are saved by a split second. But how many seconds of our day are wasted on nothingness because we are not paying attention? My assessment, from personal experience, one second too many.

Pay attention to timing

Toast quickly turns from buns to briquettes when we stop paying attention to timing. Life quickly slips by us in the same manner. Missed opportunities. Unseen milestones. Futures altered. Life to death. All in the matter of a moment.

Timing is too precious to forget about. 

I am still a novice in this blogosphere, but already I am keenly aware of a few timing lessons.

Timing can place me with the right people at just the right moment, if I pay attention.

Using time wisely will keep me productive and poised, if I pay attention.

Ill use of timing and its principles will cost me dearly with my goals and with my relationships.

Just this morning because of misuse of time, this blog was delayed and if I had not caught myself, I could have missed a precious toddler moment. While trying to redeem my time and focus on finishing my work, I found myself literally pushing my toddler away from me. To my credit, he was about to jump over my head and onto my laptop which would not have been good for either of us. All he wanted, though, was to sit by me. His favorite line now is “Mommy, I need you.” Heart-melting  I know. Now add big brown eyes and curly brown hair…miss a moment with that! Not this Momma. That would be bad timing.

So, how’s your timing? 

Your life is made of many to do lists and deadlines, moments and madness, that you will have to journey  through. Time, your attention to it, how you use it, and how it uses you is something we all need to revisit in our lives. Don’t worry though. It’ll just take a second.

Taking my time and loving it. And always staying,

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On this week’s ME{N}U: New and Improved Lemonade for Life

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

What a dumb metaphor. I am sorry Mr. Elbert Hubbard circa 1915. This metaphor contains a huge flaw, besides being painfully quaint. When life gives me lemons, I usually just want to throw them back and yell, “I didn’t ask for any stupid lemons!” You probably already agree but what can we do? Life. Sometimes it brings bad things, sour things, distasteful things that we can’t throw back. But taking just lemons and making lemonade…bad idea. Let me explain my take on this by sharing with you a personal story first.

Taste this, Mommy!

My daughter made me lemonade once when she was ten. She was so proud on that hot day. “Here Mommy, I made it myself!” I should have taken the cue and braced myself. But I didn’t, and yup you guessed it.

http://studentministrygames.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/wednesdays-wild-game-pucker-up/

studentministrygames.wordpress.com/

It was nasssssty! 

My entire face shrunk in with a shrivel as I squeaked out, “Thanks, honey. You’re the best.” You know what the problem was? All lemons. No sugar. Bad combo.

You can’t make good lemonade with just lemons!

Understandably, life is not always pleasant. Bad times, aka lemons, always seem to sprout when and where we least want them. But the lemons are not the problems by themselves. It’s how we prepare the lemons that make the difference. Some of us pick the lemons just to suck on them. All we can do is suck the sour out of the situation. Tell everyone how bad it is. Express how it can never ever get better. Repeatedly. Confirm our suspicions on the fact that we have the worst problem ever. Lemons really do suck. I am tired of the face shrivel and overall displeasure of living in such a way. Aren’t you?

So let’s make that lemonade…a New and Improved lemonade.

First, cut up the lemons. Take your problem and cut it down to size. Most often any problem will overwhelm us if we continue to look at it as a mountain, but if we can break it down step by step, we can conquer Everest a bit at a time.freedigitalphotos.net, piyato

Next, add some water. Water for us can represent clarity and common sense. Both items in a crisis are very hard to deliver to oneself if you are the one in crisis. Get a friend, a wise friend (not the one that you only want to come around when he gets a double-dog dare). Share the problem with her and see if she can offer a sensible step or maybe even a whole different perspective. Word to the wise here: don’t use too much water or in our case don’t tell too many people or harass those one or two friends repeatedly just because you have some lemons. Remember, they’re just here to help. It’s your lemons. It’s your lemonade.

Sugar-1Thirdly, and most important in my world, ADD SOME SUGAR! For the love of all things sweet, add some sugar. Life is easier to handle when you can laugh at yourself or the situation. Give or serve someone else who is worse off than you are. Taking your eyes off of yourself can help you gain a greater perspective. Gratitude is also a way to sweeten an otherwise wearisome task. Have you ever tried to give thanks in every situation, no matter what? Challenging at times yes, but always an option…if you really want to make things better. Find a way to sweeten your situation.

Next to last, add some ice. Ice cools things down. Maybe in your life crisis, you need to step away from it. Let it cool down. Let yourself cool down. Take a vacation, even if it’s just a cold drink, to relax and refocus. I personally pray. I actually pray first which would be like adding the ice first which is fine to me because I love a good, cold lemonade. If you do pray, let me just suggest that you check out who you’re praying to. Prayer in itself is good; prayer to Someone who could actually make a difference is better.

Finally, shake or stir it up. Do something about it. You see the steps, now take them. A lot of times we want others to do our work for us or fix our problem or scrub our houses. Oops, sorry, the house comment was for another blog. Check Just Peachie’s 31 day challenges for that. Anyway, learn to become the key to your own success. And most often success comes by working at a task until it is done to perfection.

Kinda like lemonade. If you’re going to make it, make it good. I mean, you’re going to get lemons anyway, whether you like it or not. That really is life. You can’t throw those sour moments away, but you can make lemonade…some of the best lemonade you’ve ever had. You may be surprised just how sweet the outcome will be.

Try it today: Cut your life issue down to manageable parts, get a wise friend to help, find some sort of good in that moment in that situation, let it chill, then do something to work it out. You may just rediscover how good life can taste.freedigitalimages.net, dusky

You keep connecting and I’ll keep staying,

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