Oh My Senior ‘21…

Dear J,

Holy Goodness. (Deep breath) Wow. (Another deep breath) I’m sort of at a loss for words. (Not really, I simply can’t form a sentence through my ugly crying.) You. Did. It. (And deep exhale.)

It’s been a week. I’m not sure how, but it has.

One week since you made your way across the stage of The Cintas Center on Xavier’s campus, to accept your high school diploma. One week since the world’s greatest AD gave you one last fist pump, before Dr. H handed you a fancy portfolio, signifying your successful completion of the required education in the State of Ohio and the ”It’s cool to go ahead and get after doing what you love.” you’ve been waiting for. (Silent loud cheers from Mama; possibly an unseen eye roll from you.) One week since, “Yep, you totally did it!” became the best five words strung together in a long time.

Now what? That’s always the question, right?

Parents typically define success for their kids along the lines of a good K-12 education, graduation, college, a clear picture of the future, and a first job that, in more than a few cases, brings you back to where you came from where you can settle down, get married, have babies and live happily ever after. Honestly, we had a similar plan for you when you stepped on the bus for Kindergarten in 2008. Over the last 12 years, we’ve come to accept, even champion, the idea that a successful crossing of the finish line isn’t one size fits all. None of us were made to be the same as the other; our life journey should be as unique as we are. So we reworked our parenting goals with the intention of instilling encouragement and values in you that made “success” possible on both the well-traveled and less-traveled roads.

Spoiler Alert: the lesser traveled roads often make success even sweeter.

First and foremost, without question, wherever life takes you, we don’t want you to spend your life in a career that finds you going to bed on Sunday, dreading Monday and wishing it was Friday. I know we’ve expressed this one countless times because, as you know, it’s a bit of reality under our own roof. It’s sort of become our parenting mantra and we genuinely hope it gives you the courage to live a life full of the stuff that brings you real joy. True, sincere, irrefutable joy. If more people did that, our entire world would be so very different. That’s how we were made to live – doing what we love and what set our souls on fire. Those are the things that will help cement your legacy. Whatever that looks like for you, go do it. Take your own road, knowing you have a small, always growing and loud army on it with you. No trepidation. No making other people happy. No holding back. Go – do what you know you were made to do.

Seriously. Do it.

Win or learn with humility, leave people and places better than you found them, know when and how to apologize, and don’t RSVP to every argument you are invited to or happen to stumble across, join the previously mentioned “Do what you love.” as our Countdown to Launch goals for you and C. If you refer to them as the next chapter in the story of you begins, we believe the rest really will fall into place. People will see so much more in you than a piece of paper, a resume, a car or house or sizable bank account could ever say about you. Your character is your most valuable asset; we put this list together with the hope it will give you some tools to be as amazing as we know you can be. Time will tell how well we did in accomplishing it all. I know we’ve screwed it up in a million ways; we can only pray we got it right in a million plus one ways. Growing a human that is capable of being awesome in this world is the most unreal task. It’s also the most rewarding one ever. And you are incredibly awesome, if we do say so ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to be awesome. We mean it.

Every tear, loss, hurt, sleepless night, fight, silent treatment, slammed door, mistake, failure, and sacrifice were worth it. More than worth it actually. Well, well, well worth it. Without it all, the complete explosion that erupted in my soul when you walked down the stairs, diploma in hand, to get a send-off from the world’s greatest principal wouldn’t have been possible. Finding the good is a skill successful, content and joy-filled people are really good at. When the losses, heartache, doubts, and sacrifices life will throw at you show up, I hope you will remember this day and all it took, the good, bad and ugly, to get here. It’s a victory and an even better one because it didn’t come easy. You can handle anything life drops in your path. And you won’t ever do it alone. Not ever. Never.

This is it. It’s your time. Your moment.

Go after what you want without the fear of “What if…?”

Trust yourself and all you are capable of doing.

Expect the unexpected – change really is the only constant in this world. (Good lesson COVID but we still hate you.)

Dream big, dream small – just don’t stop dreaming.

Live with just enough of a chip on your shoulder that it keeps the fire in you burning without weighing you down.

And, of course, have the best day you can have each and every day.

We’re so ridiculously proud of you and ready to see you show the world what you have to offer. You made it. We made it. What a ride it has been. I do believe we are all better people because of the 18 years we’ve done together. That’s celebration worthy. So celebrate – you’ve more than earned it.

I’ll leave you with the words of an incredible man, who after working through the latest crisis or celebrating a great victory, regularly asked the same question of the people around him, as a way of closing one chapter and preparing for another. “Okay people, what’s next?”, served President Jed Bartlett quite well. (Yes, Mama worked in a West Wing reference.) I hope those words will serve you well, too.

The Last of the Redskins.
The Last of the Fellow’s Fans.
What a ride it has been.

Anderson High School Class of 2021

Congratulations, J – you are absolutely ready for what’s next.

Let Go…

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Is there anything more infuriating than hearing those words when you’re in a season of feeling like you are being buried alive; in a hole that you are certain your will never emerge from; screaming “Really, we’re supposed to believe You have some grand plan in all of this?”; crawling through life with a soul so tired that you find yourself praying, “Jesus, I would be okay if You just decided my time here was done.”

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More than we can imagine…

‪On this day…‬

‪2012: I was 24 hours into kicking a 22 year cigarette habit.‬

‪2013: I had my left knee cap removed (not replaced).‬

‪Around this day, 2014: I was out of fight. I was exhausted from the toll pain had taken on me. I walked through each day with a heavy sadness words can’t describe over the impact my unsuccessful recovery had on my family. With hopelessness consuming me and full certainty that a year out, we should all be enjoying a much better quality of life than we were, My Fave and I explored amputating my left leg. My surgeon asked me to give it six more months.‬ I immediately wanted a cigarette, as if smoking was going to make it easier to decide whether or not I trusted my surgeon of 20+ years. ‪I’m still smoke free, eight years later. I’m still blessed with the use of both my legs. And it has very little to do with me.

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A Mama Never Forgets…

My memory is terrible. Not just the “Now what did I come in this room for?” kind of stuff. My memory for life in general is just lacking. There are the insignificant moments that are clear as day. There are happy and sad and horrifying and joyous things I remember and some I should, but don’t. I’m certain there is an explanation; whatever the reason behind what I do and don’t remember bothers my psychiatrist much more than it does me.

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1 Down, 30 To Go…

Day 1 of #MentalHealthMonth…

Those would have been my words to the social media world today with great hope they might catch someone’s attention. With hope another Warr;or might read them and know there’s someone else who does understand. With hope someone, who thinks we are soft, weak and just “need to get over it”, would see those of us who claw our way through 5 seconds at a time, just a bit differently or at least with less contempt. With hope family or friends, who couldn’t save someone they love from a war their own brain waged against them, might find peace or understanding or self-forgiveness in the words of someone who is somehow still managing to enter the battlefield each day.

Not this year. Self preservation won about a week ago. Not sure how I feel about that but here we are all the same. Continue reading

The F-word…

Remote learning. Stay at home orders. Unemployment. Childcare challenges. Sports postponed indefinitely. Milestone events canceled. Kids missing friends. Nursing home residents separated from their families. Work from home chaos. Toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and mask shortages. Concerts, vacations and celebrations that won’t happen. The list could go on and on.

How could the “F” word not come flying out of our mouths multiple times a day? I mean, it’s beyond appropriate. Even if they’re not saying it, everyone is thinking it. It seems an absolutely perfect response to fully express our frustration! And it seems if we just say it, rather than just think it, we should feel better. Right?

So why isn’t our repeated use of “fair” not doing the trick? Continue reading

2 words for 2020…

Welcome to March. Wait. What? How in the heck have we burned through 61 days of 2020 already? Where did they go? And how in he world have I no posted for 67 days? Wonder if needing just 9 days to decide my New Year resolution was dumb has anything to do with me not writing? Could not writing make it feel crowded in my head? Are there way too many words fighting for space in my brain and is that why I feel so exhausted? But what to write about? I’ve amassed 49 ideas “drafts” (and I use that term liberally) and they are all garbage. Since I have to start somewhere, my failed 2020 resolution seems to make sense.

For the last couple of years, I’ve ditched the concept of traditional New Year resolutions. They’re basically regurgitated year after year anyway: Eat better. Go to the gym consistently. Date my husband more. Read more. Journal more. I routinely end up in the corner with the 80% of Americans whose resolutions fail by the 2nd week of February. My gift of perfectionism is on hand to help me beat myself up every time I crash, burn and quit. Rather than an unoriginal list, I’ve switched to a 2-word resolution, inspired by a colleague who has become a trusted friend.

A little recap on the journey to the why behind the words I’ve chosen. I’ve spent most of my life in some sort of physical pain. A slip on some ice in 2011 would lead to a hip-to-ankle immobilizer, crutches, hours upon hours of PT, etc.  The more time I spent in the brace followed by recovering from 2 surgical attempts to fix my knee, the more the pain spread. A 3rd surgery would be to remove my kneecap and was a true last ditch effort. After 6 months of recovery, I tried to pretend like the pain that should have gone away did. Even went so far as to run a 15K, which was ridiculously stupid. Your kneecap is vital in the function of your quad and hip; all three are vital to running. It doesn’t help that Cincinnati isn’t exactly flat; the course I ran was more than happy to flaunt the hills of our beautiful city. Have I mentioned how dumb an idea this was?

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The year following that run would be filled with some of the most painful days ever. Days that made me angry and were so dark that suicide crossed my mind regularly. Steroids (a blatant no-no for bipolar Warr;ors) and a lifetime of pain killers (too much addiction in my family to have those around and insurance companies aren’t super excited to give mentally ill patients pain killers, especially in the age of an opioid crisis) weren’t viable options to manage my pain or to help me set limits on what could take up space on my calendar and still allow me to be the wife and Mama I wanted to be. My therapist at the time had done her Masters work in values based pain management. It sounded awesome and then not so much when she fully explained it. She gave me a list of 86 values, told me to pick 10 and then instructed me to only say “yes” to the things that fell within at least 2, preferably 3, values. Communication. Integrity. Belonging. Leadership. Faith. Compassion. Connectedness. Kindness. Perseverance. Respect. These 10 words were to become the measuring stick I would use to make any commitment that could impact my physical and/or mental health. They hang on the mirror in our bedroom and are the wallpaper on my phone. No escape.

I found myself needing more ways to put these 10 values into daily practice and serve as reminders to pause and consider them before saying “Yes!” Which brings me to my 2 words. Each year, I have very small, custom rings made with my 2 words hammered into them. I wear the current year stacked with my wedding band. When the year comes to a close, it moves to a bracelet that was my first Mother’s Day gift and I wear almost daily.

2018: Be intentional – an attempt to really stick to those 10 values and be intentional about committing only to what fell within them. Also to start shedding the stuff that didn’t. The “Yes” person in me found both equally as difficult.

2019: Get to – a plan to shift my mindset from focusing on all I was unable to do and find gratitude in what I was able to. I’d gotten bitter about the limits my EDS diagnosis carried and the things I still had to do that were painful and would typically continue to be. “Have to” became “Get to” for everything from grocery shopping and laundry to enduring a PTO meeting or a business dinner with My Fave.

As the end of the 2018-19 school year came to a close, bringing with it an end to a very involved four years at our middle school, my psychiatrist and I started to work through my “What’s next and who am I if I am not known for spending every waking moment at my kid’s school?” I’d always been busy. I like busy. Busy leaves very little time to think. Like it or not, come August I was facing a reality of 4-6 hours a day no longer filled with being at school, busy with all the outside of school tasks and driving J & C all over. “What am I supposed to do to fill all that time?” to which my psych replied, “Why do you have to fill it with something else? What if you didn’t fill all that time? What if you used a little of that time to just rest?” In November, my 2020 ring arrived.

Find Rest.

Ummm, yeah not wired or comfortable resting. And I suck at it. I mean I did fall off the wagon on January 9, 2020.  But I’m trying and the more I try, the messier it gets. I thought spending some quiet time with Jesus first thing each would be an excellent idea. Except it wasn’t; the more I tried to use that time to spend in rest, the “ickier” I felt. The more exhausted I was. The darker my days got. The more my anxiety reared it’s ugly head. I’ve had more crumbled mess on the floor sob sessions than I can count. I swear I’ve bought more Kleenex this year than I did all of 2019. We’re sort of in the bottom of the pit at the moment. The pit contains awesome moments like the one this weekend when My Fave had to ask the most dreaded question you can ask a Warr;or: “Do we need to go to the hospital?” They say that if you want to get under the skin of the enemy, just start giving Jesus a whole bunch of your attention. Whoever “they” are wasn’t lying when coining that bit of wisdom.

I think He knew how hard this was going to be for me and sent me some assurance I was exactly where He wanted me, courtesy of an email in early December from the leader of high school ministry at our church. He asked if I’d be willing to give a message on February 9th about how kids can find rest by simplifying their lives and being mindful about how they spend their time. To be clear, this leader had no idea I’d made “Find Rest” my 2020 resolution. He didn’t know the date I would give my message would mark the start of the 2nd week of February and it’s the week 80% of New Year resolutions fail. Jesus does not and never has done coincidence, y’all. His final, “I am the ultimate show-off” moment came the morning of my message.  I was listening to Judah Smith’s Churchome podcast on my way to church. In all honesty, I was rehearsing my own message more than I was listening to his. He got my full attention when he said, “Pastors talk most about the very thing they struggle with.” (Yeah, I know I’m not a pastor; logic still applies. Don’t ruin my moment.)  You win, Jesus. But to be clear, there is nothing remotely “restful” in any of this. 

Rest, it looks like we still have 10 months to find each other. I’m ready to try again if you are.

It’s a tradition…

A sure fire way to make Christmas the most un-wonderful, exhausting and dreaded time of the year? Work in retail. I’m certain restaurant veterans could say the same, but retail is where I spent entirely too much time during Christmas. So much time, that when the boys were younger, December 23rd rolled around and the Millers didn’t have a Christmas tree.

Yep, December 23rd. No tree. And Santa was coming soon. Yikes!

Kroger to the rescue – that year and every year since. Continue reading