What? We only get one day…

best-funny-quotes-happy-mother-day-wishes-poem-for-mom-to-greet-her-on-mothers-day-as-she-deservesHappy Mother’s Day! Ann Jarvis, in 1868, worked to establish a Mother’s Friendship Day in support of families being reunited following the Civil War. Her daughter would continue in her mother’s footsteps and Mother’s Day was born. (Sonora Dodd would follow to establish Father’s Day, as a nod to her father, a Civil War veteran and single father of 6 children). But let’s be honest – 1 day! One day is all we get, and if some of your Mother’s Days have been like mine, our spouses and kids sometimes take Mother’s Day to mean a special day to honor you while you do what you do every single day. But hey, they gave us a card they bought at 11 pm the night before and even though they forgot to sign it before they sealed the envelope it’s the thought that counts, right? Ugh! Ladies, if I ever do write a book, I promise to include an entire chapter on “The Right Way to Celebrate the Women You Love”.

I joke, but I do appreciate the effort. I really do. I know it all could have gone much differently.

I was quite sure, totally certain, I never wanted to be a Mama. My Fave and I miscarried 5 months after we were married; until I lost a baby, I had not desire to have one. None. Zero. But there’s something that happens when you’re doing with life with someone who loves all you; sometimes your “No. Never.” sounds more like “Sure. Maybe.” In my case it sounded like, “Yes and I want it immediately.” In July 2002, my third pregnancy, yielded a heartbeat that is still beating more than 16 years later. JTM made me what I never thought I wanted to be in March 2003. My pregnancy was high risk and scary but my labor was just 6 hours – I think it was God’s way of saying “I love you.”

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JTM, 6lbs 13oz; entered the world about the same way he lives life – content to be low key unless he really knows and trusts you and then you’ll be given the gift of seeing how awesome he really is.

CJM followed in November 2004; super easy pregnancy but because C, who to this day, never wants to do anything just like J does he was a monster baby who had to be taken via scheduled c-section 2 weeks early; my 4’10” stature and J’s quick delivery meant labor would likely be something one or the both of us wouldn’t survive.

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CJM, 9lbs 2oz & 2 weeks early; entered the world about the same way he lives life – dramatic, big and never content to do things the easy way when there’s a way that would make a much better story.

I love my boys. Love them! But being a Mama is not for the weak and add in mental illness that sometimes takes as much attention to manage as motherhood and holy goodness – I have no idea how our boys have made it to 14 and 16! I went light on meds with J (bipolar is managed really well by a med that comes with a high risk of spina bifida). With C I didn’t even bother to be on meds. Trying to manage pills that have to be taken at certain times of the day and have a variety of side effects doesn’t really work when a tiny human is running your entire life. So when the 2nd tiny human came along, I quit trying to manage meds. It sort of felt like it was them or me; I’m a Mama so I picked them. I got back on meds just after C’s 1st birthday when a call to My Fave found me saying, “I need you to come home – I’m filling the bathtub for the boys’ bath and am afraid to put them in because I am not sure they’ll make it out.” and it became clear that life without meds wasn’t going to work out so well for me. As horrid as it is when a Mama kills her babies because she is certain it is better than having to be raised by a monster, I get it. I don’t excuse it, but I get it. I swear to this day, it was Jesus that forced me to make that phone call because I was certainly not capable on my own.

img_5406My Fave has been a unwavering rock and lighthouse on the super stormy sea that Mamahood has been for me. There is a special place in heaven for the spouses of Warriors. All the days that I cried ugly about being selfish for bringing kids into my world of crazy. The countless times I talked about how horrible I was for even taking a risk of them getting the genes that caused my chaos. The grace he’s given me for the many, many times that I could barely keep myself alive which meant he had to be both Mama & Daddy. Every marriage has its challenges, the difficulties of which are self-measured; I can only say that I look back at our life since we met nearly 20 years ago and often wonder “What sort of a glutton for punishment must he be to have stayed when anyone else would have run and done it fast?” He showed me how to love someone when they are anything but lovable and did it because he believes I am worth – crazy and all. 

My own Mama and I have taken quite the journey to get to this day, too. I’m going to guess that when I entered the world 46 years and 357 days ago she didn’t quite picture our life together being what it’s been. We got it wrong a lot; sometimes it was her doing but I own a bunch of it, too. It took time and hard work and honesty and understanding and grace and stretches of total hell for us to get here. 

I think we both had to go through the journey so we could each be prepared for what it was going to be like when I became a Mama and she became a Grandma (Gaags or G-ma as she’s now affectionately known). She’s stepped in to be the Mama when I couldn’t be. She’s stepped in and been Mama & Daddy because Daddy was taking care of Mama. She’s taught me, with unreal gentleness, the lessons she learned while parenting me and my sister (we’re about as different as J & C are). She’s unconditional love on steroids and I’ve given her more than enough reasons to not be. I think we’d both say we’re sorry for what we’ve put the other through but certain we’d change very little, if anything, along the way.

In saying all of that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t get honest and acknowledge something we forget in our own Mother’s Day celebrations: Mother’s Day isn’t always a happy one for a Mama. Sometimes it’s because you’ve wanted to be a Mama and despite your best efforts can’t be. Maybe your story includes being given the chance to be a mom but you live with the weight of a heart-wrenching decision you made because you were certain you were in no way capable. It might be a day that serves as a reminder that you’re a Mama who outlived her own child. All of those things are okay. They are more than okay. Be mad and cry and wish the day would just be over already. But do me two favors: 1) don’t unpack your bags and stay there and 2) remember who He says you are…

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

Sidenote: Proverbs 31 is seriously misunderstood y’all.

At least once a day, over the last 16+ years, I have thought to myself, “What in the world was God thinking when He made me a Mama? He might actually be crazier than I am.” And then I look at these babies of mine and there is nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing. img_5124.jpg

I mess it up every day, sometimes more than once a day, but it’s hands down the best, hardest, most rewarding, most maddening job ever. Ever. I’ve had the chance to raise 4 tiny humans; life had other plans. Mother’s Day is a little hard for me too but each year I think I get better at just enjoying the babies we’re raising without regret or sadness or wondering what might have been.

My guys get better at it, too. My Fave set big expectations for himself when he had J bring me a Tiffany & Co bag for my 2nd Mother’s Day. We’ve not quite maintained that same leveling of showing Mama appreciation and I’ve not always been the best version of me because of it. We joke about it regularly now but it took a long time for this Mama to get there.

They’re old enough now to “shop” on their own. My gift this year – a couple of low scores on the golf course and “hardware” to show for it. Watching the babies you’ve been given to raise work hard and sacrifice and chase their dreams is the best gift ever – bringing home “hardware” is simply a bonus. Their Daddy did good this year too – a guilt-free day of shopping and lunch at one of my favorite spots with my Miller Men, my Mom and my sister and her family, marking the first Mother’s Day I haven’t been tasked with cooking.

Happy Mother’s Day, Warriors. Be good and patient with yourselves, Mamas, and don’t regret any of the moments you’ve been given, both the ones that bring a smile and the ones that bring tears. The world needs us and our stories – let’s keep showing up and leaning on each other to do it.

Stop whispering…

img_0914Me at 9 or 10, while trying to hear what the adults at the “grown up” Thanksgiving table were saying: “Why are they whispering? We’re not a whispering family.” I tried to ease my way into the conversation by tucking myself in next to my Dad; the volume got lower but I managed to catch a few words: “Cancer. She’s just a little girl.” I didn’t know much about cancer except that it was bad and if the grown ups were whispering, it must be really bad. Like, terrible kind of bad.

My Mom told me later that the “little girl” was a friend we played with at my Grandma’s house. My Grandma lived at the top of a big hill that overlooked the small airport near downtown. My Grandpa, who died when I was four, used to put me on his back and run me down that hill, my arms spread out like I was an airplane and we were preparing for landing. The “little girl” lived at the bottom of that hill and we’d play frequently when visiting my Grandma. She lost her battle. I don’t remember when exactly or much other than learning she had cancer via whispers at the Thanksgiving table.

I wasn’t sure why the whispers over someone being sick. I am the oldest of the grandchildren on my Mom’s side and the rest of the kids in our family were content to be at the kid’s table with zero interest what was happening at the adult’s table. Not me. I asked my Mom later why they were whispering and her explanation left me thinking that there were just words you didn’t say out loud or you might suffer the same. It’s no wonder that my suicide attempt got the reaction it did: “She seems so happy all the time.” I learned at a young age, self taught mostly, that there were just some things you didn’t say out loud.

I think often about the correlation between cancer and mental illness. They are vastly different in how each attack your body but trying to survive both carry battles we’d not wish on our worst enemies; each illness comes with a variety of treatments that work for some and not at all for others; both, despite the best care and attempts to treat the demon, will claim warriors who just couldn’t win the fight; sadly, often winning the war is in the favor of those that can afford to fight – neither of these beasts are cheap to battle; often overlooked is the impact that cancer and mental illness have on those who love the warrior trying to win the war.

I’ve seen loved ones struggle against cancer and it sucks – sucks! And while, I realize there are people who still believe that mental illness is “just in our heads” and “we should just snap out of it”, in hearing cancer survivors talk about their battles it feels and sounds a lot like the life of a mental illness warrior. I’m not trying to diminish the horrid fight of cancer in an attempt to elevate the seriousness of mental illness; in no way is the intent “Oh yeah, well mine is worse than yours!” It’s not a competition y’all – they both suck. My point is that somewhere along the way, we stopped whispering the word “cancer” and while it still claims far too many, the strides we’ve made in treatment and prevention are huge. Huge!

5b29a5a4b106cc3aa2596340891c578cAccording to Susan B. Komen’s 2016-17 annual report, their 2017 Race for the Cure and Breast Cancer 3 Day events brought in $136.2M in public support and revenue. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) brought in $11.3M during their 2017 NAMIwalks. AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) saw $25M raised during their 2018 Out of Darkness walks. The NIH (National Institute for Health) reports that in 2015, breast cancer stole 51,103 Americans; in 2016, they allocated $656M to breast cancer research. That same report says 44,281 Americans died by suicide and in 2016, provided research funding for suicide and suicide prevention of $85M ($52M to suicide and $33M to prevention). The NIH projects they will fund $644M in cancer research and $151M in suicide and suicide prevention in 2020.

Again, I am in no way diminishing the horror that is breast cancer (I picked breast cancer because it is a ravaging beast and the awareness around it is nothing near a stigma we whisper about), but we’ve seen an incredible increase in funding of research and it’s working. Google “breast cancer survival” and the rates at which women and men are beating the beast are so encouraging – there is so much more to do but people are increasingly winning the war. Google “suicide rates” and sadly the results aren’t nearly as encouraging; you don’t need me to tell you that it’s the 2nd leading cause of death in people between 10 and 24 (behind accidents) and the 10th leading cause of death in the US and getting worse year after year. Research published in March of this year by the American Psychological Association showed, among other sobering statistics, a 47% increase in suicidal thoughts or outcomes in young adults (18-25 years old) from 2008-2017; social media burst onto the scene in 2011 and isn’t going away.

Our kids are dying; people across the world are dying at a rate of 1 every 40 seconds and the US is “whispering” in research and funding. Society whispers the words suicide and depression and anxiety and more. There is such an unreal stigma around illnesses that affect the most complex organ in the human body. Many account it to people not being able to understand because they can’t see it and can’t imagine how it feels. Ignorance and “snap out of it” attitudes are still entirely too prevalent. Neither is helped by the fact that trying to explain our chaos to a “normal” person is nearly impossible – it makes little sense to us; there’s no way we can accurately explain it to others. And the layers and factors that make it better or worse are complex. Add in that our increasing use of communicating via a keyboard has sent compassion and empathy plummeting. When was the last time you saw someone struggling to put one foot in front of the other at Target and not judged them for looking like they haven’t showered in days? Be honest. I do it; not proud of it and I know how it feels and still do it!

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“Society treats illnesses above the neck differently than those below the neck.” “Angst

Whispers aren’t doing us any good against the beast that is mental illness. It increases stigma and ignorance and the next generation of leaders are dying before they even get a chance to show us what they are capable of. We must talk and we must listen. Really listen – not to respond but to hear the voice of those struggling. Yes, we know it can be hard to hear us sometimes; that’s what happens when the world tells you not to speak above a whisper.

Use your voices, Warriors.

I think that’s our job…

download (2)I’m just a Mama, not some 30ish year-old tech-savvy executive, so my assessment of crafting strategy for how people use a social media platform is not my expertise and is really narrow minded. It’s ironic that a few days ago, my psychiatrist tasked me with subbing “I’m more than a…” for “I’m just a …” but I’m neither ready or convinced, so Imposter Syndrome is winning on this subject and we’ll pay Dr. V to call me out in a couple of weeks. However, that’s a different subject for a different day. Continue reading

Warr;or…

DemonsI had such great hopes for May 1, 2019. I was going to be a Mental Health Superhero Advocate Champion Survivor Warrior. I was going to be bold and courageous and tell my illness that it had to take a back seat for the next 31 days because I had work to do; I was going to spend the next 31 days being bigger than my illness and breaking the stigma and ending the silence and more. I was kicking butt and taking names in my head. And then I woke up; hands shaking, heart racing, legs like jello – some warrior! I felt like the demons that made me tired yesterday hadn’t bothered to sleep last night. A member of my tribe sent me this two years ago, while I was training for my first (and only) 15K. It carried me today, just as it has many, many days since. Continue reading

Yes, you can bring the Bunny…

5a314e69a6094751430d8f6e7584b3e2I love holidays. Love them. Actually, celebrations in general. Come to think of it, I put effort into the high school golf outing meetings that take place at our house once a month. It makes My Fave a little crazy because I tend to go a bit over the top. It’s not from a place of needing to impress people; I simply love being in community. Whether it’s family or friends or a meeting with volunteers, I want people to walk into our house and feel welcomed and know we believe they’re worthy of our putting in some thoughtful effort to make them feel at home. I suppose a small part is due to watching my parents and extended family put so much into card club, holidays, birthdays and more. The bigger piece of it is much more an effort to “pay it forward”. Continue reading

Swapping “bitter” for “better”…

It’s your final dinner on earth; who do you invite?

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Bob Goff, one of my favorite writers, tweeted his thoughts on the Last Supper this morning. It’s Maundy Thursday for Christians and marks the new commandment we were given as Jesus shared a final dinner with His closest friends, including the one who would betray Him, prior to taking the death that we deserved. (I know I am going to lose some of you right here; I’d love it if you’d stick with me but that’s entirely up to you.)

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)

Continue reading

Worth the wait…

IMG_5011Our oldest is 16 years and 21 days old; a busy start to the junior tour season made yesterday, Masters Sunday, the first available date to celebrate with family. And wow, was it worth the wait!

We have been Tiger Woods fans for as long as we have been golf fans. As soon as J was old enough to have a real driver in his bag, the only extra he asked for was a Tiger head cover; that head cover is now almost 10 years old. 7 months after getting that head cover, the golfer he so much wanted to be like when he grew up would be in a car accident that would expose a much different Tiger Woods than the world had come to know. Continue reading