Tuesday, December 16, 2014

what the mirror doesn't tell me

When I was in college I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. I think I was working on attracting a husband, though if the truth be known, I think I just stared a lot into that all-telling glass wondering who I was.

These days, I catch myself coming and going. Being a wife and mother of small children doesn't lend itself easily to lots of time in front of the mirror unless I am putting the kids in front of the tv, which I never, ever do. wink.

I realized this evening, after caring for a little boy with a 103+ fever for the last 2.5 days, that there's so much more to me than a mirror will ever show. This body woke up tired, worked over and worn out from spending six hours on our couch snuggling up next to him after I heard words in the dark: "Mom. My coughs are so big and they hurt so bad and only you can help me."

So, there we were, spooning away, my hand uncomfortably falling asleep every twenty seconds because it was under my hip and I had no other place to put it. I didn't want to disturb his sweet slumber, even though I did have to put a bit of a pillowcase barrier between his face and mine (7 year old boys tend to have some interesting breath).

I just ran upstairs to get something out of the bathroom, and I realized that my eyes showed my age. My hair looked dull and my double chin is especially pronounced today, over a turtleneck that is just a liiiiiiiittle bit "last year".

These are the moments of my life - the moments of your life, aren't they? You have hands that work, that can ache with their own sickness and pain while you tend to the needs of those you would give your life for.

You know what? Bring it on, bitches. Bring on aging. Bring on crows' feet, aching legs, a body that doesn't bounce back so quickly from sleeping on hard surfaces.

There's a point in life when you realize that all of the lipstick in the world isn't going to change the fact that you're mortal, and your life is slipping away in small increments.

Do you pour yourself out in those increments to others, or do you spend time in the mirror obsessing over the new wrinkle or the way your skin doesn't bounce back like it used to?

 I fully intend to wear this body out. I have a husband who loves it just the way it is, which still blows my mind. Even if he didn't, I would. This body has been quite literally my constant companion in every way since the day I drew my first breath.

I want to go to my grave with an old, ugly, used up body. Poured out for others.

You'd better believe that my heart will still shine.

I kinda think that's the only body part that really matters.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

writing someone else's story

I haven't written since our foster daughter left and I guess my brain just needed time to let go, to reorder, to breathe.

Writing someone else's memoir is a task unlike any other. I have the information through interviews but I didn't experience the visceral emotion firsthand. Because of a binding contract, I'm unable to discuss much more about the book other than it is about a topic and a person that hit very close to home and are very personal to me. The woman with whom I am writing the book has become a fast friend.

In so many ways I feel like she's an older version of me: calmed, not held together by duct tape and wine but instead by the fabric of a life stretched to the limits when the unthinkable happens. Her relationship with God is complicated and yet it is so simple because she learned before it was too late that surrender was the only way to live. She is sure of her steps and has come to peace with the past. She has unshakable faith that I am not sure many could have after the loss of a firstborn child in such a manner. I've spent wee morning hours crying my eyes out over her words, over her recollections, over the memories that I feel now, in some way, we share.

This season of not having anything else to write beyond that is so... freeing.

I don't have to try to be an online personality that people like or don't like. My day isn't hampered or ballooned by the number of "likes" on a Facebook page. I've kept up with Instagram because I love the picture thing, but it doesn't lead me down the rabbit hole of jealousy that Facebook does.

I don't have to write things about my (nonexistent) dog and something embarrassing my littlest kid did (she's turned into a three year old klepto, by the way). That's just not me and it feels so stagnant and fake. I can't do it.

Sharing someone else's story instead of constantly harping on the woes of my own past is an experience that is so profound and I'm about to go all Oprah Winfrey on you.

Anyway, of course I'll keep you updated on the book's release.

I guess sometimes I have to pinch myself that someone is paying me to do something I love. I never in a million years could have dreamt that something like this could have fallen into my lap. Three months after I started praying for the perfect opportunity, it did.

Maybe this is my message to you to keep doing what you think you are supposed to do. Cool doors open up and you may find yourself lighter, freer,

surprised by the light that floats in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

you did it right if it hurts

This morning the alarm went off at 4:30, and I went to wake her up. She was all sprawled across her bed like she usually is.

I was so frazzled that I forgot one of her suitcases at home, but the fun didn't really start until we got to the airport an hour early only to find out that all of the parking lots were full.

Outdoor, indoor, all full. The jerk who saw me waiting WITH MY BLINKER ON for a space? Didn't care. Took it.

So, I left that garage and parked my little minivan right next to the outdoor ticket counter and took the risk of the airport police hauling my a** to the pokey. It worked, because we got her her tickets but we still had no place to park the car.

I decided that this was the only time in my life where valet parking was a good idea, so we got in line, which we waited in for 30 minutes and her flight was now leaving in 15 minutes.

Some guy just passed all of the cars waiting in line, got out, handed his keys to the attendant, and ran inside.

The guy in front of me got out of his brand new Saab and yelled, "DID I REALLY JUST FUCKING SEE THAT???" and then we both went up to the podium and told the lady we were next in line. Poor Faith. She said she felt like she was going to throw up. Who licensed us to be foster parents, again?

"Mom, you seem nervous and worried."

"I am, babe, I don't want you to miss your flight."

"Well, have you thought about praying right now?"

So we did. Smart girl.

We ran inside and stopped at the TSA Agent's booth where he became quite terroristically concerned with the spelling of my last name on the unaccompanied minor pass not matching my name on my license.

He took one look at my face and stamped it while saying, "Oh, no big deal."


Next I took off my shoes and we were in the line with the agent who was either super new or just trying to meet the weekly quota of bag checks and zipper wipes.

He took out a random sampling of my purse which was an 8 ounce body spray from Bath and Body Works, ONLY MY FAVORITE SCENT EVER and said, "Ma'am, you know I can't allow you to take this any further." He is looking at me with a questioning gaze as I spy gate number 41 aaaaaaaaand...

watch as they close the door. The tears are very near the surface now.

No one knows a part of my heart is leaving me. All they know is that I am late and I am being obnoxious.

JUST THROW IT AWAY! I yell at him, one shoe on, one shoe still on the conveyor belt.

the lady behind me is not amused and says, "Ma'am. your other shoe."

So, I'm trying to leap over to the gate and say to the TSA guy, "Can you just keep my bag while I put her on the plane?"

but then immediately realize that is exactly the plot of the terrorist in every TNT movie ever made, you know...hand off the bomb and get away before the 'splosion.

The guy looks at me with this questioning look and I say to another TSA agent, "Seriously. You have no iea what I've been through to get to this point. Could you please just walk ten steps and tell those guys at the gate that their last passenger is right here?"


This is when I start yelling at the guy at the gate, just not caring any more. "SHE NEEDS TO GET ON THAT PLANE! HER DAD IS WAITING FOR HER!!!!!!!"

I go up to another employee, still only wearing one shoe, and tell the woman that we have just made it because there is no parking anywhere and she says all annoyed, "Well, see if they'll let you on the plane. I've called her name a bunch of times."

I walk over to the gate, hand the man her ticket, and it hits me.

She's leaving.

For good.

The whole morning has sucked it out of me and I burst into tears.

I grab her, feel her little heartbeat under her puffy coat, think of all of the time I've had with her and how blessed I've been. See, what most people don't realize about foster care is that sometimes you get to be the one who puts the twinkle back in a child's eye. sometimes you get to be the one who sees them through their first no-accident night in three years.


the tears are flying all over, I am squeezing the stuffing out of her and say, "Thank you, Faithy, for letting me be your mom for the last 14 months. Thank you for letting me love you."

She looks up at me all big-eyed and says all serious, "Mom, are you going to be OK? You need to go straight home and hug Lulu."

and then she was gone.

they shut that door and the plane flew away.

I sat down next to the guy reading the Wall Street Journal, next to the smells of Starbucks, next to the greasy-looking window, next to the spot where I said goodbye to her moments before.

I feel it in my gut, and it's either going to be a major panic attack or the ugly cry.

Ugly Cry wins, and I sit there and cry and cry and cry until I don't have any tears left.

I walk over to Starbucks, order a venti skinny peppermint mocha, wipe my face.

I dig into my purse for my keys and valet parking tab, finding ANOTHER ENTIRE BOTTLE OF BODY SPRAY the TSA Agent totally missed. This is the one with the smell I hate, so that was unfortunate.

I'm doing the facebook break thing but a dear, dear friend posted on Instagram the following:

"You did it right if it hurts."

Who walks around with two entire bottles of body spray tucked in her purse? this girl.

who lets a child call her "mom" and then gives her back? this girl.

who got to see a child transform into strength, happiness and self-assuredness right before her very eyes? this girl.

who hurts? this girl.

"You did it right if it hurts."

True of so many things, huh?

birth, school, childbirth, marriage, adoption, death, exercise, growing spiritually, growing emotionally, losing weight.

You did it right if it hurts: 

deep knee bend. labor pain. seeing the pain of remembering the orphange in your adopted child's face. putting down the cupcake and picking up the celery, watching sun slide down hospital walls into night as your father takes his last breaths.

walking her onto a plane, knowing full well you may never see her again this side of heaven.

crying and shaky hands after door close = blurry picture

You did it right if it hurts.

Thank you, Jesus, for letting it hurt. 

Romans 5:4
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

a season of rest

Sometime next week I will put our foster daughter of 14 months onto an airplane headed somewhere 2,000 miles away. I'm sure I will gaze out that window, watching the steam fly from the wings of that airplane as it hurls itself into blue-white sky.

I may just drive for awhile after that, collecting my thoughts and trying not to cry.

I was so paralyzed with anxiety this morning that I had to sit and calm myself down numerous times, practicing deep-breathing techniques that I learned to do every time I had a DBT (Dead Baby Thought) during my pregnancy with Asher.

The calculus of a too-busy life can settle somewhere around the heart, making everything feel like a chore and nothing particularly enjoyable.

I realized today that I have an incredibly hard time being someone who is resting. Not doing, just resting. In some aspects of my growing-up I think I learned that the more you DO, the more worthwhile you are. So that means ticking things off of a checklist, baking awesome meals, and yes, even helping other people.

Who am I if I am not taking in an orphan or actively helping someone who is suffering? Surely we as Christians and good people in general are called to those things, right?

I am not suggesting that those are bad things in and of themselves. Surely not.

What I am suggesting is that those things, yes, even orphan care, can become a source of pride. It can become a sort of, "Look what we can handle!" "Look at how much we've helped this child!" and we get so caught up in helping the child or fitting a ton of tasks into one day or not saying "no" to someone and that measures our worth.

My best friend told me today that she would find me endearing and lovable even if I were paralyzed.

It's hard to believe, and it's even harder to believe that that's how God views me, too.

OK. A season of rest. I know I'm going to be really tempted to fill a position on the PTA or to sign someone up for something that will require me to make a lot of trips back and forth in the car, or maybe help in the kid nursery at church.

I feel, though, a quietness beckoning me.

This week Asher spent a day home sick. We read and cuddled and did not really anything spectacular. The whole day reminded me of that Taylor Swift song, "Today was a fairytale." We just existed and enjoyed each other, and it was enough.

At the end of the day Asher looked at me and said, "Mom, this was the best day ever. Can you please make me sick again?"

I asked the kids what they enjoyed most about the Christmas season. Their answers surprised me, but they shouldn't have:

Faith: making popcorn and cranberry garlands
Lucy: being with all of our family together
Asher: sleeping under the Christmas tree (a Hillestad family tradition that my parents started when we were little) and squinting up into the tree to see the sparkling lights
Phoebe: Elsa

It's interesting to note that, other than Phoebe and her slightly psychotic obsession, all of the kids remember the time spent. They don't say, "Oh, Mommy! I remember that one where you were crying because you didn't think you'd get the Christmas shopping done in time!"

This will be the first Christmas in five years that we won't either have a foster placement or a newborn baby and me recovering from major surgery.

I get all stressed out when I think about making calendars and cards and cookies and picking out gifts, and I realize again that those are expectations I put on myself.

A season of rest. I think I'm going to love it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

facebook comparisons

I was sitting at my sister in law's house, telling her about how it's so hard for me to focus on anything. I think I checked my facebook account ten times while sitting at her kitchen table. It struck me how utterly dumb that was.

Facebook is really my arch-nemesis. It doesn't do anything for me. I have friends who have family who live far away and I can see how they like to keep up, or how other people just enjoy hopping on and seeing what other people are doing throughout the day.

I'm always doing this, and Facebook interrupts my time with my kids. They'll be reading to me and I'll just pretend like I'm listening. Scott will try talking to me but I have a debate I'm super embroiled in so, yeah, I really don't have the time!

For me, though, it's a way that I can compare my perceived shortcomings to everyone else's glorious life. Come on, I *know* that I am seeing everyone's best on Facebook, and not everyone is going to post an album entitled, "Turds".

Like any douchey artist/author type, I feel like Facebook just saps my creative energy. I have nothing left when I've been inside the heads of 837 of my closest friends, reading the captions on their kids' birthday cakes and constantly having at least five facebook messages at any one time to reply to.

So, I was sitting there, and my sister told me she deleted her account because there were news stories that kept coming up that she could do nothing about and drove her crazy. I deleted my account right there at that table, but took it a step further.

I made her change the password.

I have started to log in six times today. Addicted much?

I'm looking forward to a holiday season where the only person I'm compared with is myself.

Like they say, no competition is good competition.

Monday, November 10, 2014

three minutes in a stay at home mother's mind

oh my gosh today is my grandpa's birthday. he would have been 104 today. who would want to live to 104? i miss him. i wish i was there when he died. oh my gosh, life is going so fast, i'm not doing a good job at all of writing down all of the cute things the kids are doing. i need to call the shower guy about redoing the shower, not the whole thing like we talked about, just the base. 

i wonder if he thought i was creepy, all leaning in on him and breathing on his shoulders in our tiny bathroom. he seemed kind of uncomfortable, so invited him down to the dining room table. it was like an episode of desperate housewives, only i was the housewife that hadn't showered in three days. i don't think the color i picked for the whole shower was a good one. this way i won't have to make that decision.

phoebe's poop looks like little raisins. i need to have her drinking more water. oh my gosh, the kids have had so much candy lately. scott asked if i would tone it down. tone it down? they come home with laffy taffy every day. it sticks in their teeth and the other day i had to take a tweezer to scrape off the plaque of an unnamed child's lower teeth. i know they've had too much red dye 40 when their poop is blue. wait, wouldn't that make their poop red? then i'd REALLY be worried. it would look bloody.

what should i make for dinner? the refrigerator door is beeping because i didn't close it all the way. i made the wrong choice on that refrigerator. scott was right. french door refrigerators are annoying. speaking of french doors, the ones in our house growing up were so pretty. how did my mom keep those windows so clean? we've lived here for five years and i haven't cleaned the outdoor windows.

five years: that's about the same amount of time I've spent NOT writing in the kids' baby books. they're changing so fast and every cute thing they do that I want to write down I keep forgetting.

i've got to work on this book i'm writing. my client has been awfully patient. i wonder if she knows what she's gotten herself into. 

something smells like poop. what is it? Oh, phoebe's rabbit turds still sitting in the toilet. why can't i get one task done before i get distracted and start thinking about the next one?

speaking of getting distracted, i always get distracted at night when i am supposed to be sitting down with the family eating dinner. the thing is, there's a lot of conflict there at the dinner table sometimes and so that's why i check out and pretend i have to pay a bill right then. 

oh my gosh, we haven't been doing devotions with the kids. they're going to turn into socialized God-hating Communist atheists. it's all going to be my fault. I wonder if there is a church around that does Awanas. 

I really should try homeschooling. everyone who does it says it's pretty easy and works for them, and if you're heart's really in it you could do it, so what does that mean about me? my heart really isn't in my children's education? i enjoy their being away from me seven hours a day. they're going to be 18 and pregnant before I know it, and THEN I"LL BE SORRY!

I was going to go to IKEA today to try to clear my head, but going to IKEA for that purpose never works. my mind just gets confused with all of the item names and the only thing that ends up being cleared is the bank account.

I am looking for Christmas gifts for my family on etsy but there are 13847 options for "DSLR camera strap" for my brother's girlfriend's gift. what if i choose one and she really hates it? you can't return etsy stuff, can you? hey, i'll buy this $6 one on ebay. wait. then it will just be all crappy and she'll really hate it. i should just go ahead and get the more expensive hand made one, and that way I won't kill a Chinese baby angel working in a factory somewhere.

It's noon. we need to eat.

Where's the xanax?