There She Is

4 A.M.

And the moment I’d been dreading for 39 weeks.

No movement.

I sat on the side of my bed, sobbing.  Begging my husband to get the baby to move, knowing I had waited one day too long to induce.

See, the day before had been my daughter’s spring concert and I figured delaying a day wouldn’t make much difference.

But in this moment, I regretted it all.

In a panic, I called our doula and midwife first and next, our neighbor.

She arrived within seconds. I folded into her arms, scared of what we would find when we arrived.  She steadied me, reassuring that our three daughters at home were safe and off we went to find that baby Elizabeth was indeed alive and well.

Fast forward 18 months.

Same kitchen, same neighbor.

Our friends left and she stayed to ask the simple direct question: “Are you OK?”

“No.”

No, I wasn’t and all it took was for someone to ask.

I unfolded right in front of her, releasing the floodgates and once again, she took it.  She held it.  She steadied, reassured and stood me upright.

She looked me in the eye and said, “You are going to be OK.”  And then she followed through.

She called to check on me.  She invited me to run with her.

She held my hand.

And because of her, I made it.

There she is.

My superwoman.  My angel.  My friend.

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Reach

I was screaming.

Lying on the dance studio floor, lights out, next to a dozen other students, screaming as loud as my lungs would allow for my lost mother, father, sister and brother.

It was my sophomore year of high school and my best friend Harper had talked me into my first-ever audition for the Fall dramatic play, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly”, based on a little girl’s experience at the concentration camp in Terezin.  To the surprise of many, and yet mostly myself, I landed the lead role:  Raja Englanderova.

It became a defining moment in my life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a hypersensitive heart.

Long ago, when it rained, I used to tape plastic containers over the top of the ant hills that formed along the walkway to our house.  I didn’t want them to drown.

And when another experienced a loss, it felt like my own.  I mourned, as if I had known them well, too.

I felt deeply but was mocked, shamed and criticized for it.

They thought I wanted attention, when all I ever really wanted was to lend my oversized heart.

To reach.

I ended up leading two more plays in high school and when it came time to graduate, I asked my drama teacher to write me a parting note.

And what he said has never left me:

“Give to the world your deeply felt heart.”

Well, World, here it is!

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Seeker

I saw her.  A quick flash passing through the blinds. I knew I had to move fast.  No time for shoes.  I wrangled open the stubborn door from the kitchen to the garage, flew down the steps and threw open the door to our driveway.  She was almost to the corner of the street when I yelled, “Hey!  Hi!  My name is Lauren and we just moved here a few weeks ago!”  My target was hugely pregnant, which is precisely why I had marked her.  “We’ve got two little girls, ages 6 months and 2 years.  We can be friends!”

Since then, I introduced myself to a young family sitting on their front stoop at Halloween and, on bicycle, high-speed pursued another mother strolling her twins in the back of our neighborhood.  All three have become some of the very best friends I’ve ever had.

Having moved from a very close-knit community full of young families, my husband and I feared we had made a huge mistake by moving to an older, established neighborhood.  While the lack of sidewalks and larger lots added desirable privacy, they also secluded us.  We were an island, until I swam.

Seeker.

I spent the majority of my childhood as a loner.  I had friends here and there, but had never experienced the love and support of a group like others on sports teams and sororities.  I saw group photos on Facebook and longed for my own.

Perhaps all it took was my desperation as a stay-at-mother to force me to seek.  After meeting my new friends, I organized monthly socials to be held at each of our respective houses, providing an opportunity for us to familiarize our tastes, our stories.  It worked.

With the addition of a friend I used to teach with, I’ve finally found my group and it is everything I had ever hoped it would be.

When my husband and I had to leave for the hospital at 4 AM to deliver our fourth daughter, it was that first pregnant neighbor who rushed over to stay at home with our three girls.  It was my school friend who relieved her.  It was the mother I met at Halloween who took my kindergartner to school and the mother of the twins who watched our others while I labored on.  Together, they seamlessly took my place as we welcomed sweet Elizabeth into the world.

Matthew 7:7 reads “Seek and ye shall find.”

I was lonely until I overcame my insecurities and Ran. Pedaled. Tried.  And it was there that I smiled, laughed and exhaled for finding what I had been looking for all along. My friends.

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Management

A solution is what we seek.  Diagnose the condition, and prescribe the cure. Black and white. Case closed.  A temporary disturbance, a minor annoyance in the grand scheme but please, not this.  Not a problem that has no “fix”.  Continue reading

Giving From The Heart

Print“In lieu of gifts, please bring donation items for the food pantry.”  When I recently received this note on an invitation for a five year-old’s birthday party my first reaction was, “That is so sweet.  What a great idea!”  My second reaction was, “Should I do this for my five year-old’s party, too?”

Lately, I’ve been in purge-mode.  Simplifying.  I want to spend less time picking up toys and more time playing with my children.

I’ve also been yearning to teach my daughter the true joy that comes from giving to those with needs, greater than our own.  But with a 1, 3 and 4 year-old in tow, time to grocery shop is hard to come by, let alone visits to nursing homes, food pantries, and homeless shelters.

This idea to accept donations in lieu of gifts seemed like the perfect solution.  I would prevent more stuff coming into the house and provide my daughter the opportunity to put other’s needs in front of her own.  This would be a great lesson not only for her but also for her friends!

Except that she didn’t want to do it.  “But I want to open presents, mommy!”  She’s been counting down the days to her birthday for the last 364 days and now I was encouraging her to forgo the gift-giving?  This was not exciting for her.  She seemed genuinely concerned about the kids that didn’t have a home but she still wanted presents for herself.  What is a mom to do?

I reached out to my friends on social media who provided a mountain of great advice.   I soon realized the following things:

  • The joy of giving is when it comes from the heart, not when you are forced to do so.
  • There is plenty of time in the future for me to get my children involved in volunteer work.  There’s no need to combine it with a birthday, unless my child is on-board.
  • As the oldest, Aurora has always had to share her things.  Something I had not considered when comparing her to the friend, who is an only child, that asked for food donations.
  • I should not compare my daughter to other children or myself to other mothers.  We all have different situations.
  • Implement a “new toy in, old toy out” rule.  Involve Aurora in selecting the toys to donate.
  • Many small actions can be more impactful than one single great action.  I can teach my children the joy of giving all year-long by continually donating our clothes, food, and toys.  We can participate in toy drives.  We can continue to pick up trash and do nice things for our neighbors, just because.  There are always teachable moments.

I want to continue to be mindful about the pressure I put on myself and the possibility of me transferring that pressure onto my child.  I don’t want to turn Aurora off from doing good-deeds because her “mom made her” when she was little.  I want her to give because it makes her feel good.  I want her to pray because she wants to talk to God, not because she fears the consequences of not doing so.  And I want her to enjoy the thrill of opening her birthday gifts, free of guilt.

In my excitement to turn Aurora’s birthday into a charitable operation, I found an incredible organization.  It’s called “Project Night Night”.  I was going to order bags from this charity and ask Aurora’s friend’s to bring a new or gently used stuffed animal, blanket and book to her party.  After the activities of the day, we would all sit down and stuff the bags to give to children in nearby shelters.

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Although I don’t think we are going to do this any longer for her birthday, I think I might still organize an opportunity for us to do this with some friends.  That way she can still receive gifts and we can still give to those in need.  In other words, we can all have her cake and eat it, too 🙂

For more information about Project Night Night, click here: www.projectnightnight.org