Coffee Talk

We met every Wednesday morning for about eight years. We, about 8-10 women, brought our kids to play together while we talked, ate delicious food, and drank endless amounts of coffee.

I don’t think we realized how crucial those Wednesdays were at the time.

I needed these women.

To breathe for me.

Some days.

My oldest child was two when we met. My second child was about six months old. I was pregnant with my third child, and two years later, I had my fourth.

I drove over there five days after my fourth child was born, because their love was more important to me than the risk I took driving. That was the moment I realized how much coffee talk meant to me.

Our kids loved it too. They begged to have play dates every day in between. They became superheroes fighting for the world, costumes and all. They learned about friendship, playing in the mud, being kind sometimes, and what it feels like to have lots of mommies who love you.

We named ourselves, the women who loved each other’s children as if they were her own, and our meetings “coffee talk.” It was such a simple title, yet, the love that poured in on those days could be felt for almost the whole week!

For me, it was about survival. Raising children, and trying to stay married.

Our weekly talks gave me the fuel I needed to get through the toughest moments of my life.

We prayed for each other too, as big giant tears fell down our cheeks.

We were all struggling with something. We brought it in with us, talked about it, received advice, and always left feeling ready to conquer it. The transformation was truly amazing.

As I reminisce, I miss those days. I’m thankful for the moments, but more than that, I realize how important it was for us to be together.

I wish I could publicly call out each one of the women at coffee talk who kept me alive back then. I’d hand them a ribbon, or a trophy. Or, maybe just clink my coffee cup against theirs and say THANK YOU.

A love story

I had to go. I moved back. He had my number, but he didn’t think I wanted him to call me.

We walked toward each other in the same high school hallway everyday for 2 years. He smiled at me, I smiled at him. We shared a mutual attraction, but never spoke. The summer I moved back to Rochester, I saw him at my cousin’s house. We walked outside together, and stopped by the tree at the edge of the property. Face to face, the attraction we had was tested. We talked for a few minutes, smiled a lot, and then he pulled me into his arms and kissed me. It felt like our kiss stopped time.

I walked away, smiling, and excited. I thought for sure he’d call me…

The next twenty years flew by. We both married other people, had children, and got divorced.

His face popped up on Facebook as “someone I might know.”

A message was sent.

An immediate reply was received.

We met, and the feelings we experienced in the hallway, in those smiles, and the kiss that stopped time at the tree, all flooded back in.

I asked him why he didn’t call me when I moved. He told me I intimidated him. He didn’t think I wanted him to call. He wished he had called.

Our story began that day. We dated for two years. We made many great, beautiful memories.

We weren’t who we needed to be, to be together. We didn’t know it then, but we had to become who we are now by being apart.

Our relationship ended. We thought of each other often, but never reached out. The timing was out of our hands.

It was all out of our control.

Six years later, his face popped up online again. Facebook reminded me of one of our memories: Thanksgiving placemats our kids made out of their handprints and beans. I showed my daughter the memory placemats, and she strongly encouraged me to send him a message…

A message was sent.

An immediate reply was received.

We met, and the feelings we experienced in the hallway, in those smiles, the kiss that stopped time at the tree, all flooded back in.

It was time.

We became who we need to be. We’ve both healed, and unpacked our baggage. We have longed for the connection and the love that began way back to when.

Our love found it’s way back

… together.

How have I raised 2 adults???

Most days I feel like I am flying through life holding onto an imaginary rope that is pulling me.  I have to hold on tight, since it is the rope that is allowing me to be a part of life.  Most days I feel like I am just holding on.

Life is just going by so fast!

July 20, 2000, I became a mom.  I’ll never forget the moment I looked at the little human that came out of my belly.  He looked up at me like he knew me.  His cries immediately ceased when his skin touched mine.  We were connected in the most amazing way.

I couldn’t believe that God would choose ME to be his mom. I felt so inadequate and so thankful at the same time.

January 25, 2002, it happened again.  That connection.  The pain that I went through for hours prior to that moment instantly faded. Our eyes met, our skin touched, and I changed again.

December 3, 2003, and February 28, 2006.  3rd and 4th experiences of becoming a mom again. Each time was unique, each connection just as powerful and amazing.

The four days that I became a mom will always be the BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE.

Two of my four children are now adults.

I thought maybe if I typed those words they might seem more true, more real to me…

Nope.

Somehow, the magical age of 18 does not make them adults in my mind.  They will always be my babies.  I will always see them the way we saw each other that first day.

I will never let go of them.

Yet, I have to.

I have to trust that everything I have done so far, and everything that everyone who has influenced them so far, will be enough.  I have to believe that they are capable of being adults.

Yesterday, my most recent adult drove us to Ann Arbor (over an hour away).  As I sat in the passenger seat, silently trusting her every maneuver, I realized that this is what I must continue to do…  Let her “drive.”

She did great, and I was impressed.  I looked over a few times, at how comfortable she was behind the wheel, and how much she no longer needed me to help her navigate.  I realized in that moment, that she has the “wheel.”

She has control.

She will be okay.

Letting go must be a process.  I am only beginning to understand how it all works. Maybe that imaginary rope that I am holding on to most days, is now theirs.

I hope that these adults I have raised will do more than just hold on.  I hope they can let go sometimes, without the fears I had, and just live.  I hope the world doesn’t pass them by the way it sometimes has for me.

I hope they will always know how much I love them.

I hope they never forget our connection.

 

Validation – what have you done to receive it?

This is a tough question for me.  I am ashamed of who I used to be, and what I used to do to receive validation.

I ran into an old friend recently who asked me what I’ve been up to for the past twenty years. Part of my answer, for some reason, was that I turned my life around.  I have no idea why I said it, but it prompted him to ask me what that meant.

He knew me when I was at my worst.

The conversation led to us discussing validation.  I admitted that, when I was in my early twenties, I used to crave validation.  I remember feeling like I wasn’t worth anything to anyone unless I was giving them what they wanted.  This mentality caused me to be taken for granted in many situations, but I know it was my own fault.  I kept doing the same things over and over in order to feel worthy of the attention.

Some of the things I’ve done still haunt me today.

I remember, vividly, being in certain situations thinking, “Why am I doing this? This is not me! I hate this! I hate that I keep doing this!”

I knew who I wasn’t, but I did not know who I was.  

I wanted to stop.

Stop being the girl with no identity.

I remember the first time I met someone who liked me for who I was. I wanted to know the person they saw. I wanted to meet her.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Thirteen Going On Thirty,” being with this person was similar to thirteen-year-old Jennifer Garner waking up as her thirty-year-old self. When she saw herself in the mirror, she was forced to see who she had become.

I looked at this new “mirror” friend with confusion. I was showered with acceptance and affirmation for no reason.

I met more people like my mirror friend.

And then, I met their source of love.

It didn’t happen immediately. It took a long time – about twenty years actually – to truly feel the depth of it.

I started to value myself.

My identity emerged when I finally allowed the love to overtake me.

Nothing I did, or could do, would provide true validation.

Only His love.

My big crazy family

She walked in, glowing.

She hugged everyone with so much love flowing from her heart that we didn’t want to let go.

As I watched, I was overtaken with emotion.  I held in the tears, I thought.  They didn’t fall down my cheeks, but they watered my eyes.

She walked over to me and said, “you look like you are ready to cry!”  I told her why, and she cried. And then I cried. And then everyone who saw us crying, cried.

It was in that moment that I realized how much love this big crazy family has for each other.

Our love gets lost sometimes. It gets mixed up in the busy, and feels distant with the miles we have to travel for those hugs.  It feels far away until those hugs round it up again.  If we gathered up all of the love, and tried to bundle it into the biggest Santa Jan bag, it would burst at the seams.

Christmas at my grandparents house was the event we looked forward to all year. The aunts, uncles, and cousins eagerly gathered to celebrate. It was never about the gifts under the tree. The memories we share include laughter, love, hugs, lectures we hated hearing but took to heart and allowed to shape us.

The aunts and uncles would smile, and actually look excited to see us, when we arrived.  The cousins would jump up and down, eager to play outside in the driveway, on the hill, “accidentally” adventuring over the forbidden hill in the creek at the bottom, in the basement under the stairs, on the slot machines with Grandpa’s quarters, or just be.

Together.

My aunt kept all of that tucked inside over the years. She knew she was missing it all those years, and did whatever it took to join us this year.

The tears we couldn’t control were evidence of the love we share.

I wouldn’t trade anything for

my

BIG

cRaZy

F❤️mily.

 

 

I walked right past her…

I was out shopping a few weeks ago, searching for a winter coat.  My white coat finally retired after eight cold Michigan winters full of sledding, shoveling, shivering, and a little bit of skiing.  I haven’t thrown it away because it is still storing some memories.

The store was fancy.  People seemed frantic.  I walked right past her.  I didn’t even see her sitting there, alone.  My friend Karen stopped, smiled, and said the friendliest “hello” to the little old lady sitting alone, on the edge of what must’ve been a very uncomfortable square block shared by the mannequins behind her.

At first, the little old lady looked startled. Quickly, she smiled back, and her heart filled up.  I saw the sweetest transformation!  Her heart filled up and she smiled right back! Karen made her day.  She noticed this woman that I flew right past.  She saw her, and connected with her.

Karen’s smile and “hello” must’ve brought the little old lady back to a time when that was the norm.  I see it happen in all of the old movies, so it must’ve been the norm.  Waving to people as they pass, stopping to say hello, or just a sweet smile.  Making people feel… important.  Valuing them.  Seeing them.

I wonder if the little old lady went out that day, with her daughter perhaps, just so that she wasn’t alone at the nursing home.  Stuck in a small room, silence as loud as a deafening concert.  Loneliness screaming at her.  I wonder if she knew she would get tired of shopping rather quickly, but she’d rather share a mannequin’s uncomfortable square block than hear the silence.  I wonder if she felt the world passing her by.  I wonder if she gave up on people saying hello, waving, and smiling at her.

Whatever the reason, Karen’s gesture was exactly what the little old lady needed that day.

Karen taught me something that I was able to teach my daughter this past Friday.

We went to the gym to play tennis.  Sometimes, the people at the gym aren’t very friendly.  This past Friday, my daughter had a bad experience with a staff member who who was very stressed out, and not so nice to her.  As my daughter relayed the story to me, I tried to explain all of the reasons why the staff member might have been overwhelmed: the tennis area was busy, several people were demanding things from her, we were a few minutes late for our court time, we didn’t know how it all worked, and we had a lot of questions…

My daughter was still very upset about how she was treated.

I thought back to Karen, and the little old lady at the fancy store.  I told my daughter that we will experience stressed out people almost daily throughout our lifetime.  We can either take it personally, or we can be merry & bright. I know it sounds fluffy and fake, but it works. When we want to respond to negativity with negativity, no one wins. If we respond with positivity in the form of a smile, even in the midst of the figurative arrows that might be shot right at us, we might just make someone’s day.

I hope that the little old lady returned to her home a little bit happier that day.

I hope that, even in the midst of the negativity that this world brings, we never forget that we have love, and hope to share.

There is darkness in the world, but it has been overcome.  There was a battle, between good and evil, and good won.  There has been a victory.

An endless love pours out over us, allowing us to be

Merry & Bright.

 

A room full of tears

My grandfather’s brother’s wife passed away this past week.

I went to her funeral today.

It was the first funeral I’ve ever attended where tears were shed, by every single person in the room.

The room was large, and the tears that fell filled it.

This woman, my Aunt Betty, left a great impression on everyone she met.

I’ll never forget the way she looked at me with kindness, smiled at me with love, and affected me with genuine care. Even though my Aunt Betty had 10 children, and several more grandchildren, she still treated me like I was the only one in the room when she spoke to me. Her heart, and her smile, made me feel special.

I have to believe that every person in that room today had a similar experience with my Aunt Betty. I have to believe that every tear that fell held a similar memory.

She was a devoted grandmother to the young young boy who knew she’d read to him every time he requested a book.

She was a mother who “worked hard at loving all of her children,” according to one of them.

Her daughter found this poem, and read it to her before she passed away:

Aunt Betty held a torch. She held it when she married young, when she fought to marry the man she felt was worth fighting for. She held it when she lost that man several years ago. She held it even when she was ready to go.

She passed the torch this past week. She passed it to all of us.

We will do our best to love the way she loved, to look at people the way she did, and to make people feel as special as she made them feel.

2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”