May 112014
 

There are very few things in this world that make me feel as boss as blogging.

It was never something that was planned.  It just happened.  But it quickly became a saving grace as my daughter grew from newborn to infant, as my mother died, and as my son found himself in a body cast.  And then it didn’t stop. I found a voice, I met some of the best friends of my life through the blogosphere, and I continue to daily challenge myself to new things–vlogging? Why not? Plan a blog conference? Sure. Put on a pair of printed leggings and snap a pic of myself for a sponsored post?  I may have to get back to you on that one…

Long and short–BLOGGING IS A BLESSING TO ME.

So when I saw that Cristi of Motherhood Unadorned had made t-shirts specifically for bloggers, I was elated as my fingers madly fumbled over the keyboard in a dash for my Paypal account.  When I understood that Cristi designed them herself and she was doing it as a fundraiser for suicide prevention, I was in awe of her.  She’s sharing her story below, and friends, settle in because it’s a neat one.

And then go buy one.  For yourself, if you’re a blogger, as your own Mother’s Day presentbecause let’s be honest, do the hubs and kids ever really get it right?  Or order one for a blogger you know.  Worried they already have one?  Don’t be.   As I told Cristi, I want it in every style and would proudly wear this shirt daily.

You see, I am a blogger.  This is me.  This is what I do. And this Mother’s Day, I’m taking a moment to just be proud of that.  Proud of myself.  I know my mom is smiling down on this one too.

After all blogger is a pretty darn boss thing for a mom to be.

Blogger Tee Pride @meredithspidel

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In Cristi’s words:

In 2010, I lost a dear lifelong friend to suicide. It really rocked my world, particularly because I have mental illness myself and had been suicidal in the past. I started blogging that year to sort of write out my feelings and grieve, but very quickly it took on a life of its own. At that time I also started raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Back then I admit, I really didn’t know much about the foundation. It was yet again a way for me to “do something” with my grief.

But since then I’ve learned so much more. I started volunteering and this year I joined the Board of Directors for our local chapter. I can say without a doubt the AFSP is doing great things for suicide prevention and support for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

You can find out more here about what the AFSP does and why I’m raising funds for their national Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. This amazing event is a 17-mile walk literally over night from dusk till dawn. I did it for the first time in 2013 in Washington DC and the event truly changed my life. When they announced that this year’s walk would be in my hometown of Seattle I was thrilled, but also nervous about raising the funds since I had just done it last year. So I got a little creative.

Yes, sometimes I just stare at the words in this graphic and feel validated.  TRUE STORY.

Yes, sometimes I just stare at the words in this graphic and feel validated. TRUE STORY.

I decided to reach out within my blogger community and sell shirts with original artwork by me about being a blogger. I call it the Butterfly Blogger t-shirt. If you look closely it says the word “Blogger” in the body and within the wings you’ll see words that represent the many “hats” we wear as bloggers and social media influencers. The art itself actually has nothing to do with suicide prevention, its just my way to raising funds for this important cause. Each year 38,000 people die by suicide and around a million make an attempt. Its the 10th leading cause of death in our country and that is unacceptable. If you and I can help bring suicide out of the darkness I truly believe we can stop suicide.

Please consider buying a t-shirt or tank top to support my suicide prevention fundraising. 40-50% of the sales are directly donated to the AFSP. If you can’t buy, please share this link. To me this is also about raising awareness. The more people know that its okay to talk about mental health and suicide, the more people will reach out for help. They’ll feel less alone. They’ll be less ashamed of their very real illness.

Cristi Comes is a mom, wife, mental health advocate and writer at Motherhood Unadorned. She’s also a member of the Board of Directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Washington State, and is on the editorial leadership team for Postpartum Progress. You can reach her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

****This post is not sponsored, I am just very proud of Cristi and her work with these tees! Though I may be actively trying to persuade her to send me the tank top version because that wasn’t an exaggeration, I really do want it in every style…****

Apr 142014
 
Packing it up and moving on

Packing it up and moving on

I’m listening to my children play “camping” above me in my daughter’s room.  Basically, it sounds like a herd of noisy elephants who like to laugh a lot has been let loose.  And a lot of opening and slamming doors is apparently required for this camping endeavor too.

I’m exhausted.  They have won today. A day full of outside play, preschool drop-off, temper tantrums, 16 different lunch requests, spilled juice boxes, and a thousand readings of the same story.

Yet I am also at peace despite the fatigue.  While I’ve never made any secret of that fact that this age and stage of young kiddos is challenging for me, my kids are getting older and this is getting slightly, very slightly, easier each day.  A year ago, I couldn’t have let them both go upstairs and play together. If my daughter didn’t decide to bathe in the toilet, she would have fallen down the stairs in an effort to fly like a fairy.

But it’s not just these small slices of independence that leave me breathing a little relief.  You see, we’re done.  And not only are we done having children, we know that we are done having children.

I am NOT saying that it’s wrong to want more children. Or to have more children. Or to be uncertain about what your plans are.  I’m simply saying that we’ve found a peace in finally knowing we’ve got our family where we want it to be.

Go ahead and jump a little--it feels good to be settled!

Go ahead and jump a little–it feels good to be settled!

Different things are always right for different people, and I love rejoicing with my friends as they welcome new little angels into their families.  At the same time, I have looked at my friends with older children who had already most definitely closed off the procreation efforts, and watched with an awe as they set about the business of raising their kids and just moving forward with their lives. I felt like I was watching from a confused mountain heap of messy diapers and cute first words with one leg caught in the yoga pants I’d only had time to partially pull on. Kind of mired where I was standing, yet wanting to do it again.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave the house, literally or figuratively.  But when my husband and I definitively made the decision that for us, for our family, we were complete, it was as if the air freed up a bit.  Suddenly energy that had been spent on figuring out where we wanted to go with our lives could just be spent on figuring out our lives.

It’s a tremendous blessing to have a “full family”, and I’m grateful for this every day.  And who knows who or what God might bring into our lives in the future, but today, I’m feeling very peaceful about being satisfied with things as they are. About for us, being able to “call it a day” and move on with things.

Being able to “call it a family”, if you will.  It’s a good place for us.

Happy with room for giggles

Complete with room for giggles

Mar 312014
 
"I'll cut you if you hurt him"--captioned by the fantabulous Stephanie Jankowski

“I’ll cut you if you hurt him”–captioned by the fantabulous Stephanie Jankowski

I wish I had my daughter’s spirit and energy.  In her two-year old wild perfection, she barrels and life and doesn’t stop.  If you’ve met Elyse in person, you know exactly what I mean.  My son has the most gorgeous heart I’ve witnessed on this earth, but he is a sensitive soul.  More like his mother that way–for the good and for the bad.

When the dentist tells him he needs to get a cavity filled, he will cry.  And he will worry and panic, but his sister will plop herself right down beside him and hold on, as if to say to him, “We’re doing this together”–she doesn’t care.  She’s his bestie, and she doesn’t have fear.  To the dentist, she is saying, “I’ll cut you if you hurt him.” (Thanks a bajillion times over to my love Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion for this perfect caption of my daughter’s thoughts).

We found out last week that my dude needs eye surgery.  Well-prepped for this reality, I was super-brave in the office and on the way home.  I remained calm, cool, and collected.  But then after settling them into lunch with their grilled cheese triangles, I started to read the paperwork.  Surgery. General Anethesia. Recovery. Post-op. Suddenly there was a lump in my throat and too-fresh memories of the horrid hell we went through with my son’s broken leg came flooding into focus.

Because, you see, in my human fallacy, I am fearful.  I trust the doctors and the necessity of this surgery, but I’m scared.  I’m scared of the “what if”.  The big and scary events of life–deaths, surgeries, unknowns, tend to shake this fear out of hiding.

As my husband peels out to troll the European wonders of Austria on a business trip, I’m left here, panicking.  Not sleeping for weeks prior to his departure.  You know me–I will never jump for joy over the prospect of having to navigate this beast of young kids solo, but it’s not that that leaves me clock-watching in the wee hours.  It’s the terror that something will happen.  And if it does, what will I do?

My dad and sister are fantastic–they want to help, but they have their own jobs and resposibilities.  And I have friends–good ones, but the primary truth of it is that the kids and I are alone here.  And this scares me.

I live my life in fear of the bottom falling out.  My mother’s death taught me this–because it did.  The bottom fell out.  Yet it also taught me that life will go on if/when the bottom does fall out–because it does.

My prayer every day is that I zero in on the truth of this momentum of life.  It’s not going to stop, no matter what–somehow things will keep moving.  I wish that I could cling to the fearlessness my daughter lives with.  I wish that I would not only hear the words of the song below, but that they would penetrate every corner of me.  Because the most real truth is that God will always have my back and be there to walk through the dark with me–scary moments in the middle of the night when I’m feeling all alone included.

It will be okay–somehow.

And my husband better bring me back a rockin’ treat from Austria to make up for all the diaper changes he missed.  Not that I’m insanely jealous or anything.

With my God?  Let’s do this thing.

Dec 252013
 

Perfect last year, perfect this year.  You’ll excuse me while I take a “week off” and repost some of the oldies, but goodies from last year.  None more appropriate that today’s post.  Merry Chrismas and xo, dear readers…

Silent Night.

Holy Night.

Christ the Savior is Born.

Oct 212013
 
Source I have no idea where to go from here

Source
Not sure where we’re going next around here

It’s not looking good around here.  Laundry is piled up beyond days, and I have a vague notion of a place called “the grocery store”, but I can’t quite remember what it is.  When I have called my husband at work, sobbing for the 2nd time in a week that “I just can’t keep up”, he gently suggests it may be time to “quit the blog”.

The thing is, he’s right.  I’m in no place in my life to take on an “added responsibility”, albeit one that is paid poorly to nill.  I am tired.  I run hard after my 2 and 4 yr. old all day, and generally count any day sans the smoke alarm going off 16 times as a definite victory.  I am one hot, freakin’ mess.

And it’s not just The Blog that causes stress (and my husband knows this)–it’s keeping up with two active kiddos, and their playdates, and the snacks needed for preschool, and the Bible Study homework, and remembering the dog’s vet appointment.  Everybody’s landscape of stress looks different, and some manage it so much better than others, but I think it’s a pretty rare thing to find a mama who doesn’t teeter in to stress-case territory once in a while.

As for this “added responsibility” that’s clouding up my own stress-scape?  (don’t so many of us have an “added responsibility” of some sort?) The darn thing is I feel firmly called to use this (very weird, for sure) voice I’ve been given.  I claim that it’s not about me, and while this isn’t 100% true, it is 95% not-a-lie and the thought of abandoning this unique platform that God has granted me makes me feel more than a little sick.  I have worked so hard to build this and when even one person says something like, “You make me laugh so much” or “Thanks for helping me feel normal”, my heart kind of swoons and it all feels…worth it??

And if I’m honest, it’s not the time writing that is the problem.  This part is healing, therapeutic, fun.  It’s touching base with a love for writing that I let lay dormant far to long.  The problem is the CONSTANT PUTTING MYSELF OUT THERE.

See, the thing is, every single post, be it blog, Facebook, or Twitter is a “laying on the line” of self.  This might work awesomely well, except I am a decided introvert.  I heal, repair, and restore through Alone Time. (as you might imagine, this aloneness isn’t readily forthcoming in the life of two young kids) Throwing myself out into the social media-sphere every few hours is not my comfort zone.  It will never be my comfort zone.

Yet I remain convicted that our time on this earth is not about us.  If this is something I am Supposed To Be Doing to encourage or give foot to faltering others…pass the laptop, this blog is on. Maybe I can just find a way to do it in a deep, social-less hole??

So where does this leave me?  In the deep depths of my stress-scape, loving and respecting my husband and our family, striving for balance.  Praying and working to minimalize all the non-necessary corners I can (no, my ceiling fans haven’t been dusted since we moved in, and yes, that’s really gross) and to prioritize the important stuff, like trips to the park with the kids and Duck Dynasty nights with my husband, and the rare moment I snag alone to rejuvenate myself.

But there is always pressure over how to manage it all, and there is always confusion over what the heck to do with the pressure…

What I do know?  I appreciate each and every single one of you who pop by and humor me with the posts I write, and who support me as I navigate this nasty beast of Facebook and social media.  I am learning, growing, and I know not where this venture will take me or where it is meant to go, but I so appreciate you being here with me.

And I’ll take ANY stress-scape management input you have…or just company as I hang out here, trying to figure it all out. xo.

Sep 162013
 
Ignore the cheap Michael Kohrs knock-off bracelet, pay attention to the sweet A Girl and Her Band hair-tie because they may be making a giveaway appearance, but mostly focus on the gorgeous bracelet from Penny Jules

Ignore the cheap Michael Kors knock-off watch, pay attention to the sweet A Girl and Her Band hair-tie because they’re making an upcoming giveaway appearance, but mostly focus on the gorgeous bracelet from Penny Jules

A while ago I wrote a post called The Bracelet.  That one kind of ripped my heart out and spat it back because it was so poignant, so real, so…honest.  I am a private gal and this one chipped a little too close to the vest, but…I liked it.   It was healing.  I wrote it, felt love from my readers and carried on with my messy prolonged process of grieving my mother.

Life continually surprises me.  I never know what God is going to dump in my life next.  It might be a new series on my blog I am super-excited about, a slashing bit of financial news (crap, repairing the van REALLY costs that much?), a surprising job opportunity, or most fantastically, a new friend.  I fully believe God knows exactly what I will need in my life when I need it and introduces it at exactly the right time.

I have made no secret of the fact that my mother’s birthday slays me every year.  Last year, I lit my kitchen on fire and burned off my eyelashes.  This year, my dog crapped on the carpet, I started sobbing uncontrollably and called my husband to leave work because I couldn’t find the rug cleaner.  I won’t lie–I’m kind of excited to see what drama next year unfolds.

In any case, there I was, wailing over dog poop, when the mail arrived.  I am working on organizing a big (for me) giveaway in October (so please stay tuned!), and I got the first of the products I will be giving away in the mail.  The thing was, the sweet artisan who mailed the product not only sent the featured item, but a little treat for me–a beautiful bracelet.

I had slowly been falling in love with Penny Jules since our first contact.  She was sweet and has made some very kind and supportive comments on my blog.  When I saw the sweet bonus bracelet she threw in for me, I messaged her, proclaiming my gratitude.  Nothing could have prepared me for her beyond gracious response however.

Penny wrote, “I know sometimes certain days can be extremely difficult to get through. Sometimes all we need on those days is a hug, or some small gesture from even a complete stranger to help ease the pain of the day. Now today is a new day and you were already able to make people laugh with your writing. You just continue doing what you love and what you’re good at and all will be right with the world.”

Oh gosh, excuse me, readers, because the tears are streaming down my face.  I love Penny, because she is classy.  Because she is real. And because she gets it.  Obviously, go buy something from her because she is so cool, but moreover, just be touched by her words.

3 weeks ago, I didn’t even know who Penny was.  Now God put her in my life and was using her craft to get me through one of the hardest days of my life.  Just the touch of a new person in my life was all it took.

Again, I am sobbing, so I will go.  But never, ever underestimate the power of a bracelet, friends. xo.

Aug 272013
 
Source Not up to me where we're going

Source
Not up to me where we’re going

I have a distinct memory of cruising down the highway about a month after my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  My 13mo. old son was in the back seat and I remembered something cute about him I wanted to tell my mom.  I picked up the phone to call her and then had the passing fear that there might be a day sometime in the future that I wouldn’t be able to call her any more.  “Nah, that will never happen.  I won’t let it.“, I stuffed the thought down.

You see, losing her wasn’t an option.  She was my mother, my friend, sure, but moreover, she was my #1 Cheerleader.  She was the only person on this earth who didn’t think I was cool b/c they had to or because they wanted to.  She just did.  She just thought I was neat and she loved me and liked me.  And she cheered on everything I did.

So losing her wouldn’t be an option. Walking through my days without her selfless love just wasn’t something that could be.

But then it was something that could be because it happened.  She was physically present on the day my daughter was born, but she had already checked out.  By the time my daughter was 13 mo. and I was driving around when I thought of something to call my mom about, I couldn’t.  Because she was gone.

That thing that I said I would never let happen?  It did happen.  Because I had no control over it to begin with.  My resolution to keep her on this earth was pointless because it was never something I got to decide in the first place.

My mother’s birthday is Thursday, 8/29.  It falls one day after mine, which hasn’t always been a super-convenient timing, especially now that she is dead.  The pallor that fell over my birthday last year snuffed the figurative candles out and then I kind of completely lost it on her day last year.

I’m hoping this year is different, but I don’t really know how it will go down.  Becuase you know what?  I don’t have control over it–at all.

God is good and while I would never choose to have my mother exit this earth so young, He used her death to teach me infinite lessons.  As a person who tends to pinch and hold too tightly onto everything, the experience of my mom dying taught my self-imposed corset strings to loosen.  Don’t mistake me, I still have a far way to go, but I have learned how to breathe.  I have learned how to let go a little.

This knowledge translates into rolling my eyes and just eating the burnt toast even though it irritates me, to accommodating my son’s stubborn insistence to ONLY sleep with the blue pillowcase on his pillow, to simply sighing when I am rear-ended in the minivan yet again.  The thing of this life?  We have no control.  It is all in His control, and we are just passing through for a short bit.  And I am cool with that.

In fact, all I want right now, is to just take a breath, exhale it out and let go…

Apr 082013
 
rest peace god christ answers @meredithspidel

Source
May we rest in the glory of His peace

I wasn’t planning to post this morning.   All the usual players were in the game–tiredness, exhaustion, not being able to keep up, blah, blah, blah…but then I woke up with a jolt at 2:36am.  As hard as I tried to pass this off as waking up because I had to pee or typical poor sleep, God was trying to tell me something.  You see, right before going to bed, I had been praying for clarity.  He delivered.  And then I had that convicting and unnerving certainty that I had to share it on my blog, so…here I am, wee hours typing.

What did He say?

Overwhelmed trying to manage an obscene amount of things because you bit off more than you can chew? God.

Panicking over the cost of what you just spent on your daughter’s new shoes because those darn adorable little feet won’t stop growing? God.

Uncertain about how to muster the savvy to handle that impossibly delicate situation? God.

Feeling like you want to bang your head against the wall if you have to change one more diaper or refill one more sippy cup?  God.

Cranky with your husband for being so male? God.

Eyes glazing over because you can’t possibly muster the energy to nod your head politely in awkward social situations one more time? God.

Certain you will never successful see your children through their school years if you struggle to keep up with the demands of preschool? God.

He didn’t say “Fuss, worry and analyze every situation a million times over.”  He didn’t say, “Whine to anyone who will listen.”

Nor did He say “Pray”, “Consult with your Bible study group” or even “Read scripture”, though I know these things would lend peace as well.  He just said “God.”

“God.”

So that’s my answer.  That’s my one-word answer.  And that’s all the answer I need.

Mar 292013
 
ready to fight rumble mom of the year

Source
Ready to Rumble
(Okay fine, these arms are only happening in my dreams, thrilled you noticed.)

It’s Good Friday, and today, death and suffering are near and present.  Easter’s  joy, blessing, renewal, and sense of hope are coming, but now we hang out in the pain for a bit.

It may be the time of year or just that I don’t handle holidays well in general any more, but for some reason, my tear ducts have gotten turned on lately and I can’t seem to turn them off.  Thoughts of grief are resonating loudly.  Not looking to be a downer by any stretch, but if someone out there is feeling similar things, I just wanted to take the next couple of minutes and hold your hand, if you will.  Thanks for being here.

I honor and revere Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for paving the way so smartly about how grief comes in different stages.  She nailed it;  I have all of the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I just wish there was some hopeful order about them.   I would give my left arm if my grief could be gloriously linear so I could know what was coming next.

I find my grief comes in unpredictable waves.  Some days I feel almost fine, and then it’s like I’m hit by a ton of angry bricks.  I will see a picture of my mother and start cursing her out, cursing her for leaving us and leaving this legacy in this life.

Some days I am just angry in general.  Angry with an unspecified fury that her death even had to happen at all.  This is when it’s cool; I am filled with a capable rage that invigorates and fulfills.  Throw the most skilled fighters my way and I could take them on rage alone.  I am powerful; I am raging and it feels freakin’ awesome.  Game on!

And then sometimes I crash.  I crash in a ball of tears that feels so empty, so sad.  There was a moment last week when I was sitting on the couch, watching a silly PBS show with my kids, and for some reason, the sadness just engulfed me.  Who knew Super Why! could be so traumatic?  I felt dizzy with pain.  Could I even breathe any more?  I just missed her so darn much.

I have realized that no one else on this earth can ever cheer-lead as well as a mother, albeit with all of her reasonable faults and imperfections.  My heart aches that my children will never know this unconditional love of their grandmother.  No one else is going to “get it” either.  My husband is a wonderful man, but it wasn’t his mother who died, and he is human.  He can’t possibly feel or remember the pain I carry each day.  He will ask how my day was and I just say “fine” because how can you really put the random blinding moments of poignancy into words?

Once in a while, I feel normal.  I feel real, and this life seems a possible thing to participate in.  Getting back on my feet hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, hasn’t happened yet, but these moments of acceptance give hope.  Things don’t hurt so much and beautiful things can be on the horizon.

hope springs eternal

Source
Hope springs eternal

This is where it’s at, my friends.  These precious slices of hopefulness are what keeps us going.  They are what will someday become our every day.  In the meantime, we pray, and we thank God for loving us enough to die for us; surely if He did that, He can carry us through this earthly grief too.  When it’s bad, it will get better.  He loves us so much and Easter is coming.  I carry on with this promise.

Feb 212013
 
strength boxing gloves @meredithspidel

Source
Step aside, I’m packing a powerful punch with this outlook

Every once in a while my inner social worker tries to work her way up to the forefront.  I generally try to keep her closeted because despite being the precious bleeding heart that she is, the darn girl never made me any money and I just don’t have a whole of opportunity to use her right now in between diaper changes.  Maybe someday we’ll reunite in full, but lately, I’ve just been mentally harkening back to the Strengths-based Perspective, a basic hallmark of any social work practice.  In short, it seeks to draw out people’s strengths and build from there.

I love this concept.  It’s full of empowerment, hope and seeking to meet people where they are at–never bad things in my book.  I decided it might be time to throw a little of this perspective at my life.  It’s all about how you look at things, right?

When the laundry is overflowing by the washing machine and there is a questionable rank odor eminating from the pile, I going to feel great that I’ve just managed to get all most of the dirty crap down to the basement.  At least it’s semi-contained, right? I’m calling strength.

That nasty pile of bills looming on my kitchen counter?  Hey, at least I remembered to get the mail.  Moreover I remembered and I actually forced myself to venture the whole way out to the mailbox.  It’s subzero conditions outside, people.  I’m calling strength.

I can only successful change my wildly wriggling daughter’s poopy diaper by holding her down with my leg and screaming “The Wheels on the Bus” at the top of my lungs?  Go me for finding a way to multi-task in music time and my exercise.  I’m calling strength.

I crash in exhaustion on the couch every night after the kids are finally in bed and feel like a rockstar if I actually make it up past 9pm?  It’s very positive that I have myself on such a nice, regular schedule.  Shaking things up by staying up to watch Downton Abbey “live” could be such dicey territory.  I’m calling strength.

Chicken and fries AGAIN for dinner?  Go with potatoes being a veggie and I’m acing out two major food groups here.  Plus, not all nuggets are the same shape, so my kids are learning important lessons about diversity. I’m calling strength.

I’m calling strength.  You in?

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