big boy beds and bursts of blubbering

Moving Boxes

Sometimes it’s the pile of too-small clothes in the donation box that makes a parent cry.

Sometimes it’s breaking down the crib and carrying it out for the yard sale pile that makes a parent cry.

I did both of those things today without shedding tears.

And then.

Maybe somewhere between re-folding the stacks of yard sale blankets and picking up the 700th Hot Wheels car, I lost it.

It started small with pinched, down-turned corners of my mouth and squinty eyes.  That’s a pretty picture, huh?  Did you just try it?  Yup, it was that awkward.  So thankful that the kids were out on the river with my husband and not at home to see me twisting my face crazy ways.  Within about 5 minutes, irregular rhythms of previously stifled sobs and sniffles were bursting into the empty house.

Nobody’s going off to college; Nobody’s going for an extended stay in a hospital room.

I’m moving our girl out of the room she’s shared with middle brother for the last 2 1/2 years, and she’s only going on the other side of the wall.  She’ll have her own space, and baby brother will move to the bottom bunk.  I’m not too upset about being done with the crib (yet.)  I’m sad that moving her out probably means changes in her relationship with her brother. 

She needs her own space more and more as she is getting older, and there are several other great reasons that swapping rooms has to be done.

But the way they play together 80% of the time?  It’s precious, and I hate being the one to initiate changes that might mean they’re not as close.

My sister pointed out today that I don’t know what positive changes between them it might bring about that I can’t foresee.  She’s right.  And already tonight, I heard middle brother talking about himself in ways that sounded like he might be gaining some much-needed sense of maturation. Halleluuuu-yer! That brought tremendous relief, because I was seriously concerned about jealousy on his part, too.

In an odd way, the pain of moving on from one chapter in their childhood brought me joy.  There are days when I’m too busy or too self-absorbed to be the mom I really want to be, but having my heart break over 10 feet of floor space reminds me that God is slowly making me into who he wants me to be.

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3, emphasis mine)

on forgetting important stuff

A dear friend, who shall remain unnamed in order to protect the guilty, and I were discussing some of our mutual flaws.  Though many elements of our stories are different, we struggle with so many of the same issues – like the monumental, soul-crushing task of changing bedsheets.  We laughed about how long it had been since one of us had last changed the sheets and how the other of us was currently sleeping on top of quilts while clean sheets lay in a laundry basket on the floor.

She laughed again and said something like, “Lauren, when it comes to us, sometimes I feel like it’s the blind leading the blind.”  And I said, “No, we’re sighted.  We just have really poor hand-eye coordination.”

remember3Isn’t this all of us in one place or another, when it comes to how we are versus how we want to be?

We get it.  We can see what should be done.  But somewhere, the connection is lost between what we saw and what we’re doing.  We forget.

This is why New Year’s Resolutions are the target of so many jokes.  We forget the beauty of the goal we’d set with the best of intentions.

This is why reading through parts of the Old Testament sounds like a broken record playing, “Then they served other gods and did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  The Israelites, like me, forgot what they’d seen God do.

This is why marriage conferences and parenting books will always be in demand.  We forget the ways we want to serve those we love most.

This is why I didn’t complete any of my health goals this week.  I forget in the moment how important this leg of the table is and how many things may fall off if I don’t tighten it up.

This is why you are constantly enduring professional development on the job.  Somebody forgot that a Diet Coke 12-pack doesn’t belong in the freezer, and now you must be reminded of courteous workplace practices.

If I may say, forgetting is a big part of being human.

remember2You’ve probably heard that quote that just begs to be cross-stitched: “A friend is a person who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you’ve forgotten it.”  It’s so true.  (That is, unless the tune you were humming was “Murderous Revenge.”  If someone sings that back to you, get a new song, and get a new friend.)  I need people to remind me of the good things that I know.  Isn’t it weird how we easily remember the bad, but it takes effort to remember the good?

These are some things that help me remember the life-balancing good:

I’m so grateful for my friend who is hopefully sleeping on [clean] sheets tonight.  She helps me remember that despite my frustrations and failures, I’m a good teacher.  She reminds me that too much TV for my kids is stealing too much happiness from our home.  It takes effort to maintain our friendship, but I need it.  I’ll even guess that we both do.

I struggle to take in God’s Word on a daily basis, but if I don’t, I can forget how all the dots connect.  My heart forgets peace.  My hands forget love. (I’m still feebly kickin’ it Hello Mornings style, but that’s another post.)

It’s not easy to get myself and my dancing, hiding, whining, laughing, loud, squirming children to church every week, but there’s a reason that God says in the book of Hebrews: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see  the Day drawing near.” [emphasis mine]  He made it so that worshiping together makes us remember, too.

In other words, I’ve got to remember to do something to help me remember what it is I’m trying to do.  Need to read that sentence again?  I do, and I wrote it.

And maybe the beauty in forgetting is that we get a chance to experience joy all over again every time we remember.

update: {new normal} how it feels to be me

31days new normalThis post is for any gracious person who read this series last October.

It’s been a year since my first brain scan, and I thought I’d celebrate by having another one done later this month.  Ain’t no party like a Lauren Lutz party…

But seriously, y’all.  This party could happily stop with a diagnosis, and I’m encouraged that it could soon.  I’m almost through with another round of tests that have included about 2 gallons of bloodwork and a skin punch biopsy.

The results for the biopsy will be in at the end of this week, and I expect it to show damage to the network of small fiber nerves.  (I think I said that right.)  While that will technically give a diagnosis, it’s really only like a sub-diagnosis under the Big Question Mark.  I’ve been working jigsaw and crossword puzzles this week, and I’m appreciative of every piece that pops into place in health matters, too!

puzzle perspective

In other happy news, it has been thoroughly proven that I do not have Diabetes, and for that I am very thankful.  My grandfather is a severely brittle diabetic (I think I said that right) and I’ve seen enough to know that them’s tough cookies.  {*Comic Relief Alert*} During one of the bloodwork days, I was having 13 vials of blood drawn after about 8 vials drawn 3 days prior.  I was about 2 seconds from passing out when I started vomiting.  A second nurse ran to help us and boy, was she was overjoyed to hold my barf bag!  Me an’ my raging stomach virus rescued her from having to stick the head of the Board of Directors for the hospital.  You’re welcome, Nervous Nurse Nelly.

My joint and muscle pain continues, but recently I’ve recognized that at least some of the pains are recurring in the same spots.  The weird new pains feel like bee stings (infrequent, but annoying!) and an instant locking up of a joint.  Me hopping through the local discount store on one good knee audibly cracks me up, even as I’m wincing holding the “cramping” knee.

My vertigo came back for a few weeks, but I think it’s leaving again. *jumps & clicks heels together* It is so embarrassing when you look like you’re drunk and you’re not.  Numbness has become a problem from time to time in my limbs.  That makes it surprisingly hard to sleep sometimes!

I had one vision change where I couldn’t focus on the face I was looking at.  That only lasted for 3-5 seconds, and then I was fine.  Very odd, and really hoping that one never happens again.

The most frustrating symptoms for me right now are barely noticeable to anyone else.  I can tell that sometimes I’m not pronouncing things the way I want to, and I’m dropping smaller objects more than what I think is normal for me.  Those two seem a little scary.

Am I crazy to post this on the internet for the world to see?  Perhaps a career coach may say I’m ruining my chances at future employment. Maybe friends or family will exclude me from activities or opportunities because they’ll assume I can’t or shouldn’t participate.

Displaying my weaknesses is worth those risks to me if it helps you see those around you a little more compassionately.  Invisible illnesses are in front of you at the cash register, beside you at the baseball game, above you in the company hierarchy, and behind you in the generations to come.  What harm could it do to assume that everybody needs a little grace?

Displaying my weaknesses is worth those risks to me if it helps you hear one more time that God is worthy of your trust.  I don’t worry that whatever is wrong with me will make me ineligible for life.  God has a place and a way for me to do my thang, and is perfectly capable of using my strengths and weaknesses.  I trust that he’ll do that.

appendixless. {and how i learned what i’m worth to my child}

In 5 hours, we will have been in this hospital for 5 full days.IMAG1135bWell, my daughter will have been here all that time. I’ve taken three breaks, the longest being a 12-hour overnight stay at home while my mom took my place. You start counting these kinds of things a lot, trying to bring some kind of qualitative perspective to a seemingly infinite experience.

I’m not a big fan of taking self-portraits.  It’s not always an insecurity thing.  It’s a battle against narcissism thing.  But this one I needed to take:

IMAG1148bI will need to remember this week and that I was here with my chipped nail polish and desperately cheerful sweater for Gabby.

When she was born, my 24 year old self actually wondered, “What if she doesn’t love me?”

When she was 4, I asked my Sunday School class to pray for our relationship, because I felt it was too distant.  (Yeah, we’re old school.  No small groups.  Just old-fashioned Sunday School.)  As I grew as a mom, I learned how to connect with her better.

My girl is an independent thing, and she’s so mature and intelligent for her age that it’s easy to leave her alone too much.  She doesn’t show signs of needing Mommy as much as I’d think a 7 year old would.

This week (and the 5 days of sickness prior to them) have proven that even a girl like her needs Mama deeply.

It turns out that taking that night off at home caused me to miss the worst (read: most painful) moment of the week.  No one told me they were going to remove the drain from her side.  While they were snipping the suture holding the tube in and then pulling the tube through her incision, I was at Walgreens buying a card on behalf of her little brother.

I arrived to find my little girl sitting in a chair next to my mother, holding a scrap of paper to her chest on which I’d colored her name ombre style.  Through tears, she’d asked my mom to get it down from the bulletin board.  “Did your mom make that?” asked her Nanna.  She nodded.

IMAG1142b

I know it’s not my fault, but it still hurts.  Yes, I needed a solid night’s sleep to function better for her.  Yes, it’s okay for her to rely on other people.  Yes, it was great for my mom to get to be a part of the healing process since she lives almost 9 hours away from us.  It’s true that I had no heads-up that it might happen that day.  But knowing that you weren’t there when she really needed you? That sucks.

I’ve since promised I won’t leave the hospital until she does, and I mean I’m not even leaving the unit.  She’s stuck, so I will be, too.  Whatever we need can be brought in by someone else.

There have been other ways to learn that I’m still needed.  Her head rested on my shoulder while we sat in the bed together and watched TV.  She let me rock her when she was so frustrated that I wondered if she’d spawned another personality.  My girl’s eyes dart to me when someone is getting on her nerves and she doesn’t want to interact with them.  She looks for me first when she wakes up.  Her breath deepened when I told her I wouldn’t leave her again.

This is not only my experience.  This is much of what it means to be a parent.

There are times that one parent fits the bill of the day a little better than another.  I know there will be times when she leans more on her daddy, but I don’t ever want to forget the emotional lesson I learned this week.  I’ll need to have it rooted in my heart if she decides to go all “Leave me alone. I just want to listen to my music” when she’s 14.  Maybe I’ll be needed in a different way at that time, but I’ll be there.

31 days of a new normal {day 28} i think a change will do you good

This post is part of a month-long series.  You can read the rest here.

Leaving the pocketbook, forgetting the deadline, needing to have the dorm room re-keyed 3 times, losing the password, “OH!  Oh my gosh!…” These have all, unfortunately, been staples of my days.  If my mom could have put the word “focus” on repeat in my bedroom CD player while I cleaned up, she would have.

I am not naturally neat or organized, but I’ve come so far!  Ask my husband.  The only time I lose my keys anymore is if it takes extra-long to dig through the trash and receipts in my pocketbook to find them.  I really need you to believe that I’m not a hopeless case, because I’m about to dish more embarrassing dirt.

My bedroom most frequently looks like 10-year-old-me lives in it.  I know I’m not the only one out there, and I know 98.4% of those people want to change.  Here comes help:

We don’t have to do it all at once.

Ohhhhhh snap.  She just got profound and unbelievably original.

English: view into Grand Canyon from South Rim...

Over the phone I related to my sis, “I have to get rid of half my stuff.  Of course it’s messy when there’s not a place for it all!  The problem is, the times when I get energy and the times when I’m free haven’t collided yet.”  Can I tell you how lovely it was to hear my sweet sister say to me tonight, “Well, I’m going to call you out on this one in love, Lauren.”  [OH, MAN.  HERE IT COMES.  SHE’S GOING TO TELL ME I’M A SLOB.  I HATE MYSELF.]  “You don’t have to do it all tonight.  Just pick up 5 things off your floor and choose 2 to give away.”  [Oh, right.  I don’t hate myself.]

We all have our battles.  One of mine is fatigue.  Whatever yours is, be reminded of the tortoise and the hare.  Be reminded of Edison changing that filament out 1600 times.  Be reminded of the Grand Canyon.

My sister, butterflies, and even God Himself are into change over time.  It must be the way to go.

31 days of a new normal {day 21} just bust a move

This post is part of a month-long series.  You can read the rest here.

Q:  How do you know when to take a cookie to the doctor?

A:  When it’s feeling crumby.

(Thanks to my 6 year old for putting me on to that one.)

A few weeks ago, I joined a Facebook group for people with chronic illnesses.  It’s pretty neat, because the women in the group really do a great job encouraging each other. I think they need each other, because each of us need to know that someone really, truly gets it.

I haven’t “introduced” myself to the group yet, though.  There I sit in a folding chair under the ceiling-suspended basketball goal, trying to decide if I’m going to get up for a fourth glass of punch.  It’s not that I don’t like the people.  I’m just not sure if I belong.

I’m glad I committed to write this series, because it’s making me deal with what’s happening.  I finally understood tonight that I’m really uncomfortable with being labeled with a chronic illness, but I don’t even know why yet.

Writing this post is kind of like not wanting to walk out onto the dance floor and instead choosing to bust a move on the stage.  That sounds like me.

English: Peanut butter cookie with a chocolate...

possibly too much pre-coffee irony

A few of you may have noticed that button over to the left that says something about mornings.  You may have groaned at the sight of it just because of the ‘m’ word, but it’s a heart warmer for me!

Columbia River Gorge at Sunrise, From an Elevation of About 7,000 Feet 05/1973

Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent to some other women who are taking the Hello Mornings Challenge.

#myHMCstory

I began this challenge back in January, when groups were assigned (randomly, I guess?) and I hadn’t met any of the participants.  The challenge started about a week before I went back to work after having taken a semester off.  A few weeks after that, I began experiencing odd medical symptoms that have had me back and forth to doctors all year long.  Weird symptoms, a stressful teaching environment, an infant who wasn’t sleeping well… It sort of seemed impossible, but it wasn’t!

Because of the Winter session, my heart is believing more and more that early morning time with the Lord is crucial Twenty more minutes of sleep isn’t going to make a difference in my symptoms, but twenty minutes of time with the Lord will make a difference in how focused and loving I am today.  And you know what else?  One of the people I have leaned on the most through these tests and doctor visits is a woman with a similar story that I met through #HMC11.  Think that was a coincidence for us to be put in the same group?  I don’t!

I sent that 2 days ago.  Then this morning, my youngest woke up crying 20 minutes before my alarm went off.  And I was so focused and loving irritated.  The irony is not lost on me.

Really, I was irritated because I knew he wasn’t going back to sleep easily (or maybe at all) and I just wanted the silent morning all to myself.  I’m selfish.  And that is exactly why I need the Hello Mornings Challenge.  I need some accountability – via social media – from other women who have the same thing in mind:  getting up earlier than the rest of the family so I can spend time with God (and maybe even exercise and plan ahead for the day!)  I’m a selfish woman who will become less selfish if she gets that all-to-herself time with God.  (Again, ironic?)

Taking on my days this way has impacted me so much that I decided to be an Accountability Captain this go round!  Being a leader makes me step up my game, so here’s to more consistency!

I’m linking up at Inspired to Action today and Kat (our fearless pre-dawn leader) asked if we have any tips.  I do.

Use a plastic baby utensil to stir your coffee, and you’ll never hate your silverware for being too loud.

name-calling

I hate Facebook.  I say that a lot, either in my mind or to a friend who’s commiserating with me regarding that portal to darkness that I inexplicably continue to visit on a daily basis.  But that’s probably another post for another day.  Anyway, Sunday I didn’t hate Facebook.  Sunday was my birthday.

Thanks to Facebook, I was receiving notifications throughout the day that yet another handful of people had kindly taken ten seconds of their day to think of me and wish me well.  It was seeing how they might have personalized their greeting that was the most fun.

One of my college roommates:

Happy happy day, Larlo!  Can’t wait to see you soon!

She picked up that name from my AIM/ICQ handle circa 1999.  (Remember those?!  I miss that little incoming message giggle sound that ICQ made.) I was branded “Larlo” by my youngest sister many moons ago, since somehow that seemed to be easier to pronounce than “Lauren.”  It stuck.  Nicknames say, “We’ve got history.”

A co-worker from a school I used to work at:

Happy birthday, Lutz!

Like frat boys yelling across campus at one another, many of my teacher friends at that school just called me by my last name. No “Mrs.” to precede it.  Just “Lutz,” which rhymes with boots, in case you were wondering. There’s a certain energy and camaraderie to it that I find very endearing.  Teaching buddies can sometimes feel like fellow soldiers that are crawling around a bunker with you, so maybe it’s appropriate to bark at each other the way Sgt. Dan yells, “GUMP!”  Just-last-names says, “We’re in the trenches together.”

Other names I was given on my birthday: friend, lady, Lauren, niece, favorite music teacher (ahem, their only music teacher) — All these are signifiers of individual relationships that I’ve built, and what a lovely thing to be reminded of on a day that inevitably leaves me pondering what I’ve been doing for the past 31 years.

What do the names you own tell you about yourself?