Do You Feel Beautiful?

“You look beautiful!” my daughter exclaimed when she saw me standing in the kitchen this morning.  I was dressed in sweat pants, a baggy old sweater that had seen better days, and my hair had been hastily pulled back into a messy bun.  My body was slumped tiredly against the counter; a strong cup of coffee in one hand, cold, weak toast in the other.

“Thank you,” I said, setting my breakfast down.  I knelt down, and my soon to be 4 year old launched herself into my arms.  Her little body was still warm from sleep, and her hair held the soft, sweet smell of apples.  I pressed my lips to her forehead.  “You are beautiful too, sweetheart,” I said.

She pushed back, abruptly.  “Not yet!” she exclaimed.  “I’m not dressed in my beautiful clothes!  And my hair doesn’t have anything beautiful in it!”

“Huh,” I said, thoughtfully tilting my head to the side.  I studied her for a moment.  Golden hair cascading gently down her back, blue eyes filled with laughter and wonder, rosy cheeks flushed with the excitement of a new day.  My daughter is, in fact, beautiful.  Yet I didn’t rush her over to a mirror in order to point that out.  Instead, I shared a secret.

“I guess I haven’t told you about the secret to true beauty yet, have I?” I mused.

“What is it?” she gasped.

“Well,” I began.  “True beauty isn’t something you see at first.  It’s something you feel.”  My daughter looked confused, but snuggled in closer to me and listened intently.

“The most beautiful people in the world are kind, helpful, loving and good.  Their beauty is inside of them.  So when you meet these people, they have the kind of beauty that shines through from the inside out.  You feel good when you’re around them.  Sometimes you feel their beauty before you see it.”

“What if we put jewelry on?” my daughter asked.  “Does that make us beautiful?”

“Jewelry can be very beautiful,” I said, nodding, “and it’s fun to wear, but it doesn’t make us beautiful.  It doesn’t matter what clothes we have on, or what our hair looks like.  If we are not beautiful on the inside, we can never truly be beautiful on the outside.”

My daughter thought about this for a moment while she played with a thread that was slowly unraveling from the cuff of my sweater.  “Mom?” she said, looking up at me.  “You feel beautiful to me.”

“You feel beautiful to me, too,” I said, hugging her closer.

And she is.

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Am I Really Qualified To Be A Parent?

I had one job to do last night.  One simple job!  A fairly run of the mill parenting duty that could have been handled in under a minute, but somehow took 10 times that long, and resulted in me feeling flushed with frenzy and panic while I belly crawled down the hallway in the dark.

Let me back up a bit.

Yesterday evening my son, who is nearly 7, lost a tooth (his third to date).  Our family’s anticipation and build up to the Tooth Fairy’s arrival was fantastically impressive.   The entire house was buzzing with excitement as we tucked the children into bed last night, and everyone had a different idea about what the Tooth Fairy would bring.  My oldest son, the one who lost the tooth, was hedging his bets and anticipating a boomerang or a coin (go big or be practical seems to be his motto lately).  I was covertly checking my wallet to mentally prepare myself for what was actually going to end up under his pillow, while my husband stood quietly by, amusement crinkling the lines around his eyes.

It was close to midnight by the time my husband and I finally decided to call it a night.  I had been on the computer for a while before we headed up to bed, and if you have ever spent any time in front of a bright screen before walking into a dark room, you will know that your eyes simply will not adjust to the darkness.  You are blind, and it lasts for a really, really long time.  It doesn’t help when your children have blackout blinds and zero nightlights, which is the case in my son’s bedroom.

So this was where my eyes were at when I stepped into my son’s room.  With the Tooth Fairy’s coin clutched tightly in my hand, I turned off all the lights upstairs, opened his bedroom door and…nothing.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I took a tentative step forward, arms stretched out and sweeping the air in front of me.  Within seconds my shin bounced off the edge of a toy bin, and I groaned, reflexively before dropping to my knees.  I then proceeded to crawl, pitifully in the general direction of my son’s bed.  Once my face hit the side of his mattress, I knew I was there.  That’s when things went from bad to worse.

At this point, I still couldn’t see, but at least I knew roughly where I was.  I crouched as low as I could, curled my fingers tightly around the coin, then reached up and quickly slid my arm across my son’s bed towards his pillow.  Except it turned out I wasn’t anywhere near his pillow, so I ended up punching him in the stomach.  Horrified, I dropped back down to the floor and wiggled half way under his bed.  Sheets rustled, bed springs creaked, but eventually my son settled back to sleep.  I crawled out from my hiding spot and carefully inched my way to the head of his bed.  This time I found his pillow, made the tooth exchange, then began my hasty retreat.  My vision was slowly returning at this point, so I could just barely see the outline of the door.  I was scurrying towards it when suddenly I heard someone whisper, “Hey!”

I dropped flat to my stomach and began shimmying frantically out of his room and down the hallway.  I made it to my bedroom, scampered across the floor and threw myself into bed.  I explained, breathlessly, to my husband that I had just sucker punched our son, and likely caused permanent Tooth Fairy Trauma that was going to take years of therapy to sort out.  My husband, being the reasonable, practical person that he is, calmly turned to me and said, “Why didn’t you just walk in his room, give him a kiss on the forehead, then swap out the tooth?  If he woke up, you would have the perfect excuse for being there.”

It’s moments like this that I really begin to question my qualifications as a parent.  

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You Are Worth Fighting For

(This blog is made up of a variety of funny, quirky and sometimes serious and heavy posts, because that is what makes up who I am.  I can’t be one without the other.  The following post was written over a year ago, but I am re-posting it now, because these are the kinds of conversations that need to be had, and they need to be had often. )

Depression isn’t always an easy topic to discuss.  It is confusing, overwhelming, and often misunderstood.  One of the most frustrating things about being depressed is having people tell you that it’s all in your head, that happiness is a choice, or that if you really put your mind to it, you can overcome anything.  You can’t just shake off depression any more than you can shake off a cold.  It is inside of you, it consumes you, it becomes everything about you.  It grabs hold of you with its dark, heavy arms, and pulls you down into a jumbled pile of devastating nothingness.

Depression is sometimes described as a battle that needs to be fought, but to me, that’s only part of it.  Living with depression is more than just a struggle.  It is finding yourself buried beneath the weight of your own worst emotions, and knowing that your only hope of survival is stay small and hope you make it.

When you are in the true grips of depression, endurance is sometimes the only thing that you’ve got left.  Sometimes there is no fight, no kicking or screaming.  Sometimes there is only the terrifying sense of drowning in the tears of your own despair.  And so you wait.  You wait for the storm to pass, and the waters to recede, and you watch for that tiny shimmer of light that means maybe, some day, you will be able to breathe again without it hurting.

I have been there.  I have survived the storm, and I came out the other side of it gasping, reaching, and trying desperately to hold onto my freedom like my life depended on it, because it did.  That is when your fight truly begins.  That is when you battle hard against depression, to hold it back and beat it down.  It takes courage, strength, and the kind of blind determination that will keep you going even when you stumble, because you will.  It takes faith, and a belief that you are worth fighting for, because you are.

Too often, people with depression struggle alone in silence.  There is a certain amount of shame attached to feeling this way, and a worry that other people won’t understand or accept what is happening.  It’s hard enough trying to navigate through life during the best of times; it’s almost unimaginable trying to do it when you are depressed.  Yet, as scary as it is, we need to reach out and talk to each other, share our stories, and ask for help (even if we think we don’t need it).  We need to hold on to one another, and also to hold each other up.  We need each other to survive.  No one should ever be expected to survive this on their own.  We are stronger together, so if you know someone who is struggling with depression, or if you yourself are, reach out, hold on, and don’t let go!

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Just Say No To….

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Yesterday morning Emma asked if she could try one of my mints.

“But you don’t like mints,” I reminded her.

“I’ll like them this time!” she said, bouncing on her toes.

I was skeptical, but curious, so I handed one over.  Emma immediately popped the mint into her mouth and began crunching away with a sort of blind enthusiasm that I suspected she might later regret.  Within seconds her eyes began to water, and she dropped to the floor, clawing wildly at her tongue.

“I don’t like it!” she shrieked.  “Something is happening to my mouth!!”  Drool, spit and chunks of mint pooled on the floor in front of her.  She began to shiver.

“I’m cold,” she said, hugging her knees, eyes wide with regret.

“And that is why we say NO to mints, or to anything that LOOKS like a mint!” I announced triumphantly.

I am totally winning at parenting.