I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 42

IMG_457562890

Truth–every time Taylor Swift’s song “22” comes on, I crank up my radio, sway in my seat, drive a little faster and sing along with gusto.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 42.”

Yep, I change the words…mainly because it rhymes, it’s fun and I’m 42. Except now I’m not 42–today’s my birthday, now I’m 43.

I guess I need a new song.

My son gives me a card this morning and it says “Happy 29th for the 15th time!”   It’s supposed to be funny, but I secretly wince.  How come 29 + 15 sounds old too?

So here are my thoughts on 43…

1.  It SOUNDS worse than it is.  It’s actually not that bad.  Last week, I traveled with my son.  He looks far older than his 16 years–probably about 20ish.  I could pass on a good day for mid to late 30’s.  After, multiple days of people assuming we were a couple, I felt like a total perv, I told my son I was getting a t-shirt that says, “I’m the mom (not a cougar)”

2. Ok, I do miss the energy of youth (and maybe my perkier parts)…but that’s about it.  A few wrinkles seems a small price to pay for all the benefits of maturity.

3.  I have time now to enjoy my life.  When the big kids were small, when I was a single working mom, when we started the church and I was trying to get my writing going…all I did was hustle, hustle, hustle.  There was constant rushing and scrambling.  Now–I can relax a little bit and appreciate all those years of wiping snotty noses and working late.

4.  I treasure the wisdom I’ve gained over the years.  You couldn’t pay me to go back to my twenties.  All the emotions and turmoil of youth fade in light of parenting all the emotions and turmoil of my own teens.

5.  I’m getting way more nostalgic.  I used to set goals for myself for every birthday.  Each year was a litmus test of  accomplishments–the great grading scale of the American Dream.  Graduate college. Get married by 25.  Have babies by 30.  Finish masters degree.  Start church.  Develop ministry.  Blog.  Write book by 40. Start women’s ministry. Run marathon.

Boy have things changed…

I forgot to include divorce, and career change and loss–and all the tragedy and circumstances that mold and shape us into people of depth and character.  I never finished my graduate degree and I never ran that marathon, and truthfully, I could care less.

My yearly round-up is much simpler now.

I thank God I get to crawl into a toddler bed every night with my little girl and read her favorite books and growl and do all the voices of her favorite monsters and animals.  I thank God for letting me go back East last week on an Ivy League football recruiting trip with my son.  I will never forget laughing our butts off on the mountain roads of Vermont as we almost floated away in a hurricane in a rental car.  I thank God for my lovely daughter Faith who will be a cheerleader next year in high school (just like her mama) and has the sweetest most loving spirit in the world.  I thank God for my second marriage to a beautiful man, for the glorious redemption of having a family again and the ability to write and do what I love.  I look at the people around me and pinch myself for the blessing of friends and neighbors and family.

I guess 43 is filled with perspective.

Here’s mine–Each day is a gift.  

Fortunately, Taylor Swift is now 23–maybe we can get a new rhyme for 43?

What’s your perspective on middle age?

 

Throwing Stones

fri-27-jan1
I’ve been a bit of a gym rat lately.  I run, I lift, and I work off the grief and stress. 
 
I also look around a lot–I mean there’s not much to do on a treadmill other than watch the three TV stations available.  I tire of Fox News or The Housewives ripping each other’s hair out.  Sometimes I simply prefer to watch gym people–it’s just as entertaining.
 
So, I’m running along the other day, bopping out to Pandora, when a woman catches my eye.  She’s twentiesh and tiny with long hair swishing down past her itty bitty bum.  Offhand, she looked Philipino to me, or Islandy (Islander?)…let’s just say she was some exotic  blend of tan skin and  petite features. 
 
That is until she turned and I caught the side view.  Island Girl’s bust was GINORMOUS.  Huge is an understatement.  I actually gasped in astonishment.
 
I tried not to gawk but her machine of choice was in my direct  line of sight, so then I thought it would look more obvious if I twisted my head and avoided looking forward.
 
Sam’s self talk goes something like this, “Just be casual.  Don’t stare.  Don’t stare.  Don’t stare.”
 
(I’m sweating more from angst than my actual workout)
 
I glance up, oh so nonchalent, to my first full view of the woman.  It looked like she was wearing a Hello Kitty Top with her yoga pants. 
 
A “mall stroller” came to mind.  For those of you who aren’t mom’s of babies, let me explain. 
 
You know when you put all your shopping bags and the diaper bag and your purse on the back of the stroller and everything is fine and dandy until you pull the baby out and then the stroller falls over?
 
That’s what Island Girl reminded me of–a mall stroller–and I waited in apprenhension for her to topple over.  She was so top heavy she defied gravity.
 
Then her t-shirt came into view more clearly.  And I was wrong.  It didn’t say Hello Kitty.
 
It said Hello Titty and the kitty face was morphed into a strange kitty boob concoction.
yhst-129486095020272_2271_1164329340
 
When the slogan hit me, I almost fell off the treadmill.  I punched the arrow key and lowered the pace trying not to laugh out loud but making strange gurgling noises in the process.
 
I hate to admit what I thought next–maybe she’s a porn star?  But then  I thought about it again, “In Ladera Ranch?”  It didn’t make sense to me.
 
Now my brain is humming a new refrain, “Don’t judge circus girl.  Don’t judge.  Don’t judge. Don’t judge.  Oh God help me, I’m judging just trying not to judge.”
 
And sadly, I couldn’t look at her without throwing mental stones.  I knew I needed some help.
 
So I got off the treadmill and walked a safe distance away to pray and get a grip on my inner bitch.
 
And I tried to think how God would see this girl. This desperate girl screaming out for attention. 
 
And God whispered, “What if she was your child?”
 
What would I do if my daughter went in for three surgeries and became addicted to the knife in some desperate attempt to feel beautiful or loved? 
 
What if my daughter believed the lie that even negative attention was better than no attention so she disfigured herself to try and find it? 
 
But let’s be honest here, what would make a girl even go in that direction?  Sexual Abuse? Neglect? Abandonement? 
 
Then I felt another nudge from the Spirit, “Where are you in this girl?”
 
Really?  Ouch!  Well, I guess, I too fall into the trap of wanting to be beautiful, to be relevant and to matter. 
 
My definition of beauty might be different than hers, but I still want to take my husband’s breath away.  I still want to be pretty despite my age (41).  I enjoy looking young”ish” even though I’m grateful for the years of growth and maturity. 
 
In all truth, I’m still vain deep down in my core despite my efforts to supress it.
 
Are my desires so different from hers?  I might not wear a booby shirt and flaunt my 32 ZZZ’s at the gym but I understand the desire to be loved and pursued and adored.
 
And it hit me, If she were my daughter, I’d love the socks off her.  I’d love the good parts and the broken parts and the really big parts.
 
(Although we would definitely have a conversation about the Hello Titty top)
 
I got up and walked over near where she was working out.  I picked up some weights and smiled at her when she caught my eye.
 
A friend smile.  A smile that hopefully said, “I see you–not the boobs–just you–and maybe I can lift weights next to you and we can chat without anything wierd between us.
 
No agenda.  Just gym stuff.
 
And I felt God removing the log from my eye, a really big 2×4 that let me see this woman a lot more clearly.
 
I looked up the shirt when I got home.  It’s a BREAST CANCER logo. 
 
I will not even go into the awkwardness of some of their campaigns but I will give the gal props for raising awareness!
 
 
 
 
 
 

my kind of Crazy

5dd6b713610286f444dd611a53861f51

The honky-tonk music spilled out of the car as my son opened the door. It was one of those “my dog died, the fields dried up and I lost my favorite boot in a pile of cow dung” kind of songs.

Kyle reached for the radio to turn the station before he settled in to his seat.

“Don’t change the channel,” I grunted.

My son glanced at me with concern, “Why, mom? It’s totally depressing.”

“I’m trying to cry.”

“Huh? Kyle shot me a confused look.

“My pipes are clogged. I have a huge lump in my chest and I need to get rid of it. I think its PTSD.”

My son nodded carefully—a wise sage at fifteen, “Good idea mom.”

As we pulled up to the bay of lockers at his high school, Kyle climbed out the car and hollered like a drill sergeant at my open window, “I expect some tears when I get back young lady! Cry! Cry! Cry!

But instead of weeping a gurgled “waaahhhhh” sound of laughter and constipated tears tumbled out of me.

Other people cry pretty. Why do I sound like a broken doorbell?

I’ve always been a little afraid of emotion. I don’t seem to control it well. It’s much easier for me to write my tears than actually cry them.

When I do cry, it’s usually a colossal mess. Tears I’ve stuffed for a solid year (or two) suddenly reach their breaking point and boil over like hot lava. And once I start, it takes ages to settle down. I whimper and mew and mew some more.

It’s best to not go there.

But emotion not expressed seeps out. And under trauma—like I’m experiencing right now with losing both my parent’s—it finds a way to escape. And this escape takes strange forms—like anxiety attacks in grocery stores.

I know this because last week I freaked out in Trader Joe’s. (And maybe I did it yesterday too)

All of a sudden I felt like a lost little kid with no mommy in sight. My blood pressure sky-rocketed and I could feel the tsunami of tears pressing in on my throat.

I clutched the cart and held on for dear life.

I honestly wanted to curl up in a ball and howl in the wine section of Trader Joe’s.

So, I did the only thing I could think of. I took three deep breaths, prayed and called a friend.

But she didn’t pick up.

So I dialed my husband in desperation.

“Tim, I’m losing my (insert bad word) in Trader Joe’s. Talk me off the cliff.”

And so my sweet husband talked and talked like a 911 operators, and somehow, someway, I made it out of the store and to the safety of my car where I could shake and hiccup in peace.

I Googled “anxiety attack” when I got home.

Apparently, I’m repressing emotions.

Really?

I think it’s ironic how our culture affirms the opposite. I keep getting kudos for being “so strong.” Where do we get this idea that strength is devoid of emotion?

I need to be a puddle for a while. The stone face is not doing me any favors.

Like everyone else in Orange County, I look fine on the outside and the inside is a mess.

I’m sort of an anxiety ball that bounces around and functions because I have three kids and a husband. I read my scriptures; I take long walks and pray for the pain to go away. But most days I just wish I could curl up on the sofa under a cozy blanket, crank up the AC, light a fire (sorry East Coast friends) and an arsenal of candles and watch HGTV for a solid week(or two).

As I’ve shared my little “panic attack” moment with a few friends, I’ve heard similar stories. After my friend’s mom died, she freaked out in grocery stores for a solid year. Another friend said her mom experienced something similar after her dad died.

Who knew this was normal? Maybe I’m not the only one out there doing “whoo whoo whoo” labor breathing in Trader Joes to calm down?

Yesterday, I made it out of the store on my own. The checker gave me a few weird looks—probably because I was shaking violently and struggled to swipe my card, but I survived.

And sometimes getting past trauma is just that—surviving until we find our smile again.

And finding someone else who understands your kind of crazy.

–Samantha

10 Things Happy People Do Better

Be-Happy-desktop-wallpaper

On the cork pin-board at my Happy Place (AKA Starbucks), I noticed a sign –10 Things Happy People Do Differently.

So, I took a picture of it, and elaborated.  Because, although I have the eternal joy of the Lord, a few tips on happy never hurt. 

Here is what Happy People Do better:

1.  They Express Gratitude

When you are grateful for what you have, what you have appreciates in value.  My Sr. Pastor Kenton Beshore puts it this way, “Who is the man who is more content –a man with five kids or the man with none?  The answer is: The man with five kids, because he doesn’t want any more.”

If you aren’t happy now, you won’t be happy in the land of “IF ONLY…”

2. They Cultivate Optimism

Be the exact opposite of Bella in Twilight.  If Edward bails on you, recognize that Jacob is JUST as hot(although nowhere near close to my husband) and move on with your life. 

Expect good things to happen and keep your chin up during trying times.  Focus on the big picture, focus your eyes on Jesus, pray hard, and think positive.

3.  They Avoid Social Comparison

I love this!  Ladies, this means sometimes we might need to take a hiatus from Pinterest, Facebook, or Insta (as my kids call it), if we can’t stop the overwhelming feelings of “craft” inadequacy, or “travel” envy, or whatever your issue is…

Remember, MOST people only post their awesome stuff (or occasionally) the really bad stuff going on in their life.  All you get is  a snippet of their top 10%.  The rest of their life is lived in the 80% of normalcy.  Don’t compare your normal to their awesome.  It’s not apples to apples.  Also, I read some statistic recently, that said people lie all the time on social media. Don’t fall for the lie and don’t lie to look better.

Just be You!

4.  They Practice Random Acts of Kindness 

Helping people always makes you feel better.  One great way is to pay for the person’s drink behind you in line at Starbucks! 

5.  They Nurture Relationships

Happy people have friends.  Find a buddy.

6.  They Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

It helps to have healthy ways to deal with stress in your arsenal, before you lose it at Happy Hour and turn into Sloppy Sue. I made a Coping List a long time ago when I was a single mom (a word that says it all). 

Some of my “go to” ways of dealing with stress are: Taking a walk, hitting the gym, praying, pouring it all out into a journal, calling a girlfriend, reading, watching Little Bear with my toddler, drinking a cup of hot tea, and (now that I’m married) asking my husband to tell me ten times in ten different ways why he loves me.

7.  They Forgive

Holding onto anger and unforgiveness only hurts you.

8.  They Live “In the moment”

Put your phone down.  Interact fully with people.  Give your conversation or task all your attention. Be present.

9.  They Savor Special Moments

Now that you are focused on the moment, try not to hurry or rush through them.  Take mental snapshots of special moments and let yourself FEEL joy.

10.  They Commit to Goals

What do you want to do?  What’s stopping you?  Find a way to work towards what brings you joy.  For me, it’s writing, serving my family and glorifying God.  If I can do one or all of those things each day, it’s a pretty good day.

What makes you happy?

Pharisees in Skirts

She caught my eye just as I opened the door to my gym locker fresh out of the shower; there stood Mrs. Pharisee in all her fitness glory with pert blonde hair, a haughty sneer and an agenda written all over her face. I furtively glanced around for a place to hide, but my options were limited by the water dripping from my soaked head and a large towel that was the only thing covering my derriere.

I braced myself for the forthcoming interaction as the woman spotted me, smiled like the big bad wolf about to devour grandma, and catapulted over benches and tennis shoes to reach me.

I remembered our last conversation at the church picnic all too well. I dared to bring a male companion I had recently started dating to the event. Mrs. Pharisee pounced and sweetly commented, like icing on a butcher knife, “Wow, Samantha, you sure got over your divorce fast. How long has it been dear?”

Her glib comment glossed over the last two years of abandonment, betrayal, instant single motherhood and the onslaught of accompanying pain. Her snarky insinuation implied I should still be mourning and wearing widow’s garb for a few more years in reverent obedience to a rule she had clearly made up about appropriate post-divorce behavior. 

“Well, it’s been a long journey from my end,” I replied as I tried to get my horrified date away from the “tsk- tsking,” of her disapproval.

The truth is legalists (or Pharisees in skirts as I like to call the female variety) abound in every church.  Sadly, if you leave one church there will probably be seven more at the next.   My neighbor recently had a run-in with a few lovelies that did some serious damage to her heart.

My neighbor is a seeker and recently began attending a local church.  She tried to connect and make some Christian friends by joining a women’s Bunco group she saw advertised in the church bulletin. After a few weeks of throwing dice, my neighbor volunteered to host the game night at her house and was surprisingly met with veiled hostility by the women in the group.  When she inquired about the tension, the ladies let her know that she was welcome to come to their church, but she was not allowed to host an event at her home until she accepted Jesus as her savior.  In this uncomfortable discourse, it also came out that some of the women didn’t think she should be attending the monthly Bunco game either. 

Now, my neighbor grew up in a strict Jewish home and any decision to follow Christ would affect her entire extended family.  Many of her relationships might suffer and her parents would more than likely be embarrassed.  It wasn’t a decision she took lightly and it wouldn’t be forced into over a Bunko game.

My neighbor confided in me one late summer evening as we were sitting on my porch.  Shocked, I inquired how these ladies extra religious rules made her feel. “Well, I don’t want to go their church anymore,” she said dejectedly. “It’s a complete turn-off. But I’m still curious about Jesus.  Could you,” she stuttered, “explain salvation to me?”

Needless to say, I took a deep breath, opened a bottle of wine and we talked and searched the scriptures together for hours.

I run into this religious spirit all too often at women’s bible studies.   At our growing church, new women join our studies each week.  When an attractive woman shows up for the first time dressed less than modestly, it seems as if a self-protective fog of dissention falls upon the group of women in a shield of exclusion.  And when I sense this gang-mentality resistance drawing me in- to reject instead of lean in and connect with a new, albeit pretty face, I call it out for what it is-fear.

Our female fears and insecurity regarding body image, lack of security and control issues turn us into modern day Pharisees as we bind heavy burdens on women and distort God’s word with a long list of she-made rules.  And I believe when we do this, we open the door for the enemy to create strife and a critical spirit that is detrimental to the church and to the world at large.

We bow our heads each week and sing, “Come just as you are,” and then negate this very invitation with body language that says, “Not so fast sweetie”.  If we were honest, we would post a warning sign at the church entrance reading: “Ladies, you are welcome if: 1. you keep your boobs properly covered 2. no midriff is revealed 3. all tattoos remain covered (unless it’s a trendy cross in an approved location…i.e. ankles are good, tramp stamps are bad) 4. you abstain from inappropriate footwear (six-inchstilettos are highly discouraged). 

There are strict unwritten rules of hierarchy in our Christian Women’s Social Club; you must act like a Christian, even if you don’t know Christ.  It doesn’t matter what your spiritual condition is as long as you modify your worldly behavior. If you get vulnerable and share something you are struggling with, we’ll pray for you with feigned empathy and talk about you behind your back.  And if it’s really bad, we’ll send your plight out to the prayer chain so the whole church knows what you are struggling with.  This may result in your being blacklisted from future leadership. And, if you don’t except Jesus fast enough we reserve the right to cancel your Bunco privileges.

So when Mrs. Pharisee approached me at the gym, my knees went weak and I prayed for strength. It had been some time since the church picnic; almost a year to be exact and certain events-namely my engagement to a pastor in our church, had increased my Klout for Christian score-keepers.

“So, I hear you are going to marry that pastor you’ve been dating, “Mrs. Pharisee gushed like a little girl wooing a queen bee with honey. “What an honor! How are you going to be able to handle this prestigious spiritual mantle?”

Unsuccessfully struggling to reel in my sarcasm, I replied, “Well I’m trying not to swear so much.”

Mrs. Pharisee’s poppy red mouth made an “Ooohhh” sound and she nodded her head very seriously.

“And,” I decided to take a chance, “I’m working on not being so judgmental.  I’m trying to love people more,” I said. “You know what? Sometimes I struggle with that.”

“Me too,” she whispered, “Me too.”

I guess there is a little Pharisee in all of us.

5 Things to Know About Turning 40

group Jen's bday

I celebrated another friend turning the big 40 this week.  We went out on a  Duffy boat, danced in the Newport harbour and laughed and loved and affirmed our girl Jen. 

And it made me think about what I really wanted to tell her (if I was honest) about hitting this big milestone -now that I’m an expert nine months in.

Dear Jen, and all my peeps nearing 40,

Things happen to you when you age –sneaky things, weird things, and terrible awful surprises.  And when you are in your thirties NO ONE TELLS YOU the whole truth.

There was a movie out recently –This is 40.  And while funny, it wasn’t honest.  Because 40 in all reality and not Hollywood land doesn’t look like that.  In fact, I would suggest Hollywood makes us all feel MORE OLD because without a team of surgeons and trainers and LASIK, the rest of us look –well…40.  The real 40.

Jen

So, I’m letting the cat out of the bag. 

Here are the top five surprises to hitting middle age.

1. Spots.  Are you scared yet?  It’s true.  Red spots, brown spots, more freckles, random dots.  In fact if your kids are bored give them a pen and let them connect them for a fun car game.  It’s like your dermal layer checks the time map, notes that you crested over the hill and BAM, a little age fairy tip-toes into your room at night and get’s out the markers.  When I asked my dermatologist about it he claimed it was due to hormones, genetics and sun damage.  He also mentioned he would be glad to laser them all off for a small fee comparable to my mortgage.  (I’m guessing the tanning bed in my late teens was a very BAD idea)

2. Your metabolism hits the Sh*tter.  Those cupcakes on the weekend –straight to your ass-ter-kosher.   Margaritas’ and chips?  You will pay.  All of those years when you could indulge over the weekend and then be good on Monday are now OVER.  Your vehicle is burning fewer calories and the high-speed octane days of the 2:00am Del Taco run are a distant memory.  Unless you are eating A LOT less and training more, your body will change.  Depending on your fortitude and state of mind you may want to fight this inevitable battle of the bulge or embrace the middle age spread.  Good luck!

3. You become a SANDWICH.  Did I throw you off on that one?  By sandwich, I mean you get to deal with aging parents, teenagers and because so many of you waited to have kids until your late thirties –diapers too.  You are hitting hospitals, prom and play dates all in the same week.  You get to fight with your teen about innapropriate parties, search for the lost pacifier and manage your parent’s finances and healthcare all in the same day. 

And the stress coming from every angle will make you a little CRAZY, which is why you will…

4. Adopt bizarre coping mechanisms.  Like floating underwater in the bath and pretending you are in the Caribbean (until you get repetitive ear infections and your doctor confronts you), or you notice your husband disappearing to the mancave/bathroom for long stretches of time –and you know he’s not pooping that long and must be playing an online poker game. Maybe you become obsessed with a drink at Starbucks, indulge in the mommy sippy cup of wine or a nice meal out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Maybe you pull your hair out, dress your kids in matching outfits to self soothe through image management or sit on the floor and cry because your house is a mess.  However you deal, avoid or succumb to the overwhelming feelings of chaos –life just seems to get more complicated as we age.  

5. Your uterus tanks.  I’m aware this is a female issue but this affects the dudes too.  All of a sudden, instead of being so careful to not get pregnant and using birth control, you are forking over hard-earned cash for IVF and Chlomid to get one last shot at a baby.  You used to buy condoms now you buy ovulation predictors.  Your OBGYN is on a first name basis and you know all the ladies on the pregnancy forums and chat rooms –even if you never officially log in.  And when did sex become so stressful?  (Because when it’s go time –it’s go time)

(I also want to give a shout out to laugh lines, well-loved but sagging breasts, and random whiskers that appear on your chin.  I don’t want to forget the beer gut, thinning hair, bald patch, and lowered levels of Testosterone for the guys.  But, I couldn’t cover it all and it’s too freaking depressing anyway. )

So here’s to 40!  It’s messy and challenging and wonderful.  And there is no better way to celebrate than with your friends! 

card

–Sam

The Real Neighbors of Ladera

Ladera Post

“Mom, you and dad do what? What’s this “crazy” business all about?”

My son stares me down as his eyes peep over the newspaper in his hands.

Weak Smile and Change the SUBJECT

**Note to self** Remember the words you write before you let your kids read it in the newspaper.

Here’s my last article from 4/19/2013.  I actually wrote this a while back but it just got published. Fortunately, I am out of the diaper stage, but I remember those days all too well!

THE REAL NEIGHBORS OF LADERA
By SAMANTHA KELLER

FOR THE OC REGISTER/LADERA POST

I bumped into a cast member from “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at the Pavilions in Ladera Ranch the other day.

This lovely lass from Bravo’s hit reality show is my neighbor, if you count her living in the tract across the street as living in part of my hood, and I do, because somehow that makes me cooler.

We both had three kids trailing at our heels and our eyes met in a moment of “Lord have mercy on me,” or at least that’s what I was thinking with a crying baby, my son begging for coconut water that costs $5 per eight ounces and my daughter trying to assemble the perfect cake-making materials to create an atomic particle (will somebody please tell me how the heck to make positive ions out of frosting?).

Right about then it hit me who she was.

Trying not to be too obvious, I snuck glances. She was dressed in fancy workout clothes and her long blonde extended tresses were flowing around her shoulders. She had gobs of makeup on and was a perfect shade of bronze.

I, on the other hand, am proud to say I did not have snot or poop or baby barf on me.

It was a good day.

After checking out she walked up to a white BMW in the parking lot and then realized
it wasn’t hers.

She started mumbling cuss words under her breath and for the first time I saw a
“real” woman. The scenario was funny and dumb and something I would do.

And for a moment, I connected with a normal chick who struggles to remember where
she parked the car.

I loved it! I loved the messiness!

What I really want is a REALITY show where moms act like real moms -not dance moms
or cheer moms or duck moms -just moms.

I want to see a show where real women drive the 3 p.m. carpool in pink monkey
pajamas with bold panache.

How about a show that depicts the parents pretending to be asleep and then calling
each other names in the middle of the night as they fight over who will get up for
the third time with baby?

A show where parents turn on “Yo Gabba Gabba” and park their baby in front of the TV
and get crazy in the bathroom for five minutes because it’s the only time they have
to be intimate.

I want to see the show where real Ladera Ranch neighbors bawl and hug because it’s
been a bad day and we pull out the Skinny Girl margarita mix and encourage each
other to forgive and forget.

Where real mommies and daddies fight and make up and laugh at each other’s jokes,
because mommy thinks daddy is hysterical and adorable and the best thing that has
ever happened to her.

Real housewives do live in Ladera and our unscripted lives are infinitely more
interesting than a reality show that strives to capture our mommy “mojo” and falls
so far from the mark.

–Samantha Keller is a Southern California native, freelance writer, blogger, JSerra
High School football mom and local speaker on dating and relationships. She lives in
Ladera Ranch with her husband, Pastor Tim Keller, and their three children. Visit
her blog at scrappysam.com.

Little Things

rope swing 

I heard the roar before I opened the door –a posse of kids and moms in my front yard. 

A line had formed around the rope swing and our tree was groaning with the weight of toddlers furiously pushing to and fro.  On my steps sat two of my neighbors cuddling infants and relaxing in the sun.

It was Saturday morning, and although I rose early to write and clean and prepare a large breakfast for the family, it was now pushing noon and I still had yet to dress.  I slowly ventured out in my fuzzy pink chenille bathrobe –knowing it was inappropriate for the hour and yet not really caring either.

I chatted with my friends, got razzed by a few male neighbors (who seemed to be concerned our property values might drop by my wanton appearance) and watched our kids frolic. 

A few minutes later, my husband popped out the door with champagne flutes for all the moms and filled our glasses to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

I felt a little decadent.  Champagne and jammies in the afternoon is vacation-land not my reality.

Suddenly, the kids bolted across the street to jump on my neighbor’s bounce house.   So, I followed (still in my bathrobe) with ten kids in tow and clutching my flute.  And there we sat for an hour (or two) and reveled in the day.

It was magical.

The kids shrieked and bounced and got boo-boos –as all kids do in a jump house, the mom’s all added orange juice to the champagne to make mimosas (more because we all light-weights than for taste purposes), and life seemed to stand still. 

And I didn’t have to think about anything other than being present and celebrating the little things. 

And I thought about the rope-swing –borrowed from our neighbors and now permantly planted in our front yard. 

And it’s a silly “little thing” that helps me to remember the important stuff -my neighbors, relationships and our children who are small for such a brief moment in time.  

The rope swing helps me to recognize the best parties are impromptu, start on the front porch, and the only invitation is a smile, a little champagne and time to share.

That evening my husband and I donned our fanciest attire and stood out on the lawn taking pictures to commemorate the day.  We posed on our front porch with kids and dogs and the rope swing in full motion.

And although I didn’t take a picture with my camera of our little mommy soiree –I have it locked in my mental scrapbook of “best days  ever.”

Do you have a “little thing” that helps you to remember what’s truly important?

Finding Peace in a Mother’s Chaos

Christmas 2012

Almost a year ago I made the jump from working at the office full-time to freelancing. 

One day a week, I pull out my old work clothes and attempt to de-Momify.  One day a week I am a professional.  The rest of the week I wear yoga pants.

Here is what I learned about working mostly from home –it’s (insert bad word) hard. 

There are no boundaries between work and home, just blurry lines and lot’s and lot’s of compromise.

I erroneously thought it would be easier to be at home more.

Even though I used to be a stay at home (for the first six years with Kyle and Faith), I forgot how managing a home and toddlers and teens will suck a woman dry. 

Kind of like the Dementer’s from Harry Potter. SWWWOOOOOSSSHHHH.  Can you picture it?

Sometimes I feel like I have an identity crisis.  I work outside the home and inside the home.  It’s like two-full time jobs competing for my attention.

I still have to clock in the 20-30 hours of paid work so we don’t starve.  But now I have no housekeeper to take the edge off.  I still have to cook meals and make lunches and drive 21 trips to or from the kids schools a week.  I have to maintain sports schedules and wash stinky football clothes and bring snacks.  I am still a team mom-although I really shouldn’t because I am so NOT that mom)

Some weeks I manage it all and sometimes I want to sit on my dirty floor and cry.

As I sit down to write I see dust bunnies floating by –taunting me as only a dust bunny can do.  My bathroom is messy and the laundry piles up and out the door. 

No guest is allowed to enter the upper chambers.  I can keep the downstairs immaculate but I’ve pretty much given up on the upstairs.  It’s a disaster in progress.

I have friends that joke about how I can do it all.  I just shake my head and drool.

A mother of a large family simply survives.

Mom’s simply work and work and work until they fall down from exhaustion and then they watch HGTV or the History Channel (because their husband has canceled all the good channels to save money) and they lie like a zombie on the sofa until their kids throw things at them and demand to be fed and taxied to the next event.

Every day I am forced to choose between keeping up with the house or making enough money to have a house. 

I read the other day that although work equality has “come a long way baby,” (since the 1960’s) household management has not seen any change.  This means most women now work and carry the full load of housework and kids.  Dads might help more with baby and kid’s activities but guys feel completely entitled to park their butts in front of a football game and let mom serve them.

Of course I’m talking about national averages here.  My husband is the exception.  When he is home he always pitches in.  Unfortunately, until he finishes graduate school and juggling a million pastoral duties…well you get the drift.

But even though I still feel overwhelmed with motherhood, being at home more is well worth the struggle.

Because there is a place in my heart now that used to ache and now the ache is gone.

A year ago, I missed my kids desperately and day after day being gone for ten hours at a time was killing me.  (Along with the commute)

I really don’t think you can put a price tag on peace.  And a mother’s peace is different from a man’s.  There are certain desire’s of the heart only a woman understands. 

For the first time in ages, I am home when my big kids get home from school.  I am home with my toddler more often than not.  I get to go to the park and the pool and take bubble baths and read books and watch Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas four hundred times. 

I get to be present with my kids. And even though it’s really HARD it’s good. 

So…although my house is dirty and I have to squeeze in work and writing assignments during nap time and at zero dark thirty, I know I am not missing a thing.

And for a modern mother it doesn’t get much better than this –identity crisis and all.  (Although if anyone knows a free housekeeper…it could be a teeny-tiny bit better)

What things in your life do you need to change to find peace?

Killing Superwoman

 

Growing up in the eighties, I vividly remember a perfume commercial with a gorgeous gal clad in a chic suit prancing home from work in sky-high heels to assemble a gourmet dinner for her adoring family.  The catchy tune playing in the background “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…,” became the mantra of a generation of women trying to do it all.  Just being a stay-at-home mom lost its glamour and allure as women flocked into the corporate world.

This pseudo super-woman was beautiful and fit (despite feasting on bacon), a doting mother, sexual tiger to her man, room mom, CEO and host of a weekly wine group.  Mattel even made Dr. Barbie in a white coat and gave the doll a more professional ensemble to match her new identity.  Barbie pushed her twins in a double-stroller and then drove to work in her pink corvette smiling and waving at the nanny.

And a whole generation of young women bought into the lie we could be all things and do all things well, forgetting the natural limitations of energy and balance and sanity. 

Clearly the song forgot to mention how super-woman started having heart palpitations and chronic fatigue before she hit forty.  It failed to acknowledge super-woman’s love/hate relationship with her job, the guilt of constantly dumping car-pool on her neighbor, and the anxiety of slipping out of work early every Thursday to watch her son play t-ball.  The song didn’t address sleepless nights with baby, shouting curses at her husband over who would get up for the four a.m. feeding, playing dead from sheer exhaustion when her husband begs for sex, and stapling badges on her little girl scouts sash in a last minute desperation because she hasn’t a clue where a needle and thread might be hiding.

The song left out all the unspoken but necessary intangibles that go along with a real life of balancing work and children and hubby.  When I recently saw the movie, “How Does She do it all?” I laughed bitterly.  Not only could I have written the script –my life was even more hectic with three kids, a full-time job and a freelance career on the side.  But something in me identified with this compulsion to master motherhood and family despite the toll it was taking on my body.   I wasn’t ready to give up anything, choosing instead to scurry and race along on an endless hamster wheel of busyness, always on the edge of hurtling off into the abyss and a nervous breakdown.

I really thought I could pull it off.  I was the exception.  Sure, my eating habits were getting a little processed and I exercised less often than more; but I was holding up and playing the martyr mommy role with gusto until my heart literally stopped me. 

The details are a little fuzzy, but I recall running on a scorching hot Sunday morning with my baby daughter tucked in her bright orange jogging stroller.  Overly ambitious, thanks to a Venti Americano buzz from Starbucks, I rashly determined to sprint up a monstrous hill near my home at top speed and go for the burn.  I arrived home winded and panting, and headed straight for a hot shower with the baby in my arms.  I lathered up, rinsed and then bent over to pick up my adorable daughter.  As I started to raise her in the air, a slippery soft cherub covered in bubbles, a white light ricocheted through my skull and blackness enveloped me.

I don’t know how long I lost consciousness that morning.  I awoke slumped in a heap on the shower floor over my howling and terrified baby with icy cold streams of water prickling my back.  There were hospitals and endless tests and then the results I never expected to hear. 

At the tender age of thirty-nine –under order of a cardiologist, I was forced to pick between juggling two jobs or find myself with a pacemaker within six months.    As a mother of three beloved children, the decision wasn’t too tough.  It was time to kill super-woman. 

My kids and I put Dr. Barbie into a boat and we launched her with glee into the ocean as an act of surrender and a celebration of the beginning of a new season.  (I thought burning Dr. Barbie might be a tad too traumatic for the two-year-old) 

Then I changed every facet of my life starting with work and moving outward circle by circle.  Now when I take a jog, it’s not to fit into a bikini, it’s to keep my ticker going strong for my kids.  Things like nap-time and nutrition have reemerged and rest has taken on a whole new meaning since caffeine isn’t my go-to pick-me-up anymore. 

But the biggest lifestyle modification was changing my broken thinking.   I started to accept I can’t do it all and I certainly can’t do it all well.  Super-woman is a myth which has deceived us all.  Working mothers carry tremendous guilt and stay-at-home mothers struggle with their identity thanks to her.  No one tells a young woman she might someday have to choose between a big family and a successful career –because the personal compromise she will make to do both might eventually destroy either her health or sanity.

Fortunately, I recognized I was getting a second chance to pick what is most important and move towards that which resonates in my soul and gives me life –relationships, family, writing, and a story lived well.  Surprisingly, my list of non-negotiable items was much shorter than I anticipated after I cut off all the good I was doing to make room for the best.

Is it time you killed super-woman?

Photo Source: 500px.com via Alexandria on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: