Where did my confidence go?

There was a time I felt more confident about my appearance. I don't think I ever really second guessed the way I dressed, smiled, styled my hair, etc. because I always felt I was true to myself. Sure, I had issues with my body; I still have issues with my body, but I didn't let that affect the way I presented myself outwardly. I guess I only let it eat away at me slowly over the years, and there have been days when that ugly monster has nearly eaten me whole, but for the most part, I have learned to live with him as one would a terrible roommate. I try not to pay any attention to him, and I sometimes feel like he's almost invisible. Almost.

Those feelings aside--I really did like myself for most of my young adult life. I enjoyed swapping clothes with roommates and trying different styles--all in an effort to define my style.

But somehow over the years I've been married and been a mother, I have let my style slip a little. I don't feel so confident when I look at the mirror. I often try on several shirts and pants before I give up and go for my standard v-neck t-shirt and jeans. And if I'm lucky enough and the weather is a bit cold out, I throw a sweatshirt over the whole ensemble and forget to look at the mirror again. Until it's nighttime and I realize I have rice in my hair or marker on my face and I'm back in comfortable sweats/pajamas, waiting for sleep to envelop me, which it always does rather rapidly.

I recently took an overnight trip to see my brother in Chicago, and he told me he liked my choice of outfits a couple of times. The compliments are probably long forgotten with my brother, but they have stayed with me ever since, especially since I see him as one who has always been comfortable with his style and proud to be who he is, and who he is a really outstanding guy, and it's reflected in how he presents himself.

His compliments stayed with me through the month of December, and I found myself wondering why they meant so much to me. After a lot of thought, I think it's because he's as real with me as real can get, and he would've been honest with me if he didn't like what I chose to wear so the fact that he did made me think somewhere inside I still have the fire to present myself, and present myself well.

I've really been considering my new year's resolutions this year, and I'm not done with my short list, but I have decided on one resolution: to present myself as a lady with class and style. I want to wear more color this year, more dresses this year, more blouses instead of v-neck shirts, more high heels (hopefully comfortable ones if they exist), and more jewelry. I did some early spring cleaning and tossed more than I anticipated in hopes of finding solid pieces that fit my body and my personal style, which although on an average day would appear to be pajamas, is really not that way at all. I know what I want to look like, and I even think I know how to do it, I just have to stick to a schedule that allows me to take time for myself in the morning--the one I currently have leaves me about 1 minute to shower and another 2 to get dressed.

Obviously, I realize confidence runs deeper than fabric, but I also realize that after 10 years of wearing spit-up and marker stains, it's also nice to look beautiful on the outside from time to time, and that's my goal.

He taught me to serve.

I didn't want the day to pass without expressing my gratitude to God for giving the world this humble man, Thomas S. Monson. President Monson has been the prophet of my growing years. I became an adult, a wife and a mother with him as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His simple stories and words calmed my worried mind so often as I tried to decide the right thing to do or say. He taught me to serve, even, and perhaps especially, when I wasn't really in the mood to serve. He taught me to quiet the corners of my home so I could be receptive to inspiration as to who needs a call, text or visit. He has been a bright, guiding light in my life, and he will be missed.

I love the picture above because I love how age softened his smile and eyes with wrinkles. It's how I've always known him, and it truly was an honor to know him.

The day I hit my neighbor's mailbox

Life is bound and determined to humble the hell out of me.

Today I backed into my neighbor's mailbox and knocked it over so quickly I hardly knew what I hit until I jumped out of the car to make sure I didn't kill someone. Thankfully, the only fatality was that of my neighbor's mailbox, but still....I hit my neighbor's mailbox, and for no other reason than I can't drive backwards in a straight line.

That's the honest truth. I should never drive backwards for more than 5 seconds. If you see me doing so, please remind me to turn around and drive forward. It's not worth it. Not even if you're a mailbox.

The moment I hit the mailbox another neighbor drove by my car and stared blankly into my window. I heard the conversation between him and his daughter without even being in the car: "Did that woman just hit that car?" "Yep. Wow, appears so. Watch out for her." I shrugged my shoulders as they passed, trying to hide my humiliation, but just as soon as they were out of sight, I buried my head in my hands and just told myself to breathe.

I was/am so embarrassed. There really is no other excuse for it except I truly can't drive backwards, apparently. I already talked to my neighbor, and they were really sweet about the whole thing, claiming they'd been wanting to replace that "old" mailbox in the spring anyway. (Doubtful, but how kind of them.)

And so, just when life seems to be smooth for a minute, you get a huge reminder that humility will always win out in the end.

Merry Christmas

I have to be to the girls' school in 15 minutes for their annual Christmas parties. I've made 5 dozen cookies and 8 dozen mini muffins over the past 2 days, and my baking desire is growing very thin, which is a little hard to believe, but Christmas baking can do that to me! But I'm happy to serve people, and especially my kids, when they ask for specific items, so it still falls under the category of service, and I'm taking it.

I hope your holiday season is going well. Have you felt much like me--where the month has sprinted by, leaving only faded footprints in the wind. Every year I think to myself--this is going to be the year when we slow down and enjoy the season--but every year more parties clutter the calendar and more shopping needs to be done for well-deserved recipients. I guess when I think of it, an empty calendar and fewer people to serve actually sounds awful for the Christmas season, so busy it will be each year of my life. And I secretly like it that way, even though there are moments where I feel I can hardly keep up with the dishes or catch my breath. (And let's not even mention how many colds we've been battling this December.)

But this season is so good and so full of light. Most of our neighbors strung lights along their awnings and in the bushes to cheer up my kids. They said they just had to do it for the kids. I thought that was sweet. People are really so much more kind and thoughtful that we really understand. I would've thought all the house lights were normal, but according to many of my neighbors, our street is brighter than it has been in years, and it just makes me happy.

I have felt so close to God this December as I have earnestly looked for ways to be present and connected with others. I have listened to them talk, caroled with them, served them meals, played games with them, and partied with them. I have seen need in ways I cannot really describe, and yet in the same way I have seen need, I have also witnessed those needs being filled by the most unlikely people.

My wish for you and me over the next few days is that we'll remember the real reason for all the light in the world. God sent his son to light a very dark world, and that light continues to burn bright, even if it seems so distant at the moment. The light is still there. I hope you'll reach out, but especially reach up, to the people who give you light and thank them for all you have. Friends, merry Christmas a few days early.

The grief of being done with nursing

(Timmy circa 2 weeks old in a food coma)

"When the child is to be weaned, the mother, too, is not without sorrow, because she and the child are more and more to be separated, because the child who first lay under her heart and later rested upon her breast will never again be so close. So they grieve together the brief sorrow. How fortunate the one who kept the child so close and did not need to grieve any more!" --Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

I read this quote tonight, and my heart stopped for a moment. Last week, I nursed Timmy for the last time. It wasn't planned or desired, but it just happened so naturally that I couldn't stop it. I went to nurse one night, and he just turned his gaze to me and nuzzled into the cavity between my shoulder and head. He wouldn't even consider nursing, and his look told me it was time, so I let my tears flow quietly in his dim bedroom light, and I snuggled that baby so close so as to say nursing might be over, but we will always be this close.

We've repeated the same routine at every nap time and bedtime since.

That night I walked out of his room with a heavy heart. That's it I thought. That is my last connection to babyhood, and now it was gone. And I wasn't the least bit prepared for it. I walked into my bathroom (my quiet place), and I sat on the edge of my tub, and I let my heart be still.

My body will no longer nurture babies on the inside or out. It will, however, nurture their lives with a love for reading, being creative, being active, serving, listening, and loving. I'll have to learn to be okay with that. I think I am, though the sting is still so fresh.

Be the light

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a Christmas campaign called "Light the World." On lds.org, you can find 25 ways to "light" the world this Christmas. I know it's the 6th, and I probably should've told you about this several days ago, but my girls and I have been using the simple suggestions offered on the website to "light" Elkhart. It doesn't matter if you are a little behind, start on whatever date you read this, and you can start lighting your community immediately.

I've thought so much about light on my morning runs. I have really enjoyed doing things with my kids every morning. My girls have invited all of our neighbors and several of their friends to participate in the activities. I love light. I mean I really LOVE it. It is rare when I have my shades drawn; in fact, people in Texas would tease me about closing my blinds because I was known to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen in my workout gear in the morning, and everyone could see through the windows. We'd all laugh about it.

At Christmas time, I run different routes to see the twinkling lights throughout the neighborhood. I just love how light shines in darkness. It is perhaps the reason I love light most. I am often afraid of the dark, but even the tiniest light helps calm my tight stomach when I'm stuck in the dark. I believe people can be as bright as the sun if they let their inner light shine. We all have goodness inside us, and I think for most of us, we want that light to shine, but we get nervous or busy or frustrated, and we let our light dim. But we really can bring light to the world everyday of the year, but even if that goal seems to lofty, we can at least do it for 25 days.

I hope you'll look at yourself in the mirror and find your light. Find your strengths, and let them shine this month. Be the light in your community. Pay for someone's coffee behind you in line. Help a struggling mom push her grocery cart to the car after checkout. Smile at someone in the car as they pass you. Donate a box of oatmeal or a can of soup to the local charity. Ring the bells for Salvation Army (They are in desperate need of bell ringers, and it's the best experience! Just go to registertoring.com and sign up in your area.). If ringing the bell sounds too scary for you, place a dollar in the red can as you walk into a store. There are a million things you can do that will take you no extra time. Your light will shine brighter each time you do. 

A little reflection

It's time for me to work, but I wanted to take a minute and note down how much I love Tim. I crave him--the way he rests his hand on the small of my back and the way he uses his fingers to brush through the tangles of my hair and the way he looks at me when I wake up and stumble into the bathroom in the morning and the way he kisses my neck at night.

I have a lot of guilt about how I treated the guys I dated before meeting Tim. I wasn't always forthcoming or honest. I generally dated several people at time without telling anyone, and I struggled to get close to any one person. I hated hurting people's feelings so I often avoided the break up talk by avoiding the person all together. As a 34-year-old woman, I wish I could write each of them a letter and apologize. I was a jerk. I should've been better at expressing what I felt instead of running for the door, but I wasn't.

I've been thinking about all these things lately, and I even called a friend for moral support, and we laughed together, recalling all the stories, but when it comes right down to it, no matter how much guilt I feel about how I acted as a 20-something-year-old girl, I am absolutely sure I married the right person. He is my person. I don't think either of us knew how good we'd be for each other when we were married 10 years ago. We got lucky, and we absolutely know it.

Today Tim came home from Texas. I'd been waiting for him for hours. My body literally ached to be close to his. Seeing him standing on the concrete outside the small terminal made my body tingle. I am amazed that I can still feel these things after all these times and after all the daily distractions.

So I wasn't a very good person 15 years ago in the dating world, but I hope I am a better person now as a wife and a mother. One thing is for sure, I don't run away anymore from my feelings or my problems. I do let them sit in a corner festering from time to time, but I don't try to escape them. I face them, and I am so glad I have this guy by my side each time I do.