A letter to my daughter.

Today I dropped you off and your smile broke my heart. You beamed with pride and I still fell apart. You are everything I am and more than I ever dreamed of being. You are food for my soul and the oxygen I breathe. I’m terrified for you and yet you are fearless. I mourn your growth and you live in the extraordinary. I squeeze you tight and you don’t let go, but I know you will. Someday.

When that Someday comes please don’t forget that even when I cry for you in these like-moments they are but tears of joy. When I am awe-struck by your passion and grace it is pride that I wear on my sleeve for you. The world will try to break you my darling, please don’t lose your faith. You are stronger than you know and your heart is good. I know your beauty but the world may not. Beauty on the outside does not matter for you are one within. Your body will dull but your mind will sharpen. Life’s experiences will make you. The world will grow dark. I cannot change this. Oh, how I wish I could. Hold your head high. Live without doubt. Take chances.

When the demons strike, think of God. When your heart breaks, think of your father. When you feel alone, call your sister; and when life seems like it is folding around you and you feel the struggle of life’s pull, remember that my tears for you remain the same. Tears of love, pride and joy; for you are never alone. When all else fails my dear, remember you are capable. So go, be you, be strong and soar high… far beyond your measure.

-ox-

#FAIL…and repeat

If someone is lost in the woods, in that moment, it doesn’t matter how they got there. It matters how the heck they are going to get out. The lesson that can be learned on what not to do, and where not to go, can be assessed later. In the exact moment, in fear and panic, dwelling on the many wrong turns made doesn’t do any good in the outcome.

It was a typical Monday morning at the Fowler farm. I was rushing to get out the door. Madz asked me if I had had a chance to look in her folder as I was packing away her lunch. :::deer in the headlights look::: Nope. #FAIL All weekend came and went and I didn’t. So I pulled it out and came across an incomplete worksheet with a teacher’s note written on the bottom “please complete and return” ummm, where is the date? when is this from? why I haven’t I seen it? In that moment I asked her all of these and what week it was for and her answers weren’t adding up. As I began to explain to her that “yes, you do complete your HW in after school care, but if it says “Parent’s Signature” then I need to see it.” As I was displaying my mommy badge through my words, I could see her brain reeling. Her little Sicilian hands were up and her mouth was open before I could finish my sentence. She went from 7 to 17 instantly and I was not happy about it. I don’t tolerate back talk or disrespect and I firmly reminded her that I would not be spoke to like that. I was upset and she knew it, but the path to how and why was lost.

Instantly she began to cry. Something that she doesn’t do often but it is usually for one of two reasons when she does. Both triggered by the same emotion, passion. She is a deep feeler and I knew instantly that I had struck a nerve with her. Granted, part of me wanted to in that way that I want her to fully understand the boundaries of respect. I wanted her to hear me. I did not, however, anticipate what was to come.

Instead I took a breath and calmly asked her why she was crying, she said “because she didn’t want to get into trouble for not doing her homework in after school.” Okay, fair enough but I’m not buying that. She went on to “accidentally” divulge the real issue in a case of emotional verbal IBS. When finally the words came flying out at me “but mom the last time I did it at home I got it wrong.” CHA-CHING! There it is ladies and gents, the root of the tears and the real cause of the problem. I was stunned and suddenly looking at my 7 yr old self. The one I had been trying to nurture her from becoming.

Here we are trying to raise children to be independent and open; to understand that sometimes things happen. I may be a planner but I have tried to help the girls learn in my many areas of shortcoming. I want them to develop coping mechanisms that are useful. i.e. If we spill milk, no big deal it was an accident. We don’t overreact to accidents or to “failing” as long as we try. We talk out our problems. We don’t get into word-wars over who is right or who is wrong because it doesn’t matter. Nine times out of ten I’m proud to hear Madilyn reiterating to her little sister just this exact sentiment, but today was different. Somehow we/I had missed an important step along the way. How did we get here? What am I doing wrong? What level of perfection has this poor child been built up to?? Was it her? Was it me? Society? All of the above? #FAIL #FAIL #FAIL All of these thoughts running through my head felt like emotional overdrive and suddenly I wanted to cry. Instead I took a deep breath, knelt down to her and said “That is perfectly okay. You’re not always going to get it right. That’s OK. We learn from being wrong.”

Never have I said more true words to someone else that were really meant for myself. I was wrong in so many ways and continue to be. I am guilty of failing over and over again, in all aspects too. Work, home, as a wife, a mom, a friend…you name it. I’m a colorful failure for sure. I get really frustrated with myself when I forget to check a folder or pack a lunch or when I leave her stinky sneakers outside in the rain. Kudos to Brent for always being my backup to help save the day in my absentmindedness and to my friends and family for dealing with me. Today I forgot something else though, a key skill, I forgot how to listen. When I look back at the path that brought us to that moment, I was instantly upset by my lack of listening skills and yet I was doing the exact same thing to her. #FAIL What that lost path brought me to was beautiful though…

I don’t think I have ever had such a meaningful hug from my baby. When we finally met the other eye to eye, settled the score and heard one another, there was the biggest hug I think I have ever received. I thought to myself if I could stay in this moment forever I would. She didn’t pull away, she wasn’t quick to go, she had forgiven my failures and somehow we made it out of the woods.

Now I’m not blind. I know there will be many more moments just like this; but I feel like we built a foundation this morning. I know I will fail over and over a thousand times and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her spunky side, but if I can lead by example in how to redirect my mistakes maybe, just maybe I’ll get something right.

-ox-

 

Nature, Nurture and Me.

We’ve all seen this meme.

ExcuseTheMessChalk-KeyLime

Honestly,  I’ve always wanted to adopt this mantra. I love it; but nature has interfered with my ability to do so.

About ten years ago I had a quaint little apartment with my bed made every day, fresh flowers on the table every Sunday and my clothes folded and hung in their place, daily. (ugh, just writing it out is exhausting) Fast forward to this very moment and from my current station planted on the couch, I can see spots on the TV, a pillow that needs to be sewn, walls and baseboards that need to be wiped down, a laundry basket reminding me to get folding and I’m pretty sure that’s “sprinkle cheese” in my child’s hair. None of which is enough to make me move. Who was that girl?

Instantly I replace all of that negativity with justifications (er.., I mean) positive reminders of what I did get done. Today I accomplished a great deal at the office, Madz’ homework is complete, dinner was made for all, dinner and dessert are prepped for tomorrow; little faces are clean. (side note: I will not let the child go to bed with cheese in her hair) and soon stories will be read. Until then snuggles and chats about our day are the priority. Conversations and the fulfillment of teaching my children what it is like to simply -be.

The older I get the faster time goes by, why should I stress to strive for perfection in the things that don’t really matter? All of which will eventually get done. I’ve learned, mainly through being tired, that it doesn’t have to be at this very moment. Existentially, my being won’t really allow for big messes to sustain. I can’t sleep if the house is in COMPLETE disarray- for this I blame genetics. That’s nature. From a perspective embracing nurture, I’ve gained an acceptance of control and letting go. Simple exhaustion has brought me to a place of chaotic bliss. Possibly the best management in dealing with my perfectionist tendencies. It’s also the path of one very tired of mama- Main Street, Mommywood, USA- but I’m okay with it.

I look over, they smile. I ask, they tell.  I reach for a hand and I have three reaching back. None of which really care whether or not I am perfect. I can handle that.

ox

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

Three weeks ago I sat in my car, embarrassed and melting in a puddle of tears. I was beyond disappointed in myself. I knew when I registered for my second half marathon that training was going to be hard. My schedule was booked crazy for weeks. I didn’t have time to properly train. I knew this and still I thought, per usual, “I’ll just make it work.”

The thing is, that doesn’t work so well when you’re not really a runner. It was pathetic. I had just completed probably the hardest-short-run since my first 5 miles two years ago and it didn’t take me long to realize I was completely void of self-care. I had physical pain and a huge mental block. I didn’t feel strong. I so badly wanted to give up, and I tried. Fortunately, unfortunately, I had paid my registration fee and there were no refunds. No way, no how, am I losing out on that kind of money. Race entries are no joke. The race goes on.

Once my self-loathing and pity-party wrapped up, I reinstated my commitment to 13.1. I’ve never run for time, I run for me. I run for the feeling of pushing personal boundaries and for the sense of accomplishment that comes with stepping across the finish line. But this time I was running for my family, too. This was the first time they’d ever been to anything like this. In the past there has always been some sort of conflict in schedules or travel so it just hasn’t worked out. This time they were going to be waiting at the finish line for me. Come hell or high water I was going to do it.

Race day arrived and it was ridiculously cold…for Raleigh in April. As well, it was a super early morning and there were multiple conversations of stopping even before the start. After mile marker 1 I began creating strategies and excuses for getting out of this utterly dumb decision. If I trip and need stitches it’s not reallllyy quitting. My family will still love me either way. Not being well trained is a perfectly adequate excuse. Here’s the thing, running is one challenge, running a race, yet another; but running in Raleigh, the City of Oaks …and hills…well that just completely sucks. By mile 5, I was still not in “my stride” (haha this makes me laugh to assume I’d ever get one) but I felt okay. I did a mind and body check. Nothing hurt, it was slowly warming up, I had no muscle cramping and I was doing it. In another mile or so I’d be more than half way. I’m not a quitter and my girls will be there in the end. All worth it, just keep going.   :::and step, repeat, step, repeat::::

Then something wonderful happened, mile marker 10. It was a beautiful sight. I loved it and I felt really good, okay, good-no, but not bad. I was in the home stretch and somehow I felt better this go around then I did my first half marathon. In Kiawah mile 11 just about sent me packing. Not today. Today, I sailed through and felt stronger and better at the finish line than I did at the start. I had a cheesy grin the whole last leg. Man! Who knew? And if I had actually trained appropriately I would’ve killed the time (that I don’t run for lol).

Here’s the coolest part, for the first time ever I understood what it meant to feel strong. Instantly my mommy-mode defaulted to the thought of childbirth, but this was (respectfully) better. Of course the end result doesn’t compare, our girls are my everything and those 16 and 30 hrs of labor were hard and strong work, but that was my body being taken over my another being forcing through me. Today, was 13.1 miles of me. I had no reason to go and every reason to quit, but I didn’t and it felt so, so good.

As I left the race I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of one of the volunteer groups, the Jimmy V foundation. Of course! It made perfect sense…it had to be Jimmy V.

Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

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-ox-

Putting Faith Forward.

A few weeks ago I took a group of young women to West Virginia to participate in the Appalachia Service Project. An experience that I can only describe as transformative. I saw things I never expected to see on domestic soil. I did things I never thought I could do, we are talking hard hats and circular saws; and I returned home just as one should, better than I left.

It was 7am on a Sunday, the morning after a slumber party  of preparations took place at the Fowler Farm. Six of us, all females, ages 18-31, loaded up a 15 passenger van and hit the road on what only could be called an unpredictable adventure.

We made (what was supposed to be) a scenic stop, but turned into a microhike (the first of many mini-adventures throughout the week) at Pilot mountain. I got my first taste of “life fear” for these five ladies that were 100% my responsibility. If only I was being paid, by the statement, to remind them to “stay away from the ledge” and to “not go down the slope” or my favorite “too close.” We toured through back roads and went over some significant terrain to get to our final destination. Perhaps my favorite moment was when all of our fancy-phones lost service at just about the same time. We were officially disconnected. It felt awkward but amazing. No phone, no wi-fi, no social media, no text messaging, we couldn’t even make a call, which really wasn’t all that bad.  We bunked up with a few other schools, kind of like a grown-up camp. It was pretty cool. Since the neutralizer was the lack of service available in the mining country, we played games, asked questions, we (GASP) interacted with one another. In true Spring Break fashion we had to do something that would gain a bit of shock and awe and we certainly did. Wait for it…we actually had conversations using those things called words, and making that little thing called eye-contact…with people we didn’t even know and with those we did… it was amazing!

Tech connection and communication aside, we were there for a task. And ours for the week would be to initiate the safety and home improvements for a family of four. With a laminated set of instructions and one very (and thankfully experienced) construction-minded student leader, we built the structural support to the home’s addition and enclosed the backside of the home with underpinning. We spent the whole week rolling around in the dirt beneath the home digging up coal, okay really 16x16x16 holes, but lots of coal was found. We mixed and poured cement, cut wood and built supports, we even got in a little unforeseen plumbing experience. Who knew I could do that? Not me…

Realistically, I couldn’t have done it without my team. These young ladies inspired me and it was without question or reservation, I /we just went to work, taking on one project at a time. We were a unit, and I can easily say I’ve never been part of a better group. The dynamic, the work ethic, the tasks achieved, the communication, it was all above and beyond any best-case-scenario I would’ve imagined. I could go on and on about the team but the week was about the work. It was about the family. It was about this community that truly has nothing and yet, to them, they have everything. They were so kind, so honest, so raw and real. It was humbling to be in the presence of true gratitude. Bold honesty without apology; and sincere contentment. The kind that makes people live long, happy and fulfilled lives without greed or selfishness. It was inspiring in every sense of the word. To the outsider the lives lived inside this community seemed like suffering. The homes would be condemned instead of improved. The level of poverty being experienced was unfathomable, especially in the US. For those living it, they were happy. They had no complaints. They wanted for nothing because they had each other. The level of love>greed that we witnessed is, in my opinion, what we are missing in the rest of this world. What a better place this would be…

What’s interesting, and makes my heart ache a bit, is that this trip is one that not a lot of people opt to go on. It tends to be a second or third choice for students. Granted, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of traveling to Alaska or South America. It is a much smaller team compared to some of the other groups; and only a quick five-hour drive north as opposed to an overnight flight; but it was an experience that each of us agreed, without reservation, we were proud to have been a part of and wouldn’t have traded.

IMG_2081For me, this opportunity helped to reawaken many things inside of me. Things that were always there before, but unbeknownst to me, dormant in my being. The motto of ASP is to aim for warmer, safer, and drier homes in their community, but what they do to achieve this is their tagline, putting faith forward. This is exactly what they did for me. My faith was there but it needed to come more to the surface. Not in a preach and project manner, but one of self-recognition. One to reinforce my faith and bring forth new lenses in a way that manifests a grateful heart as our God so desired for his followers.

Disconnecting from the tech world allowed me to reconnect with myself. The insight to this community brought to the surface a whole new level of empathy and gratitude. I have found myself more calm and content with life and let’s be real, I came home with some major Mrs. Fix-It skills so Brent’s certainly not complaining.😉 The love and life we were welcomed to join for those five days will remain with me and will be my reminder of what putting faith, love and compassion forward can truly do for one’s being.

Last but not least, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel compelled to make this post today. Regardless of whether or not today is more about bunnies and eggs instead of the tomb or cross, let it be about family and self-preservation. If ever there was a day to disconnect and resurrect one’s self let it be today.

Happy Easter. ox

All the feels and none of the thoughts.

This blog has been many things for me, an outlet, an accountability-buddy, a mirror, a challenge and an honest extension of some of my biggest challenges. In short, it has been a layer of self-transparency. All to assist me in identifying personal challenge and initiating the necessary steps of growth.

At present I feel like I am bursting at the seams. I need to deconstruct my thoughts, one topic at a time. I have lots to explore and even more to reconnect with and I’m ready. As I begin my plan to unfold and identify I am taking to the keys to utilize the same the same medium that has helped me so many other times in these more recent years. Not for validation or exploitation but for that freeing feeling of not hiding, anything-from anyone but especially from myself.

Instantly my thought is…ugh-ick-feels-ew. It is a pretty real reaction. This is how I really feel about it all. For a moment I want to hit delete and shut it all down but maybe by documenting this fun roller-coaster of life, it will help my own little ladies as they begin their own ebbs and flows of growing up. Who knows…but here goes…

cool_life_quotes_life-quotes-women-cool-words-love-quote-ways-to-pics-quote-2yypllk2zg587o95wwn37u

 

Yes, I’m exhausted.

Today I was approached with the question, “has daylight savings affected your children?”

I couldn’t tell if this was a question from an inquiring mind or if it was a gentle “bless your heart and those giant bags under your eyes” either way, I took the bait.

HA! Has it affected my children?! The simple answer, yes, is an understatement of gigantic proportion. Moreover, it has affected me! I am so tired and run down from that measly one-hr time loss that I am probably worse-off than they are. Getting up in the morning is a struggle, which very much goes against my nature. I am a morning person most weeks, but this one-no bueno. Also, the evenings! Getting the girls to bed on time has been rough. How do you explain to a child that they need to go to bed when the sun is still shining through their window and the ice cream truck is driving by? Which reminds me…

Side note to the local ice cream truck: It is spring, it is not summer. Your old-school melody playing loudly through the neighborhood is truly unnecessary during the weeknight hours. When I hear you coming I go into mama-bear mode for both the safety of my wallet and my children. There is something unnerving about your not-so-modern approach to sales. Please take your business elsewhere, I hear stationary food trucks are an up and coming industry. Then perhaps you won’t get the side from parents hiding their children from you. #sorrynotsorry

Anyhow, my conversation about DST was not a long one but it was thought provoking. How did Hawaii and Alaska get out of this little time change? I understand that back in the day it was necessary to maximize work days for various industries, but is that really applicable in 2016? Shouldn’t Americans learn to work less? Isn’t that the whole better work-life balance argument? Furthermore, if we trust mother nature (aka: a groundhog) to still predict spring, shouldn’t we trust her to gradually increase and decrease the length of our days? This seems to make more sense to me than abruptly  interfering with my  (and my children’s) sleep cycle every spring and fall. Much like our age, the days will naturally lengthen every year, just as they were intended, we do not need any help with this.

So in response to the popular idea circulating about eliminating DST from our calendar, I say go for it! Or if nothing else, leave it to the Owl to make the decision for us.

Happy Sleeping. ox

 

Romance-Schmomance

FullSizeRenderIt may not make sense, but here goes…

I’ve never understood the hype for V-day. I’m not a romantical-type and I hate cliché’s. To be completely honest romance, to me, is corny. I get a weird awkward feeling when I see the traditional down-on-the knee proposal. It is so unnatural. And rose petals? Really? That’s a lose-lose. The real ones die and the fake ones are just that, you can’t win! Simply put, I don’t do cheesy; Nicholas Sparks kind of makes me want to gag, but before you take away my female-card. I have a few good reasons. So hear me out…

The first, why the pressure? On men particularly. Not to sound sexist but let’s call a spade a spade, this holiday is kind of sexist. Here’s one for the researchers out there, how many couples break up on February 15 because of unmet expectations?

Second, why the need for a holiday where the entire population of uncoupled individuals, either by choice or by circumstance, are isolated and even highlighted? Way to go cupid! Maybe your naked little rear should send extra arrows of love to them instead of putting pressure on the rest of us to “get it right.” Seriously, who wants to be reminded of their Facebook status one way or the other? We are all pretty well aware. #notcool 

And lastly, yep I had to go there, this is a frugal blog…why the $$$$? Prices on everything and anything pink or red are completely inflated. It is insane! I certainly don’t need my husband to spend a ridiculous amount of money on this silly little holiday, in fact I can’t think of a single bigger turn-off. How about putting all the money in the bank ..hubba, hubba.

However, I am not a complete cynic. I fully admit my house is festive and my children are excited, as am I, but not for the obvious reasons. Sure, I plan to indulge in pink and red chocolates until they’re gone, even some wine and all completely without shame, but…we do go a step farther. No matter the holiday, we make it a point in our home to find little things around the house to highlight the months/seasons. For example, I recycle tissue paper, so for Vday we take the pink and white and cut out hearts, decorate cards and do small DIY projects. Another fun tip is to save all the red leftover from Christmas, candies, sprinkles, art supplies, etc. The timing is both convenient and cost effective. It brings an extra bit of fun to a busy, scheduled household. We try to mix it up however we can. Fun and love are two mantras for the Fowler farm. And if there is one thing I can fully get on board with for this holiday, it’s this idea of love.

I may not be a historian but the optimist in me thinks it could just be the more accurate foundation of said celebration, love. But not just any love, the kind of love from deep down within us, the heart and soul that binds us. Not just “us” in the traditional courting, married, or relationship-type either; but all of us. As a family. As friends, those near and far. The connection of all those who matter the most.

This Sunday when my girls wake up they will be excited, a true reaction of love. The sincerest form, straight from the heart of a child. Sure, the little treats are fun but they don’t know what to expect and therefore have no expectations. Rather these are moments of which they are reminded just how loved they are. Yes, this is something we tell them every single day, something we show them every single day, but sometimes it is nice to be reminded and Valentine’s Day is good for just that. This, IMO, is the point of V-day. We don’t need to go above and beyond, no need for extravagance. We just need to take a moment to savor the good. As humans no matter how hard we try, sometimes we need reminding to not only tell someone how loved they are but to also hear it. Sometimes in the midst of chaos, a holiday is a good reminder to set the monotony of life aside and remind those nearest to us how loved they are.

Save your wallet, the headache, and the stress. Have more than one Valentine, yes your partner is a given but what about your children? Your parents? Your dog? Maybe your Grandpa? What about your best friend who lives 15 hours away? You love them all, no? Tell them! It doesn’t cost a penny to hug someone, to ‘cuggle, or to say I love you.

Hmmmm…maybe this is my kind of holiday after all😉

-ox-