Wulfric Wednesday on a Friday, Because Tonight It’s Safe

We are currently traveling, and tonight, while my husband was out picking up dinner for the family, I took the dog out to stretch his legs and empty his bladder.  As we walked out of the hotel from a side door, there was a rather big, burly man who must have come from a different hallway and exited seconds before.  He looked at me, then looked at Wulfric and said, “That’s a . . . That’s a big dog.”  Wulfric stared him down.

“Yeah,” I said, “he’s good sized.”

The burly guy continued on his way, and I continued on mine, and I felt perfectly safe.

As we got to the hotel’s designated dog lawn, there was another man, sitting in the back of his SUV, liftgate up, smoking a cigarette.  I smiled at him and said, “Hi” with a little more friendliness than I normally would, because I felt perfectly safe.  The man looked back at me and said nothing, and I continued on my way.  Wulfric turned for a few seconds and silently stared the man down, and I felt safe.

I spent the next quarter of an hour or so walking and playing tug-of-war with my squishy-faced, horse’s arse of a dog on a lawn next to a hotel parking lot in a strange town at twilight by myself, and I felt safe.

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This feeling of safety interests me because it made me realize just how unsafe I normally feel when I am outside of a locked home or hotel room by myself.  I don’t need therapy to figure out why I normally feel that way.  I know why I normally feel that way.  I just didn’t realize how much I normally feel that way until tonight, when I didn’t.  It was an incredible feeling to be able to be alone, if we don’t count the dog, and feel perfectly safe.

This dog drives me nuts.  He injures me with his exuberance on a regular basis, counter surfs when there is no food in sight (or smell), and eats walls if left alone for more than a few minutes.  But this dog?  He loves his family.  He watches over my kids.  He stares down strange men in parking lots (and at my front door, for that matter).  He stays close to his people.  He doesn’t let anyone near us without a lot of coaxing and coaching, and,  while I have generally been annoyed by this level of churlishness, tonight I realized he makes me feel safer than any dog I’ve ever had, and I realized how much I love feeling that safe.

Wulfric Brian Dumbledog, you’re a keeper.

Taxi?

 

There’s nothing like starting your day at o’dark early by opening the garage door, getting in your car, and, as you start to fumble with your phone to take a peek at your favorite weather app, hear your teenage daughter say, “Ummm . . . why is there a taxi in our driveway?”

Because it was o’dark early, and because I, once again, had awoken with a migraine brewing, what I heard was, “Ummm . . . why is there . . . uhhh . . . Taxi in our driveway?”

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Taxi

“Taxi is in our driveway???” I thought, as pictures of goofy, happy Irish Setter running excitedly back and forth behind my car, hoping I would get out to greet him, flashed in my mind.  “But he died over 30 years ago.  This makes no sense.  No sense at all.”  Then I saw the headlights of the car parked directly behind me, blocking my way out of the garage.

Sure.  A taxi in the driveway makes much more sense than Taxi in the driveway.  When I was 14 years old, and Taxi, the most ridiculous dog ever to run the face of the earth, died, I prayed for quite some time that God would give me a sign that he was okay and truly was in a better place.  In church, we talk all the time about what happens to people after they die, but nobody really mentions dogs.  They also don’t talk about cats, and we had a cat who died when I was 10.  I was sure he was going to hell.  He used to pick fights with neighborhood dogs and lie under trees with nesting mamma birds just to ruffle their feathers.  He would sit in the hallway of our home and dare our Irish Setters, who were terrified of him, to pass.  He bit me once, but only once, and we got along really well all of the rest of the time.  He would eat catnip my mother had planted and lie, completely stoned, in the front yard.  My ten-year-old self was so afraid he was going to hell.

I never thought Taxi, the ridiculous dog whom we loved ridiculously,  was going to hell, and by 14 I figured that cat wasn’t, either, but I also wasn’t sure dogs could go to heaven.  So I would pray that God would let me know he was okay.  Specifically, I would pray that I could look out and see him, his spirit, running one last time.  That never happened, of course.  I never saw him that one last time, but when my fourteen-year-old daughter muttered in a mystified tone about a taxi in our driveway at o’dark early on another migraine addled morning, I was suddenly 14 again, and I thought, for the briefest portion of a second, that Taxi was running happy circles behind my car in the dark and the rain.  How much happier would those circles be once he found out we have horses he could run with?

But, yes, a taxi in the driveway made much more sense than Taxi in the driveway.  Except?  I hadn’t called for one.  Currently, we have more cars than drivers, so why would I?  Though the fact that we even have a taxi service or two in this country town isn’t new to me, I still find it mystifying, which just added to my shock that one of their cars was sitting behind me, headlights shining into my blocked car.

Without getting out of my car, I closed the garage door.

Probably a normal person (is there such a thing anymore) would have walked out in the dark and the rain to ask the taxi driver why he was here and explain to him that nobody at this location needed a taxi, but I, once upon a time, lived in a high-crime-rate city for a little too long, and my current house sits a bit far back from the road, and it was dark.  If having lived through crime isn’t enough to justify my overly-cautious behavior, then we’ll chalk it up to the horror movies I watched as a teenager.  I’m not a virgin at this point, so my chances of being stabbed by a homicidal cab driver are way higher than they were back then.  Whatever.

I went in the house, figuring the cab driver would eventually come to the door, which would cause a whole lot of dog barking (Wulfric, much like the first dog we ever had, has a wonderfully large bark that belies his current actual size), and I would holler through the unopened door that he was at the wrong house.  After waiting for what seemed suspiciously too long, I watched the taxi go slowly down my driveway, then down the street, down the hill, and out of sight.

Crisis averted.  Nobody was stabbed by a bored, homicidal, country cab driver.  No boys were awoken by doorbell ringing and dog barking.  No ghostly Irish Setters were running happy circles on my rain-soaked driveway, though that wouldn’t have been a crisis, really.  The adrenaline rush seemed to speed up and heighten the effects of the caffeinated Tylenol I took for the migraine, which was helpful, because I got back in the car and life went on.

 

Groundhog Day 2018 Phullabaloney Fill Style

 

Wake me up you did, though my brain be fried.                                                                                            Try to push me out, I dare!                                                                                                                                  I’ve a Wulfric on my side.                                                                                                                                   It’s a forecast you be wantin’                                                                                                                              But I’m no weather reader.                                                                                                                                 Leave me the flibbery h3!! alone                                                                                                                       As I drink here by this heater.                                                                                                                           

 

 

Ho!  Treachery!  Mutiny!  Unfaithful cur!                                                                                                       Gnaw on me if you must, great fool,                                                                                                                 I’m too drunk to feel my fur.                                                                                                                             

 

 

At last, our vulgar rodent has made it out the door.                                                                                 With his actions base,                                                                                                                                      He’s on his face.                                                                                                                                                How to know what weather’s in store?                                                                                                      

 

 

I’m up!  I’m standing up!                                                                                                              (Though I be leanin’ on a post)                                                                                                   I don’t care about my shadow,                                                                                                   For a $&!1 #@*3% groundhog?                                                                                                   I’m the most!                                                                                                                                  

 

Wulfric Wednesday: A Cane Corso Photo Dump

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Wulfric Wednesday on the blog. Oh, how the puppy has grown! So, to recap:

 

Nom nom sweet potatoes!

 

 

Demodog

 

 

Wrestling with the shorkie

 

 

The bossy woman took “my” tv remote.

 

 

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledog

 

 

More shorkie fun

 

 

Napping is serious(ly odd) business.

 

 

Sitting on a boy in front of my space heater. Life doesn’t get any better.

 

 

I’m just making sure this boy does his school work.

 

 

Oh no! The bossy woman caught me on the furniture!

 

 

If I don’t look at her, the bossy woman won’t notice me sneaking on.

 

Motherhood Monday: Michelle

Motherhood Monday: An Introduction and Explanation

This intro should probably be a post in and of itself, but I want to put it here because I think Michelle should be on the cover of a magazine, as should so many other moms.  As an alumna of Brigham Young University, a school which is sponsored by a church which teaches that a woman’s highest and holiest calling in life is to be a mother, I have struggled over the years to see alumni magazines that feature women like Stephenie Meyer and Jane Clayson Johnson — women who have accomplished extraordinary things and been celebrated for those extraordinary things.  I don’t begrudge them their successes and accomplishments at all, nor do I bedgrudge them their recognition, but I wonder at the seeming incongruity, if not hypocrisy, of telling women the greatest thing they can do is be mothers while only publicly celebrating women for some other accomplishment.  I know, I know.  There are so many mothers . . . Writing a best selling series is extraordinary.  A meteoric rise in a television journalism career is extraordinary.  Walking away from “all that” to be a mother is extraordinary.  But “just” being a mom?  Meh.  Why feature that on the cover of the alumni magazine?  Moms are a dime a dozen, right?

I’m practical enough to know you can’t routinely be featuring moms just for being moms on the cover.  There are too many of us, and it doesn’t do anything to extol the merits of the university, especially in the current political climate.  But you know what?  I think mothers are extraordinary.  I think they deserve a little recognition for “just” being moms, regardless of whatever else they might be, because most moms don’t feel extraordinary for being moms.  They don’t feel valued by society for being moms.  They don’t feel appreciated for being moms.  As Michelle said to me, it seems, “People see being just a mom as a wasted life.”

So I want to say to all the moms, all the people, out there, regardless of what else a woman is in her life, be it novelist, journalist, or whatever, her endeavors as “mom” are not a wasted life.  Impractical though it may be, moms deserve to be on the cover of a magazine, because nine times out of 10 they are the hand that rocks the cradle, and, as William R. Wallace so eloquently wrote, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

Now for the Actual Article

Michelle and I first “met” about a decade ago via the world of adoption blogging.  I don’t know if that world even exists much anymore, but our friendship does, and I am so grateful for and blessed by it.  We have had the chance to hang out in person a couple of times now, never for long enough and always with our kids in tow.  She is a truly lovely person with a hysterical sense of humor.  I keep waiting for her to write a book.  I haven’t met all of her children, but the ones I have met are a testament to her love, dedication, and compassion as a mother.  She teaches them both by word and by example as she mothers them and regularly enlists their help in serving the needy in their community.

Michelleandkids

With 10 kids ranging in ages from 38 to nine, it’s fair to say Michelle is an experienced mother, and with all that experience comes an abundance of the common sense and wisdom that are gained not through study and research, but through living and loving and, sometimes, wanting to tear your hair out.  Like lots of moms, she’d be the first person to tell you she is not wise and the first to tell you she is a failure, but she is (wise), and she is not (a failure).  She would also be the first to tell you that she is a joyful, hopeful person in spite of the shortcomings she fears she has; and I know from first-hand experience how her joy can brighten one’s day.  

Her message to other mothers is invaluable, though it’s something we can believe in our heads but have a more difficult time taking into our hearts:  Don’t be so hard on yourself, don’t expect yourself to be perfect, and extend the same level of grace to yourself as you extend to others.

After roughly three decades of mothering, Michelle thinks she is getting better at following her own advice, and it makes things less stressful for her and the kids who are still at home.  “I feel like I’m becoming the mom I hoped I would be . . .”  she said.  “Now that I’m beginning to learn to allow myself to mess up, it’s much less stressful.  The benefit of that is that my kids can feel that.  It comes through in how I’m parenting them.”

There is great wisdom in that.  We all go into motherhood with certain expectations of both ourselves and our children, only to discover that babies don’t conform to our fantasies (neither do toddlers, pre-schoolers, grade-schoolers, middle-schoolers, or high-schoolers), and we don’t even have ourselves figured out half as much as we thought we did.  Becoming the moms we all hope we will be is a process that only begins when that first child is placed into our arms.  Funny how we initially expect the process to end there, isn’t it?

“Here’s you’re baby, ma’am.”

“Woo hoo!  I. AM. MOM!!!”

They really should put the baby in your arms and say something like, “Here’s you’re biggest growth opportunity ever.  You are going to do some wonderful things, and you are going to screw up a lot.  Best of luck!”

“I had this Ma Ingalls . . . just these ridiculous images in my head.  I was going to do it all right . . . I tend to set my expectations for myself so much higher than they should be.  My expectations as a mom were almost setting myself up to fail . . .  I was expecting perfection,” Michelle explains.

Like so many new moms, she initially felt the heavy burden of “having” to do everything right.  She expected to be one of those super fun moms, always down on the floor playing with the kids all the time, but she also had a fear of “screwing up,” and a feeling that she had to earn her kids and prove to God that she could be good enough as a mom (I think Michelle and I are soul sisters).  Eventually she realized: a. playing with the kids on the floor all the time is simply not real life; and b. she had become “just the rule person.”

“My focus was wrong when they were young.  It was all about behavior, and not about heart,” she says.

“Again, I just put too much emphasis on behavior . . . I think my goals changed because of the pressure I felt to be this perfect mom and turn out these perfect kids . . . I was so worried about what other people would think of me as a mother, that I wasn’t just mothering and loving my kids.”

It was interesting to hear her say these things, because I can relate.  At the same time, I have, at various times and in various places, felt surrounded by mothers who are so busy “just mothering and loving” that they don’t focus on behavior enough, if at all.  So I want to take a quick sentence or two right here and right now to give a shoutout to Michelle, sing her praises, and give her props for doing her best to teach at least a few of this world’s children appropriate behavior, even if she now feels it was too much and/or too motivated by the wrong thing.  

One never knows what joys and what trials mothering will bring, and this is part of what makes each mother so extraordinary: her willingness to walk into the unknown and figure it out as she goes (even though maybe she walks into the unknown not knowing that is what she is doing).  Everyone’s story is different.  Every mom travels a similar but wildly different journey, and every mom, if she is paying attention, comes through that journey with a different store of lessons learned.  One lesson Michelle shared with me is the importance of being real with your kids, of letting yourself be a real person with real feelings, and being able to tell them when you’re having a bad day rather than trying to protect them from it.  As a younger mom, she had a particular and prolonged experience which left her sad and hurt. “I realize now, as an older mom, the best thing to do is talk to your kids when you are feeling that way . . . I didn’t talk to them about it, but I think I snapped at them more,” she says.  

“I should have said, ‘Hey, I’m feeling sad today.  I need you to pray for me today . . .’  I am a better mother when I am letting them see reality rather than trying to craft a better reality.” 

At this stage in her mothering, with just three left at home, she sees areas where she feels like she failed as a mother, but she also sees areas where she has succeeded.  One of her strengths is her eagerness and effort in keeping the lines of communication open with her daughters without pushing them to talk when they don’t want to, and, though some of her kids have turned from the faith she hoped they would embrace, which gives her a sense of mom failure, she knows she raised good men.

“They are hardworking, responsible, they are decent people . . . they’re good men.  Anyone else that met them would be like, ‘You raised such great kids.  They’re such great guys.’  In that aspect I was successful in turning out great human beings . . . There’s a lot to look at there and be proud of . . .   But the voice in my head says, ‘No, you didn’t do a great job.'”

Later in the conversation, though, as we continue to talk about advice she would give younger moms and things she has learned, she says, “I’m finally [through life experience, not through our conversation] beginning to realize that that inner voice is not telling me the truth.” 

“I am trying to start extending the same level of grace to myself as I do to others . . . I just hate hearing when other mammas are doing that to themselves . . . It’s very easy to look at your children and view them as gifts from God . . . but God also chose you for them.  You know, you are the person He thinks your children needed.  So instead of focusing on what you think you are doing wrong, why not focus on what God is doing right?  He can redeem the mistakes that you’ve made and use them, still, to turn out good people.” 

When she feels the creeping grip of worry and self-blame for troubles her kids may be experiencing, she finds comfort in The Old Testament in Isaiah 43:18-19

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

It reminds her of her own transformation and brings hope.  “God completely changed who I was,” she says.  “God can radically change any life.  If He can do it for me, He can literally, honestly do it for anybody . . . that verse reignites my hope and refreshes my faith.  That’s my go-to when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my mistakes.”

Obviously, Michelle’s life and mothering are greatly influenced and informed by her faith.  She embraced Christianity as a young adult, doing a complete 180, and that faith, along with a sense of humor, has sustained her and given her strength during the difficult times.  I think I mentioned at the beginning that she is hysterical and should write a book?  So it’s no surprise that, when asked what her favorite part of motherhood has been, she responds, “Laughing with my kids/making them laugh is just the best- just hanging out with them and having fun, hearing them talk about spiritual things and knowing I had a tiny bit to do with instilling that love for God and spiritual wisdom, seeing them serve others or do/say kind things that show me they are growing up to be genuinely good, kind people.”

When I asked her what she thinks her greatest motherhood accomplishment is, she tells me, “I don’t think in those terms, which is ridiculous.  Everybody has strengths, everybody has accomplishments, but I couldn’t think of a single thing.”  As she and I talk, however, she tells me that sometimes she has conversations with some of the adult children in which they might not see eye to eye, but she doesn’t get pushy or preachy, because she realizes that trying to “cram things down their throats is pointless.”  Hello???  That realization, in my book, is a big accomplishment.  It’s hard to stop “mom-ing” the young adult “kids.”

But that is so often the essence of motherhood, I think.  The big accomplishments seem so little to us compared to the so. many. other. things that are going on, so we don’t notice them and certainly don’t give ourselves credit for them.  I wish I had the skill and the time to design a magazine cover to go with this post.  The words, “Parenting Young Adults: Pushy and Preachy are Pointless.  Pray!” would be somewhere on there.  I would look at it every day to help me be a better mom to my own young adults.  There would also be something about strangling the mean internal dialogue voice that so many of us seem to have, because you can’t chat with Michelle about motherhood issues without coming away with the perspective and strength needed to banish that voice for at least a little bit.

“Cut yourself some slack.  Give yourself a break,” she says.  “You will be a better mom, a more peaceful happy mom if you don’t expect perfection from yourself . . . my big thing is grace for yourself as a mom . . . You are so much more than the mistakes you feel you’ve made as a mother. You are more than anyone’s opinions of you. And God is so much bigger than we give Him credit for. He is more than able to take the job you’ve done- the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly, and bring beauty out of it.”  

Michelle isn’t actively blogging right now (I hope she is secretly working on something bigger and will surprise us all one day with a book tour), but you can check out her writing and wit from years gone by here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is “Me Time” Anyway?

Last night . . .

Me:
Tomorrow, after I wake up, I am going to take a nap.  When I wake up from that, I am going to spend the day hiding in our bedroom, writing and napping.

McH:
That sounds like a plan.

This morning:

McH:
So, what’s the plan for the day?  What do we want to accomplish?

Me:
I’ve already woken up and then gone back to sleep.  I’m just getting something to eat before I go back to our bedroom to write and nap.

McH:
Oh.

He obviously didn’t take me seriously last night, but my plan for today really is to hide in my bedroom, in my bed, surrounded by fluffy “hotel” pillows I ordered from Woot a few weeks back, and write and nap.  I need a day “off.”  Actually?  I need to start taking days “off” on a regular basis.  He does, too, quite frankly, but that is his deal to figure out for now.

I just swapped laundry around and helped Midge with some homework.  There really is  never a day “off.”

Recently I saw an online article, 4 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout:  Why Self Care is Anything But Selfish, and thought, “Eeek!  That starts with a number rather than the number word?!?  Okay, it is more a title than a headline, and you studied journalism over 20 years ago, so maybe the rules are different.  Breathe . . . .”  Then I thought, “I wonder if those ways to supposedly avoid burnout can help reverse it?” So I read the article.

I read the article and a few things jumped out at me.  The author asked,

What gives your life a sense of fun, accomplishment, relaxation, connectedness, color, expression, or adventure? What do you do that makes you more you?

Answer:  I have NO. IDEA.  I haven’t gotten to be me for so long that I have no idea who the heck I am, what would be fun for me, or if I even want to have fun.  I parent.  I homeschool.  I keep everyone alive and at leas semi-well-mannered , semi-well-behaved, and semi-dressed (I only shoot for semi-well-dressed if we’re going somewhere special).  I fight physically and emotionally to quell trauma induced rages in one of my sons (luckily we are now experiencing several months between these episodes).  I try to magnifying my church callings (and frequently get kicked in the teeth for it, metaphorically).  I cook (and then watch the various disgusted faces made by various members of my family, at least one of whom is waaaaayyyyy too old to still be behaving that way).  I clean, though not enough, so I beat myself up about that.  I grocery shop at flippin’ 6am in the morning.  I clean up puppy excrement and spend an inordinate amount of time protecting our furniture from puppy teeth.  I try to serve others.  I try to not do too much at once or stress too much about any of it, because that can trigger migraines.  I online shop just because it’s something I can do (Oh-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street), then I have the occasional moods where I must purge the house of all the stuff, but I never manage to get enough stuff out, and there is always too much stuff.

I think just re-reading the above paragraph is going to trigger a migraine.  Not really, but I can literally feel my blood pressure rising.

Then I read this:

I know it’s hard. I’m in the middle of raising five kids, and there are weeks when I am “on” for 12 hours or more every single day. But find dreams that are workable within the boundaries of your life and enlist your loved ones in pursuing them.

I dream of getting a solid eight hours of sleep at night, but, short of hiring a night nanny for the geriatric dogs, that’s not happening.

Seriously, I laughed a slightly bitter, slightly maniacal laugh when I read that.  I would love to have mere weeks where I am “on” for 12 hours or more every single day.  I would also love to have loved ones who lived close by and/or cared enough to help me pursue my dreams.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  If I still had any dreams, of course.  (Lie.  I have a bit of a dream).  I’m not trying to diminish the author’s experience, and I’m not trying to whine (though I’m doing a bang up job of it).  I’m just saying that I’ve been “on” for 20 years now, even if sometimes that “on” just looks like me surfing the internet while the kids do their school work, because the minute I get up to accomplish anything other than being the Eye in the Skye that keeps them on task, all hell will break loose.  In those 20 years, I’ve gone to two, maybe three, two-day homeschool conferences, one two-day conference on Common Core, and my parents took the kids for a night “just because” twice that I can recall.  Other than that?  “On.”

I love my kids.  I chose to homeschool, and I re-choose that every day.  I had to convince my husband that homeschooling was not going to make our kids terribly weird and awkward, and that it would be a good thing overall.  I wouldn’t change any of that for anything.  I don’t wish I had fewer kids (well, maybe sometimes, but then I wonder which ones I wish I didn’t have and, while there occasionally feels like an obvious choice or two, the reality is that I wouldn’t NOT have any of them for anything).  I don’t wish I’d been sending them to public school all these years.  I guess what I’m saying is that, when I read another mom felt like being “on” for 12 hours or more every day for weeks was a lot, it made me stop and think.  It was a bit of a lightbulb moment.  It made me realize that expecting myself, and having others expect me to be “on” every day for 20 years, migraine or not, is . . . more than a lot.

Midge just told me she heated up leftover pizza and butternut squash soup and asked how much I wanted.  God bless her.  I got out of bed and served myself.  I shouldn’t be eating pizza.  Oh well.

So today, while McH takes the boys and the puppy out to walk around Tractor Supply and Home Depot (because those stores welcome dogs, and it’s a good socialization exercise), while they are all out getting haircuts and using Christmas money to shop for Magic Cards, and even when they are back, I am taking a day “off” in my room.  I am going to write, because celebrating moms and sharing their wisdom is my dream right now, and I have a couple of those blog posts started, and I want to finish them.  And? I am going to nap if the mood hits me.  Just because.  Today, I am “off” (except for the laundry, which needs swapped again).