Friday, May 8, 2015

For my LTYM friends

The signs throughout the auditorium say, 'severe weather shelter.'

Tropical storm season approaches, so I'm glad of the structural soundness around me (especially when the stage starts shaking) but that's not why I can't stop looking at the signs.

I see the sign and I hear Bob Dylan, "Come in, she said, I'll give ya shelter from the storm."

We are each but tiny vessels in this ocean of motherhood. The ocean is vast with possibility and breathtaking beauty. But it is also unpredictable and can rock us ways we couldn't have imagined. And when storms come in this ocean, there seems to be no inherent shelter. Nothing can prepare us or protect us from the moments of anguish, helplessness and rawness in motherhood.

But I come into this place and I know, instinctively, inherently, something that women used to know when we lived tribally, when our men hunted or went off to war; we are each other's shelter.

I tell my small story of a bug bite and have friends say, "I couldn't have killed it," or "I wouldn't have been so calm." To which I answer, 'of course you would have, because motherhood kicks in.'

I believe that, but I hear your stories and wish I had Allison's joy, Mary's grace, Jen's faith, Glenna's compassion, Kerri's humor, Ann's resolve, KeAnne's wisdom, Laura's whole-hearted love, Erin's courage, Marty's insight, Alice's honesty and Beth's passion. No way I could be so amazing, creative, intuitive!

And yet I can see each of you telling me, of course you could.

Motherhood shows us sometimes in painful and stark ways that we are capable of much more than we could've dreamed. But somehow, somewhere along the way we forgot that we have umbrellas, islands, rudders, oars and sails in each other.

We come together and we are shelter, support, direction and strength for one another and for those that need to hear that they are not alone.

When we leave this auditorium, this severe storm shelter, after telling our stories for the last time together, I will never forget this vulnerable moment when you were all my shelter and support. I hope I  remember all the strength I've gleaned from you and the lessons I've learned so I can move forward and be a shelter of compassion, understanding and love for everyone I encounter.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hold this moment.

Breathe in this moment
with all it's pain
and confusion.

The sadness can overwhelm
if you let it.
The anger can destroy you.
Cutting and Ripping
your sense of peace,
to shreds.
Clenched fists
choked breaths
strangled heart.

But the grief and the anger
are not more powerful than love.

So just breathe in this moment
and know that peace will come.
Comfort will be given
and love will surround you.

Breathe in this moment
and see
with your heart
that there is still beauty
and hope
Profession of love
and reception of love
in every single moment.

It is love that makes moments eternal.
And immortal.

Emotions, passions, events materialize and fade
moment by moment
but peace always comes
and understanding
is always given
in time.

So breathe.
so deeply that you feel your lungs will burst
 not from anger or sorrow.
but from the full realization of the gift of being present
and all that is possible
in this moment.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A life that matters

In her 2006 Oscar Acceptance speech, Reese Witherspoon said:
 "people used to ask June how she was doing, and she used to say - 'I'm just trying to matter'. And I know what she means. You know, I'm just trying to matter…" 

As much as this struck me as a universal truth, the idea that we want our lives to matter, it also made me a little bit sad. Because there was the slight insinuation that now that she has an Oscar, her life may matter a little bit more because her name will be in the record books and she will be remembered. 

Recently I put together a video montage of old photographs for our Gran-Gran's 100 year old birthday. I used the music of her youth and separated photos into segments of her life. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of it, but I in no way expected her response. 

Sure, she thanked me and told me she loved it. But in the next breath, through tears, she shared a memory about cleaning out her mother's home. "There was a trunk at the end of her bed," she said, "it was filled with old photographs. But we didn't know who anybody was. We asked around but nobody knew and we ended up just throwing them away. Someone cared to take these pictures, and we just threw them away, like their lives didn't matter at all." 

How long had she carried around the guilt of throwing photos away? How long had she feared that the same fate awaited the photos of her mother holding her as a baby, of her now deceased brother smiling next to her on the porch, of her now grown babies playing on a beach? How long had she equated these photos being lost to no longer mattering? 

Somehow the simple act of switching these photos to a modern medium, of celebrating them together, relieved some of her fears.

That was not the response I was expecting, but it has stayed with me. Here is a woman who has lead an extraordinary life. She has raised a healthy and successful tight knit family that loves her and surrounds her constantly. She still, at 100, has a social life, a strong faith life, and her wits about her. I kind of figured that if you reach that point, you metaphorically raise your arms like you won the Boston Marathon and declare victory in life. 

But her fear is no different than any of ours. Do I matter? Will my life, and everything that was important to me be remembered? 

Everyone deserves to know just how much their life means to others. 

Everyone deserves to know just how much their life matters. 

Because it does. Our lives matter. The choices we make, the joy or anger we choose to spread, the roads we take. We are created. We are loved. We matter.  

Sometimes it is harder to see. Sometimes we can feel ok about ourselves but see the loneliness all around us and determine that maybe there is nothing and no one looking out for us after all. We can get lost in Eleanor Rigby melancholy. All the lonely people… where do they all belong?

But it is in those moments that it is imperative we look out for one another. If you see someone that looks lonely, that is your prompting to let them know you see them. A wave, a smile, walking the newspaper to your elderly neighbor's door and handing it to them. We can not cure someone else's loneliness, but we can let them know that they are not alone.  

In Shall We Dance, Susan Sarandon's character sums up marriage by saying it's most important function is to bear witness to someone else's life. "You're saying, 'your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness." 

In college, I went through a heavy depression. It was my roommate, (with whom I didn't really get along at the time) who helped pull me out with, maybe, an unconventional way. 

"Seriously, Mandy, I'm sick of seeing you laying in bed. Get the hell up. I'm serious. I'm sick of it." And she wouldn't leave until I obeyed. That was the beginning of my healing. 

We may not have been friends at the time but she saw me. She was giving witness to my life and it mattered to her. It pissed her off. …maybe not the mattering we are all looking for… but I realized my life was affecting hers. And by simply letting me know, she may have saved my life. 

Countless times a day, we have the opportunity to affect other people's lives… to matter to them whether or not they realize it. But our opportunities to let people know how much they matter to us, feel few and far between. 

Whether it's awkward or feels too sentimental, it is rare that we tell people that what they have done, that their friendship, that their life has forever become a part of you. How often we only think to tell them when it is too late. How often we must comfort friends with that very fear by saying, "I'm sure they knew how much you loved them. I'm sure they knew how much they mattered to you."

But that wondering is agony. 

So I issue a challenge and a promise today. 

I challenge you to tell people how much they mean to you. I challenge you to reach out to that friend you've lost touch with on Facebook and just send them a quick message letting them know that memories with them are still some of your favorites or that their friendship in a time when you maybe weren't at your best means the world to you. 

And I promise that if ever for a moment you feel like your life doesn't matter, I will show you it does. I promise that if there is something you want to say to someone but aren't sure how, I can help you find the words. If you are going through a depression I will tell you that it pisses me off and you need to realize you matter, you are loved, and you can get through it. 

I promise that if you think that no one else is, I will be a witness to your life and it will matter to me. 

And if I am witness to your life, then my life matters too. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Cold Day in the Bible Belt

Days like today make me want to read a little Jonathan Edwards. Because as I sit in a foul, wet-dog smelling mini-van in the midst of traffic on the way to carpool I think God must be angry after all. 

We are helplessly being whipped from all directions by the cruel icy droplets of God’s wrath. 

Every car around me shows the hunched shoulders and pulled face of a driver bone cold and wet. No one is singing. No one dances. This weather sucks. 

The school’s population seems to have doubled as carpool lasts longer than the life of Cain. 

Oh, and school might again be cancelled tomorrow. Because the ice cold rain might get colder and turn to ice. Oh what wickedness hath brought this torment?

We arrive home grumbling though unscathed. There is wine in the refrigerator, but it must sit unsipped still as dance practice looms.

“Do your homework,” I tell the children.  I try to find something uplifting on Facebook. 
I fail.
Look at these murders committed by children.
My whole family is vomiting, I think we are all going to die.
Parents are calling 911 on each other because people freaking suck and would rather turn you in than watch out for your kid for two seconds. 
But don’t get sucked into that ‘Free Range’ world, because here are a couple stories about kids that died when the parents looked away for two seconds.

“Mom, Can I have an afternoon snack?” 

“I so do not care.”

The child stares at me confused. “Wait, what? So, I can have anything?” 

“I do not...” -oh yeah, I’m not supposed to let my inner monologue parent-

(more chipper this time) “Um! SURE! Sweetheart!! Have something healthy though!! Can I make something for you? Apple? Orange? Shamrock shaped spinach roles?” 

He still stares. I think I overcompensated. 

He takes an apple from the counter and slowly backs away. 

I put the wine from the fridge to the counter, to let it get to room temperature, because the time is soon when it may be opened. But for now it sits there cruelly teasing me like a... like a... like a really mean person that likes to tease. Cuz they are mean and teasing is mean. So, the wine is mean because that’s how it sits.  The weather is killing my creativity. 

It is cold and wet and sucky and my house smells of wet dog. It's only afternoon and yet the outside is blackening. The darkness is a gluttonous traveler, slowly eating and sucking away the light as it descends upon our home. 

Even the wine couldn’t help me now. 

The journeyman and his chilling clouds have permeated the windows and doors and are threatening to possess us all. Entering through our eyes and nostrils, the darkness will fill our minds, break our spirits and freeze our souls. God has unleashed the Evil One, surely there is no salvation left. 

I hold my hands before me and scream to the cold(in my best Scarlet O’Hara accent):


I notice my daughter has taken my cell phone. She is calling their father. That is probably a good move. 

I open my wine. 

That is also a good move. 

Jonathan Edwards was a Yankee the wine tells me. God is happy. 
And the South will rise again. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Allow myself to introduce… myself… again


You look amazing today!

If you are new to views from a pier, you are likely coming from the LTYM-RDU home page, thank you for stopping by! For those who have been around,  I am excited to announce that I am part of the 2015 Raleigh-Durham Listen To Your Mother cast

I am thrilled beyond compare to be part of a venue that cherishes storytelling and motherhood. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mom and I have wanted to be a writer. 

So clearly, it is a dream come true to be able to share a story I have written about motherhood in the company of this 2015 cast. 

At this blog, I try to touch on faith, family, and occasional current events. I hope to make you smile and I often flirt with irreverence. 

I don't try to change minds but when I touch on political or hot button topics, I do try to start conversations. I love learning from other people's point of views and I hope to occasionally offer a new perspective. 

As a way of introducing myself to anyone new, I've pulled one from the archives to stick with the mothering theme.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope you check back often! :) 



Today I dropped off my youngest child at preschool. He will only be away for about 5 hours total in any given week. But the moment I left the school I realized that for the first time in almost 8 years, there will be regularly scheduled times that I will be alone.  

Was I sad to leave my baby behind? Sure. But the overwhelming feeling was one that I had felt before... close to my college graduation. I had to answer a question I hadn’t even had time to ask myself in close to a decade... what am I going to do with my life?

So, knowing my resume-with an 8 year gap in employment- may be less than impressive, I took time to work on my cover letter. What do you think? 

Dear Prospective Employer, 

Though I may not have the advanced degree or computer acumen of many of my competitors. And, though I most likely require a more flexible schedule and more pay as well, I believe I have some unique skills that my co-applicants may not. 

For example, 

I can catch vomit in my bare hands and carry both it and a child 30 feet without spilling a drop.  

Why would this help you? What this illustrates is that I have come to a point in my life where I have close to zero self regard and remarkable problem solving skills. When an issue arises at the office, many may try to shy away. But I will run at the problem and carry that proverbial barf and your company’s good name to safety. 

Next, I have a keen sense of smell illustrated by the fact that I can detect accurately who hath ‘dealt it’ between at least four humans and two dogs. 

Again, you may ask, other than as a party trick, how does this help? Not only in midcheek expulsions, but in all parts of life I have learned to handle and assign culpability with tact and grace. No one wants to be the 'smelt it' tattle tale so to speak, but when someone is around that can spot and handle the guilty party, no matter the crime, with the noblest of ease, parties are more likely to hold themselves accountable and much office shenanigans cease before they can escalate.  

Last, I am virtually unflappable. I have literally been shit on while in the middle of a budgeting phone conversation and checking myself out at a grocery store. I did not stutter in word nor operation. Whatever crisis arise, I will stay calm, collected and dedicated. 

Though you may take pause at the year of my last official employment, I hope you will not forget that in addition to the skills I have already outlined, my ‘off the job’ training also made me proficient in multi-tasking, conflict resolution, and lego extraction. 

Oh, and apparently, my lips have taken on a Christ-like quality in that they can relieve suffering and take away the boo-boos.  Frankly, if you don’t want a Jesus lipped vomit catcher, I fear for the future of your company. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest Regards,