A Bit of Sunshine

Please join us in welcoming Michele to Mama Might!

When my husband started graduate school a year and half ago, I remember standing in the door frame of our new apartment with my six month old in my arms as he left for school the first day. A feeling of dread washed over me as I realized that I was stuck in 650 square feet with a baby. I had nothing on my agenda. It was blank for not just for the day but for weeks.

After a few long days, I realized a few things. If I didn’t get out of bed, no one would care. If my house was a mess, no one would see it. If my hair didn’t get brushed or if lunch consisted of eating Cheerios out of the box, no one would ever know. There weren’t cookies brought over by neighbors. There were no lunch dates or play dates. I went to a few church activities but would come home in tears begging my husband to move. There was a little extra sting because even my sweet husband was busy with his new school. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t see what my life was like at home when he was gone (which was most of the time). I had a chronically sick, crying baby and nowhere to go.

I felt completely invisible.

Now, I’m not one to sit and mope. I’m a generally happy person and I believe that life is what you make of it. After six weeks of sitting around, I went and got a nanny job with the only requirement being that my baby could come with me. Over the next year, my daughter and I created a happy life. We worked in other people’s homes. We went to flea markets and the beach. She and I explored farmer’s markets and libraries on weekends. I set goals for myself, such as walking outside for at least thirty minutes a day and to get rid of any possession that I didn’t want to clean. Through my adventures and goals, my life turned into something that was uniquely created by me, and I was enjoying it.

The thing that I kept pushing in the back of my mind was we were not at home. It was still true that if our beds were not made and dishes had not been done, that no one would notice. If we did not go out of the house, no one would care or miss us. And while I was aware of it, decided that I was perfectly okay with that because I was happy.

Then one day this all changed. A lady advertized on Freecycle that she needed a blender. I had a blender that was only used for making milkshakes, and I thought, “Eh, why not, she can have it. I don’t like cleaning it anyway.” I emailed her back telling her that she could come pick it up the next day at 2:00 PM. I thought that would be a great time. My daughter and the baby I am currently watching in my home were both usually napping by then. It shouldn’t be a problem.

Famous last words, right? I think it’s needless to say, but the next day did not go according to plan. The little guy I was watching got his first teeth in that day and would not stop crying. My daughter took advantage of this and decided to do all the things that her toddler mind wanted to do that I never would let her. When I put her down for her nap, she put her feet up against the wall and kicked it repeatedly. At one point, I realized one of the thumps was a bit off rhythm, and I realized, “Oh! There is someone at the door.” It was the lady from Freecycle, and I had completely forgotten. I opened the door frazzled and ran to the kitchen, grabbed the blender, and shoved it in her arms. She was trying to thank me and explain that she needed it to can peaches. I forced a smile and told her that it was nap time and sent her on her way.

A few hours later when I regained a bit more control, I felt so embarrassed that I treated her that way! I was so rude. I set her a quick email apologizing and then forgot about the incident (probably as my toddler shoved a roll of toilet paper down the toilet).

Exactly two weeks later, there was a knock on the door. I was surprised to see the lady from Freecycle standing at the door again. She was standing at the door looking nervous. She said to me, “Michele, I brought this for you. Thanks so much for giving me your blender. I really needed it to can all the salsa from my garden.” She then gave me a bag telling me it was for my baby and then left.

I opened the bag and inside was a beautiful yellow blanket with a card. The card said, “Here’s a blanket I made for your daughter. I hope it brings a little sunshine to your day. I know how hard it is to be a mom, but what you are doing is important. Best regards.”

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I put down the card and sobbed. The feeling of validation and love I felt in that moment was overwhelming. Even now as I type this tears are falling from eyes when I think of the tenderness of that moment. This random stranger came to my home and for the few minutes she was there she got a glimpse of my lonelier part of motherhood. She saw the mess. She saw my wrinkled and stained shirt. She saw me trying to comfort an upset baby on my hip with my toddler in another room needing my attention. She saw me trying, and she decided to acknowledge me as a person. She even remembered my name.

I don’t know much about her, other than her name and email, but I often wonder if she’s a mother. I would love to know how she learned to be so perceptive and to reach out. I learned from her how much one gesture can feed another person’s soul. I made a new resolution that day to be more like her- to keep both eyes open and to not let fear get in the way of reaching out to people. After all, you never know who is feeling invisible and needs a little reassurance that they exist and are important.

MicheleMichele is a stay-at-home mom of an almost two year old in Princeton, NJ. She spends her time figuring out how to live a fulfilling life while her husband goes to graduate school. Some of her current interests are trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, Futurama, RIE parenting, and Waldorf schooling. She is on a first name basis with her local librarians and cupcake bakers and can be found reading some random non-fiction on the children’s floor on Thursdays afternoons. You can read more of her life at her own blog, Aisle 11.

 

My True Love Letter

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world…Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

My husband has never written me a love letter.

Over the ten years that we have been a couple, nine of which we have spent as husband and wife, I have never received a love letter from him.  He has purchased beautiful cards on (almost) every birthday, anniversary, mother’s day, and Christmas we have shared.  Most of them have brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.  Many have made me smile, and a couple of them have made me laugh out loud.  Some of them have been short, sweet, and simple in their delivery of a loving message and some have covered three sides of card-stock with words so beautiful that I can’t believe they are meant for me.   Although I do not doubt that my husband has chosen these cards deliberately and with great care, they are nonetheless cards filled with words written by someone other than the man giving them to me.

I have every card I have ever received from him.  I keep them in a clear plastic tote next to our filing cabinet, and the fire-safe box that holds important documents, the kids’ ultra-sound photos, our wedding video, and three tiny wisps of baby hair in varying shades of brown.

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I have hinted at the idea of a love letter at various times over the decade we have spent by each others’ side.  I wrote one to him in hopes that he would write one back.  I have come right out and asked him to write me a letter.  He has yet to pick up a pen, sit down with a sheet of paper, and put his feelings for me into words that I can read over and over again and cherish in a special box for the rest of my life.  He has never written me a love letter.

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He has spent hundreds of hours transforming the woods that pressed against our house, making me feel isolated and anxious, into a gorgeous yard where I feel relaxed and truly home.

He has held my hand at funerals, gotten out of his seat to find a tissue, and then helped me wipe my tears so my mascara doesn’t smear.

He has gone out for Honey Nut Cheerios, in his pyjamas, at eleven o’clock at night.  Without a single disparaging comment directed towards his very pregnant, and very unreasonable, wife.

He has stood by my bedside, holding my hand, offering sips of water, tracking down pink popsicles, and whispering words that kept me calm and helped me focus three times as I laboured babies into our lives.

He has tucked our boys into bed at night so gently and sweetly that I have stood in the hallway outside their door with tears in my eyes from the joy of having a man like him as the father of my children.

He has called out a sweet greeting to our tiny daughter as I bring her down the stairs and into the kitchen where he has been making breakfast for the boys, every morning since she’s been born.

He has thoughtfully offered insight after listening to millions of my words, tumbling out of my mouth at mach speed, more times than I care to remember.  He has held me and said, “I understand”, more times than I can count.

He has forgiven me over and over and over and over.

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He is kind.  He is not jealous.  He never thinks of himself.  He does not get angry.  He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He has come home to me every single day for ten years.

He has never written me a love letter.

Instead, my husband has given me his whole life.  Every choice he makes is largely driven by his decision to love and provide for us.

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Every time he wipes up a milk spill, every time he offers me a smile at the end of a long day, every arm tossed over my shoulders in the middle of the night, every cold, dark trip to the emergency room with a feverish child, every financial sacrifice he makes for the sake of our future, every piece of toast he gets up to butter so I can have ten more minutes in bed, every phone call I get from him while he’s at work, every flower he sends to me from the backyard in the hands of one of our sons, every time he drives our loaded mini-van to church on Sunday morning, every time he kisses us goodnight, every time he laughs with me after a rough week, he adds to the manuscript he has been working on since the day he asked me to share his life with him.

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His life is the love letter he writes to me every single day.  And when I take the time to read it, it changes me from a woman who longs for words written on paper, to a woman who knows what it means to read love in every act, every step, every moment of a life lived together.

**Shout out to Lisa-Jo Baker for writing the beautiful post that was my inspiration for this one!**

A Gift for This Year

Every year when our church celebrates Epiphany, the ushers stand at the front of the church holding baskets filled with little slips of paper. On each brightly-coloured paper is a word, a gift that God wants to give each of us that year. Before the words are drawn by the members of the community, they have been prayed over by our pastor, asking that we will be guided to draw that word which will show us what God wants to give us, or a word that shows us how He wants us to grow.

My word for 2013 was happiness. I laughed a little when I read it, then teared up a little, and finally just said, “I’ll take it.”

A little history:
2012 was not a good year for me. (2011 wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows either, but let’s just talk about last year for now.) 2012 is going down in history as a year of loss for me. In February, I started to lose my hair, and my the middle of May I’d been forced to shave what was left in hopes of starting over.

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In July I lost my maternal grandmother, a woman I’d been extremely close with through my entire life. I was her first grandchild, and my Princess was her first great-grandchild. Baby Belle was given my Nana’s name as her second name, in honour of a woman who taught me so much about loving and leading a family.

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Then in December, I miscarried at 11 weeks. We were crushed. Much like the loss of my hair, this loss really struck me as a woman. I felt like an utter failure as a mother, and I mourned the loss of our baby very deeply. We named him Thomas.

So when I pulled happiness from the basket, I was relieved. I thought that was God’s way of letting me know I was in for an easier, happier year.

And now we’re nearing the end of June, and already I’ve begun to lose my hair again, I lost an aunt and wasn’t able to travel to be at home for the funeral, and – by far the worst – my closest friend recently lost her two-year-old in a tragic accident. Once again, it feels like my year is being defined by loss after loss.

So where is my happiness in all of this? When do I get the easy-breezy, carefree happiness I thought I was promised on Epiphany?

Oh, it’s there. The happiness, that is, not the easy-breezy part. The grief and the sadness threaten to swallow it at times, eclipse it at others. Those dark emotions are the proverbial squeaky wheels. They demand attention, they cloud my vision, impair my judgment, and threaten to drag me down.

But the happiness will not be defeated. My happiness comes from above, from Him who created me. I delight in my beautiful children, who teach me daily to have even more trust and reckless abandon in the arms of my God. I am happy with my husband, who serves our family so selflessly, a glimpse of what Mary’s life with St. Joseph must have been like. I am happy to be held up and supported by family and incredible friends who share love and encouragement at every opportunity. I am happy in our home, living out my childhood “dream job”.

I suppose instead of the happiness just coming easily, the gift I’ve been given is instead the ability to find the happiness. To search for and cling to those threads of happiness that wind their way through my days, through the mundane and even tragic. The happiness isn’t as loud or as feisty as the sorrow, but it’s bigger. It’s brighter. I clutch it tightly to my breast. It sustains me and moves me forward. Thank you, Jesus!

~Jaclyn