Sunscreen and Self Acceptance – Guest Post on Five Kids is a Lot of Kids

Today I’m honored to share a guest post on Beth Woolsey’s blog, Five Kids is a Lot of Kids. Beth is equal parts hilarity and authentic vulnerability. Usually she manages both at the same time. She’s one of my very favorite writers because she’s so real, and she’s one of my favorite humans for the same reason. Check out all the posts on the Authenticity Project. There’s some smart stuff there.

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“Okay, this time without blinking!” she says, her laughter hiding just the tiniest hint of frustration. Pulling out yet another Q-tip, she cleans up the black smears of mascara under my left eye, retouching the concealer she’s carefully applied half a dozen times. My friend seems to have the cosmetic equivalent of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in her arsenal, but even her careful layering of tinted moisturizer, concealer, and some sort of enchanted unicorn powder can’t hide my dark under-eye circles. Apparently they have joined the smile wrinkles and double chin among my permanent, not-to-be-disguised features. It feels like we’ve been at this for hours, her applying my makeup, me blinking, mascara smearing everywhere.  How most women do this every morning before breakfast remains a mystery to me.

Handing me the mascara wand, she tells me to try it myself, that maybe that I can stop the incessant blinking and resulting smearing. I laugh too, hiding just the tiniest bit of my own frustration. I know that I am totally incapable of applying anything in a way that would meet her standards. This friend is a beauty pro. In college, she worked at a department store cosmetic counter. Now she sells high end skincare and makeup in her spare time between raising children, toning up at barre class, and looking effortlessly gorgeous and classy. This is a woman who, in the throes of postpartum exhaustion, somehow managed put on full face makeup every single day. Meanwhile, I spent those new baby days in a sleep-deprived stupor, never quite sure how long it had been since I had brushed my teeth. How we have remained friends is a mystery to us both.

I don’t do makeup. My skincare regimen consists of sunscreen and self acceptance.

It’s not that I never learned how to put makeup on. My mom’s bottle of Maybelline foundation and pots of taupe eyeshadow sat on the bathroom vanity beside her tub of Noxzema.  Each evening she’d religiously wash off the layers she’d put on that morning. She tried to teach me the value of a good base foundation, and I’m sure she’d have taught me how to use the medieval torture device eyelash curler if I wasn’t scared to death of pinching myself. But when all of my preteen friends were begging their moms for the chance to wear lip gloss or applying contraband eyeshadow on the school bus, I just wasn’t interested.

It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of looking pretty, though my inner feminist tells me that if men don’t need it, neither do I. If each of us is created in the image of God, I’m not sure why that image needs a little more blush on the cheeks or sheen on the lips.

The reason I don’t wear makeup is that it feels phony, like I’m trying to look like someone I’m not. It feels like I’m pretending to be prettier than I am, disguising the real, very average me in favor of some costumed, painted version of myself.  It’s not that I mind trying on a new look. My favorite activity as a kid was dressing up as a princess in hand-me-down bridesmaid dresses; I still love that Halloween allows me to try on a new character for an evening. But those are days when it’s clear that I’m pretending to be someone else. Applying makeup feels like playing dress up, and doing that every day feels inauthentic.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to beauty treatments that make a gal look better. I shave my legs. (Oh, shut up, husband, I can hear you laughing. I do shave the bottom half of my legs on occasion.) I straighten my hair, and I’ve had it colored a time or two. I get pedicures with purple sparkly polish, and nothing could be further from my authentic toes than purple sparkle. Heck, last Sunday I squeezed myself into Spanx to smooth out the rolls that three pregnancies have bestowed on my abdomen. If wedging yourself into that kind of misery to look skinny at church isn’t putting on airs, I don’t know what is. Somehow, none of those feel like I’m being inauthentic. Why putting on eyeliner feels wrong and sparkly toes feel perfectly fine I cannot explain. But that doesn’t make it any less true in my mind.

I look back in the mirror, glancing over my shoulder at my friend whose patient smile shows me that she’s willing to clean up my mistakes as many times as it takes. “It’s a big night,” she says. “You want to look your best. You can do this.” I do want to look my best. But I don’t think I can do this.

I bring the wand toward my face, hand shaking a bit, which, let’s face it, really should have been a sign. If my friend, who’s actually been paid to do makeup for others, couldn’t achieve mascara victory, surely my own inexperienced, shaky-handed attempt was going to be far less successful. Slowly, I bring the mascara right to my lashes, close enough to touch but not quite there. I think about putting in contact lenses each morning, the times I’ve actually touched my eyeball without blinking. “You got it,” my friend reminds me. “Just a gentle swish across the lashes, a zig zag as you pull it away.” I touch the brush to my lashes, darkening the tips with just the tiniest bit of mascara.

I don’t blink.

Score!

I go for the other eye. This one is trickier – as a right hander, I have to reach across my face to get to the other eye, partially blocking my view of the mirror. Do I turn the direction of the wand? Change the angle of my wrist? Again, I bring the bristles close to my lashes without touching them. I go in for the kill, gently zig zagging as I drag the wand away. This time, I’m not just hitting the tips. I’m all in, baby. I’m getting all the lash plumping and lengthening and thickening that this little green tube can give.

Another score!

The left eye looks great. Stunning. Lashes out of a magazine ad. Poor right eye, who only got a glancing blow across her lash tips, looks forgotten and weak.

I get cocky.

I go for another layer. Bringing the wand back up to my right eye, I don’t even pause. Holding my eyes open wide, I touch the wand straight to my lashes, doing the zig zag pull, exactly as instructed.

BLINK. A hard blink. Mascara dots and smears are everywhere: on my lid, under my brow, like an arrow pointing right at those those under-eye circles yet again.

I laugh hysterically, trying desperately not to cry and ruin what bit of makeup might be salvageable. My friend pulls the q-tip container back out, her tube of concealer at the ready. She carefully begins to clean up the mess that my overconfidence created.  As she puts on the finishing touches, finally getting the mascara just right, I look at myself in the mirror. I look pretty good, better than usual, actually. I don’t look painted up like someone else, just a better version of me. The real, authentic me.

All those times that I tried to wear makeup, felt phony, and vowed to never touch eyeliner again?  The idea that makeup made me feel inauthentic? The feelings were sincere. But as I look at myself in her perfectly lit magnifying mirror, I start to think that maybe I could be genuine while adding a little color to highlight my cheekbones.

The real reason I still don’t wear makeup?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

from the waist up

“Undress-from-the-waist-up-gown-opens-in-the-front-sit-around-the-corner-until-your-name-is-called,” she recites, and it’s clear that she’s said the three sentences as one single word approximately a billion times already this month. It is October, after all, and the pink awareness campaign is in full force, sending lots of us to the radiology center. I put on the gown which is far too big and join a dozen other women sitting silently in the waiting room around the corner. We are all wearing matching hot pink hospital gowns with pale pink trim, waiting for the same opportunity to have our breasts squeezed into pancakes and shot at with radiation.

I alternate between scrolling through Instagram photos on my phone and staring at the other women sitting around me, most of which are doing the same. At 37, I appear to be among the youngest in the room.  Most seem to be in their 50’s, though a couple of mammogram veterans look closer to their 80’s. From where I sit, they don’t seem any more excited about it than I am. No one talks; no one even makes eye contact with the other women. This makes me feel sad because if there’s anyone who can understand my waiting room anxiety, surely these fellow women get it. But the room is silent, void even of the standard medical office background music. It’s uncomfortably quiet.

I dread the yearly mammogram. I dread it because the scan itself is uncomfortable, but it’s truly not horrible and at least it’s short lived. I dread the feeling of being so exposed, but I’ve nursed 3 children, so it’s not like I’m afraid of showing a bit of breast. Heck, I’ve been known to pump while riding in the passenger seat, so there’s pretty much no one in a 5 county radius that hasn’t see my boobs. What I really hate is the time in the waiting room, the anticipation and expectation of scary results. I always imagine the worst.

I hear the phone call from the doctor, her voice measured and calm. I see my family sitting at the kitchen counter, listening as I explain that I have cancer. I sit as a fly on the wall at my own funeral, watching my husband straighten the bow in my daughter’s hair, my daughter who is so young she will have no memories of me. These pictures flash through my mind so quickly and so fleetingly and so frighteningly that the reasonable, rational side of me can’t even catch them, can’t stop to tell them that they are ridiculous. Possible, of course, but unlikely.

I look back at the dozen women in the waiting room, wondering if they too are silently picturing their own bearing of bad news or their own funerals. They all appear to be just scrolling through facebook as though mammogram day is just another day. Names get called, women go back for their scans, other silent women fill their seats. One nervously walks in giggling, “Oh here’s where the party is!” and sits beside me.  I chuckle, nervously adding “Jump on in; the water’s fine!” I desperately hope that I look more calm than I am. We resume our silent unwillingness to make eye contact with anyone else.

One woman comes in with what appears to be her daughter and we silently shuffle seats so they can sit together. She is clearly not one of us because she’s not wearing the stylish gown. Instead, she’s donning a white t-shirt emblazoned with “2 blessed 2 b stressed.” A dark haired woman across the room begins grinning and asks “Do you think you’ve ever been a telegraph from God?” The woman nods yes, mumbling “Sometimes, maybe.”  We all glance up from our phones, surprised to hear conversation. The dark-haired woman says, “I was worried about being late to work because I’ve been sitting here over an hour and I hate doctors anyway and I am seriously stressed. But your shirt is just what I needed. Thank you.” We nod together, and for a moment, I wonder if there might be a spark of connection. But a minute later, we are back to the phone scrolling. Like so many others have asked in essay after essay, I wonder how it’s possible that social media have destroyed our capacity to be social.

My thoughts shift from what songs I want at my funeral to Brene Brown. I’ve seen her TED talk dozens of times, read her writings until her theory on human connection through shared vulnerability is firmly cemented in my mind.  I want so desperately to find a moment of connection in this room.  I want my mom with me to hold my hand, but since that’s not happening this side of heaven, I crave someone else to understand my fear. To show that they understand. In a waiting room full of such intense vulnerability, I wonder how to express my own. Do I just start speaking in the silent room, asking if anyone else worries?  “Hey, anybody else here imagining their own funeral?!  Ha ha!” I recognize the crazy in this, so I just go along with the silence.

Another woman walks in, limping a bit as if she has a sore back or maybe a bum knee. She’s full-figured, her large breasts clearly swaying under the gown without a bra to contain them. She’s clearly the oldest in the room and is a commanding presence. She plops down and begins loudly, “Can you believe the waiting in this place?!  I mean, I sat out in the first waiting room for 30 minutes and you people look like you’ve been sitting here for days! And you know how awful these places are? Last time, I went to to the hospital across town, and that woman working there that day did NOT want to be at work. She just took that damn machine and slammed it down on my tit!  Can you believe it? I told her, ‘If you don’t wanna work here, then you need to get yourself on home because I’m not gonna be treated like that.’ Shooowee. She slammed that down and it hurt. I should have called her boss. I should have called the news people ’cause she doesn’t want to end up on the 5 o’clock news for causing breast cancer with her machine. I should have told somebody because it hurt like hell! Ain’t nobody need to be working there that don’t care any more about patients than that. We don’t have to stand for it.” We begin to giggle, fueling her enthusiasm for telling the story. “Nope, she shouldn’ta been working there. She was an angry woman, that girl, and you should have heard the SLAM of that machine down on my tit!” By this point, I’m cracking up at her story, enjoying the genuine laughter. Other women begin chuckling and listening to her tirade.

I break in with, “Hey, don’t scare the new kids!  We are already imagining our own horror stories.” She doesn’t seem to hear me – or maybe the matriarch of mammograms does hear but decides to keep going.

“They don’t even have good gowns there! We had to wear those ugly blue things with the fake flowers on them, just like we were deliverin’ a damn baby in the hospital. At least these are pretty and pink, right? But you know, I don’t much care what we wear, as long as the girl don’t slam that machine down. They gotta be gentle, you know?  She got tits too. She sure wouldn’t want somebody slamming that machine on hers.  Ain’t right to do it to people all day if you don’t want it done to yourself, right?”

Now we are all howling with laughter. Together. It echoes through the room, until it fades to silence again. As the moment of shared pain and shared laughter fades, and yet again, the rest of us glance down to the phones in our laps, I feel sad. I wonder what kind of connection I’m looking for, whether it’s even possible for the company of strangers to make me hate the waiting and worrying any less. I wonder if this woman who never learned the art of distraction by smart phone has something to teach me about finding real connection. Has my generation forgotten so quickly how to make small talk? Have social media made us forget to be social?

I’m called back for my scan, and I smile as the technician is as gentle as she can be. I finish, put my clothes back on, and toss my pink hospital gown back into the laundry pile for someone else to wear tomorrow. As I walk out into the warm October sunshine, I see the matriarch hobbling out in front of me. A taxi is waiting for her, and I trot ahead to open the door of the cab. She smiles, recognizing me as part of her waiting room audience, and offers a genuine “Thank you shug!”  I want to tell her that I’m the grateful one, that her moment of levity saved me, that she inspired me to put down the phone.  I need more words than can fit in the goodbye. She waves enthusiastically as we head our separate ways.

what the heck is NaNoWriMo?

When I embarked on this “I wanna be a writer” craziness, I really had no idea what I wanted to write or who I wanted to write for.  It felt like everyone I enjoyed reading had their niche – blogger or memoirist or novelist or essayist or Twitterist (yes, that’s a word – I looked it up).  And I’m sure to really make it big, you have to find that niche.  But I’m not niche-ing yet. I’ve got too many interests and too many ideas. And I keep running across this NaNoWriMo thing, in spite of my leaning toward creative nonfiction.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, where a group of equally insane people come together to write a NOVEL (like a whole, 50K word novel!) in the 30 days of November.  It comes out just shy of 1700 words per day. Every. Single. Day. We’ve got Thanksgiving in there, and that casserole bonanza is gonna slow me down for at least one day.

What have I got to lose?  I’m in.

Here’s the thing, friends.  I’ve not written fiction since I was a little girl. I’ve never even come close to writing a single work that’s 50,000 words. And I’ve only explored Scrivener enough to become really dangerous. It’s a lot of new in 30 days.

But the thing that really inspired me to strive for this ridiculously ambitious goal was this blog post: The Truth of What it Takes to Be a Writer. And it really is just as simple as putting words on the page.  The real reason I’m attempting this is to force myself to write.  To write daily. To write better through practicing often. To write in new and challenging ways. To write SOMETHING.

I’m thankful to have a few friends along for the ride.  We’ll be meeting weekly, babysitter in the basement, to get words on the page and cheer each other on. One has named us Ladies Who Write, and in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I think we should become LaWhoWri.  Have I taken this creative inspiration too far?  Yes. Yes, indeed.

Are you a fellow WriMo?  Find me. I need more buddies!

What makes you a writer?

I smell Nutella muffins from the coffee shop on the other side of the lobby.  I come here to the Y once a week, dropping my kids in the childcare then setting up my laptop at the tall tables in the lobby to write.  I’ve committed to using these two hours each week to make this writing dream closer to a reality. But those muffins smell amazing. I should go get one.

NO!  You have 2 uninterrupted hours of time to write!  You must write.  You should Google “blog writing prompts.”  Words on the page.  Get something down.

But Nutella muffins…

Writing! Nutella!  Writing!  Nutella!  And whose bright idea was it to cook amazing smelling Nutella muffins in the LOBBY of the GYM?!

Sometimes the words don’t come easily.  They simply aren’t there.  I read endless books and blog posts about how to be a writer.  I want this so much, to be able to pour my thoughts into the world, to pull together nouns and verbs and adjectives in that perfect pattern that gives a window into my world.  I want my little world to mean something to the larger world. And sometimes, I get nowhere.  They say to write about what’s around you.  If only there was a way to describe the incredible smell of this lobby.

I can resist the temptation no longer.  Damn.  They are actually cooking in the oven at this moment.  When I ask how much longer until they’re ready, the barista tells me they’ve risen “this much” and still have “this much” left to go.  I don’t usually measure cooking times using the space between my finger and thumb, but I get the idea.

Ideas appear freely at 3 a.m. when I’m fighting the ever-present insomnia.  The words flow then, rolling around in my head then coming together in the perfect sequence just before I finally drift off. I never catch them. Inspiration comes in the shower.  And let’s face it, that’s not exactly a convenient time for putting pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard.

How do writers really do this?

new directions

Behold, the dropping of big news:

I left my job on Wednesday.

(Let me let that sink in a moment.)

Yes, I left my job as Director of the Goodnight Scholars Program. The one I loved, my dream job in academia. The job where I was respected and appreciated by the best students on campus. The job with wonderful colleagues who worked hard and truly cared about students and their success. As I sit here writing this, the only thing going through my mind is “What the hell was I thinking?!”
But here’s what I was thinking:

This kid wants to play hide-and-seek, and I always say no.
hide and seek

This one desperately wants me to volunteer for Farm Days at his school, but I just don’t have time.

And this one?  Oh my word.

I know time flies, but I am completely incapable of understanding how we went from newborn to this in approximately 5.2 seconds.
This has been brewing for a while – maybe since she was born, maybe even longer. I tried to find the elusive “balance,” and I had the ideal situation that any working parent dreams of. I had flexible work hours, a part time schedule, and the best childcare situation on the planet. But I became more and more bothered by the time that I was missing out on with them, and more convicted that I needed to do something different to capture this time. I finally came to the realization that I can do it all, but I can only do a halfway job of any of it. So I’m stepping off the higher ed treadmill for a few years until I’ve got my feet more securely under me.

I am planning to go back to grad school.  I’m halfway done with my Master’s, but I’m not sure that program is really what I want anymore.  Of course, I’m not really sure what I *do* want, so I am going to spend a little time figuring out which direction I want to head. I know that this isn’t the end to my working career, but I am really unsure what the next chapter holds. I do hope it’s back at NC State, and I fully expect that it will be. But in my heart, I need an outlet to create, whether that is writing, photography, cardmaking, or crafting. I am re-energized when I make things with my hands, and that desire has been ignored for a long time.  Who knows what might happen when my creative juices start flowing again?

Saying goodbye to the people I love at State has been so hard. My students threw me a going away celebration which was just perfect.  There were lots of hugs, some favorite stories from back in the day, and a goodbye video which created the perfect mix of laughs and tears. One of my students is Native American, and she performed a smudging ceremony, which I had never seen. She wrapped me in a blanket as a sign of honor, then smudged me using smoke to cleanse my spirit for the next phase of my journey. It was beautiful and touching and meaningful. And I cried some more.

I’m in the center with the blanket around me as a shawl.

I am not stretching when I say that this was one of the hardest decisions of my life.  I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom, and frankly, I’m not sure that identity really fits me, even when I’ve chosen that path for myself, for this moment. I’ve already lined up some very part-time work that I can do from home during nap time. And I’ve promised my scholars that I won’t be a stranger, so I hope to surprise them at some events here and there. Maybe I can finally publish that book I’ve written in my head a thousand times over.

So far, it feels a little like playing house. I folded 6 loads of laundry yesterday, and I had the fleeting “You quit your dream job for THIS?!” moment. And of course the answer is no. I’m not sugar coating the hard work or expecting that every day will be filled with picturesque moments of my children frolicking at the pumpkin patch. But I do believe, in my heart of hearts, that this is the right choice for this season. I can’t even count how many people have said, “You will never regret this time.” Most of the time, I believe them.

the ugly side of pretty

I hate “life is perfect” blogs.  Frequent blog readers know the kind of mommy blog I’m talking about – the kind that is all rainbows and unicorns and sunshine and “I am blessed; Thank You God!” and perfectly composed pictures of adorable, well-dressed children.  The kind that say things like “Oh, my life isn’t totally perfect!  I haven’t dusted in 2 whole weeks, but I just decided to leave that dust bunny under the bed so that we could go outside and dance in the rain!” Y’all know that my household is less tiny-dust-bunny and more gigantic clutter elephant.  It’s less dancing in the rain and more slogging through mud puddles, then wiping muddy feet on the couch, the carpet, and the comforter.  I try to be honest about my life’s messes, both literal and figurative, because I very much want this blog to be genuine and authentic.  I want to accurately portray real life, in all its mix of beauty and ugly.

And yet.

I also want my life to look pretty and perfect and polished.  I want to come across to the world as someone who’s got her shit together.  I don’t, of course, but we all want to look that way, right?  I want clothes that make me look skinny, even if that requires heavy duty Spanx.  I want to dress my kids in adorable matching outfits.  I want everyone to hold hands and behave in public, even when we are occasionally tearing each other’s hair out behind closed doors.  I want just ONE photo where everyone looks at the camera, smiles, and no one has visible bodily fluid on their clothing.  Appearances matter.  They shouldn’t, of course, but we all know that they do.  And now and again, I want to appear like I am doing something right.

Welcome to Mother’s Day 2014, where I display to the world just how not together my shit is.

Since my mom died, Mother’s Day has been really hard for me.  I want to hide under the covers and avoid people, and then I’m pissed when I don’t get treated like a queen.  I get annoyed at the stream of “My mom is the bestest in the world!” on facebook.  I get angry when I see the pictures of 4 generations together.  I want that for my family.  I want this for my kids:

Me, my mom, Appie, and Mama Mildred.
Don’t those outfits just scream “Late 70’s?”
So in an effort to seek out joy and turn Mother’s Day back into a day of celebration, I decided to have Meg’s baby dedication on Mother’s Day.  Sounds lovely – present her to God surrounded by our family and church community on a day designed to celebrate the love of mothers.  Lots of bad ideas sound lovely in theory, don’t they?  Here’s a tip – never put more pressure on a day that has more than enough already.  (Seriously, read that link.  Beth W. nails it.)
It started out okay.  The boys treated me like royalty, fixing a lovely breakfast and giving me flowers from the yard (even if I had to hint on the flowers!).  I got a beautiful necklace with all three kids’ names engraved on it.  It was just what I wanted (I had given a hint in the past, but that just means he payed attention!).  Everyone got dressed and we made it to church only 15 minutes late.  For half a second I thought we were going to pull off a miracle – that we could make it all go smoothly.  I had this brief vision that Mother’s Day could be redeemed.
Enter TheGirlWhoWillNotNap.  She didn’t take a nap in Sunday School, but we still had plenty of time to rest before going into the worship service.  We fed her.  She pooped, but kept it in the diaper.  We got her dressed in her beautiful gown.  She spit up, but it wasn’t too obvious.  We waited patiently outside in the hallway, where she and her brother were, if not complete angels, at least presentable.

And then.  Then.  It was time for us to walk into the sanctuary.

And the little miss began to let out an ear-splitting wail that could be heard throughout the entire city.  And she sustained said wail for, oh, approximately the remainder of the service.  Oh yes. I have seen a lot of baby dedications, but I have never seen one where the kid screams the entire time.  It was relentless.  When the minister went to hold her, it was as if she intentionally turned and screeched into the mic.  People cringed.

And it wasn’t just her performing for the crowd.  The boys danced around like it was a stage.  Luke attempted the same forward-roll-down-the-aisle maneuver that his brother had attempted 4 years earlier at his dedication.  Jay wouldn’t stop pulling on Meg’s dress, wrapping it around himself like a scarf.  They did anything and everything they could to call some attention to themselves – which would have actually been nice if it had helped the congregation attend to something other than the Tiny Screaming One.  It didn’t work.  Everyone who was willing to make eye contact gave us a look of such pity.  And the only thing that went through my mind was “No!  This is not how I wanted it to go!  This was not how I planned it!  I want a DO OVER!”

I know.  I KNOW.  I heard it all afterwards.  “It doesn’t matter, really.”  “She was just auditioning for the choir!” “You wanted to raise a daughter who isn’t afraid to voice her opinions in church, and she sure can speak her mind.”  “People love to see babies in church, even when they cry.”  “She was just making a joyful noise.”  (Actually, it wasn’t at all joyful, for her or any of us.)  I heard all of those things after the service, and I tried to laugh.  I even said some of them myself to make it seem like I wasn’t so disappointed.  People tried to joke with me about it.  I smiled.  We took pictures.  I fake smiled some more.

But if I’m really honest, I am so sad.  The only thing that anyone has said to me about it since had to do with her screaming.  No one mentioned her beautiful dress or what a special thing it was to dedicate her on Mother’s Day.  No one gave me the pleasantries about what a nice service it was.  No one even gave me the sympathetic “Wish your mom could have been here for this beautiful occasion.”  No one noticed anything about the service except her powerful set of lungs.  Afterwards, I asked my 4 year old friend what she thought.  Her response?

“Well, it was pretty much a disaster.”

My thoughts, exactly, kiddo.  Unfortunately, those were my thoughts exactly.  (Direct quote, y’all.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.)  She did give me an extra long hug, though.  My fake smiles couldn’t trick a perceptive little girl who somehow knew I was nursing a bruised ego and slightly broken heart.

I know that there are real problems in the world, and if a baby who cries in church (even one who cries so loudly and so screechingly that she ruins her own special day!) is my biggest problem, well then I’m pretty whiny.  If two rambunctious boys is the worst part of my Mother’s Day church experience, I’ve got it pretty good. But still, I’m gonna whine. I had envisioned it as a special day, and it won’t be remembered that way, either for me or for anyone else who saw it.  And I’m not going to pretend I’m okay with that because I am not. I am disappointed. I am sad and disappointed.

And then, after a teary-eyed email to my wonderful angel of a friend where I finally admitted how bummed I was, I got this reply:

People will remember the real baby with the real family who made themselves vulnerable enough to stand before their church family and pledge to point this precious baby girl toward the goodness of God in a world where few things go the way we plan.

Yes.  That.  She may be the only one who actually remembers it that way.  But I’m going to pretend that’s the case for everyone who was in the pews yesterday morning.  I’m going to look again at the family picture I posted at the top.

I’m going to ignore the fact that Jay appears to be wearing Meg’s dress, and Luke seems to be flossing.  My smile is fake, but it’s a smile, and we are all, in fact, looking in the general vicinity of the camera.  Maybe the chaos and the perfection are just two sides of the same coin.