“Days are LONG, but the years are FAST!”
Someone said that phrase to me and I think about how true it is often, especially when I see someone with a baby.
It’s now truer to me as I think about how my sons’ middle and high school years will be over in the blink of an eye.
Their older years seem to be moving so much faster than their earlier ones.
That also means that before I know it, they will be moving into adulthood and I will be entering into another new season.
I LOVE my boys and wouldn’t trade them for anything.
They are the gift that I didn’t know that I needed.
My boys are like a giant mirror to the good and bad that I see in myself and the areas that I still need to work on.
They challenge me and show me God’s love and grace in so many ways.
The idea of childbirth scared me to death (for good reason). I didn’t know if I would be really that good at it, but let’s face it, there is no such thing as perfect parenting.
We’re all just learning as we go and pray that if we try our best, our kids will turn out to be decent human beings who strive to be the best version of themselves.
The show This Is Us has also been challenging me to look at all the sides of the big picture of my own family dynamic.
We are all just trying to do the best we can, coming from our layered backgrounds and complex circumstances.
I learned a lot by observing my mom and hopefully, my kids will observe some positive things from me along the way too.
My mom was from a small town in Eastern Kentucky and she and her older brother and younger sister all went to college to become teachers.
I never really thought of that as a big deal until my sister in law pointed out to me that it can be rare for people from that area to “get off of the mountain.”
To have all three siblings go to college with a father who was a coal miner, was a pretty big deal.
I guess I have to appreciate my grandparents even more because they recognized that there were not a lot of opportunities in their area and they also had to be willing to let their kids go to become more.
All three moved away for jobs several hours away from where they grew up.
My Mom the Artist
My mom was an art teacher at a public high school and later met my dad, who at that time was the woodshop teacher, at the same school…scandalous, I know!
My mom loved art which made her sacrifice even greater when she gave up teaching to bring home my special needs brother from the hospital.
They recommended putting him in a home and she said that she would take him home and love him.
And that’s what she did for his 14 years on earth.
My mom and dad took an even greater risk when they had me a few years later.
Her role as a full-time caretaker to not only a special needs child, made even more complex, with another kid in the mix.
Our house growing up had a finished basement with a small designated art room.
That part of who my mom never died when her roles in life needed to shift.
That room was used as her therapy to deal with life and create from what was still inside her.
She still needed that outlet more than ever.
She would stay up late into the night, crafting and creating, surviving on little sleep.
It was fuel for her soul, no matter what price she would pay for it in the morning as the physical toll and routine of caretaking would begin all over again in a Groundhog Day pattern of sorts.
Back in the ’80s, my mom would have craft shows around the holiday in our home to make a little extra income.
It was also a way to clear her art room of excess inventory.
The thread line through all of the years was that she still created
When my brother died toward the end of my 6th-grade year, she had new challenges.
She was a caretaker for so long and then was dealing with a child transitioning into becoming an independent teenager.
I didn’t want the attention when she now had more time to give it.
My mom didn’t have long before she would find herself caretaking for all of my grandparents through sickness and cancer over the coming years before eventually becoming diagnosed with breast cancer herself.
She did have some light in the midst of those dreary diagnoses when she began teaching art again before her cancer once again consumed her.
Pushing yourself until the end
When cancer came back the final time, it was in my mom’s bones causing excruciating pain.
Her right arm was no longer able to be used. People that my mom knew throughout the years and from our church community would come to visit her as she was confined to a hospital bed in her home that was formerly my brother’s.
They would come to encourage and pray for her and found her to be the one praying and encouraging them.
People would bring meals, flowers, and gifts and some of those would later be subject matter for her art.
I can’t even imagine how trapped she felt in that room as her body was failing her.
I would watch her on visits longingly stare out the window as she would listen to the birds singing each day as she missed out on the outside beauty around her.
Art created with her less dominant hand
Toward her final weeks on earth, she began painting and sketching again.
This time with her left hand.
Her left hand had more talent than my right hand could even dream of.
Those works of art are some of my most treasured pieces in my home.
Not only for the talent but for how they represent perseverance to me up until the very end and not letting go of the gifts that God put inside you.
We can have it all, just not at the same time
At my mom’s funeral, we displayed her canvas artwork on easels lined up on both sides of the isles from her coffin.
There were hundreds of people who came to her visitation and many did not realize that she had this talent until her death.
We had papers where guests could share stories about my mom and one I had never heard was from someone who was inspired to pursue art because of her.
I don’t want my only identity to be a mom because we are more complex than that.
There is more to someone than who they love and care for.
There is no shame in being proud of being a mom, but what happens when the babies have grown and you don’t know who you are without them?
So what is your “thing?”
What is that thing for you that will enhance your life and make your family proud or unveil another dimension of you?
That thing that burns inside you that sometimes can be reduced to only a flicker.
What would happen if you continued to keep it alive, in your own way, as you go through your seasons of life with all of its ups and downs?
My thing has always been “adventure.”
I loved experiencing random adventures as a teenager, and it is still what fuels me as an adult.
Keeping adventure in my life hasn’t always been easy. It has had to go on the back burner many times in my life as well…but it’s still what makes me feel alive again.
My mom was able to share her passion with others and my hope is to continue to share mine whether in person or from afar…. while encouraging and challenging you to pursue yours.
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