Making women friends is hard; doing life without them is harder.

Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment.  It is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.
-Brené Brown

Stepping out of my comfort zone to befriend another woman can be so nerve wracking sometimes.  I suddenly feel insecure and question whether said person even wants to get to know me better.  My mind fills with doubt…they’re so much younger/older than me…they’re so much more successful that me…they have no children and I have 5, what in the world would we have in common…they “outrank” me on every level:  education, career successes, life….etc.   Reruns of every previous interaction with this person plays on repeat in my mind while I try to sort through the pieces.   Eventually I remember that I have yet to regret reaching out to every woman I have.  Eventually I remember every solid, wonderful friendship that has developed from putting myself out there and taking a chance on rejection.  Eventually I see the flourishing friendships that continue to lift me up and teach me more than I ever knew I needed to learn.
Soon I hush the negative voices in my head…send that Facebook message, text, or verbal invitation to get together with me.
I can not adequately verbalize the importance of the women friendships in my life.  These women guide me spiritually, professionally, emotionally.  They deliver freezer meals to my home for a night that I may need a break from cooking.  They visit my children in the hospital when they’re sick.  They send me heart-shaped brownies in the mail.  They bake me a birthday cake. They watch my children when I have a last minute appointment.  They are there at every milestone in my life, and my kiddos.  They diet with me, and encourage me every step of my journey.  They share their talents and God-given gifts with me and ask me to share mine with them.  They drop off gifts for me and my kids, that just “reminded them of me”.  They check-in with me when it’s been awhile.  They send me cards, funny memes, sweet quotes, and bible verses.  They take the time to listen or talk me through the difficult times, funny times and sweet times.  They offer to pray with me.  They love me.  I visualize these women hand in hand, surrounding me with so much love and support that I am nearly blinded by the light.  These women are a warm smile, a comforting voice and a safe place to be who God intended me to be.
I have intentionally guarded my marriage by investing in female, and not male, friendships.  I have improved my marriage by leaning on my friends, as well as my husband.  His shoulders shouldn’t have to bare the weight of being my only emotional support…he already bares the weight of being my lover, provider and co-parent.
To every woman out there reading this today, you have more than likely brought something special to my life, a lesson or a blessing.   To every woman reading this today, take that leap, hush the voices, be vulnerable and open to trusting another woman.  Keep your expectations low, but your standards high.  Reach out to women that you feel with lift you up.  Invest in women that sincerely want the best for you and your family.   It can bless your life in so many ways.

 

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2016 Howard Family Recap

I’m always reminiscent this day of the year.  I think of the last year, highlighting the good and the bad that stick out in my mind and touch my heart.  2016 has challenged me in new ways that I wouldn’t, and frankly couldn’t, have ever expected.  It has been a year… a year of revelations, and scares, and learning to trust in God in big and small ways.
I joke that I have my family tight in a “happy-safe-family-bubble” wrapping my momma bear arms around them to protect them from the outside world, the sometimes scary and harmful world.  I do, and I have for many, many years.  2016 provided us, me with many opportunities to grow and learn to let go.  To loosen my tight grip on my family…to learn that nothing is really in my control at all.  To literally feel my heart stop from fear and anxiety of the unknown.  To pray more than I’ve ever prayed in all of the years of my life, collectively.  This year was definitely not ALL scary and hard lessons.  It was wonderful and busy and challenging.  Here’s a recap:

Kennedy:  became a high schooler,  made the cheerleading squad, wore a boot on a foot for 6 weeks, got her school permit (it’s all fun and games until you’re sitting in the passenger seat with your teen driving! 🙂 ), felt the heartache of her first major crush/best guy friend move 800 miles away, learned to kayak, volunteered at church, swam in a mountain stream,   became the city’s most coveted babysitter,  first overnight in the hospital, went to her first high school dance, survived her first real “finals week”,  cried a lot, laughed more,  had a tonsillectomy-which resulted in a very hard recovery and some time in the ICU, and a revelation of a serious health problem not known of before (We’ve been referred to Children’s hospital for tests so we will know more regarding this chronic problem soon.), spent 3 weeks healing and laying around, spent countless hours on Netflix, spent her year loving on her baby sisters and being Momma’s best assistant.

Konnor:  new school, became a 7th grader, played on the school football team, became a teenager, filled our freezer with deer meat, grew out of every piece of clothing he owned, did 1.3 million bottle flips, tried new sports, made new friends, made lots of jokes, pranked us more times than I can count, got his first social media account, began volunteering at church doing sounds and lights for church service, spent countless hours in the field with his dad and Uncle Brandon hunting, hiked up a mountain, swam down a mountain fall, got glasses, won the Gold in 4h shooting sports, officially outgrew Halloween, effectively dodged 95% of all my photos.

Karson:  said goodbye to Morton school, started new school,  made Sing-Around-Nebraska, caught more fish than any other Howard, dabbed daily, campaigned for student council, won spirit day at his new school, made new friends, played basketball, won $200 for his salesmanship in a school fundraiser, lost a lot of teeth,  made a lot of Musicallys, made the quiz bowl team, started a postcard collection, didn’t break any of his electronics!, bought his first rifle, played Joseph in the Christmas musical at church, charmed every adult he knows with his infamous hugs and contagious smile.

Kollyns:  started her last year of preschool at a new school, cut (and donated) 10″ off of her hair, confirmed that she is, in fact, part mermaid at the waterpark, ate mustard nearly every day, fell in love with bacon, went to the ball with her Daddy, colored 1000 pictures, convinced Daddy to keep his beard, learned to read,  effectively climbed every door jam in our home, dressed in “gyn-nastics” leotards every day, refused any hairstyle but a ponytail, fell in love with lipstick, learned to speak in a British accent, colored herself blue with a marker, shot a BB gun for the first time, went hiking and kayaking for the first time,  cracked a lot of jokes, became cousin Amber-obsessed, giggled for days.

 

Khloe:  potty-trained, gave up her binky, cut 6 inches off of her hair, started preschool, graduated out of the nursery at church, clung to her Mommy 80% of the 24 hours a day, consumed ranch with every meal-every day, fell madly in love with Peppa Pig and all of her family and friends, learned the lyrics to the entire Trolls Movie soundtrack in 3 days flat, danced, and sang, and demanded everyone’s attention while she did so, gave so many hugs and kisses, had her first school picture day, threw her first throw-herself-down-screaming-fit in public,  consumed more popsicles than humanly possible, finally started to grow and get taller!, got a best friend (besides her sister) – Harper

Jeremy:  worked his tail off at work, did a little fishing, a lot of hunting, outfitted our family with kayaks, took us on a great vacation in South Dakota, tried to undo the years of damage to his back and spent a lot of time at the doctor this year for pain management for lower lumbar disc issues, grew a legit beard, taught our oldest to drive, taught Karson to shoot, smoked a lot of meat, spoiled me daily with little reminders of his love for me, poured a lot of beers, kissed a lot of babies, was diagnosed with a serious heath problem, saw more doctors this year than in the last decade combined, advocated for gun rights, watched a lot of football, cheered on his kiddos at their sporting and music events, encouraged me, ran his business successfully.

Me:  started back to college after 15 years, snuggled Khloe to sleep every single night, drove 500 miles to be with my best friend as they laid her brother to rest,  spent a lot of time with power tools and paint, took care of a lot of sick kiddos, studied countless hours, officially coined myself a professional Barbie hair braider, started a blog, taught my first official door hanger party, co-coordinator for MOPS, applied to nursing school, judged a beauty pageant, taught Sunday school at church, made new friends, loved on old friends, took a lot of pictures, sent my last baby off to preschool, cried a lot, smiled more, spent a lot of quiet time with the Lord, learned to say NO, learned to accept the chaos of such a large family, learned so much about the healthcare system and how to advocate for my family, paid a lot of bills, got a Suburban, met Glennon Doyle Melton, hiked up a mountain with a toddler on my back, accepted broken relationships, chauffeured kids to many events, walked in a mountain stream, swam in a hot spring, learned to step outside of my comfort zone, fell back in love with Gilmore Girls.

While we live a pretty charmed life, 2016 certainly wasn’t without its hard times.   Here’s to carrying the perspective gained and lessons learned into this new year.  May I always have eyes to see the love and blessings surrounding me.  I’m so thankful for all of the gifts in my life.  May this year find you renewed and refreshed. ❤  Thank you for your love and support this year.

Our Unlikely Love Story

Spring of 2001.
I found myself 19 and pregnant.  I found myself questioning my current relationship because of this pregnancy forcing a forever commitment.  I knew in my heart that leaving him was the right decision for me, but what about the baby?!  I followed my heart.  I cried for weeks.  I broke it off.  I cried more.
I moved into a tiny, shady one bedroom apartment, above a noisy bar.  I forced myself into solitude.  I forced myself into a quiet, uncomfortable space to figure out the predicament I had gotten myself into.  I was so young.  I wouldn’t be able to finish nursing school now.  What would this do to my already-broken family relationships?  What will everyone think of me now?  What have I done?

I created a child selfishly, non-traditionally.  I was a statistic.  I was an unwed mother.

I was having a very difficult time wrapping my head and heart around all of this.  I was so wrapped up in how this “pregnancy” was changing MY life, when a friend of mine put things into perspective for me.  My friend Harmoni knew I was struggling and gifted me with some crocheted, yellow baby booties, a note from my baby, some sound advice (she had walked in my shoes a few years prior), and a whole lot of perspective.  I drove myself to the store and bought a baby blanket and a Dr. Seuss book.  I gave this “problem”, this pregnancy, a face, and a place in my heart.Summer of 2001.
Then came him.  The first time that my now-husband met me, he told a friend, who was a co-worker of mine, that he was going to marry me.  Ryan laughed and told him that I was way out of his league.  He wasn’t.  He never was.  He was so sweet, so fun, so loving, the one.  We shared a root beer float and walked around a local-favorite spot on the edge of town for our first date.
Jeremy started dating me despite the fact that I was 4 months pregnant with another man’s baby.  I was always so surprised at how much he adored me, enough to open the car door for me every time and have bouquets of flowers delivered weekly to me.  The thoughts pierced my heart to think about how much pride he had to set aside to answer tough questions regarding his pregnant girlfriend.Fall of 2001.
He started joining me at my doctor’s appointments.  He starting planning for this baby…my baby girl.  He felt her kick, he massaged the charlie-horse ridden calf muscles and went to Lamaze class with me.  He introduced me to his family.  They welcomed me, us, with open arms.  I never once felt ashamed around them.  Isn’t that beautiful?  I never felt judged.Winter of 2001-2002.
Kennedy Marie was born on January 20th, after a very long, difficult labor…my sweet  Jeremy by my side every second, except for the few minutes when he leaned down to me, pressed his forehead to mine, sputtered the words, “I think I’m going to pass out”, and then went limp… falling backwards into a chair that the very attentive nurse caught him in, taking my IV pole down with him.  That made me laugh, and made me angry at the same time.  After she was born, Jeremy presented me with a beautiful necklace of a mother embracing her child, a symbol of his love for me, and his trust in me…his trust to love and care for this baby.
Kennedy was introduced to more family and friends that weekend than I can even count.  I remember being so amazed at how a tiny little baby, could bring so much love and joy into a room and into the hearts of so many people.  It was mesmerizing.  It was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  She was mine.  She was ours.
That drive home from the hospital sitting in the backseat next to this tiny baby was when the nerves and insecurities kicked in.  My mind raced and my heart rate quickened at every stoplight and I prayed that God would gift me the wisdom and heart to be a mother, the best mother.
The first 6 weeks flew by so quickly despite the many trials of new-mommyhood.  The first 2 incredibly painful weeks of nursing a newborn, the physical recovery of birthing a child, the sleep deprivation.  Jeremy continued to love me so well, and I fell in love with him even more, watching him fall in love with Miss Kennedy.
On March 8, 2002, Jeremy got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife.  He bought us a root beer float to share.  He took me to the park where we had our first date and slipped the most beautiful ring onto my shaking finger, promising to love me forever.  I had never seen Jeremy so nervous, or heard his voice crack.  We went out to our favorite spot for dinner where he had our closest family and friends waiting to surprise me for an engagement party.  They had congratulations balloons and champagne.  I had never felt so loved in my entire life.  I had never felt so special.
We were married 7 months later, on October 25, 2002.Our love story is so great, so unlikely.  I feel so blessed that God provided me (+ one) exactly what/who I needed in that moment.  It hasn’t been easy, or perfect, or without pain.  I have learned that it’s in pain that we grow.  I respect that and I wouldn’t change any of the hard times because of it.
I intend to spend my life honoring this love.  Happy 14th Anniversary, Jeremy. I love you more than I can put into words.Whoever lives in love lives in God…
1  John 4:16

 

Lessons from the Littles

“Mom, thanks for being the awesome-est Mom in the world.” blurted Karson from the back seat.
“Aww, buddy, I’m not sure I’m the most awesome Mom out there, but thank you!  What exactly do you think qualifies someone for that title?”
Karson sweetly replied, “You always love us every day, no matter what.  (insert exploding Momma-heart here ❤  )  And when you’re crabby or have done something wrong, you apologize and admit it.  And that’s really hard to do!  Most adults just go about their day not making it right.  Plus!  You won Miss Geniality!” (Miss Congeniality, Miss Teen NE Circa 1997)

You guys, kids are just the best, right?!  And why do some of the best, and hardest conversations happen in the car?  Because there’s no WiFi, and they are trapped in there, forced to communicate with you.  Fight or Flight just isn’t an option in a moving vehicle.  It’s a gift, really.

Who knew that when I asked my 10 year old what makes me the “awesome-est”, he would say that it’s because I own up to my faults and apologize…  (I was so sure that my slick dance moves and ability to rap Ice Ice Baby would make the list, but alas.)  That most adults don’t apologize, they just forget it and go about their day.
He knows how hard it is, because kids are forced by adults to own up to their mistakes and apologize.  He knows because he is expected by every adult to comply and to do what’s right or face the consequences.  Friends, think about that.  What if we, as adults, were held to that high of a standard, as well.
Now, I am going to go on record here and say that I am definitely not perfect and that I make plenty of mistakes on the daily.  But, WOW.    What a great reminder that maybe it’s not about the chauffeuring from here to there, the packing of organic lunches, the late nights whipping up a totally legit edible molecular-model that’s due in the morning, (come on science teachers, you’re killin’ me!) or overextending ourselves, physically and mentally, at every turn that matters to the littles.

Maybe it’s much simpler than that.
Maybe teaching our children to make amends, by showing them that WE feel sorry, too, should make the top of our list.
Maybe it would make our children feel valued, feel respected, feel equal to the always-superior adults they have to deal with every. single. blessed. day.  How exhausting that must be for our kiddos.

This was one of those moments offered up to me from God, to see through the eyes of my child and peek into their pure-white, perfect heart.  I’ve learned the older my children get, that I need to ask more questions and just listen…listen to the words of their heart make their way out into the universe, in a fleeting moment that came as fast as it went.

Sometimes all it takes is some perspective, gifted to you by someone (maybe even someone 1/3 of your age) to bring things into focus.

Thanks buddy…Mommy sees you and hears you.

Love,
The Awesome-est Mom in the world