Choosing Joy During Chaos.

I sit in my dimly lit living room with the sliding glass door open and the sound of the rain hitting the pavement calming my exhausted soul and weary mind. Plus the second glass of pinot grigio (my drink of choice) is helping. I am what they call a pluviophile. A lover of rain. My heart skips a little beat when the scheduled forecast has rain and thunderstorms within them. For some reason the rain calms me and gives my mind a break from the chaos.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland 2017

Unfortuneatley there seems to be more uncertainty in the world with each new day than there are answers. And although I have no idea what tomorrow holds for me, and my family, for my siblings who work in the medical field and police officers, the front line, my siblings with extensive medical needs and a father who is high risk, with a daughter who is high risk. I am forcing myself every single day to choose joy when I could refuse to face the day. To choose joy when I miss my family. To choose joy when traditions are altered for the safety of others. To choose joy when my house looks like a shaken up snow globe, but instead of snow it is dirty toddler close, a sink full of dirty dishes and toys that trail behind my toddler who kept herself busy while I worked. I choose joy.

Note the messy living room, clean laundry she was “helping me” with, and the chaos.

The phrase is not new, but what does that look like? What does that mean to choose joy? Oh, for me it looks like an unmade bed, a messy bathroom, a somewhat put together mama with the anxiety level matched only by a chicken with their head cut off. But I assure you I am still smiling! I am healthy, my husband is healthy, and despite an asthmatic child who is apparently allergic to springtime nature like her mother, she is healthy. So I smile.

Today is a day that many across the globe celebrate with family and friends. A day where some honor traditions of pretty dresses and Sunday morning church services followed by way too much chocolate. For me Easter is an amazing day where I get to celebrate my Lord’s victory over sin. Victory over death itself, and salvation. Traditions for my husband and I are spending time with family, eating way too much food, and his ornery spirit stealing his younger siblings Easter eggs while they run frustrated over the yard looking for them while he giggles. Today we still got dressed up even though it was just to humor mommy for a couple pictures, we did it! Don’t be fooled though. We were all changed into comfortable clothes about 20 minutes after we shot this.

We didn’t have the day we had planned. We haven’t had the days we planned for the last several weeks now. Michael and I have learned more so now than ever to roll with the chaos that is our lives right now. We do our best to keep Zoe on a schedule that is normal for her. But nothing about this is normal. Michael and I both work from home and the three of us being under one roof 24/7 is not normal. But we are figuring it out.

This isn’t our plan, this isn’t in anyone’s plans, but we choose joy anyways. We give each other breaks as we need them. Taking turns keeping an eye on Zoe while the other has a work call or deadline to meet. We laugh a little bit more watching Zoe’s brain expand as she discovers the world and new abilities. We are showing each other grace. We are showing our daughter grace. We are giving ourselves grace.

We have started saying what we are thankful for daily, to each other and to our daughter. Verbalizing the things we are grateful for and the blessing we have that others would give anything to have. We are together.

We choose joy. It’s a choice. It does not come naturally. It is a conscious decision to think positively instead of being swallowed by fear and anxiety. That is something I want my daughter to see in me. That when life gets hard, we keep going. We keep getting up. We keep moving forward. Together.

Easter, 2020

It Will Get Better Tomorrow…

I keep thinking…”Tomorrow will be easier, tomorrow will be better.” But then tomorrow comes with new chaos and anxieties that I did not expect and it’s not easier, it’s not better…and I am barely holding it together with a toddler crawling on me at every minute of the day and night. ( AND YES, I know I will miss the days she is this little, and needed me every second of every day, but damn this is hard.)

I did not feel this overwhelmed the week we brought her daughter home, and I had a punctured spinal chord with a headache that made it that I could not even hold her to feed her because my back and arms would seize up and I would almost drop her.

THAT was easier.

There is no playbook for this, living life during a pandemic. There is no road map to guide you through working from home while your toddler is begging for your attention, you cant ask siri for the answer. What we have are educated guesses, and praying that we guessed right. I dont have it together. I am struggling. Every. Single. Day. And I am an introvert.

Guys this is hard.

But that’s okay. Because I keep getting up. I keep doing my absolute best under the circumstances.

We are thankful for our home. We are thankful that we both have our jobs. We are thankful for the essential personal making great sacrifices for us at home. We are thankful we are together. We will get to the other side of this.

Im saying “No” so that I can Say “Yes” to her.

I am learning to say “No” to invitations that take me away from her. Im learning to say “No” to situations that will only bring anxiety and stress to my life. Im teaching myself that its okay to stay home. Its okay if you say “No” to all of the extra stuff, especially around the chaos of the holidays in order to say “yes” to being there for my daughter. 

This means I’ll miss out on activities and events that I may have loved attending. I wont be there for everyone in my life the same way that I was before her. That means my name may start to disappear from invite lists. But that is okay. Life doesn’t stay the same. You grow. You move. You get married. You change jobs. You have kids. You change, hopefully for the better. Right now my job, my priority, my INCREDIBLE privilege and blessing is saying “Yes” to my family and my daughter and my mental health. 

I worked hard to bring this tiny little human into the world. Im going to give her EVERYTHING I possibly can, and especially in this season of life I want that to be the best of me. Not the leftovers. I LOVE YOU sweet girl

Get Yourself a Village

You can do this! You can be a wife, and a mother and follow a career for yourself. You can accomplish the dreams and goals you have had for yourself since for years. But you can’t do it alone. That is something I have learned, and am continuing to learn the hard way. Accepting help does not mean you are failing. Accepting help means you understand that you are building a bigger life for your family than you can do on your own. Or you may just need your sister to watch the kids so you can sleep for an hour. And that is okay.

Our Jenny / Day Care Provider

Get yourself a village. As it turns out your village may not just appear on your doorstep the week you bring your baby home. But for some they may, and for those mama’s, Thank your village, and thank them often. Remember those who showed up for you when you needed it most so that you can do your best to show up for them when they need it most.

For some of us, the village that’s helping raise your family changes from month to month. It may be the day care provider who would honestly take your child as her own in a heartbeat so that you can work 40 hours a week and know that your child is being loved on and taken care of while you work. It may be a family member babysitting for free so that you and your husband can go on a MUCH needed date and not panic about how much you are paying a sitter per hour while you are out. Sometimes it is talking to my sister in law who is knee deep in diapers and dirty bottles too and letting me know I am not alone.

My village is an ever changing group of women and a few men that show up in different ways at different times that help me stay grounded, let me vent, bring me bottles of wine, share words of encouragement, assure me I am not failing my family, and giving me a does of reality when I need it.

Ladies, this is not an easy thing you are doing. For those of you who have been forced to do this alone and don’t have family, don’t have a partner, who don’t have the childcare of your dreams…I encourage you to aggressively search for women to build a village with. Find a support group, get into a Facebook group or Bible Study of women on a journey similar to yours. If you can afford it, take the day off and take care of you! Get your hair done, get your nails done, or go get a two hour long massage. And enjoy it!

I am so incredibly lucky to have a huge support system in place to lift me up, take care of my child while I’m gone, and encourage me to go after my dreams…. all of them. I could not do this on my own. Sometimes that is still hard for me to admit. Sometimes life really does a great job reminded me when I am hiding in the bathroom with the door closed with a glass of wine and tears running down my face. ASK FOR HELP. That does not make you weak, or mean you are failing.

The hardest part of my job is traveling. In the industry I am in there are several events a year all over the United States that we travel to in order to cover the event for our audience. This means me being gone for 3-4 days at a time. That is a long time to me to be away from my daughter. Some of the trips have come after long bouts of sleepless nights and a teething baby, and three nights in a King Sized bed alone mean I get some much needed real nights of sleep. And oh those nights are so welcomed! But some of the trips mean panic attacks and sleepless nights worried about if my working is forever damaging my daughter. There is no in between in my head.

I am reminded often by the other working moms in my life that I am showing her that you can go after your dreams and have a family. You can be a successful women in the workforce AND have a family. That does not mean you are not making sacrifices daily, but oh they are so worth it.

What we are building takes a VILLAGE. Your village won’t look like my village, or Linda’s or Carries. Heck it may look more like a circus with a few too many animals, but make it your own, embrace it and ask them for help.

I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

(Full disclosure: I could fill seven pages worth of photos of my village. There are so many people to thank for loving me and my family the way they do.)