It’s not the flight I’m nervous about. It’s not even (for once) me, that I’m nervous about. (I tend to be afraid I’ll screw up. Say something dumb. Forget something…whatever, At this point I’ve messed up enough times to know: I’ll survive and people can be pretty gracious when you just own your stuff.)

This time it’s not me stuff that’s got my drawers in a bunch.

It’s: other stuff.

Cancer stuff.(I hate cancer.)
Side effect stuff. (I’m reserving the right to hate chemo. If it doesn’t work. If it works…. I just hate the side effects.)
Kid stuff. (Kids are complicated. Mothering is hard. Always.
Dog stuff. (We’re really good at turning dogs into wild animals that attack Amazon boxes. )
House stuff. (I’m a mom. There’s always house stuff. This week it’s the norm + prep for a new roof. That should be fun. See also: Wild dogs)

Pretty much, it all comes down to stuff I can’t control. The cancer is still there even if I’m in the same room with my husband. So are the side effects. I can’t stop them. Kid stuff happens whether I’m home or not. The dogs will make a mess and eat things they shouldn’t. They’d do the same, if I were home.

The house is as clean as I could clean it without making myself insane or injured. Laundry is in ikea bags on my bed. Clean and folded… There are pork chops in the freezer and veggies and quinoa for dinner. I packed lunches and put out school clothes for my middle schooler. (I also told him to have a good trip, 3 times this morning. Hint: he’s not going anywhere. I am. His response: “Are you trying to send me off to the army? I thought I was going to school?” Nope. Not the army mr middle school. Just school and a mom on overload.

I did what I could to make things easy. But I can’t control what happens once the wheels on this plane leave the ground. Oops they just did. I’m no longer in control.

The truth is: I couldn’t control those things prior to take off, either.

Funny how much control we think we have, until we realize we don’t.

So, here I am, on a cramped, delayed flight to Louisville. (Can’t control that either… There’s a theme here somewhere.)

I left my husband -who’s hair started falling out yesterday due to chemo, 3 psychotic dogs, a slightly anxious middle schooler who called home for diarrhea meds before I even boarded my flight with 2 college boys to hold down the fort. I am THAT: woman, wife, mom.

There are emergency #’s and contingency plans. But, still. It’s hard.

Why am I doing it?

Because God has uniquely designed me to serve him, by loving moms. One of the ways I get to do that is through MOPS International. This week is #MomCon. MomCon is when we gather together as Moms and leaders to remember why we do what we do, and to worship and be together.

After a lot of praying and watching ( my husband… To make sure he’s really ok.) and asking…. My husband and I decided that I should go.

Even if it’s hard.

Being brave- isn’t about things being easy, being brave isn’t about not being afraid. Being brave is feeling the fear and trusting God is bigger- then doing the thing you need to do.

So…. This is me. Nervously, bravely on a plane. Heading to MomCon. To go and do what I’m called to. Because I believe God called me knowing everything that would happen leading up to this moment.

God isn’t surprised by cancer. Or “stuff” issues. God carries us through them.

As he’s carrying me, now.

The MOPS theme this year is “be you, bravely”

funny how God’s already giving me opportunities to grow more brave…. Isn’t it? It’s almost as if he knew or something…..

Praying for you, as I’m flying over the clouds. Are you nervously bravely doing something today? Tell me what it is in the comment section… I can’t wait to hear!

And if you’re heading to #MomCon I’ll see you soon! I’ll. slightly nervous but trusting brunette with a prostate cancer awareness blue streak in my hair… Say hi! I have chocolate:)


1229967_337241086412467_697844002_nI almost fell asleep on the way to pick up my youngest from school 2 days this week. If my tubes weren’t tied and my husband didn’t have Prostate cancer- I’d worry I was pregnant. I’m THAT tired. I also managed to erupt with a staph infection of biblical proportions. (Yup- I was THAT chick at urgent care this week… the one with a giant infection on her face… and toe. Fabulous.) I feel, over all: sick. My eyes are sticky, my mouth is dry. My body hurts. In short: I’m a mess.

I’d be asking: “What’s wrong with me?” if I didn’t already know the answer: I’m burning up on re-entry. 

Re-entry after a week spent pouring it all out and soaking it all up at #MOMcon2013.

It’s not MOMcon’s fault. It’s MINE. I didn’t practice what I preach. (Also known as being a hypocrite… but lets not be quite that harsh. Also- Not what MOPS preaches… Oy. Adventures in missing the point- that could be the title of my autobiography. For sure.)

I did EVERYTHING. I didn’t take “down time.” Before- during or after. I kept thinking: it’s once a year. This is my chance to talk to as many Moms as I can. So I did. It was good. Really good.

Then- I came home and hit the ground running. Laundry? Check. Homework? Check. Follow-up? Check. Dinner? Check.

And then my body said: I’m done.

Bodies are funny like that. They can make you sick when you over do it. Probably as a method of self preservation. Let’s face it- i wear mine into the ground when I want to “get stuff done.” I’m guilty of thinking- (if not saying) “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Or- “When I finish my list.” Or, “I can do one more meeting.”

All of which sound good until it’s time to pick up the pieces. Which is what I’m doing today. Drinking lots of water. Taking time to be quiet. I almost mopped the floor- but apparently God made it invisible to protect me from myself. (Or I lost it- but the former sounds more reasonable… cause really- how DOES one LOSE a Mop?)

I have work to do. I also have: a choice.

I’m not doing it.

Why? Because sleeping when you’re dead is a bad plan. It gets you deader- faster. Burning up leads to burn out. Burnt out- not very good stewardship of my energy or life.

I’m not here for a sprint. I’m here for the marathon. It’s time to (again) put into practice the things I preach…. I’m putting on the oxygen mask so I can help others affix theirs. (I almost paid attention during the flight safety demo. Almost.)

And I’m bookmarking this page so i don’t do this again. (well- in theory.)

So…. how are you?

What things wear you out? How do you fill yourself up? Are you fried? Burning up on re-entry? From work? From an event? From mothering in general? From life?

I don’t regret a single moment of the time I spent with people last week. I actually WISH I could have connected with more……However- I also wish I would have rested in between- and worn more comfortable shoes. Justsayin. I hope God uses this confession of hypocrisy as an offering of brokenness…. Cause that’s all I got this week. ;)  Lord- make something beautiful out of the dust of myself….

I’m a mess, how bout you?

Dear Lord- I’m a mess. please help me be wise with my resources- all of them- including ME. My body. Help me not to burn up on re-entry. and help my sisters….(and brothers) In Jesus name- amen. 

Still wearing “the dress.”  The picture shows the past two days.1375196_10201336866596371_1949795543_nSo far, my biggest realization hasn’t been about excess or consumerism. It’s been about my body hate issues. Which: I hate. Both my body and how much I have issue with it. Here’s the thing: I have a pastoral counseling background. I have designed curriculum and facilitated groups for girls to help them with self worth.

And I can’t stand to see myself in the mirror- or pictures. I spent years making faces at cameras- cause if I’m going to look bad- it better be by choice.

I was always thin as a kid teen and young adult. My weight has fluctuated like most adult women through my childbearing years….. Now, I’m not thin. Not “childbearing.” I’ve talked about these issues before. But- this project (and a certain time of the month.) Is really bringing them into view.

I’ll be honest. In my brain- I say things like: “I look like a cow.” “I can’t wear colors or prints. I’ll look like a muu muu wearing granny, or a circus tent.” “Bright colors make me look giant.”  And worse.

I’ve avoided going places because of how I look. I tend to over-dress to compensate. I try too hard and end up looking like it.

I wear: black. usually with some color by my face or something… but- for the most part: black. Even this month- I chose a black dress. The truth is- I hide behind black. Trying to look “thinner.” Instead, I look like a Goth mom. Which is fine…. if you ARE a goth mom… but, I’m not. (Although classic gothic novels are some of my favorites…but that’s not the same:P)

So this whole- wear a dress for a month and post pics of yourself? It’s not some big “See how cute I am, aren’t I great?” thing for me. It started as a creative exercise. An exercise in minimalism. It’s grown into an exercise in self acceptance as well.

My body has been through a lot. I’ve exercised myself into several over use injuries. (Hello, plate in my tibia from the great running escapade, meniscus issues, tendonitis the list goes on…) I tend towards going a bit too hard after goals… fitness has been one of those.

I have been through a lot in the past few years. Health, emotionally, etc. I should be glad I’m upright, mobile and functional. I should celebrate that.

But- I don’t “feel” it. I “feel” fat. I “feel” ugly.

A few weeks ago- I had the honor of speaking at a MOPS group about the beauty of “sharing our messes.” Our authentic- not covered up or pinterested selves. During the talk- I stripped away my “speaker clothes” (AKA: security blanket) and was wearing my “real mom clothes” underneath. Nasty yoga shorts circa 2007, yoga tank that has never seen a yoga studio and my favorite fluffy scruffy slippers.

My thighs (and more) showed, stretch marks and all.

The moms connected. They got it. I got something too……probably more than they did.

Guess what? They were no less attentive or connected with the talk when I was wearing my mom “gear” than they were when I was wearing my “speaker” gear. It wasn’t about ME. How I look. Etc. It was about the message I was communicating.

Maybe- it always is. Maybe, I’ve made clothes and trying to look thinner too much of a focus. By making the focus  “looking thinner”  I’ve pretty much forgotten that clothes should be an expression of who I am on the inside.  I’ve forgotten that they DO send a message before I open my mouth. but they aren’t THE message. Actually- as my only prerequisite for an outfit is: does it make me look thinner/ fatter? I doubt they’ve been saying much about ME at all.  I don’t think anyone who knows me would say that the color they think of when they think of me is: black. (But leopard print? Maybe.) I’m an extrovert with introvert tendencies. I smile easily and love people. I’m that annoying chick who facilitates or starts conversations in the elevator. And the bathroom. And Target. That doesn’t exactly scream: black.

So as I move through this month- I’m also trying to embrace my body and my own style. Maybe, I’ll  even and appreciate both! By wearing one dress and experimenting.  With colors, patterns, shine, accessories, maybe even some texture. *gasp.*  I’ll be bringing the dress to MomCon- but it’s just not feasible to wear it all week…I will however- be trying to dress a bit more “me like” and without hiding in all the black. (in theory.)

Funny how I start with a plan and God comes along and changes things up!

Dear Lord- Forgive me for the things I’ve been saying about your daughter…. Me. I would never say those things to anyone on earth… because they are hurtful and mean…. I would defend anyone who was being talked to like that- and i need to start treating myself in a way that honors YOU. My creator. Help me lord- as I continue through this month- help me to see myself the way you do- and the way that others do. Help me to think rightly of myself- not too highly nor too critically. I love you lord- and thank you for being upright, mostly mobile and healing. But it would be nice if this weeks breakout would clear up before MomCon….. justayin. amen

Questions for my readers:

How do you choose clothes? By style? By how you look in them? How you feel? By price?

If you had to choose 1 item of clothes to wear for a month- what would it be? (I could easily do a great pair of jeans and a White v neck tshirt….)

How do you feel about seeing yourself in pics? In the mirror?

How do you talk to yourself about your appearance? What kinds of things do you say?

(Or am I the only mean to myself girl- out there?)


Let’s talk about clothes.  When it first came out-  I read Jen Hatmaker’s book- “7.” A year ago some friends and I started a journey through the bible study that followed the book. Once I got past my deep annoyance at Jen Hatmaker for pushing my buttons and stopped making excuses… it changed my outlook and daily life. I think more about how I live and what I choose to invest my life, money and energy in.

photoI also gave my “years in the making” excessive wardrobe a pretty harsh cutback. I donated more boxes of clothes than I care to admit. I started thinking through new purchases on all levels.

The subtitle of Jen’s book is “A Mutiny Against Excess.”  Which- I was pretty sure I didn’t have.. I mean… We’re not rich, and I’m a mom…. I drive a used car, I buy Target clearance- everything….Almost.  I splurge once in a while.. but excess? I just didn’t see it. We are also pretty quick to help and give when and however we can… I thought the balance was pretty even.

“Thought” is the operative word, there.

Until, I started the 7 fasts. Honestly? Some of them I flat out rebelled against. (Even though I made my own rules.. yes. I rebelled against myself. That’s how strong willed I am.) Some of them I struggled through and whined about as if they would kill me. (They didn’t.  Funny how that works.)

The fasts showed my selfishness and yes- my excess. In fact, they showed my excesses like a police officers’ spotlight on a dark night. When you’re pulled over. For speeding. With your child in the car. And you want to crawl into the glove compartment. That bright. Not that I’ve every experienced that…. But I’ve seen it on TV. And I can imagine….. (Oh can I… because I lied. I totally have been. Of course. PS I don’t fit into the glove compartment.  Not even one foot.)

Fast forward a year. Honestly? If I graded myself I’d have to say a solid C+. Which means- a bit above (my)  average. I let life crowd out a lot of the changes that I was opened to. I got lazy. I got sick. I had surgery. Hubby’s cancer refuses to vacate the premises and I blamed it for some of my choices this past year…. more dinners out because of convenience.  Clothes, food, book and media splurges as (ineffective) coping methods. (That’s my list of immature coping skills.) My closet isn’t as overflowing as it was…. But. it’s grown.

So- here I am, a year later…. and I was reminded of something I heard about the last few years- and thought was totally nuts. “The October Dress Project.”  #ODP Only- it didn’t sound so nuts this year. It sounded like a good opportunity to remind myself about excess and to remind myself that creativity trumps collecting. (Wardrobe pieces etc.)

I signed up. The premise: one dress- for 31 days. Washed as much as you like.  Accessorized however you like. But worn for at least part of each day. For the month of October. Today is October 9- I’ve worn it 8 days.

Kind of. In typical Tracey fashion- I decided to commit to the dress project at the last minute. (A day late, actually.) Which means, I ended up in the fitting room at my local Target Trying on every black dress in my size and making a decision (or so I thought) in 45 minutes before I was due at my youngest’s school for pickup. Time pressured shopping is always bad. TIme pressured shopping for something you’ll wear everyday for a month? Very bad plan.

I ran to the front and bought the dress I thought had looked the best. I got home- ripped off the tags slipped it on like the LBD maven I was sure I would be….only to realize that 10 black dresses in the fitting room all look pretty much the same. I’d bought the wrong one.  I wore it for 3 days, before I decided there was no way I could wear it for a month without going crazy. I switched it out. It looked and felt like a maternity dress. Which would be fine if I were pregnant. Or even, fertile. Which, I’m not.

photo photo photo Diptic

As a Work at /from home Mom- I have a lot of flexibility, as far as wardrobe goes. I also face a lot of dichotomies in dressing. I may be speaking in the morning and cleaning toilets in the afternoon. Toss in church, funerals, kiddo football games, conferences, meetings, errands, weddings, MomCon and my 25th wedding anniversary all taking place this month?

Well.. let’s just say I’ll stick with it as much as possible.

So far- so good. Once I changed out the first dress to something I feel much better in- I just hit my closet hard to mix and match. I’m spending less time thinking about WHAT to wear- but a bit more trying to figure out how to make it look different- without spending any $. (Okay- very limited $. Once I decided I was (actually) doing this, I realized I have a pretty limited color palette in my wardrobe- called black and leopard print. I also tend to wear just a few pieces of jewelry- and don’t really accessorize. I bought a few staple items. Which I found on clearance at Target. Of course.  )  Fortunately- I have plenty of shoes, bags and scarves from my neck surgery.;)

What i’ve learned so far?

1) Seeing myself in pictures is uncomfortable.  However- I look different “in print” than I do in my head. In my head- I’m hugely fat all over. In real life? Average. When I’m forced to look at how things I’ve bought,  fit? I tend to buy:  too big. (Except for bras… hello- I got fitted in honor of my first mammogram… guess what? The girls look better in the right size bra.TMI, but true.) I’m learning it’s important to find things that fit. That means: trying them on. WHich is hard when you avoid pictures and mirrors. Which: I confess, I do.

2) It’s not as hard as I thought.  a) No one cares what you actually wear. b) it’s fun to try and think outside the box of how I usually dress.

3) It’s harder than I thought. one dress can be worn many ways- but its still the same dress. The dress I settled on has limited some of my options because of the high- round neckline. hard to layer without bulk. Layers= options.  For me- perfect would be a short sleeved or sleeveless wrap dress….maybe next year. One switch is all I’m allowing myself.

4) I could never do this in the summer. TOO SWEATY.

5) I still have too many clothes. Too many shoes. Too many bags. More paring down is ahead.

I’m not sure whether this will streamline or complicate my packing for MomCon. Honestly- I won’t be able to wear the same dress every day at an event I run around at for 12+ hours a day. Especially not without feasible laundry access. (could wash in the sink- but would be at risk of being soggy and or stinky EVERY DAY. I’m not risking that. I have MVS and Board responsibilities to fulfill. Well. and I’m nice and considerate, like that. )

So.. this is all kind of crazy, I know. (Mostly because of the weird looks I get when i try to explain what I’m doing. ) Just pretend it’s Lent and i’m fasting clothes- minus the nudity that kind of implies….#notthatkindofblog

I’m busy getting ready for MomCon next week- an amazing time of “seeing” the moms I love serving in MOPS. I love the training, connection and opportunities it offers. If you’ll be there- I hope you’ll let me know- I love to meet you!

Lots of other thoughts and things going on- more posts to come. :)

Opening the invitation, I’ll admit my response: “Oh no. Not one of “those” events. You know….events where pretentious people gather and pretend to care, all the while making clear how important they are by name dropping, house dropping (not as exciting as when it involves witches with stripey hose and flashy shoes. This type of house dropping is mentioning aspects of your home (s) that make your affluent status apparent.) And Pedigree dropping.(In which you introduce yourself as if you are your professional accomplishments. In my world- Pedigree is a dog food that produces digestive “issues” in my Shorkie. )

My husband is a successful sales exec. Sometimes we attend “those” events. Occasionally, I’m surprised to find someone equally not all about impressing but about connecting….often times- not. These events involve gowns and layered spanx induced and lack of oxygen. I think I have PTED- post traumatic event disorder. Between pretense and my own insecurity- (hello- my house is a blessing- and messy. The most “droppable” part is a giant master bath….. and bathroom talk is one of those things you are supposed to avoid in “polite” society. Or, so I hear. When it comes to that moment in introducing yourself and pedigrees start flying? I duck them like flying monkeys.”I’m a mom. ” Just doesn’t feel like it compares to the doctor princess barbie rocket scientist I’m usually seated next to. Yup. “those” events? The 6th circle of hell.

I thought of a thousand reasons to bow out. (I am a justification ninja. Just sayin. I have skills. I have responsibilities. Not to mention: I have: excuses.)

But…. There was something about the invite that held potential as being different. This was a donor event. For an organization I’ve loved for 23 years. An organization that had helped me learn to parent, to lead and to trust…..(if you haven’t guessed by now- yes- it was a MOPS International donor event- held during convention. Several years ago.)

Part of me wondered if it would be a high pressured sales pitch. The truth is- what we’d already given was a stretch….. I didn’t want to feel like I hadn’t/couldn’t do enough. I didn’t want to feel intimidated or “less than” in what had become a safe place for me to be: enough. Valued. Respected. The other part of me wondered if maybe…. Just maybe- it was a gathering of people who also loved MOPS…. How bad could that be?

I (mostly !decided to go. (Mostly because it made me feel special to be invited. A little like an invitation to sit at the cool kids table in junior high. Yes. I felt guilty and stupid about that, of course.) I rsvp’d. But- honestly? I wasn’t positive I’d go or not. I figured they’d never notice if I didn’t show up. I did pack an outfit I thought would work. Just in case.

The day of the event- I was nervous. I was also: busy. (I hold a MOPS Volunteer Staff position- convention – now called MomCon-During which is  MVS work in hyperdive.) During an hour break in my schedule, I walked into a shop. That’s when I saw it: a satin leopard fit and flare trench coat. I tried it on. Suddenly, I felt like I ruled the world. “Okay… In this jacket- I can attend that event.”

I checked the price. Oy.  I should have known. It was at a swanky hotel shop….. Way over priced, even if it fit perfectly and was fabulous. I bought it anyway. I felt like it was my golden ticket to acceptance. (I’m emotionally a perpetual 15 yr old. I know this.) To this day it’s the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever bought.

I know…… Some people go into these situations wanting to blend in…. Well… I want to shine. The more nervous I am- the more animated. The more plumage I apply…. (This was a leopard print peacock of a jacket- trust me. Total plumage.)

I climbed aboard the bus to the destination feeling a bit overdressed. (It was a bit more conservative than flashy crowd. Oops.) But- my rule of insecurity: when in doubt-better to be over than under- dressed. I put on my chatty if you’re not the most important person be the most charming funny, witty- persona (thats what it was in my head, trust me.) and wore it like armor.

By the time we arrived. I was really wound up. Introductions were made. Without realizing it- I was suddenly THAT chick. The one swinging her arms and talking with her hands as loudly as her voice,
(Which is always the loudest. Thank you Italian genes.)

Which was fine. Except – the event was on a small river boat.

And as we were standing- chatting. Servers were weaving their way through the crowd to serve beverages and hors-devours (which auto correct wont correct. But, you know what I mean.) which is when I swung my arm as I turned in my satin leopard jacket and suddenly felt what could only be a handful of um…… Butt. Out of the corer of my eye- I saw a server. A male server. I jerked my hand away and tried shove it in the pocketless jacket. I wished I’d worn something ummm. Less memorable. I walked to the other side of the boat hoping to blend in or fall overboard. (We were below deck….but there was a slim chance I could be sucked out a porthole if a tornado suddenly blew in…. No such luck.)

I felt heat rise from my feet to my head. Italians don’t really visibly blush…. But I think I did. That, or I was smoldering.

The only thing I could think to do, was pretend it didn’t happen.

And sit down and shut up. Or at least, sit on my hands. Which is what I did. No one knew I was dying of horror inside.

I carried on. (waiting to see if the police were about to swarm the boar and arrest me for groping some server…) But slowly i realized that no one appeared to be either impressed by, or afraid of me. They also weren’t into “dropping” anything. They were just… There. Because they love MOPS.

I heard stories of how they each got involved and why they stay involved. I met people I’d only known as “celebrities” “Board Members” and staff…who turned out to be: people.

There was no guilt laden sales pitch – it was a thank you and here’s what you’ve helped accomplish thing. One of my favorite preachers shared a message that resonated so much that it still affects my daily life. (Thank. you, Pastor Gelinas- your message on call and respond gave me permission to share my walk with god exactly as I live it…. Call and response that’s what I share here…..his message that night was from his book- “Finding the Groove- Composing a Jazz Shaped Faith-if you haven’t- you should read it. Just sayin.)

There was no swat team when we docked. (Ha! Get it? Swat?) Honestly, the “goosing” may not have been noticed by anyone but me. The servers’ face never changed.

I still have the jacket. I think I’ve worn it one other time – for a speaking engagement- you know- when you want to be the center of attention- because its your job…..vs when you want to get away with goosing some college kid at a donor dinner.

Best part? Not long after that awful wonderful night….. was asked to become a member of that board of directors. I thought it was a joke.

It wasn’t.

I love it.

At all MOPS events- i have a personal mission-to make every mom ( person, really) feel accepted and welcomed like I was, at that donor dinner. I know what insecurity feels like. I know it wears both hidden faces trying to blend in and not be noticed or embarrass themselves so they can be accepted….and rambunctious faces who goose servers in their attempt to be noticed and accepted. And then there are people who are comfortable in their skin and want to connect with others who are equally passionate about family and mothers. I want every mom to feel like a rockstar.

Because she is.

MomCon is coming up in October. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to meet: YOU. I can’t wait to hear YOUR MOPS story. Look for me. Say hi. I’ll be watching for you, too.

But I promise to keep my hands to myself. I’m a little more comfortable in my skin than that now…. Mostly. But I usually do have some form of leopard print on…. A scarf. Bag… Shoes….something. It’s my little reminder now…. To chill out. All “events” aren’t circles of hell….. Some? Are little tastes of heaven;)

If I’m going to see you in Kansas City- speak up! I want to know!

So…..what’s the craziest thing you’ve done as an adult to try and “fit in” with a certain crowd? Satin leopard overpriced jacket? Nervous goosing? Please tell me I’m not the only one…..

Dear lord- women (and a few men) from all over, are getting ready for MomCon. I pray that anyone who’s afraid or nervous would hear my experience had know that we’re all in this together- on a common mission,. This (and all MOPS events) are not “that” kind of thing…. They aren’t about dropping things…they’re about picking up things…. Lifting up people… Truths, encouragement. Prepare us now, and help us to reach out and connect then. In Jesus name amen. Ps lord? I still feel bad about goosing that kid….. It was an accident, I swear!