Wow. It’s just days before I leave for MomCon. I can’t believe it’s here again.. and I can’t believe it’s been so long. MomCon is a highlight of my year. It’s when my personal mom-energy-account is finally balanced, and (for once) is in the black. (Unlike my checkbook which is never truly balanced, because I don’t care about that .13 I can never find. Granted, I don’t look for it, either …….)

I’ve been with MOPS for over 20 years, and I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for convention attendance, that I thought I’d share….

*Be forewarned… I am a former MOPS Mentor… I don’t pull any punches, this is the stuff you really need to know- TMI or not. :P

Disclaimer: This post is my advice as a MOPS Mom and leader- not as a representative of MOPS International. :)

MOPS CV Tips and Tricks

1) Bring comfortable shoes. No, really. The last thing you want is blistered toes, trust me, it’s totally distracting, and even if the shoes are CUTE, bloodied toes are not so much.

2) Don’t over pack. You will, so will I, because I pack like the jerk... But, I’m saying it anyway. Don’t over pack. It’s like eating vegetables…. I put them on my kids plate knowing they won’t actually eat them, but at least I don’t feel guilty for not offering them.)

3) You need: pen, paper (I bring a new notebook just for convention every year. then my notes are all together.) bible, an empty bag for free-bies and shopping that you can either check on the way home, or carry on. Don’t forget your camera and chargers… and cables.* Also, some exhibitors don’t accept credit cards, bring some cash for incidentals and shopping.

4) Pack simple snacks in case of emergency. Ummm preferably fibery ones…you will need the fiber.. trust me* (See below) Try as we might, feeding this many moms all at the same time, or finding restaurants that can accommodate your group for your budget can be tough. Time is tight, and you’ll be cranky if your bloodsugar dips. Bring a few healthy snacks to keep you happy and satisfied.

5) If you need a few “*minutes to yourself,” take them! Be honest with your room mates. Tell them to go ahead without you, you’ll meet them at general session. Use a code word. (Our group’s code was “Polly” If you need to take a “Polly”, take one. If you don’t you’ll get the polly-grips.(get it? Poligrip? Does anyone remember the denture cream commercials?) Dude- if you don’t go… you’ll end up feeling like someone poligripped your guts, that’s a very bad thing. Don’t make yourself sick by having nature’s calls answered by a bodily answering machine. If you’re not sure about your roomies’ understanding… bring a copy of “Everybody Poops” and read it aloud to them the night you arrive…. Seriously, I’ve made myself sick trying not to poo when anyone’s around… LEARN from my mistakes! Eat fiber and do what you gotta do. Traveling is hard enough on the tummy… don’t make it harder. Your tummy is your friend, keep it that way. Yes, I’m belaboring this point, because I’ve seen too many women sick at convention because of this:(.

6) I know, I know, your period isn’t supposed to be this week… be prepared anyway. It likes MomCon, it’s prolly all the estrogen. (I think this number of moms in one place, at one time creates some kind of estrogen vortex… strong enough to affect the weather and synchronize schedules… be aware!) Also-you’ll be the super hero of the room if you’re prepared and someone else isn’t… ;)

7) If you are a caffeine freak (I am, so I can call you one…) consider packing some tea bags, or *gasp* instant coffee in case of emergency. Everyone thinks they can grab a cuppa on the way to general session… the lines can be long…plan ahead! It’s worth it to bring a travel mug too- then you’re set! I’m bringing Starbucks Via because I can totally snort it if necessary…. yes- I’ll be the one with a coffee ground moustache…. :P Nobody wants a caffeine headache… or wants to deal with a cranky addict. :P

8) SKIP Something. I know, I know. You paid for MomCon. But, don’t feel like you have to exhaust yourself trying to get the max for the minimum. This ain’t TJ Maxx. I’m not saying spend the whole weekend shopping….I’m just saying skip one workshop (prolly the one you can’t remember why you signed up for.) Just sit by the pool. Explore the beautiful Gaylord, or, have a nice, quiet, unhurried lunch by yourself. You’ll be glad you did. (I always am! :)

However- DO NOT SKIP GENERAL SESSIONS. You will regret it if you do. Just sayin.

9) TALK TO PEOPLE. SMILE.- These are your people! We are ALL in this MOPS thing together. We’re sisters from all over the world. Smile in the elevators! Talk to women who seem to be alone. If you’re shy, watch for nametags or MOPS paraphernalia. consider that an invitation to connect. Make sure NO MOM IS ALONE at MomCon. Make this your personal responsibility. Find out where they’re from. What are they enjoying? Have they ever been to MomCon before? Anything they recommend you do or see? This makes all the difference between Being AT MomCon, and being a PART of MomCon…. Your smile, your chat, your connection makes a difference! ** double bonus points if this is outside your comfort zone…. if you talk to someone you don’t know and its hard for you- find me! I’ll give you chocolate. (I’m not kidding..)

10) Give feedback. Don’t complain. With events this big, stuff goes wrong. (umm like floods and hurricanes and toilets that overflow and lines for coffee and such)

Deal with it. But deal with it appropriately. Don’t stand around griping about the lines and how YOU’D plan things so much better….that just spreads discontent and hurts the feelings of the hundreds of people who’ve worked to make this amazing. (Remember these people are for the most part volunteers, and all work for a non-profit- not just for money .(they’d make a lot more elsewhere) but because they are passionate about YOU. They aren’t just professionals.. they are your sisters in motherhood. WE are MOPS. Handle your complaints like you would with a friend. ;)

Use the evaluation survey that will be emailed when you get home. These aren’t ignored, each one is read and we improve whatever we can, each year! If you see something that really needs to be addressed immediately- find your local field leader and talk to her, she can get word to those who may be able to help.

11) Respect your roomies. MomCon is special. It’s like Vegas, without the sin. What happens at MomCon stays at MomCon. If someone in your room snores, gets gassy or poligripped- don’t write about it in your newsletter or on your blog. Don’t talk about it with your friends.

12) Sleeping with people you don’t normally sleep with, is weird. We all know it. No one wants to accidently put their feet on the butt of the chick you’re sleeping with because your body thinks is your husband and your feet are cold… (maybe thats just me.. oopsy) Try to work out who needs what side of the bed, who needs a little light on, or some noise in the room,in order to sleep. Try to find a room temp that works for everyone… be flexible, but honest about your needs and try to meet the needs of the girls in your room. The morning people can shower quietly in the morning.. the night owls can do so at night…. work together girls!

13) Someone will have a meltdown, Be gracious and forgiving without taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness. When you have women together for any amount of time, someone is bound to have a meltdown. (Maybe more than one) This isn’t the end of the world. Give each other some space and some grace. Remember: You may be the one who needs it later that day.

One of the biggest relational struggles I see, is when moms try to make everyone around them happy.

When we do this, we are less than honest about out needs or feelings. we are trying to be nice, in order to try to make other moms happy. This just makes everyone miserable. Don’t do it. If girls night out isn’t your thing. Don’t go. If you’re not a shopper, relax and meet up for lunch. It’s OK! you don’t have to make everyone happy! (besides, you can’t. it’s just a fact.) Be considerate, but don’t freak.

14) Don’t over spend. Travel is expensive. MOPS has done everything possible to make it as affordable as possible- plan your budget wisely . I also suggest visiting the exhibitor page at MOPS.org and plan a few purchases in advance. No one wants to arrive home and find out their overdrawn or in debt. Be careful!

15) Plan ahead to give- Yup. I know: You had to pay your airfare, gas, meals, registration, get your haircut, buy new shoes, etc…So do I. (except for my registration- because I’m  An MVS and am working during MomCon my reg is paid for.) Yup, the economy has us all on the ropes. But, consider NOW, before you leave, how you can give a bit back to MOPS International during MomCon. Pack your own coffee and give that $30 (whatever your addiction would cost:) during the offering. Skip that new pair of shoes that will just give you blisters and donate the $, instead.

Why? because it makes a difference. MOPS is ours and needs OUR support. We want no mom to be alone… and that costs $. Consider monthly giving, or a one time donation. Just give what you can. But, plan ahead!

You’ll be glad you did.

See you soon!

I was cooking dinner, when she grabbed her kids and took shelter in a bathtub.

I was cleaning up the dishes when she struggled out from under debris to find her life turned to rubble.

I was watching on TV while she wandered with her children through debris and around news trucks-trying to figure out what to do, next.

I wonder if she grabbed her diaper bag?  Her purse? The “important papers?”

There wasn’t much time.

I wonder if she used that super calm voice that I use when I don’t want my kids to freak. I wonder if she said “It’s ok, we’ll be ok, Mommy is here.” The whole time wondering if they would be. That’s what I do, when we have to take cover.

I’ve never met her. But, I feel like I know her. Today, while I check my email and try to make my writing deadlines, she is struggling to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s wondering what will happen to their jobs. She’s wondering where they will live, and how long the kids will have nightmares. She was looking forward to school letting out and having some summer fun.  Now she feels lost. Alone. Afraid. She’s not sure if she can do this. Mothering was hard enough, before.

She’s my sister. Created by God for a purpose…part of which is to be a mom.That, makes us sisters. Sisters in motherhood.

I have to do something to help. She needs to know she’s not alone. I care. You care. We care.

>So-I contacted the Joplin MOPS group- (MOPS- Mothers of Preschoolers- a non-profit I’ve worked with for over 20 years.) and asked permission to set up an Amazon wishlist with things that can help. Things I’d want for my kids:

Dry socks, diapers, wipes, pull ups, juice boxes, pacifiers, blankies with silky edges, a book for normalcy and love…A stuffed animal for comfort when it rains again. Tarps to help salvage what can be salvaged. Mom’s Devotional Bibles cause I couldn’t get through something like that without knowing God DOES care… . even when everything is ripped away from you.

As I sat making the list, I felt overwhelmed…. moms like to be prepared. We need to have: EVERYTHING. (This is why our purses become diaper-bags and stay that size long after we’re done with diapers. Justsayin’) The need is huge. In comparison, I can’t do much. But, we can. Together. So, I’m asking this: if you are touched by the tragedy in Joplin, and want to help- click the link to the amazon wishlist- and order something, anything. Together- we can provide hundreds of diaper changes, snacks, bring down fevers (kids always get sick when it’s least convenient) wrap tiny shoulders in something warm, soft and clean and let Joplin know we care!

There are items of comfort and care at all prices and, if you are an Amazon Mom or a prime member- it can be shipped for free.

All items purchased from the list will be shipped direct to CHCC, and will be shared with anyone in need. (Not just MOPS moms… EVERY mom, parent and child matters, and needs to know they are not alone.) I am NOT an Amazon affiliate, nor do I benefit from this in any financial way shape or form… spiritually and emotionally?  Absolutely- I’d be thrilled if we can meet some of these needs! And I gotta believe God smiles when we reach out in love;)

For the record: This is not an “official” MOPS International project.  It’s just us moms (non-moms? Men? How about: others? ;) getting together and making a difference.. (Oh wait, isn’t that exactly what MOPS does? Well.. you know what I mean:) 

We can make a difference, today.  Let’s do it!

Dear Lord- I hate tragedy. I don’t even understand why you allow it. But- I do know this: you care. And you touch our hearts with care. For the mom,  the dad, the woman, the man, the child… who is right now picking up the pieces and carrying on. Please provide… send love… and use this tiny effort… like loaves and fishes.. to make a difference- I love you Lord- amen.

**If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to use my contact info in the sidebar.  I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. 

Also- the Joplin MOPS group has a facebook page here if you’d like to send them a little verbal love or see how they are helping each other!

Joplin tornado news

“Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood? In your neigh-bor-hood? Oh who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet, when you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day?”

I heard those words, sung by a happy shiny, multi-cultured array of kids everyday for years…

Today, I realized they were wrong. Accidently.

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Three times today, I ran headlong into those words.  “”Who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'”

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

What do the words mean?  I’m not sure I really know. But, this picture is in my mind…This challenge is in my heart.  It’s raised questions…lots of questions…

“Who is my neighbor?” On the surface…that’s easy.. I could even tell you their names…(Hey, I’m missional.. I know my neighbors.. Mostly.) Today, when I read the words I saw something I hadn’t seen there before-Something I’ve glossed over a thousand times…

The Samaritan was traveling. The distance from jerusalem to Jericho was almost 18 miles.

He was most likely NOT walking his donkey through the neighborhood.

What does “Taking pity” on someone mean?  Pity has negative connotations now…it smacks of condescension and charity.  But what I saw was a man seeing the pain of another and acting to heal it.  DO I do that?  Well- if someone was beaten and bloodied I probably would… but what if it’s another Mom, and she’s been beaten and bloodied by her life?  What if I can’t see or understand her pain?  Do I act to heal it.. or do I stand in judgement?

“She should have known better,  You make your bed, you lie in it, You get what you ask for, Cause and Effect…”

My own un-caring words haunt me. I’m “nice” enough not to say them out loud.. but I’ve thought them.. about Moms beaten by their  work, their finances, their lifestyle, their choices and their own prickly personalities and pasts…

Pity doesn’t always come into play.

Fear often does.

I’m often afraid to touch the hurting…  their pain could  hurt me. I’m afraid to reach out to a mom who’s different, because she may reject me.   I’m afraid to try and heal another moms wounds… because what if I can’t? What if I fail?

Instead, I keep walking.  I think: “She’s not my neighbor. If she were my neighbor– she’d live closer to home. Closer to my life… closer to my heart.”

Right?

Except…. that’s NOT the story Jesus told.

The beaten man and the Samaritan couldn’t have been more different.

Do I take her somewhere she can be cared for? Well.. sometimes.. if it’s not out of my way, or too far out of my comfort zone..or if she WANTS to go…or if she does the first time I ask her… (mumbling under my breath..)

Here’s the thing… is that how I care for myself?  Is that how I need OTHERS to care for me?  Umm no. I can be a real jerk.  I don’t like to NEED anyone’s help. I’m a perpetual preschooler.. “I can do it all by myself.” I need to be asked more than once.. I need to be given a chance to emotionally react to your pitying me.. (It makes me angry.. cause you’ve seen through my very carefully developed cover.)  If I were bloodied on the side of the road, and someone came up to me, I’d be defensive.. ready to protect what was left of myself.

If I met ME, bloodied and bruised on the side of the road.. I would be patient with my defensive response…

Am I patient with the bloodied neighbor Mom I meet who’s defensive toward me?

No- I process it as rejection… I leave her be.

What if I really lived out this scripture.. what if I took pity  on her?

What if I replace the word Pity with Mercy?

What if pity and mercy mean understanding someone else’s experience and caring for them.. even if they are different from me? What if loving another mom as I would myself means.. even if it’s messy and hard and uncomfortable and awkward and at first shes defensive and I’m afraid and I mess up?

What if we don’t speak the same language?

What if .. what if.. what if…

I stopped asking quetions and did it anyway?

I think I will.

Join me?

It starts with walking a mile in her shoes…

I have no words, only tears for all affected.

I especially want my MOPS sisters and all Moms @ Fort Hood to know :

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

For my MOPS Sisters who wish there was something you could do to reach out to Fort Hood- pray- and then- check this out-

We are praying as you face the days to come.