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)
Stuff.

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:)

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I just want you to know- I had your back. I was trying to make eye contact and give you the mom-sisterhood of  “you’ll survive this, smile.” However, you were too busy trying to get the diapers paid for -so you could escape the stares and just loud enough to be heard, critiques of your parenting.

I know the looks.Those glares leave a sunburn on a mom-heart. I’ve heard the comments. I’ve received my share. From other shoppers. From retail workers, from random strangers and pretty much everyone you can imagine. I’ve heard them all: “She should get her kids under control.” “In my day we didn’t tolerate that kind of behavior.” “If your baby is crying- you should leave and spare the rest of us.” And of course the ever popular: “Can’t she hear that child screaming?”

The answer is: Yes. We moms have supersonic hearing. In addition to a hyper sensitivity to the cries of our own child that makes our heart beat in time with our headaches as if a marching band playing in in our body- we can hear all the hurtful things said about us. Yes, even when our kids are screaming.

Here’s the thing, Mom. I’ve been there: planning my trip for groceries and diapers perfectly between nursings and naps. I’ve darted from the house for the 13 minutes in the day when I had the best shot at a quiet, unevent-filled trip. And then my kids happened, too. They’re like that.

I want you to know I saw you make it through produce and head straight back to milk. I heard you telling silly stories to distract the toddler while jiggling the cart to keep the baby happy. I saw you grab the diapers- and I watched while you were sprinting to the finish line.  AKA: the register. I was cheering you on, sister. And then- the kids imploded and your milk came in. Ugh . MY stomach turned. I know that feeling. It’s a fight or flight thing. An instant of panic…. and then a choice: “Do I risk the line and the concentrated judgment there? (Those confined spaces make it me feel like I’m under a parenting microscope. PS: it’s very helpful that they put all that “out of our budget and not in our eating plan crap impulse buy stuff” rt there- to make it more difficult. The alternative to facing The line of scrutiny and  tantrum temptation? Leave a cart full of stuff I need and end up coming back only to make it halfway through produce before this happens again.” I’d stay, too. I have. Lots of times.

It happens to all of us.

I also know you were just trying to survive- and feed little people and keep bottoms from getting rashie. You weren’t shopping for Manolo’s on Park Ave. It was diapers and milk at wal****. Let’s face it. Wal**** is not exactly a place of serenity or decorum. It’s a place of crazy last minute dashes and families and noise and a dress code that  is apparently open enough to inspire a website. Or, so I’ve heard.(It’s a mean site. Hilarious. But, mean.)

So- I purposefully got behind you in line. No, not to stalk you. (Although, it sounds like it right now.) I was just hoping to at least try the eye contact -thing. Cause, I know. I get it. And- I  heard the comments from other shoppers. I wanted to help. Be a buffer. Something.

(Why do people think they’re snark will make our kids stop imploding? I mean, other than some people can be stupid… Or is that the only reason? It may be.)

Anyway. We didn’t make eye-contact. But, I noticed. And I want you to know, that after you left? When the cashier did exactly what you’d feared, and started rolling her eyes and going into the spiel about staying home if your kids are crying? “Blah blah blah.”  I had your back. I didn’t go along with her. I didn’t smile and nod in agreement.

I told her I’d been there. I told her that kids spontaneously combust and you: STILL need diapers and milk. I told her that there were a hundred WORSE times you could have darted in that day- and she’s lucky it was timed as well as it was. I also told her that by the time you’re sprinting to the finish line, you’re exhausted as well as the kids, and you’re just hoping to make it to the car before you cry. Because you heard the comments. You felt, the stares.They hurt.

Basically- I (kind of loudly, cause I’m Italian- or obnoxious or passionate take your pick.) had it out with the cashier so that she- and everyone around us, could get a reminder about what parenting is really like: Hard. And that you were doing what had to be done. And you did. I promise I didn’t go crazy on them. I was all appropriate and everything. But: I had your back.

Even if you didn’t know.

You’re not alone. You’re loved. And it will get better. I promise. Someday you’ll be the one with her kids at school and work, in no rush at wal****.   Maybe, you’ll do the same for some other mom.

Anyway- I just thought you should know.

With love, from a mom who’s been there- and survived.

Dear Lord- mothering is hard. Some parts are harder than others. Wal**** trips are right up there with vaccinations. No fun for anyone, painful and  sometimes necessary. Lord, I pray that you’d raise a generation of moms that have each other’s back.  I pray that we’d try to help instead of snarking and judging. I love you lord- and the moms you bring my way- even when their kids are imploding, I pray you’d bless each one who reads- and encourage us so we can encourage others- in your name- amen.

Isaiah 40:11
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

Ps: I’m typing this on my phone at urgent care -sister- so forgive the type and lack of finesse. Like I said- I’m a mom… ;) As a mom, I’m multi tasking. The urgent care people prolly think I’m awful cause I’m typing away while my kid waits for X-rays and plays DS. Whatever. We do what we have to do, rt? Rt.

If you’re a mom who’s been “that mom” at wal****- and you’re feeling alone. I encourage you to visit a MOPS group near you- I’ve been working with moms there and been helped as a mom there for the past 24 years- MOPS gets moms. And loves them. Even when their kids are snotty faced screamers at Wal****.

 

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I love juxtapositions. I have yet to meet many uni-dimensional people- and the more diverse- the more I like it.

And juxtapositions- sums up my weekend. Friday was (kind of) a sick day- errands and figuring out how to make dinner for my inlays without actually cooking kind of day. (Hello- spiral sliced ham to the rescue. ) It ended with my Father in-law being admitted to the hospital for an infection. Yes- now, both of my in-laws are in indifferent facilities recovering from different issues. Prayers appreciated. So would a break from sickness and loss and emergencies. But- life doesn’t work that way.

Saturday was an amazing day of blessing one of my best friends daughters with a “”Breakfast at Tiffany’s” themed wedding shower.  It involved wearing a tiara and black satin gloves…. what’s not to love about that? 1625531_10151989161382083_426185128_n For the record- I moved the table to be centered under the sign-before guests arrived… (OCD much? ) It was a beautiful morning for a beautiful couple.

1966828_10152208424091168_2052637838_n-1Sunday, I needed a break. In an- “I may kill people if I don’t get a break”  kind of way.  I told my beloved -hubby I needed a day off. He (wisely) and lovingly agreed. Even when I told him I thought I wanted to go to the Motor City Tattoo Expo.  Yes. I said Tattoo Expo.

Why? Because 1) I’ve never been to one. And duh: adventure. 2) I knew Cee Jay and Dani were going to be there to represent- Dolly Llama Tattoo was in the house! I wanted to support! Both Cee Jay and Dani are amazing artists and Dolly llama is my ink home. 3) I was hoping to get my ugly scar covered with something beautiful I have picked out. And 4) of course— I totally thought it would be a great experience to write about and add to the book in process…

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 So- I headed downtown.

 The expo was held at the Marriott Renaissance Center. To avoid the downtown hassle I valet parked. I was a little concerned when I walked into the lobby- apparently there was also a Nation of Islam Event at the same hotel. Talk about a juxtaposition— the lobby was filled with beautiful African American’s- especially beautiful women in white flowing garb with head coverings that made ME want to twirl in the lobby like a little girl I met. It was lovely.

But, I was there for the tattoo expo. Eventually, I found it. (Not much signage in the lobby.) So- I just followed the trail of colorful hair, the smell of fresh ink and the steady stream of saran wrapped body parts.Once I got close enough- the heart thumping sound of music led me the rest of the way. (I love that feeling..just saying.)

When I wandered in- I  felt a little like.. well- like a soccer mom at a tattoo convention. (Except my kid plays flag football. And games. Whatever- you get the point.) It was brightly lit and well organized. Music was loud enough but not obnoxious.

I’ll be honest- I was a little disappointed. Not in the expo and definitely not in the beautiful artwork I saw. I stunning pieces of art on both bodies and in portfolios. It just wasn’t as weird, exotic or adventure-ful  as I thought it would be.  I think I was expecting a freak show. Bodies so modified they looked a little less than human. Outrageous clothes,  tattooed and modified people straight out of Ripleys’ Believe It or Not.  Like this guy. I expected a dark club like atmosphere…not so much. (Umm tattooing in the dark – not possible. or wise… I shoulda known better.)

Instead, there were tables laden with portfolios, sketch books, prints, t-shirts and swag, and enough aftercare products to drown (or purify and protect) the city. All with the typical back drops of shop banners you’d end at ay kind of convention of event.

I was also kind of expecting to be treated like or feel like “the weird one.” While I have a few beautiful meaningful pieces of ink-art- they don’t show in my regular February clothes. Which yesterday happened to be a red tank- leopard sweater, wide belt- black jeans and flats. Because: leopard.  Both feet my are inked- as is my right ankle/calf and my left shoulder blade. aside from my feet- nothing actually showed.  Except I wasn’t treated like an outcast. I was welcomed at each table. Additionally- every random person I smiled at or accosted to get a better look at their stunning ink- was as gracious and friendly as at any knitting or MOPS Event I’ve attended in the past. (My frames of event -reference.)

True- there were a few interesting and over the top characters. Three top characters: one girl who would have been “over exposed” if she were a photograph– and kind of kept walking around on parade. One. Out of hundreds. Then there was one guy who dropped drawer to show a tattoo at a booth- and was wearing what I can only describe as some kind of possibly meat- themed 70’s style running shorts type drawers that so distracted and caught me off guard -that had he walked past me 5 minutes later with his pants pulled up- there’s NO WAY I would have recognized him. Finally there was an awesome shop-owner guy who’d bought a tortoise on Craig’s list during the show, and had been keeping him in his hotel bath tub. After a day an half though- he decided he was lonely, so had him hiding out in his backpack, with some lettuce- of course. (Same dude had an awesome Ninja Turtle tattoo on his foot. He’s into turtles like I have a thing for nests, apparently.)

No lizard guy. No freaks – a few geeks. But they were more science -math type geeks than circus type. It was mostly cute young couples and families. and a few interesting old timers. One sister needle-phobe who was there with he daughter. But mostly families and couples.  FYI: this was definitely a baby wearing crowd. (I swear I felt my ovaries attempt to explode old decrepit eggs in response to the cuteness that was in attendance.) Lots of babies and kids-only 2 strollers. The rest were wrapped and baby-worn by beautifully inked moms and dad’s alike.

There was a bar and enough free rockstar energy drinks to fuel a college campus for a year.

There were competitions… (My girl, Cee-Jay won 2 awards for best cover ups- they were amazing.)  Unfortunately, as I’d forgotten to bring my stilts- I could’t see the judging. But- it sounded like fun and there was beautiful work everywhere so i have to imagine the winners were incredible.

After wandering wound and buying a cute t-shirt )Black- White lettering that says: Tattooed Parent.) I hung out at the Dolly Llama Booth  waiting to see if I could get some work done. (My only other ink plans:  to cover my neck surgery scar- and to make my left foot- ankle piece a bit prettier.) Since I can’t help myself, and the girls were busy- I imposed my extrovert fangirl skills- by talking to every one that walked up to the booth. From photographers to potential clients, show judges and apprentice hopefuls- I talked to them all. It was awesome.

Happily for them- (cause they were busy- and busy s good when you’re in business.) sadly for me- there wasn’t actually time to get any ink done. I’ll be making an appointment at the shop. Which is a great place-and way more comfortable than a convention room, anyway;)

What I learned from the Motor City Tattoo Expo-

  • 1) I still have some pre-concieved ideas about inked people, in general. I hate that.I’m working on it. The only way I can do that- is to get to know people instead of judging from afar.
  • 2) If you are friendly to most people- guess what? They will be friendly back. Even if their head is covered in tattoos and you look like a soccer mom caught in the tattoo – spot lights.
  • 3) There was an awesome couple at the expo with a booth set up just to love people in the name of Jesus- and just because they love people. They weren’t jerks. They represented Jesus with love and grace. No bullhorn. No judgment- no being jerks. I loved that. I also pre-judged them- cause as soon as I saw the booth- I was afraid they’d be bullhorn blaring condemning jerks… prejudiced- yet again. UGH.
  • 4) If you want to get work done at an tattoo expo- book an appointment…. good artists’ get busy;)

Bonus learning: The tattooing process doesn’t make me squeamish at all. However- the piercing thing? Squick and ouch. I was glad that was all in a room I could just walk by—- too bloody too painful looking… Not my thing. And that’s okay. For a recovering needle-phobe, I did great. ;)

And so my weekend went from hospitals to tiaras and closed out with a tattoo expo…. cause that’s how I live life. With people.

Because- I love people. All kinds of people. And- I truly long to learn to love better- and the only way I learn anything- is to practice. – so, this weekend-I did.

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

PS: Watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time in years- and while Audrey Hepburn is stunning classy looking vision in the whole movie—- she’s also a shallow hot drunken mess…..good ending.. But the movie? Kind of annoying- Holly Golightly is rather pathetic…. I usually think of it as a classic- but I bet it was really risqué in it’s day…. justsayin. Still- awesome theme for a wedding shower;) If you ignore the movie;)

I love my neighbors. Sure, we have differences- including language complications and different traditions and beliefs…. But, I love my neighbors.

This week, the patriarch of the family next door died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. (A really nasty killer- I might add.) His wife had already battled cancer of her own. I hate cancer.

Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer? Yeah. I hate it THAT much.

I’ve chatted with, smiled at and waved to this family for the 12 or so years that we’ve lived next-door to each other. The patriarch (The word truly fits this gentleman.) gave my husband (much needed) gardening tips. Our kids went to school together, squabbled together, played together.

Yesterday, when I saw the driveway and street fill with cars I suspected the battle was over. [When that much family arrives in the middle of the week- it means either a baby was born- or there was a death.] There was no baby due.

I desperately wanted to DO SOMETHING. [Mostly] Feed them. Pray with them…. sit with them.. something.

Problem: some of our differences make that complicated. My beloved neighbors are Muslim. I know how to do Christian funeral stuff. I am, however clueless about the rules- etiquette and options for me here. Cooking? Kind of hard. I do not keep a Halal kitchen- so I can’t really cook for them.  

I probably already broke 10,000 rules when I hugged the grandson yesterday after he confirmed what I suspected. That the fight was over. I told him to let me know if there was anything we could do. A service to attend? Anything. (Umm yeah nothing like awkwardly pushing my need to help on the poor grieving kid- who knows there are things I can’t do and places I can’t really go….)

This morning- he knocked on the door- wondering if the family could use our driveway for parking. “YES, PLEASE.” was my response…And then he asked if he could buy our ice melt… they’d tried to get some but EVERYWHERE is sold out. I practically begged him to take it. Again- I wanted to HELP!  But salt and a place to park didn’t seem like much. He invited me to the ladies- reception this evening… but my whole family is sick.:(

I can’t cook. I can’t sit with them in their grief without contaminating them… literally.

Fortunately- I have a halal grocer right next to our pharmacy. Or, what I like to call our winter home. While my middle son picked up his prescription- I wandered into the tiny market like an alien from another planet. FYI: when a woman without a head covering wanders into a middle eastern market- the men scatter. With the exception of the owner.

Thank you Jesus. Cause- this naked headed chick needed help.

I explained the situation- and for some reason- totally blamed my Italian heritage for my need to feed these people. I asked if he could help me make up a gift basket of goodies. He graciously agreed. I waited while he rang up a few customers- and while I waited I thought: “Hey, I’m here, I got this…I can pull together a gift basket.” I started tossing things that looked yummy into my cart.

When he finished- he found me wandering the aisles, still tossing things into my cart. He asked a few questions and then basically- then rescued my butt from looking like a doofus. My cart was half filled with Indian food the other half was Pakistani. My neighbors are Jordanian. Apparently- I didn’t “have this, after all.”

The owner helped me start over.

I left with a few bags of staples and treats to feed my neighbors.  I immediately felt better.

Ish. I mean… This isn’t flowers and helping with a funeral dinner, you know what I mean? Which is what I’d normally DO.

When I’d barely finished packing up the goodies and signed the card, the doorbell rang.

It was the kid from next-door. With a warm plate of food from the funeral luncheon.

I nearly cried right there. I also kind of wanted to yell: “Hello. I’M BRINGING YOU FOOD. You’re the grieving ones!!”

He said something about the salt and parking and thank you. I’m sure I looked confused.

I said- hold on.. I have something for you, I grabbed the goodies. Then, he looked confused. “No, you shouldn’t.”

I said something lame like: “We care about your family- I know I can’t cook for you- but I COULD go to the Halal market and pick up some goodies… My family is sick- so I can’t come visit tonight- but please- take this to your family and give them our love.” (I honestly have no clue what I said- I was so caught off guard by the gift of a warm meal that I just don’t remember.) Image

As he walked home, I thought about the scripture that tells us to be salt and light……and how maybe sometimes that can be literal.

Salt for the icy walk. Light spaces to park cars. I thought about loving our neighbor, and how my neighbor had just loved me. (Let’s face it- doesn’t matter what culture you’re from- if you take the time and effort to think of and bring a plate of food from your families funeral to someone- well.. that’s an offering of love and acceptance.)

I think too often we’re afraid to reach out to people who are different. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll offend. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll be offended. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll be rejected. Maybe we fear we won’t be needed. Maybe we just don’t know what to do.

I thought and felt all of those things. Then I took a deep breath and I tried.

I wonder how different the world would be if we all took a few more little risks, if we thought about solutions and points of connection instead of differences and problems. Sure- maybe we’d end up scattering a few men in the Halal market. Maybe some things would flop like a fish on dry land. Maybe we’d seem overly eager to help. But our neighbors would know they are loved. That we tried.

I think that’s worth it. I kind of think Jesus is smiling over this whole thing…

My hubby and I are  planning on attending the reception later this week- and out of respect for the family- I won’t be sharing about that here. To touch someone’s grief and try to bring comfort-is private and holy. Not fodder for a blog.

To lend some salt and parking space and be surprised it meant something? Blog appropriate. To figure out how to feed people who’s dietary traditions and beliefs preclude you from cooking for them that ends up with me on an adventure in a grocery store where I can’t read the labels? That’s my story to share….

And I share it with hope that when your neighbor is hurting…or even when they aren’t-  That you’ll do something. Anything. To let them know you care. Even if they’re “different” from you. Cultural differences, lifestyle differences, appearance or preferences….

Difference don’t have to divide…. sometimes they just require some creativity to navigate.

I appreciate your continued prayers for this grieving family.

Now- go- love your neighbor. Or at least try. I will too. ;)