Friday, February 17, 2017

don't miss the moment

Oh, how to tell this story....

Maybe we will start here: It was 8:40 this morning when we were pulling out of my driveway. (Pertinent background to this story: The school bell rings at 9am. It takes 10 minutes on a good day to get Roman to school from our driveway, and I was finally leaving early. Glory hallelujah. You see, I've been making far too many 9:03am drop-offs lately and the school is becoming unimpressed with me. The people-pleaser in me is melting into a small, defeated heap at my feet because of this. It's not for not trying. It's just that when three small humans are completely uninterested in getting out the door on time, the one big person who does care just can't win. And so the stress of getting to school on time has been major lately. But that's another story.) "Hooray!!! We did it!!!!" I championed. Don't worry, the victory only lasted long enough for me to look at the gas gauge. CRAP. Crapcrapcrap. I have 4 miles until my tank is empty, and the 7-11 is 3 miles away...and the opposite direction of school.

I plugged the route I would need to take into the gps. ETA: 8:54.

We. Can. Do. This.

Let's say that I drove according to the speed limit to the gas station, and after what seemed like an hour I pulled in beside the gas pump. I'm pretty sure the angels in heaven we singing along with me, but it could just have been the blood pounding in my ears. That's hard to tell. (I'd like to say that I am over-dramatizing for the sake of story telling, but when you are a performer/sensitive/musician, what you see is what you get, homie!!)

I reached to get my purse.....whiiiiiiiich wasn't there. It WAS currently sitting on the kitchen counter. Clearly it won't be getting points for being a team player today.

So let's review: I can drive approximately 1 mile until my car is out of gas, I HAVE to get my son to school without being late because repeating 1st grade isn't flattering for him or me, and I have no way to pay for gas. Not even a little bit of gas to eek out the drive to school and home. My hands go to my face. I put my head on the steering wheel, while the chorus "Mommy, what's wrong? Why are we sitting here?" is bouncing from child to child, and 'round again. "What am I going to do?" I whisper.

And so I walk into the store. There are two cashiers working, the manager who was in her 40's and a younger girl in her early 20's. And a gentleman standing at the register so he could buy some pastries. And so I recap the story and end with, "...so if I could just borrow $5 from someone right now so that I can get enough gas to get my son to school, I can pay you back in less than an hour! I just don't have it right now....because my purse is at home....you see?"

"I'm sorry, but by law the store just can't lend you money. You have to understand. It's a store. It's not me."

"Well, right. I get that....what I'm asking is if either of you might have $5 that I can borrow?"

The young one went to go tend to something on the other side of the store. The gentleman pretended he didn't hear me and fiddled with his danishes. That left the manager. She looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, hunny. I don't have it either."

I'd like to say I turned around, pushed my shoulders back, and fiercely determined to come up with Plan B. In reality, I stood there and cried.

The gentleman left. The cashier turned away.

And so I stood at the counter, still crying (ugh.).....and asking the Lord just how I was going to get my son to school. My son, who now was most certainly going to be late.

I approached the manager again: Can you brainstorm with me about ways we can be creative? I have my phone, which means I can get my bank account numbers and routing numbers. Can I maybe take out a money order and use that to pay for my gas? "Sorry, we sell money orders but we don't accept them as payment here. Do you maybe have someone close by that you can call?"

No. I live in the middle of nowhere and don't have any friends within a 20 minute drive from my house. Great, now I feel all alone on top of it all.

More tears. Hide me now. "Okay, but the thing is, I HAVE TO GET MY SON TO SCHOOL SOMEHOW. And I literally can't leave this gas station without some gas in my tank. I'm talking $5. Is there any other option you can think of?"

She leaves and walks over to a gentleman- I'm guessing a repairman or something, since he is in coveralls. They talk like they might know each other, and then she comes back to me. "That gentleman is going to cover your $5 to get gas. You just need to wait for him to pay."

 So I walked over to the gentleman and thanked him with every ounce of heart I have in my body. "Thank you. Thank you so much. I just.....THANK YOU."

Don't worry about it, ma'am. (I'm a MA'AM?! Ew.) Just do it for someone else some day."

Indeed.

So I put the $5 of gas into my tank and hop into the drivers seat. We pull out of the 7-11, and I start full-on sobbing while I'm driving. Apparently, for those of us whose eyes are total betrayers, a few desperate sobs and an endless stream of silent tears isn't entirely fulfilling. I'm so glad that my eyeballs are overachievers! And it's entirely possible that my oldest son will have to go through counseling, because this was the first time he has witnessed his mother's soft heart, and he was so distraught. "Mommy, why are you crying?? What's wrong?? When I get home from school I am going to snuggle you for a long time." Sweet boy. You fix sad/angry/embarrassed hearts so well.

Finally, we pull into the school. Roman has a 9:10 check in. That's the worst I have ever had and the office ladies won't even meet my eyes. Really, though, that's okay.....I probably look like I'm tripping on drugs, what with my watery eyes and red, swollen face and all. I'm so glad I didn't put on makeup this morning. You know...since I didn't think I was going to have to get out of the car because we were leaving early. Sure. That worked for me! (enter "raise the roof" emoji here)

So, on the drive home, I found myself bouncing between the embarrassment of having to beg for gas money; the anger that it took FOUR PEOPLE until I could find someone willing to let me have $5 for gas; and the feelings of gratitude and inspiration at the man's generosity and challenge to pass it on.

But about the whole "it took four people" thing....this is what I have learned, by my ripe old age of 33: it's my responsibility to take people at their word. I'm not accountable for their honesty or their lies. I'm responsible for my response to their words. That has freed me from so much. If friends say there is no offense, I get to function as if that is entirely true. AND SO if someone says they don't have $5, I have to hold them to it, and believe that it is true. And assuming it is true?!?! What if I just came face-to-face with two women (I can't track down pastry man) who were living so tight that they genuinely didn't have $5 to spare.

I have been there. I have had a negative balance in my bank account and still had over a week to get through until payday. And not just once, either. I have had to live on credit cards because we switched from military to civilian world and the jobs didn't overlap. And let me tell you, those are some of the most scary, stressful, terrifying days I have lived through. And the Lord has been so generous with us..... overwhelmingly so. Life lesson I have learned #2: I have it so that I can give it. My home, my money, my time....it's mine so that I can give it to those who don't have it. If you know me, you know that is one the things I am most passionate about. Partly because I have lived through seasons where I didn't have those things. Mostly because that's what the Lord has put on my heart and I take Him seriously.

And because of this morning, I now have the opportunity to help two people in that position. And so let's do it! But first, makeup.

Listen. I'm still Lauren.

So after a quick trip home to grab that slacker-of-a-purse and apply some eyebrows, we head to the gas station to get some unleaded and use the ATM. Gas? Check. ATM? Out of order. "Okay, maybe I just won't stick to the plan. I would have to drive 7 more minutes in the opposite direction of home to get the cash, then I would have to go back to the store. You know, they might not even still be working. No one would ever know I didn't. I have my gas......no. I can make the world better than I found it. I believe in that. I'm called to be the Light.

(Golly, how long can this story get?!?! Are you even still here?)

So anyway, I go get the money and come back to the store. I wait until the two cars that were there leave so that our exchange can be private. The younger girl was at the register when I walked in and she smiled shyly to me. "Listen," I say. "I know you weren't in the position to lend me $5 today, and I just wanted to tell you that I've been there. I know what that's like and it's really, really hard. And so I just wanted to give you this and hopefully relieve some of your stress. And I'd really love if you would hold on to $5 of that and keep it folded in your wallet so that the next time someone comes in who just needs $5 to get home can have it. I kind of promised the guy I would pay it forward, and the best way I can figure it, this is the way to do it."

"Oh my god. I knew it. I KNEW IT!!! I had $5, and I could have given it to you. I even go to church and I knew God was telling me to give it to you but I just didn't it. I'm so fu%*& selfish!!! I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." Now she's the one crying. "Here, just take it back. Wait, wha-! How many bills are here?! Take it!!! This is way more than $5!!!! TAKE IT!"

"No way. Keep it. Just pay it forward."

Then she tells me that the gentleman from this morning was taking too long to pay, and her manager knew I had to get my son to school, so she ended up paying for my gas. I'm so glad she is still there. So I find the manager and explain it all again. Now there are three girls crying! (Look, sometimes when girls cry it's annoying, I guess, but other times it's bonding and this was girl bonding time at its best. There was hugging, there was laughing...) And I'm pretty sure the manager gave me what she didn't have to spare this morning, based on her response.

And so what began as one of the worst days I have had in a very long time found itself at noon, having become one of the very best days I have had lately. That's what God can do with our junk.

So that's the story.....

Why did I write it? Well, I guess because I am still heartbroken and rightly-angry that it took me four people to find one who would give a strange, disheveled mom $5 for gas. And I was pretty convinced that this world is a great place. And I still believe that it is, but maybe it's also more scared or hard-up than I had considered. So this post is still part of my paying it forward. It's my request that we all carry an extra $5 in our wallets for the person who needs it. It's my request that we all challenge ourselves to be brave enough to engage the person who is having a hard day without judging why they might need the money or why they might be dropping their kid off late (Or some other version of what seems like poor parenting to those who have zero clue what the story is that lead up to the moment you just witnessed.) We can do better.

We have to do better.

Because here is what I know: Most of us have $5 to give to the homeless person or enough food in our fridge to bring a meal to someone who needs one less task to do that night. But often, instead of giving money to the guy on the street, we tell ourselves that he's just going to buy drugs with it and we look away or tell him we don't have any money. But here's the thing- that's not your job to worry about. That's on them. (And hello- maybe he won't!) YOUR job is to be generous with what you have. That's the measuring stick you get held up to.

And it's not your job to decide that it's someone's fault that they are so stressed and exhausted lately. It's your opportunity to show some love and just bring them dinner. Just make a bigger dinner than your family needs and drop off half of it. It's easy.

You just do it. Because you might need $5 some day. Or you might need a dinner. Because hard days hit us all.

We need to stop just giving what we get. It's our job to leave this world BETTER than we find it.

So do me a favor and slip a $5 in your wallet, and keep it folded for the next person who needs it, okay. And if you could really use $5 today....it's okay to cry about it.

I cried with you.



Tuesday, September 8, 2015

kindergarten: an essay



September 8th, 2015

Roman’s first day of kindergarten.

Well here we are. Roman has spent every day with me- I have been the primary influence on his life unitl this point. And today, for the first time, he went off by himself. And he will spend the day with another adult, having only a few hours before bedtime here with me. And there are so many things going through my head, I don’t know what to feel most.

I feel excited. I am excited for what Roman will grow into this year. He will gain self-confidence. He will gain knowledge. He will gain independence. His little hands will learn how to pass out papers and his eyes will learn to read words. He will have homework and friends and milk money.

I feel loved. I have had personal texts from preschool teachers past, from grandparents and friends and mentors. I have been checked in on and prayed with and hugged. We have such a community here. People who root for us and want the best for us. Friends who are family and ask to see the "first day" pictures before you have even had a chance to take them. This is home. Our neighborhood is our nest. And I am so grateful. 

I feel scared. He is still so small!!!! Five isn’t a very big number for someone to go walking alone out into the big world. I want to be there to make sure he gets to his classroom safely, and to make sure kids are nice to him, and see to it that he obeys his teacher on the first time, everytime. I want to protect his ears from what he hears and his mind from the things I wish he wouldn’t yet learn.

I feel calm. He is not my own. He is God’s son even more than he is mine. And I have never been able to keep his life, even when he is under my roof. Each breath he breathes in has been given to him by his Heavenly Father. And that protection, care, and love hasn’t diminished a bit as he left through the doorway of my home this morning.

I feel secure. I believe that God has spoken clearly that Roman goes to public school. He has a calling over Roman’s life- Roman has been made for great things- and this is part of that. This is building his identity in Christ. More than the number of times I checked his back-to-school list are the times I reminded him that he can pray through anything today. I have ingrained it in his heart that God is going with him, he doesn’t have to be scared, and I have showed him how to pray, “Jesus, I’m scared right now. Please be with me and let my heart feel you.”

And feeling all those things, I walked him to the bus. We all did. Jerry, me, Liam, and Henry marching in single-file down our neighborhood street.  And our neighbors treated us as the scraggily parade we surely seemed. John and Sandy waved and called out best wishes! Trudy’s husband (I will  never remember his name to save my life) recalled his own first day of Kindergarten as we passed. Susan and James were waved as they sat on their front step waiting for the time when Susan would drive James to school.

And as we stood at the bus stop at the intersection at the end of our road taking pictures and making silly faces to be remembered in the years to come, James walked over. He decided to ride the bus with Roman this morning to make sure Ro had a buddy. Together they climbed the steps. Together they sat in the enormous seat. Together they rode off in the big, yellow bus. And as they waved, I cried. My baby. There he goes.

And as the bus pulled away, Liam said, “Mom, I miss Roman.”

So do I, Doodlebug. It’s going to be a lonely day without our funny clown, servant-hearted big brother.

A special moment came about an hour later, when I got a text from my friend Stephanie who was volunteering at school. I got a picture of a smiling Roman, lined up with his class and happy. He made it. He got to school.

And so his day begins. I am willing to bet that his day will pass much faster than my own…

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

it's not you it's me

Guys, I'm taking a break. Gradually, over the last year and a half, I've been losing my desire to blog. I love to write just as much as ever but the time needed to do it well has escaped me, and there continue to be other opportunities to explore where writing is concerned- and I want to do them.

It's not like this needed said written, I get that. This is really more for me than for you. I like closure. :) And I don't know if this will be a final close or just a season..... but for now I want to fold up the ole' laptop and move on to something else.

So for now I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing your comments. Thanks for getting in touch with me when something stuck your heart. I dream of a day when I can pick up the blog again but do it daily. I sure loved it. But I don't like doing things that I can't do well. And I'm not doing the online thing very well these days.

Maybe I'll see you once small people begin to head off to school. Maybe there will be a random post here and there. Maybe the breakup will last for a whopping two months and then my fingers will be itchy.After all, you've treated me so well. It's not you- you've been great to a gal. It's me. I just need a break. Things like tee ball and soccer are calling my name.

It's Becker Style, out.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

it's been a long time comin'





As I sit here watching the snow rapidly disappear from my now-swamp-like back yard I find myself barely able to breathe, so great is my anticipation of spring. Not just spring the season, although that in itself will be a huge relief, but I feel like it is the spring of a new chapter in life. My husband JUST completed his MBA, which began immediately after the completion of three years of work for his Bachelor’s degree. After five years, I’m ready to have my husband back. I’m ready to spend my evenings and weekends with my best friend. I’m ready to look forward to a weekend instead of feeling like it’s just another week day. I- no WE- feel free.

I’m excited for other things, too. I’m seeing freedoms that come from kids being slightly older than they were before. I love knowing that our new-baby days are behind us. Don’t misunderstand me; those days are inconceivably sweet. But we have been in them almost endlessly for the last four and a half years, and the thought that we only have a year or so left to be tied down by mandatory naps makes me excited. I’m excited to travel. I’m ready to explore with my kids. I’m ready for a more flexible schedule. And for kids to dress themselves! Can I get an “Amen!? Come on, Henry.

I’m excited because our budget/savings/retirement finally all look the way a responsible adult’s finances should. Full disclosure: finances- well, the responsible stewardship of them- never came easily either one of us. And finally we can see the victories we have made standing all lined up in a row. Finally we are on top of the mountain that seemed unconquerable a decade ago. We have developed big-boy words like “discipline” and “self-control” and “wisdom.” Those words are monsters, I’ll have you know. They aren’t fun to acquire and they aren’t easy to become. Nor are they fast. But they finally can be used to describe the handling of our money. And golly, I like it.

So drip away, winter. Melt away snow- both the figurative and literal kinds. I’m ready for the sunshine and for new growth and for the beauty of fresh beginnings. Heck, I’m ready to send my kids outside!!!!!!! We all have better days that way.

And don’t you think it’s perfectly symbolic the way winter gives way to spring? I think it’s so poetic that the weight of white and cold that keeps us bound inside for a season is the very thing that melts and gives way to growth. It’s the water from the snow that distributes into the soil and prepares it to welcome new blooms.

How’s that for perfect design?

Monday, February 16, 2015

how to stop the tattle

Before I was a mother, I was a teacher. A music teacher, specifically. And I have discovered that classroom management skills also come in handy when mothering three man-babies. We won’t talk about whether it’s harder to corral three littles or one hundred high schoolers, but I’ve done them both.

One of the most-used skills I have taken with me into motherhood is the phrase, “Give him a message.”  That tattling stuff is a dirty business. I think it might annoy me more than most other child-related woes. And I learned something while teaching in a kindergarten classroom that totally changed the way I respond to tattletales.  Let’s use a common scene in my house for example.

Let's say my oldest (4.5 yrs) and my middle (3 yrs) are playing get-the-bad-guy happily together in the basement. Someone accidentally hits too hard, and tears and anger arise. I hear stomping up the stairs, and the wounded bursts through the door. “Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom. He hit me!”

“Did you give him a message?” I respond calmly.

“No.” he angrily quips.

Continuing to wash the dishes, I calmly reply, “Well then, go give him a message. If he hits you again, then you can come get me. Give your brother the opportunity to make a better choice.” And back down he goes.

My children know that the message they are delivering is, “Please don’t hit me.” Or, if you're feeling too angry to say it that politely, a firm "Don't hit me. I don't like that." works, too!

It’s brilliant, you guys. 1)They are learning to settle disagreements at the lowest possible level. They are figuring out how to calmly and verbally communicate to the person who made them upset that they are upset. Don’t punch them. Don’t wait for someone else to solve your problems for you. Use your words and cause a change.

2)They are learning that THEY determine how others will treat them. I think this is so important! I want my children to be able to tell a friend, a peer, OR a harmful adult that they don’t like the way they are being treated. And to be practiced in the verbiage that message uses. And also, to expect that person to stop!

3)They learn that when someone says, “Stop. I don’t like how you’re treating me.” THEY LISTEN. In our house, if you repeat the unwanted behavior that someone just asked you to stop doing, you are in big trouble. This is for the future girls they will date, this is for the friend who doesn’t like how they are playing, and this is for them. Because they need to expect people to stop once they have clearly established the way they will be treated. They need to be alarmed if that person doesn't stop.

4)They learn that in our house, we give second chances and take opportunities to make better decisions. I think that’s kind of a beautiful thing.

And it’s not terrible that another side effect is that 5)they come to me less! I don’t get many tattles these days.  They know I won’t do anything until they have given their brother or friend a message. And you’d be surprised how many potential conflicts become nothing once a message has been given. Pity to the child who doesn’t respect the message.
                                                                                                                                                                                     
Four words, and such an impact they make! You know, I’m still waiting to find a practical application for my skills in chord analysis, but this “Give him a message” business has proven to be gold.

What have you found to be one of your go-to tools in your parent tool belt? I’d love to know.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bo Peep's Bonnets

You can count on 4 things. 1)I love clothes. 2)I love being unique. 3)I love unique clothes or wearing clothes a unique way. 4)I love wearing unique clothes for a good cause.

And Bo Peep's Bonnets is the perfect collision of all those things.

You can go to their website at www.bopeepsbonnets.com if you want the whole story, but the basic gist is this: Danielle and Leslie knit beautiful, unique items (think hats, scarves, cowlnecks, and headbands for men, woman, and children- even matching sets for parent/child!) through their Etsy shop. When you purchase an item for yourself- they ship hats to patients suffering hair loss due to illnes. Pretty cool. You get a beanie, folks like chemo patients get to stay warm in a beautiful, FREE way.

This is personal to me because Leslie is a close friend of mine from our college years. She has been there through life moments like weddings and babies, inspired my fashion sense, and always had a bohemian joie de vivre that draws people to her. So when she teamed up with Danielle, who started Bo Peep's, it popped up on my radar. They sent me a box of some items and asked if I'd be willing to play around with them. I said sure- because who doesn't love to play with pretty things?!

I have already posted two of the pictures on my Instagram feed, for those of you who follow me THERE. So you may have seen the first two items on their test run. But it bears repeating. ;) The first piece I tried out was the Earwarmer Turban, linked for you HERE. I love it because it doesn't make the rest of your hair flat like wearing a regular beanie does, and wearing it lower around the head like a turban headband makes it more like a current fashion statement instead of the earwarmer-headbandy-thingy I wore skiing as a kid.



The second item I "test drove" was the Slouchy Knit Hat. I love me a good beanie. I own no less than five in many different colors. And this one has both the perfect length behind the crown as well as the perfect slouch factor. They make all of these items in many colors, and you can find the link directly to the hat HERE.


And my absolutely FAVORITE treasure in the box was the Triangle Scarf. I just haven't seen anything like it in stores. This is where the whole "I love unique things" comes into play the most. It's soft and knitted like any scarf, but it looks edgier. I have worn it out many, MANY times because these crazy-generous girls told me to keep it. (They even adjusted the design when I said I was having a hard time keeping it from sliding- the scarf now comes with buttons so that it stays exactly where you put it.) And the fun part about this scarf is the attention she gets! EVERY time I walk into a place-choir rehearsal, the post office, the local pizza joint- people comment on it. And I get to tell them how the can give hats for people who are having some rough days while supporting the business of two hard-working mamas. The link for the Triangle Scarf is right HERE. Pictures below, naturally.







So listen. I asked how many hats would be donated if someone were to spend $40 at their shop...their answer was 4. Four hats. They cover shipping. And the folks who need them can ask for them directly, or friends/family can nominate them. So spread the word, 'k? Even if you don't need to buy a beanie now. You may know someone who could use one. But even better, go buy a beanie. Or a GORGEOUS cowl neck scarf. Or a cute flower beanie set for a mother/daughter photo shoot. This world can use a little more good in it, and these girls are doing their part.

Be a part of their part. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

the power of a password


I read an article earlier this year about a man who found success by changing his passwords and using them to keep him focused at achieving his goals.You can read the original article by clicking here.

I read the dang thing this summer and it has stayed with me for months- that's when you know it's good! So, resolutions for the new year and everything, I decided that I would put it to use this year. Spending the first five hours of 2015 (slight exaggeration, admittedly, but think about how many passwords YOU have!!)  I went around and changed every password for anything and everything to reflect my goal. I won't tell you exactly what I did because....well...it's not that I don't trust you but. Don't worry. "It's not you, it's me." So while I won't give you mine, here are some examples of some you could use this year:

lose20pounds
BeNice2People
save4Ireland
eatingveggies#ftw
Stick2Budget!
Callm0mM0re (using zeros for the letter "o")

We'll see how it all pans out. I'll tell you that the one I'm using is related to a certain spending plan and, let me tell you,  it's an effective deterrent when you have to log on to your J.Crew account by reminding yourself to be good. I have already given my past self a few middle-fingers for this "great idea" but it's working.  Day 3 and going strong baby!!!!

Sooooo look, I nominate we end 2015 now. That way we all stick to our goals, we write every resolution off as a success, and we go back to the glory of our former worse selves. Forget all this "new leaf," "self-improvement" mumbo jumbo.

You in?




No?

I figured.

Thanks for nothing, you guys. I'll be sure to tell you to put the new boots down and hold you accountable to your resolution.






Okay, I can't even joke about that. I'll never tell you to put boots down.


I need to stop now.