Just the Two of Us: The Tales of a Temporarily Single Mom

On Sunday Doc left us.

Okay. So that seems a bit dramatic. It’s only temporary, but still.
For the next 8 weeks, it will just be me and Rosebud attempting to navigate this crazy, busy world of being a working single parent.
Doc will be cutting people open somewhere in Cleveland for 4 weeks, and then somewhere in Missouri for 4 weeks after that.
55 days.
(Not that I’m counting or anything.)

SO. For 55 days, I will be responsible for shuffling Rosebud to and from school, getting her school supplies for her new big girl class, attending the parent meetings at school, laundry, dance class, dinner, bath time, 40+ hour/week job, grocery shopping.
Y’all, I’m tired just writing about it.

On top of that all, I hurt somewhere deep inside. Doc and I have never spent this much time apart and I don’t have anyone to put my cold feet on. Plus I have to sleep with the light on. Okay. Two lights on.

In the near future please plan to be regaled with hilarious stories about running out of gas (because I’m used to him taking care of that), and almost losing a hand to the weedeater, because hey–he does that, too.

Also plan to be regaled with stories of emotional breakdowns because I’m experiencing the reality that real single parents face on an everyday basis with no light at the end of the tunnel.

The truth is, sometimes you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone. Even if it’s only 5 hours away, has FaceTime and is eventually coming home.
This entire process has made me appreciate the man that I married so much. Whether it’s the looks that say: “Hunter. You need to chill and quit stressing,” or him making sure my coffee is made before he leaves for the hospital.

This season of life is hard and involves a lot of tears. But it’s also pretty amazing to see the way God prepared us for this weeks and months in advance. He got my brother-in-law a new job in Lexington, meaning that now I have my family right down the road if I need them, and Rosebud has plenty of cousins to take her mind off of missing dad. I have my best friend’s wedding to look forward to which makes the time go faster. I have a great job that keeps me excited and busy. Doc recently got a new car that will take him safely to and from these long trips. Steve Jobs created Apple which created FaceTime to make the separation easier…..all for the Whitakers.

Every morning, I have to look in the mirror and tell myself that I can do this.
Every night, Rosebud and I FaceTime Doc and she marks another day off on her Frozen calendar.
And though I know this is only temporary….right now it really just sucks.

If you wouldn’t mind, throw your extra thoughts, prayers, vibes and hugs our way.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

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The House that Built Me

When I was 5-years-old, Grandma bought me a duffel bag out of a Harriet Carter magazine. Because what a quintessentially grandmotherly thing to do. It was pink and had a little blonde girl screen printed on it, and H-U-N-T-E-R emblazoned across the top. Along the bottom, in bright yellow letters it said “Going to Grandma’s”.

Most Fridays I would pack that duffel bag and take it to school with me. When Grandma and Grandpa picked me up on Friday afternoon, that was it. All bets were off. I was “Going to Grandma’s.”

I spent more time in that house than anywhere else in my 26-years. As a little girl, I scuffed up the hardwood floors running in and out in the summer. As a teenager, I learned to drive in the neighborhood streets. As a wife, I brought my husband and baby girl there to eat pancakes cooked on a griddle from 1954.

The house has looked the same since they moved in. No re-decorating. They didn’t even move the furniture around. When I hit the door, whether at 6 or 26, Grandma was either in her black rocking chair, or standing in the kitchen.

But here we are, and the final papers are signed.
906 Plainview Drive is no longer “Grandma’s house.”

My sisters and I went through her 88-years of life. Clothes and quilts, newspaper clippings of 4-H talent shows, pictures we’d colored in 1994. We took down pictures and emptied cabinets.

It looked so much bigger with everything emptied away. The shell that held a home. And I want to cry for everything that I had.

The house that built me.
Standing at her stove, wearing a red apron, Grandma taught me the prayer to say to ask Jesus into my heart.
Laying in the back bedroom, I learned that books and words could create power beyond measure.
Laying on the couch after knee surgery, I experienced servant love while she washed my hair in a pan.
Building blocks in the living room, I learned to start all over again when the tower falls.
Watching ‘Anne of Green Gables’ on the old VCR taught me about passion and heartache and laughing and growing up.
It was the house that built me.

And it always smelled like mashed potatoes and sugar cookies.
It was that house that built me.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Look Out World–I’m Sinning Again

I make a lot of mistakes in life. Like–a lot.
I constantly am finding some new way to get in my own way, or losing my temper, or “letting my mouth write checks that my butt can’t cash” to put it in Hudge’s terms.
I sin. Sometimes a dozen times before I’ve had my morning coffee (more if it’s a Monday).

I judge.
I hate.
I judge again.
I covet.
I lose my patience.
I run from the Word.

And that’s just on a normal day–you should see me during basketball season.

The Ten Commandments are full of some pretty heavy, pretty lofty processes and goals.
Don’t lie. Don’t take stuff that isn’t your’s. For goodness sakes, don’t kill anybody.
Don’t covet. Keep Sunday holy. Be good and respectful to your momma and your papa.

These should be pretty easy standards to match.
(They aren’t.)

But by far my biggest struggle in this life lies in the two (arguably most important) commandments:
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make idols.

Growing up in the Church from a young age, these two commandments always struck me as a bit archaic. Sure they applied back in BC whatever when the Israelites were over there worshipping gold cows and everyone was running around with Baal-Zebub (which I mean, what an awful name for a god–even a fake one).

But how many of us modern evangelics are going around praying to a piece of jewelry?
So as a child I went ahead and gave those two commandments a mental check.
Like, okay. I’m good with those. Never going to struggle with cow worship, so moving on. What’s next?
Failing to understand their importance and true meaning made me particularly vulnerable in failing to follow their calling.

But as I’ve grown and matured in my life, I’ve learned a thing or two. Okay, maybe just a thing, but still. God knew exactly what He was doing when He handed down those Commandments to His people so long ago. He made them uniquely applicable to the BC Christians, to the 17th Century Christians, and to the Starbucks drinking millennial Christians of today.

Because maybe your god or your idol isn’t as tangible as cow jewelry.
Maybe your god or idol is money, success, acceptance, adoration, your job, or shoes (guilty).
Or maybe of all things your god and your idol is a 3-year-old little girl with bright blue eyes and her handsome, bow-tie wearing dad.

PLOT TWIST.
What do we do when we create idols out of the very blessings God has given us?

I’ve never struggled in my belief. I’ve often struggled in my faith and reliance–but never in my belief.
I always said quite confidently that if anyone were to ever persecute me for my faith or to hold a gun to my head and ask me if I believe in God, I would be able to answer “yes”. Genuinely.

But then Rosebud was born. And the question became instead: What if someone were to hold a gun to HER head and ask me if I believed in God? Then what?

Wow. Hold the phone.

Thankfully I live in a time and place where my freedom to chose my faith is without persecution.
But what about Abraham? What about Isaac?
If I’m being completely honest, here, which I always try to be: if God commanded me to sacrifice my Rosebud as He did with Abraham and his beautiful baby boy, Isaac……Well–Boy oh boy would I fail that test.
Abraham believed. And God provided.
But could I take that chance? Do I have that strength? Nope. Nu-uh. No. Not even a little.

The Bible tells us to love one another. But that when compared to the love we have for God, those Earthly bonds should seem like hate.

What if eternal life didn’t include my Doc and sweet Rosebud? What then?
WHY IS THIS STUFF SO HARD?

But it’s love, right? How can the God of Love deem loving a sin? It all seems so bass-awkward.
But the thing of it is–I’m not called to love them less. But to love Him more.

God gave me Doc and Rosebud, and in them I get to experience joy and grace abounding .
But even what I feel for them pales in comparison to what God feels for them.
So I have to give up. Something I’ve never been good at.

I have to realize that all the goals and dreams and desires for good things that I have for Doc and Rosebud are absolute dirt compared to what God wants for them.
So I have to bow to His love and stop competing against it.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ever.

What’s your god? Who’s your idol? And how do you deal with it?
In the (over-sung, over-played, super annoying) words of Elsa of Arrendale: LET IT GOOOOOO.

I’m going to fail at this today. And probably tomorrow, too.
But I’m really hoping God has a special place is in His heart for mommas that parked their car on Struggle Street.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

This Is As Good As It Gets

I don’t have a very good memory. Things that go into my head get lost a lot.
I like to think that it’s because I’ve got so much knowledge from all my years of living that there just isn’t enough room, and so I have to filter out a lot of things.

But the reality is that it’s mainly just useless Disney trivia, a lot of facts about Abraham Lincoln, and the entire script to Forest Gump.

Either way, I don’t have a lot of moments that stick out in my mind, so the ones that do usually mean something.
I have this distinct memory of a field day in the fourth grade. Mom took off work for the day to volunteer at the parent booth, and the Italian ice truck came to the school just for us. I ran in the sack race and won a medal, and momma was there cheering, and I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of a Friday night my senior year of high school. About eight of my closest friends were all crowded onto a single trampoline with a bunch of comforters. We were staring at the stars and waxing poetic about the fear of graduation and the future and how much we loved one another, and I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of sitting in the front room of the house on Chestnut Street my junior year of college. I was surrounded by the greatest women in the world and we were all singing along to ‘Forever Young’ and with one another, thinking it could be true. We really could be forever young. I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I remember walking through the Colonnade after a Saturday afternoon tailgate and football game, holding hands and laughing with a cute boy with dimples and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. We ran through the fountains and back to the Castle, and I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I remember walking down the aisle of a church with that same blue-eyed guy waiting at the end. I remember the part of the service that he leaned down and washed my feet to promise he’d always love me and serve me. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of walking on a park track, 9-months pregnant, holding the dog’s leash while the sun was setting, huffing and puffing attempting to encourage Rosebud to just be born already. We got in the car to drive home, and Doc said: “This might be the last day when it’s just the two of us.” And it was. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I remember having contractions and thinking: “This is absolutely as bad as life gets.”
Pause. Shudder.

I have a distinct memory of being in the hospital the night after Rosebud was born and looking over to see Doc holding her and staring at her for hours. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of a summer afternoon that we all three spent together, working in the garden, swimming, and the smell of Doc’s grill. We spread out a blanket in the back yard and had a picnic, and ended the day on the patio swing. It felt like nothing in the world could touch the three of us. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

Now. Please don’t get me wrong. These perfect days–more like snapshots–were surrounded by moments and days where I just didn’t know if I would make it through. But memory often colors those bad days.

In every season of life, I keep thinking I’ve peaked. Nothing could be better. My heart it so nostalgic, and it  aches to see chapters close and these seasons end. I forget to look ahead toward what good could come, and instead I dread the unknown.
I fear the things I can’t see.

So if today you’re sitting on the cusp of the unknown–take heart in knowing that there are good days ahead. Even if you think that today is as good as life can get.
Rest in the peace of the One who knows exactly what tomorrow holds.
Rest in the peace of the One who is preparing you for your best day. When it really will be as good as life could get.

And take heart in the fact that somewhere out there, I’m just as scared sh*tless as you are.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Untitled

One of Grandma’s greatest talents, besides feeding us all full of cheesy, fried, Southern food, and knowing the tricks to every game on The Price is Right, was sewing. All through our growing up years, she would make these beautiful dresses for Christina and Martha and I. Always matching, which, as the youngest, I loved. Them? Not so much—they were way too cool. But Grandma could take these scraps of fabric that looked like nothing to the rest of the world—and she could see their potential. The dresses and quilts and doll clothes that they could be. She was an artist.

Maybe it was that talent that allowed her to see the potential in all of us, too. She believed that we could do anything (except make mistakes—her grandchildren could do anything but make mistakes) and in believing that, she made us believe it, too.

Grandma’s hands that could take a scrap of fabric and turn it into the perfect Scarlett O’Hara barbecue dress could take this unruly, loud, bumbling little tomboy and smooth out the edges and help form something that could be somewhat mistaken for a lady. (If you squint your eyes and tilt your head a little to the left.)

The day before she passed, I wrote a blog about her, and even now I can think of no better way to describe her.

Death is a strange thing. The strangest thing that we can try to understand as humans, I think. Our bodies are wired to survive at all costs, so when they eventually fail us, our minds struggle to wrap around that. We say we lost someone, but to be perfectly honest, Grandma isn’t lost. I know exactly where Grandma is. On Tuesday morning she walked with Jesus like she always wanted, and she held her baby boy for the first time in 21 years. And she kissed her sweetheart.
If anything, now I’m the one that’s lost.
Without my cell phone constantly ringing for her to “tell me just one thing” or just to hear my voice. Without my trips to the nursing home, and her cravings for Taco Bell.

When she lost her only child, my dad, I sat in Grandma’s lap during the funeral and slept through it all. She said holding me is what helped her get through the day, so the Lord must have planned it. That may have been where this special whatever we had began. What she doesn’t know is that her holding me is what got me through the last 26 years.

I just want to finish with a poem I wrote when Grandma was staying with me a couple of months ago.

It Is Time
She is pancake mix and chocolate chip cookies and pink lemonade.
She is buttercups flowers and knockout roses and yard sales on Saturday mornings.
She is evening walks and holding hands.
She is the nighttime reader who always said yes to “just one more.”
She’s seen the worst the world can offer, and remained good.

She’s the gift to my childhood–flesh of her flesh.

I knew this was coming.
I thought I was ready.
But I am the little girl again, not wanting to go home.
Please, please let me stay!
Please, please let her stay.

She has gone.
“It is time.”
And I am so very different.
How very much I loved her.
How blessed to have her in my world.
How blessed to have lived in her’s.

This is what I wrote for Grandma’s funeral–which was a lifetime ago and also only a second.
I cried today.
My first real ‘my heart hurts’  cry since she died.
Between all the funeral preparations and the estate probating and thousands of calls to life insurance, health insurance, social security, blah blah blah, I think I stayed just busy enough.
But I cried today.
Because I think I could search the whole world over, back through all of history, and never find someone who understood me like she did.

Thank you all for your kind words since last Tuesday. Thank you for your hugs and your thoughts and especially your prayers. And thank you for calling up your grandparents just to say hello.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Grandparents

Grandma and I have fallen into a routine of sorts.
I go in and help her pick her clothes for the day, wash, and dress. I get her dirty laundry, bring it home to wash, hang up the shirts and fold her socks.
It’s funny the way something so foreign can become so familiar so fast.

Smells you used to notice when you walked in the door don’t seem nearly so strong by now, and strange sounds in the hallway fade into the background.

There’s really no secrets between us at this point. It’s our new “normal.”

I noticed that her papery skin was getting dry and cracked so I picked up some Aveeno lotion and brought it with me. I was rubbing it across her shoulders and my mind was wandering at all the weekends and summer vacations I’d spent at her house. And this is our life now.

I brushed her hair. I trimmed her toenails and fingernails and painted them ‘shell pink’–her favorite. Rosebud’s favorite, too. Then I got her Taco Bell because she’ll be 89-years-old this year, and I think if you live that long you ought to be able to eat what you want, when you want–salt or no salt. And if what you want is a Mexican pizza, two tacos, and a root beer, then so be it.

I have no idea why I’m even writing about any of this except to process it myself.

She looks at me the way I used to look at her. Expectant. Like I have the answers, when really I’m just trying to figure out how to manage all of this.

All of our lives, grandparents have this special ability to make us feel so loved no matter what.
Growing up, we know our parents love us, but they also carry the burden of disciplining us. There’s always that risk of getting in trouble–because they are charged with shaping us as people.

Grandparents, on the other hand, just get to love without the hindrance of the “you can’t do that’s” and “I said no’s.”

Or at least if you’re as lucky as I’ve been.

My grandparents had this special ability to make me feel so….precious.
Loved isn’t the right word. And neither is special.
They made me feel like I made their world a beautiful place.

When I would spend the night at Grandma’s house–whether I was 6, or 16–she would come into my room at night, pray with me and kiss me and tell me how much she loved me.
And I believed her.
That no matter what I did in life and no matter where I went, her love and her prayers would go, too.

Yesterday before I left the nursing home, I helped her change into her nightgown–all of the awkwardness about modesty and whatnot washed away by this point. I leaned down to hug her and she kissed me on the cheek and told me “Thank you. I love you so much. You’re precious to me.”

And just like that I was 5-years-old again, holding Grandma’s hand as we took one of our walks.
I cried the whole way home because it’s hard to see the hands that cooked you a million pancake breakfasts fumble over buttons.
I cried the whole way home because I’d give about a million dollars to go back in time for just one day–to get up at 1 in the morning just to eat cinnamon toast and watch an old movie together–for no other reason than to be together.

But mainly, I cried the whole way home because even now, when there’s nothing she can really do or give, she still makes me feel so loved and so precious.

One year for Mother’s Day, we got Grandma a wall hanging that said “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made grandparents.”
And with my grandparents, I’ve gotten to experience the truest, most unconditional love this side of Heaven.
And I hope you have, too.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

 

Spring Break As a Mom: Heavy on the Spring, Light on the Break

Along with real housewife, mom, landscaper, maid, nurse, and official backyard pooper scooper I also wear the student hat. That’s one I just can’t seem to take off. 20 years and counting. And last week was Finals Week: where everything that can go wrong will.

We run on a full time block schedule. So we take courses for 8 weeks, have finals, then begin our next 8 week block. It took some adjusting to because my body was stuck in semester and you can’t teach an old sorority girl new tricks. It’s super fast-paced, and pretty intense and that’s the way I like life, so I get by. Also. If you have a really terrible professor, you’re only stuck with them for half the time. Heyyyyyyy.

I always have the best intentions to begin preparing for my finals far in advance. But after working 20 hours, cooking enchiladas, and trying to fit in some solid time with Doc and Rosebud, the time gets whittled away and I’m left scrambling.

Then, and here’s the kicker, I scheduled an interview, a conference call, and a dentist appointment all in one week. Guess which week. Go ahead, guess. Yup. Finals week. Because apparently I’m an unconfirmed sadist.

But I wasn’t panicked. No. I can get this all done. Where’s my cape? Hand me my cape! Watch me work(fail) mere humans!!! I was feeling cocky. And pride always goeth before the fall. And before the emotional breakdown.

Rosebud turned on me. The Benedict Arnold spiked a fever Sunday night and the days dedicated to studying started to look less hopeful. I should’ve known. It’s the curse of finals’ week. So everyday that week I spent at home with my snotty, grumpy, feverish 2-year-old, all the while making calls and doing policy reports for work and attempting to study and complete final exams and 15 page reviews over education finance laws. Gag me with a peanut butter covered spoon.

But there was a light at the end of this tunnel: Spring. Break. I knew that if I could only make it to Friday at midnight, the week from H.E.double L would end, and I would immediately slip into the cuddly comfort of sleeping late and relaxing on my very last Spring Break.

Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Yeah. Right.

The weekend leading up to Spring Break was spent in bed alright, sick as a dog. Rosebud breathed on me just one too many times. Started off with a real bang.

Monday: I spent an hour on the phone with Best Buy trying to figure out where my Grandmother’s t.v. that I ordered her was. For the record, nobody knew. And then the next six hours catching up on the mending/hemming I’d been putting off for 6-months. I hemmed 10 pairs of John’s dress pants, 2 of Rosebud’s dresses, and fixed a few loose buttons. Then I went……….grocery shopping. DUH DUH DUNnnnnnnnn. We needed to hit up the whole shebang-Sam’s Club, Kroger, even Wal-Mart (where Rosebud found a pack of clearance big girl panties for $4.50 and wouldn’t put them down because apparently every 2 year old needs panties with birds on them, and “Mommy, I not has any bird panties at home.”) Home. Dinner. Got Rosebud ready for bed. Worked on policy reports for work. Went. to. bed.

Tuesday: I went to work. Got home and saw that Grandma’s new chair had been delivered, so I put the chair together. Made some homemade salsa, so the cilantro wouldn’t wilt like Rick Pitino’s career, then started dinner. Doc and Rosebud got home, we loaded up the glider and ottoman into the car and headed to Richmond to see Grandma. Got her laundry to wash and a list of things she needed. On the way home she calls to tell me that this chair just “doesn’t suit” and I’ll have to come back and pick it up. Tonight. I said no, because I’m trying to stay out of jail and I didn’t want to be the focus of an episode of Snapped. Got home. Ate the dinner I’d cooked at 4:30 (reheated chicken is yum) gave Rosebud a bath, helped her fill out her bracket for our family tournament, and put the babe to bed. Time change is a real friend to mom’s everywhere, and so Rosebud was up every 10 minutes for the next hour and a half. “I need to pee-pee.” “I need to go poo.” “I need some water. I sirstee.” Finally, bed. Also, Marco Rubio dropped out of the primary race so I spent a good hour mourning the loss of the Republican Party to Donald Trump. RIP.

Wednesday: I went to get a hair cut. Which every busy woman knows is basically a vacation. I spent 2 1/2 hours getting pampered, and walked out feeling like a new woman. Sigh. I wish everyday was haircut day. But then reality put its foot back up my butt and I started working a thesis assignment, and doing work for my real, out of the house job. The day hit a  high note with a trip to McAlister’s for dinner with a best friend. Then we went to Best Buy, picked up Grandma’s t.v. and headed home. Rosebud went down fairly easily, and I helped Doc edit a personal statement for a rotation application and took his picture so he’d have one to attach. (Note to self: Add Professional Photographer with focus on portraiture and headshots to resume.)

Thursday: Doc insisted that I sleep in today and relax. It’s so cute when he’s oblivious. I slept in until 8:00. When my phone started ringing off the hook. It’s currently 12:15 and I’ve had 5…wait. now 6. calls from Grandma/the nursing home. In between answering the phone, I cleaned out and organized the storage building, started my billion loads of laundry for Grandma and us, and got our spring/summer clothes out of storage and put our winter things away. Took a break to blog and eat a turkey sam. I will follow that up with an exciting afternoon of preparing our tax documents because we will be going to get our taxes filed this evening at 6. After that we’ll drive to Richmond, and I’ll hang up/put up Grandma’s laundry, pick up that chair and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine return it to Target, and get home just in time to put Rosebud to bed and watch Doc chew off his fingernails during the Cats’ first game.

Friday: Tomorrow I’ll be spending what I’m sure will be a lovely day at the office of community based services where I will spend hours fills out Grandma’s long-term stay Medicaid application. Whenever that is complete, I’ll finish my spring cleaning.

Saturday: We’ll be taking Rosebud to an Easter egg hunt and to meet the great bunny himself at Grandma’s nursing home, so that Grandma will be able to argue with all of the other old women there about whose grandkid/great-grand-kid is the cutest and the smartest.

Sunday: Church. And then I will be spending my day of rest on the couch, watching House of Cards. (If this actually happens, it will be a miracle.)

So here’s to all you women out there experiencing the joys of spring “break”. Shoot. I’ve worked harder this week than the rest of the year combined. Head up–summer is just around the corner. Oh wait. No summer break? I’ll graduate and have a real job instead?

Well. Dang.
C’est la vie, my friends. C’est la vie.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

 

 

Are You There God, It’s Me Hunter

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with life that I could scream. The vein popping out in the middle of my forehead, really red-faced and sweaty type of scream.
Not that it would do any good. Like, at all.
It’s not exactly a healthy way of dealing with emotions, and it would scare the bejeebies out of Doc and Rosebud.

Lately, I’ve been tried. And I fear that I’ve been found wanting.
I keep waiting to find my footing, only to slip again as soon as I’ve found it.

The setting up of our first home and all the mishaps and curves that go with that, all of the everyday up and downs of raising a kid and all of the fear and uncertainty that accompanies it, AND trying to keep up with Grey’s Anatomy. That seems like enough, but then throw in medical school and crazy hours, me going back to grad school, trying to complete my internship placement to graduate, the job search, a locked up jaw, and an 88-year-old woman completely dependent on me and well, let me just tell you, there are days I want to hide under the covers and never emerge.

Because I’m 25 years old and I never thought I’d be responsible for so many things so soon. Life is in fast-forward at 8x speed, and I’m almost positive that I hit pause the spring semester of my senior year in college.

If this blog reads like one really long list of complaints to you, well, that’s because that’s exactly what it is.
A self-pitying, stomp my foot, temper tantrum of words.
This is me, standing outside, screaming to the Heavens: “CAN THIS GET ANY WORSE?!?” And then rain, a tornado, and a house fall on my head.

This is my “why me?” post.
Are you there, God, it’s me, Hunter, and I could really use a break. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, also could you do something about those student loans? Med school, though.

ANYWHO.

On top of it all, I have this tendency to internalize everything. Why is it my business to have constant anxiety about the public deficit? Or about the drought in sub-saharan Africa? Or how does the Internet really even work?
The pressure keeps building and it feels like it’s coming from everywhere at once. I have nursing homes calling me, Medicare representatives coming out my ears, life insurance policies to switch around, a toddler that I have to feed, a husband that would wear plaid with stripes if I didn’t keep an eye on him, and my dog constantly has a really weird smell wafting off of him.

I feel like I’ll collapse under the weight. Maybe I’m not as strong as I thought I was and so I second-guess myself. Then I look around and everybody’s hurting and I don’t know why and there’s nothing I can do, and…..See. See what happens when I pick up steam.

Do you do that? Do you ever feel so lost in all the mayhem that you just want a remote control to push STOP so you can finally catch your breath?
Don’t. Don’t do that, Hunter.
Don’t ever press STOP. Don’t ever wish your struggles away.
The truth is, no. We can’t control our circumstances or the things life throws our way. We never will be able to, and the sooner we recognize that, the better off we will be.
But it is always, ALWAYS our choice on how we cope, on how we rise.

When you find yourself wondering where all the good in the world has gone, remember this: Goodness still exists even though life is hard and cruel, and even though people suffer.
Cling to this truth: God’s goodness was never meant to take away the world’s suffering, but to provide a refuge in the midst of it.
The ONLY thing that God’s goodness erases, then, is hopelessness.
Because if God is good, then there will always be Hope: even in the presence of so much struggle and injustice that we want to scream.

My tiny, human brain looks around and says “Ew. This isn’t fair. I don’t like this anymore, God. No thanks.”
We see the hurting and say God must not exist. Not in a world this bad. Or even if He does exist, He must not care. Or maybe He’s just cruel.
We can’t perceive the ways in which the suffering we’re railing against contributes to the eternal benefit of the only real Kingdom that matters.
It matters. The struggle matters.

Hope.
Hope is the basis of our faith. Not a happy life. Not everything going right. Not the absence of struggle.

And remember. A diamond is a hunk of coal that did well under pressure.
So shine on, dear people. Shine on.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

If You Don’t Have Anything Mean to Say to Me–Don’t Say Anything At All

I have never mastered the art of graciously accepting compliments. Whenever someone tells me something positive about my appearance/work/anything, my brain trips over itself and I turn into a lipsticked version of a caveman and garble: “Asdfghj.  Me no cute. No. Blind. You. Akjflkgjlkd. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY HANDS.”

Why is that we immediately brush off any praise or flattery that we receive? Instead of a gracious ‘thank-you’, or the acknowledgement that yeah, you spent $80 bucks and 2 hours to look this good, we deflect it with a nonchalant “oh this old thing”, or we reverse the compliment to the other person. “ME?! Oh my gosh no. You. You are perfect. I am but a humble peasant in your presence.”

What is so wrong with saying “thanks for noticing that my hair is on fleek today.” (Side note: had to Google the correct usage of ‘fleek’….so. old.)

Example: When someone tells me how perfect/cute/precious/awesome Rose is I usually answer with some version of “Ohhh. She’s a mess.” or something equally blasé when what I really want to do is grab them by their shoulders and yell: “OMGIKNOWRIGHT!?! I can’t believe I made her and she’s awesome and perfect and the coolest/best/smartest kid on the FACE OF THE ENTIRE PLANET.” (catches breath) So there’s that.

Maybe that reaction is a bit over the top–and not really at all gracious, but neither is it gracious to take one’s compliment and unceremoniously brush it aside.

I find that I do it most with Doc.

“Wow. You look pretty.”
“I like your hair like that.”
“You’re awesome and perfect and always right and know everything.”
(Tossed that last one for posterity.)

I all but scoff at him.
And how wrong is that?
Answer: really, really wrong.

If you find yourself unable to accept a compliment, perhaps it’s for a deeper reason than just general awkwardness. Maybe it’s because you (I) find it impossible to believe these awesome, really wonderful things about yourself (myself). Maybe we should all take a step back and try to see ourselves how others see us.

Like when Rosebud walks in the room to see me getting dressed in yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and fuzzy socks and says “Aw-ww-ww. You look soo cutee, Mommy.” I don’t see anything special in the old, college sweatshirt and the fading pants with stretched fabric, and honestly she doesn’t either. She sees something special in the mommy wearing them.

And when Doc tells me I “look beautiful with my hair like that”–the right answer is not: “I always fix my hair like this.” Again. He couldn’t care less about my hair. It’s me. He sees me.

Don’t be afraid to accept just how incredible other people know you to be. Even if at that moment, you feel like you wouldn’t know beautiful and powerful if it bit you in the butt. Don’t brush aside their words, cherish them.

You are only as powerful as you believe yourself to be, so become your compliments.
It might be awkward at first but just. say. thanks.

And well…”if you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me” -Steel Magnolias

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

Expect the Unexpected: Parenting a Toddler

Parenting a toddler is a funny place to be. Not funny like ha-ha, but funny like sometimes you find yourself weeping in dark places and saying things like “QUIT HIDING THINGS DOWN YOUR PANTIES.”

Parenting a toddler isn’t an easy job for anyone, but for a Type-A, planner, it’s particularly daunting. Because they never do what you want or expect them to. Even when you beg. Especially if you beg. No matter how much time/thought/effort you put into planning days/events/outfits they will step in and step up and shoot those plans to H. E. double hockey sticks.

A few examples:

Your plan: beginning your week by hitting the ground running. There’s a lot of work and studying that needs to be done and not a minute to lose.
Toddler’s plan: waking up and finger painting on the wall using the poop in their pull up.

Your plan: dress your toddler like an angel for church, and they’ll smile sweetly, fold their hands to pray, and sit silently listening to the sermon.
Toddler’s plan: play in the pile of dirt beside the car and ruin their dress, drag their feet to scuff their shoes, give every sweet old lady who calls her precious the stank eye, yell “I NEED TO GO POOP” at the top of their lungs during silent confession, and every 35 seconds say: “Look, my Barbie is naked,” while being shushed.

Your plan: an uneventful drive to drop Rosebud off at school and then head to work.
Toddler’s plan: nonchalantly drop her first curse word, momentarily stopping your heart and causing you to jerk the wheel and swerve the car off the side of the road.

Your plan: arrive everywhere 15-30 minutes early.
Toddler’s plan: arrive everywhere unfashionably late so that everyone in the room turns and looks when mom and dad stumble in with everything but the kitchen sink packed in a baby bag.

On Saturday, Doc got a lesson in toddler plan destruction. As I mentioned in a previous post, our anniversary was this past week. To celebrate, Rosebud is going to spend this coming weekend with her grandparents and Doc and I are going to dress up in something besides scrubs and jeans and go to dinner.

Unbeknownst to me, Doc and Rosebud snuck away to the mall and purchased a beautiful Pandora bracelet and charms. He planned to surprise me with the bracelet at dinner.
In doing so, he made one vital mistake: letting Rosebud in on the plan.

Saturday afternoon, one week before the big reveal, Rosebud walked into the living room and said: “Daddy. Where’s mommy’s surprise?”
Doc panicked, and stammering and stuttering, attempted to throw Rosebud off the trail.
“You mean the candy bar we were going to get Mommy? We ended up not getting one. REMEMBER, ROSEBUD??”

“No, Daddy. We got it at the mall. We got Mommy bracelet at the mall. I think it still in the car, Mommy. Want me to get it for you?”

I’ve never seen Doc’s face turn so red so fast, and he and I both burst out laughing.
And even though she had no idea what was going on, Rosebud laughed, too.

He brought the bracelet in and I unwrapped it in a dirty kitchen with a sink full of dishes instead of in a romantic restaurant, and wearing sweats instead of a dress and heels.

Doc apologized. “I’d planned on a little more pomp and circumstance, but I hope you love it just the same.”
Planned.
But the plans fell through. And I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

In ten years, Rosebud is going to be entering her teenage years, and she probably won’t even want to go to the mall with her kooky dad, let alone to pick out a bracelet for the mom that may or may not be ruining her life. And when I look down at my wrist, I’m going to remember the eagerness and excitement shining in her eyes when she ripped out the tissue paper to show me what Daddy got for me. And the pride that was in her smile when I told her how much I loved it. And that memory will sustain me on the lonely days when she’s gone off to college and I’m dreaming of the days when I’d wake up in the middle of the night to her jumping in bed with us, covered in marker, and screaming “LOOK AT MY TATTOOS.”

I love plans and lists and step-by-step instructions. I don’t really get much of that during this season of life.
And the funny thing is, I’m finding out how beautiful the unexpected can be. And that sometimes the best laid plans really suck compared to what God and your 2-year-old have planned for you.
So when things don’t go the way you expected, chin up–closed doors and opened windows and all that jazz.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.