The Rest of the Story: The Truth About Family Pictures

This past week, Doc, Rosebud and I decided to participate in the time-honored tradition of the family photo session.
The location was beautiful, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, the leaves were a beautiful shade of rust and gold; I’d spent forever perfectly coordinating our fall outfits–conceded to letting Doc wear his boots, and curled Rosebud’s hair just right.

We were ready.

But see–I’d forgotten the most important detail of all. Rosebud is three.
And three year olds suck sometimes.

After two hours of begging her to sit up straight, look at the circle in the camera, and for Heaven’s sake, SIT STILL–Doc had exhausted his Dad voice, we’d threatened to take away every toy she’d ever owned, and told her she might not be able to sit down for a week.
No matter.
Our typically well-behaved daughter decided that family picture day would be the perfect opportunity to complete her transformation into an official ‘threenager’.

Connie with January June Photography kept trucking through the pursed lips, stuck out tongues, and monster faces that Rosebud insisted on making and that afternoon shared these two incredible preview photos:

Look at that. Would you just look at it? A perfectly happy American family. You’d never know that 7 seconds before this picture was taken, Rose had just kicked her feet, caught Doc in the “tenders”, and yelled “NO MORE PITCHAS.”

And that got me thinking. How often do we measure the success of ourselves and our families up against the snapshots in life rather than in the rest of the story?

The people in this picture look like they have it all together. They don’t look flustered or sweaty or like they’re considering returning their only child back to the Baptist East Hospital from whence she came.

This came from the hands of a gifted photographer, because trust me–that is not the reality of the Whitaker family.

Typically you can find us running out of the house five minutes before after we need to be somewhere with Rosebud still wearing her breakfast milk mustache, and me brushing crumbs from our clothes and throwing on my lipstick from the reflection in the window.

In this social media driven world I am so guilty of falling victim to comparing my world to the snapshots I see of others.

So I’m here to tell you that while snapshots are a beautiful way to capture the memories of these seasons of life, they are not all there is. There are also piles of dirty laundry, no makeup days, and misbehaved three year olds. Don’t get caught up in comparing your worst days to someone else’s best days, and most importantly be the friend and person that takes the time to listen to the rest of the story. Because there is glory in the rest of the story–because there is beauty in the rest of the story, and best of all–because there is grace in the rest of the story.

Rosebud: 1
Family Picture Day: 0

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

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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.

 

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.

My Metaphor for the Month

There are very few things that I love as much as I love playing in the dirt. Mowing, weedeating, mulching, getting my hands dirty planting flowers, pruning my roses–all of it.

My Grandma used to tell me to plant flowers by moonlight for good luck. They’ll withstand the heat the entire summer. So each year, by the moonlight, I turn on my iTunes, I get out my flower pots and my potting soil and I plant.

I do my best thinking with my hands in the dirt. And as long as there is soil and sunshine, I’ll never have to pay for therapy, no matter how crazy I get. Because while I’m out there, pruning and shaping, my soul rests and heals from the business of the day. Instead of whirring and spinning, my mind floats. It’s my mental version of a lazy river.

When John and I moved to this house, we got some rose bushes to plant. Whether it was the location, the soil, or just some old fashioned luck, they’ve thrived, and are now taller than Rosebud, herself. We prune them at the beginning and end of each season, but the thing is, they’re getting a bit unruly. And while I was clipping the branches yesterday, a lightbulb went off.

Parenting is a lot like gardening. It’s our job to prune and shape our little flowers. If we hover and control too much, they’ll never be able to get to the sun and really grow like they were intended. But if we never temper them, they’ll grow wild and uneven and their thorns will overtake them. Even though their blooms are still beautiful when they’re wild and overgrown, you won’t be able to see them until you cut back the foliage and trim down their sharp edges.

I’m not saying it’s easy. There are days it would be so much easier to let Rosebud grow wild, and there are days it would be so much easier to just clip back her branches and trample her spirit. Finding and striking that balance is one of the hardest things Doc and I have ever attempted.

But we do try. Every day. Because in the end will stand a beautiful Rosebud that will be able to withstand life’s stormy seasons and life’s sunny seasons because her roots will reach deep and hold strong.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Marry the Man….

WARNING: I get what could be considered an annoying level of sappy.

Everyday I read some new article giving love and relationship advice to the millions of single millennials out there wondering: “Why doesn’t anybody love me?”

Google “marry the man who….” and hits start coming at you like crazy.

“Marry the man who loves you more than you love him.”
“Marry the man who makes you feel single.”
(wait wut. What does that even mean?)
“Marry the man who wastes your lipstick, not your mascara.”
(Now this is just getting silly.)

So I decided to add my own little relationship column out into the world wide web.
Because I really think I landed the winner, and so why not share my *love secrets with the world.
And also, because half of the articles/blogs that I read are just feel good, tell you what you want to hear bull, and the other half are boring.
*Reality: We have no love secrets.

Today, Doc worked a labor and delivery shift for 12 straight hours. He woke up at 5 am, when Rosebud and I hadn’t even turned over twice yet. He got ready, made the coffee (mine, too), and headed to the hospital. All of this after staying up past mid-night on Saturday.
Unusual as it was for a Sunday, L&D was wild. He had 6 back-to-back C-sections, and 2 vaginal deliveries. (On a side note, I never thought I’d write ‘vaginal’ in a post.)

He got home and made Rosebud supper because she loves his omelets like nothing in the world. Then we ran to Target to pick up a site-to-store order for a pair of Rosebud’s shoes. Then he got Annie Oakley (her new requested name) ready for bed, so I could work on paperwork for Grandma.

While he was applying for study away rotations, I interrupted to ask him to run to the ATM for Grandma. At 11:00 p.m. He did so. Not only willingly, but happily.
Then we tracked my textbooks for my block that starts tomorrow and found out they won’t be here until Friday. So Doc got on the internet, searching for a solution. He found the book at Willy T. So at 12:18 am, my sweet, exhausted husband drove to campus to check me out a book.

YALL.

Marry the man who will get up with the baby/toddler/kids on Saturday morning and shut the bedroom door while you hear him whisper: “Shhh. Let’s go play and make breakfast and let mommy sleep.”

Marry the man who gets you and your best friend wine and ice cream for Netflix marathons.

Marry the man who drags you out of bed for church on Sunday mornings…even the early service.

Marry the man who will drive 30 minutes one way to take your Grandma clean laundry and some potato soup and sit in the nursing home and hold her hand because you couldn’t get off work that day, and it’s finals week.

Marry the man who walks in with a smile on his face after standing through 9 hour surgeries and would much rather collapse on the couch than chase a 2-year old while growling like a bear.

Marry the man who knows nothing about stockings or hairbows, but tries really hard on a busy Sunday morning, anyways.

Marry the man who will clean up your vomit, and give you a bath to break your 104 degree temperature when you’re 6 months pregnant and get the flu.

Marry the man who puts the dishes away at 4 am before early morning rounds.

Marry the man who teaches your little girl how to pray. And when she says “Dear Lord. Please be wif my lips because they are chapp-ed and Daddy hada put medicine on them,” he doesn’t even laugh, but gives a very serious ‘amen.’

Marry the man who will fold your 88-year old grandmother’s panties on laundry day.

Marry the man who will drive to the library at midnight, after a 12-hour day, on 4 hours of sleep to get you a textbook. >Betcha won’t find that one on a Pinterest meme.

And who while on the search for said book at the library texts you to say: “I feel like Nick Cage.” Followed up by “The eagle has landed.”

Here’s a hope on a wing and a prayer that all you ladies find men like my Doc.
Here’s a hope on a wing and a prayer that Rosebud does, too.

Don’t settle for anything less. Because I have proof sitting on the couch next to me (still a little depressed that his March got too mad) that magic exists. He makes me laugh when I really want to punch him in the face, holds my hand during tornado watches, and wakes up six times a night to make sure the doors are locked when I hear a weird noise.

Keep on keepin’ on, and ignore all the articles that tell you what love is as they try to define Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now and whatever else.
[Except for mine. Definitely read mine.]

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.

 

 

 

My Scandalous Confession

Lately I’ve been finding myself fantasizing about living someone else’s life.
Pretty scandalous, huh?
Dreaming of being another woman, with a different husband, and a different child, living in a different house.

So okay. It’s still me. Still Doc. Still Rosebud.
…Just another life, further down the road. Our life, but different.
Our future life.

A life where Doc is in his residency–moving up from slavery to indentured servitude.
A life where I am graduated and working, instead of studying and working and trying to finish finals and a thesis.
A life where Rosebud knows how to sit still–okay, so that one’s a wash, but still.
A life where we have more than one bathroom.

In this season, I keep focusing on one day instead of today.

One day, we’ll be settled.
One day, we’ll have more in savings and be comfortable.
One day, we’ll have a bigger house.
One day, I won’t be terrified when I wake up and hear Rose laughing maniacally and wonder what destruction she created.
“Life will be so much easier, when….It will be so much better, when.”

I’ve been thinking about this whole “the grass is always greener on the other side” deal. I used to think it only applied in situations where we were jealously coveting the life someone else is living.
But now I think maybe the “other side” is over the hill from the struggle we’re wading through.
What happens when the life you’re jealously coveting is your own?
And in the end, what is more dangerous to our hearts?

‘I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation.’ -Philippians 4: 11-12

You should’ve learned by now that I’m a little bit a lotta bit high strung.
I don’t relax easily. I don’t “Just Keep Calm And….Whatever.” I don’t do still and I don’t do content.

And I think that’s exactly why Paul’s words touch me so deeply.
I physically yearn for the peace that contentedness brings.
I desperately desire to calm my spirit. I yearn to “be still and know.”
But it feels impossible.
Contentedness seems to go against my very nature and every basic instinct that I have.
If life is running smoothly, and I have nothing to worry about–I will literally invent things to worry about.
I will use my over-reactive, way-too-imaginitive, constantly whirring brain to think up new ways that something, ANYTHING can go wrong.
Because I’m crazy.

Because when life is happening, and the unexpected can pop its head in at any time and ruin the perfectly timed, perfectly choreographed ORGANIZED PLAN THAT I HAVE SPENT DAYS CREATING!!!!!…..
Well. Then peace seems simply out of my reach.

But that Paul guy. That Paul.
He has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” In need. In plenty.
He’s learned the secret. COME ON PAUL. TELL ME THE SECRET, PAUL.
Oh wait. There’s more?

‘I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.’ Philippians 4:13

One of the most familiar verses in all the Bible. But also: the most understated.
The secret to being content is to quit trying so damn hard to get somewhere.
Because you can’t.
You can’t find peace when you don’t tap the Source. Instead you’re going off on a blind hunt.

To find my peace. To achieve my contentedness, quit seeking contentedness, and instead seek the One from which the strength to be at peace is derived.

Mind. Blown.

I used to think that “content” was the easy way out. I actually felt sorry for those people.
I thought that waking up every morning and pushing for more and getting more was the way it is supposed to work.
Because that’s what the world told me.

But then I realized: peace is hard, people. And it doesn’t come gift wrapped on your front stoop.
It’s a journey and a process, and it takes lots of hard lessons–in need and in plenty.

But it’s worth it.

Because living life dreaming of the other side makes me blind to the opportunities and the riches I have in front of me.
Even if that treasure sometimes smells funny and has applesauce in her hair. Or he forgets to put the seat down.

So go enjoy your own treasure, people. And quit worrying about how you can increase them or shine them up.
Be still, and I’ll try, too.

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.

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.