Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

masksWell, you’ve survived week 1.

If you’re not one of the a-holes photographed partying in South Padre Island, you’re probably settling in to your quarantined sector, keen on saving the world by doing absolutely nothing, and enjoying your new handwashing techniques from the comfort of your own home.

Congratulations!

You are now armed with the knowledge that things are about to get a whole lot worse.

How much worse?

That’s the exciting part! No one really knows.

Welcome to a global pandemic; it looks like we’ll be here awhile.

I had a short season of life where I tried to be a runner. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a sparkler when it comes to exercise. Sparkler meaning, I burn bright, but not for very long.

Look, when I am on, I’m fricking on!

My running phase was no exception. I ran just about every 5k race I could sign up for. A 5k run required little to no preparation. They were fun, short, and gave me a false sense of confidence in my ability to run longer races with the same, zero prep, strategy that had served me well.

When I ran my first 10k it hurt like hell.

Coronavirus initially sounded like a 10k, but is looking more like a marathon. I feel equally unprepared for this moment.

But here we are, running none the less.

My goal is not to win, but to finish.

So, while I downloaded the exercise app with the 500+ at-home workouts and hope to try a couple in the coming weeks; I haven’t gotten to them yet and that’s okay.

And though my fridge is stocked with yummy food and the Wal-mart delivery girl knows me by name; last night we ordered take out and that’s okay.

I have a stack of books I plan to read but haven’t picked up one. That’s okay.

And yesterday I sat outside to write and wound up staring at a blank page until I finally just closed my eyes and felt the sun shine on my face. That’s okay too.

I feel such a sense of unrest and helplessness as I sit at home while many of my friends and family members continue to care for patients in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

I have a deeper respect for grocery store workers and delivery drivers who unknowingly signed up to stand on the front lines of a global health crisis.

I am burdened for the restaurant and hospitality industry and the devastating blows to the economy. And honestly, I’m having a little bit of a difficult time accepting any of this as a “new normal”.

That’s f**king okay!

What’s helped me most this week is just cutting myself a little slack as I lean into the uncertainties of when, how, how many, and how long, and learn to be okay in a space with just enough answers to take the next step.

We all process things differently; and what’s right for me might not be right for you. You might be killing it in quarantine; with your color-coded schedules and endless family fun nights. (Can I just say that when the PTA sent out, “spirit week schedules” my only thought was, “oh hell no”.) If that’s good for you, you’re amazing. But if that is not you, you’re still amazing. There are no rules on how to cope with the changes we’ve faced and the ones still ahead. We make them up as we go.

I want to give a shout out to the girls like me, feeling a little unprepared for the race ahead. Perhaps we can link virtual arms and run this race together?

What’s going on in your world? I’d love to hear from you because, as it turns out, plagues are super lonely.

Much love friends,

Xoxo, Shaena

“Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-

Quarantine Diaries: You can, because you have to.

cave2I once went spelunking in Carlsbad. Did you know there are 119 caves in Carlsbad National Park? If you are lucky enough to find someone with the skills to explore them, who is also crazy enough to ask you to come along, you should go. If you do, you might find yourself dangling from a rope 30 feet off the ground before realizing if you have to google the word spelunking before accepting the invitation, you have no business being there.

There I was, 30 feet off the ground and completely gassed.

“Bring me back down,” I smiled cheerfully down at my companion. “I’m too tired.”

And that my friends, is when shit got real.

It went something like this:

Him- “Take a break”

Me- “I don’t want to take a break I want to come down. Bring me down.”

Him- “You can’t come down, that isn’t the way the gear works.” (Side bar: probably a discussion we should have had beforehand but okay.)

Me- “I don’t care how the gear works, I know how my arms work and I need to come down”

Him- “You can’t come down, you need to go up”

Me- “I can’t go up. Call someone.”

Him- “We’re in a cave”

Cue dramatic music and crocodile tears. Cut to adventure Barbie dangling helplessly 30 feet in the air while whispering expletives at no one in particular. Her companion making vain attempts to reassure her she is strong enough to save herself while simultaneously attempting to fashion a very dangerous method of coming to her rescue.

Me- “I CAN”T DO THIS”

Him- “You can, because you have to

And then I did.

 

I’m writing this at home in my bed, pajamas still on, it’s Monday 5:30 AM. Waiting for a conference call that starts in an hour, I could have waited until 9, but what for, I’m awake. In the past several days I haven’t slept much, eyes glued to a screen bringing new news every hour, while the same words spin on a loop in my mind:

Virus.

Death.

Quarantine.

Flatten the curve.

Vulnerable populations.

Toilet paper.

Greed.

Selfishness.

Closures.

Social distancing.

We are a country displaced in our own homes and we are afraid.

And I’m reminded of all the times I’ve been afraid and heard my voice outside my heart saying,

I can’t do this.

But then I did.

 

I’m watching my daughter asleep in my bed. Her collection of inhalers, O2 readers, and thermometers scattered like books on the night stand. My son sleeping soundly alone in his room. In a few short hours they will awake to day one of a spring break that is not what we planned. But the craziest part is they will not complain, not today anyway. They’ll be happy to sleep in, watch movies, and make messes. They will smile and laugh the way that kids do, and I will carry their burden of uncertainty along with mine. This moment feels lonely and I can hear my heart beat in steady rhythm the thing I fear the most, that I. am. not. enough.

I can’t.

I can’t.

I can’t.

I can’t.

But then I will. Because I have to.

 

Sending so much love to whoever is reading this. You are not alone. It’s in the times when we are least assured that we can allow space in our hearts to become something more than we were the day before.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7cave 1

Xoxo S

 

 

Single Mom Diaries: A Typical Day

5:30 AM: The sound of my alarm wakes me. She is asleep in my bed so I fumble in the dark, find my phone, and silence the alarm. Resist the temptation of “10 more minutes”.

I rise.

Make coffee. Sit quietly. And think about… nothing.

6:30 AM: His alarm breaks the silence. She cries, not a fan of the mornings. He moves quickly, silently. She is slow and angry.

I rise.

Make the best of what I’ve been given. Catch a glimpse in the mirror and think “you look good… enough.”

Smile. Pull her hair into a ponytail, kiss her sweet cheeks, and remind her she is loved.

There are ants in the shower. Tiny red ants. I want to pull the shower curtain back and walk away. Avoidance. My preferred coping method.

I rise.

Grab a can of ant spray and cover the tub. The room fills with fumes. I close the door.

7:30 AM: Drive to school. Tell them you love them. Tell them to be brave and kind. To be a friend and a blessing. Remind them learning is a privilege, and education is a gift.

Wave goodbye. Smile. Breathe.

The kids are all right. They are happy, smart, and kind. They love well. Breathe.

Drive to work and think of all the things you left undone. Make a mental list. Remember to carry over items from yesterday’s list. Cross-off items that are over a month old.

Hope they really…weren’t…THAT…important.

8:00 AM: Arrive at work.

Focus. Smile. Wave. Exchange pleasantries. Make a new list. Write this one down. Everything is important. EVERYTHING is THE MOST important.

Prioritize. Strategize. Focus.

Ignore the phone when the school calls to remind you of the papers you didn’t sign.

Ignore your parents when they call to see how things are going. You’ll call them back.

Add it to the list. The other list. The one that only grows.

Interestingly enough, ignoring the boy who DIDN’T call is harder than ignoring the one who DID. Ignore them both.

Focus. Plan. Work.

4:30 PM: If you leave now you’ll beat traffic. They will make it to practice on time. Coach will be happy. Kids will be happy. If you leave now everyone wins.

If you leave NOW, tomorrow… WILL BE HARDER.

I rise.

5:30 PM: Drop them off at the pool. You want to stay and watch them practice like your mother did. Like the other mothers do.

No.

You want to WANT to stay and watch them practice. You are tired and thankful for a break.

You’ll use the time to read books, and write stories. Plan vacations. Clean the garage. Clean the kitchen. Paint. Fix things. Learn to cook. Ride a bike. Exercise.

6:15 PM: Put a pin in all your plans. Be happy that you let the dog out, started a load of laundry, and made a decision for dinner. Pasta… again.

7:15 PM: Home. Showers. Cook… something. Anything. Fresh. Balanced. MUST SERVE VEGETABLES. Sit with them. Talk to them. Ask them about their day. Smile. Laugh. Teach them to keep their elbows off the table. Offer them more while you eat less. Resist the temptation to clean while they eat. Hope they don’t notice, you’re not hungry… again.

Send them to brush their teeth while you take care of the mess. Pat yourself on the back. You are very good at cleaning messes you didn’t make.

Breathe.

8:45 PM: Bed. 20 minutes of reading or, “the teacher will get mad”.

9:00 PM: 1 minute more and I will go mad. Close the books and your eyes.

I rise.

Kiss foreheads. Pull blankets. Tell them I love them. Tell them they are my treasures. My people. Turn off the lights and walk away.

9:30 PM: “Can I sleep with you?”

No.

“Why not?”

Because mommy wants to sleep alone.

“You’re mean.”

Then because I am mean. Goodnight.

Who are we?

“The 3 musketeers!”

All for 1.

“And 1 for all!”

I smile. They are happy and fast asleep before I start to cry. Not because I am sad. I am not sad. Because I am tired, and it’s Monday. And tomorrow my alarm will wake me up at 5:30 AM, and she will be in my bed. And I am not sure I can do it all again.

But I will rise.

Single Mom Diaries: Anxiety

Anxiety+Girl

Question: “What’s it like being a single mom?”

Actual Response: “Oh, it’s great. There’s no parent splitting in our house.”

We laugh.

What I want to say is this:

I live in anxiety. Not with it, in it. Like I have literally packed up all my crap and made anxiety my state of residence.

Have I always lived in anxiety?

I don’t know.

I think I used to vacation there but I lived in calm. Lately, I live there and vacation in calm. So, yeah, it’s great.

The moral of this story is to take more vacations. Which I am sure we can all agree is the moral of every story.

Back to anxiety, it’s terrible. There are so many terrible things aren’t there? Orphans, cancer, the 2016 Presidential Election, hot Cheetos, we could go on and on. Let’s just add anxiety to that list and agree that maybe it’s not the worst thing ever, but it certainly does not help make life any more fun.

Anxiety is terrible.

Have you tried therapy? Yes.

Prescription drugs? Yes.

Prayer? Yes.

Meditation? Yes.

Exercise? Yes.

Eating well? Yes.

Journaling? Yes.

More prayer? More yes.

Does anything work? Yes. Yes. Yes.

It all works. Differently, and at times one strategy is a better fit, but a hearty YES; all the things work.

Do you still have anxiety? Yes.

A well-meaning friend once told me, “Shaena, you have to stop saying you have anxiety. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy”. I’m not sure he was really clear on how that works, but let me be clear; admitting that I live in anxiety has not caused me to live in anxiety.  I don’t believe I’ll always live here, but I’m here now. While I’m here, I’ll do the heart work necessary and gain some skills that will help me on my way. The alternative is moving to a small mountain cabin, growing out my leg and armpit hair, and surrounding myself with pictures of cats and tiny hamsters eating burritos, and… I think the kids would complain and that would give me anxiety… so probably not.

Instead, I’ll hold these three things in my heart and be thankful for the lessons, coupled with the Truth, that get me through. Maybe they will help you or someone you know avoid their own recluse cabin.

  1. Don’t be afraid to admit where you are right now. Until you can do this, you wont be able to process how you got there or where you are heading. Nothing is wasted. (2 Corinthians 1:4).

      2.  Change always comes. If you want    to move, you will. It might take longer than you hoped but you will. Don’t lose heart. (1 Peter 5:10)

  1. Gratitude helps, but time is what heals. Be patient with yourself. Prolonged struggle doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for the progress you have made. You are being strengthened and that process takes time. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

 

I have a beautiful life. I am loved well. I am thankful above all else, and I spend more time in joy than most people I know. I am also really proud of the progress I’ve made in the last two years. But, I will not strip this journey into single parenting of it’s emotional consequences and pretend that I have magically managed to remain unscathed. I live in anxiety. It is what it is.

Good days look like prayer, and baths, and playtime, and laughter, and sweet sweet calm. Bad days look like nervous energy, fingers raw and bleeding, and a thousand distractions.

I have to fight for the calm in my heart that used to come so easy. Most days I win and I go to bed feeling like a bad a$$. Some nights though, I climb into bed surrounded by anxiety, breathe out a sigh of disappointment, and agree to fight again tomorrow.

 

I guess, in a way, that’s winning too.

 

Praying for you friends. For all the battles you win silently. 

Xoxo Shaena

Confessions of a Superhero

Confessions of a Super Hero

Other possible titles:

If I tell you what I really think, will you call me a bitter divorcé ?

Words you write when you are out of Xanax.

There is not enough Botox in the world to hide the fact that I feel tired and old.

Misguided Musings of a 30 something single mom.

 

In just two years I’ve become a real life super hero, this is my story:

We don’t have to talk, we are not friends”.

That was all I could manage to say. That was the last thing that I said. I didn’t look at him again. I didn’t look at her either. I just rolled up my window and drove away. I don’t know where they went. Maybe to celebrate his new found freedom, or to revel in the fact that they had won some great prize in an out of court settlement that included very little time with the kids and even less financial support. I don’t know where they went, and does it really matter? He had made his choice and I would make mine. And so I closed the door on ten years of my life.

Ten years of hopes and dreams.

Ten years of joy and laughter.

Ten years of fighting and strife.

Of contention and hurt and more heartache then our marriage was capable of withstanding.

I closed the door behind me and stared out into a world full of terrifying possibilities, armed with only the tiniest glimmer of hope that somehow, in the end, all the wrongs would be made right.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

It’s important to note that by this time I had been a single mom for over a year. Gone were the nights of holding my children as they cried themselves to bed and then slipping into my own bed to do the same. Gone was the fear and worry that my former “stay at home mom” status would prevent me from ever getting a good job, or a good job that I liked. Gone was the fear that I would never be wanted, and that what I could offer would never be enough. And the loneliness that once threatened to rob me of all future joy; was more of a dull ache only noticeable when I focused on it, and I never did.

 

At this point in my life I tried to date. I use that word “try”, about as loosely as you can use any word, because in hindsight, I did not “try” at all. I got out of these “relationships” exactly what I put into them, basically nothing. To be fair, I’m not sure I was ever good at dating… I mean, I was married at 21 so that leaves only my high school boyfriends to chime in… but please don’t because that would be insanely uncomfortable.

The point is this; it is extremely awkward for Christians to date after a divorce. Call me a hopeless romantic, but still hard to forget how, “the one” turned out. And while I totally agree there are a lot of someone betters out there for me, I am plagued with the reality that there is also someone worse, and that guy makes being single seem pretty stinking wonderful. And so, I am content to wait. On time, healing, confidence, hundreds of cats to take over my home and drive me out into the street where I am forced to make new friends, God, anything… I am just waiting. And trusting that when it is right, I’ll know.

Things that steal my joy:

Not having enough time with my kids.

Watching them miss their dad.

Knowing that my chances of marrying Bradley Cooper are basically non-existent.

Seeing them disappointed.

Knowing that even at my best, I will never be both a mother and a father.

Seeing them disappointed again.

Being so tired my body aches.

Seeing them disappointed again and again and again.

Commuting 2 hours a day and then coming home and feeling like a zombie.

The road map of wrinkles that line my forehead.

Things that bring me joy:

Being able to provide for my kids.

Daydreaming about sharing a front porch and a double rocking chair with Bradley Cooper.

A community of friends and family who held my arms up when I was too weak to walk.

Disco dance parties in my daughter’s room.

The way my son looks at me with such gratitude and pride when I come home from work.

All of the things that make up Elly’s world.

All of the things that make up Nicky’s world.

Knowing that I am building a legacy in them, and they will always be my proudest accomplishment.

Interesting work.

Cute clothes.

Knowing that I am not alone, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Feeling loved every day.

Having a front row seat in the lives of two really cool little humans.

Remembering that this is only one chapter and that the rest has already been written and is just waiting to be read.

 

In truth, some days are awesome and other days suck. I can appreciate that I am not a conventional superhero. An argument can be made that there is nothing super or heroic about me… get behind me Satan.

Although it may be fair to say there is nothing spectacular or even particularly interesting about my life right now. I’m trying to do the best with the cards in my hand, like all of the other amazing parents I know. Still, there are seasons of motherhood that seem more trying than others. This has been mine. And so, you will forgive my bold self-proclaimed superhero status, and just remember sometimes I need to be reminded that I am more than a conqueror.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

Love,

Shaena

PS,

This blog is for moms like me. Your lives are not perfect, but you wake up every day and you do the best with what you have been given. You are beautiful and your story matters.

 

Confessions of a rotten heart

Yesterday I told someone off.

I used all the words.

It was ugly.

It gets worse.

Yesterday, I told someone off in front of my kids.

“That’s pretty classy”… said no one ever.

As it turns out, the whole, “love your enemies” thing is much harder when your enemies are terrible people… when YOUR heart is not right.

For a moment, I felt strong. As though I was somehow made heavy by the weight of the bullets that flew from my mouth.

For a moment, I felt justified, gratified, satisfied that I had the courage to cut instead of walking away.

For a moment I convinced myself that righteous anger could still be righteous even when it produced an unrighteous result.

For a moment, I believed the lie that love and kindness are reserved for the loving and the kind.

For a moment, I forgot the sweetness of gentleness and self-control, and chose the rottenness of hatred and discord.

But the moment didn’t last.

And as it turns out, word bullets spewed in anger leave an insufferable taste of poison on your tongue.

They are reckless.

Lies disguised as truth.

Weakness disguised as strength.

Cowardice disguised as courage.

Pride disguised as justification.

Selfishness disguised as standing up for yourself.

Hate.

Rottenness.

Symptoms of a sick heart.

When we got home I sat the kids down and cried. I told them I was sorry. I told them I was wrong. I told them, mommy needs more self-control! Together we prayed to the giver of good things and we asked for more of Him and less of me. They laughed, we hugged, and they kissed my cheek. To them, grace is as easy as breathing.

I don’t know what makes a heart turn sour. I think it begins with a careless choice to chew on toxic thoughts and swallow them whole instead of taking them captive and challenging them with Truth. A diet full of poison will invariably make you sick.

 “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” Revelations 2:5

But just as some choices bring sickness, other choices bring healing. I want to make better choices. I want to love my enemies.

Is it enough to WANT to do something?

No.

But it’s a place to start, and I think God can work with that.

 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10

So… what now?

My darling friends,

By now, most of you know that my husband and I are divorcing. For some of you, this news is a huge disappointment. My heart hurts for you. I assure you, in many respects there is no one more disappointed than me.

Divorce is vicious, and ugly, and painful, and super sad. Like… SUPER sad. Honestly, I have worn my sweet friends and family ragged with tears over the past 6 months. My friends are rock stars at letting me go crazy and loving me through each outburst. (Seriously, if you don’t have friends like that, do whatever you can to find some… better still, BE THAT FRIEND). Also, my parents are super hero’s…so there is that.

But, that is not why I’m writing. I’m writing because of a question I’ve been asked several times. More like several hundred thousand times. A question that swirls around in my head and my heart like thick smoke making me dizzy with heartache. It’s a question I honestly don’t know how to answer.

“So… what are you going to do now?”

In short, I have no fricken clue!!!

The long answer is this; I am going to hope.

I’m going to hope and I am going to believe in the things unseen just like I always have.

I’m going to trip and fall and learn new things. Things that I might not otherwise know.

I am going to proceed with caution, guarding my heart, and watching where I walk. (There is all kinds of sh** out there ya’ll… it’s good to watch your step.)

I’m going to watch my head for signs of bitterness and pray my heart stays supple.

I’m going to ask for a miracle that allows me to grow strong without growing hard.

To exude confidence without arrogance.

To be satisfied but never complacent.

To give and receive grace often and without expectation.

Hope.

This world is messy, and complicated, and frustrating as hell. So, while I am going to allow myself time to be angry about how unfair life is, I am going to put a timer on that crap. (Like, a literal timer. 15 minutes max). Seriously, those kinds of thoughts will poison your heart faster than a McDonalds diet.

Instead of allowing negativity to consume me: I’m going to love people. Better than I ever have.

I’m going to love my two babies. Maybe I’ll squeeze them a little tighter or rock them a little longer.

I’m going to teach them about faith, and family, and failure, and hope.

I’m going to pray. I’m going to rest. And I am going to give thanks for every new day.

And I might blog about it every now and then. ;0)

This life is a bit of a mixed bag, but there is so much sweet, so much joy, so much silliness, and so much hope.

To my sweet friends. Thank you for your letters, phone calls, texts, gifts. They kindled a flame that gave hope of a future fire. You are world changers and I love you. Xoxo, S