Teaching me to mother

Lizard,

205302_503087736842_9842_nThank you for breaking me in back when I turned 22. There was nothing Taylor Swift about it. Your dad and I tied the knot three weeks after I graduated from college and three weeks after my birthday, and I frantically searched for employment while serving as your stepmom. I felt like I was playing house sometimes, the way my sisters and I played Barbies as kids. Ken and Barbie smooch and hug and ride in the Barbie convertible, and then they get married, and they have a baby, and then what?

I learned the then what from you. No matter what obstacles your dad and I faced in our marriage, I always enjoyed being your stepmom. I loved taking you grocery shopping when you were five years old and answering your bazillion questions about produce and spaghetti and magazines. I obtained a great repertoire of bumblebee, elephant, and duck songs because of you. I got a big kick out of playing Tooth Fairy and helping you learn how to do backbends and make macaroni and cheese and use the washing machine and dryer. I remember the summer after second grade when I realized you lacked some important skills, and I decided to make it my mission to teach you to become more self-sufficient. You were so open to learning new things. I remember you telling your mom and Meme and Papaw about every new accomplishment over the phone, beaming with pride from ear to ear.

262960_519156345222_5013781_nYour willingness to learn never waned. We had The Talk in bits and pieces beginning at age five. I was always candid with you, telling you enough to satisfy your curiosity but not enough to bore you to tears. That strategy seemed to work. I also promised to tell you the truth no matter what, and I never wavered on that promise, and I still haven’t, even though we both know there have been some times when it would have been easier and softer if I’d lied. Because of your willingness to learn, and my willingness to be honest, we’ve made a pretty good team.

Fast forward to 2015. You’re finishing up your sophomore year of college, and I teach students the exact same age as you, my Lizard. Of course, I also teach non-traditional students, too.

Talk about having my life flash before my eyes at work every single day.

I see you in so many of my students. Here are a few examples.

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Hannah and Joey 

There’s Hannah, a beautiful spirit who is seriously perpetual sunshine to everyone who knows her. She reminds me of how I feel around you from the first minute you pull into my driveway until the minute you drive away.

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Nathan

There’s Nathan, a jokester on the outside with a serious interior he tries to disguise from his classmates most of the time—sound like anyone you know? This guy even donned a tutu once during a demonstration speech to help a fellow student out. I have proof of this beautiful moment :). I only taught him for one semester, but he was certainly one of the most memorable students I’ve ever taught.

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With LCreighton and Charmstrong

There are Charmstrong and Lcreighton, two little cuties I came to know outside of class before they became my students. They are both just adorbs (are you proud of me for using that term, Liz?) and often send me pictures of Edna Mode of The Incredibles, who they believe I emulate, in the middle of my lectures. They have filled a little bit of the Lizard void in my heart and life by walking with me to class and laughing with me and reminding me that I’m not THAT old.

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Crystal

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Sheila

There’s Crystal, who I have known for decades and had the pleasure to teach last fall. She has faced more than her share of obstacles but has chosen to become better, not bitter.

There’s Sheila, a non-traditional student who loves her family more than anything. She is also a total survivor and fighter. She has earned her spot in my heart and has proven herself to be hard-working and diligent even when it would have been easier to drop out of school. These are qualities I see in you, too, Liz.

11149462_10153220074068826_6559028102695630203_nAnd then there’s Lauren, who lost her lifelong love this semester. She is now raising their baby alone and is persevering against all odds. She’ll graduate in two days with honors. She will not allow others’ choices and tragedies to dictate the direction of her life.

And this, my Lizard, is what I hope for you, too.

With all that you have taught me about being a teacher, Liz, and with all that my students continually teach me about being a mom, I’m not sure why I’m being paid to teach. The least I can do is pour my very best self into my teaching, and offer my very best self to Maggie every day as her mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Liz, to you and to all my babies.

Being a mom: it’s hard, y’all

Today’s post is the first in what I hope to be a series of post by friends and guest contibutors on the topic of Mother’s Day and all things related. Big thanks to my guest writer today, blogger and former Arkansan Kambri Davidson, who now lives a more glamorous life with her husband Drew in New Orleans. Be sure to check out Kambri’s blog or follow her on Instagram @kambridavidson & @kambris_closet. 

NKL5I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I’ve always daydreamed about holding babies, having toddlers running through my house, and hearing tiny mouths call me “Mom.” Now that I’m old enough and am in a position where children are actually a possibility for my husband and me, I’m absolutely terrified of raising children. I think a lot of people think being a mom is a lot easier than it actually is. I know I used to. My mom makes it look easy, but man, sometimes I don’t know how she does it.

NKL1Between my sister and me, my mom has had her hands beyond full. I went through a period when I never wanted to be around my mom. I was rude to her, ignored her, and used her only when I needed money or wanted her to buy me something. I honestly cannot imagine how badly I must have hurt her. Kids are mean. I was mean. And yet she still wanted to be my friend. She still loved me and cared for me.

NKL8A couple of years ago, my sister was having a really rough time. She was in an abusive relationship, an alcoholic, a heavy smoker, doing drugs, and wanted nothing to do with my mom, my dad, or me. I can remember where I was every time I got a phone call from one of my parents telling me that my sister was back in the hospital for overdosing. My feelings, these wounds she was creating, would callous and callous until I wanted nothing to do with her. I loved her, yes, but I hated everything she was doing and didn’t want her to communicate with me at all. I built up so much anger against her. My parents didn’t. My parents loved her, were there for her, forgave her, welcomed her, and encouraged her to get better.

3328I’m not telling you any of this to scare you. I’m telling you so you know a few of the obstacles my mom has had to put up with over the past 26 years. Regardless of the situation in front of her, she asks God for help. She leans on Him. She is kind, even when people are unkind to her. She listens, even when you don’t want to talk. She supports whatever decisions my sister and I make. THAT is why we love celebrating Mother’s Day; to celebrate my mom, Karen Grace Campbell, for every moment she has been there for her daughters, for showing us what a mother should be like.

NKL3So, happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!

PS: My sister is now married to the love of her life and has been sober for over TWO YEARS! Jesus is good, y’all! Oh, also, I am no longer a jerk. My mom, my sister, and me are all BFF’s now!

Three lessons from my mother

Today’s post is written by one of my students, Jesse Shoemaker. Jesse wrote this essay in response to the prompt: Write about your mother or someone who has acted as a mother figure in your life. Describe this person and share at least three lessons you’ve learned from her.

Painting By Luplau Janssen

Painting By Luplau Janssen

My mother is a great influence in my life. She has always been there for me when I needed her to be. No matter what the circumstances might be, she always tries to find a way to fix my problem, even though I am resistant to the idea of help or advice.

My mother is a small woman. She has shoulder length hair that is coal black with heavy fades of brunette and blonde blended throughout. Her voice is slightly shrill considering she prefers to yell across the house to talk to someone rather than walk in the same room as they are and speak in a normal tone. Her eyes and mine are the same, heavy brown hazel that can change from green to brown to gold.

My mother loves to sing and dance. I remember as a child, when we would finish a movie as a family and the credits were rolling, she would jump up and grab my hands, pulling me off the couch and into a little dance we would go. She is so full of life.

When I was 11 years old, my mother was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a muscle disease, which later became neuropathy, a nerve disease. As I entered my teenage years, it seemed like she was at her worst. There were days that she could not get out of bed; most of the time she could not get around without the use of a walker, crutches, or a wheel chair. Even the softest touch from anyone could cause her to have an inflammation of tremendous pain. Even though she has endured so much pain on an everyday basis, my mother is still one of the sweetest ladies ever. I have had very few friends that dislike my mother, and the few who do just think she is too nice, and it freaks them out a bit.

One lesson I learned from my mother is to explore the world around me. When I was young and before she became sick, my mother would always take my sister and I on hiking trips, canoeing, or some other outdoor activity that we could do as a family. If it was not for my mother I would have never experienced the thrill of white water rafting or the rush of adrenaline I get when rock climbing.

The second lesson indirectly learned from my mother is to always let go of the past. When I was a teenager, and my mother was sick, my sister or I would have to stay home and take care of her while our step dad was working. Needless to say, I felt like part of my youth was taken away from me. I held a grudge for several years towards her, until finally we sat down and talked, and I finally vented what had been bothering me for so many years. It was as if a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I could finally see some happiness and joy coming back into my life.

The last lesson I learned from my mother is to never give up on yourself or your dreams. Like I mentioned earlier, she was very sick for several years; however, she never gave up on trying to get better. My mother overcame significant weight gain from her sickness and is now a little older woman who likes to dig in her garden and work on as many projects as she can. It is as if she is trying to make up for all the years of not being mobile enough to do the things in life she enjoys.

My mother is a great influence on me. She has taught me to explore the world around me. She always reminds me to let the past go and, most importantly, to never give up on myself. I cannot think of any better lessons a mother could teach her son.

Mama DID

My mom had a rough go of it growing up. I won’t share details, because they are my mom’s to share, but trust me.

The four of us the year my parents divorced

The four of us the year my parents divorced

Despite the circumstances of her childhood, my mom chose to have four daughters, all of us about two years apart. When she found herself a single mom with four children under the age of 7, she didn’t give up or go nuts or give us away. She just kept going.

And she didn’t sit on her laurels, remaining content with never achieving any of her goals or not being able to provide for her family. She went back to college, earned her degree, and relocated our family to Arkansas after marrying my stepdad.

I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about my mom whenever the mood strikes me for a few years now. You can find them on my personal blog. The title of the series is “Mama Said.” Anyone who knows my mom knows that she has a number of infamous sayings and phrases she repeats–life slogans, if you will–regarding how to clean, how to talk, how to relate to others. How to live.

But it’s not what “Mama says” that causes me to admire her.

It’s what she does.

She perseveres through hardship. She continually grows as a child of God. She worships freely. She takes good care of her body, mind, and spirit. She forgives those who certainly do not deserve forgiveness. She goes out of her way to give to those in need. She excels in her career. She communes with nature and finds beauty in the small things.

My mom with my baby shower gift, October 2012

My mom with my baby shower gift, October 2012

I’ve noticed that in the past few years, childhood friends of mine have made comments about my mom that have surprised me.

“I still make the bunny prints out of construction paper because of your mom.”

“I started a chore chart because of your mom.”

“Your mom remembered that I would not have my own mom to tell me ‘happy Mother’s Day’ and sent a card this year.”

The young mothers who have made these comments remind me of my mom. They didn’t all have the greatest maternal role models in their homes, but they found inspiration in the way my mom cared for our family. And now, as a result, their children are receiving love, constant care, and creative discipline :).

And so is mine.

With my mom and Maggie, February 2013

With my mom and Margaret Jacqueline, February 2013

Not because of what she said to me growing up, but because of what she did, I have a huge repertoire of tricks, tools, and tips to fall back on as a mom. I don’t have doubts about how to assure my daughter that she’s beautiful, special, divinely created, and infinitely blessed. I don’t worry about my ability to make choices that will benefit her, put her well-being first, and help her grow. I have less anxiety about how to handle the ups and downs and growing pains of parenting.

I may have to Google images of rashes. I might read books on how to be a great parent and glean insights. I often talk to other young mothers facing similar issues when I need a second opinion.

But I know one thing for sure.

I know how to love.

Thank you, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to me!

*Thanks to my friend Betty Gail Jones for sharing today’s post. Happy Mother’s Day, BG!*

Betty Gail letterThis is part of a note from my youngest daughter left in my Mother’s Day gift, a book, two years ago. She and her family were wrapping up plans for a move overseas at the time. It had been several years since we had shared Mother’s Day together, and at that point, it looked like we wouldn’t share many more, if any. This book is a part of a small collection of special books now, which I treasure – mostly because of the note it contains.

When I read the note, it touched me deeply. I became starkly aware of the momentous day that we were sharing and also that those were precious moments.

I remember, as a child, spending Mother’s Day with my mother. Daddy grew beautiful red climbing roses. He would pick each of us one that was in full bloom to wear to church representing our mother. He would pick a couple to make a corsage for my mother because her mother was still living at that time, to honor her. White roses would be worn on the shoulders of the women in our church in memory of their deceased mothers. At the morning worship service, all mothers were honored. They would stand, and we would all call them blessed. There was usually an award presented to the mother with the most children and the newest mother and other recognitions for mothering, as well. I have been so blessed to spend many Mother’s Day moments with my own mother.  She is now 88 years old, and I treasure the time even more.

My oldest daughter and I were talking on the phone about Mother’s Day recently. I guess I’d gotten used to the reality that with her husband in the ministry and Mother’s Day always being on Sunday, this is one tradition which we could not share very often. Indeed, she mentioned that she didn’t remember the last one we had shared together.

I love God surprises! And this year, I am getting another one! I will be spending Mother’s Day with my own mother and BOTH of my daughters, as well as their husbands (whom I count as my children) and my five beautiful grandchildren!

Because of our busy lives in ministry, we have chosen to not put a premium on special days by creating the tradition of sharing those specific days together. It is understood that “the day” will not be our focus, but that we will celebrate as God brings us together as a family whenever we can work it out. Our time together is limited but cherished. We have no regrets and don’t waste one minute bemoaning the fact that it is fleeting.

That we will actually be enjoying Mother’s Day together on Mother’s Day is “icing on the cake,” and I am so grateful.

This year, Mother’s Day 2013, we also get to introduce two new family members to each other. Both of my daughters became mothers again in January just eight days apart. As a bonus, our only little granddaughter will be dedicated to God during our family worship service at our church, and everyone will be present.

Yes, indeed… my heart is full and overflowing with joy and anticipation!  Happy Mother’s Day to me!

I never thought I wanted children.

* Big thanks to my best friend, MeLissa Horseman, for today’s post. She may have never wanted children, but she’s become one of the best moms I know.*

I never thought I wanted children. I barely thought I wanted to get married, let alone bring kids into the mix. This was a definite sore subject between me and my future husband when we were dating. He wanted a whole football team.

One day after dating for about a year and a half, I randomly told him that I would CONSIDER having children some day. He was shocked by my announcement, and we were engaged a couple of months later (must have been just what he was waiting for). After six years of marriage, a move halfway across the United States, and the passing of my mother when I was 25, and she was just 47, after we recently had the opportunity to begin repairing our very broken relationship, I told my husband we should start this family thing.

Dailen and Lexa, 2013

Dailen and Lexa, 2013

At that point, I don’t think I was fully behind the idea but I felt something was missing or that I needed to start a new phase of my life. It took almost a year and half to get pregnant, and nine months thereafter, we had our son. I had an overall good pregnancy and delivery. Some people know after they have their first child that they are content and happy with that one and only child. I feel that is an awesome and wonderful decision they have made. Me, personally, a few weeks after having my son, I just knew I wanted more. I was overwhelmed with emotion at the miracle of life and how much love I had for this tiny human. I could hardly wait for round two.

My husband was ecstatic with my enthusiasm to have another child so quickly. When my son turned one year-old, we started trying again and got pregnant right away with our daughter. Through no fault of her own, we endured some very stressful times with her as a baby. We dealt with seven months of colic. She cried all the time, at all hours, and nothing calmed her. Not riding in the car, sitting atop the running dryer, rocking her, gas drops, pacifier, Tylenol, even putting a bit of Jack Daniels in her milk (per my grandma’s suggestion). She would not ‘cry herself to sleep’. She could cry for hours, and I felt so bad for my miserable little girl. I spent my nights in a recliner with her lying on my chest because it was the only way I would get an hour or two of sleep.

My husband began to hate her. (No worries–she is wrapped around his finger now for sure–or as she would say, her thumb.) I would not leave her alone with him because I would come home to find him playing video games downstairs while she was crying upstairs because he didn’t want anything to do with her. It caused a lot of tension in our marriage that took a lot of time to work through. I don’t say all this to elicit sympathy or make my situation out to be worse than anyone else’s, only to illustrate how difficult that time was for us and that my husband went from wanting a football team of kids to being adamant about having no more. He closed that book.

I was not as convinced. As stressful as it was, I loved my little miracle and was protective and even probably defensive of her and still wanted the opportunity to have another child. She got over her troubled early months and is now a cute firecracker, four year-old who loves to tilt her head and smile at her daddy until he laughs and wraps her in a big loving hug. After she turned three, my husband brought up the subject of having another child.

This time I was the one who was shocked. I had finally accepted that we were done. Our car was too small to physically fit a third child. Our two kids were somewhat self-sufficient; no diapers, can dress themselves, can express their needs and wants. We were in a routine, and it was working for us, and I didn’t want to give that up. And, I could not emotionally go through another situation similar to my daughter’s (although during that time I couldn’t imagine not having more kids either).

After much thought and prayer, we felt God gave us the go ahead to have another child. Our son or daughter will be born sometime this May. My son is six and my daughter is four and a half. This pregnancy has been much more difficult in many different ways, and I am certain it will be my last, so I have moments of being very sad knowing it will be the last time I feel a baby kick or have the hiccups inside me, the last time I will hold my very own newborn child, the last time I can gain weight without too much guilt :).

The Horseman family, 2013

The Horseman family, 2013

But I am so thankful for the blessing to be able to carry another child and bring a life into this world that God so lovingly created. I am blessed to have two beautiful children with very different personalities who teach me something new all the time. They remind me to keep my promises (because they remember when I have told them I would do something!). They remind me to relax and have some fun. Because of them my personal relationship with God has grown and my prayer life deepened. I can’t wait to see what this third child has to teach and show me.

I worked until my daughter was over two years old. Then I was laid off, and we took it as a blessing in disguise, or maybe it was really in plain sight. After much rearranging and rebudgetting, I have been able to stay home full-time since then. I was talking to my dad a couple of months ago. He called and asked what I was doing. I said ‘coloring pictures with your granddaughter and getting ready to make lunch’. He kind of chuckled. I asked what was so amusing. He said he never would have pictured that 10 years ago.

He’s right. I never thought I would want kids. I definitely never thought being a stay-at-home mom was for me. But it has worked out the way it was supposed to. Things are not picture perfect. I don’t feel I am the best mommy most days. There are days I go to bed feeling like all I did was yell at them all day or tell them ‘just give me another minute to do this or that’ and never got around to what they needed or wanted. There are days when one will ask me why I was so upset with them that day or one will yell that I am a mean mommy. But when my son gets up one more time from bed at night to give me a kiss on the cheek and say ‘I love you mom’; or my daughter climbs up into my lap and asks 20 random questions, and by the 21st I want to say WHAT NOW?, and she says ‘I want to be a mommy like you when I grow up’, I melt and I’m overwhelmed with awe about how much love I have for them and am so thankful I did not miss out on this experience.

Mothers and more mothers

*Thanks to my pastor, Paul Seay, for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

“For women, though, without children of their own, who like mothers have nurtured and cared for us, we pray to the Lord…”—Book of Blessings, USA., United Methodist Book of Worship, page 438

My own mother, Clora Lee Walker Seay, went home to heaven a little over 30 years ago.  She was a saint of a lady who put up with my father longer than she should have, but that’s the way she was.  She vowed before God that she would take him for better or worse and she lived that commitment until her death.  She also put up with my five brothers and sisters and me, which I know had to be a struggle also.  In the years since her death I have been able to witness other women who have been wonderful mothers although they never had children of their own.  I want to mention a couple of them.

Paul and his sister, Sue

Paul and his sister, Sue

My older sister, Sue Ann Seay Smith, has always been a rock for our family.  Although she and her husband, Larry, have no children of their own, they have helped raise us younger brothers and sisters along with countless nieces and nephews on both sides of the family.  Sue Ann also taught fourth grade in the Jackson, Missouri, school system until she retired after 30 years of service.  When I visit her, we run into former students in the grocery store or Wal-Mart, and I am amazed how they always want to visit with her and share with her about their lives and the influence she has had on them.

Another lady is our Children’s Ministry Director at Central Avenue United Methodist Church, Dennie Story Baker.  Whether it is the children’s message on Sunday morning, directing the Ringing Cherubs or Allegro Ringers Bell Choirs, or the Heavenly Hallelujahs children’s choir, she is always on the top of her game.  The girls and boys love Ms. Dennie, they pay attention to her, and they learn from her.  In the many years she has worked here at CAUMC, she has been a wonderful influence on hundreds of our children, youth, and young adults.

Dennie with some of her kids

Dennie with some of her kids

As I was writing this there were many others just like Sue Ann and Dennie that crossed my mind.  I just want to say that mothers are not always defined as those who have given birth, and we should thank God for them all.