Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Budgeting of Motherhood

Photo Courtesy of MBShaw Photography, 2012
I had a glass of chardonnay and she had some fancy fruit juice concoction and the room buzzed and hummed with the small talk of entrepreneurs and those who fund their dreams. I had on my bargain black ankle pants from Kohl's that I bought to have something cocktail party worthy, and she wore a slick business suit with simple jewelry and plenty of poise. But we sat and whispered together, not about the finances of small business but the budgeting of motherhood.

I felt like that scene out of Lisa Jo's book where she mentions being in the room with all the high-powered three-piece suits but all the other woman wants to talk about is how she handles the most important gig of all and still gets her paying job done.

This woman who is light years ahead of me on the American dream career path told me about her boys and getting dinner on the table and we commiserated over homework while my husband--who holds the same title she does for another company--networked and business carded and advised. She told me how he'd helped answer her questions the other day, and when he was finished talking, she figured she'd just learned enough to make the event worthwhile. It made me proud to hear that. Then just as we wound up the party, she asked him for one more piece of advice about some report they're required to run.

He told her how he gets started on that as soon as budget is finished in December. That he sets staggered deadlines, so by the time January blows in, they're already plugging away at the first third of the process and the rest is a downhill slide into March. (Mostly my words, not his. He used actual trade lingo and acronyms.) But she looked at him, eyes wide with disbelief and said, "But how do you do that with Christmas?"

He didn't have an answer. But I did. I leaned over and reminded her, "He has me. And I stay home."

Her question came from her mother's heart, not her financial officer's brain. A mother knows December entails teacher gifts and chorus concerts and family portraits and extra mail. She knows it's already list after list of goodies and gifts and glory, so why would she add something else to a plate that's already heaped high enough?

It's not that my husband doesn't help make the holidays happen, He does and he's amazing. But his mind isn't forefront with the worries that we haven't chosen an advent tradition or ordered Christmas cards or made the sugar cookie dough well enough in advance. He's never worried about all the little details because he's never had to. Even when I taught, this was my department. Maybe that's because of who I am or maybe it's more generic than that. Maybe it's because of who we all were created to be.

Mothers tend to be in the weeds--to borrow a term from my husband. We wade on in and get stuck in the rushes because we know all the little intricacies that we want to do or need to do or expect to be able to do. We do this regardless of our job status, our marital status, and our previous status.

But we're terrible at budgeting ourselves, at realizing that we all have a capacity and yours shouldn't have to look like mine.

When I chose to stay home, I increased my budget for motherhood. But it took me a long time to realize that where I spend that budget isn't the same as someone else.

I spend a lot of time letting my kids drag inside toys outside so they can pretend to be the orphans from The Boxcar Children. I don't spend a lot of time actually playing this game with them myself.

I spend a lot of time inventing new ways to hide kale and turnips in their food. But I don't spend a lot of time making that food look cute.

I spend a lot of time typing away at my own dreams. I don't, however, spend a lot of time actually listening to theirs. (And I should.)

My motherhood looks different than yours, and different than this woman with whom I sat with and had uninterrupted grown-up conversation. But I learned from her.

It is nothing short of luxury for him and me that I stay home.  That I am able to support my husband with home-cooked meals and leftover lunches. That I don't have to rearrange the schedules of others to accommodate my sick kids. That I don't have to experience the Sunday evening rush that bleeds into Monday morning mania.

I know lots of women love their outside the home jobs. I just wasn't one of them. I wanted to be, but my capacity for motherhood didn't include the job I had and hear me loud and clear--that is okay. And it is okay for you to not be me.

It took me a long time to get here. To see what I do at home as being as valuable as what I once did in my classroom.

I've realized the budgeting of motherhood is about more than how I spend my time or where I spend my days. It is about my honest response in pursuit of being the mother I've been called to be.

Which may not be the same type mom as you. Want to tell me about that in the comments? Have you figured out your capacity? How do you budget motherhood with career and marriage?

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Really Short Story about Short Stories

My first short story came out on Saturday. In a real live magazine that you can subscribe to online or read in print (especially if you're my mama and you're waiting on my complimentary copy). I'm all sorts of tingly thrilled while at the same time, like all writers do, trying not to over analyze that on that same day I found out I'm not a finalist in a contest I entered.

This writing business is a lot of hurry up and work while you wait. Then news come down all at once and it's all elation and pits of despair because I rarely seem to just land in the middle of that swinging pendulum.

But still, I get to call myself a real, live published writer. And over the next few months, I've already received confirmation that three more pieces are coming out. Another short story in Splickety Prime (this one's my take on A Christmas Carol because I can't go through the season without a Scrooge reference) and some little anecdotes for Thriving Family magazine which you can get for FREE right here. 

So after years of talk and scribble and dream and excuse I'm finally doing this writer thing. Not just the blogger thing because they are both the same and different in all sorts of ways.

It's all crazy coincidence and God's timing. You know how I met the blog editor for Splickety?(Sometimes I guest post over there.) She's friends with Jennifer. Who I roomed with at Allume, because I didn't know anyone and she put out a notice on the Facebook page that she needed a roomie. Then seven months later I'm in a keynote address at a different conference and she sends me an Instagram notification that I need to meet her friend Bethany because she's deduced from our pictures that we're in the same room at right that very moment. Which gave me the courage to meet these people who teach classes at this conference I'd never been to before and led to enough confidence to submit and well, that's the rest of the story.

Oh, and Bethany and I have back to back stories in the current issue. Which made Jen and me all sorts of giddy.

So that's what I've been doing. Pounding the keys in a different sort of telling. The kind that's hopefully going to lead to a completed manuscript by Christmas.

I'm writing stories.

I tell you true ones here. But it's my hope that someday when you pick up a novel with my name on it, you'll find those ringing of the same.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When Brave Hospitality Looks Like a lot of Pizza

The girls and I had the idea one early autumn afternoon that since Halloween fell on Friday night this year, maybe we should have some friends over for Friday night pizza.

They invited families from school and church and I spread the word to friends of my own who would keep on the path to sanity for the night. We ringed a patch of dirt with old landscape stones and called it a fire pit and broke out the paints for a little craftiness.

I stressed about who we had invited and if they would come and who we hadn't and if they'd be hurt and people said--it's okay if you just order the pizza.

But it wasn't. Not because I wanted to show off or be prideful but because if you come into my home, I want to offer you a part of myself, a glimpse into our everyday chaos, a seat at our family table.

Even though we set up outside and banished all twenty-five kids from the front door.

I make pizza on Fridays because I enjoy it. Over the years it's become a therapeutic ritual our family relies upon. Every other night's dinner might be made up on the fly, but pizza has become a predictable routine they expect. And in a world that is constantly unexpected, it's a small gift to keep something the same.

So I made eight pizzas and friends drifted in and out of my kitchen to keep me company and kids spilled off the back deck into the yard and I didn't worry about our imperfect bathrooms or lack of living room square footage or carpets that desparately need to meet a Stanley Steamer.

I just made pizza.

There were people we've known for years and friends we've just met and at one point I wasn't sure if those were trick or treaters or guests on our front porch. It was wildly disorganized and delightful.

And you know what surprised me most? That after we had canvassed the neighborhood, people came back. They drank coffee and cocoa and sat around and talked and listened and we all ignored the mess and the candy wrappers in the kids' rooms.

I don't host parties very often. We're not asked to be the home for the socials. Our house is small and there's no denying it. But what we lack in space, I'm learning to make up for with a face of brave hospitality.

That's a catchphrase these days for inviting even when you aren't ready, welcoming even when it's a stranger, cooking even when you think you're not as good as the delivery down the road. In this social media driven world of perfection, there's a group of women in my generation who are striving to be less perfection and more purpose. To love like Jesus loved on purpose.

Over the kitchen table with marker stains.

Over the broken bread and wine that might look like coffee and scones but feels like communion.

Over in the small house with pizza in the backyard.

This week Kris Camealy (whose writing I adore) and an amazing group of writers launched a new place for community: Grace Table. It's not a food blog or an entertaining blog. It's a space for frank discussions about what Biblical hospitality should look like. You should check it out. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For the Mamas Who Fear Not Being Enough

In the quiet dark of the early morning while the four who call me Mommy are still tucked in safe and I can hear the thoughts that pillage my head and heart, I whisper prayers for two sweet friends who are laboring today.

Today they'll be mamas all over again. One is doing this for the third time but it will be a fourth love. Twins sandwiched between her only daughter and this newborn son and they're all less than four years old. One will bring home a second son a good two weeks before she expected him to arrive, but I've heard tell that his monogrammed towel is already hanging on the bathroom hook.

They've both prepared as much as one can for this late night feeding, early morning rising, baby in a sling with the toddler on the hip motherhood adventure.

But there's a little bit of fear mixed in with all that joy. A little bit of worry that nags a mother's heart and makes us wonder--will I really be enough? Can I split my heart again--and again and again and again--as many times over as God calls me to be a mother?

I think it as a I sit at a table covered with failed spelling tests and this week's assignments and sticky cereal milk and damp paintbrushes. Is there ever going to be enough of me to give some to each of them?

There's no doubt about the love. For some it's the moment the stick turns pink or the ultrasound tech points to the screen or the wailing newborn is placed in her arms, but that mama heart does just crack right open and welcome another and there's no doubt there will always be enough love.

But time? Energy? Attention? Will there be enough of that?

Those who know Christ, the apostle Paul calls us His "handiwork", His "masterpiece", His "creation anew"--called to do the good works God planned long, long ago.

Long before any of us knew how many extra hands and feet would crawl into our beds each night.

God chose you to be this mother to this many. Whether that's one or four or a baker's dozen. He chose you.

He will make you enough.

Somedays it's a struggle to believe. There's yelling and fighting and slamming of doors and I have to distract three so I can comfort one.

Somedays it's a beautiful, glorious mess around here. Teeth brushing gets neglected but they're all in my bed and we're reading stories that are age-appropriate for two but timeless for all.

Somedays the house is clean and the school day was good and there's actually time for a walk with a red wagon and the chatter of an eight year old.

Somedays everything falls apart and there's the forgetting what my knees are really for and the reminder that this is all a gift--that I do not want right now.

There's not enough hours in all the days of all the years to come to ever make us feel we have enough time to be everything everybody needs.

So don't be.

Be the mama you've been called to be. Seek grace. That will be enough. 

Angie Ryg

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Man I Met in Denver

It took a three hour plane ride and a two hour time change. It took a list of who goes where when and a casserole in the freezer.

It took more than just a few changes of clothes in a carry-on. It took an unpacking of guilt that we would spend money just so I could have some time and you could have a companion.

It took three cocktail parties, two dinners--one fancy and one just down home, and more than one person's words for me to grasp just who you are when you put on a polo or a button down or the full suit and leave the house every morning.

Too often I've let you be the one who just didn't get how hectic my days are. You come in juggling grant requests and loan closings and American dreams that don't always respect a 5 pm EST ending, and I throw someone or something at you.

The dishes. The laundry. The unswept floor. The uncooked dinner. The baby boy. The strong-willed middle. The flunked spelling test. The rejection.

I want you to get everything about me. How every moment of my everyday is wrapped up in motherhood and words and tantrums and it's so very important because I'm here with these little people who share our eyes and tendencies and flaws.

I forget that what you do all day is important too. Not just because it pays the bills and makes the Friday night pizza happen and gives you joy. It's important because what you do is an extension of who you are.

And how many people really get to say that?

They whispered in my ear at this national trade conference for your industry. How you're so knowledgeable, so kind, so straightforward, and easy to understand. How you can answer all the questions the new CFO attendee came with and give a presentation that people actually learn from. How you're incredibly gifted at what you do with numbers and constraints and ideas.

And even though they told me surely I was more--I was happy to be just your wife.

I was proud to say I stay home and take care of our kids and our household so you can do what you do and ACE it everyday.

I was ashamed to realize I could do more to make it easier.

Not more dish scrubbing or towel folding or casserole making. But more leaning in rather than on. More listening. More recognizing that your job is not where you spend a few hours everyday so you're gone from me and these kids, but is in fact a place where you are respected, encouraged, and needed.

You've changed and grown and developed into a leader and an advocate for small businesses, and the people who answer your phone calls and emails told me how much they appreciate you.

I appreciate you.

I don't say it enough. Not nearly. You're our family's sole provider right now, and if you're ever scared, you don't show it. You hold me when I throw fits and tell me it will all work out. You do your best to leave stressful days at the office, and even when you've wanted to walk right back out after walking into pure chaos at 5:30 in the afternoon, you've sat down on the couch and watched mindless cartoons or read an umpteenth round of Llama Llama just so I can finish dinner in peace.

People tell me they don't know how I juggle it all. The kids. The writing, The theater. The ministries. The volunteering. The house listing.

But I know how it's possible. And it's time I told you the truth.

I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am or who I'm becoming if it wasn't for you. You gave me the life I always wanted.

Now, I pray I can do the same for you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Being Still and Knowing Myself

Today has been the longest day. In the best possible way. Apparently, you can buy yourself time. If you get on a plane and head west, the clock turns back and suddenly there are two extra hours in your schedule.

Trips work that way. Especially trips without kids. And since my internal alarm is still set for Georgia time, I was up and wide awake at seven before I'd even had my in-room Starbucks brew. I've had a whole day. A whole day with no obligations or deadlines or temper tantrums or requests. It's a decadent luxury, and I know that.

But it's a luxury of solitude I desperately needed.

I've always believed I am an extrovert, a people person, talking to strangers or friends or anyone has never been a problem. I make connections. I build bridges and find common ground. I hate social silence because it feels uncomfortable and unnecessary. If I'm with people, then I'm going to communicate with people.

Yesterday, I rode an airport shuttle, a Delta flight, and a downtown shuttle in close quarters with dozens of people. I said nothing. I deliberately kept my silence and let there be quiet and didn't even attempt conversation in situations where others might have sensed opportunity.

My capacity for people is full.

It sounds terrible to say that doesn't it? I don't mean I don't feel compassion or mercy or the desire to welcome new people into my life, but I'm in a place right now where I'm recognizing that I've been spreading myself way too thin too much of the time.

I'm not the extrovert I've always thought. Most of the time, being with lots of people stresses me rather than relaxes me. For years, I have let my people pleasing side trump my quiet side. I have said yes even when it's not my best, I have attended functions because I fear missing out, I have done everything except embrace my true calling because I thought it was pretty important I help others be happy.

You know when it's easiest to help others feel happiness? When you feel it yourself.

You know what makes you happy? Embracing who you are instead of who you think this world wants you to be.

I love meeting people. I love finding kindred souls and I've spent hours over coffee with amazing people talking motherhood and writing and theater and just life. But I'm best at this when I've also built time into my life to recharge, decompress, and just have some time to myself. I didn't know this was true for a long time. I thought it was because I'd had a bad day that I needed a bubble bath and a good book. Or a long walk by myself. Or even just a trip to the grocery store that didn't require the dreadful car buggy and a cookie.

I didn't realize the bad days could be fewer if I took care of myself as well as I try to take care of my kids.

Blessedly, I have a husband who got that about me long before I got it about myself. He didn't ask me to come with him just because he wanted some time away. He asked me to come because he knew that while he was in eight hour meetings, I would be here. At an outdoor cafe, writing. He knew I'd have large chunks of time alone. He knew I needed this.

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live."
Isaiah 55:2-3

I want my soul to live. And in order to do that, sometimes I have to let my soul find quiet and rest.

And solitude.

You know what else I read today over lunch by myself? Ann Voskamp's beautiful words on how we can indeed be still because the loud internet is not the boss of me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What I've Been Doing Instead of #write31days

I didn't do it. I stayed off the bandwagon. And for a person who a) adores The Nester and b) hates to be left out, staying out of #write31days was HARD.

I did it last year. Amidst three conferences, one week of single parenthood, and long rehearsals for what became A Christmas Carol at the community theater, I did it. 31 posts on Living Local. You can read them all right here if you want. I was really proud of myself.

But then I was done. I didn't turn it into an ebook. I didn't keep up the momentum. I was done. I was tired. But I was glad I had accomplished that goal.

So I decided that I wasn't going to participate this year unless I really, really wanted to. Unless I really had something to say that was worth 31 posts. Because let's face it, I'm a writer. I'm not a crafter or a DIYer or a recipe blogger. At my heart, at this space, I'm a writer.

But I just couldn't think of anything I really wanted to write about. Well, actually I can think of a lot of things, but they're all random and not thematic and scattered. Sort of like my life right now. This business of freelance writing and novel writing and blogging all at the same time has me more than overwhelmed.

So instead of blogging for 31 days here's what we've been up to instead...

 A little consignment sale shopping...and yes, I'd really like to post my tips for consignment but I just can't seem to find the time. And then I figure someone better has likely beat me to it.

Hanging with the tractor in the rain on big sister's field trip. In his new $8 Thomas rain boots. Consignment.

Before the deluge began everyone was all smiles. Then they found out there would be no hayride or corn maze or petting zoo...

Got to admit I teared up a little bit at this fundraiser relay for our local cross country team. That coaching gig used to be mine, so I was a little nostalgic when she came around the track in her "Future Raider" tshirt. Oh, and it was insanely cold. Like 40 degrees.

A little pumpkin patch visiting later that afternoon. We like to buy from local vendors. This one is St. Paul's Catholic Church in Cleveland.

These two. My friend Brooke was visiting and she told them to look like they loved one another. This is as good as it gets. And when did my oldest become such a fashionista?


Millie Moo and I had a date yesterday. We went to the ENT (hello, tonsillectomy! Looks like this post will be getting an update.) and then shopping at Target. The goal was shoes. The wants were not. So we took pictures of what she liked to send to Santa. (i.e. Grandparents--are you reading this?)

And finally I've been doing a lot of fall cooking. I briefly considered a 31 days series of fall recipes. Then I realized I am indeed crazy. But I'll still post some. Like this incredible soup that has a secret ingredient you won't believe! For recipe updates it's best to follow me on Instagram.

So, yeah. That's what I've been up to. How about you?