I’ve been attempting to resurrect a dream that I had twenty years ago. I want to be a writer. Back then , I thought that if I just got the words down on paper without editing, I could go back with a fresh mind and fix them all. Just a little proofreading, you know, and checking for continuity… Yeah, well, editing was never my favorite part, and I got tired of trying for continuity. I finally just fizzled out and skipped forward a couple of decades with minimal writing and even less editing.
Today, I am planning to write straight through. No matter what happens, I won’t stop. It’s my 48th birthday, and I’m sick to death of looking ahead to the future and seeing a better version of me, one who is so idealized and well-structured, a put-together person who doesn’t exist, and one who might never materialize. While I wait for her, my words languish. And I’ve got a lot, right now, that needs to be said.
My favorite way to write is in the first person. It’s said to be the hardest to make work. I’m not bragging, but I’ve made it work way more often than my third-person writing. But who knows where my writing will take me? I may end up writing in the third person, after all. The point is, I’m diving in. I’m going deep. In over my head I’m gonna be… (Thanks, Steven Curtis Chapman for the perfect words for this great adventure I’m embarking on. See what I did there? I appreciate your music, but even more so, your message.)
Day 1 –
Today, I woke up feeling overwhelmed, and way over my head. I was exhausted before my head even left my pillow. My first thought as I rose was that I had to try to keep the little one in the bed next to me asleep for as long as possible. She’s not a very light sleeper, so it was easy to get up without waking her today. However, yesterday, she woke up as soon as I moved, looking like an Eager Beaver, so alive and enthusiastic that I wondered how she found the energy, day after day, to be so upbeat. And I’m considered a somewhat upbeat person. So she’s way beyond the normal happiness level of most humans. And I love her.
She’s also exhausting. I’m worn out every day that I have her in my life. She tests limits on a second-by-second basis. Her favorite answer for being told to stop doing something is, “Why, I was only [here she physically does the thing I just told her not to do while narrating her actions.]” I could scream and pull out my hair, but it wouldn’t phase her. Like no, not a single adverse reaction. She might melt down and cry, but it would be horrendous, screechy fake crying with real boogers.
Have I mentioned I love her? I really do. She’s beautiful. I mean, wow. Strangers always stop and smile. She’s got the ultimate personality, so sweet and sunny. I love that about her. She’s also cuddly and gentle with her hands. She’s really endearing, with an eagerness to make you happy that really gets deep into your heart. You can’t stay mad at her.
But you can get mad at her. Oh, yeah. Flame on! Night after night, day after day, hour by hour, you’re a raging ball of fiery anger when you’re dealing with this angel. Ever known one like her? She’s me. I mean, not biologically. She’s got none of my genes in that adorable DNA of hers, but she’s definitely just as impossible as I was when I was a six year-old princess.
She’s not the only one. She’s one of four who come and go in and out of my house to sleep for days, weeks, or months at a time as needed or desired. And their companionship is equally loved and dreaded depending on the hour of the day. They’re wonderful, and my life would not be the same without them.
I raised three babies and they’re all grown up. I had various levels of success in passing on my values, ideals, and favorite tastes. However, I passed on to all of them a passion for living and pursuing their visions. They’re all very creative, interesting, and fun people. And they’re not one of them the same as the other. I love that! And I love to brag about them as much as any mother. However, I think I’m weirder than most moms in that I really don’t want the world to think I’m taking any credit for their successes. Did I try hard? Yes, absolutely. But I failed even harder. My kids are who they are by the grace of God and by their own merits, and I’m absolutely proud of every single great thing they may accomplish in this world. But I’m absolutely thrilled that they existed as humans before they got out of bed in the morning. Before they accomplished a single thing in the day. Before anything about them could stand out or be admirable, I’ve been honored to be their mother. Because they’re incredibly unique and oh so amazing. God made them beautiful, and I think they are specifically designed to make my life better. If not, they’re doing that anyway as a side benefit.
I’ve got to admit they’ve got faults that make them just as unique as their strengths, but I find their faults to be worth the effort of facing them down. Because my children’s good points are too positive not to skew the balance all the way in the positive direction for me. Even when they aggravate me to no end. And they do.
So these little ones that I’m raising are blessed. They’re getting Stephanie Mothering 2.0, the upgraded version of what I do. I love them, panic less about who they’re going to become (I’m less terrified that they’ll get all messed up and that it’ll be my fault. Not because I don’t make mistakes, but because I know that no matter what comes, I’m going to give it my best.) I mostly, truly enjoy them. And I yawn a lot. A whole lot. I’m tired all the time. You see, I raised my first batch in my early 20s and 30s, back when I thought I knew what tired was. Now I laugh at that young, vibrant, energetic lady in my memory and I say like an old lady, “Listen, you don’t know what tired is.” And I mean it.
In the room down the hall is my mother-in-law, who is laughing her head off when she hears me talk about how tired I am. She’s got permanent aches and pains, arthritic joints, and a heart of gold. I’m worn out just thinking about all that this woman accomplishes in a day. She’s the Virtuous Woman on steroids. She cooks, cleans, manages the children, and can do home repair. She knows how to Macrame, sew, kill snakes, exterminate mice, and she also potty trained all my children and taught them all how to ride a bike. In fact, just last week, she suffered a bike-related injury teaching the almost-six year-old how to ride a bike. (It wasn’t the running that hurt her, but a freak accident a few minutes after that, in case you wanted to know.)
I’ve got to say that if the level of tiredness that I’m experiencing is just a fraction of what my 75 year-old mother-in-law is enduring, I can’t imagine how she’s ever managing to get out of bed. What must it be like to feel her level of fatigue? I am awed by her, and I always have been. She’s my hero. And I make her life impossible sometimes. Okay. So, I make her life impossible a lot of the time.
You see, I’m in the office typing this up because I got angry at her. She wanted to let the gorgeous little one who hogged up my bed last night sleep with her tonight. The child is terrified of sleeping alone, and she’ll only be here a short while. We don’t have a bed for her anyway, so she can climb into any bed she wants. Sometimes, she chooses my little guy’s bed, and I let him sleep on the couch or bunk with us. But most of the time, she’s too scared to do that, so she sleeps with Grandma when she visits. Grandma has an injured leg. The child kicks in her sleep. No, she shouldn’t sleep there. But I’m not great at reasoning with Grandma when she’s being stubborn. So I didn’t handle this argument well, either. I argued about other stuff instead of coming to the real point, and I finally just walked into this office to write out my frustrations.
But the reality is that my mother-in-law’s heart is what keeps this family going. She’s selfless and giving to a fault. She’s kind and loving, industrious, strong, and she’s amazing. I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job of arguing my case, because I’m afraid that the little angel is going to do a bang-up job of bruising up Grandma’s leg tonight. And I think it might have been better if I had handled myself the right way.
My name is Stephanie. I’m turning 48 years old today, and I’m an immature idiot. I need to grow up. I’m sorry I haven’t done it yet. I wonder how long it will take. And I want to keep writing about my struggles because there might be another spirit-filled, godly lady out there who really loves her family and dreams of being a better role model and friend to those around her. But maybe she’s also immature and needs a kick in the pants now and then like I do. And maybe just knowing that she’s not alone will give her the strength to get back at it. I hope she’ll see the value in pursuing the knowledge of Christ in all his glory, of wanting to see him face to face, and of trying to become more like him every day. Because that’s my journey, and I’m walking that path every step right now. Maybe the story of how I’ve done it, the mistakes and the victories, might give you the grace to keep putting one foot in front of the other, too.
For me, the first person who made me feel that way was Katherine Marshall. Her book, “Finding God at Every Turn,” was life-changing. I felt like I knew her, could share in her struggles and frustrations, and needed her big sisterly advice to keep me on the straight and narrow path. Today, I can credit her books with keeping me sane at a time when I felt so worthless. I mean, my mother-in-law is literally good at everything that I cannot do. Everything. So walking alongside her and seeing her effortlessly accomplish so many tasks that I struggled with – it made me feel a few inches tall. She’s so encouraging, though, and truly believes that I will learn how to master it with just a little more effort. I wish I had a teaspoonful of her faith.
Update: It’s been two years. I’m turning 50 in a little over a month. I’m just getting back to editing some of these things and tossing them onto my website. I hope being this late won’t be a stumblingblock to you. I don’t want you to assume that life will be this hard for you, as well. I’ve actually accomplished a lot during this time. Above all, I’ve kept the faith. And that is the most important thing of all. Life knocked me down a lot during these two years, and I’ve been struggling like I never had to do in my entire life combined. But it’s also been an enriching time where I’ve learned so much about the joy of the Lord being my strength. I’m so happy! And today, I’m so glad that I endured all that I did. My faith has grown, my love has matured, and I really know God on a whole new level. On the other hand, I’m not any better at the things I was bad at doing. I’m not easier to live with for my beloved mother-in-law. I’m not less tired. I still yawn a lot.
It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to be tired. It’s not bad to have a hard time. You can do this. That’s what I’ve learned. And so now, when everything goes wrong, and it often does, I’m less likely to break down. (I said, I’m less likely. I didn’t say I never lose my cool. lol) I’m trusting that every step forward will lead me closer to the woman of God that I long to be. Will you commit with me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when you seem to be making very little progress? You may find, like I have, that the growth isn’t on the surface where everyone else can see it, but in the heart, which God can see perfectly.
Written by Stephanie from StephanieOrsini.com