Doozer’s Day

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As I write this, Father’s Day is looming. For single moms, the annual holiday is often better known as “Ugh. How are we going to handle it this year?”

Some of us use this holiday to celebrate our double duty. Some of us let it pass without discussion. Some of us celebrate grandparents or other important figures. In my family, we’ve done it all, including a brief stint in which my daughters claimed the day for themselves as “Sister’s Day.” But this year, at my daughters’ request, we are trying something entirely new: Doozer’s Day.

“Doozer” is my girls’ nickname for my boyfriend. It comes from the children’s show created by Jim Henson about the helpful Doozers who are famously task-oriented. If something needs doing, Doozers just “do-do-do-it.” It is an apt nickname, to say the least, and is now the only name by which anyone under 12 in our lives recognizes him. He is a great guy. Yet, it took a days-long, anxiety-ridden process for me to grant their request for Doozer’s Day.

Doozer and I have been dating for over four years. For the past three of those, I have frequently fielded questions about when we will get married, whether or not I am a “real single mom,” and if we will move in together. The answer to all of those questions is simple: “I don’t know.” There is something so simultaneously wonderful and frightening about loving again, about inviting someone to become a part of the family that you’ve rebuilt from the rubble, and attempting to trust. It is confusing.

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If relationships are typically a straight line from interest, to love, to engagement and marriage, ours would look more like the wobbly-yet-determined footsteps of a drunken man trying to walk the straight line of a sobriety test. It took a full year to get to “I love you.” In these four years, we became neighbors, but we still don’t cohabitate. He has never stepped into Father-Daughter dances. We do not share finances. We broke up almost monthly for the first three years because none of this makes sense. I know this isn’t the life he wanted. I mean, a financially ruined, emotionally unstable single mother with ex-husband drama isn’t exactly dating site profile material. In all honesty, he is not the man I envisioned loving either. This serious-faced, consistently underwhelmed introvert with a deep need for solitude? C’mon. Could there be a more opposite personality to mine? What was I thinking? He is certainly not who the girls envisioned as the fourth member of our silly, dancing, ice-cream-for-dinner crew. Yet, here we are, the three of us, stumbling into this new life – sometimes with headfirst abandon and sometimes one tepid quickly retracted toe at a time. Because as much as this was not what any of us had in mind for our future, it is the only thing that feels right – this family.

Seeing Doozer with my girls fills and softens my heart in ways that I did not think were possible. The time and energy he puts into them is one of the most magical phenomenon I have ever witnessed. I fall more deeply in love with him every time I see it. But I would be lying if I said that those feelings were simple and beautiful. In fact, they are complicated. As I watch this man guide and support my daughters, I am also terrified. I constantly fight the urge that creeps up the back of my neck to grab them and run far away to some secret enclave where the three of us live without worry that someone will break our hearts again – where we trust no one and are only vulnerable with each other.

I approached Doozer about his potential holiday, fearful that he would say, “This is too much, I’m out.” But when he responded positively, I became even more fearful about what that meant. Honestly, he could not have given an answer that would not have invoked fear. Knowing that he is taking a bigger piece of their hearts each day is, well…nothing short of terrifying.

Second Corinthians 4:7 tells us, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” I use this verse often when talking about our bodies as vessels of the Lord. Think of yourself as the jar, I tell my girls, brimming with the Lord’s treasure. You are magical and unique, like any handmade pottery, and full of God’s love. Trust Him, I always say. Trust that He made you just as you need to be, His perfect vessel. Trust that He leads you, His vessel, where you need to be. Just trust Him.  So this year I am listening to my own advice. I am trusting God as we walk this journey that is crooked and scary but is the path upon which He has set our three hearts. Instead of resisting the path because it is unfamiliar and, honestly, a bit unorthodox, we will celebrate.

I hope that all of you single mommas celebrate. Whether you have a Doozer, a dear friend, an aunt, a neighbor, or yourself. Trust that God placed you where you need to be and with whom you need to be, and celebrate THAT!

Bring on Doozer’s Day! (Or Friend’s Day or Auntie’s Day or Whatever Day!)


A. Smith

An Angel On Earth

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 My how a year can change things.

Not like we were the perfect couple by any regard but I sure as hell was going to give it my best shot. 100%. If I can do one thing well, that is to love someone fiercely.

You see, him and I had been friends for a while. So, I knew of this Saintly woman they called Maureen, but I had yet to meet any of his family. It hadn't been the right time. He wasn't ready. Maybe I wasn't either, but I sure wanted to be.

So for Easter, we had made plans to go to their family cabin nestled deep in the country in Northwest AR. Newly renovated, she was so proud of that project. A retreat for her and her soulmate to spend time together with their grandchildren. And moments like that day, where the whole family came together to enjoy each other.

Unfortunately, it almost didn’t happen. I failed him more than once during our time together because of letting my insecurities get the best of me.

The first time was the night before Easter. When I woke up Sunday morning, I didn’t even know if he would still be at my house. He was hurt, I had broken his trust. I was angry and upset by some truths that finally came out. It was a sleepless night.

I heard him talking on the phone as I was trying to find him and he waved for me to come over. He said, “here, do you want to talk to my mom?” So, one year ago, I heard the sweetest voice on the other end of the phone who genuinely knew I cared for her son and that he cared for me.

She was not upset at me. In fact, I think she actually understood my crazy thought process of why I did what I did. It didn’t excuse it but giving her some of my background story helped her see me and know me better. She also let me know how much her son cared for me and whatever we needed to do to get through this and to still make it down to Easter dinner then it better happen. Then she prayed for me. I immediately felt like I had a connection with this woman.

I also appreciated the fact that he wanted me to talk to her. They were best friends. So, for him to allow me into their conversation made me feel like I actually meant something and was being respected, not kept out of the loop.

We talked through it. It wasn’t a fun conversation by any means. Sometimes in life we have those, and they still need to happen. We decided we would go and enjoy our day. And we were glad we did. It was a beautiful day for an Easter dinner in a newly renovated cabin in the woods.

Immediately, his family came to greet us. I brought flowers and wine as a gift. She squeezed me and I squeezed her right back. I got the official tour of the place. We had an amazing lunch and the kids got to find eggs. I got to visit with his family and tell them some of my story and it truly was a wonderful day.

I texted her later and told her thank you for the hospitality and how much I enjoyed meeting everyone. I also told her that I had no idea where things would go with her son and I but that if things went well that I would love for her to be my spiritual mother. I explained to her that I hadn’t grown up in church and so I never really had that. She said she would be honored and felt the immediate connection as well.

That day started a relationship between two women who have been through some similar stories, who love both their families with all their might. Authenticity and love of the Lord, we also shared.

She would pray for me. We would text each other and she would encourage me, give me insight that no one else could. She was a true treasure.

My girls and I got to spend Mother’s Day with their family. I was treated with flowers and gifts and cards. I couldn’t tell you the last time someone went out of their way to make me feel that special on Mother’s Day. I will never forget it.

By the end of the month though, the relationship between her son and I would end. It was hard. It was painful. I felt like I was losing part of my family. She knew the struggles I was facing. Again, she prayed for me.

It took some time but him and I did want to try to be friends after ending things. But there were a lot of hurts on both sides. Healing needed to happen.

He told me one day his mom hadn’t been herself. Had hurt her back somehow and just wasn’t bouncing back. Anyone that knew this lady knew she would run circles around ya, even the grandkids. After 6 weeks of being in back pain, in July, she decided to go to the doctor and check it out. We were all thinking it was probably a pinched nerve or a slipped disc.

Once the test results were back, it was concluded that she actually had cancer. Stage IV. There was a spot on her lung and also spinal cancer. This is where her pain had been coming from. The cancer had actually eaten away some of the bone and had broken one of her vertebrae.

I had several text conversations with her while she was going through this initial stage of probably shock and disbelief of what was happening. Her faith never wavered one bit. She even told me that we were going to have one big shindig when all this was over to celebrate! She loved entertaining friends and family, and she knew I did too. I agreed and we each said we loved one another.

Radiation started immediately, but after several weeks she was transferred to another hospital for more intense care in late Aug. They performed surgery on her back on Sept 6th to help heal her spine.

A week later, she was strong enough to start the chemo. Everything had started taking a toll on her body. She was of course losing weight, and she was already a petite frame to begin with.

They said she was the perfect patient. Always smiling. Never complaining. I told you, she was a Saint.

The next round of Chemo they did had to be a smaller dose, they didn’t think her body could handle a full dose. Many trials and bumps in the next days. They started radiation at the new hospital and things were even looking up and plans of releasing her to a rehab place then home were talked about.

We have a local hospital that has a store inside of it that sells merchandise for cancer patients. One day, I decided to stop in and I was going to send sweet Maureen a care package. She was losing most of her hair so I decided to get her a cool head wrap. Now this woman, isn’t like any other granny. She had style and I was not going to disappoint her in her head wrap either! I also found an inspirational scripture piece that I thought would be perfect for her to keep next to her bedside.

One of the ladies that works in the store came up and asked me if I needed any help. I just burst into tears. I didn’t want to be buying cancer accessories! I didn’t want to be here at all. But this wasn’t about me. I just wanted to make her smile, even for a brief moment, for her to know that I thought of her daily and prayed for her fervently. My initial plan was to make a trip to go see her during the day sometime and surprise her. But that didn’t happen so I ended up putting the items together in a box and was just going to mail it to the hospital.

The next update wasn’t as good as the last few we had received. The last PET scan showed more spots, her body was weakening and her pain was increasing. They decided they were going to bring her home.

They released her from the hospital on Oct 16th and she got back to Northwest AR that evening. They brought her to a hospice center, all her local family was able to see her that night. I hope she truly knew how much she meant to every single one of them.

The next morning, I got the phone call. Maureen had passed. This Angel on Earth was now with the Angels in Heaven. I got home from an appointment I had and there it was, sitting on the table, ready to be mailed. Her care box. I dropped to my knees sobbing. I was angry with myself that I had not taken it to the post office earlier.

There were days I was so angry and thought how could you go into a doctor apt for a hurt back and come out with a stage IV diagnosis? She was so healthy and exercised, active and happy.

Throughout this process, him and I had not spoken much. I had kept up on updates through the website they set up for friends and family. It was closer to the end that we started talking a little more.

I knew no matter what I wanted to be there at the service. She meant the world to me and he knew that. And, to be honest, I wanted to be there for him too. He just lost his best friend, the person who was always there for him. Every time he would speak of her, you knew how much he loved her and would do anything in the world for her. He was crushed.

It was such a beautiful tribute to the woman she was. Some of her grandchildren had written stories of their favorite times with her and the Pastor shared them. After the service, we toasted Coke’s with limes (her favorite drink) and got to visit with all the people that came to give their condolences.

For me, I was there for more selfish reasons. I wanted to feel close to her one last time. I wasn’t part of their family anymore and I needed this closure in a couple different ways. I hugged everyone when it was all over and said my goodbyes, to make the couple hours drive back home.

So for whatever the reason this man was put in my life, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out for us, I know in my heart of hearts that I met an Angel on Earth for a reason. Even if it was for a short time. I can only imagine how she influenced the people she knew for years or her whole life.

Maureen, until I see you again on another Easter, keep welcoming people into heaven with that million dollar smile of yours.

 An Angel on Earth to being just a True Angel.

-JLR

 

I'm Too Much

I have been told this so many times in my seven years of dating. Have you heard this yourself? 

I'm too needy. 

I'm too passionate. 

I'm too intense. 

I'm too sassy. 

I'm too picky. 

I'm too much of a pain in the ass.

I'm too independent. 

I'm too confident. 

Im too emotional. 

I'm too insecure. 

I'm just too much.

When I first started dating, this would hurt my heart to hear. You don't want to be called "too much" of anything, you want to be just right. Just right for that person you're seeing. You want to mesh. Being called too much means that I need to fix something, because something must be wrong with me right? 

So after while you start to believe it. You start making sure that you're not too much. You don't touch a person even though you really want to. You don't reach out to them when you want to hear from them. You make sure that you don't say what you feel you should say. You put a lid on it, in other words. You basically are keeping your true self from that person because you don't want to be "too much". And you start shriveling up inside because of it. 

Over time it started making me angry. I see it as a cop-out for most men that have used these lines against me. You see, because they thought I was too much for them but they would not step up to be the person they needed to be for me or themselves. And that intimidated them. They didn't want to be challenged; in their faith, their day to day lives or their minds. They wanted simple. They wanted easy. They wanted what I am not. 

Now, looking back, I am so thankful they chose not to step up. That I was too much for them. They couldn't have really handled all that I am anyways. ;) As one of my favorite InstaPoets, R.H. Sin said, "You'll be too much woman for every man until you meet your soulmate."

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Because MY PERSON you see...my person, the one who gets me in the end he will not think I am too much. He will think I am perfect and love every inch of my sass, every flaw, every detail of my past that has made me who I am today. He will try to understand why I am who I am. The walls that I have put up to protect myself and gently, piece by piece, try to bring it down. He won't throw those things in my face and try to make me feel bad about them. No, he is not selfish like that. 

So ladies, if a guy tries to tell you that you are too much, remind him this...hell yes you are too much! And you're going to keep being too much for him!! Because if he thinks you're too much now, what's he gonna think of you when life gets dirty and you get in the trenches? How's he going to be able to handle you if he can't even respect you? 

Let them boys go who make you feel bad for being too much of YOU!!! That way you will open yourself up for the one that will love ALL of you. 

-JLR