Category Archives: Experiences

Re-Entry

On September 21st, I went to Africa with a team of 6 other women, through Africa New Life Ministries, a non-profit organization. Africa New Life is an organization created by Rwandans to help the Rwandan people empower themselves through education and employment.

An overview of ANLM taken from their website:

“Since 2001, Africa New Life has shared the Gospel using two hands: the hand of compassion and the hand of evangelism. Our goal is to see lives transformed through meeting basic needs, to give hope for the future for those living in poverty in Rwanda, and to share the freedom and hope found in Christ. At the heart of our model for breaking cycles of poverty is educational sponsorship. With a high school education, or a vocational equivalent, children in Rwanda have hope for the future.”

AFNLM believes in caring for the “whole child”. While educational sponsorship is at the core of their work, they believe children need other key factors to succeed such as a growing faith, community development, and a healthy body.

Their mission statement, powerful and simple, drew me in immediately:

Africa New Life exists to transform lives and communities through preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and acts of compassion.”

Our days in Kigali were filled with activity. Being a team of women, ANLM asked if we would consider focusing our trip around spending time in relationship with women and children, offering encouragement and support. We were thrilled to have that opportunity, so on our trip we completed 15 home visits. Eleven of these visits included meeting children that are sponsored through monthly donations by various team members. The sponsorship program provides education and medical assistance. Sponsored children also attend a monthly Christian day camp and a four-day bible camp each fall. We were able to touch the sweet faces of children that we had only known on paper previously. A powerful experience that I will write about another day. The other four home visits were to women enrolled in a sewing program through ANLM’s Women’s Vocational Center. In between visits, our days were packed with a full on Rwanda experience. We attended a Christian women’s conference. We lived a day in the life of a local woman, right down to cultivating land and gathering water. We gave presentations on business skills, and health and wellness to women in sewing and cosmetology programs. We walked through a genocide memorial museum. And we spent even more time connecting with our sponsored children outside of their homes.

There is so much I want to express about my time in Africa. It will forever be one of the most important and joyful times of my life. I cannot wait to share my thoughts on education, local culture, short-term mission trips, the genocide, post genocide healing and reconciliation, worship, values, and sponsorship.  

But for today, I want to discuss re-entry. Sunday we returned from Rwanda, and we are elated to be home. But coming home brings a big bag of mixed emotions. And as someone who has always been a deep feeler, re-entering the life I left less than 2 weeks ago has been plain hard. Previous service experiences and mission trips have left me well versed on the internal struggle that occurs when you leave a life changing experience, so during the trip I began bracing myself for impact. Processing the emotions involved in re-entry is important and is an essential and necessary step for personal growth, but it is hard work.

Africa New Life Ministries scheduled a debriefing session with Pastor Fred, their executive director, for the day we left. During it, he addressed re-emersion. Looking straight at us, laughing knowingly, he said gently, “Now, when you go home…PLEASE…do not sit around your home feeling bad about what you have. Enjoy your life! Just don’t forget about us. Don’t forget what you learned. Go home and be an ambassador for Africa New Life.” This was a gift. By addressing the internal struggle he knew was imminent he normalized our feelings in advance. It made me tear up. Pastor Fred genuinely hoped we would heed his advice.

I have had a hard time heeding.

I feel disoriented. It is as if someone put a mask over my eyes, spun me around, then took the mask off and told me to walk.

Last Tuesday, while getting ready to start my day and chaperone a field trip, I noticed I was still washing off the red stain of the soil we walked on while visiting homes in Kigali. A few days ago I was delivering food to starving families and talking to people with HIV. Now I was preparing to shepherd first graders through a fire station to learn about safety. This felt bewildering. I went to the field trip in a fog.

I want to be able to share meaningful things when asked about Rwanda, but I am overwhelmed by trying to find words that properly capture joy, sadness, hope and despair all at once. Instead, out come words like “good” and “amazing”, which feel lame and weak.  

I want to accurately express to my husband how my heart broke at the exact same time that my soul was lifted. But words fall short, so I find myself staying silent…nothing depicts the whole picture, so I just don’t.

I want to hide in my house, as if I am experiencing some sort of grief, instead of rejoining the world.

When I open my stocked pantry, I feel shame and guilt. Every family we visited received a bag of maize flour, sugar, rice, beans, peanuts and salt. Enough food for a month, and they will likely attempt to stretch it much further. We have a full pantry and will probably still run to the store this week.

I want to be a different, better person. And I find myself thinking about it while staring blankly in a Starbucks line, the irony hitting me like a ton of bricks.

I wish that my children could grasp the sweet hand they were dealt.

Then I think about how my children are just like me. I slept on a bed in a mosquito net, while the families I visited that day slept on dirt.

Before we left, I wrote this on our team Facebook page:

“God has always been at work in Rwanda, and the Rwandan people are making incredible things happen for themselves, as it should be…Pray we remain humble, remembering that God has been at work in Rwanda for a very long time, using Rwandans…We will get to see His work and participate in their journey, but they have got this.”

Why is maintaining this perspective so difficult?

Why do I put this burden on myself when they have God?

I believe that God’s plan involved equipping me to help. So I will straighten myself out and mobilize. Rather than wringing my hands, I will listen to Pastor Fred’s advice and here is what I will do:

I will not focus on what I cannot fix, instead I will encourage and support the ongoing efforts of Rwanda and Africa New Life Ministries. 

Instead of standing at the sink obsessing over why I get to have water, I will smile thinking back to the day we waited for our turn at the water pump. The time spent waiting for water provided women a rare pause from constant manual labor and multitasking. If it has not rained the spout only trickles, so people wait. We witnessed how this small pause made space for community. The ladies chatted and laughed. No doubt they laughed about us… I hope they did. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Lamenting that we have easily accessible water while they do not is useless. So, I will put my resources and time towards providing accessible clean water for others. (Pssst…Living Water International)

Instead of hiding, I will rejoin my community. Rwandans value community. Rwanda’s emphasis on relational living has no doubt played a large role in their ability to move forward post genocide. My team and I will honor that by returning to our own communities. These are people who supported our dream to travel to Africa, made it possible, and then cared for our families while we were gone. These same people will be there to help us process our experience and to encourage us to apply what we have learned here.

I will appreciate my families access to education and medical care. If I mope and spin my wheels about why I get to have those things, it takes from the energy I could use to make those things accessible through sponsorship and sharing the mission of ANLM.

But all of that is a work in progress.

My heart is still grieving the imbalance in this world.  And my soul is also filled with gratitude over experiencing a beautiful new culture and country. But I know I will find a new normal. And that knowledge is in part why I am holding on tight to the tension of feeling shaken and hopeful. I want the part of me that broke to stay broken, but I know that it will heal.

I’m praying for a solid scar.

My Bible

Several years ago I attended a weekend Pine Cove camp with good friends. While there, it came out that I did not own a personal Bible. Days after we left the camp they presented me with an engraved study Bible. Inside, each friend had written a personal note and highlighted their favorite verse.

 

 

 

 

Now when I stumble upon the highlighted verses, I am reminded how important community is and how often I fight against it. My pride tells me that shouldering it alone means I am strong. And that is when things tend to go very poorly for me, because it is not about strong versus weak. God created us to be in community with one another.

 

 

 

 

A spiritual community, when authentic, provides a place to share joy, hold space, and carry each other’s burdens. It is where we can quietly learn or stand up and teach. It is a safe spot for imperfect people to mess up, regroup, and try again. It should be full of messy, unconditional love.

 

 

 

 

This Bible and every other Bible serves as a powerful reminder that we can experience God’s grace and message through others and that through community we have the opportunity to experience a bit of Kingdom living right here on earth.

 

 

Homemade Tortillas: A Magnificent Beat Down

Last week my plan to make tacos was thwarted when our pantry revealed that we existed in a house without tortillas, like a bunch of wild animals. And I thought, “You know, I always hear making tortillas is easy, healthier and better tasting.” When I found Masa mix in the cupboard  my fate was sealed. I would make my own tortillas. A decision that would elicit one of the most magnificent beat downs of my entire life.

I have a difficult time baking with a floury substance of any kind, which pretty much rules out…all baking. I follow every direction (that holds my attention) and the result can best described as “flour bread”. It is not delicious. The good news is that flour is not nutritionally sound, so my inability to cook with it is admirable and makes me a bit of an accidental health nut. I maintain my healthy low-flour lifestyle by purchasing our many bread items and only eating my friend’s tasty homemade stuff. But I do role model health to others by not cooking with flour. They’ll get it.

I mixed the masa, water and salt as instructed and of course it was too dry. So I added water. They suggested adding a teaspoon, but let’s be real. When you are thirsty does a teaspoon of water quench it? No. So why are we putting that expectation on dough? I gave it a blast from the faucet and moved on.

It was encouraging to see the tortilla instructions involved a simple five step process. Five steps = using one hand’s worth of fingers to keep track.

Although. This could explain a lot. A rather unfortunate door mishap took place when I was ten years old, leaving me to do life with 9 and ¾ fingers. Is it entirely possible that the compromised ring finger on my left hand cost me my tortillas? Yes. But, to quote every brilliant preschool teacher, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Can I play most instruments? No. But I can count to 9 and ¾ on my fingers, and that is something.

Divide the dough into 16-18 balls.

This kind of thing sends me straight into a tailspin. How can I be certain I am creating the kind of balls that will lead me to my 16-18 dough ball goal? What if I have to combine balls, or worse, separate some balls because I only made 10-12 balls? WHAT THEN? Do I go back and adjust all of them, or do I just change the last 6-8 balls? It’s too much for one person! Also: Balls.

Cover with a damp cloth to keep them soft.

This whole thing may have gone to crap, but I nailed this step. Nothing more to say. My balls were all tucked in, happily resting under a damp paper towel.
Using a tortilla press, place a ball between two sheets of plastic and clamp to form a tortilla 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Who brings diameters into an already intense and dicey situation!? Rude. Now my geometry PTSD was all a flurry.  I was suddenly flashing back to my 10th grade Geometry parent/teacher conference as relayed to me by my mother.

Mom: What is Amanda’s current grade in Geometry? She seems stressed. 

Mr. Imming: Um. I don’t know what to say about Amanda’s grade. All she does is take notes in class. She’s listening. No one tries harder. But, you both need to prepare yourselves because… it’s not good.

Now we know that my math skills were just skewed because I count on 9 ¾ fingers.

As my personal high school geometry trauma became my focus, I failed to absorb the instruction to place the ball between two sheets of plastic. If I am being honest, it is only now while typing out the directions that I did notice this tidbit of info.  

This step also included “tortilla clamping”, which sounded rather cathartic after everything I had been through.

I used up a great deal of time stressing about the 16-18 balls and looking up “diameter”, so I could not afford to dawdle on clamping. I made the decision that “use a tortilla press” was just a phrase, and that it was best to smush the dough like hell with my hand. I suppose they presumed a person lacking a tortilla press would at least think to use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough. Hindsight being 20/20, I feel like that may have been the way to go.

So I smushed like hell. As I looked at my work I thought…it’s so weird this jagged mess will become a perfect circle when I cook it in the pan. Spoiler alert: It did not.

Heat griddle or skillet to medium-high heat, cook the tortillas flipping them every 20-30 seconds.

What the…they need to be flipped every 20-30 seconds?

**Stage 5 Clinger Alert**

Talk about needy! Goodnight! I had hungry children, dogs circling my ankles, a husband stuck at the O’Hare airport, and zero time for dough that wanted me to treat it like a vulnerable snowflake. So, I flipped sometimes. And truly, I think their calculations are off because the flipping seemed to be the harbinger of the devastating crumbling that ensued. I can forgive and forget, I just hope going forward they alter their directions to adopt the line “Flip sometimes, but not really if they are crumbly.”   

The first two tortillas did not survive, but I just figured they were preparing the pan. I do not think “pan preparing” is an actual thing, but it brought me solace. I had eighteen tortilla dough balls, so I did not stress until 8 were completely ruined and only ten remained.

And then hard truths needed to be confronted. Even though I had created the perfect host environment for dough balls by preparing a pan, statistically these 10 were not likely to survive. Here is where I ordered pizza. But I also held on, open to receiving a tortilla miracle. I talked to myself about perseverance, bravery and how these tortillas may take my life, but they will never take my freedom. I was not giving up! Ever. So, I ruined one more and yelled, “I AM OUT!” I had pizza on the way and I was not going to obsess over clean eating at the cost of my self-esteem. They say self-esteem helps you more than clean eating. I don’t actually know if they say that, but neither do you.

My older daughter came down the stairs and found me covered in masa mix and brokenness and asked, “Mom, what is happening?” I told her, “I made homemade tortillas, so we are going to eat this pizza.” She has told that story to approximately 400 people.

I know you want a happy ending to this story. And there is one because we ate pizza.

Next time I’ll teach you how to make this meatloaf. My husband had a craving. Anything involving the word “loaf” is not okay, but the heart wants what it wants, so I made it for him.

Pro tip: Do not stress over timing. The meatloaf will let you know it is ready when black smoke pours out. Simply pop it out, and enjoy.
So good.

If you enjoyed my tortilla debacle, might I suggest my Pinterest Amnesia post?  Here you go….Pinterest Amnesia

Target Part One: My Bad Check

 

 

 

Like any sane person, I love Target.

Throughout all life’s chapters, Target has provided. Target equipped us with shelving systems and shower baskets for college. In our 20s it is where we created nonsensical wedding registries, believing marriage would require a horseshoe game and 17 candle holders. After the wedding Target was where we returned with gift cards and purchased the laundry baskets we truly needed. Perhaps most importantly, after we had babies Target provided a safe space to be with other adult humans while clutching our infants, our coffee, and the last bits of our sanity. And when those sweet babies pooped up their backs straight to their necks, we conveniently bought Kleenex for our postpartum tears and wipes for the baby’s butt.

Sadly, when it comes to Target I struggle with the dark underbelly of self-sabotage. Twice now, I have nearly ruined Target for myself entirely. Today I will share the first humiliating story.

One morning in my early 20s, I woke up to the phone ringing.  It was Target. Target was a male using an accusatory tone with me.

—————————————————

Is this Amanda?  

Yes

We need you to come down to Target as soon as possible.

Okay, why?

There is a problem with the check you wrote.

——————————————————

Now, while it was true that I had a terrifying social worker’s salary, I did not bounce checks.

I was able to head to the store immediately because instead of changing and looking like a person that did not bounce checks, I opted to wear my pajama pants.  With my stomach churning, I drove to the store, obsessing over what might have happened.

After arriving, I offered up proof that I am a trustworthy rule follower with a rock solid checking account by promptly reporting to the customer service area as instructed over the phone. The customer service employee’s face perked up at my name, revealing that everyone had been talking about me. Confident this was their error, I grew irritated. I gathered my pride and glared back at them. 

Then, I felt my pride melt away when they showed me how I had signed my check.

Which looked like this:

 

 

I so enjoy that I included my middle initial. Because I don’t always rip off major retail stores, but when I do I like to be an elegant lady.

My mind reeled back to the moment I wrote the check. I recalled being heavily distracted by unabashedly judging a mother whose young children were throwing fits (several years later I had my children, who not only threw tantrums in checkout lines, they also did things like announcing the color of my underwear to cashiers). In my distraction, I signed my last name “Target.” Which Target described as being “criminal” and “uncashable.”

I looked from my check back to the satisfied eye of the Target employee and whispered, “Yes. Well. That is certainly not correct.” And then it was unanimously agreed upon that I would pay with cash before leaving the store.

You could argue the employee who accepted my check should have noticed, and that’s fine. I am the type of person who signs personal checks Amanda A. Target, so I do not get to comment on the actions of others.

My next Target debacle involves an extremely questionable accidental theft that occurred during the last year. And I can not be entirely sure about the statute of limitations, so we will just let that tale simmer a bit longer. Because you can’t live this kind of suburban mom thug life and not fear the po po.

Decluttering: A Post to Make You Feel Better About Your Home

This summer I will both turn 40 and celebrate a 15 year wedding anniversary. And I am finding this phase of life to be a pretty beautiful spot, although sometimes the minivan still smarts a bit. And with what is clearly a midlife crisis slapping me straight across the face these milestones hitting, I now feel a strong inclination to shed excess physical and mental clutter from my family’s life. And I have learned the mental and physical do overlap in numerous ways. During this next stretch in life, I want to place more focus on what’s valuable and essential, and less on any literal or mental junk standing in the way of achieving that goal. The mental clutter, let’s just say I am working on it. But today I will talk about the physical decluttering.  

As with most things, I considered easier alternatives. I stood in the doorway of cluttered rooms and prayed for the rapture. But I feared God might facepalm after glimpsing at this abundance of crap and say “OMG, Amanda.” As it turns out, decluttering is like any area of life in which you seek transformation. You have to do the work. It’s annoying.

Starting the process felt much less overwhelming after I began following the work of The Minimalists, who believe decluttering improves life on every level. I have tried, on a beginner’s level, to adopt a minimalistic approach for decluttering our home. In case you are wondering, minimalistic approach is fancy suburban lingo for “tossing junk out.” It challenges people to keep only what is needed and life-giving.  And additionally, minimalism encourages putting more thought into purchases with the goal of buying fewer, better things. Our parents just called this process “getting rid of stuff.” But we like All Of The Meaning.

Let me walk you through some of what I’ve experienced thus far. It will be fun. You can screenshot my pictures and send them to friends along with the screaming emoji in place of text because it will say everything that needs to be said. I like helping you with your friendships.

 

First of all, you learn interesting facts about yourself when you declutter. For instance, apparently, the part of my brain meant for organizing was being used to obsess over cinnamon.

I think we can now picture the trailer for my Hoarders episode…

The camera pans around a room littered with ground cinnamon spice bottles stacked straight up to the rafters (I don’t really know what rafters are). Finally, the camera comes to rest on me, sitting on a couch clutching cinnamon sticks. Then it will cut to a therapist reminding me that spices will never bring me love, but his words will be drowned out by the meows of all my cats named Cinnamon.

 

Tupperware has proven to be an integral part of my personal non-minimalistic hell. Nevertheless, I conquered my Goliath with grace and dignity. My husband, inspired by my “can do” attitude, captured this moment.

#ShutUpTupperwareIHateYouSoHard  

PS: I did not know we had a wok. That’s kind of fun

 

And here is the Regas family sock basket. It is the actual worst.

Fix it, Jesus.

One of our goals with this blog is to provide our daughters with something they can read in the future that will normalize their feelings since few people voice their personal truths due to their desire to appear perfect. So, eventually, they will read every word we write.  

I tell you this not to be deep, but so you understand why I can’t use all the freaking four letter words to talk about this sock basket and the pain it brings me. But just know in your heart, the swears I’ve invented because of these socks would make grown men flee from locker rooms. %&*$!

 

Children add unique challenges to organizing. And little girls seem particularly drawn towards collections of toys where each one is the size of a pinky nail.

Shopkins creator, you SOB. Whoops, forgot about our daughters already.

 

Remember Monica’s secret closet on Friends? Hi, this is mine.

Apparently, glue is hot on cinnamon’s tail in a race to my Hoarder’s episode.

 

My question is not just why did I hold onto these things…but how? I can not keep track of my children’s birth certificates. I lost my engagement ring. I know I had gerbils as a kid, but I am nervous because I don’t remember them dying. 

In all seriousness, having less stuff and more order has already brought an increased sense of peace and calm to my life. When I fix the clutter, it has such an impact on my mental state. This impact is a huge deal because inside my brain lives a pinball machine. Stuff shoots around and sets off other stuff that shoots around, and there are lots of flashing lights and music. Decluttering cuts the noise.

The process of purging has proven to be cathartic as letting go can be profound. We need to hold onto our past, but probably loosen the grip a little. Some of the physical stuff can go. Going through this process is certainly more intense than paring down your drinkware. But it helps you work through things, which is a gift.

My house remains full of junk that must go. Becoming Aminimalanda will always be a work in progress. My most recent efforts have included participating in the Black Shutters White House 40 Bags in 40 days declutter challenge. I was a little uncertain we would have enough stuff to fill bags for 40 days because I have been working on decluttering for a while. But I think as we reflect on the few pictures I have shared, you won’t be surprised to know I have found plenty more to purge.

So, check out the 40 Day Challenge, it’s a good place to start. I have not done it perfectly. I had to fill five bags today to make up for lost time. No one died. Maybe the gerbils if they were in there. And take a look at  Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things by The Minimalists.

And also, please watch this video by JP Sears. And then all of his others. We need to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.

Being a Minimalist – Ultra Spiritual Life episode 55

 

40 Bags in 40 Days

Over the next 40 days, our families will be participating in a decluttering project designed by our friends over at White House Black Shutters. The challenge begins March 1 and extends through April 15.  It coincides with the 40 days of Lent, which makes it extra meaningful for any Christian participants looking for a spiritual exercise to practice this Lenten season.

According to upperroom.org, the season of Lent is a time to return to God and refocus our lives to be more like Jesus.  It is 40 days where we can change our lifestyle and allow God to do a work in our heart as we prepare for Easter. We want to pare down excess and free our minds to focus on life as God intended. For these reasons, this Lent our families will be participating in the 40 Bags in 40 Days DeCluttering Challenge.

The idea is to declutter an area in your house by filling up one bag per day. However, you can change that to meet individual family needs and goals. The website provides links to printables, ideas for decluttering both stuff and “non-stuff,” a Facebook page for support and a daily email course.

Click here for all the information and here to join the official group Facebook page.

We would love if you joined us in this challenge, whether you participate in Lent or not. Please let us know if you decide to partake. We will update the blog as we go. We expect there will be ups and downs. And by “ups and downs” we mean we are going to start out strong and then probably there will be some crying.

-Amanda and Katie

Ready, Set, BREAK!

Approximately one week ago, Amanda and I were lounging outside together near the laid-back Austin, Texas.  The high was 85.  It was February and we former midwestern girls had multiple conversations about our shock over how warm and lovely winter weather can be in Texas.  We spent one afternoon hiking at a nature preserve and enjoyed fresh air while investing in activities outside the routine of our normal day to day life.  The majority of time was directed towards writing for the blog.  And we may have used up a weeeeee (meaning an entire afternoon) bit of time at a spa trying to relax “for work purposes.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my day to day life.  My house has transitioned through many phases including infant land, toddler zone, and little kid haven.  Currently, we are in the tween and elementary arena.  It’s glorious.  Everyone can converse and listen to each other and laugh and play games together.  We have replaced repetitive knock-knock jokes with riddles THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE.  Everyone can clean their rooms, put away their laundry, and help do their share in the household.  All the kids still enjoy being with the family over friends most of the time and I am so thankful for that.

However, I needed a break.

And I knew I needed out.  Inside of myself, I felt trapped in the routine of day to day life.  The winter illnesses have taken a swing at each member of our family.  The hubby has been on an epic run of work travel.  The puppy is precious.  But if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know they look precious because they take a lot of work to train them to become fabulous 2 year old dogs.  It seems like my body has been “on duty” constantly.  I could go on and on about why I needed out, but honestly, I feel guilty about getting that feeling of wanting to escape.

And why is that?  Why is it that I have trained myself to think that I should never need time off from everyone?  I know some women who have told me they never take personal time away from their kids and husbands.  I have heard some say things like, “my kids are growing up so fast that I cannot miss anything.”  I’ve talked to women whose kids are now adults, and they say they never even thought about leaving their kids when they were little.

So when my insides are screaming, TIME OUT!  NEED…TIME…OUT…TO…BREATHE,  I often become overwhelmed with guilt.  I tell my gut to pipe down because good moms do not ever need to escape.  Good moms look at the laundry as a blessing because there are bodies to clothe in the house.  Good moms are always engaged with their kids and know their every thought and need.  Good moms look at school projects as a time to bond rather than wanting to stab their eyeballs out.  Good moms look forward to the bedtime routine rather than thinking “oh my good gravy I love you so much, but you have got to go to bed so my brain can listen to silence otherwise I’m certain it is going to explode.” Good moms this.  Good moms that.

As I get older, I have learned that my gut and the truth are not necessarily connected all the time.  For some reason, I hold myself to different standards than others, especially within my family.  And to quote Leo Buscaglia, “Never idealize others.  They will never live up to your expectations.”  I wasn’t idealizing others, I was idealizing motherhood and what I thought every other mother was doing.  Insert waving white flag once I made this realization.  I suspect many moms suffer from this.  We often stifle our personal needs while we play backup to all of the loves in our families, and all because we have this incorrect notion of what constitutes being the perfect mom. And by doing this, we gyp ourselves and even our families from getting the best version of us.  And so, I’ve been trying to take on a different perspective in recent times.

I am starting to ask questions with this thought in mind: how do I want my children to care for themselves as adults?  For example, when I think, “do I REALLY need a break?”  That answer is almost always going to be “no,” along with a “suck it up, Katie.”  But, when I ask myself, “if Reese was a mother completely run down and in need of a weekend away to refuel through writing, hiking, sleeping, hanging with her friend and getting a massage, would I want that for her?” the answer to that would be an emphatic “HECK YES, and furthermore, give me your children.”  It’s absurd to think that my children should be everything to all people.  It’s unrealistic.  It’s ridiculous.  Rest is healthy and so is getting outside of our routine.

There is one more piece to the puzzle.  And that involves one incredibly supportive husband.  When I told him that this goose was cooked and I wanted a bit of time off, he not only immediately approved, but he encouraged me to go.  And every time that I hemmed and hawed, he told me he was glad I was getting away and that he had the home front covered.  No guilt trips, no IOU’s, no complaints whatsoever…..just a desire to help and support me.  Without his backing, I am not certain that I would ever get away.

And there we have it.  That is how I ultimately I ended up lounging together with Amanda in the beautiful Texas hill country where I accidentally slept 13 hours the first night and then 10 the next. I still fight the guilt every single time I leave the family.  However, last weekend allowed me to have a conversation with my kids about how I needed out to enjoy nature and to spend time doing things that refill my personal cup too.  I want them to grow up and know that this is healthy.  We work hard in our family, and it was time to rest hard too.  And let’s be honest, it was also time for dessert….with every meal.

And so, I give you a few glimpses into the weekend that allowed me to think straight again and filled up my patience cup when I returned to my crew…

What this sign meant to Katie was “nahhhh, you don’t mean for us.” What it meant for Amanda was instant hand flapping.

 

 

Amanda took about 400 pictures of this giant dead tree. Because nothing says “refill my cup” quite as beautifully as a big dead tree.
We found where the Braverman’s hold their dinners. #whereiscrosby
Here we looked on in horror as a man was forced to vacate this spot on a beautiful 85 degree day by his girlfriend who said, “We have to go visit the Longhorns now, I already Instagrammed it.” In a show of silent solidarity for the man we stayed and did nothing for hours.

Mammograms: Let’s Pretend They Are Fun

I know it is not October when everything, including the NFL, turns pink. But it is necessary to spread breast cancer awareness throughout the year. So, this year I documented the process of my recent mammogram in a light-hearted way, in hopes of making it a less ominous procedure, particularly for those who have not yet experienced the process. And when I say that I documented the process, I do not mean the actual event. Let’s all remain calm.

Men, this is about mammograms, so you might think you are off the hook with this post. But, no, you get to read too and encourage your wife to go. In fact, have you read our previous article about Day Dating? Here is what you do: Go with your wife to the appointment, have a handful of distracting, hilarious YouTube videos ready to pull out in the waiting room, and then take her on a day date. And let’s be honest, you can not swing a dead cat without hitting a Hooters in this country; that is how I know you are capable of reading about and discussing breast health.

If you have never had one, you should know mammograms are not physically painful. When women ask if they are painful, I imagine everything they have endured as a woman and want to ask if putting slight pressure on an area of their body hurts as much as childbirth, getting their tattoo, waxing or having chemical peels done on their face. I want to ask which takes more time and effort; the Beach Body diet plan they have stuck to for months, or a 10-minute mammogram. Because if this process promised to make us thinner or younger, it could hurt ten times more and we would all go 12 times a year.

The first step, you walk through the door.

Given my druthers, I would deliver a roundhouse kick to the door and enter Superwoman style, but knowing that would be terrifying for everyone else, I selflessly walk in the regular boring way.

Next, you will fill out paperwork.

Know what took the sting out of my paperwork? Being given the opportunity to complete it using this sweet Bic pen tricked out with ribbon tassels. Then they upped the good times by strapping an ID bracelet on my wrist proclaiming me a zebra. I excitedly told the check in lady that I had by chance worn a black and white patterned sweater that day, and she said, “Oh. It’s nice.” I like to think it sunk in 5 minutes after I walked away.

Paperwork complete, you can absorb the room’s decor. An appreciated distraction because waiting rooms tend to usher in unwelcome memories of sitting in oncology waiting rooms with my mom as a teenager. Luckily, offices oriented towards women are my favorite. Every ad features an absurdly happy woman playing tennis, while a beaming toddler, holding a kitten, rests on her hip. It sums up every day of my life, and when I am around these pictures, I finally feel understood. But today was extra special. Today, there was this lady:

You know this woman throws down hard in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble.  

And let me just say this to marketers everywhere. If you want people I know to attend a “women’s health event,” you need to use a picture depicting friends in the throes of an intense nerf gun war placed directly above an announcement that a 90’s gangsta rapper will be the headliner. And, if one of the ladies shown in the bottom row of headshots were rolling her eyes, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Furthermore, tacos. Because I am going to tell you right now, that free breakfast mentioned is going to be honeydew melon and cantaloupe, with an occasional grape kicker. I won’t stand for it.

Next, you will be beckoned to the changing room.

It’s pretty glam. It holds a hospital gown, a bench, a People magazine, and this sign:

“WOMEN ABOUT TO BE X-RAYED?” Why is there a question mark on this? It is reminiscent of my 11-year-old telling a story. “Today, at school? We were in the cafeteria? And my friend, Sam? Milk shot of his nose? And it was funny!”

And once again, I found myself wishing the seven years of Spanish classes I took had culminated in me understanding Spanish. I kind of wonder if the bottom half of the sign announced something fun, like an invitation to a fiesta celebrating the completion of my 2017 ¡mammogram! I can, however, safely rule out that the sign says,”I play the guitar while drinking beer in the shower,” because that sentence I do know.

This next move separates the amateurs from the professionals.

You must steal these deodorant wipes.

Deodorant and lotion during a mammogram are a big nope, so they supply these to accommodate after the exam. Any fool knows taking coffee and bottled water from a waiting area instantly knocks $2-3 off any appointment. Well, pilfering deodorant wipes will get you back on your feet financially after upgrading to the 3D mammogram that insurance will turn down even though it would be more prudent to pay for preventative care than treatment. And you know I took two extra because I am nobody’s fool.

Now, throw on your gown. Delight in your glory. And also, in the fact that you get to keep on your pants. You just feel emotionally attached to your pants now. Some places provide heated gowns. When this happens, you are experiencing life as royalty.

I did not want to post this picture. It gives me vulnerability hives. I took it to be funny and send to friends. But when I looked I saw the worry on my face, which makes it very real. Until I filtered the ever-loving hell out of it. But let’s focus on my very real worry, so you know I can relate to your feelings. #intouchwithmypeople

Next, head into the exam room. Be sensitive to the fact that the technician is vying for the weirdest patient of the day story and that you alone can help her achieve this dream. Make strange jokes about the mammography machine being a Transformer, and say things like “I am one bad mammo-jamma!” until uncomfortable silence floods the room.

Transformers, more than meets the eye.

Your exam is now complete, and you nailed it. Leave and immediately buy yourself a celebratory overpriced coffee. But not the Starbucks cold brew, because you will be awake until your next annual mammogram.

I realize that I’ve spent an entire blog post taking a lighthearted approach to a heavy topic.  On our blog, we tend to use humor as a defense mechanism.  And when it comes to the issue of breast cancer, Katie and I are very well aware of how hellish the disease is. A few hours after my appointment I got the glorious call saying everything looked fine, which afforded me the ability to write this in a playful manner. It also allowed me to let out my yearly exhale of relief. More than once, I have received THE call. The one where I’ve had to go back for further testing. It’s nerve wracking. And not just for women, but for our family members too.

I want you all to know that it is not easy for me to go. It involves reliving the past and taps into some of my deepest fears for the future. But it is so incredibly important to remember that getting a mammogram does not give you cancer. It will just reveal any sneaky stuff that has already been going on in your body.  My mom did not have her first mammogram until she had already found a lump. We live in a day and age where early detection gives us women a real advantage and I want to help protect the lives of women. Any reason you have for not getting a mammogram is just not sufficient. Thankfully, low-cost and free mammograms are available.

If you are scared of going, call a family member, or friend to go with you. If you are in need of distraction and grown adults that use inappropriate behavior and humor to muscle through awkwardness, call Katie or me. But, just go. We can do hard things together. But let’s have the upper hand by making those hard things a bit easier by taking advantage of early detection.

Click here to find mammography facilities near you.

FAQ about mammograms.

Call the Komen breast care specialist helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) to help find low-cost options in your area.