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18 Going OnDear Daughter,

You were born eighteen years ago July 1st, the day we picked because 1) I had to have a C-section due to issues and 2) my doctor was going on vacation and I was pretty attached to that doctor since I’d met him when I was 18.  That was the moment I became the mother of something pink…a precious little girl who came out without a sound but looking around curiously at the world she had entered.  How blessed I felt to have a daughter, an answer to prayer, my heart’s desire.  

I have no idea where the years went but moments, huge in their impact, rise up like the waves of the ocean and crash into my heart’s mind, leaving beauty like shells and sea glass, sometimes bits of seaweed, shaping and revealing the incredible young woman that you are.

Remember the pretty pink flowery and kitten wallpaper boarder that I put up in your room because I was so proud to have a little girl and wanted as many frills and fluffs and foo-foo girly stuff as I could get my hands on?  I bathed your room in pink, dressed you in pink, surrounded you with pink until the day you told me, “I hate pink.”   Truth be told, by then I did, too.  Neither one of us have ever been pink fanatics.  Still, it was one of those I-am-a-mommy-with-a-baby-girl rituals and I’m glad I embraced it.  The moment you told me you didn’t like it, the pink went away. You’ve chosen your wall  and room colors ever since and we have had loads of fun redecorating through the years to make your room yours.  We’ve had blues and greens and shades of purples, but never pink – except for that one comforter that you insisted was your favorite no matter the room colors.  It was the last of the pink when you were put into a big girl twin bed.

My precious girl, eighteen is like that.  You enter it with a perception of who you are, what you want, what you believe and value, who and what is important in your life, for your happiness, and to meet your future goals.  As your year progresses, your earlier perceptions will change with circumstances and you have to work through them to find all those things that make you who you are at every turn.  Do you remember picking your wall color?  You looked at all the paint chips until you found the exact ones you wanted and though it seemed a little bright or dark to adult eyes, that was the color your walls were painted.  Some parents would have tried to sway you or chosen the colors for you – after all, you were just a little girl.  But your parents wanted you to learn something even from that young age – that you matter.  That what you say and think and feel and believe and do and choose matters.  It matters on a much more impacting level at eighteen.  Yucky wall colors, of which you had none, can be repainted.  Life choices, of which you will have many, come with consequences, some positive, some negative, all impacting on some scale.  

Five things to remember:

1.  Not one thing in this world can stop me, or your dad, or your brothers, from loving you. There is no condition whatsoever on that.  I love you forever and through anything – period.

2.  Everyone who has lived has made mistakes.  How we manage the consequences shapes who we are and who we become.  “I’m sorry” is one of the sweetest phrases.  Learning from a mistake, growing, backing it up with positive action and resolution, making a better choice – priceless.

3.  Your past, your history, your memories, your childhood, your family, your joys, your hurts, your grades, your many dead rodents, all those things that are a part of the person you are will continue to be part of the person you are; you have a choice, however, in what you choose to allow to define who you are and will become going forward.  Don’t carry burdens beyond your control – they aren’t yours to hold unless you choose to.
 

4.  There is a “Boaz” for you.  At the right time, in the right place, during the right circumstances, and for the right reasons.  And he will never ask you to change, never ask you to conform, never ask you to be other than who you are, and though he will see every flaw you have because we all have them, he will adore you and love you and be thankful every day that God put you, the woman specially created to be his wife, in his life. Hold out for that one.  I promise you, he is out there.

5.  Always turn to the Lord.  Every day is indeed a gift and we can thank God for it.  Yes, things go wrong and bad and horrible and I’m the worst person ever at times because things can really stink and be unfair and unjust and frustrating and overwhelming and hurt so bad the next breath seems useless.  It’s at those times that I have to literally tick off a list of things I am thankful for because I can’t even pray.  My children are always at the top of my list.  Remember my writing on the mirror?  My go-to-when-I-can’t-think-what-to-pray-for list. I may even scream at the top of my lungs “Jesus, Jesus” because there is nothing, really nothing, at some times that I can think of except to just call His name.  My comfort is knowing He knows and He hears and is with me, and somehow I get through the next breath.  I know you know this – so do it and never forget it.

My HD, you are an amazing young woman and I am so very, very proud of you.  Happy 18th Birthday.  I am thankful to the Lord for the privilege and pleasure of being your mother.  You are, as ever, my Heart’s Desire.  With all my love, Mom

 

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When your sixteen year old daughter gets her driver’s license, a few jitters and nerves are somewhat expected.  After all, we are giving the green light to our beloved little girl operating a vehicle on the road WITHOUT US there to help her watch out for the complete lunatics who drive as if they own the road and make up their own rules doing so…and they don’t care a jot about the precious one that we’ve nurtured and protected for the past sixteen years.   So after she passed the driving test with flying colors, it was my duty to bring her down to earth.

“We’re taking this slow,” I told her using my firm mommy voice, “You’re limited to school and back this next week and then we’ll start slowly stretching out.”

She was disappointed that I wouldn’t let her drive herself and her two friends to the football game less than a mile from home but my mind spun when I considered how rowdy football game fans can be both before and especially after a game.  I wasn’t ready for her to solo at night with friends in that kind of crazy teenage traffic. 

Her friends were staying over after the game so after a pit stop at the grocery store for some all-night goodies, we headed home and I realized I was incredibly tired.  Odd for me because it wasn’t even ten and I’m a night owl.  I got ready for bed, too tired to even shower, and kissed them all goodnight because each of them are my special girls. 

Morgen, my 5 month old kitty, and I have a special game we play every night at bedtime and though he got into position to pounce on my hand as I moved it under the comforter, I was just too tired to play for long.  I settled in and almost felt asleep but suddenly felt something very wrong.  It was as if I were fading and the not the good kind where you fade into sleep but the kind that made me wonder if I were dying.  I felt my pulse and instead of a steady beat I felt a beat, a long pause, a couple of beats, a long pause, a beat, a very long pause, three fast beats, a long pause, and then a steady drumming followed by beats with long pauses.  Knowing that wasn’t right, I located my wonderful little Omron BP machine that measures BP and pulse, and alerts to irregular heartbeats.  I forced myself to sit still for a full five minutes before taking the first reading and it showed 158/87 for BP, 47 for pulse and the little heart thing was vibrating like mad to tell me I had an irregular heartbeat. 

Hmmm. 

Not wanting to panic, I made myself wait and took it again.  On the third reading with the little heart symbol wigging out the entire time I called for Hannah and told her to get me a couple of aspirin (I have no idea why), and I took them.  Several more readings and the stupid little heart thing was almost bouncing off the machine so I called for Hannah and told her I was calling 911. 

When you call the fire department/paramedics, you just never know what you’re going to get.  One of the three who came into the house asked what was wrong and after I calmly told them he said, “So you called us to make sure your machine was calibrated?”

Hmmm.  That wasn’t nice. 

“Run a 12 channel strip,” I said.  Amazingly, and maybe because the tone of my voice indicated I’m used to calling for those types of orders and having them followed, he did.

By the time the first part of the EKG strip was printing out he was backtracking and telling me I was definitely  having irregular heartbeats and needed to go to the hospital immediately.  And by that time I would have had to be unconscious to go with his crew in a bus to the hospital.  I looked at Hannah and asked if she could drive me.  She nodded confidently and said she could.

We dismissed the nice firemen and headed to the hospital with Hannah’s special girlfriends along for moral support.   

During the next twenty hours my heart continued its dance, hop, skip and jump on the wild side.  A Fib, PACs, PVCs, V-tach, V-tach with bigeminy, and repeat, again, and again, and again.  The alarms sounded steadily until they moved me to a room without the monitor but with a portable unit that sent signals to some private area where “someone” was always monitoring.  But I felt it anyway.  I didn’t need a monitor sounding its alarm to tell me my rhythm was seriously off.   And I knew enough about that to know it meant my heart’s electrical pathway, or wiring, was weird.

Sometime around 1:30 or 2:30  in the morning Hannah’s friend who had an event at 7 a.m. the next day needed to go home.  Hannah asked if she could drive her and I was in no condition to protest so off they went, three girls, and two returned.  Sometime around 4 or 5:30 in the morning Hannah took her other friend and they went home to let our dog out and then on to her friend’s house to sleep.  Sometime around 8 in the morning Hannah came back to our house to let the dog out again, feed the kitties, and sleep some more.  And on it went.  Hannah driving back and forth from home to the hospital, stopping at Circle K for a soda, going through McDonald’s for something to eat, stopping at Safeway to get me some gummy bears.  On Saturday she took care of the cats and dog and then came back to the hospital to spend the night with me.  On Sunday morning she drove home to get dressed, went to church to teach Sunday school, then came to the hospital to get me to go home, then back to church and later back home to sleep. 

Around 5:30 I realized I had to get the prescription filled to take the heart medication they had prescribed and because I was feeling as if I were moving through mud I asked Hannah to drive us.  As I watched her confidence in backing out of the driveway and then turning from our street left into traffic, I asked her how she felt about driving.

“It’s really weird, mom.  It’s like I got on a plane to go to Hawaii because that’s something you really look forward to doing someday like getting your license, and halfway over the ocean they opened the doors and said ‘okay, now jump!'”  

“My poor girl, we were going to take it slow, weren’t we?”

She grinned, “So much for that.”

“So, how do you feel about driving?” I persisted.

“I’m comfortable driving.  I’m cautious and I watch everything.  I’ve had a lot of responsibility these last few days, but I think I’ve done well.” 

And she had.  She had jumped suddenly from being excited about being allowed to drive to school and back to being the one who had to drive for reasons beyond her control or mine.  There was no time for second thoughts or hesitation – it had to be done and she did it. 

As we started errands tonight I asked her if she wanted to drive. 

“No, I’ve been driving so much I’m kind of over it.  You can drive, mom.”

How proud I am of her.  How thankful I am for her.  How I’ve prayed for her safety.  And God has answered those prayers with every text message.

“Leaving, love you.”

“Home, love you.”

One more milestone of growing up and she didn’t just pass, she jumped.  And God provided the parachute just in time for her safe landing.    

PDPHD…this one is for you.  You continue to be more than I ever imagined.

There is an Irish saying that you’ve probably heard – “A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”  I’ve also heard it as “A son is your son till he takes a wife, a daughter is yours the rest of your life.” 

I’ve quoted the latter version often, and especially in conversation with my daughter as we’ve driven around on our shopping days speculating about the future.  When I say the verse she jokes, “Yeah, yeah, mom, I know.  I get to take care of you in your old age.  Better start saving up for a nursing home.”  We refer to that as her “Rosie” sense of humor.

I am, indeed, blessed to be the mother of this beautiful, talented, thoughtful, feisty, incredibly smart, and determined young lady! 

When I’m crying, sobbing, she puts her arms around me and holds me.  There are times I don’t think I can breathe but she is there, nurturing, giving, loving, supporting.  I am more grateful than I can say.  There are times I wonder where she gets her strength, but I do know, and I thank Him for it.  

When I fell asleep exhausted after so much stress, she ran around the house and did all my night-time chores rather than wake me.  When I asked her why she didn’t wake me, she curled against me on the bed and said, “You needed that sleep, mom.”  

She holds my hand every morning as we drive to school and prays with me.  And we are not “morning girls”.  We loathe getting up early which means we are both rushed, we are both irritable, we are both barely able to stumble out the door and when I’m on time, she isn’t, and when she’s on time, I’m running late, and by the time we feed the cats, feed the dog, wrestle the dog outside, fix lunches, gather our things, go back for all we’ve forgotten, we are both, to use a Southern expression, “fit to be tied!”  But as we turn the corner on 39th Avenue we hold hands and, together, we talk to God.  That is our time and it is sacred; I am so blessed to share it with her.  

When she is snappish, she is learning not only to check herself but to apologize.  As we’ve made adjustments, the girl who used to flounce about and never admit her wrong or faults owns her behavior now.  How proud I am when I see her visibly fight and win over self-control, when I see her consider her words before speaking them.  Just months ago she would have responded with flamboyant tantrums when her behavior was an issue.  Now, she makes the effort to be thoughtful in her words and actions, and she learns from each experience.  I cannot feel more blessed and I thank God for that.   

Together, we are walking through a thunderstorm looking for a rainbow.   

Mother-daughter relationships are complicated.  At sixteen, she is still a child who needs guidance, boundaries, encouragement, correction, and she still needs parenting…but not as much and not in the same ways as she did when she was little.   

She doesn’t need me to do her laundry since she turned ten.  That was our household rule: When you turn ten, you are responsible for your own laundry and it worked for all the kids.  Everyone learned how to use the washer and dryer, a useful life skill, win-win for all.  

She doesn’t need me to cook for her although she loves it when her brother comes home and I do cook.  She can cook as well as anyone and even better than many!  When she was about eight she made up her own recipe for cookies.  

She certainly doesn’t need me to do her homework though during my college math classes I needed her to do mine!  To me, math is a four letter word.  To her, it’s logical and, therefore, simple.  She’s in honors pre-calculus earning college credits now.

She’s doesn’t need me to show her how to use a computer.  Her skills surpass mine several times.

She doesn’t need me to help her prepare her lessons for the Sunday School class she teaches.  Her creativity and consideration for the children in her class warms my heart.  She recognizes the great responsibility of ministering to these children and puts much thought  into her lessons and activities for them.   

She doesn’t need me to choose her clothes, make up or hairstyle.  I’m proud of her own choices because the choices she makes in these areas are appropriate for her age, modest to reflect our values and beliefs, and she isn’t distracted by trends or the opinion of others.  A huge compliment is that others wonder if she is even wearing make up; another is that she is incredible with theatre make up.

She doesn’t need me to make decisions for her but she does talk through her thoughts, asks and listens to mine, and then comes to a decision of her own that reflects her maturity and forethought.  If we disagree, we continue talking until a compromise is reached.  If its something I am adamantly opposed to, she listens to the reason and respects the decision I’ve made, even if it’s not something she agrees with.  To me, that’s a sign of her emotional intelligence; the ability to both compromise and accept authority. 

No, she’s not perfect.  Her room is messy, her bathroom is somewhat messy, she doesn’t always do the dishes before going to bed, I have caught her drinking out of the milk jug, she sometimes stays up too late, she ate the last peanut butter cookie without telling me, and I have to nag her to get her homework done…but her heart is good, her head is good, and she is well on her way to being one amazing young woman.  How could I not be proud of that?

And I pray for God to prepare an equally wonderful young man who will someday have the privilege of capturing her heart.  But not yet and no time soon. I still need her.    

As I was wondering just what she needs from me besides the physical things like food, shelter, clothing, and drives to Circle K to get Dr. Pepper at all hours of the night,  I remembered the poem she presented to me when she was in grade school.  It hangs on my bedroom wall, a reminder of how she did, does, and always will need me.  I am her mother and she is my daughter.  That is for life.

My Mother

My mother is a storm: strong and brave,

Facing hardships and taking risks for what she believes.

My mother is a breeze: calming and gentle,

Taking away worries and soothing my soul.

My mother is a pool: refreshing and energetic,

She relaxes me with a sudden burst of energy.

My mother is a rose: beautiful and graceful,

She rises above the bad and changes with grace.

My mother is a teddy bear: snuggly and soothing,

She’s always there for me and relaxes my mind.

Love, Hannah

 

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