Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summer has eaten my lunch

In spite of the fact that I deliver a talk, called “Happily Ever After: Balancing Expectations and Reality in Marriage,” I still struggle with VERY HIGH expectations.

I expect a lot from my husband, who occasionally feels the need to remind me that he’s not so bad. (Bret is great—more than I could have every hoped for in a husband!) I expect too much out of my kids, frustrating them sometimes with my clean it up, put it up—and did I mention the fact I want it done now?! I expect too much of myself, which simply means I have stress that settles in my shoulders and across my neck and back. Ouch! (Reminds me, I need to make a chiropractor appointment!)

All that to say that I expected to accomplish massive amounts of work this summer! I envisioned a gigantic TO DO list with efficient checks marking off boxes of the tasks I’d completed, including:
*cleaning out/organizing drawers/cabinets in my kitchen and common areas (done),
*moving my office back downstairs to the big room (done),
*sending out bi-weekly e-zines (Ha—not even close!),
*submitting the Mommy, the Witch with the Wardrobe book proposal to various agents (not done),
*getting a huge jump on Promise Makers and Girlz-4-God (semi-done),
*setting up tons of speaking engagements (semi-done, still have a lot to go on this one)
*spending quantity and quality time with my kids (semi-done, better than many things)
*blogging regularly . . .

As you can tell from the long-ago date of my next most recent blog post, I’ve fallen down badly on this task. However, I did get to watch my son strike out several hitters in the baseball world series in Round Rock, Texas in July. I got to listen as my daughter recounted the story of a little boy getting saved on her first-ever mission trip to Arlington, Texas. I enjoyed numerous conversations with my oldest son about his plans for his senior year of highs school and beyond. I dated my husband, browsing through Lowe’s dreaming up new home improvement projects or watching season 6 of the show 24.

If I had to let something go, I guess it’s best it was the blog.

But here’s to more frequent postings now that we’re moving closer to the start of school.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Countdown--One Year until Charlie Graduates High School

I’ve spent the greater part of my afternoon creating an ad for the Rockwall-Heath Hawks football program. I used to be able to knock out that kind of Publisher document in my sleep, but I’m a little rusty.

My oldest son, Charlie, will be a senior next year, and we’ve paid tribute to his friendship with Ryan. The boys have known one another since they were babies, but they’ve gone to school together and played football together for many years. If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll post the pictures we’ve included in the program.

Anyway, as I was putting the ad together, it HIT ME! My baby graduates from high school next year.


I hate to sound like my mom, or worse, every great-aunt I ever knew, who liked nothing better than to pinch my cheeks—thankfully, those on my face, not my rear end--and declare how big I was getting. But (no pun intended) . . .


I can’t have a child this old.
Because it means I’m that much older.

I can’t have a child leaving for college in a year.
I was cradling him in my arms trying desperately to get him to sleep—seems like only about three years ago.

I can’t say good-bye.
And I don’t want to.

But I must.

And you can help me. If you know any moms who’ve already passed through this season—with flying colors (I really don’t need to hear from those who crashed and burned!)—then, by all means, send them my way! I could use not only the moral support but the wise instruction about how to disguise an empty seat at the table or get used to not having five 17-year-olds eating everything in sight. (Most weekends our fridge and pantry look like a plague of locusts hit.)

And so, I have no choice but to let him grow up and leave home. I guess I should be thankful I didn’t have to kick him out of the nest when he learned to walk. (How do mother birds do it?!)

Actually, I want him to finish growing in wisdom and in stature during this school year so he’ll feel prepared and be emotionally ready to leave us. That thought helps . . . a little. Knowing I still have something left to accomplish, that I still have a place of value in his life. He needs me to help him complete this journey.

So, though I don't particularly relish the idea of finishing this part of my job, I will be faithful to do it. Waaaaaah!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings about Kids’ School Achievements

I just arrived home from my son Reese’s awards ceremony at school. I choked back tears as I watched the baby of my brood complete his final year of elementary school. (Not really on the water works, but it is the end of an era.) I’m officially, conceivably—no pun intended—closer to grandchildren being born (God willing!) than to my own children’s births.

But that’s not what I’m here to discuss (read: rant and rave about) today. No, I just needed to let off a little steam about the awards themselves.

First, the school spent twice as long on the music/drama, art and P.E. awards as they did on the academic ones. If you figure up the amount of time (50 minutes daily) the kids spend in their electives (or specials, as they’re called) compared to academics (4.2 hours), it seems a little incongruous to focus the vast majority of an awards’ ceremony on sideline pursuits. For the record, I have nothing against the P.E., art and music/theatre. Reese had one of the leads this year in the Theatre play and even sang a solo. He won a couple of ribbons in the school district track meet. These extra-curricular activities play a vital role in stretching our children’s minds and allowing them variety in their day.

I do believe, however, that the school awards’ ceremony should focus more attention—or, at least as much attention—on academic achievement than on whose splatter painting looked the most like Jackson Pollocks’. I do think that as a society we’ve gone a bit overboard in our attempts to make every child feel special by not celebrating/pointing out/recognizing specifically those who excel.

Second, even the academic and citizenship awards given out today didn’t include all of the children’s achievements for the year—if the list got too long. Granted, some students received only a Chick-fil-A award for excellence in areas such as friendship or honesty. And that was it. These kids didn’t get all A’s and B’s; they didn’t attend school every day this past year; they apparently had some discipline issues that kept them from being recognized for citizenship. So be it. If they didn’t excel in these areas, they obviously shouldn’t receive an award. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

But do we have to shortchange the kids who worked their little butts off to get good grades and excelled? (Kids who received Honor Roll, all A’s for the year, and Merit Roll, all B’s for the year, didn’t even get the Chick-fil-A coupon!)

Case in point: I’m aware of one school situation where teachers and administrators were pressured into dropping the announcement of Honor Roll (all A’s for the year) and Merit Roll (all B’s for the year) because it made students who couldn’t—not didn’t or wouldn’t—achieve that benchmark feel bad. Are you kidding me? Feel bad? In the sixth grade? In any grade for that matter? What is school about if not learning, striving for excellence, setting goals and achieving them? No wonder our youth are traveling down the path of mediocrity they’re currently on! No wonder the kids in increasing numbers aspire more to be the next American Idol than the president! No wonder students see little point in developing self-discipline and adopting a strong work ethic! Because adults want to coddle and protect them from any and all disappointment. Did these same parents and school personnel ever consider the fact that a little disappointment, a little failure might actually spur on a child to achieve even more the following year?

I’m reminded of the son of a friend. Five years ago, Chase Nielsen didn’t make the basketball team in 7th grade. Though lots of parents seemed surprised, even shocked, Chase and his parents were devastated. He was tall, quick and had a budding 3-point shot. The great news is, instead of wallowing in self-pity and refusing to continue with the sport that had burned him so badly, Chase joined a year-round team and purposed to get better. And get better he did. This past year, he played varsity basketball as a junior.

Do we not see the potential for crippling drive, creativity and excellence by watering down even what is supposed to be an AWARDS’ ceremony. It’s right there in the name, for goodness sake! If a parent is disappointed that his kid will only be recognized for perfect attendance, they don’t go! (Of course, that will ruin the perfect attendance award.)

But you get my point. If we want to challenge kids and spur them on to achieve excellence, we have to keep that carrot before them, not put a carrot—and 4-pack of chicken nuggets—in everyone’s envelope.

By the way, because I’m very proud of his accomplishments, Reese received the following awards: Honor Roll, commendation on TAKS in reading and math, the all-E (excellent) citizenship award, KPAWS (school televised announcements), Media Fair participation, and Student of the Year for the entire school.

Thanks for indulging me. I feel better. And, apparently, feelings are what it’s all about, right?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Smokey & Bandit

The Wilsons have adopted two new kittens. Smokey and Bandit are about eight weeks old and the cutest things EVER! Smokey is a tiger-stripe, mostly dark gray and white with dark gray eyes. Bandit is a cream-colored Siamese with black ears, paws, tail and section from her nose to chin. They’re from the same litter, so they’re great pals. However, they and our golden retriever Scout need some more time to get used to one another. Though it’s not quite weeping and gnashing of teeth—only because we’ve kept them separated, we have witnessed much hissing and arching of backs. And the dog and cats get might upset, too.

Our former cats, that had lived with us for over 10 years, both wandered off (to die, probably) within the past couple of months. Though Tigger never was the same after Bret “accidentally” locked her in our tool shed. (Of course, I “accidentally” ran over Scout a couple of years ago, so who am I to talk.)

OK, the shed story, very quickly:
Last fall, about the time of the final mowing of the season, Bret drove the mower up the ramp into the tool shed where he stores it. Five days later, our son Reese was riding his bike on the driveway and turned around on the grass just beyond the large area where we have a basketball goal. He heard a soft meow and ran to get his dad to open the shed door. Out came an angry Tigger (the first time she wasn’t bouncy, trouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun), who voiced her displeasure at being locked up for nearly a week. She soon decided the ranting wasn’t worth it and scooted to her water dish. Once refueled, she let our resident Alpha Male have it again.

Looking her over, she wasn’t too much the worse for wear. She had lost some weight, but she had a few pounds to spare, if you know what I’m saying. She was only a couple lasagnas short of being a Garfield before her voluntary (?) imprisonment. Tigger recovered nicely, but never regained her former Fat Cat status. After Rocky left, she didn’t seem to have a zest for life. She wasn’t technically a widow, but she’d certainly lost her best friend.

We miss them both; they were fun cats that served us well, patrolling and mousing for many years. But now we get to enjoy the crazy antics of a couple of new kitties, Smokey and Bandit. So far, they’re a hoot!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Age-Appropriate Disappointment

I am a cheer mom. It’s official. Last week, Molly tried out for 8th grade cheer at her middle school and secured a spot, one of 16 girls. Though her two closest buddies also made the squad, two of her other friends did not. That’s been a hard pill to swallow.

To avoid an awkward chance meeting later on with their moms, I called both women. I couldn’t reach one and left a message. The other mom and I talked for about 20 minutes. Through the course of that conversation, all the feelings I had when Charlie, my oldest son, got cut—first from the baseball team his freshman year, then the basketball team his sophomore year—came rushing back.

Both times I felt so helpless. The unwritten job description of motherhood contains a clause emphasizing the importance of our being there to support our children. So what did it say about me that Charlie got over his disappointment light years faster than I did? I alternated between anger towards coaches for failing to recognize the intangibles my son brought to the respective games of high school baseball and basketball—things like character, integrity, humility, a strong work ethic, heart. Sure, he might not have been the biggest or flashiest, but he’d run through a wall for his coaches, his teammates.

The principle that finally brought me solace was that our children must endure age-appropriate disappointments in order to be prepared for life. Hovering, helicopter parents do their kids no favors by shielding them from every bad thing that could ever happen. If a child leaves home—the safe nest where he’s dwelt unscathed for 18 years—and faces life’s challenges for the first time, he’ll be ill-equipped to handle frustration, disappointment, failure.

As hard as it is on them—and on us as moms—we must allow our children the freedom to fail, to not make the team, to suffer the repercussions of doing less than their best. For it is only through facing such experiences at 6, 11, 15, and 19 that they grow, understand life challenges, and mature.

In a very awkward manner, I tried to console the mom with these thoughts. She said she appreciated my words, said it sounded like I really understood.

Because I did.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Hearts at Home Book

I got mail! Real honest-to-goodness snail mail. Not some easy, type-and-click-to-send e-mail version, but a real package jammed into my beat-up mailbox. If it tells you anything, we use a red bandana to signal outgoing mail because our flag broke off several years—yes, years—ago. It’s serves as a reminder of our redneck roots.

Not only was this fat package mail, it was media mail—my favorite, which meant a book or CD—something new and (I hoped) exciting to read or listen to. Little did I know! I ripped open the package, careful not to tear the contents inside.

It’s from Hearts at Home! (For those of you who haven’t heard of this amazing ministry to help women professionalize motherhood, visit for more information.) It’s their new book, I’m Glad to Be a Mom—and my story is in it.

I flipped through a few pages, enjoying the New Book Smell and feeling the crispness of pages as yet unmarred by soiled fingers or rice cake crumbs. I happened upon the table of contents and my eyes bugged out as I saw the name Mary DeMuth. Mary has been my critique partner for over five years. She, D’Ann Mateer, and I formed Life Sentence over five years ago and have critiqued every single one of each other’s books. I knew Mary before she was Somebody. And here we were in a book together.

Continuing to peruse the table of contents, I recognized several names of fellow writers and speakers I’ve met through Hearts at Home—Cheryl Eliason, Suzie Eller, Susie Larson, Pam Farrel, Tina DeGraaf, Mary Steinke, and Kendra Smiley. One name, however, was noticeably missing . . . mine. I kept going to page one of the contents—Lysa TerKeurst, Julie Barnhill, Jenn Doucette, Liz Curtis Higgs. Wait, there it is! Leslie Wilson. The second essay in the book. Right behind Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz Curtis Higgs, people! Wow!

Overwhelmed, overjoyed, overcome. Just a few of the “overs” I felt as the moment clarified. God help me, but my thought was “Somebody might actually read this.” I’ve had works published in other anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul and The Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip series. But my essays have always been relegated to the equivalent of the dungeon or the attic—at best the guest room closet. Never the front entryway. Never right up front where everyone could see it. Again, wow seemed appropriate.

Then God reminded me that it’s not about where my story might be placed, or even how many people read my silly essay about catching my daughter and her friends fixing a snack of applesauce with cat food on top. It’s about His will being done. The big picture is about helping moms who struggle, buckle under challenges of daily living or, at the very least, need to hear that they have much in common with every other mom. Jill Savage’s foreward puts it this way: “there have been many times when I have wondered if I am normal.”

So I stopped. And I prayed—for the many women who would receive a great blessing from I’m Glad I’m a Mom. I hope you will be one of them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Chronicles of Hernia

Upon experiencing a piercing pain in my abdomen, right around my navel—one that rendered me unable to stand straight or even take a step without excruciating pain—I hollered to my husband and limped to the nearest dining chair.

“What happened?” he asked, as he moseyed in, finishing a Go-gurt and tossing the wrapper in the trash can.

“I feel a sharp pain in my stomach whenever I stand,” I explained, wanting to add and while I walk or sit.

“You probably just pulled a muscle.” OK, so his bedside manner isn’t going to win an award any time in the near—or distant—future.

“You think that’s what it is? I was wondering if it could be a hernia.”

I lifted my sweatshirt and began self-diagnosing. “Feel this hard lump, right above my belly button.” I guided his hand—as well as everyone else’s in the house—to the spot.

“Yep, you pulled a muscle. That’s exactly how my calf felt after I pulled that muscle going for a rebound.”

“What should I do?”

“Well, take a couple of Advil, put some ice on it, and don’t move,” he said, moving toward our extra freezer in the laundry room.

I managed to chicken-walk to our bedroom, brush my teeth hunched over the sink, and crawl into bed—still clothed in the t-shirt and sweats I’d worn to the cheer competition. The stabbing pain, my new constant friend, lasted another day and a half.

Call me a baby, but in this instance I wanted to see my own doctor. Turns out, he wasn’t available—at least not when I didn’t already have a hair appointment scheduled—until Wednesday afternoon.

While I acknowledge the fact that only a handful of males actually read this blog, those few out there are scratching their heads, amazed that I’d place a higher importance on my hair than my health. All I have to say to that is, look at your hair, then look at mine. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and I’m forgetting that men usually allow really important things—like golf tournaments and company hunting trips and the March Madness—to get in the way of scheduling regular prostate exams.

So, can we just agree to disagree on the priority—or lack thereof—of any health crises?

Anyway, at the appointment, Dr. B. felt the marble in my abdomen and calmly stated that he would schedule me an appointment with the surgeon that afternoon or first thing in the morning.
Something about a strangulated hernia.

Now I don’t know about you folks, but I find the Internet to be a love/hate relationship. I love that I can find the location of every Half-Price Books in the Metroplex with the touch of a button. I hate that not every bit of information available on even medical-looking and –sounding websites is necessarily correct.

However, after researching for less than five minutes, my outlook wasn’t good. No wonder Dr. B. wanted to get me to a surgeon right away. If I coughed or laughed too hard, bent the wrong way, or laughed too hard while watching Liar, Liar, I could strangulate my hernia, causing sepsis and possibly death in as little as six hours.

(I’m thinking that because I’m writing this entry near the end of March you’ve figured out that didn’t happen . . . )

The surgeon’s office managed to squeeze me in. I didn’t even mind the hour and a half wait. By this time I knew I’d be having surgery, and now sounded better than later with the scary type of hernia housed behind my belly button.

Dr. Kenneth Bryce walked into the exam room where Bret and I sat reading—him a Sports Illustrated, me a book I’m reviewing for a friend. He shook our hands and asked how we were doing.

I played along. After all, he knew why we were there. I appreciated his effort to put me at ease.

“I don’t know if you remember us, but our daughters played soccer together—years ago. We’re Molly Wilson’s parents.”

“Oh sure,” he nodded, true recognition behind the gesture. (Seems like kind of silly thing, but I felt comforted sort of knowing the doctor who would be rearranging my innerds.)

“Well, let’s see what you’ve got.”

I lifted my shirt to reveal my tummy, and he poked around for a few seconds. He certainly knew his stuff.

“Yep, that’s a hernia. Let’s operate tomorrow.”

Now usually when someone tries to force his or her will, opinion or schedule on me, I don’t respond with all the proper social graces. In fact, I’m irritated that my youngest son’s baseball coaches scheduled team practices for Friday and Sunday evenings this season. Have they no social life? And I’ve had trouble adapting to added practices before cheer competitions or the school play. Do such folks think we can just drop everything to be available at their beck and call?

However, when the surgeon who knows all about my condition—and apparently it ain’t that great—says I need surgery the next day, well, for that I can clear my schedule.

Come Friday morning, “Don’t eat or drink anything past midnight” rang through my ears and played like a drumbeat in my head as every hour passed. Parched, I asked Bret for a piece of gum. Ah, the relief that provided, as saliva washed down the desert gorge of my throat.

When the nurse found out, she took that away as well, mentioning something about it causing stomach acids to churn, possibly affecting anesthesia. (It dawned on me that nurses must have their repertoire of lectures, just like teachers and parents.)

The anesthesiologist, sporting a Texas A & M surgical cap, popped behind my screen next, introducing himself and explaining procedure. I nodded that I understood. Inside I questioned the notion that an Aggie would administer medicine to make me sleep through surgery. Not really. Actually I looked forward to the nap. (Moms out there understand this weird, warped notion.)

Dr. Bryce came in to chat and make sure we felt comfortable with everything going on. I told him I hoped he would do a good job. He laughed and said he would.

Bret kissed me good-bye and promised not to remarry too soon if I croaked on the operating table.

Lucky for him, I was in good humor from the special cocktail the anesthesiologist had already given me.

After the nurse wheeled me down the corridor and into one of the surgical rooms, I had time to look around the beautiful, well-lit space, hear a brief moment of classical music, and slide over to the operating table from the gurney. Then the world faded to black.

Too bad I wouldn’t be that calm or pain-free for a couple of weeks. I wish I had enjoyed it more.

Because all too soon I got to enjoy the aftermath of my hernia procedure.

Pain. Excruciating pain.

I laugh when people comment about their high pain tolerance because how can any of us truly know the level to which someone else aches or hurts. I can tell you this: I gave birth in 1994 with no epidural or other numbing meds. Our crummy, self-employed health insurance allotted us $5,000 for everything maternity-related—including pre-natal, childbirth and post-natal care. Being ever-so-frugal, I didn’t want to spend the extra money.

And, yes, childbirth hurt.

But hernia pain didn’t promise such a happy ending. Instead of going home with a beautiful baby girl, I boasted a seven-month-pregnant-looking belly, endured constipation from pain meds, and enjoyed a liquid diet for three days.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The doctor and Bret decided—they insist they did ask me but answered them only with moaning—I should stay overnight so they could better manage my pain.

Turns out, the surgery was much more complicated than Dr. Bryce originally anticipated. Because my hernia, the result of a birth defect, had been in place for some time, its repair presented major challenges. The surgeon had to add two addition incision sites (for a total of five) to be able to access the area. He also enlarged the hernia in order to detangle it from muscle surrounding it. (The one time sit-ups don’t pay off!)

From what I hear I wasn’t quite myself (or, perhaps I was myself magnified to an unattractive degree) when I woke. The good news: I’m a happy drunk. Bret tells me I moaned, claimed increasing pain, and asked for stronger, faster-acting drugs to manage the pain.

Tell me why, then, would anyone trust my input on deciding whether I should stay overnight in the hospital? I vaguely remember agreeing it would be a good idea. Looking back, I think Bret was afraid he’d be carrying me back to the emergency room at about two a.m. for more pain medicine.

Still foggy when I reached my hospital room, Bret maintains I repeatedly proclaimed my love for him as he force-fed me Jell-O® and bullion.

The next day, my incredibly caring husband shared this info with family and friends via e-mail:

Leslie’s home now. We thought it would be better to have her stay overnight at the hospital where they had the good drugs. It took two Vicodin, some Valium, and finally a morphine chaser to get the pain manageable.

Once home, I parked in the giant leather chair in our family room. Bret placed on either side two barstools containing life’s necessities: the current novel I was reading, necessary meds, the remote control, and a few snacks.

Unable to lie on my back or either side, I slept sitting up in that chair for three nights. Again, only wonderful pain meds made even that possible.

Even in pain from the slightest movement, I craved ramen, saltines, Italian ice—anything my body could digest easily.

Night five I returned to my own bed, nestled among pillows and blankets placed just so. Sitting up from a reclining position presented major challenges—from bruised stomach muscles poked, prodded and manhandled during surgery, as well as sensitive incision sites glued closed.
Like many busy moms I occasionally daydream about being injured just badly enough or having a minor illness that would force me to bed rest for a week—just to enjoy the rest. However, his surgery changed my mind.

R & R like that just ain’t worth it.

I’m glad to be back into life, crazy as it is.