Okay guys, that’s it. I’m skipping the intro. No intro. I’m throwing in the towel, scrapping it, crumpling it up and tossing it into the trash can while muttering, “she shoots, she scores, and the crowd goes wild…” I am washing my hands of my introduction. It is dead to me. I now regard it as no more than 1300 words on a page to take up space on my hard drive and my backup jump drive, and my backup backup jump drive. It’s over. You guys are getting Chapter One.
Some of you have already read this. There’s a very good chance that I’ve changed at least something since you’ve last read it, but it will probably still be very familiar. So, to those, I apologize for the redundancy. I also thank you. Any improvements in my writing over the last few years can all be rightfully attributed to the handful of people who have read my work and offered both encouragement and constructive criticism (which, I should clarify, includes my writing professor – in case that inadvertently came off as backhanded or offensive). That being said, I still welcome both positive feedback and constructive criticism. (I am including a feedback form on this post, with the hopes of remembering to do the same for future chapters, for the sake of constructive criticism that does not need to be posted to the comments section.) But please do share your honest thoughts. Without these, I am lost and flailing in a universe of writerly doubt and indecision without an anchor or tether to the essence of community and forward motion which is, in fact, the real world.
See what I mean? Don’t leave me floating in space writing things like “the essence of community and forward motion which is, in fact, the real world.”
Besides, I’m stalling. Back to the book. I have a new title. If it’s stupid, you have to tell me. Or maybe don’t. But really, you have to. But you have to do it nicely and be prepared to offer useful suggestions. The new title is Marshmallow on My Face. It’s the title of this post (anti-climactic?). It probably doesn’t make sense yet. Which is why I tried to write an introduction. But since my introduction hates me, I’m severing all ties.
I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Anyway, there’s a tagline too, but I don’t know it yet. Something about being caught needing more Jesus. Is that hokey? If you come up with something fitting that’s not hokey, please share. It could be a contest. There’s no prize, other than my undying love and affection, but some (most?) of you already have that.
Without further ado (or further trading of one ill-fated book introduction for a bloggish introduction that doesn’t even make sense), see Chapter One below.
Marshmallow on My Face, Chapter One:
When Did I Trade the Backstreet Boys for Burp Rags?
I lean over the counter holding my head in my hands. Maybe if I hold it tightly enough, it won’t explode. My elbows grind into the unwelcome mess of old junk mail, receipts and appointment reminders that have engulfed my entire workspace, but still I can’t remember what I came in here to do.
I’m in the kitchen, where I might as well set up camp, because it’s not like I’m going to be allowed to leave here any time soon. Someone has to sort through this clutter; someone has to make lunch; and I’m not even going to turn around to face the mess that has devoured my kitchen table. If I don’t look at it, maybe it’s not really there.
Why did I come over here?
I plunge my fingers into the hair at my temples, clench my fists around the disheveled locks, and give a good steady pull. What was I just going to do?
Why is it so noisy? I can’t think. “Just a minute, sweetie.” I can’t answer another question right now. “Not right now, honey.” I can’t meet another demand. “Be nice, please!” I can’t break up another fight! I can’t even remember why I’m standing here!
I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids. I think I might scream.
They’re just kids. They don’t understand. I’m so tired. I just need two seconds of quiet so I can remember what I came over here to do!!!
What am I doing?
Look at me. I’m a raving lunatic right now.
How did I even get like this?
WHY DID I COME OVER HERE!?!?
Just yesterday I was fifteen years old, still going by the name Elaina Jenkins.
I was just “hanging out” in my room with my BFF, listening to my imported Backstreet Boys CD, and pulling pin-ups out of my latest Tiger Beat magazine to add to my homemade Backstreet Boys wallpaper. We were just deciding which movie to see this weekend and who to invite, and at some point…I must have blinked.
It’s Elaina Halverstadt now; and now I’m a stay at home mom in rural Kansas changing cloth diapers and washing endless loads of pee-soaked sheets for my potty-training preschoolers. Sure, I remember a few things that happened in that blink, like meeting and marrying a totally hot guy with lean, sinewy muscles and a distinct jawline covered with rugged blondish scruff perfectly suited to his youthful masculinity. As if I’m going to forget that.
I remember moving a few times, and talking about having kids, but I’m having a bit of trouble with how it all actually happened, and so quickly. I’m struggling with how it all seemed so sudden, yet so planned; and how I agreed to all of this without really knowing what I was getting myself into.
It did happen, and I’m a wife; and I’m a mom of three. Hannah, Hailey and Heidi – three beautiful, healthy, rambunctious girls whom I love with every fiber of my being; without whom my life would be empty and meaningless, and with whom I want to pull out my own perfectly good, long hair.
But there’s no need for that sort of blatant masochism here; I have a delightfully irresistible eight-month-old Heidi who will happily rip it from my scalp for me, handful by tiny handful, with a vigor that is nothing short of spectacular. As painful as it is, the hair-pulling is fairly inconsequential on the list of ways I didn’t know my life could be more difficult.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Though I can’t possibly imagine being fonder of my children – three of the most amazing people on the face of this earth – I also can’t imagine what absence actually feels like.
I can’t remember what it’s like to shower without asking permission or making arrangements. I can’t remember what it’s like to leave the house without a second thought, or eat something without sharing.
These magnificent little people don’t just live with me and follow me around. They sit on me, walk on the backs of my shoes, and barge through the bathroom door just as soon as I close it behind me…
“Why did you follow me into the bathroom?” (Why do I even ask anymore?)
“Because I have to go potty.”
“Well, that’s just rude! Now you need to wait ‘til I’m done!”
(wince) That might’ve been a little bit harsh.
Even on my best day, I can’t begin to imagine why the loving and all-knowing God of all creation saw fit to give me not one, but three of His absolute most priceless and precious treasures; and I’m still trying to figure out what ever possessed me to think that I could handle this gig. But I have an ace in the hole. His name is Joel.
Joel is my husband, and he may very well be the only reason I ever thought I could live up to this challenging life. Surely, if I could snag him, I could do anything. Most importantly, with him as my partner, I could definitely do anything.
Joel is calm, collected, confident, talented, athletic, and resourceful. In whatever community we find ourselves, people really love Joel, and rightly so. He’s friendly, respectful and capable; and he’s very good at hard work. He does the heavy labor that others cannot do for themselves, or by themselves, and for that, they adore him. Because of Joel, people love me before they’ve met me. They thank me for giving up his time so that he can repair their roofs, fix their leaky sinks, or remove fallen trees from their yards. They tell me I’ve got a really great guy and therefore I must be taking great care of him. That is what you call “cool by association.”
But, none of this happened overnight. Just as perplexing as the trade-offs that I don’t actively remember making is the blinding speed with which the years have passed. I have noticed with little uncertainty that each year of life has passed more quickly than the last. Forty-five minutes spent sitting behind a desk in history class at the end of a school year seems like a life sentence; but sitting behind the computer while my children briefly nap, forty-five minutes is but a fleeting moment. All the pressing issues of the moment that I thought might define my life forever are now no more than memories.
I remember my money being spent on movies with friends, and Bop magazines. My main concerns were having fun and plastering my walls with pictures of the Backstreet Boys. Life was carefree and exciting.
Obtaining my parents’ permission to get out of the house and do something fun was not nearly as impossible as getting my kids’ “permission” to leave the house now. But at some point in life, without really realizing what was happening and without regret, I did make the trade.
I traded Backstreet Boys posters and concerts for burp rags and cloth diapers. I traded a Trapper Keeper for a family binder, movie nights for budget meetings, sports bras for nursing bras, magazine pin-ups for wedding and baby pictures, an assignment book for a bill calendar, and Tiger Beat for Clean Eating – my pin-ups of black bean-edamame salads conspicuously failing to inspire giggles and swooning.
My favorite memories are no longer of concerts, festivals, and proms, but of nights spent in the hospital after the birth of a brand-new baby, crushed under the weight of a love that only just began to exist, and rescued by an elusive understanding that she’s mine, for now.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, life is no longer the carefree life that I wasn’t wise enough to recognize as such; it’s a different life, it’s heavy and burdened. My life, my priorities, and even my personality are barely recognizable anymore from that of ten or fifteen years ago; and I haven’t fully decided which version of me I like better. Though I sometimes miss that free and easy life and often wish I ‘knew then what I know now,’ I wouldn’t be who I am now without the story that I’ve lived.
I’ve picked up a few valuable items along the way – a family, a little bit of wisdom, plenty of experience in changing bed sheets; and more than a few lessons in diligence, humility, intentionality, and grace. When it comes down to it, I don’t think I would trade any of that back for my young and inexperienced, boy-band-loving self.
While ‘the moment’ seems to have arrived without warning, I know it didn’t really happen that way. There has been far too much good in the past to gloss over it like it never happened; and there is far too much good in ‘the moment’ to spend it bewailing the passage of time. All that’s left to do is to live in ‘the moment,’ anticipate the future, enjoy the children before they are grown and gone, and just breathe.
Because I still can’t remember what I came into the kitchen to do.
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(since I received one legitimate feedback message and approximately 100 (not exaggerating) spam messages, I have removed the feedback form from this post. 🙂 – E)