thankful and crazy as a mad hatter!

***warning...this posts contains a true depiction of recent events which call into question my mental and emotional state of mind. If you wish to be spared this insanity and want to continue to think of me as a strong, unflappable, thoughtful, holy, pious woman (yea right...snork) than please read no further. Life is hard enough without such unpleasantness. Oh and before I's really stinkin long! Consider yourself warned!

Courtney: "I am sitting on a tree root people. Who thought this was a good idea...Mother???"
In late October my husband and I decided that we wanted to have family portraits taken. I have always wanted to have pictures taken outdoors but could never afford that luxury. Then I found Andrea.

This beautiful young woman is one of Courtney's PE teachers who has a photography business on the side. After chatting with her on and off for a few weeks and seeing some of her beautiful portraits,  I decided to take the plunge and scheduled a family photo session for a Sunday afternoon. I was so excited.

I spent days trying to decide what we would wear, what poses I wanted and where I wanted the photos taken. The clothing choice alone almost sent me into therapy. I was consumed with getting just the right photograph.

I think God heard my hearts desire and just started to laugh because that's when the real fun began. The first calamity happened when I sent my son to the barber for a trim and he came home with a seriously short crew cut. I mean there was skin showing! I was so stinking irritated. I actually yelled at him.

"This is a trim? I told you exactly what I wanted and you totally ignored me. If you think near baldness is a trim no wonder your room looks like it does. You are allergic to details my son! Sheesh!"

Yes, I know that I will NOT be winning the Mother of the Year award thank you very much!

Then as I was getting dressed the afternoon of the session, I noticed their was a stain on the blouse I wanted to wear. Momma was NOT happy! So two hours before she arrived I was scrambling trying to find something else I liked in my closet. I was possessed. I could hear Stacy and Clinton mocking each and every choice as "matronly" or "boring". I was a crazy person flinging things out of my closet left and right. I mean heaven forbid I look at the blouse before the morning of the pictures to make sure it was a winner! Oh no, not me.

At one point my son came in my room and was about to ask for a pair of socks to wear and upon hearing the slow hissing sound coming from deep within me my husband took him by the shoulders, turned him around and said "Run for you life son. It's everyman for himself. She's gone over the edge..." leading him out of the path of sure destruction.

Wise man my husband having learned in the 22 years we have been married that when Mary is stressed and freaking out walk away quietly and do not poke the Momma Bear. Bad things happen when you do.

Finally, I found something that worked and the photographer arrived. My hot flashes had passed and I was so thrilled because Courtney was in such a good mood. I couldn't wait to get started. We all trooped out to the back yard and spread out our wedding quilt to sit on and we were off...

For the next hour and a half Andrea took photo after photo. I smiled and laughed. Jerry and Jonathan smiled and laughed. Miss Courtney however had something different in mind for the afternoons pursuits. She decided that she was not interested in being apart of the frivolity. We tried everything we could think of. We tickled, cajoled, sang, clapped, talked sweetly and all but stood on our heads but that girl refused to smile WHILE her eyes were open.

Courtney: "See Mom I can smile...still not gonna open my eyes though."
I chose to look at her countenance and NOT think that her sweet little grin is mocking me.
Andrea was so patient with us. She just kept taking picture after picture. Finally we were losing light and needed to stop. She assured us that she had gotten some good ones. She promised! Of course in classic Courtney style the moment Andrea's car pulled away from the curb she started laughing. Argh!! What's a mother to do??

My beautiful but not "typical" daughter. She has always been a deep thinker.
Over the next week I turned into an absolute obsessive compulsive idiot. Yep I know, VERY short trip! You would think after 18 years I would be OK with not being a "typical" family and I will admit most of the time I really am. Then there's silly things, like a family portrait that sneaks up on me and really challenges my perspective about our families life.

Jerry was losing patience with my anxiety and one night after I was whining out loud yet again he asked me why it was so important to have everyone smiling and laughing? Why was it so important to have the perfect picture?

My answer surprised even me.

I am tired of always being different. Why can't we just have something that's just like everyone else.

I know. It sounds even more stupid as I type it but it's just where I was. 

He looked and me with one eyebrow cocked and said " Seriously? Ummm sweetheart, typical is NOT what we do. Normal is NOT who we are. We Lenaburgs only understand different, unique or even special. You wouldn't know normal if it hit you on the head. Besides that's just plain boring and you, my love, have NEVER once in your life been boring. So why would God give us children that were. They are a true reflection of us."

"So what your saying is that Court and J are reflections of us? So what the he** does seizure disorder, blind, profoundly disabled, stubborn, cantankerous, back talking, never listening totally following a path that NO ONE has ever gone down before children say about you and me?"

He laughed. He was making no sense and he was laughing at me! Argh! My temper began to boil. "Remember when we were at Theology of the Body seminar last year and they were talking about the blessing of children?"

"Yep but I can tell you I am not really feeling very blessed at the moment."

Still laughing he continued "Mar, our children are living proof of our love for one another. God breathed life into that union and we are given the privilege of naming that love, Courtney and Jonathan. They are everything God needs them to be for us and for each other. He has plans for them and we are a part of that. They were made for us, just us."

"Yea, Yea, Yea. I know that. I always knew God had it in for me!"

He laughed even harder. So NOT what I expected. "Mary, you are always telling people what an honor it is to be their mother and how proud you are of them."

"That's only when I am feeling all Catholicky Happy Holy Woman and they are well behaved and sweet. I just want them to do what I want them to do, when and how I want them to do it. Why doesn't anybody understand that??" 

I had reached a truly pathetic moment in my life. I know how ridiculous I sounded, like my two-year-old niece begging for a piece of candy and I didn't care!!! I was totally messed, gone, over the edge!!! Not pretty at all!

My husband walked away laughing and yelled upstairs to my son "Hey J. Your Mom just came up with a doozy. Your not going to believe this one!"

That night during my prayer time I took my whining wimpy heart and poured it out to God.

Just one picture God. Just one where everyone is smiling and Court is looking up. One picture that I could hang in the living room and have everyone ooooh and aaaah over. One...just one...just like the one in X's house or y's house...I've given up Prom and Graduation. I have given up grandchildren and a wedding for  my daughter. Can't I have a nice family portrait?? Can't I have freakin happy family picture with no funky hair and everyone looking smashing...just once??

As I was praying there were two words that kept coming to me over and over:

unconditional love...

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

I knew then that I was in trouble. I had spent some much time looking at the outside I had forgotten for a moment or three or twenty-seven what is on the inside. Envy had invaded with it's ugly green slime wrapping it's tentacles around my heart. I had been telling God that he was crazy insane and that my family was...well...a mistake.

My two favorite unique and so blessed.
I had to let go of that image. I had to give over every desire I had for perfection to God. I had to hand Him my future once more. I had to trust that whatever the end result was those pictures would be a true depiction of my family. I had to hand Him every neurotic thought and compulsion I had about perception vs. reality.

I have written on these pages many, many times about my love for my kids and my life. I was not lying then and I'm not lying now. We are not a catalog family. We are not cookie cutter perfect. We did not walk off the pages of the JCrew or Lands End catalog. My daughter is blind. She has no motivation to look at something. She can't freaking see it so why bother. She hates sitting for long periods of time...gee maybe it's because she as a 31 degree scoliosis and it hurts to sit for too long. Jonathan's hair? It would grow back right?

What the heck was my problem anyway? It was just a picture! I had allowed something not of God or any other sane source to take over my heart and create chaos.

God laughed once more when the proofs were delivered a week later. Instead of weeping over what was missing from the stack, I laughed and laughed. I marveled at what was there. Are the pictures perfect? Not at all but every single one of them tells a story. Andrea is the first photographer to truly capture the essence of my family.

My handsome guys, with their matching almost bald heads, laughing and looking like they do after a great game of trash talking Stratego. My daughter, showing her true colors and strong sense of independence being irritated and frustrated with posing and finally letting a smile or two show. Through with her eyes closed of course! These pictures captured my family. Who we really are. Not always smiling and laughing but uniquely and authentically us.

I am grateful for that. I am grateful for God's gentle guidance, through my husband's counsel, helping me to truly see and love unconditionally those He placed in my heart to care for and nurture.

Yes, I am proud to be their mother and to be his wife.

Yes, I am a certifiably crazy overtaxed perfectionist person.

No, I am currently unmedicated but am open to it in the future especially if it involves chocolate.

Yes, I am a very unique, different and special woman with unique, different and special kids and a pretty hot husband too!

And you now what?

I wouldn't have it any other way.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
-- Melody Beattie

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