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Friends, this last weekend I went to an amazing wedding in Texas with my daughter Rachel and the whole experience reset me in a major way. I’ve been walking around my home, happy, rested and full.
It was definitely a weekend FULL of tender self care. What amazes me is how different I am now that I am home. It’s like I’ve been totally reset. I’ve been able to enter into my life and into my family’s life in a much deeper way.
My husband told me, “You should go away more often.” And I smiled. Perhaps I should.
And that’s what I want to explore today, that concept of Taking Time for Self. It seems so counterintuitive, you know? I don’t know about you, but I sort of grew up with this notion that motherhood should be about sacrifice. 24/7. Round the clock, baby. Giving, giving, giving.
Well, praise God, I have lived enough years (and experienced enough crazy) to be able to understand the important tension between giving of self and the restoring of self.
This topic has been on my mind a lot lately because it has been one of the topics from the Mother Retreats that I have been hosting.
What I have discovered on this journey of life: many (if not most) mothers do not understand the concept of Self Care. They think it is a bad word, something that they cannot truly participate in if they want to be a “good mom.”
Well, I am here to proclaim this truth: LIFE IS sometimes HARD. It can overwhelm. Allowing yourself some real self care will change your family real quick. And everyone will benefit.
This is our story:
My husband Russ and I were invited to the wedding of Nate Hoffman (long time friend of my son, Eric and his mother, Sue, is a lifetime friend of mine) and Emily Eichelberger.
The wedding location: The Woodlands, TX. My first reaction: Oh, that’s too far. We cannot go. But then I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s sort of like a mini-vacation.”
I thought of my life this year:
Our oldest son, Eric, married Jessica Ragas on March 19th.
Our second son, Mitchell, married Lucy Clark on May 15.
And our third son is going to marry Abbey Motley next month.
So there’s been A LOT of emotional things happening within Mama Lori. Marriage is a big deal and it is not something to be entered into lightly, by the couple or their families. It is not just about THE DAY. It’s a COMMITMENT of epic proportions. So walking with our kids down that aisle (literally and figuratively), has taken some good energy, you know?
When I thought of that, then I decided that yes, Russ and I would LOVE to have a long weekend away together. In fact, we NEEDED it.
Yet. Even thought I really wanted to go, I will share this: it was extremely difficult for me to allow myself to GO to Texas. Why? Well, as a stay at home mom, my anchor is in my home. I still have some kids here. I like to be with them and in fact, I feel I need to be with them. To have Mom leave? Even though they are older and more or less self-sufficient, my LEAVING would make their life more difficult. And that was something that I had to think about and let go of.
Whew. Sounds easy. It was not.
Once we decided to actually go to the wedding in TX, I tried booking a room at the hotel (with the group rate), but they were all sold out. So I looked at renting an Airbnb, which is basically renting a bedroom in a HOME from a person still living in that HOME. Yikes.
I know. It sounds a bit creepy, doesn’t it? But we’ve done it several times and it’s actually incredibly easy to do and kinda fun.
I looked in the area of The Woodlands and found a nice bedroom in a clean-looking home for $50 a night. The reviews were all great, which means the chances of getting killed in our sleep were slim, so I brought my laptop (with the room pulled up) into my husband’s office for his approval.
Russ said no to the small room. He looked at the options available and chose a private condo. Dang, I love my man. The amenities included a gorgeous pool, workout gym, fire pit and such.
Then, at the last minute, Russ was unable to attend with me. Well, I knew I could not go without him so I looked at the Airbnb reservation. Guess what? Their cancellation policy was basically this: we have a no cancellation policy.
Well. what to do with that? Going on a vacation type trip (Thursday through Sunday) without my husband seemed ludicrous. Crazy. Over the top. Too much for me.
But my husband told me that I should go. Rachel, our 26-year old daughter, was with us during one part of that conversation and she said, “I’ll go with you!” And it was kind of settled.
Now, was it difficult to switch out vacation partners? Actually, no. I love love love my husband, but Rachel is quite fabulous.
For those of you that do not know Rachel Nicole Doerneman; she is tall, beautiful and full of life.
She also has a high level of spiritual and emotional intelligence which blows me away. I would love to take credit for that, but it was primarily formed in her two years as a FOCUS missionary.
(Many of you, my faithful readers, have asked me what my girl has been up to. Here's a quick recap:)
After her work with FOCUS, she took a job as a middle school teacher at a fabulous Catholic school here in our diocese. Now, this is why I love my girl child. She was standing in front of her class, teaching math, when she had an epiphany. She knew she was to do something else with her life. And so she changed gears.
What is she doing now? Well, she just got a job as the Director of Development at WSU’s St. Paul’s Center. Thanks to FOCUS, Rachel has a firm grasp on this concept: many people love to be part of something bigger than themselves. She will gather those people.
Being with Rachel is like being with a better version of myself. Truly. We are so much alike but she is WAAAAAY further down the path of life than I was at the age of 26. And I, at the age of 54, have emotional and spiritual gifts that she does not yet have. So being together is fun and totally energizing.
The idea of spending four whole days with Rachel appealed to me because frankly, as a mom of many, I rarely get one on one time with a child. And she just happened to have the whole week off before her new job started, so it worked for her, too.
And so my gorgeously generous husband gave me the blessing to go to Houston with our daughter.
Interestingly, this is when I had to stop and almost detach myself from my children still at home and my husband. I had to literally step away emotionally from them in order to allow myself to be present to whatever awaited me in TX. I tell you that because this post might make it seem like an easy peasy thing. It was not.
Rachel has taught me many things and one of them is to receive. If someone gives her a compliment she will pause and then state, “I receive that.” Isn’t that kind of cool? It’s a deliberate act.
With that in mind, I decided to receive whatever was gonna happen down in TX.
I decided to actually write about the details of this trip, because it was a big practice in self care.
We arrived around 5 p.m. on Thursday evening. We had grazed on snacks all day in the car and didn’t really need a meal. So we meandered around the place, acquainting ourselves with the cool amenities of the condo.
I know. It was gorgeous.
That evening Rachel and I ended up sitting on some lounge chairs out by the pool. Interestingly, we were the only ones outside at that point.
I absolutely loved just being out in the evening with my daughter. Why? Because Rachel is a grown woman. She is more or less on her own, doing her own life, as it should be. So to be given the chance to sit and LOOK at my girl? To have the time to just enjoy her? What a gift.
She has had a lot of things happen in the past year; good things, strong things. And we were given the chance to just sit and share. I also love that Rachel asks ME questions. She wants to know about me and my life. She listens well. And she can easily dive into a topic like addiction or sin.
Then, in the midst of some deep emotion, we’d easily switch gears and laugh like two crazy people. I’ll tell you one such situation; Rachel was telling me about one of her best friends and how her friend’s boyfriend was dismissed from a Very Important Place in life because of his narcolepsy.
That confused me. I knew his life and I couldn’t figure out how he could have been that sort of person so I asked her, “What did that even look like? What did he steal?”
She paused and looked at me in that, “What did you just say?” kind of way and I instantly recalled that narcolepsy is when a person falls asleep randomly.
We started laughing…..and then between trying to breathe through our laughter Rachel said, “You kill someone?”
Which made me lose it completely. That line is from the movie, “The Mask of Zorro.” The main character, Zorro, played by a very hot Antonio Banderas, was in a church and had to hide. So he hid in the confessional.
Just then, the love of his life, Elena, (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) came into the church to GO TO CONFESSION. And he was like, “Oh no, oh no….” but he decided to just play along and pretend to be the priest.
Elena confesses, “Father, I have committed the greatest of all sins…..I have broken the fourth commandment.”
Pause. And Zorro says, “You kill someone?” And she, confused, slowly says something like, “.....I disobeyed my parents…”
And our family, for reasons unknown to anyone, has adopted that line, “You kill someone?” and we use it whenever the situation is warranted.
So when I thought this special person in my daughter’s life was a kleptomaniac, she looked at me and said, “You kill someone?” Oh my. Stupid funny. I know.
But isn’t that what life is about? Those little nuances that make each family unique, you know?
We had a good night of rest that evening.
I woke up that first morning and got my cup of coffee, a lemon Larabar and went out on the deck. I read a Christian romance book by Becky Wade. (She has a million books and they are all super fun and super easy and super delightful.)
Then I went down to the pool with my Bible and a journal in hand. I zeroed in on one Scripture verse. I let it do its work in my soul.
Then I asked myself what I wanted to do next. I had the whole day in front of me. What would make me happy?
I decided to work out.
I found the exercise room; there was one extremely fit woman in there, which inspired me in all the good ways. I love love love muscular, toned women. She ran on the treadmill and her headphones were on; she sang out loud every so often, which made me feel safe. (If she could not hear herself sing out loud, then she certainly would not be able to hear me!)
I got on a machine and set my phone to Pandora. I love music and I love being able to weave in and out of different genres. My muscles felt alive and thriving as I focused on being at that place at that time. My soul just praised. And every so often I would find myself singing out loud. (Denise, you should have been there!)
I stretched. Did some muscle work. Felt strong.
I then went up to the room, checked on my girl, then drank a great protein shake….and headed down to the pool area with my book.
It was the end of October but it was easily 85 degrees. I basked.
After a tasty lunch of chicken salad (which I had made before we left) Rachel and I spent some time in a thrift store in The Woodlands. I thought it would be a great idea. I mean, The Woodlands are known for their upscale everything. I knew I could not afford to shop in their boutiques. But their thrift stores? Bring it.
For some reason, Rachel and I, over the years, have had the most fun in dressing rooms. Why? Well, for one, my daughter and I have a similar sense of humor and we both love to make other people laugh. So when you get the two of us in a highly vulnerable state (half naked in a little room with a huge mirror and frequently opened doors) it sort of brings out our psycho side.
One time my daughter tried on one of those form-fitting slip thingies; I heard her in her dressing room, yelping for me. She let me into her dressing room and I could not stop laughing at my daughter, with one hand sort of sticking out of the top of this tight sleeve that was on her body. She felt so betrayed by the proclamation of “One Size Fits All.”
I could not stop laughing and in fact, I almost peed my pants trying to get the darn thing off of her.
Another time we were shopping at Dillards and we saw the ugliest outfit of all time. It was like a jumpsuit of some kind. We wondered who would ever wear it. And we looked at the price tag. $200. Maybe it had super powers or something. So we felt like we had to try them on.
Who would ever wear those?
So Rachel and I have fun in dressing rooms.
Going to that thrift store in The Woodlands was a very simple pleasure. We passed clothes back and forth, “This would look great on you.”
At one point, Rachel threw me a shirt over the very tall wall between our rooms. I said, “Dad would have never done that,” as chunks of dust fell on both of us like snow. (My husband is an engineer and does not throw things in a willy nilly fashion. He folds and hangs and is very neat. I love my husband, don’t get me wrong. But it’s glorious to spend time with someone that will throw a shirt over a wall.)
That evening we went out for Mexican food and then watched a movie together.
The next day was the wedding. Rachel and I spent the morning in the same way, reading, relaxing and working out.
We then got all prettied up and got to the church.
Now, I could write many words about that wedding. Suffice it to say that it was beautiful in all the right ways.
The mothers (of the bride and groom) were stunning. Emily, the bride, was breathtakingly gorgeous. Nate, the groom, was incredibly handsome as he received his new wife.
It was fabulous to see the line of groomsmen; I’ve known most of them their entire lives. Now they are all married or getting married. Some have children. Wow.
This is a picture of my son Eric and his wife, Jessica;
The music was off the charts beautiful. The singers and musicians were unbelievably talented.
Fr. Drew Hoffman, brother of the groom, officiated. His homily was perfect, personal yet reverent.
It rained during the wedding Mass, which I heard is a sure sign of fertility. Get ready for some babies!
The reception was unbelievably magnificent. It was classy and comfortable at the same time. How they were able to achieve that balance is beyond me, but I felt pampered and loved by the Eichelberger family. It felt like a heavenly wedding feast, with all of the attention to detail.
For instance, when our table was served our food, the FIVE waiters, each holding two plates, stood behind us. At the same time, the staff put our plates in front of us. Synchronized. It brought tears to my eyes because it was such a lovely thing. A detail. And it said, “You are important to us.” As a mother, I am always making the food. Making the food. Making the food. I have huge children with immense appetites. When I have all of my kids home, I make immense amounts of food. So as you can imagine, it was an utter delight to be given the royal treatment.
I also think that Mitch Eichelberger, the father of the bride, was a huge part of everyone feeling so comfortable. When he spoke to the crowd, he was vulnerable; he shared his heart. His love for his daughter gathered us all in close; he expressed his joy at the union of Emily and Nate; as he spoke about them, I could see that he had, as a mature father, emotionally let go of his daughter….that alone is extremely difficult, especially since Emily is his only daughter. Yet. He was able to release her, knowing that Nathan Hoffman would now take his place, providing for and protecting Emily.
THAT is what he allowed us to see and share and celebrate - the sorrow and delight in the giving of his daughter to another man. And Nathan Hoffman is a worthy man.
Dang. So lovely.
Rachel and I left at the crack of dawn, knowing we had a 9 hour drive in front of us. Rachel found us a church to attend on the way back to Wichita, which was awesome. Now. I know that some people don't work really hard to GET to Mass when traveling, but we always have. And it's always been the best blessing ever. I think being Catholic is fabulous for many reasons and one of them is that no matter where you go, the Mass is essentially the same. We fit no matter what.
We went in and everything proceeded as normal until the offertory song. I sat up straighter. WHAT? Who was singing? I had no idea. But wowsa, she was hugely talented and could play the piano like no other.
Then the same person sang this song after Communion: Altar Call.
Do yourself a favor. Get on a headset and listen. It is profound.
Amanda Vernon, a national recording artist, was at that church to give a concert that evening. We were absolutely privileged to have stumbled upon her talent and giftedness. It was the perfect icing on a perfect weekend. GOD IS SO GOOD.
Now, here is the deal. When I got home, I looked at my husband and kids in a much different way. I felt invigorated. Whole. Happy.
It was a DELIGHT to be with my people.
On Monday morning I got up early. I made muffins, cleaned the kitchen, did laundry….all with tremendous joy.
I felt different.
And that, my dear friends, is truly the point. When we make the time to be renewed and restored we can come back to our homes full of energy and joy.
I thank my husband Russ for his ability to be so generous to me, giving me the emotional freedom to leave without guilt or worry. I love you, Russell Edward.
And Rachel, thank you for working on yourself in such positive ways. You are a JOY and I am incredibly grateful that you are my daughter. (Let's have a watch party soon for "The Mask of Zorro!")
Now, about you, mother friend. Yes, that weekend was huge for me. It was a big fat gift. But if you look closer, there were many things in there THAT ARE SUPER EASY TO DUPLICATE.
That’s a simple thing and can be done anywhere, you know?
I then worked out. There are all sorts of stages in life, when kids are small and vulnerable and such. I know those stages. But I also think a woman CAN work out even when kids are little. You just have to be a bit creative. But it can be done.
Rachel and I went to a thrift store and had some good laughs. Do you have a friend that makes you chuckle by the way they look at life? Do you have a person that will throw you a shirt over the divider in a fitting room? If so, make the time to spend some time with her. Being with another person that breathes joy into the air is LIFE GIVING.
We also went to a wedding. We DROVE for hours to get there. And it was an experience that I now get to hold close in my heart. Making the time and the effort WERE WORTH IT.
So when invitations come, don’t be too quick to say, “We cannot do this” or “We cannot afford this.”
Yes, it might mean spending some money. But hear me. The gifts given to my soul were absolutely priceless.
Thank you for being part of this journey with me. I appreciate you so very much. I will be marrying off my own child soon...after that I'll be sharing more of the gifts that I have received during the Mother Retreats...get ready to take some deeper dives into the eternal topics.
P.S. Our next Mother Retreat is coming up! December 3rd of 4th! Click here to find out more.
I'm Lori Doerneman
Wife. Mom. Catholic.
Idealist with 8 kids,
keeping it real.
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