“But It’s Not Like Last Time!”: Finding Joy in Unmet Expectations and Change

Remember this?

Her face was red and wet with tears. Her fists were clenched and she was shaking her head spastically making her blonde hair flail around her head. She continued to whine and complain, but I could barely understand her words through her deep sobs. She was having a full-fledged meltdown.

Baggage was to blame.

No, not figurative baggage, as in difficult life circumstances that travel with us from our pasts into our future, I mean baggage, as in, our suitcases.

My 9-year-old daughter, Kenzie, was sitting in the one back row seat of our van that we had not folded down so as to have more room for our luggage. The van was still snuggly parked in our garage, and we were testing out the seating arrangements for our twenty-hour drive to Florida. This would be our second year taking a Spring Break vacation as a family of five. There was a lot of stuff shoved into our minivan: golf clubs, suitcases, beach chairs, snacks. Kenzie was surrounded by all of it in this trial run of making sure we could get everything in the van, including the kids.

Kenzie wasn’t crying because she was crowded or uncomfortable, she was crying because the suitcases were not close enough to her.

Sob. “Last year when I sat here the suitcases were right up against me!” Sob. “That was one of my favorite parts of the drive.” Sob. “I want it to be just like last year!” Wail.

There are moments in parenthood where you lose your cool. There are also moments when you’re overjoyed with your child. Then there are moments like this one when you’re just plain confused.

“So you’re telling me that you’re throwing a fit right now because the golf clubs are closer to you than the suitcases?” I said with a bit of a growl in voice.

Sob. “Yes! I want the suitcases to be closer to me so it’s just like last year!”

And thus began year two’s vacation where we frequently heard the phrase, “but last year we ___________ (fill in the blank).

My kids are huge fans of tradition. They savor life and enjoy each season and activity that comes with it. Each fall, they want to make a trip to the same apple orchard. Each Christmas, they want to hang the garland on the banister just like we did the year before. They love each tradition and have big hopes, expectations, and emotions involved in each one.

Speaking of apple orchards… the apple has not fallen very far from the tree. I wish I could say my husband was the tradition-lover who has thus modeled big feelings toward repeating expectations, but he ain’t that tree, folks.

I’m going to have to take the blame on this one. This baggage comes with me.

I love tradition, and I have a lot of hopes riding on expectations. And for many reasons, I’m going to say that’s a fine way to live. We tradition-lovers are also big on noticing and appreciating things, and we are often full of gratitude. If I do say so myself, we can be really lovely people to be around when traditions and plans go as scheduled.

But hitching our hopes to tradition and expectations can sometimes lead to a bumpy ride when plans come unhinged.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to recalibrate when it comes to traditions and expectations. Just as an infant is trained to self-soothe when she cries in her crib and no one comes to pick her up immediately, I’ve learned to self-soothe when expectations turn into disappointments. I’ve come to understand that joy can still be found in the changes, even if joy seems to be wearing a disguise.

Our first year in Florida, we went to a beach on a beautiful intercostal waterway where we found about a dozen whole sand dollars. It was amazing, and the kids loved these fragile sea treasures. But on our second trip, when we returned to the same beach, the wind was strong and the choppy water churned in a way that made it impossible to find any sand dollars. The kids were super disappointed.

But, as we walked along a different beach, we found some really cool shark teeth, a treasure we hadn’t found the year before. I capitalized on this and starting saying a five-word phrase each time one of the kids, or myself, would let disappointment creep in over a failed expectation or change.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Guys! Think about it! Both are treasures! So we didn’t find sand dollars this year, kids. But, we found shark teeth! How cool is that? It doesn’t have to be just like last time to be good.

“But last year ate at that one restaurant that had the popcorn shrimp!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But last year we made those apple pies!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But it’s our tradition to have cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

And this doesn’t just help my kids deal with changes and unmet expectations. It helps me!

When my second book launched and it didn’t go the same as the first book had, I repeated “sand dollars and shark teeth” in my mind often. It was a mantra to remind myself that it didn’t have to be just like last time to be successful or good.

When my child’s schoolteacher didn’t run their classroom the same way my older child’s classroom was operated when they were in that same grade, I had to recalibrate. Wait, I thought I knew what to expect and how this was going to work! But it’s okay. Sand dollars and shark teeth.

When holiday plans changed last minute due to illnesses or activities beyond my control my gut reaction was, “this won’t be as good as last year.” But maybe it was. We made new memories! Sand dollars and shark teeth.

I’m going to be honest, Kenzie’s meltdown over not sitting close enough to the suitcases was a little over the top for me. I did not initially understand her response and I got pretty upset with her.

But after a week of finding zero sand dollars and realizing that unmet expectations and change were the reason for her tears, I understood a little more. I didn’t let her off the hook for behaving like she did, but I file the realization away in my mind.

“But, it’s not like last time!” can be baggage that travels with each of us. I get it. I’m a frequent flier in this club. But just because it’s different, changed, or not what we expected doesn’t mean it can’t still be good.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Tuck that phrase away in your baggage.

If it ain’t broke.

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It’s one of our family’s favorite “home videos.” Our middle child, then two-year-old Karly, attempting to drive a small motorized golf cart.

Attempting is the best word for this scenario.

She pushes the gas pedal with her little purple shoe, and the cart lunges forward. Karly’s hands are resting down by her sides. She moving, but not controlling where she’s going.

At the prompt of her big brother yelling “Stop!”, she lifts her foot off the gas and narrowly misses driving into a row of bushes.

“It’s not working!” She claims as she climbs out of the cart (the cuteness of it all multiplied by the fact that she can’t pronounce her ‘r’s’ and rhymes the word ‘working’ with ‘looking.’)

Oh, but it is working, sweetheart. To drive you must steer. To steer, you must put your hands on the steering wheel.

It ain’t broke.

You ain’t doin’ it right.

I’m guilty of it too. No, not driving with my hands by my sides (Geesh! Give me some credit!) but of getting off course.

I wish to get somewhere. To head in a new direction.

Toward better conversations with friends. Talk that is rich and uplifiting, not gossipy and self-focused.

Toward better understanding of who I am in Christ. Life that is lived free from worry and fear.

Toward a healthier body. One that makes wise decisions to eat well and exercise regularly.

But, sometimes I end up in a row of bushes.

“It’s not working!”

Oh, but it is working, sweetheart. To drive you must steer. To steer, you must put your hands on the steering wheel.

I can’t just wish to be somewhere. If I really want to get there, I must steer myself in that direction.

Steering rarely requires large movements. It’s tiny corrections and changes that put you on a different trajectory. 

Little changes, small tweaks, tiny adjustments. They can add up to big change, and put you in a whole new place.

You just need to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your foot on the gas.


This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for five minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: WORK

 

That’s How We Roll.

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The grass felt damp and cold under me. The late summer sun was setting and the warm day was giving way to a crisp evening. I wasn’t prepared. My jacket was in car. I guess I’d need to adjust my thinking now that fall was fast approaching. It’s jacket season, Christy. Like it, or not.

I turned and looked over my left shoulder. My kids were standing on a small hill. Each had a golf putter in hand and a pile of golf balls at their feet. They were playing around on the putting green and I was enjoying the show. Mostly, I liked the commentary.

“Which of those three flags on the putting green are you aiming for?” I asked.

My middle child, the one who just turned nine, answered quickly.

“Whichever one the ball rolls closest to when I hit it.”

I smiled and shrugged my cold shoulders. I guess sometimes we all adjust. Our mindsets, our golf swings, our wardrobes.

Earlier in the week, that same child sat and sobbed at the thought of making a decision. It wasn’t even a bad set of options she was choosing between, she just felt overwhelmed and fearful that she’d pick the wrong one.

“There is no wrong answer here, Karly.” My husband said. “These are both good choices. Mommy and I understand that it’s sometimes hard to make a decision, but what we have learned to do is to just pick one — to the best of our knowledge, and then later, if we need to adjust, we do.” I stood there nodding my head in agreement.

Sometimes we just have to swing the putter, hit the ball, and watch where it rolls.

And then we adjust.

We learn. We think about how we hit the ball and what it felt like, and we decide if that’s how we want to do it again. Or, do we want to try something different next time? Should we try to aim at something else?

Life is full of adjustments. Full of surprises. Confusion. Change. Clarifications.

And that’s okay. We truly live and learn every. single. day.

Sometimes we guide our decisions, and other times our decisions guide us.

Either way, we’ll never be succesful if we don’t swing the putter, hit the ball, and watch it roll.


This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s prompt: GUIDE

It’s My Book’s Birthday!

Today, after three years of labor, my book has been born! (Phew!)

I’m so excited to announce that my first book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, is now available on Amazon in paperback, and for the Kindle.

You can find it here:

 

Also, I had a book trailer made to give everyone a short glimpse of what the book is about – much like you’d discover from reading the back cover. If you’d like to see it, it is here:

 

 

And finally, if you’d like to follow my writing page on Facebook, you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/christycabewriter/

Thanks for your support, reader!

Happy Birthday, Book!

Christy

Where I Want To Be.

My left hand rested on the top of the steering wheel freeing my other hand to hold the warm travel coffee mug. Through the speakers the morning weatherman projected a mix of sun and storms. Seemed about right. A new front was moving in.

Late August meant the seasons were about to change. Summer was bowing out and preparing to yield to the beauty of a Midwestern fall.

One season coming to an end and another on the verge of emerging, not only on the calendar, but also in my life.

I couldn’t get the parallel out of my mind as I headed south from my Indiana home toward Music City. According to my iPhone, I had over six hours of driving before I reached my hotel in Nashville.

Before I even left my hometown city limits, I passed the hospital with the sprawling campus that sits beside the highway. I swallowed hard. It was at that very place my three babies entered this world. Twelve years before today’s road trip the oldest had arrived, a week late, proclaiming that I no longer possessed the same control over my schedule or emotions. I had quit my job and stayed home with that baby boy. I stayed up nursing and rocking him and watching infomercials in the middle of the night. I changed him and helped him learn to walk and eat solid foods. It was an exhausting season, but it was where I wanted to be.

Two years later, when that little boy was diagnosed with cancer, I spent hours upon hours in that same sprawling hospital watching his body receive chemotherapy and blood transfusions from strangers. I cried tears of agony and snuggled beside him in the hospital bed. It was a seemingly impossible task of motherhood. And though I never would have chosen the leukemia for him, walking beside my son through the healing was where I wanted to be.

Within a few years, two more precious babies had arrived. Sisters, less than two years apart. Three kids under six and a now healthy boy starting Kindergarten. The days were long and messy. Exhausting and delightful. I did much caring and loving and teaching and helping. I put in the pigtails and the hair bows. I dressed the baby dolls and learned the names of all the wooden trains. I lost sleep and found joy in the mundane. It was where I wanted to be.

Home full-time with three kids for more than a decade. It had been difficult and blissful wrapped up in a bow. It had been a gift. The life I’d always dreamed about and was so blessed to be given by a supportive husband. It was the path I’d always wanted to walk.

But now the path is changing.

The winds of a new season are picking up speed and blowing strong emotions through my heart.

My youngest child climbed the bus steps for the very first time just last week. Her little blonde head barely visible through the bus window as she headed off to Kindergarten and I ventured into a new stage of life.

They’re not babies anymore.

They’re in middle school and happy elementary classrooms filled with friends and caterpillars and great learning curves.

The season of being home full-time with little ones is over. The trail has narrowed.

A few tears threatened to spill out of my eyes and were making it difficult to see the road ahead. I blinked them away and remembered once again. I was blessed to walk a path I’d dreamed would one day lie in front of me. It hadn’t been an easy stroll, but it had been a gift.

And now the terrain is taking on a new look.

I’m still a mommy. But during the day my nest is empty and my focus has changed. I am sad that the preschools years are over, but I have no doubt the next season will be just as beautiful, but in a different way than the one before it. Just because the trail has narrowed, doesn’t mean there is not still beauty all around me.

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The road this day was leading to a writing conference in Nashville, Tennessee where I’d be learning and growing as a writer, as well as pitching a book proposal to two literary agents and an editor. I was so excited about the potential and my dreams, that I could barely fall asleep the night before.

And as the hospital campus faded away in my rearview mirror I smiled to myself.

The seasons were changing. The path was narrowing. But it was where I wanted to be.

I could look ahead with anticipation and an obedient heart to what God would lay before me. I was confident in this because I have sought Him as my trail guide. He knows the path. And He will gently lead me in the days ahead.

I loved the season of baby toes and onesies. Though painful, I was faithful through chemo drugs, steroid rage, and scary trips to the ER. I did the Kindergarten round-ups and registrations and back-to-school shopping. I found the green vinyl folder with the two pockets and three metal fasteners.

And I will treasure those moments for as long as I live.

I had the honor and privilege of being home with my children. But the preschool years are now behind me.

The highway is leading to new places, and adventures, and trials, and rejections, and hopes, and thrills.

I set my cruise control, turned up the radio and sang along with the music of the day.

The trail narrows. It’s time.

And with my eyes on my Trail Guide, I can trust that the journey ahead will be another beautiful gift. It’s where I want to be.


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write about a topic based on a one-word prompt. We are a challenged to write for about 5 minutes. This week I cheated. Gasp! I had already written this essay, but had not posted it yet. I used my FMF time to edit and tweak this post to work with this week’s word: PATH. I’m sorry! I hope you’ll forgive me! 😉