The Little Engine That Can't

This book sits on my sons' nightstand among LEGOS and matchbox cars. Actually, as you can see, two copies of this book sit on my sons' nightstand.  If you have only ever read the abridged version, good for you. If you have the full version, I'm sorry. It goes on forever doesn't it.  I cry a little when he picks the long version.

We're all familiar with the story even if we haven't read it. A train can't make it over the mountain and the contents of the train (toys, stuffed animals, a toy clown) try to find an alternate ride.  If only Uber worked for trains.  In the end a little blue engine comes along that thinks she can so she does. YAY! Happy ending right? It totally is. Don't worry, I'm not going to ruin it.

But have you ever read the story from the first engine's perspective? Or do you read it from the little blue engine's?  The focus is usually on the Little Blue Engine. "I think I can." The phrase, "If you think you can you can," is one used in our house all the time.  We want to be the one that saves the day. We want to be the one that overcomes. We all want to be the Little Blue Engine but sometimes we are undoubtedly the first engine in the story.

I was so exhausted one night but by the grace of God was obedient to reading to my son (please don't pick the long version).  Reading through the story for the millionth time, suddenly God gave me different eyes. 

The first train was carrying wonderful things to the kids on the other side of the mountain: food, toys, stuffed animals.  That's a lot of stuff it has to pull behind. The mission is a good one but it can get heavy.  I have an amazing journey, we each do, but there are a lot of things we pull with us.

No matter what stage of life we're in we have a mission and there are things we must bring with us for these missions.  And these things can get heavy.  I think we've all been in that place.  The place where we just need someone. Maybe we don't want the train to take our load but to just come along side us.  We want to keep going but we have stopped with a jerk and simply cannot go another inch.

Three different trains come along right.  We could dissect and analyze these trains forever but just go with me here.  Each train is at it's own stage and we're not gonna blame them for not helping.  We don't know their story.  We each have our own journey and that night, in my journey I was that first, tired engine.

Most days I feel like the last engine (the tired, rusty, old engine) but this night, I hadn't even completed my trip. I couldn't get through my day. I couldn't even muster, "I like I can." I was Phoebe in FRIENDS.  I didn't even have a pla- (Do you have a plan?). I couldn't even ask for help. The funny little clown had to do it for me.

Finally along came this little engine who didn't have a load to carry. She had a job. She had an important job. She switched trains in the yard. But she saw a need and she tried.  She knew she could do more than what other trains expected of her and so she pushed herself.

Now I don't want "Little Blue" to take my load. I love my load. Maybe she could just go in front of me chug, chugging and puff, puffing, "I think we can. I think WE can."  These "Little Blue" friends are amazing and I'm insanely grateful for my "Little Blues" but lets look back at the first engine.

Am I alone in this? Am I the only one who read "The Little Engine That Could" and cried feeling like the first engine and so happy "Little Blue" came along? I mean usually I'm all, "Yay Little Blue. I think I can too! Let's do this!" But what am I suppose to do when I am that first engine?

Those magical words, "self care," are ringing in your ears aren't they.  If you're like me when you hear "self care" you visualize a day at the spa being completely pampered but for most of us that's just not realistic.  We can relate to the scene in "Bad Moms" when the "fantasize" about a minor car accident so they get to be "pampered" in the hospital (just to be clear we don't really want that to happen). So what are some practical ways to take care of yourself?

My favorite is a book and a cup of coffee. Even that doesn't happen very often.  A coffee date with a friend maybe. The one that lets you out from the inside. Some days we might be able to treat yourself to a shopping spree or a spa day but be content in the warm cup of coffee now too.

When we are in the circus, finding time for self care requires more sacrifice than wrangling the lion.  But if we don't find that time we will sacrifice something much greater.  


Hello From the Inside

Well hello.

It has been quite a while but that is how it is when we choose this life. We choose less of us for more of everything else. We choose crazy, busy, messy, love. We wouldn't change it for anything. In the midst of this anything though we have our moments.

Moments of loneliness. Moments of exhaustion. Moments of missing.  We miss all sorts of things: friends, warm coffee (forget hot), showers at our own pace, naps, even uninterrupted bathroom breaks.  We know, "this is a season." We know, "this too shall pass." We know, "enjoy it while it lasts." We know this and we do but I want to say something to those single friends, young married friends without children and even the ones with children whether your children are old or young or all over the range.

Thank you.

When you sent that silly text that had nothing to do with anything, thank you.  When you didn't get upset because it took me 3 hours to respond to said text, thank you.  When you came to my house with my circus in full swing and joined in or kept up our conversation pretending there wasn't a circus, thank you.  When you walked through Target with me and my circus and let me juggle my mom and girlfriend hat (actually holding one while I wore the other), thank you.  When you let our coffee date turn into a playdate, thank you.

Thank you for loving my kids and if you don't thank you for pretending to love them so well for me.  Thank you for letting me juggle and helping me juggle. Thank you for living life with me when I don't get to have my own life.  It is hard, but I wouldn't change it for anything.

It is hard.  I'm so grateful I get to join you when I can and you don't get upset when I can't.  I'm so grateful you understand my life is not my own but you still want to be part of it.  I'm so grateful you bring part of me out from the inside.

You see I live inside.  I live inside this mode of "Mom." I love "Mom" mode but you so wonderfully know there is so much more to me than that but also understand that "Mom" is so much of who I am. I live inside of diapers, potty trips, spills, picky eaters, chaos, pink plates and blue plates, chocolate milk, runny noses, bickering, tickle fights, burps and "toots" (trains or gas, you decide).  Most often my "getting out" still brings my clowns with me and when it does you laugh and play and make us feel loved.  And when it doesn't, we laugh hard, make messes and act like clowns ourselves.

So thank you.  Even when I'm still inside you open the door just a crack so I can see outside. You let the sun shine in and let me stand, arms open, eyes closed and feel the glorious sun.

Someday soon I'll step outside with you again, always keeping that door in the corner of my eye.  And when you are ready to stay inside, I will be there to open your door just a crack so you can see outside and feel that glorious sun.