Pickin’ Battles to Win the War: How to Keep Going When “Life” Gets in the Way

i will pick my battles

I should head over to a tattoo parlor and have them brand this on my 3 year old’s forehead my very mobile one year old’s forehead,  the foreheads of ALL of my children ,  MY body somewhere, in a very prominent location to remind me daily to quit trying to fight every single battle that pops up on a daily hourly basis.  Seriously!  Yes, of course, I feel like I have some new battles that may not be the norm for most (due to this whole breast cancer thing) but I still face the same ol’ battles of any other woman who would like to function as a normal person in the world.  Yet sometimes.  “Life” just gets in the way!

I’ve had many “moments” lately.  I’m talkin’ about the moments where I “lose my business”.  It’s bound to happened,  I mean,  I just finished 6 rounds of chemotherapy, and am in fact still wrestling in the ring of that 6th round.  During my 5th round,  I found that my chemo side effects, at this point, are (or as my doc described) “accumulative”.   In other words, this bod of mine has been basically poisoned since the beginning of August, so its more difficult to find those “good weeks” where I don’t feel the effects as much.  I’m like a saturated sponge that’s been dipped in “the funk” and just can’t expunge itself, if that makes sense?  So… sometimes, I’m a little cranky.

Perfectly normal.  You don’t have to be going through chemo or any extreme anything to be allowed a little cranky from time to time.  Lately, however, I’ve found myself having a fairly short wick at the oddest moments.  This past week, I found myself trying so hard to overcompensate for my sleepiness the week before, my kids’ worrying over their sick mommy, etc.  I wanted so badly to be the best mom and wife in the whole world and would take my “good moments” and do something special to show my family I was really trying.  When it backfired,  I lost it.  It just stinks, since I know I was “losing it” on the very people who I was trying to love most.  I felt defeated and wanted to just throw in the towel.

i can scream if i want to

That’s when I remembered a very wise mama that I met back in the beginning of this whole motherhood journey.  My Sidekick was just that, a little baby stuck to my side every where I went.  Just the two of us.  She was so portable, I stuck her in that car seat carrier of hers as if it was another purse and travelled many trips to visit friends and families while my hubbie was in grad school.  We lived just outside of Washington, D.C. while he went to school in the city.  We were on our second year of marriage trying to figure out the whole marriage thing and the baby thing, and at times, our life seemed pretty simple, and at others, I was totally and completely overwhelmed! One snowy day, feeling like quite the overachiever, I bundled myself and my bambina up to attempt to go run errands and even be über holy and go to church all on our own for a daily mass.  Can you see the writing on the wall here?  Snow + baby + bundling/layering of clothes + errands(plural) + church = I’m setting myself up for “a good blooper reel”.  I was determined.

Reminds me a little of Kevin James in this clip/link below from “Hitch”…”You cannot stop this!”


Kevin James /Hitch Dance Lesson Clip:  (short version)

Thankfully, church was first on the list so that I could bump into the aforementioned “very wise mama“.  After all the diapering and layering and bundling that goes along with living in a snowy area, multiplied with the stress of the clock ticking away as you try to do all of that (which you somehow forget takes longer than your normal “get ready routine”), and just for fun, add on the fact that your child will inevitably spoil the diaper, audibly, from way down in all of those layers, moms have to make a choice on these kinds of mornings.  Do I have enough coffee for today?  How bad do I really want to or need to do all of this? Am I crazy enough to keep going? That day for me, I was like a freight train that wasn’t stopping.  I just put an extra baby outfit in the diaper bag, grabbed the keys and left, assuming that she had enough layers on that it couldn’t get through the top layer by the time we got there.

I missed the first part of mass just by merit that we took to long getting out of the door. Then I changed my little stinker through the Gospel and homily, throwing her whole first outfit in the trash.  Finally trudging out with my new clean, happy, LOUD baby who squealed through the rest of mass, and fussed and fussed at the time of communion because this 5 month old hungry nursing baby HAD to be fed right then.  UGH.  It wasn’t looking like my day.

By the end of mass, I was spent and didn’t leave my pew as the rest of the parishioners filed out.  That’s when she approached me.  The very wise, veteran mama.  She, being a mother of 6, and a military wife had plenty experience under her belt, and frankly I was nervous as she approached.   I was like a little peon in her presence.  She could chew me up and spit me out.  But, alas,  she simply leaned over and whispered in my ear,


Awwwww  yeah!  Take that, Baby Sidekick!  I’m gonna win this war.  And guess what,  I just got filled up with the Holy Spirit, even just by sitting here in this church.  So I have AMMO.  Bam!  Now I have to admit, I couldn’t help but follow that veteran mama around like a puppy out of the church and pick her brain for advice.  She kept reminding me that it’s all about balance. (I’m paraphrasing here) “You have to find what works best for you and your family, but also, any good leader of any battle always chose his/her battles rightly and knows when to pull back and when to press on.  That doesn’t mean giving up, that means doing what was right for your family, no matter how big or how small they are.”  I was kinda like her groupie for a while after that.  Even if it just meant me watching her from afar.  She wasn’t afraid to bring all of her kids to church, some looking dressed just right, others clearly dressing themselves in their own “creative style” and maybe one missing a shoe.  But, nevertheless, she’d “won the war” and they were there.   She didn’t throw in the towel.  She didn’t give up.

i just wont quit

We only lived there for two years, but I learned a lot from her.  I learned a lot from just my trials and errors (many, many errors) of working out the kinks of our first years of marriage and parenthood out there away from family, on our own, in that one bedroom apartment during grad school.

And a decade later, we are here. and I’m still the same woman.  My life appears quite different with 4 more kids, a dog, new jobs, new house, back in Louisiana with family this time, but now bald as a baby while waging my own new war called “cancer” while still picking my still ever-present battles of family life.  And, just like anyone, I get equally confused as to which battles to pick.  I wake up some mornings so ready to just “conquer the world”, “kick butt and take names”, that my vision gets a little clouded until I’m in the thick of the war and am ready to wave the white flag!

The following 2 examples of recent outings with my 2 youngest depict when I am an overachiever, clouded by pride…determined to WIN the war yet unable to “fall back” to avoid casualties of war.  Whilst another depicts, possibly, a smarter leader, who recognizes the needs of her soldiers and knows “when to say when.”  Clearly, you’ll know which is which.

(Depicted below are my partners in crime, for a better visual while reading)

littles indians feast  color

Outing #1: Easier if I describe as such.  Mind you, only a tiny excerpt of our 3 HOUR Target outing. Why? I still don’t know.  I’m crazy that way, I guess.

**How to have your own aisle in Target:**

1) Bring 3 yr old & 1 yr old into dog treat aisle w “big mamma jamma” cart w extra kid seats

2) Make sure all are good and tired & unwilling to sit/be strapped in seats

3)Leave your cold, un-drunken latte in empty seat while wrestling baby

4) Allow 3 yr old to spill latte…

5) Let baby play in latte while you search for wipes to clean up baby, cart, floor

6) Use your last 2 diapers in bag since they’re super absorbent to clean mess!

7) Let baby crawl on floor chewing plastic-wrapped dog bone, 3 yr old squeak every squeaky toy at once, & stand with latte-dripping diapers in each hand when next customer attempts to approach the aisle.

8)When woman asks in disgust, “Oh, honey, is that, diarrhea?”  Try to compose yourself as if to comfort her, “No, no, no.  It’s just coffee. I promise!”

9)As woman quickly takes off.  Say a little prayer that she didn’t go alert authorities now that you’ve realized she probably thinks you gave coffee to your baby who is now having explosive diapers full of coffee that you’ve chosen to change in the middle of a store.

 ( Not that I gained any experience in the area today or anything.  Sigh! But if you wanted privacy with your kids while shopping. This will definitely leave you on your own, apparently.)


Outing #2Trip to Craft store, after previous Target trip, to find supplies for Sidekick’s school project. Still crazy, Still determined, but getting smarter now.

1) Mommy attempts to keep kids jolly by serenading whole store with Christmas carols while wrangling baby (who will NOT use buckle or sit) in cart.

2) Mommy’s math skills are tested as she adds up supplies over and over to try to keep spending under $6 (according to school project). Mind you, this is our 3rd attempt at replacing said supplies.

3) After an hour of searching, wrangling children, calculating (I hate math), we approach the 15 person long line and one check out lady helping the elderly coupon clipper lady.

4) We make it to front of line only to find that my items were (supposedly) all priced wrong, and I did not meet my $6 mark.  Therefore the entire shopping trip was a bust.

5) Rather than argue it (wich I could have), I handed over the supplies, took my kids and left.  This was clearly a “fall back moment”  Not my battle.  Not my war.  We were done.

its never too late to start over

Yes, both of these outings happened in one day.  We arrived at Target at 11am but the trials of losing and searching for a missing shoe in the parking lot on the way in and having a juice box squirted on me in just the first 30 minutes should have deterred me didn’t stop me.  I shook it off and kept rollin’.  Rightfully so. Those were little things.  But once you get to 2:15pm and have enough material from the trip to write a book of How Tos (the above excerpt was merely one of the aisles of disaster), it just might be time for Mommy to “pick my battles” and shorten the shopping list.  However,  when I left both stores, white shirt now many shades of apple juice and coffee (still no latte in my belly (just as well chemo has killed my taste buds and coffee still doesn’t taste right to me anyway,  I just wanted it to), some wins some losses on the ol’ checklist for the day, I could have felt like a loser.  I could have sat with my head on the steering wheel and cried  (not that I’ve done that before or anything??).  But not today.  Instead I could only count my wins and see the blessings.  This was a HUGE day for me.  I’ve come so far.  I actually ran errands with my kids, on my own, and drove my car today.  In the past few months, I rarely get to do that.

God has given me a second chance at life and just by the mere fact that today, no matter how sloppy and ridiculous it was, I was with my kids today, I got out of the house today, I dressed in “normal” clothes today, and I wrestled with my normal “mommy” struggles like a normal day.  And it kinda felt good to feel “normal”.  Crazy is our normal.  I love our crazy.  I hope I never have those particular moments again in public, but miss this life all the same. And am thankful for it.  Yup, I’m crazy.  Hooray for crazy!

im alive for a reason

So, instead, I looked back in the car at my two little culprits munchkins and high-fived both of them for doing such a good job putting up with Mommy’s long errand run.  Then, I rolled down the windows and played one of my favorites (as I’ve mentioned before), and we sang our hearts out the whole way home.

U2: It’s a Beautiful Day


Thank you, Lord, for waking me up to another beautiful Day.  Thank you for second chances and for the grace to know when to fight and when to rest; when to push forward in a battle and when to fall back; when to carry the cross on my own and when to let the many “Simons” in my life help me carry it.  Give me the grace to see clearly and to know your will and not be clouded by my own agendas or determined-overachieving self.  You have never given up on me, even when I gave up on You and have mistrusted you many times in my life.  Allow me the grace to know that in choosing battles and “falling back”, I’m not admitting defeat, but waging a smarter war in order to win in the end. And to win in YOUR name, not mine.  I won’t give up this fight, you’ve let me come too far. 

Thank you, God for “every little thing”.


i can




9 thoughts on “Pickin’ Battles to Win the War: How to Keep Going When “Life” Gets in the Way

  1. Elise, I was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down my cheeks… Especially when I got to “How to have an aisle in Target to yourself.” Ah yes. And memories of banging my head on the steering wheel after trying to take unwilling little Christians to Mass with me and thinking “why do I even try?” I know now. I thank God, who has blessed you with such strength and courage! May they continue to bear good fruit in ways that you would never have even dreamed of. The Carmelites are keeping you and your family in are prayers each day! Your faithful witness is a gift to us all!
    May The Blessed Mother wrap you all in her mantle.
    Much love, Miss Pat


    • I’m glad to know I’m in good company. 😉 I’m also very glad to know that YOU are praying for you, since I know well the powerful prayer warrior that you are. You’re one amazing mother. Hope God can bless me with the graces He’s given you. Thank you


  2. Somehow you always know the right things to write about when I’m at the lowest point. This one really touched me and was important for me to read! It’s never easy to know which battles to pick but we learn…. Thank you, Elise. God’s blessings be with you. Kay Files

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Well, Kay, if this post touches just one person, and that’s you, then it was so worth it. God has the perfect timing, even when I sometimes doubt so much that He does. Truth is, he does.


  3. Elise: Your postings always inspire me and my friends and relatives! We are praying for you daily…This post really hit home for me…I had a most frustrating day on Saturday! Things did not go the way I planned (But GOD PLANNED!)…and I felt I got nothing done! By the end of the day, I had to say, Thank you God this day is over, please help me to let it GO!!! I just read a post by Margaret Feinberg http://www.incourage.me/2014/12/what-life-doesnt-turn-out-like-you-expect-perhaps-its-time-to-fight-back-with-joy.html
    December 15, 2014 01:10 AM |
    I thought of you immediately.I tried to copy the link address here so you can read it if you want..(of course, your sharings are priceless..but thought of you .After I read her post…you will see why…
    Her book and Bible Study, Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, releases January 6, 2015.
    LOVE YOU and PRAYING for you and your family…May each of you receive every BLESSING and GREAT JOY this CHRISTMAS and in the NEW Year.


  4. Pingback: Fighting the Fight…My Journey | Team Buna

  5. Elise, you don’t know who I am but I babysat for your two brothers before you were born. And have kept in touch with Beau the last 10 years or so. Your dad has put braces on me three times too. But reading your blogs you are so beautiful and wonderful person, wife and mother. You will win this battle and have to tell you that you have made me think twice the way I approach life and my life with God. Keep up the fight my prayers are with you and your family! Wendy Reaves Brown


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