Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year End Meme


I think this may be my ninth year of doing this little thing.  Even if nobody else is reading, I do enjoy having these to look back upon.  

I have had so little time to blog this year, you may found out some things about my year that you are surprised by.  :)


1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before? 

Did a 19 day juice fast in January.  Never again!

Enrolled three of our kids in a special brain training program to help overcome issues such as dyslexia and other learning difficulties.  It has been exciting, challenging, and expensive, but very, very good to see results.

Became a tutor for Classical Conversations.

Offered to adopt two children who need us, and taking them into our home.  Whether or not we will be able to make it permanent remains to be seen.  Please pray for us!



2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?  I don't remember what resolutions I made.

Will I make more? Of course!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My niece had a baby boy, a dear friend from church also had a baby boy.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Not that I recall right now.

5. What countries did you visit? I don't get out much.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?  I always seem to want more time and energy for everything that I do and long to do.

7. What events from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  Everything related to our new kiddos, from our visits with them, to the day we went to pick them up to bring them home, to the many scary days of not being sure how things would work out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?  Becoming a mother of 8.  Also, becoming a Classical Conversations Foundations Tutor.

9. What was your biggest failure? I guess I don't see anything as a failure.  I tend to see learning opportunities rising from disappointments or things that didn't work out as expected.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Not that I recall.

11. What was the best thing you bought? We invested in our children in many ways, and that is always more satisfying and lasting than things.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?  My mom's, who has listened and encouraged me a ton through this crazy journey to adding kiddos to our family.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and disgusted?  Bad behavior on facebook in regards to the election.  And I found the whole Chik-fil-A thing to be ridiculous, but I don't know about appalled and disgusted.

14. Where did most of your money go?  To the nurture, care, and education of 8 kiddos, of course!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?  Tutoring for CC, and expanding our family.


16. What song will always remind you of 2012?  Home by Philip Philips.  It is the theme of my heart as we fold these kids into our family.




17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?  hopeful
b) thinner or fatter?  same
c) richer or poorer?  richer in children!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? I think I've done so much of everything, there's nothing more I could have wished for.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?  I wish I'd had less to be scared and worried about, but that goes with this journey we're on.

20. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?  At home with kids who will, for the most part, be going to bed at a normal time.  I'll probably be up working feverishly on business stuff.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?  Yep.  With two wonderful children.

22. What was your favorite TV program?  Shark Tank, Army Wives

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't do hate.

24. What was the best book you read? Can't even remember.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?  Home by Philip Philips.  Also Ho Hey by the Lumineers

26. What did you want and get?  To be used by God as part of a big story.

27. What did you want and not get?  To know how that story turns out.  I'll have to wait to even know the end of this chapter, unless it's just a cliffhanger, in which case I'm already there.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Don't recall.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?  I turned 41 and don't remember anything about it.  That doesn't bother me a bit.

30.What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying?  More completion of projects.  I probably say that every year.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?  Rotating two identical pair of jeans, and not really caring that much about it.

32. What kept you sane?  My husband and kids.  (they also help keep me insane)  My mom, also.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  none

34. What political issue stirred you the most?  I don't know if I can claim to be stirred that much.

35. Who did you miss?  My Gram.  Also I don't get to spend as much time as I'd like with several people.

36. Who was the best new person you met?  

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
If I ask God for a sign, I've got to wait for it.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. 
From Home:

Hold on to me as we go,
as we roll down this unfamiliar road.
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Strengthening My Resolve

It never seems to fail.  I post my fears, frustrations, and frailties about homeschooling on my blog, and within a short time, something shifts.  Whether it is permanent or not doesn't matter.  The encouragement of even a temporary shift is very welcome by me.

Yesterday was our CC day.  I had spent some time over the weekend preparing for the upcoming week.  One of the biggest helps was that many meals were pre-assembled and/or planned.

I woke up early (before my alarm, just because my body was being so very nice to me), got laundry going, packed orders for customers, got dinner into the crock pot, got the kids up, my hair was already done, my clothes were already picked out, the backpacks were packed and the lunches were made.  We got out the door at 7:30 and got off to our day.  I had a fun day teaching my class of kids.  My husband stopped by at lunch and I ran to do an errand while he stayed with the kids, then I returned to CC and I finished strong with the afternoon class, and we headed home.  Since dinner was already under control, I invited my mom and her husband to come for dinner.  The kids helped me tackle some severe kitchen clutter that had been sitting for days.  (It took us 8 minutes to clear it up when we all worked together.  Derp!)  I updated the marching band website that I administrate, took care of sending my tutor email to parents of the kids in my class, did laundry, and planned out the week of work for my son that's in Challenge, etc.  And I wasn't too exhausted to function.

All of those things made our day pretty good.  But then I got an even better gift: The Gift of a Strengthened Resolve.

My 16 year old daughter was sitting between my mom and me at the dinner table.  We got into a discussion about her school stuff, her AP Biology class, and some reading assignments she has had (and didn't do, and isn't planning to do).  In the course of the conversation she said many things which showed/reminded me that what she is learning about learning from being in her school is:

-if it isn't going to be on a test or quiz or be graded in some way, I don't need to know it or do it
-hard things are not worth doing if I cannot see how it will be fun or rewarding for me
-I do not see learning opportunities as opportunities, only as a thing that gets in the way of my facebooking and texting
-doing the bare minimum to play the game of How To Get OK Grades in High School is the goal

There was more, but those are some of the highlights.

My mom and I both tried to engage her and challenge her thinking about these things.  I know that usually she thinks more about these things later when she isn't feeling defensive, but in the moment she was quite resistant.   While keeping part of my mind focused on the conversation with her, another part of my mind was comparing and contrasting her educational experience with that of kids in CC.

CC kids learn early-on that big, hard learning goals can be reached, and that they can have fun doing it.

In the grammar stage, CC kids become accustomed to learning about things that they have no frame of reference for, but they embrace it, memorize it, have fun with it, and then are delighted when they learn more about the world around them and they see where their knowledge plugs in, and they love it.

CC kids are getting an experience that I believe (hope?!) helps mold their attitudes about learning into that of acceptance and enjoyment of challenging things, confidence that they can do tough stuff, and the pride and satisfaction of achieving big goals.

CC kids are learning that what they are given to learn, memorize, and, in the upper levels, debate and discuss are things that are worth knowing.  The develop trust in their tutors, and an appreciation that they are being lead through an educational process that is worth their time and efforts.

My oldest son was in high school for 9th and most of 10th grade.  I saw his attitude go in the same direction as I now see in my daughter.  He resisted being homeschooled again, but I prayed like crazy and eventually one day toward the end of his 10th grade year he told me he was ready to come home, and he did.  While I was waiting and wishing and praying for a way to get him out of public school (without starting a war with my kid) I remember thinking that I would gladly pay whatever ransom was necessary to entice him to leave.  We found a little cottage school option with a la carte classes for homeschoolers, and we enrolled him there so he could have some time with friends and another teacher to answer to.  Ultimately, that didn't turn out to be as great as we had hoped, but the point is that we were happy to do whatever we needed to do to get him out of the environment he had been in.

So here we are.  As my daughter was spouting off her lackluster philosophies about doing as little as necessary to get by, my resolve was strengthened.  I do not know why hand-drawing the USA map and labeling 41 rivers is important to do.  But I do know that my Challenge A son had a good attitude about it (better than mine!) and he was willing to try.  He is surrounded by peers in his class who are also rising to meet these challenges.  He is surrounded by friends that have a good attitude about learning and hard work.  He is not learning that there is a bare minimum "game" to play.  He is not learning that being dyslexic means he will learn less.  He is working very hard every day, and I have been reminded that these habits and attitudes are so important to develop.  They will pay off for the rest of his life.

On we go!  This was a great reminder.  I am paying the ransom for my children's minds, not only in money, but also in the effort that we put together as a family to master these things.  Today, I feel good about it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some cracks in the surface

We are only 2-3 weeks into our new school year and I'm already in trouble.  I need to sort out my thoughts and monitor their development, so voila!, the blog will become my dumping ground and brain space for all of this so I can refer back to this when making decisions for next year.


We have a lot of pressure on all sides of our schedule right now:  

CC all day once a week plus the pressure to get assignments and presentations and memory work done for each week.  While in theory this shouldn't be too much, it usually feels like it.  And not just to me.  The CC moms all look at each other with big eyes, slight panic, and a side of martyr-like acceptance.  The moms on the official CC videos typically look exhausted and very, very serious.

Challenge for my 14 year old, which since he is dyslexic means that I have basically doubled my own workload in order to help him keep up with his own separate assignments.  It wouldn't necessarily be too much for every kid, but it is a lot for mine, and certainly a lot to add into my schedule.  The type of work he is expected to do in there is also making me wonder about the relative merits of the program overall.  Freehand mapping the entire USA, including states, capitals, and 41 rivers in 2 weeks?  WHY?!  

Work:  several times a week, cutting into the school day and my mental fortitude in various ways.

Brain training:  Every weekday except for CC day.  This takes up a minimum of two hours each time we go.  It also makes us tired.  We had expected this to be over by now, but it isn't, and I don't know how long it will be before the trainers feel we are done.  I am starting to wonder if we will just have to decide to be done and walk away.  

Chiropractor:  I've been in need of some chiropractic care that I put off for a long time because it seemed like too much to add into my schedule.  I decided I couldn't put it off any longer, so now that is ALSO on the schedule, twice a week, adding 2.5 hours into the schedule each time I go.  I have been told twice that we will soon go down to once a week, but alas, not yet.  Again, I'm wondering if I am going to have to pull the plug on this.  The rub, of course, is that it is actually helping me, and with all that is riding on Mom Power to GO GO GO in this life, can I really afford to *not* follow through with this?  Because, you know, is there ever going to be a less crappy time to do it?!

"Home Improvement Project" which translates into my office and school room being torn apart for weeks now, and who knows how much longer before it is finished and I can get organized and do my work down there.  Having to smoosh everything into the kitchen is chaos and misery and definitely adding to my difficulties in so many frustrating ways.



This morning I saw that the Nina and Pinta reproduction ships were in Louisville, and we could do an impromptu field trip today for just $5 each.  My first thought was that it was a cool opportunity and we should go.  And then I remembered all of the school work we have waiting for us, how difficult it will be for us to get it done if we do something else today, and then of course I remembered brain training, and that was the end of that.  No field trip today.  No field trip any day, frankly.  Last year we only went to church about twice during the entire school year because we never had our school work done and couldn't afford to go anywhere or do anything else except for try to get the stuff done.  Seriously.

We used to play games quite a bit.  Pay Day, Settlers of Catan, and others.  Now my kids ask, "Can we play a game?" and I'm like, "Um, uh, nope.  No can do.  Sorry."

Ditto for when they want to get together with friends.  Or be in more activities.  Or visit their grandparents.  Or go swimming.  Or take a day off because they are beat-down tired.

I remembered the days when I read (and believed) things about how the curriculum is our tool, we are not slaves to the curriculum.  But oh yes we are, when it comes to the pressure of CC and everything else that we are trying to accomplish right now.  Our feet are to the fire week after week, and we get it all done somehow, by crackie!  And when I am really feeling burnt about it, I remember how MUCH money we have spent on this experience, and I feel even worse.

You know, on the one hand, once you live through it, it is great to look back and see how very, very much the kids have learned.  It's quite amazing, in some cases, how much the kids know after a year of CC.  After last year I really felt a sense of confidence for the future of our home education.  I felt like I now knew that my boys would be getting a really, really high-quality education by doing CC.  And that was a good feeling.

But now I am living it, and seeing that having 3 in foundations + 1 in Essentials + 1 in challenge has quite literally *doubled* my already overwhelming workload.  I am thinking about how I had planned to put another child into Challenge next year, and I am thinking about how then I will have 2 totally different levels of challenge to assist with, plus 2 kids in the Foundations program PLUS both of them would be doing their first year in Essentials, which is extremely Mom-Powered as well.  It does not seem possible for me to do all of these things on my own.

I look at all of these things that are going on and try to think it through:

The chiropractor thing should go down to once a week pretty soon.  This isn't going to last forever.

Brain training won't last forever.  However, it might last til December.  In the long run it will hopefully feel like a very worthy investment, even though it is asking A LOT of us right now.

The family room project will hopefully be done within the next month.  If we can manage to muster up extra energy to push through on it more each day, maybe we can get it done in 2 weeks.  This too, shall pass.

To solve the issue of work and the amount of hours needed to homeschool, I am making preparations to beef up my business so that I can hopefully afford to quit my job, and then beef it up some more so that I can hire someone to come help me.

And that brings me to the next stage where I ask myself it is is going to come down to quitting my job and hiring a part-time person to help me homeschool, perhaps I am taking on too much, and maybe we would be better off going back to something like Sonlight.

I don't know, because Sonlight wasn't a perfect fit for us either.  But I do know that I wouldn't be looking at 3 completely different levels of assignments next year, our feet wouldn't constantly be held to the flames, and it would cost a whole lot less.  (They also wouldn't be seeing friends once a week, or be accountable to someone else to get their work done, which is a plus of CC.)

(I remember the days when my annual expenditure of Sonlight materials was $1000 and I thought it was a lot of money.  Now it seems like a total bargain.)

We would not be getting the rigorous level of education that we are getting now.  I am pretty sure of that.  Part of me wonders if being pushed for 24-30 weeks a year is a good way to go, simply because of the results we get.  Yes, I hate being pushed, but we get through it and have a lot to show for it.  We have the rest of the year to not be pushed.  (In theory.  This summer was not a break for us, so we are already starting out tired this year.  I'm sure that's a contributing factor in all of this.)

The other part of me says that this is perhaps not a reasonable way for my family to homeschool.  The cost is quite high for our budget.  The specific needs of my kids with varying levels of dyslexia, behavioral stuff, etc. puts a lot on me to manage.  Add in the cost of hiring someone just to keep on top of it all, and the cost of needing to quit my job to try to manage more of it myself, and boy-howdy, that's a whole lotta money.  (I could go to Hawaii regularly instead!)

Of course, enrolling them all in school would be way cheaper and take a ton of pressure off of me.  But, alas, I do not think that school is a good option for any of these kids.  Seeing firsthand the educational experience my 10th grade daughter is getting in public school, and what my oldest son got there, it's rather shoddy and not an environment I want to feed my other kids to.  I feel like homeschooling is the only good option I've got, and it's going to take pretty much all of our resources to walk this out.  On the one hand, I think that this is what my husband and I have always done:  We push through and rise to the occasion for the good of our kids.  After a couple weeks like this I am asking myself if we are on the right road.  We're committed for this year, so we will press on.  It's not a bad thing.  It's just a challenging thing.  Once things level out with my school and work space, once the chiropractor visits don't eat up half a day at a time, once brain training is behind us, once my next business program starts to fly and produce a respectable amount of money, once each child gets a better handle on what they are supposed to be doing, once we find the missing math CD......once those things happen, it might look a lot less terrible.

Right?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We are always a part of our children (and our mothers!), and they are always a part of us


So often scientific discovery echoes what we already know instinctively and in our hearts.  This article is awesome, and so is this video.  And it goes with what I wrote yesterday.  What a beautiful comfort.

  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Strong Fountation

"I'm starting to kinda freak out, Mom."

It was my oldest.  He's nearly 20, and in a short while he'll be heading off to Texas for a great adventure.  Some of the realities of his plans were starting to seem a little scary to him this morning.

So we grabbed our morning smoothies and sat on the couches in the living room early today and talked about it.

It was going well until he said, "So how do you really feel about all of this, Mom?  You don't really ever say anything about how you really feel."

Yeah.  That.

Well, what can I say?


When I think of you going all the way to Texas, I know you can do it.

I know you are going to be fine, that you can get a job and manage your life and eat decent food and make decent choices.

I'm happy that you are having a grand adventure because I know life will tend to funnel out those opportunities more and more as the years go by.

I know you will make some mistakes, too, but you'll be ok.

You've got everything you need to spread your wings and fly, which is exactly where you should be as a 20 year old young man.

But when I think of you going all the way to Texas, I know that

-I will miss being able to talk to you and work on projects together in person

-you might end up staying longer than expected, or putting down roots and living far away from us for a long time or forever.  This could be a bigger goodbye than just a few months.

-and I think about my little boy that I adored to a level that I didn't even know was possible before he was placed in my arms.  He is the one who brought out the warrior mother in me and changed me forever.  He is the one I never slept without touching for years when he was little.


I won't tell you that the years go by quickly.  If anything, having my oldest being a little tyke seems a million miles away from today.  It's like a distant, beautiful dream that makes me cry just because of the overwhelming amount of pure love and joy that is contained in all of it.

Childhood memories often make me cry.  I think it's because it seems like something has been lost.  There once was a beautiful, curly-haired, spunky little boy who disappeared because he grew up.  It's bittersweet.  Yes, he's still in there, and I love it when I see glimpses of that same fun little character that was my close buddy for so many years.  We have built upon an amazing storehouse of unconditional love, adoring companionship, laughter, memories, great conversations, and much more.  I don't regret a minute of the time I spent lavishing love on any of my kids, and as I am now moving into this stage where they are starting to leave the nest at greater distances and for longer periods of time, I can see even more clearly the value of all the investments I have made as a mother.

You won't regret it, moms.  Your generous, wholehearted love toward your children is what you are building on.  It is a strong foundation.  Build it up.  You can do this.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I am not ready to die

I read this post today, written buy a woman who was with her teens in the theater where so many people were shot and killed the other day.  She shares her thoughts about realizing she was ready to die, if it came to that.  While I am glad for her to have experienced peace at a horrible time like that, I found myself having quite a reaction.

Am I ready to die?  Well, spiritually speaking, yes.  I'm not worried about the condition of my soul or what will become of me after my time on earth is done.  That's not really the issue.

The issue is this:  I'm a mother.  Therefore, I am not ready to die.  Because God will not be mothering my children in the case of my absence.

I have two nieces who had the tragic experience of losing their mother when they were babies. These young women are now adults and mothers themselves.  Although they still had their dad and later a new stepmother, I believe they bear the damage and pain of the loss of their first mother to this day.

I see teens that are friends with my kids who have mothers who barely take care of them, and of course completely invisible fathers.

There are children so dear to me who do not have parents who will do anything to be with them or take care of them, who cannot be counted on to protect, love, and guide them.

It's heartbreaking on all levels.

When we say, "God, break my heart for the things that break yours" doesn't that include the children with dead, invisible, or indifferent parents?  I say yes.

Just because "God allows" things to happen does not mean everything is going to be ok.  The ripples of the loss of a parent could be so powerful as to change the course of generations.  The power of a mother that loves and cares for her children is a mighty thing that will also change the course of generations.

This is not about faith.  This is about understanding the role I play in my children's lives, and in the heart of my home, and knowing that this cannot be replaced or done without easily or without consequence.  I do not think I think too highly of myself.  In fact, I wish more mothers would realize the crucial role they have in their family.

I am not ready to die.  I still have children who need me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Facebook Update

It works!

When you make all of the irritating people's posts disappear, your level of irritation is reduced dramatically!

Who knew?

Ah.....facebook is a happy place again.  Forevermore I shall remember to use the -uncheck- next to Show in News Feed liberally.  It's good medicine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Loath to Desire: Wanters Just Don't Quit

I wrote an entire other post about someone I used to be friends with who was a chronic wanter.  She never felt the need to edit her wants, no matter how frivolous, expensive, or how much they would cost the rest of her family in resources/time/attention.  I ultimately decided not to publish it because I don't want to smack the hornets nest and end up having to hear from her or anyone close to her.  The bottom line is that I had many, many years to closely observe her pattern of dissatisfaction, always wanting more, getting more, being in debt, and sometimes even shortchanging her children in favor of something she wanted and got.  It was my only example of seeing someone want so much, and it was not admirable.  I never saw contentment.  I never saw that there was a point where she could just stop asking for more of everything.  It didn't do anything to make me think it would be better for me to start wanting.  It made me wonder if once you start asking for one thing after another, maybe it snowballs and you just don't know how to stop yourself.

Also, I guess I've just never believed that I needed something else to make life okay.  Even though I may have a dysfunctional way of avoiding wanting things, and not trusting that other people could -or would- even give me what I want, I do think that the lifetime cultivation of contentment, and knowing who I am despite what I'm wearing/how my hair looks/how much money I have/where I live/where I shop/what I do for a living/who I'm related to/or anything else.  Nothing on the outside gets a vote about who I am and what my potential is.  I am firmly in charge of myself, and can stand solo and be comfortable knowing that.

So maybe this little soul-searching series has only served to tell me that even though it may be good for me to be less afraid of wanting some things, that I still believe this is a pretty good way for me to be.  I don't spend my mental energy pining away for stuff I don't have.  I'm free to enjoy the blessings of my life and continue living without feeling disappointed by what isn't.

I found this chart on facebook this morning, and it said for me what I was already thinking about in relation to my former friend.  My cultivation of contentment has allowed me to be generally positive and happy and moving forward in my life.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Loath to Desire: The Wedding Photos

By the time I was heading to the altar, my parents were headed toward divorce.

As always, finances were tight, and I was going my best to plan even my wedding to be as inexpensive as possible.  Even so, there were some things that were important to my parents that were more expensive than what I would have been happy with.  One of those things was wedding pictures.

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom had wanted to have this particular photographer do my wedding photos.  He was a family friend and a popular photographer.  An expensive one, too!  Still, that's what my mom wanted, so that's what we planned to do.

When push came to shove, and things were getting uglier between my parents after I was married, my dad wasn't going to fork over any money to pay the balance due on the wedding photos.  It was about a  year after my wedding before I even got to see the proofs, and that was only because my mom had scrimped and saved to finally pay the bill. :(

Again, that feeling of guilt and sadness that my mom had sacrificed so much to do something for me.  She was struggling as a single mom with two teenagers at home and a difficult pending divorce without her former spouse paying anything toward support.  How I wish I could have spared my mom that burden!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Loath to Desire: College



I went to a high school that strongly promoted private 4-year colleges for pretty much all students that were seen as having any sort of professional potential whatsoever.  Community college seemed to be an option only for struggling students, aimless kids, and losers.  Nothing was ever explained about the financial savings, transferring credits, or about the many basic courses that could be taken via community college for a substantial savings, and then rolled into a 4-year college degree someplace else.

It is possible that we were told these things, but the only message I heard was FOUR YEAR COLLEGE.

Also, my home life situation was not the best.  I had no intention of staying at home any longer than absolutely necessary.

I worked two jobs through the summer, saved my money, and headed off to college where I got jobs on campus as well.  My parents had agreed to pay part of the tuition as well.

I had been interested in majoring in social work or psychology, but my father told me he would not support me going to college for these things because it would only get me a degree that would cause me to end up in a low-paying job "working with the dregs of society."  He wanted me to be a business major.

For three semesters I went to college, trying to major in something my father said was acceptable, while not really enjoying it or having a vision, plan, or inspiration for my future.  Up until just a few months ago, I believed that in my third semester of college I felt so confused about what I was doing there and what my purpose was for that education, that I decided to take a break so I could figure it out. (And not spend money while figuring it out.  Thematic!)

Several months back I remembered that there was something more.

For some reason, which still escapes my memory, my father and I had some conflict related to college.  I have smidgens of memories of things it might have been about.  The biggest recollection I have about it is that I knew he was manufacturing some conflict, because the real punchline in the whole thing was that he was not going to send in the money to the school that he had agreed to pay.

As has been typical for my father, rather than just fessing up about his inability to provide something financially, he would try to make it be about a punishment.  That way he can create an alternate reality that portrays him as the wise potential benefactor who had his hand forced to deny something to someone because of some higher standard of parenting, Christianity, morality, or something.

So, long story short, the relatively minor financial support (I think it may have been around $1200) that I had been promised, was now not coming.  I felt I had no choice but to leave college.

I remember the awkwardness of having to go into the office of the financial dean to explain that my bill was not going to be paid, because my father was not going to send the money, and so I was going to be  dropping out of school.  I recall the kind man's face as he looked so sorry for me.  It seems like he tried to offer me some sort of solutions, but my mind was made up.  I accepted the current debt, which seemed insurmountable to me at the time, and walked away from college half-way through my sophomore year.

I guess I learned well about alternate realities from my father, because I quickly focused on the positives, as well as the things I could stomach:  I don't know what I'm doing here in college anyhow, so I'm taking a break!  It costs too much for me to waste money not knowing my goals here!

I learned it so well that for 20+ years I didn't even remember what really pushed me out of school, and nobody else did either.  My mom barely remembers it, and my husband remembers it a little bit.  I know how to spin. What can I say?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Loath to Desire: The Ring




When friends were getting class rings in high school, I couldn't imagine asking my parents to spend so much money on a Jostens ring that wouldn't even be something I would want to wear past high school. I don't know how much of my thinking came from money guilt issues, and how much came from knowing that I didn't really like the rings and knew they were very temporary items.  

I got the idea from a friend to see about getting some sort of gemstone ring instead.  Something that I would enjoy wearing long-term, and that would have lasting value.  I did ask my parents about this idea, and they had agreed to do that for me.  I had tried on some rings various times when I was at the mall with friends, and had some ideas about what I would like, but all of them seemed like too much to ask for.

One day I was in our local jewelry store in our town, and I found a beautiful pearl-and-diamond ring that I really, really, really loved.  I tried it on, loved it even more, and when trying to understand the various numbers handwritten on the price tag, the salesperson told me it was something like $85.  That was way less than anything I was expecting it to be, and was less than any other rings I had seen at other stores.  I drove home to tell my parents about this ring.  My father seemed excited to go back to the store with me to get the ring.  I could see the strain on my mom's face, and I felt bad to even be asking for a ring at all.  But by then the request was known, and my dad took me back to the store.

Once we got there and I tried it on, I commented to the (different than the first) salesperson that I had seen it earlier in the day and was so surprised that it was only $85!  I then got the awkward news that the first salesperson had misread the numbers on the price tag.  It wasn't $85.  It was considerably more.  :(  My dad told me it was ok, and bought me the ring, and he was really nice about it and seemed pleased to be able to do that for me.  But it stuck with me that I never would have asked for it or even told him about it if I thought that it would be as much as it was, and I knew that my mom was stressing that my dad had gone ahead and spent money on the ring.  I felt bad to have made something happen that they clearly weren't in agreement about and that my mom was uncomfortable with.  I imagine that they probably had real pressing needs that those funds should have gone to.  I felt bad that she might have had to struggle even more than usual because that money was spent on me.  As an adult, I feel even worse about it, knowing how much my mom was probably going without while that non-essential purchase was made.

So, even though my dad did such a nice thing for me, it left me feeling at least vaguely ashamed for asking for something frivolous.  I have absolutely continued to feel this way about optional expenditures in my adult life.


Haters Gonna Hate


Am I the only one, or does facebook tend to make you hate people?

I'm thinking of that saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt."

In the wild and wooly world of facebook I see way too much of other people's opinions, pithy sayings, garish graphics, and more.  Facebook is like a giant runaway train/crazy quilt/small town newspaper, and everybody uses it in their own way.  With no rules, no one agenda, it's schizo all the time.

And the politics.  Lawsy lawsy.  The level of thinking in some of these posts and ensuing discussions is depressing, to say the least.  Critical thinking is dead in our society.

Add to that the fact that people seem to not know how to discuss hot topics with civility, charity, and clarity.....it's miserable.

Tonite I struck a large number of facebook "Friends" from my news feed.  I have learned the hard way in real life that knowing too much about some people is enough to make me not like them very much.  Facebook is turning out to be much the same.  Seeing fewer pretentious, callous, paranoid, or pithy posts may help me be able to stay an active member of society for a little while longer.  And hopefully be able to still like a few people that I have to see while I'm out and about.

In other thoughts:  Does menopause tend to make you hate people?  If so, I am going to have to reserve a spot on an ice floe because I am not going to be able to bear it.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

B.S.

Peeve:

People who use God, the Holy Spirit, and/or their Husband (capital H, for sure) to hide behind and not take responsibility for themselves and their own actions.

Seems like scummy b.s. to me.

And that's all I have to say about that.

For now.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Loath to Desire, Part two: Wants may cause suffering

Lesson:  If I get what I want, someone else may be suffering in order to give it to me.  Another lesson that I learned early and learned well was that it is risky to want things, because getting what I want might mean that someone else does not get what they want or need, or that someone will sacrifice something in order for me to have my want.  That solidly strikes me as a bad thing, and I have an easy time relegating my wants to the back burner in the face of just about any other legitimate thing that seems to be at odds with it.


Lesson:  Being financially invisible is less upsetting than having someone have to support me.  As a child and teen I remember being aware of financial strains in my family, and the logical solution that I resolved upon within myself was to try to be financially invisible as much as possible.  I got jobs as early as I could be hired, and then almost never had to ask my parents for a few bucks to go to a youth group event or to go out for pizza with my friends.  It wasn't that my parents were trying to make me feel bad about money.  It's just something I knew about and internalized in a way that was striving to be as little trouble as possible, and also to insulate myself from the uncomfortable feelings that came with asking for things,  or needing things.

I would feel bad about needing money from my parents for my school vocal ensemble uniform, or to go on a retreat.  That sense of feeling guilty and like a burden poked at my conscience.  I always had those things, but I worried that I had somehow caused a strain on my parents.

My brother played hockey.  It's an expensive sport.  Between the fees, equipment, extra skate time, the skates and laces, admission to the games, snacks during the games, and trips to away games, even all the way to Canada, I'm sure my parents spent a lot more on all of that than anything I did.  I'm sure it was probably a challenge, at times, for them to afford to do all of that as well.  I don't remember ever feeling anything about the financial side of that.  I just think of it now, and wonder why I was the kid that felt like I had to suppress the normal expenses that went with being a kid in my family.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Loath to Desire, Part One

It's risky to want something.  Isn't it?

Somewhere early on, I learned well that to want is to be disappointed, and possibly to hurt.  And the hurt must be avoided.

The antidote?  To be strong.  To be content.  And to not dare want anything too big, too risky, or too unlikely.

Contentment is a virtue!  Right?  Yes!  When I combine my strength, my contentment, my mental control, I can bloom where I'm planted and be happy and free to focus on the many, many blessings in my life.

And that is how I have lived for a very long time.

My husband asked me the other day, what could he give me that would mean a lot and last forever?

What a perplexing question.

My mind went in several directions, trying to figure out an answer.  How do I answer this in truth?  How do I answer this without daring to want?  To desire something I do not have?

The safe-and-true answer came forth first:  What I want is for us to keep moving forward, keeping on  saying yes to our marriage and our family and our life that we have been building together for all of these years.  What I want is to keep digging in, keep turning back to each other, keep holding hands and moving forward and working together, even when things feel hard or disappointing or scary or hopeless.

Yes.  That's true.  Honestly.

But I felt more wishes welling up in me.  More answers bubbling to the surface.  And right away, as I could start to identify them, I could feel the pain of feeling (knowing?) that I could not have those things, and that verbalizing them would make the wants real, and that would be too risky.  Too dangerous.  Too scary.  Tears were welling up in my eyes before my mind had fully formed my desires.

Such a strong emotional reaction.  Obviously there is something there that needs some work.

It is pretty tricky to be in the midst of so many emotional thoughts, the emotional reaction, and then also trying to play armchair psychologist to oneself.

I won't pretend that I fully managed to pull it off.

The one thought that came to me was that the risk of wanting seems too great to contend with.  There is a big part of me that feels that to dare to really want something is so risky that it should be avoided as much as possible.  I fear that if I put my whole heart into wanting something, not getting it would be so painful that it could destroy me, or something.

Really.  It feels that big.

Desire:  Maybe I just don't know how to do it right?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To All the Pearl-Clutchers, About Fifty Shades of Grey

Not only is  Fifty Shades of Grey in the press right now, but the Christian lady bloggers seem to feel they must discuss (and condemn) it as well. I read this article and this one, and a friend on facebook asked for comments about it. 


How can there really be a meaningful and respectful discussion when the prevailing mindset among the Christian blogger gals is that it can be judged solidly (and harshly) without having any firsthand experience with the material? This whole "I haven't read it and I don't need to read it" mentality reminds me of the great Harry Potter and Pokemon hysterias of decades-gone-by.  Oh yes!  You are taking hearsay and overly-literal interpretations of marketing hype, stirring it up with some Bible verses, and deciding you've got it all figured out and can say without a doubt that it is 100% bad for everybody. It's one thing to decide that you aren't interested in reading something, It's another to out-of-hand declare something or someone as sinful and wrong when you don't actually know what you're talking about. I don't get the impression that naysayers are at all open to alternate perspectives. But I'm gonna give you mine anyhow.


I think that it is good to know your own tendencies and temperament when it comes to the media that you take in. There are certainly people who find themselves caught up in fantasy worlds easily, and become discontent with real life in comparison. There are others who can appreciate a story line and the character development in a story and not get hung up on the detailed parts of the journey, getting an overall message instead. There are those who might trade in relating to a real husband, for fantasizing about an imaginary one. There are those who might learn some tips that could enhance their marriage and be very appreciated by their spouse and do nothing but good for the relationship. We can't *always* anticipate how things will affect us, but generally speaking probably most adults have a good idea of what kind of reaction they have to fiction in general, and should make choices accordingly.


There was a time in my life when I would have easily decided not to watch certain movies, TV shows, or read certain books, just because of a particular content.  However, over time I have found that I enjoy broadening my perspective about other people, their experiences and perspectives, etc. and I am able to take in a movie/book/TV series and see the overall storyline and character development, rather than being bogged down in the details of how they got there.  An example would be the HBO series Six Feet Under, which remains one of my all-time favorites.  The series has just about every bad type of thing in it that you can imagine.  If you watched just one or two episodes with a particular absolutist mindset, you could easily say to yourself that you did not wish to watch any more of it because you do not want to see illicit sex/illegal drug use/homosexuality/premarital sex/extramarital sex/stealing/unwholesome language/promiscuity/nudity/etc. etc. etc.  However, my experience of watching every episode of every season was that there was a powerful storyline and development for the complex, multi-dimensional characters in the series, and the many ups and downs and choices both good and bad that they made contributed to their overall journey.  When I think about Six Feet Under, I think about the characters and their relationships with each other, and the story of this family that is told so beautifully and powerfully and humorously and cleverly and compellingly.  Have I been influenced to do things that I would not normally have done because of watching Six Feet Under?  Nope.  I can see all of those things and learn to understand and have compassion for the various characters, and still be myself--never having used illegal drugs, never having been drunk, never having had illicit sex, etc.  I am me, and I know my own self and my own mind and I am strong enough to not be swayed in my personal decisions by stories.


Same with reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  I heard about it.  I read some reviews.  I was not drawn into the obvious marketing hype of calling it "mommy porn."  I did not scurry away in fear because it was categorized as erotica.  More than a few times I have innocently borrowed a book from the library or gotten a free kindle book that I didn't know much about, and ended up with something a little racy.  I didn't think there was going to be anything too outrageous in it.  And frankly, after reading a few "I'm not going to read it but I'm sure-as-shootin' gonna preach against it" blog posts, I decided I'd like to be actually aware of what we're all talking about. So I borrowed it from the library and read it.


Know what?  


There is an actual story line.  (Though the writing is not terrific quality.  If you managed to enjoy the Twilight books even though it isn't great literature, you'll be ok with Shades.)  So, according to sources that said that the erotica genre is meant to have zero storyline, and only as a vehicle for sexual content, I will tell you that this book is not that. 


There is character development, relational development, back story, humor, heartwarming stuff, mystery, danger, adventure, and more in this book series.  It is much more than a kinky sex book.  Honest, I mean it.


The sex is not gratuitous.  There is a developing relationship, and in the course of the three books (Yes I ended up reading all three) I think you will appreciate how it develops.


The sex scenes didn't strike me as especially exciting or erotic.  Frankly, I've found a lot of other books to be sexier.  This may be because of my personal reaction to my next point:


Probably the only reason this book is even making such headlines right now is because some of the sex stuff is atypical.  For those of us unfamiliar with the ins and outs of dominance and submission sexual practices, there will be a lot of new stuff.  You may or may not find it interesting, appealing, or want to Try This At Home.  To me, I found it vaguely interesting to become aware of, read about many things that I would not be at all interested in doing, read about many things that sound pretty unrealistic, and picked up maybe one or two ideas of things I might just test out in real life.  (and my husband says the cost of books 2 and 3 via kindle was worth every penny since he is the benefactor of whatever creativity I obtained.  Ha!)


About the BDSM:  It has some B and some D, but no S and M.  Probably not in any ways you would be predisposed to think of it being done, either.


Books like this have a certain appeal because they are unrealistic.  Virgins always initially wince once during their first time and then want to get it on six more times within the next 24 hours.  Nobody ever has to get up to pee before, during, or after sex.  There is no wet spot on the bed sheets.  The guy always knows just how to do everything, so the girl is always gasping and writhing around in ecstasy.  He never does anything too hard/too soft/in the wrong spot/or misses the mark in any way.  At least one of the characters is always impossibly, amazingly wealthy.  And nobody has back fat or jiggles in ways that are unsightly or cause them to be inhibited in the least.  I guess there are some women who might read these books and then spend days/weeks/months pouting about how terribly imperfect their real life and real man is.  (And that is one category of woman that should not read books like this.)  For me, I just laughed at some of the stuff and thought about the comedy of errors that a real-life testing of these concepts would be sure to be.  It's entertainment in a different sort of way.  :)


It is a story.  A story with no greater power than any other story.  Normal people will not read this story and suddenly prefer the fictitious Christian Grey to their own spouse.  


Just because a story includes sexual content does not automatically mean that it is pornographic.






I would like to address some of the things I read in the two naysayer/pearl-clutcher articles I read:


About being horrified that your friend's 77 year old mother is on the library waiting list to read it:


So often I see that younger women don't take the time to ask older women why they are ok with doing something that may seem (to the younger women) shocking or wrong or whatever. Why do we not have the instinct (humility?) to ask questions and be open to learning something that may surprise us? Sure, we might not always agree with the perspective we get, but is it possible that we could learn something that we hadn't expected to learn? Instead we have a younger woman disapproving of something older women are doing, and being very sure that she knows all without the actual experience to back it up. For women so interested in citing Bible verses to tell us not to read a book, it seems they might have availed themselves of the insights of older women instead of talking about them.


About the person you heard about that "couldn't get the images out of her mind."


I would need to know more of the specifics.  If this is someone who can't cope with real life after reading about pretend life, she needs to avoid fiction like the plague.  If this is someone who found the sexual practices in the book memorable, maybe she needs to expand her horizons at home in the boudoir.  Frankly, while probably not common choices, I didn't see too many things (if anything) in the book that I would think of as morally wrong for a married couple to do.  If you're both up for it, heck--give it a whirl.  You might be singing the praises of Shades of Grey by tomorrow morning!  (short version:  Just because someone can't get images out of their mind doesn't automatically mean something bad has happened.)


"When it comes to great sex with your spouse, the very first place you need to focus is the Lord and His Word--sources that overflow with provisions for all that is needed for fulfilling sexual intimacy within our marriage bed."


Bull crap.  Sorry.  I know this is a church-lady-approved thing to say, but I say bull crap.  Nobody gets horny while focusing on the Lord and His Word.  (You show me a wife that's putting this advice to use, and I'll show you a husband who wishes she'd read Fifty Shades of Grey or some other romance book and get some fresh ideas for the bedroom!)  And frankly, the Song of Solomon is so poetic and symbolic that a lot of people would have trouble trying to figure out what the heck is really being said.  A book that actually tells about stuff to do and how to do it is a bit more user-friendly, don't you think?  And I'm not talking clinical stuff like Ed Wheat.  (Prayerfully insert part A into part B.....)  I think we all know that in reality, some more information than what's in the Bible is helpful for couples who want to have a really great sex life.  


"...there is only one who should stimulate sexual desire in me:  my husband.  Since that's God's plan for my sexual desire, anything other than my husband creating arousal in me would be missing the mark of God's intention. "


OK.  So I guess then it would *not* be ok for people to read Song of Solomon and pick up on anything that might get their juices flowing.  Alrighty then.  Interesting, since it's included in the Bible and all.  I don't know about your husband, but mine is pretty dang happy to be the recipient of any and all arousal that happens, regardless of what inspired it.  I think I'll let him be the deciding factor on this, and not some stranger on the internet.  If your husband thinks he's getting you aroused enough on his own studly merits and doesn't want you accidentally drumming up any enthusiasm for jumping his bones elsewhere, then, you know--whatever works for ya.  


Trying to start a facebook movement where people post "I'm not reading Fifty Shades of Grey."


I'm sure the author, publisher, and amazon.com thank you for the free publicity.  (Why are people so ridiculous to give hype where they supposedly don't want any?  If you were *really* wanting to keep this quiet, you wouldn't be bringing everyone's attention to it.)


"It's a waste of precious time!"


Yep.  Just like reading blogs (and commenting!) on the internet and spending your time on facebook.  How 'bout you mind your own business and I'll mind mine, kay?


I don't have to read it to know that it is bad/sinful/wrong/going to damage relationships!


If you don't read it, you don't know what you are talking about and you sound ridiculous to those that have read it and know how misconstrued your "facts" are.  Gossip is gossip, ladies, even when you are just trying to convince yourself and others not to read something.  You can be a champion to the ignorant, and a fool to those who actually know what the subject matter is.  Congratulations.








In conclusion, I do want to say that I understand that not everybody, and certainly not every Christian, will be comfortable reading a romance book, whether it be Fifty Shades of Grey or anything else.  I do not think everybody should read it.  Know yourself and make a reasonable decision.  What I do think is that there is a range of possible outcomes and risks/benefits, and that it can be left to the discretion of the individual as to whether or not they can read it.  For me, I enjoyed all three books, reading the series did not rock my world, and whatever sparks of sexual energy and inspiration might have come from it-- my marriage has benefitted, there was no down side, and that's good enough for us.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Volunteers?

I need somebody to come over here and make some dinner and bake some cookies. Who's it gonna be?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Oh No I Won't.

People say, "you'll miss these years!". I say: if I never see another dried booger stuck to the wall it'll be mighty fine with me!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Them's the Facts

Boys confused about why their bedding smells weird. That's B.O., son.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Testing. Testing. (is this thing on?)

GO TO BED! GO TO BED! 
(Could you hear me? Because nobody here seems to be able to.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Church Woes

We moved to this area over 12 years ago, effectively moving too far away from our church at the time to continue to attend there.  Though we did go sporadically for awhile, various life issues made it pretty rare, and eventually we turned to trying to find a local church that we could go to.  Two good, solid attempts were made, each church that we attended we probably stayed at for about a year or more each.  We gave it enough time to really try to make it work, and in both cases, we realized it couldn't.

By then there was a new church plant that had branched off of our original church, and was close enough that we could possibly go.  We visited one week and it felt like a "click" for us--especially for our then 12 year old son who had started to really dislike the close-to-home church we had been going to.  We were looking at him, our oldest child, about to be in the teen years, and figured that hating your church was not a good thing, so we made the leap and dug in to the new church plant, even though it was a 30 minute drive from home.

Here we are 7+ years later, and again things are different.  Our hectic school year and resulting fatigue and overload has contributed to us probably only making it to church 3 or 4 times since last August.  Our kids never seemed to care, and other than some obligatory guilt, neither did my husband or I.  When we would make it to church we mainly felt like nobody cared if we were there or not, and for whatever reason, none of my kids seemed to have meaningful friendships with any of the kids there.  By now my oldest, who was one of the biggest reasons we went to that church in the first place, is now grown up, working, and not really interested in attending church there (or anywhere) any more, so he's no longer a factor in our church decisions.  The few friends that my current 13 year old child did have through church was complicated by the fact that *that* family had left our church recently, so not there isn't even anybody in the youth group age bracket that he is connected to or wants to see.  When the youth group schedule was changed in such a way as to make it even more difficult for our family to have any chance of participation, my 16 year old daughter told me that she didn't even care, and that she had no interest in going to any of the youth group stuff anyhow.

Alrighty then.

My younger kids, despite there being a large focus in this church of having things that are quite "hip" and geared toward their gender and age group, didn't really like it, were loathe to participate in most of what was going on at church, and always expressed relief when each Sunday rolled around and they found out that we were staying home (again).  Strangely, even after all the years of a small group type format in their kids church, not a single one of my kids made a significant friend at church.  Not a one of them.  Weird.

So all of this has given some food for thought.  What the heck are we going to do about church?

If it was just about me, I'd probably just not bother with church for the foreseeable future, quite honestly.  I feel like my ideas and beliefs have evolved to a point that I don't know where I could go to church and feel like it makes sense for me.  My husband tends to not want to admit any church apathy of his own, but his lack of motivation in going to church tells the truer tale, I think.

Regardless, we have children that still need to be reared, and my upbringing (I suppose) makes me feel that church should be a part of that.  Say what you want to about fundamentalist churches.  For me, growing up in churches and with a school that got me memorizing scripture, knowing every basic Bible story, knowing the books of the Bible by heart and being fast at "sword drills," knowing hymns and choruses by heart, knowing the Romans Road and the sinners prayer, understanding my childhood denomination's stance on various theological issues...all of that has been uploaded into my brain and is in there, for better or for worse.  I'm reminded that whether I do or do not go to church as an adult, I already have a whole lot of Bible and God stuff inside of me that influences who I am and what I do and what I believe. I guess I would consider it a benefit that I have so much of all of that as a foundational part of my understanding of Christianity.

What I often think about, though, is that my kids haven't really had that.  Churches have changed a lot, and we haven't been to ones that focuses on Bible memory and Bible stories and spiritual fundamentals all that much.  Certainly they've gotten a decent amount of those things, but nothing even close to what I grew up with.  I don't know what kind of outcome (I don't even know if that's the right way to say it) to expect if my younger kids don't get more.

Periodically I've considered sending them to Wednesday night stuff at our local Baptist church, thinking it might just be a good booster shot of fundie stuff that they aren't otherwise getting.  Alas, they don't want to go, and our schedule couldn't bear one more thing anyhow.

Several weeks ago I found out about a church about 15 minutes away that sounded like it had a balance of casualness, societal awareness, and hopefully not oppressive conservativeness.  We ended up deciding to go check it out.  We already know a family there, so my kids were walking into having friends in their classes, which was a plus, especially for my teenagers.  On the first week all 5 kids seemed very happy.  My younger boys were excited to have learned about Ruth in their Sunday School class.  My teens seemed happy and eager to get a parental commitment on whether or not we would continue to go there.  Through the week they even started referring to our regular church as "our old church."  We attended again today, and the kids liked it again.  But for me, personally, there was so much stuff that left me feeling blah, and then the more I thought about it, the more worked up and negative I felt.

The adult Sunday school class I attended (both weeks) had no depth and dealt with no real issues, real questions, or real problems.  I would expect a deeper class than that for elementary school kids.  Why on earth people even older than me would need a bunch of trite, pat answers to stuff that isn't even reality, I have no idea.  I honestly do not think I could endure going to a class like that for very many weeks.  At least at the church I (don't) go to, people talk about real issues, aren't afraid of not having the "right" answers for everything, and can talk openly about stuff that they think about and struggle with. This was worse than fluff, and I find that really, really meaningless.  Plus annoying.

The sermon was ok, but again, felt lacking in depth.  The pastor was pleasant, seemed very sincere and seemed very nice.  But I felt like everything he said was very safe, and that there were many times throughout his sermon that he could have been more personal or vulnerable, but he never did step into those opportunities, so it came across as pretty clinical to me.  I don't have to have a dazzling speaker, but I do want something that seems real and honest, and something substantial and thought-provoking wouldn't hurt either.  He also talked about the importance of going to Sunday School and Wednesday night services, because they were so enriching, blah blah blah.  Yeah, well, I could get greater spiritual enlightenment out of a good hot soak in the bathtub.  And eventually it was mentioned that the Wednesday night Bible study was about creation, which didn't exactly sound spiritually enriching nor life-enhancing to me.  (and the youth group, lawsie lawsie, is doing a several-week Wednesday night series about sex, and I sure as shootin' ain't going to send my two teens into a group of kids they barely know, with a youth leader than hasn't even made the effort to say hello to me for two weeks in a row, to talk about not having sex, etc.  No thank you.  We will not be participating.)  If this is the best this church has to offer for spiritual enrichment and ways to "connect" with other people, I fear this is going to be some dry bones for me.  Add in the fact that my schedule ended up getting *worse* for the summer, instead of less crazy--I am even less inclined to have one more place to go, one more day for lunch to be chaos and kids to be moaning about how HUNGRY they are on the way home.  I absolutely hate this whole combination of stuff and wonder whose bright idea was it to make church end after normal lunch time?  I wish there was a Saturday night church someplace around here....

There were other things, less glaring, but still felt a little -blah- to me.  While I was treated very kindly by senior citizens, I didn't have a single woman near my own age say hello to me or take any interest in me whatsoever.  (My friend that I know there did take us under her wing and was great--no problem with her or her family at all.)  There are wretched donuts on hand, which I would prefer to not have my kids eating or tempted by.  And--petty though it may be--the screen for the music is so high that it hurt my neck to look up at it, and the background behind the words on the screen moved around so much it made me dizzy and I had to not look at it very much.  Made me feel like a total geezer!  The fact that I don't know hardly any of the songs that they sing isn't helpful either.  There was already a little girl flirting with my boys while they were trying to participate in singing (the songs that we do not know).  She was batting her eyes and tapping them on the shoulders and generally being distracting.  She was kinda young, and I found myself wondering where the heck her parents were and why she was free to just come busting into our row to mess with my kids.  Ugh.  I do not feel like putting up with this stuff.

But there are my kids, thinking that maybe they just got themselves a new church to go to.

What do I do?  What do I do!?  They had recently been feeling a need for church (especially my 13 year old), and this is one they can walk into and feel comfortable with right away thanks to the friends they already have there.  They like it and are asking to go back.  Do I accept this as a parental duty and just take them?  Do we try to redouble our efforts at our church of the last 7 years, and see what can be done to make ourselves feel at home there?  (except, of course, that none of my kids are feeling connected there after 7 years, so.....what are the chances of that happening now?)  I don't know which aspects to give priority to.  At our 7 year church we have relationships with some of those people that go back 20 years.  As I've mentioned in past posts, I take relationship longevity seriously.  I wouldn't want to walk away from that lightly.  Except of course for the fact that really, we already have, just by pulling so far back that now there are a bunch of new people there who would think that *we* are visitors if we showed up.

I know that we don't want to go on an all-out church hunt.  The only reasons we even visited this church was because it is a fairly new church that wasn't even in existence last time we looked for a church closer to home, and it sounded more balanced than most, and like it might be similar to what we have been used to.  We hate church hunting and don't like jerking our kids around, either.  It does seem like, spiritually-speaking, that all (or most) of our 5 younger kids are in need of a change and could stand to have something new injected into their church experience.  I feel like if we haven't seen strong (or even mediocre) results after 7 years where we've been, it's probably time to admit that and mosey along.  But I feel like the options for me personally are rather bleak.  I realize that it *could* get better with time, and that two weeks isn't enough time to know everything.  I did like the mix of ages at this church. I liked it that it is much more racially diverse than other church options we have available.  I like it that we have one good friendship with a family there for starters.  I like it that the kids would actually be making friendships with kids that live in our general area, which was not the case in our 7-year church.  It's not all bad.  Just feels like I might have to check my brain at the door and add one more dutiful item to the long list of motherly duties I already perform in my life.  It would be nice to not feel like that about church.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

This

I saw this today:


"Compassion means to become close to the one who suffers. 
But we can come close to another peron 
only when we are willing to become vulnerable ourselves. 
A compassionate person says: '
I am your brother; 
I am your sister; 
I am human, 
fragile, 
and mortal,
 just like you. 
I am not scandalized by your tears, nor 
afraid of your pain...'" 
~Henri Nouwen

It makes me think that there is no "safe" middle ground for me.  No way to be compassionate and have empathy, without also feeling pulled into vulnerability and pain.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Time Has Not Healed This Wound

My fourth child was born 3 months early.  I've told the story here.  For years I could not look at a photo of a premature baby--any baby--without crying at the sight.  For years it seemed like the event of Isaac's birth and the surrounding months was some sort of touchstone:  Before that happened.  and After that happened.

When we were in the NICU I would sometimes think that someday in the future, maybe when Isaac turned 1 or 2 or 3, I would take him back there and announce ourselves so the nurses and doctors on duty could have the fun of coming out to see what a strong and healthy boy he had become.  I saw people doing that while I was there, and the staff told me how much they loved those reunions; how it inspired them to remember that the small babies in their care would grow up and many of them would be just fine. They told me they hoped we would come back, send cards, and let them know how our story turned out.

When year one approached, I thought about taking him back.  Even being in the same general building for checkups in the NICU Grad Clinic felt much too close for me.  I didn't think I could walk down those familiar NICU halls or speak to the medical staff without just crying my heart out.

I felt the same every single time I have ever considered taking him on a here's-where-you-started-your-life tour.

I thought I might have gotten past that, until today.

Today Isaac is 12 years old.  I don't remember the last time that I thought of my timeline in terms of Before and After that happened.  On the way to our homeschool group this morning, we were hastily trying to figure out what we would do for our class presentations, since we hadn't planned or practiced any.  For Isaac, I suggested, "Maybe since it's your birthday you could talk about your unique start in life.  You could tell about how you were so little that your biggest brother said you could fit into a tissue box.  You could tell about how you were such a rambunctious little squirt that the nurses would constantly find you having scootched your way into a corner of your "bread box" isolette."

He liked the idea, but didn't have time to organize all of the ideas, so I offered to write up his presentation for him and give it to him in time to present it.

I wrote it.

I gave it to him.

The time came.

He began:

"Today is my 12th birthday, so I'm going to talk to you about my unusual start in life.  Most babies spend 9 month growing inside of their mother before they are born, but I was born after just 6 months...."

and I started to cry.

It was both surprising, shocking, and familiar.  The stark sadness of the words that I myself had written just a few minutes before jumped right out at me as if it was fresh, bad news.

Why didn't I know this would happen?!  I'm not going to be able to pull out of it.....

Poor kid.  He got about one sentence farther in his presentation, to the first giggle about the tissue box, when he looked up at me and saw me crying.

That did it.

I was blinded by my tears at that point, but next thing I knew Isaac was making a beeline straight for my arms, both of us crying and crying.

Phew.  Lawsie.   Gotta take another deep breath.

Thankfully, we have a very kind, supportive, and polite group of boys and moms in our class.  They were the perfect combination of sensitive, understanding, and kind while moving on to something else while Isaac and I sat, intertwined and crying, for at least 20 minutes.

Just when I think we've moved past the pain;  just when I think it's far enough in the past that it won't jump up and bite....Boom!  There it is.

And it was today.

Many people go through things so, so much worse than what we endured.  Many people do not get the excellent outcome that we have experienced with our son.  Yet, "logical" or not--the pain is real, the trauma can still be raw, and time has not yet healed this wound.

I know what it is

I figured out what it is.  About the domestic violence situation and my felt need to separate myself from her choice to go back.

Here it is:  For over three years, whatever situation she's been in, I've "been there" with her via the texts, emails, chats, and phone calls.  I've spent time wondering if she was safe, worrying about what would happen when he got angry at her again, concerned for the safety of the little children involved.

When she left, the relief and happiness I felt was because, in a way, I was leaving too.

And when she went back, I felt like she was asking me to go back with her.  And I can't.  I won't.  She may choose to go back, but I do not want to go back to hell with her.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Drained

Have you ever relaxed in a bathtub, and then pulled the plug and laid there as the water drained out?  You know that feeling that starts to happen as the water gets below about half way down your hip?  Where you feel like you might just slither away right down the drain?

That's how I've been feeling.

That pull.  My energy going down the drain.  Too heavy to get up.  Can't retrieve my energy from way down the tubes where it has run off.

It's a combination of things:

-The emotional and energetic "bowling balls" (as I call them), dragging around behind, always there making each step feel heavier and harder than it should be.

-The schedule:  Over-full doesn't even begin to cover it.  Yet it's what I have to do, so I'm doing it, except the tireder I get, the more things are falling through the cracks.

-The conflict between the important-but-not-urgent, the urgent-and-important, and the-urgent-but-not-important.....it lives and breathes it's hot, stale breath on my neck.

I'm dissatisfied with the amount of important-but-not-urgent things that are fallen by the wayside.  More and more I find myself dreaming of entire days and weeks when I could lovingly fold laundry, cook nice meals, straighten bright and welcoming bedrooms for each family member, brush the dogs out in my beautiful back yard, vacuum and mop my floors...

In theory I am in charge of my own schedule.  In reality I feel like I'm living on a treadmill with a speed set by someone else.  It doesn't seem like I have the time to do those things when I actually have the energy for it.

Energy.  Now there's a commodity I wish I could get more of.  I don't caffeinate, so my energetic levels are depressingly honest at all times.  My body is already suffering from pushing the overdrive button too many times, and it feels like now it is asking for (demanding?) respect in the form of rest.

I'm tired a lot.  I've seen a naturopath and am taking supplements to help my exhausted and faltering adrenals and thyroid.  All of what I'm experiencing physically makes perfect sense for what my body has going on.  The problem is, it feels like I don't have the luxury of really giving myself what I need.

I am thinking that this is a nearly universal problem in our society.  I'm not sure if I know anybody who is a mother that isn't living their life pedal-to-the-metal.  All of the moms busily getting their kids ready to drop off at day care before they put in a full day of work, and then go pick them up, take them home, feed them, bathe them, try to get in some quality time before popping them into bed and then trying to spend some quality time with their spouse as well.  All of the homeschool moms, spending their days doing at least two full time jobs simultaneously--trying to manage a household PLUS take on the gargantuan task of educating young minds....and usually doing it on too few financial resources, and picking up the extra slack to make it work.  Or, working a side job or running a business or whatever else they do to both remind themselves that they have brains and talents outside of the home, or just to help make ends meet.

There are a zillion varieties of what we all do.  I can't help but think that all of it is off-balance and maybe sucking the joy out of life.  When I imagine myself way up in the sky, looking down at all the life-suckingly-busy people, I feel so sad, I could cry for all of us.  Have we lost our way?  Has it always been like this in some form?

What would a simple-and-satisfying life look like?

When trying to answer this question, I'm always reminded of reading The Good Life.  It is one couple's story of living a self-sustainable life, and leaving space to enjoy life too.  They talk about how they divided up their time, working to grow and create only what they needed--never extra to sell or get into a business with.  They left margins in their life for art and music and poetry and friendships.  They were very consciously leaving space for each good and important thing.

It's inspiring.  Tempting.

Except, then, they didn't have six children to love and educate and help develop.  Heck--if it was just me I could cut out a huge range of the things that I do.  I'd eat cereal and take naps liberally and read a lot of books and grow some tomatoes.

I don't know how to do what they did.  It doesn't seem hardly even remotely possible for me.

I thought about trying to have a weekly Day of Rest in our family.  I found that the only day I could possibly take was Sunday.  But the only way it would actually be restful is if we didn't go anywhere, including church.  Truth be told, we have probably only gone to church about 3 times during this entire school year.  Unfortunately, very few of those Sundays ended up feeling entirely restful, because they doubled as Academic Panic Day, where we would scurry around to finish up papers and presentations for our homeschool program that meets on Mondays.

Throw in a little guilt and uncertainty about the relative okeedokeyness of barely attending church any more for your young children....and the rest is nominal at best.

Empathy has drained me as well.  I have come to believe that my capacity for empathy is probably at a level that is unhealthy for me.  This past week + has reminded me of how true this is.

A very dear person in my life has been living in violent circumstances with her spouse for several years.  Up until recently I have been the only person she confided in about what was going on.  Wanting to be supportive and to help, I've been the endless listening ear and confidant.  I have counseled, made suggestions, and offered to go to great lengths to help this person.  There has been a lot of hard stuff to hear and to try to be supportive through, while also being deeply concerned.

The texts would come all through the day, all through school time and work time and nap time and anytime.  And I said yes and helped and wrote back and was present with it, even at the expense of my own concentration of things that are primarily my responsibility and needing my attention.

And finally she had the courage to leave, taking her vulnerable small children with her.  When I got the text I felt like I had gotten the best gift I could have gotten at that moment, because I had been so worried about her safety.

And my emotional reaction to that made me a little bit worried for myself, because it reminded me that I have become very emotionally involved in this situation, yet I have no control over what's going to happen.  My heart is all out there for it, my energy has been pouring into it, and I'm vulnerable to how it's all going to go down, even though it's somebody else's fight.

For something like 10 days I've had more texts, requests for help, been begged to remind her why she left and what the truth is, and I won't lie--it has come at a personal cost to do all of these things.  Was it a cost I was willing to pay?  Yes!  To see her safe and in a peaceful situation would be worth so much to me.  And yet here today she texts to say that she thinks she'll go back tonite, that it seems right.

And my reaction just bubbled up in me so strongly.  The BS meter was ringing loud and clear.  There is nothing about what has been going on that makes this decision make sense.

I know, both from reading and from being told by two friends that have been in domestic violence situations, that she would be likely to go back.  That the first time they leave is typically the first of several before the final leaving happens.  I know it.  I understand that.  And yet I feel a sense of betrayal in it, because by crackie I've BEEN HERE FOR YOU and I feel like all of the emotional and energetic investment I have made are being disrespected.

And I know, I KNOW, before you try to explain it to me.  You don't have to.  I am able to see many sides to this, and I understand that she has to make the decision on her own, and she has to go back and live through some more hell before she can really walk away, blah blah blah blah.  I get it.  I understand the psychology of it to some extent.  Yes.

But I realize that I have just allowed myself to get in too deep, and I feel hurt and exhausted and angry.  I have kept it to myself, haven't said any of these things to her.  She has enough to deal with.  I cannot and will not become a different kind of bully in her life.  I want to be purely loving and supportive.

But there's that part of me that is just *pissed* and I feel disrespected and like I just don't know how I can continue on in this role of support person for someone who so clearly is going to falter for some more time.  I am glad that she has been forced to tell some other people about her problems, because I am burnt out on playing the role of sole confidant; burnt out from carrying that load. I don't even know for sure if she went back, but her uncharacteristic text silence and the glib facebook post from her husband make me think she has.  Really, whether or not she went tonite isn't the point. The point is that she can and probably will go back at some point, and I am in over my head in caring about this.  Today has shown me that, at the very least.

(I know...  I know...it's not about me.  I feel somewhat guilty even admitting how I feel about this.  I just don't know how much more my heart can take!!)

My empathy is something that I think is one of the best things about me, and one of the worse as well.  Best for anybody that needs me, because I will cheer and be loyal and be endlessly available and sharing and open to help you and encourage you or listen to you and be compassionate.  Honestly, I have not found many people who give a damn as much as I do.  Worst for me because I don't know how to scale my empathy to a reasonable level.  I'm either all-in, or I'm pretty much all-out.

One thing I have learned about myself is that when people in my life have been the recipient of my care, and then they disrespect it in some way, generally speaking I will withdraw, and the relationship probably won't recover.  I can't give away such large pieces of my heart to people who treat me shabbily.  I feel like, if they cannot understand the value of what I have been giving and what I have to offer, then I just cannot go forward any more.  Maybe it's because I give so freely, so kindly, without ever asking for anything in return, that it is inevitable that some people will disrespect it.  After all--it has cost them nothing to have this piece of me.  I don't know how to open my heart to people, while also making sure they understand that *it costs me plenty to give it.*  How do you give with an open hand, but also insure some level of protection for yourself?  For a long time now, I've accepted that the vulnerability goes with the territory.  It's a noble thing to accept, but I'm not sure how completely healthy it is.  Is there a better (different?) way?  I've got plenty of people who need me, right here at my own home.  I'm not desperate to be spreading myself so thin.  If you don't want me on your team, say the word.  It's too painful to care about people who don't appreciate it and don't understand it.

It's very common that people will make comments about how busy I must be, about how they appreciate the time I have spent on helping them with something, blah blah blah.  In most cases, as soon as they don't like something I've done or not done or said or not said, they show me that they don't really understand or appreciate what I've been sacrificing for them at all.

It's discouraging.

This has been a long and winding road of rambles.  I shut my phone off hours ago and plan to leave it off for much of tomorrow.  I need some insulation.