Tuesday, April 30, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: A new lesson

Today I successfully pulled on my Big Girl Pants and stood up for myself.

I mentioned how put-upon I've been feeling.  Well, I had an "opportunity" to speak clearly about my needs in the situation.

It's funny how even when I'm being completely reasonable, it feels difficult to say no to someone.

Years ago I discovered a valuable thing:  Bad behavior thrives in situations where everybody will pretend it doesn't exist.  When you dare to call someone out on their bad behavior, so often they no longer have the balls to keep up with it.

I am wondering now if this put-upon thing is the same.  If people ask me for stuff that I don't want to do/feels unreasonable/is just too much for me to take on, if I tell them straight-up my limitations or problems with their request, will they try harder next time to think before asking?

I have read that saying about how we teach people how to treat us.  Obviously I have done a great job of teaching people that they can ask for anything without regard for anything else in my life.  I can no longer give to that level.  Time to teach a new lesson, I guess.

And I started today.

5 Minute Memoir: Work in Progress

It's a little bit amazing, I think, that for so many years I have been learning the lesson that I can trust my gut, and yet I am still learning this lesson.

One might think that I would have arrived by now.

The one thing I can say for myself about this particular case, is that I knew it was happening, but I was afraid to fully trust my gut.  I was so afraid and the stakes were so high that I kept going even though something inside of me said, "No!  Something isn't right!  Something doesn't make sense about this!  This is not going to end well!  You are going to get hurt!"

I have always tried to be a woman of conviction and a woman of my word.  If I commit to something, by crackie I mean to stick with it!  But this time it was almost as if I was having an out-of-body experience; an observer of myself.

On one side, everything seemed right.  The situation.  The prayer.  The opportunity.  The unity.  The answers outside of me kept saying yes, Yes!, YES!  It was as if a force was propelling us toward action.

Inside I felt alone with my questions and cautions and concerns.  I felt like maybe my gut instincts were broken, because I seemed to be the only one that was feeling the No!  Wait!  Caution!

I don't know.  Maybe it was all meant to be this way.  After all, there was earnest prayer, open-minded seeking of counsel, agreement with our path even from those that we did not expect to receive it from.  All of it brought us to today and to a strange and unexpected place.

Except that I knew.

I told my husband a few months ago that I felt something like this would happen.  I predicted it right now to the month.

I was scared to follow my gut all the way.

I am a work in progress.

Monday, April 29, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: Tired of Being Put Upon

I bend.

It must be obvious to everyone around me.

I have these people who don't hesitate to ask for more, impose, and smoosh themselves into the middle of my life without any regard for me or my life or my family.




always nibbling, biting, asking for more

And these aren't even the people that I'm actually responsible for!

For so long I have been in the habit of trying to be able to say yes, trying to accommodate, making a way to make others happy, finding a way to suck it up rather than tell someone else NO.

It's not good.

Something has to give, and it has to stop being me all the time.

New skills needed, pronto.

Side Trip

The children are leaving.

What can I say?

We got into this believing that nobody else was willing or able to do the job.

We felt that they were put into our path because we were meant to help them.

We did not know how it would all work, but doors opened, things happened, and then they were here with us.

And immediately there were unexpected boulders in our path.

First the sheer difficulty of behavior issues and exhaustion issues and mothering with hyper-vigilance that threatened my sanity.

Next the lawyer reversed every piece of advice she had given us to begin with.  If we had gotten her second round of advice, they never would have come to our house in the first place.  We grappled with the implications of what she was saying, consulted others, and decided to stay the course and follow through with what we told the children they could look forward to in the short term:  Staying with us, being homeschooled, and getting to be in basketball and cheerleading for the first time ever.

Then we found out my husband was sick.  And the lawyer quit on the same day.  That was a special day.

From there we plunged into a month of medical appointments, waiting for diagnoses, worries about lung cancer and lymphoma and open heart surgery.  And my husband took to his bed in exhaustion, fear, stress, and feeling ill.  I soldiered on with the homeschooling, the work, the teaching, and all of the children and their practices and games and meals and bedtimes.

Next, some answers:  A manageable lung condition.  Two in-patient surgical procedures needed.  Open heart surgery needed.

Homeschooling was largely put on hold for a few weeks while we prepared, had procedures and surgery, experienced an 8-day hospital stay, and then the long recovery.

Work was ramped up in a new way, intensifying life yet again.  I have had so many opportunities to ask myself, "How much more am I supposed to take?!"  The answer kept coming:  More.

And now things were starting to level out.  We are past the acute phase for recovery.  CC is done for the year.  Everybody is meshing pretty well.  My husband is about to go back to work.

And there it is:  Now the grandparents want the kids back.

Apparently in their time apart they have been able to reevaluate their level of desire and commitment to raise these children.  Suddenly, with no warning, there it is.

What can I say?  We aren't going to fight them over this.  We took the kids in believing that the grandparents were convinced that they could not do this job.  Now they say they can.



I feel like I have spent the past 5 months climbing Mt. Everest with a tribe of people on my back, and now that I have done the work and borne the burden, others are ready to swoop in and reap the benefits of my sacrifice.

Their grandfather has commented on how much improved their behavior is.  YES!  I want to scream now.  YES!  THEIR BEHAVIOR IS BETTER BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN BUSTING MY BUTT FOR MONTHS UNDOING THE CRAP BEHAVIOR THAT YOU AND YOUR WIFE GOT THEM STARTED WITH!

(I can't help but wonder how short a time it will take for them to revert back to business as usual.  Grrr...)

Well, there is a lot of emotion. Of course.  I could go on and on with ranting and raving and commentary and saying stuff that lets you know that I am sad, mad, offended, relieved, confused, hurt, and just plain exhausted of being used up on this mission. Some moments have me wanting to yell WHAT WAS IT ALL FOR?! 

Truth be told, everyone is going back to their regularly scheduled life.  We have lived this out, in all of its good, bad, sad, confusing, lovely, sweet, inspiring, exhausting, encouraging, discouraging, scary, tough reality.  

We did what we did.  We may never know what all the purposes were for us to have gone through this, but at the very least this is one more side trip in life that has taught us a lot of lessons, and that ain't no small thing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: My Deepest Wish

Way back in 2003 I wrote the Mothering Manifesto I have included below.  It continues to beckon to me and be the cry of my heart.  So much has happened, I feel pulled out to sea.  The idea of being able to earnestly invest in my home and family, to the exclusion of everything else, sounds like an almost impossible dream.

As I examine my situation and the things I would like to disentangle myself from, but feel unable to part with, it always comes back to money.  I do not quit my job because we need the income.  I do not quit business ventures because we need the income and the potential they represent.

I do not know of any way out of this at this time.  I must do my best to find contentment within my situation, and to be aware of the dead weight in my schedule that I could continue to purge.  I do not know it will turn out or when I will make my way back to a more simplified life.  I am reminded that everything is a trade-off.  No job means less money, which means more work and more stress in other ways.  Get a job means some measure of financial ease, but then life has to accommodate the never-ending responsibility of the employment.

Ah, well, this is life.

"Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest: Homekeeping hearts are happiest..."
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."
~~Thomas Moore

"There should be a certain amount of order, because you cannot really rest in a disorderly place."

~~Elsie de Wolfe

"Take time for all things."--Benjamin Franklin

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home."
--Johann von Goethe

HOME should be the place where we love the most and love the best. Our FAMILY should get our best attention, love, support, and respect.

I want home to be the place we give our best. Our best love, our best energy, our best creativity, our best patience and attention. I want our home and family to be the recipient of my talents. I want to use my time wisely and pour out my BEST STUFF on my family and those I love in ways that will make a difference both in daily life and in the long run and in eternity. I want to drop the extra stuff and just concentrate on being the best I can be right here in my home and with my precious family.

What to do about the frustration of not being able to make very much progress? Well, let’s see….. Make a way! Be more creative. Ask hubby for help in figuring this out. Pray for the Lord to show me how I can improve. Stop telling myself that this is too hard. Start reminding myself of how much I LOVE MY FAMILY and then ACT on it! Turn my heart toward home!!

5 Minute Memoir: Wildly Subversive Thoughts

What if I could just

stay home

feed my children and husband

homeschool my kids

clean, organize, decorate, garden, and make a home...

and not blog about it

not instagram about it

not pinterest about it

not write a book about it

not teach anybody about it

not speak at retreats about it

not monetize it.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: An answer

After months of living in "I don't know" land, the end is in sight.

Yesterday was a tough day.  So many fears, feelings, and questions were in the forefront of my mind.

I journaled about it all, too vulnerable to share on the internet.

At bedtime I was gifted with a moment of grace that gave me hope and encouragement that I could carry on even through difficulties and unknowns.

And then moments later, there was the answer, in the form of a message.

I didn't see it coming, but there it was.

An answer.  A resolution.

It isn't an easy answer.  It is going to hurt some.  But it feels like the right answer.

I have learned some big lessons.  I have learned things about myself that I did not know.  I am both better and worse than I imagined I was.  It has been tough.

I am thankful to not feel in limbo any more.  I am thankful for an answer that feels ok and not like a disaster or a punishment.

Monday, April 22, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: Pruning

I recently watched a documentary called Back to Eden.  It's about gardening.  In it is mentioned that God prunes (cuts away) in order to have greater productivity, and that nature works the same way, though mathematically it seems as though it should not work.

I immediately thought about my life and wondered what I could prune.

I am over extended.

Too many things feel like they are dragging me down.

I feel tired and like life is not as enjoyable as it might have once been, or at least not as enjoyable as I would like it to be.

And so I am thinking about this and wondering what I could prune.  What things detract from the better stuff in life?  What things are weighing me down and don't deserve even a spot around my neck?

I have been making some lists.  I took one step today.  More will follow as clarity comes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: I Don't Know

It seems that the most commonly uttered declaration I have used so far this year is

I Don't Know.

I didn't know what we were getting into with open heart surgery, a long hospital stay, and a very long recovery time.

I didn't have any frame of reference for what it would be like or how to plan or prepare for it.

I do not know when my husband will be all better.  I do not know when life will seem entirely normal again.  (whatever that would be)

The same is true with our situation with our new kids.

I do not know if we will get to adopt them.

I do not know if the damage done by the loss of their chance at ever living with their mom is greater or less than the damage done if they end up going back.

I do not know if broken hearts are greater or less terrible than broken homes or mental health issues or poverty or patterns of domestic violence.

I do not know if restoration to a very-much-less-than-ideal living situation is preferable to a much-more-ideal living situation, when it's the difference between getting what you think you want, and getting what others think you need.

There are so many things I do not know.  As I told some friends at church last week, this is free-falling with God.

My prayers contain very little by way of agenda.  Helpful friends will say, "I will be praying that you get to adopt them" and I always say, "Just pray that God will make a way for whatever He wants to have happen."  I do not know what that is.

Friday, April 05, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: Full Spectrum

My husband commented to me that I had been "growly" to him lately.

It's true.

There was the day that he placed a huge crock pot full of 3-day old non-refrigerated cooked beans on the deck and let the dogs eat them, and then left the house, and the dogs proceeded to come in and puke all over the floor.

And we were out of paper towels.

There was the day that I had to be gone til 4pm and asked him to pre-cook some chicken before I got home, and he assured me that he had it all under control, but then I got home and found that it wasn't cooked and the casserole that was to be made (for company!  for a birthday!) was set back by 30 or 40 minutes.

Yes, I was growly.  Sue me.

While it is true that I probably would not enjoy it if he growled at me for something I did, I feel like growling about bone-headed nonsense is a reasonable response.  Don't you?

I thought about how often I am reminded that people don't really want to deal with a full spectrum person.  Society tells us (especially women) all the time that there is an acceptable range of emotions, attitude, or responses that are ok.  If you step beyond that boundary, you are a bitch or irrational or have PMS and are to be ignored.

In talking to my daughter yesterday about a problem she had with a friend, it was revealed that she did not feel free to speak truthfully to this girl, even about something as simple as, "I would like it if you would not bring your TV and single-player video games to my house when you sleep over for my birthday."  She did not feel that she could tell her friend, "I would like to go out shopping with my mom alone."  She has learned what all of us learn--it is too risky to be honest.  People may ---e gads!--- think you are a *bitch* if you do not appease them.

Heaven help me break this cycle for my daughter!

I have sometimes had to remind my husband that if he wanted a robot for a wife, he made a wrong turn long ago.  You got yourself a full-spectrum woman here.  With the same voracity I can cook up the bacon, fry it up in a pan, bounce a baby on a hip, run a business, manage a home school, and never let you forget you're a man, among other things.  So, yes, after 4+ months of the pressure of trying to adjust to having new children, after 3+ months of caretaking and doing a huge, HUGE job while tending to a sick, in-hospital, recovering-open-heart-surgery-patient, YES it is true that some things may cause me to growl.  Yes, sure, it is not nice.  Because guess what--nice is not all I have to offer.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: Sentimentality

For years I have chafed at the poems, articles, and various confessionals written by parents who can't seem to cope with the fact that their children have grown up.  Just the other day I heard a poetry recitation on this subject that left me feeling like this is yet another area where a mother of many is different from others.  While a mother of two children that are just a few years apart will likely experience a sudden empty nest and a long wait until the chicks return to the nest with spouses and children of their own, the mother with six or eight children, spanning 10 or 14 years will not.  For this mother, one is an adult, employed, dealing with life's big questions and challenges, plus there are teenagers, pre-teens, and then little ones who still need help learning to read and do their math.  By the time the youngest one has flown the nest, I'll have children in their 30s.  I certainly do not expect to have an empty nest syndrome at any point in the next many decades, thanks to this.

Also, having had so many children, I feel like I have done every stage A Lot.  I do not cry over leaving the stages.  I did each one so many times and for so long that I have paid all my dues and don't have a whole lot of care when we move out of them.  Onward and upward!  Enjoy where they are at and don't be sad about what is done.

But every so often, like today when my daughter turns 17, and yesterday when my preemie turned 13, I get a little sentimental.  I think the one thing that does grab at my heart is when I think of them as little tykes, and although they have been transformed into older, bigger people, it feels like a loss.  It feels like that little cuddly stinker has dissolved into thin air.  I will admit, I get teary thinking about it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: Full Heart

I got to snuggle with my new little guy for awhile tonite.  He was supposed to be getting into bed, but his roommate wasn't ready yet, and he came out into the living room with his blanket to tell me that he feels really lonely without someone in there with him.  He is often hesitant to let me hold him, so when I sensed an opportunity, I took it.  :)  I invited him up into my chair and onto my lap.  He jumped in right away and cuddled up with me so nicely.  We took a series of pictures together with my phone, too.  It was simple and really good.  Made me feel like a real mom to him, which is a good, good feeling.

Speaking of moms, their mom is supposedly coming to visit us soon.  She has not seen the children in 8-9 months.  Not only does she want to visit them, but she wants to finally meet us, see where we live, and talk about adoption plans. (Assuming she decides that things look good enough here for her to go through with it.)  It will be interesting to see how it goes and what happens.  I feel worried about the kids and how it will be for them.  They seem to be settling in so well here.  They call us mom and dad.  I feel like when their mom shows up they are going to not know what to call us in front of her.  They have been told for years that they would get to go back with their mom, which isn't likely to be possible anytime in the foreseeable future.  I hate to drag up a bunch of stuff for them.  Hopefully it won't be too rough.

This is an unusual and tricky situation as far as adoptions go.  After all the years of looking into adoption, this is one scenario I never expected to find myself in.  However, this family is in God's hands, so I will trust that it will all work out ok, one way or another.  For right now, I have peace in the midst of many unanswered questions and many unknowns.  Thank you, Lord, for that.  And for snuggling little boys that call me mom.

Monday, April 01, 2013

5 Minute Memoir: Good things

I have a job that allows me to still be with my kids, homeschool, plus help my children learn to serve and better understand a person with special needs.  This is cool and awesome and something to be really, really thankful for.  I don't know any other moms with lots of kids that can also do what I do.

Though we have ups and downs, I am having more days and moments of feeling more connected to and in love with my new kiddos.  This process of bonding to each other is not straightforward for any of us, but it is very encouraging to feel and see it happening.

CC has been great this year.  I have loved being a tutor.  I have loved the kids in my class.  I have gotten some really nice feedback from the kids and parents and I know that they appreciate what I do for them.  I know I'm doing a good job and that feels good.  Tomorrow I get to proof another Memory Master plus hopefully at least one more student for the Bible memory award.  Good stuff.

I bought a new globe for our home.  We had one years ago and it got trashed.  Globes are kinda pricey, yo, but I coughed up the funds and got one because I thought it was worthwhile and important. Already the kids are enjoying finding places that they have learned about this year.  We do a lot of map work in CC, but all of it is flat.  I'm happy to have a globular version of the earth to share with them as well.  :)