Monday, November 13, 2017

Collateral Beauty

There is an ongoing battle that rages within.  Thirteen years after the loss of my mother and the battle continues.  The war between truth and lies.  The inner voice that tells me that I didn't do all I could have done for her and yet I know there was nothing else I could have done.  There is a movie with Will Smith called Collateral Beauty that we have watched recently and repeatedly actually that really shows the grief process.  He lost a child and I lost a parent.  He shuts down and closes himself up in his grief for two years and I did the same.  In the beginning of the movie which starts three years prior he is on top of the world and he is giving a speech in front of his employees and he says that life can be summed up in three abstractions;  "We long for love,"  "We wish we had more time," and "We fear death." I've thought some about these things and while I didn't write letters to Love, Time, and Death, I did spend a bit of time trying to figure it all out.

Anyone who knows the story of my beginnings knows that I spent the better part of my formative years longing for love from my dad.  A love that he was incapable of fully giving.  Likely because he was never shown the love of a father himself.  While he did provide for me, he didn't come around and show me how to ride a bike or how to throw a ball or how to throw a punch to protect myself if ever needed.  It wouldn't be until much later that I would come to know that I had the love of a father from the beginning, it just wasn't coming from my earthly father.  My heavenly father loves me and knows me and I wouldn't know that until later.  He, knowing this also would send a young man into my life when I was seventeen to help me navigate life and to try to help mend some fences or rather break down some barriers that I had built to protect myself when it came to a relationship with my dad.  He would help me to know love and help me to grow in my faith.  So yes, I do believe we do long for love, whether we admit to it or not.

I wish every day that I had had more time with my mom. I wish she could have seen my son with hair.  I wish she could have taken the girls shopping and they would have heard her say, "What do you want to do now, Kong?"  I wish I could have made her jewelry.  I wish she could have read my books.  I wish she could be here in the southern state with us enjoying the palm trees and laying on the beach with us.  I wish she had more than fifty two short years.  I wish she could be here to tell me about life and menopause and talk me down from the ledge when I get overwhelmed.  I wish she were here to fight with me when one of us needs an attitude adjustment.  I wish my kids were younger longer.  I wish we could turn back time and I knew then what I know now about how fast it goes.  I wish I hadn't wished any of it away.  I wish I hadn't checked out for two years of their lives and been more present even though I was crumbling inside.  I wish for many things and more time is near the top of the list.

I don't fear death.  I think that's where the difference occurs.  In a family that has endured it's fair share of deaths over the years I think it is hard to fear it.  I don't long for it, but I think when the time comes I will not fear it because I know so many people on the other side.  My mother, my grandparents, my aunts, and some of my cousins have all gone before me.  There was a time when we had so many funerals on my mom's side of the family the funeral home was starting to know us all by name. I don't fear death for myself.  I'm not sure that anyone who knows God fears death for themselves.  I think rather I fear life without people I love.  It always felt so weird and uncomfortable to me that someone I loved could be gone and life continued without them.  The earth continued it's path in the solar system.  The sun rose and set.  Businesses continued to open and close at the end of the day.  Life moved on.  How can that be?  How can life just....continue to move on when my heart is shattered and I feel so battered by grief and loss?

Those are questions that I continually asked myself and sometimes still do.  When holidays come and go and my loved ones aren't here.  When I'm cooking dinner and I'm not able to talk to my mom while I cook and she can't come to dinner.  When a birthday comes and goes and the void of her not being presence permeates within my soul, I ask God how can life go on, how can I possibly go on.  The answer is...because you just do.  You get up in the morning and you put one foot in front of the other and you move.  My falling into a pit for two years did nothing to honor my mother.  Perhaps it was my outward sign of my grief but two years is a lot to miss.

In the movie Howard (Will Smith) missed quite a bit but he also observed quite a bit.  He checked out of his own life, divorced his wife, almost lost his entire business, and yet...he still knew what was happening in his friend's lives.  His wife told him as their daughter was dying a woman told her not to miss the Collateral Beauty.  He didn't get it, but she did.  As I sit here thirteen years later I can see it too.

My mother found Jesus as she was given her diagnosis.  She went to church and the number of people that came to her visitation and funeral was amazing.  I didn't know some of the people that came to pay their respects and yet they all told me of the beautiful, funny, kind woman my mother was.  My mother who worked and worked to make a life for us made an impact on this world.  She wasn't famous, she didn't make any great discoveries to help with furthering mankind.  She worked in a factory for thirty years and also as a realtor for a few years before she died and she was beloved by many. 

To be honest when I started writing this I wasn't sure where God was taking me on this.  I often don't.  I'm not trained in writing.  I hold no degrees that I have ever used.  I was a stay at home mom for eleven years.  I often try and figure out what my purpose is and feel I have fallen short.  I don't contribute to society as a whole the way I probably should....and yet....perhaps my view is too small...or too large depending on your perspective.  I may never know of the impact I have had on this world this side of heaven.  I may question whether or not I am doing enough for my family and others every day of my life but maybe I can use that as a drive to do more.  Maybe by sharing my journey someone else can see themselves in it and find something to focus on outside of the pain.  If you are looking for it, I promise you that it is there.  Jesus can take the ashes and make diamonds.  He can take your pain and use it for good.  Jesus is love and he is in all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. He is the giver of time and he conquered death. And maybe none of this is what that movie was about and this is just my translation of it.  Maybe it isn't about anything at all and it is just a movie but aren't movies a form of art?  Isn't art open to interpretation?  I think God has the power to speak to us in ways that help us to understand what he is trying to get through to us.  Whether it be a movie, or a book, or a song, or a blog from a wannabe writer, sitting on a college campus, writing in a cubicle, trying to blend in with the students while she waits for her daughter to get out of class.  My hope is that instead of shutting down in your pain like I did, you will look to the light that is Jesus and let him turn your pain into a promise.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Somewhere In Between There's Me

Somewhere between a grandmother who loves having people over and feeding them and caring for them and a teenager who really just can't deal with that much peopling there is me. Does that make me an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert?  Or does that just make me weird?  I love people.  I dare say I'm a people person.  A person who entertains, I am not.  I admire people who have the confidence in their cleaning and cooking abilities to invite people into their home and feed them and entertain them without wanting to throw up at the thought of it.  I love those people.  I wish I were those people.  Don't get me wrong here I have had many a birthday party for my kids.  I've done all the things.  I don't so much worry about what my family thinks of my ability to provide food and entertainment because they are not there to see me.   They are there to see my children and they are cute and wonderful and a good distraction from the bit of dust that permanently resides on my white furniture because dusting is last on my list of things that must be accomplished when cleaning.  Also I don't cook for them, I order food in.  We have had pizza or a foot long sub from the local sub shop every time we've had a birthday party.  The only time I have cooked or prepared anything was for fourth of July parties and the years we had a grill I didn't do the cooking on the grill, my husband did.  I only did the side dishes.

I keep looking for the adultier adult here.  Unfortunately I keep coming up short.  We are about to have our second Thanksgiving here and there is a possibility that we have guests coming. We did have guests last year but it was my best friend and her family.  My best friend exudes grace.  I'm not sure that I could come up with more than five people who have the patience and love for me to extend the amount of grace she does for me.  She's closer to Jesus than a lot of people, I'm telling you people in stores go up to her to tell her their stories.  She's that kind of person.  I don't have to worry about what the state of my home is in or how high on the culinary chart the meal I serve is.  She is going to love me either way.  I can't scare her off (Like Jesus, she just keeps loving me through all of my flaws.)

My children are growing up.  We no longer have birthday parties with more than just the five of us.  The time is drawing near that I am going to be the one who has the dinners for holidays and there are more than just the five of us here and the people involved won't be my best friend and her family.  This year we may have some friends over.  Plus there is the boy my daughter is dating that will likely come by for a little while.  He comes from a large family and from what I understand they all cook.  I just can't with this.  Here's another problem, apparently the people who live down here (or basically anyone from anywhere other than the Midwest) do not eat like we do.  You may want to sit down for this....there are people in this world who have never had a meal that consists of chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  They can't even conceive of it.  HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?  That is what I want to know?  It is the standard for all comfort food.  You can't not have it.

My menu for Thanksgiving is: Turkey, ham, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple salad, green beans, salad, deviled eggs, and rolls.  I don't even know if that's the correct menu for Thanksgiving.  I probably have too many meats, too many starches, and not enough of something else.  I even forgot to add pie to the list because I don't actually even like pumpkin pie, I like apple pie so I with have to buy frozen pies to have because don't ask me to bake from scratch...just don't.  It's for everyone that I ask this.  Truly. To be fair they do need to be baked. As I look over the list I don't even know if I have enough burners on the stove for that many dishes.

How can I be here already?  I remember going to my grandmother's house as a kid for every holiday and every Sunday for that matter.  Green bean casserole was a staple for holiday gatherings.  My aunt would bring rolls and everyone thought she made them from scratch and later in years it came out that they were frozen.  My mother baked at Christmas and made more cookies and candies than I can remember to count.  She filled shirt boxes with cookies and candies and gave them to family and friends.  EVERYONE looked forward to it.  She was the best and I did not inherit her gift.  I was always just the taste tester.  Eating I excel at, cooking and baking, not so much. I don't know how to be the one who does all the things.  I'm still coming to terms with the fact that my people need to eat more than once a day.  I'm still trying to accept that my face is really my face and not my mother's face.  I still phone a friend with cooking questions and life questions.

Now I'm busy googling what a typical Thanksgiving in a southern state looks like, trying to figure out if the food is going to be good or at least edible.  Trying to figure out seating and how to entertain people and come to terms with the idea that I can't just sit and read a book while my husband watches football all while still being excited that there might actually be people coming to hang out with us.  Tell me if you have some ideas food wise or otherwise.  I would appreciate the input.  I would also appreciate having my house cleaned for this impending event and losing ten pounds beforehand as well.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Jesus, Coffee and Wine

Well....It's official.  I will never sleep again.  It is interesting really becoming a parent, all the parents around you warn you about having babies.  Babies keep you up all night. The days of having a continuous night of sleep are over. Books upon books upon books are written all dedicated to helping you with that first year as a new parent. You even get help for the toddler years.  My days as a mother to babies and toddlers are over.  Where are my books? Where are the warnings?  Where are the people and the support groups and mom groups I'll tell you where they are: Total Wine.  That's where I am, man.  Nothing in life makes sense and I just want to drink a healthy fruity adult beverage and attempt to sleep at night.  Life as we have known it is now over. O-V-E-R!!!  I can't even.  Total Wine and Target with a Starbucks that's where those moms are.  Laugh all you want all you young moms, I was you once, it's coming for you too.  Sit there all you confident ones who think being your kid's "bestie" is the answer.  Ha!  You're adorable.

OK I'm going to break this down for you.  While all the other girls and boys were dating in high school and the moms were all freaking out I was sitting pretty.  I was feeling all confident.  I had raised MY children that school was first and dating was a distraction that would come later...after college...when they're thirty...or I'm dead. Get off your high horse over there Mable!  Yes, I remember being young.  Yes, I remember dating in high school and college and I remember all the things.  Which is why I'm saying no....just no. It is a brand new ball game when it is your child and not you.

For the record my husband is calm and cool as a cucumber over here.  He's all...."It was going to happen eventually, Let them have experiences and live their life."  He watches comedies and sports and has never seen the movie Taken.  Obviously he doesn't know about the world today. He's also never watched Sex and the City which I think furthers my point. I know things. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  I have street smarts and I have seen both of those movies and I've seen all of the Karate Kid movies and the Hunger Games.  I. Have. Got. This.

All of this has come about because Megan now has a boy...who is a friend....I feel sick.  OK fine she says he is her boyfriend.  Whatever.  He's a boy.  He can be her friend.  She has a 'boyfriend' and I have apparently turned into Tony Soprano and I have never even seen that show.  I'm a mob boss and think I have 'people' at my disposal. Obviously, I'm handling this well.  I also think I'm Iron Man so...it's a problem having an overactive imagination.  What I am is a middle aged woman whose cervical spine is deteriorating and sometimes even holding my head up hurts.  I'm not lethal or deadly, I'm a writer.  It'll have to do.  It's amazing the lengths that we are willing to go to protect out children though.  Feasible or not.  This letting go business is HARD.  I'm not a fan. 

So as I was sitting pretty, or so I thought, all the other moms were actually getting all prepared.  They were getting practice for this sort of thing.  Jokes on me...again.  Kind of like when I was in high school and I said I would never get married and have children and yet...here we are.  God does have a sense of humor.  Which is obviously where I get it from.  I couldn't be pretty, or a doctor, or an artist, or anything good, nope, I get to appreciate a great joke.  It doesn't exactly pay the bills is all I'm saying.  Mother always said she hoped I got a child just like me.  I got three of them that are just like me to varying degrees. She gets to appreciate it from her front row seat to the show in heaven.  Paybacks are fun.  I look forward to the day, when I'm sixty five and they get married and get their little paybacks themselves.

This boy will probably be the first of many that will vie for my daughter's attention.  My other daughter, though she doesn't believe it, will likely experience this as well.  Once my son starts bringing girls home I will likely be buying boxed wine instead of wine coolers.  We'll have to keep that on tap.  I'm told that Total Wine has an app and you can get rewards so...there's that.  Life as I knew it is now over.  All I need now is Jesus, coffee, and wine.  I should probably throw in some bread too. I shouldn't probably drink on an empty stomach. I'm new to the adult beverage life.  They were never on my shopping lesson when I had a small hold on my life.

He seems like a nice kid so far....for the most part.  He tried to teach her how to cook this evening and they made us dinner.  He cleaned it up too!  You have to give credit where it is due. He can cook and he isn't scared to hold a conversation. She's terribly young though I mean she's five...ok...she's twenty but in my mind she's five.  She's a beautiful young lady and she's my little girl.  I will always like every boy more if they aren't dating my daughters.  Can anyone ever be good enough for your little girl?  Can a girl ever be good enough for your little boy?  I'm no sure....All I can do is pray that God places the right people  in my children's lives.  Well, pray and drink so I can get some sleep.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beautiful One, You Can Do Hard Things

Beautiful girl you can do hard things.  I recently saw a bracelet for sale online that had those words on it. Of course, I loved it.  I didn't buy it because I wanted to buy one for not just me but for my girls as well.  Then I started thinking that perhaps a bracelet wouldn't work because my oldest doesn't wear a lot of jewelry.  A necklace maybe would be good.  A placard really might be needed.  A sign to wear around that we could look down and see....a t-shirt might be good.  The number of times I say or I hear my daughters say that something is too hard is immeasurable.  We could really use a reminder that we can do hard things and even if we can't do it alone we can do it because God is with us.

Writing is too hard.  I can't do it.  I don't know what to say and it doesn't matter because no one will notice if I don't write anyway.  Physical therapy is too hard.  I feel terrible the entire next day afterward anyway and my arm and fingers are still going numb anyway.  I'm not smart enough to figure out how to do half of the things my job (that I only mildly hate now) entails. I'm not qualified to get another job.  I can never seem to keep the weight off, it's too hard.  I never say the right thing to the kids.  I'm a terrible parent.  Why does my husband stay with me?  Dreams don't come true for girls like me.  I can't have the job I want because no newspaper, magazine, or website will look at my work because I lack a bachelor degree and I'm internet illiterate.  I have thirty five followers and I'm pretty sure to get noticed you need in the neighborhood of thirty five million. This class is too hard, I will never figure this stuff out.  This piano piece is too difficult for me to play.  I can't play anything but classical, jazz is too hard.  I can't make friends, no one likes me.  I'm too weird.  I can't decide what to major in because I'm too worried about disappointing you.  I can't do this assignment.  This workout is too hard.  I'm not pretty enough.

It's a constant stream.  Do you have this?  Do you get the constant stream of things that you can't do and you're not good enough or smart enough for from your inner voice as well as those voices around you.  Do your kids say these things and you try to figure out how on earth they came to become this way when you have told them their entire lives how beautiful, smart, creative, talented, kind, and wonderful they are?  Am I the only one who has messed this up?  Do you try and figure it all out and then realize you say those things and think those things about yourself?  Are you nice to yourself?  If so, can you teach me?

My kids are all beautiful, smart, witty, kind, and compassionate human beings who I am certain God has big plans for.  They are far from perfect.  They are just as flawed as any other human walking on planet earth but they are also full of just as much potential as any of them too.  I have tried to raise them to help them to be aware of who they are and yet humble at the same time.  I have failed.  I didn't want them to be full of themselves and snobbish and what I created were daughters who are just like me.  We are a fine trio.  Three girls of God who were born to stand out but so afraid of making a mistake we tamp down every dream, every idea, every thought of something great in fear of being mistaken for something we are not.  Three girls who really aren't sure who we are.  Three girls full of potential but too scared of what that means.  Anyone?  Are you there too?

Greatness is for other people.  Is that you?  Let me tell you a secret that this world will never tell you.  Oh you can read it on jewelry and t-shirts and maybe hear it from your mom (who my kids say are required to tell you nice things because of being your mom) beautiful child of God YOU can do hard things.  Yes YOU!  Yes my girls and even me.  We can do hard things.

I try to tell myself nice things.  I do self affirmations.  I have found that of all the things that I have to offer I like my feet.  I tell myself that I have beautiful feet.  It might sound crazy to you, it kind of is really.  I mean how beautiful can feet really be?  But when you fight a constant stream day in and day out sometimes you need to find the one thing that you can like about yourself.  For me, it's my feet because even when my weight fluctuates my shoes fit.  I can still wear cute shoes.  Even when I hurt because of arthritis that I think I'm too young for, my feet are spectacular.  When I feel as though I have messed up my kids and I am a terrible wife because I have ruined another dinner and all I have to offer is peanut butter, at least I have cute feet.  Is it enough?  Of course not.  Am I enough? No.  Will I ever be?  Likely not. That's what my inner voices tells me.

But my internal stream, and probably your internal stream at times as well, lies.  Our biggest problems are that we either don't know who we are, we forget who we are, and we don't know who we work for.  I keep telling my girls that they can do hard things.  I remind them of all they have accomplished so far.  I tell them they are daughters of the One True King.  I tell them that there is absolutely nothing they can do that will make me stop loving them.  I can't be disappointed because they are trying, they are out there giving it their all.  They can do hard things!  I am their biggest cheerleader.  In the line of people who love them I am right behind Jesus.  Jesus loves them more than any of us can possibly imagine or understand.  I have failed to show them how to live it out though.  I forget who I am.  I forget who I work for.  I forget I'm not alone.  I forget I too can do hard things. I second guess who I am.  Do I even know who that is?  What if I only think I know?  What if what I think is what God wants me to do really is only my own desires?

My oldest daughter is smart and witty.  She is quite possibly one of the funniest people you will ever meet if you are lucky enough to witness it.  When she smiles the sun shines brighter.  She is a brilliant writer and has a beautifully creative mind.  If anyone is meant to be in English or writing as a major it is her.  She is an accounting major and it is killing her spirit but she can do hard things to get to where she needs to be to come alive in her passion and purpose.

My middle daughter is smart and musical.  She plays four different instruments.  She was playing the piano last night and I was amazed.  She is her own worse critic.  She will play something so beautiful and I will be so impressed and when she is done she will say it was terrible.  It was terrible, she's terrible, and she can't do it but she can do hard things.  She has a love for music and bringing joy to others.

My son is smart and sarcastic and witty.  He is very much the most extroverted of the bunch.  He never met a stranger and he is a good friend always looking for a laugh.  He loved Jesus and reads everything about the Christian faith he can. He wants to lead people to Jesus...maybe one joke at a time.  I'm not sure what his future is going to entail but he also can do hard things.  He does hard things every week that wear him out.

Beautiful ones you can do hard things.  God knows the desires of your hearts.  He knows the things that bring you life.  He knows the ways you will serve the kingdom.  He knows you can do hard things because you won't be doing them alone.  You are never alone.  You are a child of the One True King who 'will never leave you nor forsake you'. (Deuteronomy 31:8) You are the child of the One who knows his plans for you, plans to prosper and not to hurt you plans to give you a hope and a future.(Jeremiah 29:11)  'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.' (Ephesians 2:10). We can do all things through him who gives us strength. (Philippians 4:13) Beautiful ones we need to know who we are.  We need to remember who we belong to.  We need to remember who we work for.  I don't know where you are.
I don't know what your struggle is.  I can only share what I'm struggling with in the hopes of shedding some light for you and for me.  Remember who you are and know you, beautiful child of God, YOU can do hard things.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Move Some Furniture, Change Your Life

I've been moving furniture around. This weekend a sofa that was way too large to be brought into my bedroom spent the night there.  The next day it was returned to its original location.  I then moved an oversized chair into my bedroom that ended up being the perfect size.  I say "I" but in all honesty my son was the smart one who figured out how to get it through the door then around the bed to the location it was meant to reside. He is also pretty strong so a lot of the brute force in moving these things came from him. The boy is so kind and so willing to please, a trait that I'm certain he learned from his father.  His relaxed, easy smile, and quick witted personality is something I wish I could take full credit for.  I cannot.  The boy will make a good husband someday. He should as he has learned from the best.

Today while the men of the house are out however, I am moving the bookcases from one room to another.  Do not call them as I could get into trouble for attempting this fete on my own.  I'm pretty excited about this idea I have for switching things up in the house.  It might not work and I might hate it but....don't die wondering right?  I have tile floors they should be easy to move once I take all the books off of them and get them over the carpet in the room they currently reside in.  There are some that think that if you are scheduled for physical therapy this week you shouldn't probably be moving furniture around.  I'm pretty sure that is exactly why I should be moving furniture around.  It has to be good exercise and the point of physical therapy is to move the problem appendages around right? (Note: It's probably best to just agree at this point as I cannot be persuaded at this point.  Those bookcases are moving today.  Also as a non-athlete I don't really think physical therapy is necessary anyway especially considering the thing that is wrong can probably be attributed to the fact that I am middle aged. That's two years of medical assisting training from over twenty years ago talking. I don't actually remember a lot but I think I remember that part...or I made it up.  OK I made that up but to be fair all I ever did as a medical assistant was bandage toes and triage...which is why it didn't stick.)

Here's the thing: I might have psychologically flipped a switch at some point.  I read the private message from my doctor that said that I have some mild deterioration in my cervical spine and some arthritis in my left shoulder and the first thing that I thought was, "Well...I'm not sure how that can be cause I'm pretty sure that I'm getting taller."  The shoulder thing makes sense.  I have an old college injury that has pestered me for years.  I feel the pain when it's cold or especially cold and rainy, but deterioration?  I don't think so.  That's probably normal in the aging process too but I might just have some form that makes me taller.  I kid you not, as I walked on campus today to get to the student center to write this I felt SO TALL. I'm not sure they have it right on this one.  It is entirely possible that I'm growing up after all these years. I don't think we should question my theories.  I think this mindset is probably better than the alternative.  There are days when I think I'm getting taller than my husband.  I did get new glasses this summer though and I have my first pair of progressive lenses so it may just be a trick of the eye. (Oh stop!  I've never been tall.  Let's just agree to let me have this one.)

All of this has gotten me thinking about things though.  I'm not sure you've noticed but the world is kind of a mess.  I'm not going to get into a political rant or discuss football and taking knees here. What I will say is that I think that maybe we could all use a flip of a switch.  I have two daughters in college.  I also have a high school aged son.  It isn't as though they don't hear things or see things.  I can't even take a walk with my husband without my phone giving me an update from the news channel.  All I really wanted was weather updates.  I don't know how to turn off the nonstop barrage of updates from the media about how this is wrong or that is wrong.  It isn't for a lack of caring about the world around me. I do care. I do, but I do not have the time left on this earth to dwell on who has offended who.  I can't do it and nor should you.  To be frank, I'm not sure when or why we all got so worked up about being offended.  I mean, has no one ever had kids?  They are brutally honest and they really aren't concerned with offending you.  The last time I checked we don't go on rants about how wrong children are and spend our lives worrying about what was said.  That's a pretty simplified example I know, but life isn't really all that complicated.  It's pretty simple really.  We are the ones that complicate things.

Move some furniture around.  Think of it this way.  You have this huge sofa.  It blocks passage to the restroom and makes it hard to get from the kitchen to the table because of its location in the house.  That sofa represents your largest obstacle in life, be it your job, school, your dreams, or whatever.  The sofa is heavy though so that's why it has been in that same spot for so long.  The thing is if you just moved it to the other side of the room, you would change the entire look of the room and open up the passages to get to where you need to go.  That's life kids. Sometimes you just have to move some furniture around.  Move some outlooks around.  Move a way of thinking around.  Life is simple like I said.  It came with an instruction book.  We spend so much time looking at the huge sofa we can't see the windows.  We can't see our way to the restroom and we desperately have to pee.  We've lost our focus.  We look around and down instead of up.  I don't have to understand differences and neither do you. You'll make yourself crazy trying to figure it all out and it isn't really your job.  What you do have to do is respect that God made all of us different and thank God that he did.  How boring it would be if we were all the same. Love everyone like Jesus and leave the rest up to Him. In other words let the man do His job.  Move some furniture, move the obstacles that keep you from loving others or respecting others and watch the view of the window open up.  You might just change your life.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Worthless

OK guys, listen....I have been worthless today.  Worth-less, less than worthy of oxygen.  I have actually used oxygen that someone worthy of life sustaining oxygen might have needed. I have literally wasted hours of today and I kind of feel bad about it.  Kind of.... Here's the thing yesterday I spent about three hours cleaning and organizing my garage and that is where I finally have come to get a different view to see if I could come up with something to write.  I'm sitting on a chair that is going in a garage sale next month with my garage door open just looking at the fruit of my labor and watching it rain when it occurred to me I could write here.

I'm still just exhausted.  A week ago tomorrow I woke up and the prediction was that Irma was heading for us.  It had shifted yet again overnight and I was just spent.  The ups and downs, the build up was just too much.  I'm not sure I've actually completely checked back into my life.  I mean, I think I have to an extent because the laundry is getting done, dinner is being served and my bed continues to be made by my own hand but the rest of it?  I'm not so sure... I went outside and pulled weeds today for an hour or so, I showered and dressed, and I have had breakfast and lunch.  My kids have been working on homework and I have been staring at a blank page and doing crossword puzzles and talking on the phone in my room with no stimulation from the television or Pandora or anything.  Just staring at this blank page thinking, "What on earth can I say?" I found the lightbulb moment while sitting in a clean garage watching it rain.

The thing is I feel like I spent an entire week running a marathon that I had not trained for.  I feel like I was running and running and running and the finish like just kept moving further back.  I was on a treadmill without the emergency shut off and it was run or die and now I've gotten off the track and I don't know where I was.  I don't remember what track I was on. It is like everything is either before the hurricane and after the hurricane...as if life has somehow been altered a bit.  Are you with me?  Have you been here?  Maybe some of you have.  I feel bad about it actually because we really lucked out here and it weakened before it hit us and as I said before we were locked down in a shelter and didn't actually see any of it.  Our home even came through it virtually unscathed and this makes me feel like I'm not worthy of my feelings.  As if I am not entitled to them because I still have my home in tact.  I don't know.  I'm on unchartered territory here.

I am so thankful for all the messages and phone calls from friends and family checking in and wanting us to be ok before the storm.  There were so many that it was almost overwhelming and while I appreciated the concern it almost furthered my fears as if people were now talking to me because they didn't think we were going to make it. The weather reports made it seem like we might not make it.  It was the largest hurricane to form in the Atlantic...ever.  It is a lot to process.  The thing about all those phone calls is...they have stopped.  The messages have stopped.  We're all good now...uncertain death has been averted so no need to check in.  Forget about the fact that I don't know what day it is and as I feel like I've lost two weeks out of my life I'll never get back and I still sometimes cry in the shower.  We didn't die so we're good.

It reminds me of when my mother was dying.  People came out of the woodwork to help and love on us and be there for us and then once she was gone they all went away.  A week or two later and everyone is back to their own lives and assume you are business as usual.  They don't realize that your entire life has been forever altered and everything is now before your mother died and after and you have no idea how life just goes on.  You can't seem to figure out why everyone else can move on but you can't.  Why it is so easy for others and not for you. What is wrong with you?

I have always thought there is comfort in being around other people.  I don't do alone well. Not that I don't have alone time and enjoy getting custody of the remote or reading without interruptions because I do but I'm a people person.  My mother would give me the silent treatment as a punishment because I need someone to talk to and it was effective.  I don't know how to handle awkward silences.  I can't even go to get a massage without talking which defeats the purpose because I'm incapable of relaxing so I just don't do it.  The thing is, I love my people.  I love all of them...even when I think they are nuts.  Sometimes it just makes me love them more.  I try to text and call and keep up with everyone and when I only hear from people because I might you know...go with Dorothy and Toto via hurricane it makes me sad. I don't comprehend it.

I'm over here like...."What. Just. Happened?"  Have you been here?  Have you had these thoughts?  Have you felt this way before?  Maybe it wasn't a hurricane, maybe it was something else, maybe it was a tornado, or a flood, or something else entirely.  Listen to me on this God is with you in the storm.  I think part of the problem is that we forget that He's with us AFTER the storm as well.  I can't tell which end is up.  I've gone so gray I think I'll blind people if the light hits my head just right. I've gone through ALL the hurricane cookies and I was already ten pounds up from where I want to be weight wise.  My shoulders are up to my ears with tension and I'm scared to take a nap.  Why?  I have no idea but I can't do it.  I look on Denis Phillips' Facebook page to check the weather like it's my job.  I have forgotten that God is with me through the storm and after the storm.  He's with me for the fallout.  When the dust settles and you are left to do life again God knows.  He's there.  He's in for it.  He won't leave you.  He won't forsake you.  He is the God who stops the wind and calms the sea.  He is the God who turns day into night and night back into day. Nothing is too hard for him. Are you going through a storm?  Have you just endured a storm in life and come out the other side?

Remember when I said I felt kinda bad about how I was feeling? Well I've decided to give myself permission to have my feelings and not feel bad about them.  If you need permission I'll give it to you too.  Have your feelings. Psalm 107:28-31 "Yet when they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, the Lord brought them out of their distress.  He calmed the storm and its waves quieted down. So they rejoiced that the waves became quiet, and he led them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his gracious love and for his awesome deeds on behalf of mankind." " Psalm 89:8-9 Lord God All-Powerful, there is no one like you.  You are strong, Lord, and always faithful.  You rule the stormy see.  You can calm its angry waves."

Deuteronomy 31:8 " It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed".  Do not fear of be dismayed.  Do you see that?  God went before us and He didn't leave us.  He had us and still has us.  Why do I always forget that part?  Do you?  Have you?  I'm not sure but I think maybe the aftershock of the hurricane is just as bad as the build up.  I still wouldn't trade the experience though.  A friend told me I was crazy for trading a maybe fifteen minute tornado for a week long hurricane.  Maybe that's so.  Maybe I am crazy for wanting this life.  All I know is that being here is making me stronger...even on days like today when I feel weak.  On days when I think I can figure it out on my own and I avoid the blank page because I'm scared of what God will tell me there. I keep waiting for the God who loves me to figure me out, to give up on me and walk away because I'm not worth it.  I'm not worthy but then...who is?  Yet he waits for me.  He finds me in the garage when I've hidden in my room all day.  Who does that?  God does.  So today I've been a mess, tomorrow I might still be a mess to be honest but who knows.  His mercies are new every day.  I saw there were some more disturbances they are keeping an eye out for but my running days are just about over so I guess I better stock up on cookies...you know....for emergency use only.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Irma


As the world is aware hurricane Irma set her sights on Florida this last week.  The predictions as to where her strike would occur and how strong of an impact she would have were all over the place.  First west then east no west again.  As the stereotypical woman, she didn’t seem to be able to make up her mind. You’d think she were deciding where to have dinner.  Memes of Irma took over the internet and after the destruction of Harvey we waited in anticipation for Irma who was to be the largest hurricane to have ever formed in the Atlantic.  My family potentially sitting in her path.

My husband as you may be aware works in the medical field as a pharmacist and the pharmacies were packed with people trying to get their medications early so they could flee the state.  The interstate became a parking lot and gas became scarce and we prepared to hunker down.  Then the report came Saturday morning that Irma had a real beef with us and looked to be making a beeline straight for us. Gas stations were closed and after retrieving our daughter from her college an hour away we were down to half a tank of gas. We didn’t have hurricane shutters and we didn’t have boards to put up to cover our windows and those who were not apart of the mass exodus had already bought all the plywood around.  I have always thought there was comfort in being around other people.  That said my husband and I left early and registered at the nearby shelter and went home to pack everything up. 

As you are probably aware we are from the Midwest, as you further are now aware we now live in the great state of Florida.  What you may not be aware of is that when the largest hurricane possibly ever is coming at you everyone in the Midwest becomes an expert on hurricanes.  They also, not understanding how it isn’t so simple to just pack up and leave when you are not on vacation here and you have jobs and responsibilities, think you’re stupid for not leaving. My inbox, private message box, and text box filled up with family and friends telling me to get out and drive 1100 miles back from whence we came.  We needed to come there to stay with every friend we had.  Fear and anticipation of what could happen and the idea of us not fleeing for our lives drove them to tell us how to handle the situation even though they had never been in this situation.  This did not help the women of the house. My middle child was filled with anxiety from the start and now she was on hyper drive.  I was crying in the shower.  My husband was at his wits end with scared women and trying to get us to calm down and we would be ok because we were together.  Where was our faith?

We have family here.  My cousin who lives on the other side of the state was very concerned and continued to call on us and check in, wanting to make sure we were taking this very seriously and that we were going to be safe.  When told we were going to a shelter I could hear her relief.  We have other family here that we never heard from.  They left the state and never once thought to call us to see if we were going to be OK.  I think that is one disappointment that has us the most flummoxed of all, especially when it is pointed out to us that they had left, hit the road, got out of dodge, without a thought to the family members who were new and had never experienced this type of storm before. I’m not sure how you make sense of that.  Maybe you don’t, you just realize where you stand.  Nevertheless, gas stations were closed and there was no way out by this point.  We prepared for the worse and hoped for the best

We arrived at the shelter just before 3 p.m. on Saturday and started carrying in our supplies and looking for our spot that would serve as our “home base” for our stay.  It was already getting full and by the time we were on lockdown on Sunday we were at capacity with 1700 people camped out and ready to ride out the storm together.  We had hours to prepare and pack.  We had our supplies pretty well put together.  Food, cases of water, important supplies like games and other forms of entertainment were near the top of the list. When you are camping in a strange environment surrounded by strangers it is important to have things to do for not only you but the kids no matter how old your kids may be.  The idea of going stir crazy didn’t sound appealing to any of us. My girls even brought homework to work on for school, desperate times and an overwhelming sense of responsibility drove that I believe.

I’m not sure what I thought this experience was going to be like.  Packing up my kids and going to a shelter to ride out a storm was never on my ‘to do’ list.  Had I to do it all over again…I wouldn’t change a thing and I’ll tell you why.  Jesus was there.  He was in the five-year-old little girl who was excited to be camping with her family in her school where some of her friends were doing the same.  He was in the woman named Miriam who said, “We are going to get through this Heather, we’re going to get through this together.” He was in the woman who came alone but was finally joined by her older neighbor that she had convinced to come too.  He was in the couple who are customers in my store who talked to me about churches in the area.  He was in the young guy (I say young guy but he literally could have been 35 as everyone seems young to me at this point) who brought his service dog and his laptop and set it up and invited all to join him to watch the weather to see how things were going.  He was in the service dog even because he never made a sound but somehow, I felt safer with him there.  He was in the officers and national guard who were there to protect and serve.  He was in the numerous volunteers who made food for everyone there three times a day.  He was in the young mother of that five-year-old and her one-year old who allowed me to dote on her children and her husband who I ended up knowing from work as he had been a student at my store.  He was everywhere I turned.  I saw the hands and feet of God at work in an elementary school turned hurricane shelter.

I never once saw any of the storm.  I heard the rain that sounded like rushing water on the roof.  I saw things on the computer screen showing the news and forecasts but I didn’t see anything of the storm and that helped me.  I think it helped all of us.  We could have been there for any reason at that point.  We could have been camping in a school not for survival but for a fundraiser or anything.  But survive we did.  The storm came and shook up everything but we made it to tell the story.  The next morning, we packed up and went home not knowing what we would find or if we would even have a home once we got there.  What we found when we arrived was leaves.  We surveyed the entire house and all we found were leaved and a plastic piece from the side of the house that covers wires that just needed snapped back on.  The neighbors on either side of me had damage.  A tree down that blocked entrance through the front door on one side and screen from the lanai and vinyl fencing that needed snapped back together on the other side. Another tree down the road was down.  We had leaves and a front door that now sticks for some reason.  It seemed to me as if God had covered our home with his hand as the storm passed by.  I was shocked at first but then I remembered all the prayer warriors we had praying for us and then it made perfect sense. 

We learned a lot from this experience.  First, our God is bigger than any hurricane. Second, we really can get through anything together. Third, God has plans for us.  I know this because HE calmed the storm.  He calmed a storm that was to hit our area at a cat 4 and it hit us at a cat 2.  Irma caused devastation on her path to us and there are parts of Florida that fared far worse than we did.  I urge you to see what you can do to help those in need here in Florida as well as in Texas.  Help a neighbor without power, help them with the clean up of the aftermath.  Offer a hot meal or shower.  From what I saw in the shelter people are still pretty good in a crisis. We as humans can still rise to the occasion and show the enemy that we stand with God.  Let’s do that.  Let’s live like that.  Neighbor helping neighbor.   

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Heart Hurts, Will You Pray With Me?

My heart hurts.  I'm sitting in the student center at my daughter's college where I'm supposed to be working on my (self appointed) comeback.  Writing the book that might be...the end of the trilogy.  I'm not sure why there needs to be a third or why it should end with three, maybe that is how I'm convincing myself to do it.  To go through the struggle of finding the words again.  I'm distracted however, watching all of these college kids coming in and out, eating food that doesn't seem like breakfast food for 8:15 in the morning.  Some are plugged in just as I am, looking at their phones or laptops or notes.  I wonder if they are listening to a Danny Gokey station on Pandora like I am.  Somehow I doubt it.

None of these are the reason for my heart hurting though.  A young girl who I worked with was found killed yesterday morning along with her young son and my heart just aches.  She was eighteen and had her whole life in front of her.  I look at these kids and again I'm struck by how senseless her death is.  Yesterday I think I was just in shock, unable to reconcile the information, refusing to understand that it was true.  A fireman while on his way to work happened to look in the direction of her apartment and notice there was a fire.  He called for back up and soon there was an investigation underway.  She had injuries to her body inconsistent with the fire.

In the short time that I knew this young girl, I knew her to be a quiet, soft spoken girl.  She was beautiful and her smile was full of joy, especially when asked about her young son.  Her face would light up a thousand suns and she would joyfully tell you all about him.  She was very bright and caught onto things much quicker than I have.  I often would ask her for help with something that I wasn't sure about or didn't know how to do.  She was always willing to help.  She, though radiant, didn't seem to want to draw attention to herself.  She was nervous to use the intercom. We would try to get her to step out of her shell some, though she would make comments on occasion that were just so uncharacteristically funny and surprise us.  Honestly, because she was so quiet and we were often so busy and concentrating on our work I don't know much else about her other than that she was one of many children in her family. It seems like so little to know about someone and yet in the nine months that I knew her we often didn't work the same shifts.  Although, how much do we really know about each other anyway?

Today I read where they arrested the young man who had been her child's father and had at one time been in a relationship with her although from the comments it seems they were no longer in a relationship.  He is twenty years old.  He is charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson. If convicted on all counts he faces a lifetime in prison and possibly the death penalty.  I also read that he stabbed her and cut her throat before setting fire to the apartment. This bit of information just adds to the horror of it all.

I'm so sad that this has happened.  Two young lives have been taken and one life is essentially over.  All the hopes and dreams and potential just squashed and I can't reconcile how this could happen.  How this young man makes the decision to do something like this.  How anyone could look at a life and see no value.

Two families are affected by this and the overwhelming sadness and loss and heartbreak they must be experiencing right now makes me hurt for them.  People I have never met and yet they are my family and your family too.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow journeymen on this blue and green ball called Earth that we are all just trying to venture through together.  Children of God who were created by God but who live in a fallen, broken world. Psalm34:18 says, The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  I pray that they are leaning on the Lord during this time.  I hope they have that hope that they will see her and her son again one day in glory. Could you pray with me?  Could you pray for all those who are hurt and broken and suffering because of this?  Could you pray for peace?  Could you pray for this messed up broken world that we live in?  We need to be there for each other.  We're called to love each other. We're called to love like Jesus.  Every life has value.  Every single life.  Each man, woman, and child was born into this world as a beautiful creation and gift from God and somewhere along the way we've just gotten so lost.  We've lost sight of the One who holds everything together.  I'm praying, will you join me?  Rest in peace sweet ones.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hanging Out On Campus: Observations and thoughts from an outsider.

I am spending time on a college campus this semester.  No, I didn't go back to college (student loan debt for a 45 year old when you have two kids in college seems like a bad idea financially) and no I am not teaching.  I doubt they need someone to teach them sarcasm and that is really all I have a masters degree in.  What it is, is that my kids do not have cars.  We can (barely) afford college.  Cars are a luxury.  They will have to save to buy their own cars or we will have to be blessed by a generous benefactor such as the State Lotto or the Powerball.  We don't actually play all that often so our chances are probably even slimmer than those that play every week.  We also don't have any family members/friends who have  won the lotto or who have become so wealthy that they are running out of things to do with their money so they have decided to go down a list of family members and secretly pay off all their bills and roll up with vehicles with red bows.  If we as humans didn't need to eat every day and were trying to eat more healthy we might be able to scrounge up some extra for luxuries like cars for all drivers in the house.  But I digress...

I am spending time on campus waiting for my middle child to finish her classes for the day four days a week.  We live just far enough away from campus that it isn't worth the gas spent to go home and then have to return to pick her up and then go back home again.  We're trying to save money not burn through it even faster. So here I sit at a table in the student center watching kids come in and out and trying to behave and not go to the cafeteria and get overpriced snacks and drinks. I say that as I realize I forgot to bring my cup of water today.  Well that shoots that....ok I'm trying not to buy overpriced snacks because I have to already buy overpriced water.  I also spend time staring at blank pages and looking at works that have been started and trying to find inspiration as to where to go next with them.  Continuing this form of tortuous release feels like an exercise in futility and yet this is what I keep coming back to.  I have a healthy fear of both stopping and continuing.

The kids look at me like their mother just showed up to make sure they are being kind, respectful, and doing their work. They also tend to look at me like, "she doesn't even go here!"  I feel like an imposter and perhaps I am. It isn't an unfamiliar feeling for me.  I often feel like an imposter, as if I don't belong, I don't quite fit in no matter how hard I try. One of these doesn't belong and usually it is me. 

I'm plugged in which is how I normally write.  I am listening to Pandora because I can't figure out how to get free music on my Motorola and I can't figure out how to get iTunes to work on my computer because apparently it is downloaded onto too many computers for one account and must somehow be deleted from computers we no longer use.  Don't look at me like that.  I know!  It's things like this that show my age and are probably why I am not precisely "successful" in life. I grew up using a typewriter. Computers were just becoming a big deal in college for writing papers and most didn't even how printers they had floppy discs. I got married right out of college and got pregnant right after that.  My 'business' has been raising a family and I never did need a spreadsheet for that. I rarely even have a grocery list and tend to wing it.

I'm actually just winging life to be completely honest with you, never quite specializing in any one thing and never quite finding success in any of them either.  I'm not even sure I'm doing my makeup right when I take the time to put it on.  I go to the store if I run out of something and they have all these products I don't even understand what they are for. What is this bronzer stuff?  Why do we need that?  Go outside. You can get bronze from the sun for free?  Don't tell me it's for the winter, why do you need to be bronze in the winter unless you live in the south in which case....Go. Outside. Bronzers and highlighters and cc cream and bb creams.  The alphabet didn't used to come into play with makeup. I saw blue lipstick and green lipstick?  What is that about?  Halloween much?  I might look a little too natural at this point.

I still haven't figured out the dress code here either.  It is still getting into the upper 80's and 90's here and there are people in jeans and sweatshirts.  What's that about?  It's not ever going to get particularly cold here aside from those two weeks around February, but who cares I like the feeling of sweat running down my back? Don't get me wrong, I am all about bringing a sweater or sweatshirt for going inside cold places but can you say heat stroke when you walk outside?  I don't get it.  This is why I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb while here.  Although to be honest it is probably my own insecurity as I'm rarely noticed while I'm here.  Of course, that thinking could be my own delusions too.  I try to dress in a respectful yet stylish and cool way for a college campus while here.  I'm not sure I'm succeeding though because apparently the dress code is more grunge or athletic with only a few dressing the way I seem to think kids dress.

I wonder about these kids/young adults.  I'm curious if they realize how amazing they are just for being here.  I wonder if they get the blessing it is, how at one time college campuses were not quite so busy a place.  I hope they feel strong, and smart, and that they see all of the possibilities the world can hold for them.  Just as I wish those things for my own children.  I hope that they don't worry so much about what other people think. I think that is where we have gotten lost today.  So many are looking for approval from others for who they are.  Don't do that.  Be who you are.  Keep seeking to find out who that is and what that means for you.  It is OK to be weird. I'm kind of weird. and it works for me. Never stop learning, exploring, dreaming and seeking counsel from God who is really all that matters anyway. Don't let others set your pace because they aren't the one's running your race. While I'm on my soapbox dreaming of the future generation I'd also like to say that it is perfectly OK to sing along with the music in department stores or restaurants.  They want you to or they wouldn't play good music.  I would also like to say that if I happen to look in your direction, I'm probably lost in thought and not actually really focused on you at all. 

So that is how I came to be sitting on a college campus and not getting paid for it and not taking any classes.  It's a nice campus and the food here is top notch.  The offerings here really are amazing.  These kids have access to sushi and power bowls and a salad bar.  It's like club med in this cafeteria...not that I have ever been to club med and actually club med probably has people to bring you food and rub your shoulders if you look tense like me and have to remind yourself to relax your shoulders.  I don't know.  My expectations are usually off.  I once went to a country club in my home town for my husband's reunion and it was not nearly as fancy as I had built it up in my mind. I've digressed again....it's the hunger and the fact I'm 98% parched her.  Until next time....

Thursday, August 24, 2017

High School and College and Stress,Oh My!

This year my son started high school.  My middle child started her final semester at the community college and will be leaving in January for university.  My oldest was dropped off last night at her university and I would be lying if I said that I was handling all of this will ease and grace.

Here's the thing...nothing can go easily. My son is on his fifth schedule for the year.  Yes, you read that right.  His FIFTH schedule for the freshman from another state that has no familiarity with the school whatsoever.  They do not give the students their schedules until the first day of school and when they handed him his first schedule it was a different schedule than what was in the computer.  This meant that he went to the wrong classes for the first three days of school.  As of today we are only on the eleventh day of school. I'm hoping that this is the last one.  You wouldn't think that this was a huge deal, they are just working out the kinks in the beginning of the year and now it will be smooth sailing from here out...except now his grades show missing work and F's for classes that he didn't attend because he was handed THE WRONG SCHEDULE.  If we could work this out that would be great.

My middle child had all of her classes registered had paid for them all and gotten her books for them.  She then received an email stating that one of her classes would not be happening due to lack of enrollment.  She went into the computer to drop that class and add another.  One would think this would be an even swap.  Evidently not and because we didn't pay for the new class right away she was dropped from every single class she had registered for. Today is the first day of classes, one would think that this would be a day that you would have the office staff in early to handle things like this.  It is not. 

We took my oldest to college last Thursday.  Her roommate nor her suitemates showed up. We also learned that a co-ed dorm meant boys and girls in the same hall.  We moved her stuff in and then took her home and had to return her to school Sunday night.  Fortunately there were people there.  It's an interesting experience really.  Especially if you go into college not knowing a single soul on campus.  You just show up and live with some random stranger you have never met and know nothing about.  I can think of no other time in life when this happens.  I suppose if you have an arranged marriage....maybe?  When was the last time you met someone who had an arranged marriage?  See?  It's awkward to the nth degree for everyone, especially for people with any bit of anxiety and who are introverts.  The entirety of the rest of one's life they will never enter into this kind of living arrangement.  Or I suppose maybe some people do, what do I know I've been married for the same number of years than I wasn't married in life.  It's 2017 and a very odd and strange world who knows what all these people are doing.
 
We have had a rough start.  At times the stresses and bumps in the road  have gotten the best of us.  It happens.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated.  We have been all of those things.  I have been all of those things.  You know what though...My son has been fine.  He's been mildly inconvenienced but has just rolled with it.  He just comes home tired and tells me who he knows in the classes he has now.  He says to me, " It will be fine, mom."  He is so like his dad that way.  Twenty seven years I have been with my husband you would think he would rub off on me.  The only thing I acquired is more sarcasm.  He is the calm in the storm and I am the storm.  I am so glad that at least one of our kids got the best of him.  I give them the worst of me. The girls get to be anxious balls of stress because I am an anxious ball of stress. I can only hope that if/when they someday marry they find Godly men who bring them calm as their father has brought me.

The first week with my son starting school was tough.  For me, cause as I said he was fine and rolls with it.  This week however, the girls started classes.  They've been nervous and stressed and so I've been nervous and stressed but you know, I also kind of think it's been awesome.  As I sit alone in the quiet to think about it some pretty amazing things have happened as well.  My son has shown that he is as steadfast and laid back as his father which is great to see. 

My middle child, after she freaked out and decided to take her frustrations out on me, has actually been given more opportunities at the school that she may not have had otherwise.  Because of this entire ordeal with her schedule and trying to get everything fixed we talked to someone in the music department and she offered her more scholarships if she signed up for her class and a different class from what she was trying to get transferred into.  She also has started talking to more music majors and was even invited to go get lunch with some new friends one day this week. 

My oldest, has had some things come up that she has needed help with and we are no longer just in the other room or right on the other side of town.  She has had to step out of her comfort zone to ask others for help.  She's not comfortable asking anyone anything except us usually.  She's also looking into activities to go to and things to get involved in.  For my quiet introverted girl who is uncomfortable in a lot of situations that involve people she doesn't know, this is huge!  I'm so proud of her. She's figuring things out and hopefully finding out she is braver and stronger than she thinks.

As for me...well...I'm still a big giant ball of stress mess.  I've actually been in a great deal of pain for a several days now just because my muscles are just tied in knots from worrying and stressing out over everything. I can't control everything. I really hate that.  I know I have control issues.  I usually need to have a handle on things and I've been rendered pretty helpless as it applies to the girls and their schools. I've kind of thought, as my friend Christi put it today, that if I stopped spinning my fingers the world would stop spinning.  This week the world has continued to spin and my fingers have had nothing to do with it.  I asked my middle child if she could see how God has worked her schedule mishap for the good.  That had that never happened there wouldn't be any more scholarships and she wouldn't be playing her oboe in a band again.  She said she does.  I hope so.  As it turns out I have little to no control over most things really. I'm not in charge of all things. (Control issues alert: I probably should be in charge of some things because...well I should.)  It's shocking, I know!  I was amazed too!  I pray for my kids every night and sometimes I might be a little too specific in my requests.  I wonder about that.  As if God doesn't already know our hearts and our requests before we ask them, how specific do you really need to be?  I bank on this for those nights (that are too numerous to count sadly) that I fall asleep in the middle of my prayers.  The girls are learning this week how to fly.  They are finding their feet anyway so they can learn to run which will help them to fly.  I am learning to let them even if it means they fly further away from me.  (I don't like it.  I don't have to.  I'm not in charge of the world and all things in it.  Sometime I wish I were.  Mostly I'm glad I'm not. It is exhausting spinning your fingers to keep the world in motion and besides I don't have the attention span for it.)  I just hope once they learn to fly they eventually find their feet again so they can follow them back home...at least for a visit.








Sunday, August 13, 2017

Because I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone it, People Like Me!

There was once a skit on Saturday Night Live where Stuart Smalley went on and did his daily affirmations: Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and Doggone it, People like me!  It seemed so silly at the time and everyone would laugh. I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. 

Life seems so hard sometimes.  It feels overwhelming...as if we work and we try and nothing we do is ever good enough.  We run ourselves ragged and yet nothing gets done. We save and we budget and there isn't enough.  You tell your kids how magnificent they are from birth, they are beautiful and smart, and kind and loving and loved and they don't believe you.  One kid tells them something different and all your work is for naught.  You follow a recipe and try to make healthy meals for your family and they don't turn out.  You work a program to lose weight and you put ten pounds on as soon as the program is over. You look for jobs and you don't qualify for any of the jobs that sound challenging and fun.  (Interesting how many things you don't qualify for having spent your life dedicated to your children) Your kids don't think you are as smart as dad and you don't think so either.  You're quirky and sarcastic and a people pleaser and people don't get your humor.  You go on Facebook and everyone has their crap together.  They can do it all.  You go on Pinterest and everyone is a professional decorator and gardener and chef and you cannot possibly do all of it...or even some of it.

Somewhere along the way we get lost.  I get lost.  Maybe it is just me...it could just be me.  I moved and I live in paradise.  I have everything I ever wanted.  I have the husband, the children, the house with the palm trees and I've been lost. Sinking, trying to keep my head above the water, just treading water because my feet can't touch the bottom and I can't get my footing. I've been so busy trying to make everyone happy that I've forgotten how to be happy myself. I'm exhausted...all. the. time. 

I haven't even been reading books. Me!  Not reading books.  I buy books.  I bring books home.  I read a couple of chapters and put it down or maybe I'll read half of it, then put it down not to be looked at again.  There was once a time when I would sit down with a book and a cup of coffee (that doesn't actually taste like coffee) or tea and read.  I could read for hours.  Laundry would pile up, dinner would need fixed, the kids could fight and I didn't care.  I was in a book and I was filling my tank.
I haven't even been writing.  Obviously...I haven't been writing because if you are one who follows this blog you know how far and few between the posts are. 

There was a time I didn't concern myself with what people would think of my posts. I wrote for me and no one else.  Everyone else was just bonus.  The actual writing was cathartic for me...as if by doing so it healed the broken vestiges of my heart.  Writing stories about my kids reminded me of my blessings. Just typing out what I was figuring out in life helped it to sink in somehow.  If what I wrote for me helped someone else that was God's business and not mine. Somewhere along the way I tried to take that from God and worry about that myself.  I started concerning myself with who was reading and what they thought about it.  Do I look stupid?  I shouldn't be writing.  I have no formal training....who am I anyway?  I should leave this to professionals.  Who do I think I am anyway, Beth Moore?  I love Beth Moore, but I cannot BE Beth Moore, nor do I want to.  I can't go talk in front of people.  I'm more of a Lizzy McGuire....RUN!!!!! kind of girl.  My mind would race and wouldn't shut down.  What once was healing and only for me, two books later, was no longer just for me and I wasn't sure I was that person.  The enjoyment disappeared and was replaced with a real sense of total fear.

Transitions are hard.  We moved a year and a half ago.  We settled in and made some friends and found a church and jobs.  The transition was hard on everyone but I made it my mission in life to do whatever I could to make sure everyone was transitioning well and they were happy.  They would be happy if it was the last thing I ever did.  They would be happy if it killed me. Working and doing everything for everyone because that is what we do as wives and mothers.  We bend over backwards to take care of everyone else and we forget to take care of ourselves...or maybe we just run out of time or get too tired.

I started reading a book recently (a couple actually) one asks "who told you, you weren't good enough?"  the other asks "what measuring stick are we using to measure perfection?"  I can't seem to find the balance.  I never feel like anything I do is good enough and I will never achieve perfection.  My meals will never be gourmet and my house will never look professionally decorated and will likely never be without dust or a pile of papers somewhere.  It's stressful.  Never feeling good enough, or smart enough, and never being able to tell if what you think is what God wants from you is really what God wants or what you want is stressful.  Having your kids growing up and leaving and not knowing who you are without them and how to fill your days once they are gone is stressful.  So many make it all look so effortless.  Why is it so hard?  Why do I continue to tear myself down and knock myself  down to size the moment I think I might be on to something that maybe I could do? 

Does God talk to you?  Does he tell you stuff?  I mean...do you know how to tell the difference between what you think God wants and what you want?  What if it's the same thing?  Does that happen and if so what do you do with that? I don't know...maybe God doesn't talk to me. Maybe I don't know how to recognize it if he does. 

I have questions!  I'm scrambling through this life full of questions.  Anyone?  Just me then?  OK ...I got it.  But if I'm anything I'm real.  I keep it real and I don't pretend to be something I'm just... not.  I am also pretty sure that when I feel like God is wanting me to do something I tend to want to pick and choose.  I also tend to be pretty sure that it can't be God asking me but it is just my own selfish desires coming into play.  I'm also quite certain that I am really good at running.  (Not actual running because that would be ridiculous and someone or something would have to be chasing me. If you see me running it would be a good idea to send help.) 

I love this place I call home. I feel blessed to be here.  I love this crazy family I get to spend this life with and I love God.  I don't talk nice about myself.  This has been pointed out to me.  I also have a growing relationship with the words "I can't" this has also been pointed out to me.  These friends are not wrong.  I just haven't figured out how to reprogram my brain into thinking or reacting another way. I am not unhappy I'm distressed.  I'm confused about my role not only in my family with my growing/grown children but also my role in the kingdom.  I'm also really quite scared about what I might find out.  I never said I made sense. 

In church today we talked about Got equipping the called and that he often doesn't call the equipped.  It makes so much more sense the other way around.  Although when I really stop and think about it, maybe it does.  Maybe it is easier to learn from someone who is or has been where you are.  Maybe it is harder to take things in from beautiful perfect people who seem to have always had their crap together because when you're scrambling around trying to figure things out what they have going on seems unattainable and out of reach.  Maybe it is easier to take things in from people who are just like you, just like me, lost sheep in need of a shepherd.  When you think about it like that it doesn't seem quite so crazy. 

So here's what I've got: Maybe daily affirmations aren't so bad.  Maybe they can be helpful when (like me) your inner voice isn't really very nice to you.  We need to take some time to fill our tank. I am not now nor will I ever be perfect.  It is completely unattainable and maybe that it ok.  I didn't use to care.  My goal was always food-edible, house-not condemnable, kids-loved, husband-loved, and the rest would just sort itself out.  My daughters are both going to be out of my house soon and I have to come to terms with that.  I have to learn to let them go and do and be what God wants them to be.  My baby is no longer a baby.  He's in high school and as hard as that is to come to terms with I have to deal with that too.  I don't know how or where that leaves me once they are all off living their lives and leaving me behind but maybe that's ok too.  I don't have to have it all figured out in a day, or a week or even this year.  What I really need to do is learn how to let go and let God handle it all and stop trying to do His job for him.  It is far too much for my tiny brain to handle and frankly it is exhausting.  Lastly, why should I be so concerned about living up to what I think others expect from me when I really don't know what they expect.  And does it really matter?  I'm a mom and I have the love of my husband and my children (most of the time) and so what if I don't have some high profile thing to talk about at reunions.  I don't like or go to reunions and it shouldn't be a competition anyway.  I'm not on anyone's journey but my own and for now I don't know what it holds and I need to learn to be ok with that too.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Story about Time and Finding Friends

What difference can a year make?  It is a funny thing, this thing we call time.  We, as humans, are the only creatures who mark it out, count it, rely on it even, and worry so much about it running out.  One of my favorite books is called The Timekeeper.  Mitch Albom of course, is one of my absolute favorite authors of all time.  In this book about the Timekeeper and time he explores it all in such a poignant way.  It is really a good book so check it out if you haven't.

We have lived in our current location for almost a year and a half.  I think about how different things are from when we first got here.  It is amazing really how much smaller a place can get.  Don't get me wrong, it is huge.  Two to three lanes per side on any given road to get where you are going is not unusual here.  A traffic jam here is not just a few cars behind a tractor and not once have I had to try and get around a combine that was moving between fields.  It just isn't a thing here...at least not where we live. Perhaps the more appropriate word is familiar.  Most places are now familiar and feel like home.

When first we arrived things were not familiar.  Even our home wasn't familiar.  People weren't familiar in almost every location we went and the locations weren't familiar either.  I was afraid.  I won't lie to you about that.  Obviously I was afraid.  I've always been afraid of one thing or another.  Afraid to go down the big slide at the park, afraid of the dark, afraid to drive on the big roads, afraid to speak in front of people, even if I know them all, always so afraid.  Mostly though I think my fear was bigger of what our lives would be if we didn't move.  That fear was bigger.  The fear of settling and always being afraid of everything because the comfort of the familiar was just so comfortable.  The comfort even started to scare me because what if I never stopped being afraid and I stayed that way and eventually it became worse?  What kind of life is that for my family?  What does that show our children?  Is that what I want for them? The answer was and is no.

We arrived as aliens in an unknown but beautiful place, knowing only four people in our location and three others that lived hours away.  My husband and son were the lucky ones.  They had work and school.  That helped them to be submerged into the environment a bit quicker than it happened with the girls in the family.  We mostly stayed home except for going to the grocery and church.  But then something amazing happened, our pastor's wife started taking me out on excursions and showing me around.  We quickly became friends and in no time (there's that word again) at all we were getting together most weeks even if it was just to go to the grocery together.  Everyone knows going with a friend to the grocery makes that chore more tolerable.  

In the year and a half since we've been here I have met some great people and made some friends.  Our son has made friends at school and even ventured to a school dance (something he never ever did back at his old school).  Our middle child started a job that was temporary and then started a different job and started college.  She has made friends and started getting more grounded.  Our oldest daughter has graduated from her college she was attending on line and is getting ready for her next chapter.  My husband has turned his store around.  It is no longer quite the trouble store it was upon arrival.  It is still insanely busy and ridiculous at times but improvements have been made and small glimpses of light are being seen at the end of a very long tunnel.

I drive.  I drive on three lane roads and cut in and out of traffic when people go too slow.  I have driven to the beach.  I have been forced to drive places that I wasn't familiar with to get my son places he needed to be for activities.  It seems that if my child needs me to go somewhere, my fear gets put in the corner and I go.  It is good for me.  We take walks and it gets dark.  It storms and I find I am not concerned.  I have ridden rides (simulated rides but I think that still counts).  It seems as though things have started picking up.  Life has started and we are hitting our rhythm here.

But as per usual life always likes to hit you with a curve ball to make sure you are paying attention.  Life is a Rocky Balboa quote.  "You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain't about how hard ya hit.  It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward."  My friend is leaving.  Our time together is short now. Their family is moving and I'm so sad.

It is harder I think, as an adult, to find friends who get you.  Someone you can laugh and be silly with that won't secretly judge you for being a nerd bomber.(Does that term date me? I feel like it dates me.)  I'm a huge nerd.  I like super heroes and Star Trek, and Star Wars and singing to the muzak in the mall and singing in the car and pretending I could rock at lip sync battle.  I walk out of movies feeling like a ninja and like I could conquer the world.  I have unrealistic expectations of things I think I should be able to do, that I cannot, and I speak in movie quotes and sarcasm.  As you can see,it is hard to find someone who can not only deal with that kind of charm but embrace it and dive right into your life and be the kind of friend that seems as though you have always been friends and the time you didn't know each other seems of no relevance at all.  I get I'm weird and my only fear now is that once my friend leaves I may not find that one friend here that can fill that void.  The one I can call and say "Hey let's go to Target and look at clearance." or "Hey I need you to talk me down from the ledge cause I'm losing it."  or "Hey, go to Aldi's with me because I don't want to go alone."  I need that kind of friend in my life and while she reminds me that she isn't dying she is just moving, there is still a sense of loss.

I am blessed to have made such a good friend shortly after my arrival and we will always be friends.  Just as it was when I moved from my home town to here, I didn't just stop being friends with the friends that I had there.  I have several friends that I miss dearly from my home state.  That said I don't so much miss my home town.  I don't miss who I was when I was there.  I kind of feel like in leaving I found a piece of myself that was missing.  I gained a bit of independence that I may not have found otherwise.  God sent me just the friend I needed here to help me adjust and learn to step a few toes outside of my comfort zone...to learn to fully live my life in this new environment instead of just moving to another house and nothing really changing.

I am no longer sitting on the sidelines. I am diving in, looking around and absorbing it all.  I'm looking for my tribe and I'm not so concerned about the timing.  Sooner rather than later would be nice as she's leaving next month but it's OK, she will still take my calls.  I have a routine and I'm still figuring out who I am outside of the motherhood.  I've always just been someone's mom and while I'm still the mom, they don't really need me or want me around so much.  I'm not sure who I am outside of that.  My cousin reminded me that I did once have interests and I was once human before I had the children.  It's hard to remember but I think when the time is right God will reveal the plan.  Until then I'll bide my time and wait for God to send me a friend that likes to sing along with Bohemian Rhapsody and go to the grocery with me and speaks fluent sarcasm.  Ironically my friend is moving to my home state.  I did warn her and I sure hope she likes corn.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Phone Calls from Heaven

Dear Mom,

It doesn't really get easier.  Mother's day is tomorrow and I suppose I should focus on the fact that I, myself, am a mother.  I realize that, of course, I realize that and yet I want my mother.  Everywhere I go people are talking about buying cards for their mothers and I don't have a card to buy.  I don't have a call to make or flowers to send.  I would have sent you sunflowers.  You should see the sunflowers they have at the farmer's market.  They are breathtaking.

I had this fantasy, a dream really, you were here.  We were making plans for dinner for Mother's day and talking about how to spend the day today.  Were we going shopping or to the beach to work on our tans?  There are so many choices here.  So many places to eat, I think you could go somewhere different for an entire year and still not try them all.

I drink coffee now.  Did I tell you that?  Your granddaughters like it too.  We don't drink it black like you did but I often think about how much fun it would have been to go to coffee shops with you.  How you would have ordered yours black and we would have tried to get you to drink coffee like we do with all the stuff in it that makes it taste good.  Would you have enjoyed it the way we do?  Would it have been a running joke between us?  Can you imagine the four of us girls shopping and drinking coffee together?  I never did...I imagine you thought, like I did, that the girls would be little forever.  It never occurred to me, when you were here, the things we would be doing together as the girls got older.  Now we are visiting colleges and in a few short years they will be working and on their own.  You would have been right in the mix of it all.  How different would our lives be if you were here?  What would you have taught the girls?

Amazing...it is really amazing to me how much difference a year can make.  We moved almost a year and a half ago and I was so frightened to drive on some of these big roads.  We felt like aliens in a strange land and now, well....we're not.  Yesterday your grandson pointed out a kid on a bike and said he was a great guy.  We have friends here now.  I have driven to the beach.  If I want to go somewhere I'm not so scared to go anymore.  I have found that it doesn't matter where you go, people drive like idiots.  I have thought about how you would have handled driving here and then I was remembering that you drove us to North Carolina.  Do you remember that?  Just the two of us on the open road and I realize you were fearless.

You were fearless and yet I have always been afraid of everything.  You were the hardest working woman I ever knew and you raised me alone.  It wasn't easy.  Raising a daughter is hard, I get it, I have two.  PMS and drama and all the things...throw in the eye rolls and the door slamming and it's enough to make anyone slightly crazy and you did it without help.  I, at least, have a partner in life.  We can tag team and team up and support each other.  Remember when I was having the boy?  We were so scared of a boy.  He's so easy...always was really.  He would put himself down for naps.  Such blessings each and every one, with their different personalities, and they would have enjoyed hanging around you as much as you would have them.  You would have spoiled them.  I hope you would have taught them to be fearless like you.  I wish I could have been fearless too.

So many changes and I can't call you.  I can't call you and talk to you while I'm cooking dinner.  I can't invite you to dinner.  You were always on the other end of the line.  You could be so mad at me but you were always on the other end of the line.  You might have yelled at me but you would have been there.  For the record, I was always right, but I'd say I was wrong if I could have one more conversation. It's been almost thirteen years and I have to focus to remember the sound of your laugh.  I have to concentrate to remember the melody of your voice.  I remember the way you would say things, the expressions you would use, like it is ingrained into the very fiber of my being.

I can close my eyes and see your smile and the way you would chew on your pinky finger when you were tired. The way you were late for every party always but you made the best cakes in town.  The way you always looked so tired because you worked all night in a factory for my whole life so you could be available if I needed you in the daytime.  I remember it all.  I thank you for it all.  I was a sarcastic kid and maybe I'm not a much better adult because my entire vocabulary is full of sarcasm and movie quotes but you did teach me to appreciate everything.  You taught me right from wrong and you taught me that love is a verb.  That it's showing up.  And maybe you taught me a little bit about hard work too but I was always too scared to fail to really go for dreams I knew I didn't deserve. And yet you were never the one who told me I didn't deserve anything, you only told me I was spoiled but you were mostly to blame for that and you loved it.  You loved me.  Always.  For better or for worse you were always the one person in my life that I could run to and all I want is to talk to you on the phone.  If only there could be phone calls from heaven.

I have been so very blessed with a wonderful husband and three great kids I've gotten to love here on earth and one that I hope to meet in heaven someday.  I have this beautiful family and some great friends but on mother's day I miss my mom.  No one loves you like your mom.  I know though that if I can't be with you that you are with the only one who could love you better.  I'm so overwhelmed that you came to know Jesus before you died.  I think that is the best part of all this.  His love for you is so deep and so true.  I know His love for me is too.  I love you and miss you to infinity and beyond.  I just wish there were phone calls from heaven.  Until we meet again.

Love,

Your favorite daughter, Heather
(I win by default, only child and all)