Category Archives: Growing up

Life in the Empty Nest (thus far)

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Our proverbial empty nest has been so for a little over a month now.  It has definitely been an adjustment.

There are some awful things about this chapter of our lives and some things that are not awful at all, some good and some great.

I love cleaning a room and knowing that it will stay that way for a pretty long while.  I can’t even remember that last time any room in our home stayed picked up and clean for more than a day…  y’all it’s been decades.

On that note, I only do 3 – 4 loads of laundry each week, and some of those are only because I’ve been going through and cleaning each room, so I may have rugs, etc. that are not typically weekly laundry.  It wasn’t long ago I was doing 10 loads a week, so this is a major for this girl!

I spend SO much less on groceries for the two of us.  Except I spend more because I know that Aaron will stop by daily to eat at least one meal, Caleb and Hannah a couple of times a week and then I have to pick up a few things for each of them to get through the week without starving or eating non-organic foods…  or chemical laden cleaning supplies… or…

I have peace and quiet.  I am able to read more, write more, spend more quiet time with Jesus.  We can watch whatever we want to watch, play whatever music we choose, eat the dinner we pick…  My Honey and I, not Jesus. Although, I like to think He influences our choices.

When they were younger, Bob would take the kids out for a day or evening so that I could just enjoy the quiet.  It was rare for me to be without my babies, so I would just relish those hours and feel so rejuvenated by the time they all busted through the front door.

Last week my Honey worked 3 nights and this week 4 in a row, after working his full time day job.  I’m not relishing my time alone so much anymore.  I can only rejuvenate so much, and then you can call me lonely.  It probably sounds silly to some, but learning to be alone, again, is a skill I’m struggling with a bit now that I have so much time with just me.

I have room in my refrigerator.  Also, not an occurrence in our home for decades.  I tend to find my security in food – “As long as my children have food to eat, everything is okay,” so it’s still pretty full, but it’s not the norm of shutting the door before anything squeezes out and breaks all over the floor!  My pantry also has room – because I had time to reorganize it and I gave approximately 1/2 of it to my children a couple of weeks ago.  Sometimes I just go into my kitchen so that I can look at my organized pantry and refrigerator.  It makes me happy.

You should maybe be worried at this point.

I miss my kiddos something fierce.  I probs call them too much… maybe not probs.  I’m filling the void by making my Honey breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday.  He’s LOVING it!  This morning he told me that his love language is good food…

I’m rediscovering myself and it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s good, too.

It’s such a weird concept to be independent as a young adult and then meet and fall madly in-love with a man and become one with him in marriage.  Then came the babies and the decades of pouring yourself into them, losing yourself a little even though you said you wouldn’t…

and now you are finally able to date your incredible husband again (without paying a babysitter, or being too exhausted to enjoy yourself or feeling guilty for spending money or leaving your babies behind…), and you can spend actual big chunks of time doing the things you love again.  It should be pure joy, and, yet, it feels so unfamiliar and even a little scary.  But I’m finding moments of joy in all of it and I can see where this will become a truly lovely norm in time.

In the meantime, it’s a little uncomfortable and that’s okay.

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My Nest is Empty

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I’ve been raising babies for 31-plus years.  Many of those years there were 4 or 5 of them under our roof.  They were my life’s work.  I poured myself into motherhood.  It was my calling, my ministry, my redemption.  It was also where I made the most mistakes and how God uncovered my deepest flaws.  Nothing grew me more than being a mama…

Growing up, I remember some of the vows I made to myself, even as a young girl.  I vowed I would raise my sons to be sensitive and communicative, not afraid of deep emotion in themselves or others.  I vowed I would raise my daughters to be strong and confident, not needing a man’s attention or approval to feel good about themselves.  I vowed that my children would never let someone feel left out of anything as I always did being raised as the only girl in a family of 5 children.  And finally, as an adult, I vowed that I would show my children the unconditional love that I yearned for all of my life and that I would do all I could to nurture them just as God made them to be, not trying to make them fit into some proverbial box that the world said was “normal” or “better.”

My children are all incredibly inclusive and it makes my mama’s heart swell with love and pride when I see how much they all make the effort to ensure everyone feels a part of things.  My sons are sweeties, communicating their hearts and listening to others sincerely.  My daughter is probably the strongest woman I know.   She is more comfortable in her skin at 24 than most women are at 54.  For the most part, her approval comes from Her Father and she has the kind of healthy boundaries I only dreamed of at her age.  

Truly, they have grown up and into even better human beings than I could’ve imagined, both because of, and mostly, in spite of, me being their mama.

I remember when my oldest was born and I was neurotic about anything hurting him in any way.  I was just sure he was too wonderful a blessing for me to deserve and as soon as someone realized their mistake, he would be taken from me.  When my 2-year old stepson came into my life I remember doing all I could to be sure he felt like our home was just as much his home and that he belonged.  The birth of our only daughter four years later brought this confident peace that our family was complete.  Her big brothers adored her and we had a little girl to add to our precious family of boys.  It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I was much more confident in my role as a mama.  Life was good.  When she was just 9 months old we found out that we were pregnant and then, a few weeks later, we discovered the reason I was so, SO sick was that “there were two buns” in my oven, as our OBGYN so politely stated during our initial ultrasound.  It was a drama-filled pregnancy, financially, physically and emotionally.  After a pretty scary  emergency c-section delivery more than 6 weeks before our due date, having 3 babies under 18 months, two of which were premature, was a special kind of crazy.  Sometimes I can’t believe we survived those first two years.

Truth is, I’d go back and do it all over again, if given the chance.  I loved raising my children.  Those years were the best years of my life in so many ways.  I homeschooled them for many reasons, but one of them was because time goes so quickly and I wanted as many moments as I could get with them before it was time for them to leave.  It’s funny because I committed to savoring every moment with them and it still feels like it went TOO fast and it wasn’t enough.  Don’t get me wrong.  My children often drove me completely insane and I would think, “It’s okay.  They’ll leave soon and then you’ll wish you had this mess to clean up.”  Almost instantly my sanity would return and I’d realize that just because I’ll miss them doesn’t mean I should be thankful for their messes!  Right?!

As mad as the early years were when all 5 of our kiddos were young and living at home (when the older 2 weren’t with other bio-parents), it was a simple that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone and replaced by the teen years.  You haven’t really lived until you go through that time with 2 kids from previous marriages at the same time and then again with 3 full time offspring.  Seriously, surviving that with your mind mostly intact, is award-worthy.  

And still, I would do it all again. Differently, better, hopefully, but truly anyway I could get it.  I’d do it all again.  

But, I won’t because I can’t, and that’s okay.  Mostly… 

moreso in a month, maybe.

Because last week our daughter moved out of our house and she was the only one left in my nest.  After she walked out the front door with her last big load, our love and prayers poured all over her, I watched a movie with my Honey and went to bed.  The next morning my Honey went to the gym with our son and I piddled around the house, rearranging the pantry and cleaning out the refrigerator.  It was kind of glorious.  Then I walked into our bedroom, sat on our bed, choked out the words, “My nest is empty” and sobbed, not boo-hoo cried, but full body-sobbed for 20 minutes, hard. 

The most important work of my life has ended.  It’s okay, even healthy, for me to mourn that.  She tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing I had ever done, but that’s because she isn’t a mama and she thinks that I’m hopeless if the most important thing is over.  She said that because she doesn’t want to feel responsibility for my sadness – and she shouldn’t.  She should know that I know that no matter what God brings into my journey, the thing I’ve completely poured myself into, grown the most doing, humbled myself the most before and feel that I was born to do and called to was being their mama.  This new season is for her to celebrate and simply make space for me to process and grow.

Being their mama is not all that I am and my life is certainly not over because I am no longer raising my precious children, but it was def the meat of my life-work sandwich.  And this is my mourning season for all that those years brought me, that I am only now able to slow down enough to reflect on with the self-forgiveness, wisdom and grace that I simply didn’t have when we were all living it.

I loved my children well.  I wrestled with my control issues for years in order for them to grow into who God made them to be.  We all made mistakes, but not one of them was because we lacked love for one another.  We were and remain human beings who make mistakes and need God’s grace, as well as one another’s.  As I watch my 3 youngest begin to take flight, I feel a sense of joy and pride that comes with a job well-done.  I have a confidence that they are all striving to be in God’s will and that is enough for this mama.  I don’t expect their lives to be without strife, but I am sure of His plan for their lives being more than I could ever hope for because they have chosen to follow Him with abandon.  I have this hope for my life as well.

I quit my teaching job last year for more reasons than you have time to read about.  I then nannied for several families for a little more than a year.  It has been hard and wonderful.  I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime, but my husband asked me to stop working for a bit and figure out where my next step should be.  He wants me to spend time writing because he knows this is how I best find my center.  Even my daily prayer time is journaling a letter to Jesus, rarely do I pray aloud.  My sweet husband has watched me go through a bit of a mid-life crisis and feel like I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything that I’m not slowing down to hear My Father calling.  So, naturally, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of semi-unemployment cleaning the house, rearranging everything just so and NOT writing nor slowing down. 

This is Day One of unemployment and I’m working on this blog I started a week or so ago. 

I’m writing.  

Here’s the great stuff…  My life’s work is pretty much amazing.  My babies couldn’t really “wow” me more than they do. 

My husband and I started this great journey of ours with a 2 and 3 year old in-tow, so, in 28 years, we’ve never just been “Us” without little ones or bigger ones to consider.  I have looked forward to this time of just the two of us for more years than I can remember.  There is something magical about those all alone times you have as a couple and except for an occasional weekend in the beginning, we’ve not had much opportunity to enjoy being just a couple.  We’ve worked really hard through the years to stay connected so that when this time came we wouldn’t be lost, we wouldn’t be unable to find “us” again, but here we are and there is a little bit of relearning who we are, who we’ve become and what we want to do with all of that.  Honestly, he is one of my favorite people in the world.  He is funny, protective, and works harder than any man I’ve ever known.  He’s a ESFP, a hard 7 on the enneagram, and his love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.  He could not be more the opposite of me and I could NOT be more thankful for that.  He just seems to get more handsome as he gets older and that’s impressive and wonderful and also, just a bit irritating, as I do not suffer from the same condition!  He’s much easier to get along with than his younger self and I find myself both loving and liking him more and more as we grow in years together.  God willing, we are still young enough to enjoy each other for many years.  It’s blowing my mind that we are finally here!    

Our 3 youngest come to see us because they want to spend time with us now, not because they have no choice.  Well, they also come for food and gas money, but usually they stay and actually have conversations with their dad and me.  This is the stuff.  When your children grow up and you can see the best parts of you and your husband in them and you truly enjoy their company.  My children challenge me in my walk with God, in my relationships with others, in my personality junk that gets in the way of my being who He calls me to be.  Honestly, it’s humbling in the best way and so rewarding.  I just stand in awe of the humans they’ve become.

I’ve found friends (finally) who are real and that is a gift for a girl who searched high and low for far too long only to come up empty on too many occasions.  It’s also a blessing to not have to have your kiddos tangled up in your friendships because, let’s face it, we all think our kids are the “good” ones and while your babies are happily making up after a tussle with each other, we are usually still harboring that mama-bear resentment that is waiting to spring at any wrong move from the other side.  I am enjoying friendships founded on 2 women with their own personalities and not founded on our children becoming friends.  After homeschooling and working full-time for so many years, I am beside myself that I have the time to go to lunch with friends that I’ve made on my own, in a city that I love.

I have time with My Father like I haven’t had ever before.  I’m not having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. before my children stir, I’m not having to fit Him in when I can because my job sucks the life out of me, I’m not forced to rush through my time with Him like so many times in the past when I had so much on my plate.  I’m thankful for these extended periods of time so that I can be still and listen for His voice.  I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to sign up for everything so that I can feel like people like me or I’m earning my keep, instead, I can wisely wait on Him to call me and serve where I’m called to serve when I’m called to serve and be comfortable in not being busy.

So, my nest is empty and this new way of living for this hard 2 on the enneagram is anything but comfortable right now.  I love my children with my whole heart, but I am more than a mama and a wife.  I am a woman who has reveled in and hidden behind her husband’s and children’s wants and needs for 31+ years.  All at once, I am terrified of what the future holds, while also waiting with hopeful expectancy for His direction.  There’s no place to hide and no time to waste anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

timshel

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Thou Mayest…

Freewill…

This brings SO many thoughts and feelings to my mind.

My tatoo

For a long time now, my youngest sons – twins, Caleb and Aaron – and I have been talking about getting coordinating tattoos. We discussed getting matching tatts, but decided it would be more meaningful to each spend some time praying about what our own personal version of that would look like. Ironically, Caleb was the first to decide – this is almost never the case. He is definitely my child. Almost every time we eat out, the rest of the group is waiting for Caleb and me to choose from the menu.   We are just not quick to make decisions when faced with more than a few choices. When you add the permanency of a tattoo to the equation, I am just about dead in my tracks. Making a decision about the placement, size and design of a tattoo on my body simply overwhelms me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when Caleb said, “Let’s go get our tattoos SOON,” I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions this was demanding from me. I did some research and began putting together what I wanted mine to look like. Caleb and Aaron decided that they wanted “timshel” in Hebrew. Caleb wanted his on his knuckles and Aaron wanted a larger font of the same on the side of his forearm. I have recently discovered I have a love for trees, and I’ve always known I have a passion for words, so I decided to combine the two and to my delight, I remembered that several of the original book covers had a tree on them.  Caleb’s color has always been blue and Aaron’s green, which is why I have the colored hearts/leaves on my tree.

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At this point you may be wondering what in the heck “timshel” even means, and moreso, why in the world would we all want permanent tattoos declaring this?!

I’d love to share the story with you because it is one of the ribbons in my life that I can trace back to my teen years in Byron, Michigan, where a teacher took the time to get to know me and recommended a novel that would have a great effect on my entire life.  Andrea Broaddus was not everyone’s favorite teacher.  She had a big personality and she called it like she saw it.  She often called me out, but because I knew she was speaking truth and wanted the best for me, I did my best, as a teenage girl with my own big personality, to take in her advice and make healthy changes.  I had just finished Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit and whined about how boring I thought it was and was just starting (and being a bit traumatized by) Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle when Mrs. B. suggested I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  She told me that there were many references to biblical characters and the story of Cain and Abel, which only dissuaded me from reading it.  I had very little biblical knowledge at that point in my life and was in no way considering becoming familiar with the Bible anytime soon.  But, as I said, I trusted her to see things in me and for me, so the next novel I read that year was East of Eden.

I was a bit of a drama queen back then.  I typically liked to play the victim and give up when it concerned me.  I would willingly fight for the people I loved, but my knee-jerk for myself was to make excuses and give up, often blaming others so that I didn’t have to admit I quit when things got too challenging.  I was more a Cain than an Abel… or so I thought.

I was completely enamored with this novel.  I couldn’t put it down and then I wept big mournful tears when I finished it.  I prayed I would have a college professor who would assign it, just so I could read it again and discuss it with more people.

It never happened…

In my early-20’s I bought a copy and read it for the third time.  I also located a copy of the original movie version with James Dean, as well as the modern version with Jane Seymour.  After initiating my husband, I told him I would like to name our son, if we ever had one, Caleb Aaron.  He agreed.

A few years later, I was pregnant and we agreed that if this baby was a boy, we would name him Caleb Aaron.  And then Hannah Elizabeth was born, much to our absolute delight!  We each had sons from our first marriages and now we had a daughter.  We felt like our family was complete.  We scheduled the vasectomy when Hannah was just 2 months old and a week later my dear friend lost her 4 month old baby girl on the night of her husband’s vasectomy from a botched prescription.  The baby passed away in the daddy’s arms.  I was a hormonal wreck after having Hannah, so I immediately canceled my husband’s appointment.  In my emotional state, I was sure something awful would happen to our family if we followed through.

A few short months later, I began to feel awful – as if my previous morning sickness from my other pregnancies all returned in triplicate, and after doing 2 home tests that showed a pink line faster than ever before, I confirmed what I was afraid to believe because I had recently started teaching at my oldest son’s school – where I taught East of Eden, btw – and things seemed just lovely just as they were.  I had been baptized while I was pregnant with Hannah and I decided to pray for patience, much to my believing friends’ dismay.  They advised me to pray for wisdom instead, but it was too late…  I soon found out that I had “two buns in the oven,” as my OBGYN told us at our first appointment where she had a feeling and did an immediate ultrasound.

My pregnancy was fraught with trauma.  My dear grandma passed away in October just after she asked me which twin I was going to give her.  She meant this as a tease because she had all girls and she knew I was overwhelmed with having  2 older boys, a one-year-old and twin boys on the way, but I was sure that God was preparing me to lose one of my babies.  A week after her passing, my OBGYN discovered I had complete placenta previa and I was placed on home bedrest for a little over a month before I began to hemorrhage late one night and had to go to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I was in that same room for 3 months, solid.  I was not even allowed to be wheeled down the hallway or stand at my window.  It was terrible because I felt fine.  It was also the most wonderful time in my life because I had SO much alone time with Jesus.  I was so confident of His leading in every step of that journey.  When I began hemorrhaging and they told me they were going to do an emergency c-section that morning, I knew He had us in His hands.  I truly believed I may lose one of my babies, and believed it would be Caleb, but I trusted Him completely and was as prepared as any mama could be to walk through this time to bring Him glory.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much faith since that morning…

As they rushed me down the hospital hallways, the people on all three of our teams (Caleb, Aaron and I each had a team of medical staff for the delivery) introduced themselves to me.  As we talked, we began to realize that they were all connected to me in one way or another.  Some of them were aunts or uncles of students of mine, some were related to people we went to church with, or knew other family members of ours, and all of them it seemed, were Jesus-followers.  So, when we arrived in the delivery room, there were prayers going up all over the place for my babies.  Bob was sent to get washed up and change into his scrubs just after they gave me that horrible shot in my back (UGH!).  I laid back and remember feeling incredibly dizzy.  I was bleeding uncontrollably and for just a minute, they lost me.  When I came to, I had NO idea what was happening.  My husband wasn’t in the room yet because they had kept him out during my little crash.  I looked around and said, “I feel kind of awful.  Can you let my husband in here?  I just know I’d feel so much better if he was with me.”

Everyone chuckled.  We were both still clueless.  Then they let my Honey come in the room and I immediately felt better.  He gave me a play-by-play, minus the blood and gore, of what was happening with our babies and my body.  Both of our sweeties were struggling some and had to be incubated immediately.  Aaron was biting at the umbilical cord and Caleb was struggling to thrive.  After they took them down, my big, strong husband passed out cold into a chair I yelled for them to bring when I saw the look on his face.  That’s when the remaining staff told me how I had flat-lined for a minute because I had lost so much blood.

Disclaimer: I admit I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an incredible near-death experience with Jesus talking directly to me.  But I’m alive, so I’m good!

They wheeled me down to my room and would not allow me to see my babies until I could walk on my own.  Therefore they found me on my cold hospital floor 3 times before my husband insisted on a wheelchair to take me down the next morning.  They were the cutest little frog/chickens you’ve ever seen!  Caleb’s incubator had a little card on it that said, “I’m the oldest” and Aaron’s said, “I’m the biggest.”

We spent the next 8 days gavage feeding them my breast milk and trying to get Caleb to thrive.  Bob and I would sing, “Jesus Loves (Me) You” over and over in order to keep them awake to eat the 1-2 ounces they desperately needed to survive.  Aaron seemed much more healthy until they came to tell us that we could take Caleb home, but Aaron had a brain-bleed that they had to keep a constant eye on.  I remember running my thermometer under hot water to fake a temp so that they would let us all stay there together.  It melted and broke open.  So, I had to go home on the coldest day of that year with my teeny baby and leave the other one at the hospital.  It was torture…

The following day they told us we could bring Aaron home.  They said that since we had so much experience, he could go home for the weekend, but we had to bring him back on Monday to recheck and maybe be readmitted.  Our church family prayed over him and on Monday his bleed was gone.  The doctor did the test twice because he couldn’t believe his eyes.

One of my favorite memories of that time happened the day after we brought Aaron home.  Hannah looked at me with her hands up on each side and said, “Where’s the more babies, Mommy?”  She thought we were just going to bring a new one home every night, I guess!

We decided to name the boys, Caleb Robert and Aaron Patrick.  I was teased for naming them symbolic names for Cain and Abel many times, but I named them because timshel, thou mayest.  Caleb means faithful, devotion, whole-hearted, bold, brave and Aaron means lofty, exalted one, high mountain.  Caleb was one of only two people over the age of 20 to make it into the Promise Land.  Aaron was Moses’ brother, the first of the high-priests of the Israelites.

What I love about Steinbeck is that he doesn’t leave his characters one-dimensional or simply good or bad.  He shows us how God made us all with every possibility, if only we step into our freewill.  We don’t have to be victims.  We aren’t good guys or bad guys until we use our “timshel” to choose what to do and who we will be.  When I was embarking on adulthood, East of Eden was the beginning of my journey out of self-sabotage and it helped me parent just a bit better than I would’ve without it.

When my children were teenagers, I gave them each a copy of this novel.  I warned them that much of the story was harsh and even lewd, at times.  They’ve known since always that the twins’ names came from my love for this story and the effect it had on my life.  I never discussed the content of the story with them until their late teens or even recently because I wanted them to be who God made them and not be influenced by the characters in this novel.  The interesting and often disturbing thing has been how similar our Caleb and Aaron have been during various seasons of their lives to their character counterparts.  Sometimes this was so unnerving that I’d read it all over again so that the end of the story would comfort me and remind me how to encourage my children to develop all the facets of their personalities.  The beauty in all of it is that through this powerful work and the influence of God’s unconditional love throughout their lives, my little miracles have grown into confident, loving and Jesus-following men who make my heart sing (most of the time).  Of course they have struggles, as we all do.  I’m not claiming perfection, in any way, but they’ve embraced their freewill.  They are stepping into their own timshel and I am at peace knowing that because they are on this journey with Our Father, they will do amazing things in His name and for His glory.  I’ve always known He miraculously allowed me to raise them, and didn’t take them almost 23 years ago, because He has a great plan for them and my joy comes from watching them walk in His will.

SO… it was time.  We’ve been talking about getting “timshel” tatts for years, but I think we’re all finally embracing His unconditional love and trusting that we can walk in the freewill He’s graced us all with and take responsibility for our choices and our lives.

Timshel…

Caleb’s Tattoo:

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Aaron’s Tattoo:

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Love Covers

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Proverbs 10:12

 

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

I just lean into this on the regular so as not to drown in mommy-guilt.

I’ve been giving this parenting thing a bunch of thought lately.  Okay, I’ve been giving it a bunch of thought since 1985 when I became pregnant with my firstborn.  It’s SO hard.  The responsibility of raising actual human beings is more than I think I should’ve even been trusted with.  I poured myself into it like most mamas do and usually believed I did a less than adequate job most days.

It’s interesting to me that so many of us think we’re alone in this.  We think the confidence other mamas display is for real.  I always believed their kiddos were sweeter, more polite, more compliant, and felt more loved than our kiddos did because I knew what happened at home when no one was around to see or hear my authentic self.  Like the time when I had just begun homeschooling my children, who had never heard me use profanity, and Hannah was being especially whiny.  She repeatedly asked me if she could do a bit less than I was requiring for their writing assignment.  As we all sat around the kitchen table, my patience wore thin and I threw an empty plastic 2 litre soda bottle across the kitchen, into the garbage disposal side of the sink while yelling an attractive expletive at my daughter.  She was forever scarred – I can still remember the looks on their faces – and my additional punishment was that the thrown bottle hit a plastic plate, chipping a piece off that lodged in our garbage disposal blade, resulting in a broken disposal for the next year!  I decided unschooling for a few months was a better way to begin our journey after that epic fail.  One of my prouder moments as a parent.

Ten years later, we all laugh at that moment in our history together.  I like to think that we’ve learned that there can be grace in the face of losing our %@*&!  It’s okay that my children know that I am far from perfect, that I need grace.  It’s good that they know we all need forgiveness and we all fail each other on occasion.  They know that I am in this for the long haul, like most mamas.  I will always want healthy relationship with all of our children.  I’ve sown this into their hearts and they’ve sown it into mine.  It’s what I cling to in the dark days of our relationship now that they are adults, some with spouses, some with children, and all with their own beliefs founded in our home and molded by their individual experiences.

I can think of a BAJILLION times that I messed up in my journey as a mama and it’s difficult for me to remember great moments without questioning myself or minimizing the good stuff.  Why is that?  Being a mama has been my single most important contribution to this world.  It is what I worked the hardest at, got the least worldly reward for, have been beat up for the most by the world and sometimes by the people who should’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.  My very best, lovely, sweet, hilarious, embarrassing, sad, satisfying & glorious moments have been my mama moments.  I’ve laid into my babies in anger and disappointment (usually more with myself than them).  I’ve held them while they cried in bitter disappointment, anger, embarrassment, hurt, fear, and frustration.  I’ve proudly cheered them on at countless sporting events, music performances, and activities of various types.  I’ve internalized numerous emotional injuries that only my own precious offspring can hurl at their mama, just as any mama reading this can attest to.  I’ve lost weeks of sleep waiting for one of them to finally come home or call to say s/he is alright.  I’ve spent hours waiting to hear the slightest sound of a seizure in the next room so that I could run in and tell my child that he is breathing just fine and it will be over soon. I’ve become humbled as I accepted that my plan for my children is not always best and I’ve grieved what I thought was to be and been humbled again.

It really is SO hard

and so lovely

and just too many adjectives to list and yet, none of them could do justice to a relationship so deep and complex.

I’ve received more hugs and “I love you’s” than any human being has a right to.  I’ve belly-laughed more than most people have had the pleasure of laughing.  I’ve watched my children attend to their grandparents lovingly.  I’ve seen them care for homeless and needy people with genuine affection and joy.  I’ve stood by as they made sure everyone felt included whether or not they “fit in.”  I’ve witnessed them extend grace to me, one another and so many others.  I’ve experienced more encounters with people than I can count expressing their affection for my children.  A mama NEVER tires of hearing what kind, hardworking, funny children she has and if I can brag for just a moment, it happens to me A LOT!

I guess we did some things right…

I love my children more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  They are truly a part of me and they always will be.  I am blessed to have been chosen as their mama.  God must really love me.

Love covers over all wrongs.

Shew…

One for the Books

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Converse High Tops

Just like I had in high school!

Well, it’s over.  The food has been consumed.  The gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper collected, the dishes washed (for the eighth time), and the memories have been made.  This was one of the good ones.

Here’s what I LOVED about our family Christmas:

I loved that every single gift that was given was perfect for the receiver.  Now, before you perhaps misunderstand, gifts are kept to a minimum in our family and have been for many years now.  I’ve worked very hard to teach my children by example that we don’t believe that Christmas is about the insanity of greed that we believe it has become in our culture, but that it is most importantly about Jesus and spending time with the people we most love in the world.  I regress…  What was so lovely to me about this part of our holiday was that it was obvious we all chose gifts that we put a lot of thought into.  There was the joy in being truly known and loved deeply around our Christmas tree.

I felt so blessed to have 2 days full of yummy food, and that much of it was healthy and lots was not, but all of it was delicious.  We are a foodie family, which means that great food and drink are the foundation on which we build our time together.  It brings a satisfaction to everything when we are assembled.  Shrimp diablos, a lazy susan overrun with cheese of various origins, ribeyes on the grill, smoothies, shrimp cocktail, smashed redskins, broiled asparagus, lime bars, quiche, peanut butter kisses, oatmeal brulee’ with granny smith apples & cranberries, dark fudge with walnuts, Christmas sangria, veggies in every color imaginable, eggnog, guacamole, frappuccino, pico de gallo, monkey bread with fresh raspberries, blueberries, & blackberries, and of course, green bean casserole.

Opening gifts on Christmas eve, sleeping in on Christmas morning, green & red oatmeal brulee’, stockings in the morning, grazing all afternoon while watching A Christmas Story in comfy clothes and no makeup, piled all over each other, with cell phones turned off.

Listening to our children laugh uproariously late on Christmas eve because they’re making a video of one of them dancing with abandon while I lie in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks praising Him for this undeserved moment of heavenly joy.

Being reminded of days gone by when our “baby” still wakes up a little grumpy because he’s (ALWAYS) hungry, another wakes up looking, just for a moment, like the little imp you held each morning so many years ago (or was that yesterday?), and yet another practically glows because her love language is quality time and she knows she still has a full day of it with the people she loves most in this world.

There’s something about great conversation.  It feeds my soul in a way not a lot of other things do.  I find it interesting that some of my best nourishment comes from conversations with my adult children.  They are some of the rare people I’ve experienced quality exchanges with.  We have varying opinions about some topics that many people avoid – politics, religion, homosexuality, abortion, etc. – and we have this beautiful way of hearing each other.  Sometimes it gets heated and we don’t always do this perfectly, but when we have one of our really beautiful exchanges of words, it just blesses me right down to the core of my being.  There is something about acceptance and respect that is highly underrated, in my opinion.  It’s a gift to have multiple opinions vying to be heard and not have anyone feel the need to “play devil’s advocate” just to feel superior or not have anyone make up “facts” from the articles they can’t recall the name of, but they swear they’ve read to backup their argument, and it’s especially wonderful to not have anyone take cheap, disrespectful shots when they aren’t “winning” the “argument.” (All things I’ve experienced with less rare people who I’ve had not-so-quality exchanges with.)  It’s freeing when you realize that your objective isn’t to sway others to your own opinion, but to be heard and understood as well as hear and understand.  It’s also more than a little difficult when you first realize your children no longer follow your beliefs blindly, but have their own opinions and some of them may go directly against what you value deeply.  Don’t get me wrong… It’s glorious, too, witnessing your offspring come into his/her own, but dealing with this growth in your child, nudges you to (somewhat painfully) grow a bit, too.

I woke up two days ago and asked Him to help me focus on all of my blessings and to have peace about the decisions others have made that have affected me painfully.  Holidays have not typically been something I’ve looked forward to in the past.  I’ve had a bunch of those ones that people make memes about, dark comedic movies about or SNL skits about. But this year was different, because I had a really wonderful Christmas.  I received gifts from my husband and children that screamed, “You are known and loved.”  He gave me joy, peace and love in abundance.  He gave me a slew of memories that I will continue to be blessed by, day after day and year after year.  I feel like I grew a little because I am learning that holidays don’t look the same to everyone and what ruins those special days for me isn’t that the days are bad, it’s that they don’t look like my mind expects them to – and that if I allow Him to lead the way, the day looks exactly like it should and that’s much better than what my mind expected.  This Christmas was more than I could’ve hoped for and definitely much more than I deserve.

 

James Code

James is one of my very favorite books of the Bible and this was my husband’s gift to me.

 

 

 

Daddy’s Girl

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Tricia Baby

When I was a child, even before starting school, I can remember knowing that I wasn’t someone who people thought of as a nice, polite little girlie-girl.  My mother, on the regular, would bend down next to my ear when I was in “public”  and whisper that “nice girls don’t talk like that.”  She wasn’t referring to profanity, but I was “rough around the edges.”  I had four brothers, my dad encouraged my moxie, and if I’m completely honest, I took quite a bit of pleasure in knowing I made my mama squirm a bit.  I think I figured if she was never going to be proud of me, I might as well at least be sure she noticed me!

My father spoiled me so obnoxiously when I was very young, that I truly believed on some level that I was more important than others.  Once I started school, I was rudely awakened to the fact that I was no more or less important than the other people in this world.  It was good medicine.  I wasn’t always given the proper dosage, but it was the correct prescription.

As an adult, and especially once I became a mama myself, I came to believe I needed to follow in my mother’s footsteps and be less vocal, more contriving in order to be what the world, or at least what many of my family members wanted me to be.  I worked to be what I thought I was supposed to be as hard as I could, and for the most part, I pulled it off.  When I became a Christian, the stepford mama/wife mission went into overdrive.  I worked very hard to be the perfect wife and mama that my husband, in-laws and parents would be proud of.  If you focus on becoming something you aren’t hard enough, you barely notice your “self” dying a little bit more each day. – Just to be clear, I don’t mean the good kind of dying to self for Christ daily deal, I mean the horrible, denying who He made you to be, so you can please people who are not Him, kind of deal.

One of the problems with this kind of thinking is that I never really learned how to deal with problems, especially anger.  When I was young, I just bullied my way through other people.  My family is really good at that.  We think we’re being terribly witty and quick-minded, but really we just make others uncomfortable, dishonored and bullied.  I know because I allowed myself to be bullied by some of my family members during my stepford years and even beyond because I don’t know a good middle ground way to deal with such aggression – either I go toe-to-toe with them or I stuff it down, get super frustrated, as well as hurt (emotionally) and then begin to cry – and this, btw, is seen as an admission to lying or at the very least an admission to being wrong in my family of origin.

I have a confession to make… and this is not a proud moment for me, but I feel like if I’m trying to be truly transparent, and my goal is to help others who are dealing with similar junk, I have to put it all out there as He leads me.  During my stepford years, I didn’t always hold my tongue and make nice with everyone.  I did with my friends, my husband, neighbors, church family, etc., but I continued to bully my children, of all the precious people.  When I felt frustrated or like I was losing control, Tricia McDowell came out in full force.  She wasn’t fair.  She wasn’t kind.  She was just ugly.  I’m not proud of those moments.  They felt fairly normal to me at the time and I was great at justifying what I’d done or said, but my children just felt dishonored and bullied.

The other side of that coin is that when I stopped bullying the general public and started developing friendships, a pattern ensued.  I made friends quite easily, but when conflict came, as it almost always certainly does, I would stuff my hurt feelings down until I was ready to blow and then I would just walk away.  I was usually afraid I would go berserk on my friend (and once in a great while I did) and lose the relationship, so it seemed less messy and less painful to just walk away first. Besides, they obviously didn’t care much anyway… Ever the sacrificial victim…

ICK…

 

See, I believe that if you try to push down who you are instead of embracing her, then God’s hands are tied because he doesn’t make you a certain way already shiny and perfect.  He makes us a certain way so that we can be molded and shaped into what he desires for us to be, if we choose to be.  My big mouth needed to be tempered.  My passionate heart needed to be fed.

Are you who He desires you to be?  I don’t mean the shiny, perfect version.  Are you embracing the beautiful, trying parts of yourself that others may try to shame out of you?  Are you asking Him what He wants you to accomplish with these traits, desires, feelings?  Does it just feel easier to be what everyone else wants you to be?

That’s what I thought, until it all blew up in my face.   explosion

Now, here I am, well beyond my formative years learning how to deal with hurt and anger in a grown up, vulnerable way.  It sucks.  I’m not lying.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, accepting you are terrible at a basic life skill and that you make your immediate family a little nervous now that you aren’t quiet and always “appropriate” in public situations.  I can still hear my mother whispering in my ear, “Nice girls…”  Except now, I turn and look her in the eye and say, “I’m my Daddy’s girl.  He loves me just as I am and that is enough.”

fence boundary

I have some fences to mend.  I have some boundaries to keep.  I have some work to do and some time to catch up on.  As much as I want to keep looking back and regretting the time I’ve wasted not seeing the truth, I don’t want to dishonor the gift I’ve been given.  I have a glimpse of the me He wants me to be and I am walking in that now.  I’m walking all wobbly, like a toddler, so I’ll need grace and forgiveness during this learning process, but that’s okay.  That’s the stuff.  That’s where I’m trying to live. – And I don’t mean I have it all figured out, not even close.  I just don’t feel so lost or alone now, because I’m coming back and I have me, again.  Do you have you?  Do you know who you are and do you love your self?  I hope so, because He does and I do…

You are His and He made you uniquely you.  That’s so cool.

Walk on…

Insanity…

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Sweep under the rug Today I posted this on my fb page:

It’s okay to say enough is enough and not be shamed out of it to make it “easier” for others. John 5:1-14

I was talking to myself.  I was standing for my Honey.  I was reaching for the other scapegoat people who are my friends on fb and hoping He would use my words to encourage others struggling like I was this morning.

Standing up against something you’ve allowed for years or even decades is much harder than having boundaries from the beginning.  That’s very easy to say… Living it is a whole other enchilada! Just being a woman, of my generation and before that, a girl, makes it an uphill battle to be strong, confident, to take care of your needs (sometimes before others, heaven forbid!).  We’re considered pushy bitches by society, by and large, for being emotionally healthy and for having boundaries.

I think as each generation has evolved, we’ve become more healthy in this way.  I don’t think we’re anywhere near our destination, yet, but we’ve come a long way, Baby!  The irony to me is that my experience has been that the people who typically throw roadblocks in my path are women who struggle with the same things as I do.  I’m not sure if it’s human nature to want to hold others back because we feel failure by not “keeping up with” our friends, or if this is just ingrained in us to play the martyr and encourage other women to do the same.

My daughter would probably tell you I have a bipolar personality when it comes to what I’ve taught her about being an emotionally healthy woman.  I think I’ve taught her to be sacrificial with others, setting an example of a martyr in many of my friendships and family relationships, while encouraging her to take care of herself, stand up for her needs and her heart and to have healthy boundaries with others.  Truth be told, I’ve talked a bunch more about the better way than I’ve lived it, but she’s much stronger than I am.  She’s SO MUCH MORE wise and confident than her mama ever was at 21…  or 31…

I think it’s a hard place to be when you’re a girl my age – somewhere between sweeping it all under the rug, stuffing it all down deep with a smile on your face and poison in your heart, just happy that everyone is “getting along” and putting it all out there, take me as I am or take a hike.  Big sister shaming us.  Little sister disappointed in us.  Floundering, disenfranchised…  Blossoming awkwardly, unable to stay in purgatory any longer, wanting to be reborn.

I’m still lost much of the time and I’m working so hard to be in His will, but sometimes I hear other voices that come from places with human agendas louder than I hear His.  It isn’t their fault, it’s mine, it’s my weakness that loses focus and forgets I am not a Christian church lady of my generation.  I am a woman of God.  I am His daughter.  He didn’t give me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) My goal is to encourage this and nurture this in my sisters.  My prayer is that others will do this for me…  He gave this spirit to all of us.  If we could embrace the truth of that and live in it, the spiritual, relational possibilities are endless.  It scares the bejeebies out of me, in a good way, kinda like an awesome upside down, bare-feet dangling, loop-de-loop rollercoaster.  The old way scares me in an awful way, kinda like I’m sitting in the back seat of a car with a sad smile on my face going nowhere or over a cliff and not really caring either way because no one really knows me and I know no one…

I think Einstein got it right… albert-einstein-insanity  

In This House…

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Last Christmas our son and daughter-in-love gave us the most beautiful painting.  We hung it on our kitchen wall with lovey-tears in our eyes.  We had just painted the walls apple green and we couldn’t believe how well the painting coordinated with our new color scheme! I’m sure you’ve seen this painting before, perhaps in another medium, facebook, pinterest, or some other location.  It says, “In this house we do second chances.  We do Grace.  We do Real.  We do mistakes.  We do I’m sorrys.  We do hugs.  We do FAMILY.  We do LOVE.”

That all sounds so very lovely.  I think because I, like most people, envision the happy ending part:  the making up, the forgiveness, the grace.  We ignore that in order for these things to be needed, there must first be an offense – sometimes a HUGE offense or two.  Sometimes, because I’m this way, I want to “fix” things right away instead of allowing people to work through their stuff.  I just want to get to the good part and have peace between the people I love.

I was confronted with this “unattractive” part of myself a few years ago in one of my children’s counseling sessions.  The one where mom is called in and has to look at her own junk in front of another adult who has heard all of the family secrets from her teenage daughter.  It was not easy to hear.  The truth about ourselves seldom is…  I tried to explain that I just want everyone to be happy and understand each other.  I told them that I did this because I love them so very much.  Then I went home, knowing I had to join my child the following week for another hour of hell, and I decided to take it to Him.  I asked Him at first to please just open their hearts so that they could see my heart and understand why I did what I did and why it was a good thing.  I wrestled with the humiliation of being seen as less than a loving, devoted mama…

and then, somehow, I truly heard my child’s heart and I realized that although part of what I said was true, another part of my motivation was to sweep things under the rug, so it all looked pretty on the surface and then I didn’t really have to deal with anymore ugliness.  I was afraid if we let things get out of hand, things would be said or done that might not ever be gotten over and then I might lose someone or they might lose each other or … I don’t know what else, just something not good.

So, for the past few years I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut more and let things get worked through by the people directly involved.  It’s been a struggle for our family to shift.  Sometimes my kids get really upset with me for not doing anything when there’s strife between them. They think I don’t care like I used to.  I have to admit, in order for me to become healthier in this area, I’ve had to “check out” a bit at times because it goes against everything in my controlling little body to allow the chips to fall where they may when it comes to my precious family members and their relationships.  – Don’t think I’m not aware of how ridiculous this all sounds.  Like my husband sometimes tells me, “Gee, Honey, I don’t know how I ever got along for the 24 years before I met you…”

There are still times when I feel the need to interject my motherly wisdom in the middle of a conversation that simply isn’t mine.  My children usually catch themselves in the heat of the moment and lovingly remind me that I need to step out of the conversation – sometimes they just let me have it and later we talk about it.  They extend grace to me while I grow in this area most of the time.

We are all pretty good communicators.  Sometimes our quick wits, sarcasm and tempers get the best of us… too often, honestly, but that’s why we “do” second chances, forgiveness, and a whole load of other necessary stuff.

Sometimes I simply don’t know what’s best.  I don’t know when I should step in and when I should stay out.  I’m not sure when I’ve given my children enough time, when I’m being a pest or when I’ve waited too long and made them feel uncared for.  This adult children thing just makes all of this even more complicated.  I don’t have the reassurance that they’ll always want a relationship with me and/or their father.  We can’t just send them to their rooms or take away their television time anymore!  Spouses can be a big game changer.  I’ve seen families be completely devastated because a new wife or husband joined the family and then turned away from the in-laws with his/her spouse in tow.  I’ve seen this happen in families that seemed rock solid in love and grace.

My own children have been out in the “real” world for a bit now and their belief systems have changed some.  They don’t blindly believe all that I do or all that their father does.  They are growing up and forming their own opinions.  I’m not gonna lie.  This is not easy, especially for an opinionated mama such as myself.  Part of parenting someone is imparting the lessons you’ve learned, the wisdom you’ve earned.  Am I right?!  It’s a real “bring you to your knees humbling” when your children suddenly think some of the near and dear to your mama’s heart beliefs and morals are silly or unimportant.

I’ve vacillated between feeling enraged to laughing at the rejection of these beliefs.  I’ve reacted in ways that I am not proud of and cringe at because I was the child being treated the same way once upon a time by an enraged parent and I simply can’t believe I’ve done just what I said I never would.  There are second chances…

So, I know that rage and rejection are absolutely not the reaction I should have as my children find their own way, and that is HUGE… But, I’m still not always sure what the “right” reaction is.  Of course, it isn’t always the same, but there should be a ballpark area that is full of unconditional love and sprinkled with respectful disagreement – on both sides…  I’m still trying to find that place on occasion.  The ironic part of this is that 100% of the time, when I keep the lines of communication open with my children and/or my hubby, and I push that narrative in my head voice the heck out-of-the-way (because that voice is rarely coming from a healthy place and so it isn’t usually helpful), I am able to hear my precious children’s hearts and remember just who each of them truly is and my heart gets to the place it needs to be to let them grow just the way He intended them to grow.  When I move my agenda, that is very often steeped in fear, aside and trust Him and His plan, He gives me peace.  I am reminded that we all go down the wrong path sometimes, sometimes (often) I am wrong about what the right path is, and finally, He reminds me that I have loved my children well, with all that I had and all that I knew in each moment – not worldly perfect, but as perfectly as He wanted me to and that is simply enough.  When we go through the moments before “doing” grace, forgiveness, hugs, etc. and we are doing mistakes…  I am thankful to be able to rest in His truths and His hope that one day we will again be doing family and love.  

As usual, in this house, I’m doing REAL...

We do grace painting

Shrinks, Insanity, and Calling in my Markers

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lucy doctor is in peanutsI’ve been seeing a counselor.  She’s a 12-step girl, so she speaks my language and she is all about keeping it real.  She doesn’t let me gloss over or avoid the uncomfortable stuff.  I feel exhausted every time I leave her office.  I also feel a little more substantial, like I’m beginning to live the life He means for me to live.  His path is a bit scary for me because it’s not what I’m used to.  What I’m used to is messed up in a lot of ways, so I’m mostly ready to leave it behind, but some of the broken parts of me prefer what they’re used to.  The unknown, even when it’s healthier, is scary.  Dysfunction is comfortable.  That’s why so many of us live in it for years.  That is also the reason others often attempt to sabotage people who try to leave the dysfunction and live a healthier life.  When people shine a light on the ugliness that has been our life, we feel cornered if we aren’t ready to take an honest look and make some changes.

I have some Bible verses that I have carried with me and they’ve helped me through some incredibly difficult moments in life.  I also have this:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…”

These are the words that have made me move, re-examine, confess, change.  – and it hasn’t been a one-time deal, either.  These words have been my anchor on a few momentous occasions on my journey through life.

My newest epiphany is that I am allowed to not be perfect and accept, even expect, the grace that others should extend me just as I extend grace to them.  I don’t really think I’m perfect at all, but I have a tendency to try to be perfect and then beat myself up HUGE when I’m inevitably imperfect, as everyone is.  I’m trying to find that place where I can do my best in that moment and then walk away without having to do the best I ever have without anything wrong for some not-so-good reasons, like that’s where I get my sense of worth from, or because I’ll be punished if I don’t give my all and then some, or because I’m terrified that someone will see me as anything less than the hardest worker, best mom, best wife or best teacher…  It’s exhausting, y’all!

I’m going to try to find a better place to be in these areas.  I have no doubt this will be an ugly and hysterically funny journey for me.  I will probably go too far the other way, or, at times, justify not changing much, but saying I have, and I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of other mistakes along the way – all of which will drive my family absolutely crazy, I’m sure.  Some of them are already not so thrilled with the new, “improved” version of me that is emerging.  That’s okay because I haven’t been terribly thrilled with them at times, but I never quit on them, so I’m calling in my markers.  I’m worth fighting for and I’m worth extending grace to.

All of us are.  That’s why He sacrificed His son’s life for us.  He loves us unconditionally and chose to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life, right?  And in the meantime, I’m tired of being less than He means for me to be because my life has beat me up a bit and my dysfunction keeps bringing me pain.  I want to be free while I’m here and I want to set that example for my children and grandchildren.  I want to truly live.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the stuff.  It scares the bejeebies out of me and excites me all at the same time.  I think that’s why He gave me moxie.  I have to find it, dust it off and learn to allow it to be a part of me again.  I want to embrace the parts of me that I have been made to feel ashamed of since I was very young.  In doing that, I hope to help others to remember who He made them to be and embrace all of themselves, because He does – completely.

Here’s to FREEDOM and change.

Here’s to Choice and Moxie.

Here’s to Persevering.

Here’s to Love…

Forgiving that little brat…

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I find that whenever I write about my childhood or almost anytime before I was a “grownup,” I have a tendency to apologize for who I used to be, almost as if I was her just yesterday.  I still feel HUGE shame for the person I was pre-adulthood. I didn’t torture small (or large) animals as a child or anything, but I was outspoken, pushy and downright mean to some of the girls who were bullies back in the day.  I was a kid…

I read this really neat thing on a dear friend’s (who I have known since my days of shame) facebook wall:

 

Forgive Yourself

Now, while I think this is a bit of an oversimplification because I’m a 12-Step girl and I believe in making amends and all of that, my first thought when I read this was, “AMEN!!” … and then I realized the person who judges me most by my past is me.

Even while I type this I am imagining old school friends, family members, and others from my past reading this and I have this overwhelming urge to explain why I was so awful or to justify the many bratty things I did.  I want to say, “I’m so sorry for the way I acted!  Please forgive me and know I’m not that girl anymore!  I’m a good person now.”  I was a child…

I’m not that girl anymore, nor have I been for a very long time.  She was not as terrible as I was led to believe she was.  She was NOT evil.  She was very sweet at times.  She wanted to be accepted for who she was.  She wanted to be loved unconditionally and feel like she was even likeable at times.  She wanted to be really good at something – anything! – And have her family, especially her mother, notice it and be proud of her.  She defended the underdogs always.  She was scared and insecure ALL of the time, even though she was a phenomenol actress and appeared to be overly confident to other children.  She loved to argue with people because she was pretty good at that… but an argumentative girl is not something people notice in a good way, nor is it something to be proud of, apparently…

I left the town I grew up in a long time ago.  Part of the reason I did that was to leave it all behind.  I wanted a fresh start.  I wanted to be a new person and I couldn’t really get a clean slate there.  In the decades since then it has been a rare new friend of mine who doesn’t hear about what an awful person I was back then.  I guess I thought if I confessed it enough, it was a kind of repentance.  I wanted my present friends to know who I used to be.  I wanted to be upfront and transparent.  I wanted them to have an out… 

I wish I could tell you I was protecting them, but I think it was me I was protecting.  No one wants to be friends with girls who are bossy and argumentative.  Right?

When I write it all down, I realize how silly this all is because it was SO long ago and I’m not that girl anymore… Well, I am outspoken if it’s something that I feel really passionate about…  Maybe I am that girl.  I’m just grown up, my edges have rounded out, my heart has been broken and softened, I REALLY love people, some of them even love me back, and I’ve found a few things that I’m REALLY good at.  He loves me unconditionally and that’s enough. 

I think of friends who have been through so much more as children – sexual abuse, loss of parents or other loved ones,  divorce  – and I feel like a drama queen.  This is how I’ve stayed in this rut for so many years.  I minimize my pain.  I think a lot of us do that when we become adults.  We file our childhood pain under “Get Over It” and move ahead… only not really.  It’s there.  It always shows up even if we don’t recognize it.  It’s there and leaving, burying, pretending, none of those things heal it.  Pulling it out, really looking at it with blatant honesty, forgiving the necessary parties, and then putting it to rest forever or until we’re ready to deal with a little more of it – that’s the way to heal it.

And, still, I haven’t forgiven myself.  I’m not sure how to do that, not even sure how to begin.  I just know it’s looming in the background and affecting my present relationships.  I know that I still feel genuine embarrassment at the little girl I was (sometimes).  I know that this may all sound very silly to someone who is not me, and that’s okay.   If one of my friends came to me and told me that s/he was struggling with forgiving the person s/he was 30-40 years ago or more, I would tell my friend to let go of that and embrace their present self.  I would reassure him/her that no person in her right mind would still be holding a grudge against a child this many years later for things that children do.  Right?

Right?