Tag Archives: Aging

The Process

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I’ve been struggling with public education for a couple of decades now.  It happened when I had students that didn’t fit into the “box.”  The struggle was even more powerful when I had children of my own that wanted to fit into that box.  I’ve taught in public school, private school, charter school, Christian and non-Christian, co-ops, homeschool academies, etc.  I have a bit of experience with education.  I am an amazing reading teacher.  It’s an instinctive thing.  I can sit with almost any child and after working with him/her a time or two, I can teach him/her to read and love it.  Mostly I teach them how to love it and then they just read with a little bit of help and encouragement.

About 14 years ago, our kiddos were all attending the local public school near our home in Michigan.  I was homeroom mom in their classes and I was the PTA president, as well.  Most mornings I got up around 5:30 so that I could spend some time in the Bible and talking with Jesus – with 5 kids, this was really my only option!  As I  spent time in prayer I felt Him leading me to consider schooling our children at home.  NOW, let me just tell you, our oldest was a high school junior and our youngest (twins) were in 2nd grade.  I had just gotten to a point in my life, after YEARS of no girl social life, where I could meet friends for lunch and tea, where I could go get my nails done with no one else to constantly entertain or keep out of trouble.  It was heavenly!  I couldn’t believe He wanted to take that all from me!!  I remember this happened just before the holidays, but I didn’t say a word to anyone until January – mostly because I just didn’t want to do it.  When I shared with my husband what God had been showing me, he was less than thrilled – and as we told others during the next months, there was even less support.  I think our parents and siblings all thought I had lost my mind… and so did I…

We decided to wait until that summer to make a definite decision because I was a little terrified of the responsibility of it all.  By July our kiddos were very excited about the whole thing and even our oldest had decided to join us and not attend public school his senior year.  We informed the school in August and joined some families in the area who had been homeschooling for years.  It was wonderful in many ways, but because I had been a classroom teacher for several years, I was having a hard time breaking the mold and leading my kiddos in the way I believe He wanted me to.

It wasn’t long after starting this adventure that our “popular” kid started rebelling.  He missed his friends and the ego boost he got on the regular from being well-liked at his school.  As difficult as this was for me, it was one of the most confirming events in my journey.  God clearly showed me what my son’s future would be if we would’ve left him in public school.  I understood more clearly than ever the dangers of being a popular kid.  The high of being liked is a drug that few children can handle.  I committed myself to helping my children become leaders and not followers.  It was a long and exhausting road that I’ve never regretted.

Stepping away from our public school system and seeing it with new eyes was like being deprogrammed after a long stint of brainwashing.  I understand that some people whom I care for deeply will be offended by some of the things I have to say about this, but I feel that my experience with so many types of primary and secondary education gives me the authority to speak about this with some expertise.  I can also share that droves of our family members and friends have come to us and confessed that they doubted our decision to homeschool our children and have nothing but respect for it now.  I believe that most, if not all, of our children will choose to school their children at home or in some unconventional way that best suits their families.

I will briefly answer the main concerns/questions we dealt with when first sharing our decision to homeschool:

What about socialization?  I think most people meant socializing, but they almost always said socialization which means “the process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community.”

I have a few things to say about this question.  First of all, how does sitting in a classroom with approximately 20 other people that are less than a year older or younger than you, prepare you for society?  When else are we in this situation except in a classroom? – Where, honestly, there is very little socializing except on the 3 allowable party days of the year and for the short 20 minute recess period each day and lunch time where kiddos are expected to be quiet and stay seated.  Once or twice a week they get a 45 minute PE time and sometimes they are allowed to play and interact with one another.  So, in the best case scenario, our children have less than 300 minutes each week to socialize with their peers at school.  They are in school for 2400 minutes each week and they are allowed to interact freely for 1/8 of that time in the best of worlds – assuming they don’t spend time buying their lunches in the cafeteria, that they don’t spend time receiving instruction from the teacher during PE or recess or Heaven forbid, that they don’t have to do unfinished classwork or sit out for behavior during recess.  Also, this does not account for restroom breaks during these times.  In our homeschool life, our children interacted with wait staff, clerks, and many other service people who were various ages on the regular.  The co-ops we joined provided classes in many areas that included students from a spectrum of ages and I believe it helped my children get past the “snobbiness” that many children have about being older or in a higher grade.  Homeschool children don’t typically give much thought to how old one another is.  It just isn’t an issue.

The second BIG concerns centered on:  Where will you get the books you need?  How will you know if you’re doing what the school is doing so that they are where they’re supposed to be?

There are SO many curricula available for home teachers.  All you need to do is jump on the internet and do a search.  Check Amazon to get the cheapest, used prices, but don’t forget there are MANY homeschool bookstores in every state and you can order from most of them online if there isn’t one close to you in your state.  It’s quite easy to get a list of objectives for each grade in most, if not all states.  Seems that would be a requirement so that parents know what is expected of their child each year.  The beautiful thing for us was that we actually completed our texts, unlike most public school classrooms where there just isn’t enough time to fit it all in with reteaching and time constraints, etc.  Also, I could slow down or speed up with each of my kiddos individually because I was the boss, I knew what each of them needed most and I didn’t have to worry about interruptions such as announcements, assemblies, drills, absent and tardy students, etc. to disrupt focused learning.  I also didn’t have to teach reading for exactly 45 minutes a day, and fit into someone else’s box, (who has NO idea what it means to be in an elementary classroom, btw) while my students missed out on what they may have really needed that day.

Here’s what I learned during my homeschooling years:

Parents know their children better than any teacher, principal or government official.  We should trust them and partner with them, not treat them like an inconvenience and certainly not like they are inept.  Of course there are a very few parents who drive teachers crazy, but I’ve found that if you honor those parents and treat them with respect and understand you are working for them, most of those strugglers will turn into wonderful partners and their children will benefit in HUGE ways.  An occasional one of the strugglers will turn out to be ugly or mentally ill human beings and that’s hard.  As teachers we need to love their babies an extra dose and believe in their strengths.  That’s all we can do and sometimes it’s enough.

Kids learn the most by leaving them alone.  Make the books (wonderful, lots of genres, all levels, etc.), rocks, papers, pencils, bugs, puzzles, pictures available in abundance and then leave them alone.  Be available to answer questions.  Set an example of reading, writing, measuring, being kind, but don’t drill it into them, just be sure you have comfy places for them to educate themselves and THEY WILL.

Let them be bored.  Let them figure out what they love most and focus on that. It will take time and probably some frustration, but it is very necessary for your children to figure out who they are and what speaks to his/her heart.  If your child hates math, then do the bare minimum with him/her.  I’ve yet to use 3 1/2  of the 4 years of math I did in high school and I’m mostly pissed off when I think about it because I sucked at math – except algebra – and it lowered my whole gpa for high school.  I took math every year because someone told me that I would HAVE to take it in college no matter what my major was, so I needed to be prepared.

-WRONG!  I did NOT take ONE math class all through college and I graduated with honors from the University of Michigan and have never felt like I’ve lacked without college calculus or any of that other nonsense. (p.s. I do not mean that math is nonsense in general.  I just HATE it and I suck at most of it, so, for me, it is nonsense).

The most important thing is to teach and model a love for learning, not the actual learning.  If we take away the drive, the passion by drill & kill or nagging, then we’ve destroyed the beauty of the whole lifelong process of learning.  If, on the other hand, we fertilize their natural love for learning, we have given them a gift that no one can ever take away.  Our students will grow exponentially in this environment and they will carry it all with them into their futures.  I loved being a high school reading and writing teacher.  I had great rapport with my students.  I truly loved each and every one of them.  I think most of them could feel that.  I wanted them to learn, but more than that, I wanted them to LOVE to learn and figure out what they were made for so that they could pursue that path with passion. Since homeschooling my own children I have come to believe this even more deeply.

Many of our students are dealing with more than we can imagine.  They have stuff going on at home that we would be heartbroken by.  They need us to not try to stuff them into the proverbial box.  We need to allow them to feel safe and encouraged in our classrooms.  They need to feel treasured by us, so that they figure out who they are, what they love and then soar.  The relationship is the key to this whole process.


I returned to public school teaching 7 years ago and I fell madly in-love with my students.  I was older and much wiser than I was in my early years of teaching.  I loved my students’ parents and almost all of them loved me back.  My students excelled every year beyond my wildest dreams.  I was fortunate to teach with my husband until last year.  We made a great team and I’m very thankful that we were able to team teach for 3 1/2 years together.  In recent years, the testing and focus on teacher “improvement” has become so time-consuming, that it has taken much of the joy out of teaching for a multitude of really great teachers.  Personally, I have been waiting for things to get better for the past 4 years and instead, it just keeps getting worse.

Teachers should be treated with respect – with bonus points for years of experience and their record, which should be based on relationships and improvement, not one set score comparing all students of mixed abilities, varied backgrounds, ethnicity, socio-economic situations, etc.  When a teacher, who has nothing to gain by speaking up, reports that his/her student is really struggling with reading, has scabies for 6 months, defecates in his/her pants daily, or stutters regularly, then something should be done BEFORE the teacher is required to document this for 6 weeks with no mistakes or the process will have to start all over.  If a teacher says there is a problem, odds are, THERE IS!  Trust the teacher who isn’t there for the money (OBVIOUSLY) and only wants the best for his/her treasured students.  Do something right away and perhaps, when we meet our students’ needs right away, the test scores that the powers that be put so much stock in, might just improve.  Maybe if our students are getting extra help for academics when needed and/or therapy for physical struggles, getting medical help so that they aren’t scratching themselves raw (instead of worrying about if the parents will sue the school), or emotional help for accidents instead of being shamed for their cry for help, just maybe everyone would be more successful and feel valued and respected.  Unfortunately, it seems this all costs money and our students and teachers are not worth the investment all of that would entail.

So, I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to figure out what to do.   I believe teaching is a serious responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  I worked all year to reconcile what I believe deep in my gut with what I was being asked to do and I realized I just couldn’t do it in good conscious.  I believe if you are a teacher you have to be all in.  You have one year with each of those blessings and it is your job to prepare them for the future, but how does one do that when every minute of every day is micro-managed?  How do you model independent thinking when you aren’t allowed to think or teach independently?!  I didn’t have it in me anymore.  I couldn’t compromise my own belief system another year.

So, I resigned.

Honestly, I was terrified to give up my family’s health insurance that nearly 1/2 of my paycheck went to each pay, as well as what was left of my paycheck and the security of being in the same school system where I adore my students, my parents, my co-workers (especially my amazing team) and I am known and I have a good reputation.

I have moments of complete terror, but they only last seconds.  It’s clear to me that He asked me to step out of what He gave me such unrest with, so I know He’s with me and we’ll be okay.

I understand that some people think I am out of my mind, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been and feel like I’m in His perfect will and not my fearful will (for a change).  Faith is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t cheap…

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Brainstorm

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brainstorm

 

Usually when I post on my blog it’s because He’s put something on my heart to share in hopes that others who struggle with the same junk will be encouraged, or at the very least, not feel so alone.  Today I’m just feeling like I need to push myself to write because it’s good for my soul.  I’m a little nervous about just writing and putting it out there without a well organized agenda.  I’ve written plenty of posts whose main purpose was to help me work through painful junk in my life, but I couldn’t actually post them because they may have been seen as an attack on the person who had caused me pain.  I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I wanted to lash out with my words, but (so far) I’ve behaved myself.

I’m tired.  I’m ready for some changes in my life – some big, some not so big.  I’m trying to be sure that the changes I decide to move ahead with are chosen because He’s leading me that way and not just because of my emotions about the status quo of those situations.  I’m trying to be careful because of the “Unraveling” that entering my 50’s has caused.  I don’t want to make major life decisions, and then have my family (or me) live with bad consequences because of my choices.

There’s a part of me that keeps trying to figure out what happened to the past 25 years of my life.  I mean, I remember it.  I even remembering savoring every last drop of the time I had with my children.  I remember trying to make every holiday special so that they would look back and feel treasured.  Pool parties with all of the neighborhood kids, reading book after book, cuddling, trips to museums, water parks, visiting relatives, friends – these were all part of our time together.  The funny thing is that I still wonder how it went so fast.  I question how I could’ve done it all better, made it more special, been more present, created a stronger bond…

It’s one of the most painful and truly wonderful experiences in the entire everything; being a mom.  It’s a common theme in our culture.  Mom sacrifices it all to raise her kiddos well.  She gives up her career, her interests and social life for a while, and her dignity now and again, all for the sake of investing in other human beings that will buck her authority, break multiple valuables in her home, put the kibosh on her sex life, embarrass her in public, become bipolar in their teens and cause her to lose her mind waiting for them to come home safely once they have a driver’s license.  We’re more than happy to do it because we absolutely ADORE our little monsters and no sacrifice is too great.

and then they move out and move on.  Now, if we’re played this thing out smart, we still have friendships we’ve cultivated through the years, we can return to a career we love if we choose, our marriage is still intact because we’ve nurtured our relationship through the years.  If we haven’t, we may be in for a HUGE unraveling.  I find that I’m somewhere in the middle of this whole thing.  *Disclaimer:  I believe it’s a rare woman who escapes the unraveling completely.

I have returned to my career.  My marriage is intact.  I’ve several close friends in Michigan, but very few in Texas.

Unfortunately, the unraveling can cause your feelings of dissatisfaction to grow exponentially and it’s been my experience that it’s hard to tell when the feelings are really from Him and true, or when I’m allowing emotions and worldly junk to cloud my vision.  I’m just being honest… Sometimes I panic a little and think, “Holy crap!  This is how old I am and I probably don’t have much time left.  What have I done with the time He’s given me?!” – and then I feel trapped in a house I just want to move out of, a career I feel disrespected in (mostly), a life I feel is steeped in mediocrity, and the clock just keeps on ticking.

I also have moments when I can’t believe how blessed I am, but the unraveling is almost always there now, reminding me that time is slipping away and in the big picture I am not content with where I’ve been or how far I’ve come.  None of this has to do with my gratefulness for all He has blessed me with.  It has everything to do with what I’ve done with the life He’s blessed me with.  I get stuck in between that place of not being content in where I’m at, along with feeling like I’m a bad Christian if I long for more, and being confident that He’s the one who placed the unrest in me so that I will be more in His will.  I’m just not always sure I know which path He’s leading me down, so then I stall and wait and worry that I’m wasting more precious time because I’m not even a good enough Christian to know if it’s God or me that’s nudging me to move…

I wonder if other people feel this way.  I wish I could see into the future and know what decisions I will choose to move ahead with and if I will be any more in His will than I am now.

– Who doesn’t?!

So… there’s my ramble for the day.  This is me being transparent and raw, not wanting any well-meaning Christians to throw anecdotal Christianity at my struggle.  My hope is that I will hear/see/feel clearly what He desires for me and then very obviously open the doors He wants me to walk through.  I’m a hammer on the head kinda girl…  He knows that.  He created me that way.

Rambling brainstorm over… for now.

Reality of a Girl’s Day at the Spa

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My hubby bought me a pretty pricey gift certificate for a posh Austin day spa last year for Mother’s Day.  It advertises as being unpretentious in a very “Austin” fashion.  They carry organic products to boot!  I was ALL IN!

Well, you know, until I started thinking about actually going to the spa.  Walking through the door in my clothes that make me feel chubby and not cool enough, saying something dorky, general fear of not fitting in.  Even worse… Having to remove my tacky clothes and be 1/2 (or more) naked, so that some young, beautiful girl 1/2 (or less) my age can see and FEEL how chubby I really am.  I’ve birthed a lot of babies and I DO love good food…  Also, premenopause has not been incredibly slimming.

So, I postponed as long as possible.  My Honey has been reminding me since last autumn to make my appointment before the gift certificate expired.  I just nodded and gave an appropriately enthusiastic, “Oh, yeah.  I’ll call next week.”  For months…  and then we were all out at this amazing new restaurant a month or two ago, on a SUNDAY, of all days, and the spa called me…  The woman on the other end of the phone was warm, sincere and ready to book my appointment.  She could not have been more accommodating.  Awesome…

I put on my fake happy voice and made an appointment.  She suggested I try one of their facials and since I had never experienced one, I took the bait.  We agreed I would be there the following Saturday at 11:00 a.m.

I rescheduled 3 times.  In my defense, I really have been sick with this lung junk, but if I’m completely honest, I have to admit I was relieved to have a ready-made excuse.  As I mulled over whether or not to call to cancel again this week, I decided that it was time to embrace this experience and I committed to savoring the good parts of my spa experience.

Last night I was preoccupied with getting to bed in time to have 8 hours of sleep so that I didn’t have such dark circles under my eyes – because, one good night of sleep makes ALL the difference.  I fretted that I ate a hamburger for lunch and potato skins with cheddar and bacon for dinner instead of my usual, healthy, organic fare.  UGH!  What was I thinking?!  My skin would look horrible now!  I could just see all of the gorgeous people at the spa rolling their eyes as my chubby “mommy-of-many” body in frumpy clothing, with my dark, sunken-in eyes walked through the door tomorrow…

As soon as I woke up I did my usual coconut oil pull, followed by warm lemon-honey kangan water, then a large glass of cool kangan water and I filled up two containers before I left – one with kombucha and the other with more water.  I covered my face with organic cocoa butter. My skin was going to glow,  Darn It!

My hair was uncooperative (which means it looked kinda ugly), naturally.  So, I grabbed a bandana, rolled it up and put my hair in a little makeshift headband.  I donned my Honey’s comfy black V-neck T with my denim clam-diggers and I was out the door. I arrived about 30 minutes early.  As soon as I got out of my car, I noticed there was lovely “spa” music being piped into the parking lot.  Ahhhh…  I just loved that.  There was a woman a bit older than me exiting the spa on the ramp as I walked to the front door.  She had a brace on her foot and she was squinting in the bright sun.  We exchanged pleasantries about the appearance of long-awaited sun.  She was kind, normal. It calmed me a smidge.

The girls at the front desk were anything but pretentious, offering cucumber water or tea with warm smiles and genuine tones.  I almost forgot about my lack of fashion-sense, obesity,  and overall absence of confidence.  I filled out the multiple info cards as I sipped my booch, requested only organic products be used, and slowly felt my self-doubt seeping in through the cracks in my wall of false confidence as my appointment time approached.

Once I was in the appointed room, my therapist (who was cute as a button, but not especially warm) asked me why I was there.  I replied, “I’m here for a facial.”  She smiled in that “no #*@! kinda way, and then clarified, “I mean, why are you getting a facial?”  I replied, “My husband got me a gift certificate.”  Now she was really trying to figure out if I had much of an I.Q.  “What I mean is why do you need a facial?  What issues are you having?”

I panicked!  Thinking, “Oh Great!  You’re supposed to have terrible skin to have a facial, aren’t you?!  I probably look like an idiot!”  So, naturally, I threw the girl who called me at the restaurant on that Sunday so many weeks ago right under the bus…  “Hmmmmm…. I don’t know.  Whoever called me originally, suggested I have a facial since I’d never had one before, so I thought it would be nice.  Should I….?”

“Oh, no!  That’s great!  Do you have any skin issues?                Do you want to do an extraction?            Okay, I’m going to step out, you can change into this (tiny towel wrap thingy), undressing to your comfort level, and we’ll begin when you’re ready.  Try to take several DEEP breaths as soon as you are lying down.  It will help you relax.”  – Well, if I’m undressing to my comfort level, we can get started immediately!… and oh, crap!  She noticed I’m not terribly calm…

Once I changed into the velcro washcloth she left for me to wear , I got my body under the sheets asap!  Those few minutes while I am waiting for someone to come in after I’ve undressed are among some of the most awkward moments in my life.  Thoughts that usually go through my mind:

“Oh.  Geez!  Remember when your tummy was a valley whenever you were on your back instead of an expanding little mountain range?”

“What should I do with my facial expression?”

“Do I have boogers?  Do I have anything in my teeth?  What about my breath?”

“Oh, no!  Is that gas I feel?  What do I do if it is?!”

Various thoughts while the therapy is in progress:

“Am I relaxed?  Are my butt-cheeks unclenched?”

“Oh, no!  Do I have to go to the bathroom?”

“I hope I smell okay…”

“I should’ve gotten a pedicure!”

“Oh, my word!  That feels heavenly!”

“I didn’t know they did that when you had a facial!”

“Hot towels on your face are delightful!”

“Her hands are gifted.”

“I didn’t even know my shoulders hurt that much.”

“I wish I could do this EVERY Saturday… or at least every few months…”

… it was one of the most lovely experiences in my life.  The ladies at the front desk were even more enchanting after my treatment.  I walked out of the spa feeling uber zen.  I put my Pandora on and tuned into a meditation channel.  I drove to Freebirds and picked up delicious veggie bowls to take home and eat with my Honey.  Then I went to Juice Land so I could get a Bambata smoothie.  I walked into both places with big, messy spa hair and shiny, pinkish, spa face and I couldn’t have cared less. I was one with myself – chubby, freckle-faced, no make-up, beautiful me…

My goal is to make another appointment in July and not cancel

more than once…

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On Being 50…

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I’ve been 50 for almost an entire year, and I have to tell you, that for me and for several 50+ women I’ve talked to, there is something life-changing about becoming this age.  It didn’t happen instantaneously for me at 5:22 a.m. (I think that’s what time I was born) on January 6, 2014.  But I did sense a change in my self in the months leading up to that day.

I know that our society tells us that getting older is something to be avoided at all costs.  We spend LOADS of money and time trying to appear younger and feel healthier.  I’m all for the feeling better and being healthier – and I spend a bunch of cash on organic food and time on making chemically free products for my family.  I believe while I’m here, I should honor my body and my life by putting the best I can afford and acquire into them and I want that for my Honey and our kids, also.  I think that choosing to live this way has far-reaching effects on our environment and our sense of community, in addition to our day-to-day health.  Beyond that, I think I’ll spend my money on helping others to be healthier and educated.  I’m not saying I like all of the physical changes that are happening to my body, but I understand and accept that this is the deal.  We aren’t invincible.  We are constantly moving toward death…

On that note, I thought I would make a list of the things I hate about being 50 and the things I am enjoying…

I hate that I received an AARP enrollment form in the mail.  –  Seriously?!   I thought this happened at 65?!

I’m mostly not crazy about all of the wrinkles around my eyes, on my forehead (that I’ve had since high school) and around my mouth.

Not in-love with the way my chi chi’s hang lower than ever when not racked up in an underwire bra…

Menopause is rearing it’s ugly head and I just want to eat bread and sweets all of the time, so the extra weight that is appearing around my middle is not something I’m thrilled to see in the bathroom mirror each morning.

I can’t seem to lose weight like I used to…

Men do not look at me the way they used to or nearly as often as they used to…

Things that do not suck about being 50:

I am taken much more seriously when I voice my opinion.

I don’t care as much about what I look like as I care about how most people feel around me.

My Honey loves me more than ever and he truly thinks I’m beautiful.  He sees me.

My self-worth doesn’t depend on others nearly as much as it used to.

My Honey and I don’t want new toys like we used to and because of that we actually have cash to live in the moment.

NO credit cards!

I care SO much more about being healthy and SO much less about being thinner.

I’m a Nana!

My children are becoming my friends.

Men don’t look at me the way they used to.

 

I spent SO much of my time trying to make other people hear me, see me, respect my opinions, and think I was worth something.  It took all this time for me to realize this one simple truth:  I am worth it to Him.  He sees me and loves me unconditionally.  He doesn’t care if my children are dressed beautifully or if my house is always in perfect order.  He doesn’t care if I am the head of every organization that my children join and 7 church committees.  In fact, He probably would prefer I wasn’t the head of more than one or two, if any.  He wants us to be more than we do

Doesn’t that sound simple?…  Our culture goes directly against this and we are often enslaved to this way of thinking, this way of doing.  I wish it hadn’t taken me 50 years to figure most of this out.  I’m thankful I have figured some of it out.  I think the best part about being 50 is that I feel more freedom than I ever have and self-acceptance is truly a reality.  It’s a gift to be okay in your own (wrinkly) skin…

 

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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Typically coming into one’s own is thought to happen sometime in one’s early 20’s.  We leave the secure (or often unsecure) nest of our parents.  We see that other people live differently, the world is a big amazing place and we shift our way of thinking.  We begin to feel as if we rule the world.  We get a little arrogant about our parents and the way they live, the things they believe in and instilled in us somehow seem silly, small minded.

So, we create the adult “us” because now we know.  We’re 23 or so and we won’t make the same mistakes as our parents or any of the other clueless adults who have ruled our world for the past couple of decades or so did.  There is also this disillusionment that happens when we realize our parents aren’t perfect, and that they were actually wrong about a few things.  Honestly, this can shake up our entire sense of  how the world works.  It makes everything seem like a lie, so we’re not sure who or what to trust anymore.

This can also be a truly wonderful time.  We are young, beautiful, driven.  The world is our oyster…

We begin our adult lives.  We may start an amazing career, get married, start a family or not. . .  and then we’re just busy.  Responsibilities multiply all of a sudden, and we fall back on the examples, good and bad, that were set for us.  We don’t really know any better unless our upbringing was laced with the biggies – some kind of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) that the world told us was terribly wrong.  Then (usually) we fight with all that we are to NOT make the same mistakes – to not treat our spouses like that or put our children through the horrors that we experienced.  

What about so many of us who were raised in homes with families who looked good on the outside and even on the inside – at least to the child who only knew this family and even to the damaged adults who were the leaders in those homes?  

I think we usually grew up believing we had a “normal” life.  We become the damaged adults who raise another generation of damaged adults, who raises another generation…  All the while, I think we feel a tug to be more, to be real, to be authentic.  We simultaneously run as fast and far from the raw truth as we possibly can.  In order to get down to the “real” of who we are, we have to flesh out the ugly that has been buried for so long.  We have to face the lies, the hurts, and the junk that have layered themselves in who we are.  There is no guarantee that we will like the new “me” we become.  It is a pretty sure bet that the journey will be painful and  very few people will support us.

Have you ever heard the theory that a family is like a house of cards?  Even when the house is standing with very little that is structurally sound, most all of the cards will do everything they can just to keep the house standing just as it is.  We find some sort of comfort in our dysfunctional family units and when one person tries to shift, i.e. get emotionally healthier, become more independent, branch out in a healthy way, the rest of the deck will do whatever they deem necessary in order to avoid change.  They may try to shame the lone card, even disown the lone card, often involving others in the hopes that feeling ganged up on, the lone card will go back to his/her old ways and everyone can just be comfortable again.  When the shifting card “moves” too much, the entire house of cards falls down, and in order to rebuild itself, the other cards are forced to face their fears, their ugliness and their secrets to some degree.  Truth be told, not too many of us are crazy about dealing with our junk because someone else pushed it on us.

I’ve seen this happen with friends who were sexually, emotionally, or physically abused as children.  Family members try to keep the uncomfortable truth in the dark because they think it’s easier than dealing with the pain that bringing it into the light would cause.  I’ve witnessed the agony of adult friends discovering years after their childhood abuse that other adults were aware of what was going on at the time, but chose not to speak up because it would hurt too many people if they said anything.  It breaks my heart to know what that did to their sense of self-worth, to their belief that they were worth loving and protecting by the people closest to them.

I think the hardest part of stepping out of the crazy darkness is the incredible loneliness and the self-doubt.  Being shunned by your family of origin or the family you helped create is a special kind of hell.  In spite of the plethora of strained family relationships in our culture – (so much so, that joking about the difficulty of holiday family gatherings is often seen on greeting cards, sitcoms, etc.) – we still are inundated with facebook postings, books, t.v. shows, billboards, etc. that cause people not in the “perfectly happy family club” to sting in silent pain.  It’s not that you resent the person that has a loving relationship with their parents, siblings, children. The opposite is true.  You are happy for them.  It gives you hope to know that unconditional love and grace exist in families.  It also hurts deep down to your very core to be reminded that you aren’t loved like the facebook or twitter postings I see on the regular:

“Love your mom no matter what you go through and how much you argue because, in the end, she’ll always be there for you.” –  No, not necessarily…

or
“Because I have a brother, I will always have a friend.”  – Not in my case…

or

“Family is a circle of strength: Founded in Faith; Joined in Love: Kept by God; Together Forever!” – That sounds wonderful, but not my reality…

As the holidays approach, it becomes even more difficult to stand firm.  The fear of spending these very special family days without family can cause you to run right back into the dysfunctional routine that chips away at your sense of worth, but still feels comfortable, normal to some extent.  It’s all good and well to be committed to breaking the cycle and even suffer in order to make things better for everyone by bringing the junk into the light or refusing to engage in the old messed up dance that you’ve done For-Ev-Er, until you’re faced with spending Christmas Day with no one except the cable t.v. channel that is FULL to the BRIM with stories of loving families on Christmas and even the families that aren’t perfectly happy at the beginning of the hour are full of joy, love, forgiveness and all tied up with a pretty bow by the end.  And when others ask what you’re doing for the holiday, you have to decide if you should make up a story about how you’ll be spending the day with your big, loving family, or make up a different story about not being able to see your family because they’re too far away or a horrible sickness is making its rounds through your family members, or if you should just face the music, be honest about having no one to spend the day with and leave everyone listening to you in awkwardness or even worse, offering you “pity” invites to their family gathering!

Gosh!  It’s a hard thing to be a member of a family that is made up of other flawed human beings!  It’s almost impossible to step out into the light and make a concerted effort to choose honesty, health, depth of relationship when you’re not really sure what that looks like and not a bunch of people desire the same depth or transparency.  I think that mostly we only choose this new path because we simply cannot keep doing the same dance we’ve always done.  It’s just too painful…

Trying to go back once you’ve stepped out into the light is like trying to fit your foot into a shoe that is 3 sizes too small.  Some of us are crazy enough to try, all the same, but I don’t think we can stay there for very long.  Once He frees you and you see the truth, really SEE the reality of your story, then you know you have the power to choose to be in His will and become all you were meant to be.  It’s a new kind of pain, not less or more, just different…Cleaner, more pure, I think, but still excruciating at times.

I remember 6 years ago thinking that I would NEVER make it through the holidays.  My entire life was shattered… and then the person who shattered it came along side of me, held me up and made some beautiful bittersweet memories that I hold gently and very near to my heart.  Two years later was when I finally and fully stepped into the light and lost a big part of my family of origin and my extended family.  It was almost as unbearable as two years earlier, but I was different – stronger and much more fragile.  He had begun to show me who I am in Him and that was enough.

Unfortunately, satan knows where I am weak.  The holidays will again be difficult this year.  My heart is sad, my head is baffled, but the shoes don’t fit anymore and I can’t dance my new dance for Him in shoes that don’t fit, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the people still sitting at the card tables in the dark corner of the room…

shoes too small

I am his and he is mine…

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This is a HUGE year for me. I had my 50th birthday in January and in just a bit more than a month my Honey and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I have been married to him ½ of my entire life!   I have joked about being married to him for 1/2 of my life when I was 5o since I can remember!  How did it get here already?!

There are times when it has felt like it has been twice that long. The months when we can’t seem to find each other or remember who the other person is anymore, days when we can’t agree on anything, the times when we just get on each other’s nerves all of the time, and we are just plain old ugly to each other have felt endless. Those times don’t happen very often, especially now, but when they have, it is excruciating….

There have been a very few times when I couldn’t even remember why I wanted to be with him in the first place because I was wounded so deeply. Those times never lasted very long, but I’d be lying if I said they never happened.        Marriage is hard. It’s also long – sometimes…  if you’re lucky and committed, but long means SO much can and will happen.

I think one of my most favorite parts of being married to my Honey is that we’ve worked through huge piles of our junk and decided that we are committed to being really present in this relationship, not just surviving it and staying married for a long time.  We always had a pretty good marriage on the outside, but it was pretty icky a lot of the time on the inside. I couldn’t admit this to myself for a very long time. I think that’s why I was such a good actress and contributed to the pretty marriage façade others saw for so many years.

I remember when things got the worst they had ever been and I was wavering between walking out the door and staying almost every other day, someone told me that if I chose to stay and really worked to make things better, God would bless my marriage and it would be more wonderful than I could imagine. I thought that person was on crack, honestly. I just couldn’t see past all of my pain enough to see anything ever getting better. I was just beginning to grasp how much of a lie my marriage had been for the first almost 20 years. After being given some more advice, I decided to just wait, to give myself time to heal some and to not make decisions based on pure emotion at such a low point. That was some of the best advice I have ever gotten. It saved my life and my marriage.

During counseling my Honey and I decided that we were all in. After all, we didn’t really have anything left to lose. I remember thinking that it truly couldn’t get any worse and I needed to know that I had put it all out there before I could walk away with a clear conscience: my fears, my insecurities, my sins, my needs, ALL my junk with complete integrity, no mixed signals, no games, no protecting myself.  My Honey did the same in a big way.  I think it was probably the first time in our whole marriage that we just depended on God to see us through.

I think we both felt like we were seeing each other for the first time when we first began to really talk candidly in counseling. There were times when he would admit something to me that I had questioned him about for years and I felt like he handed me back my reality and after an initial burst of anger, I was in awe of his honesty and vulnerability. Other times I was almost unbelieving when his deep love for me would come shining through. It took me a long time to fully trust his love for me. It took him almost as long to trust my love for him. The irony about that is that it was mostly because of our own junk that we felt this way, not because of the other person’s actions. I think that’s probably true of most relationships…

Our beginning wasn’t picture perfect.  We had both gone through ugly divorces just a year before we got married. We also each brought a precious toddler son into our union.  We dated almost 5 whole months when we got married (What in the world were we thinking?!).  We were both in our last year of college and my parents were living with me at the time!  Much of our first several years of marriage were spent in the courtroom dealing with constant custody and visitation issues.  The attorney bills were astronomical. Blending a family is not all Bradybunch-ish, I can tell you that!  We loved each other very much and that was the glue that kept us together in the early part of our marriage; that and God’s mercy.

There are things I have always loved about my Honey.  He has always made me laugh more than anyone else – especially when I didn’t even know I needed to.  I love that he loves to talk.  He’s like a best girlfriend, only SO MUCH BETTER!!  He has always been a gentleman.  He holds doors open, puts me on the safe side of the path whenever we’re walking outside, and always takes care of me when we go out, holding my chair out for me, getting my drinks, etc.  He has always been a loving daddy to our babies.  He rocked ‘em, diapered ‘em and coached their teams.  I don’t think he ever missed a school or a sporting event that he knew about.  I love that he works so hard for our family because he wants us to be comfortable.

There are even more things that I love about him now because they were hard won by us.  I love his willingness to put me and others first.  I love his humility which has replaced his angry insecurity. I love his presence with our family and his commitment to our health.  I adore his commitment to our marriage – its stability, its growth, its happiness and its authenticity.  I love that  now he understands that our family would rather spend time with him than have extra money and he is trusting God more to take care of us.  He still works VERY hard, but he puts relationships before money now.  He really seeks God now and is willing to be authentic with other Christians in a way he wasn’t able to be a few years ago.  I am mad about the way he bakes and cooks with our children!

Most of the time I can’t believe how quickly 25 years have zoomed by.  How did we have time to raise 5 children, move across the country and get this old?!  I can’t wrap my head around where we started, where we are now, and how we got here.  It’s been quite a ride and I don’t ever want to get off.  It still amazes me that this is my life. I get to wake up and live this life.  I get to be known and loved. Does it get any better?… I don’t think so…

 

I love my husband more than I thought possible.  Apparently, the lady on crack knew what she was talking about!  I like him more than anyone else in the whole world.  He’s strong, protective, hilarious, gorgeous, smart, sweet, kind, thoughtful, honoring, talented, silly, and beautiful inside and out.

He fought for me.

I am his and he is mine…

for at least another 25 years…

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Honey & Me Shady Grove 2014Honey & Me Laughing

 

 

From the 40 Yard Line

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40 yard lineSunday morning…  The wind is blowing, the sun is shining and we’re getting ready to get ready to go to church…  My Honey and I have a heart-to-heart and I decide that what I really want more than anything for my birthday is for our family to gather at our home, eat, laugh and experience love – real love, the comfortable, joyful, teasing, reminiscing, comforting, supporting kind that is the rare and precious gift I have received from my Father in the form of my Honey, our kids – biological and in-love…

Our Banana-girl immediately tells me that she will do whatever I want.  She and I make a list of what we need for a great yummy brunch.  She rallies her dad and they go to the store.  When I call our oldest, he is obviously tired and has to work later today, but he responds in just moments and tells me that they will be over in an hour.  I am blessed beyond measure that he and my daughter-in-love make time for me at the last minute on a Sunday morning.

Once everyone is here, the rhythm of my family begins.  Scott and Caleb are cooking at the stove, Bailey is baking cinnamon rolls, setting everything out on plates or anything else that needs to be done, Hannah is making Belgian waffles after she finishes cutting up all of the fresh veggies for the eggs, my Honey is washing dishes and doing general clean-up, while Aaron and his friend are eating Bailey’s cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven.  I am wandering around, putting the occasional pepper grinder away or warming up the maple syrup… Mostly I’m just reveling in this moment and setting up my Pandora station  – Great Outdoors Instrumental – because I know that today my children will put up with it for my birthday…

Does it get much better?…  Honestly, if I found out that I only had a day to live, this is how I would want to spend it.  I wish I could bottle this.

We talk about why I stopped going to Ponderosa and other “trough” restaurants twenty years ago because of Silence of the Lambs, how queasy Aaron also gets because of gory movies, and when Scott and my Honey met for the first time.  We laugh and commiserate while we reminisce about pieces of our family history that would probably seem ridiculous to others.  And I sit and cherish every moment because showing up is enough.  I feel loved, accepted.  My cup runneth over…

Peace…  I remember when I first came to begin to know God.  The difference I most felt in my life was this peace that I had never experienced before.  I waited for it to end for quite awhile.  It didn’t…  I still had junk happen in my life that caused stress, but I also had this peace that was new and constant.  It was incredible to me.  It still is.

When I’m with my husband, our children and their loves, I am brought back to this.  They center me and help me remember how blessed I am.  Joy.  Not always happiness, but always joy.

Now, I’m not trying to sound like that Christmas letter that makes out like my family is picture perfect – My kids are all youth group leaders, on the dean’s list, my husband received several promotions and raises this year and I am PTA President while remodeling our entire subdivision…  (yes, you probably received one of those from me several years ago, but it will NEVER happen again).

We get mad at each other occasionally.  We tease a little too much sometimes.  We let others do more of the work and enjoy the bounty in spite of our laziness once in awhile.  Sarcasm is a special talent in our home…

Grace.  Love.  Peace.  Joy.

Today I am blessed with these things in abundance and I am in my 40’s…

When did that happen?!…

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I’m going to be 50 in just 3 days.

Seriously… When the heck did THAT happen?!  I can tell I’m starting to experience a bit of a mid-life crisis.  I’m a bit unsatisfied with my life and how little it feels like I’ve accomplished.  I can’t really discuss this with my Honey or our kiddos because they all feel this need to make me feel better about what I’ve done with my life and that is the LAST thing I want to hear right now.  It feels like they’re patronizing me… in love, to be sure, but still, I don’t want to be made to feel better.  I want to be heard.  Acknowledged…  I realize I have hidden behind some very legitimate looking excuses during much of my adult life in order to avoid falling on my face in a smelly pile of failure and now, I just keep thinking, “So, Tricia, how’s that working for you?”

Do you ever feel like you have all that you need and/or want – You know, that “My cup runneth over” feeling?  When all of us are together – my Honey, our kids, the grandbaby – and everyone is getting along, there is this deep satisfaction and joy I feel overcome by.  It just washes over me and I do everything in my power to just savor every moment because I know it will end.  Someone will get angry, someone will let someone down or misunderstand someone or…  Life is so busy that it’s hard to catch those moments, to make time for them is a constant struggle.  Keeping the house reasonably clean, paying the bills, being a dedicated teacher, changing the cars’ oil, doing laundry, etc. – those things take most of the minutes from my day.

Then there are these other moments, usually in the early morning, when I wake up trying not to think/worry about all of the stuff mentioned above, and I start remembering that longing feeling to do something meaningful with my life.  Not something that will make me famous or anything like that.  I mean like REALLY being in His will and doing what He has planned for me.  I want to know what that is because I am so sure that I have veered off the path SO far during the past 5 or 6 years that I feel overwhelmed by how long it may take me just to get back to “Point A.”

I know that I have helped raise 5 truly amazing people.  I know that I am a very good teacher and I have touched many lives over the years.  My husband would tell you that I am a wife beyond his dreams.  All of that matters more than I can put into words.  But there’s more.  I know that there is because He put this longing in my being and I feel as if I will burst if I don’t start living in His will.  This isn’t a feeling that suddenly appeared on the “approaching 50 horizon.”  It’s been stirring in my soul for such a very, long time.  I hid from it for decades trying to be a picture perfect Christian wife, mother (step and biological), daughter (in-love and biological), and friend.  It’s a great way to look good and gain accolades, but He knows the truth, even when we’ve buried it SOOOOO deep that we believe the lie we are living in.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being the Stepford family that when the ugly truth finally explodes all over the front yard and is headlined for the public, it takes a while to get back on our feet – heck, it takes a long time to roll over and even consider whether or not we even WANT to get back on our feet.  No One can tell you that you will be thankful for the ugly truth being exposed

at first.

But, the truth is, I am thankful and would not go back to being Mrs. Stepford for all of the tea in China.  I’m also lost in a way that is easy to live in much of the time.   After having all of my junk exposed and feeling forsaken by God, I found myself utterly lost.  I don’t trust myself completely, yet.  I’m struggling to find Him again because the old way doesn’t fit me anymore and there’s so much to keep me busy that complacency is  an easy friend.  And, honestly, it’s been years… and I’m almost 50…

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