Tag Archives: Children

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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The last sunrise of the year…

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At the moment of sunrise, the eastern sky lights up a brilliant orange over the downtown Austin area. The tallest silhouetted building is the Austoinian. This panorama was captured from the Zilker Park Clubhouse just west of the city.

As I look out my window at the last sunrise of the year, I can’t help but think of all of the good stuff  of 2015 – and, of course, some of the bad stuff of 2015, that I want to change in 2016.  I always find people’s thankful lists telling. I’m a big, “love language” kinda girl.  You can usually figure out what someone’s love language is by their “thankful list.”

My Honey will usually talk about a good conversation with me or one of our kids where he felt affirmed as a dad or husband.  He might mention a great tour he had or something awesome at church when he played with the band.  All of these things have one thing in common – the words that people say to him.  His love language is words of affirmation.  Words can build him up immensely or tear him down horribly.  Caleb and Aaron have the same love language and every time we get together with them, our conversations are full of what people said to them or about them that caused them to feel great or not so great.

Hannah and I share the same primary love language and if you’ve seen my facebook posts, you probably know that quality time is how I feel most loved.  If someone is willing to make time for me, I feel loved beyond measure.  If we had any doubt about Hannah feeling the same way, it all went away when we went couch shopping a few months ago.  We were in the store looking at various designs.  Hannah kept going back to the sectional – which I felt was a bit big for the area we have in our living room.  As I explained this to her, she sat down on it and said, “I know, but I can sit right here and all of my brothers can fit on it with me and we’d all be together.”  The couch was on it’s way to our home within the hour…  How do you say “No” to that?!

Besides, I believe her secondary love language is gifts and mine is acts of service, so this was a win-win for both of us!!

So, here is my list, and the order is not indicative of the importance, but probably more about how recently it occurred or how memories come to mind when you spend time recalling a year…

I’m thank for:

-my friend, Giselle, who stored our Hannah’s trailer and loaned us their truck and encourages me and my daughter in a way that few women have in my life.  We have lunch less than a half a dozen times a year, but our conversation sustains me and lifts me for the months in between because she is a woman of honor and she chooses to be my friend and make time for me whenever I text her, “Lunch?”  I also love that her family loves my kombucha and she randomly and often leaves gifts by my front door that always come when I need them most.  I think Giselle’s love language is gifts…

-my team at work.  I have never worked with a team of teachers (there are 6 of us, btw, all women) that I have such respect for in the classroom.  I would put any of my own children in any one of their classrooms without thinking twice.  They are all committed to their students in ways that go above and beyond teacher responsibilities daily.  Everyone contributes to the whole, supports each other and steps in for anyone on our team who needs help – and we’ve all taken our turns.  I love that I can connect and laugh with anyone of them when I need to see the humor in the events of a rough day or situation.  This is such a rare dynamic and I dread the day when it ends, which it surely will.  Until then I marvel at the gift these ladies are to me and to the 1st grade students at our school.  Which leads me to my kiddos at work.  I adore them and I’m so thankful that their parents entrust them to me each year.  It is a mystery to me how precious each and every one of my babies that walks through my classroom door is, and how He gives me the capacity to treasure and adore every one of them.

-my friend, Connie, who although she lives in Michigan, still makes time for me when I call and dump my junk on her because she knows and loves my family well and she’s one of my safe people in this not-so-safe world.  I’m thankful for her husband and her children who I love right back.  I’m thankful for her sense of humor and her perspective that is always lined with grace.  I also love that she’s into all of the ferments and healthy living that I am so passionate about and we teach each other new stuff every time we get together.

-my time each morning with my Father.  I had stopped making time for several years when I first moved to Texas for all sorts of “reasons” that just seem lame now.  But, in the middle of 2014 I committed to consistently making this time a priority every day and I have for well over a year now.  As I expected, in spite of some painful things happening this past year, I walked through with the assurance that I was (usually) in His will and with the peace that knowing I had put it in His hands and that I didn’t have to carry it anymore.  My favorite part of being His child has always been having peace that passes understanding.  For me, a girl who struggles with worry, control, and insomnia, it is the stuff.

-the trips we took as a family this past year.  We went to Arizona, Port A, Seattle, and Portland.  Being stuck in the car with my husband and my kiddos is a dream come true for me.  I love the conversations, the cuddling, the memories, and all that goes with a long road trip with the people I most love in this world.  For me, it’s usually just as great as reaching our destination.  I am especially thankful that our kiddos made time to do these trips with us even though they’re all grown up.  This mama feels loved when her grown babies make time to be together.

-our church and our small group.  We transferred to the south Austin campus this year and our entire family feels like we’re finally home.  It has been too many years since my Honey and I served at church and we are back in the swing of things and loving every moment.  After years of trying to find a small group that was a good fit, we have found one that we both love and are growing in.  I can’t tell you what an answer to prayer this is for all of us.  We are blessed and no longer alone.

-Destiny Project brought me back to life again.  This helped me reconnect with my Heavenly father in a way I have longed to for soooooooo long and gave me my heart back again.  My marriage and my family are restored because of this ministry and what He does through it.  I’m thankful that I was able to go and my heart was open enough to allow a miracle to happen.  I’m also thankful that I made friends with some of the most beautiful women God has created.  All beautiful because of who He is to them and in their lives.

-my children and where they all are in their journeys.  I love that our kiddos are all finding their way in this world.  Some of them are taking classes to prepare for their future, some of them are creating things they are passionate about, some of them are risking it all to live the life they feel called to live, and all of them are working hard to be able to take the next step.  I am thankful that they are all healthy and pursuing their dreams.  My prayer for all of them is that they follow His lead and be in His will because He knows their hearts better than anyone and He has a plan that is perfect for their lives. – Another thing that I am thankful for!

-this place… This blog helps me keep my sanity.  He made me this way, that written words are how I best communicate and work through the junk in my head, my life, my relationships, my world.  I’m thankful for the connections I’ve made, the fears I’ve faced, the difference He’s made through me just telling my story.  I’m thankful for the grace and love I’ve received and been able to offer through this media space where I wear my heart on my sleeve and pray for mercy.

-my Honey’s (kinda) new job.  It was a huge leap of faith giving him my support to retire from teaching and switch careers at this point in our lives.  I only agreed to this when He made it very clear that He was opening this door for my husband and we needed to walk through.  Daily I received confirmation that we made the right choice when I see how happy, purposeful, and respected my husband is.  It makes for a happy life when you faithfully follow the path He has for you and I am so grateful that my husband has found his place and that he receives words of affirmation on the regular because he is where he’s supposed to be.

-my Honey.  He and I have been through it, I tell ya.  We’ve weathered storms that seemed to go on endlessly.  We spent years tripping over our own egos and trying to figure out when the other one would get their junk together.  We’ve raised LOTS of kiddos, faced serious health issues, dealt with exes, in-laws, and steps, moved across the country, lost almost everything, worked together, worked apart, purchased and sold homes, been bored, been overwhelmed, nursed each other, resented each other, adored each other, paid bills together, thanked God for each other, almost divorced each other, and here we are.  This year was the good stuff, the transparent place where we know we are completely accepted and that the other stuff is just stuff and we can get through it all because we already have.  Where we’re old enough to know to treasure the moments of laughter and love because they are fleeting and precious.  Where we agree and are in awe that we have created the most amazing people walking this earth who choose to love us and call us mom and dad.

I know there are SO many other things I have to be thankful for this past year, but once I hit 2000 words, I feel like it’s time to start winding things up so that we can all get on with our day.  I believe it’s important to focus on our blessings.  I think that it’s okay to have a rough patch and not feel guilty because you want to wallow for a bit and not put on your big girl (or boy) panties (or boxers?) until tomorrow or next month.  I’ve been so low that I just couldn’t get there and all of that anecdotal happy, joy b.s. just made me feel more isolated and alone, but I’ve also been in less low places more often when focusing on the good stuff is just what I needed to climb out of the funk and get up on my feet again.

I pray you have a list of the good stuff this year.  I pray you savor it and understand that even though it will end and bad, even horrible stuff will happen at some point (and I’m so sorry if you are in the bad or horrible right now), that the good, and even fantastic stuff will come again, too.  This is true for all of us who walk this Earth.  The human condition can be a rollercoaster ride.  I have decided that I am holding on, screaming at the top of my lungs and finally throwing my hands up over my head because I don’t want to miss a minute of the click, click, click as I approach that big drop, the dips, the corkscrew spins with my barefeet dangling, or the straight-away, slow-down time before I hear the screech of the brakes pulling into the station because the ride is over.  This ride is temporary.  I don’t want to close my eyes or heart and miss what He has for me, even when I don’t want it…

Happy New Year!!  

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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.

 

 

 

Destiny’s Project

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desert

I’ve been in the desert for about 8 years now…

Just before we left Michigan in 2007, our church fell apart in a painful, ugly split, my family of origin began the “dysfunctional disenfranchisement” (as I fondly refer to it), our closest friends seemed to step back a bit in preparation for the upcoming 1/2 of a country away separation, and another group of women who had regularly met in my home for several years, and I counted as good friends, suddenly excluded me, hurting me deeply. Just after leaving Michigan we began making two huge house payments because we couldn’t sell our house in Michigan and we purchased a brand new, furnished home in Texas.  A year after we moved to Texas, with our finances depleted, a week after we had decided to foreclose on our Michigan home, we sold it by paying the buyer $1200!

When we arrived, we knew almost no one.  Finding a homeschool community for our kiddos was my priority for the first several months.  The kids and I spent time exploring Austin and figuring out where we could fit in.  My husband struggled to find a place to fit in musically and had a rough time of adjusting to returning to teaching in a new state, especially with his wife and children in Michigan for the first 4 months he was in Texas without us.  We would talk on the phone for 1-4 hours every night.  He was incredibly lonely and I was busy at home in Michigan packing, cramming in last visits, and as much school as possible trying to be both parents to our kiddos who missed their daddy a bunch.

The first 6 months in Texas were lonely for me, but I was busy painting the kids’ rooms, finding homeschool groups and activities for my kids, as well as getting acclimated to our new surroundings.  Sometime after that first 6 months, things began to go sour in our marriage.  My Honey couldn’t find a band to join that fit his style or his talents.  He felt like he moved to the Live Music Capital of the World to really use his gifts and then he couldn’t figure out how to get into the “scene.”  He was also in his early 40’s, suddenly making much less than he had.  He was still recovering from the beating he took for almost a decade at his previous job.  It took awhile to find a church that we all liked, and I was still licking my wounds from what had happened at our church in Michigan.  Many of my closest and oldest friendships just disintegrated once we moved here.  When I was most lonely and reaching out, my dearest friends turned away.  Our small group in Michigan was one of those rare, transparent, supportive circle of friends that some only dream of being a part of and we are blessed that a few of them have supported us and loved us, long distance, through this past 8 years.

For the first time in our marriage, I was unable to hold everything together.  I was completely and utterly broken.  Too many things had gone wrong and I was so very alone… and, honestly, I could only be a Stepford wife for so many years before the facade came crashing down around me.  So, it did…  and I mean, BUT GOOD!!!

I was in the worst place emotionally I had ever been in.  I spent several weeks meticulously planning my suicide.  My only requirement was that I didn’t look too horrific if my children found me – you know, because there’s a good way for your kids to find you dead by your own hand…  I isolated myself almost completely.  I had no one close enough in Texas to confide in and I didn’t feel like I could reach out to any of my loved ones in Michigan because that’s who I was…  Helping others, never asking for help.  Not only because I truly love to help people, but also because I hope others will come to love me if I offer them enough (because I’m not) and because I have a deep fear that if I ask for help or support when I’m weak, I will find that no one cares enough to help me, so I wear my armor almost always.  It’s one of the things I most dislike about myself and one of the things I am working hardest to change… daily…

Well, a bunch of particulars happened during this time, but they’re not important to this story.  Suffice it to say that we decided to go to counseling – both separately and together – and our marriage improved immensely over the course of a year or two.  My husband began to treasure me and for the first time he truly saw me – because I allowed him to.

Things seemed to be going in the right direction for a few years.  We began teaching together, we argued less than ever, we went to church every week together, and we talked constantly.  My husband was forever trying to be who I needed him to be.  I slowly became more and more bitter as time passed.  I just felt so angry with him and almost all of the wonderful things about him didn’t mean much for very long if he did anything else not perfectly.  I cringe when I think of how ugly my behavior became over a few years.  Our children tried to point out that I was not treating their dad with respect, especially since I had worked very hard to instill in them a godly picture of what a Christian wife should be and act like.  I hardly listened to them.  I felt justified in my resentment and even more so when I felt my children were choosing their father over me.  Each time he would hurt or offend me, I would deposit my animosity into my bank of bitterness and my account collected interest exponentially.  My former arrogance is my present shame…

I made very few good friendships in 8 years of living here.  The ones I did make didn’t go too far, mostly because of the mistrust I had developed in recent years piled on top of the lovely martyr complex designed to keep me “safe” and because I didn’t really have anyone to confide in, I was terrified that I would vomit all over someone if I started to talk, so my walls were now thicker than ever.

I had some sunny days here and there, but I had started to feel that 8 years in the desert deep in my core.  I was accepting that there was really nothing to like about me since no one seemed to want to truly know me here.  I was almost complacent, it seemed.  I think the pain of accepting that was almost more than I could bear, so I became numb. I know now that I was moving toward believing God felt the same way about me and even toward not believing He existed at all.  I prayed, I read my Bible, I listened to praise music, I went to Bible studies, and I attended small group, and church.  I even watched some of those terrible over-acted Christian movies!  I just felt more and more lost or forgotten or punished…

We started attending a small group – the 4th one because I just couldn’t feel comfortable in the three before this one. One of the leaders there mentioned a women’s retreat that she was attending after being asked repeatedly to go to over the previous year.  I immediately looked the retreat up on my phone.  It was pricey, I’m not gonna lie.  Something in me (God?) told me that I had to go.  So, I got online, signed up, payed the deposit and emailed my list of questions to the leader.

I almost canceled daily, but He made it clear to me that I had  to go.  I hadn’t heard Him in such a long time that I was NOT going to blow this!  I spent many hours talking myself out of the fear of disappointment.  I was prepared to face that I didn’t matter and the little hope I had left would be completely gone if this was not at the very least a life-changing event for me.  I worried that I would emotionally vomit all over these unsuspecting women who didn’t even know me.  I worried my roommate(s) wouldn’t like me, the food would be unhealthy and filled with gmo’s, I wouldn’t be Christian enough, my clothes would be wrong, etc., etc.  – and then I started my period the day before I left, and now a days, this is no small matter!  Seriously?!

So, I drove 4 hours to get there and ate dinner with 12 strangers.  I was wrapped tighter than a Baptist minister’s wife’s girdle!  (Come on!  That was funny…)  I was in the abyss between desperately (truly desperately) needing to share my story, having human connection, finding some hope, and making a complete fool of myself and being rejected.  So, when the time came to share the “why” of our attendance, both of the women before me, who were in my age group, spoke of how wonderful their marriages and husbands were.  I remember thinking, “OMG, I feel like such a loser.”  I was truly terrified of how to tell my story, so, I vomited and became as vulnerable as I could because I felt like it was my last chance.  I had also paid several hundred bucks and the “frugal” part of me couldn’t live with not giving my money’s worth!

It was exhausting, unbelievably emotional, embarrassing, and somewhat freeing… only somewhat…

For the rest of the evening I was reasonably silent.  I felt like I had said too much already and I didn’t want to be that person at the retreat.  – You know, the one who makes everything about her, vomits her junk on everyone else and just won’t shut-up?  Before we went to bed that night we all chose a large rock and were instructed to decorate it in a way that represented what we wanted to leave behind this weekend.  For some this was a temporary thing, like worrying about their small children, for me, it was a permanent thing that had been haunting me for the past several years during what I refer to as my “midlife unraveling.”  My rock said “REGRET” on it.

The following morning as we all worshiped next to the river, I looked all around me and I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of these sisters-in-Christ each worshiping our Father in extraordinarily breathtaking splendor.  It was at that moment I knew I was ready to release my rock/regrets and I lobbed that bad-boy into the river with tears streaming down my face and hope in my heart.  It felt like the beginning of my own little miracle was just beginning…

The retreat was not easy.  It wasn’t fluff or anecdotal Christian b.s.  It has been 3 1/2 weeks and I’m still not completed recovered.  It was hard, true, deep, excruciating.  It was fun, acceptance, encouragement, Christ – the real deal.  It was sisterhood, bonding.  It was hope!  It was all I had longed for and so much more and it just washed over me for days.  Sometimes it lapped gently and other times it bowled me right over like a tidal wave.

It was healing…

Our leaders told us that we would spend most of the day taking turns in the “love chair.”  They acknowledged that this was one of the most difficult parts of the weekend for many women, especially the ones who had a difficult time receiving.  I spent the entire day enjoying through tears, smiles and laughter each of my sisters as they took their turn in the love chair – except when I was dreading my own turn.  I continually envisioned myself walking out of the house, getting in my car and driving home.  I was terrified…

I survived.  It was one of the few precious moments in my life that I felt completely adored by my Father, loved and accepted by women, and healed of my bitterness.  No matter how old I grow to be, it will always be one of the most sacred, unforgettable, life-changing moments of my whole, entire everything.

Healed… as only He can.  He healed my heart and filled me with joy.  I am planted deeply in His love and grace and it is unlike anything I have ever lived in.lush garden

I thought I attended because I feel like teaching is not where I belong much longer.  I was hoping He would show me the path I was meant to travel professionally.  I hoped I could figure out how to become the girl people want to be friends with.  I concentrated on those two areas for the most part.  I decided the day before my last at the retreat to focus on my marriage for the exercise we were doing, because I hadn’t really and it just seemed like the thing to do since there wasn’t much time left.  I realized earlier in the day that I had fallen madly in love with Jesus again and with the person He made me to be.  That evening, as I focused on my husband and what had happened in our 26 years together, I began to see him clearly.  I saw how patiently and lovingly he had waited for me the past several years.  I saw how arrogant I had been.  I was convicted about my treatment of him, the example I had set for our kiddos and how slowly all of this had crept up on my and how unwilling I was to see it.  But, more than anything else, I fell deeply and madly in-love with the man that my amazing, who God made for me, husband is.

The last day was my “rubber hits the road” planning day.  Part of that was deciding how, where and when I would ask my husband’s and our children’s forgiveness for my many transgressions in recent years.  Part of that was forgiving myself and accepting the human parts of me by loving myself unconditionally and extending grace to myself much like I have so willingly done with others in my life.  This was so much more difficult than I realized and even more necessary.  I am still overcome with the truth that my own lack of self-love and grace was in large part what stood between me and embracing my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love.  The word “FREEDOM” was continually whispered in my mind for days.

For 8 years I was in a desert place in almost all areas of my life.  I never turned from God, but I dishonored Him more than I want to admit, BUT I AM.  I felt myself slipping away, although I would’ve sworn at the time it was Him moving in the other direction.  I loved my husband, but I despised so much of who I thought he was.  I shudder when I think what might have happened had my friend not “mentioned” the retreat, had I not made the decision to check it out and spend that wad of cash with my husband’s encouragement.  I kept fighting for what I hoped was in my future.  I kept listening, though less frequently and with less hope, for God’s still, small voice to bring me up for air and give me something to believe in.

I was brave.  I persevered.  After being shattered into a million pieces, I gathered myself, licking my wounds for a bit too long and with way too much self-indignation, but still, I gathered myself.  I got in my way a whole bunch more than any sane person should.  I sinned more than usual…  and I will have more moments of sin in my immediate and far-off future, God willing.          I mean I hope it’s His will that I have a far-off future, not that I’ll have more moments of excessive sin.

He waited for me.  Patiently, lovingly, quietly, all while leading and teaching me as only He can.  He waited for this haughty, isolated, prodigal daughter.  He gave me back my heart, full of love and grace and a bunch of other good stuff.  Parts of me are stronger and more resilient and parts of me are more tender and fragile.  This Broken & Healed Tricia is so much better than the old one.

I think the very coolest part about how this all transpired is that He healed me in such a way that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE did it.  It’s a miracle to remove such deep rooted bitterness from a heart in an instant.  I could NEVER have done that alone or even with help, as my treasured children attempted to do on the regular.

Can you stand it?!  That’s how much He loves us!  Not for what we do, but for who we are in HIM!!!  Please don’t give up.  Please persevere.  YOU are so very worth it.  You are His Beloved.

pink tulip

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…

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

Love Bears All Things

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I Corinthians 13 7

I’ve been struggling with several issues that seem to be connected.  I can’t get clarity on what the central issue is for myself, and when that happens, it usually means it’s time for me to put it down on “paper,” so to speak.

Vaccinations

Honoring one another – especially women

Motives

Our government

Priorities

Those are the things swirling around in my head – especially when I get in front of Facebook and see so many vicious and often arrogant posts.  We don’t have cable or any “regular” television.  We don’t get the newspaper on the regular.  We feel like we save a bunch of money not having these things, but more important to us is that we are no longer inundated with hyped-up negative and slanted news stories, nor are we overwhelmed with feeling like we have to keep up with the proverbial Joneses because of the endless commercials and television shows that reflect our consumerism society.  We have the internet and we do indulge in Netflix.  We’re way into LOST right now and I enjoy Downton Abbey a bunch!  I find myself doing a lot of my own research online and in texts – books, not the phone kind.  I know there are more garbage sites that just about anyone can post to, but there are also an abundance of legit sites with verified information.  There are sites that completely contradict one another and I am one of those people that believes there are several reasons for this phenomenon.  I believe science is often to some degree vulnerable to the scientist’s prejudice and interpretation.  Presentation is everything!  I also believe that sometimes things aren’t included that don’t fit into the desired result’s equation.  In college, while in the psych department at a major university I saw this on several occasions.  I also believe that slight variations can simply change the results.  That being said, I’m REAL tired of people who act and state that the only legit information sources for cancer, autism,  vaccines, food facts, etc. are governmental and traditional medicine.  Seriously, are we kidding?!

My stance on vaccines is not pro or against.  My stance is DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Your children are worth it!!  Be wise enough to look at information from both sides of the argument with an open mind and heart.  When the number of vaccinations has more than doubled in less than 30 years, we should NOT just blindly roll our babies’ sleeves up.  We should be asking questions without being treated like that makes us bad parents.  THAT is part of what makes us amazing and brave parents.  That is why God gave them to us.  We are supposed to protect them with everything we are.  Sometimes that may mean choosing to vaccinate your child, other times it may mean choosing not to.  NO ONE on Earth loves your child more than you do.  You should make the best decision for Your child, not the government, whose often greedy motives should not be trusted with the health of your child.  My goodness look what they’ve done with that trust thus far!

Again, I’m not anti-government.  I appreciate the amazing parts of living where I do, but I also don’t think that means I should blindly trust a body made of people who are constantly being lured into bad choices for the whole out of greed.  It’s the human condition and left unchecked, it will wreak havoc on all that drink the kool-aid.  We must advocate for ourselves and our loved ones.  We should advocate for all, but this isn’t usually a big motivator in this busy world of ours.

Here’s the biggie.  The one that makes my heart ache.  Why can’t we look through those “mama’s eyes” of ours and recognize other mamas?  – Mamas that love their children as deeply and sacrificially as we do?  Why do we act as though anyone who believes the opposite as we do is ignorant and loves their child less than we do?  Of course, there are crazies on both sides of any argument.  There are some ignorant folks in our world, to be sure.  I believe that the vast majority of mamas are just as amazing on both sides of this or any argument.

I had a discussion with a mama of a child with autism a while back.  She was visibly angry with me when we began talking.  I realized there was much more going on than what I was seeing on the surface.  Once I was quiet I heard her say that she was tired of people accusing her of not doing what was right for her child.  She thought doing what her trusted pediatrician said was the best way to love her child.  I told her that I thought I was the model mama with my first because I was on time with each of my firstborn’s vacs.  I did whatever the doctors told me to.  My son was lucky.  He hasn’t had any medical issues from his immunizations as a child that I am aware of.  Of course, he was born in 1986 and didn’t have twice the number like our babies born today.  She said she didn’t really want to know what caused it because then she might have to live with the guilt of it being her fault and the reality that it might not have had to be this way. 

I get that.  I have a child on the spectrum.  You may not even know it if you met my child, but it’s there and sometimes I wonder…  Mostly, I’ve decided that I have to educate myself from here on out – about vaccines, GMOs, our water, food, air, etc.  I can’t drive myself crazy with guilt or trying to control everything, but I do have a responsibility to find out and share what I know with others who are ready to hear it.

I did the best I could with what I had at the time.  I still do. So does my friend who’s little boy has autism.  I believe 99% of us do.  Guilt, blame and shame have NO place in conversations between parents who did the best they knew how to do for their precious children.  It just keeps us all focused on the wrong stuff and nothing good comes of that, ever.

I have a responsibility to honor others.  I have a responsibility to build younger mamas up and encourage them.  I remember what it was be that young mama.  I remember sometimes how disrespectful other (usually older) mamas were to me.  How dismissive doctors could be.  How impatient teachers often were back then.  It’s such a tough and important job to be a parent.  Most of us know that and still we don’t work to make things better for the next generation.  What would it look like if we all REALLY listened to each other?  What if we researched and shared and came to our own decisions with information that was gathered with human interest and concern?  What if we sometimes agreed to disagree or better, yet, what if we agreed that what’s best for some, may not be best for all?

We aren’t really talking when we throw insults at each other.  What is the priority?  If we really believe our choice is best and we want to protect others, then shouldn’t we speak in love?  People usually know when they are being spoken to in love with honor and respect.  If people choose to go a different path, then do we stop loving them?

Of course not. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  (I Corinthians 13:7).  It’s not easy, believe me, I know, but it’s what love does.

Booch, Kefir and Good Bacteria!

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Recently I started making kombucha.  My Honey loves it and it’s great for arthritis and a myriad of other ailments.  It also costs about $4.00 for each 12-16 oz. bottle in stores.  OUCH! – So, I started looking into it, bought some cool bottles and one large jar to add to my first gallon sized fermenting jar and now I’ve got 2 batches rotating about 2 days apart so that we have a constant batch going and fresh booch all of the time.  I’ve made cherry, blueberry, mixed berry, lemon-ginger, pineapple ginger, lime-ginger, orange-ginger, and plain-old ginger.  I am also going to try a cranberry-ginger later today.

I don’t especially love the taste, as it’s a bit vinegar-y for me, but I’ve already noticed my knees don’t hurt nearly as much as I climb up and down our stairs, so I’m more than willing to suck it up for health!  The ginger varieties are definitely my favorites so far, which surprised me, honestly.  I was sure I would love all of the cherry and berry varieties, but the ginger mellows the vinegar in such a natural blending kind of way that is very pleasant to the palate.  My next batch will be one I blend with some good organic juice varieties.  I think I’ll let this booch batch ferment a bit longer since it will combine with the juice and I want the full benefits, in spite of cutting the amount of booch in each serving.

Initially, we spent about $40.00 for the glass jar and glass stopper bottles.  For each batch I think we spend around $3.50 for the ingredients to make one gallon of booch.  This includes 7 organic tea bags, 1 gallon of distilled water, 1 cup of organic sugar and whatever fruit or flavoring we use.  For instance, to make a gallon of booch we used about an inch of ginger root and then about the equivalent of a half of an orange in various fruits since you only need a small bit of fruit and/or ginger in each 16 oz. bottle.

I’ve been making kefir for a couple of years now.  This past August, when I went back to school (I teach 1st grade), I was so busy that I put my kefir in the fridge because i was exhausted and kept forgetting about it.  Well, then I forgot about it for over 2 months.  I had to order new grains a few week ago and they are beauties, I tell ya!  This time I’ve decided to do the double fermenting method.  It increases the growth of all of the good stuff and makes it even healthier for us!  I used to add it to our smoothies, but I think we’re going to start drinking more kefir with a little fruit in order to get more of this amazing stuff into our bodies!  Did you know that kefir has over 60 beneficial probiotics and yeasts?  Yogurt has only 5-6!  Now, we make our own yogurt (well, my daughter does), and it is SO much more delicious than any store bought yogurt we’ve ever tasted, so, I’m not saying don’t eat yogurt, just know that kefir has much more of the good stuff in it!!  I also don’t love the taste of kefir, but with some fresh or frozen organic fruit whipped in, it is truly delicious!

Fermented food is SO VERY good for us.  We have become such a sterile society in so many ways that we’ve gotten rid of the good bacteria that fights the bad bacteria in our bodies.  I heard an interesting, yet disturbing bit of information from Jim Dooley, Executive Director at the New Angela Foundation.  He says that the average person has 10% good bacteria in his/her body and 90% bad bacteria. The great news is that if we make kefir a regular part of our diet, we can flip those numbers around so that we can have a healthier body with 90% good bacteria & 10% bad bacteria.

We are now drinking kefir every morning and booch with lunch and dinner.  I’m really excited to see how much better we are all going to feel.  We are already noticing some improvement in our general health and energy levels.

I know some people are thinking that they just don’t have the time to do this kind of stuff!  Some of you are feeling like you could never do this right.  Well, I’m here to tell you that if I can do it, anybody can!  And as far as time goes:  I think it takes about an hour a week to do both kefir (every other day) and booch (once a week, 2 batches).  For the money we are saving, the amount of waste we are not contributing (buying multiple bottles at store each week), and the satisfaction we get knowing we are doing these incredibly healthy acts of kindness for our bodies and the earth for very little financial cost, there is really no question in our minds.

This is something I am very passionate about.  I get such a high every time I make something that makes my husband and children healthier.  It isn’t about living longer or looking younger, it’s about feeling better and taking care of the body He blessed me with.  I’m so thankful to the people who have shown me pieces of their healthier lives and patiently shown me how i can do the same simple and amazing things for myself and my family.  I’m also very thankful that we have the internet.  I don’t know how my family and I could do most of these things without watching 15 videos before we have the courage to do it ourselves!

Here’s to health and saving money!!

Kefir & Kombucha

Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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card  igloos

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

Scott – Part 2 A LETTER FOR LATER (1991)

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Scotty - kindergarten 2 Scotty,

Tomorrow afternoon you and I will be going to your kindergarten orientation. You’re going to Elms Elementary School. Mrs. Huffman, your teacher is very kind. You will be in her morning class from 9:15 until 11:50 each day. I can’t believe this is happening already!

I took this summer off so that I could spend time with you before you started school and it went so very quickly – just like the past five years… Have I taught you enough?… Did I teach you the right things?… Will you make friends easily?… Are you ready for all of this?… Am I?

I hope someday you will realize how very much I love you. I want you to be independent, confident, and self-assured more than almost anything, but there is a part of me wants to scoop you up and hold you in my arms, and never let you leave me. I am a little ashamed to admit that. I just want to be my little boy’s mommy and keep you from any hurt or danger.

Kids will be mean to you. You will get your feelings hurt. You will have embarrassing moments. You may not always know the answer and I won’t always be there to help you. You’ll learn to cope. You’ll shine. You’ll grow up – much too fast. You’ll need me less and less, and I will be very proud of you – and that part of me will want to scoop you up…

It’s a difficult thing to create a life and try to give him everything he needs and then to let go, knowing you can’t protect him from the world…

I believe in you. I know you are ready. You are brilliant; you get along well with others. You understand the world much better than I do at times. You are such a big boy. You are not a bully, but you know how to stand up for yourself. I’m very proud of you, my little old man. You have a heart of gold and you mean the world to me.

I pray God gives me the strength to be strong for you on Wednesday when you become a kindergartner. I’m afraid when you get on that bus I’ll fall to pieces. – Isn’t that silly?! I feel such anxiety, and I’m not completely sure why. I want to be confident, so that you will be. It’s so important to me that this be a positive experience for you. It’s the beginning of a whole new wonderful world of learning for you – one I know you will blossom in!

This is a momentous occasion in your life! You will never be the same after starting school. Change and growth are good, but never easy – especially for your mommy. That part of me still wants to scoop you up…

I love you, my Scotty-boy, more than life itself. Please take that with you. Be kind and good, and life will return the favor. You are my precious, wonderful little boy with so much to give. I will always love you, as you always tell me, “more than infinity…”

Mommy