My Weakness

Just Like Their Dad

At the center of the universe.
There is family on the left that
equals the family on the right.
They go before.
They come behind.

Together, they get the job done.
And make their father proud.
Telling His story is their task.

It’s not the attendees,
but their father,
who was listening,
still very much alive,
that should give pause
at the enormity of task.

Be honest.
Be kind.
Be faithful.
Be brave.
Be super-human.
We should all want to be
just like him.
No pressure.
Whatsoever.

The nights might be slumber-less.
What story to tell?
The scaling of buildings?
The flying through skies?
The magic better than duct tape?
The smile of his eyes?

Our Father,
is a man full
of great power
and even greater love.

He will tell us what to say.
Brother one is a leader: faithful and wise.
Brother two: generous and kind.
Sister one: loyal and capable.
Sister two: organized and creative.
Brother three: handy and humble.
Sister three: enduring and strong.

All of them are
JUST LIKE MY DAD.
All, flawed by earth,
yet still,
perfect inside
seeking the right,
and
a remarkable force for good.
Our favorite people are
family.

Jolting our hearts
and paralyzing our tongues
is often one pathetic truth
that we dare not say.
No matter how remarkable we are,
It takes all of us
to make one of him.

Dad is a superhero.
A mortal and a God.

When people question Him.
Why doesn’t he alleviate
all the war?
all the suffering?
all the pain?

I think of Superman.
Who always did.
But, sometimes,
just like Dad,
maybe Superman is busy,
not dead.
He’s waiting.
On us.
To do His job.

Perhaps
it’s up to
His formative children,
to fill his shoes.

When one child suffers,
maybe
his brothers and sisters bury their heads
instead of praying for the strength necessary.
To be just like their dad.

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*Dedicated to my dad and my Father: the best Superman who ever lived. And, to the God of the Universe who also calls me His daughter.

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I screw up. You screw up.

Change starts with one person at a time. Steve Harvey did a fantastic job of owning his mistake and apologizing recently at the Miss Universe pageant. He even made millions of people laugh when he showed he can laugh at himself.  And his wife did a great job of showing her unconditional support. If the ripple effect takes control, then before you know it, we can all live in a better world where we support each other instead of killing each other emotionally.

steve

On Christmas he posted this pic with the caption “Merry Easter y’all”  on his facebook and twitter. Class act!

Steve Harvey screws up. I screw up. You screw up. Everyone screws up. The screw up doesn’t matter as much as if we are able to identify it, apologize, and better ourselves.

The following is my Christmas story this year.

Here’s a screw up of mine at FedEx a few weeks back.

school of ex

You see, the clerk didn’t have the best customer service skills, and I reacted harshly when she told me I was forced to pay $5 for a shipping box because the one I brought didn’t have the FedEx logo on it. I was trying to ship back a textbook I had rented, and there was no way I was paying $5 for a box when mine would work perfectly fine. I insolently told her how I felt: I would go to UPS because I wasn’t paying $5 for a box!  Then I stormed out.

I drove home to print the shipping label as I realized after-the-initial-trip that with the preprinted label the textbook company would foot for the shipping cost. As I drove home with full intentions of taking my business to UPS I evaluated my impatience and realized what I needed to do to make it right. Maybe because I was so abrupt I didn’t allow her to explain correctly? Maybe it would actually cost $5 for the box and the shipping? I printed the label and stopped at Chickfila and bought a $5 giftcard.

When I got back to FedEx the original clerk was busy with another customer. Another employee came to help. I showed him the box and the label. He explained that FedEx could ship my shoebox, but it couldn’t guarantee its safe arrival. It did indeed cost $5 to buy the box and have it packaged by them for total assurance. I explained I didn’t want to spend $5 on a box and we evaluated my other options. I decided to go home and get a box other than a shoebox. But, yes, the first clerk had been wrong about the FedEx logo necessity. Maybe if I would have let her properly explain I would have saved myself a trip. Or maybe not because she seemed to be learning this for the first time as I did.

Before I left I went up to the original clerk and apologized explaining, “I was rude to you, I’m sorry. I got this for you, so you will know of my remorse for acting impolitely.” She said, “It was fine.” I continued, “It wasn’t fine. I jumped to conclusions and was aggressive and these are things I am trying to work on personally, so I thought if I bought you lunch it would help me remember how I should act next time.” She took the giftcard and thanked me. All three Fedex employees were staring at me in disbelief.

I went home for the right kind of box, and returned to FedEx towing along for the third time my 37 pound one-year-old who was now ready for a nap. I grabbed a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups at home for the second customer service rep. that was truly helpful, and thanked him profusely for his patience and competance as I handed him the candy and the correctly packaged book with the shipping label. While he handed me back my tracking information I realized that it had taken me all morning, but I ended up not spending a dime at FedEx.

Unless, of course, you count the gallon of gas, the $5 giftcard, and the bag of Reese’s Cups.

Lesson learned. I laughed at myself the remainder of the day, and when my husband got home from work and I told him of my whole morning spent going back and forth to FedEx he laughed too.

The thing is this….we’ve learned a lot in therapy. He gets what I was trying to do. Be a better person. He  knows that I’ve learned that I am aggressive. I’ve learned that I am abrupt, and that those behaviors are keeping me from having the relationships I want with others. I am actively trying to change my bad behaviors.  It’s hard to do. Old dogs like old bones, not new tricks.

However, we both understand, also, that no one is perfect. All we can hope for is improvement. All we can give is effort. We should be patient with ourselves and others. When we openly work on our stuff (like I did at FedEx) other people might be inspired to openly work on theirs. They may not work on their stuff because “working on stuff” has never been demonstrated. They may have never “worked  on their stuff” because everyone around them is either in denial of their own stuff or critical and not allowing room for work.

So, even though I have a great desire for altruistic behavior all of the time, my actions fall short. Often. I am no saint. But, I still can be someone else’s inspiration when I say I’m sorry. I screwed up. And so can you.

And change is a beautiful message to ponder this Christmas season.

What screw up are you ready and willing to fix?

They Coached the Coach

“What better way is there for me to spend quality time with my kids than to be their coach? I have to take them to practice anyhow.” That was my reasoning at the beginning of this season when as a  mother of five and a part-time college student I was already feeling stretched. Little did I know that my kids didn’t need me to be their coach as much as I needed them and their team to be my trainers.

volleyball head

I’ve loved volleyball since I can remember. I played on the JV team in high-school, and quit before I had the chance to reach any braggable level of competetive skill. But for a recreational league I knew I would be “good enough”. When I showed up to coach training they didn’t even warn me that coaching has very little to do with skill and a whole lot to do with modeling and mentoring.  They let me learn the hard way. Best gig ever.  Learning the hard way is my super power.

Let me just start by confessing our season record. 1-7. Yes, that’s one win and seven losses. And, yes, you can stop reading now if you are anything like I was eight weeks ago in believing that the wins are all that’s important.

You see, my lesson #1 was this:
Winners are not those who never fail but those who never quit.

I started with a really inexperienced team. We got our butts kicked over and over again, but I taught them the basics and told them to master them. I promised them if they could just get down their bumping and serving we would be good for the tournament.

These girls never quit. They kept working. And on Saturday we have our last tournament game. We go into it 3-0. Yes, three wins. Zero losses. If we win tomorrow, we will be the league champions. They never quit. And I’m so glad I never did either.

winners

Lesson #2: Actions speak louder than words. Actions are determined by thoughts and beliefs.

One time when we were losing badly, I hurriedly sent the team back on the court without the traditional team cheer. I was distracted, frustrated and worried about how as a coach I was letting my team down. I had just ran on about mechanics and with the impatience of the official raining down on me, I pushed the team along without any encouragment, a sweep of the hands and a, “Just go.” My daughters informed me on the way home that Olivia had looked at them both with anxiety all over her face. She felt bad. Coach was mad and disappointed. My lack of positivity brought the whole team down.

what you say

That brings me nicely to my third lesson:
You can only teach someone who wants to learn. You can only learn when you want to be taught.

My daughter Bella has been struggling with her serving the entire season. Last night before the game I was determined to get her serving perfected before the game started. I took her aside and dug in. “You need to keep your arm straight. Hold the ball steady. Don’t start so far back.” She refused to move up six inches. The more I tried to explain how her balls were falling short that exact length, the more she shut down. She ended up in tears. It’s not a proud moment.  Thankfully my husband came over and asked me, “Alice, is it really worth it?” She didn’t want to learn what I had to offer, yet I still wanted to stuff it down her throat. Both she and I had really fragile feelings for the whole first set. It wasn’t worth it. Unless you call her first two perfect serves from too far back worth it. Like her mama, she is out to prove a point. For the record, I know now I was wrong. I’ll never forget the horrible sinking feeling I had while watching her sit on the bleacher and cry.

learn.jpg

Lesson 4: Change is progression.

I’m the kind of person that holds my ideas and opinions tightly. I feel like if I need change I failed. Volleyball has reminded me that the only thing that defines failure is being too rigid to progress. At the beginning of the season I was using a lot of practice time on cardio and strength building. I realized early on that my team needed more time on the ball. I had to completely change our practice outline.

change

And last:
Always, always, always focus on the positive.

It took me six losses to figure this out, but on a positive note, I guess there are slower coaches to be found somewhere. In the beginning of the season, I kept harping on the girls about what they were doing wrong. They couldn’t  bump the ball for the life of them, and so I determined to force competancy on them.

Meanwhile, the other teams were not just mastering bumping, but also learning new skills too.  Or so it seemed to me. I decided that I had to change my approach. I started finding ways to compliment each player. I dished out praise like Halloween candy. I demonstrated and allowed time for practice and encouragment. I continuously repeated how much I believed in them. I told them the could win. They started to believe it.

accentuate-the-positive

I can’t really explain the beautiful experience it is to jump around a court like a crazy kid with a team full of girls that you know you helped to learn the lessons of champions.  Last night, as I watched them high-give and congratulate each other with joy written in each smile line, my heart swelled. I was so grateful that they coached me way more than I could have ever coached them.

Update (next day)

We won. My favorite part was when we all sang “We are the Champions” in celebration.

champs

 

start here

startMy hubby and I have interviews with our kids once a month. We take about an half an hour to meet with each child privately and talk to them about their personal and family concerns. We take time to express our love, remind them of their strengths, and set goals for improvement.

It’s really just our way of implementing “therapy” into their lives. We hope by working with our kids on emotional well-being now, we can give them the tools that we’ve paid a generous amount of money to professionals to teach us as adults. Hopefully this habit will also save them from repeating a lot of our heartaches. Doing this also helps us as parents to know how we need to improve. Each time the kids leave with one goal and we do too.

Besides teaching them the importace of faith and how to do their own laundry, I think this little practice is the most effective thing I’m doing as a mother. I highly recommend its implementation. I wonder if so many senseless tragedies could be avoided if all parents would invest just a little time to talk to their kids about emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological nitty-gritties. We have noticed a huge difference in our relationship with our kids after our consistent first Sunday of the month interviews.

If anything it gives the kids the chance to be acountable to themselves for self-improvement.

So, yesterday we had a pretty intense interview with one of our girls. She does not want to discuss a sensitive subject that is causing her a lot of heartache. She just totally shuts off and tunes the whole experience out. Her tender little heart can’t deal with its vulnerabilities and broken parts. After trying repeatedly to coax her out unsuccesfully we ended up just cutting the session early and encouraging her to think about things on her own so we can readdress next month.

As she exited and closed the door behind her, with discouragement and feelings of utter parent failure, I turned to my husband and said, “I think that we might have to do this every time until she realizes what closing herself off is depriving her of.” He agreed, but more than anything, we wish we could help her be strong and face herself because we know it’s essential for her peace and happiness.

This morning I read this and was reminded of my own journey in self-awareness. It’s a lot easier to address our weaknesses if we first start with the foundation that we are divine beings with divine potential.

“Satan uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying…We don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you…If we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough but our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become.”

The moral of the story, kick those fear-based lies in the butt, and start where you are. Don’t be afraid. You are not supposed to  be perfect. Yet. But, if you aren’t willing to take a honest look, you never will be.

Come Home

churchSometimes I wonder why I am a churchgoer. Well not just sometimes, all of the time.  I probably think about this more than is considered sane. I would like to lay this consistent self-dialogue to rest. I find writing about troubling topics helps me to set it down and walk away.

Let’s face it, organized religion + imperfect people is a recipe for disaster. Sensitive people like myself are especially vulnerable.

There are so many reasons to NOT go to church. For an obnoxious person like me, there is a new reason about every minute. Embarrassing, but true.

They either don’t trust me to do anything,
or they ask me to do way too much. (I do realize this is a defeating paradox. And sometimes I actually feel both of these at the same time.)
I don’t have any real friends there.
I am not valued.
They don’t like me.
That guy just taught a bunch of crap over the pulpit.
I don’t agree with his viewpoint, or hers, or his, or hers, or his, or hers….this can keep going.
I’m too liberal.
That Bishop just pounded his fists on his desk and yelled at me to “repent”. (Yes, that did happen. And my husband was in the Bishopric. – It’s all patched up now. He was 80% right.)
That group of people I thought were my friends just outed me from the musical number.
That similar group of people outed my hubby from the college intramural basketball team.
That kleptomaniac stole my roast right out of the church kitchen.
They’re so full of themselves.
They play favorites.
No one understands me.
No one loves me.
I’m not a breastfeeding advocate.
I don’t do hypnobirthing. (ha. that’s not even a real word in wordpress)
The same ten people do everything, and my family members aren’t invited to the cool club.
I don’t 100% subscribe to essential oils.
I don’t want to be invited to your Mary Kay party.
They really don’t like me.
They never let me teach anyone older than 8 because they think I might corrupt them.
Those people I have to serve with dump everything on me.
The kids are way too out of control. Everywhere I go. No, not mine…the other ones.

You get the picture. I honestly could go on for at least another few web pages worth.

Why do I go? I go because no matter how dysfunctional they are (and, even more than them, no matter how dysfunctional I am) it’s home. It’s not my home. It’s my God’s home. And I need Him. I need Him more than the air I breathe. Sure, I probably do need Him more because of all of them, but I think that is part of the plan.

I don’t judge people who have left the church. I get it. Every explanation they give, I understand. If I don’t, I try to, with all my heart. I do not see myself as better as anyone because I stay and they don’t. But I do consider myself more blessed. Why? Because through all the crap, I go, I open my mind, and I let God love me…From His perfect house, full of imperfect people, HE ALWAYS LOVES ME. Even when they don’t. Especially when they don’t.

I am very much like Simon Peter. Let me take some liberty with the verses John 6:67-69…the italics are mine.

Then said Jesus unto the Alice, Will ye also go away?
Then Alice answered him, Lord, to whom shall go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
And I believe and am sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Today, on a “thousandth something” of Sundays in a row, I made myself forget all the reasons to run away as fast as I could, and I went home to my Jesus. He sent a very loving message my way to remind me that He is the reason I do anything I do. Thank you, Jesus. I know you get it. Even when the lady in Sunday school today said that we can’t understand the verse about you asking God WHY he forsook you, I know you know about all the times I have asked the same question.

I know I will never experience the pain and suffering you did.  I don’t even have the words to thank you for your infinite atonement, but I guess she was right to a degree: even when I feel like you and Father forsake me at times, I know you never have. I know it’s all just in my head. I also know you never will, no matter how much I want that untruth to explain my offenses. Please, please give me the strength to never ever forsake you either. Especially when I’m so quick to have hurt feelings. Especially when they are so quick to judge and misunderstand me.

I’m sorry, mom.

I haven’t blogged since Father’s Day. I feel like I haven’t even breathed since Father’s Day. Life has been nuts. Between moving, summer visitors, and being pregnant, I have felt totally depleted every. single. day.

And then today it somehow got infinitesimally worse.

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People ask why I don’t blog like I used to. I give them various reasons, but one reason towards the top of  the list is that as my kids have gotten older it’s very shaky business blogging about family life. As a mother, I don’t want to disparage them, and let’s face it, they just don’t do things quite as cute as they used to.

Yesterday we had a family pow-wow that consisted of LG and I wrangling the kids in for the recurrent lecture about sibling kindness, taking personal responsibility…yadda yadda yadda. LG whispered to me after the half hour of torture that “everyone has to suck at parenting.” At least he still makes me smile every day.

The older your kids get, the more your weaknesses manifest themselves in your kids. It sucks. Big time.

[Let me start out this story with a disclaimer that my kids are pretty good. They each have great strengths but like every other sucker in this world, they have weaknesses. I need the readers of this post to know that I love my kids with all my heart. I believe in them. I am proud of them. I have faith in what they will accomplish in their lives. I wish I was a better mother equal to their greatness. I also just feel a need to write honestly. I hope this won’t cause harm.]

Well, after a really rough 24 hours where our last night’s lecture didn’t seem to do anything but make things worse, LG came home tonight as my knight in shining armor saying he wanted to have an emergency family meeting. (This could or could not have been prompted by my cry for help via e-mail earlier today.)

Just an hour ago, we sat down with our kids and LG talked about things we need to do differently,  improving individually and collectively. The kids all responded in their own way. Abigail takes after her dad and I in a lot of ways. One thing that she instinctively does is point fingers at others in a way of avoiding her own overwhelming emotions of self-doubt and disappointment. Somehow, I became her target tonight. I am always the target. They never go after their dad…he’s just too nice.

She laid into me, “If you would just stop talking about how horrible it is being pregnant and start doing some more fun activities with us. …. if we could just have a real summer, like all the other kids…we need to have fun…we need a vacation…” (Tell me about it!!!) At the end of my rope, I came unleashed. Out of my mouth, came the exact words I remember hearing from my own mother so many times. I hated that also accompanying the words were big huge heavy sobs.

“Abigail, you have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t know what it feels like to be forty and pregnant. You have no idea what I’ve done just for you this summer. I’ve sacrificed mornings for soccer, money for physical therapy, time for your two stints at girls’ camp, and money and time that could have been used for a family vacation for you to go to EFY. You need to get out of your selfishness. I have given up my ENTIRE LIFE for my children. Everything I do is for you and your sisters.”

I said a few more things, and then stopped myself and sat sobbing into my palms as LG quickly finished up the family counseling session. Second parent-fail in two days. I had no smiles to give in secret this time around. I sat badly hurt and frustrated not just with my teenage daughter but with my life and even my husband who always seems to escape the fury even when he holds as much responsibility for it. Five-year-old Caroline kept asking, “Mom, why are you crying?” LG saved me more talking and told her that I didn’t feel appreciated and rightly so.

I hurried to my bedroom afterward and sobbed into my pillow some more. “How did I get here?” I thought. “How did I become my mother?” Years ago, when I was Abigail’s age I promised myself I would never lay into my kids like that…I remember how horrible it made me feel when she did it to me. But, by golly, Abigail needed to hear it. She’s an adolescent becoming more wrapped up in herself every day. I’ve given her everything I’ve had to give this summer (even if is has been pathetic) and the fourteen others before that.  Why didn’t my rant make me feel any better? Was I solely in the wrong? Is she totally right? Am I really not giving enough?

And, you know what. I don’t have the answers. And it sucks. Big time. I hope we can find them together.

I do have one thing to say though, “Mom, I am so so so very sorry for ever saying anything or doing anything or not doing something that made you feel how I did an hour ago. You matter. Your sacrifices are known. I love you. I appreciate you. And the longer I live, the more I want to emulate you as a mother. Yes, there are ways that you let me down, but there are so many more ways that you supported, sacrificed, and loved unconditionally. You were the BEST mother you could be. Not perfect, but the BEST. Motherhood mattered to you more than anything, and I take that example into my life every day. I love you eternally.”

But, mom, I also have a question….if we are such good mothers who both sacrifice so much for our kids…….how the heck did you and I both end up with such a rotten ungrateful selfish daughter? Is that just part of the journey? Do I just need to hold on for another twenty years until she writes me my very own apology? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share with me all of your mothering secrets! I feel so clueless.

Mom, I’m here. Don’t forget me.

I sounded so crabby at the therapist’s office the other day while explaining my mixed emotions about being 40 and pregnant, “I’ve never been the kind of woman who was like, ‘Oh, please let me bear children. It’s my life dream to have a whole houseful of darlings. My only ambition is to be a mother.’ ” In fact, even though I’ve always assumed I would have a large family and was even quoted in my high-school yearbook that I planned to have a dozen kids, I have also been quite conflicted about it ever since I can remember. I love kids. I came from a large family that I also love. But, I have always also been full of dreams and ambitions that had nothing to do with family. In fact, I knew kids would just get in the way of a lot of what I wanted to do: graduate from college, serve in the Peace Corps, write a book or two, travel, and have a successful career in one thing or another.

I further explained to the therapist, “I’m a willing vessel, I’m just a broken one.” LeGrand and I both chuckled. Ain’t that the truth! He knows it even more intimately than I do. I am a very spiritual person and I try to live my life in communication with God. This is a good thing and a bad one. Because I listen to the voice of God, my life is always full of conflict. What He wants for me always seems to be in direct opposition of what I want for myself.

I remember when my hubby and I had been married for just a month. We went to the temple together and separated to do some work. I was 24, he was 22. We were both in college and working full-time. After we were done with our service in the temple, we walked out to the car hand in hand, both very quiet. Something was up. You could cut the dark sky in front of us with a pocketknife. My newer-than-new husband turned to me and said, “Alice, I felt it too, we are supposed to start our family now, and have joy in our posterity.” Nooooooooooo. I couldn’t keep the spiritual impressions I had felt in my own heart a secret like I had planned. This was crazy, but it was also undoubtedly what God wanted for us. I knew that this family business would rob me of all if not most of my own dreams. It took me six months to even become willing to go off birth control and then I was still resentful. And pregnant.

So, bring us up to the present day. We have four kids. I’ve had four miscarriages. I am forty and pregnant. Four seems to be an important number for me right now. This is my fourth and final blog. I know many people are reasonably questioning the child growing inside of me. Heck, they can’t question any more than I am. I am questioning. My husband is questioning. The only ones who are not questioning are our four children. They couldn’t be any more excited. Kids are really good at instinctively knowing what is most important…plus they don’t have to worry about paying the bills or losing three years of sleep.

I’d like to take this chance to explain and write down this little tale so that I will always remember it. There is one reason and one reason alone I am pregnant. The reason is that this child spoke to me from its pre-mortal realm. In August of 2012, my hubby and I found ourselves again at the temple. I had just suffered a pretty brutal miscarriage at 18 weeks. As we sat in the chapel, I turned to my husband and said, “LeGrand, I am not praying about this today, but I just want to be done having kids. I’m 38. I’m so tired, and I don’t think I can handle it emotionally anymore.” LG answered with his full support, “It’s up to you Alice. I don’t blame you. I don’t want you to have to go through that again either.” I wasn’t going to pray about it because I didn’t want any other answer from God besides my own.

mom im here

But something miraculous happened. Something I couldn’t deny. God sent a messenger to the temple that day. In the spirit form of a child. My child. The one I hadn’t yet given birth to.

It’s hard to explain the special place that are Mormon temples. They are very sacred. God is always there. They are a place where the veil between two worlds is very thin. In the temple I’ve felt the presence of many of my deceased loved ones who have gone on before me.  They have been there with me often, telling me that they are watching over me.

I never expected to be visited by someone who had yet to come to earth, but somebody had an important message that day. One that I really didn’t want to hear. In fact it was the last thing I wanted to hear.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked behind me to see no one there but to feel someone as assuredly as if they were standing there. There was no doubt someone was there. I then heard an audible voice, “Mom, I’m here. Please, don’t forget me.”

I instantly started bawling. How selfish I am! How easily distracted I become. I so willingly forget that this earth-life isn’t about gaining the adventures that I want to have, but is all about being willing to take on the ones that I already promised God (and others) that I would achieve. My most important calling in this life is to be a vessel, even if I’m the most broken one that there ever was. I answered with a pledge in my heart, “I won’t. I promise. I could never forget you.” It took me sixteen more months to get pregnant again. Every day I was haunted by the pleading of my child. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant or stay pregnant. I convinced myself that it was just the miscarried kid talking to me. I would maybe get to meet him at a later day in heaven. I told God that if he wanted it to happen, forty was as high as I was willing to go. Miraculously, I got pregnant on the first cycle after my 40th birthday, almost as if God wanted me to know that he got the message. But also in typical God-fashion..in the 11th hour…after we’ve been tested to the limit.

I’ve vacillated between anxiousness, depression, and elation. I’m only four months in and I’ve already had to give up my running,  my plans to go back to school and work, and a portion of my sanity. A big chunk of money that was put aside for our new home will now be used for doctor bills and baby items. I worry every day that this child will have special needs, but one thing dismisses my many worries. There is one thing that I will always know: this child is special. More than anything, this child wanted a chance to be mortal. He knew that for that to happen I had to be his mama. He traveled from wherever he was all the way to the temple to remind me of my promise long ago to not forget. I smile at his bravery and his audacity because he chose the day that I least wanted to hear it to remind me.

And then I cringe at what is in store for him. He’s going to be stubborn. He’s going to be brave. He’s going to have his own ideas. He will also have a mother to remind him that more than anything he wanted to come to earth because that is what God wanted him to do. I will remind him as much as I will myself: We might as well keep on listening to God…no matter how much harder it seems to make our lives and how much it robs us of our own dreams and ambitions. Ultimately we both will have to answer for how we used our time on earth and every single one of our choices. God will never be concerned with how much we traveled or achieved, His main concern is for the immortality and eternal life of all of His children. For that to happen, He first has to get them to earth….even if the vessel is forty and all washed up. All we can hope for is our own willingness to say, “I am a vessel, God. I am broken but I am here and I am listening.”

* I say “he” because I have this secret wish that the lucky number five will be the son for which I’ve prayed for my husband, but we are 99.9% sure that “he” is really Vivienne. There is always that .01% though, I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.

I won’t ever matter.

me & C

I’ve been having a rough week. I am feeling things extremely deep. I can’t make it stop. So many things keep penetrating my heart and are pushing me over the edge toward a blinding dark. I am not depressed – thank you wellbutrin. I am just in a bubble of over-emotion that I can’t escape. I will escape eventually, but I’ve learned to just ride it out. Try to stay calm. Don’t over-burden others by dumping on them (unless they read my blog of course.) They don’t understand anyways.

I don’t know why God gave me this excess of emotion. I dare say it makes me a more compassionate person, but I don’t always appreciate it. I especially don’t appreciate the passion that comes along with my package…the opinions I cannot keep contained, no matter how hard I try. I don’t like suffering via proxy. I don’t like feeling a deep emptiness because of a child lost as if he is my own, when he wasn’t. I don’t want to feel the extreme frustration accompanying a whole lot of friends dealing with medical nightmares. I don’t even know how this sympathetic state always happens to me. I don’t know how I can lose sleep for other people, but it happens all of the time. I cry into my pillow because the pains of this harsh world get to be way too much and I can’t figure out how to hide away. An alternative solution would be to find a superhero costume maker that could repel such empathy from entering my heart and mind – too bad none exist – It would make my life so much easier. But, life wasn’t meant to be easy. We each have our own cross to carry. My cross just seems to consist of everyone else’s on some days. It hurts me so much. I have physical pain and emotional burden because of others’ pains. I feel it for those I love most, but I also feel it for complete strangers.

Now that I sound like a complete lunatic, I will get on with the intended post. I’ve been following Our Scared Sacred from one of my favorite bloggers over at Momastery. The intention of the series was to get people to think about their biggest fears and to make the courageous decision to show up WITH the fear instead of waiting for it to subside.  So, I took a really crazy scary journey of thought this morning and delved into my overly excessive emotional well. I sifted through all the other peoples’ pains to find my own. I had to explore the deepest darkest part, but I think I came up with an honest answer: I am afraid I will never matter.

I am afraid that when I die, no one will show up at my funeral. I am afraid that I won’t be remembered. I am afraid that my beautiful amazing daughters would be a million times better off with another mother, ANY other mother. I am afraid that my middle-child syndrome is not a syndrome at all, but that I really am invisible to everyone around me. I am afraid my husband will replace me like he does his cell phone every couple years: upgrade to the latest and greatest, only to leave the old one discarded with it’s broken screen, slow processor, and crowded memory stick. I am convinced that no-one sees anything in me worth honoring or admiring. I am afraid that no-one on this earth will care when I am gone. No-one will even mourn.  In fact, I am sure everyone will be relieved that my obnoxiousness is no more cumbersome to them. Good riddance. I am afraid not only that I will never matter in the future but that I have also never mattered in the past, and that I don’t really matter in the present.

I guess this very real fear explains my love for blogging. Here is where I go to leave my stamp, my DNA, my thought. I throw out my opinions,  my emotions, myself and leave it with a hope and prayer that, perhaps if I am very lucky, someday someone will stumble upon it and decide that I matter. They will be touched by one sentence or one word and be changed and then in that moment between my words and them I will have succeeded at conquering my fear: I will have made myself matter.

It’s a daily struggle for me to believe I matter. Perhaps I try to make myself matter by mourning with others. Perhaps I make myself matter by over-feeling. Perhaps I just wish that someone would really care for me, so I try to overcompensate by caring too much for everyone but myself.

Someday I will  believe that I matter.

Someday.

Here is where I find my spark of mattering. I write and hope that the spark will ignite to its full potential before I die. I want to believe that if not a single soul shows up at my bedside when I take my last breath, I will die knowing that I mattered.

And perhaps the only reason I will have mattered is because you mattered to me.

Maybe others matter to me so very much because the more I care for them, the more I can believe that they actually care for me.

Feel Like I’m Falling

Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. I love the weather, the start of a new school year, football games,  the eye-catching colors everywhere, outdoor adventuring, and of course my birthday! I turned 40 yesterday. I feel pretty good for forty. I feel better, happier, healthier, and fuller then I did at 30. I feel self-aware. I love myself. I really do. I think I am blessed to have great self-awareness and am working on giving myself more credit for the good in me while simultaneously tackling the weaknesses that hold me back.

I’m far from perfect. So far from perfect. I still get depressed from time to time. It is nothing like it used to be, but there are still dark periods that I don’t like to experience. I am trying to keep this blog as real as I can, but I am also trying to keep it positive because if I’ve learned anything in my last decade of life it’s that life is what we make of it.

So, I am a bit down today. That’s the real for you. The positive is that I know it won’t last. I will think my way out of this. I have learned not to dwell on the bad and I know that I can’t squash the negative feelings away by not acknowledging them. I have to feel through it and keep the light burning through the dark. I have to allow myself to have crappy moments. I have to give myself the space to mourn for the things that I don’t like, the things that don’t bring me happiness.

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I write from my new little writing space in my teeny 3 bedroom 1,000 sq. foot basement apartment. I don’t like our new living arrangements. Not one bit. I am deeply depressed about the fact that I am forty and don’t have the securities that I’ve longed for since I can remember.  I don’t like not being able to give my kids more. I don’t like that I can’t get a moment of peace and quiet anywhere. I don’t like that the only time I will see the sun until I move is when I walk out of my home. I don’t like that I have the inconvenience of letting my dog outside at the minimum of four times a day. I don’t like that my four-year-old Caroline cried at bedtime because our new place scares her. She wakes us up all night again because she isn’t at peace. I don’t like that my fourteen-year-old cried because she misses taking the bus with her friends and my ten-year-old and newly turned twelve-year-old have to be driven and picked up from the school they used to be able to walk to and from.

I don’t like goodbyes. Today I said goodbye to many good friends that I’ve had the privilege of sharing lives with for the past two and a half years. When my Bella ran up to give her special church leader a hug today it made every part of me cry. I wish things could be different. I wish things were better. I wish money wasn’t always a constant worry. I wish that I didn’t always feel the tug between being home with my kids where I can nourish and teach and going out and getting a job where I can earn the money that could keep bad things from happening. I wish we didn’t have $800+ a month in student loan payments and I wish my husband earned the salary that all his education should have earned him.

So as you can feel here, tonight I am falling. I am surrendering to the sad because I’ve got to get through this sadness, resentment, and regrets. I can’t just power through. I have to lay my broken pieces down and then pick them back up again and once again move forward.

Tonight I am just pieces of a broken puzzle. I’ve fallen off my wall. In fact I don’t even know where  the wall can be found. I’m in a place of total unrest. I’m angry with myself, with my husband, with my God. Why do things have to be so hard? Why can’t I give my kids what they deserve? Why are we always the ones who have to make sacrifices when others just get what they want? What am I missing? What do I still need to change? I’ve worked so hard at living as frugally as possible. I have always paid my 10% tithe. I work hard. I support my husband.  I babysit other people’s children so that I can be home with my own and still pay the bills. I try my hardest to listen to God. I pray constantly. I serve other people. Why then is my life so hard? Aren’t I doing the things that are right?

If God tried to wrap his arms around me tonight I would push Him away and that is the truth. Sometimes I just get so mad that He continues to let me suffer. I know, I know, someone is out there screaming at their screen that I am selfish, I am prideful, I am stupid, I am ungrateful. And I am. Maybe tomorrow I will do better. No, not maybe. Tomorrow I will do better. Tomorrow I will continue to forge ahead. Tonight, however, I will cry myself to sleep and that’s o.k.

Sick of the Slinky Cycle?

In this life, we all have issues/weaknesses/faults that we are forced to tolerate/embrace/overcome. Everyone has something. Even if they don’t want to admit it. Some of us (lucky us) have a lot more than others. It seems like the people I like best are the ones with an in-between amount. They are living in reality enough to fully know themselves and are working at improvement. They aren’t full of themselves and are also not a “hot mess” (is there really such a thing?)…just in between…humble enough for them to relate to me, and honest enough for me to relate to them.

I love the story by one friend about her daughter who was struggling with a lot of physical challenges all at once. As a wise teenager she explained her situation to her mom, “I think when God lined us up, before sending us to earth, He gave us each the opportunity to see examples of trials we may face. I must have raised my hand for ALL of them.”

Here recently Momastery mentioned her progress with depression not being linear but circular. She briefly mentioned her frustration with dealing with the same issues over and over again but that she has resigned herself to progress being slow but circular. When I read her post I was reminded of a theory someone once mentioned at church. I like to call it the slinky theory. Yeah, I’m sophisticated like that.

 

Take your issue in the form of a flat piece of metal. Deal with the issue over and over and over again.You will be dragging that metal in circles and feeling like it is just weighing you down. Your frustrations will be pretty high. “Why am I here again?” you may lament, “I thought I already got over this?” If at that moment you will take the time to look down, you will see that you really aren’t “here” again. In fact the issue has been dealt with time and time again and “here” is actually represented by the cylinders of the slinky below you. You are in a new “here”, a higher “here”.

In that very moment if you really want to frustrate yourself you can look up and realize that, yes, you will  be visiting the problem many many more times. Each future “here” will be represented by the cylinders above you on the same slinky called “menacing issue  -why can’t you just go away”? This may seem awful and hopeless and cruel, but really isn’t each slinky a small little miracle? I mean even the littlest of kids know that slinkies are about the coolest thing ever. And just think: you have multiple ones going on at the same time and they are each crawling UP the stairs without stopping. It’s actually breathtaking!

Some people get the pleasure of reaching the top of their slinky. They get to retire it all together, but I dare say most of us kind of grow accustomed to our slinkies and hold on to them if only for the memories they represent.

I have a whole heck of a lot of slinkies. I am impatient, overeating, controlling, oversharing, codependent, critical, distrusting, loud, and truthfully the list goes on and on and on and on and on and….. I do believe I will stop there because I like to take my slinky building one at a time.  I don’t like allowing myself to dwell and get too hopeless. I like to recognize my progress every time I am “here”. In fact, I believe that the act of recognizing that “here” is actually just a smidgen higher than the former “heres” has the ability to launch me to the next rung on the slinky a lot faster.

When I hear of the hopeless who die from suicide or give in to poverty or stay stuck in obesity or can’t shake an addiction, I relate to them. My heart goes out the them. I am just a fellow slinkier and sometimes slinky making is so painful. I ache for them, but I also ache for me. Going around those cylinders is not easy, but I wonder if anyone ever taught them (like they did for me) that making slinkies is not just acceptable but the whole purpose of this life.

So yeah, I still have forty pounds to lose, but I have also lost forty which by my calculations puts me smack dab in the middle of one of my slinkies. I’m 0nly 39 years old so surely I have at least another 39 to go. I might even get to retire this slinky all together someday,  but I’ve decided to just enjoy the slow climb up the metal slide. On most of my slinkies I should be all the way to heaven by now, but they must have super tiny and tight curls because I’m really still so very close to earth. But it’s o.k. What else would I do if I didn’t have slinky making? Nothing more cool. Slinkies are the coolest.