Saturday, December 31, 2011

The In-Law Me

There are times when I sit here and look at a blank screen. I type words, whole paragraphs, and then I delete them.

I have words finally, maybe not whole sentences, but words. Again. For which I am thankful.

Because recently I lost the words. Not for long, but long enough.

I lost the words about the same time as I lost myself.

It happens about once a year, twice this year. I know it is going to happen because I do it to myself. I agree to hide parts of myself in order to keep the peace. I put away the taboo liquids. I turn off Mumford and Sons. I avoid conversations that might reveal my "bleeding heart liberal" beliefs. I don't agree with it but I love my husband enough to go along with his plan for how we relate to his family.

It's not hard to hide. They are not looking for the real me anyway. I am just an accessory. I just wish it didn't hurt so much.

Case in point - This is an actual conversation that took place in my kitchen while I was sitting just a few feet away.

My mother-in-law: "Have you been to this museum before?"
Husband: "No."
MIL: "But the boys have been there before?"
Husband: "Yes."
MIL: "How did the kids get there if you haven't gone before?" She asked in all sincerity.
Husband: staring dumbfounded at his mother because the obvious answer was sitting right there hearing the entire conversation.

I finally chimed in that I took them, that I spend a lot of time enriching the boys' lives. I wanted her to know that I am a good mom. That I am doing a good job of taking care of her grandsons. Her response, "How can I verify that? I don't live nearby."

Seriously? Anger swelled within. My thoughts sharp, silent retorts. She was questioning my veracity? My truthfulness. And that really burned within me because I am known for my honesty. Ask anyone who knows me.

Except with my in laws I am not honest. I don't lie but I am not my authentic self. I keep things hidden that would bother them. I am comfortable with my way of life but I know that some of the choices I make are in direct conflict with how they believe a good Christian should live. They have more black and white rules; I live in the grey afforded by grace.

They are old and set in their ways. I am not going to convince them that their social norms are not Biblical but cultural. Instead I avoid and defer. I live my life outside of their view.

This is how their family relates.

But it made my Christmas sad. I felt like we were on display, like we were playing parts not being our real selves with them watching. I was guarded. I am not at my best when I am guarded. I become defensive and petty.

I lose grace when I stop allowing myself grace.

And without grace, I am lost.

I write this not to condemn, though I was angry and hurt. I write this because it is a challenge for me to figure out how to be authentic amongst people I don't want to hurt but who won't accept me as I am. This is my struggle with family - how to be me in a room full of people making claims to who I should be.

Anyone else able to relate?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Last Christmas

I thought I would use December to try a few Christmas stories. Some are true. Some are a figment of my imagination. Most fall in between, in that place that is fictional memoir. This one though is taken from the book I am writing.


It was early, the sun just beginning to peek over the mountains. The house was silent except for the quiet movements of Mia. She tiptoed down the hallway, her bags in one hand her shoes in the other. She reached the front door but before she opened it, she looked around the room one last time.

The tree was decorated now turning their sad, leftover tree, into something almost beautiful. Ornaments and white twinkling lights could do that, could turn something ugly and cast aside into something worthy of being the center piece of a room.

Two stockings hung from the mantle, one for her and one for her mom. They were bulkier now with Christmas presents hiding in the neck of the fabric. She had put a few trinkets she had picked up at the student store in her mom's along with some money. She could see that her mom had put something in her stocking but she could not bring herself to retrieve it. Not with her mom's words still swirling in her mind.

She turned her back on the room and opened the front door, hoping that the click of it closing behind her would not wake her mom. She was hoping to catch the morning bus back to school before her mom even knew she was gone. It was a cowardly choice, but practical. Telling her mom she was leaving would only induce another fight, another lashing of words.

She sat down on the front steps and put on her shoes tying the laces quickly. It was not a long walk to the bus stop thankfully. Just long enough for Mia to rehash the events of the night before. Things had been going so well. They had found their tree and her mom had been right. It was on sale. When they got home, they pulled out the old ornament box and trimmed the tree stopping often to reminisce. Each ornament bringing back memories; the clay hand print she had made in kindergarten, the Santa Claus stuck in a chimney they bought after watching Gremlins, the angel her grandmother had given her when she was a young girl. They drank hot chocolate and watched It's a Wonderful Life while they made Christmas cookies from sugar cookie dough they bought at the store. It was a perfect evening, movie made, until it was time for Mia to leave for church.

"Mom, I need to get going if I'm going to make it to the Christmas Eve service," Mia said. She went back to her room to run a brush through her hair and grab her jacket.

Her mom followed her down the hallway. "We aren't done yet?" Maggie said. "You can't leave now." The statement more of a demand.

"I'll be back soon. We can finish then." Mia could hear the pleading edge to her voice. She went to church every Christmas Eve so it was not a surprise. But her mom's reaction was. It shouldn't have been, her mom often swung with her words.

"The movie will be over by then." Maggie's voice calm and acidic.

"You can watch it without me," she offered. "I know how it ends. Or we can record it."

"That's not the point. You are supposed to spend Christmas with your family, with me."

"Why don't you come with me? We can go together and then come home and finish decorating the cookies together. They need time to cool down anyway." She tried to be hopeful, she tried to find a workable solution.

But Maggie wasn't interested in solutions, she was only interested in getting her own way.

"How dare you?" her mother accused. "You are such a brat. So selfish." Her words dripped with venom.

"What?" Mia was genuinely confused. What had she done? How had the conversation turned so quickly.

Her mother turned and walked toward the kitchen, though she continued to berate Mia with her words.



The kitchen cabinet opened. A glass filled with ice, vodka and a splash of diet coke.

"I'm stuck here all year because of you and you can't even spend one night with me."


Mia wanted to respond but the words kept coming only stopping for a moment as her mom took a sip of the drink she now carried around the living room. She listened to the first few but then she only heard the rest, her mind protecting her as best it could. She felt the fight drain from her body. She could never win, not if she stayed here. And so she put on her coat, found her mom's car keys on the counter and walked out the front door.

She was going to go to her childhood church tonight for Christmas. She was going to sit in a black chair near the back. She would listen to the words of the pastor who had baptized her as a child, who had served at her grandparent's funeral. She would sing Silent Night with the congregation at midnight. She would do these one last time, one last Christmas.

And now in the morning, she was going home.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Rope?

I thought I would use December to try a few Christmas stories. Some are true. Some are a figment of my imagination. Most fall in between, in that place that is fictional memoir.

Did I ever tell you about the time we forgot to bring rope to the Christmas tree farm? 

It is a favorite family story, at least for my family. I think it causes my husband anxiety. 

The story begins with a van load of kids and two parents driving about a mile from our house to a nearby Christmas tree farm. Living in Oregon you end up passing multiple tree farms on a quick trip to Costco. It seems that any farm land left has trees growing on it. Most of these trees are actually cut down at the end of November and sent south, where Californians pay a crazy amount for a real live noble fir. I will be one of those crazy Californians this year. 

Anyway, the family, including the six teenage foster kids that lived with us at the time were all walking through the muddy tree farm looking for the perfect tree. (There seems to be a theme to my Christmas tree stories.)

We looked at trees that looked perfect on one side but had a huge hole in the back. It always reminded me of a big civil war era hoop skirt tucked into a girl's pantaloons in the back. 

We looked at trees that were too tall or too short. Someone started grumbling, most likely my dad. Someone started whining, probably me but since this is my blog I'll blame my little brother. 

Finally the good enough tree was found and cut down. Again, there were people kneeling down on coats and a few choice phrases uttered as the handsaw got caught in the tree trunk. The wet needles flickering drops of water on everyone nearby as it is carried back to the car. 

We, and by we I mean the grown ups and my big brother, finally get the tree on top of the van ready to be tied down. 

But there is no rope. 

And here is where my memory gets foggy because I would assume that the tree farm had string. The fancy tree farm we took our kids to when we lived in Oregon had string. They also let you preselect your tree in September before the California trees were harvested. And then they cut the tree down for you on the day you preselected for pick up. Maybe our childhood tree farm was not that fancy. 

So we had the tree on top of the van but nothing to tie it down. And here is where my family becomes the Griswolds because the solution they found was to have my big brother lie on top of the tree, on top of van, holding on to the luggage rack, while my dad drove the van full of the rest of the family home. 

Seriously. We drove a mile or so with a Christmas tree and my brother on top of the van. 

We love this story. It is the essence of my family. Pragmatic and determined. Safety conscious...not so much. 

I think the image of one of our boys on top of the van may be why my husband does not like that story. 

Because truthfully, left  in the same situation, I might try it. Hockey Boy is pretty strong.

Update - (I posted this link on my Facebook page where my brother read it. He confirms the story except for me forgetting to mention the rain and cold. Longest mile of his life he wrote.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Empty Room

I thought I would use December to try a few Christmas stories. Some are true. Some are a figment of my imagination. Most fall in between, in that place that is fictional memoir.


The room looked so empty, sparse. Gone was the large tree covered in ornaments. There were no stockings hanging from the mantle. There was no mantle. The room was silent. No “It’s a Wonderful Life” playing on the tv. No tv.

Christmas was different this year. The trappings of the season stripped from them when they lost their home and moved into their minivan. Everything but the essentials donated to the Salvation Army because there was no room in the minivan for decorations.

Sara thought about her angel tree topper. She wondered where it sat this year. She tried to picture the family that would be eating off of her Christmas dishes tomorrow. She thought about the card holder that used to fill with friend’s pictures and beautiful gold trimmed Christmas cards. There were none this year. They had not had an address until yesterday.

But now they did.

Sara looked around the small living room of their one bedroom apartment and she was thankful. 

Thankful for the roof over their heads.

Thankful for the lock on the front door.

Thankful for the food waiting to be cooked the next day.

Thankful for the job she was starting after the new year.

Thankful for a place to have a room for the kids to sleep.

Thankful too that the kids were still too young to know what was happening, just happy to be with mommy and daddy.

She was so very thankful.

Mostly because this past year had shown her what mattered. It had freed her from the artifice of the holiday season and shown her Christmas - Christ’s story.

This year, the nativity was made by her oldest in Sunday school. A picture she had colored, the star sparkling with glitter.

This year, instead of getting presents, they had decided to give presents to Jesus. Signing up for blanket making with the mom’s group at church and serving Christmas Eve dinner at the shelter they had once called home.

The kids had understood. It is Jesus’ birthday after all.

Sara had enjoyed the quiet of the season, with no presents to buy and no cards to address. No parties to attend. She did miss the small moments she had once enjoyed. Decorating the Christmas tree together. The cookie exchange with the play group.

But they had new traditions now. Walking the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. Singing Christmas carols with the congregation. Making a birthday cake for baby Jesus.

Yes, as Sara looked around the empty living room, she was thankful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

I thought I would use December to try a few Christmas stories. Some are true. Some are a figment of my imagination. Most fall in between, in that place that is fictional memoir.


"You guys are going to get the Christmas tree this year."

At first the three kids thought their dad was joking. But he wasn't. They were sent off with a blank check, the 16 year old at the wheel. They were given one command. They must all agree on the tree. Majority could not rule. It had to be unanimous. And it could not be over 8 feet tall or it would not fit in the living room.

Kevin, the oldest, turned the music on loud as he drove. His little sister Jane in the seat next to him. She was talking, as always. His little brother Stewart, was in the back seat, kicking the seat in front of him. Kevin knew it would not be long before the bickering began.

The driveway to the tree farm was muddy. The constant rain of Oregon made for beautiful trees but horrible harvesting conditions. They parked near the other cars in the parking lot, pulled on their hoods and headed out into the rainy day. They had been visiting this same tree farms for years. Kevin grabbed one of the hand saws and Jane grabbed the long pole used to measure the trees.

Stewart ran ahead. "Let's go to the top of the hill," he said. He was full of energy, excited to be on an adventure with his big brother and sister. He was often left out of the big kid events, but not today. Today he was part of it all, even better, they had to listen to him. That's what Dad said. They all had to agree on one tree.

"No, Stewart let's look down here first." Jane's voice of reason rang out.

"But I want to go to the top. Dad said we had to all agree." Stewart was starting to whine.

Kevin spoke. He rarely spoke so when he did his siblings listened. "I am not going to the top and then having to drag a tree all the way back here. We are going to find one nearby and quickly."

And so that is what they attempted to do. Jane would point out a tree she liked, full and round, with a strong top branch for the angel their mother embroidered, with gold thread for the halo. Stewart would point toward another one farther away, the one with a brown patch in the back. Jane would try again, finding another perfect tree. Stewart declared it too bushy, the next one too skinny. Every time saying, ““Dad said we had to all agree.”

After thirty minutes of wading through the mud, toes growing cold and wet bangs hanging in their eyes, Kevin and Jane were done. It stopped being about getting the perfect tree. The mission now was to get Stewart to agree to any tree.

“That one looks good Stewart,” Jane said when Stewart found another tree he liked.
Kevin surveyed the hole on one side and the crooked top and agreed that it would work if they turned it around. He laid his jacket on the ground and then kneeled on it ready to cut the trunk in two.

“Wait,” Stewart shouted. “I changed my mind. I don’t like this one. Let’s go back to the first one.”

“You just said liked this one,” Jane accused.

“But it has a hole Kevin said. And we have to all agree Dad said.” Stewart unsure if Dad’s command was losing its authority.

Kevin’s voice boomed. “I am done. Pick a tree, any tree. But we are cutting one down and going home now.”

Jane and Stewart both looked at him, eyes wide. They adored their big brother. Secretly, they had both been enjoying the forced time together. But it appeared it had come to an end.

“I liked the one back at the front, the first one,” Jane offered shyly.

“So did I,” said Stewart.

“Fine. Let’s go find the first tree, again,” Kevin said.

The mud on their boots made the walk back take longer than they remembered. They had wandered quite a bit in their quest for the perfect tree.

And then there it was. Right before them, two rows back from the parking lot. The perfect 8 foot douglas fir. Not too bushy, not too skinny. It was just right.

“Perfect,” declared Jane.

“I like it,” said Stewart.

“Then let’s get it,” said Kevin as he laid his coat on the ground again preparing a place for him to kneel to cut the tree. He inspected the trunk and let out an expletive the kids were not supposed to say.

“What’s wrong?” Jane asked worried.

“It has two trunks.”

It wasn't until years later, when the kids were relating the story to disbelieving spouses that it finally dawned on them the true purpose of this adventure. If they were all at the tree farm together without their parents, then mom and dad were left all alone in the house.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Collection

(This list is a compilation of the things I posted on Facebook and Twitter during the month of November.)

I am thankful for...

Starbucks baristas who greet me by name and make my drink just the way I like it.

Facebook. I love staying virtually connected when face to face is not an option.

Bright blue skies to start my day.

All the people that pour their hearts and lives into my boys. We are blessed by an amazing village.

College Gameday and Saturdays full of football games on tv.

Sprinkles Peanut Butter Chip cupcakes. Even better, we got them for free via Twitter - another thing I'm thankful for.

Favorite books that you can read over and over again. There is nothing more comforting when you are too tired or sick than wrapping yourself up in a beloved book's story.

The amazing worship team at our church. They create a space of worship for me each week.

Mornings with elementary kids. Nothing makes you feel more important than 24 sets of eyes taking in every word you say.

Play dates and sweet friends for my kids.

Fridays, so full of hope and expectation. And so consistent. We get one every week.

First goals of the season. So proud of all Hockey Boy's hard work.

Restful Sundays.

My quirky little boy, Middle Man. I love seeing his mind at work. I love his curiosity and the funny things he says. I love his strong will even when it drives me nuts. I love that he is happy as he is, not needing to follow the crowd. He has strong sense of self that I admire.

My baby who turns 5 today. He loves life and his laugh and enthusiasm are infectious. He is a determined little guy who goes after what he wants. He loves all things sports and he loves his momma. I am so thankful that God brought this little one into our family.

Hockey Boy - my first born. The one that taught me how to love in unexpected ways. I love his inquisitive mind, his tenacious spirit and his commitment to excellence.

Lunch dates with friends!

Air travel and sweet friends who made the trip to see me and my life in our new (old) town.

Glittery nail polish and sparkling vampires. (My girlfriends flew down for the weekend to see the new Twilight movie with me and to shop, eat and be together. So much love.)

My husband who works hard every single day so we can pursue our passions.

The swimming pool being open again and how much my boys love being in the water.

Cozy flannels, a warm house, coffee in bed and a lazy morning with the boy.

Today, and every day, I am thankful for grace, amazing grace.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Who Is God's Favorite?

I have three children. Three boys, three brothers. They are close in age, less than four years separates them. They are the biological children of my husband and I. I say that only to point out that their genetic make up comes from the same source. I see my husband and I in each of them. I see little parts of each in the other.

And yet...

And yet, each of my boys is so uniquely themselves. Their personalities established long ago. One of my boys is a momma's boy in the best sense of the word. He adores me and wants to be with me a lot, more than the others do. He loves to start his morning with cuddles in my bed. One of my boys is quiet, an introvert. He would spend hours looking at puzzle books or laying in bed thinking if his brothers left him alone. He does not like kisses but if I sit next to him on the couch long enough our bodies will slowly move closer and closer until we are touching. My oldest is becoming more independent, more a young man, filling his world with friends and activities. But he still wants to end his day with a kiss from his mom and dad.

My three boys experience me differently. They need me to love and interact with them differently and I do. I have learned how to connect with each of my boys on their terms. I do not change, the essence of me is the same, but each has a unique understanding of who I am based on our unique relationship. They see me through the lenses of their interactions with me. I imagine how they would describe me. So much of who I think I am would be left out because they don't have access to that part of me.

One of my boys needs less of me - less time - less connection.
Do I want more? Yes.
But is that who he is?
What he needs? No.
He is made uniquely himself.

I think about how we relate to God, our Father. How often do I assume that other people connect to God the same way I do? How often do I let other's experiences of God affect how I try to relate to God.

I often feel awkward in rooms when people have strong emotional experiences with God. I feel like I am missing out. Am I too unfeeling? Do I not love God enough?

I am beginning to realize that I am me. And God and I relate in our own way. I am not my brothers or sisters. I don't have to compare my relationship with God to theirs. I see God through the filter that is my life, through my emotional needs, and my interactions with God. He does not change, but He does show up in my life the way I need Him to and that may look very different than how He shows up in someone else's life.

I don't have to wonder who is God's favorite.

Because we all know that parents don't have favorites. We love all our children. We just love them in different ways, depending on their needs and who they are.

(Don't tell God's other kids, but I know I'm His favorite.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

I graduated the year of the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm I think was the name. I did not personally know anyone who was deployed though I have an uncle who served in the Navy at the time.

I was married when we invaded Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom. It was right after 9/11. I remember people talking about whether this would be our generations call to duty, like all those boys that rushed to enlist after Pear Harbor. People did enlist but not in droves. I, along with most of my high school class went off to college. I did not personally know anyone who served in that conflict.

By the time the Iraq war began in 2003, I had a newborn at home, a newborn son. His gender felt important in light of a war. Before our troops were called home, I went on to give birth to two more boys. I still did not personally know anyone deployed to the war zone.

Six years ago, Veteran's Day took on a whole new meaning. It became the day after my friend lost her daughter and began a fight for her life in a horrible, tragic car accident. So for six years, November rolls around and I am reminded of November 10th. I am reminded of sitting in the ICU waiting room with her husband. Nothing we did could comfort and yet knowing it mattered that we were there with him. He was a veteran. Now this day, November 11th, only reminds him of the day before.

This year, my kindergartner learned about Veteran's Day in school. His teacher is amazing at explaining things to little kids. She reminded Little One that he does know a veteran. Our neighbor across the street flew helicopters in Iraq. He spent six years overseas and three in Iraq. I learned this today when the boys and I took over some pumpkin muffins we made as a small way to say thank you. His first deployment to the war was six months after he married his beautiful wife. I cannot imagine the pain of separation. I cannot imagine the worry. Those first years of marriage are hard enough without being apart for months at a time with the possibility of death hanging overhead.

Veteran's Day has passed me by for so many years. I think of it as a day off, a respite in our busy schedules. Little One in all his enthusiasm about learning new things reminded me that this holiday is not about sleeping in. It's about thanking those men and women who couldn't sleep well for months and years when deployed so that I can.

I am thankful for our neighbor, for his safe return to his wife, and for both of their sacrifices.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I May Be a Thinker but I Do Have Feelings

So my mom visited last weekend. I have a complicated relationship with her.

It has been a long and often painful road being her daughter. But in the last few years, I have found my way. I have found my own life. I have created my own family.

I have spent years mourning the loss of what could have been with her. And now we move on. No longer as mother and daughter because that relationship was so damaged and dysfunctional that I had to let it go. The only hope we had was to redefine our relationship around my boys - as the grandmother and mother of my boys.

And most of the time that is okay. Most of the time I can hold onto the intellectual arguments about how this is best for my kids.

You know those letters that people throw out, the Myers Briggs test results. The ones that tell you if you are in introvert or an extrovert, whether you are an NP  or a SJ.  I had to take the full test in college, as part of the resident assistant application process. I am a I/E NTJ. And not just a T but a strong T. I am a thinker. I do have feelings but I don't use them for my decision making. I don't trust them. I know they change and often quickly. But thinking I trust. Information and research and thinking through the consequences works for me.

All this to say that for the most part, I can intellectualize the importance of having my kids' grandma in their lives. I can compartmentalize my feelings and invite her into my home.

I can try to hide my stress during her visits. I can smile and pretend I am not worried about what she might say.

I can try to act like her daughter around my kids. Even when she reaches out to touch me and my body wants to jump back.

I can do my best to model healthy adult relationships for my boys.

But there is still a small part of me, hidden deep, that aches when I drop her off at the airport. The little girl in me that wishes so desperately that she had a mom I could call when she was having a bad day.

I may be a thinker but I do have feelings. And it still hurts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul

Yesterday I was sitting in a room with other women. The leader played an instrumental version of It is Well With My Soul and asked us to spend a few minutes with God writing down where we were at that moment. The lyrics of the song ran through my head. "It is well with my soul." I started to jot down a few notes about that idea.

Can it stay well with my soul?
It is yet... I get so frustrated and angry with my kids.

I often thought that when I was right with God, when I was feeling connected to him, then it was well with my soul.

And then I heard these lyrics in my head -
"Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."
Thou has taught me to say...

My life, my soul doesn't have to feel it but it is. It is well with my soul. Not because of what I have done but because of who I am in Christ, because of what he did. The hymn goes on to say, "My sin not in part but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more."

It is well with my soul.

The truth of this statement trumps feeling. But the truth of this statement also gives me a feeling of peace that cannot be created by my circumstances. I rest in the truth of this. I am at peace because it is well with my soul.

And then, here's the kicker, I went to find a youtube version of this song to share on my blog. I found the story of the man who wrote this hymn. You have to watch this video. It will change how you hear this song forevermore.

Horatio Spafford experienced painful loss over and over again and yet he writes, "It is well with my soul."

Friday, October 21, 2011

This is the Right Place - Glimpses of Grace

It rained here recently. Off and on for a few days in a row. My mood plummeted. I could not seem to get anything done. And then one afternoon the sun came out and I had energy and ideas, cookies were baking, writing was happening, and the laundry was done. It has been sunny ever since. Moving to California was the right decision. I would have never survived another winter in Oregon without the aid of antidepressants.

I have these flashes often. These moments of realizing, yet again, that we made the right decision to move here. It usually comes after some pouting time on my part because I miss my friends or I am tired of feeling like an outsider. Something will happen at school, at the rink, at church or just driving down the road and I will feel it, a flash of confirmation. It is like little moments of grace when God reminds me that this place, where He lead us, is the right now.

I love getting these glimpses of God's grace and witnessing what makes this life right for us. I love seeing God answer our prayers for our kids in unexpected ways. I love that they can play outside and wear shorts all the time. Middle Man loves shorts. I love having my husband able to spend the day at the 2nd grade campout with Middle Man and being able to be so involved with Hockey Boy's team. I love seeing Little One happily ensconced in kindergarten (and being in school five days a week).

I have a lot of people ask me how things are going after the move and apart from missing my friends and being known, I can honestly say life is good. We are good.

I don't think the Bay Area is better than Oregon. I love Oregon! LOVE

But I also love life here. I love Sprinkles and sunshine. I love reconnecting with friends and even though I can get insecure at times, I love getting to know new people and hear their story. I love bike rides with the boys and worshipping at our church. Life is good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Really Live Here

There is a point in time after you move when you look around and suddenly realize, I really live here. It is after the excitement of the new adventure has worn off and after the homesickness has passed. You have met some new friends and figured out how to get to the grocery store, school, Target and the mall without having to look at the map on your phone any longer. Life has become routine. You sit in your kitchen with a cup of coffee and it feels normal. You really live here.

This though is when the real work of moving begins, at least for relational types like me. It is nice to meet new people and find connections but it takes time to develop deep, real relationships. And so I have to keep showing up to small group Bible study, even though I still feel new and know that if I don't come they won't miss me. I have to go up to the group of women I have met and chat casually at school pick up, even though I feel like I'm in middle school again and trying to get a seat at the cool kids table. I have to get to know the parents of the kids in Middle Man's class so I can find someone to have a play date with him because he wants one but he is quiet and quirky and has not made friends on his own. 

People think I make friends easily. It is not that it comes easily to me. I struggle with getting in my car to meet up with a group of women. I get insecure asking for play dates for my boys. I am horrible with names and make a terrible first impression. But eventually, I do make friends and I think it is because I keep showing up. I keep reaching out. 

I am in that place right now. The one where I realize this is now home. But I am still feeling disconnected and a little lost. I realized this week that while I have places to go and things to do, if I didn't show up no one would really miss me. If I dropped out of life, no one would really notice. 

I miss my friends dearly. They would have noticed my absence or a change in my mood. They know me. I would love to meet up at the coffee shop and just be together. Not having to worry about saying the wrong thing or having to explain the whole back story. But this is home. And I know, from experience, that I will be known again. It will just take time. 

And that is why this phase of a move is so hard. There is nothing you can do but wait. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Learning in Community

One of my favorite things about community is seeing God through other people's eyes. I can read the Bible alone but my understanding is tainted by my experiences of life and of God. It is in community, in sharing what touches each of us, that I learn beyond myself.

I was sitting this Monday in a room full of women. We all came together be with Him and to be with one another. Our leader, Jennifer read to us Mother Teresa's words in the book "Bread and Wine." Every few lines, Jennifer would stop and ask us to ponder what we had read, the words on the page and the tugging on our hearts. She wrote about what touched her on her blog. Read her words.

I love to see what she wrote. We read the same chapter but the words that struck her, the words she chose to quote on her blog were different than mine. And that is what I love about community, about coming together to grow and learn and live in God's love.

Here are the lines of Mother Teresa, writing Jesus's words, that touched me.
"Nothing in your life is unimportant to me." 
"I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his image."  
"You don't need to change to believe in my love, for it will be your belief in my love that will change you." 
The words I underlined show my incredible need to feel important to God, to feel valuable and worthy just as I am. To see myself as wonderfully made, just as I am.

Jennifer and I share a love for God. We share in the gift of redeeming grace. But our stories are different. The words we need to hear from God are different. But I learn so much from reading and listening to Jennifer's story. I learn about God's infinite ability to meet us individually, in our present circumstances. And I learn about the beautiful children He created.

I love the unity of faith and I love the differences of experience.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life is like a... Roller Coaster?

I keep hearing this phrase "Jesus is not safe" or something similar. At first it just rubbed me the wrong way but today when I read the phrase it really bugged me. So much so that I felt the need to address it.

I understand the point, I think people are trying to make. The point that Jesus does not want us to play it safe, that he wants us to engage our world even when it is scary. But there is a huge difference between being safe and playing it safe.

In playing it safe, we avoid taking any risks because we want to feel safe at all times.

In being safe, WE ARE SAFE.

When you add Jesus to these ideas, playing it safe means we try to create our lives, to control our circumstances, so we feel safe, not because of who Jesus is but because of what we are doing. Playing it safe does not mean we are safe.

When you add Jesus to being safe, you are. His mere presence in your life makes you safe. Your circumstances will change, your emotions will soar up and down, scary things will happen and catastrophe might strike. But in all of it, JESUS IS SAFE!

I was with a small group of women the other day talking about fear from Angie Smith's book "What Women Fear."  In the book Smith writes about the analogy of walking a tight rope and how often we hear that God is our net. Smith writes that she thinks God is the balance bar in our hands. If we hold onto him we stay on the rope. He doesn't need to catch us because we don't fall if we hold the bar and let him counter balance our moments of imbalance. I like this.

As I was driving later, I thought about life as a roller coaster. My boys love roller coasters. They love the going fast in the tight turns and the terrifying, scream inducing, stomach lurching big drops. They love every minute of it and as soon as we get off they are ready to run back in line for another turn. They love the roller coasters because they know they are safe. They are locked in to a car on a track that has been time tested. They know if they stay seated with their hands and arms inside the car they will be safe. And because they know they are safe, they are able to enjoy the speed, the drops, the long climbs, and going upside down. They are safe even though it feels incredibly unsafe to this mom who is not a fan of stomach turning and being out of control.

I think life with God is a lot like riding a roller coaster. Just stay inside the car. Stay inside God's care. Follow the tracks he has set before you, no matter where they go. Don't try to get out even when you are about to go down the very long, long, long drop on Splash Mountain. Even though all you want to do is climb out and get off the ride. Because getting out at the wrong time gets you hurt. Getting off the track is dangerous. But staying in the log, staying in God's care, keeps you safe even when the world feels scary and painful.

Life's circumstances will happen but I know that I am safe.

I am safe because of Jesus.

Because Jesus is safe. Absolutely safe.

And because Jesus is safe, because he will take care of me (not necessarily that life will go well and I will never get hurt) I don't have to play it safe. I can step out. I can engage the dark places of this world. I can take risks. I can act justly. I can love mercy. And I can walk humbly with my God.

So please stop saying Jesus is not safe.


Monday, September 19, 2011

To Blog or Not to Blog

For the last few years, blogging has been how I have engaged in writing. I love having a place to write, whether it is a cute story about one of my boys, me processing growing up in my family, or how God is showing up in my life. I love having a place to write, to process, to hit publish and share it with whoever wants to read.

I love reading blogs too, especially the blogs of friends who no longer live nearby. Reading their posts and hearing what is going on in their lives feels almost like we got to have a cup of coffee and chat face to face, almost. I learn so much from reading blogs.

But what I have been figuring out these last few months is that I am not a blogger. I am not very good about being consistent with my writing. Most posts feel inspired in some way, not great but inspired by God or life somehow. But as I have tried to be more disciplined about writing, I have also sat with a blank screen trying to figure out what to write because writing takes discipline sometimes. I have learned from some great writers that inspiration often does not show up until you are actually sitting down to write. So I have also practiced some discipline with writing.

I think this blog has been a great place for me to find my voice, to find my writing style and place. And now that I am trying my hand at a novel, I am finding that all my writing sparks are about my book. I often discover great writing prompts in church. Yesterday that was so true. So many ideas flooded my mind but they were all about the characters and plot lines in my novel. Nothing really great to blog.

I will keep writing here as I find something swirling in my mind that won't sit still until it is tied to words on the screen but I am not going to tie myself to a schedule any longer. Because if I do, I will spend my hour on Monday morning writing a blog post instead of working on my novel which right now is the priority.

So now my blog should only be the good stuff, the less is more style of blogging.

I am sure that once my novel is complete, I will be back to blogging regularly because I still want to finish My Story and have a place to share my thoughts with my long distance friends over a cup of coffee.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Belongs to Them

I remember where I was. I remember the fear and the chaos. I remember the hours and days spent trying to figure it all out. This world turned upside down.

I was teaching at the time, high school history. My students looked at me for answers. I could explain the history of the conflict but I had no answers to give. There were no answers on that day.

My husband traveled for work a lot. He flew to Boston and New York. He flew home to San Francisco. He could have been on one of those flights.

It felt so personal.

We were attacked.

But what I have learned these last ten years is that while we, the world outside, claim 9/11, feel it deeply, it is not ours. For most of us it is images, it is memories, it is stories.

But there are thousand of people for whom 9/11 is not a remembrance, but a part of their daily lives. People who had their husbands, wives, parents or children were taken from them. People who were there that day that survived but face the very painful recovery both physically and psychologically. 

I did not know anyone who died on that day. Not personally or even peripherally. It was not until recently that I became friends with someone who did lose their father on one of the flights. A friend who today remembers her father as she looks into the eyes of her children. 

As I watch the memorial coverage, as I hear the names and watch the many, many stories on television today, I am aware for the first time that 9/11 belongs to them. It belongs to the people who have spent the last 10 years recovering, moving forward and remembering their loved ones. 

Our world was forever changed but their lives were altered in ways we cannot imagine. 

9/11 is not mine. It belongs to them. 

I can mourn with them. 

I can honor their loss. 

I can remember. 

Friday, September 9, 2011


I am loving the boys being in school. I love the quiet mornings, once it gets quiet. The first hour of the day is full of me reminding the boys to brush their teeth and get their shoes on and them getting distracted by games of hide and seek and high jumping contests. But then we pile in the van, spend a few minutes on the playground and then the bell rings. Kids scurry off to class. And the world becomes quiet.

The routine has been good for all of us. Except the homework part. That part is killing me.

Our school has very reasonable homework guidelines. The work assigned is very manageable. Pretty sure though that the time spent whining, crying or procrastinating does not count against the time limits. That's just a bonus for those that choose it. I am in awe by the amount of drama that can come from a four sentence paragraph or how long it can take to do one page of cursive letter practice. So homework takes a lot longer than it needs.

This week, Middle Man had a math worksheet all about him. "What are the numbers in your street address?" "How tall are you?" "What is your library card number?" All sorts of questions that had number answers. I went to check his homework.  He had answered all the ones he could by himself but for the rest he wrote "unknown". One question he answered "N/A" and he used it correctly because he did not know most the answers but for this one he doesn't have a favorite number so it really is not applicable. He cracks me up.

He was not happy when I erased all the unknowns and showed him the part of the directions at the top of the page that said to ask an adult if you don't know the answers. Because while he might not know how much he weighed when he was born, I remember very clearly that he was 9 pounds and that was without an epidural. It took him a while but we eventually figured out all the answers including his favorite number 999,999,999,999,999,999, 999. (I'm not sure if he would have kept going if he had not run out of room.)

That was just one assignment. For one day. I am exhausted by the end of the day. The one saving grace is that both boys are avid readers so getting their reading minutes/pages done is easy.

The other saving grace is that there is no homework assigned on the weekends. I love Fridays. I get to pick up my kids, hear all about their day and then enjoy a free afternoon with them.

Thank Goodness It's No Homework Friday.

TGINHF to you all!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Story - My Little Brother

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.


My little brother has a long story. I hope one with a happy ending for him. But I know it has been a long and bumpy road for him. 

As I wrote, my parents began taking in foster kids before my first memories come into focus. It was just one kid or two at first. My parents were committed to caring for these “orphans” these kids in need. 

But they also wanted to add one more kid to our family, to our nuclear, core family of 4. My parents had always planned on adopting one more child. It was not in reaction to the needs of our foster kids but part of their desire to help with the world crowding problem that was popular to discuss in the 70s while having a family of three. At one point my parents were talking about adopting one of the older foster boys who lived with us but that did not work out. Then when I was 4 we found out there was a baby needing a family and my parents jumped at the chance to add this little boy to our clan. 

They adopted my little brother when he was 10 months old. He was given up at birth and had been living with a foster family that loved him until I was almost 5 when he came home to our family. Knowing what I know now about his mother and his prenatal care, it is not a surprise that he had some serious challenges. He had problems with his ears as a child. Suffered a few seizures from high fevers as a toddler. But it was not until he was a preschooler that his ADD, his lack of impulse control and inability to stay on task for any length of time became a challenge for him. 

None of this mattered to us, to our family. He was one of us. He was my brother. It made complete sense to me that we were a family, my parents, my older brother and my new little brother, that we were permanent and that the foster kids were temporary. It turns out my little brother being adopted was confusing to some of the foster kids later on, especially when my parents did not adopt any other kids but that is another story. It is his story to tell. 

I wish things had turned out better in the end. I wish my parents had learned from what happened and never allowed him to be put in that situation again. I wish my parents had protected him better. I wish they had focused on his needs and not fallen back into the comfort of being foster parents, a job they felt confident in and a job that gave them a sense of doing good and serving God. I wonder what would have happened if they had chosen my brother over their job? 

I wish things had not gone so sour as he turned into a teenager and then an adult. I wish he had seen us as his family and not as he called us, his “adoptive family”. I wish he had been able to find his way younger and not gone into his 20s with so much baggage and poor decision making. I wish things had been better for him, for us, for our whole family. 

But choices were made. Pain built up. Life kept going. And now we are no longer a family of five. We are now five separate families, trying to figure out what our history means for each of us. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Feeling God's Absence

I recently heard an amazing sermon by Kevin Kim on Lament from Psalms 88. You can watch the whole sermon here and if you are struggling in the darkness, if you are angry and hurt by what God is or is not doing in your life, I highly recommend it. It is also available in iTunes for free by looking up MPPC Lament. 

I am in a good place in my life right now. So what I got out of the sermon was probably not the main point. But as I was sitting there, I wrote down two words that the pastor defined for us. 

Consolation and Desolation 

The pastor defined consolation "as the felt presence of God." These are those mountaintop moments where God is ever present in your life, in your circumstances, in your moments. 

The pastor then defined desolation as "the felt absence of God." These are not the valleys of circumstance, the times when life is hard and the events of life are weighing you down. No. Desolation is the desert, desolation is the silence, when you don't feel God anywhere. 

In America ,we believe in cause and effect, we believe in results based on works. 

We believe that feeling close to God is a result of our Bible reading, prayer time and service. And conversely, when we don't feel God, when we don't hear God it is because we are pulling away, we are separating ourselves from him. 

But what if God does not work from a results based paradigm. What if God's actions are beyond our understanding but for His purpose? 
The ancients said, "What if consolation and desolation isn't so much about what you do and what you're doing, but it's more about what God is doing? What if consolation and desolation are both intentional moves of God in your life?" (Sermon Transcript)
If we learn nothing from Job, we learn this. There is a world at play beyond the world we know. Things happened in Job's life that had nothing to do with his actions. There was no cause and effect for Job and this really threw he and his friends for a loop. They spent chapter after chapter debating what Job must have done to cause these disasters in his life while Job continued to defend himself. 

I find a lot of comfort in this idea of consolation and desolation not being necessarily a direct result of my actions. God loves me not as a result of what I do or who I am but because He loves me. My consolation is not based on my actions but on God's grace. 

Sometimes my desolation, my feeling distance from God is because of actions or a lack of connection on my part. But I also have known a desert time in my life, a time of desolation and separation that was not a result, not a reaction to my deeds. I have felt the hand of God pull away even as I cried out for Him to hold me close. Even as I dove into His word more and more. Even as I sang songs of praise and worship and mercy at church each Sunday. My whole heart seeking, my whole mind knowing, my whole being serving who God is. And yet, God's felt presence was missing. 

Why does God do that to those that love Him? I know it is not that He has left me because I know that nothing separates us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38 - 39) But I think sometimes the feelings drift away, sometimes the felt presence is removed so that we can grow, so that we can affirm our conviction apart from how we feel. 

Just as at some point in every marriage, each person has to say yes, I am staying committed, yes I am choosing to love you. Even though I don't feel it today, even though you are not near. I am choosing you, even though...

I think the same is true in our relationship with God. At some point, we have to step up and say yes, I choose you God, even though I don't feel it today, even though I don't see you today. Today I will say blessed be your name

I experienced this desert a few years ago, actually the last time we lived in the Bay Area. It was a dark time for me spiritually, even though I was doing all the right things. I was crying out to God to be in our lives, in my life. At some point I had to make a decision. Was I going to still follow God, even if I could not feel it, even if I did not feel the warmth and reassurance of God's love? Or was this God thing really just an opiate for the masses as Karl Marx had believed, something to make us humans feel better and give us something to hold onto and to follow instead of figuring life out on our own?

When faced with what I believed about God, what I knew about the Bible, I decided that God is God and that is enough for me. My circumstances, my feelings, did not change that truth. My experience of God did not change God. He was enough. 

The darkness did not lift right away. It was not cause and effect, not a life lesson that once learned meant God would pour his presence back into my life. 

But slowly, I did start feeling more and more of God's hand on my heart and my mind. And more than feeling God's presence, I had come out of the desert with a deeper understanding of who God is and who I am in Him. My life is not determined by my circumstances. God is not at the mercy of my actions or inaction. God is bigger than me, infinitely bigger, and yet I am His and that makes me bigger too. The more I enter His world, the more I enter Him, the less my world, the events of my days, sway me. 

My conviction is so much stronger because I now know my commitment is based not on what God does for me but because of who God is. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Choose Today...

I am trying to be disciplined about writing. I don't want my few precious hours to really think, to write without interruption to get eaten up by errands and Facebook. But then there are mornings like today when I don't feel good, mornings when I wake up feeling hungover even though I had nothing to drink.

It is these mornings that I think will determine if this writing thing is a passing hobby or something real. Not because it is a reflection of my talent or lack there of, but because as Albus Dumbledore says, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (J.K. Rowling)

I know my identity in Christ. I know I am a child of God. I am endowed with talents and gifts, interests and passions, that make me unique with something to offer the world. My work has meaning but only if I actually do the work. All the talents, all the ideas, all the education, all the grace in the world means nothing if I choose to do nothing with it.

I have work to do. I was made with a purpose, we all were. It is easy as a woman living in my part of the world, my part of the country, to find work. It is easy to find things to keep busy. And while I believe that Christians share a purpose, to love God and to love our neighbors, how we do that will look quite different. Our work, how we spend our time, will be different.

Does my day, does my work, does my love please God?

That is the question I am asking now.

And so I choose to sit and write. Not because I have nothing else to do. Not because my work is necessary. God does not need my words. I choose to sit and write because the process, the writing, is the work I feel called to in this season of my life.

God is pleased when I show up.

When I show up the real work can begin.

He can work in me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Story - Foster Kids

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.

When I was 6 we moved to Oregon. My mom had spent a few years there as a child and wanted to go back. This was also when they started working together as full time group home parents. We had a few foster kids living with us in California but they were the easy kind. The little kids who needed a safe place to stay while their parent(s) figured things out and got their act together. My parents always said that they wanted to serve Jesus by loving and caring for the widows and the orphans.

I have mostly fond memories of these foster kids. I remember a girl named Wendy who was my exact same age. She and her older brother and sister lived with us for a while. She had brown hair and brown eyes and I had white blond hair at the time with blue eyes. We were yin and yang.

Now my parents were going to start a group home for 6 teenage girls. This was no longer a simple act of taking a few kids into our home while we lived a pretty ordinary life with Dad commuting into the city from the suburbs. No this was a wholly new life, full of drama and chaos, teenage expletive laden rants, and being exposed to a world of evil and pain most little kids do not know exists. I learned about sex and molestation as a young child. I was yelled at and belittled by teenage girls who resented the fact that my father was not abusing me. I was introduced to the darkest of evil at a very young age.

My world was a much older place than my young age. I was expected at 6, 7, 8 to participate in the same chore chart and kitchen duties that the older kids, these teenage girls did. I was parented in the same manner as these high needs, at risk kids were parented. I was also very aware that these kids needed my parents, needed their care, even if that meant I did not get a story that night or my mom was late to pick me up after a school activity. I had my parents living with me and these girls did not. I needed to share, I needed to be willing to give unto others.

I don’t know if this was right or wrong. I sometimes wonder if my kids need to be doing more around the house, if I am coddling them too much. But I look at my 8 year old and wonder how my parents ever expected me to do all my own laundry, do all the families dinner dishes on my night, or clean a bathroom without adult help.

I also wonder if I could open my home to a group of kids who had suffered so much damage, so much harm, that the people around them are inevitably part of the pain and the healing process. At one point I remember doing family counseling, and by family I mean the 5 of us and 6 teenage girls who changed month to month, year to year. I don’t know if I could or would ask that of my kids. I guess if that is what God has called us to do we would. And my parents were always really adamant that this was their calling, that God had told them to do care for the orphans, not just in spirit or with donations but in our home.

A few years back when I was talking to my mom about how I was having a hard time with the monotony of being a young mom, she told me something that sort of changed my understanding of my parents being foster parents. She mentioned that she was so bored with just the two of us, my brother and I, being a stay at home mom that they decided to bring in more kids. We were probably 2 and 6 years old.

This new kernel of information tainted my altruistic feelings of taking in the orphans and those in need. I understood her boredom, but was it the right decision for her kids, for us, to bring more kids into the family just so she wouldn't be bored. It certainly makes me wonder how many times really good acts are based on selfish motivations, selfish desires that may be harmful to those around us. The story of my parents taking in foster kids eventually did harm my family. I know that many kids were helped through the years, but when I saw the end results, it made me ask was it the right decision?

I don't have the answers. I know that being a foster parent is a tremendous gift. I do know though that it is a complicated decision that cannot be taken lightly.

Monday, August 29, 2011


4829 - that is how many words I have written for my book.

10 pages in a word document. I have read that novels start at about 80,000 words.

I have some writing to do and I love it.

I love spending part of my day in a fictional world. Some of the time, I am pushing the story along, but I have had those moments I have read about, where a character changes things on me. Where I am writing dialogue in one direction and I can almost hear the character writing different words. Nothing crazy, just the character becoming more alive and less of a cliche in my head.

It is work for sure to sit down and face a blank page, to have to figure out how my characters are going to get from one scene to the next. It is work just to get myself to the blank page. It is easy to get distracted after school drop off, to fill up the few hours I have when the house is quiet enough to really get some work done. There are so many things I want to do with these few hours of freedom I have. I want to get to the gym. I want to have long, uninterrupted chats with over coffee with friends. Even when I am at my desk with my laptop, there are so many places on the internet to visit. I love twitter @findingfruit and finding new people to follow. I love seeing what my friends up in Oregon are up to on Facebook. And I love reading other people's blogs and then clicking through the comments to new blogs. The distractions are endless.

But more and more, I am wanting to write. The story is taking on more shape. I am finding myself drifting into the story when I am folding laundry or driving the kids to the pool. I am finding myself sitting down at my desk more and more often to type out a new scene or to let the characters find their way to the next major plot point I have in mind.

I am loving the writing and yet it is also so incredibly scary to do something that I feel completely inadequate to do. I feel so silly at times. Who am I to think I can write a book? I read amazing stories crafted by talented authors and wonder how I have the audacity to think I can do the same thing.

I recognize that my writing may never amount to much more than the process. But what I have learned is that most of life is not about the results. It is about the process. The best life lessons, the most growth have come as I faced the unknown and walked the steps. There is value and worth in the process no matter the results. I will be changed in the process.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blogs I Wish I Wrote

I am trying to work on my book, which means I am spending more time clicking through twitter feeds and blog comments, instead of actually writing. The fun thing about procrastinating is I often find some really good new things to read.

Today I found a few blog posts I wish I had written. Ideas I had been contemplating but had not gotten around to writing. And now that I see these blogs, so well written with great content, I realize I don't have to write everything. Sometimes, it is better to pass on something that is really good than to make my own.

Sprinkles cupcakes are so much better than my attempts at homemade cupcakes (which really means from a box).
A great quote can often better some up a thousand of my words.
Store bought clothes still beat anything I can make myself.

And these blogs -

Kathy Escobar writes about loving God in lots of different ways. I commented but it has to wait for moderator approval so this is what I wrote about her post,
I have been struggling with how I love God for a while. I know I love Him, but my love looks so different from those around me. Looking at your list I am an intellectual, a traditionalist, a contemplative. I find God in His word. I find him in church. I find Him through music. But my response is intellectual. It is a series of beliefs that dictate my choices. It is not a feeling thing. It is a thinking love. And sometimes this doesn’t feel adequate, like I love God enough because my emotions are not affected. Thanks for this post. It reminded me that we give and experience love differently. Not better or worse, just differently. My love for God is very real, even if it looks foreign to those around me.

Preston Yancey admits to possibly being the worst theologian ever. In the middle he writes,
All the while, the rooted faith, the desire to glorify, love, and serve the Lord remains.
The doubt and questioning have nothing to do with Him, but with practice. And feeling. The terrible, beautiful gift of feeling.
Beautiful and so true for me.

And in this last post, Jennifer at You are My Girls speaks about confessing glory in a vlog (video blog). I actually sat on that same couch yesterday talking with Jennifer who is a dear friend. I love that everyone can hear her wisdom and the sweetness of her words. I just wish everyone could also taste the yummy pasta she made us for lunch.

I would love to read your favorite posts from the week. Want to share?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Story - I Loved School

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.

With Little One staring kindergarten last week, my mind has wandered through my elementary years. Little memories from my childhood.

I remember going to kindergarten in Simi Valley, California. There was a gate around the kindergarten classroom. I cannot remember my teacher's name but I do remember that we got a lifesavers lollipop when we were able to identify all the lower case letters of the alphabet. It took me a couple of tries, those b's and d's were hard to tell apart, but eventually I got my strawberries and creme lollipop. I felt so proud of myself. 

I remember being so sad at the end of the first day of first grade because I did not learn to read that day. I had been wanting to learn to read for so long. As a kindergartner, the school had wanted to have me go to first grade for a reading class but my mom declined. She did not want me to be bored in school like she was all those years. She promised I would learn to read in first grade. Turns out that was not the curriculum for the first day. 

I remember moving from California to Oregon at the end of October during my 1st grade year. In Oregon we rode a bus to school. I liked waiting at the bus stop and riding around the neighborhood with my friends. In first grade in Oregon we played on the bars at recess and made houses out of the trees on the playground. 

I remember in 2nd grade, my friend and I used to make colored glue using our markers and white glue. I am sure we were supposed to be doing something more productive with our time but we were both often done early with whatever lesson we were doing that hour. I remember going home after school with my friend Rebecca and roller skating in her culdesac for hours. I think that was the year my mom made me a Little House on the Prairie dress that I wore as many days as I could. 

Third grade was a hard year for me. I was an incredibly emotional little 8 year old. I left the room crying a lot. I thought it was all the stress of my family life at the time, but my Hockey Boy is also really emotional and he often had to sit in the hall to calm his tears once he turned 8. I survived though even though I was convinced my teacher did not like me. A hard thing for a little perfectionistic, teacher lover like me. 

I remember times tables in 4th grade and having a male teacher for the first time. I liked his class though he was the teacher nobody wanted. I liked the times tables tests. I liked being good at math. 5th grade was another male teacher. He was older and spent a lot of time building character but did not seem to care too much about the academics. It felt like a play year to me but I think I actually learned a lot as well. 

One of my favorite school lessons ever was in 5th grade when a group of us got to go to a special class once a week or so and create our own civilization. Philofire because we were lovers of fire. All our artifacts had fire references. At the end of the unit we went to another school and buried all our artifacts in a big pile of dirt. We then dug up another school's make believe civilizations artifacts and tried to figure out what they were all about. What a great lesson plan!

School was a refuge for me. There were rhythms and systems in place that did not change year to year or moment to moment. There was lunch times and recesses to play and be kids. There were new places to visit in the pages of the books we read. There were caring adults, well except that one third grade teacher, who took care of me everyday no matter how they were feeling. 

I loved school. I loved it so much that I eventually became a teacher myself. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Book?

I did it. I sat down today and started writing, not a blog post or an email but an actual book, a novel. I have had a story brewing in my head for a little while. I am not sure how it will start or how it will end, but I know a few points in the middle. I don't plan on it being a best seller or even getting published. But I have always wanted to write a book, sort of like other people want to run a marathon or jump out of a plane. It is something on my own personal bucket list.

I don't think I will share much of it along the way, but I wanted to share what I wrote today. Mostly because I finally sat down and started. Though this part that I wrote is actually somewhere closer to the end. It might be awful and trite. But I am okay with that. First time marathon runners don't try to win, they just keep running.


As they walked through the door of the small coffee shop, the ring of the bell reminded Mia of their first date, the first time she finally let this man buy her a cup of coffee. How long ago that felt. How far removed from this moment.

They both ordered lattes and then went to sit at a table by the window. Neither spoke. Mia could not even look at Tim. She kept her eyes on the little girl sitting on the bus bench outside. Tim watched Mia, hoping she would finally say something, anything that would fix the words that broke him.

The barista came over and set down their drinks. Mia held her cup. The heat of the milk and espresso warmed her hands. As she picked up her drink to take a sip her eyes fell on Tim’s face. The pain she had seen in his eyes the day before was still there. It had hardened though. It looked less wild but deeper.

Tim looked back at Mia. He searched her eyes but found nothing that explained what had happened. This Mia before him was the girl he loved. She looked back out the window again. The bus bench now empty. Still no words.

Tim finally spoke, “I know what she said.”

Mia’s eyes stayed moved from the bus bench to the tree. Anything to keep her eyes off of Tim’s face. Anything to keep her gaze trained and her heart in check.

Tim’s voice grew quieter. “I’m sorry.”

The pain was so clear in his words. Mia could hear it. But she could still hear his grandmother’s words. Those words, mixed with the words her mother had spoken to her all those years, rang louder in her head.

“You know what she said is not true. You know it. Why, Mia? Why do you let her words change our love?”

Mia finally looked Tim in the eyes. Her voice strong with conviction, “I told you. I refuse to be a disappointment anymore.” 

And then her eyes went back to the tree, putting distance once again between the two.

“But Mia, you are not a disappointment. You know that. You know how much I love you. Why is that not enough? Why does what my grandmother says or think matter?”

Without looking at him, Mia said coldly, “She is your family. You are tied to one another. I do love you, but I cannot do it again. I cannot be part of a family that is clearly disappointed to have me as a member. It took a long time to escape that once, to find my own person, my own footing. I cannot do it again. I won’t lose myself again. I cannot be with you.”

Tim breathed deeply. The words stung again, more so even, because the shock had worn off. The first time he heard her say it, he didn’t believe it. He was caught off guard but convinced that once they talked, once they saw one another face to face, he could fix it. But these words, her coldness, her conviction felt so final, so true. His heart was breaking and he did not know what to do. He did not know how to fix it.

He looked around the coffee shop. There was a business man in the corner typing away on his laptop. A couple of students were studying at a table nearby. The baristas were happily chatting, waiting for more customers to come through the door and ring the bell. And here in this room, his life was falling apart. This girl, the girl he loved deeply, was letting go. His pain turned to anger. How can she not fight for us? How can this strong, smart, beautiful girl, this girl that put him in his place and taught him how to love, how could she let go so easily.

As he looked at her again, looked at her steeled face and her clenched hands, he saw her pain. He saw the fight within her. She was not blasé about this. He could see it now. He could see through his pain into hers. He could see the struggle she was having between protecting herself, a need that was deep inside her after all those years of trying to please someone who was never going to be happy with her, and loving him in spite of his family.

Suddenly his heart grew quiet. His body relaxed. He took a last sip of his coffee and stood.

His movement startled Mia, it broke her concentration. She looked up at Tim, finally looking in deep into his eyes.

“Mia, I love you. You are where I want my life to be. But I do understand now. All I ask is what you once asked me. Pray. Talk to God about this. See what He has to say.”

He then turned and walked away. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stepping Into the Quiet

My baby started kindergarten this week. All three of my boys are now at the same school together and I am home alone for 3 hours every day. Every day. Last year Little One went to preschool two days a week for 2.5 hours. So doing the math last year I had 5 hours to myself and I spent one of those days at the other boys' school volunteering. This year, I have 15 hours to myself. Even if I volunteer and hang out with friends or join a Bible study, I still have hours and hours unscheduled time for myself.

But what to do with all those hours? I made a decision years ago that I would not do any work around the house while the kids were gone that I could do when they were home. Why waste those precious moments on laundry and dishes. Also, I did not want my kids to come home every day to a clean home, made beds and fresh underwear in their drawers and think all that work just magically happens when they are gone. I am pretty sure my future daughters-in-law would not appreciate that. While it might be easier to just do the work myself, it is better for all of us in the long run if I take the time to teach them how to help and eventually do this work themselves.

So I'm not going to be cleaning or cooking. I still have hours after my kindergartner gets out of school for errand running, just the two of us. I decided instead to dedicate this time to reading, studying and writing.

But now that the hours are before me, it is scary. Now I have to actually do the work. I have to open the book, think about things that shake me a bit, and actually sit down and write. It is a process. It requires discipline on my part. A conscious decision to turn off the Today Show and plop my behind at my desk. It requires me to let go of the insecurities, the thoughts that what I have to say was already written so much better by this blogger or in that book.

I recently read Rachel Held Evans book, "Evolving in Monkey Town: How the Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions" which I highly recommend for anyone who grew up in the church. I love her blog and tweets. She was a voice I was growing to really respect.

Her book felt so personal to me and then... And then she started to write about the tough things; the questions about our faith, our God, His judgment. Questions I have had, but don't want to address because I don't know if I can reconcile my faith with what I think is fair and right and loving. I got to the middle of the book and wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading. What if Rachel fell off the "Christian" cart? What if her conclusions felt like she was leading away from and not toward God. I had respected so many of her blog posts, her views on social justice and Jesus' love. Yet here I was in the middle of her book wondering if I could handle her answers, wondering if I wanted to keep reading her questions. Not to spoil the experience for you, but the book is worth the journey.

This is the thing about having time. It can be scary. You have to face some of those tough questions you put off for all those years you were just trying to get through the day.
Who am I? How should I spend my day? Am I good enough as I am?
What is my purpose? How do I contribute to this world? Am I doing enough?

I think I have some of these answers and some probably don't need answers. But it is implementing these answers that scares me. What if my work is not worthy? What if no one cares? What if I am horrible at it?

It is so much easier, at first, to stay in the known than to step into the unknown. But if I have learned anything from moving as many times as I have it is this, the unknown is full of rich blessings when you walk where God's lamp leads your path.

So I will walk. I will read. I will write. And I will try to quiet the still small voice that even in this moments critiques.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Story - Why I Went to College

As always My Story is from my point of view. You can read my disclaimer here.


My mom always dreamed of graduating from college. But she married my dad right after graduating a year early from high school and they headed east right away. College became a series of starts and stops for her. When I was four, she was enrolled in a community college nearby. While she was in class, I went to the preschool on campus.

I think my mom was studying to be a nurse. I am not really sure. She was often studying or working on an assignment. One of her classes involved bringing home a cat cadaver as homework. I would have thought it would be traumatizing seeing a dead cat in the house, but it wasn't. The smell though was overwhelming, not of death but of something that reminded me of disinfectant. 

I knew even then that her work, her going to school was important. I was taught from a very young age that college was important. Neither of my parents went to school right after high school. They are both incredibly bright people. My dad worked with computers back before it was popular, back when computers took up a whole room. He did not need college to do his job. But he loved to learn. I remember the day my dad hung up the huge mural picturing earth from space on the wall in our living room. It covered the entire wall with the darkness of space broken up by the bright blue, white and green of the earth. They loved that mural. They were nerdy like that. They are both inquisitive and always learning but a traditional college experience was not available to them at the time. But for their kids, college was a given. 

It was really, really, important to them that we go straight off to university. We were also told from a young age that we would have to pay for it ourselves. There was no college savings plan at our house. Foster parents do not have any extra money at the end of the day. It was sort of a confusing message to give to a kid I realize now. "Go to college which is really, really expensive, but we cannot help you with money." But it made sense to me then and it makes sense to me now. My mom gave up college, the dream she had for herself, to marry my father. Marriage at 16 and kids just a short time later was not her original plan. She wanted more for us but knew she could not help us get there beyond giving us the vision. But the vision was enough for me. 

I learned watching my parents struggle to get through school over years and decades. I watched them and knew I did not want to be managing life, kids, and cutting up a cat cadaver all at the same time. I knew I wanted to go to college and be free to have a full college experience. 

I am so glad I stay focused on that goal because college was life changing and life saving. And it did not involve a single cat cadaver being brought home. I was able to visit my dead science projects at the lab. 

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.