Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Girls Weekend

I just got back from a weekend at the beach with 5 of my friends from church. These are the women who read the Bible together last year. The women who shared what we were learning from our readings, who held each other accountable and then when they heard someone was behind offered to watch kids so that person could catch up on their reading. These are the women who wanted to give up in October when they were two months behind but didn't because we were all in this together and no one wanted to miss out on a weekend away together, the prize for finishing the whole Bible in 2010. These are the women I read the Bible with in 2010, a most amazing group of women. I learned a lot this weekend and thought I would share a few of my favorite lessons.

- Tortilla chips crushed on top of eggs tastes way yummier than I ever would have expected.
- We are wired differently. Some of us are do-ers. Some of us are be-ers. The do-ers run on the beach. The be-ers stay in the house drinking coffee and reading. I am a be-er.
- How to do a tequila shot. I have always had a healthy respect for tequila because of a bad experience with a pitcher(s) of margaritas and friends who filled my glass without me knowing it. Tequila is not the problem. Too much tequila would be a problem. At 37, I know my limits and am able to have fun without getting sloppy. Something I am thinking the bachelorette party girls we ran into still need to learn.
- I am safe with these women. They will look out for me. They will give wise counsel. They will listen to me without judgment. I can be who I am, share where I am struggling, and know I am loved just as I am.
- Real housewives weekends do not end up in torrid, yelling matches with everyone taking sides and the weekend ruined by the drama. Our weekend was drama free and so much fun.
- I love how when I am with these women we can move between conversations about the Bible to Friends trivia, from praying together at dinner to dancing at Karaoke. We do not have to separate our spiritual selves from our fun selves. They can be one and the same.
- After a surprising smooth transition back to the real world, it turns out I was exhausted and overwhelmed because I needed a break not because my life is overwhelming. What a great piece of knowledge to have when I start to get exhausted or overwhelmed again. My life is amazing. I have a great husband and fabulous kids. We are all growing, struggling at times with one another and with the world, but at the end of the day I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Love Your Neighbor

As I have been thinking about how to handle rejection, I have been felt challenged to stop avoiding the pain and start doing what Jesus taught in Luke 10:27.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27

"Love the Lord your God." I am not good at loving God. I should be because He is easy to love. He is loving, kind, trustworthy. He does not tear me down. He does not compete with me. He does not reject me. He made me, He knows me, He accepts me. I feel love deep down in the core of who I am, but my actions, the time I spend with Him, my inconsistency in following His commands, my unwillingness to give up my plans and dreams to follow His plan, many of my actions deny my feeling of love. In this I am the problem. Thankfully, He is the answer. And while I find it hard to act out my love of God, it is the second part of that verse that really shakes my world.

"Love your neighbor." Love the people around me. Love my family, love my friends, love the baristas at Starbucks and the kids at my sons' school. I think that in loving my neighbors my actions give the appearance of love that I am not sure I feel deep down. I know how to be kind. I know how to listen and support someone in pain. I know how to serve others and give to others. I even know how to forgive when I have been hurt by someone. I know the right actions to take. Most of the time I actually do feel love for those around me. I love my husband deeply. I love my boys unconditionally. I love being with my friends and sharing their lives.

But there are times in my life, where I am supposed to love someone and I just don't feel it. I have been hurt. I have been rejected. I have been pushed aside. And then the person wants me to let them back in no questions asked. Not even no questions asked but instead without any acknowledgement or understanding that they have rejected me. And I begin to wonder, how many times am I supposed to let them in. How many times do I open myself up for rejection, again. I try to keep my heart detached. I think it is my way of protecting myself. I should be able to protect myself right?

But I look back at what Jesus said and I don't see any words about protecting myself. Love thy neighbor. I am beginning to wonder if my actions are enough? or does my heart have to be in it as well?

The verse says love your neighbor as yourself. If I love my neighbor only with my actions but not my heart, is that how I end up loving myself? Do I see myself only as a compilation of actions and not as a deeply feeling person? But as a deeply feeling person, how can I keep feeling this pain of rejection and not become changed by it?

I am trying to find that place within me that can love others without fear of being hurt. I am finding the more I understand God's love for me, the more I have hope that I will feel His love for others.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Please Don't Hurt Me

Rejection hurts. When someone, whether you like them or not, decides they don't want to be around you anymore, it hurts. There are whole conversations in a myriad of movies about how it is better to be the dumper than the dumpee. I wholeheartedly agree.

"Breaking up is hard to do" the song says. At least that is what I have been told and seen in movie after movie. I did not date much before I met my husband. I actually think I was only on two dates ever unless you count those group dates in college where you find your roommate a date and then you go ice skating or on a scavenger hunt with a group of 20 other "couples" on their awkward date. Since my husband and I never broke up during our dating months, I don't have any experience with breaking up personally. But I have definitely had my fair share of rejection.

In high school, someone told someone else that I said something I never said. It was high school so there was no fact checking. It was like the French Revolution and all those people being sent to the guillotine without trials. I was cut off with one quick slice from that whole group of friends. I was rejected not only by the person I supposedly "hurt" but I was also rejected by all our mutual friends. As I have grown older I have experienced all forms of friendship rejection. From friends growing apart slowly over time, to a friend deciding you don't fit in their life anymore. I am certainly not innocent in this department. I am sure I have hurt many people as my life changed or my wanting to separate myself from someone because of reasons I was not willing to share. Whether it is a quick friendship break up or a friend slowly pulling away from me, it hurts. Knowing someone does not want to be my friend hurts. Even if time is the deciding factor, it still hurts to no longer be on someone's priority list.

I think for me though, my greatest rejection has come at the hands of the people who are supposed to always be there for you. The parents who raised you and are supposed to love you, care for you and make you a priority in their lives. As a child and as an adult, my parents have had other things get in the way of their parenting. Some were their own choices, some were beyond their ability to control, but either way, I was left behind or pushed aside or ignored. No matter the reason, parents ignoring you and your kids hurts.

Rejection hurts. I wish it didn't. I wish I could protect myself from the pain of rejection. I wish it didn't matter. I try to convince myself that I don't care anymore and for the most part I really am able to detach myself. But then the holidays come, gifts are discussed, phone calls are made to get together, and then it is January 8th and I am having to track down the hockey sticks someone has told me they were going to give the kids for Christmas. It sounds silly I know. They are just hockey sticks. Hockey sticks I was willing to go buy myself. But it isn't about the gifts or the traditional ornaments that came almost two weeks after the tree was taken down. It was about the boys who love looking at their ornaments and hanging them on the tree. It was about the boys who for some reason were not important enough to get them their gifts, which were purchased before Christmas, to them until weeks after Christmas. It is about knowing that grown ups were making choices to spend their time with lots of other people, doing lots of other things, instead of taking the time to give the gifts they asked me about and planned with me to my boys.

Rejection hurts and I don't like to hurt. But I am learning that really loving others opens me up to rejection. I used to protect myself by staying detached but that is not the life I want to live or the life God calls me to when He says,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27
I want to love my neighbor but I want to protect myself. I am not sure I can do both. And if I can't do both, then I think I know what I must do, even though I don't want to.

I think I must love my neighbor.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Living in the Grey

I recently pulled out my middle school yearbooks. I had to. It was time to figure out who those Facebook friend requests were from. I thought if I pulled out my old middle school year books it might jog my memory.

In my memories middle school was full of good times with good friends. I am pretty sure I purged the bad, painful memories, decades ago. It was interesting though looking through the notes that people wrote in my yearbook. There were quite a few that went something like this, "Jen, We started off rough but I'm glad we're friends. See you soon. Love Always. Beth"

I am thinking I was a tough person to be friends with as a middle schooler. I would like to think I have come a long way but I am pretty sure I am still the same girl I was in middle school. I have moments of terrible insecurity. I am still deeply honest. I also fear that I am just as arrogant, thinking I know what is right, though I have learned over the years to keep my mouth shut a little bit more.

One of the reasons it is easier to keep my thoughts about what is best to myself is that I have learned that being right is hard work. And sometimes I don't want to do the work. I have learned the pragmatism often takes over idealism. I know I need to be consistent if I want my kids to change their loud, disruptive behavior. But most nights, I don't have the energy or the desire to walk back to the car and try walking into the Y again using our inside voices and walking instead of running.

More importantly, I have learned that we are not all trying to achieve the same goal. So while 2 +2 may equal 4, my friend might be trying to add up to 12. We all assume everyone wants to add up to the same ideal. Turns out we don't and that is okay.

I am a big believer in kids sleeping through the night in their own beds. I need my sleep to be a good mommy and my kids need a good mommy so sleep is a high priority at our house. I have lots of friends that struggle for different reasons with getting a good nights sleep. It seems obvious that if they followed my plan they would get a good nights sleep. (I wish there was a way to say that with a wink but typing makes it hard.) But when I listened beyond the tiredness of my friends to their deeper agenda, I learned that my solution did not add up to their real goal, whether it was letting their child know they are always there for them or enjoying the sweet moments of sharing a family bed.

I saw this play out with a good friend of mine recently. She challenged a decision we had made for Hockey Boy. She was coming from a place of genuine concern for his well being and really felt like we were making the wrong choice for our son. I was really thrown for a loop. It is very painful to hear someone say they think you are pushing your kid too hard or harming your child in any way. I started to doubt our decision. But as I got some distance I realized that our long term parenting goals are different. Her solution worked for the immediate problem while my decision was aiming toward a long term goal we have for our boys. I am not sure what my friend's long term goal is for her kids. I am sure it is different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. And so our ways of dealing with various situations will be different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

And so while I may still think I have all the solutions. I am realizing that I don't. Because I don't know what my friends really want for their kids long term. I don't really know what someone wants out of their life. I do believe that there is right and wrong, moral imperatives, but most of life is spent in the grey. And grey is just that a shade, a color that can lighten or darken as the artist needs to create the image in their mind.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Will that Be Me?

So a few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was thinking about something but was not sure I was able to write about it. I actually spent a whole blog post avoiding the subject. But I sort of opened the door with my last blog post.

When I was 8 my mom was 30. Until then she was a great mom. She was always there. She played games with us. She read books to us. She took us to the park and to church. She was happy and fun. There was no hint that her world, and thus our worlds, were about to fall apart.

I have heard that depression often does not show up until a woman is in her 30s. And that has worried me. I struggled with depression in my early 20s. I also ended up with chronic fatigue syndrome. I think both were part of me breaking free and healing after growing up in my house. My body and mind seemed to just need a break.

At some point in my mid 20s when I decided to have kids, I decided to stop taking the low dose antidepressant I was on. I have not had to take any depression medications since.

But there is a part of me that still wonders if I will eventually be taken over by the depression that runs in my DNA. I worry when I get down. I don't like feeling the winter blahs because I worry that they are just a slippery slope leading me into becoming severely depressed and unable to be there for my kids.

I wonder at times if I am just living in denial and I am really depressed. But then I look at my life and realize that I am not staying in bed all day, well unless it is Christmas break and we are just enjoying a lazy day at home.

I may cry too easily at the American Airlines commercial with the soldier being saluted by the elderly vet. And I don't like to cry too easily because I don't want my emotions to dictate my life. But they don't. I am still able to think and act rationally beyond my emotions.

I guess I won't really know until I get to the end of my life if depression will someday take over my life. I have made it almost all the way through my 30s and it hasn't so far. I have had three babies and while I had the baby blues with the first one, I never struggled with post partem depression. I can be sad without falling into a dark pit. I can be overwhelmed without shutting down. I can suffer the winter blues but when the sun comes out my innermost sparks with joy.

Maybe I will not be taken over by my DNA. Or maybe the decisions I have made, the work I did in college with a therapist, and God's hand on my life will keep me safe. I don't know. I just know that I don't want my kids to have the childhood I had. I don't want them to have to worry about their depressed Mommy.

That is my big dark secret place I try to avoid. The worry that I will become depressed like my mom. Do you have a dark place you don't like to go?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

When I Was 8...

I remember coming home from a playdate at my friend's house. I am sure I had spent the afternoon roller skating because that was our favorite thing to do when we were 8. I remember my Dad meeting me at the door and telling me that my mom was in the hospital. I don't remember the details. I don't remember what words were used to tell me that my mom had attempted to kill herself but I did know that was what had happened. I did know that she tried to overdose on the antidepressants she took. I also knew that she had survived but was very sick. I was 8 years old.

I remember visiting her either that evening or the next day in the hospital. We had to wait until the breathing tube was removed. I think it was just me and her. I don't remember my brothers being there but maybe they were. I remember her telling me that she decided she had to live for me, her daughter. She didn't want to leave me with the legacy that her mother left her when my grandmother did overdose and die when my mom was 15. I am my mom's only daughter. The daughter she had to live for and get healthy for. I was 8 years old.

I remember driving an hour away to visit her in the mental hospital where she was transferred and lived for a month. I remember her not wanting to visit with us so it took a while before we could go down. I don't remember much about visiting her in the mental hospital. I do remember one of my parent's close friends flying out to help take care of us. I think my Dad had to learn how to do girl's hair but maybe not. I might have just done it myself. I was 8 years old.

Eventually my mom came home. She continued in therapy and taking the medications that to this day keep her from going into that scary, dark place. I remember learning about her Dad's abusive actions and some really creepy things. I remember her going back into the mental hospital for another month when I was starting my freshman year of high school. A time when I needed a mom to help me figure out this new school, a school where I knew no one because we had moved that summer. I remember my Dad and brothers coming to my soccer games that fall. I was 14 years old.

Eventually I went away to college, a college only an hour away, but for me a place where I could be me, not my mother's daughter. It was the first time I could make decisions and plan my life for myself without considering my mom's needs. It was a place where I could breathe. Where the drama of college life was easy compared to the stress of living in my family home. But then in February, I got a call that my mom had gone off to a mental health facility again and my Dad needed me to come home on the weekends and help him care for the foster kids they had living with them. I was 18 years old.

I have a lot of memories of my mom's mental illness taking over my life, and not just my life, but the important milestone moments of my life. I understand and know that she was sick. Mental illness for her is like diabetes. It is a lifelong struggle that requires medication and lifestyle adjustments to manage. I understand that. I am now an adult. I can understand grown up things.

What I don't understand are the behavior choices she makes. I don't understand them. But I do have to deal with them. I do have to respond in a grace filled way that first and foremost protects my boys. I will not let them live with this legacy. I think that is part of the itch I have been feeling. I am not sure how long I can protect my kids sweet hearts and minds living so close to her.

Hockey Boy is 8 years old this year. And he will not have to worry about his Mom or any other grown up. He will be able to be an 8 year old boy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Itch

It has been almost two years now that we have been back in the state where the boys were born. I used to dream of moving back home when we lived in California. I dreamed of a simpler life, where my husband came home at a decent time and houses cost less than a million dollars. I loved reuniting with my friends, my church, my life. I loved being known and running into people all over town. I love knowing that people are looking out for my kids where ever they are, even when I am not with them. This is a great place to raise a family.

It is a great place to live, unless you like the sun because for six months out of the year sunny days are so rare that they become an event. This week has been amazingly sunny and we are all celebrating. But I just l looked at the weather on my phone and it appears the rain is starting just as we send our kids back to school. Ugghh. I am not sure I can survive another wet, wet, wet winter.

And so the itch begins. The itch that hits just before we make it to our two year anniversary in any location. The itch that causes me to start looking at real estate in far off lands online and watching House Hunters International and my new favorite, Selling New York.

Selling New York is one great show, a show that let's me drool over Manhattan apartments. I believe I was made to live in New York City. A place where you can order any kind of food you want and have you delivered to your door so you can eat in your pajamas. A place where museums and sporting events are plentiful and the library is a historic and grand. A place with a Starbucks on every corner and cozy little restaurants. I was made for New York City and not the NYC of Sex and the City because really I don't like to dress up or go to fancy dinner parties. The New York of public transport and hanging at coffee shops and dressing in all black. The New York on anonymity and broadway plays. In my head, I was made for New York City. My husband though was not. He never plans to live there and since I plan to live with him forever, New York will have to stay in my dreams.

So while I will never live in Manhattan, I still have the itch. The itch to move. I am not sure why I like moving. It might be the excitement which after marriage and having babies is about as life changing as it gets. It might be the sweet goodbyes where you find out how people really feel about you because other than funerals moving is one of those few times when we really tell people how much they mean to us. It might be the anonymity of a new place that let's me sit back and take a break from serving and volunteering. It might just be that I have commitment issues.

But the itch is there. My husband has mentioned wanting to move to his home state someday. So I am on Zillow looking at houses there. I like the idea of moving to Michigan because it brings us closer to his family. I like the idea of family. We used to have family here that helped with the kids but that has changed. It feels like we are alone here and I really want my kids to grow up with people adoring on them. They are awfully adorable!

I have a friend that moved to Colorado a year ago and from reading her Facebook status updates it sounds amazing. I researched both schools and hockey and both sound great there. I also hear it is sunny most of the time there. Cold but sunny which I like. I am a better person when it is sunny.

The itch is there. But what to do with the itch? Where are we supposed to be? For now I know it is here. We really do love our life here and come July when the sun comes out for more than a short visit I am sure I will be telling everyone how wonderful life is here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

Wow. December really got the better of me. At least as far as blogging goes. It was actually a rather quiet month but in our house it has been loud. We like to say it is because we have three boys but we have friends with even more boys and their house is quieter. So I am thinking at some point we have to admit it is probably our parenting, our letting the boys be loud. For the most part I tune out the noise. At least I think I do, but the noise creeps in and pushes any real thoughts out. And yet, here I am. Blogging. With a thought to share.

I am reading through the Bible again this year but with a larger group of women from our church and also with some friends on Facebook and anywhere else I can pick up another reader. And since I am one of the leaders I thought I had better actually start on time and get my reading done tonight. We are going to read chronologically this time which I think will be fun. So today, January 1st we start at the very beginning.... a very good place to start.

As I was reading the creation story, a story I am very, very familiar with, I was struck by something new. This is why I love reading the Bible just as it is without study questions or looking for a theme or a point.

Today I was struck by Genesis 3:6 - 7 which says,
"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."

They ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and suddenly they realized they were naked. They had been naked the whole time. They had never felt a need for clothes before. Genesis 2:25 says, "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." But then they ate the fruit of knowledge and suddenly not only were they aware that they were naked but they had to cover themselves in some way. How weird that must have been to be perfectly happy as you were and then in one quick moment become disenchanted, afraid and ashamed.

I have noticed this same phenomenon recently with my boys. They are perfectly happy with life and then something clicks in them and they become afraid of things that never used to bother them. They go from being able to sleep in the dark with their door closed to wanting almost all the lights on in the house before they can walk upstairs. Little One keeps asking me if monsters live in our town. He is very concerned about monsters all of the sudden. I keep telling him no, monsters don't live in our state. But I know the truth. I am older. I am wiser. And I know that monsters really exist.

How I wish I could go back to the time before I knew. Before I knew that there is a reason we are scared of the dark, that people do die from illnesses or accidents. Before I knew that some people are just plain mean. I wish I could go back to before I had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I am sure Adam and Eve felt that way. I am sure they wanted to turn back the clocks to a time without worry, without embarrassment without fear. As we read at the end of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had not eaten of the tree of life. They had no need. They did not know death. They had plenty of food to eat. They did not have a desire to live forever because they knew nothing but life. And now because they knew, God drove them out of the garden of Eden so they could never eat of the tree of life and live forever.