Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fake It? Or Let Your Emotions Take Over? Or Somewhere In Between?

I have become an expert at faking my emotions, okay maybe not an expert because my face I have been told tends to give my feelings away more than I would like, but I have certainly become adept at faking what I am feeling. I know it is a learned skill because my children do not have a false emotional bone in their bodies. When they are happy we all know it, when they are angry we all, and our neighbors, know it. When they are hurt or scared or frustrated, they say it, their faces express it, their cries let it be known. 

And part of my job as a mom, is helping my children control their emotions. Giving them words to use instead of their hands. Telling them to take their tantrum to their room and to come back when they are able to talk in a reasonable tone of voice. Encouraging them to let go of the frustration or hurt and just move on. I teach my kids this because it is what I have been taught. 

It is also, for the most part, probably the healthiest way to deal with emotions. We certainly don't want our emotions to control our lives. I don't want my day to be at the whim of my feelings. Part of the faking it is because I know that my feelings can be fleeting. They can be hormone or sleep deprivation induced. I know that I may have misunderstood or overreacted. And I know that grace is the place where I want all my relationships to start and end. 

But I also think some of us, me, take this too far. We fake feelings hoping to make them real, or at least to avoid being a horrible person. For example, as a mom I have been told that I need to cherish these precious children I have been given because they grow up so fast. And I do cherish them, but I also get highly irritated by them. I get angry and frustrated and sad and depressed and deflated. But I can't admit that can I because it would make me a bad mom. And so I fake it until I make it as the saying goes. I put on a happy, or at least not disgruntled face, and I go about parenting, even when I don't want to, even when I wonder why I ever had kids and will they ever leave me alone. Because I don't want to damage my kids with my feelings. 

I don't want to damage my friendships with how I really feel about something. I don't want to hurt the people I love by telling them something that might hurt them. I don't want to open myself to being even more vulnerable. 

Mostly I don't want to actually talk about my feelings because it hurts. It hurts me. It hurts other people. Also, feelings feel out of my control. They come and go. I can't explain them and I certainly don't want to be judged or defined by them. 

But what happens when you spend your life putting on a good front? When you become so good at putting away your feelings you forget they are there? Can you experience the good feelings without the bad? Can you have joy without pain? Happiness without sadness? A sense of accomplishment without the possibility of disappointment? 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Book - A First Draft Complete

When I decided I wanted to write, I started reading books on writing. Okay, I actually have only really read one book on writing but it was a profound one. The one that everyone points to first when asked about writing books. It was written by Anne Lamott, whose book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith, spoke into my heart deeply. The writing book is called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. In it she shares the wisdom she has gleaned about the writing process and I learned a great deal from this book. 

It was her chapter on first drafts that kept me going this year. It begins: 
Now, practically even better news than that of short assign­ments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. 
My first draft doesn't have to be perfect. I would remind myself of this often as I wrote horrible transitions between scenes and struggled to find the right words. It is meant to be a first draft. A place to put all the ideas. And it is meant to get finished, not stifled by editing and perfectionism.

It meant to get finished. And finished my first draft is. All 80,671 words of it. My first draft is complete. It is printed out on 181 pages of paper ready for me to read and begin editing. It is horrible and cheesy and wonderful and authentic all at the same time. There are nuggets here and rubbish. But it the shitty first draft as Anne Lamott encouraging calls it is finished.

And to mark this momentous event, I am posting her the first seven blog post sneak peeks of the book in one location.

This is the beginning of the story, my first full length novel.

The Book - 1: The Beginning
It was one of those surprisingly warm fall days. Students sensing the season’s change were filling the quad with the noises of Frisbee and acoustic guitars. The sunlight drifted down between the old oak trees that lined up in front of the old stone buildings that had watched over students for a hundred years. Mia loved the classic architecture, the stone buildings cold and forbidding to the outsider. Everything about this place felt collegiate, felt like a world unto itself.

Mia sat down and felt the sun on her face. She leaned back, stretching her face toward the warmth, feeling the grass under her hands. She dug her fingers into the dirt reaching the cool soil beneath. She breathed in the quiet moment, her body relaxed. It had been a busy week, a busy month. The first month always was. She should be studying. But the sun felt too good to get up and head back indoors. Her mind too cluttered by the phone call from home that woke her this morning.

“Hey.” The word broke through her thoughts.

Mia looked up and saw someone getting ready to sit down next to her. She recognized him immediately. Everyone knew him by name, a son of privilege that came out west for college. Their paths had not crossed until this year. And then only across a crowded room at one of the many parties that littered the neighborhoods surrounding campus the weekend before classes began. He had been talking to a group of guys standing around the makeshift bar. His arm wrapped around the shoulders of a girl with long blond hair wearing a very short skirt. His hand hung down in her front proprietarily. Both had clearly been enjoying the alcohol that was free flowing.

And now this guy was sitting down next to her, smiling.

“Hey,” he said again. Mia’s body tensed.

“Is that your way of saying hi? Of introducing yourself?” Mia asked, her tone clearly annoyed by the interruption.

His grin faltered for a second and then grew stronger. His eyes were now smiling along with the rest of his face. He was amused by her response. This girl was not going to be charmed as easily as he had hoped. But as he looked over at Mia, he could see that she was definitely worth charming. Her long brown hair fell in waves. She was tall and thin but not skinny. He could not see her eyes behind her sunglasses but she had a few freckles that sprinkled her nose and cheeks so he was guessing they were blue or green.

“Pardon my rudeness. My name is Timothy Ogden Dillard. My friends call me Tods,” he stated formally.

She looked at him dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, the sleeves rolled up an attempt at casual. “Seriously. Tods? You do realize you are no longer at your prep school, right?” she asked not wanting an answer.

Now his smile faded a bit. He was well aware that he was no longer in prep school. His father had said the same words to him before he left home. He had used the same tone, dismissive and disappointed. Each email, each corporate annual report emblazoned with his name reminded him that he was now an adult, now required to learn the family business and to start to contribute to the family’s legacy.

Tim met her scathing tone with his own, “Do you have a name? Or were manners not part of the curriculum at your public school?”

“Timothy,” Mia said her face flush with anger, “I am leaving.”

Mia heard him call after her, “You can call me Tim.” How completely obnoxious she thought as she walked away.

The Book - 2: Another Sneak Peek
The sidewalks were full of students heading to the football game. Mia though walked against the tide and headed to the library. She had never had time for the social norms of high school, for football games and dances. Her days had been filled with working at the local Dairy Queen and her nights with studying. She spent her high school years dreaming, planning and saving so she could attend this college, so she could escape her hometown. Her sole focus as a teenager was the future.

Mia had hoped that she would have time for all that fun when she finally got to college. She had dreamed of football games with roommates, parties at off campus houses, and late night food runs. But here she was heading to the library, not because she didn’t have time to go to the game but because she felt out of place there. She did not know how to joke easily and was not comfortable in the unknown flow of a group. The library though was her refuge.

She found her usual desk at the back of the 4th floor, the desk where the power supplies all worked and the stacks near her were rarely visited. It was usually quiet up here. Today she had the area to herself She plugged in her laptop, put in her ear buds and got to work.

This semester was going to be tough. She had started college with enough credits to be a sophomore; thankful for the Advanced Placement classes her small rural school was able to offer her. Mia now in her third year was in the heart of her core classes, the classes the professors used to weed out the accountants from the students. There were certainly easier business degrees but Mia wanted that CPA title. She wanted those initials after her name on her business cards. She pictured herself in smart business suits carrying a leather case. She dreamed of flying off on business trips and meeting colleagues for drinks after work. She wanted to belong to that club. The club that offered job security and known rules to follow.

Mia worked in the library until the room began to darken with the sunset. The overhead lights becoming brighter in contrast. The football game was sure to be over now. She hoped for a win. She enjoyed the euphoria on campus after the football team won. She liked feeling part of something bigger than herself and her studies, even though she did not watch any of the game. Not to mention the fact that she earned bigger tips when the team won. The restaurant filled with alumni after a win. After a loss she was left with a bunch of frat boys yelling about horrible officiating and incapable of figuring out how to tip.

Packing her bag she looked out the window. Students were milling away from the quad, slowly heading off toward their dorm rooms and off campus housing. No big celebration seemed to be happening. With the warm air hanging on into the night and the loss of the game, it was going to be a long night.

The Book - 3: Just a Smidgen 
The restaurant was half empty, even though it was a Saturday night. Not surprising considering the place was out of date, worn and faded. There were newer chains along the outside of the mall about a mile from campus but Mia loved this place. She liked the flexible hours Matt her manager allowed her. She liked the few friendly regulars. And she liked that she could wear her regular college garb to work. No funny hats or ties at this place. It was just a good, classic college pub.

It had been a slow night. Mia’s tables had been cleared, her condiments filled. She was almost ready to head out when a group of guys entered. She glanced over at the other waitress working tonight, hoping the guys would see the blond hair and midriff flashing t-shirt and head over to her area. Mia had more studying to do and she really did not want to waste another hour on this group.

The group paused for a moment, looking the tables over, checking out which had the best view of Sports Center. They walked right past Sally’s section and headed to a table next to where Mia was standing. Taking a deep breath, Mia walked over and started handing out menus to the guys. As she got to the end of the group, she saw him, the guy from the lawn this morning. Based on the way he was looking at her, he had obviously recognized her too.

Without missing a beat, Mia started taking drink orders. As she suspected this was a beer and wings crowd, though the beers were various microbrews. She waited to take lawn guys order until the end. She might be his waitress but she still held some power in the situation. After she had written down everyone’s order she looked at lawn guy. He looked back but did not say anything. He just smiled. He seemed to be waiting for something. Mia was annoyed. She was tired from the long day and was not in the mood to deal with this jerk.

“What would you like?” Mia asked looking him square in the eyes this time.

“What do you have on tap?” he challenged.

Mia shifted her weight and pointed to the list in the middle of the table. “The list is there.”

Lawn guy grabbed the list, glancing at it quickly, and then asked, “What do you recommend?”

Mia’s agitation grew. He obviously knew what he wanted to drink. Any college guy can order a beer within 3 seconds of getting into a bar. “I would recommend a glass of the white chardonnay. Or maybe you are a Pinot Grigio man?” she replied.

The guys around him perked up and began to pay attention to this exchange. Mia noticed the looks; she felt the heat rising in her. She hated that feeling, feeling like her actions were merely a reaction to provocation. She knew better than to play the game. She had years of practice not taking the bait, not engaging, and yet here she was bickering with some guy she hardly knew. There was no reason for it.

“How about a Newcastle?” Mia asked, her polite veneer back in place.

The other guys at the table lost interest now that the tension was gone. They turned back to the highlights of the day’s games. Tim also felt the air around Mia relax or more accurately smooth.
“Thanks. That sounds good.” He conceded. He enjoyed verbal sparing, so different from his usual cadre of women, but he did not want to push his luck.

The Book - 4: Will She Say Yes
The group hung around for an hour, ordering a second round and debating the best plays of the day. The conversation floated between the BCS standings and who threw away their Heisman hopes with the three picks in one game. They ate their nachos and wings and then impressed Mia by leaving the table relatively neat.

As she went to close out the tab for the group, she noticed another pleasant surprise. That guy Tim, lawn guy, had picked up the check. That was not the surprise. Everyone knew he had a trust fund footing the bill for all his college expenses. What did surprise her was his tip, a healthy 20%, respectful but not over the top. He wasn’t flaunting his wealth nor was he stingy after she had called him out in front of his friends. It was a simple gesture, something he probably did every day, but it felt like a truce to her. But then maybe she was reading too much into it. Maybe it was just a tip.

Mia went to clean up the table the guys had vacated. The pub was empty now except a few regulars who sat at the bar until Matt called them a cab at closing time. It had been a decent night and she was going to get out early enough to still get another hour or two of studying in before going to bed for the night.


She turned at the sound of her name spoken behind her. Tim was standing there, smiling as always. Had he forgotten something she wondered. She looked down at the empty plates seeing nothing and then back at him. She could feel her pulse quicken.

“Mia,” he said again pointing to her nametag. “I wanted to introduce myself, again. My name is Tim.”  He reached out his hand.

She shook his hand. It was warm and firm. Her hand fit so nicely inside his until she pulled away. “My name is Mia,” she offered back, blushing when she realized that he had just said her name.

“I would love to get a drink with you some time.” His eyes twinkled full of confidence.

Mia had only been asked out a few times in her life. She didn’t know why. She had not been allowed to date in high school. Her mom’s attempt to make sure Mia did not get distracted and lose sight of their goal of her going to a good school. College had not changed her single status. She just didn’t seem to have that thing that made boys want to ask her out. She had only been on one date in college and that had not gone well. She had no idea how to act when guys became men, when feelings and hormones started to act up.

She felt caught off guard again by this guy. Mia did not like to feel off balance.  “No thank you,” she answered.

“Coffee at least? I know you like coffee.”

“No thank you.” She replied again. “Wait, how do you know that?”

“You always have a kiosk coffee cup in hand as you walk across campus in the morning.”

Mia didn’t know if she should be flattered that he had noticed her. She had certainly noticed him over the years with more girls than she could count attached to him. This was not the kind of guy Mia wanted. This was exactly the kind of guy her mother had warned her about. Lawn guy liked the chase, but she had seen him discard his prizes just as quickly as he won them.

“No thank you,” she said again.

Tim looked down at his feet his facade shaken. He was not used to being rejected. And now twice in one day this woman had turned him down. No one is worth this much work he thought, not when there were so many other girls out there ready to go home with him.

“Ok. Well I guess I will see you around campus then,” he said before hurrying to catch up with his buddies before they left him behind. Mia stood there dumbfounded. Had Tim just asked her out? Had she said no. She knew it was the right decision but why then were her palms all clammy.

The Book - 5: Home
Matt saw her looking off in the distance, awkward. “You okay?” he asked.

“Fine,” she replied automatically.

“You sure?” he asked again.

This time his question brought Mia back. “Yeah, I’m good. Just tired.”

“Well it looks like your section is done, why don’t you go home. Get some rest. You work too hard.”

“I’ll try,” she replied before heading to the back. She dropped her apron in the dirty laundry bin and pulled her book bag out of her cubby. She exited the back kitchen door toward home. She then walked the two blocks home to the house she shared with a group of girls she had met in her freshman dorm. It was an eclectic core group of four with another couple changing each semester. They were all studying something different. The front room might be full of fabric for a fashion assignment or a cat cadaver for a science lab. Competing music was often coming from different rooms. Phone conversations were crossing paths in the hallway.

They were all very busy but they tried to meet up for dinner on Sundays, sometimes heading to the restaurant if Mia had to work. Sarah, the ring leader, would call a family meeting if it had been too long since they all sat in the same room together. Most of their conversations though took place as someone was washing their face at the end of the day or trying to find a highlighter that worked.

She liked living with these girls. They were all bright and enthusiastic about their futures. They gave Mia a picture of what life was like for the normal kids, the kids with parents who knew what it meant to be a real parent. These girls taught her about relationships and family. They opened up to her about their hopes, their fears. They talked about boyfriends and future career aspirations. They left a quick note on the bathroom mirror in lipstick or sent a good luck text before a big test. They connected Mia to something, even when she did not know how to reciprocate. She was learning though, she was figuring out how to be a friend from these girls.

The house was dark when she walked in the door. Mia was never quite sure who would be home on any given night. Tonight the house was quiet. Everyone was still out enjoying the warm, Saturday night. She walked through the dark kitchen grabbing a glass of water before heading up the two sets of stairs to her room.

Mia loved her little attic room. She had it all to herself, no one touching her stuff, reading her emails or poking through her clothes. Not that any of her roommates were probably interested in her jeans and plaid shirts or her secrets. She was just so used to her new shoes disappearing at home, only to find them scuffed up after her mom borrowed them. Her mom had adopted a “what’s yours is mine” approach to life. This applied not only to clothes and lip gloss but to Mia’s whole existence. Her mother was always looking over her shoulder as she wrote a paper or read a book. She scrolled through Mia’s text messages and asked about every detail of her day. There had been no privacy at home. No secrets. No moment alone with her thoughts.

Mia knew her mom was doing the best she could. Maggie had gotten pregnant when she was 17. The boy’s family moved away the summer before Mia was born, never knowing there was a baby on its way. She never knew her father. Her birth certificate had no name listed where the father’s name belonged and her mother refused to tell Mia his name. Maggie made sure Mia knew she was father less, that she was utterly dependent on her mother.

Mia often felt like her mother’s doll, someone to dress and move around the scenes of life. Her mother was recreating the life she had dreamed of for herself. Only, now Mia was living it for her. At least that was Maggie’s plan and until recently, Mia had played along.

The Book - 6: Her Mom

But somewhere in the last few years, Mia began to find herself. She was slowly finding her own voice, her own place in this world, apart from her mother. She discovered she loved numbers and math, balance sheets with red and black numbers. She liked living on her own; she liked making her own decisions without having to consider her mother. She found a world that did not spin on the emotions of one person, but that was controlled by handbooks, social norms, history, and cause and effect. This world was predictable and that brought a sense of freedom to Mia. She could breathe her own air until her mom intruded.

Mia set the water glass on the nightstand. She had found it, along with the dresser, at an estate sale last year. Before that her room was adorned with old crates from the restaurant. She sat on her bed needing to study a little longer before getting ready for bed. She pulled a textbook from her bag along with her laptop. Her phone started vibrating in her back pocket. She pulled it out and saw her mom’s name light up on the screen. She froze waiting for the ringing vibrations to stop. She desperately wanted to hit the ignore button but knew her mother would correctly guess that the push to voicemail was because Mia was ignoring her.

When the ringing finally stopped, Mia saw that she had ten missed calls, ten voicemails all from her mother. She let out a sigh as her body fought its fight or flight instinct at seeing her mother’s face and name on her phone. Her heart always sped up when her mom called. Adrenaline coursed through her veins. She could ignore the calls now but at some point, and soon, she would have to listen to those voice mails. She would have to call her mom back and enter into that world again. Mia had learned the hard way not to ignore her mom for too long.

She remembered back to her freshman year when she first left home for college. Mia had answered every call, worried the electricity had been turned off due to unpaid bills or that her mom needed help. But the phone calls were hard on Mia. Sometimes her mom missed her so much and would call begging her to come home for a visit. When Mia explained she couldn’t, that she had work and classes, Maggie would cry. Other times, her mom would ask question after question about school, the classes, her roommates, the food, the boys. Her questioning was frenzied and erratic. Mia would try to share her life but the questions became more piercing, more intrusive. Even so many miles from home, she was expected to include her mom in everything. When the phone rang, Mia never knew what to expect, she just knew it would be hard. 

Mia had thought the distance would help but the constant contact was stifling. She needed some space and so she stopped answering the phone every time it rang. The voice mails were full of tears and raging that Mia needed to call her mother, “NOW!” But she waited. Mia would call her mom back when she had time or felt like dealing with the mood swings. She decided she would control the interactions by limiting the contact. 

In the spring of her freshman year, after a difficult Christmas at home, Mia stopped answering her phone altogether. She did not call her mom back either. She wanted the space to think. She wanted a chance to breathe a bit and figure out her thoughts about the yelling and name calling that had happened around the Christmas tree. She had heard enough stories of happy Christmas vacations from her suite mates to know that her Christmas, her relationship with her mom was seriously messed up. 

She had planned to wait a week. She had planned to call her mom on Sunday. Mia had not planned on hearing her mom call her name across the quad when she was walking to her first class. She did not plan on her mother having a map of the campus and Mia’s class schedule in hand, stopping students asking for help in finding her daughter, her daughter who would not call home. 

Mia learned very quickly that she did not ever want her mother visiting her campus again. She did not want her two very different lives crossing paths. She did not want her past visiting her future. And so she would return her mother’s calls. Just another way her mom kept control on her even though she lived a five-hour bus ride away. Even though Mia was now a grown woman with a life of her own. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Subtle Shifts that Change the Church

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote "I Call Bull*&%*." I said in that blog post that I would call out those ideas that replace the actual gospel with a cultural understanding of the gospel and then call it biblical. This is one of those times when I can no longer sit back and let it go.

When I mention my frustration with how some in the church view women to my friends, I often get bewildered looks. I often get dismissed because people see this as one of those things that gets debated but doesn’t really matter. It might be interesting for me but it’s just not their thing. And I get that. I know my interest in politics, theology, history is not shared by most of my friends.

Except that these things do matter, they impact our every day lives without us even noticing it.

The theological underpinnings of a book that speaks to our hearts and needs, doesn’t seem important if the book itself helps me. The truth though is that the underpinnings, the basic core beliefs of the author/speaker, the decisions they make in their interpretation of Biblical passages absolutely informs their writings on “lifestyle” issues. We take on their Biblical interpretation, we shift our view of God and our place in the world, without even realizing it. It’s not overt. It’s insidious. And that is what makes it scary.

It is subtle shifts.

It is a major evangelical group reshaping the trinity from one-being, one-God, whole and Holy to a submission of the Holy Spirit to Jesus and Jesus to the Father. Bringing the idea of division and submission into the one true God, a place that idea does not belong. But once it is there it is used as an example of submission as God’s intention for the world. Except hierarchy was never in the Garden of Eden. Hierarchy did not arise until the fall and the curse. Until then, Adam and Eve were partners, were walking and communing with God himself, face to face. It wasn’t until the first sin, the fall of man, the outcasting from the Garden when God said to the Eve:
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)
Jesus ended the curse with his death and resurrection. We no longer live under the law, we live in grace. Jesus turned the traditional world upside down. Power was no longer something to attain but to give. The power of love, of self sacrifice. Hierarchy has no place at Jesus’ table. And yet some are putting it back where it doesn't belong. Subtle Shift.

It is a call for men to be men, a railing against the feminization of church, the calling out of effeminate worship leaders that distorts our understanding of God’s creation. Yes, there are gender generalizations that ring true. But generalizations do not make a Biblical mandate of how men should be men. Looking at the men of the Bible and we see how uniquely made an individual is. David wrote and played music. Jacob, worked for seven years to earn his love, and then when he was deceived and given Leah instead, he worked another seven years to get his Rachel. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness with complete disregard for fashion and hygiene. Jesus consorted with the least of these, he turned the other cheek, he gave his rights away. Men, like women, are not one big personality conglomerate. And yet, there are those in the church that are teaching, how men are supposed to be as if what they are saying is Biblical Truth with a capital T. Subtle shift.

It is The Gospel Coalition, a group that espouses a form of complementarianism that seems main stream and many of my friends believe as well, posting a blog on their website that included a defense of a passage from Douglas Wilson’s book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man that states:
"...However we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed."
There are so many things wrong with this passage, starting with the fact that it is not founded on Biblical truth. Rachel Held Evans does an amazing job explaining how off this excerpt and the entire blog post is from what Jesus teaches. Subtle shift.

I don’t like to get in this debate. I am comfortable in my role in my marriage, my work, my church. I know who I am in God. And I know that I don’t know what God is teaching my friends, where he is calling them to lead and to submit, to speak and to show grace. I know I don’t know best. And I would prefer to focus my time and writing on other things. But when I see my friends being slowly pulled into a christian worldview that at one time may have been based on Biblical teachings but has slowly been pulled deeper and deeper into a power struggle that will destroy them and us, I feel I need to speak up. When I see my friends losing themselves, losing what God has for them to do, when they are diminishing their gifts or not being confident in their strengths, it breaks my heart.

I don’t know what is best for you but I know that the Bible is a book to be read as a whole, not piece-mealed and parsed for passages that support the world view you have been given. And I know that Jesus is the point of the whole story. Everything we read, every worldview we embrace should be one that Jesus would as well.

So if the question is based on how Jesus actually interacted with men and women, what would Jesus say about the role of gender in today's church?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Fiction Comes to Be - From Real to Imagined and Back Again

In Monday's blog post, I explored an idea to one conclusion in a fictional world. I wrote it down because I think it will be an idea I want to use in a future book. I can see my characters in the piece but it is only one possible outcome. I followed one thread, the idea that relationship can be broken without the other person even knowing it. That life can continue, that two people can still be together, but that something was changed, gone, and that lost thing, that lost connection destroys the relationship.

The truth behind that story comes from multiple places. Pieces taken from different places in my own life and then imagined playing out in different ways in the fictional world.

I am sure all of us that are married have at one time or another thought the pain we are feeling in this moment is not worth the effort. I have recently tried to be more honest with my husband, to open myself up, to let him know what I want and need. I have felt a need to be more connected, more honest, more trusting, more attached, emotionally and spiritually - beyond the co-habitating and co-parenting and best friendship that we have. I have been self reliant my whole life, at least emotionally, a learned necessity from my childhood. But I have gotten hurt in the process. I have had tearful nights. And I don't like to hurt so I wonder if this is worth all the pain.

As a child, sister, friend, and mother, I know I have been done at different points in these relationships. In all honesty, I have two brothers, one of whom I have not spoken to in probably 8 years. There is no animosity there, just a lost connection that over time became a gulf and then an ocean of distance. I move a lot so most of my challenging friendships have been lost in a move but I have redefined the relationship in my own head and heart more than once. Usually as an act of grace, of allowing the other person to be the kind of friend they can be, not the kind of friend I need. But it is also an act of distrust, of not being willing to trust my friend with my heart.

Most recently, I was talking to someone I have known forever but have struggled with relating to my whole life. They made the comment recently, that they felt like they were suddenly losing everything (including me) and they hadn't expected it. They hadn't seen it coming. The truth was they had lost me four years ago but they hadn't realized it. It was sad for me to know that our relationship had changed so drastically, I had disconnected so profoundly in my mind, and yet this other person didn't even realize it. I was not surprised. The reason I had disconnected was because I, the independent, real me apart from this other person, was never really a part of the equation for them anyway. But honestly, it still hurt.

So my post Monday was rooted in truth but then played with in the safe world of imagination.

For me the fictional world is a safe place to let my mind, my heart, my soul experiment.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Do I Owe You An Explanation?

Today I posted on Twitter I wrote: 
The great thing about writing fiction is that because you are not writing the truth, you can actually tell the truth.
There are days when I have a thought - a true, real thought - that I want to explore. It starts as just a thought but with fiction, I can dig deeper, I can play the idea out and then try another ending. I am free to play with the idea, the thought, the feeling without having to hold myself to the facts or the people involved. 

This is one of those thoughts played out to one conclusion.


At some point in the near, or distant future, you will step back and wonder when it all went wrong, when the fabric unraveled, when our relationship fell apart. You may not be able to point back to a specific event, to the breaking point, because you never saw it. You may remembered the arguments, the long conversations where we each tried to understand each other. You may remember a sharp word or a misdeed. You may remember the coldness. 

But at some point that all changed though you can't say when. The fights stopped but so did the conversations about anything beyond the casual observations of life. The sharp tones gave way to no tone, an absence of feeling in the words. And the touches of love, the hugs, the words "I love you" became perfunctory and then stopped altogether. Leaving you to wish you could say when it all began. 

Except you don't know. You can't know because I never told you. I never told you about the day I decided I was done. I was done fighting. I was done trying to change you to meet my needs. I was done speaking and feeling like I'm not heard. I was done reaching out and making the effort. I was just done. 

It may have been a gradual decline, but that day, it was a decision. It was an event, a cataclysmic event, that went completely unnoticed except by me. 

I was tired of feeling hurt. I was tired of feeling angry. I was tired of feeling unwanted and unloved. I was tired. 

And so I decided to let it all go. I decided to stop trying because it didn't seem to help. I decided it hurt too much to keep trying. I decided I was done.

See that is the thing about being in relationship, being connected to another person. You may not know when the connection is lost. You may not have any say in it either. You may just find yourself wondering what changed and when and why you no longer are connected.

Do I owe you an explanation? Maybe. But did I already give you too many explanations? Did I already use too many words?

When is it time to stop talking? When is it time to be done?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In Support of Venting

I am not one to whine a lot, or at least I don't want to be that person. You know the one that always has a complaint, an ache, a grievance. I have been that person. There was a time in my life when I was dealing with some pretty tough stuff and it felt like every conversation I had was heavy. Now though, I would rather have fun with my friends. I would rather laugh than cry. But sometimes, venting to a friend is really the best medicine.

Last week, I got my feelings hurt. It doesn't happen often, mostly because I have come to realize that I am not the center of the universe and that other people are not really out to get me. But sometimes I find myself unwanted and I usually figure that out when a pointed comment is aimed at me. Not an inconsiderate remark because those I have learned to let go. No, these were intentional attacks on my character masked by the casual manner in which they were said. These barbs stuck with me. I wore them on my heart, heavy and painful.

The words reverberated and repeated. I tried to let them go but they stuck tight. Tears sat just below the surface, bubbling over at inopportune moments. One such time was when I was picking up Hockey Boy from a play date with friends. My friend asked me how I was doing. "Fine," I responded because that is what you say when you are in the middle of a kid exchange. But she saw the tears so close to the surface. And as a good friend she pushed back. She could see the tears. And so I told her about the words. The pain of being unwanted.

And the most amazing thing happened. As I said the words, as I told the story of these phrases that had been weighing me down for days, they floated away. It was as if, simply telling someone else freed me.   As if, the words themselves were swept away once I released them from my mouth.

There was a time in my life when telling the stories added fuel to the flame, when I was empowered in my righteous anger by my friends' agreement. But not any longer. Nowadays it seems, my friends and I are seeking freedom and grace, not grudges and power. And so venting is now a powerful tool to let off the steam of pain building up within, venting is what it was always meant to be - a release.

I don't always do it well and sometimes it turns to ugly gossip but when done well, when my stories are let go instead of held tight, venting can be a powerful tool toward peace.

This story happened last week and I honestly had not thought of the words that hurt again, until I sat down to write this post on the power of venting. But now their barbs have been sanded down. They cannot stick. They no longer have power.

Do you find venting to a helpful release?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

For Sale - One Five Year Old Boy

He's incredibly cute and has a smile that will melt your heart. His eyes are bright and he wakes up happy and ready to face the day. He never tires, except at chore time. He is inquisitive, asking lots of questions, even ones you have already answered five times since breakfast. He is enthusiastic - always, and it is contagious. He runs toward life. Well except for airplane rides which make him quite nervous. He is loyal and does not feel like all is right in the world until his family is back together at the end of the day.  He loves to snuggle and will find ways to stay connected physically when you are out and about so look before you step because he is probably right in front of you but he is short so he is easy to miss and trip over.

I also have a grumpy but highly intelligent eight year old who loves to garden and be left alone. If you are a cat person you would probably like him as like cats, he makes you earn his affection except when he is in the mood to be cuddled. And when he laughs, oh my word, his joy is overwhelming. If you can get a smile out of him, you will feel like you have won the lottery. Unlike cats he loves the water and prefers to spend long lengths of time under water which has been known to concern a lifeguard or two. He loves direct eye contact even when being lectured but it has to be really, really close eye contact. He enjoys bike rides, maze and puzzle books, and getting in the way of his brothers' mini hockey games.

I also have one nine year old boy, the oldest of the crew. He is getting tall, and old, and scaring his mommy with his aging. He does know how babies are made but has declared that disgusting for now. He would rather talk about his list for Santa Claus. He is also bright except when asked to write a simple paragraph for his summer school work. He is very responsible, tells the truth and follows directions accurately though he does have trouble thinking beyond the literal at times. He is athletic and enjoys most sports though hockey is his favorite and ping pong his second favorite. When he is sitting still though he is probably reading a book from the library. We had to stop buying books because he reads too fast. He does have a delightful whine when he wants to remind you he is still your baby but is learning to curb his extreme emotions, though tears will erupt if he drops his cookie in the grocery store or he is told to read in his bedroom instead of the living room couch.

Actually maybe they are not for sale.

But I am willing to consider day rentals. 

The oldest is available for the occasional overnight. 

Nice families or relatives only please. 

Nevermind. They are all in bed now. Have I mentioned how cute they are when they are asleep. 

And I would never actually sell them or rent them out using an ad on a blog. That is what Facebook is for. 

Monday, July 9, 2012


Have you ever felt unwanted? I am assuming that all of us at one time or another has felt unwanted. Sometimes it is just our insecurities whispering in our ear. You know that moment when you walk into a room of women and feel like you don't belong but the truth is you do belong. You live in the dorm, or signed up for the Bible study. You have kids at the school and are a PTA member. You got the job or joined the club. You do belong, though you may not feel it yet.

Other times, the real truth is maybe we are not wanted. An accidental baby, an annoying little sister, a new member of a small group that didn't want new members, the person who got the job but wasn't everyone's first choice, the missionary wanting to spread God's word, the world changer demanding justice for the oppressed, the friend invited by another friend, the daughter in law who isn't what she imagined.

Sometimes we are wanted but we don't feel it. Insecurity likes to sneak up on us. But some times we really are not wanted. Not necessarily for evil reasons. We all like the status quo and new people change things. But usually over time, we see these new people, these changes at blessings. That in between time though is hard, that time when we know we are unwanted and haven't found our place yet.

The truth is that I am not always wanted and it isn't just my insecurity talking. And then I am faced with the decision, what to do? 

Do you stick around? Do you hope time will fix things? Do you leave? 

In most situations, I know to wait it out. I know that I don't make great first impressions and that it takes time to love me. And in most situations, we need to earn our way into trust and relationship. We need top put in the time feeling awkward.

But somedays, I just don't want to have to wait, to have to push through my insecurities and push my way into the room. That's why I don't think I would make a good missionary. I don't want to earn my way. I don't want to grow on you. That is a burden I don't want to bear.

I want to be liked, to be given the benefit of the doubt up front, to be shown grace. I want people to get to know the real me before they decide they don't like me. I want to be included because I am in the room. I want to be wanted.

I want to give the people around me a note, like we did in elementary school that asks the simple question with two simple answers as options and have them circle their answer.

Do you like me?
Yes     No

Well do you?

No, seriously, do you?

(And there's the great thing about a blog. I don't know if you don't like me. I don't really know if you do either but I'm better with that than with knowing someone doesn't like me.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Good Moms Worry" or So I've Been Told

I am sitting in a Starbucks in Boulder, Colorado enjoying a few minutes of grown up time. My husband is at a business meeting. So where are they boys? Everyone always asks me that when they see me around town without the boys in tow. The question annoys me. I realize they are with me most of the time they are not in school, but they do have a father who likes to be an active parent and they do go to camp and have the occasional babysitter. And I do have a life beyond my kids. 

And for these two days, my husband and I have been a couple. Not parents. A couple. That thing we were before the kids came along and that thing we will be once they all leave home and make their own families. 

It wasn't easy. This is actually our first trip alone in 4 1/2 years. Not because we didn't want to leave the kids but because the family that was willing was not able and the family that was able did not appear willing. And when your children are small and dependent on the adults around them, you need willing caregivers. 

This summer, my boys are 5, 8, and 9 years old. They can swim (the house is on a lake). They can get their own Eggos and go to the bathroom completely unassisted. They don't need constant supervision, just some food thrown at them a few times a day. And so this summer, we decided it was time. We no longer needed willing family as much as able family and my inlaws are more than capable. My dear husband simply informed his parents that we would be leaving the kids with them for a few days while we spent time together just the two of us. And thankfully they became willing participants. 

We spent time preparing the kids. The first time we mentioned them staying the night with their grandparents without us, Little One got tears in his eyes. We talked through all the details. Their big brother told them how much fun he had on his first sleepover recently. I explained that Grandma and Grandpa and all their Aunts and Uncles love them. They don't get to see them often, they may not feel familiar, but they do love my boys. The boys got excited about all the chocolate milk Grandma would give them and the days of fishing with Grandpa. They knew their Aunts and Uncle would be there too to watch them swim and help them with sunscreen. By the time we needed to say goodbye, they were happily playing in the lake and only willing to stop for quick kisses goodbye. 

I knew they would miss us, but probably only for a moment or two because there was so much fun to be had at the lake house. I felt confident they would be safe and happy. Until...

My mother in law asked if I was worried. 

"No," I replied because I wasn't. To which she replied something along the lines that I should be because all mothers worry, all good mothers do at least. 

And I know that idea. I hear it often in various forms. Moms are told of all the dangers in the world and given so many safety commands when they have babies and then toddlers and then school age children. Parenting books thrive on this worry culture. 

Even as our kids get older, moms are told that the worry never goes away even when they leave home. 

And while I agree the world can feel like a scary place, I don't understand why Christians are buying into it. I don't understand why my mother in law who is a Christian tells me I should be worried. Because nothing in the Bible tells me to worry. No, it says the opposite. 

Do not worry. Jesus says it repeatedly in Matthew 6. 
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And the last verse in chapter 6, the one I reminded my mother in law of as I prepared to leave my kids overnight with someone other than my husband:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 
I am not saying that it was an easy decision to leave my kids over night. It took 4 1/2 years between nights away with my husband. We do not take it lightly. But I left them with their grandparents. People who love them. People who raised my husband, who not only survived childhood, but is a wonderful, responsible man. 

Oh and my sister in law who lives right nearby is a nurse who specializes in pediatrics. 

So not only are my kids safe, but they are getting to build a relationship with their extended family. They are being exposed to a world beyond our own home. They are hearing stories about their dad as a kid. They are spending days at the lake without the distractions of video games, play dates, or activities. They are being loved on and spoiled by their grandparents, adults in their lives who do not have to parent them to be strong, responsible, young men but can just love on them and play with them and let them get away with not doing their chores or staying up too late. 

Actually I think this whole grandparent time is so valuable that we really should make it longer. I'm thinking a week alone at the lake next summer might be even better. 

(Maybe I will make it to London for my 40th birthday.)

So have you ever been told you needed to worry but you didn't feel it? Or do you need me to help you remember not to worry... because worry will not change anything, except your sleep and stomach and nerves and life.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Call Bull*&$% (Warning - Swearing Ahead)

I want to call bull*#(% but I can't.

Not because I don't use that word, I do (but not around my kids or most people), but because some Christians don't swear. Some Christians don't drink. Some don't dance. Some don't gamble or play card games. Some don't watch television shows about homosexuals or movies that have nudity in them. Some believe sex is for marriage - marriage between a man and a woman. Some believe that women are to be subordinate to men. Some... Some... Some...

And I have to respect that - all of that. I have been told I need to adjust my language, my behavior, my calling, my politics, to these standards. I need to be respectful.

In the church for some reason, we are expected when we engage the larger Christian community to live up to the highest common denominator. We are expected to not cause our neighbor to stumble by using an offensive word or serving alcohol at a wedding. We are expected to accept their demeaning of us as women or as other than them. We are expected to live up to their standards and rules of behavior.

And while I am all for being respectful in our dialogue. While I am teaching my kids that vulgar and obscene language is both. I am also calling bullshit - because sometimes bullshit is the only word that fits.

I am calling bullshit on holding the entire church to the highest common standards. That is not Christ's standard. Jesus hung out with the sinners. He sat with the woman at the well without a chaperone. He called his people to love, to grace, to family with one another. He did not shame. He did not accuse. He did not require a life lived according to rules.

Christ called us to the live together as one with the lowest common denominator among us - because the only denominator that matters, the only glue we need to bind us together is Christ. Anything more becomes an idol. A dividing rod that splits us up into the righteous and the sinners.

This does not mean that I will be swearing in my blog posts. I do have a large enough vocabulary to speak more intelligently and precisely as I explain to my kids when they say something sucks. (What specifically sucks? Is it frustrating? Devoid of any fun or adventure? Broken or mean spirited? We brainstorm better words or at least I brainstorm and they sit there patiently waiting to be free from the conversation.)

This also does not mean that I will bring a flask to someone's wedding or turn on an R rated movie at my inlaws house.

But I will call bullshit when a political/social policy is meant to keep "them" out, to protect our way of life. We are called aliens in this world, as our home is with God. How dare we claim America as ours and ours alone. How dangerous for us to put our trust in this country of ours instead of where it belongs - in God.

I am in no way saying that anyone else should agree with my views. I do respect differences of opinions, differences in values. I know that I am not right in everything. I know the world is full of complex issues that do not have any one right solution. I know that God has placed different passions, different boundaries, different needs, and different callings on our hearts. But I will call bullshit on anything that smacks of my needing to agree with you simply because I am a Christian.

So I guess my point is, have your opinion, have your point of view, have your boundaries but when you try to force it on me, when you try to tell me that I need to uphold your Christian standards or my faith, my very salvation, is in question, I will call it out.

I write this all because I am angry and tired. I am angry at the powers that be who continue to present Christ as a series of action steps. And I am tired of seeing so many Christians bound so tightly to these social expectations which are causing them to drown in pretense and feelings of failure and shame.

I am strong in my faith. Someone needs to call bullshit for those who are too weak or oppressed to do it for themselves.