Sunday, February 19, 2017

Who Are You to Me?

The question was once posed to me, by a boyfriend I deemed “the love of my life” at the very tender age of 17, “Who are you to me?”

It came on the heels of him breaking up with me and me responding with a downpour of tears and anguish and a not-so-silent plea of, “How can you do this to me?”  I didn’t understand how someone I cared so deeply for could care so little for me.  It scarred me more than any physical or mental abuse I’ve suffered in my lifetime.  It stung so deeply that I’d venture to guess it has since colored every relationship I’ve engaged in.  It wounded me so completely that the gaping hole it blew in my heart has only grown wider and more painful and the patterns I’ve developed as a direct result have only grown more frequent and more disastrous.  I’ve repeated his inquiry to myself at every crossroad and let it permeate my soul with every new loss that has come my way.  And yet, I believe at the very tender age of 42, I am finally ready to part with the indictment once and for all.

I decided today to pose the question to myself one last time, but this time as if it were coming from a very different source and not the seventeen year old child who held my fragile teenage psyche in his unknowing hands.  How would I respond if it were God himself asking the very same question, “Who are you to me?”

And though it’s difficult for me to confidently assert the answer I’ve heard time and again in various sermons and throughout the Bible, I would hope my response would be the resounding, “I am the one You love,” that He seeks.  I AM the one God loves even when I am most rebellious and most unlovable.  What a life-changing mantra that would be if I learned to accept, believe, and moreover, live as if it were true.  I repeated it to myself about a hundred times in the mirror today hoping that somewhere along the way it would sink it.  Oh to live in light of God’s truth and view of me as His creation!  And so I will start here, with a different answer to the same accusatory question.  I will whisper it to myself as long as I have breath to do so and I will slowly let it sink in until it thoroughly changes my perception of myself.  I will one day believe it wholly and unabashedly and I will celebrate on that day a love that no earthly being can offer.  I will rejoice in the love of a Father who is not satisfied with 99, but will always go after the 1!  I am the 1 Jesus loves.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15)
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

They are watching

To say that I am sad today would be an enormous understatement.  My heart is so, so heavy I can barely focus.  I’ve cried more than a handful of times and truly, a gut-wrenching, soul-spearing mournful cry.  I’m going to try to remain neutral as I share the contents of my heart on this historic and quite frankly, mind-blowing day.  I left the house for all of twenty minutes this morning and met anxiety, bitterness and hostile words at every turn.  I’m not ignorant of the severity and enormity of the situation.  I’m not immune to the implications.  I feel the desperation.  I see the disbelief on the faces around me.  I feel the anxiety more so than usual.  Quite honestly, I feel it more than most and I am so sad.  My soul aches for those who are hurting, those who expected a different outcome.  I’ve heard it said many times that there was no good option.  I’m not sure I disagree, but the frustration in that belief is that it leaves us where?  Devoid of elation, excitement and confidence?  Left alone with our collective conscience, our fleeting hopes and our best guesses?  Isn’t that what life is for the most part anyway?  Is there any certainty other than death?  If there were, there would be no reason to debate, no difference of opinion, no diversity, no chance to learn and grow and better ourselves.  Having said that, what happened this week happened and I will not be the first or the last to say, “it’s time to move on.”  Enter my bleeding heart.  Millions of Americans have a grim reality to deal with today, a letdown of epic proportions and a hurt that feels insurmountable and hangs in the air like a dark and foreboding cloud.  This.Takes.Time.  There may be a lengthy healing process and a period of mourning that hopefully will find its way to acceptance and hope and THAT is why I chose to enter into terrifying territory and write this post.  I’m not excited about it.  I don’t feel the need to disclose my preference for President of the United States.  Frankly, I don’t care anymore about how it all played out.  What led me to write today was an overwhelming urge to remind myself and hopefully others, that our littles are watching and we, as a nation are under a microscope.  What a remarkable and magnificent opportunity we have!

Ours was a house divided.  Some of us were on the fence.  Some of us were not confident even when we finally chose.  And some of us did not waiver in their convictions from beginning to end.  Let me first clear the elephant out of the room.  I recognize that my littles are seven and nine and I am extremely careful not to weigh them down with things they cannot possibly comprehend.  I temper my answers with age-appropriate phrases and less-is-more notions.  Having said that, they are curious and ask a lot of loaded questions.  I have done my best to indulge their curiosity without forcing my values on them.  I have always shared my beliefs with them openly and honestly and always close the conversation with something along the lines of, “Please remember these are my beliefs.  You will meet many people who value very different things and that is why it is most important to me that you treat them with kindness and grace.  Be open minded and learn as much as you can about as many things as possible.  And then make up your own mind.”  The littles were split and when they “voted” at school their votes fell along different party lines (indulge me for a moment).  That means, one or more of us did not emerge victorious.  They have watched us over the last few years try to weed through the lies and the insults, try to rationalize our fears and justify our stance.  They have seen us grapple with our own limitations and struggle to make sense of a seemingly senseless and broken system.  They have traveled with us to an extent on an exhausting journey and they saw it end last night.  So how do I compartmentalize the ultimate end to this journey?  I wish I knew what the future held so I could assure them we are in good hands.  I wish I could instill in them a confidence that defies explanation.  I cannot.  Truth is I am and will continue to pray fervently for this country that I love and for its leaders and for its youth.  What I can do, however, at this very moment in time is to be an example and try to navigate these times with hope and optimism.

We had a conversation before I dropped them off this morning.  I told them that they would likely encounter angry, hurt and frustrated friends today (most of whom do not realize the words they are espousing were fed to them and actually make very little sense to their ever-evolving minds).  What matters on a day like today is not who won the election.  What matters is how we handle the victory and the defeat.  I implored them quite honestly, to avoid the conversation at all costs, but if they were confronted, to be sensitive and patient, kind and compassionate, humble and gracious.  What I hope to impart to my children is a lesson in humanity.  I am seeking to raise my children with an absence of entitlement and an existence of dignity.  I am hoping their foundation will be built on hard work, diligence, staying the course and a belief that nothing comes without cost and great responsibility.  I hope they recognize that sacrifices are an unfortunate necessity and that there is a great and rewarding satisfaction when success is earned rather than inherited.  I hope they are keenly and infinitely aware and thankful for both their blessings and their struggles.  I pray they recognize that they are but one link on an endless chain and it is their duty and privilege to ensure that chain remain intact and not be broken. I’ve seen a hundred or so posts today about what to tell the children who are in tears, fearful of the next four years.  My children did not wake up this morning weeping and fearful and if they had, I would fear that I had done them a great disservice.  My job as a parent is to ensure a safe and secure environment for my children despite the circumstances around them.  I am not delusional.  They will learn in due time that the world is not a safe place.  They will learn that life is not always fair and just and predictable.  They learned the latter this morning.  They will have many opportunities to confront fear, anxiety and uncertainty in their short lives, but home, MY home will be a haven.  I will teach my children that hope is second to none, that compassion and grace are to be valued above all.  That kindness is not a trait we exhibit intermittently and put into practice during anti-bullying week.  Kindness counts every minute of every hour of every day.

I have always fancied myself a realist and I love to talk ad nauseum.  My poor babies!  I don’t shy away from the tough talks.  I am constantly questioning when it is acceptable to share my life experiences with them.  I want them to have a firm grasp of what they are up against.  I want to be the first to educate them on the realities of life.  I never talked to my children in baby talk.  I probably should have done more of that.  Point being, I have never been one to sugar coat and I am not about to start now.  I am fatally flawed, as we all are and as hard as I try, I fall short at every turn, but I will not give up.  I owe my children that much.  And I owe it to them to be as honest as I can when it comes to challenging matters such as the present state of our nation.  I refuse to shy away from opportunities to teach them valuable lessons.  So what is the takeaway this time?  My children woke up this morning with an understanding that life goes on, that the hope and optimism they feel about their future is still there, and that we love them no less and no more than the day before.  I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m doing any of this right.  I’m doing the best I can and am a work in progress.  I have tried diligently to focus more on the process and less on the people and I’ve actually learned along with them on this one.  I want them to understand why it is critical to let your voice be heard (even in California where so many people feel their vote doesn’t count).  I want them to believe they can affect change regardless of the obstacles.  I am teaching them that there is no gloating and no bragging AND ALSO, no pouting and no shouting.  

The reality of life is that it is not fair.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  You will face adversity.  You will be overlooked on occasion.  You will have to work with people you don’t see eye-to-eye with and you will have to rise to the occasion on occasion.  You will have minor and major differences with others.  No matter how much unity we strive for, there will always be a divide because of two little things called free will and free thinking.  That’s the beauty of America...we are free to believe whatever we choose.  There will always be differences among us and if we can acknowledge those in a respectful and patient way, I believe we can find some form of common ground and put forth an effective, mutually beneficial society wherein no one feels they are being left behind. It is our interaction with each other, especially those we don’t agree with, that defines our character as individuals and as a nation.  So how do we navigate this rise and fall roller coaster that is democracy?  When others are hurting, you feel their pain and you seek to alleviate it.  When others are gloating, you rise above it.   You keep your head high and you press on.  And when you find yourself on the short end of the stick, you do not pout, stomp your feet, take your ball and go home.  You steady your resolve and cling to your beliefs.  You hold your head high, stand firm in your convictions, and exude graciousness and humility.  And if you find yourself at the head of the class, you do the same, because that is what my savior did.  He humbled himself and did not consider himself greater than others.  Philippians 2:7-8 “...rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

I refuse to immerse myself in a sea of fear and anxiety, because I believe that perfect love cast out fear.  And perfect love comes from one place only, one person, one great and loving Father.  And when my children are fearful and disheartened - and they will be - they need only to look Heavenward, to put their trust in a great and powerful God.  A God who can triumph over any adversity, any uncertainty.  A god who transcends our understanding and defies our logic.  A God who remains in control despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise.  A God who loves every one of us...Republican or Democrat, black or white, legal or illegal, man or woman.  My God loves us all equally and unabashedly.  To me, there really is no choice.  He gets my vote every time.  Let the healing begin!


Heavenly Father, hear our cries and heal our nation.  Tend to our wounds, bottle our tears and bridge the gap.  Remind us that you are in control and cast out our fear.  Give us the strength, resolve and desire to put our faith and trust in you.  Lead us not down a road of bitterness and hatred, but direct our paths toward your grace and mercy.  We are your people and seek your counsel.  We are one nation, under God and we thank you for your providence and sovereignty.  And we hope in a bright and beautiful future.  Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fear and Loathing in the OC

This feels odd.  It’s been at least six months since I’ve taken the time to blog.  Why (she says humorously, presuming her audience has been waiting on bated breath for her re-appearance)?  To be honest, I am really only motivated to write when I am truly inspired, and by that, I mean overwhelmed, soaking up the beauty of rock bottom, basking in the glow of desperation, longing for better days ahead.  But...I’m.Just.Not.There.  Don’t get me wrong.  The princess is just as feisty as ever, minute-by-minute testing my patience and planting seeds of doubt in my parental soul on an hourly basis.  Yes, she’s still a handful, God love her more than life itself, and the golden child is still - and will forever be - an enigma.  But I, have somehow managed to navigate the chutes and ladders of motherhood without the need to lay it all out there for all to read.  So where does that leave me presently?  Alone.  With my thoughts.  Alone to circumnavigate the inner workings of my own soul, the deafening tones of my inner voice, which seem to be growing increasingly louder as the night wears on.  And what, pray tell, would actually motivate me on yet another weary, late night to overcome the laziness and comfort of my Living Spaces Hide-A-Bed amidst the wonder and glory that is Criminal Minds to make the marathon trip to the bedroom to retrieve my laptop and pen the following diatribe?  What else but fear...and perhaps a shred of bitterness!

It’s been said that fear is a great motivator.  Hogwash!  I’m waving the bullshit flag on that one.  Fear does not motivate me.  Fear debilitates me.  Fear whispers to the most vulnerable parts of me, “It’s never gonna happen.  You are never going to have the life you long for.  You will never be the perfect wife.  The perfect mother.  You will never have enough hours in the day to meet the expectations of the masses.” Maybe fear does motivate some, but not this girl.  I’m not one of those people who looks fear in the face and says, “Nope, not today.  I got this!”  I am the one who allows the years of chaos, insecurity, pain and self-loathing to quiet the voice of reason and hope.  I am the one who succumbs.  I am the one who allows fear to warm the water just enough for me to not notice that I am slowly hitting the boiling point.  

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge Criminal Minds fan.  I love all things dark, disturbing and just sinister enough to ensure that I never sleep soundly again (sorry, but it’s true).  On tonight’s episode, the lovely JJ is confronted by a vision from her past.  A vision that stole from her the most sacred part of her being, her peace, her security, her strength.  She asks her “offender,” “Why am I not past you?  For a year I’ve been fine...you’ve taken everything.”

To which he responds, “Oh, Jennifer, there is so much more I’m going to take.  First, I’m going to take your sleep.  Then, your smile.  I won’t let you feel safe anywhere.  And finally, I will transform you so that your husband and your son won’t recognize you anymore.”

And God love that sweet, feisty, gorgeous little BAU agent (and the writers who pen her life so eloquently) she defiantly responds, “No.  No.  No.”  End scene.

Most people would call it a night, but me, of course not.  Two glasses in and longing for some inspiration outside of my role as chauffeur, Red Ribbon Week guru, quesadilla and chicken nugget chef, I dove in and did some soul searching.  All kidding aside, my goal in life is to tackle my fear and bitterness with the confident assurance of JJ.  With a resounding, definitive, “No.”  End scene.  But what do I actually do?  I question my decision to quit my anti-depressants.  I drink too much wine.  I fill my days with Etsy orders and elementary school drama and Bejeweled Blitz perfect party games.  I lay my Bible on the kitchen counter at midnight promising to return to my first love first thing in the morning.  And somehow the emptiness overshadows the busyness and the bitterness takes center stage.  Ugh!  So when does enough become enough?  I suppose when the writers get it right and something strikes a chord...the perfect combination of NBC, and early bedtime for the kiddos, and a good Malbec.  And I wonder, what will it take to ensure that the fear, hurt and bitterness from my past do not steal my sleep, my smile, my safety, and turn me into something my husband and children no longer recognize?  

There’s a song that I love by Plumb that I shouldn’t love, but I do.  It’s painful.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s truth, at it’s finest.  And I’ve had the lyrics in this document for about two years, waiting for the perfect blog, the right time to share them, waiting for inspiration to pull the trigger and let the words out of the gate.  It brings me to tears every time.  It speaks to my heart, at the deepest level.  It strikes a chord.  But there isn’t a resolve and I think that’s where I get stuck and the inspiration fades.  For those of you who read my blog, you know that I like to end with a revelation, a new chapter, a glimmer of hope. I need  to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a method to the madness, a happy ending.  This song has none of that.  There is only what is and it isn’t pretty.  It’s called Damaged and it’s basically the anthem of my life.  Here’s a snippet:

Dreaming comes so easily,
'cause it's all that I've known.
True love is a fairy tale.
I'm damaged, so how would I know?

Healing comes so painfully,
And it chills to the bone.
Will anyone get close to me?
I'm damaged, as I'm sure you know.

There's mending for my soul,
An ending to this fear.
Forgiveness for a man who was stronger.
I was just a little girl, but I can't go back.

It makes me sad for the life I should have had, or the life I believe I should have had.  The pain that should not be there.  But I can’t go back.  I can’t undo what was done.  And I certainly can’t cling to the bitterness and sense of entitlement if I intend to have any peace in the future.  The dictionary defines broken (damaged) as this:

- separated into parts or pieces by being damaged, etc.
- not working properly
- made weak or infirm
- subdued completely: crushed, sorrowful

And to that, I issue a resounding, “No.  No.  No.”  (Go JJ!)  It’s time for a new definition.  

Though I often feel I am a walking illustration of broken/damaged, I.Am.Not.  I am a walking contradiction and it’s time I start living that way.  The world says I am damaged.  My God says I am a new creation.  The world says I am broken.  My God says I am whole.  The world says I am weak.  My God says I am strong in Him.  The world says I am crushed.  My God says I am “...hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” ~2 Cor. 4:8-12

I am not damaged.  

So where does one go when they have for decades believed them self to be broken, beyond repair?  I guess the real challenge is a constant awareness of the struggle between my limitations and my God’s limitless love.  I must learn not to allow the pressure of daily demands, pain of the past, and spirit of bitterness that dwells within me to suffocate the spirit of hope, strength and perseverance my first love gave to me the day we met.  The day he took my hand and said, “Fear not, for I am with you.”  The day He promised that though the road would not always be smooth and the path would not always be clear, I would always find my way back to Him.  “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  ~Isaiah 40:8

Though the winds whip high and the waves be fierce, He will quiet the storm and calm the seas.  When the voice inside says, “You are done,” I will find the voice inside to answer back with the truth planted in my soul years ago.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  ~Philippians 4:13

Sunday, October 05, 2014

I'm Rubber, You're Glue!


I’m going to keep this one short and sweet, because honestly, I have worn out way too many people this week with my words, most importantly, the littlest little.  It became abundantly clear to me yesterday that perhaps I am not a woman of few words as I had once suspected.  Apparently, I’m quite the opposite.  A brief history of the princess and I (the one we call Pookie): it’s possible we both like to control things.  It’s more likely we both have an incessant, nagging, life-consuming need to control things, namely, each other.  I find it odd, because typically, I’m more than happy to relinquish control over any situation at the expense of my needs.  I value my sanity more.  I find myself at the center of the color wheel, the middle of the road when it comes to personality tests.  I am more often than not, the “hub,” the one who tries to ensure everything is copacetic and everyone is satisfied.  But with the princess, all my feelings of inadequacy and failure seem to take center stage manifesting in the form of a crazy, ugly control freak of a monster akin to Jason Voorhees on Friday the 13th.  Perhaps she is the only thing I can control in this world that seems to be spinning out of control.  Let’s face it, I can’t even exercise my right to reign over the 17 pound feline, so I’ve set my sights on the next best thing!  We fight like sworn enemies.  We battle like General Custer and the Indians at Little Bighorn.  We have mastered the art of name-calling and manipulation.  And I am not proud.  But I am tired.  And I am ready to affect some serious change.

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014, I picked the food battle once again.  I decided it was time to get a handle on Pookie’s snack obsession, my ambivalence to it, and her Cheez-It-Lucky Charms-Nutella-filled destiny.  The first three days left me feeling empty and disparate.  There have been profanity-filled, insult rich, guilt-inducing “Oh-how-I-wish-I-could-take-that-back” knock down drag outs from sun up to sun down.  We have redefined the term “low blow.”  I have somehow managed to teach my five-year old how to fight like a 40-year old, bitter woman recently off her meds.  My failed attempts to reason with her and explain the detriments of a bad attitude and the bleak, friendless future she faces are frequently met with, “Can we please not talk anymore?  Please just stop talking.”  I find myself walking a very familiar path of exhaustion once again, mustering up one last breath to utter the all-too-familiar mantra I’ve come to know and love, “I give.  You win, pint-sized mini me!”  I have fashioned a white flag out of some craft dowels and a wet wipe and I am waving it vehemently from the darkest corner of my closet, wherein I have chosen to take refuge for the time being.  And yep, you guessed it, in the darkest recesses of my soul, in another of my darkest hours, in my silent escape (which also happens to house my winter sweaters and several faded pairs of jeans), the still, small voice speaks softly to my heart for the four-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-seventh time.  “You’re on the same team.  You’re much stronger together, a house united, not divided.  You’re both drowning in a sea of “me me me” and there’s a life raft within reach.  Get on board!”

So I did a little research and it took all of five minutes to dig deep enough to pull up this little gem.  It’s often used in marriage ceremonies to signify the bond between a husband and wife, but why not a mommy and her strong-willed peanut head?  “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

So I lay next to Pookie tonight, stroking her hair, singing lullabies upon request and let the reality of our present dilemma sting my soul.  My heart hurts.  Why, oh, why have we decided to define our relationship by anger, frustration, anxiety and pride?  Why have we chosen to be mortal enemies rather than forever friends?  What if instead of fighting like cats and dogs we made a plan to go it together instead of alone?  What if we choose to believe that together, we can accomplish immeasurably more to further the kingdom of God than we can ever hope to accomplish alone?  What if instead of asserting our dominance over each other on an hourly basis we actually set our sights outward to where the real battle rages?  While we’re arguing the validity of shorts under a too-short skirt and debating whose responsibility it is to ensure Barbie and Ken make it safely back to the car after an hour romp at the park, real problems exist in a real world that’s been screaming for salvation for years.  Can we not look outside ourselves for a brief moment in time and recognize that we have the power to heal?  To help?  To model kindness and grace and unity to a world characterized by vanity, arrogance and self-sufficiency?  

Let’s do it, pint-sized warrior!  Let’s show them what real beauty looks like.  Let’s put down the weapons of manipulation and right-fighting and join forces.  Let’s show them what teamwork looks like, or better yet, what love looks like.  The kind of love that says, “I don’t mind if I don’t win this one.  What do you need from me right at this moment?  What can I do to make your heart happy and your soul sing?”  The kind of love that recognizes that our parts are never greater than the sum.  And sadly, the kind of love that is so incredibly contradictory in this day and age we live in, the kind of love that flies in the face of self-preservation, that finds no place in mainstream media and in our schools and on our playgrounds, the kind of love that is mocked and scorned by the so-called “role models” and “heroes” of our time.  But the kind of love that will prevail, will show itself real, will reveal the face of a pure, loving and eternal God once and for all...in due time.  “It is written: 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” ~ Romans 14:11

Let’s do this, little angel!  Let’s give ‘em Hell!  (Or maybe Heaven.  Let’s just let this one play out as it should, shall we?)!!!  But for the love of all things furry, chocolate, pink and sparkly, let’s walk together down this crazy path we call life, hand-in-hand, under the banner of an awesome God.  I’m on your side, baby girl, today, tomorrow and forever.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bugger Off


Have you ever noticed how we allow our present circumstances to define us?  No?  Just me?  Well then, indulge me for a moment or two.  This week, I am a mother struggling to defend our fortress against the mighty, mighty invasion of a cruel and relentless enemy known as head lice.  How it infiltrated our home, MY precious cargo, and our every waking moment is insignificant.  What matters is that it did.  It’s here.  It’s mortifying.  And it is holding on for dear life with it’s 6 tiny legs and it’s uncanny ability to hold it’s breath for an ungodly amount of time.  I have never fancied myself a germophobe, but this week and for the rest of my life, I find myself obsessed with all things unclean, unsavory and unwanted.

The first night kicked my ass.  We discovered the little buggers at 10pm on a Friday night when the hubs was away surfing on a two-day excursion...yay!  Flying solo in the hard times once again, I sent the ever-attentive and slightly grossed out mother out to find the mother load, a pharmacy still open AND in possession of a lice removal kit.  We fared as well as can be expected...one kit.  That meant one child.  So while I diligently shampooed, oiled and strand-by-strand stroked the princesses tresses with a fine-toothed comb for three straight hours, the boy waited patiently on the couch, whereupon he eventually fell asleep.  Being the ever-attentive mom, I whispered a silent “Good call” to myself as I remembered he was not entirely ready for bed and grabbed a Pull Up from his room.  Riddled with frustration over the tedious task of removing tiny pests from our heads, let’s just say discovering that I was ten minutes too late did not add to my bragging rights.  So I may have uttered a not-so-pleasant phrase or two as I proceeded to remove the cushions from the couch we purchased less than a year ago and was temporarily pleased to find that they didn’t appear to be beyond repair.  And so as I carried them downstairs to the patio to air them out, I felt relief for the first time that night.  Goooo me!  And then I went back inside to continue the arduous process of debugging our home and our babies and myself and that is when I discovered the super welcome trail of pee leading from our patio throughout the condo back to it’s point of origin.  You see, the cushions are actually covered with an insulation that doesn’t allow liquid to absorb into the actual cushion.  It just drips off the covering...yay!  So I began to clean up that mess and was met with the sweet, sweet sound of our washing machine, which I refer to as “the death of me,” not because I do a lot of laundry, but because the locking mechanism has been broken for almost a year and emits a very loud buzzing noise every ten minutes when the door loosens.  And though the Angry Birds duct tape certainly adds a whimsical flair to the ordinary, I do not find it at all amusing when I have to remove it approximately 19 times an hour to complete One.Load.Of.Laundry.  Now mind you, when you are attempting to remove lice from your home, you must wash every article of clothing worn for the last two to three days, every towel, every sheet, every pillow case and every blanket.  In our home, this amounts to approximately 917, 322 loads of laundry.  And then you must seal every stuffed animal, pillow and item that cannot be machine-washed in a garbage bag and tie it off for two weeks to allow the little suckers to suffocate and die, thus preventing them from multiplying.  And then, you have to soak every comb, brush, hair clip, barrette, and headband in steaming hot water for 15 minutes.  This was the point in the evening when I gave up.  I threw them all away.  I surrendered.  The little buggers had won.  This had officially become the worst night of my life since I had given birth.  The next day, or week, I should say, was not much better.  I thought I was a slave to the laundry before this little incident!  I became obsessed...with everything!  I prodded heads every two seconds like a mother chimp picking at the fur of her littles, washed everything that touched the carpet for even a fraction of a second (the five-second rule does NOT apply when you have a lice infestation), covered the furniture in sheets and freaked out when they budged even an inch.  Oh, I was super fun to live with for approximately 16 seconds.  My poor babies.  And so it is that on this, the sixth night of our infestation, I have come to the realization that I often allow my circumstances to define my life at any given moment and ultimately, to drown me in a sea of my own self-pity and negativity.  Simply stated, I allow them to overwhelm me.  

It’s like living with an alcoholic (trust me, I have experience with this one).  You wake up in the morning unsure of how you feel, how your day is going to go until you determine their mood.  How they feel dictates how you feel.  And I do this with everything in my life.  If my kiddos are happy and joyful, playing well together (like, for once in their lives), I am happy and joyful.  If I have no pressing, urgent matter to address, no catastrophe to surmount, life is copacetic.  I am productive, at peace, mother-of-the-year.  Life is great.  I am living in the moment.  Everything is as it should be.  Even the songs on the radio are predestined and every streetlight seems to be green.  But if, by chance, life throws a teensy tiny wrench in the program, all is lost!  Suddenly, I am a failure as a mother.  I can do no right.  The world is against me.  And I allow myself to slip slowly back into the depression that I war against on a daily basis.  Yes, I’m not afraid to admit it.  I struggle daily with depression and it’s no fun.  I’ve been free of my seven-year run with anti-depressants for several months now and though I’m terribly proud of that feat, I’m also terribly aware of my on-and-off again love affair with depression.  It doesn’t take much to send me spiraling.  And so it is that I find myself wrestling with the realization that I have allowed a tiny little obstacle such as head lice to nearly break me down to the point of defeat.  No, really.  I have actually felt defeated this week, physically and mentally exhausted, questioning whether I will every truly find peace in the midst of chaos.  So here’s the thing.  They say (or at least I believe) once you’ve been confronted with a weakness or the realization of a pattern of behavior, you no longer have an excuse to allow it to control you, to suffocate you, to define you, or to break your spirit for even a second.  You see, I have a choice.  I can allow my present circumstances to drag me down, define me, and carry me to a dark, pitiful place.  Or I can choose to see them for what they are, fleeting and temporal, a bump in the road that may slow me down, but will not render me immobile, a bug on the windshield that I can wash off at the next service station (seemed appropriate).  I can choose to rise above and view my life from the heights.  I can recognize that who I am and how I feel is not dependent on what is happening to me, within me and around me.  I can rise above and overcome, as God intended.  “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.”  ~2 Samuel 22:34

So where do I go from here?  Well, tomorrow it’s to the salon to shorten this monstrosity to a manageable length should the enemy ever decide to grace these halls again.  And then, to the shower.  But eventually, to the depths of my being.  To the core of my existence.  To the heart of the matter and the deepest recesses of my soul where my sweet savior speaks, as He always does when I choose to listen.  To the truth that’s been there all along.  To the truth of who I am and who He is.  To the part of me that knows that even when the going gets tough, I am tougher.  He built me to withstand and to stand with Him.  He formed me in His image and though that image may appear scarred and bruised and tattered at times, it remains so incredibly beautiful that He could not love me less and He could not love me more.  And in that moment when I allow that truth to settle in and settle the restless, obsessive spirit within me that wants nothing more than to scream at the top of my lungs, “All is lost!  All is lost!”  I can see clearly that the little things will nearly always fade into the background of the big picture.  What matters most when life is dragging me down is that I continue to look up, to the heights, to the author and perfecter of my faith.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Ok, so maybe, just maybe, I tend to be a bit of an extremist when it comes to my present struggles, whatever they may be.  Perhaps I embellish a bit for the sake of ensuring the point gets across.  Or maybe what I’m communicating in a dramatic, “woe is me, all is lost” sort of way really is how I’m feeling on the inside at any given moment and I just tend to hold back nothing when I share.  Lack of filter rears its ugly head again.  Whatever the case may be, these daily struggles and minor nuances I face as a mommy and wife that pale in comparison to the big picture, feel like anything other than a mole hill.  Yep, I am constantly scaling an insurmountable, unforgiving, no-end-in-sight mountain range, on which I currently find myself stuck in a crevice, crying out for a lifeline.  So for the second time in my short run as a parent, I have chosen to phone a friend.  Enter, the child psychologist or as I like to call her, my last hope.

A little background: the princess has grown fond of the term, “Stupid mommy.”  Though it runs a close second to, “I hate you!”  I, in turn, have grow fond of turning her words back on her, which leads to guilt, which leads to self-loathing and eventually leads to a loss of about 3 hours of sleep and quiet moments of regret and fear of the irreparable damage I’ve done in a matter of moments.  Her tantrums are characterized by nonsense and a complete absence of reason.  My tantrums are characterized by Very.Loud.Screaming.  I can’t seem to stop talking, ad nauseum nonetheless, which is very weird, because she does the same thing.  A typical spat begins with a denial of something the princess wants, Oreos, a Barbie (it hurts my heart to say I blame Target on this one, though, after the whole security/identity theft breach, I’m sure I’ll get over it, thank you very much!), or some candy...and not even the good stuff I grew up with.  I mean, I could understand a twenty minute meltdown over an Abba Zabba, but Pocky, really?  I digress.  Whatever it is, she wants it.  I say, “No.”  And thus begins the battle.  I wear her out with my words, threats, and not-so-calm reasoning, which any four-year old would respond positively to, right?  And she returns the favor with endless diatribes in some foreign language that stirs in me all things ugly and unwarranted and boils my blood to no end.  Let me give you an example.  She takes pride in dressing herself - usually 14 times a day - and skips joyfully to her dresser to retrieve her Lalaloopsy funderwear and Ariel jam jams after every bath.  And so last night, somewhere in the midst of hour two of our most recent civil war, I was showering her against her will and I hoisted her out of the shower, toweled her off - oh, let’s just say, a bit enthusiastically, and not-so-gently nudged her toward her room to get dressed.  There was no skipping.  There were no Ariel jam jams.  There was no funderwear.  There was, however, a half hour of begging and pleading, moaning and wailing and insistent cries that she could not possibly dress herself because she was wet and the only solution was for me to dress her.  And believe me, that is exactly what my servant heart and selfless soul desired right at that moment, to dress my little bundle of joy, wrap my loving arms around her, and snuggle with her under the cozy, cozy covers.  In some parallel universe on some distant planet, somewhere far, far away, maybe.  Or maybe in some sitcom of old (not the new ones where dysfunction is celebrated), wherein some small glitch in the story line seemed to always work itself out within a matter of thirty minutes, give or take a few commercials, and moms and dads had an uncanny ability to keep their cool and espouse some life lesson with patience, intelligence, and a sweet, sweet soothing tone.  But not here on Earth.  Not at that moment.  And not if I had anything to say about it.  And so the battle raged on.  We both lost.

Her need to control me and keep me engaged with her at all costs = my breaking point.  It looks/sounds something like this:

The Princess: “I need to ask you a question.”  At this point, I’m usually ignoring her in an attempt to cling to some sort of sanity.  And she continues, “Say, ‘What?’ Mommy, say, ‘What?’”

Me: “What, Analeigh?”  

 The Princess: “Answer my question!!!”

Me: “You didn’t ask me a question.”

The Princess:  “I’m talking nice.  Why won’t you answer me?  Mah-meeeeee?!”

Me:  “You didn’t ask me a question, Analeigh.  There isn’t anything to answer.”

The Princess:  “I need you to come here.”

Me:  “Where?”

The Princess: “Here.  On this step.  No, not that step, this one right here.  To the middle stair, right here.  I need you to hold my hand and walk me upstairs.”  And of course, by this time, there is no way I am succumbing to her demands.

This goes on for hours.  And though I’ve tried to actually appease her from time to time, thinking that she really just needs me to prove my love for her, whatever request I’ve met is no longer good enough.  And I have reached in to the mommy manual and exhausted what I believe to be all my resources.  I have withheld toys and treats, doled out numerous time outs, spanked, hugged, tried to reason (this one works really well with a four-year old), ignored and removed myself from the situation.  If I ignore her, she follows me and kicks my bedroom door or throws things at the walls.  If I give in to her unreasonable requests, how is she learning respect, kindness and delayed gratification?  If I spank her, who really wins?  To be honest, that only hurts us both.  And if I do somehow manage to mold her into whatever shape I’ve deemed acceptable that day, I’m still left with a feeling of emptiness and sadness.  What have I created?  Good Lord, it’s me, isn’t it?  ISN”T IT?!  I have created a mini-me and while that should be flattering, it saddens me to say that I have created in her all the things in me that I loathe and detest.

I see in her the things in myself I would change in an instant were I to stumble upon a genie in a bottle who’s dying to grant my every wish.  All is lost!  All is lost!  No, it’s really not.  Well, maybe it’s hiding, but it’s not lost and so I began the arduous search and as usual, it ended on a park bench, in a pool of tears, drowning in a mountain of frustration and hopelessness.  I am tired of my own voice, tired of the pity party and tired of the battle and if I feel that exhausted, I can only imagine how my husband, family and friends feel.  And so I dug deep - way down into the archives of my cell phone contacts where first we met - and I made the call to Dr. Rad and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  What seemed like an eternity was really only a day and a half and then the call came.  I vented my frustration and received the much needed validation I had so longed for, as I always do.  Indeed, I have a challenging child.  So what?  Who doesn’t?  But I received the validation my fragile and insecure mommy-soul needed, along with my instructions.  The princess and I will be conducting an experiment.  She will emerge, no doubt, unscathed and better able to understand her behavior and feelings.  I can only hope that I will emerge with all my limbs intact.  It’s a tough one, for sure.  Basically, I am to ignore her and not as I usually do, making sure she knows I am ignoring her, but for her own good.  Literally, the moment she begins to act unreasonable or throw a tantrum, I am to cut off eye contact, no longer communicate verbally and wait her out. I am to become a virtual ghost.  Wow, really?  My heart hurts already.  And when she is done hurling her insanities on me and barking her demands for love and attention, it is only then that I may give her the positive attention she deserves and affirm her with, “Now I will speak to you.”  Now I am guessing that the idea is to cut off the emotional investment I have at that moment and shift the focus to the behavior alone.  I’ve watched those videos where the mom ignores the baby for just one brief minute only to leave the baby confused and bewildered and it breaks my heart.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know the princess is four and she knows I love her, but the idea of cutting off my emotional connection with her even for an instant is not an easy pill to swallow.  But I can do this.  I will do this.  And so I politely thanked Dr. Rad, not fully appreciating the gravity of the experiment I was about to perform, and hung up.  And mulled it over.  Can I really do this?  I will do this.  And I prayed, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (her), the courage to change the things I can (me) and the wisdom to know the difference.”

And that’s when it dawned on me.  The princess is not my project.  She is not my latest challenge to overcome.  She is not my problem to fix.  She and I are a team.  And as we undertake this experiment and learn how to surmount this speed bump on our road to a deeper, more fulfilling mother-daughter relationship, we will grow together AND individually.  As I learn how to draw out of her the beautiful, soulful, soaring spirit I know is there, that same spirit will rise in me.  As I learn what makes her tick, what ignites a fire within her, and what touches her heart, my heart will inevitably be moved as well.  We are each others teachers.  We are each other’s cheerleaders.  We are each other’s mirrors.  And while I don’t always love what I see looking back at me, I am so blessed to be able to catch a glimpse of the child that’s still there, deep within me.  And I’m excited to set her free, excited to see what SHE will become, excited for her to grow in grace and wisdom.  And I’m so thankful that it is my beautiful, undeserved, challenging and determined daughter who will be the one to teach me.  When you make the decision to have a child, as difficult as it is, you almost have to wipe the slate clean, erase what’s been done to you and by you and start fresh, writing the book as you go.  So here we go, Princess.  Let’s pick up the pen, look to the one true author and perfecter of our faith (our Heavenly Father) for guidance, wisdom and grace, and write the sweetest, most exciting and magical tale ever told.   The End.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Chutes and Ladders - The Rise and Fall of A Mommy on Meds


This one’s tough to write, believe it or not.  But I’ve never felt more strongly about my desire to share and so, I’ll run with it and let the pieces fall where they may.  Let me preface by saying this is more for me as a form of therapy than for my faithful readers, but maybe you can glean some tidbit of useful info in here somewhere.  It’s actually hard to admit this.  For a girl with no filter and an odd affection for brutal honesty in all circumstances, I’ve been a bit of a “liar, liar, pants on fire” for quite some time now and it’s time to come clean.  I have a sneaking suspicion there is a distinct possibility, a slight chance - okay, I’m 99.99999999% certain - that I like to whine (that’s whine, with an ‘h’ kids, though the other might be addressed a bit later).  Particularly when it comes to my relationship with the man upstairs, I tend to be a bit of a victim, always the martyr, certain my perfect devotion and commitment to His cause is worthy of reward, right?  I’ve been so faithful for so long and so full of His grace.  I’ve been so forgiving, so generous, so loyal despite my suffering.  Doesn’t He owe me SOMEthing?  An easier path?  Help with my intimacy issues?  A good night’s sleep?  A hot cup of coffee and a shower free of tantrums, Spongebob shampoo and headless mermaids, at the very least?!  Nope, not a thing.  He does not owe me a thing.  But He does desire to give me a thing or two or maybe ten thousand.  And this is where it stings and where the rubber meets the road in my present circumstances.  I’ve done some stuff and been a lot of things as I’ve tried to define my role as His daughter, but what I haven’t been is real.  I haven’t been authentic.  And I’ve certainly not been honest with myself or with Him.  

The first week of my withdrawal from anti-depressants brought a lot of agitation, very little patience and a mountain of frustration and anger hurled on anyone within a 10-mile radius.  I wasn’t much fun on the road, in parking lots, at home, or in the presence of anyone with a heartbeat and vocal chords.  I was a bear to live with and God-willing, the little people have short memories on this one.  But I expected this phase and tried my hardest to survive it.  I even expected the second phase.  Week two brought millions and millions of tears and if it’s true that our Heavenly Father bottles and keeps them, I’m pretty sure he had to clean out the glass aisle of every IKEA, Michaels and dollar store for miles and miles and miles.  Talk about letting the river flow!  Good Lord, everything made me cry (and still does).  Commercials, movies, a kind word, a sad story, a mistake, a joke, the Chargers finally winning a playoff game, even the pretty, pretty Christmas lights caused the flood gates to open.  There wasn’t enough Kleenex in the world that week and yes, I chose the holidays to kick the pills so that was a wise decision I might have done differently if given a chance.  But I survived and I knew it was coming.  What I didn’t expect was what came in week three...like a wrecking ball, for you pop culture gurus.  I didn’t expect that the insomnia that plagued me from the sixth month of my first pregnancy would magnify tenfold.  I didn’t expect the severe headaches that made my head feel like it was in a vice all day long.  I didn’t anticipate twenty-four-seven chills, terrifying nightmares (the kind that are particularly excruciating because they involve people you know and love), constant nausea, intense panic attacks, gripping feelings of terror in the middle of the night, and feeling like I was climbing the walls, crawling out of my skin all.night.long.  I was the star of a really bad Lifetime movie.  You see, my dosage wasn’t terribly high and I really thought the withdrawal symptoms would be fairly mild and that is exactly what my doctor informed me when I called him on the verge of tears certain I was having a nervous breakdown.  I filled him in on just how fun the previous three weeks had been and he politely, but more-or-less dismissed me as “having underlying issues” that may require medication and attention beyond his frame of reference.  Awesome.  So it wasn’t just post-partum.  I am 100%, absolutely indisputably, certifiably crazy (ok, he didn’t say that, but that’s how I felt when the phone call ended) and need medication and a really good therapist to function properly.  I had a good cry under a super cozy blanket and then made a decision that I am hoping will alter my relationship with my babies and with a holy, faithful and Heavenly Father for as long as I shall live.

I decided, right at that moment, that medication is not for me.  I didn’t need it before I became a mother and I will learn to be a mother without it, facing these little people and their 4 and 6-year old fury (and sweetness) armed with nothing but my humor, my love for them, my Bible, my pen (or laptop), a community of selfless, extraordinary friends (who have shown up so big for me this time, I can never thank them enough), maybe a good Zinfandel, and a resolve to never, ever stop trying to be the best mommy I can be for them for the rest of my life.  You see, it occurred to me that my life was fairly simple before I was diagnosed.  I was a newlywed, free to come and go as I pleased.  I made my own money and answered to very few people.  Life was good and quite honestly, pretty easy.  I was diagnosed with post-partum and prescribed anti-depressants immediately after the birth of the boy and have been on them literally, the entire time I’ve been a mommy.  Life is not the same now and I am tasked with learning to parent, function and find happiness of my own accord.  I’ve had a sidekick doing the driving for six years and now it’s time for little ole me to take the wheel and hit the road.  I am learning to cope with life while my brain is learning to function again on its own.  So fun!  Please let me state, for the record, that I am more than keenly aware of the necessity of medication in the lives of many, many people and I would never dare to address those cases and I feel an enormous amount of empathy and admiration for their courage.  I can only speak for myself, my experience with anti-depressants, and my journey.  This is where the story begins.  

The mental and physical state I’ve been in recently is immensely indescribable.  I’ve been in an incredibly dark place.  And at the heart of the matter, I’ve learned, are a thousand insecurities and fears that I am only beginning to address.  I’m afraid to share because I don’t want to be a bummer all the time.  I’m usually the sarcastic, funny one.  I’m afraid I won’t be funny anymore.  Will my friends get tired of hanging out with someone who’s down a lot and cries when the sun sneaks behind a cloud, when a stranger looks at me the wrong way, and when my DVR doesn’t record Parenthood because there were too many Phineas & Ferb recordings scheduled?  What if I have a serious chemical imbalance and really do need to be on medication forever?  What if my husband gets tired of dealing with my issues?  It was on my couch at 1:00 in the morning for the third night in a row, sobbing uncontrollably and praying with every fiber of my being when it really hit me hard - so hard that I said it out loud.  “I feel like I’m being broken down to nothing and torn to shreds from the inside out.”  And then I heard it, the still, small voice in my head (and for once, in my heart).  “I will tear this church down to its cornerstone and build it up again.”  And that was a moment I will not soon forget.  He.Has.Not.Abandoned.Me.

I’ve been distinctly aware of the enemy’s plans to ensure this little journey I’m on does not end well.  He’s been awesome at keeping me busy, superb at filling my heart with doubt and near perfect with the fear factor.  And I’ve been trying to remind myself of his presence around every corner.  I quit my motherhood group at the church, feeling that it was another weekly commitment to fill another morning without filling my soul.  I joined a Bible Study, feeling it was time to dust the cobwebs off my Bible yet again and listen to what my God has to say.  I am profusely aware of the likelihood that I will have to withdraw from certain things in my life to draw nearer to Him.  And I’ve been talking, man, have I been talking...to anyone who will listen.  One thing stands out with perfect clarity to me these days, I cannot stop talking.  I am so afraid that if I do, I might slip into a much darker place.  I am keenly aware of the need to keep myself accountable to the people I trust, and ensure that I am keeping a watchful eye on my mental state, where my thoughts are, and that hope is always at the forefront.  I am a born pessimist, after all.  And though it pains me to say, I would love to respond frankly to the daily, “How are yous?” with a polite, “Fine.”  But the reality is that I’m not fine and I cannot forget that, not even for a moment.  But I will be.  And so, I am currently taking every thought captive.  I am searching the scriptures.  I am trying to do more than feed and clothe my children.  I am trying to show up for them, in any way I can muster on any given day.  And in return, God, has shown up for me in ways I cannot comprehend, cannot repay and cannot say I have ever been a party to (or at least have never been willing to admit.  I do so love to whine!).  He has met me where I’m at every step of the way.  I have never felt more loved than I do at this moment.  I stopped counting the text messages today somewhere around nineteen.  There were flowers, hand-delivered, a casserole, super yummy, and an influx of prayers and well-wishes from old and new friends.  He has opened my eyes to the most beautiful, two-sided friendships that bless my heart so much I can hardly stand it.  He has not forsaken me, as I so love to cry out whenever possible.  And I, in my frail, crippled state, am finally ready to admit that I’ve been really far away, unwilling to let go of many things that don’t serve His purposes, unable to see how truly wondrous and abundant are the blessings He’s given me, uncertain that I can trust His promises, unruly, undisciplined, and unlovable.  And still, He waits, unable to be anyone other than who He is, loving, pure and perfect.  

There are a lot of cliches in the Christian community.  Jesus, take the wheel.  Let go and let God.  Yada yada yada!  Maybe some are not without some merit.  But here is the moral in the midst of the madness.  God does not walk ahead of us clearing a path.  He comes alongside us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  He is our help in times of trouble, not our escape from it.  

I have far, far to go.  I have good days and bad and I always will.  This journey called life is not an easy pilgrimage.  It’s the road less traveled, for sure and the bumps and bends just keep coming.  It’s going to be difficult.  It’s going to be ugly at times.  It’s going to hurt and it’s going to wound.  But it’s going to get better.  And for now, I am so lucky to be loved, so lucky to be found, so lucky to be called His daughter.  Love you, daddy.  Hold me close, as only you can.  

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...
a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

My time to dance is just beyond the horizon.