Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thanks

There was a break in the rain today, and it was long enough for me to see some actual sunshine, which has improved my mood greatly. I hope it has also improved the moods of My People, because we have been a bunch of moody kids with hormones lately. I think I must be especially sensitive to VitD, but then again, what am I not sensitive to.

I haven't had much time to myself this week, because sometimes weeks are just like that, and am trying to make it up today by doing Everything That Needs To Be Done in one hour, which is challenging when it seems like everything takes an hour. BUT if I time everything just right, maybe the toilet will get scrubbed. My grandma always wants to know why I get so uptight about cleaning. She has told me with the authority of a 91 YO (and also the memory of a 91 YO, which means I've heard this A LOT) that the dirt will always be there so why bother, especially when there are Other Things, like visiting her. I explain to her that I like people and don't want them to be scared to use the guest bathroom because dirt and spiders and toilet rings have taken up residence. She doesn't buy it.

You know what else she doesn't buy? That I sometimes have self-doubt, because to her, I am, like, The Best at Everything Ever In The History of Things. Every time I visit her she thinks I look not just pretty but actually The Most Stunning.

Grandma, I tell her, you need to have your eyes checked in a bad kind of way. And anyways you're supposed to think that because you are Grandma. But thanks.

But nothin', I only tell tha truth, she will retort.  Sometimes she has an attitude and is a little bit sassy. This is a side of Grandma I'm not familiar with, especially when she starts talking about how she shouldn't always have to cover up to answer the door. EVERYBODY INCLUDING GISELE SHOULD COVER UP WHEN THEY ANSWER THE DOOR, GRANDMA.

Somehow the girls I know, myself included, have gotten the impression that deflecting a compliment or being self-deprecating is the way we should behave, because showing appreciation for one's own talents or gifts is seen as prideful or boastful. And nobody likes a boastful, arrogant person.

Self-confidence aside, wouldn't it be nice to just take a compliment and appreciate the kindness rather than immediately dismissing it as false? I know, there are fake people everywhere. But when your Grandma says you're pretty, I'd say that's a genuine, 100% true compliment. I know I am beautiful in my Grandma's eyes, and I bet you are, too. But even more importantly, we are each made with such care and consideration that to immediately dismiss ourselves as less than because we aren't Christy Brinkley is sad. (Someone once--and only one time--said I reminded them of Christy Brinkley. I'll hold onto that forever, even if it isn't even remotely close to the truth. Oh, never mind, I just remembered what I have been talking about. Don't worry. At the time, I just said "thanks" with about five exclamation points and skipped onto the bus. That compliment has lasted a long time, too.)

Embrace yourself, flaws and all. We are better role models for younger generations who think they have to be plastic to be pretty when we do, and we are happier, too.

God has given you one face
and you make yourself another.
{shakespeare}

Friday, September 25, 2015

I Want This

Are there things I want?

Obviously. Pottery Barn's marketing tricks don't work on me for no reason at all. They definitely speak my language. And all those ads that I saw in Architectural Digest yesterday? I think they intend to make us feel less than, so that we'll think buying their products will make us somehow up-to-par with Diane Von Furstenberg. But even Diane has needs that money can't buy, and if she and I were to meet one day and be totally honest with each other, we would probably both agree that this world plays a cruel game of hide-and-seek--but never find--the things that will really and truly fill a person up. I think we all feel the sting of rejection and loneliness and sadness at some point along the way.

But when this very week, my very own Anna came home with "some of the kids in my grade have sleepovers with their boyfriends and girlfriends" (THAT'S the kind of parent I want, she said) and I was left stunned, standing there in the middle of the kitchen, one hand still lifted in my horrified state, nothing coming out of my open mouth, I decided that the things I want are very, very different from where I used to be.

What do I want now?

Courage to stand up for what I believe in.
Bravery to face the storm.
Wisdom to raise my kids.
Discernment.
Knowledge.
Comfort for my aching, scared heart.
Faith.
Determination when I want to shrink back.
Confidence in the face of fear.
To speak up and use my voice.
Honesty and integrity when everything in me says to lie.
To laugh at the days to come instead of cry.
Peace. Especially in my house.
Patience and kindness.
Self-control.
A soft heart.
Spicy emotions that I can admit I feel.
A loud and vibrant love and life.
Guidance.
To let go of perfectionist tendencies.
Creativity.
An abundant life.
Gentleness.
Innocence combined with shrewdness.
Character.
Humility.
Humor.
Joy.
To rise up as a warrior and fight.
For my son and daughter to see their mother rise to the challenge of being a faithful servant of Christ, who is thankful for every single minute of life I've been given, who doesn't back down or shrink back or look the other way just because the going gets tough, who speaks up and uses her voice for good, and for that son and that daughter to want to rise to the same challenge, despite of the way society lives and breathes. I want hearts that follow God.

In an instant, it was like my brain was flooded with scenarios where I've pined for and whined for clothes and shoes and furniture and accessories and jewelry and hardwood floors and apron-front sinks and curtains and all the things that I thought could ever make me happy, and I suddenly understood, when I realized that seventh-graders are spending the night with their boyfriends, that I could have all the gold in the world and still lose. I could have all the finery money could buy and still lose. I could have success and power and be regarded as having it all and still lose. Those things don't provide an abundant life. At least not the kind of abundance that I'm looking for.

Lord help me, Pottery Barn still commands my time, engrossing me in the details of their rooms. But will Pottery Barn come save me when I've made decisions that can't be undone, or just provide me the bed to lie in after I've made it? A rhetorical question, obviously.

May my heart be constantly undone by the precious love of Christ. May I never lose my life by trying to gain the world. For what can anyone offer in exchange for your soul?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

High on Life: The Update

Both kids walked out of the house in clean clothes today, and only one of them was raging against the system.

The Rubiks Cube was found. (Room.)

The Nikes were found. (Gym locker.)

The shirt was found. (Bottom of the laundry pile.)

The money was paid back. (Ahem...access to her account. With permission. Obviously.)

No one has gone hungry. (Finickiness is a different story.)

My eyes still look a little funny. And I'm still the meanest person on the planet and deserve to die.

When I mentioned the good parent reference yesterday, I had heard something similar at my Tuesday morning bookclub. And then lo and behold, last night I read the exact quote in Jen Hatmaker's book For The Love. I wouldn't want to take credit when credit isn't due, so here's the exact quote:

if you're worried about being a bad parent,
you are probably a good one.
{jen hatmaker}

You need to immediately click over to Amazon and buy this book.

Also from Jen, quoting from the book UnMarketing:

Don't try to win over the haters;
you're not the jackass whisperer.
{scott stratten}

Go. Have a happy Thursday. And take peace in the fact that haters will still hate, and kids will still be mad, and we don't have to worry one single second longer about it. Ever.

See ya tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

High On Life

Both kids walked out of the house mad at me today. I made Jack put on a clean shirt. And then! I didn't know where his Rubiks Cube was!! And his hair was tragic, so I made him wet it down and comb it!! His day could not have gotten worse. Anna was furious because I don't buy the food she wants to pack in her lunch every day, and she had to borrow yesterday at lunch. And then I would not give her the five dollars she said she owed for borrowing yesterday and instead TOLD HER SHE HAD TO PAY IT BACK WITH HER VERY OWN BABYSITTING MONEY. And to top off this little shop of morning horrors, I didn't know where her Nike Roshis were*, and now she is going to get in trouble because NO, MOM, I CAN'T TAKE MY OLD SHOES TO GYM SO BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE MY SHOES ARE I CAN'T TAKE ANY SHOES TO GYM CLASS AND NOW WE ARE ALL MAD AT YOU. PS YOU'RE MEAN. (Also lost: a VS PINK shirt I let her borrow. I hope all the lost things are huddled together waiting to surprise us with their reappearance.)

I am SO mean I deserved an X across my face.
Yes. Of course I did.

*I do not know why I'm the keeper of all the things. Only one day someone just said "where is my..." and I happened to be present and I just said "oh, it's..." and then suddenly because I sometimes go by the name of Mom, I am Keeper of All The Things Ever. (I'd like to know what happened to all the people that go by the name of Resident of This House/Owner/User of the Things.)

I got my eyes dilated at the eye doctor yesterday*, and today I still look like I'm high on something other than life. And yet. Not even this intimidates my children into not being feral.

Shut up. This is the very definition of tragic. Those eyebrows.
 I CAN'T EVEN SEE WELL ENOUGH TO PUT MAKEUP ON. Deal.



*All this, and I'm still not a good candidate for Lasik surgery? What the what? Are you disappointed, the eye doctor wanted to know. Well. Since both my kids got braces last week, and now I'm going to have to teach 58 barre classes a week to pay the credit card bill, it would seem that in a bizarre turn of events, my Lasik surgery is actually in my children's mouths. So since I probably couldn't have paid for it anyway, no. I guess I'm not all that disappointed. There is nothing like realizing your body is turning on you and there is nothing you can do about it. AND also I continue into my adulthood to want to spell dilated diAlated because this is how I say it. DiAlated. Like it has this extra syllable. This is what is wrong with teaching phonics, folks.


I have been reduced to labeling food in our house. As soon as I get home from the grocery store, that corrupt place of obscene prices, I am forced to get out the Sharpie and label various food items. We don't like to share or care for other's needs in this house. It's me for me or you'll regret it. Yogurt, apparently, is a big deal. So are granola bars. In fact, they are such a big deal that others in the family have been accused of "taking" and "stealing" them. I am a labeler and therefore enjoy labeling said food. That way there is a place for everything, and everything has it's place, and no one has to wonder "who's yogurt/granola bar/cracker pack/cheese is this?" No more. We have a system now.

Also. The appliances in this house that belong to me do not like me and are staging a coup. My refrigerator, who is three and going through extreme fussiness, stopped making ice and then decided to overflow it's drain and spill water all into my floor. When the appliance repair man came, who  1) was able to make an actual appointment and b) actually showed up, he asked me to completely defrost my refrigerator. This requires moving all your food that you care about elsewhere while the ice in your fridge slowly melts and starts to smell funny, even after you brave cleaning it out with bleach. All of the refrigerated food was moved downstairs to an extra fridge. All the freezer food was moved to the garage. For some reason unknown to me, going to the garage is acceptable but going downstairs is not. Jack asked me to fix his dinner for him last night (flatbread pizza), but could not understand why I would ever ask him to go downstairs and get the ingredients. (1. Flatbread 2. Sauce 3. Cheese) "Why can't you do it," he wanted to know. Because it's your dinner. "Well then I don't want anything." Fine. "But I'm hungry." Then go get the ingredients. Have you ever been on a merry-go-round that you want very badly to get off of? Welcome to my Tuesday night. He finally got the ingredients, and I made him the pizza. He took one look and deemed it too "saucy" and therefore completely uneatable. TAKE A BITE. (That was me.) And he did. One bite. From the edge of the Too Saucy Flatbread Pizza. "I can't eat this, you put waaaaaaay too much sauce on it, MOM." He has taken to mumbling under his breath about All The Things That Tick Him Off, including Saucy Pizza, and I may have heard the words "gross" and "stupid" (of course, maybe stupid was from this morning when I made him change out of his dirty shirt and into a clean one, because I think all the ones in the drawer were, according to him, STUPID. I'm getting my altercations mixed up.) and so when I hear him mumbling I'll go I CAN HEAR YOU and then he just whispers and I'll go I CAN HEAR YOU and this makes him verra, verra mad and then he won't talk to me.

Does constantly wondering if one is a bad parent really make one a good parent-in-the-making? This logic, while flawed, might actually be of some use to me as I stumble through this tumultuous time called The Cataclysmic Days of Our Lives.

While I'm sitting here typing, my phone is ringing madly, letting me know that a lawsuit has been brought against me in COURT OF LAW and I need to call this 713 number to find out more information. And I laughed (and blocked the number because that is A. Noy. Ying.) and thought maybe it's my children, those beings I birthed and brought into the world and wiped their bottoms and kissed their boo-boos and picked up and dropped off, who threw up on me and spit up on me and now throw up words on me--maybe it's my children suing me for not being a very good Keeper of All the Things, for being an absolutely atrocious flatbread pizza maker, for making them get braces and then paying for them, and for making their lives all-around terrible lives to live.

If you're wondering if you're a bad parent, then maybe, just maybe, you might be doing something right.

Monday, September 21, 2015

after 20 years...

This past weekend, my high school classmates got together to celebrate 20 years since our high school graduation. They got together minus moi, because I was dealing with a raging debate in my head over said reunion. (This should be no new news to anybody who knows me; raging debates inside my own head  are a thing.) I remember my parents going to their 20th high school reunion (or at least talking about it. My parents were not known for their strong social skills or their expansive social life. And my mom always waved at the camera when someone was taking her picture. Awkward. If you are a camera-waver, stop.) and my mom being nervous. Also I remember them as being very old. I must have graduated from high school super early, because I do not feel old. Anyway. My mom was nervous because she didn't know what people would think about the self-described wallflower who married a railroad construction guy who never quite hit it big. Despite her great accomplishments--she had two beautiful girls (obviously), had strengthened her faith considerably, and had learned a lot about herself in that time, she was still concerned about one thing: what people would think about her glaring non-accomplishments: a lack of money, nice things, nice clothes, social skills (see above: camera waving), and career. And at 38, like me, she was starting to notice the little lines around her eyes and mouth. I know she was concerned about these things not because she explicitly told me but because she showed me. Those little actions, that body language that kids can so easily read when adults think they are absorbed in watching Saved by the Bell.  (Just one day as Kelly was my prayer as a 12YO. ONE DAY PLEASE GOD.)

On Saturday night, some friends came over to watch football, and during the idle chit-chat, I admitted that NO ONE ASKED THIS GIRL TO DANCE AT A SIXTH GRADE JUNIOR HIGH DANCE. Actually, it wasn't so much of an admission as it was I just blurted this fact out. I am not generally a blurter-outer of facts about my former self as I am a careful conversationalist. What I want you to know about me I tell you. What I don't, I don't say. I don't generally just go around blurting things out about myself. I don't even know where that came from.

So maybe it was the pink plastic-framed glasses. Or maybe it was that every single sixth-grader is awkward and shy about dancing in public. Whatever the reason, my sixth-grade self internalized the non-dancing as rejection, and I'm not quite sure my 38YO self has ever really gotten over it. There might be somewhere inside of this adult body a 12 year-old who, when she thinks about sixth-grade dances, still feels the sting of not being asked to dance.

Sixth grade!

Senior Year!



So I knew that at the September 2015 Reunion, all these years later, I might still feel the need to prove myself to the class of 1995. HA, class of 1995. SEE? I AM somebody you want to dance with. SO HA.

Hence the raging debate.

See, I've fought hard over the last couple of years to end the self-destruction that comes along with the insecurity of feeling like you have to prove yourself. I, like my own mother, have many great accomplishments, and they don't have anything to do with money, power, prestige, appearance or anything else that can be quickly assessed. They have to do with attitude and faith. And growth, maturity, finding my way in the dark, my family, my relationships. I've come a long way from where I started, and I'm proud of that. But I know me, and I knew that being faced with seeing people, some of whom I haven't seen in ten or twenty years, I'd drop what I've fought so hard for and go right back to my defaults. Call me juvenile, but I don't believe I'm the only one out there who tries hard to prove she is worthy of being asked to dance.

So I ultimately decided that I didn't want to worry about how I looked all day leading up to the event. I didn't want to stress about making clever conversation, or being anxious about looking out of shape. That is not the person I want to be, or the person that I want to show to the world. I have found my security, after searching for a long time, and I wish I could go back to that sixth-grade girl with the blue sweater and pink glasses, standing against the bleachers and watching other girls get picked to dance to Right Here Waiting For You and tell her that she is worthy, and no boy and no amount of money and no big ole house would ever change that.

I saw some of the pictures on FaceBook. It looked like my Class of '95 peoples were having a good time. (And all y'all looked beeee-u-ti-ful!) I'm not sure anybody missed my presence, but then again, does it really matter? I'm proud of who I am and where I've landed in life, and where I'm headed. I still get anxious about how I look and all that junk, but it's become less of an issue as I become more secure in who I am in Christ.

And maybe I'll see all y'all '95 grads in 2020.

Twenty years. Can you even believe it?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When You're Royalty

My daughter is royalty amongst commoners, an affliction that troubles her deeply. Sometimes she expresses her distress in the form of contempt of any rules, regulations, or such other guidelines made to channel her energies in a positive direction.  On Sunday, we had an argument over her iPod, which since it's inception has caused many such arguments in our house. The iPod was forcibly  removed from her hands and placed in a secure location, which she has desperately searched for and failed to find. This was, in her world, also the breaking point in a developing relationship, which was cut short due to her inability to communicate back to texts. (Landline phones for communications are reportedly "embarrassing" and "awkward". Try pulling the 10 foot kitchen cord as far as it will go into the stairwell of your 1,000 square foot house so no one can hear your coded conversation, sister.)

Her reaction to the banishment of her iPod has, as it would for any royal in this situation, caused much drama in our home. It has suddenly gone from Guarded: General Risk of Parental Involvement to High Alert: High Risk of Parental Involvement. Which reads: High Risk Of Invasion Of Privacy, which is how she sees my requests to randomly check the iPod. Which brings on a High Risk of Hostility and Animosity. The Ultimate Battle Royal.

In other words, things aren't peaceful.

I feel like I'm trying to stop a runaway train. I try not to be naive when it comes to teenage schemes and manipulations, all made easier by having a mini-computer placed in your hand. At least when the phone rang at 1:24AM in 1993, it woke the entire house up. And the entire house was angry about it. And the entire house got to speak about this anger with the offending phone caller. Now, it's all done in secret. A Teen + A Phone + A Friend + 1:24AM Phone Call = Sneaking Out At Night. So I, of course, am attempting to cut these things off before they can even happen, by keeping rules and guidelines in place. (Also deemed "overprotective", "embarrassing", and "awkward". And "ruining relationships" was also thrown in for good measure, because the other three weren't quite powerful enough labels to slap on a parent. So I am an Overprotective, Embarrassing, Awkward Ruiner of Relationships. Maybe I'm doing something right.)

It's not that we are in a bad spot right now. We aren't. I'm pretty sure the things I'm dealing with are typical tween behaviors, with all the sighs and eye rolls and flips of the head that go along with it. I'm not sure why they have to go along with typical tween behavior, but they do. I'm just trying to avoid potential storms by curbing said behaviors now, and the backlash is sometimes intense. They don't back down easily. (My doctor has suggested that sometimes the ages of 12-14 are the worst, then they get it out of their system and they are angels. I am hanging on to this slender thread of hope to avoid mental breakdown and wandering the streets at 3AM in my nightgown mumbling things about eye rolls and awkwardness.)

It seems to be the habit of some of the youngers in the house to dramatically improve behaviors for a short amount of time in the hopes that this sort of manipulation will overturn any such punishment being executed at the time, and then when it doesn't, quickly doing a 180 and being ugly again. Can I just say that I am mentally exhausted from trying to keep up? People my age should be lounging on the beach drinking Pina Colodas, not attempting to keep up with younger brains and technology. It's too much thinking.

But for now, I am giving up my Pina Colodas and margaritas for a good cause. Because parenting requires personal sacrifice, right? It's no longer just about  me (as if it ever was) and is now about investing in my kids and their needs. (Not necessarily their wants. Hear me on that one.) And what they need is someone who doesn't walk around defeated but someone who loves them enough to stick to her guns even when there is a High Risk for WWIII to erupt in her very own living room.

One day, I've told them both, you will have a child in your life who is just like you. And you will call me. And when I've stopped laughing, I will tell you all about you. Good luck.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Like the Music

I have recently discovered that you can upload all the pictures you ever took ever on your phone or iPad onto Shutterfly. They store them for free. This is good news for someone who is constantly getting an angry message shouting about things like low iCloud storage space and needing to buy more if I want to preserve my life or want to show I care about future generations just a little bit.  Shutterfly's free storage also means that now I have pictures scattered all across the whole internet, in various clouds and websites and such. Which also means I and my future descendants will never, ever access all the selfies that have been taken in 2015.

I admitted to my life group last night that I do not like worship music. Apparently there is a raging debate in various church circles over what sort of music should be played when entering a church building on Sunday morning. The church in question--not mine, mind you--has been caught playing secular rock music on Sunday morning. I can see both sides, since, hey, it's church, and it's a time of praise and worship--so we play praise and worship music. What the heck do you expect? The other side of the coin is well-played, too, because a lot of people are like me and actually just don't like worship music. Note: this does not mean I don't like God or am raging against the machine by listening to The Weeknd and Guns N' Roses and Jason Aldean all in one day. Second note: This also does not mean I hate all worship music. I like certain worship songs. But not worship songs ad nauseam, which seems to be the habit of churches and radio stations alike. It simply means I like variety. Which no one except Pandora or iRadio or Spotify can seem to supply. And even then, variety is a theory that Pandora doesn't even seem to get. (As in: I DON'T WANT TO HEAR THE SAME SONG IN THE SAME AFTERNOON. EVER.)

When I freely admitted that I do not like worship music, my life group counterparts were a little aghast--which I could see, we were in church, after all, and the whole point of worship music is to worship--and they were all like THEN WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO? HYMNS?

The reality of the situation is that no, hymns are not on my top 10. They bring back a certain nostalgia of the past, and I occasionally enjoy a hymn or two. A choir is also a good thing. But I like to move, and I like to dance, and I like to work out to a good beat.

So here's my two cents: when you start listening to or watching or doing something because you think you have to rather than because you want to, it becomes a pointless game of trying to earn marks for good behavior, which we all know is a fruitless exercise. There is a fine line between legalism and freedom, so I also don't think you can just going around town doing all the things you want to with no consequence. It's a heart issue. And the heart is a tricky place to navigate, with all it's pride and stubbornness and just all the issues. All the issues. So when a song comes on that I like, I don't turn it immediately because it's bad or because someone else will think I'm bad for listening to it or even because I might think I'm not allowed. That's following rules. Instead, I ask myself: should I be listening to this guy sing about all these things? Is this good for me? Is it edifying for my spirit? Would I want someone to say these words to me? Am I growing from this song? Would I want my kids to listen to and repeat these lyrics? Would I repeat these lyrics? Sometimes the answer is no, no, no, no, no, no and no, and I don't turn it off anyways because I just like the darn song, okay!  But sometimes, I know in my heart that it's more important from an eternal perspective to just turn it off than it is to listen to it in the here and now. The desire for immediate gratification doesn't always just apply to the young and errant. It applies to me, too. And it might be worth fighting against.

My iPad, by the way, is four years old; an ancient old-timer in the world of technology. It's still chugging along, even though it's become crotchety in it's old age and sometimes refuses to work like it knows it should, making me want to scream and throw it out the window before I remember how much we paid for that guy. He still plays Pandora, and he still has all my precious selfies, and he is still (when he is not deciding to just shut the whole thing down) uploading to shutterfly.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Produce Maneater

I got into a fight with Siri yesterday. Sometimes Siri is the enemy, and I am on the war path to defeat her.

I ordered her to look up Perdue Exterminating.




Perdue. EXTERMINATOR.



Oh my g...are you really serious right now? PERDUE. EXTERMINATOR.



PERDUEPERDUEPERDUEPERDUE!!!!! I was like screaming at my phone. There is a chance other drivers may have wondered about me.



I...sigh.

My daughter recently delivered a letter to me informing me, among other things, that I needed to work on, and I quote "being a little less type A" and also that I should work on "not expecting perfection from everyone because no one is perfect". And also she wrote "I'm VERY annoyed with you right now."

I later gave her a rebuttal in the form of a letter with many PS's attached to it, informing her that yes, I recognize I am type A. And PS I don't expect perfection. I don't expect good. I expect excellent.

I'm currently reading Jen Hatmaker's book "For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards".

Man, we are tough on one another, starting with ourselves. 
When Jesus said to "love your neighbor as yourself," I don't think He meant judgmentally; 
but that is exactly how we treat our own souls, so it bleeds out to others. 
Folks who thrive in God's grace give grace easily, but the self-critical person becomes others-critical. We "love" people the way we "love" ourselves, and if we aren't good enough, then no one is. 
{jen hatmaker}

And I gulped. Looked around the room to see if I could be distracted by something else other than the guilt that was threatening to swallow me alive. Looked back at her words, so true and leaping from the page. "If we aren't good enough, then no one is."

I struggle with perfection. This is old news. I will freely admit my quest for the unattainable. Hello, beauty. I want all of you. Come to mama, all you gorgeous rooms a la Restoration Hardware. Join me at my address for a rendez-vous, for you are the perfect marriage of rustic and glam. And I want you to make me perfect, too.

I am a complex person full of opposing thoughts and opinions all contained in one brain. Sometimes I don't even make sense and I contradict my own self, which makes perfect sense to me. A person like this can only also have a complex personality that cannot be described by any textbook or wikipedia page. Am I Type A with Type B tendencies? Or is it the other way around? There is no label I can slap on, no bar code identifying me as number 109 out of 2794 available models. I should be proud of this, the fact that my individuality shines through, and yet I continue to search for that stamp of approval, that final piece of furniture, that mascara that will declare to the masses, "finally! I have found perfection".

The search for perfection is like running on a treadmill. You run for an exhausting 5, 15, 20 miles and stay in the same place. Perfection does not exist.

So as I sit here and reflect on the last two days of living my life, I find that instead of living my life abundantly and with love and enjoyment, I have engaged Siri, my daughter, and myself in a fight. A fight for perfection. A fight for independence. A fight against lunacy. (Siri, I'm looking at you.) And when fighting this many battles, a girl's attention is understandably fractured. Too many fires for one firewoman to handle all on her own.

And I'm fighting all the wrong enemies.

See, as long as we are distracted, we are useless. We are just too busy being mad and upset to focus on what the real fight is about. I have been distracted by pursuing this idea of perfection, and getting mad at myself when the perfection I desire cannot be realized. Enemy. I get mad at my kids when they don't act the way I think they should be acting. Enemy. I get mad at my husband when he doesn't say what I think he should say. Enemy. But instead of fighting each other, we could be fighting on the same side, for the same cause, because truly. We are in this life together.

"I wish you were more Type B," she said to me later. "Then you'd be more laid back."

While laid back is definitely not my style, I can see where she's coming from. We are a nation, city, church, and family crippled by our inability to see each other as partners, not adversaries. We are much more likely to get mad than to unite. And it's partly because our attention is splintered, each of us trying to put out our own fires the best we know how, and none of us recognizing that the war has already been won.

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
{mark 3:25}

It's a pretty simple equation, really. God fills me with love, and I in turn show love to others.

And by filling me with His love, God completes me, and I find my total security in Him. I stop looking to other people and beauty and perfection to fill me up, because I'm filled to overflowing with His love. In that completeness, I don't need anything else. I can let go of the need for approval and worry over what other people think and the desire for perfection. And I can pursue life with a passion, because I know I am in need of nothing, and that love and passion then has room to seep out, to overflow it's boundaries, to spill over into other people's lives, too.

Hurt people hurt people. That's what my pastor always says. And it's true.

Well, then.

If hurt people hurt people, then loved people must love people. And I want to love well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Don't Quit (and a smoothie recipe!)

You know it's going to be a good day when you make yourself a smoothie for breakfast and discover the full-fat traditional plain Greek yogurt you bought last week at the grocery store because they were out of the nonfat actually tastes like ice cream. Never mind that your smoothie has kale and healthiness in it.* It tastes good.

You also know it's going to be a good day when you get to talk to one of your good friends before you really have gotten your day started. For an entire hour. 

Last night I was positive that good days would never come my way ever again. Only because I don't jump my hurdles easily. I get bewildered and frustrated and depressed and then just want to quit. Quit life.

"I don't want to be a parent anymore." I informed my husband of the new plan that doesn't include parenting last night somewhere around the eight o'clock hour. The witching hour.

"Um, well, you are one, so you have to be one." Sometimes that guy is so unsympathetic to my plight.

"Oh, no," I assured him. "I'm quitting."

"That is not an option." Then bye-bye. Not even hug or a pat on the back for doing a good job of not actually quitting, just saying I was going to. Hm.

I need an on-call life coach or something. Because everything last night was a tragedy.

Including the fact that I couldn't take my shower until 9PM. That was especially tragic. And my hair. That mess is pretty tragic, too.

Is there a part of life that is easy? Not really. Not parts of life that mean something, that's for sure. Parenting remains to me one of those obscure and enigmatic mysteries of the universe that I have been called to do but am unsure what it really means. What I do know is that it takes a heck of a lot out of a person, and sometimes, I am selfish enough to just want to quit.

Saying you want to quit doesn't mean you don't love your kids or your spouse or your spouse's grandma; it just means that at the end of the day, in the most witching of witching hours, turning in your 3-weeks notice--actually effective immediately--sounds easier that coming up with a new battle plan.

I don't know why I struggle with this, putting my words and thoughts down on paper. Maybe it's because I'm afraid of being judged because I'm struggling with thoughts of really wanting to give up. I don't think I'm alone, but then again, the Good Parents don't talk about quitting. They don't talk about the Death Crawl to bed at night. And they certainly don't talk about struggling and feeling bad about it. I've had those thoughts, like what if they don't want their child to hang out with my child anymore and is my child heading down a destructive path and I want to stop this but don't know how. And those thoughts keep me quiet. And isolated and alone.

{facing the giants}

But the answer is not to quit. The answer is to Death Crawl to the 50 with 160 pounds of dead weight on your back, because you are an influential player on your team, and if you walk around defeated, so will your team.  

You are the most influential player on this team.
If you walk around defeated, so will they.
{facing the giants}

So if I can be of any encouragement to you right now, in the battle that you are currently facing, I want to tell you that false smiles belie what's really going on inside. Be honest. Be open. Be real.

And don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit.


*Chocolate Cherry Smoothie (adapted from Unleash Your Thin)

1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup cherries (I used frozen)
handful of kale or spinach
1 tbsp soaked chia seeds
1 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
2 heaping tbsp plain Greek yogurt
stevia

Blend and serve. Enjoy :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

War Room

I went to go see War Room on Saturday. My friend Erin asked me to go; otherwise, I probably wouldn't have made myself go see it. Because I knew that it would wreck me.

I don't like emotional movies. I avoid crying in theaters. Emotion makes me squirmy and uncomfortable. My mom used to say that people used things like sad movies and funerals as an excuse to cry, and I inferred that she saw showing emotions like sadness or sorrow as a sign of weakness. Anger could control someone. Sadness could manipulate someone. And being stoic was the best way to show that you were in control. Unflappable. Strong. It was confusing, because my mom was also very big on talking about how you feel. Hours-long conversations would take place because she would not let things go until I said how I felt. Which I didn't want to do, because I was a) stubborn and b) showing my strengths, because I had a lot of weakness to make up for. Like crying because a movie made me sad. 

So Saturday, I dragged Anna along with me (why do we have to go see a movie, she wanted to know. Since when does a tweenager not want to go see a movie? I looked up the trailer, she informed me. It looks weird.) and we met Erin and her daughter at the theater. (P.S. I have not been to a movie in a verra, verra looooooong time.) My mind was still trying to convince me that I did not, under any circumstances, want to actually watch this movie with other people around because I did not, under any circumstances, want to cry in front of said people. 

The message hit me deep in the heart. I looked at the ceiling and took deep breaths, willing myself to stop sniffling. I found excuses to dislike it. This is just unrealistic, it's too pretty, it's wrapped up too nicely, I cannot believe in this concept. I told my husband it was just too unrealistic, with the caveat that, of course, maybe my problem is not the movie but the fact that I don't really believe in my heart of hearts that prayer is all that powerful. 

The confession took me aback just a little bit. Do I really not believe in the power of prayer? Not when prayer seems more like a coincidence than it does an actual thing, my voice said back to me.

"But it's not about God being a genie in a bottle," my friend told me. "It's about developing a relationship with God through the praying."

Hm. I'd sometimes much rather prefer the genie. 

It wasn't until Sunday morning, when I expressed my trepidation over the reality of the movie, that Erin made me realize that, yes, of course the movie was wrapped up in a nice, neat bow. Because it's a movie. A two-hour long movie. The point is not that the prayer changed everything. The point was that the prayer changed her. The main character. And everyone else responded to the changed woman that she was. "It's like dance partners," she explained. "When someone changes direction, the partner has to change, too. Good, bad, or otherwise, it affects the dance." 

She's good, that one. She needs her own page of quotable quotes.

And so as I sat comfortably processing the whole dance analogy, I was stopped in my tracks again as we watched the session 5 video for the bible study "Fight Back with Joy" by Margaret Feinburg, who was talking about being disappointed with God. And how that can affect prayer life. 

And I realized with a startle that I know the right things to say and do, but I am so disappointed with God sometimes that I can hardly stand to pray. So disappointed that I'd rather cry than deal with a moody child that I don't know how to handle, a friendship that has dwindled that I don't know how to restore, a blog that hasn't grown enough for my liking, prayers that haven't been answered and I don't understand why. The disappointment has settled on me like a heavy cloak, bringing with it a sense of fear and dread over things like parenting, the future, and my marriage. I've developed an edge, a smile with a bite to it, a sharpness to my words and responses that I didn't even realize was there. 

I got home Sunday with the realizations of myself banging around in my head, trying to make sense of what I don't know how to make sense of. And the only answer I could envision, the only words that would come to mind, the only answer I could hear in the midst of my thoughts was this: war room.

I do have a walk-in closet with some wall space, I realized. I can't remove all my clothes, like the movie, but I can make the room that I have into a war room. If I'd let myself become hopeful in prayer and in God again.

So I did.

Now, here's the thing about me. I do not like paper taped to the wall. It bothers me. Sticky notes, notebook paper, even plain printer paper. I knew I'd hate walking in there, regardless of the words on the wall, if it couldn't be pretty. So I went downstairs and got the old piano music that I inherited after my mom died, and picked out the ones that could be ruined, if you will. At least written on and taped to the wall of my closet. Sheet music is so pretty, and Pottery Barn has entire rooms wallpapered with it. So I took that sheet music, cleaned up my closet, and wrote my heartfelt, most sincere, most scared prayers in the margins and around the titles. I wrote prayers and I wrote specific verses, I wrote names and requests and prayers and fears and confessed all the disappointment and the fear and the anger and the distress and the worry.




When Anna came into my closet a little while later, after the furious writing had ceased and the sheets were being taped to the wall, she curiously asked me what I was doing. "OH!" I said. 

Making a war room.

(A war room??? she questioned. What's a war room? Sigh. Sweetness, did you watch the movie when we were there?)

There is nothing like just sitting back and crossing your fingers and your toes that it'll all work out okay, because it leaves you with such a sense of hopelessness, doubt and despair that things will ever change. Because even if you don't believe in prayer, we all know crossing our fingers is a completely worthless act.

My heart hasn't just suddenly done a 180, leaving behind all doubt and disbelief and questions of trust in the past. But I've decided to, despite my disappointment, continue to chase after God, because my hope doesn't lie in the answer to the prayer.

It lies in God.


Prayer is not about saying the right thing but being
in the right relationship with God.
We pray to center our lives in the presence of God.
We pray not to bend the will of God to our desire but to be
united in love with God and one another.
{the rev. joe nassal}

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Know What You Mean

I don't speak "teenager". I actually don't want to speak teenager, because an adult who continues to believe they can or should speak teenager is an annoying adult.

However.

It became apparent on Tuesday night that I need help in the "communicating with your young teen" department as discussions about joining the track team were taking place, and I made the {so obvious} faux pas of saying--yes, out loud, can you believe that shizzle--that I thought Anna could run fast. It went something along the lines of "you're so fast, you should join the track team, I bet you'd be great at sprints". Unbeknownst to the rest of us, this is an incredibly offensive statement that was {obviously} met with a stare and a "don't call me fast, I hate it when people call me fast" retort. Which went something along the lines of "DON'T CALL ME FAST, I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE CALL ME FAST".

And I was super confused and so concluded that I have officially lost fluency in "teenager".

(She is, in fact, very fast. So there's that.)

A few weeks ago, I hired a neighborhood boy to weed my flower beds. I hate weeding flower beds. I really dislike yard work in general. And this kid has a little side business going, so really, everybody wins. After he explained to me that it probably would be cheaper to hire a neighborhood kid to weed (oh. I thought that was you?) and the terms and conditions of his company, he walked the yard and estimated that it would take him 5-6 hours to weed, so his estimate was $180. Okay. Wow. Not what I expected. But I was able to reason with him that weeding doesn't require any equipment, and I'd pay him $20 an hour for three hours of work. He agreed and showed up at my house with his brother in tow, ready to weed. Which they did. In a little less than 90 minutes, but "three man hours", he assured me, fully expecting $60 for his work. Hm. Player gets played.

After that, I needed some more coffee to keep my brain from hurting.

What I really wanted to say was WHY ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 IMPOSSIBLE? (I might move that number up depending on the day and who I'm dealing with.)

But, I realized. Maybe it is not them. Maybe it is not that compliments are no longer in vogue and weeds that have grown up through ground cover should be carefully pulled, not yanked and ripped along with all the surrounding ground cover (I was maybe a touch disgruntled that day). Maybe it's me. Maybe it's that I don't speak teenager and have aged out of coolness and relatability and everything else and now I'm sitting on the cusp of middle age. Maybe I'm the one who JUST DOESN'T GET IT. Lord help.

Because I don't see people flocking to my door hoping to be my friend. I certainly don't hear people "blowing up my phone" to talk to me. (That's teen speak, FYI, which, I was informed, no one uses FYI anymore. NO ONE. Then we had a contest to see who knew the most acronyms. And I was like IDRK, IDEC, TBH, it's NBD. Really. It's a BFD. Oh, and BTW, I've recently learned of a new Tuesday tradition in high school called something like TT Tuesday, where one goes around touching girls chests. I'll let you fill in the T, because I don't like that word. It's crass. And only people who have aged out of being cool say crass.) And my Instagram account is steady. On the decline, that is.

So a girl can only conclude that being cool with the middle school/high school set is no longer in the cards for her. (Honestly--let's be real. If you are cool and are not a high school teacher or a youth pastor or Young Life Leader, then we might have a problem with growing up. Everybody has to do it. Just not everybody does it well. Look at me.)

So if you're feeling the slightest bit out of touch, and maybe even beyond help, join me on the back porch for a Hot Toddy and know that you are in good company as we reminisce about the olden days before these youth went wild.

The Little Boy and the Old Man

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that, too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded. "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the little boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
"I know what you mean," said the little old man.
{shel silverstein}