Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Tale of Two Selfies

 I am obsessed with these pictures.


The picture on the left is from 2004. I was 28 years old. We lived in Southern California, in a house just far enough from our friends to be lonely -- and way far from our families. My husband worked a lot -- and a good 60 minute commute away -- and I was home with our daughters -- two delayed 4 year olds and a 3-year-old. I was not doing well.

It was during this time that my friends started insisting that I see a counselor. Sitting on the stairs, shaking by 7am, was apparently not normal behavior. One of the first things my counselor tried to drum into my brain: "If you do not take care of YOU, there will be no YOU to take care of the people you care for most." I would go on to relearn that lesson over and over and over for years -- but I don't think re-learnt lessons are bad.  I think it might just mean that I'm stubborn.

I don't know what the number on the scale was -- we didn't own one.  But I wasn't happy with most of who I was.

The picture on the right is from two days ago. I'm 44 years old, though I continue to try to convince my children that I'm still 28. We live in Washington, in a well-lived-in house, closer -- if not close-- to our families. My husband still works too much sometimes, but is better about balance. I am still a probably-overly-involved mom, though at 20, 20, and 19, our daughters' needs are different, if not less taxing.

I have learned to embrace my natural curls, to apply make-up, and how to take a damn killer selfie.

But, mostly... I think that I just like me.




Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Tender Times

There are certain times in my life that I hold in my memory with the utmost care and tenderness. They are precious beautiful times that I associate with golden periods of my life -- and mostly center around friendships from earlier times in my life that were grounded in youth and the process of maturing and faith and ministry.


One of these is time we spent in California -- especially the connections between the college we attended and the church that became our home. We were deeply rooted in that church, especially its youth ministry, and we built these deep wonderful friendships that I hold with such care in my heart and enjoyed these lovely groups of people who fed into us. In retrospect, I regret that I didn't appreciate this as much as I should have when I had it. I don't think I really understood then how rare it was, and I pined for a move to the NW so I could be closer to my family. I didn't realize that when God finally gave me what I asked for in that, I would always be searching for a copy of the family that I had when we were there. There is guilt that comes with that leaving that we did... Some of those friendships have crumbled, and sometimes I wonder if that was our fault.  If we'd stayed, would they have survived? Probably the answer is yes, they still would have deteriorated for the same reasons they did in reality.  Maybe not on the same timetable, but eventually. -- But I still hold the guilt anyway.

Another is the decade I was a WAH girl. We were women, young to a-little-less-young, who met and came together in the early days of the 2000s internet. Before Facebook, before Instagram, we had Yahoogroups. I was a very young mom, unsure of myself, opinionated anyway, both too strong and too weak of a personality at the same time.  God help you if you missed a day of messages because your inbox would be full to the brim. We loved each other and fought with each other and grew with each other and pushed each other. These, too, are friendships I hold with tenderness -- and with the knowledge that they know every piece of me.  The good things and the oh-so-ugly things. There is a comforting understanding in that, I suppose -- some of our friendships have survived, and some have not (I hold a tremendous amount of guilt and grief in this too -- probably more deserved)-- but even with that being true, I know that every single one of those women have been and continue to be a part of me -- and I wouldn't be who I am without them. I think about them, in some way, almost every day.

We built a ministry that sprung out of our friendships, and we found out yesterday that one of our girls had passed away. And it sort of feels like a piece of you passed with it, like the picture that was that time in our lives has fractured just a little bit more. And it leaves you broken in ways that are hard to explain, and I can only just grasp in my head -- and maybe you had to be part of it.

There will surely be more tender times in my life -- but it's hard for me imagine any that could come close.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Fandom: A Small Retrospective

 We were at a brewery a few weeks ago. There was this lady who clearly frequented regularly and felt like she thought that she owned the place. Not in a "you're in my seat" sort of way -- but more like "Let me tell you everything you didn't ask about and try to sell you on its glory." We found her to be annoying.



I think that I may have especially found her annoying because - well - I watched her and thought, "She would have really enjoyed being a Celtic Thunder fan." Maybe I saw a little bit of me in her.

Most of my 30s and a little bit of my 40s -- I was an Irish manband superfan. My friends knows this. I like to say that I just had my midlife crisis a little early.

In retrospect, it was a weird thing. At the time, I guess I knew that -- but it was also mostly a fun thing. As I look back, there are a lot of things I'm glad that I did -- some things I wish that I'd done differently -- and a few things that I wish I'd never done at all.

I enjoyed the music and loved the concerts -- but the marks that 10-year experience left on me lies mostly in people -- in the friendships and experiences that maybe only another fan can understand. Some of those rested in other fans, some in people within the business, some I only met tangentially but who filled important pieces in me.

Many of those people, I only talk to occasionally now -- some of them remain a beloved fixture. But we all shared a common experience, and they all fill a sweet scene in the friend tapestry of my life.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Fog bringeth Autumn


 
The fog lingers in the trees over the neighborhood swamp this morning, taking its time burning off before the summer day begins. It will burn off, but it's a reminder that a new season is making its way.


Spring was achingly hard this year. Summer as comfortable and lazy, as summer should be. What might Autumn have in store? What might I have in store for Autumn?

At WW, we provide a host of tools to help people with managing change. So many of them -- and the conversations we create -- center on the important of awareness. You can't change how you're eating if you don't know how you're eating. I think you can extrapolate that into so many places in your life.

I've always held the transition from Summer into Fall as a perfect time to reassess life and habits and intentions. Not really for any sweeping changes -- but little things tend to slide and slip in over the summer, and the new season and starting school year has always felt like a joyful opportunity to refocus on the things and people I value most. 

The fog has burned off now -- the morning clouds will follow. And as the late summer day lingers on, I'll be thinking about those things.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Things that Form You

 I think that, in order for this to really make sense, you have to know two things about me.


First, I think you need to know that I didn't grow up in the church. God was a choice I made as a teenager, but I attended a youth group where the other kids all felt like they had. -- Or at least that's how it seemed to me. One of the things they did was participate in the Bible Bowl at the North American Christian Convention. Those study sessions always secretly felt like I was batting from behind. I didn't know the Bible stories that they had all learned in Sunday school and VBS for years. I felt like I was trying to pass Trigonometry, while never letting on that I'd never learned multiplication.

I guess I just felt like I wasn't sure how to be a believer. So, like a child looking to her parents and teachers, I looked to the people who could be my mentors over the years about how I should be. What does being a Believer look like in real life? What does it look like in school? At work? As I got older, it became questions about how I should be a wife, how I should be a friend and a daughter and a sister and a mother. How does one balance being a Believer and a citizen? How does one take the teachings of Jesus and translate them into how I should vote, how I should work, how I should shop and drive and order McDonalds? All of those questions, and those mentors became really important to me. They were instrumental in the person I would become.


The second thing that I think you need to know is that I came of age during the Clinton era, and I think that's important. I couldn't tell you how I voted in his 2nd election -- but I can tell you what I remember. I have vague memories of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but I have even more vivid memories of the arguments that the believers in my life gave the most stringently. They all sounded a little different, but they more or less all boiled down to this: Character matters. It matters. And character matters in our national leaders even more. 

And that made biblical sense to me. James talks about the harsher judgments that come with being a teacher -- and it made sense to me that similar expectations would be extended to those in governmental power -- that we should strive to vote into power those of good character. That idea nestled in my heart and felt like something I could trust to be a guiding principle in my civic life. And it has been! Because even if we weren't necessarily on the same page in matters of policy, I felt I could trust that person to make wise decisions where wise decisions were needed.


And now we're here where we are.  If I'm really honest with you, I struggle. I struggle to understand why character suddenly doesn't matter anymore, and why that should no longer be the driving factor -- or even A factor. I struggle to understand why the ends suddenly justify the means if the ends are what I want. Even if the character is really really really really really bad.

I haven't really known how to talk about it until now. Maybe I still don't. I have felt this bitterness in my heart every time I've thought about it, but I couldn't ever quite find the words to describe why. But, I think I'm beginning to understand that bitterness. It isn't about policy or politics -- but perhaps much more about trust. It feels more like betrayal that hits me deep in my soul. Like all those mentors who I counted on to teach me how I should be... they didn't really believe what they said they did -- and it makes everything between then and now feel very hollow. I don't really see that I can do much about that -- it is just what it is.


Except this. Because I can't leave a blog like that. I am the same age NOW as some of those mentors were when I first started looking to them -- even older than some of them.  And I can take that seriously, and not give those who look to me reason to pause in disappointment years down the road because I didn't really believe what I told them I did.



Saturday, June 6, 2020

A Lull in Time


While the atmosphere outside my home has been chaotic this week, we have actually enjoyed a pretty calm week inside of it. It felt like a week of rest between Phase 2 and Phase 3 of COVID QUARANTINE YEAR.

Phase 2 hasn't been great, I'll be honest. We had a BIG PARENTING THING with one of our kids that was very traumatic... and then another kid got sick, and she's the grocery store worker so we worried about what she might have... and that got cleaned up and then I got a text that said, "MOM... so someone crashed into me... I'm okay but the car isn't."  For FREAKS sake.

We had a houseguest all through Phase 2 -- this wasn't a bad thing, just a MORE thing. We've always told our children that if their friends ever needed somewhere to stay, they could come to our house. If the situation was reversed, I would want that.  I would want to know that, if my kids felt they couldn't be home, that they had somewhere safe to go, vs living in their car under a bridge. So, when a friend felt like Stuff with Mom and Dad was just too much and she needed to escape... we said, "of course."  She's lovely and I love her, and she's always welcome. And I have bought SO MUCH Red Bull in the last month.

But, this has been the lull.  Houseguest moved home... partly I think things are a bit better with her parents, and partly I think that living on top of each other for 6 weeks was starting to create a friendship rift.  I actually am quite proud of them for realizing that and making a change before it did create a permanent rift.  That's grown-up stuff right there, girls.

Sick Kid got better... Other Driver's insurance is paying for the car damage. I took one to Leavenworth, my favorite place, for lunch. 

and though the country and the world was racked with strife, I felt like this week gave me a chance in my personal life to take a breath and prepare myself for whatever Phase 3 brings.

I don't really expect it to be better -- but I've had my breath. I'm ready to take it on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Root of the Heart: Surgery, Parenting, and Riots

I was home in Oregon a couple summers ago to visit when my dad asked me if I'd be able to take him to the hospital the next morning for a routine test.  "Sure," I told him. Then, he told me I had to pick him up at 5am. 

ALWAYS ask for the details first, kids.

I arrived to pick him up the next morning and watched with concern as I realized how much of a toll just walking to the bathroom was taking on him. Out of breath and needing to stop to rest, that didn't seem right.  We got to the hospital for the test... where they had to run a couple tests before they could do the test...

Which he failed.  Actually, he failed so bad that the heart doctor later said to me, "Honestly, I don't know how he was able to walk at ALL." So, they checked him in for further exploration.

Very long story short in which I spare you gnarly details, most of which include "Oh... dear lord, hello Dad's Penis, I'm just going to stare at THAT corner of the ceiling for awhile" -- they found bleeding in his stomach which was in turn caused by a problem with his heart.

The doctors were able to seal up the bleeding in his stomach -- but explained to me that if they didn't eventually fix the problem with his heart, the bleeding would probably come back.

It's been two summers since then. The heart fix is almost on the docket, but not actually done yet, and those same exhaustion issues are starting to come back.  -- Because while the symptoms of the problem had been addressed, the root has still not.

I'm big on fixing roots. We were out with my husband's boss once, chatting over beers, and he was sharing with us a problem he was having with his teenage daughters fighting. His pet solution mostly had to do with forcing them to behave in parental presence, and asked me if I thought that would work.

My answer was a question. "I think that depends on your goal. If your goal is to get them to behave in your presence? Yes, absolutely. If your goal is to help them navigate the how to have a better relationship? Then, no." --  And to me, that was important -- because the fighting -- while exhausting to a parent -- is merely a symptom of the root cause.

It is through that lens that I see the place that we're in right now.  I think it's easy to watch the news and be outraged by what you're seeing. The riots and the looting can seem nonsensical.  It's complicated... and I think that a lot of peaceful protests are probably being co-opted by people who just want to break shit. Even here in my sleepy suburbian area of Seattle, I read a story about looting at my local-ish mall - only to read further to find the police chief talking about intel he'd heard earlier that there was planned gang activity under the cover of the peaceful protests. And I do think there is a LOT of that going on -- whether it be gang-related or just people who are mad at the world and want to break it all.

But, the very peaceful that didn't hurt anyone taking a knee during the national anthem? It was protesting something and no one paid attention. The problem it was alerting us all to got ignored. And just like your body's symptoms get more and more acute as you ignore a problem for longer and longer, the protests get stronger.

It's easy to sit in our homes and scoff at the riots we're seeing now, as we watch what they're turning into and the damage they're causing. It is easy to see them as the bleeding in the stomach and think that the bleeding in the stomach is the only problem.

It is easy to ignore the heart. But when you refuse to address the heart, the bleeding comes back.  Not because the stomach is broken, but because you couldn't be bothered to address the root.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Control: A Mom's Struggle

The first year that I taught my child to drive was the year that I really learned to fear for my life.

She was nervous about the cars driving toward her, and so she hugged the right side of the lane.  And  when I say "hugged the right side of the lane," I really mean "made the blackberry bushes fear for their very lives."

I would sit in the passenger seat, my hand clutching the door handle with white knuckles, muttering, "Bushes...  there's bushes... IN the lane.  IN the lane.  Drive IN the lane. OH MY GOD YOU ARE GOING TO HIT THAT MAILBOX!!!!!!!!!"

Here, I had entrusted this giant vehicle that I knew very well could become a killing machine into the hands of a child who could barely ride a bike without running it into a ... well, a bush.  It was genuinely the scaredest I've ever been in my life.  After 30 years, I began to understand why, in my view, my dad was the worst driving teacher in the history of the world.  Maybe he wasn't the worst driving teacher in the history of the world -- maybe he was just FRIGHTENED FOR HIS LIFE.  

I genuinely didn't think I'd be that afraid ever again.

But, I was wrong.

I'm beginning to understand that teaching your child how to drive... entrusting her with your car and relinquishing control of the wheel to a mere teenager... It's a test run.

It's a test run in learning to let go of the wheel. It's a test run in NOT being the one in control. It's a test run in trusting them to make choices and live with the consequences.

Because there will come a time... not too long after they've learned to drive the car... when you will have to step out.  There will come a time when you will have to relinquish control to a young adult, and you will have to trust her with... herself. You will have to let them make their own stupid decisions, even when your mom heart wants to scream at them to get back in the damn lane and stop aiming at mailboxes.

And, as it turns out, it is far more frightening to trust them with THEMSELVES, my most prized possessions, than it ever was to trust them with the car.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

MY BIGGEST QUESTIONS

Some weeks ago -- I can't really say how many, I can't remember when this all started --, my biggest questions were "Where am I going in my job?" ...  "What are my husband and I going to do after the kids all fly away?" ... "How are we going to get the kids to all fly away?"...

And those are still my biggest questions...

Only now they're joined by questions like "Have I taken more than one shower this week?"... "When was the last time I ate something besides fruit snacks?"... "How many times can you have Make-Your-Own-Dinner night and still be considered a not-awful mother?".. "Do I even care?" ... "Why is it Daytime again?"... "Maybe this would be a good time to catch up on the storylines of All My Children?"--  "Is All My Children even still on?"

Hold please. No. No, it is not.

"Sheltering-in-place" doesn't sound like it should be hard. You're not going to war, you're not doing any hard labor, you're just... staying home.  But, the change in ALL your routines, the strides to create a new normal from everything is different -- it creates a weird strain that is more psychological than physical, but just as wearing.

For myself, I underestimated how much of my coping system would be shaken up by just not going anywhere.. by not seeing anyone. I misjudged how one simple change would affect me, and that I would be back to "I took a shower today" being sometimes the measure of my success.

And that's all okay -- you do what you have to do to deal with what you have to deal with. One step at a time, one day at a time.

I haven't had any fruit snacks today.  So... win.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I FACEBOOK-STALKED YOU TODAY

I facebook-stalked you today.

You and I haven't spoken for a long time. There was once ugliness between us -- hostilities we could forgive but not quite forget -- and I think we both just stopped trying and went our separate ways.

Sometimes that makes me sad -- we once meant a lot to each other. But, time and life moves on, and if I'm honest, I don't spend much time dwelling on it anymore. We are part of each other's pasts, but not meant to be part of each other's futures.

But, every once in a while, I think of you. I wonder how you're doing. I think about what drove us apart and how I could have handled things then and later differently - but mostly, I just hope good things for you. I don't want your life to be painful.

So I peeked a little into your life -- And I can say these things truthfully.

I am happy for you for the good things you have encountered since we were last friends. I'm glad that you have people in your life who support you. I'm deeply sorry for the hardships you have encountered and the pain that has tried to break you. Interestingly, I think that you and I, as individual people, have hardened and softened in not-dissimilar ways. We probably have a lot of parallels in that journey, though they really don't look the same, and I'm not sure that our pieces still fit together in the way they once did.

And while I'm not sure reconciliation is in our future -- it could be if we were both better at forgetting and forgiving and trusting.

All that said -- I'm okay with where we are. Time has healed much, and I still love you and I still pray good things for you, whether our paths cross again or not.

May God keep you well.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A LITTLE BEHIND

It's not that I had big plans for the first weeks of January -- I have purposely kept my "resolutions" small.

It's just that my plans didn't involve staying at home, postponing all my little goals, and drinking my weight in hot liquids daily.

My job requires me to talk a lot -- so when I get sick enough that I lose my voice, it's a problem and  requires a strict slowdown.  So, this week, I pretty much ignored a lot of my life. I didn't do work. I did as few errands as I could get away with. I stayed at home a lot.  I drank tea.  Lots and lots of tea.  And then I peed a lot.

So, while the rest of the world has moved into 2020 with gusto... I'm sort of still stuck here on Dec 30th.

and that's okay.  2020 will be waiting for me when I'm ready for it.