Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thinking with my fingers

It's funny, I thought 2015 was the worst year on the books. It very well may have been but 2016 feels like a close 2nd. I am optimistic about 2017 until I remember who our president-elect is. 

As much as I want to bitch and complain I realize that I am incredibly blessed. After the past two years I am aware that having all three of my girls breathing and relatively healthy is a blessing and nothing I should ever take for granted.

Last Friday, Ainsley had a grand mal seizure. It was her first and fingers crossed, it will be her last. There is a strong possibility that it was due to a new psych med they were trying for her. Thankfully, prior to the grand mal seizure she had started experiencing petit mal seizures so I had already been in contact with her neurologist and she already has an EEG scheduled. The grand mal seizure happened at a friend's home which is unfortunate because Ainsley may never leave our house again. It was seriously the first time her depression had lifted long enough for her to want to spend time with a friend and outside of our home. Of course, the depression has returned with its friend anger for a lovely combination inside of the mind of a 15 year old girl.

Saturday evening Merkin, her friend Mallorie, and dog Olive were stranded west of nowhere in a snow storm. I called the insurance company to get them towed out. An hour later I called back to ask when they'll arrive because the battery had died, there were no lights, and it was now pitch black outside. The insurance agent said "Oh, there's a an 8 hour wait. You should call the local 911 to get them out." Thankfully, Joel left to meet them while I was on the phone with insurance the first time. I called our local 911, they gave me the number for the Walsenberg PD. Walsenberg PD gave me the number for the Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol said they were covering accidents and didn't have time to rescue stranded motorists. As Merkin and Mallorie's phones were dying and their butts were freezing a kind Samaritan rescued them and gave them a lift to Walsenberg. Joel found them warming up at Loaf and Jug. Thankfully, they arrived home by midnight and were safe and sound.

The dogs tearing up the kitchen, eating a bag of chocolate chips and a plate of chocolate chip cookies was simply delightful. Discovering our plumbing was backed up added to the pleasure of the weekend. But our weekend was celebrated with everyone, including 3 dogs, being mostly healthy, sharing in some laughter and tears.

Yesterday Merkin and Joel went to retrieve her car which she had just sunk $1000 a week before so it would be ready for the 6 hour drive home. Did I mention she also experienced her first major heartbreak during finals? The shop said the car was fine and it would only cost $160 for them to pick it up. Alas, as they got near Pueblo the car died again. Turns out the guys in the first shop weren't the brightest bulbs. She had blown a gasket going over La Veta pass but they didn't notice that. For another $60 they discovered that her car is kaput. Today, Joel and Merkin will make a shorter drive to retrieve the car again. 

Tonight we will celebrate with friends, including 3 of the cutest children on the face of the planet (not mine, little ones). There will be laughter, there will be joy, and life will go on.

My girls are home and relatively healthy. For that I am thankful. Joel and I will have been married 20 years in 2017. We have survived post-partum depression, adult depression, seminary, crazy family issues, major job losses, 4 years of rural ministry in the most conservative land I've ever lived, our eldest being bullied by a teacher/coach and football team, packing up our lives and moving to Colorado without jobs and moving in with our parents, getting back on our feet, leaving the UMC, joining the UCC, starting the ordination process all over again, having two out of three girls become cutters and have suicide attempts and multiple hospitalizations, and we have survived this past weekend. Things that could have easily torn us apart drew us closer together. We are stronger and closer than I ever knew a married couple could be. When I got married to Joel I didn't believe that married couples were ever really faithful. I didn't know what a healthy relationship could be. I do now. I know that couples can not only be faithful but they can still be twitterpatedly in-love. 

Yes, the past few years have been difficult beyond anything I ever want to go through again. I'm still scared for the mental health of my girls, I'm still scared that Ainsley will give up the fight against depression and anxiety. I'm still concerned that Valerie may be living at home without a job or in school due to her depression and anxiety. I still find it hard to say and acknowledge that my spectacularly successful Merkin has bipolar because it scares me that all three of my girls have significant mental health issues. And yet, here we are, alive and experiencing joy in the midst of life that can be hard.

Drumpf may be our president elect but I know of at least 3 powerful young women who despite their challenges with mental health unabashedly stand for the rights of others, work towards equality and justice. I have 3 warrior women and know there are many others who will not go silently. I know a strong man who works with children doing all he can to teach them more than writing and arithmetic so they too will have courage to face whatever comes their way. I too am a warrior woman prepared to fight for justice and equality. 

2016 may have some more challenges for our family but we despite everything, are strong enough to face them. We are certainly strong enough to see what 2017 will bring.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

They're back

I woke up afraid this morning. Afraid of going back to therapy. Thankfully I have therapy on Thursday so I can discuss this with Cynthia.

My nightmares are back. Nightmares that either I had as a child and in my early 20s or for whatever reason in the midst of the nightmare I believe it's a nightmare I've had before.

I've been doing EMDR in therapy and I love it. I believe it has been one of the most helpful forms of therapy I've experienced. Yet, there have been a few times in which my brain/imagination has simply gone black and then we've stopped for the day and returned later.

It feels as though there is this darkness that I am afraid to face and it is leaking out in my nightmares. 

It was disappointing to wake afraid and worried after an amazing morning with my mentor yesterday. I had obtained some clarity about my call and the process. I was excited to sit down and write and blog about it but I had to go to work (the bummer about employment is you can't just do whatever you want whenever you want).

Perhaps, the nightmare was simply a backlash of fear. I'm moving forward and it feels affirming and wonderful, perhaps that beast of self-sabotage took one last swipe to see if he still has any power. 

No, no you don't. I'm taking my power back. You aren't going to scare me. I've got Cynthia to help me sort this out and I have a mass of supports to help me in the ministry process. Bring on the nightmares and I will dismantle them and grow from them. I'm not going back into the dark.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Picture Perfect

This morning my mind raced with ideas about what to do with our weekend: getting the house cleaned up, decorating for Christmas, making Christmas candies and cookies, having friends over to play some games, or maybe inviting our parents over to play Hand and Foot (an outrageous card game that is lots of fun), shopping for Christmas presents, or perhaps having a date night with Joel. Surely, there's enough time for all of that right?

Joel has been under an immense amount of stress due to his own procrastination with his classes. But after midnight tonight (his deadline for the last paper) he will be free! At least until the next class starts. I too have been stressed and working too much. Last weekend I worked both Saturday and Sunday, this is my first weekend in several weeks that I won't have to work!  Hurrah! So it's no surprise that I want to cram everything in while I have time.

Earlier in the week I thought my weekend would mean laying in bed feeling miserable so I started overloading on Vitamin C, doing nasal rinses, using Raven in my diffuser to help me breath and guess what? It worked!  I'm still a little stuffy but I'm not concerned about wasting my weekend in bed.

I am concerned that I won't be productive and have a little fun at the same time. As my mind was racing this morning, I pictured a clean kitchen with my girls laughing and having fun while we make chocolate peanut butter balls, Christmas music playing in the background (Weezer's Christmas of course), and then friends coming over with their kiddos and lots of laughter and good times, like a Hallmark Christmas movie where all is good and everyone is happy. That's how my plans always look in my mind.

As I've been pondering success and what that looks like, I feel like this double edged sword. As I seek success, it also brings to mind all the ways I have failed. For example, this weekend will not include family and friends coming over to eat homemade cookies and candies. My girls are both sick, I may have warded off whatever they have but they aren't willing to do the nasal rinses ("Gross!) that I swear by and they both are suffering from depression. For now, that Hallmark picture isn't part of my reality. I will have a clean kitchen come hell or high water!

I'm the person always telling people that perfection is overrated. That getting back up when we fall down is what matters. Or perhaps I'm just trying to convince myself.

My life has never been picture perfect. I've had lots of great ups and downs. I've laughed and loved in the midst of muck and mud, I don't think I'd want it any other way. And yet, each time a holiday or party or school year comes around, something picture perfect comes into my head and I strive to get there. Sometimes I have a breakdown because it's not picture perfect and other times I laugh and find the joy in that moment. I guess it's good to realize the only thing that even the picture never comes out quite perfect, our imaginations fill it in.

Here's to a weekend filled with imperfections, depressed kids who have a little bit of laughter, and that I get my clean kitchen!  May we find joy in the mess!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dreams of success

I was dreaming of writing. Scribbling frantically with pen and paper. A good friend came up and wanted to talk. I said "No, not now." He begged for time. I replied "I'm not here for you, I'm here for myself, for this. I came to write." His feelings were hurt but I felt justified and then I felt guilt. I was writing about redemption and love and kindness. I was guilty of putting myself and my writing first, putting it over my relationship, my friendship, taking care of another. I was angry at myself and at my friend for not understanding that I had gone to that time and place and space to write. Yet I knew that I would want for our friendship and camaraderie when the writing was done, when I had exhausted myself from the scribbling and purging of thoughts and emotions. What else could I do but come here to write after such a dream?

I've been relieved of failure and fear!  I wish! I have been relieved of writing and focusing on failure and fear for my mentor!  It is now time to focus on success and what that looks like for me.

This morning, success looks and feels like taking care of myself. I haven't been doing such a good job of that lately. Work has zapped my time and energy. Family has been hard lately as well. Interesting that I've been encouraged to think and write about success and here I am flailing my back once again. What does success look like right now? Taking care of myself, treating myself and my body with love and respect

  • writing: creating time and space to express myself 
  • hitting and kicking bags at 9 Round--it's good for my body and mind, one of the best stress relievers I've ever experienced and the people there are encouraging and supportive
  • eating and drinking things that help my body rather than hurt it--I know gluten and dairy rob my body of energy and create pain
  • while I'm treating my body as a temple then I should also get some new stained glass (tattoos)
  • ooh, spending some time at R.E.S.T. Float solutions--indulging in relaxation and prayer
  • writing
  • time playing with my family--the girls are older and so play looks different now but our best times have been painting together, ooh, yes, we need a painting day!
  • time with Joel
  • time with friends
  • reading--this past week I started reading again, it had been months since I've read for pleasure
  • prayer--significant time spent in prayer
  • focus at work and then leaving work at the office
  • not working on Sundays and enjoying the time with my church family
  • dreaming
  • making love
  • leaving fear and failure behind, not letting it get in my way, understanding that both are normal parts of life but not giving them control
  • preaching with heart and love 
  • acting in and for justice
  • hosting parties for family and friends
  • cooking and baking
My fingers gobbled up more time than I had planned. It felt good though. I really like this to-do list!  What does success look like to you?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sleep Deprived Post

First of all, I am a sleeper. I can sleep through nearly anything.  I can still sleep until noon. As soon as my head hits the pillow I fall asleep. I can wake up and go back to sleep almost immediately. I'm a sleeper, it's what I do.

This morning I woke up around 2:30 or 3. I have not been able to go back to sleep! I've been yawning for hours, I've tried laying down and going back to sleep but it's not working. So here I am 2.5 hours later writing on my blog. I'm not sure I can be responsible for what I write in this sleep deprived state.

In about 5 hours I'll leave to pick up my eldest daughter and her BFF from college. Let's hope I don't sleep during the drive!  Okay, not really funny. I'll have to take a cue from my mom and pull over and take a nap when I get drowsy.

I think it was my junior year of high school and I was driving a boat of a car that looked a lot like this:
Image result for 4 door 70s long carsIf possible, I think it was even longer and not as pretty but it was gold. Anyways, it was sort of embarrassing to drive but it was also utterly heavenly to drive. It was like sailing, smoothest ride I ever had.

I had a habit of skipping school in Manhattan and driving back to Emporia to visit my friends at my old high school. One day as I was going back to Manhattan I fell asleep driving. I woke up with the sound of metal scraping the passenger side of the car along the  railing of a bridge. I was one lucky kid, my neighbor Wilma always said "God protects fools and children." Thank goodness for that! I quickly righted my boat and pulled over to check the damage. Miraculously it wasn't much at all. I had a long scrape where the paint was etched off but that was it!  Of course I tried to keep the boat parked across the street so my mom wouldn't notice. She eventually did and I lied and told her that someone must have scraped it in the school parking lot. Back then I was sure I had covered my lies but looking back I'm pretty sure my mom had my number.

I plan NOT to repeat the scenario today, rather than flatlands I'll be driving over mountain passes to pick up my eldest and her BFF. Perhaps that's why I can't sleep, I would love to get dressed and head out now but I need to stick around to get my youngest to school.

Happy Friday, stay woke my friends!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Saints and Sinners

It's been a bit harry lately. Ainsley's depression has kicked back into high gear and it's a big mess. Thus far no hospitalizations so that's positive.

Today was a great day for me. I was honored to preach this morning and celebrate All Saints Day with the church.  Since I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd post my sermon here and let whoever happens upon this blog know that I am alive!

Luke 6:20-31
20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.25“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Ephesians 1:11-23
11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

“Saints and Sinners”

Today is the day in which we take a moment to reflect on those whose faith has shaped and inspired our own faith, those who have listened to our doubts and questions, taught us to pray, and share in this journey to know and love God deeply.

We refer to these people as Saints. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he refers to the church, to that body of believers as Saints. In the early church “Saints” was the common name for the people of the church. They were people just like us. They experienced times of great joy and great faith and they experienced times of doubt and questioning. They weren’t perfect, not at all but they gathered together to support one another in times of need and to rejoice together in times of joy. They spoke about their faith and beliefs, they had courage to share their doubts and questions, they learned together and from one another. These are our saints.

Over the years the term Saint has become rather bloated with great expectations of perfection and honor. We’ve added to the title of Saints a person who has done great works of love and mercy and had a hand in spectacular miracles. To be canonized, meaning to be officially recognized as a Saint by the Catholic Church is quite a feat. First you have to have lived a life as a “Servant of God”—much like Mother Theresa feeding and caring for the sick and hungry, the Untouchables of Calcutta, for her entire life through moments of faith as well as doubt. Or if you are a martyr for the faith, meaning you died in honor of your faith or in honor of God, and then you can be on the fast track to sainthood. Then there must be at least two miracles must have occurred after his or her death, unless you died for your faith and then only 1 miracle needs to occur. It’s quite a process.

Through the years we’ve transformed Saints into Superheroes of Christianity. Saints are put on pedestals that we could never reach, nor is it likely that we’d even try. Some of us give up before we ever start.
If truth be told, I’d imagine most of the official saints might be a little embarrassed. From the readings on saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, and St. Francis, they too struggled greatly in their faith. St. Teresa went a few years refusing to pray because she believed she was so unworthy and such a great sinner that she didn’t deserve to experience that time with God. She declared herself a sinner and yet we’ve declared her a saint. St. Augustine and St. Francis experienced great doubts and questioned their own faiths as well. Please understand, in no way am I denigrating them, they lived extraordinary lives of faith and doing God’s work in the world.

My point is that they are not so unlike us. We too struggle in our faith; we and they are not perfect they too bore the title of sinner. They too continued in their moments of doubt and questioning. They too experienced moments of blessed clarity, moments I refer to as “God moments.” Those times in which we meet or are speaking with someone, or witness something so incredible that we know it has come directly from God. Sometimes, we participate in those moments for others without ever knowing it.

What if we return to the early church definition of Saint? In that case, Saints are also sinners. Saints are people just like us—people with flaws and heartaches, people who make mistakes but continue to try to do better, people who don’t give up, people who come together to learn about and share their Christian faith, loving and supporting each other as we seek to know God better. We do what we can to live lives that follow Jesus the Christ. To live lives of love and kindness, knowing that at times we fall short.

Some saints volunteer to teach Sunday school, some saints help out at the food pantry, some saints give up their Saturdays to come and fix a leak at the church, some saints prepare a meal for a friend who just had surgery. Sainthood is less about miracles and more about acting out of God’s love and caring for those around us—sometimes in little quiet acts of kindness and sometimes in major campaigns to create worldwide positive change.

Earlier we listened to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plains,” in Luke, Jesus had returned from the mountain and has come to the plain, the flatland to be with the disciples and his followers. This tells us something important, Jesus comes to our level. Jesus meets us where we are, he isn’t afraid to get dirty and get in the mud and muck of human life.

He first addresses the poor. Luke is clear, these are poor people meaning literally poor-they are struggling to simply live, they are the have-nots. The poor struggle to pay for things, to have enough food to eat, they don’t always have safe shelter and yet Jesus tells them that they are blessed with the kingdom of God. I don’t know about you but I’ve been poor. It is not glamorous and it certainly doesn’t feel like a blessing. But here Jesus is heaping blessings on the poor, the hungry, those experiencing grief or depression, those who’ve been cast out due to their faith. These were and continue to be those of us in the church. These blessings Jesus is heaping upon us help us to see  the  blessings in our own lives. They gives us hope that the struggle will not go on forever, that we will have relief.

Then, Jesus addresses the rich. Again, he means those with money, wealth, and power. Those who have plenty to eat, those who have safe shelter, those who are happy and content, and those who do the casting out. These are the haves. Jesus’ words to the haves are not comforting, they shake us, and leave us worried that we won’t always have the power and wealth, that one day our bellies and bank accounts will not be full.
Jesus knows both groups were present on the plains; both groups are present in the church today. For all of us, a reversal is coming. For some of us, this is good news. For others of us, this is scary.

I’m not sure that this scripture is meant to simply condemn the rich and uplift the poor. I think it is recognition of the way things are. It reminds us that we are all in this together. This moment in our life does not define us—changes and reversals are coming. We should not be judging the haves and the have-nots and laughing at their situations, for change is coming.

Regardless of where we find ourselves on that spectrum of haves and have-nots, we are all called to be Saints. We are called to go beyond the cultural norms and love and pray for our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us (and I don’t mean “bless her heart”, we all know that isn’t truly a blessing), to pray for those who abuse us (it doesn’t say we have to stay in a relationship with them but to pray for them). 

Jesus goes on to say “If anyone strikes you on the cheek offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
These actions are no small feat, but they are what Jesus calls us to do. I want to offer up an idea, when we pray for our enemies; we should probably pray to help love them too. I know I have a hard time loving my enemies on my own. I think the experience of truly praying for our enemies, praying for those who have hurt us, likely does more to change us than them. When we are so entrenched in prayer and love, it becomes more difficult to see people as enemies. We tend to see them as fellow human beings with flaws much like our own.

I want to be clear, if you are in an abusive relationship, I don’t believe that God expects you to stay and pray for that other person. I believe God wants you to pray for them but that God does not expect or want you to stay in harm’s way. The act of offering your other cheek when someone has slapped you on the other is a way to get them to stop. It’s a sort of humiliation, just as giving your shirt as well as your coat. In Jesus’ time, Roman soldiers would walk with civilians and demand their coats, to give the soldier your shirt as well as your coat essentially left you naked, which then drew attention to the bad behavior of the soldier. Sometimes these verses have been used to keep people oppressed but I do not believe that is the sacred message here. I believe Jesus is telling us to go beyond our cultural norms and to go beyond in love, I don’t believe it is telling us to be doormats.

For a minute, close your eyes and imagine that during this election cycle, we and the candidates prayed for one another, not just for our favorite candidate but for all of them. I believe this would create a totally different kind of election cycle. Rather than defaming and yelling at one another when we disagree, we would speak politely and truly listen to each other. Can you imagine an election cycle surrounded with prayers for love and grace? I’m positive this would be transformative and create a time of healing and consideration of what is best for our country. We need relief from the grime and bitterness of this election.

We must remember that we are not enemies. Just like the crowd Jesus spoke to, we are all represented. We are all offered a new way of living and being in this world. We can choose to accept the challenge of living a life grounded in love and prayer, kindness and generosity, a life lived in faith.

Does this mean we won’t sin? We won’t slip up? We won’t fall short? Of course not. It means that we are committed to getting back up and trying again and again and again.

Take a moment to picture a person who has inspired your faith.

Was this person perfect? Or were they a beautiful blend of sinner and saint?

Here these words of Paul from the Message Bible. Hold them close, let them sink in, let this be our prayer for all…

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!”
Let us live as the Saints (and sinners) we are called to be! Amen.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Failure to act...

I wish I had made my shrink appointments to be weekly instead of bi-weekly. This morning I woke from a dream that I just can't shake off.

I take pride in being a good mom to my kids. We have open conversations and yet I keep good boundaries so that they know I'm Mom and not their BFF.

But I failed my youngest when she was very young. I should have done something differently. She was spending the night at a friend's house and when I went to pick her up the other mom said "I found them playing naked in the bathroom but I tried not to overreact." I know that kids have normal sex play so I didn't make a big deal of it. I assumed it was normal kid sex play, nothing to be worried about.

I was wrong. My youngest hadn't wanted to participate. It was not consensual sex play. She felt violated. She was violated and I did nothing.

She now has PTSD and is struggling with sexual feelings. She spent most of last year in mental hospitals with a large part due to this non-consensual sex play. (I don't call it rape, even though that is the experience my daughter had, I don't refer to it as rape because the other party was just a child as well. I think this child was a bully but I'm not sure I can refer to her as a rapist at the age of 7. Who knows what had happened to her.)

The theme I'm noticing here is a lack of action. For me, guilt and failure result not from the things I've done but the times in which I did not act.

So how do I begin to make that right?

Monday, September 26, 2016

More ramblings on failure

I had an appointment with my shrink today. She asked how often I've failed at things. I honestly replied not often. I've made more than my share of mistakes but failing at a task? Not often.

However, I carry with me my Aunt Susie's voice every time I make a mistake. She's been dead several years and she was absent for many years of my life and yet i still hear smoker voice with a tilt of laughter saying "Crystal, everything you touch turns to shit." I can't remember when she first said it. I can't remember the context. What I remember is that I've always been hard on things. As I kid I blew through shoes, I still tear up shoes. I have to get new dishes every few years because mine break. A year or so ago I was doing lawn work and sliced the electrical cord and weed-wacked my own leg. I bought a new car last year and my front right bumper is totally scratched up. It's true, I'm hard on things. It's not true that everything I touch turns to shit. Every time I do something stupid and innocent, like driving to the wrong town for my hotel a few weeks back and discovering I had passed the hotel 30 miles before. I started to beat myself up with talk about being a dumb-ass when my daughter stopped me and helped me to laugh at myself. I'd never be so cruel to someone else and yet I do speak to myself that way.

One of the things I'm supposed to be doing for my mentor is creating a collage on fear and failure with cutouts from magazines. I started going through a pile of magazines today. I wasn't finding much inspiration or pictures that represent fear or failure to me. Then my view shifted. I realized  I'd been looking for the wrong things, I was being too literal. The more I flipped through the magazines the worse I felt about myself. I hated seeing the pictures of beautiful women, these beautiful seascapes and landscapes of places I'll likely never visit. Pictures of families hiking and having fun made me feel like I was wasting my life. I was judging myself, my family, my life on pictures in a magazine that is posed and created to sell items or tell me where to go on my dream vacation or how to organize and decorate my dream home. Rather than being inspired, it made me depressed to know I'd never spend $65 on a pair of jeans and I find it nearly impossible to envision myself in Cuba and that my bedroom will probably never be clean let alone perfectly decorated. I was judging myself, condemning myself, and wishing for a different life.

And yet, as I put the scissors and magazines away, I walked into my home (which is beyond what I ever imagined for myself) and my youngest was holding the kitten her sister rescued. My husband kissed my neck, my middle daughter petting my dog, and I realized that my life is good, my life is far more than good, far more than I ever imagined for myself. I am not a failure. I may or may not go to Cuba. I find it a point of honor not to spend $65 on a pair of jeans; I'm proud that my girls are not wrapped up in name brand clothing and consider thrift store shopping an adventure. I'd love to give my home a fresh splash of paint and do some decorating but I can do that a piece at a time. I want my home to be clean but not perfect...some days that's a huge struggle but I'm working on it. Our house is a house of love and laughter, that's far better than anything a magazine could offer.

New sets of dishes every few years is fun. I can replace my shoes. I live and love with passion and that may mean my things may not be gently worn but that is far from turning them to shit. Knowing my Aunt Susie, she probably said it with love and laughter never intending to hurt me and certainly not expecting it to stick.

Failure...

It's been busy, so what's new right? I guess this could be about a failure to post blogs in a timely manner. I gotta be honest. I'm sick of thinking about failure. I've found that I don't like the word at all. I don't like considering myself or anyone else a failure. I prefer an "oops" or mistake; not failure.To me failure means the end; that there's no coming back. Thankfully, that isn't how the world works.

Nearly every week I attend a staffing for men (mostly) who are in a program to help them face their problems and perpetration of domestic violence. These guys have usually had multiple arrests and convictions of DV, this is their last chance if you will. I'm amazed and frustrated by this process. One of the things that frustrates me is knowing some of their histories and realizing that instead of sitting in jail, they are out on the streets and thus it feels that DV isn't always taken seriously. However, on the other side of things this program makes my heart sing. These are guys who've been through their own trauma and have inflicted trauma on others but yet this program sees their value as human beings, as people who have had trauma that has led them down a dark path and instead of giving up and calling them failures, they are surrounded by professionals that want to help them deal with their trauma and go forth as good and decent partners, spouses, and parents. They may have failed in their relationships before but they are not failures; they are people who need support so that they can do better.

In that sense, failure does not exist because we have grace, we have second, third, seventy-second chances to be better, to make it work.

Yet, one failure to act still nags at me and haunts me. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties I had a younger cousin who was very much challenged at home, she had a rough life. We talked about bringing her into our home and raising her. We were barely scraping by and knew there wouldn't be assistance available unless she ended up in the system and we didn't want that to happen to her. We were also afraid, afraid of what I'm not totally sure but fear was definitely present. We didn't take her into our home. She's now a drug addict and has lost her own kiddos to the system. I, we, failed her. I can't make it right. So how do I begin to forgive myself for that failure? It happened. I don't know that she would have done any better in our home, she would have moved to a large city and potentially be exposed to more drugs there than in the small town in which she lived. Maybe we couldn't of handled her but my failure is that I didn't even try. I gave up the fight for her before it was even started. So there is failure, I have failed her. That is how the world works at least part of  the time.

It's a cliche but it's true: our regrets are made not by the things we tried but those we did not attempt. So is regret the same as failure or something completely different? Perhaps regret is the haunting residue of failure.

As sick of it as I am, I guess I still have work to do. Until next time...

Friday, September 16, 2016

She's coming home

A few weeks ago I drove my middle child across states to try living with my sister. She lives in a small town, there's more family and my baby girl (I refer to all of my girls as "baby girl") has high anxiety so we all thought it might be a good thing for her. Yesterday she told me she wanted to come home. She said she feels "worthless." That broke my heart. I wanted to leave last night to go get her.

So why talk about that hear? My self talk immediately became that of my failure: "What have I done wrong that she struggles with so much anxiety? I should gotten her to therapy before she left. I should have done xyz." I also heard in her voice that she feels a bit of that failure vibe too. She's worried that she's disappointed the family there by coming home so quickly. 

Realistically neither of us should be considering failure at this point. We wanted to try something different, we did. We didn't know what would happen, we weren't sure if it would be a good fit or not, there weren't expectations. Okay, I think she had some unstated expectations, the expectations I had were confined to her learning to drive and coming home sooner than later. She didn't learn to drive but she did drive more there than she ever has here. She is coming home sooner than later, I just wish it wasn't breaking her heart so much.

I'm glad to have my baby girl back. I have a better idea of what I need to do to support her. Those are good things. We can give her some extra support and love so that she can fly when she feels ready. I think she feels like she should be flying now. She's seen most of her friends fly off to college and they seem great. She wasn't ready for that and that's okay. I hope she'll relieve herself of that pressure. If you have suggestions about how I can help her release that let me know. 

I want to help her release those expectations and fears and that feeling of failure so she can be free. I realize that I too need to release my own expectations and fears and feelings of failure so I do not infect her any more than what's been done. Perhaps we can learn to fly together.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Happy Birthday Christopher

Christopher would have been 27 today. I imagine that he would have graduated from college, gotten a job and still rides his long board to work. His brown hair tousled and windblown from the ride. Perhaps by now he'd be looking to settle down and start a family or perhaps he'd be adventuring around the world and exploring.

I also imagine that our daily reality would have been pretty harsh had he survived. Had he lived, I probably wouldn't know him either as we were set to give him up for adoption. I was only 16 and quite a mess, I wouldn't have been a great mother. Some of my roughest years were still to come. Often I've thought death was kinder to me than adoption would have been. I would have constantly been looking and wondering and trying to find him just to know that he was okay.

Please understand, I believe in adoption. I believe mothers and fathers who give their children to another family to raise are brave and show great faith. I do not think I could have been so strong.

This morning I spoke into the wind, knowing that the wind would take my message to Christopher wherever and whoever he may be now. I said, "Happy Birthday, I love you and still think of you often." The pain never fully goes away, it ebbs and flows. For me, acknowledging it is far better than ignoring it and pushing through the pain. I can speak into the wind and release the pain rather than holding on to it.

I love you Christopher and I always will.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The wagon is circling back!

Hello and Happy Monday!

The past few weeks have been rough at work. So rough that I've had days in which I'm not sure I can continue doing what I do for another year or so. This weekend my husband asked if I'd made it to the gym in the past few weeks. Of course, I had not been.

A hard truth is that when I go to the gym my mental health is greatly improved. Earlier this summer I had a few rough days that I went before work and then went after as well. It helps me to relieve the stress and frustrations. So why didn't I go in the past few weeks?

The other things I've failed to do in the past few weeks is eat gluten free. I've also shredded my nails. I've simply fallen off the wagon.

When did I fall off the wagon? After going to get my psych eval for the ordination process.

I think this was a major lesson in self-sabotage. The closer I get to what I really want in life, some part of me freaks out and stops taking care of me.  What is up with that?

On the flip side, I did call my shrink and set an appointment. I have recognized and acknowledged my behaviors.

This week is going to be another rough week both emotionally and work wise. Had my first child survived, he would be 27 on Wednesday. It's crazy to think about, even after all these years I have an image of him how he'd grow and change each year. Last night I was feeling down about this and  imagined him being in the midst of wedding plans and thought to myself--"Are you going to create a ghost family for Christopher too?" I'm going to try not to do that but what the hell, maybe I will if it brings me comfort.

My eldest baby girl turns 21 on Tuesday!  She's away at college and working, I can't wait to celebrate with her later.

On Friday I'm taking my middle daughter to live 10 hours away!  She's off to learn how to adult! 

My youngest has her first full week of freshman year this week. 

I'll be working 3 late nights. 

This morning I knew that what I need most is time at the gym and time to write. I had my gym time and it felt great to move and sweat. This writing is a little crammed but it's here so I'm counting that as a positive!

May this Monday bring you what you need!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hurt

My feelings were hurt. I didn't say anything because I understood the other person's perspective of why they had "disappeared." The only person I mentioned it to was Joel. He's a great sounding board and agreed that this person probably needed some time to lick their wounds as I had been unable to help them. That's all fine but I was still hurt, annoyed, and even angry that instead of talking to me directly that I was temporarily cut out.

This morning I was pondering what I should do. Do I reach out to this person or wait until they reach out to me? Do I act as though nothing has happened or do I acknowledge it? What does this other person want? Do they want the help I can give or is all of that too late?

On my way to work I remembered the DR asking me "Do you always take care of other's emotions?" He said that even in the psych eval process I was trying to take care of his emotions, gauging my responses based on what I felt he could handle. I owned it, "Yes." We spoke about how I learned this as a child as a coping and survival method. I developed empathy so that I could manage the emotions of the people around me. It kept me safe(r).

At what point is managing other people's emotions damaging to my own? I'm hurt and frustrated. I know the other person is as well. Is it my responsibility to keep my feelings to myself as not to further injure the other? On the other hand, I can feel my frustrating building. As a parent, as a manager, as pastor, in whatever instances we have the opportunity to exercise "control" or "power-over" another person we must be aware so that we do not abuse our power. We must be responsible, but when do we get to say "That hurt me when you said X or did X?" Or is that never appropriate?

I've had plenty of parenting moments in which I told my girls "I may be the grown-up but I have feelings too and that hurt." Or am I teaching them my empathy for the wrong reasons? Am I teaching them to take care of others versus taking care of themselves?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It's been several years but here I am again.

I'm now in process to become an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ!  It feels like I'm entering a period of renewal and getting back to my true roots and calling.

Thankfully I have a fabulous mentor for the process. She has given me homework. One thing is totally creative and not using words--only pictures to collage themes of fear and failure. The second piece is to journal about fear and failure. I've decided that it's highly unlikely that anyone actually reads this blog anymore since it's been inactive for years so it's as good as place as any to journal.  Plus I found a great community when I was actively blogging and my hope is to renew that community as well.

A few things for you to know, this year I broke my 40+ years of biting my nails!  This is HUGE and something I've tried to do most of life. Unfortunately, I have developed a new bad habit, I fiddle with my fingernails and often end up tearing them and so they are still really short. But I am working on it.

Back in February I started working out at a kickboxing gym called 9 Round. It kicks my butt and I absolutely love it!  My start was sporadic but over the summer I was going 4-5 times a week and feeling fantastic, feeling like I could do anything!

Back in January a doctor told me I might have Celiac's Disease. To get the actual diagnosis you have to have stomach biopsies. I chose to skip the biopsies and cut out gluten and stay away from dairy (that is nearly impossible for me! but I've been pretty fair at skipping it).

A few weeks ago I went on vacation and turned off my work emails from my phone. I felt like a self-care rockstar! Then I went to my psych eval for the UCC process. The DR asked what had changed that I was worthy of a week without work (I seriously think it's the first time I had real time off from work for an entire week in 3 years!). I went on to describe how great I've been doing this year and we spoke about the horrendous year I had in 2015/2016. He suggested that I experienced a sort of brokenness that put me through far more stress than I've ever had before and therefore I had to learn how to take care of myself.

So what does this have to do with fear and failure? The past 2 weeks since my vacation and psych eval I have completely fallen off the wagon. I've worked out once. My nails are the shortest they've been in 2 months. I've eaten both gluten and dairy on a few occasions. My self-sabotage has kicked in on high.

What the hell is that about? Is it fear of success? Do I not deserve to feel good and look good?

I'm not sure so I emailed my shrink to see if I can get back to work on these issues. I want to use this discernment time, my time with my mentor, this time of my life to be healthy. I want to be physically, mentally, and spiritually in good health, the best health of my life as I move forward towards ordination and I know that I can't do that on my own.

Ciao!