Thursday, April 30, 2009

Detaching From the Outcome Part Deux

I've been a foster parent for like fifteen years. During those years, I can not count how many people have said to me two things. One: "I don't know how you do it", and two: "It would just kill me to have a child come into my home, fall in love with them, and then send them back".

To answer both questions, I have no idea how I do it - seriously, it's God 'cause I am so woefully inadequate to be a parent. If I had to write up a resume (an honest one including my sordid past), you'd think so, too. So there's that grace factor, big time.

To answer the does kill you.

I've had many children in my home over the years. Actually I don't know how many, because I've never counted them up, but it's more than a few and less than a ton. Let's say, a passel.

Some of them came and left abruptly. In the beginning of my illustrious professional mommyhood, I had a teenage girl, we'll call her Helen, who was in my house for less than 2 hours. We picked her up at the Juvenile detention center, drove by the MALL for something, and guess what? Helen leaped from the car, took off into an apartment complex, and was never seen again.

Some kids were only short term. They and their families needed a break, and then they go home to continue working things out. That's terrific, of course. Some kids come so angry and so damaged that no matter what you do, no matter how much of you you pour into their life, it isn't enough and they have to move on. Usually those moves are after several weeks and months of trying, and the reason for the move is to keep the other children safe (and me sane). Those moves are sad, too, because you want them desperately to "get it". To realize the hope you are trying to offer them - but all you can do is pray hard and realize that sometimes all we get to do is plant seeds. Even kids have the right to make bad choices.

Then you have the rip your heart out moves. My first one was early in my fostering "career". Kesley and Kris were around six and nine, and this beautiful little Native American/African American girl was placed in our home. She was maybe two, possibly almost three. Cute as anything, yet so serious and sad. She came to us suddenly, with a quick call and barely time to find out her history. The social worker breezed in with Chelsie, dropped off her and her tiny toy suitcase with her belongings, and left - saying over her shoulder, "You might think about adoption, we are planning to terminate parental rights".

Whoa. Well, of course, we promptly fell in love with this brooding little toddler. We got to work getting her to smile, helping her walk (because she wasn't yet), in general, investing into her little broken life trying to heal her with kindness, gentleness, stability, and love.

It was working. After the first two weeks or so, Chelsie smiled. Then, she laughed. Wow.

She would walk with the big kids and me down our long, dirt driveway every morning to wait for the school bus. Kelsey was completely smitten with this "baby sister". Kind of like a little doll that gave hugs and kisses. Chelsie loved Kelsey, too.

Then I got the call. Mom had enlisted the aid of the Tribal Council and they were taking over the case. Chelsie was being returned to her mom. The next day. No transition time, no warning, just back to mom. Boom. Kelsey still talks about it, remembers it, remembers Chelsie. I do, too.

Over the course of fifteen years, this type of sudden, painful moving of children happened several times. Again, I didn't keep count, but each time, whatever the reason, whoever was to "blame", it still hurt. It still needed grieving because these are little people we are talking about here. They wrap their little selves all around your heart and a chunk of yours goes with them when they leave.

So, here we are again. I've been fostering little Andrew since November of last year. He's four. He had and has anger issues. He is absolutely entitled to, he's been in eight homes in his short life. Never any warning to him, no preparation, just hop in the car with the social worker for an outing, and end up in a new bed that night. Try explaining that. Try understanding it. When you are four.

I loved on that little man thoroughly. Firm boundaries: "We don't say those words, Andrew. We don't throw shoes at people or windows or doors, Andrew. We don't spit, hit, slap, bite, scream...". From rages lasting hours at the beginning, he now can take a fairly decent little time-out in his room (four minutes on the timer, once he stops screaming). He gives hugs and kisses. He is a funny, sweet, caring little guy.

The only time he gets scared and shuts down is when he is seeing his mom. I don't need to go into any of it here - it doesn't matter anyway. Suffice it to say that mom has an attorney, and the state is now moving forward on Andrew returning home within 90 days. Mom's attorney wants it to go faster, but who knows?

Here we are again. It's hard to grieve well in these circumstances. I heard a foster mom just the other day say it's like being told your child has a terminal disease but they give you the exact date and time of his or her death. Yeah, it's like that. Add in being strong for the kiddo, not verbally or visibly worried about him going back to the situation that got him in your home in the first place and being strong for the rest of your children - they will be grieving too.

How do we do this well as a foster parent and a family? I have no freakin' idea.

Like I said, a chunk of my heart will go with Andrew too. I will always remember him, pray for him, love him. He is my son. But, she is his mommy. I will wrap him up in a blanket of love and place him in my Father's huge, amazing hands and trust - really trust - that He, Andrew's real Dad, has it under control.

And then, I will probably do it all again. Because everyone needs someone to love them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Older I Get, the Smarter My Mom Is

I don't know about you guys, but I was a very, very rebellious teenager. My life was in upheaval - my parent's divorced WAY back in the day (think '70s), my older brother was in trouble with the law (his first known offense was shooting out the local juvenile court judge's living room window), and had taught me how to smoke pot at age twelve, and my mom was working two jobs to keep us afloat.

I wasn't appreciative.

My take on it was that she was never home. I was going through my Jr. High and Sr. High school years essentially sans parenting. Not good. Because I didn't get the attention I craved from my exhausted mother, I decided to take what I could get (to borrow from Bachman Turner Overdrive). I went the sex, drugs and rock n' roll route. I had a car by the time I was seventeen, and became my party unit's designated driver. Now, back then, the designated driver didn't stay sober. The only requirement was that you had a car and it had gas.

It is truly a miracle that no one was killed by me during this time period. I am not proud of it, but there it is.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, my mom had no idea what I was doing. I was a fantastic liar. I called myself in sick at school, showed up home when I needed to, somehow managed to get B's in most of my classes, and generally stayed under mom's radar for several years.

When I started inevitably slipping up and she would question me, I would turn it back on her. I knew how to push all her buttons, how to make her feel horrible for how I was...if I were my own mother, I would have thrown me out of the house. She didn't. That poor woman. She had nothing in her Depression era, Catholic upbringing to prepare her for me.

I won't go into the excruciating details. They aren't the point right now. The point I want to make is that, as I got older, as I "settled down", life wasn't all black and white like I thought. Mom wasn't to blame for all the evils on the earth, or even in my life. She was just the only adult who stuck around, and for that, she got all the anger and pain and hurt "due" everyone else in my life. She absolutely didn't deserve it.

She was doing her best to hold herself and our horribly broken lives together. She didn't have the tools or the support to do it in a fabulous and textbook way. But she tried so hard, and I hurt her so much. I think this is probably the biggest regret I have in my life. That poor little woman, whose whole life had fallen apart, was working her heart out to keep me alive, and all I did was hurt her.

I understand where I was coming from, and again, that's not for this post - it's also no excuse. The point of this is just to share that maybe you've felt the wrath of your ungrateful, self-centered, clueless child. I just want to tell you, please try not to take it personally. Your baby is in there somewhere - and I think that lots of that anger that you get really has nothing to do with you, specifically. I think that your child just wants to be held, to be loved, to be understood - 'cause they don't understand themselves...they probably don't know why they're so angry, either.

Do what you have to do to keep yourself and your family safe. If your angry child needs a time out (like time in respite care or a boot camp!), don't hesitate. Just let them know that you really do love them, and want to make it work. Bottom line.

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8 ESV

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Grand Canyon

I have to say, this has been one of the toughest years of my life. It's not just The Depression (mine, not the country's); or the general upheaval in my life - too convoluted to go into here - but on top of the typical stuff, I have Empty Nest junk, times three.
My older son, Kris, has been working his way out on his own since he graduated high school in 2005, so I'm kind of adjusted to that. But, he did move back home two years ago, leaving Colorado and coming out to Seattle to help keep the family together when Kameron relapsed and was back in the hospital another dozen or so times. Again, that's a long story, and a very sweet one, but essentially, Kris left his close ties to Colorado and a bunch of great friends to come out to Seattle and try to continue his college experience. This selflessness just blows me away.

This year, he moved down to Oregon to finish his degree at Linfield College, and he proposed to his really awesome girlfriend, Kami. I am incredibly happy for them both...but, I have to tell you guys that it's been a very hard adjustment, and I know I'm not quite there yet. It's that whole "leaving" part of "leaving and cleaving". I'm pretty sure it will be much easier for him than me!
Again, I am seriously happy for them both. This is purely my issue here.

Then we have Kelsey, my nineteen year old. She's also insanely sweet and kind of my right hand. Maybe the left one, too. Not only does she help in many and amazing ways, she, like Kris, helps keep my focused and helps me remember to have fun. She started college last Fall. Now, granted the college is like thirty minutes away, and she comes home a lot, but she's really getting her feet under her and starting her life. She has plans. Like going with her dorm friends to Disneyland for a week or something this summer. Like going on a mission trip to Scotland - this June. Like growing up.

And then we have Elesha. Now, I've only had Elesha the last eight years or so, but she grows on you. She and I have been through a lot together, and this year she also moved out into her own place and is taking classes at a local community college...she visits a bunch too, but...none of it's the same, people.So if you look at it clinically, I guess I have reason to be unsettled. These are major changes here, and all of them combined with all kinds of other stuff I've been stuffing for decades helped me into this little valley I find myself in. Actually, it's a pretty deep and long valley. Think Grand Canyon.

I argue with myself that, "Hey, look how proud you should be. Three young adults doing good young adultish stuff". They are on solid ground and I think they all have good heads on their shoulders. I don't mean that they will all be rich and whatever, I'm talking about their character. They have beautiful souls, all three of them. I can not begin to express how very very proud of them I am. They are certainly in better shape then I was at their age.

This parenthood gig stinks. And I have to go through this how many more times?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pie Crust Promises

I did a good thing today. I said I was going to help our community group with a service project (picking up trash along the roadside), and I did it.

Now, that may seem kind of obvious, because, don't most of us do what we say we will? Um, I must confess that I frequently do not.

I did "back in the day". Back when I was a new believer and full of fire, I spent a lot of time volunteering for stuff and following through. I sang on the worship team, led the children in worship at least every other Sunday with my guitar, led a Bible study...all while going to school full time, working full time, and raising two children on my own.

How did I do this, you ask? I have no idea. It makes me tired just writing it. But, I seemed to have the energy, and really loved the work. I think I felt I was making a difference.

Along the way, my familial responsibilities got much bigger. I bought a huge house in Colorado Springs out in the country and started doing therapeutic foster care. At one point, I had fifteen children and two staff members.

Kelsey was in competitive gymnastics, which required membership in the parent booster club - basically time each month working the Bingo Parlor for $$, in addition to three times a week practices, meets all over the state, parent and team meetings, etc. Kris played football and basketball - some in Jr. High, but all the time in Sr. High. And in Colorado, the public transportation system was non-existent.

I am not sorry about these things - I totally loved going to meets and games and screaming my heart out. By the way, they tend to frown on yelling at gymnastics meets. It's kind of a "refined" sport, like tennis or golf. My bad.

During all this increased activity on the home front, I still felt pressure - probably just from me - to do my work for the church. Like attending the big events the church put on, practicing and singing in the worship team, having my kids as involved as they could be in the children's things...I think I got fried.

My expectations of myself didn't change with my increased family responsibilities. I think I decided that my value as a Christian and as a person were wrapped up in what I could do. And so I did, and I did, and I did. Way too many things. That's when my grip started slipping. I made promises, committed to be on committees, said I be at an event...and not show. Oh, usually I'd call, usually. After all, I have a house full of excuses.

But, James said, "Let your 'yes' be yes, and your 'no' be no" (James 5:12). I've wandered a long way from that.

Mary Poppins called them, "Pie crust promises. Easily made, easily broken".

I'm really just becoming aware of how bad this has gotten. How easily the excuses come, and how hard it is for me to simply figure out if I can or can't say yes. Actually, sometimes I know I shouldn't say yes, and still don't. I think they call that co-dependent. I call it being a chicken.

At any rate, if you are one of the people that I've let down - I sincerely apologize. My intentions are usually good. I just don't know my own weakness. My responsibilities are huge, and I'm trying to get myself back in order ('cause I'm kind of a basket case right now). According to Therapist Lisa, I am NOT to commit to more projects. So, please, if you can, forgive me.

And if I have to say, "no" to you. . . please be kind.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Personality Inventory

So, some time back, I participated in this personality inventory thing with my older kids. We had to bare the depths of our souls - through multiple choice. I hate those things. Doesn't it seem like they are trying to trick you? They ask the same darned question seven different times in seven different ways and think they have you fooled.

Anyway, one of the questions was are you more: kind, compassionate, thoughtful, or tactful. Something like that. So, being the inquisitive girl that I am, I asked my son, Kris, who I thought knew me better than probably anyone else, how he thought I should answer. I was leaning toward compassionate. Perhaps thoughtful. His response was a

He said, "Well, you sure aren't tactful".

Whoa there, big fella. What are you talking about? I'm exceedingly tactful, aren't I? I mean, I don't lie about stuff. Don't candy-coat it, you know. But, I'm ah, loving and ah, nice about it...Umm maybe I'm a wee little bit blunt...but ah, crap. Okay, so maybe I'm not tactful. Sometimes.

But what's the big deal? The definition of tact says something about dealing with others with diplomacy, and a delicate and considerate perception of what is appropriate. I'm almost six feet tall. I have a size twelve foot. How darned delicate can I be? And usually I don't have time to try to figure out what's "appropriate".

Who thinks these stupid tests up, anyway?

Next question?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Detaching from the Outcome

Okay - so do you ever have phrases and sayings that buzz around your brain for years - or am I the only one? Things like the Big Mac song:

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun

Or chants like Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack? The theme from the Love Boat? Anyone remember Lilly Tomlin on Laugh-in..."one ringie dingie, two ringie dingies..."? How about all the words to Yellow Submarine?

It truly amazes me how these things stick in my brain, but I forget what the kid standing in front of me is called. And I probably named him or her. I once called my son Willie. He had to remind me that that was our dog's name. His name is Kris.

But I digress.

Therapist Lisa told me something the other day (or week, it's a little fuzzy). I was sharing how I am a very good starter. You know what I mean? I have lots of ideas - great ones, probably - and get all excited. I plan, think, scheme, research - generally spend a lot of time and energy on said Great Idea.

But implementation, that's a different story. Somewhere in the scheming I start to pull back. Maybe I get afraid. Maybe I'm unsure of how it's going to turn out, so I stop. No one likes to look stupid. No one likes to FAIL. Risk is risky, right?

But we've all heard, "nothing ventured, nothing gained"; and "if you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got". Pithy sayings like that.

What does all that mean, anyway? When you are in the throes of something you think might be good, might be fun, might be life-changing and you freak out...I can practically guarantee that those little slogans won't help you much. In fact, they seem to up the ante on pressure. "What ifs" trump pithy almost any day.

Therapist Lisa gave me a good one, though. She said that I needed to "detach from the outcome". Just that simple. Detach From the Outcome. Cool. Do your best, work it, and release. In fact, release while you are doing your best and working it.

Okay... so I'm trying it. And you know what? It's working. I'm dipping my frozen toes into the swirling hot tub of life. We'll see how it goes. I don't want to push my luck. Hot stuff can burn, you know.

But for now, this is me, detaching from the outcome and signing off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Mom Logic

I've been a mom for twenty-two years. Crazy. In that time, I've raised, helped raise, and am still raising a bunch of kids.

You would think I'd have tons to say about Mom Logic, but I really don't. I don't find anything logical in being a mom. Let me explain.

Back many moons ago, when my two original children were very young - Kris was maybe three and Kelsey was around six months old - things were really rough. The Divorce was in the works, and my ex-husband had fled Seattle for Louisiana. We were living with my mom, which had its ups and downs, because mom and I have history, and she was pleased about The Divorce. I wasn't.

I had a full time job downtown in a stock brokerage - which required a lot of dressing up and looking nice - was dragging both kids to and from daycare (on the bus), and doing all the other basic mommy stuff like shopping, cooking, laundry, doctor appointments, diaper junk, baths, teaching my son, Kris how to ride a get the point.

So, most of the time, I was exhausted.

The only thing that kept me going was my new faith. I was a baby Christian. This belief came at me from out of the blue. The last thing I'd planned on was "finding Jesus". After all, I was an enlightened Seattleite. We don't do Christianity. That's something for primitives (to paraphrase Deepak Chopra).

In fact, I was horrified when I took this step of faith. Terrified of what people would say. Not sure what that was about, I didn't have too many "people".

But I digress. So, here I am, an almost complete wreck, parenting two beautiful kids by myself and feeling the walls closing in. I remember sitting at the kitchen table after a long day of work and mommying. Kris was probably outside, my mom wasn't home yet, and Kelsey was sitting on the kitchen floor wrapped up in some toy. She was a fat little baby, pudgy little cheeks, pouty little lips, and a round little head with hardly any hair. You know, the kind you strain at getting one of those Velcro bows on so people will know she's a girl? Like the pink clothes don't say enough?

I remember sitting there with my head propped up on my hand watching her play. She had her back to me, and all I could see was her little round self hunched over whatever it was she had. The place where her head and her upper back met looked like they were stuck together - like she had no neck, kind of like a little snowman baby or something. Only with arms and legs. And not so pale.

As I watched her, exhausted from the day, and anticipating years more of this, a massive rush of love completely overwhelmed me. It almost made me cry.

This perplexed me. I asked myself: how can I love her so much? I mean, what the heck? She was a pooping, crying, hungry, drooling, demanding blob of personhood, requiring constant supervision and gobs of money. I had given up my rights to my own life for this insistent, ungrateful little thing...what was up with this crazy wave of emotion?

And I swear, I heard God say to me, deep in my heart, "That's how I love you. You offer Me nothing at all, you deny Me, you break all My rules, you take and take, and rarely say thanks. But, I would die for you, Kathy".

And I got it. There is no logic to it. Love is totally illogical (nod to Mr. Spock). But it's written deep in our hearts. We long for it. We die without it. Good mommies pour it out constantly, daily, for years and years. And frequently, we don't get thanks. We don't get fame. We don't get fortune. We get sleepless nights, ER visits, late night phone calls, wet shoulders from crying babies, crying toddlers, crying teenagers, and crying young adults. We get barf, coffee, ketchup and other junk on our white shirts. Sometimes, we get our hearts broken.

And we love them. We love our babies.

I'm sorry, I can't find any logic in that. And I'm completely fine with it.

This post is my entry for the Mother of All Bloggers contest. If it is chosen, I will be begging for your votes. Just a heads up! Thanks, everyone.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Avoiding Eye Contact

A few weeks back, Pastor Mark was talking about suffering people. Actually, he's been teaching on it for a few weeks, because he's been in 1 Peter, and there's a lot of suffering in there.

So, as he's talking about people being real, and allowing others into their pain, he said something about how when we know someone is in pain, we don't like to ask, because we don't like to see others cry and because we might feel like we have to do something for them.

This thought's been in my brain hanging around ever since.

Today, two things happened that brought it to the surface: I spoke with a young woman at church - let's call her, Sarah, who was with a little bit older woman in a wheelchair (let's call her, Anna). Now, Anna was probably mid-twenties, and she has CP (cerebral palsy) I think, and is kind of bent up. She had a tray on her chair with two things: a hand towel (which tells me she probably drools a bit), and a pink iPod docked in a speaker set attached to the wheelchair tray.

I saw these two at church last Sunday on Easter, sitting in the foyer together watching the service on the flat screen. They caught my eye for a few reasons, one of the biggies is that I completely identify with sitting out in the foyer with a person with special needs. Over the last fifteen years, I've spent many Sundays watching services from Nursing Mother's rooms (I have no nursing babies), foyers (even when there was room inside), and, most memorable, sitting on the sidewalk outside the church listening through the overhead speaker holding one of my special kids who was a bit challenging (to say the least). During those years, I honestly don't remember too many folks joining me so I'd have some company.

So I have a considerable amount of empathy here.

Today, Sarah and Anna were back. This time, just inside the doors of the sanctuary. I smiled as I went past the first time, having things to do - like picking up my kids from the nice people in children's ministry. When I came back up, they were out in the lobby, alone. Now, I don't know if anyone else talked to them, but I do know that a lot of conversation was happening around them. I went up. We talked for a minute. I asked her if she was a caregiver, and she said she only helped on Sundays. She is a friend of Anna's family and Anna loves to go to church - she loves the music and being around the people. Sarah is a young, attractive girl. I'm pretty certain she had other things she could be doing with her Sunday.

She chose to help Anna and Anna's family.

Last week, I saw her loading Anna into a van by herself, today she was standing by herself. Our church has hundreds of people milling around after services. They were alone. Two weeks in a row that I know about. I am not condemning our fellowship. Like I said, I don't know that no one spoke to them. All I can speak to is my personal experience in a variety of churches over the past fifteen years. Very lonely years. It's almost like having a person with intense needs puts a bubble around you. Like no one knows what to say, so they avoid eye contact, and move away. Or, they give you a quick smile, and move away.

This is how I feel when I see guys standing at freeway exits with cardboard signs. I avoid eye contact. I know that I really can't help them. I don't even know if they actually need my help. But, because I feel guilty that I am in my car, and they are standing out there with a sign, I avoid them. Avoid any chance of interaction.

Now, one time, Kameron was with me in the car and we were heading to Physical Therapy. I was stopped at the light, and there was a guy. Kam starting yelling, "Hi! Hi!" to him, being a friendly sort of nine year old. So, I rolled down the back window so he could say hi better. The man, turns out his name is Scott, was shaking Kam's hand and genuinely happy to talk to him for a second. In fact, he kept saying, "God bless you" to Kameron. This all makes me think.

Why do we assume that the less fortunate are wanting something from us? Yes, often they are, but sometimes, maybe all they want is for someone to stop and see them, talk to them, give them a second of human interaction in a kind way, not like they're freaks or something.

Doesn't that apply to all of us at some point in our lives? Haven't you ever had a time when you desperately needed someone to just see you? To ask you how you were and mean it?

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I guess I just want all of us to take a few minutes out of our lives and make that eye contact. Take a risk, say "hi" to the street person, go introduce yourself to that mom alone with all the kids or that person in the wheelchair.

I doubt that it will change the world, but I can almost guarantee it will brighten up theirs for a moment. And maybe yours, too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Identity Crisis

Hi - I have to share something. I'm having an identity crisis.

See, I entered this blog contest (actually, you guys nominated me, but I solicited the nominations) called The Mother of All Bloggers. Cute name, right? And after getting nominated, I started thinking about it.

I've never actually labeled myself, or my blog. I just kind of write about where I am at the time I sit down in front of this keyboard. On rare occasions, I've had something extra to talk about (like the Mentoring Project), but usually, I don't edit myself overmuch.

Entering this contest has caused me to be tempted to want to win this contest. This led to me "checking out the competition", and reading some really neat blogs. The thing of it is is, first of all, we are all different types of bloggers. There are some mom blogs that are funny accounts of daily life being a mom (and let's face it, there's TONS of material) They had me rolling! There are some that focus on stuff like finding bargains and give-aways (neat concept, actually didn't know they were out there). There are "Christian" mommy bloggers, mommy book reviewer bloggers, mommy travel bloggers...

You get my drift? There's a whole world of mommy bloggers previously undiscovered by moi.

Me, I don't know where I fit in. I had to provide three categories for my blog to sign up for the Facebook Network app for blogs. I was seriously hard-pressed to narrow it down to three.

My writing comes from a pretty broad place. I'm an "empty-nester", I could write reams about how that's shaping up in my life - yet I'm still parenting three boys. I have special needs children, there are multiple facets to that experience - from the daily realities of meds, doctors, equipment, therapies, etc. to how it feels to sit beside your six year-old's hospital bed and tell God, "It's okay, you can take him now".

I'm a single parent - have been for twenty years - I remember the early years when it was just me and my two "original" children. How freakin' scary that was, how much I needed God because He really was all we had. I also am living that life now, with all that time under my belt, knowing you actually can have a son turn out pretty awesome without a dad, and a beautiful, well-adjusted nineteen year old daughter who doesn't hate you. Yet, I'm still raising this batch alone...

I'm a Christian. Struggling and fighting for my relationship with Jesus. Trying to keep it real and honest between Him and me, and bring my heart right.

I'm a daughter. Abandoned, adopted, alone.

I'm a foster parent, and adoptive mom.

I'm a woman. I frequently deny that part of me, but it's pretty much a done deal. I get lonely, I'd love to be wanted.

So, to try to narrow all that stuff down and laser-beam my ramblings in this blog...don't think I can. I write from my heart, and I hope what you read is helpful, or moves you in some fashion. That it benefits you, my readers, and that you find encouragement or hope, or just recognize that you are not alone in how you may be feeling.

I apologize in advance for not being easily categorized. Maybe I won't win any contests, but I will always be real about where I am. And I truly, truly hope that works for you.

Much love,


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reality Bites

Back in the mid-'90s there was a movie called Reality Bites. I haven't actually seen it, but the title's always intrigued me. It's one of those little snippets that move through my mind like those little floaty things you see in your field of guys do know what I'm talking about, right? You know, they look like junk you'd find under a microscope...?

Sometimes the strangest stuff will pop into my head. Like almost every time I participate in a group prayer - especially if we're standing up and holding hands - I inevitably want to say, "Keep coming back, it will work if you work it!" While swinging our hands back and forth. That's from my brief stint in Al-Anon. Also from Al-Anon, "Don't be in the middle arranging all the outcomes" (like that's possible), from SmokeEnders, "You're a puff away from a pack a day". Pitiful, I know. Such is the flotsam and jetsam in my head. No wonder I'm in therapy.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking a lot about the Skin Horse. That wise old toy from the Velveteen Rabbit. I say wise, because I can't remember how many pastors I've heard quote him, so he must be pretty darned wise - right?

This is another thing I've never actually read front to back. But I like the premise. The actual full title is: The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real and it was written by Margery Williams back in 1922. Rabbit was a Christmas gift to a boy. The Boy loved him at first, for about two hours, and then Rabbit was quickly forgotten in the bedroom. I love how the author describes him as "shy" by nature, and says that most of the other toys put on airs and snubbed him - basically, this stuffed bunny had really low self-esteem. Only the Skin Horse would talk to him.

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

The Skin Horse Tells His Story

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

You can probably see why pastors like to quote this passage. I think we tend to want to listen to all the prosperity crap some preachers put out or the bad theology we make up ourselves; that we blame God for the mess in the world and in our lives (even the stuff we cause ourselves). In reality, Jesus spoke numerous times about having trouble in this world - He certainly did.

There's another scripture in the Old Testament that says that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men...maybe because that's in there (that longing for eternity), our hearts hurt over all the crap around us and in us. We know in our heart of hearts that it isn't supposed to be like this.

In the meantime, I guess the key is for us to remember that we are becoming Real. And, if we are honest with ourselves, the Realest people we know are the ones who've been through the most stuff and accepted it rather than blame, deny, and avoid it.

But, we all wish we could become it without these uncomfortable things happening.

I love you guys - thanks for listening.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kobi Has a New Friend

Disclaimer: this post is a little...well, maybe a lot, creepy. Just so you have a heads up. No pun intended.

My eight year-old son likes to do hair.

Wow. It's so freeing to just come out and say that.

He's always been fascinated by it - combing out old Barbies, stealing his sister's hair ties, learning how to tease - you know. He's even gone so far as to arrange various types of laundry in jaunty 'dos on his head. Beehives made out of t-shirts, dishtowels for long, flowing locks...he's even braided bathrobe ties and given himself pigtails.

I'm sure you get the idea. He's a tad obsessed. Once he went on the computer, googled "french braiding", followed the links to YouTube and replayed said searched-for video too many times to count until he - at the age of eight - taught himself how to french braid.

Now, bear in mind that Kobi is struggling with his education. Math is NOT his friend. In third grade, he's getting way behind. Yet, he manages to search for, find, and implement instructions on weaving hair that most moms can't follow.

It gets weirder.

My older son, Kris, is getting married this summer to Kami, who just finished hair school. She has these styling mannequin heads for practice laying around her car. Kobi saw them and became - you guessed it - obsessed. All he could talk about was those heads. We tried a trial run to see how he handled them (because it's taken almost a year to get him to stop braiding his t-shirts), and predictably, it wasn't pretty.

Not only did he do "her" hair, he named "her" Viola, carried "her" around cradled in his arm all day, took "her" outside and stuck her on the fence (I kid you not), and, he had deep and meaningful conversations with her. WAY too freaky for this mom.

So, the mani-head went into timeout. Indefinitely. Like solitary confinement for life.

Meanwhile, Kobi's been working on a deeply personal matter that only occurs at night and requires the use of special night time items in order to keep his sleeping area...shall I say, dry?

This has been an ongoing source of much conflict with no apparent end in sight. I mean, he could go on his honeymoon needing pullups. SOOOO, being the on the ball mom that I am, I put two and two together and came up with a "reward" (and by reward I mean bribe) that I thought might finally do the trick: any morning he wakes up dry, he gets the mani-head.

Yep, I went there.

It's been months and months. TONS of wet laundry, etc., but Kobi has now managed four, yes four, dry nights. Not in a row, but hey - any progress is awesome in my book. His future bride will probably appreciate it, too.

Now the mani-head is back in the picture. And the funny part is, he's not quite as enamored with her. Yes, he still talks to her and smuggles her out to the yard, and yes, he sleeps with her next to him and GI Joe...but I'm afraid the honeymoon is over. I've seen him swinging her around by the hair out in the yard like the hammer in some grotesque track and field event.

If he's upping the ante in this payment for no pee deal, what the heck is bigger and more desirable than a mannequin head of your very own? Bubble gum?

Pray for me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What's the Big Deal?

I never really got the message of Easter. It didn't make sense to me at all. As a child, I thought it was about getting dressed up in a new Spring dress, shiny white shoes and tights, going to church (one out of two times for the year), finding my Easter basket and having a yummy big meal. I had a cool plastic purse that played Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail. That was Easter to me.

So we observed it.

As a new Christian at twenty eight, with lots of sin under my belt (or "living" as we like to call it), and almost destroyed by the sins of others, I was enthralled by the entire Easter experience.

I was fresh with love for my Redeemer, feeling my heart beat in my chest after years of stony was indescribable. I was overwhelmed with joy and a sense of freedom. Every worship song had a deep new meaning. The Spring season was a perfect metaphor for the new life I genuinely experienced. Forgiveness and love washed over and through me. Crazy joy.

This beautiful, tender, passionate sense of love and joy lasted for many, many years. Like being loved by a great man - a perfect Man. Easter was like our anniversary every year.

But then the world reared it's ugly head. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the shield around our relationship drooped. I let disappointments and unmet expectations distract me from Him and what He was saying to me, both in prayer and in His Word. Just as that Word says, the cares of the world rose up, choking His life in me. He never left me - He doesn't believe in divorce - but He honored my decision to do things my own way.

Years of struggle ensued. Terrible darkness and lonely, desperate nights of worry and fear were the norm. I cried out to Him, yet refused to listen to His answers. And I blamed Him for all of it.

Easter became a time of mourning for me. Mourning over what we had, what it could have been. No joy, no hope, no heart overflowing with love and singing with freedom.

More sorrow.

Years later I am just beginning to sense my heart stirring in its tomb. Afraid to come out. Afraid to hope again. But maybe there are signs of life.

The budding world around me makes me smile a bit; the fat robins pulling on worms almost distract me from the yard that is in disarray; white clouds against a blue sky catch my eye again, and certain songs sound like He requested them for me...maybe His tender, gentle love is winning again. Why He wants me, I still don't know. Especially now, when I've been so foolish and distrustful. A classic worrying, suspicious, nagging wife.

But this Easter feels different. This Easter feels more like a celebration and less like a wake. Resurrection? It's a big deal for me.

The biggest.

Bless you, my friends. May you listen to His voice wooing you today. If you hear it, don't turn away...

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Ungrateful Heart

I feel the need to beg forgiveness. Mostly from God, I guess, but also from my children, friends, co-workers, and everyone whose life is touched by mine in some way.

My sin, my problem (this one, anyway), is ungratefulness.

It seems like my focus is frequently on the difficulties of my life, and rarely, rarely on the joys, the benefits, the blessings I have. I hate this. I hate it when my children do it to me. You know, it's not the right cereal, you didn't buy yellow potato chips, we are out of milk (are you going to the store, mom?), blah blah blah.

Yet, I rationalize and defend (to myself) my "right" to complain about my lot in life. I'm not really overt in this negativity (am I?) but it has crept out of my heart like a low-lying fog, and is covering up the good stuff, making the blessings hard to see, distorting the reality of how good my life is, and dampening every interaction.

It's a subtle thing, this fog of the heart. Damp, pervasive, corrosive. I think it starts with a little - just a little - self-pity. "Man, I'm tired this morning", "Why don't the kids
ever stop bickering?", "I have to clean the bathroom again?" . Next thing I know, these thoughts start coming out of my mouth: "Andrew, sit down in that chair, you'll spill milk all over your shirt!", "I've told you fifty times to FLUSH AND WASH YOUR HANDS!!", "CLOSE THE FRONT DOOR!"

And the angry, self-sorrowful, foul fog is wrapping me up in a cocoon. And everything I feel and say seems perfectly reasonable, even justified. Darn it.

They HAVE to sit down. They BETTER put the lid down and aim right! They SHOULD close the front door. They, they, they.

Reality: "They" are little children. "They" don't know, actually. It's my job to teach them. Right? Who is the adult here?

The Bible spends a quite a bit of time on this topic. Being grateful, thankful, content. It seems kind of important to God that we are grateful for what He's provided more than focusing on what He's withheld, or what this fallen world drops on us from time to time. And what's interesting is that when I do take time to pause before yelling, I start to notice again how darned sweet Andrew's goofy smile is or how hard Kobi is trying to do stuff right or how loving Kameron is under all his demands.

When I wake up and delay those "I'm not a morning person" thoughts, frequently I can hear the robins waking up outside, singing and pulling up fat Northwest worms for breakfast. I can hear the boys rustling around, identifying Kameron as he plops out of bed and onto the floor, on his way to my bedroom door to knock and say, "Good morning, mom, can I come in?".

And if I give God a chance to gently blow away some of that fog, I remember again why I am their mommie, and why I love it so much.

They still need to aim better, though.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Mentoring Project

Don Miller, the man who wrote Blue Like Jazz- Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality is a busy guy. He's teaching writing seminars (see Into the Elements), participating in making a movie from Blue Like Jazz, writing a new book: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years; working with the Administration as part of The Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives; developing a new TV show for kids called Biggles the Bigger Bee*; AND is the driving force behind The Mentoring Project, a mentoring program Don started a few years ago in Portland, Oregon.

Don believes, and I strongly concur, that the Church has the power to combat the epidemic spread of fatherlessness and its affects on the children of America. We aren't the only ones who feel this way, God is pretty firm on His position: He's pro His followers taking care of the poor, the weak, the widows, and the orphans. He talks a lot about it in His Book. Check it out.

As a fatherless child, as the mother to fatherless children, and as a Christian, I am glad and grateful to Don and his fellow MP peeps for this work. I will be promoting and praying for you. Thank you all.

Luke 14

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Don's Blog

*Note: This is actually just a rumor. Neither confirmed nor denied at this time.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


It's been awhile since I read an entire book in a day or two...well, at least one that's about God and faith. I did finish the Twilight series in like a week. And I've bought tons and tons of "Christian" books, because, well, I'm a Christian and I want to have a decent walk with God, and frankly, I need a lot of help with that. Sad to say, most of them are gathering dust on my bedside table, only a few chapters read.

But I finished Susan E. Isaacs memoir, Angry Conversations with God in about a day and a half.

First of all, the title is pretty intriguing. I tend to think I'm one of the few people in Christendom who are angry at God. I also have to say I love the back turned, pouty-faced, arms crossed bride on the cover with God reaching out to her. That too, I can identify with. I'm certain He's spent many many days in the past several years waiting for me to turn around and just listen to Him.

So when I read on Twitter via Don Miller's thread (@donmilleris if you tweet) that someone named Susan E. Isaacs was coming to his Portland church, Imago Dei, to read from her new book, Angry Conversations with God, I checked it out on Amazon.

Two days later, I'm done with it. I may read it again, and I rarely re-read books.

First of all, I am proud of her publisher, Faith Words, for bringing it out. From what I've seen in the Christian book market, some of her language shouldn't have made it into print. This makes me happy, just to be clear. Not that I love and embrace "bad language", but life is hard and sometimes we use strong enough language to express it. I am grateful that her prose wasn't sanitized. Her story was very honest, too.

Susan takes us through her Dark Night of the Soul. She shares her progress through the marvelous method of letting us listen in on her Couple's Counseling sessions - with God.

As a Christian whose been in a spiritually dark place for-well, for so many years now, I've lost track -it's heartening to hear from a contemporary peer experiencing God's silence too. She knows what it feels like to have an incredible closeness to Jesus, to have the sense of His Presence so real and so overwhelming that you understand why some of the old saints used to prostrate themselves. There are no words for it...and then it's like a door slams shut and He's moved on. No forwarding address.

She did the same thing I've done (hopefully, we aren't the only two believers to have done this), moving from church to church looking for that teaching, that worship, that fellowship, that supernatural something that will bring back the fire of our first Love. Ultimately, she tries to turn her back on Him. But love affair with Christ ruins you for the world. I can't imagine a more miserable person than one who has tasted and knows that the Lord is good, and then plunges into this spiritual darkness unprepared and ill-counseled.

Her anger towards God for this, her ultimate realization that she had expected God to give her the life she specified rather than embrace the life He had given her, totally spoke to me on so many levels.

Many years ago, I moved to Colorado Springs, answering "God's Call". The fifteen years that followed broke me down (a book-length story on it's own), and I still find myself blaming God. After all, didn't I move out there for Him? Doesn't He sort of owe me??

Wow. Arrogant little piece of clay, aren't I? My Creator owing me? Wacko.

Obviously, I still have a few issues to work through with my Heavenly Husband.

Stay tuned. Oh, and you should read this book.


I have to apologize, profusely and thoroughly.

I wrote a blog post about my daughter, Elesha yesterday that really hurt her feelings, and in reading it again, I totally see why. My intention was not to do that, but to kind of vent/poke fun at my family in general. We have a fairly wacky bunch, and I tend to use this blog as my outlet for some of the wackiness. When I do that, I tend to exaggerate just a touch, for dramatic emphasis.

Elesha is a totally sweet, loving girl who has overcome much in her life, and still keeps on fighting. I have nothing but love and respect for her and again, completely appreciate her offering to care for my monsters. That doesn't happen very often. In fact, I am pretty certain Elesha is the only person to ever actually call me up and say she wanted to come over and babysit so I could take a break. And that is nothing to poke fun at. That is a genuine, loving heart that has a pure motive.

Again, my Elesha, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I would never want to hurt you like that.

I hope you can forgive me.

With all my love, mom.

P.S. I owe you dinner and a movie.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Shiny Objects

Okay, so I left my cell phone at work tonight. I know, horrible, isn't it? You start finding out how darned much you live for that thing when you don't have it. I mean, I know I can drive down there tomorrow and pick it up. Not a huge biggie. But the ten minute drive home was really, really quiet. I didn't feel like listening to any music. Didn't want the noise, actually. So that just left me and my brain and the road. Way too quiet.

It got me thinking about something Lisa said to me during one of our first meetings. She said she thinks one of the reasons I have such a chaotic life is to keep me distracted. Interesting thought. I mean, how is she defining chaotic? Just because I have four small children at home (well, Klaryssia's seventeen, but really she's like six), three big kids in college, two part time jobs, a small, yappy, annoying dog, a house I can't keep clean or maintained, laundry that's never done, a car that's never washed, bills that barely get paid, a really messy kitchen, phones that never stop ringing, and the TV almost always on in the background, she calls it chaotic? What's up with that?

She says that one way we deal with uncomfortable or scary situations is by distraction. Evidently I take a lot of distraction.

And if that isn't enough background noise, there's always political issues I CARE about, the book I'm NOT writing, the pictures I WANT to take, the parenting I COULD be doing better, the floors I NEED to clean, the kid's fights I BETTER stop, the upcoming wedding of my son I SHOULD be helping plan...

I'm sure there are more things I have crammed on my plate.

Oh yeah, the relationship with my Heavenly Father I'm NEGLECTING, the parents I IGNORE, the friendships I'm NOT working at, the Bible I OUGHT to read...

You see a pattern here? My brain can't handle it. All the undone things, necessary and unnecessary, all the things I want to do and things I need to do, all the things I allow into my life swirl around in my head like water in a toilet that won't flush and are constantly overflowing.

This is what my therapist calls "distraction". She says I do it to make my brain stay so busy and overwhelmed that I can't possibly have time or energy to deal with what's actually bothering me. I shift my attention to the noisy present and have real reasons to justify my inability to take care of life (or myself) perfectly. Strike that, at all.

In short, I have created my own Chaos. My own little hell on earth.


This observation sneaked in through one of the little cracks in the wall around my heart while my phone was sitting alone at work and my car radio was off. The thing is, I found myself afraid of the quiet and afraid of my thoughts. Wow. Afraid to think? Afraid to allow my mind to wander without purpose, without a problem to be solving? Dang, how did that happen??

I think the wall is finally cracking is because my heart's had a few major setbacks this year. My son is marrying and getting his life apart from mom underway; my older daughter safely sent off to an awesome college...and I'm home with the little kids alone.

I am proud, sad, and a little jealous all at once. Proud, of course, because they are making way better choices than I ever did or could have at their age. Sad, because they are seriously fun and interesting people who love me and listen to me and make me laugh. I am missing their company big time. And jealous, because I sincerely wish I'd had the chance to live my young adulthood the way they are now.

Sucks frankly. And the temptation to hustle up more distractions away from these and other truths is huge. I want to have a glass or four of wine; watch a really empty TV show, try to read a novel, take a three hour bath, play Mafia Wars on Facebook...

But, maybe God wants me to try to accept some of this stuff and work through it with His and Lisa's help so I can actually live this life instead of trying to hide from it within the cocoon of chaos and guilt I normally weave around me. Maybe it's time to try to be a beautiful, healthy butterfly instead of a rotting caterpillar trapped inside my aging home.

Then again, it's pretty cozy in here...