Saturday, June 16, 2012

other peoples' stories

i often struggle with blogging because i am tired of telling my story.  my story feels like it is a circle and keeps repeating itself lately...and it feels whiny and sad and depressing and not like something i want to keep telling.  only, i'm living it, see?  so i just don't tell any stories.

but i've been reading anne lamott.  and when i read anne, the one thing i always come away with, every single time, is that they're all our stories.  even the ones we think are crazy and totally unrelated.  like the cannibal guy in florida, high on bath salts, eating a homeless guy's face off.  when i finally googled that story to read it, it made me cry.  they're all our stories.  even my sisters-in-law...who haven't spoken in months...whose anger at each other has affected all of our relationships...when their mother was admitted to the hospital today, they both greeted her with the same exact words.  i'm telling you, like it or not, they're all our stories.

and being a part of a community reminds us of that.  i haven't had  a lot of community lately.  i've had some mamas i've seen, some i've talked to, the ones i feel closest to i'm on an online parenting board with.  but i haven't FELT the community a lot.  it's hard when the group you feel the closest to is scattered all over the country, in different time zones, all working damned hard at being good moms, good wives, good women. 

but i have been listening to a number of different stories lately.  mamas breastfeeding, mamas recovering from illness, mamas climbing walls taller than they ever thought they could, mamas in relationships, mamas dealing with their children's illnesses, mamas struggling with money, with children growing up and making mistakes...  my own oldest son was trapped in a bathroom in wet clothes, his friend showering, and girls in the room.  i will pray he found a way out of that situation that preserved the dignity of those involved, that mirrored the spirit of the God they were making the trip in...and i write that knowing that the Holy spirit moves each of us in very diverse ways...and i accept that...and i pray i can find the grace when i hear the story.  there's a mama laboring right now, too.  i'm sure there are many laboring to give birth right now...but the one who's laboring with my husband watching over her, sleeping at the hospital waiting for her birth...she's the one who reminds me to pray for laboring mamas and their stories tonight.

so, now that my beautiful, beautiful children are asleep, i'm alone.  and i remembered this story.  it's a story of a man who works at the rock climbing gym my children climb at.  he told me this story the day i told him the story of my oldest's struggles with his ex-girlfriend, his school, and a speech and debate tournament he'd attended.  this man cares a lot about kids.  but he has a special place for those that are making the crossing from childhood into adulthood...and i've learned from him that this crossing can span years...can occur at different stages for different people...and often comes later than we think it does.  he watches over these crosslings...mentors them...prays for them counsel and job and money and sometimes a place to sleep (in the rock gym, as a matter of fact).  he always sees the promise that they carry.  doesn't judge where they are at (although i believe he is a rather traditional christian in his theology).  and after hearing this story, i guess i understand better...and appreciate the light he shared.

he grew up in a very religious family.  (he is still pretty religious, for a guy who hangs out with rock climbers.)  he credits his family with the foundation they provided him for right and wrong.  but when he went to college, like so many of us experiencing that degree of freedom for the first time, he found a whole new world.  he learned he could be pretty cool.  and at one party, as he was walking in with boxes of beer and booze, he saw a girl making out with a guy on a couch.  and he knew he wanted to be with that girl.  so he waited til she was finished making out with the other guy.  and by morning, they were together.  and it turned out that she'd had a pretty religious upbringing as well.  and together, through their college years, they formed a relationship and then got married.  and together, they also found their way back to a path that was natural to them...a path that got them out of alcohol (he may have developed a bit of a problem) and loose relationships.  they now have two beautiful kids and a family that they feel at home in, that they grow together in, and that they are able to minister to others in.

the best part of his telling of the story was after he finished the details, and then reminded me that they would never have met if they had not strayed from what they knew was right.  if they had not made pretty terrible choices (i mean, no one died...but seriously, who wishes for their children to be alcoholics or having tons of sex?).  and so he doesn't question where people go, because he believes they'll all get where they're meant to be.

and that is gold.

i will hold on to it.  because this is my story, too.  and the story of almost everyone i can think of.  (and i only say almost because i am a stickler for facts and assume i can't remember everyone right now...but i'm pretty sure it's almost everyone i know...)

this story grabs me tonight because i realize that i fight so hard going to those dark places.  they are there.  i am ashamed when i visit them, but i'm kind of the kid in the room of bad things, doing a few of the bad things, but i have my eyes closed, pretending i'm somewhere else.  i'm always compelled to go to the bad places, but i have such a hard time enjoying them.  or even really acknowledging i'm there.

so i'm going to work on that.  i'm going to work on being aware of where i am, WHEREVER i am.  even when i'm somewhere i don't want to be.  because it is hard to confront bad choices when i'm not even really aware of them fully.  and i'm so tired of trying to be someone i'm not.  even though i know it is good to aspire to be someone good.  i am good.  even when i'm not.  because i know where i want to be.  and beating myself up on the way, or looking the other way when i feel like i'm less, is not helping my progress.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

the house we bought

third time's a charm, right? is a picture of the front of the house we bought in december.  i blogged about it back when we first got it and showed a few pictures of the remodeling project underway.  but life got, a recap.  here's the front.  i mentioned how you can tell the windows on the left end of the house (facing it) are garage bays where they converted the garage into a kitchen/sitting area...

 and here's the new front.  they took the front off the garage conversion and made it look more like an original construction.  we also put a new metal roof on, only because the old roof had more waves than a water bed and had to be replaced anyway and my husband and i have grown to love the metal roof in our current house...they last forever and we love the sound of rain on metal roofs.  so here's the house now:
 when you walked in the kitchen door, this was the view in december.  the floors were gross from two small dogs who were not very house trained and owners who didn't clean up very well after them.  the kitchen was very cramped and the two level floor (because they had to raise the floor to run the water pipes from the original kitchen) made the space very awkward.  i loved the wood stove, but the dryer vent pipe that was rocked into the surrounding wall made the whole thing something that was too expensive to redo and keep.  i'll miss the stove in my kitchen, but it sits in my garage, waiting to be put into the apartment conversion we'll do to half of our four car garage.  :)
and here's the new view from the kitchen door, which was scooted over some.  the whole addition was taken down to the two by fours.  the floor was evened out (which means these are the shortest ceilings in the house).  we moved the island back and made the kitchen space much larger, but there's still a lot of breakfast area space.  we put in wood floors because wood will give a little more on these uneven base of the floors, and we just like wood a lot more.  we also removed the post they had (it wasn't structurally needed...i was assured...pray...) in the middle of their kitchen, took out that overhang, and removed the stove that divided the kitchen area from the dining/living room area.   it's kind of a wide open space that we aren't sure what to do with, but i think it's just going to be nice to have that much space with all these kids growing up and becoming much larger young adults.
 the fireplace that was along the back wall (and thankfully leaked, so we had to remove it):
the back wall of the house now:
 and a view into the kitchen area from the back door:
the same view now, sort of...the stove is not there anymore, that's the main thing:

so that's the house i keep talking about.  i'll post pics of the view when i get some i like.  it just looks kind of scrubby in the pics i have now.  oh, and that fridge in the last picture?  our nine year old fridge?  well, you can't tell from the picture, but it was dropped in the driveway at my present house.  the oldest son and the husband were having some communication issues that resulted in the oldest moving it along on the dolly and the husband not helping but instead walking away to let down the trailer it really looks like it came from a scratch and dent sale...a BIG scratch and dent sale.  it ties the rest of us in to such a shiny new space.



i know, i know...twice in one day.

the previous post was a my kids sort of deal.  see how much they've grown.  it was shocking to me in some ways.  i've gone back and reread some of my blog.  it's fun.  i have changed so much and so little.  reminds me of the indigo girls line "every five years or so i look back on my life and i have a good start at the top, go full circle round, catch a breeze, take a spin...ending up where i started again makes me want to stand still."  A.M.E.N.  i have spent the last two years trying to stand still.  and it doesn't work.  things still move.  if i could get the whole world on board to stand, it'd be so boring.  oh well.

so speaking of trying to stand still for two years...  my oldest left wednesday morning for a mission trip.  he's made some decisions in the last year that seriously made me wonder about his character.  which might sound kind of superior of me, but i'm pretty sure he's had some serious doubts about his character as well.  he's in such a state of that he's gone over to the dark side, made some serious mistakes, looked some serious issues in the face (with his parents right next to him because much to his horror AND his's funny like that...we're just that kind of family), realized he is not perfect, is capable of great selfishness and deception, he has to find his balance.  his happy place where he can be happy AND feel good about himself.  judging by his mom, it'll take him at least another twenty years before he even begins to buy into the truth that happiness and feeling good about himself are the same thing.  but i digress...

my oldest was gone for all of fourteen hours when i was driving my other kids around, and my youngest son, who's eight and the most honest person i know, who also has a question for any quiet moment, asked me, "mama, was there ever a time when you were as busy as daddy?"  now.  there are so many responses i'm sure this could conjure up in a person.  my twelve year old immediately began the line of defense about how i'm so busy with all of them, taking care of them, etc.  (God love the twelve year old, he is one loyal guy)  and i probably would've felt pretty defensive, pretty oldest had been gone for fourteen hours.  i had taken him to his school at 5:45 that morning, watched his luggage that he'd set on the grass get soaked when the sprinklers suddenly came on, seen that "that kid" that i don't really like was going on the trip as well, helped everyone pack the van, talked with some parents, and prayed with the priest who came to bless the kids that the trip would be a success and they'd be God's light and return safely.  traveling mercies....

and on the way home, i'd thought about the last trip he'd been on...and the horrible choices he'd made...and the slow weeks that the full ramifications of those choices played out...all the way to the end of the imminent consequences...where we'd all felt like we'd dodged a bullet but realized we were still left with a lot of rebuilding now that the universe had decided we could carry on as usual and our lessons would be our own to learn and make a study group to figure out.  and, not surprisingly, this filled me with so much anxiety, i considered turning my truck around and picking him back up, telling him i'd made a terrible mistake in letting him go, that i didn't know if he was ready, but that i realized i wasn't.  then i remembered that he is seventeen.  and will be a senior in high school next year.  and was on a trip to repair houses for impoverished people in the rio grande valley...and do arts and crafts with their children...and play his guitar and sing jesus music with the kids...and to be the hands of God in reminding the people that they are loved...that well-to-do kids who could spend their week playing video games and watching movies wanted to ride eight hours to do these things with them and for them because God loves all of them, and it's in the doing that we realize this most fully.  how much trouble could he get into doing that?  how much room could there really be for him to fall into horrible choices?  ok, so the answer is, as we've all learned, that possibility is ALWAYS there.  so i prayed he'd make good choices.  for himself.  because i want him to realize he's a good guy.  i want him to feel like one of the good guys.  i don't want him to hide himself because he has so much to share.  and so i prayed, because really, that's about all i can do.  i prayed he'd feel the love of God and share the love of God and that those two things would be enough for him.

but back to my eight year old who thinks i'm lazy...  just joking.  i don't think he thinks i'm lazy.  and with my oldest son off fighting his own internal battles, i didn't have to fight his judgment of me (which is something he does to distract himself from working on his own shit).  i was able to talk to my kids about how mommies are tired when babies are mommies' bodies are working to make milk and feed babies at night when no one sees them being busy.  but then i acknowledged that my energy has not been what it was.  and that i was hoping it would get better.  and everyone seemed concerned and contented and relieved that we didn't have to worry about mommy feeling like she'd just been accused of being a lazy especially.

it has been a very different time for me.  of course, i read this blog and realize i've always struggled.  but i definitely see that i used to be a much quicker rebounder than i am now.  and the things i know will help me feel better?  i just don't always do them.  i'm tired.  i'm tired of working so hard to feel better just to get knocked down again.  now, i know things are probably going to stay pretty even for awhile.  and we're getting ready to move into this house that i really think will change things up quite a bit for us.  but i am still struggling.  it's been a rough journey...medical school with four kids...having a fifth child during a husband working as an ob/gyn...with a high school senior and a high school freshman...and a toddler...people die...people move on...parents fighting...balancing money...these are real challenges.  i give myself credit for that.  i know i'm not making this stuff up.  i struggle between trying to control it all and surrendering.  it's like pulling on the rope with all of your might and then letting it go.  i get nowhere.  yet i'm still exhausted and my head pounds.  i know i'll get through this.  but i think it might be time to call in the cavalry.  i'm not exactly sure who the cavalry is, but i suppose if i put out the call, whoever shows up is the cavalry. 

i appreciate this time with my younger guys.  they are not in such flux and my relationship with them is so different.  they're not the first...the one i over-identified they do not convict me at all.  well, if they do, it's so little i don't even notice.  i don't blame my oldest for the way things are.  i hope he's enjoying himself these days he's on his trip.  i hope he is lifted up by who he sees he can be...who he is.  i know my time with my younger guys has already done that, at least a little, for me.  and i'm grateful.


kiddo update

allow me to reset a bit.  when i started this blog, i had four boys...and they were kind of little.  but my family has size as well as stature...

 this is a picture of my first born, my fourth born, and my second born sons.  (we're big mario fans here...)  anyway, my oldest is seventeen.  he'll be eighteen at the end of the summer.  he's grown and struggled and made some pretty awful choices, but he is still good on the inside.  he's struggling with being cool and being good...with being popular and being true to himself...with being separate from us while still respecting us...with choosing his values and not throwing out stuff just because we value it, too.  he still plays guitar, is still active at church, loves football and baseball and track, absolutely ROCKED his sat, and likes hanging out with his friends.  he also still forgets to let us know when he gets where he's going, spends too much time on the computer, and leaves his room a disgusting mess (although he shares with second born, and they always argue over who's really the messy will be interesting after we move because they will have separate rooms for the first time).  oh, and do you know what he does that really drives me crazy?  he washes whites WITH darks.  ugh...have i taught that child nothing?  i love that first born son of mine...but i also like when he's gone.  i worry about him a lot, but also know he's going to be fine.  i know he is so smart, but i also know he is not finished making dumb mistakes.  he is so like me.

this is my second born. he is my mini me. only he's not mini to me...he's about five inches taller than me, although we only tell people he's six feet tall. when they ask if that's all, we tell him we only measure up to six feet at fourteen years old...when he's sixteen, we'll see how much over six feet he is. his hair has only continued to get wilder and curlier. sometimes i wish he'd just let it dread, but i'm pretty sure it would give my husband many problems. which means second born would never do it. he's just that kind of guy. he is a peacekeeper through and through. but not the martyr, give himself an ulcer trying to keep everyone happy sort of peacekeeper. he makes a choice and lives with it. which is not to say he's never angry. but he's just an easy going, kind hearted, gentle person. he likes rock climbing a lot, plays the piano often, likes magic the gathering and video games. he is also awesome with his little sister...which is pretty special...but i'll get to her later. this guy is like me in so many ways, but he's so much smarter and wiser and more grounded. i often tell my husband i want to be him when i grow up

this is my third born and my daughter.  i don't have a lot of pictures of him, which i will work on because he is just beautiful.  he's always had this very interesting face to look at.  he's also my most sensitive...which means he finds offense in a number of things, but it also means he easily forgives and loves fiercely.  he is really, really smart.  he reads voraciously, also rock climbs, also loves piano and magic the gathering. he likes to cook, too.  he is the quickest to hide something or change his story to get out of consequences, and i suspect he does that because he knows he can.  he's the third and the one we don't watch as closely.  this has fostered a lot of independence in him that is really neat to watch and has served him very well.  but he's also one i tend to try to connect with when i can because i know we need it.  he'll be thirteen at the start of this school year...yikes!  three teenagers!

my fourth born and youngest son, my eight year old, is in the middle in the first picture.  that kid is just pure.  he's one of the most honest, most delightful kids you'll meet.  he's also a little on the lazy side, but he does have three big brothers that go before him, so why do it if they will?  he has a question for any quiet moment..."mama, what was your favorite toy growing up?", "mama, did you like ice cream when you were little?", "mama, did we all say 'no' like our little sister does?"  he will talk about anything and everything.  the other night he asked me if God was real and how did i know?  and then we proceeded to talk about it for an hour.  (which was remarkable considering he asked at midnight)  he's also my insomniac and he has stomach issues.  i'm considering having him tested for celiac, but not until we move.  he rock climbs, plays piano, loves magic the gathering...see a pattern?  he also has a special bond with his sister.  he was the only one who insisted she was a girl the whole time i was pregnant.  he was there when she was born (as was my twelve year old).  and she trusts him deeply.

and, so, speaking of the girl, she is two now.  she has more personality that i ever recall her brothers having.  she is more independent, stubborn, strong-willed, and exhausting than i recall any of them ever being until they were seven.  she has opinions on everything.  she can be alternately maddening and charming and the sweetest thing ever.  she is so smart about people.  and she is so observant.  she is madly devoted to her babies for about two days, and then throw them over to gorge on caillou and her brothers.  she loves just about anything...singing, reading, television, arts and crafts, painting.  we've been in vacation bible school this week and she wakes up ready to go and very, very excited about everything they do every morning.  some days i wonder how we've made it this far with her and other days i wonder how we ever lived without her.  she is humbling and i am a better person for having her and growing alongside her.  we all are.

and those are my guys.  having the oldest go through some rough patches was a humbling sign post that we are not immune or perfect.  that nothing we have done or will do will ever keep us from hurting or watching each other hurt.  and when they say kids are your heart walking around on the outside, they are not joking.  and there is nothing harder than watching your heart hurt itself.  but having made it through these first seventeen (almost eighteen...ack!) years together, i have faith we are going to be fine, heal, grow, and love.