Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ten Things Of Thankful #40- Normal and Spring

Ten Things of Thankful
Sometimes gratitude lists are easy. Other times, it is the discipline of keeping one that keeps me on track. The last two have been such an exercise.

1. Counting Mutant is on the mend- He has diverticulitis and it flared up. This time was different-it presented as appendicitis. So, he spent 33 hours in the hospital, with IV antibiotics. It was an adventure and I am very grateful it is over.

2. Normal- Monday everyone went to work/school. GirlyK and I had the WHOLE house to ourselves. In the calm quiet, I cleaned and she got all of her school work done.

3. Taco Tuesday- Had an actual date with Counting Mutant and devoured this fantastic Chipotle Taco Salad. The night was made even better when he bought me a new printer.

4. Revolving Nest- Some of my friends are dealing with an emptying nest. Others have an open nest. I feel like mine has a revolving door. Counting Mutant, Ase and Zany pass through at all hours of the day. I really am grateful they all like being around.

5. Gentle Lent- With all the kerfuffle from the past two weeks, I had to remind myself that being gentle with myself was key. This was not a Lent of law and works, but of GRACE. In spite of all the stress, my food has stayed clean. Devotions done and Lenten Cleaning is on course.

6. Yoga-I was able to go this week. In that quiet Restorative hour and a half, I was able to capture anxious thoughts. It has been the best lesson of “Quiet Time” with God. I am finally able to “Be still and know that God is God.”

7. Science- Spring has sprung and we are climbing into the 80*s. There was sweat involved. GirlyK’s caterpillars went into their chrysalis this week. Ladybugs did too. She spent the day watching them crawl up and settle into their spots. It never gets old for her.

8. Friends- Coffee with my great friends this week. It is a scheduled thing: Kathy on Wednesdays and Fridays. Jeannie on Thursdays. Within this season of transition they are this extroverts oasis!

9. Lipsync- GirlyK and I just finished filling our basket and stood in line at market last night when Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” came on. Silliness overtook us and the lip sync/air guitar battle was on. I am grateful my 13yo can be a public idiot with her mother.

10. Dogs- It has been a few weeks since my last dog photo and it is long overdue. Many days this week, the only thing I successfully did was walk them. Watson is happiest when he gets out of the house about four times a day. Without his need, I would not be SO healthy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gentle Lent: When Life Interrupts

It was going so well. With only one more day to complete Week One’s Lenten cleaning when…

WHAM. Tuesday took a hard left.

Not simply a fast left where the tires squeal a little. NOPE, a hard left with my two metaphorical tires spinning in the air, the other two leaving a trail of rubber.

It started with a text from Counting Mutant.

I am at the ER. Just to be safe. Testing me now.

He did mention that the area around his appendix hurt last night. But that was in passing.

Scrolling down, phone had four more texts, which finished with:

They are going to give me some pain med… Won’t be able to drive home. Maybe should come on down.

The fact I checked my phone upon waking up was an broke part of my Lent fast. It is on my no cheats list. I loved curling up under covers for a few more minutes of rest while checking what the world was doing, but the habit began to sabotage my morning's routine.

NOW.. Feet launched out of bed. I raced through the morning chores, set GirlyK up with her school for the day and off to the hospital I went.

33 hours later Mutant came home. The short of it was, his diverticulitis spread to the right side of his colon, next to his appendix. 24 hours of IV antibiotics for him while I shuffled GirlyK between her brothers so she could make her commitments and a night of fitful sleep for me. My Fibro so overtaxed that emotions blocked much of my logical thinking.  A few tearful meltdowns and a broken broom cleared the way for logic to function.

The rest of the week spent tending to Mutant’s need for quiet rest, GirlyK’s school and me staring blankly at a wall. I work hard to avoid unnecessary intensity, so I was ill prepared for it.

Monday-my favorite day of the week-meant a fresh start. But, I looked at the devotions I had missed. The moments of meditation I passed by. The list of Lenten cleaning days left unattended.

Overwhelming failure flooded my soul.
Monday’s devotion was on the Rugged Cross. That it is at the foot of this Cross, I can lay all my shortcomings and failures. As I walked the dogs after and pondered Gentle Lent, Holy Spirit whispered,

“The Cross is not a place of  Do-Overs. It is a place of beginning.”

Burdens are not put down only to be rearranged. Burdens are put there to stay. I can pick up where I left off. No catch-up is necessary. In Divine Love’s redemption, I can let go of last week’s To-Dos and start fresh. There is no hurry in my recovery and rest from last week. In peace I can heal. Achieve balance and renewed energy and on Thursday, move on in my Lenten Cleaning list.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful #38-Wild and Random

Ten Things of Thankful
It has been a full week. As I sit down to write I am so tired I find myself staring at the wall.

But Thankfuls need to be done, so I press on.

1. Medium- My PMDD’s been a pretty ugly beast this week. Like clockwork at 3:00 my chest tightens, pulse races and I have the sudden urge to find a hole to crawl into. Thanks to yoga, it’s been manageable. I was able to recognize when a emotions could erupt and I shut myself down. Deep centering breaths and reminders that nothing is really wrong, just my hormones. In a few days, all will be right again.

2. Monday and Tuesday- were clear as it comes to the schedule. Blissfully I was able to organize my charts and plan for Lent. Remembering the focus was Gentle, I made a simple schedule for an Upward Focus, Inward Focus and Outward Focus. Now that the fun of organizing is complete, the hard part is following it.

Photo taken by RoganJosh
3. Community Bible Study-is an international non-denominational study. Ours has a homeschool program that we’ve been a part of for 10 years. It is a beautiful place to sit with other people who want to follow Jesus and simply discuss. No church affiliations are discussed; simply it is about growing. I’ve met some great friends. The kids had great teachers and community.

4. Moving on-Sadly last week I had to let it go. It had become a burden to go. GirlyK and I are the only ones who attend now and for different reasons we’ve struggled. Trying to make it work for so long it seemed a well that has dried up. It was time for us to look for a different place of community. I woke up Wednesday feeling refreshed and not dreading the day.

5. New possibilities-In letting go of the bible study, I am opening a new window. Leaving our last church was hard and we all feel a bit crispy around the edges when it comes to committing to another. There is one, liturgical style church we have all felt comfortable going to. Each time we brave a service, we all walk away feeling refreshed. In this season of Lent, I am curious to understand their approach to the season.

6. Ash Wednesday- So, Counting Mutant, GirlyK and I attended an Ash Wednesday service. Complete with a choir and pipe organ, my eyes leaked off and on during the service. It was beautiful and humbling. I even signed up for the church’s email devotionals.

This is from last year. I need to snap some pics of that kid.
7. Ase- On Tuesday, Ase came by the house to pick a few things up-he is house sitting for a few weeks. He was frustrated. So… I did my Mom duty and prodded. He began to unburden. Last time house sitting was simply a fun excursion. THIS time, it felt real. Imagining his own place. His own bills. His own fridge. He wasn’t quite ready for this life with us to be over, but he sees it coming. After we talked for about a half hour he said,

“I came home to eat. I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning because I don’t know what to do.”

Yes, as a kid I took him grocery shopping. I’d split the list and each kid would gather their things. We would use the cart for math problems.


This time, he wasn’t helping me shop. He needed to fill his own fridge. He wasn’t helping me with dinner; he needed to cook for just himself.

8. Grocery Shopping- On Wednesday, he and I met and went grocery shopping together. As we meandered through the isles, I taught him out how to shop for 1: looking at expiration dates. How to keep a loaf of bread fresh. How much meat to buy.  Being a part of his growing up takes my breath away.

Look at that angelic face!

9. Zany turned 18 on Friday- and had his own melt down about it. Realizing it means he officially is a MAN! No more kid stuff. The nest is opening and I am grateful to watch them begin to navigate this big world while being a safe place for them to land. Even if it is only for a little while longer.

Did you know there was a Blonde Tarantula?
10. GirlyK-had her favorite field trip on Friday. We live not too far from Insect Lore and drove out for a little bug shopping. Because it was an official field trip, the docent showed them now scorpions glow in black light. She was able to pet a millipede and a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. I was a good Mom and took pictures of them all. You can find them on my Instgram. Most importantly, she was able to pet a tarantula. I told the story here of how she conquered her fear of spiders.

Now she wants one.

I however am not convinced.

What wild and random things are you grateful for this week?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Zany: A Boy Became a Man

A Mother LifeAse was 8 months old when I found out I was pregnant.

Zany blasted into this world with one of "those" birthing stories- cord prolapsed. Dramatic race down the hallway with a male nurse between my legs and plugging my hoo-ha. The only OB left only moments before. There I lay, anesthesiologist sitting poised with general anesthetic. The nurse still sitting between my lets, fighting to hold a crowning head above my cervix. Nurses running in and out:
"We can't find a doctor."
"We found one, He's just scrubbed in for surgery, but he's a neurosurgeon and hasn't done a c-section since residency"
"Never mind, the OB is back."

Anesthesiologist gently looks at me and says, "Start counting backwards."

At 10 months, sitting in a high chair eating breakfast.
Zany leaned to one cheek. Let out a butt cheek flapper. Sat straight up.
AND laughed.

At 11 months I asked him playfully what kind of birthday he wanted.
He hummed the Winnie The Pooh theme song.
"You want a Winnie The Pooh birthday party?"

I was in trouble.

I began to pray for inspiration. It came: How did Robin William’s Mom do it? Or Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman, Tim Conway, Jonathan Winters…Somehow these men were raised without being broken by their Mothers.

After a bad day in first grade, he threw a vacuum across the room. His teacher turned a blind eye while classmates punish each other. She only acknowledged good behavior. In this Lord Of The Files environment, they cornered Zany, under a desk, yelling at him.

When we moved to the Central Valley where we chose to  home school. So much needed to be corrected and we wanted to give them a love of learning. Zany struggled to get his schoolwork done on time. So, I designed a natural consequence:

If you don’t get your school work done within the time allotted, then at the end of the school day, you take it to your room. No playing out side with the neighborhood kids.

He contentedly sat in his room for a week. AND quit doing school work altogether.

It was a hill I died on.

Some people wanted to call him “Strong-Willed.” But I knew he wanted to please. He had a soft and compassionate heart. If I broke that will, he would become a broken man. Not prepared for the life God called him to.

I met a Mom of a similar boy. In his teens now, this boy, years earlier would only wear kakis. It lasted a year. Why? Because it was weird to wear his name- jeans.  She agreed with me. That “Strong-Willed” book was only good for one thing:

Hitting your kid with it.

She introduced me to Raising Your Spirited Child and Making Children Mind Without Loosing Yours. These books saved his life. I stumbled across Nurture By Nature-based on the Meyers-Briggs personality test. This book gave me a game plan that changed as often as he did.

In Zany’s preteens, exasperated, I asked him, “Do I need to explain to you WHY I am an authority in your life?”

His stormy blue eyes widened. He softly and humbly asked, “Yes. Please?”

Because I Said So never worked.

Why? BECAUSE if I wasn't there he had no reason to follow the rule. He needed to have an intrinsic reason to be honest, respectful, honor authority, forgive and serve others.

Early tees found me in tears and on my knees daily. Homeschooling him was what he needed, but it was a refining fire for me. How to raise this gifted, gentle soul and not break him.
Zany wasn't mine.

I was a steward of the child God created. I would be held accountable for every millstone, harsh word or injustice. One morning, looking in the mirror and at a complete end Holy Spirit whispered this verse to my heart:

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

If God’s mercies are new every morning for me, then from that fountain, I can extend them to him. I decided I was going to like Zany as a teen-EVEN IF IT KILLED ME.

Zany went to public high school. He was ready to be accountable to someone else. He wanted me to be just Mom.

Now he is a senior. Drug free, alcohol free, and a solid faith in a God who loves him. He knows he has shortcomings. Zany knows the only help to navigate them is growing in faith. He has a tireless work ethic. Impervious to bullying and passionate about justice. Still driven by his individualistic ethos.

He turns 18 today.
He’s a man.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gentle Lent: Singing Redeemer

My mind focused on Gentle Lent and a pounding heart, I made it to Ash Wednesday service last night.  I was five minutes late. All had ashes on their forehead, but I sat bravely. Choosing to be open.

Photo taken by Ladyheart
The service was set in a different part of the church campus. We usually attend the contemporary service on Sunday. This was the traditional service sanctuary. Taking a deep breath, I sat down. A pipe organ began to play. I turned to see a beautiful facade of pipes. As all began to sing an older hymn, I glanced around the room. The ceiling was wrapped in the arms of pipe rooms.

The tightness in my lungs eased. I grew up listening to my Mom practice the organ for Sunday service as a child. There is something about a room made into an instrument that grounds me.

Tears began to fall. I was able to worship.

Corporate readings and the pastor’s message had words in them like:

God’s Wrath

YET, I felt no shame. The word Love was said more. All of us, equally, sat in that room as sinners. We all had offense to confess. But it didn't stop there. The focus was that we all were to receive forgiveness. For where there is forgiveness of sin there is love, life and redemption.

Tears leaked as I felt a burden ease. I didn't need to wade through Spiritual Abuse in some form of a list to check off. Healing wasn't going to come with me digging holes into my psyche.

It was Freedom. Healing would come as I walked in the freedom I received. Freedom celebrated last year with a tattoo of a bird sitting on a branch. This Lent is not a start something new, but a continuation. Divine Love will correct the Bad Theology my flesh holds so dear. New Life will be the fount from where my Kindness Risks flow.

I met with Him today through an emailed devotional from that church titled: I Sing of My Redeemer. The author used a few verses, but this one struck me:

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Photo taken by jschumacher
I grabbed my Praying In Color sheet and wrote:

Singing Redeemer

For three minutes, I doodled within the boundaries of that small square. It flavored my though as I attended today’s Lenten Cleaning chore.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
For his eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gentle Lent: Ash Wednesday

Photo taken by xandert
Like a storm looming in the distance was this year’s Lent.I fervently prayed for direction in what to fast. Each time I felt a wall of anxiety brush against my heart. Then whispered words: easy, gentle, simple…

I come from a “try hard” kind of faith. Lent was not something taught in the Charismatic Baptist Church I grew up in. InterVarsity in college introduced me to the practice. I dabbled with the practice from year to year, aimless and self-absorbed.

Until last year.

I knew it was coming and decided to prepare. Gathered pins on Pinterest, I organized. The Lenten season was God focused. It was a season of putting old battles to rest. Acknowledging wounds that were now scars and walking in freedom from an eating disorder. In celebration I got this:

But this year’s lent was different. I will do the Lenten Clean inspired by Charming The Birds From Trees like last year, but other than that, my focus was not clear, until Elizabeth Esther’s Gentle Lent.

It fit the words breathed over my soul as I prayed. The last few days spent on doing what makes me happy: lists, charts and words now cover my refrigerator with inspiration.

Inward focus is a Fast:
I am fasting cheats. Clean Eating is my style, but too many cheats and life falls into disorder. Cheats for me can be a protein bar instead of a proper meal, soda, glass of wine, extra time online or even “just one more episode” on Netflix. So that means Veg/Fruit at each meal. Getting up on time. Using a timer when I’m sitting on social media.

Photo taken by bosela
Upward focus is Church and quiet:
I struggle with unhealed Spiritual Abuse, mainly because I am not sure where to start. I wasn’t raised in a cult church. My high school church group was a little odd and there are scars from that. Some of the wounds are from my Parentals’ theology and their life of ministry. This past spring our family walked away from a church we’d attended for six years because of some things-but more on that later.

I want to crawl in a hole and never go back.

Yet the idea of community pulls at me. I am going to participate in a local Lutheran Church. From the Ash Wednesday service to using their daily devotionals, I’m opening myself up to learning something new: this whole liturgy thing.

Photo taken by taliesin
I am going to be still for five minutes every day in meditation. Sitting still and quiet is an anxiety trigger and prayer is another “hot spot” for me. I struggle with using the P word. One method I’ll try is the Praying in Color. I’m also going to learn about meditation and continue with yoga.

Outward Focus is kindness and caring:
It’s been a rough few years and I am in the middle of a long transition with boys emerging into adulthood. I find myself feeling suffocated. I don’t take Kindness Risks as much as I used to, although Divine Appointments are my favorite. So, I will open myself up to take one Kindness Risk every day

I am excited to share this journey on Elizabeth Esther's blog hop. My ideal is to write a little everyday about the journey: where I've come from, where I am, where I want to go and how God fits into all of it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful #37b- With a Full Heart

Ten Things of Thankful

My week was so full, I have enough material for two posts. After the amazing experience with Jury Duty on Tuesday, the adventure continued:

1. People to People: is an organization that sends kids to other countries in for a cultural exchange. The first year G visited London and Paris. Last year G went to Canada. This year G gets to go to Australia. In year’s past I’ve not been able to participate in the fundraisers. This year I could and Bunco was the perfect antidote to the day. Australian food suggested by A Mother Life accompanied by Australian wine. Even GirlyK tried some Vegimite!

2. Navigating friendships: I really hate when I’m right. AND it was confirmed when GirlyK procrastinated school work and had a minor meltdown before a homeschool Constitution class. I am proud of her for not wanting to answer in kind to the “good-hearted teasing” she’s on the other side of. Her thick skin and acutely logical mind can make friendships difficult for her to manage, BUT I’m proud of her integrity.

3 New cups: I am a sucker for a nice cup. I lost my favorite Starbucks one last weekend, and GirlyK needed the artistic therapy… so of course that meant new cups, new sharpies and DOODLES.

4. Irony: Since we call a spade a spade around here, I bought GirlyK this On Wednesdays We Wear Pink shirt as a reminder to own her own crap during that friendship growth season.

5. Thursday: Typically my Thursday night is coffee/drinks with the fantastic artist Jeannie Hart. She’s in the UK for a few weeks, so I had to adjust. I spent the two hours, outside of the dance studio, feet propped up researching tutoring and trying to pass level 137 in Candy Crush.

6. Jimmy Fallon: had a lip sinc battle with Paul Rudd. I’m just going to leave this here:

7. Realization: GirlyK does NOT like boy bands. Sure some of the songs are alright, but it wasn’t until Jimmy Fallon started singing Juke Box Hero that I realized why. With older brothers and a Rock and Roll Dad, she has an eclectic taste in music. It doesn’t matter if the boy is cute, she’d rather sing the song.

8. Lent: is around the corner. Last year I went beyond the numb protestant observation and studied the liturgical significance of it. It was a deeply meaningful and celebratory time for me. I’ve been praying about what direction to take this year. What I landed on was Elizabeth Esther’s Gentle Lent.

9. Rain!!! We got some, about two days worth. Mostly it was spitting, but we had a few beautiful moments that were full fledged big wet drops from the sky.

10. Clean air: Remember a few weeks ago when my air looked like this?

Well… NOW it looks like this. AND we can see the mountains. These are the few days when I realize why people originally settled into this Central Valley town. Take away the particulate matter in the air and it is a pretty place.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful #37a

Ten Things of Thankful

Words. Sometimes they are hard to find and after my week, they are scarce. My mind is numb.

I was so proud of Ase and the weekend with him was wonderful. I knew the week would be less productive because of recovery. I planned for it. (1)The one great gift fibromyalgia has given me is the ability to care for myself. Picture it resting under a cork tree- like Ferdinand the Bull- until a bee stings it. Then I make time to rest so Fibro Ferdinand can settle down to again smell the flowers.

So it was with a hesitant wince that I called the Jury Services line. Hoping my services would not be needed, and they (2) weren't on Monday. I was able to rest.

Jury Services needed me on Tuesday instead. I understand the importance of this civic duty. Justice is important to me. (3) Never the less, I get anxious every time. I mentally walk through the scenarios preparing myself for the worst. With strategies in place and feeling a little better, I went.

Photo taken by kconnors

It wasn't long before my name was called for a large pool of jurors. We all settled into the courtroom and the judge began. He started by saying this jury selection was going to be very different. He then gave us a summation of the case- the person was accused of sexually assaulting three juvenile girls: explained with all the correct anatomical words.

The exact thing that was done to me as a child.

A flashback started, Divine Love overwhelmed me and (4) I recognized what was happening.Years of work kicked in:  I reminded myself that I was here. That was then, that is not now. (5) I felt the security and voices of an online group of PTSD survivors I've been a part of telling me, “It’s not real. This is their trial. It’s not about you.”  (6) Then the practice of yoga. “Feel the chair. Feel the floor. Breathe the air. Look at the walls. Be in this moment.”

I stayed present. I didn't loose my shit. I felt rattled still, but overwhelmingly safe.

Those of us who either had a potential work issue-as it was to be a long trial-or could answer “yes” to four questions:
Have you ever been a victim?
Do you know anyone who was a victim?
Have you ever been accused of?
Do you know anyone who has been accused?

Photo taken by JessicaGale
We were to wait in the hallway and one at a time be questioned by the judge. Walking out of the courtroom I took an (7) anxiety pill.

Over 30 people stood in the hallway.

I struck up a conversation with a gregarious oil field worker. (8) He was loaded with charm and opinions. It was easy to distract myself with his talk about anything manner. Next to me in a chair a woman sat. Quiet and small, I noticed her eyes were leaking. Then tears began to drop. I glanced again and she was struggling. (9) I bend down next to her and told her to breathe. As I smoothed her arm, her cheeks were flooded. I suggested she go to the front of the line and see the judge. Visibly shaken and afraid I was making things worse, I stood up and gave her some space.

A few moments later she was no better. I asked if she wanted to go in next and she simply nodded. I asked if she would like me to help out. She nodded.

So I used that pent-up anxiety energy (10) to good use and boldly told the men at the front of the line that she needed to go next. I held my ground as those around awkwardly looked on. When the bailiff came out, I explained it to him and sent her in.
Photo taken by southernfried

When my turn finally came, I simply told him-with few tears- my experience and its consequences. He interrupted me gently and said, “Do we all agree?” They did and I was excused. I felt no shame. I felt no injustice to my experience. I did not feel victimized again.

I felt strong. Whole. Thankful. Knowing the scar is still there, but the wound, finally is almost healed. I was able to keep my mental integrity and help someone else through it.

A Mother Life