8.29.2016

Don't You Cry.




“Ding, ding,” goes her Hello Kitty bell as she peddles hard around the track. Her bike flops lopsidedly from one rickety training wheel to the other. She doesn’t want to take them off yet. The sun is hot on our backs and the air is painfully dry.

This is where we live now. It still doesn’t feel like it.

My phone is in the purple and white basket clipped onto the front of her bike; it’s playing Guns N' Roses' Don’t Cry as we circle the track, waiting for her brother's practice to be over. I’m humming along and pretending Axl is singing to console me, (and also pretending that the lyrics are not largely a bunch of relationship garbage – I mean genius – I mean garbage.)


She is excited to have the important job of carrying my phone, especially whilst it blares music. Happily, she dings her bell along like the 6th member of the band. We just need some tight American-flag biker shorts and a lot of pomp and then we'd be all set out here.


The months since moving to this place have been long and difficult; the changes have been a constant struggle, launching me into yet another "difficult phase" of my adult life. Has there been anything but a succession of difficult phases? 


Well, so, this is what I’ve come to... “bumping” a 1991 hit from a four-year-old’s bicycle when I really do feel like crying at 4:00 in the afternoon?  

I fear I keep repeating myself, but gosh life is hard. It’s hard with really, truly big problems at a lot of times, and a lot of other times we take our small problems and inflate them into bigness.

Today, I am tired of this sadness so biting. And while I’m at it, I’m tired of limping for the last six years and ending every day in pain. I’m tired of nerve damage and hot flashes and treatment side effects and…  and parenting failures, and... I’m tired.

We all grow weary of our own burdens at times, don't we? I know so many of you, dear friends, struggle with your disappointment, your loneliness, your heartache, your stress, your pain. Maybe you also need someone to tell you today, “don’t you cry,” or hey, “go ahead and cry” - whichever it may be that you need.

So while I ironically seek some console from infamously self-destructive, hedonistic 90's rock-stars, I know it's actually humility, realistic expectations, and outward focus that will push me through.

I hope it will for you too.

I hope you still walk; peddle; ding your bell; play your music.



And of course, even though sometimes it doesn't feel like anything, would that we remember “There’s a heaven above you baby.”

Sometimes that's all there is.





Guns N'Roses: Don't Cry. Written by Duff Rose Mckagan, Izzy Stradlin, Matt Sorum, Saul Hudson, W. Axl Rose • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

5.21.2016

Like a Weaned Child




I’m a few paces behind my lanky 8 yr old as the office lady leads him around the unfamiliar school. His thin shoulders are hunched forward and he’s not making eye contact. Each time she speaks to him, he nods his head with an only-slightly-perceptible movement.

His face is brave though - so brave. I don’t understand how he is not crying. I am.

Visions of the beautiful, familiar elementary school we said goodbye to just last week are haunting me. I want that back for him. I want it all back. I want to have not had to say goodbye to such a place as was our home that I loved. I don’t want to be standing in this loud, hot hallway right now, outside a second grade classroom I’ve never seen before and discretely wiping tears into my cheeks.

How will he remember where to go tomorrow morning on his own? Will anyone sit with him at lunch? What will recess be like? ...Why are we making him do this?

My throat keeps tightening into sadness in the coming days as I try to push through the newness of so many life changes I wasn’t looking for. And when the tears do come for my brave 8 year old who misses his old friends, his old teacher, his old everything, I can’t choke back from joining in with him. "I just watch the kids play. I don’t know how to play with them. I want to go home," he tells me.

So do I. Even though we chose to make this move to be with family, I feel a bit lost and lonely amidst them right now. Oh, I know it will get better. But with 7 moves already under my belt since marriage, I am ill-prepared for how awesomely difficult #8 is proving to be. There wasn’t supposed to be a #8. And I really, really liked #7.




By week two, my son has gained the confidence to join in the games at his new school, to say, “Hey, can you teach me how to play that?” He doesn’t fight going to school in the morning, (well, not any more than he normally would anyway.) He goes several days in between pulling out his goodbye letters from his old friends and hungrily re-reading them. He seems happy again.

For such incompetent, dependent beings, children can be remarkably resilient, can’t they?

There’s a Bible passage that says:  Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. (Psalm 131:2)

Sometimes is takes a lot of courage to say, “Hey, can you teach me how to play?” And nearly always, it's a challenge to have the reason to see that joy can be chosen, independent of circumstances. 

As for me, I'm still fighting the weaning process; I'm pretty much screaming inside, "Give me back my milk! I want my old joy back." I'm apparently trailing behind that lanky 8 year old of mine in more ways than one. I am working on putting my banging fists down and resting against what I have given up; I know it is only then my hands will be free to embrace what I have now.

So every day I try again at managing without that which I had become excessively fond of, (the definition of wean.) I reach for the composure to quiet my soul. I try to let go of #7 and draw into the goodness of #8.

It will be good here. I will live with joy through this, as I have fought to through the challenges that came before it. So can you... through your struggle.

May God help us draw upon our child-like spirits of resilience.
May we have peace even without the sweet milk of our desires.

3.10.2016

The Transformative Power of Sweat Equity... AKA My Before And After House Pictures




Don't you love a good transformation?


My favorite is when a lost soul finds peace in God and therein transforms from selfish ambitions to focus on others.


I also like when the sun transforms nuclear energy into ultraviolet, infrared, and gamma energy. Just kidding. I don't even understand energy transformation. Plus, I live in the Northwest and haven't seen much of this thing called the sun in like 6 months.


Falling ever so slightly short of the transformative power of Jesus Christ, or electromagetnic energy, house make-overs are pretty cool too.


Mine has keep me from writing to you fine people for the last two years. We've been working A LOT on the deferred maintenance, late 80's home we purchased as first-time home-buyers.


The brass was a-shinin and the honey-oak was a-plenty when we arrived in 2014. 





But I loved it right from the beginning.



People say, "You'll know The One when you see it" about wedding dresses and houses. I could have worn any of the half dozen wedding dresses I liked best, but I literally walked in the front door of this house and knew it was right. 




We bought it via long-distance. I had seen it once; my husband saw it for the first time two months later when we moved in. So... it's a pretty good thing it worked out for us as well as it has.




The number of hours we spent sanding, painting, digging, trimming, sanding and painting more, spakling and skim coating, cutting and building, and sanding and painting some more is almost painful to recall. My hands are aching at the mere memory.


There were many, many weekends and late nights of work, and probably just as many trips to Home Depot. 


Some of it was fun.



Master bedroom


Master bathroom



Tile and electrical work was hired out, as was the composite deck in the backyard. We did everything else, sometimes with help from handy family members.


A pretty careful budget was maintained over all. Hard work and creativity are excellent money-savers.


Guest Room                                                                                         Office


Kids' Bedrooms

I could easily write a post on each room. 

...But that sounds like a lot of work. And I'm not a home blogger.


Finished basement: from dark man-cave to kid-friendly game space


I'm super bias but I think it's a pretty great house in a really great city. I have felt overwhelmingly privileged to live here the last 23 months.





Oh, but now we're moving. 




It's a story for another day, but in short, we're moving to a new state to be with family. 


I guess you could say: we're making a transformation from a truly lovely place to live -- to a life with truly lovely people.


Maybe in 2 years I'll have another house of photos to share. But I kind of hope not.



12.08.2015

O Christmas Tree

Oh, wouldn't it be great to head out to one of the many local Christmas tree farms and cut down our own tree this year? We could come home and decorate it together. What a great Saturday! I can hear the Christmas carols in the background and smell the apple cider on the stove. The laughter. The memories.


{Scritchy-scratchy noise as we cut to reality.}
My children are complaining about turning off the cartoons and my husband won't get off his phone. I try to cheery-disposition my way through it. The kids are excruciatingly cranky and tired from our Thanksgiving travels and will not stop bickering over EVERYTHING. My 7 year old asks if he haaaas to go. I'm mouth-breathing. I trip over the Legos that never get picked up from the dingy "white" living room carpet I keep meaning to shampoo, and I am suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I will have 16 out-of-state house-guests this Christmas - which is only a couple of weeks away. Amidst my face-in-the-carpet epiphany, my boss texts and asks if I can log-into work right away to handle an urgent request. I'm googling nervous breakdown symptoms.

An hour later and a 15-mile drive through some of the most beautiful Oregon countryside you will ever see (while I try to tune-out my children and silently curse myself for skipping morning coffee) and we're at a glorious tree farm amidst the rolling forests. 
Patches of white fog sweep through the acres of green jutting up to the misty, gray skies. For the 5th time I explain to my son that the fog is not "controlled burns." Why do I keep trying?We tromp through the sloppy mud and pick a tree from hundreds of beautiful ones that all look the same.

There's fighting over hot chocolate, over who can help carry the saws, over who gets to walk in front. Neither child wants a picture with Santa, or even to talk to him. My husband exudes impatience. 

Wait now, we still have a tree nearly sliding off the top of the car, so very much mud and pine needles on that "white" carpet, too small of a tree stand, too big of a tree for the room, broken Christmas lights, me decorating the tree solo, and of course, endless more bickering to endure before this Saturday will come to a close. {Sigh}


Instead of simply sharing the lovely green photos, one of which 2 out of 3 people even managed a smile in, I feel apt to admit that real-life is sometimes less than picturesque. 

If there's no cocoa or carols for you, if your favorite ornaments get broken or you're decorating alone this year... if there's just a lot of mud, take heart friend. May the hope of Christmas seep in to calm our stress and comfort our hearts.

Merry Christmas.

10.30.2015

Fight Like a Girl

Happy October y'all. Slipping in here at the end of the month, here's my nod to Breast Cancer Awareness MonthI wrote it a few years ago. The children have grown and the shirt has shrunk. But the sentiments remain.



The majority of little boys like to fight.

Don't get me wrong, my toddler daughter is something of a scrapper, too. Try to take her toy, or worse, her food, and you're sure to be pounded with a high-pitched scream and perhaps an assaulting little fist to go with it. I wouldn't say this makes me proud, but I am glad she is learning to daily hold her own against her 5-year old brother.

It's her brother, though, who takes joy in fighting - or rather, the idea of fighting. Books and shows on karate, ninjas, warriors, or soldiers are pretty much a guaranteed win with him. He and is father are often practicing Krav Maga or Jiu-Jitsu moves together or spending some time with the heavy bags in the garage. Er, make that 1 heavy bag + 1 air-filled balloon in the shape of a heavy bag. My son also proudly has his own set of boxing gloves, like his daddy's, and can't wait to also start taking fight classes.



It's my son who is growing up with the aspiration to be tough. While my husband and I are struggling to raise him into a man of character, I'm pretty sure he just wants to be strong and able to fight off bad guys.

So, my Little Ninja is particularly interested in a shirt I occasionally wear that reads, "I Fight Like a Girl." I tried to explain to him what this shirt means... How I am proud to be counted among the group of women who have had to surmount a cancer diagnosis and treatment. ...How difficult it is to fight against a disease, when the fight is for your life. (Try explaining that in Kindergartner, non-scary language.)

Little Ninja has never heard, "fight like a girl" in it's original, negative context. Rather, it's quite a compliment.

I hope that he can grow up maintaining this understanding of girls/women that is free from assumptions of inferiority. Certainly, I will do my best to ensure such.

I hope that Little Ninja will grow up to have compassion for the suffering and gratitude for whatever blessings befall him, daily.

And of course, I hope that my daughter, that my nieces - that no one in the generations to come - will ever have to grow up and find themselves having to fight like a girl against cancer.




The many women who have lost their lives to the disease, the women who have been fortunate enough to treat it successfully: they have all faced a host of terrible, have endured and coped - for however long they did. That's tough.

9.22.2015

Pets



Pets.

I love them. Well, sort of.

Sometimes I see someone squatting on the side of the road picking up their dog's poop with a plastic sack and I think to myself, "Humans are so strange."

Yet I, myself, have picked up many a bag of dog poop in my day.

Those little 4-legged friends can be such sweet companions. Plus, there can be benefits to pet ownership even beyond relational joys and therapeutic effects:

Dogs are great for security... Cats are great for rodents... Chickens are great for eggs... Sheep are great for fields of grass... Fish... uh, decorating dentist waiting rooms...? Birds, bunnies, hamsters, snakes... ... ... I don't know, but people enjoy having them in their home. 

We innately like to cohabitate and share our homesteads not only with other humans but often also with critters. Or sometimes with critters instead of other humans. 

My dear pal wrote a post, "October: For Breast Cancer Not Pit Bulls" and received dozens of angry replies at her suggestion that human life should invariably take precedence over animals' lives and welfare. As I read through the comments of mostly-illogical highly-emotional arguments, one sad person's reply in particular has stayed with me. She said people had let her down but her dog never had.

I read that as an example of the harshness of life. How tragic that we are a people who hurt each other and are so disconnected from each other that animals rise in standing on par with or above other humans.

I firmly believe pets hold a valuable role in our lives. That's not in question here. (Okay, so now would NOT be a great time to go back and read the entire piece I wrote on the pointlessness of rabbit ownership.) But also - and much more so - we need human relationships. Healthy ones.

I find it curious that often, instead of nurturing and serving others, we anoint our pets with souls and diamond-studded collars. We humanize our animals.

Graph source: www.fool.com

Currently, we're between pets in my household.

Well, that is, if you don't count the hairy caterpillar living in an atrium box in the center of our dining room table.

My 7-year old has been pining for a pet for a couple of years now. I am, however, pretty sure his motivation is primarily born from a peer group of 2nd graders who view pets as status symbols. Plus, he forgets to drink water routinely and is not very good at wiping his own butt, so he surely can't be relied upon to be a responsible pet owner.

And then there's my 3-year old daughter, who has literally made friends with every dog in a 1-mile radius; it feels a tad cruel not allowing such an innate affection to cultivate. She, however, forgets to put the lid on her caterpillar (which I feed and give water), and so hunting for "Wooly" in our very large dining area is becoming about as common as finding streak marks in my sons underwear. I'm just hoping she doesn't "pet" the poor thing to death.

So, as you can tell, we (meaning I) am pretty primed for a pet. After all, we do own our home and have a good size yard, so there aren't a lot of excuses that remain. Well, other than that my sick body already struggles to keep up with the demands of the two mini-humans (and one husband-sized human) I take care of. And that pets are expensive. They are a commitment for many years. They require a lot of attention and care. Right, not much to stop us now.

But more to the point, even if I find myself back to taking walks with sacks of steamy dog poop in my hand, or even branch out to get my very own bunny to wake the neighbors, any pet of ours will remain simply and firmly-situated in their status as a pet -- an animal with limits on the time, money, and love they will receive.

Oh, I'm sure the time, money and love afforded it will be aplenty. But I hope that "plenty" will fall short of what we are willing to devote to other people in our lives. Helpless and innocent or not, people need our time, affection, and sympathy far more than any pet needs to be treated like a human.






If this makes you want to angrily argue about the value of animal lives, 
post on my friend's blog. She likes that sort of thing.