Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Chaos, A Gift

Think, think, and think. …What to write about?…. It’s my turn to post, and I have nothing.  My writing successors and partners, have set the bar so high, I’m going to need some sort of winged transport to even get close to their quality of writing.  It doesn’t help that my mind is a black hole, and my words are getting sucked in with no hope of surviving.  My preverbal plate is full, which could have something to do with the fact that my brain is mush.  It’s been a rough week.  Running around to and fro with my kids, chauffeuring them from this activity to the next.  Feeling guilty for not planning ahead the healthy meal they should be eating, but instead having Burger King in their bellies. 
Excuse after excuse.  I tell my self tomorrow will be better.  I will wake up earlier. I will plan my meals on Sunday, and have everything precut and packaged in little baggies like the good moms do on Pinterest.  Problem is, in order to get up earlier; you need to go to bed early.  By the time we get home from soccer practice, its bath, read, bed, and many times I fall asleep without wanting to.  Which then of course leaves dirty dishes in my sink, and streaks on my tile floor.  And don’t even get me started on grocery shopping.  This particular chore to me is like getting a cavity filled.  But grocery shopping on a Sunday is like getting a cavity filled, plus wisdom teeth removed, and blood drawn all at the same time.  Painful right?  That’s exactly what I think about getting my much-needed ingredients for a healthy week of meals on a Sunday afternoon. 

I fail time and time again.  But…..I keep going.  I keep trying, and I keep failing at being perfect.  That’s ok with me. Because I am a mess.  I have come to terms with that.  My mind is a mess, my schedule is a whirlwind of activities, and to be honest, my house isn’t picture perfect, inside or out.  At the end of the day, however, it’s my life.  It’s my gift.  I’m lucky to have it every morning I wake up.  The cherry on top is having the privilege to have conversations with two very important people while chauffeuring them around to the weekly soccer practice or dance performance.  Sounds perfect to me. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Young Love by Carolyn

I'm pretty sure this would be against the "rules" of our Writers' Group if we had ever discussed it, but we haven't, so I'm going to do it before the subject arises . . . I'm going to post something that I wrote long, long ago. Roughly 40 years ago, actually. While looking through a notebook I carried during high school, I found this poem I wrote when I was 14 or 15 and very obviously full of teenage angst:

With empty heart you found me
and tenderly loved me then,
to fill the deep, dark emptiness
that you had seen within.

And while we loved and laughed and cried,
the summer's cool green grass 
had withered, struggling, and slowly died
just as our precious moments passed.

And then you laughed, and then I cried,
and I am crying still,
because you left a deeper void
you'll never return to fill.

Painfully bad, I know. Fortunately, I no longer remember the passionate love affair that inspired this outpouring of pain. I can only hope that my poetry has improved a little since then!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

In Spite of me

When people ask me about raising children, my immediate answer is:  Prayer.

I have prayed that my children would grow up to be better human beings than me; I have prayed that they would be strong enough to withstand life’s inevitable disappointments; I have prayed that they would put God before all else.  And ultimately, I have prayed that they would turn out alright in spite of me.   I realized very quickly that no matter how hard I tried to be a good mother, there was no way to get it right all the time. Over the years, it has become easier to accept that I can never be a perfect mother because this job is as much about me growing as it is about helping them to grow. 

There are however, some things that are worth passing on:

A young mother once asked my twenty-year old son what kind of a parent I was.  He responded:  She took our questions seriously.  I have written about my children and their questions before.  But it is true that I was so terrified of their intelligence that I could not risk dismissing their questions with flippant answers. (In fact I am afraid of all children and their uncanny ability to sniff hypocrisy and dishonesty. ) For the same reason I never lied to them or gave them a made up answer because I was afraid they would never trust me once they found out the truth. 

Along with taking their questions seriously, came taking their interests seriously.  We did ballet, baseball, swimming, soccer, volleyball, karate and music lessons.  I bought jewelry making kits and calligraphy sets.  I drove back and forth to art classes.  We have a room full of musical instruments.  All because they showed an interest and wanted to try something new.  I was never good at making them practice or stick with anything if they lost interest.  At one point I was accused of exposing them to too many things and that’s why they couldn’t put their fingers on their passions.  But somehow they have found their passions and I have encouraged them to pursue them. 

There is a fine balance between advocating for your child and making excuses for them.  What I have hoped is that my children can take responsibility for their own actions and choices and at the same time stand up for themselves and their beliefs.  It is not easy but it gets better with practice and learning from mistakes, both theirs and mine.

I impressed on them from early on that I was not the example of Faith they should follow.  I am a work in progress, just like them.  I made sure they knew that their relationship with God had to be a personal one.  Don’t blame God for my shortcomings!  I take full responsibility for them.  And like I said. I pray that they will lead happy, healthy lives of service, in spite of me and my shortcomings. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

What Things May Come by Andrea

Adversity comes. It is a part of the human condition. Adversity can make us or break us. It comes and it exposes us. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."  Personally, I try with all my might to live with as little uncontrolled, unsolicited challenge as possible, and controversy is a pariah that I give much planning and effort to avoid. But, they both come without invitation or warning. It is at these times that who I am is not only revealed but can also be defined.

I have spent a great many days anxious and worried about circumstances over which I have zero control. What I have had to contend with, however, are the things I can control. More aptly, things that I have a responsibility to control. How I handle adversity will have an impact on my character for all time.

So what are my responsibilities when bad things happen?

My response: The number one way I should respond is in hope. This, however, is not always easy for doers like me.  Don't get me wrong, hope is not passive.  It requires active participation in the struggle. The action, though, is less about taking control and making change happen.  It's a wrestling match that takes place in the mind. I must wrestle with my thoughts to make them focused and faithful. I have to wrestle with my convictions and beliefs to get my bearings, to help me get centered.  My ideas of how life should go rather than how it is going must be subdued in order for hope to rise rather than fear and doubt. In hope, there is victory long before anything changes.  Paradoxically, victory comes from surrender, in not resisting the inevitable but embracing the challenge.  A hopeful response announces and embraces the notion that this too shall pass while still in the ring.

My attitude: An attitude colored by gratitude for the parts of life that are good and beautiful helps me to be better rather than bitter. Instead of kicking rocks because adversity has come knocking on my door, I must to choose to dig in and persevere. It is a daily decision. During times of woe, it seems I have to choose moment by moment to keep my eyes on the good, rather than the mountains of reasons to be anxious and overwhelmed, even by the daily-ness of life during a storm. Attitude really is everything.

Letting people in: I cannot overcome alone. I have had friends who literally patch up my heart and my faith. Inboxes overflowing with words of encouragement, scriptures, prayers and silly selfies to make me smile have been like water flowing over my parched soul during difficulty.  I have friends who call or show up at just the right time. They listen and share. They connect and empathize. They let me ugly cry and cry along. Vulnerability with the right people builds bridges that can offer support for the ages.

My faith: Faith is not a shield from desperate situations or desperate feelings and thoughts, but the nature of this walk requires a faithful response to trials and tests. I am assured that I will never walk alone as long as I walk with God. One of the many passages that gives me courage is:
        When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
        When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
        When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
         the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2, The Holy Bible

Disasters come in all forms. Some are physical and destroy swiftly such as storms or illnesses. Some disasters are emotional and seem as if they sweep over life all of a sudden with no signs of letting up. Some challenges are battles of the mind, and the struggle is to find the right perspective in order to effect a change of state if not a change of circumstance. Some tumult is completely outside of oneself and brought on as a consequence of living and loving within a community. I have faced all of these in some form throughout my four decades and am sure more will come.

This I know for sure: no matter what things may come, focusing on that which I am responsible for has helped me to endure adversity infinitely better than focusing on the struggle.