Thursday, January 29, 2009


Too often I let my emotions carry me to places I don't especially care to visit, though I seem to have acquired frequent flier miles to a few of those destinations.

One in particular that has an easy chair with my name on its sandy beach is the Island of Self-Pity.

If you try to visit, you'll find that there are many blacked out dates. Yeah, those are all mine. I've reserved them for the evenings when I have to scramble to get dinner together after I've spent the day racing across the city delivering kids to practices and birthday parties. The house looks like a garage sale threw up all over the counters and the kids act as if I have the word "Maid" type-stamped across my forehead.

Funny thing is, I've actually lived there indefinitely at times. Once you arrive and unpack, it can be nearly impossible to dredge up the energy for the arduous journey to the distant land of Serving with a Grateful Heart.

Everyone talks about how wonderful that destination is. I really need to plan that itinerary, but with so many sightseeing opportunities like The Wishing Well of Feeling Sorry for Self, the Cliffs of My Own Tribulation and the Cave of Depression, why would I want to leave?

It's so much easier to let the River of Misery carry me along, than it is to paddle upstream, past all those Boulders of Frustration to the gate that can take me off this island.

Afterall, it's a luxury trip to the Island of Self-Pity. You can get there in a nano-second and at the push of a cell phone button even rouse support for the trip. A lot of moms out there will cheer your journey to Self-Pity. Many of them are already camped there. We all know that Misery loves Company.

There are a few critical travel tips to a successful departure. When you decide to leave, you must not risk a glance around. Race to that quiet place where you can get your Heart Restored. My departure always happens at the Gate of Praise and Worship.

The Gate of Praise and Worship changes the atmosphere of my heart. Though I've heard the Gate of Reading the Word and the Gate of Repentance and Prayer have been just as successful for Others.

Whatever path you choose, make it a joyful journey!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Letting Go of a Dream

I wanted a dad who would be my mentor and my friend. Someone I could lean on and go to for advice. Someone who desired to meet me for lunch and listen to the goings on in my life with a proud smile and adoration in his eye.

I didn't know I wanted this until I reached adulthood. Up to then, I thought my life was normal. Like most people's.

But then I went to college and realized that normal was relative to . . . well, to whomever you were speaking.

Some dads were involved and some weren't. I'd never thought much about the fact that my dad worked long hours and didn't speak more than a few words when he was home. He didn't inquire about our lives or come to our childhood events, unless it was with a bored look and longsuffering sigh.

I knew I was loved. On the surface, anyway. Those three words seem to echo without a place to land when they are spoken without the investment of time or sacrifice.

But it left me with a longing for more. To find somewhere I could get those deep needs for love and connection met. Because of that desire, I went down painful roads and made choices that left scars rippling across my life.

My father made his own choices that broke up our family. It wasn't until much later that I heard a woman speaking and what she said moved into my heart in a way that brought immense revelation.

This woman said, "Parental love is like a hot fudge sundae. Everyone is designed to have it, but not everyone gets it. You'll never be free if you focus on what you should have had. The people who gain freedom are the ones who can accept that even though they're never going to get that sundae, they can have a bowl of ice cream and maybe some nuts on top or whipped cream."

I realized that for years I'd been looking for someone or something to fill that void. The void of my father's lost love. The love I should have had.

When she spoke those words, it felt like a missing puzzle piece settled into place. Freedom came with acceptance. I could let the dream go and begin looking forward to what I did have.

And I have a lot.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Big Fat Lies

Okay confession time. I'm going to go out on a limb here and be completely honest.

I'm an enmeshed parent.

If I ask one of the short people in the family to put something—say, a box of cereal—away, I'll occasionally get the shriveled apple look (you know, the one where they use all thirty-seven muscles of the face to convey complete disbelief that you would ask them to pick up the cereal they didn't leave out).

Then when I calmly explain that I wasn't asking if they'd left it out, I just want them to put it away, they continue arguing and telling me why they shouldn't have to put it away when their sister was the one that got it out.

By this time I wish I'd put the cereal away.

Finally, they put on the martyr persona. The lips press tightly together and the hands come up shoulder high in a stance of surrender to their idiot of a parent, and with exaggerated motions, they put the cereal away.

This is where the enmeshment part comes in. Since they are upset, I'm upset. It's as if the umbilical was never cut.

When I was growing up my dad made us believe that we were responsible for his feelings. Probably because he actually believed we were responsible for his feelings.

So I grew into an adult that felt responsible for everything.

I heard author Kevin Leman give an example about pleasers. He said that if a pleaser plans a family reunion and it rains, they believe it's somehow their fault for picking the wrong day.

I totally get that, as wacky as it sounds.

So I stood in the laundry room, the echo of my son's feet pounding up the stairs, and I wanted to cry. Mostly from the frustration of not being able to do it right, believing that if he was upset, it was somehow my fault.

I felt God haul me upright in His loving way.

The key word was "unhook." Unhook from my son's emotions. Those emotions are his responsibility. I can guide him and love him, but not own—or fix—his feelings for him.

The freer I am from feeling responsible for how my children feel, the freer they will become and the healthier their relationships will be.

Then when my son is grown and complains about how difficult parenting is, I will just nod my head wisely as if parenting him had barely caused a ripple in the serenity that was my life as a young mother.

And then I'll dig out the family videos.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dark Secrets

I think I have too many kids.

Oh, not that I don't love them more than both my arms and legs, or the entire universe for that matter. And it's not that I don't have the ability to meet their basic needs (though that might be debatable—once I arrived at a grocery store to discover that my daughter was wearing only one shoe. You'd think a mother would notice those things.)

I'm talking about more in the sense that a brain can only hold so much information, and once you reach, oh say, two or three kids, a dog, a cat, and a husband there isn't room for much else.

You start incurring errors.

Weeks after I had Kaden, our fourth bundle of heart-expanding joy, I sensed this might be a problem. One evening after I'd been watching TV snuggled up to TDH (tall, dark and handsome) for an hour or so, I shot off the couch.

You know that shock of alarm when you realize you left the oatmeal on high and now the pot is boiling over as you race to flip the burner off? Only I was racing for the driveway where my precious infant was snoozing away in the backseat of the car.

It wasn't the only occurrence.

During soccer season this year, I dropped Kaden off at practice and his ten-year-old brother stayed to help. I jetted directly to a parent meeting for my oldest son's wrestling program. All day I meant to call TDH and ask him to pick our youngest up from soccer . . . but spaced it.

It wasn't until I was driving up our hill twenty minutes after soccer ended that the boiling pot flooded my mind.

My cell was dead, so with no way to call the coach or my hubby, I hyperventilated through all the horrible scenarios that could have happened to my son. Though the rational part of my brain knew the coach would not look at my child and say, "Huh, your mom should have been here by now. Why don't you go wait over by the sidewalk and watch for her," as he hopped in his SUVand drove off.

But what can I say? I'm a writer, I live in the paralyzing world of what if?

I walked into the house, looked at my husband and like an idiot said, "Is Kaden here?" Okay, hindsight and all that. You don't drop an, "I don't know where our seven-year-old is" bomb on your husband without prefacing it with some details.

I briefly tried to explain, but all I saw was the back of TDH's head as he raced out the door, jumped in his pickup and with tires squealing, flew at mock 60 down our hill. I got on the phone but couldn't reach the coach. Finally reached another soccer mom who was still waiting at the field for her other son and hadn't even noticed how late it was or the fact that I wasn't there yet.

I sank onto the couch, relief flooding endorphins through my body and told her how I had started to panic about never seeing Kaden again. She interrupted and said, "And Logan."

I drew a blank. And then said, "Oh, yeah. That son too."

See what I mean?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deadlines . . .

I'm on a deadline and am juggling kids, housework (yeah, that balls has already hit the floor), and writing.

I thought it was Monday all day on Tuesday and it wasn't until I was laying in bed Tuesday night that I figured it out and realized I'd missed my Tuesday blog. Didn't do a whole lot better with today's blog, seeing how Thursday is almost over.

So, I'm headed away for a little writing retreat weekend thanks to my splendid hubby who will be ferrying children to three different ball games (actually coordinating with another parent as two of our children have conflicting game times), one child to a self-defense class and another to a birthday party.

I saw the resigned look in his eye when I laid out the schedule for him. I should probably pick up a bit of lingerie for the trip home. I'm sure that would bring the sparkle right back.

So pray for me if you think of it. It's tough getting back into writing. I dove back in for a bit a month or so ago, but found I still wasn't quite there. Grief is a curious thing, still holding onto parts of us when we think we're ready to get up and go.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

When Your Kids Tell You . . .

. . . that you need to be more firm in your discipline, you know things are way off track.

As my oldest son and I strolled hand-in-hand through the store (yes, my twelve-year-old still likes to hang with his mom), he casually mentioned that I needed to be a stricter disciplinarian.

This isn't the first time he's mentioned this. And he did follow that comment up by saying, "I'm probably going to regret telling you that." And I believe he is in fact regretting it this very moment as he sits in his room grounded, but that's a story for another post.

So I've been pondering his words and have come to a realization.

When the kids were little, I was pretty reactive and easily frustrated (though in my meager defense I had three toddlers running around and a mountain of dirty clothes creeping from the laundry room—when the mountain comes to Mohammed . . .)

So I was exhausted and short tempered and my husband worked six days a week.

And I was a perfectionistic controller. Yeah, you see the volcano brewing, don't you? Exhaustion and the need for control and order are the main ingredients for spontaneous combustion. And I combusted on a frequent basis.

Added to this, I hadn't been raised around small children, so didn't understand how to discipline and had no one to learn from. The net result is that the consequences I implemented were often too strict for the offense. Which is something I truly regret.

Fast forward through years of growing and learning and seeing myself through a more accurate (though grace-filled) lens and I find that I'm now an uncertain mother.

I throw a potential consequence out there, like say, "If you choose not to change your attitude, then you won't be going to the party," and then second guess myself. Is it too strict? Is it fair? And when my child continues on his course of disaster, rather than give the consequence I just keep reminding him of it, hoping desperately that he'll toe the line and get to go to the party.

Or I'll threaten unreasonably steep consequences that I don't really mean, assuming that'll motivate them to get themselves under control. Like that ever works. And then I undermine my own parenting when I back pedal.

So when my son told me that I threaten and threaten and threaten with no follow through, I realized he was absolutely right.

Parenting isn't about doing it perfectly, but it is in great part about being consistent.

So I'm much more thoughtful about what comes out of my mouth. I first think through whether it's a consequence I'm willing to uphold. If I am, then I am fairly certain it's reasonable.

And heaven knows that when it comes to parents and kids, someone has to be reasonable.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem…

I hadn't done my grocery shopping for a while—the holidays, kids home on vacation . . . snow. So I finally dragged myself down to the dreaded store.

It's one of those warehouse type stores where the aisles are long and the prices are cheaper—and you bag your own groceries.

Besides intensely disliking grocery shopping, I hate waiting in the checkout line behind all the carts stacked with a month's worth of food.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find a short line and raced for it, cutting off carts left and right to slide behind the lone cart loading a small amount of packages onto the conveyor belt.

Smugly satisfied at my luck, I realized I'd forgotten an item. Fortunately, I was wearing my running shoes. I dashed an aisle away and searched for what I needed. Got distracted by an assortment of tempting goodies and then dashed back. And skidded to a stop.

My cart had been pushed out of line.

It lay up against the rack holding the batteries and tabloid magazines. I tried not to glare at the woman who had taken my spot and was unloading her engorged cart. I considered saying, "You moved my cart?" in a bit of an outraged tone.

But my better self spoke up and said to myself, "It's a scheme of the enemy. Forgive her and let it go." So I did and I determined to not even grumble about it to my husband when I got home. It felt good to use some self-control and let a bit of Jesus rub off on me.

I even glanced over at the woman in the line next to me and smiled. She pointed to my cart and said in an apologetic voice, "I moved your cart. Another lady said it had been sitting there a long time."

I think I kept my eyebrows from climbing and very kindly gave her a grin and told her it was fine. I even leaned closer and whispered, "I'm glad you told me because I thought it was her," and motioned to the lady ahead of me. Tracking with me, she nodded conspiratorially and said, "The meanie."

She was in a much shorter line (the lady in front of me still hadn't found the bottom of her cart), so I scooted over behind the confessor. She gave a guilty look and said, "I noticed your butter and realize I forgot to get some." I told her to go for it and she took off.

Butter was at the opposite end of the store, so I unloaded her small cart on the belt and started into mine just as she came huffing back to our checker. She gushed her thanks and when she finished paying asked if I needed any help.

My small choice to forgive and not walk in my flesh changed everything about the next ten minutes and made a connection. There's no way she would have confessed if she'd heard me lay into the woman I thought was the culprit. I wouldn't have if the situation were reversed. But then I can be a little cowardly when it comes to possible rejection, even from a stranger.

I'm going to try to keep my ears tuned to that small voice that speaks such wisdom. Who knows what connections might be made tomorrow.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'll be back next Tuesday . . . have a wonderful New Year's Day!