Adulting, family, parenting teens, women

The Weight We Pile On Ourselves

Dear Mom,

I’ve felt the weight of the things you are feeling. I have been in that hard place. Maybe the details are different, but the general place is the same and my inner dialogue is probably familiar.

  • I have questioned my worth.
  • I have wondered if I am enough for my husband and my kids.
  • I have beat myself up for every mistake I have made.
  • I have second guessed every decision I have made.
  • I have blamed myself for every struggle, character flaw, and failure in myself and my kids.
  • I have shamed myself for the state of my home in both cleanliness and comfort.
  • I have felt like I was failing my family while I was working and failing my job while I was with family.
  • I have berated myself for my inability to better manage the numerous schedules of each member of my home.
  • I have mourned the death of my dreams that can never be in part because I am not who I thought I was.
  • I have determined that is was my job, and mine alone, to create an environment that is loving, nurturing, and Christ like 24/7. After all I was a stay-at-home, homeschool mom for over a decade, so the formation of any negative aspects of their characters must fall squarely at my feet.

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Can you even image the kind of burden that is to bear? Of course you can. Sure, in your head you know that this is absolutely untrue, yet you understand, because those same insecurities, fears, and doubts creep into your mind as well. If I were talking to you, I would give you truth, so much truth. But when I am talking to myself in the deep places of my heart, I tell myself all those lies. So here is what I want to say to us:

  • You am important, but you are not the sole influence in your child’s life. You aren’t God, so don’t own things you can’t control. Even in paradise, God’s kids made wrong choices. (Genesis 3) You need to give yourself some grace.
  • Your imperfect, so you have and will make mistakes, just like every other parent. We need to forgive ourselves with the same kind of forgiveness we would offer to others. (Romans 3:23Matthew 6:12,14)
  • You can not do all the things that need to be done, and you don’t need to feel guilty about that. It’s beneficial for your family that you delegate some of these tasks. You just need to modify Jethro’s instructions to Moses, but replace 50s and 100s and 1000s with cleaning, carpool, and homework help tasks. (Exodus 18:17-23)
  • You get dealt the hand you get dealt. It’s okay to grieve some of the things you didn’t get that you hoped for, but you need to focus on the blessings you do have. (Philippians 4:8)
  • Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow or get hung up in yesterday’s failures. (Matthew 6:34Philippians 3:13)
  • While there may not be enough of you to go around to everyone who seems to want a piece, you are enough. Your value isn’t based on accomplishments, your value is rooted firmly in the fact that the one who made you declared you as such. (Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

    Offer yourself mercy, grace and forgiveness. Pick yourself up and go to the next right thing. 

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elder care, family, Gangrene Gables

A Job Well Done

In honor of finally finishing  the task of sorting through Mom’s mementos and cleaning my ENTIRE house, I thought I would share a book excerpt from the last time I felt this accomplished. Sorting through old letters, pictures and treasures of my parents and grandparents was beyond nostalgic. It was enlightening. I am born of their love; a legacy of their lives. Reading letters written by ancestors that I had never met, gone half a century before I was born, was powerful. The boxes have now been carefully gone through and somewhat sorted, but it will still take another 100 hours of work to record the history they contain. Until I have time for that task, they will sit neatly in a closet holding on to their love stories, heartache and secrets. 

Six weeks and a million man hours after Mom’s passing, the house was on the market. Stone work was repaired, leaks fixed, paint touched up, the entire house power washed, the basement painted with a waterproof sealer (two coats), and virtually everything but a few pieces of “staging” furniture emptied from the house. It was epic. It was exhausting. It was finished.

May 6
Me: Also I faced my fears of being murdered in the basement. I painted without incident
Sharon: You are amazing.
Me: Are you amazed that it is possible to paint in the basement without someone coming in and murdering you? Because I was. Who knew!
May 15
Me: There is nothing more ironic than the listing calling mom’s house immaculate and well maintained.
May 26

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Me: Mom’s bleeding hearts have bloomed. Ironic, as it was her bleeding heart that got us in this financial situation in the first place. 

Mom’s house sold quickly. We took one of the first offers we received, even though it was low. We figured that every month we didn’t close was that much more we’d spend, so a few more months might bring a higher offer, but it’d all be erased by the expenses. While I’d bought and sold a few houses, neither Eric or Sharon had done so. Eric was the executor of the will and the person tasked with handling this dog and pony show. I hadn’t even considered how many things he wasn’t familiar with, so we talked a lot through the process. Yes, a lawyer is standard. Yes, the counter offer really does come with a ridiculously long list of things the buyer wants you to fix even if you list it as is. Yes, the basic inspection things do need to be made and certified before you can sell. It’s really a lot of back and forth and stress, even if you know what to expect. And while the closing didn’t happen as planned on July 1 (although we were totally ready) it did happen that week. In just 3 ½ months we had managed to completely clear out and sell Mom’s estate. (Okay, disclaimer, I still have half a dozen or more boxes of things in my house to sort through, mostly pictures and mementos of sorts that we didn’t have time to sort, but weren’t ready to dump. I keep saying, “This summer,” but I’ve never mustered the energy to go back to them. Maybe this summer. )

July 5
Me: I’m reading a book where a guy’s brother and sister-in-law die. He rides two days to get to them, settles the estate and settles their kids into his sister’s home and rides two days home. He accomplished this in just under a week. Obviously this is fiction.

house sale

July 7
Eric: I wonder if we should’ve disclosed that she might haunt the house. Wandering the halls, wondering where her stuff is.
Sharon; Don’t forget pooping in the hall.Nah. Let him figure that out for himself. Our parting gift.Eric: Barbara’s going to wake up one night to hearing her neighbor yell “where is all this poop coming from?!?!”
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Adulting, family, travel

Summer Duldroms

I feel sad during the summer. Pretty much every summer, but increasingly more as the years have gone on. I know why; I just don’t know how to fix it.

Here are a few things I have learned about myself. (Also, I am whining.)

Loneliness: During the summer, my children become nocturnal. I do not. I spend my days basically alone while my amazing husband is at work. It’s sad and lonely, but it is not relaxing because….

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Chores: I still have cleaning to do. All the cleaning I didn’t do during the school year and said, “I’ll get to that soon,” turns into my daily grind or more accurately my daily grime. This summer I have spent approximately 100 hours sorting and wiping and quietly weeping about how terrible I am at house keeping.

Pain: All the lifting and scrubbing and extra cooking means inevitably my body will hate me. This summer included a series of trips to the podiatrist and one episode of a pulled back. I have taken more Advil this summer than I took in the last decade combined.

Appointments: You know what else gets saved for summer. ALL THE APPOINTMENTS! For everyone. Physicals, teeth cleaning, eye doctors, etc. Anything that other people normally spread out during an entire year, teachers scheduled for summer break. It’s pretty thrilling. NOT!

Kenya beach

Travel (or not traveling): For fun, I plan vacations I can’t afford, but during the summer I also get to longingly gaze upon other people’s happy vacation photos. We have decided to for-go summer travel to increase the chances of  our kids getting summer jobs.  For me, this is a tragic loss, aggravated by the fact that the kids don’t actually get summer jobs. It turned out to be a loose-loose situation.

Relaxation: Here is the biggest kicker of all. Turns out, I can’t do what I really what to do which is lay around reading and binge watching Netflix. It actually makes me sad. It makes no difference what I am reading or watching. Same effect.  I desire to mindlessly chill out and watch an entire season of a TV show in a day, but after a few hours of relaxation, my brain will dump a ton of sadness neurotransmitters. (I’m sure that’s this is scientifically accurate.) It’s a real kill joy. Literally.

Back-to-School shopping: And just when I’m having a big pity party about how I never get to do what I want, it’s time to take my kid school shopping.  All the fighting over what shoes are acceptable and why he has to buy the longer pants because he’s going to grow and no, I don’t care if the shirt is a bit scratchy because the one you  like is 8 gazillion dollars and this one is $20 on sale.

And then, just like that, summer is over, and I am a sad little mommy heading back to work. The end.

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Adulting, family, gifts from God, parenting teens

Life: Not What I Imagined

My life is just the way I dreamed it would be when I was a little girl.

My life is nothing at all the way I imagined it.

How both of those things can honestly be true is simply one of the many wonders of the life I live. It is a testament to both the humor of God and his ability to be the sustainer of my soul.

When I was growing up, all I wanted was to get married and have children. I even wanted to adopt someday. I loved teenagers (little kids, not so much). I wanted to take family vacations, and eat dinner together, and take hikes in the woods. I didn’t really want a career. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I loved school and I pondered numerous career options that all involved helping people, some even in a school environment. I just wanted to love Jesus, and love my family. So, Considering that, I guess I did pretty good. I mean, I can check off that whole list.

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On the flip side, nothing I imagined turned out the way I thought it would.

  • I anticipated parenting to hard, but I wasn’t prepared for the crushing weight of worry.
  • I was prepared for stomach viruses and skinned knees, but not mental health problems.
  • I knew that my kids would sometimes hate me, but I wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak.
  • I imagined a home overflowing with our kids friends, but I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness.
  • I dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom not juggling the chaos of a woking mom.
  • I had plans for a log cabin in the country not living in a development at the edge of a city.
  • I envisioned of my parents watching their grandkids grow up; I wasn’t prepared for losing my dad before my wedding day.

    I could go on.

So what do you do when the reality of your dreams doesn’t match up with the fantasy of your dreams?

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I think dreams come to us in different ways and at different times. Here are five different kinds of dreams I’ve discovered:

  • Some dreams are just not the right dreams, and you don’t know yet. Sometimes, in His time, God will give you the dream you needed, not the one you wanted. My current job is a perfect example of God knowing me better than I knew myself. What dreams are you living that you never asked for?game
  • Sometimes you need to work for your dreams. Most dreams don’t fall in our laps like a fairy tales. They happen because we make choices to achieve them. That might mean hard work when you are already tired or courage to step out into the unknown. And sometimes we make a choice not to pursue dreams that are too much work, and that’s okay. We just need to see it as a choice. What dreams are hidden behind some hard work and bravery?
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  • Some dreams you don’t get. Period. I mean, how many people get everything they want. I never did get that unicorn I asked for when I was ten.  And how many of us get to be a part-time brain surgeon, part-time astronaut with a chart topping rock-n-roll career? Dreams are just that, dreams. Enjoy all the dreams you did get rather than focusing on what you didn’t get. For me, one of those things is an amazing marriage that few people will ever find. Which dreams did come true?
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  • You’re life isn’t over, so neither are your dreams. Different stages in life bring different dreams. Maybe travel is in the next stage in life. Maybe it’s a career change or a move. Maybe a quiet house or a fulfilling hobby is just around the corner. Some of my dreams, like my work in youth ministry, was a stage that has past, and some of my dreams have yet to come true, but I know they are waiting for me. What dreams could your future hold in the next stage and the stage after that?
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  • However, most of the time, we just need to find our dreams in the life we were dealt. Parenting was harder than I thought it would be, but I can choose to focus on the parts that brought great joy and work to be the best parent for the kids God saw fit to entrust to my care. I was given four great kids who made me want to pull my hair out, but they have blessed me and been a huge part of growing me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t want to go back and live my former dreams because I know that in the end I wouldn’t have become who I am today. Some dreams die in hindsight, and we need to let them stay dead so that new dreams birthed from your your current reality can bloom out of the ashes.  What dreams are nestled inside your broken dreams?

Dream big, but don’t forget to find your dreams in the life you already have.

kids 2014

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dieting, food

Everything I Love is High in Calories: A Lament

For years, my weight was rising, and all my subtle attempts to reverse the trend seemed fruitless. My husband’s low carb dieting plan would result in him dropping twenty pounds by Friday. Not so for me. He suggested I do a calorie counting plan, which I resisted. It’s too hard. It’s too inconvenient. It’s not really sustainable. I had plenty of excuses. Eventually, I gave in, and this is what I discovered.

Everything I love is high in calories. Everything. Seriously, this is tragic.

See, I knew fried foods and fatty foods would be high in calories. What I mistakenly thought, was that carbs were low in calories. I thought meats being high in protein would be high in calories, where as basic white rice would be low in calories. So not true. And so not fair.

I could have guessed the sweet fried donuts would be high in calories, but I hadn’t realized that eating two donuts for breakfast was nearly half of my allotted calories for an entire day. (about 300-350 calories each). WHAT? And my favorite, a single orange scone from Panera- 540 calories. Basically, if I ate one scone at each of my three meals in a day and nothing else, I would exceed my daily calorie intake by over 100 calories. Just steal all of my joy would you.

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Here is a list of the most basic carb staples, not even the best:
a cup of white rice- 242 calories
a cup of pasta- 221 calories
a plain bagel -290 calories

People this is what I eat for joy. Give me chicken baked in cream of chicken soup, served over rice and hold the chicken. I just want the high calorie cream sauce over my mound of rice.

French bread, Italian bread, naan, tortillas, cornbread, Hawaiian rolls, chapati, soft pretzels, johnny cakes: I’m an equal opportunity lover of the breads of the world. Some of these I will make from scratch. I have a tortilla press. Sometimes I even make tortilla chips from scratch. I don’t even want to know how many calories they are.

bread -navajo

pretzel

bread- indian

bread monkey

Let’s talk a minute about fried dough. I have made my own Native American/Navajo Fried bread, and it’s amazing. Grandmom’s mashed potato doughnuts are a Fat Tuesday tradition. I’ve made funnel cakes and once burned my hand something awful while making mandazi. And while we’re frying things, can we discuss fried Oreos and cannolis? I’ve not personally made either, but they are the foods dreams are made of.

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And if we’re looking more at a solid dinner food, we have empanadas and Samosas. Potatoes in all their fried glory could have their own entry. (French fries, potato chips, home fries, tater tots, potato pancakes need I go on?)

OH! Why can you take a tasty food and cook it in the essence of a vegetable (okay, the oil, but same thing) and suddenly you get an even more delicious food that is suddenly magically bad for you? This seems like black magic.

And sugar. Sugar is a vegetable. What’s with all the calories? Green beans aren’t high in calories. Why not. Because they are’t delicious.  This is so unfair.

Let me share with you one of the best high carbs, high fat foods. It makes life worth living. This recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my father to me. It came someone incomplete, so I added a few words to make it more readable.

donuts

Anita Bloodgood Wagg’s Mashed Potato Doughnuts

5 cups sifted flour
7 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups warm mashed potatoes
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs well beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ Tbs. melted butter
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup milk

Sift flour with baking powder. (set aside) In a mixing bowl, beat together the potatoes, salt, eggs, sugar, and butter. Add nutmeg. Add milk and stir. Slowly add flour and stir just until blended. Chill. Place about 1/3 of the dough on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll to 3/8 on an inch thick. Dough should be stiff enough to handle. Cut into doughnut shape. Fry in 375 degree oil. Drain on paper towels.
Optional: Put either powder sugar or cinnamon sugar in a paper bag. Drop doughnuts in one at a time, fold bag down and shake to coat.

Go in peace and eat the tasty foods that make life worth living.

donuts

 

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Adulting, family, parenting teens

No Tears Guide to Helping Your Teenager Clean Their Room (Just kidding. You’ll still cry.)

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Step 1: Give notice- This step not only gives your child fair warning that the day of reckoning is coming, but is also gives you time to stock up on garbage bags, chocolate, and ear plugs. You might want to psych yourself up for this by watching a few episodes of hoarders. Do they have a teen edition? Someone should do that.

Step 2: Clear the Calendar- The general rule of a construction project is to anticipate the job lasting twice as long as the initial estimate. You, however, are not working with professional contractors; you are working with a hostile teen. Triple the amount of time it would take you to do the task alone. Haha, just kidding. Multiply it by 10.

Step 3: Prepare the staging area- Prepare space in your house to lay out all of the items from you teen’s room. Everything is coming out. Everything! So the goal is to be able to spread it out. Yes, your home will look terrible for a few days, so don’t plan to have your boss over for dinner. (See step 2.)

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Step 4: Empty- This seems like a simple task. You carry the items out and then your put them down in the staging area. Shockingly, this is a difficult concept to grasp for the adolescent mind. Be prepared to answer questions like, “Does that include….” and “Am I finished, yet?” which for the adult mind seem illogical if one is asking them while standing in a room full of things. My rule is that only large furniture or things fastened to the wall remain. (Dresser drawers come out, dresser remains.)

Step 5: Scrub- If your teen is like mine, this is a good time for the annual washing of the sheets. Pull large furniture away from the walls. Chances are you will find more “stuff” behind these heavy items. It is also time to introduce them to cleaning products so they can scrub the floors and maybe the walls and baseboards.

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Step 6: Sort-  Items are either trash, donate, or keep. Every paper, book, pair of shoes, and toy is individually classified. This takes the longest time. I know after you see how long “Empty” takes, you will believe in purgatory, but trust me, the end result is worth the pain.

Step 7: Guided Re-entry- Like with rockets, the re-entry method matters or you might have a disaster on your hands. Consider putting a chair just inside your child’s room and asking them what is coming in, and where they are going to put it. You are the gate keeper. Live it! Perhaps sip on a cold beverage and nibble on some chocolate while you inspect. “No, you are not bringing that dirty ____________ back in this room. It’s disgusting.” “Why do you need 3 basket balls?” “You don’t need more storage, you need less things.”

Step 8: Removal- Ideally, your house is now cluttered with bags of trash to be taken to the curb and bags and boxes of donations for charity. Unless ordinances prohibit this, take the trash to the curb now or at least anything good that trash pickers might thank you for. Take your teen with you to the donation center to help lug their items inside. No point in you pulling out your back because they decided to hold onto every toy they have ever owned. Don’t just put it in the trunk of your car to live for the next 6 months. The job isn’t over until you slam the trunk at the charity of your choice.

Step 9:  Revel- Your child will assure you that you did nothing, and they in fact cleaned their entire room “without your help.” This might be true, but supervising the cleaning is far more stressful and a whole lot more work than doing the job yourself. So snap a few pictures and go watch a movie. You deserve it!

kenya 1

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family, history

Looking Back: Genealogy and Family History

I suppose you could say that I am my family’s historian. Much to my husbands chagrin, I have boxes and boxes of photos, newspaper clippings, and documents of various sorts collected over 4 generations. When it gets too much, I sort through them, weeding out a few items but keeping the vast majority of items intact. I know I don’t really need the name plate from my great grandfather’s office door, but I can’t seem to part with it either. For some reason, it seems disrespectful to discard the treasures of those who have gone before us.

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This summer, I began sorting through papers collected from my mother’s home after her passing in 2015. I needed to reclaim my sunroom, so I promised myself I would sort through one box a day until the job was complete. What I found were photographs from the turn of the century. I was staring at the faces of  my great grandparents, people even my own parents and grandfather had never met. My grandmother, an only child, was orphaned in 1925 at the age of sixteen. Using the internet, I was able to find the exact location of the store they owned, and print out newspaper advertisements from 1903 to include with the photos. Among the other treasures were report cards from my father’s less than stellar academic career along with evidence that his brilliant mind was clearly not being captured by the classroom setting.

These documents from family history might not change the world as we know it, but as a history teacher, I can not help but think that in years to come, these treasures that for me connect me to my relatives who have passed in, will one day be the primary sources that historians might use to piece together the past. Will they one day read the letters and postcards referencing presidential elections, terrible wars, the moon landing, and so much more. Will they gather the printed pages from the internet that I attached to photos from the early 20th century? These are the real items that give history it’s humanity. These boxes in attics and basements are where real life stories are held. They are more than memories, they are artifacts.

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So, I will keep sorting and researching, and trying to put this giant family puzzle together. I will both recall and imagine as I open each new box. This is more than just my family, this is my past. This is our past. It reminds us that life’s problems and joys are nothing new. It tells us that marriages occurred and babies were born and losses happened in every generation. It proves that wars come and go and businesses open and close, fashions change but love does not. It is the record of our collective memory as a people and the specific memories of a family. It’s worth keeping. img_2661.jpg

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