Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

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My Mom Job

I am getting close to 20 years into the mom gig.  That’s child’s play compared to some gals, but I’m not exactly a beginner either, am I?   I have been thinking about mom skills a lot lately; I’m trying to assess what I have learned from my years on the job so far.  (Please, let me have learned at least one thing.)

Yesterday, Scott and I were talking about how our parental roles were quite clear when the kids were young. He says it boiled down to two things:

  1. Safety
  2. Activity Director

Simple.  We liked that.  Sure, those roles required stamina.  They were physically demanding, and often led to exhaustion, but what doesn’t feel better than a hard day’s work?  Moms with young kids go to bed weary, and wake up the next day knowing they get to do it all again.

Eddie is our oldest; that poor boy.  He has to be the first to teach us everything.  Scott and I have noticed that at some time in the last year, he crossed over a line.  Eddie is leading us into unfamiliar terrain, and Scott and I are trying to get our parental footing down.

One night after work last week, Eddie sat on the couch and talked with us about work, and what has been keeping him busy lately. Then, he played us a new song he’s learned on his guitar.  I don’t think two people exist on this Earth who could provide Eddie with a more interested  and engaged audience than Scott and me.   That moment was my awakening.   Listening and a bit of encouragement is all a son who’s almost a man really needs from his parents.  I really got it in me to do so much more, but  I can tell I shouldn’t.

I’m grateful that Zeke and Olivia are still wandering through familiar terrain.  It’s clear these two are getting so much closer to crossing over that line to join their big brother.  Once they cross over,  the invisible line that has them  tethered to us  snaps.  Then,  we are all in a free fall.

Zeke had friends over last week, and they wanted to go to a water park.   Zeke and a couple of the other boys do have a driver’s license, but they still have restrictions on how many passengers can ride with them.  They needed Scott and me to drive them.  Scott and I could not have been happier to be needed.  We relished in the moment.  When Scott and I mentioned to the kids that we were sad, because we knew we were just a year or two away from getting the axe, and not being included in their plans, Olivia told us she will never NOT want us to come to a water park with her.   Thank you, Olivia. It’s nice to know some kids are actually loyal.

I don’t know why Olivia likes us, because we can be kind of mean.  When we were at the water park, everyone split up into groups.  Scott and I went on the Lazy River.  On one trip around, we happened to see Olivia, her girlfriend, and a new friend that is a boy waiting in line on the bridge above us.  The kids waved to us, and then Scott had the good idea to pretend that he and I were about to make out.  The look of horror on Olivia’s face was magical.  Her girlfriend was laughing pretty hard too.  Scott and I enjoyed that moment, and congratulated ourselves for our quick thinking for at least the next four trips around the river.  I think that when you’ve put in all the long hours of parenting, you get to take these moments to humiliate your teenagers, and really enjoy them.   We should get something out of the deal,  shouldn’t we?

I wasn’t so mean to Zeke.   Zeke is 16 now.  I know he needs his space. I told him before the boys came that I would stay out of the way.  Privately, I also committed myself to being calm, quiet, and not even slightly embarrassing.  I had to give myself this speech, because none of that happens for me without effort.   I really would like to give myself some recognition here.  I pulled off an Oscar winning performance.   I thought I behaved like a serene and cool woman. Not one bit like myself.

I didn’t realize what an effort I was making until I was alone with Olivia and one of her best pals.  We started joking around, and before you know it, I was doing the running man, and some other, equally awesome dance moves, and it just felt so good to be able to be me.  I am thankful Olivia’s friends are silly and fun, and not opposed to crazy moms. I hope Zeke appreciates what I do for him.

I love being a Mom. I love it so much. I love thinking about it, and figuring out what I need to do better, and what is going right.  I know the Mom role evolves in a lifetime, but I don’t think it ever ends.  I was talking to two moms recently.  One mom has a grown child going through a tragic time. The other has an almost grown child going through an emotionally challenging period of life.  After talking to these two moms, I came to this conclusion:  In many cases moms feel their children’s pain with greater intensity than the child who’s actually experiencing the difficulty.  I know this is not true in all cases, and for every mom.  But, for many moms it is truth.

ed and mom graduation

You know the worst part about this?  Moms have to suffer in silence.  Most of us moms know that if we tell our kids how distressed we are over their burdens, it only makes the child’s burdens worse.  Nope.  Moms have to selflessly pretend to be full of courage and cheer, and tell our kiddos to pick themselves up, and march through that crap storm, because that’s good advice.  And, pulling your grown child on your lap, and snuggling them while you both cry is not an option, sadly.

At least all of us moms can hug each other.

Here…I’ll leave you with this.  Basically, the worst song ever made.  Almost certain to leave my Mom friends a mess. I’m sorry. I know we’re friends, and I just shouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Lessons

I’m evolving.  I mean, my thoughts are evolving. I am coming to the conclusion that it may not be possible for me to hold a permanent position on most things.  There’s so much to consider.

My blogging is changing.  As in, slowing down.  Possibly, close to coming to a halt.  It’s hard to tell exactly when.  I don’t know if blogging is necessary now.  It used to feel necessary.     I’m not surprised. Isn’t that life?  We change and grow.  We can only live the chapter we’re in today.  The next chapter always holds changes in our story line. It’s fun to look back.  It’s fun to see how previous chapters build a plot, and create a context for what happens next. What happens next isn’t possible without all of the what happened before. I think I’m getting it.

In the past, I have blogged detailed recaps of our spring break trips.  Gosh. That was fun. This year, I will condense our spring break into the lessons I learned.  Gosh, you know I love a good lesson. Gosh, I love the word Gosh.

We spent the week of spring break in a few ways:  visiting a college in Kentucky for Eddie.  Reuniting with my oldest friend at her home in North Carolina, and a few days on the beach.  It was a happy week.

Here’s what I learned:

1.Hillbillies are not visible from the interstate.  It’s quite a source of pride for my children and their cousins to know that their descendants on my mom’s side are Kentucky hill people.  My mom has a picture of our kids’ great, great, great grandpa. He is a tall, handsome black man.  He and his white wife,  helped raised my grandma in the hills of Kentucky for a few years of her life, until she moved to Wisconsin with her parents.  I would give a great deal to go back and talk to these great grandparents of mine.  We thought that maybe we could get a glimpse of our history driving through the Appalachians.   Didn’t happen. Unless the hill people are residing in truck stops, Walmarts and sports stadiums, we didn’t spot anything that looked quite like Kentucky Hill People.  After one stop in Kentucky, Scott told me he thought someone at the gas station  looked like me.  He said maybe we were related.  Scott’s a sport.

2. Some college kids prefer to get drunk on fun.  Eddie visited a super cool college in Kentucky.  He has a wrestling friend there who kept Eddie up all night with his wrestling buddies.  They had crazy adventures that included long boarding down the hills of Kentucky (they didn’t see Grandpa either), and eating at a Waffle House at 3 am.  These guys have thought of a hundred ways to have fun, and it’s the kind of fun they remember in the morning.   I liked this school very much.

3. Flat tires. Boys become men.  I was skeptical that our ol’ van could make a long trip like the one we took. Scott had confidence in the “Blue Bullet”. Scott was right. The van served us well.  I really love that vehicle.  We did have one flat tire.  In the middle of nowhere.  Late at night.  In the middle of nowhere. Did I mention we were in the middle of nowhere?  We heard a bad noise.  I applied my solution for car trouble. I turned up the radio.  Scott got all picky about it though, and made us pull over.  When we realized we had a flat, I instantly went into parental problem solving mode. But then I quickly saw how my two teenage boys-becoming-men were all over this problem with their Dad.  I noticed none of the guys expected Olivia and I to get out of the car.  It seemed like the boys were kind of operating on instinct, and I am not ashamed to say that my heart swelled.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m about partnerships.  I’m all about how women can run the world, and run it well.  But, I’m not gonna lie.  I like knowing the men in my life feel a little protective sometimes.  I’m not even going to try to reason that out with ya’.  It’s a bit primal, but there you have it.  The truth is out, and that’s how I feel.

4.  Liking your kids + modeling kindness + correction = nice kids.  My oldest friend has triplet boys, and a daughter.  Her kids are so sweet and well behaved. We fell in love with them. I wasn’t surprised at all.  My friend is a few years behind me in the parenting game.  She’s at that stage where you have to referee and correct a lot.  Don’t get me wrong, her children were golden.  I mean, these kids had the best manners EVER.  I just happened to come around the corner in the morning to see my friend settling an argument her kids were having between themselves while playing a game in the yard.  I know. Huge shock, ’cause that almost never happens with siblings.  It made me chuckle to see the serious looks on the kids’ faces, and what a good job my friend was doing of reminding them to be nice, and could they promise to remember to be nice before she let them go play again?   It reminded me of how hard it is to be a good parent.  I wish I could go back, and offer my younger parental self some reassurance.  I’d say, “Hey Mik, these boys aren’t going to be beating the crap out of each other forever. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep up the silly lectures, and handing out the consequences,  because some day you’ll be glad you did. Some day, you’ll see that all your man  hours weren’t completely for nothing; those wildly aggressive puppies will some day become more like your friends.”

5. I’m easily influenced – After 24 hours in the South, I had a Southern accent.  I thought it to be quite authentic, and I felt it couldn’t be helped.  My kids begged me to stop.  Again, if I could help it, I would.

6. I’d rather eat better food than more food – My super awesome family indulged me on this.  I asked them if we could skip fast food, in favor of spending more money on higher quality food. They agreed.  The plan was a success.  We had some delicious meals made with local ingredients.  See, that’s another thing you couldn’t get  away with when your kids are young.  I like teenagers.

7. Vacationing with teenagers does not improve your self esteem.  We were in some close quarters on the road.  Someone always had to share a bed.  I made a joke about me sharing a bed with Eddie. Before I even got the joke out of my mouth, Eddie hollered in utter disgust.  Like I stabbed him.  It was obvious that this notion was the MOST disgusting event Eddie could conceive of in his mind. And, let me remind you, Eddie wears ripped sweats, that  you could crack in half from all the attached crust.  Really?  I’m THAT disgusting?

beach spring break 2016

8. Vacationing with teenagers will not improve your marriage.  It is best to have a strong relationship before you attempt to vacation with teenagers.  Teenagers will not abide any interaction between their parents that looks a bit like love, affection or fondness.  I believe at one point when we were driving,  I tried putting my hand on Scott’s neck, and I received a swift slap on the arm with an unopened Gogurt from one of the teenage ingrates.  I’m sorry. I lost my head.  I forgot that Scott and I were merely tour guides.  I didn’t let it happen again.

 

9. Families from Wisconsin can enjoy the beach in most weather – Zeke and Olivia had never seen an ocean. Eddie had been to the ocean once.  The temperature was in the 60’s,  and we had the best darn day at the beach.  We had the sunburn to prove it.

miki beach

Here I am in my Wisconsin Bikini.  It’s racy.

10. Trapped in a van for days with my teenagers, who at times find me disgusting, and who will not accept that I am in a non-platonic relationship with their father, is my favorite place to be on Earth. Seriously.  For real. This is the truth.  I had moments on this trip when we were laughing and talking with these teenagers, and my heart was so full.  I couldn’t express the love in my heart, because teenagers aren’t always up for hearing about how a mother loves.  But, let it be known.  I am keenly aware that my family is at the end of the time in our lives when our trips look like this trip looked.  These five people are likely to expand and grow.  Additions to the family will be a blessing, and additions will be loved. But, additions will be the next chapter.  I’m going to appreciate every word and moment in the pages of this chapter we are in now.  I LOVE this chapter!!!

 

kids spring break 2016

 

 

End of Era Skills

My blogging all but dried up during the cold, busy season of wrestling. I mean, winter.  I forget that it isn’t spring, summer, fall, wrestling for everyone else.

Anyway, I’m back now.

Because I have this writing compulsion, my poor Facebook friends have had to take the heat. In light of my inability to find time to blog, long and regular Facebook posts have become my jam.  I’m ready to blog again; now I can put all my nonsense into regular blog updates.. My Facebook friends will be glad for it.

I have just one subject on my mind today: how badly I handle the end of an era. Not good at it at all.  Eddie is going to college. He will be moving out.

Three of the worst days of my life were the three days I dropped off our kids at Kindergarten.  Since that time,   I have developed only a few meager skills to improve my ability to cope with days like this.

I remember dropping Zeke off, and running into a friend of mine on the way out of the school..  This friend was just as nuts about her kids as I am mine.  I was blubbering and carrying on, and even though she gave me a nice pat on the back, I could read in her eyes that she’d thought better of me than this pathetic display.  No need for all the fuss, really.

In my head, I am totally aware that over the years, gazillions of moms who love their kids  have managed first day of Kindergarten, and high school graduation without theatrics.  I can too. Except, I’m not off to a very good start.

Yesterday, I was in the bathroom at a restaurant, and I heard a little boy tell his Mom, “Hey.  I’m not suppose to be in here. This bathroom is for gewls, not boys. I’m a boy.”

I remembered when Eddie was offended by the same thing when he was little, and then I got choked up.

Later, I was watching a show with a dad playing football with is two little sons, and there the tears were again. Scott always played football with our kids.  Boo hoo!!!

Then, I watched a rerun of “The Middle”. Sue Heck was going to college. You’ll never guess what I was doing.  Okay, so you did guess.  Crying.

Little kids and TV aren’t the only things making me cry.  I was putting gas in my car, and heard a sad song playing over the P.A..  That’s all it took.  Tears in my eyes again.

All three of our kids remember how I handled the whole Kindergarten debacle.  I’d like to think they remember it, because it really isn’t like me to cry and carry on.   They haven’t seen it much in their lifetimes.  I generally save the all out crying for deaths of loved ones…and Kindergarten.

I remember 5-year-old Eddie trying to make me feel better about his Kindergarten debut.  That kid was so happy to be growing up, and a part of his own society.  He couldn’t figure out why his Mom wasn’t on board.  I wrote in his baby book that one day after school he was trying to make me feel better.  He said, “Mom, when I’m at Kindergarten, just go to the zoo!”

See,he said that, because we took the kids to the zoo a lot, and he knew I liked it there. Now can you see why I’m CRYINGGGG????  Isn’t that SOOOOO sweet????!!

I know. Pull yourself together, lady.

I’m going to try.  I really am.  Because kids moving on is good. That’s what you want them to do.  It means they’re healthy, and it means you haven’t done the worst job as a parent, right? Plus,  Moms say goodbye to their 18-year-olds every year, and you don’t hear them whining about it.  I mean, if my 18-year-old was clinging to my leg, begging to stay, THAT would be something to cry about.

I’ll pull it together.  I promise. I will.  I’ll go to the Zoo.

 

ed and zeke wrestling

First they’re little.

 

 

Ed State 1

Then…POOF!  They’re big.  It’s a trap.

A Note to my Friends who Just Aren’t Feelin’ It.

It’s Christmas Eve.  I have been up since 4:19 this morning.  That’s about an hour too early.  I could have stayed in bed, pretending my body has a bit of common sense.  That’s futile, in my experience.

I might be too excited to sleep. It’s Christmas Eve, you know.  We’ve got chestnuts to roast, and popcorn to string. Well, maybe I would rather read my book and play some ping pong, but still.  It’s a day to enjoy.

I have this buzz in my head.  It’s persistent.  I stopped this morning to acknowledge the buzz; I’ve been hearing it for a week or so now.   I asked God if He’d translate what I’m hearing.   I hope He answered.

I have been thinking hard about my friends and family carrying grief this Holiday Season.  If that is you, then I think the translation of this buzz is meant for you to hear.

I think I’m supposed to say two things:

  1. Tomorrow won’t look like today.
  2. You’re sad, and it’s okay.

My sister, Gail, posted a picture this week of a past Christmas.  She said it was one of her best Christmases.  That Christmas, Gail’s beautiful son, Ryan, was alive.  Ryan was a fun maker.  He was full of joy.

Gail said that she remembers laughing so hard it hurt that Christmas; she has a picture as evidence.  I enjoyed my family too that year.  But, I look at that picture, and I have a different memory.  That  was another Christmas when I faked it.   There have been more Christmases than I want to count when I generally faked having fun, and faked being present.  Grief and sadness keep your mind occupied.

christmas sisters

That Christmas, like so many others, I was wrestling with thoughts of Eddie’s future; trying to make peace with his health that seemed to be in an eternal downward spiral.

One year, on Christmas, Eddie was too sick to take the trip to Iowa to see Scott’s family.  Scott and I made what felt to us like an excruciating decision.  We left Eddie home with my parents for the day while we made a lightening quick trip to drop off presents, hug Scott’s family, and then turned around to come back home.

This decision felt traumatic for Scott and me.  We just had a hard time accepting that this was our son’s life; missing life, really.  It felt like a grave omen.  As we were getting ready to leave for Iowa, I heard Scott sobbing in a corner of the basement.  Scott was grief stricken too. Those were sad days.

That was yesterday.  That isn’t today.  I thank my precious Savior in heaven for showering mercy on this family of mine, and restoring Eddie’s health.  All good things come from HIM.

The fact that our deepest wounds have been healed, does NOT put me in a position of authority to talk about dealing with grief at Christmas.  You may rightfully be thinking, “You don’t know how I feel, Miki.  Your problem is solved.”

You’re right.

That doesn’t change the fact that my heart feels pain for others who have to fake it this Christmas, or any Christmas.  And, I feel compelled to tell you it is okay. YOU are okay.

I want you to know that you are NOT alone.  You are not forgotten.  I prayed for you this morning.  I care about you.  But, I also want to tell you that the God of the universe cares for you too.  I’m not preaching to you.  I’m not interested in converting you.  I just want you to know today, that if you are sad, and you feel hopeless, there is a supernatural hope that can be found through faith.  My faith in Jesus is not my religion.  This faith I have is practical and supernatural., and sustained me  when grief gripped my heart.  This faith of mine yields hope, and that’s what I know you  need.  Hope.  We all need hope.

Hope that a better outcome is ahead.  Hope that we can survive the present.

 

Romans 5:2-6

2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 

 

 

I want you to have hope.   Today is not tomorrow.  You are not stuck here.

If you’re faking it today, it’s okay.  It’s really okay.  I want to tell you that you are brave.  You got up today.  You showed up.  That is enough.

Be kind to yourself.  Thank yourself for moving along.  That’s all you need to do. You just have to take the next step.

I will keep praying for you today.  I will pray that you know you are not alone.  I will pray that you find supernatural hope.  I will pray that you just take the next step, and congratulate yourself when you do.

You are loved.  This is your time and place on this Earth, and your life has meaning.  I pray you feel God’s love for you this Christmas.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

 

Miki

 

 

 

 

Making Brave Decisions and What’s Wrong with Reggie?

Do you have a hard time accepting things at face value?  I do.

Lately, when the family is hanging out in the living room, Reggie has been slipping away to Scott’s and my bedroom.  We suddenly realize he’s gone. We get up and look around.  We keep finding him lying on our bed (or under) in the dark.

Why does he do that?  Do you think he’s sick?  Or worse, do you think we hurt his feelings?

You’d be pretty surprised to know much space a problem like my dog’s hurt feelings occupies in my brain. I’m glad you don’t know.

Our family is experiencing something new.  College recruitment.

Parents should get manuals for this stuff.  Wait. There probably are manuals somewhere.  Forget I said that.  I don’t want to read a manual.

But, poor Eddie. It’s just like when those dumb suckers let us take him home from the hospital for the first time.  We didn’t have one single idea what we were walking into.  We had no real experience to make us confident we’d succeed as parents.  We looked like adults, but we knew the truth. We were just two kids.  Kids can’t raise babies.

Well, maybe kids can raise babies. Eddie is still alive. Yay!

This little baby is now walking around like an almost big man.  I think this almost big man is probably assuming his parents are mature and adult enough to help him make his first gigantic life decision.

Sorry, Eddie. We’re STILL just kids.

College sports.  There’s a lot going on there.  I know very little about this subject.

We received a postcard in the mail last week.  The card said that if our child athlete doesn’t have at least 25 colleges/universities pursuing him/her, then we’re not doing an adequate job of promoting him as parents.  Which, of course, means we should hire professionals.

Don’t you think that was a stupid advertisement?  My sister-in-law is a college coach.  She says that outfits like that are trying to play on parents’ egos.  Weird. Because, it sounds to me like they just sent me an invitation to chaos.  Because we all need more of that, right?

Eddie is talking to a small handful of schools.  He’s  trying to figure out which wrestling team and college/university to choose.  He’s trying to figure out where he belongs next. Even on a small scale, it can feel overwhelming

Scott and Eddie just did Eddie’s first official school visit.  I sent Scott and Eddie no less than four texts reminding them to take pictures for me.  They said they forgot.  I wish they wouldn’t lie.  Did I really think they were going to stop and ask the coaches and wrestlers to take selfies with them?  A girl can hope.

I had to settle for a pictureless summary of their visit.

Scott and I have not had to make THAT many big, life decisions.  When we do, it’s rough.  I think there are two separate things making the decision making process especially difficult for us.  Scott is EXTREMELY slow to commit to anything;he wants to make the exact right choice.  For him, no decision is better than the wrong decision.  His perfectionism slows him down.

I have the opposite problem. I almost always  really, really, really don’t have an opinion.  This isn’t the oh-I-am-saying-I-don’t-have-an-opinion-so-you-are-forced-to-make-the-decision-and-I-can-criticize-you-later type of no opinion.  I suffer from REAL opinionless issues. .  Everything sounds good to me; I want everyone to make everyone happy.  I’m your basic, every day coward.

I’ve been praying a lot about Eddie’s big decision lately.  Then, I read this the other morning in the Gospel of James:

But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind.If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.

Hmm.  Never saw that verse before.  Will you check your Bible to make sure that verse is really in there? I think some jackhole might have written that in my Bible to play a joke on me.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tie all this up for you.  I tell you that this verse reversed my indecisive nature; learn from me.  Except, I don’t know.  Should I tell the truth?  Or, should I lie?  I feel like I want to lie, except the truth feels better:  That verse didn’t change anything.  Yet.

Just give me some time with that verse.  Okay?  I’ll read it and reread that verse.  I need to ask God what He means to say to me with that verse.   I might be learning a new way to do things here. Too soon to tell.  When things change, you’ll be the first to know.

Here’s something I do know. Yes. We were like little kids raising a baby, but Eddie is still alive, remember. So far, so good.  And, I think I actually kind of like how he’s shaping up.  I mean, if you had to live with him, you’d see he’s got some rough spots.  He’s kind of a hot mess in the pays attention to detail department.  But, right in the center of all his crusty old man clothes, long hair, inappropriate jokes,  and forgetfulness is a kid who knows himself.  It’s remarkable, really. Considering the confused kids who raised him.

eddie in tree

Secretly (not anymore) I really love that thing inside Eddie.  Knowing his own mind has served him well to this point.  No.  I’m not ready to turn all my parental duties over to that thing inside him, but I think we can at least trust it to guide us in the right direction with this big life decision Eddie’s making. I think. I don’t know. I’m not sure.

eddie eagle senior pic

I Saw Something Beautiful

I saw something beautiful last night.  I didn’t sleep well, and I woke up early because of it. I am feeling a compulsive urge to capture what I saw in words.  The sun won’t be up for a while, but I need to write this now.

Is this how real artists feel?  I always told people I was an artist; they should stop treating me like a normal person.  Artists shouldn’t be expected to do the dishes and go to work is what I have been saying.  Do you think Picasso had to get his own coffee?  It’s hard when you’re the only one who really “gets it”.

Last night we celebrated my Aunt and Uncle’s 55th wedding anniversary.  A lot of years ago, my Dad’s sister, Peggy,  went to a movie with a tall skinny guy she met, named Stan.  These two kids hit it off.  They got married: 3 daughters, 7 grandkids and 55 years later, seemed like a good time to celebrate,

stan peg inviate

My cousins hosted this celebration for their parents in one of my cousin’s backyards last night.  This party was a Pinterest explosion.  My cousins are like that.  If these ladies lived in a cardboard box, the cardboard box would have walls covered in a faux finish; there would cozy lighting and shabby chic pillows cast artfully about so that you’d be jealous of their cardboard box.  You’d wish you could live in a cardboard box too, instead of a dumb ol’ house.

That’s just my cousins; they can’t help it.  They’re not trying to make you feel badly about how every time you attempt style in your house, it looks like you hired a 9-year- old decorator.  Trust me.  These women aren’t doing this on purpose. At least,  that’s what my therapist told me to think about that.

But, we can dig into your insecurities later.  Right now, I want to capture this beautiful thing I was telling you about.

First, I have to go backwards.  My Aunt and Uncle live 2 hours away.  We had 2 hours for Scott (and Zeke)  to hear all the important stuff my brain has been storing.  My family must love our car rides.

I was telling Scott and Zeke about some folks I’ve been reading about in the press lately.  These folks are semi famous for one reason or another.  These folks have always claimed to be hard core Christians.  I mean, from what they’ve told us, this being a Christian thing is their main message in life, and the main thing we should learn about from them.  They’ve spoken about their Christianness with authority.

Recently,  it has come to light, that while these famous Christian people are using fame to convince us of their upstanding Christianness, they are simultaneously orchestrating a heinous private life.  I don’t know why I’m surprised by this stuff anymore.  It’s not a new thing.  I can’t help it though.  I always take it hard.

It isn’t the heinous private life that troubles me.  I’m not in charge of other people.  We are all responsible for our own choices, and the resulting consequences.  What makes it hard for me to recover is the big, fancy, public display of Christian faith.

Do you want to know what super unchristian thought I have when I hear these stories?  I’m going to tell you, because I need Jesus, and here’s how I know it.  When I hear these stories, I think about these people, and I want to say, “Just SHUT UP!  Please.  Stop talking.   Just stop.  Not another word.”

This is what I was telling Scott and Zeke on the way up to my Aunt and Uncle’s anniversary celebration.  I told my family that I was starting to come to the conclusion that people should just quit talking about their faith completely.  Maybe talking about Jesus is the easiest thing in the world to do.  Because, literally, anybody can do it.

I said that I felt like in a world with everyone yammering on (guilty) about how you should live, and what you should believe, there’s nothing new to hear.  I told my family that in a world like this, my actions are my testimony.  My life is my testimony.  I feel disillusioned by all the speeches.

That’s where my mind was at when we parked in front of my cousin’s house.

After we ate dinner, my cousins had a short little program lined up.  My Aunt and Uncle played, “The Newlywed Game”.  That was fun to watch.  Then, my cousins told the crowd what their parents’ happy marriage meant to them in their lives. Everything.

My cousins then asked the five grandkids if they would like to share a few words about their Grandparents.  You could tell this was a surprise request.

stand and peg anniversary

And, this is the beautiful thing I saw.

All five of these grandkids are young adults:  married for a short time, getting married, or going to college.  That sums up where these kids are at in life.  One by one, while holding back tears,  these kids told all of us sitting there how much their Grandparents meant to them.

Each grandchild told their Grandparents that they appreciated all their physical support.  The grand kids said thank you for all the meals they ate  with Grandma and Grandpa,  for the golf games with Grandpa, and for the luxury of knowing Grandma and Grandpa would be there to support them with whatever they chose to do.

The other thing that every single one of these grandkids thanked Grandma and Grandpa for was their faith in Jesus Christ.  These kids explained that Grandma and Grandpa helped them understand that no matter how difficult life became, their faith could carry them.

That’s it.  That’s the beautiful thing I saw.

I saw two young kids who committed themselves to God and to each other 55 years ago.  I saw an imperfect couple who spoke to God privately, daily, asking God for help, asking God  to show them how to raise a family, because they couldn’t do it on their own.  I saw a couple who endured heartache, trauma and their share of disappointment over a lifetime.  I saw a couple who’s faith allowed their hearts to resist bitterness, and to remain content.

I saw a couple who didn’t give grand public speeches about how people should live.  I saw a couple who, in the privacy of their own home,  fell on their knees before God;  Praying to a God they believe is  intimately invested and concerned with the well being of their family and the world.

I saw a couple who  woke up early, without witnesses, and read God’s Word; believing God’s promises were meant for them.

I saw a couple who practiced generosity and kindness every day.  A couple who said they were sorry, who asked for forgiveness.

I saw a couple who’s Grandkids have been watching and listening to their Grandparents.  Those Grandkids received an inheritance from their Grandparents worth more than any amount of money on Earth.

Grandma and Grandpa are towards the end of their lives now.  There will come a day when Grandma and Grandpa will not be physically available to offer comfort and support to the people they love.  But, Grandma and Grandpa’s hearts can be at peace.  Their private lives have been a testimony with impact.  Their grandkids were watching, learning and receiving instruction.  Their grandkids are now claiming their Grandparents’  faith as their own. These grandkids told their Grandparents, thank you.  We will not be shaken.

To me, it’s beautiful.  I can’t know if that’s the life I’m living, but that’s the life I desire.  I can say just about anything to anyone.  But, my family is watching what I do.  I really, really, don’t want to mess that up.

My cousin, Jodi, told me last night that shortly after each Grandchild was born, Grandpa Stan would take the grandchild in his arms and go for a little walk.  On their walk Grandpa would whisper his prayer to God,   committing his new grandchild to the Lord, asking for God’s blessing to cover this new grandchild. Grandpa Stan would also ask God for the favor of building a true and genuine faith in the heart of this new little human.  So that this precious, fragile life would feel security and peace despite what trials may come.

Grandpa Stan performed this meaningful, divine, life altering ritual privately.  Grandpa Stan followed where God led his heart, for the sake of his and his Grandchild’s spiritual lives.  Without an audience, and in front of no one.

It was beautiful.

.

Being Mean. Excuse Denied.

I’ve had some thoughts percolating in my head for a few weeks.  I knew it was only a matter of time before my thoughts poured out my fingertips.  It’s inevitable for me.

Before I dig in, I need to say something.  I need a disclaimer in italics, I guess.  I’m about to get some stuff off my chest.  I want to talk about people who are mean.  I was hashing this subject matter over with Scott.  We talked about how on any given day, our paths could cross with people experiencing depression, grief or despair.  On any given day, we, ourselves, could be experiencing depression, grief or despair.  We ALL have bad days.  People having bad days are NOT mean.  Right? Agreed? 

The trouble with talking about mean people, is that people who aren’t mean might be tempted to to worry that they ARE mean. They are not.  

Here’s a guideline for you that I pulled out of one of my “How to Pretend You’re a Psychiatrist in your Blog” books. (Or, out of my butt. You be the judge.).   I can assure you, if you’re the real deal kind of mean person, you’re not worried about it.  If you’re legit mean, being mean doesn’t worry you.  Being mean makes you proud.  Mean folks wear their, “I don’t take no crap from no one” badge proudly.

I feel pretty sure that authentic mean people wouldn’t find my blog interesting. This thing is pretty soft.

This blog post you’re reading  is designed to help us sort things out.  It’s designed to help us see things clearly, and to help us figure out what to do about people who are mean.  It’s also a bit of therapy for me.  Cause you KNOW how I like to talk it out; you’re sure good to listen.  Let’s continue…

I was remembering one of my favorite movies, “Say Anything”.  I like that movie for a lot of reasons.  One line in the movie is fairly obscure; most people probably don’t remember this line was said.

In the movie, John Cusack is a high school kid.  He lives with his sister who is a single, hard working mom.  These two are siblings in real life too.  That’s unrelated trivia, but interesting. Don’t you think?

say anything

This is what we remember about “Say Anything”.

John Cusack’s older sister is probably overwhelmed, anxious, depressed and a bunch of other things that we become when life craps on us.  So, let’s just give her that.  The other thing John Cusack’s sister is is not nice.  There are more colorful words to describe big sister than “not nice”, but I hate to offend.  Please, use your imagination.

The older sister never has anything positive to say to her little brother.  Little brother can always expect big sister to be short, and to respond with sarcasm.  This kind of thing goes on between the siblings for a few scenes.  Then, little brother finally addresses the situation.  He uses that line  I’ve remembered for the rest of my life.  Little brother says, “Why can’t you just decide to be in a good mood, and then be in a good mood?”

When I watched this movie for the first time, I wanted to stand up and cheer when little brother put my thoughts into words so perfectly.  I was a teenager then.  My life was untouched by depression, anxiety disorders, or any significant trauma.  I was completely naive.   I was a pretty happy young person person;  I thought the whole world, and everyone in it was just grand.  I thought  little brother  had just solved everyone’s problems.

At 43 years, I do know about, or have experienced, depression, anxiety disorders and trauma.  I’m suitably jaded.

But, still, “Why CAN’T you just decide?”

Yep.  Still on board with you, little brother.

I have been thinking about when people have to walk on egg shells.  You know what I mean?  You know how you have to be super careful to say and do all the right things around certain people?  These egg shell people are unpredictable. They’re so easily offended.  Keeping egg shell people happy requires a ton of energy.

I’ve also been thinking this deep thought:  screw eggshells.

I mean it.  Screw them.  I think we should stop walking on them.  And, everyone should just calm the crap down.

I think you need to realize something. Egg shell people are just mean.  I think we should stop fussing over egg shell people, and start having a good time.  That’s what I think.

In, “Say Anything”, the big sister comes to her senses.   Big sister is wore down, drug out and overwrought. But, she loves her brother.  She heard him, and she takes his advice.  She decides to change her response and her words. Then the love flows. Aww. She’s not mean at all.

What if life was always that easy? Sometimes it is.  Most the time, not.

In real life, that scene would probably go down differently.  Little brother would tell big sister to stop being so mean.  Big sister would then punch little brother in the face, and say, “You want mean?  I’ll give you mean.”

Then, little brother would apologize.   And, later, he would go back for second helpings.  The next time though, he’d be more careful.  The next time, he’d be sure to try not to say anything to set his sister off.  After all, she suffers from anxiety, depression and she’s had a rough go.  Little brother knows he should always remember what big sister’s been through, and all the stress she’s under.  That’s why she’s so mean.

BLAACHHHH!!!!

From where I stand in my life right now, here is my advice to little brother:  Pull the shades, bro.  Your sister is mean.

I’ve had little experience with mean people in my life.  I know I’m fortunate.  I do not know any mean people intimately.  The only down side to this is that I cannot be a credible source on the inner workings of a mean person’s mind.  My limited exposure to meanness has only taught me this:  stop wasting your time trying to figure it out. You can’t.

I know YOU are not mean.  I know it.  Stop worrying.  I’m not talking about you.  All of us have bad days.  We all say things we regret.  I know I have a long list of words I’d like to retract in my lifetime.

I think mean people have (at least) two common traits:

  1. Broken relationships.   A lot of them.  A heap of friends and family a mean person no longer speaks to, because, you know, the mean person won’t be mistreated.  And everyone (I mean, EVERYONE) eventually tries to mistreat a mean person. Mean people won’t have it.  Not for a second. Mean people eliminate offenders from their lives with no regrets.  Anyone left standing  is prepared to do what it takes to keep mean person from getting upset.  It’s a small group.
  2. Being easily offended.  Oh for crap’s sake. This one makes me crazy. Would you stop with the being offended stuff?  I have come to the conclusion that few things bother me more than folks who are always offended.  Don’t be so freakin’ fragile, man.  It’s self indulgent.

Have you ever gotten an email, or a phone call from someone apologizing for something they said that they  think may have offended you?  I have.  I just think those people are so precious.  Almost every single time this has happened, I can honestly tell this person I was NOT offended.  In fact, most of the time, I do not even remember the conversation where this “offense” occurred.

I can remember one time about 8 years ago.  Eddie was super sick;  I did not have my full mental strength.  A good friend said something that actually DID hurt my feelings.  You’d have to put me under hypnosis to get me to remember WHAT she said.  I have no idea.  I just remember an offense happened.

My hurt feelings would not have stopped me from hanging out with my friend, for the record.   There is a good chance if that offense kept bugging me, I would have eventually told my friend what was in my head.  It never came to that.

My friend’s  a sensitive gal.  She called me to say that she was thinking about our conversation.  She said she was very sorry, because she felt like what she said was insensitive.

I said, “Too late.  You’ve got one chance with me, woman.  You blew it.”  Then, I circled her name on my list of people to ostracize and/or murder at a later date.

Naw!  I’m kiddin’ ya.  The way I figure it, murder is just to be used in extreme circumstances.  You know, like a last resort.

Apology accepted, you sweet, humble and lovely human.  My friend is not mean.  I am not mean.  That’s how not mean people do business.

I’ve sent plenty of apology emails myself.  In fact, just this week I sent an email to Olivia’s volleyball coach.  I got caught in a conversation at the end of her “beginning of the year” talk.  I didn’t even hear her last line or two.  I was rude.  I was sorry.  I’m always anxious to fess up and apologize when I do people wrong.  Once I apologize, I don’t worry about it much.  I mentally check it off my list.

I used to keep worrying and worrying, until harmony was restored. I  stopped doing that. It took some practice.  I’m pretty good at it now.

Now, I know that I’m only responsible for the stuff that is within my control.  I have no business spending energy on any of the rest of it. Whew.  What a relief to be getting older, and learning stuff that makes life easier.

That’s it. That’s all I got to help you with mean people.  Do what you can, and then pull the shades on that.  Your apologies and efforts will never be enough.  Find a way to extricate yourself physically and/or emotionally.  Who knows? Maybe God will step in and make a miracle happen. That’s what it will take, because you’re not winning that battle on your own, my friend.  It’ll take you down.

I bet you didn’t know that I’m an artist.  It’s true.  I’ve got skills.  We went to ArtSpot this past weekend for my Mom’s birthday.  The deal with that is that no matter how much you suck at art, you’re supposed to come out with a painting that isn’t half bad.

My sister, Heidi, and I were jackin’ around like the old days.  I felt like I had better technique, and seemed a bit more like a serious artist, but she said the same about herself.  Take a look, if you want.  Feel free to tell my sister that she just doesn’t have that secret something that I have. It’s hard to put your finger on it, really.

Of course it’s not her fault.  I’m gifted, and I’m humble enough to know that isn’t anything I did on my own.  My kind of talent comes from above.

I made this picture:

bird pic

I thought it might be going a good direction. When I finished it, I realized it was actually garbage (true artists are never satisfied). So, I wrote on it.

My Mom is good at painting in real life.  She was the teacher’s pet, and made the rest of us look real bad.  Sounds like the perfect birthday gift to me.

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