I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for June, 2017

Now What?

My month is up.

I gave myself the month of June to “wallow” a bit.  Empty nesting isn’t any more fun.  Not a bit.  But I am getting better at coming up with clever or useful ways to fill the time.

Now that my self-imposed deadline has arrived, what next?

For the better part of 26 years, my schedule and my choices have had to revolve around the fact that I was a mom.  Their schedules, their needs, their activities . . . they came first as they should have.  But that’s not the case any longer.

My leisure time is now mine.  Completely mine.  I got married at 20 and had my first child before I was 23 so it’s been a few years since I’ve owned my leisure time.

So I’ll make a list of creative ways to spend my times and plan some “purging” of various rooms and cupboards.  I’ll repaint the room that is now mine and get my stuff all settled in.

I used to say that one of the advantages of having my kids when I was young was the fact that I would still be young enough to REALLY enjoy the empty nest phase of life.  Well, that phase has started, so it’s time to go prove myself right.

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Wordless Wednesday – Peace

The Value of Friends

It’s been at least 2 1/2 decades since I met Denise.  I can’t tell you exactly how or why we became friends.  I was already married and living in a campus apartment when Denise moved into the dorms for her freshman year of college.  But our paths kept crossing and somewhere in all of the intersecting, a beautiful, valued friendship grew.

She was in my home two weeks after my oldest was born, leaning on her crib and saying, “You need to wake up, baby.  Aunt Neesy wants to play with you.”  I had to remind her that a two week old doesn’t play much and I might have threatened to harm her if she woke up my sleeping infant!  She babysat as often as her schedule allowed and my kiddos loved to see her coming!

My kids have always called her Aunt Neesy.  My youngest daughter actually cried the day she found out that Denise wasn’t really a blood relative.  My sisters both adopted her as an honorary sister.  She helped out at one of their weddings and did the cake for the other.  When she got married, she stated that the wedding party was going to be all family so I was blown away when she asked me to be a bridesmaid.  My youngest daughter was the flower girl and my hubby was an usher.  When people who knew her “family only” policy asked, her answer was simple – “Like I said.  The bridal party is all family.”

She grew up in Iowa – Cedar Falls, to be exact, where the University of Northern Iowa is located.  3 of my kiddos have earned or will earn their Bachelor’s degrees from that University and two currently live in that city.  She now lives in Michigan with her wonderful hubby and her two lovable kids.  I grew up in Michigan and now make my home – an empty nest! – in a city just an hour and a half from her hometown.  We haven’t lived in the same state for more than a decade so I’m deeply grateful for social media allowing us to keep track of what’s going on with one another!

This past Sunday, Denise and her daughter, Emma, were in Cedar Falls for a graduation party with all of their family that still lives in the area.  (I’m still in denial that all of our kiddos have graduated from high school but that’s another issue!)  The schedules worked out so that hubby and I were able to go.  My oldest and her beautiful 7 week old daughter, Henry, were able to ride over with us as well.  Esther was only 2 weeks old when Denise held her for the first time – she has literally watched my daughter grow up! – so it seemed fitting that she should meet the newest member of the family as soon as possible!  My two kiddos who live in Cedar Falls – and their significant others – were able to stop in for a bit as well.

When I walked into the house and hugged “Neeser”, it was like coming home.  We told stories about one another to our kids and simply enjoyed being together again.  Her daughter Emma loves babies so she spent quite a bit of time holding Henry, even offering to handle bottle duty!  Time and distance hadn’t affected a single thing.  We simply caught up on extended family happenings and talked about work and kids.

I value every single one of my friends.  The reasons why are as varied as they are.  But there is something abundantly precious about those friends that you learned how to “adult” with; those friends that have known and loved your kids pretty much as long as you have.  They are a treasure, rare and priceless.

Song for Sunday

My Story Isn’t Over

New TattooA few people have told me I shouldn’t share this story.  Some fear it will give people ideas.  Others think it is too shameful to share.  But my reason for sharing is simple – I wish I hadn’t felt so alone all those years ago.

The picture is of my newest tattoo.  Call it a “stylized semicolon” if you will.

Project Semicolon is a non-profit initiative focused on promoting mental health and preventing suicide.  Semicolon tattoos are worn by those who have lost someone to suicide, those who love someone who battles suicidal thoughts because of mental illness, those who battle mental illness themselves, or those who themselves have survived suicide.

Why a semicolon?  It’s a punctuation mark used in place of a period when a writer chooses not to end a sentence.  The semicolon joins two sentences into a longer sentence.  As for the stylized portion of my tattoo – an eighth note in place of the dot – there’s a very simple answer.  Music became my lifeline during a very, very dark period.

We’ll call my bully “Oscar” (not going to use his real name because he doesn’t deserve that much respect).

I was about halfway through my 8th grade year the first time he walked up behind me in the hallway and muttered, just loud enough for only me to hear, “You know you’re worthless, right?”

I was stunned.

I stopped walking.  He went around me and continued down the hallway like nothing had happened.  It was the first time I’d ever had that kind of encounter with him.  But it was certainly not the last.

“Oscar” and I attended a small school – about 25 kids per graduating class – but we didn’t really spend much time around each other.  He preferred to play sports while I was already a committed performing arts geek.

To this day, I have no clue why he chose me.

From that first encounter, it just got worse.  Multiple times a day, he’d find a way to get behind me in the hall, close enough to say horrible things that only I could hear –

“Nobody actually thinks of you as a friend.  They are just pretending.”

“The world would be perfect if you weren’t in it.”

“Do us all a favor.  Just kill yourself.”

“Religious freak music nerds like you have no right to go on living.”

You get the idea.  At this point in my story, someone usually asks, “Why didn’t you tell someone?!” I tried to.  Once.  I hinted that really cruel, hateful things were being said to me on a regular basis by a fellow student.  I was told that I needed to sit down and talk to the student so I could find out what I had done that made him angry.  It was the first time I entertained the thought that it might be my fault.  (Side note – I never again went to that particular teacher for advice.)

I was on my own.  I knew that “Oscar” wasn’t the least bit interested in a sit-down.  And, after a moment’s reflection, I knew that nothing I might have done warranted his behavior.

Summer offered a reprieve and I started my freshman year, hopeful that he had moved on.  Or forgotten.

No such luck.

Every day.  Multiple times a day. A fellow high school freshman “encouraged” me to end my own life.

Three different times during my freshman year, I made plans to give “Oscar” what he wanted.

Let me be crystal clear – I made three different attempts to end my own life because I knew it would finally get him to shut up.

But I survived.  The “how” doesn’t matter much.  The fact that I’m still here 30+ years later is what’s important.

With about six weeks left in the school year, “Oscar” goofed.  I had started walking so close to the wall that my arm was practically brushing against the wall.  The hope was “Oscar” might back off if he had to risk others hearing.  His verbal attacks lessened but didn’t end.

Then it happened. He leaned in over my shoulder, risking having someone else hear as they walked by –

“You should do us all a favor and just end it.”

Her name – real name, this time – was Carla –

“Are you kidding me?!  Did you really just say that to her?!”

“Oscar” nearly ran down the hall.  Carla stopped me and asked how long “Oscar” had been saying those kinds of things to me.  I started to cry.  The next few moments are a blur.  Carla and I were headed to the same class so she walked me as far as the door, got the teacher’s attention and asked her to meet us in the hall.  I don’t remember what Carla’s explanation was, but the teacher gave us permission to be a few minutes late so I could go compose myself.  As I was in the bathroom drying my tears and splashing water on my face, the story spilled out.  Carla promised that she was going to make sure it all stopped.

Carla grabbed some mutual friends and simply told them “Oscar” had been messing with my head and asked them to help her make sure that I wasn’t left alone long enough for him to start up again. Walking to class, eating lunch, even heading to after-school rehearsals . . . I never had to worry about running into “Oscar” alone.  They continued their companionship into the next school year.

I would change high schools at the end of football season the following school year.  With the change of location, I got a chance to decide exactly who I was going to be.

So I got reacquainted with myself.  True, “Oscar’s” verbal assaults had ended, but his words had stuck.  They ran on a loop in my head that I couldn’t silence completely.  The only way to fight them was to drown them out with the things that brought me joy. I remembered how much I loved music.  How much I cherished playing the piano.  So I poured my time and energy into that.  Music became my life-line and the means by which I returned to a more realistic sense of myself.

In other words, I chose to be me.

Don’t get me wrong – life hasn’t been perfect.  There have been really dark moments when I forgot who I was and allowed others to try and write my story.  But I choose to keep moving forward.  Sometimes it’s only a baby step and there are still times I fight with the ugly words that keep creeping back into my head.  But my story isn’t over.

This new tattoo is a reminder of the whole experience.  A reminder that I have the strength to make a better choice.  And, hopefully, it’s a conversation starter.  A chance to encourage those fighting their own dark battles; a chance to encourage them to keep looking for a reason to take one more step forward.  The another . . . and another . . . and another . . .

Because the story isn’t over.

Gallery

Wordless Wednesday

Mothering Adults

Before you ask the question, “Is this crazy lady EVER going to talk about anything but her empty nest experience?!”

Yes.  I promise.

But I’ve given myself the month of June to “actively process” this new normal.  I’m the type of person who processes by talking thing through.  The really personal stuff is landing in my journal.  Some of the “this is what I’ve learned” is landing here.

But I promise – pinky promise, even – to not let it be the only topic of conversation past the end of the month.  It may still come up from time to time . . . but it won’t be the dominant topic of conversation!

When my kids were itty bitty, my role was clear – keep them fed, dressed, clean. . . fairly easy even if it was slightly sleep-depriving.

The toddler and pre-school years brought the demand for a watchful eye with a curious, mobile child.  Educational play, outings to the park and potty training rounded out the experience of those years.

School years?  Bring on homework, dance classes, little league, sleepovers . . . their social circle grows and shifts as they grow.

With the teen years, the challenge of “how much freedom is enough” arises.  They want more say in running their own life and you want to keep them away from bad influences and lousy choices.

Then they become adults.  Suddenly, you are not an active participant in their lives anymore.  You move from the playing field to the sidelines.  You are now a spectator.

But there are things you can – should – do when parenting adults.

You can . . .

. . . agree to a web chat when a duckling living out of town asks.

. . . schedule or agree to a lunch date.

. . . send a random text to let them know you love them.

. . . plan a day trip to visit a married daughter and her hubby.

. . . spend a private moment with your daughter on her wedding day and let her know that you will always love her.

. . . always have sleeping space available when ducklings living out of town want to visit.

. . . re-affirm, as needed, that your daughter’s instincts are trustworthy when it comes to her newborn daughter.

I’m still learning where the line is.  What line you ask?  That line that stands between a healthy mother/adult child relationship and being a meddling mother.  The trick is, I’ve discovered that the line is in a different place for each of my ducklings.

But I know one thing for sure – since all four kids are grown and gone, I should probably consider ditching the mom van.  I don’t exactly need it anymore!

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