Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Defining Moment

Based on a true story
As her parents' car pulled into her driveway, she was filled with equal parts fear and joy. When her husband burst out the front door the joy filled her. She was home. It was an incredible feeling to be back in his arms. But as he reached in the car to pull out the carseat with their son, the fear returned.

Amy had just spent a week at her parents' house convalescing after getting out of the hospital with an uterine infection. The last month had been a whirlwind. She had a very hard and scary delivery. Although there was some fear if the baby would live, he pulled through with only jaundice to remain a concern. Then a week later Amy got sick and had to go back in the hospital. All this time, John was trying to attend seminars for his Ph.D. By the time Amy got home from the hospital, they were both exhausted and spent. Amy's mom came for a visit and immediately saw that John needed some time to catch up in his studies and Amy needed rest and help with caring for the baby. She promptly packed them all up and drove Amy and the baby home with her. It had been a wonderful week of pampering for Amy. Her father worked next door so he was able to be around and check on her regularly. Sam, the baby, slept in her parents' room and her mom attended his needs in the night. Amy quickly regained her strength.

Now, as they stood in the driveway, Amy knew her mom had to leave and couldn't stay. She was scared. What if she couldn't do this on her own? As if sensing the terror within Amy, John slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him. He whispered in her ear, "We are going to be fine. You are not alone." In that moment she was able to let go of the fear and say goodbye to her mom.

That evening after dinner, John had to return to the library to finish studying for a huge seminar the next morning. Sam became fussy and seemed uncomfortable. Amy tried to feed him but he wouldn't nurse. He seemed to have a stuffy nose and trouble breathing. She called her girlfriend and asked what to do. The girlfriend talked Amy through how to take a baby's temperature. Sam had a fever of 100. Her girlfriend reassured her that that was okay, but to check with the doctor in the morning. Amy rocked and held Sam until he fell asleep.

The next morning after a fitful night for Sam and Amy, she called the doctor's office and was informed she couldn't be seen until 10:30 that morning. In some ways that reassured her that everything was okay. Babies get colds and there was no reason to worry. John didn't want Amy to go alone to the doctor's office, but he couldn't miss another seminar. She reassured him that it was okay, probably just a cold and drove away.

She entered the brightly decorated pediatrician's office loaded down with the diaper bag of a new mother. As they sat waiting, she noticed a long window looking into the office area. She saw Dr. Brown and they smiled at each other. Then Dr. Brown seemed to get upset and became very busy behind the glass. People started rushing around as if an emergency had occured. Amy wondered what that was about as they called Sam's name.

The nurse was chatty as she ushered Amy and Sam into the exam room and took his vitals. She asked the normal questions of why they were here and what concerns did Amy have. Shortly the doctor came through the door all smiles. She asked several questions as she looked over Sam. She took off his diaper and asked if Amy had noticed a discharge before. Amy said no. Then timidly, Amy asked, "I feel stupid asking this, but I feel like Sam is more lethargic today. Is that possible?" "Yes," the doctor said, "he has a fever and just like adults he becomes lethargic when he is ill." Dr. Brown then excused herself to go check something and left leaving the door cracked open.

Amy redressed Sam, swaddled him, and held him close. As she walked around the tiny exam room, she could faintly hear the doctor. "Yes, you need to meet your wife at the hospital. She will go straight up and I need you to go check them in." Amy murmured to Sam, "Oh, poor mom and child, they are having to go the hospital. How awful! I hope it is not serious." And Amy continued walking and swaying to soothe Sam.

Dr. Brown returned with a lady she introduced as Maggie, her office manager. She informed Amy that Maggie was going to walk her and Sam underground to the hospital. "Amy, Sam is very sick. He is going into shock and we need to get him attended to right away." Amy seemed to take this information in stride. She loaded up her diaper bag, handed it to Maggie and off they went.

On the way, Maggie chatted and cooed at Sam. Amy got no sense of urgency and still did not realize what was ahead. They entered the elevator and went to the sixth floor, the pediatric floor. When the elevator opened, Amy's life changed forever. There awaiting their arrival were four nurses and a doctor. They immediately took Sam out of Amy's arms and rushed him into a room. Amy crumbled. It was in that instant that she knew. She had felt it in the pit of her stomach, in the bottom of her heart. Her baby was ill. Until that moment, she hadn't been able to give voice to that truth. Amy suddenly realized there were arms wrapped around her as she sat on the floor. Maggie and another lady were holding her. The hospital had arranged for a chaplain to be there for Amy. The fear became even more extreme. Eventually they got her to a chair and she began mumbling that she needed to call John. Maggie said the doctor had already called him and he was downstairs. It then dawned on Amy that the conversation she overheard was about her and Sam. The tears began streaming down her cheeks.

Suddenly behind the doors she heard the shrieks of her baby boy. It felt as if someone had ripped her heart out. She started for the door but Maggie and the chaplain restrained her saying she had to let them do their jobs. Amy began wailing that she needed to see her son. The elevator opened and John rushed out. Amy ran to him and they clung to each other as they watched the door. John demanded more information. And finally the chaplain went into the treatment room to get a nurse. The nurse came and explained what they were doing. She went over the list of tests and treatments they were doing on Sam. But Amy's mind couldn't comprehend a word she said. Because her heart was inside that room. All she knew was that she needed her baby in her arms immediately. She needed to protect her baby from whatever was wrong. But she couldn't. She had to sit outside the door and wait.

It seemed like days before the door opened and the nurse came out holding Sam. He was swaddled again with tubes coming out all over his body. She gently laid him in Amy's outstretched arms. Amy brought him to her heart and kissed the tears away from his cheeks. Amy began to realize that they had been ushered into a room with a crib and rocker. She continued to grasp her son not wanting to let go. Within the hour Dr. Brown came into the room to tell Amy and John what was going on.

"Sam has an infection. In babies, we often don't know where the infection begins only where it is at the time we find it. Infections travel quickly through babies' systems and are very dangerous. We did several tests and discovered Sam has an urinary tract infection. This is very uncommon in babies, and what makes it more uncommon is Sam being male. We are giving him IV antibiotics and fluids. He was dehydrated when you came in. He was in the beginning stages of shock. His system was getting ready to shut down. Amy, I know your milk has been drying up since you were in the hospital, but I need you to try to get it back. The nurses will be bringing you tubs of juice, water, whatever fluids you can drink. I need you to drink a lot. Your milk has what this little guy needs right now. Okay?"

Amy numbly nodded her head. She struggled to grasp all that the doctor was saying. Sam almost died today. This mantra played over and over in her head.

"Because Sam is so small and young, he will have to stay in the hospital for a ten day treatment with antibiotics," Dr. Brown continued. "You need to take care of each other. You must get sleep. We can't have either of you getting sick now."

John asked several more questions as the mantra got louder in Amy's head. Then they shook Dr. Brown's hand and she left. The rest of that day and the next were a blur for Amy. She drank, slept, nursed, held, rocked and cried. She and John tried to take turns at the hospital, but with her needing to nurse, Amy needed to be there most of the time. Sam's fever seemed to rise instead of fall. There was quite a bit of concern over this. On the second or third night, Amy was in the room alone with Sam. She had nursed him but he still seemed to be hungry, so she buzzed the nurse and got a bottle of formula. Sam sucked it down with intensity. Afterwards he was still fussy and still making the mewling sounds and motions of a hungry baby. Amy tried the pacifier but to no avail. Finally she called the nurse back and they decided to try a bottle of water. Immediately Sam sucked that down, and was still fussy. Amy tried to change positions in her arms when Sam's little hand fell out of the blanket with the IV line. When she looked down she noticed that his hand was swollen to two times the size. She quickly called out to the nurse who came running. The IV needle had slipped and fluid was filling Sam's hand. He was not hungry, he was in pain. The nurse quickly called for help and they went about fixing it. But Amy couldn't handle it. She left the room and found a corner to sit and sob. A different nurse found her there and sat down on the floor with her and held her as she cried out her sorrow and fear.

Slowly she made her way back into Sam's room. There in the lamplight sat the little Canadian nurse holding Sam tightly to her chest while tears slipped down her cheeks. She looked up as Amy came in the room and said, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." Amy rushed to her side and hugged her while they both cried.

It would take years for Amy to return to this time in her life. Sam had several other "episodes" with illness, and so did Amy. But the defining moment for Amy was the day the nurses and doctor took Sam out of her arms and away from her. In that moment she realized she could no longer protect her son from everything in this world. Now Sam is going out into the world on his own. And just like that long ago day, he takes Amy's heart with him.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I am frustrated in many areas of my life today. The first and foremost is with my health. I seemed to be going along really well. I was feeling great, even feeling pretty strong. Then *BLAM* I was knocked on my back and I am still there. I have a great dr. and I know he will help me get this figured out but takes a toll on me emotionally as well as physically. I quickly go back to the place of "I can't" instead of "I can". Dwelling on my limitations doesn't help anyone or anything, yet that is what I start to do. I see the many ways I let my family down.

I am frustrated with my knitting. I have two projects going right now that need to be done soon. Both projects are causing me great frustration. I have had to frog both numerous times. My sweater has just baffled me. I cannot seem to get it right. I am ready to just drop it, yet the yarn is so beautiful, the pattern is so neat. I have to go on, I must conquer this. The other project has such meaning, that I can't let it go either.

Frustation is a part of all of our lives. We encounter it in large and small ways. How do we deal with it? Do we let it get us down and let it cause us to question ourselves? Or do we name it and move through it?

I hope today I can begin to move through these frustrations and others. What frustrates you today? How will you deal with it?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Equality for ALL

I was born white. I was born female. I was born American. I was born heterosexual. According to society today, I have hit the jackpot....well, except for the female part...but I'll leave that for another post. I am not sure I can even put into words how arbitrary that feels. I didn't ask to be born any of these things. I had no power in was how the genes mixed and grew and yes, I believe that God had a hand in the process as well. But I did not. Neither did you. So, how can I get mad or judge others who were born different?

I don't believe that people whose skin color is different than mine are any less valuable, less important, or less worthy of equality. Do you? They are people, made the same way you and I were.

I don't believe that people who were born male are any less valuable, less important, or less worthy of equality. Do you? They are people, made the same way you and I were.

I don't believe that people who were born in other countries are any less valuable, less important, or less worthy of equality. Do you? They are people, made the same way you and I were.

I don't believe that people who were born homosexual are any less valuable, less important, or less worthy of equality. Do you? They are people, made the same way you and I were.

Of all the things we judge others for; their clothes, their shoes, their hair, their class status, their politics, their religion, I don't understand how we can judge someone for the way they were born.

How can we judge someone on something that they had no choice in? And I guess this is where my argument fails for many. We as a society, have not accepted the fact that homosexuality is not a behavior but a sexuality you are born with. First of all, why in the world would someone choose to be persecuted and hated? Why would they choose to be ostracized from society and their families? This is not rational. Why? BECAUSE THEY DO NOT CHOOSE. THEY CANNOT HELP WHO THEY LOVE ANY MORE THAN YOU CAN.

Because much of society believes that homosexuality is a choice, the church has searched scripture to find the ultimate yardstick by which to judge others. Not unlike in the the 50's and 60's when the church argued against the equal rights of blacks. So now we have not only the idea of choice, but GOD. There is nothing that will get people stirred up like God and the Bible.

I am not a religious scholar and have never claimed to be one. I am however married to one. He is a well educated man. He was once very, very conservative and has since opened his mind to see all that God is. And so, I am going to direct you to his words on the subject of the Bible and homosexuality, for all those who are interested.

My argument for the equality of gays and lesbians and for gay marriage is not a religious one. But I knew that for many reading this post it is, so I wanted to address that side of the issue. For me it really has nothing to do with religion, but with people. How can we deny anyone in our country of their basic rights? I just don't understand this. I just don't see how all these Christian friends of mine cannot see the eyes, faces, hearts of these special people and deny them their rights.

My friends Allison and Lou are so good to me and my family. They come over and help me fix plumbing problems. They help me fix up my kitchen, they help me move old freezers into my shed, they make me laugh. They are very good people. They are lesbians. Lou came to America from England. Now, because Allison and Lou cannot get married legally, Lou may not be able to stay in this country. Allison has worked all her adult life and has paid her taxes like every other citizen. She attends church and pays her pledge and even serves on boards there. She volunteers in the community. She is not unlike many of you reading this post. But she loves women, in particular, Lou. She loves Lou and Lou loves her and they have been in a committed relationship for over 5 years now. They live every day knowing that when this student visa runs out, Lou may have to leave. All because of the way Allison and Lou were born. How would you like it if because you were born a brunette you could not marry a blond? How would you feel if the government told you who could marry, who you could love?

These are real people's lives we are talking about. Not perverts, not murderers, but law-abiding, loving, caring people. We must make a stand. We must not continue to allow our society to discriminate against homosexuals. We must fight for the equality of ALL people.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


What a fascinating, exciting, fun, and scary time in life. You begin to feel the first waves of independence. Getting to go to the mall alone. Driving a car by yourself. Going out with friends without parents. Having a relationship with someone. And the first waves of responsibilities. Your first job. Figuring out what college to attend. Making the grades to get into said college. Having a boy/girlfriend that you must spend time with and think of. Buying a car.

All of these things are exciting. I still remember feeling the emotions of that time. Every emotion was exagerated tenfold. Sometimes I felt so out of control. One minute extreme joy and the next extreme sadness. Such a roller-coaster.

As a mom of teens, I am experiencing this age a bit differently. I am now on the receiving end of these roller-coaster emotions. That is not as much fun and not nearly as exciting. There are times I just shake my head at their forgetfulness, their lack of hearing, their mood swings.

I think the scary part of parenting teens is that you get to start watching them trying on adult size opportunities/problems. They goof up, they make poor choices, and then we panic and think we didn't do a good job raising them. So then most parents start pulling the teens in and restricting their access to these opportunities/problems. I think this is where the tension lies for parents and teens. What we must remember as parents, is that this is EXACTLY what they are supposed to be doing. "Trying on" these situations and it is in the messing up that they actually learn how to be an adult. Come on, do you get it perfect all the time now? Of course not! It is through our mistakes that we learn. Our teens deserve the same grace we give ourselves.

They have heard you. They have learned all the things you have taught them. But they have also heard some other voices, teachers, peers, coaches. So they want to try out different solutions, different thoughts, different ways of doing things, to find what works for them. It doesn't mean you need to hit them over the head even harder and louder with your views and beliefs, you've had the last 13 years for that. Trust them.

I was recently taught this very lesson by my son. In true teenage boy fashion, he has given us some "opportunities". He has tried out many different views and tried out lots of solutions, and we have not always liked his choices, and have had to intervene a couple of times. (you cannot let them hurt themselves or break the law) But last week, my son wrote a story for his Creative Writing class. This story blew me away. It held within its lines all the lessons we have tried to impart to our children. He has been listening! There was even evidence that he listened to his dad's sermons! He has not only been listening, he has adopted some of those core beliefs for his own. It was such a rewarding moment reading that story.

So, parents of teens, know that you have been heard, and it is okay if your kid messes up. I know you fear the worst, dying, being arrested, getting pregnant, getting someone else pregnant, getting AIDS, etc. But you have to make a choice, are you going to parent out of fear? Because not only are our kids listening, they are watching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The War Within

"Stop! Please just stop!" The screams tear through your throat. "I can't take anymore!"

The screams meet deaf ears because the offender is inside you. Your own body is attacking itself. It is as if your body is reaching inside and squeezing and slashing your gut. The pain is insufferable. You grasp for breath and twist and turn trying to find a position where the pain will ease. But there is no place, there is no respite. Finally you find the bottle of pills and take one. Still your body keeps up its internal war against itself. The cries of help bring your family running to your side. They try to help, yet it is impossible. There is nothing they can do, they are as helpless as you are. Finally it is time for another pill, the pain killer. Slowly you feel your body begin to fall under the pill's spell. It releases its hold and you can breathe again. You slip into unconsciousness and blissful sleep. It feels as if you have just closed your eyes when the war begins once more. This time your body is fighting so hard it is forcing everything to evacuate. You vomit over and over trying to expell whatever is angering your body. But there is no relief. You try another pain killer and the big gun - Xanax. And slowly your body submits to the drugs. You once more slip into unconsciousness.

You wake after many hours of sleep, yet you don't really wake. That won't come for several days. You will be weak, sleepy and woozy for at least three to four days afterwards.

This is a Crohn's attack. Different people experience different pain, different drugs, etc. But the common thing is how much Crohn's affects your life. It is a nasty disease which can be devastating for some. Many people lose their families or partners because of the inability to stand by and watch such pain. Many people lose their jobs because of the amount of time missed from work. But others have partners who stand by them and bosses who work around them.

We all go on living. It is our choice how we let this affect who we are. What challenges do you face each day? What choices do you make?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Growing Up

Since life has served up many curve balls as of late, I have been forced to ponder my life and my state of mind. When each curve ball reached "home plate" I realized that I was dealing with the change with calm and peace which is not my norm. I finally came to the conclusion that this must be from maturity. As I looked over the past decade, I realized again that growing up was a theme. At this point in my life, I finally have enough experiences to help support the fact that (1) God is not going anywhere; (2) Jack is not going anywhere; (3) panicking really doesn't help at all; (4) we can get through tough times; (5) change is not all bad.

I am beginning to see that we really don't enter adulthood until our 30's. At 21 we haven't yet experienced much of anything on our own. I got married at 21. I thought I was pretty adult, and I was technically. But it was the beginning. That was when I started accumulating experiences that helped to shape the adult I am today. Figuring out how to make our small paycheck stretch over a month, having to negotiate a relationship with a man, having a child, having a child almost die, having another child, moving, having all my decisions come back to me and me alone. All of these and many, many more are the experiences that show me that God has been with me all along. She has never left my side. Jack has stayed for the long haul. It hasn't always been easy, but he is not going anywhere. Panic is a barrier to thinking, it does not help me make good decisions. Jack and I have gotten through some really tough times together and we have always come out stronger in the end. Many of the experiences I would have labeled as "bad" have really helped me to grow the most....change is okay.

I know I am not done yet. I still have many more phases in life to go. But it is nice to now know that whatever is out there, I will not be alone and I will be okay.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Last night my daughter and I went to our annual Mother/Daughter Christmas Party. Due to everyone's busy schedules, it didn't happen before Christmas! This is a group of girls who have gotten together through church. They have all known each other since they were little, but didn't really become close until 6th or 7th grade. Now they are like sisters. What is nice is that the mothers all get along, and the girls don't mind if we are around some of the time. So the girls give each other homemade gifts every year, and the moms coordinate dinner and whose house. The girls sit in the middle of the floor with the moms all around watching. I think the moms spend more time watching the girls' faces and reactions than the actual gift opening. It is priceless to see these almost 15 year olds giggle and squeal with delight over their gifts. It is amazing to see the talent these girls posess. The thought each one puts into individual gifts is astounding. One girl chose a photo of her and the girl, then painted a wooden frame to match the girl's personality. Then she wrote phrases that reminded her of good times with that girl. Then, she wrapped the present in a theme. Like my daughter's was all pink, and then the wrapping had shoes, purses, fashion stuff on it. Another girl's was wrapped in music, and another in a bandana. Such creativity in this group.

I was struck with the ease and the confidence with which they offered these gifts of the heart. They didn't apologize, they didn't seem scared the gifts wouldn't be appreciated. The confidence of knowing their gifts would be loved by these girls was mind blowing.....I mean they are 15!!! The moms talked after the girls went down to the basement to watch a movie (in the "estrogen cave" a name they gave their newly remodeled theater room). We all felt the lucky we were to be witness to that night. A couple of us have older children and we realize that our days are numbered. Maybe....who knows with this group. It will be interesting to see. All I know is that I am truly grateful my daughter has those girls in her life. What a blessing they are to her. I pray she will always have girlfriends like that near her.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Making Friends

Last night I was transported back in time about 18 years. This was the time in our lives when Jack was studying for his Ph.D. at Baylor University and I was teaching full-time and praying for a baby. We had just moved to Waco and were making friends. This was the first time we were making friends other than our college friends. We followed many of our friends to the same seminary. Don't get me wrong, we made other friends while in seminary, but we weren't "on our own". So here we are in Waco, and we begin making friends with the Ward's, the Moore's, the Parsley's and the Russo's. I remember my nerves as we made friends together as a couple and the inevitable, "Did you like her?" "Did you like him?" "He was funny." "She was very interesting." "I'm not sure about him....but she is really neat."

Last night we returned to that era. It was the first time we had gone to dinner as a couple and not as the minister and his wife in a long time. The couple we were meeting have only been married 2 years, and have just recently left the world of grad school. So it was quite a trip back in time for us as we recounted those days with them. It was nice.

I wonder how nervous they were having us in their home. For the last year they had known us as the minister and his wife. We were intrigued by them and wanted to get to know them better, but we have a rule not to become friends with congregants, so we never followed up. When we left the church, they emailed and asked us if we would like to have dinner. Thus last night's dinner.

I don't know how nervous they were, but I know how nervous I was. I hadn't put myself out there like that in a long time. I have always had the minister's wife facade to hide behind, to protect my heart. Last night I laid it all out there. It was me, KaKi, they were seeing, and judging whether they wanted to befriend or not. It was scary, but they made it so easy. My nerves quickly calmed down as the conversation flowed. As we left, Jack and I agreed that we liked them. They both are well-educated and quite easy to talk to. They are interesting and have great stories. So then we start talking about how long do we wait to ask them out again? Don't want to seem too needy......too pesky.......then we burst into laughter. We sounded like teenagers asking someone out on a date! But it was fun, being Jack and KaKi in a social setting, making plans together to have fun with others.

This year holds lots of unknowns for us, but it also holds lots of promise and possibilities.....and hopefully new friends.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I taught myself to knit almost 6 years ago now. I began with scarves, shawls, and then moved to hats, mittens and eventually to socks. I love knitting socks. They are small projects that you can tote around easily and they are functional. Everyone I have given a pair to has just loved them. There is something about a hand-knitted pair of socks. I hope they feel the love I put into them, I hope that is the secret ingredient.

I did try a sweater 3 or 4 years ago with disastrous results. The sweater came out wide and short. Not a great fit. But it found a home with a short waisted friend who can use it to keep warm at home....not exactly a public wearing sweater. And for all I know she eventually gave it to goodwill, which would be fine with me. I didn't think I would ever knit another sweater. But then this pattern came along, February Lady Sweater, and I knew I had to make it. I printed the pattern and let it sit. It kept coming back up in my mind, so I used a gift-card and bought the yarn. I started it over the holidays. It knits up pretty easy, there are some tricky parts, but overall it is a nice thing to knit while talking, or watching tv.

I have a confession. I am a perfectionist, OCD, anal-type personality, whatever you want to call it. If I am going to do something, I want it to look right. This trait trips me up in life quite a bit. But in knitting and renovating my house, it has served a purpose.

Well, after spending many hours on this new sweater, I got to a point to where I could really look at it. I loved the yoke the increases were nicely done with no holes. The garter stitch looked even and cozy. But the buttonhole placement was all wrong. I had fussed and calculated and agonized over the buttonholes, but they were still not right. So I did what every knitter has done at some point in her knitting career. I frogged it and started over.

Frogging. My husband asked me what frogging meant and why that term. I really didn't know, so I looked it up. The term frog is used because you have to "rip it" out. Ha ha! I had no idea it had a funny connotation. I like that. Because frogging is painful, it hurts any knitter's being to have to undo hours of work.

In life we often have to frog and start over. Relationships, careers, etc. Sometimes we use the same yarn and pattern and just try again. Sometimes we use the same yarn and find a new pattern. Sometimes we have to abandon the yarn altogether because it is just too painful.

Well, this sweater is getting a second chance today. I will try once more to make it work. I have found in life that anything worthwhile, takes work and second chances.

Monday, January 4, 2010


This morning many students and teachers are getting up and returning to school for one more semester. I am no longer in those ranks. I no longer get up and go to work, or write lesson plans, or grade papers. I was an elementary school teacher for almost 20 years.

From the very beginning, I was sick more than the usual teacher. I took all the precautions I could, but when you work with kids, there are germs. I learned when to go on to school and tough it out and when it was quicker to stay home and let my body heal. My illnesses never got in the way of my teaching. I loved my job. I loved creating new ways to teach old ideas. It was exhilarating to see the light go on in the eye of the child who finally "got it". Or to watch the child who entered your classroom as an unruly, unable to read first grader, leave your room a well-mannered, and well-read third grader. (I taught multi-age classes) The feeling of the classroom as it settles into the day's work. The emotion as you read aloud a story and it comes to the climax. I miss these things.

Coming to the realization that my 150% was no longer even a typical person's 100% was a tough process. When we moved to NC, I began teaching part-time. My illnesses were no longer strep throats, sinus infections or the flu. I had been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and I was spending several weeks a year in the hospital. So we decided that maybe part-time, would be better for my body. But my body began to hurt in other ways and I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondilytis, a debilitating arthritis. This was too much for me. I needed so much rest to be able to work just 4 hours a day and be mom to 2 small kids.

I remember some of the young teachers who didn't have kids yet, making comments about how nice it must be to leave at lunch. I wanted to tell them I would trade bodies with them in a heartbeat. They had no idea. They had no idea, that I went straight home and went to bed. Got up in time to pick up my kids from the bus stop, did the "mom" thing, made dinner, and put them to bed. I then climbed back into bed so I could get up and teach 4 hours the next day. I doubt this is what those young teachers had in mind when they made those comments. Of course, they were seeing what I couldn't yet. I was slipping. I was still giving everything I had, but it was no longer cutting it.

To go from being a teacher that mentored others, had college students in your classroom, had visiting teachers,and excellent reviews to one that could no longer perform, was devastating. It was a crushing blow to my ego. It has taken several years to get to the place where I am now. To see that I am not a failure, my body simply could not keep up. I had to make a choice. Go on being a mediocre teacher, and not being really present with my own kids, or do what was best for the students and my own family. So I quit. I retired.

For the first time I can write these words and not cry. I am no longer ashamed that I cannot work. I worked hard for many years past when most would have quit. But my body is my body. It can't help itself. So my life has changed. I am no longer an elementary teacher. I am now a stay-at-home mom. And you know, I love it. I am glad I have been here for my kids. Even now that they are in high school, I get glimpses of how my being at home helps them. I can carpool. I can have kids over to my house. I can enjoy them and my own kids more.

I have had to let go of my ego defining career. But in so doing, I have found me. I am no longer defined by what I do. I am defined by who I am.

What are you letting define you today? Is it something that could be gone in an instant? Who are you? As you go about your work today, I hope these thoughts will challenge you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Packing boxes

I am sitting amid the inevitable. The empty boxes are staring at me in anticipation of being filled and the decorations are staring at me in disappointment that it is time to go. Oh the agony of being the one in the middle. I so enjoy the decorated house, the decorated tree, the lights. So much festivity emanates from these rooms. I love living in the exciting times. The purposeful times where the expectations are known. The traditions are set, everyone knows what to do. I like that. It feels ordered.

But the majority of life is not lived that way. It is lived in the "in between" moments, in the stripped down moments.

My husband announced in September that he no longer wanted to be a minister. That he wanted to "step down". This announcement really came as no surprise to me. I knew he was unhappy and I knew he wanted to do more. He struggled for a couple of years trying to discern what part of the job was causing the unrest, thinking a new job would cure it. But I knew in my heart that the answer was not in a new church, a new place, but a new career. He became ultimately clear about that in the fall, and left right before Thanksgiving.

Up to that time his life must have somewhat felt like Christmas all the time. Responsibilities, known expectations, and unknown, traditions to keep, places to go, people excited/upset, order of a sort. Then he sat amid the boxes. What next? You see, my brave husband resigned with no plan. Some say this is insane. Many in the church couldn't understand how he could leave with no idea of the future. This is not like my husband, he is our sole breadwinner, and he takes that job very seriously. But you see, it was the right thing to do. The church was at a crossroads, and he saw that. He saw that he couldn't really take a year to figure out what he was going to do while they suffered huge staff cuts. So he did the right thing and left now. Of course, this is like my husband. He acts. Once he has figured something out in his mind, he goes for it. There is no second guessing. There are no regrets. I admire that about him.

But back to the boxes. So he packs up his "old life", and along the way catches glimpses of what the "new life" could look like. Then Christmas came and our life was decorated and busy. It was easy to not think about the future as we went about the many plans and activities of the season. It was exhilarating to have him present for so many things that he had not been available for in the past. We planned the holidays together, and we executed them together. It was exciting. But now it is time to pack up the boxes. Now it is time to go back to the "real world".

The questions now start to sound louder. "When will you know if this will work out?" "When will you actually start bringing in money?" "What will we do if this doesn't work out?" Our money running out deadline seems so much closer now than it did back in November. "Will we be okay?"

Instead of panic running underneath these questions, there is still peace. I feel confident that he will find something. I feel confident we will make it. I know this why? Because one of the advantages of being an adult is the lifetime of experiences to look back over. We have made it through many events that others would not and have not made it through. God has been there with us in the dark days. God has been there with us in the light days. And God will be with us in the future. Plus, we have each other.

So, as I pack the boxes here in a bit, these are the thoughts going through my mind. What faces you when you finish packing up the holiday boxes? What "real life" events are coming your way? How will you face them?

I pray it is with the confidence that you are not alone. May it be so.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Traditions or Memories

I start most mornings with a cup of coffee. When I reach into the cabinet to get a mug, I look to see if THE mug is clean and available. What is this mug? It is not fancy, it is not from some cool place that reminds me of a fancy vacation, it doesn't match any other mug. So what makes it THE mug? It was my Grandmother Eads' mug. Well, I made the mug for her. It is a plain white mug on which I used a paint pen and wrote "Grandmother". You remember that time in our lives when we used paint pens to write on mugs, plastic boxes and we used the dots on each letter? Well, now you get the picture. Although, through the years of use and washings, the words are washed off and the mug is back to being just plain white. But, my grandmother loved the mug and used it quite often. So, each morning begins with thoughts of my grandmother. Just like that I am transported back in time to her little kitchen. The smell of coffee and biscuits fills my nostrils and the sound of the wind through the screen door fills my ears. And for that second, she is here. My grandmother is the one to blame for my coffee addiction. She started me young....3 years old. Of course back then it was more cream and sugar than coffee. But my grandmother was a huge influence in my life. She gardened, crocheted, cooked, and loved her God and family. I named my daughter after her, that is how important she is to me. Unfortunately my children never got to know her, although my son met her when he was 3 months old. But there are no memories of her for them. Yet, they each feel they know her. Why? Because Grandmother Allie as she is now known in my home is kept alive with memories. I share memories constantly with my children. They roll their eyes when I mention THE mug. They cringe as I knit with embarrassment. But they know that this hobby takes me back to sitting next to my grandmother as she patiently taught me to crochet. I have kept her spirit alive in my life through returning to some of her favorite past-times. I taught myself to knit several years ago in an attempt to keep her memory alive. I try to garden, although I am AWFUL at it. I have purple irises in my yard because they were her favorite flower. And on it goes.

For the last 4 days, I have been keeping alive another memory. The memory of my other grandmother, Grandmother Riley. I am teaching my daughter how to sew. She is having a "homemade" Christmas with her best church friends. So, she decided to make them all pajama pants. She had "helped" her adult friend, M, sew pj's for me several years ago. She thought this would be a great and easy idea. Of course, as she is finding out, M actually did most of the work back then. But I am proud of her, she is working hard at this new skill. We are still in the cutting out phase. She must do all of this herself as my thumbs can no longer cut with scissors. It is back breaking work, as we are doing it on our dining room table and dd is now over 5'9" tall. As I sit at the table and pin the pattern to the fabric, I am transported to my grandmother's bedroom/sewing room. My grandmother was a professional seamstress. She made wardrobes for the most prestigious women in Amarillo, TX, back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. She made everything from winter coats, to ballgowns encrusted with sequins, to pantsuits, to nightgowns. She was truly amazing. I never had store-bought clothes until I was 9 years old and we had moved to another state. I have negative memories of standing while grandmother pinned clothes on me. "Be still" "Stop wriggling" "Stand tall" "Stop slouching" My grandmother wasn't very patient with me. I was a "pistol" back then. This is one of many adjectives they used to describe me. I was also very strong-willed butting heads with a very strong woman! This resulted in many knock-down drag outs where she usually won, being that she was the adult. But as I sit with my daughter and tell her the stories, I am bringing her spirit to life. Although there are more negative feelings in these stories than with my other grandmother, there are still many significant lessons I learned from her. And I think of her often.

I wonder as I write this, what memories or traditions will be passed down to revive my spirit? Will a grandchild one day learn how to knit or crochet and think of me every time they pick up the needles? Or will they scrapbook and think of all the scrapbooks I have left them? Or maybe on their way to the library they will think of my love of books? Or watching a movie will remind them of curling up with me to watch a movie? I don't know. I do know that my grandchildren will not have to rely solely on my children's memories of me. They will have this blog. They will have all my scrapbooks. They will have all my writings that Jack saves. So I live my life, which has been influenced by many others before me, in such a way that I hope will influence those to come in a positive fashion. There will be negative feelings, I am human, but hopefully there will be many more positive.

What memories/traditions are you making as you live your life? Whose spirit are you bringing back to life? As I go about my day today, I will ponder these ideas. Will you?

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, A New Decade

2010 is upon us. This number has many people speculating about the future and what we as baby boomers thought life would be like in the 2000's. I have noticed on facebook several friends talking about what they once believed the year 2010 would look like. Many thought we would be living the life of the Jetson's. (if you don't know who they are....what are you doing on my blog????) Some wondered if we would even still be here. But everyone seems to agree that it is here, and time to go forward.

I have thought a lot about the previous decade. We moved here, my children went from preschoolers, to elementary schoolers, to middle schoolers, to high schoolers. My husband went from a full-time minister to an ...well, unemployed seeker. I went from a full-time teacher to a part-time teacher to a full-time mom. I almost lost both my mom and my dad in this last decade. My mom's mind was forever changed. And I grew up in this decade. I found myself and the ability to live with and even love myself. So the decade was packed with joy and tears.

I look back and realize a lot has changed. As I sat contemplating 2000, I knew that Jack and I were in talks with the church here. I knew that big change was coming. I knew that my health was not going to last much longer for me to continue working. I knew that my children were growing up. I knew that my parents were aging. But I had no concept of exactly how much change was coming.

Now, as I contemplate 2010, I am completely aware of the changes coming. In this decade, my children will become adults. My husband will begin a new career path. My parents' health will continue to deterirate and they may possibly die. And me? I will change too. I will no longer be a full-time mom. I will have more time on my hands. What will I do? How will I change?

If you had hinted at the amount of change coming to me back in 2000, I would have panicked. I would have been sick with worry and discontent. But I am no longer that girl. I now look forward with apprehension, sure, I am human, but with anticipation at what lays ahead. I know I can do this "looking ahead" because of who is by my side. The love of my life is with me and together, we will forge ahead.

So, as you look ahead to 2010, what adventures lay ahead? Are you ready? Are you having feelings of anticipation or apprehension? I pray for you a year/decade of change and growth. May it be so.