Inspired

I met with my writer’s group tonight. Well, some of them.

I am inspired to write again. I’m wanting to write my story. Start to finish. Things from my childhood. Things that happened. Stories passed down.

I’ll get to work on it.

That is all.

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Stability – And All The Crap That Comes With It.

Someone told me yesterday that I have beautiful kids. Well, of course I do!

But I think it’s more than looks. It’s attitude. I think it’s that they’re happy kids. They are secure.

I believe that there’s a confidence and a joy that comes with knowing that you have a quiet, happy, love-filled place to go home to at the end of every day, and that you’re not going to walk in to World War 3…or something worse. A house that’s full of people, and completely empty at the same time. A house that silently strangles you with dread and fear every time you walk in. Like a coat of pain, that’s zipped up so tight, you can barely breathe.

There’s a simple joy in stability. I think, I hope, that you can see it every time you look at them.

I am not trying to say that I have some magic formula for happy kids, or that you shouldn’t make the changes that are best for your family. I’m just saying that my kids haven’t had to experience sadness. Not to such an extreme that it’s darkened them.

Sometimes I worry that this is bad. That when sadness comes, and it will come, they won’t know what to do. They won’t know how to deal with it. They watched me (and continue to watch me) go through losing my mom, and I fear that, because of the situation, because of my relationship with her, they haven’t witnessed a healthy grief. Whatever that looks like.

The home I walked into every day, for as long as I can remember, wasn’t happy. There was tension. There was an unspoken sadness. There was an inexplicable fear. I felt dread every time I walked into that huge, heavy, black door with the brass Dexter deadbolt. It was like walking into the unknown every single time. My dad said he would never divorce my mom, and that was it. No matter what kind of crazy stuff she did, or how she hurt him, or me, he kept his word. He quit good-paying jobs to stay home with me, and be there when she was. He took terrible jobs, with terrible hours, so he could be there for me. He did everything he could to make life bearable, and it did. Mostly. He tried to keep his promise, and keep me happy and safe at the same time.

There was an incident when I was in third grade. I only have vague recollections of it, but I remember it being bad. So bad, that he and I moved to California that Summer, and I spent the Summer in Camarillo, California with my grandparents while he found a job nearby and my mom stayed in Arizona. I was told that the only job he could find was in Ventura (12 hours from my home), so he could stay at my Uncle’s house, and I could stay with Granddad and Suze.

Of course, this was quite an adventure for me…a whole summer! Swimming, and going to the beach, and volunteering at a hospital…it was awesome! I don’t really remember missing my mom. I got to talk to her every week on the phone, while my dad was in the room, and then I would leave the room and he would talk to her alone. I had my 8th birthday that summer. I remember him asking me if I wanted to go home or stay in California when the Summer was over. I don’t remember feeling the weight of that question like I do now when I think of it. Had I been any older, I wouldn’t have chosen to go back to her. Only a couple of years later I was fully aware of what it was like to live with her, and how I hated it.

I only ever doubted the “only job I could find” thing after the last phone call I ever had with my dad. It was the day he died…only about an hour before, in fact. He said something about taking me away, but not being able to keep me away. Not being able to break his promise, and that’s why we went back. That a girl shouldn’t grow up without a mom. It was years before I put the two together.

That choice, going back, made me who I am today. Every decision he made, made me who I am today. For better or worse. And isn’t that all we can do as parents? Make the best decisions we can for our kids? Do what we hope is the very best for them, every day, and pray that they don’t get too screwed up in the process?

That’s all I’ve done. I believe that the best thing, the glorious ideal, is for every mom and dad to stay together. Barry and I have had to work very, very hard to do that. There’ve been times…for both of us…that it seemed like too much. But we tried again the next day, and the next, and eventually it all settled out again. There has been so much forgiveness, and letting go, while still holding on to each other. I have found that it’s impossible to hold on to the person and their faults at the same time. You have to let go of one. If you choose the person, you cannot hold on to all the crap that comes with them. If you choose the faults, eventually your clenched fists are holding on to their faults so tightly, that the person you love slips out of your hands. <—Read that part again. It’s the key.

I am not naive. I am completely aware that sometimes it just won’t turn around. It just cannot work out. I have so many friends who’ve given all they had, and it wasn’t enough. I have other friends who’ve stayed too long, and that did more damage than good…especially to their kids. Still others have been broken and damaged in the most painful ways, and have somehow found the courage and strength to forgive and go on. To let the “stuff” go, and hold on to the person.

So here are my questions:

How long do you stay in a situation that is worse than leaving? How long do you stay when you fear for your safety, or that of your kids? How long do you try before you realize that you are broken, and your kids are damaged, and that leaving really is the only option? How much hurt do you endure? How much can you take and still, somehow, stay and fight for the one you love?

Am I damaged? Yes. Have I been broken? Yes. Should my dad have left? I have no idea. I don’t know what it would have been like without my mom. I only know what it was like with her. I know the reality of having two parents that stayed together “for better or worse, in good times and bad, until death parts us”. And death did part them. But sometimes, I think they were parted long before that. Back when I was turning 8 without my mom. Back when I was having such a glorious adventure, and learning to swim, and getting to know my grandparents. I don’t think it was ever the same at home after that. My dad later took a job that got him out of the house regularly, but when he realized what leaving me with her for days at a time meant for me, he quit that job, and took a terrible, smelly, dirty job in town. But he was home every night, and he was the first one the school would call if they needed to.

Sometimes protection is love. Sometimes, when you’re not able to walk away, all you can do is wrap your kids up in your arms, and hold them tight through the storm. Storms still come when you stay. They come and they pound you with all they have, and you get battered and bruised, but when it ends, and the sun is shining again, you pick yourself up, dry yourself off, and go again.

Stability comes in all kinds of packages. Sometimes it comes in one parent at a time, rather than two who aren’t really there at all. Sometime it comes in Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Guardians, Foster Parents, Adoption…

I can only write from my own experience, only from my side of the story. I can honestly say, that I believe Barry is much easier to live with than I am, so, most of the time, I think he got the raw end of this deal. But he has stuck with me though it all. And I with him. We have held on to each others hands, rather than our faults.

You don’t judge me, and I will never judge you…I will celebrate you for doing what’s best for your kids…no matter what that looks like.

Here’s to real life. To not being glossy and polished, but being dirty and real. To being strong. To being faithful. To forgiveness. To letting go, and holding on tight. To being the best that you can be, for yourself and your kids. *clink*

Who Do You Think You Are?

This question can be taken several ways, but I mean it to say, “Who do YOU think you are?” (Emphasis on the first “you”). If you were given a sheet of paper to write down who you are, what would it look like? Would you write down the “who’s”, or the “what’s”? Are they different? Are they the same?

This was the focus of a discussion I recently had with several women, and it’s had me thinking about who I think I am, versus who I actually am. Some of the things I think I am, are things I am…even the bad ones. However, as I examine my lists (this paragraph is the last thing I wrote in this post), I find that I’m all of these things. Not necessarily on a daily basis, but at one point or another in, say, a year, I am all of these things. I also find that the good overrides most of the bad. I’m finding that I’m way too hard on myself, and I have a tendency to base a judgement of myself on something that I was accused of once, when I was 10, and not on things I did yesterday. A lot of my negatives, when I think about them, are things I was told as a kid, rather than who I am now. They say that you are who you will always be after about age five. That your “person-hood” is formed, and you cannot change it. Maybe that’s true, to a point, but I’m not a five year old. While my core may be the same, my “go-to” emotion, my “default”, if you will, I am not who I was when I was five. I’ve grown. I’ve matured. I have to share my toys now. Well, sometimes.

This is the “who” list I came up with…

Wife, mother, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, granddaughter.

These are the “what’s”.

Fearful, broken, flawed, sinful, discontent, impatient, lonely, sad, orphaned, discouraged, sarcastic, usually late, unqualified, forgetful, annoying, often and easily annoyed, sometimes crass, occasionally too blunt, failure, lazy, distracted (I can’t believe that one is so far into the list), obsessive, fidget-y, very often frantic, rude, not compassionate enough, not thoughtful enough, irresponsible, messy, disorganized, inappropriate, selfish, stubborn, I talk too much without saying enough, rant-y, picky, mooch, uncomfortable, too loud, not bold enough, never brave enough, careless, not enough, not ever enough.

These are the things that, if I’m truly honest with myself, I really am…the good things.

Funny, honest, trustworthy, a good friend, a good mom (that one was tough to type), adopted daughter of the living God, talented, so immensely blessed, moderately intelligent.

I am also hungry. Hungry for life. Hungry for brownies.

As far as food goes, I don’t feed myself like I used to. I have learned willpower. I have learned to avoid. To tell myself no. To not have the first one…so I don’t want the third or fourth. To only have a little bit of anything. I’m learning to practice moderation. Those are good, positive things, right?

I need to learn to practice this kind of moderation in the negative…to not dwell on that list so often. I need to learn to stop feeding myself negativity. I need to learn willpower in that area, so that when I’m focusing on the bad, I can realize it, stop myself, and move forward. Maybe a little damaged, but forward, nonetheless.

So why, WHY, is the “bad” list so long? Why can’t I see more positive than negative? I finally just stopped myself when I was typing the negative. It took me several minutes to weigh the good and decide that enough people had told me I was “…” and it was OK to put on the list. Why? Why don’t I see that automatically? Why is OK to me to type out a long list of negatives, but then have to talk myself into the positives?

It’s not a pride issue. It’s not me, being overly humble so you’ll praise me. It’s honesty. It’s the bare, naked, truth. It’s scary to write that. To think that, in a few minutes, this will be out there for anyone to see. But that’s what this is. My place. My place to write. To get all the junk out. To get through things. I have never really found it helpful to journal. Having my crud in a book only makes me want to hide the book. For whatever reason, this is cathartic, this is what helps. I don’t care if anyone reads it, likes it, or whatever. I just have to get it out. Once it’s out, I can move on. It’s like sweeping a porch. You don’t scoop up all the dirt and bring it into the house to dump in the trashcan. You sweep it, and leave the dirt outside. You just let the dust fly. Journaling was always like that for me…like keeping the dirt. When I would journal (before I was married), my journal was found and read on a regular basis. No matter where I hid it, it was found, and I was ridiculed, or judged for what was in it. Sometimes I was punished. Punished for my feelings. For my thoughts. I am much better at blogging than I was at journaling. I have always dreamed of the romantic notion of my kids, someday after I’m long gone, finding a journal of mine, and reading it, and learning about who I was. Well, they will have to read this. It’s not as romantic as the book, but, unlike the book, it will be filled with me.

As far as the positives go, I don’t think any of that about myself on a regular basis. But, for example, I’ve heard over and over that my kids are great. I did have something to do with that, right? So does that make me a good mom? I can list a hundred things that I have failed at…all the things I wish they wanted to do, wished they loved as much as I do, the ways I wish they weren’t like me, the ways I wish they were more like me, the hunger that I wish they had for life, for God, and for clean rooms. They are great kids. I am so blessed to have been able to watch them grow to this point. To see what miracles they are, and think of the amazing ways that God has worked around my failures to make them who they are. I’ve had an amazing partner in raising these kids. I know it’s not all me…it’s not all him…it’s us. But mostly, it’s God. I thank Him every day that I didn’t get a snarly, stubborn, rebellious daughter. Or a son who wants nothing to do with his parents. I don’t have to sit up at night worrying about where they are, or if they’re hurt or scared. I’ve never had a negative call from the Principal’s office. The one negative comment I’ve ever gotten from a teacher? That Jessup “reads too much in class”. I’m not bragging. Just saying that, while my kids are amazing, I still only see the ways I’ve failed them. I see them as amazing, and me as a failure.

I am good at a few things. People ask me to do things to help them out, so I must be good at those things, or they wouldn’t ask, right? I’m good at making lists…if only I were better at remembering to look at the list, and then focused enough to do everything on it. ;)

Wait. See? One positive, and two negatives to go with it. WHY? Why couldn’t I just stop after “I’m good at making lists”?

At the end of the lists of good and bad, at the end of this road I travel too often, here’s where I end up every time. Every single time. The things, the two things that make all of the negative fade away. The things I am constantly forcing myself to remember are these:

I am LOVED. Despite of all my failures. I am loved by the One who made me. I am loved by a God who knows how many hairs are on my head, knows where all my freckles are, and knows that I want a brownie more than all the money in the world.

I am FORGIVEN. Someone died so that I can live. He loved me…a failure…so much that He was the One to come, to pay my debt, and to give me a hope for the future. A hope that, someday, I will not be able to dwell on my failures, but I will dwell on His goodness inside me. When I look in the mirror, I will only see a bright, shiny, loved daughter of the Most High King. All sunshine. No rain.

And, for now, until I can get through the negative, and to a place where I see more positive, those two things are what I have to cling to. What I need to hold on to.

LOVED and FORGIVEN are all I really need to focus on. The rest will come with time…or death. Either way.

There is always a sunrise. Always a new day to open my eyes. To try again.

Brain Dump Friday

I have thought all day that today is Saturday. Imagine my surprise when I realized that it was Friday. (Thanksgiving week always throws me out of whack!) You should be putting together by now that I don’t participate in Black Friday. Also: When I put those two words together on my phone, it automatically capitalizes them. It does the same thing when I tell people that I live in a white house. It capitalizes White House. I would like to think that my phone would be smart enough to know that I don’t live in the White House. I appreciate the thought that it thinks I’m that important, but seriously… Egg nog is too thick. I like milk nog. It’s not as thick, and it seems less rich. In non-Vicki terms, that means no tummy ache. My middle ring finger size has gone down a whole size. I think all my fingers have. That’s a weird thing to be happy about, but I’m thrilled. Except for the fact that I have these really cool rings, purchased to fit certain fingers, and now they are big. What a happy dilemma. I’m totally ok with this. I caught another glimpse of my collar bone this week. (Not the actual bone, just the line of it. It’s still happily resting under my skin.) The last time I saw it, someone made a remark, so I though I should be more clear. The Walking Dead is kind of freaking me out. Jessup and I are watching it together…preparing for the zombie apocalypse, and it is giving me the heeby-geebies. Thanksgiving was great! I hope you are all thankful for the gifts and people you’ve been blessed with. This morning I had to swallow my pride…that, my friend, is a bitter pill that does not go down easily. It’s always a blessing to remember that you’re not as awesome and important as you think you are. …at least for me it is. That is all.

Surviving the trips to Des Moines

Today is Jessup’s appointment with his pulmonologist. I always get so nervous for these appointments. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m really scared each time we do this. So, four times per year, I’m scared. Well, more than that, but these four times are scheduled events.

Someday I will write all the terrible details of these visits, and the sadness and fear that has entered my life due to them. For now, I will admit that these appointments typically go well. Surprisingly well. I have no reason to believe that this one will be different, but still I sit here, scared.

One of these days, the news will be bad. It won’t be an easy appointment. It will be sad. It will be filled with tears. It will be the beginning, no, the continuation, of something that began many years ago. April 11, 2007 to be exact. That was one of the worst days of my life. There was a diagnosis. We were told there is no cure. No medicine that we can give him. As many miracles as there are for so many people, there is none yet for us. No pill to take. No shot to give. There are unproven preventative measures, but nothing more.

So we continue on with the preventative measures his doctor feels are best, and we hope. Pray. Cross our fingers. Do a juju dance. Whatever works. Whatever makes us feel better.

Today Jessup drove. From home to the mall, which is where I sit, typing this. I’m not nervous with him driving, but I have a hard time not telling him to do things my way. He is very safe. He has his own way of doing everything, but he’s very cautious. He must learn to navigate the city, and the middle of the day on a Tuesday is better than any other time I could think of. Soon enough, he will be doing this on his own. Soon enough, he will be hearing the bad news without us. Soon enough, it will just be a phone call with the news that his lungs are badly scarred and possibly failing. Soon enough there could be a lot of scary possibilities.

For now we visit the doctor every quarter year, and hope for the best.

Brain Dump Friday

I am at Starbucks again…stealing internet and drinking coffee…like a boss. My son would like that typed that “like a boss” part. I am stuck in a corner. This place is so full. I’d try to find somewhere else to go, but this is my last day working in Ames, and I don’t have much time. Besides, my gift card is for Starbucks. Peppermint Mocha. Yummy! I am stuck in a corner, and there are people all around me, which means that I’m going to have to fight my way out of here in about 45 minutes. I’m feeling quite claustrophobic. I did not know that would had an “au” in it. Awesome! Thanks Apple for making me look smart. I actually think I did know about the “au”, but I wouldn’t have spelled it that way. There’s an old man sitting a few tables away and he keeps looking at me and winking. I think it’s just the way he does things. I don’t think he’s intentionally winking at me. I keep thinking it’s December. I don’t know why I’m a month ahead. Maybe I just want this horrible, stupid year over with. That’s probably it. The Old Man is talking about how he’d never move to California. He said he likes the winters here, and he doesn’t want to live near crazy, out-of-control people. I have news for him. The weather there is amazing…I’d take that over what’s coming any day. Also, there are people like that everywhere. Maybe his neighbors say that about him. He’s wearing a Vikings hoodie, so I can only imagine that they do. He also just bashed the Chargers. If he wants to avoid crazy, then he better shut up! There’s a man in here who has such stiff, straight posture that I don’t think he bends at all. I wonder how he drives. I’d like to see his car. He just left, but I can’t see it. I got up. He drives a Jeep. I love Jeeps. I have officially not lived in California for 15 years, now. Weird. I think that’s long enough to make me an official “Midwesterner”. I dreamt last night about making Thanksgiving Dinner. I love Thanksgiving Dinner. I think it’s my favorite dinner of the year. Maybe even more than all-you-can-eat-shrimp at Red Lobster. I missed that this year. It would have undone a lot of my progress, though. That would have been bad. Old Man just stood up. Wow. A Vikings hoodie and skinny jeans. I think I can hear trendy kids all over the world weeping. I have a lot to do, and only 50 minutes of internet for the day. Plus, I think these BDF’s have been getting too long. That is all.

Brain Dump Friday

I really don’t know what to say. I get to learn how to make a pie (the “perfect apple pie”) on Saturday. The funny thing is…I don’t much care for pie, and I don’t like apples. But Barry is very, very excited about me learning how to do this. I don’t even know where my rolling pin is. I had one. In all of our moves over the years, I fear it has gotten lost or been given away because I never thought I’d need it. Hmmm…maybe there are some things you should just keep. I’ve become one of those people who doesn’t snack. I have worked really hard to not mindlessly eat. Today, however, I’m on a time crunch, and I’ve been nibbling on caramel puff corn for an hour or so. This is not good. The caramel puff corn is very good, but the habit is not good. The habit is clearly not as broken as I thought it was. I’m still thinking about pie. I have a brand new Pampered Chef Stoneware Pie Plate for learning how to make a pie. And our new Pastry Blender. I finally get to use them tomorrow. I’m irritated that the Post Office won’t be open Monday. I have to mail something today (the time crunch) and if I don’t do it today, it won’t be delivered in time. I’m debating on whether or not to just wait. I may just mail out the few that I have, and wait on the rest. I am literally in the middle of four different things right now, and I stopped them all to write this. And I can’t think of anything to say. QUESTION: Is it “all of the sudden” or “all of a sudden”? I have not always wondered this. I saw it one way, and I think it’s the other way, but I’m not sure. Well, I’m sure I’m right in my own head, but I’m not sure that I’m right publicly. With that in mind, I’m not going to tell you which I think it is, I’m just going to throw that question out there. I always think it’s funny when people use words that aren’t words to talk. I wonder if it makes them feel smarter, seem more important, or if they actually think that’s a word. It’s a struggle for me not to giggle when they do it in front of me, so I’m thrilled when they do it on the internet…that way I can laugh and it’s not mean. It’s not mean. It’s not. Shut up. How much do people talk about work? I’m wondering if I do it an abnormal amount. I feel like I’m always saying something about it, and I’m not trying to, it’s just the main focus of my day. Isn’t it the main focus of other people’s days? Do other people talk about work a lot and I just don’t notice? Maybe people don’t notice when I talk about work. I feel like they do. I worry about weird things. I was going to try that writing thing for November…the NaNoWriMo. Then I looked into it. 50,000 words in 30 days means approximately 1,666.66667 words per day. That right there spooked me. I don’t like all those 6’s. Especially when they’re together like that. So I got over that and realized the today is the 9th. That means I only have 22 days, including today, for a total of 2,272.72727 words per day. I also read in the rules (yes, I’m a rule reader-that should not shock you) that you can’t use work you’ve already written. Here’s where I get whiney… But I already have over 6,000 words…waaaaaah…that means that I could just write 1,993.90909 words per day (Seriously…does nothing go into 50,000 evenly???) and I’d be done in time…waaaaaaaah. Two more bits of fun…I don’t have another idea for a book, and I don’t have that much time. Also, once I get started writing, it’s really hard for me to stop. There’s a reason why some writers go to a secluded cabin to write and have no human contact. Getting myself to a cabin would be challenging. I don’t have one of my own (it would be SO cool of I did), and even if I could borrow one or rent one, I can’t because I have a strange fear of being murdered in the woods, and I spook easily. Did you not notice that with my thing about 6’s? If I can hardly look at the number six in my office, how on earth would I go to a cabin alone? But, if I could get over my fear, once I got there, I could totally do it. If I only had a computer, and no internet. If I had internet, I’d be in big trouble. Because there’s Facebook. And Pinterest. And other things I can’t think of right now. Like a phone. I’d need one to call 911 when someone tries to murder me in the woods. What if 911 doesn’t work out there? What if there’s no internet? I mean there couldn’t be for my computer, but what about my phone? How long could I live without Draw Something? Words with Friends? SongPop? That logo game I recently downloaded that I’m determined not to cheat on, but am stuck with logos I don’t know?  Anyway, I’m still undecided. It’s a little late to be undecided, but I still am. I really don’t see how I could do it, unless I used what I already have. Sorry this was boring. More sorry that I started another sentence with “but”. Two of them. And one or two with “and”. Plus that one. I do know better. I promise. Oh well. That is all.