Spring Breaking for Operation L-O-V-E


Spring Break. Most think of sandy beaches, warm breezes, long afternoons with a book, and personally I’d love to add a tall glass of sweet tea on the side. This year I drove north and did the opposite of all that good relaxing stuff. I drove up to help my parents pack up to move to Texas and retire to that warm relaxing good stuff I was talking about.

I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. I packed up the kids and left my third shift working hubby at home on dog duty and we came up to help make hard choices, as they need to downsize significantly, to do the hard labor of moving things out to the garage for a garage sale, and to help organize the beginnings of a move.

imagesMoving is not a new concept around our family. It occurred about every 2-4 years when I was growing up. As for me, I stayed put once I got married, but they continued to do the moves without my brother and I, and when it came time to slow down, well they got a whole 7 years in this last place. It seems like a real “home” to come home to now. I will really miss that. I suppose the next house will become home quickly though. Where ever we have landed, we’ve made that house a home within just a few short weeks. The same things and people will be in the new place, and best of all, the love that binds it all together will be there waiting, so yeah, it will be the new “going home to see mom and dad” place that this always has been. But my kids have been really grown since they lived here… and it’s hard to remember that tiny tike my son was, just 4 when they moved in, his sisters a bit taller, but now they are strong armed and backed to do the heavy lifting work of this job ahead of Gramma and Papa.

Want to know the best way to show someone you really love them? Join them in their trenches, join them in the mucky, yucky, not fun places in life that they really need a helping hand in and do it with a smile, a willing heart, and a joyful attitude. What would you be most blessed by if you were in their shoes? Go BE that for them.

So today we have nearly tackled the finished basement full of terrifyingly huge decisions to make. We will open up two closets today that instill fear into my mom’s heart to even lay eyes on. We will hold things up and say “go or sell?” We will let her sit and rest her two knees that need surgery and replacements and we will do the hard work of it all. And we will laugh. A lot. And we will share memories. We will make the work become a joy because we are together. At the end of the day, at the end of the 9 days, we will be tired, sometimes even weary, but we will be very very accomplished.

Best of all? My kids are seeing what it means to love. Love is a verb. It’s an action. It is not idle. It is always moving, changing, and it is always caring about the other person.

So with boxes lined up along the basement wall, all according to size and shape and use, and a side of the basement that says “Texas Bound” and one that says “NOPE” ready to be hauled up to the garage to sell, we are getting the Operation LOVE well in hand. While some may come back rested from break, we may need a break from ours. But oh, how worth the effort it is!

This post is reposted from my parenting blog over at Will Settle for Chocolate 

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Today’s teachable moment is brought to you courtesy of our stellar lawmakers


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(This blog first appeared last week on my parenting blog Will Settle For Chocolate )

In all my years of parenting, I’ve never had to try to explain or make sense of what has gone on this week in the government and talk it out with my kids. Living in a modern world, the discrimination that occurs today mostly is personal, and thankfully, while it resides in the news often, it is not as heavily prevalent that it is what it used to be as in the days of black segregation. We don’t live in the backward days of believing that one human is vastly inferior to another. Again, there are always exceptions to everything, but in general, we have made headway. We are not a post-slavery nation, we are a nation of cultural diversity. Or so I thought.

I have never been so ashamed to be both a Hoosier and a Christian than I am today. The state of Indiana has taken drastic measures to send us back decades in time to a place where it is LEGAL to discriminate based upon what someone believes is morally acceptable about another person, or if they frankly just don’t like them. I cannot begin to fathom all the injustice that this will welcome in. I am in shock that we, as a people, have decided that this is a good idea.

Actually, we as a people didn’t decide this. Lawmakers did. They do NOT speak for me, nor do they speak for anyone I have talked to thus far. It’s a cowardly and criminal legislation that was signed today by a governor who does not deserve the office. To put one Hoosier above another? How can you sit in office and be for us and our well-being with that kind of signature gracing a disgraceful piece of paper?

How do I, as a mom, explain this to my kids? How do I explain that, yes, it’s now OK for businesses to not serve certain people, all because they don’t like what a person may or may not do in their own private life; to not serve them because of who they are, what they represent, or because they don’t share the same personal beliefs? Moreover, I worry about the not too distant damage this will do to a generation of kids who could actually believe it is right, just and legal to discriminate against another human being.

When I talked to my kids about this, they were horrified. My son had his mouth agape. My daughter was so incensed she was ready to go head to head with lawmakers. She’s 14. I’ve taught my kids that it is NEVER OK to EVER be mean or discriminate against another person for any reason. I don’t care if you think you are right or not, it’s simply not OK. Ever. This law just made a liar out of me. It’s now “legal.”

I have a lot of Christian friends.  I am a Christian. I don’t even want to know if you are for this, because if you are, I’m afraid I will have just learned a truth about you that will have ruined a friendship, maybe to the very core of it.

There is no part of the Bible that says that we are to beat others and wound them, harm them, deny them rights, nor to belittle and degrade them by refusing to serve them or their “kind.”  Churches who will be praising this legislation this Sunday should be ashamed of themselves. Jesus himself took sides with the lowly and the shady. He stood up for the prostitute and said “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Anyone who decides to use this law for their own benefit needs to understand one thing. It was clearly preached and taught that sin is sin. No ONE sin is higher or worse than another. All sin is equal. Unless you are without sin, you are no more morally upright than anyone else. Deciding to declare yourself so is itself a sin. Who are you to judge another?

This is very rangy and opinionated and frustrating. I’m not sure how I am to really explain this to my kids. So I decided today as we were talking about it that I wasn’t going to. There is nothing to explain. It’s wrong. Period. Even grown-ups elected to sit in government screw up. Maybe they were getting heat and peer pressure. Maybe doing the right thing was harder than doing this.

I decided to make a teaching moment out of it.

“Doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes it’s harder yet when you are doing something opposite of what everyone else is in agreement about. Never forget this, and how you feel about the injustice. People matter. If you ever err on the side of anything, err on the side of loving people, loving them and their faults, the flaws, the things that they don’t have right yet. Love them. Period. If you spend your life and energy loving, you will never end up in a place where you have made a choice like these lawmakers did today. If you never do all the things you dream of, at least you will have loved and given a hand and been a help to those around you, and that, THAT, is a very good life to have led.”

If you are using the Bible to hurt other people, you are using it wrong. “Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

True Love and REAL Life


True love doesn’t get to stay away onA dear friend of mine got married in April. She asked me to “do what you do, you know, that writing thing, and then deliver it during our wedding.”  She may have believed in me, but I was at a complete loss of those “words” she was desiring to have read at her wedding until about the day before, and then, I ditched it all and went with what I have here.  I realized I was trying too hard. I wanted to gift her with not just words, but wisdom, and not the kind everyone gives out to newly weds. I wanted to give out a dose of married reality and keep the joy firmly planted inside of it. It wasn’t going to be your typical wedding speech. But Becca knew that when she asked me to do this, so I knew she signed up for this when she asked me.  HA.  More than anything, I wanted her to have a successful marriage because of what they chose to give to each other, not hang on to a fantasy future of what “LOVE” was supposed to be like.

Here is the results. It’s my gift to them, but really? It’s a gift to anyone who loves another. Anyone who desires a relationship that is long term, committed, respects another, or to anyone who just plans to want to “love” anyone at all.

Being a theater girl, I came armed with a prop… and the official wedding gift… A red leather bound journal. I took a deep breath and began, book in hand, and words of the heart at the ready:

I have here a Journal.  A new, fresh, ready to be filled book… it’s full of potential, promise, pages waiting hopefully and expectantly of a story well written.  I am giving this to you both as a gift.  

My husband and I will be married 18 years this June and we have kept a small red journal for years, leaving love notes to each other on our pillows inside it; in happy times, hard times, in celebration of new children, and in loss of.  It has been a way to use our words to strengthen our journey.  

We have had some very good times in our 18 years, and some really hard ones.  We’ve had some that have scared us to death, and ones that have overwhelmed us with blessings.  We’ve learned to never wish away the hard ones that fill our book, as they have made us who we are and the blessings always come on the heels of this.  Embrace the life that comes to you, just as you have this very day.  Today has not gone according to plan, but you have come together in it, and you will cherish it just as it is.  

079So, LOVE…  Love is often NOT poetic.  It is not tied up with pretty bows and perfect plans.  It is not sweet like Easter jelly beans and Hersey’s kisses.  

True love is not a feeling that will carry you away.  Instead, love is choosing to stand, beside her, every… single… day.  

LOVE is sticking beside him, when the path is rocky, digging your heels in, to work things out, EVEN when it takes all your moxy.  

Love is not swirling and magical. Love is doing hard things when it seems illogical.  The world will tell you you’re crazy, that there is a better “way out.”  

(*long, firm pause*) Ignore the world.  

  • Love is born of hard work, dedication, commitment, and, above all, of God.  
  • Love is a verb.  It’s full of action, of doing, of being, of becoming.  It is not passive, does not assume, nor does it demand.  
  • It honors, trusts, believes, and hopes.  Above all, LOVE ALWAYS HOPES.
  • Love is full of grace.  
  • Love gives mercy, second chances, and do-overs.  It does not hold grudges, holds no memory of faults, and does not relish defeat.  
  • Love strengthens and renews. 
  • True love doesn’t get to stay away on romantic vacations, but has to come home, to the battlefields of life.  
  • Love affirms and unconditionally accepts.  Love, always encourages.  

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuerYou are beginning a new book today, not just a new chapter. 

I have taken the liberty of beginning yours for you here.  I would like to read from it and challenge you both to continue to fill this book.  

Upon these pages write to each other about your love, your life, your stories.  Communicate what works and what you cherish about each other.  Encourage each other.  You need not be a poet, but use your words. YOUR words hold power to heal and to bind up wounds if you use them the way God intends.  As you give yourself to each other today, and as you give yourself to God as a couple before Him, give him your words too.  Not just your “I DO’s”, but your “I WILLS.”

Why?  Because of Love.  Because LOVE is WORTH IT.

 Inscription

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. 

Pablo Neruda

Failure. Simply not an option.


She stood in the kitchen with tears streaming down her face. Her hands were over her mouth and she tried unsuccessfully to stop the sobs before they began. A gut-wrenching cry escaped from her core and she melted down. The harder she tried to stop, the more angry she became with herself that she wasn’t stronger, and so the faster the sobs came. She loathed this part about herself. She hated when she did this. Angry hot tears burned her cheeks as she sucked in a breath that did nothing to cool her parched lungs. She could hardly take a breath in for all the emotions flowing out of her. She was terrified of herself.

She glanced at the dirty dishes on the counter and her eyes lingered on the long knife that lay there. No thoughts consciously went through her mind. Nothing said, “Oh, I think I will solve my problems by sinking that long knife into my chest,” but the reality was that the image was firmly in her mind and her will was being enacted in order to refrain from doing that very thing. She was horrified.

An unseen force was relentlessly telling her to do it, egging her on, but she didn’t want to, not really. She wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go. There was no where to hide from the voice inside her mind. She was angry with herself. She was so stupid and so pathetic. Why couldn’t she just be normal? Why couldn’t she just do what other girls did? Why was this a big deal? When would she be different? Why was she such a failure? She hated herself. She couldn’t hate herself more than she did right then, except when she thought of how her mom would react when she found her like this.

With that she began to sob uncontrollably.

 

This was the scene in my kitchen on Monday night. The fact that I did not have the reaction my daughter was dreading was good. Truthfully? I never know how I am supposed to react to the fact that my daughter battles weekly, even daily, thoughts of suicide. I don’t know the way a mom is “supposed” to feel about the fact that their child has been battling demons that tell them that ending life is a better choice than fighting through whatever there is to face at any given moment. I don’t know the right way to love my child through pain and torment that only can be experienced and understood from living on the inside of their life.

Her realities aren’t ones I can see nor even understand. Her mind does not allow her to see reality as most of the world out there does. It skews it and distorts it, twisting it in sickening ways that makes me ill just to see from the distance I am forced to keep. I am as close to her as I can be, but I can’t get inside her heart and soul and know her pain more than what she shares. I can’t make it better. I can’t make it go away.

How is a mother supposed to react to that? 

Let me tell you how. WRONG.

Most of the time I get it wrong. Don’t be nice to me and say that I am doing great and that I am doing the best I can. I don’t want to hear it. Sometimes the best you can is just frankly not enough.

I often get mad. I get livid mad. I am not mad at my daughter, but I am mad because she lives with bipolar disorder, OCD, and a host of anxiety disorders dictate more about OUR lives than I want to admit. I can’t change this and it makes me madder than hell. It makes me angry that she can’t just enjoy her life. She is so imprisoned by her mind and her mental illness that I am angry. It affects everything she does.

I don’t always say the right things. She needs to hear “it’s OK” one more time, and I am tired of saying it. Not because I don’t feel it’s OK, not because I don’t care, but because I am tired of needing to say it. I am tired of her mind telling her a lie that requires me to do battle with it daily.

I get impatient, irritable, frustrated and fragmented. I am tired, stressed, sad and alone. Most of the daily routine and battle against her mind falls to me. It is wearying. She feels responsible for this and she adds stress upon herself for this, guilt and anger of her own. It’s a vicious cycle. We both understand it and we talk about it.

I apologize a LOT. I flat out tell her I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I tell her I love her, that I do know, but that’s all I know. I tell her I don’t know how to love her through the pain the right way, but I love her. She gets it. She somehow manages to understand me. She somehow knows in her heart I am trying. And I am. I’m just not doing a good enough job. I’m not.

How do you ever get used to having a child who battles a demon inside that says that suicide is a good option? At the age of 10 she gave it her first real try and it scared the hell out of me. She’d been talking about it since she was 7. She’d shown signs of issues and problems and we’d been in and out of counseling since she was 6. We did everything “right” and still we didn’t have a plan that was helping her, so she tried to end the pain. Now at 15 we have been at this more than half her life and somehow I am no pro, nor old hat, at handling it. In fact, I still sometimes wish I could wake up one day and it would all just be over.

There are days I lay facedown on my bed and sob into the feathered duvet, screaming at God that I’m not strong enough to do this anymore. I’m not strong enough to be her mom. What if I screw up? What if one day I get it wrong and she acts upon this demon of hers. No one will see a mom who tried so hard for half her daughter’s life; they will see that I failed on one random day when push came to shove and she couldn’t hold the demon at bay. They will see that no one was there for her. They won’t see years of trial, pain, torments; successes, victories and massive strides made. They will see the failure. They will see the death.

I live in fear of failure. Not because failure is bad in and of itself, but because failure isn’t an OPTION.

Do you see? Failing means I lose my baby. It means she’s dead and there was no better way out she could find. It could be as simple as I had the reaction she was dreading. A look on my face or word from my mouth that confirmed (in her mind) that she wasn’t worth it. That I was tired of HER, not just tired. That it was HER I hate, not the disease. If I get that wrong, even once…

This is real life here… One with no answers. This is what life behind my front door looks like. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s a hidden life that I don’t live alone.

There are many faces that you pass in the store or on the street that hide lives that live in fear of failure. Lives that are touched by mental illness. I am grateful for my network of support. Living without it is not an option.

If you or someone you love needs support, please get it.  Here is a link to some here in Fort Wayne:  http://www.nami.org.

I don’t have answers, but I can be real. Know that, while I will still share my silliness (like a week where a squirrel decided to move in with us because he mistook ours for NUT house versus a nuthouse…https://ditchingthemasks.com/2014/01/20/mistaken-for-a-nut-house/) I will still keep it honest here.  My guess is that is what someone needs.

Laughter is good. Honesty, needed. Prayers, crucial.

 

This blog, to anyone who questions, were written with full permission from my daughter. She and I are beginning a blogging venture where we will be blogging through the reality and pain from her eye and mine. My hope is that we will give hope and a needed look at reality to what is often an invisible battle waged in homes across the country, and worldwide. We are hoping to be “real “and open an honest dialog. Mental illness is not just school shootings and tragedy. It’s daily life on multiple fronts – including some amazing highs and powerful successes mixed in with the lows.

 

 

 

Summer smiles


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Back when I wasn’t doing real well and my health was poor, it became an obsession to create a place full of life and calmness. I made a garden in the front yard where there was none. I used the girls to dig out grass and do the backbreaking work of creating space. Then I got my hands into that precious soil and began to create.

Gardening has always felt like praying to me. Every moment was time spent communing with God. I can’t help but feel that my careful placement of flowers into the spaces they would best flourish was not unlike Gods in his placement of us, in me. Some need more sun, others more shade. The pruning process is hard at times, knowing that some branches and stems still have some life left, but removing them will allow the whole plant to gain a new start and better focus and clearer direction. Weeding is a constant need, or it becomes tough to distinguish the real flowers from the impostors. It takes work to keep the garden up, but the rewards are amazingly plentiful!

Today I brought in flowers for my kitchen and sent some home with a friend. They are little rays of sun, snippets of smiles.

To be able to simply walk out my door and snip a few is the reason I worked hard planting. I knew eventually this moment would be the payoff, and many more days like it. My swing sits in the middle of all this beauty and its my favorite place to disappear to. I love to lay on the swing and soak up the scents around me with my eyes closed. The breeze plays across my skin as the sun warms it through the awning. Its amazing.

Sometimes you have to put forth a lot of effort before you see the rewards, but the faithful work is fruitful and the smiles it imprints upon my heart daily now are beyond worth it!

I’m sending you smiles across the miles today. Here’s your bouquet!

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I love my kids so much I ditched them and ran away!!


Regardless if it’s because I’m busy, or simply lazy, the results around here are the same. There are no posts and no accounting for all that’s gone on around the blog. It’s sad really. Sad because its not for lack of things to say. It is when I’m most chaotically driven that I wish I had something with which to look back on and say, “WOW! Look at all you’ve done, Christi!” Instead I berate myself for all I HAVEN’T gotten around to.

So I’ve decided to begin July with a bang!! I have the blogging app on my iPhone and I will just take what seconds I have to spare and do blog via texting and I will stop at least berating myself for all the times I never get around to writing that “sit down and think” masterpiece blog.

I have three birthdays in our house and five for our family in July. It’s a nutty month! And I don’t wanna miss the wonderful moments. I will wish I’d taken time in a year or two. See, while it seems that the blog is for you, or the world, it’s really for me, my mommy heart. And more over, for my kids. One day they may want to know what it was really like around here when they were busy growing up. It isn’t the same perspective in my shoes as it is in theirs. I want them to know how crazy proud of them I am, and how madly in love with their dad I am.

In fact, I love them so much I ditched them last weekend! It’s true! I love my kids so much my hubby and I ran away for the weekend to celebrate our 19th year together and 17th married. It’s healthy for couples to remember why the sweet adorable kids came into being in the first place. It did us a whole lot of good and I swear I fell in love all over again. I love my man more than I even dreamed it was possible. I laugh now when I think back on how in “love” I thought I was 19 years ago. It’s like a single dollar out of a big fat $100 bill.

So beware, I’m armed and dangerous with my hand-dandy iPhone app! I won’t be forgetting great moments like my anniversary last weekend. 🙂

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