Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nancy, we are getting OLD, sister!

(you first)
it was the last time the Captain came to the party
and the last year Nancy blew out all 40-something candles.* Ever

Happy birthday!!

Have a safe and happy birthday, Nancy:
buy the number candles from here on out!

*this number is a bold faced lie to protect the innocent: ME! (because my sister might kill me if I posted her real age without her permission)

P.S. My dear readers, I'm on a mini-blog vacation and will return in June. Just FYI.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother"s Day

To my mom, my birth mother, my mother-in-law, and to all the women who mothered and mentored me...thank you all for the gifts you give...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Forgiveness is many things, but there is one thing it is not. Forgiveness is not an emotion. It is not a feeling. It is not something you intuit or experience. It is not something that happens to you, unless you happen to be on the receiving end of it.

Forgiveness is a struggle. It is a choice. It is a decision. It is a moment by moment redirection of the will away from the directions your emotions want to drag you. It is a gift that seems to be given to the recipient, but forgiveness is ultimately a gift you give yourself.

Forgiveness is freedom.

I won't tell you how or where and I certainly can't say why, but I have lived under the tyranny of a sociopath. For many years I was simply a bug on a pin. Just so you know my credentials to speak to you of forgiveness, know that I have stared down the barrel of a gun so many times that I finally stopped reacting. I have had my bedroom door chopped down with an axe, which satisfied him enough to second guess his intentions. I have been spat upon, used as a Kleenex, degraded in more ways than I care to share.

I spent several years on antidepressants as I came to grips with post traumatic stress. I have graced varieties of therapy couches, spewing this poison from my soul. Finally I trained as a rape and domestic violence counselor in order to look others in the eye and hold out the hope that healing is possible.

I know a few things about forgiveness.

Those of us who have to create a normal life out of chaos make tons of mistakes and do our own damage as we flail around. Healing hurts, too, and I have done my share of hurt. I have been forgiven much. We all have. Being forgiven is sometimes difficult, but mostly it's a gift we are expecting and accept easily. All the trouble comes in on the other end, when we have to lay aside the power and the glory of our anger and be the forgiver.

I have forgiven in all the ways it is possible to forgive:

I have forgiven the contrite
                        the oblivious
                        the indifferent
I have forgiven the dangerous.

That's the hardest one. Forgiving the one who, if given the spark of a chance, would consume you once again in brutish human Hellfire. 

I have managed it, finally, that distant and wary forgiveness. It's secretive, this forgiveness, smallish and weak. It is the most heroic thing I'll ever manage, other than surviving sane. This is why I'm fine now, why I am not still beset by nightmares, random terrors, ashen pockets of guilt and shame that I would walk into like a foul fog. Forgiveness is why I can breathe a deep breath when this particular shelf of my memory is knocked accidentally and down tumbles a few horrors of the past.

All the snakes in this box are dead. I stopped feeding them the day I started starving my anger, the day I decided I would start to stop suffering the self-inflicted wounds.

The choice not to forgive meant reliving each horrible moment every moment. That's the key. I no longer had any gun pointed at my head, but in trying to make him sorry by continually reliving it, I was the one holding that gun. It was me who kept it eternally pointed at me. In not forgiving, I kept myself locked, eternally, in that little Hell we had, locked up with him forever. He was the greatest force in my life.

I had to let it go, do you see? Can you fathom what I mean? Out of the depths I call to you, reader. Can you hear me, because I can hear you. "How?" you say, "How in the world?"

I don't know how. I just decided to. 

Without his explanations and apologies, with no promise that it would never happen again, indeed knowing it would in an instant if I did not keep my distance, and long after any statutes of limitations ran out, I decided to forgive.

I did it like this: I said, "I have no idea what forgiveness is, but I want it, Lord. Let me forgive."

I still don't know much more than that. I just know that now, when that old visitor comes knocking, I can say, "This is done. I forgive." 

The verb is active, present, infinite.

It is beyond human scope, really. It is a gift. It is something else. Yielding it, my dragons are slain, the fire is quenched. Dante surfaces. Beatrice breathes.

Forgiveness is a key to a door. With it, you can unlock your mind from its terrors and step into your freedom. Only outside of your Hell can you search out the key to your heart.

But that's another story...


Monday, May 7, 2012

Because it is Monday

...and Monday deserves it, I'm resizing the girls' clothes. That means all the clothes in storage that are the correct sizes are now inside waiting to be washed. All the incorrectly sized clothes are also waiting to be washed so that they may go to charity or be handed down. In effect, double the entire wardrobes of three little girls plus all the regular stuff are laying in wait for me. I plan on living with piles in the laundry room for a day or two. I also plan to grumble.

The mocks me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

7 Quick Takes

1 Bribery: Because It Works!
The only good thing I have to say about being sick for three days is that I come to fully understand how much the family needs me. Today I had to dig out from under. My kids were so good about getting their rooms back under control, I rewarded them with a bribe. That's to ensure it happens again. Some families don't like bribes for good behavior. I believe in them only on a rare, sporadic, and whimsical basis. Life itself acts like that. I don't get a reward, nor do I expect a reward every time I behave the way I'm supposed to, but every once in awhile and for no good reason, something happens that makes me happier to be of service. It may be a stranger at a store walking up to tell me my children are well behaved or even my husband washing the evening dishes just because. A piece of candy acts in much the same way for my little guys. It's not because I want them trained like Pavlov's dogs, it's because every once in awhile I want them to know how much I appreciate their efforts overall. The candy is my way of saying, "I notice. You do good!" just like the random remarks from strangers are candy to me.

2 Blowing It
We had such a great morning that, being human, I blew it by midafternoon. Problem was, I was too ambitious with my time. My youngest son had been naughty and needed a time out, but he was smart enough to read the situation and was sneaking out of his time out when I became distracted in lunch dishes, dinner prep, yogurt culturing, and mozzarella curdling. By the end of this critical half hour, my son and I were both yelling. I recognized my error, admitted I blew it, called myself a few choice names in my head and then shut myself down. I gave my son my entire attention for the entire timeout and that solved that. Then I turned my attention to the various other curdling processes. One thing at a time worked out much better. Nothing was ruined, including the day. Fretting over cheese and yogurt doesn't make it turn out any better or worse. Yelling, however, can ruin things quick.

3 Ora et Labora. Prayer at work.
Before I moved on with the afternoon I determined I had to get some ora into my labora (I'm such a Benedictine). I was so distracted however that trying to pray on my own wasn't working out, so I went here and recited the Rosary along with 124 other people in the world. By the time the first decade of contemplating Jesus' Baptism was completed, I had the mozzarella draining in the sink and the culture introduced to the yogurt. By the end of the second decade of contemplating the miracle at the wedding at Cana, I had a daughter praying with me and the kitchen was slowing emerging from under my pots and pans. By the end of the entire prayer all of my children had wandered in to join us and I was able to start working on supper. It was a truly beautiful moment. Much more peaceful than the whole yelling business. Sometimes God gives us candy, too.

4 The Fancy Transition
I love the tangents these 7 Quick Takes take. I'm about ready to launch into something totally different. If this were an essay, I'd need some fancy transition right about here.

5 The Light!
With the advent of the idea of raising "resilient children" I can see an end to the self-esteem tyranny. The focus is finally shifting from the self-centered belly button gazing foolishness of "Oh, Myself, how do I esteem Thee? Let me count the ways!" to a more realistic approach of raising children so that they have actual life skills to bring to bear in life's actual adversity. Nothing is worse than raising a human person unable to function in a human world and we may have raised an entire generation that way.

6 It *bleeping* Does, Too!
Speaking of nonsense, my oldest boy was born smack in the middle of the era of all that Self-Esteeming. In the toddler room of our church, nearly nine years ago, I was changing a particularly ripe diaper. Speaking baby talk on the topic at hand (or on my hand, rather) I made the baby laugh by saying such witticisms as, "Oh you're a stinky boy! Oh yes you are! Just a smelly welly bunny!" and "What's your momma feeding you, huh? She should know better! Oh yes, indeed, little mister!" Just the typical nonsense of the sleep deprived. I wasn't alert enough to come up with a better topic to discuss with my 3 month old, but he wasn't smart enough yet to figure that out, so we were good. Except we weren't. We were overheard. I immediately got a polite dressing down from a well informed proponent of Self Esteem. She simply had to help me and my son, you see. I was damaging his ego and may not have been aware enough to understand that by implying that his poop wasn't a delight to the senses, I was stifling his creativity.

Oh yes, indeed.

I was tired enough to hear her out but I was also tired enough to respond.

"So...I'm supposed to raise him to believe his $#!% doesn't stink?" 

End of conversation. No need to pull out my credentials or compare philosophies. We were done.

My mother still delights in this story. She told it until my son was old enough to laugh about it with us. She cleaned it up a bit, and I must say, the story is much funnier when she bleeps herself.

7 I Will Share It, But Quietly and at the End
It's too big for a blog post, too much for comment. I have savored it for weeks. Words can not ever tell. My son who so rarely crafts in words, the one who told me in every other way first, stated simply and without fanfare, "I love you."
Sometimes, if God makes you wait, it is because
He is growing the treasures He wants to give.

Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday