Wednesday, May 27

Expecting the Unexpected

When I last held an office job we had a professional organizer come to give us some much-needed help. Really, the place made me itchy when i started.  I'm not extremely organized but I like to have a good system in place and for many aspects of my job, there wasn't one.  

She wasn't supposed to come visit with me because I was hired after she'd signed the contract, but in the end she decided it would be best. So I sat down with her one morning and she asked me about my day and how I structured it.  I began explaining what I did and how I did it and she had some suggestions, but told me that I already had a decent system in place for lots of things.  She called me forward-thinking. 

I'd never had a word for it before.  I'm not highly organized but I like to be able to anticipate what's going to happen and how I'm going to deal with it in advance. I don't like to be caught off guard. 

I've gotten much more flexible since I got married. You thought I was going to say, since I had kids, but before kids there was Josh. You see, my husband doesn't plan ahead. It's generally why he's late a lot. He never has and he's getting a little better, but for the most part, he still doesn't. 

We would take day trips, when we were first married. We'd start driving and Josh would have a vague idea of something he wanted to see, but no real idea of what he wanted to do or when he wanted to be back. At first it drove me crazy. We once ended up camping next to a bear preserve (something we didn't discover until morning) because we just started driving and decided to camp some random place on the Appalachian Trail. We got some good pictures and we didn't see a bear, but if I'd been in charge of things we would have stayed in a nice campground with running water and no risk of mauling.

I have to admit that he's been really good for me. In fact, while I find him eternally frustrating, I think God sent him to me on purpose. Josh was just preparing me for children.

When you have kids, you cannot plan ahead. You can be as forward-thinking as you like, but I guarantee that one day they will manage to come up with something that you never could have planned for. It might be something as creative as biting their lip bad enough to need stitches, or breaking their collarbone (two things we've both done in the last year) or something as mundane as pooping out of their clothes in a restaurant and having to bathe them in the tiny sink because There. Is. POOP. Everywhere. 

Francis Chan said, "
I am convinced God uses our children to cleanse us from self-centeredness." Preach it, Brother Chan, for that is the truth! I am currently sitting in the floor to type this. I've built a barricade of pillows to keep my almost 7-month-old child from unplugging the power cord because my battery is almost dead. In a few weeks, this barricade will be worthless because she will simply climb over or around. It is also 6:30 in the morning. Not a time I generally like to see, but my baby has decided that it's time to be awake and her fussing was going to wake Josh and the kids. I'll make coffee when I get all of this out and we'll get the day started. It won't be that long until the biggun's get up anyway. What's funny is that the thing I sort of resented in Josh is the thing I forgive easily in my children. I get frustrated, but I move on. "Oh well," I say, as though it's not making me as itchy as the disorganized chaos of that office job. 

And I notice that I've said, "oh well..." to Josh as well. It gets easier to be forgiving as we get older and we start to realize that we're all flawed and we're all a little self-centered, and it's not actually about any one person at all. 

I've been trying to teach this to my kids, lately. "It's not just about what you want." I say. And the words echo back to me from decades ago when my mother tried to teach it to me. 

Look, Mom! I'm 35, but I get it now!

Monday, June 30

Ten Years Ago

I was going through old files, culling out the trash and trying to make sure that I still had a few things, and I found an essay that I had to write for graduate school.  This was written ten years ago, so the perspective I have on this side of things is interesting.  I love that I still feel this way, and I love that I recorded this so I could remember that I still feel this way.

As an undergraduate I spent my senior year preparing to go to graduate school to become a marriage and family therapist.  In that year I took at least twelve hours of classes geared specifically toward therapy and the theory behind it.  While we did study other theories, it was primarily focused on cognitive therapy.  I was briefly in counseling about three years ago and there are a lot of things that I believe should have been addressed but were not.  These were things like finding a new direction in my life, dealing with severe disappointment and feelings of failure that were caused by someone else’s actions.  Perhaps this is more a statement about the quality of the therapist I was seeing, but I felt like the only things that were being addressed were my present circumstances, not my past and certainly not the direction of my future.  Cognitive therapy did nothing to empower me over the problem that had paralyzed my life.  When I was taking fundamental counseling classes I felt those same limitations again. 
So why am I studying storytelling here at ETSU rather than finishing my degree in Family and Marriage Therapy?  My professor, Dr. Morris said to us on the first day of class that every person had a story to tell and that their story was really what was of primary interest in counseling.  (I am thinking about e-mailing him to ask if he knows anything about Narrative therapy because I feel like it would be right up his alley.)  That statement is the primary reason why I wanted to become a counselor.  I believe that everyone does have a story and that in that story is the key to understanding them and helping them. 
However, that still doesn’t answer the question.  To answer the question you have to back up about six months of my life to the first play I was ever in.  I had never done Theatre until I transferred to a different school and I was living with my younger sister, a theatre major.  She convinced me to audition for a production of The Yellow Wallpaper and I somehow got a lead role.  I had been in counseling because of a very messy relationship that ended in a painful breakup, instead of a marriage, as had been expected.  When I was acting in Wallpaper I knew that the woman I was portraying could have been me very easily in the sense that I came very close to having a nervous breakdown.  By telling her story I was able to recognize the value of my experience and how very capable I was- much more than I had previously believed.  I started to look at my own story as more than “The Summer Michael Left Me.”  Instead I started to look for the context of my life, the way I had to do with the character I played.  In that context I saw why I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, and I started to see the life I wanted to live.        
So why storytelling?  Well, that goes back to the summer I was twelve and I saw a storyteller, but it isn’t that integral to this paper.  The point is that I started to realize that I didn’t want the responsibility of being a counselor as much as I wanted to help people by telling them stories.  People respond to stories much the way I responded to the story I was telling in that play.  By understanding other people better, we begin to understand ourselves.  Stories unite and demonstrate in ways that other modes of expression don’t seem to be able to touch. 

When you tell a story to a crowd of people they take that story with them, and some of them may connect with one small part of the story and learn some small thing about themselves- or maybe even a lot about themselves.   You never know the impact of a story.  Telling a story can bear with it great responsibility, but also great opportunity for growth and outreach.  That is why I tell.  Because one story did for me what cognitive therapy was unable and unprepared to do for me. 

Wednesday, February 19

Something I Feel Strongly About

I've started a 30 day challenge for writing blog posts, which I've done before and forgotten about before day 5.  I'm not great with plants or sourdough starters either, since I tend to forget all about all of these things, and before you know it, the starter or the plant or the post is dead.
This is post number 2, and the prompt is stumping me.  I know that there are things that I feel strongly about, but I can't seem to think of any at the moment.  That summarizes my life lately.  I want to get worked up about things, but I just can't.  It takes too much energy, which is in short supply, for me.  I'd like to believe that this is a sign that I'm growing up and becoming more of an adult.  That being unable to release a firestorm of emotion is an indication that I am more self-controlled.
But I know it's not.
In all honesty, it's because I've buried it all. If I get enraged over another driver's mistake, or a political issue, or the way that someone is being treated I'm afraid that a flood of emotion might come rushing out, with no way to stem to tide. How easy it would be to watch a video of a soldier surprising their kid and just lose myself completely. All the sadness and happiness and brokenness and love and anger and hope in life would be released, and that is a terrifying thought to me.  So much of my life is lived internally that it often stays there, unshared and unexpressed.  That's just a hazard of being introverted, though.
There is always the desire to share these things, to uncap this bottle and release the genie. The fear of not being seen and understood when I do, is also constantly present.  What if I open myself up and I'm left to try to understand this alone.  What if there is no one to share all of this with?  It's a risk.

So I guess the thing i feel strongly about is holding myself back.

Tuesday, February 18

Five Ways to Win My Heart

1.  Love my kids.
If Sadie will sit in your lap and talk to you, I'll want to cozy up next to you and talk to you as well.  If Caroline smiles, teases you, and asks you if you like her clothes, I'll want to smile at you and ask if you like me, too. If Jonah shows you what he's drawn and you ask him questions and take him seriously, I'll want to show you things I've created and explain them, as well. Be kind to them.  If you do that, you will have been kind to me and my heart will be yours.

2.  Talk to me about books I've read.
If you can ask me about the books I've read and want to know why I love them, and then listen while I explain how they changed me.  If you take the time to know who my favorite poets are and what all my favorite poems are, my heart will be yours.

3.  Listen to the things I don't say.
I have a hard time opening up sometimes, but if you pay attention at all, it will be obvious if I'm sad or tired or angry.  Don't ignore it.  I might not want to talk about it, but if you care for me, let me know that you see me. Let me know that what I feel (which often feels like a burst dam) is important, and that it's okay, even if it doesn't make sense and my heart will be yours.

4.  Hold my hand.
Or touch my face, or pat my back, or kiss me, or put your arms around me, or tickle me, or put my feet in your lap, or sleep beside me, or slap my behind, or push my hair behind my ear, or lay your head in my lap. Your touch is part of what will make my heart yours.

5.  Make me laugh.
Share the things that make you happy, and the things that make you laugh.  If you can make me laugh, my heart will be yours.

Thursday, January 2

New Year

I stopped blogging last year because I didn't have anything I wanted to share. I left off feeling like I needed to go further and found myself hitting a wall that I didn't know how to climb, or if there would be a door somewhere, and would I even have the key if I found the door? Truthfully, that question was haunting me. What was I supposed to be doing?  

And it's funny because, when I wrote that, I was in the middle of doing the one thing that really calls to my soul, right now.  Everything was telling me that being a mother and a wife and caring for my family was supposed to be the thing calling to my soul.  THE thing God had called me to. I felt guilty for finding passion in making stories come alive.  

In the last 6 months I have come a long way, and not far at all. It didn't take long before I began to bang my head against the bars, until I fell apart. I fell apart and began to become fearful in situations that I shouldn't have been fearful in. Things I could handle with ease, before, I could not any longer. Instead, I both took control and gave it up.  It's taken me six months and I can't explain all of the changes in me. Mostly they manifest in small ways: a growing ease with myself;  an acceptance that I've been telling myself stories that reinforce ideas about myself and the things I believe that just aren't true anymore. Recognizing that wasn't easy and it caused a lot of anxiety, but moving past that recognition and into a life that is based on a new story is freeing. 

In the last 6 months I've lost 10 pounds and stopped biting my nails.  I started learning to play the ukulele and I went a full month without leaving dishes in the sink at night (no, I'm not still doing that, but I am doing better) and I started to feel like myself again. I'm starting to feel like I'm being reintroduced to the person that I used to be.  I was wrong about the conclusion I made here.  Life is full of romance and I can trust blindly.  

And now I'm looking forward to this year.  I don't know for certain what it will hold, but the plan is to lead a workshop for beginning tellers in February, run another half marathon in April, and direct Esther this summer. I have no formal resolutions for the year, except to continue to know myself better,  to tell myself the truth in all things, and to love.  

Tuesday, June 4

Being Far Away and Being Close

The other day I was browsing Facebook after my kids had gone to bed.  A storyteller friend of mine had posted an intriguing description of a show for fairy tales that she was proposing to do for the Minnesota Fringe Festival.  All i could think was how much i wanted to go and listen to her tell those stories.  I wanted to hear her approach them from an accurate, gritty perspective and I wanted to be reminded why I love fairy tales so very much.

And all I could think was... you could never get away from your kids long enough to get to do that.  Someone would have to watch the kids, and you couldn't afford a trip all the way to Minnesota, even if you could get away.  Escape.  Make a break for it.

I know I've posted about this a bit before, but I found myself so very frustrated with my place in life.  I know that Josh and I made a decision a long time ago to make ourselves available for a our children at the expense of a greater income, and it isn't new that I have found myself realizing that I have also sacrificed a bit of myself and my professional desires to be a mom.  And that's hard.

All of this comes a week or so after reading a friend's blog post in which she admits that being a mom is sometimes really hard for her introverted self, and something really clicked.  I'm introverted.  Of course being a mom is hard.  I don't do well without time alone to recharge, and I really don't do well with parasitic relationships (and isn't that what having children is?) or a lot of noise (uh... duh, they're kids).  I like to have time to turn inward and with my children I find that I am constantly being forced outward by the constant state of need.  No matter how much I try to teach my children to be self-sufficient, there seems to be a constant barrage of need, and it has a tendency to drain my energy, completely.

And then, there is my friend Millie.  Millie has been on this really long journey of health that has caused her to lose an incredible amount of weight and start running, biking and swimming.  That she could do any of those things at all was almost unthinkable several years ago, but this past weekend she competed in an Ironman competition.  She didn't finish, but I when I read what she had written about it on her blog I was really impressed by her attitude.  She didn't moan and groan that she didn't finish.  She accepted it and was grateful for the experience.  I know how hard it is to push yourself physically, and I aspire to be more like Millie, physically, but also mentally.  It is knowing, and reminding yourself that you can push yourself a little further because you can go a little further.

I can go a little further.

I honestly believe that being a mother is possibly one of the most important things I could ever do.  I've created new life and I want to put the effort into making sure that those lives start well, and are given every advantage that I can give them.  I feel so far away from all the things I want to be accomplishing, and yet I cam so much closer than I have been willing to recognize.

But, I can go further.  I can start treating these everyday things like the calling that they are.  I can discipline myself better to be kinder and more patient with my kids.  I can discipline myself to be kinder and more patient with myself.

Monday, April 29

Running Crazy

Last September I got this very odd email.  I was looking at it, wondering why the OKC Memorial Marathon people had sent me an email confirming that I had signed up for the Half Marathon in only a few months.  That was nuts.  I certainly hadn't signed myself up for  half marathon.  The furthest I had run at one time at that point was 4.5 miles.  I certainly wasn't going to be running 13.1 miles.
And then I saw the same on it.  It was paid for by Tara Sanders.  No, this was no typo, this was, in fact, the devious work of my twin sister.  She signed us both up to run the half.

Fast forward to yesterday.  
It was April 28th, 5:00 am.  My alarm went off at the same time that my 15 month-old woke up.  Such is life.  I fed her, put her back to bed and threw on my clothes.  I managed to get my shoes on just as Tara pulled in the driveway to pick me up.  I kissed my husband goodbye and left him with a to-do list to get the kids to church by himself, and we were off. 

It was still dark, but we managed to get a decent parking space and then we lined up with 25,000 other people who were running the half or full marathon and we waited.  It was cold.  We waited about half an hour before the national anthem and a moment of silence.  And then they started the race.  It took us 15 minutes to get to the starting line.  We ran the first mile and managed to do fairly well the other 12.1.  I’m not in the best shape of my life after having 3 babies in 5 years, but I knew what I was capable of, and how to push myself, even when I didn’t feel like I could go much further.  I knew I could finish.  Even at mile 8 when I started to feel a bad feeling in my shoe and mile 9 when my hips started feeling awful, we pressed on.  Walking, running, walking, running. 

3 hours and 18 minutes later I had run a half marathon.  At one point (when my hip was killing me) I told Tara that I thought it was worse than childbirth.  The pain was worse, but really, it wasn’t bad at all.  My time wasn’t that impressive, unless you’re me. 

The goal, from the beginning was to finish what we’d started, and we did.  On the way we talked and joked and I had my first GU ( and It was pretty fun. 

Afterward, we were pretty worn out.  I’m still pretty sore the day after, but I still managed to go to the grocery store with 3 kids and do three loads of laundry.  Part of me wants to say that it’s just part of being a mom.  You just do what you have to do.  And while that’s true, it’s also no why I managed to run 13 miles, when I had clearly not trained enough over the last 6 weeks. 

I did it because I knew I could.  The last few years have shown me just how capable I am of going much further than I first think I can.  That has some to do with being a Mom, but a lot more to do with who I have become over the last 13 years.  I really resisted it at first.  I wanted to believe I was wronged or broken or fragile, but I know that I am not.  I have known it for much longer than I have been willing to admit it.  I am very strong, and I am very determined, and I can go much further than anyone might think.


Saturday, April 20

Secret #1

I don't believe in falling in love.

If you say you've fallen in love, you leave the analogy with a dark side.  Anyone who falls in, can climb out again.

When you love, you make a choice to love and when you choose not to love... well, it's just as much a choice.  This is how I explain it to myself, anyway.

When I married Josh, I wrote my own vows.  Part of my vow to him was to love him forever.  I thought about that part for a long time before I decided to include it.  How do we know what life will throw at us? How do we know if the someone we choose will always choose to choose us?  I didn't know that.  I was afraid.  The truth is that I know from experience that love isn't permanent unless we make it so.  To make that vow to him was very intentional.  I made a choice then, and I make it again over and over every day.

But here's the secret.  I used to believe that you could fall in love.  I used to believe that there was a kind of magic; a visceral recognition between two souls that reached out and clung, one to the other.  I believed.  I wanted the pounding heart and the tingles, and everything that comes with it.  All of the things that come about as a result of the newness and the hormones.  I believed in it like I believed in gravity and tectonic plates and germs.

And then I didn't.  Lots of things came in between, and they changed me.  There was a time when I became so lost that I couldn't tell you who I was or what my purpose was.  I was untethered and floating.

When I was younger and I took the Meyer's Briggs test I always came out as an INFP.  By nature they are healers, dreamers, Idealists.  Now when I take it, I always measure out as an INFJ.  Instead, I am a protector or a confidant.  I can see the change in myself.  I'm not longer so free and open.  I don't always believe the best of people anymore.  I look for the faults that I believe are there.

I am sad about this.  It doesn't change what I believe or the way that I've been changed.  I can't go back to believe that everyone is well-meaning.  I do not blindly trust, and I am more likely to find fault with someone, or expect to find fault with them.  What kind of person thinks this way?

That is my secret.  That I cannot trust blindly, but also that part of me still wants to believe in love and in the innate goodness of all people.  There are times when I catch myself wanting reckless romance in my life- not just in my marriage, but in my life- and then I realize that life doesn't really work that way.  Even if I want it to.  

Saturday, December 29

Christmases Past and Present

This year's Christmas has been kind of sad.  I do not mean that in an insulting way toward anyone with whom I may have shared Christmas celebrations, or with whom I was unable to share Christmas celebrations.  It's been a year of transitions.  This is the first year that one of my sisters wasn't able to make Christmas at my Mom and Dad's, and plans seemed to all be completely nebulous up until the very last minute, even when we thought that they were solidly set.

In years past my immediate family (my parents and sisters) were abe to spend several days together.  Over the years it has become progressively more difficult to hear yourself think, or to control the mess, and sometimes even to deal with the schedule or lack thereof.  We had a whole schedule years ago.  It involved a talent show, pizza making, cookie decorating, or ornament-making.  Those things have been pared down to just the pizza making- something we've done since I was a child.

Celebrations with my smaller family- Josh and the kids- have absorbed some of the traditions that have been dropped.  We drink "Christmas Cheer" with the kids (sparkling grape juice) on Christmas eve, and read " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas."  We also do our best to spend some time with Josh's parents, though we weren't able to last year because I was due to have Sadie on the 12th of January.

I wasn't prepared for a lot of things this year.  We spent about a day with my two sisters who were able to make it, and we made pizza, but we opened presents at night for the first time, ever.  It felt rushed and I wasn't organized. Josh had to go back to the house twice before we got to my Mom's and I still forgot something.

My kids had a great Christmas.  Jonah finally got some little legos, and Caroline got water-paint books, which thrills her to no end.  Sadie was mostly oblivious, but happy to be there.  We got to see all of the grandparents, and there were tears when we left Colorado.  I can't complain when everyone seems happy.

But something feels unsettled.  I realize that it's just a matter of transitioning to a different way of thinking about Christmases, and family.  I also realize that I am very lucky to have had the upbringing that I did.  Over the years I was able to spend Christmas with almost all of my extended family on both sides up until High School, and with them at least in part, even later.  My extended family is generally pretty close and in some ways it's hard to imagine a Holiday not spent with cousins and children running around, and way too many sweets around the house.  In comparison, this Christmas has seemed small and quiet, but in reality I know that I am overwhelmingly blessed to have so much family and to be financially blessed enough to be able to travel and buy gifts.

I do not blame my dissatisfaction on Pinterest (as many people seem happy to do, lately) or on receiving less than usual (my mother warned me that no one will fill a mother's stocking, so I ought to do it myself.  And I do.)  Instead, it is more related to the feelings you have when you are in college and you come home for Christmas during your senior year, knowing that everything is about to change when you graduate.  It's a foreboding.  A fear.  A nervousness.  It makes it hard to feel the warm coziness of Christmas without knowing that there is a nebulous unknown around the corner.

Instead, I try to focus those moments when there is joy.  Like this one.

Caroline in her Super Girl cape.  Swinging with Daddy.

The only semi decent picture we took as a family.  :)
Decorating the tree at Nana and Papa's house. 

Sadie standing and walking all by herself!
Nana sure is interesting.

Friday, November 30


I've been mostly absent this semester partly because our lives are still measured in semesters.  Josh is in the early stages of becoming Dr. Watson, I'm teaching two classes, the kids are in school when I am... it makes everything a bit crazy.  But it also gives me something to look forward to.

When I was a kid snow days and vacation were always so enticing.  No matter how far away they were, they became the goal: Make it to Christmas.  And it's no wonder, because Christmas lasted weeks.

Now, I'm counting down the days to my last class, the final exam, and the days I can spend out and about while the kiddoes are still in Sonshine School.  Oh yes, I am.

In the mean time I thought it might be good to fill in a few blank spots on this sad little blog (still clunking along after 7 years and 500 posts) which specifically means pictures.  Yes, pictures.  I don't take pictures as often as I used to, and while I am not a professional, semi-professional, or even very good photographer, it helps to have some visuals to go with my naval-gazing.

So here's the schedule: