NOT a Bad Day

I needed to write. So you all get a bonus Blog today. 

 

My lifetime enemy, depression, has been rearing its ugly head lately. I’ve been in denial. I’m fine. I’ve got this. I’m ok. Then today, when I found myself glued to my chair, not wanting to move, except to climb into bed and sleep, I realized, oh, yes, I recognize this pattern. 

 

I’ve decided to fight back a bit. The worst thing about depression is that it whispers, “Failure!” in my ear, constantly. So, I have decided to compile a list of ways that I did not fail today. Speak a bit of truth. 

 

First, my two and five year old boys, who were in my charge all day, are alive and well. They ate, got cleaned, played, watched tv, went outside. As far as they are concerned, it was a great day.

I got all my school age kids to and from school without a hitch, and they are all in a good mood, playing with friends.

Supper is cooking. The dishes are caught up. The laundry is doing ok. The downstairs of the house is clean. Sure, I paid the kids to clean it because I wasn’t able to force myself to do it. But, the kids got some pocket money, they’re happy, it was cheaper than hiring a maid, and I can say that I used my delegating skills.

I also signed our family up for health insurance for the next year on Healthcare.gov, which is a soul-sucking experience in itself. It actually took me two days to finish the whole application. But, it’s done! 

 

I kept the fire going in the woodstove. 

 

I’m getting along with my husband. 

 

My pets are happy. 

 

It wasn’t a failure day.

 

So, for all my friends out there fighting depression and anxiety, this is actually a pretty good tool. Write down everything that was right in the day, even if you have to grasp at straws, like, The sun came up today and set as normal. No tornadoes blew my house down. My car didn’t explode. I didn’t catch the plague… See! It works! I’m feeling better already. 🙂 

 

Thanks for listening. 

 

 

My Not-so-Picturesque Day in Pictures

I’ve decided to do a Picture Diary of my day today. With some commentary.

Enjoy.

sleeping Noah

So, the two year old climbed in my bed in the middle of the night. This picture about sums up how that feels.

Then at 5:30 am the phone rang. It was the school calling to tell us there was a 2 hr delay because it had snowed. Woohoo! We could sleep in! Except the phone call woke my husband, who decided to just get up. And then his moving around woke up this little guy. So, I got to get up almost an hour earlier than normal on our 2 hr delay day.

nomisnowO

Of course, since there was snow on the ground, the kids’ 6th sense woke them up, and by 6:30 am I could hear little voices exclaiming about snow. (On a school day we get up at 7 am). By the time it was light outside, the kids were ready to go frolic in the snow. I took my obligatory snow pictures. I have ten years worth of snow pictures from this very angle. (Happens to be the inside of my doorway, I’m not going out in the snow.)

Of course, in order to go out in the snow, the kids needed to get their winter gear out of our hall closet.

closetmess

You will note that they left at least one coat hanging in the closet. (No, they didn’t put the hole in the back of the closet, that was already there.)

So, we had plenty of time to play in the snow, drink some hot cocoa, get ready for school. My morning was all planned. I would drop off the elementary kids, then the middle school kids, then I would have just enough time to get to the dentist with my 8 year old and the two little boys, where the 8 year old was getting a crown on her tooth.

Ten minutes before it was time to leave, I sent one of my boys out to the van with the keys to start it warming up. They returned and told me that the van would not start. Oh no. I double checked, and yep, the battery was dead. Now what? My husband was working out of town and while our driveway was full of vehicles, they either didn’t work, or I didn’t have the keys to them. I called my husband. He told me to get his new work truck and jumpstart the van. This involved me having to brush off a bunch of snow, figure out how to start it and drive this humongous stick-shift truck through my yard so it would be close enough to the van to jumpstart. (I haven’t driven stick shift in 14 years.)

jumpstart

But as you can see, I did it.

Which made me feel like this:

workerwoman

The elementary kids were tardy, the middle-schoolers had to run to not be late, but we made it to the dentist on time. Yay.

Then I got home and had to deal with this.

dirtydishes.jpeg

Because the night before, my old dishwasher fell out of it’s opening one time too many. My husband had brought home a new dishwasher and it was sitting in my dining room.

dishwasher.jpeg

And I somehow thought that he would be able to install it for me last night. But, alas, he didn’t have the proper tools with him, so it didn’t happen, and I didn’t wash the dishes yesterday. Sigh.

The rest of the day was spent baking..

muffins

These amazing muffins were enjoyed by most, but some sacrilegious child ate only the sugar top and the blueberries, leaving the rest in a giant pile of crumbs.

I also made stew.

stew

Which one child completely abstained from, and two more children filled their bowl of stew with crackers, but somehow decided they weren’t actually hungry enough to eat it, when all was said and done.

I also made a run to Walmart before supper, where I forgot to buy my dentist-going daughter the award I had promised her for enduring dental treatment. Which meant I had to go out again after supper.

Then, while relaxing with the kids before bedtime, watching some Studio C on Youtube, my alarm went off.

Which was a good thing, because I had completely forgotten that I had an older daughter at work who was counting on me to pick her up. I could not live without all the alarms I have set on my phone.

And so, after bringing her home, I ran around getting all the little kids settled into bed. And now, my day is finally done. For the most part. Just a couple little chores here and there to do on my way to bed.

 

Which Voice Will You Listen To?

The last couple of days I have had some loud voices in my head. The first voice has been systematically pointing out all the ways that I’m failing. It has pointed out the dust and cobwebs that I haven’t gotten around to cleaning. It has pointed a finger at my pantry that needs a serious overhaul. It has reminded me that I have a hole in my dining room floor that needs repairing. It has kept a tally for every time I have lost patience with my children and yelled. It has shone a spotlight on each of my children when they have not obeyed or been sassy. It even brought up some old stuff, like the fact that I didn’t write my (now deceased) grandmother regular letters when I was younger. Every time I have put any food in my mouth it has shouted out how I am a fraud, I claim to be a Christian, but here I am being a glutton and stuffing my face. If I just had enough faith, I would overcome this sin habit. 

 

This voice has been responsible for at least one day where I could barely drag myself out of bed. I would say it has also been responsible for the sharper tone of voice I’ve been using. And it probably plays a big part in why I’ve been losing my temper so quickly. It’s really hard to be nice when you are fighting a feeling of worthlessness. 

 

I said that there were voices, more than one. There has also been another voice. It’s been quieter, but it’s still been there. It’s the voice that quietly says, being a mom is hard, you’re doing a good job. It’s softly said, here, you have some spare time, why don’t you get on your elliptical for a while? It’s calmly reminded me to go and apologize to my little boys for yelling. It’s urged me to pull out my Bible in the mornings, instead of staring at Facebook. It’s whispered, You are Saved by Grace, not by Works. It’s gently suggested I put on some praise music while cleaning to counterbalance how annoyed I always get when cleaning up my kids’ messes. When I have completely given in to fear, it’s firmly told me to recite my creed of faith, ground myself again in truth. 

 

It’s taken me a couple days to realize that there is actually a battle going on in my brain. And I have to make a choice. Which voice am I going to listen to? One is the voice of judgement. The other is the voice of love. 

 

I’m thinking I need some love. 

 

You would think I would recognize immediately that one voice is for me and the other is against and I would just shut down the ugly voice. Life has been a little crazy lately. We’re going through a lot of transition and we have a lot of things in limbo at the moment. And that makes me feel insecure. And feeling insecure makes me lose my vision. And suddenly that loud obnoxious voice kind of sounds like it’s speaking the truth. And the more I listen to that voice, the louder it gets. 

 

Honestly, about the only way I can break free of that voice is to purposefully focus on truth. What does God’s word say? What does God say about me? 

 

As I was writing this, I took a short break and checked my Facebook. My sister-in-law had just posted a song on her page. It was just what I needed to hear. 

 

I hope you have time to click on this link, it’s a song about listening to the voice of love. 

You Say by Lauren Daigle

May you have the grace to listen to the voice of love this week.

 

 

More is Not More

I am in a constant battle against busyness. Let me define what busyness means to me. It’s any time I have to leave my house. Yep. That’s about it. If I can be home all day, working on chores, hanging out with family, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, wiping noses, breaking up fights, reading books out loud, basically non-stop activity from the time I get up till I go to bed…as long as I didn’t have to leave the house, it was not a busy day. 

 

Then I have days like today. The kids had the day off from school. Yay! So, at 11am I had to take one daughter to the dentist. Her tooth chipped while eating a hamburger at school. A big chunk came off. The dentist is baffled, it shouldn’t have happened, it’s in an odd location, none of it makes sense. She will now have to get a crown on her tooth. Good grief. So, we finished that appointment then came home. Then at 1:30pm I had to take an older daughter to a doctor’s appointment for what turned out to be bronchitis. Fun. Then, on the way home we stopped at the store. Got home, announced I was now ready to make the library run that everyone had been pestering me about all day. Loaded up five kids into the car and ran down to the library. Came home. Then an hour later, had to to drive my daughter to her job. Then three hours later, had to go pick her up from her job. (This child needs to turn sixteen and get her license!). And then, of course, we had to stop at the pharmacy on the way home to get the prescribed medicine from the earlier appointments. 

 

It’s these kind of days that wear me out. 

 

Everyone I know is busy. And most of them don’t seem to be overly happy about it. Maybe it’s a matter of our time-saving devices actually, in the end, not saving us very much time. Just think about it, if we didn’t have cars that we could zoom all over the place with, we would no longer be zooming all over the place. I know, cars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but there is a definite appeal to a slower lifestyle. 

 

I have found that simply raising my family is about all I can handle. I’ve been on a long journey of saying No. No, we don’t have the time to do sports. No, I can’t sign up to help in this ministry. No, I will not be able to be a key person in this project. No, I can’t volunteer this weekend. No, we aren’t going to sign our kids up for the extra curricular activities. No.

 

As my kids have gotten older, they have wanted to be involved in more things. That’s fine. Our high school is only a couple blocks away. If my kids want to stay after school to be in a club or sport or band or anything, they can simply walk home afterwards. Our middle school has a free after-school program that offers all kinds of clubs and they bus the kids home afterwards. I can handle that. It doesn’t involve me getting in my car and driving anywhere. 

 

Here’s the thing. When I’m busy, I don’t have time to think and ponder. When I’m busy I tend to operate at a much higher stress level. When I’m busy I forget to be thankful. When I’m busy, I tend to get cranky and irritable. When I’m busy, I miss out on all the little moments. Moments like sitting quietly in front of the fireplace, just watching the flames. Sitting on the edge of my daughter’s bed while she gets ready to go to sleep, hearing her excited chatter about all the things she’s going to do tomorrow. Stopping what I’m doing so I can watch my two year old show me his “trick” of rolling his toy car really really really fast! Or maybe, stepping out on my porch to get the mail, and noticing the birds flying overhead. 

 

I find that when I take life at a slower pace, it’s a lot richer. It’s kind of like the difference between skimming through a Shakespeare play in an hour, or taking a semester long class that spends the entire time analyzing the play. I can zoom through a day, crashing into bed at the end, exhausted and soul-weary. Or, I can meander my way through the day, stopping along the way to enjoy the view, discover some hidden gems, spend some quality time with loved ones…ending the day with a heart of thankfulness and peaceful sleep. I, for one, prefer the latter. 

 

Yes, life sometimes does get busy, and it’s beyond your control. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it. But, I think it’s worth it to keep on fighting for a peaceful, slower life. We can say No. When it comes to busyness, More is not More. It’s less. 

 

How do I Keep Up?

This week I ran into an old homeschooling friend. Though we are often in the same vicinity, we haven’t stopped to have a conversation in a while. I was asking how homeschooling was going and we talked about that for a while, then she asked how public schooling was going for me. I said it was going great. She asked how on earth I keep up with everything. I said something along the lines of, “It’s easy, I just don’t care.” Which, while flippant and funny, probably did not really convey how I feel. It’s kind of been nagging me, and I keep thinking of how I should have clarified that statement…So, my dear friend whom I’m going to tag in this post, I’m going to expand a bit. 

 

Homeschooling is all-consuming, and mentally exhausting. Especially if you are trying to homeschool multiple children. In your mind, at all times, you have a working knowledge of each child’s abilities. You know what they can and can’t do in Math and English and Science. You have a list of things you are worried about for each child, and also a list of things you are proud of. You can’t have a casual interest in your child’s education because YOU are the Educator. It’s a big load to carry. It was too big a load for me. I went through a long depression and in the middle of it, completely fizzled out in my ability to school my children. We put our kids in public school. We’re in our third year with our younger kids. My oldest two kids homeschooled through eighth grade and then went to public high school. My third daughter is in her fourth year of public school. 

 

My view of public school is, my children now have teachers. I no longer have to keep up with all the minutiae. That’s the teacher’s job. Yes, I look at all the papers sent home. I ask my kids what they learned today. I go to Parent/teacher conferences. I look at report cards. But as far as knowing how well they are doing in multiplication or whether they are mastering their fractions or whether they used proper punctuation in their writing assignment, I have no idea. Since their report cards all say that they are getting good grades, I’m presuming that they are learning what they need to learn. 

 

As far as homework is concerned, I don’t believe in homework for elementary school kids. I’ve been upfront about it with the teachers. Sometimes my kids choose to do their weekly “homework” packets because they want whatever award the teacher is offering. And sometimes they choose to not do it. That’s fine. I think that several hours of running around our yard, playing make believe games, and creating things with legos is going to help them a lot more than sitting down and doing a page of math reviews. I do expect my middle-schoolers and high-schoolers to do their homework, but they’re old enough to be in charge of their own work, so I don’t stress about keeping up with it. 

 

Of course, you have to ask the question, What if they aren’t learning what they need to learn? What if they are getting good grades, but are still getting major gaps in their education? 

 

Well, this is where my philosophy on learning helps me out. I am a reader. I have been a bookworm since second grade. While I can remember a handful of odd facts that a teacher taught me in a classroom, most everything that has stayed in my brain, came from an interesting book. I believe that if I can foster a love of reading in my children then I’ve won half the battle for educating them. 

 

We are a reading family. I always have a book on my kindle app that I pull out whenever I have a spare minute. My husband reads a book most evenings to unwind. My older teenagers have long, loud discussions about characters and events in various book series that they have all read. We have eight large bookshelves in our house and books are scattered on every surface. My kids go to the library at school and bring their books home and have fights about whether they have to share their library books with each other or not. 

 

I have one child whose brain is wired differently. In three years of homeschooling I was not able to teach him how to read. In public school they put him in a remedial program and the reading experts got him reading pretty quickly. (YAY!) But, he still struggles. It doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s still getting extra help in this area. But, he read books. Maybe not at grade level, but he still wants to read. This past week I had to take him on a rushed trip to the library because he needed the fourth book of the series and we only had the first three books at home. So, while I know he may struggle all his life to read easily, I’m not worried about him. My kids all have a natural curiosity about life, and they know that reading books is an easy way to learn about whatever they are interested in. 

 

I see public school as an opportunity for my kids to learn about different cultures. It’s a chance to be with the kids from our neighborhood. Learn how to make friends. Learn how to work with all kinds of people. It’s an opportunity to put into practice everything that we’re trying to teach them at home about “Loving your neighbor as yourself”. It’s a chance for them to think about people’s stories. What are some of the reasons why that particular child might have a hard time behaving in class? It’s an opportunity for them to learn how to be problem-solvers: if you see a problem at school, what can you do about it? All of these things naturally come up in our daily conversations, so I get a good gauge on how the kids are doing in these areas. 

 

So, how do I keep up with everything? I don’t. But, it seems to be working well for us.  

 

The Power of Being Real

I just finished reading a book called “The Elephant in the Room” by Tommy Tomlinson. It is an autobiography about a Southern man who is morbidly obese (446 pounds) and his journey to losing weight. It is a very honest book that explores how he got to this place and what kept him there. It also is a kind of yearlong journal as he struggles to walk on a different path. What I love about the book is that there is no quick fix. No amazing new diet that completely turns his life around. It is simply a slow, long, hard walk to start making small changes, one step at a time, and slowly change his direction. At the end of the year (SPOILER ALERT) he has only lost 25 pounds. But, after reading through the whole book, you are able to marvel at what a victory that is and have hope that he can continue on this slow crawl towards better health. After reading the book which was published in 2017, I looked online to see if there were any updates on his journey. I found an interview that was done in January of 2019 and as of that date, he was continuing the course. The weight was still slowly coming off. No major dramatic losses, just one pound at a time. 

 

There is something powerful about being real. About acknowledging that you are weak. You struggle. You have some major flaws that don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. There is something powerful about hearing about another person’s struggle with some besetting sin and finding out that the only way they have slowly conquered this sin is by very hard, very slow work. Two steps forward, one step back. 

 

I think what makes it so impactful, so powerful, is that when we are real, we help others to not feel alone. And not feeling alone gives us hope. It is so easy to have a weakness and feel like you are the only one who struggles in this area. We feel like the wimp, the frail link, the failure. Everyone else seems to get along just fine and here we are, all alone in the corner, unable to overcome this particular problem. We must be a freak. 

 

And then a friend whispers in your ear, I have that exact same problem! And suddenly your whole perspective changes. Oh, this is just another problem that is common to mankind. I’m not abnormal. 

 

This is probably why young mothers love to gather together and compare notes. My baby does this weird thing, have you ever heard of that before? OH YES! My kid did the same thing when he was that age! And the mom gives a sigh of relief and then they compare notes and try to help each other figure out how to deal with the problem. This spirit of camaraderie is so uplifting. So encouraging. 

 

We need to expand this Realness to other areas in our life. We need people in our lives that can tell us, I really struggle with eating more than I should. I have a hard time keeping away from the bad stuff on the internet. I really struggle with being kind to my spouse. I have an anger problem. I spend money that I don’t have because shopping cheers me up. I have a hard time not gossiping. I have a real problem with anxiety and depression…Things that we all struggle with, but we think we are struggling alone. 

 

When someone shares something that they are struggling with, it encourages me, but when someone gives off the persona of being Perfect, it alienates me. I feel like you must belong to a higher level of humanness than me. You are in some special club that I can never be a part of. And it makes me withdraw into myself. I feel like I need to hide my imperfections from you since you obviously wouldn’t understand them. 

 

I used to find people who gave off an “I’m perfect” persona were really irritating. Being around them just fueled my own insecurities. But, God has been showing me some things lately.

He’s been teaching me that there is no such thing as a perfect person. But, there are people who are so afraid of their imperfections and their unhealed wounds that they will do everything possible to keep them hidden. And they put on a show, an outward appearance of having everything together. It’s their own form of self-defense. And that’s ok. Facing your imperfections and your wounds is not easy and sometimes you are so busy surviving, you just don’t have any energy left over to try and tackle these deep issues. 

 

So, to my people who have mastered the art of being real, thank you. Your willingness to be open about your problems is such an encouragement to me. And to my perfect friends, thank you for putting up with me and all my messiness. I’m hoping that some of my messiness will rub off on you and maybe some of your perfect habits will rub off on me. It’s a good exchange.  

 

Thoughts From a Bewildered American

I have been paying a bit more attention to the news lately. Not my most-favorite thing to do. I tend to ignore the news, avoid it as much as possible. I hate all the in-fighting of our politics. I hate the fact that I no longer feel like I can trust any of the news services, as they all seem to be reading off the same propaganda sheet, one for the left, one for the right. My cynicism tells me that everything the news says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. 

 

And then there is the upcoming Presidential election to look forward to. I have friends who love Donald Trump. They hail him as the only person who can fix our country, and are full of praise for the things he has accomplished so far. Then I have friends who despise Donald Trump. He is a dangerous, foolish, racist, untrustworthy, white supremist, nationalist who deserves the death penalty. Can anyone say Polarized Politics? 

 

Just to give you an idea of where I stand, I took one of those tests that tell you where you are on the political spectrum. I was dead center in the middle. Not republican. Not democrat. There are lots of things from both parties that I like and lots of things from both parties that I don’t like. 

 

I don’t think I am alone in finding myself stuck in the middle. Yes, there are some things Trump has done that I agree with. Probably the biggest one has been his helping to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization whose roots began in eugenics, with the specific desire to eliminate the black race. It has now turned into a billion dollar industry that sells body parts of aborted babies for money. So, yes, Yay Trump. On the other hand, I find his constant Tweets to be very embarrassing to read, not the level of diplomacy and maturity that I would expect from a President. Not to mention a bunch of other things he’s done that I don’t agree with.

 

But then I look at the up and coming Democratic Candidates and it makes me shake in my boots. So far, every single one of them has said that they support late-term abortion. If an adult can look me in the face and tell me that they think it’s ok to violently kill a baby that, if allowed to be born, could live a full life…if that person can tell me to my face that they believe that there is nothing wrong with that…how on earth can I trust this person to rule our country in a way that would line up with my morals or my world view? 

 

So, what is a person supposed to do? I look at our government and from my small perspective, it looks broken. It looks like a humongous, gigantic, enormous machine that is running at full steam, bulldozing over anything that gets near it, and it doesn’t work any more, and there isn’t anyone to shut it down and fix it. I am beyond believing that we just have to vote in the right candidate and he/she will fix everything. I don’t think it can be done. Look at Trump. According to his supporters, he’s fixing things. Look at how much resistance he has. They’re trying to impeach him for heaven’s sake. If Trump is supposed to be our “Saviour” then I think we should all be getting worried about now. 

 

I feel very much like I am in a position of No Power. Yes, I can vote. But, even if my vote actually counts for something, I don’t even know how to cast my vote. Last election my choices were Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Hilary is tied to one of the biggest coincidences in history: anyone who has had dirt against her or her family has somehow had a sudden urge to commit suicide or somehow got involved in a fatal vehicle accident. Not exactly who I want to be my President. Then there is Donald Trump. Someone who’s public character and personality are the kind that I point to as an example to my children of what Not to Be. I went to the polls last election and ended up not casting a Presidential Vote because I couldn’t put my name next to either candidate. 

 

So, what do we do? While my Trump supporters will continue to support him, and my loyal Democrat friends will vote for their candidate, what about the rest of us? The people who don’t associate themselves with either Republican or Democrat…Are we resigned to simply watch, helpless observers, as our country continues to fall more apart? After all, history has proven that Third Party Candidates don’t seem to ever have a chance. 

 

This is one of those posts where I don’t have an answer. Just a bunch of questions from a Bewildered American. 

 

(I know this is a political post, I would love to hear your comments…let’s just keep it polite!)