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Yep, it’s that time again, New Year’s Eve.  Resolution Time.  Time to decide how to Change My Life in the next 365 days…  Hmmm…  Some years I side with the folks who don’t make any resolutions and don’t set any goals because honestly, what’s the point?  If it’s something you’re going to do, you’ll do it anyway whether or not you’ve written it down on a list and set yourself a Must Do By date.  The rest of the time the folks who challenge themselves with a list of things they would like to attain always catch my attention because usually I need all the motivation I can get and sometimes a deadline is helpful.  However, if I’ve ever accomplished a New Year’s Goal in my life it was most likely an accident because I tend to start more projects than I finish, something my mother noted time and time again as a child.  Ooohhh – that’s something I could put on my list this year, finishing what I start!  Nah… where’s the fun in having everything completed?  It just means that you have to start something new all the time whereas if you have several projects going at once you always have something to work on.  Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself…

Okie dokie, here are a few things that have been rattling around my brain and just might be possible to complete in 2013:

One blog finished and posted every week
Lose 20 more pounds
Make more home-cooked meals
Attend a different church
Go spend some time at the ocean
Plant more roses

That’s 6 things…should be a manageable number and each goal is sufficiently different enough from each other to make life interesting this year.  The one I see as being the most difficult to accomplish?  Attending another church, something my husband and I have been “discussing” for over a year now.  The easiest?  Planting more roses, although I am particular about my roses, lol!  They have to be more than one color (not a solid color, red, pink, etc.) AND smell nice because life is too short to plant roses that don’t smell good.  The exceptions are miniature roses, because I’m not sure I’ve found any that smell at all so far, and my Climbing Joseph’s Coat – it’s so pretty I can overlook the lack of fragrance.j  But back to my resolutions…

<thoughtful silence> Nope, that’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  Six areas I’d like to see change in sometime during the next 365 days, although sooner would be better than later.  May your New Year be blessed and prosperous and may good things come your way in 2013!

 

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Our 8-day Christmas Adventure began the Thursday before Christmas in a suburban – my husband and I in the captain’s chairs up front and our oldest daughter in the first bench seat back and our youngest daughter in the bench seat after that.  It was warm, spacious and my youngest spent the first half of our 8-hour drive fast asleep while I put a movie on my laptop for my oldest and I to watch while my husband listened to the audio.  It was a good trip, lots of pretty scenery as we wound our way through the river road, up and over the pass and through tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere.  Although we could see snow here and there the roads were bare and dry and we arrived safely at my father and step-mom’s house about 10 pm.

Unfortunately we could only stay for two nights and one full day but it was a nice day, we had a fabulous Christmas dinner of ham, assorted salads, scalloped potatoes, olives and finished dinner up with a lovely banana cream pie.  We exchanged gifts and watched a couple of movies together, played a few games of cards and while it didn’t work out to have a private conversation with my father I took a walk with my step-mother and we talked a bit.  It’s been a rough year with them, relationship-wise, and I think the visit helped to start the healing process – at least with her and hopefully I can work on re-establishing communication with my father this coming year.  He gave me one of his old cameras after I mentioned mine was broke – and I wasn’t even hinting or asking for another camera, I was just trying to explain why I wasn’t taking family pictures while he was!  It was kind of an awkward time but overall it was a good visit with family.

Saturday we drove to one of my brother’s house, about a 4 hour trip, but an hour or so away our transmission broke and we lost Overdrive, 2nd gear and Reverse.  Holding our breath we slowly drove the rest of the way to my brothers but we made it safely, yay!

At my brother’s house on the backside of a mountain we had a get-together with both of him and his family and my other brother and his family came over as well.  Unfortunately our sister was sick and unable to come to Christmas; I missed seeing her so much!  We had ham, mashed potatoes, green salad, a veggie tray, chips, sodas and baked goodies for dessert.  Instead of buying everyone a gift we did a White Elephant Gift Exchange instead and I took lots of fun pictures of the 10 cousins opening and “stealing” gifts.  When it was all over and I shared childhood memories of the times before our parents had divorced with the brother that was hosting us and his wife.  She seemed fascinated but he looked unhappy.  I wondered if it was because so many of my memories included the phrase “I knew I couldn’t tell Mom because she would get mad” or “Mom was so mad at me”, something my sister-in-law noticed and commented on.  The next day when my husband asked him about it my brother said he barely remembered my stories because he was too tired.  Hmmm…  That night it snowed almost a foot – if we thought it was beautiful before, wow!

Sunday morning we borrowed a teeny, tiny pickup truck from my brother, squeezed our two teenaged daughters into the side-facing rear seats and traveled through a Winter Wonderland – pine trees with snowy boughs and unplowed roads, snowflakes falling as we drove, we even saw a moose with huge antlers!  It was a much-needed infusion of Christmas…  We went to church with my husband’s parents, had lunch and then visited some friends before going back to my brother’s house to spend more time with them.

Monday, Christmas Eve, belonged to my husband’s parents.  We limped our suburban into town, unloaded our stuff at their place and then my husband and his father dropped the burb off at a transmission shop and then we spent a few hours waiting for my brother-in-law and family to show up.  Once they arrived we opened stockings and presents (Christmas is very Proper there) and then we had a family meal together.  Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, soda, pumpkin and apple pies.  I am so hammed out…  Then we sat around and played  with our presents until my youngest fell asleep on the couch.  At that point we said we needed to go to the hotel and rest because we were exhausted and getting sick.  We were reluctantly allowed to borrow a vehicle escorted to the hotel with a promise that my in-laws would return to share the hotel’s continental breakfast with us in the morning so no sleeping in for us.  We were so tired we just sat in the beds and watched “The Mummy”.  As soon as it ended we turned the lights out and I think we were all asleep by 9 pm.

Christmas morning we woke about 9:30 to the knowledge that my husband’s parents were on their way and would be waiting for us in the lobby for breakfast.  They were as good as their word and we spent about an hour enjoying homemade waffles and what not from the hotel’s breakfast selection.  We then rushed back to the room to check out by 11 am and headed back to their place for another few hours.  The trip was beginning to feel about two days too long at that point – and we couldn’t even go home because our suburban was still in the shop!  But we had a good visit with his parents and then came the best part of the trip (for me!)

 

Christmas afternoon we went to my best friend from high school’s house, yay!  It was like coming home…  It was so nice to hang out and visit with her and her family again – we even got an extra day with them because the transmission was still in the shop and we couldn’t leave on Wednesday as planned.  We spent some time together, talked a little, watched some movies as families and had a blast playing around with my new camera and looking at some art books.

Thursday morning we said goodbye to my friend and her family, picked up the burb out of the shop (over $3,000 – oh crap!), returned my in-laws car and headed towards home, arriving just after dark about 6 pm.  We unloaded the car and I discovered one of my daughters left my pillow in the car so I headed off to Wally World to get another one.

Friday my husband and I both went to work for a one-day workweek, which that and being casual jeans day for me were the only redeeming features about it, and today, Saturday, I slept in until 1 pm – it was wonderful!  I am hoping to make it all day without having to get dressed…

And that was our Christmas adventure… so now you know why I don’t write a lot about the everyday details – they’re kind of boring.  I did not recapture the Christmas Spirit but I did catch a glimpse of it here and there and that will have to be enough for this year.  Next year I will continue my quest to experience the peace and wonder of Christmas time…next year maybe I will come closer!

I think that as I grew up I realized that, more often than not, I received great gifts at Christmas but was not able to give “good” gifts at Christmas time (and birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) primarily due to lack of funding.  This realization caused a little part of me to die.  Especially since I married into a family where gifts are really important to them and they seem to feel I don’t love them very much when they don’t receive as much from me as they give.  <disgusted noise>

For years I would spend October and November blissfully make things at home and have them all ready to give at Christmas with joy in my heart and I loved the giving!  I made terrible tasting brownies in a cute canning jar, poorly made necklaces (my first attempts at beading) with a beautiful stone centerpiece, “kisses” from my daughters  blown into an empty jar that I covered with a mosaic of decorative glass and black mortar, sponges from the dollar store hand-cut into animal shapes that required significant imagination to identify, I wrote and recorded songs and gave out the CD’s and I think I even wrote terrible poetry one year for Christmas.  (Good thing you’re not related to me, huh?)

I guess it was last year when I finally realized that nobody really wants these things I make and what I had been viewing as their look of wide-eyed wonderment as they accepted my gifts was actually a startled look and their emotional “Wow, that’s really something!” was not necessarily a compliment.  Hmmm…  However, the knowledge that my gifts from the heart are not appreciated like a professional, mall-bought gift would have been did not stop me as once again, this year for my parents and in-laws, I have forced my family to put their handprints on a canvas and then I turned them into a “family tree” painting – 11 x 17 or some larger size… my siblings are sooo very lucky that the paintings are very time-consuming and I couldn’t make them one too 😉

So it is in my heart to give.  Give, give, give.  I try to give all year long and I find that when I cannot purchase a gift I am driven by something inside me to make a gift so I have something to give…something, anything!  When I don’t have the time, money or energy to buy/make a gift it changes me inside and life becomes a little less enjoyable.  Is that weird?  I cannot live a full and happy life without giving.

It is something to reflect on – is feeling like I am not able to give causing my depression and changing my views on life?  And how do I stop caring if the receiver thinks my gift is “tacky homemade”?  Good gift-givers give something the receiver wants to have while it seems like all I can do to give is whip up something from stuff around the house or bargain finds that I hope they like.  Most of the time that is the best I can do but is it enough?  Is it OK?

I try to accept all gifts as if they are my very favorite thing in the world and just what I wanted…even if it’s 2 sizes too small and neon pink…  I think that is the right way to receive a gift and I have tried to teach my children to respond to gifts they are given that way as well. In my opinion the receiver needs to show the giver that you are happy with whatever they gave you and never to give the impression that their gift wasn’t “good enough” because they didn’t have to give you anything at all.  Gifts are “bonus”, a “perk”, if you will, of a relationship and should never be expected.  The expectation that gifts will be received at a specific time/place or that a gift will be a certain thing is a Joy killer for everybody – don’t be that person!  Accept the gift in the spirit it was given and love the giver for loving you enough to spend their own precious time and resources on you.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, I hope that you are appreciated more than your gifts and that you appreciate the givers in your life more than what you receive.  This is one of the biggest parts to the meaning of Christmas – unconditional love.

“If you think your life is hard, imagine mine.”  These are the words I spoke to my teenaged daughter because my husband, her father, was upset with her and wanted her to skip a fun choir activity after their annual Christmas concert.  She stared at me, wide-eyed “Are you actually going to tell him that?”  No look of shock or surprise on her face, no flicker of “I never thought of that”, only a fascinating mix of awe and horror that I might actually say those words aloud to him.

I’m waiting until after our Christmas travels to have a very unpleasant conversation with my husband.  It may result in our separation, maybe even in divorce, who knows.  But at this point I almost don’t care.  What I do care about is spending 7 days and 1200 miles in the same car as a man who oozes hostility when he’s upset and/or frustrated.  Also, I want to have this particular conversation safely away from our teenaged children, who don’t need to see or be a part of the drama.

Things that I should not have waited 18 ½ years to say (in random order):

1.  You’re controlling.  I feel like I have to maintain constant communication with you or you get “grumpy” with me.  I call you on my way to work, at lunch and on my way home because I’d rather hold a shallow, meaningless conversation with you than have you upset with me.  I rarely have lunch with my co-workers because I feel like I have to call you every day.  I use the excuse that the bus is too loud to talk on the phone with you because it’s about the only “me” time I get anymore, 30 minutes at a time, twice a day.  When you and I talk on the phone it seems like we only talk as long as you want to talk.  The minute you want to call someone else or do another activity that you can’t talk on the phone at the same time you tell me you’re ”very  busy” and you have to go.  When I try to end our phone conversations you give me a guilt trip about not wanting to talk to you.

2.  You’re self-centered.  It feels like when you want to spend money on something not in the budget you “ask” me if it’s OK and more often than not you cajole me into go along with get what you want, or you just tell me “I need this”, regardless of whether the purchase requires a payday loan or not.  When I want to buy something that’s not in the budget it seems like you tell me “I don’t want to buy anything we have to get a loan for” and try to talk me out of it.

3.  You don’t know what love is.  It feels like the only time you tell me you love me is when you want to buy something (or when you have bought something) but rarely at any other time.  Except when I ask you directly for a compliment you never say I’m pretty even though I’ve lost 35 pounds this last year and am looking better than I have in forever.  Last month I wore a dress to work for the first time in 6 years and I thought I looked fabulous – and said so.  You never once said I looked good (or bad) and when we talked on the phone later that day you questioned my motives for wearing the dress.  I feel like you only hold my hand or put your arm around me to possess me, to show other people I belong to you.  I can’t remember you ever touching my face or my hair affectionately and you so rarely tell me that I mean anything to you that it’s easy to believe I don’t mean anything to you at all.

We have had most of this little chat before and he tried very hard to say that I looked nice and that he loved me without being prompted to and it was nice to see him make the effort.  Unfortunately, the output of words I needed to hear only lasted for about six weeks and then it dried up like a seasonal creek.

I started this blog before we left on our Christmas trip and am finishing it at halfway through our trip…  Things are actually going better than I expected and I am actually enjoying being around him 24/7, which seriously surprises me.  What changed?  I’m not sure but I certainly don’t want to rock the boat at this point.  Maybe the true Christmas Spirit has finally touched our hearts and softened us towards each other again?  Hard to say.  I just know that as far as the emotional temperature of our little family goes, it’s been pretty good!  <whew!>

But I know we’re going to have to talk and work these things out…and that it will probably get ugly…and that I’m not looking forward to it.  Wish me luck.

Because not all of my days are bad…  🙂   Friday, (yesterday), I had a good day at work – I completed all my tasks and was able to help other people with theirs.  Then I came home and shared a meal with my family and we worked on tidying up the house.  At the end of the day we smiled and laughed and giggled just before bedtime.  These are the moments that make family precious.  These are the kinds of times I want to have with my family.  Love, laughter, good food and a funny movie where we can all laugh so hard at that some of us end up rolling around on the floor with the side splits from giggling so hard! Especially now, at Christmastime, good times with family is what really what it’s all about – and should be how we live life all year round.   Laughter, Acceptance, Good Times, Kindness and Sharing…all the things that are found wrapped up in Love.

 

So Who Am I?  I am….. a girl.  That is always the first defining word that comes to mind.  Not female, not lady, not woman, not wife, not mother but girl.  Not a fancy-schmancy, frilly kind of girl either but a practical, no-nonsense type of girl.I was always too serious to be considered a child but nowhere near enough experience to be counted as an adult either, that’s how I was in my junior high and high school years and how I still feel today – I don’t have enough, I am not enough to be who I need to be and do what needs to be done.

Does the fact that I prefer the term “girl” over “lady” or “woman” mean that mean I haven’t grown up yet?  Hard to say.  As a child I used to tell people that I never wanted to grow up so that’s obviously been something I’ve resisted my entire life.  Why?  There was a Star Trek episode that I really related to – it was a planet of children (who aged very slowly so they stayed children for far longer than normal) but when they finally hit they change they became “Grups” – short for “Grownups”.  Like the Star Trek show I watched, the “Grups” in my life never seemed to have any fun and were always full of “Don’t” instead of “Do” and they always said “You can’t” more than “You can”.  I understand a little more of that now, being a parent myself.  While I try to be “Fun Mom” and “Cool Mom” it’s just not always possible because I can never say “yes” all the time.  There are times that I do have to say “No” and “Don’t” and “You Can’t” and while I hate having to be that person the things my kids ask for are more often than not impossible and/or impractical to make happen.  It is by this I know that I must have grown up, at least a tiny little bit, because I can say “No” when no needs to be said.

There was an interesting quiz I took when I was in high school and I still remember some of the questions and my answers vividly.  You can take it too, go get a pen and paper and write your answers down:

1.  You find yourself in the woods – describe the woods:

2.  As you walk through the woods you see a cabin, you go up and knock on the door – describe the person who opens the door:

3.  You leave the cabin and keep walking through the woods, eventually you find a child, describe the child:

There may have been more questions but those are the ones I remember.  What are your answers?  The essence of my answers were as follows, although I was a lot more wordy back in high school (I know that’s hard to believe…):

Describe the woods:  Dark, can’t see the sun through the trees and there’s a bear nearby so I need to be very careful it doesn’t.  Someplace to step carefully and tread lightly so nobody else, especially the bear, knows I’m there.

Describe the person who opens the door:  A man, tall with long hair and a kind face and a gentle smile.  Dressed comfortably but clean and neat with lots of muscles – a hardworking man.

Describe the child:  A girl, in tattered clothing with long, uncombed hair and a dirty, tear-stained face.  She is lost and it looks like nobody cares for her.

So big deal, right?  The final statement of the “quiz” was that how you described the woods was how you viewed your life.  How you described the person who answered the door of the cabin was who you wanted your spouse to be.  How you described the child is how you saw yourself.

For me it was dead on.  My life seemed dark and scary and honestly, my mother was the bear.  Those were the actual physical characteristics of the man I hoped to marry someday and to be fair I did get most of those – except he’s never had long hair in his life and his face reflects a great many things other than kindness with a gentle smile most of the time, although he is trying to do better and has greatly improved over the years.  But it was my description of the little girl that took my breath away.  It was exactly the way I felt, and to some degree I still feel this way.  Alone, uncared for and unloved without my very basic emotional needs ever being met – for so long not even realizing that I had basic emotional needs that were left wanting.  I didn’t realize until I was in my 30’s that this was not normal because it was all I knew, both in my upbringing and in my marriage.

Consequently I feel like I haven’t been a very good mother to my children, who will soon be graduating high school and are far past the point of a “do-over”.  But I’ve been told those feelings are normal in every parent, even the people that I think are Super Mom and Super Dad to their kids so maybe I haven’t been as horrible as I’m afraid I have.  I still don’t know if being grown-up is worth all the hype though, there’s an awful lot of bills involved…

What is it that I didn’t want to give up by becoming an adult?  I’m not entirely sure, except that I never truly believed I had what it takes to be on my own.  I didn’t go to college because I didn’t know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and I didn’t want to go to school for 10 years switching from one degree to another while I tried to make up my mind and accumulate all that debt.  The thing is, my mother was a single mom with four kids, I probably would have qualified for grants up the wazoo but nobody ever encouraged me to pursue any kind of financial assistance whatsoever so I entered the work force (fast food) and had several jobs in the three years I was out of high school before I got married, and then we had kids and it has been just a juggling act between jobs (receptionist-type) and kids for the last 18+ years.  On a side note, I’ve also sold almost every home party product there is but that is a blog for another day…

Regardless of my wishes I did manage to become an adult, as is testified by the fact that this year I both turned 39 and became the proud owner of a CPAP machine that makes me sound like Darth Vader all night long.  Frequently, however, I don’t feel very grown up and most days I still don’t want to BE grownup.  Go figure.  But the first word I always use to define myself is “girl” so there it is.  I am a girl, grown up or not, here I come!

In late October I visited a Winter Wonderland a few hours away from our home.  There was thick, fluffy snow falling down on the pine trees, Christmas carols, snowball fights, and busses getting stuck in the snow.  Listening to “Christmas songs being sung by the choir” while the snow fell outside all I could think of is “Christmas is here, Christmas is now”.  I closed my eyes and let it all wash over me, I let everything go and held on to the peace and wonder of Love come down.  Renewed and refreshed, I was filled with contentment and – for once – ready to go home.  The whole experience was just so beautiful and it filled my heart with wonder and awe of Christmas that I knew as a child…and some how lost.

When did Christmas lose it’s magic for me?  It wasn’t even about the presents because we didn’t get that many, it was about the atmosphere, the peace and sense of hope that came with the music and the tree and decorations every year.  Christmas was peace in a time of despair, a ray of hope in the darkness.  I’m thinking that Christmas is a heart-set more than a mind-set, but something changed – what was it?

Christmas didn’t change, I changed…  I stopped believing, I lost my hope.  Where is it?  I want it back!  The joy, the magic, the hope, the belief, everything, I want it back…  How does one wounded, worn-down and very weary grown-up get back to having the awe and wonder of a child?  It is not in my strength to accomplish, especially when it is barely in my heart to desire anymore.

Christmas carols, baking cookies and making candies, visiting with family that you hardly ever see, decorating the tree and having parties – these are the things that make up the basic traditions of Christmas, right?  So this year, I am trying once again to go through the motions in hopes that they will awaken something in my heart.  So far it’s the 9th of December and I don’t know that I’m feeling much yet but I will be helping one of my daughters have a choir Christmas party this weekend and all her friends love me and call me “Mom” so I’m hoping the joy of being around people who like being around me will help restore some of that Christmas spirit…or perhaps a glimmer of any spirit at all.

Awe and wonder, child-like faith, unconditional trust, genuine love, these are things I feel like I had as a child and have had them torn out of me as I grew up.  Or maybe I gave them up in order to build my defensive walls – not knowing the true cost of protecting myself was losing myself.  Bilbo Baggins said in The Lord of the Rings “I feel thin, like butter scraped over too much bread” and that is a very apt description of where I have been for a long time now.  I feel like I need to gather myself together, to bring everything that I think I am and what I think I love into one spot to examine them.  To ask “Is this truly me?”  When I go through my house to de-clutter I always have three piles:  “To Keep”, “To Give Away” and “To Throw Away” but when one goes through their heart the only options are “Keep” and “Toss”.  Unfortunately the “Toss” pile tends to primarily consist of things I don’t want to be any more, not actually things that I genuinely am not.  The pieces in the “Toss” bin that are a part of me whether I want them or not are the products of my life choices and therefore must be consciously un-chosen in order to remove their power over me, not merely discarded like a sweater donated to the GoodWill.  It is hard to un-choose a choice that has become a habit and so much a part of my personality that other people define me by them.

This Christmas will be an whirlwind of activities…in seven days we will drive over 1200 miles and visit my father and step-mother, my brothers and sister, friends, my husband’s family, and then back home.  After which I have to get up early and go to work the very next day – I’m going to need a vacation from my vacation, ugh!  Maybe we’ve made Christmas too hectic and don’t have time for the magic anymore…but how do we stop being busy?  Or perhaps the bigger question is how do we stop being so busy without offending all of our friends and relatives?  Christmas is supposed to be a time to share love and laughter, not hunker down and wait for the candy cane hurricane to pass and yet that’s all I want to do, this year and for the last several years.  I guess I’ll see what this holiday season brings…

In my  quest to “find myself” I realize I must acknowledge my upbringing – I was raised by a very proud woman and I see how sometimes I still walk in her footsteps despite my best efforts to be someone else. Perhaps it was the same for her as well. Caught in her mother’s shadow, unable to break free.

My mother was the oldest of 8 siblings, 6 girls and 2 boys (in the middle, of course). Raised in the back country of a lush land with heavy winters she had all the usual stories of walking up hill, barefoot in the snow both ways to school, never enough to eat or wear and making do, doing over or doing without. My mother also told scary stories about her childhood:

Her dad had sex with the babysitter.
Her mom killed a lover for being unfaithful to her (still being a married woman herself…)
Her dad was going to kill her for being a Christian but her mother stepped in and took the beating.
Her teacher snuck her extra food from the cafeteria for years which she took home and fed her family with until somebody found out and put an end to it.
Her pastor sexually abused her.
Her father sexually abused her.
Lots of men sexually abused her.
Her mother crippled, maimed and killed much loved pets to hurt her and her siblings.
Her mother was a practicing witch.
Her youngest sister has a different father than the other 5 siblings.
After they moved out of her childhood home everything living that was placed in her mother’s bedroom by the new owners died – birds, plants, everything.

And the list goes on…

Do I believe all of it? I used to but I don’t know what to believe anymore. After my mother’s death I went through her papers and found letter after letter to people she was or had been close to filled with criticism and poisonous words against them.  No wonder so few people attended her funeral…

What I do know is that I grew up never knowing the majority of my extended family and to this day most of them don’t know me. I know that whenever her mother was in town my mother kept me and my siblings indoors for fear that Grandma would drive by and harm us – in the days before drive-by shootings were popular. I know that my mother asked me, when I was in junior high school, if anyone was sexually abusing me because I was acting like a victim. I told her I didn’t think so but it planted a seed in my head and I tried very hard to think of some time I could have possibly been abused because if my mother said it, it must be true, eh? Pleasing my mother was so strongly ingrained into my head that I tried to find a way that I could have been a victim because that seemed to be the answer she was looking for.  I know now how twisted that is.  I know that my mother accused not less than 10 men throughout her life of sexually abusing either herself, my sister or my children. I know there was something wrong with my mother’s mental processes. My current guess is that she was maybe bi-polar. Essentially I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional, mentally and emotionally abusive family but because there was no sexual or physical abuse, nothing that would really grab the attention of teachers or doctors so I just grew up thinking it was “normal”.

My mother married my father while they were both in Bible College. Being the oldest of a hoard of youngsters my mother, like her mother, was a strong and dominating woman, making quick decisions and expecting to be obeyed. My father was the second youngest of 10 siblings and, from what I’ve been told (by my mother…), also had a very strong and dominating woman for a mother. When my father married my mother he just traded one boss for another and I doubt his life was pleasant.

My mother didn’t want children at first but said that before she became pregnant with me she changed her mind and then did want children.  She was so shocked when, in late high school, I told her how unloved and wanted I felt for my entire life.  My mother never told me I was pretty or that I did a good job at anything. Later in life she explained that she didn’t want me to get a big head so she would even stop other people from complimenting me as a little girl. The words she did say were mostly pointing out the negatives of what was done incorrectly by myself or anyone else, consequently, I grew up believing that I was ugly and never good enough and by the time she began to change her speech pattern (when I was in late high school) to include compliments toward me I couldn’t believe her, I was only suspicious of her.  I was in junior high the one and only time I told her I was sucida.  She verbally lashed out at me with anger in her voice and told me how selfish suicide was and therefore how selfish I was for considering it.  No empathy, no love, no “How can I help?” or “Do you need someone to talk to?”, just anger.

If my memory serves me correctly, my mother left my father when I was in 5th grade, they tried getting back together when I was in 6th grade and then officially divorced when I was in 7th grade.  My mother met my step-father when I was in 8th grade, married him when I was in 9th grade and had my sister when I was in 10th grade.

My step-father was only 12 older than me and I think he was 15 years younger than my mother – and he had four children from a previous marriage. I’ve always looked older than I really am so at first glance people often assumed that my sister was mine and his and that my mother was the baby’s grandma who lived with us. Awkward! My step-father was/is a mechanical genius but had a very quick temper and frequently threatened us with physical violence, not against the disobedient child but against a sibling.  If we didn’t ask how high when he said jump he would most often threaten to punch my littlest brother in the face. To be fair though, I don’t actually remember that he ever followed through with his threats but I know I shed lots of tears in private and I suspect my brothers did too. I could have handled violence done to myself but when he threatened my little brothers there was nothing else to do but obey. And before you get carried away thinking he was a monster, none of his demands were terrible, they were things like clean up the living room, do your dishes, don’t wear those clothes or that makeup… When my mother finally divorced him a lifetime later (2 ½ years) none of us, including my sister, his daughter, didn’t see him again for over 20 years. Today we are beginning to be friends and he has no idea that his behavior towards us was abusive, for him it was normal. I think the thing that actually shocked me the most when I met him again was that he views even me and my brothers (ex-step-children) as his own children that our mother took away from him when they divorced.

Their separation and later divorce seemed quite violent at the time but now that I am older I realize it was actually pretty tame, just very emotionally charged. My step-father was angry about something (when wasn’t he?) and he went searching through the house for his gun. My mother, who somehow had the foresight to dismantle the gun and hide the pieces and bullets in separate locations throughout the house, wound up being shoved through a wall and had a broken collarbone before he finally left.  Just that by itself probably qualifies me as a Post-Trauamatic Stress victim but that diagnosis was still pretty new and undiscovered territory back then so my brothers and I were left to cope with it alone, as best we could.

I was 16 and a junior in high school when I was thrust into the position of being a second mother to my 18 month old sister because of the divorce. I drove her to daycare, went to high school, came back and worked at the daycare until closing and drove her home. For years she would mix-up my name with “Mom” just like a mother runs through all her children’s names before finding the right one, “Jerry, I mean Tom”… (Now she is old enough that we can be really good friends and enjoy hanging out together.)

All my life my mother would say “When you turn 18 I’ll buy you a set of suitcases and help you pack.” At about age 17 she started saying stuff like “You know you don’t have to leave the house when you turn 18, right?” Ummm… no, I didn’t know that and yes, I was definitely moving out. (I have been very careful not to say this phrase to my own girls.)  Looking back I truly wonder if my mother was bi-polar.

Once again, I am out of time.  I could probably write a book about my upbringing but you get the jist of it.  Lots of negativity, not very much affection or visible love.  It’s a wonder I’m still sane – or am I?  lol.  Unfortunately, because I never saw a “functioning” family growing up and don’t really know what that looks like, I’ve brought my mother’s parenting skills into my own parenthood and I feel so sorry for my children.  I did the best I could, although she probably did too, and all I can do right now is pray that they make a sucessful transition to adulthood without needing too much counseling as they grow older.  God save us all!

Like millions of Americans I have a job.  It’s actually the best job I’ve ever had but just like everybody else I go to work because I get benefits and a paycheck, not because I love my boss.  My Obedience equals Pay and Benefits, in other words I obey for a reward.

In the book of John, Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commandments” so it looks like Love (A) equals Obedience (B).  Or maybe it’s because true love produces devotion so strong that when you love somebody, really love somebody, you spend most of your time trying to think about how to make them happy by doing things for them.  Maybe the bigger problem is that I don’t really think of pleasing the one you love as Obedience but I guess it is.  When the one you love wants something done, you do it with a smile on your face and a spring in your step because making them happy makes you happy!  Ah, those were the days…

Obedience carries with it the connotation of “duty”, “obligation” and” task” but making someone you love happy is never a chore, it is a privilege.  I’m starting to wonder if that word in the Bible was translated incorrectly…or maybe we’ve just developed the wrong connotations…

There are some churches out there that have reversed those and teach that Obedience (B) equals Love (A).  Unfortunately, math doesn’t usually work in most relationships, as I tried to show with my work analogy.  I am very obedient at work because my job depends on it (and also because it is a source of pride to do a job well).  These churches that teach a person does not love God unless you obey diligently, act appropriately, dress a certain way and speak Christianise are missing the heart of the matter.  If you are “obeying” for a reward, whether here on earth or in heaven, how does that possibly translate into love?  I believe those churches destroy the reputation of “real” Christians.

In fact, “real” Christians seem almost non-existent right now.  You can usually pick out the devout Catholics and Mormons out from a crowd because they are neat in appearance, polite and kind, it’s hard to describe but they have a different look about them that makes them distinguishable from others.  In fact, one of my daughters is frequently asked if she is Mormon because she is so nice!  The Bible says that other people will know we are Christians by our love for one another and yet this is so far from the reputation Christians actually have – it’s so sad!

Sooooo… how does this connect with Twilight?  My take on Bella is that she is more selfish than not and more independent than is good for her.  She hurts people thoughtlessly, only doing what she pleases and not following the advice of anyone who is trying to help her.  Gee, who else does that sound like?  Most of us…

Edward portrays unconditional love.  All he wants is for Bella to be happy and if that means she chooses Jacob he will back away like a gentleman and deal with it, no matter what it costs him, no matter how she hurts him in making choices that she thinks will make her “happy”.  The consequence, or result, however you choose to view it, is that Bella is free to do whatever she wants whenever she wants to do it she and runs back to Edward when it suits her.  Hmmm… we all have free will to decide if we are going to love God or not and our choices not to serve God, not to please him, not to make God happy really hurt Him because He really loves us.  And God loves us enough to allow us to make our own choices, to do what we think will make us happy.  Unlike Twilight, however, God will reward us according to our actions and we will get what we have earned, good or bad.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT saying in any way shape or form that Edward the vampire is a representation of Jesus… I am simply noting the similarities between the way that Jesus loves us and the portrayal of Edward’s love for Bella.  Even the World can get something right every once in a while, although, being the World, it does tend to twist and change the truth until it’s almost unrecognizable.

Thanks to all the movies and romance novels out there today unconditional love seems like it’s been exiled but it does exist!  It is real, we are all loved by God with a depth and passion that makes Edwards love for Bella pale in comparison and yet we have conditioned ourselves not to believe that could possibly be true because love like that only happens in fairy tales.

I’ve been working on this for almost a week so while I’m not done searching and questioning I will stop here for today.  Like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I want the fairy tale…