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Oh Good Lord, save me, I don’t want to be this strong all the time…  actually, make that most of the time… or ever.  <rolling eyes>

I went to Dictionary.com for a definition of the word “Strong” and here’s some  excerpts (from the World Dictionary section):

Not easily broken or injured; having resolute will or morally firm and incorruptible character; intense in quality – not faint or feeble.

There are very few days when I actually feel strong.  Most of the time I wonder if I’ll make it through to the next day but when I look back on my life and what I’ve come through, I AM strong!  I am The Little Engine That Could (I think I can, I think I can…), I am Dory on Finding Nemo (Just keep swimming…), I am Winston Churchill (Nevah give up, nevah surrender!)  I have a strength that lives inside me like a teeny, tiny force field and it pops up just enough to protect the fragile parts of me through the hardest times.  The Bible says “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and while I can’t say I am always joyful, more like I’m rarely joyful, when walking the rocky roads I do know that strength didn’t come from me.  Jumping into Survival Mode when trials come is me, actually Surviving the trial is God.

I think that being strong comes from receiving strength from sources outside of yourself.  At the very least I know I can’t create strength in my own heart or will myself to be strong.  At any rate, strength has come to me recently in a few different ways:
1.  I’ve identified where my husband is at emotionally so now I have a better idea of how to communicate with him and respond back to him.
2.  I’ve been reading a book “Victorious Eschatology” by Harold R. Eberle and Martin Trench and it’s completely changed my view of Christianity and the world around me.
3.  I planned a road trip to Reno with one of my two best friends, whoo hoo!

So about my husband first – there was this big “Whew!” moment when I realized that he wasn’t emotionally all grown up like I had been assuming he was for the  last 20 years.  It’s like the feeling you get when you know you have a physical ailment but the doctors can’t figure it out and when they finally put a name on it – it’s such a relief!  You haven’t been cured and your problem hasn’t improved but now you have the name of your disease and you know how to fight it.  That was the feeling I got after defining his emotional maturity level.  Almost deliriously happy to have a diagnosis – and – I felt like I was Wonder Woman, able to “fight” his immaturity until he was “all grown up”, I can do it, da, da, da, da!  Those feelings of elation lasted… oh, just about a full day and then were immediately followed by “Oh crap, I’m married to a 40-year-old Junior High boy who still giggles (internally) and gets all excited anytime he hears the word ‘boobies'”.

Breathe, girl, just breathe…

The two-month “probation” period is over and things are noticeably better now than they were before but not as much was accomplished as I hoped there would be.  Tonight I will go with him to his counseling appointment – he actually invited me all on his own, that impressed me…  I am stronger now about being myself and not being a door mat than I was before and we are taking it one day at a time.  So far so good.  Only time can tell how this story ends.  (Update – I did go with him and it was very interesting for me.  My husband got a little bit upset because of something I said in the session but it looks like he’s going to think it over and we’ll talk it out later.  Still a big improvement from how it used to be so yay!)

I’m going to skip ahead to the road trip – I am so excited and this is a major infusion of Strength to me!  What started out as a very hurtful exclusion by the choir teacher (I told him at the beginning of the year that I needed to go on all of my younger daughter’s out-of-town field trips for her medical safety because she goes to the ER so often for migraines and he purposefully didn’t leave me a chaperone spot on this particular trip) has turned into a Girls Weekend Extraordinaire!  My best friend from high school is flying down to meet me and then we are going to drive to Reno and have ourselves a good time while (nearly) ignoring the annoying choir teacher.

We will go to my daughter’s performances and be as embarrassing to her as possible because I’ve reached an age where embarrassing my children has become one of my greatest delights in life, ha, ha!  And we will take lots and lots of pictures of her but other than that we will stay as far away from the high school group as we can and have fun on our own but still be a short ways away in case my daughter has to go to the ER while we’re in Reno.

What all is there to do in Reno any?  I could use some feedback on this…  Neither one of us drinks or smokes and I’m sure we’ll throw a quarter or two into the machines but that’s not how we’ll be spending our days.  I’m kind of thinking I’d like to come back with a henna tattoo of a butterfly on the inside of my left wrist to see if I would want a real one in that spot.

I see that Lake Tahoe is a short distance away but what’s really caught my eye is the California coast is only 2 1/2 hours away from Reno, aaauuugh!  Do I dare go that far away from my daughter just to satisfy my own longings to be at the ocean shores when the whole point of me going to Reno is to be there immediately if she has to go to the ER?  Grrr…  No.  That would make me a Bad Mom.  A title I have earned more than once before but right now I will sacrifice my saltwater cravings to be there for her.  Maybe someday she’ll even appreciate it…

At any rate, not this weekend but next weekend I’m going to Reno, yippee!

OK, now on to the book, which is actually the most strengthening thing of all to me, surprisingly enough.  Don’t ask me how to pronounce the second word of the title but it’s basically all about the “end times” and how the two authors are interpreting scriptures as to how the end of this age will come.

I’ve always been taught, my whole life, in all the churches I’ve been to, that life will only get worse until the 2nd Coming.  The earth will be filled with the most abhorrent evils ever thought of before Jesus can come back.  These two authors see, and explain very well, the scriptures quite differently. I think I’m going to need another blog posting to explain it but what it boils down to is that my heart had gradually, over the years, been going down a path of thought where “If everything is just going to get worse before it can get better why fight for justice in our nation?  Why try to get good politicians?  Why protest  our rights being taken away?  Why even try to move society towards more godly ideals? and biggest of all “Is my trying to make the world around me a better place standing in the way of Jesus coming back?  I’d better stop trying to make things better then.”  I was becoming apathetic and had lost my motivation for being a Christian.  Reading this book – everything made sense, being a Christian is still worthwhile, fighting for good leadership is important.  Sharing the Good News is fun and easy again!

I’m out of time but I just wanted to get this published.  Have a great weekend!

It’s taken me a whole week to get this down but boy oh boy, oh boy… the Orchestra trip to Portland with my youngest daughter lots of fun and had some very scary parts at the same time.  The day started far earlier than I would have chosen and we took a charter bus that had pulsing breaks and a very rough ride – seemed like the trip took forever – but we did arrive in Portland just in time for dinner.

Our first meal in Portland was in Chinatown at an amazing Chinese restaurant and the meal was served family style (they put large plates of food on the table and everybody serves themselves), it was fabulous!  Fried rice, mandarin chicken, beef and broccoli, garlic green beans, salt and pepper shrimp, egg drop soup and even more dishes that I can’t remember the names of but all yummy!  Afterwards the kids were given about 20 minutes to wander downtown.  One group of students (NOT the group I was with) found an X rated donut shop and one of them came back with a donut shaped like, ahem,well, like a twig and berries… and it was a guy who bought it – I mean come on, seriously?

The group I was with saw what I believed to be the camp of Occupy Portland and homeless people were everywhere.  One of the homeless men shook hands with one of our beautiful young girls (again, not in my group) and wouldn’t let her hand go until he managed to get a hug out of her.  That was scary for me to hear after she got back on the bus and exactly why I stayed so close to my daughter.  There were only 4 chaperons for about 35 kids so the kids were supposed to stay in groups of 4 or more – I don’t know what her fellow students were thinking or why they didn’t stop him, or did she just wander off alone?  Teenagers can be so oblivious sometimes… At any rate she came back unharmed and didn’t think it was any big deal.

This morning the old bus driver tucked his shirt into his tighty whities, which were unfortunately riding higher than jeans – oh my eyes!  He was a nice guy, old enough to be my father, maybe even my grandfather but boy, oh boy, did he need help with his clothing for most of the trip!

I brought the board game “Quelf” and it was soooo much fun to watch 8 kids play with a bunch more watching.  If you haven’t played it you’re really missing out.  It’s very random and goofy – great for bringing a group that doesn’t know each other very well together or making family time better.  It was worth every penny!

The Chamber Orchestra was the group that went and they also had 2 String Quartets.  One of the String Quartets placed 2nd in the entire thing, they scored 97.5 out of 100 and the school that beat them was from a great big giant school in the Seattle area so we felt like we did pretty good!

We wandered around Downtown Portland from 7:30 pm – 10 pm on a Saturday night.  My daughter was trying to convince me that I didn’t have to stay with her every moment of the trip and that she should be able to go with the other kids… without me. Heck no!  I personally don’t see how any teacher, much less two of them could think it’s a good idea to turn a bunch of teenagers loose in downtown Portland and trust them to find their way back on the light-rail system to the charter bus… but I remember when I was in high school the same exact thing happened to me, I was with a group of kids from my high school and we made it to a premiere music event and the folks in charge let us roam the downtown streets of the state capitol until 10 or 11 pm…  It’s strange to see how much more evil is in this world now than there was 20 years ago and yet all the kids still made it back to the bus safely.  It’s just not something I would do if I were in charge, that’s for sure!

Sunday we “slept in”, ha, ha and then boarded the bus for the long trip home.  I spent most of the bus ride watching the series “Taken” by Stephen Spielberg.  We came home and went to bed early, my daughter had to go to school the next morning but I had wisely taken the day off and so I think I went to bed at 9:30 pm Sunday night and didn’t get out of bed until 5 pm Monday evening… It was wonderful!

I received a thank you email from the orchestra teacher – she said I was an excellent chaperon and she was glad to have me.  That was really nice because I felt like I kind of “forced” my way into being a chaperon because of my daughter’s medical issues and she would have rather had someone else be there.  The teacher even said she would recommend me to another teacher to be a chaperon on the next trip my daughter would be taking with the Jazz Band/Jazz Choir, whoo hoo!  It’s nice to do something right!

I have so many ideas on what to blog but I feel scatterbrained and unable to complete an entire blog on anything…

I want to write a letter to all my husband’s relatives (and a few of mine too) and explain my life to them so they would hopefully understand why I behave in ways they deem “rude”.  I can totally see this as something that would turn into a bestselling book/booklet and millions of people could buy it and hand it to other people and say “Just read it, this explains everything”.  Lol.

I want to write about the Orchestra trip to Portland with my youngest daughter… okie dokie, what I wrote here is actually long enough – and crazy enough – to be its own post so look for it soon 🙂

I want to write about passing Day 30 and how my husband has stayed Prince Charming 98% of the time – a new record for him!  The biggest proof so far of his new-found love and devotion for me is the fact that I mentioned at some point that I only own two bras and one of them has a broken underwire that pokes and pinches me.  He actually went to Walmart, on his very own, and purchased two bras – and even got the size right – although though it nearly embarrassed him to death to be seen anywhere near women’s undergarments in public, much less than purchasing them with a male checker.  He said he was nervous and beet red and kept looking around for another checker… I found that to be hilarious and bordering on true romance at the same time.

I want to write about the beauty of the waterfalls that seem to be everywhere and the greenness of spring that has already come, at least to Portland.  Visual beauty restores peace in my soul and I start to feel again.  There is so much water here that everything is alive and green – even mundane landscaping seems beautiful to me, is that weird?  Maybe I should move to Portland or Seattle someday?

I want to write about work and how I’m feeling like I will never be fast enough to do a good job like the other girls but I’m confident that I am doing my very best and truly can’t do any better.  I am and always have been very thorough in whatever job I do… but always at the cost of speed.  I’m not a slow poke by any means but I’ve never been Speedy Gonzalez either.  At this point I’m kind of waiting for them to fire me in the not-so-distant future and hoping I can talk them into just laying me off instead because A) I believe I was poorly trained and have brought that to their attention many times and B) My medical issues truly do prevent me from doing the job properly.  If I were laid off I could at least get unemployment and I would LOVE not to have to work for a while because both life and home are so overwhelming for me right now… all I want to do is sleep all day, every day.  I’m scared to lose this job though because the benefits are so excellent and how on earth will we be able to pay for everything my daughter with Post Concussion Symptom needs?  Also I won’t be able to get my own pills for depression, anxiety and insomnia or go to the doctor without the insurance, but then again, maybe I won’t need all the remedies for stress if I don’t have this stressful job, eh?

I want to write about the book I read on Boundaries – for several months now I’ve been on this journey of “finding myself” and never would have thought to phrase it as “I’m looking for my boundaries” because that seems like a negative thing – like someone else is trying to “fence me in” and limit me but honestly, I am looking for my boundaries because everything within my boundaries is me and defines who I am.  My skin is my physical boundary, everything outside it cannot be called by my name, but where are my emotional and relational boundaries?  The book talked about how children will either spend all their energy on surviving their childhood or they will thrive in their childhood and use all their energy to develop the skills they will need as an adult.  I’m realizing that I survived my childhood and there are a lot of skills that I don’t have.  I think my husband probably survived his childhood as well, we are each missing some of the same skills and there are a few skills that one of us lacks that but other has… it makes for a very confusing life together and I can’t imagine what we’ve done to our children.  I’m sure they survived/are surviving and can’t wait to get away from us, sorry girls.

I want to write about Panic Attacks since my body keeps trying to make me think I’m having a heart attack and I refuse to believe it anymore because every single time I’ve gone to the ER for these symptoms the doctors say it’s “just a Panic Attack” and that my heart is quite healthy… and then they hand me a very large bill, some of them I’m still paying for, ugh!

I want to write about beautiful music and how it breaks the ice around my soul and gives me emotions I haven’t had in years.  Right now the music that touches me the most is “New Age”, stuff like Yanni and Enya.  Soothing, beautiful melodies and harmonies with very few words but because of it’s categorization (New Age) my mother was very against me listening to it in high school.  She thought it was spiritually liked to some sort of cult.  There’s way more to that story but I will have to make another blog about it some other time.

I want to write about Farmville and how that stupid game gives me a sense of accomplishment just by feeding electronic animals and harvesting electronic crops that I rarely feel in the real world.  I stopped playing it for years at my husband’s request but my children started playing it so now we “farm” together – yes, I know, what a great family activity in this age of technology – it’s a true bonding activity for the girls and me. <snicker>

Each one of these topics seems worthy of its own blog entry and yet feel like I’ve just emptied my head about all of them.  I’m so tired and very weary… and yes, they really are two different things.

Right now I’m growing, I’m changing and I’m in a season of chaos.  Yet I’m learning that this is not the end, it’s actually another beginning.  Hope stirs within me like a crocus pushing through the snow in spring… winter is not quite over but the worst seems to be past and I may yet still bloom!

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!

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…