Hello Again. Can we start over?

Uck. What an ugly day yesterday was. I did pull my head out of my naval, though, and walked the kids down the street for some hot chocolate at our local coffee shop. On the way home we stopped at a grove of trees across the street from our house where they played chase and hide and seek. It reminded me of tromping through the woods at our cabin in Northern Minnesota where I loved playing in the ‘deep deep woods,’ as I called it.

We stayed in that time and space for longer than I wanted. I kept trying to edge the kids home so I could numb them with more television and go about my pouting, but they giggled and squealed and begged for ‘one more minute.’ I finally gave in and submitted to their wisdom, agreeing that fresh air and running was the better choice for the evening.

Carrie’s and Christy’s comments on yesterday’s post were encouraging in an ‘I hear ya, sista’ kind of way. I almost didn’t hit the ‘publish’ button because I thought my depressing dribble contained too much pouting. But I try to be real here, working it all out no matter how ugly. Like them, motherhood is all I ever wanted, and never much cared for building a career. I’m smart, I have an education, and I’m skilled, but I always believed that staying home with my children was the better choice for me.

I still believe that, and I have no regrets. What I need to do is start living like I believe it.

Finding Beauty in the Breakdown.

Our trip to the San Jose area couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve spent the last couple months reorganizing and reprioritizing my focus as a mother and household manager, trying to correct the part of my brain that sometimes finds it easier to focus on the latter and see the former as a distraction. I want to be present with my children. I want to enjoy them. My goal in spending ten days apart from the household duties of cleaning, laundry, and other such necessities was to develop good habits in spending time with my children.

I believe I did well in accomplishing what I set out to do. We played hide and seek. The tickle monster attacked. We went to parks and visited attractions. We left the hotel every day. We talked. And we didn’t watch t.v. Even in the midst of being away from the comforts of home, I only used the morning PBS programs to occupy Ruthie while I showered. We kept busy, and I remained focused on them until they were sleeping.

For me the pinnacle came on Monday when we visited Santa Cruz, about an hour from our hotel. We were nearly alone on a wide open beach, running around and digging in the sand with nothing but our fingers and some empty coffee cups. I stretched myself, and offered Ruthie some freedom from my control, and I watched her revel in a world with few boundaries. The beach was so empty, so expansive, and the ocean before us was so never-ending, that my need to control every situation, every moment, every move seemed insignificant. I realized how rigid I had become, how inflexible. But that morning I was able to let my children run, and I practiced trusting them, and I patiently corrected them when they wandered too far, and I became their biggest fan once again.

It was the silence, and the time, and the space provided by this trip that allowed me to grow as a parent in this way – to remember that my job is much more than just keeping them fed and clothed, but to also disciple and teach and model, and to sometimes play with them. I developed a taste for getting out, for exploring, for inspiring my children and giving them opportunities to run and jump and play – not that it couldn’t have happened in the absence of a vacation, amidst the everyday life I live, but it seems a trip to San Jose is how God chose to get through to me.

As we left the beach in Santa Cruz my kids immediately crashed into a coma, and I listened to the Garden State soundtrack. I love it for its mix. Many soundtracks have a schizophrenic feel to it, accommodating for love scenes and fight scenes and war scenes all within the same album. But the Garden State soundtrack has a vibe, and it’s a good vibe for a quiet ride home from the beach. When the song, Let Go, by Frou Frou began playing I immediately knew it was the soundtrack for the day at least, and maybe even for my overall struggle through anger and control.

You’ll know why when you hear it.

So, the video you are about to see is more than just a video scrapbook of a fun day. I had a vision for this project the moment I heard the song. It is a stone for me to carry, like the ones Much Afraid carried. It is a rock cairn to remember the path I have taken to get where I am now. It is an alter built to God, in praise of who he is, like the ones built by my spiritual forefathers in the desert.

I’m proud of this one. I hope you like it.

The t.v. Fast (Part II)

(For Part I, go here.)

When I was a kid I had an active imagination. I was as good as an only child since my brother graduated high school and left home when I was seven (which was also, I just realized, the year after my father left), so I created my own companionship in my mind. There was my imaginary friend, Tead Berglund, who eventually died of a broken arm when I outgrew him; and there was the time my parents and I drove from Minnesota to Maryland to visit relatives, and I spent the entire drive squished against the door of our silver Cutlass to make room for all my imaginary brothers and sisters in the car; and I filled notebooks – the blank hardcover books with fabric covers – with melodramatic stories that I wrote about children who persevered through tragic loss.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my imagination, and the budding imagination I see in Ruthie, and how she completely zones out when watching t.v. Even in just the few days that we’ve been without a television she has pretended over and over (and over) again that she is getting married, and she makes birthday cakes out of play-doh, and wraps up random items in a paper napkin to give away as presents. And she plays with Thomas, racing cars or they chase each other.

Maybe she’s done these things all along and I haven’t noticed, but it’s possible she is just now getting the opportunity to explore the wonders of her own mind.

Another routine I have established is spending time alone with Ruthie before Thomas wakes up. I started this a couple weeks ago, and we do it on the mornings she doesn’t have preschool. We do a craft project that involves coloring, cutting, and gluing; we read books; I help her play a Dora the Explorer game on the computer, and other things that she can eventually learn to do independently, but for now enjoys my participation.

After Thomas wakes up I try to send them outside to play, or we go to a play date, or run errands, or visit the Aquarium or gymnastics club for their open gym time. These are all things we’ve kept busy with in the last couple weeks, and I feel simultaneously empowered as a mother and exhausted as an introvert. I am connecting with my children; I am engaging; I am paying attention. This has been my ultimate goal since I began re-ordering my life back in November.

But still, as I begin to get healthier and manage my time more efficiently, I continue to crave time alone and feel – perhaps rationally, perhaps irrationally – that I’m not getting enough. Is it because I’m not getting enough? Or is it because I’m selfish and want more, more, more?

At the end of the day I feel like it’s a crap shoot as to whether I’ll have the energy to do something that re-creates me or if I just crash on the couch with a remote. Tonight? I feel energized to explore my mind, and I’m wide awake because of it. Last night? I was like a fool, wandering aimlessly about the house and squandering away my time – the later I stayed awake, the more frustrated I became with the emptiness of my actions. It was not time spent re-energizing my soul, and I should have just gone to bed when Bryan did.

I think over-all I enjoy life without excessive television, and I enjoy the routine I’m establishing, and I’m enjoying the activities I’m participating in with my children, and I enjoy getting up early in the morning. With all the puzzle pieces put together, I can stay ahead of the curve throughout the day.

But I have been morose today, and have been all week. Morose and irritable and on the verge of crying at any moment all day long. I can’t explain it. Hormones? Busy planning a trip? Mourning a sick dog? Who knows. God does, and herein lies the issue: even with all things falling into place – my routine, our financial stability, the achievement of goals – even with all these great things, I still feel wretched in my heart.

And that, my friends, is a topic for another day.

Technology and Kids

Watching the Leung family’s video productions of Guinea Pig TV is inspiring to me as I think of more ways to engage Ruthie in creative projects, especially ones that involve technology. Ruthie loves to take pictures on our digital camera, so we bought her the Fischer Price digital camera for kids – one that can withstand a little beating. However, I have not taken her past the photo capture to the photo posting – she just takes a bunch of pictures, and often Thomas ends up deleting them because the big red ‘delete’ button is the most noteable button on the camera (a design flaw, in my opinion – what two-year-old WOULDN’T want to press a big red button?).

In my new daily routine I have set aside time in the mornings – before my slacker son wakes up – to do something creative or instructive with Ruthie to engage her in something other than Dora the Explorer. I think I’ll start with her photography – letting her take pictures, then immediately uploading them to the Zooomr account we opened for her waaaaaay back in October. Maybe it would be fun for her to create her own titles for each picture?

Anyhow, you should check out Julie’s introduction to Guinea Pig TV, as well as the video blog itself.

Irrational Moods

I stayed up late the other night writing about all the ways I was failing as a mother, and as a wife, and as a person; about my wretched, angry heart that is at war with everything; about how easy it is for me to despise.

As I cried and wrote I felt myself spiraling deeper and deeper into the pit of despair. But I had enough faculties about me to know I was being highly emotional and irrational, so I decided to let the essay sit for the night and pick up my thoughts in the morning.

A new day brought a new rationale, and the manic death spiral I had been on the night before seemed as seperate from me as Niki’s multiple personality, Jessica, on Heroes.

One of the passages I turned to in my mania was my current favorite – Ephesians chapters 4 and 5. I turn there often when I feel I am falling into old patterns of thinking or behavior. As I read, I was struck by this verse in particular:

“…for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5: 8, 10). My favorite word in this verse is ‘trying.’ It implies that living in the light does not require perfection of character, but simply that we let the light shine so the darkness does not consume us, for ‘all things become visible when they are exposed by the light,’ as it says in verse 13.

In recovery I was asked what the phrase ‘one day at a time’ meant to me, and I blew it off because, DUH, the answer is in the question. But I see now how I’m trying to change everything about me that’s bad all at once by blinking my eyes like a genie. As in, I had a breakthrough several weeks ago [blink] and now I will never speak harshly to Ruthie again. Or, I have ordered my day and my life to be more productive and efficient [blink] so now I will have instant wisdom and patience to be a better parent.

I’m not flipping back and forth between the darkness and the light. I’m IN the light, and while here I’m trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing, and sometimes I fail, but I continue trying to find my way. It’s like the computer game I watch Bryan play, called Myst. He gets dropped into a world and begins exploring, not even knowing what his mission or purpose is. He jiggles handles, he pulls levers, he enters hidden caverns, and finds clues. In Myst even mistakes tell you something – they tell you that what you tried didn’t work, so you’d better try something different.

I need to lighten up a little bit and trust that God is sovereign over my circumstances, and know that he is pleased with me even NOW, in the trying.

I’ll Always Have New York

I lived in New York for two years in the mid ninties, about 45 minutes North of Manhattan on the Hudson River. I lived there alone – as in, I didn’t bring any friends or family with me. I ventured out on my own to a new land. An opportunity opened up for me to volunteer at a residential treatment program for drug addicts, and I started out working in their office, managing all their donations and donor records.

I sold my car, broke my lease, packed up my stuff, and went.

It was like me to do this, but not typical. I’m a homebody with an adventurous spirit. I like to plant roots and let them grow deep, but I’m willing to take risks and try new things. I took this job because I knew it would only be for two years. It was temporary, a sort of internship, if you will. Had they recruited me for a full time position I’m not sure I would have been so adventurous.

Before New York, the last time I packed up all my stuff and moved was when I turned 18 and went to college. I came to Seattle, and aside from spending my first summer back in Minnesota, I never really went back. Even while in New York, when people asked where I was from I always said I was from Seattle.

It was a time of solitude.

I spent hours sitting on huge boulders by the river in a little town called Cold Spring. I missed the waters of Puget Sound, and would retreat to the river in the evenings. I road my bike down Highway 9 toward the Bear Mountain bridge and back in the heat of the summer. The vigorous exercise in the high humidity seemed to set free all my stress and confusion. I took long drives on Saturdays, picking a spot randomly on my map – every Saturday, a new highway. In the summer I drove two hours all the way to Long Island’s Jones Beach just to swim in the warm ocean waters. On my weekends off I ventured out to further places like Boston, Cape Cod, Vermont, and Washington D.C.

Had I been a good writer then, it would have been my Prime Time. I was filled with angst, confusion, wondering, and love – perfect grist for the mill.

It was my belated Coming of Age.

I was in love with a boy who was not good for me. He was sweet and sensitive, but shoulder deep in his own demons, and I was not mature enough to let him work it out on his own. I felt he needed me, and that without me his life would spiral down the proverbial drain and he would end up in Hell. And I loved him too much to let that happen.

I asked God, Why. I asked God, How. I begged God to make him better. But in the end, God changed me instead. In a matter of months after returning from New York, I finally broke up with him for good. It was the third time. I was filled with sorrow, and I listened to a lot of Tracy Chapman, but this time it stuck. I didn’t go back.

Before him, I dated a lot of boys that were not good for me, but he was the last. I vowed to wait for the good ones, and let God heal the broken ones. I became ‘the lily among thorns,’ from the Song of Songs and waited for my lover to come and declare, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.’ I became the pursued, rather than the pursuer.

It was the final frontier of old theology.

The God of my old theology was weak. He was not capable of keeping his own sheep, so he needed me to do it for him. And in order for me to be worthy of the undertaking, it was necessary for me to attend a prayer meeting every day from 6 – 7am in a cold, dark, basement. Without this fuel in my tank I might be won over to the Dark Side, because God knows Satan is lurking around every corner and under every rock.

Working in a rehab exposed me to sin and depravity within an intimacy that I had never experienced before. I knew and loved each woman deeply as I watched them wrestle through their addictions and uncover the hurts their drugs were meant to cover. But so much of the work seemed to rest on their shoulders, and each of them feared the failure of ‘back-sliding.’

When I returned to Seattle I sat under a young pastor who taught me about a Mighty God, one who not only delivered, but also kept. One who used me, but didn’t depend on me; who gave me opportunity, but didn’t leave me holding the bag. I could sleep at night, knowing that one person’s salvation was not solely dependent on anything I did or did not say, and even if my words did turn someone sour to the gospel, God is sovereign. I could be friends with anyone without trying to convert everyone.

It’s the music that did it.

This afternoon while I was making a pot of soup for dinner I heard a song from Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlily. I listened to this album endlessly in my New York solitude, and whenever I hear it I am transported back in time. When I think of New York it’s like sandbagging a rising river – it strengthens my soft, muddy edges and I stand taller, more confident. I know who I am, and I know what made me. I can face anything.

I will always have New York, and for that I am grateful.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and critiques on this essay – what you like, what you didn’t like, things to work on, etc. If you’ve been reading for awhile you know I’m trying to flush out a book, so consider this a Stab At It. Please send any critiques to jenzug (at) gmail (dot) com, and please be specific. It drives me crazy when Bryan says, ‘nice post.’ Please don’t do that to me. Any other regular comments can be left below as usual. Thanks!

On This Thanksgiving Holiday, I thank YOU.

This week has been a fun Thanksgiving preparation week, both on the hospitality front as well as the project-completion front (my basement looks pretty again!). Bryan and I are hosting seven adults and five children (including our own family) for dinner tomorrow afternoon, followed by an open invitation to hang out with us in the evening for dessert, games, and a little football (or movies?) on the HDTV. Anyone in the area who wants to join us, just leave a comment or send me an email.

As long as you’re not a stalker. Or a church protestor.

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? I’m supplying the turkey and stuffing (my favorite recipe from Gordy) and a few surprises, and friends are bringing the candied yams, potatoes, green beans, and pies aplenty. One of my friends is from Haiti, and she’s bringing a special Haitian dish. I’m so excited!

I also got a great idea from Suebob to hang some butcher paper on the wall in my hallway so everyone who passes through our home tomorrow can write down things they are thankful for.

On a personal note, I want to publicly thank Annagrace, Julie Leung, My Pink Toes, and my many offline friends who have encouraged me during the last few weeks via emails or in person in regards to the content I post on this blog. You may not have known it at the time, but I was feeling in a ‘tight spot’ on many levels, and if I may take the liberty to say this: God used you to encourage my heart and confirm why it is that I enjoy this medium so much. Thank you for taking the time to send those emails, and for reminding me how important it is to encourage others.

Many moons ago I began blogging to process through my grief as Gordy’s health declined, and in the process I discovered my writing voice and a deep love and commitment to continue writing. Grieving drew out my gift, and now I am convinced it is my calling.

Writing publicly has matured me, challenged my critical thinking skills, thickened my skin, opened my mind, brought me new friends, and given me confidence in myself and in the gifts God has given me. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for this blog, for you who read it, and for the few who have taken the time to participate in the conversation.

Election Day

Today is election day, and every time this comes around I am faced with my own ridiculous apathy regarding anything political. I just don’t care. But lately I have been trying to make myself care, and not just to be hip, either. If I’m going to enter Recovery and spend an entire year turning myself upside down and inside out, I might as well not leave any rocks unturned – including the political ones.

I don’t even know where to begin unpacking the labyrinth of my political views or nonviews. I think it begins with my personality generally being one that follows rather than leads. I’m lazy. I would rather have someone tell me what to believe than do any work to figure it out for myself. So, just as much of my Christian faith felt inherited by my family until I wrestled it out on my own in my twenties, my political views are largely inherited by my upbringing as well.

Where I come from, Christians are Republicans. So I’ve always assumed I am a Republican. Which is laughable to me since I’m constantly distancing myself from anything remotely resembling the ‘religious right,’ reassuring anyone who doesn’t already know that I am not THAT kind of Christian. I mean really, who wants to be associated with The Guy who says homosexuality caused airplanes to fly into buildings? CERTAINLY not me.

I also have these two friends – who I love dearly and whose walk with God I am in tune with – who rant about the Iraq war and (gasp!) complain about Bush. Christians? Complaining about our REPUBLICAN President??? At first the thought of this dazed me because, for cryin’ out loud, CHRISTIANS ARE REPUBLICANS. So slowly, over time, I have begun to separate the idea of being a Christian with also being a Republican – and not necessarily because I didn’t want to be a republican anymore (not that I ever knew what that really meant), but because I didn’t want to be ignorant anymore.

It was as if Jesus and Bush were married, then got divorced, and I had to choose which one to still be friends with.

So now I am starting over. I am a virgin politic. I know nothing and have allegiance to nothing, and I promise to follow the issues and not be apathetic anymore.

“I am a deceiver and a liar.”

I don’t often write about things of faith and religion outside of my own personal journey. I am a Believer in Christ, so everything I do and say and believe and struggle with is filtered through this lens – though I try, very intentionally, to keep it as MY lens and not something I attempt to preach.

I hope I have been successful in this.

So in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal in Colorado Springs, I find it interesting that I feel compelled to comment, adding my thoughts to the pages of Technorati threads.

I have to admit I have followed this scandal only loosely. In fact, were it not for Bryan mentioning it to me, I’m not sure it would have blipped on my radar. But this situation with Haggard fits into the vein of much of what I have been thinking about in regards to my own sin and redemption, because my first reaction was to judge, and say, “This man got what he deserved.”

But through Recovery, I have come to recognize the frailty of my own humanness, that Ted Haggard and I are equal in our sin nature, that I am capable of making choices that hurt others and sin against God. I have come to realize that I, too, am a deceiver and a liar.

I remember one day during the summer, with my windows open wide to let in the breeze, I heard my neighbors in the house next door. The baby was crying. The baby always cried. All afternoon and all evening the baby cried. I always pictured that the baby was left sitting in the corner, alone, to cry, because the baby never stopped crying. It never occurred to me that maybe the baby had colic, or acid reflux, or was just cranky and there was a desperate mother who didn’t know what to do. I always assumed the baby was being neglected. That was judgment number one.

On this particular day in the summer, I heard a man barking at the baby to shut up. Stop crying, he ordered. His tone was filled with impatience and frustration, and as I listened through my kitchen windows I crossed my eyebrows at the curtains flitting in the wind. How dare he talk to a child like that, I thought. And as the thought sparked through the wires of my brain, I felt ashamed. That was judgment number two.

For at the time I was in the midst of my own battle with anger and self-control, and had on many occasions spoken unkindly to my children. I was pointing out the speck in my neighbor’s eye while ignoring the log in my own.

None of this is to excuse my behavior, or my neighbor’s behavior, or Ted Haggard’s behavior, or Andrea Yates’ behavior. When we lie, cheat, steal, kill, and destroy there are natural consequences for our actions. But in the last year I have been humbled by my own imperfection, and have found myself more easily understanding The Fallen. Some fall farther than others, and harder, and with less grace. Some repent and change. Others continue deceiving.

The point is, everyone falls.

Striving After the Wind…

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Can you tell? This blog has taken a turn toward online photo journaling and reports of what I did yesterday, more akin to my journaling style of junior high.

Many questions are in my mind, like… do I really have anything to say? Does anybody out there even care about what I say? And… remind me again why I’m doing this?

I’ve been in a funk about life in general, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on it. After a friend left this morning I was sitting in my Thinking Chair contemplating the laundry and the lunch that needed to be made, and I found myself wondering, What Is The Point? Why Do I Bother? And so forth. I had fallen into the Black Hole of Purposelessness we all fall into from time to time, whether we are stay at home moms, working moms, college students or career women.

I found myself staring at all these trees, yet completely missing the forest.

It’s easy to lose motivation for doing the laundry if your only motivation is so your family has clean clothes. Hell, I can certainly wear the same clothes for days on end and turn my underwear inside out for double the inventory, but does that serve the greater purpose I’ve chosen in my life? Does that glorify God?

I decided to draw inspiration from Ecclesiastes, since Solomon also struggled with the meaning of life. It’s been awhile since I read it, and I certainly didn’t take the time for seminary-level research, but I was reminded of a few good things:

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)?

“One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind” (4:6).

“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil” (5:1).

“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward” (Ecclesiastes 5:18).

I find much comfort in completing tasks. It gives me purpose. I can see results. But it is easier for me to find more joy in COMPLETING a task than it is for me to find worship in DOING the task. Hence, the easy burnout when I find myself completing the same task over and over again.

Today I am reminding myself that all work is futile unless I enjoy the work in God’s presence. I am reminding myself that my sacrifice of work is foolish unless I am drawing near to God and enjoying his presence. And finally, that in laziness I will perish, and that working too much is vanity, but a healthy balance of rest and work is good.

The Digression of My Culinary Prowess

I have always loved to cook. Even as a single woman, among contemporaries who ate take-out or ramen noodles, I enjoyed experimenting with different recipes and ingredients.

From the time I was in college until I got married I lived with other people. Sometimes it was just me and my best friend, and other times, like the summer I rented a house with four others, or the two years I lived with up to ten other women (Yes, you heard me. That’s another story), it was many. In all those scenarios, preparing a meal was a community effort.

For years my friend and I shopped together and split the grocery bill. We took turns cooking for each other, and we entertained a lot. The summer I lived with a few other gals we often shared meals together pot luck style, and the crazy two years I lived in complete insanity with far too many women, we pooled together our money hippy style and all took turns cooking dinner.

Now that I’m married, I love it when Bryan cooks with me. He’s pretty handy in the kitchen, and on many occasions is the family chef, but my most favorite times are when we cook together. There’s always loud music involved, and wine, and a little flirting. It is a time of family celebration, even if we are just celebrating Tuesday.

When Bryan travels I am lonely, but I think it mostly hits me around the dinner hour. I’m so accustomed to the plurality of the process that I seem to lose motivation when it’s just me and the kids. After three years of cooking fresh and (mostly) healthy meals for my kids, this week I finally broke down and bought a bag of frozen fish sticks and a bag of frozen tater tots.

I know it’s not the unforgivable sin to serve convenience foods to my children, and it’s not like I haven’t fed them pizza or Chinese take-out a dozen times in the last six months, but there’s just something about fish sticks that resonates in my mind as the ultimate sell-out for me. There is no community in fish sticks. There is no process in fish sticks. There is no beauty in fish sticks. I bake them, and I feel sad and lonely.

And to top it off, my kids LOVE fish sticks and tater tots, and completely cleaned their plates in five minutes. No arguing was necessary – no stalling, no counting bites or offering rewards for finishing their meal. Gulp, gulp, gulp.

Sigh.

Well, lest I become sad and depressed over processed seafood, I captured two very adorable children enjoying the bounty of fish sticks tonight in this short video. There may not be beauty in the preparation, but the consumers make it all sparkle like Christmas.

Seriously, take Me Seriously. I’m Serious!

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Yesterday I saw my therapist and he TOTALLY validated me in my struggle with Ruthie. She is, officially, a Strong Willed Child (heretofore to be referred to as the SWC). She is the one people write books about, he says. She is the one I will often feel like giving away, he says. She is the one who requires strict boundaries, he says to the Queen of Grey Areas.

But before I consider giving her away, he suggested I try to work though my own issues to see if that alleviates her behavioral issues. Damn that man is smart, and worth every penny.

But in all this therapy I think I may have cracked the secret code to my toddler-like fits of screaming and throwing things: I have a fear of not being taken seriously. I’ve realized that I take it personally when Ruthie continually disobeys me because I see it as her not taking me seriously.

Maybe it’s because I’m the youngest child in my family. Or maybe it’s because I’m the “oops” child who came eleven years after my brother. Or maybe it’s because I was assigned to a TV tray at Thanksgiving dinner while the rest of the family squeezed around the dining table. Or maybe it’s because Gordy once crafted a hand carved bird house for all my married siblings’ front porches while I, the single sister who rented an apartment, received no such special carving.

Maybe I’m just a big sissy and need to get a grip. Who really knows?

The point is, I’m the grown-up and Ruthie is the child and now is not the time to be re-living past insecurities. Ain’t it a BITCH what parenting brings out in us?

In the Words of Mase: Breathe, Stretch, Shake, Let It Out

Last week on a complete whim, I ducked into a yoga class at the gym. I was on the treadmill feeling unmotivated, bored, and mentally distracted. I am always mentally distracted. I am thinking about what should have been, I am worried about the future, but very rarely am I focused on the moment.

It was 9:55 and I knew a class started at 10. Had I more time to think about it I wouldn’t have gone. I would have talked myself out of it for reasons of self preservation. If I don’t go, I can’t feel stupid for not knowing the downward dog, right?

But before I knew it I was in. Drawn in. And the instructor asked if there were any first time to yoga, and I raised my hand along with the gal next to me. I wasn’t the only one.

Within five minutes my body was tingling as the oxygen of my deep and rhythmic breathing reached places previously deprived. For an hour I breathed. I stretched. I balanced. I pushed energy out my heals, out my fingertips, out my ‘sitz bones.’ By the end I felt calm and relaxed, yet energized.

I made it to yoga again today, and I am officially hooked. Yoga is kind to my twisted spine of stress and distracted mind. It supports me in my recovery from insanity, like a climber’s stake wedged into the side of a cliff. God, friendship, family, hope – they are all stakes that make the occasional freefall less traumatic.

Christy at Dry Bones Dance writes:

“My body remembers things, and I’m discovering that I carry certain kinds of trauma in particular parts of my body, bad things that are just now working themselves up to the surface of my skin. That may not make any sense to you, but trust me – some experiences sink all the way into our bones.”

I am learning that no spiritual journey is without its physical challenges. We eat, we starve, we purge, we rage, we neglect. But we can’t ignore the creation in our search for the Creator. As I seek healing for my mind, I seek also healing my for body.

The Day Camp Experience

It’s Monday morning, and thank the good Lord in heaven I don’t have to go anywhere today. When Ruthie starts school full time I’m screwed, because the one thing about motherhood that agrees with me is the part about not having to be anywhere in particular. Ruthie was in day camp last week, and by the time my alarm went off on Thursday I was so DONE with the morning rush and just wanted to sit in my p.j.’s with my coffee while the kids took turns playing in the toilet.

I’ve definitely grown accustomed to the leisurely morning. I hate showering right after waking up because it signals the beginning of productivity. Showering also means I have to then do something with my face and my hair and put on actual clothes, and that really takes the leisure out of the morning.

But it was a good trial run, because now I know the clock is ticking on my lazy ass days. From now on I will be taking full advantage.

I really thought Ruthie would talk unendingly about her days in “school” – which is what we had to start calling it because she kept confusing ‘day camp’ with the fact that we are going ‘camping’ next week – but she never really said a thing. The most I got out of her was when she started walking around on all fours meowing like a cat, and when I asked her if she learned to walk like a cat in school she said … yup. And that was pretty much the extent of it.

I found myself falling into my old peer pressure ways, too, checking myself out in the mirror before we left to make sure I would impress the other moms. I hated the one morning when I went to the gym after dropping her off because, as great as some people might look in work-out wear, I am not that impressive. I actually considered, for one brief moment, the benefits of dressing up to drop her off then running home to change into my gym clothes.

I know. Gross! For the love of Pete, I’m 34 years old and worried about looking cool to the other moms! But it’s true, I did struggle with that. Honestly, though, I think it was a fleeting issue, and mostly because I’m so used to my comfort zone of friends and Safeway check-out girls that I experienced a little culture shock of the world beyond my toddlers.

I did manage to get past my own silly issues long enough to have A Moment. It was a moment of pride, of overwhelming love, of anticipating new chapters: my little girl is growing up. She is tall, and runs fast, and thinks for herself, and makes decisions, and walks into a classroom to engage in learning.

I have been in denial of the impending school years because for now she is all mine, and I’m selfish like that. I love her painfully, and I’m all she ever really wants, and I know someday that will change. And as dysfunctional as I can be, at least right now I’m the only one fucking her up. Her mess is my mess, and we can work through that together. But one day girls will be mean, or a boy will dump her, or a close friend will die, and her mess will be so much more complicated.

I fear she won’t need me anymore. Or that what I have to offer will no longer be comforting. Or that I won’t know what to do.

Good grief. After four mornings of day camp I need co-dependency therapy.

Exposed

Last night I experienced the really icky feeling of getting busted in the act.

You see, I can be really honest with my friends about what I do, I can relay a story to Bryan from the day, I can even blab about my issues on the internet – but I am still in control of the information flow. You hear what I want you to hear, and see what I want you to see. Even in all my dysfunction, I can come out of a blog post looking as good or as bad as I deem appropriate for the sake of storytelling.

But last night my ugliness was exposed in real time as the kids and I had our evening chat with Bryan over Skype with the web cam. It wasn’t anything huge, really. I simply became impatient with Ruthie over something, and cut the activity off abruptly.

Later, over an IM conversation, Bryan mentioned how sad it made him to see me shut her down so quickly.

I felt like the air had been let out of me.

My first instinct was to be defensive, make excuses, shift the blame, be the victim, accuse him of having NO IDEA what I have to deal with on a daily basis. But instead I stopped. And I wrestled with his words. And I let them sink in.

Honestly, I think God grabbed a hold of my tongue. Or my fingers, rather, since we were typing. When it comes to fight or flight responses, I’m definitely a fighter, and I really wanted to argue with him about what an asshole he was. But like I said, I had the air let out of me, and I could do nothing but ponder his words.

Then I just felt broken and I started crying. I thought about all the shit I’d given Bryan over the last year when all he’s been trying to do is help me. And even though the way he tries to help me is sometimes not very helpful to me, at least he cares enough to try and help, and now he’s even hearing me better when I try to explain why his help isn’t always helpful, and I give him lots of really good sex when his help IS really helpful so he is sure to remember that stuff for the next time (it’s all about association, right?).

I think the clincher came when I really felt validated by him.

After he stated the obvious, I shot back with a really bitchy, “don’t you think I know that?” sort of response. To which he responded, and I quote: “I think you know it, but that you are still learning to know it.”

And that was all I needed to hear for my heart to melt and receive what he had to say.

I don’t like it when he sees me at my ugliest, especially when it involves the kids. I don’t always treat him well when he tries to intervene or calm me down. But last night he was so tender – I guess you could say he spoke my language. Or the planets were aligned. Or the gods were smiling on me. Or whatever.

But despite my ugliness, he still made me feel beautiful.