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Welcome to the hectic years

Hi, I'm Mindi.

And this is our Hectic Life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yes, my kids ate cereal for dinner

The other day a friend asked me what we had for dinner the night before.
I thought a minute, snapped my fingers, and said 'cereal!'
Her mouth dropped open in shock and she looked at me like I had toilet paper stuck to my forehead.  I swiped at my forehead discreetly, and said 'What?'
'You had cereal for dinner.  The kind from a box.'
What other kind is there, I thought to myself.  'Yep.  The kind with all those essential vitamins and minerals.  I also added some dairy in the form of milk.  You know, to help them grow strong bones.'
She was still staring at me, and her expression was now one that consisted more of derision than shock.  'What about vegetables?'
I wanted to laugh.  Unless I hide them in smoothies and cookies, or count ketchup as a vegetable, my kids are not really fond of the vegetable variety of food.  Gwen even thinks she is allergic to anything green, as long as it's not mint.  As in mint chocolate chip ice-cream.  I do my best, but my kids don't always eat what I make for them.  Except for cereal, of course.
As she continued to stare at me, I wondered if this was another one of my 'Mom Fails.'  You know, the kind when you forget to pick up the poster board for their big project due the next day, or send them to school without lunch, or lunch money for that matter.  Something I know nothing about firsthand of course, but I'm sure it happens to some people.
I recalled the day before, trying to remember why we wound up having cereal for dinner...

As usual the alarm clock went off way too early.  Anything before 6am is way too early, unless it's going off for trout fishing, or leaving on a vacation.  This was neither.  I didn't want to get up, and had to shove a chubby foot out of my face in order to roll out of bed.  Another night when Callie decided to crawl into my bed, steal my covers, and kick me in the eye.
Finally looking at the clock, I realize that I'm going to be late.
After joining the land of the living, I got the kids up and we all proceeded to get ready for work/school/daycare.  I remember my work clothes were in the washing machine, I had forgotten to put them in the dryer the night before.  Great.
As I head for the stairs Miss Callie runs to her room and says she wants to wear a bathing suit to school.  Remembering that a good parent gives her choices, I tell her 'Go put on anything BUT a bathing suit.'  And feeling proud of my mommy skills I traipse downstairs only to trip over a doll baby and crumple in a heap at the bottom.  Nice.
Once I get there Lex thrusts papers at me that are the length of the declaration of independence.  Apparently I didn't see them the night before because they were buried in the bottom of his backpack, and they had a scrawled sticky note from the teacher that said 'DUE TOMORROW'.  I was falling behind in my parent homework.
As I sat down to read and sign the papers, Gwen came running over asking me to fix her French braid that I put in the night before.  It 'fell out' when she was combing it.  As if braids are meant to be combed.  But I sighed and reached for the comb, and a pen, and continued to fill out papers while braiding hair.  Not an easy feat let me tell you.  But I was managing.
Then Miss Callie reappeared wearing an outfit that would make Miley Cyrus proud.  A tiny cropped shirt that must have come from one of her baby dolls, and a pair of too-small capris, none of which were even remotely the same color.  Or even remotely fit.  I sighed.  So much for giving her choices.
I finished up Gwen's hair, remembered my work clothes, and ran in the laundry room to switch out clothes.
I was really going to be late now.
Then I looked at the clock and remembered Hunter.  Ooops!
I ran upstairs and woke him up before he missed the bus.  It was a mad dash out the door where he grabbed something from the fridge for lunch and took off.  Disaster averted.
Until I realized he had taken MY lunch box to school.  Now I have to make another lunch or take Hunter's.  As I look at his soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I shake my head.  No way.
I finish Lex's documents, get them all ready to go, and get a more suitable outfit for Callie.  I decide I can't wait on my work clothes, and throw them on, slightly wrinkled and damp.  Oh well, it's not a fashion show anyway.  I picture the guy who wears elastic pants every day.  I have to at least look better than he does.
Finally, I'm getting in the car and backing down the driveway.  Then I remember that it's trash day.  Getting back out of my car I go through the process of pulling out recycling and trash, and continue on my way.  After daycare drop-off, I realize that I'm probably going to get to work about lunchtime.  But at least I'll get there.
Settling myself in at work, feeling a bit more orientated, elastic pants guy walks past and appears to snicker at my wrinkled pants.  Great.
As I sigh, I remember that I forgot to put the chicken in the crockpot.  And haven't been to the grocery store in over a week.
I run through the list of things we can eat at the house.  Ketchup, mayonnaise, crackers, bananas, cereal, chicken broth...
And I settle on cereal.

So as my friend stares at me, I try to sum up guilty feelings.  But I just can't.  I tell her the next time she feels sorry for my kiddos for eating a bowl of cereal for dinner, she can bring over a pizza.  Extra dairy, and hold on the veggies.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Being a Single Parent

Being a single parent has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world.  Though not always, it is usually a job born of necessity, not choice.

It consists of late nights and early mornings, waking up to a foot smacking you in the head because your daughter sleeps like she is in a kickboxing match.  Doing laundry every day of the week just to keep up, and sometimes, feeling bad when your 6 year old pulls a shirt out of his dirty clothes basket to wear because you simply didn’t get his camp shirt washed the night before.  It is another day of grilled cheese or pancakes because once again, you didn’t make it to the grocery store.  It involves work lunches of cucumbers and pretzels because you gave the last of the bread to the kids and there was nothing left for you to bring.

It is turning on spongebob just so you can get a tiny bit of peace knowing that it would be much better if they played outside, but you are just too tired to make it happen.  It is going far too long between haircuts, and routine doctor visits.  It is occasionally missing church because you’re just too tired to go.  It is living with a messy house, where tables are covered with crayons and applesauce, and corners filled with paper airplanes and reading books.  It is finding stray socks under chairs, couches, and once, in a cabinet.  Light bulbs only get changed when it is too dark to see.  It is opening the fridge hoping for a snack, to find the kids ate the last of your coveted greek yogurt, and left a Minnie mouse purse instead.

Being a single parent is lonely.  Although surrounded by kids, you don’t have another adult to help with anything at all.  To run to the store and get a gallon of milk or loaf of bread when you are just too exhausted to load the kids in the car and do it yourself.  There is no one to help with buying a house, a car, or figuring out how to get your son to care about homework.  Parenting alone means the yard is far from manicured, and weedeating never gets done.  The garage is a stack of perilous boxes that could fall at any minute, because there is simply no time to go through it all.

It is learning that people will judge you by your children, and your life.  It is living with the stares in public places when your kids fall on the ground in a tantrum, and learning to shrug off the comments such as “you have too many kids” or “are they all from the same Dad?”  It is living with the reality that how your kids behave reflects on you, and you know that you are being measured and found lacking by those around you.

It is, quite simply, never being enough.

It is facing insurmountable frustrations and trials, teaching children about things you don’t quite understand yourself, and knowing that no matter how much you want it to the situation can’t be changed.  But then you finally come to the realization that the people in it can.

You learn that it doesn’t matter what other people think, if they walked more than a minute in your shoes they would probably stumble and fall as you did many times along the way.  It is changing the measure of success to simple things – like no visits to the ER that day, opening the fridge to find milk, eggs, AND butter, or the ability to find both of your 4 year olds shoes within minutes of looking for them.  It is getting to an event almost on time and leaving without a bout of tears or screams, even if no one gets a trophy of recognition.

It is feeling proud when you watch your children learn to fold laundry, sweep floors, or mow the lawn.  Even if the laundry is somewhat disheveled, the floors not quite clean, and the lawn covered in patches of tall grass that were missed.  And no matter how hard your work day was, it is the sheer joy you feel at picking up your kids and getting hugs and kisses, and hearing tales of kids at school and their favorite books at library time.  It is watching your child learn to ride a bike, write their name, or figure out how to program the keyless garage door opener on their own.  It is the pride you feel at watching your daughter make muffins from scratch, or your son giving his little sister a piggyback ride to keep her from getting cranky.

It is a roller coaster of emotions, countless tears, smiles, and laughter.  Feeling a combination of guilt and anger, joy and peace, happiness and brokenness all at the same time.  Learning to live each day as though it is new, because although the day before had been filled with broken dishes, refereeing fights, and screams of frustration (mainly from you), today things might be different.  Today, could be the breakthrough you had been searching for.

No, single parenting is sometimes not a chosen profession.  Instead, born of a situation that you simply could not change.  It is a journey of learning about patience, worry, joy, and the true meaning of love.  But while the journey is a long and tedious one, filled with rocky mountains and overgrown paths, it is one that teaches you things that will stay with you the rest of your life.

It teaches you that some days, it is okay simply survive.  That you will fall many times but God will be there to catch you.  And He will give you the strength to continue on, even though you truly don’t think you can.  That it’s okay to make mistakes, to be less than perfect, that your arms might never reach wide enough to encompass everything in your life but that’s okay.  They were made just right, so that they can reach everything that matters.  You learn that even in the darkest of nights, when tears are your only companion and misery steals your sleep, that the dawn will come.  And that eventually, everything will be alright.

And although you might not feel that you are or ever will be, to your kids you will always be more than enough.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life is Good

Standing on a road I didn't plan
Wondering how I got to where I am…”

When I was young, my family would go to the beach every year.  I love the ocean.  I love the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.  The gentle pull of the salty tide as your feet sink into the soft sand.  Sitting on the shore staring at the moon’s reflection against the endless expanse of sea, dreaming of life and who you are going to be.
I am a dreamer, my head is filled with dreams and wishes and things that haven’t happened yet.  But in all those years that I found myself at the ocean walking along the beach, wondering what next year would be like, I never once imagined this.  A young girl who believed in romance and fairy tales, innocence and love, never could begin to comprehend the brutalities that life could bring. 
But here I am, in a place I never imagined I would be.  On a road I didn’t plan, living a life that I had never dreamed of.  I am no longer the innocent girl spending summers on the shore, picturing a perfect life where everything is laid out exactly as I wanted it to be.
For a long time that wasn’t okay.  It wasn’t okay at all.  Thankfully God saw my future, and laid out my path.  He led me towards a road that I wasn’t even sure was there.  He knew that one day I would smile and laugh.  I would feel peace, and I would feel joy.  And one day, the scars would be healed so that I could love again.  He kept us safe and protected as we walked through the most difficult moments, and cleared the trees so that I could finally see.
Right now, I believe that I’m right where God wants me to be.
I’m not the best parent in the world, but I’m doing the best I can raising four absolutely amazing children that I love with everything that is in me.  They are a part of my soul, and I need them as much as they need me.
Life isn’t perfect, it isn’t the idyllic world that I had pictured so long ago on the shores of the East Coast, feeling the waves lap against my feet.  But it’s my life, and I am going to enjoy it because as I learned the hard way, tomorrow might be nothing like today.
And today is pretty good.

Life, is good.



Thursday, June 13, 2013


There was a time in my life that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. 
The pain was too much, too suffocating, too real.  There were so many days that it was a struggle simply to breathe.
During those dark times I would fall on my knees and cry out to God for help, but my prayers were usually a wordless utterance of Please, because I didn’t know what else to say.  There was so much going wrong in my life I didn’t know how to start asking for God to make things right.  At one point it became painfully clear that one particular prayer that I had prayed repeatedly, over and over again, was simply not going to come true.  I was devastated and could not see my future anymore.  It was a shroud of nothingness spread out before me.
I remember several times saying “I can’t do this anymore.  I just can’t.”
I had snapped into pieces, like a tree with its tip bending too far towards the ground that finally splintered in the storm, there was nothing left to support me.  I had been hurt and broken, and even if I healed it would be unevenly and painfully.  A fractured bone that wasn't set; there was no way I would ever be the same again. 
But time has a habit of continuing on, no matter what happens in your life. 
Even though during the worst of times, when every second felt like an hour, those seconds ticked on by until the days started to get easier.  Then the weeks, followed by the months.  It’s true that time can heal the deepest of wounds.  But only if you want it to.
Along the way there were times that  would think ‘I’m okay now, I’m healed.  I can move on.’
Usually, that wasn’t really true.  My journey has been like climbing a mountain.  No matter how many times I thought I was at the top, I really wasn’t.  Something would happen to remind me that inside I was still broken, there was still a fissure where my heart was supposed to be.  And I would feel my fingers slipping, losing their grip on life.  Again, I would feel that brokenness inside of  me, and I would try again to piece it all back together.
But time has continued to pass by, and I can finally look back and see how far I have really come.  Every time I slipped, God threw me a rope.  Without Him, I would still be at the bottom of that mountain.
I have finally been granted a request I started praying for long ago, when I understood my first request was never going to happen.
I stopped praying for anything specific, and simply started praying for peace.  Peace to accept my life as it is.  Peace to accept the fact that bad things happen to good people, and no amount of crying or wailing or feeling bitter about it, would ever change that fact.
As the saying goes ‘it is what it is’ – and that is true.  There is much of my life I can’t change, and I’ve finally been granted the peace to accept that fact.  And in gaining that peace, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I’ve finally stopped trying to take the blame for everything that happens, for the issues we face in our life. 
It is what it is.
I’ve tried to change things that I am able to.
And for the things that I can’t change, I am learning to pray, and then let go.  Beyond that there is nothing else I can do.  Why waste time worrying about what could happen, if it hasn’t happened yet?  Why waste time wishing for things that I could have, instead of enjoying what I do have?
In a way it feels like we’re on a vacation.
It’s summer, and we’re in our new house.  I come home from work and we go for a walk or a run on the trail, the dog wagging his tail along with us.  Not everyone is happy, at least one of the kids is tired and grumpy, but we make do.  Yesterday I showed them how to get honey out of honeysuckle.  Then we took advantage of the Endless Summer Nights to go swimming at Splash Island, which is just down the road.  The kids love having a neighborhood, for them it is a treat to take off down the sidewalks on roller blades or scooters.  And after being in a cramped apartment for almost 2 months, having room to spread out is a vacation in itself.
We’re finally at a point where we can rest.
The house is sold, we’re out of the apartment, it’s summertime, and life is good.
Life isn’t easy, raising four kids on your own is never easy, but that’s okay.  It’s easier than it used to be.  One of these days we’ll even figure out how to go grocery shopping without appearing like a circus act to those around us.
But never mind that.
Things have fallen into place, or more importantly, the way that I view life has fallen into place.
I’m happy.
Our life is what it is, and we are going to make the most of what we have been given.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, or take away, but that shouldn’t ruin what we have right now.
Peace is one of the greatest things I have had in a very long time.
Life truly is what you make of it.
And I intend to live it and enjoy it for all it's worth.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reason #675 Why I am Single

To avoid the tiny apartment we live in, I have picked up a new, healthy habit of jogging.  There is a track that circles a playground down the road and the kids play while I get in some exercise.
Everyone wins. 

As I am running around the track and the kids have finally stopped throwing mulch and running alongside me, asking for a hug or to hold my hand, Mr. Handsome shows up with his kids. He nods and I smile as I am running past. I look semi-dedicated, with my arm strap thingy holding my phone and a nice new pair of rainbow running shoes.  An entire 1.5 miles completed, with only a brief pause to give a hug or a stern look to stop mulch throwing.
He gives me the interested look. I am encouraged. After all, where else can I meet people but at work and Chuck-e-cheese?
Then my 3 year old comes charging after me screeching loudly as if she had just stepped on a bee hive.  She was so loud, even my running music could not drown her out.  I gaze longingly down the track, I am almost to a stopping point after five laps, and realize that she has caught the attention of Mr. Handsome AND the people in  the next neighborhood.  And quite possibly, the pilot in the plane flying overhead.
Her deafening screams grow louder. 
I know she is fine, I can tell by the pitch of her scream, but I grit my teeth and pause my run to help her.  I find out she has an offensive band-aid stuck to her bangs and can't get it off. While she is madly flailing her arms, the Band-Aid flutters to the ground. Problem solved.
I turn to continue my run (almost done now, really) she takes her shoes off and throws them at me. Then screeches for me to help her put them on. Mr. Handsome is thinking I am as attractive as a rattlesnake by this point.
I finally get to finish my marathon level two mile run and stop to play with the kids while cooling down. Mr. Handsome wanders over. We start to talk.
We discuss random things while our children are hanging on the jungle gym or walking on the wave.  Inside, I am begging the kids to please please please don't embarrass me.  Five minutes, just five minutes of non-embarrassing behavior.
Lex has my phone at this point and is playing music, loudly.
All is good.
Then Gwen catches my attention and says Lex is saying a bad word.  Lex wanders over.  He says he saw a word on a slide, and it's not a bad word.  He tries to pronounce it and he says 'pennis' as in 'tennis'. 
I am confused. Gwen says he is saying a bad word. I, not so bright, say 'what bad word is that?'
She whispers to Lex and grins at me. He frowns, and very loudly repeats the real pronunciation of the word.
I turn bright red, smile, and walk away.
So much for embarrassment.  My kids take it to a whole new level.
Next week, reasons #756-800 why I am still, and might always be, single.

In truth, it's all good.  We might get up to 10,000 reasons before it's all said and done.
But in the end, the kids are more than worth it.  After all, it makes for funny stories I can't wait to embarrass them with when they are 16 and going to prom.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Apartment Lessons Learned

There are five of us and a dog in an apartment that is less than 1000 sq ft.  To say that it's cozy is an understatement.  In any case, I have learned some lessons that I feel compelled to share with others.

1 - Privacy is overrated.
The first day we were here the kids broke the twisty thingy on the patio blinds.  Now the entire world can (and does) stare at us every night.  I've grown quite used to it, and like to wave at the people who walk by peering inside our apartment at dusk, wondering what the crazy lady and all those kids are doing at night.  I like to grab a margarita from the freezer and mouth 'want one?' after which they turn around and look at the sky, pretending they weren't just spying on us.
2 - It is entirely possible to be in the kitchen, dining room, and living room at the same time. 
I am proud to say I accomplished this feat.
3 - It's somewhat difficult to enforce the 'no eating in the living room' rule, when the dining room IS the living room.
4 - Sending kids to their rooms doesn't really work. 
Especially when you hear them talking right next to you afterwards, and you holler "I said go to your room or no TV for a week!" You hear silence, and then a voice saying, somewhat confused "But I AM in my room." You look down the hall to find that this is, indeed, true.  Experiencing this might make you feel a bit embarrassed as a mom.  But I totally didn't learn this one firsthand.
5 - It is entirely possible to find six ice-cube trays, empty, in the freezer. 
So much for the rule of odds, assuming that the more trays you buy the more likely you will find at least one ice cube that is frozen.  The kids haven't learned how to turn the handle thing (normally referred to as a faucet) that causes water to come out, and therefore fill up the plastic trays and put them in the freezer.  Too many steps to follow I think.
6 - I can't let the kids play outside.
The kids walked outside to play in the postage stamp lawn in front of the apartment.  I followed five minutes later to find a Frisbee on the roof, a ball that had been hit across the road, and Lex trying to climb a tree about four feet high.  And Gwen towing a neighbor girl down the sidewalk on roller blades with a broom handle.
I sincerely have no idea how I got the nickname of 'The crazy lady with all of the kids'.  What do they know.
7 - Spending time outside at an apartment causes children to multiply.
While grilling dinner one night, going in and out, I suddenly noticed that I no longer had four children.  I had six.  And they were drinking Kool-Aid's from the refrigerator.  Huh.
8 - An apartment gives you more time do to useless things.
Instead of gardening and mowing lawns and caring for horses, I find myself doing things such as 'exercising' and hiding healthy things in food.  Then laughing (in an evil maniacal kind of way) because my daughter who is 'allergic' to anything green (or healthy) just ate spinach.  And turkey tacos.  And drank almond milk. 
The things you do when you have extra time on your hands.
9 - Our television is the size of a movie theatre screen on the wall.
This one is kind of cool.  Who needs space?  The kids no longer hear 'Move back, you'll hurt your eyes!'  If they moved back any further, they would be in hallway between apartments.
10 - There are many things I will never take for granted again. 
SPACE is number one.
Ice maker is on the list, along with the sprayer on the sink, a dishwasher that actually works, and not having a herd of stampeding Buffalo living above me.  Really people, it's THREE AM!  I have no idea why they feel the need to run up and down the hallway, shaking the entire apartment below, in the dead of night. 
Garages are really nice, as are driveways.  I kind of miss my yard, too.
11 - The most important thing that I have learned while being here....I CAN'T WAIT TO MOVE!!
Three more weeks.  I can do this.  Only three more weeks :)

But you know what I'm going to do before I leave?
I'm going to climb on the roof above my neighbors apartment and run back and forth with weights on my feet.  Just so they understand where I'm coming from.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Fog

Lately it feels like I have been living in a fog.

A cold quiet mist surrounds me with a veil that blocks the path ahead of me and the one that I left behind.  It is cold here and I shiver, confused and alone.  I am searching and searching and longing for a hand to materialize from the mist, to feel the firm grip in mine, to pull me through the valley towards higher ground.  To help me climb the hill to where the sun will be shining on my face, burning away the mist that consumes me.

But my outstretched hand is left untouched.  As I reach for something, someone, some way out, the tips of my fingers disappear in the fog.  And they touch nothing but the ever present chill of the air.  I have stumbled so many times from the journey, from not knowing my path that my knees are bleeding profusely from scraping against the rocks.

 It triggers a memory of when I was a young girl.  I have never been the most agile of creatures and much to the chagrin of my parents would often fall and skin my knees.  I vividly recall one Sunday after church when we were visiting the fountain at the mall.  I was decked out in tights and shiny black shoes, and somehow I wound up scraping myself on the sides of the fountain and I looked down to see the bright swath of red blood on my snowy white tights.  I was embarrassed then, because although I wore a fancy dress and shiny shoes, I knew that everyone would find out I was a fraud.  I wasn’t a pretty little girl in a dress but a tomboy who couldn’t walk a straight line without running into everything in her way.  I carry those scars on my knees to this day, the scars of a girl who couldn’t help but stumble every time she tried to run.

I am feeling the sting of disappointment.  I have come so far, I have tried so hard for so very long.  I have held onto Faith, Hope, the belief that something great was right around the corner.  I honestly believed that when I got to where I am now the puzzle of my life would start clicking into place.  But so far the fog has gotten heavier, denser, and my fear of making a mistake even greater.

Where do I go from here?  And how do I get there?

A while ago I stopped picturing what my life was going to be because it had gotten so blurry I simply couldn’t see.  The vision I had of my future has been erased.  I used to think that was fine because now I had a blank slate on which to write a new story, a new tale, but that tale has long since lost its appeal.  It is very hard to write a new story when you can’t find your pen.  And the inspiration has left you somewhere between a shattered dream and heart wrenching pain.

Oh how I long for the climb to be over.  I need to rest, I need to find the light that I have been searching for.  The hand to pull me through.  I need to feel the rough palm enveloping mine, the sure grip of one who knows where to go, helping me get to where I need to be.  I have been trying to carry the weight of our future on my own and the burden is just too great.  I still have Faith and Hope and Belief in something greater, but they have blurred like the view around me.  They too, are shrouded in the fog.

I have to find my way soon.  I have to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and my heart.  I have to know that I have not been walking circles in the valley, or walking towards the edge of a cliff that drops to jagged rocks down below.

Soon, I need His hand to pull me through.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Change scares me.  But having everything stay the same, scares me even more. 
The kids and I will be embarking on a new adventure.  One that I feel will begin sooner rather than later.  This house that we live in, the one that I thought would be my home until the kids were grown up and gone, is for sale again.  And with good feedback and buyers who actually like the property, it's only a matter of time before it sells.  But running through my head are the plans that were made so long ago, when the house was nothing but a falling down shell of what it is today.  When the weeds choked the land, the walls were covered with wallpaper and holes, and the kitchen was a place that no one truly wanted to be.  When the property renovations were nothing more than a plan, a vision, a dream.  And now that the dream is a reality, the house finally a home, we are getting ready to leave.
I think of the large room above the garage, the bedroom for the whole family when we first moved in, and I feel sadness.  I always envisioned it being the backdrop for slumber parties and cold pizza and loud movies, but it will never be more than what it is today.  A wide empty space that is used for storage and the kid's basketball game.
The apple trees that line the driveway, the ones that we planted with such care and waited for three years to be able to pick our first apple from, will blossom and grow tall and yield apples for someone else to enjoy.  The rolling land that had so much potential, the front pasture that was meant for horses, now stands empty and silent.  No more nickers or whinnies, no more pounding of hooves as the ponies race for their dinner.  The barn, once a respite from the wind and a rain, a favorite place to go during the late fall days when the ponies left the thinning grass to bury themselves in the hay that was tossed over the fence, has also fallen silent.  Although not empty, it still holds saddles and brushes and buckets of things that are needed for horses, it is filled with memories that I haven't been able to quite face.  When the horses left, so did the happiness that resided there.
This house has good memories that I will never forget.  Watching movies in front of the warm fire, curled up on bean bags and munching on popcorn.  Being outside in the warm summer sun planting flowers, knowing that I would be around to watch them grow year after year.  Playing in the yard with the kids, tossing Frisbee or shooting basketball.  Teaching them how to hit a baseball, ride a skateboard, or just slide over the ice-covered driveway in their boots.  Letting off fireworks in the driveway, watching Brandi the horse roll in the chest deep grass, her legs kicking in the air.
These are good memories that I will always hold onto.
But along with the good memories are the bad ones, and you can't have one without thinking of the other.  The bad moments, days, months, when life stood still and pain ate away at every part of me.  And all I wanted to do was get out of this place, this house, the one filled with so many memories of a life that I needed to forget.
Now the frenzy of remodeling so that the house could be sold, is finally complete.  The product is better than anything I could have dreamed.  I see now what I saw then, when there was nothing to love about this house but the vision in my head.  I see rooms that are bright and open and clean, walls that are fresh and soothing.  A kitchen that I could live in all day, where we string beads and bake cookies, watch funny video clips and whip up hot chocolate with whipped cream, where we turn up the music and dance.  A house that is now a home, that has seen as many changes in the last few years as the family that lived in it.
But it's time to move on.
It's time to walk away from the stand of woods where Brandi is buried, from the land where she gave me one last ride.  It's time to walk away from Roc who is also buried in the woods, a quiet place in the summer, where the dappled sun spills through the leaves of the trees and the birds flit through the brush, where in the middle of an empty ravine, a patch of sunflowers will grow every year.  It's time to leave the peace and quiet of the country, where the garden plot has since turned to grass and the flowers I so painstakingly planted and cared for will be left to another.
One more change in a life that has been in turmoil since that warm fall day when I realized that nothing would ever be the same again.
There is only one way I can do this, to trade in a home with character and space, where I can walk outside and breathe, for a home that looks like every other home around it.  Where the yards are so small, you can almost reach out and shake your neighbor's hand.  Where I have convinced myself that it is where we need to be, because I am stretched too thin and too tight, a wire about to snap.  And letting go of the dream I once had is only a part of what I have had to do these last several months.  It's not the biggest, but it's one of the last.  And as the time draws nearer, the possibility of a sale becoming more real, I am clutching tighter and tighter to the old dream that brought us here in the first place.  But the only way I can do this is to let go.
I have let go of so many things that I'm not even sure there is much to hold onto anymore.  Change is inevitable.  But at some point change  has become our life, and nothing has stayed the same.  The losses are mounting.  But I pray that with this move, whenever it actually happens, comes a life where we start to gain back everything that we have lost. 
I have to trust in God.  I have to trust that He knows the plan for our life.  That when the house sells, He will time it right.  And when we move, He will show us where to go.
Without faith there is no hope.  Without trust, there is no happiness, only fear of the unknown.
I have to believe that there is peace waiting on the other side, peace, and rest.
And more dreams to replace the ones that I have lost.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The puzzle

I don't think my journey will ever be over.  A journey to find self worth and satisfaction, to understand why there is so much pain in this world.  I know in my heart that some things simply can't be explained.  I know, yet I am made to chase answers, to find solutions, to see a problem and to fix it.  It goes against my very nature to look at a situation and to say "I had better let it go, I'm never going to understand why.  At least not in this lifetime."
There is no doubt in my mind that God has a better plan, a better view of this world than I could ever begin to see.  But it is so hard to sit back and smile and claw through the difficulties without seeing the path in front of me. 
When I search for that path, for those answers that I seek, all I can see is a hazy distortion of what could be.  Or what might be.  Or what my heart years for deeply, but might never come to pass.
It's kind of like training for something but you have no idea what you are training for.  You lace your shoes every morning to go outside and run, each day you run further and longer, and harder.  Through the rain and the snow, the blowing ice, and swirling wind, there is no choice but to run. 
Even though you have no idea if what you are training for will lead to something better, something more, there is no choice but to run.
Because if you choose not to run you choose to give up.
And that's not really a choice at all.

 I would love to see the puzzle laid out neatly on the table.  The puzzle that is my life, filled with pieces that I know fit together to form a bigger picture.  Each small seemingly insignificant swirl of color or piece of sky will merge together to make something beautiful.  I know it does, because when I bought it the box showed me a picture of what was inside.
And I go through life like putting together a puzzle, but without having an idea of what that picture might be.
I try to fit events and people and things together, hoping they fit, hoping they make sense.
Some pieces fit together effortlessly, some are obviously meant to border the rest of them, to start the framework from which everything else will fit inside.
Others are somewhat difficult to determine and I spend more time with those than any of the others.  I don't want to put them down on the table, because I know they go somewhere, the problem being I have no idea where.
As I'm finishing a puzzle I start to get worried that there are pieces missing.  In our house that is always a possibility, that one has been swept under the couch or rug, or kicked across the floor to fall into a crack and be lost forever.  Working on a puzzle it is always my fear that we will have spent so much time putting it together so that we can see the final, completed picture in front of us, but we instead have a missing gap where a piece was meant to be.  A piece that we will probably never find and we have to tear the puzzle apart incomplete.  And be disappointed that our hard work did not yield what we had expected at all.
Sometimes, that's what I fear my life will be like.
A puzzle that was supposed to have all of the pieces, but finds itself missing that one vital piece.  And without that final piece, the picture will not truly be complete. 
I know that God's plan for my life is meant for good, I know that he has a puzzle more grand and more amazing than I could ever plan for myself.
I know that if I keep running, keep working, keep moving towards that destination that doesn't seem to exist, that good will come of it. 
I know that at the end there is respite, if not rest.
One of these days I will know the answers to the questions that I seek.
But the hardest part is to accept that I might not have answers in this lifetime, and I have to put on my shoes and run, without a clue as to why I am running, or to where.
The hardest part is to believe that God will guide my steps, and show me where I need to go.  And that he holds each and every piece of my puzzle in His hand, not a single one missing.  One day, my picture will be complete and I will see.
Until then I choose to continue to put on my shoes every day, to go outside and face what life throws my way.
Until then, I choose to believe.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:9

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." Psalm 37:24-24

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chasing My Identity

For most of my life I thought I knew exactly who I was, and who I was meant to be. 
Part of my identity came from being a wife and a mother.  Part of my identity came from being an engineer.  But if someone were to ask me to define exactly who I was?  I would answer without hesitation.  I was wife to a wonderful military man, mother to four amazing children, and after that I was a design engineer for a fantastic company that made me proud just to be a part of it. 
But in the space of one painful solitary moment, a moment that changed my life forever, I was suddenly face to face with the question that I could no longer answer. 

The other half of me was gone and I was left wondering what my life was all about.  For a while I shrouded myself in grief and pity.  I climbed into a chasm, the deeper the better, and I lost myself in the solitude and darkness.  Somehow it was easier to lose hope than to face the fact that maybe life held something more, something far from the comforting familiarity that I had grown used to.  No longer was I part of a marriage, no longer was I the wife that I used to be, and now I was left with shattered pieces of a life that never would be again.

At some point I made the unconscious decision to pull myself out of the crevice in the earth where I had been buried for far too long.  My kids not only needed me, they needed me to smile and enjoy life right along with them.
Early on in my journey so many people told me that I needed time to find out who I was.  I thought I knew what they meant, I really did.  And I would tell them that outside of losing my marriage, my wedding bands, and the moral support that I needed to raise my children, I was unchanged.

I still believed that chocolate was a food group.  Ice-cream was another one.
The little things in life still managed to amaze me.  Even while struggling every day just to breathe, I was amazed at the beauty of God’s world that surrounded me.  The kids and I found time to dance in the kitchen, to sled down the park hill.  To take walks through the forest and bike rides down park paths.  For me, the insignificant moments have always converged together in an intricate design that made life worth living.  I was never hard to please, simple was always better and more meaningful.  If someone were to bring me a wildflower from the side of the road, that meant more than a bouquet of expensive roses.

I would turn to these well-wishers, these people who wanted to see me smile again, and tell them that I knew who I was.  Deep inside, I had not really changed much at all.  I still had a heart for animals and anyone less fortunate than I.  There still existed a fondness for clothes of bright colors and sparkles, because no matter what, I preferred to stand out rather than blend in.  I would turn to my friends and reassure them that I was on the right path, and I was going to be just fine.
Along the way I have come across others just like me.  Others struggling to find their place in this world, struggling to define their identity in one way or another.  There are those who start running, and as their feet pound the pavement and their lungs burn from the pain, they are able to outrun the demons that are chasing them.  Others get tattoos, a symbol to remind them that they have faced the chasm in the earth, the darkness and the suffering, and have made it to the other side.  Still others turn to God, to His promises and the hope that He provides.  Some turn to writing, to the therapy that it provides, to using their words to understand exactly who they are.  There are some who choose not to find themselves but rather stay buried in the earth, dying inside, a victim of their own depression.

After about a year I decided that I was exactly where I needed to be.  I was doing okay, I was making it.  I had turned to God and read His word, and He promised me that I would know great happiness again.  I was back to being a mother to four amazing children and although I was no longer a wife, I was doing okay.  Supper was getting to the table and the kids were getting to school on time.  Homework was being done and the house was no longer a chaotic mess.  I was still an engineer getting up to go to work every day.  Everything was going to be okay.
But then something else happened, and I suddenly found myself right back in the depths of the chasm I had dug for myself a year earlier.  And as I sat there at the bottom, staring at the sliver of light above me, I wondered how this could happen.  I had survived things I hoped my children never had to face.  The pain of my heart being torn from my chest, the pain of tears that refused to stop.  Where did I go wrong?  Why was I back here?  Was there any point in trying again?

There was a question that still whispered incessantly at the back of my mind.  Who are you really?
This time, instead of thinking of my penchant for chocolate and frozen desserts, I started to contemplate more meaningful existence.  If I were only defined by the rings on my hand, or the children that I took care of every day, or the food that I ate and the places that I went, then I might have the ability to fall right back into the depression and hopelessness that would never stop chasing me.  I had to be something more than that.

I can’t really explain what happened next.  I really can’t.  I turned to God again, and for the first time I truly started to believe the words that He was telling me.  I wasn’t a believer because it was the right thing to do, I was a believer because it was the only thing to do.
And by finding the truth in the Word, the truth in the whisper of God in my ear, I was finally able to find myself.  That person was no longer defined by exercise or body art or bright orange pants, but something much deeper.  Something much more lasting.  Something much more real.

Now my familiar crevice in the earth, the one that held so much confusion and pain, the place where I had cried so many of my tears, is gone.  I no longer fear slipping back into that hole, because it is no longer there.  I am stronger, I am more real than I ever have been before.  And when I smile, I mean it.  I’m not hiding the agony in my heart.
But the most important thing that I have learned on this journey, this path in life that will probably never truly end, is that to answer that very basic question (who am I?) I had to let go of something important.

I had to let go of the person I used to be.

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