Friday, October 5, 2018

Is it Falling Together or Falling Apart?

Tonight I came home from buying my daughter a new bathing suit for our vacation in two days, when hubby pulled me into the bedroom to talk. "it's bad," he says. "Bad."  Sometimes bad from hubby is a problem with the NFL schedule or hearing one of the kids say a cuss word, so I haven't panicked yet. But it is definitely on the bad scale.  A notice to vacate in 45 days.  They want to "do something different" with the property we've been renting for 3 1/2 years.

So I take a deep breath and I just know, in my chest, that this is what's supposed to happen right now.  I don't know what's next, and part of me wants to panic and pull my arms in the air, and such. . . but it's also somehow right.  For the past few months I have felt a pressure in my veins, all through my body, that we don't belong here in this place, in this situation, and in this house.

I know--of course I feel like this--I just finished the degree, hubby is applying for jobs (he's been getting contacted about positions EVERY week lately, which counters strongly the dead silence we got all summer), and I am applying for faculty positions all over the country.  I had two interviews last year! With each application we are praying, who will get it first? We are agreeing that whoever does get the gig, that will be where we go, and where we somehow "make it work." We feel unified, driven, but mostly anxious. We have already agreed that somehow, by January, hubby needs out of the position he's in, so having a massive life change one month earlier can't be that bad, right?

Tears roll from my daughter's eyes. She just got into an honor choir, she has a few friends, she doesn't want to leave school or move really, she just misses snow. What will happen with her guitar lessons? She's frightened and I feel ultimately at fault. I want to give her a magically stable home. But sometimes falling apart is not really falling apart.  How do I explain this?

Nov. 13, 2013. That's the day hubby got fired and our whole world changed. We moved across country with nothing coming. We were battered, tired, and not that hopeful. And five years later I have a doctoral degree, hubby is producing a #1 show (a torturous schedule that's killing him, but you know) and it feels like the kids are thriving.  We are also not really keeping up with bills--sometimes having only $40 left from a paycheck after bills. We are struggling with my piddly "adjunct" income and it hurts. We don't love the desert, especially not the heat. We hate the tiny rental house where kids have nowhere to play so they just play on top of us.

I pray that just like five years ago, things will crumble apart to reveal a new plan. Perhaps this new plan will feel a bit more permanent, and guarantee my children the chance to make lasting friends. I am grateful that we are getting kicked out, however awful it feels as I scramble for storage units and calculate a rough plan B or . . . is it plan C? I don't really care which plan it is, but I am hoping pretty intensely that it is a divine plan I couldn't possibly have predicted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It Doesn't Have to Happen

I have a feeling that this blog post will start less happy and end up joyful.  Let's see.

When everything fell apart, I changed a lot of how I view prayer and God.  Well, first I hated God. Then I stopped believing, and then I started wondering what it was I really believed.

So, when I was young, things were blissfully black and white. I could just say, "well, I know it hurts but the answer is no and I guess we'll have to deal with it," and then wipe my hands of your problems, or pretend to ignore mine, and get on with my day. I also believed in this crazy thing that many seem to, about "everything happens for a reason."  In some ways I believe this, but now as a more grown-up believer, what I really think is that most of those "reasons" are beyond our comprehension and we will never, at least in this life, get to feel like, "aha, I get it, God was planning this, or this blessing was hidden all along."  Those stories are abundant in not only Christianity but other religions as well.  I think of them as payoff stories. They go like this:

My boyfriend dumped me.  I thought he was the one, I cried like crazy, but then I met the REAL one and he was so much better, and I see what God was doing.  = payoff.

I tried for years to have a baby. It was so hard, but then I got pregnant and my daughter is amazing and I understand all the waiting was worth it for this great kid. = payoff.

I didn't get in to Harvard, but Cal State Whatever ended up being the greatest blessing of my life. = payoff.

Here's what I think.  Sometimes boyfriends dump and you never get married, and sometimes babies don't come, and it hurts like hell, and sometimes Cal State wasn't as good as Harvard. And none of that means there isn't a God, because God is bigger than that.  I believe there is a big story, an ultimate journey, and a God who cares but maybe in a way we can't fathom sometimes. Otherwise, you will always wonder what went wrong, when nothing came wrapped in a bow. And probably you will wonder how YOU are wrong, or why God hates you.

Again it comes to me, all these brilliant hymns, which describe real suffering to me. They resonate so perfectly, because there's something in there I can't even imagine, something deep and fulfilling and perfect, something in the verses of the Bible that I can't show you by giving you a payoff, or telling you I finally got a good paying job.

My goal is God himself, not joy, nor peace nor even blessing, but himself, my God.

When sorrows like sea billows roll.. . Whatever my lot, God has taught me to say it is well with my soul.

My place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark, and I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark.

It is not well, I guess, because things will get better. It is not well because I have what I need financially. It is not well because my kids are amazing, or I am blessed with doing what I like for work.

It is well because the creator of the Universe is real. It is well because He endured the worst possible pain, separation from God, to give me a way to know forgiveness, and to be at peace in my imperfection. It is well because nothing in the world is fair, and yet I am known, the very darkest of me is known, and ultimately loved in a way I can't even ever love back.

I will still pray for it to happen. But it doesn't have to happen, because right this moment, I rejoice that He exists, and that I am His, and He is mine.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

10 Years

I guess I feel like blogging, I seem to start these things lately and then give up.

We had an anniversary weekend, though we still have 4 days to go until the real 10. Hubby and I went on a trip, where nothing was as I planned. He had to nap each day, because his work schedule has kept his body from being able to sleep a full night--he gets up after 4.5 hours, then later on he's exhausted.  I knew that, but I didn't plan for it.

The restaurant I dreamed about going to was booked solid until 10. We were starving, so we went to another place, a fancy expensive place, which I downrated in my head and then reluctantly forced myself to enjoy. It wasn't what I wanted, and the adjustment was so hard. I was angry with myself for not being more flexible, and yet still not completely flexible.

It was hot, I was sore, and we didn't have the cash we should have, so we had to put some of it on credit which scares me.  I think I will have a doctorate degree in a month, but it's not the way I wanted--with a job at the end, a plan.  I originally thought our 10th anniversary would be celebrating the new life we'd worked for, and instead it just . . . was a nice anniversary.

I feel like the whole weekend was an allegory of my marriage. We have been putting out fires for so many years, and I have had so few weeks of just breathing and enjoying. We have two amazing children, albeit horrible and difficult pregnancies and births. We have a place to live, but we don't own it, it's too small, and I'm ashamed a bit when people come over. 

My husband has tried to get a better position for over 10 years now, and he'll be hitting 50 years old in 2019 without that position.  We've battled medical and dental emergencies that were life-threatening, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease. We never have enough money coming in to pay off the bad times--despite my ability to budget. It just seems like we never catch a break that lasts longer than 10 minutes.

And yet, just like this weekend, if I don't stop picturing what I wish it was, I will not see that I am very happy with a person who loves me for me. I have kids who miss me, who are kind to people, who are smart and healthy. I am soon to have a doctorate, that hopefully I'll be able to use as intended, and in the meantime, I am only working doing what I want to do. I don't earn enough to be a living wage, but we're always able to fill in those gaps, and hopefully I'm building toward it.

I think expectation and gratitude play a constant battle inside me. I feel frustrated that every little thing is earned so painfully, but maybe I should be grateful that I have the will to do that work. I feel frustrated that we get so little time together, always trying to scrape together a schedule, money, vacationless jobs, but maybe I should focus on the gratitude that we are moving forward. Slow is ok. It's just so hard.

There are harder lives to be had, for sure. There are loveless lives, and there is pain I don't ever have to feel. I am present and sober with a family who loves being together. No creditors are coming after us yet. We have purpose. We have today. And now we have 10 years of somehow staying afloat. Thank you God, for the flotation device. For whatever purpose it was to have us struggle through these years. And I pray the next 10 are a lot more boring.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Boiling Points

Well, our initial plans have not worked out.  We planned, hubby and I, that I would come here, finish a DMA in three years, and that same year I would get a job somewhere else. I would rescue him from the torturous schedule he works, that seems to be rushing him towards an early demise, and we would be planting in lush, dark soil by August.

But instead, we're in Tucson, I'm teaching 7 year olds "how to sing," (this is not really a thing before you're old enough to develop vocally, so it's more like "how to be musical,") commuting up two hours to teach a few hour-long students over the summer, trying to push to get the DMA done in 3.5 years, and we rarely see each other, rarely talk, have no room for the kids to play, no dream yard, no sense of a regular schedule. Hubby never gets enough sleep, and many times I feel overwhelmed and completely unhappy to be raising kids while I try to write every day--eventually giving them way more "tablet time" than I feel comfortable with because kids DON'T LET YOU WRITE RESEARCH PAPERS while they play.  That doesn't happen.

I'm frustrated, and tired.  I'm fat, and frustrated. I'm frustrated.

I'm hot too.  We're over 100 now, and it won't come back down until October. We have a pot in the windowsill growing flowers, and that's all the gardening I'll get this year. I'm not really a Southwestern gal.

I have been trained to notice that there's my timing vs. God's timing, but at these points, all you see is nothing working out. I never really loved long days at home, being a nanny, raising kids, and today I hate it. Don't tell me someday I'll look back and miss it. I certainly don't miss those horrible snowy weekends where I was stuck in the house with a working husband and a two year old who needed me every moment.  I'm not going to miss hours of watching cartoons with the 5 year old while I wished I could be finishing the DMA.

So I pray that maybe this is just the time for hubby to get a new job. A new job would fix much of what makes this life so hard. But I know better than to try to guess what would help. All I can do is take one day at a time.

Does it feel like we've been here since 2014? Just in this constant state of transition? I'm just so tired.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Our Mexican Dental Experience: A Review-ish

13 months ago we were on a family vacation when my husband bit into something with nuts and half of his front tooth broke off.

Since I met him, he's been somewhat prone to having infections in his mouth. They seem to come on quickly and have resulted in a lot of dental work. 

We have a poor history with route canals and every time a dentist suggests them, I want another option. Though dentists often poo-poo my doubts, about 6 years ago, he went to the dentist with a massive infection and blood pressure through the roof. The dentist herself rushed him to the hospital, and he lost SIX teeth that he had spent so much money getting route canals and crowns. Basically, all of the route canals he'd paid for were worthless? So we spent years paying off that bill and we tend to hesitate before making decisions, just trying to get him frequent appointments. While that experience was horrifying in itself, I often think of how I could have lost him. We have both grown afraid of dental work when it comes to him.

We had been told the front tooth needed a route canal, but again, would that just end in another removal? We took that half tooth to a local dentist, and got a suggested $3000 bill. So we waited, because--who knows? Would we pay that just to lose the tooth again? The other front tooth is a crown, the result of a route canal, and already having some issues--it was fairly chipped and we worried about it.

So we waited too long, and two months later that tooth was fully gone. The local dentist now said an implant would be doable at something like $5000 and an 8 month set of procedures. After that appointment, I talked hubby into going to Mexico.

We went to the dentist that is literally the closest to the Nogales border (Laser Dental). It had decent reviews, and is four doors down from the point where you enter Mexico. He was very worried about it. The first time down, he left all his paperwork in the car on the other side of the border and I had to go get it. Then he started getting used to crossing.

We are about an 80 minute drive from the Mexico border. This was probably the worst of the experience. He got really used to doing that drive. We never had time in between appointments to get a passport, so we went over with a birth certificate. This slows down the process, but it is still do-able.

I will stop with the narratives and give a bullet-point list of the experience.

1. The first pro is that the dentist office is convenient and very similar to a US office. The dentists, we found, are not great English speakers, but everyone else is. Some of the employees were born in Phoenix, and choose to work down in Mexico. My husband, however, did hate that every piece of information had to be passed from the dentist to the dental assistant to him, and sometimes having 3-4 people standing over him in a procedure speaking a language he didn't know well enough to understand while their hands were in his mouth was a little scary.

2. Appointments were slow to get and they ran late a lot. That could happen anywhere but feels important to mention.

3. The first implant didn't "take." They discovered the tooth next to it had an infection. So we had to start the process over. I don't know why they proceeded to do the implant even though the infection was likely apparent. They "risked" it, and that was a bad idea. After the infection next to that tooth was dealt with, the second implant took beautifully.

4. They were hesitant to give him antibiotics, and a few appointments resulted in him going down to get something done, discovering that there was too much swelling or a mild infection, and sending him home with NO WORK. It was devastating. We ended up buying antibiotics, since you can get them for just about nothing at the pharmacy next door, and taking a round for every appointment. It seems like this greatly improved our experience.

5. There is a no-frills atmosphere. No one was in a rush, no "extra precautions" and sometimes Tye worried about whether the lack of those precautions was dangerous. However, we did not have any problems, and generally the work was really great. He ended up with TWO surprise crowns in the front, and they are beautiful, and fit better than any crown he's had.

6. Our dental insurance covered this EXACTLY the way they would have covered a US procedure. Mostly at about 50%, some at 80%, and the implant at 0%. Everything was "pay upfront/get reimbursed" so we had to wait, but we were able to pay off much of it. The cost was about a third of what we would have paid here, or less.  In terms of cost, there is no way to overstate that it was actually--almost affordable. I wish I had thought to not put part of it on a Wells Fargo credit card, because they charge that horrible "foreign transaction fee" which was pretty high, but otherwise, it was the best possible financial decision we could have made.

7. The results are beautiful.  They not only finished the implant but fixed the crown next to it so the teeth look beautifully matched. I am very impressed, and impressed with all work they did as a final result.  Two weeks have gone by and he still looks amazing.

8. The whole process took about 7 months, but that includes the fact that the first implant did not take. They also insured their work for years, but require he returns every 6 months for a check-in (which is highly unlikely for us).

Ps-I had read online many stories of "I stayed overnight, and they did the implants in a weekend!" (Not only did the dentist tell us that it was a minimum of 3 months to heal before they could complete the implant, but even the wait time for the molds to be completed was a week, so that is not in any way accurate in our experience).

Biggest Pros: Cost, Work Quality
Biggest Cons: Incredibly Slow Timing, Lack of Preventative Choices/Antibiotics, Hard to get Appointment Times

There ya go.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sunday, April 1, 2018

John 4

This is just my favorite.  I have tried to examine what it says about me, that it's my favorite, but ultimately given up.  Today my head is filled with the woes of the world, a reminder of how truly horrible we are, and ultimately, how totally confused.

So God is in walking around in the body of a Jewish man, and he stops, in the middle of the day, in a town that's not Jewish, to get water at a well.  There's a woman there, filling up water for her house. I know it's unusual for her to be there at midday.  Most of the women went in the morning, when it was cool and before doing household chores for the day. She probably didn't want to see those catty old judgmental jerks doing their gossipping at the well.  So she waited until lunchtime. She sees this Jewish dude there and she does not want to talk to him, because why would she?  Out of the blue he says, "hey, would you mind getting me a drink?" She looks around herself just to check if there's a Jewish person, but there's not.

This reminds me of a lot of things that happen in our own culture.  There are people who just try to avoid each other.  They don't talk because someone thinks they're somehow better than the other, and the other just shrugs their shoulders and stops trying. Or maybe they get angry, go on a few marches, hope things get better.

"Are you asking me?  You know I'm Samaritan, right?"

But he says, and this is crazy. . . "If you knew who I was, you would be the one asking for a drink.  And the water I would give you would be living water." And since He was God, I bet those words made her tingle all the way down to her feet.  Water is living, right?  It's filled with organisms, it's . . . what keeps us alive.  We're part amphibian, born in water, not needing our lungs until we're pushed out.  I mean, it is living.  But part of her knows this is so different.

"Sir," she says, because maybe he's insane, "You don't even have a cup.  Plus, are you saying to me that you are somehow better than the great Jacob, the fighter, leader of armies, favored by God, whose land this is?  The Jewish hero? This is his well, and I doubt your water could compare with his."

"If you drink this water, you'll get thirsty again. But my water is special. You drink it and you're never thirsty again. It becomes inside you, a spring of water, and turns into eternal life."

So this part always surprises me, because why does she know that he's for real and not a weirdo? Maybe she's just so desperate not to come to "gossip town" again, she wishes there were another source for water. She'll take anything.

"Sir, can I have some of that water? I would love to not have to fill up at this well again."

"Sure," he says, "call your husband." (Ouch, we all know why he said that. Low blow.  Maybe He knows she doesn't really believe him, she just wants water.)

"I don't have a husband." (She's so honest!  She could have just lied to this random Jewish guy, but she doesn't. And I think this is why he came to her. She's not a liar.

"You're right. The fact is, you've had five husbands, and the guy you're with now is not your husband.  But thank you for telling me the truth (I know how hard that was for you.)"

"Ok, well I see you're a prophet. So listen, here's my question, the Jewish people say we can't worship God here, and we think this place is ok. . . " (blah blah, she's asking a political question).

"The time will come when it won't matter where you worship anymore.  I'm here to change all that."

And then, it hit her for the first time.  Maybe he's got information about the messiah they talk about all the time. Or maybe she's being polite. It's normal for a Jewish person to say "this will all be better when the messiah comes" maybe she's doing that.  She says:

"Well, I know the messiah's coming, and then things will be clear."

And he looks her in the eye and says, "that's me.  I'm the messiah."

And she has no idea what to think, but this random jewish guy knew all about her, and now her whole life is changed forever.

And ironically, she got that living water without even asking.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Art of Fear

I have a lot to get done this morning, but I'm dragging my feet. I figured I'd write a blog and that would launch me into doing something super-productive. It sounds like a plan.  Sometimes, these days, as I interview for jobs and scramble to finish the doctorate I don't want to do anything.  I'm too overwhelmed and I'd rather just hide in the closet and eat peanut butter out of the jar.

But that's not going to help, so here I go. Finishing a doctoral degree is very different from the bachelor's or master's.  It's similar to moving.  There's a point when you've organized and all the boxes are filled, the house looks, for the most part, empty, and you say to yourself: "you're close." Then you open up a closet door and the whole thing is filled.  "crap," you say to yourself, and then you pack that up and realize that you forgot the last part of the garage, and then the stuff behind the piano, and the further you get you start thinking, "I AM NEVER GOING TO GET THROUGH ALL THIS." You start chucking stuff in the trash, you cry a little, you find a photo of your mom and dad in a drawer and then you take a second to feel emotional and it goes on and on.  But you finish, right?  Faith is the opposite of sight.  You know you will finish, you just can't see it yet.

I've had a few job interviews, so, as a fellow student says, "that means you'll get a job." But I have a list of fears: Will I like the job? Will I like the new home? Will I be able to afford it? Will the job pay like crap? Will my husband find a job? Will the kids have good schools? It goes on, but I won't bore you, because then there wouldn't be anything else in this blog.  Besides, the worst thing is that once you start, it SPIRALS.  You start thinking about whether you'll like the grocery stores or your yard.

Two days ago, my 4 year old asked me on the way to school, "next year, will I be in the classroom with the fish on the door?"
 I told him, "well, probably not sweetheart. We might move to a new house next year, and then you'd be at a new school."
There was a long pause. "What? What house? Where? What kind of school?"
And there it was.  FEAR. It's the most natural instinct. Please, don't make me change, but I'm also afraid of stagnation. I'm afraid I won't be liked, loved, I won't have money, I won't have a home.  Fear is all-encompassing.
24 hours later, we were on the couch together when he said, "I kind of love this house." Out of the blue. And I knew what was going on. That turning, wrenching, fear had stayed with him 24 hours!  This house, where he doesn't have a space to play and he wishes there were a yard. It's the only home he remembers.  He's almost 5 but he's been here 3 years! I just held him and said, "I know. But I promise wherever we go we'll be together."

It's kind of all I can say right now. The move 4 years ago was insane. It was painful, ends were not tied, and the dust of trauma chased us across the country. Now, if we move we are stable.  Hopefully I'll be done finding closets full of "extra stuff" that I have to get done for the doctorate. I'll be trusting God to land us somewhere that people will love me, and I'll make music, and I'll find someone like-minded.  Maybe just one person. And wherever we go, we'll be blessed to be together. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

If You Limbo Like I Do

I find that life, so far, has been a series of trials seeking landing spots.

The trials are happy and sad. Don't get me wrong. I think that first statement makes it seem like there's just a lot of awful but that's not really true.  What it really means is that I have spent a lot more time in limbo than I would like.

I think there are other choices.  Sometimes, when you're in your own life, looking out, you don't see other choices. You don't go "well, Amy's life could have been an option."  Let's be honest, her life was not an option.  This is MY life. And my life is climbing mountains, sitting in limbo, finding a brief landing place, getting bored, and then looking at another mountain.. . salivating a little.

Being an Opera Singer.  That was a mountain.  Jeez.  Got to a point where I was singing, auditioning, crying, singing, auditioning, crying.  Good times. It got lonely. But the singing part was GOOD.  Like--crack good. Still, the auditioning and crying, ouch. So then after a while that mountain turns into limbo.  The state where I need something else. Something less lonely, something that makes me feel purposeful.  Something. Street kids in Peru, little dog in a purse, constant working out.  Something.

Dating. That was a mountain. Lots of dates with men who revealed, after things seemed to be going well, that they were married, but not super married.  Or dates with men who did not see it necessary to believe in anything, or did not see it necessary to call, or be kind, in between dates. Or men who thought I was ok, but they really wanted a red head. 

Adjunct teaching. This is limbo.  This is "work your butt off and make $11k a year limbo." That's eleven. Teaching two classes, 12 students a year, and 11 thousand dollars. Of course, I work 3 other jobs. So we add the MOUNTAIN of the DMA. And that was a mountain.

I'm going insane, because if you limbo like I do, you know that there's a place, somewhere, that you could land. And work one job. Your husband could have a job that wasn't hurting his health, and there could be a real place to invest yourself, to do what you already know you love. To not worry and count pennies.

I am happy here in limbo. I am SO HAPPY. That's almost the worst part.  How can I complain when I have beautiful children, a nice home, albeit a rental, and a loving husband? How can I complain when I drive a functioning car (thanks to Dad loans) and I eat healthy food, and have two cute dogs, and get good health care?  HOW?

But I am just looking for this landing place. This place where, for some brief time, there are no mountains, no limbo, and I don't have to write people in the middle of the night looking for hope. Because unfortunately, it's been 5 years on this mountain, then in this limbo, and I am running. Out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Love needs Legs

I'm just going to copy and paste the lyrics to David Wilcox "Show the Way" because they make me feel hopeful and I'm not sure what else to write today.  This is not specific, just a general feeling about how things seem to be going.

You say you see no hope
You say you see no reason we should dream
That the world would ever change
You say that love is foolish to believe
'Cause they'll always be some crazy
With an army, [gun] or knife
To wake you from your daydream
Put the fear back in your life
If someone wrote a play
To just to glorify what's stronger than hate
Would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late?
He's almost in defeat
It's looking like the evil side will when
So on the edge of every seat
From the moment that the whole thing begins
It is love who mixed the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love can show the way
Now the stage is set
You can feel your own heart beating in your chest
This life's not over yet
So we get up on our feet and do our best
We play against the fear
We play against the reasons not to try
We're playing for the tears
Burning in the happy angel's eyes

For it's love who mixed the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Though it looks like we're alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love will show the way

Friday, February 16, 2018

Who is Jesus?

I don't enjoy having time on my hands.  I know I should--I know somehow I should learn to relax, calm down, whatever.

But instead I hate being at home.  I hate housekeeping, and I hate listing "ways in which I was productive today" and feeling like there are never enough.

I have been like this for as long as I can remember.  I wanted to join every club, be in every play, every musical group, speech competitions, work. I was always spinning 5 plates on something imaginary.

So now I have this weird schedule where I work 12 hours one day, and then only a few hours each day the rest of the week.  I earn some money at home, writing, and sometimes singing. And I may be going insane.

"I thought you said this post was about Jesus?" you may be asking yourself.

This week a few things happened. A school shooting happened.  I am a teacher, and my children are students, and when a shooting happens I lose all sense of peace. I am a wreck. I hate my husband. I just donated money to something hoping that would assuage the horrible sense of sadness (I over-empathize with each victim, I feel sick to my stomach, and I blame everyone for any response that doesn't seem genuinely and totally compassionate. I have nightmares, and sometimes I can't sleep for days. 

You may be thinking, at this point, that this will be something about Jesus and tragedy, but it isn't.

It's about my struggle in faith when I hear the inner thoughts of "devout" people. You see, to me the worst thing about social media is knowing what other people think.  I trusted people--they may not even know I read it--7 or 8 words? and now I don't trust them. That happens a lot. One insight into the inner workings of another's mind and I don't like them.  Sometimes I quickly unfriend, I walk away, and I forget.  I start thinking of them by the way they present themselves to me, and not by what they said to a family member or friend. And the relationship remains, mostly, preserved.

But some--once I have seen what they think, I am left with this question, "How can your Jesus look so different from mine? And who is Jesus, who is the cornerstone of my life, if you--you who are devout, who claim to love him, who tell others about him--who is he really? Because he can't be all these conflicting things.  He can't delight in the pain of others, as you seem to think he does, and yet fully experience the pain of his creation, as I think he does. He can't think we should reject immigrants and welcome them. These are not political anymore to me, there are underlying spiritual aspects to this.

And the struggle is here. Because if you compare my Jesus with others in my life--it's not the same God. It's not the same words. It's not the same meanings. It's not the same set of standards we are each living. I don't say a prayer with that person and erase everything I know they seem to believe so adamantly. And if you can make up your Jesus, maybe I'm making up mine.  So there you go. It hurts and it asks me over and over and it keeps me up at night.

And all I want to do is learn who He is.  Because he said you'd disappoint me anyways.  He said, "many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person."

He knew not to trust us. Please God, help me reconcile how to love and not be disappointed, and remind me I won't get every answer, just a good supply of grace and truth. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Who I Love, How I Love and the Free Forties

I am 44 today. At first I had this weird fear about it. I remembered in Chinese numerology that 44 is the most unlucky age you will ever be! In Mandarin, the number 4 also means death. So sometimes hotels will skip the 10 floors between 40 and 49, just like Western hotels skip the number 13. It's a real thing, this silly superstition, but I have a long relationship with Chinese culture, so I instantly remembered it when I realized what age I would be.

Actually, if you add up the bad numbers in all the different cultures of the world, you might be hard pressed to find a good number.  Everyone seems to like 3. It's strong, like a triangle. It feels mathematically perfect. But you can't stay in your 30s forever.

So today I'm 44. And I have finally reached an age where I don't love shouting it out.  "38!" I would say proudly.  And now I whisper the years as they go by. I was born the year Nixon resigned.  Freaking Nixon! That sounds old.

What's different about the 40s? As I get older fewer things are black and white.  It's hard to look around yourself, see everyone's different life experiences and go, "ok, I am more right than any of you. I know better than all of you. I have got this." It's easier to look at them and nod your head and say, "there but for the grace of God. . . " I am so lucky not to have one of the million things we judge other people for be something I've done. Accidentally. Or on purpose.  Or. . . even that distinction is a little blurry.

It's a recent realization I've had that for years I listened to someone say that I had to love people only this much. That I had to love in different ways, and only that would be ok. I am not sure I get that now. I have had friendships that were like romances--we talked all night, we brushed each other's hair, we missed each other intently when we were away from each other. And someone challenged me on that.  We were "too close." I mean. . . only romance should be that close, right?  Now I look back and I wish I'd said "screw that" and just loved the way I wanted to.

Sometimes, nieces are best friends. Sometimes grandfathers are like brothers. Sometimes you have a person in your life who might as well be related, why don't you get to call her sister? Sometimes your parents are the bad influence.  These rules are not helpful. For me at least, they have only held me back.

I have put so many rules on myself, due to this, about how much or how little I should love each parent. How close everyone should be with their siblings. I have thought I had to make decisions about choosing one person over another (this is child of an addict stuff, I think). Could I love someone so much that I couldn't stand anyone saying terrible things about them and still love the person saying the terrible things? Yes.  You know why? Because it just isn't wrong to love people. These rules are ridiculous.

See how freeing the 40s can be???!!!!

I can love someone who disagrees with me on something FUNDAMENTAL. I can love someone who has wronged me, and I can love someone who will never love me back, and all of that is fine. AND, this one is good. . . I don't have to apologize for someone I don't love. Even if I'm supposed to love them.  Things can change.  You couldn't stand them in your 20s, and now you're best friends. Or vice versa.  Or both at the same time. Even if everyone says . . . something.  Because everyone has something to say.

So happy birthday to me. I'm forty four and I'm in the freeing forties and today I'm going to love like it's ridiculous. I'm going to send you a card or call because I love you and not because I should, and not because I'm relying on an obligatory thank you. I'm not going to regret that we haven't done this or that because let's be honest, we never had a relationship anyway. It is what it is.

This month, 2 parents of good friends died. This month, a 16 year old who I didn't know, but was part of my extended family, died and left broken hearts everywhere. It's all recent, and it's a reminder that we don't spend a single wasted minute loving, or forgiving, or eating humble pie. Feel bad about something you said? It gnaws at you but you feel like you'd be an idiot to say it.  Just say it. Always wanted to thank someone.  Thank them. Always wished you'd spent more time with someone? Try. It may not work. It's still worth it.

And just for my birthday, could everyone stop being an a**hole on facebook?

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Mama Memory is Long

Babies are cute.  They are round, and they smell good and they have toothless giggles.  I loved breastfeeding, watching them walk, hearing them say silly stuff.

I feel like I'm missing something though.  How come I don't "miss" the babies? My children are getting older.  I love it!  I love seeing how they dress, hearing them talk about things that matter. I love their independence, and honestly, I prefer that they love me, rather than need me.

I wonder all the time, does this make me someone who wasn't meant to be a mom?  After all, I see these "mommy" types post on facebook or say at parties how much they miss the babies.  They remember when their kids were little, and the little hands and hugs. They remember the silliness, and they long for it.

Or am I misunderstanding what "missing" something means?  After all, I used to feel so guilty when in-laws would say they "miss" the children, until I had multiple trips where they didn't really play with the children, or clean up their vomit, or punish them, and I started realizing they "missed" looking at cute things.  They didn't long for the feel of baby hands.  It was more like--they just enjoyed having babies around.  Kids I was raising.  It was fun to see them. It was entertaining.  Once I realized that, it was liberating. Missing and longing.  Those are different.

Sometimes I miss being a single woman in NYC.  I think, "oh man, it would be so great to have nothing on my schedule today but to spend 30 minutes getting ready and then work out all morning and then take the subway to Chinatown or meet my friends." I miss that.  But I don't long for it.  I know that there were issues.  I was lonely a lot.  I wished I were more successful every day. And now, I can fill my day with other happy things.  In this reality, I have a supportive husband, kids who are adorable sometimes, and things to write about.  So . . . longing is not the word.  I just remember something fondly that I naturally evolved out of.

My mama memory is long. And with each memory of babies, I remember praying at 2 1/2 that my daughter would sleep.  I remember floor fits.  I remember having to buckle children in the backseat when it was 20 below, or 115 degrees.  I've done both hundreds of times.  I remember cracked nipples from breastfeeding.  Late night doctors. Just keeping them alive! But mostly, I remember mind-numbing afternoons where the choice was watching baby songs on the tv or playing batman toys, and I just wanted to be myself. Everyone told me I could "set boundaries" and still have my own life and that was really a lie. I wanted a life, I wanted to be a grown up. Each day, as my kids get older, I can set those boundaries, I can ask, and they come closer to understanding what I mean.

My investment in my children is, I believe,  what it should be. Someday it's likely that my daughter will look at me, she'll cry and she'll hurt deeply and she'll tell me that all of her body issues are because of me.  Because try as I might, I know she's going to inherit the most painful thing in my life.  Hopefully less than I have--but at some level, she will.  And my heart will hurt.  But it won't shatter.  Because I'll think, "I'm a really good professor," or "I encouraged someone today" or "I volunteered for people who need me" or a million other things I'm investing in my life to do for others that are not babies. Not even children. And I'll be reminded that I tried hard at parenting, but it was one thing of many.  Right?  It was never all of me.

I miss the past and fear the future about the same I guess.  Neither is exactly as we imagine. And neither deserves to be as important as today.