What is one decision that changed your life?
**To respect myself enough to not be controlled by others.
I did that once in high school. It bordered on emotional and verbal abuse… honestly, it jumped the line… I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my female friends. I wasn’t allowed to have male friends. I was isolated, chastised and degraded. I was disrespectfully treated as an object.
When that relationship ended (thank goodness high school doesn’t last forever!) and I rose thru the fog I’d been living in, I remember telling myself I would never date someone who didn’t let me have friends, talk to other people, or live outside his control. My sisters and best friend from high school still can’t say his name without cursing. It’s been almost 20 years.
What I learned from that experience is too much to fit in a blog entry or even a series of entries. I also prefer most of the details to remain anonymous. I don’t need to relive that. My biggest takeaway though is this:
To forgive myself for my choices, I had to forgive too. To move past despising that section of my life, I had to let my hard feelings go.
Life here is slowly returning to a more normal pace. Lentando.
The kids and I fell asleep on our couch last night. We read Llama Llama Red Pajama. That Llama sounds an awful lot like my 6yr old.
We prayed together. Each of us took turns praising for something we are thankful for and praying for someone who might be sick, sad, hungry or mad. May our eyes be opened and our hands ready to humbly serve those around us.
I woke an hour later and carried my children to their beds. I’m still able to lug my 75 pounder, but I’m not sure how much longer. I’ve got him by about 60 pounds and 12 inches. He’ll outgrow me in the coming 5 years.
Two hours later my husband walked in, finally home from a work trip. Sleepily I told him how nice it was to have him home. I don’t communicate exceptionally well at midnight.
Today will bring about the hustle and bustle of shuttling between swim lessons, basketball camp, a trip to the dentist and work responsibilities. Even this isn’t consistent with our lives 6 weeks ago, but we are getting closer.
Our cadence is slowing from affrettando. Too vigorous. Too chaotic. Like that flurry in the middle of a song, we are over the peak of summer.
We are falling into a new, more comfortable rhythm.
The notes of Franz Schubert mixed with the smell of mixed berry muffins are how I’ve started my morning.
School is closed today for a deep disinfection. Yes, on a Tuesday, the illness numbers were just too high yesterday. The approximately 850 kids in our district will get a respite from the onslaught of influenza and stomach flu and respiratory viruses.
We received the word about 5:30pm yesterday. Pre-kids-Jen would have started mentally planning the day. Two-kids-later-Jen acknowledges that whatever I plan is likely to get wrecked, so we’ll set a couple loose goals and wing it.
For instance, pre-kids-Jen and husband thought this would be our “adult bathroom.” We have another bathroom, so this one should be toyless, right?
Pre-kids-Jen enjoyed playing the notes of Schubert on the piano for relaxation. Two-kids-later-Jen gets her classical music via Little Einsteins on Disney Jr.
Honestly, there are some things I miss about pre-kids-Jen. She had time flexibility to go for a run and sleep when sick. Her non-work schedule consisted of weekends away for weddings, friends and spontaneous trips with her husband. She wore heels, matched purses to her outfits, and accessorized with trendy jewelry.
As I sit here smelling muffins baking and listening to cartoons, I realize how much my priorities have changed. I love these two little individuals.
I’m not Mary Poppins. Of course, the process has been frustrating and exhausting! I have not handled all of it selflessly or with grace. If you live near me, you may have heard me loudly telling my kids (ummmm…. yelling) to get in the car. Or perhaps you’ve pulled out of the parking lot and seen me with my head resting on the steering wheel?
It is like being in a rock tumbler. I haven’t lost my identity. Life has tumbled and changed it. I’ve rubbed off some of the sharp spots and my more positive traits are being polished. Slow and steady, one pair of footie jammies and Little Einstein episode at a time, I’m becoming more patient, compassionate, and understanding how deep love can be.
I left Friday for a long road trip to Colorado for my uncle’s memorial. He was a doctor in the San Luis Valley for decades and delivered somewhere around 1000 babies over the years. He loved tie-dye, bright colors, Christmas lights, Halloween costumes, camping, hiking, celebrating, playing with us as kids and in the past 10 years with his grandkids and great nieces and nephews.
Typically a 9-10hr drive, packed into the car with my sisters, mom, dad, and mom’s cousin Jane, we meandered our way across the plains to the foothills and finally to the San Juan mountains. 13 hours later…. we pulled into Del Norte, Colorado.
Seeing the mountains = winning.
Family road trip = winning.
Stellar soundtrack with my very talented musical family = winning.
EXCEPTIONALLY slow food service everywhere we stopped which added 2.5hrs to our road trip = not winning.
Fantastic historic boutique hotel with its own pastry chef providing the morning fare- 5 stars! Gorgeous room and soft bed = winning.
Hotel booked solid- only having a king, 3 people, and only a cot for person #3 = not winning. I took the first night on the cot. Multiple people commented on how tired I looked Saturday. My sister took the second night. She declared it Satan’s cot and told me I was too gracious about it the previous night. It gave her false hope.
Getting to see my cousins, aunts, uncles, and mom’s side of the family = winning.
Being able to reminisce, share memories of my uncle, and truly celebrate his life = winning. — At the end of my life, I hope people are celebrating the love, kindness and grace that I try to live with daily. Sad? Yes but definitely a life worth living!
Meeting an interesting woman at the coffee table in the hotel early on Saturday morning who practices small animal (cats specifically) veterinary medicine in Hong Kong but originally hails from South Africa and is taking 5 days to take in the scenic drives of southwest Colorado before a cat conference in Denver = winning.
I know that was a HUGE run-on sentence, but she was fascinating. We discussed different cultures and how it reflects on pet ownership, politics (respectfully) in South Africa & USA, how to put gas in a vehicle in the US (not full service as in SA), and my obese, “big boned” 15 year old, 18lb house cat who blew out a knee six months ago. Conversation with her was a spectacular way to start my day. <– I do officially strike up a conversation with almost EVERYONE I meet (Uber, coffee shop, etc) if they appear receptive after a “good morning.”
Ending the day with pizza (non-dairy sandwich for me), catching up with cousins, some intense games of pitch, and s’mores on the campfire = winning.
My family is fantastic. For all our distance, differences, and a long time-lapse between visits (close to two decades for some), they are MY family.
Missing my daughter’s cheer camp performance = not winning.
Being told by 5 different people, each in a different circumstance, that my children have “been a handful,” “kept them quite busy :(” and “are not behaving on the school bus.” All while I’m away for this memorial service… = not winning.
This was dealt with yesterday upon my return home. I did not react in a “winning” fashion. Not mom of the year. However, I do think we will see better behaviors, better choices, and hopefully less sibling nit-picking for a little while.
We packed up early Sunday morning. It was 18 degrees F!!! (Can you picture how big my eyeballs are right now!!!) So cold, or shall I say brisk with the wind coming down off the mountains!!!
Our road trip back was a bit more subdued, but did still involve a lot of singing to my DJ Jazzy Jen skills. Everyone was tired – notice the prevalence of glasses instead of contacts. My dad actually let my sister drive my vehicle = winning.
I am blessed to have the loving, supportive family I have. Nobody was forced to get out and walk on our l-o-n-g drives to and from. We did have the running joke that cousin Jane was out if we found some good antiques. All in good fun! We love cousin Jane!
Every family, every trip, every story has its bumps and curves. It’s winning and not winning moments. Fortunately, we pull together for these bumps and hold on tight for the sharp curves. If you ever get the opportunity to load up and take an adults-only family road trip, I highly recommend it!
Spring Break Recap:
- Yesteryday was the end of spring break. Kids back on normal schedule this week. Can I get an amen??? I prayed for my crew Sunday morning at church as we ended the week. Tensions were high. Ears were turned off. I wanted to end the break on a positive and not as the chaos that ensued trying to get out the door for the morning service.
- Achieved laundry success!!! First time this working mother has put away all the laundry since January. We switched out sizes for my two growing littles and put EVERYTHING away. If you’ve read my writing before, you’ll know that I always choose time with my kids over a spotless, orderly house. I call our house clean but functional. The easiest ball to drop is putting away the clean laundry…
- Rehashing all the fun we did have over the last week. Even though both parents had to work, I was able to adjust my work schedule for a few days so we could do some fun things with cousins and get in our 6m dental appointments.
- Deer shed hunting. Male whitetail deer drop their antlers each spring. They literally fall off their heads. As a family, we walked a few pastures yesterday searching for them. Found 4 – all of them left side. To date, we’ve collected 20 total over the last few years – 18 are lefts. That’s a strange statistic. Nature is unpredictable, gorgeous, peaceful, and the fresh air is invigorating.
- We celebrated our friend’s birth of a new baby girl into a family of all boys with pizza and a visit. The kids also enjoyed a cousin’s birthday party while we were at our annual personal tax appointment.
And finally to close it out…
- I hugged my husband and told him that I love him more than any argument we could ever have.
- I hugged my children and told them they are important to me and I love them.
One of my favorite songs the past few weeks is “The Scientist” by Coldplay. It came out over a decade ago, but recently it caught my ear. It’s easy to sing. I enjoy the minor tones. And I love the message that I take from it:
Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry
You don’t know how lovely you are
I had to find you
Tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets
And ask me your questions
Oh, let’s go back to the start
I’m not sure if I’m taking the written message the right way, but to me it’s all about making that connection. Making the EFFORT to make that connection
Running in circles
Coming up tails
Heads on a science apart
Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
We’ve been together since 2000. My oh my. That does seem like ages ago.
I was starting my senior year of high school. He was starting his sophomore year of college. Our dates consisted of Messenger chats and him coming back to my high school for my sporting events and a few hours of time together after they were done.
I did go on a date with someone else in college. I wanted to test the waters. See if I wanted to keep doing the long-term thing or date other people. It was a resounding “I don’t want to date anyone else” moment by the end of that night. I knew how good I had it. My husband was and is a keeper.
Fast forward almost 17 years. We’ve been married for 11.5 years. We’ve grown up and learned strengths, weaknesses, and held each other when it hurt. There’ve been fights and frustration. Moments where a drive alone was necessary.
I was just guessing
At numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apartQuestions of science
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heartTell me you love me
Come back and haunt me
Oh, and I rush to the start
And we keep coming back together to figure it all out.
Dating each other is important. Me giggling on the couch. The way he laughs when something funny catches him off-guard. Real time together. Snippets of time in the kitchen alone without the kids. Flirting. That arm slipping around me while I’m washing the dishes after dinner.
Asking those questions that neither of us really want to, but know we need to. Then working through the answer.
Raising our children together.
Running in circles
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are
Nobody said it was easy
Oh, it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start
I don’t want this to sound like we are struggling. We are deeply happy. But to stay that way, we have to keep going back to how we connected. To keep that passion and interest in each other- Ask what he’s reading. Give a little pat as I pass by. Keep dating each other.
Keep going back to the start.
It seems to be a week of them for my six, almost seven year old little guy. This is a transition year where he needs to be more responsible but is still testing the waters of just about everything. Some weeks are smoother than others.
Yesterday morning, in the midst of the morning school rush, he decided to shred his 4yr old sister’s purple feathered tiara with scissors. He then hid the stem, but couldn’t get all the fluff collected before I walked into the kitchen to find him standing amidst the floating purple fuzz.
All I could do in that moment was tell him I was disappointed in his choice to destroy something that didn’t belong to him. As a move towards reconciliation with his sister, he let her take one of his stuffed animals for her show-and-tell that day. Then out the door to the car we went.
I am firm with my children that I love them always and everywhere – even when they do naughty things. On the flip side, as parents, we don’t let them get away with much if we are aware of it happening. They both have loving, empathetic hearts so they seem to truly understand the “why” after causing the hard feeling but are definitely not yet able to consistently see the action- reaction connection.
*Flashback* I don’t specifically remember these younger years of my life, but I certainly know I made poor, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad decisions. In 34 years, you could probably go around the earth a few hundred times if you lined up all my bad decisions end-to-end on a written piece of paper.
I know I carried the guilt for some of these choices around for a long time.
There have been intense prayers and moments of quiet meditation reflecting on my stupid decisions. Tears, guilt, shame, and anxiety. I’ve been there. It isn’t like I have many deep dark horrible secrets. Most of my bad choices were obvious and at least, semi-public. It’s more like you start digging a little hole and eventually all your little shovels of dirt end up making something bigger when they are all put together.
And then I realized something…
I’ve already been forgiven for these bad choices. I’ve owned up to most of them to the other person and most importantly to God. He already knew. He was just waiting for me to acknowledge where I’ve fallen. He allowed Jesus to come and pick me back up.
And in all of this reflection – I’ve realized that the one person who keeps harping on things that happened in my younger years IS ME. It’s just me.
I need to keep forgiving myself. Just like I forgive my kids when they make bad choices and in turn, they forgive each other, I need to remember that I have a loving God who forgives me. I need to remember that patient grace that is extended to me and extend it on them.
They will learn just as they did yesterday with the purple tiara incident. “Life is a lively process of becoming.”- MacArthur
Psalm 103 is a beautiful psalm about forgiveness and love.