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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Summer Sabbath is what my church calls That Time In The Summer When Everyone Is Away. It is also my favorite time of the church year because we all cram into the church for one service. Usually we have three services–one contemporary, one traditional, and one for the college students–and I don’t especially like to choose just one.  In the summer I can sit in the balcony and look down and see people I never get to see during the year. Also, the style of services are combined so that there is a mix of formal with the informal: amazing organ music and classic hymns holding hands with drum sets and guitars. I like the fact that each of us in the community has to give up the right to ‘preference’, and just worship together.

Sadie, on the other hand, doesn’t especially enjoy Summer Sabbath because there is no Jr. Church. In the summer, Sadie is subjected to the torture of sitting through the ENTIRE service, instead of getting to leave after the offering (and before the sermon…) Five minutes into the service, she is rolling her eyes and sighing and fidgeting and asking How Much Longer???! So Dan has been packing a surprise bag for her each week filled with fun stuff for her to do–pens, notebook, little dolls etc. He also packs a little snack and a bottle of water.

So this morning, as the service is starting, Sadie is pawing through the bag, looking for something to share with her friend Emma. We are sitting in the first row of the balcony and Emma is six rows behind us. Sadie pulls a screwdriver out of the bag and cracks up. She stands up and holds it over her head to show Emma what her crazy daddy packed in her surprise bag. Then she pulls out a fortune cookie. And a piece of plastic tubing. And a gym sock. Each item she gets she stands up and shows Emma. By this time we are into the first song and I am laughing too–I had no idea what Dan had packed for her and I was wondering what she was going to pull out next. A bag of Apple Jacks. A little package of elastic cord. Binoculars. A kitchen sponge. A chocolate covered granola bar.

What on earth!? It was all just so RANDOM. I’m nearly snorting with laughter and then the older gentleman behind us taps Sadie on the shoulder and says ‘Who packed your bag?’ I was relieved to see a sparkle in his eye–he seemed to find the whole thing as amusing as I did.

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I have a teeny tiny problem with perfectionism. If I can’t do it perfectly, (I tell myself) I can’t do it. So projects pile up, clutter collects and my life goes from order to disorder in a blink. I have journal entries dating back to 1997 that say the same thing: why can’t I get my crap together? What’s wrong with me? Do I need a professional organizer? Should I pay someone else to clean my house? Why does life feel so hard for me??? (Haven’t I written this blog entry before…)

I’ve tried all kinds of house systems and ordered all kinds of de-clutter organizing books. I joined Flylady.com and bought a Bubble Planner. I’ve asked everyone I know: what works for you? How do you manage kids/house/stuff? Because I seem to suck at it. Even just as recently as last week, I went on an info spree and spent 5 hours (over the span of a few days) on the internet researching organization and productivity and housekeeping. Oh. and how to stop procrastinating. Years and years have gone by while I have tried to find the answer.

I was watching Kung Fu Panda with Sadie when I had my aha moment. Po’s dad finally reveals the secret to his best-selling noodle soup: ‘there is no secret ingredient.’ Then it dawned on me: I have everything that I need within me already. I haven’t been trusting myself. I’ve been beating myself up for not ‘succeeding.’ But what does success even mean? For me, doing something is better than the overwhelmed NOTHING I have been doing. So I decided to change my expectations of myself. Instead of a job well done, I’m going to settle for a job done half-assed. At least it’s done.

So I came up with a Plan for Half-Assed Success. I will add one or two things to my schedule and do them every day until I don’t notice I’m doing them anymore. I will write said one or two things in my planner every day and then highlight them when I’ve completed them. So last week I put in my planner: ‘make bed as soon as you get up,’ and ‘unload the dishes while Sadie eats breakfast.’ I was already doing these things sporadically–so it wasn’t earth-shattering to add them into my life. By the way,  I’m using the words ‘planner’ and ‘schedule’ loosely– I started using a planner at the beginning of January (a cheapy one from Walmart), and by ‘schedule’ I mean ‘the random stuff I do at random times in my life.’ So I did it. I wrote those two things down every day and highlighted them when I finished them. So YAY me! I will celebrate the small successes along the way: I now have unloaded the dishes AND made my bed all of last week and today.

My mom used to say ‘you don’t get praised for stuff you should already be doing…’ but I’m going to disagree with her. I made my bed and I ROCK! (I love you, Mom :))

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Well, I didn’t hate Christmas. It didn’t suck. Surprisingly. Though I did have a few moments where I wanted to hurl myself off of the mountain side because the physical pain would have felt much better than the waves of grief that shoved me hard underwater at random and unexpected times. I found myself muttering dumb dead sister; sad and mad and totally resistant to the fact that I had to be without her. I’m just glad it’s over.

But all in all it really was ok. I mean, we didn’t have to spend 20 hours in the car to see our family–AND Dan and I got to stay in a hotel while Grandma Judy supervised the cousins sleepover party at the Noyes house. Sleeping in never felt so good. I also must mention the hours that Sadie and Grampa John (Smith) spent together watching the strongest man contest on ESPN. I kept hearing Sadie gasping and yelling Grampa! That guy just pulled a TRUCK with his BARE HANDS! And then he would make some comments and I would hear him chuckling. She was so into it.  I think it was a highlight for him too. Nothing like a FULLY ALIVE six year old to ease the pain of loss–even if for a short time.

Now that I’m back, I’m concentrating on making some changes that I think will help lift the funk I’ve been living under. As usual, it starts with my House. I’ve been so paralyzed since August. Not like I was super house functional before (um…….) but for the last few months it’s been TORTURE to do even the smallest thing around the house. I’ve done a lot of wandering and napping and more than my share of self-loathing. I’ve felt lost and listless and just plain despondent. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that grief hangs on and hangs on and looks sometimes like depression and/or laziness and a lot of times like personal failure. But I’m not going to beat myself up anymore. I’m not going to stare helplessly around me and believe that I cannot move forward, because I can. I can take teeny tiny steps–I can start small and declutter one shelf, one drawer, one lazy susan at a time. I can decide to look through a smaller frame and refuse to be overwhelmed. I can believe that I don’t have to be perfect.

Also, I’m going to do a lot of running. I need all the endorphins I can get.

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Sadie: All moms are annoying. Kids don’t want moms.

Me: Hmm. I think kids would really miss moms if they weren’t there.

Sadie: Yeah, maybe other kids don’t want moms, but I do. I just wish you didn’t always tell me what to do. It’s very annoying. How would you feel if I said to you ‘Clean your room! All of it?’ or ‘Build a fort for me!’ or ‘Do my work for me!’

Me: I have never asked you to do my work, or build me a fort.

Sadie: I KNOW. But it FEELS like it.

Me: Well, when you become a mom, you can tell your own kids what to do.

Sadie: I definitely won’t be like YOU. I’m going to be a NICE mom.

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So I swiped my sister’s journals while I was home this weekend. I was looking for her CDs (that girl had more music than anyone I know…) and while I was rifling through her stuff (I’m getting used to it now–I don’t feel so much like a scavenger or an intruder) I found the journals. She didn’t like writing very much, so there were only a few–and I felt like I was ready to read them.

Side note: I did contemplate the ethical dilemma of reading her private thoughts. I pictured my own piles of journals and wondered: how would I feel if I was gone and someone read them? Maybe I’m a freak of nature or something, but to me, I want the people who love me to read them. I want Sadie to know what it was like to be me, and that life has ugly stuff and pretty stuff, and that everything that happens to us or that we think about or that we do is a part of what makes us human–beautiful–made in the image of God, yet fallen. And my reason for wanting to read my sister’s journals was that I desired to understand more of her than what I knew on the surface.

As the big sister I had come to some conclusions about her life(style) and who she was over the past several years that were not positive. Her seemingly constant neediness wore me out, and I was exasperated with her continual string of bad decisions. I assumed (in that annoying holier-than-thou way that I can sometimes (!) have) that because of the way she lived and the choices she made that she must not have really cared about God or her faith.

I am humbled and ashamed.

Reading her journals this weekend not only gave me insight into who she really was, but also revealed parts of me that are darker than I have cared to admit. I like to think of myself as understanding and tolerant. I also think I may be delusional. Because what I read–my sister’s most intimate prayers to God–showed me what a real human being looks like. One who struggles and fails, but who wants to be right with God. She prayed for me all of the time–almost in every entry. Meanwhile I was passing fierce judgment: why couldn’t she just live right? Like I did?

I was confronted with Grace again–that horrible, amazing truth: there is NOTHING I can DO to make God love me more; there was NOTHING she could have done to make God love her less. Neither of us could earn His love or lose it–no matter what did we did right, or wrong. It so has to do with Him, not us. Keeping the rules isn’t going to save me any more than breaking the rules was going to keep salvation from her.

What really blows me away is that God is still fond of me despite my pettiness, my arrogance, and my pride.

Now THAT is good news.

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I was stretching at the gym earlier, and I was a little bit startled to see Tate’s feet. I had her little footie socks on that she always wore, and my brain changed my wide, chunky feet to her delicate, dainty ones–including her little chicken ankles.  I swear, I was wearing my sister’s feet, like pretty little sock-shoes. I blinked and they were my feet again, but how BIZARRE.

I wish I could talk about something else, but this is it, and here we are.

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Today was a rough one. I was listening to my ipod, bopping around–unloading the dishwasher happy as you please–when I heard this tiny snippet of a song. It reminded me of a song that my mom used to play when my sister Tate and I were little. It wasn’t even the SAME song. It just reminded me of it. I gasped and was surprised when the crushing weight of grief just pounded me. Now I know where the feelings were hiding. I just cried and sobbed and kept saying to God “I want my sister back. Please send her back.”

Tate and I had this joke about the times when we were super-over-the-top emotional. We would say ‘that one goes into our Pathetic Scene File.’ As if there were a notecard box that held all our sad, dramatic moments. I thought of that when I was laying on the kitchen floor in a heap with my nose running (I figured it would be easier to clean than the living room carpet…) Yup, Tate. Definitely one for the File.

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