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Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

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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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 started running after my sister died. Well, running is a little ambitious to describe it. Let’s just say someone walking at a very brisk pace could lap me repeatedly. I always thought I hated running, but somehow–right now–it is the only thing that seems to make sense to me. When I’m running, I feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing. I don’t have mundane things over my head like ‘I should be unloading the dishwasher right now,’ or even meaningful things like ‘I should be sending thank you cards to people so they know I’ve appreciated their kindness during my sorrow.’ Both of those things are important to do, and both feel like insurmountable tasks sometimes. I may not be able to do them, but I CAN run.

I was trying to figure out what is it about running that feels right, and I wrote this in my journal on Tuesday after I came home from the gym:

Running and stretching open me up. I feel creative and alive and connected to myself. I like the feeling of being present–I’m all there when I’m running. It’s like meditation: focused but loose–and I feel released and peaceful afterward. The rock-huge boulder that holds my mind back from motivation is rolled away. I feel worshipful. Joyful. Open.

I’m intrigued by this joy I feel in spite of my sorrow. I don’t know how connected to running it is, but I am experiencing something I never understood before. That I can be mourning and grieving, but underneath know deep joy. Not happiness, necessarily. But a right-ness. Peace that passes all understanding, perhaps?

The sun and the beauty and leaves and the smell of wood stoves and the crisp fall weather–even the pinecones on the tree in my backyard–they are all trying to tell me something. Being in this place, connected to these people at this very time–all of it feels like God is saying: I’m with you. I love you. This grief is not forever. I have plans for you. Look around! See my hand. I am here.

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So it’s just the oddest thing. The way God changes things. I have this vivid memory of sitting in Dan’s office at Houghton in 1997, digging up anything I could find about Siloam Springs, the town we would be soon moving to. I couldn’t surf the web at home, all we could access there was text only. Isn’t that funny? A little over ten years ago, images on the Internet were much harder to come by. Our home computer didn’t have enough memory or ram or the right card or whatever to see images. So I had to use the internet at Dan’s office.

Anyway, I was so hungry to see what my town was going to look like. I imagined my life here, and how much better it was going to be. I wanted to be anywhere but Houghton, and fast. Lots of things I had no idea about waited for me here in Arkansas: a psycho dog, totally cool artsy friends, therapy, graphic design, writing, having a baby, post-partum depression, a breaking down and a building up of my faith, independence, an uncanny ability to grow basil, and the realization that happiness doesn’t just appear when you move away from a place. I have grown so much in eleven years. But never did I think that we’d be heading back to Houghton. Never.

But crazy. Seriously. Even with all of the knowledge I have of that little corner of Western Ny, of the cold and the grey skies most of the time, and the endless winter, and the miles and miles of, well, nothing, I. Want. To. Go. I can’t explain it. It can only be God. And here’s the other thing. I really like my life here. It’s not like I was just aching to get away. I had plans. I really liked my job. I love, love, love my friends. I felt like I needed to escape Houghton before we came here. I wanted to run away to happiness. (Note to self: the problem with believing that I’ll be happy when is that I bring my inner blackness with me wherever I go…moving doesn’t fix the problem) (I need to remind myself of this every once in a while…)

I don’t want to escape Siloam. Truth be told, I want to go to the Aquatic Center this summer. I want Sadie to go to the sports camps at the First Baptist church. I want to see Dana’s baby. I want to be here when Ellen gets famous. I want to go to Shan’s house for coffee and laugh till I am crying at something Trish said. I want to hang out with Tab and talk about boobs and the Holy Spirit and house renovation all in one conversation, while gesturing wildly and guffawing. I want to be a girl scout leader with Deanna and talk for hours. I want to see how our Sunday school turns out. I want Sadie to go to Allen Elementary next year. I want to be around when downtown Siloam finally gets cool.

It’s hard to think about life going on with out me. But I want to feel the loss, you know? I don’t want to just think about what’s ahead, and forget about what is great right now. Because that would be the easier thing. To shut down and move on. But I can’t. I have to feel excited AND sad. Both at the same time. And grateful too–for all of the gifts God has given me here. But also hopeful for the things He is going to do in my life in this next chapter.

I don’t like to think about leaving. Every once in a while I get this flash forward of us pulling out of our driveway for the last time, and I turn the channel QUICK. But I can’t pretend it isn’t going to happen just because it is going to be hard. Sometimes I wish I could just fly to NY in a blink and not have to deal with it. Skip any kind of closure and dive into our new life–as if the last eleven years didn’t happen. But how can I? It’s pretty crappy, this moving.

But deep down, I know we’re supposed to go. And that helps.

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*Title change: I realized after a thoughtful comment from Marcy that my first title wasn’t quite accurate. So I changed it. Formally, it was “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Thow a Fit.” I think this one is more fitting to the post.

I went to Houghton, NY last weekend REALLY wishing to buy a restored farmhouse built in 1883. We got there, and I got an email from the owner saying they had taken off the market. Much internal drama and conflict ensued. I had dreamed of owning this farmhouse for weeks–even though my rational husband reminded me that nothing was certain, and not to put all of my eggs in that basket. TOO LATE. I was Nancy Drew prowling through the secret passageway that connected this house to the barn across the street which in turn led to a hidden room that once housed ex-slaves on the Underground Railroad. Of course I have no idea if any such passageway exists, but the description of the second-floor screened-in sleeping porch had me at hello.

So instead, we made an offer on the ‘hillside ranch’ in the pictures. But it took me A. LONG. TIME. to readjust my expectations. I’m talking can’t sleep, sitting in the bathroom of the hotel at 3:00am crying, ANGRY at God for not giving me what I wanted. Turns out He gave me what I NEEDED instead. And then He helped me to really really want it. I love it now, and see so many possibilities for it.

The story is much longer, with more drama and resistance and finally peaceful surrender, but the details just might wear you out. I need to mention Dan the Husband Champion at this point, though. About an hour after we looked at and decided on the house in the picture, I started to sulk. He was really excited about the house while I was crossing my arms and hurrumphing. He said “I wish you could be excited about this as I am, but I can see you are having an internal struggle. I’ll let you wrestle it out in your own time.” I love that he said that. He accepted me where I was, and knew that I just needed time to accept this gift we had been given, instead of complaining about what I DIDN’T have. I mean, he could have given me thirty lectures about managing my expectations and how we have never had anything that nice before so I should just be grateful. But he didn’t. He gave me time, and by about 4:30am that morning, I was ready to move in to our funky house, happy and at peace.

We close on June 10th.

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Yesterday I bought Sadie Bratz sneakers.

I told myself long ago I would not pay money for any Bratz products. Sadie has known since she was conscious that I didn’t like Bratz dolls. We’ve had many a discussion about why this is: they are too grown up, they wear too much make-up, and they look like they WANT to get into trouble. This has made Sadie all the more curious about them, and she has asked for them often. She’ll say “I like Bratz,” then she’ll look up at me sideways to see my reaction.

This past summer, a neighbor girl gave Sadie two Bratz dolls she didn’t play with anymore. Since Sadie wasn’t interested in playing Barbies at the time, I didn’t think much of it and just downplayed it. Well, as I mentioned in my last post, she is now FULL FORCE into Barbies. And that includes those two Bratz dolls. We’ve been playing that the Barbies are including the Bratz and are teaching them manners, how to be sweet, and how to not get into trouble. We’ve imagined that they came from an orphanage and have had a hard life so far.

Then, yesterday, Sadie’s Cinderella Princess sneakers ripped, and she begged for Bratz sneakers. This posed quite a conundrum for me, since the Bratz shoes were literally the only ones that fit her in all of WalMart. Was it ‘giving in’? Not standing on my principles? Would I be endorsing something that I shouldn’t be allowing my daughter to have? I paced up and down the shoe aisle wondering what to do.

I started thinking about my evangelical Christian upbringing–about the rules: what NOT to do or wear; who NOT to hang out with, what NOT to watch or listen to. And now as a ‘Christian Mom’ what NOT to buy my daughter. It dawned on me that if I bought these shoes for Sadie, people might judge me in the exact same way I have been guilty of judging other moms whose kids are allowed to wear, eat, watch, etc. things I don’t approve of. My own hypocrisy stared me in the face.

We’ve been trying to teach Sadie that God looks on the inside first–that hearts matter more than what someone looks like. We’ve been telling her that Jesus invites everyone, and that He loves us all the same even though we all look different. I’ve been trying to get there in my own life too–where it isn’t Us vs. Them–the ‘saved’ and the ‘unsaved’–the sinners and the saints. God has been working on me to look at every person I see as someone dearly loved by Him no matter what they look like, how they act, or even whether or not they believe in Him. I’ve been praying for eyes to see my own sin–that I am just as black as someone who commits murder or molests children. How we are all the same, and so, so loved by God.

So I got the shoes, and a lesson too. I want Sadie to be inclusive and full of love and respect for everyone–the way I believe Jesus was. I think Jesus would have hung out with Bratz.

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Every morning, the minute Sadie wakes up, she wants to play Barbies.

When I was pregnant and pious, I vowed that MY little girl would not be allowed to play Barbies. She wouldn’t wear pink, either. No child of mine would be trapped by old-fashioned oppressive stereotypes. MY child would be liberated from the ‘ideal’ body type that the Barbies possesed, and their evil plan to make all girls hate themselves.

Then I had a little girl who loved pink. And who is now obsessed with playing Barbies. It is so funny for me to think of my pre-Sadie me, and all of my notions of what I would do as a parent. When Sadie started showing interest in her Barbies, I was so excited that we ran right out and bought tons of clothes at the flea market. I forgot how much loved playing Barbies as a kid.

I eat my words daily.

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