Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Those Songs

Is it okay if I just admit that I HATE, HATE, HATE goodbyes? Seeing it in print is no more of a consolation than saying it aloud.
Why can’t everyone just stay where they belong?
"Pomp and Circumstance" and the "Wedding March" are equally sad tunes, and for the same reason. Both signify the passing of time and the shaking up of “things as they are.” How well I remember sitting in Three Hills, Alberta crying at my ds* and ddil*-to-be’s graduation from the Explore Program at Prairie Bible, witnessing the cap and gown procession down the aisle to that dismal march.
That’s when my son’s dmil-to-be looked over at me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Isn’t this silly? We are crying because they graduated from (pause) – mountain climbing?” At that we exploded into giggles, and poor ds thought for sure we had both lost our minds.
We both understood what ds did not. “Pomp and Circumstance” was just one small step toward the inevitable “Wedding March” we would be hearing one short year later. Now ds and ddil live 2700 miles away. I knew instinctively that song would bring me sorrow.
Next week I will be at the Oaxaca Christian School playing "Pomp and Circumstance" on the piano, provided my eyes aren’t too blurred to see the notes. The added kicker is the reminder that I might have had a child in this high school graduating class of 2011. We lost two babies in Guatemala that would have been due either in January or July of 1993. Just when I thought I was over it, the memory returned with a fresh wave of grief.
Once upon a time, I grew weary of forever saying goodbye to friends who weasel their way into my heart only to leave the field and never return. My heart began to crust over that tender spot so that I no longer felt the acute pain of parting (and miscarriages). The trouble is that you cannot selectively block certain emotions. In blocking pain you inadvertently block joy.
Being alive means experiencing both the happy and the sad.
Through the years, God completed the restoration of my soft heart, and now I can freely bawl through weddings again, plus graduations, Hallmark commercials, and even animated movies like Up and Toy Story 3 (watching Andy go away to college and leave his toys behind … waa!).
The flip side is that I can now grieve with those who grieve. The best part is that I can also deeply experience the joy life brings.
While I still cry over the reality of loss in life, I am rejoicing in the news that, Lord willing, I am to become a grandmother later this year! What jubilation I might have missed if things had “stayed the same” like I thought I wished. I can’t imagine life without my two precious ddils, whether they ever give me grandbabies or not.
IRL* May future “Wedding Marches” kindle hope rather than despair.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ask Jamie Jo: Is JJ's Response Really Hypothetical?

"How do you deal with absences and returns of your husband if he frequently travels? It seems that as a family we have one routine and system while he is gone, and then we have to adjust when he returns. It is like going from a two-parent family to a one-parent one and back again. What ways have you found to handle those transitions?"

For those who have no idea what she is talking about, let me conjure up *cough* a hypothetical situation. When dh* [*see sidebar "Jamie-Jo Speak" for all starred* words] is away the wife can more fully devote herself to the Lord and the dc*. Her panache is restored without a partner by her side to witness and or point out her failings. Her new confidence may or may not be warranted, but she enjoys only serving a perfect Master, one who wipes the slate clean day by day. As bad as this sounds, and as much as she hates to admit it, dh's travels provide a break from any and all marital strife.

She begins to make daily decisions usually left up to dh. She groans under the weight of responsibility, but grows closer to the Lord through this occasional suffering. Meanwhile she carries the mantle of spiritual direction and discipline of the kids, growing in her ability and confidence to run the home on her own. For a while, she likes it, if she would be honest enough to admit it.

At the same time she does miss the daily adult companionship dh normally provides, but somehow finds alternate ways to fill that need. She sometimes chooses to be hospitable and to minister to others, but usually she turns to Facebook and online forums to fill the need, and then feels guilty for it afterward. Still other times she becomes a happy recluse, reveling in her newfound solitude in the evenings after dc are in bed.

If not extremely careful, she can become downright narcissistic while dh is gone, seeking every selfish pleasure like online bargain hunting, bubble baths, pedicures, journaling, or reading a good novel. She rationalizes by saying she needs to refuel her emotional tank, but deep down she suspects she is going overboard. (Not that she cares.)

On her good days, she spends her evenings in prayer and meditation, a luxury that pays off in the end, unless she becomes resentful of her dh when he returns and spoils her new habit of solitude.

Meanwhile the dc are enjoying more quality and quantity time with Mom, rediscovering the blessing of having only one parent fussing at them, only one parent to grant them permission, or should I say only one parent who will give in to crazy requests? The dc enjoy the simpler meals, the flexible mom who is suddenly free to read them a story, play a game with them, etc.

In comes dh at the end of his trip, weary and possibly queasy, feeling very needy for dw's* attention which the dc are not ready to share. During his time away, dh misses his dw and dc (depending on the length of the trip) until the very memory becomes distorted. What he longs for is not the family-as-they-are, but an ideal dream family of his own making, a family without faults.

By the time he returns, dw has grown tired of the added responsibilities of answering emails, phone calls, and drop-in visitors on top of caring for the house and kids. By now the dc are taking advantage of her good nature until she's sick of the whole thing. She longs for dh's return - not the return of the real flesh and blood dh, mind you, but the ideal dream man without faults.

If this were a piece of fiction, we would say dh's return is the climax of the story involving a tremendous clash in which expectations are dashed all over the place in an ungodly all-around reality check.

The children, who are no longer quite so dear, miss the subtle hint that they must stop badgering Mom who is relinquishing her push-over-ness. Meanwhile Dad wants them to consult him before going out, meals begin to include yucky things like salad and vegetables again, and everyone is out of sorts as a result of the inevitable discord between the now-two parents, and chaos reigns until the former norm is restored.

Have I come close to pegging the situation? I may or may not be speaking from personal experience, *cough* but I will share a few tips I've learned along the way.

1. First, keep routines the same whether Dad is home or not. No “Yee-haw, let's be slobs and not clean house until the last day,” and no eating ice cream and calling it dinner!

2. Spend the time dh is away listing all the reasons you appreciate him, empathizing with him for always carrying the weight of responsibility for everything financial, mechanical, electrical, spiritual, and otherwise.

3. Explain dh's plight with the dc, and plan for his return by possibly play-acting the role of the ideal dw and dc he misses -- at least for the first day or so. Delay the reality check as long as possible, or make sure it happens gradually.

4. Practice honoring Dad while he's gone.

5. Do NOT dump a list of grievances on poor dh the minute he walks in the door, no matter how many appliances broke down while he was gone.

6. Take care of as many disasters as you can before he gets back, especially things like changing the gas tank and relighting the hot water heater so he can get cleaned up before discovering any major problems.

Oh, and most importantly, pray. Pray before, during, and after dh returns. What else would y'all add to the list? Please add your comments below.

IRL* Truly ashamed that the scenario I painted was not as hypothetical as I'd like to pretend.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mistaking a Mercedes for a Toyota

In the midst of a crazy week, humor reappeared unexpectedly, providing a few laughs for unsuspecting bystanders. Last Monday while running errands in the city, I almost ran off with the wrong husband. The sidewalk was extremely narrow, and when a car pulled up close beside me, somehow I got it in my scattered brain that my dh* [see "Jamie Jo Speak" in sidebar] had arrived to pick me up.

It's a good thing the door was locked. A man in another car further up the road, who turned out to be dh, was honking to divert my attention just as I was leaning down to see why on earth my husband-who-wasn't-my-husband was refusing to unlock the passenger door. A handsome middle-aged man shrugged and smiled apologetically, instantly shaking me from my daze.

On Thursday, dh and I were telling a friend about my many episodes of not being very observant when it comes to cars, how in high school I offended a rich boy by mistaking his Mercedes for a Toyota, and how not so many years ago I drove my mom's new car to the grocery store without noticing the color or make of the car in the dark garage before leaving, only to panic in the parking lot after shopping when I realized I no clue which car was "mine."

The very next day after recounting these embarrassing stories, Friday night, I was helping the same friend with a Mother's Day outreach to pregnant moms at a Christian birth center. She lent me keys so I could get supplies from her car. Going to the street, I went straight to the car with the Texas license plate (something I do notice!), and was frustrated that the key did not fit in the lock. Figuring I only had the ignition key, I squinted (minus reading glasses) to locate the unlock icon on the key ring (a handy trick I learned when I lost my mom's car). Even that didn't work.

As I stood there obviously perplexed, an amused spectator kindly pointed out that each time I pressed the unlock button, another car—a red car nothing remotely like the one I was attempting to open—would flash its headlights. Oops. What are the odds of having two cars parked on the same street in Oaxaca with Texas plates? The man, however, looked at me like I was nuts. Who in the world doesn't notice the difference between a red and a.... I still couldn't tell you the color of the first car. It was some strikingly non-red color like blue or silver or gray.

A while back we were discussing the question "How do you keep from losing you?" We were referring to the person we used to be before going to the field. Incidents like these prove that maybe I haven't lost "me" as much as I thought. I've grown and changed through the trials and challenges life has supplied, and hopefully the essence of who I am is more Christ-like than before, but deep down I am still the same space cadet* I was as a teen. Like certain pesky sins, some traits plague us throughout our life, no matter where we live.

IRL* Then again, maybe it's a wonder I haven't lost myself; I lose enough other things!
*What we used to call scatterbrains before they invented ADD.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blog On

Normally problems go away after a few weeks, or I at least gain some spiritual insight in the midst of them. Sadly this is not one of those times. The house remains stinky, the summer heat is increasing, the flies are multiplying, and dust is everywhere. The various unsuccessful attempts to solve the plumbing problems have just made the house a wreck. Still life goes on.

Do you want to know how I spent my weekend when I wasnʼt killing flies, lighting candles, and sweeping up the dust and debris?

On Saturday I spent hours of glorious solitude (after successfully ridding my room of the kids with the old “Go ask your dad!” trick)... Are you ready for this? After watching videos of the royal wedding, I spent my weekend reading blogs.

Since apparently I am still at a loss for any personal lessons learned from my current trials (besides perseverance), I thought Iʼd share the wisdom of some fellow bloggers.

Criticizing our hosts or learning from them? From a blog called Olive Tree: Growing Green in God’s House.

Swimming in New Waters by Marilyn Yocum (... fighting procrastination … or at least thinking about it). Don’t you love her byline? Here is a poignant quote from this particular post:

TRUE ‘culture shock’ occurs -
I learned at a conference in February -
when you are in that new and unfamiliar place,
when you are there to stay
and are not returning (at least any time soon),
when it is your new dwelling place
and you must learn to swim in new waters.
There is no
holding your breath until it’s over,
so you better learn to breathe
in the midst of it.

(That’s what I’m learning about stinko houses; you can’t hold your breath forever!)

Belonging by Inky’Spot (Musings of a Missionary Mom), an IRL friend of mine here. One quote from her that sticks in my mind: Two plus years living here does not a man from the pueblo make.

Polarized Lenses, from a blog called Joy’s Graffiti (Count it all, Joy) by another IRL friend in Mexico, a mom raising a special needs adopted son on the mission field.

The could’a, would’a, should’a game from a blog called The River into Words (… a journey from safety to risk, and all places in between …). The title says a lot, doesn’t it?

We call it good by Koodaigirl (… simple thoughts from one of God’s girls).

Living a Powerful Story: Being Myself from a friend whose blog title I love: Sitting on a Cactus Smiling ... (Life… its joys, pains, pressures, blessings sometimes feels like sitting on a cactus smiling … observing life through the window of my heart.)

My Life as a Tour Guide by A Common Woman (living an uncommon life). This one cracked me up. I’ve been there, done that one many times, answering the same exact questions over and over, never knowing the real answer, but trying to sound like the expert people expect me to be.

And last, but not least, I’ve enjoyed reading the new Yellow Dress WOTH blog. I highly recommend you add her to your blog list.

In case I need a harmless diversion next week, please leave me a comment linking some helpful or humorous blog that you enjoy. If you are a blogger yourself, feel free to link a particular post you’ve written that you would be willing to share.

IRL*sharing our lives, one post at a time.


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