Questionable truth

My first memory was of my dad standing over my autistic brother and hitting him while he flailed back on the floor. They were in the kitchen and on that day I remember my brother screaming and the cupboard doors rattling. He must’ve been 3 because I was around 4. My mom stood in the doorway a few rooms away holding back my brother Mark while I stood by her and watched.

That’s how my life started out. Many well meaning people who would rather not get involved told me things such as God is in control and God will never give you more than you can handle. No one prayed more fervently than me. God if you are in control, please make it stop. But my dad never became the loving father I wanted him to be. My brother never became normal. Did I do something wrong? Did I pray wrong? I couldn’t understand why things didn’t change when I so badly wanted them to. I tried my best to be perfect but still nothing changed.

There were many times I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I wondered what would happen when I finally broke. But that didn’t happen either. I became angry at God. If he wasn’t going to control things, I sure was going to try to. I became pretty good at controlling myself, others not so much.

For a long time I carried the burden of over responsibility. I can clearly remember when that started. I was 6 when I watched my younger brothers swim in the lake by myself. That was the day my baby brother almost drowned. I always thought that it was my fault until many years later when I realized how young I was. Maybe it even started before then, but I can’t remember. I always felt like I was responsible for things I didn’t have control over.

It became my job to try to fix things. I became a pretty good problem solver and counselor, but that should never be the responsibility of a child. In essence, I took the place of my dad because he only reacted with anger over issues and never stepped up. Still I prayed every night that things would change, but they never did.

If God wasn’t going to change things I was going to try to. But that didn’t really work so well for me either.

Then I thought maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. It’s time to throw away the childish coping mechanisms that I clung to. It’s not very realistic to think God is going to force my dad to become the father I’ve always wanted him to be. He had that choice and he threw it away.

The last post I talked about how strongly I felt about the freedom of choice. But maybe I don’t really want that. Maybe I just want God to sweep down and take control of my dad so he loves me.

Just because I want something to be good or perfect doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way. My idea of God being in control and taking all my problems away when I can’t handle them anymore is incorrect.

Lately I was looking at my new 2022 pocket calendar. Inside there were little fun things to write about. One was to write down your favorite memory you had with your dad. I was stumped. I thought and thought for a long time. Nothing.

But for the first time, I didn’t blame it on God. I blamed it on my dad. I shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting to continue having a relationship with someone who hurt me. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him either. But I struggle with the thought that I am causing pain and that somehow this is my fault.

I am still confused about my relationship with God. What’s the purpose of prayer if God doesn’t answer them? My husband says that prayer is supposed to make us feel better about the situations we are in versus changing the situation. That is hard for me to understand because for me feeling better means things will change. Apparently I still have a lot to learn.

Maybe I am healing and growing if I am questioning things I always thought were truth.

Gratitude week 88

  1. Summer. I’m trying to grab what little we’ve got left of it.
  2. Sleeping in my own bed.
  3. Actually sleeping fairly well last night for the first time in a couple of weeks.
  4. A fun last sailing trip of the season.
  5. Checking another marina off our bucket list. It was out in the middle of nowhere.
  6. Having a nice quiet holiday weekend at home.
  7. Finishing a really good memoir on heroin addiction and starting a new book.
  8. Having a fluffy clean dog after giving our pooch a bath.
  9. For another school year that started without any kids in school. It’s very freeing not having to be tied down to a school schedule. Not to mention all the chaos with COVID. Not having to fight with kids to get up early, curfews, grades, issues with friends, after school activities, weekend school events, transportation, mean teachers, endless school supplies, sport equipment, practice, extracurricular fees, difficult parents, peer pressure, and homework. I’m done with that now after almost 20 years!
  10. For the changing of the seasons and transitioning into my second favorite season, fall. For warm days and cool nights. Campfires and preparing for the cold days to come.

Gratitude week 86

  1. Arabella has recovered from COVID and is back at work.
  2. Everyone else in our house tested negative.
  3. Just to be on the safe side, I cancelled the plans I had for the weekend and had a nice weekend at home.
  4. I finished a couple of books this week. It’s been a long time since I could say that I read more than one book in a week. I really enjoyed My Sister’s Keeper. Although a piece of fiction, it really made me think about what life was like with a disabled sibling. The disability aside, I remember feeling as if I didn’t matter. There was always something more important than me. I’m not saying that it was always a bad thing that my mom favored Matt, he did need her more. But things were always chaotic. Nothing could be planned or counted on in case Matt was having a bad day. Unexpected change is very triggering for me. I’m trying to have more compassion for myself in that regard as I read stories of other siblings having a hard time cancelling plans they were looking forward to because their sibling was sick, etc. I’m starting to go deeper to the more subtle effects the little things had on my life. It makes more sense why I respond the way I do if I start delving deeper.
  5. I ordered 4 more books, three of which are memoirs about people struggling with mental health issues.
  6. To a great weekend spent with my daughter Angel at home reading, writing, swimming, and watching movies.
  7. For having an adult daughter that is more like a best friend.
  8. Indian takeout food. Angel and I both ordered cheese naan and chicken tikka marsala. It was excellent!
  9. Summer!
  10. For health and healing in general. Last week was really hard because I didn’t know what was going to happen with the sickness in my house.

Gratitude week 71

  1. On Mother’s Day, I’m grateful to have a wonderful mom.
  2. I’m grateful for my children. Mother’s Day is different this year. I transitioned out of celebrating the day with younger kids to being more of an empty nest mom. It’s no longer a day of dressing my girls up in fancy cute dresses and homemade gifts and cards on pink colored paper. I’ve come to expect that things have changed. My youngest daughter is still in residential and my oldest daughter has to work. My son will be over later for supper. Maybe we can play some games or something. I do miss the times when they were little and cute but I don’t miss all the work it was.
  3. I found my mom a really awesome gift that we have been trying to find for many years. It’s nice that we can spend the day together.
  4. My daughter Arabella will be coming home this week after staying at a residential mental health facility for the last couple of months.
  5. Arabella will also be 18 this week, so……all my children will be adults as this new week ends. It’s hard to believe that my years of active parenting are now done.
  6. It’s still been very cool here. One day it even hailed. But it does look like it will finally warm up by the end of this week.
  7. My mom has finally been sleeping better. I’m grateful for her healing process.
  8. I’m grateful that Paul was able to help my mom out with Matt’s finances so she didn’t have to hire an accountant at tax time. My mom took us out to eat to thank him for his help.
  9. I’m grateful to have a husband who is gifted in finance because that is one less thing I have to worry about. We have very similar spending habits and thoughts about money.
  10. I’m grateful that I won a $25 gift card at church today just for being a mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the great moms out there!

Gratitude week 67

  1. I’m grateful for a best friend who brought me a bouquet of flowers on Easter.
  2. I’m grateful that I didn’t chicken out and was able to cross getting a tattoo off my bucket list. This is something I was really anxious about. I was tempted to cancel the appointment. The tattoo artist was running late which also increased my anxiety. But it wasn’t all that painful. Going to the dentist for a cleaning is a lot worse. Maybe it was the release of endorphins, but the rest of the day I felt peaceful and calm, almost euphoric. The process didn’t take as long as I expected. My arm isn’t a big painful oozing pus open wound. To me it looks like I put on one of those sticker tattoos. I am in relatively no pain at all. A cartilage piercing was a lot more painful. So, the whole process went a lot better than I could’ve ever expected.
  3. I’m grateful that my son’s band is getting back together again. Someday soon I will get to see him play again.
  4. My mom is moving in with us today. I’m grateful that she seems to be on the path of healing. I’m still uncertain what this process will look like. I am rather apprehensive about the whole thing. Everything happened so suddenly that my head is still spinning. But this can be a good thing.
  5. Just an hour or two after my mom asked to move in, Paul’s step-dad Darryl stopped by out of the blue. He brought his new girlfriend, or should I say fiancĂ© as they got engaged the day they stopped by. Although it was only the second time I saw her, I think they will be happy together.
  6. I saw my cranial sacral/massage therapist this past week to help me relax before the tattoo. I’m grateful for other people that help me along on my own personal healing journey.
  7. I’m grateful that the grass turned green again.
  8. I’m grateful for change even when I say I am not. Sometimes I get bored of the same old routines.
  9. I’m grateful to have had a wonderful grandma to remember. Today would’ve been her birthday.
  10. I’m grateful for the good things in my life when I’m going through hard times.

Gratitude week 66

  1. It’s Easter! I’m grateful for the resurrection of the Lord.
  2. I’m thankful for friends we can celebrate the day with along with two of our kids.
  3. I’m thankful that Arabella is starting to do well in residential.
  4. I’m grateful that March is over and we are one step closer to summer.
  5. I’m grateful for beautiful weather this weekend. Yesterday I went for a run for the first time in a long time. This means a lot because I never thought my life would be like this. Before the pandemic, I went to the gym three times a week for intense workouts. Then the gym closed once the pandemic started. My routine that I thought I couldn’t live without abruptly changed. It’s been a year since I’ve had colitis. I was so weak for a month afterwards that I thought I would never run again. So, I’m grateful for good health, to be up and running again, and to know I can survive just fine without it.
  6. In some ways, I’m grateful I learned new things about myself during the pandemic. I also examined what I want to keep in my life and what I want to leave behind.
  7. I’m getting my first tattoo this week. I’m grateful that so far I am not letting fear stop me from something that I’ve always wanted to do. I am very nervous about it, but I think I can do it.
  8. I’m grateful that no one fooled me on April Fools Day. Honestly, I don’t think I could handle the stress of more (even if it is fake) bad news. I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer want to play pranks on people either. I don’t know if it’s a sign of me being too serious now or if I am just getting old.
  9. I’m grateful to be able to write this post sitting outside in the warm sun.
  10. I’m grateful we were able to take Angel out to eat for sushi for her achievements earlier this week. We were able to spend a lot of time with her this week and she went to church with us this morning.

The revised new normal (3rd edition)

When the pandemic started, I had four teenagers living in my house.

Clara was the first to go. She went back home to Germany in April. Right after she left, I had colitis for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. It was not a good time.

My son Alex turned 20 in June. Part of the reason we decided to have a foreign exchange student was because my older two children were going to move out. Alex was pretty adamant that he was moving out right after graduation, but that didn’t quite happen. The day my daughter Angel moved out, the foreign exchange coordinator called asking if we would take another student. Talk about hitting me up on an empty nest day! We ended up hosting two students.

Alex, and his friends, didn’t interact with the foreign exchange students much at all. I was okay with that, really. Estelle was interested in a couple of my son’s friends, but they respectfully kept their distance. I guess I am thankful I didn’t have to deal with that. It’s been an issue before. When Dan started dating Angel, he was friends with Alex. That created some conflict. One of Arabella’s friends is also dating one of Alex’s friends. I suppose it’s bound to happen with kids close in age.

Estelle left on July 3rd, a couple weeks after her originally scheduled date. Arabella and Estelle never made up. Angel came home to say good-bye. I think she was worried about me because it seemed as if I was losing all my kids. I tried to keep busy.

Arabella gradually stopped staying at home as much. She pretty much moved in with Jordan’s family. I wasn’t happy about it and wondered if she was in a relationship with Jordan. We tried to move on without our foreign exchange students and her. Arabella spent the 4th of July with Jordan’s family although we invited her to come sailing with us. Paul, Angel, Dan, Alex, and I spent the 4th sailing and swimming. We didn’t go up north as was our tradition because my dad was there. We planned to watch fireworks from the boat that night. But even that was disastrous. After the second firework, the guy that was lighting them blew off his arm and had to be airlifted. Sirens blared and our spirits dropped.

The next weekend was my birthday which I celebrated with Paul, Angel, Dan, and Alex. Once again, Arabella didn’t join us. Jordan’s mom was celebrating her birthday too. Arabella went away for the weekend with their family. On my birthday she sent me a text that said happy birthday right before I went to bed. I didn’t get any gifts or card from her. The happy in happy birthday wasn’t even capitalized. There weren’t any exclamation points or cute emojis. I got the picture, I was just an afterthought. Jordan’s mom was hot stuff coolest mom of the year. I couldn’t help but feel hurt.

Life went on. The new normal became the new new normal revised. Clara left. Estelle left. Angel went back to her apartment hours away. Alex went back to living his own life apart from us under our roof. Paul started his new seasonal business. Arabella was pretty much gone. And I was left alone. In some ways, it was incredibly freeing. COVID cancelled all my plans and I no longer had to take care of 4 teenagers. I didn’t know what to do with the change. But I tried to keep busy.

Who are you?

Arabella changed into a whole different person a year ago. It seemed like the difference between night and day to us. Or maybe that is when we noticed because she became so different from us.

It’s not terribly strange to have a teenager rebel or espouse things independent of their parents. In a way, I almost think it is necessary in developing who they are. In order to find themselves they have to lose mom and dad a little. But this seemed different.

Before the change Arabella was pretty easy going. She went with the flow. There was little conflict and she rarely challenged us. Kind of like the month of March, she came into the world like a lion so I was hoping she would leave childhood as a lamb. Not so, my friends.

Before she was the teen involved in church. She liked volunteering at Bible camp, helping with the kids program, and singing in church. Then practically overnight she became an atheist and slept in on Sunday mornings. At times I was afraid to go to church because I was afraid if I wasn’t there she might make an attempt again. She scoffed at our religious beliefs. We no longer shared the same views on politics either. It didn’t seem as if she was finding her own way as much as it seemed like she was rejecting us.

She didn’t want anything to do with Estelle and cut herself off from all of the kids she once considered friends at her new school. She started hanging out with her friends from her old school. Instead of being a foreign exchange student with Estelle, she wanted to finish high school at her old school which was only 30 minutes away. We said we were okay with that because she seemed so miserable at the new school.

She started hanging out with her old best friend who became transgender around that time. Actually all of the kids in that group were either gay or transgender. They all seemed to have issues with their identity and also suffered from depression. I really had a hard time understanding what they were going through. In my day, I don’t remember a single kid that came out as gay and changing your gender was something most likely featured in sci-fi movies. I went to a small town school where there was very little diversity.

I knew about her friend’s being gay or transgender before their parents even did in most cases. I called them by their chosen names and pronouns. I’m not going to say it was easy. I still can’t get it out of my mind that calling someone them or they isn’t rude. It was difficult to call someone I knew as a baby a different name and pronoun. But I imagine it was a lot more difficult for them and their parents. I couldn’t help but wonder if my daughter was hiding something from me like her friends were from their parents.

Gratitude week 62

  1. My daughter Arabella was admitted into a residential care facility and we are doing the best we can to get her the help she needs.
  2. I’m grateful for warm spring weather and sunny days. It makes me feel so much better even if there is still snow on the ground.
  3. I’m grateful to hear the birds chirp in the morning which is another sign of spring.
  4. I’m grateful to be able to see wildlife in my yard this week including birds, deer, and a red fox. I’ve never seen a fox in our yard in broad daylight. I was a little paranoid that as a nocturnal creature it might be rabid or something. But apparently after doing some research found out it wasn’t too unusual to see foxes during the day in spring.
  5. I’m grateful to be feeling healthy.
  6. I’m grateful that my daughter Angel had a mild case of COVID. Her boyfriend is finally starting to feel better today. It’s frustrating because if anyone is super careful about COVID as young folks they are. They don’t take any unnecessary risks. Then they got sick. There was a COVID outbreak where Dan works.
  7. I’m grateful to be able to visit my mom and go for a walk with her this afternoon.
  8. Although I feel helpless about Angel and Dan and his mom being sick, I’m grateful that I was able to help them out by dropping off medicine and other things they needed after being quarantined a week.
  9. I’m grateful that I cleaned out my daughter Arabella’s room. It makes me feel better. Even though she didn’t mind, I couldn’t leave it messy.
  10. I finished a really hard puzzle I have been working on the last couple of weeks. It makes me feel good when all of the pieces finally come together. Now if only that could happen in real life. Right?

Taking a break down instead

Maybe she just needed a break. That always makes me feel better.

We had a trip planned. Paul and I were renting a van to drive down to Florida. We were taking Arabella and our two foreign exchange students with us.

I imagined how perfect spring break was going to be. Sunshine and shorts after another long winter. Estelle and Arabella together on a long road trip becoming best friends once again. My daughter becoming a functional depressed person like I am. She said it was a mistake and wouldn’t happen again.

But our magical trip wasn’t meant to be. The week we were scheduled to leave Disney World closed. A new virus was sweeping through the nation. In my lifetime I’ve seen many viruses come and go, but this was different. People were panicking. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what to believe. It reminded me of when HIV first came out and people were afraid to use public bathrooms. With a world of information at our fingertips, we still didn’t know what we were dealing with.

We debated whether or not to take the trip after Disney closed. Since we were driving, would we be able to stop to have sit down meals after a long drive? Some states were closing. Would gas station bathrooms and rest stops even be open? Was that the America we wanted our foreign visitors to see? What happens if someone gets sick? Could we get trapped somewhere? What if our decisions caused sickness and/or death in the children who weren’t ours that we were responsible for? The beaches in Florida started to close. We decided to stay home.

The high school closed and schooling went to online. The spring play, going to state, track, and prom all were cancelled yet the school work remained. Everyone felt the loss of what was planned that could no longer be. The beautiful prom dresses hung in the closets unworn. Time lost that could never be recaptured. Our German foreign exchange student Clara went home a couple months early whereas Estelle stayed an extra month.

I thought that Arabella and Estelle would be forced to work out their differences because they would have to be together all the time without much outside contact. It didn’t work out that way. Arabella withdrew into herself and snarled at me to leave her alone when I reached out. She would take long walks or drive to the park to sit by herself for hours sometimes after dark or in the rain. Estelle grew very close to me. She would fight with Arabella if she felt like Arabella was being mean to me.

Florida was gone. Arabella’s opportunity to be a foreign exchange student was gone. It was all she ever talked about for over a year. She was already signed up and the paperwork completed. Thankfully I could say that she wasn’t going because of COVID versus a suicide attempt. We were going to tour Europe in the summer, but that was gone too.

With everything that was lost, I’m grateful that we didn’t lose Arabella too.