Sunday, April 26, 2009

I arrive at 3pm? No wait midnight? No wait 2:30am?

So after I finished talking with Brian, I went and checked in with the airline. My flight was scheduled to depart on time, and I was there in plenty of time. I sat down in a chair facing the airline's boarding desk, and whipped out my book.

The book I was working on is called "Heart of a Father." This book is a collection of essays from men who either have children with a congenital heart defect, have a heart defect themselves, are married to someone with a congenital heart defect, or are the grandparents of a child with a congenital heart defect. Some of these fathers have children who are babies, some have children who are grown, some fathers' children have died, and some are living with all the implications of having a heart defect themselves.

I became absorbed in the book. The writing is terrific. I cried my eyes out for the men in these essays. The stories of love, loss and support are amazing. They write about how the decisions that they make affect their relationships with their children, how their marriages endure or fail, and how they cope with the stress of needing to work versus their desire to be by the bedsides of their loved ones.

The more I read, the more connected I became with these men. I was devastated after reading the essay of one dad who held his baby as he died in his arms. One dad wrote a series of love letters to his daughter who died at the age of five. Another dad wrote a poem about losing his son.

As I stopped to wipe my eyes, I looked up and noticed that the flight information at the gate had changed. I jumped up and ran to the Continental Airlines desk. "What happened to the flight to Newark?" I demanded. "Where is it?"

"Are you Mrs. Turner? Didn't you hear us? We called for you overhead." The gate attendants looked incredulous.

"No! No I most certainly did NOT hear you call for me! I was sitting right there!" I pointed to the seat in front of the gate.

"We did call for you several times Mrs. Turner, I'm sorry," the attendants looked apologetic.

I instantly burst into tears. "You don't understand. I haven't had a vacation in several years. I haven't been away from my three young children in more than 9.5 YEARS!" I felt hopeless. My ship was sunk before it left port. My chance to kick back, relax and gain a new perspective...gone. What was I going to do? And how was I going to explain this stupid mistake to Steve? Steve had graciously agreed, without argument, to allow me to take this solo trip, and I had spent money that we could not afford to waste. Now that the money was spent, I would STILL not get the rest I was looking for and it was all my fault. How could I miss the flight? Why hadn't I heard them calling me?

"Hold on Mrs. Turner, we are looking to see if we can help you now," the gate attendants looked sympathetic. They said, "We know what you are going through, believe me. We understand the need for a vacation. Hold on." There were two of them. The one with the long dark hair was biting her lower lip and working busily at a terminal, checking flights.

I anxiously awaited their response. Shifting from foot to foot I tried to be patient. I tried to let them work their magic without my interjections. Finally, the woman with the shorter,curlier dark hair and pretty eyes smiled, "We found you a flight to Columbus,OH where you can connect with a flight to Dallas." Oh yay! I was so relieved. To still be able to go on my little adventure. To have a shot at relaxation. The possibility of a fresh new perspective returning to me.

"Oh thank you so much!" I gushed. "I really appreciate your help."

"Do you want a window seat or an aisle?" the woman with the long hair asked.

"I don't care, really. I am just so happy that you could help me at all, I'll take anything," I was feeling buoyant again.

So I was back on track. I was on my way to see my sister. I would be a little later, but I would still get there. I sent a text message to my sister, letting her know that I missed my flight and that I would be arriving a bit later than originally planned. After texting her my flight information I decided to call her anyway, to be sure she knew the score.

When I got Cathy on the phone she asked me, "Do you like Jimmy Buffett?" Are you kidding me? LIKE Jimmy Buffett? I LOVE Jimmy Buffett. Absolutely LOVE him. "Well, Jay got us tickets to go tomorrow night," Cathy informed me. "I'm on my way to go get them right now," she said.

I didn't care how I got there, I decided. If I had to walk there, I would make it in time for Jimmy tomorrow night I told myself mentally. I would not miss the Parrothead scene for all the cheeseburgers in paradise.

This trip was looking up for me. Okay, so I missed my initial flight. I managed to get on another without it costing me anything extra, and it looked like the trip was shaping up to be extra fun. I have always wanted to go to a Jimmy Buffett concert. The cult following he has is legendary. The crowds that tend to follow Jimmy just want to have a good time. Most of them have clearly visited Margaritaville a time or two before coming to the concert. Many are aging Yuppies. But all just want to have a good time without wanting to hurt anybody. I doubt if any of them have visited a mosh pit, but I could be wrong. Jimmy's good time vibe is just what I needed.

My flight to Dallas from Columbus was cancelled due to weather. Apparently there were hail storms moving through the midwest and the airport in Dallas was diverting aircraft because of them. I was quickly rescheduled on a flight to Houston. I thought to myself, "I wonder if Cathy would be up for a road trip to pick me up in Houston?" I hoped that would not become necessary, but didn't know what I should do if I couldn't get a flight out of Columbus to Dallas. I remembered that Houston was a big city. The last time I was there to visit my brother we drove two hours and were still in Houston. Boy I hoped I didn't get stuck in either Columbus or Houston.

The gate was changed. There were some complications due to weather issues, so the overhead announcement was that there was a gate change for my flight from Columbus to Houston. I grabbed my bags (boy was I glad I only had two carryons and no checked baggage), and headed for the gate.

When I got to the gate that was announced on the overhead it did not list Houston as the destination. Monterrey was listed. I approached the desk and was informed that yes, this was the correct gate, they were just waiting for the plane to arrive from Atlanta. Feeling nervous and worried since I had already missed a flight, I uneasily sat down in a chair at the gate. Reflecting on how easy it would be to miss an announcement overhead (it could be very hard to understand what was being said sometimes), I spied a group of flight attendants. I approached them and asked if they were going to be on my flight. When I was informed that yes, they were the flight attendants for my flight, I decided right then and there that I would follow them. Since my plane could not leave without this group of flight attendants, I would stick to them like glue.

One of the flight attendants seemed to have a direct line to the flight tower. She got frequent updates on what was going on and when we were expected to be able to board the plane. She also got an advance warning of a gate change, so it was a rather simple thing to follow the group of the attendants to the new gate. I felt assured that I would be boarding the correct flight if we didn't get cancelled due to the weather.

Finally we were called to board the plane. I quickly texted my sister that I was indeed boarding and got in line. I listened closely and made my way into the plane and found my window seat as soon as I was able to. I buckled my seatbelt, pulled out my book, and waited for the plane to take off. And waited. And waited. After about an hour, the pilot informed us that he was sorry, but for some reason the crew did not have a flight plan in with the paperwork and that they could not take off until they found the flight plan. We would have to wait at the gate until the flight plan was found. If we so desired, we could get off the plane and stretch our legs while they searched for the paper work that they needed.

Nothing doing! There was no way I was leaving the plane, I informed my young seatmate, a high school aged soccer player. I settled down to read, reasoning that if the crew wanted the plane cleared, they would inform me. Soon enough, the pilot was back on the overhead informing us that a flight plan had been located, they were very sorry for the delay, and we would be taking off momentarily.

The in flight movie, which they gave to us free of charge to make up for the delay, was Marley & Me. The ads for this movie make it seem as if the movie is a comedy about the foibles of raising a dog with bad habits. He is lovingly called, "The worst dog ever!" throughout the movie. But the movie is really about the life of a family. The struggle to balance personal satisfaction and happiness with the needs of a young family figure into the story line quite prominently. It struck me as a movie that couples should watch together and discuss. It was very provocative. It was emotional. It was poignant. And least as far as my life is concerned.

Eventually I did arrive in Dallas. It was 2:30am. I was tired and sore. But I was there. My sister was there, looking relieved and tired. We hugged briefly. She joked around with me about how everyone who goes to visit her misses their flight or has some kind of problem. She took me to a breakfast place that was open all night. We had lattes and banana nut pancakes. It was yummy. Then we went to bed, not to arise until 1pm that afternoon.

On the drive to her place, my sister remarked that I was remarkably calm for the kind of day I had just had. I made the comment to her that after I knew I could still get to Dallas, the rest of it was just fine. I could live with more connections, later arrivals and such, just so long as I knew all would be right in the end.

My five things:

1.) I am grateful for those at Continental Airlines that were willing to help me
2.) I am grateful for Jimmy Buffett
3.) I am grateful for my sister Cathy, who is the queen of hospitality
4.) I am grateful for Jay, my brother-in-law who assisted with my weekend of relaxation
5.) I am grateful for the ability to develop and exercise patience. Good things really DO come to those who wait.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Live Where You Play

So I took my trip to Dallas and, in a word, it was FABULOUS!!! Not without a few hitches, but it was truly fabulous. I am soooooooo glad I went. I hope you don't mind listening to me babble about it as I think I came away with some interesting food for thought. It may take more than one post to truly attend to my thoughts on this trip, so bear with me, okay?

First, let me say, my sister was terrific. Thank you Cathy,if you are reading this. I can't express in words how timely your hospitality was. Not just your hospitality, but your willingness to let bygones be bygones. We have had some differences in the past and truthfully I was worried that they would come into play while I was down in Dallas, but they did not. I had fun, I rested, I relaxed, and I recharged. I was able to do some thinking, and adjust my perspective a bit. It was also a huge help to be able to just have fun. My sister was thoughtful and attentive, and did exactly the right amount of planning. Her ability to go with the flow and be responsive to what I needed was admirable. I wish more people understood how to respond to someone in need (including myself).

I'll recap my trip for you so you can see what I mean. First, I caught a taxi to Logan airport. It was a bit pricey, but I don't do it often, so what the hey? The taxi arrived on time, at 6:45am (ugh!I am NOT an early riser) and we were off. The gentleman who was my chauffer was personable, professional, and prompt. He knew his way around the airport and delivered me to the curbside area for Continental Airlines. All I had to do was step out with my luggage (2 carryons), and check in with skycap.

I was two hours early for my flight, so I felt pretty comfortable. I went through security with only minor problems - my luggage was searched and they found a pair of scissors that I did not know was in my bag (thank you to my children for that I think). After confiscating them I proceeded through without further event.

After ascertaining the location of my gate, I decided to get breakfast at a bar in the area. I sat down, ordered my coffee and french toast, and pulled out a book I was going to read. It was an advanced manuscript copy of a book a friend of mine had asked me to read and review for her, called Heart of a Father. I had begun reading it the previous week, but hadn't had the time I was hoping for to complete it. I was hoping to read it on the flight so I could fill out her survey and give her feedback on the book prior to her sending it to her publisher.

While I was fishing around in my suitcase for the book, a young man pulled up to the bar. He had all his luggage stacked on what looked at first glance to be a wheelchair, but upon taking a second look turned out to be a hand cart. This gentleman looked to be in his early 30's, and the way he was dressed made me think of guys who like to hike in the wilderness, go rock climbing, and love extreme sports of all kinds. He had a bandanna on his head, wore hiking boots, and had a watch on each wrist.

When he pulled up, he said to me, "Do you mind if I pull up here? I don't want to crowd you or anything." I replied, "No, not at all, that's fine." I located my book and pulled it out to read.

"Waitress? Can I please have a beer?" he asked. I thought, "Geesh, this guy is already drinking at 8:00am? Definite problems there." Oh, how judgemental we can be. Without even knowing this man I had already assessed the situation and decided that he had, "issues." When I caught myself doing that, I mentally scolded myself, "Now, you don't know anything about this guy. Maybe he's just travelled from somewhere and his time zones are all goofed up. Besides, it's none of my business."

The "Guy with the Beer" extended his hand, "Hi, I'm Brian. What's your name?" I told him that I was Sheri and inquired about the two wrist watches. "Oh that. I wear the watch with my current time zone on my left wrist and the watch with the time zone I am going to on my right. That way I'm not calling people at the wrong time. It pisses them off when you do that. It also keeps me from missing flights. I've done that before. You know, you think you have two hours between flights but you don't account for the change in time zones."

I proceeded for the next hour and 15 minutes to have one of the single most interesting discussions I have ever had with anyone. I asked Brian what he was travelling for, business or pleasure. He told me both. He said he was a travelling surgical nurse on his way to work in Hawaii for the next six months. He was leaving his wife behind and was hoping to earn her ticket soon.

Brian soon began to inquire of me what my travel was about, business or pleasure. I told Brian that I was a stay at home mother with a part time third shift hospital job and that I was in desperate need of some rest and relaxation. I was hoping to regain some perspective on my life by taking this trip and needed to have some fun.

"You know, God likes us to have fun you know," Brian commented. "Most people don't realize that, but God loves it when we have a good time." Hmmm. Interesting. Most people I talk to either don't care at all about what God wants (if they believe in him), or they think God is only interested in us insofar as we can sacrifice all we are and have in his service. Short term missions to Uraguay to rebuild schools and evangelize the heathen masses. Soup kitchens. Ministries. Sunday schools. Picking up our cross. That kind of stuff. I don't often hear about a God who wants us to go rock climbing, hiking, water skiing and who likes to hear us laugh.

Tell me more Brian. Brian told me about his life and his philosophy. He said, "You gotta live where you play." Why slave your ass off for 50 weeks a year to spend a pantload of money to travel to where you have fun for a mere two weeks? That's no way to live. Brian told me about his life. He found several acres of land on a mountaintop dirt cheap, plopped a simple house on it with a generator and a woodburning stove, and he lives there with his wife year round. People tell him he's crazy to live that way...needing a snowplow on a regular basis to get to his home, having to chop cords of wood to keep heated, and navigating through the occassional blackout by firing up his generator. But he loves it. The manual labor helps him to clear his mind of clutter. He doesn't need a lot of money, and it allows him to pursue his passion as a travelling surgical nurse.

"I always feel like I have to be 'on' I told Brian. I never get to just enjoy life. I have chores, I have obligations, I have committments. I don't have fun."

Brian responded, "Take a bump." Huh? What are you talking about Brian? Before I had a chance to ask the question, Brian said, "If you are ever in a position where the airline asks you to accept a bump from a flight and you have the time, do it. It's totally worth it. And you can get some wonderful R&R that way, really." Brian let that thought sink in for a few moments."You know, I have been bumped 3 times from my flight to Hawaii, and I have almost earned enough for a ticket for my wife to come to Hawaii with me. In addition to that I have had the time to just relax. I don't start my job until Monday, so I can afford to just hang out. The airline has paid for my hotel and given me $600 towards another ticket I can use for my wife," he paused. "It's a great way to relax."

Thank you Brian, I thought. As I was thinking this Brian ordered another beer. I found myself thinking of that Jimmy Buffett song, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." Brian was travelling to Hawaii, and I don't remember how many hours behind or ahead of us they are, but I was sure that if he were there, having a beer would not seem so odd. The next time the waitress came by my table, I decided to order a Mimosa. I found myself internally toasting Brian and his philosophy.

The conversation shifted to technology. Brian wanted nothing to do with laptops, cell phones and the like. He was more into writing with an old typewriter he found at a landfill. He loved the clackety-clack of the keys and felt that it was more closely tied to his writing than the quiet click of keys on a desktop or laptop computer. "But I will probably eventually need one," he conceded sadly. "It's the wave of the future. Everyone MUST have access to these annoying devices." He refuses to use the internet, and more power to him. He views himself as one of the last hold-outs, refusing to be sucked into a world of instant gratification. Far too many people see what they want on the internet, hit a key, and presto! The item in question is delivered to their doorstep.

The world of instant gratification and technology led us to conversing about parenting styles. I personally object to raising my children to be connected to computers, television or video games for any real length of time. "When I was raising my children as youngsters," Brian said (and this was where I found out my assessment of his age was all wrong...he was 51), "if it was sunny outside they were told that was where they needed to be...outside. Go look at frogs, birds, bugs, whatever. Go play baseball, football, frisbee. Do whatever "girly" things you can outside. I didn't care. But they were not going to be indoors." Brian and I agree on that subject. It was refreshing to talk to someone else who saw a problem with teaching their children it was okay to be sucked into the mindless drivel on the television, or to play endless rounds of video-games that desensitize them to violence (I know, get off the soap box...but NO, I will not, it's my blog and I can say this if I want to)or to sit in front of a computer that pretends to have answers but doesn't really have good filters. Go outside. Interact with the world. Cut the cords that tether you inside during the sunny blissful days of childhood. Pick flowers. Throw mud. Ride your bike.

The Mimosa went down quickly as we talked more and I felt the drink going to my face, as alcoholic drinks usually do. I am a real lightweight when it comes to drinking and I often finish a drink with my face crimson and heated. I checked my phone for the time and saw that there was approximately a half hour before my flight departed. Even though I was thoroughly enjoying my conversation with Brian, I was anxious to get to my gate as I was fearful of missing my flight (how ironic I would find out later).

Brian got up, shook my hand, and then hugged me. It was nice to talk to someone who got it. Someone who saw how deceptively easy it is to get sucked into a busy life full of nothing. Full of computers, internet shopping and television. Full of empty jobs, oversized empty houses, and devoid of heart.

If Brian was any indication of how my trip was going to be, I was encouraged. Maybe I was making the right decision by going. Maybe it wasn't selfish of me to want to get away for a few days and regroup. Perhaps God had something to say to me and was using Brian to do it. Maybe he had more in store for me. Boy, I couldn't wait to hear it if so.

My five things:

1.) I'm soooo grateful for my sister Cathy
2.) I'm grateful for meeting Brian
3.) I'm grateful for a husband who can support my needs
4.) I'm grateful for possibilities
5.) I'm grateful for renewal

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Passion vs. The Presents

Easter is once again upon us. I feel kind of lost when it comes to this subject with kids. On the one hand, there is the joy of the Easter Bunny. They get so excited talking about what the fluffy-tailed night visitor might leave them. They always ask to leave carrots for him, to help him recharge for the rest of his night's journey. They love the egg hunt we do in the morning - this year it will probably happen as I am coming in the house from my night shift at the hospital. They work as a team to find eggs and divide the spoils up evenly.

And I love giving them these things. I try not to be too materialistic with my children. While it is undeniably fun to receive gifts, I don't want them to focus all of their energies on having and receiving these things. Spending time with your family, having new and interesting experiences, exploring your beliefs and thoughts about God and the Universe, and sharing close relationships with loved ones and friends is what I want my children to value. Not things. Things pass away. Things get broken, outgrown and old. Things often create stress, whether the stress is related to acquiring them, keeping them or sharing them, things always create stress.

During the year, my husband and I do not buy a whole lot for our children. Rarely do they receive new toys or clothes throughout the year. They have what they need, but they do not get everything that they want. That is on purpose. I think it is important to teach children that life is not about getting things. It's about what you give. But as I said, I love giving them things that make them happy. They're kids. Kids are simple. They are easy to please. How many times have you heard about the baby or toddler that plays for hours with the box the gift has come in? Many times all it takes to make my daughter happy is a few kind words, or to know that you have really listened to her ideas.

My daughter is adorable. She wants to do a presentation to her class about mythical creatures and how they really do exist. She has her evidence of Santa, provided last Christmas by Santa's failure to take his glasses with him and the fact that he accidentally dropped a glove and his sleigh license. She has the money left by the tooth fairy. She wrote a note to the Easter Bunny this year asking for him to leave some evidence of his existence. She told me that she intends to scientifically prove that these creatures exist.

She has begun to ask me if Santa and the Easter Bunny exist. I didn't say no. I told her today that I believe in their spirit. The idea that someone is out there who is unselfish to the point of trying to give so much to others is moving to me. Whether Santa was actually a person long ago or not, I want to promote that spirit of giving. Is it wrong of me to want to promote that spirit? Is it wrong to do it in this way? My daughter responded to my comment about believing in the Spirit of Santa by saying, "Well, I believe in him AND the Easter Bunny as solid, ACTUAL beings. I mean, how could they leave such wonderful gifts if they weren't solid?"

The other issue that troubles me is that we are currently struggling with the subject of lying with my boys. I have had to on several occassions punish Christopher for lying to me. The latest situation involved, as I said in a prior post, him telling our pediatrician's nurse that I was not home when she called. I was indeed home, and I was very angry at Christopher for telling the caller that I was not there. Am I being a hypocrite? I don't want my boys to think that lying is okay...and perhaps they will if they feel these myths of Santa and the Easter Bunny are being supported by me and Steve. This feeling is closest to the surface when I am tucking my boys in at night. Tonight Christopher asked me if the Easter Bunny was like Santa. "In what way honey?" I asked. Christopher responded,"Can he see you when you are sleeping?" To which I replied with an emphatic, "Oh, yes he can, so you better go to sleep." As I leaned over to kiss Daniel on the cheek he asked me, "God can see you when you are sleeping too, right Mommy?" I of course told him that yes, God can indeed see you when you are sleeping. "God doesn't lie, right Mommy?" was Daniel's next question. "No, God does not lie. God tells the truth all the time," was my careful response. Meanwhile I was thinking, "what are they going to think about me as they get older and learn about Santa and the Easter Bunny?"

And finally, we arrive at one of the biggest, thorniest (if you pardon the complicated pun) issues. The crucifixion, death and ressurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Easter is REALLY about, right folks? The fact that our Lord and Savior was willing to humble himself to come to earth in the form of a human baby, be born in all the blood, sweat and tears that that involves, and live a human life for what we think to be 33 years. That Jesus developed and grew within his family and accepted his earthly parents' authority until he was old enough to fulfill prophesy. The very idea that Jesus spent his days in human form teaching, helping and loving others is amazing. That he put his own human needs last and helped the very lowest of the low is a tough act to follow. That he was willing to give of himself to beyond the point of death is humbling to think about. That he could have wiped out the Pharissees, the Sadduccees and Pilate with a single look if he so chose is powerful. That he instead accepted the cross he was offered, didn't run and knew that in order for humanity to live he must die is stunning. All this is incredible, and we haven't even touched the topic of the resurrection yet.

How do I communicate how important a step this was for humanity to my young children? My children, at this point in time have difficulty thinking past the concrete concepts of the here and now. They understand hunger. They know what thirst is. They are well acquainted with desire and temptation, but they couldn't explain what they are. The need for redemption is not something that is so simple to communicate to a three year old. Even a five year old is not quite ready to grasp the concept. My nine year old is probably ready, but I struggle with some of the images that the crucifixion, death and resurrection present. I can't sanitize it for her, but it is a very violent story. The idea that human beings could nail another person (even though they are really God incarnate) to a tree is horrifying. That they would leave them on this tree, unable to move, in deep suffering is horrendous. That he was forced to wear a crown of thorns is cruel. To explain that he was stabbed with a spear to make sure he was dead is the stuff of nightmares for a three year old.

These things only describe the beginnings of what to a young child is the scariest kind of ghost story they could hear. To hear that the body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linens (like a mummy) and hidden in a tomb is way too much fodder for a young imagination such as my Daniel. I would feel abusive as a parent to then proceed to tell him about the resurrection as described in the Bible. He would be terrified.

So do I hold off sharing the truth of the Easter story until he and my other children are older? Or is this a great disservice? Is substituting the Easter Bunny story, while fun, robbing them of the true meaning, or allowing them a grace period? I hope that I am allowing some room for grace. I am holding a place for Christ with the Easter Bunny. I am stretching my children's minds with fanciful tales of this rabbit who delights in leaving gifts in preparation for learning about the true gift the human race was given on this weekend. I am giving my children time to develop their hearts and minds. Time to develop the capacity to absorb the importance of the Passion. To see it as more than a horror story that will give them nightmares.

On Cleaning and Consequences

So...a few things to talk about here. First, don't fall over, but I went on a cleaning spree. I got rid of all kinds of clutter on my main floor, I did laundry, I cleaned bathrooms, I mopped floors, I was an animal. What is up with that? I hate cleaning and I usually feel so unmotivated to do it. I mean, if you could clean and it would STAY clean, that would be one thing, but it always gets messy again and it drives me nuts. It makes me feel like my attempts at cleanliness are futile. I mean, why bother when in 20 minutes or less it will just be a mess again?

Nevertheless, I went crazy cleaning. I am hoping to keep up the momentum. But friends keep telling me it is a pms thing. Or a full moon. So it will probably not last. But for now I will ride the wave. I will make use of my manic cleaning behavior while I can.

Speaking of cleaning, Christopher is in BIG trouble with Daddy. He had a friend over for a dinnertime playdate. That won't be happening again anytime soon. I was asleep (had to work tonight) and didn't see what happened...and didn't want to look when the yelling and crying began. Apparently Christopher and his friend thought it would be a good idea to destroy furniture and make a HUGE mess in our play room throwing around toys and stuff. This is an ongoing issue for our middle child. He just joins in when his friends start trashing things. He doesn't stop them or say anything to us.

How does one teach a young child about respecting their home? They don't understand the work that goes into maintaining a home. Perhaps he will learn as he spends his morning tomorrow cleaning the playroom by himself. Daddy was very adamant that he would be doing that tomorrow morning. And I think that is exactly right. The natural consequence of making a huge mess is that you have to clean it up. It's just exhausting arguing with young children about follow through. You know as a parent you have to follow through, but it's just so aggravating to have to. But you do it no matter how aggravating otherwise you raise kids who are out of control and show no respect.

The other issue we are currently struggling with is lying. My son thought it was okay to tell a nurse who called out house the other day that I was not home. This was most definitely a lie and I don't know how to break him of doing these things. I keep explaining that if I cannot trust him that he won't be allowed certain priveledges like riding his bike up and down the street with his sister. But this is tough because you can never really know if you cure them of lying. You can only hope that you do. My daughter never lies as far as I can tell. But maybe she's just better at not getting caught. You never can be 100% sure.

On a positive note, my daughter got her report card and is on her third consecutive term of straight A's. Not only is this good, but she also gets wonderful comments about her conduct and the amount of effort she puts into her work. It's terrific. She is developing some good study habits and I am so proud of her. Her daddy keeps joking around with her about how his parents never saw report cards from him that were this good. She is a high honors student and we are so proud of her.

Which brings me back to my son. I am proud of him too. He is a good boy. He behaves in school, he gets good grades, and he is so smart. I don't want to compare the two of them and make him feel like he is not as good as his sister. He is. He justs needs some help learning proper behavior. He's only 5 1/2 for crying out loud. Boy I hope that that is what I am conveying to him. I don't want to go too easy on him, but I also don't want him to feel he can't be good. He really is a good kid.

My youngest is so imaginative. He is emotional, fiery, and creative. I love him so much. My heart wanted to break today because he decided not to eat his lunch. He was told that if he didn't eat he couldn't have ice cream...well,he preferred to play. When his siblings got their ice cream and he didn't get his he was devastated. He sat down on the floor, refused to sit in a chair and said, "I don't love you. I don't want my new shoes." He then proceeded to cry the most heartbreaking cry you had ever heard. I wanted to give in, but I held fast. He has had the most difficult time accepting that rules are rules and it is more important with him than the other two to make the rules be the rules.

I couldn't tell him how much I sympathized with him. I needed him to feel the sting of his choices. But oh, how sad I did feel. I know how much he wanted to play. So I harden my heart and hope that this is the last time I have to endure this scene, knowing that it most likely isn't.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's...Mine...Isn't it?

So I'm going to Dallas. I found a "cheap" (translate under $400) ticket to Dallas/Fort Worth airport in April, and I'm going. I feel burnt out and unhappy and I need to recharge. I've said that in earlier posts. I've also said that I absolutely hate it when someone whines about a problem but doesn't do anything about it. So I'm going, hopefully to do something about this problem.

I'm unhappy. Don't really understand why, but I am. I'm not doing a good job as a mother and a wife. I need to recharge, to get some perspective. To do something to refresh the way I look at my life.

Lest you worry, constant reader (ha! who am I kidding? no one reads this blather anyway), I have discussed this trip with Steve and he says he is ok with this. He will miss me he says, but he wants me to be happy. If this trip will help to do that, he is for it.

There's the question...will this help me to be happy? I sure hope so. I don't want to take the trip, come back, and feel the exact same way as when I left, but just have the ticket to pay off on my credit card. I think part of the problem is that I don't exactly know why I am unhappy. I just am. I'm thinking that "getting away from it all," will help me to gain some perspective, some rest, and to come back to New England with a new world view of things. If it doesn't, I don't know what I will do.

But when I think of that, my next thought is, nothing you are doing now is working, is it? I can't just do nothing. I'm sinking into despair and I need to claw my way out. I love my husband and family and I owe them a mother and wife that isn't feeling depressed, overwhelmed and sad all the time. Steve (my husband) is doing his best to provide his family with a good life. I almost feel as if being unhappy is being a jerk to him. I don't want all his hard work to feel like a waste of time. I don't want him to feel that its futile to try to make things work. I think that's where we are headed unfortunately. I don't want him to feel that way, but I can't pretend I am happy either.

I have tried to talk to friends. They help some, but the deep sadness never really goes away. They advise reading the Bible, going to counselors, reading self-help books, writing. I have done these things. They haven't helped. I have prayed, I have yelled, I have tried to build exercise programs, go on "girls nights out," and had a glass of wine or two to relax. It hasn't helped. I have tried to turn the focus away from myself...volunteering, throwing myself into raising my kids, getting a part time job...and yet that sadness is always sitting there, like a stone.

There are those of you who have recommended medication. I've tried that too. It works somewhat...but there are always issues with medication. Side effects. I don't need to belabor those here, but suffice it to say that I think that screwing around with medications to help alleviate my depression played a part in landing me in the hospital last year. Enough said.

So why Dallas you ask? My sister lives there. There are several reasons to go to Dallas. First, I have NEVER been to her home. She has lived out in Texas for several years and is making a life for herself with her husband. She has been back East a few times, but I have never made the effort to go out her way. Mostly because I have in the past always thought about the cost for the whole family to go...and we just don't have it.

But I got to thinking the other day...and one ticket isn't nearly as prohibitive as five tickets. So I decided I would look into it. I would love to see her home, her puppy (she has a Jack Russell terrier named Calli), and get to know her man a bit better than I do. He strikes me as the silent type...maybe he will not really hang out with us, who knows, but it would be nice to get to know him better.

I really wish I was closer to my sisters than I am. We don't really know each other that well. Maybe this trip won't change that any, but maybe it will. I won't know unless I try, right? I wish my sisters felt that they could rely on me, but they don't. I'm not that important to their lives.

Another reason to visit my sister? I guess you could say that I want to observe the "other life." The life of married adults without children. Don't misunderstand, I love my children, I want my children. I just find it hard to NEVER have time without them. When I told my daughter Allison I was taking this trip she was angry with me. Very angry. Because she wasn't invited.

I think that is part of the issue involved with this trip too. I never feel comfortable saying that I want something to myself. I know that I am not the only mom out there to experience this, but its sometimes hard to get others to admit it openly. The tough thing to admit is this: sometimes we don't want to share. Sometimes we want things for ourselves. We don't want to come up with an explanation for why we want not to share, we just don't want to. I think it's because we are expected to share EVERYTHING. It starts from the very beginning. When we first find out we are pregnant. We are sharing our body with a newcomer. They are growing inside of us. And it is a miracle. It is wonderful. We wait to feel the first movement or "quickening." We rush home with that ultrasound, the first physical proof that we are indeed a host to our little one. A good host makes sure that all who are present are comfortable and have what they need. So we go about our business making sure that our precious visitor has what they need...enough vitamins, enough water, exercise, the latest in technology designed to listen in...

Then the baby is born. The baby comes out, squishy, messy and loud. The baby is beautiful yes, but also loud and demanding. They need comfort, they need food, they need warmth. You share your body again. You nurse them. You hold them. You take them into the bed with you. You are still one.

The baby grows. They cry. You respond. You donate your sleep. You donate your wardrobe to spit up and leaky diapers. You change your shirt and laugh off what a mess it is. You give up hair appointments because you can't seem to fit it in around their nursing schedule. You let the condition of your home slide because your baby needs you. The laundry can wait.

The baby grows and begins to notice the world around them. They need you. For comfort. They want to explore, but they are unsure of what they find. You donate your patience because they cannot bear to let you leave the room. You become their touchstone and that is a good feeling. Knowing that you can provide security, warmth, safety.

The baby grows. They begin to walk, climb, tumble and fall. You donate your affection. They get scrapes, bruises, bumps and abraded egos. Your kisses are a salve that heals all wounds and that feels oh-so good inside, knowing that another human being values your kisses so much that they will insist that you come from far away to administer the panacea of love.

The baby is no longer a baby. They are a toddler. They learn to talk. They tell you "I love you" and "I want that." You are thrilled that they are learning to express themselves. You remind them that they no longer need to cry to get what they need and that they can "use their words." You donate your time to reminding them, explaining their world to them, reasoning with them, and teaching them the fine art of negotiation. They learn to say "No" and they learn to accept when you say "No" to something that they request.

The toddler becomes a preschooler. They are testing the limits of your affection. They throw tantrums. They lie. They break things. They fight with siblings, their friends and you. They refuse to do what they are told. You donate your time to researching the best discipline methods, how to teach a preschooler etiquette ("No, you should not tell that lady she is fat!"). They take classes. Form friendships. You donate your judgement sometimes, to help them make good choices in their friendships. Sometimes you withold your judgement so they can develop their own judgement. You hang out with people that you may not otherwise spend time with due to your desire for your children to make friends and develop relationships.

Your preschooler becomes an elementary school aged child. They learn about authority, they test authority, and they make their first steps into the world without your close supervision. You aren't there all day to see what they are exposed to. You donate your hope to the idea that they are not being exposed to the wrong things, you donate your time to field trips, your money to fundraisers, and your concern to the issues that they bring home to share with you over their afternoon snack.

As your children grow, you sacrifice your dignity, your energy and your ego to their close scrutiny. This is hard if you aren't a secure individual. It's something that you do joyfully, but not without cost to you. As you stand there with dinner, carefully prepared and listen to the chorus of "Do we have to eat this?" sometimes you want to walk out the door, and go out to dinner alone. The thought of pouring yourself a few cocktails while making dinner in preparation for the critique session coming is very appealing. But if they have a friend over for dinner, you probably reason that it would be unwise to leave a vapor trail behind as you answered the door when their parents arrived at pick up.

So is it really hard to understand why I don't want to share? When I try to quietly, surreptitiously, open a candy bar and eat it all alone and wind up faced with a child with an outstretched hand and "Can I have some?" in their eyes and on their lips, do you begrudge me my frustration?

I think this trip to Dallas is mine and you can't have it.

Five things:

1.) I am grateful that my husband at least tries to understand
2.) I am grateful that my husband cares about my happiness
3.) I am grateful that I have a sister to go visit
4.) I am grateful for my friend Dawn (you know why if you read this)
5.) I am grateful for good music and funny comedians to cheer me up.