Saturday, February 29, 2020

My life - Part 1 - an overhead view

I was born on February 13th, the oldest child of two oldest children.

My first brother was born 13 months later...the child that my maternal grandmother was convinced SHOULD have been aborted...who later ended up being the Golden Child.

My second brother was born when I was 6 and in first grade.  He was born with a congenital heart defect, which was discovered after a month or so of failure-to-thrive, and he died on the operating table at 5 months of age.

My third brother was born 18 months after the death of the second one.

My only sister was born 12 YEARS later, after 5 or 6 miscarriages, born when our mother was 43 years old, and I was 19, and in college.

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My mother grew up in a family that looked perfect.
Grandpa's family was a Presbyterian family with generations of Presbyterian ministers.  He broke that tradition, eventually becoming a professor, after working for the Presbyterian church in their TRAV (Television, Radio, and Audiovisual) department.  They lived in Arkansas and moved to Atlanta, GA when my mother was 8 years old.  After she was out of the house, my grandparents moved to Austin, TX, where Grandpa was a communications professor at the University of Texas until he retired.  When Grandpa retired, they moved to their newly remodeled vacation home in Montreat, NC.

My mother graduated from high school, and went off to college in St. Petersburg, FL, and graduated from there 4 years later with a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and Russian.  The way she told the story, she was offered a job at the UN, but instead wanted to get married.

She met my father at the church she attended in Atlanta.  Daddy was a college student in Atlanta, originally from Staten Island, NY, but having moved to St. Petersburg, FL, when he was 17 years old when his father sold the family hardware store and retired.

My parents were married on June 25, 1966, and immediately moved to South Carolina, where my father had a job at Regal Textiles as an engineer.  They lived in Fork Shoals, on a "lake", and spent a lot of time skiing on the lake. While they lived on the lake, my uncle Brent came and spent some time there, but tragically committed suicide as he was mourning the recent suicide of his girlfriend.  My parents moved from that home quickly thereafter, living in Ware Shoals until they bought the farm in Due West, SC, which my father still lives on more than 50 years later. 

My mother was 24 when I was born.  Daddy was 28. 

They moved to The Farm just prior to my birth...it was one of two places I lived before leaving for college.  The Farm was the scene of almost all of the abuse I suffered...though The Dairy Farm also saw some of the same behaviors in the 5 years that we lived there. 

We moved to The Dairy Farm when I was 10 years old, and lived there for 5-ish years.  The years at The Dairy Farm were long and hard.  There were endless 18-hour days, injuries, losses, and financial hardship, as well as unexplained illness for Mother.  During those hard years, she experienced 2 or 3 miscarriages, and a kidney infection that could very easily have been fatal. 

At the end of the years on The Dairy Farm, we moved back to The Farm...back into the 150-year-old house with leaky walls, wood heat, and a dying well.  We never lacked for food...there was always meat in the freezer (that we had butchered), eggs in the refrigerator (that we had gathered from our chickens), fresh veggies from the garden, and fruit from the orchard.  But there was never enough money.  Daddy kept the cars running by constantly fixing them.  We stayed in the private church-affiliated school by the contribution of other church members.  We gladly wore hand-me-down clothes.  We never went on vacations, and rarely did any of the entertainment things that our friends took for granted. 

For a few years, we attended a local Presbyterian church, but my parents became concerned about the direction the church was headed and started looking around for another church.  We visited a local Baptist church but landed in a newly-planted Mennonite church. 

Adjustment to Mennonite life had to have been hard for my Mother.  She never quite forgave the very restrictive rules or the fact that some members of the church could get away with the blatant flaunting of them, while others were punished for minor indiscretions.  She was never comfortable in the clothing dictated by the rule-book, but never quite gave it up once they made the decision to leave many years later. 

My school years started with homeschooling.  My parents found Calvert School's curriculum, and did a very unpopular thing for that point in time, and decided that they would educate me at home.  Technically, that would have been my kindergarten year, as I entered first grade with my peers at Cold Springs Mennonite School, where I finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, prior to our church starting their own school, and my brother and I transferred there for my 4th-grade year, and his 3rd-grade year.  This school was where we graduated 8 years later. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Refining Fires

2019 was a B.E.A.S.T.

There was soooo much that happened (I only covered the big stuff on my other blog )

Stress.

Financial worries.

Health challenges.

Relational problems.

There was also growth, and change, and sweet family time, and mourning, and loss, and watching God provide in unexpected and amazing ways. 

2019 was really a refining year for me.  The worries and hard times are burning away the impurities and helping me see who I am without all of those in my life. 

This morning our pastor spoke from Isaiah 32:1-8, about waiting to see the harvest God has prepared for this new year.  He said some things that really resonate with me. 

"We live and breathe hope." 

Today, I look forward to 2020 with HOPE. 
Hope to see the harvest God has promised. 
Hope for new, good things in our relationships, our jobs, our finances, our future. 

The verse that I had formerly chose as my life-verse fits very well here:
Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Black and Blue

If you were to ask my favorite color, it would probably be somewhere on the purple spectrum right now...royal purple, burgundy, hot pink...all combinations of red and blue in varying amounts.  Many of my go-to shirts are those colors. 

However, if you were to observe my regular clothing choices for the past few years, you would see a bit different pattern.  Yes, there were purples...but more black and grey and blue than anything else. 

The colors I wear reflect my levels of inner torment. 

I have been depressed since I was an early teen. 

I self-medicated with food. 

I wrote angsty poetry and sad stories. 

I cried myself to sleep for years. 

I felt disconnected and unincluded, even excluded, for most of my life. 

All of these things are but symptoms...Complex Posttraumatic Stress haunts me, and shows up as nightmares, and messed-up sleep patterns, and messy relationships with food, and people, and things, and for many years, it reared it's ugly head as a heightened startle-response and fear. 

For close to three years after Jason and I were married, I flinched and cowered and hyperventilated when he moved quickly.  NOT because of anything he had ever done, but because of my prior experiences of abuse at the hands of someone who was supposed to love me. 

After more than 30 years out of that setting, and 20 years of therapy, I know I am doing better.  I have experienced some healing.  I also know that the things that broke me as a child continue to affect me every day. 

Someday, I may know that my favorite colors don't have be shades of pain, or to taste like tears.  I may not always experience the conflicting anger and love and hate and apathy when I think about growing up as an abused child. 

Black and blue may no longer be the colors of my thoughts. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Dark Times require REST

This evening I am feeling discouraged about the direction of our country. 

On social media, I see bitterness, and division, and anger, and hurt, and fear...SO.MUCH.FEAR.  I also see hatred...especially present in conjunction with fear. 

I see this happening on all sides in politics, and in many different religious environments, and it is so sad to me. 

I was talking this evening with a young lady about taking on emotions from other people and from the movies we see, and the TV shows we watch....and I just realized that I am taking on the emotions of those I cross paths with on social media. 

IT. IS. EXHAUSTING. 

Our pastor did a good job this weekend speaking on one of the topics of current interest, and it is always good to see when God times things like this out...He knows what He is doing, and THAT is encouraging. 

I'm thinking I just need a break...this is something that happens regularly enough that I am recognizing the signs of my needing to back away from the hype, and the beating of war drums, and the yelling louder and louder, because those in the back of the room are deafened by all of it. 

Meanwhile, I have to be able to keep functioning in this real world in which I live....
...the one where my children still need clean, dry clothes, and food to eat, and a warm house in which to live. 
...the one where parents lose their edge as they age, and end up in hospitals.
...the one where friends also get discouraged, and need my presence more than more words. 
...the one where I have responsibilities that do not allow for a day (or week) of mental health time-off.
...the one where creativity is healing...and where I haven't had time or energy to create in far-too-long.
...the world where God has things to say to me that He doesn't say through short memes on social media. 

So, I think I am going to go take a sabbatical.  I wish I could do it for work, and life...but this time it will just have to be for social media.  Because I am giving myself permission to REST...to HEAL..to REJUVENATE. 

I'll be back.  I don't know when...because I know I need a LOT of rest.  But I WILL be back. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Brutally Honest (and LATE) Christmas Letter

 I came across a challenge that really resonated with me, so I am going to attempt to rise to meet that challenge.  The spirit of the challenge is to be brutally honest with the Christmas letter, instead of creating a fictional front.  Soooo....in that spirit....

PAXTON FAMILY 2018 CHRISTMAS LETTER

2018 has been a strange mix of hard and wonderful.

Our year started with the whole family still in Massachusetts, due to the fact that the Navy couldn't make a decision.  The movers came on January 10, 11, 12...and Jason and Justin took the dog, and left and drove to Illinois since Jason had to be there to take the advancement exam (Spoiler: he didn't pass).  This left Laura, Heather, Leah, and Katherine still in MA, watching men pack, guarding Jason's baby (the Harley-Davidson, for the uninitiated), cleaning the now-empty house, breaking down the garden shed no-one wanted, and camping out with friends.  The highlights included Jason finding an amazing church the first weekend in IL, God having provided a GREAT house, Laura and the girls driving through the night in a blizzard that closed I80, spending a night in OH with friends, and arriving at our new home on January 16th.  Most of the rest of the month was spent unpacking and setting up the house.  We also learned that our children could NOT go to school in the district we thought we were in (off by something like 5 houses!), but were instead supposed to put them into one of the crappiest schools I have ever seen rated...so we are homeschooling.  (Cue unhappy 10th-grader).  Justin was finishing his classes via an online program through his school in MA.

February saw me starting back at Walmart in a job I never wanted to have again, working overnights on the remodel crew, which lasted into May, and I was able to translate that into a job working as a cashier...still don't want to be there, but it is helping pay the bills.   The kids started making friends in the homeschool group and church group.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Heather Lorraine and Ben Boisture, people smiling, people standing
In March, Justin took his SAT in Champaign.

In April, we had some wonderful visitors for Spring Break.






In May, the remodel was completed, and I celebrated by moving to days and starting working as a Cashier.  Frances also graduated from Gordon College and celebrated by flying to Spain the next day for a summer Spanish intensive.









In June, the kids and Laura drove to MA for Justin's high school graduation.  We stayed with friends, and got to see Nick and to hang out in familiar places with more friends.  Justin successfully graduated, and we drove back to Illinois.

In July, Frances came back from a very eventful time in Spain, having traveled, and seen the country, been hospitalized, had surgery, delayed her return home, and finally arrived home...to travel again a week later...after having Heather to dinner during HER visit to MA to spend time with friends.  Then Frances and Nick, and Jon all came to Illinois for the Shipp family reunion...which Heather was supposed to attend too, but ended up spending 24+ hours in the airport in New Jersey due to crappy weather.

August started with ALL of the kids here in Illinois and ended with everyone back to work in their various places.  Leah began a brand new adventure, taking dual-enrollment classes through the local community college, as well as her homeschool work for 11th grade.  Justin began training as a shift lead at work.  Katherine started her new school year...as a 9th grader.  Heather's job moved to another store, in another town, working as a co-manager of the Journey store there.  Also in August, Laura was reminded again that she was pre-diabetic, and finally figured out what to do about it (why no-one could tell me for the prior 10 years how to make any changes is a subject for another dissertation...).

We also learned that we will be grandparents in April...

September, October, and November are a bit of a blur.  Everyone worked their butts off.  Katherine and Leah attended to all of their school work, along with the requisite fussing by parents to complete homework and do household chores.  There were doctors' appointments for Laura, and adjustments in medications which resulted in more energy, better sleep, and other subtle signs of improving health. The dog went in and out with regularity, which is more than can be said for the rest of the couples represented.  Laura and Jason did KETO...Laura lost 30 pounds, and Jason lost 10 pounds.  Jason traveled for work and saw friends; Laura traveled to see friends and make plans for the future.  Heather turned 21, and we celebrated.  Thanksgiving happened, and we celebrated.

And then it was December.... and it was ALL about celebrating...Nana's birthday, Uncle's birthday, Katherine's birthday, Cousin's birthday, great-grandfather's birthday, another Uncle's birthday, an Aunt's birthday, Sissy's birthday, Jesus' birthday...  ALLL the celebrations.  There have been parties, and gifts, and cookies, and pies, and lots of time with friends.

And then December 27th happened, 11 years after my mother's heart attack and subsequent triple bypass surgery, my mother failed to wake up, and ended up in the hospital again, this time in a short-term diabetic coma.  And Laura and Katherine left, on New Year's Eve, for South Carolina. 

What a year!!  Moving, and job changes, and health stuff...oh my!!  We are glad to see 2018 in the rear-view...and excited to see what 2019 has in store for us!! 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

On Belonging and Home

Today I am struggling with hurt and anger and loneliness. 

I am TIRED of feeling left out of life.  Like, I know we have all these great, wonderful, grand adventures, moving around, experiencing life in different places every few years, but I am seriously envious of people who live in one spot for years on end, and have family and friends nearby that they have been able to know for years, and who are their support network, and KNOW them without having to work to develop that in every new place. 

I am TIRED of being the outsider ALL.THE.TIME. 

I am SAD that my children who are trying to raise support don't have that built-in support network that their securely-planted friends have had all of their lives. 

I am ANGRY that I wasn't able to deeply connect with other military wives, and have always felt like an outsider there, too. 

I know that our family doesn't fit the typical MK/PK/TCK pattern, but living this life IS a third culture adventure that has third culture effects on all of us, and it makes me sad and angry, and feeling more and more like an outsider in life. 

I want to BELONG somewhere...but the itch to move on is always there...and that paradox is so painful some days (like today). 

Days like today are such potent reminders of what we don't have...a permanent, secure, abiding home...and a reinforcement of the hope that we have for our promised HOME. 

Until then.... 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

I missed out

There are so many different ways that having a parent with a mental illness impacts the children's lives that it would be impossible to list them all.  Suffice to say that every part of life, physical, mental, emotional....all feel the impact of the parent's illness.

For me, I can count the things I missed out on....

I missed having a loving relationship with my mother.  Let me explain...I THOUGHT it was a good relationship...until I started seeing others' relationships with their mothers, and realizing how one-sided ours was.

I missed fun...don't get me wrong.  I had some fun...but it was strictly (VERY) regulated.

I missed friendships.  I had a few...which were VERY limited due to my mother's reticence to have anyone visit our home.

I missed out on differentiation in my teen years....

I missed out on following ANY dreams...mainly because the dreams were squashed so early that they didn't ever have a chance.

I missed out on getting into trouble...legitimate trouble...not trouble with my parents, but truly doing anything that might be considered trouble-worthy in any other family in our church.

I missed out on freedom to roam, freedom to be me, freedom to be unencumbered.

I missed the chance to explore who I was because I ALWAYS had to be/act/do as she determined.