Thursday, September 1, 2016

The story in my head....

Last year, at the Global Leadership Summit, Brene' Brown spoke, and this prompted me to buy one of her books, "Rising Strong", and as soon as it arrived, I devoured it.  It spoke to me.  It helps that Brene' is somewhat of a hero of mine, a researcher, a psychology person, someone who speaks my language.  So, it was not really a surprise that her books (and TEDtalks on shame and vulnerability) are my favorites, and show up in my work with clients, in talks with friends, and discussions with the family.  

In Rising Strong, Brene' talks about a scene on a lake with her husband, and a breakthrough thought for her.  I won't do the story justice, so suffice to say you'll need to get the book and read the passage.  
Anyway, the breakthrough thought was along the lines of the stories our minds make up for things that don't make sense to us.  Our minds like things to come to a pretty little conclusion, all tied together in a bow, and finished in an hour's time, or at least by the end of the book.  We don't like loose ends.  We don't like ambiguity.  We don't like incomplete chords and tunes that don't resolve themselves.  Our minds create their own ending if it such a resolution is not handed to us.  

This need for resolution is what made-for-TV dramas, and soap operas resolve problems in an hour's time, and why shows with loose ends continue to draw people back to watch the next episode.  We want the neatly-tied-together conclusion.  

Life is not nearly as close to reality TV as we would like.  We don't get handily crafted neat solutions.  We get LOTS of loose ends.  So, our minds imagine an ending.  

The husband that didn't arrive home when he said he what?
 - - dead on the side of the road?
 - - having an affair?
 - - still busy at work?
The incomplete voicemail that promises a followup call to explain...says what?
  - - I'm going to be fired?
  - - I did something wrong?
  - - someone died?

Often, I find the stories in my head to be crazy-making.  The above scenarios are directly from my own experiences.  My imagination works overtime.  All.The.Time.  

My interactions with family members are no exception.

I imagine anger where there may not be any.  
I imagine disgust.
I imagine all kinds of things.  

The problems I have with this imaginary process is that I have no way to confirm or deny the validity of my scenarios when I have no contact, or very little contact with the people in question.  

So, tonight, the story in my head says that my extended family wants nothing to do with me.  It says that my exposure of the pain of the past has turned everyone against me.  It says that I am the only one who has attempted to keep the family from imploding, and that no one really cares if I am ever in contact again.  

Clearly, the story in my head is a painful one, and one I wish could be resolved.  Because I don't like the story in my head.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Giving them wings

There is a lot about releasing one's children to be adults that is hard on parents.

  • There is the fear that we didn't do enough.  
  • There is the fear that we hoovered too much.
  • There is the fear that they are not prepared for the big-bad-world.  
  • There is the fear of bad people hurting our kids.

Today we took our oldest child to move into the dorms on a new college campus.  I am happy for her.  She is ready for this.  She needs to be able to finish school and move on to the next steps.

And yet...

  • She is my first baby.
  • I have thoroughly enjoyed having her home for the last 10 months.  
  • I am going to miss her help, and her sensitivity.
Our second child has been out of the nest and on his own for almost two years now.  I miss him like crazy.  We got to see him for a few wonderful days in June...and hearing from him sporadically is never enough.  He is our first boy...this man-child who is finding his way on his own.  

This letting-go thing is hard...and I have 4 more still at home, one of whom has already graduated from high school, and is taking a "gap year", working, and saving her money, and sorting through what exactly she wants to study.  

Meanwhile, this school year, we are only sending 3 into seventh grade, one into 9th, and one into 11th grade.  I don't quite know what to do with myself, having so few children in school.  It has been a LONG time since that happened (um... 2005, I think...).  

Sigh.  I don't want to do this.  I don't want them all to go...and yet...I don't want to hold them back.  They each need to find their way.  I don't want any of them staying here because I am refusing to let them go.  I need to know that what we taught them was enough.  I need to know that they will succeed...probably despite our shortcomings as parents.  Most of all, I need to remember that each of them are following the paths God has for them...and that HE knows them much better than I do, and loves them even more than I do.  

That is reassuring, even in the midst of the scariness of turning loose....

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Others' pain is HEAVY

I was talking with a client yesterday about why she needed to work on her own healing, and not focus on rescuing others who are hurting, and I sat there having an internal conversation with myself about the same thing.

The facts are that I am a broken human being.
I need healing.
I need space to heal.
The way to give myself space to heal is to NOT try to fix the world, but to instead focus on working on my stuff.
This is all hard when I work in the mental health field.

Working as a counselor feels a LOT like rescuing people.

It is NOT.

Also, as a Believer, I do not want to set myself up as anyone's savior.

I am NOT.

Rather, my job as a counselor is to help people see their way through the maze in which they find themselves.  This maze may or may not be of their own making...often it is comprised of both things foisted on them during a broken childhood, and their attempts to medicate away the pain in the only ways they could figure out...often drugs or alcohol.

As a Believer, my job is to point people to the only Savior who has stood the test of time.

Meanwhile, I am working on my own stuff, recognizing that I am helping others carry their pain, and in doing so, I am lightening their load, so they can concentrate on healing the pain that brought them to see me in the first place.

And I am thankful for those who have walked along-side me, lightening my load, while I am healing. I am forever grateful.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


People with PTSD don't get to choose what triggers their reactions.

Today, I am feeling very alone here with my husband and the two children who are currently at home.

Scrolling through FaceBook today, and suddenly I am back as a young girl, maybe 10, 11, 12...and wishing I had friends...really anyone I could talk to.  Other girls from school talked about calling and talking for long periods of time...they got to hang out with friends, and cousins.  I had no one.

I was isolated.  Oh, I went to school, and to church...but I never talked to anyone about how awful it was at home.  And I couldn't bring anyone home.  The few times I got to go to friends' houses were oh-so-welcomed, but didn't happen often.

I have cousins.  Five first cousins.  All of whom are grown and have kids and significant others...most of whom I have never met.  I don't know ANY second cousins.  I know they exist.  I think I have met ONE of the many.

See, not only did my parents isolate me from others in our community, but they so limited our contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, that I barely know any of them, and I really don't have a relationship with them...and that makes me REALLY sad.

I remember LOVING when my mom's sister came to visit from college...we had grand plans to do things together.  We were going to hike the Appalachian Trail together.  And then she got married...and I was further cut off from her because my parents wouldn't let me go visit.

Some days I am super-jealous of friends here whose parents, and siblings, and grandparents come visit them.  I have pretty much given up on ever having a visit from anyone in my family, except maybe from my sister.

Today, I'm reeling again from the pain of being deprived of good relationships with extended family members by the effects of mental illness.  Days like today, I end up angry....a lot.

Because triggers bring back all of the hurt.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Feeling Overwhelmed

I started working as a therapist in a very needy community nearby almost two months ago.  I am finding that every day I am exhausted, and that my emotions are all over the place.  The training I went to yesterday left me feeling awkward and out of place...not a new feeling, but I thought I had THAT settled away...guess not.  

Meanwhile, there is SO MUCH going on here on the home-front.  

Child #3 graduates from high school on June 2.  

The in-laws come into town this coming Thursday.  Friday will be a day off of work for me, so I have to see all of my clients in 4 days next week, too.  Saturday we're going on a tour in the city.  Sunday is church, and then the in-laws fly back out on Monday, and our #2 child flies in that same day, to be in town through the following Saturday.  That week will also be a 4-day week for me, so 4 VERY-PACKED days.  We're also having family pictures done on Thursday, since all of the kids will be here, and Thursday night is the all-night graduation party for the seniors.  

Additionally, we're making plans for camp for 3 kids, 2 kids are being camp counselors, and 1 kid is going on a ministry trip to Guatemala this summer.  

Again, I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I am starting to wonder if jumping into working full-time was a good idea.  There are things that are not getting done at the house (cleaning, dishes, vacuuming, anyone?!?), and I can't figure out how to make this runaway freight train slow down.   

I need to get in to see my counselor.  
I need to get my prescriptions refilled.  
I need to get the dog to the groomers.  
I need to clean my room.  And the living room.  And all the bathrooms.  And pretty much every room in the house is getting out of hand.  
My truck needs cleaned.  
The refrigerator is growing things...experiments.  
I need time to go to the grocery store.  

I think I need to cry...but I don't have time...we were given tickets to a Red Sox game tonight...they're playing the Cleveland Indians...and two kids are working...and one is off at a retreat.  Mom doesn't have time for a breakdown....

Nothing new to see here.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Spoken Word.

Poetry is so much more powerful when it is spoken aloud.

Today I had the distinct honor to be included in a training with the Asian American Mental Health Forum in Boston, MA.  There were speakers and performers, and artists, and we were able to take part in workshops, and I came away with so very much information and I am still processing it.

The workshop I was able to take part in was on the Spoken Word, a poetry workshop, lead by Christina Chan, who is a playwrite, and Princess Moon, who is a performer of spoken word poetry.  We each wrote a piece based on our own identities.  I am going to share mine here.


I am a broken hurting child, parenting broken hurting children.
I am a princess and a slave, helping free my fellow slaves.
I am a traveler and a homebody, living vicariously through my traveling friends.
I am a painter, using words and color and thoughts.
I am a mother, grieving the mother I didn't have.
I am a healer, healing others while I heal myself.
I am educated, helping educate others about pain and trauma.
I am wife to the sailor and pastor.
I am majority and minority, German and Jew, Irish and Indian (Native American).
I am loved and lonely.
I am friendly and friendless.
I am a leader, following hard after my leader.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

In a world of traditions...

...having no traditions SUCKS.

I am by nature a sentimental type of person.  I love the structure that tradition lends to time and to events.  I love special days commemorated in special ways.

I grew up in a home that did none of that.

My parents, true to their 60s roots, questioned EVERYTHING.  Oh, they didn't question it enough to totally quit and move into a commune or become gypsies.  They just questioned enough that every piece of tradition that tied them to family and community became a thing of questionable value, and they HAD TO explore ways around it.

The churches they grew up in?  Problems. Let's find one that is as far from that as possible.  And then become disenchanted and leave it, and do something equally anti-tradition, and again, and again.

Taxes? Health insurance? Investment and savings?  Planning?  Too traditional.  They went for years without paying taxes, or even filing them, with no health insurance, no investments, no savings, and no planning for their retirement.

In addition to these, they frowned on celebrating holidays (any and all), birthdays, or even special achievements.  My grandparents wanted to celebrate with us, but often we would end up at home, without any decoration, and usually only presents from the extended family for Christmas.

I am sure that in my parents' heads, all of these things made some kind of sense, but to me as a child, it was just confusing and sad.  To not be celebrated as a person, to not be able to celebrate holidays that others take for left a hole that I really didn't recognize until I started my own family.

When our kids were younger, and we lived closer to family, holiday traditions always involved Jason's family and their love of celebrations.  They made a big deal out of everything, and that helped me a LOT.  I knew I WANTED to celebrate, but frankly I didn't know how, so they helped.

Now, my children are older....the youngest is 12, and the oldest is 22, and it is awkward not knowing how to celebrate.  Birthdays are easy...a meal with the family, and some gift or activity that they want to do.  Other holidays are still very, very strange to me.  The hard part is that I am the mom, and the mom sets the tone for family celebrations, and I don't know how to celebrate.  There are no family traditions to carry forward.  The "questioning everything" tone of my childhood is firmly rooted in my head, causing me to wonder about why Christian holidays are celebrated in certain ways, and whether this is okay, or that is verboten.

I wish I could celebrate.  I wish I knew HOW to celebrate.  Because having no traditions SUCKS, and I don't want that to be what my children remember.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Extending Grace

I find it very interesting that in our attempts to be funny, to be passionate, to be involved, all too often we err to the side of being cruel, unloving, vindictive, mean.

What do I mean?

We get worked up around an issue.

We see others worked up around that issue, either for or against.

We may like some of what they say, so we repost it, with supportive words.

If we oppose what others say, we may attempt a rebuttal, a desperate try to change their mind.

If we are having a bad day, or we are overly sensitive to others who are different than us, this may all cause raised blood pressure, anxiety, fear of rejection, and anger.

Meanwhile, these people who read our pages, and are on the receiving ends of our rebuttals probably do not see things from our same perspective.  Additionally, they may be having the worst week/day/month of their lives, and are themselves super-sensitive right now.  No matter what is going on in others' lives, people are going to perceive things differently.

For instance, things I once thought to be hilarious are not quite so funny when seen through the eyes of the subjects of the jokes.  I initially found things amusing because I had never even considered that others might see things differently than I do.  My cultural bias did not allow me to see things from the cultural perspective and experiences of another.  I certainly had no idea that these things I thought funny were hurtful and unloving to others.  

Similarly, when I repost something another friend has posted.  While I like things others share, that does not necessarily mean that I agree with everything else they say, or that they agree with me.

Also, not all issues are important to all people....we are all uniquely created with different interests and giftings,

If I am going to extend grace to others, I need to extend it across the board...both to those with whom I agree, AND with those where our agreements are much different.  If I am to represent the God I serve, I have to be prepared to consider how the words I say (or share) affect those who are listening to me.  I don't want to (unintentionally) cause harm to others' walks because I spoke about something in a way that was unloving, cruel, vindictive, or mean.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

Monday, March 14, 2016


Today was my counseling appointment.   I have been working on dealing with a lot of childhood things that were recently brought back into the present.  As we talked through things today, I was able to paint a picture of where I am...

Imagine I am in the middle of getting ready to move (this is not a difficult scene for me!).  Every closet and drawer has been opened and emptied.  Now that everything is out where I can see it, I recognize that I have a LOT of junk, some excess, and some really good stuff.  It all needs to be sorted through.  The junk needs to be thrown away, the excess gotten rid of or stored, and the really good stuff I want to have on-display.  Pretty typical moving experience....

This is the picture of what I have been doing with the stuff from my past.  I am recognizing that there is a LOT of junk from my past that is cluttering up my mind.  Abuses and lies are there, which have prevented me from seeing the good parts of myself, the parts that God made me to be.  As I go through my counseling, I am systematically being able to weed out and throw away those things that are trash.  The more trash I rid my mind of, the more I am able to see ME, and who I am supposed to be.  I am able to see who God created me to be, and what He is doing in me.

Today, a piece of trash that everyone may recognize went out on the trash heap..."I'm always wrong", "it's all my fault"....those are lies and garbage, and are now gone.  In place of these lies, I asked God to show me how HE sees me.  THAT is a work in progress....

Meanwhile, the decluttering continues....

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tired....oh so very tired.

Some days I have a LOT of energy, and can accomplish things, and feel successful at things, and paint, and blog...

Other days, it feels as if the whole world is shackled to my ankles, and I have to drag it all with me as I go about my activities.

I find that the heavy days are the days that another bit of rottenness oozes to the surface and insists on having my attention.  Since I am working toward healing and wholeness, paying attention to the shrapnel is important and is part of the process.

Today's piece of embedded infection is one that comes and goes with regularity, and causes even more exhaustion than normal.

This piece is one labeled "it's all my fault."

Every time something goes wrong, it's all my fault.
Every time there's not enough money, it's my fault.
Every time a kid fails, it's my fault.
Every time a family member does or says something hurtful, it's my fault.
Every time others' expectations are unfulfilled, it's my fault.
Every time the car breaks down,
the washer quits,
the sink backs up,
an appointment is forgotten,
a book is left somewhere,
a child catches a cold,
the dog gets sick,
the house is a mess...

It's all my fault.

Even when things are going well, it could probably have been better, and it's my fault that it is NOT.

I'm not good enough.
I'm not pretty enough.
I'm not thin enough.
I'm not smart enough.
I'm not savvy enough.
I'm not spiritual enough.
I'm not organized enough.
I'm not creative enough.

I can step back and logically look at things, and realize that others have choices, and life on planet earth means that things fall apart, and money is finite, and time is finite, and it is completely impossible for all of it to be my responsibility or my fault.

And yet....

The tape that plays in my head says that if I WERE enough, everything would go right.  The kids would make perfect decisions, the house would stay clean and company-ready, the fat would melt away, the food would always be delicious, the laundry would be clean and folded and put away, the dog would always be a perfect gentleman, my husband would always be attentive (and awake!), the cars would last forever without needing costly repairs....and God would bless each and everything I did and it would all turn out perfectly.

Some days, I feel like I was sold a bill of goods.  I KNOW that's not how God works.  He blesses me whether I'm good, or not.  He blesses the mistakes, and the burnt brownies, and the yippy dog that MUST pee on my bedroom carpet, and the children who are learning how to live and to love (sometimes the hard way!), and the cars that need encouragement and oil changes to keep putzing along.  He also blesses ME...the broken mess that I am....the one with the falling-apart body, and the forever-disabled insides of me, and He says that He loves me.

I have a hard time with that love.  Because there's this tape in my head that says I'm not enough.  And THAT is exhausting.

Friday, March 4, 2016


You would think it would be understood. 
After more than 20 years out of the house, seeing close to a dozen different counselors, and investing countless hours in healing, I finally realized what has made the absolute most difference for me. 
A counselor finally said it...
"that must have been horrible." 
She acknowledged how hard it was.
How horrible to have grown up frightened out of my mind by the one person who should have been the most nurturing. 
I got a lot of other responses over the years, but this one has made the most difference for me. 
I thank God that He caused our paths to cross. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


1. I'm cold and sore and tired.

2. I'm ready for Spring, and beautiful green things, and planting my garden.

3. Physical therapy would help ever-so-much more if I had it more spaced out...having my two appointments for the week back-to-back is not helpful for the rest of the week.

4. I'm tired-to-death of politics.  I don't want people to lie to me to get me to vote for them.  I can see through that.  Please make it stop.

5. Re-processing old traumas is exhausting and stirs up a lot of stuff.

6. Starting something new is exhausting, too.  Also, I think I have a very short attention span.

7.  Painting is more work than anticipated, and more therapeutic than expected.

8. Hot tea is amazing, especially if I can remember to drink it while it is still hot.

9. Filling a sock with rice for a heating pad takes approximately 4 cups of rice.  I wish I had some cheap rice on hand, instead of having to use the very good rice I use to cook.  The plus side is that it smells delicious when I heat it up in the microwave.

10. Being in pain is exhausting.

11. I think I need a nap.

12. 9-million things on the to-do list this week, and I just want to sleep.

13. I am sad that new friends will be leaving this summer.  I know that it is part of the military life.  It still makes me sad.

14.  I still don't have a job.  I find out that the main website for government jobs is a joke, and not to, is the other any better?

15.  At least in Virginia I knew where to go, and who to talk to.

16.  Think I need to retreat for a while, and not subject myself to the fear-mongering that passes for news and discussion on social media these days.

17.  It was supposed to be warm enough for a motorcycle ride with our new helmets...and we're supposed to get more snow?!?  SPRING, where are you?!?

18. Comfort food is good...and fattening...especially Southern comfort foods.

Monday, February 22, 2016

No Longer a Slave

Fear has bound me for years.  The things I HAVEN'T done because of fear is a long list.  I have allowed this thing called fear to impact each and every relationship.

What if...
...the car wrecks... husband leaves me...
...the kids are damaged/injured/scared...
...we run out of money...
...the cars are repossessed...
...the house is foreclosed...
...we run out of food...
...the sky IS falling...
...the conspiracy theorists are right...
...the economy collapses...
...World War III starts....
...ISIS attacks... husband dies... children die...

All of the what-ifs are enough to paralyze anyone.  If everyone looked at the world this way, nothing would ever be accomplished.

The truth?
We have had MULTIPLE car wrecks.
My husband tried to leave me...twice.
My kids were hurt/molested/scarred/scared.
We DID run out of money...MANY times.
The cars WERE repossessed.
The house DID go into foreclosure.
We have run out of food more times than I can count.
Those other things...well, they seem far-fetched right now.

And yet...
...we are still married.
...we have a roof over our heads.
...we have food in our refrigerator/pantry/freezer.
...we have more vehicles than we can drive.
...our kids are healing.
...and God is still in control of it all.  He has provided for us each and every day in ways we cannot even comprehend.  Some days, we look back and just marvel, because we still cannot figure out how God did it.

Today, I faced some old fears...ones that have haunted me in the form of nightmares for many years.  In facing the old fears, I recognized that God, the source of LOVE, has set me free from those old fears.  The names I had be given and had taken ownership of were NOT mine.  The behaviors I had been accused of were NOT what they had been called.  I recognized, once again, that the Devil is a liar, and uses fear to manipulate and push us away from God, the only source of true LOVE.

And THAT, my friends, is why Scriptures say PERFECT LOVE casts out fear.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. I John 4:18 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jealousy is a bugger

There was a point in time that I *wished* my husband were the jealous type.  Let's just say I've gotten over that desire.

Instead, jealousy keeps trying to creep up on me.

Friends talk about close families, and I feel that familiar twinge.

People post notes about how their mothers are their best friends, and I start seeing green.

Someone talks about how quickly they lost the weight... their dream job fell in their lap... they have Sunday dinners with their extended families every week... everything is going perfectly... their newly constructed home is amazing...
...where they have been able to travel recently... nauseum...
...and jealousy rears its ugly green little head.

First of all, lets talk about how easy it is to be jealous of the perfect lives people portray on social media.  I don't see that the dying dog puked all over the living room, that their kids' grades are in the toilet, that they want to pull their hair out listening to their coworkers at that dream job, that the family Sunday dinners are "mandatory fun" and are anything but fun.

Meanwhile, I'm over here comparing the INSIDE of my life to the pretty picture they have painted for the world to see from the OUTSIDE.

OF COURSE I'm going to be jealous.  It's not a fair comparison.

So, today I am appreciating the life I have from the inside here, and viewing my social media feed with a fair bit of skepticism, knowing that NO ONE'S life is THAT perfect!!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

So.Much. Pain.


Some days I just can't handle the pain any more.

  • All of the friends who are gone from us here, and are with You...and we're left with the pain.  I know, I know...we have the hope of seeing them again, but meanwhile, it hurts.  
  • The loneliness.  Mine.  My children.  
  • The mom-shaped hole.  There is this deep pain there that just refuses to go away. 
  • The dad-shaped hole...the one where he was supposed to step in and protect me from bullies, and he didn't.  
  • The desire for connection, and then, just as soon as things start progressing that way, people move, or we move, or life happens.  It hurts.  
  • My kids.  I know they don't have a clue...I hurt for them.  The traumas they have dealt with, the friendships that change because of this military lifestyle.  The desire they have to be independent, to grow up.  It all hurts this Mama.  I miss the ones who aren't here.  
  • The fear that invades makes everything hurt, even the good stuff.  
Today I want to cry, a lot.  The tears are threatening, and I don't know how to let them come.  I feel like crying might be cleansing.  But it might also overwhelm me even further.   So I withdraw further, because I am afraid.  I hate living with fear, and trauma, and pain.  

The physical pain is always there, too.  Muscles that tense up because of remembered traumas, and potential future traumas.  Bones that bear the marks of traumas and accidents.  A brain that bears the battle scars and reminds me daily.  A digestive system in rebellion against the constant stress of being subjected to trauma.  An immune system that is overwhelmed with the constant after-shocks of remembered trauma.  

Some day...Oh God...some day...I so long to be free of the constant pain.  That is the hope I have...that being with You will mean that every scar and wound and disease and manifestation of my trauma will be forever gone.  THAT is my hope.  That the pain will be gone forever.  

That is what keeps me going despite the pain.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mom-shaped hole

Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally 'feeling with' - compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally 'feeling into' - the ability to project one's personality into another person and more fully understand that person. Sympathy derives from Latin and Greek words meaning 'having a fellow feeling'. The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position. You feel empathy when you've "been there", and sympathy when you haven't. Examples: We felt sympathy for the team members who tried hard but were not appreciated. / We felt empathy for children with asthma because their parents won't remove pets from the household.

How are these feelings developed?  What is the process?  

Most research agrees that the ability to feel empathy and sympathy is something that is developed in childhood, at the feet of one's parents and other caring adults.  

What happens to the child raised under the care of a parent that is unable to feel or express any modicum of either empathy or sympathy?  When the very person who *SHOULD* be teaching these feelings to the child is instead abusive, emotionally, mentally, and physically?  This child ends up either feeling EVERYTHING, in excess, or feeling nothing at all, and following in their parents' footsteps.  

I am that child.  

My mother was that parent.  

I spent most of my 18 years at home daydreaming of how to escape the torture.  Not only was she abusive, but also ultra-controlling, not allowing many in the way of friends, no autonomy in what I wanted to eat, wear, or physical boundaries.  

No one recognized the signs.  I have asked.  No.One.Knew.  Outside of our immediate family, there was likely the recognition that our family was different, strange, unlike others in the community, but no one was allowed close enough to know anything of what happened behind our front door.  

Fast-forward a few years, and I began to recognize that indeed we WERE different, and not in a unique way, but in a completely unhealthy way.  I began to recognize and question not only how I was raised, but how my mother could treat her children the way she did.  Was there no concern that she was injuring her children?  Apparently not.  There was never any recognition of wrongdoing, but instead a defense..."but that was how we were supposed to punish you!"  And "how could you make up those things about me?"  And "Who is telling you these things?"  

As time passed, I began to mourn.  
I mourned my non-existent childhood.  
I mourned the mother I wished I had.  
I mourned the relationship I thought would develop, but never did. 
I mourned the shallow relationship with my father, when he could never defend us from the abuse. 

And still there is a hole that a mother should fill.  
I have tried reaching out to people over the years.  
I have longed for mentors.  
I have asked for people to step in.  
I almost gave up.  

Instead, I have stumbled along, learning the best way I know how.  
I read articles and books.  
I watch other mothers and how they relate to their daughters.  
I apply every bit of psychology I can soak up.  
I hang desperately onto the verses that speak of the orphans:
And I will come near you for judgment;I will be a swift witnessAgainst sorcerers,Against adulterers,Against perjurers,Against those who exploit wage earners and widows andorphans,And against those who turn away an alien—Because they do not fear Me,”Says the LORD of hosts. ~Malachi 3:5
He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food andclothing. ~Deuteronomy 10:18
I have come to the conclusion that I am an orphan.  Though my family lives, I live as an orphaned child, with little contact or care from those who should have been the ones who cared the most for me.  

And yet....God has provided a new family for me.  And another chance at love.  But I still wait for that mom-shaped hole to be filled.   

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wounded and Bleeding

Some days are so painful that I have to retreat, and not say anything online.

I never can figure out exactly what makes those days so terrible.  I'm sure there's a trigger in there somewhere, but it's not always very visible.

Winter time is often hard. It is gray, and cold, and especially here in New England there is not a lot of social activity to be involved least not that I have found to do.

I am also recognizing that many of my painful memories happened in the winter.
My grandfather died in December.
My grandmother died in October.
My baby brother who died was born in January.
I lost my first baby in November.
We have made two long, hard moves in November and December, setting us up for a LONG winter of no friends in a new area.

A new friend mentioned a term to me this week that really made a lot of sense of what I have been dealing with this past year..."PCS blues".  She said that this move, to this base, has been the worst one for her, that the blues have been worse here than anywhere else she has gone.

I agree...this move HAS been worse for me.  I left behind a child, a house that we had bought, two churches full of amazing friends, a community that we had been part of for 7 years, to move to a place I really didn't want to be, in December, arriving just in time to have no money for Christmas, no time to put up decor, and no friends to invite us to do anything.

In the past year, it HAS gotten better, but it is still hard.  I miss my friends.  I miss my son.  I miss having a purpose, a job, or at least the potential to find one.

So, some days, the hard, the suck, catches up to me, and I have to retreat for a while, and lick my wounds.  I can see that those wounds are healing some, not bleeding quite so much, but I'm trying to give myself room and time to heal.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

John Joseph

January, 1975

Our family went from a family of four, to a family of five.

We had just started attending a new church.  We knew very few people, and were still adjusting to the lifestyle changes expected.

I was five years old...I would be turning six in February.  My brother David was four.

I don't remember John's birth.
I don't remember him coming home from the hospital, or where David and I stayed while Mama and Daddy were at the hospital.

There were no ultrasounds.
There was no indication that there was any looked like a perfectly healthy, normal pregnancy and birth.
There was just this one little thing, noted after-the-fact to have some significance.

Mama and Daddy brought John home.
Everything seemed to be going well.
Except, then they weren't going so well.
Our sweet, smiling little brother wasn't growing like he was supposed to be growing.

Again, I don't remember the doctor's appointments.
I don't remember statistics.
I just remember the stress, the tension, the tears.

I was six by the time they were taking him to Charleston, for what was hoped to be a life-saving surgery.

May, 1975

How do parents send their 4-month-old baby away with the surgeons, knowing he may not live through this surgery?  Hoping and praying that he does?

David and I stayed with the pastor's family, and I went to school.  David was still too young for school.

And then, suddenly Mama and Daddy were back.
"Where's John?"
How this had to have been a knife in the heart of the newly grief-stricken parents!!
He died on the operating table.
His little heart couldn't handle what had to be done.

I don't remember the adult-type details.
I know we didn't bury his little body...they donated it for research on the defect with which he was born.
I know the memorial service seemed to last forever.
I still remember the scrapbook the church gave our family.  The sticks of gum are still on some of the pages, more than 40 years later.

John Joseph would be 41 years old this year.  I look forward to seeing him again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Diamonds in-the-making

For a lot of my life, I have felt the weight of all of the evil that brushed my life.  I thought it was all my fault.  I was a bad person.  I was never good enough.  I needed to be better, do better, get closer to God, confess more, be more obedient, be a better daughter, a better, do, do.

Sackcloth and ashes were mine, just waiting for me.

I believed what I was told.

Even after I accepted that God loved me, and wanted to be the biggest influence in my life, still I believed the lies.  Frankly, it was all I knew, and was the easiest thing to fall back into.

Still, more than 30 years after what should have been a life-altering encounter with God, I struggle with seeing myself as worthy only of sackcloth and ashes.

So, today I heard a song, new to me, and its words spoke to me.

Listen with me....

Grateful that He's making diamonds out of me (us)!!

Monday, January 18, 2016

When Giants Shrink

I have a lot of traumas to work through.
Childhood emotional and physical abuse.
Religious abuse.
Losses that were never grieved.
More than 20 moves in 23 years of marriage.

Today, I was working with my therapist on one particular area that has been troubling me this week.  I was remembering some people that frightened me, and who I was still seeing through the eyes of a scared, abused, neglected, bullied, and intimidated child.  My last interaction with this person was in a formal confrontation as a teenager, and has loomed in my periphery as a picture of them as someone to be frightened of ever coming in contact with again.

As I gazed into the review mirror of my mind, I began to recognize that this person was doing what was expected from the position held, and in the manner expected.  As I stand off to the side, observing, I see myself...nervous, determined, nauseous, intimidated.  I also see the others in the room...some I know and care about, and one that scares me.  It is that one that has grown in my mind to appear to be a giant...but as I look closer, the air of the years is released, and the child I was is now an adult, older than my puffed-up giant was then.  In my mind's eye, as I grew, this other person shrank.  As they shrank, I was able to see the situation through a more adult lens...recognizing expectations on both sides, and the inability of the adults in the situation to recognize the needs and hurts of the child (me).

As I walked my way through this painful memory, I started recognizing others who have become giants in my memory.  They have grown to take up space in my head that is not theirs, through the traumas they have visited on me over the years.

I'm thinking it is time for some giant-slaying to happen....

Sunday, January 17, 2016


SC Canal Breach, October, 2015
Dams are a good thing.  They hold back water from destroying or inundating low-lying areas.  The whole country of the Netherlands is defined by and survives by its dams, which keep out the sea.

When dams break, through natural or unnatural events, there is damage and destruction that happens in the area below the dam.  The force of the water released by a breach of the dam is incredible to watch and dangerous.  There are many stories in the very recent past of dams in South Carolina breaking under the force of thousands of gallons of water raining down in early October, 2015, resulting in 18 dams being breached, and countless homes and businesses being destroyed.  An earlier example happened in Toccoa Falls, GA, in 1977, and resulted in destruction and loss of lives, and is memorialized in the book Dam Break in Georgia.

Often, people who live in the aftermath of trauma feel dammed-up.

Don't get me wrong.  In the beginning, when things first happen or first come to light, it is expected that they will talk about their traumas, maybe shed some tears...and people are, for the most part, supportive.

However, after a while, the support wanes.  The attitude changes.  People start saying things like, "why aren't you over that yet?" and "time heals all wounds" and "you need to forgive and forget".

What is meant by those statements is something totally different than what is actually said.  What is REALLY meant is more along the lines of "we are tired of hearing about your pain, so quit talking about it already" and "if you MUST talk about it, go see someone professional so I don't have to listen to it any more."  This is more about the listeners' discomfort than it is about the victim's pain.

After a while of hearing these statements, ad nauseum, the traumatized person becomes wary of speaking of their pain.  Instead of being able to continue the healing process, the pain and tears become dammed-up, because no one is willing to be the receiver of the pain.  Sure, there ARE professionals (I am one of them!), but for one reason or another, these caring individuals may not be accessible to the person who is hurting, or it may not be enough to talk to someone who is PAID to listen and act in a caring manner.

So, this is where I find myself.  Dammed-up.  There are tears and memories and painful connections that need to be explored and shared and talked-through, and precious-few people who are willing or available to talk.  I see a counselor.  She is helpful, but she is, by design, not my friend.  She is a professional.  And some days, I need a friend to talk to, to dump on, the cry with.

*Picture from GA Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering article

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A beautiful blanket of snow

Feb 2015 snow storm
If you have ever lived in an area where there was much snow, you know how beautiful it is when the snow starts to fall and stick, and the whole world looks clean and bright and beautiful.    That illusion lasts about as long as it takes for the snow to stop falling, and then the kids are out in it, and maybe it starts to melt, and there are water puddles on your floor from where everyone forgot to kick the snow off their boots and shoes when they came inside, and tracked it all over the house.  Or is that just my house?  And then the next morning you look outside, and it is sad because there are all of these footprints through the new-fallen snow, and mud around the back door, and it is not pretty any more, and you can't deny the ugliness of winter any longer.

Some days that's how I feel about my life.  I start the hard work of healing.  I am making progress.  Grace starts covering up the ugliness in my life.  But life goes on...memories are brought up through interactions with the people who started it all, or maybe just something that feels the same comes up, and suddenly there are muddy footprints showing up through the grace, and I can't deny the ugliness that comes from the abuse, trauma, and PTSD.

The wonderful thing about grace is that it is watering the roots, so that growth can happen.  The snow storms that come in the cold of winter make us think that spring will never come...but we know that the moisture from the snow is feeding the beauty that will happen when God brings spring our way again.

Today, I am thankful for the snow...and for God's grace...and healing, and growth.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I missed a day, or two....

Last night I felt like I was run over by a truck.
A very large truck.
And that it came back and tried again.

Tonight, I am FREEZING.
I am almost always freezing in my house, so this is nothing new.

I was taxi driver for my kids for about four hours straight this afternoon.
One kid is still's Semi-formal night at her high school.

I heard from my furthest-away child this week.

We had snow.  Again.

My husband and three children will be home tomorrow.
I still have to get up early to get the other two off to school for the day.

Clearly my brain is not back to 100%.

I have done approximately 9-million loads of laundry this week.
I have seen more than 9-million posts on Facebook about the Powerball.
I am disgusted at how people's (Christians') perspectives on gambling have changed.
FYI, greediness is NOT a sign of godliness, no matter if you tithe on the money or not.

Also, another friend has won his battle with cancer, and is now permanently pain-free and cancer-free.  His funeral was on Monday.  Prayers appreciated for his family who are left to deal with the aftermath.

Awareness of mental health issues does not make the ignorant less jerk-like.
Presidential candidates who make donkey's behinds of themselves do not deserve the attention they are getting.
Why are people so besotted of fools who open their mouths and prove their foolishness?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Processing Grief

Like so many things in life, one cannot separate grief from the rest of life, and just "get over it."  The thought that you can or do is a very limited perspective, and it is damaging when people try to say this to someone who is in the middle of grieving.

Because I have lost 7 people relatively close to me in the past three months, grieving has been a part of my life for the last while, and will probably continue to affect me for a while to come.

Today, I spent some time with my counselor, working my way through some of the things that have become attached to my current grief.

I realized that I am not only sad about lives ended far too early...
...I am also dealing with regrets about time not spent with them...
...and anger that the Navy moved us so far away that we were unable to visit or attend memorial services...
...and frustration about income levels that prevent visits...
...and frustration about being unable to find a job...
...and feelings of my own mortality...
...and anxiety around my parents' relative health/inhealth/unhealth (making up words again!).

One of the things I have seen over the past few months is that grief is like a web.  There is a connection between the person or event I am grieving, and almost every other piece of my life.  The web connects them, and triggers emotional responses from seemingly unrelated events.

Another realization is how exhausting it is to grieve.  So many memories are retrieved, and so many responses happen, and I come out at the end of a day feeling as if I have run a marathon.

I know that grief is going to happen.
We move.
Friends move.
People we care about die.
Events happen that affect us in negative ways.
Grief happens.
I don't want to rush through this.
I also don't want to get stuck.

So, I am taking a word for myself for this year.
I am showing myself grace.
Allowing myself the time I need to heal and process and grieve.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Much of my life has revolved around fear.

Fear of my parents...abuse will do that to you.
Fear of church leaders...when parents are abusive and manipulative, other leaders are often cast in a negative light, and used to manipulate.
Fear of government...they're watching us, they're out to get us....
Fear of minorities...because, stereotypes.
Fear of the's unknown, and the government that is out to get us is likely to collapse and where will we be then?!?
Fear of being found out...see the abuse above...if this is found out, then who knows what will happen?  (see also, fear of the unknown)
Fear of.....EVERYTHING.

This was just my childhood.  I cannot remember a day that was free of fear.  Then I graduated high school and went away to college, and learned that others lived lives that were NOT centered around fear.  There were amazing other love, and happiness, and entertainment.

And I tentatively started trying out some of these new and unknown feelings.

I enjoyed entertainment in college...I actually watched movies.  Not many, but a few.
I played was fun to compete with other schools!
I played ping pong...always a good feeling to compete with the guys between classes, and actually win!
I learned about loving others...I learned to love my friends, and my roommates, and even had a boyfriend or two (but no PDA!!!).

Still, there were signs that the fear was alive and very active.
I was still at the beck and call of my parents.  Every time they reeled me back in, there was an intense fear of losing everything...all of the hard-fought freedoms, the verboten clothing and makeup and music.  I always felt like I was suffocating.
Then there was Jason.
We were dating, and making plans.
My parents were warned about him.  They threatened me.
And then we were engaged.  And they threatened some more.
And we were doing wedding planning, and every time I called, I got off the phone crying.
They *hated* Jason.  And Jason told them to not bother coming to the wedding...two weeks beforehand.
Still, I wanted my parents at my wedding, so we worked out some sort of compromise, and they came.  And we were married.

And then is when I really started realizing how broken I was and how much fear governed everything I did.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Broken Childhood

For most of my adult life I have felt broken.  Let me back up a bit.

As a child, I knew our family life was different from the other families around us.  I just thought it was because we were basically non-Mennonites, attending a Mennonite church and school.  That right there made us stand out.

Both parents had college educations.  I knew of three other people in the whole Mennonite church community with any college experience at all.

My mom hated to cook.  She and Daddy told us stories of how Daddy taught her to cook.  All of my friends' moms made these amazing dishes, and we had like 3 or 4 go-to meals.  Of course, looking back, we ate WELL.  There was ALWAYS steak in the freezer, because we butchered our own cattle, and venison, and fish, and chicken.  None of it from the store.  And we put up fresh vegetables every year.  The big chest freezer in the basement always had fresh-from-the-garden green beans, peas, corn, strawberries, and freezer pickles.  But, my mom didn't make things like my friends' moms made...casseroles, and meat loaf, and from-scratch desserts did not happen in our house.

Sewing.  All of my friends were learning to sew at an early age.  Not just cross-stitch.  They started by making dresses for their Barbies, and moved on to making curtains, and table cloths, and pillows.  When we were in our early teens, I BEGGED to learn to sew with another friend, so I ended up at her house, making a dress.  The whole thing.  Cutting the materials, and sewing it up on the machine, and hand-sewing the hems.  A Mennonite caped-dress.  I got to the point where I could alter patterns to make my own, and to fit ideas I had in my head about how they should look.  They didn't always turn out the way I envisioned them, but most were presentable...after all, I'd better not waste 4 yards of perfectly good material!!

So, our family was different from those around us.  Not just in those ways.  Relationally, there was a huge difference, but it was not something I could really put a name to until many years later.  My mom was controlling.  Basically, I had no life.  I spent every moment at home.  I was not allowed to get a job, or go hang out with friends.  Every moment had to be accounted-for.  Additionally, as I became a teen, I was responsible for much of the cooking and cleaning, as well as keeping up with chores...feeding and watering the animals, taking out the garbage, priming the well pump, bringing in water to flush the toilet.  Oh....our well was going dry, so we used rain water to flush the commode.

But really, I didn't make a lot of these connections until my brother and I left to go to college.  While we were away at school, I started to see that other kids had *very* different lives than we had.  Many were able to connect to their parents, enjoyed dating, and recreational activities, and vacations...I remember ONE vacation in all of our years growing up, and that was a trip to Texas to visit my grandparents while they still lived out there.  Other kids enjoyed a variety of music, and movies, and TV shows.  I was allowed to listen to ONE radio station.  We didn't watch movies or own a TV.  Instead, I read.  A LOT.  Some that was pretty inappropriate for me to have read.  But, the books were on the shelves, so I read them.

There are so many ways I thought myself broken...and I haven't even started on why....

Friday, January 8, 2016

Life is like a Box of Chocolates

You never know what you're going to get, do you?

One day everything is all drama-filled and angsty (I'm making up words now...), and the next you settle into something resembling a routine, and everyone is happy.

This is my life.  There are currently THREE teenagers that call this house home, as well as one pre-teen and one "young adult."  FOUR of those are girls.  Ahem.  It's all crazy up in here.  Thank goodness the dog is male.

Today was a good day.  No one cried (that I know of).  No one threatened to run away.  No one said that they hated me, or Jason.  Aspersions WERE thrown around about living in Massachusetts, but the things *I* say aren't what is being discussed right now.  One child worked tonight.  Two children went shopping and out to dinner.  Movie night was had.  Everyone got home safely and took themselves off to their rooms without fussing about bedtime.

Ahhhh....these are the days we dreamed of when they were little and protested loudly every time we discussed sleep or bed.  They clean their own rooms.  They put away their own laundry.  No one needs help bathing, or pooping, or getting dressed...well, the girls DO consult with each other about clothes regularly...and there are regular fusses over who is wearing what...but *I* don't have to dress anyone but myself, or bathe anyone else, or attend to any other bodily functions other than my own.

The thing is...sometimes I miss being needed like that.  Because with that level of need, there was also a level of affection that happened.  There were always snuggles and kisses and hugs.  Now, I am lucky if I get a hug before they leave for school or before they head to bed.  I miss them fitting in my lap.  Sometimes they still try to sit with me, but there are awkward legs and arms hanging out's just not the same.

I miss the baby smell, and sweet baby breath.  I miss the cute tiny clothes and the socks that would never stay on their little feet.  I miss being able to wrap them in soft little blankets that completely engulfed their little bodies.

Those things I miss are some of what I hold onto on the days when things are hard...pulling out those cream-filled chocolates to help get the hard stuff down.  It helped that one of them brought home bonbons tonight, too...Yum.  Perks of hanging out in the mall, and children that used to work at the chocolate store...

Thursday, January 7, 2016


There were a lot of years where I couldn't cry.  I wanted to cry.  I NEEDED to cry.  But there was usually some kind of barrier to the tears coming out.

That barrier was in place because for far too long I was not allowed to express emotion of any kind.  I was "too sensitive."  I was a "crybaby".  I was too loud.  Whatever it was I was expressing was always too much.

There were periods of time when I was able to cry.  I cried when my husband was deployed for a year.  I cried a LOT that year.  But, as soon as I didn't have a socially acceptable reason to cry any more, the tears quickly dried up.

The big problem is that the things that had the potential to make me cry did not stop.  Far from it.  In 23 years of marriage, we have had ONE year where there was not something major that happened...a move, a job change, a graduation, an illness or injury...all traumas that have added to the built-up pressure inside me.

Then, in 2014, there were some big changes.  I graduated from grad school.  Jason deployed for six months and then came home.  We were moving.  We were selling our house.  Our son moved out.  There were court hearings to go through.  I couldn't find a job. A LOT of trauma that year.  And then we were moved, and far away from family for the holidays, and I had no safety net and still couldn't find a job.  No friends.  No meeting people for coffee.  Nothing familiar.

I found a new counselor, and got back to work on dealing with my traumas...and realized after a while that this counselor was not a good fit, and found another one.  The second counselor has been the one that has helped break the dam.  Of course, the traumas have not stopped.  In the last 3 months, I have experienced the deaths of SEVEN people...friends, family, family of close friends.  All of that is HARD.

This week I have started recognizing that I am feeling SO MUCH, and it is too much for me right now.  The tears keep falling.  The pain is both mental and physical.  I want to do the things that make the pain not be so very "front and center", but I don't do them because I don't want to be dependent.

Several things I have realized through this process:
1. The callouses from years of hardening myself are going away.
2. It is okay to cry.
3. I am feeling all of the built-up emotions from years of storing them away without dealing with them.
4. I need to extend the same grace to myself that I extend to others who are dealing with a lot.  Because I am, and I need to allow myself to grieve.

I do feel depleted. My strength has for too long been expended to keep the feelings and the tears at bay, and I just can't any more.  But that's okay.  God gave us tears for a reason, so I am going cry until the tears are depleted, and the built-up pressure is gone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Sixteen years ago, I was 43 weeks and 4 days pregnant, and preparing to go to work when I went into labor.

We were living in South Carolina, in the house we had built, and struggling to stay afloat.

Jason was working for an office interiors company, and I was working for an industrial construction company.

This was my 5th pregnancy.
The first had ended with a miscarriage at 13 weeks.
The second yielded a beautiful little girl, via a C-section, because she refused to come out in the right direction.  At this point, she was 6 years old, and in first grade.
The third pregnancy gave us our first son, who was at this point almost 4 years old.
The fourth provided another daughter, who had just turned 2 years old.
This pregnancy gave us a second son.

As I was getting ready for work, my water broke, and I knew I had to call off work, and head to the hospital.  First, we packed up all three of the other kids, and took them to Jason's parents' place, and then headed over to check in on the Maternity Floor.

We checked in, and labor progressed normally.  I had to have antibiotics via IV because I had tested positive for Group B strep, but otherwise few interventions were necessary.  When our "little" man finally arrived in the early afternoon, he weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds 3 ounces, and 19 inches long.

Today, on Epiphany, we celebrate our second son, Justin.  And he's just as awesome now as he was then!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On the Days When it is ALL Hard

When drama infuses my life to the point where I can't focus to write
When the children demand my attention
When the husband needs me
When the house is falling apart
When the dog decides I need him in my lap
When I still can't find a job
When the finances are spotty
When things fall apart
When I can't control anything

Those are the days when I want to cry, and can't.
Those are the days when even the sunshine seems gray.
Those are the days when it seems like my prayers bounce off the ceiling.
Those are the days when I just can't read.
Those are the days when the well-meaning people's platitudes and advice seem empty and ridiculous.
Those are the days when I want to scream and yell and beat on things.
Those are the days when my bed beckons.
Those are the days when I think of finding my way to the bottoms of bottles.
Those are the days when I wish I could lose myself in mindless TV shows.

On those days, I know I need to know real love, and eternal security, and everlasting hope.  Those are the days when I am comforted by the fact that even when my PTSD bites, and my depression threatens to drown, I know my God is with me, holding me, protecting me from myself and my memories and my fears.

On those days are when the Scriptures memorized as a child come back to show light for this dark and sometimes-dangerous path I walk.  When I remember that He will NEVER leave me or forsake me, my fear of abandonment is abated.  When I remember that He comforts those who mourn, my tears are lessened.  When I remember that He suffered every thing that I have suffered, and understands my frame, and knows where I came from, and knew me and loved me before I was born....that is when I am comforted, and the fog begins to lift.  When I recognize that His perfect Love is the antidote to my fear, I can lean into Him, and allow myself to feel loved.

Today, I am grateful for one thing from my childhood that continues to be positive, despite all of the other negative things that happened to me.  A knowledge of God's Word will always be with me, no matter what else I lose.

Today, while all of my circumstances are hard, I am comforted by the knowledge that my God is GOOD, and that He loves me, and is with me, even in the hard stuff.

Monday, January 4, 2016

My Heart Hurts

Yesterday's pain keeps adding on to today's, and the cumulative nature of it is weighing me down.

Today, it is gray and snowy outside.  Not big fluffy flakes, but the little ones that don't add up to pretty whiteness, but will be gone in the morning.  The gray feels appropriate, matching my mood.  The tears keep falling periodically throughout the day, in tune with the sporadic nature of the snowfall.  Somehow my dog knows, and insists on lying with my or sitting in the chair right beside me.

I have barely accomplished anything today.  Everything feels too heavy.  Even eating seems to take too much effort.  So, I am hungry, and tired, and grumpy, and hurt, which never ends well.

This part of January is always hard.  Vacations are ending.  Life comes back to bite us in the butt.  Bills still have to be paid.  I still don't have a job.  My two oldest children insist on growing up and leaving, and barely speak to me.  All that we have to look forward to is 8 more weeks of nasty winter weather.

Frankly, I feel deceived.  Let down.  Mislead, at the very least.

Those cute little kids...the sweet-smelling little bundles we brought home from the hospital....they were supposed to grow up to be loving older children who brought home spouses that we loved, and raise children that we can't get enough of.  They weren't supposed to cause heartache and pain and fear for us, their parents.  That is not how any of this was supposed to work.

And yet...they are individuals.  They have their own hurts that they have to work through in their own time, and their own ways.  They have to learn their own lessons.  I can't force them to learn.  I can't send them to their rooms any more.  They have to do this themselves, and I am just along for the ride.
So, I do what I can...I wash their laundry, and I fix the meals, and I drive them places, and I pray.  Oh, boy do I ever pray.  All the time.  God, PLEASE give me wisdom.  God, PLEASE help them make wise choices.  God, PLEASE let them choose You.  God, above all else, PLEASE make it count.  Make the teaching, and the loving, and the laundry, and the discipline, and the poopy diapers, and the long nights.....please make them all count.  Because I love these kids that I am finding I don't really like that much, and I want Your will for them to be worked out...but know that my heart hurts, and I don't know how much more of this I can handle.

Real Life Intervenes

Just when I thought things were coming together, my children throw something new into the mix, creating drama and upheaval and more pain for me.

Somehow, at some point in the past, I bought into the myth that the hardest part of parenting involved changing poopy diapers, 2 a.m. vomiting children, and nit-combing lice-ridden hair.  Boy was I misled.

My husband and I have six children.  Three of them are now "adult", though their behavior more often screams "threenager"!  They make stupid decisions, based on immaturity and what their friends think, without any thought of or seeming care about implications for their futures.  Somehow, we are supposed to keep funding these flights of fancy, but never ever dare ask for any repayment or help in return.  Because two of these "adult" children are currently at home and working, we discussed charging rent, which was apparently a HUGE problem.  Additionally, it was wrong to think that they might contribute anything toward buying food, but fun shopping trips with their siblings and friends happen with regularity.

Today, when asking the oldest about her work schedule for the week, she dropped the bombshell that she will be flying back to South Carolina on Friday, and her last day at work is on Tuesday.  Meanwhile, we are left with a $6000 amount to reimburse one school, and $1200 for another one, as well as a car parked in the garage that we bought and insured for her.

The next child is in Virginia and barely speaks to us.  He graduated in June, and started college, but dropped out because he couldn't get the financing to pay for his semester.  Meanwhile, he couch-surfs, and works two or three jobs trying to pay for his car, insurance, and phone.

I miss having children that are sweet, and thoughtful, and respectful, and considerate.  I miss being able to send them to their rooms.  I miss the children they used to be, before life changed them into people I don't recognize, and don't particularly like.  I keep hoping that the others learn from the actions and mistakes of their siblings.  I keep hoping that these horribly painful months will just be a bump in the road, and we can go back to having loving and communicative relationships with our children again.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


I read a blog post yesterday that really resonated with me.  It talked of people who are professional "untanglers".  These amazing people are PAID to take tangled balls and bunches and skeins of yarn and untangle them.  This is something that many of these professionals thoroughly enjoy doing.  The blog author was linking these untanglers with people who have suffered abuse, and whose lives are completely tangled up.

My life has long felt like a tangled mess.  I grew up in a home with an abusive narcissistic mother and a father who is an enabler.  I attended church and school in a setting where women were voiceless.  I was bullied because I was different.

And yet, when I left home and went to college, I thought I had a healthy home life.  After all, there was no drug abuse, no alcohol abuse, no divorce, no physical diseases, and no involvement with the law.  Thus, we were an exemplary family.

It took me another 20 years to see the rotten underside for what it really was.

In the mean-time, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with ME.  Why couldn't I make friends?  Why was I so different from everyone else?  Why was I depressed?  Anxious? Deathly afraid of abandonment?  Why did I have so much difficulty controlling my temper?  Why was my self-esteem so terrible?  Why did I have so much difficulty making decisions?

In college, I met so many amazing people.  People with goals and plans and loving families and friends.  I actually had friends.  I enjoyed time with people who were not sheltered and isolated and abused and told they were worthless...and I started to have hope.

This year, 24 years after I graduated from college, and 2 years after finishing graduate school, I made a discovery.  This discovery probably would have taken a counselor very little time to put together, but because it is an intimate part of ME, it has taken me all of these years to recognize.

There is a term in psychology for when a parent (or any person, really) sees another person as an extension of themselves, and, forcibly or not, embeds themselves so deeply into that person's life that neither really knows where one person ends and the other begins.  That term is enmeshment.

I recognized in November of 2015 that there is a reason I have long felt like a tangled mess.  My life was so deeply tangled up with my mother that I was not allowed to individuate....another psychological term that means I was not allowed to be a separate person from my mother.

Over the years, we have gone for periods of time of not speaking with my parents, in an effort for me to be able to learn who I am, and to learn to be able to say "NO" when the need arises.  The first few times it was excruciatingly painful...I felt ripped apart, with tendrils hanging raw in the wind.  Each time we have made this effort, I have grown and healed some more.

Now, I have words for what has happened.
The enmeshment, the lack of individuation...the physical and emotional abuse, the control.
Now I can recognize how God has brought me, step by step, out of the pain, and how He has been with me, doing the healing the whole time.

Friday, January 1, 2016

20 Minutes of My Day

Today I write.
Tomorrow I write.
Every day I write.
It is in my DNA.

I started outlining my life story years ago, and tonight I worked on piecing some of it together.  It is scary to think of putting my life experiences on paper for someone else to read.


I do this every day.
I write on Facebook.
I write in my various blogs.
I write in personal journals.

But I know that I edit myself.  I know that there are pieces of me that I don't allow out for public consumption.  Those pieces are painful and scary and I am ashamed of them or I know that they will make people feel sorry for me, or pity me, or be mad at me for sharing "family secrets".


Family secrets NEED to see the light of day.
They have been hidden in the dark for FAR TOO LONG.
As soon as they are revealed they no longer hold the power that they have when they are still hidden.
So, I WILL share the family secrets.
I will dust off the skeletons, and bring them out, and let the public judge them as they will.

Because I know that I NEED them to be revealed.
I need the freedom that comes from not having to carry the burden of keeping them hidden any longer.
I need to be free to say "this is what made me who I am."
I need to be allowed to be me without having to come up with half-way plausible explanations that don't reveal the secrets.

And yet it IS scary to write about these skeletons.
What if people deem them "not worthy"?
What if they are thought to be "normal"?
Will that invalidate my pain?
Will it make me less of a person?  Less unique? More broken?

For me, writing is healing.
Writing is cathartic.
By writing, I pull back the scabs, and allow the putrid, rotting pieces of me to be cleaned out, and start the healing process.
So writing is always messy.
There is nastiness that is revealed, and it has to be treated, taken care of, in some way.
There are unexpected complications that mean the healing takes longer than originally thought.
And yet, it IS healing, a little at a time.

So, for now I write for ME.
I write to dislodge the scabs.
I write to allow clean air into the dark places.
I write to allow those skeletons to escape.

Someday I will write that book that is inside, begging to be released.
I will write of my experiences as an abuse survivor.
I will write of my life as a child on a farm.
I will write of my coming-of-age at a Bible college.
I will write of the struggles as a young wife and mother.
I will write of my growth in the shadow of my military spouse.
I will write of my finding my voice in grad school.

When I finally have gotten all of the pieces of ME on paper, then the other books that are there will be able to be released.  The ones meant to help others are still percolating, marinating, becoming, while they are helping me.

The catharsis is beginning.
And so, I write.