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The Ghost of Christmas Past?

It was two Sundays before Christmas:  I was sitting in a back row pew at the church, singing a Christmas song.   I don’t remember which one.  I was alone, as my husband was in the sound booth, and my son was in children’s church.  There was one other family on the other side of the pew, at least fifteen feet away.  As one song ended, and the next began, I smiled:  Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel.   Not a favorite, but I liked it.  I remember my spirits were in good form that day, with no major crisis distracting me from the holiday season.

Suddenly, I felt this presence next to me.  I didn’t see anything, but I “felt” this light and this warmth next to me.  I remember thinking that Grandpa was next to me.  He told me everything would be fine.  I was filled with a sense of peace and warmth.  It lasted just a moment.  I surreptitiously looked around, to see if anyone else had noticed this. Everyone was singing along, oblivious to whatever had just happened.  My eyes filled with tears, and I silently offered up a prayer to whoever was listening.

I would like to say I have never had anything like that happen before, but I can’t.  There was something very familiar about the entire experience, but I cannot list a time and date that something like that has happened before.  It was very surreal.  Was it my Grandfather?  He had passed away on December 29th of the previous year.  We were headed home in a few days to see Grandma, who was in failing health (and who would pass away on December 27th, 2 days short of the first anniversary of Grandpa’s death).   I believe my Grandfather is in Heaven, but I do not believe he is allowed to come down and visit.  Was it an angel, letting me know Grandpa was OK? Or that Grandma would be with him soon?   Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with my grandfather, but for some reason I felt his presence.  To the best of my knowledge, this was not a favorite song.  I don’t know what happened that day in church or why, but I’m OK with that.  It was something good, and while I’m not entirely sure of the message, the peace it gave me was indescribable.

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Right vs Happy

I once heard a story: On his daughter’s wedding day, the father approached his future son-in-law. “Son,” he said, “I want to give you some advice. I’m not saying this because you are marrying my daughter, but because I am married to her mother. You can be right, or you can be happy, but you will NOT be both.”

This has become a popular saying in my family now. While it’s a funny story, there is also some truth to it. I come from two very opinionated families. I grew up believing that if you want your side to be heard, you just talk louder and faster than the other person. Seems simple enough. At family gatherings, it’s not uncommon for me to carry on two or three (maybe four) conversations at one time, and they are not always with people in the same room. That’s OK: I am a loud talker. This is my “normal.”

Let’s review: I talk loudly, I talk very fast, and I am never wrong. I may not be right, but I’m never wrong. There’s a difference. If I have to explain it to you, you won’t get it.

Moving on…

Two nights ago, I was faced with a choice: shut up, be wrong, and get out of the way, or life as you know it will cease to exist. Done.

Really? That is unacceptable. Do you know why? BECAUSE I AM RIGHT! It gets worse. If I have to be “not right,” I will not be happy. Oh no way. NO WAY IN HELL. NEVER. Because this is all WRONG. Decisions being made will change life as I know it anyway. Maybe not as bad as the ultimatum, but I think still rather devastating.

This is what makes it SO unacceptable: This is about children. Kids. MY kids. Oh wait, they are not really mine. I’ve just helped raise them for the last nine or ten years. My vote doesn’t count. My opinion isn’t wanted. My feelings do not matter. All of the positive things I have done for them are not even acknowledged. There are a LOT of moments I was there when others weren’t. It all means nothing.

Here is the kicker. I do have a child in the middle of all of this. And it’s pretty much summed up as this: sacrifice the two that aren’t mine, for the one that is. Of course, when everything goes to hell, I will certainly be in the middle cleaning up the mess. There is no way to keep me out of it when it impacts my life. There is no way to keep my child out of this. It will impact him as well.

This isn’t even about trust. This is about letting go. I feel these children are lost to me. I have to remember they were never mine. They are His (and his and hers). I have to place this in the hands of God. I find no comfort in this yet. It’s not over. I’m not sure this can even be repaired or that I may truly lose them. I do know have no control over this.

Yet in the middle of this, laundry must be done, dishes need to be washed, soccer practice continues and I will still go to my 50+ hr a week job, while trying to run a household while being neither right nor happy. Life goes on.

I’ve forgotten my stories

In today’s post, Jeff Goins (Goinswriter.com) asks us, “What is your story?”  I stopped and thought,  I used to have the BEST stories.  My friends used to listen to whatever adventure had just occurred in my life, laugh, and say, “You need to write those down!”

I never did.

I was too busy.  Busy – yeah… OK.  At worst, I was married and remodeling a house in my twenties.  I divorced at 29, with no kids but a great cat and a condo.  I had a rather easy, carefree life.  I was missing something, however, and that clock started ticking.  At 36, I married a wonderful guy with two kids, then 5 and 8.  Eleven months later, we added a baby boy to the mix.  Life got crazy.  I sold my condo, and moved in to his “handyman special” he had purchased several years prior to our marriage.  It was a 25 mile commute to daycare, which turned into an hour between the home/daycare/work circuit.  I couldn’t do it.  After two years, we bought a house in town.  Two years later, we still own that first house.  It’s still a “fixer-upper” but luckily, I think we will have it on the market in a year.  I hope.

There are still stories, but they are not nearly as fun as they once were.  I don’t throw clothes in a backpack and take off to parts unknown with a few friends for the weekend.  Concerts?  I think in 2000, I attended ten. I’m fairly certain I went on a five-year hiatus from such events, and am just now catching one a year.   Flights to Florida, England, Vegas, New York, and Yellowstone?  Um, NO.  I don’t get the travel channel on my el cheapo cable option.  Seriously.

I just realized today that I have become a boring, old person.  Just ask my 15 year old.

This sinking feeling fills my stomach, but an anger is starting to rise as well.  “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” I silently scream to myself.  This is not who I am!  Why did I let myself become trapped in a cubicle for 9-10 hours a day, only to come home to do more work?  When did the definition of “a good weekend” equate to not leaving the house, no injuries caused by a light saber, and catching up on cleaning and laundry?

I have become old, fat, boring, and I have headaches all of the time.  “Well no duh,” my inner 17 year old yells, “I’d have headaches, too!  You’ve turned into MOM!  You swore that would never happen and now you’ve done it!”  I envision myself at that age, Bon Jovi poster on one wall, Miami Vice poster on another, with Twisted Sister’s “We’re not gonna take it!” blaring in the background.  I look pissed.  I have one hand on my hip, the other pointing at the grown-up me, and those teenage eyes are flashing with anger and betrayal.

Oh shit.  She’s right.  No wonder I have headaches.  It’s not that I have sick family members.  It’s not that I’m trying to be a mom to a 4 year old while trying NOT to be the evil stepmom to a 15 and 13 year old.  It’s not that we own two houses.  It’s not the 50+ hour a week job.  Wait – yeah it might be partly the job.  It’s the cooking and cleaning and everyday life that has taken that wild child, chained her to a wall, and sealed her off, one responsibility after another, brick by brick, until she was gone from view and silenced.

Is this what it means to have a mid-life crisis?  When she somehow gets out?

I know I can’t be 17 again.  Honestly, I don’t want to, but I miss her.  I miss that fierce determination.  I miss that “I answer to myself and God – and everyone else can go to hell” attitude (thank you, Cher).  I miss that “Life is an adventure!” enthusiasm.

It’s easy to have that when somebody else is putting a roof over your head and paying your car insurance.  Life’s biggest challenges were acing the chemistry test and deciding what to do on Saturday night.

So what next?  Label it what you want.  Maybe it is a midlife crisis, but I’m not running to Aruba with the pool boy.  I don’t even have a pool boy.  I’m not looking for one, either.  I think I might get a maid, though.

I’m not going to buy a convertible.  I am about ready to buy a new Toyota Highlander.  I insist on black.  I don’t know why, I just always have.  It will have a jack for my iPhone, so I can play Pandora radio.  I have a Bon Jovi Station.  It keeps that inner 17 year old happy.

She and I will figure it out from there.

The G word

The G word

 

Grace.  There, I said it.  I don’t practice it.  I should – if I’m a “good” Christian I should be trying to show grace a lot more than I do.  But people are stupid, and I’m really sick of dealing with stupid people.  Last week, I laid into somebody.  They’d had it coming for at least eight years.  I was done.  There were other people getting hurt, children were getting hurt, and I just let it fly.  Actually, I didn’t let it fly – I thought I held my tongue pretty well for me.  I spoke the truth but it was hurtful.  I was not filled with anger, rage, malice, or spite.  I really wasn’t.  I thought specifically about what I was going to say for at least 30 minutes before calling.  I knew what I wasn’t going to bring up, and I stuck with it.  It was a six minute conversation.  When I was done, I felt great.  I also felt like the person had heard me, really heard me, and would think about what I had said.  

 

WRONG

 

The facebook posts starting flying from my “victim.”  It seems I was now part of the “enemy’s plan” and the devil was on their doorstep.  Hmm….  you put children at risk and this is what I am?  OK.  I’m good with that.  I knew, however, that this would be the “victim’s” excuse to NOT do what was right.  Yep.  Here we go.  Man, I gave her a great excuse:  “I was going to do right by my children but because she was MEAN to me, so now I’m not.”  You GO Victim!  You keep doing (or not doing) what you’ve been doing for a decade.  You are AWESOME. 

 

MEAN.   Seriously?  What kind of adult says that?  “She was mean to me.”  No kidding.  You bet your ASS I was mean to you.  You are a MESS.  I’ll pay for your damn Prozac if you will take it!   You wanna see mean?  LET’S GO. 

 

Oh wait – did I mention something about grace?   Oh crap I did.  What the heck…   Grace?  For HER?   No freaking way.  I’d rather spit on her.  J Oh wait.  Seems like there was this dude on a cross, who got spit on.  Well hell.  Hmm.  I don’t think I want to talk about hell.  

 

Now what?  I don’t know.  There is some satisfaction that while I am not going to get what I want, at least one of the two kids knows this chick is a whack job.  The other one is beginning to see the light.  NO, not by me!  They are just “of the age.”  But back to this grace thing.  I think I’m kinda late.  As this mess unfolds, however, maybe I can bite my tongue for another eight years.  I have to remember she is their mother.  While I stand by my title of “whack job” for her, I also know she is a mess and I need to show a little grace.  

 

I’m going for one year.  You know I have a countdown on my phone for this, right?  There’s an app for that!  One day at a time, baby, one day at a time.  I hope I have the grace to restart it on day 364.  

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