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Archive for the ‘Growing up’ Category

I don’t know where to begin. How many times does a writer start with that sentence in her head? For me, it isn’t often, but today I am overflowing with so many thoughts, emotions, sensations, and a heart-stopping contentedness, that I actually can’t find a beginning.

Clearly, if you read this blog, you know my life has been very eventful, and frequently that has not been a good thing. So I think I can safely say “I know” in many, many situations. I’ve had the “I know” feeling repeatedly over the past several days, weeks, and months. The first was in response to two friends’ relationship that quickly smudged barriers, both personal and professional. Having been in a similar situation before, I knew immediately when these dear friends of mine crossed over into the all-or-nothing chaos of a clandestine relationship. In fact, I knew instantly the day “it” actually happened, and was just as instantly thrust back into my own dark, labyrinthin time, where the supposed hedges that encased us as we walked through this maze had actually turned to deceptively soft leaf piles covering sharp, painful thorns. As time went on for me, the leaves dwindled to almost nothing, and I saw all of the thorns, and I ripped through the walls anyway. The results, as you can imagine, were devastating — both physically and emotionally.

How refreshing, then, to find an instant connection with someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind or hear me speak mine… and who is interested in a real relationship with me and me alone. From the time he first started calling me, I chose John Mayer’s “Say” ringtone for my eNV so I am reminded every time he calls that I can be myself without fear of reprisal. The labyrinthin path so shrouded with thorn and cover is now clearly lit and easily navigated.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

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My sister and I took my Dad to the neurologist’s office this morning so we could learn more about about the memory problems he’s been having. I had a bad feeling going into the appointment because my siblings and I have thought for some time now that he needs to move to a senior care facility, but he’s been very resistant. I just didn’t think the doctor would find his memory loss significant enough to warrant his staying in a “home” of any sort. I was surprised to see that I was very wrong.

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I debated about whether to take my 12-year-old to see “Juno,” but I’m really glad I did. The story of a girl who becomes pregnant at 16 by her best friend who is not her boyfriend may seem a little mature for the middle school crowd. However, with the recent news splash about Jamie Lynne Spears’ pregnancy circulating through the halls of Barret TMS, I thought I’d go out on a limb.

I’m glad I did. Yeah, the movie did depict “the” sex scene, but it was done without obscene nudity. All you see are bare legs and his bare chest. The language has some teen-age-style sexual vulgarity, but most of it obviously went over my daughter’s head. Juno, played by Ellen Page, is the off-beat but confident eleventh-grader; her boyfriend, played by Michael Cera, is teen-age awkwardness at its best. Juno’s dry, straight-to-the-point sense of humor is hysterical and was enjoyed by mother and daughter alike. Her naivety and innocence are endearing. She’s made up of just enough cool to make you want to watch the movie and the perfect dosage of sensibility to make actually learning something from its message a sure thing.

The story line–like your “average” pregnancy–is so not typical. Juno faces numerous decisions throughout the film; it isn’t only about whether or not she will keep the baby. It’s about life, consequences, love, family, communication, and more. This isn’t a fairy tale flick: It isn’t all sweetness with a clean story line. Movie-goers get to see genuine parents reacting plausibly to their daughter’s ill-timed news, and you’ll witness Juno growing up fast in a world filled with complexities she couldn’t anticipate.

Again, these were big issues to introduce to my 12-year-old, but the movie theater offered a nice venue for broaching the subject of sex and teen-age pregnancy in a low-stress way. I told my daughter that I thought she should wait until she got married to have sex, but if she didn’t and she wound up pregnant, I would be there for her. I said she could come to me with anything, no matter how big and “bad,” and I would support and help her in any way I could. The nice thing was she really seemed to get it.

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My daughter turned 12 on Thanksgiving Day, and this past Friday she had her very first slumber party. Yes, admittedly, that’s pretty old for a first, but I just never had the nerve to co-host one before. The party was huge success!

My daughter–who I’ll call S–invited eight little girls to spend the night, but only four of them actually showed up. (It’s real aggravating, I must say, that the others didn’t bother to RSVP except through S at school on the day of the party. But the lack of social etiquette is fodder for another blog entry!) We ate pizza and cookie cake, played “the Family Game,” had singing contests, surfed for cool videos via YouTube, applied a ridiculous amount of makeup, and just giggled to our hearts’ content!

Notice anything unusual about that paragraph? How about the use of the word “we”? S actually wanted me to hang out with her friends and her! Isn’t that cool? You hear all the time about how kids get to that point where they’re embarrassed to even know you, but I was relieved to find that I’m “still the one” in S’s eyes. She and her friends seemed perfectly content for me to participate in all of the festivities. I even asked S just to make sure, and she was totally fine with my being there.

Still being okay in my daughter’s eyes is very important to me. By letting me hang with her friends, S gives me the opportunity to check them out and make sure S is making good choices of friends. And she is. A.H. treated party-goers to some of her beautiful art work: little food friends she calls “Baby Bites.” G entertained us with her dry sense of humor, and E and A.G. danced and danced to Soulja Boy. All the girls giggled as E cooed over R.H., her 6th-grade hearthrob. They were adorable! I praised S the next day on her wise choices of friendships.

One thing that’s very important to me is that S be open to friendships with all kinds of people. So I was pleased when she invited her twin Indian friends H and A, her Middle Eastern friend R, and her bi-racial friend K. While none of these friends made it to the party, it felt good that S considered them among her best friends and wanted them to be there. This is one of the main things I like about her going to public traditional school: She meets people from all walks of life, and she doesn’t know anything about their economic conditions because they all wear uniforms. Perhaps next year, we can have the international birthday party!

Still being “the one” doesn’t mean S and I are friends exactly. We have great fun together, with tickle fights, hug-a-war, doing crafts, shopping, and just hanging out. But I’m in charge… despite her efforts to take the reins from me. The balance between friendship and authority is difficult to maintain at times: I want her to like me, but I can’t let her get away with being disrespectful or walking all over me.

Oh! One more funny thing about the party. I had no idea that girls actually farted and admitted it. But every girl at the party contributed her share of gas and then laughed hysterically. What happened to hiding the fact that you have gas? I guess my little girls can be as gross as a typical boy teenie bopper.

Don’tcha’  just love it?

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I guess forgiveness is just in the air. I just couldn’t let it go. I called my dad today to tell him our family had experienced enough broken relationships and that I wanted the pain to stop. I indicated that in spite of how distant our relationship has been since, well, forever, I wanted to do whatever it takes to reach something more akin to friendship. My dad is going senile, so I don’t think he fully understood what I was saying. However, he knew I was reaching out to him, and I believe he appreciated it. He said he would try to call me back but if I didn’t hear from him I should call him back. He’s very forgetful like that.

Why, you ask, would I bother, given his age and present state of mind? The reason is this: My faith calls me to forgive those who hurt me, even when it’s difficult. So I decided to let everything go. Does he remember what he did to me? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has reached into my soul and urged me to restore a broken relationship in His name, and I obeyed His prompting.

I didn’t do anything wrong to make my dad’s and my relationship go sour. After all, I was only a small child when the abuse started. However, as an adult, I have not reached out to seek healing in our relationship. I forgave him long ago, yes, but I never let on to my dad that I had done so, so our relationship never blossomed.

I am thankful to God that He has nurtured and held me these last several weeks and that he spoke to me so clearly through the words of my minister last Saturday. Hear it yourself by going to http://middletownchristian.org/audio.asp, pressing the Month radio button, selecting November 2007 from the dropdown list, and then selecting David Emery – [November 25,2007]  Kingdom Now! – Radical Change. You won’t regret it!

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For the first time in many weeks, I’ve experienced clarity. After weeks battling severe depression, I reached a place of thanksgiving for the life I have, for my family, for my friends, and for honesty.

As a patient in a local mental hospital, I’ve listened to countless stories of suffering and despair. My fellow patients recounted years of abuse at the hands of their parents and spouses, the sting of betrayal by best friends, the agony of addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the oddity of relying on the pain of “cutting” to bring comfort and healing. Time and time again, I was reminded by staff of how brave we all were simply because we were there. At first, this admonition seemed ill-founded, even silly. I mean, we were in-patients (and later out-patients) in a psych ward. We were crying out loud in pain, visibly shaking with anxiety. But after conversations with family and close friends, I know that what the social workers and doctors said was true. We are brave.

I am thankful for my life just as it is today because of this bravery. While there are life circumstances that I long to be different with all of my heart, I am thankful that I can express my deepest feelings to my family and friends without fear of reprisal. Based on some of the comments I’ve received on this blog over the years, I know my candor has enabled others to work through their suffering, and my forthright words have touched readers in ways I couldn’t have predicted. What’s more, I wrote a comment on another blog about some of the challenges I feel in following God’s will in my life. Apparently, my comments inspired my fellow blogger’s family to look at their own faith journey with new eyes. Clearly, my bravery is healing for me and for others.

Since September 21, I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have the family God gave me. My mother never left my bedside at the emergency room, and she visited me nearly every night of my 18-day hospital stay. My oldest brother flew in from California to support my mother and me during that critical first week, and then he and his wife talked to me at least once a day for the duration of my stay. My “birthday brother” (the one with whom I share a birthday) visited me regularly and implored me to tell him something–anything–he could bring to me that would bring me comfort. Each of these people reminded me daily that they loved me and couldn’t imagine life without me. Their kindness baffled me, but it kept me going.

I told my friends the truth about what brought me to the hospital, and they didn’t gasp in horror at my frailty or shun me because of my inability to “deal.” Rather, they prayed for me, comforted me, reassured me. I am so lucky to have such friends.

Honesty has been my friend through this difficult time. For several months, I had encased myself in a wall of deception, pushing my feelings down so far that I couldn’t even identify them. I needed the 63-face feeling chart the nurse in the out-patient program gave me in order to find a name for the emotions stirring within me. While at first I was afraid to share my story, I found that when I did, lots of people were helpful; others were thankful for my insight. I realized that by sharing my storing, I was healing myself and others.

I am still afraid in many ways: I’m afraid about moving back home; I’m afraid about going back to a job that I find unfulfilling; I’m afraid I won’t find love again. But another part of me feels beautiful for the first time in my life and is confident of who I am and what I have to offer.

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My father is suffering from dementia, but he doesn’t know it yet. He’s discussed his declining memory with his doctor, and he’s certainly demonstrated it with all of his children. Some people begin to get beligerant in their old age, effectively shunning those who may have been able to help them. My father isn’t like that. He’s been beligerant his whole life, so we’re used to it. None of us wants to take care of him, but we all recognize that we must. And so we do.

After suffering a childhood of emotional and borderline-sexual abuse by my father, I have never been alone with him. Never. And yet somehow, apparently without thinking, I offered to take him to a psychiatrist to see about getting him on an antidepressant or mood stabilizer, depending on what the doctor says. I’m the logical person to take on this job, since I have manic-depression and have experience dealing with the psychiatric healthcare system. So I suggested that he go, and I volunteered to be the person to take him. It wasn’t until my brother told me how shocked my sister was at my offer that it occurred to me: I have to be alone with him–and in a car at that.

A couple of things have run through my mind when I’ve thought about how I’ll handle the car ride. Shamefully, I admit that I thought about bringing my daughter with me, thinking just maybe she’d inhibit him from yelling at me, patting my thigh, trying to kiss me on the lips, and, well, you get the picture. A friend suggested I load up the front seat with junk, and tell him to just hitch a ride in the back. Neither of these options is acceptable to me. One isn’t fair to my daughter–she doesn’t need to be a buffer between my father and me; the other isn’t fair to my father–he isn’t a cab passenger.

Why the heck I even care about what is fair to my father is this: I am modeling caring behavior for my daughter. She’ll see that despite my feelings about my father (it’s obvious to her we’re not close), I can still reach out to him and help protect him from himself and, ultimately, the nursing staff who will one day care for him.  Going on a psychotropic drug may help him find some joy in his life. It may also take the edge off his beligerance and, therefore, make him a better patient–which translates to a better-cared-for patient.

Sappy, but it reminds me of Jesus telling his followers to “turn the other cheek” when someone wrongs them. I just hope my father doesn’t slap the other one as well.

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