Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Three R's

Good Sunday evening to you!  I must begin this post with a confession - I skipped church tonight.  Hamp got an unexpected gift of two tickets to the Tech basketball game so he and Matthew went.  Gracious and supportive volunteer leaders at church assured me I wouldn't cause a hardship for them if I took the evening off, so I did.  It's been somewhat productive, but not as much as I had hoped.  I feel like Billy in the The Family Circus comic when he gets sidetracked through the house with the little dotted line showing the million things he does besides what he's been told to do.

One thing I did after I passed some brave little yellow flowers blooming by the back gate to our apartment community as I came home from my Mom's was grab my camera and go take their picture.  I love that God makes so many early flowers yellow - it's such a happy reminder that winter really won't last forever!


This weekend has been such a treat with blue skies and sunny days. Both are still a little weak, but each day brings them both closer to the equinox assistance they need.

So.....I have been on quite a journey in the last several weeks and if I had been given a choice in the matter, I would have said, "No!" But I was not and as with all difficulties in life, there have been things to learn in spite of my rantings at the unfairness of it all. As I was reflecting this morning on where I have landed for now, I might be able to somewhat concisely explain it. I guess we're about to find out.

In a healthy world, I think life would look something like this: First, you would have a relationship with someone. That could be anything from a sibling to a parent to a love interest. Once a relationship is established, there is an appropriate emotional response to the other person ranging from friendship to respect to romantic love. Once that connection is established, responsible actions follow. Those could range from care and protection offered by a parent to obedience in a child to the selfless love demonstrated by a spouse.  Sadly, we don't live in a healthy world and most of our families don't experience this kind of order. As I've had to deal with my Mom's illness and subsequent care, I've realized that I'm working backwards in these three R's of life.

Because of my parents' alcoholism, I became the textbook oldest child caretaker in my family and never really had much of an emotional childhood. I learned to hide by not rocking the boat and trying to keep the waters calm at home. The motivational drive of my life was that there was no one to take care of me so I had to do it myself...and I did. I knew my parents loved me and they made sacrifices to take care of us, but the emotional connection wasn't there very often.

After becoming a Christian as a young adult, God slowly began to heal some of the broken places inside of me and I have truly been able to forgive my parents for some of the ways we were not loved well. But that doesn't automatically create a loving, caring, family dynamic and since the drinking never stopped, decades ticked by with not much changing.

Now all of a sudden, my mother is recovering from colon cancer surgery and life as she knew it is over for now. She has a colostomy bag (which we have affectionately named Penelope Pouch just because we could). There were existing financial difficulties, we had to move her to a smaller apartment, insurance bills are starting to come in, and she is dependent on her family for most everything. As her only child not working and the one that lives the closest, I have become the primary person responsible for all of these things....and there it is - the first R.

Because she is my Mom and because I am available, I have chosen to be a caring human being and assume a lot of the responsibility for her needs. It wasn't because I wanted to, but there was nobody else that could. Most of you haven't been around me lately, but if you had been you would have heard a lot of fit-pitching, whining, anger, and just general selfishness over this recent development in my life. I was mad because my life was suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted and it hasn't been pretty.  Because of the last four years of life and the faithfulness of God already experienced, in the depths of my soul I knew He was up to something, so I did occasionally ask Him what that might be.  Enter the second R - emotional response.

As I've watched my Mom deal with the fact that her existing life ended, I have grown to respect her as a person. She's had lifelong habits forcefully taken from her and I haven't heard one word of complaint. She has accepted the circumstances she's been dealt with a lot more grace than I have and she's the one that has to deal with major health adjustments. She's at the mercy of others for just about everything and she's appreciative and thankful. Respect is growing into admiration for her courage and I can feel the desert in my heart beginning to blossom.

I don't know yet what the final R will look like. Will we end up with a mother/daughter relationship like I share with Tiffany? Can a lifetime of neglect be erased in what might only be months or a few years? I don't have an answer to those questions, but I do know that the God who said He'll restore the years the locusts have eaten is capable of anything. I know there are hard times ahead and these amazing years I'm supposed to be enjoying ministering to others and influencing my grandchildren don't look like that for me right now. Sometimes that's hard for me as I watch my friends experience those things, but this is where God has me for now. As Steven Curtis Chapman sings, "this is where we are". Or put another way, "It is what it is".

Life is easy for some and heartbreakingly difficult for others. And then there are lots like me that fall somewhere in the middle. But someday things are going to made right, spring really is coming, and in spite of the headlines, God is still in control...and He is good.

"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

~C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Still Here!

Greetings!  I'm heading to bed for now but wanted to let you know I haven't fallen off the planet and really do plan to get a new post up in the next day or two.  Life has been very busy with my Mom and what little bit of down time I get, I end up spending it like a vegetable on the couch doing important things like watching "American Idol".  I have a lot I'm thinking about these days and hopefully I can get those thoughts into words when I'm not so tired.

For now, I'll leave you with a couple of interesting tidbits that you may or may not find useful to know.

1.  The cooking spray Pam can be used to spray into a colostomy bag to help the contents drain out easier.

2.  I don't like winter anymore.  I think Baltimore and the two record-breaking snowstorms last year did me in.

3.  Free time is a precious gift and you don't miss it until you don't have it anymore.  Don't take it for granted.

4.  When you reach the end of yourself and can do no more, God is just getting started.

5.  Never say never.....ever!  You will eat your words if you do.

Random and unrelated, yes, but this is a sampling of the randomness that is my life now. 

Here's a fun picture and quote from when I was trying to keep the other blog going.  Check back soon!

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."
~C.S. Lewis

Sunday, January 16, 2011

After Night, Comes A Light

"After night
Comes a light
Dawn is here
Dawn is here
It's a new day, a new day
Oh, everything will change
Things will never be the same
We will never be the same"
~David Crowder Band, "The Glory Of It All"
This is a great song to begin a day of sunshine and warmth after a week of cold and ice. Click here to listen to it. It is one of my favorite songs because I've sung it in faith believing it will be true of my life again someday and I can sing it now because it was.

I only have a minute because we're moving my Mom's stuff from one apartment to another this weekend so it's been busy. But it's also the weekend that marks what would have been Tiffany's 5th wedding anniversary if Jeff had not left. Again, this song pretty much sums up the journey we've all been on, but she also wrote a blog about where she is now. If you want to read it, click here for the link to it. She would tell me I'm biased by saying this, but I will anyway - I think she's amazing and I love how God has loved her well!

I'm closing with a picture that looks like it fits with the day when you look out the window. Have a great day!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


As this cold Thursday slowly moves forward, the sun that is finally shining is bringing about a barely noticeable thawing.  When I was keeping up with Pixy Prose, I found several quotes about winter that I liked.  Since I'm not working on that blog right now, I thought I'd share a few of the pictures I took on our walk the other day along with a couple of my favorite winter quotes.  Enjoy!

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show."
~Andrew Wyeth

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there within me lay an invincible summer."
~Albert Camus

"Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart."
~Victor Hugo

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Things To Say

Greetings from the ice and snow covered South! Who would have ever thought that living in Atlanta was too far north to stay mostly warm in the winter? Not this girl. Tiffany looks smarter with each passing day with her decision to move to Orlando.

I have a lot to catch up on and if I tried to document the last month well, I'd be here the rest of the day and you would quit reading. So I think I'm just gonna start and see what happens.....

I think I told you that our family Christmas gathering was in mid-December because that's when we could get everyone here. It was a great time together and I have a few pictures that were taken with my camera I can show you. Tiffany has the rest of them and I've lost the CD she put them on before she left. Sad.

Here is a good picture of our kids - notice we now have four!

Cousins...along with one girlfriend.

My brother with Carla.

And my sister with Piglet - a gift from her Disney dwelling niece!

My mom opening her gift. (Little did we know the adventure we were about to embark on with her.)

There was a light dusting of snow to help mark the festivities which gave Tiffany a chance to wear her Great White North purchased puffy.

It was a little hard to see everyone leave town again, but we were going to be heading to Orlando with Matthew to spend Christmas Day with Tiffany while Michael and Bekah had their first Christmas together in Boston. Yeah, that didn't exactly happen.

If you read regularly, you've had a glimpse into the days following our weekend Christmas gathering. Mom is still in rehab gaining strength every day and if the weather cooperates, we'll be moving her stuff into a 1BR apartment over the weekend. There are lots of doctor follow-up visits ahead and adjustments to changes in her daily routine as we wait to see if she'll be able to work again. It's what I haven't talked about that's been the most draining for me.

It's like this....I grew up in an alcoholic home with both parents drinking for as long as my memories go back. While physical needs were never unmet, the reality is that my brother and sister and I were not parented well. We knew we were loved, but emotionally we were left to navigate life pretty much on our own and we took our coping mechanisms into adulthood. While some are more socially acceptable than others, when used to avoid emotional connections in relationships, they keep the harmful cycle going.

We're all trying to deal with the conflicting emotions that have surfaced as the physical needs of our mom have evolved. Believing in the value and sanctity of every human life hasn't always been helpful at times as I've battled anger, resentment, and frustration because my life has been interrupted by someone who couldn't be bothered to be involved in mine most of the time.

Each day presents a choice of what I get to deal with as the future unfolds: medical as we learn how to deal with the colostomy bag that will probably be permanent, financial as we determine if she'll be able to work again to supplement her fixed income and what to do with her existing debt, emotional as we wonder how or if she can deal with addiction withdrawal and what that choice will bring, and logistical as we wait to see if she'll ever drive again and how dependent she'll be on us.

In two days, the calendar will tell me that Tiffany was married five years ago on that date. The choices of her ex-husband provided the opportunity for us to walk through the valley of deep darkness where we found God faithful. Instead of just being a belief that He would be when life was hard, we now know it to be a truth settled deep in our hearts. I am thankful for that experience now because while not as deep, I am in a valley that's not very bright. I don't want to be here and I'm still whining a lot that I am.  But because of the last five years, I know that one day I'll look around and I will be on the other side and I will be changed for the better because of it. For now, though, I'm praying that faith will arise as I pour out my heart and remember that God is faithful forever.  And I'm thankful for friends and family who love and understand me and are there for me even when there's nothing that can be done.

(For a link to the Chris Tomlin song, "Let Faith Arise", click here)

Monday, January 3, 2011

In With The New

"Only that day dawns to which we are awake."
~Henry David Thoreau