Struggles

I am having one of those days where I seriously question my decision to stay home.

I am tired of needy children. I am tired of needy dogs. I am tired of cleaning the house. I am tired of puke and pee and poop. I am tired of little girl screams. I am tired.

It’s one of those days where I shop for part-time jobs. Anything to get me out of the house for a few hours a week. Doing anything. I almost don’t care.

It’s one of those days where I struggle to pay attention to and engage with the kids. I struggle to find the compassion and understanding of child development and the stages they go through and the things they must do in order to grow as people. I struggle to smile when I want to scream. I struggle chugging up and down the stairs with kids and dogs under foot and getting in each other’s ways and waiting on every. single. step. to make sure little ones don’t fall.

I wouldn’t trade being home for anything, I know that. I love being here for these kids and watching them grow and develop and learn new things. I really love it. There are days, however, where I feel completely trapped in this house. I am on call from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. I am dealing with somebody wanting or needing something from me. I look at dirty floors and dog toys and baby toys everywhere, surprise puddles of spit up and spots on the carpets the dogs lick incessantly. Planning breakfast, lunch, and supper – cooking and cleaning.

I have been trying to find another kid or two for the daycare because I know that we are slowly bleeding money. I know that I’m not bringing in enough as it is. I’ve had a couple interviews for kids but things haven’t worked out with them coming to me. I totally understand. I’m not resentful. I am, surprisingly enough, really disappointed. More disappointed than I expected to be. I let myself get caught up in my “I’m finally going to bring in my share!” syndrome. We’ve talked over and over about this ridiculous syndrome. I am the only one who feels like I am not pulling my weight. Will I only ever be happy when I’m the primary breadwinner? Will I finally give myself a break when I hit some magical amount of money that I bring in that makes up for who knows what?

I think that’s really why I’m feeling trapped and looking for a job. I feel like I need to do SOMETHING to make more money since I can’t seem to find kids. Who knew? In a city such as this, there is a shortage of kids to find for my daycare? Or I’m just looking in the wrong places.

Somehow I have to get through my head that there is nothing I can do or say or earn or anything to either increase or diminish my family’s love for me. I am enough just as I am, just as I do. My house is good enough. My skills are good enough. And for now, my daycare is good enough. I don’t need to do more. I don’t need to be more. I need to just be me.

Working mom vs. stay at home mom

The eternal debate, or so it seems.

Ever since women joined the work force en masse, there has been some sort of mom identity crisis. At first, women in the workplace was awesome, liberating, and created all sorts of wonderful opportunities that I now have. I am eternally grateful to these women. Now, nearly a half century later, women working outside the home earning an income isn’t a novelty. It’s not new. It’s not glamorous.

We as mothers are able to generally make our own choices about whether we want to stay home or continue working. From the little bit I’ve asked and read, finances seem to be the major determinant of whether a mom can stay home or needs to continue working. Most mothers realize that the few years their kids are around fly by so quickly and if possible, they want to be around for those years because pretty soon Timmy and Jenny are all grown up and going to college or getting married or starting careers or whatever it is that adults do and now it’s Tim and Jen and they don’t sit in your lap and read stories or throw up ALL. OVER. or whatever it is that kids do.

I’m working on a piece about this debate and have asked my facebook friends to chime in and did a short google search which resulted in more articles than I have time to read in one day, even during an uninterrupted nap time (which today isn’t).

The thing I have found most surprising about the start of this search is the feelings it brings up in me. That somehow I am now less than because I stay at home and watch other people’s kid. As though it isn’t a noble calling. As though it’s somehow less than going out somewhere and working for someone else. I know in my head that there is nothing more important that I could be doing than raising my child (multiple children someday), but there are those days where I feel like I am no longer enough.

I read this article yesterday that gave me an entirely new perspective on this debate. There are a few things that really stuck out to me.

1. There is SO MUCH hostility between working and nonworking moms.

2. There is SO MUCH misunderstanding between these two groups.

3. There are SO MANY insecure individuals in each camp.

Really, that’s why these mommy wars exist in the first place. Everyone is insecure and in order to feel better about themselves and their choices, they choose to tear down the opposing side. They ferociously guard the banner of their side to the point of extreme ridiculousness. Some comments made in the article include “the pressure for stay at home moms to be fit” and “stay at home moms in committees for their kid’s schools where they spend hours poring over trinket catalogs for booth prizes during late morning brunches or early afternoon coffee dates, which basically preclude working moms from joining”. The pressure to be fit? The pressure to raise money for their already wealthy schools? It amazes me that these women either don’t see or don’t acknowledge the REAL issues here!

Insecurity. Loneliness. Lack of fulfillment. Fear of not being recognized as a capable, creative person.

As a stay at home mom, I can understand why gatherings for meaningless things take hours. It’s socialization! It’s a chance to get out there and see other people. As a working mom, I can see the frustration on the part of those who work. It doesn’t matter and I’m not going to spend precious time away from my family to decide on garbage trinkets that don’t matter and realistically are just going to get thrown away anyway.

Either way, it’s hard doing this business of raising kids. It’s hard living in a society whose wage increases don’t match up with inflation. It’s hard figuring out what it best for your unique family with its unique situation and challenges. It’s even harder when people who make opposite choices can’t agree to respect those in the opposite camp and come to the mutual understanding that it’s hard no matter what.

I know I am doing the right thing. I know that moms who work outside the home are doing the right thing.

That’s what I have for now. There will be more on this subject in the coming days.

Living Sustainably

The modern era in the USA.

The era of instant messaging, instant email, instant food. Grocery stores and sixteen fast food joints per square mile. Smart phones that tell us the time, day, year, how many emails or texts we have, which direction we are headed, how many steps we’ve taken or how to get to our destination. They tell us the score of the game, stream the game, give us highlights. We are more connected to everyone than ever before in the history of mankind and have unlimited access to information – accurate or not – and we can share our opinion in more ways that we even HAVE opinions. Everything comes pre-processed, pre-packaged, and sometimes, even pre-used (made from recycled materials).

Yet we are lonely people, wasting our lives away, and garbaging up the planet as we go.

My husband and I have decided to try to live a more sustainable and stewardly life. We have tried to do this in the past, but I think that as we’ve gotten older, we’ve realized that we need to be more strategic about how we make this move. We have tried to do gardens for the past few years never being too successful. Generally, we plant too many tomatoes and we don’t eat them or we don’t really take care of the garden or any one of a hundred other things that make a garden unsuccessful for us. If I’m really honest, I would have to say that we never really committed to living more sustainably so the garden was never much of a priority. This year, we didn’t plant a garden. I finally am able to just focus on keeping weeds down instead of weeds down, plants up, fruits harvested and preserved.

We have also made the transition to cloth diapers and wipes for the baby. This not only saves us money, but we’re no longer throwing away pounds and pounds of diapers and wipes in non-biodegradable plastic bags. Instead, we have this:

IMG_20140712_180159_116

That is my homemade drying line for the cloth diapers. I’m saving on electricity by air drying and the sun bleaches everything. WIN!

I didn’t realize right away how committed I was to doing these things for environmentally friendly reasons. Recently, though, I had to use disposable diapers for a bit because I had run out of cloth diapers. I realized how good it felt to toss dirty diapers into a wash bin instead of a trash bin. It felt good to reuse old t-shirts for wipes instead of just throwing them away. It feels good knowing that we are doing our part.

As a Christian, I also have to acknowledge that I am a steward of everything in my possession. My house, my husband, my dogs, my daughter, my material things – none of them actually belong to me and I have to make sure that I am doing the best I can do to take care of them. We as humans are stewards of the Earth. We have to make sure that we are taking care of it too. Finally, we are stewards of our bodies. What are we putting into our bodies? What are we doing with them? We have been making a concerted effort to put better food into our bodies. Fewer pre-packaged meals. More fruits and veggies. More real meat. We haven’t made the transition to organic food, but just moving away from over-processed food is making a difference. I can feel how I feel better and more energetic. Since I don’t have cereal in the morning  but fruit, yogurt, and granola, I can make it to lunch without needing to graze. It’s the little things.

Through all these little changes, we are learning how we are going to live and what we are going to do when we finally do get our out of town property. We know that we need fruit bushes to support our growing fruit habit. We can experiment with various vegetables and see what we eat the most of, what we can successfully can and preserve, and how we can start to be the source of most of our food.

Our children will learn where food comes from. They will know that meat used to be a living animal. They will understand how fruits and veggies are grown. They will get a taste of the garden of Eden. We will work our land and grow our crops. We will be closer to living how God intended for people to live back when he created humanity. We were never meant to sit in chairs all day creating products that people don’t need and trying to convince people to buy crap they didn’t want until they were told they wanted it. We can reduce our global impact while dramatically increasing our societal impact. We can get back to the basics and live a life that can be lived for generations to come, with skills that will never be outdated. Just because we live in the modern era doesn’t mean that we should forget our roots or use convenience as an excuse to create all sorts of garbage (unrecycleable plastic anyone?).

This is the dream that God has laid on our hearts and we’re trying to be patient to realize that dream. We are learning that this is the time to start building the skills we need for that future. We need to go slow, though, and not set our standards too high. We need to trust that God will show us the right place at the right time. We can’t rely just on ourselves for this. If we want to get back to how we believe God intended for us to live, then we have to get back to living for God. One small step at a time.

 

 

Wisdom and Folly

wisdom and folly2

Wisdom and Folly.

Two major points throughout the book of Proverbs, which we as a church are reading together this summer.

The first time reading through Proverbs this summer, I was surprised by how much repetition there is on these points. Over and over and over again, the Proverbs read something akin to “the wise do this, but foolish do the exact opposite”. It has really gotten me to think about my life and how I’m living. Am I living as a wise person or a foolish person? How can I know? As I thought about and meditated on what I had been reading, another passage came to my mind about how I can know if I am truly living in wisdom or if I am living in foolishness.

 

John 15:18-25

The World Hates the Disciples

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

 

wisdom and folly

In order to find my answer, all I have to do is observe the world and the people around me. What are people saying about the actions I would believe to be right? How do people react to the life I live? How do other people live their lives and is that something I would do? The further away I get from the common societal life (and this is key) in order to honor God with what I’ve been given, the closer I am to living in wisdom. If the world claims “make payments to buy what you can’t afford”, I should then buy only what I can afford with the real money in my accounts. If the world says “step on everyone else to get where you want to go”, I should instead serve others to reach my goals.

I should point out, however, that living against society just for the sake of living against society isn’t necessarily wisdom. There are many people who live against the stream for the sake of doing so and are just as foolish as those absently floating through life following every current and whim. In order to really live in wisdom, we have to keep our eyes on the giver of wisdom, God. In the Bible, James 1:5 tells us that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who GIVES GENEROUSLY to all WITHOUT FINDING FAULT, and it WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU.” How amazing is that?

It occurs to me that this is the defining characteristic of Christianity, what makes it different from all other religions. God gives to all without finding fault. God freely gives salvation, grace, and wisdom and all we have to do is ask. We don’t have to work for it, prove ourselves, beat our bodies, or perform countless rituals. God wants a sincere heart sold out for him and he will give us everything we need.

Matthew 10: 29-31 — 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

sparrows

Isn’t that great news? We are worth more than many sparrows to God. He made us, he knit us together, he numbered the hairs on our head, he gives us what we ask for if we ask in earnest and do not doubt. So go, friends, and live in wisdom. Immerse yourself in the promises of God and know that he will take care of you. Be wise in the eyes of God and fools in the eyes of the world.

 

 

My late reaction to the Hobby Lobby case

It’s been a few days since the big SCOTUS decision to allow Hobby Lobby to not offer all 20 kinds of birth control methods to their employees.

It was certainly interesting to read on facebook and all over the internet the various reactions to this decision. People were calling this a win for religious freedom, a violation of women’s reproductive rights, an intrusion by business into the doctor’s office, and on and on.

As I sorted through my thoughts and feelings, I couldn’t help but be a little amused by the extreme reactions. The thing I found the most interesting is that certain people who believe in the Affordable Care Act found SCOTUS’ decision to be a violation of personal freedom. I guess I can see where this reaction would be coming from, but I think it’s asinine. To believe that it’s okay for the federal government to force healthcare on the entirety of the population but believe it’s NOT okay for a closely-held corporation to determine which benefits they will provide to their honestly very few voluntary employees actually blows my mind a little bit. I am really not sure how to react to that kind of thinking.

The term “slippery slope” is being thrown as the newest fad in cliche terms and I don’t know that people really understand what it means. It’s not a slippery slope to continue to allow government into every detail of our lives (federal farm and produce subsidies, federal student loans, the NSA, welfare and handouts that create a dependent society, Obamacare) but it’s a slippery slope for a closely-held corporation to decide that federal mandates violate their religious freedom? If this was a corporation run by Muslims, would we even be having this conversation? Or is it only really a big deal because we’re talking about Christians?

I really don’t think that this is going to culminate in major corporations declaring religious rights violations. The reason is that most for-profit corporations believe in one thing – the bottom line. Most for-profit corporations don’t care about anything unless it affects their profit margin. If publicly-held corporations were to declare religious rights violations to increase the bottom line, they would lose. Well, probably. Congress has declared corporations to be akin to people. Really, really RICH people. Who benefit the government. Hm, interesting.

I digress.

The thing I really respect about Hobby Lobby is that this organization has demonstrated by its actions that it stands behind what it believes. The people who own it stand behind their beliefs. They are closed on Sundays which certainly affects their bottom line. They pay their employees more than they need to, which affects the bottom line.

If someone is not willing to be inconvenienced or to sacrifice for their beliefs, THEY DON’T ACTUALLY BELIEVE what they claim. If I claim to be a Christian but don’t tithe or serve or do anything outside warming a seat on Sunday, am I actually a Christian? If I’m not willing to sacrifice myself, talents, and money for sake of furthering the gospel, do I really believe its message? If I’m not willing to become more like Christ who gave up everything he had to hang out with us scumbags, then I don’t believe what I claim to believe. That’s the thing about values, beliefs, faith – whatever you want to call it – you only really know what they are when it’s crunch time.

I respect Hobby Lobby. When it came to crunch time, they were willing to go out of business for their beliefs. They were going to exercise their RIGHT to religious freedom. If government mandates were going to force them to go against their beliefs, they were prepared to do what was necessary to avoid that. I applaud that.

The downside, if you can call it that, is that this has caused me to really examine myself. Am I prepared to do that? Am I willing to do what it takes to make sure that my words and my actions line up or am I happy living a hypocritical life?

Charlotte – final part

Ryan’s phone rang. It was Monday morning and he had just gotten into work. He didn’t recognize the number and he had a meeting in a few minutes. His phone targeted the call from Portland, Oregon. Was it one of his coworkers from there? With his personal cell number?

“Ryan Shaw,” he answered into his phone.

As the person on the other end spoke, the color drained from Ryan’s face and he had to sit down.

“Are you-” Ryan’s voice broke and he choked back a sob. “Are you sure it’s Charlotte?”

“Unfortunately we don’t know her name. She has no ID and has only spoken your name during her brief moments of consciousness.”

“I will get on the first flight to Portland.” Ryan got the hospital’s information, grabbed his keys, and went immediately to his supervisor’s office and closed the door.

“Ryan, is everything alright?” His supervisor looked extremely concerned. Ryan imagined he looked pretty terrible.

“I have to go to Portland. Charlotte’s in a hospital there. She’s-” Ryan’s voice broke again. This time tears began rolling down his face. He bit his knuckle to try to stop them, but they just kept coming. “She’s-” He couldn’t finish.

“Go, do what you need to do. We’ll be here when you get back.” His supervisor opened the door and walked Ryan to the elevator. “Take as much time as you need. If you think to email us a day or time you’ll be back, please do. Take care of her.”

Ryan shook his supervisor’s hand gratefully. He drove straight to the airport. Putting his car into long-term parking, he ran to the ticket counter.

“I need to get to Portland as fast as possible.” Ryan breathlessly told the ticket agent.

“Um, okay.” The agent looked at available flights. “I can have you there by 2 pm today, two stops.”

“Is that the best you can do?” Ryan growled, harsher than he intended. Charlotte needed him!

“Well, let me look.” The agent took his harshness better than he would have anticipated. “I’m sorry sir, that is the best I can do.”

“That’s fine, I’ll take it. I’m sorry. Family emergency.” He smiled a small smile to her.

“You have 35 minutes to get to your flight. I will call to have them hold the plane until you get there.” The agent smiled back at him with compassion. He couldn’t believe it. “Good luck with your family, sir. I hope all turns out well for you.”

She handed his ticket over to him and Ryan sprinted for the security line. Nearly 25 minutes later, he made it through security. He ran as fast as he could safely do in the large airport. He made it to the gate just as the last passengers were boarding.

As he slid into his seat, Ryan closed his eyes and prayed. He didn’t even know if there was a God, but if there was, this was the time to reach out.

The flight seemed to take an eternity and each layover was brutal. Ryan paced up and down the the corridor by his gates, counting the minutes to his next flight.

Finally, after too many long hours, Ryan’s plane was landing in Portland. He caught a cab as quickly as he could and raced to the hospital where Charlotte was. He rushed in and, after an hour of explaining and re-explaining, finally got to Charlotte’s room.

The doctor was waiting for him outside her door. He explained what had been found and what Ryan should expect.

“She’s very lucky she didn’t lose her baby.” The doctor said matter-of-factly, nodding his head at Ryan and turned to leave.

“Her what?” Ryan said. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard.

“Her baby. She is pregnant, son. Didn’t you know?”

Ryan leaned against the wall, trying to catch his breath. Pregnant? He was going to be a dad?

“How did you know?” Ryan demanded from the doctor.

“Well,” the doctor began. “When we have a woman of childbearing age who is unable to answer for herself, we take some blood for a pregnancy test. There are certain procedures we cannot do if she is carrying a fetus.”

“Do you know how far along she is?” Ryan asked.

“We do not. We performed an external ultrasound to no avail. We will need to do a transvaginal ultrasound to see, but at this time her body cannot handle that. There has been too much trauma. We don’t know if the pregnancy will keep or if she will spontaneously abort in the next few days or weeks. We can only watch and wait now. Son, you better go in there, now. She needs you.” The doctor patted Ryan on the shoulder and walked away.

Ryan turned to face the door.

Gathering all of his strength, he opened it and walked in. He stopped short, his heart jumping into his chest. Charlotte’s face was mangled and bruised. She was so swollen that he barely recognized her. He slowly walked into the room and sat down next to her bed.

Charlotte stirred as Ryan took her hand. She looked over and saw his concerned face and breathed a sigh of relief. He was here.

Ryan smiled when she opened her eyes and looked at him.

“I’m here, sweetie,” he told her gently, stroking her hair and kissing her hand. “Everything is going to be alright. I’m going to take care of you.”

 

Charlotte – part 14

Charlotte spent most of the day in bed watching TV. She ordered takeout, convincing herself she deserved the rest after her long trip and everything that had happened to her recently. Tomorrow she would venture out, get an idea of Portland and what her options were.

In the evening, Charlotte finally decided to unpack her things and find her phone. Melanie deserved a phone call. An hour later, everything was unpacked. Where was her phone? Charlotte frantically began searching through everything again. She went through every pocket on every bag, dumped out her purse, and searched the car again. She had her charger, but where was her phone?

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Charlotte thought back to when she had left the apartment. She replayed the whole evening in her mind.

She gasped. She had left her phone on the desk. She remembered it chirping needing to be plugged in and she completely forgot about it. Cursing, Charlotte slumped over on the bed and groaned. She flopped onto her back and tried to remember Melanie’s phone number.

“412-720- …. what? What is it? I should know her number! 412-720-83something4? 8something34?”

Of course Charlotte knew Ryan’s number by heart but there was no way she was going to call him. He could suffer, she didn’t care. She felt a physical pain of homesickness when thinking about Ryan. She did love him, but why did he have to cheat? And why for so long? He did this. Ryan made her make this choice.

Charlotte debated calling her mom to have her mom try to get a hold of Melanie. Of course, the first thing she would do is tell Ryan. Her mom loved Ryan and Charlotte thought she was more loyal to him than to her own daughter! No, Charlotte would not call her mom until she was settled.

Thoroughly annoyed at herself for her stupidity, Charlotte crawled into bed and cried herself to sleep. This wasn’t supposed to be this difficult.

In the morning, Charlotte awoke more resolved than ever to make Portland work, even if she forgot her phone. She would just get a new one and it would be fine. She would remember Melanie’s number eventually.

Charlotte spent some time walking around her hotel and then got in her car and drove around. She scoped out nearby places to work and live. Eventually she would feel familiar in this town. Maybe what she really needed was a night out. Just some time to enjoy herself before she started looking for work and a place to live tomorrow.

Charlotte finally found her hotel again and got ready for a night out. It was nearly 10 pm when she was finally ready to go. She walked along Broadway for about six blocks before she came across a hookah lounge. She went in and spent the next several hours meeting new people and smoking with them. She had a grand time.

 

Finally, 2 am rolled around and the club was closing. Charlotte started walking happily and dreamily back to her hotel. She actually felt like she knew where she was going and where to turn. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

Charlotte heard footsteps behind her, but she wasn’t worried. She was just a block or so away from her hotel now. Suddenly she felt her arm grabbed.

“Let go of me!” Charlotte yelled.

“Shut the hell up or I swear I will kill you slowly and painfully.” A low voice growled into her ear.

Charlotte was terrified. She didn’t have anything with her. In Pittsburgh she always carried pepper spray. He forced her down a different street and into a dark alley. She cried out in fear as he pushed her against a wall.

“What did I tell you, bitch?” He grabbed a handful of her hair and slammed her head into the hard brick wall. Pain flashed white in her mind and she could feel blood trickling down her face. He pulled tighter on her hair and she clenched her teeth together, whimpering. She could feel his forearm across her back, pinning her against the wall.

“You gonna scream again?”

Charlotte could only whimper in reply. Her head and face hurt so much she could hardly think.

He pulled her away from the wall and wrenched her around. She lost her footing and tumbled. He still had hold of her hair and her head jerked as she fell. She could feel a tuft of hair rip out of her scalp. She cried out but slapped her hand against her mouth to muffle it. She didn’t want to die.

“Oh you want it down there? I’ll give it to you down there!”

He pushed her face down into the rough ground. It was the same side that he slammed into the wall. Charlotte whimpered again in pain, clenching her teeth. He pulled her skirt up and ripped off her panties. Tears streamed from Charlotte’s eyes. She had never been so scared in her life.

As he slammed himself into her, pain exploded up through her pelvis and into her abdomen, radiating down her thighs. He grunted fiercely with every thrust and she cried out each time. She could feel her skin grating off as it rubbed along the ground. She tried flailing at him with her arms, but he picked up and slammed her head into the ground.

Charlotte went limp.

Charlotte drifted in and out of consciousness. She heard herself saying Ryan’s name. She was vaguely aware of other people around. Her head and face throbbed in pain, a constant ache radiated from her pelvis. Her back groaned in agony every time she moved. She moved her legs and her knees lit up as the sheet dragged over the broken skin.

“Honey, what’s Ryan’s phone number? We can call him for you.”

Charlotte turned her head and a few tears tumbled out. Her brain could hardly register anything over the pain she felt in her body.

“Sweetie? What’s Ryan’s number? I can call him.”

Charlotte heard herself recite his phone number. She heard the door open and close.

“Ryan will be here soon, honey. I’m going to give you something for your pain. Can you tell me your name?”

Charlotte groaned out Ryan’s name again and she began to cry. She felt a soft hand grab hold of hers and another stroke her hair.

“It’s okay, sweetie. You’re safe now.”

A few minutes later, the pain began to subside. Charlotte drifted back into sleep.

***