Is It Worth It?

I started writing this post around 9 pm last night. It was the end of a VERY long day and I finally had a chance to sit down and gather my thoughts.

It wasn’t a great day and I decided to drink my feelings via bottled Starbucks frappuccinos.

The bottom line is that I’m tired.

I’m tired of being a single parent while my husband works two jobs and goes to school.

I’m tired of my husband not being home and when he is home, he’s not “home” because he’s either studying or working.

I’m tired of driving to band practices, football practices, band performances, and football games…by myself.

I’m tired of 9 months of calorie counting and mindless exercise and not seeing much progress.

I’m tired of clawing our way out of credit card debt and not seeing much progress.

It’s not worth it.

—–

Do you get like this? When your tank is empty and you’ve got nothing left to give, do you tell yourself it’s not worth it?

When your mind starts heading down that road, I think you have to ask yourself “well if this isn’t worth it, what is?”

I started making a mental list last night and I realized that everything in my life that I deem worthy didn’t come easy.

My three boys…that’s an obvious one. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery are all tough, painful and exhausting.

But my sons are worth it.

My marriage…this was a really rough one. I didn’t date a lot but when I met Rick, I KNEW the moment I saw him that he was the one. So what was tough? We dated for 3 years before we got married. I lived in Illinois and Rick was a Marine stationed in North Carolina. We saw each other in person two times a year.

It was a long engagement and I thought our wedding day would never arrive. This November we will be celebrating 18 years together. The three-year struggle of rarely being together….totally worth it.

I stopped making my list at that point. There was no reason to continue as the lesson is clear. 

Anything worth having in life is worth the struggle. 

This realization doesn’t lighten my overwhelming schedule or to do list but it does take the knots out of my neck and boost my spirit.

Anything worth having in life is worth the struggle. 

To my husband who is working so very hard…I see you. I see how hard you work.  I love you and appreciate you more than words can express. I point our sons to look at you as an example of the kind of man they should aspire to. You are our hero. It’s worth it. 

To my two friends who are moms, working part-time and going to school…I’m very proud of you. I can’t imagine how hard it is. I love that neither one of you let obstacles stop you from working on achieving your goals and still being rock star moms. I love having you as friends. It’s worth it. 

The Exception…Not The Rule

One of my favorite lines comes from the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company”.

It’s Amy and Paul’s wedding day and Amy is one hot, neurotic mess. She’s terrified of marriage, has never seen one work out and is worried that she doesn’t love Paul “enough”. She says some biting remarks and is very snarky but you can tell that underneath it all, the woman is terrified.

Paul is the voice of calm, reason and love. It’s a great scene but there’s one line that haunts me a bit. Paul asks Amy:

Do you see what you’re  doing to yourself? If other people did to you what you do to yourself, they could be put in jail. 

Do you do that? Do you treat yourself worse than you would treat anyone else?

I have to confess that I do. I’m Amy. Sarcastic and scared.

I’m getting better at this. I’m becoming more aware of it and realizing the fear for what it is. But the biggest strides I’m making in this area is because of my kids. I see my kids being scared of trying new things or stepping into uncharted territory.  They are very hard on themselves. All three of them do it. I get it. I really do. I know what they’re feeling.

And I can’t let them become paralyzed.

I force them into conversations they don’t want to have. I make them confront their fear. I reminded them that their dad and I have their back no matter what. I tell them regret is an awful thing to live with.

They don’t always listen but sometimes they do and I see them grow a bit and become more confident for it.

When that happens I get really proud of myself as a mom and think “I’ve got this.”

Then I realize that I tell my kids to do things that I’m not willing to do myself.

Hypocrite, party of one?

If other people did to you what you do to yourself, they could be put in jail. 

The Power of Words

Some days my brain is threatening to explode with all of the ideas I have and want to write about on this blog.

Most of the time, I don’t write about them because:

  • I’m too emotional
  • I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone by what I say

I don’t want to hurt anyone by what I write but censoring myself really hurts the creative process and I end up writing nothing. Any writer or agent will tell you to write what you know. I’ve even heard a writer say that if people don’t like what you write about them, they should have been nicer to you.  For the most part, I pretty much agree with those statements and wish I had the courage to unleash myself and write the TRUTH!

Or at least the truth as I see it.

But recently, I had an experience that gives me pause.

I read a blog that details a person’s experience as they walk through the death of a loved one. It’s very well written, her pain is palpable in her writing and she’s very honest about what she’s thinking, feeling, and going through.

Over the weekend, I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in years who is related to the above-mentioned blog writer and to the loved one who passed away. After we spent a few minutes catching up, my friend asked me if I was reading the blog. When I said I was, her eyes filled with tears. The blog may provide healing for the writer, but it’s causing pain for my friend.

I’m torn. I understand what the writer was doing. But I also understand my friend’s pain.

This situation has been gnawing at me for a couple of days and I don’t have any answers. I’ve been looking forward to the day when all my kids are in school (two more days!) and I have time to write again. I have the story in my head and I’m ready to go. But in light of this situation, I’m questioning myself. My creative idea is based on real life experiences and it would have the power to hurt people, even if I worked really hard to be careful not to.

What’s the answer?

What responsibility does the writer have when it comes to writing from the heart and real life experiences?

 

 

The Blessing of Pain

Last week, my son Josh had urgent, unplanned dental surgery.

When he was 7 years old, he fell off his bike and damaged his permanent front tooth.  5 years later, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of that trauma and hoping that the multiple root canals he has and will have will save two of his permanent teeth.

Last Tuesday, Josh started experiencing gradually progressing pain in his mouth.  Everything looked fine, but we couldn’t argue with the fact that the kid was most definitely experiencing growing pain.  It was determined that an infection was present and needed to be taken care of immediately. The procedure he had on Friday became a lot more complicated that anyone had anticipated. It was obvious that an infection existed but it was hard to find the source.

Correction:  It was excruciatingly painful for Josh as the endodontist worked to find the source.

After the pain subsided and the swelling started to decline, I talked to Josh about pain and how it’s a blessing sometimes.  The look on his face was pure disbelief but he listened.  I explained to him that if his teeth hadn’t start to hurt, we would have had no idea that there was something drastically wrong underneath the surface. He went through an awful time BUT he is now pain and infection free.

I’m trying to apply this lesson to my own situation.

It’s been no secret to anyone who knows me that my husband and I made a lot of massive changes to our lives in 2011. The biggest change was quitting my full time job in favor of a part-time one that would allow me to work from home and be a better wife, mother, and daughter to my family.

I’m really happy with these decisions. Our family is in a great place and I’m beyond thankful that God blessed us with the desires of our heart.

That being said, I’m dealing with pain right now and unlike Josh’s experience with Dr. C, there is no one who can operate to remove the source of the problem.

Gossip is the infection that keeps knocking on the door to my heart.  I don’t know how my family became the recipient or how to handle it in a God honoring way. So far I’m able to remain silent but I can feel the poison trying to seep in under the cracks.

I don’t know what to say other than it hurts.

Was I wrong in what I told Josh? Does pain have a purpose? Or is sometimes pain just quite simply…pain?

Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

Dear Vikki,

First of all, let me assure you that you made it past the age of 35 and was not crushed to death from a collapsing bookshelf. So just let that irrational fear go right now.

Things turn out pretty well if I do say so myself.

  • You know that trumpet player that wears the finger-less gloves, Miami Vice blazer, fedora and smokes?  No, not him. The other one. The cute guy. Get this…you marry him! I know, I know. You said you were never going to get married but we both know it was because you never thought you’d find somebody who would love you.  Well, that guy is the ONE. But don’t bother approaching him now. Neither one of you are ready for each other yet.  I’d tell you when, but knowing you (and I do), you won’t believe me anyway.
  • You’re not flat-chested anymore.
  • You have three kids.  Yep. Three. One of them is just like you and that’s not all bad.

There’s more great things but I want to focus on a couple of helpful tips right now just in case time travel is invented.

  • You know that secret dream you have? It never goes away. Stop fighting it, ignore what other people are saying, don’t go to school to be a Medical Assistant and start working on your dream!
  • I know you’re thin now, too thin actually. One day you won’t be. Find a better way to deal with your feelings instead of eating them. Trust me on this. We did not treat ourselves well and now we’re paying for it.
  • Speaking of feelings…what the heck are you so mad about? You are carrying around this giant chip on your shoulder and are mad at the world. That’s the reason things aren’t going so hot for you. Focus on others a bit more and yourself a little less. You’ll be happier and more pleasant to be around.
  • Your mom is right. Stop wearing the baggy t-shirts, stop rolling your jeans and wash the canvas tennis shoes once in a while.
  • Keep praying. God is listening.
  • Nobody will be impressed that you memorized the entire score to “The Phantom of the Opera”. I’m not saying don’t do it. Just don’t tell anybody.
  • Don’t listen to “F” when she suggests that you should get a credit card. Nothing good will come from it.
  • Instead of getting mad at Mom and Dad, step back and look at what they’re dealing with. It’s hard running a business in this economy. They’re worried…VERY worried. Just step up and help them. It won’t kill you to cook dinner for everybody.

You are a really good person. Let the walls come down, stop the binge eating and learn to love yourself. I promise that others will and do.

The Long Goodbye

A week from today I will be helping my mom start the process of cleaning my grandparents home. We’re just starting with the little things like getting ride of the spices, wiping out the fridge, washing out some cabinets and cleaning out the toiletries.

I’m happy to help my mom but I know this is a project that neither one of us wants to do.

But it has to be done.

I have no idea what I will feel or what it will be like. It will be the first time I’ve been back to the house when neither Grandma or Grandpa will be there. Grandma is gone and Grandpa is in a assisted living facility. We’ve said our good-byes to Grandma in our own ways and mourned our loss deeply but I don’t think we’re done saying good-bye or longing for what once was.

I suspect this will be an ongoing process that we’ll relieve over and over again for a long time to come.

Grandpa will not be sitting in the corner reading the paper or his Wallace Farmer magazines. Grandma will not be sitting in “her” chair plying us with her wonderful cookies.

I guess it’s good to be aware of this before next Sunday but it doesn’t make the task at hand any easier. It’s only the beginning.

How have you dealt with the aftermath after a loved one died?

I Don’t Want Normal

I’ve been waiting for over two months for my leg to heal.

I’ve been waiting for life to get back to normal.

The cast is off. The boot is off.

But I don’t want normal anymore.

 

Normal is settling for the status quo.

Normal is not trying new things.

Normal is not challenging myself.

Normal is not growing me into a better person.

 

Normal isn’t cutting it anymore.

I Spy Moments

2011 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for my family so far.  Work is hard. Finances are so tight they squeak.  Both the hubby and I have taken on second jobs plus it appears that my husband is Superman because he’s also pursuing his Master’s degree and somehow helping me get all the boys where they need to go and no one is running out of clean underwear.

Our furnace and air conditioner died last week. And we just spent a lot of coin on re-roofing our garage.

Yesterday we were in a car accident. No injuries and we’re not at fault but Vlad the Impala is going to need some serious work done.

Rick and I are both valiantly trying to pursue career goals and it’s been freaking hard. One obstacle after another and there are no signs of things getting easier any time soon.

And today, I had to leave work early because my son threw up at preschool.  For some reason, that was the last straw for me.  I want to cry and eat…and not necessarily in that order.

And then I remembered the game if “I Spy”.

A few weeks ago, while on a coffee date with a dear friend of mine, we were approached by a married couple, both of whom where teachers of mine at various points in my youth. Their son had recently died from a head injury.  We exchanged pleasantries for a bit and then Mrs. “B” shared with me something she learned from a church retreat years ago.

Remember the game, “I Spy”?  “I spy with my little eye something that’s…” and the other person has to guess what you’re looking at.  Mrs. B says her pastor challenged his congregation to have “I Spy” moments and look for God’s presence on a daily basis.

The rest of the conversation was beautiful, sorrowful, and faith-filled but out of respect to my beloved teachers, I’ll keep the rest of the conversation to myself.  But the “I Spy God” moments is too compelling not to share.

If Mrs. B can see God on a daily basis in her life, than so can I.  So here are some of my “I Spy God” moments this week:

  • My marriage is rock solid. I love Rick very much. There’s no one else I want to do life with.
  • My kids are healthy…or at least they will be. I’m sure Ben’s bug is a 24 hour thing.
  • God provided a means for the furnace.
  • A friend just literally called me with an offer to borrow her car until mine is fixed.
  • Both Jacob and Josh have decided to get baptized next weekend.
  • Rick makes me laugh every single day.
  • I have friends who will listen to me gripe, let me cry on their shoulder, make me laugh, pray for me and they’ll do the same with me.

Life is still challenging, hard and sometimes just really unfair but God is still there…I just have to choose to look.

I challenge you to do the same.  And then let me know where you spotted Him with your little eye.

Dreams Into Reality

As a kid, I had big dreams for my life.

I wanted to be published.

And rich.

And be a female Indiana Jones.

And live in a house with pillars, window seats and have a room with a turret where I would write and write all day long.

I’d shop in amazing bookstores, travel the globe, dress rather bohemian and…most importantly, I would have clear skin.

Until recently, none of those had happened. Sometimes dreams change.   I’m not rich and not sure I want to be. I don’t like getting dirty so the Indiana Jones dream didn’t last long. Some dreams may not happen.  I still want my dream house…and clear skin.  Some dreams change. I exchanged amazing bookstores for Amazon because I lack patience to browse.  I’ve done a bit of traveling.  Some dreams that I never allowed myself to consider came true; my husband and kids.

And some dreams just refuse to die no matter how hard you try to kill them.  I tried killing the writing dream. (too old, not realistic, lacking education, etc.) But then…The Blank Journal (hosted by a fantastic writing instructor, Christin Taylor) published an essay of mine earlier this month.

I’m very grateful to Christin and her team for the opportunity. I know everyone else who has a piece published with Christin this month feels the same way.  There’s something very satisfying, exciting, and scary about having other people read something that you’ve poured a lot of work (and tears) into.

So…at the age of 38, one of my goals from childhood has been accomplished.

Now what?

I guess I have to try to do it again.

But I don’t know how.  Or if I can.

It’s been easy to hide behind work and my family.  I don’t have time.  My husband’s in school.  Only one person can chase their dreams at one time.  But the reality is, I’m so bitterly unhappy when I’m not writing.  I feel empty inside when I go a day without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Without the written word, I feel lost.

It’s tough to admit that I’m not happy.  I’m not content.  Something has to change.

So here it goes…I’m a writer.  And I need a plan…a life plan.

I’ve been sitting on Michael Hyatt’s “Creating Your Personal Life Plan”  e-book for a few weeks now. I hesitated to use it.  Mr. Hyatt is a leader; chairman of the board at Thomas Nelson Publishing.  I’m a church secretary, closing in on 40 and sport 2 year degree from a community college.  We’re not exactly cut from the same cloth.  But tomorrow, I’m running away from home for a day to seriously read through Mr. Hyatt’s e-book and starting planning the next stage of my life.

I’m scared.

Friday Favorite: Hollywood or Bust

I’ve been toying around with writing about when I went to Hollywood with a mission team from my church.

Since I’ve been on the couch most of the weekend recovering from the flu, it seemed like a good time to pull out the writing assignment I did about the trip, which also happens is one of my favorite memories.

So without further ado…

On an unusually warm Friday morning, I find myself sitting in the Moline Airport with six men waiting to board the plane for our mission trip.  Three members of our group are fast asleep and I’m amazed that they’re still holding on to their hot coffee cups as they snooze.  My husband, Rick, is sitting next to me, sipping his coffee and nervously checking his watch and CNN on the large televisions.  On occasion, he and I catch each other’s glances and grin.  Our team leader, Paul, is pacing.  It’s 4:30 a.m. and with any luck, we’ll touch down at our destination at 5:00 p.m.

After we board the plane for the first leg of our journey, I settle into my seat and marvel that I’m on this trip at all.  It makes sense for everyone else to be here, but I don’t have the technical knowledge or gifts that they all possess.  I keep waiting for someone to tell me that this has all been a mistake.  But here I am, bound for a place I’ve only seen on television and in magazines.

This was not an easy trip to raise funds for. Most people we talked to within our congregation dismiss our mission field as Sodom and Gomorrah. We’re going because to us, and a growing number of others, it’s Nineveh.  I used to take the former view myself.  I’d sign petitions, agree to online boycotts, and bang the gong loud for anyone who’d listen that Hollywood was evil and trying to destroy family values…until two church staff members made the move to “La-La Land” two years ago.

Lonnie, our Media Director, and his wife, Jessica, had responded to the call that God has placed on their lives, sold their possessions, and moved to Los Angeles. But in the weeks before they left, they hosted a viewing of “Beyond the Gates of Splendor”, a documentary telling the story of Nate Saint and his team of missionaries that were killed by the Waodoni tribe they were trying to befriend.  After the viewing, Lonnie and Jess announced their intentions to the congregation and challenged us to consider Hollywood a mission field.  I remember very little of their talk.  I was blown away that someone would willingly move to a very uncertain future.  I was mortified and ashamed at my hate towards the people in the entertainment industry. I also remember feeling a wee bit jealous that Lonnie and Jess were seeking a career in an industry that I could never consider in my wildest dreams.  Even though I willingly voiced my opinion at the negative products Hollywood produced, I still loved movies with a good story.  I longed to write something more than the occasional church drama.

As the months past, Jessica would email us and let us know about organizations like Hollywood Connect and the Hollywood Prayer Network, whose purpose was to help Christians get connected into a faith-based community.  Lonnie enrolled in Act One, a writing and producing program that helps artists hone their skills and find careers in Los Angeles.

I found all of this just absolutely fascinating and when Lonnie and Jess brought their friends, Thom and Lauri, back home to teach the church volunteers the ins and outs of writing dialogue, I was in heaven.  Free lessons from a real writer!

Throughout the beginning stages of their journey, unbeknownst to me, Lonnie and Jess were planting the seeds within our church leadership team to start thinking of Hollywood as a mission field and challenged our Missions Pastor to bring a team to L.A. and see for ourselves how God was moving in Hollywood.

Two years later, I’m on a plane with my boss, Paul, my husband, and four tech volunteers from our church.  Paul, Rick and the “minions” as they are affectionately called will be installing a projector and screen at a Los Angeles Catholic elementary school.  I’m still not sure why I’m on this trip.  I have no technical experience, nor a desire for any.  I love movies, writers, the creative process, and the people I’ve met prior to setting foot on a plane but that is no use to anyone, is it?

Throughout the week, I met people from the Hollywood Prayer Network, Hollywood Connect, Act One and the author of The Hollywood Standard.  I’m humbled and awed by all of these people.  Every one of them has a deep and abiding faith in God and a deep conviction to help Christians, find faith-based community and develop their professional skills.

I finally had my moment to serve on this trip.  On our last evening, Act One hosted a reunion for the graduates of their program.  Our team provided the pizza, cupcakes and “swag” for all the writers. The “swag” bags contained a ream of paper, brads, granola bars, tea, instant coffee, highlighters, and note cards. Necessary tools that a writer needs but can’t always afford.

As I put together the bags while the rest of my team took a well-deserved rest, I took a moment to look around the Act One offices.  Every time an Act One graduate was part of a major released film or television series, the poster was displayed on the walls.  X-Men, 24, L O S T, Passion of the Christ.  I silently reviewed the art work on the walls and didn’t notice when Lonnie came in and sat down next to me.

Every day, Lonnie made an effort to meet with our team, encourage them, answer questions, and give me a writing lesson.  Every day, Lonnie would ask me what I’d like to write, what my dreams were, why wasn’t I writing and I deflected at every turn.  Every day Lonnie would introduce me to everyone we met and tell them I was a writer.  I would correct him every time. This dream was just simply too big for me to ever seriously consider. On our last night in town, I was going to be given one more, important, lesson.

“Come on,” he said. “There are a few friends I want you to meet.”

As we walked to the kitchenette area, there stood Lauri, Jessica, and two other women. I would later learn their names were Vicki and Amy.  Lauri looked at Lonnie and winked.  I turned to Lonnie just as he sprinted to the other end of the room.  This wasn’t a social gathering. This was a writer’s intervention.

“So…what’s the deal? Lauri asked.

I was in a panic and searched the room for my husband. There he was, at the other end of the room with Paul, Lonnie and the rest of the team.  All were looking straight at me and grinning from ear to ear.  They were in on it.

“Well?” Lauri asked.

“What do you mean?” I lied. Shameful, but it’s what happened. I’m not proud of it.

“Cut the crap. Why aren’t you writing?” she pressed.

“Can you excuse me for a minute?” I turned my head and banged my head repeatedly on the wall.  This was just too much for me to handle. This was my “put up or shut up” moment and I wasn’t ready for it.

As I turned back to the group, Lauri asked, “Are you finished?”

“Yeah.”

“Why aren’t you writing?” they all asked.

Who are these people? They don’t know me! Why do they care? I offered all my excuses one by one and these ladies shot them all down one by one. No education, three kids at home, too old and finally, not knowing if I had any talent or not.  My ability for recall after an event is shoddy at best. I regret not remembering all the advice these wonderful women gave me that Thursday night, but I do remember the big take away:  “The first thing you write will be shit, everybody’s is. It’s okay. Write it anyway.”

That was it. I needed someone to give me permission to fail.  I didn’t realize it before, but I operated under the mentality that if I couldn’t do something perfectly, I wasn’t going to do it at all.  Lauri, Amy and the gang reminded me that nothing ventured, is nothing gained.

I flew back home a changed woman, pouring over the reading material Lauri gave me right from the Act One resource library.  I’m forever indebted to this wonderful group of people I met two years ago. They poured into my life and I’m grateful.