Monday, December 29, 2008

I need to get it out

We're home from a 3 day trip to Michigan for celebrations with my side of the family. We had a good Christmas. We had a good time. But then wouldn't you know it... Monday morning rolls around and my head is swirling with all kinds of thoughts about "what did she mean when she said?" "why can't we have an intelligent conversation about politics without berating people?"

Why is family so difficult? I mean, we had a great time with them - we really did, but then the day after hits and I try to figure out if I said anything wrong or offensive and why other people have no problem offending me.

And then I've been having an internal struggle for the last few days... I got some wonderful things for Christmas gifts, but I didn't get the few things that I really wanted. So internally I'm being a big brat. A big brat. And I really hate that. Its my own fault - I made my list too big. When I was putting it together, though, I didn't realize that I really wanted these certain things - I only realized it throughout the month as I was looking forward to Christmas and thinking, "I really can't wait to get my new Ipod Shuffle and my new Calvin clothes." Not sure why I assumed I would get them - I did - but I got other stuff off of my list instead. And like I said, its my own fault so I'm mad at myself for making my list too big.

And then I'm mad at myself for caring. I want to live a simpler life with less stuff... but then when I have a chance to get some stuff that I want, I turn into a brat about it. Truly, it shouldn't matter. So I have an internal battle with myself almost constantly. And it gets emotionally exhausting to do so.

Back to family... I just went and apologized to my brother-in-law for something I said. I made a joke at his expense at our party yesterday. Everyone laughed and he even acknowledged that it was a "good one", however, it was still at his expense and I feel bad about it. Why do we do that with family? Why is it okay? Shouldn't we be sensitive to them just like we are to others around us?

Family stuff is difficult for us for the simple fact that we think so differently than everyone there. I'm not saying we're better than anyone, just that on every single topic of conversation Dave and I think entirely different than all of them (sister, brother-in-law, cousins). We have really good conversations with my parents - they listen and are able to discuss with us, but not so much with the rest of the family. So we opt to shut up and not be a part of the conversation at all.

The big problem for us is not that we disagree with most of them, but that we don't feel comfortable talking about our opinions and thoughts because we feel like we'll be attacked, ganged up on and ultimately made out to be inferior. A lot of it is our own problem with our perception of things, but some of it is the way they act - the combination is difficult for us. They simply cannot understand our point of view because everyone they know shares their point of view for the most part.

So we come home feeling somewhat disrespected - but recognizing the fact that we opted to stay out of the conversation to begin with. The whole weekend is a balancing act - trying to be ourselves, yet trying not to be the outcasts and weird ones of the group. Sometimes it is simply easier to not "go there" than it would be to start the argument and end up feeling inferior. But then I get to spend today trying to decipher and process the weekend... hence the blogging to get it out of my head;)

Friday, December 19, 2008

An Alexander Day

Today was a no good, horrible, very bad day - and I should just move to Australia.

I will chalk this up as a day that I hated. A day that I am very not proud of. A day that leaves me questioning.

I'm asking God if I will always, forever, for the rest of my life struggle with my relationship with Nora. Will it always be like this? Is it just her age? Please, God, tell me it is just her age because I will be heartbroken if we - me and her - are always like this. She is a good, good kid. She is so loveable and sweet and kind and loving and many other good adjectives. But I struggle so much with her and I can't even identify why. God, what am I to learn with her right now? I need to do some changing somewhere in some way because I cannot be with her the way we were today for the next 40-50 years. God, teach me how to relate to her and how to love her in the best way for her. Help me to understand rather than to be understood. Change me.

And God? Did you really make ME to be a mom? Because sometimes I feel like it was a mistake. Sometimes I feel like with my personality I just wasn't supposed to be a mom. I'm not supposed to be smothered or have every minute of my day have a sound. Why am I a mom when I need silence and down time so badly? What am I doing wrong? How can I change this? Because today was a no good, horrible, very bad day. I love my girls. I adore them. But I feel very inadequate and unable to do it all the time - why doesn't it seem like other people feel like this... I know they get frustrated with their kids, but I feel like I'm the only one who feels smothered by it all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Christmas

I am loving our new approach to Christmas and the holiday season this year. I feel so much more laid back and relaxed and able to enjoy what it is really about this year. It leads me to be very appreciative of the financial situation that has prompted these changes.

A few observations:

* We decided that we would only do three gifts per child this year. A friend told me that she only does 3 gifts because Jesus received 3 gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh (don't judge me for my spelling). I thought this was a wonderful idea, because really... who thinks they're better than Jesus that they need more gifts than he got? So cutting down to 3 gifts for our girls has been amazing! I found that my list turned into a list of things that they would actually play with and enjoy throughout the year instead of my usual list of things that I thought they should have or should like to play with. A definite shift in focus for me. So they are each getting two gifts to play with, books and a gift from Santa (technically that is 4 gifts, but Santa's does not count).

I have alternately felt very happy with the situation and very inadequate and upset. Ultimately, though, I love it and think it is a great change that we will stick with in the future.

* We are doing our advent things and starting new traditions. We have done our advent wreath each Sunday and have been able to talk about Hope, Peace and Joy with the girls. Granted Ryann and Georgia are more interested in blowing the candles out, but they are getting the foundations and are remembering the names of the candles.

In addition to the advent wreath, we began our nightly Adore-naments last Sunday night. These are the 12 ornaments that correspond to 12 names of Jesus. There is a reading with each one - and I AM LOVING THIS!!! We sit down as a family every night before bed, light the advent candles - rename them and talk about the meaning of each one - and then we do the reading on a name of Jesus. So far we have done Immanuel, The Door, and The True Vine. This has given us a unique opportunity to talk about what each name means and to discover how it applies to Jesus.

Last night, Nora read about The Door. This was the first time that she has read scripture - at least in my presence. Tears welled up in my eyes as she spoke of Jesus being The Only Way and the only Door. What a memory. Never in a million years did I think I would be one of those moms who got teary over such a thing...

* Dave had all of these neat family outings planned for each weekend during the holiday season. The first weekend was the weekend after Thanksgiving and I was just too tired - emotionally - from some conversations over the weekend and I asked if we could skip it that weekend. He was disappointed, but understood. The next weekend was 14 degrees and was impossible to think about bringing the girls out in that kind of cold weather.

Last weekend, though, was in the 50's so we went to Long Grove, IL and had such a wonderful time! We went there on a whim two years ago and loved it and were excited to go back. I had wanted to go the previous weekend because they were having Santa and some Dickensian Carolers, but it was just too cold. We were able to do some shopping and get some treats - popcorn for the girls, coffee for me and some giant gingerbread cookies - like we had promised. AND we went on a horse and carriage ride where Nora got to actually drive! She told us it was the best day - EVER. I think they really enjoyed it... there's not a ton to do other than walk through the little shops, but its just a cute little town thats fun to be in and be a part of. And any time that we spend together as a family hanging out like that is so great.

* BFWW and I were chatting this morning about Christmas and buying gifts. We were discussing the reciprocity factor in buying gifts - someone buys you something and you feel you must buy something of equal or more value than they gave to you. I have to say, this year has humbled me in that respect - knowing that we simply cannot do it has been a blow to my pride. Granted we have not ever been truly reciprocal with some people - our parents spend way more on us than we could spend on them - but we have set a standard of an amount that we normally spend and we're not able to spend even close to that amount this year. I have been waffling between knowing that they understand where we are and what our situation is and feeling somewhat embarassed at the measly gifts that we are giving them this year.

In the course of the conversation, I was talking out loud about how I wish Christmas gift giving could be revolutionized. Could we please change it to buying gifts for those whom we truly want to buy gifts for out of love instead of buying gifts for people out of obligation? I LOVE to buy gifts for the people that I'm close to, but I definitely stress out about buying gifts for people that I don't know very well but am obligated to buy for. I would like to shop for someone with him/her in mind, knowing exactly what he/she would love and be able to buy it - no set budget... if it costs $10 and they love it, it would be as good as if it cost $200 and they love it. I don't know, I guess I get discouraged by obligations vs. authentic relationships if that makes any sense.

* We received a Harry & David's gift tower last week. Fricken' baklava. Thats all I have to say about that.

* Dave received a Christmas card in the mail today from one of his clients. It had a $100 gift card to our local grocery store in it. He was a little upset... these are good clients of his, they live near us and they adore us. While he was very appreciative he felt like he couldn't accept it because he gets paid to help them with their finances. When he called to thank them for the gift they told him that instead of buying each other gifts this year, they decided to spend the money helping out some young families that they know - and we were one of them. Now, I loved these people before this, but holy cow - this made me cry. To know that they thought of us in that way and loved us enough to help us is almost overwhelming. To know that God is providing in ways that we don't expect and through people that come as a big surprise is amazing to me.

How has your Christmas season been so far?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Not sure where this is going to go or how long it is going to go...

I guess I'm just wondering when does a person decide that enough is enough? Like how much money does one need to have before one realizes that its enough. And by the way, I already think the word enough sounds funny since I've written it 5 times already.

I've been following the state of the economy pretty closely - well, if by reading the newspaper and listening to talk radio = closely. I've also had many interesting conversations with people. I've been appalled at the bahavior of public officials, of corporate ceos and the opinions of some of those that I hold dear...

In MY opinion - why in the heck does a corporate CEO feel it is necessary to earn multi-millions of dollars each year, receive a hefty (multi-million dollar) bonus each year, + stock options and other fringe benefits? I mean really, how much money is enough? Does one NEED $10 million dollars each year? And what about the people who are commanding that salary and at the same time are laying thousands - or hundreds of thousands - of people off. What is that about? Seriously, how much money is enough? I had a conversation with someone who's response was, "Why shouldn't he make as much as he can make?" I'm not sure that my jaw was able to be picked up off of the floor.

There was an article on about how the CEO of Merill Lynch asked his board of directors for a $10 million dollar bonus this year because - get this - he deserves it because the company lost *ONLY* $11.67 Billion dollars this year. Really? And they're laying people off. They are putting people on the street without jobs, but this guy DESERVES a $10 million dollar bonus? Really?

Now, I'm not in favor of "distribution of wealth" and socialism, however, I am greatly in favor of responsibility and compassion to those around us. I'm just wondering when a person decides that he/she has enough and doesn't need to earn/command MORE.

I don't know - its kind of a tricky question, right? I mean, its easy to have these opinions when you're talking about ludicrous amounts of money like X million per year... but what about when you're in the middle class suburbs and $100,000/year doesn't stretch as much as you thought it would? (just using a round number). Polls show that most people feel like they'd be comfortable - and happy - if they earned just 20% more than what they currently earn. Really? What about when you get there - then is it enough? Are you done, then?

We all want to live the good life. Take trips. Have nice cars, nice clothes, nice houses. But when is what you've got enough for you? Do you need a bigger house? More clothes? A newer car? What about when what you have is sufficient to meet your needs? Do you still need more? bigger? better? Are we always going to be trying to move to the next level? 3,000 square feet instead of 2,400? and soon we'll need 4,000 square feet because 3,000 just isn't big enough. Nevermind the fact that an extra 1,000 square feet means more furniture, more carpet, more maintainence, etc. 1,000 square feet ends up costing a LOT more than what you thought.

Current events - the economy, the auto bailout, the bank failures, the IL governor - certainly have got me thinking about this, however, it is a nearly continuous conversation in our house. We want to live simpler - people don't understand that desire, but we do. We don't want bigger, better and more. We want to drive our stake right here and stay here. I feel like it is a constant battle though - trying to drive our stake, yet wanting more and better. I do want more and better, but I don't want to want more and better, you know?

At some point a person needs to recognize that what he/she has is enough and doesn't need more - right? Am I the only one that wonders this?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Some random things mulling around in my head

1. A phrase I heard a couple of times last weekend: "If I don't take care of me, no one else will take care of me." Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. While in one perspective I understand this and I totally understand where it is coming from and why it is being said by this specific person, mostly I feel very sad about it. VERY sad about it for a multitude of reasons.

2. Another phrase I heard this weekend: "Expectations breed resentments." Holy cow - very insightful and true. For a long time I have been learning and talking about the fact that when expectations do not meet reality it equals disappointment. I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind every day as I navigate through a social world where one person's story affects my story and I may not know the other person's story (follow that?). I've tried to really think about my expectations of life and of people and figure out if what I'm expecting is realistic and change my expectations or have no expectations at all. This is difficult yet very rewarding and helps make the challenge of life a little happier.

3. Everyone has a story. This is something that I've realized in the last two or three years. Everyone has a story. Basically, everyone has a reason for acting the way he or she acts - and I may not know your story and pass judgement on you... but if I knew your story, I would instead have sympathy, empathy, compassion, understanding, etc.

For example (and this is a very simple example): A few years ago I was having major wisdom tooth pain and had to have it extracted. I went to the grocery store while in pain and I'm sure my already unapproachable face was even MORE unapproachable and perhaps even pretty bitchy looking. And the many people that I came into contact with that afternoon could (and perhaps did) judge me and decide that I was _________ - insert adjective (bitchy, stuck up, snobby, impatient, intolerant, etc. etc.) HOWEVER - the truth was, I was in pain and was miserable, but still had to run an errand. That was my story that afternoon - and if someone had known my story, their perception and opinion would have dramatically changed.

I was reminded over the weekend that everyone has a story. And when you get a chance to hear someone's story - or even a tiny piece of it - it is not only fascinating, but it also clues you in to why that person is the way he or she is. Keeping this in mind helps me be less judgemental of people - people I'm close to and random strangers on the street. I hope - HOPE - that people I'm close to do not feel judged by me. I have seen the misery that judging people causes to the person that is judging and I want no part of it. Lord, help me to love and to remember that everyone has a story.

4. Yesterday I read the story of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth. She was barren for many, many years and then conceived John the Baptist. When she found out she was pregnant she went off for 5 months and relished in her pregnancy. I also had a conversation with BFWW last week about how when our child's agenda does not match our agenda it equals frustration for everyone involved. So yesterday I decided to simply RELISH in my children and the little boy that I babysit and allow their agenda to lead the way (mostly). That isn't to say that they got away with whatever they wanted, but I took some time to simply enjoy them and to watch them be who they are, to cuddle, to kiss, to play, to slather on lotion after a bath, to read books, to allow them to play outside past the time I asked them to come in, to wear a pasta necklace that Ryann made me in school. What a happy day we had! My spirit feels lighter today because of it. My patience increased and my smiles multiplied.

5. The elderly deserve respect. Period. They are people, not objects. They have things to say - it may not be interesting to YOU, however, it is what is going on in their lives and it is their current story. And they have amazing past stories and wisdom to share if we take the time to talk to them and ask about life as a child or a newly married couple or a mother of little kids. All we need to do is ask and talk and prompt and wait for the stories to come. And then listen.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas season 2008

After reading Jen's post - here - I got to thinking about our advent/Christmas season in our house and what I wanted that to look like.

Here it is in a nutshell: I want it to be joyful and relaxed and not stressful and full of greed. And I want the girls to start to *get it* about Christmas and what it really means. So how do we accomplish that? Some ideas for our family:

* Cut down on gifts - we are doing this mostly for financial reasons, however, it has the bonus effect of making the season [a little] simpler. We have cut down on our list of people to buy for, the amount we are spending for each person and therefore the amount of thinking and shopping that I have to do. For me there is more stress involved in thinking of the perfect gift rather than actually shopping for it or spending the money on it so the fewer I have to come up with, the less stress for me.

* Cut down on Christmas cards - I was going through my Christmas card list a couple of weeks ago and realized that most of the people on the list saw my children on a pretty regular basis either in person or on Facebook... so why in the heck do I feel it necessary to send them a picture of my girls - and spend the money on the card and the postage? I was going to cut out cards altogether, but was reminded that there are a few people who are not in that category and love getting their picture every year. I also realized that there are a few people (family and close friends) who probably put their picture up on their refrigerator for the whole year or show it off to their friends (my Gram)... so I'm sending out about 25 cards instead of 50-65.

* Put the tv down in the crawl space for the month - a couple of weeks ago in his sermon our pastor talked about how the kids he met in Africa were the happiest people he'd ever met - BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE MISSING. Wow. That hit me big time. And at the same time my girls had somehow found Nick Jr. on tv and started seeing commercials for toys. Pretty soon I began to hear "I want," "Can I have," and "For Christmas will you get me..." Kind of made me want to vomit, actually. My kids don't need ANYTHING except maybe a pair of boots right now. So we are stripping down and getting rid of the tv again so that MY kids won't know what they're missing (although other kids are now introducing them to wonderful things like American Girl Dolls instead of the tv doing it.)

* Start some advent traditions - Dave went out and got a fresh advent wreath this weekend (didn't know that I had a fake one in the decoration bin) and we did our first reading yesterday. I've had the fake one for a couple of years, but never got around to actually doing it. We are excited about doing it this year - I think the girls are old enough to sit still, listen to the scripture and join in our discussion. Yesterday we talked about hope and why we should hope for Christ coming again. It was good and I'm excited to be doing it with them!

In addition, I've had some ornaments for a few years that we haven't gotten around to doing that we're going to do this year. There are 12 ornaments that each have a picture that depicts a name of Jesus - The Door, The Vine, Immanuel, Light of the WOrld, Bright Morning Star, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God, Bread of Life, King of Kings, Giver of LIving Water, Good Shepherd, Savior - and there is a reading that goes along with each ornament. I need to count 12 days back from Christmas for our starting date, but I would like to do a reading every night for 12 days and put the ornament on the tree. VERY excited about this one, too!

* Allow the girls to help me bake for the holidays - We always do Christmas cookies, but we're going to do a little more this year because I really, really love to bake and am going to take a cue from Jen and bring stuff to the neighbors. However, it is SO hard and frustrating and time consuming to bake with 3 little helpers... so I am going to change my expectations and allow them to help me and have fun with it instead of getting frustrated.

* Reread and journal on The Shack - watch for it.

* Get up earlier, get done running earlier and get back to reading the Bible in the morning before my shower and before school routine starts. This means I need to be running by 6:30 at the latest, out of bed at 6.

I'm sure there are many more ideas for our family and I haven't even asked Dave what he would like to see this month be like. He has planned family outings for every weekend of the month and it should be fun - as long as I remember that these things are about the girls and not about what I want out of them (a little problem I have sometimes... focusing on the wrong agenda).

I'm looking forward to a wonderful Christmas season - not setting expectations, but am looking forward to just enjoying it this year rather than getting mired in the muckiness of the holidays.

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