Friday, November 23, 2012

Lonely Cooking & the National Day of Listening

When I was young, I loved the chaos of Thanksgiving.  Not too much of it, mind you, but enough to fill the house with activity and laughter for a few hours.

The kitchen excitement that resulted in the later dinner lit up the whole house—or at least filled it with tantalizing scents (and a few not so tantalizing) and the sounds of vibrant voices (frequently colored by good-natured bickering).  One grandma never cooked the turkey long enough.  The other didn't make the stuffing right.  Ask one aunt to do the gravy.  Keep another away from the mashed potatoes.  I found similar trends in Korea.  Hyungnim slices the thinnest.  Halmoni makes the best vegetables.  Regardless of what's done, though, someone is unhappy with it.  Life is the same the world over.

But through all the bustle was chuckling and stories of meals past, of the general hardships of life, of funny things that had happened the other day, of new trials we were grappling with.

It was more a meal for the soul than the body—even if some of us did need to break out the stretchy pants.

The last few years, I have cooked alone.  The first few times, I cried.  Now I realize that this lonely preparation period is only a temporary moment of life.  There will be more women in the family eventually.  The kids will be calm enough to sustain a full day away at the homes of other relatives.

The boys eating the legendary "Pink Stuff" (Great-Grandma's recipe)

And the combination of my warm memories of family stories and the longing for those missing moments is why I encourage you all to share with one another and listen to your loved ones.  For all of our globalization, we are sadly lacking in fundamental connections with one another.  Let's build some today and this holiday season.

And after you have listened, after you have shared, you may find that you want to keep on sharing.  I strongly recommend that you follow through on that thought.

Sharon Lippincott has written an excellent book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, to help you get your life on paper.  She has written her life stories (and is still writing them! But take a look: this one is free!). You can write them too.

"But," you say, "she's an author.  I'm not."

Paul wasn't an author when he started her class.  He's written two books and is nearly done with a third.

"But," you continue, "I can't write that much."

So don't!  Amazon allows you to put out shorts on Kindle, like my Dancing in the Rain (free through Sunday) and What My Mother Didn't Know.  It doesn't cost you anything at the outset.

"But," you say again, "I'm not sure I want to publish a book."

Then don't.  Blog.  Join a group.  Share in pieces.  Consider Plum Borough's Share a Pair of Stories.  Sharing a single story isn't so tough, and it really does touch others.

"But...," you begin.

Even if you only write it for yourself, the writing is healing.  You won't be sorry you did.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shameless and Thankful: Dancing in the Rain

I wrestle with depression.  I have since I was seven years old.  I was thirteen the first time a doctor looked at me and told me I was hyperventilating and under thirty when another doctor told me what I thought were heart palpitations were panic attacks.  I don't have Asperger's, but I had to be taught to empathize, painstakingly, implicitly, repeatedly taught.  Even now, I draft something once and go back later to add the feelings.  I have never been diagnosed with ADHD, but my thoughts come in a rush, often so fast I can't form sentences.  I don't run around like some children, but I was never able to sit still either.  I can't count the number of chairs I've broken by wiggling too much.  I'm great at multi-tasking.  I can't single task.  I can count on one hand the nights I've fallen asleep easily.

People might say I'm just weak or it's all in my head.  I know I'm not and it's not.  I know these issues run in my family.  I know I've passed them on to my children.

I fight these tendencies with conscious control of my thoughts, deep breathing, meditation at times, exercise, prayer and praise, lists, alarms, and reminders—more coping skills than I have time to write about.

I didn't talk about these things before my children struggled with them because I didn't want them to define me.  Yes, I will most likely struggle with these issues all the days of my life, but they are not who I am, who I choose to be.  I could let them carry me away, but I will not go gentle into that good night.

Some people are confused and think that a depressed person can feel no joy.  It's not true.  The joy is muted at times, yes, but for me, joy is a weaponPut on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  For me, this isn't a putting on instead of but a putting on in response to, a kind of medication for, a conscious choice to fight. 

So many times in life, it rains.

You can't stop the rain, but you can choose how you react to it.

You must choose to laugh or cry.  I choose to laugh.  Again and again, I choose to laugh.

And for my children's sake, I've decided it's time to be shameless and joyful.  And that's why I published Dancing in the Rain, which is free on Amazon from Thanksgiving Day until Sunday, November 25, 2012.

Dancing in the rain tells five (hilarious) true stories of our struggles with our issues.  My hope is that it shows that there is joy in parenting these children and that, first and foremost, these children are people and not diagnoses.  They are full of love, joy, and creativity and fill my life with blessings every day—even the ones when we're asked to leave the store, playground, or church.

I am not ashamed of who we are.  I know who we are becoming.  And I am thankful I can share it.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I know I have written about riding in the car with my children before, but in case you have missed it, riding in the car with my children is an adventure, particularly when we are going to church.  It doesn't matter which church we are going to or why we are going there; I am convinced that my children consider this ride a challenge to prove that I am the biggest hypocrite under the sun.  A typical ride to Royal Rangers a couple of weeks ago began with the fuzzy end of the two-sided ice-scraper/snow remover brushing my ear lightly as it slowly extended its way toward the rearview mirror. 

"Get the scraper back there!" I hollered over the kids' Christmas Pageant music, struggling to compete with the words of "The Night That Jesus Came Down."

The scraper retreated toward the back, knocking my glasses from my right ear in the process.  I righted my glasses and peered in the rearview mirror to catch the little one beating the big one over the head with the hard end of the scraper. 

As I drew a breath to holler at the little one to cut it out, he had the gall to yell, "Mom!  He(the big one)'s taking my scraper from me!"

"I'd take it too if you were using it to hit me over the head," I call back when I notice that the big one has actually opened his window and is feeding the scraper slowly outside, theoretically to dump on the highway.  "But HEY!  We can't throw the scraper out the window!"

The big one halts just long enough for me to swat my right arm blindly into the back of the car, seize the fuzzy end of the scraper, wrestle it out of the hands of both children while managing to somehow stay in my own lane, and drag it to the front passenger seat.  By the time we finally arrived at church, I was threatening my children with imminent destruction only to turn around and see one of the lovely moms of the angelic preschoolers.  Of course.  I was certainly at my most Christian.  *closing my eyes and wishing the ground would swallow me whole*

And this is how car trips with my children generally go.

So the other night we were headed to church again, Christmas pageant blaring, when the little one asks, "Hey, Mom?  What's mercy?"

"Marcy?" I ask over the voice of Halo Hattie.  "Who's Marcy?"

"No!" he cries.  "Mercy!"

I attempt to turn down the volume of the CD when the big one protests, "I like the music, Mom, and I can't hear it when it's down!"

"Well," I do my best to yell to the little one. "Mercy is when you decide to be a little kinder and less punishing than you could be.  The other person may deserve the hard punishment, but you choose not to give it to him.  Kind of like when you do something wrong and I could take away all of your TV, but perhaps I choose to only take away TV before dinner and let you have more TV later if you can show you're good."

"Not that mercy, Mom!" he hollered.  "The game!"

And that's when it hit me: How many of us use mercy or the lack of it as a punishment instead of the grace that it was always intended to be?  Does my mercy look like Christ's or the game?